Friday, October 14, 2011

According to Me, at 13, I'm Old!!

Wow. I had a difficult September. Not that I don't like September. There are moments filled with dread when I see the "back to school" ads (post-traumatic stress from my school days....), but September usually involves CAKE for me--it's my birthday month.

But this is the first time I had nightmares of the grim reaper--yes, all you older than me go ahead and laugh--I turned 30 (GASP!!!!)!!!!!

But it's like this--when I was 13 I had it all planned out. High school, College, Babies by 21 or 22 (apparently I wasn't very good at math!). And then there was this black void that I call "the 30s." It was when I would officially be old. Probably wrinkly, ugly, grey-haired. Was I right? Probably.... ;)

So September marked the month of depression.

Good thing I left the depressed mood behind! :)

It's October now, so which mood will it be? So far I'm all about baking. Maybe I should call October "Fatty Month?"

Anyway, I'd like to know from all of you: When you were a kid, which age was "old" and did you have a "life plan" like I did (hopefully yours spanned beyond 30)?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

But What Can We Do?

I have heard my friends ask this question over and over: What can I do to make some extra cash since I am a stay-at-home parent?
Simply Google this question, and you will find several thousand companies asking you for money for the answer. There are weekend retreats that may charge thousands to 'answer' this question for you. And of course there are books galore to give you new ideas.

But I'm going to give you some suggestions--yes, right here--for free. It's my good deed of the day. :)

1. Secret shopping. No joke. You can earn some decent money doing this. Plus, you get to bring your kids on many of the jobs! If you have never heard of secret shopping before, it is the way many retailers and restaurants check up on their employees. They hire everyday, average people to pose as a customer, and have a task to be performed (such as, purchase one item, then return it or dine during dinner hours and evaluate your server's performance). You can be reimbursed for your fees, plus are paid for your work.

The How: visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association
click on your continent
click on the green 'available jobs' link.
This link will retrieve all of the open jobs for many companies. All of these companies are legitimate. This is where I find the names of the companies I want to work for. I search online for the company, register with them (usually requires some writing examples) and then they should send an e-mail with registration information.

Keep in mind that many companies only have a few open jobs each month, so you will need quite an arsenal of companies that you are registered with to keep busy.

Each company has their own particularities--one I work for requires I use cash for all purchases (bleh). And they take about a month and a half to reimburse and pay me (blarb) for the completed work.

Ooh! And it is also important to note that several major companies list their reimbursement at an extremely LOW price at the beginning of the month, but it will be increased toward the end of the month! Sometimes I don't even begin to look for work with these companies until the 20th or later.

2. Begin a dinner-4-hire business.
I used to babysit many children (okay, so I ran a daycare). Somehow amidst the chaos and feeding schedules I managed to cook a healthy dinner for my family. The parents would ooh and ahhh over the food as they picked up their little ones. So I worked out a deal. I would double or triple my recipe on the day I watched their children. They would reimburse me for ingredients and donate for labor. And they would get a home-cooked, made-with-love meal that was ready immediately. Win, win, right?

3. Direct Sales- I am and have been a consultant for Mary Kay for several years. And yes, there is potential for making some very good money! I should warn you though, that you may have to pimp out your friends and family for a short time in the beginning to round up friends for makeover parties and skincare classes...whom will then introduce you to their friends...whom will then introduce you to their friends. And then by that point they're really like strangers and it doesn't feel so dirty.

Pros of the business: Flexibility! You really can make your own hours. Place customer calls during naptimes, calculate sales after bedtime, drop off samples and orders after the park or with kids in the car. It really is do-able. The one thing is that, in the beginning, you will definitely need some sitters or you'll have to rely on spouse/family for childcare during parties, where you are assisting and demonstrating products. BUT that is also a 'pro' for the job--Alone time!

4. Eldercare. I would have not considered it, had it not been family. But if you could see the joy that having children around brings to my grandmothers.... It can be difficult say, if your children are the type that bounce off walls 24/7 or run toward any crevice in the walls or doors of any kind (doggie doors included) to break free in any given moment.

Awww, isn't she a cutie(My friend's girl, Little "B" as a baby escapee) ?!!

Eldercare involves bathroom help. So there are definitely moments in which I am not able to have my eyes on my youngest (thank you, oh thank you, super responsible eldest!!). And thank goodness for port-a-cribs and baby gates!

Some elderly persons are still able to leave the house, which makes park visits and trips out for errands a fun treat for anyone not having the luxury of sharing these moments with they younger type.

I am sugar-coating this a bit, but you can imagine the hairy moments (i.e. the other day when Grandma began disciplining my 5 year-old for jumping around the room or when Grandma couldn't take the noise that children produce during play). But overall, this has been a valuable addition to our family as well as our income.

All of these ideas fit certain criteria I require for income while raising children at-home:
A) There are no volume (noise) requirements, for the most part (God forbid I must be required to converse professionally on the phone while the wild beasts roam the house).
B) I can operate while sporting a drink-spilt (is that really a word?) or crumb-laden wardrobe. Rule #1 of parenting--that which is white shall not remain white for long.
C) Flexibility! Gosh, who can plan around little ones' naps (parents of young infants--I am not talking to you. Just wait 'til the 2s. ;) ?!

I am sure that there are so very many other jobs that we parents pick up here and there that help us on our way to financial survival! If you have ideas of your own, please e-mail them to me, and I may just create a feature post around your idea!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Fun (for next summer, of course!)

Apparently I had so much fun this summer that I never updated this blog! Here, to commemorate a summer gone very well, is an educational summery-breeze blog posting that is only about 4 months too late :)

With so many summer activities to accomplish--especially since we have a measley 3 months of summer here--I have found it difficult to keep up with the day-to-day tasks that typically take up most of the day anyway. But it's summer--time to relax, have fun, enjoy the outdoors and the sunshine! To maximize my time I have developed several methods for saving time while having fun in the summer:

1. Forget showering. It's overrated. You spend half your time in swimming pools anyway. So after swim lessons, as the kids are running through the sprinklers at home (because you can never get enough water fun), pop out some suds-less shampoo and get to work. Maybe make sure most of your neighbors are not watching you wash your hair in your yard first.

2. Food: Cooking in the summer is a pain. I love to EAT in the summer, but the thought of turning on my stove on a 90 degree day is just not my idea of fun. Instead, run errands to Costco during meal times :) BYOSC (Bring your own sippy cup!) Just make sure you add in fake "Oh yeah, which aisle can I find this on, again?"s every now and then so that the free sample people think you actually might purchase their products. I rarely leave hungry. And if you still are hungry, they do have the food court--berry smoothie, anyone?!

3. Dog-walking: Most dogs need exercise. My dogs need a LOT of exercise. So go to your fence, open the gate extra-wide, and when Sparky bolts for it, feign ignorance. "Oh, Sparky! Come home!!" Well, I guess it's best to let him run until he decides to return home.....oh well! Okay neighbors, really, I don't do this intentionally. My dogs do more of the "if we hurt her leg by running her over while she's at the gate, we'll get through!" technique.

4. Diaper-changing: If you are at the pool/lake/beach enough you won't have to do it as often! haha. Okay, this borderlines on child abuse. Let me insist that I NEVER use this technique myself.... My kid gets rashes easily, anyway. Well, but it's a nice thought....just slap on a water diaper, and either ignore the slightly yellow-tinted water and just hose the kid down every now and then.

Monday, June 13, 2011


One week ago I had the pleasure of attending a Medical Writers' symposium. I am not a medical writer. My work history and schooling is in emergency medicine/orthopedics. But I seemed to have left all hopes of attaining any type of "success" in my "career" when I had children. I went back to work for only one week after my oldest was 2 1/2 months old. And I knew that you couldn't pay me enough to work when my teeny baby was at home without me. It just did not feel right. So I have managed to stay home or work hours that allowed me to be home with the children during their waking hours ever since.

But now my kids are 5 and 1 3/4 and it gets me thinking about what I could do to get back into some type of professional career. I was researching a local university's site and stumbled upon a page dedicated to "which alternative career could I choose, coming from a medical background?" It was as if it was made for me! And the one career that stood out (that made sense with our family situation and our geographic location) was Medical Writing.

What is it, you ask? Well....let me allow the professionals to explain.

Yes, i'm making you click on a link!! I happen to be writing at 11pm, and I could use a break! ;)

So anyway, there are areas of medical writing that are out of the question for me. Without additional schooling and without moving to a different location, the working for pharmaceutical companies part just would not work. But I see potential in many other areas--even if only simply creating patient education documents, etc.

So I attended this symposium. What a great group of people! All were friendly and willing to answer my questions. I even met a few others whom were searching for more information, like myself. What I found was that the career is great for professional mothers (not limited to them, of course!) and that some have had success working as freelance writers, from home! Wow. But then would come the hard work of rounding up the work and managing my own business....been there. Not wild about it. ha. But I guess that's why I have a great accountant!

I feel like I left the symposium full of information, but more confused about what exactly I should pursue than before I had arrived. So that is it. It is a great career, and would take work to begin, but I believe I could do it. ....but should I???

On a lighter note, do you know what my one year-old did tonight? He flushed a large, round rock (his brother's FAVORITE rock, I might add) down the toilet! I rushed in to the bathroom right as he flushed the toilet. I caught a glimpse of it, and down, away it went....really not good for the septic system (especially considering I just spent over $300 having it pumped just a week ago!). But I am glad I recognized what went down the toilet. So now we (of course not me--but Blake! haha) get to take apart the toilet, retrieve the rock (I assured the older brother that we can always bleach the heck out of the rock), and put the toilet together again. Fun stuff. This is life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Oops, I did it again....

It happened again. The 12-Hour Cereal Sale. But this time my husband was with me, giving me dirty looks with every box of cereal I picked up. Yes, I know that we try not to eat cereals that are this sugary....but they would be great for special treats.... I eventually just ignored the looks and piled 15 boxes into the cart...and then a few more. Hey, a few of them had raisins.
Does anyone (besides me) actually say this to their dogs (yes, plural) when they let them out to the backyard one last time before bed? "Okay, be good. Go potty. And don't eat any poop. I will be watching." Seriously. I just said that. And they only listen if I throw in, "Go potty and come back for a treat!" They use me.
So this week marks the first week in which I have completed what I call "Grandmacare." My two boys and I "grandma-sat" two different grandmas. The first is my husband's pleasant grandmother. She has Alzheimer's and is continually amused by any minor daily detail that she notices. It takes the pressure off of being a good entertainer--it is as if the show restarts every 30 seconds (at times). I feel like a stand-up comedian with 30 different takes.
For instance,
Grandma: Why, this dog is looking at me like he's hungry! Here, I'll just give him this cracker
Me: He is just begging. He will be fed dinner when your daughter returns home.
Grandma: (throws disgusted look at me) I think you must have made that up. Why, he IS hungry! If he's hungry then by golly, I am going to feed him!!
Me: Oh no Grandma, he just has to wait for another few minutes....(Spoken while shielding my eyes from the continued dirty looks. Apparently I'm a dog abuser!).

not even 20 seconds later:

Grandma: Is this dog hungry? He looks as if he might be hungry. Can I feed him this cracker?
Me: Well, he is fed every day, but never seems to be full. He is very good at making us think he's hungry.
Grandma: Well then, I guess I will give him this cracker.

ugh. fail round 2

the time that worked (took about 13 tries):
Grandma: Look here at this dog. Oh, he's hungry! I've got this cracker here. Here, you good doggie...
Me: Oh, please, don't! His doctor told us he will get sick if we feed him "people food." We wouldn't want to hurt him!
Grandma: Well, I guess not.....(while still contemplating sneaking him that cracker)
Me: Thanks. You know, he has some great dog food and will be fed in 15 minutes. He is fed the same time every day so that he doesn't get too hungry.
Grandma: Well doggie, I guess you'll have to wait!

Ahhh....crisis averted (and I wasn't attacked with the "look").

I have to say, at this point Grandmacare is relatively simple. I was going to say it has been relatively not so gross, but I really would hate to curse myself. I have pulled up pants and have plucked a beard, but I would really hate for things to get much worse so early in the game.

Caring for a loved one is easier than caring for a stranger. Witnessing their humility or knowing how humbled they would be if they could see their condition makes me feel like what I am doing--the "being there" is important. It also makes me almost hope for a quick death for myself (preferably with all my friends and family so there would be limited pain for those left behind that knew us) at a not-so-old age. Silly, I know, but it's a hard life to be over 80.

The challenge with the other grandma is motivating her to do....well, anything, really. Wait a minute--it's not for lack of desire or for laziness. She is dizzy. Constantly. Like whoa, where am I, in space dizzy. So anything involving being mobile is out of the question. And even sitting still isn't pleasant with the dizziness. Any activity or craft involving fine motor control with the hands is out of the question due to horrible arthritis in her hands. And she's in a location with no wheelchair access to the outside world. Oh, and she is unable to walk down stairs due to orthopedic conditions. Fun stuff. Don't you wish you were her?

So when I come over to visit with my two children, both full of energy, I am sure we are a sight for sore eyes as well as the cause of more dizziness.... The children love caring for Grandma. They pull out toys, beg her for candy, and she tells them stories. There is depression (her second husband just passed away) and there are stories about all the friends and family whom have passed away. And sometimes I feel I should let her be sad. And sometimes I feel I need to remind her why I love that she's still here.

I really don't think I'm doing anything special or out of the ordinary in regards to these grandmas. If I had it my way I would keep what I am doing (just grandma-sitting, really) quiet. But I know that we all seem to be living longer. So are our parents. I am sure there are others out there already caring for others. And there are people wondering what it's really like, too. So....are you going to go for the "good" nursing home? Or are you going to be like our parents and keep your loved ones near as long as you can?

I tease my parents that they had better be nice (and give me back rubs) because I will be making the decision one of these days.....good nursing home? or ....? ha. It's good leverage, believe me! ;)

I just know that many funny stories are still to come. And perhaps some heart-breaking ones too.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hobby Farm

I want one of these:

Maybe with some of these:

And definitely two of these:

And one of these:

Really, I do.

It is frustrating to have a plan to begin a different lifestyle, but yet to be stuck on phase 1 (by the way, Phase 1 is the sale of our current home).

Walking down the aisle of adorable and fragile chicks, it is so difficult to resist grabbing a little box and loading it with those sweet little chicks!

But for now I will practice patience.

Rough Days

Today was rough for me.

Really, I should be singing the praises of my children and relishing in the semi-relaxing day that it was. But I was agitated all day. I have been under the weather for the past few days so perhaps my energy level is just not where it usually is. Or I might blame it on a puppy that I agreed to dog-sit. I have been worrying every second that it is going to sneak off and pee or worse in my house....The dog is not quite potty-trained. Oh, and one of our dogs almost fought this little pup. Really, I have a dysfunctional dog. So perhaps that put me on edge. Or maybe it was the gift I brought to someone that, instead of brightening up their day, led them to think about all the things that they could not do. Depressing. I know--not my fault when someone chooses to see things in a negative light. But it must have affected me.

So setbacks like these occur every day. And I suppose my continual goal should be to strive to be the person that is able to just pause, get over it all, and restart. Like when I would play my brother's old-school Sega video game. I know--I'm dating myself. But there were just times when the game was going all wrong and in an almost sneaky way I would sometimes "accidentally" hit the restart button....My hand just slipped, I guess! It was like the magic reset button--somehow the next game always was better after restarting.

So here it goes. Closing eyes. Deep breath. Another deep breath. Open eyes. "Time with my children is limited. They grow up quickly. Remember this in the few minutes left of the evening."

There. Problem solved. For now....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Choices, Choices. And Goals, too.

Wow, that's a lot of cereal. And I am sad to report that we have consumed it ALL as of last month. Wow, right?!! And also, apologies to my two followers for my break from blogging--what a long break, indeed. I know you both cried every night, realizing I had not yet posted a new blog. It's okay to wipe away those tears--because I'm back!! Haha. Poor you.

And shoot, I've really got to clean up my storage room floor! Yikes! Easter grass and picture frames....

I think the hardest part about writing about what the family and I have been going through lately is that I don't want to sound wishy-washy when I'm discussing the options we have and the choices we have to make. For instance, about the time that I stopped writing I had been offered an interview for a job that would have been VERY different than what I'm used to. But I didn't want to say anything until I knew one way or another what the outcome would be.

Oh yeah, what am I used to? Well, my BA is in Sports Medicine, basically. You know, travelling with athletic teams, working as a trainer at high schools, basically being the person who stops when they see a fresh automobile accident to make sure everyone's okay. And yes, usually they are not okay, and are almost always quite uncooperative. Ha.

But this type of position is just not easy with a family. Travel? No way. And having to drop everything or stay late because of a very real and serious injury that needs treatment? Not a chance. And besides, I would much rather stay at home with my children, if possible. And yeah, the money isn't as great as you might think it would be.

Really, I have done everything in my power to work from home so that my children would not have to be cared-for full-time by anyone other than their dad or me. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I was a nanny for many years, and know what a great opportunity it can be to have a great nanny for your children (in fact, I long for a few million dollars so that I might have a nanny on-call just for those times when I think I just might lose it!). It's just that I also know that there were times when the children just needed a good hug from their mom or some more time with their dad. And yes, I know my kids probably get too much attention from me--there is value to having "away" time too!

Seriously, though. I am getting waaay off track! So there was this position. The pay would have been great. But I would have needed full-time care for the kiddos. We have family nearby, but I was trying to find a way to have the husband stay home a bit more....

Long story short the job just was not for me. And so that solved that dilemma.

But now I feel like I need some type of work to do.... It helps to know that for the past four years I have been waitressing part-time in the evenings. It used to work out well because my husband would arrive home from a day at work at about the time I had to leave for work. But now that is not the case. He works evenings.

But I just have a LOT of energy. I like to fill all of my time with productive activities. I am optimistic most times, and I like to think I can accomplish it all. Cooking, cleaning (ha--what a joke!), reading to my kids, playing most of the day, being a calm, responsible adult in front of the kids (another laugh there--"Mommy" loses it quite frequently). And I also want to be the creative mom whom creates homemade cards, bakes cupcakes with flair, and has a perfectly manicured 'do when anyone comes to drop in. I also want to have a hobby farm. A small-scale farm with two sheep, maybe a cow for meat, many chickens, a few dogs, and a huge garden.

I can do it all, right?

Oh, and all while working or making a living of some type. Really, you would think that I'm crazy if you look at all I want to accomplish on paper. No wonder I am always running around like a mad-woman. When anyone asks me how life is going I almost always answer, "Crazy and busy!" It all makes sense. I want to do it all.

So let's just examine what all I currently want to do:

1. Homeschool the children. Okay, this one is not really my passion or dream, but rather my husband's. But until we can work out the ideal money-making job for me he must continue his interior construction-type installation job and I guess I'm the new kindergarten teacher!!!

2. Keeping the house pretty clean until we can sell it. Did you know we both love to remodel homes? That is what we have done with our current home. It is in a fantastic neighborhood, and had great "bones" but was quite outdated. Now we have it cute and of course, right when you get it the way you want it, it's time to sell it! So it is on the market. What a slow market it is, but really, we are in no rush.

3. Cook healthy meals for my family while maintaining a pretty slim budget. It's a skill, really, to be able to create great meals that please everyone, give everyone the nutrition they need, and all without spending too much for those fancy ingredients (sorry, no caviar here!). And as a smaller goal, we all love eating local, fresh food. Mmm--Farm to Market Pork....

Seriously, the best bacon EVER!

4. Garden. I want to grow a bit of my own food. I know it's the latest craze, but I have wanted to and have done so for years--it just has not always turned out so great. My thoughts go back 2 years when i was VERY pregnant and couldn't bend down to weed the garden. Nothing survived--except for the seeds that my son dumped in the corner of a planter--those plants were quite successful! And then there was last year. A late freeze killed my adorable pepper plants, that were all in a row. It also stunted the growth of one of my heirloom tomato plants and the last remaining tomato plant did produce fruit, but it was quickly eaten by my sneaky dogs. This year--I am determined.

Okay, so other goals? Well, there is this idea of a new career. Here is where I am going to talk about something that may never happen. But it is on my list of things to consider. It is medical writing. Next week I will be attending a chapter of the AMWA (American Medical Writers' Association)'s symposium to get a better feel for this line of work. What would be great would be that I could combine my love for the academic side of medicine plus I could potentially work from home doing freelance work or by telecommunicating.

Do you want to know something else about me?

I just stopped my waitressing work to be available to care for a great grandmother with Alzheimer's. Wow, right?! The pros: she really is quite a jolly lady :) She currently acts a bit like a pre-schooler. And she adores my two children. They make excellent playmates! And she is cooperative. Thank goodness! Another pro is that I now get to be with family all of the time. Sure, I am going to need some type of a break during the week. Waitressing used to be my break, my workout, and my money-making time. So perhaps now grandma time can now meet some of our goals. And I really don't feel like listing the cons. Any of the negatives really seem more like they don't even compare to the benefits.

So, do you think I lead a crazy life? I certainly do. I don't know how other people do it. I really don't. I just know I want to do it all, and it's pretty hard to be satisfied when my list of "to-dos" is quite longer than my available time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pantry Basics

My husband thinks I'm a little different when it comes to organization. What can I say--I love lists. And I love being prepared.

Add to that the love of getting the most for the least amount of money, and then you end up with a pantry like this:

So there it is--28 boxes of cereal (I may have taken a few out to use. Oh, and this is my 2nd pantry, really. and those cans go back about 5 cans in depth....). I'm not crazy. I'm frugal.

Which brings me to my ideas on food and money.

How can you save money for your family?

Hit the sales when they're there, ensure the food's safety (freeze, can, buy non-perishable, or use right away), and use it all up.

So my weekly food shopping plan goes something like this:

1. Look over recipes and have a rough idea of what your family might enjoy for the week (I have a few meal staples that I will post on this site, plus I will browse new recipes on or

2. Know your store's sales and plan your meals around their sale or reasonably-priced in-season veggies/meats (Is there a sale on pork roasts? Stock up and plan for seasoned roasted pork one night, shredded BBQ pork sandwiches the next, and sweet and spicy chili later in the week).

3. Stick to your grocery list. If I enter the store with no list or have forgotten it, beware! I will exit with a dozen donuts, those waxy mini donuts in a box, ice cream (usually 2 containers), bagels, cream cheese, chips, and perhaps some frozen lasagna. Really. That's sad. So I know that, at least for myself, I must carry that geeky list with me.

4. Always allow for about $10 of "extras" in the food budget. It just happens. I always find something I either forgot to account for or some item that is never on sale that I just must have (usually items we eat anyway).

5. On weeks with little inspiration, plan on two separate grocery store trips. There is no need to buy enough vegetables for 5 meals when you really only have 2 planned out completely. Why risk not using them?! I know I am horrible at using all items I purchase unless I have a complete meal plan (just ask the eggplant in my fridge).

6. Know your prices.
*all prices are per week*

I aim for $10=meat (meats whose leftovers can double as sandwich meat are a bonus)


$5-$8 milk

$10= fruit

$5-10 veggies

$2.50 crackers

$3-5 baking ingredients (I don't buy cookies or desserts. I figure I can make them at a cheaper rate)

$4 yogurt

$30 other (cereal, hummus, tortillas, oatmeal)

$5 canned beans, canned tomatoes

$5 bread

And I usually end up with a total around $100-125. I allow an additional $25 for toiletries, diapers, soaps per week as well.

Sure, the first weeks of following this rough guideline may leave you feeling like there's not enough food with which to get creative, but after a few weeks you will find that this week's in-season zucchini would work well in a zucchini dish paired with that ground turkey that had been on sale last week that you had frozen.

Want some more ideas on how to save a little extra money???

Grow a little.

Working your hardest to create a small garden brings the opportunity to not only enjoy home-grown food, but also allows for savings on produce. I absolutely loved the apple trees I had planted at my former home. They produced a fair amount of fruit, even for being young trees. Unfortunately my dog loved the apples more than I did, and became a proficient apple-picker. But still--container-garden tomatoes are a favorite of mine. I hope this summer brings many a tomato into my kitchen!

I can't wait to incorporate more recipes and garden tips on this site. So much to look forward to!

I Have Seen God

Well, here he is. Many have tried to see God, and I have been a fortunate one to be able to do so.

My four year-old insisted that he knows what God looks like. And then he drew this picture of him:

So he pointed out that he has a goatee, hair, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, a body (torso), legs, and he didn't know what that other thing was :) Just an extra leg, I guess.

So folks, now you have seen God.

And on another note, today my husband teased me by telling me that I should post photos of my food storage pantry online. He says this thinking I won't actually do it. He thinks he's so funny. Yes, it could be embarrassing for me....

I just hit up the cereal sale at a local grocery store. My oldest counted the boxes. 28!!!!

What can I say, we really like cereal in my house! hahaaa

Well, he thought I wouldn't post photos, but here they are. For all to see! Argh, I'll put them in the next posting. Gosh, I hate technical issues sometimes!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peanutella Magic!

So again, here I go, raving about my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. But she had a recipe on there for Peanutella (like Nutella but w/peanuts).

I just had to try it. To save some $$ and for added "fun" I convinced the kids that we should shell our own peanuts. just ended up that I did 99% of the shelling (boy, kinda rough on the hands). But anyway, that's my own fault. And still, I saved several bucks....

So anyway, the oldest and I just finished making Peanutella :) And boy, is it sooo good! Dairy-free and rich and creamy....but I totally have "peanut-butter mouth" (think of a dog eating peanut butter...stuck on the roof of its mouth....).

So the oldest had the best idea. Since I had swiped our peanutella on graham crackers, he tried adding marshmallows. and yes, we have a winner!

So take my word for it, you've got to try this one!

And to note, I added some Karo syrup to sweeten the deal, plus more oil than was called for (my mixer didn't like me until i did).

So there it is--enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Run! Fire Alarm!!!!

That is what tonight's excitement was all about.

I tried a new recipe. It involved a baking stone. Uh oh. My experience with my poor baking stone has not been stellar.... I usually burn whatever I am baking, or it is undercooked and sticks to the poor stone. Or a little of both--burnt and dough-y. The stone is now stained, with burnt goo that smokes when I use it each time--Lovely reminders of my skills ;)

So tonight I wanted pizza. The kids wanted pizza. With dad out of town for work and just the 3 of us at home, I thought it would be a great idea to try a new recipe.

And when I need a new recipe I rely on my favorite blog for recipes: The Smitten Kitchen. Deb has a way with food. She even has made me enjoy vegetables! Surprising, I know!

So anyway, pizza.

I made the dough. Just as I was kneading it my friend calls--there has been an emergency. Long story short--she's at the ER with her husband (who ends up being okay) and needs someone to come get her kids. I throw the mostly-kneaded dough into the oiled bowl and leave it to rise....

The problem is, it never rises. I even used brand new yeast, too! I still don't know what happened, but whatever--I need pizza. The kids are starving(and now there are 3). So I roll out the dough (I didn't take pictures because I expected a total disaster at this point). I make the pizza according to the directions. I even have corn meal for the baking stone (hoping for a non-sticky experience--fingers crossed!).

And you know what?

It was just BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

It's like the moment when you realize your brand new baby is just perfect, after months worrying about whether they will be a mutant child with 11 fingers and four toes.

Anyway, I actually wanted to eat this pizza perfection. So that's when I took a picture :)

And see? I am proud! Thanks Deb, for the great recipe! And then....I wanted to stick in another pizza....I thought I should heat the stone a bit more, so left it in there to heat up a bit more. I was just thinking how I didn't want a dough-y middle to my pizza. So after 5 minutes, in chimes the deafening, "Beep, beep, beep, beep....." you get the picture. The baby starts screaming, the older 2 kids start screaming and running all over the house, "Run!! Fire alarm!!" My friend's poor little girl keeps shouting, "Mommy says this is when you run out of the house!!" Meanwhile, the kids can't hear my explanation over all the beeping, their screaming, etc. so I focus on fanning the smoke detectors. It's comical, this scene. I am sure my neighbors noticed. And to all of you neighbors, I am sooo sorry!! To top it off, the jacket I grabbed to fan the detector swats my oldest in the side with its zipper as I'm flailing it around the hallway. So now there's a new crier.... Oh, it was great. THIS is life. Never dull. So, it was smoky because I still had some cornmeal left on the stone. So please, if you make this recipe, shake off the excess cornmeal before placing another pizza on the stone! :) Thank you. Lesson learned. Oh, but the pizzas were amazing!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

But what about dessert?

That's right. Warm Molten Lava Cake. mmm....

It's a shame that I am the only adult in the household whom dreams of this dish. The husband will accept a serving right after it is made, but it's not his favorite. I am the one whom really loves it--I am a lucky girl!!! And yes, I have eaten the entire pan by myself (ouch!).

Warm Molten Lava Cake:
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (divided)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In an 8x8 inch glass pan (i've used non-stick metal, but it's just not as good) combine flour, sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder, adn salt. Stir with a fork (or you can be like my dad and carefully scrape all the lumps out with a metal spoon. or be like my conventional mom and grandma and sift it all together. or you can be like me and be lazy and just use the fork).

This is the part where I say, "Wait, wait, wait....I have forgotten something. Oh shoot, the baking powder!" And then I mix it in as if nothing had happened (thank goodness I remembered before I had baked it!). And thank you, recipe for being so forgiving!

Then sprinkle brown sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, and chocolate chips on top of the batter.

Top with the hot water and vanilla. Don't mix these last ingredients into the batter. Just let them sit on top. Strange, I know. But otherwise you'll just end up with a strange cake. Which, of course, I would still eat. But you are wanting warm, molten, chocolate cake....I do, anyway!

Bake for 30-35 minutes (when the surface of the cake looks dry). The dish should be bubbling around the edges. Allow to cool for a short while (this is the hardest part), then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Leftovers (if you have any) may be stored for up to a day at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

What's on my mind? Food!

So this week has been quite a normal week.

Kids wake me up, we eat breakfast, we play, get dressed, stuff some lunch down kids' throats, check backpack's contents, pre-heat the car (baby cries EVERY time i do this!), stuff kids into snow gear, take oldest to school, drive home/grocery shopping, pick kid up from school, drive home, the kids play, and I usually pass out on the couch or disappear into the facebook void. Except this week, with the inspiration of my husband (sigh), Food Network TV, and Men's Journal, Feb. '11 issue (thank you Daniel Duane!), I decided to actually cook healthy meals every day of the week!

I always intend on making great things for my family to eat. Meals that are healthy, inexpensive, easy, quick, and that my kids will eat. I don't ask for much :)

So when I find a recipe that fits into all of the above categories, I cling to it for dear life! It becomes a keeper.

And that's what we have for my first recipe of the week (thank you Sandra Lee, for the inspiration!): Grilled Chicken Cutlet Sandwiches with Herb Mayonnaise

So I didn't have the time/planning/patience to make it just as her recipe states, but I bought one of those thinner french baguettes from my grocery store's bakery (the key to the recipe--crispy on the outside, soft on the inside),

then grilled some chicken tenders from the freezer (on a cast iron panini skillet), then made her "herb mayo" with just chopped parsley and mayo :) but really, it was fantastic! We topped the adult sandwiches with tomato, cheddar, and lettuce, and the kids had just cheese and/or tomato. We ate every crumb!

Ooh! And let's not forget the other half of the meal--Sweet Potato Fries!!! Yum!

My love affair with sweet potatoes (or yams) began after a visit to Papua New Guinea. As one of the staples in the area in which I spent time, I went from hating the sweet potato to CRAVING it! Now I get my fill from these yummy fries (from Men's Journal): slice sweet potato into long wedges. toss in olive oil, and sprinkle on thyme and salt. bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes (i stop to flip fries midway through baking). Sooo easy. Healthy. And delicious!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Life, as it has been.

So perhaps we should have a formal introduction. If you do not know me, I am Jen. Wife, mother, dog-wrangler, chef (or so i like to think so--don't tell anyone that i burn broccoli and toast), home remodeler. Lover of outdoor mountain hikes, summer days at the lake, and the ocean breeze on a sunny afternoon. Overall, a hard worker. Born in beautiful San Diego, and wed to my high school sweetheart.

The husband: Blake. Tall, caring, plans the best trips and surprises. Athletic, also a great cook, and is an inspiration to me in so many ways. Home-builder, historian, writer, and closet-installer. And also picked up a position with a local airline. Hello, travel, right?! And definitely an even harder worker than I am!

We opted for a more simple life shortly after marrying. And we settled our lives in Northwest Montana.

I know what you're thinking. Montana?! What a change. But we LOVE it. The people are friendly, the land plentiful, and the directions our lives may take are endless. Sure, the winters are long. But the summer days are too!

And for those of you hoping to find a fan page for your favorite movie, Meet the Robinsons, sorry, but I've just borrowed the name :) This is a blog about the OTHER Robinsons ;)

But where should I begin? Perhaps with our current topics: where to live? what to do (you know, we all have to make a living somehow)? and which school for our children?

Here We Are

Well, here we are. Four Robinsons.

Two of us raised in the city, two of us born in the country--all of us just trying to figure things out. What is our purpose? What should we do? And how to do it?

We may not know these answers yet, but we're going to have fun trying to figure them out!

I hope you will join us in our adventures of travel, cooking, business, gardening, and all things outdoors!