Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mom, You're Worth It!

Hey Moms, this is for you. Read this all the way through. Really.

Think about what you've done so far this morning.

Did you make sure you got your children up this morning? Did you get them dressed? Fed them a nutritious breakfast? Did you make sure their teeth were brushed? Did you find something fun for them to do, making sure they're entertained and happy?

On school days, do you pack the lunches, get out the boots and mittens and hats and coats? Do you make sure that all the homework was done, permission slips signed, and paperwork dealt with in the backpack?

Before they go to bed tonight, will you read to them? Play with them? Make sure they've eaten a well-balanced diet, as much as a struggle as that might be? Were baths taken, teeth brushed again, all loveys accounted for and tucked in? Will you help with homework? Will you cook a dinner you know they'll like?

Now let's think about what we've done for ourselves, shall we?

Huh. That was a short list, wasn't it?

If we're lucky, we took a shower. Hopefully, we got teeth brushed, and maybe we threw on a little makeup. I skipped breakfast because I didn't have time. How about you?

When was the last time you read a grownup book for fun? Was the dinner something you relished, or was it something that you knew your kids would eat? Other than rushing from place to place playing the chaffeur and running errands, did you get anything done on your list of things you want to do?

I know I didn't.

Then I look around the house, and I look at me. I'm frazzled, and I'm tired. And I can feel that I'm starting to get cranky. Raise your hand if you make a great parent when you're tired, frazzled and cranky. Me neither.

I think I'm starting to find the solution, and I hope you'll join with me. Today, I'm going to do something for myself. Maybe I'll paint my nails. Maybe I'll have a glass of wine and take a bath. Perhaps I'll sit down when the wee ones are playing and read a chapter -- just one -- from a book I've been waiting awhile to read.

It doesn't have to be a big thing, and it certainly doesn't have to be expensive. The important thing is that I've done it for me. And I'll feel happier and more relaxed afterwards. Then I can go back to tending the wee ones and running the household as I normally do. And I'm a better mom for having done so.

Today is New Years Eve. It's tradition to make a resolution, and I think I know what mine will be next year. Every day, I am going to do something for myself. Just one little thing. And more importantly, I will not feel guilty for doing so. I'm hoping that this is a resolution that will be far easier to keep than the more typical one of losing weight. I know it will definitely be more fun.

So who's with me? What will your resolution be this year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tasty Tuesday!

I'm a little late with this particular recipe, but I'd really had no intentions of sharing it. This isn't because it's a special recipe, nor because I didn't want to share it. I simply thought that everyone had this recipe already and that it was something everyone did on a regular basis.

When I told my husband what the wee ones and I were planning to make for Santa's cookies, he gave me a blank look. He had no idea what I was talking about with holly wreath cookies. When I described them to him, he confirmed that he'd never had them nor seen them before. That was when I decided that I needed to make sure everyone was aware of these easy, yummy, fun cookies

Holly Wreaths! The wee ones helped me make them, and it's possible they also helped me eat a few!

You'll need:
1 stick (8T) of butter
30 of the big marshmallows (this is not quite a whole bag in case someone needs to taste one or two of them)
7-10 drops of green food coloring
2 t vanilla
4 c Corn Flakes
Red M&Ms (or, traditionally, red hots except that we don't like red hots in our house)

Put the butter and marshmallows into a pan and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally until they're all melted and combined. Remove them from the heat and add the vanilla.

Add the green food coloring. You'll want to make it a bit darker than you think, as it will look much lighter once it's thinned out amongst the corn flakes.

Add in the corn flakes and very, very gently stir them together. If you do it like you're folding in eggs, you'll break fewer flakes which is really the goal.

Very quickly, you'll want to use a spoon to scoop out the mixture to make small "wreaths" and place them on waxed paper (or in my case, a silpat). Again, working quickly, place the M&Ms (or red hots) on top of the wreaths to make the holly berries. If you let the mixture cool before putting in the M&Ms, they won't stick.

If you're doing it, you'll want to make sure the M on the M&Ms are facing down. If you're letting small children do this, trust me when I say that explaining this concept just doesn't work.

When you're done, you'll have things that look like this:

It makes about that many -- I think I count 31 cookies. If you make your wreaths bigger or smaller, you can adjust the ratio of chocolate to marshmallow to suit your taste.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Men Will Be Men

Well, I'm doing my part to help the economy.

I kind of guilted myself into it. You walk into Mister Man's room, and you get cold this time of year. Actually, last winter we put up one of those films to hold in the heat and umm the wind comes through his window so much that it blew the film off the window. We then taped it back on with packing tape. That blew off, too.

Yep, we're getting new windows. A lot of new windows. A lot of new windows that cost way too much money. But we have to do it.

Today, they replaced the window in our bathroom. And since they haven't totally finished yet, the blinds are still off the window. When my husband walked upstairs, he asked how we were taking showers this morning.

Given that I was in the process of trying to put the wee ones to bed myself, I suggested he find a solution. Me, I would have found something that held up a sheet -- like maybe a tall broom and a rake or something along those lines. Maybe some duct tape, with a follow up of Goo Gone once the blinds went back up.

A few moments later, I heard hammering.

I ran in to check what was being hammered, and I discovered that my husband had already put two nails into the new windowframe. And was in the process of putting in a third. They were to hold up a sheet.

At least he got the sheet right. But my first day with new windows and they already have nail holes in them. Men!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm Cheating

Ok so this was a fun meme, and a good thing right in the middle of the holidays when we're all running around stressing too much. Enjoy this one, and I hope you have fun reading it.

For the background, I took this from Veggie Mom who stole this from Lynda, who got it from Hot Tub Lizzy. Feel free to steal it from me!

1. Do you like cheese? Yes. I have at least six kinds of cheese in my fridge at the moment: cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta, parmasean, asiago, and gruyere. And I think I'm going to make beer cheese soup for dinner while I'm at it!

2. Have you ever smoked? Nope. My dad did growing up, and I have always hated the smell. Plus, I'm a cheapskate.

3. Do you own a gun? Absolutely not. Never, ever.

4. Do you like listening to Christmas music? Yes, but only between the Saturday after Thanksgiving and December 30. Any other time, I can't stand Christmas music. You may have picked up on the fact that I have a lot of rules.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No. I'm not big into being nervous in general. I never saw the point -- and yes, I've been told that I'm a little too pragmatic for my own good.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? Well, they're food, right? And full of nitrates. But not horrible, especially at a baseball game. I rarely eat them though, and if I have a choice I'd rather have a beer boiled brat. The Chicago-style dogs are worth it though!

7. Favorite Christmas song for all time? I was just thinking about this yesterday. It's really hard to decide as I chage my mind each time I hear one of the ones that's in the running. Carol of the Bells might be the winner though.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Water, but that's my answer pretty much any time of day.

9. Can you do push ups? Yes, but not as many as I really want to. I started Angela's push up challenge this summer and got almost to the end and was doing over 100 pushups total, but ummm life happened.

10. Who is your favorite "Grey's Anatomy" Character? Oooo, that's a tough one. I like Christina, but I have issues with all of them at times. Maybe Erica Haun?

11. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? I'm so not into jewelry. My NU necklace, I guess? Or my wedding and engagement rings?

12. Favorite hobby? Yoga or cooking. I think. Horseback riding if I could find the time again. I really miss riding. I did hunt seat from the time I was eight until I was pregnant with Little Miss.

13. Do you eat "exotic" foods? Not only do I eat them, but I love them. Ethiopian is one of my favorite foods. And I could eat sushi morning, noon and night. Then again, exotic is all in the mind of the beholder. My in-laws think that Italian is ethnic food.

14. Do you have A.D.D.? That might explain a few things, but I'll go with no.

15. What one trait do you hate about yourself? Ummm I procrastinate sometimes. I know I can get things done... and so I hold off doing them. It's not always ideal, as you can imagine.

16. Middle Name? I've got several, which one do you want? There's the one my parents gave me, the one from confirmation, the one I got when I got married... but shhhh I'm not telling!

17. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? Uhhh. Do I have time to get a manicure today. Where's my recipe for beer cheese soup. I wish these things stayed bold when you copied them.

18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday? Would you believe that I bought not a thing? Nothing. I dropped Mister Man at preschool and worked the rest of the day until 7:30. Oooo, technically I suppose I bought windows, as I had to give up another monstrously large check.

19. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Regularly I'll assume means more than once a month or week, right? Given that, I'll go with water, water and ummm water.

20. Current worry right now? Will that last Christmas present arrive? And how will I do Christmas Eve with the family when I'm also supposed to sing at church at 3, 5 and 10?

21. Current hate? My boss. And the economy. Am I allowed to hate something so intangible?

23. How do you bring in the New Year? Dinner out at Wildfire with friends, so we can order the supper club. But I'm usually back in bed before midnight... so I can be sure to wake up in time to enjoy football all day long on the First!

24. Where would you like to go? Australia. Fiji. South America. Thailand (yes, even after all the stuff happened there and in India recently). Ireland. Scotland. Somewhere, anywhere warm.

25. Name 3 people who will complete this? Ooo, that's a tough one. MaBunny? Angie? Cookie? Anyone? Don't make me feel like an unloved loser by no one doing this! ;)

26. Do you own flip flops? Yes, but only for when I get my pedicures.

27. What shirt are you wearing? Blue long-sleeved tee-shirt. I refuse to admit to whether or not it's a pj shirt.

28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Like Veggie Mom, I've never had the pleasure!

29. Can you whistle? I certainly can, but only like a girl. I sometimes wish I could do the good boy sports whistle; it should be mandatory that all moms be able to do this. Unfortunately, I never figured that one out.

30. Favorite color? Purple. Royal purple, in fact. Did you notice that I had absolutely not hesitation on that one!

32. What songs do you sing in the shower? I don't. I listen to WBBM. They have no music.

33. Favorite girl's name? Ella. Or Isobel. Or Marguerite. Or Gwendolyn. Three guesses why Little Miss isn't named any of them, and the first two don't count. I so should have exerted post-birth authority to name. Stupid C-section drugs that knocked me for a loop.

34. Favorite boy's name? James. Alexander. Spencer. And yet, Mister Man isn't named any of those either. Hmmm.... Ok, so I also love love love Mister Man's first and middle names. And had Little Miss been a boy, she was going to be James Spencer (Jaime).

35. What's in your pocket right now? Nada. I have no pockets at the moment.

36. Last thing that made you laugh? Watching Mister Man and Little Miss run around. They're quite the ummm unique little children.

37. Best bed sheets as a child? I have very few memories from childhood. That's sort of sad, isn't it? I couldn't tell you for the life of me what I had on my bed!

38. Worst injury you've ever had? I broke my leg at the age of two falling down the stairs while trying to get the newspaper for my parents. They had a baby gate up for my sister and I'd had a bloody nose the night before and was in a too-big hand me down nightgown. Five terra cotta flower pots were also involved.

39. Do you love where you live? Yep. I've got the greatest neighbors and friends around! Plus, I have sidewalks. That's huge for me.

40. How many TVs do you have in your house? Hmm. Seven, I'm embarrassed to admit. However, three of them are in our game room, and only two are hooked up. And really we only ever watch two of them.

41. Who is your loudest friend? Other than my husband? Definitely Jeanette.

42. How many dogs do you have? None. And given the experience that my parents have with their dogs... we're gonna stay that way!

43. Does someone have a crush on you? I'm sure someone must. I'm absolutely irresistible, right?

44. Do you get embarrassed easily? I'm a mom. Mom's lost the ability to be embarrassed, didn't they?

45. What is your favorite book? I think I'd have to go with Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. But also possibly the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Or the historical fiction series by Sharon Kay Penman. I'm not too decisive when it comes to favorites, am I? I'm just too easy to please!

46. What is your favorite candy? Umm. I'm not really into candy. Don't hate me. If I never ate it again in my life, I'd be totally cool with it. If I had to choose something though, I guess I'd go for those little French fruit candies that come in the white circle tin.

47. Do you know all the words to the Fresh Prince theme song? Sadly, I never watched that. Or maybe not so sadly.

48. What song do you want played at your funeral? Something happy. And Irish. And I want bagpipes there. I seriously looooove bagpipes.

49. What were you doing 12 AM last night? I was sound asleep!

50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? I tried to figure out why on earth my husband set the alarm for his regular wakeup time when it was a snow day and we didn't have to wake up. And I tried to remember whether or not I told him explicitly before I went to bed that I'd kill him if he didn't turn the alarm off.

More than you ever needed to know, wasn't it?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Best and Worst of Christmas

Ok, I have to get in one more post on Christmas. It's one that's been brewing for awhile, but I keep forgetting to write it down.

We all get gifts that we love, where we can't stop thinking about and playing with and looking at the magical item that we got that we didn't even know we wanted or never really expected even though we hoped against hope that maybe we'd find this piece of heaven under the tree.

Then there are the other gifts. The ones that we open, smile through gritted teeth and then surreptitiously check to see if there is a gift receipt, letting out a mental sigh of relief if we see one and calculating what we can do with it if there is no such receipt.

This year, hands down the best gift was the Vitamix. I can't wait to start making me some good whole food when I get back from San Antonio. I'm totally geeked about this gift. I've read through the cookbook and the directions. More than once.

The "worst" gift was easy, too. My husband sticking the Alamo Bowl tickets in my stocking - the tickets I bought that were addressed to me when they arrived earlier this week - shouldn't even count as a gift. He says he just didn't want to look bad in front of the wee ones.

Over the years, I've gotten many presents that have stuck out in both the positive and negative. Hands down, the best gift ever was one my husband thought up for me back when we were still dating. He knew I was always cold at night.

Now that I think about it, my top two gifts have to do with me being cold at night. An ex bought me a snuggly warm down comforter one year that I still use today when it gets too cold. That was totally unexpected, and a wonderful gift. Then again, that particular ex rocked with the gifts. The gifts he got me the first Valentine's we were together were by far the most thoughtful I've ever received. I'll be using him as an example of gift giving as the wee ones get older!

Anyway, my husband found something even better. It's not quite an electric blanket that warms the top of you but tends to get tangled up and around and doesn't work so well for me. Instead, he found a mattress warmer. Considering that he gives off the heat of a nuclear power plant, he did well in finding on that has two controls so we can each be comfortable.

Since it goes on under the sheets, it never slips around. We turn it on high when we start getting ready for bed, then I turn it down to two or three before slipping under the now fully warmed covers. On colder nights, I may leave it up a little higher, but I'm always comfortable. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Then there's my aunt. She's the queen of inappropriate gifts. For Mister Man's first Christmas (when he was two months old), she gave him a magnetic advent calendar tree. This year, he's finally really into the tree, but last year was the first year we even took it out of its box.

But she topped herself one year with a gift from me. Let's just say that this year I didn't get so much as a card from her, and I'm really ok with that. This particular gift arrived when I was 27 or so. I had owned my own home for a few years at that point and had lived on my own since heading to college at the age of 17 (I turned 18 shortly thereafter, don't worry).

Yep. She sent me a book that literally talks about how long you can keep produce in the fridge, how to dust, how to wash dishes, etc. The woman never made it to my house (they live in Minnesota), so it isn't like she had somehow seen (fabricated) evidence that I was a poor housekeeper. No, she just thought this would be a perfect fit for me. Or maybe she didn't think at all; I'm really not sure which. Regardless, I'm still insulted by it. I keep it only for laughs when I sometimes feel the need to page through it in utter disbelief.
So what are your all time best and worst gifts?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Rewind

I'm finally recovering from all that is Christmas. This year, that means that I'm just about ready to start writing out my Christmas New Years cards to send out to friendss and family. In fact, earlier today I picked up the photos of the wee ones visiting Santa (from Christmas Eve) to put into the cards.

So let's do a little review, shall we?

We started out our celebrations in St. Louis with my husband's family. We froze at the Rams game and then came back to his parents for the big Christmas celebration with that side. We had the traditional turkey Christmas dinner (we're not very original) before opening up the multitude of presents from them.

Little Miss was most impressed by her new black Tinkerbell backpack. I have a feeling her "old" Disney princess backpack will be headed for the donation bin by ohhh say January 5. She actually wore it around all day yesterday during Christmas while playing with her other toys, which was very cute. She also got a huge Tinkerbell soft blanket from her Uncle and his girlfriend that has replaced all other blankets as her favorite.

Mister Man was just as thrilled with his toys from the Alphabet train puzzle he got to the Spiderman and Friends Matching Game that I have now played enough times to know which top goes to which bottom within about 0.00000002 seconds. Fortunately, it's better than the Scooby Doo Haunted House game, so I'm not going to complain.

I also tried to get a picture of the wee ones by the tree thinking I could use that for the Christmas card photo. My SIL took that as in invitation to tell her daughter to plop down in front of the tree. Ditto with my husband's aunt's children (yes, who are younger than the wee ones). Fine. No one cooperated with this picture.

Then I asked them to do a silly picture, hoping that would get it out of them - after removing the youngest cousin who had no interest in being in the photo at all.

Finally, I got a decent picture of the wee ones under the tree. Then I decided that they weren't dressed Christmas-y enough anyway, so I decided to not use it anyway. Yep, that's me - Ms. I-Can-Change-My-Mind-Anytime-I-Want-To.

We ended up leaving St. Louis a day early due to the forecasted snow in Chicago and freezing rain in St. Louis. Neither sounded appealing to drive in, and the precipitation wasn't supposed to let up until midday on Christmas Eve. We had plans for Christmas Eve, and some of those included finally seeing Santa. We were going to try to do it on Monday, but my husband got something in his eye at the Rams game and had to go to the eye doctor for most of Monday (or so it seemed).

We've discovered that Mister Man is too big to sit on Santa's lap now. Or at least this Santa, who can't figure out how to hold a five year old boy. We finally gave up on this idea and had Santa stand by both wee ones.

We also had plans to be in the pageant at our church that afternoon. Lucky for Mister Man and Little Miss, they got to be the shepherd and sheep, just as they'd hoped.

It was a fully unscripted pageant, with the director of religious formation reading the story, interspersed with carols, while the appropriate characters came up to the aisle and deposited their sheep/shepherds/angels in the creche. The wee ones went around twice because they liked the stage so much. And Little Miss came up the aisle a third time with Mister Man yelling "Little Miss - GET back here" just like a good little shepherd tending his sheep. When she didn't come back, he chased her up the aisle and herded her to the back of the church.

After church, we came home and had my yummy lasagne dinner (including molten chocolate cake for dessert - and yes, I'll share the recipes eventually). Every Christmas Eve, we open up a single present. They were both thrilled with the new books that Grandma and Grandpa got them -- we love Peanuts books around here!

Come Christmas morning, I turn into Mean Mommy. I make the wee ones bring all four stockings up into bed with us to open and look at there. This gives me just a touch more time to actually wake up before having to get out of bed.

This year, my stocking contained -- wait for it -- a banana, an orange, and the Alamo Bowl tickets that *I* bought that arrived for me on Monday. Unfortunately, my husband forgot about my stocking until about 10pm on Christmas Eve when I was at church singing in the choir for the late service.

Fortunately, he made up for it by buying me a Vitamix! My old blender no longer worked, but I couldn't justify paying the cost of the Vitamix, though I have lusted over it for over a decade. Unfortunately, I ended up returning most of the other gifts he got for me (two candles that I'd be allergic to, a quesadilla maker, and canisters that were unfortunately too small for what I need). All I really needed though, was the VitaMix. Yay!

The wee ones really loved what Santa brought them. Little Miss got new Wellies, a really cool animal tag game, and a traditional Christmas book. Mister Man was just as thrilled with his Christmas book, Thomas train set (yes, another one), and Handy Games for Boys set. Santa only brings three presents in our house, just like the Wise Men brought Jesus. My parents make up the difference.

After breakfast of blueberry coffee cake (mmm, another Tasty Tuesday opportunity!), Mister Man finally remembered to check to see if Santa ate the milk and cookies we put out and the carrots for the reindeer. Just like last year, Mister Man put the carrots by the fireplace, but the milk and cookies went to his place at the table so he could have a nice respite and sit down at the table to eat them - just like the rules he has to follow. Awwww!

Later in the day, we went to my parents' house for dinner and to open up the rest of the presents from my parents. Yes, they're very spoiled. I've given up on telling them to stop buying things. I'll be having a massive giveaway of barely or never used items come January. Someone will enjoy them, right?

The hit gift from my parents was the slot car racer set. It has 23 feet of track and is remote controlled. It somehow senses where it's going so it goes around the curves and avoids the barrel obstacles you put out on the track. That's another toy that will stay at my parents' house.

In fact, Little Miss liked it so much that she picked up the blue car and would not put it down for anything. She even opened her presents one-handed. Notice the right hand behind her back holding onto the car in case anyone might want to look at it.

All in all, it was a fun Christmas. Lots of fun and entertainment from the wee ones. My favorite quote of the day had to come from Mister Man. The Thomas set had pine trees as part of it. The base of one tree was cracked, which he found very upsetting. "Mommy, there must have been an elf who didn't like his job. He rushed through making my toy, and he broke it." Ahhh, the innocence of youth!

I hope you all had a wonderful and joyous Christmas (or Hanukkah)!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Ok, so this was supposed to be way cuter, but my dad was in charge of it, so you'll have to pretend. Little Miss sorta takes over, but pretend Mister Man sings every word in the "appropriate" voice. I'm going to try to get a better version of this later today and repost the video.

(and Happy Hanukkah)!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Jinxed It

Earlier this year, someone made a comment to me that they no longer had a company Christmas (excuse me, holiday) party at work anymore. I thought that was really sad, and I mentioned that I was glad that we still had ours.

Ours is a great one. We rent out a hotel lobby and banquet room(s). It's open bar before and after dinner. We have a sit down dinner of pretty decent food. There's a great, huge live band that plays until after midnight. Each person who comes gets a raffle ticket for neat prizes -- everything from a GPS unit to a gift certificate to movie tickets. There are lots of prizes, although I've never managed to win in the time that I've been working here. They even let us off work early that Friday so we can get home and pretty up for the party.

A few days after I made the pronouncement about how we have our great Christmas party, an email announcement came out that we were not having our traditional Christmas party this year. Instead, we'd have a party at our new headquarters to cut costs, and we were no longer to bring a guest.

I was bummed, but ... I can deal.

This fall, expenses were cut further, and no Christmas party at the division level. The individual departments could do something small if they wished, and we were assured that our department would do something to celebrate yet.

Well, this past Thursday was our departmental Christmas party. Most people weren't there because we only found out about it the prior Monday. With so many people who work remotely, there wasn't much time -- nor incentive -- to move around work schedules to be in the office. It was from 11:30 to 1pm in one of the conference rooms. We should stop by as we were able. Oh, and it was potluck. But we were to only bring in store-bought food.

Apparently they were a little worried that we might want to poison our bosses. Oh the difference a year makes. It's actually really sad. Needless to say, I didn't go to the office specifically for this party. It just didn't seem like there was all that much to celebrate.

I can only hope that next year life returns somewhat to normal. The lack of a Christmas party isn't big in the grand scheme of things, but it's definitely symptomatic of what else is going on in the rest of the country. Too many people have lost jobs. Too many people are in fear of losing their livelihoods and their homes. Too many people are taking part-time work they don't want just to try to make it.

A Merry Christmas to everyone. And let's pray that it feels more like a merry one next year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tasty Tuesday

Just for Melisa, I'm putting something out there that she can eat. Granted, there is the option of pork product, but it isn't central to the recipe.

And given that it's colder than blazes here and lots o' snow, I need to pretend it's still warm and yummy out. This week, you're getting grilled pizza. You can also do this in the oven on a pizza stone, which I do regularly, but grilling a pizza is really impressive.

And easy. I was so scared the first time I tried it, but I figured the worst that could happen is that I'd close the grill, turn it up high and burn away my mistake. No need! And so delicious!

First, you'll need your ingredients for the dough:
1 c hot water
1 T yeast
3 c flour
1 T oil
a pinch sugar (totally optional)
1/2 t salt

Add the water to the mixer, with the yeast, oil, and sugar on top of it. Keep the salt away from the yeast, as salt will kill it and that's bad. Mix this just a touch, then add half the flour. Mix it until all the flour is incorporated, then add your salt and mix again. Once the yeast is coated with flour, you're safe to add the salt. Add the rest of the flour slowly. You may not need it all, depending on the humidity of the flour you're using.

It will start to look like this, which is scary.

Keep mixing though. Eventually it will all come together, I promise. Use your dough hook for 10-15 minutes on low to medium speed, until your dough looks like this:

Once it does, cover it with a damp towel (still in the bowl) for an hour and a half or so to let it rise. Gently punch it down and separate it into four equal sized balls. They'll need to rest here for a few minutes.

Push/roll/stretch the first ball into an approximate rectangle shape. Just keep working with it until it eventually relaxes into the shape and size you need. I like mine super thin. Brush olive oil onto both sides of the dough and set onto a jelly roll pan. Repeat with the remaining three balls. You can set them atop each other in the jelly roll pan, and they won't stick too badly.

Make sure your grill is hot. Like 450-500 degrees hot and has been for a bit. Ensure you have all your ingredients ready, whether you're doing a pizza with sauce or just toppings (I like chopping kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, red onion, and artichokes, as well as crumbled feta or goat cheese, some shredded asiago, with torn basil and prosciutto added after cooking). This is your pizza, so make it how you like.

Gently lay your dough on the grill, and close the grill. It's ok if it isn't perfect. We're all about taste here, not presentation! This part makes you look the most professional.

Grill it for 2-3 minutes, until you can lift it with tongs and you see grill marks but it doesn't look uncooked. Place it on a second jelly roll pan, and apply your toppings. When you get comfortable with this, you can actually have this going in shifts so while you're putting toppings on one pizza, a second is grilling and then you switch them.

Grill on the second side with the cover closed for just a couple more minutes. If you're melting cheese on it, go until the cheese is melty.

Otherwise, you just made a whole lotta pizza for a whole lotta people who are going to be super impressed with you. And trust me, this is much cheaper than ordering takeout or popping in a frozen pizza. The taste, of course, doesn't begin to compare. This is one of those things that sounds like it would be hard "oh, I made homemade pizza for dinner last night" but is actually super easy!

If you want to do it in the oven instead, preheat the oven with the stone inside to 450 degrees. Put all the toppings on your pizza on a pizza paddle that is lightly covered in cornmeal so nothing sticks. Put it in the oven at 450 for 10-12 minutes, and use the paddle to pull it out. For oven baked pizzas, you do not need to oil the dough first.


PS I forgot the *best* story from yesterday at the football game. Picture this: The Rams (who are horrible this year) are up 16-3 with only a few minutes left in the game. Suddenly, there is just over a minute left, and it's now 16-16. I turn to my husband to offer support:

Me: Maybe they'll miss the extra point (leaving the game tied)
Husband: Right, and maybe monkeys will fly out of my a$$. (He stands up, turns around to look at his rear end) Nope, no monkeys.

And the Niners made the extra point. And won the game. The image of it all still cracks me up.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Observations Of An Out Of Towner

This weekend, we're hanging out in St. Louis at my in-laws. We have a thing about being home on the actual holiday of Christmas so that Santa can visit the wee ones in our own home. This year, we're coming down the weekend before Christmas to spend four days here with the in-laws. It's been fun.

Today, we went to the Rams game. And by "we" I mean my husband and I and his best friend from here. The wee ones stayed at my in-laws who watched them, along with my SIL and niece. By the time we got home, it was time for our first Christmas dinner and then the massive present opening spree.

Somehow, we brought down some arctic weather with us from Chicago. It was 2.8 degrees this morning when we were eating breakfast. This is really not so acceptable for me. I come to St. Louis, in part, because it's warmer than Chicago. Ok, so granted it was 5 below in Chicago. Still, I remember walking around in shorts on year because it was so warm. Is 40's and 50's so much to ask?

A few observations:

  • St Louis people wear jerseys to the games, which I totally get. What I don't understand and will never understand, is that in St. Louis, they feel as though jerseys are dress shirts that need to be tucked in and belted. Really, it's not a fashion look. I will say that at least my husband has finally given up this habit.
  • It was so cold that one of my husband's friends at the tailgate (seriously, they still had a tailgate) opened up a can of pop for his six year old son. The pop froze as he was trying to drink it. Literally. People should not have to be outside in that kind of weather.
  • When I went to go get my free pop because I signed up to be a designated driver (a perk many stadiums offer, by the way), the concession workers told me that they were supposed to consolidate. No new kegs were to be tapped. When they ran out of something that was open, they were to refer people to other stands. Assuming they were open. Lots and lots of the concession stands were just flat out closed today.
  • The Rams are pretty bad this year, and the crowds showed it. The Dome was pretty empty, and my husband's tickets are in the upper section. We went down to the lower concourse to do some shopping -- my husband's idea -- since the Ram Store was having a huge sale. By the time the boys finished shopping, the first quarter was half over. I seriously felt like I was in a mall that happened to have a football game on a tv nearby.
  • People will do anything for something free. There was a pickup truck handing out free bottles of Monster energy drink as we were walking (ok, running) to the car. We couldn't get past it because of how many people were crowded around the truck. I heard one person say he got a half dozen. I heard another say he grabbed one but doesn't even like it. Ohhh, how I love people. Let me count the ways.
  • And my favorite from this afternoon's game. My husband is such a girl. At the end of the game, all the men were standing outside the women's bathroom waiting for them to finish their business. Me? I was the only woman standing by my lonesome outside the men's bathroom.

It's always a different world when you go elsewhere, and we've got a couple more days to go. On the plus side, tomorrow we're apparently going to the mall down here to see Santa. That's another thing we haven't had a chance to do yet this year, and I was sort of bummed that we weren't going to have any pictures with Santa. Now if I can just get those New Years cards out....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gee, Thanks!

I think everyone's heard this one before, right? The Mom Song? It's pretty famous, and personally I think it's hilarious.

The other day, it was on XM Kids. Mister Man, Little Miss and I were driving umm somewhere. They asked me to turn it up, so I did. At the end of the song, I turned the radio back down again, and there was silence in the backseat.

Mister Man: Mom. That song sounds like you.
Me: Umm. Really? It does?
Mister Man: Yeah. That sounds just like you.
Me: Really? Do I nag that much? Am I that demanding?
Mister Man: No. I mean that voice sounds like you. She has your voice.

Phew! I was really getting worried there for a moment!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's a Charlie Brown Christmas

Mental note to self: plan ahead for Christmas next year.

I've pretty much given up on sending out Christmas cards this year. I haven't written the letter, I don't have good pictures to put in the card (nor are they printed), and by the time you read this, I'll be on my way to St Louis to visit with the in laws for a few days.

The wee ones have also not visited Santa. I haven't wrapped a single present. My husband's gifts have been planned for a month, but I haven't actually bought them yet. Oh, and two gifts for my mom and my in-laws will be arriving after the Blessed Day. Oops.

I actually blame much of it on Little Miss being in the hospital all last weekend. Last Friday was my day to get the Christmas letter and pictures done, and the cards were to go out last Saturday. Obviously that didn't happen. And work has been an absolute bear lately with me working until 7:30 on a few nights, plus working on my off days. That's kinda thrown a crimp into my life. I still need to plan better though.

Our tree is a good example. I refuse to have a non-live tree. I tried to go look at fake trees last Christmas, and I tried to find one I could live with but I just couldn't do it. In fact, I really prefer to go to a tree farm and cut down my own. I love the experience of doing that, and I'm sure the wee ones would, too. There was never a free weekend day that we could have gone though. Oooo, brilliant me. I'm going to write that date on the calendar for next year right now.

See. My brain does work sometimes.

In any case, we finally went to Home Depot to get our tree. Another mental note to self: don't get a tree the weekend before Christmas. I literally had six trees to choose from. And they were just a tad picked over by that point. If only I'd taken my camera so you could see how sad those empty tree boxes looked.

Instead, we came home with this:

All it needs is a little love, right? And maybe a blanket wrapped around the bottom?

Fortunately, we have plenty of lights to weigh down some of the branches. The only problem with weighing down the branches is that it exposed ummm light midway up through the tree. Oh well. That's what ornaments are for, right?

The wee ones got right on that. They had so much fun hanging ornaments on the tree!

Let's just say it all together now. Ready? Awwwwww.

I promise. There was no fighting over who got to hang what ornament. There were no tears when all the Santa and Frosty ornaments were hung. No pushing and shoving occurred at all. No one grabbed ornaments out of anyone's hand, nor did anyone purposely knock ornaments off the tree that someone else had hung up.

Another mental note to self: do not decorate the tree just before bedtime when they're tired next year.

In the end, we ended up with a lovely tree. See?

And yes, the ornaments were hung in clumps. Raise your hand if you think I left the ornaments in clumps. What, not a single one of you raised your hand? You must know me too well. Yep, I had to more artfully rearrange the clumps. They were disturbing my tree zen.

Oh. You want a picture of the whole tree put together? Yeah, sorry. There wasn't enough love in this house to magically turn the Charlie Brown tree into a miracle. Maybe next year. When I cut down a beauty all by myself.
On the plus side, I'm really realizing how much I love my ornaments. Don't they look all fancy and expensive? I got them at Fields years ago on clearance each year after Christmas. They're actually laquered paper mache and ... unbreakable. Kids or cats can knock them down and no harm, no foul. The actually breakable ones only the adults hang up. And we put them much higher in the tree.
At least we had fun decorating it, right?

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's The Giving Season

Ok so a couple of updates here for me on a Friday snow day.

First, I got a call from school yesterday at about 8:30 to say that school would be canceled today. This was after my work sent out a note at 2pm telling people to start heading home because of the weather. Since I was working at home at the time, I actually asked people if it was snowing there but no it was still sunny. And while I appreciate getting a call at night, can we at least wait until the first flake starts falling? Snow didn't start until after 11 last night. Granted, it was a lot and school would have been canceled, but it still seemed weird.

Second, we went to the dentist on Wednesday and yay - no one has any cavities. Little Miss has some pitting in two teeth, but they aren't soft, so we'll just keep brushing well and monitoring them. Unfortunately, they both announced that they never want to go to the dentist again.

Third, Little Miss is on more meds, and I'm not real comfortable with that. Her pediatrician wants her on steroids twice a day for the next few weeks and once a day until summer. When I look at the side effects of Pulmicort -- including a weakened immune system -- I just don't feel like this is a good idea. How do I tell this to my pediatrician? Little Miss is also on antibiotic ear drops for her first post tube removal ear infection. We lasted three weeks after the tubes came out; this isn't looking good. Interestingly, I also read that many ear and lung issues are caused by a dairy allergy that can be taken care of by eliminating all dairy from the diet. I'm debating trying this, but when I start looking at all the foods that have cassein and whey in them, this is a major change for my milk, yogurt and cheese girl. Has anyone had any experience with this?

And lastly, it's Christmas, and it's a rough Christmas for a lot of people. Then there are those who are trying to make the world a brighter and better place. Who are these people? They're everywhere. They're helping out at schools and nursing homes. They're adopting families and helping them for Christmas. They're shoveling neighbors' walks. There are all sorts of neat and great things people are doing.

And it doesn't stop there. I've found all sorts of bloggers that I read regularly who are working on brightening the holidays for their readers. Who are these people, you ask?

First up, we have Jaci, who's giving away Fiestaware. A whole place setting of it even. That stuff is so cool (and yes, it comes in purple - plum, technically). You've got until Christmas Eve to pop in over there.

Kat at Sunshine and Lemonade is giving away three prizes this week! She has the coolest scrapbooking Disney album sets. As an added bonus, she shows us all how she made some great photo books from her own Disney trip. You've got until Saturday!

The SITS girls - one of my favorite sites out there - is giving away a $40 gift certificate to LaLa Baby Boutique. Again, you have until tomorrow to go visit the boutique and let them know how you'd spend the $40. It wasn't hard for me to find a way to spend umm just a touch over the $40. A lot of bloggers are trying to figure out how to get more readers and commenters, etc. This is a great site to network on to gain more of both.

Dawn at her Because I Said So Reviews is giving away Word World Moon Sand. The wee ones saw this show's "people" last winter at an event we went to and fell in love with them. Again, you've got until Saturday (tomorrow) to enter. And Dawn is also giving away a grocery list electronic gadget that I am absolutely drooling over. It's called the SmartShopper Grocery List Organizer, and you have until Monday to enter. She has another one (c'mon, Dawn, you're making everyone else look bad!) for Dunkin' Donuts that also ends on Monday. You can get a pound of coffee and a travel mug.

And Outnumbered2to1 is giving away a four pack of Disney on Ice tickets in Milwaukee for Thursday February 5 at 7pm. You've got until January 23, but ... only enter if you or a loved one can make it, deal?

Good luck, and I promise tomorrow I'll be more together. These snow day things really throw me! And no, I didn't send the teacher gifts to school yesterday. That would have been too easy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I know you're getting a ton of letters this time of year, and I'm pretty sure a lot of them are going to be coming from mommies. I'm hoping you have room for one more.

Really, I have a very small request. I'm not asking for jewelry or for personal servants or for anything luxurious even. All I want for Christmas is a good night's sleep. Ok, so maybe that's not such a small request.

Let me explain, Santa. I try. I really do. I lay down in my bed a good nine to ten hours before my alarm is going to go off. That should be plenty of sleep, right? People only need about eight hours, or so I've read. So long as I still remember how to do math, eight is less than both nine and ten. I should be set.

Let's take last night as an example though.

My husband went to bed before I did unfortunately. I could hear him snoring from downstairs, which isn't a good sign. When I turned off my light after reading an article in a magazine, I poked him so he rolled over onto his side instead of his back. And continued snoring. It took awhile for my to fall asleep. Santa, maybe you could help my husband stop snoring while you're at it?

I finally fell asleep, and Mister Man walked in around 11:30. He was crying because his side hurt. I rubbed it sleepily and asked if that felt better. He told me it didn't, so I suggested going potty or taking a drink to see if that helped. He walked into the bathroom and did both. Then he came back to tell me he still hurt. We finally discovered that wearing two pairs of underwear was causing the pain, so he removed one of them and trotted off to bed. I had to deal with the snoring again. Common sense for Mister Man, Santa? A larger bladder? I'm willing to work with you here.

Around 2:30, I was awakened by the snoring again. From a deep and sound sleep. I swear it was vibrating the bed. Needless to say, it took me awhile to fall back asleep after being so rudely pulled from my peaceful slumber. We're back to my husband and the snoring thing again, Santa. Any suggestions?

At 3:26, Little Miss started crying. My husband wasn't moving, so I hopped out of bed to find out what the problem was. She needed a hug from Mommy. I'm guessing it was a bad dream, as she went straight back to sleep. Me, not so much. How about helping Little Miss sleep through the night? Or maybe wave your magic wand and have my husband wake up quicker?

Around 4:30, I was again awakened by the snoring. This time a quick elbow to the ribs silenced it long enough for me to fall asleep. Eventually. Ok, we really need to address this snoring thing, Santa. Seriously.

I heard Mister Man head to the bathroom again -- must have been that late night drink -- around 5:20. Apparently I wasn't so soundly asleep after that last snor-wakening. Yep, a larger bladder is the solution for Mister Man. He didn't even come into our room to announce that he had to go potty. I just heard him pattering down the hall et al.

After that, I was pretty much sunk. I laid awake, counting down from 200 in the hopes that I could fall back asleep. I know you're aware that this is my personal insomnia solver. It would have worked, I think. I was down in the sixties when my husband's alarm went off. He snoozed it, the meanie. It went off again nine minutes louder. Maybe you could bring him an alarm that just reaches out and pokes him. Quietly.

I laid awake and listened to him shower. When he turned the light in the closet on and left the door open so he could find his socks and such, I sighed and tried to roll over. Light is not exactly conducive to sleep for me. Ok, Santa, I know asking for a house that's large enough that the closet is a giant his/hers set next to the bathroom with the door to the hallway where the closets are, but I think that's the solution. See, a good night's sleep is so simple next to this!

By the time I heard the garage door closing, it was beyond hope. I was exhausted, but I knew sleep wasn't coming back to me. I gave up and hauled myself into the shower to start the day about forty-five minutes early.

On the plus side, Santa, I did have one of my most productive days ever. I got so much stuff done. Maybe this whole sleep thing is overrated.

Nope, sorry. I need my sleep. Santa, please, this is the only thing I'm asking for. Take pity on a mom with bags below the bags on her eyes. I promise I'll be a better mom this year if I get more sleep. Just one good night. Pretty please?


PS I promise I'm making extra yummy cookies for you this year. Not that I'd try to bribe you or anything. That would put me squarely on the naughty list, I know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whoah! Starbucks Alert

Ok, maybe I'm a moron here and you all already know about this. Me? I'll admit to being a bit out of the loop. Karen mentioned the other day that she used her Gold Starbucks card to get 10% off her drink. Hmm....

Me, always being on the lookout for cool things like, ohhh I don't know, 10% off at Starbucks -- where I only drink the frou frou $4.60 or whatever yummy things. I asked her what she did to get a Gold card, and she said she just bought one for $25.

Interesting. That of course prompted a visit to the Starbucks website for me to further investigate. I don't have a Starbucks habit -- I'm not big on caffeine, it's expensive and oh yeah it has a lot of calories when I drink it -- but I certainly go there periodically, as does my husband.

Yep, she's right. You can buy a $25 Gold card. So what do you get for your Gold card?

1) Buy it in the store and you get a free drink (any size, any drink) immediately ($25 - $4.60 = $20.40 cost so far)

2) On your birthday, you get a free drink, again any size of any drink. ($20.40 - $4.60 = $15.80 cost now)

3) 10% off almost anything you buy in the store. I thought initially it was only for drinks, but exclusions are just for gift cards, the membership, books and magazines, and digital downloads. That means I could get the Starbucks mug or a CD or coffee and get 10% off those, too. I know me though, and I'll just be buying my usual. With the cost effectively at $15.80, I only have to buy four drinks over the course of a year to make money. Errr save money, I mean.

4) You get up to two free hours of wireless access via AT&T each day. You have to register with AT&T and all, but what a great way to encourage people to hang out and get some more of perk number three! The only downside is that it's one shot of access per day, so you can't go in for an hour in the morning and then for another hour later in the day. I'm ok with that though.

5) Apparently I'll get other "exclusive offers and discounts" throughout the year. These aren't specified, and they may be worthless to me (which is why I didn't include it in the above calculation), but if it's 20% off the first Tuesday of the month or upgrade a grande to a venti for free during spring break or something along those lines, I'm good with it. Hmm, maybe I should go work for Starbucks in their marketing department.

And this isn't the only kind of thing Starbucks has. You can also register your gift cards with Starbucks and get free stuff. It sounds as thought you can only do the Gold card or their Starbucks Card Rewards for a single purchase, but I still need to go into a Starbucks to verify that (hey, if anyone knows all this already, pipe up!).

So why would you want the Starbucks Card Rewards instead? Here, you get some different benefits that may be more beneficial based on how and what you buy. You do have to use the registered gift card (and you can register up to three at a time) for at least part of the purchase. Details include:

1) When you buy a drink, you can get an add-in for free. I can't tell if it's only one add-in, or if you can do as many as you want to really customize your coffee. Again, I'll have to verify. If it's anything, I'd get my venti brewed coffee and pop in some caramel syrup, hazelnut, and soy and be good to go. That would be cheaper than the 10% off my venti caramel macciatto.

2) When you're hanging out at Starbucks (and when the wee ones are in school and I have time to myself, I will become one of these moms!), you get free refills of brewed coffee (hot or iced) for as long as you're there. I can't tell if you also get the free add-ins, but hmmm....

3) When you buy coffee beans there, you get a free tall cup of whatever you want with your one pound purchase. Of course if I were to buy Starbucks beans (for my husband), I'd buy them at Costco where (shhhh) they're far cheaper, but still not a bad perk for those who buy their beans at Starbucks!

4) The same free wireless offer as the Gold Card.

Maybe I'm totally out of the loop, and yes, that's not out of the realm of possibility, but if this is news to you, how cool is this? And if everyone in the world knew about this already but me, can you at least not rub it in too badly?

Any guesses as to what I'm doing once Little Miss wakes up from her nap today? Actually, scratch that. I can't have caffeine past about noon. Let's try this again. Anyone know what I'm doing tomorrow morning once I drop Mister Man off at daycare?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tasty Tuesday!

Well, apparently Tasty Tuesday will stick around - at least for a little while. I have another recipe that I made last week (yes, before the hospital visit) that was a huge hit in our house. Unfortunately for Melisa, I seem to be on a pork theme, but I promise the next one will be kosher-able.

This one is from my friend Denise who made it as part of our supper swapping. It was something I would never have made for myself, as I am not at all a pork fan, but I let her make it since she makes so much pork in her house and I was vetoing all her recipes. I'm really glad I did! Not only is it super yummy and healthy, but it's incredibly easy to make, and it uses one of my favorite inventions - the Crock Pot! Mister Man even helped me make this one.

Crock Pot Pork (I have no better name than this):

3-4 pounds pork tenderloin
8-10 cloves garlic, sliced
2 large onions (or 3 medim), sliced
2 bay leaves
1/4 c water
3 T soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Yes, that is IT! Super easy. For the pork, I prefer to remove the silverskin and trim it up a little, even though it usually comes pretty clean. For the silverskin, I slide a knife under it and then use my fingers to pull it off entirely (cleaning if needed with the knife to keep more meat on the tenderloin and not pulled off with the silverskin).

Once cleaned, slit the pork in a few places, and shove in pieces of sliced garlic here and there. My friend's recipe called for 2 cloves of garlic here, but I used more like 6 and would have been ok with more. Salt and pepper the pork, and set aside for a moment.

Slice your onions like you're going to put them on a hamburger (rings), but cut in half. Toss all the onion into the bottom of your crockpot. It's going to look like you have a ton, but they really cook down.

Place the pork on top of the onions. See how you can spot the garlic peeking out of the meat?

Add the garlic, bay leaves, soy, and water. Make sure the garlic is not sitting on top of the pork by itself or it will get burned a little by the end. You can even poke it into the middle of the pork loins.

Cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. You can also do it on high for 4-6 hours, but I prefer cooking on low to really get it tender and juicy. The meat may not all be in juice to start, but by the end, it will sink down and become yumalicious!

I wish I had a picture of the finished product in the crockpot, but everyone was so anxious to eat it that I had to dish it up as soon as it was ready. I will, however, say that it is kid tested and approved!

This is one of our newer favorites, and I know I'll be cooking it again several times this winter. Enjoy!

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