Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Visit With Santa







Last night, we took our boys to see the light show at Rocky Gap Park, and guess who was there? At first, it didn't look like either of our little guys was going to give Santa the time of day, but eventually, Jonathan warmed up to him and sat with him a minute, and the best we can say about Matthew is he didn't turn himself inside-out with hysterics.

The light show was nice, too - the boys liked it, and it was a great change of pace amidst all the holiday running-around. We had a great dinner at the Baltimore Street Grill, where Mark and I sampled the St. Nikolaus Bock - a seasonal beer from the Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh. Then we piled in the car and went to the show - a nice, relaxing evening!

But I think our relaxation is about to come to an end, starting tomorrow morning. So there may not be many blog entries for a week or so! Christmas Day we're packing up the kids and heading down to my parents house for a few days. Check back, soon, though - I'll try to post some pictures soon. Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Girl Moment....with My HUSBAND?

So, you gotta love the holidays with all the holiday baking. Last night, I made peanut butter balls - OR, call them what they REALLY are: Homemade Reeses's Cups with Dark Chocolate Coating! Yum. No, I have no pictures, you'll just have to trust me on this one. They were fairly easy to make, but as it got later and later and I got "tireder" and "tireder", I begged Mark to stay with me in the kitchen, keep my company, and hey, wash a dish or two!
By this time, I was putting toothpicks in each ball so I could dunk them in the chocolate, and Mark was hovering, so I gave him a job: help me. So we dipped. We chatted. We splattered chocolate all over the countertops. Some of the balls fell off the toothpicks and into the chocolate, and we laughed. And, when every last ball had been dunked, we looked into the pot, and saw there was a substantial amount of chocolate still left. So Mark says "What do we do with the leftovers?" Men. Tell me, girls out there, would you be asking that question? So I decided to take the time to educate. I reached for the pretzel barrel and dipped. Hmmmmm. Something about that chocolate/salt combination I just don't like. I made a face, dashed over to the snack cabinet and resurrected a bag of mini-marshmallows. Better. Glance of pity at my poor hubby trying to dunk one at a time, while I load up four or five at a time on a toothpick that was leftover. But then, much to my amazement, Mark wanders over to the snack cabinet and returns with --- Matthew and Jonathan's car-shaped animal crackers. Bingo. Wow - MMMMM - now THAT was good!
So, to my children - we apologize since you woke up to no animal crackers today. Yes, Mommy and Daddy know there were some last night when you went to bed. They're gone. We'll get you more.
And to my husband - thank you for sharing that girl moment with me. You may not have known it at the time, but don't all modern romance novels have a couple of lovelorn chicks and a pot of melted chocolate in them somewhere? It was nice moment - that chocolate was good - physically AND emotionally! After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season - we needed that. Oh, and thanks for the help cleaning up, too!

Friday, December 21, 2007

In Search of: The Perfect Pizzelle


Pizzelle - you know them, you love them...boy are there a lot of recipes out there for them. I like them very light, very, very crisp, and lightly flavored. I like to bite into one and have the rest of it practically crumble in your hand. Mine? Not quite that fragile - but pretty good. My cousin Tommy makes wonderful pizzelle - he brings them every year to the annual Christmas party - the Italian side of the family. We haven't been there for Christmas for years, now - with the kids, it's gotten too hectic so we don't see a lot of them anymore, and I miss eating his pizzelles. So I searched around for a recipe, and finally decided to use the one in my Italian cookbook, which has never, ever steered me wrong.
The only problem here? For some reason, they don't spread completely across the pizzelle maker (sort of like a waffle iron, but different) so that when they're done, they're not perfectly round and it looks like little mice have been nibbling at the edges. But I guess it can be overlooked - I don't know if it's me, the maker, or not using enough batter. But if I use more batter, it runs out one side, so I still have imperfect circles, with mouse nibbles on one side and huge globs of excess on the other!
Anyway, if you have a pizzelle maker - give them a try - nice thing is they're very easy to make - no softening of butter, no lighting of oven, one bowl.....very simple.
2 C. flour (I sifted it, makes it lighter, improves overall texture)
1 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp. anise extract (I used about 3/4 tbsp. anise, then topped it off with vanilla extract - I'm not sure I like the real strong anise flavor....)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
Mix together the flour, sugar and baking soda, then mix in the eggs, butter and extracts. Stir, then use a wire whisk until smooth. Drop by level tablespoonful onto pizzelle iron. Follow manufacturer's directions, or wait 45 seconds t0 2 minutes, depending on the iron. Carefully lift out and cool on cookie racks - they harden quickly. Dust with powdered sugar.
What's on today's agenda? Peanut butter balls. And probably the old standby - Macadamia Nut Brittle. Plus, a pot of meat sauce for ravioli on Christmas Eve, and some research to figure out a good Christmas morning brunch that everyone will eat! 4 more days!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Winter Concert

Sunday evening was our regional choir's Christmas concert - we'd been rehearsing since early October! Well, as they say, the weather outside was frightful....overnight Saturday into Sunday we had an ice storm, and 40-50 mph winds were predicted for later Sunday afternoon. Well, I'm sure you all know that ice on trees and wires and strong gusty winds are a deadly combination....and we got extremely lucky. For a few brief hours on Sunday afternoon, the sun came out and the temp climbed to almost 40, and all the ice came crashing off the trees and powerlines, and THEN the winds started. And by the time of the concert, the roads were clear, although it had started snowing again.
It was nice - and now I'm definitely in the Christmas spirit! The concert went well, the audience loved it and the snow and Christmas lights made it particularly beautiful! Now all I have to do is wrap, clean, buy, bake, mail, shop, cook, iron......8 more days......

Friday, December 14, 2007

Questions of the Universe

I was awakened this morning by a small child....my own, of course....climbing into bed beside me. After elbowing me a few times in the ribs and kicking me in an attempt to get under the covers, he finally settled, I hoped long enough for me to get one more catnap before having to get up for good. I was not to be so lucky. "Mommy, look at the sunrise." I'm like, "HUH?" He repeats - "Mommy, look at the pretty sunrise." So I peel open my eyeballs, and, wow, sure enough, out the big window is a really, pretty sunrise - all orange and purplish. But then he says "Mommy, where does the dark go in the morning?" Ummmmmm. Let's see, first, where's my coffee? "Mommy, where does it go?" "Where does WHAT go?" "The dark."

The conversation just got worse from there - mainly because by this time, I'm partially coherent and was trying to make this one of those mother-son bonding moments where I explain the mysteries of the universe. Unfortunately, I think I got a little to technical for his not-quite-4 year old mind. Something about light only hitting half a sphere at once, and since the Earth is a sphere.....I think I confused myself. What I MEANT to say, Jonathan, is that the sun woke up. And when the sun gets out of bed, it chases away the dark, and the dark stays away until the sun goes to bed again at nighttime. Sorry, buddy. Hit me up after my first coffee next time, okay?

And while I'm on the subject of "what wakes me up in the morning", I just have this to add. Have you ever opened your eyes in the morning and the first thing you see see is a dog's nose about one inch away from your face? Happens waaayyyy too often around here - what is it? Is she obsessed with morning breath? Am I about to get licked? It's bad enough Bella (the dog) spends half the night somewhere between my pillow and Mark's - I mean, how much bed can a 12 pound dog occupy? Hey, at least she doesn't elbow me and put her knee into my bladder....I guess I'll take that little black nose in my face after all!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

SUCCESS!


Okay, so if you read my last entry, you probably know what this blob is....a lump of dough in a bowl. And two hours later in a nice warm place, I got THIS:

It raised! Thank you, little yeasties. I punched it down, gave it a few kneads, and shaped it into little balls, then put it back in that warm spot for 45 more minutes, then baked for 20 minutes and VOILA!


Hot, fluffy, really, really good rolls - and if you've ever had the Golden Corral ones, these tasted very much like them, except I didn't brush the tops with butter - I figured we'd put enough of that on as we ate them! Not that they needed it - they were good plain. And Jonathan? Let's just say he got his pound of...dough. Mark and I have discovered a new name for him. We now refer to him as the world's only "carbivore". If it weren't for various forms of dough and carbs, he'd have to be fed with an IV. So Jonathan, anytime you want Mommy to make something, you just say the word....I'll be glad to fix you whatever you want, as long as you EAT it! Here's a link to the recipe I used, it's a little time-consuming, but not if you use a mixer with a dough hook like I did. Have fun! http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/286/Golden-Corrals-Rolls75470.shtml

Rolls? For Dinner? Tonight?

So I'm straightening up the kitchen a bit, when my 3 year old approaches me and says "Mommy, can you make rolls for dinner?" Rolls? You mean the homemade kind? Oh my. Sure, kid, there's 12 excrutiatingly LONG days until Christmas, and I've got absolutely NOTHING to do but sit here and count raindrops, so sure, let me spend half a day in the kitchen making you rolls. Of course, I didn't say that. What I said was something like: "Of course, baby, would you like to help Mommy make them?" I mean, c'mon, my kid (the one that never eats) asks for rolls, and I can't exactly pop open a can of Pillsbury Crescents. Although I have been known to do this a time or two! Okay, rolls, rolls. I guess I could get out the Bisquick - but didn't they have pancakes for breakfast? Oh well, in for a penny, in for pound. I'll let you know how the "Golden Corral Yeast Roll Copycats" turn out.....tune in later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My New Favorite Vegetable


I never in the world thought I would be saying this, but these things are awesome. Sweet Potato Fries! Truthfully, I never really liked sweet potatoes, or at least not those mushy concoctions usually served in the Fall, around the holidays. But this year at our Thanksgiving Dinner at my SIL Donna's house, she made these yummy fries, and gave me the recipe. Now I usually make my own regular fries in the oven, so this wasn't too much of a stretch, and they're so easy, and you can do it a little differently every time. I would think that even kids would eat these - not MY kids, but you know, normal children... ;-)
Anyway, oven to 450, then take a sweet potato or two if they're small. Scrub them down, cut out the yuckies, and use a nice sharp knife to cut them into fry-sized strips. Then, toss them with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and at this point, you can add whatever seasonings you want. I used a little garlic pepper salt, some cumin, and some celery salt. I think my sister-in-law used cumin and fresh thyme, which I was out of. You could also use just coarse salt and pepper. Turn them out in one layer on a greased shallow pan, or I just used my seasoned stoneware (love that thing!). Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes - check with a fork. No need to even flip them over. When you're ready to serve, you can adjust seasonings again, if necessary. Easy, easy and easy - and really tasty, AND, heaven forbid: HEALTHY!
On another note, I have to comment on the kids and all their toys. By the end of the day around here, it looks like this place has been ransacked. I'm not sure how it gets that way, but somehow, our main living area, the living room, is becoming a repository for every toy in the house. I try to designate "toy" areas, and have even started storing a lot of their toys either downstairs in our playroom, or in their bedrooms. If they want to bring them out during the day, fine, but they go back before bedtime. It seems now that as soon as the kids hit their beds at night, Mark and I are obssessed with picking up the toys, and removing all evidence of the short little people that live with us, so we can relax for the rest of the evening, and, more logistically, not have to worry about falling over something in the middle of the night and breaking our necks. And so it is with just a small feeling of guilt, that I say - why is it that my first glance at a completely "picked up" living room makes me feel so GREAT? Makes me want to snuggle down in my couch with a great book, and these days, by the lights of our newly decorated Christmas tree, and just relish the fact that, for the next 12 hours or so, our house is quiet, orderly, and kid-free. On that happy note, I'm off to the couch with my book - at least for a few minutes when I have to face reality again (the load of dirty pots in the sink, the mounting stack of Christmas cards, the unwrapped presents...). But for now, 15 minutes of peace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Insanity Continues

Okay, it's about that time where I start to add up all the gifts I have bought, checking my lists, making sure I have everything and everybody. The other night, I was going over my list for Matthew and I recalled that way back in October (seems like light years ago) I bought him a set of Playskool (is that how you spell it?) trucks and hid them somewhere. And I went looking for them in my mess of a house. And I can't FIND THEM. I have looked everywhere - in the most usual spots, in unusual spots, even in spots I couldn't imagine myself hiding something in, and they're just not here! Well, they are here somewhere, but there's only so many square feet to a house, you know? WHERE ARE THEY? I think I'm going crazy! At this rate, I'm beginning to wonder if I ever brought them home from the store - you know, maybe the bag got left on the carousel....but I have a very dim recollection of seeing them HERE, but after that, my brain must've shut down because I am so clueless about this. Please, someone tell me this is normal.

And to my other son, Jonathan, I have some words for you today. If the tips of your crayons break off because you're pressing too hard, scotch tape won't repair them. You have to be more careful. Crayons break - that's life. You either toss them, or peel down the paper (the horror!) and resharpen it. I'm sorry, baby, this is life.
If your brother gets into your stuff, you MUST be more patient. You must learn to share. You must learn to be nice. You must learn the difference between playful wrestling, and knocking your little brother to the floor in order to recover a toy. One of those actions will get you a timeout, the other will get you a giggle from your brother. You decide which one you want.
And waking up in the middle of the night is fine, but once I put you back to bed, you have to stay there. Finding 16 excuses to get out of bed at 3am is not funny, and Mommy will not be happy with you. Bad dreams, having to go pee-pee, getting scared of the big, bad furnace that unfortunately sits in the basement right under your bedroom and makes loud noises....all these are good excuses to need reassurance from Mommy and Daddy at 3 am. Wanting a certain toy in the middle of the night? Wanting a story at 3 in the morning? No and no. You should know this by now.
Yeah, Monday wasn't the greatest day on record. Had to happen on a Monday, right? We're going for a MUCH happier Tuesday!

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Scones and Sickees


Whew - what a weekend. First, Mark came home at lunchtime on Friday, sick. Add him to the already feverish Jonathan, and the newly feverish Matthew, and I had the makings of a WONDERFUL weekend. So in a nutshell, the weekend consisted of me leaving Mark with the kids while I ran here and there, doing a little grocery shopping, a little Christmas shopping, a little baking and a bit of decorating....I actually got a lot done, and everyone seems to be much better this Monday morning. Let's hope we stay that way.

I did manage to make some scones this weekend - Jonathan loves to help me bake, so we made these, and some cookies which I let him decorate. The recipe for the scones is probably the best, and easiest I have ever run across. My good friend gave me this recipe this past summer, and I've made them a few times since, but don't make them often, because low-fat they are NOT. But oh, so easy, and OH SO TASTY!
Here goes:
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tb. baking powder
1 C. add-ins, i.e., dried fruit/chips - all cut to raisin size or less
1 1/4 C. heavy cream (yeah, there's the "fat" problem!)
Oven to 425. Greased baking sheet, or I use seasoned stoneware. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork. Add the "add-ins" (more on this below), then add the cream and stir until dough comes together. Turn onto floured surface and kneed 8-10 times. Pat dough into 10 circle, cut into 12 wedges. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
15-20 minutes or until golden. YUM.
Add-ins can vary. I used mini chocolate chips and dried cranberries in this round. You could also do the chips and dried cherries. Or cinnamon chips and raisins. Or something with apricots. Doesn't matter, just use a full cup. One other note about this recipe - if you don't feel like kneeding and cutting, you can just drop them - not as pretty, but much faster! Mmmm - I'm eating one right now with a cup of coffee.....makes you want to run to Starbuck's doesn't it?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Some Thoughts About Ebay

You know it, you love it - the original worldwide online buy/sell venue. A genius idea, if you ask me, IF you're willing to trust the integrity of....well, normal, everyday people who you don't know, never met, never spoke to and can't see. Somehow, it all works - most of the time. I'm sure Ebay has seen it's share of crooks over the years, and I'm sure many people have lost some money. But that's not what this is about.
I've had an Ebay account for several years, and in those several years have conducted almost 100 or so transactions, some buying, but mostly selling. It's sporadic for me, I'll list half a dozen items - stuff I had laying around the house or saw cheap at a yard sale - sell it all, then wait a few months, do it all again. For me, it's mostly "clean out the clutter, make a few extra bucks on the side". No big deal. So about 6 months ago, I listed an item, got bids, got more bids, auction ended, buyer paid through paypal at around 6am the following morning, according to the time stamp on the transaction. I packed up the item, and trundled myself and my boys off to the post office at around 2pm that same afternoon. Here's where things get tricky. I offer all my buyers a choice of shipping - most of them choose priority mail, which is really fast. But others, who aren't perhaps interested in getting their items lightning fast, can choose a slower shipping. Which is what this guy did. Now whether he KNEW he was choosing the slower shipping (which, in all fairness, CAN BE a lot cheaper) I don't know. But at any rate, he had to have made the choice, it's a drop+pick box on the payment transaction page. So off it went to Texas, from Maryland, using Parcel Post - which the post office guarantees like 3-10 day delivery. Fine.
About a week later, I get a snarky email from him. He hasn't received his item yet. Where is it? I email back, avoiding a snarky reply, because I've learned that to not take the defensive is sometimes the best approach. Told him I mailed it the same day he paid, told him it's on the way, told him Parcel Post takes longer. Told him to email me if it didn't show up soon. Two days later, he emails again. Now he's mad. Where's the item? Accuses me of not mailing it promptly. Threatens to report me to Ebay. Calls me all kinds of names. I kindly (and I do mean kindly) email him back again, explaining that I mailed his item on the day he paid, and when he gets it, he can check the postmark if he has any doubt. At this point, I'm mad too, but at who, I'm not even sure. All I know is that I did what I was supposed to do! So from then on, it's a daily barrage of crap in my inbox. Totally abusive guy - just wouldn't let up. You would think he was waiting for a kidney.
So FINALLY, after about 13 days he gets his item. Doesn't email me this time. Just leaves me feedback on the Ebay feedback forum telling the world that I am a lousy shipper. Oh, and by the way, this is AFTER I had already left him glowing feedback about how quickly he paid.
So this time, I emailed him. And I was STILL nice. Told him I was really appalled at how he could tell everyone on Ebay that I was a lousy, slow shipper, when he knew the truth - since by now, he had the package, he had to have looked at the postmark. I told him it was really crappy of him to do something like that - it was just low.
And what do I get back? Another abusive email, telling me how delusional I am, and it's not his fault it took 13 days to get his package, etc.... So this time, I let him have it, both barrels. I won't say what I wrote, but let's just say I got my pound of flesh. Including telling him that he would INDEED get reported to Ebay (and he did) because I happened to have a little receipt from the post office laying around, with a DATE on it. Then I blocked him from my inbox, blocked him from ever buying anything from me on Ebay again, and blocked him from my life - at least the physical part of it. Emotionally, this creep still makes my skin crawl.
So Ebay, sorry to say, there are freaks in the world. They're arrogant, self-centered, abusive and nasty. They can't admit they're wrong. I still wheel and deal on Ebay. I'm not going to let one jerk ruin it for everyone. I honestly believe that people can conduct business, sight unseen. But every once in awhile, you run up against someone who really makes you question the goodness in people's hearts....I mean, what is WITH some people?

Oh, and that item I sold him? Lest you think it was something important, something very expensive, or something with any kind of sentiment or emotion, or perhaps even something that he needed for a gift.....no. The item, or in this case items, that I sold him, was an assortment of....golf balls. Way to go, Freak. Get yourself all worked up, get me upset, lie, misconstrue, LIBEL, and be an overall jerk, all for something you could've gone and bought yourself in 5 minutes at Walmart.

Anybody who sells on Ebay and wants to block this guy from buying from them, just let me know, I'll be happy to supply you with his Ebay identity.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Filth and Football

Okay, at risk of boring you all completely, I've got to do it. I've got to comment on Monday Night Football last night, if only because I love the Baltimore Ravens too much to not comment! Up against the heavily favored Patriots, on Baltimore turf, and facing a 5 game losing streak, the Ravens poured their heart and soul into the game, and unfortunately came up just shy. Too bad. I'm not enough of an analyst to go into the why's and wherefore's, but to me, it was a great game, and to watch as the Ravens put up more offense than we've seen, literally, in YEARS, was heartening. Sure, I'm disappointed the Ravens are having such a crappy season, but at least they weren't embarrassed like they were in the Pittsburgh MNF game, and in the game against San Diego last weekend! You gotta hand it those guys - Tom Brady has his worst game of the season, and our offense had it's best - take that last minute away, and you have something wonderful!
So, in other news, yesterday, I happened to glance at the floor underneath of Matthew's high chair, and the light from the window was catching just right...to see the grossest mess! Now, granted, Matthew does have this rotten habit of tossing his food - and I mean everything - applesauce, mac and cheese, cereal, whatever. Even if he likes it and is eating it, he still can't resist tossing some of it on the floor, much to the dog's delight. And herein lies the problem. The animal actually does a fairly good job of keeping the floor "clean", but her antics just encourage Matthew to toss more - what can I say, he likes to feed her! But, she's not a mop, so the floor just accumulates messes - and yesterday I actually glanced over and literally saw a dog's paw print on the floor, and not because it was muddy. A paw print in the residue of food. Foul. I do actually mop, about twice a week. And I sweep at least twice a day. I just can't KEEP UP! Now before you think I live in squalor, let me assure you, there's not like, little chunks of food stuck on my floor - far from it. And that paw print is now...history. I guess I just get discouraged when I clean, and clean, and clean, and mop and mop and as soon as we have one meal, the floor looks like a herd of elephants went through. What gives?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Thanksgiving in San Diego





So anyway - Yeah, Thanksgiving in SoCal. Turkey Day was nice - we went to my SIL's house for the big feed - and I got an awesome new recipe for sweet potato fries - which I will post soon. Then we went to the beach! Okay, not exactly in swimsuits and towels, but still, it was a warm evening, and I've never been to the beach on Thanksgiving Day before. Matthew loved it, perhaps a little TOO much, as you can tell from the pictures - he spotted trouble and took off right towards it at a full sprint. Mark had just enough time to take the picture, secure the camera and go dashing after him!
So we stayed out there just under a week. The highlight of the trip was listening to Mark's niece, Chloe play music at the Dixieland Jazz Festival. Wow, she was amazing. We were awed at the talent just rolling out of this kid - 15 years old and enough charm, poise and personality to captivate hundreds of folks at this festival. Nice job, Chloe! We look forward to hearing you again someday soon!
And it was great seeing the three little cousins together - they don't see each other often, unfortunately, but even Matthew, for all his hesitancy about strangers, took one look at Chloe when we got out of the taxi from the airport, and took an instant liking to her even though he hadn't seen her since he was about 8 weeks old! This is the kid who got new shoes the day before we left for California, and wouldn't allow the poor saleslady within 10 feet of him; he cried piteously and I could barely get the shoes on him. But his cousin, no way - he liked her the instant he saw her - must be a bond there only they know about!
So yeah, now we're back. Trying to recover from various illnesses and at the same time, wondering when we're going to get all the stuff done for Christmas that needs to be done in the next, oh, 23 days or so. Yikes. On that happy note, maybe I should go clean something. Or maybe get some of my Fall pumpkin decorations put away - which makes me think - hmmmm, I'm awfully late on this - but then I think that it was a wonder I was even able to get them out in the first place, so I guess I have to try and not overlook small favors!

Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm Back!

Oh, my - sorry for the break in the action, but we spent a nice long week in sunny San Diego for Thanksgiving, visiting family and having the time of our lives with a three-hour time difference and two children under 4. HA! It actually wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to be. More details on that later. But for now, we're still in recovery mode. I got sick in San Diego, then had to fly home - let me tell you my ears are still clogged and ringing and I got off that plane 4 days ago. And now? Jonathan has the sniffles, sure to turn into something full-blown by morning, and Mark informed me, oh, about an hour ago that he thinks he's coming down with a cold, too. Great. There goes the weekend. Matthew, wanna join the crowd? You're getting a tooth, why not catch a cold on top of it? Pics, stories and general musings later - but for now, I'm trying to get all the sleep I can. Boys are asleep, so here's my chance!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shoes on Wires?

Okay, out and about today, we're driving around, and I noticed something I notice all over the place and just don't understand....shoes hanging off of power lines or telephone wires. Can someone PLEASE tell me the meaning of this? I literally have seen this all over the country - mostly in small towns, but everywhere I go, it seems! Do people go out in the middle of the night and toss shoes up there for fun? Is it a statement? A secret code? And do they stand in the middle of the road to do it? Who owns the shoes? I really, really hope someone can explain this to me someday.....I've seen if for years, now!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Late Night Snack-Attack!


There they are - my boys, all ready for bed, but not willing to give in just yet...at least not until that bowl of popcorn is consumed. And I don't think Matthew's going to get any of it!
Mark and I love popcorn. We used to make it in the microwave, but then started reading about whatever leachates were in those packages, etc..., so we decided to buy an air popper. Then I remembered that mom and dad had one that they rarely (if ever) used, so we asked if we could "borrow" it for say....the next 20 years, and they were only too happy to get it out of their cabinets - more space for other stuff! The air popper is GREAT! Nice, low-cal treats at night - and Jonathan has fallen in love with it. He eats popcorn almost every night - and he likes us to pop him up a big bowl while he watches movies after his bath.
I highly recommend an air popper - they actually still sell these things - couldn't readily find one at Walmart last time I looked, but you can get them online at like Amazon or somewhere. What I like most is there's little or no mess to make it and it's so fast!
Beware of one hazard, though....in the picture, the kids are in our bed. No matter how much I pick up, somehow, there are always corn kernals (popped AND unpopped) in our bed. Now where is that silly dog when you really need her?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Attack of the Killer....VACUUM?

You know, I thought I had this vacuum problem licked. Matthew had been terrified of it for so long, about a month or two ago I thought I had a breakthrough when he actually just ran away from it one day rather than turning himself inside-out with hysterics like he usually did. Since that supposed "break-through", things have been fair, at best. He still runs - either to me, or away from me, usually crying as I try to vacuum. And mostly, I just try to avoid vacuuming altogether unless Mark is home and can take the kids downstairs to play. Maybe that's the wrong approach - maybe I should just get the thing out everyday and then he'll just get used to it that way. Hmmmm, might have to think that one over. But who wants to vacuum everyday? (Not that my house couldn't use a good vacuuming most days, but I digress.)

So why the blog about the vacuum today? Well, today I decided to get some serious cleaning done and am tackling Jonathan's room. I have two "helpers" of course, who are probably spreading around more dust than I care to think about. But anyhow, I pulled out the vacuum, and went ahead and turned it on....bad move. Matthew comes streaking over to me from wherever he was, trips, falls over the cylinder, lands with a splat and bit his tongue - blood everywhere, screaming, crying. Can you say SETBACK? At this rate, I think he'll be 18 before I get this house clean.

But not all is lost. Jonathan felt so sorry for Matthew, he ran to the toys, picked out one of his OWN favorites - his Thomas Train Whistle - gave it to me and said "Give this to Matthew, it'll make him feel better". Wow. This is the kid who ranks "sharing" right up there with "root canal" or eating cold brussels sprouts. Way to go, Jonathan - I think you made my day! And BTW, it DID make Matthew feel better. Back to the trenches....AFTER Matthew goes down for his nap!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Poppy's Little "Helper"


Grandma and Poppy came up for part of the weekend - they stayed with us overnight on Friday night. And when Poppy comes, things get done around here! Starting with my sink, which one side had been leaking for a few weeks. I was kinda hoping that the whole thing would need to be replaced, but alas, Poppy said he could fix it by installing a new drain and stopper (darn - I was really hoping to get a new 60/40 split sink!). So I consoled myself with a brand new faucet, instead. So there he is - there's my dad, doing what he does best. And Jonathan, doing what HE does best, getting in the way, OOPS, I mean, "helping". At any given time, he was either snatching tools, banging his own head, or standing on Poppy's stomach....
But anyway, the sink got fixed, and so did a broken outdoor water pipe out by our pool - yes, we are STILL dealing with plumbing issues out in the pool, even though it's November in the mountains. Does it ever end? So, a huge, THANK YOU DAD! You're welcome to come back ANYTIME! And thanks to you, too, Mom, for watching the kids while we got all this work done!
In other news, we've had some bouts with illness around here - colds for me, Mark and Jonathan, and Matthew had a lovely 10 day run of diarrhea. Everyone's better now - or just about better - explains my lack of blog entries for the last week or so!
Today's Veteran's Day, so Mark is home for the day - so I should be off getting some stuff done! It's that time of year - LOTS to do. Happy Monday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chili Weekend

Hmmmm, now does that mean chili, like I meant it, or chilly, as in we froze this weekend? Well, both, actually. It got cold this weekend. Heavy frost. Furnace coming on first thing in the morning (is there anything more comforting on a cold morning than hearing the furnace kick on?). After one of the warmest Octobers on record, November has come in with a blast - we could even get some snow tomorrow night!
But that's not what I wanted to blog about. I wanted to blog about chili. Now, growing up, I was never a huge fan of chili. I didn't do well with spicy food, and for some reason, I usually avoided foods with cumin or chili powder....I know, I'm nuts -- but I grew up in an Italian household, and cumin and chili powder couldn't be farther from the usual household herbs and spices!
However, a bunch of years ago, when Mark and I were still only dating, we went to a work Christmas party where one of our friends had made and brought the most awesome pot of chili. Wow - either I was really missing out, or this guy could cook - I mean, not having a chili history to compare it to, I wasn't sure if all chili was that good or what! But everyone really liked it, and our friend was kind enough to supply me with his version of "how to make chili" and the rest is history.
This weekend's batch turned out well - and since the kids don't really eat it (probably too spicy anyway), I usually have enough for about 4 nights unless I freeze some. I'm still having some trouble finding good hot peppers - last month I used Anaheim's and they weren't spicy at all. This time I used Poblano's and they were even milder. Both times I've had to resort to the powdered cayenne to get a little kick. But despite my pepper issues, it's easy to make, turns out well, and is pure comfort food on chilly...well....chili weekends.
File this one under kitchen sucesses....and if you want to try it yourself, here's a guide.....not a "recipe" exactly, but if you spend any time in the kitchen, you'll know what to do:

carrot
onion
bell peppers (red and/or green)
ground meat (beef or turkey - I use 1 1/4 pounds 93% lean turkey)
large can petite diced tomatoes
dark red kidney beans and
light red kidney beans (1 can of each and I usually drain and rinse both)
1 or 2 beers (lately I've been using a deep porter)
cumin and
chili powder (start with tablespoon of each, increase as needed to taste)
hot peppers (again, go with what you can find, but so far, I haven't found many that impart much heat into the chili)

You can saute the carrot and onion until tender, then brown the meat, then add everything else and reduce for an hour or two or until a desired consistency is reached. Make a day ahead for better overall flavor.
Have fun! This recipe makes 8 solid portions - or 6 if you're feeding hungry lumberjacks. And I usually pair it with some homemade cornbread!

Friday, November 2, 2007

BOO!





So here they are! If it's not that obvious, Jonathan is (was) a pumpkin and Matthew was a lion. Jonathan had been talking about little else than dressing up in his "pumpkin suit" for days, so when Halloween finally rolled around and he woke up with the sniffles, I was so disappointed in thinking that HE would be disappointed. Mommies. Just the way we are, I guess. But it turned out okay - it was over 70 degrees that day, and we only took them to half a dozen houses or so around my mom and dad's neighborhood. Matthew was delighted to be out and running around outside, even though he was dressed in a costume that, had he seen himself in a mirror, probably would've scared him like crazy. But he was clueless and looked really cute, and had a blast following around his big brother. He doesn't quite "get it" yet, and didn't mind when his entire bucket of candy got emptied into Jonathan's bucket of candy (now, gee, wonder how THAT happened!), but I'll bet he won't be so reasonable next Halloween!
Lastly, a family picture...taken at my mom's just after we got back from trick-or-treating. Me and Mark dressed in our standard costumes, Mommy and Daddy. Or, more appropriately, SAHM and computer geek.
Which brings me to a few thoughts on Halloween. There's a little kid in my mom's neighborhood who's got a peanut allergy. The severe kind - can't even be around peanuts. So the little guy goes around with his mom and dad, and if a Snicker's bar hovers anywhere near his little pumpkin bucket, mom and dad intervene, explain why he can't have it and generally leave empty-handed. They also have a little girl - one year old. They aren't sure whether or not she'll have the peanut allergy, too, so for now, they're playing it safe and not letting her have any of it either. Most of the folks have adjusted to this, and have something special for him of the non-peanut variety. My mom and dad made them up little bags of homemade cookies. Girl down the street had a non-peanut basket of candy, and also a basket full of little bags of goldfish for the tiny little guys. Whew - is Halloween getting hard or what? Maybe we should all start passing out pencils? Just thinking this makes me sound intolerant --- I'm not. I know how severe allergies can be and how serious this situation is. But are we to accomodate every allergy and ailment there is? What about the diabetic kids? Should we have a basket for them, too? It just feels like Halloween has just gotten too serious. When I was kid, we threw on a mask or maybe had a good idea and made a costume. We went out after dinner, rang a few doorbells of our beloved neighbors who always let us run through their yards, play with their dogs and occasionally knock their mailboxes down with our bicycles (true story!). Nowadays, it is so scheduled, so important. "Trick-or-treaters will be accomodated between 6-8 pm ONLY" reads our neighborhood association's announcement.
I'm not saying any of this is wrong. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I had a kid who was allergic to peanuts, or couldn't eat candy, I think I would just maybe handle it a bit differently. Rather than going around, ringing doorbells, shouting "trick-or-treat!" and then announcing "OOPS! You bought something with nuts, sorry, we can't eat that!", along with a very expectant look, waiting for you to produce something else. I'm serious. This actually happened. Last year. That's how everyone knew to have something non-peanut THIS year. I just can't get my head around this. I'm thinking that somehow, these parents are teaching the wrong lesson, but I'm not sure who they're teaching it to. Can anyone shed a little light?
And finally I got to thinking that maybe Halloween is sometimes more for the adults than the kids. I know I was more excited about seeing my little guys in their little costumes than they probably were, and heck, they can do that any day of the year. So now we have a huge bucket of candy, of which, Mark and I will eat the most, I'm sure. And one kid who luckily, still has no idea what went on, and another kid who has asked me every day since Wednesday "Mommy, can I wear my pumpkin suit again?" Yeah, they get it. Funny thing, by the time they REALLY get it, they probably shouldn't be allowed to do it anymore!!

It's November....

...and all I can say is DOH! Man, where is time going? Sorry I haven't touched this blog in about a week - thanks for sticking around, PATIENTLY sticking around, that is! I've got pictures to post of Halloween, but have to download them first - just give me a few hours, okay?
We spent most of the week at Grandma and Poppy's house. Mark had a meeting or two in Annapolis and then had some work in the area, so we packed up and went down on Monday, just got home this afternoon. Jonathan came home with a cold...well, the sniffles anyway. Hoping that it doesn't go into a full-blown infection or ear infection --- he's not leaving the house this weekend, so we HOPE that will give him a chance to recover. Matthew came home with a lovely diaper rash. And all this is sounding like we had a miserable time at the grandparents' --- really not true at all! Just that Mommy forgot the diaper cream and Matthew had a little too much apple cider. And Jonathan, well, he hasn't been sick for ages, so I guess he was due. Just hoping now that he keeps it to himself.
So here it is, November. We're busy. Many things to do. Weather getting colder, although I can't complain about October's weather! More later, with pictures. Promise.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Family Dinner Night

You know you've got kids if your dinnertime conversation goes something like this:
Adult 1: So, how was your day...take your feet off the table.
Adult 2: Fine, I had to (geeky gobble-dy-gook) and talked to (so and so) about fixing the hard drive on his laptop next week and I may have to go to (some place with seventeen computers that are broken) and....
Child 1: Mommy, I don't like grilled cheese.
Adult 1: But you asked for grilled cheese. Which day are you going next week because I've got to get my schedule straight....stop feeding the dog the grilled cheese.
Child 2: GA-GA-GA-GA-GA-SNORT
Child 1: EWWWW - Mommy! Matthew made a mess!
Adult 2: I'm not sure yet, but probably Monday or Tuesday, depends on the users...stop kicking me, will ya?
Adult 1: Well, Monday would probably be better....if you want a drink young man, you'd better start eating that sandwich and stop playing with those toys or I'll take them away.
Child 2: AhAhAhAh Gurrlll, belch, snort (throws cup and food to the dog)
Child 1: Mommy, Matthew's feeding the puppy!
Adult 1: Why don't you mind your own business and eat your sandwich...did you hear what I said?
Adult 2: Yes, Monday, but I can't guarantee it, pass the salad. What did you do today?
Adult 1: You have to ask?
Child 1: Mommy, I need to get up.
Adult 1: Laundry, mopped floor, read "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go" 14 times, put all the summer clothes away, grocery shopping....no, you need to finish your sandwich and wait for the family to finish eating, then you can get up.
Adult 2: Did you leave me some summer shirts out? It still could be warm for a few more weeks, you know?
Child 1: Mommy, are you done eating? Can I have a drink?
Adult 2: Did you hear what Mommy said? No drink until you're done your sandwich, and No, mommy is not done eating, so you can't get up.
Adult 1: Of course I left you some short-sleeved shirts...sit DOWN!
Child 1: But MOMMY!
Child 2: WAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
Adult 2: Are we done here?

Did someone say that families should eat together? Why? WHY? Guess we have to get a few more years under our belts to start truly enjoying this activity! In the meantime, Mark and I have learned to shelve our important conversations until the kiddos are fast asleep. Otherwise, we get nothing accomplished!

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Weekend in the Kitchen

Happy to say, the overnight oatmeal turned out great! It was so easy - I used one full cup of steel-cut oats (which, btw, are much better for you than the rolled oats or quick oats - explained later) and 4 cups of water and about a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Seven hours on low and we got up to steaming bowls of nutrition! Not to mention, the house smelled of cinnamon and it was very inviting and cozy on a brisk fall day!
A word on this recipe. I'd read a LOT of recipes - many that called for fruit - raisins, cranberries, apples, etc... But it seemed that the fruit got really mushy overnight, so I decided to add stuff just before we ate it. We added brown sugar, raisins and walnuts in the morning, and this worked well. And it's nice that each person can customize their own bowl - particularly if you have guests. And about the steel-cut oats - it's the entire oat that's chopped up, not just the inside part. So you're getting lots more fiber and other good stuff. It's a little different texture, and if you were to make the steel-cuts on the stove top, it'd take about a half an hour. So overnight's the way to go.
Other kitchen adventures this weekend? Chicken noodle soup in the crock-pot (hey, I dragged it out of the cabinet for the oatmeal, might as well use it again, right?) That'll be dinner for at least two nights this week, and then I'll freeze some for later. Pineapple upside-down cake for dessert last night (the leftovers of which, are staring at me this morning), and a huge breakfast after church yesterday. We usually go out for breakfast after church, but we're trying to come home at least a few Sundays a month now - save a little money and enjoy being gathered around our sunny kitchen table together. I made turkey bacon and eggs, and pancakes which we enjoyed with the pure maple syrup we picked up at the Fall Festival a few weeks ago.
So it may seem like it, but I didn't spend the ENTIRE weekend in the kitchen, although 3 meals a day for 4 people for two solid days certainly does take a pretty hefty chunk of time. Especially the "clean-up" part! But we did manage to clean out our storage room downstairs, and today, I'm going to drop off a huge load to the Goodwill. We also found time on Saturday night to catch "Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith - a GREAT movie. If you haven't seen it, see it. This movie will make you feel fortunate, will make you feel blessed and will make you want to go hug your children, no matter how many crumbs they leave lying around. No matter what your circumstances are in life, trust me, it's tons better than what this guy went through. And it's a true story, which makes it amazing.
So that's the weekend wrap-up. We're enjoying the fall colors around here and the gorgeous weather. Today is supposed to be 80! And the colors seem to be at their peak right about now, but I have a feeling the bottom is going to drop out in a hurry. It is late October, after all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

SAVE YOURSELVES!!


It's the killer-attack laundry basket! I have to admit, when I went in to figure out what all the noise was, I was furious and ready to yell....Mr. Monster Laundry Basket's brother was taking a nap, and I heard all these bumps and crashes and I was about to read him the riot act. But when I saw what was going on, all I could think to do was grab my camera - and I walked over a freshly-mopped wet floor to get to the camera, so now you know I'm crazy!
Tonight, I'm going to try overnight oatmeal in the crock-pot with steel-cut oats Never tried it before, but the idea of waking up to a hot breakfast that I don't have to cook is very, very appealing. And if the kids eat it, double bonus! Keep your fingers crossed.
Happy Friday everyone - here's to a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Mind of a Child

With a grocery list that grew into two sheets of paper, I packed up the boys this morning and headed out. To not one, but two markets. In between, we met Daddy for lunch. Jonathan got his usual favorite - ginger ale - served, of course, in a plastic cup with straw and lid. Which, he was delighted to take with him to the second grocery store when we had finished eating. Somewhere in some aisle, he finished the soda and put the cup next to him in the cart. We checked out, and made our way out of the store. As soon as we hit the sidewalk, he grabbed the cup and started shaking it upside down, so that all the melted ice was trickling out the straw and straw hole, making the sidewalk wet, and getting all over his shoes, pants, etc.... And here's me, the ever-nagging mom: "Jonathan, knock it off, you're getting all wet". And then there's my child - "But Mommy, the birds are thirsty." I should've known. Man, I need to have more patience. Sometimes this kid is enough to make a saint drink. But if I ever once stopped to figure out what's really on his mind, I would probably learn something.

Baking With Children





Yesterday, Jonathan and I decided to make some Fall/Halloween cookies. He loves to help out in the kitchen, and this was one of those mommy/kid experiences that I remember from when I was little, and I would watch and help out in the kitchen when my mom and Grandma used to bake. And as an aside, how many globs of raw cookie dough did we consume as kids, and who would let their kids consume it now with all the raw egg risks? I wonder how in the world we all survived licking bowls and eating dough like we did! ;-)
Anyway - it was a really easy recipe using Bisquick - and you were supposed to roll them into little balls, then roll the balls in colored sugars, then flatten them with a glass. Well, I have all these cute Fall-themed cookie cutters, so I cut some shapes with some of the dough, and then rolled balls for Jonathan to decorate with the remaining dough. We had so much fun! My kitchen floor will never be the same, and there's colored sugar granules in every corner and crack in my kitchen, but the cookies are yum! Of course, now I've got this whole can of cookies to consume, along with the apple pie I made this weekend....but I just can't resist baking in the Fall - makes the house smell good and warms up a blustery day. And Jonathan had the time of his life - how can I argue with that?

Monday, October 15, 2007

What IS Jonathan Eating?


Okay, well, first of all, it's a miracle he's eating anything anyway. For those of you who know, and know of, Jonathan, you know it isn't easy to get food into his mouth. But this little treat got the mouth open. For those of you who don't live in Western Pennsylvania, he is eating a whoopie pie. A 6 inch in diameter whoopie pie. For those in and around Western PA, he's eating a gob. Yes, a gob. Apparently, that's what they call them up there. And for those of you wondering what in the world appears to be on top of the gob that looks like a flower, that's just the plastic wrap it was wrapped in. But you get the idea. BTW, the gob was good! The little bits Mark and I could pry from his fingers were pretty tasty!
So anyway - yes, Western PA - we were in Bedford for their annual Fall Foliage Festival which featured 400 vendors, 4000 strollers and 40,000 people. Okay, slight exaggeration on the strollers and people, but it seemed like that! But the weather was nice, the kids were relatively good and it was a nice change of scenery.
That was Saturday. Sunday was football and chili day - Redskins lost against Green Bay, but the Ravens managed to beat St. Louis. I didn't actually get to watch the Ravens because it's the one game a year that isn't televised where we live, so I had to settle myself with listening to the game on the radio in the kitchen while I made apple pie. Go Purple!
And now it's Monday, yes, my absolute favorite day of the week - yeah, right! I'm doing my usual - catching up on emails, catching up on blogs, trying to get the kids to eat something healthy for breakfast. Sigh. I'm not sure why I bother worrying so much!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Insanely Busy Weekend

Okay, I admit it right up front. I have no pictures from the weekend. We took the camera. It's just....you know. Actually living life got in the way of digitally recording it for all posterity. And such glorious weather, too....sigh.
So Saturday, we went to the Springs Folk Festival in nearby Springs, PA. Held every Fall, and in it's 50th year, it's a wonderful festival full of food, crafts, artisans, music, storytelling and peaceful, gentle people. (Good thing, because Matthew got away from us at one point, almost giving me a heart attack, or at least palpitations, but I digress.....and since I don't want to relive that moment, I won't go into detail. He's fine, we're fine, from now on, he gets the harness.) ANYWAY, this festival is wondrous because at any of the food stands, you get the food that they are making right there, in the moment. Like doughnuts being fried and sugared in front of you, and brought to you, literally still hot and still leaking hot grease into the napkin. Bread being baked in outdoor ovens, sliced hot and schmeared with apple butter being stirred 10 feet away, or with real butter being churned nearby. Ice cream being cranked into the container, scooped out into a cup and presented to you. Maple syrup boiling away, maple candy, sugar and syrup right there for purchase. I could go on and on. We arrived hungry, left not so hungry, and I got some nice goodies to take home. Did I mention all the food? ;-)
And Sunday? Oh my - what a nonstop day. Started at 9am with chuch, at which I both sing in the choir and play my flute, all while helping Mark mind our little guys, while trying to make sure they're not falling down the choir loft (very steep) steps and throwing their sippy cups over the front of the loft and into the congregation below. Most days, they're really good. Today, not so good. We had to leave a few minutes early, because Matthew was approaching full-blown melt-down, and Jonathan wasn't his best - which AT BEST, isn't wonderful.
Now usually after church, we get some breakfast. Today was different - we had a baptism at 1pm, and today happened to be our church's first annual Spaghetti Dinner. So we decided to go eat spaghetti for lunch, but while we waited for the doors to open, we went downtown to kill some time and get some cappucinos. Walked the kids around downtown, and went back up to the church and settled in for an Italian feast, which was pretty good! We met some nice folks from our church and talked awhile - which is nice because Mark and I have only been parishoners there for about 9 months now. We're getting to know people, and that makes me happy.
After using about a dozen wipes cleaning up the kids (what was I thinking - red sauce before a baptism?), we left and crossed the street back to church for my friend's Judi and Jeff's little boy's baptism. What was special about this is that they had asked me to be his Godmother. So I found myself standing up for this tiny little baby (Jeff and Judi's 5th boy, BTW) and feeling overwhelmed at the level of love, friendship and community I'm starting to feel in this little mountain home of ours lately!
After the baptism, I took Mark and Matthew home. Matthew wasn't his best all day, and he really needed the nap. But Jonathan and I changed clothes and headed over to the post-baptism party, where Jonathan played hard for most of the rest of the afternoon with Jeff and Judi's four other boys! We returned home in time for me to sling some supper at the boys, give Jonathan a bath, and change my clothes (for the third time) to go to the first practice of the Western Maryland combined choirs - every year all the church choirs get together and do a Christmas concert. I didn't know tonight was the first night until the last minute. With all I did today, I wasn't sure I was going to bother going, but I wanted to make the FIRST practice. Glad I did - we're singing some beautiful music this year and I've got a lot of work to do to learn it, both with my voice, and my flute!
So I'm home now - grateful for a beautiful weekend full of family, friends, and faith.
The best part? Tomorrow's Columbus Day! A holiday for Mark, so my Monday, Monday routine won't be so yucky tomorrow - I'll have ALL my boys home all day!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Random Musings of the Day




Some new pics of the kiddos - Jonathan just HAD to rake a leaf pile and jump in - he wouldn't listen to any arguments that in a few weeks, there'll be LOTS more leaves. So the biggest pile we could muster was, well, not very big. But I think he still had lots of fun! And Matthew. Learning to climb. It's hilarious - somehow in the 5 days he's known how to get up there, he's already figured out the best seat in the house! Nothing like the corner of the wrap-around couch!

Have a question for all you moms out there. Why, oh WHY do kids have to dump toys? I just don't get it. All these random toys here and there - large toys, little toys, whatever. They aren't good enough. The only toy good enough is the one on the bottom of the toybox, or in our case, the canvas bin. At any given moment, the two of them can be found pawing through this bin in search of heaven knows what....wait - I think I even have a recent picture of that....


Why is the bin in the closet, you ask? Well, mainly, to try to enforce the old adage - "out of sight, out of mind." They are into this bin all day, rooting to find some elusive toy at the bottom, or, even more heinous, pulling it out of the closet and just dumping it. Makes my blood boil. Nothing, and I mean nothing about raising kids makes me more frustrated. Except whatever's going to happen this evening to make me eat my words.
Does anyone have any idea how bad for you buffalo wings are? Last week, we went out to lunch. We ordered the kids one of those little pizzas - personal size - and I thought I'd get a few bites of that, so rather than me ordering a full lunch, I just decided to order an appetizer, and in trying to pick a fairly healthy one, I chose the wings. Wow, they were so good. So, in all my naivete, I decided to make them for dinner last night. I bought some wings at the market, came home, started looking for recipes. That's when I found out - so much for low-cal! My heck! First of all, those babies are deep-fried! Then the sauce? Pretty much equal parts hot sauce and hello...BUTTER. Ummmm - no wonder they're so good? After about an hour of searching and assimilating some recipes, I finally had my plan, and it actually worked out pretty well. So here's the "south beach diet" version....
8 wings, separated at the joints with tips cut off
enough hot sauce to marinate (I used Crystal - just use your favorite) Put all this in a ziploc bag and stick in the fridge for less than 24 hours. I did it for 2. I can imagine if you leave it longer, they'll be hotter. But not more than 24 hours, because I think the vinegar/acid in the sauce at that point starts breaking down the meat.
Preheat oven to 400
Get another ziploc. Put in about a cup of Bisquick, a teaspoon of flavored salt (celery salt works well, garlic salt would work well, whatever you like) And if you really like it hot, you can add some cayenne pepper. Mix well. Get the wings, drain the sauce, put 3-4 wings in the bag at once and shake to coat. Lay them all out in one layer on a nonstick stoneware or regular 9x13 pan. Bake for 25 minutes on one side, flip them over and bake another 20-25 minutes. Yum. And low-cal, too. Well, if you don't eat the skin. I took the skin off as I ate. I tried to get it off when they were raw, but it didn't work out too well - half the meat was coming off with the skin! Plus the skin seals in moisture. So if you don't mind peeling it off as you eat (hey, your hands are going to get full of sauce anyway), it works much better that way!
Man it's been a long week - twice already this week, Matthew has been up in the middle of the night for 2 hours. Sunday night I'm not sure what it was. Last night, it was gas. Mark and I tried everything and were about to hang him upside down by his ankles (that was a JOKE, people), when it started coming out on it's own, spontaneously! After he gets it out, he was still screaming. So what's wrong now? Well, hmmm, we ate dinner at 5, it was now 1am, and he ate very little for a bedtime snack (about 10 pieces of cereal), so could he POSSIBLY be hungry? He was. Starving. So after some milk and animal crackers, off to bed he went. And off to bed we went. Thankfully, all was quiet after that, but having to do that TWO nights this week was not fun. Let's just say, we're very much looking forward to the weekend, which, this weekend, happens to be a three-day weekend because of the holiday on Monday! Thank goodness - we need the break! Lots of plans this weekend, hope the weather holds!

The Culinary Arts, Chapter 241

So I tried something new the other day. Acorn squash. The little dark green squashes that look like....well, acorns almost. I had picked one up at the farmer's market last week, and it was sitting there on my countertop, begging to be cooked and eaten, but how? Never having eaten or cooked one before I turned to...what else? The internet. Read about how they do better with a sweet preparation over a savory, herb preparation, read about how to cut, scoop seeds, roast, serve, etc... Armed with all this new knowledge, I sliced it in two, scooped the seeds and strings out, salted a bit, smeared the exposed halves with softened butter, and drizzled them with pure maple syrup. Into the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. I have to admit, it did smell good. With the smells of Fall wafting through the open windows of the late mountain afternoon, the roasting squash added a warm, nutty aroma. I pulled them out of the oven and put a half on my plate and on Mark's plate - the flesh was nice and soft - easily scooped out with a spoon - couldn't wait to try it.....and YUCK!!! Okay, to be fair, Mark really liked it. So did Matthew. Jonathan refused to even try it (big surprise there....but I digress). As for me? Well, I've always been a texture person. And my idea of "delicious" does not in any way include a mouthful of what felt like stringy custard. The taste wasn't all that bad - slightly sweet, rather nutty, sort of like a sweet potato, but maybe not as strong. But oh gross, the texture was just sick. I couldn't eat but one bite. Not wanting to make too much of a big deal out of it, lest Jonathan copy me and have new ammunition for not eating, I just moved on to other stuff on my plate and fed Matthew little pieces of it. But I came close to gagging and spitting it out. Maybe a little harsh judgement for the poor little (cute!) acorn squash. But if you're a texture person, you know what I'm talking about. I'm starting to think that Jonathan inherited my issues with texture, and that is some of his problem with eating. I think I needed this kick in the pants - I hadn't eaten anything in awhile that gave me such a reaction - I think in the future, I'm going to be more sensitive to his ideas about food. So all in all - a good lesson learned. And I apologized to Mark - as much as he liked it, he'll have to order it in a restaurant if he wants it that badly from now on - Sorry, Mark!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family Update

It occurred to me today, that I have now been blogging for about 6 months! So I guess that means it's time for an update. Let's see, where to begin?
Mark's still with the state - working hard everyday to keep this household running. Fortunately, his office is only 5 miles from our house, so his commute is minimal, and often he can come home for lunch. He's been busy lately out in the yard - we've got a ton of Fall projects we'd like to get accomplished - now just find the time to do them!
Jonathan turned 3 1/2 in September. He's very tall for his age, and still quite slender due to the fact that he still hasn't found a way to enjoy eating. I read recently that children who had reflux as babies are more likely to be picky eaters - well, if that's true, that's his problem. We work on this every day, but fixing meals is still a challenge for me, as is getting him to eat a balanced diet. But we're getting there! Things are better than they were even earlier this summer, so maybe in 6 more months, things will be even better! Jonathan is a bright and happy little guy - he counts to 30, okay, to 29, then he says "twenty-ten". But close. He knows all his colors, all his letters, all his shapes, and is starting to read. He is very observant, extremely opinionated, and in general, 3. We opted out of any kind of pre-school this year, but when Fall settles in for good, we're going to start going to some library programs for story times and crafts. Jonathan loves to go "out". Anywhere is fine, as long as we're going somewhere. He particularly loves the post office, where he can put the mail in the slot and help me carry packages to mail. He's had a big summer - carnivals, amusement parks, a big trip to Wyoming, first plane ride....lots of things to remember! Currently, he is very much looking forward to Santa Claus and having a Christmas tree in the house again.
Matthew is now 15 months old. When I started this blog, he was still breastfeeding and just a baby. Since then, he has been weaned, has learned to walk, learned to climb (heaven help me), and learned that Mommy gets very upset when he splashes in the dog's water and dumps the dog's food out. Yesterday, he climbed onto the kitchen table to get the dog's dishes that I put up there because he was into them on the floor. Can't win. Anyway, Matthew has come a long way in a few months too! He doesn't share Jonathan's eating pickiness - he's a great little eater. His worst problems now? He doesn't know his boundaries with his brother, and with the dog. He gets into an awful lot of trouble with his brother, and I'm learning how to break up brotherly fights already. The dog can take care of her own battles, and luckily, she's fairly gentle! Matthew defends himself by biting, and we're working on getting him out of that phase! Matthew doesn't talk much yet - he's only said a few words and they were just repeating something he heard us say. He's a little behind on that curve, but so was Jonathan at his age. He has a way of letting us know what he needs, though!
As for me, well, same old, same old about sums it up! I cook, I clean, I do laundry, I change diapers. I get smiles, I get hugs, I get wet, sticky kisses, and that makes it all worth it, no matter what! I found some Mommy friends here in town and we go out and have lunches and arrange play dates at times, so life is good.
So there's the update - I'll try to do these occasionally - after all, life does bring about a lot of change sometime, even in a few short months!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Monday, Monday - and Happy October!

Monday morning - there's a song written about that, I think. Well, here it is. There's only 52 of them a year, but you would think there's a lot more. After a marathon night where Matthew decided to wake up and stay up for 2 hours, and Jonathan bounced into bed with us at 6:20 am, we have arrived, kicking and screaming into Monday morning. In all seriousness, Monday's aren't really all that bad for me. True, the weekend is over, and Mark goes back to work, leaving me to fend for myself with my little guys. We try not to do too much on Monday - the boys are generally a little worn out from the weekend's activities, and I try to spend some time putting away stuff ("picking up the house"), making lists of things I want to accomplish during the week, reviewing everyone's schedules for the week, planning menus and trips to the grocery store or the farmer's market (which, sniff, sniff, will be gone next week until next Spring WAAHHH!!) and catching up on laundry. So all in all, I've learned to not set my expectations too high for that old Monday morning.

In other news, it's October!! Halloween month, and I have no idea about costumes for the kids. I guess it really wouldn't matter all that much - I just wish I had more imagination, and then, when I actually DO come up with some good ideas, wish I had the talent and the creativity to execute it!

We went to Morgantown, WVA on Saturday to do some shopping. Morgantown's about an hour away from us, but it has a nice shopping area - a new place with all these great stores all together - Target, Sam's, Walmart, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, etc... We started some Christmas shopping and got the kids some stuff. It was a great drive - the weather was bright and crystal clear - we wanted to maybe see some early Fall color in the upper elevations, but not yet!

And, to welcome October, I managed to make an apple pie this weekend. We stopped on the way home from church yesterday morning to get some milk to make pancakes for breakfast, and the market had Cortland apples - the BEST pie apples ever. They're only around for a short time in the Fall, but they make a great pie - they're the perfect texture, perfect amount of juice, perfect sweet/tart ratio. Yum - to all you pie makers out there - try the Cortlands. You'll be happily surprised.

Has anyone read about that woman who has 6 kids, took them all to the grocery store one day, and sold the stuff they sneaked into the cart on ebay? I'm serious - the kids put stuff in the cart, and she didn't realize it until she got home. She was so mad, she decided to sell it on ebay, and in the body of the auction, she wrote about the whole experience. It was pretty funny - but ANYWAY - now, she has like a million people reading her daily blog, and she's been interviewed by newspapers, tv, magazines, and I think next week they're flying her to New York to be on one of the early morning news programs. AND she has a book deal. Okay, call me crazy. People are making a huge deal out of this - the publicity she's getting is staggering. But c'mon! I know people who've got 5, 6, even 8 kids, and that's their life. They do it, everyday, they don't whine about it or write about it, they actually ENJOY it, after all, it was their decision to create it in the first place. I'm not sure what's so special about this woman, except that maybe she's pretty good at writing, and people enjoy the humor. In a way, it's kinda cool. Learn how to make tons of money by writing about your kids squirting yogurt on the ceiling. Not bad. Get your 15 minutes, or in this case, a whole lot more, just by getting your blog discovered and having the interest in it spread like wildfire - isn't that everyone's dream? Sure, I think it'd be cool to have a million people reading my blog - but then there'd be a million people bored to tears!

Anyway - lastly, I give to you a picture of something you will NOT see too often - Jonathan napping. This is the child that takes about one nap per year. As a matter of fact, the last time he took a nap was perhaps last December, and that was because he had a 103 degree fever. I'm not sure what prompted this one - he fell asleep in the car on the way home from Morgantown, and when we got home, stayed asleep in the car for a half an hour or more. When he finally stirred, I got him out of his seat and carried him inside, and he told me to put him down. I thought he wanted to go play, but amazingly, he laid down on the floor, and slept for another hour and a half! Poor kid must've been beat!

So anyway, that was our weekend. I think, in honor of this particular Monday morning, I'm going to have a second cup of coffee and go snuggle on my brand new love seat (which, amazingly, made it through the first few days here with no spills, tears, rips or puppy accidents) and watch my kids play while I go through a bunch of mail I didn't read last week. TTFN!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gripe of the Day

So you know a few weeks ago, I blogged about getting some stuff up for sale on ebay? Well, it took me awhile, but yesterday I finally scrounged up an hour, and got some stuff listed. Among the list, was a set of 3 Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers. I originally bought these to try out on Matthew, and I loved them. Used them for a bit, but realized he needed the larger size, so I ordered the larges and set the mediums aside. Then I saw the market for used Fuzzi Bunz, and decided to list, like everyone else on the planet. Well, here we are, 24 hours later, I had bids up to $25.00 on the three diapers, and ebay yanked my listing because cloth diapers fall under the category of "used underwear". Give me a break! So I did what everyone else does - relisted and didn't say they were used. Didn't say they were new either - and I guess that's the unspoken language on ebay in the used cloth diaper department. I certainly understand ebay's concerns and why they have these policies. But for crying out loud - people, and I mean THOUSANDS of people buy, sell and trade used cloth diapers everyday. It's a huge business, and I'd be willing to use used diapers any day - just run them with a bleach cycle, then wash them in hot a few times and you're good to go. So here's what I say - if people are going to do it anyway, why doesn't ebay recognize this and provide a venue so that it can be done without being sneaky? Heaven only knows, they'd make a bundle of money - these things are a hot commodity.
In other news - we got a new love seat today for our living room! It just got delivered a few minutes ago - I'm going to have to go dig up a slip cover or throw to prevent the "usual" stains, crumbs, large sloppy wet areas.....sometimes I think I'm crazy getting new furniture with a 1 year old and a 3 year old, but you gotta have somewhere to sit! I'll post a picture later. Back to ebay - see if they caught up with me yet!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thomas Comes To Town




As I'm sure you can tell from the familiar little train in the photo, we had Thomas Tank come to Cumberland this weekend. Actually, he's here next weekend, too - two straight weekends of Thomas - how will I survive? Actually, things didn't go as planned. Long story - I'll try to make it short!
Mark works downtown, right across the street from the historical railroad where Thomas was going to be. So we planned on me meeting him down there with the kids on Friday afternoon - avoid the crowds. Guess what? Tickets sold out for the whole weekend before I even had a chance to buy them. However, encouraged by my friends who had gone to last year's Day Out With Thomas, even if you don't have a ticket to ride, you can still take pictures, do all the activities, see Thomas, etc..., you just can't actually ride the train. Which, hmmm, goes up the track for 10 minutes and then comes back down. And once you're actually ON the train, you don't even see Thomas anymore...so at that point, I decided we were going anyway, no tickets and all.
So we get there, and first thing we do is go see Thomas. Jonathan is delighted, of course, there's Thomas, backed up to the Western Maryland Scenic Train (same one that takes fall leaf excursions) and then we notice the regular diesel engine on the OTHER end of the train, meaning that Thomas is indeed, not functioning as an engine at all here, which we pretty much knew, and that solved the problem of how they would turn the train around after only 10 minutes, well...if you're following me here, you realize that when Thomas initially leaves the station, he's actually going backwards. Then, when he returns to the station "pulling" the train, he's coming in looking like an engine, but of course, the train is actually being "pushed" by the diesel which is now in the caboose position.
All that to tell you this. We're standing there, taking pictures of Thomas. It's about to leave for the Friday, 4pm ride. Thomas goes Peep Peep! And train starts to move. At which my 3 year old becomes hysterical. Why? Because Thomas, heaven help him, is going BACKWARDS! Then, because Jonathan is hysterical, Matthew decides he's going to be hysterical too. So there we are, on the train platform, watching this cute little children's train leave the station, with both kids screaming like they've been seriously injured. People were actually looking at us.
So we went and did the other activities - the hay bale maze, the mini-golf, the moon-jump train, the gift shop. Oh, the gift shop. Enough said about that.
So the next day, I get a great idea. The cool, new Cumberland leg of the Allegany Highlands trail runs right along side the track that Thomas is using! So we take the kids for a walk on the trail, and the train will be right there beside us! More photo opportunity! More chance for Jonathan to see Thomas in true action! Plus, if we timed it right and did a walk downtown to the Farmer's Market, the Ford Model T/Model A show that happened to be downtown on the same weekend, AND a stop at the coffee shop for java and scones, we could be out for so long, we would probably see Thomas 2 or 3 times along the trail!
Saturday morning - off we go. Park the car and one of the access points to the trail, get out strollers, kids, diaper bag, snacks, drinks, "hurry, I hear T-H-O-M-A-S coming" (yes, we had to spell it, so it would be a surprise), up on the trail "LOOK, Jonathan, it's THOMAS!!" Jonathan turns around, smiles at Thomas coming (forward, this time, thank goodness), and watches entranced as the train approaches, and starts to pass us - engineer waving, little kids ON the train waving, train only about 10 feet away from us....a lovely, moment all parents treasure. Mark's taking pictures. And then the train makes some sort of noise, sort of like, oh, a grinding, squeaking, high-pitched air release thing - I have no idea what it was - it was actually a SERIES of noises, made ME jump. Guess what? Jonathan hysterical again. Grabs onto me, would've crawled under my clothes if he had the opportunity, screaming, crying, scared, blubbering "That SCARED ME!!!" As fate would have it, then Matthew starts.
To which my husband is now saying "Great idea, Bec"
Oh well - the REST of the day was good! And you know what? If the weather's nice NEXT weekend, we may just do it again! The walk. On the trail. Only this time, we'll know to get a little farther away!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Bother Cleaning?

You know, I ask myself this question a lot. Like today, for instance. I mopped my kitchen floor, closed the baby gate, turned on the ceiling fan for a quicker dry-time and busied myself elsewhere in the house. Fifteen minutes later, I walked in, relishing the clean floor, the invigorating aroma of fresh, clean floor, and the idea, that, for just that instant, I could actually eat off my floor. Then the trouble begins. In toddles my 14 month old, with a thick line of drool from his chin down to his sneakers. Followed by the dog, who, after giving a disinterested sniff at the drool that has now reached the floor, strides right through it. Now drool, as a rule, is not THAT gross. Unless, of course, it's post-snack drool, but in this case, it wasn't, so I wasn't all that upset. Nothing a paper towel couldn't handle. But this happens all the time. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING stays clean in my house for any more than an instant - unless I put up enough baby gates so my house resembles the Panama Canal. And then you hear little voices screaming "Mommy, let me out!" But I have to clean, right? So I think I've reached a monumental observation: I don't clean to make things CLEAN. I clean so that they're not dirty. I mean filthy. I think I'm beginning to realize that if I don't relax my standards a LITTLE, I'm going to go nuts, so there it is. You come to my house, you might see some crumbs under the couch - which reminds me - last week, I actually pulled out the couch and vacuumed behind it - and I swear there was food under there from all 4 food groups. But I digress --- where was I? You come to my house, there will be crumbs, there will be dust, there will be smeared drool on the kitchen floor. There will be handprints on every window that extends down under 3 feet. That's my life right now - I'm through expecting perfection from myself. Maybe Mark will get me Merry Maids for Christmas? Yeah, right!