If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I OD'd on Gravy

We had a delightful Thanksgiving. My brother hosted and it was so delicious, BUT we love our own leftovers, so I ended up making the dinner for our little family on Friday. OK, so we love the idea of our own leftovers until we spend three days eating turkey! I made our meal as Weight Watchers friendly as I could and turkey IS one of the most weight loss friendly foods there is, but, I still OD'd on gravy. I'm sure there are healthier versions of gravy out there, but I only know how to make it as my Grandma taught me--with the pan drippings. Oh well, 'tis the season and I refuse to miss out.

We at turkey almost all weekend. Young One still took sandwiches for lunch today. He could probably eat it every day, he just loves it so much. I'm done, though.
I worked out hard this am (penance?) and am getting back on track. Hence, this tried and true mac and cheese for dinner. I'm looking forward to vegetables (Campbells Green Bean Casserole cannot be considered a vegetable). I'm looking forward to salad. I'm looking forward to a meal that doesn't put me in a turkey induced coma after consuming it. I'm not looking forward to my weigh in on Friday. I skipped last week. I know, I know, not healthy, I should have just faced it, but quite honestly, in all the craziness of taking care of my mom, I forgot!

Still busy taking care of my mom, so this quick recipe fits right in with my day. I hope you enjoy!

Back on Track Mac

Makes 8 servings at 5 WW Points per serving. My version is probably even lower since I use high fiber, Ronzoni macaroni. Young One hates the breadcrumbs on top, so I try to leave a portion uncovered. The breadcrumbs do help keep the macaroni from drying out on top.

12 oz uncooked Ronzoni macaroni, elbow-type
1/2 cup(s) fat-free sour cream
12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
8 oz low-fat cheddar or colby cheese, shredded
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp dried bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cook pasta according to package directions without added fat or salt; drain and transfer to a large bowl. While pasta is still hot, stir in sour cream; set aside.
Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles appear just around the edges (known as scalding). Reduce heat to low, add cheese and simmer until cheese melts, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, about 2 minutes; remove from heat and stir in mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add cheese mixture to pasta; mix well. Transfer to a 3-quart casserole dish.
Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; sprinkle over pasta.
Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In Gratitude

  • For being incredibly fortunate and having so much compared to many in this world.

  • For my family and especially my two boys, D and Young One.

  • For the ability to laugh together with family.

  • For my brother, who has hosted Thanksgiving I don't know how many years now.
  • And for D for helping me cook our own Thanksgiving dinner the day after, just because we want our own leftovers!!

  • For the Bald Eagles that circle my house almost every day. I never go tired of watching them.

  • For Young One's many friends. Listening to them play Rock Band has both made me giggle and brought tears to my eyes. They're growing up so fast, but yet still little boys. Love it!

  • For my mom's surgeon, who's talents helped mom go through her surgery without serious issues or complications. And for having her home before the holiday.

  • For my Grandmas, one 97 and one 84. They are like second mothers to me and also really good friends. I treasure my talks with each of them.

  • For my dogs. For their comic relief and cuddling just when it's needed.

  • For my simple, happy life.

  • For my wool felt clogs. I dig them out every year and just love the warmth they provide.

  • For my nursing education. Although, I'm not working, it still comes in handy almost daily.

  • For the smell of hot cider simmering on the stove.

  • For the week of school off so I could spend time with Young One after being away at the hospital so much.

  • For a gathering of friends.

  • For hands on, homemade gift making.

  • For a bit of peace and quiet and time to myself, before another busy time.

  • For the ability to write it out when I need to.

  • For the time of Thanksgiving.
There's so much more that I'm thankful for, but these are the things that just came to mind in the last five minutes. I decided just to let my mind wander and my fingers follow and this is what came out. I am so thankful this year.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you. May you hold your family and friends close and enjoy this day of togetherness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It's been a long week. I'm home for a bit, before having to run out and help my mom get to the doctor today.

Her surgery went well, but the nursing care at the hospital wasn't the best. She left the hospital on Saturday night and is now in a transitional care unit in a nursing home, where the nursing care is careless and nonexistent. She's now fighting an infection in her incision which was most certainly caused by careless care.


It's hard to be a nurse and have your mom (who's also a nurse) be a patient. You see so much that is WRONG. And then when you're vocal about it, YOU'RE made to feel WRONG. I've watched nurses not wash their hands between patients, not change my mom's dressing, not be available for assistance, and basically not following or being aware of the surgeon's orders (some of this is not their fault, they are so overworked and understaffed, they don't have time to be meticulous).

I would guess 9 out of 10 nurses and nursing assistants, physical therapists, and occupational therapists snapped and chomped their gum throughout their time with mom. Unprofessional to say the least, gum chewing is a great way to spread your germs around--and to ingest airborne germs from your patients (gross, huh?). Oh and it's just plain annoying. But, the gum chewing isn't a huge deal. That can be fixed with a little policy enforcement and education.

The rest of it, well, it's just a mess. I pity anyone who has to be in the system. And let's face it, we all end up there from time to time. And I would estimate, most people know nothing about how it should be, nor can they advocate for themselves. I pity the poor person who cannot communicate, but who has full awareness (as many do in nursing homes).

Our health care system is so broken. We have to fix it. I watched nurses assigned to twelve heavy load patients. I watched one nursing assistant assigned to an entire hospital unit. I've watched my mom trying to jump through all the hoops, cross all the t's, dot all the i's on the acres of paperwork required by insurance companies, Medicare, and the hospital--AND STILL THERE IS MORE AND STILL THERE WILL BE SOME SILLY LITTLE THING THAT THEY WON'T PAY FOR OR CLAIM THAT SHE DID WRONG SO THAT THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR SOMETHING.

Once in the transitional care unit, I watched my mom not receive her medication for almost twenty four hours. The nurse's excuse, "I forgot and went home." I watched one nurse, responsible for passing medications for an estimated 60 patients as well as be responsible for all of their dressing changes, treatments, and assessments (imagine trying to do that for 8 hours). This job is her second job. She was thrilled to get to work a double shift all night long and is frantically looking for a third job just to meet her living expenses. This while insurance company CEOs and health care administrators make billion dollar salaries.

In my past experience as a nurse, I've watched drug representatives (sales people) bring in free lunches, give away event tickets, and offer free trips for "education" to physicians. I specifically remember a week long trip to Bermuda that one of my docs took with his wife and family, where they handed him a pamphlet about their product, asked him to use it and to remember who paid for the trip. Yep, he kept prescribing the product, even though it was later found to cause severe health issues for it's users.

Corruption. Inadequate care. A broken system.

The lesson from this? We have to abolish the ability to profit from health care in this country. I believe that it should be illegal to profit from human suffering. We have to stop gouging patients, burning out nurses, and not paying staff a living wage. We need to free patients from the worry of paperwork and the fear that they will not be able to afford their care. Or free them from making the decision either to receive care or pay their living expenses. We need to make sure that everyone can just get what they need, when they need it.

In the meantime, teach your children, to be advocates for themselves. My mother can speak for herself. She's educated about her medications and care. She knows a thing or two (or ten) about health care. And yet, she still didn't get good care.

Do not be passive. Speak up. We have to rally and fight for a better system. Because, what we have is broken. It doesn't work. And we are the ones who suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where Am I?

It's Wednesday morning at 7:30, well not really. I'm scheduling this to post then.

Right at that moment, I will be waiting with my mom before they take her into surgery. She's having a knee replacement. I will have been up since 4 am and probably pretty groggy and most likely damning myself for ever quitting caffeine. Mom will be nervous, but putting on a good front for the nurses. She will have told them I'm a nurse and that she's a nurse, which I hate. They treat you differently then. When it comes to me and my own family, I like to be treated just like everyone else. Dumb it down for me, speak slowly, treat me like I'm an idiot. Because as stressed out as I usually am in those situations, I don't want to use my brain. I just want someone to do it for me!

Mom has been putting this surgery off for a while, so this day is a long time coming. Watching my mom struggle with a weight related issue was one of the reasons I woke up and started doing something about my own situation. Look at your mom and you'll see part, if not all, of your future. I don't want a knee replacement. I don't want weight related pains and aches, and immobility. I don't want any of it.

Who knows what damage my fat years have already done? That's in the past, though. And I'm marching on.

If you have a minute, say a prayer for my mom. She's scared and probably hurting and could use all the positive energy you can send along. Thanks. I'll be busy taking care of her for the next few days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Five


Time of My Life by Allison Win Scotch

I heard about this book over at Booking Mama, so I put it on my library request list. I guess I was ahead of the herd, because this book arrived very quickly. It now has many more requests, so it must be getting good reviews on the net.

When I picked it up, I thought I was just going to breeze through another Chick Lit read, but this book had so much more to it. The premise is, what would you do if you could go back in time and live your life over again. Would you make the same choices? What would happen if you picked another person to marry? These are the questions facing heroine Jillian. She seems to have everything. A beautiful suburban home, a wonderful husband, and an adorable daughter. She's bored and unhappy, though. Her husband works long hours, their marriage is strained, she's tired of the relentlessness of motherhood, and her high standards and drive for perfection is driving her crazy. Hearing that an old boyfriend is getting married, she wonders what life would have been life if she wouldn't have let that one get away.

Magically whisked back in time, Jillian faces her past life with new eyes. Her choices ultimately lead her right back to where she was, but with some fantastic changes. Yes, I saw it coming, yes, it was relatively predictable, but this book got me thinking about some really serious things. Would I do it over again if I had the chance? And what would I change?

I highly recommend.

Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer

I love local authors. Julie is practically a neighbor, living just a community away from me.

Every once in a while, I need to read a thriller. A quick mystery, something that makes me want to race to the end of the book while savoring every page. This is that book.

Riley Spartz is an investigative reporter for a local television station. She recently had a horrific loss and is just easing herself back into work. While doing a story about a homicide, she begins to piece together the evidence of a serial killer. Once a year, on the same date for many years, women named Susan have been murdered. Riley begins to investigate, building a story with many twists and turns. Her news director isn't supportive of the story and forces her to investigate a pet cremation scandal, that makes an interesting side story.

I loved the inside view of an investigative reporter. The challenges they face are unique; Riley's story is extremely personal. In November, as the deadly anniversary approaches, sweeps means if it bleeds, it leads. As the book comes to it's climactic conclusion, I found myself wishing for more.

It's a page turner. I loved the local references. Loved the story. I look forward to more from Ms. Kramer.

Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

This is what happens when I wander the aisles of my library (like a kid in a candy store). I bring home stacks of books that sound tempting at a glance. When I get home, I'm always amazed at what I've found. I absolutely adored this book. Maybe it's because it was set, once again, in my hometown Minneapolis, but references to our city were few and far between (or nonexistent). I think it was the title that grabbed me.

Ruth is a busy wife and mother who loves to bake. No, that's not quite right. She's found something meditative about baking. It's her "happy place" when things are falling apart around her. She finds comfort in the exact measurements, the science of baking if you will. She gets lost in recipes and loves to tweak them to perfection. She's doing a lot of baking lately. Both parents have moved in with her, her teenage daughter has honed her hormone driven angst to exquisite perfection, and her husband has lost his job. The story follows the family through some interesting and enlightening weeks.

A must read. I loved it--especially on the eve of my mom's surgery. I could totally relate!


Funhouse Pink

I adore Pink. I always have. I like strong women with even stronger voices (both musically and personally). Pink says what she thinks and her music is absolutely brilliant. Raw and edgy one minute, provocative the next, she hooked me on the first track. You can hear the emotion surrounding her recent split from her husband. I'd hate to be that guy (or anyone that did her wrong). Pink is one of the most talented artists of our time. Once again, she preaches and I am the choir.

(Please don't censor artists. Purchase the "explicit" version.)


Toasted Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel Bread. My favorite bread. About 1 WW Point per slice, it's my go to breakfast when my brain is still foggy. If you're not familiar with Food for Life Baking Company, you must try their products! This is what bread should be: hearty, healthy, and delicious.

When Young One was really little, he visited a friends house and had lunch there. At that point in his life, he had never had white bread. That's what he was served for lunch. I laughed so hard when he came home and said, "Something was wrong with their bread. It was all white and mushy." Ha!


We eat a lot of salmon at our house. It's one thing that Young One will eat without questioning it or examining it closely to see if there are hidden foods that he hates. I just stocked up on whole fillets for $4 a pound which is such a fantastic deal here in our landlocked state!

Maple Soy Salmon

About 4 WW Points per serving, serves 6.

One whole fillet of salmon

1/4 cup real maple syrup

2 TB soy sauce

as much garlic as you can stand

freshly ground black pepper

In a large, shallow baking dish, place salmon, skin side down. Mix all marinade ingredients and brush on salmon. Let marinate as long as you can in the refrigerator. I didn't have much time (an hour) and it was still delicious. Ginger and sesame oil would be good additions. Line another pan with foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Remove fish from marinade and place on foil. Brush with some of the remaining marinade and toss the rest. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

I served with broccoli couscous (don't get excited it was just a box), winter squash drizzled with honey, and steamed veggies. Yum.


My new keyboard. Thank you Dell. My old laptop keyboard was losing keys rapidly. I think this is my third keyboard on this baby!

Monday, November 17, 2008

You are Worth All This

I think I sometimes forget my own value. It's easy to do when you're a mom. Everyone's needs come before yours. I think it's even stronger with us fat chicks.

I was looking through some old pictures the other day and was shocked when I came across a picture of myself at my heaviest (see above). I was feeling pretty cute that day, having a good time with my guys, skipping rocks into Lake Superior. We were taking lots of pictures, usually something that I used to hide from. There I am, with a big smile on my face, enjoying the day. And I was having fun. But, at the time, I didn't feel worth very much.

Here's the deal. I had just begun to realize that a person who was very near and dear to me wasn't the person I thought she was. I felt betrayed, lied to, and used up. I don't think we talk very much about what it feels like when we as women have toxic friendships and what it feels like when they end. This person, who I felt a sisterhood with, stole from me. She stole money. She stole trust. She lied to me. Worst of all, she hurt my son.

I look back on it now and realize that because of this, I completely stopped caring about myself. I packed on a few more pounds and was at the heaviest point of my life. The hurt was so raw that I can vividly remember this very day filled with joy as being one of the first after so much pain. I think it was that day that I began to care again.

Every day, when I get up, slog into my workout clothes and begin to face another day of eating and living healthfully, it feels like a new beginning. No matter what happened the day before. No matter what happened in my past, it's all new again. It's a great place to be in.

I am happier than I've been in a long time. My life is going so well. I don't have any major stress. I'm finding myself again. I've realized that this person wasn't the sum of my life. That she has her own issues, many she has no clue are even happening because she's so busy tearing through life trying to keep it together. I don't envy her one bit.

I have a wonderful marriage. I'm taking incredible care of myself. I am enjoying my life, my family, my home, my friends. I feel like I have worth again. I'll always keep this picture as a reminder of where I was and where my new life began. (I'm so glad I'm not that big anymore. I'm not where I want to be yet, but that's behind me anyway!)

Seems like a weighty subject (pun intended), but I think a lot about gaining weight has nothing to do with your food intake. Oh, that's the solution, yes, eat less, but I'm speaking about bigger things. I think there is a part of us fat chicks that stops caring about ourselves and when we do again, it's such a wonderful feeling.

I'm pretty sure that losing your worth isn't just relegated to those of us with weight issues. I'm sure it happens to lots of people in lots of situations. We just wear our worthlessness as a big, uncomfortable suit for all to see.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

North House

I want to talk about a place that I love. I think we all have these hidden gems close to home that we just love to visit. My favorite place on Earth is Grand Marais, Minnesota. It's nicknamed the Cape Cod of Minnesota. It's a quaint, part artist colony part rustic, village that sits on the shore of Lake Superior.

I've written about this village before, but I've never really talked about one place there that I admire so much, there. And that's the North House Folk School. On a trip there many years ago, I spoke with some people who were just getting the school up and running. Their idea? To have a place where some of the dying arts could be taught to keep them from disappearing altogether. Things such as knitting, artisan bread baking, boat building, snowshoe making, tool making, woodworking, fiber arts, make your own clothes, and outdoor ecology. They asked if I'd be interested in supporting it, so I did. For years, I was a supporting member of this fine institution.

Sadly, I've never been able to attend a class there. I intend to, when my life becomes more of my own again. Or maybe when I actually just set down, pick a class, and mark it permanently on my calendar. I wonder why I've waited for so long. I'm so interested in so many of the things they teach.

I've vowed that I'm going to do more for me, this should definitely be on the list. Actually, I think I'd like to do something with my whole family. I think we'd all benefit. Young One would love a lot of the classes.

This organization has flourished. It's an absolutely amazing place, with amazing people, and yes I'll say it again, amazing classes.

Are there places like this in your community?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Sandwich Generation

I am the definition of the sandwich generation. I'm taking care of my family and my mom. I help my grandma and my oldest brother. Sometimes I feel like I take care of everyone, but myself!
My mom is having surgery next week, so I'm madly trying to figure out where the kid will be when I'm taking care of her. Menu planning and grocery shopping so they have quick and easy meals to eat. Cleaning my house so that I don't come home to a total disaster. Because Thanksgiving is a week after her surgery, I'm trying to cook ahead and freeze and plan for that as well.

My sister in law suggested pizza for Thanksgiving. That would be fine with me!!

Compared to a lot of people, I've got it easy. I took care of my dad before he died, but mom was fine then. My mom takes the brunt of my Grandmothers' cares. I have a brother who helps out with mom. I don't have anyone living with me and I don't have to care for inlaws or other extended family. I know people who have a parent living with them, several of their own kids, and they care for many of their extended family.
I shouldn't complain, but I'm feeling very frazzled right now! I'm thinking we're going to be eating a lot of sandwiches for dinner in the next few weeks!
So, it's sandwich recipes I share today. They're quick. They're comfort food. They're easy. And clean up is a breeze.

Peanut Butter Cup Grilled Sandwich

This is a treat, not necessarily dinner, but add a big glass of milk and some carrot sticks and fresh strawberries and I suppose you could rationalize that the peanut butter IS protein! Serves 4 at 5 Weight Watchers Points per serving.

8 slices light bread
4 TB peanut butter
4 TB mini chocolate chips
nonstick cooking spray

Spread one tablespoon peanut butter on four slices of bread. Sprinkle with 1 TB of mini chips on each slice. Top with another piece of bread. Preheat a nonstick griddle or pan over medium high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and add sandwiches. Spray the tops of the sandwiches. Cook until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip and brown the other side.

Midnight Snack Attack Banana Split Sandwich

On a similar note, this sweet sandwich is really dessert. Coming in at a whopping 9 WW Points, you've got to plan ahead for this one!! I suppose you could lighten this one up with light bread, get rid of the butter, but it's just fabulous on it's own. I got this recipe from Cooking Light. Great magazine, but many of the recipes are a bit fussy and higher in calories than their magazine title implies.

2 (1-ounce) slices firm white sandwich bread, divided
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon semisweet chocolate minichips
1 large strawberry, thinly sliced
1/2 small banana, cut lengthwise into 3 slices (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon pineapple jam

Spread one side of each white bread slice with 1/2 teaspoon butter. Combine peanut butter and honey; spread over plain side of 1 bread slice. Sprinkle with chocolate chips; top evenly with strawberry slices and banana slices.
Spread pineapple jam over plain side of remaining bread slice. Carefully assemble sandwich.
Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwich; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.

Souper Easy Beef French Dip

Serves 8 (at least, I think it's more like 16 because we don't eat large servings of red meat) at 10 WW Points per serving. Now, this calculation includes all of the au jus, so it's probably much less than that. Serve on light buns to cut the total down from 10 Points to 9. Serve with Point free raw veggies or a big tossed salad. Sweet potato fries are also good with this.

4 pounds rump roast
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed French onion soup
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer
French rolls

Trim excess fat from the rump roast, and place in a slow cooker. Add the beef broth, onion soup and beer. Cook on Low setting for 7 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Warm rolls in the microwave or toast under your broiler.
Slice the meat on the diagonal, and place on the rolls. Serve the sauce for dipping.

Some other quick sandwiches. I can't even call them recipes:

  • The "Busted" Egg: My dad named these, I think. Serve a fried egg or two with the yolks "busted" on toasted bread. You can add cheese, sausage, ham, or bacon.
  • The Reuben or Rachel: Corned Beef or pastrami on rye, with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, grilled.
  • Cheese Toast: in a toaster oven or under the broiler, place bread with a slice of cheese on top. Toast until cheese is melted and bread is toasted.
  • Glorified Grilled Cheese: add bacon and avocado, tomatoes, ham, sprouts and tomatoes, smoked turkey, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, etc.
  • Peanut butter and honey, grilled or cold.
  • Open faced: poached egg, roasted asparagus, and fat free mayo mixed with hot sauce on toasted ciabatta bread; turkey, roasted red peppers, and Muenster cheese, toasted; avocado, sprouts, and your favorite cheese, toasted; sourdough bread, arugula or other spicy greens, thinly sliced roast beef, horseradish sauce or blue cheese crumbles; ciabatta bread, broiled portabella mushroom cap, roasted red peppers, Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy First Snow

We woke to the first, appreciable snow this morning! I believe that's the technical term according to my weather guy. What it looks like outside my window (and only will for a few more hours, it's all melting fast!) is a fairy land.

I love the change of seasons.

Out came the snowboots and even though this will all melt, shoveling had to happen at the bus stop. And snowballs and snowball fights!

Love it.

Happy First Snow!

And wherever you are, I hope your day is just as magical.

Dinner in a Minute

We moms juggle. When I think about my life as a mom, I picture myself mentally, juggling. I've never mastered the skill of really juggling, I've tried several times and ended up once with a black eye from an apple (a brilliant episode in my life). Shortly after that I had to go to an emergency room for an unrelated problem. I was asked by no less than a dozen well-meaning medical people if I felt safe in my home. Number one it was a dorm, so really, the answer was no, but I didn't dare. Number two, I don't know how many times you can say, "I'm fine. I was attacked by fruit while attempting a circus act because my chemistry grade wasn't what it was supposed to be and I was looking into alternate careers."

When I later became a registered nurse and had to bumble my way through ER rotation, I found that most of workers had great senses of humor. Apparently, none of them were on duty that night.

I'm wandering again. It's all this juggling. It's like my brain is juggling and I'm madly typing to keep up with it and I can't quite make it and I really want to make a point, but


Deep Breath.

I believe that moms do more than multi-task. Muti-tasking is for whimps. I mean, right now, I've got laundry tumbling, dinner bubbling, I'm on the phone with the laptop repair man, I'm writing, I'm carrying on an IM conversation with my husband, and I'm petting the dog with one foot and shoving Tech Decks under the couch with the other (Don't ask. I'm attempting to teach Young One the answer to what happens when you leave your teeny toy skateboards in an area where your mom, in bare feet will step on them while carrying a large load of laundry in a basket which will launch six feet in the air while she screams in pain and angst and watches several hours of folding and sock matching scatter on the floor of the family room. Yes, probably the best answer would be to have him help clean up the mess, but he wasn't going to be home for hours and I'm just waiting for him to ask, "Where are my Tech Decks?" And of course my response will be, "I have no idea. You'd better search the house.")

Where was I?

Oh yes, juggling.

Have you ever had one of those days where you're running around doing all the assorted things it takes to make a home a home and it's about a half an hour until dinner time and you have no idea what you're making? You know, those days when you:

  • put the covers back on all the kitchen switches and outlets because they've been off for a project for forever

  • find the replacement shoelace to a shoe because the first one was used to swing Spiderman across a room and didn't survive the trip

  • menu plan while keeping within the budget and finding meals that your kid won't turn his nose up at (or you hubby either)

  • fish Matchbox car parts out of the dryer vent (don't ask)

  • try to figure out how to clean between that impossible to reach without moving the entire oven crack between the stove and the cabinets
  • cut all the coupons that you've left in a pile to cut and then realize you didn't know about most of them when you were menu planning

  • curse menu planning and coupons and anything else that has to do with trying to save money and budgeting and grocery shopping

  • water the plants and accidentally water the dog requiring a towel and a milkbone for the dog and a mop for the floor

  • decide once and for all that cleaning between the stove and the cabinets can happen when we need a new oven

  • make some laundry detergent (this isn't as weird as it sounds, search under homemade cleaners and you'll find my powdered recipe) I made liquid today. More details later.

  • wipe off the counters for the 400th time in one day

  • bake a cake

  • coordinate a playdate

  • do at least 700 loads of laundry

  • realize you forgot to renew the tabs on your car, so you quick run to the licensing office to take a number, wait in line, and then have them skip your number, so you have to make a scene to get service, and everyone in the office looks at you like you're completely looney.

  • get home after receiving new license plates that look awfully funny because they're no longer embossed, but printed digitally, and learn that you can't get the bolts off the old license plate by yourself. And this pains you. Oh, it's awful, because you want to be an independent woman and really don't want to ask your husband to help you with something that he can easily do in five minutes and you curse your wimpy upper arm strength and vow to do more push ups and bicep curls and you'll lateral raise until your delts are steaming.

  • Sort through the giant pile of mittens and gloves and hats and scarves and realize there are no matching pairs and the hats are all too small for Young One's winter wardrobe.
  • Clean a bathroom.
  • Walk with cleaning supplies into another bathroom and stand in a stupor wondering how two human beings can make such a mess in such a short time. Scowl at what looks at an entire tube of toothpaste in the sink. Wonder for two seconds how and why it's there. Entertain the thought of running away to Tahiti rather than cleaning it up. While cleaning it up, realize this is why Mrs. Cleaver took valium.
  • Greet the child as he arrives home, hoping to appear like Mrs. Cleaver minus the apron and the valium.

I have to say, the meet and greet is one of the best parts of my day. I love to see Young One's first smile. I love to just listen, not ask a bunch of questions, but just listen to his day. I love to watch him devour a snack. When I had my business, I didn't get to have this precious time with him. I was too busy and too overwhelmed with all the work to be done that there was really only time for a quick hug and to get him settled before I had to head back to the desk. I do have to be thankful, though, that I rarely had to miss being the person he saw when he got off the bus. That was one perk of being a business owner--I set my own schedule!

Then, all of a sudden, the dinner hour is looming down on me. And with any luck, I've planned something and it's happily defrosted in the fridge. There are those days, though, when last minute dinner planning does happen. Thankfully, I usually have something around the house for just such a day. Sometimes it's breakfast for dinner, sometimes it's jazzed up sandwiches, sometimes frozen pizza and a tossed salad, sometimes the leftover buffet.

Pasta is almost always an option. This is one of our favorites. Don't try to juggle this recipe. It pretty much needs your entire attention for about 7 minutes. You can do it. Focus.

Shrimp Noodle Bowls

This recipe is quick to the table and delightfully delicious. Shrimp and pasta tossed with veggies in an Asian sauce. Please use your recipe builder to confirm Weight Watchers Points. It all depends on the ingredients you use. My recipe below is approximately 7 Points per serving and serves 6 generously.

1 box Ronzoni spaghetti (or other high fiber pasta)

1 bunch green onions, cleaned and chopped

1 bag broccoli cole slaw

1 16 ounce bag of medium-sized, cooked shrimp, thaw under cold, running water and drain well

Light Asian salad dressing--Ken's Steak House brand is great, Newman's Own is fab

Cook pasta as directed. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium high heat, spray with nonstick cooking spray, add onions and cook until tender. Remove from heat and set aside until pasta is done and draining. Place pan back on medium-high heat and add shrimp and broccoli slaw. Stir fry until crisp tender. Add noddles and toss to combine. Add Asian salad dressing, approximately 1/4 cup at a time, until noodles are coated and flavors are combined.

Add any veggies you have around. Peapods and red peppers would be delightful additions.

This is great with fresh mangoes topped with a little coconut for dessert.

The picture above is a delightful creation by ChimeraCrochet. Please visit her etsy store. I find her work filled with whimsy. She's very talented.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans Day!

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Got the Look

An Early Version of The Look

No, I'm not quoting Sheena Easton. And for those of you that are too young to remember Sheena, shame on you. OK, now did I remember that song correctly? Shame on me. "You've got the look. somethin something somethin my book..."

I'm getting old.

The look I'm talking about is the one I've been waiting a long time to receive. I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. When it did, it shook me to the core. I wasn't prepared.

You know what it's like to be the bad guy all the time? I mean, the bad mom. The one who makes sure the vitamins are taken, vegetables eaten, doctor appointments kept, right clothes are worn, and teeth are brushed. Sometimes I find myself biting my tongue and thinking, "pick your battles." This wasn't one of those times, though.

I had to step in. You see, we got our first few flakes of snow today. It didn't stick around for long once it hit the ground, but this morning's trek to the bus stop was wet and slushy. Time to put the Crocs, with their strategically placed holes just perfect for soaking toes, away. Young One wanted no part of this, so he glared at me, defiantly put on his hiking shoes and headed out the door. And right before he left, without saying a word and definitely not speaking to me (something that has never happened before either!), he shot me The Look.

You know The Look. It's in caps for a reason. It's The Look that we gave our parents when we started exercising that age old quest for independence. The Look that says, you're so mean and I don't care, but I'm going to shoot you this Look so that you hurt to the core because I'll do what you say, but I'm not going to like it. I think it's basically the double evil eye, but honed to perfection by several hundred years of genetic mutations.

The Look, coupled with the silent treatment hit me so hard, I started to cry. I wasn't quite ready for it and before I could put on my Mom Mask of Steel, I lost it.

Through my tears, I said goodbye and that you shouldn't leave anyone in anger--that's a hard and fast rule in our home. But, he was strong. He held forth and strutted to the bus stop where he ignored the neighbors and stared up at the snowflakes coming down.

I watched out the living room window (from a safe distance from the windows--I didn't want him to see me!!), trying to come to terms with the fact that he just might leave without fixing things.

And then he ran home, gave me a huge hug, and said, "I'm sorry Mommy." I forgave him and he got back to the stop just in time to hop on the bus. (And yes, he still calls me Mommy. I'm waiting for the day when some cruel kid makes fun of him for this, but oh well. I think in public I may be Mom, but at home I get the extra m and the finishing y.)

Maybe I am doing something right.

This growing older business is difficult on us moms. The problems get so much bigger and there are more emotions involved. I'm not looking forward to the emotional stuff that goes along with being a pre-teen and eventually, a full blown raging bag of hormones.

Young One has never given us a bit of trouble. If anything, he goes beyond overboard when it comes to rules and has a hard time prying the stick out of his heiney to have a good time. He's the kid that will button his polo shirt up to the top for school pictures and dreamed of being on the school patrol early in his elementary school career. Now that he is one, Bus Cop is the formal title, the power and authority can go to his head! He likes clear expectations, clear rules. Thank goodness for his tender heart and his sense of humor!

Maybe he'll rebel. He'll become a Republican (sorry my Red friends, but I just had to get that in!) He won't recycle. He'll refuse to eat his carrots. He'll (gasp) stand up on the bus while the vehicle is in motion (Section 4, Article 2a of the Bus Cop Code).

The Look, though, it scared me. I think I'm going to have to start taking some lessons or rely on my mom friends who've survived these trying years. If this is just the beginning, I'm in trouble.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

You Make Your Own WHAT?

"You. Make. Your. Own. Laundry. Detergent?" And then, I got a blank, but wide-eyed stare.

Yes I do. I just started about two weeks ago and so far, so good.

It's so simple and it works like a charm. It smells really nice, gets our clothes clean, and, best of all, it's fantastically cheap.

This is the powdered version. I think it works best in warm water. I have a high efficiency, front-load washer, and I've found that it doesn't completely dissolve out of the dispenser in cold loads. So, I'm going to make the liquid version as soon as my bottle of liquid runs out. I'll let you know how it works. My prediction? I'm sure it will be just fine.

I think we have become a society of people who have become used to having things made for us. Things that our Grandmothers would never have dreamed of purchasing, we do, without a second thought. As well, our purchased laundry detergents are filled with unpronounceable chemicals. Do we really need to add more to our environment?

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 cup grated Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap, Zote also works well (grate in your food processor-- don't worry, it will wash completely clean, it's soap after all!)

½ cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
½ cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Mix and store in airtight container or bag. For light loads, use 2 tablespoons. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.

Note: To make a large batch, grate six bars of Fels Naptha Soap, and then add 3 cups of Super Washing Soda and 3 cups 20 Mule Team Borax. Mix well and store in a covered container.

Tip: These recipes will not make suds in your washer, so don't be alarmed. Fels Naptha is a pure soap, which makes it perfect for use in the new high-efficiency washers as well as traditional washers. The only proof you'll need of how well this laundry product works is to take a look at the dirty wash water. You may also notice the need to either reduce the amount of laundry softener you use or even eliminate the use of softener completely.

This great recipe and many wonderful soaps are from http://www.soapsgonebuy.com/

Fels Naptha is a fantastic stain remover. I always keep a bar handy in the laundry room.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Smashed Taters

I'm so sympathizing with my neighbor. She and I (and her husband and I) have been debating election issues since Sarah Palin was announced as the Republican VP candidate. Poor M, she came over wearing a Palin supporter t-shirt just as I had received word of the Obama Waffles. And, just when I was PMS-ing to the max. She got an earful and the intense debates began from that point forward.

So, I was thinking about what she should do with all her pent up angst about Obama's election. I cheerily told her, "It's going to be fine," but I'm sure my euphoric bliss didn't really communicate just how sorry I was for her.

When Bush won again four years ago, I had also just lost my dad. Needless to say, it was a sad time in my life AND I was grieving for my dad too. With all that going on, I baked a heck of a lot of bread. I needed to knead and muscle and make something submit to all my anger and sadness. Bread was a good victim.

For my neighbor, though? I suggested Smashed Potatoes. Nope, not mashed potatoes. These are smashed and you can take a lot of satisfaction in doing so.

Yes, I'm a liberal, but I'm not without sympathy. McCain's last speech was heartfelt and classy--a side of him that I wish we would have seen more of AND the side of him that made me respect him in the first place. (Don't get me started on Palin. I'm still detoxing.)

Here you go. Smashed potatoes. They're a great side dish and you could top them like potato skins for a fantastic appetizer.

Both parties agree, smashing root vegetables is highly enjoyable.

Smashed Potatoes

Please figure Weight Watchers Points as you would red potatoes. Be sure to include any oil or toppings that you use.

small red potatoes--as many as your family will eat
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepperyour favorite herbs: rosemary, thyme, and/or marjoram are good-- herbs are optional
olive oil or nonstick cooking spray

Scrub potatoes. Cut any that are large in size, so that all are relatively the same size. Cook in a large pot of boiling, salted water until tender. Drain completely. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or brushed with olive oil, place potatoes so that there's room for smashing between them. Smash each with a potato masher or a fork keeping them just rustically smashed, not mashed! Spray potatoes with nonstick cooking spray if you're watching your calories or drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes or until edges and tops are crispy.

You may top with bacon bits and cheese and serve with sour cream if you want to go completely potato gaga.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Five


Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagen

Gibby survived an auto accident that claimed the lives of both of her parents. She survived, but she's NQR (not quite right) and now lives with her Grandpa. This book is filled with Southern charm and characters. Set in the 1970s, you get a peek into the way of the world there and then. This novel has a little mystery, a little romance, and a lot of humor. Gibby's inside view of a head injured patient was fascinating to me. It was an easy read, a nice story, and a great way to spend a few hours.

Thanks to Booking Mama for this recommendation. You can follow a link to her blog on the right sidebar of mine.


Spring Awakening The Original Broadway Cast

Warning, you just might sing along. This isn't one that you want to listen to with the kids around, the lyrics are explicit. This musical is based on Frank Wedekind's scandalous 1891 drama, but kicked up a bit with modern rock music. Teen angst is universal. This musical is filled with "rage, frustration, confusion, excitement, joy, anger, and of course budding lust of those hormone-driven years" (Elisabeth Vincentelli). Unfortunately, this musical is closing on Broadway. I had so hoped I would get to see it.


Clove oil. I just love essential oils and clove is one of my very favorites. I have some sprinkled on some scentless potpourri and it's making my first floor smell like I'm baking or like those oranges studded with cloves.


Crustless Pumpkin Pie. So simple and hits that pumpkin pie craving without going overboard. Simply purchase a can of pumpkin pie filling, mix a directed using fat free evaporated milk, and bake in a 9x13 inch pan until a knife comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool and top with fat free Cool Whip. Serves 12 at about 1 Point per serving.


I got a beautiful hand painted antique plate at a thrift store this morning with my mom. It's muted shades of blue and gold with a Dutch windmill. Very soothing and very well painted. Mom and I love to go antiquing, but we don't like to pay antique store prices, so we go and search garage sales and thrift stores. I also got a great coat for our little dog who gets really cold in the winter and a Puzz3D for Young One.

Yes We Can!

I was up so late last night! Celebrating, crying, cheering, and loving every minute of it. Hope is back after eight, long years. Thank God. Maybe we can be a UNITED States again.

Tony Morrison was on Good Morning America this morning. Her quote sums it up:
"In this country, race is not the measure, it's larger than that. It's not just a African American who won the Presidency, it's this particular man. This here, African American. And I think that the larger number of people who were inspired by him, of all races, felt that, felt that particularity about him."

If you missed President-elect (I get such a thrill calling him that) Obama's acceptance speech, please watch and listen. If you didn't vote for him, please listen with an open heart and mind. Can you feel it?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Anticipation!!! A Watched Election Never Ends or How to Pass the Time While Waiting for the Results Without getting Into a Political Debate

Oprah's got me crying. Seeing those new citizens vote. Well, that's just what this is all about, isn't it?

I'm going nuts sitting here waiting for the election results. So, what am I doing? Well, I'm sending away for free samples.

Here's a good one:

Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' keeps me blogging. Try Dunkin' Donuts Coffee For Free. Get a Sample

I'm a coffee addict. I've switched to decaf, but D will appreciate this free sample!


537 People decided the 2000 election.

Your vote does count. No matter what, get out today and vote or your voice WILL NOT be heard.

People have died for this right. Citizens of other countries envy this right. Don't waste it.

"There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."- Barack Obama

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm Joe the Plumber

Listen and watch the whole "Joe the Plumber" encounter and you just might learn something. Not only do I like his ideas, but I like how he presents them.


Still Undecided?

We're down to the wire, thank God. I'm so looking forward to Charmin and cat food commercials on Wednesday!

My hope is that tomorrow is a clear victory for Barack Obama. I don't think our country could handle another election like 2000 and I know we wouldn't survive another eight years of the same mismanagement. Our country has been so divided for eight years. I'd like to see us as the UNITED States again.

It's time for a dignified, intelligent, honest President. I have to say, I haven't been real proud to be part of this country. That statement seems to incite rage in a lot of people. Hear me out, though. The last eight years have been a complete mess. Our country is near bankruptcy. We're fighting an unjust war that is depleting our resources. Health care expenses are raging out of control and the innocent victims are the seriously ill and the poor. We're melting our polar ice caps (supposedly, they will be gone in five years) and we're doing nothing about it. We aren't linking our country with effective mass transit and alternate sources of fuel and cars that run on them. Our economy is struggling to say the least. The corruption of our system is becoming more and more obvious to other countries.

I used to be very proud of our country. Maybe pride isn't quite the right word. I still believe we've got a really great country, but I'm ashamed of a lot of what we've been doing. This war, it gets me crazy. Here we're fighting a war with no concrete objective and no true measure of success. Meanwhile, we sit idly by as a genocide is occurring in Darfur. I actually get physically sick when I think about how this is actually like forgetting the Holocaust.

If you can't vote on the issues, then imagine our country with President Palin at the helm. She's a brilliant teleprompter reader, but she can't lead. As mayor of Wasilla, she took the city budget from surplus to extreme deficit. She claims we're "fighting God's war" in Iraq--a dangerous and misleading comment, not to mention the whole separation of church and state issue. This fact alone makes her just as dangerous as the terrorists, who also believe they're fighting "God's war." Her expensive wardrobe is just one example of her poor judgement. Troopergate is another. It's proven that she revels in crony-ism. And she agrees with Cheney that the VP should have more power--a frightening opinion that is completely against our Constitution.

(Sarah got pranked this week and it's making the rounds. Quite honestly, I felt sorry for her. I'm not without compassion. She seemed to have a hard time understanding them and really thought she was speaking to the right person. That could happen to anyone and really isn't a fair measure of her abilities. See, I'm giving an inch, right?)

If you're still undecided, then take a moment to think about where we were eight years ago. Clinton left our country with a surplus, Bush is leaving it in economic ruins. By his own admission, in his own words, McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time. Can our country handle more of this?

Please, no matter what, get out an vote. It's not over until the fat lady sings and I won't be singing until quite late tomorrow night! No matter how long the lines, no matter how bad the weather is, if your feet hurt, your dog died, you forgot to drink enough coffee, your head hurts, your car won't start, you're waiting for the mail, you're waiting for a phone call, your clothes don't match, your afraid of election judges, you're claustrophobic in booths, your kid is sick, you're running late, you feel stupid with an "I voted" sticker on, your polling place is too cold, you're hungry, or you're tired, you still have to vote.

Our kids are depending on us. Vote Obama. (And in about 30 years, let's look for this little girl in the video on the ballot!)

Now, a promise to my Republican friends: I'm done trying to convince you. Just vote. I still love ya.

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