Friday, July 31, 2009

It's Birthday-palooza!

I bake, as you ummm may have figured out from reading my posts. (Side note: up soon key lime parfaits! I saw my recipe for this recently and need to make them again.) I tend to not turn on the oven much in the summer because it's too hot. I always make an exception this weekend.

Today? My husband's birthday.
Tomorrow? Little Miss's birthday.
Monday? My dad's birthday.

No one will share a cake. And they each want their own kinds. And I can't take a half eaten cake to a birthday party for Little Miss. That adds up to four cakes in four days, just in case you're wondering.

This afternoon, I started my efforts. Because Little Miss is having her party at a beauty salon, they don't allow actual cake because of the mess it creates. However, they're (for whatever reason -- and I'm not questioning this!) totally cool with individual cupcakes. So I'm making ice cream cone cupcakes.

This is what I'm aiming for (pre-frosted):

But it's not all sunshine and lemonade when I'm baking, as much as I wish it were. There was a "minor" mishap as I was checking the cupcakes' doneness. They just about all tipped over. When they were mostly half done. This one happened to land on another one and didn't tip all the way over. I'm thinking frosting will save it.

This one landed face down across the door of the oven. And cupcake ended up falling to the floor and all along the hinge of the door. *sigh* There's no saving it. On the plus side, half-baked cupcakes taste pretty good. And I did forget to eat lunch today....

I also learned that trying to use a cracked cone is not a good idea. I figure it'll taste good once frosted, even though it's obviously not going to the party.

So what are your worst baking accidents (and no, this was by FAR not my worst)?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Husband, The Urban Dictionary

So. It's summer. The church choir hasn't been together in awhile. But we had a drop in choir practice. I made the mistake of going. It was the first time some of the members had seen my new haircut.

The choir director told me I didn't have to sing, just flip my hair and look pretty. So, as a joke -- beacause we're like that in my church -- I did the perfect hair flip.

The woman behind me, well, let me clarify, the nearly seventy year old woman behind me, leaned over and whispered, "She's a cougar!"

Umm, what?

I was insulted by that on a few levels. Really, it was the haircut? And I can't possibly be old enough to be a cougar, can I?


Oh, how times have changed.

I went hom and complaied about it to my husband. He was quite helpful. Being my husband, he of course had to make a diagram for me because he's incapable of describing something or giving directions without drawing.

It's a little blurry, I know, but bear with me. He wrote it on a small Post-It, and I don't have a fancy camera.

Apparently, there are many categories, and they're not all mutually exclusive.

So while MILFs apparently encompass a wide range of people, the subcategories do not overlap. Cougars encompass the "older" women who are MILFS and really only include women 35 and over. Oh, goodie. I have a whole year and four months before I actually fit that category. I'm hoping it's like "old people" where as a child I thought twenty was ancient and now I see seventy or so as the point at which you're old, thank God.

Then he introduced me to a new category -- and I'm so proud of him for knowing this... -- pumas. Pumas are apparently the MILFs that fall into the younger category of women. He assured me that I'm definitely a puma. For now.

And I think I'm insulted all over again! And really scared to see what searches I'm going to bring over here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Open Your Ears And Listen!

Whenever we go to Chicago, I drive. I lived in the city for years, but sometimes I forget that my husband and the city just ... don't mix. And that's putting it nicely. More than once he's been forced to abandon his attempt to parallel park and let me do it instead.

But sometimes I forget this.

Like when I was at BlogHer's conference and planned to take the train back home on Sunday. This meant walking the mile and a half with my stuff to the train station, getting aboard, and then being picked up at the train station by my husband.

I had received the tip about bringing an extra suitcase, and I did. Sorta. I brought a gym duffel bag, figuring I could hang it around my neck so I'd still have one hand free. Annnnd after the first night, I decided I'd take a cab to the train instead of walking. Since my shoulder was still sore on Friday from my pulling the suitcase that mile and a half the first time two days prior.

On Day 2, I called my husband and begged him to pick me up. There was no way I was making it home on the train. Yikes! Nice husband agreed.

I told him where we were staying, and he promise to pick me up a little before noon. Since there was a Cubs game, he was planning to leave by a little after 10am just in case he hit traffic. I rolled my eyes but said nothing.

At ten, I called him to request that he bring down a couple freezer pops for Problem Solvin' Mom's poor sick daughter. And I knew he was on his way. Around 11:10, I called him to ask where he was, as I was now trying to coordinate with a second person.

He was on Ohio. Eek! That meant he was about five minutes away, and I hadn't finished packing, nor had I gotten my suitcases downstairs. I called the front desk to request help with my bags. Now, here's a major Sheraton Hotel & Towers fail. It was at least a half hour wait. Seriously, a conference of 1400 people is ending, and you don't have sufficient bell staff?

Not wanting to inconvenience my husband any further than I had by making him drive to the city, I somehow hauled all my stuff on me and tottered to the elevator, hoping I didn't run into anyone on my way.

By the time I got downstairs, I realized that I had taken more time than I should have, and my husband was likely to be waiting. Oops. I called him to see where he was.

I'm on South Water Street, but I don't see the hotel

Well, Honey, that's because the hotel is on NORTH Water street. Come back across the river.

Five more minutes go by. I call again. Ummmm, where are you?

I'm back where I started. I don't see a North Water Street anywhere.

Okie dokie. I explain again that it's one block east of Michigan on Columbus, at 400 north. Right on the corner. Across the street from the NBC Tower.

Five more minutes go by. I swear I think I see him turning right instead of turning left.

Well, I found the NBC Tower, but I didn't see the hotel. Now I'm in a big circle again. I can't find it. I'm just going to go home.

No no no no no. He can't go home. I can't take this stuff on the train. And he's right there. So close. If I had less stuff, I'd tell him to stay put, and I'd walk to him. I give him directions from where he's at again.

Five minutes go by. Poor Steph. She's just standing here with me and her daughter, waiting for the freezer pops, knowing her ride back home is wanting to leave. And listening to me try to give directions repeatedly to my husband who obviously isn't listening, considering that he's on Michigan and not on Columbus.

I can't find it. I'm driving on Michigan, but I don't see a North Water Street anywhere. I'm just going back and forth in a circle.

I groan. Really, what part about a block east of Michigan is so hard to understand. Oh, that's right. It's really hard to understand when you choose not to listen. I explain again that North Water is a two block street off Columbus. He has to get to Columbus first. I explain how to do that again.

He calls back two minutes later. This time I stay on the phone with him.

I can see where the hotel is, so do you want me to go into the tunnel then?

ARG! That isn't a tunnel, that's going under the city. That would be driving straight past the hotel. Again. I calmly explain that he has to turn left at North Water and then just go into the little half circle driveway place.

At this point, I'm trying to figure out why it's so difficult, as Mr. Weasel was able to pick up that crew with zero problems. And I figured I would have had good karma from helping out Steph! No dice.

Ok, I can see the hotel, but I don't see you. Where are you? Why can't I see you? I don't see a circle place. Are you sure I'm on the right side?

Since at this time I can see his car and in fact his silhouette on the phone -- and yes, my eyes are bad enough that I couldn't see him directly -- I figure I'm home free. Until he almost misses turning into the driveway. Almost.

It is now noon. He literally spent over forty minutes trying to find the hotel while being less than a mile away. I gave Steph her Freezer Pops, put my stuff in his car, and sat down. After all, we're going home. How hard can that be?

I closed my eyes to rest a bit. When I opened them, I asked where he was going. We were on Grand, west of the highway. He'd somehow managed to get lost trying to get back to the highway. Fortunately, with me in the car, it's a whole lot easier to navigate, and we were quickly on our way. Once on the highway, I was free to again relax and take a little nap between stories of the fun we had.

But next time? I'm drawing directions for him before I leave. Or maybe buying him a GPS for his birthday.

And with that, I promise to be done with any discussion of BlogHer until next year. Promise!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ford Makes These Cars, Really?

So before the actual BlogHer conference last week, I was invited here:

BlogHer and Ford invited me down for the day to take a look at the new Fords. To be honest, I'm not a fan of Ford. In fact, I have owned two Fords and swore after trading in the last one that I'd never own a Ford again.

I changed my mind.

You wouldn't believe the cool things Ford is doing now. They have all sorts of features that you wouldn't have thought necessary, but yet they suddenly are. Can you figure out what this might be?

Does this help clarify it?

Nope, it doesn't (or at least not for me!) because it's not something I would have asked for in a car. They are -- wait for it ... massaging seats. I sat down and ahhhh. They massage your back and your rear, but not at the same time. It's gentle to the point that I didn't feel it when I sat down but then it was SO. NICE. The bags you saw were packets that slowly fill with five pounds of air and then release, in addition to the gentle vibrations. While some of us expressed a fear that this time cause us to fall asleep, they worked with doctors to ensure that the massage actually increased blood flow and kept people more awake as well as preventing that icky tingling feeling when you've been in the car too long.

I'm not buying a car without these seats ever again.

Plus, these cars park themselves. Yes, you read that right. You drive along, press a button on the console, and it tells you when you've driven past a spot big enough to fit your car. It announces where you should stop, then you put it into reverse and let go of the steering wheel. It totally freaked me out to watch it whipping around that fast, but a few back and forths and I was completely parallel to and three inches from the curb. For those who have a hard time parallel parking -- my husband -- this is genius.

The car also announces not only when you're getting close to another car in back by beeping faster and faster as you get closer, but it has a cross traffic view from behind so you can feel confident as you pull out from a parking spot instead of me doing my old lady creep creep creep -- praying no one is going to smack me from behind. And it alerts you when there are cars in your blind spot. I'm thinking even my mom could avoid an accident with these cars (she's had enough that at one point in time, her insurance actually dumped her rather than raise the rates again).

Parents aren't left out either. The My Key allows parents to set control of the car so that it can't go over 80mph. And the teen can't turn the radio up past half volume. And the radio turns off if the seatbelt isn't buckled. I love the gentle instilling of good habits.

Environmentalists want to know what's happening with Ford? Not only are they hugely increasing the mpg in their cars and configuring them to have V8 power from a V6, but they are engineering new materials to make the car from. No more do they have foam seats that are made with way too much petroleum. They're made from soy. Seriously. They aren't biodegradable yet, but they're working on it. They're also working making the plastic parts from corn that is totally biodegradable. And even now they're using coconut husks and other materials to strengthen the plastic instead of glass filaments, which makes the plastic lighter and more fuel efficient.

Plus, the cars are sorta fun to drive. I admit that I wouldn't choose a Taurus over a Camry because sitting in the back, my head still just about touched the ceiling (I'm 5'8" -- this is a common problem), but they have some really cool cars and are doing some really cool things. Like the Lincoln MKT that has a fridge built in. And the leaves that appear when you're driving in an environmentally friendly manner.

I also got totally geeked out watching how they set up the factory floor using way cool ergonomics to see if all the parts of the car can be easily and safely reached as needed. It's pretty darn cool -- one of us got to test it out and said it looked just like she was looking into and reaching into a real car.

There was also an LCD tv next to it, so the ergonomic expert can check to see how accurately and easily the worker can do everything, testing how much force it requires to do a task. This minimizes on the job injuries, and who isn't a fan of that?

Going on the factory tour was pretty awesome, too. I've never seen a plant like this before. It was so automated with the cars moving along, doors being lifted and fitted to the car, little conveyor belts moving the workers with the cars so the can complete their tasks. It's not a job I could do, but it was way cool to watch.

Besides, I don't look so hot in safety vest yellow and safety glasses, do I?

I'm somewhat bummed that I bought a new car last year, but I figure they'll be even better by the time I trade this one in, right? And this time, I promise I'll consider a Ford. Wow.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Yay, finally a post that isn't related to BlogHer '09! Ok, so there's one more tomorrow, but ... it's more focused on my silly husband and less on the conference, so I'm not sure it really counts.

Anyway, I didn't do a ton of cooking this week since I was downtown for five of the days. I was smart enough to make up some of my favorite pasta salad that keeps well that I know will provide at least a little variety (and homemaded-ness to my family's diet while out of town).

Of course, with all this running around, that means no pictures again, but I promise to do better next week!

Perfect Pasta Salad

1/2 lb pasta, e.g., rigatoni (I use whole grain)
2 ears of corn, roasted and de-eared
3 marinated artichoke hearts
1/3 c kalamata olives
3 roma tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
2 T fresh basil
4 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 c feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Roast the corn on the grill of over the stove (my lazy method in bad weather) until lightly browned on each side. Make sure you peel it first. Then just lay it on the gas burners, and turn it with a set of tongs every few minutes. Stand the ear in a large plate or jellyroll pn, and use a very sharp knife to cut along the ear to remove the kernels.

Cook the rigatoni according to the package directions, making sur to leave it just a touch more al dente than you normally would.

Chop all the remaining veggies into bite-sized pieces. Chiffonade the basil, and mince the garlic.

Add all ingredients to a bowl (preferably while the pasta is still hot to allow the flavors to absorb better into the pasta). Stir to combine, then let sit overnight and serve cold.

Check out recipes like this at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed by Grace each week.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

BlogHer Day 2 Recap: Photos

Ohhhh my. I'm tired. I'm really tired. I'm apparenly far older than I thought I was. It's a good thing this is only a two day (sorta) conference! But I'm so going to BlogHer10. THANK you to all the sponsors for all the fun they allowed from the various parties to the sessions and facilities -- and of course the way cool swag.

While I have no picures of my swag -- and it's all put away already, it was a really neat way to see and learn about all sorts of products that I might not otherwise use or come across. I'm STILL so bummed I was late to the SocialLuxe Lounge and just missed getting what was probably the most awesome swag, including a Kodak video camera that I would have really loved. I have no "real" video camera and haven't yet justified buying one. *le sigh*

Anyway, I do have a ton of other photos -- so enjoy the show, with commentary wherever I can. And where my sleep derived brain fails me, help me out with some identifications please!

Commentary on each picture is in Flickr but not showing up in the slide show. Grrr. Help?

I didn't make it to as many sessions on Day 2 of BlogHer as I did on Day 1, but there were some great ones. Unfortunately, there were also some really small rooms for some very popular sessions and large one for others. Lots of fun and socializing though, regardless.

And thanks to Weaselmomma -- I got a rather unique and fun experience and photo with Paula Deen. Yep, sweetest woman ever, even rolling down her window to my shock as the limo was driving away to wave at us. I wasn't expecting that at all (really, who would?) so the picture misses most of it since I had already turned it off and put it away.

Lots of way fun parties that night starting with the BlogHer cocktail party on the promenade where we had fun chilling out and enjoying the weather. We moved over to BowlHer after that which was hilarious. I managed to break my thumbnail on the first ball, as usual. They had some surprisingly good food though, and a great atmosphere. Finally, time for the famed Cheezeburgher party in the Presidential Suite that was crowded as all get out. I'd never seen cheeseburgers in a silver buffet warmer before, but it worked! Finally, we had an impromptu SeaMan party in the lobby until we finally gave up and went to bed.

This morning packing things up was a challenge, but I did it. Tomorrow you'll hear about my fun of getting home! But for now, I'm off to bed. I can't believe I really have to work tomorrow, but somehow I'll do it. Here's to more than four hours of sleep in a night!

And to think, BlogHer 2010 is still over a year away. Is it too early to start planning?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

BlogHer Day 1: Top Ten Lessons Learned

It's never a good a good sign when you wake up dizzy. I didn't have that much to drink last night at all, so I couldn't have been drunk. But boy was my brain moving slowly. In fact, it took me a good five minutes to realize that I was dizzy from lack of sleep. Oops.

Tonight, I'll sleep more, I promise. In the meantime, I did find the mental wherewithal to remember some of what I learned yesterday, so who can I not share?

Top Ten Things I Learned At Day One of BlogHer

10) Kiwis come in more colors than just green. Seriously, they do. I love kiwi. My family loves kiwi. We eat it allllll the time. And every kiwi I've ever eaten looks the same -- within reason. Granted, some may have been a slightly differnt shape and some may have been a little overripe, but generally they'r the same. Did oyu know they make golden kiwis? And that there are something like 47 different variations of kiwi, including red and white. Huh. Oh, and if you're wondering, the golden kiwis are pretty good. And sweet. And taste nothing like "normal" kiwis.

9) I need a pedicure. The Hanes booth had people who were giving foot massages. That gave me a lovely opportunity to focus on my feet more than I normally do. The nail polish could use a little reboot, but wow are my feet rough after walking around in summer shoes since May 1. Sorry foot massage guy. I promise to book an appointment for the next time my husband allows me out of the house after I get home from BlogHer... sometime in 2013, I expect.

8) My hair does not like the water in the city of Chicago. I remember back when I lived in the city and my hair rocked. Then I moved to the suburbs where we no longer had Lake Michigan water but instead used village well water. It took me a long time to adapt, but apparently my hair is now like that country bumpkin who's never seen the big city. It's overwhelmed by the city water. First is stands straight up in fright in te morning, then it tries to hide by burying itself as close to my scalp as possible, waiting for me to get back to that old trusted water. It's not pretty.

7) To incresae the page ranking of your blog, you need deep links. Google is getting pretty smart. If you're trying to grow your traffic through searches and the like, having people read your main page helps you, but only a little. If people instead click directly to the individual post, you get a whole lot more cred from Google. Interesting concept, I though.

6) Twitter isn't a phone only app. I had no idea. I thought people texted to tweet. Since I don't know how to text and don't have a text plan, I steered way clear. I've now been set straight... and I'm now on Twitter. Greeeeeat. I'm in trouble now, aren't I? Oh, and you can find me there as honestandtruly. I forgot that part, oops!

5) Leaving your phone number with the hotel is a bonus. Not surpisingly, there were no rooms available to check in at the hotel yesterday at 7:30am. But on the waycool plus side, I didn't have to wait in any lines later in the day and miss anything to get my room because the hotel called me as soon as it was ready, as I requested, and I was then able to grab my room key at my leisure. Ahhhh....

4) Even though I've left my twenties, I can still drink in the mornings. Or morning. Granted, this gives a little less credence to my earlier statement about not drinking overmuch last night. But when they offered up the bloody mary at the 10am break, I will admit to taking and drinking one. It was good. Buuuut had there been any one Day 2, I think I would have passed it up.

3) It is possible to go from crying to laughing to crying and back and forth again countless times in the span of less than two hours. The keynote speeches on Friday evening were various bloggers reading their posts. They covered the gamut from mentally ill homeless relatives to Diet Coke's cheating ways to life with special needs children to letters to children and more. Oh, and I don't hide my attempts to avoid crying well. On the plus side, I did somehow manage to avoid having my mascara run all down my face.

2) Men are different from women. Ok, so that I knew already. But in regards to blogging and making your page readable, we're different, too. It's always hard to read garish pages, but the easiest is a light tan with black writing. (Phew, I'm close!) And when you have links, if you don't underline them and put them in a different color, many men are colorblind and can't tell there's a link there. Who'da thunk it? Actually, there were tons and tons of tips about improving blog looks and accessibility. I made several notes, but they all involve time to update, so ummm you may see just this for a long time to come!

And the number one thig I learned on Day One of BlogHer?

HOLY MOLEY! I can touch my toes! Seriously! I've done yoga for years and never touched my toes. I failed the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge as a kid (in part) because I couldn't touch my toes. There was a sitlates lady at the Elations booth, and she fixed me. She had me resist her as I lifted my legs behind my one at a time, then hamstring curl resistance against her, then out to the side. Twice for each leg for less than ten seconds each time. I then bent over and touched the floor. With my fingers. With my legs straight. Without stretching. It was amazing. And I'm now known by several bloggers as "the chick who touched her toes" because they were lucky enough to witness the demonstration. Ahem.

And now... I need to pack up my stuff so I'm ready when my lovely, generous husband arrives to pick me up. Yay! Recap more tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

BlogHer Day 1/2: Lessons To Date

First and foremost, holy crimeoly! Take fourteen hundred women and put them in a hotel, and wow is the estrogen flowing. Fortunately, there are a few guys, too, so that does help to balance it out. I obviously have a fairly narrow ummm genre of people that I hang out with. You forget how many different people are out there, and it's so fun!

In the last day, I learned quite a bit -- it being my whole first BlogHer and everything. I am quite happy that I did at least skim the packet and have it beaten into my brain that I have to bring an extra suitcase for all the swag we were going to get.

On the downside, no one mentioned that if you want the swag, make sure you get to the parties early. We didn't get back from the Ford event (more on that to come)until 4 -- wahh! -- and the SocialLuxe Lounge began at 3. I made the mistake of going to the room to change and freshen up before heading to another party that began at four and then wandering over to the Hyatt for the lounge party later.

No swag bags were left. I saw plenty of those bags, of course. And I drooled. They were the size of a Bloomingdales Big Bag. At least. They had Crocs, which granted, I could have lived without. And a Kodak video camera. And a bottle of wine. And... and... ok, so I sorta got stuck on those two and didn't want to hear more.

What an awesomely cool bag! And lesson learned. I have my plan for tonight of where I'm going when. We also missed out on the swag from the 704 party because we had to catch a train out last night, but we saw some of what was in the bags and ... they were fun. Adult type fun, in fact. Then again, maybe I shouldn't worry about not getting that one!

I'll later put up a picture of my normal purse so you can oooo and ahhhh over it. And also a picture of the purse that I bought for BlogHer so that you can see how much fun it is -- and by extension, how much fun I am, right?

Now, picture having to -- and yes, here it truly is having to pick up swag from all the vendors we're seeing everywhere. And store it in a teensy, tiny purse that no self-respecting mommy would carry. Not gonna happen. I'm really happy that I brought the bigger purse.

However, I don't know how to pack a bigger purse. You'll notice that I have no pictures whatsoever from the events last night. My camera was buried at the bottom of my purse, somewhere, along with other important things like my lipstick. Oh, and my wallet. Today, I've fixed that and know how I'm going to keep things organized. And yay (or boo, depending on your POV), I'll have pictures going forward.

So when I was packing, I wanted to try to minimize what I was brining while being sure to have everything I needed. That meant calling Melisa to see if she'd have a hair dryer at her house for our sleepover. And deciding that the toiletries at the hotel would suffice. And packing only three pairs of (comfortable!) shoes.

And debating over bringing an umbrella or not. At home on Wednesday, it was raining. Not hard, but still raining. I wanted to get a small umbrella to take with me and decided to pick it up after I finished running my last minute errands. By the time I did this, of course, it had stopped raining. And I was going to Chicago where I'd be inside all weekend. I decided I didn't need an umbrella after all.

When I arrived in the city, the sun was shining. Yay! Yesterday, it was sunny and delightful and not humid -- this is not normal Chicago weather, but whoo! Remember getting back at 4pm from the Ford event? Dawn and I looked at each other and asked if that was rain drops we felt. Nahhh, we decided. By the time I made it to the SocialLuxe Lounge which was held at another hotel before I walked to Giordano's for dinner, it was raining. Really raining. As in I could hear thunder and lightning. So I found that Walgreens across the streeet and bought one. And slipped and slid into and out of my mules all the way to the hotel and then all the way to the restaurant. Just a little extra exercise, right?

I'm making progress though. I was smart enough to register last night and this morning picked up my tote bag from BlogHer when we arrived at the hotel insted of after breakfast. You don't want to know what the lines looked like, but I'll let it suffice to say that I'm pretty sure there are a few people who missed out on breakfast. And I'm not patient enough to stand in line, which is a whole 'nother issue.

Oh, and I also learned (stop laughing) that you don't have to Twitter from just your phone. Ahem. Soooo this morning, some friends finally convinced me to sign up for it. I'm not quite sure how to do it yet -- but there's a Twitter 101 session later today! -- but you can find me on Twitter now as honestandtruly.

Wish my luck today! I can't wait to see what else I lern the hard way....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Women Want

That really opens up a can of worms doesn't it? Fortunately, I'll winnow it down a bit.

Last June, I finally decided that my beloved eleven year old car was due to be replaced. The a/c was going, it wouldn't start after having been driven in the heat (fortunately only a problem for a short time in Chicago!), and the tires needed replacing. I refused to put more money into my car than it was worth.

It had obviously been awhile since I shopped for a car, but I did my homework. Not surprisingly to anyone who knows me, I made both a list and created a model in a spreadsheet. I figured out exactly what I wanted in a car, and then I looked for one that was as close to what I needed as possible.

Safety was key. I have two wee ones who I need to feel comfortable driving around. There are plenty of bad drivers here, and I have heard and seen some real horror stories.

With the wee ones getting slightly older, I also needed to be sure I could fit friends and family in the car. Our carseats are wide, and my old five passenger car meant that any trip with my parents either meant renting a minivan or taking two cars. Even trying to carpool becomes a challenge with multiple booster seats and the like. I'm really glad I thought ahead and bought what will be an eight seat car (with a third row) when we complete the space hogging device usage but in the meantime easily fits four carseats and boosters to drive to and from school each day.

I also want a car that has decent mileage. When I bought it, gas was going up, up, up. My previous car got fifteen miles per gallon. My new one (remember, SUV with a third row seating up to eight) averages around twenty-two. Yes, I'm a conservative driver with regards to fuel and that's above the stated city driving MPG. While I wanted relatively fuel efficient for my needs, I wasn't willing to pay too large a premium for a hybrid of the like.

It's also critical for me to be able to cool everyone in the car from from to all the way in the back. And to be able to see around everyone from front to back so I can avoid those crazy drivers! And to have fabric that won't tear or stain easily. And still be able to have sufficient storage.

I couldn't do a minivan, so the third row became more critical, but I was nervous about the row being so close to the back door of the car in many brands. I was afraid of being rear-ended and injuring people back there. I am happy that I found something that fits my comfort level.

Then there are all the things I didn't think of that I really like from the controls for speed and the radio on my steering wheel (that didn't exist back in 1997) to the XM radio that I really miss when I'm in my husband's car. The super easy method of putting up and down the third row -- and the fact that it lies truly flat -- are things I hadn't thought about either. I can do it with one hand, an even better bonus.

So why am I thinking about this now? Well, on Thursday I'll be at the Ford assembly plant in Chicago getting a really cool tour of the facility. They've invited several mom bloggers in to learn about some of the innovations that they've made -- including the Active Park Assist technology that parks your car for you. Having lived in the city, I can park into just about any spot, but that would be so cool for ohhh say my husband who doesn't quite have that knack.

There will also be a roundtable where we talk through what women want in a car. That's where you come in. Even if you usually just read without commenting, let me know what you car about most when you are looking for a new vehicle. What would you love to see more of, and what turns you away from purchasing a vehicle?

C'mon, help a girl out! And if you're going to be at BlogHer -- I'll see you on Thursday night! I need to get to sleep... and then start figuring out what I'm bringing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

As I mentioned yesterday, I made skate for dinner. Both the wee ones gobbled it up and enjoyed it. My husband also enjoyed it but pointed out that it was only so so on its own. The sauce really made the dish (well, DUH, that's why I made the sauce). He also complained that it was hard to eat, but that was partly because he was hungry and didn't listen to my instructions of how to remove the fish from it's bone!

Regardless, skate is a great tender fish that was wonderful for $2.99/pound. This is generally cooked by pan frying in butter and making a brown butter sauce. I went another way, and I really enjoyed it.

Again, sorry that I have no pics this week, but it was devoured immediately! I didn't have time to take any. I think that's a good thing, right?

Skate with Green Sauce

1 skate wing (ours was about 1 1/4 pound and enough for four with solid sides)
2 T oil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c flour
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t (more) salt
1 T anchovy paste (you can omit this if you're squeamish)
1 T capers, drained and rinsed
1 T whole grain mustard
2 T fresh chopped basil
1 T fresh chopped cilantro
1 T fresh chopped parsley
2 T olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1/2 t (additional) black pepper

Start by making the sauce -- Make a garlic paste with the garlic and salt. Chop the garlic fine, then add 1/2 t salt and use the side of the knife to scrape across the garlic until it forms a paste. Place this into a small bowl, and add the anchovies, capers, mustard, hers, 2 T olive oil, lime juice, and black pepper. Whisk until it starts to emulsify.

Heat a large large large fry pan on the stove. If your fish is larger than the bottom of the pan, cut the fish! Add oil to the pan just before you're ready to put the fish in.

Pat the fish dry. Place the egg into a wide dish and beat, then coat the fish in the egg. Coat the fish with flour and shake off the excess. Repeat the egg and flour layers.

Add the fish to the pan, and cook on each side for about five minutes (for a nice thick piece). When you flip it, use a fork to check to be sure that the flesh is white and firm and flakes away easily. You do not want to overcook this!

Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the pan and the pan from the heat. Add the sauce to heat it through quickly, then pour the sauce over the fish.

To remove the fish from the bone, use the side of a large fork to scrape the meat off the bone starting at the top and working your way to the base. This fish has lots of flexible bones, so some may come off as you remove the fish. They're easy to pick out, so no worries there. Even Mister Man was able to pick them out when needed! Once you have all the meat removed from one side, flip the fish and repeat the process.

Check out recipes like this at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed by Grace each week.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Milestones That You Aren't Looking For...

Tonight, I made skate for dinner. And no, I don't mean rollerskates. It's a kind of fish. I've had it before at restaurants, and a local store had it on sale for $2.99/pound, so I figured it would be a fun thing to try out and make for my husband and the wee ones.

As I was investigating this fish and what to do with it, I learned a few thing. First, I learned what skate is a pseudonym for. Second, I learned that it is 99% of the time cooked in a butter sauce of some sort, which doesn't work if Little Miss is going to eat dinner. Third, I learned that this fish turns fast. It starts smelling of ammonia and is then inedible.

The good news is that everyone liked it -- Little Miss especially loved it after I squeezed some lime of her portion. And yes, I promise the recipe will come this week for Tasty Tuesday. Unfortunately, there are no pictures. We were starved. It cooked, it went onto plates, and it was devoured. I figured showing the remaining bones wasn't going to sell it.

So tonight, my husband looked suspiciously at the fish on his plate and asked what it really was.

Me: I'll tell you after we're done eating.
Him: No, really, what is it?
Me: Mister Man, if I tell you what this fish is, are you going to keep eating it?
Mister Man: (enthusiastically)Yep!
Me: Ok.... It's S-T-I-N-G R-A-Y.
Husband: Ahhhh... and nodding sagely

I also hear a fork clattering onto the floor.


Oops. I guess we can't spell things out in front of him anymore. Crap.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pump That Party!

Mister Man and I had a birthday party to attend this afternoon for a friend of his from preschool. We did the usual choosing the present and handwriting the card, then hop skipping and jumping to the party itself.

As seems to the be the case more often than not, the party was at Pump It Up. For those of you who haven't been there, it's a warehouse converted to hold large inflatables that range from obstacle courses to huge slides to basketball courts and more. The newer ones even offer rock climbing walls. If you want to wear out a child, that's the place to head.

How do I know so much about this? Why, because this is (literally) our twenty-fourth party there. At the eighth party, I started counting. It started in April of 2006, when Mister Man was two and a half (and Little Miss was an oh so cute eight and a half month old trying to climb in all the jumping things, too).

It's a popular place to have a party. I discovered how popular in talking to the friend's mom today who informed me that she booked this party in March. And she didn't get the time slot she wanted because that was already booked. Wow.

So far, we've avoided having ours there -- for a few reasons. I'm a fan of having more unique and memorable parties than the one everyone else is doing. And the Pump It Up parties are not exactly cheap . I'm guessing it's all that liability insurance! At a party in December, Mister Man announced as we were leaving that he wanted to have his party at Pump It Up when he turns six.


For the most part, we've done parties at home, excluding Mister Man's last one and Little Miss's upcoming one, both of which were party packages won at fundraisers. It's the first time he really asked for a particular party, and I told him that if he still wanted it there when it was closer to his party that we'd work it out. I figured we'd have plenty of time for him to get fixated on another idea.

Oh, did I mention that we've been to five parties there since then? Yep, each time he tells me it's his favorite place ever, and that he wants a party there. And apparently, I need to get on the ball if I want to have one there in early October. (Hey, Pump It Up in Vernon Hills, if you're listening, do you have a party open for the week of October 11, give or take?)

I remember this phenomenon when I was growing up. All the cool kids had their birthday parties at Cheapskate -- small yellow birdie logo included. We skated for an hour or more, shooting the duck, skating backwards, and all the other fun moves and games. We played skee ball and bought bubble gum from the concession stand. At the end, we'd go to the back corner where presents were opened (and we discovered to our chagrin that Sally bought the exact same present we did!) and cake was eaten.

Pump It Up is that same phenomenon. The wee ones loved it as toddlers, and I see kids eight and older still having a blast there. To be honest, I sort of miss the days when the wee ones needed my "help" to play there. And besides, how can you deny smiles like this?

(Yes, that's my scary lizard alien boy... I'm not sure how I did it, but this photo cracked me up! Real smile below.)

So what's the cool place to have a party where you live?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Need That. No, I Need THAT!

This week's assignment was to determine what appliance in our home I could not live without. Oh, this is an easy one.

Let's run through the contenders, shall we?

Fridge -- hey, I like grocery shopping. If I had to go every day, I'd be totally cool with that. Ditto on the freezer.

Stove -- well, that would be tougher, but so much can be cooked on the grill. I've even baked on the grill. And it's fun! I even grill in the winter.

Dishwasher. Ah! Some tasks in my house are appropriately divvied up. My husband takes out the trash. He mows the lawn (although truth be told, I think I'd actually enjoy that one). He irons the few clothes that need ironing. And he does the dishes.

I detest doing dishes. I can't touch the dishes once they've made it into the sink. The whole concept just grosses me out. If the dishwasher is full, dishes are placed on the counter. The wet icky slimy nastiness that is the sink can go nowhere near my dishes. At least not if I'm going to touch them.

When I looked for my first apartment, finding one with a dishwasher was key. I had a tiny studio, but it had my dishwasher. I have certain dishes that need to be hand washed. They were washed immediately upon use, never touching the sink. And to be honest, most of my boyfriends graciously took on the duty of washing dishes while I cooked.

Then I thought about this a little more. I'm definitely missing a key appliance. My husband could technically do all the dishes for me if needed. But how do you go without a washing machine?

I've heard stories about those old fashioned washing machines. Rocks? I'm not the one who's into them (Karen). While I think those wringer roller things are awfully cool looking, I couldn't imagine having to use that to do an entire load of laundry. And in my house of "I looked at it, therefore it must be dirty" those loads get big. And frequent.

The dryer, I could go without. In fact, I actually generally do go without it. Once upon a time, I even had a post showing how we air dry all our laundry, but it's somehow mysteriously disappeared. But the washer? Oh yeah... can't live without that one. I'm already planning what washer I'll buy when this one someday (hopefully very far away someday) bites the dust.

Just don't tell me that my toilet counts as an appliance. I can't deal with that right now!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Fork In The Road

I've written before about our mental struggles over what to do for Mister Man with regards to his education. Do we keep him where he's at, or do we try something different?

Prior to this year, it hasn't been too much in the forefront, because the answer was easy. He was significantly delayed in his fine and gross motor, and he needed assistance in learning proper social behavior. While he doesn't have an official diagnosis, he is definitely in need of special services. Ergo, he attends the early learning center in our district.

He's spent three years there almost, and in that time he's made huge progress in all areas. His first year teacher was so wonderful and engaging, and she made a big difference. The fact that I didn't have to drive him because there was a bus available and -- oh yeah -- the preschool was free were just added bonuses.

He's a child who has physical deficits, but academically, he is way ahead of where he should be. He's just spent the last hour or so reading the last book in the Andrew Lost series. And he has just a few pages left in the nine chapter, eighty-six page book. The kid also does math in his head and just generally figures things out.

That's where the challenge comes in. When he's bored, he acts out by wandering the classroom and disturbing other children. We were concerned about this last year and wondering if we should have him try kindergarten (he's a deadline misser) since I was younger than him in the grade and had no issues. In the end, we kept him with his class, but we definitely saw some problems arise over the course of the year.

In elementary school, it's a whole new ballgame. You're a special needs child in a "normal" classroom setting, and once you are labeled a problem child, that dogs you through high school in our unit district. They don't do any sort of differentiated education, which means that he will do Jolly Phonics for the fourth year in a row. He will learn how to count to twenty. And I just don't see that working out too well for him.

We were hopeful that we would get into a special program our district offers where you learn Spanish. Half the kids in the program are native Spanish speakers, and the other half are English speakers. While he knows most kindergarten material in English, the Spanish part would be a good challenge for him. Unfortunately, the spots in that program filled up before they even got to the lottery, so no dice. That particular program also had the added benefit of being an extended day program, so he spent more time in the classroom giving him more chances for interaction with the other students, something we know will benefit him.

The other possibility was a local private school. It's really hard to justify paying tuition when we live in a "good" school district, but this merited consideration. The school offers full day kindergarten and because it's full day, they are able to offer gym, music, art and Spanish twice a week. I love the idea of having a full day kindergarten to transition to the rigor of elementary school. Oh, and did I mention that they provide differentiated instruction? Whatever level your child is at, they'll teach him there. That's a huge benefit for the kids who need some extra help and support to avoid getting frustrated by constant failure, as well as the children who have mastered the basic concepts.

But, it's a private school. They don't offer special services. And I don't want Mister Man to fall behind on any of his problem areas. Oh, and did I mention private school tuition?

We've been debating back and forth for months, knowing that we'll never know what the "right" decision is until it's too late. I did find out that the private school is supported by the school district and has to offer services. That made me feel better, even knowing I'd have to drive him to the therapies on my own time. Except that they only offer speech services to private school students.


We continued dithering.

Mister Man has been in summer school so far this summer, and I'm amazed at how well it's going. We had him do a gym class and a kindergarten class through the school district, never saying that he was special needs. He loved it and did well. The teacher told us that he was a model student. Hmm.

This week, he's doing a program sponsored by the Junior Women's League, and it's run by middle school students (supervised by adults!) in small groups. He loves it. He comes home telling me all about the friends he's made, and how he's getting to be better and better friends with the children in his group.


He's down to forty minutes a week, and twenty of them are speech. Ten of them are likely to only be for the fall quarter. I can do some work with him at home, right?

So we took the plunge this afternoon. Luckily, the economy means that the school still had openings in the kindergarten program. He's officially registered as a Catholic school student.

Now I have to worry about uniforms and packing lunches. And carpooling. And finding a way to be in two places at once, since Little Miss's bus is bound to be dropping her off or picking her up when I'm needed at the school.

But Mister Man? He's in heaven (no pun intended). He is so thrilled that he's going to that school. He fell in love with it when we visited, especially the music class, the classrooms, and the fact that he could have pizza on Thursdays there.

When I told him there were still openings, he started his happy dance.

When I told him that he was officially registered, he gave me a huge hug and kiss.

I'm at peace with our decision. How can I not be? If only I'd had the wisdom to listen to Mister Man in the first place!

Soooo wish us luck as we start school on August 24!

PS Does anyone have any good recommendations for fun lunchboxes that I can do bento style that aren't $$$$$?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

I can't believe another week has flown by. We've been busy, especially with my husband's best man in town for their annual baseball bacchanalia. In between their treks up to Miller Park and down to Wrigley, I managed to do some cooking for them, for which they were most appreciative. I was even proactively brought a venti caramel macchiato by said friend one morning.

Their favorite was the steak I made for them last year that is always a favorite. But since I posted that one already, I figured I'd go with their second favorite menu item of the week.

Spaghetti with Black Pepper and Pecorino

8 oz spaghetti, uncooked
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (or more -- you can never have enough garlic!)
2 T butter
1 T black pepper, freshly ground
2 c pecorino Romano cheese
salt, to taste

in a large saucepan or stockpot bring four quarts water to boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until the pasta is al dente (don't over cook it, please -- just for me). Reserve at least one cup of the water when draining. Do NOT rinse the pasta.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When hot, add the garlic. Saute until just barely golden, then remove garlic immediately (but not the olive oil). Add the butter and pepper to the pan.

Return 1/2 cup of the reserved water to the saucepan, add the olive oil mixture, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Stir and heat over medium.

Add the pasta and toss for three minutes until the cheese is melted. Add additional reserved water if it seems too dry. Season with salt to taste.

Place the pasta into a large bowl and top with the reserved garlic. Serve immediately with reserved 1/2 cup cheese.

I love recipes like this that are super easy but really look like you put so much more time and effort into them. In fact, I think I need to make this again this week, now that I think about it. Yum!

Check out recipes like this at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed by Grace each week.


Judge Not...

I'll have to remember the next time I need a pick me up to post a picture of my hair. Wow, you guys are too nice and generous with your compliments. Thank you!


Every once in awhile, I'll read a story in the newspaper that just makes me shake my head and wonder. What are people thinking? Then I decide that they quite simply must not be thinking. They must be ... lacking in intelligence, in judgement, in some basic functioning.

Soooo, a friend of mine had a baby a couple weeks ago. He was due July 20, but he came early. In fact, two days before he was born, his mom was at my house for playgroup, and we were talking about how she wasn't looking forward to the birth. All her children had been born late and with painful labors, including three plus hours of pushing for each of her two previous children.

Then, I got the call.

On that Thursday, she started having contractions, but they weren't too painful, and they were pretty far apart. She calle her doctor to ask if she should come in, and her doctor told her to go to the hospital if she felt they were a concern, but that from what she was describing, it sounded like nothing serious at the time. It was up to her. She stayed home, figuring that it was Braxton-Hicks.

At a little after 9pm, the contractions changed. They were suddenly quite painful and three minutes apart without warning. She and her husband decided to go to the hospital, since it was a good forty minutes or so away.

The got into his car, backed out the driveway, turned right out of their cul de sac, turned left onto the next street, and then right onto the main road.

That's when she screamed at him. "WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. CALL 911 NOW."

As he started to dial and she continued to panic, they spotted a fire station. He quickly pulled into the parking lot and ran to the door. We now know that after hours, fire stations lock their doors, but fortunately, they have doorbells.

He yelled into the intercom that his wife was having a baby and that they didn't have time to get to a hospital. One firefighter ran out, in his stocking feet, and sprinted to the car.

He managed to catch the baby just before it hit the floor of the car. He shouted to those following him to get the OB kit because he needed to suction. Umm, yikes!

Baby safely born, they loaded her into the ambulance and took her to the closer hospital - ironically this is the one we as her friends preferred but her doctor doesn't deliver there.

Mom and baby were completely fine, thank God. Her husband's car? Not so much. He took it the next morning to be detailed. I haven't had the courage to ask how that went.

We joke with her now about her three hours of pushing, but at the same time I understand the parents who have babies in their cars a little more now. This is an experienced mom. She's been through labor twice before and knows what it feels like. She knows when contractions begin for real. For her, there truly wasn't time to get to the hospital. From the time those contractions started for real until the time her son came into this world, just over twenty minutes passed.

While I would be grateful for such a short and effective labor, this isn't really what I'm going for (and NO I'm not having any more children -- this is hypothetical). The next time I read a story about this though? I'm just going to heave a sigh of relief that everyone's ok. I certainly won't be wondering what those people were thinking.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tied In A Knot

I have had long hair for the majority of my life. In high school, it was to my waist and through college and beyond, not much shorter. When I had Little Miss, I cut it significantly, as she was a hair puller. Since then, I've been growing it out. I recently reached a milestone.

Yep, I can officially tie my hair into a knot. And it stays. It's pretty cool, I think.

I usually wear my hair curly, and it looks much shorter that way, but it's actually pretty long. Gotta love how curls shrink the hair up.

In fact, this gives you an idea of how much curls shrink up your hair:

That is ten inches of my hair. Gone. Chopped.

I donated my hair, and it's officiallly on its way to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths. I've been planning to donate my hair for awhile now, and I wanted to make sure that I had plenty to give.

Most organizations that collect donated hair make wigs for children who need them, obviously replacing hair lost from chemo being the major reason. Pantene is the only one that also makes wigs for adults. After thinking long and hard, I realized that I've been touched by cancer in adults too often lately to not try to go this way.

J's mom is a breast cancer survivor, a neighbor passed away last month of brain cancer, a friend from college passed away Thursday (unbeknownst to me that she was that close to dying when I donated, although I thought of her when making the donation) of breast/brain/liver cancer, a friend's mom passed away yesterday from breast cancer, and the list goes on.

On Wednesday, I took a deep breath and drove to my salon. I told them that I was going to donate my hair, and that they had the freedom to do whatever they want with the end cut. I don't know what my hair looks like short, so I have no real opinion. They thought it was a neat thing, and I think I may have encouraged a few others to go this route, too.

Interestingly, the woman at the post office (we have the nicest post office in the world) is a frequent donor. The first time she donated, she gave 18 inches - wow! Things I learned from her: most places will cut your hair for free if you're donating and they'll also take care of mailing it in if you donate to Locks of Love. However, Pantene appears to be the only organization that will send you a letter confirming your donation.

As for me, I'm planning to grow my hair out again and donate until my hair is more than five percent grey (when they can no longer take it). It was a really neat feeling... and I need some neat feelings these days. There hasn't been nearly enough rainbows and sunshine in my life with the recent passings and other issues (a friend's required hysterecomy due to health issues, another friend's third miscarriage since September). This -- such a great feeling!

So what do you think? This is the cut they gave me from the salon (the girl didn't know how to style curly hair, so she blew it straight).

Fortunately, I've also discovered that my hair is still curly -- or at least somewhat so. I'm still getting used to the new cut, especially when I go to shampoo or brush it and I remember my old length just isn't there.

Have you ever donated your hair? Or thought about it? Just tell me I didn't make a huge mistake with this haircut!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Should Be Working

It's 9:12am as I start this post. It's a Thursday, which is one of my work days. I work twenty-four hours a week. This was my agreement when I went back to work, and i's what I'm comfortable with.

It's not that way lately. My boss at my annual review in March made the comment that three days a week is now the equivalent of 30-35 hours a week. I'm not ok with that, and his boss and his boss are with me on the twenty-four hours thing.

So far this week, I worked my eight hours on Monday, nine and three quarters on Tuesday, and I had three hours of conference calls on my day off. They were spread throughout the day, which meant that it was exceedingly hard to run the errands and get the things done that I need to, let alone spend time with the wee ones. I had no Fourth of July holiday last week but worked as normal instead. Per my log, I've already worked enough hours as of yesterday to cover this week and next week, with a couple to spare.

And yet, I have this feeling eating at me that people think I'm not doing enough. That they might "catch" me during this seventeen minues that I "should" be working. Logically, I know I won't get in trouble if I don't answer my phone or email because I'm not logged in. Logically, I know I have and I am going above and beyond the time and effort that is required of me -- down to not taking lunch breaks because I'm busy working and often in meetings.

But I'm still paranoid that it's not enough. I still feel like I'm trying to get away with something because I'm not logged in ninteen minutes into the official workday.

I'll ignore the fact that my boss frequently doesn't make it in until 9:30. Who cares that the people in the office will spend an hour or more a day gossiping and doing their own personal things instead of working. Who cares that the entire office checks out on Friday afternoons. Who cares that there is a strong contingent of people who come in at nine on the dot, take an hour or more for lunch, and then leave at five on the dot -- putting in seven hour days.

I'm paranoid that I'm not seen as doing exactly what I need to do. And this means that everything at home suffers, from the dinners that I don't have time to always prepare to the gym workouts I miss to the playdates I have to cancel.

Needless to say, this paranoia -- which my boss feeds -- is driving me close to the edge. I have a deal with myself right now that I'll quit working once the school year starts, just to get me through the next two months. After that (if I don't quit), I'll tell myself that I'll stay until the end of the year to make sure I use up my vacation, which I haven't done in the three years since I started back part time.

It's not healthy, and I know I'm not happy. How do you justify quitting your job in this economy though?

9:25am. I really need to go log in and start work now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I Don't Beat My Children

I swear I don't.

However, this is Little Miss today. I've faced the question constantly over the past four days, "What happened? Did you punch her or something?"


No, I didn't touch her. I would never touch either of the wee ones. Little Miss happens to be allergic to mosquitoes. If you look carefully, you can see the bite -- now that the swelling and bruising has gone down slightly four days later.

You'd think that I would keep her at home when she looks like this - and worse in previous days. You'd think that I'd have the sense to avoid the questions and the suspicious looks.

Nope. Not so much. Little Miss has been to the nursery at church, in church, to the childcare area at our club, to the pool, to Spanish classes, to gymnastics, out to dinner, and to the grocery store.

And everywhere I go, I now preface it with, "Little Miss is allergic to mosquitoes. Her eye is pretty well swollen, but it isn't an eye infection and nothing is contagious."

We stay inside whenever we expect mosquitoes, and we use the new clip-on bug keep away things. They work, for the most part. But wow, were those mosquitoes vicious on the Fourth. She got bit twice on her arm and one additional bit on her jaw line. Poor kid.

But next time she gets bit near her eye and it looks like she's got a shiner versus the usual swelling and bruising on her arm or leg, I'm putting her into hiding until it goes away!

Fingers crossed that she outgrows this allergy someday! Soon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

I know I said that once the temperature turns up, my oven turns off, but I do occasionally make small exceptions. When new neighbors moved in, I made M&M cookies for them (with a couple extra for us).

The wee ones loved helping, with Mister Man making sure that every M&M was placed M side down and Little Miss making sure she added exactly four extra M&Ms to the tops of each cookie before they went into the oven, which Mister Man then had to alter of course. They're just chips off the old block.

I mentioned this, and I was immediately told that I have to bring cookies to BlogHer, especially to the sleepover the night before. Twist my arm! So far, I'm bringing the M&M cookies and chocolate chip. I know which M&M cookies I'll make, but there are so many chocolate chip options I'm still noodling over!

Regardless, the wee ones will definitely help me again. Both with the measuring and mixing and the tasting. Yes, I allow the wee ones to eat raw cookie dough. The eggs are irradiated!

While I'm mulling the chocolate chip option, I figure the least I can do is share my M&M cookie recipe....

Classic M&M Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 c butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
~1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups M&Ms


Cream butter and sugars. Keep beating until it lightens in color and comes together again. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until well combined.

Add baking soda and salt and beat again. Add flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Add 1 c of the M&Ms and stir by hand to distribute.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Add 3-4 M&Ms to each cookie top and press in gently.

Bake at 350 degrees 9-12 minutes (it will vary by your oven).

This makes 42 cookies when I make them.

Using half butter and half shortening makes for fluffier cookies that are softer while still having the yummy taste of butter.

And it's possible that I use slightly more than 1 1/2 cups of M&Ms when I make them :)

Enjoy! And don't forget to check out more fun recipes at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed By Grace!

Friday, July 3, 2009

What's A Bris?

Today, we had the joy of attending Jordan Barrett's bris. He was born 3 1/2 weeks early -- and that's a story unto itself -- but he is perfectly healthy and adorable. His parents are having a great time with him, except for the lack of sleeping thing, and his older sister and brother are enjoying the new addition, too.

On our way home from the bris, Little Miss asked to call Grandma. I discovered she wanted to tell Grandma all about the bris, since Grandma has never been to one before.

So first the baby was hot, so they took off the bottom part of his pjs. Then he cried, so everyone sang a song, and then he was happy. Oh, and I got a lollipop! It was butterscotch!

Yes, that's the bris through Little Miss's eyes.

In actuality, the bris is a celebration (correct me when I start to go wrong Melisa!) of a baby boy inviting the prophet Elijah to join them, as he is an honored guest. He is circumcised at eight days old to signify his bond with God.

Soo, yep, they take off his pj bottoms, but only because they need to get to the surgical area, not because he was cold.

And ummm yes, he cried, but that was partly at the pain (and he HARDLY cried at all -- quickest and least painful circumcision I've ever been witness to) and partly because he was half undressed. A song was song, but it is the celebration of the mitzvah and not to calm the child. I don't know the song, as we aren't Jewish, but Little Miss also enjoyed it.

After the bris, we were invited to the meal, and there was little that Little Miss could definitively eat (it was catered, so she was stuck with the fruit, lox and tomatoes). After all the kids finished eating, they ran in the hallway to play. The older sister attended preschool at the temple, so she led all the kids to the office where they purloined (or were given) lollipops.

In this case though, I didn't see the need to correct Little Miss. I rather liked her version of the bris!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bad Mommy, Bad!

Sooo, when I picked up the mail today, Mister Man was invited to a birthday party. Really, this isn't anything unusual or shocking. We get invited to birthday parties just as often as any other family.

As I went to write down the party on our calendar, I flipped over to August and wrote the time and place on the 22nd.

That's when I realized that umm I'm doing it again. Little Miss turns four on August 1. This is the first time that I've thought about her party. Once again, she's given short shrift, and this year she'll know it.

It's challenging to have a late summer birthday, especially at her age. While she'll be in the same preschool next year as she was this year (unlike last year!), she will have few, if any, of the same students in her class. She's doing gymnastics, but it's a drop in program so the same students aren't there day after day. We don't do daycare in the summer because my husband is off all summer. And given our schedules, while we play with some of the older kids in our neighborhood, we aren't super good friends with the few children Little Miss's age.


She knows she deserves a birthday party, and she goes to plenty -- in fact, we missed one last weekend when we were in St. Louis and she has one on the 18th. I hate to invite people we may not be seeing in the future, as feels like we're inviting them to get presents, but that's the life of a late summer birthday, right?

So now I have to start calling venues to see who is available on August 1. Or August 29. Those are the only Saturdays in August that we're free already. Somehow, I have a feeling that we're going to need to host a birthday during the week, which will lead to the comments (from the children, but I wonder where they got them) about why on earth we would ever have a party during the WEEK of all times.

Aaaaand, this is going to be a small party. We'll invite our friends from playgroup and from daycare, and maybe a couple from the neighborhood.

What do you do for those late summer birthdays? At least with Mister Man, I can get the class list the first week of school and send out invites knowing he'll be playing with those kids all year long. She's definitely tougher.

So let's see, in the next week, I need to find a venue, settle on a date, determine the guest list and get those invitations out. After I make them. Oops.

At least I have time to figure out how to do a dairy free cake that all the kids can eat, get the decorations, and figure out the dreaded goody bags. A little time.

Sorry, Little Miss. I promise it isn't that I don't love you as much as Mister Man. Somehow, your birthday just sneaks up on us every year. As you get older and have a core group of best friends, I promise we'll do your birthday up right with good fun and good friends. In the meantime, I'll just live with the Mommy Guilt.

And seriously, the girl is turning four in less than a month. How has this happened? Tell me I'm not the only one who forgets to plan birthday parties.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mommy Love

My husband came home from the store where he had taken Mister Man to relay this. If only I'd been there.

Pssst. Psst, Daddy! That lady asked that little girl who had the best mommy ever, and the little girl said she did, but that's not true! I have the best mommy ever. She's wrong!

I can only hope he feels the same way five, ten, fifteen years from now. Thanks, Mister Man. I love you, and you're the greatest kid ever!

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