Currently. (may 28, 2012)

Relaxing on a hot day. on 365 Project

Obsessing over: the front yard. This weekend we took out one of the ugly, dying trees bordering the front of the house and filled in with mulch. The plan is to take down at least one of the other trees (maybe two) and then get a couple of big barrel planters and make some container gardens. One for pretty flowers, one possibly for lettuce and herbs at some point like this one at centsational girl and a garden for the kids to plant flowers and / or make a fairy garden. Really anything they want though I’ve seen a lot of cute ideas like this fairy garden at Making Lemonade. We also bought a hanging plant to hang on the porch – some very pretty purple Calibrachoa in the nightshade family that resemble petunias.

Feeling: a bit exhausted partway  through our long weekend. Apart from being kind of on the go go go all weekend, I’ve also been getting hit hard with allergies despite the help of Flonase and Claritin – I can’t even imagine how I’d have been doing sans allergy medicines. Plus, my constant back / shoulder / neck pain is beginning to get worse than usual. Luckily my wonderful husband has been giving me some massages to help and I’ve got some yoga plans to try and help loosen up a bit.

quiet moments. on 365 Project

Working on: thinking of a fun way to display our Summer Bucket List this year. I have a few ideas but haven’t decided on one yet. I figure with two weeks left in the school year though that I have time to decide.

Thinking about: wh

The Dovekeepers by Alice HoffmanReading: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman – our next book club pick. “In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path.” Typically I wait until about two weeks out to start reading our book club books but this month is a pretty long one, so I got started right away after our last meeting. I’m enjoying it so far but haven’t put in a lot of time with it yet. Good thing I’ve given myself a whole month!

Anticipating: a much needed date night this Friday – I think Dan and I are both in need of some Us time so we hired a baby sitter and we’re planning to go see a movie at our favorite theater together.

Listening to: the kids playing Toy Story together in the next room with the Imaginext playset their grammy got them a few months ago for MM’s birthday. It’s kind of fun listening to them chatter together, making up their own stories and adventures.

Drinking: my first glass of water of the day. I lost track of my points yesterday for the first time since joining Weight Watchers. One of my big complaints with WW is that their app won’t work on my phone which means I have to check my points on my computer – if we’re gone most of the day, things get away from me. Still, despite any damage I might have done yesterday (which wasn’t much), I managed to maintain my weight this week and after a long week of me resenting the very idea of dieting (yup, it was that time of the month) maintaining is good enough for me. I’m back on track today and doing the best I can.

Wishing: that it was Friday already! Even after a long weekend, I’m still feeling greedy. :O)

Pinning (The Still Hungry Edition): 

Greek Custard Pie * Melt In Your Mouth Chicken Breast Recipe * Banana “Ice Cream” – one ingredient, yup, bananas * Individual Pizzas made with Flour Tortillas

bubble, bubble, toot toot, chicken, airplane, soldier... on 365 Project

Idol Thoughts: When your favorite wins American Idol.

I am truly in unchartered territories here. I have often had a favorite contestant make it as far as the Top 5, occasionally the Top 2 (David Archuleta) but I can’t even remember the last time that my favorite Idol contestant has won.

I have been rooting for Phillip Phillips all season – as I’m sure anyone who reads these things has noticed, but on some level I didn’t think he’d win. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I wanted him to. I wonder if the Idol executives would agree with me when I say that Joshua Ledet or Jessica Sanchez might have been a better fit for the American Idol family? I think they are more moldable, more pop and more green. I think they needed Idol more.

Parts of me wanted Jess to win because it’s been so long since a girl has won Idol, but at the same time, Phillip did a better job and… you know I love him. 🙂 But I also think after this season, that Phillips was  going to get a contract with someone either way and I think he is more of a rebel. I think he’ll give them a harder time. Maybe that’s a good thing?

And now he’s won. And now I know he’s going to put out his first album and I know I’m going to buy it. I’m getting everything I wanted in a lot of ways and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m sooooo happy for him and happy for me, but also wondering if his first album with Idol will be everything I want it to be. Will he stay true to himself? Will he bend to their wishes and create something more main stream and polished? Would I like that? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

At least now the poor boy can go and get that kidney surgery that he’s been needing for so long now. I really hope that putting it off to finish the competition (and win!!!) won’t mean more health complications for him and that he will go on to have a long, healthy life and career.

I for one am looking forward to seeing what he and Idol do together and also, can I have the CD yet? Seriously, Phillip, I’m waiting.

Just for fun, here are some of my favorite Phillip Phillips moments from Idol this season:

Little moments: hand stands, temper tantrums and smelling the flowers.

Handstand! on 365 ProjectOur days have been yin and yangs lately. From quiet mornings and peaceful outings, embracing a world where strollers are more and more unnecessary, diaper bags are lighter, outings are easier, sippy cups are even beginning to get phased out as you grow so quickly and discover new skills. We smile and laugh together as we walk down the street, stopping to do “hand stands” or walk backwards, smell the flowers and point out all the puppies getting their morning walk.

We walk home leisurely, I make lunch. You eat almost the same lunch every day, but there is a rhythm to it that feels just right. Jelly on one side, peanut butter on the other. Fold. String cheese. Fruit or veggies? A cup of milk. The afternoon floats to a close like the tide coming and going and the moments are like bliss. It’s easy.

Other days, other moments and minutes, there will be irrational tantrums and angry tears. You’ll scream at me in frustration and I’ll beg you to just tell me what’s wrong – explain to me what you need so that I can make you happy again. Are you tired or hurt or just bored? Did I give you the wrong color cup or put on the wrong tv show? Are you just keeping me on my toes? Are you just two?

You nap eventually and wake up a different child. Or you don’t nap the afternoon stumbles by in a blur of give and take and bated breath as I wait for evening and daddy to come home. I make dinner, you help your brother clean up… mostly. You egg each other on with arguments and antics and happy chatter and then frustration over normal sibling battles over who gets what toy and who goes first and who sits where. I bite my lip.

Bedtime comes before I know it but also takes too long. Brush teeth. Change diaper. Choose pajamas. Not those pajamas, mommy, the other ones. No the first pair. Bedtime stories. Maybe just one more. Three stories? Not tonight. Hugs and kisses. I breathe in the scent of you and wish you could stay up all night with me, snuggling. What if I just linger here awhile longer and hold you? You’re such a good girl, so sweet and clever.

By the time you’re falling asleep, the tantrums and struggles and tears seem like lifetimes ago and all I can remember is kissing your cheek, tucking you in and turning off the light. I’m anxious for you to wake up again so I can spend more time with you tomorrow, doing hand stands and walking backwards and stopping to smell every flower.

I hope you know that those moments? They are worth every tantrum.

Recipe: Yummy Waffles I Could Make Blindfolded

Many moons ago I stumbled across this waffle recipe at The Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen. It’s by Matt who writes at Any Ideas for Dinner? And basically – the recipe was so rocking that we quickly decided to make it our regular waffle recipe. Then I started tweaking it and some of those tweaks became regular tweaks and now really my recipe and his recipe are only mostly the same. So I thought, maaaaybe I should share mine?

This is probably one of my favorite recipes to cook. It has that rustic, perfect feel of creating something from nothing, uses nice smelling ingredients and tastes delicious according to everyone in the family – and how often does that happen?

Best Waffles. EVER.

Basic Recipe Info

  • Prep Time 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time 15 Minutes
  • Servings: 4

What You’ll Need

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • Cinnamon to taste, maybe nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice?
  • 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted But Not Hot
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (I’ve been using this awesome vanilla bean paste)
  • 1-¼ cup Milk

How To Do It

  1. Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Sprinkle in some cinnamon until it looks cinnamony enough. Mix and set aside.
  2. Pour the melted butter into a medium mixing bowl (a Pyrex measuring bowl works great because you can melt the butter in it to start.) Whisk the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly beaten. CAUTION: Be sure the melted butter is not too hot, or you risk cooking the eggs.
  3. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla.
  4. Pour in the milk and whisk until combined.
  5. Combine the dry mixture and the wet mixture, and stir to combine, but don’t over beat. Don’t worry about the lumps, they’ll cook out.
  6. Set aside for a few minutes to prep the waffle iron. The rest will let the baking powder start to do it’s thing and give you time to start cleaning up while the waffle iron preheats.
  7. Cook waffles according to your waffle maker’s specifications.

Comments on my changes to the original recipe:

  • I started adding the whole wheat flour by accident when I was making a batch of waffles and found myself a 1/2 cup short of the all purpose flour. But I found the flavor better and the waffles were a bit more filling. The kids didn’t notice the change and my husband also liked it better. Score one for mom!
  • I started adding brown sugar mostly just ’cause. I thought it made the recipe feel fancier than just using granulated and sometimes it seems like I don’t get enough chances to use brown sugar, so … yeah.
  • The cinnamon got added in because it smells pretty and adds a nice little extra flavor. Experiment with different good smelling spices, I’m thinking you can’t go wrong here.

What’s your favorite recipe to cook? The one that makes you feel like you actually like being in your kitchen and being domestic-like?

Nightstand: May 2012

How is it possible that May is nearly over with June and the summer months just around the corner? I’m not sure if summer will mean more or less reading time for me, but I’m hoping there will be time in my future to lay on the beach with a good book or maybe sit in the backyard to read while the kids play? With a glass of lemonade perhaps? For now, let’s think about what those books might be as I join in with the ladies at 5 Minutes for Books with yet another monthly Nightstand post.

Since we last met, I’ve read three more books from my Spring Reading Thing challenge, two book club picks and one just for me:

  1. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (April Book Club Pick) – Finished April 26, 2012 – There were some things I really liked about this book – the writing itself was beautiful and very well done, but the format of the book, which has a different narrator for each chapter, kept me from loving it. There were parts of the story that I would have loved to have read more about and other parts that I felt were verging on pointless that never connected back to anything – those chapters could have been used to lengthen and develop the major stories. I’m sure this was the author’s intention but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! – full review –
  2. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – Finished May 8, 2012 – I loved this book even more than I was expecting to (picture me three weeks ago hassling the mail man and my husband about why the book wasn’t here yet already minus the hassling the mail man part because I only did that in my head). This memoir is not only laugh out loud (seriously) hysterical in a way that had me shaking the bed at night while my husband was trying to sleep and occasionally wanting to wake him up on purpose so I could read sections outloud… it was also insightful and touching in all the ways that Jenny’s blog posts often are. If you are a fan of her book or even if you’re not… read this. But be forewarned, there will be a lot of dead animals. – full review –
  3. Matched by Allie Condie (May Book Club Pick) – finished May 21, 2012 – I’m a fan of a good dystopian YA novel and this book definitely fit the bill. A compelling love story, a fascinating futuristic society that will make you think, a cast of well written characters that all get more interesting as the story progresses. I’m looking forward to reading book two! – full review –

Last night I started reading Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich – It’s time to catch up on the world of Stephanie Plum! I love these fun mystery books all about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum: “Trenton, New Jersey, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has inherited a “lucky” bottle from her Uncle Pip. Problem is, Uncle Pip didn’t specify if the bottle brought good luck or bad luck…

Afterwards, to be honest I’m not sure what I’m going to read but some contenders include:

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman – okay I know I’ll be reading this one, for our book club in June. I bought the kindle edition of this historical fiction novel which has gotten a lot of high praise. “In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path.”

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde –  I adore Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and have been waiting to read this for awhile. I have only been putting it off because I know his books tend to be quite dense and take awhile and lately my book club books have been similarly dense, so I’ve been filling in with lighter fluffier stuff. It’s the last book from my Spring Reading Thing challenge so if I don’t read it in time for the challenge, I’d still like to read it soon. “Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Crossed by Allie Condie – the next book in the Matched trilogy, it’s only a matter of time before I break down and devour this book which I’ve already purchased for my kindle, knowing full well that I will want to read it as soon as possible.

After that, I’m not sure… I do have several books that I’m considering but I need to weed through the piles and decide which ones I’m most excited about.

What are you reading?

We’re joining the Happy Family Movement’s 2012 Summer Bucket List Challenge!

at the beach in 2011
at the beach in 2011

It seems like summer was a lifetime ago. Look at those tiny little people that are my children. He wasn’t even in kindergarten, she was barely talking. Time is flying and another summer is coming fast! MM has three weeks of school left until our Summer Vacation officially begins! To help keep our days fun-filled and intentional and make sure we make the time to do all of the Classic Awesome Summer Stuff we have in mind, I’ve signed up for the Happy Family Movement’s 2012 Summer Bucket List Challenge where participants in the challenge get:

• a Summer Bucket List Challenge guide, complete with sample activities
• eligibility for weekly prize draws
• regular updates on the Happy Family Movement blog (yes, we’ve got our own Summer Bucket List!)
• access to a great community on Facebook


Sounds like fun right? We’re planning to write up our full bucket list tonight, I’ll share all the details soon. I know you want to join us in having The Best Summer Ever so be sure to sign up soon. Topping off our Summer List of Fun is definitely camping trips, s’mores and a vacation to visit family!

Before you sign up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment with the one thing you and your family are looking forward to most this summer.

Book Review: Matched by Allie Condie

Matched by Allie CondieLast night while my husband read my six year old son some of the last few chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I snuck upstairs to finish the last few chapters of Matched by Allie Condie, which my book club will be discussing tomorrow night. Each month our club has the host nominate three books and then as a group we vote for the one we’d all like to read. Matched was one of my books, so I’m looking forward to hearing what the group thinks of a “typical Jen read” tomorrow.

All three books that I chose were dystopian YA stories, one of my fave genres along with historical fiction, celeb memoirs and light mysteries. And okay, books. All of them. This YA dystopian novel, the first in a trilogy (of course), tells the story of Cassia Ryes who lives in a futuristic society where the government makes all the choices for people – what to eat, what to wear, who to marry, what job you’ll have – all based on carefully documented DNA and information gathering throughout your life – so that you can have the ideal life.

more from goodreads.com:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

So yeah, I was pretty excited to read this one. It’s a unique twist that had me very intrigued, plus can we all agree that the cover art is gorgeous?

Two weeks later, I can safely say that I’m glad our club picked this book – I definitely enjoyed reading it and the second I finished it, I found myself online ordering the sequel, Crossed, for my kindle. I thought the writing was well done, certainly not the finest literary gem of gems, but very good. It was very easy to read and as the story drew on, addictive and hard to put down. I finished it in under two weeks but I also had limited reading hours. It could easily be read in less than a week, maybe even a day if you had a whole day to read (does that sound like paradise or what?).

I was fascinated by the society that Condie has created, especially because I could really see it happening. It felt like an authentic progression of what might happen if the problems of today got worse. I can totally see it. And isn’t that what the best of dystopian fiction has to offer? A harsh light on the problems of today and where they could lead? I also really enjoyed the love story and how it unfolds. It definitely brings you back to those years of young love when every day feels like the most important day and every minute lasts too long or not long enough. I look forward to seeing where Cassia’s story takes her in the next two books and who she ultimately ends up with.

Have you read Matched yet? Tell me what you thought of it in the comments section below. 

Recipe: Slightly Sweet Soy Biscuits – low carb & gluten free

My husband has been eating a low carb diet for about a month now and was looking for a recipe for biscuits to eat with his eggs and bacon in the morning – something fairly low carb using an alternative flour. When he wasn’t able to find a recipe that he liked, he start tweaking the ones out there until he came up with something tasty and easy to prepare.

This is the result of that experimentation, a low-carb and gluten free biscuit made with soy flour that tastes similar to a corn muffin. He grills it on the same cast iron pan that he cooks his eggs and bacon in, using a recycled metal can (it probably used to hold canned corn or black beans) to form the shape in the pan while it cooks. He made me some this weekend with breakfast and I liked it so much, I made him write down the recipe so I could share it with all of you!

Slightly Sweet Soy Biscuits

  • Yields: 2 biscuits
  • Cook Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Weight Watchers Points Plus: 3 per biscuit

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c soy flour (we use Bob’s Red Mill – it’s raw, not defatted)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, and add the egg. Mix until well combined
  2. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes, to allow the soy flour to absorb some liquid
  3. Cook the batter –
    • Like I said, we use a metal can as a ring, placed in a frying pan over medium heat. Pour half the batter into the ring & cover, flip the biscuit after a few minutes, and then cook on the other side.
    • Though we haven’t tried baking, I’m guessing this would work well in a muffin tin also.
    • With a little more flour, this may work well as a dough (for shaping biscuits, etc).

If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think!

Currently. (may 21, 2012)

Obsessing over: the fact that MM has only 3 weeks left of school! Summer is going to be here before I know it and frankly I’m not sure how I feel about that but I’m trying to get excited and start planning some fun outings.

Feeling: proud of myself for losing 2 pounds this week, a total loss of 5 pounds since joining Weight Watchers last month. I think I’ve finally figured out how to start making real progress, i.e. how many weekly points to eat and how to start exercising more to lose more.

Working on: laundry – just like every other Monday except this week I’m much more caught up than usual with just mine and Dan’s clothes and towels to contend with. Riveting, I know.

Thinking about: our first sabbatical vacation coming up in two years. We were originally thinking a trip to Europe sans kids but are currently considering a family road trip and saving Europe until next time. Hmm…

Reading: Matched by Allie Condie for book club this week and I only have a couple chapters to go. I nearly stayed up to finish the whole book last night but made myself go to bed, knowing I needed the sleep badly.

Anticipating: a date night coming up in a couple of weeks. It has been too long and I’m looking forward to some one on one time with my favorite guy.

Listening to: sweet silence. The girl is napping, the boy is quietly watching tv in the next room. Monday has panned out pretty well with a walk at the botanical gardens this morning, lunch with friends, home to get MM from the bus stop and then naptime. Not bad.

flowers at the botanical gardens today

Drinking: a glass of water and nearly ready for a refill.

Wishing: everyday could be as beautiful as the weather we’ve been having lately. Warm and sunny, with a slight breeze and a little rain. It’s my favorite time of the year.

Pinning (The Crafty Edition): 

small catapult toy by Made By Joel * doodle name drawings at Make & Takes * rustic X console table at Ana White

MM with face paint and green hair after his school’s Fun Fair this weekend.