Monday, April 29, 2013

Old Dogs, New Tricks

This past weekend was extraordinarily productive. I wish I could take credit. This girl had her nose to the grindstone, holed up in one of the labs in the college science building. My home away from home. Meanwhile, the boys pulled out all the stops and did many weekends worth of work in one day. I still can't wrap my mind around it. 

I should start by saying we bought our house on the verge of foreclosure over five years ago. It was in rough shape, to say the least. The inside became the priority, and long winters and summer getaways meant our outdoor to-do list didn't get checked off as rapidly as we'd have liked. A week from today, we have family from both sides coming for my graduation... and our yard looked beat down by the rather looong winter.

On Saturday alone, my amazing boys hauled tons of wood, loads of cinder blocks from an old fire pit, reassembled the stones around an old well that was destroyed this winter by the snowplow guy, raked like crazy, mulched all of our planters, and even planted flowers. Even though I was working, too, I felt so guilty that I didn't contribute to the project. 


Now it's up to Mother Nature to add in some green.


Our new furniture was delivered on Friday! We hauled our old couches out to the curb early Friday morning and they quickly found new homes. Unfortunately, the delivery guys damaged the back of the big couch bringing it in. Fortunately, they are letting us keep the damaged one until a replacement arrives. It took some convincing by Mario, as they were going to take it back immediately. All I could picture was a house full of guests sharing a single loveseat. Or sitting on the floor. We have to leave the tags on it, as they will resell it at a discount, but we are grateful to have some lovely new seating. It was long overdue.

The models in the store were reclining sofas. We priced out the recliner-free version as well, but found that the price difference was less than $300 between the two pieces. So we went for it, despite the fact that I have never met any people our age with recliners. Sure, they are leather and chic, but I am becoming more and more convinced this a sign we are getting old. Old, but comfy. Next up? Clap on, clap off, the Clapper!

As I wrap up this post, I am fully aware how lame we are. New sofas and yard work? Things have really gone downhill in the excitement department. Perhaps I'll have a martini while reclining in said sofas this weekend. See? This old gal does remember how to live on the edge.


Linking up:


 stillbeingmolly

Sunday, April 28, 2013

You are what you eat.


Food and I have a complex relationship. Some weeks I have a torrid love affair with bagels. Others, I want nothing more than green stuff in my belly. Unfortunately, the latter adds up to fewer weeks per year than the former. 

Spring is always a time of change for me. I come out of my winter cocoon and start gravitating toward sunshine and movement. My semester always ends about six weeks before Kiddo's school year comes to a close, and I find myself inadvertently adopting a morning workout schedule. My diet becomes a lot lighter. My life grows a lot greener


  As I mentioned before, a new food co-op opened up in town about a month ago. And for the first time in the 5+ years we've lived here, I have access to a salad bar. Not just any salad bar, either. House made dressings, roasted/marinated tofu, organic veggies... it's amazing. Last week, while the boys were in NYC, I stopped by not once, but twice, to grab a quick dinner. I am also head-over-heels for their "Rawr" smoothie with kale, spinach, pineapple, and mango.

Of course, it is much more economical to make such things at home. It's still nice to know I have it on standby for those days when brown bagging seems impossible.  In the spirit of eating in, Mario and I made our own salad bar of sorts on Friday night. We roasted beets that were still hanging around from last summer's farmshare. If you think you don't like beets, you have to try them fresh from an organic farm. I thought I disliked them for most of my life. We cooked up some off-the-hook cilantro-lime chicken, courtesy of the co-op. Mario whipped up some homemade croutons using locally baked whole grain bread. We diced, grated, and chopped a wide assortment of fresh veggies. Then we piled it up and went to town. It was the best dinner.


Now, of course I know that you've eaten, and made, a salad. Probably many. But I'm notorious for buying the big container of organic mixed greens then letting 2/3 of the package wilt and disintegrate. I get on a kick then quickly abandon it. But taking a moment, even during these crazy times, to realize what a green diet does for me is of the utmost importance. My skin imparts a glow no serum can induce. The usual afternoon slump starts to lift. My belly feels less, well, rounded. My ring no longer leaves a dent on my finger. How I feel when I take care of myself trumps a bagel any day. 


Unfortunately, when under a great deal of pressure and stress I don't tend go back and re-read these types of posts. I put my head in the sand and eat what makes me feel good... in the moment. Not what keeps me going and energetic. To make eating green a lifelong habit as opposed to a seasonal tendency is the constant goal. 


Another goal? Figuring out how to make this dressing based on the ingredient list (which took me by surprise). I could eat it every single day... I'm that crazy about it.

P.S. I won a free large ad space over at The Perfect Pair earlier this month. It is such a lovely blog. Lauren was so nice and offered me all the perks normally given to her sponsors. You can see me, and enter to win a raffle, here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

One down, one to go...

Today is the official one week mark until the end of classes. Two weeks from tomorrow I will have a diploma in hand. The biggest portion of my college career is coming to an end. Have I mentioned this five zillion times before?

I have a lot to accomplish over the next week, but thankfully my motivation is at an all time high. I am determined to go out with a bang.

I have all summer to catch up on sleep.

My life feels like it is on the edge of a precipice... in a good way. Scary but good. I have a lot to be thankful for. Here are a few things that are currently making life sweet. High Five for Friday, indeed.


1// The transition to cool, comfy spring shoes was long overdue. These Converse All-Stars fit perfectly straight out of the box. I want to wear them every single day. And have. A turquoise pair is en route to my mailbox.
2// Trader Joe's meals have made brown bagging so much easier. So. Good.
3// Our new food co-op has a smoothie/juice bar. This bad boy had a kale-spinach puree, mango, and pineapple. That's it. I want moooore.
4// I hit another blogging milestone this week. My blog has been a little neglected lately and I was feeling a bit stunted in terms of inspiration and growth. I am so excited to be able to devote more time to writing and reading in the upcoming weeks. I also can't wait to interact with my new followers!
5// I know. I had flowers in last week's hfff post. But having a little color in my life has made all the difference.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chewy Oatmeal Chocoloate Chip Cookies

 
As often happens, the urge to bake something overcame me on Sunday. But what? So I took to the internet and started plugging in ingredients in a rather stream-of-consciousness kind of way. Which brought me to a Betty Crocker recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The ingredients were simple and commonplace (I had all of them on hand), and it was a one-bowl kind of deal. I got an arm workout and we got some cookies. Chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are my favorite. Unfortunately, oatmeal-containing confections often have a crunchy texture that I do not favor. I did a little tweaking based on the qualities I desired and the ingredients I needed to use up. I really like how they turned out. Enjoy!

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 


1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup butter or margarine, softened (I use Earth Balance sticks)
½ cup shortening
¾ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract
1 egg
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I used ½ cup pecans and ½ cup walnuts)

* I had a Crisco butter-flavored stick to use up, but normally favor unhydrogenated shortening—found in the health food section of most grocery stores.
* I love the flavor a little almond extract adds to baked goods. If you don’t have it, or like it, simply use 1 tsp of vanilla or experiment with other extracts (coconut… yum!)

Directions:
Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir brown sugar and butter until blended. Stir in vanilla and egg until light and fluffy. Stir in oats, flour, baking soda and salt; stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Roll 1-2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place on an ungreased cookie sheet; about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A blog is only as interesting...

as the interest shown in others.

Lee Odden

My blog was an island in its first 7-8 months. Then I figured out that behind every great blog is a great blogger. One of the first blogs that I stumbled across, and read, was Imprintalish. Her Loves on a Thursday linkup was the first I joined... and still adoreI love her honest take on parenting, time management, and the vortex blogging can become. Like me, she is okay admitting that life is a little messy. But she also appreciates the beautiful things that surround us. I love that.

Although I am drawn to the loveliness of those blogs with pristine photos, outfits, and immaculately dressed children, my life is just not that clean. And to pretend it is would take too much effort. Believe me, some days I wish everything was rainbows and butterflies and that I lived more effortlessly. But how many of us do, really?

In honor of her blog's 3rd anniversary, Lish is hosting an awesome giveaway... with three winners.
Happy Birthday, Friend!




~ 3 WINNERS ~ 
WILL BE SPLITTING THIS LOVELY LOOT VALUED AT OVER $200!!! 
{all winners will be verified and randomly chosen through random.org}

Winner #1 will be taking these sweet items home...







Winner #2 will be taking this sweet package home...





And winner #3 will be the proud new owner of these fabulous items...







GOOD LUCK!!!




Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Monday, April 22, 2013

It is not enough to be busy...

The question is: what are we busy about?

Henry David Thoreau

Ahhh, Monday. Time to get productive again. Although I aspired to hang at my favorite new coffee shop while being studious yesterday, alas. This girl didn't leave the house. Nor did I get ahead on schoolwork.


After these two events happened in a single day, I thought I was going to have to abandon my new hangout. Fortunately, I discovered a parking area about a block away that lets me plug the meter for 8 whole hours. Do you know how many blog posts essays I can write in that time? Resolution reached.

On Saturday Mario and I reached a level of productivity we have not attained in a some time. We went through the entire contents of Jared's dresser, had him try on everything, and sorted into piles for consignment, thrift store, and Planet Aid. Then we headed out to remedy his clothing situation. Or lack thereof. 


I never imaged needing to step foot in an Abercrombie store. I'm not an, um, Abercrombie girl. I like their clothes, sure, but they don't like hips. So while I desperately wanted to fit into their clothes as a teenager, in adulthood I resigned myself to the fact that they simply weren't made for me. Kiddo, on the other hand, is made exactly for their clothes. He has a long, skinny torso and broad, muscular shoulders. And he's a bit sensory when it comes to clothing, so he is really attracted to the softness of their cotton (how do they do that?!). So we made the pilgrimage to an Abercrombie Kids store to load up on his go-to shirts and jeans. Price-wise they are pretty affordable ($12 tees) and totally worth having Kiddo get dressed without a fuss on school mornings. There is nothing pretentious about his affinity for their clothing... though in high school it seemed that was the only reason my peers wore it. I can't step into one of their stores without flashbacks to my nerdier years.


During our shopping excursion, I scored two graduation dresses and a maxi skirt I can't get enough of. And I wasn't even looking. The skirt and brown polka dot dress (which is SO much cuter in person) are courtesy of Loft Outlet. I am graduating with honors, which means I will be attending two ceremonies. So I need two dresses that can go under my gown but won't clash with it. They also need to be comfortable because I will be wearing them for hours and hours. These two cuties fit the bill. They are spring-y, soft, and the perfect material for whatever the weather decides to do that day.  The polka dot dress is from Gap. I saw it and kept my fingers crossed the whole time I was trying it on... I really wanted it to be as cute on as it was on the rack. It didn't disappoint. And 30% off dresses told me it was meant to be.


This is my dressing room face. I am not the girl that looks good in everything. Trying things on is a chore. And an ego blow. It definitely reminded me how much better I feel when I eat right and exercise regularly.

Sunday was a lazy kind of day. The boys watched movies, I caught up on some DVR'd shows and laundry. I baked cookies for the boys (and let's be honest, me), and enjoyed a leisurely day.


For dinner Mario barbequed homemade pizza.. because our deck is finally snow-free for the first time in 6 months. I like to call it stream-of-consciousness pizza. I literally walk through the store and grab whatever strikes my fancy. No plan. I pick out dough, and as I do my other shopping I pick up ingredients that catch my eye. Last night was natural green olives (they taste like regular black olives, but smoother and more buttery), garlic with jalapenos (ooofta...they were hot. I sliced them very thin), peppadew sweet peppers, sweet Italian sausage, and smoked mozzarella sliced very thin. Mario threw on some fresh Parmesan and carmelized onions. Every time we do this, we both declare it to be the best pizza we've ever had. And no two pizzas are ever alike. Yum.


This week is Kiddo's spring break. Mario took the week off to spend with him. After dual dentist appointments tomorrow morning, they are heading to NYC to explore the city and visit with Mario's brother who lives in Brooklyn. We've been there many times, but we never feel like we've explored enough... there is just so much to see. 

This means I have the week to focus on wrapping up the semester. No running Jared to the YMCA for lessons between classes. No getting up at 6a. I can stay out and study as late as I'd like and give schoolwork my undivided attention... without guilt. My goal is to wrap up as many assignments as I can over the next five days. I may even take an evening yoga class for the first time in ages.

In honor of this week of freedom, I made Kiddo pancakes from scratch for breakfast. Now I am at my caffeine-filled hangout plugging away for a bit.

Linking up:
stillbeingmolly

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fridays are the hardest in some ways:

 you’re so close to freedom.

Lauren Oliver

I am so happy to wrap up this week. Lots accomplished, but the fear of letting a ball drop was looming the whole time. For the first weekend in a while, I will have a bit of space to just be. Which means we can start cleaning the house in preparation for incoming guests. Because that is definitely what I like to do on a rare and elusive non-busy weekend. Why wasn't I born with the cleaning gene?

This has been a happy, overwhelming, full week. Lots to appreciate and reflect on, for sure.
 

1// About six years ago we bought a nearly new couch set from a friend who was moving. It has served us well, but the leather-like material is literally disintegrating. Mario and I were passing by a local furniture store this morning and stopped on a whim. We found a set we like! We've been looking for months to no avail... I guess it was in the stars. Isn't it true that the right thing usually comes along when you stop trying so hard?
2// A man who stops at a Sperry store just to buy you comfy shoes? Keep. Him. Around. I intend to do just that. My first pair of authentic Sperry boat shoes. Swoon.
3// The tulips and daffodils are blooming like crazy. Apparently spring does exist. I can't get enough.
4// My hair has found its happy place for perhaps the second time in my entire life. I have been trimming it every few months but otherwise leaving it be. I let it air dry, use a natural shampoo and conditioner, wash every other day... and it has thanked me. I can actually wear my second day hair down. Never. Before. It's still fine and thinner than I'd like, but it cooperates and can be put back with a single bobby pin (as above). I have found hair happiness. Who knew?
5// The commencement platform has been assembled. Three weeks from tomorrow I will be walking across that stage as a college graduate. I still can't wrap my mind around it. It is starting to feel so... real.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Children aren't coloring books.

You don't get to fill them with your favorite colors.

 Khaled Hosseini

I have an amazing child.

He is smart.
Incredibly smart.
He is also witty,
hilarious,
joyful,
creative,
and kindhearted.

On a good day,
he can be difficult.
On a bad day,
he can be impossible.

I know Kiddo is filled wondrous things,
and I will have guided him along his path.
But it is not easy.

I often think that this child was meant to be mine.
Few others could appreciate,
admire,
and respect him the way I do.

He was given to me so that I may learn
patience,
kindness,
compassion,
and unwavering love
to an extent that I could not without him.

But it's hard.
Some days parenting him feels like an insurmountable hurdle.

How can someone who is so clearly destined to
change the world
be so
picky,
fastidious,
argumentative,
and frustrating?
So. Frustrating.

But the fact is,
intelligence and difficult go hand in hand.
One can rarely exist without the other.
And he is no exception.

On those days when I feel like running away from it all,
I remember that I am raising,
teaching,
guiding,
and above all,
loving,
someone who is destined for greatness.

Every minute of
angst,
frustration,
anger,
impatience,
aggravation,
 and sleeplessness
will have been worth it.

Every laugh he provides me
is the best laugh I have ever had.

Every day spent with him
is the best day ever.

Every tear shed is filled with 
hope.
And love.
Always love.

I would do it all over again.
Every single moment.
The good.
The bad.
The ugly.

He is worth it.
And it all adds up to the greatest experience of my life.
I am a better person for loving him.

This one is for you,
my soul mate.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birthday Dinner

Mario's birthday (and my half birthday) was a week ago today. As a grownup, when your birthday falls on a weekday life must go on around it. Still, I wanted it to be special.  But also attainable. Which means homemade cheesecake on a school night wasn't going to happen. Luckily, Mario is easily pleased.

One of his favorite meals that I make is chicken enchiladas. I don't make them enough, actually. They are easy peasy and freeze like a breeze. I'm so clever. I found the recipe ages ago in a cookbook Mario brought into the relationship. The only issue? It's a professional cookbook with weird measurements and crazy portions meant for restaurants. And when you flip the  page that allegedly contains the recipe for green enchilada sauce? A recipe for red enchilada sauce. So I put on my thinking cap and made it my own. Enjoy!

Sarah's Easy Green Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

2 cups (16oz) canned green enchilada sauce
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
12oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6oz sour cream (I use "light")
12 corn tortillas (slightly more or less depending on how much you fill them)

Directions:
Combine the shredded chicken, sour cream, and half the cheese in a medium bowl. Warm the enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan on low heat. Careful not to get it too hot... your fingers are going in there!  Gently coat each corn tortilla in the sauce and lay it in a greased baking dish.  Place approximately 2 tbsp of filling along the middle and roll, seam facing down. If the tortillas crack, don't fret! It all works out. Pack the enchiladas in there (I usually have 4-6 along one edge of the baking dish to fill the gap) until you run out of filling. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese has melted and the edges are bubbly (approx. 15-20 minutes).


A birthday celebration is not complete without a cake, of course. I would normally bake from scratch, but alas. The frosting, however, is always homemade these days.

I bought a Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix and baked it into two 9" round baking pans. Once cooled, I whipped up some peanut butter frosting and went to work. This recipe is adapted from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I doubled it and had enough to generously frost a 2-layer cake. In my early blogging days I featured recipes from this cookbook almost weekly. I originally bought it because of Jared's dairy allergy, but found that their cupcakes are far better than the real thing. Honestly, you will never need to buy frosting again.

Vegan Peanut Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

1/4 cup margarine, softened (I use Earth Balance sticks)
2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (in the health food section of most grocery stores)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy Natural--it isn't oily so the frosting won't separate)
1 Tbsp molasses (the recipe says "optional", but I disagree... it's a must!)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk alternative (rice, soy and almond all work really well)

Directions:
In a mixer (I use my KitchenAid, but a handheld mixer would work, too), cream together margarine and shortening on medium speed until well combined and fluffy. Add the peanut butter, vanilla and molasses and beat until smooth (approx. 2-3 minutes). Beat in sugar gradually until well combined (frosting will be stiff). Slowly drizzle in the milk alternative until a fluffy, creamy texture is reached (I usually only need a couple drizzles). Frost your creation as usual. Any leftovers can be eaten with a spoon refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a couple weeks. For the cake, I used an icing knife to spread it over the layers. I ran it under warm water, dried it off, and resumed when the frosting started to stick.


The boys devoured it. I'm not a big cake person, but it so closely resembled a Reese's peanut butter cup that I had to resist the urge to take the whole thing and eat it with a fork while watching the lost footage episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I wish I had time for such scandalous behavior.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Birthdays are good for you.

Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.

Larry Lorenzoni

Last week was craaaazy. Aside from the norm, we also had Mario's birthday and Kiddo's school science fair. Oh, and two take home exams that I am scrambling to get done before their Wednesday and Thursday due dates. With only four weeks to go, this semester has ramped up big time.


Although it fell smack-dab in the middle of the week, it was so important to celebrate Mario's birthday. I came home from class, put together one of his favorite meals, and a whipped up a great chocolate peanut butter cake. Recipes to come this week. The rest of the evening was spent completing Jared's science poster. There is a reason there are stereotypes regarding parents and their kids' science projects. It may have been more work for us than it was for him.

We made it through relatively unscathed! Thank goodness Mario got home Wednesday . . . I don't know how I could have done it without his help and support.


My in-laws were so nice and bought our family a birthday dinner at an amazing little Italian restaurant not far from home. It is off the beaten path and such a lovely place. We wined and dined and let the week roll off our backs. The best kind of night.

 
Thanks to an ice storm that had been raging all day, we had the restaurant to ourselves. It was hands-down the best pasta I have ever had. I was kicking myself for forgetting my camera.


Saturday was a day spent home with the boys. I felt compelled to tackle my mound of school work, but realized that I wasn't going to be able to produce anything of much worth. Instead, I let myself off the hook. We somehow got to watching Food Network and never stopped. Our giant laundry pile is nearly gone and our house is a bit more tidy. That's productive enough for me.

Kiddo outdid even himself in the bedhead department. He was like a flaxen-haired Wolverine.

Sunday we went out for brunch. Afterward, I headed into town and worked at a local coffee shop for the remainder of the day. I am so glad I took the day off . . . I was on fire yesterday after a much-needed break.

That's all she wrote. Pretty exciting around here, no? Not so much. Happy Monday!

Linking up:
stillbeingmolly