Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Kid, He Amazes Me

Liam has been blowing me away with his smarts for years.  When he took apart my back door at 14 months of age, I knew he was smart.  When he was doing basic subtraction unsolicited at age 3, I was shocked (and proud!).

He did it to me again the other day.

We were on our way to Tae Kwon-Do and we were discussing the fact that he will have to test to move up from white belt.  The idea of taking this test was obviously weighing on him a bit so I was reassuring him that they wouldn't test him until they were sure he was ready.  I told him that he would be taught everything he was supposed to know to get his next belt before he took the test and that we could work together to learn his numbers.  (He has to know the numbers 1-10 in Korean to earn his yellow stripe.)

Then we began talking about how Tae Kwon-Do will make him strong.

"Yeah, because I do all those kicks and punches.  It makes my arms and legs strong," he said.

"Yes," I replied.  "It makes you strong in other ways, too.  It makes you strong in ways that don't have anything to do with your muscles.  It makes you strong of spirit."

"Yes!" he exclaimed.  "Like Spirited Away!"

We're big fans of Hayao Miyazaki in this house and Liam has seen a number of his films.  Spirited Away is still one of his favorites, and it's one of mine, too.  I saw it years before we ever had kids and it took me several viewings to really understand the plot and take away its true message - that being strong of spirit can really take you places.

Liam got it without any prompting.  I thought he just saw it as a cool story with a fairy tale like plot.  I shouldn't be surprised that he picked up on this, but I am.  He's so perceptive about such big concepts and he can turn it around and apply it to the stuff he does everyday.  It just amazes me.

When I talk about these sorts of things, I'm always afraid of coming off as the overly proud parent.  I think my kid is really smart.  Scary smart, really.  But doesn't every parent?  Also, because Liam is my first child, I have nothing to gauge his accomplishments against so for all I know, every 5.5 year old grasps these concepts.  What I do know is that my kid astounds me on a regular basis with his smarts, his humor, and his loving nature.  I love him for it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kilroy Was Here

Jamie was doing his best impersonation of Kilroy at the dining room table this afternoon.

(sorry its a little blurry, sometimes I'm not the best photographer)

He's not really tall enough to do this on his own.  Toddler engineer/problem solver that he is, he found a way.  Just a little help from the Magna Doodle was all that was required.


Monday, July 26, 2010

A Refreshing Summer Salad

Yes, folks, it's time once again for a recipe post.  And, once again, it comes courtesy of Weight Watchers.

Cucumber Mint Salad

2 cups sliced English Cucumber
¼ cup vertically sliced red onion
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint or parsley
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss well.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Yield: 4 servings (serving size 1/2 cup)

Per serving: CAL 43; FAT 3.4g; PRO 0.9g; CARB 2.8g; FIB 1g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.2mg; SOD 2mg; CALC 5mg

Notes: The recipe didn't say whether to peel the cucumber or not so I peeled it.  I find the skin to be very bitter sometimes so I didn't want to deal with that.  I cut the cucumber in in half lengthwise and then sliced, ending up with half moon shaped pieces.  While that was fine, I think next time I'll quarter the cucumber instead.  While the recipe calls for mint or parsley, I used mint because it's called Cucumber MINT Salad, after all.  Also, I found that the addition of a dash of salt to each serving as I served it (since I was eating it over several days) was tasty as well.  Call me weird, but I liked it that way.

Hope you like it as much as I did!  It was a refreshing summer treat.  :)
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Once again with the disclaimer:  Weight Watchers doesn't even know me from Adam.  I am not being compensated for this review or any other I make on this site.  I bought the cookbook, tried the recipe, loved it, and posted about it.  Absolutely no money exchanged hands for this review.

Blooms

My garden is an embarrassment.  The weeds have completely taken over.  I haven't mulched in two years.  There is lawn where there isn't supposed to be lawn.  And the lawn?  It could really stand to be mowed.

But, despite the chaos, I have flowers blooming.

Looky!  Black Eyed Susans!


This is a miracle.  I've been trying to get these to bloom since I planted them when we first moved in back in 2007.  Usually the resident deer population eats them to nubbins before they even manage to bud.  This year, for reasons unknown, they've decided that my garden does not resemble the buffet at the Grand Concourse and they've left my poor plants alone.  Also, I've remembered to pepper regularly (although I've done that in years past, too).  Maybe there are too many other tasty weeds to choose from so they're not interested in the stuff I would actually like to see survive.

And looky again!  Look at all those buds!


Also, my gladiolas have begun to burst forth.


My hostas are blooming as well.  This is another small miracle because hostas are apparently heroin if you're a deer.  My hostas have regularly been the victims of the eaten-to-nubbins phenomenon.


One day, years from now, when the children are capable to not killing themselves if I'm not watching them with eagle eyes (Jamie, I'm looking at you), I will be able to show you my gardens and be proud.  For now, this will have to do.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Amazing Hypnotic Power of Phineas and Ferb


Five minutes before this picture was taken, he was a cranky, shrieking, tantrum-y mess.  I flipped on P&F and voila! Hypno-toddler.

(Gah.  That's the first time I've written toddler in reference to Jamie.  Crap.  He really isn't a baby anymore.  Also, YAHOO!  He's not a baby anymore!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Poked My Head Out From Under My Rock

Despite the fact that I use social media, I tend to live in social Siberia.  Our social calender consists of "Hey!  Let take the kids to Grandma's!"  I don't get out much.

Last night I finally did.  I went to a Burgh Mom event held at IKEA Pittsburgh and organized by Burgh Baby.  I was a little nervous to go since I wouldn't know anyone there personally and only knew one or two people via Twitter.  Most people tell me that I'm pretty much the same offline as online (which is no shock to me) so at least I didn't feel like I had to be someone else in person.

It was a lot of fun!

IKEA handed out schway swag bags and fed us scrumptious edibles.  Can I just say that Princess Cake is my new favorite dessert?  It's a good thing I have to drive 40 minutes to get it because otherwise my behind would get even more badonkedty donk.

At least half of the women there were in varying stages of pregnancy.  I stayed the hell away from drinking that water.  I'm happy for them because it's what they want but I want to be pregnant again about as much as I want to shove my head in the oven.

I also got to meet Ginny from That's Church who was very sweet when I introduced myself as one of her readers and then promptly left her alone so I wasn't all fan girl.  I got to sit around and chat with ClumberKim and Red Pen Mama and Epsnider all of whom were really awesome chicks.  Now that I've done this get-together thing once, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  It was nice to be able to go to one that was 'neutral territory' the first time but I won't be afraid to go to someone's house next time.

All in all it was a great night out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Am Made of Fail

Well, that pretty much sums it up.

I'm almost two weeks into the dietary changes and I've lost nothing.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nadarino.  In fact, I may have actually put on a pound.

Now, I could give you a whole list of reasons why this is the case - and they'd be good reasons.  It's not like I'd be saying things like "Oh, I just didn't get around to it."  But it ultimately comes down to the fact that I just didn't make great choices and there were more days than one in which I said "screw it."  I allowed myself to screw up and then I allowed myself to keep screwing up because I figured once a single bad choice was made the whole day was a waste.  That quickly adds up to derailing yourself.

I'm pretty disgusted with myself.  Not just because I'm fat and that alone disgusts me but also because I should be strong enough to do this.  I should be able to have the discipline and I clearly do not.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Yes, I have a food diary.  I've been journaling my food every day for a couple of weeks.  I missed a few days for those good reasons I mentioned but I'm still continuing to make the effort.

I'm frustrated.  I'm angry with myself.  I feel like a failure every single day because of this.  I cannot seem to make headway and I'm so bothered by it.  This is the one thing in my life I'm trying to do just for myself and I can't even get it right.  Just like everything else in my life, I appear to be falling down on the job on a consistent basis.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

That Chocolate Cake Is Scrum-diddly-umtious

I mentioned another recipe that I wanted to try and I made it today.  I had it for dessert after dinner.  It was fabulous.  Really fabulous. 

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake
(from Weight Watchers "Ultimate Classics" cookbook)

Baking spray with flour
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup Dutch process cocoa (such as Droste)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
⅔ cup packed brown sugar
⅔ cup strong brewed coffee
¼ cup canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate minichips
1 tbsp sifted powdered sugar
Fresh raspberries (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.
2.  Heavily coat a 12 cup nonstick Bundt pan with baking spray; set aside
3.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a mixer, beat eggs and next 5 ingredients on medium speed 1 minute or just until combined.  Add flour mixture to egg mixture; beat at high speed 1 minute.  Stir in chocolate mini chips.
4.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes.  Remove cake from pan; cool completely on wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Garnish with raspberries, if desired.
Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Per serving: CAL 250; FAT 11.4g; PRO 3.9g; CARB 42.2g; FIB 1.8g; CHOL 27mg; IRON2.6 mg; SOD 186mg; CALC 57 mg



Try it.  I dare ya.  And then I dare ya not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

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Once again with the disclaimer:  Weight Watchers doesn't even know me from Adam.  I am not being compensated for this review or any other I make on this site.  I bought the cookbook, tried the recipe, loved it, and posted about it.  Absolutely no money exchanged hands for this review.

Proof That My House Doubles As An Insanse Asylum

Yesterday I was stretched out on the floor after I picked Jamie up at daycare and this happened:


Apparently I make a fantastic perch from which to watch Phineas and Ferb.

This morning Liam came up to me and said "Mom, will you take a video of me?" Oh sure, why the heck not?

The result was this:

video

I think he has a budding career in breakdancing.

Yummy New Recipe

In an effort to find new, healthy recipes, I picked up a copy of Weight Watchers Ultimate Classics recipe book over the weekend.  I spent some time paging through it and there's about 10 recipes I want to try right off the bat and I'm sure there will be more.

I tried the first recipe last night and it's so yummy and a great summer side dish so I wanted to share.

Fresh Corn Sauté

1 applewood-smoked bacon slice
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1.  Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon slice from pan; crumble.

2.  Add onion and bell pepper to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes.  Add corn and next 3 ingredients; sauté 4 minutes or until tender.  Stir in crumbled bacon.  Yield: 4 servings (serving size 1/2 cup)

Per serving: CAL 104; FAT 3.5g; PRO 3.4g; CARB 17.5g; FIB 2.8g; CHOL 3.3mg; IRON 0.6mg; SOD 184 mg; CALC 16 mg


Notes:  I made this with a regular bacon slice since I didn't have applewood-smoked.  I do not own non-stick pans (I hate 'em) so I used my regular skillet with no extra grease but what was coming off the bacon.  It worked fine.  I used frozen corn instead of fresh and I just defrosted it by running under warm water before I used it.  I used a vidalia for the onion and I used a bit more in the way of amounts than the recipe called for - it just worked out that way.  I never measure herbs and spices so I tossed in until it looked good.  The thyme/corn combination is out of this world and I really loved this recipe.  So did Jamie!

There is a recipe in this book for a Double Chocolate Bundt Cake that I am dying to try out.  If it comes out tasty, I'll include that one, too!  :)

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And now for the disclaimer:  Weight Watchers doesn't even know me from Adam.  I am not being compensated for this review or any other I make on this site.  I bought the cookbook, tried the recipe, loved it, and posted about it.  Absolutely no money exchanged hands for this review.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hodgepodge, Part Deux

1. We finally received Liam's Kindergarten assignment in the mail a couple of weeks ago and he will be an afternoon session student.  I was hoping for morning but since I don't work, he was almost guaranteed to get afternoon since they save the morning session for families in which both parents work.  Liam is happy with it, though.  It seems that he wanted afternoon Kindergarten.  Plus, right about the time he starts to really get bored, it will be time to head to school.

Weirdly, the "first" day of school is on a Thursday and it isn't even an instructional day.  We have a one hour session in the afternoon that both Liam and I have to attend as an orientation session.  I assume we're going to cover things like getting on and off the bus, where the bathrooms are, arrival time, dismissal time, etc.  Then, the next day is his first day of instructional time.  On a Friday.  Why didn't they have the orientation on Friday and start fresh on Monday?  Or orientation on Monday, instructional time begins Tuesday?  SO.  STUPID.

2.  An orange crayon gave its life in my dryer last week.  It melted into a sheer patina of orange all over the drum of the dryer.  Luckily that patina seems permanent and isn't rubbing off on clothing.  Sadly, about three-quarters of the load that the crayon was in got melted orange crayon on it.  And it was a pretty large load of the kids' clothing.  I was panicked that I was going to have to buy all new shorts for Liam and try to replace as many of his beloved Star Wars shirts as possible.

I started looking around on the internet for methods of removing the crayon and they were all long, multi-step annoying processes that I simply don't have time for.  They usually involved some kind of solvent or oil based product (one called for car lubricant).  These are the sorts of things I do not have on hand.

So I decided to give OxyClean the old college try.  I figured it couldn't make things worse and on the off chance it worked, it would spare me having to go out and buy special items to clean the clothes.

I started by spraying the marked portions of the clothing with OxyClean spray.  Then I ran hot, hot, hot water (to get the wax to soften) into a bucket and added about three scoops of granular OxyClean.  I put the clothes in there to soak for several hours (at least three hours of soaking but some I left overnight.)  Then, I put the clothes into the washer on a heavy duty hot wash with detergent, liquid OxyClean, and fabric softener.  I did them in small batches so that they'd really get most out of the wash cycle.

Miraculously, this worked.  I managed to save the entire load of laundry and didn't have to replace a single item.  OxyClean really will clean ANYTHING.

3. I came home today to find my neighbor vacuuming our cul-de-sac.  Yes.  Vacuuming.  With a shop vac.


They're trying to sell their house.  His wife finally retired and they bought a house in North Carolina somewhere.  The house went on the market last week and he's been super double crazy obsessive about the landscaping being just so ever since the for sale sign went up.  Neighbor Man is a crazy lawn worshiper at the best of times but he has now officially gone off the deep end.  I fail to see how vacuuming up random bits of asphalt is going to help the house sell faster.  It makes me want to let Jamie run around naked on the lawn, peeing at will, while the rest of us work on putting a car up on blocks in the driveway.  Just to mess with him.

4.  Speaking of Jamie, he is officially pacifier free.  I've been considering taking it away for awhile now and he was down to using it only while he slept but after talking with another Mom about it (*wave* Hi, Burghbaby!) I decided to strike now while he can't fight about it.  Naps on the first day seemed to go OK with minimal chit chat occurring in the crib before sleep.  Bedtime the first night was hard.  He chatted for two solid hours before finally shutting up and going to sleep.  His morning nap the next day was also difficult - it took an hour for him to go down.  But, afternoon nap that day and bedtime that night were a breeze.  No chit chat, just sleep.  I couldn't believe how easy it was.  No fuss, no muss and it's bye bye paci!

5. Last on the hit parade is the fact that Liam has learned to whistle and he is awfully proud of this fact.  He can't whistle loudly.  He can't whistle a tune.  He can't even whistle more than one note.  But, boy oh boy, does he get as much mileage out of that one note as he possibly can.  He has gotten to a point that he doesn't even realize he's doing it so I repeat the phrase "Liam! Quit whistling!" about eleventy billion times a day.  It's become so annoying to me that I'm ready to send him on a tour of seedy South American prisons so that he can be used to whistle confessions out of criminals.  "Ok, ok!  I'll confess!  JUST MAKE HIM STOP WHISTLING!" If I could translate that into Spanish, I would.

(Because I'm curious, I just hit Google Translate and this is what I got in return:  "¡Ay yi yi! ¡Voy a confesar! ¡Hacerle la parada silbando!") 

I'm honestly unsure how I've managed to retain my sanity this long.  Of course, I'm sure some people question the stability of my sanity to begin with.  ;)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Obsessed With Star Wars?

Well, yes, you might say that.

A month or so ago, no less than three different friends of ours made us aware that Williams-Sonoma makes Star Wars Cookie Cutters and Star Wars Pancake Molds.  Of course we had to acquire them because we are George Lucas' bitches.

We've been using the cookie cutters primarily for shaped peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.  My mother-in-law actually made cookies with them a few weeks ago - which were quite tasty.

After some trial and error (serious error, people) and the purchase of a pancake pen, this morning I was finally able to make credible looking Star Wars pancakes.

Behold!

(Liam ate the stormtrooper one)

Nifty, eh?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Preschool Lothario

Today we had a playdate.

Jamie was at daycare so we planned to meet up with Liam's preschool teacher Ms. Christa and the girls she's nannying for this summer, one of whom was a preschool classmate of Liam's.  We planned for lunch and then a trip to the Carnegie Museum.

We started the outing at Burger King so the kids could eat lunch.  Liam was terribly excited to see Christa and Megan*, his classmate.  When we pulled into the parking lot and he caught sight of them he could barely contain himself long enough for me to park the car.  He and Megan had a grand time catching up over lunch.

After we ate, we all trooped off to the museum.  We saw lots of pretty rocks in the gem and mineral hall ("That one looks like dog poop!") and had fun seeing the big dinosaurs in the dino room ("I'm not scared of the T-Rex's!").  They spent time digging in the bone quarry and we wandered around the Hall of Mammals.

We strolled into the Polar Exhibit and were meandering through when I spied a bench and had to sit down for a few minutes - my legs were tired from herding the children around.  Megan and Liam sat down and started watching a video that was playing about how the Inuit make ice houses (igloos).  Christa and I were chatting as we all took a bit of a break.  At one point, Christa glanced over at the kids and saw Liam trying to sneak his arm around Megan's shoulders.  He was trying to put the moves on her!  Yup.  That's my kid.  Employing the classic "yawn and stretch" maneuver.  

We asked him what he was doing whereupon he snatched his arm back and turned bright red.

I think I'm going to have to keep my eyes on that kid once he hits school or he's going to be the playa' on the playground.


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*name changed

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hodgepodge

1. Ladies and Gentlemen, it's official.  I am fat.  I have reached a weight I have never seen before in my life (outside of being pregnant) and it's disheartening to say the least.  I wish I was doing better with this but I'm not.  I'm lazy and I don't make the time I should to eat right or to exercise.  I admit that the exercise part is damn hard when it's over 90 degrees everyday but I should be eating far better than I am.

So.  It's time to unearth my willpower from where ever it was that I buried it, dust it off, and try it on for size.  It will probably be too small - just like all my clothes - but with a little effort, I should be able to stretch it.  In the immortal words of Shakespeare "once more into the breach." 

I'll let you know if I'm a miserable failure this time, too.

2.  Liam and I spent some time at the community pool today and I just have to ask - what is with all these suburban housewives with perfect bodies and tiny little bikinis?!  I wanted to open a vein right there in the pool with my tubby butt in my speedo tank suit.  I felt like I was hanging out with a bunch of ex-supermodels.  Where are all the real women at?  They say the average woman is a size 12 - not at the pool!  Oh no, these women are working to get up to a size 0.  Pass the Pringles, I'm depressed.

3.  A giant ugly flying beetle type thing hit the walk out patio door last night and scared me half to death.  The thing was so huge I thought a bird or a bat had flown into the window.  It was as big as my palm.


What in the name of the little baby Jesus is that thing?!  I was under the impression that I did not live at the equator (although current temps might belie that remark) where the bugs are as a big as your head.

*shudder*

4.  In a shocking twist, my neighbors did not turn my street into a war zone this Fourth of July.  Our community fireworks were on Saturday the 3rd and I expected at least some shenanigans that night.  Nope.  Not even a single firecracker went off.  On the 4th itself, there were other people setting off god knows what (and I hope you lost a finger while you were at it!) but no one chose to set up camp in my front yard to do it.  Moreover, none of my direct neighbors did it in their yards.  So there were some booms and such, but nothing like it's been in the past and neither of the kids woke up scared out of their minds.  I'll take that with a smile and a nod.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Swear I Put Those Away

Walk away for 10 minutes to make lunch for the kids and you'll come back to this:


Thanks, Jamie.  The carpet was a perfect place for a picnic with goldfish crackers.