Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Coming to America

During the Thanksgiving season my daughter's Kindergarten class learned about Ellis Island, immigration and why some people may have wanted to leave their homelands to come to America.

One project they completed was creating a collage with pictures of the items they would bring if they could only bring one suitcase to their new homeland.

This is what she would bring:

A purse, towels, a gold necklace, earrings and bracelet set, three diamond rings, men's clothing, a pair of gym shoes, a pair of winter boots and pyrex containers full of food.

I'm relieved to see she made some practical choices such as towels and clothing (albeit men's clothing) but the jewelry made me smile.  She is turning into such a girly girl which is so unlike her mom, but I still love her so.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I froze my fresh pumpkin in order to use it in my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, which I made yesterday.  I noticed a few differences in the resultant pie - the color was a little brighter, it tasted sweeter and the texture was softer, which I did not like.  It reminded me of the texture of mashed sweet potatoes.  I liked mashed sweet potatoes as a savory dish, but not dessert.

This leads me to wonder what is pumpkin pie "supposed" to taste like?  I assume that the pie that is made with fresh pumpkin is how the pie was intended to taste, but I don't like it.  However, maybe I do not like it because I'm used to pie made with canned pumpkin and my taste buds don't know what the good stuff tastes like?  Or if I had only been offered pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin would I have decided I did not like it?

I do know this, I tried sweet potato pie once and no, I didn't like it which leads me to believe I wouldn't have become the pumpkin pie lover that I am today had I been exposed to fresh pumpkin containing pies as a kid.  Next year I'm back to using canned.

We made one other change in our Thanksgiving menu this year.  We opted to use fresh green beans in a dish that didn't include mushroom soup.  They were delicious and I will absolutely make them again.  Here is the recipe:

Garlicky Green Beans with Mushrooms

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cooked Pumpkin

I've come to the conclusion that there is no good reason to buy a pie pumpkin (or sugar pumpkin) and cook it yourself so that you can collect the cooked pumpkin for another use such as pie or bread.

I was lured into giving it a try because the smaller pie pumpkins were on sale for $1.50 each.  I Googled and found three ways to cook them; bake, boil or microwave.  I didn't feel like baking them for over an hour and using so much engery for such a small item,  boiling always makes me think about the vitamins leaching out into the boiling water so I opted to microwave.  Each pumpkin weighed 2 3/4 lb so I microwaved them for 7 minutes per pound.  After cooling I scraped off the cooked pumpkin; it was largely stringly, although I had thoroughly scraped out the seeds and guts pre-cooking.  The first pumpkin yielded roughly 1 1/2 cup of cooked pumpkin, the second a bit more.

I checked the label on a 15 oz can of Libby's canned, pureed pumpkin from my pantry; it yields 3 1/2 half-cup servings which is about the same amount that my first pumpkin produced.  The sodium was the other concern I had; the canned option contained 5 mg per serving, really nothing.  The cost for the canned pumpkin was $1.69 not even 25 cents more than my whole pumpkin cost.

So, other than the seeds I saved for roasting I'm pretty disappointed at how labor intensive this experiment was.  Unless I somehow end up growing my own pie pumpkins in the future I won't be doing this again.

I did just taste the toasted pumpkin seeds and they were delicious!  Here is my recipe:

Remove any stringly bits of pumpkin from seeds and rinse thoroughly.  Please the seeds in a small saucepan; add water to cover seeds.  Add 1 T sea salt to water and stir.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  The seeds will look gray when they are done.  Pour cooked seeds into a strainer and rinse.  Drain thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 325.  Place drained seeds on a jelly roll pan.  Drizzle 1 T of olive oil over the seed; distribute the oil throughout the seeds with your hand and flatten the seeds into one layer.  Sprinkle 1 t of sea salt on the seeds and place pan in the oven.

Bake for 45 or longer, until browned.  Watch closely at the end of baking time to avoid burning the seeds.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Angry and Germy

What goes around comes around.

My daughter had a boy named Jeremy in her class last year.  For the whole school year she insisted his name was "Germy".  She said it in a matter-of-fact way;  she wasn't making fun of him, she honestly believed his name was Germy.  I tried to explain that Jeremy sounds like Germy but he name is pronounced Jeremy.  It all fell on deaf ears. 

This year Germy is in another classroom but she has a new girl friend named Avery.  She doesn't have any problem with this name but her little brother does.  He insists her name is Angry.  It's another case of that's just how it sounds to him and he refuses to listen to anyone who tells him different.  It makes his sister crazy and his mommy laugh. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Last night my daughter spelled her first word all by herself; it was "samin". Sound it out - can you guess what it was?

Her homework instructions were to draw a picture of a food that started with "s" and then write the letters based on how the word sounded to her. First she drew a sort of rough square and told me that was "salmon". I realized that she had drawn it like she sees it on her plate so I suggested instead of drawing it as a serving size maybe draw a fish instead. So she did, complete with whiskers (or eyelashes, I'm not sure) and slowly sounded it out, writing down a letter at a time. When she was done and I was actually able to read what she wrote I thought I might cry.  She is learning to write! 

Her reading is also coming along and she is picking out the words "the", "to", "go" in newspapers, books, billboards - it's really exciting to see how much she is learning and noticing these lessons in her real life surroundings.

Monday, October 25, 2010


This evening when I was tucking in my almost-six-year-old she pulled one of her usual delay tactics; she said she had to ask me a question.  Then she blurted it out:

"What happens when we go to heaven?" and before I could say anything she added
"do we get made again?  When we die, do we get made again?"

Silence on my part.  I wasn't raised with much, if any, religious beliefs.  My parents opted to let us make our own choices as adults.  However, that isn't so easy when you were not raised with any foundation to refer to.  In hindsight I think it was a cop out; one was raised Hindu, the other a Catholic - where would they even start?  So they did nothing.  The little bits that I did know were based on Catholicism but even that was woefully lacking.  In 1999, while having a particularly difficult time in my life, I realized I felt as if something was missing from my life.  I decided to attend RCIA or "Rite of Christian Intiation for Adults" the adult education program for Catholic church.

I was baptisized, received my first Holy Communion and was confirmed all at the Easter Vigil service of 2000.  Becoming a Catholic gave me focus and a sense of calmness; feeling like I was part of a much bigger group of people - a huge group of people that believed the same things and did the same things during Mass any where in the world.  That was a great feeling.  The ritual of the Church and its history gave me comfort.

However in the days since that night in 2000 I, like many "cradle Catholics" have become more and more disappointed, dismayed and even horrified with various activies and positions that the Church has taken.  I haven't been to Mass in over a year.  I used to enjoy it and actually looked forward to that one hour a week where I knew exactly what was going to happen and was going to be surrounded with like minded people.  It was peaceful, predictable and it soothed me.

So, now I'm a parent and have a child that is asking questions.  Just what do I believe?  I better figure it out; the questions are only going to get more difficult.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


What's better than getting your hands on some yummy Malabrigo?  FREE Malabrigo!

Check out the fabulous giveway here:

Malabrigo Giveaway

Becareful when you go on the Malabrigo website - you could lose an hour or two just ooohing and ahhing over all the lush yarns and vibrant colors.

Good Luck!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Vacation Drama

Take four kids (2, 3, 4 and 5 years old) two sets of parents, one set of grandparents and stick 'em all in a house for the weekend during a heat wave and what do you get?  Drama.

I guess I can't complain.  I know many families have much worse dynamics with their relatives and overall we are pretty civil and reasonable with each other.  The problem comes with the "gotta get out of the house" folks vs the "I'm on vacation and want to take it easy" folks.  You may have guessed that Hubby and I are on Team IOVAWTTIE while the others are on Team GGOOTH no matter if it's 100 degrees in the shade and simply stepping outside for 5 minutes results in heat exhaustion or not.  The two senior citizens have insisted on going out for several daily walks (by themselves, thank goodness) and come back in fanning themselves with their hats and marveling about how unbearably hot it is outside. 

We are staying in a nice suburban house - they have a lovely sizeable, shaded backyard with a great wooden swing set, covered back porch and plenty of water toys/activities.  What's wrong with the kids playing out back, the adults sitting on the shaded porch and calling it an afternoon?  Why do we have to pack everyone up and leave the premises in order for it to count as a fun activity "for the kids"?  It's not for the kids, it's for the adults.

I just about lost it trying to negotiate with Team GGOOTH and figuring out the logistics of how to fit in a visit to the pool, a visit to the Science Center and celebrating the 2 year old's birthday in between naps and feeding times for the kids.  I'm steadfast in not giving up my children's nap times in favor of doing a bunch of activities to keep the adults happy.  Nope, not worth it.  You will always end up paying for it later and it's just not fair to the nap skipping kid either.

After much discussion I stayed home with the napping 3 year old while the 2 year old went out with Team GGOOTH (of which his parents are members).  We will be meeting up for dinner once he wakes up and I'm enjoying the quiet until then.  Rest assured that dinner will be full of the antics of an over-tired 2 year old; I will relish my role as just the aunt and can stand back and let his parents juggle him in between bites of their cold dinners.

Indoor S'mores

We are on a 4-day mini get-away this weekend.  I brought supplies to make S'mores with the kids - did you know that Campfire makes a "giant roaster" marshmallow that is the size of a lemon?  They are insanely enormous. 

Personally, I'm ho-hum about s'mores; I think it's a fun idea but it seems that my marshmallow is always over or underdone, the chocolate doesn't melt enough and then there is the fuss of actually having to build an open fire to roast the marshmallows.  Last night it was stifling hot so my SIL introduced me to a new version of s'more making. Read on at your own risk - they are addictive and now you can have them ANYTIME you want.

Take 1 graham cracker square (half a rectangle), put it on a plate and top with a marshmallow. Microwave for 20 seconds. Remove and place 1/2 of a Hershey bar on top of the marshmallow and then top with the other graham cracker square.  That's it!  Now brace yourself.

It's ooey, gooey decadence. I actually like the flavor of the marshmallow better - don't miss the smokey flavor at all. The chocolate is completely melted and the graham cracker is crisp. Oh my, this is really much too convenient for me. Dangerously convenient.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Girl and the Guacamole

Hubby and I watched several installments of Jamie Olivers Food Revolution on television last month.  It was disturbing but made me feel good about the efforts we have made, and been relatively successful with, introducing and teaching our two kiddos about food and making good food choices.

Recently my daughter and I were talking to someone about how much we love guacamole - I asked her if she remembered what is in guacamole; within a few seconds she listed avocados, red onion and tomatoes.  I think she even remembered the lime juice!  I was so proud of her, especially since I had seen the Jamie Oliver episode where he held up various common veggies and the kids didn't have a clue as to what they were (I prefer to believe that was creative editing, but who knows).

Here is our go-to recipe for Guacamole - we absolutely love it and avocados have "good" fat, so eat in good health!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where is the Off Switch?

"I wish I could not think once in a while"

~ MaryAnne Williams

Ahhhhh, wouldn't that be nice?  I've longed for an off switch for my brain since I was in college.  I was the responsible one; planning, saving, thinking, organizing, careful about my choices.   I had friends that used school loan money to go on vacation - Aruba and Hawaii to name a few.  They "deserved" it after all.  Me, well I did go to Ft. Lauderdale my junior year in college, drove down and split the room with two friends to save cash.  As I recall I brought a giant bag of grapefruit with me thinking I'd eat that for breakfast and save on eating out.

Another friend wanted to know if she was fertile so she decided after she was married to find out.  It didn't matter that neither she or her husband had good jobs; in fact her husband was still in college when she became pregnant.  They lived in her parents basement until her baby was about three years old because that's all they could afford.  She once told me "I can always continue my education at a later stage in my life;  I'm only fertile for so long".  I knew it was an indirect dig at my choice to wait to have kids.  Thankfully, even though I was in my late 30s before having my first baby I now have had two healthy children and a good, dependable job to help support them.  I have no regrets waiting and establishing myself in a career before hand.

I've saved for retirement since my first job.  Sure, I was only 23 years old but I listened when the old-timers at the office told me it was the best thing to do; that before I knew it time would be flying by and if I waited it could be too late.  So I did.  I also increased my contributions to absorb raises I received; I didn't miss the money since I hadn't see it anyways.  Another friend, she'd laugh and say "how do you know you aren't going to die tomorrow?"  Well... that's true.  But how do I know I won't live until I'm 85?  No surprise, I'd rather make the safer choice and save.  Funny, she started medical school married to one husband and finished it married to another.  Apparently in the second divorce she cleared a chunk of money (his since they were married hardly one year) and was able to pay off those school loans.  Funny how that works.

Which brings me to current day - raising two young kids with my husband.  I have less chance to stop thinking now that I'm thinking for both of us it seems.  Thinking about saving for college (again!), budgeting, making sure the property tax bill is paid.  Wondering are my kids developing normally?  Do they have good manners?  Should I sign them up for soccer?  Are they eating well-balanced meals?  Did they wash their hands before dinner?  None of these things would get done if I didn't think of them first and do something about them.  It's exhausting, as I'm sure many women would agree.  It also makes me all the more in awe of women who can do it alone; while my husband may switch his brain off when he gets home he does play with the kids, take them to the park, cook a good part of the meals and loves to read them stories before bedtime.  I'm grateful for that.

But I'd still, once in my life, I would like to know what it feels like to be able to turn my brain off.  Just for a day or two.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Critter Mystery

I came home from work today and as usual went to the back door to let the dog out.  I stand there and usually look around to see if any of the squirrels we feed are out and about.  I glanced up to the knot hole in our maple tree; we suspect they have a nest in there so it's fun to see if one is peeking out at us.

This is what I saw:

It's a squirrel alright, but I'm preeeety sure he is dead.  I stood there for about 30 seconds and he was motionless (and 2 hours later he still is).  Now I have questions running through my mind.

How did he die?  Was it old age?  Something we fed him?  Was he sick?  And how did he end up in that weird position?  Did he have a rodent heart attack which caused him to fling himself backwards out of the knot hole resulting in him hanging out of the knot hole in a supine position and upside down?  Or did he get stuck and hung there until he died?  I hope that isn't what happened - poor guy.

Now what do we do? The tree is in the middle of our dinky yard so the dog and the kids will likely come across bits and pieces as he starts to decay.  We also have visiting skunks, possums, raccoons and a great horned owl that visits occasionally; would one of them try to eat the carcass?  Or not since it's already dead?

Do I send Hubby up there to extract him?  But he’s pretty far up - at least 16’.   He seems to think he can knock the squirrel loose with his branch cutter but I have my doubts.  Or what if the squirrel falls apart as he is trying to knock the body out?  Gross.

We'll see what happens this weekend.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Interview with a 3-year-old

Not to be outdone my 3-year-old is debuting with his very first interview:

What is something mommy always says to you? "No"

What makes mommy happy? Happy

What makes mommy sad? (shows a dramatic "sad" face)

How does mommy make you laugh? Ha ha ha ha

What was your mommy like as a child? (no answer)

How old is mommy? 4

How tall is mommy? (both hands up as high as he can stretch)

What is mommy’s favorite thing to watch on TV? Snow White

What does mommy do when you’re not around? I don't know

What is mommy really good at? Snow White

What is mommy not very good at? Mad

What does mommy do for her job? Work on train

What is mommy’s favorite food? Chicken (what we were currently eating)

What makes you proud of mommy? Happy

If mommy were a cartoon, who would she be? Snow White

What do you and mommy do together? Play cars

How are you and mommy the same? I don't know

How are you and mommy different? (no answer)

How do you know mommy loves you? Give me hugs

What does mommy like most about daddy? Sucker (for the record I do not think my husband is a sucker!)

Where is mommy’s favorite place to go? Bannockburn (neighboring town aka work)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Interview with a 5-year-old

This is my annual interview with my daughter (and this year my son participated too). March 2009 was when we did this the first time. She is now 5. Some of her answers were identical to last year (what makes mommy sad, how does mommy make you laugh and what does mommy like most about daddy?),

What is something mommy always says to you? "I love you"

What makes mommy happy? Being helpful

What makes her sad? Not being helpful

How does mommy make you laugh? Tickle me

What was your mommy like as a child? Medium-sized and happy

How old is mommy? 42

How tall is mommy? 42

What is mommy's favorite thing to watch on TV? The Olympics

What does mommy do when you're not around? Make stuff special for us

What is mommy really good at? Working

What is mommy not very good at? At burning your hand

What does mommy do for her job? Work at your work

What is mommy's favorite food? Vegetables (I wish! Last year it was "carrots and grapefruit" I'm very grateful she has this perceived healthy eating on my part)

What makes you proud of mommy? When you give me right things

If mommy were a cartoon, who would she be? The Simpsons

What do you and mommy do together? We go out to dinner

How are you and mommy the same? We have matching greyhound shirts (last year it was "we both match dresses")

How are you and mommy different? You're taller and I'm medium sized

How do you know mommy loves you? When I'm helpful

What does mommy like most about daddy? Marry him

Where is mommy's favorite place to go? Potbellys

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

He's Just Not That Into You

I checked this movie out of the library this past weekend and have come to the conclusion that this should be required viewing for all young women.

I know it was a comedy, but honestly so much of it rang true to life. Everything from the beginning where little girls are told "Jimmy is picking on you because he likes you" to the crazy things women do (and yes, I did too) trying to analyze what a man did, what did it mean, what should you do all the way to the clique of waiting by the phone, checking 10 times to make sure it was working, etc. I have notebooks that I kept in high school jotting down what my crush did/said/didn't do with my resulting analysis. Just imagine where I'd be now if I had spent all that time studying something important like math, English or biology.

It was funny to watch now but a little painful to see it happen and remember that I really did do some of those things. Stupid, pathetic, low self-esteem things. Is there anyway I can prevent my daughter from going through those painful, useless gyrations? Someway to help her see it before she gets mired in the I'm-not-happy-or-complete-unless-I'm-in-a-relationship muck?

Much to my chagrin she is already idealizing Cinderella and the Price, Snow White and the Prince, etc. I really tried to keep all that stuff away from her but once one little girl at school had it and started talking princesses it spread like wild fire. My girl came home talking about this stuff without ever having seen it. I caved and allowed her to have some dress-up princess gowns, and allowed Grandma to buy her Cinderella and off we went.

Now she is talking about the song "All the Single Ladies" and while I know she has never heard it at home or seen the video it makes me a little sad realizing the influence her peers have over her. I'll just have to be more influential.

Kids and Drumsticks

This is what my 3 year old's place mat looks like after he is done eating chicken. He cleans the bones off like an expert and lines them up. In real life it is one of the funniest things I've seen - that he is so methodical and organized. My 5 year old is no where near as skilled at eating chicken off the bone as her little brother.

However, she does say some pretty funny things. Of course she doesn't mean to be funny which is usually why it is funny in the first place.

Earlier this week I was cleaning her ears post bathtime. She stood nice and straight and said "Mommy, I'm not going to move around so you don't punch my drumstick" at which point I burst out laughing and almost did punch her drumstick, er I mean poke her ear drum.

Those are the moments that really can help wash away a day of stress.