October 30, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Fabulous Fours?

#54 I think four might actually be easier than three, thank goodness! Peanut is starting to show signs that the terrifying threes are over...and that maybe we are headed toward the "fabulous fours." On Wednesday of this week he was throwing me every curve ball imaginable: refusing breakfast, pulling all the books off of his book shelf, tormenting his brother, etc. But at one point I came into the play room and he was cleaning up and putting toys away...WHILE singing a little song about cleaning up!!! My jaw hit the floor. I made sure to shower him with thank yous, hugs and kisses. I'm looking forward to more of these little improvements.

October 27, 2009

Black Bean Soup

I have been a slacker in the blogging department, but it's for good reason. On any given day in my house, someone is sick. We have had cold after cold...plus a little teething thrown in for fun. So I haven't been doing much but taking care of the kiddos and trying to keep myself healthy.

Along with the colds has come a lot of soup. Tonight I made a yummy black bean soup. Like most of my recipes, this one is the blending of various recipes plus some random ingredient substitution along the way. I like to keep mine pretty chunky so that you can see there are beans and carrots in it. I like to plop a little sour cream on top and that usually gets the kids to eat it too. Enjoy!



Black Bean Soup

2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, pealed and diced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
4 cans black beans
3 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
salt & pepper to season

In a large pot, cook bacon and then set aside. Saute onions in bacon fat until tender. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook until they are tender. Add chili powder, cumin and oregano. Add black beans and chicken broth and reserved bacon. Bring to a boil to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cover and simmer for 15 - 40 minutes. Add lime juice and mix well. Season with salt & pepper. I also like to add a little Tabasco for spice.

Once the soup is seasoned well, use an immersion blender to puree (or put it in a blender...but that gets messy). You can make it as smooth or as chunky as you like. I've made it all ways, but prefer it slightly chunky so that you can tell what is in it.

Garnish with sour cream!

October 23, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Mommy Brain

#53 Why didn't someone tell me it was Friday when I got up this morning? I don't know why I thought it was Thursday, but I did. Normally this would make for a nice surprise, but I swear I must have lost a day in there somewhere. Seriously...mix sleep deprivation with "mommy brain" and you just get Stupid.

October 21, 2009

Brave Birthday Boy

My older son, Peanut, turned 4 on Sunday. Saturday we had his birthday party at a local park that has cabins you can rent and actually camp in. Originally we were just looking for a cheap, outdoor birthday party option with some shelter if it rained. It was a wonderful party (and it did rain).

My husband decided that for Peanut's birthday the two of them would sleep overnight in the cabin after the birthday party. I do not camp and Sprout had a cold. So after the party we cleaned up, Hubby brought Sprout and I home and then Hubby and Peanut left for their birthday camping trip. I was so proud of my little dude for being willing to brave the "wild" in the middle of October...and proud of my husband for subjecting himself to camping with a very picky preschooler. I was convinced that by 11pm Peanut would be missing his own bed and they would throw in the towel and come home. I stayed up waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

At 12:41 AM I realized they were probably not coming home. Then I realized everyone in my family was asleep but me and that I should probably go to bed.

It also occurred to me that it was officially Peanut's 4th birthday. He was getting to be such a big boy that he was out camping with his Daddy. For the first time since he was born I would not be the first person to wish him Happy Birthday. I reflected on the very moment he was born and I clearly remember, in my epidural haze, saying to him, "Hello. Happy Birthday." I actually started to wonder if he would seem different to me when he got home in the morning...older, more mature. It's insane how quickly they get from Day 1 to Year 4. It's fun to see him grow up, but it's sad to see him need me less and less as the years go by.

October 16, 2009

Mommy Confessions: I Drive a Minivan

#52 We bought a minivan yesterday. In '99 I bought a little sporty coupe and called it my-last-before-kids-or-dogs-car. Five years later I bought a Honda CR-V, which I thought would be my kid and dog car. But I learned quickly why the automobile industry calls a car like the CR-V an "entry level" SUV. You think you have a lot of room...and then you add two kids to the mix. Not just two kids, but two car seats, two sets of books, two sets of toys, two sets of sippy cups, two sets of snack cups, two extra coats...you get the idea. I still can't believe it, but we just grew out of that car. So today our crazy family took over the waiting room of a used car dealership as we wheeled and dealed ourselves into our first minivan. Oh boy. Did I just say "first?" But it's a pretty blue, has plush leather heated seats and LOTS of room. It's hard to admit it, but I LOVE MY MINIVAN! There. I said it.

October 13, 2009

Roasted Root Vegetables

Yummy sweet potatoes, caramelized onions, tender carrots, perfect baby red potatoes, a little garlic and some good olive oil. Need I say more? Oh, you might want to serve some meat with it. I served this along side a roasted pork tenderloin with balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary. Hello, Fall!

I hate to admit it, but my kids love to eat this with ketchup.



Roasted Root Vegetables

2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, cut into 1" wedges
1 lb small potatoes, cut in half
2 carrots, pealed and quartered (or use baby carrots like I did)
1 onion sliced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread vegetables on a large baking sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper for easy clean up). Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss the vegetables one more time. Bake for another 10 - 12 minutes.

October 9, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Big Fat F

#51 Some days I just feel like I am terrible at my job. At the end of some days I feel like I've failed as a mom, failed as a wife, failed as a homemaker, etc. On these days I can't get anything done and I'm not very nice. When my kids are arguing nonstop, I feel ill-equipped to teach them appropriate ways of dealing with each other. Days like this are usually wrapped up with a tall glass of wine and some stupid TV.

October 2, 2009

Mommy Confessions: French Fries

#50
I'm not sure if I'm sheltering my kids or just teaching them healthy eating habits. We don't go out to eat that often. When we do eat out, we try to choose healthier restaurants. My kids have never seen the inside of a McDonald's. A couple of weeks ago we were at a burger place for a special treat and Peanut asked, "Can I get some of those yellow things that you dip in ketchup?"

September 29, 2009

Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal

I make this recipe for steel-cut oats at least twice a week. It makes just enough for all four of us and the boys love it. Plus, you can't beat a warm, healthy, hearty breakfast that only takes 1 to 2 minutes to prepare! I like to cook the oats with some cinnamon, then we add our own toppings. The kids like frozen blueberries, which also help cool things off for them. Hubby likes raisins & milk and I like brown sugar, milk & blueberries. Make it your own & enjoy!

Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
pinch of salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

You'll need a slow cooker and a separate bowl with a 5 cup capacity. In a glass or other oven-safe bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Set bowl into slow cooker. Fill slow cooker crock with water up to line in the oats bowl...almost like a double boiler (see photo below). Put lid on slow cooker and cook on low overnight.


September 28, 2009

Library Picks: First Human Body Encyclopedia


photo from barnesandnoble.com

First Human Body Encyclopedia by DK Publishing

As I am sure most almost-four-year-olds are, Peanut is fascinated with anything regarding the human body. When he started asking a lot of questions like, "How come by bones don't fall down when I stand up?" or "What's that funny thing hanging in the back of my mouth for?", I did what I always do...I went to the library. The fabulous children's librarian helped me choose this book. At first I thought it might be a little too graphic for a kid so young, but he loved the detailed drawings and photographs. The book explains everything from what your bones are made of to how your taste buds work. It doesn't make for the best bedtime book, but it is excellent for answering nonstop questions about body parts...in an age appropriate way. We have renewed this book twice and I think we'll be making it a permanent part of our home library.

September 25, 2009

Mommy Confessions: When Mommy is Sick

#48 I think I'm in biiiig trouble today. I woke up sick this morning and the kids seem fine. I almost prefer to have them sick and me well! I'm sure I'll spend most of the day saying, "Please calm down. Mommy doesn't feel good." and "Want to watch another DVD?"

#49 My husband gave Peanut bourbon-soaked fruit cake for breakfast this morning. I don't think I need to elaborate.

September 23, 2009

The Countdown to Four

My oldest, Peanut, turns four in October. I am literally counting the days. Not because I'm excited to celebrate the anniversary of his birth or to shower him with gifts. But I'm hoping his fourth birthday will be the day he suddenly decides to chill out! Three-and-a-half has been hard on all of us, Peanut included. Tantrums, attitude, yelling, hitting his brother, talking back, no naps, noise noise noise! I dread meal time. I dread time in the car. I dread any time I have to leave a park, friend's house or school. It seems every attempt to get him to do something we want is met head-on with resistance.

The "terrible twos" were nothing. Two was like a spa day compared to three-and-a-half. I keep hearing from other moms that four is better. "Four gets so much easier." "Four is much more fun." "All of that will get better once he's four."

Please, please, please be true. I need it to be true. Come on, four! Deliver!

September 22, 2009

The Last Caprese Salad

Today is the first day of fall & I am afraid this is the last time I'll see a beautiful plate of fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil from our garden until next summer. The basil that hasn't gone to seed is starting to turn brown and our tomatoes are starting to crack from the moisture in the morning air. Last week we savored every bit of this yummy caprese salad. So tasty, so simple and so summer!



Caprese Salad

1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
small handful of fresh basil (about 10 leaves)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Arrange tomato slices, mozzarella slices and basil leaves on a plate. I like to layer mine in an alternating pattern. Drizzle with olive oil & season with salt & pepper.

Note: You can also drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top, but we prefer ours with just some really good olive oil.

September 11, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Secretly Eating Cookie Dough

#46 I promised the kids I'd take them to the beach "as soon as I was done with my chores." But right now I'm sitting in the basement eating frozen cookie dough.

#47 I believe I mentioned this about 100 times already. But I CAN NOT WAIT FOR PRESCHOOL TO START!!! 3 more days. 3 more days. 3 more days. 3 more days....

September 9, 2009

How to Avoid Eating an Entire Batch of Cookies

I love love love chocolate chip cookies. I live for warm, homemade Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies. I swear it's the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. I love love love these cookies so much, that I'll eat the entire batch myself. My husband might get two, my kids a couple. But then I eat my unfair share, plus the raw dough.

A wise woman in my family (Aunt Colleen? Mom? Cousin Kim? Other Cousin Kim?) taught me that if you freeze your dough in little balls A) You can make fresh baked cookies whenever you want them, and B) You will be less likely to eat them all at once.


Here's what you do:
  1. Make your favorite cookie dough recipe as you normally would.
  2. Bake up a small batch, if you'd like.
  3. Put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours. I just through my KitchenAid bowl right in the frig!
  4. After the dough is firm, use a small ice cream scoop to make portion-sized balls.
  5. Place balls in a freezer bag, making one flat layer.
  6. Store in freezer.*
  7. When you are ready to bake some cookies, just pull out a couple of dough balls and bake them according to the recipe. You may need to add a little more time since the dough is frozen, but follow your recipe first to be safe...then add time as needed.
*I have no idea how long the dough will keep in the freezer...we usually eat ours up in a week or two.

September 8, 2009

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob

The other day I was watching Tyler's Ultimate on the Food Network. I think he may have been making fried chicken or something, but his oven roasted corn on the cob is the only thing that stuck in my brain. So when my father-in-law brought by some fresh picked homegrown corn last night I knew I had to try Tyler's technique. It's so simple. Try it. You will never boil corn again. You will not even bother grilling corn again. If you are like me, you'll probably find a way to make corn part of every meal for the rest of the season just so you can eat corn this way. I'm totally serious.



Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob
recipe by Tyler Florence

4 ears fresh corn (that's it. nothing else.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place corn husks directly on the oven rack and roast for 30 minutes or until corn is soft. Peel down the husks and use as a handle when eating.


Note:
I actually put mine on a cookie sheet because I was afraid some of the silk would fall off and burn. I also twisted the husks off when the corn was done...the husk and silk freak my kids out. You can add butter and salt if you really want to, but you won't need it.

September 4, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Crazy Busy

#44 I did NOT feel like writing anything this week. Why? Well, Sprout is not sleeping well due to teething, he is suddenly passionate about potty training, we are getting ready for preschool to start, we are still trying to wrap up our front yard landscaping, my mom was visiting, my house is a mess, our kitchen sink started linking, I had play dates scheduled that I forgot about and I haven't been sleeping much either. But here I am typing...well, venting.

#45 Have I mentioned...I CAN'T WAIT FOR PEANUT TO START PRESCHOOL!!! Only 1 week and 3 days.

September 2, 2009

Potty Training...What's My Problem?

Apparently we are potty training right now. I say apparently, because it is sort of news to me. At 20 months, Sprout started asking to use the potty...and actually used it.

I couldn't wait for Peanut to be potty trained. We bought him his first potty when he was 18 months old, complete with a potty book. We didn't really start to encourage potty training until he was 2.5 years old. We started putting him in pull-ups for daycare, because he would use the potty there. But when I lost my job and became a full-time stay at home mom, he completely regressed. I threw in the towel completely and just put him back in diapers. We had a stack of full sticker charts by then, but it was clear he just wasn't ready. I waited until I knew he was really ready and then just moved him to underwear during the day and pull-ups at night. He was finally ready at 39 months old. One day he was in diapers and the next he was wearing underwear. By day 4 he was leaving the house in underwear. After two weeks he was fully potty trained with the occasional accident at night.

With Peanut being such a "late" potty trainer, imagine my surprise when Sprout wanted to use the potty at 20 months. He asks to use it constantly. He only wants to use the seat ring on the big toilet, not the little potty on the floor (Peanut was the opposite). This morning he woke up, asked me to read him a book & then went straight for the bathroom. Now, most parents would probably be jumping up and down with joy. But I think I'm in denial. I give him a high five, cheer him on...and then put him in a diaper and go on with our day. Am I just trying to keep my toddler a baby? Am I just too lazy to deal with potty training again so soon? Or is it just because it took Peanut so long that I'm hesitant to dive right in?

It's funny to me that I feel as if I've never done this before...even though I just did it 8 months ago.

September 1, 2009

Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

I originally adapted this recipe from the Pasta & Co. By Request cookbook. We made it for Peanut's first birthday party and it's been a family (and friend) favorite since. You can really use any cheese you like. The original recipe calls for half cheddar and half mozzarella, which makes for a creamier dish and lots of stretchy cheese. But our family prefers sharp cheddar, so that is what we used. You might be tempted to leave the Tabasco out if you are cooking for children, but please put at least a little in...it really brings out the flavor of the cheddar.


Our Favorite Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 lb Colby Jack cheese, grated
3 cups milk (whole, 2%, or 1%)
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 lb dried pasta (radiatore or rigatoni work best)
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/3 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp paprika
3/4 cup milk (whole, 2%, or 1%)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine grated cheddar and Colby jack and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, heat 3 cups milk until near boiling. Turn off heat.

4. Melt butter in a heavy pan large enough to hold the pasta after it is cooked. (It will take at least a 14" sauté pan or a large casserole that can take direct heat.) When foam from butter recedes, remove from heat, add flour, and mix well. Return to medium-low heat, and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually stir in hot milk. Raise heat to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick, about 3 minutes. Add parmesan cheese. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and pepper and blend.

5. Cook pasta until just underdone. Thoroughly drain pasta and fold it into the mik/parmesan mixture.

6. Layer one-half of the pasta mixture into a 9" x 13" pan. Top with half of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Top with paprika, sprinkled evenly over the top.

7. If not baking immediately, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. When ready to bake, drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the dish. Bake for approximately 1 hour. If frozen, add at least 20 minutes to baking time. The dish should be rusty brown on top. Should it appear to be browning too fast, cover with foil for part of cooking time. Be sure to check for doneness in the very center of the dish.

August 31, 2009

Library Picks: Chihuahua Cats, Dinos & Madeline


Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
Believe it or not, my gynecologist recommended this book. I am not kidding. I told her our almost-4-year-old was a total book worm and she said that we HAD to get a copy of Skippyjon Jones. She was right. It is just as fun for us to read out loud as it is for Peanut to listen to. The illustrations are really funny. Skippyjon is a little Siamese cat boy who believes he is a chihuahua. He finds adventures in old Mexico by simply entering his bedroom closet. So cute. So funny. You'll find yourself (& your kids) saying "Holy Guacamole!"

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?
by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
We've hit a serious dinosaur phase in our house. What we can't make up for in dinosaur toys, we are making up for in dinosaur books. This particular gem attempts to teach preschoolers table manners. Do dinosaurs bubble their milk or throw their food? Of course not! That would be rude. All of the books in this series are great...I only wish they had How Do Dinosaurs Get Dressed and Out the Door So We Aren't Late.

Madeline's Rescue
by Ludwig Bemelmans
Madeline is probably not new to some of you, but we just recently started reading these books. I found a mint copy Madeline at the Goodwill and Peanut was instantly hooked. Madeline's Rescue is the latest one we've brought home from the library and the boys love it. The rhythm is superb, the illustrations simple & lovely. Little Madeline once again finds herself in trouble, this time rescued by a dog. The boys love that the story ends with each little girl getting their own puppy!

August 29, 2009

First Day of School

Dear Peanut,
In exactly two weeks and two days you will attend your first day of preschool. I am so excited on so many levels. You are definitely ready for school this year and I can't wait to see your reaction. The closer you get to 4, the more inquisitive, curious and excited you seem to get about learning. I can't wait to hear about your first day, see your first art project, hear about snack time, story time and outside time. Will you like your teacher? Will you like the other kids in your class? Will you miss your brother and me while you are at school?

I'm also excited to get a little break a few times a week. You are so energetic and fascinated by the world around you...I feel like I can't keep up some days. We have started to butt heads a lot and I honestly think the short break will work wonders for both of us.

But mostly I'm excited to see you growing up. It happens so fast. But I'm proud and honored to be your Mommy and to be the one that gets to witness every moment of your important childhood milestones.

Love,
Mommy

August 28, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Bed Time

#42 Hubby put Sprout to bed tonight while I was out with my mom. It's the first time he's let anyone but me put him to bed. I was so proud of Hubby for managing to get him to sleep and proud of Sprout for trusting in his Daddy. But another part of me is sad that he doesn't need me as much anymore.

#43 I have developed a habit of responding to Peanut's "Why" questioning with the dreaded, "Because I said so!" response. I have got to work on that.

August 26, 2009

Amber Teething Necklaces


Sprout often gets compliments on his "cute little necklace." Or someone will comment on how sweet it is that he and I have matching necklaces. What they usually don't realize is that we are wearing pieces of jewelry that have had health benefits for both of us. Call me crazy, but I swear these things works!

I had often seen the mention of amber teething necklaces on a parenting board I once frequented. At first it just sounded like a choking hazard. Plus, why couldn't my baby just chew on a teething toy like babies have done for generations? Then my friend Ashley at Miss Monkey's Boutique gave me the low-down. She told me about the benefits of amber and that people in Europe have been using amber for a variety of ailments for centuries, including infant teething.

Sprout had a horrible time with teething starting at 2 months old. Restless nights, constant drooling, fussiness, etc. I decided I'd give the amber necklace a try. What could it hurt? It made a difference immediately. He still had some discomfort and restless nights, but he was a lot less fussy. I was able to cut down on the amount of pain reliever he needed during the day because he just seemed so much more comfortable!

There are certain precautions you need to take in order to keep your little one safe while wearing an amber teething necklace:
  • Do not allow your child to chew on the necklace. They are made to wear, not to chew.
  • Children should be supervised while wearing jewelry.
  • Remove jewelry if child is going to be sleeping.

Ashley suggested I also get a necklace for myself. I have had migraines since my early twenties and she said that wearing amber has helped some people with migraines. Once my necklace arrived I started wearing it daily. I was able to avoid my monthly migraines almost completely. At worst, I'd take an Advil at the onset...but other than that, I barely notice them. There have even been a few times when I forget to wear my necklace, feel a migraine coming on and can still avoid a full-on attack if I put on my necklace.

After Sprout and I had success with our necklaces, I bought my mom an amber anklet. She has bad arthritis in her feet and one ankle tends to swell very badly. After wearing the anklet for a week or so, her ankle had a significant decrease in swelling.

Besides teething discomfort, migraine pain and swelling from arthritis, amber is said to help other issues as well. Among them are diaper rash, growing pains, eczema, fatigue, pain and inflammation. If you are looking for a non-invasive way to treat what is ailing you, you might want to look into amber jewelry. I know it has cut down on the crabby-teething-baby-syndrome in our house.

August 25, 2009

Dish of the Week: Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

My mom is in town visiting and staying with us. We usually cook up a storm, but not this visit. This time we are working on painting our kitchen and dining room...which means very little cooking. But tonight my mom whipped up an amazing shrimp cocktail recipe she found in her local newspaper. It is almost a cross between shrimp cocktail and a spicy gazpacho. So delicious! Hubby insisted on grilled halibut to go with it...but I seriously could have just had the cocktail and some fresh bread. The kids ate my halibut and I had seconds on the shrimp cocktail.

My mom is sitting next to me in her pajamas and I'm literally making her recite the recipe. What can I say?


Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

1 lb cooked shrimp, cleaned & deveined*
1 tomato, chopped,
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 ripe firm avocado, diced
1 cup Clamato (more if desired)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded & chopped
juice of 2 limes
salt & pepper to taste
tabasco to taste

Just combine all of these ingredients. Chill and serve! My mom says it's best if chilled overnight.

*Oh, my mom also says that the original recipe called for a different preparation of the shrimp. You were supposed to buy raw shrimp, cook them & add the juice from the cooked shrimp to the cocktail sauce. We didn't bother (because we are busy painting a kitchen), but I bet it adds the perfect brininess (is that a word?)


August 21, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Stinky Feet & Sleep

#40 I let Sprout stay up later than Peanut...even though he's 2 years younger. But it's not because we favor him...it's because he WON'T GO TO SLEEP! So we stopped fighting it a long time ago & now just let him stay up a little later than his brother.

#41 I think it's adorable that my kids have really stinky feet. I don't know why, but I'm amazed that such tiny cute feet can smell so bad!

August 19, 2009

When Nana Comes To Visit

My mom is visiting this week, thus the short blog post. There is just something so wonderful and special when she comes to visit. She lives in California, so only comes up to Seattle two to three times a year. But when she's here, it's like the entire house smiles. The kids get excited, I get excited...honestly, Hubby even gets excited!

She's an excellent cook. She likes folding laundry. She is pretty good at playing trains and she will read endless amounts of books...even if she isn't sure how to pronounce apatosaurus. Some times we have a lot of activities planned. Some times we plan nothing and just do whatever we feel like doing.

This time we probably have way too much planned. Trips to Ikea, Goodwill, consignment shops, our favorite ice cream parlor and the wading pool. We also have dinners planned with various family members that live in town. When we aren't out and about, we are going to paint the kitchen, fold more laundry, sort through the kids' old toys and try some new recipes.

But really, it doesn't matter what we do. Everyone is happier when Nana comes to visit.

August 17, 2009

Dish(es) of the Week: Black Bean Corn Salad & Cilantro Lime Chicken

I debated which dish to post this week & then realized they are just best together. This makes for a simple, healthy summer meal.



Black Bean Corn Salad

4 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tomato diced, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 can corn kernels, drained,
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 avocado (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with extra cilantro or sliced avocado. Serve with grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken!




Cilantro Lime Chicken

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lime
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 lb chicken (I used boneless skinless thighs)

Remove zest from lime and set aside. You will need the juice from the lime as well. In a resealable bag, mix the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice. garlic, salt and cilantro. Add the chicken, seal bag. Squish the chicken around in the marinade until it well coated. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Cook on a hot grill about 5 minutes each side. Garnish with cilantro!

August 16, 2009

Library Picks: School & Dentist

Two big topics of conversation in our house right now are preschool and the dentist. Peanut starts preschool in exactly four weeks. We've been reading all kinds of books about school and I think it's really helped him to feel less nervous.



Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
We have really enjoyed all of Anna Dewdney's Llama Llama books. Peanut can really relate to the sweet little Llama Llama...and I can relate to the Mama, who is always needed and or missed. In this latest book, Mama takes Llama Llama to his new preschool. He is quite apprehensive and shy at first and only wants his Mama. But soon he realizes how much fun there is to be had at school and forgets all about his Mama not being there...but he is very happy to see her when she comes to pick him up.

Little Cliff's First Day of School by Clifton L. Taulbert
This book is set in the South in the 1950s. Hubby had a blast reading this book to the boys in his best southern accent (ha!). Little Cliff is terribly scared of going to school on his first day. But his great-grandparents are there to encourage him every step of the way. Once he arrives at the little school house and sees his friends playing, he realizes that school is going to be fun after all! The illustrations in this book are beautiful and add so much to this cute story.

ABC Dentist: Healthy Teeth from A to Z by Harriet Ziefert
We discovered last month that both boys have cavities. They have been to the dentist for cleanings, but this week they both go in for fillings. I am probably more anxious than they are. But, reading about the dentist has really made the experience of going to the dentist feel a little more normal. Apparently you can attach anything to the ABCs...even visiting the dentist! C is for cavity. See...it can't be scary if it's part of the alphabet!


August 15, 2009

Hugs & Kisses

Dear Sprout,
You give the best hugs and kisses! That is why Daddy and I ask for them constantly. One day I'm sure you'll be too old and too cool to give us hugs and kisses...so we are going to take as many as we can now.

It's so funny to me that you give real, honest, baby bear hugs. And I love how you say "mmmmah" with every kiss you give.

Hugs & kisses!
Love,
Mommy

August 14, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Dinner Time & Landscaping

#38 I miss cooking dinner in peace. Most nights I try to start cooking dinner as early as possible. But somehow I still end up with Sprout standing at the baby gate by the kitchen whining and whining and whining. If I toss him a few snacks he'll usually quiet down...temporarily. But if he eats snacks, he won't eat dinner. I long for that chapter in my life where I'll be able to, once again, become completely absorbed in cooking without interruption. When might that be, do you think? When they're in school? High school? When they move out?

#39 We have some major renovation going on at our house right now. Most mornings we can find two to three contractors making noise in our front yard. At first I was dreading the hammering and sawing that would accompany my morning coffee. But do you have any idea how long two little boys will sit still when they can look out the window and watch contractors working with power tools?! It's like their own personal Bob the Builder right in their own front yard! Go watch the construction, boys...Mommy is going to enjoy her cup of coffee!

August 13, 2009

Raising Healthy Kids: Tooth Decay in Toddlers

In case you haven't read enough about my kids' cavities, I'm over at Everyday Health today!

Everyday Health: Raising Healthy Kids

August 12, 2009

You Know You're A Mom of a Terrible Sleeper When...

You know you're a mom of a terrible sleeper when:
  • If you are lucky enough to get any "extra" sleep, you can barely function. You might even get a headache.
  • When your husband wants to watch a movie with you at night, you start calculating in your head when you'll get to bed...based on the length of the movie and how many times your child might wake up.
  • You laugh to your self when parents of newborns complain that their baby isn't sleeping through the night yet. If they only knew.
  • You tell yourself, "This won't last forever. Some day I'll complain that he's sleeping too long or sleeping in too late."

August 11, 2009

Dish of the Week: Apricot Blackberry Yogurt Parfait

This is such a simple thing to make. I love it because it combines three of my kids' favorite healthy foods into one meal. They usually eat every last bite. I was inspired to start making these for breakfast after I bought Peanut a yogurt parfait at Starbucks that cost around $4. Not only was that way too expensive for ingredients I already had at home, but I am sure theirs has a lot more sugar (and preservatives) that I would ever think to use.

Our blackberries are coming on strong right now, so I almost had no choice but to include them. I found the apricots to be a nice sweet balance for the tartness of the berries. Have fun & make it yours!


Apricot Blackberry Yogurt Parfait

(makes 1 serving)


1 handful fresh blackberries
1 half apricot, diced

6 - 8oz plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup granola or favorite cereal.

Start by putting your apricots and blackberries at the bottom of a glass bowl.



Then simply top with yogurt and cereal or granola! Voila!



Too many blackberries in your garden? Check out more blackberry recipes!

August 7, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Brothers

#36 My boys definitely look like brothers. I love to stare at them while they are playing and find their similar trates. The other day I noticed that they both have the cutest cleft chins. It's adorable...and I honestly have no idea which side of the family tree it stems from.

#37 Recently, Hubby took Peanut out of town to visit Grandma...Sprout stayed home with me. On the first day I missed Hubby and Peanut terribly. On the second day I was loving having only one child. Less noise, less mess and a little less work. I had short-lived day dreams about what it must be like to be a mom to an only child. But by day three I wanted everyone home again.

August 5, 2009

How Breastfeeding Changed My Opinions About Breastfeeding

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. It seems that most people, parents or not, have opinions about breastfeeding. Some mothers choose to breastfeed their babies and some choose to give their babies formula. Some choose to do a combination. Some are unable to breastfeed even though they want to. Some mothers who breastfeed do so only for the first few months of their baby’s life, while other mothers choose to breastfeed well into toddlerhood.

I have found that my own opinions about breastfeeding have changed significantly since I became a mother. Before my oldest son was born I remember thinking, “I’ll breastfeed if it works out. If not, no big deal.” I think I read a little bit about the benefits of breastfeeding, but didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. It was stressful enough having to worry about delivering a baby, let alone how I was going to feed it! At first, I really struggled (engorgement, bad latch, positioning, a gassy baby, etc.), but after the first 6 weeks it seemed easier than having to make bottles of formula. Before I knew it, we passed the 6 month mark and I had no desire to stop. I was thrilled when we got to the one year mark. It seemed like a second celebration on his birthday. From that point on it was just icing on the cake! I will never forget the day my son weaned. He was 15 months. I sat down in the rocking chair to nurse him like I had every morning for over a year. He cuddled me, patted me on the chest as if to say, “No thanks,” and got down to play. That was it. We were done. I was a little sad. But honestly, I was a lot less emotional than I thought I’d be. In fact, I think I planned a girls’ weekend away with my best friend that week! How I had longed for time to myself, some cocktails with my best girlfriend and a chance to feel completely me again! It was wonderful!

When I was pregnant with my second son, I assumed (wrongly) that breastfeeding would pretty much be the same the second time around. This time I had set a goal of 1 year. I was already planning that next girls’ weekend in my head. But #2 was a little different. Our first night home he would wake up constantly to nurse, only to fall asleep as soon as he latched on. Once we got past that hurdle I developed mastitis. When it was time for me to return to work, he refused a bottle. Then, at 6 months we discovered I had a lipase issue, which made my breast milk taste like soap if it was exposed to air. Around 7 months I was laid off from my job, became a full-time stay at home mom and put the bottles in storage. It really wasn’t until then that our nursing relationship started feeling smooth and easy. What a relief!

My second son is now 20 months old and still nursing several times a day (and at night). I have surpassed my one year goal and I am uncertain of when I’ll stop breastfeeding. I’m not even sure who is going to make that call…me or him. But I do know that I am fortunate to be able to provide him with something that is so good for him for so long. I feel lucky to have that special bond with him. And even though I am longing for that overdue girls’ weekend of appletinis and late night chats, I know it will all be worth it in the long run.

August 4, 2009

Dish of the Week: Blackberry Fruit Cobbler

I have made this recipe every summer for as long as I can remember. You could use almost any type of fruit, but I've always stuck with blackberries. I took Sprout out to our big blackberry bush yesterday to pick the berries for this dish. I was surprised at what a good berry picker he is. And he hardly ate any! Peanut always eats about five berries for every one he puts in the basket.



Blackberry Fruit Cobbler


4 cups blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter, chopped
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix fruit with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. Place mixture in a greased 9x9 pan. Top with 1 Tbsp chopped butter. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1/4 cup sugar. Then add butter, vanilla and milk to flour mixture until it is smooth, but a little sticky. Spread batter over fruit. Don't worry about covering completely. Mix 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top of batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Too many blackberries in your garden? Check out more blackberry recipes!


August 3, 2009

Library Picks: I Love Trucks & Alice the Fairy

Alice the Fairy by David Shannon
I was so happy to find a David Shannon book this week that we hadn't read before. On top of that, this really appealed to Peanut due to his recent obsession with fairies. Alice is a very confident preschooler who truly believes she is a fairy with magical powers. But admittedly, she needs to work on the spells to make her dog do tricks. If you love David Shannon books like we do, check this one out.

I Love Trucks by Shari Halpern

While Peanut loves books and always has, Sprout would rather play with his toy cars or climb on the furniture. But finally, I found a book that he wants to read! I guess I should have known he'd eventually be drawn to a book about things that go (he is obsessed with cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, etc.). The pictures are bright and colorful. The text has a very simple and cute rhyme. Just about perfect for a 20-month-old.


August 1, 2009

Under the Sea with Peanut

Dear Peanut,

I love it when we get to spend time together, just the two of us. It is fun to talk to you one on one and not have any distractions. You say the smartest and funniest things! Today I took you to your first movie in a movie theater. It was an IMAX 3D film called Under the Sea. You've always been fascinated by the ocean and sea creatures, so I thought you'd enjoy it. Funny thing is, this was a first time seeing a 3D movie for both of us! I loved sitting next to you and watching you reach out to touch the sharks, fish & sea lions...like they were really there. You kept saying, "I want to take them home with me!" I was also touched that half way through you leaned over and said, "I miss Daddy." To me, it was a testiment to how much quality time we do get as a family of four...so much so that whoever is not with us is dearly missed.

Thanks for a fun day!

I love you!
Mommy

July 31, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Favorites & the Binky Fairy

#34 I worry that one of my children will become my "favorite." I'm an only child, so I totally don't get it when people with siblings talk about a parents' favorite child. How can you like one more than the other? Maybe you have more in common with one. Maybe you think one is funnier. But a favorite? Really? I hope not.

#35 Peanut still uses a pacifier. We call it Binky. The dentist says Binky has to go away ASAP because it is causing a slight overbite. The truth is, I think I'm more nervous than Peanut for the day the Binky Fairy comes. I picture tears, sleepless nights, no naps, etc. He pictures the brand new Chick Hicks Hauler and Mack Hauler that we told him the Binky Fairy would bring. Perhaps I should get myself a Binky Fairy gift...like a nice bottle of champagne.

July 29, 2009

Toothbrushes that turn, vibrate, whatever...

Did you know my kids have cavities? Peanut will be 4 in October and Sprout will be 2 in November. To me it seems awfully young to have cavities. I am riddled with guilt about this even though, apparently, it is due to a mixture of things. One of these things is genetics. But another problem is that we have sucked at brushing their teeth more than once a day. Plus, Sprout still breastfeeds and will often nurse throughout the night. So I guess you add all those things up and you get 7 cavities and a really really really expensive dentist bill.

But at this point, all I can do is learn from the situation and try to do better. As Oprah would say, "when you know better, you do better." When I asked the dentist what I could do to prevent decay in the future he suggested:
  • Brushing after every meal (darn.)
  • Flossing (oh, that will be fun)
  • Starting Peanut on fluoride toothpaste even if he still swallows a little bit.
  • Trying to wipe down Sprout's teeth with a wet washcloth after he nurses (oh, you mean after he's just fallen asleep?!)
Realizing that two out of these four things might actually happen on a regular basis, I looked to my friends for advice. Surprisingly, the consensus was electric toothbrushes. You know, like a Sonicare for kids. So I took the boys shopping thinking, "I'm going to waste a ton of money on crazy kids' tooth care crap and they still will fight me when it's time to brush their teeth." I was wrong.

Each of the boys picked out a Crest Spinbrush. Peanut, a soccer ball and Sprout, a fire truck. They were about $6 each. I knew things were going well when they started playing with them in the car on the way home, but I was surprised by how willing they were to have their teeth brushed when we got home. Peanut now calls it his "super toothbrush." They are a bit bulky...and ugly...but if my kids are willingly brushing their teeth 2 to 3 times a day, who cares?!


I also bought them kid's flossers and Tom's of Maine natural anticavity toothpaste for Peanut. So far, no swallowing the new toothpaste! I guess it took the dentist telling him not to swallow his toothpaste for it to finally sink in. The kid flossers interested them because of their dinosaur shapes & they weren't afraid of us using them. It's seems like a bit of waste to me, using these plastic dinos once and throwing them away. But hopefully we'll smoothly transition to actual floss soon.



We'll see 6 months from now if any of these new habits and new products make a difference, but I'm crossing my fingers and brushing tiny teeth like crazy.

July 26, 2009

Dish of the Week: Grilled Pork with Blackberry-Sage Sauce

Blackberries are here! At least where I live, in the Pacific Northwest, the blackberries are starting to ripen in our recent heat wave. I couldn't be happier. We have a giant, wild blackberry bush directly across the street from our house. In June you can smell the blackberry blossoms and the anticipation begins. Nothing makes me smile like stopping to pick a few blackberries on my way back from the mailbox. This will be Sprout's first summer picking blackberries and just know he is going to fall in love...he is a total fruit freak anyway.

To celebrate our first crop of the summer, my mother-in-law made this incredible dish for dinner tonight. I am normally a fan of blackberry desserts, but this savory and sweet dish has won me over.

Note: I did not cook this. I did not create the recipe. I didn't even take picture. I just ate it. Ate and ate and ate and ate it.

Grilled Pork with Blackberry-Sage Sauce
(from Cooking Light magazine)

If your blackberries are particularly sweet or tart, adjust the amount of sugar in the sauce accordingly by 1/2 teaspoon or so to find the right balance.

Yield

6 servings (serving size: about 3 ounces pork and 2 tablespoons sauce)

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3 cups fresh blackberries (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • Sage sprigs (optional)

Preparation

1. Prepare grill to medium heat.

2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots to pan; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add blackberries, sage, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until blackberries break down. Press blackberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Return liquid to pan. Stir in vinegar and sugar; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup (about 9 minutes); remove from heat. Stir in butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring until butter melts. Keep warm.

3. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper over pork. Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray; cover and grill 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155° (slightly pink), turning pork occasionally. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve with blackberry sauce; garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

Nutritional Information

Calories:
199
Fat:
6.1g (sat 2.6g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.7g)
Protein:
25.3g
Carbohydrate:
10g
Fiber:
4g
Cholesterol:
79mg
Iron:
2mg
Sodium:
439mg
Calcium:
32mg
Bill and Cheryl Jamison, Cooking Light, JUNE 2009

July 25, 2009

Dear Kid Saturday: Trains vs. Dinosaurs

Dear Peanut,
Can I just say how happy I am that you are finally into something other than trains?! While I think your fascination and dedication to steam engines is adorable, I was beginning to worry at times. You often live at your train table & ask to eat meals there (not that you do). You wear train shirts, train socks, train pajamas, sleep in train sheets, etc. It's a bit coo-coo.

But recently you have taken a serious interest in dinosaurs. Hallelujah! We've read dinosaur books, bought dinosaur puppets & even visited the dinosaurs at the Pacific Science Center this week. Not that I want you to trade one obsession for another, but it's nice to see that your interests are becoming a little more well rounded.

Love you!
Mommy

July 24, 2009

Well My Mama Told Me, "There'll Be Days Like This"

This was one of those days when I should have checked my horoscope upon rising. I believe today's number would have been a 2 and advice would have been to stay in bed (as if that were possible).

The boys both had dentist appointments today, which I was dreading. I knew Sprout had cavities, so I figured Peanut would too. Plus, it was Sprout's first time at the dentist and a new dentist for Peanut. But we found a pediatric dentist with a dinosaur themed office and great recommendations. I woke up tired, but hopeful and positive about our day. We left the house on time. The boys were happy. I had my coffee. Everything was looking good.

About 5 minutes into our drive I see a couple of crows in the middle of the road, enjoying a nice snack. I start to say out loud, "Move crow. Move crow. MOVE CROW!" But taking my own advice (which I often give Hubby), I decided not to swerve, risking the crow's life rather than our three. Well, the crow didn't move. Apparently that snack was just too good...or he couldn't hear me yelling at him. So I passed over him, heard a "thud-thunk," and sat in bug-eyed silence as I continued down the road. I immediately assumed that Peanut, Mr. Sensitive, would be horrified. Instead, after a few thoughtful minutes, he said, "Mommy, that crow shouldn't eat his food in the street. He should eat it on the grass where it's safe." So true.

The dentist appointment went well. Peanut was a star patient and made me very proud. Sprout was pretty nervous, but did well for his first dentist visit. Then we got the bad news:

Sprout: 4 cavities, $1784.00, general anesthesia
Peanut: 3 cavities, $858, light sedation w/ the posibility of general anesthesia.

I don't know if you know this...but our kids are only 1 and 3. How on earth do they have cavities?!

We came home, ate lunch, got ready for nap...the usual. I was feeling more tired than usual, but assumed it was due to lack of sleep and the stress of the day. A little coffee would help, right? Nope. Apparently I am fighting my (as Peanut would say) forty-twenty-ten-five-fifth case of mastitis. My friends, if you know what mastitis is and/or have experienced it...I will say nothing more. I will just take my Tylenol, drink my liquids and hopefully feel better tomorrow.

"What is the good news?", you say?

I honestly don't think tomorrow could be as crazy, stressful or tiring. But then, I haven't checked my calendar yet.

July 18, 2009

Dear Kid Saturday: Dreams

Dear Peanut,
I love being the first person you see when you wake up. Why? I love it when you tell me what your dreams were about. This morning's might be my favorite so far. "Mommy, I watched a shark show while I was sleeping. There were sharks trying to take pizza from the pizza place. So I locked them up with some chains. But just a few of them...the rest I let swim around town."

You are a funny kid. Even your imagination cracks me up!

Love,
Mommy




Dear Kid Saturdays at Cutest Kid Ever

July 17, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Guilt

#32 I'm having an issue with Mommy Guilt lately. It all started with a recent "conversation" I had with an extended family member about the behavior of my children at a family event. As much as I want to say it didn't bug me, it did. I feel guilty that my kids weren't on their best behavior. I feel guilty that I let someone else's opinion of my parenting bother me. I feel guilty that, even just for a moment, I let someone else's view of my children affect my own view of them.

#33 My 19 month old son has cavities. Cavities! Actually, I think they call them dental caries. Last week I was looking in Sprout's mouth to see if a new tooth had appeared. It hadn't...but some yellow-brown lines and indentations has suddenly appeared on his four front teeth. I was horrified. How have I let my baby's teeth basically rot in his mouth without even noticing?! We are very careful to limit juice, sweets, etc. We brush his teeth well every night. I just feel terrible. He is still nursing and some things I have read suggest breastfeeding could be a culprit (late night feedings), but other things I've read say that breastfed babies are no more likely to get cavities than other babies. We an appointment with a pediatric dentist next week and I'm just dreading what they'll say. Apparently if a child his age needs fillings they have to go under general anesthesia. Seriously? What have I done?

If you think that's bad...

July 11, 2009

Dear Kid Saturday: Victim Act

Dear Sprout,
Your baby brother victim act isn't working on me. I'm not buying it. I've seen you shove your older brother & steal his toy, only to whine for me when he grabs it back. I used to fall for it and make your brother give you back the toy, but now I'm on to you.

On the one hand, it's good to know you aren't afraid to stand up for yourself. But it would be nice if you'd play fair.

Love,
Mommy

July 10, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Another list of lazy confessions

#29 Tonight we got home from vacation and I had nothing planned for dinner. I baked some tilapia for the boys and Peanut says, "Mom, we need something to go WITH our fish." I reply, "Hmmmmm...want some raisins?" I guess I better stop by the store tomorrow.

#30 I stay up way later than I should most nights. But it's the only time the house is completely quiet and I just want to be awake and enjoy it!

#31 Before we had kids I would say, "My pets are my kids." Now they are just the dog and the cat. Or when they make a mess I tell Hubby they are "his dog" or "his cat." For example, "Your f*****g dog pooped in the neighbor's yard again today."

Read the other 28.

July 7, 2009

Dish of the Week: Iced Coffee

Okay, so iced coffee isn't exactly a "dish", but I think it's blog-worthy.

I drink two cups of coffee a day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon, when the kids are napping. But lately the afternoons have been pretty warm, so I've been making iced coffee instead. Hot weather or not, I MUST have my afternoon coffee in order to make it through the rest of my day.

Two notes: It's important to make your coffee stronger than you normally would since it's going to get a little watered down from the ice. Also, I've been using agave nectar a lot lately due to it's low glycemic index. It works perfectly in this recipe because it dissolves and mixes quickly, unlike granulated or raw sugar. But if you don't have agave nectar, honey would work well too.

Iced Coffee

8 - 10 ounces of strong freshly brewed coffee
2 tablespoons milk or half and half
2 tablespoons of agave nectar (or honey)
enough ice to fill a glass

Brew your coffee. Meanwhile mix the milk and agave nectar in the bottom of your glass. Fill glass with ice.


Poor the fresh brewed coffee (still hot) over the ice. Looks good already, doesn't it?!


Then stir to mix. Enjoy the cool, frosty afternoon pick-me-up!

July 3, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Vacation & Summer

#26 Sometimes I am a little resentful of vacation. How did I end up being in charge of packing for myself, packing for the boys, packing food, arranging for pet sitters, etc. Hubby only has to pack his one little suitcase! At least he drives on road trips.

#27 I am loving summer so much that it's making me quite lazy. Most evenings I'd much rather be outside watching the boys play than worry about fixing dinner. We've been eating a lot of left overs, quesadillas, sandwiches and nachos.

#28 We bought Peanut a LeapFrog Tag for our various road trips this summer. So far it seems like a really great gadget that might actually help him learn to read. But I must admit that it totally intimidates me. I had to download software & it comes with a USB cable. What happened to the simple Speak & Spell I had as a kid?!

Oh yeah, there's more.

June 30, 2009

Toys are Everywhere! Help!

My header reads, "Raising Two Very Noisy Boys in a Very Tiny House?" Well, every word of it is true. My boys are noisy. My house is tiny. 900-square-feet tiny. That might not be so bad if it didn't also have a poor layout and serve as shelter for me, two energetic boys, a 5' 11" Hubby, a 70 lb mutt and a large Maine Coon. I can depend on bumping elbows or butts with someone at any given moment.

The biggest challenge of such a small house is keeping everything organized. My husband is a (dare I say) pack rat. I, however, should be on a first name basis with the guy outside our Goodwill Donation Station. Between Hubby's ski gear from 1990, the boys' love of large stuffed animals and tiny toy cars and a very limited amount of storage, I spend a lot of time thinking (stressing) about organization.



See that? That's the play area in our basement TV room. That little pine box against the wall...that's the toy organizer. Do you see something wrong with this picture? I bought this ingenious Ikea creation hoping that, not only would my boys have a place for their toys, but that they would actually put them away too. This is only a small portion of their toys...and they don't play in this room that often. But somehow it usually looks like this.

I want it to look like this!


Ahhhh...better, right?

I've tried different organizers. I've tried labels. I've tried giant baskets. I've tried to make clean up time fun with songs, games and rewards. I have even tried threats, "Help Mommy clean up or no bedtime story tonight!" But the only thing that seems to work is Mommy doing it all herself.

I want to teach my children responsibility and how to respect their belongings. I want them to realize that when you stand on Mr. Potato Head's glasses and break them, I'm not going to buy you another pair. Is it too early to expect them to participate in cleaning up (they are 3.5 years and 19 months)? How do you get your kids to help keep things picked up?

June 29, 2009

Dish of the Week: Tilapia with Zucchini and Tomatoes

It doesn't get much easier than this fish recipe...and I've been known to kill a good piece of fish. Cooking with parchment paper sounds fancy, but it's not. And it makes clean up a whole lot simpler. We buy frozen tilapia fillets and have always had good luck with them. You could certainly use fresh tilapia for this recipe, but make sure you cut back on the baking time.




Tilapia with Zucchini and Tomatoes

2 tilapia fillets (frozen)
2 zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking dish with large sheet of parchment paper (big enough to fold up fish and vegetables). Lay fish on top of parchment paper and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cover fillets with zucchini, tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a little more salt and pepper. Wrap the fish in the parchment by first folding in the two short sides and then the two longer sides...creating a pouch. It does not need to be snug. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes. Fish is fully cooked when it flakes with a fork.

Serve with steamed rice.

Here's another veggie dish you'll love!

June 26, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Pride, Pop Tarts & that stupid purple dinosaur

#23 I buy kids' treats and never share them with my kids. Right now, actually, I'm eating a Pop Tart while the boys are napping. They are going boys and shouldn't eat sugary snacks. But I'm an adult...so there!

#24 I trained Peanut to say "yuck" every time he sees Barney-the-stupid-purple-dinosaur. But I think it's going to backfire on me. Yesterday, when asked which show he wanted to watch while I made dinner, he sarcastically suggested, "How about we watch...BARNEY!" I told him I appreciated his sarcastic whit, but that instead we would watch something else.

#25 Sprout is only 19 months old, but very opinionated, stubborn, bossy, fussy & particular about everything. He is not easy-going like Peanut. He knows what he wants and he is not ashamed to let everyone know. As annoying as it can be, it makes me proud.

Read more of Mommy's confessions

June 23, 2009

I Love My Beco Baby Carrier!



Recently I told you about my love for my fleece Hotslings pouch (even typing that I feel a little sad that I can't use it anymore). When our days with the pouch were numbered, I started doing some research on what might be a good replacement. I wasn't a fan of ring slings. Some people love them, but I just never got the hang of them. Plus, Sprout was getting a little heavy for a one-shoulder carry. I also considered woven wraps. There are beautiful wraps out there that can be very comfortable and can hold a lot more weight than the Moby wrap. But I never took to the Moby & was afraid I wouldn't like the woven wraps either. But since I did like the Ergo (the few times I tried with Peanut) I decided to look into some other soft structured carriers.

I still had my Babyhawk, but really wanted something that I could put on even faster than a mei tai. I anticipated trying to get Sprout in and out of a carrier while also needing to tend to Peanut. The Ergo was nice, but I wanted something a little more girly. I narrowed my search and eventually decided on the Beco Baby Carrier. I found a barely used "4th generation" on TheBabywearer.com.

My beautiful Sky Temple Beco was even prettier in person than it was in photos. It was easy to put on, easy to adjust and I could actually get it more snug than the Ergo. Being able to tighten the straps just a little bit more made a world of difference. I was able to get Sprout closer to my body, thus putting less strain on my back and neck. It was so cozy and comfortable!

Sprout is now 19 months old and I still wear him in the Beco almost daily. It lives in my car and I can pop him on my back in a matter of seconds. My only complaint about the Beco (at least with the 4th generation version) is the hood. The hood is detachable and is stored in a pocket when not being used. The trouble is, I never seem to know when Sprout will fall asleep. Then when I need the hood to hold up his sleepy little head, I need someone to help me put it on. So in that respect, I like the Ergo hood more since it's attached and easy to grab whenever you need it.

But overall, I think it has been the best carrier for us and I have recommended it to several people. I know Beco continues to make improvements on their carriers, so check out their website for the newest products and features.

Happy Baby Wearing!

Dish of the Week: Pasta Primavera

You can make this dish with any fresh vegetables you have on hand. I just happened to have some left over broccoli, cauliflower & baby carrots from a party, so that is what I used.



Creamy Pasta Primavera
1 lb uncooked pasta
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1.5 cups cream or half & half
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped basil
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt generously to season pasta. Add pasta to water and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots to pasta & water and cook for two more minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Cook onions until tender. Add garlic and cook one more minute. Add cream, butter, a little salt & pepper, nutmeg and chopped basil to onions. Cook until heated through. To the pasta & carrots, add broccoli and cauliflower and cook for the rest of the pasta cook time (go by directions on package or until al dente). When pasta is cooked, drain pasta & veggies and toss with cream sauce. Top with parmesan.

Sorry for the picture from my phone...I didn't have my new memory card for my camera yet.

June 22, 2009

Library Picks: Pigs & Produce

Toot and Puddle - You Are My Sunshine by Holly Hobbie
While at the library recently, another mom said that if my kids like Olivia we should really check out Toot and Puddle. So check out Toot and Puddle we did. Peanut was so into the story, I was shocked that he didn't make the expected fart joke over one of the character names. Not to mention that my Hubby has yet to make the expected joke about where Toot and Puddle live (Woodcock Pocket...no seriously). But I digress. This is a very sweet story about Puddle trying to cheer up his dear friend, Toot, who is feeling blue. He tries everything he can and nothing works. Eventually a big rain storm helps little Toot feel like himself again. I love the message in this book that everyone gets sad sometimes and there isn't always a reason for it. Sometimes you just have to wait for the rain to pass. We will definitely be checking out more Toot (teehee) and Puddle.

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
Sprout pulled this book off the shelf and it was instantly a winner in my mind. A colorfully illustrated book that teaches the alphabet AND a love of fruits and vegetables. Ka-ching! Peanut is going through an "I hate anything green" stage and Sprout, well...Sprout does with his brother does. I love that this book makes healthier foods seem fun and appealing. Instead of C being for cookie, C is for carrot, cabbage, cherries, etc. Delicious!

June 19, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Oops!

#20 I forgot to feed my kids breakfast on Monday of this week. I did. They got their usual snack around 10:00 AM, but it wasn't until they were melting down at 11:00 that I thought, "Hmmm...did we eat breakfast?" So much for the most important meal of the day!

#21 It annoys the hell out of me when Peanut chews with his mouth open. I fear that he'll be 25 and I'll still be saying, "Please chew with your mouth closed."

#22 When ever Sprout hurts himself he always points his finger at me so I can kiss it. The other day he did this and when I kissed his finger I instantly spelled poop. He didn't hurt himself...he was trying to tell me he had poop on his finger. Gross. So gross.

More! More!

June 15, 2009

Dish of the Week: Ooey Gooey Chocolate Birthday Cake

It's a tradition in my family to make a rich gooey chocolate cake for every birthday. The kids are the only exception so far because Peanut has always requested "funfetti" cake and some weird colored frosting (he asked for bright yellow last year). But for as long as I can remember, my mom always made this cake for me, my dad & herself on our birthdays. But really...why wait for a birthday to make it? IT IS TOO GOOD! Hubby says the best thing about this cake is having it for breakfast the next morning with a hot cup of espresso.

(I lost my camera's memory card, so we had to take a picture with Hubby's iPhone.)



Ooey Gooey Chocolate Birthday Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 - 1/4 cup water or milk
2 - 3 eggs*
1/2 cup oil*

Mix cake mix according to directions on box *(most call for 2 - 3 eggs and about 1/2 cup of oil). Add marshmallows, chocolate chips & pudding mix. Mix well, but don't overmix. Slowly add water until batter is smooth, but not runny. Poor into cake pan (or pans) and cook according to box directions. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It may need to cook a little longer since you are adding a lot of moisture to the batter with the pudding. Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack. Once cake has cooled, frost with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar gradually. Add cocoa powder gradually and mix until smooth.

Perfect on my Ooey Gooey Chocolate Birthday Cake!

June 11, 2009

Mommy Confessions: Totally Gross

There are just certain things my kids do that totally gross me out, no matter how much I love them!

#17 Boogers and snot make me gag every time. I wipe butts all day, I've cleaned up plenty of puke, I've gone to work with spit-up in my hair, but I just can not handle boogers. Peanut must know this because he loves to bring me nasty green boogs and announce, "Here, Mommy. I don't have anywhere to put my booger." Bleck.

#18 Two words: Raisin poop. When Peanut was an infant, a friend warned me that raisins do not come out the way they go in. At the time I thought it was a weird thing to warn a new mom. But, ewwww! He was right! It's just not fair that I give my kids healthy organic raisins as a snack and am paid back with diaper grapes.

#19 I have a high threshold for the grossness of my own children. However, I have a very active gag reflex with the grossness of other children. I have a friend (you know who you are) that has a thing with vomit. When it happens she has to tell me about it...in detail. I'm starting to gag just thinking about it. Please...if your child grosses you out, it's going to gross me out times ten.

What do your kids do that gross you out?

More Mommy Confessions. Share yours!