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Friday, October 31, 2008

Bittersweet Halloween

My dad died on Halloween morning, four years ago. I can still remember that morning like it was yesterday. My dad had pancreatic cancer. He lived 11 months after diagnosis, which is a very long time. We had plenty of time to say goodbye, I guess, but that didn't make his death any easier. You always wish for more time.

So, needless to say, Halloween is a bittersweet holiday for me. Quite honestly, the night my dad died, I have no idea where Young One was or who was with him. I'm pretty sure he was with D and some friends trick or treating, but I can't quite be sure. You see, that morning is still clear as crystal to me, but the rest of the day, well, it's a much needed blur. I had been up all night with Dad, helping him die. I guess that's the only way it can be put. My brothers couldn't handle it and my mom was dizzy with grief and emotion. I had to take charge. So, I held him and helped him clear his lungs. I kept him warm and comfortable and increased his oxygen when he needed it. I did loads and loads of laundry, running from his recliner to the washer and dryer.

Hospice was so wonderful, teaching us how to medicate dad to help him peacefully pass. This has always been something that's sort of bothered me. As a nurse, I know what those doses of medications would have done to a healthy person. I know for sure, though, that cancer killed my dad.

I face each Halloween with a brave face. We don't talk too much about what this anniversary means. I don't think it's necessary or healthy for Young One to associate this traditionally fun, kid day with Grandpa's death. I throw myself into the festivities. Dad wouldn't want it any other way.

I'm still struck at how grief will hit me from time to time. It's surprising in its intensity. It might be triggered by the way Young One holds his mouth when he's thinking hard (just like dad did). It might be realizing that I can't remember what his voice sounds like anymore. It may be in the passing of a memory, like how he called everything a finort and told me that I needed to eat something because it would put hair on my chest (this horrified me as a child!). I may think about the mysterious Gazeekerpiper, a bodily organ that dad often referred to. I still don't know what he was talking about!

My dad will always be with me. I know that for sure. I hope I get to be with him again someday. I miss being his little girl. For now, though, it's celebration time.

Happy Halloween, I sure hope I didn't bring you down. Eat lots of candy, enjoy the giggling gaggles of kids, and most importantly, make some memories.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Just In...

Barack Obama is leading over John McCain, 63.2% to 36.8%.

(This poll, though, is over at Zombie Pumpkins. Apparently, more people are carving Barack Obama into Pumpkins than McCain.)
Very important to know all the details about polls before you fall for them. Know who polled, who paid for it, how many people were polled, and who those people polled were before you judge a poll to be accurate. Same can be said for medical studies or any other studies!

I'm going to take this poll over at Zombie Pumpkins, though, very seriously.

Slow? You Have No Idea

Losing weight, for me, has felt like unzipping layers. Inch by inch, uncovering the outside me revealing the inside me. Sometimes, though, it's hard to deal with the slowness of weight loss. I love seeing my body change, but it's excruciatingly, painstakingly S.L.O.W..............

We live in a fast world. Information, schedules, people all move at a very fast pace. People never do just one thing at a time. Multitasking has become the name of the game. Ever see those people reading and talking on their cell phones while driving? Pretty insane, right? The rate of weight loss is understandably frustrating, but I think it's even worse when the pace of the world is so crazy.

We've all heard, it took a long time to put it on, so it's going to take a long time to take it off. It's a bit trite, but it's true.

For me, it doesn't matter how long this takes. Really, it doesn't. I'm going to live healthily. I am going to work out at least five days a week. I am going to make healthy choices over bad ones, forever. I won't deprive myself, but I'm going to live in balance.

Just writing that is a comfort to me. It's my mantra. It is my truth.

Research shows that people who lose weight slowly have a better success rate at maintaining their goal weight. It also means less need for tummy tucks or other surgical procedures to take care of the skin that's lost all it's supporting fat too quickly to keep up. I remember when my doctor shared with me the secret to getting your skin to shrink with you-- losing slowly--and I realized, that was the only way for me.

I never want to go through the big loss again and I'm saying that still being in the midst of it. I know that I will live the journey forever. That's okay with me. No, it's more than that. It's fantastic. I made the connection over a year ago and it feels so good to be where I'm at. The future can only be better.

Vote Barack!

Mom, Lighten Up and Enjoy Halloween!

I love this blog. The Educated Plate. She's so informative about nutrition and what I like most of all, she advocates balance. Love it! I've shamelessly borrowed the title from her post, linked in below.

If you're thinking about giving your kids homemade fruit leather, high fiber granola, or a hunk of sweetened tofu and calling it a celebration, then click here. I can't say it any better than she did.

This intervention is for your own good. Lighten up and enjoy the holiday. Joy is so limited these days. Our country is so sad. Celebrate. It'll do ya good--and a little high fructose corn syrup won't hurt you. In fact, it might just sweeten you up.

Happy Halloween!
(And if it absolutely kills you to go out trick or treating with your kids, then hand out campaign materials--or stuff a Tootsie Pop in your mouth and shut it. I dare you not to smile when you see your kids scampering around spreading joy. And when they get home, I dare you not to dig through their stash to find your favorite!)
I've been voyaging on to other blogs and I've seen so many moms going overboard and being hypervigilent about this holiday. I truly believe that if you deprive, as The Educated Plate says, it will "lead to greater temptation and desire down the road". That is so true.

My son is eleven. He has a few friends that come from households that limit. They limit computer time, video games, monitor the books their kids choose and read. There are weird dietary specifications and rules about what they can and can't eat. Do they follow these limits at my house? Not really. I'm not going to be policing other people's children at my house. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in everything in moderation and I'll try to make sure the kids are doing what they should be. But, these kids that have so much micromanaging of their time and diet and reading by their parents CANNOT control themselves when they're on their own. They don't have the tools to do so because someone else has always guided them. And when they're away from their parents, they go nuts.

How do I approach this? Well, my job as a mom has been to prepare my son for life away from me. What good would it do for me to micromanage him? He certainly wouldn't be able to survive away from home if he couldn't learn self limitation, right? So, we've taught him how to make good decisions, using his own mind and abilities. If it's a nice day outside (we live in MInnesota, the weather rules our lives!), why would you stay inside and play video games? If you're getting frustrated by a game, if it's making your heart race and your face flush, take a break as this isn't good for your body in the longterm. If a book seems too scary or upsetting or seems against your values, then quit reading it.

If we moms are there for every little decision, how will they learn? What about life experience? We all remember a stomach ache from too much candy. What valuable lesson did you learn from that? Perhaps that's where moderation in all things starts revealing itself to us human beings as such a valuable life lesson. So, hey, couldn't Halloween be a vehicle for this very valuable life lesson?

I think you make a great mistake if you voyage forward from the infancy and toddler stages of parenting, where their every need is met by you, and still try to orchestrate their every move as they grow older. Once they've reached this independent stage, you've got to let go and let them live a little. As well, you can't let every day, every minute feel like a crucial, critical decision that might very well jeopardize your child's well being.

In other words, lighten up.

You'll be a better mother, a better parent, if you look at the big picture. The big picture, as in, a day of candy never hurt anyone. In fact, for many of us, Halloween stands out with very vivid and happy memories of our childhood. I wouldn't want to deny my son that joy.

We've seen a trend in the past few years. Schools no longer celebrating Halloween, but having a HARVEST festival. Churches preaching against the evils of trick or treating and the holiday in general. Health nuts preaching against the dangers of high fructose corn syrup.

Come on people. Let's just settle down and enjoy the season, set aside some of this policing of our kids, and just let them have fun. That, outweighs any negative effects of the experience.
(Oh and please don't comment about Young One having weapons in the above picture. Once again, I'm going to give you a big eye roll and a "lighten up." He was New Goblin last year from Spiderman. The sword and knife were all part of the costume. We're a peaceful family, but hey, you've got to have a big sword to be New Goblin. It's required. Boys will make guns out of their fingers and swords out of sticks if they have nothing else!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Five, Minus Four

I've been reading up a storm lately and it's not that I have extra time, but that I've been reading shorter books (one with Young One and one that I'll review here) and one that I couldn't put down that kept me up late until I finished it. So, instead of my five senses, you're going to get just one.

Undiscovered by Debra Winger

I fell in love with Debra Winger in her movie roles. Authentic, real, beautiful, raw, and intense, she hooked me as an actress. She's all that and more in this delightful memoir. Part poetry and part short snippets and glimpses into her life, she talks about her career, but from the inside. She's extremely intelligent, sensitive, and delightful in her honesty. I'd like share with you just this short paragraph about motherhood. It literally brought me to my knees. Dead on. Well done, Ms. Winger. Encore.

"Irrevocably imprisoned by a crush of immense responsibility, overwhelming and oppressive; and by a delayed upsurge of love that in the interim had grown so encompassing and so completely consuming that she knew that no matter how long she lived, no matter what she did or how, she would never ever be free again. She was a mother."

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Jacob is either ninety years old or ninety-three, he can't quite remember. He's living out the end of his days in a nursing home and is completely unhappy about his situation. His grandchildren are old, his children even older and they alternate the obligation of visiting him. The circus has arrived in town and he watches from the rest home window as the tents go up and reminisces. You see, Jacob ran away and joined the circus as a young adult. His parents were tragically killed shortly before he was set to take his final exams as a veterinary student and in his grief he hops a train. Turns out it was a circus train and before he knows it, he's caring for their menagerie of exotic animals. There's suspense, intrigue, romance, violence and all of this with the nitty-gritty backdrop of the circus.

I adored this book. It was a really easy read and quite honestly, I had refused pick up of it about a month ago when it came my turn to receive this book through my library request program. I didn't think I would be that interested. i'm so glad I requested it again on the urging of a friend. The story just grabbed me from the get go. I think, because I have worked in nursing homes in the past, that the inside view of what its like as a resident made me remember the fights I had with nursing staff over protecting their dignity. Back up a bit. I was a young, know-it-all nursing assistant who was working herself through nursing school. The permanent nursing assistant staff resented a "golden child" as they called me. They knew I wouldn't be doing this extremely difficult, physically demanding job for long. I loved my job. I loved my little old folks. I learned so much from them and so much of what I learned from them has stuck with me to today. I remember one little old lady who's room had been transformed to look like a parlor, with velvet drapery and luxurious linens on her bed, comfortable chairs and real oil paintings on the wall. She said to me, "Nobody at this point in their life wishes that they would have worked more. Be sure to play and do what you love all your life." She's so right.

If you have time and room in your heart, go visit a nursing home. Don't go on a holiday, those busy times are inundated with well intentioned groups, looking to spread the cheer of the season. Go on a Wednesday or the second Friday evening of the month. Just make a call, ask if you can just come in for conversation with some of the people. Bring your kids and ask if you could bring in your dog sometime. You will meet professors and lawyers, teachers, farmers, people who built the first Ford trucks, former newscasters, nuns, mothers, sisters, dads, and uncles. So many of them are alone most of the time. Many of them have very few family or friends left or nearby. Your kids will learn a lot. You will learn a lot and you will meet some really cool people.

Be sure to prepare your children for some of what they might see, hear, and smell. It's not always easy for a lot of people to overlook those things. These people still have value and are often forgotten. I urge you to take some time. You'll be so glad that you did!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Attacked by Mutant Green Onions from Mars


After. Yum. I served with drop biscuits.

I do so love eleven year old boys. Their comments and conversations can either tear my heart out or force me to call upon my inner Gandhi to keep from laughing out loud. We've been enjoying the last of the garden's fresh harvest. Picked and refrigerated a week or so ago, I was staring at the crisper drawer full of leeks wondering just what I should do with them. Young One, called by the sound of the refrigerator cracking open (I think it's instinctual at this age), peered in and said, "Looks like we were attacked by Mutant Green Onions from Mars." He then grabbed something and disappeared. Thankfully he did because I almost fell on the floor laughing.

My boy is quite serious. He isn't one to waste words on frivolity. He's a lot of fun, don't get the wrong opinion, but he isn't going to be the class clown or need to be the center of attention. He's just like his dad that way and I love them so much for that. They both do good things and are successful, but don't need a lot of applause for their efforts. It's really very refreshing in this day and age of praising people beyond reality. The great thing about this personality trait is that when they do say something funny or profound or whatever, it's really funny or profound or whatever! Love it!

What did I do with all those Mutant Green Onions from Mars? Well, Potato Leek Soup, of course! With onions and leeks from the garden, I felt like I was this earthy, provider, Mother Earth sort of mom. It was delicious. Now, I'm going to try to share the recipe. To me, soup is always quite organic. There isn't really a recipe or, more specifically, a recipe is loosely followed. Soup in restaurants is used to use up leftovers (so is Brunch, but that's a whole other story!). So, I was using up leftovers and my overabundant supply of garden leeks. Using what you have and finding ingredients locally (like my backyard) isn't really necessary, but it's part of my plan to clean out the cupboards, fridge, and freezer.

Add what you have to jazz up this soup. The basic recipe is delicious, but it could be more of a vegetable chowder if you have more to add. Long simmering of the potatoes makes for a creamy texture.

Mutant Green Onions from Mars Soup

I know it's not the most appetizing name for this delicious soup, but I can't help myself in naming it this! Please forgive me. Serves at least eight with approximately 2 Weight Watchers Points per serving.

3 cloves garlic, Use about a Tablespoon or as much as you can stand
2 small shallots
14 oz canned carrots, one whole can UNDRAINED. You can use fresh too.
3 cups leeks, About 3 large or several small, cleaned and chopped
1 pound potatoes
8 cups water
3 tbsp Home Again Chicken base, no msg
2 cups fat-free skim milk
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt, TO TASTE!!! chicken base can be salty, do not add unless you've tasted
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly cracked

Garnish with chopped chives if you wish

Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add garlic, shallots, and leaks. Cook until softened. Add potatoes, undrained carrots, water, chicken base, and thyme. Simmer for about an hour. Add milk and pepper. Simmer for another hour. Potatoes will start to break up. Taste and salt if desired. You may leave this as a rustic soup or blend it with an immersion blender or in batches in your blender. I like it rustic style. I would imagine you could add clams to this to make a great chowder. Or corn and chicken. It's a great soup on it's own, but could be altered to suit what's in your cupboards and what your taste preferences are.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Five


This is a really easy read, just a story that you'll quickly immerse yourself into and leave, feeling like you met a new friend. Nora has escaped a failed marriage only to find she's the sole inheritor of an unknown aunt's estate in Natchez, Mississippi. She journeys there to attempt to sort through her aunt's life and to find out just who this unknown woman was, meanwhile, she reminisces about her own life.

I just love Southern stories. This book gave just a glimpse into 1930s Mississippi. It left me wanting to know more. I've also enjoyed from the same author: Alice's Tulips and The Persian Pickle Club.

The story of a week in the life of a thirty-five year old school teacher in the small town of Staggerford, Minnesota. The New York Times said, "A writer good enough to restore your faith in fiction." That's what got me to read this book. It's an old book. It's been around a few decades, so your sure to find it on your library's shelves. This was a book filled with rich descriptions, hilarious scenarios, and an engrossing story. I don't want to give away too much, but if you want a great read, you must read this.


A whole heck of a lot of Beethoven. Young One has been enjoying his work in music class and I just coincidentally, popped in a CD to help spark some creativity while he was writing a spooky story. As the symphony came to a very recognizable place, Young One named it. I thought that was cool.


My Woodwick Candle. Picture a candle with a wood wick, that crackles like a fire. It's not that dramatic, in fact, you really have to be close to the candle to hear it, but it's fun and this candle has lasted a long time. I have the Winter Berries scent, which Young One picked out for me, but I'm not sure they make them anymore. If you need a quick gift, this is sure to please.


Banana Cream Pie Pudding. Well, a girl can dream. It's just instant vanilla pudding poured over banana slices in a graham cracker pie shell. I found the pie shell in the cupboard and decided we needed to use it. This fit right in with my menu plan this week. It's pretty good. And if you top it with Cool Whip Free, it's almost like the real thing.


Halloween decorations. I made the cute little pumpkin votive candle jars a couple of weeks back. It took just a few minutes and they look so cute on my porch. I'm not crafty, so I was pretty proud of these! I wish the picture above was of mine, but mine wouldn't cooperate with the camera.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I Can't Imagine

Thank God for TiVo. I'd never see anything without it. I'm sitting here watching, well, sort of watching Oprah's Thursday show. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were on, hearing their voices is bizarre to me, but I don't want to talk about them.

What I'm struck with is the Internet millionaire who spent $240,000 on a car. I can't get past that. Even as I sit here, he's talking about his childhood pain of being teased for wearing a turban. I don't want to sound hard hearted, but after mentioning the $240, 000 car, I can't really feel sympathy. They're now chatting on what great revenge success is. Hmmm. None of this is sitting well with me.

I don't see success as the best revenge. What I see, with a car that expensive, is excess. I could not ever spend that amount of money on a car, knowing just how many people that could feed or clothe. I couldn't do it. I don't care how much money I had. I couldn't do it with good conscience.

Sarah Palin has had a very well discussed shopping spree. At what point, Sarah, did you think this was right? Our country is at it's lowest point, economically, in ages. We're all really struggling out here. How could you rationalize it away? When they scream, "Drill, Baby, Drill!" why don't you interrupt them and say that's derogatory towards women. When you had organizations rewrite invitations to you after their events, to include your children so that you could justify the travel expenditures now being scrutinized, at what point did you think that was okay?

I'm afraid that these people are the role models of our children. Do I think people with great wealth and possible power are all bad? Not at all. I just wonder what happens to them. What happens to switch your mind, from the poor little Indian boy living in a one bedroom apartment with your entire family to buying a car that expensive? How many rationalizations did you have to make when they handed you the keys?

Sarah, are you so blindsided by the possibility of power, that common sense went out the window? No one needs a $2700 blazer, come on. Your actions, or perhaps in this case, your inaction speaks so loudly for you. You should have said, thanks, but no thanks.

At what point will we finally begin to do the right thing in this country? This really scares me. This thought that wealth=happiness, stuff=bliss, I don't understand it. The pursuit of stuff and more stuff has practically bankrupted our country. The more things we amass, the further away from true charity and giving we get. It used to be that one's morals and values were so strongly held. Now, we forgive, overlook, rationalize, and make excuses for behavior that is just reprehensible.

I know there are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations out there. I know that they exist. I just got stuck today. Stuck on a candidate's shopping trip. Stuck on a quarter of a million dollar car (which, at my house would probably still have matchbox cars and Pokemon cards all over in it). I'm just stuck.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm a Little Bit Crunchy

I was called a tree-hugger recently and secretly, I was a little pleased, but also I found it pretty funny. I'm not a typical tree-hugger. I live in the 'burbs. I don't wear clothing made of hemp or attend protests. I'm not Vegan and I don't drive a hybrid. Yes, stereotypes these are, but I think the name tree hugger in itself is a stereotype. We've just got to think of a better name. Hugging trees can lead to bark scratches on your face; a look I find rather unpleasant.

I was raised to respect our environment. That phrase, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints" was family law, but we didn't use that cutesy phrase. My dad would have choked on it. Hey, I choke on it, but if it works, so be it.

I've been known to delve into other people's garbage to take out recyclables. I limit my carbon footprint (another little catch phrase that I think is stupid). I don't buy bottled water. I've been bringing my own shopping bags to the market for years (thankfully, people rarely stare now!) I don't use my car very much and when I do, I combine trips as much as possible.

I do everything I can to make sure that my son's world will be better than my own. It's the tree-hugger name that I don't like. It lends this sort of us versus them feeling. It labels like minded people with something that isn't very well received by other folks. In fact, it's getting just as big of a rap as liberal now is. I think there's got to be another title that isn't quite as polarizing. I'm a wordie. I love to play with words and I can't for the life of me come up with another title. What I want is a word that means, I'm not an extremist, I'm just doing the best I can to limit my impact on the world without being political, vegetarian, a hippie, a Birkenstock wearing mom who makes her kid eat Kefir and Tofu, or a radical. Environmentalist is a whole mouthful and doesn't quite hit it.

If anyone can think of a word for those of us who don't quite fit into the tree hugger mold, let me know. I, for once, am speechless.

Crunchy Granola

Finally, a lighter version of granola, which those of us who are watching what we eat know can be a major diet breaker. Granola, so called health-food, is typically full of fat and calories. This granola recipe still provides high flavored crunch with less fat and calories and comes in at 3 Weight Watchers Points per serving.

3 cup(s) rolled oats
3 cup(s) ready-to-eat puffed rice cereal
1 cup(s) Perky's Nutty Rice Cereal (in your Natural foods section) or Post Grape-Nuts
1/4 cup sliced almonds

2/3 cup(s) unpacked brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup(s) water

1 TB real almond extract
1 TB real vanilla extract

After baking:
1 cup(s) raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries

Place brown sugar, cinnamon, and water in a saucepan, heat over medium high heat until almost boiling. While heating, place oats, cereals, and nuts in a large, greased baking pan. Mix to combine dry ingredients. Once almost boiling, remove syrup from heat and stir in flavoring extracts. Pour syrup over dry ingredients and granola well to combine. Press with back of spoon to form some granola clumps (the technical term for this is smooshing). Bake at 300 degrees stirring often until toasted, about 30 -40 minutes. Cool on wax paper. Stir in raisins and dried cherries.

I like to bag this recipe in individual 1/2 cup servings to keep portion control easy. Young One loves to take this to school as a snack. It's wonderful as a stand alone snack and great with yogurt or fresh fruit and yogurt.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck
Cleaning out the Cupboards

A while back I decided to use up all the sample size shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, soaps, and lotions that we've collected on assorted hotel stays. I'm still using them up. Still. I can't believe how long I've made this last.

My next quest? The kitchen cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. I want to defrost my extra freezer and the only way that's going to happen is if I start using up what's currently in it. That means some creative menu planning. Same goes for my kitchen pantry. I have so many things in there that I bought and then didn't use for whatever reason (mostly because after doing the shopping and actually living with the menu I planned, some of those recipes didn't sound as appealing as when I was making my lists!).

I am so fortunate to have abundance. I found myself complaining that I was eating, once again, a leftover meal that was really quite delicious. After three days of it at various meals, I was pretty tired of it, but then I remembered that I was fortunate to have it and should quit my whining.

We're living in a country where people who have never been poor before will be. We're living in a country that is tottering on the edge of bankruptcy. I am so lucky that my husband has a wonderful job, we have a beautiful home, and we have enough. I have abundance.

At first, when I started my inventory of what I needed to use up, I was pretty discouraged. What the heck am I going to do with this list? Here's what I came up with. I think it sounds pretty great now! Once again, it's a case of how you look at things. My glass is definitely more than half full.


French Dip Sandwiches with Au Jus
Organic Baby Carrots
Baked Potato Wedges

Braised Pork Chops with Sage
Cornbread Stuffing
Zucchini and Corn Saute

Grilled Chicken Tenders
Brown Sugar Roasted Squash
Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

Red Beans and Rice (thanks Heidi!)
Tossed Salad

Chili (thanks Darcie!)

Pierogies with Caramelized Onions
Steamed Green Beans
Tossed Salad

Blueberry Pancakes
Turkey Bacon
Fresh Fruit

Slow Cooked Pulled Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta
Steamed Mixed Vegetables

Clean out the Cupboards Pasta Toss
(penne, crab, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and any veggies I can find)

Pan Fried Polenta with Creamy Tomato Sauce
Tossed Salad
California Blend Veggies with Cheese

Potato Leek Soup
Fruit Salad

Snacks and Treats:

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Homemade Granola
Banana Pudding
Banana Muffins
Pull Apart Cinnamon Rolls

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck

I love a house that smells nice, but the chemical air fresheners just don't cut it for me. Yes, I do have them occasionally, but they smell manufactured and fake. I also think that they contribute to indoor air "pollution" thus causing environmental illnesses and allergies. About 5 years ago, I discovered the world of essential oils while taking a soap making class. For a fraction of the cost of an air freshener, you can fill your rooms with natural scents with the use of these oils. And because they're all natural, you don't have to worry about polluting your indoor environment.

I also don't use a lot of highly scented cleaning products. I make almost all of my cleaning products and sometimes, I just want a little good scent to them. Clean doesn't have a smell. That's one of the hardest things to get used to when you start to make your own cleaners. Essential oils can be used in them as well. Just a drop or two and you have a sweet smelling clean!

I get my essential oils at my local health food store, which is about a minute from my house. You can also find them online just by searching. I like to sample the scents, so I haven't purchased any new scents online. Today, I picked up lime and clove. These two oils are very inexpensive. Others can be quite pricey, but because you only use them in very small amounts, they last a very long time.

How to use them? Here are some of the ways I do:

  • Sprinkle a little on a bowl of potpourri. Your room will fill with the scent.

  • I have used them to refill liquid, electric air fresheners, but I will say, do so at your own risk. Wear gloves and be sure to dilute the scent as directed by the manufacturer.

  • If you need a quick pick me up or need to relax, give the appropriate oil a quick sniff! I was such a nonbeliever of aromatherapy until I really tried it.

  • Make your own mist style air freshener. In a clean, small spray bottle, mix water and your favorite essential oil(s). Shake before using. I like to use these in the bathrooms and I keep one with my cleaning supplies. Occasionally spraying the dog beds is a great use!

  • Simmer water on the stove and add a little essential oil. This is especially great in the winter when the air needs to be humidified.

  • Place a drop on a light bulb. Yes, the lamp has to be on! Your whole room will smell delightful..

Be cautioned: some essential oils are toxic and those toxins can enter through your skin. Know the oil that you are using and never apply directly to your skin unless you are fully educated on that individual oil.

Daily Shower Spray

If you're like me, you hate to clean your shower. I used to buy those expensive daily shower cleaner sprays. I even invested in the Scrubbing Bubbles one that automatically dispenses the shower cleaner and then my thrifty self stepped in. I began to refill the Scrubbing Bubbles bottles with cheaper spray concentrate. Then, I decided to make my own. The automatic dispenser bit the dust, so now I just use a spray bottle. The rubbing alcohol scent takes some getting used to at first. Essential oils do help, but be cautioned: if you use too much of an oil, you can make your shower slippery!

8 ounces of rubbing alcohol

distilled water, enough to fill the spray bottle

your favorite essential oil

Place all in a clean, preferably recycled spray bottle. Shake before using. Use daily and your shower will stay clean. You must start with a clean shower and periodically, you will still need to deep clean your shower, but this cuts down on cleaning time, tremendously. I've found it keeps my shower doors crystal clear!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Cold Cruel World

We moms have years of life experience from which to teach our children, but there's nothing like the cold cruel world to provide valuable life experiences of their own. "It's in the fine print," the sales clerk told me today when I tried to pick up the much awaited for Spiderman video game. Today, as touted by all the websites, magazines, and kid discussions on the bus is the release date. Turns out, the release date really means the ship date, the crabby clerk informed me. "You don't understand," I said, "I have to go home and explain this to my eleven year old. He's not going to understand it as anything, but unfair and you know what, I highly agree with him." I'm sure you can imagine the blank stare I received in response. God bless those of you that work in retail. I could never do it. I was the nicest mom he faced.

Duped again by marketing geniuses. I'm sure they're sure that the buyers of these games, mostly kids under the age of sixteen, will come in today (having not read the find print) and that the vast majority of them will buy something else today just to make up for hurt feelings and to fill the now vacant twenty four hours until the actual release. They know that they'll return again tomorrow to pick up the much awaited game. They hype up these games for ages touting release dates that seem impossibly far in the future. Young One even puts them on our family calendar. He starts to count the days as soon as they announce them. Changes in release dates can throw off his entire day and these do happen, I suppose technical difficulties or whatever can change these things.

Young One loves his video games. He's great at not overdoing them, we taught him early on to figure out cues that his body has had enough, such as a racing heart and flushed face and he follows those cues well and takes breaks as needed. I don't believe that strongly forbidding anything with kids works well. Kids usually then set the forbidden object or privilege on a high pedestal and cannot control themselves when granted unsupervised access. We think kids need to be exposed to and fluent in the use of all the latest technology, after all, this is going to be their world. So, Young One is a great typist, he can surf the Internet with ease, and he knows how to use almost all forms of technology. He also knows what's off limits or inappropriate and how to handle it.

I'm rambling again. Apologies.

I have to look on today's situation as an opportunity to teach, however difficult it is, that the world isn't always fair. We just had the greatest conversation about how misleading people can be hurtful and that it's OK to speak out in protest, as long as it is appropriate in its delivery. We will voice our opinion on this to the company and most likely direct it to the CEO. Those letters usually get answered as long as they are presented in a relatively positive light! As well, we will remember that deceit, on any level, hurts people and we'll go above and beyond being clear and true to everyone that we encounter.


It struck me this morning how easy it would be to not be honest in a food journal. You know what a food journal is, right? It's where if you bite it, you write it. A food journal can be kept for any number of reasons. Health care providers love to ask you to do them to help source out possible allergens or to monitor diabetes or cholesterol control. Food journaling is the foundation of Weight Watchers.

Let me tell you, those first few weeks of journaling for Weight Watchers were awful for me. I hated it, but it was eye opening. At that time, I was trying to just eat what I usually did within the Weight Watchers plan. It was instantly apparent that I had to cut soda out of my life as I could have easily consumed most of my Points just by drinking Dr. Pepper alone. I don't use artificial sweeteners, so, I just cut it cold turkey. No diet soda for me. I've heard the carbonation is just as bad for you as the sugar or artificial crap in it anyway.

I was hungry all the time then. I couldn't figure out why. I was eating, sensibly, I thought. Turns out, I just wasn't eating sensibly enough.

Seeing your diet right there in black and white is so helpful in trying to figure out how to combat hunger and where all your calories are going. It's easy then to see where you can streamline things.

I'm still a paying member of Weight Watchers, mostly because I love the online food journaling. It's so easy and there's a handy dandy recipe builder thingie that will figure out the Points values of your favorite recipes. The rest of Weight Watchers really doesn't interest me. I don't like the meetings. I don't like to weigh anywhere, but the privacy of my own bathroom. And I don't like the sales pitches, "Get this WW pedometer for only two payments of $19.95". All of that was what kept me away from this program in the past. Thank God for the online option.

Getting back to honesty. I think honesty is at the core of the successful weight loss journey. You must honestly look at how you eat. You must honestly look at how much you move in a day. I wish that I would have journaled for about a week before I started, just to have that as something to look back on. I think the honesty of what I was actually eating pre-WW would floor me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Free to a Good Home

I'm kidding. Kind of. Well, I did start writing the ad in my head. Hold on, full story ahead.

This is Tucker.

We don't know what he is. We adopted him from a rescue organization. He was one of fifteen puppies. He's supposedly a Rat Terrier. Which, as my neighbor says is a "very unfortunate name". You guessed it, she's not a dog person. We're pretty sure he has some Italian Greyhound in him. Whatever he is, he's fast. See his tail in the picture above? Well, it's wagging. It's always wagging. He's a happy dog. Loves people. He's always moving, and wagging, and wiggling, and loving people. Except when he's snuggled up next to one of us on one of his couches. They're no longer ours, we just get to rent space on them.

Anyway, here's another picture of him.

This is what he usually looks like: (And wow, look at the sad, post-frost state of my Hostas behind him. Ew.)

It's a brisk fall day here in Minnesota land. Sunny, the air smells like leaves and fall and apples, and the trees are glorious in their pre-winter fashion show. I've been cleaning the house all day. I mean, cleaning as in soaking the nonskid bath mat and taking a Q-tip to the shower stall doors. I don't know what's wrong with me. I should be jumping in leaf piles and skipping through an orchard with a quaint basket of apples that I just picked.

A peek or two at the dogs, while I was running around the house, had found them either comatose or laying in the sun in the back yard. We have a handy dandy dog door that makes it very convenient for them to go in and out a million times a day to chase squirrels and hopefully do their business.

This is what Tucker did today while supposedly scampering through the back yard:

And he did it several places in the yard. Not just digging, he was trenching. And I think the little beast wiped his paws before coming in because, thankfully, there are no muddy paws or tracks of dirt across the kitchen floor I also cleaned today (I'm not well, obviously.)

He's never dug before. Never even ventured into the sandbox that Young One now only uses when we mention getting rid of it. We do have a mole problem in the yard and I do distinctly remember a day last winter when he was trying to catch a mouse in our basement. He chased the dang thing upstairs and I spent the afternoon acting like a sissy ninny, sitting on the back of the couch while nervously laughing and crying into the phone to Hubby. (I'm rodent-a-phobic. I seriously had to use Lamaze breathing when Young One got a hamster. It's the first time Lamaze actually worked for me!)

We think he was trying to dig to get at the little critter who was innocently burrowing under our grass. If that's the case, well, he did a good job of it. Now, how to fix the mess?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Completely and Utterly Alone... And Enjoying the Company

I'm almost at the end of my long weekend alone.

I have to tell you. As a mom, I've never felt more rejuvenated in my life.

My thoughts have been my own and uninterrupted. I've just wandered and done only things that are enjoyable. No chores, no work, no nothing, unless I wanted to do it. I got to shop a little, went to the salon, chatted with friends, and went to Target without ever setting foot in the Lego aisle.

It has been bliss.

After speaking to a number of moms this weekend, I'm left wondering. Why don't we do this more often? I mean, you know you need a break when you jump into action at the high pitched whine of "Maaaaaahuuuuuummmmm" from some radom kid in the mall--that's about where I was before this weekend. When I almost introduced myself to a new parent at school as "Mom" I knew it was time. When I could remember all the rules to Life, the Simpsons version, but not my own Social Security Number, it was time.

I don't want to wait this long before getting another true break. There's something about getting to know yourself again that is so delightful. Please, get something on the calendar NOW. Set aside some time and don't make any concrete plans. Just let the time happen.

And as I say this, I realize, I need to make sure Hubby gets the same thing too. It's only fair.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Darndest Things-- "My mom takes pictures of our food. Weird, huh?"

One of Young One's friends was over. He asked, "What do moms do all day, anyway?" "I don't know," Young One said, "My mom takes pictures of food. Weird, huh?" I won't tell you what his friend responded with. It had something to do with laundering underwear, but it came out in the kid translation of a possible mom rant. Pretty funny stuff and I definitely have to tease his mom about it.

Yes, I take pictures of food, occasionally. I also am the family photographer. I'm rarely in pictures because of it. I'm definitely working on handing over the camera so that it actually appears that I did attend family events and vacations.

Food photography is really hard. Real food isn't really pretty. Our appetites are visually stimulated and some food photography out there just doesn't do it for me. Heck, some of mine doesn't do it for me. I love to try, though.

When I owned my food business, I once spent six hours with a film team filming what was to be less than four seconds of our television commercial. Yes, six hours for four seconds. It involved pasta, and steam, and oil glazed vegetables. The things we did to make that four seconds of film actually look delicious would turn your stomach. No, the dish was not edible when we were done.

That filming experience is in the top ten of the most challenging things I did for our business. I remember feeling like a wet noodle myself from all the hot steamy water. The photographers made it much easier than it could have been and their vision led to a great commercial.

So, yep, I sometimes take pictures of food. My shots are usually pretty quick. I take a bunch, change the lighting, backgrounds, etc and hope for a good one to pick from. I will never be a food stylist. One of our old neighbors was and I'll never forget how she told me they varnished the turkeys for the holiday cookbooks (yuck!). I have fun with it and hope that maybe I can provide some representation of something I'm cooking up.

This food blogging is a pretty funny hobby when you think about it. Maybe the kid's got it right.
Pretty Ugly Chicken Patties
Serves 5 at 5 WW Points each.
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 1/2 cup fat-free skim milk
3 tbsp onion
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 cup Panko crumbs
Cut chicken into cubes. Place in food processor with milk, onion, and cayenne pepper. Pulse until coarsely ground. Set aside. Place breadcrumbs onto a plate. Season with salt and pepper if you wish. Preheat a nonstick pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray over medium heat. Spray your hands with a little nonstick spray. Form ground chicken into 5 patties. Dip both sides into bread crumbs and place in pan. Cook about 5-7 minutes per side or until juices run clear and patties reach a temp of 180 degrees inside.
I serve these on buns with chopped roasted red peppers, lettuce, and spicy mayonnaise. Or top a salad. Or serve like chicken parmigiana with pasta and bottled sauce. They're very versatile and, although pretty ugly, they taste great!

Letting Go

I should be turning cartwheels and happily enjoying my first moments of a four day weekend alone. (I promise, I will do that soon.) I'm just having a bit of sadness here.

Young One's school owns an environmental learning center about 4 hours North of our house. It's just one more reason that we love our district. Every year, the fifth graders of his school get to spend a four day weekend there. It's a tradition at his school. And every parent I've talked to whose child has participated has had a blast. It's a jam packed weekend of bog stomping, wall climbing, archery, environmental studies, and just hanging out in the woods with your classmates. It's sort of a right of passage. It's the time when their class begins to bond as a class.

Young One has been very nervous about going and, I think, Hubby was too. He's chaperoning. I don't envy him, but I am so thankful that he's going. It's good to get to know other parents and the kids better. Having a boy, though, it wasn't an option for me to go. Secretly, all of us wives have been chatting. The dads were all pretty reluctant to go. Hey, I've done my time volunteering, this will make up for it.

There were lots of anxious parents and kids there this morning. For many kids, this was the first time away from home for more than just a night. We arrived bright and early. Young One's biggest fear? That he and his best friend would not be on the same bus. They assign buses and yes, his fear came true. While they're assigned to the same cabin, they weren't on the same bus. And this just broke his heart. And then, horror of horrors, he started to cry in front of his classmates. Well, for about 2 minutes, anyway. Enough to make me feel horrible.

As I looked around, it appeared that the members of the planning committee's kids all seemed to be on the same buses with their best friends, but I may have been seeing through the eyes of the MAD MOM. You know, mother bear, mother cougar starting to growl and grumble, looking for a chance to pounce. That mom. The one we all have lurking underneath our smiles. Don't hurt my kid. Such a strong instinct to protect, to fix, to make it all better.

The Momma Lion in me asked if we could do some switching, but I was met with the unrelenting stare of the PTA president. Now, I'm a little embarrassed for saying anything because he did find another good friend to sit with and when last I saw him, he was sitting as far away from his dad on the bus as he could get. Or, at least, that's what it appeared to be. Perhaps I was waving at some other kid. The smokey glass of the bus made it difficult to discern if there even were children on the bus!

These little steps of breaking away are hard. I wish What to Expect When You're Expecting would release a how-to book for preteens. You know, sort of a manual for how to hold yourself back when life throws your kid a curve ball, that in the end will just teach him to be a more adaptable person. There could be chapters about how to give them roots and wings. There could be chapters about how not to embarrass them. There could be a whole chapter about how to develop a secret code that would stand in place of a hug in public. ("Don't touch me in front of my friends," he has said, repeatedly.)

I do know that my kid is an intense person. He's a worrier. He needs a lot of predictability, which is hard because I'm a spontaneous person. He likes to know what to expect and he expected four hours with his best bud on the bus and this didn't happen. Will he survive? Certainly. Could we have pushed a bit more than we did? Maybe, but then I would have been THAT Mom. You know, the one that micromanages her kid's life and makes an ass of herself. I wasn't willing to go that far.

He'll have a good weekend. More than learning about the environment, he'll learn about being relatively on his own (despite dad being there--he won't be with dear old dad that much). He'll get closer to a lot of classmates. He'll find out that he can survive away from his best friend and that he can actually thrive without him.

Teachers and other parents have all told me that he is very well liked at school. A mom just told me this morning that he has so many friends and is so kind to everyone. I'm proud that he's in the top of his class, but I'm even prouder of the fact that last year he was voted unanimously as the kid that everyone in his class would like to be friends with. That means so much more to me than good grades.

I'll worry this weekend. I'll think about him. I've calmed down from the stress of the morning and I'm ready to move forward with some really great personal time for me. I miss those days when it was easier. When they're small, they're problems are smaller. Don't hit. Use your inside voice. Eat your vegetables. When they get older, the issues become bigger and it's not as easy to deal with as a mom.

And we haven't even started with girls yet. Sigh.

I had about 2 tears when I got home. No big, ugly, sobbing cry. After all, his dad is with him and now that I've written about it and talked to a friend, I feel much better. I decided I'd better not dwell on being lonesome and start enjoying MY time. As a mom, we get so little of this, I'm gonna savor it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Favorite Day-- Minnnehaha Falls

I love playing tourist in our home town! We're so lucky to live in the Twin Cities. There is so much to see and do here.

One of our favorite places to visit is Minnehaha Falls.

A nibble and then some at Sea Salt Eatery at the park. I haven't had a Po'Boy like this since I lived in South Carolina. Never thought I would say my favorite seafood restaurant is land locked! It's only open seasonally. I've just got to get there one more time this season!

That's the mighty Mississippi. Hard to believe its the same one you can walk across in Itasca and the same muddy one that ambles past Memphis (where Young One was born).

A stop at Izzy's for ice cream. Their Salted Caramel Ice Cream can only be described as other worldly. I thank God every day that they are a 20 minute drive from my house. Far enough away that I'd have to plan for it and close enough that I can actually get in there from time to time! If you don't know what an Izzy is, it's that little taste-size scoop on top of the big scoop. It's great for those of us who can't make up their minds.

We spent last Sunday just wandering and hanging out together. Definitely one of my favorite days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wanna Date?

My Great-Grandma Nettie had one measuring cup. It really wasn't even a measuring cup, I don't think it had any markings or measurements on it. It was red, faded plastic. For all I know, it was a detergent measuring cap! She didn't have or need a lot of kitchen tools and yet, she was a fantastic baker and wonderful cook.

I was so lucky to have gotten to spend as much time with her as I did. She was always present at Grandma and Grandpa's farm. They had moved a little pink trailer for her to live in right next to their big, white farmhouse. Grandpa would have morning coffee with her every day. She listened to the radio, and sometimes listened in on the party line (Country folk shared a single phone line. You had your own unique ring, so you knew when a call was for you. But, many people listened in on other conversations. Hey, this was before cable!). Great-grandma had an amazing button jar to sort through. She also had a jar of pennies that we could play BINGO with. The local radio station played the game over the air waves. You'd call in if you won. It was a simpler time and our family was always together.

Great-grandma moved into a senior living apartment that had a lot of great hallways for silly grandkids to run through. It also had an old fashioned Coke machine where you could get a bottle of soda pop for a dime. It even came with a crabby guy named Charlie who would yell at us and teach us new words while waving his cane in the air. My cousins and I loved to visit her. Her little apartment overlooked the street and she watched the world go by with the ever present background blaring of her TV "programs" (soap operas). I remember once she told me that the high school kids that were walking past her window to the bowling alley for gym class were all going to get Mononucleosis because they kissed all the time. I was young. I was impressionable. I didn't know what Mono was. From that moment on, I feared bowling.

Great-grandma moved her red measuring cup to her apartment with her and she continued to be a great baker and wonderful cook. She measured by proportion and cooked by feel and had many recipes right up inside that white haired head of hers.

I wish I had her recipes. I wish we would have taken the time to have her write them all down. In fact, if you have a wise one in your family that's getting up there in years, have them write things down for you, film them, set down memories!

Grandma made fantastic Date Cookies and Date Bars. I'm sure they involved a pound of butter, another pound of brown sugar, and a pound that goes on your thighs each time you eat one. I created this recipe when I was craving Grandma's date anything. I found a basic recipe online and then lightened it up tremendously.

I hope you enjoy them. I think they're quite delicious and taste ALMOST as good as Grandma's.

Date Bars

Serves 24 at 3 WW Points per serving.

1 package regular yellow cake mix
1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
2 large bananas
1/2 cup egg substitute or two eggs
1 1/2 cup dried dates
1/4 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place first four ingredients in your mixer bowl. Mix on low until combined, turn to medium-high and let it whirl until mixture is light and fluffy (approximately 2 minutes). Lower mixer speed and toss in dates and pecans. Mix until combined. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter in pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before cutting (if you can wait that long!).

Just What is a Boundtrack?

You know how movies have sound tracks? Well, now books have Boundtracks! Clever idea, right? Designed to complement the book, featuring songs that inspired the author while she was writing.

Jean Reynolds Page, author of the recently published novel THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER came up with the idea.

I think it's brilliant! I'm always open to new music and I'm an obsessive reader.

You can read more about it over at Booking Mama.

And yes, this is a shameless plug so that I can try to win the book! Now, it's your turn. Go ahead and enter the contest. The more entries she gets, the more books they're giving out!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rainy Day

I love the change of seasons. I even love an occasional rainy day. If I have nothing to do, but putter around the house anyway, a good, cool rainy day is a nice change of pace. It calls to me, to settle in, hunker down, bake bread or make soup. I like to light a crackling fire in the fireplace or burn some candles. I like to put on my wool clogs and a cozy sweater.

One of my favorite soups to make is this rustic chicken soup. It always starts with a leftover roast chicken, bones and all. The rest is pretty much up to what I have on hand. It's thrifty and can make a ginormous batch, so be prepared to freeze the leftovers or eat it until it comes out of your ears.

Chicken Dumpling Soup

I have no idea how many WW Points each servings is. I should really figure that out, shouldn't I? I apologize, but every time I make this it involves different ingredients. Soups are traditionally very low in Points if you skim the fat and keep the meat portion down. Sometimes I leave the dumplings out and just make a fabulous chicken vegetable or add rice or pasta in place of the dumplings.

These are not light, fluffy dumplings, but more dense, extremely filling. Everyone we've served this soup to love them, even though they weigh a ton!

1 leftover whole roasted chicken, remove the skin if you have time

Several stalks of celery, chopped

Several carrots, chopped

a heaping TB of minced garlic

1 large onion chopped

2-3 bay leaves

Place all of the above in a large pot, cover with water, and let simmer for several hours. Strain out chicken and remove and discard bones. If you have time, you may want to strain out all the vegetables, cool the broth, and skim off any fat. Chop any meat and return to pot, along with any escaping vegetables that have come out with the chicken.

Now, for the use up any vegetables that may be lurking in your fridge or freezer part.

Add as many vegetables as you wish. I love adding turnips, more carrots, rutabagas, cabbage, peas, corn, green beans, fresh tomatoes, you name it! I usually clear out the vegetable bin in my fridge and sometimes I keep a bag in the freezer that I dump in small leftover amounts of veggies into just for this purpose. Yes, the bag looks a little gross, but mark it as Soup Veggies, and put in those couple of tablespoons that are leftover after dinner and before you know it, you'll have lots to put in your delicious soup!

If the veggies are fresh, simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. If you're adding rice or pasta, add it now. Don't add rice or pasta if you're making the dumplings.


6 eggs

a big splash of milk (1/2 to 3/4 cup)

a dash of salt

enough flour to make a stiff dough

Sorry, this is my mom's "recipe". It's the best I can give you and it really works. Just mix it all together until it's like very soft biscuit dough. Drop by spoonfuls into simmering broth. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes more.


Bad Mom, Oh the Guilt

Today is field trip day to a local nature center for Young One. It's on, rain or shine, the permission slip said. And it's pouring. And, what do we find out this morning? His, what I thought was a rain jacket, is not really a rain jacket. It's a wind breaker.

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who is chaperoning the field trip. She said, isn't it great that we'll find out that their rain gear works before the four day fifth grade trip this weekend? I told her our situation and the hope that they wouldn't be outside all day. She was silent. I asked her to give him a garbage bag if it gets bad. She laughed.

The guilt. I feel so bad.

This is supposed to be my job and I royally screwed up today. I hate this feeling.

Just Like the Olden Days

I had to buy a new phone today. No, we didn't break one. No, we really didn't NEED one. But, I had to. You see, with three cordless handsets and one corded phone in our bedroom, that just wasn't enough for us.

We're a family that misplaces cordless phones or cannot be counted on to charge them. We're the people who miss phone calls because the handsets are buried underneath the newspaper or hiding in the dog bed. We're the ones who rush around madly while on the phone with Young One's teacher, hoping that the conversation doesn't drop while trying to sound like we're not running around madly, before a fully charged handset is found.

We're phone losers.

I remember pre-cordless phone days. I remember having to actually sit or stand in one place, completely focused on a phone call. We didn't multitask in the 70s. I believe Jimmy Carter had something to do with it. I remember when the first cordless phones came out, with retractable antennae and weighing in like a newborn baby. We didn't get one for years, until our "perfectly good" rotary phone bit the dust. I think my mom is still using that cordless monstrosity. It's still, "perfectly good."

I bought a wall mounted, corded phone for the kitchen. It has that long squiggly cord that allows you to wander just so much before the handset is catapulted out of your hand, wildly careening back to its base. It's actually a pretty cool phone, based on phone designs of the 1940s, so think solid, chrome, retro. It looks pretty funky on the wall and it rings just like the olden days, with a bell. Or a computer facsimile of a bell. Regardless of what makes it ring, it's just like the olden days. It's made us smile about 4 times this evening. Well, two of those phone calls were from us, calling home on our cell phones, just to hear it ring. (Yep, I know, we're phone losers.)

I will no longer have to follow my aging ears in that mad search for a handset, just to discover that its a telemarketer or political campaign ad mascarading as a real human being calling. (The last one said, Hi, this is Bob." So, I said, "Hi Bob", but he didn't give me time to say, "Hi Bob." He just kept talking. And I thought, Wow, how rude, and why does he think I'm a union member? He keeps calling me a fellow union member. And then I couldn't pay attention to Bob because I was too busy wondering how I got on his list to call. And the Bob hung up on me. I don't even think he said goodbye. And once again, I thought, how rude.)

Deep Breath. Apologies. I'm rambling again.

I made the first phone call on my snazzy new phone to my mom. It's always important to break in a new phone with a call to someone you love. Mom makes the best Sloppy Joes in the world. I wanted to make them tonight, so I called her for the recipe. I can't completely duplicate them, but this is as close to a recipe as I'll ever get. There's something mom puts in them, that I can't, and that's her years of experience. Maybe one day, Young One will want my fabulous recipe for something that he'll never be able to make just like mom.

Sloppy Grandma Jo's
Young One has called her Grandma Jo since he could make his first words.
Serves 6 at 5 WW Points per serving. Bun not included in tally.

1 lb. of extra lean ground beef (sub ground turkey breast, I'm sure it would be fine!)
1 small onion, minced
1 green pepper, cored and seeded, diced
a couple of stalks of celery, diced

Brown the above together until ground meat is well done. Add:
1 can tomato soup
1 TB lemon juice
some brown sugar--a small handful (1/4 cup?)
some ketchup--a really big squirt
some mustard--not as much as the ketchup, maybe 1 TB
chili powder--not too much, we're Scandinavian after all
I put in some garlic powder because I couldn't help myself. Then let them simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often, and serve on light, toasted buns.
Everyone has their own recipe for Sloppy Joes. Some call them Loose Meat (that makes my stomach cringe). Mom always put celery in. I left it out because D hates it. Maybe that's the secret. No, the secret is her experience, her love--and a little bitty part of me thinks she's holding back so that we'll come visit for Sloppy Grandma Jo's. I'll get the real recipe with her will (it's a can of Manwich! and I'll hear her laughing from the grave.)

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!