Friday, January 31, 2014

TToT11: Fast and Furious

We have had one of those weeks. An event every night of the week, to do lists growing longer rather than shorter, and some news we'd rather not have had to hear. Not all of it has been bad, though. I had a fabulous birthday on Monday, and I got to catch up on Downton Abbey. I'd love a weekend where I could stay in my PJs and clean the bathrooms ('cause they need it), but sadly, that is not in order. Maybe next week our lives will slow down a little.

So, to proceed:

1. I know Kristi will be disappointed if I don't talk a bit about my birthday here. And it was a happy day. Chocolate cake in the morning and fun unexpected deliveries of flowers from my parents and a sweet gift from an aunt and uncle who are very dear to me.

2. Then, an impromptu dinner choice (after discovering the place The Dude had planned on was closed) that turned out to be serve excellent and original Thai food.

3. A new scarf and a ticket to hear Glennon Doyle Melton speak this February from The Dude! That woman can hardly speak but I start nodding, and in order to get to TX in time to hear her speak, I get to prolong our February trip to see my parents! This man knows me, let me tell you.  A fun and unexpected gift!

4. Maggie got to stay up until we came home, and then we all shared chocolate cake. For unknown Maggie-particular reasons, she did not want to sing Happy Birthday but was willing to sing Frances' version of Happy Chompo To Me. For those who aren't familiar with Frances the badger, this version is what she sang at her sister's birthday party (until her conscience got the best of her). A Chompo is a candy bar and her gift to her sister.
Happy Chompo to me
Is how it ought to be.
Happy Chompo to Frances,
Happy Chomp to me.
Maybe I should be insulted, but I only find it charming. I love any hint that literature is memorable to my children. And for lovers of Frances (Dyanne), I enjoyed this article.

5. I received three new books from my sister and read The Fault in our Stars cover to cover in two days. It's a heartbreaker, that one, with a very compelling love story.

6. And extremely productive trip to the Op Shop where I scored the materials for a new jewelry organizer (thank you, Pinterest), a new lamp for Leo's room, and sundry other items. All for $13.50, thankyouverymuch.

7. I ate both pork belly and pig tails for the first time in my life. I'm a pretty adventurous eater, but I'd somehow missed out on those two. Verdict? Pork belly: dee-licious; pig tails: rubbery, bland, and skippable.

8. I have actually gotten Leo to nap three times this week. It has taken Herculean strength of purpose and the patience of something extremely patient (not Job, don't give me Job), but I have triumphed. I have won in a battle of wills with a twenty-two-month-old. I am a GODDESS!

9. I had a great catch-up phone conversation with an old friend this week. I have to amp myself up for phone calls; I get a rush of adrenaline from the pressure of being social, and then feel exhausted afterward. But it was a lovely conversation, full of catching up and planning their visit next summer! I also came out of the blog closet to her so maybe she'll read this and feel complimented.

10. Lizzi has waved her magic wand and appointed amycakeandthedude as the official clubhouse of the Green-Eyed Gang. Look for a post next week, and if you're a green-eyer, you should send me a pic so you can play along!

Your hosts

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Defense of Fashion...Or Perhaps Not

There's a blog hop going on (why does this sound like the opening line to a song?) called Moms vs. Awards Season: What Are You Wearing? I've had ample notification that this is going on because I follow several of the blogs hosting. And I've enjoyed reading the posts. They're smart and funny, and I love seeing pictures of bloggers I follow.

(Jen at My Skewed View, Jean at Mama Schmama, Sarah at Left Brain Buddha, Stephanie at Mommy, For Real, Deb at Urban Moo Cow, Sarah at The Sadder but Wiser Girl, Katia at I am the Milk, Rachel at Tao of Poop, Jane at Nothing by the Book)

The hostesses of this hop are using it as an opportunity to point out the insidiousness of fashion grading during the awards season and have a little fun showing their informal fashion choices. I also might have sensed a little (gentle) fun poked at fashion blogging. Now I haven't read all the posts, but this is what I've gathered from the posts I've read (so if I painted you with too wide a brush, I am sorry).

So I feel called to offer another point of view. Not because I was at all offended, but what's a blog for if not to express your own point of view?

I love fashion. I watch awards shows to see the dresses (and Jennifer Lawrence). I admit it. I love seeing what stars are wearing, and I happily read the ratings when EW arrives in the mail. It's insidious, yes; but I'm am cheerfully failing at integrity in this area.

Pattern mixers of a feather
Also, I love fashion personally. I love pretty clothes, and I love new clothes (at least to me; I have no problem with second-hand). I like to put on heels and a dress, and if I had a good reason and some big bucks, you better believe I'd wear a ball gown and have a grand old time in it.

I love the process of defining my personal style and knowing what is trendy right now. I am proud that I was wearing stripes and plaid together when I was two, and now that's a trend! I love that I have a few genuine vintage items as well as a genuine pair of designer jeans (consigned). I love examining which colors flatter my complexion and which styles show off my figure to best advantage (or make me look like I have one). I love that I own eight pairs of boots (including snow and rain ones; come on, that's really not that many pairs). I love taking pictures of my outfits and texting them to the GGs for feedback and validation.

When I am feeling like all I do is cook, clean, run errands, and play mindless activities, at least I can get dressed in something creative and original (maybe) and pretty. It makes me feel a little more like my own person, instead of just a person who meets others' incessant needs.

So there's my defense of dressing up and making an attempt to stand out from the crowd.

But, here's the thing: I read most of the posts (of blogs I follow) this morning, and I noticed that almost every mother was in sweats, yoga pants, etc. Looking down, I saw the same: my late aunt's fleece pants, a tank top in case I get hot, and a hoodie in case I get cold. No shoes or socks (cold toes are preferable to restricted feet). Hair unbrushed and in a top knot.

And, when the bus pulls up outside our house, I head out through the crowd of neighborhood children and parents in just that, but with my parka and The Dude's duck boots from high school in this polar vortex.

The truth is, I only get really dressed if I have to leave the house.

Friday, January 24, 2014

TToT10: Birthday Eve Weekend

Hey guys, did I mention my birthday is approaching? It's Monday! Monday is my birthday!

I've always loved to notify people that my birthday is approaching. I'm not asking for gifts or good wishes, but by announcing it, I'm building up my own excitement. And the anticipation's always the best part.

Nothing particularly special about turning 38 other than 40 just looks that much closer. But (one of) the fun part(s) of being married to The Dude is he loves to plan special events. I know we're doing something for my birthday, I just don't know what it is.

So there are my numbers one and two. Three, of course, is birthday chocolate cake. The best chocolate cake I know how to make, and yes, I do make it myself. Who else would? And I want birthday chocolate cake. The baking it is as fun as the eating it anyway.

What do people who don't like chocolate have for their birthdays, Lizzi?

Oh, and the weather forecast predicts a high of 33 on Monday. Pos-i-tive-ly balmy. I'm gonna wear shorts and dance for joy in the melting snow.

So, there's for the birthday thankfuls. Some others from the week:

5. My vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. I now can use the word perspicacity correctly, but I think the real joy in that word is in the pronunciation. Try it; you'll love it.

6. Someone advertised on our neighborhood listserv that she is downsizing and looking to give away houseplants. Give away! I scored five fully grown beauties who won't want much water. I'm a lazy waterer so these are perfect for me. Now The Dude, he loves to water, so I've instructed him to restrain himself. Let's hope he can.

7. Lisa from The Meaning of Me recommended this engaging and humorous post on Brussel sprouts, about which I have not written enough, would not you agree? I had lots of fun following the links and pinned the two recipes for BS haters. Then, no BS in our CSA this week. I'm still prepared should they appear, however.

And what I really loved about the exchange is how my hatred of Brussel sprouts has so fully permeated her consciousness that she thought of me when she read the post. 

8. No Brussel sprouts, but don't these look amazing?

9. Such fun! Lizzy of The Muddle-Headed Mamma is providing Italian lessons on her blog on a weekly basis. As a girl with a genuine one quarter Italian blood running through her veins and a brother and sister who both learned Italian, my interest was certainly piqued. I particularly enjoyed her post this week on the role of astrology in the typical southern Italian's life. Sono del segno dell'Acquario.

10. We had company last night, and not only talked them into learning a new game about planting bean fields (are you surprised that's not easy to do?) but found they were naturals! This game, Bohnanza (wow, it has a Wikipedia page), is way more fun that it sounds. Yes, you're planting bean fields, but it's really about bartering with your fellow players. You get to participate in each turn rather than having to sit around and wait most of the time, like so many games (ahem, Ticket to Ride).

And, as mentioned, they caught on right quick, which was fun since it can be a bit complicated to explain and if you are playing with someone only mildly interested or moderately inebriated, it can be like wading through Jello.

Can't wait to read your lists!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Citrus Candles

These citrus candles are great little decorations for a winter event you might be hosting. They're natural and cheap and give off a pleasing aroma. They won't last more than a few hours, but they bring a little cheer to dark winter days.

Back at the beginning of the month, we had a period of time where it was either snowy, rainy, or way too cold to have much fun outside. The kids and I came down with bad cases of cabin fever, and I got desperate and started showing Maggie my Pins and letting her pick what we'd made next. One morning, she picked these citrus candles.

It seemed a little adventurous, but I was game for anything that would keep us busy and interested and decided to expand on the idea with a clementine, a grapefruit, a lemon, and a lime.

The tutorial at the link above is clear and easy to follow, but here's what I'd add:

1. If your piece of fruit isn't going to sit flat, slice off a bit of the end to make it stable.

2. Go ahead and slice the fruit entirely across, just above the halfway mark. Once you dig the first piece of fruit out, the rest come much easier. But the clementines were the easiest by far. I suspect the author above knew this. Also, it's rough going if your hands are riddled with excema. Seriously rough going.

3. I finally used a good sharp paring knife to cut out the fruit of the lemon and lime.

See the cut lines around the center wick and outside rind?

4. The thinner center wick you leave, the easier it is to light. Lighting the wick is actually the hardest part, and I highly recommend using a long-handled lighter because it would take A LOT of matches and probably burnt fingers to get these things lit. It probably took 3-4 minutes of direct flame to get the thicker wicks lit. However, once they're lit once, it's much easier to re-light. 

The center wick has to turn completely black before the candles will light.
5. Also, my candles leaked olive oil so I would keep them in dishes (like above) to prevent messes.

6. Finally, do watch them carefully. As you can see in the top picture, even if you cut the tops quite wide, they will scorch as the candle burns.

Upshot? Not the easiest project, but a great result. Cheery and sweet-smelling, these would be great party decor. And stick to clementines--they're the easiest.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

TToT9: What? More Thankful?

I can't believe it either. I'm actually so thankful I'm back for another post this weekend. I have entered the realms of those who link-up twice.

But, seriously, it's been a good week. Remember how blah I was last week? So much better this week, and with good reason.

1. This Thoreau quote I found on Christine's post, which means you probably already read it. But it's really quite wonderful, and I think I need to post it somewhere near my desk.

I am grateful for what I am and have. 
My thanksgiving is perpetual... 
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. 
No run on my bank can drain it 
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

For the whole quote, read here. I especially like the part about is charred extremities and intellect. Lizzi chars my intellect with her vocabulary.
2. This morning I slept in. I needed it. Real. Bad. I had gotten into a bad habit of staying up late watching TV and building a mountainous pile of clean laundry to fold. Still must tackle that laundry. But, at least now I am rested.

3. We ate out for breakfast AND supper. This never happens. I can't think of a time in my life where I have eaten out for two meals in one day (unless I was traveling). In fact, we very, very seldom eat out even once a day. So, thanks to two Groupons expiring, I did no dishes today. And Maggie ate chocolate chip pancakes twice. Oh dear, did I admit that?

4. My first For The Makers box arrived this week! My mother and sister bought me a three month subscription, and I believe I have mentioned how exciting a surprise box is for me. It can be filled with vegetables, and I get excited. But in this box, I received the supplies to make a necklace, a bracelet, a notebook cover, and a small bowl. All materials included; instructions online. Don't worry; I'll post about it.

5. I discovered last week that the rain boots we gave Maggie for her birthday last year (March) are two different sizes. I just figured this out. She's been wearing them for ten months. So, I hied myself to the Stephen Joseph website and sent an email and picture. The customer service, Becca in particular, was INCREDIBLE. No matter that it had been ten months, they are sending a whole new pair, no fuss to it. I swore I would brag about them on my blog. Anyone looking for rain boots or other cutesy kid apparel should bring their money to Stephen Joseph.

6. Speaking of money, I just happened to stop by my consignment store this week, and upon inquiry, discovered I have over $100 in credit! Woohoo! And now I have a new pair of Paige velvet jeans and a black pencil skirt. I love clothes, and I love new clothes (at least to me). This makes me unutterably happy (well, clearly not unutterably).

7. Maggie had an appointment with her geneticist this week. And I love him. Not only for lines like, "I'm not worried about her cognitively," made in passing, but for the amazing connections he has. I left with a wealth of information on services in the area and such a wonderful feeling of knowing he wants me to email him when I have concerns about her anxiety or her IEP or whatever, and he will be able to put me in touch with the providers who can help (forgive the run-on sentence).

8. I picked Maggie up a little early from school on Friday, and her teacher was eager to talk to me. She had just done a kindergarten readiness assessment on Maggie, and she had made progress since November, even scoring 4/6 on the rhyming questions! PLUS, she had made a friend on the playground and even spent extended time playing with her. Not next to her, and admittedly, not initiating, but extended playing with. Rhyming and a friend! What news!

9. I am really enjoying my one-on-one time with Maggie these days. We went out shopping for a birthday present for our neighbor today. I asked Maggie what we should get Sophi, and she confidently pronounced, "A Max and Ruby book." So off we went to the bookstore and then home again to wrap it and make a card. Using glitter glue of course. Nothing is finished until mounds of glitter glue have been applied.

10. Finally, this one is minor but huge. Twice this week, Maggie and Leo have played together in one of their rooms. Nothing is sweeter than hearing their sweet uncontrolled giggles in harmony. Now, there were screams, but they usually didn't last long. (And if they did, it was because Leo had closed his fingers in a drawer or a bulldozer drop flap.) The other day, I finished my dinner prep, and they seemed happy, so I sat down and read.a.magazine. Yes, you read that right. My children were awake, and I read a magazine in relative quiet. It was phenomenal. No hyperbole.

And, because I don't post without a picture of my kids...

Friday, January 17, 2014

TToT8: The Toddler Bed

Sometimes I am impulsive. It's my nature to move fast, and I get a lot of satisfaction from getting something done quickly. Some people in my life (I won't name names, BHB and EMSH) like to point out that by hurrying, I make errors or forget things, and it's better to slow down and consider your moves carefully. But I don't like doing that. I like to make up my mind and act. Even if I'll have some regrets later, at least I didn't freeze progress by belaboring the decision.

This is why I will never be any good at chess. Or any game that requires much strategy. Strategy is boring.

Last weekend, a post showed up on our listserv advertising an IKEA toddler bed for free. The owner did admit there was slight damage but nothing not easily fixable. So, I thought, "Why not take a look?" Turns out, the small crack in the wood is entirely fixable with wood glue and a clamp (neither of which I own, but I might someday). Moreover, the crack is on the side on which we do not need to place the rail so the whole issue is moot. A win! (1)

The Dude and I carried the bed home through our neighborhood, which was a bit of a sight, but we didn't have to walk far. However, the minute we got home the I started worrying about the length. And, in fact, upon measuring and doing a little research, it turns out IKEA toddler beds do not fit standard crib mattresses as most toddler beds do. IKEA makes its own mattresses in extra long. Oh, IKEA, why do you have to be so unpredictable? Yes, your storage solutions are amazing, but this different mattress size? And your completely unwieldy baskets? Come on!

Nevertheless, I thought, we can "make it work" with our mattress. (2) Yes, they'll be extra room at the end, but it's not like Leo needs that much room now. We'll just fill it with stuffed animals and get him a longer mattress sometime down the road.

So I went ahead and cleaned up  the frame, moved the rail to the other side, etc. All the while Leo was clearly in love with the idea of having his own "big boy" bed. He climbed all over it, full of smiles, happily impeding my progress. (3)

Honestly, even though I nabbed the bed, but I hadn't really thought we'd do the transition right away. Leo is only 22 months. But his attitude started making me think it was time. Plus, and perhaps more important, his drop-side crib (long since recalled) was third-hand when we got it and was barely hanging on. It had never really recovered from our move, and the drop side was only semi-attached. It hung on with the help of the bumper pad (also recalled; don't judge).

So, I got the bed together and started taking the crib apart. Have you ever assembled or disassembled a crib? I had forgotten what a complete pain in the hmm-hmm that is. It's a week later, and I still have a lump on my head from where one of the ends smacked me. I saw stars. But at least that tiresome old thing is gone. (4)

So, all this was an adventure in itself, and then came the adventure of sleeping in said bed.

I cleverly had an evening out that first night. Ha! (5) When I got home around 10:00, I discovered Leo had hardly slept. He kept rolling out on to the floor or rolling into the crack between the mattress and the wall or into the area at the end with stuffed animals instead of mattress. I did start having regrets at this point. But, he managed to quit rolling at some point after midnight and we all slept through.

Points to The Dude: he never once made a comment about this transition possibly having been an impulsive decision. (6)

The next day I got more creative with extra pillow and blanket placement, and he hasn't rolled out since! (7) Well, maybe once. But that's it.

The downside to the switch is that he no longer naps. He's clearly thought, "Haha! I'm no longer caged in! I can play instead of nap!" I keep thinking he'll be tired enough to go down, but that doesn't seem to be happening (except for the one day I found him curled up on the rug, fast asleep). The upside is he's so exhausted by 6:30 that he conks out for the night. (8)

At naptime, I've taken to sitting outside his room with the door open because then he won't get out of bed. He just watches me and grins, waiting for his moment. I can get computer work done and still keep most of an eye on him, though. Unfortunately, he's almost never fallen asleep, and I always end up giving up because there's something I have to get done in another room of the house. But I cannot describe anything cuter than the look on his face when he thinks he has foiled me. At the slightest hint that I am not watching him, he is up and out of his bed like lightning. This afternoon, I saw him streak out of his room and into Maggie's with the look of greatest joy on his face, dragging his beloved purple hippo behind him. (9) I can't even get mad.

Free at last!

But you know what's the very best? He can get out of bed in the mornings and entertain himself while the rest of us sleep. He reads books and plays with his toys as happy as any little camper until he hears footsteps on the stairs. We are thankful he cannot turn the doorknob yet. (10)

And, as a little bonus this week:

11. Best line of the week (maybe month):

"Look at that Stuart Little-looking motherf#^$er!" --teenager referring to The Dude

He refrained from his initial impulse to respond, "What a great text connection!" and came away from the situation feeling very proud of his fashion sense.

FTSF8: I once saw the biggest...


In fact, it showed up in my CSA box that I was thankful for last weekend. Also, in case you're not following, Brussel sprouts. I wrote a little about them in my thankful post, and boy, people were ready to talk about Brussel sprouts. I wrote another post on how I made them edible later in the week.

I'm a bit late for FTSF, but I'm going to try to squeeze in and see if I can generate as much feedback for my cabbage. I enjoy cabbage, and I've cooked it different ways, but this is A LOT of cabbage. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the Comments section. Thanks!

Hosts Janine, Kate, Stephanie, Kristi

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So You Hate Brussel Sprouts?

Well, I do, too.

A few, or maybe five, or ten, years ago Brussel sprouts became very trendy. Do you remember? Everyone was talking about them, they were the rage at your local farmers' market, fancy restaurants were serving them in fancy ways, and when I would mention that I didn't care for them, someone would say, "Oh, you just need to prepare them like this..." Gamely, I would try a new preparation method: roasting with garlic or sauteeing in butter and nutmeg (not sure why I even tried this one, considering that nutmeg is low on my spice preference list).  But they never turned out any good.

Then, my brother served them. And I'm not saying they were great. Brussel sprouts will never be great. But they were edible, and maybe, maybe, even good. Two keys: bacon (of course) and lots of peeling.

Actually, my brother uses pancetta because he's high class like that and has that kind of stuff just lying around. Us poor folks save our bacon grease for situations like these.

The cooking part of the Brussel sprouts couldn't be easier: melt a generous dollop of bacon grease in a skillet. Or, cook some bacon and eat it, leaving the grease. Or, you could crumble the bacon back in after you cook the Brussel sprouts. There's that idea.

not the healthiest preparation method

But rolling whole sprouts around in the bacon grease won't do. Now I reveal the tricky part, the necessary nuisance.

Sometime during the day, when you have a minute or 30, peel off every Brussel sprout leaf until you have a lovely collection of Brussel sprout leaves in various shades of green and yellow. This is key, folks. This is the only way to get that bacon grease into the crevices and neutralize the natural taste of the Brussel sprouts. But, I will admit, it is a huge pain in the...hiney.

Then, simply sautee in the melted bacon grease (just briefly!), add some salt and pepper, and you're good to go!

I honestly think it is worth the time to take the sprouts apart or I wouldn't post about it. But I would never post that it's fun or easy to do so. What you need is a good TV show. Next time I try this I'm going to do it one evening while watching Community and then store them in the fridge until I want them for dinner. Nothing makes a tiresome, mindless job easier than some good TV.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunshine for You: Spillage and a Video!

The Great Beth Tehilo of Writer B is Me awarded me a Sunshine Award, which most certainly brought me sunshine, and I will make every attempt to pass that sunshine right on to deserving others.

I mentioned this award in my TToT two weekends ago and recommended you visit Writer B is Me because Beth is so very funny. But she is more than that. She is thoughtful and clever and an excellent writer, and her blog is well worth your time.

So, on with the show. I'm going with seven because I've been working on this for several days, and seven random facts is all I've come up with. Get ready for some spillage.

1. My favorite YA novel ever is A Wrinkle in Time. And I don't usually go in for science fiction. But it is so much more than that. I love it to the extent that I wanted to name my daughter Meg for Meg Murray, the most perfect heroine ever. The Dude's not much of a fan of Meg so we compromised with Maggie, full name Margaret.

2. I was absolutely certain of the genders of both my children before the genders were confirmed. When we were told we were having a daughter, I thought, "Yes, I know." When we were told we were having a son, I thought, "D%^n, I was holding out hope I was wrong." For the record, having a son is WONDERFUL. I just didn't know it yet.

3. I was a member of the drill team, the Swingsters, when in high school. I wore a gold sequined cowboy hat as part of my costume. I did high kicks and splits on the football field.

I'm not sure you can get skinnier.
4. I cry very easily. Have had my whole life.

5. I have a strong ability to hyperfocus. I did not hear my mother calling me when I was playing with my dollhouse as a child, I did not hear my best friend whispering my name in class (I was too busy daydreaming) in high school, and I now can tune out my children and my husband when my mind is elsewhere. Leads to great efficiency and lots of frustration for others.

6. Amycake is the punchline to the first joke I ever made up, knock-knock style. I was two. You can put together the rest.

7. I also wrote a song when I was around the same age. And, following the example of Kristi of Caillou Disgust, I offer it to you in my real voice:

I wrote it for my Uncle Mike, who is indeed tall, and I had a sort of lumbering walk that went along with it. When I went for my first free email address, sometime in the early oughts, tallman was taken; amycake was not.

Now for Beth's questions:

1. If you could go back in time ten years and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
Ten years ago, I was nearly 28, living in Malaysia, and struggling with a decision. Really, an ideal time to drop in with some advice. But I'd only second some good advice I got from my mama, which was something like this: No matter what decision you make, it will be the right one.

2. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Even I am getting bored with the number of times I've talked about my favorite ice cream. If you don't know, you haven't been listening (reading). 

I mean, it's Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. I couldn't really pass up a chance to talk about my favorite ice cream, you know.

3. If you were to take me on a date, where would we go and why?
Well, I'm not the kind of person who needs a lot of adventure for a date. I like to find a place where you can sit and talk and relax. And Beth would be a fun person to talk to. So I think we would go to Grape Juice in Kerrville, TX, a place (I think) we could meet up without too much difficulty. Plus the owner there is a great guy, and I don't mind advertising for him on the off-chance I have a reader in the Hill Country who has not heard of this place. Grape Juice has a really great selection of beer and wine, and we could sit out back if it's not too hot. Or we could buy something and go put out feet in the Guadalupe while we drank it. And talk. 

4. Above all else, what are you afraid of?
Drowning. Or being abadoned.

5. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Fly. Swear I'm not stealing that one from Lizzi. I planned it even before I read hers.

6. What has been your favorite age to be and why?
I think I might have said early-mid 30s at one point. Now, I'm not sure. I'll tell on my deathbed.

7. Coffee or tea?
And the java and me. A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup.
Coffee. For sure.

Yay, now I am going to have some fun passing on this award. I am going to choose seven bloggers whose posts cheer me when I see them in bloglovin' feed. I get excited to know a post from one of them is coming on down the line (this includes Beth, but I don't think there are backsies (said Thelma)).

Atelier because Mary's has a writes from a cool, clear point of view, which is not me, and therefore, very interesting to read.

Camp Patton because Grace's is one of the first blogs I ever followed. And she's hilariously irreverent.

Considerings because Lizzi's so brave. (I know you already did one so you can ignore this, Lizzi.)

Finding Ninee because Kristi's the first special needs mom blogger I found, and she make me wants to try harder.

Left Brain Buddha because Sarah's blog is going to be a touchstone for me this year, and she preaches what I need to hear.

The Meaning of Me because Lisa was my first "real" bloggy friend, though she doesn't know my name. :)

The Muddle-Headed Mama because I love her honesty.

And seven questions for those ladies:

1. In what form do you prefer your chocolate?

2. What did you major in in college (or university)? Do you still do something related to that field?

3. Name a word you love to say.

4. Name your three best physical features (your favorites, not society's).

5. What is something that has made you proud in the last week?

6. What is one of your favorite aromas?

7. If you could only have a bathroom or a kitchen, which would you choose?

Have fun, Sunshine Bringers!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

TToT7: Still Plodding

I have felt blah for most of this new year. There have been highlights, but I feel like my baseline has just been...blah.

I'm gonna go searching for thankfulness and see if that perks me up.

1. I bought a set of king-size flannel sheets and a king-size blanket for less than $50 at Target. That's a deal! And we were finally warm in bed towards the end of the polar vortex.

2. Now that it's not so cold, I find our bed stiflingly hot. BUT, too hot is better than too cold. And I can always take the blanket off.

3. Articles of clothing with sentimental value. I have owned this sweatshirt for 25 years. Seriously. And I was able to put it on this week on the anniversary of the discovery of Spindletop, an event any SE Texan learns about in school.

4. We picked up our first CSA box this week. I love that its contents are a surprise. Brings out all my inventiveness as I research ways to prepare, say, the most enormous head of cabbage you've ever seen.

5. I found a way to make brussel sprouts edible. I may post about it.

6. I finished cleaning and reorganizing the storage room in our basement. It now looks so neat! And I even swept the concrete floor. Check it out!

7. The Dude and I condensed our teaching stuff down to these two boxes (plus all my language therapy stuff and the filing cabinet in the office). Still, we were ruthless, and other teachers will benefit from our lack of ruth.

8. The Dude knocked down our baby gate that used to be at the top of the stairs. I am excited to no longer have to struggle through it holding a large basket of laundry. Our baby gate days may be winding down! Or, I may have spoken too soon.

9. My heavy-duty iPhone case arrived, and I only dropped my new phone twice before nestling it safe inside its new home. My goal is to keep this phone in working order for two full years. A heavy-duty case is necessary to achieve this goal, I believe. At least it's pink.

10. Surprising moments of levity, like finding your husband in bed, wearing his hat, and watching New Girl reruns on his phone.

Yes, that cheered me up somewhat. Off to check on your thankful lists!

Your hosts

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hello, 2014! I have a word for you.

When I want to veg (and don't want to watch TV or read), I go to Pinterest. Odd, huh? I am just setting up more tasks for myself.  But I really love skimming ideas, finding creative to solutions to problems (that I may not have known I had), and browsing through new projects.

Here are some of my Pinterest plans for 2014:

I'd really like to do some more painting. I've had the paint for my son's dresser for months, and now that I've discovered the (purported) wonders of chalk paint, I want to paint ever worn-out, hand-me-down, yard-sale piece of furniture we own. Also, the kitchen, living room, and powder room.

This winter I have every intention of doing some fun snowflake crafts like these, and I think this would be a cheery, easy, and inexpensive winter door wreath. Also, Maggie and I are definitely going to make these or these. Or perhaps both.

I want to do more sewing. I have a pair of jeans that are too long, and I still haven't recovered the free chair from Brian's aunt and uncle (though I've bought and cut out the material), and I think making new pillow covers would give a couple of our rooms a lift (these or if I'm feeling super ambitious, this). I also just hatched the idea of a crocheted throw for our bed. How about this pattern in greens? And I want to reattach some heirloom lace to new pillowcases since the old pillowcases fell to tatters. And I think it would be fun to fancy up some of our napkins with embroidery (personalized or whimsical patterns?)

I'm always attracted to girls' clothing patterns (like this or this), and I really ought to finish the garland for Maggie's room I abandoned around October for holiday-themed projects. I want to convert a portion of her closet into a reading nook similar to this one, and I want to give more thought to initial art like this button M or self-standing letters I can paint myself.

As for cooking, I want to make weekly use of the slow cooker, at least through the cool months. There seem to be endless posts on easy, crockpot meals, but the one I've got in mind to start January off with is this one even though I know my kids won't eat it. Some other recipes I'm are eyeing are this one, this one, and this one.

I am nothing if not ambitious, am I not? And I've hardly scratched the surface of my Pinterest inspiration. I have several more intriguing, clever projects up my sleeves. And the Advent calendars I plan to start right away so they will be done in a year.

But then, there's the word I selected for OneWord365. Who's ready for the big reveal? It's...present. As in my present to my family is to be present. Get it? There is so much pun potential.

I am an INFJ usually. Everyone once in awhile I am an INSJ. Very borderline on that third letter. Either way, I am certainly a J, and as I understand it, that means I am a "finisher." And it is true that I don't like to leave a project unfinished. Checking tasks off my list brings me great satisfaction. One negative result of being a "finisher" is that I am often with my projects in my head, thinking of the next step and itching to get at it, rather than with my husband or my children. I wake up and immediately start planning out my day; at any down moment, I am thinking about what I could be accomplishing; I go to sleep at night thinking about what I will get done the next day. My brain is very seldom at rest.

The upside of this is that I am extremely efficient. I can get things done fast and often well. But, on the other hand, I don't want to look back on these years with my children and know that I spent more time on my phone or with my glue gun than with them. So, present is the word of the year. I believe mindfulness is also used, but I like present

So that whole Pinterest intro served two purposes:

1. To point out what I am trying to leave behind. I want to try to take on fewer projects so that I my attention is less diverted. I used to start several and then feel crazy because I was juggling too much. Now I am trying to start fewer (I'll try to stick to one at a time) and give them my time when someone important to me doesn't need it.

2. To make a list of projects that appeal to me that I can refer to when I don't need to be present elsewhere. That keeps the ideas from spinning around in my head. I actually learned this trick from the best therapist I ever had who had me keep a notebook where I could write down worries. Once I wrote them down, I could let them go. Any anxious people out there might try this; it's a good technique.

And, so far, so good, in the new year. I am having some success keeping my attention on what is happening at the moment. When I'm playing with my kids or eating dinner with my family, I try to think about what a pleasure those activities are instead of thinking of what I need to get done. When I'm cleaning bathrooms or doing dishes, I try to keep my mind on those tasks to keep from feeling overwhelmed by what all needs to be cleaned. I'm trying to leave my phone behind (sometimes).

Anyone else doing OneWord365?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mommy is Coocoo Google+ Party

Happy New Year!  Welcome to the first Google party of 2014!

Is one of your 2014 blog goals to grow your presence (circles) on Google+?  I hope you'll join us every other Wednesday for the Google+ link party. Google+ is the place to be for better SEO and increased website exposure. 

Welcome to the mommy is coocoo Google+ Link Party HOP!
google+ link party

If you want to grow with us on Google+ you must:

1. Add all of the cohosts to one of your circles.

2. Link up your Google+ url, NOT your blog url.

3. Share a post to the public on Google+ and include the hashtag #mommyiscoocoo.

4. Socialize - The more shares a website or blog post has the better chance it has of ranking well.

  • Add new friends to your circles.
  • Comment on and share posts you really enjoy!
  • Throughout the day +1 posts with the hashtag #mommyiscoocoo on Google+

*If you want to cohost this party email (me) Amanda at mommyiscoocoo(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, January 6, 2014

For those who don't pack up their trees on the first of the year...

My tree is gone (which means, covered in snow on the front porch). The ornaments are packed up with all the other decorations (which means, sort of packed up because we are in the process of reorganizing our basement). But, the house is fresh and clean for the new year, and I am so excited about my new ornament storage solution, I going to blog about it.

We don't have a ton of ornaments. Our collection is growing, though, and it has outgrown our old storage solutions, so I was on the lookout for a new one. I regret to say I cannot give credit where credit is due. It was one of those sites with slides and a billion ideas, and I can't remember where it was.

All you need is cardboard and plastic wine cups. Which we just had on hand and you might, too! Cut a piece of cardboard the size of the base of your storage bin (I use large plastic ones) and then hot glue plastic wine cups all over it. Load them up with ornaments, and done!

Cut another piece of cardboard to place on top and you have a flat base for further ornament storage or other decor.

No tangling, no breaking. This has changed my life! And it is a boring life I lead.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

TToT6: Plodding into the New Year

I am dragging my feet into this new year. I missed the first FTSF, but I am determined to get my TToT in. It snowed three inches Thursday night, which for once, made the weather prediction in this area not a gross overstatement, but it has also made me house-bound because I do not drive in the snow. I'm starting to get cabin fever in spite of some outdoor time, and I feel like I have done nothing more than wipe two free-flowing noses since the clock chimed midnight on the first. When will they stop producing?!?!?!

But there are definite bright moments to the year so far:

1. And this should be 1-5, because it's that big. My persistent and resourceful husband scored me an early upgrade with Verizon, and I have a new phone! A new phone that has a screen I can read and that does not delete emails without my permission! If there is one thing I have learned being married to the Dude, it's what progress you can make with a company by never giving up and never letting your irritation show. He's like Tim Robbins and his library in The Shawshank Redemption.

2. The nonprofit organization that I volunteer for might foot some of the bill for said phone. Deleted emails from the executive board got their attention, I believe. This is especially welcome since buying the new phone bottoms out my discretionary account for the month, and I bought a new pair of shoes on clearance at DSW, and now I'm in the red. So long as they contribute $39.77, I'm OK.

3. More props to the Dude: I convinced him to tackle the enormous pile of teacher stuff in our basement. He was really not sure what to hold on to when we moved, but he's now ready to be brutal, and he managed to sort it all into keep for our kids, donate to other teachers, and recycle. He even motivated me to do the same with my old math teaching supplies, and though we presently have an enormous mess on our hands, one day that storage room is going to be so much better.  Unopened packs of dry-erase white boards belong in a teacher's classroom, not in a bin in our basement.

4. Related to that clean-out, we located our missing paper recycling bin that had accidentally been left by the collectors in a neighbor's yard.

5. Beth Tehilo, who nominated me for a Sunshine Award and wrote some really complimentary stuff. I've been blogging less than a year, and this sort of praise is really, really meaningful to me. I'm gonna follow through this week, and if you don't already read Writer B is Me, trot right on over to her blog and start laughing because she's funny as all get-out.

6. Lisa@The Meaning of Me, who feels like a real friend. We share book/blog recommendations (we love Z is for Moose, Lisa), and I was out-of-proportion tickled with her shout-out to me on her TToT.

7. OneWord365. I'm taking the plunge this year. I like the idea of a word rather than a resolution, and I have my word in mind. But the big reveal will take place in another post.

8. We have an additional freezer in our basement, and I love it. We got back into town on the 30th, and I have not yet had to go to the grocery store. I'm not saying a trip wouldn't help, but it's good we can survive without me having to drive in the snow. I would also like to thank Costco for insanely protracted expiration dates on their milk.

OK, struggling here...

9. My birthday is this month!

10. Community is back on TV and written by Dan Harmon, once again!

 Your hosts