Sunday, May 31, 2009

You Can Never Go Back

Today is my and my husband's anniversary (yay, us!). Since the anniversary itself is on a Sunday, we decided to celebrate last night. Orignally, we were hoping to be attending the game six Stanley Cup semifinal game at the UC, but let's just say that wasn't an option after Wednesday night.

Instead, my husband decided to take me out and surprise me as to the location. All I was told was that he needed to wear a jacket, and I should dress appropriately. Hmmm.

As we drove into the city, I had a suspicion of where we were going, but I said nothing. As we got off at the Ohio exit, my suspicions grew. When my husband continued on Ohio past Michigan, I was certain.

I smirked to myself as my husband turned north on St Clair (he never lived in the city and doesn't know it well). As we passed the nondescript entrance to the restaurant that on the opposite side the road, I quietly pointed it out. Oh. Yep, I was right. We were headed to my favorite restaurant, and the only one where I can possibly spend that much money on food (once every few years) and not need reimbursement from a corporate expense account.

Isn't that sweet? They even made up menus for us with our anniversary noted on it. They're all about the service there, which I love. It's one of the very few restaurants I know of that still abides by the etiquette of serve from the left, take from the right. And when they serve and take (and pour water), they do it simultaneously for the entire table, which I also love.

This wasn't just a dinner at TRU though. My husband lucked into the chef's table for our reservation. Yep, we sat in the kitchen. Ok, we sat beyond the kitchen in a little room where we could see the kitchen through the windows and the open doorway. It was still pretty darn cool, though!

When our menus were presented to us, I was already pretty sure I knew what I wanted. In fact, every time I've ever been to TRU, I've ordered the same thing -- the chef's collection. It's a ten course meal that you have no say in other than letting them know if you have dietary restrictions.

I love not knowing what's coming next and seeing all the different inventions as they come out -- especially since each person at the table gets a different selection. My all time favorite is the marinated variety of raw fish that is served in a glass pyramidal cylinder that sits inside a small glass globe with a beta fish swimming in the globe. And yes, my description of this leaves much to be desired. Suffice it to say: YUM.

When I peered at the menu to see how much the chef's collection had increased in time since I had last been there -- and it had been awhile, I now realize, since my husband had never been there before. I was saddened to see that they now have a prescribed chef's menu that lists out what each course is. And that it was only nine courses now.

My favorite course had always been the caviar staircase. It consisted of four types of caviar with the appropriate toppings, each nestled into a small square glass cup that sits partly atop the one before it to make a staircase. It's absolutely gorgeous and so much fun. It's now an add-on. A $250 add-on. I assume this is per person, but there was no way I was spending that much money, so I neglected to ask. *sigh*

I still went with the chef's collection, and they were able to accomodate me. I don't eat foie gras, and instead I received a skate dish with spring vegetables that was delicious. My ramp and rabbit risotto was also made without the morels that I can't bring myself to eat.

I could go on and on about the food -- from the amuse bouche that they serve prior to the meal and prior to dessert to the fun roasted butternut squash and lobster cappuchino style soup -- but I know my descriptions can't do it justice. The flavors are so well-balanced and so fresh with additions of spice and herb that I would never dream of doing on my own but that fit so well each time.

Our dessert was just as good - an almond mousse on a sponge cake with a hazelnut cracker. Before that was the cheese course with a fabulous selection of cheeses to cleanse our palate before the aforementioned amuse bouche. We were also presented with one of Gale Gand's famous homemade rootbeer floats that has creamsicle ice cream instead of the traditional vanilla. Sadly, I don't like root beer, but my husband says they (yes, he had both of them) were wonderful.

At that point, dinner appeared to be over. I told my husband that I was sad because they appeared to have stopped my other (besides the caviar staircase) part of dinner. They used to bring a cart of special little bite sized desserts that you could choose to put into a cool little chinese takout container. It was always a really neat memento of a wonderfu evening.

They haven't fully gotten rid of this fun tradition, but they have modified it. There's no takeout box. Instead, what you choose, you eat there. It was definitely much more fun the other way, but I did enjoy my treats. I selected a kiwi lollipop (and yes these are all bite sized), a blueberry milk chocolate "lollipop" and a hazelnut creme puff.

As we were finishing these bites, they brought out one last little treat for us. It was a hot chocolate truffle. Nope, it doesn't taste like hot chocolate. Instead, it's a take on hot chocolate. They must freeze the liquid mixture before dipping it in the ganache for the truffle and then letting it melt inside the solid chocolate container. It's truly liquid, and I was glad of the warning not to bite into it but to put the enire truffle in my mouth -- and I'm a nibbler, so it would have been a disaster. The hot part came from the spices. It reminded me of Mexican chocolate with the cinnamon and pepper flavors. Regardless, it's yet another unique treat.

And my sadness at not having the chinese takeout box of bites for later was ameliorated. As we were walking out the restaurant to retrieve our car, we were each presented with these.

It wasn't quite like going back in time, but ohhhhh it was a good dinner. And I'm satiated for a good while now. My husband did good.

Then we move on to the actual anniversary presents. Remember, this is the man who gave me leftover candy (that I don't actually like) for Mother's Day, along with a child finder system that is just a teensy bit too paranoid for me.

He did pretty well on this count, too.

First up as a gift card to White House Black Market, which is my absolute favorite store. The majority of my clothes come from there, with the exception of the ones I wear when I am on Mommy duty -- you know, the random t-shirts and capris and the like. I love having an excuse to have to buy something there. In fact, I may need to do a little online shopping tonight. And yes, I'm a Black Book member with them.

My next gift was a corn zipper. Granted, this is a kitchen gadget that I didn't yet have, and he is awfully cute. Do you see the neat smiley face? But ummm corn on the cob should stay on the cob. And I'm of the Alton Brown philosophy that most tools should multi-task. When I make my super yummy pasta salad (that my husband admits was the impetus behind the gift: he wants me to make it soon) that calls for roasted corn removed from the cob, using a knife to cut it off works quite well. This one may go back, but ... I may also be able to talk myself into keeping it. I'd never have bought it for myself though, and isn't that what gifts are all about?

This last gift is a great one. Karen provided a wonderful recipe for these delicious chocolate cherry bites that I've made several times (I can't find the exact post -- in fact, I search for it awhile ago and gave up but she kindly emailed me the recipe). And each time I make them, I have to borrow a muffin tin from one of my neighbors. The recipe makes 36 of these suckers, at least the way I make them. I have only a twelve tin, and I'm just not patient enough to keep going back and back to do additional loads, as they're a bit labor intensive. I think my neighbor will be happy to know that I'll no longer be calling her to borrow her pan. Again. Gee, now I'm wondering if this wasn't a hint from my husband, too!

As for me, I got him a gift he's pretty happy with, too. I'm taking him to Vegas on the 12th for a few days. We're staying at Wynn again, which is a great hotel. I'm not big on gambling, but I love the people watching. I also arranged for one of my good friends to join us, so my husband will have company in his craps and poker activities.

He was happy with it. And we've learned this time that we want the prix fixee meal at Yellow Tail. Last time we were there, we had a light dinner before a show then went to Yellow Tail for more snacking type fare. Best. Seafood. Ever. We aready have a reservation for Saturday night at Yellow Tail.

Do you feel like my life revolves around food? Yeah... me, too. Sometimes. I promise not to talk about the Coffee Toffee Caramel Sundae I had from Oberweis as our anniversary treat tonight. Nope, not a word.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's My Turn Next

For whatever reason, we seem to have an overabundance of bus drivers for the wee ones. Granted, the preschool increases enrollment throughout the course of the year, requiring more kids on each bus and eventualy the splitting of routes. Still, we seem to go through more drivers than I'd expect.

I've gotten used to it though, and luckily, most of them have been pretty decent.

Today I got Little Miss off the bus, and she had yet another new bus driver (the fourth of the year -- and I was totally ok with it, as I wasn't a fan of the previous driver).

As I looked at her, something about her looked familiar.

Me: You look vaguely familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?
Bus Driver: Today's my first day driving. I don't think so.
Me: Huh. (At which point, I proceed to unbuckle Little Miss from her carseat and remove her from the bus although technically no one but the bus driver and students are supposed to be on the bus)
Bus Driver: By the way, my name is Barbara.
Me: Looking up at her sharply. It has crystallized. Uhhhh, did you by chance ever work at (name of my current company)?
Bus Driver: Looking oddly at me. Yesssss, why?
Me: OMG, Barbara! I'm Michelle (insert last name here)!
Bus Driver: OMG! What a small world! I was laid off awhile ago, and this was the only job I could find. The economy bites.
Me: No kidding. I'm just waiting until the axe falls on me. Yikes! I'll uhhh see you tomorrow.

Yeah, that wasn't totally awkward. Awkward wasn't my point though.

Wow. Barbara (and no, not her real name) was one of our tech support people. In fact, she was one of two tech support people I preferred to deal with when my computer had issues, as she actually knew what she was doing. She'd been with the company for YEARS. Way longer than me. She's got skills. Education. Experience. And (nothing against bus drivers) driving a school bus part time was the only job she could find. Wow.

As if you needed more proof that the economy is in the toilet.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And This Week We're Happy!

Last week, I had a list of ten things I'm sick of. And apparently, I'm not the only person sick of many of those things -- or other items! However, we need some more happiness in the blogosphere, so this week, I'm turning it around with a list of ten things that make me happy!

10 Things That Make Me Happy

10. A full night's sleep. Sometimes I wonder if this truly is something that makes me happy, as it's been so long since I've slept completely through the night with no interruptions from wee ones or my husband and also not been awakened at least once before my internal alarm clock says I've had enough sleep. But then I realize how much I crave sleep, and yes, a full night's sleep definitely makes me happy. I figure I've only got another eighteen years before Little Miss has graduated college and I'll get that full night's sleep, right?

9. A manicure and pedicure. Ahhhh. It's time totally for myself, which is always a luxury. And I'd skip the rest of it just for the good hand and foot massages you get. No, I guess I wouldn't really. I love the pretty polishes, too. And the one chance I have to read trashy magazines I'd never otherwise read. Granted, they're six months or more out of date usually, but it's still always news to me!

8. Watching the wee ones figure out a new skill. Mister Man is a great one for this. Little Miss always has full confidence that she'll succeed at whatever she's doing, so she merely comes to brag and show off what she can do now. LOOK. Mommy, look. Mister Man, on the other hand, is the perfectionist who doesn't always want to try something if he doesn't think he will succeed. But the look of excitement in his eye and the surprise in his voice when I hear things like, "Look, Mom! I got it! I got an eyelash out of my eye all by myself!" Well, those are the things that make me smile.

7. Weeding. I know, I know. I'm probably the only person who would ever say that weeding makes them happy. I love projects with tangible measures of success. This is why I'm a list person -- so I can cross items off the list when I finish them. I love seeing those huge piles of weeds beside the mulch and then looking at the cleaned up landscaping. Granted, I don't often have the time to weed, but I certainly enjoy it when I get the chance.

6. Spring. I am a true spring lover at heart. I love the days where the chill is finally off the air and you first venture out for the season without a coat. Your heart always seems so much lighter, and the bright sunshine seems to be beckoning to you, asking you to just pause for a moment to close your eyes and bask in the delicious rays. No bugs are out yet, and the promise of new life is all around.

5. Cooking. Yep, you heard that one right, too. I truly enjoy cooking. I love taking the disparate ingredients and putting them together to make something yummy. I won't lie and say that I also don't enjoy having people think that what I've done is so hard and so impressive... but that's just a bonus. Even when I was single and just cooking for myself most nights, I enjoyed it. I think it's the European in me. Maybe.

4. The wee ones' shouts of joy. To know that whatever they're doing is bringing them joy brings me joy, as well. The knowledge that the wee ones are content and happy, becoming self-sufficient children who will be content with their lots in life is all I ask for as a parent. And so far, it looks like I'm getting it.

3. Days off. Every Monday and Thursday when I log onto my computer for work, I get a reminder message that I'll be off the next day, as I only work Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I look at that message each time and smile, sighing. Those days that I'm not at work are so much fun for me. I have alone time with each of the wee ones in turn, plus I'm able to get things done that need doing from heading to the gym to writing the newsletter for the PTO to grocery shopping to cleaning. Can anyone tell that I'm ready to be a SAHM again? If only this economy weren't quite so depressing and I could justify quitting.

2. A clean house. I have a feeling that I'll have some company in this one. Everything has a place, and everything in its place. I firmly believe in this one, but with three (ok, technically only two) children, this doesn't often happen. Add the work schedule and everything else I do, and there are nights that I skip the full straightening. But when I walk into my house or walk through my house after it's been given a thorough cleaning and before anyone can start returning it to its natural state? Now that's true happiness!

1. Quiet. Yep, just complete and utter quiet. No television on, or if it is on, the volume is sufficient at 3 or 4 instead of 11. No one demanding my attention or hurrying me along. Just me, and maybe a good book. It's a rarity, but it's such a feeling of contentment to finish off the day with a note of solitude to recharge. Again, I figure I'll have my quiet in fourteen years when Little Miss goes off to college, so long as my husband hasn't retired -- and if Governor Quinn has his way, all teachers will be working at least until they're sixty-seven, so I'll have my quiet.

So what about you? What are the things that make you happy?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's Where Again?

As the wee ones ate breakfast, Mister Man studied the map that we use as his placemat most of the time. I was (unusual for me) off at my computer, as I was checking to see how bad of a mom I was for sending the wee ones off to school with short sleeves. Was a coat sufficient? (Phew, it was!)

Mister Man looked up at me with a serious expression on his face.

Mister Man: Mom! I found Heaven on the map!
Me: Ummm, really?

Think fast, think fast, Mom. How could he have found Heaven on a map? There isn't really heaven on that map, is there?

Mister Man: Yep! It's right here.
Me: Right where, Sweetie? (still frantically thinking)
Mister Man: Right next door to Mexico.
Me: Oh. I nodded sagely. Yes. Is it spelled H-A-V-A-N-A?
Mister Man: Uh-huh.

Yeah. It's been a long time since anyone has confused any part of Cuba with Heaven. I was still cracking up about it when Little Miss's bus arrived. Poor kid. I think I just added a few thousand to his therapy bill.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

This is one of my all time favorite desserts -- and the wee ones love it, too. Aside from the cool, creamy refreshingness of it, the entire dessert is only 95 calories. I love added bonuses like that!

As we're getting to the start of summer (with our current fifty-two degrees and the need for long sleeves and pants yesterday, I refuse to say that Memorial Day was the unofficial start to summer around here), this is the perfect dessert to sit outside on the deck on a nice day and enjoy while feeling the sun melt away the winter blahs.

Mango Custard

2 envelopes, plain gelatin (e.g., Knox)
1/2 c sugar*
1 c hot water (not boiling but really hot)
3 1/2 c pureed mango**
1 c 2% evaporated milk
~8 ice cubes (mine are the long ones that come from the freezer maker)
1 lime
1 kiwi

Peel mangos and cut into large chunks (essentially large enough to fit in your blender). Put chunks from 2 mangos into blender, along with the evaporated milk. Puree. Add more chunks of mango until you have 4 1/2 c total (3 1/2 c mango and 1 c evaporated milk). Pour into a large bowl.

Heat water. Add gelatin and sugar and stir, stir, stir until they're totally dissolved. This will take 2-3 minutes.

Add ice cubes to mango mixture, then pour gelatin into it and stir until fully dissolved. Again, this will take a minute or so.

Pour mixture into individual ramekins and chill for at least 3 hours. You can heat the ramekins by dipping into a bowl of hot water (don't let it touch the pudding), then use a knife to loosen and invert on a plate or serve in the ramekins. I garnish with a diced kiwi, the leftover mango that I then dice and squeeze of lime juice. This makes ~12-14 small ramekins. They're good the day of and up to 2-3 days after.

*You can probably use a fake sweetener for this, but I've never tried. 1/2 cup divided by 12 servings is miniscule.

**You can buy pureed mango, but beware what else is in it. I prefer to buy 3 or 4 mangos and puree them myself. It takes between 2 and 3 large mangos to get the 3 1/2 c pureed mango. Peel them, cut into large chunks and add slowly to your blender to get the puree. If you accidentally cut into the pit, you may want to strain the puree (or you can pick out individual pieces if you're patient enough). Reserve the remaining mango and dice to use for garnish.

Ohhhhh yum!

And of course, as always go check out this week's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Why I Love My Neighborhood

On Memorial Day every year, my neighborhood does a Memorial Day parade. This is our fourth parade, and the first year we were invited even though we hadn't yet moved into our house. It's that kind of open and friendly neighborhood, and we met so many wonderful people that day.

This year, we know what to expect. We arrive before nine and park the bikes. We keep them to the side of the road and play with friends until the fire trucks, ambulances, and other offical vehicles arrive. Before the parade starts off, the wee ones know to cover their ears, so we have no more screaming in fright or inability to deal with the piercing sirens.

Little Miss didn't have any of the donuts this year -- her dairy allergy, after all -- but she was ok with that. She's so good about knowing what she can and can't have. Instead, she expresses her naughty side in other ways.

Today? She insisted on wearing her Vikings shirt. Personally, I'm glad that she loves her Vikings, but ... she would not wear red, white and blue. And she decided that she didn't want to ride her bike in the parade. She wanted to take the wagon.

I informed her that there was no way I was pulling the wagon around the neighborhood. She looked at me quite innocently and explained that she was going to pull the wagon. Her animals had decided that they wanted to go to the parade, too. In a test run down the block to the parade start, she proudly pulled her wagon.

And in the cold, she was a good mommy and covered up her babies with a blanket. And the red, white and blue bandana I snuck in there.

Mister Man was more traditional in his clothing and parade technique. He was so proud to go all the way through the neighborhood.

Of course, as I stood at the start/stop point talking to friend, I began to wonder why they were taking so long. I saw other children finishing the circuit. I saw children finishing a second circuit. Friends were preparing to leave. I finally called my husband to see where they were. "Oh. We're hanging out at home. Where are you?" Yep, they only did three quarters of the circuit before stopping at our house and deciding they were done with the parade.

I hiked back home, but I neglected to bring home any participant ribbons for them. After all, they didn't really complete their participation did they? Maybe next year.

In the meantime? I love where I live.

The only thing I thought was a little sad is that there were only three veterans (including my dad) in the entire group. We had three hundred fifty-three people there -- according to the organizer's little clicker counter thingie -- and yet so few veterans. This included many in the crowd who were middle aged and grandparents. Perhaps they were too shy to announce their status, but those three that were there I hope appreciated the ovation they received.

Happy Memorial Day (and again on May 30th)!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Don't You Wish You Lived In Chicago?

Last night was my quarterly girls night out (GNO) with some friends I've known since college. For each of our seasonal dinners, we head into the city from our respective workplaces and meet up somewhere with good food and good drinks.

Someone -- and I don't remember who, but unfortunately it was't me -- had the inspired choice of one sixtyblue. It's not our traditional Loop or near the Loop choice, as it was at Randolph and Ogden, but I am so going back there again.

We'll start with the cocktails. While I tried all of these, it doesn't mean I actually ordered them all. I only had three. And I took the train into the city and home.

The Spring Fling and the Veev Southside were really unique drinks that weren't overly sweet, so you could drink them during dinner. The Spring Fling was really fun with both kumquats and mustard greens. I was a little iffy on the mustard greens at first, but they were just crushed for flavor like the mint in a mojito.

The Pom Paradise was quite dangerous. It was really sweet with a lovely undercurrent of pineapple. And it didn't taste like there was any alcohol in it whatsoever. That is a dangerous combination though. And the Velveteen Rabbit? It sounds a little iffy with carrot juice and ginger and such, but it was a really unique and spicy drink that worked well with our main courses.

Speaking of food, it was delicious. The portions weren't huge, but we all left very full. We shared appetizers, and we happily could have just ordered more and been happy.

I didn't eat the foie gras or the gulf shrimp because those just aren't my things, but the smoked king salmon served on a bed of hashbrowns and the herbed ricotta dumplings were heavenly. I ended up being the rude one and using some of the delicious, hot sourdough bread to sop up the cream sauce leftover from the most tender, moist dumplings I've ever tasted. You wouldn't expect hash browns to be the base for smoked salmon, but it actually worked well. I'm thinking the chef has something for hash browns in general, as the foie gras also came served on a round of hash browns, and we had hash browns with a garnish of carmelized onions as one of our shared sides.

It was quite difficult to decide on the entrees, as well. The table next to us was served the bison ravioli, which immediately decided two of my friends. I would never have dreamed of bison as a filling for ravioli, but one of my friends shared. It was a little drier than I'd expected, for some reason, but it was rather flavorful, and the cream sauce kept it from being too dry.

I finally decided on the seared yellowfin. It was served with shaved hearts of palm, fresh wasabi cream and some other flavorful accompaniments. Although I was slightly disappointed by the presentation, as it was large chunks strewn across the plate which made it slightly difficult to cut into appropriate bite-sized pieces to eat. The grilled salmon my last friend ordered was done to perfection, and the English peas worked really well with the Scottish salmon (we were joking that they'd be feuding by the time the food arrived on our table).

We somehow managed to save room for some dessert, and it was difficult to decide between the brown butter carrot cake, the chocolate souffle tart, tres leches, and more. We decided on the sticky toffee date cake and the trio of sorbets.

While we waited for them to arrive, the server brought a dessert amuse bouche. I love those. This one had mini tapioca balls in the bottom of the glass, strawberry compote, and some raspberry ice scoop on top. That was such a clean way to refresh after our dinner, and we all drank them quickly. One friend wasn't a fan of the tapioca balls, but if you like bubble tea, you'd be content with this as a treat.

Then our desserts arrived. After my first taste of the cake, I questioned my decision to share the desserts and not keep one for myself. It was served also cut into three chunks, which I thought was odd, but it was sweet and moist and had a unique bite. The toasted coconut ice cream and bits of honey granola garnish added a nice complement to the cake.

While we all loved the toffee date cake, the sorbets didn't go over quite as well with my friends. There were three flavors served on little shortbread cookies. I preferred the sorbet to the cookies, but one of my friends finally scraped the sorbet off the cookie to just munch on the cookie. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what flavor the sorbets were, as no one told us when the desserts were served to us - one of the few service mistakes we had. I was the only one who enjoyed the very sour one, that we decided was lemon. The orange sorbet, I was told was quite good, although that disappeared before I had the opportunity to taste it. The third one we think may have been guava or papaya. It was much less flavorful than the others, and it was also the only thing left on the plate when we left.

When our bill arrived, they also delivered some take home goodies. We were povided with fresh caramels that didn't make it out of the restaurant. And by fresh, I mean still slightly warm and oh so gooey and buttery. We also received a little chocolate cake like thing. Again, I'm not sure what it is as no one told us and mine is uneaten as yet, but they look delicious.

I was very happy that I had chosen to wear black, as just about all the patrons in the restaurant were also wearing black. However, I was happy I wasn't wearing all black so that I wasn't mistaken for the wait staff.

The front bar was hopping. When we were waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, I was a little concerned that it was going to be another loud dinner (like the Gage Cafe we ate at for winter), but the dj (and yes, there was a dj in a cute little glass booth) was only spinning records for the front bar. Once we were brought back into the main part of the restaurant, it was much quieter. No one lost a voice this time around.

We sat at a table in front of the kitchen, which had pluses and minuses. One of my friends didn't like looking into the open kitchen, but I always enjoy watching the preparations of food. Then again, I like to cook! Because we were in the row of tables closest to the kitchen, we were sometimes served from behind our banquette. This was awkward, as the servers had to stretch over the back of the bench to our table, and it was too far a reach for them to do naturally. I would recommend changing that for future patrons.

Aside from that, the service was fairly attentive without being overbearing -- with the few exceptions already noted. It was disappointing that our server wasn't with us each time. We had to tell those who delivered our food which dish went to which person. I would have expected better of a restaurant this caliber. No one ever explained dishes as they were set in front of us, except for the amuse bouche. I always like hearing about my choices again, especially when they're somewhat unusual, and I may not remember what exacty I ordered.

It was a wonderful meal, and I'll happily return there again. Even more of a pleasure was receiving our bill. Even with our drinks, the meal wasn't nearly as expensive as we'd expected it to be. It wasn't like a meal out at McDonalds or Chili's, but it was still less than we were fearing.

So ... if anyone is interested in enjoying a meal that focuses on local and organic foods, let me know. I'm happy to return to one sixtyblue to round out a dinner party!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Take Cover

Mama Kat's assignments this week included listing Ten Things You're Sick Of. And since I'm somewhat crabby at the moment for a variety of reasons -- not the least of which are ones that are included in the list -- I figured this was a good time to vent.

So ummmm take cover.

10 Thing I'm Sick Of

10. People who don't understand the concept of a turn signal. They are still legal and required. This includes both for turning, as well as for changing lanes. While I've gotten pretty good at guesstimating which car is going to go racing around me and cut in front of me without a turn signal, that doesn't mean that I'll be right every time or that it's safe. Really, there are other people on the road, and I promise the turn signal light bulb doesn't burn out that quickly if you use it. I know from experience.

9. Work. I know I should be grateful to have a job in this economy, especially one that pays me well, allows me to work from home two days a week and is a part time commitment. But I don't respect my boss, and I'm no longer challenged in what I do. That makes it difficult, but then I see what I'm missing with the wee ones. It's the time that I don't get to spend with them -- having the playdates, going to the park, making dinner with them, baking with them, teaching them bike riding, working on t-ball, etc. I'm think I'm really ready to stay at home, but I also can't justify quitting my job in this economy.

8. Little Miss's accidents. Little Miss finally earned back every single one of her animals. She was fully potty trained with no mistakes for months, including her proudly announcing when she has to go potty and wanting to do it all on her own. And starting Sunday, she's been having multiple accidents daily. At daycare and at home. Mostly pee, but also some diarrhea. We actually took her to the doctor yesterday to rule out a UTI. The doctor thinks she's constipated -- which I've since translated to encropresis. I'm hoping and praying that I'm wrong.

7. My son's preschool teacher. She is a long term sub. We had the same long term sub last year, and no one was a fan. In fact, four of the eleven parents in the class complained. She's back this year, and we were not notified until she'd been there for almost four weeks. Mister Man is supposed to do daily therapy for fine motor with his "exercise box" with her. In four days, they didn' do it once. I finally had the box sent home.

6. Being woken up early. I'm not a morning person, and I need my sleep. Every day this week, Little Miss has woken up at or around 6am telling me that she's hungry and wants to eat. Not cool. Couple that with Mister Man waking me up at least once a night with a nightmare or to announce that he heard a noise or some other reason, and I'm not getting the sleep I need. This morning, he woke me up at 4:30, and I never fell back asleep.

5. My computer. For whatever reason, my computer is exceedingly slow. As in I turn it on and it takes eleven minutes to get fully logged on -- and yes, I've timed it. And when I am trying to work, I'll literally be typing, and it will go into standby mode as I'm typing. Trying to switch between programs if I'm working on more than one thing at a time can take minutes. And don't get me started about how my computer will sometimes decide that it simply doesn't want to open Powerpoint, so I have to shut down and start over. Yes, this is my work computer, and no, the tech people at my company have found nothing wrong with it. Apparently, it just doesn't like me.

4. Chicago weather. Literally, we had a frost warning on Tuesday. I refused to put the heat on in my house, and it was getting chilly. Yesterday, it was mid-80s and HOT. I'd really like some moderation. And for more than a day. I'm tired of only two seasons, and frustrated that we'll have a high in the mid-60s this weekend when the pool at the gym finally opens.

3. Debt help commercials. Really? It's not your fault that you spent all that money and you shouldn't owe it? You should only pay 10% of the principal? That's an interesting concept. Granted, I fully agree that the fees and interest are high, but to believe that none of it is anyone's fault and that they shouldn't have to pay for any of the items they purchased is a bit... over the top. The commercials are so inflammatory, and many of the facts are flat out wrong. It's yet another person who is just trying to take advantage of those that are panicking. And that really turns my stomach.

2. TV shows. I'm really afraid to see what the next generation turns out like. I see more and more shows that promote teenage drinking -- and binge drinking, at that -- as cool and normal. The same goes for random sex. And the language people use (this also includes magazines now where I cringe each time I read a swear word). And the lack of respect they show to their parents and other people in general. Then there's the conspicuous consumption. No one is going to be happy with what they have and who they are. And it all makes me so sad.

1. Being crabby. I'm not a crabby person. And I don't like to be a crabby person. But there are days when I can recognize it, and then turn it off. Some days, I don't recognize it quickly enough. But I'd really prefer returning to my normal happy go lucky state. Actually, if we could just fix items 9, 8, 6 and 3, I'd be pretty well set, I think.

So what are you crabby about?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You Love Who?

And another installment of from the mouths of babes. Setting the scene: Little Miss is eating her dinner of soy milk pancakes (a Monday night tradition since Mommy gets home from work late and Daddy cooks the only thing Daddy knows how!). She peeks up at me through coy, lash hidden eyes.

Little Miss: Mommy, I like you!
Me: Guess what? I love you!
Little Miss: I love you, too!
Mister Man: I love her the mostest.
Me: Oh, you do, do you? Little Miss, who do you love the most?
Little Miss: I love you the most, Mommy!
Me: Awww, you're such a sweet girl. Mister Man, who do you love the most?
Mister Man: I love Little Miss the most. I already said that.
Me: Well, what about the woman who gave birth to you?
Mister Man: Oh, Grandma? I suppose I love her the most, too.

Ummm. I think I need to have a little chat with Mister Man about how the world really works. I'm not quite up for the birds and the bees, but we may be starting to get a little close!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Ok, so I know technically I still have a few hours before Tuesday starts, but I'm tired and want to go to bed. And tomorrow I'm sleeping in as late as I can before I run to the gym -- pun intended. I'm also babysitting a friend's twins who are good friends with Little Miss all afternoon after I visit kindergarten to observe. Needless to say, I'm not expecting much time to remember to do this tomorrow.

I had to think really hard about what to put up this week. Finally on Saturday, we did appetizer night with friends. I made cheddar ale fondue with all sorts of nummies, and I also made an apple pie dip that just rocked. Even Little Miss (my dairy free girl!) could eat it when I gave her uncooked tortillas that didn't have the butter on them. It's even relatively healthy!

So without further ado, enjoy the Monday night edition of Tasty Tuesday!

Apple Pie Party Dip

1 1/3 c apples, diced
1 t lemon juice
2 t brown sugar
2 t apricot preserves
1/8 t cinnamon
5 6" tortillas
2 t butter
1/2 t cinnamon
1 1/2 T sugar

Peel and core the apples, then dice them into bite or smaller sized pieces. Combine apples, lemon juice, brown sugar, preserves, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Melt butter. Brush the tortillas with butter; cut into wedges. Arrange on cookie sheet on a silpat. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix. Bake at 350° until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool before serving. Arrange tortilla wedges around the bowl to dip.

And of course, as always go check out this week's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm Learning

Last year at this time, the former PTO president at the wee ones' preschool was calling me again, begging me to be president this year. The rest of the board and committees had been set up, but the president was missing, and you can't have the PTO without a president. It would dissolve, and the special needs preschool the wee ones attend needs the support of the PTO more than most schools.

I pointed out that I work. I pointed out that I had two small children. I pointed out that there had to be other people. She pointed back to me, with it being me or no one.

I gave in, and this year I was the PTO president. I made it work, and it wasn't too bad. Had I more time, there are certainly things I would have done differently or worked harder on, but everyone seems satisfied. In fact, I'm up for another term next year (unless one of you wants to take the reins? No? No one?).

This coming school year, Mister Man also moves to kindergarten at our elementary school. Since all the PTO presidents in the district gather on a bi-weekly basis, the co-presidents at the elementary school have been salivating at the knowledge that I had a child at that school starting next year.

While having a picnic in our front yard on spring break, a woman stopped by my house to introduce herself. She was on the nominating committee at the elementary school (oh, to have enough PTO members to have or need a nominating committee!). She'd heard that I was coming to the elementary school next year and wanted to pitch a few ideas to me.

Her first idea was to be the webmaster. After regaining control of myself after my hysterics, I explained that probably wasn't the job for me. She then suggested the art chair. As I learned more about it, I realized that it was mainly focused on work done in April and May. With our major fundraising event occurring on Cinco de Mayo, I knew there would be a conflict.

So I declined to do the art chair. Check it out! I said no!

She countered a few days later -- via phone this time -- with the idea of running the holiday shop. Apparently this is actually not a fundraiser but just a fun shop for kids to come pick out items for family members at reasonable costs and do fun little activities. And I would have volunteers to help run it.

I do want to be somewhat involved in the elementary PTO (assuming we go to that school, but that's another post altogether), and the preschool has nothing major going on in December, so I said I'd work on that with another mom to help.

Then comes this week. Ms. Nominating Committee stopped by my house again. I've noticed that phone calls are for easier things with her and in-person visits are the ones that are the harder sells.

Apparently next year there will be no gala, so that leaves somewhat of a hole in their budget. Instead of doing a major fundraiser, they had the idea of doing smaller fundraiser throughout the year. And it's more important to get the person to chair the "ad hoc fundraisers" than the holiday shop. So would I pretty please consider doing the ad hoc fundraisers?

I took a deep breath. I thought about it for a moment. And then I told her no. I explained that I worked three days a week or more and that I was still the PTO president at the preschool. To take on something of that magnitude that required work throughout the year rather than in one finite period was too much for me.

She pushed, telling me that it wouldn't be so bad that I could have other moms help me. And I stood firm. I'm already burned out with everything, and that's just not something I should add to my plate.

I'm finally learning to say no. And I have to say that it felt pretty good. It's not my responsibility to ensure that every position on their slate is filled, and I can only sign up for what I have capacity to do.

Then again, we had the kindergarten orientation on Thursday, and the VP of fundraising was there and thanked me for agreeing to work on the ad hoc fundraisers. I think I set her straight. I hope. If not, does anyone have any good, easy fundriasering ideas?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Well That Kinda Backfired

The wee ones are currently participating -- along with our church and its associated preschool -- in the Heifer Project. It's a really neat concept, including the small ark they are meant to fill and the calendar with different activities each day.

Heifer International is a great charity that helps relieve poverty around the globe. It doesn't just give money to various people and places, but it provides them with gifts of livestock and education so they can become self-reliant. As an added benefit, they have to give at least some of the offspring of the gift to someone else who needs it.

The wee ones love this project. They each have their own piggy bank, and they have happily shared what they have. In fact, the first day was an add your own contribution day. And the wee ones just about emptied their piggy banks before I stopped them, suggesting they save something for the next twenty-seven days.

Sometimes, they get a bit too overeager, however.

On Wednesday of the first week, the project was for animal feed, recounting how they provided feed to replace that which was ruined in Hurricane Katrina so that the animals could survive the winter. The tasks? "What do you hear? Give 10 cents for every time you yell, "Hey Mom," today. Give 25 cents every time she yells back."

And on Monday of the second week? "Seeing eye-to-eye? Add a nickel for every argument you've had this week."

This is a great idea for those kids who are ... reluctant to give. Then there's my house. "Hey, Mom. Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom! How many times was that?"

For both days, I finally had to switch it up. I took a pile of coins from the piggy banks and told them that each time they said hey mom or argued, I would take money away from the pile. That was much better.

Our only other problem came on rabbit day where you gave a nickel for each carrot in the fridge. I happen to have had 3 pounds of baby carrots. I was planning to make the whole wheat cranberry muffins I found one week on TMTT (they're SUPER good). The wee ones learned a good lesson on estimating that day.

This Sunday, we turn in our arks. There will be a large ceremony around it as part of Rogation Sunday. They're excited to turn them in and have even more people who can "Look! Do you see how heavy it is?" since apparently my reaction is no longer enough.

Aside from teaching charity and having them understand how they can very concretely help others, it's also a huge boon to their math skills. They both now know every coin by sight and the associated value. And Mister Man is getting pretty good at figuring out how to calculate how to add up the 10 cents for every faucet in our home and the like. He's even learning how to combine different kinds of coins to get to the same value.

We're all enthusiastic about this, and if you haven't heard of Heifer, go check it out. This is one of those charities I feel really good at on a number of levels. And I can't wait until we get our arks next year!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's That Date Again?

There are some people I just don't like. Fortunately, there aren't many of them, but one of my aunts (an in-law who is not so jokingly referred to as the out-law by many in my family) is one of them. She's cheap, a busybody, vindictive, lazy, judgemental, and I'll stop there.

She's the one who is no longer allowed to host Christmas after the year when she had the finger food Christmas. No one was allowed to bring any food that required a plate or utensil. It couldn't need heating or refrigeration. For Christmas dinner. Seriously. Her contribution was a few small trays of Market Day food for twenty-three of us. And yes, we stopped elsewhere for dinner on the way home.

Yesterday, I received an email invitation from her for Memorial Day. I'll let you judge it for yourself.

You are invited to our house for a "day after" Memorial Day indoor picnic lunch which is just an excuse to see the new baby, Rachel Anne, who will be 3 months and 1 week old! Please RSVP via email or phone. We will hope for nice weather to get a few games of bean bags in the mix also.

Mildly confused, I sent her an email back asking if she was referring to Tuesday the 25th or Monday the 24th. And ummm what time, as that sorta plays into whether or not we can go. I just received her response.

I realize that I did not make it clear. I meant the day after the ACTUAL Memorial Day (Saturday, May 30), so that would be Sunday, May 31st. I know that was confusing; I'm sorry.

Oh. Yes. Of course. The ACTUAL Memorial Day. Because when someone sends an invitation for a Memorial Day event, they aren't referring to the date that is a) commonly celebrated or b) on every calendar. Nope, let's be a total showoff.

Yes, Memorial Day used to be celebrated on May 30. However, in 1971, Congress changed it to a three day weekend. While they introduced a bill to change it back in 1999, it never went anywhere. Coming from anyone else, I'd shake my head at their oddity. However, I know her well enough to know that she's doing it because she's just that kind of a person. Trust me, it was no accident that she didn't put in the actual date. She wanted to feel superior to everyone else.

And May 31? Yeah, sorry. I can't make it. It's my anniversary, and driving three plus hours to and from her house is just not the celebration I'm looking for. Besides, we have t-ball, a birthday party, and a friend's business launch early that afternoon. Maybe next time.

And I'm so proud of myself for getting through this whole post without calling her a mean name.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tasty Tuesday - Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn

Today is the last PTO meeting of the year. The president traditionally gives a small gift to the Executive Board. I've been trying to figure out what to do this year, as I want to do something meaningful but not chintzy but I have ten people to buy for, so I refuse to go all out.

I came up with what I hope is a brilliant solution. And if they don't like it, then I'm going to eat it myself. Ta da!

I made chocolate drizzled popcorn. YUM! (Not that I sampled any myself, of course.) And totally easy. I'm now debating doing the same thing for teacher gifts at the end of the year since we have a teacher, two aides, and three to four therapists per child, which gets awfully expensive. Oh, plus two bus drivers per child. Yep, I think we're going down this road.

Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn

Olive oil
Popcorn kernals
Chocolate melting discs

First, make your popcorn. I use the largest metal bowl I can find -- thank you IKEA, btw. I follow the Alton Brown methodology, and boy does it make good and easy popcorn.

Pour just enough oil in the bottom of the bowl to cover it, then add kernals atop it. Cover the bowl with tin foil, and poke some holes in it. Turn the stove on to medium/medium high, and start shaking. Shake, shake, shake until it all stops popping.

Immediately add just enough salt to taste. If you do it while the popcorn is hot, it sticks better without being overly salty. You can, of course, stop here, but ummm go for the best part.

Lay the popcorn on the nonstick surface in a thin layer, like a sil pat or waxed paper. While it is cooling (you want the popcorn to be cool when you put the chocolate on it), melt the chocolate over low heat in a heavy pan (I love my little Le Creuset) or double boiler.

Use a spatula to scoop up just a little of the chocolate, and then drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn. You'll need to shake the spatula like you're trying to get dust off a rug to get the last of the chocolate off it, but that also makes for the best drizzles. Doing small bits of chocolate at a time works best, not that I'd know!

If you get clumps of chocolate, no worries. Just use your spatula to mix up the popcorn, distributing the chocolate. You can put on as much or as little chocolate as you like. You can also mix white and regular chocolates to make it extra fancy. Since it was 10:30 last night before I was halfway done, I declined to do this.

Fingers crossed that everyone on the PTO likes my: The PTO is just a hard kernel with promise without you. Your energy and life make it burst open with opportunity, turning it into a special sweet treat for all the students there. What do you think?

And of course, as always go check out this week's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!


Monday, May 11, 2009

Ahhh, The Good Life

We had dinner with my parents for Mother's Day, as I'm sure many others did as well. During dinner, the conversation somehow moved toward future careers. Little Miss declared that she was going to be an animal doctor, just like Auntie M.

Mister Man decided he had a different career path.

Mister Man: I think I want to be a teacher (just like Daddy - too bad the pension won't be there anymore!).
Me: Oh, that's a good job.
Grandpa: Don't you want my job?
Mister Man: No, I don't think I'd want my kids watching that.

The faces around the table were all puzzled except for mine. I was dying of laughter because I figured out where his little brain was going.

Me: You mean you don't want them watching as much television as Grandpa does?
Mister Man: No, it really isn't healthy to watch so much tv. And I want my kids to be healthy.
Grandpa: So you think my job is to watch tv?
Mister Man: Yeah. Well, that and to control the weather.
Grandpa: I control the weather?
Mister Man: Isn't that why you have the Weather Channel on all the time, too?

Touche, Mister Man. Touche. And no, Grandpa didn't really have a good answer for that.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hey, It Could Be A Vacuum Cleaner

You know they're truly sweet and innocent, but we had some great encounters yesterday that just prove the wee ones are also hysterical. To me at least.

In the morning, I tried to hold back coming downstairs so that my husband could do all the prep work for Mother's Day. As I emerged from the bedroom, Mister Man shouted to me.

Mister Man: Guess what! You have presents downstairs!
Me: Oh, how fun. Thank you, Kiddo.
Little Miss: Yeah, you got candy.
Me: Oh, yum. I bet it's good candy, huh?
Mister Man: Yep, it's leftover candy that we forgot to give you last year.

Oh ummm, thanks? I think?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Stupid Electronic Systems

I went to the library the other day to pick up the fourth Twilight book. Finally, it was ready for me. Ok, I shouldn't say finally since I only put in my request for the first book ohhhh two weeks ago, but I get impatient when I'm waiting for a book.

I have a system at the library. The wee ones are only allowed to check out four books at a time. This makes it pretty easy for me to know where our books are that need to be returned and also to be sure that I don't accidentally forget to return one.

Now that Mister Man has his own library card, I've upped it from four total to four apiece. It's worked out fairly well so far. The library has a new system of electronic self checkout where you can look up info on your account as you check out.

My new system is to check out the new books, then look at how many books I have checked out. When I did this after checking out Breaking Dawn, I was mildly alarmed to see eight books checked out.

How do I have eight books checked out? Did I accidentally check out Mister Man's books on my library card? Fortunately, you can not only see the number of books checked out but -- if you pretend you're going to renew them -- you can also see the specific titles.

I skimmed through the titles quickly. Four books for Little Miss. Check. Breaking Dawn. Check. Love and Logic Book. Check. The Kings Man (a Sharon Kay Penman book I had gotten the last visit). Check. The Devil's Brood. Uhhh, what?

I looked more closely at it. The books were all due on May 26. Except The Devil's Brood. That one was due May 14. Uhhh, I only checked out books for myself one time. The Devil's Brood isn't my book!

How can I return a book I didn't ever check out? I began hyperventilating, imagining the fees the library would charge to replace the book. Stupid self-checkout. I must have somehow forgotten to click "Done" at the end of one of my sessions with the wee ones and someone had checked out a book on my account, obviously intending to steal it.

I hate people. What's wrong with them that they would do this? And how stupid was I to forget to click the button that ensured no one else could check out a book under my account. I so wish they were still using the system where the librarians checked out each person.

I stewed about this the whole way home. I woke up in the middle of the night freaking out about it. Yes, I know it's silly, but this is how I deal with things I've done "wrong."

This morning I finished The King's Man and started the next book in the pile. It took me about three chapters before I realized that I was reading The Devil's Brood.

Oh. Yeah. I remember now. I chose two Sharon Kay Penman novels when I checked out books. That way I had four books, too, just like the wee ones. Two novels of hers, the Love and Logic book, and Twilight.


I guess people aren't so bad after all.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Chip Off The Old Block

This morning, Mister Man slept in a little, and he didn't have to be to daycare until 9, so I let him. When I took Little Miss down for breakfast, I peeked in but he was still sleeping.

A few minutes later, I went upstairs and saw that he was sitting up in bed. As I pushed his door open to say good morning, he pulled the covers over something and looked up guiltily. "Good morning, Mom," he told me peeking up at me to see if I'd noticed.

I smiled at him. "Kiddo, if you want to read in the morning after you wake up, that's ok."


"Yep. It isn't ok to read at night when you're supposed to be sleeping, but if you wake up and have time to read before you need to get up and go, that's perfectly fine."

His face visibly brightened. "Oh, good!" And he uncovered Good Morning Gorilla - his latest Magic Treehouse book - and hopped out of bed.

Apparently me taking away the book that he was reading the other night about forty-five minutes after bedtime sunk in. And now he's hiding his reading. I remember those days. I remember hiding the flashlight under the covers and reading. I remember feeling like I was getting away with something.

And now? Now I'm the mom, hiding the smile at the joy my child finds in reading, so happy that this is something he sees as a pleasure and not something to fear. I can only hope that he feels the same way two and five and ten years from now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sun Kissed Beaches And Bikinis

I took last week off work. It was my week to recharge and relax. My plan was to meet friends for lunch on Monday (which I did -- yay!), get a mani/pedi (which I did), get massages, read books, relax, get caught up on cleaning out things we no longer use, spend time weeding and prepping the garden, all those things that I don't have time to do on a regular basis.


Except for Monday, I spent essentially all my time either at the wee ones' preschool getting ready for our Cinco de Mayo fundraiser or at the local elementary school prepping for and working their rummage sale. While I did read the Twilight books, that was late late at night.

My week off? A major FAIL. And yes, I know it's my fault.

My new theory? I need to go away for a vacation. And I think I need to do it by myself, maybe with a few friends. For five days or so. I wouldn't want to be away from the wee ones for longer than that.

Unfortunately, that's so not happening for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that a guy who works for me is traveling the first week of June and then July 6 to August 3, which pretty much kills the entire summer.

But I can dream, right?

In my dreams, I'm headed to Mexico. I figure it has to be cheap at this point, right? And it's warm. And friendly. The plane trip isn't too long. The food is great, as are the drinks.

I think I'm at an all inclusive resort, and the best part is that the food has no calories, nor do the drinks. And the all inclusive includes all the fun things like SCUBA that I haven't done since before Mister Man was born and the trapeze school that I would so love to do. They even have horseback riding on the beach.

It doesn't rain there, which is nice, and I'm at one of the places where the vendors aren't allowed to congregate on the beaches and drive you nuts. I'm usually pretty good about keeping them away from me (there's something about living IN Chicago that tends to give people the vibe not to bother you), but it's nice to not have to worry about it.

Oh, I'm so ready to go. What else am I missing?

Do you think the chaise lounge on the deck with my toes in the wee ones' sandbox with a margarita will cut it? Maybe if I add some homemade guac and chips.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

I hate wasting things. My dad jokes that I'm a Depression Era baby, and in many ways I probably am. This would somewhat explain my love of cooking, right? It's cheap, and I get to use things up.

Sometimes when you buy things, they're stupidly expensive. Or you have to buy them in greater quantity than what you need. Raise your hand if you hate buying basil at the store.

C'mon. $1.99 or more for a tiny little bunch?

Remember how it turned brown before you finished it off last time?

Don't make me feel like I'm alone here. Raise up those hands!

Well, I'm done with that. For one thing, it's spring, and my garden is in the process of being planted -- which reminds me that I need to water my strawberry plants tomorrow -- which means fresh basil whenever I want it all summer long. Once it matures by the end of June.

Until then, I have a new favorite treat. As with so any excessively cool things, this comes to me via Trader Joe's.

Check it out. It's perfectly chopped and measured fresh basil that's frozen. And it's less than a dollar for twenty teaspoons. I don't get that much from the bunch I buy at the store, I can guarantee that.

Aren't those cute little ice cube tray looking things? It's possible I bought this to try just because it was so cute. And yes, I got te cilantro one, too. Gotta love the extra flavors.

You can't quite see that I have one cube missing, but I do. Which means that I can attest to the yummy actual basil flavor from this -a concern before trying.

Not So Pesto

2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t frozen basil
salt and pepper to taste

I made ravioli the other day but didn't feel like making sauce. I was going to do just a little brown butter -- totally easy -- except that some how, some freaky way, we were out of butter in my house. And that NEVER happens.

As I was searching through the freezer for butter, I found my forgotten little basil gems and decided to put some basil on my ravioli. Which then turned into warming oil to melt the basil. Which then turned into not so pesto -- which was totally yum.

Heat the olive oil, and add the minced garlic. Let it cook a minute or so, then add the basil cube. Stir with a spatula, and add just a tiny bit of salt and then some pepper to taste.

Were I not putting this on cheese ravioli, I probably would have also added some fresh Parm. Ok ok ok, so I forgot. It was super good without it. Even my husband was impressed, so shh don't tell him this was my lazy way out of making sauce.

This made the perfect amount for our two servings of ravioli -- just enough taste without overpowering the ravioli. And ummm yeah... it all disappeared (again) before I managed to take a picture.

And of course, as always go check out this week's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!


PS Yes, I know that today is Cinco de Mayo. And I so should have gone with something Mexican. Oops. Next week, I promise! Or go check out my Spanish Rice or Southwest Tortilla Stacker.

Monday, May 4, 2009


We're in week three of t-ball. That means I've done uniform laundry twice so far. Twice. Mister Man's team is the Mets, as in the Bingham Mets of minor league fame.

And they're apparently orange. His shirt is orange. And his socks are orange.

Orange is kind of a hard color to miss -- at least in my house. And those socks are big. They literally go up to mid-thigh on him. Plus, they're really thick, wool socks, apparently because we start playing in the middle of winter around here (mid-April).

So can someone please explain why this weekend I was only able to find one hideously orange sock?

Seriously, where can the other one be? I had no idea that the laundry gnomes were this ... lacking in taste.

The worst part? What store possibly sells bright orange t-ball socks? Do you think anyone will notice if I pull the t-ball pants all the way down to his ankles next weekend?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Seriously? It's For Charity

I spent much of last week and this weekend at our local elementary school helping them set up for and run the annual rummage sale. This is a huge rummage sale, bringing in between $15K and $20K each year. People look forward to it all year.

But after the work I've put into it, my faith in humanity is a little shaken. This is a fundraiser for the school. This isn't life or death, and it certainly -- in my mind at least -- isn't worth cheating over.

And yet, cheat and lie and steal people did.

Yesterday, I went through all the shoes midway through the day and reorganized them. I matched up every shoe that the evening before had perfect matches. There were sixteen shoes now lacking a mate. In other cleanup, I found three of the missing mates tucked behind the bleachers and under racks by enterprising souls who hoped to buy the $2 shoes for half price today.

My duty in the morning was to stand near the toy table to ensure that no one opened the bags and rebagged the $1 per bag toys or changed prices. To everyone's surprise (this was the first year they'd stationed someone at the table), I didn't catch anyone doing anything like this. Instead, people were caught in the back of the gym opening bags and stuffing as many Barbies in them as they could instead of paying the $1 per bag. And the $2 stickers for some of the nicer toys were littered on the floor.

I sorted through the jeans to straighten out the piles after the morning rush, only to find nice clothes thrust under the piles in the hopes that no one would find them. The same thing happened when I started returning items to the belt and socks and hat bins.

Even during setup, we weren't immune. As I would price one section, I'd notice a random box under a table and discover items that someone had put away for themselves. And at the worker presale -- for those of us who put in at least eight hours during setup -- people showed up who hadn't done one iota of work and then pulled out the items that other people had hidden for them.

Today was the bag sale. At the entrance, you bought a bag for $5 and could fill it. If you had more items than fit in the bag, you had to go back to the entrance and buy a new bag -- no stashing things and then buying bags later in an effort to be fair to everyone. You don't want to know the giant boxes I saw being filled with no regard paid to the workers requesting that they follow the rules.

C'mon, people. Do you really need this stuff? Is it worth cheating over? Do you feel better about yourself for having done so?

I know that I felt like I needed a shower by the time I left.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Was It Us?

Last night, we went to one of our favorite festivals of the year -- the Long Grove Chocolate Festival. It's pretty much what it sounds like: a festival devoted to all things chocolate.

Of course, they have the requisite kiddie rides that the wee ones love and the random vendors, but they also have things like donuts on a stick dipped in chocolate. And cocoa apple pies (yes, I bought a small one, and no, I haven't tried it yet). And chocolate martinis. And chocolate fondue fountains. And a chocolate fashion show.

We usually go on Friday mornings when it opens and wander until we're done. This year, I had to be at Little Miss's preschool -- twenty minutes in the opposite direction of my house -- by 11:15, so we went in the late afternoon. And I discovered that the vendors pretty much close up shop at 5:30 instead of 6pm when it officially ends.

We hadn't eaten dinner by the time we realized it was shutting down, so my husband walked ahead with Little Miss, and she picked out a restaurant for us to eat at. My complaint was that a sit down restaurant with two overtired and hungry children was not the best idea.

I was overruled, and we walked into Victoria's.

We were the only patrons there. For most of us, it's easy to find something to eat, but Little Miss is trickier with her dairy allergy. In talking to the cook and the waitress, we finally agreed that she would just eat nacho chips with chicken and tomatoes on top. Picky girl overruled a few other more "normal" options.

As my husband's soup and father's salad arrived, we were still the only patrons.

It finally dawned on me the likely reason. Victoria's is a Mexican restaurant. Although it's the weekend of Cinco de Mayo, no one's really eating in Mexican restaurants right now. In fact, the local paper called our publicity chair on Thursday to confirm that we were still having our Cinco de Mayo event at the preschool.

Yep, that swine flu has everyone paranoid.

On the plus side, it was rather nice to not have to worry that the wee ones were periodically forgetting their inside voices. And the service was great, not to mention the yummy food.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Not Today

I'm blessed with the wee ones. They may get in trouble from time to time, but they're overall good kids. They've never been super shy or clingy, and I've seen and heard horror stories about that from friends of mine.

I remember the first day of two year old preschool for Little Miss (and keep in mind she is 25 months and 2 days old at this point). We met for one hour, and the parents stayed in the classroom to better help their kids adjust.

The kids came shyly into the classroom -- except for Little Miss who bounded in -- and ran off to play with the toys, after some encouragement from their moms. After a few minutes, the child would run back to mom to just check in or to pull her over to the toy the child was playing with. This occurred over and over again during the hour we spent there.

I know this, because I spent the entire hour watching it happen. I was uninterrupted in my survey of the moms with their children, as Little Miss didn't so much as look in my direction the entire class period.

When it was time to go, she cheerfully came with me and told me about her playing, but for whatever reason, she didn't need to check with me while I was there in the room.

Preschool this year is much the same. She ran to the bus her first day of school, and happily chatters the whole way there. Her bus drivers always remark about how happy she is.

Today, we had our first taste of the alternative. As Papa John (her new bus driver) pulled into the driveway, I hustled Little Miss towards her shoes.

But I don't want to go to school?

I looked at her in shock. She chose that moment to scuttle away from me and into the playroom.

What do you mean you don't want to go to school? Why not?

She looked at me soulfully. I don't want to go. I just want to stay here with you today.

Oh, it was tempting. What a sweet little angel who just wanted to spend some more time with her mommy. My heart started to melt.

Then I remembered this is my devious child who wraps everyone around her finger and pushes things to the limit just to see what she can get away with.

Sorry, Peanut. It's a school day, but I'll see you as soon as preschool gets over.

The tears came, and I had to drag her outside and onto the bus. Once she was strapped into her carseat, she was ok although still subdued. And yes, even Papa John noticed.

She got off fine, but I felt badly. I couldn't imagine going through that or worse on a daily basis, and I know there are so many parents who do. Today, I'm counting my blessings!

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