my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

December 28, 2010

dividing the holidays

in this age of divorce and remarry and strangely split families, how you spend the holidays can get very tricky. at least, ever since i've had children it's gotten that way for me. not that i'm saying that my parents and my hubby's parents weren't wondering where we would be on the big days, but now it's seems that it's gotten to be a bit more important when there are little ones to entertain and impress.

the last few years, since we moved to where we are living now, we've always done christmas day with my dad. well, it's more like we do christmas eve with my dad, because the traditions that we've continued (yeah shrimp) are important to me. then i take the kiddies home and they get to wake up in their own beds for christmas morning. while they play with their toys i always make something for breakfast. after breakfast, it's back to my dad's for more presents and then dinner. we hang out in the afternoon until it's time to go to my mommom's (my dad's mom's) house. after that long day of fun it's back to our house to bed. the 26th has traditionally always been christmas at my mom's. christmas with my hubby's side gets pushed back to new years, which we always celebrate with them. it's also a chance for his mommy to make him a cake as his birthday is january 3rd. and because they don't get to see us on christmas, we've always done thanksgiving at my in-laws.

so that's the way the holidays go since we live down here. now, before we moved so close to my parents, we lived near j-town by his, so the first two years of the boys' holidays were reversed. still, i get questions about what we're doing on what days and with who, even though this has been the routine for a few years now. also, some years are worse than others for various reason, and so there end up being a lot of phone calls and reassurances that all the grandparents will get to see the kids on their assigned days. that might sound harsh or strange, but trust me, assigning days is the only way i'm able to get through all of the holiday stress in one piece.

now though, my hubby and his parents are wondering if we could switch things up next year. his mother really would like to see the kids on christmas, instead of having to wait a week. the most important thing for me is to have the kids wake up in their own beds on christmas morning, because that is part of the tradition i'm trying to establish for them. just like i always read "twas the night before christmas" to them before they go to bed christmas eve. talking with my hubby, i am realizing that driving up the day of christmas is actually feasible. and honestly, with everything that they went through this year, with going from place to place to place, they were very good, so maybe a three hour car ride in the middle of christmas day would give them a chance to calm down and recharge.

if we left christmas day after a morning at home, then we'd still be able to do christmas eve with my dad, so i suppose all the present getting and crazy celebrating could be pushed to the 24th. the only hitch would be doing christmas with my mom, so i'd have to see if she'd be ok with having all of us for thanksgiving or new years, something i still have to talk to her about.

i know i'm one of the crazy people, but i look forward to thanksgiving way more than christmas, and being able to spend a thanksgiving with my mom would be better in my eyes. though perhaps after reading this you can get a sense as to why christmas is just one big ball of stress for me. it's not that i don't love the holiday, but with the presents and the kids hyperness and all the pressure of trying to make things special, i'm also trying to deal with making as many people as happy as possible.

in the effort of being fair to all, i sometimes feel like i'm losing out. then again, christmas is really a holiday that's supposed to be all about my kids, making sure things go well for them is the most important thing. and so far, i've accomplished that goal this year.

December 24, 2010

merry christmas from this side of the crazies

tomorrow is finally christmas. i have to say that fact doesn't fill me with the sense of excitement and wonder that it did as a child. no, mostly i am filled with a sense of relief over the fact that the holidays are almost over.

ok, so maybe the holidays aren't really that close to being over. but tonight i think is the official start. all the preparation and planning will come down to how smoothly i can get through tonight and the next few days. all the buying and wrapping and cooking and baking, all the thoughts to outfits and travel and logistics of stashing things places so all the surprises remain a surprise, all of that is all behind me. i'm past the point of planning, i am finally into the action phase.

i think tonight is such a relief because i can finally just sit back and watch all the plans unfold. i get to watch all my hard work shine as things go smoothly. i get to reap the fruits of my labors. for someone as obsessive as i am, going over things again and again, trying to make sure everything was prepped and ready, making contingency plans if things went awry, it was a lot or work behind the scenes. and hopefully it was enough to ensure that i'll be able to enjoy myself, that everything was successfully taken care of, that everything is lined up and ready to go.

tonight all the wheels start turning, this great holiday machine starts moving, and i get to sit back and enjoy the ride. hopefully.

i'm sure i'll still find things to obsess and worry over. and i know things will go wrong somewhere along the line, because they always do. but i also know that i did everything i could to make things go smoothly. for once i am confident that i put forth my best efforts, that there really wasn't anything else that i could do. everything left is in fates hands, and i just need to accept that.

so i think i'm done today. i know later will be a whirl of activity, and tomorrow will too. and sunday is also going to be busy. the rest of the week will be finding spots and spaces for all the new toys. then thursday i get to start preparing for our new years journey uptown to visit the in-laws. but really, i'm trying to put that out of my mind, because i know i have to get through this weekend before i worry about the next one.

so yeah, i'm done now. with my preparing and planning, because everything that i could do ahead of time is done. and i think i'm done with this crazy rambling rant. if none of this made any sense at all, i blame the holiday stress. if any of this actually did make sense, then i'll bet you're in the same boat as me. hopefully you brought an extra paddle, i'd hate to end up a creek without one.

December 22, 2010

bad ideas

some time before thanksgiving i believe i mentioned how all the food blogs i follow and all the cooking shows i watch had me convinced that i just had to throw a dinner party.

most of the rest of the post was me lamenting that reality had me convinced it was a really bad idea, though i really didn't like that line of thinking.

well now, with the holiday season in full swing, all the food blogs i follow and all the cooking shows i watch have me convinced that i just have to throw a holiday party. something that's swanky and festive, with tons of yummy appetizers that are totally suitable for piling on cute little plates and eaten with one hand while sipping a tasty beverage, perhaps a holiday inspired cocktail.

i've already started collecting recipes in my head. i've gone so far as to plan out a menu, with some things served hot and some cold. i've figured out the things that i can make ahead, and what i'd need to have prepped and standing by to throw together when all my guests arrive. i've even thought about what bar essentials i'd need to assemble so that if people don't like whatever festive punch/cocktail i settle on serving, they'd be able to mix their own.

of course i've also planned out the decorations, things that are fun and seasonal. i want things bright and colorful, not all just red and green, and especially not those ultramodern black and silver and white affairs. no, i like my rainbow colored twinkle lights, maybe some cute and crafty ornaments hung in random places. i'd try and put together a happy, jazzy music mix, mostly instrumental stuff with a few traditional classics thrown in. and i'd definitely have the fake fire thing playing on my tv.

my guest list is what really trips me up, though. and honestly, i could totally throw a holiday party if i was able to get everybody together that i'd want to. most all of my friends and family get along well enough, and i think they all have a great sense of humor so i'm almost positive that we'd all have a great time. the problem lies in the fact that my friends live in one place and my family in another, with a two and a half hour drive separating them.

so even though i have the perfect party planned out, i know it will never happen, simply because no matter how absolutely wonderful i think it will be, i doubt anybody would drive almost three hours just to attend.

December 21, 2010

what's in a name?

because it's somewhat seasonal, i figured i'd take today and explain my lovely children's random nicknames. just like everything else in my life, there is a back story here.

i'll start with why we call fishie fishie. or rather, why i call her fishie, because it seems like most everybody has their own random nickname for her. when she was a little baby, there were times where she would just cry and cry. and most of those times i was a rather frazzled mommy. and like most stressed-out mothers, i didn't always act rationally. so, while my beautiful new baby was crying, and she wasn't hungry and she wasn't wet and she wasn't tired, i didn't know what else to do, so i would ask her "fishie, why are you crying?" this quote is a modification of one said at the end of finding nemo, when darla (the evil little girl) comes in and shakes the bag nemo is in and says "fishie, why are you sleeping?" so my baby girl became known as fishie in this house. it also fits now that she likes to splash and kick when she gets her bath. i'm also seriously considering throwing a finding nemo party for her first birthday, with more fishies and less shaking.

next i will tell the short and not so sweet story of lumpy. when he was little and just learning to walk and run, he would fall down. a lot. he was like those little puppies with huge paws that just have trouble controlling their limbs. watching him walk was like watching a baby giraffe take its first steps. he is now huge, so i guess you can say that he grew into his body, but those first months and years of movement really did a number, and his head still has lumps and bumps to prove it. thankfully lumpy's real name lends itself well to a real sort of nickname, but he'll always be my little lumpy. and my little puddin' pie, but that's a very long and random story for another day.

now though, i shall explain my lovely bumble's name. when he was around three months, he had a funny cry. it sounded much deeper than any baby cry should. it was also december, and all the great old claymation christmas specials where on tv. while watching rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer my hubby and i realized that our dear little baby was crying exactly like the abominable snowmonster. calling a baby abominable seemed a little cruel, so instead we settled on calling him what he's referred to after he becomes nice and helpful: the humble bumble. still, there were some in the family that thought any reference to something that was once a snowmonster could lead to bad things, though honestly i'm not sure how, so we shortened his nickname to bumble. now there are some that think he's bumble like a bee, and just call him bee, but really he's my bouncy humble bumble, and he knows the truth. if you ask him, he's proud to be named after the fuzzy helpful creature that puts the star on santa's tree, it's just the kind of kid he is.

December 20, 2010

let's start with friday....

i was going to post about how crazy and awful last week was for me, but i just don't feel like dredging everything up to talk about it (first no heat then frozen water pipes then burst water pipes). so instead i've decided to move on and i'll talk about my weekend instead, starting with friday.

so, a friend came down to visit on friday, which was nice and slightly unexpected. we, me and him and hubby, all hung out friday night, drinking adult beverages and watching adult comedy shows and just acting like grown ups. it was super nice, and not something i get to do too often, what with dealing with people who are seven and younger for most of my day.

saturday we had a birthday party for lumpy, as he turned six on friday. we went bowling, which was fun and amusing. of course my boys decided half way through the game that they were tired and hungry and wanted to stop, but we made them play the whole way through. i'm trying to teach them that it's not good to start something if you're not going to finish it, especially when you are playing a game with somebody. it's hard to teach life lessons to kids, but if i get to bumper bowl while doing it, that makes things easier on me.

after we were finally done with bowling, we all went back to my dad's for the actual party. really, it's hard to call it a party when my boys were the only kids there. i think it was more of a birthday gathering for the family. one day i'd like to throw lumpy an actual party, invite kids from school and everything, but with the holidays all around, it would take a lot of work and planning and i just wasn't able to do it this year. that and i have no idea who he'd want me to invite simply because every time i ask him who his friends at school are, he can't remember names, or he gives me a different list of kids every time. and his teacher never sent a class list home so i'm not exactly sure how many kids are actually in his class.

so anyway, i did the best i could for him on saturday, i tried to make his birthday feel some what special. i even made him a replica of the portal cake from the video game portal (don't know? then google it), though that morning he told me he really wanted a transformer cake after it was way too late to make him one. still, the cake was delicious, and not a lie!

saturday night the boys stayed with my dad and i was able to wrap the rest of their christmas presents. sunday morning my hubby and i went out and bought all the little things i want to put in their stockings, so i actually think i'm done with all my shopping. all i have is a few things left to wrap and then i'm all set for saturday.

let me just say that it is so weird to think that christmas is on saturday. like it seems like it's so close, i can't believe it's less than a week away. and yet i'm already done with present buying, there are just a few little odds and ends of things i need to finish. so in that respect, i can't believe i have so much time left. it makes me wonder if i forgot anything, because i still have time to fix it. though with my luck, if there is something i forgot, i'll remember on friday and have to rush around and fight the crowds to get it finished.

speaking of getting things finished, there is one thing i need to do this week that i purposely left until the last minute. this week is candy week! yup, i'm finally making all the christmas candy that i've been planning on doing all month. i didn't want to start too early, because i wanted things to remain fresh, but now with the big event only a few days away, i've gotten started.

i actually started making candy yesterday. i knocked out two types of fudge yesterday afternoon while my boys were still out and about with my dad. in the evening we went to my moms' house so my hubby could watch football with people who actually care about watching football. as in my moms and sister and not me. no, i stayed in the kitchen and made chocolate peanut butter meltaways. and dinner. and then after dinner came the fun of making peanut brittle.

every year i make peanut brittle for christmas. and every year i burn myself. honestly, that's why i only make brittle once a year. no matter the precautions i take, i always burn myself. the problem with making brittle is cooking the sugar to the right temperature without burning it takes alot of time and diligence, it's almost an hour process of standing near a stove and watching a pot boil. but i make that candy because the people i love really love the stuff. i watch my thermometer and stir and try and keep the kiddies away. the very end is when things get somewhat dangerous. the reason brittle is so brittle and not just a crunchy toffee is because at the very end you dump in a little bit of baking soda. the soda reacts with the hot sugar and everything bubbles and foams, and you have to stir quickly and then dump the mixture on a baking sheet so you can pulls the candy into a thin, uniform mass to break when cool.

it's the process of mixing the foaming sugar that burnt me last year, but it was the dumping onto sheet trays that got me this year. i'm as careful as i can be, and yet i always burn myself. the worst is that the sugar is up to 300 degrees at that point, so it's much worse than just a scald from boiling water or steam. now i have some very nasty looking blisters on my hands, but i know i'll heal. from all the jobs i've had in various kitchen, no one was lining up to give me a job as a hand model, and the scars from these burns will blend nicely in with all the rest. weirdly enough, my hubby really freaked out and said i'm not supposed to make peanut brittle anymore, though by next christmas he'll forget my burns and only remember the deliciousness of the candy. and hopefully next year i'll remember why i don't make the stuff with him around, i have enough trouble with the kids in the kitchen, i don't need his over protectiveness hovering behind me. all he needs to do is eat and enjoy. and wash the dishes when the time comes.

December 14, 2010

'tis the season.... part two

i know this is supposed to be a happy time of year, especially for children. all the anticipation for the presents they know are coming, combined with all the special holiday treats that are only made this time of year. my boys also love all the holiday specials that play on tv and all the fun christmas music that they try and sing along to. and if it actually snows and stays on the ground long enough for them to play in, well that's just total heaven. it's the best time of year to be a kid.

how i wish i was just a kid and could enjoy this time of year again. for me, the holidays always mean extra stress for all the work and preparations that come along with the approaching "big day". trying to make sure everything is ready and as absolutely perfect as possible is a lot of responsibility for someone as scatter-brained as me. and this year i have the added pressure of trying to give fishie a wonderful first christmas. it's just all too much sometimes, i feel like my head is going to explode from the stress.

is that possible? for heads to explode like that? if my head does somehow explode and flying bits of brain matter land on the walls, does that count as decking them? probably not, but it would be nice to think that my last act on earth helped to check one more thing off my to-do list.

anyway, i'm already done buying the presents, so that's at least one huge thing done. most of them are actually wrapped, too, which is amazing and a personal best. and i count my house fully decorated, though truth be told, not all of the christmas boxes were unpacked; i think i'm the only one that actually knows which decorations are missing though, so i still think it counts as being done. most of the cookies are baked, and the few that still need done are the ones that are for my in-laws, who we aren't going to see until new year's weekend, so i've got plenty of time to finish them. today i even found a cute little christmas dress for fishie, thankfully i had lumpy along or i would have been standing in the store all day trying to decided between the gold one or the red one or the red and green one. we/he decided on the red one. and bumble has a new tie to go with his new shirt, and lumpy can just wear the ones bumble wore last year. if i could find him a cheap clip-on tie, then he could have a new one also, but i just can't see spending money on a whole suit when he has one that fits and he only wears it once or twice a year.

so i think all i have left is to get a few things to fill their stockings, which usually consists of candy and chapstick. and i want to try and find dress shoes for fishie, though she's just getting into wearing shoes, so i might just try and find christmas tights and leave it at that. i also have to get all the stuff my hubby needs for the boy scout christmas party next monday, which he just reminded me about tonight. so wednesday i'm off to find a small present for the gift exchange, and glue and a table cloth and everything else he needs for the ornament making station he volunteered to run at the party. and sometime before christmas i still need to finish shopping for everything i need to make candy, and then get to the actual making of it. and i almost forgot that next week both the boys are having christmas parties, and somebody thought it would be a good idea for the kindergartners to have a cookie exchange so i have to send 26 cookies in a container with lumpy to school.

and did i mention that lumpy turns six on friday, so there's all the fun of throwing together a birthday party for him. and taking him for his yearly physical. and fishie is overdue for her nine month check up.

only two more weeks or so until christmas, right? because i for one can't wait until it's over.

December 13, 2010

"always look on the bright side of life"

life is hard. life sucks sometimes. and is a struggle. and sometimes it doesn't seem worth the fight. life can kick you when you're down. and rub salt in your wounds. and spit in your eye. life sometimes gives you lemons. life can ruin your best laid plans. life is what happens when you're hoping for something else. life is sometimes getting up after getting knocked down just to get knocked down again. life is not fair. life is picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together when things go wrong. life can be a puzzle with pieces missing. life can be trials and tribulations. life is pointless. life is ever moving and ever changing and we just have to try and keep up.

but sometimes... sometimes the little things make life worth living. we just have to grab those moments when we can, and hold onto them in our minds and in our hearts. and hope that will be enough to get us through. because life is what you make of it.

December 8, 2010

i'm at it again

maybe i'm just a gluten for punishment. maybe i'm addicted to sugar. or maybe cooking, and especially baking, calms me. so what if i made a cake yesterday and plan on making cookie bars today? it's not like i plan on eating everything all by myself. "plan" i think is the key word in that sentence, but i have this magical thing called will power that will help me prevail. i hope.

anyway, it's been a tough week or so. or at least since we came back from visiting during the thanksgiving holiday. the christmas rush has really started, so there's a huge list of things i need to buy and do and make sure are taken care. and the buying part always causes extra stress because there is always the fun of trying to figure out where all the money needed is going to come from. then is trying to find the time to get to the stores and hide the gifts so nosey little boys don't find all their presents and ask why santa is storing gifts at our house. plus the decorating, and making all the food and special things i want to give, and just finding the time to get everything done.

and of course, all that is in addition to all the normal day to day chores that make up my life, the food shopping and the laundry and the cleaning, the homework and making meals and general taking care of the children and hubby and house. so getting sick last week not only kicked my butt and kept me in bed, but it really threw a monkey wrench into my time table, and now i feel totally behind on my list of things i need to do.

add to that the extra fun that has come along into my life at this moment. mostly it's random "tests" that need to be performed on my father-in-law and on bumble, nothing at all to do with the other except that there is something going on with both of them and nobody is quite sure what. bumble's issues are more of a behavioral and developemental thing, but my father-in-law's are a very serious health thing that he's going back out to pittsburgh to see his specialists about, and hopefully with all the tests their doing today, we'll all get some answers tomorrow.

so yes, the normal fun of life and the stresses of the holiday season and the unknown elements of random issues have all come together just as i'm getting better from my cold. i think life just wants to see how much i can take before i break. but i will not go down without a fight! or baked goods. and so i'm at least doing the one thing that i know i can do. sugar might not make all the bad things better (i'm not crazy enough to think that), but in my kitchen there are good things happening, no matter the insanity of the outside world.

December 7, 2010

the sweetest time of the year

every year for christmas i make my family holiday treats instead of giving more traditional store bought gifts. maybe it's because i can never think of what to actually buy for them, or maybe it's because i'm cheap (and poor), or maybe it's because one of my not so secret skills is candy making, and it's during the holiday season that people welcome with open arms three or so pounds of sugary goodness. as opposed to other times of the year when they either think you did something wrong and are trying to apologize without having to actually say what you did, or there might be something wrong with the candy gift, and they're more test subjects then recipients of something nice.

anyway, even though i'm not totally over this awful cold i've been struggling through, i knew i needed to get started on my lists or i would fall way behind on my preparations. yes, lists, as in multiple, many, more than one; i am a girl that loves her lists. mostly i love lists written on steno pads, but then those closest to me know my affinity for those lovely little tablets.

so yesterday i sat down and wrote down all the kinds of candy that i wanted to or had to make. i usually only make and give candy as my special gift to people, because i make dozens of cookies with my mom every year and giving cookies is kind of her thing. and i make random kinds of cookies throughout the year, so cookies aren't exactly special in my book anymore. candy is something i only make one or two times a year, something reserved for a very special treat, and around the holidays i try and make a few of my more popular varieties to share with family and friends.

not that i'm saying i've created any new candy recipes or anything, i'm not quite that good. no, i stick to mastering the techniques of candy making, using a thermometer and heating the sugar up through the crack and balls stages, almost up to caramel. one of these days i'm going to try my hand at making a chewy caramel, but hot sugar is like the napalm of the kitchen, it burns like crazy if spilled and sticks to everything. even after all these years of playing with cooked sugar, i still get nervous and at least a few blisters and burns from working with the stuff.

what i like best, though, is the alchemy of making brittle, and peanut brittle is one that's always asked for, so it's one i always make. and one i don't mind making, because i honestly hate the stuff, so i don't feel any urges to snack on the product. i also have a chocolate fudge recipes that produces a candy very similar to those after dinner mints you sometimes get. that's another favorite that i don't really see the appeal of, but then i'm a crazy girl that likes to keep her chocolate and mint separate. then there are always peanut butter meltaways, something so ridiculously easy to make, i sometimes feel guilty giving it away and calling it a worthwhile gift. usually i make sugar spiced nuts, another super easy favorite to prepare, but this year i'm going in a different direction. i'm not sure if it's the lure of all the food blogs i've been reading, or all the cooking shows i've been watching on tv, but i'm going to try my hand at fudge this year.

not that i haven't made fudge before. there is of course the chocolate mint kind i make every year. and a very simple chocolate peanut butter recipe i got off my mother years ago. this year, though, i'm going to try a few different kinds of fudge, and a few different recipes that i've never tried before. they seem sound, and i trust their sources, so i'm not going to try make sample batches before the big day. or at least, with how i'm still feeling, i'm not planning on making any sample batches. maybe if i can round up a few kitchen helpers/guinea pigs, i might go for a test run or two.

so now that i have my list of candy that i'm making, i've also broken it down into ingredients and came up with a shopping list. next i just have to get to the store and buy the butter and the sugar and all the different types of chocolate. and some cup papers for the chocolate to sit in. and some pretty boxes to put the finished candy in so i can give it all away. and maybe a gift tag or two so i know who is supposed to get what box. yeah, i think i still have a bit of work ahead of me. but the sweet, sugary rush is one of my favorite things about this time of year.

December 3, 2010

'tis the season

i feel obligated to explain why i haven't posted much this week. especially since last week i wasn't able to post at all. well, as is my luck, i am sick. i would go into the gross and gory details of how much fun i've had hacking up a lung all week, but i'm still not 100% better yet, and am having enough trouble stringing together words to make coherent sentences.

anyway, not only am i sick, but it is the first week in december. and you know what that means? well decorating of course. and there's nothing more that i'd love to do than string lights and hang ornaments. other than curl up with a cup of tea and watch some trashy romance/dramas on tv. or eat some soup. or take a nap. or stop coughing. sadly, i think take a nap is winning this race of things i want to do.

well, my hubby, lovely as he is, has to find busy work around the house when he gets nervous or upset or worried, as he is about me at the moment. usually it involves cleaning and scrubbing and laundry (i knew i married him for a reason), but this week it has been decorating the house. our house is not big, and so there's not terribly much to decorate, but he got up early yesterday to let me go lay down (it was probably all of my coughing keeping him up), and when i woke up the tree was already set up and strung with lights, the train set was already put together, and the only things i had to put out were my special christams candles. he even had the nativity set placed under the tree.

so even though i've been sick all week, my house is looking pretty festive. tonight my boys are going to help hang all the ornaments, something bumble has been looking forward to all week. or maybe he's just looking forward to the hot chocolate and listening to the christmas music he knows will be happening too. either way, should be fun. as long as i can stop coughing long enough to enjoy myself.

November 30, 2010

choices choices

i was at walmart yesterday doing some shopping. i know i know, walmart doesn't have the greatest reputation, but it's easy one stop shopping for a person like me that doesn't always have a lot of time to get things done. plus they have a mcdonalds there, and that alone makes me smile at this time of year.

so there i was, dancing around the aisles, singing along to the christmas songs on the in-store music system. yeah, i know i'm not the best singer, and i got some really strange looks from it. one poor lady must have thought there was something very wrong with me because every time she came to an aisle that i was in, she turned around and went in a different direction. that amused me to no end, of course.

eventually i came to the soup aisle, which though not something strictly on my list, was something i wanted to get because my hubby really has a thing for soup. yeah, we have ramen in our cupboards, because it's a favorite of my boys, but my hubby, he likes real soup. chicken noodle used to be number one on his list, but that's slowly been replaced by vegetable beef. i have to admit here that i despise vegetable beef in all its forms. also, there was a small problem when i found the soups, the campbell's chunky soups were on sale, and there are about five million different vegetable beef combinations. some had noodles and some had rice, some had beans and some had barley, some had chunks of beef and some had ground meat.

i was totally at a lost, so i called my hubby to see what kind he wanted. he made the mistake of asking what kinds they had, so i started reading. after a few minutes he told me to stop and just pick out a few that i thought he'd like. i did that, and i'm really hoping he likes my choices, because i'm certainly not going to eat them. honestly though, most of the pictures on the cans looks almost exactly the same, and i'll bet they all taste pretty similar too. hopefully i did an ok job picking out the soup, but i'd feel more comfortable sticking with ramen.

November 29, 2010

my guilty pleasure

it's that time of year again. when things get colder and the snow starts flying. it's the run-up to christmas and all the craziness that entails. the shopping for presents, the decorating, the parties, and of course my most favorite part the food!

now in the coming days i will talk about most of my fav nibbles from this season, and maybe go over a few that i enjoyed over the intense thanksgiving i endured. and i do plan on giving at least a brief account of said thanksgiving very soon. i would have given you all a lovely play-by-play to enjoy, but i was without internet for most of the trip. such was part of the wackiness of it all.

anyway, today, for me, was truly the start of the holiday season, because today i had one of my favorite things. and yes, it's kind of gross to some, and it's really bad for me, but i can't help it, i love it so and always will. i am, of course, talking about an eggnog milkshake from mcdonalds.

i don't know what it is, drinking milkshakes when it's freezing out is kind of nuts, but i really do love eggnog. and ice cream. blend it all together and i'm in heaven. though i suppose mcdonalds doesn't technically use ice cream. i think it's some secret concoction that goes into their magical machine mostly liquid and just partially freezes. kind of like an icee, or a slurpee depending on where you get your partially frozen beverage treat.

still, i always know christmas is approaching when mcdonalds brings back their eggnog shakes. and as soon as i see they have them, i have to get one, as yucky as it might be to others. it's part of my person holiday tradition. like "wham = xmas", but that's a story for another time.

November 22, 2010

think happy thoughts... happy thanksgiving thoughts

three days and counting until thanksgiving. so yes, i am a little nervous and a little apprehensive. there is always such pressure to perform on the big day, and even though i'm only in charge of the pies, i know that there will be plenty of people upset with me if things don't turn out well.

i've prepared everything that i can, made a list and gone through it over and over again. i bought what i need to take up and have a list of what i need to buy while i'm there. i should be ok, it's just making a few (like seven) pies. it's something i've done over and over again.

i think my real problem is that i'm not worried about the cooking part of the holiday going poorly, it's the fact that all of my in-laws are coming together. my hubby has three younger sisters, and some have moved away like we did, so we all don't get together very often. and up until a few days ago, i didn't think they were all going to be there. turns out that plans have changed, and everybody is getting together for thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house. something always happens, somebody says something stupid, and everybody always ends up fighting. usually it's over as quickly as it started, but that doesn't change the fact that it sours the trip. so right now it feels like i'm facing a storm, i know one is coming, i can see it on the horizon. i don't know how bad it will be or how long it will last, but it's headed straight towards me.

at least i stay home for christams and get to see my side of the family, my dad and mom and step moms and sisters. it's a different cast of characters and a whole different set of crazy. but it's the one i grew up with, so for that i know i'll be ok.

November 21, 2010

"my first christmas"

today i have something i want to rant about for a bit. this post will probably be a little bit of a ramble, but try and keep up, ok? i'll do my best to explain the craziness.

so we are coming up on fishie's very first christmas, and i'm already thinking about all the traditions that i started with my boys and want to continue with her. the one i'm having most trouble continuing is the christmas sleeper. see, each of my boys had a special sleeper that i dressed them in on christmas eve that said "my first christmas" and had santa and snowmen and all manner of cuteness all over it. then i would let them wear that same sleep all day long, as their special christmas day outfit. now, finding bumble one wasn't too hard, because on his first christmas he was wearing 6-9 month size clothes, and there were tons of styles to choose from. lumpy was only a week old for his first christmas, so there were also lots of different sleeper type outfits that fit him. now my lovely fishie is going to be 10 months on her first christmas, so one would think i'd still be able to find a "first christmas" sleep to fit. but no, my fishie isn't like normal 10 month old babies, she's already wearing 18 month size clothes, and they don't make "my first christmas" sleepers in 18-24 month size.

ok, to explain for those that don't understand baby clothing sizes, when most babies are born they wear 0-3 month size, then comes 3-6 then 6-9 then 9-12, and then after that usually comes 18 month and then 24 month. after that comes 2T and 3T and 4T. now i guess the sizes are named for the average size that babies are, that most babies that are 9 or 10 months like my fishie is would actually fit in the 9-12 month size. and there are "my first christmas sleepers in the 9-12 month size.

the problem really is that none of my kids were the normal and average size. most normal and average babies are 6-8 pounds when they are born, which is why the 0-3 month size is supposed to fit 6 to 10 pound babies. my babies, on the other hand, were all around 10 pounds when they were born, so they skipped the 0-3 month size and were wearing 3-6 right out of the gate. and of course they just kept getting bigger from there. so now, with fishie's first christmas approaching, i want to get her a "my first christmas" sleeper, because even though she's wearing 18 month size clothes, she really is only 10 months and it really is her first christmas. but i guess most clothing manufacturers don't feel the need to make first christmas stuff in sizes larger than 12 months.

i do get their logic, i really do. most normal sized babies don't need bigger sizes like that, so most normal babies wearing 18 month size clothes have already had a christmas. and they do make bibs and silly little hats in her size. and they do make christmas themed sleepers with raindeer and santa and such. but no "my first christmas" sleepers, even though it is her first christmas. so either i figure out something else to dress her in and stop the tradition, or i can make something myself, and i'm really not crafty in that sort of way.

i'm not sure what to do about this. i do understand why they don't sell what i'm looking for. still, that doesn't mean i'm any less upset about it all. my poor little fishie isn't so little after all i guess.

November 20, 2010

going to the circus

bumble has started boy scouts. they do a lot of cool activities together as a pack, and it seems that the theme of all the activities so far is "under the big top." when they all marched in the halloween parade, they had to come up with costumes that matched the theme. so what wonderful thing does my bumble come up with, was it to be the ring master or the strong man or a clown? no, not my bumble, he wants to be a dancing bear. so being the loving mother that i am, i had to come up with a dancing bear costume in addition to throwing together his knight costume that he wore for trick or treating. trust me, he looked awesome, and he danced his butt off while parading for 12 blocks.

that was in october. this month all the scouts were supposed to bake a cake that would be auctioned off to help raise money for the troop. and of course the whole circus theme still applied. now how this was really supposed to work was the scout parent, the one that went to all the meetings with the scout and helped him do all his projects for badges and the like, they were the one that was supposed to help make this cake. so technically that was supposed to be my hubby. he helps bumble with scouts, it's like their manly bonding monday night thing. well i was really hoping to be able to sit back and watch my two big men make this cake and make it look like a circus, and maybe take a few pictures because i knew it would be amusing to say the least.

again, being the lovely and wonderful mommy that i am, i said i would help too. or rather i saw the look of panic in my husband's eyes and took pity on him and kind of took over the whole project. i really do believe that bumble has helped me bake more cakes in his seven years than my hubby ever made in his entire life. really i think that would have been part of the fun, but i guess my definition of fun varies from my hubby's.

so anyway, bumble and i made the cake yesterday. and i'll admit i took the lazy way out and used a train car shaped cake pan, so we had all these little train cars that we decorated and stuck on a larger cake that we just iced green. we also used funfetti cake mix so i didn't really feel the need to ice the actual cars, especially since the pan has some nice detail to it which would have been hidden by the icing. so i piped blue icing on the cars in dots and lines and had bumble and lumpy stick m&m's all over them. we made train tracks on the base cake with gummy worms and put the cars on top. i even made an animal cage car with a gram cracker roof and drinking straws for supports, with animal crackers stuck inside.

i'll admit that i thought the cake looked pretty awesome when it was all said and done, but i was a bit worried for bumble. see, they were handing out trophies for the best cakes in different categories, and he's only a little tiger cub, which is the youngest group of kids. there are some kids in the pack that are five years older than him, and i didn't know if they could be more creative than a circus train cake, but it was possible. well, all my fears were for nothing, because not many kids showed, and so almost every kid there ended up getting a trophy. though the bumble did win the "most detailed" cake, and looking at all the rest of them, that's definitely the one he deserved.

the only down side is now we have one more baked good in the house to try and eat up before we go to j-town for thanksgiving for almost a whole week. it'll be a struggle, but i know i'll do my best.

November 18, 2010

just like me

there are two things that happened yesterday that have been swirling around in my head today. both are rather upsetting to me, but one more so because i think i'm just looking at it wrong. it's something that i thought i was past, but just keeps coming up in unexpected ways.

i love my bumble, i really do, but yesterday he made me cry. he is the sweetest kid in the whole wide world, and he was just being that wonderful kid that he is, but somehow he can get in my head and remind me of things that i try to forget. and the worst thing is that i know he has no idea, so i try not to be upset in front of him. his innocence is one of his most beautiful qualities, and i don't want to ruin that in him.

with thanksgiving next week, there have been a lot of turkey projects coming home from school. i knew they'd continue with going over the things they are thankful for, it's a staple, and both boys talked about it way back in preschool. lumpy already brought home a picture he drew of him and his dad, though i secretly believe the only reason he's more thankful for his dad than for me is because i don't have cool video games i let him play. yesterday bumble brought home a paper with a paragraph that he wrote all by himself about the things he's thankful for. he said he was thankful for his dad, because his dad is awesome. he also said he was thankful for me because i am just like him. that was it, that's what got me so upset, that little phrase is what made me cry.

i guess i need to go further back and explain a few things so you too can understand. growing up i never really wondered about my future. i never really planned for things or thought about what i might be when i grew up. i definitely never expected to be in the position i find myself in now, married with three children. the full truth is that i never saw myself getting married, but more than that is that i never wanted kids, never not ever. part of it was that i didn't think i would be a very good mom, which i still have doubts about to this day. more than that was because i've heard people say that kids will grow up to be like their parents, and i never wanted to curse my children with having to grow up and be like me. i really hated myself for a long period of my life, and the thought of bringing another life into this world just to have to go through all that i did, to deal with the delusions and craziness and doubt, it just didn't seem fair. i wouldn't wish this on anybody. so if there was the smallest of chances that my kids would be anything at all like me, i didn't want to take it. it didn't seem worth the risk.

the years have passed since then. i met a wonderful man that helped to introduce me to the concept of self worth. of course i married him so nobody else could get their hands on him. we've never had much as far as worldly possessions go, but he has always promised that he would make me really and truly happy, and really what more could i ask for in him? he's always wanted children, and he convinced me that it wouldn't be such a horrifying and terrible idea, and we gave it a try. three kids later and i'm beginning to believe him. still, i worry and i wonder if our kids will be like me, burdened with all the darkness that i struggled with. i really hope not, but still i sometimes see glimpses of myself in them.

though i suppose it's not all bad that bumble is like me. he definitely got my insatiable curiosity. and some of my caring and empathy. we share the same wacky sense of humor. and i'd like to think that the fact that he tries so hard and is always ready to experience something new is partially due to my influences. as he grows and goes out and explores this great wide world of ours i know he'll change, he'll turn more into the person that he is meant to be, that he'll never be a carbon copy of me. i have a funny feeling, for good or for bad, i'll always see a bit of myself in him, but i'll love him anyway.

November 17, 2010

ready, set, bake!

it happened again. yup, another baked good magically appear in my oven yesterday. maybe those little cookie making elves live under my house, making pies and cakes, using up all my butter and sugar. yeah, it's totally elves, and that's what i'll say next time i make something horrible, i'll just blame the elves. and not the nice christmas ones, those ones that help santa, they rock. and so i would like for them to make me a new throw rug to match my curtains in my living room, and a can opener, and new boots. am i too old for a christmas list to santa? maybe we'll just play quid pro quo with the awesome cookies i plan on leaving out this year.

anyway, yes, i really did make another pie yesterday. but it was an experiment, for science! (i can't help but think of portal every time i say that, probably why i say it so often) i know i'm using that as an excuse for all my baking these days, but this was legitimately to try out a new crust recipe. see, next week, maybe tuesday if i'm lucky, maybe 9pm monday night if i'm not, my hubby and kiddies and i are going to visit our in-laws for thanksgiving. and since the kids don't have school for a whole week (really not sure what that's about, and the fact that they're in elementary school and get the monday after thanksgiving, better known as "first day of deer season" 'round these parts off too) we are planning on visiting my hubby's family for a whole week. i actually don't mind going to visit, though i won't enjoy leaving at 9pm because, since i hit a deer, driving at night through the mountains makes me more than nervous. though since we are planning on leaving so early in the week, and i am the one making desserts for the big day, i'll have to do my baking up town so things stay fresh and yummy for thursday. or knowing my family, so things last and don't get eaten before thursday.

so most of the baking i've been doing has been in preparation for the event next week. thanksgiving is a big deal to me, it really is my favorite holiday. and because i am prone to stress and freaking out, i thought it best that i go into things as set and ready as i possibly can be. which is why i've been testing things, trying to find what i can do ahead, and what are the easiest recipes to use that still taste awesome. all my practice has totally been worth it too, because i have found a crust recipe that remains flaky and crisp, but actually gets prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer.

to test this i made the dough on monday and left it in my freezer over night. i was worried because it seems like a very loose and sticky dough, but freezing it must have done the trick, because though it did take some extra flour to roll it out, and even though it did break and crack in a few places, i was able to patch it up without much trouble and get it in my pie tin pretty easily. it baked up well, didn't really brown too much and i hadn't even remembered to cover it with foil, which was a plus. it remained flaky, even now it's still nice and crisp after being stored in my fridge overnight. so i think i found a winner of a pie crust, something that i can make here and just roll out when i start baking next week. one less thing to worry about is always very good.

of course, in testing out a pie crust, i figured i might as well test out a pie recipe while i'm at it. and i think i have finally found a pecan pie that i can love. it's crunchy and creamy and sweet but not too sweet, and it's oh so easy to put together. it's almost sad, because i have been scouring websites and cook books, and the recipe i settle on using is the one that my mommom has used for ages. her pies at thanksgiving were always the highlight of the day, and i was never quite able to replicate them. finally though, i learned her secret, and it couldn't be more simple. her wonderful and fabulous pecan pie recipe, oh so good that it deserves to be passed down through the generations, is the one off the back of the karo dark corn syrup bottle. i'm still not quite sure what to think about that, but at least the pie is good.

November 14, 2010

my fantasy

it's official, i need new friends. friends that live closer to me and enjoy fancy food. and eating off of a salad plate set on a dinner plate set on a charger. and napkins with napkin rings. and eating by candle light.

ok, basically i need friends that like dinner parties. because with all the holiday recipes floating around, and all the cute little appetizer recipes and quick meal ideas and how to make food look fancy and still be easy to prepare, i really want to host a dinner party. so that's why i need new friends that want to come to dinner parties, and then host one themselves and invite me over too.

also, i need a new kitchen. because my kitchen is too small for a dinner party. invariably, while finishing up last minute touches, my charming friends will wander into the kitchen with their glasses of fine wine, chatting lively to keep me company. they'll ask if i need any help, and i'll wow them with my culinary skills, showing that i have absolutely everything under control.

ok, so i think i need a dining room too, or a house that has a dining room. and then i need a dining room table, something nice that can convert from seating 6 to something that can handle a seating for 12 comfortably.

i suppose then i also need money to buy the food to make in my new kitchen that i plan on serving in my new dining room to all my new friends. and maybe a nice outfit to wear, something chic and comfortable. and an apron to match, so everyone will be amazed at my coordination skills.

alright alright, maybe i just need a new fantasy. and to stop watching all these cooking shows. but still, a girl can dream, right?

November 13, 2010

dear tom turkey, this year please bring me happiness and peace on earth...

it's already mid november. where did the month go? i'm so not ready for the up coming holiday season. not christmas though, i'm totally ready for christmas. really, i'm totally ready for christmas to be over.

it's not that i don't like christmas, i really do. and seeing my kiddies faces light up christmas morning is the best. and spending time with all my family is pretty great too. it's like one of the few times of year that i know everybody will be nice and pleasant and there'll be no real drama from any side. i even have most of my shopping done, thanks to layaway. and what we haven't bought yet we already have planned out, we know what we're getting when. so really, there's not much stress with christmas coming this year. we already know when we're making cookies, when we're digging out all our decorations, and how we're putting everything up so that a little fishie doesn't try to eat the train set.

so yeah, i'm ready for christmas, that's not really a stress to me. no, i'm more worried about thanksgiving. yeah, i know i'm not the one hosting the dinner this year. i haven't been able to host a big holiday meal for many years, which i really miss being able to do. but i know i'm going to have to help make the food, which i enjoy, and i know i'm going to have to help get everything set up, which, with my obsessive need for organization, i'm pretty good at. it's more like, as oppposed to christmas, where everybody tries to get together and be nice and pleasant to each other, thanksgiving is a day of issues.

it's always stress when my family gets together, even under normal circumstances they don't really get along all the time. something comes up, somebody says something that people take offense to, and it starts. the worst part is that people keep things going. sometimes i think that they store up past hurts just to bring up in the heat of an argument, trying to make the other person feel as bad as possible, or guilty, or they want people to side with them. i don't know, i just don't get it.

one of the things i really love about my hubby is that even when we disagree, even when we fight or really get into it, we get everything out and move on. if we do have an argument, it's over whatever is happening at that moment, we don't dredge up past hurts and slights. and then when we've worked it out or just agreed to disagree, we drop it and move on and don't feel the need to bring it up again. i wish the rest of my family could be like that, it would make the holidays so much more pleasant.

i guess that's really it, why i'm really so apprehensive about thanksgiving. every year we always say things will be different, and every year it's always the same. maybe it's blind hope, or maybe it's because that thanksgiving really is my most favorite holiday, but i still think that maybe, possibly, there is a chance for this year to be different, for this year to be better. if nothing else, i know the pies i make will be delicious.

November 10, 2010

10 reasons....

....why my bumble is way more awesome than your bumble:

1. he has the same horrible taste in music that i do. case in point, he told me to turn it up when green day came on in the car.

2. he always sings along to songs he likes, even when he doesn't know the words. even if it's a song he's never heard before. even if he can't understand what they're saying. when he gets older, we're so going to karaoke.

3. he loves to make up and tell a good joke. the latest and greatest is "what do you get when you combine mercury and earth?" the answer? "BAM! i don't know, but it's science!" ok, so maybe it's a sense of humor only a mother could love.

4. he tells me i'm the best mom everyday.

5. he loves to try and make his sister laugh. and he's really good at it too.

6. he is always interested in how things work and why things happen. he has the innate curiosity of a scientist. and i get to learn something new all the time by looking up answers to all his questions.

7. he has used the phrase "can't we all just get along?" it's just so amusing to hear a seven year old say something that originated in the 90's.

8. one of his favorite things to eat is salad. but he's always up for trying new things. even "circle shrimp," which are really calamari.

9. he is very creative when it comes to drawing pictures. he made me a lovely halloween picture that included a witch, some pumpkins, a vampire, and zombie abe lincoln. yeah, it was a pretty sweet drawing.

10. he loves to cuddle. and hug. and make everybody feel better when they're down. and i don't think he'll ever grow out of caring for people.

so yeah, my bumble is the best bumble ever. way better than your's. are you jealous, because you should be.

ok ok, if you're really nice, i'll share him with you. i know i have to share him with the world. he's in school all day, forgive me for wanting him all to myself the rest of the day. maybe one of these days i'll explain why he's called bumble. it's a good story. and it only has a little bit to do with bees.

November 9, 2010

cakes ahoy

i was industrious on sunday. more industrious then i probably should have been, considering that it was day light savings time, a concept that fishie didn't quite grasp. so instead of embracing the fact that we should have gained an extra hour of sleep, she decided to get up when she always does, only instead of the clock saying it was 7am, it said that it was 6am. i try and i try to explain important things like the wonders of sleeping in on a sunday to her, but i think it's beyond her comprehension.

anyway, sunday was also my lovely stepmommy's birthday. and as is my lot, it fell to me to make the cake. or cakes, as i volunteered to make two different kinds. seriously, what is wrong with me and the amount of baked goods i've been producing in my crappy little kitchen? and i keep volunteering for this stuff, nobody's twisting my arm or anything. i think it's a sign that i've lost my mind. or that i really like sugar. either way, i made two cakes and a huge mess of my kitchen.

the first cake i tackled was a tres leches cake. it was from a recipe i found a month or so ago here, and ever since i saw that recipe, it's been in the back of my mind that i just had to make it. maybe it's because i like things with a mexican flair. or maybe it's because i really have a thing for sweetened condensed milk. whatever the case, i had my excuse to try it on sunday, because the birthday dinner theme was mexican fiesta. yeah, i'm realizing that my family likes to plan theme parties a lot, but it's how we roll, so you'll just have to deal with it.

anyway, the cake came out pretty well. or as well as i could make it. it was a basic chiffon or sponge cake, soaking it with all the dairy goodness is what made it truly special and delicious. the fact that i've never actually had tres leches cake might be the reason i can't say if this was a really great version or not. my only real complaint is not so much with the cake as with the fact that if i make it again, i need a better way of transporting it. my lovely hubby held it on his lap for the ride to my mommy's house, and some of the liquid that wasn't absorbed kind of ended up on his pants. but now we've learned our lesson and know we need a platter with a higher lip for just in case of leakage. go science!

the second cake i made was a carrot cake. something i've made tons of times before. it's one i know is a favorite of the birthday girl. still, it didn't end up being a normal cake either. no, because i like to make things as difficult for myself as possible, i decided to try out a cake pan that i've never used as a cake pan before, just to see what would happen. well ok, that's not strickly true.

the pan in question is little individual train cars, and it's made of flexible oven safe material. i have used it as a jello mold before, but i've never tried to bake in it. the reason i needed to try it out is that bumble has to make a cake for a boy scout fundraiser, and the theme is "under the big top." so he wants to make a circus train cake. or maybe i've steered him in that direction because my hubby is the den parent and he is the one that is supposed to help bumble make this cake. at this point bumble has more experience baking than his daddy does, so i figured that if this special cake pan works out, then it'll be a snap to make a train shaped cake. all they'll need is some icing and some animal crackers and instant circus train cake here they come. and huzzah the cake pan did work out just beautifully.

so on sunday we had some lovely little carrot cakes in the shape of train cars. and some yummy tres leches cake, which was the best tres leches cake anybody ever had. mostly because i think it was the only tres leches cake anybody ever had, but still, i'll take my compliments where i can get them. the only down side is that i actually whisked up the whipped cream topping for the tres leches cake by hand, and days later my wrist still hurts. yeah i know, it would have been easier to just wash the beaters for my mixer, all of which i had dirtied in the process of making all these cakes on sunday. but i'd like to blame my lapse in judgement on lack of sleep. and the fact that i like to do things the hard way. and maybe i just wanted to see if i could still whip cream with the best of them. and i can. it's just not something i recommend trying.

November 5, 2010

fusion pie? yes please!

so yesterday i made candy. today i'm making pie. again, as an experiment, and not because i totally love baking and totally love eating pie.

like i've said before, i'm in charge of desserts for thanksgiving dinner. and every year i make the same few types of pie. not that they aren't delicious or anything, but i'm ready for a change. i'm tired of eating the same pie all the time. i want something new. but i'm also afraid of embarrassing myself terribly and tarnishing my reputation as a baker, so i've picked out a few new pie recipes that i really want to try, and i'm going to give them a trial run before the big day.

i've always been interested in mixing the traditional tastes together to create something new and exciting. for instance, the pie i made for my dad's birthday was a combination of an apple pie and a pecan pie. and no, it wasn't just an apple pie with a crumbly pecan topping, it was actually the opposite. the apples nestled down in the delicious pecan filling, infusing everything with apply goodness. it was very yummy, which i was very happy about, and it inspired me to look for more hybrid fusion type recipes.

so today i'm taking a regular pumpkin pie and baking a caramelly pecan topping over it, so it'll be like a piece of pumpkin pie and a piece of pecan pie stacked on top of each other. the whole process has my mouth watering, and once it comes out of the oven i'm going to try and restrain myself enough so that i don't burn off the roof of my mouth.

i'm also going to try a new kentucky derby pie recipe. this is something i've made before, it's like making a regular pecan pie and throwing some chocolate into the mix. and we all know that chocolate makes everything better. this version seems pretty easy, so i want to try making and see how it comes out. being that i have to make six to eight pies for thanksgiving, any recipe that is tasty and easy will definitely make the cut.

so yeah, my house is filling with sugary treats. and we are still getting through our halloween candy. so i've decided for christmas this year i'm asking santa to make me skinny again, because i feel like all this research and experimentation is going to test my will power. thank goodness we have friends stopping by this weekend to help get rid of some of these goodies. and to help taste test everything. for research and science. why else would i do this?

November 4, 2010

it's the most wonderful time of the year

raise your hand if this is your favorite time of year. it is for me, for so many different reasons.

i hate the heat. and even though i was born in the summer, it's my least favorite season. going backwards through the calender, spring is least favorite after that. yes i know, everything is turning pale green and waking up from it's long winter sleep, birds singing, bees buzzing, flowers blooming. well birds nest in my porch eves and poop all over my car, bees just freak me out, and i can't grow flowers, just weeds, which aren't nearly as nice. after that, winter is my third least favorite, or second most favorite, depending on how you like to phrase things. i obviously like to phrase things as awkwardly as possible. i enjoy the cold of winter, the crisp air, the snow. even when it's slushy and yucky, i like when i'm able to stay in doors and enjoy a nice hot drink and cuddly with my loved ones. what i don't like is that i very rarely get to stay inside. no, i'm the one that has to run around in the muck and slush, dodging those on the roads that freak out when things get a little slippery and decide that they need to go 10 miles an hour on the highways.

so by default, autumn is tops on my season list. though i do love this season for all the wonders that it possesses in its own right. it's getting cooler now, so jeans and comfy jackets are totally appropriate apparel. it gets dark earlier now too, and with the crisp air, star gazing is a perfect night time activity. of course, my favorite thing about this time of year has to be the food.

with halloween done with, there are pumpkins and squashes galore, just begging to be cooked and eaten. and soups and roasts are the perfect meal after a long hard day when the temperature drops. though i would be remiss if i didn't tell you about all the desserts that i look forward to making.

every year for thanksgiving, i'm in charge of making the pies for the meal. now, pumpkin pie and pecan pie are always delicious whenever you make them, but to me they just seem to taste better when made in november. and i know the cookie season will soon be upon us with december just around the corner. also, i've always been one to make things for christmas gifts. not that i'm crafty, no i go all out and make candy. and i'll be totally honest here and say that i've already made some, because i have a few new recipes i want to try, just to make sure they'd stand up as good gifts.

yes, i'm making candy purely as research, and for the practice of cooking the sugar and tempering the chocolate. and if it all should go horribly wrong, i guess i'll just have to force myself to eat my mistakes.

i'm sure i'll go on more food tangents in coming posts, but being that it's november already, i figured i might as well get the ball rolling. so prepare yourself, i'm very opinionated when it comes to these topics. maybe i'll find my three page rant on proper mashed potatoes, it was truly riveting.

(sadly enough, i'm really not kidding, i do have a three page rant about mashed potatoes somewhere out there. let's just say i'm "passionate" and leave it at that)

November 3, 2010

wants versus needs

we're all friends here, right? then i feel i can admit a dark little secret of mine to you guys. i have money troubles.

yeah i know, maybe it's not a shock to some. and in this economy (how i hate that phrase), it's probably something very common.

honestly, i've always been very bad with money. weirdly, though, i've always gone to opposite extremes. when i was younger, i would never spend money. i would wear out shoes and run around in holey socks instead of going out and buying things i actually needed. then i met my lovely husband and i totally changed. i started spending money like it was on fire, like there was no tomorrow, like it was burning a hole in my pocket. i started spending money i didn't really have.

not that i'm saying it was my hubby's fault, he's not the one that spent the money. it's just that he showed me that it's ok to spend money, that if you have it, you should enjoy it. and enjoy it we did.

and now we are at a point in our lives where i wish we had been a bit more responsible. i suppose i could use the excuse that we were just a couple of crazy kids that didn't know any better, but really i think it was that we didn't give a thought toward the future, it was all about instant gratification with us. which really is a childish way to live.

we're much better now. he taught me about how to have fun with money. and now i'm teaching him the difference between a want and a need. so it's a learning process for the both of us.

it's tricky sometimes, trying to figure out what is a want and what is a need. there are certain things that are easy. like food is a need, but going out to eat is a want. clothes are needs, but designer jeans and fifty pairs of shoes that mostly look the same are wants. electricity is a need, but... well no, electricity is just kind of a need all around. but that doesn't mean we need to leave all the lights on all the time. or the water running. and hand-me-downs work great as play clothes. we can be smart about how we use what we have to get the most out of things. that is something that we need to do.

i guess this whole train of thought is inspired by the fact that christmas is coming, and now i have a chance to ask for things that i wouldn't normally buy for myself. things that i want, but that i've never been able to rationalize enough as a need, so i never got. it's a strange thing for me, to think of things that i want, things that i wish i could have. usually if i see something i'd really like, but realize it's something that i could pretty well do without, i put it out of my mind so that i don't hope and wonder about how to get it. or rather, so i don't feel bad and curse my luck for not having it. now that i get to think about it, even i wonder what i'll come up with for my christmas list.

November 1, 2010

trying to keep reality in check

i keep telling myself that if i was better at managing time, i would be able to get everything done that i really wanted to. more than just finding the time to do all the regular stuff, like laundry and grocery shopping and homework help, i'd be able to read all those books i have stacked and waiting for me, watch all those movies that my hubby gave up waiting for me and watched without me, and actually keep up with the message boards i used to be able to spend hours on.

and then reality hits me up side of my head and explains that i am a mommy with three kids. and yes, some mommies have it worse than i do, some actually have real and paying jobs on top of taking care of their house and their kids. but that doesn't mean that i'm any less busy. especially since my two boys are like taking care of twins. and my fishie is now on the move. and i only get to see my hubby for two hours a day during the week, what with me sleeping when he comes home from work, and him asleep all day, only getting up to eat dinner and then he's off again.

life is busy. and sometimes it's hard. and sometimes i drop the ball and forget things, and then have to play catch up (like doing homework after breakfast, while waiting for the bus, because i forgot to check a bookbag the night before). but i try, and most people around me know that i try. and so what if their socks don't match. or lumpy gets cereal for lunch, because that's what he really wants and i don't have time to fight with him. or fishie and i go to the bus stop in our pajamas because i didn't have time to get everybody dressed in the morning.

at least we're all happy and healthy. and i remember the important stuff. so bring on the stress and the craziness of life. just give me christmas layaway, so there's one less thing to worry about. and toaster waffles for quick breakfasts. and baby gates to help cage a crawling fish. i think i can manage the rest.

October 27, 2010

thoughts on trick or treating

no, this isn't going to be about whether there should be an age limit on tricking or treating and whether it should be imposed or not. though i do believe that it's the parent's responsibility to enact age limits, both with their own children and to not hand candy to anyone they think is too old. just because as a child you can go out and get free candy doesn't mean you should, it doesn't mean it's always appropriate, and it certainly isn't something you're entitled to do. so don't be surprised that if you look too old a door or two gets slammed in your face. or at least that's what would happen if you came to my house.

and don't think that if you're too old to get treats, you should put the trick back in the night. keep in mind that causing petty damages, like egging a house or smashing pumpkins, are all fun and games until the cops get called.

not that i know from personal experience or anything.

no, this post is actually going to be me whining about how i wish that someone still made a certain product that i think is perfect and brilliant for trick or treating children. i know, it might seem much less interesting, but hear me out, because maybe you, and only you, can help in my quest to find these awesome buckets again.

yes, buckets, the kind that little kids carry around and hold out while yelling "trick or treat!" these buckets were bought for my boys three or four years ago, and i've carefully kept them ever since, simply because i can't find them anymore.

they are a brilliant design, a little impression in the bottom holds a small light bulb powered by two AA batteries. when you turn them on, the whole bucket glows, and with the light bulb on the bottom, it lights the ground where they're walking at the same time.

i know that a concern for parents is the fact that some costumes are hard to see in the dark, and we worry about our kids getting hit by a car when running from house to house. but these buckets make them easily visible. and they look much nicer then hanging glo sticks around their neck.

also, i think that they're better than flash lights, because kids are going to be carrying something to put the candy in anyway, so by making the bucket light up, it still leaves a hand free so you can hold hands when crossing the street. or to ring door bells.

i can't tell you how many people have commented on how great they think my boys' buckets are when we go out on halloween. i really wish i could still find them somewhere, simply because fishie needs her own now too. maybe someday the manufacturing gods will hear my pleas and start producing them again. until then i'll keep an eye out, because finding one would certainly be a treat for me this time of year.

October 25, 2010

not all girls wear pink

anyone that knows me knows without a shadow of a doubt that i am not a girly girl. there are times that i wish i was, and there are times where i question why i am not and my sisters are, but still the fact remains that i am not, and at this point probably never will be.

which makes me wonder about the fate of my own daughter. with two older brothers, there are times that she's worn blue hand-me-downs. and there are times when i've gone shopping and really wanted to get her an outfit that i thought was totally adorable, even though it was definatly made for a boy. i am thankful that the "in style" now seems to be light pink and brown in some combination, because i can handle dressing her in a little bit of pink paired with something else. i don't think i could ever bring myself to dress her in something frilly and ruffly and glaringly pink from head to toe. it's just not my style, and unfortunately for fishie, it's not her's until she tells me otherwise.

if she gets older and decided that she's totally into princesses and wants to wear pink and bows and ribbons, i'll be ok with that. but right now i don't want to treat her like a baby doll, something to dress up and show off, i personally think that mentality is silly. unfortunately, there are some in my family that think that i am crazy for acting like that.

i don't feel the need to reinforce what i consider to be stereotypes. if fishie wants to dress in pink and play with dolls, i'm ok with that. if she wants to wear blue jeans and play with trucks, i say go ahead. for example, my boys had wanted a plastic tea set for christmas one year, which i was more than happy to get for them. sadly though, i lost out on that battle and they got a train set.

just because something is labeled for a boy or a girl doesn't mean that only a boy can play with boy things and only a girl can play with girl things. if it's something they're interested in and something that they enjoy doing, i say we should let kids explore and have fun and be creative. most importantly though, we should let them do what makes them happy and not worry about what society might say.

this line of thought always brings to mind what my hubby and i call the "billy elliot debate." billy elliot was a movie about a boy who's father signs him up for boxing lessons. in the same gym there is a ballet class. billy eventually desides that he'd rather dance then fight. there's much more to the movie than that, but the point that my hubby and i have discussed at length is the fact that eventually the father accepts the fact that dancing makes billy happy and he supports him, and we talk about what we would do if our children decided that they wanted to persue an activity that others might label "not for them."

thankfully, my hubby and i agree on this point, that we don't care what our children do or how they choose to live, as long as they are happy and healthy. not that we don't have hopes and dreams for them, but we know enough other people that have pushed their children into activities because it was something they wanted, not their kids wanted, and we don't ever want to be like that.

so what that i'm dressing up my little fishie as a dragon and not a princess this year? she's going to be the cutest little pink girl dragon ever, and i'm even dressing up as a mommy dragon to go with her. if she wants to be a princess next year, i'll buy the tiara. but if she wants to be a race car driver, i know where i can get a helmet.

October 21, 2010

all out of sorts

allow me to complain:

my neck hurts and my head hurts and i think i'm getting sick.

my house is either too cold or too hot and there's one lone fly zooming around that i just can't seem to get rid of.

fishie is on the move, almost crawling, almost standing, but getting into everything. and i'm tired of having to vacuum ten times a day because she keeps finding random little bits of things to put in her mouth.

and lumpy needs to learn the art of a conversation, not just walk up and start talking to me and continue talking to me even if i'm in the middle of doing something. and he needs to learn that if he wants to tell me something it's fine, but he randomly comes up and tells me something that he remembered from five days ago that i don't even recall, and then he just walks away, because all he wanted to do was tell me, he didn't care that i don't respond. or he starts talking and i feel the need to pay attention.

and i hate the fact that, because he doesn't care if i don't respond and that he does it all day long, i don't stop and pay attention to him all the time like i know i should. even if he doesn't realize it, i know what i'm doing and i'm more than kind of ashamed.

and i think i've been spending too much time on a message board that i used to frequent but left because i never had the time. well, i've found the time, so i'm catching up with friends and finding out all the things i've missed. but it causes me to type lyk this b/c it's shorter and easier and it's how it goes there... and it's an awful style to have... but it's mine and it's hard to stop once i get going... it's bad enough i don't capitalize stuffs >_>

and i need to learn some tricks or something that can make me focus. i've never really been able to focus on things or pay attention, my mind constantly wanders. i think that's why i have such trouble even stringing together paragraphs here to make some sort of sensical post. it's funny too, because now everyone is saying that too much screen time shortens children's attention spans, but i never watched much tv and grew up before the internet was big, so i sometimes wonder what my problem is. maybe i'll never know. or maybe i could figure it out if i didn't keep getting distracted by a shiny bit of string.

October 18, 2010

taste is the important thing... so just close your eyes and eat

i finally got around to making apple pies over the weekend. i had such high hopes, but things did not go well. normally it takes me five minutes to throw together a crust and get it rolled out and in a tin, but on saturday, it took me half an hour to scratch out something that kind of sort of worked. i nearly gave up except all the apples were already peeled and needed some place to go. if my mother hadn't stepped in i think i would have given up on pies completely and made a bunch of pans of cobbler.

still, i was able to bake two. they kind of looked like pies, though that was helped because they were sitting in pie tins. maybe they weren't really pies, they were just filling and chunks of dough pretending to be pies. secret evil ninja baked goods that sweep into a kitchen and disguise themselves as pies, plotting and scheming their take-over plans. crisis averted on that front, because they were still eaten and still tasted delicious, which is the important part, right?

i'm debating on whether or not to get more apples and try again. i have made some cakes and cobblers already this year, in addition the "pies" from this weekend. it's starting to get late in the season, and i know if i want some decent apples that i'll have to get some sooner than later. though waiting isn't always such a tragedy, because then i can just make apple sauce. of course, pumpkins are really coming into their own now too, and now that i have a food processor to play with, i'm considering making my own puree for pies and such. and then there's that old standard, pecan pie, a recipe i'm still trying to perfect. whatever i decide, i have a funny feeling there'll be a lot of baking in my future.

October 15, 2010

our zoo adventure

i went to the national zoo this past sunday with my hubby and kiddies and my dad and stepmom. it was an interesting experience, and i haven't really been sure what i wanted to say about it or how to phrase things. it's not that i want to or need to be nice, because i honestly had a lovely time. it's just that i sometimes feel like i have to be overly careful what i say about my family and what we do simply because years ago i said more than i should have about them to people that really didn't need to know any of it, and of course i had to deal with the consequences of my mouth running without the aid of my brain.

and so i shall try and stick to the facts of the case.

we rode the metro into the city, because parking anywhere in a major city is usually a hassle. and because my boys are obsessed with trains. this was the perfect opportunity to let them ride not only a train, but a train that starts on an elevated platform and ends up underground. to witness the simple amazement of children over the most mundane things is wonderful.

after we got off the metro it was a ride up the longest escalator of my life (seriously, i think it was five stories up to get to street level) to walk up the street to the zoo. and i mean up the street, as in it was a hill. but eventually we made it to the zoo!

the national zoo is run by the smithsonian institute, so like all of their museums, it is free to get in. for that it's a very nice place. the whole zoo is on a hill, so we started at the top and walked through to the bottom. which seemed like a good idea until we realized that we had to go back up the hill to get out.

my only other complaint about the zoo is that there weren't many kinds of animals. the pandas are what made them famous. and there were lions and tigers and elephants. but there weren't any rhinos or hippos or giraffes. most of the little animals were in "houses," such as the small mammal house and the invertebrate house and the reptile house and the primate house. so we had to walk in tight spaces with large groups of people, which is a pain to try and push a stroller through, and even worse to try and carry a heavy baby that keeps trying to eat your hair through.

still, like i said, i had a very nice time. bumble was pretty good overall, but it was more walking than what he was used to, so he got a bit grumpy from that. and when he got hungry there were some issues till he got some real food in his belly. lumpy thought it was great, his only problem was that we weren't walking fast enough and he wanted to run ahead. fishie was in her glory, being pushed around and told how adorable she was all day.

all in all, it was a success. next time, though, i think we'll try and tackle the philadelphia zoo, because i hear they have giraffes.

October 13, 2010

"but i don't want to"

have you ever had something you really needed to get done? something that was important and nobody but you could do it? and did you ever feel like you'd be willing to do anything other than that thing you are really really supposed to be doing?

come on, you can't tell me that i'm the only one that feels like that.

i mean, what sane person likes to do laundry? but it needs done. especially since my boys are running low on clean socks. and pants. and hubby needs some clean work uniforms. and the towels could probably stand for a wash.

so what am i doing right now?

baking of course! in the oven right now is a pecan pie. and i had plans for other projects, but i ran out of eggs.

soon though, i'll tackle the laundry. i think i've put it off for just about as long as i can. and it'll save me from washing the dishes i've dirtied in the kitchen.

October 12, 2010

can i get a mulligan?

today is a bad day. it started off rough, having to fight to get the kids out of bed and to eat breakfast and to get ready for school. the only thing they were looking forward to was the fact that i told them it was still raining this morning and they love rain.

of course, they're young boys, so rain equals mud equals fun stuff to jump in, preferably on the way to the bus stop so they get nice and dirty before they even make it to school. these are days where i wonder why i even bother making sure they have clean clothes and take baths.

needless to say, when we opened the door and found the rain had stopped, they were very bummed, which is not a good way to start the morning, it leads to problems later which will be explained in a minute.

anyway, after the boys got on the bus, i got to run home and have some coffee before driving all the way down to the doctor's office so fishie could get the second half of her flu shot. flu shots are very important for us, as it seems to be the flu that triggers pneumonia in lumpy, and we're really trying to stay out of the hospital this year. so we all get flu shots, even my little fish. it was funny, when she got the shot, she just gave the nurse a look like "why are you holding my chubby leg still and sticking sharp things into, don't you know i like to kick?" no crying from her, just that look. and all the way home, she was laughing and cooing. so it was nice that she enjoyed the hour round trip for a five minute office visit.

now though, she's super grumpy. crying and screaming so much she woke up her daddy. which isn't good because he didn't get to sleep until late this morning, and he has to go out to work early tonight. and on top of a very upset baby i'm having to deal with an angry lumpy. he's not allowed to feed the fish anymore, as he was over feeding them, and he had a total meltdown, so much so that i made him go lay down in bed for an hour of quiet time. this is what usually happens when he starts the day off on a bad foot.

so yeah, i've just been waiting for this day to be over. in truth, halfway through i wanted to go to bed and get back up and start over from the beginning. i'm really hoping tomorrow will be better.

October 11, 2010

a random bit of everything

there were a million and one things i wanted to talk about here over the past few days. but i didn't. and now i shall commence with the lame excuses.

i wanted to mention that i do not have, nor probably ever will, any pictures here. i know i know, pictures make a blog more interesting, it draws in readers, mostly because i'm realizing "normal people" aren't down with reading walls of text. (i put quotes for normal people, because i am totally fine with reading walls of text, or maybe just looking at walls of pics and making up my own text, but i think i'm just weird like that) i've never been much of a photographer. growing up, my dad always took crazy amounts of pictures when we went on vacation, and now my hubby takes all the pictures of the kids that i could ever hope to need. maybe eventually i'll get in the habit of taking pictures and there'll something pretty to look at here, but i think i have to stop shaking so much when holding a camera first.

i also was going to talk about how my dad's birthday is coming up, and i'm trying to figure out what to make. in truth, i might not being doing all the cooking this time around. still, i volunteered to make the dessert for the meal. i'm trying to think of something yummy that'll be a little different. my dad is not a big cake fan, so i'm thinking some kind of pie, maybe something seasonal. i'll try and let you know what i come up with.

we also went to the national zoo in washington yesterday, but i think i'll save talking about that tomorrow, because there's so much to say. and fishie is almost crawling, though she's also almost able to pull herself up to a standing position, so i think she might just skip the crawling and start running soon. it'll be the only way she can keep up with her brothers. and speaking of brothers, it's that bad time of year for lumpy again. here's hoping he doesn't get sick again, keep your fingers crossed.

so add all that to all the school work and house work, and trying to figure out how to make a bumble into a dancing bear, i've been busy. i'll try and do better with keeping up with posting here. this incarnation of my blog won't be like all the rest, honest! still, i think that's all i've got time for today. stay tuned for a longer description of our zoo trip, coming soon.

October 6, 2010

squashing my fears... one snack at a time

i am fierce and fearless, and yesterday i proved it to myself again. yes, that's right, yesterday i roasted up a butternut squash for the first time ever. i know, you might need to step back from the awesome.

yeah, i'm not exactly sure how i've made it this far in my life without cooking up butternut squash before either, but such was the case. part of it might be due to the fact that i never remember to pick one up when i see them for sale, but i'm thinking a larger part is the fact that my boys are not fans of trying new things. the biggest one is especially picky. and yes, i'm talking about my hubby here.

if it was something green and leafy, bumble would be all over it, he'd actually rather eat vegetables than meat most meals. and i might have gotten lumpy to try it if he hadn't seen me prepare it. his comment the entire time was that squash smelled just like pumpkin, and if i wasn't carving it or making a pie, what was the point? that left a whole squash for fishie and i.

now i have eaten squash many times before, and i really enjoy the flavor. i have made acorn squash, which is very yummy with a little bit of maple syrup, and just this past sunday i made spaghetti squash for the first time. a yellow gourd that, when properly cooked, will shred and look like pasta just fascinated me for years (not a hyperbole, i will obsess about a food for a long time before i attempt cooking it). making it was an interesting experience, and i think it definitely would have benefited from another 15 minutes in the oven.

anyway, a few fridays ago when i went to the farmer's market, i saw bunches of lovely looking squash and picked up a few to try out. all i had left as of yesterday was a butternut squash, and i kept debating in my head how i wanted to prepare it. i knew i had to think of something sooner or later because it wouldn't stay fresh forever. i really wanted to try my hand at making soup, because that's how i've had it before and always enjoyed the flavor. the problem with that was i wanted to share some with fishie, she enjoys the squash baby food in the little jars so much, and i knew soup would be a bit hard for her to eat. so i settled on simply roasting it.

i have to admit it turned out ok. i know some things i'd do different if i tried to make it again, like pealing it first, because i had such a hard time trying to get the skin off after the fact. i think i might also try chopping it up into smaller cubes and tossing with a bit of oil so it gets a more toasted flavor all over it. still, the squash was yummy, and fishie definitely thought it was very good. all in all, i declare that this was a success, and definitely something to attempt again in the future.

October 5, 2010

crack cookies

over the weekend i decided to make some cookies, which really isn't that unusual for me. i mean, warm and chewy, sweet and creamy fresh cookies, who wouldn't want some? truthfully, i don't think making cookies from scratch is that difficult, and my kitchen is well stocked that i always have everything on hand that i need to whip up a batch.

the sad thing is, for as much as i wanted homemade cookies, i was feeling equal parts lazy. what to do, what to do... make cookies or be lazy and have no cookies?

awesomely enough, my obsessive preparedness saved the day. i could be lazy and make cookies at the same time! enter sugar cookie mix.

i've had this bag of mix in my cupboard for months now, and i know i picked it up for a reason, but somebody help me i can't remember what the reason is anymore. so i figured i'd use it for its intended purpose and make actual cookies with it. throw it in a bowl with a softened stick of butter and an egg and bob's your uncle, or whatever fun phrase you deem appropriate.

i do have to say that i mixed up the dough and it was looking a little sad and lonely. it needed just a little something extra to give it a complete and meaningful existence. so i did what any self respecting candy fiend would do and chopped up two heath bars and threw them in also.

after that it was a matter of scooping the dough onto trays and baking them in the oven. waiting for them to bake was the longest part of the operation.

i took them with us to my moms' when we went to watch the game, and they got rave reviews. almost makes me think i try too hard when i do make stuff from scratch if these cookies that took five minutes of work were such a hit. i'm thinking i need to start cooking smarter, not harder. whatever that means.

October 4, 2010


here's a short list of the random things i'm thinking about that keep me up at night (some are more important than others):

will fishie ever start crawling, or will she move onto walking like her brothers did?

how can i get lumpy to settle down and listen? is he just a normal, hyper five year old, or is this something i need to talk to somebody about?

will bumble ever get a break in school? he tries so hard and loves to go to school, but everything is such a struggle for him.

will i ever be able to find boots that i actually like that fit comfortably that don't cost $100?

who pays $100 for boots that are more fashion than function?

will the boys go through a growth spurt and need new clothes before the end of winter, or will lumpy's skinny butt still fit into the pants that he wore last year?

is all the rain we're supposed to get this week going to cause a flood again?

will i ever be able to find a house that i can afford that's not in a flood plain?

would it be a bad thing to just make a cake for dinner, because that's all i really want to eat... gooey and chocolately and still warm out of the oven...

do i have time to make a cake right now before i have to get lumpy off the bus?

excuse me please, i think i have some very important work to do.