Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Few Random Things

First, this Sunday we celebrated Memorial Day with a cookout at Jim and Marie's.  It was nice -- quiet, which I prefer.  Only four couples and our respective kids.  I don't do big crowds well, and this was relaxing.

Second, our weekend was slam-packed busy crazy!  Friday, I don't even remember anymore.  Saturday, we went down to Courtney's to swim.  Stopped at Publix for what amounted to the longest shopping trip ever, but finally got what we needed and headed down ... only to discover that we left CAM's entire pool bag (which she packed herself, and which she was so proud of doing!) on my bed.  Mick was gracious and wonderful and turned around and went right back and got it, which was at least another hour-and-twenty-minutes round-trip in the car, unfortunately.  Courtney and the kids and I hung out and waited.  Then when Mick got back, we all went to the pool for about an hour or two, until it finally got unbearable (it was crowded, and with a not-so-pleasant crowd).  Then the kids had a sleepover with Aunt Courtney and Uncle Dom, and Mick and I had a nice little date! 

Then Sunday we headed to the outlets in North Georgia (Ugh.  Had to do one small return.  Madness, to be at the outlets around one on the Sunday of a holiday weekend!), then lunch, then back to Courtney's to get the kids, and then straight to Jim and Marie's ... we were tasked with bringing slaw and a dessert, so here was our dessert.  I was only half-joking when I told Marie there was no way I intended to turn on my oven! 

We made two trays. Notice anything funny in this one?

Oops, I lied. Between the outlets and Courtney's, we stopped at one of the commercial restaurant places and got some stuff for WHM's birthday cake.  Those stores are so much fun to me, so it's always a treat to get to go poke around -- to do it without having to worry about the kids was wonderful!

And finally, in my ongoing quest to do at least one fun thing every day (more on this in a post coming soon, by the way), I've been promising the kids we'd make "marble races" with a pool noodle one rainy day.  Well, I have had the pool noodle and marbles literally for months, but inevitably we were doing something else and unable to make our ramps whenever it rained.  FINALLY, it monsooned yesterday morning, but by the time we were home and ready to make our ramp, it was gorgeous out.  Oh well -- that wasn't stopping us!  The kids wanted their marble ramp, so they got it.  It was easy (and I figured out an even easier way now, where you don't need the tape), and they loved it.  Awesome.




--Jen

Mmmmmm .... Calgon Took Me Away

Or, more accurately, I got up at 4 am (no, not intentionally, but when it was apparent I couldn't fall back asleep no matter what I did, I gave up), came downstairs, applied for three different jobs, listed a ton of stuff on craigslist (stuff we don't need and thus don't want to move with us, and/or which we will just one day re-buy if it actually sells because we're not necessarily in love with it), wrote a giant blog post on my other blog (you can read it here) and got ready for my day.

Then, CAM and I went to a pool with some of her best friends from school -- and whose moms I absolutely adore -- for a few hours.

I managed to stay completely off my cell phone for the entire time, save for taking it out to set a timer for a quick time-out necessitated by the enticing water hose the kids couldn't leave alone. How glorious!!

After that fabulous, relaxing, wonderful, much-needed time, we came home to discover Mick on the couch shhh-ing us, because WHM was sound asleep in his Thomas tent.  (His Thomas tent, if you're wondering, was a Christmas gift from Aunt Courtney and Uncle Dom, and has been assembled since the day WHM got it.  It lives primarily in our foyer and dining room, but occasionally moves to the living room and once, I found it in my bedroom.  Upstairs.  Anyway, WHM uses his tent every day -- to rest, to play, to hide, occasionally to sulk, but my goodness does he love his tent! I think it's fantastic that he has his own little place and he loves it so much.)

Here he is, in the tent.  His feet are propped up on the front door.  The thing by his head is the "door" to his tent, which CAM was holding open for me to snap this picture.  Oh, and if you're wondering, he was snoring like there was no tomorrow!
I tutored for an hour (good tutoring, the kind where I felt like I could see an actual difference right there), and then the kids and I went to Hobby Lobby to pick up some stuff for WHM's party.  Oh boy am I behind on that prep work ... oh boyohboyohboy!  Tomorrow promises to be busy!

On our way home, someone who didn't want to start summer tutoring until June 11 called me to ask if she could start June 4.  (Yes!  Yes, you can!)

For dinner, I cooked the Pioneer Woman Chicken Parmesan recipe I've taken 30 days to make (and for which I bought the ingredients three times, I kid you not), and it was delicious.  Post on that to come tomorrow.  But that was a nice bonus.

And now, both kids are in bed, Mick's watching hockey, and Courtney and I are watching the last episode of last season's Dexter.  When it's over, Mick and I will watch the last two hours of the Hatfields and McCoys.

And today's been a wonderful, fabulous, not-bad, very good day!

Thanks for bearing with me through the gloomies yesterday.  I'm getting over them, with big thanks to the many of you who reached out publicly and privately to give me a virtual hug.

--Jen

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feeling A Little Down

I know, I know, way to ruin a blog.  But it's my blog, and I'm feeling pretty down and maybe if I get it out, it will help.  I am down because:

  1. WHM's party is this Saturday, and true to (almost) all parties where I have a hand in planning, we're getting far more "no" replies than "yes."  And I'm talking by a ratio of about 6 to 1.  (Yes, it is accurate.  You know me.  I calculated.)  I know it's not personal, and I don't take it that way, but it is definitely frustrating.  On the other hand, CAM's party was fantastic and I am thankful that it was that way around this year -- last year, WHM had all the guests and CAM had almost none -- because CAM's old enough to know now, and WHM won't know the difference!  (See?  This writing it out thing is making me feel better already.)
  2. We're moving.  I need to get packing.  I have no idea how it is all going to come together.  I just know it will.  But it stresses me in the meantime. By the way, do you have any boxes?  I don't mind pulling all nighters to pack; I just need something to pack in.
  3. I delayed in ordering favors for WHM's party to better match the RSVP's.  I finally said, "forget it" to the RSVP-waiting-thing, and the favors are sold out and have been for ten days now.  So much for trying to plan well.  I am super bummed, and have been unable to find the favors anywhere else, so it's a bigger bummer than just having to buy them elsewhere. 
  4. It's very difficult to find a job in Maine (or NH) when one is in Georgia.  Very difficult.  Consequently, there is mucho frustration-o in my world.
  5. I didn't practice WHM's Thomas cake, so instead of a true tank engine cake, he's getting a scenery cake.  That disappoints probably no one except for me, but still...  I let myself down because in my head, I am letting him down.
  6. And the usual other stuff, only worse than usual.  Blah Blah Blah.
Anyway, that's it for now.  My sister is moving to Florida in a few weeks, and I'm moving to Maine, and there is a modicum of freaking going on in my head and heart.

The good news is Courtney's coming tomorrow for the day, and we're going to party plan and cook a PW dinner and watch the last two hours of Dexter.  So I am very excited about that.  Very, very excited about that!  And one set of WHM's godparents* are able to make it to his party, and I am very super excited about THAT. 

And the Hatfields and McCoys was awesome last night with limited commercial interruption and I am hoping for more awesomeness tonight.

I promise to cheer up, pronto.  Thanks for letting me whine a little.  I needed that!

--Jen

* If I haven't explained it before, neither his godmother nor his godfather were married when we asked them to be godparents.  Now they're both married (and not to each other!) so WHM has two sets of "godparents," or at least that's how we look at it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Garden Update

We've got peppers and red strawberries!

Some tomatoes, too ... though not as many as I'd like.  I realized this morning we don't have nearly as many tomato plants as we did last year -- I may have to remedy that this week.  Our eggplant has at least one bloom on it, and our cucumbers have at least eight blooms.  And our bell peppers are blooming, too! (We went heavy on the peppers this summer.)

Today, Mick and the kids and I went to Home Depot and bought some bird netting to drape over the strawberries (and maybe other stuff) to keep our crop ours.  We're selfish like that. 





Hooray!

--Jen

Friday, May 25, 2012

Once, We Cooked Dinner

I had to share.  We cooked dinner every single night this week.

Okay, stop laughing.  No, we don't go out to eat every night (anymore).

But we do get lazy and will break out the Publix friend chicken meal or take the kids to family night at Chick-fil-A, or have one night that's just a smorgasbord of leftovers accented by far too much of chips and salsa ...

But this week? This week, we made real meals every single night!

Our menu:

Monday -- French Onion Soup from a Pinterest recipe(very good, despite having the wrong cheese.)
Tuesday -- Corned Beef. (very good because, well, it's corned beef, duh.)
Wednesday -- Pioneer Woman Mexican Flatbread Pizzas (very good, and you can read why)
Thursday -- Chicken, with rice and a side of cheese quesadillas (quick and easy and hit the spot)
Friday -- Loco Moco (very good and a new family favorite)

I feel like such an overachiever!  Quick, someone ask me the last time I did laundry, so I can be slapped back to reality!

--Jen

Play Town

If you know me in real life, you know I don't always have nice things to say about the county in which we live.  First, it's suburban sprawl -- the good and the bad.  Second, the demographics are rapidly going downhill -- gang violence, random crimes, the usual signs of sprawl gone wrong, and they're bringing property values down with them.  Third, we've got public officials indicted, and some of those same officials were involved in suspicious land dealings with our school system -- which seems to always come out just "on this side" of the law, anyway.

But there's a lot I love, here, too, and I'm not ashamed to say it.  And one of the things that our county does better than just about anyplace in the entire country?   Parks and playgrounds.  Individual towns within the county and the county itself can rival each other on quality and variety, and everything has handicapped access.  The parks are simply phenomenal, whether you want to go running, or hiking, or skateboarding, or take your kids to a playground, or a pool (indoors or out), or just have a simple outside afternoon without too much noise or insanity.  You want it, there are multiple parks to provide it.  When we move, I will really, really miss our parks. 

Yesterday we had an opportunity to go Play Town Suwanee as a morning play-date with some Kindermusik friends.  Play Town is a gigantic wooden ... wait for it ... play town. It's awesome!  And yes, it's accessible for kids and adults and wheelchairs.  I climbed around a good bit yesterday -- and even went down a slide or two!

We got there right around 9:15 and stayed until just about 10:30 (we had to hurry home for Mick to use the car -- his truck's out of commission for a few days), which was just perfect.  We lubed up with sunscreen, but by the time we left it was just plain Georgia Hot, even in the shade.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that!  We love it!)

Here are some of the photos.  We've already scheduled another play date at the same park.  It was so much fun!

--Jen


Well, the sign said, "Enter!"

"Here I come!"

too-tall Tic-Tac-Toe
This is a view of just about 1/4 of the entire play set, nevermind the swings!

CAM loved the fire pole!


This kid needs a football!
Don't ask. I have NO IDEA what she was doing. But it was funny.

Swinging with a sweet Kindermusik friend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"It's What I Believe" is back!

I'm starting to post again on my other blog.  If you care to read an education post (and I hope you will, and I would love your feedback, good, bad, conversational, argumentative and everything else), please do. 

The post is here:

It's What I Believe

Thanks.

--Jen

Calendar Wisdom

Two more goodies:


Well done is better than well said.


          --Benjamin Franklin

and on a related note,


When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt.


          --Henry John Kaiser

Pioneer Woman: Mexican Flatbread Pizzas

Okay, folks, I am happy to report that this is one of those times where I am thankful for the Pioneer Woman and her fabulous little shortcut tidbits.  Not only did the entire family love this recipe, but the whole "flatbread" thing is something we can adapt in countless ways.

Pioneer Woman Mexican Flatbread Pizza

Verdict: Simple, quick, very yummy.  And the kids loved making their own pizzas, which was a nice bonus.
Cook it again: Absolutely. And in other variations, too.
Cost Factor: Taco stuff plus a roll of Pillsbury biscuits, so whatever that costs.  $15-ish?

This recipe is on The Pioneer Woman blog and Ree even describes it as a "throw-together" quickie meal.  The whole idea is that you can take leftover taco ingredients and serve them up a different way.

We don't usually have leftover taco ingredients (we love us some Mexican food in these parts), but we did have the salsa on hand, so we went ahead and fried up some taco meat.  (Side note:  that salsa gets better every day.  Mmmm!)

Look at that handsome chef.  He's a keeper!

My "chef's beverage."  Have you ever had Apothic White?  I just discovered it this weekend.  It's a blend and it's amazing.  Quote me on that.  Anyway, don't judge me ...

... because this was Mick's chef's beverage!   
 While Mick was doing that, I rolled out the Pillsbury Grands biscuits.  The key is to buy the originals (not the "flaky" ones).


To quote WHM, "That's a great idee-ah!"  I had never thought of this, but it's nothing short of brilliant.  We can adapt these for mini regular pizzas, or fruit pizzas, or any of a gazillion incarnations I'm sure we'll think of.  I love stuff like this.  Yes, it's semi-homemade, but it's still awesome.  And simple.  And quick.  And delicious.  C'mon, what's not to love?!

mid-rolling ...
The thinner you roll them the crispier they'll bake up ... I got them pretty thin but not paper thin, so they got crispier than a pita but not quite crunchy.  I'd still say they were thin crusts, just not cracker-thin.  (If you, like me, are a Taco Bell connoisseur, these are thinner than gorditas and chalupas, but not at thin as a soft taco's tortilla.)  I don't like doughy pizza, so my goal was to get these thin enough, and we managed.  (If you're playing along, I got to about 8-10 inch diameters, and didn't worry when they weren't perfectly circular.)


You don't even need to spray your baking sheet because the flour works to keep the bread from sticking. 

We found that the flatbreads took (surprise, surprise) longer than Ree said they would.  All told, we kept them in the oven for about ten minutes per tray.

While we were rotating those through, Mick mixed three tablespoons of salsa in with a can of refried beans.  At first it was still pretty thick, but as it heated up it got more and more liquidy.  I'd say be careful not to go more than four tablespoons or you may end up with bean-and-salsa soup!

I know.  The lighting is all amuck.  Sorry.  (again.)


I chopped up some lettuce, and (darn it, I knew I forgot something -- no tomatoes!) we were ready!  The recipe calls for whipping up a quick pico de gallo, and I foolishly forgot to buy tomatoes, but with the salsa on hand we didn't really need it.

We served these with beans on bottom, then meat, then cheese and lettuce and salsa.


DEEE - licious!

So much so, in fact, that we're probably going to repeat these this weekend, especially if we end up down at my sister's pool.  All of these ingredients travel well and you can eat these just as well cold as hot.  Yum!

Don't be fooled by the sad face.  She loved these.  She's just exhausted -- as you can probably tell.
--Jen

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fricking ... whoops!

Out running errands with the family earlier, Mick was driving and as we pulled to an intersection a humongous pickup truck was totally blocking the intersection in a completely unnecessary, I-can't-drive-and-don't-care-if-I-jam-you kind of way.

Mick:  Look at this fricking jackass!

CAM:  What's a fricking jackass?

Mick:  Daddy, honey. Daddy is. Those are bad words. Don't say those words.

We need one of those limo windows so the kids can't see us dying of laughter when this stuff happens.

--Jen

Did You Know ... WHM Version

Did you know that WHM ...

... told us tonight that Peeky and Peeky and Monkey Boy and Frog boy are his best friends?

... eats chips and salsa like it's going out of style?

... calls his camo-jammies-bottoms his "bad guy pants"?

... recently started taking everything he finds and turning it into a gun?

...  asks for chocolate milk before bed every night, and when I tell him no, he asks for strawberry milk, and when I tell him no, he cups his hands and shrugs his shoulders and says. "how about rayguh milk, maaaay beee?"  ("rayguh milk" is regular milk, and I still say no, because we won't let the kids have anything other than water before bed.)

... has the name of almost every Thomas the Tank Engine train memorized, and can distinguish between cars with even the subtlest difference, like Bash and Dash, or Ben and Bill, or Annie and Clarabel?

... calls Clarabel "Chockabell"?

... asks me to read him books because he "doesn't know all the words"?

... has never been on an airplane, but has been up and down the East Coast at least ten times?

... knows when we stay in a hotel to unplug the phone before he can play with it? 

... stopped taking naps earlier this year, but will still nap in the car or if I put on a show and make him lie down on the couch or my bed.

...  wakes up every morning and asks for Mommy?

... has started to interject "No!" when you tell him he can't have something, but not to be ugly as much as to correct when it was that he wanted it.  "Mommy, I have a cookie peas?" "Not right..." "No!  I mean, AFTER dinner if I eat my dinner all gone, I have a cookie?"  It's hilarious -- as if he doesn't want to face the rejection, so he changes his terms first.

... has a crazy new habit of blockading the door to wherever Mick is.  If he's in the basement, WHM blocks the door with two or three of the kids' dining room chairs. If Mick's on the deck, WHM blocks the door with the kitchen barstools. If Mick's in our room, WHM blocks the door with toys and stuffed animals.  It's bizarre -- and I fuss at him -- but it still cracks me up.

... doesn't say he wants to sit "next to you," but rather, "next by you"?  It's a sweet little quirk that I'm sure he'll grow out of soon enough, so I don't correct him.  

-- Jen

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Things You Should Know About Me

This is totally and completely stolen from inspired by Little Miss Momma, whose blog I just discovered today.

This is also the "Jen Trivia" version, not the mushy-gushy version.  The mushy-gushy stuff should go without saying, anyway. I tried to put stuff here that even if you know me, you might not know.


50 Things You Should Know About Me If We Are Going To Be BFF
  1. I can’t stand poor grammar, especially if you’re educated and should know better.  That's not to say I am always perfect, but if you're chronically NOT, it makes me cringe.
  2. I will be snarky about it.  (And about virtually anything else, really.)
  3. I love 40% off coupons from Michael’s and it’s almost to the point where I won’t buy anything there without one.
  4. I love, love, love the smell of laundry detergent and have been known to leave an entire box of Bounce in my car in the summer, just to get the concentrated smell.  “Clean Cotton” Yankee Candles?  Made. For. Me.
  5. I can get over a lot of things, but if you hurt my feelings I am not likely to forget it.  I might get over it, but I won’t forget it.  Unless you’re Tara.  In which case I feel certain we’ve both hurt each others’ feelings, but I can’t recall a single time. I hope she feels the same way.
  6. I knocked out my two front teeth when I was getting ready to go to sixth grade (or seventh?) and I’ve had all sorts of dental work done ever since. Say Cheese!
  7. I will do laundry like a madwoman and get through 12 loads in a day if I have to, but it will sit in giant piles, unfolded at the foot of my bed, for weeks at a time sometimes.
  8. I iron everything.   Well, except underwear.
  9. I am allergic to Nutra-Sweet and can smell it if someone next to me is chewing sugar-free gum.
  10. When I was pregnant, I could smell Diet Coke on Mick's breath from a mile away and it made me sick (and drove him crazy).
  11. I can’t stand blogs and other web pages that use a ton of different-sized fonts and {brackets} in awkward places to look cute.  It’s hard to read and makes me batty.  I’ve been known to stop reading really great blogs because they look like they were formatted by fifth-grade girls.
  12. I went to Catholic School for a day when I was in sixth grade.
  13. Sometimes I am amazed by the complete junk on blogs, and then astounded to learn those bloggers have ads and sponsors and thousands of followers … and they are telling me to spray paint a screen and sew through it and hang that trash in my house as “art.”
  14. Mick and I met on a blind date.  He was told that I was from Rhode Island and went to Boston College.  50% of those four words are correct.
  15. I try to always give people the benefit of the doubt about almost anything, unless they are grammatically incompetent, in which case I will judge them repeatedly.
  16. I can’t stand “text-speak," even in text messages, and I will take up three texts to say the same thing I could have said in one, just to avoid those abbreviations.
  17. I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell an adult “shut-up” ever, even in the joking “Shut up! Really?!” kind-of way.
  18. I grew up with St. Bernards, but don’t like other peoples’ dogs.
  19. I can’t stand cats.  Don’t try to win me over.  You will only make me angry.  I hate cats.
  20. I had to go to college a week early for band camp.
  21. I can’t stand lying.  ‘Fess up if you mess up, and we can go from there.
  22. You will hurt my feelings more if you leave me out of invites than about almost anything else you can do.
  23. I will tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it, and I will back up my opinion.
  24. My grandfather died on my sister’s birthday, and I had to fight the ladies in the front office of my own high school for them to allow me to go to her classroom to get her.  I knew that as soon as they paged for her she would break down, and I wouldn’t let that happen. 
  25. My youngest sister and I are born ten years apart to the day.  Mick and CAM share a birthday.  For a while in Alabama, we were four people under one roof -- with only two birthdays!
  26. I make lists, and then I make sub-lists and lists of lists.  And I love it.
  27. I would rather do without than have something cheap – most of the time.
  28. I drive a Mercedes, but I really miss my Tahoe, and that’s something I never thought I would say.  (Actually, I never thought I would say either of those!)
  29. I can’t dive. 
  30. When I was a kid I took organ lessons for a few years.
  31. I owe about 6 people wedding gifts, and I remember every single one and it bothers me.  A lot. And I want to remedy it in a grand way one day.
  32. I have a strange memory and will pull things seemingly out of nowhere.  
  33. I can "measure" most things without a ruler, and I'm pretty accurate.
  34. I make Monica Gellar look disorganized.
  35. I will dislike you if you are rude to wait staff for no reason.
  36. I think "excuse me" is the most under-used phrase in American English.
  37. Nerds Rope, Nerds Rope, Nerds Rope.
  38. I love to sing!  Especially ... well, everywhere.
  39. I am known to listen to the 50s station on Sirius/XM for road trips.  
  40. My college roommate only liked Red and Purple Skittles, and I only like Orange and Green.  I miss her. :)
  41. Dark chocolate, not milk chocolate.
  42. I can't do shots.  
  43. I love corn on the cob, and whenever we cook it for our family I always buy three extra ears just for me! 
  44. Mick and I planned our wedding around the SEC and ACC football schedules -- and Holy Days. 
  45. One summer day when I was a kid, the priest said it was just too hot for a homily, and ended mass early.  That was the best church day ever, until I got to college and had a hilarious run-in with some hockey players and a couple who took "peace be with you" a little too seriously.
  46. I love badminton.
  47. I couldn't wear thong-style flip-flops until I was 31 years old!  
  48. I find it relaxing to wash my car or go grocery shopping. 
  49. I still race out to the mailbox every day like a kid, hoping for goodies! 
  50. I really hope you like my blog, and I get as excited about your comments as I do about mail!

Okay, your turn!  Is there anything I need to know about you?

--Jen

Oh! The Drama!

This morning Mick was up and out early.  Since we don't have school, when the kids woke up they came in my room to snuggle and "watch kids' shows."  We have a whole morning ritual and I can't say enough how much I love it.

Well, about five minutes into The Cat in the Hat, the cable went out!  And CAM, who I didn't realize is apparently already sixteen, shouted with all the drama and teen angst you can muster:

OH!  I wanted to watch Kids' Shows!  My whole LIFE is RUINED!  FOREVER!

and promptly buried her head under the covers. 

While I was lying there thinking to myself, "really?!" WHM, our little sage, said very matter-of-factly:

Noooo, CAM.  It's DUST the CAY-bull is OUT.  We-Wax.

I seriously can't figure out who was funnier.

--Jen

Monday, May 21, 2012

Did you know ... CAM Version

I saw this idea on another blog that I stumbled upon this weekend.  I wish I could link to the blog, but did you ever click "next blog" on the top of the page, just to see where you end up, and end up seventeen blogs deep and just checking out random peoples' lives?  That's what I did, and I have no earthly idea where I was, but I thought this was a really special idea.  So ...

Did you know that CAM ... 

... runs into our room first thing every morning, says good morning and uses our "potty"?   It's the best way in the world to wake up, yes, loud door opening and all.  I will miss this when we move. 

... loves Curious George, and for the longest time called him Dee Dore?

... called me Deh Deh until she was almost 3 years old?  We finally figured it it was her version of "JenJen," which Mick often calls me.  We'd be in Target and she'd be talking to me calling me "Deh Deh," and I'd answer ... people definitely looked at us funny.

... has an insatiable appetite for marshmallows?

... loves, loves, loves to sing?  She will sing almost anything you play for her after hearing it only once or twice.  And she is quick to recognize songs, too.

... has a special habit of saying, "Happy After Birthday," or "Happy After Mother's Day," or "Happy After" whatever-it-was-you-just-celebrated, just to give you your special day for one more day?

... steadfastly refused to say Courtney's name for many months, despite saying countless other words, but the minute WHM was born, she called him by his name?

... changes her favorite color practically by the minute, but was working on a secret project for Mother's Day at school, and asked me repeatedly all of the questions (unbeknownst to me), so she would "get them right" on the questionnaire about me?

... hosts her own cooking shows at the coffee table and can talk you through virtually any "recipe" as though she's a Food Network star?

... has never had a haircut in five years?

... loves to garden, paint, draw, make crafts and cook?

... loves to fold the towels when I fold the laundry?

... was twice her brother's age almost this entire school year?

... loves Mary Poppins and Annie?  

... prays every night for Ansley and the people of Alabama?

... calls her "closed-toe" sandals her "sandals with roofs"?

... calls the car wash the "wash car," and Mick and I adamantly refuse to correct her on it?

--Jen

Jesus and Mine'ses Favorite Show

CAM talks a lot about before she was born and when she was in heaven with Jesus and God, and what they did and talked about and what God taught her.

Tonight, she just came downstairs and asked what Mick and I were watching.

Me:  The GCB.

CAM: Oh!  I loooove that show!  It's Jesus and Mine'ses Favorite Show!

(This is especially funny if you've ever seen the GCB... just sayin'.)

--Jen

"Our" Salsa Recipe

CAM's godmother, Marie, is from Guadalajara, Mexico.  She makes an amazing salsa.  Actually, she makes multiple kinds of salsa, all amazing, but her red version is the most popular.  (I'll post about the tomatillo salsa another day .... oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)

This is our version of her red salsa, and we love it. I have long promised to post the recipe, and finally, I am doing it.  You're welcome.  :)

Salsa Recipe

First, get yourself a whole bunch of Roma or plum tomatoes, and a few Serrano peppers, and take your food processor or your favorite blender out and get it ready.

Oh, and a few cloves of garlic.  However many you like.  We like three or four, usually.




Throw your tomatoes and peppers on the grill, and get them nice and done.  (There is a special, very thin griddle pan you can use to do this inside, but ours died a tragic death from overuse.  But since it's summer, outside works just fine.  I'll get a photo of Marie's pan and show you another way to do this as soon as possible.  The pan has a special name, too, and for the life of me I can't remember it right now.)

Don't mind the awful grill.  Ours died and this is a loaner. We are NOT buying a new grill just to have to move it across the country!

As everything starts to cook, keep turning them. 

Warning -- we're using three Serranos here.  We like our salsa a little on the "warm" side.  If you don't like spice, back it down to one pepper, and/or add a few tomatoes.  

See this?  This is nothing.  You've got a long way to go, kids.
 This is what they look like when they are done.  They should be a little mushy, too.  This takes about 20 minutes, give or take.  The best thing is for the heat to be low and slow, so you don't char the peppers and tomatoes without getting any real cooking.


Another view, just because I love you.


Now you can cover them with saran wrap to steam off the skin, which we do sometimes, or you can throw 'em in the blender like this.  This time we were lazy, so into the blender they went...


As you can see, only three tomatoes went in so far. 
Don't forget to cut the stems off your peppers, but by all means, leave the seeds.  And of course your garlic is already in there.  Add a pinch of kosher salt. 

Blend!


(Oh, forgot to say:  If you haven't yet, add the other tomatoes.  Sometimes we try it and add tomatoes to match the spice level, but this time we were pretty confident that with three peppers, the six tomatoes would be fine.  And we had some extra peppers on reserve, just in case we needed to add some spice back in.)  

In the shot above, Mick had already added the other tomatoes and there was still a nice kick because of the three peppers we used.

Now taste! 
OKay, sorry about the poor lighting.  I was still playing with camera features.  I keep fiddling all the time, trying to learn.
Final product!  You can add cilantro if you like, and obviously salt to taste.  We don't typically add lime juice, but it's another option. 

Serve with a plastic spoon, so you don't tinge the flavor with any reaction from any metal you use.  (Seriously.   If you didn't already know this, it's true.  Never serve tomatoes with metal, if you can help it.)


And that's it!  This salsa has a richer flavor than the Pioneer Woman recipe because of the grilling (and an even grillier flavor if you leave on the skins when you blend), but it's a little more work, too.  (Instead of just opening cans, you've got to grill.  But you don't have to chop.  So maybe it's all even!)

This recipe is more of an art than a science, because you have to salt to taste and balance your ratio of peppers to tomatoes to match both the strength of the peppers and your tolerance for kick.  But try it. If you like salsa, I'm pretty sure you'll love this.

And it's about as authentic as you can get! 

--Jen

Look What Came Today!

Candy Land cards!


Just in time -- today is the first Monday of summer!

I have to say that I am very impressed with Hasbro -- their order form says to allow up to 8 weeks, and my order (which we faxed in, by the way, wondering if that helped?) came in less than a week. 

Now I just have to print and make my other summertime games, and we're ready to go! 

We can even play with our new personalized game pieces.  We played regular Candy Land the other night with these beauties and the kids loved it!  (I have to modify these a little, though -- the bases are just a hair too big for the Candy Land board and I want to cut around the shapes more.  But they were a good first effort for trying something from our summertime ideas list, and they took almost no time at all.)

Can you guess which one is mine?  Apparently I need to share my camera, because I am in almost none of our pictures!
--Jen

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bears are Stupid

WHM, hitting a stuffed animal:  Stupid Bear!  Stupid Bear!  Stupid, stupid Bear!
Me:  WHM, don't say stupid. It's not nice.
WHM:  But bears ARE stupid, Mommy!  Stupid, stupid bears!

--Jen

Pioneer Woman: Restaurant Style Salsa

Okay, so I finally went out to get the jalapeno and cilantro -- two things we very rarely have in this house -- to make the restaurant style salsa (which appears on the blog, but also in the new cookbook on page 92).  I got to Kroger right at noon, and as I pulled past the humongous church right across the street from Kroger I thought, "oh, nooooo."  Because I was thinking I had picked some awful timing to go to Kroger.  Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised -- church was still in session, so it was easy-in, easy-out!

(I did get turned down from buying a bottle of wine.  It was 12:17, but alcohol sales start at 12:30.  Whoops.  I can't even say I was embarrassed.  I mean, I was buying the newspaper and a bunch of ingredients to make salsa -- even though I was buying the wine to cook with later, it at least kind-of fit with the rest of the purchase!  And it was after 12 noon and all... )

Anyway, from Kroger I needed to run to CVS, and for whatever reason to go that particular way was insanely busy.  But that was fine because it gave me a chance to eat my Taco Bell on the way.  (Shoot.  Forgot to tell Mick about that little detour!)  Then I got to CVS and stood by the photo counter only to be ignored for a good five minutes, but I still wasn't in a bad mood.

Then I went to the treasure hunt store (yes, again, I know. but I am on a quest to find a picture frame I can do a project with, and I am determined to "salvage" one, if you will).  And despite losing three different parking spots to discarded shopping carts (People suck.  Really.  Is it that freaking hard to walk the cart to the door?, and then watching a lady walk a cart to the parking spot right in front of the door, carefully wedge it against the curb, but not bother to, I don't know, put it on the sidewalk), I was in a good mood (although, in fairness, my I-hate-people meter was clicked a little higher than I would have liked).  I was still in a good mood even after I sent five picture frames crashing to the ground, completely shattering one, and having to ask for help to clean up.  Yep, still in a good mood. 

And then when I left, I got cut off on my last run of my trip home, and the guy proceeded to do 5 mph less than the speed limit for the entire ten miles I had to follow him.

That, my friends?  THAT put me in a bad mood.

So I came home and I really, really, really wanted to hate this recipe.  Poor recipe, it wasn't its fault, but boy, oh boy, I was in a bad mood!

But then I started making this salsa and as I was going along, I realized, who was I kidding?!  I love salsa.  I love all salsa.  Sure, some is better than others, but it was going to be hard for me to not like this.

And that put me in a better mood.

Yikes. This post is supposed to be about PW Restaurant Style Salsa, and I took at least a page with a back story of why I wanted to hate this.

But I don't!

Pioneer Woman Restaurant Style Salsa

Verdict:  Good, but not particularly memorable.   
Cook it again:  Tough one.  It's good, but I'm still kind-of partial to our own recipe which involves absolutely no cans.  This doesn't really stand out to me as amazing enough to do instead of our recipe, but if we're in Maine in the middle of winter or somewhere else where we need quick, easy salsa, we might well go to this version.
Cost Factor:  Meh.  Jalapeno was $1.07, Tomatoes were another $2.50, and the cilantro another 79 cents ... plus the garlic and onion and lime.  But it makes an awful lot, so it's probably worth it.

It really is good, in the I'm-sitting-at-a-Mexican-restaurant type of way.  Not in an "oh-my-gosh-how-do-you-make-this" type of way.  We don't usually make salsa with jalapenos (we use serranos, which we learned at Christmastime are impossible to find in New York or New England, and that makes me so incredibly worried I can't even tell you), and we never make salsa with Ro-Tel, so I was skeptical.  And in truth, this really is a semi-homemade recipe, because of the canned tomatoes and Ro-Tel.  But it's simple, and it's quite good -- all you do is chop, open a few cans, blend, eat.

I only took cell phone photos for this one, but here is a shot of the canned whole tomatoes in the food processor, getting ready for the rest of its friends.

Sorry, all three photos are from my cell phone today ... not the best quality.

 Here are the chopped jalapeno, onion, and garlic.


And here is the final product!

The salsa on the right is our usual recipe.  We made it Friday.  It's now Sunday early afternoon, and as you can see, there was only barely enough left for us to do our taste comparison!
Ultimately, if you are craving salsa, this will hit the spot, and what is great about it is you can find the ingredients in any grocery store anywhere.  And for the cost, it makes a lot of salsa.

--Jen 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How We Woke Up

I was asleep this morning, and this is how I woke up:

WHM loudly struggled with the door to our room and then opened it. 

He walked in, stopped at the foot of the bed, and announced:

Daddy, I love you a lot.  (pause for a moment)
Mommy, my covers are all wet.  You come fix them?

--Jen

Sob!

Well, this happened this week.


I suppose it will start falling apart now, right?  Sigh. 

--Jen

Welcome to Summer, Part 2

Here they are (WHM is in back), walking from "school year" to "summertime!"

(cell phone photo, sorry!)
I posted this on my personal Facebook page, but I forgot to include it when I posted the rest of the photos

--Jen

Friday, May 18, 2012

Goodwill Hunting

I love to go to Goodwill.  I call it "The Treasure Hunt Store."  Most of the time I walk out empty-handed, but when I have the kids with me I almost always at least leave with some books.  And of course every once in a while I'll hit the "I can transform that" jackpot. 

Today was our first day of summer, but as luck would have it, I woke up with a terrible headache and nothing I did or took made it any better (and in fact, some of it made my stomach hurt, too!)   So instead of doing something super fun, but rather than doing nothing at all, we went to The Treasure Hunt Store!  The kids were super.


Here is our loot.  For the record, there are 10 books plus one SAT prep book in the photo.  I got all this, plus two of brand-new-looking, super-large Ball jars (which are in the dishwasher as I write this) for a grand total of a whopping $16.  Why the SAT book, you ask?  Because I do a decent amount of SAT-prep tutoring, and it was only $4.95!  Holy cow, that's a fantastic price!  (I have the newest one, but it's always nice to have a backup for extra problems, and for $5 I wasn't passing it up.)

Anyway, I was pretty psyched.  What treasures have you ever found at these kinds of stores?

--Jen

Conversations

Earlier today in the car:

CAM:  Mommy, do you know what's great about going to the potty?
ME:  No, honey, what's great?
CAM:  First, you get to tee-tee.  And then, you get to POOP!

---------

Just now, I asked a sobbing WHM if he wanted some chocolate pudding as his afternoon snack.  He, of course, said yes.  But CAM didn't want pudding, she wanted Jello, and so WHM changed his mind.

I gave them their snacks at the table and then walked to the playroom. When I came back to the kitchen, WHM was hunched over his jell-o cup looking as serious as The Thinker, and said to me in a perfect Alabama accent, "Mommy, it sure is hard to eat!"

---------

CAM just fussed at me when I wouldn't give her pudding (since she finished her jell-o, duh, doesn't that entitle all kids to pudding?!) so I sent her away.  She had a choice of going in the living room and sitting quietly on the couch to finish the Muppets movie we started earlier, or to sit in my office in a time-out.  She's in the living room now, playing with her baby dolls (all 10,000 of them, apparently) and just told WHM, "You need to help me put these on the couch.  All of them.  And if you don't, I'll be angry, and cross, and mad, and sad!  And you can't think about it!  Don't!" 

Looks like we need a little reality check meeting over here.  More later!

--Jen

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summer Plans and Ideas

So, I've been giving it a lot of thought, and -- just like with my Spring Break plans -- I am determined to not let summer slip away and wake up one day wondering what, exactly, we did.  No, we're not going on any exotic vacations this year, but this is CAM's last summer before kindergarten, and once she goes to kindergarten we will blink and I just know we'll be staring down her last summer before college.  We have a gazillion things to do around here, and I am not going to miss out on summer with my kids because I am too busy doing nothing.  Seriously.  I can't let that happen. 

(Besides, we're moving this summer and it promises to be our biggest move ever in the history of the universe our already-move-filled marriage.  I am quite positive it's going to be super emotional (since I already have sob fests at least once a week and I've yet to even pack a real box), so the best thing I can do -- for all of us and our collective sanity -- is to keep busy and keep being productive!) 

There are a ton of blogs and people on Pinterest who have boards about summer activities, but as with most things, some would work for us and some wouldn't.  (For the style of our house, or the age of our kids, or the fact that in the middle of our summer we are moving about 1200 miles away, or the fact that we don't have a pool, or a fenced yard, and our HOA hates us, and at some point we will really need to start packing ... well, you get the idea!)

So that's a lot of background just to let y'all know that I decided to try to make my own little list.  It's not as strict as putting them in "Day 1, Day 2" format and I'm not going to be so militant about it to take out the fun, I hope, either. (Gosh dang it, you WILL make this craft and you WILL GLUE THIS RIGHT HERE AND PAINT THIS RIGHT HERE AND YOU WILL LOVE IT BY GOLLY!!!) but I think it's still got a lot of stuff going on and plenty of ideas to keep us busy and able to say we had a great summer.  Keep in mind that this is not meant as my summer "to-do" list, but is just meant as a list of fun ideas of things to do with the kids.  So while packing is on my personal list, it's not here.  This is my "hmm, what shall we do this afternoon" idea list. 

Besides, making this list fits really well with another of my goals:  once again re-organize and update my Pinterest boards.  Of course, that's not on my "101" -- that's just a necessary evil, and much like laundry and emptying the dishwasher, there's always more to do every day!

I'll keep you posted!

--Jen

1.  Bake a fun summer cake and decorate it
2.  Play marble races with cut pool noodles
3.  Eat somewhere that was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dive
4.  Have a picnic.  Check that. Have two picnics!
5.  Make a door-hanger for WHM's room.
6.  Go ice skating.  (Groupon)
7.  Go horseback riding.  (Also Groupon)
8.  Take the kids to Stone Mountain
9.  Have a puppet show
10.  Go to IKEA for lunch and walk around the whole place.
11.  Make some Christmas ornaments!
12.  Make a marshmallow catapult.
13.  Have a water balloon fight.
14.  Have a squirt gun fight.
15. Build another giant train layout in the living room.
16.  Bake cookies from a recipe we've never used before.
17. Bake cookies from a recipe we love!
18.  Make ice cream sandwiches from scratch.
19.  Freeze toys in ice and chip away at them one hot afternoon!
20.  Make an icebox cake
21.  Have potato sack races!
22.  Have three-legged races!
23.  Make mini apple pies in a cupcake tin
24.  "Paint" the driveway with paint and chalk.
25.  Ride the train at the mall.
26.  Play every one of our games in the family room.
27. Build "stuff" with toothpicks and marshmallows.
28.  Make rice krispy treat sculptures.
29.  Use CAM's Easy-Bake Oven
30. Make homemade rock candy.
31.  Play badminton and horseshoes.
32.  Go for a bike ride.
33.  Go for a long walk!
34.  Go to a park/playground.
35.  Make "real-life" Candy Land pieces with our photos, and play a game with them!
36.  Go backyard bowling with giant pins.
37.  Go to "the train store".
38.  Visit Ansley.  (This is something very personal to us.)
39.  Have a play-date with friends.
40.  Go to a museum -- preferably an art museum!
41. 
42. 
43. 
44.
45.
46.
47.
48.
49.
50.

 ... more ideas are coming!  If you have any you'd like to share, please leave a comment!  Thank you!!

This Photo Deserves Its Own Post


--Jen