Monday, January 31, 2011

Numbers don't lie....

4,155 !!!!!
I've been blogging since April 2009 and look at those page view numbers!  This might mean squat to anyone else, but I think it's pretty darn cool!  I mean REALLY, numbers don't lie...hahahaha.  Thank you for your support and for reading little 'ol me and my little 'ol blog.  It means the world to me!  (and this little 'ol blog keeps me sane!  or at least a little!)
I've been meaning to tell you about these shoes!

I bought these shoes weeks ago from my favorite local re-sale shop.  They came from a shoe-hoarder who had a family intervention and now they are all being re-saled. (she happens to wear the same 8.5 size as me! wooo hooo!  She has hundreds!)  NO LIE.  I got them for $8.00. (I had in-store credit from all the stuff I re-sale)  NO LIE.  They were brand-spankin' new in the Nordstrom box.  They are BCBGeneration and they are TO DIE FOR.  They represent the me in another life (you know the one who had a life?!)  The person who bought shoes like this just for the simple sheer joy of it.  Because I didn't have kids.  Because we went on really cool vacations outside of the U.S. and never worried about a babysitter.  Because we could do what we wanted, when we wanted.  They represent the me that still exists inside.  Just looking at them makes me happy.  I came home from the store and just wore them around the house in my yoga pants.  (I always do this!)
Please just look at that heel!  It's so high and so ridiculous!  Look at that snakeskin "rainbow" pattern?  SIGH!  Don't they make you want to plan a really cool evening out just to wear them?  Do you need to see another angle?  I know I do!  

I will now admit to you that I have a shoe addiction.  Well, let me be clear here.  I have an addiction to buying shoes that I can rarely wear.  (I know, right?)  It's all the shoe-hoarder's fault really.  I can't resist a pair of Michael Kors platform pumps, brand-new in the Nordstrom box with a price tag of $135.00 when they are staring me in the eye on super re-sale mark-down of $22.50!  You understand right?  So chocolate brown AND tan snakeskin seemed the logical and correct choice.  And I won't even go there with the knee-high, patent-leather red/burgundy boots that were also $22.50.  I'd be happy to photograph them and show you the love.  

You support me right?  You understand right?  Thank you.  I knew you would.

Sweet Style...


Grief is a funny thing.  It can overwhelm you with sadness and you literally feel like you will never be happy again.  Or, you can choose to dig deep and cultivate the joy.  As a mother, it is my job to cultivate the joy on the regular when Groundhog Day happens everyday around here!  I'm just holding down the fort while husband can do what he needs to do.

And then sometimes the red head does this all on her own. She threw a little splash of sunshine into a week that certainly wouldn't rank as a good one.  I remember the first week after my Dad's unexpected and untimely death.  It was a feeling of "how the hell can the world just go on as business as usual when our family has a broken heart?" The children have been the best medicine for my husband.  

Lauren certainly has "old soul" ways about her.  Her sophistication at the age of 5 gives me great joy.  (when I stop screaming long enough to enjoy it!) We called my mother-in-law "Farmor" which means "father's mother" in Swedish.  Lauren wore Farmor's scarf and clip in her hair on Friday to school.  I didn't ask her to or even suggest it.  I gave her these from Farmor's house on Thursday night and she planned all on her own to wear them on Friday to school.  I even suggested a pink scarf so it would match her outfit better. She said "No, I want to wear Farmor's scarf so she is with me at school today."

I mean really.  Could just burst out crying with the sweetness of that?  I love you baby girl! : )  I particularly enjoy her use of the clip.  It's not holding up any hair or anything....just "clipped" to the side of her head!  Hilarious. She's forging her own style!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The job never ends....thank goodness!


http://www.blogher.com/exit-interview
Sherri blogs at Old Tweener, where she writes about parenting and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) while living in those years between changing diapers and wearing them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Sun has Set....

My wonderful mother-in-law left this earth yesterday as my husband, his sister and his father stood by her side as she took her final breath.  I am not sure what I believe in terms of God, Heaven, religion, and all that encompasses it.  I would like to believe that my mother-in-law journeyed to Heaven and was greeted at the pearly gates by Jesus himself and a that there was a big parade of all the beloved people in her life that went before her.  I would like to believe that because it makes me feel good.  And I think for the most part, that is what religion gives people.  

I was baptized, confirmed and attended church, Sunday school, bible school and was an active member of the church community when I was young and of the age where my parents dictated how I was to live my life.  I am grateful for the foundation they gave me.  Grateful for all those Saturday morning confirmation classes when I would have given anything to just sleep in instead.  I am thankful for my mothers dedication and steadfastness to giving me this gift.  I would like to give same gift to my children but I question it all the time.  Does it really matter?  I chose my own path once I left home.  What benefit will they receive from it?  Am I just a hypocrite if I "make them" do this?  I thought I'd have this all worked out by the time Lauren starts kindergarten.  The deadline looms and fast approaches.  

My husband considers himself agnostic.  The English term "agnostic" is derived from the Greek "agnostos," which means, "to not know." An agnostic is one who admits, "I don't know." The term is applied specifically to those who don't know for certain whether or not God exists. An agnostic is one who believes that the existence of God is unknown and most likely beyond human ability to discover.  

I am not sure what I consider myself so I usually just say "I am spiritual."  I just know that sometimes the pain in the world is too much to bear.  Pain in our own individual lives and the kind you can find on the nightly news.  The kind of pain that comes from losing your father at age 59 when he hasn't seen your children yet or your new house.  The kind of pain in watching your husband grieve over losing his mother at age 64 within a week of her entering the hospital.  If I hear of one more cancer diagnosis I may scream. Sometimes the world itself is too much to bear.  Life is just overwhelming painful and a miracle all in the same.

My mother in law's death teaches me to wake up each morning with a grateful and kind heart.  To smile more.  To lend a hand or take the initiative to do something great for someone without being asked.  To appreciate the setting sun and hope that tomorrow you get to wake up and do it all over again.  I often say my life is like "Groundhog's Day" the movie.  I clean up the same messes, empty the dishwasher and do laundry day in and day out.  I could do it in my sleep.  I say "No, Evan" a hundred times a day.  It's mind-numbing sometimes.  

But each day I need to find a little gem....or cultivate a gem.  Find a little peace and a little goodness to fulfill my soul.  That is why I write.  It's a little thing that I can do everyday that makes me feel more connected to myself and my true calling in life.  At the end of the day, I'm a mother.  And as my mother-in-law showed me, you can be a mother and still do so much more.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snack Attack....

Remember that old-school appetizer consisting of ham, cream cheese and a dill pickle?  I distinctly remember my Aunt Sue making these for holiday parties when I was a kid. I can't remember if I liked them or were grossed out by them.  I checked in with my sister and she said "Those were my fever for the flavor."  (I don't lie people.  Those were her exact words and that's why I adore my sissy.)   She also reminded me of her love for the classic "roll-up" pin-wheel appetizer in a tortilla.  (I'm not a fan, but could be swayed!)

So I'm not sure how this happened.  I was searching the fridge for a post-work-out snack and came across all the fixings for this fine snack!  Well, now I can't get enough.  I also have a habit of "sickening myself" on the same food item until I can no longer eat it, speak of it, or look at it. (One of my BF's is classic for this and I'll make a comment about something I think she/we love and she'll say "Oh, I sickened myself on that months ago.  I'm not happy about it T.  I've ruined it for myself.") 

The "sickening" has not happened yet and since I'm out of deli ham, I'm safe for awhile!!!!  It's just so tasty.  I prefer whipped cream cheese and a baby dill.  I don't slice them up 'ala appetizer image above, but just use two slices of deli ham with a little cream cheese down the middle and two baby midget dills.  HEAVEN!  Really people, it's the little things in life!  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ode to Winter Birds....

Despite the cold, gray, dreary January you see outside my backyard, the birds are livin' large!!!!  It's finch family craziness out there!
We serve a few varieties of delightful seed with a bit of suet in the middle. Normally the squirrels take over the suet and go crazy but since we don't have large, established trees yet, we don't have squirrels!  (we like that!)

When my sister was in third grade she had to memorize a poem.  My whole family ended up memorizing the poem and to this day will quote it to one another!  And for the first time in the blogosphere, I give you:

Tracy's Winter Poem:
Feed the birds when winter comes.
Help them find enough to eat.
Peanut butter, seeds and crumb...
and suet for a special treat.

Kettle 'o Soup....

I am obsessed with making soup.  I've been making a kettle every weekend.  It's such a winter delight to eat throughout the week or on a night I don't feel like cooking.  This latest and greatest comes from The Pioneer Woman~Cauliflower Soup.  Shocking that I would find a recipe from her site, I know!  And forgive me for the photo.  If I use a flash it is too much so I just take the photo under the stove lights which makes it look all yellow.  All of PWs tutorials on photography tell me to only take pics in natural light.  Well, I don't cook everything during the day.  So I guess I need to take a photography class or start cooking when the sun shines bright and shining through my window.

However, this does not take away from my suggestion to make this soup.  I made mine chunkier than PW suggests. My mom makes a soup called "cheese soup" that uses frozen vegetable medley and Velveeta cheese.  This is so similar to that soup, but all natural with fresh veggies.
I have found that most of PWs recipes are not as spicy as I desire.  So kicked this up a couple of notches and it satisfied on all counts.  And just because you can google a poem about absolutely anything, I googled one for you about SOUP!!!!!

SOUP
I SAW a famous man eating soup.
I say he was lifting a fat broth
Into his mouth with a spoon.
His name was in the newspapers that day
Spelled out in tall black headlines
And thousands of people were talking about him.
  
When I saw him,
He sat bending his head over a plate
Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.
~Carl Sandburg

Monday, January 17, 2011

She Hit the Big Time....


Do you know Dooce?  Her name is Heather Armstrong and she's like the first blogger to ever get fired from her job for talking smack about her employer and people she works with.  It's a big long ridiculous story and now she makes a ton of money for really not blogging anymore but just posting a picture here and there and really not saying much. I used to be obsessed with her and read her book.  (She had a teeny tiny nervous breakdown and committed herself to a mental institution.) Sure, Sure.  

Anyway, I don't want to talk shit here.  I feel we need to support one another, especially woman....especially fellow bloggers.  So Heather, if you are reading this, (insert giant maniacal laugh here) Love you!  Love your work!  Plus Heather does many a good post about mental health, drugs, support, etc.  Something I know nothing about and thank god I have not suffered from.  Or maybe I just haven't had the proper diagnosis.  Because really, I am not sure I don't know a stay-at-home mom who doesn't feel NUTS or half-cocked three outta five days of the week!

She may have brought me round again with this snippet from her post today:

Have you ever been a stay-at-home parent? Do you have any idea the amount of rigorous work and emotion it requires? The tireless hours of performing tasks that will never earn you a raise or a gold star or even be acknowledged by another human being? Cause Imma let you shut your mouth if you haven't.

YES, YES, YES!  My hand is raised sista and I'm a stay-at-home who's been stuck in the house (it's January in Chicago friends) with a sick 5-year-old and a crazy 2-year-old.  So just the mere fact you made this statement today....well, I NEEDED THAT.

Just sayin'.

Alton Brown's Wings....

It is FOOTBALL SEASON after all!!!
GO PACKERS!

Alton Brown's Buffalo Wing Recipe is different from most in that it tells you to steam the wings first for 10 minutes before baking in the oven for 40 mins (20 mins each side) and let me tell you, they are the best I've ever had! They fell off the bone like ribs do when you use this method.  And really who's gonna question Alton Brown? Part science guy, part chef, part comedian!!!!  Love him!  It's the only show on the Food Network my husband can handle.

I used fresh chicken wings. (I would have used drumsticks too but my grocery did not have mini ones)  This may seem like common sense, but other recipes I researched told me to use a big 'ol bag of frozen drumettes and wings.  

And the sauce?  So simple.  So perfect.  I put fresh garlic in a pan with olive oil and when that had cooked a bit I added the butter and Frank's red hot and Tabasco.  (Because you know they are totally different flavors right?  They are!  

And for the blue cheese dipping sauce I just used blue cheese salad dressing and added fresh blue cheese crumbles and a bit of milk to thin it out.

I cannot wait to make these in GIANT batches for friend this summer when we head to Trout Lake for vacation.  All the people we hang with while on vacation love a high spice factor and this will be super fun to eat while drinking beer and sitting around the picnic tables.  Oh summer, how I long for you as it has snowed ALL day today!  

Monday Monday....


Okay I want you all to know that I wrote a fabulous post on Friday night in the midst of a sick whimpering child lying next to me and another child bouncing off the walls. Every once in a while I write something and just know it's good.  It moves and inspires me and the words flow easily. And with the new blogspot upgrades, it's virtually impossible to lose a post.  It auto-saves constantly. And two seconds after that auto-save occurred, Evan bumped me and it was gone.  gone. gone. gone.  Every last word of it. And after I pretended it didn't happen and I did all I could do to "find it", I just gave gave up and moved on. And spent the rest of the weekend feeling like I couldn't write anything else.

I can try to reproduce it, but it won't be as good.  When something is "in the moment" it is always so much better than forcing it.  I'll try again.  It involved SHOES.  New fantastic shoes.  

I also want you to feel a tiny bit of my pain.  I've been pretty much "holed up" in the house with a sick Lauren and two-year old who wants to drink out of every cup she has put her lips on since Thursday.  Oh, and the husband has some cough that makes me want to punch him every time I hear it.  I am not sick.  I never get sick.  Evan is not sick.  So that's something good.  

Also, it's January and I've decided I don't like January.  It's white and cold and gray and doesn't have much excitement in it.  It's snowing again today and I've a fire in the fireplace.  I'm going to clean and workout and just get past this all.  Keep moving.  Keep going.  Keep Spring in my heart.  BE THE MONARCH.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chai Tea Latte...

I'm a big fan of chai tea lattes from Starbucks.  However, I don't like the price.  I mean really, what am I getting? Some skim milk and tea?  So I buy the concentrate brand from Tazo.  (A 3 pack from Costco is a real deal!)  You just mix equal parts chai and milk.  
I saw this on (where else?) The Pioneer Woman:  Step-by-step-amazing-spiced-chai-concentrate and thought I would share.  In case you want to get really thrifty and make your own.  But be warned, cardamom is a pricey spice.  Or at least it was the last time I looked.  Maybe in popularity the price has dropped.  
Everyone needs a little warmth in January!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spoon Rest Love...

 Fiestaware spoonrest
Stainless Steel spoonrest
Vintage Goodness!  My mom bought this on her honeymoon in 1967 to Niagara Falls, Canada!  And now it is mine to cherish!  I adore this!  I am soon to be 40 years old (this year) so this lovely spoon rest is O to the L to the D.  The vintage gems in my life mean so much more with a good story behind them.  I imagine my mother, the dark haired young beauty she was, and my Dad in their little rented room at the motel, happy as clams thinking they are livin' the dream.  And they were!  And then my mom wanders into the falls gift shop and decides on this.  Perhaps dreaming of all the cooking she will soon be doing for my Dad and how this spoon rest will come in handy?  I am not sure if she ever really used it but I found this in the back of a kitchen drawer and just about died.  This is so me.  I am obsessed with family vintage items.  This currently resides on my eclectic themed laundry/mud room wall.  (Mostly filled with family treasures that perhaps I only think are gems!)
This is my Mom's engagement photo on the left.
 On the right is a photo booth pic of my Mom and Dad.
Talk about a priceless gem!  
They are both framed and matted to perfection.
Here is their wedding photo!  
Young and ready to conquer the world together!!!!

Fruit-a-palooza Wednesday..

Using natural light and trying my hand at the camera again....practice makes perfect!  I was inspired after all the fruit I purchased at the local market.  Some much-needed color in January!  









Vintage German table-cloth from Goodwill (where else?) purchased brand new....Rhine wine bottles, grapes  and glasses decorate the beauty!

Chicken Tortilla Soup from PW

Lovely photo from Cave Cibum
Okay, I'm just going to direct you to PW (The Pioneer Woman, blogger extraordinaire, author, cattle rancher, home-schooler, shall I go on?) and all her amazing photos of her chicken-tortilla-soup and you will see the soup and all the soup toppings in all their glory!  But here is my finished soup with a lovely steam rising from the pot.  It was DELICIOUS with a big fat capital D.  If you are a fan of this style of soup, this one is a winner.  You must try.  Not too spicy, even though me and my husband love the spice.  I did add 1/2 of a fresh jalapeno pepper AND some frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe's.  I think it adds a nice sweetness.  I also squeezed 1/2 of a fresh lemon into the pot near the end.  A little acid from the citrus suits me quite kindly.  (I'm channeling PW here.  She is from Oklahoma and has a bit of the Southern thing rockin' from what I've heard when she had a throw-down with Bobby Flay.)
A little black bean, garlic, sweet corn, rotel tomato love!  But really, the toppings MAKE the soup!  Per PW's suggestion, I added:  red onion, avocado, cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.  And the real kicker here is to take corn tortillas and toast them up nicely in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  Then slice them up and add them to the top of the soup.  My husband was dying!!  He was so delighted by the "fried" corn tortillas that he just ate one while eating his soup.  I also suggest a cold beer (we had Rolling Rock) while eating the soup.  ENJOY!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweatin' to the Oldies....

Remember good 'ol Richard Simmons?  I read the Chicago Tribune Magazine article entitled, Sweat equity? from Sunday, January 9, 2011 and while I'm on the subject of health and wellness.....really getting to the heart of the matter......not just physicality, but manifesting the life that you long to live....let me share with you the part that touched me the most:

Nutrition and exercise are important. But so is the mental aspect. Simmons suggests keeping a journal. Plot your day, hour by hour, looking for ways to grab a few minutes here and there for working out and preparing proper meals. Focus on your goal.
"It all boils down to someone's self-worth," he said. "If you feel worthy of being healthy, you'll get up early and get your workouts in. If you start to respect your body, you won't put greasy food in and clog your arteries. It seems like such a simple formula, but people have so much past luggage."
And don't give up.
"I hear every excuse," Simmons said. "All of a sudden it's Dec. 31 and they're holding the last rum ball in their hand, and they're going into 2011 heavier than they were in 2010. And that starts a negative year."

One of my BF's said it best when I asked her about her weight loss.  "I put myself back on the list."  She said she was watching the Oprah show where Wynona Judd said that's how she lost her weight and found clarity in her life.

I can't think of anything more powerful than to say, "I matter.  I am putting myself back on the list."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Of Utmost Importance....


What would happen if we really just loved ourselves the way we are RIGHT here, RIGHT now?  I read this article from BlogHer entitled "Thoughts on Being a Pretty Fat Girl" and had to share the goods.  Seriously, stop right now and read this.  

This is my favorite quote from the article:
"People will be attracted to you if you love yourself. That is a fact. And it often has very little to do with your actual weight. Because when you love yourself: You stand differently, you smile like you mean it, you extend kindness and warmth because you can see outside of your little shell of pain, and you dress in a way that is both comfortable and flattering instead of trying to hide your body away or make it something that it’s not."

Since January is the "standard issue" month of deprivation from the over indulgences of the season, I suggest we try a different approach.  Can we STOP beating ourselves up about everything?  Can we stop deciding if our day will be good or bad after we step off the scale in the morning?  Can we live a life of freedom from a stupid number that can fluctuate because we had a few drinks last night or didn't take a bowel movement yet????

In the past year or so I have found a freedom from much of what plagues the average woman.  Nothing is "off limits."  I eat what I want, when I want it.  I listen to my body.  I drink alcohol.  I eat at parties.  I enjoy fruit and veggies and whole foods as much as I can.  I mostly eat meals that I've prepared at home vs. eating out.  But I still eat pizza or fries or a sweet treat if I crave it.  I work out as much as I can.  But even the workouts have changed.  I am loving yoga.  I don't need to beat myself up with a long run or cardio session from hell just to feel like I've had a "good enough" workout.  

And you know what?  All that self-love has manifested itself into a body that I can really accept.  Sure, I'd love thinner thighs and hips that aren't as wide.  I'd love svelte calves.  But it's not realistic.  I am not going to go under the knife and I cannot change my basic DNA.  This body is strong and healthy and I gave birth to two babies.  My body did that!  I can move furniture and haul heavy objects up and down a flight of stairs (so I don't have to wait for my husband to do the job!)

Maybe it's because I'm turning 40 this year.  Maybe it's maturity.  Maybe it's all the good work on self-esteem my parent's instilled in me.  Maybe it's just ME.  Maybe I just want to live a life of freedom.  Maybe I want to wear a swimsuit and not care what anyone else's opinion is....After all, shouldn't my opinion of myself be supreme to anyone else's?  Heck, everyone else is too worried about their own crap to care about what little 'ol me looks like in a swimsuit at the beach.  I want my daughter to love every inch of herself.  I don't want her to have a list of food that makes her "bad" or "good."

And I have to tell you that all "this" has made me way more fun, funnier, happier and way more attractive to people.  My self-love is like a magnet to other people at parties.  This past holiday season I had more fun than ever before.  I attended parties and just. had. fun.  I was MYSELF in and out.  Comfortable in my own skin. I was driving home from a party and thought, "Wow, I haven't seen her in years.  She's really changed.  She's so much fun now."  And then it hit me.  It was ME that changed, not her.  It's what I bring to the table now.

I LIKE MYSELF.  Try it!  See how it creates major shifts in your life!  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Out with the old....in with the new!

Have I mentioned that I love a good bargain?  Have I mentioned that I can smell a bargain from a mile away? Well, I've done it again!  Documenting Bargain #1 of 2011!~  My favorite thing to do is shop at Goodwill or garage sales, resale shops or thrift stores and buy something I just know is a good deal.....even if I don't know the name brand.  And don't get me wrong....I know my name brands.  But if they get too high end then I'm lost!  I just purchased the Lollia "imagine" candle on the left for $2.00.  It spoke to me.  Cool packaging with a dangling crystal on the wick that you cut off before burning.  Smelled dandy.......well, well, well......This above set sells for $88.00 on the website!!!!  I know, ridiculous but that makes it all the more sweet!  

I couldn't be more proud.  hahahahahhaha  I was on a roll today with re-decorating and changing things up.  "Shopping" within my house while adding a few new things from the clearance rack at Home Goods.  I love days like today when everything falls into place.  January is always a good time to switch things up in my house.  All the clutter and chaos of Christmas decorations are put away and a blank slate awaits.  As my sissy said yesterday, "I like to sit with the nothingness for a few days until inspiration hits."  Well said.  I agree. 

Here's to a new year of bargains ahead!