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.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Breakfast

Pull Aparts
24 ounces frozen dinner roll dough
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix--I've used cook and serve too, either works
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup melted butter

The night or several hours before, grease a 9 or 10 inch bundt pan (do NOT use an angel food tube pan, it will leak and burn). Mix brown sugar and pudding mix, white sugar and cinnamon together. Place frozen dinner rolls in pan a layer at a time. Sprinkle part of the sugar and pudding mix over a layer of rolls. Spread half the nuts and melted butter over that. Repeat until it's all layered in the pan.

Place on counter over night. Do not cover. Stare in awe at it's enormity the next morning. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for 30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes and turn pan over onto serving platter or onto wax paper on the counter.

Warning: Husbands with high cholesterol adore these. Serve with a side of fiber, a long walk, and Lipitor.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our Daily Bread...Pudding

You know what happens when you're expecting company and you light a fire in the fireplace without opening the chimney flue? You have to make bread pudding.

It makes perfect sense to me. Let me explain. Smoke doesn't smell good. Bread pudding does. By the time Young One's friend was here to finish working on their social studies project, our house only smelled like cinnamon and vanilla.

We needed a little comfort food this weekend. This is a super easy dessert. It's frugal because it uses up stale bread (or the ends of the loaves that no one seems to eat that find their way to a bag in my freezer to perish as breadcrumbs for breading or meatloaf). I lightened it up and I think it could use less sugar if you wanted to cut the calories even more.

Tastes best served nice and warm. I usually plan to take it out of the oven right before dinner is served. This recipe stands alone just fine or would be lovely with vanilla sauce, caramel, or sweet cream.

Super Sweet and Simple Bread Pudding

6 slices of bread
2 TB melted butter
4 eggs or egg substitute or equivalent egg whites
2 cups skim milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8x8 inch pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, tear up bread into bite size pieces. Drizzle with melted butter. Mix all remaining ingredients until well combined and pour over bread pieces. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Will Always and Forever Be...Your Duckman

Young One's locker keeps jamming because the girl next to him doesn't clean hers out. The papers from her locker ooze out and cause her neighbor's lockers to jam. Annoying, yes, but not life ending. I told him to talk to her about it. He blushed a ferocious shade of red and said, "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhm" and left the room. She's pretty cute, I've seen her. Maybe one day her messiness will be endearing.

I'm flashing forward to prom dates, corsages, first dates...

Now flashing back to my own school locker neighbors. I wonder what happened to the Duck Man that was next to me. He wore white shoes just like Ducky's. He drank vodka mixed with milk from an old Thermos. He told me it kept his ulcers at bay. And, apparently, fed his addiction. I wonder about him from time to time. I was always nice to him. Felt sorry for him. Worried about him.

In a school that held strong boundary lines between groups, I walked over the lines a lot. Our lockers were assigned by alphabetical order. I could have swapped with someone to be closer to my group of friends, but I never did. I preferred to have my own space.

My Ducky made me laugh between classes. We had our inside jokes. Sometimes, looking back on it, I wonder if I was the only person at school that was nice to him. He didn't have a lot of money. He dressed in his own creations of combination thrift store and hand me down. His white shoes were maybe meant to be fun, but my suspicions were that they were his one and only pair.

I wonder what's become of my Duck Man. I guess I need to do a little digging.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

14 Phone Calls Later...

I woke up this morning, not feeling quite right. Seems the urinary tract infection that I was in denial about yesterday was raging this morning. My back was killing me. I knew I had to get to the doctor.

  • One phone call later, the appointment was made.

Home again, antibiotics in hand, I settled in on the couch to prepare for Confirmation lessons tonight. I'd taken this antibiotic one other time before, so I knew what to expect. I'll feel better as the day goes on. I've had these infections before. They suck, but I caught this one very early.

And then, itchy throat, ears, eyes, skin, difficulty breathing, heavy chest--I was having an allergic reaction.

  • One phone call to the doctor.

  • One phone call to the hubby.

  • One phone call to Young One's friend's mom to let her know their study date was off this afternoon because I wouldn't be able to pick them up.

  • One phone call to school to leave a message for Young One that I won't be picking him and his friend up from school.

  • One phone call to church to call in the subs.

  • Three phone calls to a friend to see if she could sub for Confirmation.

  • One phone call from said friend to clarify sub details.

  • Two phone calls from the doctor's office.

  • One phone call to sit on hold returning the doctor's call.

  • One phone call back to church to let them know a sub was arranged.

Benadryl, Aveeno, rest, new antibiotic. Repeat all until well again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tangerine Dreams

A busy day requires an easy dinner or one that is already done when you get home. I made this recipe up from ingredients that I had on hand. We loved it.

Sage might be a nice change, I'll probably try that next time.

Tangerine Pork Roast

1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp tangerine peel, zested
1 TB brown sugar
2 tangerines, juiced
1 bone in or boneless pork loin roast

Place roast in crock pot that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place first five ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Squeeze zested tangerines over the roast in the crock pot. Rub roast with spice rub. Cook on low 10-12 hours or high 6 hours. Roast will fall apart when it's done. Great served as a roast the first day and as shredded pork sandwiches the next. Leftovers freeze well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Extra Extra! Read All About It! Just Not Here!

Started a family blog for family news. I'm still going to maintain Take a Whisk as my foodie and personal blog, but expanding out to include more friends and family over at I Love You Same.

See ya there (and still here).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome Home.

"How was your day?"

Even when I was working full time plus on my business, I was almost always able to pause in my day and meet Young One as he got off the bus after school. This flexibility was really the best part about being a business owner. I wish I would have taken more "because I'm the boss" benefits than I did, but, hindsight is 20/20.

My day is still bracketed by the departure and the arrival of the school bus. Every morning is a bittersweet goodbye, every afternoon a warm welcome home. I get a little apprehensive each afternoon, I have to admit. Could today be the day he comes home in tears, slighted by a friend, bullied by a peer? Is today a celebratory day or one in which he's hardly in the door before he blurts out after school plans with a friend? Is there a joke, fresh on his lips, ready to be delivered in a "wait, wait, I got it wrong, it goes like this" kind of way?

I am so blessed, feel so privileged to be the one that's there for him, no matter what. A constant presence. A ready ear and a welcome home. My job is to make sure he feels valued, important, supported. I do it gladly. I can't imagine giving that position to someone else. I can't imagine missing out on this.

A snack or a drink is usually the first order of business. It's not just a habit, it's a necessity. Lunch or brunch as we now call it takes place at 10:30 in the morning. By afternoon, there's at least one hollow leg to fill.

Today, however, it was a quick drink and a rush to the garage to hop on a scooter. Up and down the driveway and our block, he punctuated his laps with glimpses of his day. "I lost a tooth in Mr. Skinner's class. He asked if anything else was going to fall off?" "The girl in the locker next to me had so much garbage hanging out of her locker it jammed mine!" "Did you know that DJ Hero Renegade gets better reviews than the old regular kind." "Some kid's baby sister threw up on his SHOES. Isn't that gross?"

We talk. Occasionally he asks me about my day. Sometimes we just sit in companionable silence. It's not a huge part of our day, but it's a necessary one. The winding down, transitioning into home life again.

"You're my touch stone, Emma." A quote from Terms of Endearment.

I hope that I am Young One's touch stone. Someone to come to, listen to until he can speak no more, a place that gives him rest, a sounding board. I hope that I can always be that for him. I don't think there's any more important thing to be.

The house smells like baking apples! What a great way to make a house feel cozy and welcoming. Warm apple sauce that simmered all day makes a great after school snack. It's very easy to make and can lend that Martha Stewart/June Cleaver sort of sense of accomplishment without mental anguish, a starched apron, or Valium.

All Day Applesauce

Fill your crock pot with washed, peeled, cored, and slice apples. Overfill it if you can. Sprinkle with brown sugar and a liberal amount of cinnamon. Squeeze in half a lemon. Simmer on low until softened. Taste for sweetness and add a little more sugar if needed. It's best if left a little bit tart.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boys to Men

Had to do a little shopping for clothes over the weekend. Not fun with a kid who hates to shop for clothes, but what can you do? Capri pants on a preteen boy is not a good look.

We attempted to purchase a few things at Old Navy, but wound up leaving with one pair of pajamas and one shirt. "The colors are too weird here."

I knew it was best we found things that he would actually wear, but my patience was running thin. My, "You don't see anything here that you like," sounded strained even to my ears.

We're entering uncharted territory on this adventure called parenthood. Gone are the days when I could bring home a shirt with the latest superhero from a movie or video game. We went through a stage where nothing with stripes could cross our threshold. That ruled out almost 99.4% of all boys shirts made on this planet. Rules also dictated that while PJ's could be irreverent and funny, shirts worn to school could not. For this, I am thankful. The thought of backing up a kid who feels he being unfairly treated by a teacher when he's known to wear a shirt that says My Sister Barfed on My Homework still strikes fear in my heart.

He's not into skater boy style, thank God. I have an unspoken rule against skulls on clothing, but he seems to have picked up on that and agrees with me. He's somewhere between skater boy and Ralph Lauren. No skulls, no sagging pants, and definitely no sweater vests or plaid shirts. I think his style could be titled "Don't notice me, no scratchy bits, plain-but-the-color-has-to-be-right, and comfortable."

So, that's what we went looking for. Nothing that could possibly be "made fun of" was purchased. Think middle school camouflage. Nor did we bring home anything that was uncomfortable or itchy. One striped shirt made it home, so that phase must be over. D commented that my poker face reaction to this purchase was Oscar worthy.

But, all of this, relatively boring, right? I mean, what mom doesn't go out shopping with their kid? What mom doesn't go through the style dictations of their twelve year old? What mom doesn't make the transition from being able to purchase clothes FOR her child to purchasing WITH her child?

We all do, but that's not what stopped me in my tracks this weekend.

What could possibly make me hide behind a clearance rack for a little longer than a bargain shopper usually does? What could have me contemplating wiping my tears with a polo shirt the size of a five year old?

We're leaving boys department. He's too big! And the difference between a boy's XL and a men's S is not that great. Mostly men's size small came home with us and he doesn't need to grow into them.

I had to have a moment in the boy's department. We're not completely saying goodbye. He still has a few inches to grow before he can fit into man pants, but I doubt that will take long. He's tall and skinny. He's my eye to eye guy now and will soon pass me up. I think he may be taller than his dad's six feet someday.

I sent Young One and D off to peruse the few toys and video games that the store carries just for this purpose. I know somewhere in a security office hidden away in the dismal depths of the store a security guard was muttering, "We have another one." I took a walk down memory lane. I wandered through the little boy section that bordered the big boy clothes. I stroked a little suit complete with bow tie and held up a sweat suit the size of my mom purse. I crossed the border into Baby Land and got weak in my knees near the Onesies.

The time goes by so quickly and most of it is lost in diaper changes, sleepless nights, play dates, permission slips, and school supply lists. And these moments, those that slam into your chest and have you gasping, are few, but potent.

Growing up is inevitable, so is growing older. I weave my aging throughout his growing and together, we're creating this tight bonded fabric of love. Schmaltzy, I know, but it's where I am right now. I'm standing back and standing with him. He needs me less, and more.

Bittersweet is the only word I can think of to describe this time in our lives. I love it and hate it all at the same time.

I got to hold a baby the other day and I was more than happy to hand him back to his mother. I wouldn't want to go back in time for anything. We're where we've grown together to be. But, I have a feeling, there are going to be lots of Mommy tears in my future.

Next time, I'll have Kleenex.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home is Where My Heart is

But, That Doesn't Mean Yours Should be Too

Somewhere Over the Suburbs

In the last two weeks, two people have commented about how they would go "stark raving mad" if they had to stay home all day. Both used those exact same words. One time, yes, I did take notice, but twice? And in such a short time period?

It got me thinking.

Isn't it wonderful that we're all wired differently?

I could have gotten all defensive and tried to educate them on the beauty of staying at home and how I'd been where they are and done that and didn't like it so much. Honestly, though, I know they meant nothing bad towards me by saying it. What I decided to do, and what's working for me in many areas of my life, is to change the one thing that I can control.

My reaction.

I'm learning, through lots of grit and sheer willpower that I can only control me and that I really need to realize that most people mean well. And those that are trying to get a rise out of me by baiting me by tempting me with "this means war" words are more miffed by my nonreaction than if I would go all postal on them.

I'm in a really happy place in my life. I'm at peace with my choices. I honestly can putter around my house, content to take care of it and find little projects to occupy my time. When I worked outside the home, yes, I cleaned and cooked in the minimal minutes I had when I wasn't working, but it wasn't the same. I was unhappy and hardly had the time to even notice that I was.

Who am I to judge someone else, though, that's making their way in the world the way they want to?

You have to do what makes you happy. I can't walk in your business black pumps, nor can you fill my Keen walking shoes.

I make our house a home and I delight in it. What others see as a prison sentence soothes me. I look forward to those blank days on the calendar when I can just be at home. I might rearrange and redecorate. I might make meals for the freezer. I may sew or paint or clear out some clutter. I may have the washing machine, the dryer, and the dishwasher humming, my iPod buzzin' in my ears as I get out the Thankgiving decorations.

I write. I work on volunteer projects. I make plans. I balance the budget. I find the replacement part for the little dohickey that screws the attachements on my Kitchen Aid mixer. I match socks. I talk on the phone. I schedule appointments. I menu plan and figure out ways to save money. I figure out solutions to those things that could drive someone spread a little bit thinner insane.
I manage the house and in return, I get weekends again.

It feeds my soul.

I've been on the other side of the Mommy Wars. You know, the I work harder/faster/better/longer than you struggle that has plagued women since the burning of the bras. If we'd just let go of it and just say, "I'm happy with what I'm doing." And let that just stand alone.

Perhaps it's that we're not.

So, if you're not doing what makes you happiest? Why not? What would you want to do with your days if you could do anything? What would you have to do/sacrifice/change in your life that could get you to your happy place? I honestly think it's possible, but you've got to really change your mindset.

This isn't to say that I don't have days when I curse at the laundry and I shake my fist at the empty milk carton in the refrigerator. I have my moments when I would rather pull out my own fingernails than empty the dishwasher for the third time in a day, but, overall, I'm happy and content with my life at home. It took me a while to get here, but I'm happy that this has been my evolution as a mom, woman, and wife.

It works for me. It's brought my son back to what he was before owning a business put him second. It allows me, on the days when my disease doesn't let me function, to just focus on healing. It helps my husband pursue the career he loves without worrying about what's going on at home. Yes, we have traditional roles, but I'm anything but a traditional stay at home mother.

I challenge you to find that place that makes you happiest and if you're not there, figure out how to get there. It might not be as hard as you think it is.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three Cups of Coffee Praise Jesus!

My Favorite Church.
I'm not a demonstrative worshipper. I get a little freaked out every week at confirmation class worship time when the singing of the songs and the waving of the arms starts.

I'm not a song singing with the accompanying actions kind of girl. I'm not even a good, do the actions halfheartedly so to be a good example to my students, kind of girl. This Little Light of Mine strikes fear in my heart. My light is more like the one in your fridge. It turns on when you open me up a bit, but in a big crowd of people, I'm just not going to be waving it around. At least not in the traditional raise your hand and wave your pointer finger around like a light way.

My group of confirmation boys is wild and laughing and a big jumble of talking and sharing and NOISE in our small group class time. Get them in the worship part of the evening and they turn back into sullen, eye rolling, bored preteens. And I'm OK with that.

They're relatively focused and sort of paying attention. Last week, one of them clapped along with one line of one song. I did a victory dance (inside me, quietly, and my little light was turned on).

Now, could I be doing the actions, uncomfortably dancing my way through the worship service just to be a good example to the kids? Yes, I could, but that wouldn't be me. I'm a big believer in celebrating the unique gifts of each person. My boys just might not be gifted in the action area. More than likely, several of them are secretly doing the actions at home practicing for the moment when they're going to BREAK OUT and dare to be Action Man. But, odds are, at least half of them are just like me.

Our gifts lie in other areas.

Need someone to be the butt of a joke, wander across the stage as Moses, or talk about my Spiritual Journey? I'm your girl. Need someone to read a Bible verse, come up with a creative idea to get the kids excited and learning? I'm your girl.

My Little Light is shining, the flame is just a little different from yours. The boys are learning through my example that it's OK to be you, whoever you are, and to celebrate that. So, I won't force them to do anything that just doesn't fit with their personalities. Their gifts will be uncovered soon. My goal is to get them to start thinking about these gifts and perhaps one day, they'll share them.

Wednesday nights are busy for us and Confirmation hits smack dab around the dinner hour. The secret to navigating these busy nights is planning. So, it's either a crock pot meal or sandwiches. This is one of our favorites.

Lemon Pepper Pulled Pork
Makes a great meal and use the leftovers to make Cuban sandwiches the next day (or freeze to make Cubans the next time you have a busy day!)
One large bone in pork loin roast (or boneless, I'm not fussy)
2 1/2 tsp garlic pepper--garlic pepper IS a spice and is required for this recipe
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 TB fresh lemon juice, bottled is fine, but fresh is best
2 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 cups water
Spray crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Pierce pork roast several times with a knife. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and pour over roast in crock pot. Turn roast several times to make sure marinade is covering it. Cook on low 10-12 hours or high 5-6 hours, basting with liquid in the bottom of the crock pot if you can. Remove roast from crock pot and shred with two forks, tossing all fat and bones. Return to crock pot to combine with juices. Serve on buns with cole slaw to top or as a main dish with rice and steamed veggies. Makes a great baked potato topper too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And to Top it All Off, there's an Ed, Edd, and Eddy Marathon TiVoed

I Demand Hazard Pay

I've come to the realization that I would not be a good single mother. Not only are my math skills terrible (more later), but I couldn't open a bottle of maple syrup without becoming a complete ninny AND I burned the pancakes I muddled together for dinner.

I bow down to all you single moms who hit the ground running from the early am and are able to keep it up all day without kicking a puppy.

Normally, I revel in the travels of D, but he was gone all weekend and headed out Monday morning to San Fran and I'm lonely. To top it all off, Young One has large math assignment that involves fractions and I "do them wrong." Apparently, there is a method involving a grid, an automatic pencil, and an extra hamster to run in the wheel that powers my brain.

Deep breath.

And, on we go.

We're experiencing 60 degree temps here in Mighty Minnesota, weather we should have experienced last month, but it was snowing then. I noticed on the way home from picking up the latest release of blood and gore in video game form, that my festive fall arrangements on the porch are rotting. Lovely.

It appeared that someone kicked in one of the pumpkins I had jauntily arranged by the front porch. On closer inspection, it was revealed that it was, literally, crumbling in upon itself. Learn from my mistakes. Never pick up an old pumpkin. Use a shovel or backhoe or other farm equipment. Said pumpkin oozed through my hands. I swear I'll be off pumpkin pie for ages.

I'm a mess without you, babe. Come home soon. (And please, don't tell me all about Fisherman's Wharf or the sad state of your room service breakfast--you might find an oozing gourd stuffed in your pillow case).

Emergency chocolate is required. I may have already posted this recipe or a variation of it, but I'm too pissy and tired to look for myself. Deal with it. (Oh, and enjoy.)

Ten Second Emergency Chocolate Needed Brownies

A package of low to no fat brownie mix, No Pudge is good
Vanilla yogurt, fat free

Mix brownie mix with as much yogurt as it takes to make a thick batter. You know what brownie batter should look like. Google it if you don't, I have no patience right now. Bake at 350 until done (knife inserted comes out clean). These are relatively (cough cough) healthy and taste great. Lick the bowl while they're baking.

Happy Birthday Sesame Street

Sesame Street turns 40 today. I turn 40 next March. We both grew up together.

My son gasped when I told him that Elmo didn't exist when I watched Sesame Street as a kid.

I remember the First Gordon. Well, it was in reruns because I think I was two when he left, but I still remember! I remember when the set was nothing but one little section of the Street. I remember the first versions of the Muppets. I remember when everyone thought that Big Bird's friend Snuffleupagus was his imaginary friend and how frustrated he'd get when they wouldn't believe him.

Anyone else remember Mr. Hooper?

So Happy Birthday Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Bob, Grover, Oscar, Gordan, Susan, Count, Elmo, Prairie Dawn, Snuffie, and everyone else that I can't remember.

Our Sesame Street years went by so quickly here, but I still love it. If I had the time, I'd probably tune in daily. I once had a goal to work on Sesame Street. The peaceful, loving people that populated it's cast and crew still amaze me.

I'm so sorry for the video, but I heard it on the radio this am and had to share it. It got me giggling. There have been many parodies of Sesame Street. I remember when a group decided to boycott Sesame Street because of it's gay characters--Bert and Ernie. Um. OK. They're Muppets and roommates, not a groundbreaking TV story line. And even if they were, who cares...

Through it all, this show has introduced children to education, to peaceful living, and how to love and care for one another. It has carried on, it's timeless, and I hope it lives forever.

Happy Birthday.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Other Mother

You have to be at least 80 to rock a Christmas vest and turtle neck.

Norman is my Grandma. Her real name is Betty.

She's my favorite old lady.

I've called her Norman since I was a kid. Norman after Henry Fonda's character in On Golden Pond, one of my favorite movies.

She called me Ethel, after Kate Hepburn's character in the same movie. My nickname never stuck. I can't say I'm unhappy about that fact.

Norman is fun. We laugh until the tears roll. She shares her wisdom with me without me even knowing I'm learning. She tells me about the lean years, living in the Depression, and how she snagged such a cool cat like my Grandpa. She never has a cross word, goes easily along with everything anyone wants to do, and is happiest just being with her family.

I stayed at her house Saturday night. We had a bit of a slumber party, visited the guys out at the cabin, and then returned to her house. We looked at old pictures and as I cleaned her living and dining room, she told me about all her little figurines and doodads.

What a fun time. I have to do this more often. As I watched her struggle to walk from place to place and the vagueness that would come over her face from time to time, I realized, I won't have this person in my life forever. And I want to soak her in as much as I can.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Need vs. Want: A Lesson in Frugality

I'm struggling with a want lately. A want for something that's really not necessary. It's not really critical to my physical or mental well-being. I suppose that I could rationalize that it is, but it's not. Truthfully. Really. Elizabeth. It's. Not. Necessary.

But, I want it. I want it so bad, I can reach out and almost touch it. I can taste it, visualize it, almost feel it in my hands.

It's a hard lesson learned, but sometimes the needs have to win out over the wants. I strive to teach this to my son on almost a daily basis. And he reacts to it as I'd like to. Sometimes with stony silence. Sometimes with tears. Eventually, though, there is acquiescence.

I'm waiting for that big word to dawn upon me. I want acceptance to draw over me like a warm blanket. You don't need it. You want it. You have other needs that must go before it. There are others without anything that you should help first. You. Have. So. Much.

When I get this way, wanting, wanting, wanting, something, anything that I just don't require, I try to remind myself of how much I really have. Of how lucky I truly am. I try to throw myself into volunteer work, charity. I read about injustices and the lack of very basic things in other countries or right in my own backyard.
I remind myself and try to quiet my desperation with reflection on what is really important.

It's not easy. We're blasted with consumerism everywhere we turn. I think that's why I've unplugged so much. I don't watch much TV anymore. I'm not really interested. And if I do, I TiVo it so I can zoom through the commercials. Recently, I was instructed on the presence of the Snuggie in our world by my son. Who knew one needed a blanket with sleeves and yet there it is. A completely unnecessary item that will soon clutter the shelves of thrift stores every where. Look for them near the S'more Makers and the Billy Bass Singing Fish.

The Internet is a great thing, but shopping on it is like having a Mall in your home 24/7. I've watched people I know consumed by this Mall's proximity. The cardboard boxes piled up like dirty little secrets are a sure giveaway.

I have taken a thankful approach to our struggling economy. I'm seeing more families make wiser decisions with their money and how much they consume. I've watched our neighborhood library and park usage soar. I've taken great pleasure in listening to others talking about breaking out the board games instead of heading to the movies. Connecting instead of passively consuming.

In these "struggling economic times" I still have so much. I still want, but the reminders that need vs want are very different things are all around me. I just have to look for them and keep looking. And when the feeling still doesn't go away, I look again, closer, until it all becomes crystal clear.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Hunting We Will Go, Well, Not Me

This is the house that Bob built.

Tis the season in Minnesota to see people dressed in bright orange and heading into the woods.

It's the deer hunting opening weekend here in my great state. Young One and D are heading up North to the family log cabin that my dad built. They'll bond, scratch, shoot stuff, and generally have a good time. It's their thing.

If my cold gets better, I'll visit my grandma and we'll have dinner with the hunters on Saturday night. Can't go exposing her to the germs, so I'm hoping this is short lived. If I'm still sniffling, I'll stay home and have some alone time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the Porch

Happy Harvest! I took it upon myself to go totally Martha on a bunch of squash.

Thursday, November 5, 2009




Take a phantom, Snake (an army dude from a video game), a monster, and Harry Potter. Mix with fresh, chilly Fall air. Sprinkle throughout a neighborhood, add candy liberally. Garnish with pumpkins and finish with a nap on the couch.

That's one great recipe for a Happy Halloween.

7 pounds of candy, most of it forgotten by now. We'll donate to a worthy cause. The smiles and the memories, now that's what was really collected.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Connecting Over a Cup

A long time ago, I had a conversation with a dear one about coffee. I have a deep love affair with my morning Joe. I cheat on my husband with him daily. I sometimes think about him as I fall asleep. Freshly ground, deep, dark, rich coffee. It's my morning ritual and my day is not complete without several cups.

Hot in the morning, iced in the afternoon. Or a hot mug, always present, Joe never lets me down.

My dear one, whom I mentioned earlier, couldn't imagine paying close to $5 for a cup of coffee. "Heck," he said, "I don't even pay that for a pot of coffee." "I hardly pay that for a pound," he went on.

Now, as I've also mentioned, I'm a coffee lover. I made a pilgrimage to Kona just to see the beans on their native hillside. I almost didn't leave the island because of it.

"You're not paying for the coffee," I said in an instant of inspiration. "You're paying for a meeting place, the ability to park at a table and read, write, work, or connect."

And, you know what? I was right.

I spent four hours recently connecting with two other moms across the table, while holding steaming cups of almost $5 coffee. We more than profited from the investment. We bought time. Time away from our daily grind, time to share joys and challenges. Time to laugh and support, commiserate and bond.

Worth every penny.

I'm a bit of a cheapskate. I invest only in things that really mean something to me. I don't cruise the mall, I frequent thrift stores, I cut coupons, and I pinch pennies until they scream. Pay $5 for a cup of coffee? No way. Pay $5 to park at a table and connect with other moms?

You bet your bottom dollar.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Today is all about pure, guilt-free joy. Eat lots of candy, smile and laugh a lot, talk to lots of neighbors, kick a pile of leaves, wonder at a pumpkin carving worth of a museum, get a belly ache from too much candy corn, sip hot cider, marvel at how some of the kids can walk in their costumes, count the vampires and the Britneys, make a kid's night by emptying your candy bowl into his bag, savor the smiles.

My dad died five years ago today. The anniversary of his death reminds me that life is short, eat the candy, celebrate the happiness without any guilt. Set aside your worries and enjoy the joy. My dad always wished that he had done more of that. His greatest regret, shared with me on his last lucid day stays with me.

I'm not down today. I'm happy that this day is pure kid enjoyment from top to bottom. Dad would like it that way.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Evolving and Revolving

.Scootin' away to a friend's house and then coming back home again. Those out of my sight trips teach us both so much.

I remember when I was a new mother. I was all about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and completely immersed in mommydom. Our little world was small, population 2, with a third that came and went as his career allowed.

Bit by bit, we left that town, and joined the masses. It didn't happen in leaps and bounds, and I wasn't dragged kicking and screaming, hoping to remain.

Growing up and becoming independent is an unstoppable evolution. Sometimes, when I speak with mothers who fight it, I wonder why, but more importantly, how do they do it?

Since birth, Young One has made the unstoppable journey to independence and I've reveled in it. That's not to say I don't get a little teary and long for the days that his little hand sought out mine! Those days are over and with their passing comes new tender moments. He needs me differently, and sometimes in better ways. Less physical, more spiritual.

Attachment parenting became a trendy term a long time ago. Honestly, those that subscribe to it really don't need to name it. Attachment parenting simply means to be in tune and connected with your kid. I don't know many moms who aren't, so to attach (pun intended) the term really seems silly to me.

Call it my own Mommy evolution. I needed those terms when Young One was younger to feel validated. I needed to name my parenting style. It didn't last long for me. I wasn't a vigilante breastfeeder. Young One weaned himself. I didn't get caught up in the mommy wars of I'm better than you are because I _____________. (Fill in the blank with: feed all organic food, weave my own diapers from hemp and recycled newspapers or what have you.) But, I had the need back then to focus completely in. At the time, I couldn't see out of the box I had put myself in.

Now, looking back, I find a lot of it funny. I'm seeing that part of me again in younger mothers. It must be a necessary part of the journey. What I've gained from it is to look to more experienced mothers when I'm struggling with whatever phase we're in. I wish I would have done more of that when I was a younger mom.

Like I said, I couldn't see outside my little world and now, when I see that in others, it gets to me. I want to shake them and say, this time in their lives is so fleeting. Look outside your world and look to the future. Your birth experience, your breastfeeding, they're just blips on the radar of motherhood. They don't define you as much as you think they do and they certainly don't define you for as long as you think they will.

When your children reach out for independence, as they are genetically driven to do, you've got to step back from your own agendas and let them fly. Your attachment in the early years will serve them well if you did your job right. They'll return again and again, just in a very different way.

We humans seem to have the need to label things. Wrap them up in tight little boxes tagged with a judgment. We do it to ourselves, we do it to each other. I can't solve it, I know, but I can cut the string those neat little boxes are wrapped up with. I can look closer at my own label, the one I put on myself and the ones others put on me. And I can create a new one.

This self reflection is getting a little too deep and it's taken up the time I should have could have would have made dinner. Thank God for the forethought to stick something in the crock pot. Tonight's it's pork roast, with crumbled freshly dried herbs and lemon peel. Yum.

Lemon Peel Pork Roast
3-5 lb pork loin roast, boneless or bone-in
1 head of garlic
1 whole lemon
your favorite herbs: I used freshly dried herbs from my CSA, rosemary and thyme, about 1 tsp each
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cut slits into pork roast and insert peeled garlic cloves, as many as you like or your family can stand! Zest your lemon into a small bowl. Crumble dried herbs into the bowl and mix all with salt and pepper. Rub or sprinkle onto pork roast. Cook on low 8-10 hours or until someone in your family says, "I'm starving, when do we eat?" Roast is done when it's internal temp is 165 degrees. If it's cooked all day, it will fall apart, so don't serve this if you want an impressive roast to carve at the table.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's All in the Attitude

Bad pictures, but you get the gist. Big instrument. Much pride.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grab and Go

Notice how I demonstrated the proper technique of not overmixing the muffins. It is not a unmixed bit of flour you see, but superior muffin technology.

It's been a busy week. Lots of meetings and activities and play dates. It's end of the quarter for school, so there are last minute projects, assignments, and tests to study for. I said yes way too many times and now I'm paying the price.

Turns out I wasn't the only mom last night that was spread thin. Most of the friends and acquaintances I saw last night, all arrived the same way I did. Out of breath, sweating, scattered, and cursing the fact that all activities like this seem to be planned for right around dinner time.

Last night was Young One's first middle school orchestra concert. He's been so excited to start playing the upright bass after two years of playing the cello. This big, bad instrument has been his goal since starting orchestra.

I know that part of it has to do with the fact that it's the biggest instrument in the orchestra. You know, a kind of, "mine is bigger than yours" mentality. He walked around in his almost a tux uniform, parading the big bad thing in front of as many of his classmates as he could. I overheard him telling a bunch of kids that it weighs, "more than I do."

I was lucky enough to chat with a more experienced parent of a bass player. She gave me some helpful hints on how to navigate life with an instrument that has it's own zip code. I had volunteered to rally some sixth grade Mom Troops to chaperon the kids before the concert. Orchestra kids are really great kids, so really, there wasn't much to do. Of course, I found someone to chat with!

One of the things I learned when I was working full time plus on our business was to have a lot of grab and go things in the freezer. Muffins or banana bread can round out a cheese stick and a glass of milk to make a quick meal. It's also portable, as in, "GrabamuffinIfilledyourwaterbottlealreadyIknowyou'resickofstringcheesegetsomeanywayandgetinthecar."

Last night was the concert, today is the Pumpkin Run at school, tonight is a meeting for Confirmation guides, and tomorrow I'm participating in a math placement focus group for school. Friday is a dance at school and Young One is going to a friend's house. Saturday is Halloween and Sunday church and then I'm going to fall on the floor. Monday morning it starts again.

Apple "Clean out the Cereal Cupboard" Muffins
1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg--freshly grated is best
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped fine
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil--you could sub applesauce, I did and they turned out great
1 egg or the equivalent of egg substitute
2 cups Raisin Bran or high fiber cereal with fruit--I used Kashi something or other with cranberries-- you could use all the leftover cereal you have, you know those bottom of the bag amounts that aren't enough to fill up a husband or kid with, but end up in your cupboard languishing until you either throw them out or feed them to the birds. I wouldn't recommend the cereals that are really just big bags of sugar because not only do they look frightening in muffins (trust me), but they don't taste very good either.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Set aside. Peel, core, and chop apple. Mix milk, vegetable oil OR apple sauce, and egg, whisking well. Add wet ingredients, apple, and cereal to dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Do not over mix. Place in equal amounts in muffin tins and bake for about 15 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
If you want to freeze and bake later, freeze in paper liners in the muffin tins overnight and pop out into freezer zip bags. You can pull them out and bake from frozen (increase baking time). Or bake and freeze, defrost in the microwave for quick grab and go breakfast, in the car "meals, or snacks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Apples and Pumpkins

A trip to an orchard and a pumpkin patch is a must in the Fall.

The next day, I made All Day Apple Butter with part of the bushel of apples we bought. This recipe is VERY sweet, cut the sugar at least to half and taste and adjust to your preferences once the cooking process is well underway.

Since my dad had a 350 tree orchard, I know not to buy the first quality apples. I always get the ones that are a little battered. Still delicious, they're a little ugly, with leaf spots and maybe a bird peck or two. They taste the same and cost half the price!

I was able to score a bushel of Cortlands for next to nothing. They're a delicious eating apple with bright white flesh. The secret to really awesome apple recipes is to use a mix of many different types of apples, but since I got such a great deal on these, I couldn't pass them up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Go Tom

A Walk in the Park

We love Minnehaha Park. Sea Salt closes on October 25. We had to get in one more trip there for Po'Boys and a wander along the Mississippi.
It was cold, Young One wanted ice cream anyway.
The leaves were beautiful, the fresh air delightful, and the time away from responsibilities was very much needed.
We'll return again in the Spring when Sea Salt opens again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Experimental Kitchen Adventures or Cooking without a Net

Every once in a while you've got to just turn your kids loose in the kitchen. My recipe for Graham Cracker pie will go down in history as the single best recipe developed and conceived by a four year old. I kid you not. Mom was busy, I managed to get the oven on thanks to the creative use of a couple of phone books and a step stool, and I was just getting ready to place said pie in the oven when mom realized I had been quiet long enough to be dangerous.

Oh, I'll share the recipe with you if you insist. I believe it was smashed graham crackers, water, and a couple of shakes of cinnamon sugar. I couldn't reach the chocolate chips that mom had stashed away for emergencies like PMS and kids baking.

Our 1970s oven was chocolate brown. I can still see it as my little hands reached for the dial. I wonder what setting I was planning to bake it on? Perhaps nuclear broil and that's actually what alerted mom to my presence in the kitchen.

Oh, but I'm wandering.

I'm a strong believer in learning to cook by feel. I once cooked with someone who followed a recipe for garlic mashed potatoes. She actually measured the five pound bag of potatoes she had purchased to see if they were really five pounds as the recipe dictated. I know that my cooking style would have made better potatoes in less time and with less kitchen utensil use. (Boil them, mash them, throw in some cream cheese if you've got it, sour cream if you don't, a little milk, and roasted garlic or fresh minced, or whatever, sprinkle with fresh chives, or not...Garlic Mashers for Six with Leftovers and no Kitchen Scale Use)

Mom taught me how to cook without recipes. Unless you're baking, it's not that hard. Baking requires a certain amount of measuring, but I still get experimental.
Young One loves to peel apples with our handy dandy apple peeler corer slicer (HDAPCS for short). He was bored. He needed something to do. I challenged him to make apple crisp, but do so without a recipe. "Impossible," my follow the rules, color inside the lines, guy says.

I was up for the challenge and feeling particularly patient, two things required of one if you wish to be in the kitchen with kids. I also was willing to put up with a moderate amount of mess.

So, I walked him through making crisp.

Apples-peeled, cored, and sliced-- he was all over this one.

"Now, they need to be sweet and a little flavored, what are you going to do?"

"Cinnamon and sugar?"

"We have a BINGO."

"How are you going to keep them from sticking in the pan?"

"Nonstick spray." Another task he loves, although I'm still wiping it off the back splash, thank you very much.

On to the topping. And we went back and forth on how to make it, what to put in it, how to mix it, etc. It was a fun time. And the result was pretty darn good. I encouraged him to put in some pears that were making the still life of our fruit bowl a little less attractive. He doubted this would work, but went along with my spirit of creativity. He added a dash of vanilla to the filling just because, and it was a delightful addition.

Basically, I told him that if you have courage and smarts, you can cook. And since he has both, he was downright successful.
The crisp was good. He now can impress his future bride with his talents someday and we'll move on to learning other recipes.
When we were done, he said, "Hey mom, this is like cooking without a net."

Why yes, it is.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm sitting here watching Castaway. I'm not feeling well, still in the denial stages of having the flu. Lounging on the couch between flipping the laundry from the washer to the dryer is pretty much all I can muster. I suppose I should soon move on to the acceptance stage, but I'm fighting it!
(Update, I never did develop full blow flu, I guess instead of Swine, I just had a slight case of Piglet.)

Castaway. Remember that movie? Tom Hanks, plane crash, stranded on a deserted island for years. Well, all I can think of is not what would I eat or drink, but how much I would miss books.

Now, I suppose that if one was stranded on a deserted island, your time would mostly be consumed with survival. Gathering food and water, tending your fire, trying to make clothing from palm trees,fish hides, and coconut shells (now I know you know where those would go). Remodeling your shelter and muttering to oneself would probably occupy the rest of your time.

I think after I got over the fact that I would be denied Buffalo chicken wings and cold drinks with lots of ice for a while, I'd probably start dreaming of books. I'm a reader. As a kid I would get up in the wee hours of the morning, several hours before school started, just so I could settle in with my feet on a heat duct, all wrapped up in my Holly Hobby bathrobe and read. I read The Hobbit, and the Sweet Valley High series. I read romances, Jane Austin, and James Herriot. I read mysteries, bodice rippers, and just about anything I could get my hands on.

Reading saved me. I got lost in the words and escaped a stressful childhood and school experiences that were less than joyful. The words helped heal my first broken heart and they helped me to see that the world was a much bigger place than I could possibly imagine.

I had to get special permission from my parents in order to read beyond the youth section of my public library. My mom doesn't remember that, but I do, vividly. Seems small town kids aren't supposed to rock the boat. But, I was a boat rocker alright--and I had already read through the few shelves of the young adult section. I knew our librarian by her first name and I loved how she would stroke the cover of the books as I checked them out, smile gently, and say, "Ahh, another good one." Then she'd stamp the due date (remember that?) and remove the card to file it in that magical place that only librarians knew about.

My house smells wonderful, I'm making a roast and root veggies, it's warm and dry and Tom Hanks is launching his first attempt at getting off the island. I'm so thankful to be on my own little island, Couch Key, and I'm thankful that I haven't been tried nearly as terribly as Hanks' character. I'm thankful that I've never had to be without my precious books.

They saw me through bad times, and they're still here for the good.

I'm reading 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton. It's a fascinating peek inside terrorism. The language is amazing. I'm savoring every word.

What are you reading? If you're not reading at all, why not?

Castaway Roast

Cause I just have a feeling that Tom Hanks craved comfort food while stranded on his island.

Sprinkle a rump roast with white pepper, black pepper, a smidgen of Cayenne, paprika, thyme, and oregano. Be relatively liberal with each. Sprinkle with a little soy sauce, sprinkle with salt, and rub it all over the roast. Put about 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of a roasting pan that's been sprayed with nonstick spray. Place roast, fat side up in pan.

Roast at 325 until desired doneness. 25 to 30 minutes per pound for rare, 28 to 33 for medium rare, 31 to 36 minutes for medium, and as long as you want for well done (well, not quite, but you know what I mean). Measure temp with an instant read thermometer. Let roast stand at least 10 minutes before carving.

Roasted Roots

Visit your local farmers market or grocery store and buy some of those weird looking veggies that end in 'ip. You know turnIPs and parsnIPs. Buy some big carrots, not the weird nubby ones in the bags. Buy the ones you actually have to peel. Really, it's not that hard, you can handle it. If you're really feeling brave, buy beets. Honestly, they're good. Try them. Then peel them all, chop into big pieces, toss with olive oil, seasalt, pepper, whole garlic cloves and your favorite herbs. I used rosemary this time and roast them until their tender. They'll get odd and wrinkled and unphotogenic, but that's ok, because what you're after is taste . And they taste divine. Young One still thinks the "white things are potatoes, right?" Sure they are.

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