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Showing posts from January, 2014

Cookbooks in Current Rotation

I don't know about you, but I go through cookbook phases, in which I have a little love affair with a book's recipes and author. And I love buying cookbooks, so I have quite a collection. Here are the cookbooks in current rotation:

The Homemade Pantry is my go-to for all the from-scratch cooking I've been doing lately; from my foray into yogurt making to the fresh lasagna noodles I made for Christmas and last night's pizza dough. Alana's writes super-simple directions that are easy to follow -- you can tell she makes these often, and is not just perfecting them in a test kitchen and moving on. Plus, she includes little memoirs of the recipe origins or her experiences with them. I'm planning on trying the homemade ketchup and mayo someday, and Dave has been begging me to make the pastries (homemade "PopTarts") that are on the cover. Seriously, it's the best. Get a copy.

It's All Good is Gwynnie's new cookbook that is all healthy meals. Yes, t…

My Little Spanish Speaker - Maybe

My daughter Alice is loving her Spanish classes in Pre-K. And I'm delighted to discover our huge school district offers dual language Kindergarten. But, there's a catch -- it's a LOTTERY.

Apparently, it's so popular (and so limited) that your name gets put into a drawing and you get in by absolute luck.

Ay Carumba!

Tonight's the meeting to learn more about the program and officially add your child's name to the pot -- so wish me luck!

Too Friggin Cold For School

For the second time this winter ... no! for the second time this month (!) ... it's too cold to go to school. So, I have kids running around, watching too much TV, not doing homework or reading. Yelling at each other, torturing the dog that likes to sleep in all day and being generally rowdy (I can't very well send them outside to play, can I?). All while I'm on the phone trying to do a conference call for work.

At some point, they'll head over to the neighbor's house to pillage and destroy, leaving me precious quiet time to get through more emails, reports and meetings. Either way, the day's not highly productive.

But when the girls sit in the office with me, working on an "educational" website, my workday gets just a little sunnier.

Is it too early to whine for Spring?

Hello Frugal February

I love the art of shopping: Discovering neat and different objects. Hunting for the best prices. Using coupons or big sales to get exactly what I want. I love bringing home new stuff.

And the internet is my frenemy in this shopping fad. If Leah needs new snow boots, I can be picky and visit all my favorite "boot" sites, to find the best quality at the lowest price -- all on my lunch break.

So -- for the past several years, as a reaction the major spending/shopping extravaganza that is Christmas and early January after-Christmas sales (love em), I've made a practice of cutting down personal spending in February (or sometimes March) to just the essentials.

Essentials = food, kids activities and needs. And the "big NO" to clothes shopping for me, hunting new house decor, or books, etc. I usually have a surplus of new stuff I haven't even worn/read/framed from the holidays, anyway.

The most important step to this shopping diet is to unsubscribe to all those cra…

My Morning island

I'm on a diet, work full time and have a 2nd grader -- that means my morning is all about food prep.

First, I have to make breakfast for the ladies and a smoothie for myself. Yum!

Then, I have to make a lunch for Leah; she rarely chooses the school's hot lunch. That's some combination of sandwich, yogurt, carrots, cheese and fresh fruit or fruit snacks -- depending on what's available.

Last, there's the two balanced snacks for myself (10am and 3pm) -- yogurt and fruit, tuna and celery, carrots and grapes, turkey slices with avocado. Lunch is usually a salad bar affair.

But, of course, I don't do the tasks in any order ... it's scattershot. I think I'm trying to follow some logic, like I'll do everything that requires the blueberries first, but I lose track. But, it all gets done and put away by the time I walk out the door, so ... it works.

I know other Moms who do this prep the night before. One Mom I know packs lunches before she makes dinner! I&#…

First Time Walking on a Lake

How exciting is it the first time you walk on a frozen lake?

We had lunch with Nana this weekend and made a pitstop at a local park when I saw the lake was frozen over. "Girls, have you ever walked on a frozen lake?"

"No.... what!?"

They didn't believe me until they kicked the snow away and looked down -- at ice! Sheer amazement!

So we made our way along the shore to some ice fishermen to peer in the fishing holes and actually see the water. "Can you believe there are fish swimming right below our feet?" I asked. "NO WAY!" The guys told us it was 8 to 10 inches deep - SOLID. And with temps averaging 25 degrees, we didn't think that was going to change anytime soon.

We told the girls that when I was little, we'd take shovels and clear a ice rink in the snow -- which they thought sounded like a darn good idea. Too bad we didn't come prepared.

Winter is kind of amazing some days.

My Yogurt is TART

The reviews are in on my homemade yogurt ...

TART!!
Wow, I read that it was going to be tart with a bite, but, man, they were NOT kidding. Tart but very good. Smooth and not as watery as I was expecting. 
I added some honey and gobbled down the whole jar. Tomorrow, I'll add some fruit. 

Look at me! I'm a yogurt maker!!

The Newest Yogurt-Maker! ME!

Ever since reading "French Women Don't Get Fat" I've been dying to make my own yogurt. It's a French thing, apparently. And the author makes several good points about WHY you should cook-up your own yogurt; like control over what exactly what goes into it, most-active bacteria and less waste of those little plastic cups.

This Christmas I got not one, but TWO, yogurt makers from my two favorite guys. And I've been waiting for the right time, and yogurt starter, to cook my first batch. And today was the day!

I've been doing research and picked up a few tips; such as treating the pot with some ice to keep the milk from scalding, and use a ice bath to cool the milk instead of waiting for the milk to cool on its own.

On a side note, I also read about people who made yogurt in a warm oven, a crockpot and with a warming pad. That's just super crazy!

Anyway, I used half skim and half 2% milk on one of the tips from the experienced bloggers. I used a powder st…

Rotten Fruit in My Garden

I love throwing rotten produce in my veggie garden during the winter. I feel a thrill, a zing, when I do it. Which sounds completely insane. So, I've been contemplating today WHY I like doing this so much.

First, it's like a good omen to me. Like, throwing this produce that actually was grown and made it's way to my fridge (though, not to my table) was a success. And maybe that will norish the garden and give all my seeds that I sow next year the right idea. (Rereading that makes me sound even more batty.)

Second, I'm attracted to composting but I haven't had much luck with it. I had a black compost box in New Jersey that, and I'll be the first to admit, I probably didn't set up correctly. We had it for four years and I never got the good soil they say you should from it. After awhile, it felt like I was just feeding all the neighborhood vermin my kitchen scraps -- because walking near it would produce an ominous rustling sound. Not good.

But I like the na…

Helping Out My 2014 Travel Plans

It's the beginning of a new year and I'm thinking about traveling. Where are we going this year and how are we getting there? When and how much will this cost!?

Thanks to my Sunday morning New York Times habit, I found this cool Google service that finds you the best prices for a destination in a given month or two. And destination can be specific, such as "San Diego," or a BIGGER, like a whole continent. Ever wonder what city in Europe is the cheapest to fly to from Chicago in, say, March? It's Dublin. How about that?!

You've got to check this out ... https://www.google.com/flights/explore/



Girl Time

Some nights we decide to paint our toenails, instead of 2nd grade homework.




Fun With Lettuce!

They don't mind eating lettuce, but they're rather play with it ...


Diet Update - Just a Little One

I promise this wasn't going to become a blog about my diet/weight-loss "journey" (ugh) for the new year, but wanted to give you an update. It's January, everyone is watching their diet and exercising more this month. It's the American way!

The Update: I'm starving and sore. 

Starving because the first week of this T25 Beach Body plan limits your calories to about 1,000 for the day. THE DAY! For example, my lunch today was two deviled eggs. Two eggs! That's it. Am I missing something here? I get an afternoon snack that I will be hungry for in about 30 minutes. They ask, am I drinking water, yes! Yes! Yes! So much that I'm in the bathroom every hour.

Sigh. I was prepared for some deprivation, but this doesn't seem right.

Anyway, this weekend I can increase the caloric intake by a few hundred, so yippee.

On the workout front, well, that's going better. They're 25 minutes and, yes, they kill you, but it's over quickly. At first, I was doing…

Tuesday's Co-Workers

This week was a disaster with the arctic vortex that swooped down and plunged us all into below zero temps. The dog didn't want to "go" outside, I can't blame him, and the kids had a "snow day." Or, a "too cold to come to school" day. 
I can't blame the school district, they can't have kids outside waiting for the bus in -34 degree weather. So, on Tuesday I worked from home with these two delightful co-workers. 

Wednesday, the buses weren't working, so we had another "snow day" but, luckily, the day care was open. So I finally got into my "actual" office. And left the house for the first time since Saturday. Yippee!

Changing My Anti-Decorative Clutter Tune

For a long time I was so against decorative clutter.

Maybe it was because I had a very small house and I insisted that everything be useful, but it seemed pointless to buy and display a porcelin statue or pretty candle holders. Decorations came from framed art and pictures -- on the wall where I had space. And maybe some pretty curtains. Heck, even my plants had purpose, aloe and herbs (though, always an African violet for Great-Grandma.)

But every home decorating show, magazine and book will tell you that these knick-knacks add the finishing touch. Character! Style! Class!

So, lately, I've been hunting around for these little pieces of purposeless decorations. Mostly on One Kings Lane or Home Goods or Target. And with many rules. They have to be cheap (I'm not spending more than $20 on something that has no other purpose than to collect dust). They have to be unique or stlyish or really enticing. This clutter is supposed to communicate your style, right? So you really have t…

Being Dog Vigilant

Housetraining a dog is not all that it's cracked up to be. It's a little like toilet training without diapers.

The first week Benny was with us we also had Doc and Dixie (my sister's big dogs) visiting and it was a breeze. Benny saw and smelled the other dogs go outside so he followed right along. Sure, he had a few accidents in the house but we thought we had it under control.

Wrong.

Since then, it's been all falling apart. According to the books, we're supposed to be vigilant, watching him for "signs," but he wanders off to other parts of the house -- and we have other things to do than follow him around. Also, sometimes the signs are no different than his usual activity. Sniff and circle, it's his favorite way to pass the time. And then, HELLO, we find the accident.

Argh!

I'm sure it's not easy to train outside when it's snowing or below freezing -- which it has been this last week. It's -12degrees today, so I can't fault him f…

How I Spent My Winter Break

Here's the cool thing about Winter Break ... it's long -- just over 2 weeks. And this year I took more days off than usual. And the break is front-loaded with Christmas and all my family visiting, so the second week is mostly unstructured.

This is how it goes: The start of winter break is crazy, chaos. I've already spent every weekend the last two months preparing for my visitors and their comfort. We move beds, wash sheets and check-off a slew of house projects. They arrive and it's five days of movement and merriment. Then, they leave.

Usually, I'd view a week off as a great opportunity to get things done. Shopping, home improvements, trips with the girls. But, that's the magic of the second week of Winter Break. I'm done. I have little motivation and nothing specific calls my name. It's too cold to paint a room or refinish furniture. I have a lot of post-company cleaning and laundry to do but once that's complete -- what? Nothing.

So I spent the …

Winter Break At Home

With all the snow and freezing temps, we've enjoyed a lot of time in the house (no cabin fever here, I love puttering around the house!) and with our neighbors over this winter break.

On Sunday we ventured out to paint ceramics. Alice picked chicken salt and pepper shakers and Leah painted an owl bank. Not to be outdone, I painted a bowl. Can't wait to pick them up next Sunday!

While Dave is watching football, this is a fun activity for us to stay out of the cold and get creative. I love time with my girls.

Raising Kids in Norway

After reading "Bringing Up Bebe" last year (see my review), I'm becoming fascinated by how moms in other countries raise their kids. The A Cup of Jo blog that I enjoy did a series last summer that asked a bunch of international mothers about their experiences and it's GREAT reading.

I was most interested in "Raising Your Kids in Norway" post because I'm roughly half Norwegian (though, you'd never know to look at me) and I was raised by a mostly-Norwegian mother.

According to this woman's experience, one of the main tenants of Norwegian parenting is toughing it out. Families are self-contained units and don't ask for help outside the family. (Sound familiar, siblings?!) If you're in a public place and your kid freaks out, you're on your own. Interestingly, the post about raising kids in Northern Ireland is exactly opposite. It takes a village there.

Also, everyone works. Everyone. Women don't feel they're contributing if they …

14 Things About Me for 2014

Celebrating the new year with 14 Things About Me ... which is kinda becoming a blogging staple post. And they're kinda fun.
I have three sisters and a brother. And we all live in different states. I have a Kindle and still love buying books. It's a 50-50 split. If it's a smutty romance or light YA read, Kindle it is! Though, to be honest, there are some books I've bought for the Kindle and decided I wanted the paper copy. eBooks bad for the book industry? Not in my house. I'm terribly uncoordinated and sometimes forget which is my left and right hand. I have fantasies about being a yoga instructor.I often create elaborate stories in my head to fall asleep -- and will continue day-dreaming about them, if they're good. If I still can't sleep, I image redecorating different rooms in my house. I'm usually asleep before I get to the window treatments. Amalie, French Kiss and Ace Venture Pet Detective are my top three all-time favorite movies. I read books abo…

Snow, Snow and More Snow

It's been steadily snowing here for two days and more snow expected today. There's officially 16inches of snow on the ground as of last night. And 3 more inches are predicted today. We get a break from snow tomorrow, but more is in the forecast for the weekend. WOW! Good thing I'm a homebody, right?!

There's so much snow that Benny is completely submerged during his potty breaks. We've been shoveling off the patio, but his favorite spot is at the back of the yard.

Needless to say, the girls are absolutely loving it. Though, we may be past the point of sledding and more just trudging through the drifts. Maybe we'll get to build a few forts today.




2014 For Leah and Alice

I just reread my last post and it sounded a little too ME ME ME. And I'm a Mom, so that brings on Mom Guilt, which is a monster I may never vanquish. To appease ...

In 2014, Leah will... 
- celebrate her GOLDEN BIRTHDAY!
- get closer to a homework "plan"
- get a goal in soccer
- start piano lessons
- read read read!
- learn to ride a two-wheeler

In 2014, Alice will...
- figure out how to go to sleep without the drama
- graduate pre-k!
- start Kindergarten!
- learn to ride a two-wheeler, too
- start soccer in the fall
- be in a recital with her big sister (if I didn't miss the registration cutoff)

and continue to be the all-around, super-great kids they already are!

2014 - Let's Do This!

This new year is going to be IT! THE YEAR! Here's how I know ... it's an even year and, in my life, many of the BEST things happen in an even year. Births, graduations, exciting trips -- all in even years. So, good things are coming.

What will you be reading about in 2014 on this blog? Here's the rundown:
- dropping a minimum of 10lbs. I know it's cliche to set a weight-lose goal in the new year, but this IS happening, people. I've got goals, help, incentives and a 10-week challenge. But, never fear, this blog will not turn into a weigh-loss diary -- because that's just lame. 
- making dolls. I've been inspired by the dollies that I see on Etsy and in the Kiki and Coco book to hand-make a doll. Or two. Or more, if it's fun. I ordered a doll from Etsy that I'll use as a sample and we'll go from there. If all goes well, no surprise what the nieces will get for Christmas next year. 

- continue house projects. This is the year I tackle the foyer. Paint,…