Monday, April 30, 2012

There Really Is A Generation Gap

Last night, the wee one and I were playing Just Dance 3.  It's somewhat comical to watch them, but it's something they love - and I'm all about having them moving around and playing this game, as it's a real workout.  My husband was playing, too, but he put in the injunction that no one could choose "This Is Halloween" as he was sick of the song.  Instead, he chose.

As we danced to "Video Killed the Radio Star," I can see Mister Man's expression.  He's growing more and more puzzled about something, and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the video we're following as we dance....

Mister Man: Mommy, I wish I were an alien like that guy.
Me: Ummm, that's not an  alien, Sweetie.  That's a guy with a television for a head.
Mister Man: (giving me a weird look) Mommy, that is not a tv.
Me: Actually, it is. (because arguing like this with an eight year old is so effective)
Mister Man: If it's a television and not an alien, then why does he have antennae like an alien?

Wow, do I feel old.

And a few minutes later, he asked, "Mommy, who is Video, anyway?"

When did you first realize you were on the wrong side of a generation gap?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Do It Backwards

I'm the mom who hates to ask my children to do something more than once. Of course, I doubt there are many parents who actually enjoy repeatedly asking their children to do something. I just refuse to do it. And the wee ones know.

It makes me cringe inside when I see parents telling their children to do something then counting. One. Twoooooooooo. Two and a half. Two and three quarters. Don't make me say thrrrreeeeeee-eeeeeee.

Either count to three or don't.

But that's beside the point. I actually don't count to three. Just like I was driven to sing the alphabet backwards to Mister Man when he was an infant to keep him content in the car (why yes, yes I can say the alphabet backwards now - I had to do something different to keep my sanity), I somehow started counting backwards for the wee ones.



And by then they're moving 95% of the time. Three.

Two. At which point my tone has gotten far deeper, if I've actually made it that far. I haven't slowed down my cadence counting. And I've only gotten to one twice. Ever. Both times, they saw me march over and compel them to do what I was asking. But even before that, they seemed to respect the counting backwards far more than they ever did when I counted forward. Whatever it is, I'm sticking with it.

And it's possible - just possible, mind you - that I accidentally counted backwards to my husband once or twice. Interestingly, it works pretty well with him, too!

What do you do to get your kids - or spouse - to listen to you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tasty Tuesday - Maguerite Salad

There are some foods that are just a family tradition. I know that every time we have New Years, my family will make Bunsteads. I know that I will make my lasagne on Christmas Eve. And Christmas Day and Thanksgiving will always include both ham and turkey. And all those occasions also have another traditional dish, something my maternal grandmother used to make. We will always have Marguerite Salad.

Marguerite Salad

10 1/2 oz marshmallows, small (the small ones work best, otherwise cut the big ones in half)
20 oz pineapple chunks in a can - save the juice
2 T gravy flour (in a pinch you can use the regular kind)
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs

Mix the sugar and flour in a sauce pan. Add the pineapple juice and stir until dissolved. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add them to the juice. Turn the head to low until the mixture boils, stirring occasionally. When it starts boiling, stir constantly until it thickens into a nice sauce. Remove from the stove and cool in the fridge for two hours.

Add COOL WHIP to the sauce after it has cooled. Add pineapple and marshmallows, and stir until well coated. Place into your serving bowl and chill until it's time to serve. This is best made a few hours to a day in advance. If you feel extra decadent, add cherries to the top of the salad. Yum.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Los Angeles Doesn't Exist

So do you remember when I talked about how Mister Man's teacher didn't do the best job correcting his math homework? I let it go because Mister Man needs to learn that people in authority aren't always right, and really... in the grand scheme of things, it isn't that big a deal. He was fine with it, and I chalked it up to a bad teacher book, though it wasn't the first time it happened.

Last night, we received his Daily Five (little bits of practice work students spend 5 minutes working on each day in school) for the past week. As always, I looked through it to see what I need to work on with Mister Man. And my jaw dropped.

The possessive correction? Meh. Yes, it should be "Mr. Tyler's" but it was a little hard to see where he put the apostrophe. It almost looks like a comma for the sentence above instead of an apostrophe in the sentence he wrote. He needs to work on his penmanship, but fine motor skills are one of his challenges common amongst those with autism. That's part of why he's in private OT once a week.

Ditto with the correction of "two." I can see that he wrote two with a "w" and not just to, but the "w" is half into the o, so it's hard to see what he wrote unless you're really looking closely. Again, he needs to do a better job writing, and that's fine.

Sock? I totally get why he circled that answer. It's something that goes on your foot. It makes sense, but it's wrong. They're really looking for the more specific "footwear" answer, so sock was out. Categorization is also something that he struggles with sometimes due to his autism.

But ummm Los AngelOs? That's the one that threw me for a loop. Actually, it had me questioning my own spelling abilities. Maybe I've been spelling Los Angeles wrong for more than three decades (hush, I learned to write early).

Oh. Wait. I googled it. I haven't been spelling it wrong.

Less than two months left in the school year. Less than two months remaining. It's the mantra I keep repeating as I wait to hear whether or not Mister Man's petition to attend Little Miss's school is approved.

What are the words that throw you for a loop when you're writing?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

BlogHer Book Club: The Book of Jonas

I have a friend who left two days ago to go volunteer at an orphanage - with her neurosurgeon husband - in Ethiopia for two weeks. Again. And they'll go back again, and one day, they'll bring home a baby from there. To me, that is so foreign to my daily life, but yet I have connections there from my friends both now and growing up, as adopting from South Korea was very "popular" where I grew up in Minnesota.

When I had the chance to read The Book of Jonas for this month's BlogHer book club, I jumped at the chance, as it's a view inside the head of a (fictional) young man from an unnamed Middle East country whose village was bombed by US troops. Again, it's something that is so foreign to me, but yet something I want and need to relate to and understand on a human level.

Jonas survived the bombing, but his family perished. He miraculously makes it to a US hospital where he then is sent to the States to live as a refugee. He comes into contact with Rose, the mother of a soldier who is MIA after serving in that same country. The stories of Rose, Christopher, and Jonas are all woven together as Jonas tries to move past the events that killed his family but instead moves down a self-destructive spiral.

The book was so thought-provoking, which was just what I had hoped. The chapters were startlingly short, just one to pages for the most part, but in a way they had to be, given the story being told. In the end, it was a tragedy for all involved - just as so much of life is. The bare bones verbiage tells the story powerfully, although I think it could have done so just as powerfully without interjecting Rose into it. I felt that the author needed a female character and so put her in, but I think I might have enjoyed the book even more had it simply focused on Jonas and - through his diary that Jonas has - Christopher.

The book deals heavily with loss, and that is the topic this week in the BlogHer book club discussion of The Book of Jonas. When faced with tragedy, what is your reaction? Do you hide from it, do you seek atonement, do you search for the truth, or do you have another reaction entirely?

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "The Book of Jonas" by Stephen Dau for review purposes. This is part of a compensated campaign for the BlogHer Book Club, but all opinions remain my own.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Welcome To The 21st Century

I'm frugal. I'll readily admit that. And I'm absolutely ok with that. It means that I don't need the latest and greatest thing. I don't need the biggest and best simply because it is the biggest and the best. If I need or want something, I generally have a reason for it. Generally. That's why I bought $19.99 running shoes at Costco hoping that they'd replace my long overdue for replacement $140 shoes that have the stuffing coming out the sides and have since the third week I owned them (thank you, Nike). Unfortunately, the shoes have essentially no support and are too wide, so they're going back until I find another pair of running shoes I'm willing to purchase.

Electronics are another good example. I have an iP*d, but I bought it not because "ooooo, look, an iP*d! Everyone has one!" but because when I travel and bring my laptop or go to PTO meetings and have to record the minutes, my laptop battery doesn't last long enough, so I'm constantly in search of an outlet. I do the same with my phone. We were one of the first to get rid of our landline amongst our friends simply because it seemed like an unnecessary cost to us. We've been happy for a decade without it. That said, I was one of the last of my friends to get a cell phone because I didn't see the point in being constantly available. Obviously, I've changed my tune since then.

I love technology, don't get me wrong. I have an awesome DSLR, I have a newer laptop, I have my iP*d, etc. But for me to purchase it, I have to have a compelling reason. Something has to make it so that I can't live without it - live being somewhat tongue in cheek, of course.

So when my Droid - the original Droid - started acting wonky back in August (that's over eight months ago for those of you counting), I lived with it. I called my carrier to see if I could negotiate a better or different contract - especially since neither my husband nor I texted, as I refused to pay the $150+ that would require with our carrier). The only thing they could do was knock $9.99 off my data plan, which would also sign us up for another 2 years. I passed, determined to get out of this contract and into something far cheaper - and yes, I did calculate the break even for switching carriers at that point and paying the cancellation fee. It wasn't quite worth it, sadly.

As my phone continued to go wonky more and more, I found creative solutions. My power button broke so I couldn't turn it off anymore? I carried it in my hand until it fell asleep or used my iGo to turn it back on when I had to pull the battery to stop it from spinning madly. I brought it to the carrier's store where they tried to fix it - repeatedly. It didn't help. Instead I dealt with it, counting down the days until my contract was over.

In February, my phone became utterly useless. It would unlock itself (a pretty neat trick, actually). It would call people. It would try to text them. It would spin madly. It wouldn't let me dial calls. I couldn't stop it, and finally it wouldn't even let me voice search my navigation or accept calls. Frugal me, I put out a call for help to Facebook - knowing that I have friends who upgrade their phones far more often than I do. Two friends offered phones that they had outgrown, and voila I had a new phone without having to renew my contract because I had upgraded my phone (eBay was also an option, but my friends come first).

Fast forward to now. I spent last week researching carriers - who my friends like, the costs, the coverage, the plans, the phones. On Monday, I walked into Costco and had my new phones and plans set up in under thirty minutes. I'm pretty sure I made the day of the woman making the kiosk. (Why Costco? Aside from deeply discounted phones, the rebate the activation, and provide a whole slew of extras from a bluetooth to a car charger for free. Oh, and since I used my Costco AmEx, I have a second year of warranty free - I used it with the Droid, and AmEx refunded my Droid purchase price to my card, no questions asked.)

My husband has a smart phone for the first time ever. Watching him try to use it sort of makes me giggle, but I'm nice and have been helping him. I now text for the first time ever, and my friends are thrilled - for the moment. I'm finally not the one who says, "Wait - can you call me instead? I don't text" and get the weird looks from everyone. I am even paying about thirty percent less with this plan than I did with the old one, even though we're getting so much more.

Welcome to the 21st century, Me. And Swype? I love you. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go play with my new phone some more - and hope I don't break it before my $2.91 case (shipping included) arrives.

What is your relationship with technology? Do you always buy the latest and greatest, or do you have to justify your purchases some other way?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesday! - Homemade Vanilla Pudding

For Easter, I was in charge of dessert. And because I'm a nice mom (every once in awhile anyway), I let the wee ones choose what to make. They decided on cookie pizza. It isn't the most traditional Easter dessert, but I want them to be invested in what we make and eat - so cookie pizza it was. I made a dairy free version of it for Little Miss and a dairy filled version for us.

As the dairy version was baking, I realized we needed to run to open gymnastics with the wee ones, so I set the oven to stop cooking ten or so minutes before it was scheduled to be done, figuring that it would be cooked pretty close to perfectly. When we arrived home after the hour and a half open gym, the oven was still on. Uh-oh. While they were miraculously not burnt, the cookies were very very crispy. I audibled and decided to make a trifle instead, figuring that the pudding would offset the overly crispy cookie. At least a little. Fortunately, it worked.

The focus for this week's Tasty Tuesday? The delicious homemade vanilla pudding I made. This recipe is perfect for an after dinner dessert for a family - and yes, it's good served warm, too. For the trifle, I doubled the recipe to ensure I had enough to cover the cookie layers. I also mixed in a small handful of chocolate chips (the good chocolate kind) into the warm pudding just before layering it, which made for a chocolate swirl pudding that was beyond awesome just by itself.

Homemade Vanilla Pudding

1/4 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/4 t salt
2 c milk (NOT skim, please)
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 T butter
1 t vanilla

In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Turn the heat onto medium, and slowly add the milk while whisking the sugar mixture. Cook until it starts to bubble and get thicker, stirring periodically.

Reduce the heat once it starts to bubble gently, and stir constantly for two minutes to ensure nothing scorches on the bottom. Remove from the heat after the two minutes are up.

Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. Add a spoon of the milk mixture at a time, continuing to beat the egg yolk with a fork while you do so to ensure that the egg doesn't cook. Once the bottom of the bowl starts to feel warm in your hand, you have added enough milk to temper the eggs (my very unscientific method, but it works!).

Slowly pour the tempered egg yolks into the milk mixture, whisking the milk constantly. Return to medium heat, stirring constantly. Once it begins to bubble gently again, cook for one more minute - continuing to stir. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until it's melted and incorporated. Add the vanilla, and do the same.

Let it cool on the countertop for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. At this point, place a piece of plastic wrap over the pudding, which will help prevent a skin from forming on it. Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving. Assuming no one eats it all, this will last four or five days in the fridge.

Note: After the fifteen minutes, I added the handful of chocolate chips and placed the pudding on my cookie layers so that the cookies would better absorb the moisture from the pudding; had the cookie not been so crispy, I would have waited until the pudding was fully cooled so that it didn't make the cookies mushy.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Tooth Fairy Rides A Motorcycle

Little Miss is officially without her two front teeth. She lost the first one on Thursday at school, and the second one came out last night. She's quite proud, and I have to admit that she's pretty cute without them. The morning after her first front tooth, she proudly announced that the Tooth Fairy had given her a quarter from Arizona, and she was thrilled.

Last night? Ahem.

I have to admit that I was once again down all weekend with a migraine. In fact, the only reason I even knew that Little Miss had lost a tooth was because she came (quietly) into the bedroom to tell me that she'd lost it and proudly display her grisly trophy. My husband, thankfully, took charge and insisted on finding a different state quarter for her. He went through his change bottle and discovered one from South Dakota that he put aside for her.

This morning, she announced that the tooth fairy didn't come.

Oh, that's too bad, Sweetie, I consoled her, while mentally wringing my poor husband's neck. What do you think happened?
Oh, she announced with no hesitation at all. Mister Man already told me that it was too windy for her to get her on her motorcycle. She has to wait until it's safe to ride it before she can come.

Huh. Who knew.

This afternoon, I made a quick visit upstairs to her room to verify the location of the tooth. It was under her pillow, as usual, and it again had a note included with it. I'm pretty sure the Tooth Fairy is going to tell her that she can't grant the power to fly, but ummmm how exactly do I bring this up with her to find out why she needs to fly and who and how she is challenging (which is what I think the note says.

So how did you kids - or how do you - show their imaginative skills?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

BlogHer Book Club: Lost and Found

I come from a financial background. My parents both have accounting degrees, and I worked for a bank for almost a decade. I taught Junior Achievement. I like to think that I'm fairly financially savvy, but I snow there is so much more I could be doing. Sometimes, I like to stick my head in the sand. While I pay off my credit cards every single month, I haven't yet deposited my 2011 Roth IRA contribution because... well, I don't have a good reason.

I'm pulling my head out of the sand a little bit more, and driving that check over to my financial institution is on the docket for today now. I finished reading Lost and Found by Geneen Roth, which is the current BlogHer Book Club book, in which Geneen tells stories of how she lost all her money in the Bernie Madoff collapse and how she coped and found "life" afterwards.

How often do you hear people talk openly about money, let alone honestly about the disasters they've faced with it? Or even think about why we want and need the money we think we do? It doesn't happen nearly often enough, and I firmly believe that more of it would help empower all of us to take charge of our money and prevent it from having as much mystical power over us as it does today. After she lost her money, Geneen freed herself from the habits and patterns she'd fallen into and created a new and far more fulfilling life for her, focusing not on what she doesn't have but instead on what she does.

We're all so often guilty of that - focusing on what we think we want and focusing on the "more" that we don't have - and we rarely question why we want it or if having it will truly make us happy. The book is full of little stories and pearls of wisdom that caused me to reflect on my attitude towards money and why I have the attitudes I do. It isn't preachy in any way, which I appreciate. It is simple, open, and honest.

While I would never wish the loss of their life savings on anyone, it was fascinating to me to see how one can rebuild from that and the - in a way - positive impacts the loss of that money did have on Geneen Roth. We talk about wanting to find balance in our lives, but how many of us have truly thought about the cost that every extra hour we put into getting ahead costs us in terms of stress and time with family and enjoyment of the moment? This week's discussion at BlogHer Book Club deals with just that. Whether you've read the book or not, come join us and share your thoughts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "Lost and Found" by Geneen Roth for review purposes. This is also a compensated campaign as part of the BlogHer Book Club, but all opinions remain my own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

No, We Aren't Playing Baseball This Year

It's spring. Soccer and baseball and softball have already started up by us, and by mid-June they'll be over. When I grew up - where I grew up? - these were truly summer sports and didn't encroach so much on spring and the school year. I've been having the question for months already, especially since sign ups for some sports happen back in December, "So, are the wee ones playing (fill in the blank) this year?"

Well, no. They aren't. It just doesn't fit for them, unfortunately.

We tried t-ball for two years because everyone else we know plays, and it was miserable. Neither of the wee ones enjoyed playing, and they weren't that good either. Not having good coaches meant that at the end of the second season, I was still working on teaching them the basic rules (No! When you run to first base, you run the other way!) rather than watching their skills progress to where they could start hitting coach pitch.

Last year, Little Miss played soccer. She liked that a little better, as she loves running around. In practice, she apparently was faster than anyone else and could steal the ball from anyone. Come game time, she hung back each and every time. Her first goal was an own goal. She didn't love it though, and when I asked if she wanted to play again this past fall, she declined. It just wasn't her thing. And Mister Man? I knew better than to let me easily overstimulated sensory-seeking Aspie kid out on a soccer field when he's already not super regulated, not that he had any interest in playing to begin with.

Instead, the wee ones have focused on other sports. Mister Man has done tae kwon do for almost two years, and this is his great love. He goes two or three times each week, and he still tells me that his goal is to make it to black belt. I've seen how it helps his focus and his impulse control, although both still need improvement. They're working now on his push ups, and he's convinced that some day he'll do pull ups, too.

Little Miss is my gymnastics girl. She was invited to the preteam this year, and she's been doing three to four hours of gymnastics a week. Her skills progression has been awesome to watch - and she loves showing me new tricks like her pull overs or the hand stand to a forward roll or the back walkover she can do on her own (when she's on a wedge mat). She's proud and thrilled with what she can do, and she loves how strong it's making her. Right now, she's not doing a Monday night class I had her in to keep her occupied while Mister Man was in OT at the same facility, and every week she asks if she gets to go to gymnastics on Monday - disappointed when the answer is no.

I love that they've discovered sports they're passionate about and that they're the ones who discovered them and are truly the ones who love the time and energy they put into their respective sports. But their sports are a little off the beaten path. And the locations we've been going to aren't the ones that their friends necessarily attend. In a way, that's a little hard because it isn't the same level of social interaction and bonding that so many other kids have talking about the teams they're on together or the sports they do at the same place. I worry just a little bit that they'll one day decide that what they're doing just isn't "cool" enough and want to quit because their friends aren't there with them.

In fact, we changed the gym that Little Miss was at recently, partly for that reason. While Little Miss had been making progress, each time I saw the class (and I didn't often, as my mom insists on taking her to class and spending time with her there) I was disappointed by how hands off the instructors were. I felt like she wasn't getting the corrections she needed not just to get better today but to be safe tomorrow and later when she's doing more difficult and potentially dangerous maneuvers. I discovered almost by accident that one of her classmates attends another gym (not the main one in town that everyone goes to - that one costs as much for one class as what I had been paying for two, ouch!) where the focus is on form and safety. And Little Miss would have a friend there, though the friend is two levels above her right now. We made the switch, and though the class is harder, Little Miss is thrilled - not that she has a friend who goes to the same place, but that she is being challenged and she's rising to that challenge.

In the end, that's what I want the wee ones to do. I want them to carve their own paths. I want them to find their passions and chase them, no matter what their friends are doing or what the popular thing to do is. I want them to find what makes them happy and stick with it. Somehow, I'm ok looking at my friends and acquaintances and telling them yet again, "No. We aren't playing baseball this year. It's just not our thing." When they look at me sadly, my focus is on the smiles I see from the wee ones when they head into class, excited to see what the next hour will bring.

How have you or your children carved your own paths, or have you followed the traditional path and been happy with that?

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure" by Patricia Ellis Herr as part of the From Left to Write book club where we don't write traditional book reviews but instead write posts inspired by the books we read. I was not compensated, and all opinions expressed remain my own.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday! - Chocolate Fondue

So last week, I talked about the "Moms Need Spring Break, Too!" party I had for some of my friends at the end of spring break when we all needed a bit of our own break and celebration. I made it a fondue night, with some other goodies, of course. I don't have much of an excuse to make fondue, but I love it. I already posted my traditional cheese fondue recipe and this week, it's time for my chocolate fondue recipe.

Chocolate Fondue

1/3 c heavy whipping cream (avoid the ultra-pasteurized, if you can - it doesn't taste the same)
8 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped (this is the time to pull out not just your 72% cocoa chocolate but the 75% or 80% if you have it)
3 T Grand Marnier
zest of one orange

Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan gently. You want to scald it, which means that it is just starting to steam but doesn't actually boil. Boiling cream is bad; trust me on that one. Place the chocolate, orange zest, and Grand Marnier in a separate bowl. Once the cream is gently steaming, pour it over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is fully melted.

If you don't want the orange flavor, you can skip the Grand Marnier and orange zest and use something else - lemon zest or kirsch or caramel or strong coffee or amaretto or raspberry or Bailey's. You'll find a good combination.

Serve the chocolate fondue with assorted fresh fruit, dried fruits, pretzels, pound cake cubes, marshmallows, or anything else that sounds good to you. If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate this and gently reheat it later either in the microwave (low heat, stirring every 30 seconds) or on the stove, stirring constantly until it is mostly melted before removing it from the heat and stirring until the rest has melted and incorporated.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ever Cooked At A Ronald McDonald House?

I wrote a couple months ago about Little Miss's Daisy troop and the cookie program they were beginning. (Ok, we because I am a sucker and was the Cookie Mom.) I am so proud of the girls and how hard they worked from Little Miss going door to door and announcing she loved this more than Halloween to the booth sales where girls sold cookies outside local establishments.

On Saturday, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor. The girls used some of the money the troop made from the cookie program to purchase ingredients to make lunch for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, and they brought down eight cases of donated cookies for the families to snack on. As I wrote before, this is the true meaning of Girl Scouts.

The girls worked so hard - and this was their sale. At the booths, we parents were there, but the girls solicited customers, they figured out how much customers owed, and they determined and gave change. Their customers were impressed, all the more so because the girls talked to them about what they were doing with the money and any boxes that were donated. The response was impressive. The sheer number of people who gave a dollar towards donated cookies or bought a box for the girls to take to the families shocked me, which is how they ended up bringing over eighty boxes to the Ronald McDonald House on Saturday.

While there, the girls worked hard. They cleaned the kitchen and washed dishes left behind by families before they started working. They made pizzas and a fresh salad, some girls learning how to wash and cut various vegetables for the first time. After the families finished serving, they once again cleaned up, leaving the kitchen cleaner than it was when they started. And best of all? They had fun doing it!

Personally, I was amazed. It's just a couple hours to come cook for the families, and they were so grateful for the homemade pizzas and salad (we used "fancy" lettuce and added several vegetables, which was greatly appreciated by a few residents). It wasn't expensive, and it felt so good in our hearts. There are Ronald McDonald Houses all over the country near major hospitals, and all of them need volunteers to make them work. Do you have time to do something like this, either at a RMH or somewhere else?

The girls are already talking about where they want to donate their cookies and time next year. Somehow, I have a feeling they'll figure out the perfect solution!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How To Grow Your Child's Vocabulary

Last night, my husband peered over my shoulder and read some of the page of the book I was reading on my iP*d. I'll admit that right now I'm still a little miserable from the flu, so I'm reading complete and total brain candy that requires no concentration whatsoever. And of course the page I was reading happened to be an attempted seduction in a pretty clean otherwise historical fiction novel.

Oh, he said, looking at my with eyebrows raised. So this is the kind of stuff you read, is it?
Well, not really, I hemmed. You happened to catch a particularly salacious portion of it. It isn't usually-
I heard you, Mommy! I can hear what you're talking about! piped in Mister Man who was supposed to be falling asleep in his bedroom, granted only four feet from where I was still sitting on the steps after having put the wee ones to bed. What does "salacious" mean?
Mommy's reading a salacious book, Mister Man, my husband cheerfully started, as Mister Man giggled wildly at the word that for him was apparently so fun to say.
Sa-Layyyyy_schuss. Suhhhhh-laaaayyy-schuss! Salacious salacious salacious! he began singing and dancing in the hallway before I could usher him back to his room.

That's where I poked my husband in the side. You do realize that he's going to go into school tomorrow and announce to his teacher and probably the whole class that Mommy reads salacious books, right?

My husband simply nodded, grinning. I'm still waiting from the call from the teacher demanding an explanation. But hey... at least he learned a new word. Sort of.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tasty Tuesday! - Cheese Fondue

Last week was spring break for us, and to celebrate the (near) end of it, I invited a few friends over for a "Moms Need Spring Break, Too!" party. Because after being home with children who can't run and play outside as we planned due to the fickle weather for a week, we need some quiet and sanity. What better to provide it than a fondue party? So yes, I made fondue - both cheese and chocolate - along with my guacamole and buffalo chicken dip. There were some happy mommies leaving my house.

I rarely make fondue, but only because Mister Man won't eat anything cheese and Little Miss can't eat dairy because of her allergy. This is perfect party food because it takes minimal prep and is ready super fast. Plus, it's another one that looks like you worked really hard even though you didn't.

Traditional Cheese Fondue

1 pound Emmenthaler or Gruyere cheese, shredded (or Jarlsberg or toss in a little goat or white cheddar for a fun extra flavor)
2 T cornstarch
1 1/2 c dry white wine (I used a Chardonnay - use a wine you'd want to drink)
1/8 c kirsch (optional if you don't have any and don't want to buy any, but it's a perfect finishing touch)
nutmeg and pepper to taste

If you have a fondue pot, awesome (I love my electric one because I can control the heat really well). If not, you can do this in a heavy pot on the stove.

Mix together the shredded cheese (I shred it myself with my Cuisinart's shredding attachment because it's fast and easy, but please buy a block of cheese and shred yourself one way or another; it makes a difference!) and cornstarch and set it aside for a few minutes. You want this prep done first.

Heat the wine and kirsch together until they start to steam but do not let it boil. Turn down the heat just a little bit, then add a small handful of cheese and stir until melted. Keep adding cheese and stirring until it's incorporated until all your cheese is gone. If you add a hunk of cheese at one time, you will have a hunk of cheese and the liquid alcohol and it will be very hard to incorporate properly (although it is possible to do so if you make a mistake, but it takes patience and a really good whisk). Once your cheese is fully incorporated and smooth, add nutmeg and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately while still hot. I serve mine with chunks of bread and apples, along with baby carrots. It always goes quickly. This enough for a main-ish course for four people or up to eight people as an appetizer. And if there are leftovers? Yes, you can reheat it and enjoy it yourself the next day, just reheat it in small servings so you don't burn the cheese or cause it to separate.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How To Make A Palm Cross

Every year, we bring home palms from Palm Sunday Mass. Every year, our cats try to abscond with them and turn them into cat toys. It's a constant battle, but it's one that I learned to win a few years ago. I learned how to make crosses out of our palm fronds, which makes them a nice keepsake and removes the temptation from our cats.

It's super easy, although I'll admit to being able to make them a lot faster and more easily when I don't have to actually talk and think about what I'm doing. Welcome to my life. The wee ones enjoy making them, too, and it's a great reminder to keep in our bedrooms all year long.

And please do excuse my hair. I'm fighting off some nasty bug and feel pretty rotten right now. The next video, I'll look better, I promise.

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