family fun

Idol Thoughts: My faves from last night’s Idol

For a few years now I’ve been blogging about my experience watching American Idol – some years I talk about it more than others. Last year I think I only mentioned it once but I watched the whole season eagerly. This year I only flitted through Hollywood round (ignoring the auditions altogether as they are my least favorite) but now that we are into the Top 24 I thought I’d start giving you guys my two cents (you know, when I remember).

This year I’ve already found a few contestants that I am excited about and ready to root for and was glad they made it into the semi-finals. This afternoon I watched the Top 13 guys perform (which means I didn’t get to vote) and I have to say there was a lot of great performances – like I’m actually sad that so many people will be going home this week.

I genuinely enjoyed 6 performances, found a couple others pretty good but not really my thing – and only downright disliked two. Not bad.

Here are my 5 favorites (in order somewhat): 

Reed Grimm
is crazy. Like bouncing off the walls ape shit insane crazy. He oozes Star Quality to me though like he is literally just filled from head to toe with music and when he performs I just believe it, you know? He is possibly my favorite contestant right now. He is the Casey of Season 11, always delivering a surprise performance and his rendition of Moves Like Jagger … moved me. Move over Adam Levine, I think Reed Grimm did it better. Plus he’s from Wisconsin so you know I gotta root for him just for mentioning cheese curds last night!

Creighton Fraker was another contestant that seemed nearly off his rocker but delivered an amazing performance that got me excited about this season. His voice is just gorgeous – he sang Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” which seemed pretty risky to me, but it was GOOD and I think that kinda says everything. I think he’s one of those guys who could sing the phone book and it would be good. Every season has one.

phillip-phillipsPhillip Phillips I noticed early on in Hollywood Week and I’m a big fan. He is a major front runner for me – he sang “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins which could have been the nail in the coffin for me because I HATE Phil Collins’ music something fierce but Phillips’ performance of it was awesome. I love his voice and he is just so sweet.

Colton Dixon has weird hair but a great voice and I love watching him perform. I was a fan of his last year and was disappointed when he didn’t make it through so I was really glad to see him back this year and even make it into the semi-finalists. I thought he did a great job last night performing Paramour’s “Decode” – I’m not  familiar with them but I enjoyed his performance a lot.

Jeremy Rosado really surprised me. For some reason when I listen to him talk, I just don’t expect much out of him musically – but then he started singing Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” which again, I thought was a weird song choice, but oh my gosh, it was beautiful. His voice is just stunning and I really enjoyed the performance. I’ll be interested to see what songs he performs next if he makes it through.

So this week America will vote in their Top 5 guys and Top 5 girls and then each of the judges will get one wild card vote each to form the Top 13 contestants. These guys would be my Top 5 – and just for fun, my wild card vote for the guys would go to Aaron Marcellus. He performed the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” and I really enjoyed it – I also thought he seemed like a really great guy watching his video before the performance. He and colton and Jeremy were honestly neck and neck for me so I’d be thrilled if he makes it through so that I can see more of him.

Are you following Idol this year? Whose performance was your favorite last night?

books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: February

What's on your nightstand @ 5 minutes for books It’s time for another installment of What’s On Your Nightstand, a monthly blog carnival hosted by the lovely ladies at 5 minutes for books. Time to answer the burning questions:

“What are you reading? What have you read recently? What are you planning to read next? What books are currently on your nightstand either literally or metaphorically.”

Books Read This Month

When we last nightstanded, I was reading Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery which is all about Anne’s life as a mother. Although I missed having Anne as the central character, it was fun getting to read about the antics of each of her children and also read about Anne’s thoughts of motherhood and marriage, something I could obviously relate to. We’ve now come full circle and though I plan to continue reading her other books, I was also ready to put them down for awhile and focus on other books.

I also read These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner, which my book club discussed last week. I really loved this book. Though it was a bit slow to get into initially (mainly due to the dialect and the main character’s poor grammar early on), this story really sucked me in. One part Oregon Trail meets the Arizona Territories, one part epic love story that rivals Scarlett and Rhett, one part coming of age story that follows our main character from a young, naive girl of 17 to an experienced mother and housewife approaching her thirties. – see my book review

Currently Reading

Right now I’m reading And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, a spur of the moment choice that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for awhile. To be honest I was just looking for something short but it is also considered a classic which didn’t hurt. I am enjoying this murder mystery though at times it’s a bit much. One of the characters in particular recalls a past event that is quite heartbreaking to read about. But it’s a very short story and I’m already nearly done after having really just started it a couple of days ago – and I have to say I’ve found the writing excellent and the story fascinating.

Coming Soon

So the only book that I can say for certainty I’ll be reading next is our March bookclub pick, My New American Life by Francine Prose. Here’s a brief description from goodreads:

“Set in the aftermath of 9/11, “My New American Life” offers a vivid, darkly humorous, bitingly real portrait of a particular moment in history, when a nation’s dreams and ideals gave way to a culture of cynicism, lies, and fear. Beneath its high comic surface, the novel is a more serious consideration of immigration, of what it was like to live through the Bush-Cheney years, and of what it means to be an American.”

If I have time I’m also hoping to read Pies & Prejudice, the next in the mother daughter book club series by Heather Vogel Frederick that I’ve become a bit addicted to!

So what are you reading right now?

family fun

Currently. (feb 27, 2012)

Snow Day! on 365 Project

Obsessing over: this new cookbook I picked up at Barnes & Noble on clearance yesterday – totally spur of the moment. It’s called Cook Yourself Thin Faster! by Lauren Deen, apparently based off a television show on Lifetime. I was admittedly struck by the cute cover initially but thought it would just be full of artificial sweeteners and salad. But after flipping through it at the store, I was pleasantly surprised and drooling over all the recipes. I have bookmarked damn near every recipe in the book and I’m anxious to start cooking my way through it. The premise is that you can cook all the same foods you love but with some common sense make the recipes lighter but still delicious. I’ll let you know what I think of it once I’ve cooked a good assortment of the recipes.

Feeling: like it’s been too long since I’ve worked out. Because it has. It seems like once my 21 day challenge ended, I totally dropped the exercise ball (like it was hot) and though I’ve kept up pretty well with my eating habits and continue to count calories, I know I need to keep the momentum going. I’m planning on going to another yoga class tomorrow and need to keep up with the strength training and cardio, too.

Working on: a million little things that seem to amount to nothing terribly impressive to show for. Like “hey hey hey – I ran the dishwasher this morning and started another load of laundry -ooohhhhh aren’t you impressed?” I’ve also been planning The Boy’s birthday party and daydreaming about a day trip to Door County this late summer / fall. It probably won’t happen because we already have Tons ‘o Fun scheduled for this spring & summer, but a girl can dream, right?

Intermission. on 365 Project

Thinking about: how fun seeing Fiddler on the Roof this weekend was. One of my good friends came over and watched the kids and Dan and I went to see my FAVORITE musical together. He’d only ever seen parts of the movie version which was terrible so he wasn’t expecting much and was thus blown away because it’s awesome. He has been humming “If I Were a Rich Man” ever since! Okay, we both have. It was a great performance, even from the Nose Bleeds section seats we could actually afford. Parking for this show was much better than Blue Man Group so we even had time to stop at a coffee shop before the snow and get a slice of chocolate silk pie and a latte. This coffee shop was actually the very first place I ate in Wisconsin while Dan was interviewing for his current job. Memories

Reading: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – my first time reading one of her books. I’m enjoying it though it’s a bit creepy, which is a given what with the whole murder mystery genre, but you know. Creepy. Afterwards I’ll likely get started on the March book club pick, depending on how long it is.

Anticipating: Spring! I know we have a couple more months yet, but I’m looking forward to warmer weather, 6th birthday parties, Easter, visits with family and more!

Listening to: BB watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the next room. Almost lunchtime…

Drinking: Water! (I did have a 4 oz glass of orange juice this morning – Simply Orange of course – and a 15 calorie mug of Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea earlier, but overall I’m doing well on calories this morning)

Wishing: the laundry would finish itself. I’m getting tired of the up and down stairs routine especially as my knee is still giving me grief.

Pinning (The Tasty Edition): 

Lego cookies * Cheesecake in a Jar * Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes * Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie * Baked Red Potato Chips * Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal

family fun photography

Snow Day.

We woke up this morning to a backyard and trees filled with the white fluffy stuff. Only a couple inches so not enough to be a huge pain in the butt – but just enough to stick around long enough to get outside and play in!

Since MM had the day off from school (one of those teacher inservice days), it only seemed right to get together for a morning play date with our favorite neighbors. They have a nice big fenced in yard that’s perfect for sledding and requires minimum involvement on the parent’s part – even better. We spent 20 minutes outside with them so the littles could get in some snow fun and then retreated indoors where it was warm (and quiet!) to relax while the big kids continued to blow off copious amounts of energy.

BB spent a lot of time chasing around their eldest girl M who is basically BB’s favorite person in the world.

Luckily M thinks BB is pretty great, too, and was more than happy to spend some time with BB in the snow.

She is such a great kid. I’m kinda hoping MM marries her someday.

Could they be any sweeter?

BB is getting more and more brave and adventerous in the snow – last time we went out to play it was really too cold and she didn’t have a great time. Today was perfect.

Yeah I was a little camera happy this morning – just be glad I’m not showing you all of the original 133 pictures I took.

This is their youngest boy S, who is just the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.

Seriously. He’s a year younger than BB but they are already pretty good friends and it’s nice to have someone close in age to both the kids right around the corner from us. (ps: they have another boy MM’s age, named B – for some reason I didn’t end up with any pictures of him, but trust me, he’s just as adorable and awesome).

Determined to sled!

Luckily M was there to help get the sled up the hill!

Ready to go!


books & reading reviews

Book Review: These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

These Is My Words by Nancy TurnerThis month my book club discussed These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner which tells the amazing story of Sarah Agnes Prine, written in diary form. Here’s a description of the book from

“Inspired by the author’s original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s. As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and as fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes and our grandest dreams. She rides Indian-style and shoots with deadly aim, greedily devours a treasure trove of leatherbound books, downs fire, flood, Comanche raids and other mortal perils with the unique courage that forged the character of the American West.

Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action-packed novel is also the story of a powerful, enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. Neither the vast distances traveled nor the harsh and killing terrains could quench the passion between them, and the loss and loneliness both suffer only strengthen their need for each other.”

One of the first things I noticed about this book was a description on the book cover comparing the love story in the book to Gone With the Wind, which happens to be my favorite book. So right off the bat, it had pretty big shoes to fill. The second thing I noticed was that, especially in the beginning, the book is written with a heavy dialect and poor grammar, because the narrator and main character is uneducated and the book is written in journal form. This made the book a little difficult to get into initially, mixed with a very action driven pioneer / Oregon Trail beginning with a lot of descriptions of their life on the road which was very hard but not always interesting.

But around page 50 or so, things start to pick up and you start to realize how awesome Sarah Prine is – and as her character develops and matures, so does the writing style and plot. It gradually fades from torturous life on the road and Indian raids to a coming of age love story with the rich backdrop of life in the 1800’s in the Arizona territories. And I was hooked.

I really loved this book. Though it was a bit slow to get into initially, this story really sucked me in once it got going. I loved the great attention to detail that the author gave to the story – leaving no stone unturned, she clearly did a lot of research for this story and it shows. I loved all the little facts and details of life in the 1800’s and the gradual coming of age of the main character was fascinating to read – and the love story. Oh, lord – it was good.

One drawback to this book is that it is very sad and tragic at a lot of points. Sarah does not lead an easy life and she faces more than her fair share of hardships. I cried a lot reading this book – but I laughed a lot, too, and overall it was not a deal breaker for me the way some other heavy books have been in the past. I was able to keep reading and as the characters overcame their hardships, I overcame the experience of reading about them. The book maintained a hopeful, fighting to overcome tone that was uplifting and inspiring. I definitely recommend this one.

dieting & exercise

Mommy Blogger Weight Loss Challenge: The results are in!

Well guys, the weight loss challenge that I embarked on three weeks ago ended officially yesterday. I just retook my measurements so I guess it’s time to write about my results with the Mommy Blogger Weight Loss Challenge by Dustin Maher.

First, I thought I’d tell you my thoughts overall with the challenge. I thought the challenge was very well thought out with the guidelines made clear and all the bases covered. He devised a system that was elaborate but simple at the same time – you knew what you would gain and lose points for and how many points you should be shooting for.

He offered meal plans and snack suggestions with the help of Leanne Ely, New York Times best selling author from And he even included a spreadsheet where you could keep track of all your points. For three weeks I had that spreadsheet permanently open so I could sit down and log my workouts, meals and water consumption.

Things That Were Easy For Me

Water consumption: I am a constantly thirsty person by nature and back when I first started trying to lose weight (in roughly 2008) I trained myself to learn to love water. It wasn’t easy – I didn’t grow up drinking a lot of water and detested the taste. I was picky and would only drink certain water – like from a Brita filter only. Even bottled water still tastes gross to me for some reason. But I have two water pitchers in the house as well as a fridge water despenser and I wake up in the morning and grab a large glass and fill it all day. There were very few days in the competition where I didn’t have 8-10 large glasses of water a day (I think most of my glasses were close to 12 oz of water).

Weekly challenges: The first two weekly challenges were to read for 10+ minutes a day and to have a 10 minute conversation with someone every day. This was an easy 1+ point each day as I read every night before bedtime and, um, I love to talk. Every day during week 2 I found I’d managed to talk to someone for 10 minutes – and not just Dan, Michael or Emily! I guess it pays to be a chatty Cathy? In week 3 our challenge was to tell someone new each day that we appreciated them. I managed to do this 4 times with enough genuine effort that I allowed myself to mark it down (Maybe I’m too hard on myself?)

Soda: I don’t drink a lot of it. At least I thought I didn’t. I just counted 6 twelve ounce servings of soda in the past 3 weeks which was higher than I guessed, but still out of 21 days it’s hardly an epidemic. You should see how many times I caved and had coffee. Speaking of coffee, Dustin writes that you lose one point for each cup of coffee unless it’s black, which seems fair – but I’d like to point out that not all coffee drinks are created equally and also that us tea drinkers can do just as much caloric damage with a cup of tea as a small cup of coffee. Not wanting to be dishonest to myself, I logged my tea consumption also when there were more than 15 calories in my mug.

Fast Food (eating where there is a drive-thru): I went to Culvers once during the challenge. I got a salad. There may have been a small ice cream, too, but I’m only human. And it was delicious.

Not skipping breakfast: This only happened once and I did eat breakfast it just happened after the 2 hour allotment given on account of an untimely skype call with the grandparents. I was starving. But sometimes you have to put life on hold for the grandparents.

Refined Carbs: You also lost points for eating a non-whole wheat version of grains. This wasn’t too hard for me – whole wheat pastas and bread were already in the cupboards. It was just a loaf of dreaded french bread that proved to be difficult to avoid.

Things That Were Harder

Sleep: Only on the weekends was I able to score the max points possible in the sleep department. I could have scored higher if I’d given up tv and reading, but you know… I didn’t.

Sweets: We all knew this was coming. Jen’s dreaded sweet tooth. It’s the whole reason I was here doing this challenge if we’re going to be honest. I lost 30-40 points a week to my sweet tooth which translates to approximately 250 calories of sweets each day, most of which were consumed between the hours of 7pm and 9pm. And that is GOOD for me guys. That’s a marked improvement and sign of serious effort on my part. But still, that’s a lot of points lost.

Exercise: I got 5 points for each 15 minutes of exercise (with a max of 20 points per day) and another 2 points for 20 minutes of strength training and 1 point for breaking a sweat. I averaged 10 points a day for exercise but there were a lot of 5 point days, too, and only one day where I scored a full 20 and that was doing (one crazy intense) yoga class with my friend Erin. BUT I also exercised about 6 out of 7 days each week which is a huge improvement over my 1-2 times a week average before this program. So that in and of itself I think deserves a huge high five.

Dustin’s workouts were hard. The strength training kicked my butt and the cardio made me cry uncle. The core training was even worse than that. But I stuck with it and did his workouts most days of the week during the challenge. Around halfway through my husband started joining me in the workouts and there was a moment of total validation when I totally kicked his butt that first and second day. (We won’t talk about how he is totally kicking my butt now – men are such stinkers) This just proves how intense the workouts are in my mind and how far I came in a short time. He was insanely proud of me after doing the first workout and couldn’t stop telling me so. That didn’t suck. We are both planning to stick with these workouts regularly even now that the challenge is over.

Food journaling: This is something I used be really good at but I ignored it completely the first two weeks wanting nothing to do with the concept at all. But at the end of week three I begrudingly admitted that if I wanted to make REAL progress I was going to have to start tracking again and I’ve been using My Fitness Pal for about 4 days now. There was no good excuse not be doing it already except I’m incredibly lazy. It’s a great app with a large database and a good layout – you can use it on android or the iPad /iPhone and also just go to the website on your computer. So no matter where you are you should be able to track. I don’t fuss with perfect numbers, just a general idea – so if the food I want isn’t in the library, I just look for the closest thing. At the end of each day, the app tells you how you did and how much weight you could lose if each day were like that day’s numbers. Pretty spiffy.

And The Results

I scored a total of 975 points which sounds really cool except that I could have scored 805 points per week. So… not great. But I know what those points comprise of and there is a lot of good habits in them -a  lot of sweat and work and water and protein and vegetables. So I remain proud of my humble progress. We have to start somewhere.

I also took pre and post measurements of my abs, waist, chest, hips, arms, calves and thighs. I’m not confident enough to tell you the actual numbers but I will tell you that my abs are 2 inches smaller but that for some reason my calves are 1 inch larger (that could be a miscalculation on my part). The scale seems to think that I may or may not have lost 2 pounds (it varies day to day, I’m not really sure). I know the numbers aren’t much but to be honest I don’t care about those numbers yet because I know that I worked HARD but that in other areas I still need to work harder. So that’s where I’m at. I’m getting better but I have a long way to go.

Anyone else do the challenge this month? How did you do?

motherhood photography

The never ending “camp out”

who needs beds? on 365 Project

Why did we bother buying him a bed again? MM has been (purposely) sleeping on the floor for weeks now and I’m really not sure why. I guess it’s just more fun that way? He’s using every blanket he owns and making his own little nest on the floor complete with giant puppy pillows of course – and he looks quite cozy, I have to say!

Still – I have to wonder if he’s ever planning to sleep in that bed again!

family fun

Our {heart} day in review.

Valentines Day in review. on 365 Project

It’s been a couple days but before I forget I wanted to write about our Valentine’s Day this year. In the morning we gave the kids a little Valentines present after breakfast – a new board book for BB (see her reading it in the middle right picture) and an M&Ms Star Wars Candy Bank and Angry Bird key chain for MM (top bottom row on left) which he put on his backpack.

Dan and I gave each other delicious chocolates that night after dinner – toffee and truffles for me and a giant dark chocolate bar for him. Yum! We kept it very small this year since we just spoiled each other rotten at Christmas.

For lunch I made BB a PB&J on heart-shaped bread with a big cookie cutter which she thought was basically the best thing ever (since sliced bread even) and when my son came home from school we looked through all his Valentines and enjoyed a brownie together – double yum!

And then of course that night this happened.

All in all, definitely a perfect Valentines Day. How about you?

family fun

Shhhh… she’s in the other room…

Here’s to the most beautiful woman in the world.  (Sorry to disappoint, if you thought you held that title).  The yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly.  She keeps me grounded, and is the wind beneath my wings.  She makes me strive to be better in every way, and props me up when I can’t.  She puts up with my workaholism, my social ineptitude, my complete inability to remember all the silly little things (like why I left the remote in the refrigerator).  Still, she manages to think I’m special.  For that, I’ll always be the happiest man alive.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my wife, and all her fans… from her Biggest Fan.