Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Being "Mama"

I read this quote a few weeks ago here. I love the honesty. The acknowledgment of sacrifice without the feeling of martyrdom.

What can I expect from becoming a mother? Disappointment. Frustration. Surprise. Joy. Love. Love. Love. Do I have what it takes? Sometimes yes, so much so that you will astound yourself. And sometimes no, this job will ask for more than you can give. What does it cost? All of you. And you will never regret it.
Motherhood shows me the best and the worst of myself. It brings me to my knees, with moments of awe and moments of emotional weakness. And it does take all of you. I think it always will. And that is the beauty.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Game Changer

I just finished reading this:

Food Matters by Mark Bittman

If you haven't read it, Bittman presents his views on food consumption, the business behind the food industry and the effects of the food we eat. He also includes a section of recipes, from the bare bones basics to more complex menus. His general premise, however, is to eat less meat, more whole foods and less junk. Kind of hard to argue with that.

I have found that I like to cook with a concept in mind, as opposed to a recipe. For example, take whatever you have and make burritos or pizza. I don't like to have to go to the store, again, because I need 1/3 of a cup of a certain ingredient that will inevitably go to waste when I don't use the remaining amount.

That is why I am loving this Mark Bittman character. :) He presents one recipe with several variations, so you can essentially use whatever you have lying around the house. Spices, produce, grains, etc.

I used his idea of creating a meal around: whole grains, beans, greens, other vegetables and a bit of cheese. Okay, he actually tells you to go easy on the cheese, but that is just not in my vernacular.

The following "recipe" is inspired by Mr. Bittman's, Food Matters.


brown rice, pinto beans, olive oil, garlic, spinach, zucchini, yellow pepper, onion, goat cheese
avocado, baby heirloom tomatoes, salt, pepper

Veggie Rice Bowl:

In a bowl, combine rice, beans and sauteed vegetables. I just used a bit of olive oil with garlic and added the spinach, zucchini, yellow pepper and onion. Top rice and beans with sauteed veggies and sprinkle (okay, dump) goat cheese on top. I then added a simple tomato and avocado salad on top. I liked the contrast of the warm rice salad with the cold tomatoes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekend Musings

Well, 3/4 of the family was out of commission Friday night and all of Saturday with the flu. Thankfully, mellow little C was our 1/4 of health and he didn't mind a day of playing trucks on the floor, watching a bit too much TV and eating Cheerios all the livelong day. In fact, that is pretty much his perfect day

With much amazement, we woke up Sunday feeling much better. And, unbelievably, we GOT THINGS DONE. What???!!! We are a family that NEVER gets things done. Our lists of things to do are a complete joke. They mock us from their magnetized holding place on the fridge.

But, our kids are finally getting to that age when they play together. Without us. Excuse me? I didn't know that was possible. I was told this might happen, but I truly did not believe. Thought our children were not quite capable of that. But with our kiddie-style pimped-out backyard (baby pool, bikes, water table) they ran around while we dominated our list of things to do.

I suppose one day of non-stop naps, tea and toast, the World Cup, and general laziness was just what we needed to force us in to productivity.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to Stay Sane

This pretty much sums it up for me.

If I ever appear relaxed, it is because I have created a one item to-do list for the day. Lower expectations lead to a greater sense of accomplishment for this mama.

Seriously. Try it.

image from (Warning: Some irreverent stationary going on.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

7 out of 10

We are halfway through 2010. Can you believe it? I started the year with a list of ten goals for 2010, which you can see here. I, happily, have completed, or adopted, I suppose, 6 out of the 10. And have put some plans into work for three of the others.

One of my goals was to find time to go out with my hubs more often. Living away from family and being on a budget, we just don't get out as often as we would like to.

Enter...amazing friends. We have a family with whom we spend lots of time at the park, having dinner, watching the kids run around the backyard. And, twice a month, we take turns dropping our kid(s) off at the other family's home and one couple goes out to dinner. And although our interrupting children are darn cute...see gratuitous cute is very nice to go out sans kiddos.

Our kids love each other. We all get along and trust one another. When we go out, I know implicitly that the kids are fine. What is so wonderful is that everyone benefits. The couple gets some time alone. The kids think it is the greatest thing in the world to have friends over to play, eat dinner, and read in their pajamas together.

Here is the key: We do this from about 5 to 7 p.m. By doing this early, no one has to worry about bedtime, kids go home tired and ready for bed. And, although this is going to make me sound a bit old, it is sort of nice to go out early. You won't have to wait for a table and you can be settled in at home by 8:00. Spoken like a true homebody.

And we are lucky enough to have friends that don't mind the uneven trade of 2 kids for their 1. Thanks, K and N.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Do you get it? That entry title shows my true dorkiness. Love it.

We eat veggie pizza once or twice a week. I always have a couple bags of Trader Joe's whole wheat dough in the freezer, just in case. Bonus: if you give the kids a bit of dough and some flour in a big baking pan, they will play on the kitchen floor almost the entire time that it takes to make this easy dinner.

I usually make two pizzas, so we can have lots of leftovers for lunch for the week. One pizza is topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions and sauteed vegetables (zucchini, spinach and mini heirloom tomatoes.) The other is topped with pesto (Trader Joe's again...obsessed, I know), sauteed tomatoes, caramelized onion and goat cheese.

I cook these in a really hot oven (500 degrees) and often put the dough in for a few minutes without toppings, since I don't have a pizza stone. It helps the dough get a little crispy before putting the toppings on it.

Do you make pizza at home? What combinations do you make?

photo from Real Simple

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend Musings

This weekend was pretty close to perfect...a morning gym workout, lots of park time, swimming in the baby pool, a walk at the beach, and our favorite rice and beans dinner at Wahoo's for Father's Day. I love, love, love not having to cook on Sunday night!

But, it was mostly perfect because we decided to abandon all projects and to-do lists and just hang out. Such freedom!

This feeling has filtered into my I am off to make peanut butter and honey sandwiches for dinner and we are headed to an amusement park. See you tomorrow, to-do list. Maybe...

image from flickr commons

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lucky Me

I am a fortunate woman. I celebrate two wonderful dads this year.

My own father, who I now refer to as "Papa," has been a source of happiness and pride for me, particularly in these ""grown-up" years. My decisions, however surprising, have always been celebrated by my dad. He wears his heart on his sleeve and I love him for that. I know when he is proud, when he is having fun, when he is sad. He is a fantastic "Papa" to our two children and there is nothing better than that.

My husband, S. Who right now is lying in a twin bed with our oldest, helping her sleep after a tough evening of tears and disappointment. I don't believe in the whole "He changes diapers!" celebration of dads. I think that is an insult to them. Of course, he changes diapers. He is a father. But I will celebrate the special things...his fascination with our daughter's strong arms as she swings from monkey bar to monkey bar, his morning oatmeal ritual with our son, his special songs/stories he tells to the kids when they are inconsolable, the way he looks at them and then me and says, "We are so lucky."

Happy Father's Day, Papa and Steve.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Things I Love

Some things I am loving on this summer day...

Trader Joe's Happy Trekking Trail Mix

An absurdly delicious trail mix (and I have tried many, many of TJ's offerings), which I tend to sprinkle on top of vanilla yogurt, strawberries, and granola. A really quick lunch or snack, and the chocolate chips seem innocent enough for lunch when surrounded by fruit and nuts, no?

These new shorts from Ann Taylor Loft

Never shopped here before a Christmas-time spree with my sister. Always thought it was too "outfit-y" and young corporate. But I was wrong! Really cute stuff and their shorts/pants fit me without tailoring. My short legs thank you, Ann Taylor Loft.

The view from our morning walk

My fellow CA friends, we are so darn lucky. The rest of you, don't be jealous. Just come and VISIT ME!!!

Sex and the City reruns

We just acquired DVR and one of my guilty (or not-so-guilty) pleasures has been watching old SATC episodes while the kids nap. Oh, how I love those ladies. Today, I cried through the episode about Carrie moving to Paris with "The Russian." (I don't think I have male readers, but if I do, I just lost them.) :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Here is a peek at what we have been reading in our little home...

How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
by Nigella Lawson

It is still to be determined if reading this book cover-to-cover will get me off my rear to actually bake something as divine as a fairy cake or homemade brownies or a batch of "my family will adore me" cookies. But, in the meantime, I have enjoyed her colorful language and amazing food descriptions. Reading about these delicacies is almost as good as eating them.
I am lying, of course.

Quiet in the Garden by Aliki

A cute little story with gentle, colorful illustrations and just the right amount of repetition (enough for the kids to recognize, but not enough to drive mom and dad insane.) It explores the concept of foods eaten by wild animals and foods that grow in the garden. I hope to use this book in the fall when we plant a little garden in our backyard. I am hoping that by putting this out in the "blogosphere" I become accountable and actually plant the aforementioned garden.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Healthy and Hearty

This is a stand-by in our house. S and I love it and the kids will eat it up, albeit, while picking veggie "chunks" out every so often. I use turkey sausage and add other vegetables (zucchini, red peppers, yellow peppers) to up the veggie ante. It is a great winter meal with warm bread and some wine, but easily works in the summer with a green salad.
  • 3/4 pound Italian sausages, casings removed (I use turkey sausage)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can diced peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup purchased pesto sauce

  • 10 ounces ziti or penne pasta (about 3 cups), freshly cooked
  • 8 cups ready-to-use spinach leaves (about 2/3 of 10-ounce package)
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

  • Heat heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, onion and garlic and sauté until sausage is cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices to pan. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in pesto. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

  • Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly oil 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish. Combine pasta, spinach, mozzarella and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese in large bowl. Stir in hot tomato sauce. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese over. Bake until sauce bubbles and cheeses melt, about 30 minutes.

Recipe adapted from

What do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Musings

This weekend was full of a few things I, unknowingly, really needed. I...
  • tried something new and a bit scary (for me, at least) and had a ball
  • stayed home on Sunday afternoon with the kids and doing laundry and playing. Somehow, totally relaxing and perfect.
  • got take-out for dinner, even though friends were coming over
  • had a beer at 4:00 pm
  • let the kids bang on a wooden table with play hammers, while I attempted a DIY job on said table (sidenote: I detest do-it-yourself jobs)
  • bought myself a latte
  • finished a book by flashlight (seriously, we had a neighborhood power outage)
image from Martha Stewart Living

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Little Things

Thank goodness for beautiful parks and beautiful friends.

My favorite tradition, as a mama, is meeting friends and their kids (Yes! I have found women whose company I love and whose children my own kids adore. Score!) at the playground.

We have our stand-bys and our new spots to check out. Parks that involve a nice walk beforehand, or a quick parking spot and we have arrived. Park days with kids getting dirty, snacks being shared, mamas laughing, and sometimes, crying. Watching our children become friends, learning how to solve problems, make mud cookies, and reach the monkey bars. Listening to one another talk about parenting, our marriages, cooking, movies, books, Target. :)

Thank goodness, indeed.

photo via flickr commons

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Things I Love: Kids' Edition

Things I am loving...

Melissa and Doug wooden blocks
One surefire toy that can keep the kiddies engaged. I also think they are quite beautiful.

Monkey plate from Target
Although I generally try to rely on "safe plastics" I love the little compartments on these plates. The visual portions seem to help me balance a meal for the kids and get more creative with meals. Can't keep a compartment empty! Just don't put in the dishwasher or the microwave.

The backyard garden hose
Seriously, nothing makes the kids happier on a hot afternoon than stripping down, turning on the hose and filling various plastic containers in the yard. This game has gotten even better
now that L can turn the hose off and on. Now, Mama can actually sit on the patio furniture. Novel idea!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Too Easy to be a Recipe

It seems like, despite spending lots of dough at Trader Joe's and planning out our week's meals, I always end up in the kitchen, one night a week, wondering, "What in the world are we going to eat tonight?" Back in the day, I would have confidently answered, "Cereal," to myself. But, since the kids have most likely already eaten cereal once or twice that day (ahem), I often turn to this easy meal.

Veggie Egg Scramble and Multi-Grain Biscuits

Just like it sounds. I scramble up about 8 eggs, some milk and a bunch of sauteed vegetables (usually caramelized onion, zucchini, spinach and tomato) in a cast-iron pan. I let it cook for a while, nice and low. I am often tempted to really turn up the heat and make dinner in 5 minutes, instead of 15. But, I read in Gourmet magazine (where, no surprise here, I did NOT get this recipe) to cook scrambled eggs low and long and it really makes a difference.

In the meantime, I use the Trader Joe's multi grain pancake mix (glorified and healthy Bisquick alternative) to make some drop biscuits. They are flaky and dry, which I strangely love.

Serve biscuits with butter and honey. Serve eggs with good salt and pepper. Done and done.

For more details on perfecting your scrambled eggs, read this.

Photo from

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend Musings

This weekend we celebrated my sweet, little L with a sweet, little party. Bagels, watermelon, juice, coffee at the playground. Bring-your-own tricycle. Enjoy the beach breeze. Toss the ball. Decorate your cupcake. It was perfect.

I strive to plan simple but special moments for our family. I want to be at the party, not scurrying around in the background, cleaning, organizing, setting up. So, we go for simple and stress-free.

We are lucky to be surrounded by friends and families who enjoy and appreciate the simplicity. I think it lets everyone "off the hook" -- to come to a party in whatever clothes you want, with whatever gift you can give, come early, come late, stay too long. Whatever.

My sweet, little L is not so little anymore. Four. I cried watching her funny little face while everyone sang to her. A mix of pleasure and shyness. There she was, sitting, surrounded by friends. Her own little friends. And her little brother, singing and clapping with a huge smile on his face.

Later that day, I went to write about her party in her baby book. Because, lord knows, if I don't do it right away...well, forget about it. I flipped through the photos of me and S, in front of the house, holding our new baby in an awkward "never held a newborn" way. Past her first, second, and third birthday entries. Then...there are no pages for four. What?! Finished with the baby book?

Oh dear, tears again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Little Things

Little things...

I read somewhere that Martha Stewart recommends making your sink area of the kitchen pretty. Okay, so M.S. most likely explained her idea with more sophisticated terms than "pretty" but I went with the idea in a very "Kristen McCann" not "Martha Stewart" way.

See, Martha does things to perfection. I do things quickly and "just enough." The quest for perfection makes my shoulders rise to just under my ears, gives me a headache and makes me begin to sweat. So, I went to Target, bought some pretty bottles (actually, total disclosure, my mom paid for them...) and filled them with hand soap and dish soap.

So, every time I do dishes, it feels kind of pretty. As long as I only look at the bottles and not at the pile of dishes in the sink. From breakfast. Happy weekend.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Afternoon Lull

A girlfriend asked the other day, "What do you do between 3:30 and 8:30?" Meaning, how do you organize the time between nap time and bed time for your kids?

Admittedly, I am a lucky woman. S comes home from work by about 4:30 almost every day. So on most afternoons, I am not outnumbered by children. I know that makes things much easier. To my ladies (or gents...although, I do not know if one man actually reads this) who are home until late, late and later with the kids. Give yourselves a boatload of credit. The afternoon playtime, dinnertime, bath time, story time, bedtime routine is so much harder when you do it alone.

In my group of friends, we notice that we eagerly and creatively plan out the mornings: walk on the strand, playing at the
park, story time at the library, get-together at someone's house, zoo trip, museum trip, etc. But I find, by the time the kids' naps end, I am totally out of ideas. Or, truthfully, I am tired of thinking of ideas.

We tend to do a half-hour video after nap, snack, some sort of simple art activity, then head outside. We have been spending a lot of time in the backyard these days, which makes it easy. Riding bikes, playing in water, or blowing bubbles. Otherwise, we might head to a nearby park for an hour or so, just to get out. Then, dinner, bath, stories, and bed.

What about you? Any ideas on how to make the afternoon and early evening work for both kids and mamas (or papas)?

(photo of L and C, my two kiddies, who ask almost every afternoon, "But Mama, what are we going to DO?)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Day

I woke up from a bad dream. One that wouldn't stop.
It has given me a heavy heart all day. So...

I ate oatmeal for lunch.
I watched tv through the kids' entire nap-time.
I cried at the park with a good friend.
I did ZERO chores.

I will be back with something more interesting tomorrow. Hopefully, after some sweet dreams.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

They Had Me At 'Butter'

We had an impromptu Memorial Day gathering at our house complete with wiffle ball, the kiddie pool and scooter rides. My favorite moment was when I went inside to check on dinner and when I came out all of the kids were running around naked. What is about kids and being naked? They certainly relish it.

While the kids ate mini pizzas, the "grown-ups" ate a perfect summary meal: green salad, pasta salad, crusty bread and baked tilapia. I quite consistently overcook fish, but this simple recipe helped me turn out some tasty fish that was not as dry as a bone. A miracle, so I thought I would pass it on.

Baked Tilapia

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 tilapia fillets

Saute butter in pan until simmering. Add minced garlic and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Brush the bottom of a baking pan with butter mixture. Place fillets on top of the butter and then brush remaining butter mixture on top of the tilapia. Bake for 25 minutes or until flaky. (I tend to add herbs and such without measuring. It is the only way I will cook a recipe more than once, because it is fast and I can make the meal from memory.)

Recipe adapted from