Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Quick Update

Just a quick update...

Last week was full of events. We had the city inspector come in to check the plumbing. We failed. Yay. There's a problem with the bath tub. The solution involves a cresent wrench and possibily a blow torch. I plan on documenting this. So look forward to that in the future!

I also went to book club. It was fantastic. I love both the ladies in book club and the time spent with them. I just picked up next month's book club, The Art of Racing in the Rain and can't wait to begin reading it.

And we had A.'s school conference. School conferences now as the parent are terrifiying by the way. I just wanted his teachers to get to the point. I know he's a bright, caring boy. Though that is comforting and always makes me smile, I just wanted them to say it. And eventually they did. A. is a charming boy who is not making progress in his speech

The recommendation is for more intensive speech therapy starting in January when he turns 3. His education will then be taken over by the local public school system through the special education department. He will go half days, four days a week. His official diagnosis is apraxia of speech and is the reason being turned into the state for justification of special needs preschool. It is a diagnosis we had been waiting for. One that is not a suprise in the least. It is a diagnosis that means A.'s speech could still take years to correct but that in the end, no one really knows how long it could take.

But it will be okay. A. likes school. He is getting the help he needs and we are blessed to be in a community that offers such fantastic early intervention services. We even went and looked at back packs today. A. picked out a bee one from Skip Hop.

We plan on picking it up for him as one of his Hanukkah gifts. It will be a new adventure for all of us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My $3 DIY Yarn Wrapped Letter

I'm not sure about you, but I have always had a soft spot for crafts. I use to spend my money on crafts magazine. Serouisly, what dork of an eight year old spends money on old lady craft magazines with felted snow men on the front. This dork.

So ever since the internet has spurred millions of bloggers to come up with craft DIY ideas, I have always kept an eye out for ideas I figured I might actually be able to do. Because you see, I love the idea of crafts, I'm just not very crafty due to lack of motivation. Oh yes, I'll pin lots of ideas. Crap, I even pin ideas of crafts to do for and with A. But I don't actually ever do any of them. So I decided enough was enough, I had to pick one idea.

So I decided to cover a medium sized "J" with yarn. This post by the way, is not a step-by-step one, maybe the original pin shows it, I was personally too lazy. Anyways, I picked up a medium sized craft letter for $2.49 and then used a small portion, maybe $0.30 worth of yarn covering it and $0.20 of ribbon.  But really, I don't even remember when I bought this ribbon and I don't exactly love the color but going out to buy new ribbon would have required me to wrangle A. into the car. Screw that. Then I hung it on our front porch.

Simple, yes? Kinda. I mean, wrapping yarn isn't hard. It just slips a lot so I ended up using clear scotch tape to help hold the yarn in place while I wrapped it, specially on the curves. The only other part that I hadn't originally thought about was that I had to map out how to cover the tops of the letters. I wrapped those first, then wrapped around the J. I was able to after doing the curves and securing them a bit better take all but one piece of tape off, the one on the outside of the curve of the bottom on the J. I'm sure if I could locate any of the four tubes of super glue I own, this would look less trashy, but for now, it's fine.

This tape issue combined with my cat who wouldn't stop messing with the yarn, she attempted to eat it three times, made for a simple craft. Overall, for around $3, I'm pleased with my craft. Would I make a whole word out of these? Uh, no. One letter is fine.

Then again, my in-laws said they liked it. So perhaps I could make some letters for them for the holidays for their house? Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that before? They bought their own house... two months ago. Opps. Yeah. And whether anyone believes me or not, I actually do miss them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Apple Carrot Muffins

So the other day we went just a tad overboard in picking apples. How far overboard? Um, we are the proud owners of 21.6lbs of apples. In our defense, it doesn't even look like that much. Just two large bags of apples, jonagold and empire. We were too lazy to wander through the orcharid in search of the few remaining honey crisp.

With so many apples and A. having school on Tuesday I figured we should combine this and make a recipe that involved apples for his teachers who if they choose, can share with the kids (the kids already have set snacks, this would merely be extra). I had just pinned these carrot apple muffins orginally from Food Babbles and thought that with some small modifications and a topping, they would be perfect. The recipe even seemed simple enough A. could help. How did he help?

He ate the carrots I was trying to shred for the muffins. I even took a picture of him helping. See all that ranch? Yup, helping :)

Anyways, the modifications I made were to decrease the carrot and increase the apple. I opted to use butter because for once, I didn't have apple sauce in the house and going to the store would have required me to put a bra on and I simply wasn't motivated enough for that. I also used allspice instead of all the individual spices because I didn't have ground ginger in the house. Pumpkin pie spice would have worked nicely too but I stopped searching the cupboard when I found the allspice. I also added almond extract because my mom swears every baked good should have both vanilla and almond and I don't argue with my mom on baked goods, hers are wonderful! I also doubled the recipe because I probably will only make these muffins once, not due to flavor, but due to laziness so I wanted to maxamize my baking.

I then added a topping. Muffins are yummy by themselves, but with a topping they are even better. The crumb topping that I always use comes from Heavenly Homemakers and is wonderful. It adds a nice touch.

Overall the muffins came out very moist. But these took forever to make. Maybe it's because I was trying to make breakfast, eat and blog at the same time, but three hours later I had these muffins. Yay.

Apple Carrot Muffins
*makes 41 regular sized muffins. Yes, 41. I don't know who these people are that can make exact dozens of things, but I'm not one of them. No, I make odd numbers of things even using a cookie scoop to ensure all the muffins are the same size.

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons all spice

2/3 cups honey
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cups melted butter (which is 11 tablespoons I discovered)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups grated or finely sliced apples (I used 1 cup each of empire and jonagold)
1 cup shredded carrots

Crumb Topping (optional but yummy)
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup melted butter

In a bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and allspice.

In a seperate bowl combine honey, eggs, milk, melted butter, vanilla and almond extract.

Combine flour mixture with honey mixture.

Add in apples and carrots. Mix well. Scoop into muffin tins.

If making topping, combine oats, sugar, flour, allspice and butter and mixture together with a fork. Add a spoonful to each muffin.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-14 minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Apple Picking and Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah started on Wednesday at sunset. I should have mentioned it earlier of course, but we didn't get around to celebrating it until last night with a nice relaxing shabbot dinner. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year and is a time for deep personal reflection. Today though we continued our celebration by picking apples.

Why picking apples? Well apples and honey are traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah to remind us of starting the new year out on a sweet note. So we went to one of the local apple orcharids that offers a u-pick option.

It's also a great tie in for A. for school because they have been learning about apples. I'm hoping to find a receipe that is fairly healthy using all the apples we picked for a treat for his classmates.

He loved picking the apples right off the tree. It took a bit for him to get the idea but eventually he got the hang of pulling them off the tree.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mint Chocolate Bundt Cake

So I mentioned in my earlier post that I made my Mom a mint chocolate bundt cake. Mom has always had a thing for anything chocolate and mint. I remember when I was little that when we would go to dinner and they had those small peppermint patties, she would buy one for each of us. Now that I think of it, it was probably because secretely she didn't want to have to share hers with us. Oh and because she loved us, of course.

That's why when I came across this receipe for mint bundt cake from The Food Librarian I just knew I had to try it out. The biggest change I made was to add more chocolate, one should always add more chocolate. It turned out very moist and just the right level of mint.

Chocolate Mindt Bundt Cake

1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup semi chocolate chips

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/4 t peppermint extract

1/2 cup Andes Creme de Mint baking chips

Glaze and topping
2 spoonfulls of buttercream frosting
1/8 peppermint extract
1/4 cup Andes Creme de Mint baking chips

Bring to boil the water, oil, butter and cocoa.

In a seperate bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together.

Add cocoa and the flour mixture together well.

Add the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and peppermint extract together in seperate bowl. Add mixture to batter.

Mix in the baking chips.

Pour mixture into well oiled and floured (I cheat and use the flour spray) bundt cake and bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on oven. Let cool.

To make glaze, add frosting and peppermint extract and microwave for 30 seconds. Pour over bundt cake. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Best Day Ever

Monday was my mom's 50th birthday.

The night started out with Mom and A. playing in his newly decorated playroom. Oh and yes, I know A. doesn't have pants on. I know, I know but I wasn't in the mood to wrestle with him, I had dinner in the oven.

This was A.'s birthday present and card to her. Mom insisted that she didn't want any presents or to have it turn into a big deal. But I knew she wouldn't say no to "art" from her only grandbaby.

She also won't say no to a dinner she doesn't have to make. So I made her her favorite, pork tenderlion stuffed with a spinach, goat cheese and sun dried tomatoe filling. It might not look fancy or even that great in my picture (I am not a photographer, not in any sense of the word) but it sure was yummy! I also made red skin potatoes cut thin with a mandalin, but forgot the picture.

She also won't say no to birthday cake. So I made her a mint chocolate bundt cake. A. loved the candles because while it's hard to see, they have sparkles on them. Overall dinner went great. My brother and his new wife (so crazy to say that!) as well as my Aunt came over and we all had a nice dinner.

But as self centered as it sounds, Monday was a very emotional day for me. And as much as I hate to even think the next thought, less say it or type it, I wasn't sure if Mom would make it to her 50th birthday. I'm not sure how many more birthdays she has. I'm bitterly aware of the survival rates of stage 4 bone/breast cancer. But Monday, I got to make my mom dinner and her 50th birthday cake.

 Monday I got one more picture with her. Monday I got one more happy family memory of her. Monday my son got to hug his Nana. And that's why Monday was the best day ever.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Newest Crack Like Obsession

So, I could begin this post by saying how busy I've been, but meh, that's kinda a lie. I mean, I have been busy, just not with anything important. Instead, I've found my newest crack like obsession.

Oh yes. I am addicted to this as much as I was to The Sims, the first one, back in middle school. It is my newest obsession and I have fallen in deep. Look at my beginning page. I've been on here for less than a month and I have 10 boards and at this moment in time, 639 pins.

See? I'm in deep. But it's one of those web site ideas I'm kicking myself for not coming up with. I adore keeping hundreds of websites of things I'll never actually do. I even already blogged about this before. Grrr me and my lack of knowing how to launch a full scale website. Oh well. I'll have to figure out how to become a billionaire another way.

Pinterest aside, I've been up to other things. Besides being up to one forth of my case load, 203 cases to be exact, I've been blowing money finding awesome deals around town!

First up, we upgraded! We have a grown-up bed finally! One that doesn't make me want to just fall asleep on the floor instead. 

We ended up getting a king size Tempurpedic one, the tempur-contour. And as much as I think their commericals are corny, it really is that wonderful. My hips and back don't hurt anymore. My wallet, that still hurts and will for a while but my back feels great! Yay!

Oh and then the purple bed spread you see was one of my awesome deals of the week. It was a $100 bedding set from Target that was marked down 75% off so I snagged it for $24.98. I'm only currently using 1 out of the 4 pieces it came with, the comforter, but it came with two shams and a bed skirt. It all looks kinda um, purple, right now, but eventually the color scheme for the room will be grey walls, a white headboard (so you know, check back in five years when we have that), white furniture and grey and purple bedding.

Then I found the perfect chair, marked $450 off. Yes, $450 off. That brought the chair down to $247! Which is good because while I love our new chair for the living room, I wouldn't have loved it for it's original price. The reason it was marked so low? It has a smudge on the front of the cushion.

See? There on the left? It's a grey smudge. The best part? When I had it scotch guarded the lady took it out! They marked down a chair they could have fixed! Good news for me!

And by the way, for whatever reason, the chair looks like it has a pink tint to it in this picture but it is actually a creamy butter yellow. It matches perfectly with our brown couch. Which is good because I can't replace the couch for a beautiful grey one. Why? Because The Husband says it's only 2 years old and it's not his fault I'm no longer in my brown, teal and green phase. I guess he's right.

So that's what I've been up to. Now to figure out how to add that freakin pinterest button on here? It just keeps yelling at me the URL isn't right. Hmmm... anyways, I'm on there!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quick Update

Okay so I have been slacking in posting. Again. Suprised, I'm sure.

But I've been busy. Actually busy. Well um, during the day. At night I'm not. But let's not dwell on the details... I have one more week of training and then I head back to the office after Labor Day break. My brain feels ready to burst with state policy and so I'm usually spending my nights vegging out looking at blogs while I watch my way through back through already prevouisly watched seasons of Futurama. I'm on season three, eposide 18, just incase you wanted to know.

But when training is done I promise to do a recap. I've gotten to eat some really yummy foods while at training in the town where training is. Plus, we've done some more projects around the house. I have pictures of some of it... wait, maybe none of it? Hmm. Time will only tell.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Cubicle is Sad

So my first week at work went great! It was slow and boring at times but then again, reading policy and file sorting other workers work isn't exactly that interesting. But I have one more week at the office before I go to training and then after that I should start getting cases of my very own! Yay! And yes, I know how much of a dork I sound like right now. Get back to me when I actually have cases and see if I'm still so excited.

One of the most exciting things was getting my own office. It has no windows and I don't have a login for my computer yet, or my name on it, or even a password for the printer yet, but I have an office! The problem? It's sad. My office that is. I mean I know cubicles are. It's just, this one is sad, sad. I was going to take a picture but I'm not sure if that is allowed and the guy across from me already looked at me a bit oddly when I was excited to find pink highlighters already in the desk.

So while it is sad, it just needs some love. Of course though there are rules to decorating your office. Personal photos and decor are allowed as long as they are not permanent and could be removed if requested. Obviously any offense materials like profanity and such are not allowed. Because of water, no live plants of any kind, whether potted or freshly cut are also not allowed. That last one is a huge bummer. I was excited to have plants or fresh flowers. Nothing can be tacked to the walls, nothing can be hung on the walls and only the tack boards provided can be used. You also can not use stickers or tape on any surface, though magnets are permitted.

But besides that, I have some wiggle room. I brought in photos in cute photo frames but besides that I'm not exactly sure what look I'm going for but I like these ideas and objects.

I would have loved to have done a bulletin board or two covered in cute, quirky fabric like these fabric panels from Bella Dia. But I can't cover the bulliten boards they provided or bring in my own so instead I was thinking...

To make my boring black bulletin boards more festive I would use the idea of using recycled buttons as thumbtacks that comes from Eko Fabrik. Now to find buttons. If only my Mom still had her huge red Christmas tin of buttons. Man. The one time Mom finally gets rid of something, twenty years later I need it.

Of course I will need a place to keep my pens. I'm using a coffee mug my mom gave me right now but I would actually like to use it for coffee so I like the idea of doing it old school and covering a soup can or such with paper like Real Simple shows. I think a drawing from A. would be cuter though than paper. Thankfully he's become addicted to markers lately.

And to keep odds and ends like paper clips and staples I like the idea of using this cute weiner dog ashtray from Urban Outfitters. Because I have a weiner dog, Walter, it will add extra sentiment to it. Now to find something cat related for Emma. Hmm.

Any other thoughts or ideas within the guidelines?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A New Job

I'm not gonna even try to contain my excitement and dance around to get to the point of this post, so here it is. I have a new job!!!

But wait? Didn't I just announce I had a new job? Yup, I did. But that is now my old, new job. It um, sucked. What I thought would be okay and that I could handle because I'm an adult who needs to help pay the bills dragged on and on. And it was only two months. I have no idea how The Husband has made mirrors for four and a half years. It seems not to bother him as much as it did me. But for me, working on a line where I don't get to talk to people a lot is horrible. Down right horrible.

Which is why I am so excited to tell everyone I know that I run into that after a five month process of waiting and waiting some more, I accepted a position with the state as an assistance payments worker where I will work in at one of the local counties Department of Human Services (DHS). What is an assistance payments worker? Well first off, I'm not a social worker. Nope. When people need help with food assistance, medicaid or other state benefits they are assigned to an assistance payment worker. The payments worker then maintains and updates the case file as necessary.

I am so thrilled to have been given this opportunity and while this was never on my short list of careers I considered, I feel deeply that this is a good match for me. I think that it will be very rewarding, helping individuals help themselves become self sufficient again. I also think it will cause me to cry in my car at times because of how frustrating the job will be.

I start on Monday and am as nervous as I was starting middle and high school. In fact, it even mirrors starting school. I've been shopping for new clothes (grown up ones of course), office supplies (I need fun colored pens, blue will not do, I require purple) and even got my hair cut and highlighted. I want to fit in. I want to look like I belong. I want the other people to like me. In fact, it is like school. Only now if I flunk at this I get fired versus repeating a class. Yikes!

Overall though I feel extremely excited and can't to start Monday. I get my own cubicle, my own phone number with an extension and voice mail, my own business card and a name plaque thingy for my desk. I'm such a nerd to be so excited but really, I'm so freaking excited!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Big Jolly Family

Most people dread their in-laws. Most people make fun of them. Some even move across the country to get away from them. I got lucky. With the exception of one falling out that we've all agreed to get over and not discuss again like healthy adults do, I got lucky. My in-laws love me. They love A. They are always on the look out for cute stuff for our house and score quirky finds for me at yard sales and thrift stores. Case in point?

This copper jell-o mold. It was $2 at one of the local thrift stores and when I was with them and saw it I fell in love. There's just something simple and lovely about it that I love. The holes on the top are where the cherries are suppose to go so that when you flip out the mold, you have cherries on top. How neat! I think I'm going to start collecting them actually and decorate my 1959 state of the art kitchen with them. I remember that my great grandma would hang them on the walls above the cabinets and I like the idea that every time I would see them, I would think of her. Plus, I might as well embrace the decade my kitchen is stuck in cause it's gonna be stuck in it for a while. I just have to make sure to do it tactfully or it could get out of hand.

But getting back on topic, my in-laws, for reasons that aren't important, my in-laws, sister-in-law and their two cats moved in with us this weekend. It's suppose to be for a month.

This is what they brought with them for their month. I'm not really worried about the time frame, mainly cause I don't want to help pack and unload a trailer again. Oh and cause we love them. That by the way is the back of a 25 foot trailer. That is full. Oh yes. Their entire life is now in our house and garage. I actually think there are many pros to them moving in and despite jokes from people at work, I'm not at all concerned about it. For example...

  • Cute stuff: My in-laws have quirky style senses. I've already decorated my yard with their yard stuff. Two pink flamgos included.
  • Conversations: My in-laws are talkers. I'm a talker. Yay!
  • Babysitting: I have three built in babysitters now. I'm excited at the prospect of taking a shower without having to wait till A. is asleep or bribing him with Spongebob educational work sheets.
  • Money: Are agreement is that while they are here they will buy groceries. The money we save, even just for one month, from not buying groceries should help up pump up our savings.
  • Daily Love Reminders: They already adore A. but having them here will just mean even more love in our house on a daily basis. Mom is already over every day and now with them here, he will get even more daily reminders of who loves him.
That being said, there are some cons. There are always cons.

  • Chocolate Stash: I keep a stash of chocolate chips hidden in the upper part of the cabinet. In moments or crisis, or bordem, I take it out and snack on a handfull. Now I'll have to find a new spot because I don't share my stash.
  • Bras: Under the, thanks for sharing category, I don't wear a bra around my house. All mine have wires and frankly, any time the girls can be free I enjoy. Now I'll have to wear a bra a lot more. Damn.
  • Parking Issues: We have one of those awesome drive ways that while thankfully has two spots in front of our garage that we don't park in for fear of it falling in, is only a one car driveway the rest of the way to the street. We also live in a town were parking on the street between 2am and 5am is illegal and will get you a $10 parking ticket. So, with four cars and people leaving at different times, every night I get to play move the cars into the right order game.
But yup. There you have it. We're now just one huge Jolly Family.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boston Cream Pie and a Birthday

I'm not sure about you, but in our family if it's your birthday, you get to pick any kind of dessert you want. I always pick my mom's chocolate cheese cake, my brother always picks my mom's german chocolate cake and my mom changes her mind every year but usually something chocolate and mint (last year I made her mint brownies). The Husband this year picked Boston Cream Pie for his birthday yesterday. I have no idea why. He has never voiced an interest in it before now but it's his birthday, so Boston Cream Pie it is.

So I decided to search the internet because I have no idea what I'm doing making a cake from scratch as I've only ever done it twice. Turns out there are tons of ways and variations to make a Boston Cream Pie. So I decided to make the cake using yellow cake, vanilla custard and chocolate ganache. Sounds yummy to me! The yellow cake recipe comes from The Kitchen, the vanilla custard comes from Epicurious and the chocolate ganache also comes from The Kitchen.

Boston Cream Pie

Yellow Cake

1/2 cup butter, softned
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees while the butter softens. Grease the bottom of your pans. Mix all the ingredients, in the order they are listed, making sure to combine each ingredient thoroughly. Pour into pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and middle of cake springs back when touched. Allow cakes to cool completely.

Vanilla Custard

3 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heatproof bowl until smooth. Then heat the milk in a sauce pan over low to medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Slowly add the hot milk to the mixture, whisking constantly. Tranfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat over low to medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken, approximately 6-10 minutes or it registers 170 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Immediately take the mixture off the heat and push the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the butter and and the vanilla. Chill the custard until cold and thickened, approximately 3 hours.

Chocolate Ganche

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, semi-sweet
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Pour the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it begins to simmer and bubbles begin to form around the edges. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for five minutes. Stir to combine. Pour over cake.

Final Assembly

If your cakes need evening out, even them out with a knife. Then layer the cake with cake on bottom, custard in the middle, another layer of cake and then smother it in ganache. Enjoy!

My Thoughts: This cake smelled so yummy while it was baking. I wanted to eat it piping hot right out of the oven and the liquid ganache, I wanted to go swiming in it. For someone who doesn't even really like regular cakes, I thought this one was pretty good. Kinda like a long john, just in cake form. The Husband and A. liked it too.

I would make this cake again, if requested, not just because though. It has nothing to do with the cake, it was fine, I just don't like yellow cake. I might try it again, but with chocolate cake instead and a different flavored custard.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Catch Up

So it's been a while since I posted. It's been a crazy month and a half. And by crazy, I mean, I've been tired. To sum up the time I'm going to update in quick sentances and pictures. I take pictures sometimes that I mean to turn into posts but lately haven't. So here we go...

Work. Well first, no picture for this one. Cell phones are actually forbidden at my work due to patents. Car mirrors are serouis business you know. Work is fine. It's just long. Very long. My shift is from 3pm to 1am. Then A. wakes up at 6am. I'm tired. Thankfully I have a wonderful, wonderful mom who comes over so I can take an hour or two nap before work.

But going back in time, every year my town has an annual festival. It celebrates tulips. Tulips. And as lame as that sounds, and as lame as I thought it was when I was a teenager, I adore it now. I get it now. It's about family fun. It's about free and pretty cheap activities for munchkins. To start out the festival we (me, Mom (Nana), YaYa and Pop Pop) took A. to the big kid activity day. He loved it. He started out by posing on a large rock. That's his, "I'm tough" pose. Pop Pop showed him how.

Then he played in one of those large blow up climbers. He loves these things. He's a very good climber.

And he loved petting the animals. The day was a great one and for only $6 it was dirt cheap.

Then later on in the week we went to the children's parade. All the kids dress up and march down main street. This was A. and his impression of the parade. He didn't enjoy it. It was too loud. There were too many people. It was too hot. We lasted 12 minutes. We will try again next year.

Then a few weeks ago we went to the local fair. Oh what was suppose to be the fair. We were kinda confused because it wasn't normally when it was held but did say it was that fair. It was small. But A. enjoyed the little kid rides. He really loved riding the orange truck.

And then A. had his last day of school. He has two sessions each month for the summer but they are on break. I felt like we should do something nice for the teachers and aides. Honestly I thought I should buy them vodka and chocolate. Afterall these are teachers of 2 and 3 year olds. With special needs. They deserve chocolate vodka. But I figured that was probably not appropriate so instead we made them (in full disclosure, they were not from scratch, they were Meijer knock off cookies that were on sale) chocolate chip and turle cookies. I then had A. make a drawing inside a thank you card. All the teachers said the cookies were fantastic. I just hope they know I meant it, that I really do thank them for all their help with A.

And that is the last month in a nut shell in pictures. Other stuff happened of course but that's all I have in pictures. Hopefully I can update more often, or at least in a more timely manner.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mommy Confession - Napping Taken to Heart

When I was pregnant everyone, friends, family and even the old lady in the Meijer check-out told me that when my baby slept, I should too. I remember when he actually came along I found this piece of advice annoying as hell. Perhaps it's because I had a colicky infant who didn't sleep and screamed 23 hours a day. Perhaps it was because if by chance he did sleep I had 7 minutes to determine if I wanted to 1.) sleep 2.) eat 3.) shower 4.) chores or 5.) pay bills. Sleeping was never the option I picked. Instead I usually combined 2, 4 and 5 together while getting stuff together for 3. By that point he would wake up and I would cross 1 and 3 off the list until The Husband came home or Mom came over.

But then one day, around four months, he started sleeping longer. And by longer, I mean 20 minutes. Suddenly the advice seemed brilliant. Of course one would sleep when their baby slept. This started my obsession with his napping. He needed to nap because I needed to nap. I quickly figured out the real reason why other people put their babies on sleep schedules, it wasn't for the babies, it was so they knew when they could sleep. Or so I reasoned.

So where is the confession you might ask? That I was wrong and others were right with their advice? Um, no. I was right in both situations. No my confession as a mom is I still nap when he naps. Nap time is one of my favorite parts of the day and I consider myself beyond lucky that I get to nap during the day when he lays down. So lucky I almost feel guilty when I do because The Husband doesn't get to nap. He goes to work during the day and I stay home. But not guilty enough I'm going to stop napping. Afterall, The Husband comes home, takes care of A. for about four hours and then they go to bed. Yeeeah, I'm gonna keep napping.

Napping rocks. And I think parent's every where should be given stipends in order to pay someone to come over so they can take naps.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cold-brewed Iced Coffee

When talk show hosts and financial gurus use to advise people to stop buying $4 coffees every day in order to save hundreds a year, I use to wonder, who would pay that much for coffee? Plus, gross, it isn't even that good. Until a few years ago when I had my first iced coffee and was hooked. It has become an expensive habit, one I try to be very good about by only allowing myself to buy one once a week but find myself craving it every day. Multiple times a day.

But in an attempt to save money I decided to search out a recipe to make it at home. I figured, it couldn't be that hard and would save me oodles of money. The great thing is, the recipe isn't even a recipe, it's coffee and water. Simple. The ratio however comes originally from The New York Times but I prefer Smitten Kitchen's pictures. Very beautiful. The only down fall? Besides that it isn't pretty when it's being made is now I drink gallons of this stuff. Gallons.

See? Not very appealing. But I promise, it turns into this...

Iced Coffee

2/3 cup coffee grounds
3 cups water

1 quart sized mason jar

Pour coffee grounds and then water into the mason jar. Screw on top and shake. Place mason jar in fridge overnight or longer for stronger flavor. Periodically shake the mason jar throughout the day.

Once the mixture has sat overnight, strain the mixture using a coffee pot. Assemble coffee pot like normal, with caraffe and filter in place. Slowly pour mixture through filter. Disgard grounds.

Mix with milk or creamer or however you like to make your coffee. Top with whip cream and chocolate sauce (I would say this is optional but you really should just do it).

My Thoughts: Out of pure lazyness of not wanting to clean my mixing cup, I grabbed a mason jar and discovered that it is the perfect size for a double portion of the original recipe. I just fill the coffee to past the first mark and then pour water in till it's almost full. No real measuring required and no extra things to wash.

I also think everyone else is making the straining part too complicated. I decided after trying to strain it the way it suggested the first time and determining that took too much effort, I was going to use my coffee pot. It works perfectly and is a lot less messy. By far this is one of my favorite "recipes" ever.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Six and a half years

I've worked at Target for six and a half years. Six and a half years. That is a hella long time for retail, by the way. I started when I was in college and a lot has happened since I started there. I met The Husband again (we knew each other from middle school), started dating, got engaged, married, finished school (twice), got pregnant, had a baby and bought a house. And it's worked for me, until now.

But it's time to move on. I'm going to be starting a production job in two weeks. It isn't the path I thought I'd head down but life has a way of doing that. I'm excited to start on this new path and to see where this path will take me. I know it will be good for our family and it will be good for me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Matzo Crack

At first it seems like an easy feat, removing all chametz from one's diet. It's only a week. But this leaves very few sweets and while I'm not normally one who keeps sweets in the house because of the simple fact that I will eat them. At 2AM. But knowing that I can't just dig a spoon into one of the best ice creams ever, Edy's Girl Scout Samoas Cookie, which is currently chilling out in my Mom's freezer, leaves me looking through my cupboards wondering what I can snack on. Um.

Not much. See that cupboard? That's kinda what I have to work with plus the stuff in the fridge, which is mainly fruit, butter and cheeses. And if we weren't eating corn or rice this week it would be about half as much as that even. So what is one to make? Matzo crack! Or also known as Matzo toffee. This recipe can be found in a lot of places but I followed Marci Gilbert's Blog for her recipe for Matzo Toffee. It seemed the simplest to follow, I only altered a few steps, mainly the order, because I was scared I'd burn the brown sugar and butter mixture. I also increased the chocolate. Always increase the chocolate.

Matzo Toffee

6 squares of matzo
2 sticks of butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups chocolate
1 cup finely chopped nuts (or other topping)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating, make a foil liner with a lip for cookie sheets (I needed two cookies sheets) and spray it with cooking spray. Take your matzo lay it on the tin foil in one layer, making sure to fill all gaps tightly.

In a small saucepan melt the butter and the brown sugar together. Bring the mixture up to a rapid boil and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir the mixture constantly. Remove from the heat before it turns a dark brown.

Once the mixture is melted and thickened, spread over the matzo using a spatula sprayed in cooking spray. Bake for 4 minutes in the oven.

Take the matzo out of the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips generously over the matzo. The chocolate chips should melt because of the heat but use the spatula to help spread them. Then sprinkle the chopped nuts (I used cashews) and press into the chocolate. Freeze until hardened and then serve.

My thoughts

I was super intimidated for some reason to make the butter and brown sugar mixture. I almost skipped the recipe because of this. But I got super lucky and it turned out faaantastic. Even my mom said I had the best luck/skill and she hasn't even ever had toffee set up that nicely. I was very proud.

I think the best piece of advice I can give is keep stirring the mixture constantly. It will kinda get fluffy, for lack of a better description, and turn a carmel color. Keep stirring it away from the sides of the pan or it may burn quicker. The mixture will be done right before it turns a darker brown color. I almost ruined the toffee by letting it burn but pulled it off the burner just in time and quickly poured it over the matzo. If I had burned it I would have just had to start over.

In the end though, it really is tasty. I brought some to work and one of my coworkers declared it one of the best treats he had eaten recently. I will definitely be making this again next year!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Jolly Family is Expanding!

So as you may know already, our Jolly family consists of

The Husband

A. (this was the face he gave me the first time he stepped in snow this year)

myself (where's my picture? Yeah, no picture of me. I don't do pictures)

two gold fish (originally three but one died), Fish 1 and Fish 2

and our special cat, Emma.

And while we had planned on our family expanding some day, we didn't think it would be this soon. So without further wait, our newest family member is...

Walter! A 14 pound daschund that we adopted from our neighbors who were fostering him. What? You expected a baby announcement? Um, you'll have to go to another blog for that one. Nope. We're happy with the size of our family for now. And considering how this is the one and only dog A. will actually pet (my friend's mom's aunt has one and he adores that dog) with his sensory issues, we got super lucky.

Also, the fact that A. just tested positive two weeks ago for being allergic to dogs (as well as cats, dust, weeds and grasses) didn't deter us. I know some or many, people would have a problem with our decision. But it isn't an allergy in the sense that he will die from Emma or Walter like he could with penicillin, no, it's a, we can manage this allergy by using the drugs he's already on and vacuuming more often. In the end, we're comfortable with our decision for our family and A. and Walter are already best friends. Emma and Walter, well, that's another story.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our First Passover

There has been a lot going on in the last week. Namely, The Husband and A. were in a car accident last week. They are fine, our car is not. It was totaled and now we're out a car and a car seat, though our insurance company reimbursed us for a new one already. But that's unpleasant and it causes me anxiety issues when I have to consider what new vehicle we will purchase so let's move along to something more pleasing.

This week, well actually Monday night at sunset (yeah, I'm a bit behind on this post), started the week long celebration of Passover. Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays and retells the story of how Moses lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. The holiday starts with a seder, which is a ritualized dinner that retells the story, on the first night. There are many elements to a seder and this year we had what I'm calling, a seder inspired dinner with just The Husband, A. and I. I read the Exodus story and recited some prayers and we all had a simple dinner.

A simple dinner and a week of meals that have to follow a set of specific rules. What rules? Well, first you have to follow kashrut or kosher rules plus your forbidden from eating other specific grains. We are following basic rules and those include:
  • No pork, shellfish, insects or any meat that is not kosher.
  • Meat and milk cannot be mixed.
  • Milk, veggies and fruits are permitted.
  • Eggs and fish that have scales and fins are permitted and both are considered parve (neutral) and can be mixed with milk or kosher meat.
  • For the week of Passover, chametz which is wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats that have been mixed with water and allowed to sit for longer than eighteen minutes.
What then does that leave to eat? Ummm... matzo? Which is wheat and water that have been worked and baked in less than eighteen minutes. Impressive. But no seriously, I had no idea what we were gonna eat for a week. And searching for "passover weekly menu" provided less than stellar, affordable options with ingredients that I could even find. So in case someone else ever searches, here is our weekly menu (breakfast, lunch, dinner and then snack). Note that we're only following the rules above, other Jews may follow additional rules (no rice, corn, legumes and hours regulation when eating dairy and meat, etc) that would cause this menu not to work for them. The great thing is though, with the matzo removed, this is a week of gluten free meal ideas. Neat.

But I will admit, the menu is a bit, okay, a lot, of repetition, but this is my first meal plan. Next year might be fancier. Might. Oh and I also don't claim to be a dietitian, I know some of these meals, okay, a lot of these meals, lack balance but I'll be honest and say, meh. This is how we eat. Oh and if some of these foods violate the rules in some way I can't forsee, I tried my best. I'm new at this.

toaster pastries, bananas
cheeseburger with bacon (oh yes, that is what we ate, because it wasn't yet Passover), fries, oranges
matzo ball soup, baked tilapia with lemon, roasted red skin potatoes, sparkling juice and chocolates
grapes, string cheese

rice crisp cereal, bananas
matzo with pb&j, grapes, yogurt
kosher hot dogs, sweet potato fries, kosher pickles, grapes
passover "crackers", sharp cheese, hard boiled eggs

corn chex cereal, raspberries
kosher hot dogs, roasted potatoes, oranges
matzo ball soup, grapes
yogurt, bananas

 rice cereal, strawberries
tuna fish, kosher pickles, matzo, oranges
matzo with pb&j, bananas
cottage cheese, strawberries

egg bake with mushrooms and onions, raspberries
black bean chili, cheese, oranges
spaghetti noodles made from rice, veggie spaghetti sauce, salad with feta
smoothies made with milk, yogurt, strawberries, raspberries and honey

egg bake with cheese, mushrooms and onions, bananas
matzo with pb&j, strawberries
kosher hot dogs, tater tots, oranges
passover "crackers", sharp cheese

matzo brei, fruit salad made of strawberries, oranges, bananas and raspberries
fried eggs, tater tots, brown rice "oatmeal"
matzo crusted perch, rice, fruit salad made of strawberries, oranges, bananas and raspberries
matzo toffee

corn chex cereal, raspberries
matzo with pb&j, oranges
black bean chili with cheese, oranges
mozzarella sticks, strawberries

I'll be sure to post some of the recipes in the future. Hopefully the rest of the week is relaxing and everyone has enjoyable holidays.

Oh and photobucket, where I store my photos, needs to hurry up and fix it's sight. Posts without photos are boring.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our House, One Year Later

So as of last Thursday we have been in our house for a year. A year. Wow. I can't believe it. Not because I feel like we have been here forever. Which I do already. No, I can't believe we have been here only a year and we still have 29 more years to pay it off. Ugh. Let's move along cause that is just down right depressing.

Now, what does our house look like a year later? Um, pretty much the same only now our crap is every where and in some cases, the house looks worse. Seriously. Take a look.

This is both the before and the after for the front of our 1928 farm house (I personally don't think it seems like a farm house at all but that's the style listed with the city). I never took a picture when we moved in but it pretty much looks exactly the same. I would like to add some color in the form of bright, cheery, cheap plants mainly because I don't know what I'm doing with plants.

This is the back of the house. Trying to explain the whole, door on the back of the house thing, to someone who hasn't lived in an old house and tried to move furniture up crazy narrow steps, is hard. But that's what it's for. To haul your furniture up to the second floor. Oh yes. It is as awesome to move furniture as it sounds.

And this is the back yard and the garage. Once again, I don't have a picture of it before but it is pretty much the before and after with the exception of the garage. It was originally painted all grey. Peeling grey paint. So our first house DIY was to scrape and prime the garage. Then we had it painted grey to match the house, white for the trim and Mustard Yellow from the Valspar line.

The Husband hates the yellow and wanted to keep the doors white. Um, no. That's boring. Bright yellow made the statement, "We're young! We're in our 20's!" versus the statement our house makes now that says it's an old lady house. I personally smile every time I see those doors. Ultimately I want to install a fence, add a swing set and some raised planter beds for a veggie garden but each of those will have to come over the next few years.

But we'll stop there for now and keep touring the house floor by floor, room by room over the next little bit. I'm both proud and horrified at our house. Good thing we have the next 29 years to work on it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A.'s First Day of School

Today was a big day in our house. A. started classes today to help his speech delay and his now confirmed Sensory Processing Disorder. Now some might argue that it really isn't school considering how it's only two days a week for only an hour and a half at a time, but to me, it is school. He has a teacher. I'm (suppose to) leave him there without me. He has his own cubby. And he's there to learn something educational. Sounds like school to me!

And here is A. wearing his new shirt with his new book. A. loves the show, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, so I bought him a Cat in the Hat shirt. I also found the book, Oh, Baby! Go Baby! which is inspired by the book, Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I love this book. A copy of it was given to me by my favorite high school teacher and the message is such a good one, that while things can get rough it will probably be okay and you can do great things. Reading the book in the store almost made me cry. Because I believe it with all my heart that A. can and will do great things in his life.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Update on our DIY

So I had written before that we are living our own personal DIY disaster. And by disaster I mean, wow, now I know why people pay contractors to do this kind of thing. Because this sucks. We had intented to get a contractor but after we did all the demo and determined all of the issues, there was no way we could afford one. So instead we are DIYing with the help of our families, mainly my brother. And where are we in our progress? Ummm... we don't have any working plumbing to the only bathroom with a shower and are missing two ceilings and one and a half walls. Yay.

This is was our play room and that use to have a wall there. That shinny rectangle piece is the back of the medicine cabinet from the half bath on the other side. As you can see there is all new plumbing in that wall. You can also see duct tape. I promise we know that isn't how you connect pipes, it's just holding it in place while we fit pipes together. 

And this is the ceiling, or where it should be. See all that knob and tube wiring? Yeah, that has to be addressed next.

And this is our lovely plastic green tiled half bath. It's hard to tell from the picture but we had to rip down this ceiling so we could access the cast iron bath tub that had also been leaking due to rust. We are working on scrapping all the rust off of it now (hence the plastic bag tapped up there, it's to catch the shavings) and repairing it before the new drain and shower plumbing can be installed.

And this is the upstairs hallway wall. We had to cut into this wall to gain access to the roof vent (did you know pipes have to be vented? Yeah, I didn't either) and the sink plumbing. If you're wondering why there is a tub of kitty litter and Hello Kitty blocking that opening, it's because you can see all the way down to the down stairs bathroom and our special cat keeps trying to squeeze herself down into the opening. We love her.

Ta-da! Our pink and green bathroom void of all working plumbing. And yes, that is our toilet sitting in our tub. I'll disinfect it later. Many, many times.

And why is our toliet in the bath tub? Because that's what my tile floor looks like. Yucky. The leaking toliet, which started all the problems, rotted out the sub floor and my brother had to cut out the tile to patch the sub floor. Oh and see that awesome vanity? I know you're jealous.

So any home DIY projects going on with anyone else?