Friday, September 30, 2011

Where In Time Would You Go?

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, primarily at night before I head to bed but also during some of my recent travels. It's been mostly fiction and a wide variety at that. Some of the brain candy tends to be set in the mid 1800s, a time I'm fascinated by.

There are times when I'd love to live in London in the early to mid eighteenth century. The idea of being a young lady having a season and servants galore and country houses and town houses - and don't forget the country parties with all your friends - and shopping on Bond Street and different dresses for different times of day, even just the fact that people wore gloves and there was no skin to skin touching (for the most part, ahem). The idea of a life like that intrigues me.

Then I think about the fact that those young ladies were in a rarefied circle, and I'm far more likely to be one of the servants than the lady being served. And London was incredibly polluted then with noxious smog, making breathing difficult. Those dresses, too... below the heavy and itchy fabrics were the garters and stays and corsets and more. I'm thinking that's one of those things that sounds much better in my head than it does in reality.

Then there's the fact that women weren't permitted to do so many things we are today. Their fathers could barter them off for marriage. The slightest faux pas could result in very public and permanent shunning. Once married, their husbands had all the rights, and they had nothing. Society was very rigid with its structure and rules, with movement within classes very rare and women essentially not allowed to do anything outside the home - unless they were servants. I love the choices I have today. I love that I had a wonderful career for many years, that I chose my own husband, that I have the option of whether I want to work or stay home with my children - and my career choices go beyond governess, maid, or cook.

I like the freedom that I have today, and I cherish the decisions I am able to make, as romantic as another time may sound when I read about it from two hundred years in the future. I wonder if people will look back on our time in two hundred years and shudder about the privations we currently suffer.

I find it fascinating how different life is at various points in time. Even looking at 1815 versus 1825 versus 1850 is a very different time in terms of the morals and what women were allowed to do. Looking at other times, society hasn't always progressed in a straight line from absolute rule and women, for example, being little more than slaves to today where individual choice and freedom is paramount. Ancient Egypt allowed women to inherit and rule (see: Cleopatra, though she was far from the only one).

The middle ages also fascinate me, though the complete lack of sanity and medical expertise makes it a little less appealing. Using stale bread as plates - repeatedly - is also a bit of a turnoff, and let's not forget that sugar was a rarity and chocolate not available.

Ancient Rome or Greece provide another potential era when I could live. They had such highly developed civilizations with knowledge paramount. And yes, they bathed frequently. The climates there are also a whole lot nicer than Chicago, especially since we've now had eight straight days of rain and our normal highs of 70 or so have been replaced by 50s.

Reading about Cleopatra in the eponymous book by Stacy Schiff brings these thoughts to the fore for me, as she details the "true" life of Cleopatra and her cunning, rather than focusing on her Hollywood created beauty and seduction. The picture she paints of Alexandria and Rome and more are powerful, though the stark picture of a determined Cleopatra - someone I wouldn't want for a mother - makes it slightly less appealing.

If you could travel anywhere in time and live in another place, where would you go? What appeals to you about other times and places?

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of the book "Cleopatra" as part of the From Left to Write book club for purposes of facilitating our discussion. As part of this book club, we write posts inspired by the book, as opposed to traditional book reviews. I received no compensation, and all opinions are my own, as always.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

BlogHer Book Club: Lunch Wars

Apparently this is the week of books. It's coincidence that I've had two days of BlogHer Book Club books come up, but it's kind of neat, too. There is a new format to the BlogHer Book Club to some degree, where it isn't always reviews on the site but rather reviews on our own blogs and then much larger - and very interesting discussions - on the BlogHer site. I'm really interested to see the discussions on our current book Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa.

Personally, I was really excited to read the book. I care a lot about food and what I and the wee ones are ingesting. (I've given up on my husband when he isn't at home!) We do a lot of organics, and I cook from scratch as much as possible. On top of that, we avoid a lot of foods - anything "fake" including sweeteners and dyes and corn syrup in all its form, among others. Not surprisingly, that means that I pack a lunch for the wee one every day. They get a "main course" that is frequently leftover from dinner the night before or a sandwich, a fresh fruit and a fresh or frozen vegetable.

I was really looking forward to what Amy had to say about school lunches and how to improve them. I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly, maybe more of an expose on the lunch program and how much its failing. Instead, she focuses on what we as parents can do. While there is some data on how wrong most school lunch programs are (and no, we don't ever buy them). There is information on how overly processed they are and how they aren't serving the needs of our children. I love some of the quotes from the USDA about how obesity is now the problem the school lunch program is facing and not malnourishment, which is what it was when the program was first developed. The history that Amy weaves into the book to truly get a realistic understanding of the politics behind it and the history of the program provide a great base to do something.

The book is essentially a how to manual. How to go about changing the school lunches in your schools to make them healthier for our children, while ensuring they're something that they will still eat and enjoy. There is some great discussion around the challenges facing the school lunch program - did you know the average program has less than $1 to spend on the students' lunch after taking into account other costs? No wonder so much of it is prepackaged over processed crap that meets the letter of the law with regards to requirements but definitely not the spirit.

Amy has a step by step guide with real life stories and plenty of encouragement to make a difference in your community from how to build the coalition to how to approach the leaders in your communities and more. It was impressive to see so much useful information in one place, but I know I don't personally have any more energy to go change the lunch program in our district - partly when we don't participate in it anyway (it's $4.25 per lunch for my son!) and partly because I'm volunteering so much elsewhere and partly because I'm focused on getting Mister Man to his therapies (including during school time) and to their after school activities. I just don't have the bandwidth to take anything more on, but I would absolutely love to see this take root in my community.

This book gives me hope that it can be done. I am planning to write a note in the front of my book: I read this book and I wholeheartedly support the need for change in our school lunch programs. I am passing this book along to another community member to share this knowledge with them. Below that I will sign my name and ask everyone who reads the book to do the same. It's the small part I can do to further the movement, and I have so much hope after reading this book.

That said, I know a lot of parents want to keep the flavored milks in schools (Do they know what's in it? Do they know what the alternatives are?) and are ok with eating the prepackaged processed foods for a variety of reasons. In many ways, I am in the minority. Where do you stand in the Lunch Wars?

Weigh in here, and join in the discussions on Lunch Wars with BlogHer Book Club.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "Lunch Wars" for review purposes. I am also compensated as part of this campaign, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own - just check out some of my not so positive book reviews for proof of that!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BlogHer Book Club: Faithful Place

I have once again been reading - stop laughing for those of you who know me well enough to know I travel with a book just about everywhere I go. I am really enjoying being a part of the BlogHer Book Club, as I'm reading a lot of books that I otherwise wouldn't see. While I don't always love all of them, there are some really great and unique one I've been exposed to. Faithful Place by Tana French is a great example of this.

Faithful Place is Tana'a third book and once again set in Ireland. It's a gritty Ireland and while a mystery of sorts, it isn't your typical fare. I've already put her other two books on hold at my local library, which has to be one of the best indictations that I've read a good book possible, right?

Learn more about my thoughts from my Faithful Place review on the BlogHer Book Club site. Note, there are a few spoilers, but nothing to ruin the book!

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In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "Faithful Place" for review purposes. I am also compensated as part of this campaign, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own - just check out some of my not so positive book reviews for proof of that!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Berry Cherry Crisp

I've talked a lot about how Mister Man helps me with cooking and baking, but it isn't just him. Little Miss is another one who's in the kitchen a lot and loves helping me out, too. I recently had a potluck to attend, and Little Miss had the honor of choosing the dessert I was assigned to bring.

Our challenge is that she wanted to make something that she'd be able to eat, too, so it had to be something I could make dairy free. She first started looking at recipes in our cook book that were things like a chocolate buttermilk cake or a mousse or something that I am just not experienced or talented enough to create dairy free. We sat down and talked about what she likes and what she wanted to do, and we finally came up with a perfect recipe.

The coolest part of all? She made it All. By. Herself. How awesome is that? I put it into and removed it from the oven, but she did the measuring and mixing and pouring all by herself. And ohhh was she proud!

I love how easy this is, and while the mayonnaise idea sort of freaked me out a bit at first (I'd heard of using mayo in place of butter in certain recipes but this was the first time I'd done it), it actually made it like a sour cream blueberry flavor, and it was awesome. This is an absolute keeper, and we're making it again soon.

Go baby girl!

(Note that I made an individual serving of this in a ramekin for Little Miss to eat in addition to the whole pan. You can choose to make them all individual servings in ramekins if you prefer, a fun way to do it if you're entertaining.)

Berry Cherry Crisp

4 c blueberries
1 c cherries (I used both frozen and dried)
1/4 c corn starch
1 c flour
3/4 c oats
3/4 c brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 c mayonnaise


Place your berries into an eight inch baking dish. Use corn starch and 1/2 t of nutmeg to coat the berries, stirring them gently to coat. If you're using fresh berries, you won't need to use the corn starch or you can use less of it. The frozen berries really excrete a lot of juice though!

When I use nutmeg - and I use it a lot! - I use whole nutmeg and grate it myself with my zester. It has a stronger and better taste - it's just fresher. That and the whole nutmeg is both cheaper and lasts longer. Ground spices start to deteriorate and lose their flavor after about six months. You can keep the whole nutmeg way longer than that. I buy mine at a bulk food store, which cuts the cost down even further.

To make the toppings, simply put all the dry ingredients into another bowl. Note that I've adjusted the recipe slightly since I made this the first time, so the picture doesn't have everything quite the same. Once they're in the bowl, mix them up so that they're well combined and it's a uniform color and texture.

Once the dry streusel ingredients are well mixed, add the mayonnaise. You can simply use your spatula to mix it together until the streusel makes nice little clumps. You don't want it smooth or completely flat, so don't mix it too much.

From there, simply pour the streusel topping over the berries. You don't want to press it down into the crisp, but you do need to smooth it a bit so that it's evenly spread across the berries.

Bake the crisp in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes (closer to 40 if you're using fresh berries) until the topping is golden brown and the juices are starting to bubble around the streusel. Let it fully cool before you eat it, and serve rewarmed or at room temperature.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh Yeah... Laundry!

I know I'm not the only one. I'm tired of laundry. I don't actually hate doing it, but I'm just tired of it. It feels like I never have a chance to finish a load of laundry before someone in the house has put yet another item of clothing into the just emptied basket.

Yes, we are now all Sisyphus.

Every once in awhile, I just pretend like the laundry isn't there. I'll go for a few days or even gasp a week without doing laundry. I do have to check to ensure that Mister Man has enough uniform pants and shirts so that I don't get into trouble there. We've only had to go into the dirty clothes basket once to get a pair of pants this year, and that was because he somehow outgrew three pairs that we didn't realize until those were the only three pairs left.

Yesterday, Mister Man called down to me as he was getting dressed. Mooooom, I only have bad socks left. Ummm, ok. So they aren't your favorite socks. Big deal. Wear them anyway for one day, and I'll do laundry so that there are clean socks for today.

Apparently I should have delved a little deeper and found out exactly what Mister Man meant by "bad socks." Ahem.

And why yes, it was Mass Day for his school. The day when they have to wear their full uniform. Which includes only white, navy, or black socks. Oops.

I washed a lot of socks yesterday. He's good to go on socks for a good three weeks now, but I promise I'll do more laundry long before then.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Waste Those Envelopes!

I finally had a stroke of genius, if I do so humbly say so myself. Granted, this may be only genius in my head, but I'm so excited to solve multiple of my first world problems in one shot.

What have I done?

Well, if you have children in school, you know how often you have to send things to and from school. There are the field trip forms with checks, there are the volunteer forms, there are the room parent volunteer forms and checks, there are the hot lunch orders and checks (ok, not for us but for most people), and the list goes on and on. I can't tell you how often I am sending in something to school that really ought to be in an envelope for safety and/or security.

An envelope. I have those somewhere. Somewhere... I think. Ok, so I'm tend to not have them on hand as often as I'd like. And so I send in things paper clipped together or simply folded in the hopes that they make it safely to school - because how often do I even have a spare paper clip?

On the flip side, I get junk mail and bills out the wazoo. I think we all do, even though I've put myself on many of the "do not X" lists. The majority of them come with reply envelopes that I don't use because I pay all my bills online. They simply go into recycling, though I hate all the waste.

Do it with me... one plus one equals TWO!

It finally dawned on me that simply saving those reply envelopes and using them for sending information to and from school. No (ok less) waste, no panicking because I don't have an envelope, no checks or forms lost because they were hanging out loose in the backpack.

I'm proud of my genius moment. What's your best genius moment?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Butterscotch Brownies

I love baking. Even more? I love that Mister Man and Little Miss love baking with me. Mister Man is really blossoming with his interest in cooking and baking, and I've begun to ask him what he wants to make to encourage his interest - and yes, it was his idea to do the bacon cheddar stuffed burgers. Pretty creative for a seven year old, no? He also came up with the s'mores cookies we made awhile back.

Whenever I ask him what he wants to make, he seems to come up with a different idea. When I put him in charge of desserts for a party a few weeks back, he immediately pounced upon the idea of making butterscotch brownies. So we did. And they were good.

Butterscotch Brownies

1/2 c butter (I used dairy free so Little Miss could enjoy these)
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 c (plus - I don't measure, why should you?) chopped dark chocolate - or chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (Am I the only one who forgets to do this every time?) As with most baked goods, I use my convection oven whenever possible; mine has an auto converter of time and temp, which makes it easy, but I find that baked goods especially bake more evenly with the convection oven. on

Melt the butter, and immediately add the brown sugar. Stir until well combined, and let it cool slightly. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for one to two minutes to get it as light as possible. Add the baking powder and salt, and stir thoroughly. Add the flour and stir until mostly mixed, then add the chips and stir until just combined.

This will be more like cookie dough than brownie batter, so don't be concerned if it's thicker than you expected. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Scoop out spoonfuls onto the pan, then use the back of your spatula to press gently into them to even the batter across the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five minutes, until your tester comes out clean. You don't want to overbake these. Let cool slightly before cutting, then enjoy. Good luck not trying to keep them all to yourself!

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

What Happens If I Don't Weed?

I have the most awesome garden. It's somewhat circular, which makes it look cool, and it grows great things that I eat all summer long - from tomatoes to basil and chives and other herbs to cucumbers and zucchini to onions and garlic and ... lot more. It's awesome.

The only problem? Well, that garden only exists in my head. Somehow, I haven't gotten it planted. Worse? I haven't weeded anything all summer long. I mean all summer. Period.

I have excuses - they aren't really good ones, but they're excuses. I was busy with fundraisers at both the wee ones schools and that took all my free time during the day. Then it was really cold outside. Then it rained rained rained. Then it was hot. Then the mosquitoes came. And it rained again. And I was out of town five separate times this summer, putting my further behind on the day to day things I need to do. Did I mention it was hot and rainy and the mosquitoes yet?

Anyway. By the time school started up, this is what my beautiful garden (and landscaping) looked like:

I am ... really rather embarrassed by my weeds - but thrilled that at the very least I have no neighbors behind my house so at least it's only the neighbors on the side that can see it, if they happen to look in that direction. Which I'm really hoping they don't.

So what did I do? I started weeding. I'm not done, but I've spent hours and hours and hours clearing things out. My broken toe is slowing me down, but I'll get back to it quickly once I can put pressure on it. My experience means that I now have favorite and not favorite weeds.

Check it out. Who ever figured someone would have a "favorite" weed? I feel like it's really wrong that I do, but I have to share my new knowledge anyway.

I think we can all agree that dandelions are the bane of any garden. They seed everywhere if you don't get them before they turn cute and puffy, especially if you have small children who think it's fun to spread those seeds everywhere. You can't just pull them out, though. They have deep roots, and if you don't get the root out, they'll just grow back bigger and stronger. I have a special little tool that I use to pull these weeds, but they are tricky, and they take some time to pull. I've also learned that I have to make sure I get all the leaves gathered before I start using my get down to root tool or I miss it.

More embarrassing? These are some of our dandelions. I didn't know that dandelions grew this tall. Seriously, they are taller than I am. They're well over six feet. Did I mention lots of rain and then hot sunshiney weather?

Morning Glory
And then there's morning glory. I hate hate hate this weed. It is probably my least favorite of them all. Why do I hate it? It's everywhere. You can't just pull it up. It goes underground and its roots spread, then pops up elsewhere and continues to do this ... everywhere. I'm doing my best to control it, but it goes everywhere and climbs everything, and I'm concerned it's going to kill some of the bushes I actually want! Needless to say, this weed alone has convinced me to go buy a tiller and till the sod out of my landscaping once I get it all cleared out in the hopes of finally eradicating the morning glory. It may have gorgeous flowers, but I still hate it.

Those are really the worst ones for me. Thistles, I'm actually good with. It sounds surprising, doesn't it? They don't bother me much though. Yes, they're prickly, but I have work gloves that protect my hands. They tend to come out fairly easily though when I pull, meaning I can get the whole root and not have it grow back - most of the time. My only challenge comes when I try to pull the thistle and don't get the right angle to where the leaves or stem start to break and they get slippery or break and don't come out cleanly. Then I have to wait for it to grow back and pull it then. But in general? Thistles aren't too bad.

Ummm yes. Grass. Because weeds are defined as things that grow where you don't want them growing, right? I love grass, but it needs to be in the lawn and not in my garden. These come up super easy, and if they're small patches of "good" grass that I can just toss onto my lawn in the hopes that it will take root there where it's supposed to grow.

I do sometimes have the really tall ones that grow that start to seed that I don't want to put in my lawn and so those go into the kraft bags. The good news? They come out with hardly any effort, they have shallow roots, and they go away easily. Oh, and they aren't prickly. The only bad thing is that I'm slightly allergic to them, and I have little red marks all over my arms and hands - even under the gloves - when I pick them. Fortunately, the itching and marks go away after a few hours!

The Random Weeds I Like
That's about where my knowledge of plants and such ends. This may also be another reason why I've never successfully planted and maintained my garden (and why I have a friend coming over to tell me what to do with my poor rose bushes and help me split my hostas).

That said, I do have more weeds that I like pulling - if I have to pull weeds at all, which I very obviously do.

I'd never seen this weed before late this summer, but there were tons of them in my weed patch. I don't know what they are, but they grow relatively tall, so I don't have to bend down very far. They are other ones that have shallow roots and come from the ground quickly. Plus, they have several branches that lead to one root, so it feels like I'm pulling out more weeds than I really am after I get these out.

These ones are very similar to the last weed. They are a low effort, high reward pull for me. Plus, they have a pretty flower, so I get a smile when I pull them, too. These are pretty sturdy, so I've yet to have a single one break on me when trying to pull it, unlike just about every other weed out there.

And then we have my "favorite" weed. This one has a downside in that it's ... slightly stinky, but fortunately just a little bit. This one comes out amazingly easy. When I first went to pull it, I was thinking it would be similar to the dandelion and be a pain, but it comes out amazingly easily. The very best part though? Its leaves spread across the ground, and those leaves are large. They for some reason keep other weeds from growing close to them, so when I pull these weeds, it makes a huge difference in the cleanliness of the weed patch.

So yeah... they're my favorite weed. And somehow, that still sounds wrong.

That said, I've made progress. The front of my house is completely clear. The side of my house is clear. And that weed patch? I can actually see some brown. I think that stuff is called dirt, right? If I keep it up, I may be able to plant some fall onions and garlic. Those are ones you plant in the fall, right?

Eh, let's just take it one step at a time!

So do you have a favorite weed, or is it just me? Or better yet... any tips for me?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Beer Boiled Brats

Let's recap. It's the middle of September, but that doesn't mean we stop making yummy food on the grill. Oh no. Around here, we grill all year round - so long as we can get a path to the grill through the snow, we're grilling at least once a week! Last week, I shared the bacon cheddar stuffed burgers we made over Labor Day weekend (again). They were awesome.

This week isn't a new favorite on the grill but rather an old one. If I'm going to have a bratwurst, I sure hope that it's a beer boiled one. The first time I mentioned this to my husband, back when we were dating, he looked at me like I was nuts. I looked at him like I was nuts. "You mean you've never had a beer boiled brat before?" I asked him incredulously. Apparently this is a regional thing.

Let me be the first to tell you: It shouldn't be. Beer boiled brats are awesome. They are the way bratwurst was meant to be eaten. They take some thinking ahead, but it's well worth it.

Beer Boiled Brats

Bratwurst (we did eight for our group, but however many you're cooking)
Cheap beer (seriously, the cheaper the better - about 1/3-1/2 can per brat needed, depending on your pan)
Buns and toppings of your choice


Get your standard bratwurst. These are the normal everyday ones that taste decent, but you're going to make them magnificent.

Place them in a pot and cover with the beer. When you pour the beer, be careful. You want the beer to not get all foamy and frothy as much as you can help it, so pour slowly to minimize that. You want them covered by a half inch or so. For mine, that took about 2 cans of beer. The rest, I saved for later. If you're making a lot of them for a large party, use a disposable roasting pan and boil them on your grill. Turn the heat up enough so that they're boiling but lightly, just higher than a simmer.

Leave them along for a good two hours or so. Check them periodically to see how the level of beer is doing. You want them to stay covered the whole time, so every half hour or so, check on them and add some more beer to top them off.

After two hours of the beer jacuzzi, place your brats on a medium temperature grill. Grill them for just a couple minutes on each side, and that finishes them off perfectly. Add them to their buns and put the appropriate toppings on them (*cough* brown mustard *cough*), and you're good to go.

You'll never go back to normal bratwurst, I promise! Or if you do, I don't want to hear about it....

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Also posting now with A Southern Fairytale and her Mouthwatering Monday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Need A Cover Story

So this is me right now:

Yep, I'm living life on a couch, for the most part, with my foot up in the air. Why? Well, I've done some damage to three toes on my left foot. They hurt. A lot. And they're black and blue - fortunately mostly on the bottom. That said, they're swollen and sore, and it hurts to walk.

But hey, they're toes. You can't really do anything for toes other than tape them to their friends and avoid walking on them as much as possible. Well, that and keeping them elevated and iced.

I have a bigger problem than some broken toes, however.

See, I did it in a sort of embarrassing manner. I forgot to grab a few things when I left my house (does baby brain ever go away?) and had to come back to grab them. Since I was now in a hurry, I ran quickly through my kitchen to pick them up from their various locations.

In my defense, the stairs in my kitchen that lead upstairs sort of jut into the room because they open both to the family room and the kitchen, so they come out at an angle. And that's the closest I get to an excuse.

Anyway, as I ran past them, I didn't run past them. I ran smack dab into them at full speed. And four of my toes went sideways with a painful lurch. I managed not to swear but did the "ow ow ow ow!" dance across my kitchen before hobbling slowly to grab the necessary items, sure I'd just stubbed them badly and would get over it shortly.

It's been three days, and they still hurt and are swollen and black and blue. I think they might be broken. Thank goodness I got a manicure just before I captured the Klutz of the Year Award. Anyone who sees me can immediately tell something is wrong with my toes, but I really need a better story of what happened to cause me injury.

Because really, the truth is too embarrassing. I'm taking suggestions!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can I Still Pull My Kids From School For Vacation?

It's the first week of school for us. The wee ones are both in elementary school now, Mister Man in second and Little Miss in first. At some point, the only time they'll be able to be absent is when they're legitimately sick. Right now, I'm still pulling them for family vacations. Sometimes.

I feel like a bad mom doing that, feeling like in a way it's saying that fun is more important than school. They're at the age when their teachers are starting to frown on it more heavily. And my husband is a teacher, so whenever we do this, he can't join us. And he's not a fan of it, either.


But there are some things that I want the wee ones to experience that they can't except when school is in session. And so on the first week of school, after only three days in school, I pulled the wee ones to drive up to Minnesota with my dad. Growing up, the Minnesota State Fair is one of my favorite traditions. It was something everyone did, and I also showed my horse there every year. Missing school for it was never an issue, since school started after Labor Day for us up there, and it was a great family tradition. A tradition that I'd like to continue with the wee ones to some degree, though I know we won't go every year. The Fair opens the second to last Thursday in August, and the wee ones are on their third day of school then. While we could technically go on a weekend - either that one or Labor Day weekend - it's too expensive to fly and seven hours each way is a mind-numbing thought in a forty-eight hour period. Plus, the crowds are often over 200,000 on weekends, and that makes me nervous for the wee ones.

So I pulled them. And we went to the Fair on Friday and a Twins game on Saturday before heading home early enough Sunday that we could get some homework done and have them in bed so they wouldn't be too tired for the upcoming week.

They did learn at the Fair. They learned a lot about the different kinds of horses and why the different breeds look so different. They saw pigs being born. They "worked" on a farm and saw how farmers make money from seed and cow to the store. And they ate. A lot. And they went on a few rides.

I feel somewhat guilty, but not enough to stop myself from pulling them out for another four days in October. They're good enough in school and know that they have to write diaries about what they did on vacation for their teachers (my assignment) in addition to any homework they need to make up. That's my mental rule: so long as they're doing well in school and have good attitudes about the work they need to make up, I'm ok with pulling them from school for family vacations.

Or that's my "for now" rule. I'm still trying to figure it all out. What about you? Do you or did you ever pull your children from school? What were your rules about it, and when did you or when do you plan to stop?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

BlogHer Book Club: Slow Love

I have to admit that I opened the cover of Slow Love by Dominique Browning with a bit of trepidation. It is the Browning’s memoir as she moves past her layoff as editor of the newly defunct Home & Garden magazine and attempts to rediscover herself and again find happiness and purpose. The first several pages didn’t help matters, as she seemed to spend much of the first chapter plus apologizing for herself and her attitude and her behavior.

Once she gets into the meat of her story, however, the book becomes more enjoyable. I enjoyed hearing her issues with identifying the days of the week – and once mistaking a Friday for a Saturday, venturing out in her pajamas while the rest of the world briskly and efficiently headed to work. I understood her struggle to find an identity, as I’ve been in that position of facing change and figuring out how I move forward.

The part I related to much less well? Oh she has a horrible relationship. As she flashes back throughout the book, you wonder how a woman as intelligent and successful and happy as she is on the surface can struggle into and out of a relationship with a very unavailable man who clearly has no interest in a “real” relationship with her.

There’s lots more to discuss, and come join me in a discussion of Slow Love at the BlogHer Book Club!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a copy of “Slow Love” for review purposes. I was also compensated for participating in this campaign. That said, all opinions expressed are – as always – my own.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween Costumes

I hate "celebrating" holidays early. I've posted before about how I want to savor the season I'm in now and not be rushed into the next holiday. Apparently I'm losing that battle. I saw Halloween decorations and costumes in stores in July. July, people.

Fortunately, Halloween is going to be easy around my house this year. Little Miss is going to be a storm trooper again this year, so that costume gets another workout. And Mister Man walked up to me the other day announcing that he'd made his own Halloween costume.

I was a little afraid when he first told me. If you're a parent, you can understand why. I asked him to show me his costume, and now... I'm pretty ok with it. Though I'm still giggling. But hey, that's $30 I don't have to spend on a costume, right?

So ummmm can you figure out what he's supposed to be?

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