Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!


Someone slept a very long time this afternoon and it wasn't me! My cookie decorating skills are a little rusty, but the whole process was theraputic. I'll definitely do it more often...practice makes perfect, right?
I'll also definitely need to share the finished product otherwise I'll never lose this "baby fat"!
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Tricks and Treats: Another Tradition

Two days after we moved into our home the doorbell rang. It was a neighbor, that lived two doors down the street, coming over with her twin boys to introduce themselves. That should have been a sign. Every day for the next week a different neighbor came by at various times of day introducing themselves and bearing baked goods-coconut cake, cookies, you name it; they brought it.
Coincidentally JB ended up in the class with one of the twins, which means every day our doorbell rings, followed by a request for the boys to come over and play. Fast forward to this week. I'm doing the usual afternoon routine: homework, dinner prep., breastfeeding, blah…blah…blah… and the doorbell rings. I go to answer and no one is there. Instead I find:

a box of goodies with a set of instructions. I've been visited by the Halloween Hob Goblin. I'm supposed to copy this sheet, buy three more boxes/bags of treats and surprise other neighbors. Then I have to post a copy of the sheet on my door so "he" doesn't visit again. Okay, I regroup and add yet another thing to my To Do LIst. The next day, what do ya know? I get Boo-ed! Essentially it's the same thing, but the instructions are a little different.

I'm all for traditions and holiday fun, but really? I have about a billion other, more important things to do on my To Do List. My holiday MegaList is three pages long and I'm still working on it. Normally I've already bought Christmas presents, but this year I haven't even started.

If my boys weren't here to witness the new tradition, I would have thrown it all in the trash and plead the fifth. However, I decided to be a good sport. I guess we'll be ringing a few doorbells tonight. Gotta love neighborly neighbors and the suburbs!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I have rediscovered my LOVE for potatoes! There are so many different ways to prepare this super tuber!

I love to quarter red potatoes, add a few cloves of crushed garlic, fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, a few glugs of olive oil and roast them on a baking sheet or cast iron skillet.

Hash browns (skillet potatoes) are a family breakfast favorite. Diced potatoes and onions (heavily seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika), browned, then covered and steamed over low heat until fork tender.

Extra large baking potatoes, baked in the oven on 400 degrees for an 1 1/2 hours.

….with cheese, thinly sliced oven fries (again with rosemary and olive oil), oven fried wedges (with skin), twice baked, potato skins…..

I've gotten carried away!

My favorite way to make potatoes these days is mashed. Maybe the cooler weather makes them irresistible, I don't know. I even prepare them differently depending on the entree. Chicken fried steak needs a hearty smashed version to hold up to the cream gravy. Sausage and grapes needs a thinner recipe because the entree is light and thinned potates go perfectly with the grape and wine reduction.

My favorite recipe:
Cube 4-5 potatoes and boil until fork tender. Drain off all water. Transfer to a heat safe bowl. Salt heavily. Add 3-4 tablespoons of butter (not margarine) and 1/4-1/2 cup of milk. Whip with a handheld mixer, adding more milk to get the desired consistency. Top with another pat of butter and garnish with parsley.


The L Word

The laundry is overtaking me! I'm sure there's a comic strip or cartoon out there that shows a pile of laundry with arms. Well that's how I feel these days. How can little people make such big piles of laundry? For starters…MC has a very bad habit of changing clothes 3-4 times a day, for no reason other than comfort or a "change of heart". Socks…I don't even bother matching them up anymore. We just have a sock basket.
Not only are the piles mounting despite my attempts to stay on top of them, I never manage to have clean clothes. How annoying to wash 10 loads of laundry and not have a single pair of clean yoga pants! (Never mind the fact that I have no intention of actually doing yoga.) Having a new baby just adds to the load. All the burp cloths, washcloths, receiving blankets…yikes!
I was excited to get a high efficiency washer and dryer last year. If only they came with a laundry fairy. Since they didn't I'd better get started on THE LAUNDRY. This afternoon we'll have what I call a BYOB party. That second 'B' stands for basket and I'm sure to get lots of boos!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Latest on Coco


Is this not the cutest puppy face you've ever seen? Coco is now a year old and Full of herself. She's still trying to figure out the little screaming person in our home, taking all of my attention. When I use my high pitched baby voice to talk to Baby A, Coco comes running. She even snaps and tosses her head side to side as if to will me to pet her.

Well today, all cuteness went by the wayside when Coco, being an opportunistic terrier, noticed the gate was left open and bolted through the neighborhood. The boys were out with her, but had stepped inside to get something. When they returned to call her in she didn't respond. When she didn't return for the sound of the snack bag rattling, I knew she was gone. I immediately went to the front sidewalk to call and shake the treat bag. I didn't see her, but I noticed two teenagers a few houses down. They were looking between two houses and patting their legs as if calling a pet. Just as I headed in that direction Coco bolted out like a bull out of the bucking chute. The more I called and followed, the more she ran. She was in a wild and crazed state darting from yard to yard, stopping just shy of the street. Finally the teens caught her by the collar, she was eager to "play" with them instead of responding to me. They held on to her until I got down there. When I got down the street Coco immediately dropped down, rolled on her back and cocked up her hind leg in a plea to avoid getting punished. I just scooped her up and handed her to my hubby, who met me down the street. Coco and her shenanigans…

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Tradition

As far as I'm concerned fall is synonymous with pumpkins. We use and see so many pumpkins between October and Thanksgiving, I should wake up on Black Friday with a hangover. I decorate with them, paint them, cook with them, take pictures with them...the list goes on and on.

The first time I carved a pumpkin was for my preschool class. In the olden days, I sketched out the design and using a few kitchen knives and spoons I carved while bright-eyed 3 and 4 year olds watched in amazement. I've continued the tradition with my own kids. Every year at the end of October, we always carve pumpkins to display for Halloween. Last year I discovered carving kits complete with templates and a set of tools easy enough for small hands to use. The boys had so much fun choosing their own designs and carving their jack-o-lanterns I decided to use the kits again. We've had a very eventful past few months, so needless to say I wasn't exactly eager to carve pumpkins, but sucked it up for the sake of tradition.

First things first, I sent my hubby to buy the pumpkins. Side note: His only instructions were to pick two that were not blemished or rotting-extremely vague instructions for someone who doesn't carve pumpkins. For days, I'd walk past them and think about it, but I KNEW I'd have to get my mind right first. I finally took the plunge Thursday night, knowing I'd need extra hands to attend to baby girl while I was knee deep in pulp and pumpkin seeds. The boys finished all most of their homework and I set up our supplies while they were in the tub.

I opted to cut a hole from the bottom to make it easier to put the candle in later. Despite their eagerness to finish, they were (as usual) totally grossed out by the first step: pulp and seed removal. After a shoddy job of cleaning the insides, I got them started by tracing the templates and cutting the curviest areas.
JB chose a "Skelvis" design, which was a skeleton with Elvis' features. As we worked we talked about Elvis. He asked a few questions. I answered what I knew. Then he asked if I'd ever been to an Elvis concert. He asked about his death and based on his response, 'A lot of famous people had a heart attack. That's what they said about Michael Jackson. He had a heart attack.', wasn't satisfied with my "heart attack" explanation. I considered using that as a teachable moment to reiterate the danger of drugs, but I glanced at the clock and saw it was 30 minutes past bedtime and decided that could wait for another time.

I corrected a few "uh ohs" with toothpicks and my paring knife. Just as I was declaring what a BAD idea it was to start such a project on a school night, we finished. I rolled everything (tools included) up into the makeshift tarp of trash bags and cleaned up while shooing the boys off to bed. As they were climbing into their beds, they criticized their "horrible jobs" until I turned out the lights and placed a candle inside each jack-o-lantern. Just like a page from the movies, they smiled with pride and gave me a big hug before going to sleep. Those moments remind me why I carry on many of our traditions even when I don't really feel like it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Third Time's A Charm

Today my baby boy is taking his first field trip without me or his dad tagging along. He was super excited which is more that I can say for myself. Since I found out my hubby wasn't "selected" to be a chaperone, I've imagined all of the things that could go wrong while he's gone. I was convinced that he should just miss the class trip and we'd plan to go as a family (something we've done a few other times). Then it dawned on me, my feelings about the field trip were just like MC's feelings about sleeping alone in his new room. Every night for weeks he was terrified to sleep alone. We put a makeshift lock on his closet, because he was afraid a bad guy would come out while he was sleeping. We put night lights in all of his outlets. We even had his brother sleep in the adjoining bunk until he was asleep, before returning to his own room. Finally, I had enough. I insisted that he go cold turkey. He was still very apprehensive, but eventually he was okay. Today I'm going cold turkey. As I type, he's boarding the big yellow bus and headed off for an adventure. I can't wait to hear all about it.

Just as I anticipated, Baby A has changed my perspective. As a new mom, I quickly changed JB's clothes when he spit up. I walked him when he was cranky, rocked him to sleep. I carried a fully stocked duffle diaper bag every time we left the house. This time around, we wipe away spit up and definitely don't change clothes each time. Crankiness is entertained by the swing, as long as she's fed and clean. She's even learned to go to sleep without help. My revelations may seem like "no brainers", but it took me three times to lower my expectations and standards. I still get frustrated and overwhelmed at times, but when I look at my big boys I recognize the phases and stages that we've already been through. I survived that; surely I'll have the same grace for what's to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dinner Time Saver

While 7 months pregnant and preparing to move, I came up with the great idea to make freezer meals. I'd heard of the concept before, but never actually did it. The plan was to make just enough to be helpful when Baby A came and I was up to my neck in getting the new house set up, adjusting to the big boys' school routine and sports schedules. As if that weren't challenging enough, my recipe choices were limited. Obviously it had to be something that would freeze well, which means no potatoes or (cooked) ground beef dishes. I was also limited by crew's food preferences. After much consideration, I chose my recipes: lasagna, bar-b-qued beef brisket, chicken spaghetti, beef stew and chicken enchiladas. I opted to make a double batch of each. I bought my ingredients, freezer safe containers with lids and got started.

With all meals except the stew, I prepared the meals and froze them instead of baking them in the oven. A little planning was required because thawing each one out required 24 hours in the fridge plus time for the entree to bake. However, in crunch time that sure beat having to cook a meal from scratch. I added easy side dishes like seasoned rice, beans, salad and garlic bread and... dinner was served! We're down to our last two meals and I must say, I'm hooked. I was surprised that my guys enjoyed them considering they don't like leftovers. I will definitely be making more.

But, for tonight….beef stew it is!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Latest Craft

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While out shopping a few weeks ago, I found the cutest little, girly Halloween outfits. Tiny little tutus with striped leggings and embroidered shirts almost came home with me until…I saw the price tag. $30! Seriously? Not!

I politely went to the fabric store, spent about $7 and a couple of hours to create not one, but two orange and black tutus. I decided to share one with a friend. Baby A will look so cute in her first fall picture. I even found some cute black and white leggings to pair it with.

Because this was the first one, I chose a simple no-sew technique. I'll definitely make more. Next time I'll try sewing one and experimenting with embellishments.

Fall Favorites

Nothing says fall like football and pumpkin. For the first game(s) of the season, I usually make football treats in honor of our their favorite teams: sugar cookies, cupcakes, cookie cakes…the list goes on. This time I decided to make rice krispie treats shaped like footballs. Once our table was decked out with wings, chips, dip, party mix and sweet treats…I went shopping.

My all time favorite fall drink is a pumpkin spice latte. Most mornings I barely drag out of bed by 8. Nighttime feedings are brutal! I certainly don't feel like schlepping out to buy a latte. Enter my Krups espresso maker with frothing attachment…voila…instant pumpkin-y goodness! This is by far my favorite time of year!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Happenings

What a great weekend! Yesterday I celebrated my sweet baby girl. It was an intimate gathering, but very nice. We ate crustless finger sandwiches, fruit and cheese, deviled eggs, cake and drank sweet tea. Baby A got lots of nice presents, both practical and personal. We played one "shower game" that turned out to be harder, but funnier than I thought. Each guest was asked to write a personal letter to be compiled into a book for Baby A to open on her sixteenth birthday. Those messages really touched my heart! We had a great time socializing, eating and admiring Baby girl. Thankfully, she was a very pleasant honoree.

This was the first family gathering since we moved into our new home, so it was like a pre-holiday party as well. It's so nice to finally have the space to entertain and accommodations for overnight guests. Another (less sentimental) highlight of the weekend was garage sale shopping Saturday morning.
I'm in a mad dash to create a "man cave" upstairs for the fellas before Thanksgiving. Eventually we're going to turn it into a media/game room, but I'm getting a head start. I'm trying to be very deliberate in choosing decor, so that it all fits in when we do the construction side of the conversion.
Back to the garage sale... I scored two director's stools (Retail $80 each) for a total of $25! They even came with an extra set of seat covers.

Earlier this week I was able to find two film reels on sale in a local store for
$37. Originally I planned to order a pricey set from an online store. Instead I got an 80% discount!! Nothing makes me feel more like a hero than a great discount! Next on the list: a popcorn stand, mini-fridge, TV and a few over sized game pieces.

So with the weekend coming to an end and one family member still visiting, we're planning to relax for the evening. We'll attempt to carve pumpkins and maybe rent a movie before prepping for the upcoming week. My next goal: weekly re-caps. I have got to do a better job of blogging (and crafting) more frequently.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Time Waits for No (Wo)Man

As if I needed any excuses to get farther behind on my blogging……my computer is (once again) wigging out! No need to call Geek Squad, the hubster is a tech. genius in his own right and just as soon as college football goes off I'm sure it will move up his priority list. I've been diligently taking pictures and planning the dialogue in my head (that's how I work), so that when I finally get a few minutes I can upload them and type. So, here we are. It's Saturday; everyone's home and our schedule is relaxed, but …..oh well.

Here's what we've been up to:
We finished the first six weeks of school! Hooray….the boys' grades didn't disappoint! (We worked hard enough!)
We welcomed fall with apples and homemade caramel.
We were given a FREE piano. We were responsible for paying to have it moved and tuned…that's all!
Baby A is growing and thriving. I've already made several hair bows and am...ahem… training her to tolerate wearing them.

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