Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tasty Tuesday! - Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

The wee ones have been expanding their palates lately, which thrills me to no end. I love seeing them try new foods and - more times than not - liking them, too. When I find something they like, I want to make it for them so that they don't "forget" they like it, which sometimes happens.

When at Trader Joe's recently, the wee ones sampled sweet potato fries and loved them. I love that they're healthy, especially since we don't fry them. But why buy them frozen and ready to cook when they're so easy to make?

Good question. In fact, I haven't....

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potato(es)
Garlic powder*

*Optional. It tastes better with them, but it's too much spice for the wee ones right now.

Julienne your sweet potatoes after washing them. Use a mandoline if you have it; otherwise just cut them into slices lengthwise then turn the slices flat and cut those lengthwise to make matchsticks. Note: two potatoes is about right for my family, with a little bit of leftovers.

Boil water, and add the sweet potato sticks. Parboil them for 2-3 minutes only.

Lay them flat on a baking sheet on a sil pat (or parchment paper). Sprinkle lightly with salt and any other spices you would like (the wee ones are good with just the salt part for now).

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and serve warm. Watch them disappear!

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

Current Giveaways:
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Monday, November 29, 2010

It's An Honest To Goodness Miracle!

Yesterday morning, I was doing my best to sleep in. The sign was up, meaning that the wee ones would at least allow us to sleep until 7:45 - and hopefully longer. I'd been unceremoniously awakened the four previous days when I would have had a chance to sleep in, and I was really needing to catch up on my beauty sleep as I could feel my crab-o-meter slowly creeping higher.

I was peacefully slumbering, in fact I was having a wonderful dream. Then I started hearing grumblings coming from the bathroom across the hall. Mutterings about it not being where it was supposed to be and how this wasn't working the way it was supposed to, following by grunting and groaning. My sweet dreams for the night were over.

Mister Man burst into my room and practically tackled me on the bed. Mom! Mom! Guess what I just did?

What? I murmured sleepily, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Mom, I did it! The toilet paper ran out, and I put on a new roll all by myself! He was practically bursting with pride.

Really? You changed the toilet paper roll? In the bathroom? Because it was empty? And no one told you? And you figured out how? Dude, I am so proud of you.

I think it's my finest parenting moment ever. Ever.

Current Giveaways:
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Friday, November 26, 2010

So What Did *Your* Family Do Yesterday?

Thanksgiving is a funny time. It's when families far and wide come together to celebrate and give thanks, but ... it isn't ever a completely smooth time. There's always someone who drinks too much or someone who picks a fight or says the wrong thing. There's always someone who doesn't acknowledge someone else or another ... special moment.

The same is true for my family, and I'm still chortling inside this morning. My mom hosted Thanksgiving, as no one from my generation has yet been allowed to host a major holiday. We all (and I mean all 22 of us) bring a dish to share, but my mom does the majority of the work. This year, she had two turkeys and a huge ham, in addition to all the other dishes.

I was helping her in the kitchen before the meal when I heard an odd hissing sound and turned around. I saw my mom doing something ... unspeakable to a poor turkey. Once she'd finished her mission, I checked the can myself and simply shook my head.

My uncle wandered into the kitchen a moment later. As he enjoys food - and cooking - as do I, I figured he'd appreciate the humor of it. I picked up the can and showed it to him.

So... guess what my mom is using to baste the turkey this year, I smiled.

No. She isn't - couldn't - be using.... that, he backed away with a concerned look on his face.

Oh, but she is. I just saw her spraying the turkey with it.

He didn't believe me. Honestly, had I not witnessed it myself, I would not have believed it myself. Fortunately, my mom chose that moment to walk back into the kitchen.

My uncle approached her casually. So I hear you're using ... this to baste the turkey this year?

With barely a glance at the can, she replied, Yep, it's working really well. It's so much easier!

My uncle spluttered a moment, but really what can you say in response to that? Oh, I didn't mention what she was using to baste the turkey? That she was spraying on the hot turkey as it continued to cook? Why that would be the imitation butter flavored nonstick cooking spray, of course. Isn't that what you use?

So what fun did you experience at your Thanksgiving celebration?

Current Giveaways:
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MASTERMIND and Animal Mastermind Towers board games here

$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving?

In our house, we - or at least I - like to celebrate my holidays one at a time. I want to enjoy Valentine's Day all the way up until the 14th of February without starting to see the signs of St. Patrick's Day. Call me a traditionalist. Can you see where this is going?

I've been seeing Christmas decorations in the stores since the last week of August when I was still focused on back to school, forget Halloween, forget Thanksgiving. Being that I live in Chicago, I do understand why people put up their outdoor lights "early" (my opinion, of course), but turning them on is beyond me.

I'm not the only one with this opinion - and I swear I haven't expressed it in front of her at all. Little Miss walked up to me yesterday with a very unhappy look on her face.

Mommy. Why do people have their Christmas lights up already? Don't they know it's not Christmastime yet? I think they forgot to celebrate Thanksgiving!

Yes. That is a pilgrim's bonnet that Little Miss made in school. And yes, she is planning to wear it to my parents' house later today for Thanksgiving dinner.

With that note, a Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope you have a wonderful day filled with family and friends and lots of turkey!

Current Giveaways:
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MASTERMIND and Animal Mastermind Towers board games here

$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This Is The Greatest Birthday Present Ever

As I was getting ready this morning, Little Miss wandered into the bathroom to chat. She peered up at me with her innocent brown eyes, Mommy, is today your birthday?

Why, yes, Peanut, it is. Why do you ask? I returned, smiling at her.

Her brow furrowed, and her eyes narrowed with concern. Well, if it's your birthday, then we need to make your birthday present right away!

That's very kind of you sweetie. I don't really need presents from you though.

She stood staring at me a moment, not quite sure what to do or say. I could see the wheels turning before inspiration struck. I know, Mommy! I'm going to give you lots of hugs and kisses!

With that, she leapt into my arms - fortunately, I caught her - and began kissing my cheek repeatedly. And really? What else could I possibly want for my birthday?

Ok ok ok, if you really want to give me a present, go enter my giveaways below. I love seeing lots of entries, and who couldn't use some early holiday "shopping" of a sort?

Current Giveaways:
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$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

The other day, I bought fish while at Costco. I hadn't made any in awhile, and for all the love we have of it, it was about time. I accidentally bought steelhead (a kind of trout) instead of salmon, and I wanted to make something with it that wasn't my usual cedar plank grilled salmon - since the taste is a little different.

Oh, and it was a day where the wee ones needed to get out the door and have a healthy dinner before they went, so I needed to make it quick. And yummy. And I didn't have time to search around for the perfect recipe. I remember having found a recipe recently that was a steamed orange fish, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

So I made my own version. The two plus pounds of fish? Gone. There was a little left over for lunches, but everyone devoured it. Phew!

Orange Salmon (or other fish)

2 pounds salmon fillet, skin on (or steelhead or other similar fish)
1 orange
2 T honey
2 T olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 or your grill to medium. Place the fish skin side down on a sheet of aluminum foil. Salt and pepper it to your taste (sprinkling, in my case).

In a separate bowl, zest your orange, then juice it into the bowl. Add the honey and olive oil, and whisk until it is well combined. It the honey is old, heat the mixture for 10-15 seconds so the honey melts enough to combine with the other ingredients.

Use a pastry brush to spread the sauce on the fish, or simply pour it over the fish and use a pastry brush to ensure all surfaces are coated.

Fold up the aluminum foil to create a tent, leaving room for the steam to form. Learn from me, and place the aluminum foil into an oven safe dish. Bake it at 350/grill it at medium for approximately ten minutes. Open the foil at that point and turn up the heat to broil the fish for an additional seven or so minutes.

Serve immediately, and enjoy. Not surprisingly, we served ours with spinach. Oh was it delicious. And fast. And easy.

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

Current Giveaways:
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MASTERMIND and Animal Mastermind Towers board games here
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Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here

Monday, November 22, 2010

This Is How You Celebrate A Birthday?

Mister Man had his birthday party awhile ago, but I keep forgetting to post about this. I am so glad that I took pictures, because they crack me up every time I look at them.

Mister Man did a joint birthday party with his buddy Violet at a gymnastics facility. It worked out really well, as there was minimal organization on my part and they both adore gymnastics and running around, so everyone had a great time.

As the other mom and I were upstairs arranging the cake and snacks and such, our party coordinator came up to ask if we wanted to have them do a birthday swing over the pit. We both looked at each other and agreed - swinging over the pit and then falling into it is one of the the favorite activities of both children.

I didn't realize it was going to be quite like this.

Note the flying foam cubes. Everywhere. They were everywhere. Each of the birthday guests jumped into the pit and dug in deep. As they sang happy birthday to the birthday children, they threw the foam cubes at the defenseless swinging child - who was having an absolute blast.

I want my next birthday party at a gymnastics facility (ps that's Wednesday for those of you who want to get that last minute present ordered). This was wayyyyy too much fun. And yes, I inquired. My local facility will do adult parties.

Current Giveaways:
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$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Maybe When She Goes To Prom?

Little Miss is a peanut. I call her Little Miss for a reason. Although she's tall, the girl has bird bones. She's 75th to 90th percentile in height, but we've only recently made it from the 3rd to the 10th percentile in weight.

At five years old, she weighs 34 pounds. And no, that isn't a typo. I joke that she'll be in a carseat (Illinois law is that you're in a carseat until 40 pounds, and I'm not about to risk her safety anyway) when she goes to prom. She'll head off to college still in a booster seat (8 years and 80 pounds - even Mister Man will be hard pressed to hit the weight requirement by next year).

She's also my last child, so it's possible that the combination of her being the baby of the family and her slight frame means that I baby her more than I did Mister Man - in some ways. I still carry her around, because I can. And she still uses a booster seat at the table, although I know Mister Man had given his up when he was a year younger than she is now. I'm just not quite ready to admit that my last child is really a big girl.

The other day, Little Miss looked at me. Someday, I'll weigh forty pounds, Mommy.

You're right, sweetie. Someday you will!

And when I am, Mommy, I won't need my carseat anymore. I'll have booster seat instead.

Yep, won't that be nice that you can sit anywhere in the car - due to carpool, I have five carseats/booster seats in my car at all times - and buckle yourself in?

Uh-huh. And when I'm forty pounds, I won't sit in a booster seat at the table. I'll sit just in a regular chair, just like Mister Man.

Oh. Yeah. That. Eh, if she's not asking to get rid of it.... Hey, at least I don't make her wear a bib still!

Current Giveaways:
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InchBug Bumpy Orbit Labels here
MASTERMIND and Animal Mastermind Towers board games here

$50 77kids gift certificate here

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Will Never Build A House

Honestly. I won't. Once upon a time, I thought it would be fun to build a house and get to choose everything myself. I would know the quality of what was going in, everything would be to my tastes, and things would work they way I'd want them to. I'd have a planning desk, a pantry, a mud room, a laundry sink, a third garage - all the things I don't have in my current house.

I'm in the process of my first true major remodel, and I realize my foolishness. As much as I someday want a new kitchen, I think I might be moving to a new house to get it. I've been without a master bathroom since October 12, and I am done having all my bathroom items in bins in my bedroom. I don't want to share a small sink and vanity with the wee ones and my husband. I just want my master bathroom back. Granted, it will be soon, but not soon enough.

Today my contractor called me to ask where my tub faucets were. Ummm in the garage with all the other new fixtures I'd bought? No, apparently somehow - although I went over it with the salesgirl ninety-bazillion times - I had neglected to order my tub faucets. They will take at least two weeks to come in. And I groaned at having to give my credit card another workout.

Yesterday? Since the cabinets are to be delivered, my contractor wanted to measure for the cuts in the counter tops. Since I'd picked out my counter tops long ago, I simply handed him the brochure with the circled color on it figuring that I had done well. I got a call from him later saying that a large big box store that happens to be orange was quoting him more than twice was he would pay for a counter top and he wanted me to go talk to a different place he works with as he wasn't comfortable placing the order with that large a discrepancy. Good contractor. Yes, he showed me the quote from that orange store. And it was large.

I went to visit the place he recommended where the near same (slightly different color, same material) counter top would cost me two-thirds what the orange store quoted. After working with him some more, we found another idea for a granite counter top that would be essentially what my contractor had originally quoted me. I then had to go to the distributorship to check out the actual piece of granite and sign off on the colors. I did so, but there went the majority of my day tracking down that issue. On the plus side, they are measuring the counter tops for the cuts on Tuesday.

Don't get me started on lighting. I haven't picked out the lighting yet for around my mirrors. I knew what I wanted, so I went to the big store that specializes in lights. As a guy started to help me, I explained what I wanted and we looked through some books. I need four single fixture lights. Someone walked in who was looking for a six foot chandelier. I pretty much didn't exist from that point. I managed to get the model numbers of six potential lights, but you can bet that I won't ever spend a dime in that store. And I still don't have lights.

That doesn't take into account the difficulties I had choosing tile. Or cabinets. Or a tub. Poor Melisa has a small idea of what I went through with that, trying to find a rectangular tub that has a side drain to avoid having to saw through a rafter. After weeks (literally) of searching, I finally decided on a tub that had a normal front drain and was ready to suck up the extra plumber cost of doing a side drain when another plumbing supply store sent an email with some tubs to look at and miraculously, a tub that was the right size and shape somehow had a side drain. That tub is currently sitting in my slowly taking shape bathroom with the mortar around it drying.

Cabinets? I knew I wanted a clean look. And tall cabinets. And something to somehow hold all my stuff and keep it out of the way. I came up with the idea of a tower in the center of it, but ... that's as far as I got. I was also appalled at how ridiculously expensive cabinets are, so trying to find something that I like that was not ridiculously expensive was time consuming. I finally succeeded. Mostly.

Tile was fun. My big problem - and this is the problem in general - is that I know sort of what I want but not completely. Or I know what I don't want, both of which makes choosing things difficult, especially when more and more options are presented to me and I get overwhelmed. I did choose tile back in April. I loved my floor tile and the shower tile. When I went to finalize the tile order before my contractor started work, I decided I didn't like the wall tile. And so the process began again.

My husband hasn't seen any of the choices yet. He trusts me, and I think this is for the best. If he were involved in some of the nuttiness, I think I'd have driven him insane by now. He's looking forward to the big reveal though, and my contractor has promised that next week I can take a shower come heck or high water. I'm hoping for no high water; I can't take it after this!

And yes, I will show before and after pictures. Assuming there is an after. Once you see some of the before, I think you'll understand why there has to be an after.

Current Giveaways:
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Is Why I Need To Entertain More....

I appear to have a bit of a penchant for losing things. Generally, I find them again, but the time when they are ... misplaced is a challenge for me. I don't lose thing (all evidence to the contrary). I like being organized and knowing where things are.

Almost a month ago, I misplaced a book. I love to read, but I don't always have a ton of time to do so. My solution is to check out a book from the library and bring it with me everywhere. When I have a free moment waiting somewhere, I'll crack open the book.

That's what I did that Wednesday. That night when I went to look for the book to read before falling asleep, I couldn't find it. It wasn't in my car anywhere, and I do mean anywhere. I even checked under the car seats and booster seats.

Where had I been that day? 1) Little Miss's school to volunteer at the book fair. 2) Mister Man's school to pick him up for speech. 3) Speech therapy. 4) Mister Man's school to drop him off again. 5) Grocery stores. 6) Home. 7) Mister Man's school to pick him up. 8) Another grocery store. 9) Restaurant to pick up meals for teacher conferences. 10) Little Miss's school to drop off the meals for conferences. 11) Chiropractor. 12) Library. 13) Home again.

Good thing I didn't have too many places to look.

Since it was a library book, I figured I had a good chance of someone finding it and returning it, but that was not to happen - no matter how many times I checked my online account. I checked lost and founds at every location I could. I looked on the ground near where I'd parked everywhere. The book was just flat out gone.

It was due a week and a half ago, but I renewed it in the hopes that somehow some way I would still find the book. I'm an eternal optimist like that.

This past Friday, I hosted bunco at my house. Rather than the usual cleaning where things are organized but in piles and clean, I actually removed several of the piles. My house looked great. Ok, except for the basement stairs where I ran out of time and had to kind of pile a few things there. Shhhhh, no one needs to know about that though.

As I was trying to consolidate books I had bought the wee ones into a single bag (from Little Miss's book fair and other places), I noticed that there was a book in the Scholastic bag that didn't belong there. Any guesses what that book was?

On the plus side, I have since finished the book and returned it to the library.

PS The gift cards that a friend of mine bought almost a year ago from Mister Man's fundraiser that she kept forgetting to pay me for and I kept forgetting to bring to her? Well, she paid me, and I forgot to bring them to her again. Twice. Yesterday, I couldn't find them where I swore they were. Today? I'm finally tackling the organizing of the office, and phew I found them. They are now in my purse, so I can't forget them again, right?

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesday! (With A Twist)

I have a problem. I can't for the life of me follow a recipe. I know that sounds odd, but I just can't do it. No matter what I'm making, I will tweak the recipe here or there or just something different about it. I don't consciously do it, but by the time I finish making something, it's been altered.

The perfect example is comparing my husband to me: when I had him make tomato sauce for me one day, he freaked because I only had whole tomatoes in the pantry, and the recipe called for diced tomatoes. My solution would have been to simply crush or cut the tomatoes and then approximate what I need. He had to go to the store to buy diced tomatoes then proceeded to actually measure all the spices and ingredients. Granted, what I make may not taste exactly the same every time, but it works out well.

Case in point was the cookies that I made for a potluck lunch last Friday. I had originally signed up to make oatmeal raisin cookies from The Earthbound Cook cookbook.

By the time the cookies were out of the oven, I'd made a different recipe of the cookie - accidentally - added ingredients to make it closer to an oatmeal raisin cookie, and decided that the recipe in the cookbook was wrong (it called for a half cup of flour compared to a stick of butter and 3 eggs with no oatmeal or other dry ingredient than sugar) and just started messing with it. And of course I left out the nuts because I simply don't like nuts.

The good news is that the cookies turned out great, I think. They are like a chocolate bar with raisins. And making them again, I'd probably change them a little more to have less chocolate in them as it's overwhelming to me and drowns out some of the other flavors. But that's really not a surprise if you know me. Amazingly, I still have a few left, and they are delicious and still soft - definitely the mark of a good cookie!

The rest of the potluck? Oh it was wonderful. Emily, Melanie, and I met at Serena's house with our children in tow where we proceeded to all enjoy items from the cookbook.

I've never been a fan of fennel since a bad experience with it shortly after graduating college, but the sausage and fennel dish that Serena made was really good. Little Miss loved it, too. Apparently I'll need to add that to the rotation. Emily made a wonderful green salad with apples and pomegranate seeds and all sorts of great stuff, which is probably the only way I'll ever eat cabbage outside a cabbage roll. The hands down best dish of the day was the cous cous that Melanie made. Both Little Miss and I had multiple servings, and I don't think we were the only ones. The lemon and herb flavor was delicious, and it reminded me again how much I love cous cous.

It was unusual to be able to simply open a cookbook and have recipes that everyone there enjoys. Serena also used the pizza dough recipe in the cook book to make pizzas for the kids that turned out beautifully. Over the past few weeks, we've been hearing great things about the recipes that members of Left to Write have been making from the cook book, and I know I'm inspired. But first...

Chunky Chocolate Raisin Cookies - from The Earthbound Cook but altered

8 T butter
1 1/2 c chocolate chips, separated (originally 2 c)
1/4 c cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1/4 c sugar (originally 1/2 c)
1/4 c brown sugar (not in the initial recipe)
2 t vanilla extract
1 c whole wheat pastry flour (originally 1/2 c - this made for cake batter consistency, not what you're looking for)
1 1/2 c oatmeal (not in the initial recipe)
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 c raisins (originally 1 c)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two pans with sil pats or parchment paper.

Combine the butter and 1/2 c of the chocolate chips (not all of them!), and cocoa powder in a heavy saucepan. Cook on medium low until the mixture is melted, stirring occasionally. It doesn't need to be completely smooth. Remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugars, and vanilla together. Slowly add the chocolate mixture and combine thoroughly.

Add the baking powder and salt to the mixture, and combine again. Add the oats in two batches, stirring to mix thoroughly. Add the flour and stir until just combined - you do not want to overmix this.

Gently stir in the remaining 1 c of chocolate chips and the raisins. Again, do not overmix.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough (or use my absolute favorite tool ever - the cookie scoop!) onto the baking sheets, spacing them about an inch apart. Bake until the cookies have just set and look shiny, 14 to 16 minutes (my oven that generally underbakes things turned them out perfectly at the fifteen minute mark.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. I generally don't do this when making cookies, but it is critical to both let them cool for the ten minutes and to then have them on the wire rack.

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

And yes, I think we are going to attempt to do a potluck lunch like this again soon. Great company and great fun - oh yeah, and great food, too!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with a copy of The Earthbound Cook as part of the book club From Left to Write where we don't review books but instead write posts inspired by them. There is no compensation involved, and it's all in good fun!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Why, Yes I Am Superstitious; I'm A Sports Fan

This past Saturday, I went to the Northwestern Iowa football game with three of my girlfriends, as my husband was out of town on a Boy Scout camping trip with Mister Man. We had a blast, but ... it wasn't always easy.

After we tailgated with some mutual friends, we headed inside the stadium to our seats. I broke out my chamois and wiped down our seats, as it was raining. Then I ushered my friends past me to their seats. Because I sit on the far left. Every game.

Just like I wear the same shirt. And earrings. And necklace. And I get a venti nonfat caramel macchiato from Starbucks. I was a little worried because with my husband out of town, I had to go get it instead of him, and I wasn't sure how that would impact anything.

As the game wore on, things looked good. Northwestern was leading 7-3 at halftime. That's when my friend on the other end of our group switched seats with the friend sitting next to me. She isn't much of a football fan, and she had gotten slightly wet and was cold sitting on the end of our group. When she sat down next to me, I told her that she might have to move back to her old seat, then we continued our conversation.

As Iowa scored a touchdown early in the third quarter to take the lead 10-7, I looked at my friend and told her, "Anabel isn't long for this seat." She laughed and told me the young Hawkeye fan ahead of us had turned around with a shocked look because he actually believed me.

We then had a five minute back and forth with me trying to explain to her that I actually was serious. If she had disturbed the flow of the game by moving seats, she'd have to go back to her original seat to ensure Northwestern could win. She still didn't think I was serious - partly because I was laughing at the fact that she couldn't comprehend sports superstitions.

When the Hawkeyes scored again to make it 17-7, I told her that as much as I loved her, she needed to go back to her original seat. It had stopped raining and wasn't cold anymore - plus she had a nice fan sitting on the other side to keep her warm. And yes, she still had our other friends sitting next to her to talk to.

Yes, it's silly. I'll fully admit that. Sports are full of superstitions, and I have my ... share of them, too. But hey, once she moved, Northwestern picked off Ricky Stanzi and scored a touchdown. After holding Iowa, they scored another touchdown. And held Iowa again. And won the game.

Good to know that if I have to get my own caramel macchiato on game days, it doesn't impact the final score. Interestingly, this was also a weekend in which my husband didn't mention the words "bowl game" (they've been banned from my house), and they finally turned around their losing streak....

So do you think I'm utterly nuts now? (PS No, my friend doesn't hate me and wasn't mad, but she does think I'm a goofball. Fortunately, we're both ok with that. Right, Anabel?)

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'm Not In Charge - And Thank Goodness

This past weekend, Mister Man went on his very first Boy Scout campout. His den headed out to Wisconsin to do some cave camping for two nights. Or... I thought this den did. Boy Scouts is my husband's thing to do with Mister Man, so I don't have a lot of information - for one my husband doesn't share it, but neither does he find out as much information as I would.

Because this was his thing, I decided to stay out of it as best I could. If it were me, I would have bought a three person tent for the two of us, knowing that I wouldn't want to be claustrophobic, and I'd want extra space for my gear.

I would have gotten a list of needed items from experienced Boy Scouting campers and then updated it to meet our needs (e.g., including Mister Man's homeopathic attention and learning spray).

I would have practiced putting the tent together and taking it apart several times starting at least a week before the camping trip.

I would have packed everything the night before - checking items off my list as I went. I would have picked Mister Man up from school and headed straight up to the camp so as not to get there at a ridiculously late hour.

But it wasn't my trip, and I was not in charge. I decided to keep my mouth shut after my husband brought home a two person tent (that's five feet by seven feet at the base, and it narrows quickly) thinking that would be plenty of room for the two of them. Measuring out five by seven on the foyer carpet (which is bigger than that, interestingly) and then laying the sleeping bags atop my measurement showed my husband that their sleeping bags would overlap in the tent. Ok, so after that bit of interference, I decided to keep my mouth shut.

I did it, too. Or at least I did until the night before the trip when the new three person tent was still sitting in its box in my foyer, unopened. I couldn't help myself but to suggest that my husband at least practice putting it together, given the hour they were likely to arrive at the camp and his utter inexperience with camping.

That was it, though.

I said nothing about the lack of packing that I saw when I woke up on Friday morning. I said nothing as I watched my husband scramble around the house trying to pack at 3:30 on Friday, hoping to finish before Mister Man arrived home from school in carpool. I said nothing about what snacks I would have brought to maximize protein and minimize sugar for Mister Man while my husband dug through the cabinets - obviously not wanting my help. I didn't even look at the contents of what was packed.

And you know what? They came back today, and it all worked out just fine. Sure, their clothes are wet and filled with mud - I'd expect no less from a cave camping trip. They were overtired (I got an update phone call at 10:55pm on Friday night), but I wasn't exactly surprised by that. I don't know if they were short anything or had to borrow anything. I don't know if they packed things they didn't need or did it just right. It doesn't matter. This was their trip, not mine. It was their trip, and they did great.

In fact, Mister Man has already announced that he wants to go cave camping again. Really soon. And to Boy Scout summer camp.

Good thing this is my husband's department, huh?

Current Giveaways:
Activeion ionator HOM $180RV here
Fiber One Prize Pack including a $25 gift card here
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh Yeah - Til Death Do Us Part

Last night, I had a brainstorm after my husband and I had a ... discussion of him not eating his pizza crusts and therefore wasting food (he doesn't just not eat the bready tip parts but leaves behind some of the sauce and cheese that are at the end of the pizza slice) - not choosing to simply take a middle piece befuddles me. Granted, it's a silly thing, but isn't that the point of marriage? Having fun and enjoying the little silly things?

Forget the cherishing, the keeping in sickness and in health. There are more important things we forgot. Without Further Ado (or is that without further "I do" - ha!), I present to you my top ten list of items I neglected to include in my (husband's) wedding vows:

10) I will eat all that my wife puts in front of me, whether it's my favorite food or whether it is something that I need to tolerate.

9) I will always empty the trash when it begins to near the top of the trash can without reminders from others in the household.

8) When I pick something up, I will replace it where I found it.

Corollary: I will remember where that place is the next time I want to use it.

7) When it is bedtime for the children, I will not start unrelated projects that distract them from going to bed and me from helping them to get ready for bed.

6) When there is icky, nasty food that's been left in the fridge for far too long, I will uncomplainingly remove it from its container out of my wife's sight and smell, dispose of it, and clean said container.

5) I will offer nightly foot massages.

4) I will not start up my car and run it for ten minutes before leaving the house in the morning once Jack Frost begins visiting. Instead of wasting gas and money, I will not be lazy and instead will scrape the frost from my car.

3) When sent to the grocery store with a list, I will purchase the items requested.

Corollary: I will not come home with random other items that are not needed or wanted in the household.

2) I will let me wife get the mail from the mailbox, knowing that it brings her an unexpected sense of pleasure to be the one to get and sort through the mail.

and the number one thing I forgot to add to my (husband's) wedding vows?

1) I shall learn to chew with my mouth closed and without smacking my lips.

So what kinds of things did you neglect to include in your wedding vows that you wish you could renegotiate?

Current Giveaways:
Family pass to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in Chicago November 20 or 21 here
Activeion ionator HOM $180RV here
Fiber One Prize Pack including a $25 gift card here

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And Thank You For Nutella, Too?

Mister Man joined the Boy Scouts this year. He is a Tiger Scout and so far loving every minute of it. We'll see if that holds true after this weekend, when he has his first two day camping trip in caves somewhere in Wisconsin. It's such a shame I'll be missing that, but it really is a Daddy duty kind of thing, don't you think?

Last night, he had a den meeting. At each den meeting (the forty-five minute den meeting, which is why he got home an hour and fifteen minutes after is "ended"), they do an activity that relates to their theme. This month was thankfulness (perfect for Thanksgiving, right?) where they toured a local fire station to learn how much work and effort goes into being a fireman and how appreciative they are (should be?) to those who serve and protect us. Side note: did you know that the fire fighters at this station are required to work out for ninety minutes for every shift they work? I'm so impressed.

The craft they came home with is a chain that shows the things they are thankful for. I'm pretty sure someone started them off with a few ideas, but then it's very obvious that the children were given free rein. Mister Man couldn't wait to show me his when he walked in the door last night.

He is thankful for:

The Earth



Me (meaning him - not meaning me, Mommy)


Star Wars

Ancient Creatures

The Universe

Really, it's too cute. Does it make me a bad mom that I can't stop giggling at some of the items he put on his chain?

Current Giveaways:
Family pass to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in Chicago November 20 or 21 here
Activeion ionator HOM $180RV here

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

Last week, I had a blast with Andrea Metcalf and her N@ked Fitness event. Amanda Skrip gave a demo on all sorts of things you can do with hummus. Lots and lots of things that I hadn't thought of, including making a super healthy salad dressing with it.

One of the recipes Amanda shared with us - and I love that they are non-recipe recipes, which are my favorite kind - really struck my fancy. As I had a potluck to attend the next night where I'd been asked to bring appetizers, voila!

Riffing on California Rolls - tweaked from Amanda Skrip

2 Flatout wraps (or other healthy tortilla like material)
1/4 c hummus (I used red pepper, but find a flavor you like)
1/2 cucumber*
3/4 avocado
1 roma tomato*
1/4 carrot, grated
1/2 c baby spinach leaves

Start out by preparing your cucumber. If you use an English cucumber (the one in plastic wrap), you can skip the first step. First, seed your cucumber. Julienne it into nice, even strips. Especially if you are not using an English cucumber, salt the cucumber and place them on a paper towel to drain. You want to get out as much water as possible, so let them sit for a half hour or so.

Halve your tomato and seed it, as well. Lightly salt it and turn it upsidedown on a cookie sheet for a half hour so it can also dry out a little bit.

Lay your Flatout Wrap (I like these because of their shape and how healthy they are) and spread a layer of hummus on it, leaving about a half inch from one of the long edges clean.

Add slices of avocado atop the hummus, then lay on the cucumber and tomatoes in a thin layer. Place the spinach leaves atop the other layers before you begin rolling up your wrap starting with the long end - you want a long, skinny (ok, skinnier) wrap v a shorter, fatter one.

Use a serrated knife to slice your roll into pieces. I got five good size pieces from each wrap, with the ends cut off to make it look pretty. Set the rolls on a plate on their sides. Sprinkle with the grated carrot and serve immediately.

The best part? Add ingredients you like. Take out ones you don't have in the fridge. Change it up, and enjoy it a little different each time. And trust me, you will enjoy it!

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

Current Giveaways:
Family Taco Night prize pack here
Family pass to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in Chicago November 20 or 21 here
Activeion ionator HOM $180RV here

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Need To Start A Garden

I tend to eat fairly well, which in turn means the wee ones tend to eat fairly well. I generally buy primarily whole foods that I cook from scratch, and I involve the wee ones in my cooking and baking.

They know their food. Or so I thought.

Today, Mister Man had no school, while Little Miss was in school for a full day for the first time in two weeks (literally). We got to spend some quality time together, hanging out and chatting. It's something that I really enjoy and forget about when I don't do it often enough.

While we were at lunch today, we were discussing how awesome it is that he finally decided he likes tomato sauce - as he was licking tomato sauce off his pizza, something we also later discussed. I told him that the next thing he knew, he was going to end up liking salad.

He gave me a dumbfounded look, which I initially took for complete shock on his part. No, apparently it was the dawning of realization. He informed me that I was probably right, since he already likes lettuce. Uhhh, say what? This was news to me, and we discussed how we could use lettuce at home in ways that he might like it.

I filed that tidbit away, shocked that he had apparently tried and liked lettuce somewhere this summer and never mentioned it to me.

At dinner tonight, Mister Man told me that he was still hungry after he finished his roasted chicken and fresh sourdough. I suggested that he have a vegetable of his choice. He immediately asked for corn, before I even got the options out there. I mentioned that we might have a kind of lettuce, and he was all over eating the "lettuce" I had in the fridge.

I got him out a single leaf and watched him barely take a mouse's nibble off the tip of it, pretending not to scour his expression for any nuance of what he thought of the "it's not exactly iceberg" lettuce. To my great surprise, he liked it. As he neared the end of the leaf, he asked for more.

I got him a whole pile of leaves, and of course Little Miss then got into the action. As he neared the bottom of his pile of leaves, he looked up at me with a serious expression, slowly twirling a leaf in his hand as he speculated.

Mom, is the lettuce I'm eating right now almost as healthy as if I were eating spinach?

I choked. Panicked. Prayed that I wouldn't freak him out. Well, Kiddo. It's funny you mention that, because you actually are eating spinach. That's a baby spinach leaf in your hand. Spinach is a type of lettuce, and it's the kind of lettuce that I happened to have in my fridge.

His eyes grew wide. He dropped the leaf on the table. I mentally smacked myself for having told him that the lettuce he liked was actually spinach.

Wow. Really? I've been eating spinach? Awesome. Mom, guess what! I love spinach.

That's great, Sweetie, I sighed internally, hoping that he didn't notice my palpable relief. You know how the iceberg lettuce you had was kind of a light color green and this lettuce is a much darker green? Well, the darker the green in a lettuce, the more vitamins and minerals in it, and the healthier it is for you. They just all taste a little different.

Mom. You don't get it. I'm eating super healthy spinach. What if I dipped my spinach leaf in some homemade tomato sauce? Would that be the healthiest thing ever if I had it with some of your roasted chicken?

Who is this adventuresome eater, and what have you done with Mister Man?

The whole exchange cracked me up. It's one of the moments you wish you could capture on video. I tried. In fact, I got out my video recorder and reenacted the majority of the conversation, but ... it just wasn't the same. His genuine shock at the lettuce being spinach just wasn't there. But it's cute anyway.

Current Giveaways:
Family Taco Night prize pack here
Family pass to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in Chicago November 20 or 21 here
Activeion ionator HOM $180RV here

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christmas Is Coming....

I have an unofficial rule at my house. Ok, it's an official rule. There is no decorating or celebrating the Christmas season in my house until after my birthday. My birthday hasn't come yet.

That doesn't seem to stop anyone else, however. Christmas is coming, and I have proof. It isn't the Costco has had Christmas decorations up since the last week of August. It isn't the Starbucks cup my husband graciously brought me a venti caramel macchiatto in preparation for the Northwestern game this afternoon. (Ok, so not the greatest picture - the wrapper is Christmas and there are snowflakes and reindeer on the cup.)

No, it would be what I've been living in my house daily for the past four days. Thank you, Mom.

Yes, every day since my mom was here on Tuesday, the wee ones have been going through toy catalogues that happened to come in the mail that day and marking the items they "really" want. It's the first request when they get home from school. They go through the same catalogue over and over, checking and rechecking their favored items. Some get added, some get taken off, and some are merely reaffirmed. Again. And again.

On the plus side, I'm pretty sure that writing the letter to Santa is going to be easy for them this year. That letter? It won't be written for a few more weeks, though. After all, I do have this rule in my house....

Current Giveaways:
Family Taco Night prize pack here
Family pass to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in Chicago November 20 or 21 here
Activeion ionator HOM $180RV here

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No One Speaks French Anymore


(Note: That's my subtle cue that I have a slight rant coming - beware)

Mister Man's birthday party is this coming Sunday. Invitations went home in backpacks to both first grade classrooms almost three weeks ago. The invitations included an RSVP request with email and phone numbers for both me and the co-host (he's doing his party with Violet, thus both classes are invited so all their friends can be there). The RSVPs were clearly marked that they were due by this past Monday.

As of this morning - when I have to call to give the final number of guests - thirteen of the thirty-four invited guests had yet to respond. That's almost forty percent of people who couldn't be bothered to let us know whether or not they were able to attend the party.

I sent out an email to all of them - and I'll call the stragglers tonight - this morning with "please respond" in the title of the email. Interestingly, I've since had five people respond since that email went out. My assumption was that those who didn't respond weren't able to attend and therefore hadn't responded. Actually, no. Two of the five are coming and had just "forgotten" to RSVP.

I had a conversation this morning with a friend about this, and her theory is that people simply don't know what RSVP means anymore. (It's French. Respondez s'il vous plait - answer, if you please.) RSVP regrets only means you only need to let the host know if you aren't coming. RSVP means tell the host of your plans regardless. I'm not so sure I fully buy her theory though.

Let me give you a different example:

I recently hosted a fortieth birthday party for my husband. It was a surprise party, and I was hosting it at a sports bar where I was providing food and open bar. I sent the invitation via evite since it was the easiest way to get contact information for his friends. By the date I'd requested a response, way less than half the group had responded. I sent out an email explaining that I needed final numbers to provide for food purposes, as I couldn't easily change them after that day. I was very clear on that point.

The responses poured in, but I still was missing about a dozen. I mentally wrote those people off. I now had the opposite problem. Knowing my husband and his friends, the room I had his surprise party in seated fifteen. Ninteen people responded that they were coming. I spent the next four days worried about how we were going to fit all those people in the room.

Apparently I had other things to worry about. Of the ninteen people, nine showed up. That nine includes my husband and me. Of the ten who simply didn't show, two called me to tell me that they couldn't make it and apologized. Both were friends of mine, as well. The others? They just ... flaked. And so we were left with a ton - almost literally - of uneaten food and a bill far larger than I'd needed. I was not a happy camper.

This isn't simply an RSVP problem anymore. It's an all around manners and etiquette issue. Is this to say that I've never forgotten to respond to an invitation or misplaced one? Absolutely not. I certainly don't do it on a regular basis, however - and never when I've been prompted.

The next time I have a party, I'm going to skip RSVP. Just in case. The next time, I'll stick with "I need to know if you're coming or not - call me." Do you think that will be clear enough?

Current Giveaways:
Family 4 pack of tickets to Ringling Brothers in Chicago at the UC November 17 here
Family Taco Night prize pack here

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

With Little Miss having been sick this week, I haven't done a lot of new cooking. She's spent the majority of the week not eating much and attached to me like a barnacle.

When Grandpa called on Thursday to see how she was doing, he wanted to know if we'd made cookies yet - his cure all. We hadn't, but that put the bug in Little Miss's ear. I talked her out of the standard chocolate chip cookies, and we pulled out our recipe books to see if we could find something we wanted to make.

We came up with two recipes. One was a new one that I tweaked (too overly sweet as it was written) and one that was a cookie I used to make with my Gram.

Lacy Cookies

2 c oatmeal
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 T flour
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg, fresh grated

Preheat your oven to 350.

Mix together the oatmeal, sugars, salt, nutmeg, and flour. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Drop onto a sil pat lined cookie sheet (they will stick so grease a cookie sheet well if you don't have a sil pat). I used the size of a smallish chocolate chip cookie, which was actually pretty good as they spread hugely when baking. I would use my next size down scoop the next time I make these, but they tasted good regardless!

Bake the cookies for approximately 15 minutes until they turn a lovely golden brown. Allow them to cool completely before you remove them from the sil pat to avoid them breaking apart.

Interestingly, it wasn't until after I'd finished making these that I realized these were dairy free and with only minor tweaks could also be gluten free. How I missed that, I'm not sure. Annnnnd yes, by the time I got a chance to take a picture, there was truly only one cookie left. They are good!

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

Current Giveaways:

Family 4 pack of tickets to Ringling Brothers in Chicago at the UC November 17 here
Family Taco Night prize pack here
Wendy's gift card here

Monday, November 1, 2010

Storm Troopers On The Loose!

This Halloween was a little different from most of them. For one, the wee ones dressed in the same costume this year. It was a surprise for them, but one I knew they'd be happy about. I purchased Clone Trooper costumes for the wee ones back in April, and luckily they both thought they were the coolest things ever when I presented the costumes to the wee ones on Mister Man's birthday.

Mister Man was very into actually being a clone trooper, and he loved the idea of being part of the Star Wars franchise. In fact, while trick or treating, every time someone asked if he was a Storm Trooper, he ahhhhhhh very politely (ok, sometimes not) informed the person that no, he was a Clone Trooper.

They did make fairly impressive Clone Troopers though. Ignore the cute trick or treat bag, though. That sort of detracts from their look.

This is the same picture we take every year, but I no longer have a little lion and adorable little puppy dog. I'm ok with that though - most of the time.

This year, we trick or treated with Violet (still not her real name) who was conveniently Princess Leia. The Clone Troopers had someone to guard, which worked out nicely as an unintentional theme.

Unfortunately, Little Miss is still recovering from pneumonia. Although she'd been on antibiotics since Friday afternoon, I still didn't really let her do the full trick or treating. She was allowed to do four houses in our cul de sac, but that was it. The rest of the time, she got to stay at home with Daddy to hand out candy.

She was fortunately ok with that, and it didn't tax her too much, especially since it got pretty cold out there. By the time Mister Man and I returned from our trick or treating, it was in the 40s.

And yes, Little Miss was wearing her Mickey Mouse mask with her Clone Trooper costume. When we went to get her chest X-ray on Friday, the facility heard her cough once and politely handed over a mask for her to wear. She decided she wants to keep it for dress up now, and ... it worked out well while she was handing out candy with Daddy.

I hope you had a great Halloween, as well!

Current Giveaways:

Family 4 pack of tickets to Ringling Brothers in Chicago at the UC November 17 here
Family Taco Night prize pack here
Wendy's gift card here

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