Friday, December 31, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name

It's possible that I'm a little frugal. Or cheap, depending on your point of view. My winter coat tends to be the same one year after year because ... it works, so why get a new one? Periodically, though, my coat will tear or get stained (I hate winter salt and muck!) or simply become something I can't imagine putting on even one more time.

Fortunately, that tends to happen at the end of the year when the winter coats are all on sale. Of course, the selection then also tends to leave a bit to be desired, but I can get over that. I had to buy a new coat not last year but at the end of the winter before.

Living in Chicago, I needed to find a coat that would keep me warmer than the one I had at the time. My mom had bought a coat that she loved that promised to keep you warm to 15 below zero. It sounded good to me, and I liked the style. I couldn't get the same color as my mom (she dressed my sister and I too alike for too long growing up for me to ever be matchy matchy with anyone), but they offered more than the chocolate brown she'd purchased.

I went to the store and found the coat on sale for $15. Marked down from $138 (which my mother had paid). The only downside? There was one coat in the color my mom had gotten and one in gold. Gold! I can't wear a gold coat.

Smart me, I went to the online version of the store to see if they had a better selection of the coat. And amazingly, they did. As I recall, they had it in silver (it was a muted beautiful silver), white and something else. For $45.

And the frugal in me warred with the I-can't-wear-gold part of me. I vented to my mother who talked me into the gorgeous gold coat - her words, not mine. And really, for $15, how can you not love a coat that will keep you that warm. Because of course I went back to the store to get the coat, and the only one left was the gold coat. So I bought it.

It went into my closet for the next winter (which was really last winter). And when winter came last year, it stayed in my closet. I couldn't wear it. The coat was gold - GOLD. I just don't have that much fashion pizazz (ok the fact that "fashion pizazz" was the best phrasing I could come up with should tell you something) to pull off a gold coat.

And so it gathered dust in the closet.

Late in the winter, my mom borrowed it one day to get Little Miss off the bus. And she realized it still had the price tags on it because ... I hadn't done anything with it since the day I bought it. She convinced me to try it on.

I reluctantly wore my coat after that. And you know what, it really is warm. And sorta fashionable - just obviously not in that picture from a horrible angle. Trust me on this one. That doesn't mean I was comfortable wearing it, but I wore it.

The other day? A random woman gave me a great compliment. I love your coat. Champagne is such a great color on you - and so trendy right now, too!

Oh. My mistake. It's not a gold coat. It is simply champagne. I'm not sure why, but I can totally wear a champagne colored coat. And I do. With pride - and warmth.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Don't Think They Celebrate

One more last quick fun with Christmas before it's really time to move on. To recap: while I refuse to acknowledge and celebrate holidays early (really, Target - do you have to have your Valentine's Day stuff out before Christmas day?), I also like to drag out the celebrating of Christmas a bit. Our tree will be up until the second week of January.

The main point though... at the beginning of December, Melisa and I were at a store where she happened to notice some interesting Christmas cards. I debated buying them just for the fun of sending them - and to see who would notice - but I didn't, which is why not all my Christmas cards are even out yet.

So would you have bought these?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nope, It's Not A Spider's Web

Soooo, this is my Jabra headset. The great one that I use all the time because that way I don't accidentally hang up my phone while talking (my cheek doesn't like my Droid or vice versa, I'm still not sure which). I love it, and it has a special place of honor all its own in my purse in a little zippered pocket to protect this not inexpensive little toy.

So what do you think? Does it look like a spider crawled into my purse and spun its web around my Jabra?

Not so much unfortunately.

Nope. As protected as my Jabra bluetooth is in its little zippered pocket, I got it out the other day, and the portion that goes over my ear had simply snapped off. It's bendable and flexible, yet it had somehow broken off.

And I may not be tiny and delicate, but apparently my ears are. I can't wear the bluetooth, even with the smallest earpiece setting, without something to snuggle it into place. My ears are simply too small, and it falls out. Repeatedly. Trust me, I tried everything.

Including Gorilla Glue, which doesn't really work well on the smooth plastic parts of a Jabra Bluetooth. This is my third attempt at getting it to stay on. Let's all cross our fingers in hopes that it stays together like it should this time. I can't justify spending another $75 on a bluetooth right now.

Anyone have any other suggestions?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

The holidays are always a time for entertaining - at least amongst my friends and family. This year, my uncle had Christmas Day dinner again (I host Christmas Eve with a smaller group, but the big event includes all the extended family). He loves to cook, as I do, and this year he outdid himself, as usual.

My favorite, and one of the more unique items he made was an appetizer that was arranged to look like a pine cone, again perfect for entertaining and the holidays. We won't comment on my view of it while seated from further away and thinking it was a porcupine (oops, sorry!) - once you stood up to view it and saw the little pine bough at the top of the pine cone shape, it was obviously a pine cone and very cool. And of course very yummy! If you haven't figured out what you're making for New Year's Eve or your next gathering, this one is definitely worth a second look.

Six Point Spread

8 oz cream cheese
4 oz Swiss cheese
4 slices bacon, crispy
2 T green onion, sliced
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 c whole almonds

You'll want to make this ahead of time to ensure it chills sufficiently to hold its shape.

Place the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 250 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. You don't have to do this, but it really adds a lot of good flavor to it.

Ensure the cream cheese is at room temperature. Mix the cream cheese with the Swiss cheese until fully integrated. Chop the bacon into small pieces, and add it, the onion and the Worcestershire sauce. Mix completely, and chill.

Shape as you will (for example, into a pine cone!), and place onto your serving dish. Arrange the almonds into an artful pattern atop the spread. Serve with crackers, and watch it disappear.

Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace! (And thank my uncle for a great idea!)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And A Very Merry Christmas To All

Little Miss has a message for everyone....

Current Giveaways:
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From The Mouths Of Babes: Idioms

I always find it interesting to hear how children speak. So often they sound like their parents or other adults they hang around regularly. Sometimes the things that come out of their mouths make you realize just what you sound like - sometimes to your chagrin (or at least mine?).

This time? I just giggled.

The wee ones were - without being asked - putting away all their laundry, and they were so proud of themselves. Mister Man paused on his way to his room, his arms laden with shirts and pants he'd somehow managed to hang - properly, mind you - all on his own.

I'm really going to town* heating up the gas** now, aren't I, Mommy! he exclaimed, then zoomed on by.

Ummm. You've almost got it, Buddy. I think we need a little more practice before we take that one elsewhere though.

* One of us somewhere along the line once told Mister Man that he was really "going to town" while eating something. He thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard and absolutely loves that expression. He uses it in every conceivable situation he can.

** He really meant that he was "cooking with gas" which I'll admit is something he learned from me. Or almost learned from me, anyway.

Current Giveaways:
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We Wish You A Merry Christmas...

So yay, my Christmas - errrr New Year's - cards went out tonight, which means they're really in the overstressed mail stream tomorrow. They'll arrive eventually, and next year I'll order the cards prior to December 10. They turned out gorgeous, no?

Most Wonderful Year Christmas 5x7 folded card
Create modern Christmas cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

And for all of you, a special edition of the letter and where we stand this year. Life. Is. Good.

Happy Holidays!

This year, I was so proud of myself. I thought about cards more than two weeks before Christmas. Then I ordered them and discovered that they wouldn’t arrive until only a couple days before. Oops!

This year has been a fun one. Mister Man has moved into first grade, still at the Catholic school, where he is doing really well. With the official Asperger’s diagnosis for him coming in April, we are truly impressed at the improvement he’s had over the last several months. Starting him in Tae Kwon Do this summer – he’s now a purple belt and working towards his green belt – has made a huge difference, and he loves it. He’s also doing “gymnastics” as part of an OT program that has been a lot of fun, although these activities meant we had to give up swimming lessons in September.

Little Miss is also doing gymnastics and becoming pretty decent for a five year old. She’s still in the beginner class, but her cartwheels and handstands are definitely recognizable as such. She started kindergarten in a special Spanish immersion program, meaning that she has a near full day program that is entirely in Spanish except for lunch and library. It’s been an interesting transition for her (and for me – I’d thought she was going to be at the same school with Mister Man until the day before school started!), but with some friends both from preschool and the summer school class she did, she’s been loving it!

They both did t-ball this past summer and enjoyed it, but I think we’ll skip that next year. Games every Saturday and Sunday from April to June was a bit much. We’ll find other ways to occupy our time instead. They also got to go to Disney twice this year, once for a conference I attended (which meant all sorts of special backstage meet and greets and other neat stuff – like being at a Mission Impossible dinner for Robert Irvine on Food Network) and once with my parents in August. I don’t think they’ll ever get tired of it.

My husband is continuing to do the traveling teacher gig between schools, which he enjoys. His coaching commitments have already started, and he’s anticipating a good team this year – at least at the middle school level. He turned 40 this year (at the end of July) and was surprised (in September) with a party to celebrate. That milestone hasn’t stopped him from playing baseball, and he’s signed up for next year already, too. Between that, teaching, coaching and his PA announcing, he’s pretty much booked up, but that hasn’t stopped him from adding some tutoring on the side recently.

I am happy to announce that I am no longer PTO president, which has removed some responsibilities. That said, I'm secretary of the board at Mister Man’s school and in charge of hospitality at Little Miss's. It’s still easier than what I had been doing - besides, I quit work at the end of June to stay home with the wee ones, so have more time (theoretically). I ran my first 5K in NYC in August (with Melisa with one S) and am now learning how to use my new DSLR – slowly.

I hope that your year has brought you peace and happiness!

Current Giveaways:
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

The holidays are upon us (or at least me!), which means that I'm not making anything super fancy or hard right now because ... I just don't have the time. That said, I'm also trying to cook extra healthy at home because I know what happens when I head out to restaurants or parties. I need to make up for my indulgences somewhere.

That said, there aren't a ton of veggies that are in season right now - it being freezing cold winter in Chicago and all. Fortunately, I'm still finding some pretty good winter greens in the stores, and I've been making a lot of kale. Lucky for me, the wee ones like it, too - especially when I make the crispy baked kale.

But for something a little more fun, we made Asian Kale earlier this week. It was super easy and really tasty. We paired it with my Miso Glazed Chicken and rice, and it was a perfect winter meal. The wee ones loved it, too.

Asian Kale

6 cups kale (about a bunch and a half)
2 t sesame oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch ginger, fresh grated
1 c chicken stock
1 t soy sauce
pepper to taste

Wash your kale just before cooking. Fold the leave in half vertically so that the stem is on one side and leaves are on the other. Cut off the stem and toss, saving the leaves. Cut the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Sautee the onion in a pan with the sesame oil at medium high heat. After a minute, add the garlic and sautee for another minute.

Add the kale, ginger, and chicken stock, and cook for about two minutes. You'll want to see the kale starting to wilt (and shrink) but don't want to overcook it. Add the soy sauce and stir to coat.

Remove from the heat and add pepper, stirring again. Serve immediately. And ummm because I did so, and then it disappeared, I ended up with no pictures. Sorry! I'll make it again soon though, and hopefully I'll have pictures then. This does go really well with my miso glazed chicken or chicken satay with peanut sauce. Yum!

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

Current Giveaways:
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Monday, December 20, 2010

How Not To Teach About Past Tense

Yesterday, I was working with Little Miss on her reading, as she's still not fully reading independently. Part of that is because she doesn't want to try, knowing that she's the only one in the family who doesn't know how to read.

After reminding her that once she learns how to read she'll earn her very own library card, she was once again excited about trying reading. And she's actually much better than she thinks she is. We're continuing to read the Bob Books, and she's starting to get into compound words.

We came to a book that includes several words with the "ed" ending. Since it isn't really pronounced "ehd" or something that's easy to explain, I decided to explain the concept of past tense, much like I explained the concept of the silent e and how it worked magic on the vowel earlier in the word.

So Little Miss, do you know what past tense is?

No, she muttered, pouting at me.

Well, the "ed" at the end of words shows that they are past tense. They happened before. Action words we've been reading have been in present tense, meaning they are happening now.

*Blank Look*

Think about it with this example. Today I jump. Yesterday, what did you do?

I don't know. I don't remember! she wailed.

Once I recovered and finally stopped laughing, I did get the concept explained to her. No no, Sweetie. I don't mean what did you actually do yesterday. I mean if you jump every day, today you jump and yesterday you jumped, and she is happily now reading her past tense words. She's even figured out the dreaded "ight" words.

Ummm and yes, she is wearing a swimsuit cover up over her clothes, why do you ask?

Current Giveaways:
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Delegated

The wee ones go to the chiropractor each Wednesday, as do both my husband and I. This week, I asked my husband if I could drop the wee ones at the chiro on my way home with carpool and he could take them while I made dinner and had it waiting on the table.

Why do you want to dump the wee ones on me? he asked.

Ummm well, I didn't consider it "dumping" our own children on him, but I was proud of myself for not making a snarky comment.

Wednesdays are my really long, hard day, and by the time we're done with the chiro, I'm just done, and I'd appreciate it if you could help me out by being in charge of the chiro which would also allow you to have a warm meal when you got home, I replied, calmly - and truly, I was calm.

What, you don't think I'm working all day, too? he asked incredulously.

It wasn't that. My husband is out of the house and to school before seven where he then spends his day molding 120 plus young minds. While he's absolutely got the personality for it and loves doing it, I don't dispute in any way that he's working hard.

But Wednesdays are my hardest day. From the moment the wee ones wake up, I am haranguing them to get ready, get dressed, clean their rooms, eat breakfast, get out the door, go go go so we can get to school on time. While our chore chart helps, there are still days when I need to redirect the wee ones and keep us on track. Once I get the wee ones out the door, I head to the gym for a quick workout - my me time, I'll admit. As soon as I'm done, I rush to do whatever errands need to be done, typically grocery shopping. I head home to put things away, toss in a load of laundry and begin making dinner. I then race to Mister Man's school (20+ minutes away) to pick him up for speech therapy at another school. I have to rush him out the door and into the car and into the other school to get there on time, as his class gets in from recess as we need to leave if we want to get to speech on time. I then race him back to his school and sign him back in before running home to get Little Miss off the bus where I change the laundry and - if I'm lucky - get a little housework done before I pack up Little Miss and rush to get to Mister Man's school to do the carpool pickup. I drop off the other kids in the carpool then head back to town to the chiro where I am directing the wee ones on what they're supposed to do and ensuring that in an unstructured and stimulating environment, they are behaving appropriately - especially given the small space. Then we head to the library (our only chance of the week and the wee ones' reward for good behavior at the chiro) before going home for the night. Then I have to finish making dinner before feeding them and rushing them into bed.

I can only push the wee ones to go quick hurry fast we can't be late so much before, mentally, I am exhausted. Having to come home after all this only to make dinner and try to ensure the wee ones get to bed on time (yes, we still have "early" bedtimes because they need the sleep) makes the day that much harder.

By delegating the chiropractor, I have take out almost a half hour of car time driving back and forth from carpool dropoff to the chiro and back home again. And it's two rushings around that I can avoid - the chiro and dinner; I actually rather enjoy the library time with the wee ones.

Ideally, I'd restructure our week so that there wasn't so much rushing, but the chiropractor really helps, especially Mister Man and his regulation. And with OT and tae kwon do taking up most of the rest of the week... it is what it is.

But yesterday, I dropped off the wee ones with my husband at the chiro before continuing to finish the carpool run (it is literally on the way home). Then I got home and sauteed some chicken and made some cous cous for dinner before slicing up a pineapple for dessert. I place everyone's plates on the table and added glasses of milk. I had just watered the Christmas tree and dealt with the day's mail when my husband and the wee ones walked in.

We all had a nice dinner before we headed upstairs for our bedtime routine, without me nervously glancing at the clock and calculating how long I could let the wee ones continue eating before I had to cut them off and hustle them to bed. Instead they finished, put their dishes away, and we got to bed at a good time.

And you know what? I felt good. I felt really good. I think I need to embrace this strategy of not "dumping" the wee ones on my husband but rather delegating and communicating when I need some help and to change how we're doing things in the house.

Current Giveaways:
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Why no, the wee ones aren't spoiled at all. Why do you ask?

Current Giveaways:
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

I've been doing a lot of entertaining in the past few weeks, well entertaining and being entertained. And entertaining of course involves food, lots and lots of food. And drink, too.

I've been working on being creative in what I'm creating for all these events. I've made cookies and appetizers and desserts and drinks. For my cookie exchange, I made several savory appetizers so that we wouldn't end up over sugared by the end of the evening. By far the hands down favorite (and a recipe I've since passed along to the attendees) was the Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Can I just say "yum" - a few times? I served it with celery sticks, carrots, and crackers. There wasn't anyone who didn't take multiple servings of it, including me! Oh, and did I mention that it took me all of five minutes to throw together?

Buffalo Chicken Dip

8 oz cream cheese (or Neufchatel), softened
1/3 c hot sauce (e.g., Frank's or Louisiana)
1 can chicken, drained
1/4 c ranch dressing
1 c cheddar cheese, grated

Place the chicken in a saucepan along with the hot sauce. Stir it until heated through, "mashing" the chicken so that it separates a bit. Add the cream cheese and ranch dressing, and stir until fully melted and incorporated. Add the cheddar cheese in batches, stirring until fully melted between additions.

Serve warm with carrots, celery, crackers, or whatever you like.

Enjoy this and more at The Well this week with Blessed With Grace!

Current Giveaways:
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here
Professional cookware, courtesy Jewel here
Baby Einstein Discovery Kit here

Monday, December 13, 2010

Because I Needed More Pressure

I'll admit that Christmas somehow snuck up on me this year. Again. I ordered my Christmas cards Friday night, and they'll arrive on the 23rd, which means no one will get them before Christmas. Oops. I created my annual photo calendar Saturday night, which will arrive before Christmas with any luck, although I won't get it to my in-laws in time.

And Christmas shopping? Ha!

I think the wee ones are pretty much taken care of. They're always easy, though. I'm still working on my parents, although my sister is complete. I got some presents for my in-laws, and my husband is taking care of the rest of them. My husband is a bit of a challenge, although I've got a few ideas.

That said, I have almost two weeks before Christmas. That's plenty of time to finish everything up. Plenty of time.

And today, I saw this sign again. I first saw this sign back in early November. November, people! Early November!

Seriously? Last minute gifts? Last minute is the 23rd or 24th. Don't try to tell me that because I haven't finished everything by the 6th of November I need to start panicking and grabbing last minute gifts.

I've got enough pressure on me already trying to fit everything in. Apparently I'm adding another store to my "Do Not Shop" list. That kind of marketing just doesn't work for me.

But hey - if anyone has any ideas of anything I can get my husband, let me know. I'm all ears!

Current Giveaways:
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

As I being typing this, it's about 7:30 on a Friday night. I sit in my living room, knowing that soon - very soon - families will begin gathering, being forming a line. They'll be setting up chairs, greeting the people in front and behind them, soon to be their best friends, and starting to figure out how to work shifts overnight.

They aren't gathering to purchase concert tickets. If only it were that lighthearted! No, they are gathering outside a middle school in suburban Chicago to wait all night outside in frigid temperatures for a chance at being among the first into the school as a part of Barrington Giving Day. Many will have their children with them, as they can't afford babysitters. They will rotate - by agreement with their neighbors - into their cars to warm up for a bit, but regardless of the weather, they aren't going to risk losing their spot in line.

This is their chance to prepare for the winter, and their chance to provide their children with at least a little bit of Christmas. For the past few months, locations all over Barrington and surrounding areas have been collecting for Giving Day. Inside the middle school's gym, there are coats and mittens, toys and games, blankets and food.

Families on free and reduced lunch in the district - and the number grows every year - are invited to the event. Those who attend are able to choose a coat per person in their family, blankets, and a toy or game for each child in the family. They also receive a box of food and hygeine products that for too many is the most they'll have in their house for a long time.

Last year, Barrington Giving Day served 900 families, including 2,500 children. The expectation for this year was north of 3,000 children. The sheer amount of stuff required to make this event possible and the number of volunteers to make it a success is astounding. While I've donated to it for the past several years, I had never experienced it firsthand myself.

This year, I was one of 100 bloggers chosen by Cepia for their Random Acts of Zhu. We were all sent 104 ZhuZhu Pets to donate to a charitable organization of our choice. For me, it didn't take half a second of thought to know which organization I would approach, and the coordinator was thrilled to have them.

I arranged to drop off the ZhuZhu Pets this afternoon directly to the gym, which allowed me to observe the setup. There were more middle schoolers and high schoolers than I've seen in a long time there volunteering, unloading items from the transporting cars and trucks (they are stored offsite until the night before the event, as the school doesn't have a storage location) and unpacking them, placing them neatly in the assigned areas.

Little Miss was proud as a button to be able to help me bring in the boxes of ZhuZhu Pets to turn over to the "Girls 4-8" table of toys (Mister Man was still in school when I dropped these off).

And holy cow was this a much bigger event than I'd ever pictured. While I knew the numbers - 900 families and 2,500 children last year - knowing them in my head and actually seeing the sheer volume of supplies needed to meet the needs of that many people is humbling. I tried to take a few photos to give you a sense of the magnitude - and this was only a small part of the locations. Wow.

I was so happy to be able to contribute (further) to this organization, and I know the ZhuZhu Pets that I was able to provide via Cepia will be truly appreciated. Most of the items donated are new, but many are gently used. And the "hot" toys like ZhuZhu Pets? There aren't too many of them. It warms my heart to be able to provide a smile to 104 children tomorrow morning.

And after seeing the preparation for this in person? Next year, I'll be volunteering my time and not just items. It is humbling to think about how much I have and how much more I can give. I can't think of a better way of spending a Saturday morning in January than to be a "personal shopper" helping them navigate through the school, selecting the items that best fit them.

Current Giveaways:
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here

In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent the 104 ZhuZhu Pets to donate. I received no compensation or product myself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Update From The Potty Training Wars

Last Wednesday evening, my husband was putting Little Miss to bed while I was working with Mister Man. I found out then that she was out of Pull-Ups. Ummm, what?

It was 6:30 at night and time for her bed. No one had bothered to mention the dearth of Pull-Ups until that point. Costco had a sale on Pull-Ups starting the next day. Thursday mornings are sheet changing days in my house.

I decided to try one more time to see if she was ready to stay dry overnight, knowing that I had a plastic mat under her sheets just in case. I explained to her what we were doing, and she repeated after me, "Body. Hey! Body! Listen up. I'm going without a Pull-Up tonight. You need to wake me up if you have to go p0tty. Got it? You'd better!" We were as set as we were going to be.

I woke her up for a p0tty run when I went to bed, and she went.

The next morning, her bed was wet. I commiserated with her a bit and asked what happened. Did you wake up all wet this morning?


Ummmm you got wet after you woke up?

Yes. I woke up this morning, and I had to go p0tty and I forgot I wasn't wearing a Pull-Up anymore.


Ummm what? Wait, you mean to tell me that you stayed dry all night long, only to wake up in the morning and wet your bed simply because you were too lazy to walk down the hall to the bathroom? Are you kidding me?

There are no more Pull-Ups.

Or there weren't. After our little discussion, she was dry on Thursday night. And on Friday night. And on Saturday night. Since then, she's wet her bed once or more a night every night, even with both my husband and I waking her in the middle of the night. So yeah, when I went to Costco today, I bought more Pull-Ups.

Little Miss 6
Mommy 0

Current Giveaways:
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas - Sorta

I am funny about Christmas. I love Christmas and all my holidays, but I want to savor them individually and on my own terms. In other words, I am so anti Christmas (and Halloween and Valentine's Day and Easter and...) being shoved down my throat.

Come the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I'm generally ready to start thinking about Christmas. I'm ready to get out the decorations, find a tree and decorate it, and put on the holiday music stations on my car. I've noticed the past couple years that I'm actually not quite ready for that on Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, shhhhh, although I hosted a cookie exchange at my house on Sunday, we have yet to put up a single decoration, including the advent tree that counts down to Christmas. Oops.

I am getting into the spirit, though. Christmas music is generally a good indicator for me. I'll turn on a holiday station - fortunately one in Chicago obliged us with 24 hour Christmas music the first full week of November - beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving. If I'm not quite ready to listen, I'll put it back to another station and try again another day. I'm not quite sure why, but eventually something clicks and I love the music again and listen to it nonstop until the stations revert to their typical fare a couple days after Christmas (or 6pm on Christmas day as one station does, sadly; I guess they need to get ready for the next holiday!).

I do adore Christmas music, and I began listening to it this past weekend. I found all sorts of old favorites from Bing Crosby singing anything to great brass arrangements on Holiday Pops to songs from A Charlie Brown Christmas (yes, there is more than one) to John Denver and the Muppets singing The Twelve Days of Christmas.

This year, I've learned some new songs. It really amazes me - especially on Holiday Traditions on XM, note the word "Traditions" - how many pop stars now must have Christmas albums from Christina Aguilara to Glee (a whole soundtrack, I'm guessing, although I don't like their treatment of my favorite from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) to Jason Mraz and more.

I had no idea that Run DMC even had a Christmas song, but it's hilarious.

It's almost as good as my favorite songs by Dr. Elmo (ummm yes I do own that CD, why?). They're not totally G rated, but nothing in them is too terrible for a child to hear. The new song by Lady GaGa, however? Granted, I'm not a huge fan of most of the covers of classic songs that many of today's artists are making, but this... this is a different animal altogether.

I fortunately heard the song for the first - and only - time while I was alone in the car. I heard it on Holiday Traditions on XM, something I would have assumed would be safe for me to listen to with the wee ones. Nope, not so much.

From the opening line of "Light me up put me on top" which I am pretty sure isn't just referring to the star of the Christmas tree, although I can explain away innuendo to the wee ones still, I was taken aback by the song. I had to listen to the whole thing - sort of like when you see a car wreck and can't look away. "My Christmas tree's delicious" raised my eyebrows further, but again... innuendo. It isn't exactly appropriate for a Christmas song, especially not on a radio station like this in my opionion, but I'll survive.

The final straw that finalized the decision that the wee ones won't be hearing this "Christmas" song in my presence? The refrain states, "Yes everybody knows we will take off all our clothes. Yes, if you want us to we will."

That to me is not Christmas. I'll be searching for some better Christmas music this week.

What new songs have you discovered this year that you either love or hate?

Current Giveaways:
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tasty Tuesday - Perfect Truffles

A good friend of mine talked me into doing a cooking class with her. It was chocolate and champagne, so how do I say no? I didn't, obviously. I found out later that the class was a truffle making class - mmmm yum! I'd made truffles before, but who cares. We were encouraged to bring our own ingredients to use for the truffles, which I thought was a really fun idea.

In the end, we had vanilla, orange, peppermint, Kahlua, cinnamon, salt truffles, and more. I liked most of them, but to be honest, the white truffle salt truffles I made were possibly my favorite.

Bonus? I have a lot of Christmas gifts to give from bus drivers to therapists to teachers and assistants to gymnastics and tae kwon do instructors. I'm a little afraid to do a full count. Doing presents for that many people is really more than I can afford or justify. But this? This is my solution. I am making truffles for everyone, boxing them up nicely, and passing them along. Tell me these don't look perfect?

They are super easy and relatively inexpensive, too. My friend who took the class with me? She isn't my most domestic friend, and she's going to make them again. So can you....

Perfect Truffles

9 oz bittersweet chocolate (Trader Joe's has great stuff for a reasonable price)
1 T unsweeted cocoa powder
4 oz butter
1/3 c heavy cream
1 t sea salt
1 t oil - or so

Chop 7 oz chocolate and butter into small pieces. Add all the cocoa and place them into a cmall stainless steel bowl. Heat in a 200 degree (lowest it goes) oven for about five minutes. Don't let it burn!

In a small saucepan, heat the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over your chocolate mixture. Let it sit for a minute or two, then stir gently. Add the salt (or your other flavoring*) and stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

Chill in the bowl for 30 minutes in a fridge until it is solidified enough to work with. Use a cookie scoop (#60) or a spoon to form the truffles. Place them on parchment paper or a sil pat. Chill again for another five to ten minutes.

While they are chilling a second time, melt the last 2 oz chopped chocolate gently in a double boiler (or in a microwave, checking every 20 seconds). Slowly drizzle in a little oil until it gets to a smooth consistency that is pourable but not super thin - you want it to stick to the truffles.

Use a fork to dip the truffles into the chocolate coating, roll them to cover, then return them to the sil pat. Sprinkle a little of your salt or other flavoring atop the melted chocolate and let harden.

* You can also use 1/2-1 t of a liquid flavoring in place of the salt such as Bailey's or expresso or vanilla or whatever sounds good to you. Or use 1/2 t of cinnamon, etc. Instead of dipping in melted chocolate, you can also roll them in more of the cocoa (if you do cinnamon as a filling, mix some cinnamon into your cocoa for an extra pop).

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

Current Giveaways:
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here
The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer DVD with 2 winners here

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Prefer To Think It's My Guardian Angel

This past Friday was a perfect example. My dad was chaperoning Mister Man on a field trip so was driving to school, which meant Little Miss was riding the bus instead of me having to drop her off, too. My day - the productive part of my day, that is - would start at 8:13 intead of 9am. I was rather looking forward to that extra hour.

As Little Miss's bus left, I decided to do a couple quick things around the house, emptying the dishwasher and putting away laundry, before I headed out to teh gym as I'd originally intended. I left the house at 8:33, not quite as early as I'd hoped considering the errands I needed to run later in the day.

As I drove out of the neighborhood, my phone rang. It was my dad calling. Uh-oh. School hadn't even started yet, and already my dad was having trouble with his first chaperone experience.

Ummm, did Violet by chance leave her lunch and backpack in your house or car? he asked.

I sighed and turned around in my seat just enough to see the familiar flowered pattern of her backpack sitting on the middle seat in my car. Ahhhh yep, it's in my car. I'll come drop it off, I groaned internally, knowing that I'd be pushing it to get to school and drop it off before the buses for the field trip left.

I made it to the school a little after 8:50 and just before the students headed out to their buses. I passed the backpack - and its completely disposable lunch inside - over to the school and then headed out to the gym.

I had a benefit luncheon that started at 11am. Getting in a full run and the rest of my workout (ummm in addition to the shower that I definitely needed) was not going to happen. I didn't bag it entirely though. I went to a different location of my gym and got my run in before showering as quickly as I could. I made it to the benefit only a few minutes late and had a great time.

As I was headed to the benefit, I thought about how I had a few choices about how to handle the interruption to my day. I decided to be happy that I wasn't halfway to the gym at the time or already at the gym. My gym is 20 minutes in one direction - so had I left as soon as Little Miss had gotten on the bus as I'd originally planned, I would have been either pulling into the parking lot or already working out. Even if I was only on my way to the gym, the school is 20 minutes in the near opposite diection from the gym - getting to school before the field trip had left would have been impossible.

So it was a good thing that I had procrastinated slightly in getting to the gym because I could get the backpack and lunch to Violet. It would have been nice had she not put her backpack in my car to begin with, but we'll focus on the fact that I could fix it.

And the gym I ended up going to? It turns out that it's closer to where I had my benefit lunch by a ways, so it helped me have less driving to do. And with those realizations, I was able to focus on what I could do that morning - I got a load of laundry in! I emptied the dishwasher! I ran! I got the backpack dropped off! I made it to the lunch! - and not on any of the negative part of it.

I started thinking about this as I drove to the lunch. Those days when I just miss a stoplight and have to wait? Or when I end up leaving the house five minutes later than I expect? Or when a friend calls and has me changing plans at the last minute? How many of those little changes keep me safe and sound? How many accidents or muggings or incidents have I unknowingly avoided because a little guardian angel was looking out for me?

Maybe it's silly, but that's the outlook that is going to keep me sane and happy. That silver lining exists somewhere, and I'm going to keep searching for it.

Current Giveaways:
$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Know Myself Well

I am a thirsty person. I drink a lot of water. I know this. I used to drink it only at meals, but when I was working I got into the habit of drinking throughout my day at my desk, partly because I frequently didn't have time for a "real" lunch and at lunch at my desk, too.

I hate waste, though. And it's possibly that I'm a bit ... frugal. Ergo, I'm not about to cart around plastic bottles of water for a number of reasons. Instead, I have my own BPA free bottles of water, and they do travel with my everywhere from PTO meetings to tae kwon do to the gym to carpooling and more.

And since I drink a lot of water, it's the 40 ounce version. Ummm no, not a typo. I actually go through two or three of them a day.

I owned six of them at one time. I now have four. One got left behind at a school meeting a couple years ago and disappeared. Another I gave to my mom, although I don't believe she uses it. The other four? They rotate into use, washed every couple of days by my kind husband.

Best part? They're metal. That's the only reason I haven't had to buy a carload more.

Note that the bottle doesn't stand level anymore. And it is dented slightly near the bottom. And ummm has a huge dent near the top. Thank goodness I was thinking when I bought them!

You know, that reminds me... I should probably get a cover for my Droid sometime soon.

Current Giveaways:
$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here
Lawry's Complete Meal Ideas Gift Pack with casserole here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm Not The Only One With A List

I love lists. I've discussed this before. Apparently these things are somewhat hereditary.

Mister Man sometimes has difficulty with transitions as a part of his autism. We've developed a number of strategies - some on our own through trial and error and some recommended by therapists - that seem to help him. The other night, we had a rather interesting conversation as I was trying to get him to move onto bedtime.

But Moooooooooom (when he breaks out the whining, you know he's really tired or hungry, and it's time to take action!) I was just about to start playing with my dinosaurs.

I understand that, Kiddo, but it's bedtime now, I calmly, but firmly explained.

But Mooooooooooom, when can I play them then?

I'm pretty sure they'll be here tomorrow, and you can certainly play with them when you get home from school. How does that sound?

But what if I forget that I want to play with them?

Really? Seriously? Reeeeeealllly? Well, if you forget that you wanted to play with them, I'm guessing it won't be that big a deal at that point in time, and you'll find something else that you'll want to do more, I explained what I thought was a fairly logical assumption. And I really did try to hold the sarcasm back; in fact, my husband commended me on it later. I think he was serious.

But then I'll forget and I won't have played with them, and I really want to play with them. Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom, he was starting to wear on me juuuust a little bit.

Well, what if you write it down on our handy dandy whiteboard so you don't forget you want to play with them tomorrow?

Mom. That's brilliant!

And it was. And he played with them the next day and was happy. The end.

Current Giveaways:
$50 77kids gift certificate here
Little Wonders Company personalized hardcover book here
$25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card here
Thomas and Friends Adventure on Misty Island Mega Blocks set here

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