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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resolutions

It's 3:41 a.m. Instead of having my pregnant Super Spy Chick dreams, like usual for this time of night, I am sitting on my couch in new, red snowman pajamas, awake. I'm not blaming the pajamas, let's be clear. It's just one of those nights where you find that disturbing dreams of your husband taking over your blog have morphed into conscious thought. To do lists, the post-Christmas Gymboree purchases, and...New Year's Resolutions.

We reviewed our 2009 goals last night as a family, to see how we measured up. Little Buddy did fairly well, what with "get some teeth" and "stay cute" on his list and all. But, it's that time of year that thoughts turn inward, and "upward" in a way. The resolve to do better, do more.

What to put on the list this year?

It's a delicate balance, this ultimate "To Do" list. It has to be attainable. And specific. I can't just throw "Be really patient this year" on the list. I originally penned "gourmet cooking", "write down more of what the kids say" and the ever elusive "catch up on scrapbooking" onto the mental list. Then I thought maybe I should just put "Simplify" and scribble everything else out. I do intend to compile my journal into one, consistent place (from the various Word documents, notebooks, and planner pages on which they currently reside) so that my posterity will have some good reading once I'm gone. And, I have every intention of having a baby next year, and, hello, that is like the mother of all accomplishments. No pun intended.

At least I can cross any obligatory "lose weight" kinds of goals off my list, at least for the first half of the year. Though, I could be interested in a pair of those new tennis shoes that are supposed to tone your butt.

It's just that once you put it down in writing, your whole level of commitment is elevated. It's like you're accountable to those black-and-white goals, which I suppose is the whole point. And so, friends, that is why, for tonight, the List is staying in my head.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

So, maybe I'm a little Grinchy. Just a little. But it's only because I truly want my kids to know and appreciate the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. I want them to associate Christmas with the Savior's birth and doing kind things for others. I love to give them presents, believe me, but I don't want that to be important to them. I know this subject can be wildy controversial, but...we don't really do a lot with the whole "Santa" thing. They understand the basics, of course. I don't want them to be complete nerds. I answer their questions fairly, I think. ("Well, it's generally accepted that he lives at the North Pole.") They don't write to Santa to ask for presents--this year I suggested they could write letters to tell him the good things they've done this year, and they don't make lists of gifts they want. We did, however, go to visit Santa. As we were walking up, a thought suddenly occured to Girlie, "Hey! Maybe we can tell Santa what we want for Christmas?" (Girlie wanted a dog, Sammy requested a pod racer--a driveable one). It made us chuckle to think that our sweetie figured it was an original thought. After the visit, we talked about how Santa seemed so happy, and that was probably because he spends his time doing nice things for other people and doesn't that give you such a happy feeling inside?

Christmas Eve was wonderful. We had a feast of Chinese food (I surrendered a 32 year tradition of clam chowder, because Chinese just sounded better to my pregnant tummy), delivered more treats to friends, sang Christmas carols, and had our own little production of the Nativity.
Assigning parts went a little something like this:
Me: Okay, we'll have Little Buddy be the shepherd.
Girlie: I want to be Mary.
Sammy: I want to be Obi Wan Kenobi.



Little Buddy offered Baby Jesus his lamb as a gift. It really was quite tender.


Christmas morning didn't start until 7:30. I was up early. I layed there for a while, then jumped up to add a few forgotten items to the stockings and clear out some memory on my camera. I was sooooo excited when the kids started stirring. We had a fabulous time opening presents (this was the first time in our nine year marriage that I managed to surprise J with his gift, despite Sammy's subtle "Daddy, we did NOT go anywhere this morning"), and a late breakfast of Santa pancakes. (See, I'm not totally Grinchy!)

Little Buddy's favorite gift was a booster seat to welcome him to the Big Table.






We had a beautiful Christmas day, so we celebrated our sunshine with a holiday walk. Gotta soak up the vitamin D when we get the chance!


We had a fantastic dinner with our sweet friends Christian (who is like J's secret brother, their personalities are so eerily similar) and Mandy and their boys. It was full of laughing and completely amazing food.




It was a wonderfully peaceful and fun Christmas. Our first Christmas without extended family was indeed a success. I was in my favorite place to be, surrounded by my favorite people in the world. Couldn't be happier.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmasy, Pregnant Mess



This body is not 25 anymore (the age of my first pregnancy) and I can feel it. I seem to have lost more and more brain cells, and quicker than ever. On Wednesday night I hosted a dessert party for 25-30 friends, and I actually called one of my friends (that I know and like) by the wrong name. Even as it left my lips I was mortified. I called her Kathleen, and I don't even KNOW any Kathleens here. How do you even recover from that?? This happened with my last pregnancy, too, and I cannot even tell you how embarrassing it it when your brain just cannot process. A friend would walk up, "Hey, how are you feeling?" I'd smile, "Hi..., um, feeling pretty good....uh....Joan." (Okay, I had to use a fictional name, because I don't want any of my real friends to know that their name slipped my mind. Or, at least I don't think I have any friends named Joan. Maybe I do and I just don't remember).

Another delightful pregnancy happening? Spider veins. I'm not sure how I'm getting stinkin' spider veins when I've only gained 6 lbs in 13 weeks, but somehow the spider vein stars aligned and drew my number. The solution? Super sexy support hose. Oh, yeah. I'm working those industrial strength panty hose (which, incidentally, had better wear like iron if they have the audacity to charge $53.00 for them). I've also got your run-of-the-mill total nausea and exhaustion still going on from about lunch on.
I don't know if it's my 'advanced' age that is making this pregnancy so rough, or because it is a boy (I'm NOT saying it's a boy, I'm just saying that my boy pregnancies played out like this). Let's all think girl thoughts, though, since we're on the subject. Because, so help me, if I only get to plan one wedding...

At the beginning, they asked me if I wanted all these screenings for deformities, etc. I declined them all, since I'd love this baby no matter what, until she said, "Well, if you change your mind, let us know soon so we can schedule the ultrasound." An extra ultrasound? Another early peek at my baby? Sweet. So, for the price of two extra blood draws, I got to spend 10 minutes spying on my little medium-shrimp-sized baby. I know this is my fourth time with this process, but it was as AMAZING as the first time. I watched in complete wonderment at the tiny being that was crossing his/her ankles, curling his/her tiny fist underneath his/her chin in "Thinker" position, and napping in 45 second increments. It was love, truly. And my heart grew.

Christmas truly is the season for love, if there is a season. I hope that all of your homes are filled to the brim with it. That you have peace and joy spilling out your doors, down the street to your neighbors, and being carried by the mail service to the hands of those you adore. Which reminds me, I think I have the majority of my Christmas cards sent out. Maybe not. I can't really remember. If you don't get one, blame my pregnant brain. Merry Christmas anyway.



PS: The picture above are my cookies this year. Oreo balls, peanut butter cup cookies, and peppermint pinwheels. For recipes, click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And This Year's Red Wall is......

...the FIREPLACE WALL!! (cheers) So it shouldn't have been a surprise to J that I wanted to paint. After all, when we were just dating, I gave him fair warning that I was the kind of person who would paint a wall red for Christmas. Maybe he just didn't believe that someone would do that. After all, the first time I told him about my field, he looked very surprised and said, "I didn't know that was something that people actually did." Anyway, Christmas is the reason that, in my St. Louis home, the entry way turned red, followed by part of my kitchen, followed by all of my kitchen. In successive years, of course. That trend was actually the reason we moved to Seattle. We had to start over in a new house.

The red is rendered a little bright and garish in these pictures, but it's actually quite beautiful. The name is Roasted Pepper at Home Depot, in case you don't believe me. The huge red jingle bells on my tree are one of my very favorite decorations. I found them as door hangers at the dollar store. I detached the hanger, sprayed the bells with glossy red paint, then finished them off with a jewelry hemp loop for hanging and some candy-cane striped bows. I love them, and they were so easy to make!

I attached the garland swag in three places using white artists tape. It is archival quality, low tac tape that doesn't leave sticky residue. It's my favorite. I looped jewelry hemp (you could use yarn) around the lit garland (so the tape wouldn't damage the garland), and then used the tape to adhere it to the mantel. Then I added the berries.

This is a weird angle, but clearly all the window light makes it hard to get a decent picture. This is in the archway going into the living room. I put three small nails in the wall (one in the center, one on each end), and used the garland itself to wrap around the nails to keep it in place. The kissing ball is from Crate & Barrel.

For the stairs I used the garland itself to wrap and twist around the bannister. Then I just wound ribbon through it and stuck in picks of berries. The big bow was last. I bought it that way, and it came with an enormous twist tie on the back.
I hope that your Christmas is merry and bright, and that you get just as much JOY out of holiday decorating as I do. More to come!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Good to Be Back

I took a rather long break from blogging. Most friends figured out why when they read my last post. It was because the only things that were really on my mind were things like my complete and utter nausea, how everything smells bad to me, and how I'm pretty sure I'm already getting fat. Now that the proverbial beans are spilled, there's a sort of freedom to share my thoughts again. In case anyone cared about my thoughts.

Thanks for all the well wishes. I appreciate them, truly. It's fun news to share, especially when you think your husband might still be in denial. :) Bless his sweet heart. He's actually been a gem-- home since Tuesday and cleaning like a pro.

I feel horrible. The kind of daily, overwhelming nausea that makes you wish you could throw up, because in a twisted sort of way, you think it might make you feel better. And, truth be told, the only reason I'm blogging right now is because I'm waiting for it to be a respectable time so I can go to sleep. There's something...wrong about going to bed before, say, 8:30 p.m. Or maybe I'm just scared of waking for the day at 4:00 a.m. Speaking of that, I've been waking up early. Way. Too. Early. Thank you, my kumquat-sized baby. Like, 5 a.m. Yes, I know many of you do that on a regular basis to punish yourselves with running or working out. That's not my problem.

Grocery stores are gross places for me right now. Do you even KNOW all the bad smells that live in grocery stores? The ice beds of fresh Seattle seafood, the dairy case, the butcher block--I have to twist my face up so my nose is completely cut off. Otherwise, since I don't actually throw up, I would totally be dry heaving right there in the aisle. My shopping trips have become weird little expeditions where I run in with a general idea of what I need. Then I almost-literally run through the aisles, just hucking food into my cart. I get way more than what moderation would politely suggest (17 boxes of jello? Seriously?) in the hopes that it will be a very long time before I come back again. I come out with a lot of weird food (because I needed those Sour Patch Kids) and a very long receipt.

Anyway. My apologies to anyone that may have been a victim of my pregnancy weirdness these last 10 weeks. Just in case I looked like I was going to vomit at something you said or I accidentally rammed you with my shopping cart.

I'm going to bed now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I "Passed" the Test

October 19, 2009

J questioned my sanity during a, uh, little bit of a rant the other day. Then he asked when my period was, which made me blow up even more. But a couple days later, I started to wonder the same thing. I went to the calendar, and I was due, any minute. But I didn't feel it. In fact, I started to suspect something else. The next day I went to Target after 1st grade pick up. I grabbed a pregnancy test, and then some Halloween candy to cover it up. The cashier lady stared hard at my purchase. I couldn't blame her--Little Buddy was rocking back and forth in his seat, yelling and trying to free himself from the seatbelt, Sammy was hanging off the side of the cart, whimpering because he didn't get to ride in the basket, and Girlie was in the basket due to a spill at school that left her in borrowed, oversized black sweatpants. I bet she was looking at me and my pregnancy test and thinking, "Seriously?"

I'll take it in a couple days. I'll just wait a little while. I have this, just in case, I thought to myself before pulling up to the house and sprinting to the bathroom. A bright blue plus sign smiled up at me, and I warily smiled down at it. Oh boy. Here was the test. And I 'passed.'

How to tell J? I wasn't sure. Maybe I'd wait for a while, then throw out "Hey, this isn't the ice cream's fault. I'm three months pregnant." Or, so many times I'd casually thrown out "I'm pregnant" just to freak him out. I thought it would be really funny to tell him the news just like that. Right before he fell asleep. Then I thought that it might hurt the baby's feelings that I didn't do something creative, so I pulled the half-asleep kids out of bed and had them do a little video clip. When J came home that night after helping with the youth at church, we crawled into bed.

"Oh, you've got to see this funny footage of Little Buddy at dinner," I said. I held the video camera so we could both see. There was Buddy, laughing hysterically at the peas on his fork. Then came this clip.





J got his "freaked out" face on. That's the one where he gets really quiet and flushed, and his eyes kind of bug out. I think he may have even stopped breathing at some point.

"Are you serious? "he stared at me. I smiled and waggled my eyebrows at him.
"Tell me, are you pregnant?" he demanded.
I could tell that my coy games and smiles were not being fully appreciated.

Yes, I told him.
"Say 'I promise,'" he demanded. 'I promise' is the ultimate test of truth in our household.
"I promise," said I.
He took a moment to process, then asked me how I felt about it.
I grinned. "I'm happy! How do you feel?"
He gulped just a little. "I'm not sure."


So, yes. It's true. I, at least, am tickled pink to add another one to our wild bunch, and I'm feeling as well as can be expected, which is not good at all. We were going to wait to tell people (after all, last time we waited for 16 weeks), but the kids figured it out. And despite the whole "this is our family's secret for right now" speech, Sammy walked out the door, saw our neighbor and said, "Our mom is pregnant. Did you know that?" We figured we should be the ones to spill the beans.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Candy Overload 2009


We rocked the neighborhood in superhero style this Halloween. Super Girl, Batman, and baby Superman all raked in a pretty good chocolate haul, due to a large neighborhood and few kids. Basic 'supply and demand', people. "Take more, take more" said everyone and their dog. Music to a dental-bill-paying mother's ears. We carefully avoided the slugs that cover Northwest sidewalks, and kept passing other families that kept saying "Hello, Super Family!" Sammy's pumpkin treat bag laughed a menacing "Mwuh-ha-ha-ha" when he pushed the button...every time someone opened their door. Then, when they complimented the costumes, Sammy would offer up "These are actually my pajamas"; I cringed and smiled every time. It's true. Because, why would I waste money on an expensive Batman costume if we had perfectly good Batman pajamas? Seriously. But I digress. If there was just a candy bowl on the porch, the kids would yell out, "Happy Halloween, whoever you are!!!" J kept taking "Candy Taxes", presumably for his chaperoning efforts that night.

Monday night was spent elbow-deep in pumpkin guts. Girlie dove right in, while Wild Man repeatedly asked, "How about we get some gloves to do this?"

Once he finally dove in, he thought it necessary to come terrorize me.



We meant to have the 'happy' one using himself to roast a marshmallow, but never got around to it.

This was Salon a la Mommy. Girlie was not too pleased about the poofy super hero hair I was creating for her.

She changed her tune when she realized the volume of sugar we were talking about.


Wild Man Sam's first candy choice were some disturbingly real-looking and gross gummy teeth and fangs (or, 'thangs' as he calls them). Of course, and why not?

All in all, an excellent Halloween. Hope yours was spooktacular too!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Us in a Nutshell

We've had a week. Let me rephrase: we've had a week of swine flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. Today my kids were chanting "H1N1, otherwise know as swiiiiiiine flu, H1N1 otherwise known as swiiiiiine flu!" Poor Girlie got taken down by the bug. It actually wasn't as bad as regular flu, but she's had to stay home. We've all been climbing the walls. Haven't gone anywhere--except for KFC drive thru, when they had free chicken Monday night. Doc gave us the all clear today, though. She'll head back to the wild world of 1st grade on Friday, just in time for her Halloween party. In the words of Nurse Deb, "Take your time. This place is toxic. People are sliming all over each other here." The thing is, J is taking off for a week in the UK. I asked him, Wasn't it this time last year that the kids all got sick and you took off for a week in Hong Kong? We've GOT to kick this tradition!


My birthday was yesterday. J took the kids to the Dollar Store to pick out gifts. My birthday loot included a Dora jump rope, a photo mouse pad, and a pink calculator. And the cutest coat in the world that I picked out on a date a couple weeks ago (the date happened to include a stop at Nordstrom Rack) and thought that it was something that J would love to give me for my birthday. He also surprised me with an ice cream cake, and "made" dinner that looked and tasted just like the Fiesta Lime Chicken from Applebees. It was a lovely evening, spent in my favorite place with my favorite people in the world. J had a mission buddy that once told us he was marrying a "smokin' hot 21 year old." That made us laugh, and all the time I ask J if I'm still his smokin' hot (now) 32 year old. He says yes, always, but I think it's going to be really funny when I'm his smokin' hot 75 year old.


We're gearing up for Superhero Halloween 2009. I'll take Super Girl, Batman, and Baby Superman trick-or-treating to the 12 houses in our neighborhood. I'm trying to decide if I make them wear coats, or layer sweats underneath their costumes. A tiny part of me says I shouldn't take them out in the cold at all, but a bigger part scoffs I laugh in the face of swine flu.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Closet Full of Nothing to Wear

I got three shirts at Target last week. Only three, and at Target, of all places. A wild hair detour somewhere in between diapers and antibacterial wipes. Yet, I felt like a million bucks when I got the first compliment on the olive green, cable knit sweater.

Why is that? I wondered. My closet is busting at the seams. I stared at all the pretty fabrics, textures, all the varying lengths of sleeves and pants. Why is it that I feel I've got nothing to wear? Am I really reduced to being thrilled at a cream-colored cardigan on sale at Target? Then I figured it out.

I took a closer look at my clothes. It didn't take long to figure that I could categorize my clothes by size. Ever since the body-rollercoaster of kids "happened" to me, I have fluctuated a total of FIVE sizes in the last seven years of child bearing. This is how it breaks down.

I have the PRE-BABY SIZES. Mostly work clothes. Wardrobe classics. Trim dress pants, darling skirts. Things that I would use to dress for success. I coordinated lighting schemes, picked out the perfect rug, and explained the benefits of leather furniture in these clothes. They didn't get worn out, because there was no one spitting up or exploding their diaper on them. I wasn't crawling on the floor, and having sippy cups spilled on them. So I hung onto them. And I swore that someday, SOMEDAY I would fit them once again.

I have my POST BABY FAT CLOTHES. These are the ones tearfully purchased when I admitted defeat. When I sorrowfully conceeded, that I could no longer zip myself into the black pencil skirt with the beading at the bottom. When the extra 55 lbs (that's right, fifty-five) I gained with Baby #1 didn't all melt away, as I planned. This is the stash that I turn to when I realize that my baby is 2 months old and it's time to stop wearing my maternity jeans. A goodly number of these were purchased with a skinny friend, who, sensing my distress, comforted me (very sincerely) with the admission that she had some fat clothes that were (gasp) size 8. I no longer shop with her. But, I can't throw these away, because if I have another baby (if...), I'm going to need those fat clothes.

Then comes all the stuff in the middle. I have Skinny Day clothes, and Fat Day clothes. There are my very comfortable-but-unstylish Mom Day clothes and the Going Out with Girlfriends ones. There are the ones that are a little more forgiving--the type that are kinder to the parts of your body that won't (after 3 kids) ever be the same without the help of a good surgeon. Shirts that are huge now, but you know as soon as your milk comes in can barely contain busty you.

It comes down to this: Only a small percentage of my wardrobe is flattering at any given time. This revolving body of mine is the reason. The reason I have a closet full of nothing to wear. And the reason I rejoice in the three new shirts that fit me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Milk and More

Sammy: Is milk made from water and white?

Me: No, where does milk come from?

Girlie: Milk comes from cows.

Sammy: So, cows drink milk?

Me: No, cows produce milk.

Girlie: Like mommies make milk too.

Me: That's right. Mommy cows make milk.

Girlie concludes: So mommies are cows.

________________________________________

Girlie: Oh, my ear hurts.

Sammy: Why?

Girlie: I don't know. I hope I don't have a middle ear infection. (She had one in Jan.)

Sammy: WHAT? A METAL ear infection??

Girlie: NO, a miT-Tle ear infection.

Sammy: Oh, that is not awesome.

________________________________________

Sammy: Mommy, everyone starts on earth as a baby, right?

Me: Yep, everyone starts as a baby.


(Pause)

Sammy: Except grandmas. Grandmas and mommies and daddies. Because someone has to feed the babies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Going Batty

In the spirit of the spooky season, we made some bat hair clips! Who doesn't need flying rodents (I know, I know, they're actually mammals--it's just that "flying mammals" doesn't sound spooky enough) tangled up in their tresses? If you want some, too, there are two ways to get them.

#1-Make them

If you can't tell, this is sparkly black felt. Fold it in half and cut a bat shape, like so.


I used pinking shears to cut the bottom of the wings.



Cut a body out of regular black felt.







Stitch them together with white embroidery floss.


You can add eyes if you want. After all, no two bats are alike.


I covered the clip (I bought a whole box at a beauty supply store for just a few dollars) with ribbon, using hot glue.


Then I used hot glue to attach the bat to the clip.


And, #2 (perhaps even easier than #1)--Leave a comment and I'll pick some lucky people to receive their own batty clip! Just like you always wanted.
As you can see, I made more than we could ever use.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloweening at My Place

Okay, is this not the cutest "pumpkin tree" you've ever seen? I don't know what it really is--I'm guessing some variety of tomato, but isn't it darling? I found it with the cut flowers in my local grocery store.



Here's a Halloween countdown calendar that I made with my friend, Chelsea. It was inexpensive and fun, but extremely time consuming. It's a great project that you could start for next year! To start you out, I included a couple shots of some of my sketches for the pocket designs below. You could also use the designs to do a billion other crafty things. If you can't get the pictures big enough to be useful, let me know and I'll email you a scanned copy of them along with some detailed directions. A supply list is below.
We use the calendar, and each day I put a slip of paper in the appropriate pocket of a place to look for that day's Halloween activity or treat. The kids love it. You could also use the designs to make a single pocket or Halloween scene where you hide something every day.






Supplies you'll need to make a calendar:
Black canvas, 30"x37"
Felt--orange, white, black, green, purple, yellow, brown, sparkly black, tan.
White and black stiff felt with adhesive on the back (got mine at Michaels), 1 sheet each
Eyes--very small ones, 2 very big ones
Metallic stars
Orange ric rac, 11 feet
Black bias tape and white ribbon for hanging loops
4 medium purple buttons
1 big black button for spider body
Color coordinating thread and embroidery floss
Pinking shears

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who doesn't love spiders in their cupcakes?

We had some fun making spiderweb cupcakes this week. I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that perhaps I should lay off the baked goods, but it started raining here in Seattle. And there's nothing quite like chocolate cupcakes to make the rain feel cozy. We started by frosting them orange (you can use my favorite Cream Cheese Frosting recipe at the bottom of my cinnamon roll post).

Then we used black decorator gel to draw concentric circles, like so.

Then we used toothpicks to drag "spiderwebs" from the center dot to the outside edge.


And we finished with assorted-color arachnid rings. Yummy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The apple, the tree, something about falling...


Do you know what I find really funny? The way that parents influence their young children. Not so much morally, socially, or educationally, but more, in a sense,...professionally. For instance, we have a friend who is an osteopathic surgeon. As we were hanging out, their 3 year old was hovering around the adult conversation. "Go play," they urged, "go get your human body puzzle." Another friend is an accountant. Their preschooler sets up play offices and computers for fun.

That's the same reason that my kids know words like 'armoire' and 'ottoman' and 'taupe' and 'window treatment.' Also the same reason that they don't blink when J asks them to please "Confirm that you've gone potty before we go." They also request 'progress payments' from him instead of 'treats'. And the reason I heard this conversation. The kids had set up a "book fair" in our living room.

Kids: Hi! We're having a book fair. Do you want to buy something?
J: You're having a book fair, huh? Okay, I'll buy a book. How much does this one cost?
Girlie: Nothing. You can have it for free.
Sammy (at the same time): Forty-five dollars.
J: What? How can you make any money if you are selling your books for free?
Kids: I don't know. Do you want a book?
J: I'm having a difficult time understanding your cost structure.
Kids: (silence)
J: Is this a Ponzi scheme?
Kids: A what? What is that?
J: I just don't understand how your business can be profitable if you are giving away your services and merchandise for free. Are you subsidized by the government?
Kids: Um, yes. We just have book fairs and you can have stuff for free.
J: So let me get this straight. You are subsidized by the government, so you have free book fairs--and you just sustain a loss with every transaction?
Kids (after I whispered in their ears): We're Socialists.

I'm just sayin', this isn't something you consider when you're picking your major.

PS: In case you're wondering what my husband does for a living, I'm not entirely sure. Sure, he has "Finance Manager" on his emails from Microsoft, but I'm not clear on what that actually means, except that he deals with very large budgets and can produce a pretty mean spreadsheet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Robot Fun

We had ourselves a little robot fun today. I simplified an idea I found in Family Fun magazine. We washed out some cans of different sizes, and taped the edges for safety. Then with the kind help of the folks at Home Depot, I picked out some assorted bolts, nuts, washers, etc. I started to hot glue the pieces onto magnets that I got at Michaels, but then stopped when I realized there was a good chance that I'd want the magnets for something else someday. Fortunately for me, the robot construction worked just as well unglued. Family Fun suggested all kinds of other fun "attchments" for our little metal Mr. Potato Heads--curly wire, etc. I had to keep it simple, though.

The kids are having a creative blast! And for only a few dollars, too.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jam Session


I've been asked a lot of jam questions lately. So, here are a couple thoughts on jam. I am certainly not an expert, but I happen to have an entire counter-ful of canned jam I made this summer, which I think prompts the questions.

Pectin Matters: I've found my jam turn out the very best when I use a "no sugar needed" pectin. That way, I can put way more fruit than sugar in it, and the flavor is amazing (it's actual flavor instead of just sweet). Those pectins don't need the sugar to set up, so you can sweeten it to taste. It just makes it more expensive, since fruit can be pricey.

Agave: I've been substituting agave for sugar in some jam recipes. And by substituting, I mean instead of 8 cups of sugar, I use maybe 2 cups agave. (Agave is at least 4 times sweeter than sugar). It's definitely a different texture. More liquidy--like a fruit spread. I LOVE it, and it produces a more flavorful, less sugary "jam". I think it's perfect for jam, ice cream, toppings, pancakes, etc. But, if you are craving good, old-fashioned jam (as J does), it may leave you wanting.

People have asked me for specific jam recipes. I don't really have a favorite ONE. It seems that each pectin is a little particular, so use the recipe that comes with your pectin. I just made a couple batches of blackberry jam (photo above) with Ball brand no sugar needed pectin, and it turned out wonderfully!!, I'm lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, where blackberries are literally undesireable, uncontrollable weeds that grow all over the place and produce oodles and scads of delicious berries. I also used the Pomona's Universal Pectin (also a "low sugar" one) earlier this summer for cherry jam and it was terrific. So, those two definitely have my recommendation. I do still use sugar in these, just not nearly as much.

For spiced peach jam, which has been wildly popular, use the recipe that comes with the pectin, but add a 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves for each 3 lbs (4 c chopped) of peaches that you use. Am I making sense? So, if you're using a recipe that calls for 6 lbs of peaches (or 8 cups of chopped peaches) add 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.

I've used both water bath canning for jam, and the "turn it upside down" method many times each--all successful.

If you are a jam beginner, I'd recommend starting with a water bath canner, a utensil set (jar lifter, lid magnet, etc), pint jars, brand new lids, and rings, and no sugar needed pectin. Then decide on a recipe (comes with the pectin) and go for it!! If you live near me, I'd be happy to help you. If you don't, ...well, maybe you should move closer, because I probably really miss you.

I've made a truckload lately and will be giving some as gifts. I'll post on how to decorate them quite adorably later.

Here is a favorite recipe for quick, yummy, and easy Peach Pineapple Freezer Jam.

3 c peeled, finely chopped peaches
3 c sugar
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 sm. pkg peach or apricot jello
Bring peaches, sugar and pineapple to boil. Cook, stirring for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until dissolved and pour into jars or freezer containers. Freezes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Fall Decor

I heart Halloween. I do. Not creepy, gory, scary Halloween, but cute, playful, pretend Halloween. This year is Superhero Year. My kids and I pick out our theme at least a year in advance. Girlie will be SuperGirl, Sammy Batman (surprise), and Little Buddy will be a tiny little Superman. If I had the body for it, I'd go all out and be Wonder Woman. But, alas, it is not to be. One friend suggested I could get a cape and put bandaids, hand sanitizer, coupons, a glue gun, etc, on the back. It's entirely appropriate. You know I think moms are totally heroes.

But, before I move onto Halloween-themed posts, I thought I'd post a few more fall decor ideas. These can be table centerpieces, top buffets, decorate serving tables, accent side tables, you get the idea. Knock yourself out. If you have any specific questions about these, just ask.