Monday, October 12, 2009

Chocolate Banana Bread

This is a loaf of banana bread I made yesterday. It's brown because it's chocolate banana bread. OK - the real name of the recipe is Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread but don't let the whole wheat part put you off (it almost made me not want to make it).

The great thing about this recipe is that the addition of cocoa masks the sometimes overwhelming flavor of the whole wheat flour. I love whole wheat in bread but not always so keen about it in my baked goods. With this recipe you get the best of both worlds; you feel like you are eating a treat (which you most definitely are) as well as getting a little bit of some healthy whole grains. I also liked the fact that there isn't much oil - only 1 T and the sugar, at 3/4 of a cup, wasn't terrible either.

I modified the recipe as follows: used Rice milk instead of skim milk for my milk allergic son, used 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat (I was a little nervous to go all the way and use 100% wheat flour) but next time I will try and increase the ratio of wheat to white flour. And I only used 3/4 t of nutmeg instead of a full teaspoon. Nutmeg can be such a strong spice; even at the reduced amount it still came through loud and clear.

Hubby proclaimed this banana bread "perfect" in its current state and told me not to change anything. I can't get any better compliment than that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons

....step on 'em!

My Dad loves to send me those internet emails that go 'round the world. He has become a lot more selective, especially since I taught him to use This was one he sent me this week. I liked the message - kind of the farm animal version of "Who Moved My Cheese".

"A donkey fell in a deep well. The villagers, not knowing if he had survived in good condition, decided to just bury him in the well.

At first the donkey was very upset and angry. "How could they do this to me? I worked hard for them and I never complained about the heavy loads. I was loyal and did a great job." he thought to himself.

As the shovels of dirt continued to fall on his head he realized that complaining and being angry was doing no good and certainly wasn't going to help him get out of the well. He finally decided that with each shovel of dirt that fell on his head he would shake it off and step up.

He continued to shake off the dirt and step up. By the time the villagers had thrown in their last shovel of dirt the donkey was able to step up and out of the well by himself."

Setting aside all my questions (how did a donkey fall in a well? If it was a dry well why wasn't it capped? If it wasn't a dry well why would the villagers risk their water supply by contaminating it with a dead donkey?) I liked the message: if you aren't happy with something that is going on in your life change it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blow... Didn't

Tonight I finally got around to watching the 2001 movie "Blow". I don't know why it never appealed to me 8 years ago, but it was on regular old TV tonight and I was looking for some background that I could knit to so I decided to watch. I'm glad I did.

I thought it was quite good. Based on a true story - I always like those types of movies - it was intriguing to see the life of George Jung go from rags to riches to rags again. It was poignant and somehow I ended up feeling sad for him, but especially his daughter. I tend to try and avoid any sad movies nowadays so this one snuck up on me. Again, I'm glad it did.

Johnny Depp, as usual did a great job. Lots of other big names too - Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Rachel Griffiths, Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman - I thought he looked familiar) to name a few. It's definitely worth renting

Sunday, September 27, 2009

and Salsa-ing

Looky who thinks she is Ms. Canner now? I canned 5 pints of salsa today - mostly because Hubby was feeling sad that I hadn't made anything he was interested in, plus we had a bunch of garden tomatoes to use up so, salsa it was.
He deemed it delicious and even though I had to supplement our fresh tomatoes with canned I did use the no-salt added variety so this salsa is just about sodium free and a perfect snack for him with his new low-sodium eating plan. My only disappointment was it seems a bit too liquidy but that's easy enough to resolve by just draining it a bit.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cannin' and Jammin'

I can now check off another item from my list of "Things to do Before I Die" because today I canned.

I have been wanting to try to can for years. Thanks to my friends in the Motherhood Later group on Ravelry I have finally done it. We set a date and a total of four of us were in our respective kitchens today all doing the same thing; one in NY, one in Canada, one in KY and me in IL. Cool, huh?

I decided on Watermelon Rind Pickles - never heard of them? Well, the recipe was in my copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving so it must be a legit recipe. My Grandma also used to make them so I thought it would be neat for this recipe to be the one I use for my first try at canning. OK - I'll confess, it was also because if I messed up the entire job I wouldn't have to think about throwing away a bunch of expensive produce - we'd have just tossed the rinds in the composter anyways.

First, my girl and I got the watermelon ready. It was an average sized seedless watermelon. We were looking for 16 cups of rinds and I assumed one watermelon would do it.

She washed and dried it and I cut into it.

NOTE: There should be a picture here but *%5E@%5E$* Blogger is making me insane so you'll have to use you imagination. Sorry.

It looked great - perfectly ripe and delicious inside. But man, it had skimpy rinds - I couldn't believe how thin they were. How was I supposed to get 16 cups of rinds from this melon? I remember as a kid having big chunky rinds after eating watermelon. I think those were the old-fashioned seeded watermelons. Those big, oblong-shaped suckers.

So my girl scooped out the melon and I peeled the rinds, cut them up and put them in salted water for their overnight soak.

This morning we rinsed 'em, drained 'em and boiled them in a syrup of vinegar, sugar and cinnamon sticks.

Since I only had 8 cups of rinds I made a half recipe - three pint jars.

NOTE: Imagine picture here - again thanks to the idiocy that is Blogger

The jars looked so small and lonely in my new, giant 21-quart canner. But it worked, the lids seemed to have sealed properly and maybe I'll open one up for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not So Smart Spending

After reading this article about posh dorms in the Chicago Tribune today I felt disturbed for a variety of reasons; however, the most annoying was this quote:

"You are going to be in debt anyways, might as well enjoy," said sophomore Ashley Hendzell of Tinley Park.

What?? Has she not noticed the financial crisis that so many people are currently facing? If she could talk to 10 of those families do you think they'd say "sure, go ahead! You'll be in debt after college anyways so why not throw a couple $5,000, $10,000 or more on those loans!" I'm sure more than one of them would grimly look at her and say "yeah, that's what I thought and look where I am now". I guess the mention of her 30 pairs of shoes kind of indicates she isn't the most fiscally minded student anyways.

I had a friend that went to a private school for both undergrad and graduate school. During those years she justified taking a nice vacation (Aruba and Hawaii are two that come to mind) by saying she "deserved" them; she was under a lot of stress, you know. And the money was, somehow, readily available via her student loans. Post graduation, after she married and tried to get a mortage her $120K in student loan debt made her enough of a liability that they left her off the mortgage altogether.

If you can pay for these posh dorms outright, than more power to you. If you need to roll the extra cost into your student loans then just say "NO". Isn't living in a cramped dorm room using milk crates as end tables kind of a college right of passage anyways?

Yes Man, Yes Ma'am!

I took a sick day today - I'm tired, achy and feeling blah. After sleeping in I hauled myself into the shower and then out to get an iced coffee. I also decided to swing by the library and see what DVDs they had available.

"Yes Man" with Jim Carey was on their "new release" shelf so I grabbed it. Jim Carey movies are almost always entertaining if only in a silly, frothy kind of way and that's what I needed - some silly humor to distract me and maybe, if I was lucky, make me laugh.

It worked! This is a cute movie and if you really think about it, it's a good message too. If it made me laugh out loud (more than once), than that's saying something. Give it a try.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

I just tried a new recipe from - Mom's Chicken Cacciatore. It's a great one-dish meal and easily made for less than $10, especially if you shop the weekly sales. Total cost $9

2 c all-purpose flour for dredging
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
4 lbs of chicken pieces - I used thighs and drumsticks which are cheaper than breasts $4
2 T vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped $1
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes $1
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 c white wine - I used chicken broth
2 c fresh mushrooms, quartered $2
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a deep glass dish. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour until coated. Heat the oil in a large skillet (one that has a cover/lid). Fry the chicken pieces until they are browned on both sides. Remove from skillet.

Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the skillet and saute until the onion is slightly browned. Return the chicken to the skillet and add the tomatoes, oregano and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes over medium low heat.

Add the mushrooms and salt/pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

Serve over your choice of hot pasta. I used gemelli ($1/box) - a new family favorite in my house.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"You don't fight ignorance with a sword or a gun. You turn on a light."

- Caspian Makan after his girlfriend Neda Agha-Soltan was shot and killed during the Iran protests

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Help Racing Greyhounds

No secret that helping racing greyhounds is one of my passions. These sweet, gentle, beautiful animals deserve so much better. I hope you see fit to click here and show your support by electronically signing the petition that the Animal Rescue Site is hosting.

If you'd like to help support animal shelters in general - The Animal Rescue Site also donates food to animals shelters for every "click" they receive - .6 of a bowl of food per click. You can click every day to help - make it a part of your morning routine - get coffee, turn on the computer, click to donate food and then go about your day. It feels good to start it off doing something to help animals. You can even sign up for a daily e-mail reminder to click; can't get much more convenient than that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


"You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out."

- Warren Buffet

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and Doubt

In the last month or so I have rented these two movies (I love Redbox - can't beat the convenience and price at $1/night).

"Slumdog Millionaire" - I had been avoiding seeing this movie for a while and I'm not sure why. Maybe because I'm half Indian and knowing this movie took place in India and was about children that lived in slums made me uncomfortable. Or maybe it was because in some of the trailers I saw what appeared to be a Bollywood-esque dance scene and I thought, nahhhh, I'm not interested. But after seeing the Oscars and all the awards the movie won and hearing the music and reading a little bit more about the background of the movie I gave it a try and I'm glad I did. It was clever, sad, eye-opening and finally joyful. It is also funny to me how mainstream India and Indian people have become - I remember 30 years ago, as a child feeling so much the odd-ball, with the odd name, relatives that wore traditional Indian clothing, ate traditional India foods and being embarassed for being different. It felt like a burden having a mixed ethnicity when my classmates were Irish, Italian, German - not another "mixed" child or Indian child in my class. It was a big deal when Vietnamese refugees started coming to my school.

Now I'll bet if you asked 5 people what a samosa is 3 of them would know and also tell you how much they love naan as well. Who doesn't know what chai is? I have a friend that tells me how much she loves Bollywood movies and a neighbor that goes to Devon St. in Chicago and brings back Indian desserts for me and also listens to Indian music - she's a 50 yr old Jewish woman of Eastern European descent but sometimes I feel like she is more Indian than I am!

"Doubt" - a rather dark, heavy movie. Not what I expected and it left me with, well, much Doubt after I saw it. Doubt as to whether or not he did anything wrong and Doubt about whether I thought this was a worthwhile movie or not.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Belated Happy Mother's Day

I don't usually care for the mushy Mother's Day stuff, but this one got me. It got me and it will stick with me. I hope you enjoy it too.

For All My Favorite Moms by Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.

I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.

To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did" Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life.

When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Greyhound Mother

A few weeks ago I received the email below from a friend who knows about my love of greyhounds. Within two hours I had four more friends send it to me - two of them were fellow greyhound lovers. Funny how things can zip all over the country once they hit the internet.

I did check out this story via and I was thrilled (and relieved ) to find that it is 100% true - the text and the photos (nothing was photo-shopped). Check out the Snopes link for the story with pictures (you must see the pictures!) or I have cut and pasted the text below.

Here is the story that just about had me bawling; however, if you have ever known a greyhound you know this sounds just like something one of these wonderful, sweet dogs would do.

"In 2003, police in Warwickshire, England, opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. It had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had clearly been abused.

In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a greyhound female, to the nearby Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary known as a willing haven for animals abandoned, orphaned or otherwise in need.

Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims: to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust. It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved.

They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home.

The dog had other ideas. No-one remembers now how it began, but Jasmine started welcoming all animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It wouldn't matter if it was a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, probably, a rhinoceros, Jasmine would peer into the box or cage and, where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Geoff relates one of the early incidents. "We had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line. One was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross. They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee. Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them."

"But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings."

She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose.

"Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born. The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and 15 rabbits.

And one roe deer fawn. Tiny Bramble, 11 weeks old, was found semi-conscious in a field. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, Jasmine cuddled up to her to keep her warm, and then went into the full foster mum role. Jasmine the greyhound showers Bramble the roe deer with affection and makes sure nothing is matted in her fur.

"They are inseparable, " says Geoff. "Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other. They walk together round the sanctuary. It's a real treat to see them."

Jasmine will continue to care for Bramble until she is old enough to be returned to woodland life. When that happens, Jasmine will not be lonely. She will be too busy showering love and affection on the next orphan or victim of abuse."

Open Containers & Take Your Child To Work

Judging by the number of children on the train this morning, and walking around the Loop with their parents I'm assuming it was "Take Your Child to Work" day. I think this is a great idea, but why don't they do it during the summer when the kids are off anyways? I'd like to expose my kids to what I do for work, taking the train into Chicago, etc but I don't think it should supercede them being in school. I was happy to see that my employer decided to schedule their own "Take Your Child to Work" day and it will be in June.

On my way walking to the train this evening I saw a tall blonde woman that I often see on my walk to the train. Today I glanced over to her and noticed she was taking a drink from a small bottle of white wine! It was one of those screw top, single serving bottles. She was taking swigs and walking as if this was a normal thing to do; but it struck me as odd. I guess the fact that it was a bottle of wine kind of threw me - if she was drinking a Sprite I don't think I would have even noticed. As I was walking and pondering this I started to wonder "isn't that considered an open container?" and "can you walk through the streets of Chicago guzzling your white wine even if it is a single serving bottle?" Maybe she had a lot of people at her office that brought their children to work today and she really needed that post work drink.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Depression Era Tips - They Still Work

I read this by Lou Carlozo in today's Chicago Tribune and thought it was interesting and reassuring.

Thankfully, most of these ideas have already been instilled in me by my parents although neither of them really were aware of the Great Depression as children - one wasn't born yet, the other just a toddler living overseas by the time the GD "ended". Something about seeing these tips in writing and written by someone else made me feel good - I guess reminding me that others out there think the same way and this way of thinking is good (although of course I already knew that :-) but it's always helpful to have a refresher.

10. Shop only for necessities. Ask yourself, “Is this something I want or need?” This comes in handy often - especially since I'm a sucker for a sale! I'll remind myself that no matter how cheap it is it still costs money - do I really need it? Usually the answer is "no".

9. Throw away your catalogs. Do this as soon as one comes in the mail. Purchase only necessities. Yes - don't even open them up because you will find something you want (but probably not need). Go one step better and save a tree by calling the company's customer service department and remove yourself from their mailing list. When I'm on a really tight budget I won't even look in the Sunday paper sale ads unless I need a specific item.

8. Avoid eating out at restaurants. Make family meals at home; establish a limit such as one restaurant meal a month. If it's too hard to only eat out once a month give yourself a budget and put that money (cash) in an envelope. When it's gone, you are done eating out for the month.

7. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Pay cash for as much as you can and avoid the use of credit cards. Pay down credit balances to avoid paying high interest fees. This one seems like a no-brainer: if you don't have the cash to pay for something, then don't buy it. I like to use credit cards when they benefit ME - one with no annual fee and gives me points for some sort of benefit that I find valuable. No more airline miles for me - too many black out dates, etc so I use a Starbucks Duetto Visa which gives me points for free Starbucks every month. It's a small benefit, but I run all my purchases through the card (pay it off in full each month) and enjoy the no annual fee and free coffee (plus quarterly coffee bonuses too!)

6. Don’t ever pay full price. With retail stores offering sales like never before, wait until a coveted item goes on sale—or ask a manager if the item’s price can be reduced. Oh yes. If it is not on sale, I'm not buying it. Even my 4-year old knows this, especially with groceries. When an item I use regularly goes on sale I buy a few of them so I don't run out when they are NOT on sale. It takes some forethought and planning but it's a great way to stay within your grocery budget.

5. Plant more gardens. A fun family project, planting a garden can save you lots of money on food in the long run. We enjoy having a garden - both vegetables and fruit. We don't plant enough to sustain all of our needs but when you can pick two pints of raspberries in one day it feels great, especially knowing those would cost about $8 in the grocery store (especially for organic fruit!)

4. Conserve on gas and become more energy conscious. Avoid long drives, and at home turn off lights and space heaters/air conditioners whenever possible. We use our programmable thermostat religiously which takes out the need to remember to turn the thermostat up or down at night or when we are leaving for work. I also try and plan my errands so that I can either walk to do them on the weekends or drive in one big loop so there is no back-tracking or return trips needed. I look at it as kind of a game.

3. Be thankful for what you have. What truly matters isn’t accumulation of items, but relationships. Don’t spend on trinkets for fulfillment; invest in your friendships and relationships instead. I try to remind myself of this regularly, especially when I get jealous of a neighbor's new car, big house or fancy clothing. It's not easy to do all the time, but it puts things in perspective to remind myself of how lucky I am.

2. Pay yourself first. Put aside a defined amount from every paycheck into savings and investments. This one is another tough one to do, but if you wait until after you have paid all the bills to save something for retirement or to put in an emergency fund you will never do it. Take advantage of direct debiting to have money put into a 401K, IRA or savings account before you even see the money. My employer offers direct deposit (love it!) and also the option of me scheduling my paycheck to be diverted into accounts that I specify in advance. This allows me to not only put money in my 401K but my personal savings account too.

1. Look for ways to help others. The best way to overcome low feelings in this recession is to help those in even greater need. Acts of selfless giving and kindness cultivate riches no recession can steal away. Amen!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem part 2

You have got to be kidding me. Although that doesn't sound like the right thing to say about this given that someone took their own life, but I cannot believe another person has jumped from a building in Chicago. Right on the path I use to walk to work, no less.

From today's Chicago Tribune:

"The person who died in a fall from the Civic Opera House this morning was a 19-year-old woman, police said this afternoon. An earlier report incorrectly identified the victim as a man.
The woman's identify has not yet been made public, nor the circumstances of the fall. Police continue to investigate but said they were treating the death as a possible suicide.
Emergency crews responded to a call about 8:49 a.m. of someone falling from the 40th floor of 20 N. Wacker Dr., said News Affairs Officer Laura Kubiak. The building is the home to the Lyric Opera."

I walk by this building EVERY morning and EVERY evening on Wacker Dr. If I miss my usual train, I am walking this route at the time this woman apparently jumped. I can't even phathom what I would have done had this happened in front of me, or within eyesight of me, not to mention, did she fall on someone? There are a lot of commuters out at that hour - the Lyric Opera building is right across from Union Station.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

This happened two blocks from my office this morning.

As I'm reading some of the posts at the end of the article I can't believe that someone actually witnessed this person falling. I can't begin to imagine how horrifying that was.

I also wondered about the need to post the picture of the car; showing the results of an impact between a body falling from X number of stories on to a steel and glass. It felt a bit gratuitious which is why I decided not to post the picture here. Thank God there is no obvious blood.

Unfortunately, in my line of work I do see this happen; in fact I have had a record number of people falling/jumping from high-rise buildings in the last 18 months - it's been over 5 whereas prior to that I could count on one hand how many I had in 18 years. With the economic times as they are sadly this spike over the last 1 1/2 years doesn't seem like a coincidence.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chicago Olympics 2016

Olympics in Chicago 2016. Could it really happen? It seems surreal to think that an Olympics could be held that close to my hometown and that I would be able to be part of them. My children would be old enough to remember the excitement and while the commute to work would probably be an absolute nightmare, I think overall it would be a really wonderful thing to happen to the City.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is sending around an electronic petition - if you see fit please sign your name to it (I already have!) and maybe, just maybe Chicago can pull this off.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Do It Yourself Pizza

We love homemade pizza in my house - we have a long used pizza crust recipe that I make in the bread machine. A few months ago I came across a bread machine version of a "Boboli" crust - this intrigued me because we enjoy the store-bought Bobolis but they get kind of pricey. The picture above is our first attempt at the "Boboli" recipe below - we shaped it like a heart in honor of Valentine's Day. I also like to use a blend of cheeses - in this case mozzarella with a bit of cheddar.

All of the dough ingredients are already in most pantries; add a green salad and I consider this one of my least expensive "Meals for $10 or Less". For you non-bread machine cooks I am also posting a recipe for a Boboli style crust I found that is made by hand; I haven't tried that one yet but rest assured it did have positive reviews on

Both crusts freeze well once par-baked, so this is a convenient and inexpensive item to make ahead of time and keep on hand in the freezer for fast homemade pizza!

Bread Machine Boboli-style Crust - dough made in the bread machine, ingredients below but click on the link for the complete cooking directions. In order to make a pizza you will also need pizza sauce, cheese and toppings.

1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning (I used 1/4 t basil, 1/4 t oregano)
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese, to sprinkle

Pizza sauce - 80 cents
8 oz mozzarella - $2.50

Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes

Boboli-style crust made by hand - an option for those without a bread machine.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Free Tahki Cotton Classic Yarn!

I admired the “Blooming Cotton Scarf” when perusing my latest copy of Interweave Knits and now L@@K - Knitting Daily is running a contest in which the prize is the yarn to make this lovely scarf! It’s easy - just chose the colorway you like and list your name/address. Deadine to enter is March 27. Good Luck!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Interview with a 4-year-old

My friend Jennifer did this with her almost-4-year-old and I thought it was a great idea - interview your child! I'm going to do this every year; I think it will be interesting to see how the answers change. Keep in mind I'm taking dictation and keeping myself from correcting my daughter's grammar, as much as that pains me not to! Her favorite color is blue, so I'm putting her answers in blue too.

1. What is something mommy always says to you? That I go upstairs

2. What makes mom happy? Being not so naughty

3. What makes mommy sad? When we don't be helpful

4. How does mommy make you laugh? Tickle

5. What was your mommy like as a child? Knock knock

6. How old is mommy? 10

7. How tall is mommy? 50-42

8. What is mommy's favorite thing to watch on TV? Top Chef - only on Bravo (I kid you not, that's an exact quote)

9. What does mommy do when you're not around? She says "India" (said in a sing-song voice)

10. What is mommy really good at? Putting me to bed

11. What is mommy not very good at? Putting me on the pillow

12. What does mommy do for her job? Go to the park

13. What is mommy's favorite food? Carrots and grapefruit

14. What makes you proud of mommy? (no answer)

15. If mommy were a cartoon, who would she be? A princess

16. What do you and mommy do together? We go to Starbucks when Daddy's not here

17. How are you and mommy the same? We both match dresses

18. How are you and mommy different? When we have different clothes

19. How do you know mommy loves you? All we do is just hug and we hug

20. What does mommy like most about daddy? Marrying him

21. Where is mommy's favorite place to go? The place they make guacamole

It was so interesting to see how she responded to the questions; how she, in her 4-year-old way, interpreted what I was asking - like 2, 12, 17 and 18. By the way, I don't work at a park but the train station is near the park and she is with me every morning when I am dropped off at the train - that's the only connection I could make! 8 and 16 made me bust out laughing - I can't believe she knew Top Chef was only on Bravo or that she even knew what Bravo was! And some made my heart melt, like 19 and 20. In case you are wondering about 21 - there is a Mexican restaurant in town that makes fantastic guacamole and they do it tableside, so you can watch. She has only been there once but I guess it made an impression!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Found Objects

Over the last few weeks I have stumbled upon various little objects that have made me smile upon discovering them.

The most exciting find was a few days ago when I discovered that my crocus were peeping their heads out! This is always thrilling for me - their bright, cheerful flowers give me hope that spring really is coming

And then while surveying the condition of the backyard I found this:

We had been wondering where the elephant-shaped puzzle piece had gone! Poor thing was snow bound for the last 5 months. He looks surprisingly intact!

and this - one of my daughter's plastic food items - a "head of lettuce". I thought it wasn't a very convincing replica, but apparently it fooled one of our squirrels. I'd like to have seen the look on the squirrel's face when he realized he was chewing a hole in a plastic head of lettuce. I'm sure his squirrel pals didn't let him live that one down for a long time.

Last - this one just was so cute. My little guy decided to "park" one of his cars in a houseplant. I'd like to think he was playing and decided this is where it landed after going over a bluff and landing in a ravine. But no, I think his 2 year old self just became distracted and this was the first place he saw to put the car. Lucky I guess, atleast I didn't step on it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant"

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mamma Mia, What Just Happened?

That's what I was saying after I watched each of these movies this weekend - one day after the other. Ugh. It all started with a free rental coupon and went downhill from there.

"What Just Happened" - a direct to DVD movie (should have been my first clue, but Slumdog Millionaire almost went direct to DVD and look how good it was). It starred Robert DeNiro, Robin Wright Penn, Sean Penn and some other names. So, how could it be so bad? Embarassingly bad? Robert DeNiro played a big Hollywood producer and we follow him through his manic, frenetic life. However, I never ended up caring about him, his manic, frenetic life or any of the other characters. The movie was disjointed, pointless and worse yet, I'll never get the 1:43 minutes I wasted watching it back. My knitting even ended up messed up. What Just Happened indeed!

"Mamma Mia" - how can you go wrong with a movie that is full of ABBA songs? Most importantly, start by mis-casting the older female roles - that's crucial. Then add a frothy, silly storyline and you're done. I don't think this movie translated well from the stage to the screen - wasn't it a smash hit on the stage?? It was downright laughable watching the esteemed Meryl Streep act like a free spirited, single mother living on a Greek Island, running a broken-down hotel. Story is that 20 years earlier she had a few youthful indescretions (slept with three different men in a period of a few weeks) and ended up not knowing who the father of her now adult daughter was. Ummm, Meryl Streep is a leeetle bit long in the tooth to play this roll - I'm thinking someone in their mid-forties was about the oldest you could go and pull it off. It was ridiculous watching her dance and run around like an idiot. That and the two women playing her best friends (including Christine Baranski) - were just as bad. And the men - what a waste of Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth! Although they were a little more believable in their rolls. Oy - Mamma Mia - what a waste of film!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Birthday Brunch

We had a family birthday party for both children today - we decided on a brunch in order to avoid the whole nap time conflict. We were really happy with the results so I thought I would share our menu, with recipes.

Amish Breakfast Casserole - from my fav recipe website It is so delicious I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We omitted the bacon and used one package of Canadian bacon instead. I think ham would be a tasty substitute as well.

Grandma Johnson's Scones - oh. my. goodness. If you think scones are hard to make (or that you could never make one that tasted like it was from a bakery) you must try this recipe. I divide the dough in half and kept one half plain and to the other half I added 1/2 c of semi-sweet chocolate chips. After shaping the dough into disks on the baking sheet I cut it with a pizza cutter which make them very easy to break apart after baking. These are HEAVEN!!

Cold Asparagus in Vinaigrette - blanched the asparagus in boiling water, chilled and served with Newman's Own Raspberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette drizzled over the top.

Fresh Fruit Salad - we used what fruit was on sale this week - strawberries, blueberries and some sliced banana (tossed in at the last minute before serving). I took a bite of this salad and a bite of the plain scone and it tasted like I was eating strawberry shortcake.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Day

Happy 4th Birthday to my girl and Happy Inauguration to President Obama!

"Democracy is...the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people"

- Harry Emerson Fosdick (November 1925)