Thursday, January 28, 2010

May I suggest...

Allrecipes is my go to site for tried and true recipes... mainly because it seems like a bazillion women use it and a huge percentage of them post reviews and modifications to the recipes posted.

It's like asking your older, wiser, cooks-more-than-you friend for no-fail recipes.

Be warned before you visit though:
  • it's not fancy. we're talking make-tonight, budget friendly fixes. you want gourmet? visit epicurious.
  • believe the comments! which means you also have to read them. women often post their best secrets and tricks to make the recipe come out right every time.

Don't believe me? Try this bread machine challah recipe. I made it last week, and for the first time, understood what Martha means when she says dough is beautiful or silky. This dough was both. And it made the most gorgeous challah... a huge, golden loaf, just the right balance of sweetness and egg. Seriously, it was enough to convince you that challah alone is why the Jews think their the chosen ones.

Oh yeah, and I consumed about 75% of it. Friday night. Yeah. I admit it. 75%. Totally worth it.

Bread Machine Challah I (from

  • 3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 T margarine (I used fat free promise)
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  1. Add ingredients to your machine in the order suggested in your manual
  2. Put it on the dough cycle
  3. As soon as the dough is done, remove it and divide into three parts. Roll each part into a long rope and braid it.
  4. Cover it with a clean towel and place in a warm spot to rise. (I put it on top of the stove.) After 50 minutes or so, preheat the oven to 375.
  5. Brush with a beaten egg and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.

You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Good clean Saturday fun

Weekends at home are great.

I can lay around and read and paint my nails and watch marathons on TV and complete the NYT crossword puzzle.

Oh wait. I can't do those things.

But I CAN hang out with my Ben Ben... on the other hand, I HAVE to do chores.
So... why not try this?

I know, it's probably not the greenest way to watch about a dozen dishes. But, you gotta' admit it's fun.

P.S. Do I really sound like that? How could I have imagined I'd ever get hired for a job in broadcasting?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who needs toys when....

You've got stickers from the Walgreens ad in my Real Simple magazine?

Seriously. These kept him busy for about 25 minutes, and he wanted to take them to bed with him!

Other toy alternatives:
  • the classic: box the toy came it.
  • the dog food: he loves to throw it all over the floor and watch the dogs run around eating it
  • Tupperware and/or anything in the lower cupboards of my kitchen
  • the credit card machine at the grocery store
  • anything with buttons -- cell phones, remotes, etc. But they must be the actual, working ones. He knows when we've taken the batteries out an will not accept toy versions of the real thing.

I could go on, but I'll spare you.

Especially because I must share this fantastic Web site with you (shared with me by another toddler mom): knee bouncers. If your child wants to pound on your computer (and really, whose doesn't?) then you must go here. It full of games FOR toddlers. They can "play" by hitting any key. Some are just for fun and others cover basics like colors, numbers and shapes.

A life saver!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unleash your inner artist ... with your staple gun

Yes. I said staple gun.

There's not really a tutorial here.... just clip your JoAnn's coupon and head to the store. Like as SOON as you finish reading this.

Here's the how to:
  • Sigh disgustedly at the blank walls in your bedroom. The walls you spent TWO nights painting whilst your toddler slept, only to wake a mere TWO hours after falling asleep in the fume-filled room. (You too? No? Ok, it was just me. Moving on...)
  • Clip your JoAnn's coupon and head to the store.
  • Go to arty/painting/framing area and pick out canvases. (I went with two 18 x 24 inch ones for our queen size bed, but you can get as many or few as you like.)
  • Schlep those canvases over to the fabric area and pick one. I went with a home decorating fabric because it's a little sturdier.
  • Schlep the canvases and fabric to the cutting table. To figure out how much you need, spread out the fabric and lay your frames on it. You need just enough to cover the front, sides and about 2 inches of the back of the canvas.
  • Pay.
  • Go home and have snack. (Again, just me? Well, whatever.)
  • Set up your iron, ironing board and staple gun. Iron your fabric and cut it to size.
  • Then just stretch it over your canvases and staple the fabric into the backside of the frame.
  • Pay special attention to the corners so that you can make them tidy -- I folded them like you would a sheet. And be sure to take a sneak peek at the the front of the fabric before you beging stapling. That way you can be sure your fav parts of the pattern get prime real estate.
  • Hang them. (I use pushpins. Seriously, who has time for drills, screws and hammers? Pushpins work just fine with light items.) And admire.

Lovely! Right? Now will someone convice Brian to let me paint this ancient, handed-down bed white? That would look soooo much better.

But the best thing about this project is it's cheap cheap cheap. Espcially with coupons and/or sale fabric. It's super fast -- we're talking instant gratification here. AND you can rip the fabric off the canvas and recover or paint the canvas any time your little decorating heart desires.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Garage sale lamp redo

So here's an easy upgrade...

Brian burst into my parent's house Christmas weekend declaring he'd spotted an estate sale in their neighborhood. Because he's always on the lookout for tools and whatnot, and I'm always on the lookout for decor, we braved the dropping Cleveland temps for what turned out to be a wonderfully successful trip: two itty bitty milk glass lamps and a cast iron skillet for me.

No tools for Brian, though.

Here's my redo...

I just taped off and painted the wood the same color as the walls in the guest room. (Why it took three coats is beyond me.)

...and used hot glue to repurpose a scrap of an old sheet .

to this lampshade:
And a piece of a half of a yard of fabric to this lampshade. (I say a piece of a half of a yard of fabric because I think you'd still need to buy a half of a yard to be sure it covers the shade.

I am loving redoing shades on lamps -- it's super easy and inexpensive. My only tips are:

  • be sure you have plenty of glue sticks

  • take your shade with you to the store if you're buying fabric

  • don't be afraid to take your shade apart. That accordian stuff ripped right off, leaving a smooth canvas for the second shade

  • if you use a patterned fabric, check out what parts of the pattern are showing before you start gluing. I didn't do this on the second shade and my fav part of the fabric pattern ended up a scrap on the floor. Oh well. You live, you learn.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is anyone else out there feeling burnt out?

'Cuz I am.

It's kinda' like I used up most of my energy in December. I'm not exactly a useless creature. I've actually continued to be quite crafty and productive. I'm just behind on what feels like everything.

Remember the ten minute sweep? Suddenly it's daunting.

And the laundry rant just about sums up how I feeling about most chores. (I mean, who really wants to mop up all that tracked in salt and ickiness from the melty snow?)

The silver lining here? I'm blaming it on the weather and lack of sun and outdoor play.

You with me? Let's just blame the sun's noticeable absence... and let's celebrate that it's slowly returning.

Believe it. When I left work today, it wasn't pitch black. In fact the street lamps weren't even on. Woo hoo!

Just typing that gave me more energy. In fact, I promise to snap and upload pics for you all out there in blog land and share more projects. Soon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

with great lasagna risk...

comes great lasagna reward.

Try this: make lasagna in your Crock Pot.

Not kidding.

Inspired by my mother-in-law's no-fail tip to NOT boil your lasagna noodles (again, not kidding. You do NOT need to buy the special kind. She's been doing this since she took a risk when she was cooking for three boys in diapers.) I just tried it.

And. It. Worked.

So here's what I'd did, and what I would suggest.

At 7 a.m., I gathered:
two small containers low fat ricotta
Italian seasoning
lasagna noodles
two portobella mushroom caps
two jars pasta sauce
one box defrosted spinach
shredded Italian cheese

then Ii:
squeezed all the water out of the spinach
mixed some Italian seasoning with the ricotta
sliced the portabellas
opened the box of noodle and jars of sauce

then I:
poured some sauce on the bottom of the crock
made a single layer of noodles (I broke them to make the fit)
shmeared on about half of the ricotta mixture
added sauce
made a single layer of portabella slices
mixed the spinach with the remaining ricotta and shmeared it on top of the mushrooms
added sauce
made a layer of noodles
poured on the rest of the sauce
sprinkled on some cheese
turned the CrockPot on low

Brian turned it off nearly 10 hours later... and it was DELISH.

Here's what I'm changing next time:
Ummm... how about NOT cooking it for 10 hours? That would probably be better and the noodles would be a little firmer. Try 6-8 hours.
Instead of sprinkling the cheese on top in the morning, I'll just sprinkle it on when I get home and quickly replace the crock lid. That'll melt it just enough.

If you try it, let me know!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My nemisis: laundry

Seriously. Laundry HAS to be the worst chore in my household. The absolute worst.

In reality, I don't mind the doing of the laundry. It's the folding and the putting away that drive me bonkers.

"But, Sy," you ask, "how can you possibly have so much laundry? You have only two grown ups and one small person in your house?"

Here's why... That little person goes through a TON of clothing... at least:
ONE outfit per day
ONE pair of PJs per day
ONE towel and washcloth per bath
ONE set of sheets/mattress pad per week (usually, though this is two per week)

Now... if you don't have kids, you may wonder why in the world my child has a fresh pair of PJs and towel nightly. I wear my PJs several times before washing and I certainly do not give myself a fresh towel daily. I really don't have an answer for you. But every mom I know also does this.

And the truth of the matter is, more often than not, those PJs do get dirty as some point, rendering them un-rewearable. (Yes, this is possible even thought my small person is only actually awake and wearing them for 4 hours max.)

FURTHERMORE my clothes nearly never make it through a day. Milk. Nana. Yogurt. Boogies. Sometimes I don't even make it out the effing DOOR unscathed. I've spent too many minutes in the ladies room trying to get nana off my shoulder...only making it worse because paper towels simply disintegrate when rubbed against fabric. (The key is to dab dab dab... but, in my haste dabbing goes out the window.)

And, as my sister reminded me recently, unless you're doing laundry naked, you're never actually "done."

So... I end up here... blogging instead of folding. Can you blame me?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

If Ben had a Facebook page...

His relationship status would be: in a relationship with Pablo.

Seriously. His obsession with Pablo is at a fever pitch. Only made worse by what I thought was a genius Christmas gift: a portable DVD player.

So here's the deal.... A DVD player isn't a good idea for a human that can't be reasoned with. And, quite possibly, a terrible idea for a human that doesn't understand "later" or "last time" or " for the love of all that's holy, you can not watch the Soccer Monster episode of Backyardigans four times in a row!"

Add to this that the same human doesn't understand that the DVD player is only for lengthy trips to visit family in Cleveland and you'll find yourself faced with "Pablo? Pablo? PABLO!?" the entire drive to the sitter's house every morning.

The only good things about Pablo are:
  • he (and his friends) is/are adorable
  • his music is catchy
  • he keeps Ben's attention for an entire episode -- quite a feat as NOTHING else I've ever seen keeps him interested for more than a couple minutes
  • on the weekends, he allows me to get showered and dressed without locking a cranky small person in the bathroom with me

But, allowing him to see Pablo daily is, I fear, only making things worse. Am I an enabler? Is this normal? What is an acceptable use of TV? (Certainly, I can't be expected to let Ben see me in the shower for much longer...)

Mom's out there, what's your take?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Determined? Or stubborn?

Tonight I picked up Ben from the sitter, made dinner , took Ben to Target to buy trains for his new train table, cleaned the kitchen, reorganized the play room and assembled the train table.


While Brian slept. (Yes, night shift sucks.)

This is not an uncommon or uncharacteristic occurrence. I consider myself determined. And driven. And definitely goal oriented.

Once I declare that I'm going to do something, I usually do it.

This is a good thing, right?

Or am I really just stubborn. and borderline OCD?

As I write this, I'm starting to thing they're flip sides of the same coin. And what I really need to do is find balance. I'm getting better at saying "no" and being clear about what I can and can not do.

But what I think I really need to work on is being still. Letting some things go to make room for the things that bring me the greatest peace. Like foregoing laundry for reading every once in a while. Or sitting down to dinner with Ben instead of switching between him and the dishwasher his entire meal.

Of course, I'll never give up multitasking or be able to veg for an entire Project Runway marathon again (ahhh, college). But maybe I'll make an effort to actually nap while Ben naps. Or only watch TV not just listen to it whilst I tidy and fold clothes.


Is it a bad sign that I'm getting antsy just thinking about it?

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's twenty ten...

Sorry. I have to keep saying that over and over to convince myself it's true. (Kinda' like when you get your days mixed up and show up at incorrect meetings... You know this has happened to you. Admit it. )

20 effing 10. Eeek!

OK. So here are my plans for the year. I'm not a fan of yearly resolutions, but for 2010 (TEN entire years after I graduated high school!) I'm making a tiny exception...

In 2010, I will:
  • recommit to exercising and eating right
  • send more pics of our family to far away relatives
  • be better about sending birthday cards
  • savor more moments IN the moments

There. I said it. Hold me to it, k?