Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Running Dead

*Disclaimer*:  I am totally enthralled by the AMC show "The Walking Dead".  I wasn't really into zombies until I started watching it (there's no zombie life sticker on my car), so when I imagine the zombie apocalypse, it's all in terms of that TV show rather than some horror movies.  "Zombieland" is not a horror movie, per se, and is the other contributor to my imaginings of zombie life.

Let me set the scene for you.  No.  As Inigo Montoya would say, there is too much.  Let me sum up.  Just about everyone on Earth has died, and then come back to "life" with the sole purpose of eating you.  You've managed to survive so far by outrunning and outsmarting the former humans.
No substitutions.
As I was running by my lonesome one day several months ago (a memorable run, as I went 6 miles and had never before run more than 5), I came across the remains of a banana on the sidewalk.  No, I did not cartoonish-ly slip and fall on the peel.  I thought, "I should remember where that is in case of zombies.  If I were starving, I would totally eat it, and I bet there's still vitamins and nutrients in it."  During the remaining miles, I kept myself distracted and entertained by finding more and more things that would be useful I.C.O.Z.  That day, it became a Thing, and now I'm always on the lookout for such items.  The following are some of the useful things I've seen, that could probably be found on most sidewalks or streets.  You might just thank me for this list someday...

Food and Drink:
  • A wrapped piece of candy- every carb and calorie would help
  • Banana remains
  • A full bottle of purified water (okay, so that one I actually dropped out of Baby's stroller when I hit a bump going too fast, but it still counts)
  • Barely rotten oranges
  • A few ounces of Gatorade 
  • Slugs-yeah, actual slugs.  The way I figure, if I had a fire (and I would have to have a fire) I could cook and eat all manner of things.  Slugs would be super easy to catch, and are definitely not poisonous.
  • A condom- hear me out- I heard on the radio yesterday that a condom will hold a liter of water.  The other survivors are probably not taking them off the store shelves during their looting sprees, so they could be very useful.  Granted, those that I've seen on the roads are not exactly...fresh, but still!
  • Broken pieces of cinder block
  • Real estate signs- the kind that stick in the ground on metal stakes
  • The pieces of an old desk, being discarded.  These could also be used for the all-important fire.
  • Glass bottles
  • Soda cans- once flattened, they're quite sharp
  • A CD like this one, found a block away from my house yesterday, already nice and broken with a jagged edge.
Finally, DJ Kndeed's Reggaetown gets the recognition it deserves
Surviving the Elements:
  • A dead armadillo- again, hear me out!  What could make a better hat than the hard, bony shell of an armadillo?  Sun protection, rain protection, maybe even zombie-bite protection?  Plus, the smell might confuse the zombies into thinking I was already dead.  
  • The good half of a metal pail (who would throw out the bottom of a bucket???)
  • Trash cans- I think I could live in one
  • A knife- even the rusty butter knife I found would be better than nothing
  • A lighter- duh.
Please, don't think that I've given you all my survival tips in this one blog post.  I've many more.  And no, my post-apocalyptic plans don't include being in my neighborhood, living in a trash can, surviving on my running and slug-eating.  But I could do it.  Oh, yes.

Found any useful garbage lately?

What do you think about, while running all alone?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Food: It's What's For Dinner

I don't know about you, but I spend an inordinate amount of some time each day, wondering what other people are having for dinner.  I'm always curious about which of my friends are cooking, which are getting take-out, which are having leftovers, whether they remembered to take some meat out of the freezer to thaw, whether they're eating healthy (Oh, it's true.  I sit and think, sometimes, about calling certain friends to remind them to eat their vegetables.), whether they're using a cookbook or a website or a family recipe or making it up as they go along, how many pots and pans they'll have to wash... Does anyone else do this?

Nachos for dinner?  Why, yes, please!
I enjoy cooking very much.  I love trying new recipes and different ingredients, and I love that the end result of my time and effort is (usually) delicious and nourishing to the people I love.  Before I had a family of my own to cook for, I spent a lot of time in the imaginary kitchen of my mind.  That is, I paid for 2 different recipe-cards-by-mail subscriptions, and received 3 different recipe magazines each month.  I hosted and attended Pampered Chef shows like it was my job.  Then, for a while, it was my job.  In my early twenties, I spent more money on cookbooks and kitchen tools than I care to admit.
The contents of my tool turnabout.  Oh, how many diapers I could have bought for the price of all those spatulas!

It was our (now long-lost) dog who stopped my cookbook buying.  A couple of nights after we brought him home from the pound, we had to leave him alone for a few hours.  He was in the laundry room, with plenty of food and water and space to move around, but he went a little nuts anyway.  During his rampage, almost all of my cookbooks and recipe magazines ended up chewed, vomited on, or chewed and vomited out.
Long after that fateful night.  He calmed down.  Sorta.

I found out that every recipe I didn't know from memory, I was able to find on the internet.  I tried not to think about how much money I had wasted on cookbooks, and soldiered on.  I have since started writing down the recipes I invent, and keeping the notated print-outs of those I find online.
Mmm...pumpkin soup!  I had forgotten about that one!

I received a delightful cookbook, Comfortably Yum, as a gift a couple of years ago, and I'm pretty sure I haven't opened any other cookbook since.  It has really delicious recipes, written for real people who actually cook, rather than for people who simply publish cookbooks or magazines.  No glossy pictures of plasticy-looking food, no required trips to the craft store for a variety of wooden dowels or basket-weaving supplies- just recipes for food you would want to eat.  I highly recommend it.

With the hope that you'll share your dinner plans if I share mine, here is last week's list:

Last night, I made Fish Tacos with Noodle Invention on the side, as 5 y.o. complained that, "We have rice, like, every single night".  Tonight, I plan to trick Husband into eating pork chops (You know how people make jokes about the wife's cooking not being as good as her mother-in-law's?  Yeah.  He'll only eat the pork chops his mom makes.  But it's cool.  It's cool.) by cutting them up and putting them into  Hm.  I may have to rethink that idea in order to please both of my guys.

My advice?  Don't spend a whole lotta money on spatulas and recipe cards with pictures of food in handmade baskets.  Bonus advice:  try the super-simple dinner I made last night!

Fish Tacos

Cooked Fish (I used frozen sticks last night, but I've also made them with grilled fresh fish-just depends how much time you have)
Flour Tortillas, warmed
Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
Sliced Poblano Pepper
Tomatillo Salsa

Noodle Invention

1/2 box Bow-tie Pasta, cooked to package instructions
1/4 c Diced Ham
2 c Fresh Spinach
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1/4 c White Wine
1/4 c Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper

As the pasta cooks, start sauteing the ham and spinach.  Add the hot, cooked pasta, drizzle with olive oil and splash in the white wine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, cook together for about 3 minutes, then stir in the parmesan cheese just before serving.

What are your dinner plans?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This is the Life

Swamp Life.  Salt Life.  Gangsta Life.  (Gangsta is a dictionary word, now?  I expected red squigglies, but see none.  That makes me sad.) Gym Life.  Dog Life.  Young Life.  Mud Life.  Zombie Life.  New "Life" car decal choices are still scrolling, and I found the website where they're sold, like, 4 minutes ago.

I don't want to alienate either any of my readers, but I think the ________ Life decals are dumb.  I'll still probably like you if you have one on your car, but I won't drive around in your vehicle except in very specific situations:  In order to meet an ambulance carrying a family member at the hospital, for one, or if I were involved in a high speed chase and needed to change cars to avoid capture.
See how dumb?  You'll never convince me otherwise.
Husband and I have entertained each other on many a car trip, making fun of the various "Lives" people seem so keen on sharing their love of.  Again, I don't want to alienate anyone, so I'll not share the details of what we say (or how we laugh ourselves silly).  I understand loving the ocean.  I've never lived more than 30 minutes from the beach, and when I retire, I want to live no more than 30 steps from it.  I also understand that people want to share the things they love with like-minded people.  I joined a running group, and read running blogs.  I started a book club, and I go to lots of concerts.  I'm not an anti-shareite.  I just don't get why people feel the need to put stickers on their cars to say, in the dumbest possible way, "I love the beach", or "I love hunting" or "I truly believe the zombie apocalypse will happen someday."  Do you think two people with "Salt Life" decals on their cars have ever encountered each other in a traffic jam and been like, "Oh, you live the salt life, too?  Cool.  You can merge into my lane, then.  I only let people cut me off if I know they like saltwater."  Imagine if a guy with a decal went on a date with a girl who had no decal.  Imagine they went for a walk on the beach.  Do you think he'd believe her that she enjoyed herself, once he saw that she had not committed to a life of the salt?

I digress.  This is an advice-giving blog, so here is my advice: If you absolutely must share the kind of life you live on your vehicle, get a decal made that stands out of the crowd. 


facebook life
Like.  Share.  Promote.  Turn mush-brained.

Where a woman finds her place

Fantasy sports life
it's important. Trust me.

Your Life
Not 'you're' life. Not 'ur' life. And if it wasn't yours, it would be theirs, not there's.

Ironic Life
I still listen to Alanis Morissette. Isn't it ironic? That I have bad taste in music AND I don't understand irony?

Have any decals on your car?  I won't (publicly) make fun of you, if so.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Not Laziness!

Today has been action-packed, and frankly, exhausting.  Therefore, instead of actually writing any of the posts that are floating around in my mind, I am going to continue to elevate and ice my sore knee and post some pictures for you to "Awwww" over.  Enjoy!

Shirtless Rudolph under attack

The camera flash was very bright!

Today's advice: take a break and find a reason to say "Aw".  If kid photos don't do it for you, check out some eye candy of the meow variety.

How has your day been?

Aren't my kids cute?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When In Doubt, Get Out

"And Run" was going to be the ending of the title, but it didn't rhyme.

(No, this is still not my running testimony.  That story is coming soon, though, I promise.  Try to be patient.)

I do realize that not everyone is a runner.  And I understand that there are millions (billions?) of people in the world who will never enjoy running.  I won't start lecturing on how great it is to run, nor will I lament all the poor souls who cannot or do not run.  Instead, feel free to substitute your choice of words for "run" when reading this post.  Whatever you choose to substitute for it, though, should be an activity that is healthy and enjoyable, but maybe not so easy to do all the time.  Play.  Walk.  Practice yoga.  Exercise at the gym.  Swim.  Bike.  Jump over the cracks in the sidewalk.  Stretch.  Zumba.  You get the idea.

I could probably end this post here, because that's the point I'm eventually going to get around to making.  However, since this is my blog, I want to tell my stories, and I've only just started this one.

Sometimes--often-- it is hard to find the time to run.  With a still-nursing 9-month old, a kindergarten student to ferry to and fro, 4 mouths to feed, a whole town's laundry to do (I technically just do the laundry for the 4 of us, but haven't you noticed how unfathomably-larger-than-it-should-be the amount of dirty laundry there always is?  Mathematicians should work on figuring that out.  Or maybe our neighbors are sneaking their dirty clothes into our baskets while we're not looking.), various cleaning projects to avoid do, and exactly 300 facebook friends to keep an eye on, my runs are usually scheduled days in advance and are fit in at widely varying times.

Recently, a friend and I made plans to run 7 miles together.  We had exhaustively discussed every possible time that we could both run over the weekend, and had determined that it would need to be Saturday night, after my dad's birthday dinner.  I called her as I was leaving my parents' house to go meet her, hoping to hear the same thing in her voice that I was feeling.  I complained about how I had wanted to leave earlier.  I mentioned that I ate a lot of lasagna.  I maneuvered the words, "I'm tired" into the 2 minute conversation no less than 6 times.  Lucky for me, she was enthusiastic and excited about the run, and I couldn't bring myself to back out.  I did, briefly, consider stopping to buy a pair of running shoes and shorts for Husband (his were at home) and sending him in my stead.  The fact that his longest run to date was just over 4 miles did feel like a deal breaker, though.  As I drove, I kept arguing with myself about whether or not I should be going to run (Not out loud, of course.  This was totally healthy, just in my head, self-talk.  Really.)
I'm really tired.
I'm always really tired.
I'll probably get a stomachache.
But I feel fine now.
I haven't run 7 miles, at night, in a long time.
That's a dumb excuse.
I have to still feed the baby.
That doesn't take very long.
I'm really worried about blah, blah, and blah.
I won't be once I start running, though.
What if Baby won't go to sleep for Husband?
It won't matter, 'cause I'll be running.  And I can bring my phone.
Maybe she won't be mad if I cancel.
Maybe not, but it's certainly unfair.

There was a lot more, but since I actually want folks to keep reading, I'll stop there.  In the end, I decided to run.  The weather was great, the conversation was great, and the run felt easy.  I did get a stomachache, but it subsided between miles 3-4.  Baby did not go to sleep easily for Husband, but she did eventually give up and start snoozing.  And all of my worries got squashed flat into the sidewalk as they flowed out of my body while I pounded the pavement.  Leastwise, that's what I always imagine happens.  It's amazing, how much stress and worry is relieved during a run.  When we got to the end of our miles, both of us wanted to keep running, and I could hardly fathom why I had ever doubted that going out was the right choice.
While searching for an image depicting stress relief from running, I met these uber-relaxed guys.  Apparently, they are resting their heads on faux laps, not butts.  Also worth a try, I guess.
Back to the expected.  Aaaahhhh.  Makes you feel calm already, doesn't it?  This is more like the image I pictured when I started my search.
I can't remember ever regretting a run.  My sister, who has run thousands more miles than I, might regret the one that broke her, temporarily, but I'm sure she doesn't regret any others.  To change an old saying that I don't necessarily agree with to one that is totally true, 'tis better to have run and hated it for a while than never to have run at all.  Today's tip is obvious.  When in doubt, get out and run.  All your doubts will get squashed into the pavement, along with their nasty friends, stress and worry.  You won't regret it.

What's your favorite way to relieve stress?

Ever purchased a fake body part on which to rest your head?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The _______ -est Blog Post- EVER


Of the highest quality or degree


"Mom, have you ever seen someone so grumpy?  I was the grumpiest, huh?"
Somewhere along the line, our sweet son determined that anything worthwhile must be superlative.  Never does he dislike something a little bit; he informs me that it is the worst thing he has ever experienced.  Never does he just enjoy playing with a new toy; he immediately learns everything available about it, and begs to be taken to the store in order to collect each thing related to it.  When it isn't his turn to be the line leader at school, he asks to be the caboose, because being last is better than being in the middle.  To say he has a competitive streak would be like saying the sun is warm.   He drew some pictures recently, and asked us to tear them out of the notebook so that they could be framed and put in a museum. I commented about what a mess Baby was making with her food, and he got very defensive: "I'm still the messiest eater in our family, though, right?"

I'm certain that Husband and I have nurtured this attitude, at least to some extent.  After all, what is better than good?  The best.  Who is smarter than smart?  The smartest.  Who doesn't want their child to be the best and the smartest?  We may have also occasionally used his need to excel to our advantage.  "Do you think you can be a better listener than your cousins?"  "Let's see if you can remember all your manners and be the most polite little boy in the whole world!"

You may have already recognized the flaws in his -est quest.  I hear myself repeating the same things to him fairly often: "Your best is more important than the best."  "Just because you didn't win doesn't mean you didn't do a great job." "Nobody does everything right all the time."  "No, I've never seen a 5-year-old write lowercase 'e's that well."  Since starting kindergarten, it has been made painfully clear that he is not always going to be first, greatest, best, tallest, fastest, strongest, biggest, quietest, estcetra.  He has adapted pretty well, for the most part.  He is the first one finished with the assigned work.  His printing skills have improved tremendously since he saw how well some of the other kids were doing.  However, since most of the other kids behave pretty well, and are learning how to listen quietly during their lessons, our son has found an awful niche in which to achieve his new -est.  Now, he's the loudest, and sometimes, the craziest (his words, not mine).
Not actually green- Wed, 1/9.  Not actually yellow- Tue, 1/15
When he has to change his card from green to yellow, it means that the teacher had to speak to him more than once about his behavior.  Students who have card changes also lose out on some play time, which never seems to bother our son.  For many kids, the embarrassment of having been singled out by the teacher and made to change the card is quite a deterrent.  For our boy, notsomuch.  Husband and I have tried different punishments, rewards, motivational speeches, and reminder notes.  We've made suggestions to his teacher, and we've listened to ideas from her, and from other parents.  He knows the right way to behave, he knows which choices are the right ones, and he knows what consequences he will face if he does the wrong things.  It seems that he is constantly battling his need to be something-est with the reality that standing out of the crowd in the wrong way will lead to trouble.

I was recently relieved of some of the stress caused by my worries about him and his behavior.  A lady I met while running with the group has a couple of adult children, and observed that the talkativeness and stand-out attitude of our 5 yr old will probably serve him very well later in life.  His lack of shyness and his determination to excel at all costs, I realized, are actually good qualities.  For the first time, I thought, "Huh.  It really is just kindergarten."  It took way too long for me to figure out that yellow smiley faces don't need to create such anxiety.  Maybe today's advice can be applied to something in your life, and can offer some relief from a toss-n-turn situation.  Here goes:  When the present makes you want to pull your hair out, think about the future.  Not only do you not want to be bald in years to come, but you may well realize that whatever the trouble, it's only temporary.  Also, it is likely that we can all take after the smartest, handsomest, coolest, sweetest, awesomest 5 year-old I know, and add some -est to our own lives.

In what way do you -estcel?

Are you tired of my made-up words, yet?

Friday, January 11, 2013

What I'm Reading

Dedicated to Stevie.  You and your tricycle changed my life.

I clearly remember the day I read a book by myself for the first time.  It was a weekend morning; my parents were still in bed and my older sister was probably concentrating very hard on Scooby Doo.  I picked up The Book and read the title all by myself.  Once the shock of my surprising ability to do that wore off, I opened the book and read the whole first page.  After that, I could no longer contain my excitement.  I quickly went into my parents' bedroom and woke them by re-reading the title and first page.  I got a few grunts and "mmm-hmm"s, but that was it.  I ended up reading the entire book without help (and earning the pride of my finally-awake parents), and have now spent the last 31 years with a book in my hand, on my mind, or both.

In high school and college, I wasn't required to read nearly as much as I wanted, so I feel like I'm still a little bit behind when it comes to the books everyone else has read.  In fact, the gaps on my list of books I've read sometimes make me quite sad.  Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Hobbit, just to name a few.  I did choose The Scarlet Letter for my 9th grade book report, while everyone else was choosing books by Beverly Cleary or somesuch, but then my English teacher quit and then the next English teacher quit, and then the lady from the cafeteria became the English teacher and gave me a D on my report card (9th grade English was not good for me- when I get over it, I'll share the story) and then the Biology teacher switched to English, and probably I was supposed to learn about run-on sentences back then, but nobody ever taught me, nor did they properly critique my report on Hawthorne's book, so I didn't push the reading material envelope after that.

With this being a brand new blog and all, it is probably silly of me to plan gimmicks or regularly scheduled posts.  At this point, it's still a distinct possibility that this whole blogging thing will go the way of the newspapers my sis and I published when we were very young (ahhh- I was quite the Ace Reporter when it came to stuffed animal news), and not have a very long run.  However, I plan to share what I'm reading, along with the occasional book review, right here each week.

Husband gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas in '11, which has been wonderful in so many ways.  Lately, I use it mostly to read (and play Scramble With Friends- user name rhirie- hit me up!) while I'm also reading actual ink-n-paper books.  This is the Kindle book I'm reading, and I just picked this one up in traditional format from the library for Book Club.  I recommend both.  The first, even though I'm only in the second chapter, was praised by my dad, and he's a smart guy who knows things.  The second I've actually read before, albeit years ago, and I know I enjoyed it very much.

This made me laugh.

Today's advice:  Read a book!  Who knows, maybe there is justice in the world, and every time someone reads a book, a Kardashian gets a pimple or gains a pound!

What was the first book you ever read?

What are you reading now?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Run-ey-moon

If you've spent any significant time with a runner, you know a few things:
  •  Runners each have a little bit of crazy in them.
  •  Chafing, bodily functions, and fluids of all type are common conversation topics.
  •  Runners will take every opportunity to talk about running.
  •  GU is not the same as goo.
I started running a few months before my wedding, but it wasn't until I ran 3 miles one morning while on the Honeymoon that I realized I had become a runner.  When I was pregnant and still running (much slower and less often than before, of course), I understood that running would continue to be part of my life for as long as I was physically able to do it.  
Someday, I'll tell you all about why and how much I love running, and how much I love racing.  Try to contain your excitement, 'cause this is just a recap of the most recent race I ran.

Husband, for a long time, was one of those, "I'll only run if zombies are chasing me" types, although he did play basketball at the gym a lot, so sprinting short distances wasn't foreign to him (more on that later).  For reasons still unknown to me, in late August (read: 90+ temps, with 90+ humidity), he decided that he would like to start running.  I felt like a zoologist, making a breakthrough discovery during my field research in the jungle.  I wanted so badly to jump up and down and shout my glee to everyone in earshot, but I felt it was important not to spook him.  I was afraid that if I pushed too hard, he would quit and never want to run again.  Baby and I joined him for his first few jaunts.  I pushed the jogging stroller and offered lots of walk breaks.  Then, he started going out on his own.  Then, he started going faster and farther.  Then, he started talking about goals.  Then, I signed the two of us up for a 5k race in DeLeon Springs, and he didn't even protest!  My sister printed out a training plan for him at his request, and he stuck with it through heat, cold, wind, rain, holiday indulgences, illness, iPod malfunction, and baggier-by-the-day pants falling down.  

Finally, race day arrived.  A second-to-last minute change in babysitting plans meant we needed to drop the kiddies off at a friend's house by 6:30 a.m. (Thanks, Kim!), and we got to the race about 45 minutes before the start.  We picked up our packets (disappointingly un-stuffed, as goody bags go), pinned on our bibs, 
and found a bathroom with a short line and sketchy-but-flushing-for-the-moment toilets.  We then went to the finish line area and dropped off flyers for my running club's Spring race.
That left us with just enough time for a short warm-up run; about 1/2 mile.  We got back to the start line as the National Anthem was playing, and worked our way through the crowd in the wrong direction as we looked for my friend who was also running the 5k as her first-ever race.  There wasn't a mat at the start line to record the time we actually started running the 3.1 miles, and since we were some of the last people in the pack of racers, the clock time was about 30 seconds slower than our actual time.  

I had planned all along to pace Husband, and the first mile was less than 10 seconds slower than our goal.  Shortly after the half-way turnaround (where I accidentally cut him off and almost made him trip [Sorry, dear!]) we took a walk-break through the water stop.  Our second mile ended up being about 20 seconds slower than our first.  After the 2-mile mark, I think he was really wishing that I would just. stop. talking.  In my defense, it's hard to know which words will be annoying, and which will be motivational.  Lesson learned- most were annoying.  He did not care to be distracted by the fornicating cows in the pasture we passed, nor did he want tips on how to go faster.  He did, however, appreciate it when I informed him that once we saw the 3-mile marker, we would only have to run the same distance as our house to the end of our street.  When we got there, he took off like Tim Tebow with an open receiver.*  Just before he crossed the finish line, I heard the announcer say, "Now that's how you finish a race!"  I don't think I stopped smiling for the rest of the day.  I got tears of pride and happiness in my eyes when I saw the love of my life go off behind a tree and start dry heaving.  As I picked up a cup each of water and warm gatorade, I felt truly ecstatic to have shared the experience of running a race with him.  
Yes, my eyes are closed.  Yes, it's the only picture I have of the two of us.
Turns out, Sweat + Pride = Romance.  Or maybe my mushy-gushy feelings of sappy love were just inspired by the cows...  His clock time was 31:49.

I left him alone for a couple of minutes while I attempted to find my friend who was also running her first race.  She was walking, about 1/4 mile from the finish.  She had run most of the time, though.  I walked with her for a bit, and let her know that it was against the rules to walk across the finish line ("It is?  Are they going to make me start over?") She agreed to start running at the 3 mile marker, and finished really strong.  7 months after the birth of her 2nd daughter, 19 months after the birth of her first, and just a few weeks of training later, she ran a 5k in the very-respectable clock time of 38 minutes, with about a minute of time taken off from not having been anywhere near the start line when the race began.
She was the last registrant, but far from the last finisher!  #949

We all enjoyed some post-race fruit, juice, fig newtons, and the fact that we were surrounded by people willing to listen to us talk about running.  Both Husband and my friend say they're excited for their next race, and I couldn't be happier to hear it.

Today's advice: share something you love with someone you love.  You'll love it.

What makes your heart go pitter-pat?  

Care to share any of your accomplishments?

*I'm sure I have to explain this joke, and I am making no guarantees that it will be funny, even after it makes sense.  You see, Tim Tebow is not so great at throwing the football, as professional quarterbacks go.  He's much better at running.  So, the joke was that if he saw an open receiver, he would run even faster with the ball to avoid throwing it and risking an incomplete pass or interception.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"And that is why you should ALWAYS leave a note"

If you're not chuckling about this post's title, please go watch "Arrested Development."  You won't be sorry.

I can't take credit for the idea I'm about to share, but I can take credit for successfully executing it in my home.  I can also advise you to copy the idea and use it in your home, because that's what I do here: give advice.  You're welcome.  This year, we have a Smile Jar.  Each day, we are using small, brightly colored pieces of paper to note something that made us smile.  On the days when any of us is feeling down and frowny, we can simply pull a note from the jar and find ourselves a reason to smile.
5 y.o. helped draw the smiley faces. Care to guess which one he wasn't happy with?
Plus, at the end of the year, we'll be able to empty the jar, read all the notes, and remember the best times of the past 12 months.  By then, I'm hoping with all my might sure that Baby will be eating real food without scraping it off of her tongue, screaming, and gagging, and it will be fun (?) to reminisce about the times that she made my day by putting a bit of banana in her mouth voluntarily.

I also can't take credit for this next note idea, as I'm certainly not the only mom to ever put a note in her son's lunchbox.  I will admit, though, that the thought has crossed my mind that I'm the best lunchbox note-writer of all time. 
 "Son, does your teacher see the notes I put in your lunchbox?" 
"How about your friends?  The cafeteria helpers?  Anyone?"
I really don't write the notes in order to impress others (although being known around the school as "The mom who writes the best notes" would be okay with me); I write them to challenge my little boy's new reading skills, and to remind him that I'm thinking of him.  He loves getting them, and saves them all.
Poems. Nicknames. Scriptures. Bad drawings. Anagrams. Simple Spanish. It's no wonder he saves these treasures.
A couple of months ago, I was able to be a chaperon for his first-ever field trip.  That day, Husband packed my lunch, and included a note.  I actually did take a picture of it, with the intention of sharing it here, but decided it's just too special. And, too weird.  We have a LOT of inside jokes, Husband and I.  I hope that every time my sweet son opens his Star Wars lunch box and takes out a silly note, he feels as special, loved, and cheerful as I did that day.  

Together, writing a lunchbox note and a Smile Jar note takes up approximately 1.4 minutes of my time.  Do you have 80-some seconds to spare each day?  That shouldn't be a question.  Of course you do.  

What's that saying?  Life is in the details?  Or, is it the Devil that's in the details...?  Hmm.  Anyway, the fact is that the small things matter.  My son knows that I love him, and I make him smile.  He feels as special and as wonderful as he is, because I use 80-some seconds each day to leave a note.  You should, too.

What made you smile today?

Do you have any saved notes?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

If at Fourth You Don't Succeed...

Alternate post title: Swept Away With Good Intentions
Second Alternate post title: TBA after Husband reads this 

I don't think the words, "She is such a neat freak!" have ever been uttered about me.  I don't feel bad using clean dishes straight out of the dishwasher.  I've had some of the same bottles of cleaning supplies since we bought our home almost 3 years ago (That sounds a little disgusting.  It's like, Windex and stuff.  Plus, our house is small and we only have one bathroom.  Don't judge.)  I am more likely to pick up visible crumbs off the floor than to sweep every single day.  (Listen.  If you're going to get that look on your face, you may as well stop reading now.)  I have winter clothes under my bed and un-framed pictures under my dresser.  Generally, I only empty the crumb tray from the toaster oven about an hour before my in-laws arrive.  You've probably got the idea by now, unless you stopped reading after you pictured my kitchen floor.

Sometimes, I make excuses- "It's more important to spend time with my family" or "I don't have time" or "I just have so many other things to do".  But, in reality, it just simply doesn't bother me all that much to see messes.  I get all skin-crawley when I see someone type 'your' instead of 'you're', but I can look at a pile of mail on the counter for several days before it starts to bug me.  It does, however, bother me that our 5 y.o. seems to have inherited my freaky-not-neat-freakiness.

Like Mama... son.
I'm also pretty sure it bothers Husband, and probably everyone else, too.  So, I tried to change.  Soon after Baby was born, we decided that I would quit my jobs and be a stay-at-home Mom.  I soon realized that although I had always excelled at my paying jobs, I was falling far short in the housecleaning department of my current occupation.  I made some lists (I'm a truly marvelous list-maker) and did some deep cleaning.  It felt great!  I was proud, relieved, excited, and able to find the band-aids in the cabinet under the bathroom sink at a moment's notice.  I only stalled when it came time to clean out the playroom closet.  I just couldn't do it by myself.  (Wait.  That's another excuse.  I could have done it.  It would have been much harder than it was when, a few months later, Husband and I cleaned it together.)  Once I lost momentum, I didn't get it back for quite some time.  Finally, I decided to toss out the old lists and start again.

My new list was a Rollover.  I decided to write down what I wanted to accomplish each day, but actually give myself a week to cross off each item.  Whatever I hadn't done Monday simply rolled over to Tuesday, and so on.  Turns out, Rollover Lists are better in theory than in practice.  I kept adding "dishes" and "laundry" just so I would have something to cross off, and by Sunday, I still hadn't cleaned the playroom closet.  

At last, it was time to get the Christmas decorations out of the playroom closet.  Husband cheerfully helped me clean and organize the space, and we decided to have a yard sale with the piles of evicted closet items.  I was certain that once we got rid of all the junk valuable, unneeded items, I would be able to keep the whole house neat and tidy.  Here's something you should know:  Yard sale customers don't want all your castoffs, or even most of them.  In this case, they only wanted $78 worth of stuff, and $2 worth of giant, homemade Snickerdoodles.  

For my fourth attempt, I turned to the Almighty, All-Powerful *insert drumroll* Google.  The calendar is quite handy.  Color coding, one-click repeat items, and the beauty of seeing everything I was going to do in one pretty spot was really, stinkin' encouraging.  Every Sunday, at noon, I will change the sheets.  Every Monday and Thursday, at 10 a.m., I will clean the floors.  The calendar is also linked to my phone, so I don't even have to turn on the computer to see what I need to do.
You may have guessed, by now, that this plan has also been unsuccessful (so far).  But I'm not giving up!  I will stick with my new plan: Just Do It.  I've ultimately realized that, as much as I hate to admit it, my problem is really just laziness.  I have plenty of time to clean.  I can involve my family, in order to teach better habits to the 5 y.o. and impress Husband.  And, when my "so many other things to do" don't get in the way of my facebook stalking interacting, I have to own up to the fact that I'm just being slothful.  

Today's advice-just do it. Now, I will turn off the computer, get up from the couch, and go clean off, out, and under my dresser.  For real.  I'm going.  Right now.

Care to admit any of YOUR faults?  All the judgy people stopped reading a way long time ago.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fries and Foremost

I have a lot of advice to share.  I could tell  you how to train for a race, give you titles of great books, direct you in the planning of your wedding, teach you how to make a beautiful scrapbook, decadent cheesecake, or perfect guacamole.  But in this, my first-ever blog post, I feel it is most important to share this truth: ketchup is not always best.  There are so many different fries just waiting to be dipped, and if you're always dunking them in the red stuff, you have to know you're missing out.

Many fries lend themselves well to a creamy/tangy combo.  Some need nothing at all.  Despite what my dear, darling husband thinks, ketchup doesn't make everything better (and nobody but him still calls them "Freedom Fries").  The following list is the result of 18 years of extensive research.  I've been eating fries for many more than 18 years, but it wasn't until I started working at Burger King at age 16 that I realized how much greater (in quality and quantity) my fry consumption could get.

Applebee's: Honey mustard

Arby's Curly: Mix equal parts Arby's sauce and Horsey sauce, using the smallest, crispiest one in the container as a spoon.

BBQ Joints: Sonny's, Woody's, Dustin' matter the name you see before the 's, you can count on the fries all tasting the same.  These are actually best with ketchup.  You're welcome, husband.

Burger King: If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where they haven't yet changed to the greasy, tasteless globs they're serving as fries, then ask for a side of sweet-n-sour and a side of ranch.  Start with the s-n-s, then dunk the same fry in the ranch.  If your local BK has already switched recipes, it's better to save the calories for something resembling food than to answer "yes" to the age old question, "Would you like fries with that?"

Cafeteria Fries: Salt, hot sauce and ranch.  First, salt liberally.  Then, dump the hot sauce on the fries, then dip each in the ranch.  Bonus: licking the salt and hot sauce off of your fingers.

Checkers: My high-school carpool buddy mentioned once that Checkers' fries taste like French Toast Sticks.  I have no idea why or how this is true, but he was right.  I haven't been able to enjoy them since.  They're probably tasty with maple syrup.

Chick-fil-A: Option 1- Mix 1 packet of mayonnaise with 2 packets of ketchup
Option 2- Ranch
Both are equally delicious to me.

Chili's: Ancho-Chile Ranch.  Trust me.

McDonald's: Sweet-n-Sour, or nothing at all.

Ruby Tuesday: This one is tough.  I've tried them with ketchup, ranch, honey mustard, and solo.  None of those seem right.  I'm leaning toward malt vinegar, but I'm not the type of customer to ask for such a thing.  It would be like asking for a lime wedge in my water.  Yes, it's good.  Yes, it's available.  Yes, it's what I, the paying and tipping customer wants.  But no, I'm not going to ask my server for it, knowing that he/she would have to step away from the drink station to get it.  

Wendy's: Feeling indulgent?  Dip them in your Frosty.  Their fries are the saltiest of all, which is why they pair so nicely with the sweet, chocolatey Frosty.  They're also decent with no accompaniment.  

Now, here's some bonus advice (betcha didn't think you'd be getting advice + advice when you stopped by today!): Make my delicious recipe for Un-Frieds at home.  They needn't be dipped (although husband puts ketchup on them) and they're great as a breakfast potato if you have any left over from dinner the night before.

Potatoes (figure 1 per person) cut into fry-sized wedges
Kosher salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Minced garlic
Olive oil

Place potatoes in a shallow baking pan.  Salt liberally.  Sprinkle on the pepper and oregano.  Distribute the minced garlic as evenly as possible.  Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 Tbs.) and mix with your hands until all the potatoes are covered with the oil.  Bake at 400F, re-mixing with a spatula once, for 25 mins or until the potatoes are getting brown and can be easily cut through with a fork.  Enjoy!

Do you have any dipping advice to share?