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September 2008
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November 2008

That one

First PumpkinOur friend LuAnn planted pumpkins this year and invited Sam over to pick out his first pumpkin. I thought it might be a bit more of a production as he played in the gravel, dirt and tried to eat the flowers. Nope. He walked right over to one, pointed to it and was done.

Quite different than his first pumpkin adventure, when we drove out to a local farm with my mom and Sam as a brand new baby. I insisted on getting pictures of him with a pumpkin, too bad we picked the ones with bird poo splatters. But hey, we got the picture.

You know, for the scrapbook. The one I might not ever finish since it's not even started yet.

 

Our Pumpkin2


Facebook Freak

A couple days ago, all I knew about Facebook was that I'd heard it called "the newer, less sleazy MySpace." The fact that I only have a MySpace account so I could read a friend's blog explains why I didn't care much about Facebook. Until Amy turned me on to it. It is crazy cool. Next time you feel like getting into a total time warp, sign on to Facebook.com and back to the past you go ... evidently this is not always a good thing. For me, I guess, high school is long enough ago that I'm curious about some people and genuinely interested in a few. I, it turns out, am a Facebook person.

Matt? Not so much. He came home last night and I was gushing about connecting with some of my closest friends from high school.

  • Is there anyone from high school you're curious about?

  • No.

  • No one?

  • I'm friends with the people from high school I still care about.

  • Okay, but Facebook is like  24-7 High School reunion, only you get to invite who you want to be there.

The look of horror on Matt's face as he asked me if I'd signed him up told me this was not nearly as cool for him as it was for me. Also can you think of a better deadline distraction? I mean, besides my reluctant napper. Sam is marching back and forth in his crib and giggling. I'm off to rescue him from the terrible fate that is taking an afternoon nap.


Better when Blended Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet Potatos Sweet Potato Soup Dinner and Christmas - two things that come around the same time, all the time, and still they stress me out. Now that dinner duties are generally on my plate, I've decided to implement a new strategy that seems to work better than stressing out over meals. Hey, we gotta eat, right? And it turns out that maybe I didn't hate cooking as much as I hated not having a plan, or a clue, as to what I was doing.

Last night, I managed to put on a pretty damn good dinner even though the afternoon was a little chaotic only because of my new thing to "know what's for dinner" by breakfast. Not too many posts ago I admitted that the fastest way for my  mom to get me off the phone was to ask what's for dinner early on in the day. Now I have an answer, most days. Not in an effort to pretend I'm some kind of Supah Suzy Homemaker but more as a coping strategy.

Someday I'll even have meal plans and grocery lists ahead of time, but let's not get all crazy all at once.

Sweet Potato Soup from Dr. Jessica Black's awesome cookbook

*Yam fun fact, courtesy of Dr. Black: The yam was first cultivated in Africa more than 10,000 years ago. Yams may be used to treat arthritis, asthma, and spasms. Their natural plant estrogens may help various female complaints. They help to bind heavy metals in the body and assist in metal detoxification of body tissues.

Ingredients:

2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes or yams, cut into chunks

1 onion - diced

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 can organic  chicken broth - so the recipe really doesn't say what size can ... I used around 16 ounces of an organic cx broth in a box.

Milk substitute such as rice milk or water (I used soy)

1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari (soy sauce)

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon thyme or more if you desire

sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Steam yams or sweet potatoes until soft. I roasted them in the oven: scrub, pierce with fork, cover with foil and roast at 350 for 40 minutes to an hour)

2. Saute the garlic and onions in olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent and set aside until potatoes are finished. I may have burned the garlic, best if you don't.

3. When potatoes are finished, add all ingredients into blender except the milk substitute and blend. Yeah, the blending is key here - Sam was really eating this soup up until all of a sudden he made a face and shunned it. I'm not sure but I think he gave me a dirty look as he demanded I remove the offending soup from his high chair. Finicky little f-r, I thought at first, then I tasted it and yeah - gross chunks of onions, no wonder he was pissed. I don't even know if he can have onion yet, come to think of it. So anyway, blend away, man.

4. Gradually add milk substitute until desired consistency and serve immediately while the soup is still warm.

Note (10-23): The white stuff on top of the soup is grated parmesan cheese, cilantro is also a good topper. Also, this soup freezes well.


Crash course in checking - homemade economic stimulus package

I'm starting to hear some talk about another economic stimulus package. I've got one for ya. How about a little Home Economics stimulus package?

Don't get queasy, but when's the last time you balanced your checkbook? I mean really reconciled it with your bank statement, not just glanced at your on line balance?

Okay, I'll go first. I balanced it yesterday. To the penny. Pious much? Does that really sound like me?

I used to be the kind of person who balanced to the penny and accounted for every purchase. Even though I don't consider myself a "math" person, keeping books and accounting work make up for a significant part of my employment history. So you can imagine my distress as I slowly started loosing my grip on my balance. Makes for an interesting life metaphor if you think about it.

The beginning of my unraveling was when we got damn debit cards. For years I cut them up when they came in the mail and didn't discuss the option with Matt. Until he started saying that it seemed like everyone else's bank offered a debit card and he wanted one.

"I think I'll go in and talk to our bank about it." Damn. Not wanting him to look like a dumbass I told him I'd been cutting them up all these years because I didn't trust us to keep track of all the little receipts. No problem. We set up a system. A basket by the door. Then an envelope on the headboard. Then another envelope in the car. None of it worked and I became more and more frustrated before finally throwing my hands up around the end of my pregnancy and deciding to deal with it later.

I just didn't think it would be more than a year later.

For those of you are solid on your accounts and do not get nauseous thinking about this stuff, hats off to you. Really. For those of you who have never done it, or for those like me who used to, meant to and plan to again someday ... how about now?

If you're unsure where to start - and granted I might be an unlikely source for how to get back on the wagon having fallen off myself, or am I? - here are some suggestions that worked for me.

  • If you share your finances with a partner, pick a point person. And--this is important--pick a mutually agreeable plan for communicating about money. Matt and I decided on a cash allowance carrot (I'll explain in a minute) where we sit down together every other week to go over our finances and when we're done we get the cash.
  • Start over by getting a new check register - either from a box of checks you last ordered or your bank.
  • Make today your starting point. My system is banking on the fact that you utilize your on line banking - sorry - so take the balance the bank shows at this moment. Track your bank's balance and transactions very carefully for a couple weeks, noting anything you didn't have receipts for from now on - do not try to go backwards or you will get too overwhelmed. **
  • Let the past go and from now on enter every transaction at your earliest opportunity. USE the register for tracking purposes - write down not only where you spent the money but why, e.g. "Lowe's - plumbing" or "Mac Pharmacy - Lucy aspirin" or "Target - staples and retail therapy." If you get a few too many of the last kind at the end of the month you'll have a good starting point for creating your own economic stimulus package!
  • Some other register basics: date, type of entry be it: check number, ATM, Deposit, or automatic transaction, carry your balance and double check your math. I usually add up the column I just did to make sure it equals my prior balance.
  • Regularly commit to balancing your checkbook, reconciling it to your bank statement - hell, you can do this by muting the commercials during your favorite shows is you want. Weekly seems like a manageable goal. You'll likely develop your own system but I use a circle in my register to track what has yet to clear and a check to mark what has. I add up the circles, add that amount to the balance MY register says and that should equal what the bank says.
  • Troubleshooting: double check your math if you're off - really, turn down the volume for a minute. Compare your register to the bank statement in case you missed anything.
  • Since it's impossible for some reason to get all our receipts in one place so I can keep track of them, and also because it makes me feel like a SuperNag if I keep asking Matt for his and neither of us wants to feel like we're be controlling about money, we settled on a cash allowance system where every pay check we each get some cash to spend as we wish until next payday. We are working on tweaking the amount to keep it reasonable but still useful. The other benefit of this system is no million receipts for small purchases.
  • Finally, when implementing something like this, it's nice to have someone to talk to as you make the changes ... hopefully you have a friend who is happy to talk all things organization with you. Ahem.

The bottom line is, it's your money. You work hard for it. Know how you spend it. Who cares if you didn't do this before today? If it makes you feel more in control of your spending and confident financially, that's a good thing. And hey, obviously it's no magic solution to put more money in your pocket, and yet, when you are conscious about how you spend money, you can't help but make better choices resulting in what? Yeah, more money, baby!


**If you use a lot of checks and know you have quite a few outstanding, leave a page blank for those and go on line, change the date range to six months out and sort by check number. You'll see which ones are outstanding. Know that until those clear, your account isn't exactly right but hopefully you have an idea if they are big or small amounts - account for that as you make big purchases.




Politically charged parenting

I am blessed to have a varied group of blog readers and supporters. I try not to lean on you guys too much for input but there are times I just really want to to know what you think.

Actually, I always want to know but Lately I've been thinking about how politically charged parenting is. Every parenting decision from what kind of diapers, vaccines, nursing or not, working and child care to what to feed the baby seems to be making some kind of statement.

Has this always been the case or is it just that I'm paying more attention to it?

What are your thoughts on this subject? I'd be curious to know what the "hot" parenting landmines are/were for you? And if you don't have kids, I'm still curious what you think about this in general. Is it just me?

 If you aren't comfortable posting here, please e-mail me your thoughts.


Packing light

Sam - water bottlesSam - whisk (3)    We are taking Sam on his first big plane trip to visit his Omama and Opapa next month. I am excited to see them and for Sam to play with them and meet his Uncle Martin. In addition to looking forward to the visit I am completely stressed about the flight and the logistics of making sure all my bases are covered.

As a chronic over-packer, the challenge for me will be getting us over there with the least amount of baggage.

As a test run, I tried a minimalist packing strategy for Sam's birthday weekend at the Coast and was pleasantly surprised we survived and there was so much less to unpack when we got home.

This might not seem like such a big deal, but on our last long trip I packed his exersaucer,highchair, enough clothes, blankets, toys, books, bibs and washcloths to last us a year and his bathtub.

I think even if I had packed a bunch of toys and books to the Coast, Sam still would've been a happy little clam with the whisk and mixing bowls as well as his water bottle maracas.


Buttermilk mashed potatoes

My previous post highlights my costly housekeeping habits, but in keeping with my nearly full disclosure policy I have to say things are improving on the cooking front and I'm finding cooking to actually be fun. Well, fun-ish. Okay, not at all fun, but rewarding. There are good moments.

I do have to say one thing, I am thinking about my mom a lot these days and wondering how often she felt like slapping the crap out of us for letting her cook fantastic meals, stuffing our faces without saying much about the food and then heading back to our busy lives i.e. phone calls, homework and reading without so much as offering to help clean up.

I did help clean up when I was told/asked to, of course. Except that I would always, always work under the assumption that my mom would come along behind me to clean up the hard and/ or gross stuff, like the pots, pans and sink drain. See how that's not really helpful?

Last night I made turkey meatloaf and buttermilk mashed potatoes and had George and Amy over for dinner - turned out pretty good and it was fun to share a good meal with friends. Sometime it'll be fun to say "oh, it's okay to put Ella down, floor's are clean." Today is not that day.

from Natural Health Magazine

2 Tablespoons butter

1 onion - sliced thin (I am not good at slicing thin but it was still fine)

1 1/2 pounds potatoes

1 cup or more low-fat buttermilk

3/4 cup fresh English peas ( okay, a. I don't know what English peas are so I used the peas on sale and b. frozen were what's on sale)

1/4 cup chopped chives - divided

salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Hope someone stops by because it's easy and smells damn good. Set aside.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut into large, even pieces. In a large pot cover the potatoes with salted water and bring to boil. Cook potatoes until soft when tested with a fork 15 -20 minutes. This is a lie. It took twice as long. But I might've started timing from the wrong point.

3. Force the potatoes through a ricer. What is a ricer? If you don't have one, use a mixer or hand masher to mash the potatoes. This will be Sam's job when he's older.Add the caramelized onions and buttermilk and beat until light and fluffy. Add more buttermilk if desired. Stir in the peas and half the chives. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve in a large bowl sprinkled with the remaining chives. This part seems insulting to me. Do we really need to be told how to serve it? If you must know, I scooped mine out of the mixer bowl right onto the plates. I think I even used salad tongs as they were closest to me and I was in a hurry. I also forgot to "sprinkle" on the remaining chives and no one mentioned that glaring omission.


Bon bons?

Perhaps you're wondering how things are going on the stay at home mama front?

Well, here's my burning question: where are the bon bons? And who started that rumor? I'm guessing she had a housekeeper, chef and chauffeur. Also a baby who sleeps. Funny story about that by that by the way. Samuel slept through the night last night. LOVE him. Lucy Brown, however, must've gotten into something rotten and was a very good girl by not doing her business on the new carpet but she whined to get let out every few hours. Then, she got into someone's crack stash outside and started flying around the house like it was the park and not 3 a.m. Sweet.

My housekeeping skills still pretty much stink, but I think it's more an attitude/mindset issue. It is not glamorous work but there is some satisfaction in getting something cleaned and looking all spiffy. I mean, that's what I've heard.

One of many ways I used to drive my mom crazy was when after cleaning my room she'd ask me, "Now doesn't that feel better?" I would just shrug. It was fine with me before the cleaning and I would've preferred to read. Like many other things, now I get it. My mom had us practicing feng shui before it got all Westernized - she just called it cleaning.

I've spent the better part of this morning and early afternoon cleaning in an effort to excavate some CD's due at the library today. I have a terrible, terrible feeling that said CD's were thrown into a bag during a frenzied "stash and dash" cleaning session before Matt's parents came to visit and then the bag looked like a bag of garbage and got thrown out. Still looking for the CD's but meanwhile I've gotten some laundry done, found Christine's packing tape gun I borrowed when we lived at the Coast, found and paid our water bill (I really, really miss my office!!!) and cleaned out my closet. In addition to not wanting to pay for the CD's I likely threw out, I am a little concerned about what else was in that bag.