Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Few Things

A couple of things I feel like mentioning but that may not warrant their own post. Or even if they do, I may never get to it. We are sleep training/coaching Poppy this week and we're in the worse-before-it-gets-better part. Deliriously tired. Hence incomplete sentences. Here you go:
  • I'm growing my hair out. It's been about three years since it was long and having a baby around makes me want to scrunchie.

  • That said, one must still get trims. After two years here, I think I have finally found a hair stylist I can live with. She has given me two good cuts in a row (a record), plus did a nice job on the girls. And she doesn't mind if I nurse under my cape.

  • Today I figured out how to prop my umbrella in the side door of the van so I can buckle Poppy in her seat under cover without trying to hold it in my chin. Changed my life.

  • I want these owl bookends.
  • After three girls, I've found the secret to making a bow stick. Not that I tried very hard before; I'm not really a bow kind of Mom. But my friend who is figured it out and another friend gave us a bunch of little bows so we stick them on once in awhile. The secret? Tacky Glue. The gold bottle stuff. Stays in all day no matter what. Just wipe gently with a wet washcloth at the end of the day.

  • We have figured out what everyone's going to be for Halloween. I'm not telling yet, but here's a hint: each girl will be something different in red-and-white, but none of them will be Little Red Riding Hood even though that's the one actual costume we own. Go figure.

  • I've scheduled our fall family photo shoot AND figured out what everyone will wear. Kinda. Mostly.

And finally, here's what we're all reading this week:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Girl with Electric Blue Shoes

You might have noticed in this post Ginger's blue school shoes. When it came time for new shoes this fall, and we could get nice ones without preschool playground sand to worry about, I showed Ginger the See Kai Run website and told her to pick what she liked. Her favorite color is blue, but they have some beautiful girly shoes as well, so I didn't know what she would like.

And I gotta tell you, I'm not surprised, and more than just a little proud, that she chose these. They say, "I am a three-year-old girl and don't have to have pink everything." They say, "I have my own sense of style and these are the shoes I liked best." (Anyone who knew me in high school knows how much this means to me.) They say, "I am my mother's daughter but I am also my own person." What more could I ask for?

We also decided to bypass the black Mary Janes we usually get for dress shoes in the fall and winter in favor of these sweeties. If it goes with black, it can go with purple-and-green, right? At least it can for The Girl with Electric Blue Shoes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Big news around here, folks. We've lost our first tooth.

About two weeks ago Hazel told me her tooth hurt when she bit down. She was pointing to her front bottom right tooth so I asked to take a look. One touch and it moved. I told her, "Hazel, you've got a loose tooth!"

Well. You should have seen her. Jumping around, giggling and gasping in disbelief. It was obvious she immediately viewed her place in the universe differently. Loose tooth = big kid. She now joined the ranks of other loose toothers in her class, and for about a week that's all anyone heard about from her. Here she is pointing to the loose tooth (but really just covering it up.)
At church she mentioned it to Brother Z, who was subbing in her class. He's got 10-yr-old twin girls and told Hazel he is a tooth-pulling expert. He gave hers a wiggle and said it's not ready yet.

Then last weekend we had a ward campout at Burke Lake Park. In the morning we tested her tooth and it was getting really loose so we checked with Brother Z again. He smiled and told her to go get him a napkin. And in a flick of the wrist, before anyone could say boo or be scared or go get my camera, he'd knocked it out and Hazel was holding a bloody napkin in her mouth with a look of happy shock on her face. Let me tell you, we will be going to him with all our loose teeth.
In general, we don't condone the belief in fictional gift-givers such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Mostly because they too often overshadow the religious holidays they're associated with, and as a family we prefer to focus solely on Jesus Christ at Christmas and Easter, explaining that the gifts we give each other at those times are in reference to the gift of salvation Christ gave to us.

However. There's no religious foundation in losing teeth. The Tooth Fairy is a purely cultural phenomenon (um, I guess. Didn't do my research on this. I'm lucky to get a post written.) So, we figured, why not? It's a fun thing to believe it and frankly I'm still not totally sure she doesn't exist.

Hazel put her tooth in this fantastic little pillow we got from Posie and Me, and put it under her own pillow. A few hours later when I snuck in, the tooth was gone. Most likely it fell behind the bed or slipped out, but I couldn't find it anywhere, so maybe the Tooth Fairy came. But she is stingy because the pocket was empty. I slipped in two quarters and a pretty eraser from the dollar bin at Michael's. What does the Tooth Fairy leave for your kids?

On a bit of a tangent, the tooth she lost was her first tooth to come in. Is that how it usually goes? I remember when it came in because she was only four months old and since she was my first baby I was totally shocked. We were in New York and had gone to the beach with my friend Shirley and her son (Hazel's boyfriend) Bruce. We were sitting there talking and letting Hazel chew on my fingers, just like Poppy does now. And suddenly there was something hard and sharp and I remember Shirley so kindly getting excited with me as I cried because my baby had a tooth. In fact, I took pictures that day at the beach and now I am going into the archives to go find one for you. Yes, Hazel and Poppy are clearly from the same gene pool. Poppy is definitely teething and I thought it would be fun if she cut a tooth the same time Hazel lost one and then this post would be "Lost and Found" or something punny, but if there's one thing I've learned about parenting, it's that each girl is different and does her own thing.

Congratulations, Hazel!

Friday, September 24, 2010


It's Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Actually, no. It was Sunday.

But today it was celebrated at Ginger's preschool with "Pirate and Princess Day." All the kids came dressed as, you guessed it (you're so clever), a pirate or princess, with the qualifier of no hooks or swords and practical-princess shoes only please. Ginger wanted to go full-steam as a combined pirate-princess and I told her to knock herself out using whatever we have in the dress-up bin. Here's what she came up with:And she wasn't the only pirate-princess. There were lots of kerchief-covered heads, striped shirts, even a few eye patches and definitely some recycled Halloween costumes. They had Pirate's Booty for snack and for art they made crowns and pirate hats:
Shiver me timbers. I love preschool.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


New this month:
  • Grabbing and eating her toes.
  • More focused and extended gnawing on her fist.
  • Horror-film-quality high-pitch scream. Wish you could hear.
  • Sitting in the high chair - here she is checking out the latest Restoration Hardware catalog.
  • Arching her back to be picked up.
  • Occasional snacks of rice cereal and lots of finger-tastes of whatever-the-rest-of-us-are-eating.
  • Aah, teething pain.
  • Packing even more cutey squeezy fat on those legs; I didn't think it was possible.
  • Going ballistic (in a good way) when I say BATH - our first solid demonstration of word-based receptive language.
  • Holding and truly focusing on toys - our favs at this age are the Skwish and the Oball rattle; both easy to keep a grip on and interesting to play with. And she can't gag on them.
  • Nearly, barely, almost sitting up. But still not rolling.
  • Rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand while nursing. It's really cute.
  • And while nighttime sleep kind of stalled out a few months ago (grrr...), daytime naps are finally settling in with our daily routine of drop-offs, errands, meals and pick-ups.

Not new this month:
We all (still) love her to pieces.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

First Day, Take Two

Ginger started preschool today. Cue Hallelujah chorus.

Not that I don't miss her. I do, badly. She is my shopping buddy and so fun to be with. But she has been deathly bored since Hazel started kindergarten - we have been staying home as much as possible to get Poppy her naps - and always asking to "do something fun." I have felt so bad for her, and now after a long wait she finally gets "something fun" at least three mornings a week.Last night for her "Back to School" celebration, we had Ginger Chutney Chicken. I thought about making something gingery for dessert, but then she requested banana splits, and hey, it doesn't get better than that.

Ginger is going to a different preschool than Hazel attended, mostly for scheduling reasons. So that means learning a new school, teachers, policy handbook, group of kids and parents, etc. I feel like all I've done for a month is fill out emergency forms and attend information meetings. But we've got the hang of kindergarten. Preschool will come along as well.
Last week we went for a one-on-one meeting with Ginger's teacher, Mrs. N. Ginger was anxious about it but later told me, smiling, "I like the way she looks." Doesn't hurt to have a fancy-looking teacher with a cute Ukrainian accent. In the meeting Mrs. N. asked me some pointed questions to help her know Ginger better: What are her strengths/weaknesses? What is important to know about her? Is she independent? How do we discipline? What are her eating/sleeping habits?

I was surprised how much I had to say. It was like I'd just been waiting for the chance to talk about Ginger to someone. Seriously, the middle kid gets the shaft. There has been so much focus on Hazel with kindergarten, and Poppy with her baby needs, that despite our best efforts, Ginger has been drifting. Now she has her own school, her own teacher, her own classmates that will hopefully become friends. Her own time away from home that she can tell about at dinner. Her own art projects to bring home, her own new songs to teach us. Finally, something that is just for her. Hallelujah.(*In the first picture, notice mulch on the playground and not the dreaded sand!)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Mommy Cards

What do you think? I figured with two kids starting new schools I might need some. I am still a bit self-conscious handing them out - they don't seem to have taken off around here - people just exchange numbers by punching them into iPhones. Just another way in which I am behind the times.

One woman ooh'ed over it and asked if I'm a designer! How I swelled for the split second before I had to admit, mumbling, "No, I just ordered them online..."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Magic Princess Cleanup Bin

There is only one thing harder than getting me to clean up, and that is getting my kids to do it. It is the worst kind of weakness to pass on because it means we are all lazy bones living in a disaster zone and I am a hypocrite whenever I nag or preach on the topic. I guess to be fair, if I want them to do it, I need to show them that I can do it, too. And the ultimate accomplishment would be to make them think we're all having fun (for I am too old to be fooled.)
So I thought about it some more and I do actually have a system for cleaning up the toys. It even works when we actually do it. Above, you are looking at the Magic Princess Cleanup Bin. I picked it up for 49 cents at UNIQUE, the most awesome thrift store ever.It's a fairly simple plan. It just breaks the cleanup into two steps. Two totally manageable steps. The Magic Princess Cleanup Bin is stored flat in the toy cupboard and only brought out for cleaning up. We place it in the middle of the room and fill it with everything off the floor. Then we pick it up, or drag it as the case may be, over to the wall where the toys are stored. We open or pull out all the bins/containers and take turns reaching in, pulling something out, and putting it away. Voila, the room is clean.
Don't tell the girls, but I know it's not really about the bin. It's about breaking an overwhelming job into smaller, achievable tasks. And it's about doing it together. No one likes to do menial work, but doing it alone is unbearable. Don't I know it. But thanks to the Magic Princess Cleanup Bin, we've made this job so easy, even a 35-year-old can do it.


Monday, September 06, 2010


Our new school-based lifestyle has undeniably brought areas of inefficiency to our attention. We are pretty much inefficient at everything. But we are taking baby steps in the right direction and I want credit for them.

#1 Breakfast
One or maybe both of my sisters gave me this idea. Instead of short-order-cooking, or rattling off the same long list of choices every morning and waiting an eternity for each girl to decide what she wants - there is no time for this! we are always running late!-, we have made a chart that tells what is for breakfast each weekday. The girls love the idea (thank goodness) and illustrated the chart themselves. We taped it inside a cupboard so no matter who is getting breakfast, we are on the same page.
#2 Lunch
I don't have a lot of creative, nutritious ideas for packing a school lunch. Sorry. Hazel loves peanut butter and jelly so that's what she gets every day, plus a fruit, a veggie and something else like cookie or goldfish or pretzels. But my friend Heather, who has three kids in school (bow down in awe), gave me a great tip that I have been doing from day one. Genius, really. I make a whole loaf of bread into PBJ's, then put them back in the bread bag and freeze them. So instead of making a new sandwich every single day, I just make a bunch every 2 weeks and pull one out each day.
#3 Salad Dressings
Does anyone else's fridge door look like this? What is in these bottles and how old are they? So when Ken's dressings were on sale recently (5 for $5), I bought five flavors we actually like and threw out everything else. I did take the time to rinse and recycle the bottles. Just saying.

#4 Kept Woman
I mean, not really. I am married to Ed. But this term is what comes to mind every two weeks when the housecleaners come. Yes, we hired a cleaning service. The people that send the brochure that says, "Life's too short to clean your own house." I still feel guilty spending the money on it, but it is my own sacrifice, coming out of the household budget that I manage, and it is such a relief to know my house is getting cleaned. The best I seem to be able to do is just Level 1 - picking things up and putting them away. Rarely deep cleaning with products and brushes and stuff.

Not Streamlined
I still need help streamlining laundry - so pathetic when my family is getting dressed in clean but wrinkly clothes out of bins that have not been folded - and keeping the family room/playroom picked up. We have a house rule that only two bins/boxes/kinds of toys may be out at a time, but I don't seem to be enforcing it very well. I seem to have too much else to do. Like not fold laundry. And not clean my house. Um. Okay. Still working on...everything.

How about you? Have you streamlined anything lately? Or have something that's been working for you for awhile?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Dinner Week #7 Italian Meat Two Ways

I couldn't decide between these two favorites for the final Dinner Week post but they are in the same family so I'm giving you both. The first is Italian Meatloaf and it's awesome, especially if you have a jarred or homemade marinara sauce you really love - it is both in and on the meat. My favorite is Trader Joe's Traditional Marinara. The second is also my favorite meal to bring people who are sick or have just had a baby - it is easy, hearty, portable, and pretty much everyone likes it: Meatball Sub Sandwiches. Yum.

How have you liked Dinner Week? Have you found anything new you want to try? What are your favorite go-to dinners? If you have a blog, consider doing your own Dinner Week. We all like seeing other people's tried-and-trues. If you don't, post your favs in the comments here. I would love to try them!

Italian Meatloaf
1 1/2 pounds 92% lean ground beef
1 cup fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce, divided
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) pre-shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine beef, 1/2 cup pasta sauce, and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl. Shape beef mixture into an 8 x 4-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Brush remaining 1/2 cup pasta sauce over top of meat loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut loaf into 12 slices.

Serve with: creamy mashed potatoes and fresh fruit.

Meatball Subs
1 bag frozen Italian-style meatballs (enough for 3-4 per person - I use turkey meatballs if I can find them)
About 16 oz. marinara sauce
Soft sub sandwich rolls from the grocery store bakery - enough for at least 1 per person
Sliced provolone cheese

The meatballs are precooked so all you have to do is warm them up in the sauce. Pour meatballs and marinara sauce into a pot and warm over medium-low to medium heat until warmed through, according to package directions.

Lay 1 to 2 slices provolone cheese in each roll. Spoon meatballs and sauce into the rolls and serve.

*Our girls like these sandwiches deconstructed. They eat the rolls like bread, and we cut the meatballs into quarters and stick toothpicks in them. They dip them in the sauce and eat like hors d'ouvres. Wow, I think I spelled that right.

Serve with: green salad and lemonade

Friday, September 03, 2010

Dinner Week #6 Pasta con Ceci Soup

Once in awhile we roast a chicken for dinner. Whenever we do, you know we will be having this soup later in the week. I boil all the bones with a quartered onion and a few broken celery stalks, with enough water to cover them all, for a few hours to make some stock. Strain it all into a bowl through a strainer and I usually have 4 to 6 cups - I use it in this recipe, adding water or canned broth to make up any difference. Then at the end of the recipe I also add in any leftover chicken meat, chopped or shredded, to make it even more hearty.

However. The recipe is originally vegetarian. So you can easily use vegetable broth and no meat. And as you know, soup is always open for improvisation so add or remove whatever to suit your taste. But if you follow this recipe to the T, you will have a hearty, healthy and astoundingly delicious dinner. For the record, both girls love this.

Pasta con Ceci Soup
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
4 cups (2 cans) vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans with liquid
1 cup dry small pasta, like macaroni
1 tsp salt
1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary
1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried basil
4 cups fresh spinach leaves (I use baby)
Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Leftover cooked chicken, optional

1. In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add onion, celery, and carrot; saute 2 to 3 minutes until tender. Add garlic and red pepper. Cook 1 minute.

2. Add tomatoes, broth and water; cover and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add beans, pasta and salt. Cook another 10 minutes until pasta is cooked.

4. Stir in herbs and spinach (and chicken if using). Serve with grated cheese on top.

Serve with: Parmesan Herb Bread and Orange Julius

Orange Julius
12 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
2 cups water
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
12 to 16 ice cubes

Pour all ingredients, except ice, in a blender. Blend, adding ice cubes one at a time, until smooth. Makes 4 servings

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Dinner Week #5 Red Lentil Rice Cakes with Simple Tomato Salsa

Let it not be said we eat red meat every night! After yesterday's amazing pot roast, today I give you one of our favorite vegetarian dishes. It came from Cooking Light a few years ago and we just love it. The flavors are unexpected and not easily attributed to any one style or ethnic origin. Just good, really good. Also makes super lunch leftovers.

Red Lentil Rice Cakes with Simple Tomato Salsa
3 cups finely chopped plum tomatoes (about 6)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 tsp capers
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup dried small red lentils
1 1/2 cups cooked basmati rice (from about 1/2 cup uncooked), cooled at least 10 minutes
2 T olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1. To prepare cakes, bring 4 cups water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. The original recipes says 15-20 minutes but it's much less. Start checking it around 7 minutes and remove from heat when tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place lentils in a large bowl and add the cooked and cooled rice.

2. While lentils cook, prepare the salsa. Combine tomatoes, basil, vinegar, capers and salt; set aside at room temperature.

3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, fennel seeds and garlic to pan; saute 2 minutes or until tender. Cool 10 minutes. Add to rice-lentil mixture. Add mozzarella cheese and remaining ingredients, stirring until well combined. Let stand for 10 minutes.

4. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Heat 2 tsp olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Spoon half of rice mixture by 1/3-cupfuls into pan, spreading to form six 3-inch circles; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Carefully turn cakes over using heatproof rubber spatula; cook 5 minutes on other side. Remove cakes from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 T olive oil and remaining rice mixture. Makes 4 to 6 servings

Serve with: Simple Tomato Salsa and Yeasted Lemon Poppyseed Bread

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Old Spice New Spice

Have you seen this? I hadn't. Don't watch TV much. But, AWESOME.

How about this? Also AWESOME.

Thanks, Quinn. I only ever get on YouTube when I'm around you, and it's always sidesplitting.

Dinner Week #4 My Favorite Pot Roast

Just to let you know, this one is not a 30-minute meal. For planning purposes it takes about 3 hours total but that's not all hands-on time. Just thinking about this makes my tummy grumble and the saliva flow. Why am I not making it tonight? It is SO fabulous.

If you don't want to cook with wine just add extra beef broth. Doesn't bother me, though. It lends a complex but very subtle flavor to the dish that I love. When you season the meat in step 2, improvise beyond salt-and-pepper with whatever you like. I usually rub it with Penzeys' Beef Roast Seasoning.

Kari's Favorite Pot Roast
1 tsp olive oil
1 (3 lb.) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped onion (about 2 to 3)
1 cup dry red wine
4 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven ove med-high heat. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like. Add roast to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove roast from pan. Add onion to pan; saute 8 minutes or until tender.

3. Return browned roast to pot. Add the red wine, thyme sprigs, chopped garlic, beef broth and bay leaf to pan; bring to a simmer. Cover pan and roast for 1 1/2 hours or until the roast is almost tender.

4. Add carrots and potatoes to pan. Cover and cook an additional 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leave from pan; discard. Shred meat with 2 forks. Serve roast with vegetable mixture and cooking liquid. Garnish with thyme leaves, if desires. Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

Serve with: green salad. You don't need much beyond this main dish. My favorite easy green salad is lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, Craisins, spiced pecans and feta cheese. We don't care much for tomatoes.
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