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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to Be a Most Excellent Stay at Home Mom

How to be a Most Excellent Stay at Home Mom:

1) Your child wakes up screaming about something her sister did to her last night.

Correct Response: This isn't a very good way to wake up, is it? But I can't understand you when you cry like that. Can you use your words and tell me what is wrong?

Inside your Head: Why the hell did I ever have kids? This is how I'm starting the day? Are you serious? I can't have ten minutes in the morning before you start your 12-hour long assault on my ears? You're being ridiculous, anyway. You don't even remember what the heck happened yesterday. Get over yourself.

2) Your child hits your other child.

Correct Response: We don't hit, okay? Hitting hurts the other person and it doesn't get you any closer to what you want. Use words. I know you're frustrated, and I will talk to her, but you can't hit your sister, okay?

Inside your Head:  No, you know what? Go for it. Kill each other for all I care. Beat the shit out of each other. Y'all deserve it. I'm so sick of this shit.

3) Your husband comes downstairs. "Are you having trouble keeping up with my laundry or something?"

Correct Response: I'm in the middle of laundry right now, actually. Is there something I can find for you? I bet it's clean. I'll try to keep up better, but I tend to like to wait until I have enough for each type of load to fill the machine so we don't waste water.

Inside your Head: You have a million other shirts and pants and a half-dozen pairs of clean underwear. I know because I cleaned your closet yesterday day. You know what else I did? I did three loads of laundry, three loads of dishes, cleaned the porch, replaced the coffee maker, vacuumed, tidied the kitchen and the living room, wrote three different pieces, swept the porch and kept the children entertained and from killing each other. What else do you want?  Also, FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

4) The young cashier at the grocery store ogles your children. "Oh, they're so cute! You're so lucky!"

Correct Response: Thank you! They're really good kids!

Inside your Head: Actually, they're only still with me because even the damn circus wouldn't take them. They cry and tantrum all the time. They're spoiled to shit and they're in the middle of a 'talking back' phase which I just want to slap out of them, but I can't because, hello, child abuse. So I struggle by. Are you looking for a pair of slightly used four year olds? Because they're yours, seriously. I'll drop their clothes off tomorrow. Also, don't ever have kids. Save yourself. Seriously. Never ever have children.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Recipe Monday - Simple BBQ Pork Chops

This is a meal I make when I have no energy to put into making a dinner.

Pork Chops
Any other vegetables you want (mushrooms, broccoli, peas, anything)
Barbecue Sauce

Cut up potatoes (to cut down on cooking time, you can steam them in the microwave first).
Put them in a casserole dish
Season pork chops with salt, pepper and garlic and place them on top of potatoes
Add all other vegetables
Slather with bbq sauce

Cook at 375 for 35 minutes (25 if you've steamed the potatoes.)


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 102: "We'll See"

Problem: Your kid wants something that you aren't going to give him. Maybe just not right now, maybe never ever ever. But the child has trouble accepting the word no, and you don't have time to get into a twenty-minute reasoning match with them. Or maybe you are in public and you don't have the patience to wait out the inevitable tantrum.

Solution: "We'll see" is magical. At least over here. Because the kids think it means yes. Even though they know it means we'll talk about it later. They accept it better than later, or I don't know. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps because they know that we'll see is the last bastion of hope before straight-out no and they'd better accept the terms. If you say later, they wonder why not now? But there isn't really a comeback for we'll see. Not unless they want a no. And if they push me after a we'll see, tantrum be damned, the answer is no. We'll see means: shut up. So far, it's worked great.

If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.


Friday, July 27, 2012

An Overheard Conversation

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went out to dinner. I wished I was a twittering mom because the conversation behind us was one for the ages. I don't even remember right anymore, which is a shame. Warning you right now that there is no purpose to this post other than my own eavesdropping (in my defense, the young woman was shouting for much of this) ticked me off.

The young lady behind me was apparently trying desperately to impress the young man she was out with. She started in on her sister, whose son, she said, had autism and ADHD. But then she didn't say that. Then she said, actually, he didn't have autism or ADHD. Actually her sister gave him soda and was a bad parent because of that.

Or, you know, he has autism and ADHD and you just want to complain about a parent giving a kid soda and make blanket statements about how "all parents make up problems for their kids so they don't have to parent right. They just have to give them pills."

Then she blamed all of her life problems on her own mother, saying the mother "was too strict" and "didn't understand her" and that she "hated her."

That the woman made it too hard to go out and get drugs--primarily pills.

And I just took both bits of information that had been presented one after the other and, do people even listen to themselves speak anymore?

Then I stopped listening myself. I had better things to do with my night off that listen to a 22-year-old woman talk in a hateful manner about just about everything.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Get Out of the House (for Free!)

There's a whole other half of summer to get through, and here in is HOT. Parks are basically out, but there are lots of things you can do with your kids for free (or cheap)...that usually cost money!

Here are a few of the things we've found to keep us occupied and out of the house during this 100+ degree weather:


I've mentioned this before, and showed off a music show that we went to the other week, but your local library is sure to have all kinds of activities for kids, probably weekly. I know Alachua County libraries have at least one kid-directed activity a week, usually many more. And they are all free. And different. No two library trips are the same! We went to story time this week. (Caution: get a good breakfast first, otherwise your little piggies will look as disgruntled as mine did.)

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App


Here in Gainesville, the Regency theaters offer $1 kids movies on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings! Not free, but close to it, and my kids love, love, love "the show!"


We have a free splash pad less than a half hour from our house. It's like a playground with water. Perfect for the Florida heat, and a low-impact outing for parents, who can just sit and relax in the shade while their kids run around in the water.

We also have a town pool that is amazing here! It costs a few dollars to get in, but it's huge, has lifejackets for younger swimmers, three diving boards and a water slide. It also has a splash pad area!

And, of course, we're lucky enough to live in a condo complex with a community pool in the back. I make good use of any water activities I can during these summer months.


Nationwide, AMF bowling is having a bowl-for-free summer program! You can go once a week for free, if you sign up for the service on their website. Now, free isn't free, of course. You have to rent the shoes at $4 a pop. But, still, it's a great way to spend a couple of hours. They even have little bowling ball slides for young kids like mine.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App


We haven't been to the mall playland yet this summer because my kids have really weak immune systems, but it's nice to know that we have the option available to us, should we really need to go to a playground.


Kids love these, and adults do too! We just wander around looking at all the stuff and people, and sometimes we even buy some produce! It's a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.


We have a natural history and art museum on the University of Florida campus that has free admission. They have a dinosaur exhibit right now, and a kids' room full of activities. My kids loved it. We will be going back many times. If you have a college campus near you, take a look at their activities list. Many colleges provide free entertainment to residents!


We have a plethora of nature trails and parks we can explore (the temps have to be a little cooler). Check your area for farms, trails, and wild animal preserves. I bet you'll find some you didn't even know about. Keeps kids engaged for hours!

If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Service Dogs Help in More WaysThan We Realize

Every night, I go into my children's room and kiss their soundly sleeping heads. Every morning, I roll my eyes as they start to fight and yell at each other (our typical wake-up routine), but during all that, I'm usually blown away by a new word or four. Their pronunciation and diction are clearer, they're neurotypically developing, they're perfect.

But what if they couldn't sleep at night? What if they couldn't speak much? What if sensory or other issues kept them from developing like they do each day?

They'd still be perfect.

They'd be absolutely perfect children made even stronger by the struggles they'd have to face starting from such a young age.

Maybe they'd be a little like Ky, a perfect little girl with a big heart who simply needs a little help.

At two and a half, Kyra is struggling through Autism, Seizure disorder, and Marcus Gunn Jaw Wink. She laughs and loves and lives just like all other kids, but she has trouble with sensations, fears, sleep, vocalization.

If Ky could get a little boost, her life would be so markedly improved that her mother has started a donation site to help Kyra attain a service dog.

You might think...service dog? For Autism? No thanks.

But don't let your pre-conceived notions close your heart.

A service dog helps children going through what Kyra goes through daily by providing safety and distraction to them. Her mother feels a service dog would help disrupt the pattern of destructive behavior by distraction. Petting and loving it would stand in for self-harming and other ways children cope with out-of-control emotions.

She also thinks it will help with Kyra's speech, training her to receive information through words and reply in kind.

The dog will act as a barrier between Kyra and others, making her less fearful to go out, and making interactions less stressful to her. Right now, Ky is scared to leave the house, and melts down when taken on the simplest errands.

Ky's mom also thinks the dog will be a huge benefit in the night hours. Right now, Kyra is unable to sleep. She has a weighted blanket and bear, and is even on medication to help, but the girl cannot sleep. A service dog would be with her during that time, lulling her, keeping her safe. Perhaps then, Ky could drift off. I cannot imagine having to exist with such limited sleep as this poor child gets.

So, service dogs are not just for certain types of disabilities. They can help in ways we never even think of. So many children have so much to offer the world and need just a little help to start on their journey.

If you're interested in helping Kyra start on hers, please take a look at her mother's site, which goes into greater detail than I could here.

Children are perfect. They deserve our help and love.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guest Post on Making a Good Hero and Book GIVEAWAY

Today I am fortunate enough to have been able to guest blog for Crystal at Reading Between the Wines. I talk a little bit about what makes a good hero (they're harder to come up with than you think.)

More importantly, I'm giving away a free copy of Hit and Stay (the romantic suspense I wrote) if you want to head over there and put your name in the rafflecopter!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Recipe Monday - Gnocchi in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce with Veggies

This was great. Next time, I'll try to make the gnocchi myself, as the store-bought pasta was the worst part of the meal. Still a resounding 8 out of 10 though!

450 g, White Potatoes
120 g, Flour
1 Egg yolk
Salt, White Pepper

60 ml, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup sliced Button Mushrooms
1 bag Spinach
1/2 cup Sundried Tomatoes
2 tbsp Pesto
1 large Red Pepper
50 g, Grated Parmesan Cheese
50 g, Feta Cheese
Salt, Cracked Black Pepper


Gently boil sundried tomatoes for 3 minutes until softened. Remove and slice julienne. Set aside. Remove stems from spinach and wash, then slice into julienne. Set aside. Core the red pepper and slice julienne. Set aside.

Boil the potatoes in the skin until tender. Remove from water and let dry. Lift skin off and rice while still hot. Add egg yolk, set aside and let cool. Season with salt and white pepper and work into a dough with the flour. Roll into finger thick cylinder rolls. Cut into 2-3 cm length. Shape and swirl the gnocchi with the tip of a fork. Simmer in salted water for a few minutes until floating and drain thoroughly. (Or, you know, buy gnocchi.)

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, add the gnocchi and saute for a few minutes until color is achieved. Add red pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the pesto and gently mix well. Add the Parmesan and spinach. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat to serving dish and top with crumbled feta cheese.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Moment of the Week - 101 - Paula Abdul

The girls needed a little Paula Abdul, and my husband gave it to them. Amazing work, all around.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 101: Let Them Set the Pace

Problem: You have plans with no one to go somewhere or do some certain thing. It's in your datebook / on your to-do list and everything. Yet, there your kids sit, happily playing in the corner, not a tear in sight, not a tantrum to be heard. You know that any change in this precariously balanced environment will bring OMG EMOTION to the scene. Even if it's an awesome outing, like, "hey, let's go to the swimming pool," it will be met with tears and fighting because, well, that's the only way your kids (by which I mean my kids) know how to process emotion, of any kind. So, what do you do?

Solution: Don't. Just wait. Does it really matter if you had planned to go to the pool at 12:30 p.m. (this was me today.)? No, it doesn't. Loosen up. My kids are happily painting on the porch right now. There is no reason for me to bust that up, just because I penciled in "pool" on my list. We can do it after lunch. Or after nap. It's not like the pool is a business meeting. Now, if you're meeting someone, you'll have to disturb the paradise. But don't worry about that too much. Chances are they'd be screaming anyway in about 30 more seconds. Regardless, try to bust in with a new activity just as the yelling begins, so that they're already disgruntled and the change in their plans looks like a good thing, acts like a distraction, rather than a disruption.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Post - Traveling with Children

Today, I have a guest post from Danielle Birch. She gives some much appreciated pointers on traveling with children!


Now summer is upon us, many of us are taking our annual family vacations. From visiting relatives, to spending a week by the beach, getting away is often the highlight of the year for many of us. But if we have young children it can often be very stressful – stressful enough to make people think twice about taking their children away. But taking a holiday is really important for your well-being, as well as your children’s, as it gives you a chance to take a break from the normality of everyday life and enjoy new experiences.  But if the thought of enduring a long flight or car journey with your kids fills you with dread, there are some ways to make the whole experience a lot easier to deal with.

The way you deal with any problems or issues will really affect how your children behave. If you become very stressed and irritated because you’re stuck in traffic, or the flight’s delayed, your children will pick up on the tension and become aggravated themselves. So if you try to stay positive and calm throughout, it will help your children to stay relaxed too. If you’re catching a flight and it’s your child’s first time in an airport, they might find it quite intimidating. Tell them about the exciting adventure they’re about to embark on, and how the airport is the start of the adventure. It goes without saying that you should dress them in comfortable clothing, but you could make it even more exciting by getting them a new outfit and use a t-shirt printing company to mark the date of your holiday! This will really help create a sense of occasion for them, and if you have more than one child you could dress them in the same bright colors so it makes it easier for you to keep an eye on them.

When you’re going away a lot of time is spent waiting around. Whether you’re waiting for your flight or waiting for your car journey to be over, your children will need something to keep them occupied. However, it’s not practical to bring their toy box with them so you need to be selective. Paper and pens are always a good choice, as they’re really versatile. It’s best to avoid taking anything that involves lots of little pieces, as they will be more likely to get lost. Take an old favorite toy and you could perhaps get them a small token for when they are getting really agitated after traveling for hours. The surprise and novelty of the new toy should help keep them occupied for a little longer. A couple of their favorite books will also help you get them to sleep, and will obviously come in handy throughout the holiday. Sticking to their routine as much as possible will help them adjust, it’s not always feasible but it will help give them some stability in the journey.

How children cope when traveling will change from family to family. But ultimately you will reach your destination so if things don’t go according to plan, at least you know it will be worth it in the end!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

PhotoBarn Winner!

Putting photos on wood is a great idea, and it works so well for home decor in any room!

I ordered three 5x7s, and the $115 covered that and shipping!

You can also get 8x10s, 16x20s, anything you'd like.

Choose high definition photos for the best results, particularly if you are going large.

You'll love the selection at PhotoBarn.

The question is...what is PAIGE JAGAN going to pick?

Congratulations, Paige, you've won $115 worth of merchandise at PhotoBarn!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Free Copy of Nidus!

A great book has just gone up for free on Amazon! I suggest you download the freebie because it's an amazing contemplation of the darker sources of life and lust. It explores hidden desires in frank spirit, with no trussing or dressing up in the typical romantic fairy-tale fashion. It's a gritty and sordid look at the underside of human nature. Definitely worth your time.

Sebastian Gray doesn't mince words or shy away from difficult ethical questions in his book, Nidus. The perfect mix between a romance and a twisted noir, Nidus is a Cinderella story of the most evocative kind.

To pick it up, click here for the Amazon link!

To read a full review, click here!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Deciphering the Threenager

There are times, few and far between of course, when my lovely, adorable children pull out some pretty crappy attitude in their never-ending battle for control in this house. Many have dubbed this glorious age "the threenager" which I believe I've mentioned before. How very true that term is. So, in my quest to get my children to the age of four, I've made up a key describing some of their more annoying actions, what they mean, and how you should react to them. (I've also added how I actually react to them, but don't do that.)

A move not mentioned below. The side-eye.

The Arm Cross:

When Used: When you've asked them to do something they're not keen on doing.

What It Means: No. Also, I hate you, pretty much, and your request to pick up the cereal is completely unreasonable.

What I Do: Tell them not to give me attitude and stand over them until they pick up the damn cereal.

What you Should Do: You should probably ask them why they think your request is so out of line to start a dialogue and force them to think about their actions. But, yeah, that takes a lot of effort.

The Breath:

When Used: When you've asked them to do something they're not keen on doing. It's like the arm cross, level two. It's usually meant to imply incredible tiredness and boredom as well.

What It Means: I'm going to do this for you now, as s l o w l y as I possibly can.

What I Do: Tell them they can go to bed if they're really all that tired, then try valiantly to ignore their s l o w movements and not get upset with them as they drag about.

What you Should Do: Show them efficient ways to do what they are doing, proving that the task really only takes seconds of their day.

The Tantrum:

When Used: Any time. You'll never know when this crap is coming. Most often when a sibling has done something perceived as unfair, or when a sibling gets something perceived as somehow different or better.

What It Means: I'm tired and/or hungry, on top of not liking to have to share my whole life.

What I Do: Time outs. I also repeat over and over again that they are different girls. Sometimes I prove to them that whatever the objects are in question, they are exactly the same.

What you Should Do: Tell them to use words, use whatever your methods are to calm them, get them to talk it out like real people instead of screaming like babies.

"I Don't Love You Anymore":

When Used: When you insist on making them do something they don't want to do, and you will not be swayed by their other arguments.

What It Means: I'm serious now.

What I Do: Laugh. No, just kidding. On the inside, I laugh. I usually just ignore statements like this.

What you Should Do: I suppose you should indicate to them how much words can hurt and advise them against hyperbole. But I can't bring myself to do this, usually.

"You Don't Love Me Anymore":

When Used: When I don't love you doesn't work. It's meant to convince you to do their bidding by adding guilt into the mix.

What It Means: I'm feeling upset because we're not understanding each other.

What I Do: I tell them that I always love them. Sometimes I tell them to stop being silly.

What you Should Do: You should tell them that you always love them. Without the silly part.

"I'll Think About It":

When Used: When they're going to give in, but they want to make it on their terms.

What It Means: Okay, FINE. But it was my idea.

What I Do: Say okay.

What you Should Do: Say okay, and probably thank you.

The Eye Roll:

When Used: When they want to go to their room for a long time. No, just kidding. When they're feeling especially feisty and powerful.

What It Means: Screw you.

What I Do: Put them in their room.

What you Should Do: I have no idea. They're only three and the eye roll really gets me. I can only imagine when they're thirteen. I suppose tell them it's not nice to do that? I doubt they care though, if a disagreement gets to eye roll stage.

"Go Away / Don't Talk to Me":
When Used: When they're overloaded with emotion and can no longer handle the situation.

What It Means: I need a few minutes so I don't tantrum. OR I hate what you've just said, and I will not listen to that tripe any longer without exploding.

What I Do: Give them alone time. Then ask them again when they're calm.

What you Should Do: Redirect the phrasing, probably. I try to get them to say "I need alone time." But in the heat of the moment, I usually don't bother with this.


If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Recipe Monday - Pineapple Salsa Mahi Mahi

Delicious summery recipe, ready in 15 minutes!

 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup of salsa
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp horseradish
1 tsp honey mustard (didn't have, used 1 tsp each of dijon mustard and honey)
olive oil
lemon juice

Combine pineapple, salsa, cornstarch, horseradish and honey mustard.

Heat oil in frying pan. Saute fish for 3 minutes.

Salt and pepper fish. Sprinkle on lemon juice.

Turn fish and add salsa. Cover and cook for another 5-6 minutes.

If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.  


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 100: Use the Library

Problem: It's summer time and it's hot and you don't have $35 to blow on the movies, or rollerskating, or bowling, or whatever fun-filled, spend-all-your-wages-here, activities advertised by businesses. You're all pooled out, and the park is like a desert. What do you do?

Solution: I don't know about your library, but ours does free stuff. ALl the time. Every week you can find some random thing going on at the library--almost all of them kid-based. Last year we saw jugglers there, and the girls talked about it for months. At some point there is going to be a yo-yo champion show, and this last week, we saw a music show there.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Now as you can see, it wasn't a flashy, totally overwhelming show of musical delight.It was actually a young guy with his old bass and a drum he made out of a suitcase. And it was awesome. The girls loved it. They paid attention and learned about tuning and how instruments make music with interest. They were able to play the instruments (but not the kazoo. I wouldn't let them touch the kazoo.) It was 90 minutes of fun for them and me. In the cool.

And even when the library isn't pulling out all the homemade-instrument stops, they do story times at least once a week for the kids. And if nothing is going on, well, so be it. Go anyway. Read the stories yourself! My kids love the library, and so do I. I'm thankful I stuck with it after all those dicey visits when they were younger (and LOUD).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Post - I Hated my Twin

I am lucky enough to have a twin post, from the view of a twin, today from guest blogger, Kelsey.


 Hate is a strong word, but it’s probably the best word to describe my feelings I had towards my twin
sister for a good, solid year of our life. We are identical girl twins, 7 minutes apart. I’m 3 inches taller
and she’s about 20 pounds lighter. She’s artistic and sensitive. I am outgoing and funny. Or at least I
think I am. For the most part we are day and night from each other.

We grew up doing the typical twin things: dressed alike, shared a room, shared friends and hobbies. We
didn’t get much of a chance to express our indivuality. As we neared the end of our teen year’s things got
a little weird. We were 17 and liked the same boys and the boys liked her. I started to resent her like any
typical teenage girl does. We went off to college together and things changed. The twin I was so close to
and knew like the back of my hand, suddenly changed. Long story short, I didn’t know how to accept the
fact she was fleeing from our little twin nest and becoming her own. I reacted by closing her out of my
life. We both lived down the hall from each other and avoided each other like the plague. It was pretty
hurtful that the same girl I shared a womb and then a room with, didn’t like me either.

Our families and friends were so concerned that they sat us down several times and attempted to smooth
things over for us. We fought it and went on to ignoring each other. Until one day at the end of our first
year of college, I got sick. I had an ovarian cyst rupture. At the time I had no idea what was wrong,
but I was laying in the fetal position crying and without hesitation I picked up the phone and called my

Within the first 3 words out of my mouth she knew I was in need of a hospital and next thing I know she
was carrying me into the ER. She sat by my bed all night and until I got better. Since that day we have
been joined at the hip as we once were. We now talk on the phone approximately 4.7 times a day and see
each other twice a month. We have never talked about why stopped talking and why we hated each other
but I think we both are glad it’s over.

So parents, as a twin here are a few of suggestions and tips. Allow your twins to grow up as individuals
Let them wear what they want, encourage them to make different sets of friends and get them interested
in different hobbies. Allowing them to be the same but separate will help them adjust later in life when
it’s time to grow up. If your twins fight, let them. Most likely they will get over it and reconnect. There is
a bond stronger than you can understand.


Author Byline:

Kelsey is the editor in chief for findananny. She loves to write article and ideas that parents & nannies
would be interested in hearing. She helps society on giving information about nannies through nanny services. She is a professional writer & loves writing on any thing.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

PhotoBarn Review and Giveaway!

Have you ever thought about photographs on wood?

I hadn't either.

But today I am more than lucky to be able to review an astounding product from PhotoBarn. My very own family pictures, printed on high-quality wooden pieces. It's very much like pictures on canvas, but more unique-looking and individualized, as the finished product reflects not only your photography, but also the wood on which it's printed.

As you can see, the pieces are fairly thick, and they're solid. You'll notice what looks like streaking on the baby shot. That shows the texture of the wood, and is pretty attractive, in my opinion. The flash, of course, ruins everything.

Anyway, it's so nice to finally have something up in my upper hallway!

 When I get enough funds, I'd like to do a few more, leading all the way down to the corner there!

For now, these look great!

Go on over to PhotoBarn and check out the rest of their selection. You can go much bigger than I did, if you want hanging for your living or bedroom. They've got a lot to choose from.

Or even better, you could win $115 worth of photos on wood by signing up right here!

That's right. PhotoBarn as authorized me to give away a $115 gift certificate to one lucky winner who can spend it on any of their products they choose!

Just leave a comment here, stating where you're following me (if you are a new follower.) If you already follow, please just spread the word! Leave a comment with a link to your tout of this giveaway. You can enter once for every follow, and once for every tout on a different social media.

Next Thursday, I'll pick a winner using randomization software. This is such a huge giveaway, I can't wait!



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review - The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, is a fabulous book on every level. The surprising story of a middle-aged matriarch leaves no twist in society unexplored, leaves no comment on morality, success or life itself unsaid. And it's all said in brilliant story-telling prose meant to make a reader think about the ideas behind the themes without even realizing it.

As you turn the pages wondering what will happen to the chaperone, Cora, and her 15-year-old charge, you are actually thinking about the human constructs of acceptance and loss, wondering about the human definitions of success and failure, and contemplating where morality really lies in the span of our own lives.

It starts slowly, but the descriptions carry you through the first few chapters, and these are necessary to set the melodious and normal backdrop that the adventures and ideas take root against. It provides the necessary context of a mid-western life, and the stunning contrast of modernity, momentum and gumption that even the most normal people show over the passage of time.

It made me cry.

And yet the storyline disputes set the resolutions up so wonderously soundly that not only are you gladdened at the end--for life, for people, for ideas--you're also aware that beneath the surface of these words, these stories, is a lingering message, a message about how we define our own little worlds, about how short-sighted people can see. We see how our mundane-seeming lives and thoughts are all pieces of a bigger, interlocking puzzle.

It was brilliant. Truly.

I think the biggest testament to this book, though, is not what I think of it, but how it made me feel. And not about the specific thoughts within the book, but about me. About my family. About life.

I felt good; I feel good.

It allowed me to open my view of life, even if just momentarily. I saw my life not as a 30-year-old mother of twins, but as I was as a child, and as I will be as an older adult. It reminded me that even though each day seems tediously the same, so many changes are subtly occurring inside and out that every moment is driving to the next, and every action can make a difference.

In the book, Cora lives through horse-drawn buggies, Prohibition, two world wars, the Depression, the civil rights era, all the way up to the 1980s. She goes from wearing corsets to watching gay pride rallies. Life can be long and it is always beautiful.

And after reading her complicated tale, I look at my own simple life with my loving husband and kids and I am grateful to be me, living in the era in which I live. Yes, things can be bad, in the immediate, but long-term, life is beautiful.

This is the best book I've read in a long time.

 I realize I've told you absolutely nothing about the content of this book, so here's the blurb:

Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six year old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. She has no idea what she's in for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change their lives forever.

For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn't what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora's eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

While I received this book as part of the BlogHer Book Club, all opinions are my own. Go on over there to hear more reviews and discussions about this spellbinding book.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Birthday Bash

So, I turned thirty yesterday. And really, for the most part, it was great. It feels just like 29!

 The girls spent two days painting me a box for my birthday. Like a produce box. Just an old box, and they saw it and said, you know what mom needs? A painted box. And they were right.

 Box painting is serious business.

After that, we went over to my friend Yasmin's house. She'd made me a cake, she said.

Now, when I make a cake, I pour a mix into a bowl with a few eggs and water and cook it for a half hour. Usually, I'll make my own frosting, but that also only takes a few minutes.

These friends of mine, they're a different type of folk. A really good, really nice couple. But they do things like grind their own sausage. They do things like grow their own yeast. They serve me things like this for lunch:

 And this:

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

So, yeah, I was a little wary of my cake. She says it took her two days, and I believe it. She gave me the recipe to post on the blog for "Recipe Monday." It was crammed onto an entire 8x11 sheet of paper. On the back of her husband's PhD resume. Which is just as well, since the information on the front about the physics of agriculture made just as much sense to me as the recipe on the back.

But it's delicious. And gone, I might add. This gigantic cake made it barely two days.

Want the recipe? Really? Because I'll type it all out for you, but that's as far as I go. If any of you make it, you can send some to me.

Crostata Di Apancia

The Crust (Crostata)
300 grams flour
150 grams sugar
130 grams butter
1 egg
1 tbsp baking powder

(And if you guessed I have no idea how much those grams amounts are in American measurements, you're right.)

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and butter. Add egg. Mix until a dough is formed.
Put it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 380 F
Remove dough from fridge and roll it into a buttered pan.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Let cool for 20 minutes.

200 grams sugar
50 grams flour
1/2 liter of milk
3 egg yolks
1 small glass of liquere

Mix flour, sugar, butter (did anyone see butter in that ingredients list? This is what I'm talking about. Some people know how to cook, and unfortunately for me, they just cannot translate it), and eggs.
Add the milk and start to beat it.
Put it in a pan for stovetop and cook it over medium-high heat, continuously stirring for 5-8 minutes.

Pour the filling into the crust, cut up some oranges, strawberries and melons, and put it in the fridge for at least two hours.

Actually, all typed up, it doesn't look SOOOOO bad. Maybe I'll try it after all. I'll go without the butter in the filling. I'll assume that was a mistake. I'll let you know.

Anyway, this is what thirty looks like when you have a friend who loves you enough to bake you a cake:

And a few extra "party" shots just for fun.

And my husband came home with presents, and took me out over the weekend to celebrate, too.

It was a good birthday.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Recipe Monday: One-Pan Sausage and Potatoes

I love this meal. It's easy and delicious, and only takes one pan! Photobucket Ingredients:
Sausage links, spicy or mild
Red potatoes
Green Pepper
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Cheese (cheddar or mozzarella depending on your mood)

Toss a little olive oil in a frying pan or wok. De-case the sausage links and tear them into inch chunks. Brown them completely in the pan.
Slice and add your potatoes. Let them brown in the oil as you slice the onion and pepper.
Add the onion and pepper, garlic, salt and pepper, and brown for just a few more minutes.
Add 3/4 cup of water. Lower heat and cover.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add shredded cheese. Continue cooking until melted and bubbly.
Serve immediately.

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