Sunday, February 28, 2010

What's cookin'?

I have had an unofficial goal/resolution this year that started somewhat by accident. Or at least I wasn’t entirely conscious of saying “I am striving to feed my family better foods this year”.

In the last 6 months or so – particularly since the end of the growing season here locally and coinciding with the funk I found myself in last fall, dinner options were repetitive and processed. I felt like it was all I could do to get something on the table. This wasn’t like me at all. I am not sure where that person emerged from that purchased dinners in a box. But I tell myself now that sometimes you just have to do what you have to in order to keep things moving and keep cannibalism from taking hold.

There are loads of reasons to try and eat better, it’s better for us health wise and it’s better for the Earth in general. Thankfully my kids tend to be string beans and are very active – I don’t see childhood obesity being a problem with my kids. But I think a lot of my new desire to feed my family better foods has to do with cancer. Cancer runs on my side of the family and my mom’s cancer figures prominently in my mind. Cancer has also stricken other people we know. I fear that by feeding my kids heavily processed foods, that I may encourage unhealthy eating that may (or may not) contribute to problems and diseases later on in their lives.

Lucky for me, my kids like (for the most part) good foods and they make this easy on me. They are also relatively independent when we get home from work/school on the weeknights, allowing me to get dinner on the table fairly timely (most nights). My son is obsessed with fresh fruit and Skadi lights up when she *gets* to have broccoli for dinner! I have a real need within me to encourage these good habits now before they are replaced with less healthy alternatives.

We don’t have a vegetable garden in our new house and I expect this summer we will be doing a lot of work in the back yard – so it won’t happen this year. I pulled out a book recommended to me by Rockergirrl last year and have been flipping through the pages with the kids trying to decide what will be in a few containers in our back yard this year. Someday I will get a raised vegetable bed, but for now, we will do containers. And one thing I am looking forward to in the coming months is venturing back to the Farmer’s Market. Last summer we went at least every other week if not more often and amazingly enough, ate nearly everything we purchased each week.

My approach that is working so far this year is to find a few recipes on the web each week that look good, require minimal prep time and that the kids will like. Then we hit the grocery store during lunch for the needed ingredients. Hitting the grocery store during lunch does a few things for me:
- the kids aren’t there to beg for fruit snacks, Cheetos, etc.,
- I know I have to move quickly through the store and can’t dawdle, so I stick pretty hardcore to the list,
- and I get fresh foods every week, I am not relying on boxed foods that have no real expiration date,
- and very few of the recipes I am looking for use processed foods, so I am not buying them.
- My grocery bill… it has been cut nearly in half.

I expect this to continue to be a slow process to really get us to where I want to be. It has been a year and a half since we have had pop in the house regularly. This was a big one for AB and me. Leif never could stand the stuff and we hoped to keep him deluded with the notion that carbonated beverages are icky. (Skadi has no such delusions and loves the fizzy stuff.)

We still have frozen pizza or something else quick and easy on Wednesday night (pick up night). And there are days where I feel like I haven’t quite gotten my act together and a Zatarains jambalaya mix sounds awfully tasty. And those days I can’t get to the grocery store without the kids I sort of suck at saying no when Skadi holds up a fruit snacks box declaring “Look! Tink-oh-bell mommy!” Canned fruits and veggies are a rarity, but not completely absent. And I am not quite sure how to get rid of chicken nuggets – though the kids were very partial to the chicken schnitzel I made the other day. These are the thinkgs we will continue to work on the coming months.

But the main point is that we are trying and I believe we are on the right path.

I shared a list of recent recipes the other day here.

Here are some more:

Cajun Chicken Pasta : Oh my goodness this rocked. This rocked big time. Really delicious and the kids ate it while picking out the bell peppers - but oh well. I kept the cajun seasoning to a dull roar thinking about the kids. But then added more later for AB and I.

Bacon and Mushroom Pasta : Another one that everyone - including the kids - loved. So they didn't eat the mushrooms, that's ok, more for me.

Beef Stroganov : I love beef straoganov. I really, really do. AB has been converted and he now loves it too. What's not to love? A dark roux with sour cream. Umm yumm. The kids, not terribly fond of this, but they get noodles with butter and beef that I pulled out before dumping delicious roux over it.

Ham and Bean Soup : This one is probably the closest to my recipe. It's easy. Cook a ham bone down and save the stock - or use hamhocks and chicken broth. Either way is fine. Soak Great Northern beans overnight in water. Strain. Saute an onion sliced thinly until browned. Add the ham broth or chicken broth and the ham or ham hocks. Cook until beans are soft. I had a working lunch the other day and brought this to eat. My team despised me. Oh and nope, the kids don't eat this so much. They will however eat the ham I pick out for them.

Crockpot Chicken Makhani or Crockpot Indian Butter Chicken : This was alright. The kids and AB liked it. I wasn't blown over because to me, it didn't taste a whole lot like chicken makhani. It had a bit of that flavor, but not blown over.

And because I thought today that I had awfully wonderful children, I decided to make them cookies. I could do the standby chocolate chip cookies that we all love... but I was craving oatmeal cookies. I found these that would probably be acceptable to my chocolate fiends. Chocolate Brownie Oatmeal Cookies. They taste like a baked "no-bake cookie".

Hypochondriac Post #3

Continuing into phase 2 from this post.

In early high school I joined the gymnastics team. I was pretty good and I enjoyed it. I loved the meets. One day our coach called a meeting where she ranted and raved. She was irate at our team and I had no idea why. She talked about the petty arguments, the backstabbing, the lack of team cohesiveness and then threatened to quit and disband the team.

I was in total shock!

I had been completely out of the loop with the gossip and the back biting going on. I had no idea if it was directed at me or not and became a bit paranoid!

This is something that continues to this day. I have a horrible time picking up on even not so subtle cues especially by people I am not really close with. It often takes me awhile to realize that I have annoyed someone and without it being brought to my attention I wonder how much I would simply miss. How many friends I have lost out on because I never realized their cues that I was doing something wrong.

In groups of people I am not terribly close to? I have rhino skin. I don’t get my feelings hurt and see most statements directed towards me as constructive criticism that I try to learn from. This makes it easy for me to work on a variety of teams and I think it makes me a decent leader, I don’t tend to get my feelings hurt. However, the opposite is true when I get to know someone well – my family and my close friends - my feelings get hurt preemptively and my rhino skin turns to tissue paper. I look for things that I fear I am missing otherwise based off of history.

After gymnastics team that year and swearing I would never go through that again, I fell in pretty quickly with the kids who hung out in the park and smoked – the punk rockers. I had been friends with a few of them since moving to Colorado, but suddenly it was the most inviting group. They didn’t chide me for not wearing my hair just right, or not having a bag from Espirit or clothes from Benetton. I found many of them to be very straight forward. If you ticked them off, they told you so. Expressing indifference was a rewarded quality among my crowd. Brusque, rude behavior… not a problem! I floated along with this crowd and established a few friendships that have stood the test of time.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I had to conquer my “shyness” in order to succeed.

I was working in a histology lab when I was a freshman in college. I was assigned the embedding station with Shana for the day. I didn’t look forward to this because she would talk. Talk and talk about people I didn’t know about nor, really care about. That day we sat down at our station and she said, “I had the most fabulous and weird night last night”. Then there was silence.

“Oh,” I replied lost in my own thought. What was I supposed to say? I had no idea.

She stopped, turned so she was facing me and said a little annoyed acting, “well do you want to hear about it?”

In my mind I was fighting saying - not really – but it dawned on me that the polite thing to do is to say enthusiastically, “YES!” So I said that. I think it was at that point that it first dawned on me that I needed to learn the proper responses to questions like this. But it wasn’t until I moved to Boulder for college, took a job in a dermatologist's office and started dealing with the general public on a daily basis, that I really HAD to put it in motion.

I enjoyed my job at the dermatologist and easily got along well with Dr. Stinkbug. He started increasing his expectations of me and my job there and I fulfilled them. I started working in the rooms with him as an assistant which I really loved. I worked my butt off in his office and when I wasn’t manning the histology lab I was working in rooms and setting up biopsies and other procedures.

Note that I did not say that I was heading into the rooms, introducing myself to patients, talking to them about their procedure and setting up for the procedure.

One day, early in my career at the derm office the doctor told me, “you know, you are really, really smart.” (I took this as the compliment it was meant to be.) And then he went on, “you are one of those people who can probably do anything you want to, but if you plan to go into medicine, then you have to know that if you don’t speak to people, you make them REALLY uncomfortable”. He was one of the first people who was brutally honest with me about what I needed to do to succeed.

I hadn’t realized my job actually had people on the other side who I needed to interact with. I was just doing the job I enjoyed. I spent the day watching his nurse, Jan, who was a very warm and tender person. I watched how she walked in to the rooms. Walked around to face the person in the chair and warmly announced, “Hi! I am Jan and I am Dr. Stinkbug’s nurse. How are you doing today? How is the weather outside? What a pretty dress you have on today! Do you have any questions about the procedure we are going to do?” And with people she knew a little about it went even deeper, “tell me how your daughter is doing! What college is your grandson going to now? How is your job going?”

I went back to my apartment and recited these lines. “How are you today? What is the weather like out there? Do you have any questions?” I was like a broken record.

And I went back in to work the next day and recited these questions to every person whose room I walked into. It seemed terribly monotonous. And I knew what the weather was like out there, there were windows and a door to outside in my lab. But people bought it! It seemed as though I was doing what people expected of me! And despite the fact that I didn’t really care what the answers were to the questions I asked of them, I enjoyed my work even more because for about the first time ever I was succeeding at interacting with strangers! And eventually, when I got to know the patients who came back repeatedly, I built up relationships with these people!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Goals - Nearing the End

As February winds down I am looking back on my goals progress. The primary goal to get a pull out for the spice cabinet is not completed only because we decided before ordering online we should really make a pass at Home Depot. They might also have some alternate suggestions to consider and can offer advice on fitting a pull out for our extra tall top cabinets. (Height of the cabinet hadn't really dawned on me until it came to measuring twice.)

We did however get the cupboard reorg completed and are very happy with the outcome of that. Someday I expect I will relearn where my measuring cups are now.

The wine closet wasn’t one we planned to tackle, but as luck would have it we obtained a great wine rack and put it to use. Now I can tell exactly when we are getting low on white wines (like we are now).

So the spice cabinet pull out will extend into March, which is fine. March is going to be a bit of a relaxing month for me with goals. I have two things planned…

See this dress? It is a pillowcase dress.

And it is $89.

See this one? It is $98. It is lined and has an M on it, so it is $9 more.

I am POSITIVE I can make one in two hours. I just know it.

March goal is to find an adorable pillowcase and make Skadi a dress.

My second goal is The Orange Tree. I special ordered the fabric I wanted – black 18 ct Aida – could not believe you can’t just find this stuff at craft stores… And the black 14 ct Aida isn’t sold in a large enough sheet at my local craft stores. So it was going to be a special order either way.

Ordered two weeks ago…

Apparently all cross stitchers are procrastinators?

Or maybe they had to weave it from cotton fibers?

Whatever the reason it is on its way here and should arrive before March 1 in time for the new goal!

I won’t finish it… I will be lucky to get one tenth of it done during the month of March. But getting started is often half the battle.

I am leaning towards an April goal of the library. I have boxes stacked randomly, a lamp to hang and I just discovered the perfect under the window shelf/seat combo unit that will go perfect. Paint? Just maybe...

Hypochondriac Post #2

One of my common phrases has always been, “I was a painfully shy little girl, but I overcame it”.

However, over the last year or so and particularly when I was reading about Aspergers with regard to Leif, I am wondering if I was really all that shy?

Because I actually think that a lot of my behaviors are more in line with a child with Aspergers than an introvert. I think I will hit this area of Aspergers in three posts - this is the first of three posts with regard to introvertedness/shyness vs. Aspergers.

A few years ago my mentor laughed when I said I was an introvert and said that he would have never pegged me professionally as an introvert and found it puzzling that I was once shy. As an expressive expressive person speaking to an analytical analytical, this was huge to me.

Mild tangent here over to social styles. I think this can be a good tool, however, I think that it is only a tool. In my social styles class there were only two analytical analyticals. Myself and another guy. Both of which our teacher said she wouldn’t have pegged us as such an extreme. She referenced later on our presentations class whereby we gave two of the funniest, most interesting impromptu speeches individually. By definition of analytical analytical, we shouldn’t have been comfortable in this situation at all, yet she found it interesting that we both thrived and didn't display any signs of being uncomfortable with the situation.

Public speaking… this is one thing that surprised my mom when I was in grad school. I was good at it. It isn’t that she thought I would be bad at it, by any means. But it didn’t necessarily fit my shy demeanor. Even now? I actually enjoy getting up and speaking in public and I am not half bad at it.

Off my (somewhat relevant) tangent.

When I headed into kindergarten I had not had any preschool. I had been home with my mom for 5.5 years and it wasn’t like we had bunches of playdates. I met some kids in the neighborhood and she occasionally babysat other kids. But I headed into kindergarten with a lack of social skills. I do not believe that it was a lack of preschool or playdates that caused my lack of social skills. They may have attributed to it, but in no way do I believe that the difficulties I faced with personal interactions well into college, were because I didn’t go to preschool.

I tended to make friends easily as most kids do, but keeping them was a different thing. I had a knack for saying the wrong thing, which then often resulted in the other little girls looking at me funny and walking off. I loved answering questions in class, I loved being at the center of attention (I played Jingle Bells on the piano at our kindergarten Christmas pageant and reveled in being the center of attention) and I always wanted to play the cymbals in music. I enjoyed reading out loud to the class.

What I *think* happened as I look back was that because I didn’t know how to effectively interact in a friendly manner with the other kids, I simply quit trying. If they didn’t want to play with me then who was I to push it? Not to mention, who really wants to spend time with kids who look at you funny when you say something? I didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was spending my recess by myself walking the perimeter of the playground. I remember watching what the other kids were doing and trying to figure out how to behave like them. Some kids saw staying in for recess a punishment, but I was thrilled to stay in and help the teacher with something because it meant I didn’t have to try and interact and it wasn’t in my face that I didn’t have a set of good friends.

In 1st grade we had dancing and I remember being the first one up and in front of the class shaking my booty while the other kids watched and slowly would come up. The shy kids were the last, if they came up at all. We would have annual plays every spring in elementary school and every year I BEGGED for a speaking part. I wanted lead parts and speaking parts SO badly, but was never awarded them. I blogged once about Mrs. Peacock our music teacher. I truly believe that she didn’t give me speaking parts because first, she placated the popularity contest, second, she didn’t like me and third, I had speech problems. It wasn’t for lack of trying for a speaking part. When I was in fourth grade I was finally given a speaking part… I said, “He’s so cuuuute!” and then giggled. One whole line. I wanted the job of memorizing the lines that the other kids had. In fact, I wanted it so bad I memorized all the lines for them so I felt a part of the action.

These things – all told don’t add up to a child who is shy. Instead, I think I became so used to hearing “she’s just shy”, that I thought those were the expectations of me. I didn’t have to learn to interact with the other kids if I was just labeled as “shy”. It was easy!

I wasn’t alone all throughout elementary school by any means either. When I was in third grade I obtained one best friend and she and I navigated our way through the following five years pretty efficiently. Once we hit junior high we hooked up with another couple of girls and had our own little network until I moved at the end of 8th grade. (I was always perplexed that after five years of hanging together, that she never wrote back or returned my phone calls. I figured that once again I had done something stupid.)

Next post - on to junior high and high school.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Skadi cake baking

I am trying to get better about using the full functionality of my good camera and not just as a point and shoot. Here are a few shots from Sunday where Skadi and I baked a chocolate cake. They could use a little time in PhotoShop to lighten them, but I will play with that later.

Note my KitchenAid paddle behind her. We could not leave this out of the picture. She insisted it was a tree and it was not moving.

Oops yes. It is Valentine's Day frosting. I am a bit late on this one. But she was obsessed with the can at the grocery store. I caved and then I had to hide it at home to ease my guilt at not doing it on Valentine's Day.

Crazy kids!

Leif is testing new ways to deal with Skadi. As an older sibling myself, I feel for him. Really I do!

Leif: "Skadi, you are really displeasing me tonight."

Leif: "Skadi, I am going to make a new rule and you have to listen to it."

And when those don't work, he pulled out the big guns:

Leif: "Skadi, Santa is watching you."


Leif: "Mom, when you are buying something and you don't have the right money, can you still get it?"

Me: "Well that depends Leif. If something you want is $5 and you only have a $10 bill, then yes, you can get it and the cashier will give you $5 back."

Leif: "No mom, that's not what I mean. If you have some money and you are at a store, like the green bean store, and you want something, and that something costs money and you have money, but not the right money, and you want the green beans, and the green beans cost money and you want them to give you the green beans, what would you do?"

Me: "Buy them?"

Leif: "NO MOM! You are at the green bean store like I told you. What do you do?"

Me: "I don't know Leif, better ask your dad."


Skadi: "I want a waterfall in my room mommy. A waterfall with a beautiful rainbow! Mommy, are you a mermaid? Do you want to be a mermaid? I want to be a mermaid!"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It wasn't supposed to happen!

When my good friend Melissa, loaned me a book, I wasn't going to like it. She had to push it on me. I don't have time for a 500 page book, I whined.

My goal in reading it was to check it off my list, be able to whine about it at book club in May and move on my way.

Because I am not a huge fan of uber-popular fiction.

I like biographies, and historical fiction, survivor stories, and exploration stories.

Not stories targeting teenage girls.

I usually read the "big" books well after the fact and then wander around going - "I don't know what the big deal about that book was..." (Thinking specifically of The DaVinci Code, but log Harry Potter here too - I am on book 2 of reading it to Leif and while it's alright, I don't find it to be all that.)

I don't read horror books or stories of the supernatural. The closest I have come to horror would be the Red Dragon series by Thomas Harris. And I certainly don't read Vampire novels.


Until now.

I am plowing through "Stones Into Schools" (which I find truly inspirational and amazing, I loved Three Cups of Tea) so that I can read "Critical Chain" for work and THEN and only then, can I resume my guilty teenaged girl pleasure and pick up...

New Moon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

When faced with the question...

Back about almost 8 years now, AB and I moved to the area. We left a city where I was a student and we lived in a noisy apartment building. We ditched many of our possessions and headed north. When we got here we couldn’t wait to be homeowners – and quickly bought a house.

We brought with us our queen sized bed that we had purchased about 1996 when we moved to Reno. It is a nice, comfortable bed. When we bought our house we decided we wanted a Select Comfort bed though and looked forward to turning the old bed into a guest bed in our ultra-huge new house. (Tongue in cheek… I remember thinking our house was SO big… compared to our apartment we moved from, it was huge!)

I am always pleased when someone stays at our house and comments how well they slept. I don’t know if anyone would tell us, “you know that bed in your guest room is really uncomfortable”.

We went to the Select Comfort store with our money burning a hole in our pocket. Picked out our bed and then asked a critical question… one that we look back on our younger selves and scream, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

That fateful question…

“What do you think, queen or king?”

We debated for awhile and finally decided that since our old bed was a queen, and we already had queen sized sheets (that weren’t even great sheets mind you), that we would get a queen sized Select Comfort.

If ever you are faced with the same dilemma… where you have the spare few hundred bucks to bump up to a king… and you have the space in your bedroom… and you have no real feelings one way or the other on it…


Ok, I think I am done now.


Back when I started blogging, for some reason, I decided to sign up for free Haloscan commenting. I liked the added features it had over the generic Blogger comments.

In that time Blogger evolved. And as of February 13th, Haloscan died.

It was a gamble from 5.5 years ago that did not pay off.

I was given a choice to export my comments off Haloscan with no way to reupload them unless some user our there came up with a program to do so. Or I can switch "seamlessly" over to Echo commenting with 30 days free followed by paid commenting.

I contemplated this long and hard and initially thought I would dump it all together and switch to Blogger. But the thought of losing all my comments pains me. I have jumped over to Echo for the 30 days free. I am not thrilled with the look so far. And definitely not thrilled at paying, even if it is only $1 a month. If it was beautiful I would pay $12 a year to maintain it.

What to do?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Goals Progress

I have to admit that my February goals haven't seen nearly the activity that my January goals did. I kind of went nuts last month and will not meet the same level of deliverable this month.

You may recall that one of my debates last month was whether or not to tackle the wine or the kitchen. It was buy some wine storage, or buy some pull outs for the kitchen. The pull outs won. But, one of my good friends also read my blog and said, "so I have this wine rack... and we don't really buy wine... and it is covered with flour... take a look!"

They had pulled the 110 bottle wine rack out of their house when they bought it and were using it as a divider in their garage. And amazingly enough it was about exactly what I was looking for to fit the spot we have!

Wa la!

That also means that I didn't really start the kitchen goals until this weekend - halfway through February. It is a lot of just organizational stuff. When we moved in, it seemed that in order to get IN, stuff was just placed randomly. I had intended to place things just right, and some things did. However, other drawers and cabinets suffered.

AB isn't always a huge fan of my goals because he sees them as potentially a lot of work for him. February he wasn't terribly opposed to - "what, you want to organize the kitchen cupboards? GO for it!"

I organized Friday evening while AB was putting the kids to bed, the desk and the cabinets and drawers around the desk in the kitchen. It isn't my favorite part of the kitchen. Not a terrible big fan on the desk in the kitchen concept. I would rather have actual usable counter space because I am a self declared stacker. I won't stack stuff on my usable countertops, but I sure will on a desk.

AB smiled when I showed him the results of him putting the kids to bed and then we watched Big Love.

The next day I moved the baggies/foil/saran wrap drawer. I turned the old one into the baking notions drawer and filled a large drawer with lunch and packaging stuff.

I am not sure I have seen AB so excited in awhile! He raved!

And then he was so thrilled by this he came into the kitchen and helped me finish up the rest of the drawer and cupboard switcheroo.

Organized! Sensical organization! It is mine!

With one exception... what do you put in a base cabinet, corner lazy Susan? It shouldn't bother me that it is nearly empty, but it does. I just don't know what to put there.

My next step was to start working on the pull out spice cabinet. I found some resources on a few websites and some decent prices, until it dawned on me that I should also look at the height... these were made for 23" tall upper cabinets and apparently I have freakishly tall upper cabinets at 40". And a 23" pull out would make for a lot of wasted space.

I have found tall pull outs, but I haven't full commited yet. AB has suggested a trip to Home Depot and see what we can see in person. Probably a good idea.

I have gotten a jump on my March goals. My floss is bought, I am putting it on my floss bobbins and I special ordered the cross stitch fabric I want. I should be set to go by March! Now I just need to find a pretty pillow case to make the pillowcase dress.

I am debating April goals... it may be to start on plans for the outdoor entertainment area... or it may be something like organize my online photos... or figure out what to do with all my books. Who knows!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I love...

I am copying Pioneer Woman… Things I love (outside of my family and friends) in no particular order:

Sunset magazine
Dansko shoes
Red wine
Dark Chocolate
Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks
My camera
My hardbound dissertation
My iPhone
My car blue tooth transmitter
My mom’s chocolate cake (made by her)
Pumpkin Pie
My house
My Toyota 4Runner
Visiting the cabin at Shelton
Beachcombing with my kids
My photo albums
Black and white photos
The Wii
Freya’s chew toys
My daughter’s eyes, define the color, I dare you.
Fall colors
Fresh produce
Farmer’s Market
Staying in a nice hotel
Pike Place Market
The Denver Museum of Natural History
Thermopolis, Wyoming
The computer
Cross stitching
Enabling my husband’s dreams
The smell of the mountains
Pine trees
Indian summers
Red grapefruit
Salmon fishing
Little girl clothes
Finding bargains on cute little girl clothes
Flannel shirts
Rose bushes in bloom
The iris field on Broadway in Boulder
University of Colorado
Baby shoes
Nachos with fake plastic cheese
Our military personnel
The US
Jack and Coke
Star Wars
My husband’s BBQ
My charm bracelet
My engagement ring
My wedding band
Lake Tahoe

All that Valentine's Day Flap

One thing you tend to hear a lot about this time of year is what a racket Valentine’s Day. The camps are split and it seems like nearly an equal divide (completely unscientific assessment) on what I am seeing among friends regarding Valentine’s Day.

The “anti” camp in past years has seemed to be made up mostly of those who unfortunately don’t have a significant other at the time and may sport a little bitterness, which sucks and is understandable. This I buy and I understand.

But lately, ok, the last decade or so it is also made up a lot more of people in relationships. One sentiment that seems to be embraced by this “anti” camp is that it is retail driven and they refuse to celebrate their love because the retail industry tells them to. Is this really the point? I have to admit that this week when I have seen this on Facebook - yes all.over.Facebook - that I roll my eyes.

When I hear this I always wonder if those same people celebrate Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the like. Ok, so Christmas and Easter are religious holidays and aren't really comparable. And I do agree that Christmas is really over commercialized and I see a backlash against this and I applaud the more creative gifting (homemade gifts) and charitable donations as gifts.

But what about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? If anything, these holidays are less rooted in tradition as Valentine’s Day, which was actually established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD.

Mother’s Day is actually only about 100 years old in the United States and was created to honor mothers and family relationships. Mother’s Day is, according to the National Restaurant Association, the most popular day of the year to dine out, also the day with the largest volume of phone calls placed and the busiest single day for florists. Obviously people are celebrating Mother’s Day! Assumably these people who boycott Valentine's Day are celebrating family love on other days.

I am not one of those die-hard Valentine’s Day nuts. I don’t plan a date usually since I hate trying to eat out or go out when there are crowds, or the fight to secure a babysitter. This year AB is getting a book and a box of candy (don’t worry, he never reads my blog). The kids got little boxes of chocolates and each a little something – Starbucks travel cups for their coveted hot cocoas, Leif got a Lego set and Skadi got the second Tinkerbell DVD. Honestly I wouldn’t have gone with the toys, but I had the DVD leftover from Christmas that I didn’t give her then as she had a large excess over Leif. So I decided it was time to dole that out and to make it fair, Leif got two new Star Wars Lego kits.

I don’t need much and AB tends to overdo Valentine’s Day with flowers AND top of the line chocolates. But who am I to complain?

On Valentine’s Day we will recognize the love between my husband and I, the love we share for our children and for our parents and grandparents.

Remember Valentine's Day when you were a kid? I loved decorating my shoe box and reading way more into the Valentine's from the boys in my class gave out. It wasn't my favorite party day at school, but it was fun!

My kids received a Valentine’s Day package from grandma and grandpa yesterday and could hardly wait to get into it. Leif got a card and two games (and then he stomped us at Trouble last night). Skadi got a card and a skirt and leggings set that she wore all evening and then to school today with her kitty cat rain boots.

Leif sat down to finish off his Valentine’s last night and I was happy I had bought a box of them for Skadi too. She wanted to send hers out. Her first plan was to send one entire stack to grandma and grandpa. I reminded her we had sent them cards and artwork earlier in the week, but I would be happy to send more Valentines too! Uncle Andy and baby Annika topped Skadi's must send list - but it quickly changed to her classmates as she listed off all but one classmate (yes, I walked into the classroom this morning and said, "darn it"). ;-)

Sunday we will enjoy a homemade turkey pot pie and then I am attempting chocolate melting cakes. All food made with love, like every other single meal (even frozen pizza night).

No, I don’t need a retail industry to tell me to celebrate the great loves of my life either. Neither does my husband, I feel loved on the other 364 days of the year. But as with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, why not celebrate your love and do something fun (and eat some chocolate)?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have never been a big fan of nuts in general. As a kid I was just about the only one around who couldn’t stand peanut butter. I came around in my early 20’s when I became obsessed with peanut butter banana sandwiches. Two tastes that individually, I didn’t care about, but when put together – “It’s got like this Ba-boom Zap kind of taste!” (Thanks Remy.)

I would still plow through peanut butter and banana sandwiches if it weren’t for the stinking heartburn that pops out of nowhere ONLY when I eat these. Seriously. This is my heartburn trigger of all things.

I like peanuts, though I normally don’t eat them often. Every once in awhile I will succumb to Reese's, but it usually isn't my first go to. I got to know soy nuts (love those on salads) and sunflower seeds (though they strike as more work than they are worth). Pine nuts… mmmm… pine nuts. We went through a bit of a pistachio thing when we would drive through the California Central Valley on our way to Napa or San Francisco from Reno when I was in grad school and could pick them up at farm stands for $2 a pound.

But typically? Nuts? I avoid them.

Macademia white chocolate chip cookies? No thanks.

Brownies with walnuts? Why ruin a good brownie?

Peanut butter sandwiches for my kid? There are allergic kids around, we don’t want to be responsible for something like that.

You get the idea. Not a fan of nuts.

The other day one of the soccer parents supplied snack and to my surprise there was a Capri Sun (mainstay at soccer games like orange sections were when I was a kid… what happened to orange sections and soccer? Is it the whole home prepared food paranoia?) and a package of Trail Mix. Ok, yes, make me feel bad for sending rice krispie treats!

I know my kid well enough to know he was thrilled. Not for the Trail Mix, but there were M&Ms in there! Leif has a nut aversion like I do. Also kind of like me – an antiaversion to chocolate.

He sat in his carseat (in AB’s car, yes he has finally succumbed to the kids eating in his new car) digging through the nuts for M&Ms, while pawning off the raisins on his sister who was none the wiser to the real goal in mind.

I looked back and those nuts looked delicious!

I can’t explain it, but I held out my hand for the bag of Trail Mix, which he readily handed over to me in hopes of ease in obtaining the coveted chocolate. I poured out a handful and picked out the M&Ms and handed them over while maintaining his secret and handing the raisins to Skadi.

Then I devoured the remaining nuts.

I am still not sure what came over me. It wasn’t like I was that hungry. They just looked… delicious. And they were!

At work the other day one of my coworkers saved some German marzipan for me. I had no idea what it was, German confection? Sure thing! Then she told me it had almond paste in it. Hmmm… I wondered for a minute if I shouldn’t just resist her generosity with sharing her chocolates that she loved so much citing a nut aversion…


It did have chocolate on it after all.

My new interest? Marzipan.

At the grocery store I was looking for something to put in my desk drawer for snacks. I was tired of the 100 calorie packs when I stumbled upon the nut section. I stood there for awhile pondering the options… then finally settled on a canister with *gasp* an assortment of nuts including macademia, Brazil and walnuts!

I always wonder what my body is telling me when I crave a food. I do believe that your body tells you what it needs. But I am not really craving nuts… just enjoying them. I have gone through a few taste bud changes in my lifetime (when I lost my taste for shrimp was a milestone one and then gaining it back recently was another). Maybe that is what this is.

Monday, February 08, 2010

But I did find my kitchen!

Along with my new 2010 awakening – that I still cannot explain very well – has come my return to the kitchen.

It was necessary because I was getting terribly sick of hamburgers, tacos, pizza and spaghetti. Ok, so really I wasn’t getting sick of spaghetti… we make our own sauce every fall and it is mmm mmm mmm deliciouso! (Yes, I have been getting a little too much Dora though.) So maybe we could eat spaghetti every night and no one in the house would really balk, but truth be told I am starting to run low on the coveted frozen sauce and so we needed some other options.

In the summers I hardly ever cook. AB barbecues all the time. And while he has prided himself in the past at barbecuing all through the winter, this one has been a little more challenging. Everything is sopping freaking wet. Rain all the time. And it is really hard to barbecue with everything being wet.

AB has finally realized the virtues of my Ikea grill pan that he balked at me buying a few years ago. Truth be told I use it at least once a week and this winter so far, it has been more like 2-3 times a week. Apparently though it’s ok to use now that we have a gas stove because fire is involved. On the electric stove at the other house AB just called it cheating.

Gas stove – fire – grill pan ok.

My days at work lately have calmed to a dull roar enabling me to check a few recipe sites most days for a quick overview of anything delicious. And if it fits the right criteria for a weeknight dinner (under 45 minutes start to finish and reasonably kid friendly) then I print it up and run to the grocery store over lunch if need be. We are not only eating better this year so far, the kids are getting exposed to some different foods AND it is helpful on the budget since we aren’t saying, “let’s just order out” or “pick something up on the way home”.

So far this year we have had great success with:

Panko-Coated Chicken Schnitzel Make sure you put the chicken in a bag or cover it someway before pounding it to prevent flying raw chicken bits. (Weeknight meal)

Braised Chile-Spiced Short Ribs with Black Beans Delicious and holy cow rich. Weekend meal.

Roast Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce So I just made the sauce, I had a whole duck to cook, so I did the duck using the recipe below.

Crisp Roast Duck The duck was amazing, even the kids liked it.

Lettuce Wraps with Ground Turkey filling Weeknight meal that IS going on the rotation.

Pork Chops – from AB’s newest BBQ cookbook. I swore I would never eat pork chops and he took this as a challenge and I have relented. I will only ever eat his pork chops.

Ham – I grew up a huge ham fan, but now give it an “eh”. Then a year or so ago we had ham at a friend’s house and I was renewed. It was delicious. And more over, the kids loved it. So I revisited ham in January as well. Now what to do with leftovers? I am thinking ham and bean soup... very soon.

And last but not least (that I recall right now) is Fusilli with Spicy Chicken Sausage, Tomato and Ricotta Cheese I actually didn’t care for this because the Aidell’s chicken sausauge I bought was too sweet, in my opinion. However, Hans really enjoyed it. If I made it again I would use a traditional sausage.

I ran to the grocery store today to fill in a few missing ingrediants for this week's dinner items:
Turkey Lettuce Wraps from above
Pioneer Woman's Italian Drip Beef
Pioneer Woman's Cajun Pasta
Jambalaya (from the Zatarains mix... hey I have to have it easy one night this week!)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Where did my TV go?

This afternoon I had a few minutes between meetings and took a look at a blog website. They had an interesting looking link about a modern family. So I clicked it. And became aware that this wasn’t about being a modern family, it was about a TV show called “Modern Family”. Looked interesting enough… kind of wish I would have known about it!

Something has happened here… my TV has gone missing.

Not OUR TV… nope that one is sitting in the TV alcove frequently connected to the Wii or playing some Dora episode.

MY TV. It’s gone. I am officially out of the TV loop.

I have one show I am watching right now, Big Love. I was so excited for Big Love to come back and was thankful for Facebook and friends for keeping me up to date on it. And I need to talk with friends about the show more. But one word crosses my brain with respect to Big Love this season… unimpressed.

I am trying to figure out why. Is it that the storyline just isn’t that great? Is it that it has been ages since the prior season aired and I just don’t remember the story so well. (Things I can blame on the producers and writers.) Or is it me? Am I just that far out of the loop with TV as a source of entertainment?

AB is recording Burn Notice and Heroes, neither of which he has had time to watch. Someday maybe.

It truly has not been an intentional transition. And I can see how it has happened.

1. We got Tivo and relied on Tivo to watch our shows at some later, convenient time.

2. We fast forwarded through commercials and watched what we wanted to watch. Or as Skadi would put it, “me wants to watch wha-ever me wants”.

3. Slowly those TV shows we watched have gone by the wayside and we have ceased to replace them with new shows. A lot of this I blame on the fast-forward technology, I don’t even know what else is on, what the new shows are.

4. Another aspect is my kids… they don’t advertise new upcoming shows for mom and dad on Nickelodeon and PBS.

5. And last… the Wii. Our evenings with the kids where we do sit down together is usually split between a rousing game of 100-pin bowling, snowball fighting, the luge, figure skating (that only mommy wins) or Resort sports. Occasionally we will watch a DVD. DVD nights are usually Skadi’s choice, but one that she soon abandons in favor of dollies and her dollhouse. Leaving us with the decision to continue watching The Little Mermaid, or play Wii. Guess what we pick?

AB and I keep contemplating a new TV, one of the flat panel ones as opposed to having a CRT. But as I remind AB, this one works fine, we don’t hardly WATCH TV anymore and he usually throws in there "yeah and a new TV costs money". I am guessing sometime this year we will take the leap, but until then we are way behind the curve here and choosing to remain that way.

I am not one of those high and mighty, “we don’t watch TV” people. I can’t stand people like that. I like watching TV. My kids watch a little TV – Leif used to watch TV, but now his screen time is either computer (Webkinz or Star Wars games) or Wii. Skadi only cares to watch “Dowa” and I am hoping someday this goes by the wayside. Yes, Dora is great, but wow I am tired of her.

AB and I have even gone so far as to consider cutting the cable and going strictly to downloading when our current commitment is up. When I look at how little TV we watch and how much we pay I realize I could download the shows I want off Amazon for 99 cents each and save boatloads. If it weren't for that silly contract I signed last May...

There are a few shows I have heard about recently that I wish I was watching… "Glee". Probably mostly about a world I was not part of in high school, but it is strangely appealing. And this “Modern Family” show looks interesting too. I always like "Mythbusters" and here is also where I can poke my mom a little and mention that maybe I should catch "Ice Road Truckers" someday...

I am sure we will swing up and add a show when the new season of Survivor airs next week. So I can add one more show to my list then. And I can hope for another season of Top Chef sometime soon too.

What are you watching? Anything major I am missing?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ignore, unless you cross stitch.

Ever since posting about cross stitching the bug has set in. I pulled out my Orange Tree pattern and swooned once again. I looked at all 19 pages of the pattern. I silently appreciated how there were 6 pages of thread information. Three pages with codes and stitch information and a separate three pages listing off numbers that I would need. Yes, these are 8.5 x 11 inch pages. Full pages.

Then just by coincidence when we cleaned the garage this past weekend (yes, you read right, we CLEANED the garage this weekend!), I ran across a big Rubbermaid tub that said “Cross Stitch” on it. AB hurried it upstairs and put it up high in the walk in closet in the guest room on the top shelf.

Then on Sunday I hurried upstairs while AB was at a birthday party with Skadi and pulled it down off that high shelf and lugged the thing downstairs again.

When I opened it I fell even deeper head over heels.

This particular box is box two of two. I had one box originally, but then AB’s grandmother did something fantastic about seven years ago. She packed up every little bit of her cross stitching stuff and shipped it to me.

Getting that box was like Christmas all over! She had boxes of threads, cute little scissors, many different sizes of needles and pages upon pages of patterns.

She was an avid cross stitcher. The main difference between she and I is that she worked on 22 and 24 count fabric mostly, while I tended towards the standard 14. What this means in lay terms is how many stitches are in an inch. I do the big old squares where I get 14 stitches in a linear inch, or 196 stitches in a square inch. Donna stepped it up a notch and walloped me with between 484 and 576 stitches in a square inch.

She did beautiful work with incredibly fine detail. I remember standing in her house outside Wasilla, Alaska astounded with the detail of her stitching. Someday I told myself.

While Leif played Wii the other day, and AB and Skadi were at a birthday party I went through her bin and pulled out cloth. I was looking for black for my Orange Tree pattern and found a perfectly square, taped off piece of black 22 count. It would be perfect. Almost like she had cut it and taped it specifically with my pattern in mind.

I sat there and contemplated the concept. Could I make those itty bitty, tiny little stitches?

Then well… I chickened out.

I decided to take my first step towards it by buying 18 count fabric instead of 14 this Saturday at Michaels.

Then I realized if I was going to Michaels to buy fabric, I should also have some idea which thread I am going to need. So last night I sat down with the three clear plastic thread holders and started pulling skeins out that correspond to the numbers on the list. I became a little concerned when I started noticing that some of the skeins had way old price tags on them. Fifteen cents a skein? Not to mention “price tags”… who uses those anymore!

Then it dawned on me that it has been seven years since she sent the bin and probably years before that since she has cross stitched. And concern filled my head. What if the colors have changed? What if number 319 is no longer Very Dark Pistachio Green (and for the record *I* have never seen pistachios that dark)?

I have done my best to push concern out of my head and to think about the positive side of not having to buy all new skeins, and doing a somewhat tribute to AB’s grandmother by using her materials for my next pattern.

Oh and yeah, this was the March goal, wasn’t it? And it is only February. Correct-a-mundo. It’s that bug thing. Bug has dug.

Not to mention that I do have the foreknowledge that it may take me a full month to prepare to start on the Orange Tree given the three pages of DMC numbers that need to be obtained, sorted and unrolled and rerolled onto bobbins. I have a need to approach my cross stitching in a very methodical manner. Everything must be just right so that when I sit down and start, I am ready to go.

Also, for the record? The pillowcase dress has not fallen off my radar either… I am looking for the perfect pillow case!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Let's see if you can figure it out...

Me: "What's your favorite thing for breakfast?"

Leif: "You know, it's round and has fruit inside."

Me: (Perplexed) "Sweedies?"

Leif: "No."

Me: "Blueberry pancakes?"

Leif: "No."

Me: "Muffins?"

Leif: (Increasingly more annoyed.) "NO!"

Me: "Round and has fruit inside, like pie?"

Leif: "NO!"

Me: "Ok, help me out, do I cook it?"

Leif: "Well umm, yeah, you make it."

Me: (Totally perplexed.) "Can you tell me more about it?"

Leif: "It is round, has fruit inside, it has salt on top and seeds inside."

Me: (Totally totally perplexed.) "Round, has fruit inside, salt on top and seeds inside... a bagel?"

Leif: "NO! You know this mom."

Me: "I am sorry honey, I don't. What kind of fruit?"

Leif: "Triangle fruit. The fruit is in triangles."

Me: "Leif I have no idea whatsoever. We eat this thing for breakfast?"

Leif: "Yes, all the time!"

(Thankfully the phone rang about this time... it is AB.)

Me: "What do we eat for breakfast that is round, has triangle shaped fruit inside, salt on top and seeds inside."

AB: "What? Round and triangle fruit for breakfast?"

Me: "Yes, round, triangle fruit, salt on top, seeds inside."

AB: "I have absolutely no idea."


I know what it is now that Leif showed me, but can you figure it out?