Thursday, March 28, 2013

News By the Numbers

10 - the number of days we hosted Charlotte and Gracie in our house before I had to make a vet appointment. 

$213. 60 - the amount of our first vet bill.

12 - amount of hours that pass until we administer the next round of eyedrops, skin cream, and antibiotics to our furry friends. 

3 - pairs of flats I've bought in the quest for a comfortable pair.  I love the look of jeans or khakis with flats, but could never find a comfortable pair.  Until now. 

36 - the age I will be on Friday.

24 - hours Rob and I will get to spend alone as a birthday treat!  I think we're going to the cabin.  I'm looking forward to no cell phone signal.

4 - the number of new recipes we tried in the past week - and liked!

grilled pesto chicken - marinated in lemon juice and pesto, so simple!

veggie stir-fry with this peanut sauce

roasted veggies - potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and cauliflower (amazing combination)

Alton Brown's beer-battered fish

7 - number of days that xfinity is featuring a watchathon.

16 - number of Downton Abbey episodes I'm trying to cram into these seven days.  It's almost like a part-time job. 

Well, that's all the news here for now! What's going on in your world?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Veggie Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce

I love to re-create restaurant meals at home.  I'm usually able to accomplish decent results, with the exception of Asian cuisine.  I happen to love Thai and Vietnamese cooking, but I just can't make it taste as good at home. 

I made a veggie stir-fry with grilled steak and peanut sauce last week that was really good.  It still doesn't compete with a restaurant meal or more authentic dish, but we liked it anyway!

I found this peanut sauce on pinterest and topped our stir fry with it.  It made the dish, definitely.  Like the blogger suggests, I improvised with the ingredients I had on hand.  I'll give you my version, but feel free to check out the original, for comparison purposes!

I served our stir fry with steamed jasmine rice and grilled flank steak, sliced. 

for the veggie stir-fry:
1 red pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
8 button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cabbage, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce

In a skillet, heat sesame oil over high heat, until shimmering.  Saute vegetables briefly, about three to five minutes, stirring occasionally, in order to get a browned (but crisp) color and flavor.  Remove from heat and add soy sauce.  Cover and set aside for serving

for the flank steak:
Marinate steak at least four hours in Newman's Own Sesame Ginger dressing.  Grill approximately 8 minutes per side or until medium rare.  Allow to rest for five minutes before slicing on the bias and serving. 

steamed jasmine rice:
Steam according to manufacturers directions.

for the peanut sauce:
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp dried ginger
1 lime, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp hot sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/ cup safflower oil
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth. 

**Quite a few notes:
I think I'd like to use fresh ginger in both the stir fry and the peanut sauce. 
This sauce will give you garlic breath, beware!
Fresh cilantro would have been nice on top.
You can totally improvise on the sauce, the veggies used in the stir fry, or meat selection (chicken, pork, or shrimp would taste great as well!)
We used forks, not chopsticks - too impatient!
I loved this meal, but next time I'll make more - Josh and I were both hungry afterwards :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Birthday Party

So, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but none of my kids have ever had a friend birthday party.  I always have a family party where I make their favorite meal and it's a great time of celebration.  I've typically used the excuses of: expense, my mental health, and our small house.  I think I don't realize that my kids are much more extroverted than I am.  I guess anyone is, really.  :)

Well, I guess since we caved on the pet we must be on a roll.  I allowed Kate to invite two friends to spend the night in honor of her birthday.  I guess it's not technically a party since it's such a small number, but she's really excited and I think this will be special for Kate. 

I'm fully prepared to now offer the same to Josh and Emma and I'm okay with that.  I feel like as our kids get older the stuff I found daunting before seems to appear more manageable.  Or maybe I'm just growing less selfish.  Let's hope it's the latter. 

Anyway, I found a couple of cute things on pinterest that we'll try tonight with the girls.  I'm making stromboli and I bought a few snacks that Kate and her friends are excited about.  I think we'll go for frozen yogurt after dinner and then come home for our activities. 

The first activity is a really cute craft.  I'm not normally a crafty person, but this looks pretty foolproof (what do you think?) 

Here are the supplies we'll be using.  I'm not sure how the stencils will work, but I bought seven canvases, so if we have a major success, I'll probably make a few gifts!

The other activity that Kate and her friends are excited about is this candy game.  

The original idea  is to wrap the candy up in tape, but we decided to use plastic wrap.  We'll give the girls each 30 seconds to unwrap as much candy as they can, which they'll keep.  It should be fun to see who can get the most, and how many turns it takes to unwrap the whole roll!

I figure the rest of the time they'll be giggling, playing karaoke, painting their nails, and probably not sleeping very much.  Wish us luck. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


So, remember how I told you that Kate was dying to have a guinea pig for her birthday? I appreciated all of the helpful suggestions.  Really, I did.  We'd already hosted Patches, the class guinea pig, for Thanksgiving.  We knew they were a little on the smelly side.  We already knew we weren't allergic (thank you, Patches). 

The truth of the matter is, I'm just not really an animal person.  I think it stems partly from the fact that I've never really had a pet.  Plus, they kind of just make me nervous.

But, if animals in general make me a little jittery, rodents are the worst.  I won't even look at rats if we're in a pet store.  It's the tail.  Blech.

So, I was pretty sure that we were just going to tell Kate that the guinea pig idea wasn't a good one.  That we're just not pet people.  Then my mom, [quite possibly the only person that hates rodents more than me] laid a pretty good guilt trip on me.  And we caved.

Without further




That's right everyone, we not only adopted one guinea pig, but we found her a friend.  They're actually really cute.  Charlotte follows Gracie around so closely that she runs into her rear end when Gracie stops running.   We kind of think they remind us of Kate and Emma. 

And, something I never thought I'd do - I even hold them! 

We all enjoy watching them, petting them, holding them, and just having them in our house (even Rob).  Who knew?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Frosted Cookies

I hate making cookies.  The measuring.  The perpetual watching and waiting.  I think it's the precise nature of making cookies that I rebel against.  Unfortunately, this directly clashes with the fact that my husband loves to eat cookies. 

I first saw these cookies (click for the recipe) a couple days ago and since I had a full container of Fage yogurt in the fridge, I thought I'd try them. 

They are supposed to be a home made version of the ones you can buy in the plastic containers in the grocery store.  Since I've never had those, I don't know how they compare.  They probably contain less ingredients than the store bought version and I had one reviewer (a passenger in our car on our way to soccer practice) tell me they tasted better than the grocery store version. 

Personally, I think the frosting is the best part.   But when isn't it? 

If you're feeling inspired, you could make these for St. Patrick's Day, but I think you'd be better served  by just putting a few drops of green food coloring in your beverage of choice. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The stars aligned.

I like to describe our stage as "the golden years".  Our kids are so enjoyable most of the time.  Josh is a very easy teenager so far and the girls are pretty great, too!  We still have our struggles, but for the large majority of our days, peace reigns in our house.  I honestly feel like things are a little magical right now. 

Occasionally, though, the girls have a stressful time getting ready for school. 

Rob thinks he has the answer: to have them lay out their outfits the night before and then make them stick to that choice.  He is such a boy.  Like, really.  That doesn't take into account how the clothing feels, how it fits, looks together, or what they feel like

At least one day a week we have a complete breakdown.  I'm talking tears streaming down someone's face on our way to the bus stop.  I try to be as accommodating as possible, because I don't want them to feel uncomfortable for 7 hours. 

Days like today, though, make all of our struggles a distant memory.  They both showered, picked out cute outfits and let me do their hair.  They put earrings in, helped me pack their lunches and brushed their teeth unsolicited.  For those of you with school-age kids, I think you know what a miracle this is. 

I even had time to take a few pictures! 

I figure I'm going to need these pictures to look back on when their teenagers.  Or when we're all sick with the stomach bug that has Rob in bed today. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Our Weekend in Pictures

This past weekend we had a little taste of spring.  The weather was sunny and close to 60 degrees.  It was so refreshing.  We were outside as much as possible.  I think we're all ready to come out of hibernation. 

We rode bikes (some of us on motorized, some with pedal power).  We grilled.  We hung out with friends.  We enjoyed a variety show at the girls' school. We dyed Easter eggs.  We played.  We lavished in the sunshine.  

I also enjoyed taking some pictures of our weekend.  Our camera is great.  I really do love it.  What I love most about it are the settings.  Bless my husband's heart, he researched our camera for hours before and after we purchased it.  He took lots of time to learn how to program the settings and it makes my life so easy.  I do occasionally take some bad pictures, but that's the beauty of digital.  Just delete. 

So, anyway - our weekend in pictures.  I can't wait for the next sunny and warm day!  Looks like we have a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In Defense of Fiction.

I love words.  I love to read.  I love to ponder.  Reading helps me to form opinions.  It incites emotions, making the heart swell. 

Josh just finished a unit on, "To Kill a Mockingbird".  Do you remember reading that in middle school?  Josh was so into the book that he wanted to read further than they were supposed to.  He was so into it that he got an 89 out of 90 on his last test.  Because he was so enthralled, I decided to re-read it. 

My favorite quote was from Atticus Finch, "you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view....until you climb into his skin and walk around in it".  I'm not sure if the author was foreshadowing the race issues in the book by referencing "skin", but this is a powerful quote, in any case.  Empathy is a virtue, and one that doesn't come naturally. 

Like any good book, "To Kill a Mockingbird" incites emotions.  The reader identifies with characters similar to their situation.  Young readers relate to Jem, Scout, and Dill.  Parents relate to Atticus Finch.  Adults relate to the Radleys, and to Miss Maudie.  The situations in the book infuriate, encourage, and create joy. 

So, when I read this article, I was perplexed.  Why, in heaven's name, would students be required to read Recommended levels of insulation (by the US EPA) or Invasive Plant Inventory (by California's Invasive Plant Council)?  In the year 2014, required reading for students will equal 70% non-fiction books and manuals.  The reasoning is that students will be better prepared for the workforce reading non-fiction. 

I respectfully disagree. 

Non-fiction manuals do not incite empathy.  Non-fiction manuals do not challenge our opinions.  Non-fiction manuals do the opposite of creating emotion. 

Our students need to be able to reason, to empathize, to relate to characters different from themselves.  Our students need to learn from our history and make better choices.  Books like "To Kill a Mockingbird" educate in a way that history books cannot.  To read about segregation and racism in a history book does not tell the story.  We all agree that racism is wrong, but do we really know what that feels like and looks like?  A good story will explain a situation in a way completely unlike a history manual. 

I think the best way to "walk around in another person's skin" is to read.  Reading has the immense power to help the reader identify with someone who may be completely different from them.  Authors have the privilege to create a world in which the reader can escape the barriers of the real world.  The world of a good book is one in which the reader can imagine that the barriers of race, socioeconomic status, and inequality are non-existent.  The reader can place himself in the character's skin and walk around in it, sometimes changing his preconceived notions. 

I don't know anyone that can relate to an invasive plant species. 

What do you think?

Monday, March 4, 2013

News By the Numbers

$123.11 - the amount of money I spent at the first grocery store today.  Somehow, shopping for produce, breakfast items, lunch items, and incidentals always ends up being the same amount.  Last week it was $116.34.  I still have to buy my meat and dairy.

5 - slices of crispy eggplant I'm enjoying for lunch.   I make them ahead of time in a large batch and then reheat in the oven with marinara and mozzarella.  It's so good. 

7 - number of loads of laundry I need to do today.  I typically do our family's laundry twice a week and it takes all day.  At least I've gotten better at putting it away!

43 - minutes I stayed in my yoga class this morning.  I hated every second.  I know it's good for me, so I tried to make the best of it.  I don't think it worked. 

21 -  random facts of information I know now about the Woodland Indians.  Emma has a test tomorrow!

2 - overripe bananas I plan to make into banana bread.  The kids will be thrilled. 

1 - head of old cauliflower I plan to make into this soup.  I'm not sure anyone will be thrilled.

34 (at least) -  number of times Kate has begged for a guinea pig for her birthday.  Help!

45 - minutes I spent in front of my light box today.  Still feeling so much better. 

60 - minutes I will spend at Emma's gymnastics class.  I hate every second.  I know it's good for her so I make the best of it. 

4 - number of turkey burgers we'll be enjoying tonight.  I make them with hot sauce and top them with blue cheese dressing.  Rob wouldn't touch one with a ten-foot pole.

Well, that about sums up my day.  Sometimes I like to think of myself as, "the least interesting person in the world".   (kind of a riff on that dos equis commercial!) Basically it's laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, food preparation, running kids places, etc.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.