Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

Everywhere I look, I'm seeing Top 10 lists for 2008. I started compiling my own retrospective, but by the time I reached #5, I was nodding off. And if I was bored, I can only imagine what the two of you who read my blog would feel. So I'm going to refrain from describing how my eldest daughter broke her arm or the happiness I felt when my 8-year-old declared that she loves school or my gratefulness for a very cool husband who took me to Hawaii for our anniversary.

I remember watching an awards show years ago, when a Holocaust survivor featured in a winning documentary stepped up to the mic to give her acceptance speech. She looked into the camera and spoke to all the people sitting around their TV, who might be regretting the uneventfulness of their lives. That little old woman, who had lost everyone she had ever loved during her youth, reminded viewers in a trembling voice that our seemingly boring lives with our family should never be taken for granted.

So I don't just admit that 2008 was a boring year, I proclaim it! I sat around the dinner table evening after evening with my husband and four children! Day after day I climbed behind the wheel of my minivan to drive a precious daughter to school or to a piano lesson or to the soccer field! Minute after uneventful minute passed by as I lollygagged down the road with my loved ones, who I thank God are healthy and happy and traveling this journey with me! And you know what? I pray that 2009 is just as "boring" a year as 2008. And may your new year be boring, too!

Dinner last night: pasta alfredo, green salad

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, the excitement and giddiness of my girls opening gifts, and the visiting and sharing of meals with family and friends, I needed some quiet time. So on a walk I went.

The day wasn't particularly beautiful—the sun was hidden and the sky was mostly overcast—but I really enjoyed the peacefulness and stillness of the winter day. As I tromped through the woods, I snapped some pictures and contemplated the year past and the year to come. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost came to mind.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was snowy* and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In snow* no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for any other day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*due to weather conditions, I took the liberty of substituting "snowy" for "grassy"
and "snow" for "leaves"

Dinner last night: ham and bean soup, dinner rolls

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

God bless you and your family
today and throughout the new year.

Dinner last night: ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, dinner rolls, pistachio salad, cheesecake with cherries

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Traditions: Christmas Cookies

We're a country of tolerance . . . until it comes to the cookie platter. Don't mess with an American family's favorite Christmas cookies. Fortunately, we're also a nation known for diversity and variety. One household might insist on lemon bars and chocolate peanut butter balls and Russian tea cakes every year, while their neighbors across the street prefer divinity and gingersnaps and snickerdoodles. You and yours may choose the comfort and familiarity of chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin and Oreos. It's really not important what kind of confectionery wafer your family enjoys at Christmas, as long as you dip a delicious cookie or two or three dozen into the beverage of your choice while singing a joyful round of Deck the Halls! 

My family's favorite? Sugar cookies covered with tasty cream cheese frosting and candy decorations. My love for the sugar cookie started early in life. Every December, Mom would cut out and bake cookies in the shape of trees and angels and stars, and we would all sit down at the kitchen table for a marathon session of cookie decorating.

My mom and sister are extremely creative people, so their cookies looked like little pieces of art while my cookies looked like, well, something Rudolph coughed up. 

Thankfully, my daughter inherited her Grandma's sense of artistry.

Dinner last night: meatless spaghetti, garlic toast, green salad

Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Let the Cold Stop You

Time to break in the new skis that Grandma bought us!

Who says you can't downhill ski on Nordic equipment?

Tired, but focused.

Dinner last night: tuna melts, tomato soup

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Defense of the Christmas Sweater

I'm here today to represent all those who are being discriminated against this holiday season—the poor saps of the world who wear with pride their blinking ornament earrings, who cheerfully participate in the Secret Santa gift exchanges at the office, and who gather their families in front of their gaudily-decorated artificial tree to pose in their pajamas for a Christmas picture. If we don't make a stand now against the sophisticates who mock us for our Santa hats and tins of fudge, we will surely pay.

Have we learned nothing from history?? Do you not remember the Grinches from the 70s who set out on a campaign to stigmatize fruit cakes? Just look at what's happened. When's the last time you bit into a heavenly piece of stöllen bread lightly slathered with rum butter and savored the sweet goodness of moist apricot? First the fruit cake . . . then the homemade fudge . . . it's a slippery slope. Why don't you just serve me some store-bought cookies while singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and ruin my December altogether? If you really want to drive a nail in my coffin, correct me with a stern "Happy Holidays, ma'am," after I've wished you the politically incorrect "Merry Christmas."

People! Wake up! The same Scrooges who convinced us fruit cakes were tacky are on the move again. This time they've got Christmas sweaters in their sights. Apparently those of us who wear 'em are fat, forty, and frumpy. Well, I may be all of those things, but at least I'm festive. And fun. And free-spirited. See? I'm handy with the F-words, too. There's another one I'm thinking of, but it's Christmas, so I'll refrain.

One woman's frump is another woman's festive.

Mommy, why did that mean lady call me tacky?

Shhh, baby. That lady's better than us . . .
she decorates her fresh tree with
gold ribbon and Victorian ornaments.

Dinner last night: barbecue ribs, mashed potatotes

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tagging Isn't Just for Gangsters Anymore

It's only taken me months, but I'm finally getting around to responding to some fun little memes. Helene from I'm Living Proof that God has a Sense of Humor tagged me to write about my quirks. Both TwinMama from Bringing up Twins and Lana from The Kids Did WHAT?! tagged me to come up with six random things about myself.

Procrastination is not a character trait I would normally champion, but in this case, waiting so long has provided a good excuse for combining my assignments into one post. So here are six random and/or quirky things about myself, along with a WARNING that this may be TMI for most of you. Just sayin'.

1. I am rarely seen in public without earrings. They are my favorite form of jewelry. If you ever find yourself wondering, "What shall I give to Kim for Christmas?" the answer will always be earrings. And chocolate. I have 2 pierced holes in each earlobe and I would have many more running up the sides of my ears, except that I once accompanied my bohemian friend to the mall where she got her right ear pierced way up high. When the stud went through the cartilage, I heard the grossest crunching sound imaginable. So, no more ear piercing for me.

2. I hate lines. Who doesn't? But my loathing for waiting in line borders on the pathological. I have gained a reputation amongst my family and friends as being highly organized, when in reality "organization" is just my coping mechanism for avoiding anxiety attacks while standing in line. If I told you that I research the best times, locations, and strategies for getting in and out of a facility, you'd probably think, Big deal. She uses Fandango . . . So does everybody! Girlfriend, please. When you can tell me which entrance gates at Disneyland move faster, then we'll talk about who hates lines more. (By the way, studies have shown it's Gate 13 and 20).

3. Canned ham and I do not get along. Something in canned ham—high sodium content? a particular preservative?—causes me to become violently ill. Fortunately, I'm not allergic to pork in general. A broiled chop is fine. A honey-baked ham is delightful. Just keep me away from the canned stuff. Please don't even offer me canned ham, because I am very polite and would probably eat it so as not to hurt your feelings. And then I'd end up vomiting all over your pretty accent rug. 

4I involuntarily quote lines from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Hearing certain trigger words, like peach, will compel me to blurt out, "Do I dare to eat a peach?!" Overhearing someone sigh, "I'm gettin' too old for this," will cause me to shout, "I grow old . . . I grow old . . . I shall wear my trousers rolled!" It's annoying, I know. Yet I cannot stop.

5. My jaw is screwed up. When I was 16 years old, I went snorkeling and, when I came out of the water for lunch and tried to eat a Dorito, I realized that my jaw was locked. In a panic, I forced it open, heard a pop, and experienced an aching pain that persists to this day. Stupid TMJ.

6. I over-explain.

Dinner last night: broccoli shrimp alfredo

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Traditions: Christmas Stockings

When I was a child, my mom handmade stockings for each family member and decorated them to reflect our individual personalities and interests. We kids were allowed to get up as early as we wanted on Christmas morning, as long as we kept quiet and opened only our stockings. My sister and I usually carried them to our beds, where we unwrapped all the goodies stuffed inside before falling back asleep for a little while.

When I left home, my stocking came with me. Like me, it's getting older and a little worn around the edges, but every time I look at it I am reminded of my mother's love and all the happy family Christmases from my childhood. I've continued Mom's tradition by making a special stocking for my husband and each of my daughters.

In December 2005, just after we had been told we were expecting twin girls, a Christmas miracle occurred . . . my husband went out into the snowy evening and actually entered a fabric and craft store. He bought two plain red stockings, ironed on the letters to spell the names we had picked out for the babies, and hung them from the mantle in honor of our unborn daughters. He asked everyone who was at our house that Christmas to write down a prayer for each baby and put it in her stocking. I've since tucked those prayers into the girls' baby books, so one day they can read all the blessings, love, and protection we prayed over them.

Stocking stuffers at our house range from the useful, such as a new toothbrush, to the luxurious, like designer perfume, to the inexplicable . . . my mother always included a can of smoked oysters and placed a manderin orange in the toe of each stocking. I've long forgotten the significance of those particular food items, but I continue that tradition . . . no matter what else my loved ones might find in their stockings, there always will be an orange and smoked oysters!

What kinds of "stuffers" go into your family's Christmas stockings?

Dinner last night: pizza

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to Dress a Toddler In Four Easy Steps

1) Remove Pajamas. This first step will require sturdy footwear and plenty of hydration, so lace up your running shoes and take a swig of eggnog before chasing after your two-year-old and wrestling her to the ground. A good pair of earplugs are also recommended, as her shrieks of delight at being chased will be replaced by cries of heartbreak when she realizes what is happening. Peel off her princess nightgown calmly but firmly, while ignoring her sobs of "No, Mommy! Stop, Mommy, stop! Pin-cess dess! Pin-cess dess!"

2) Clothe Child. Using both legs and your left arm to hold toddler stationary, begin dressing her in a cute outfit. If one of her flailing limbs manages to slap or kick you, mutter quietly to yourself, "No pain, no gain. No pain, no gain."

3) Comb Hair. Allow toddler to put on her own socks inside out and shoes on the wrong feet, while you race over to the windows. Make sure windows are secure and all draperies are pulled tightly shut, as the ensuing screams may scare any passers-by into calling the police to report a possible torture occurring inside your home . . . you are now ready to COMB HER HAIR. The style does not matter—just get the hair out of her face and call it a day.

 * If you have twins,
take another swig of eggnog and repeat steps 1—3 *

4) Final Touches. Wipe away child's tears, give her a big hug, and tell her how pretty she looks. Hand over her jacket and say with a sweet voice, "You get to put on your new pink coat while Mommy goes potty!"

During the 12.5 seconds you are in the bathroom, your child will remove her top and pants, turn them INSIDE OUT, put them on BACKWARDS, then slip into her coat. Congratulations! Your toddler is dressed and ready to go!

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers, baked beans

Monday, December 8, 2008

Step 2: Budgeting and Purchasing

This is the third installment in my ongoing series, "Stocking a Pantry for 6–12 Months."

As I've started implementing my food storage plan, I've come to realize that it's not an event with a simple beginnng, middle, and end. In fact, it's a never-ending process of buying, storing, and rotating. Unless I've got a distant relative I don't know about who will bequeath me an unexpected fortune to use on a mad grocery spree, I'm building my pantry as I go and need to come up with ways to offset the costs of accumulating a year's worth of food.

Coupons. I'm not a big coupon user. I wish I was. Truly. I've kicked myself after reading about people who save copious amounts on their grocery bills simply by taking advantage of all the coupons floating around out there. I've spent a good portion of my Sunday afternoons clipping coupons, only to NEVER use them. I've tried the cute little accordion-file coupon organizers. I have gone shopping with coupons IN MY HAND, checked out, loaded the car, only to realize that I forgot to use my stinkin' coupons!! However, I do receive a couple of really good coupons in the mail from my local grocery store; they come once a quarter, don't expire for a couple of months, and provide me with significant savings at my store only. I keep them in my wallet wrapped around my membership card so that I'll remember to use them. If you're a coupon-clipper, then my hat's off to you, and I don't need to tell you that you can find tons of them online and in newspapers and magazines.

Bulk Warehouses. I shop once a week, without fail, at Sam's Club. My family of six needs and uses the cases of toilet paper and Kleenex and bleach wipes that I purchase there at a much lower cost than at my grocery store. The dairy, produce, and meats are so much cheaper it's not even funny—that is, if you can consume them all before they go bad. We can. Plus I like the big carts that seat both of my twin toddlers.
          I understand that smaller families might not want to buy a vat of vanilla ice cream. And I appreciate that many people experience vertigo when they stare too long at the stacks of merchandise towering up toward the steel rafters. But if you've got a big family—and possess the willpower to resist the middle section where they keep the bedspreads and kitchen appliances and huge gift baskets—then a bulk warehouse may help you save money while stocking up on essentials.

Store Brands and Sales. If I keep my eyes open, I usually can find some decent prices in my grocery store. My store has its own brand, which is cheaper than specialty brands. Unless there's a specific product that I know tastes superior, I pick up the least expensive brand. Also, there is a sale rack at the back of the store where they keep day old bakery items, discontinued brands, damaged packaging (but not damaged contents) for little to nothing. I check the sales flyers in the newspaper for loss leaders—when a store deliberately takes a loss on something like milk, in order to get shoppers into the store—and I'll pick up those extra items when they're on sale. I also keep an eye on "family packs" of chicken and meat; if they're getting close to expiration, the store will put them on sale and I pick them up and then freeze them for later use. I use a black Sharpie pen and scrawl across the outside of the package, "Thaw and use in ONE day!!!!" Even though I feel like throttling my kids some days, I really don't want to give them salmonella.

Holiday Specials. Right before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, many stores offer discounted or FREE turkeys and hams when you spend a certain amount on groceries. Since I am buying a lot of food for the holiday meal anyway, I usually meet the minimum requirement and am able to pick up an extra bird or ham for the freezer.

Pantry Fund. Since I have twins, I own two of every baby article you can think of. Even after passing on useful items to friends who are expecting, I'm still left with an inventory of gently-used child gear that would rival the contents of Babies 'R' Us . . . so I'm selling things on Craigslist and using the money to build a pantry fund. If you're looking to downsize, you might consider a yard sale, eBay, or the classifieds. Artsy or crafty? Look into creative outlets like flea markets, holiday bazaars, or etsy.

The economy is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Money is tight, and spending extra on groceries may seem counterintuitive. But I'm looking at it as an investment. The money I spend now to build up my pantry is money I won't be spending later. If necessary, I'll be able to go for a long while without spending much at all on food; we will be able to eat quite well from the contents of our freezer and cupboards.

The third step of this confusing and useless highly-informative series is pre-cooking meals. It shouldn't take long. I'll most likely name this final installment, "Shall I Bake Up a Batch of Cookies to Send Along With All My Tax Money?"

Stay tuned.

Dinner last night: oven-baked chicken, sweet potatoes

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Traditions: Advent Calendar

I'd been keeping an eye out for the perfect advent calendar, when I spied this a few years ago sitting on a shelf at Sam's Club.

The girls take turns opening up each day's tiny door, taking out an ornament, and hanging it on the knob. 

The secular and religious symbols provide lots of interesting topics for conversation—the toy soldier, for example, reminds us of The Nutcracker that we attended over Thanksgiving weekend, while the angel gets us discussing the role of heavenly messengers in the Christmas story. There's a Santa and a baby Jesus, which help us talk about who should get the most emphasis during this holiday season.

I also like the deep base, which is just right for storing the wonderful cards, letters, and pictures we receive from family and friends throughout December (hint, hint).

Last Christmas, we received a really cool advent calendar from Aunt Brenda: an old-fashioned delivery truck with 25 side drawers designed to bring a handful of Christmas candy each day! The twins objected to the "each day" part.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guess Who Likes Her New Coat?

There was a time when I was a perfect parent. That time occurred well over a decade ago, before I had children. If my younger self could see me now, she would sniff, "When I have kids, I will never let them eat soup while wearing their brand new coats."

And my older more experienced self would retort, "Shush up, you skinny know-it-all. At least I convinced my daughter to take off her mittens before eating lunch. I've learned to pick my battles."

To which, my younger self would reply, "I refuse to argue with an obviously deranged woman who sets her table with plastic utensils, paper napkins, and coffee mugs instead of soup bowls."

Everything tastes better when I wear my beautiful pink coat.

Dinner last night: lasagna, garlic toast, broccoli

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Not-Ready-for-Kindergarten Players

You might think that Thanksgiving is about counting your blessings and eating turkey. WRONG. Thanksgiving is that special time of year when you trot out your children to recite their ABCs and perform songs to guests who are too polite to extract themselves from the room.

(click on arrow to play)

Dinner last night: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, green salad with parmesan ranch dressing, pistachio salad, pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Snow Babies

I think my back went out. Let's just crawl home.

We're ready for some cocoa. And a Kleenex.

Dinner last night: macaroni and cheese, green peas

Monday, November 24, 2008

Step 1: Planning

This is the second installment in my ongoing series, "Stocking a Pantry for 6–12 Months." You can read the Intro here.

To prevent myself from running off willy-nilly to Costco to buy a dozen institutional-sized cans of sliced peaches, I completed a three-step process to clarify what and how much my family could eat if we had to depend on nothing but what I stocked in the pantry. I first calculated a rough estimate of how much food I'm going to need to store. Then I created a list of meals we like and what ingredients I would need to prepare them. Lastly, I took a good hard look at where in the house I could store everything without creating an obstacle course (not that my kids would mind climbing over stacks of flour bags one bit).

Food Storage Calculator. I plugged my information into this handy-dandy online calculator, which gave me an overall indication of how many pounds of food I can expect to purchase and store. Let me stress that this was just a guide to keep me on track as I planned, shopped, and organized; I do not intend on bringing home the recommended 6 pounds of molasses. I don't care if I hide it in a chocolate cake, and my apologies to those of you who enjoy molasses, but there is no way Mommy my kids will eat 1 tablespoon of that stuff.

List of Meals and Ingredients. I wanted to stock my pantry with ingredients I could actually use in my every day meal planning. My goal was to come up with a list of 30 meals that I could multiply by 12, which would provide a year's worth of dinners. I asked family members for their five favorite meals, and agreed to make some items (like spaghetti) more than just once a month. I rounded out the list with other dishes that are not only tasty, but easy for me to make. Let me dispel any doubt . . . we are not a family of vegans. Here's what we came up with:

Baked Ziti
Spaghetti & Meatballs (x2)  
Rigatoni ala Vodka  
Tacos, Beef
Chicken & Dumplings  
Sour Cream Enchiladas  
Tacos, Halibut
Salmon Patties & Creamed Peas  
Chili and Rice  
Heavenly Halibut  
Pot Roast
Tuna Noodle Casserole (x2)  
Tamale Pie  
Hot Dogs (x2)
Pork Chops and Stuffing  
Chicken Pot Pie  
Shepherd's Pie
Chicken and Mashed Potatoes  
Pizza, Cheese
Pizza, Pepperoni  
Macaroni & Cheese (x2)

The most time-consuming part of this entire process was creating a master list of ingredients. It took me several sit-down sessions with my recipes and a notebook as I kept a running tally of what I would need to prepare each recipe. Once I had all my ingredients listed, I multiplied everything by 12. It's too long of a list to print here, as you can imagine, so I'll just give you a sample:

12 pounds of ground meat x 12 = 144 lbs.

3 pkgs. whole wheat tortillas x 12 = 36 pkgs.

2 19-oz. cans chili x 12 = 24 cans

4 6-oz. cans tuna x 12 = 48 cans

Emergency preparedness experts recommend your foodstuff be nonperishable, because during power outages you cannot depend on refrigeration. However, I live in Alaska; even if we lost electricity for six months, we'd simply carry the stuff from our freezer to the outdoors, and it'd be fine. To be honest, I don't think I could realistically store a year's worth of food without my chest freezer. Assuming the worst—we lose power in the summer and all of my casseroles, meat, and fish are spoiled—I'd still have 6 months worth of food in the pantry. I could make spaghetti without meatballs, tuna noodle casserole with evaporated milk instead of fresh, or chicken and dumplings with canned ingredients

*Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? If a year's worth of food seems too much, try listing all the ingredients you would need to make 7 meals, then multiply by 4. Now you've got one month's worth of dinners—which is a great start, more affordable, and easier to store.*

Where to Store Everything. Fortunately, I've got some extra space. With the birth of our twins two years ago, we realized that we would need a larger home. My first project upon moving to our new house was to convert a hall closet near the kitchen into a pantry where I could keep all my supplies. Storing a year's supply of food, however, will require a larger area. In addition to the chest freezer in the garage, I'll also be using the back of the closet in the guest room.

If your kitchen wasn't designed with a pantry, maybe you can organize a food storage area in your attic, garage, basement, or shed out in the back yard. Many homes have a closet near the front door; perhaps you could hang coats on hooks in the hallway instead, and turn the closet into your pantry. Think about freeing up a shelf or two where you keep the towels and linens. Towels can be rolled up and kept in a basket in the bathroom and you only need one extra set of sheets per bed, so tuck each set between its corresponding mattress and box spring. Maybe you've got an unused bookshelf, empty corner, or blank wall where you can put up some shelving and then hang a panel of pretty fabric to cover it. Don't forget about under the bed; shallow plastic bins would hold quite a lot and be easy to slide out.  You'd be amazed at all the nooks and crannies you can use when you get creative.

Planning was the hardest part. Now it's on to the most painful part: Budgeting and Purchasing. I'll discuss my thoughts on shopping in the next segment, which I may or may not subtitle, "Hi There, Mr. Paulson! Do You Think I Can Get Some of that Bailout Money for Groceries?" 

Dinner last night: veggie stir fry over rice

Friday, November 21, 2008

Barbie vs. Bratz

Seeing as my 8-year-old loves dolls, Christmas is approaching, and toys are on my mind, this news headline caught my eye. Personally, I don't much care for Bratz dolls. They're a little too cheeky, if you ask me. But I do like Barbie dolls—probably because I only ever possessed one Barbie that I had to share with my sister. We named her "Penny" and made a bed for her in our sock drawer. She came with only one dress, but we crocheted many scarves and little blankets for her. Penny was precious to us.

So I'm rooting for Barbie to kick Bratz's bootay.

It's not going to be easy with those tiny little feet of hers. Barbie may have seniority on her side—she's been around awhile and knows the score—but Bratz has freakishly large feet in sky high platform sandals that can be literally torn off and replaced with mutant go-go boots. That Bratz is one tough chick.

I hope that Barbie resists making fun of Bratz's eye shadow or pointing out the shortness of her skirts. Smear tactics have a way of backfiring. Little girls think neon purple eyelids are pretty, not garish, and who cares if the skirts are short? They're sparkly! Besides, Barbie's no angel herself. I seem to recall seeing her in some rather itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikinis of her own over the years. Not to mention the fact that, in our household, Barbie is often found lounging in the toy box completely naked. What's up with that? It's not like my daughter doesn't possess 50,000 articles of Barbie clothing with which to dress the little minx.

Don't mistake nudity for street cred. People see right through her attempts to impress . . . which is it, Lawyer Barbie or Disco Barbie? One minute she's Pediatrician Barbie, and the next she's Beach Barbie. She really expects us to overlook Teenage Barbie dating Ken just because she's got an alter ego named Teacher Barbie? Bratz, on the other hand, doesn't care what we think of her. She is what she is. Edgy. Hip. She's fun-loving and impudent, and doesn't give a rip what the old fogies say about her.

Sure, Barbie possesses the undying support of millions of middle-aged youthful and lively women who grew up with her. But Bratz is backed by screaming, allowance-clutching preteens who have been trained in the art of shopping through years of watching Hannah Montana and Cheetah Girls.

It's going to be one tough battle.

Can't we all be friends?

Dinner last night: pizza

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Does This Make Me an Air Hockey Mom?

I'm not exactly clear on the rules, but I think there may be some cheating going on here.

(click arrow to play)

Dinner last night: spaghetti with meat sauce, steamed carrots

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stocking a Pantry for 6–12 Months

Probably since I'm isolated up here in wintry Alaska, I'm more than a little freaked out by the tanking economy. We rely so much on the transportation of goods to our state, the necessity of electricity and gas in order to heat our homes, and a decent cost of living to allow us to buy and sell that it's a little scary to consider what could happen in an emergency situation. What would we do if trucks stopped bringing in fresh food, if our one power company in town shut down, or if the value of a dollar changed significantly?

One thing that would make me feel better is knowing I could feed my family. We've got warm clothes. We can heat our house with our wood-burning stove. But food? Is my pantry stocked well enough to get us through a lengthy crisis? I hate to admit it, but no. I've got enough supplies to feed us really well for a week or two, maybe a month if we're willing to eat a lot of canned soups and goldfish crackers, but I want to be better prepared. 

I got to looking around the Internet for ideas. Lots of sites offered to sell me huge drums of bulgar wheat. And many blogs encouraged me to buy brown rice and dried beans in bulk. A couple of posts referenced the Mormon Church's guidelines for building up a community food bank. But I had a tough time finding one place that outlined clearly what a real family who doesn't like lentils can do to stock a pantry for 6–12 months.

So I worked out my own plan. The first step was to assess my family's needs, which I will detail further in the second installment of this series that I'm considering titling, "How Not to Panic When the Auto Industry Takes Us Down."

Dinner last night: chicken and rice casserole

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't Touch Mama's Clogs

You've probably heard the saying, "as comfortable as an old pair of shoes." I don't think I truly understood that expression until the other day when I was putting away my clogs for the winter. My snow boots just won't provide the same ease and comfort as these bad boys. 

These are my oldest shoes. How old are they? Let's just say that I stole them from my mother's closet at some point in my late teens. So they're a good five years old.

I bought my daughter some clogs last Christmas . . .

. . . but she prefers her Crocs.

She's young. In time, she'll come to understand the superiority of a quality wooden shoe over a rubber slip-on. And when that time comes . . . 

She'd better stay out of my closet.

Dinner last night: tacos

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finding the Moments

I'm not going to lie to you. This is my least favorite time of year, weather-wise. The sky is gray. The air is cold. The trees are bare. The ground is hard.

November in Alaska serves to remind you that beauty is where you find it . . .

in the sunrise behind the mountains,

in the crunchy footprints across a deck,

in the icy cloud of a horse's breath,

and, most definitely, in the smiles of apple-cheeked children!

Dinner last night: manicotti, garlic bread, green salad

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aha! Moment

I worry about my second daughter. I worry about her weight. I worry about her social interactions with other kids. I worry about her inability to complete a task. I worry about how she will do on the big third grade writing project coming up next semester. She has never—I mean, never—written more than two sentences together. Here's a sample of a thank you "letter" to Grandma from my daughter:

Dear Grandma,

Thank you for the gift. I like it.

My daughter was talking to me the other morning about a dream that she had. It was about Barbie and an evil queen and forest dwellers who had been transformed into butterflies. She thought that the story her mind had created while she slept would make a good Barbie movie. She wanted to direct this movie some day, but didn't know if she would still remember all the details by the time she's old enough to get it made. I suggested that she jot down some notes to help her remember. She disappeared. The next thing I know she's showing me this:

She'd taken several notecards and filled them with her ideas for her story! I was in shock. Those right there, folks, are SIX notecards covered in her writing. But it gets better . . .

She grabbed some notebook paper, spread her 3x5 cards across the table, and wrote out her story. 
Three pages, single-spaced!
And an additional cover letter
to send along with her manuscript
to the people who make Barbie movies.

I guess I'll stop worrying about that big writing project next semester.

Dinner last night: parmesan chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn