Tuesday, July 31, 2012

how to clean your dishwasher

Thrilling. Not as comical as my previous post, but it is, indeed, necessary.

This is the second part of my Monday, even though it's Tuesday. Monday really was just too long for me to actually write all about it in one day. You can read the first part and third part if you've missed them.

After we got home from Baby Wonder's swimming lessons and I transferred a sleeping baby from car to couch (because car to crib is NOT an option), I empty the dishwasher and decide to do something I've been wanting to do for weeks.

I need to clean my dishwasher. 

lookit that. gross. and you can't even smell it.
 Many of the blogs I've read report that, when first approached about this idea, the authors found the concept strange. I mean, like a washing machine, soap goes in it every day. Why does it need cleaned? It's because, like a washing machine, dirty things (be it dishes or clothes) also get loaded in and can create a funk. That's really the best way to describe the smell and build up on a dishwasher, if you've ever noticed.

eww. I don't even want to know.
A build up of water, food particles, and germs mix in a nice, warm environment on a regular basis, creating something like the picture above. So, unlike the blogs I had read claiming that cleaning a dishwasher was initially a strange concept, I knew better. All that was left was to figure out how. As I'm not eager to climb in my dishwasher and scrub it all out by hand, I was aiming for a method that was less involved if I could help it.

I found this way that I liked, and it worked fabulously. I still had to do a bit of scrubbing, but the combination of the cleaning materials really loosened all the funk, so the wipe down at the end was super easy.

FIRST: Make sure that the bottom of your dishwasher is free of anything. This means take out the bottom rack and get out all the extra bit of whatever floating in your drain. I didn't have much, my biggest problem was the buildup of mildew, but it's still good to check.

SECOND: I put my bottom rack back in for this step, though the original tutorial looked like it was left out. I figured my bottom rack could stand some cleaning, too. Fill a dishwasher safe bowl or measuring cup with 1-1.5 cups of PLAIN white vinegar.Other than this cup, your dishwasher should be empty. Run it on the hottest setting.

THIRD: Remove the bottom rack and keep it out. The vinegar has served to loosen all the grit, now sprinkle about a cup of baking soda all over the bottom of your dishwasher. Run it again on full heat. This finalizes the "fresh" smell you're going for and picks up any funny stains that might have happened over the YEARS it has been since your apartment complex installed it and NO ONE cleaned it. Or maybe that's just me.

FOURTH: If you DON'T have a stainless steal dishwasher, you can add a cup of bleach to the bottom and run it. This solves any mold or mildew problems. I did the baking soda and bleach at the same time. Don't do that. It starts to sud like a volcano science experiment, and while it didn't overflow, it did require two runs of the dishwasher to clear it out. No matter. It's clean!

FIFTH: Wipe down any spots that need it, paying attention to the part at the bottom where the door meets the inside of the washer.

super squeaky clean!

Look how well it worked! I feel much better about my dishes actually being clean. I plan on doing this every couple of months, since honestly, it wasn't that hard.

Now, doesn't that make you want to clean your dishwasher? Good luck!

Monday, July 30, 2012

first day of swimmng lessons

Today is my police man's birthday. But we're not going to talk about him today. He'll get plenty of attention on Friday when we celebrate his birthday with a backyard cookout, and I'll share all the lovely pictures and my usual fabulous commentary.

Today we're going to talk about swimming lessons. And cleaning my dishwasher. And the fact that I'm an overworrier when it comes to my children.

So let's begin.

At 7 AM.

Baby Wonder doesn't wake up calling softly for me, full of love and excitement for the coming day. I awake to blood-curling screams and fits of despair until I shuffle in and ask whaaat? Already??


I don't know what it is about my son that makes him so special. Maybe he just thinks it's funny, that I wake up disoriented and startled, too jarred to care if Mickey Mouse goes on first thing. Maybe he just doesn't like that he wakes up with only a glowing seahorse for company. I will never know, because by the time he is old enough to tell me, I will have poked holes in a Flat Rate box and shipped him to my mother.  

Can't hear you from Californiaaaaaaaa.

Baby Wonder doesn't have an exact time that he naps, though it's usually around the same time since he wakes up at about the same time. I put him down about 2 and a half hours after he wakes up, thus crating a routine that he likes and one that I can depend on.

Swimming lessons have thrown a big, wet, sunscreened, wrench into our routine.

They begin at 10:30, prime time for sleeping. No worries, he'll be so happy to be in the water that it won't matter that I had to wake him up. Baby Wonder went to his first day of swim lessons with only an hour's worth of a nap, and none too happy that I woke him up only to put him in the car.

This will be fun, dammit. Stop being crabby. We're getting our money's worth out of this so smile like you mean it. 

We got to the YMCA early, because I don't like being late when I don't know what the heck I'm supposed to be doing. Once he saw the water, he was better for a while. I tried to take a fabulous "first day of swimming lessons" picture, but my child refused to look at me and be cute.

Wouldn't take his eyes off the pool. This is the best I got.
When I asked where to go for lessons, the teenager wearing a red swimsuit, whistle, and too much authority told me I'd have to "ask permission" from our instructor if we wanted to get in the pool before lessons started.

chheayeah, ok. I've paid for a Y pass. And I'm melting.

But it's right thereeee

I'm all about not giving into demands, and even my 21 month old knows that he doesn't get what he wants when he throws a fit, but don't tell the baby he has to sit and watch the pool while other kids play and his instructor wraps up her lesson on floating with a bunch of 5 year olds.

In we go. Call me a rebel.

Baby Wonder makes some fabulous faces and sucks in his belly until it touches his spine as we get used to the cold water. Now, I'm all about learning the hard way (though I would never let my child get hit by a car or  put beer in his sippy cup just to say I told you so). So after warning, and moving, Baby Wonder away from the 2ft deep water several times, and him pushing my hand away from his arm, I simply hovered as close as possible and watched his eyes go round as he walked deeper and deeper.

sputter sputter sputter. 

And I swoop in, gently saving his life, as he sputters some more and squeals with joy at having  narrowly escaped death. Then he pushes me away again, because narrowly escaping death is way better than not even trying it out.

When the lessons start, all of the swimsuit clad parents grab their babies and wade out to waist high water. It starts off normally, hold on tight and float them on their belly, now flip and float them on their backs.

Then she wants us to have them blow bubbles in the water. Now, in order to accomplish this, you have to put your baby's face in the water and try to get them to blow out. The face in the water thing is something I have been discouraging for the last 15 minutes, now you want me to somehow get him to put his mouth underwater, and what? Hope he'll make bubbles instead of treating it like the dog dish of his dreams?

And while we're on it, do you know how little space there is between a baby's mouth and nose? Like half an inch. That's a whole lot of pressure on me to have an incredibly steady hand and not cut off my child's breathing entirely, just so I can have some sort of bubble blowing accomplishment? How about my accomplishment be survival, since clearly both Baby Wonder and his swim instructor want breathing to be secondary in the day's adventures.

He floats adorably, jumps off the side right on cue, and slides down the slide with perfection. Then 15 minutes into our scant 30 minute lesson, he is done. Brief nap and tired baby has reared its ugly head. He curls up into my collarbone and rests his head. No more drowning in an attempt for bubbles, no more floating, just snuggles in 5 feet of chilly water surrounded by other mothers and their participating babies.

But no matter. I may be about hard lessons and poking fun at him because he tortures me, but when my baby wants to snuggle, we snuggle. I play along with the singing and little splashing of the group's pool performance of Itsy Bitsy Spider, all the while Baby Wonder eyes our instructor carefully from the safety of my collarbone, clearly thinking that's not the way Nana does it. She doesn't splash.

After we're done singing songs and turning ourselves about, we make our way to the super shallow end, splash some more and then are suddenly left to our own devices. I hear a faint, well, see you all tomorrow, as our instructor wades away.

I guess we're done. 

We head to the locker room, where I make the quick decision to bathe him there. Clean baby, clean diaper, clean clothes. I know he'll be out before we hit the highway. And I'm right.

The only time he would wear his sunglasses. In the locker room.
 Let's be honest, that was a little long to be filling you in on the rest of my day. That was only an hour of it. I'll link to my dishwasher experience and my potential overreaction tomorrow, when I've written them. Though I will say, Hubby and I finished our day like this. It's how we roll.

DQ Ice Cream Cake on the back patio. Happy Birthday to you :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Baby Wonder vs Giant Eagle

A lot of my posts recently have been about the ways I wow my family with fabulously cooked meals or crafty, made-by-moi creations that make me appear far more domestically inclined than I perhaps am. I don't feel like this is fair: if you didn't raise me, and aren't married to me, you have no idea that while I love to craft and cook, it is far more interesting to peer into my clumsy and crabby self on a regular day. You don't see the times when my son gets stuck in a laundry basket and I'm laughing too hard to get him out, or when my child and my dog open mouth kiss each other and all I can do is make a such a face your mother once warned you would stick forever, and gaze, frozen, saying only gwaaahhhhh, unable to move to stop the love fest. Baby Wonder often has boogers and spit on his face, along side the remnants of the last meal he ate. Though I try, it seems never ending; I'm pretty sure it comes out of his pores (when does that stop?). I don't know how such a tiny body can create that much gross. Or how such a tiny face can hold it all.

look closely. this is a little body of nasty.
Let's talk about grocery shopping for a minute. We don't even have to make it general, how about we talk about my latest grocery shopping experience, since it wasn't a quit-your-whining-you-may-not-have-the-obnoxious-race-car-shopping-cart-all-we-need-is-milk-so-you-can-WALK trip. This one was a holy-moly-all-we-have-is-shredded-cheese-let's-make-this-food-thing-happen trip.

First of all, let's make it clear that I know I have an almost two year old who is practicing to be a full blown two year old: attitudes, meltdowns, and standoffs abound in my household regularly. This is why I dread going to the food store. It's like opening a box of Berttie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. You think you're safe with a nice toffee flavored one, but halfway through, "alas, earwax". Sometimes I think my son is toffee flavored, but I'm wroooooonnnnngggg.

It is because of this unpredictable approach to mood swings my beautiful baby boy has taken that I generally do my best to get my shopping done as early as possible. I've taken to throwing up my hair and brushing my teeth, finding an outfit and dragging Baby Wonder out the door almost as soon as he's eaten something, so we can be home by the time other people with unpredictably bratty kids make an appearance.

Yesterday was not that day.

A down side to being a stay at home mom is that days of the week, and hours of the day, don't tend to matter. My brain and body don't care if it's Tuesday of Saturday, so therefore, I don't often have the date in the forefront of my mind when I make decisions.  So when I finally got Baby Wonder ready to go, right after his second nap, I had no idea that it was 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. I realized this as I pulled into the parking lot. The parking lot packed to the brim with cars and shopping carts and people, all unaware of what I was about to unleash on them.

what. have. I. done.

Just so you know, apparently Giant Eagle takes away the racecar shopping carts when it's not 7AM. Since I usually do my best to get my shopping done as early as possible, as previously stated, I didn't know this. The missing racecar cart revelation was met by initial shock, both on my part and Baby Wonder's. To me, this is both a relief and a nightmare. To Baby Wonder, an inconceivable nightmare that could clearly be rectified by whining.

Relief to me because now I don't have to try and maneuver that ridiculous shopping cart around narrow aisles, center-parked jelly flavor browsers, and teetering displays of Gatorade. I don't know if you've ever tried to operate one of those, but someone needs to redesign them. A shopping cart of Noah's Arc proportions is not practical. I am, however, developing the forearms of a 14 year old boy (too dirty? nahh).

Nightmare because, well, what am I going to do with this child? Baby Wonder is implying the same question, pleading with his eyes for me to produce the shopping cart he knows I must have hidden.We both stare at each other for a moment, but it's too late to turn back now. I have my list, I've parked my car, we're in the building. Press on.

I put him in a regular cart, and buckle him in. Funny how that only took 15 seconds to describe. I assure you, it did not take 15 seconds to accomplish. I did, however manage to secure a cart with functioning buckles. For those of you who only use the baby compartment for your purse, you have no idea how many of those nasty straps have been broken, either by mutant Superman babies or by an act of God Himself, I don't know. All I know is that a normal baby can't melt the buckle without a lighter or laser vision... I guess that's one way to occupy Baby Wonder since the race car is a no-go.

And we're in the store.

"No, you can't have a balloon." wait, that might distract you for a while... how much are they... SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, they want SEVEN DOLLARS for a balloon? "No, you can't have a balloon."

"No, you can't have dirty grapes. Do you want your own snack? Mommy brought snacks for you." At least I hope Mommy brought snacks for you... ok good, that should last you a minute...

"Please stay in the cart, you're going to hurt yourself." please don't make me beat you in public, we're not even out of produce yet. "Stop trying to stand up, I'm not telling you again." who am I kidding, we both already know this isn't going to end well.

Ok, and we're out of Produce. Onto fresh meats. Oh look, buy one, get one free Country Style Ribs. Wouldn't that make my Hubby's day... I'll pick that up... and lunch meat... and some good steaks for his birthday... and...

"STOP RIGHT THERE." fabulous. My already gross child has somehow reached behind him to DIG A HOLE in the plastic wrap of the raw ribs and is poking around in the bloody meat. Because my pregnant self isn't queasy enough. Why do I feel unprepared for this? Um, baby wipes. Yes, baby wipes clean everything. And hand sanitizer. Anyone have turpentine? Is that.. what is that under your fingernail? Back to the face, you know, the one that will stick forever. 

Ok, we've survived two departments, though not without incident. Let's see if I can make it past the string cheese without a total meltdown.  Not likely, look at that, he's read my mind again.

There are some things that are a challenge to try and put in the cart while I have Baby Wonder with me. String cheese is one of those. Those Gerber Graduate squeeze fruit things are another. 

Ok, fine, since you're signing "please" and "more" and you look on the verge of an Oscar worthy performance, you may have a string cheese. I wonder if the checkout people get opened packages of string cheese often. Or empty squeezable Gerber packs. Because that's coming, too.

"No, you may not have more cheese. It would be nice to bring some home, and you can't poop as it is." Ok lady, you can stop looking at me like I'm crazy. He's the only person I talk to on a regular basis. You should see me talk to my dog. 

"Seriously, I don't pity you, and I can tolerate your attitude longer than you can dish it. Now stop." Hey, he stopped. Anyone want to take bets on how long this will last?

"No, I'm not opening the juice for you, you have water. You're welcome for teaching you patience." why must you touch everything?

Ok, do something. We're only half way through this trip. We won't make it at this rate. Make faces. And give kisses. YES, a giggle. Again, why must people look at me like I'm crazy?Yes, it is harder to direct a cart like this, but you'd be glaring at me if my kid was screaming and not giggling. Don't make me make faces at YOU. 

And the aisles. This should be a sport. Especially since I find myself trotting in an attempt to make this quick. Why are you tugging on me? You're strapped in, you can't go rappelling down my arm. Oh, ok, you can walk.

"Just behave, please. Hold onto the cart.Very good."

"No, don't touch that."

"No, don't touch that, either."

"How did you get that box of macaroni and cheese? And why are you chewing on it?"

"You don't even know what candy tastes like, why do you want it?" why do they even HAVE the candy by the stuff I actually need? I could really go for some gummy bears...

"Where did your shoe go? How long have you not had a shoe?!" Great, now I have to find a shoe. How did he even get it off? He's been walking the whole time... There it is. How is it on a second shelf? Did Baby Wonder put it there? HE'S BEEN WALKING WITH ME, HOW DID THIS EVEN HAPPEN? I still have my shoes, right?

"Let's put this back on. What do you mean, no? You may not walk around with one shoe, you little weirdo. Ok, back in the cart." Time. To. Go. Do I have everything? Close enough, checkout.

As if shopping with a million people around isn't bad enough, we now have to wait in line with them. At least the lady behind us thinks Baby Wonder is cute. Ha.

 And the checkout lady. "Excuse me, but did you know your bag of string cheese is opened?" Look, I know my kid has one shoe on and I'm sporting yesterday's make up, but as my child is currently chewing on cheese, you can safely assume that I dunnit. 

"Oh no, this one is empty," holding up the Gerber packet, "um, did he eat it?" Nope. Again, I know you may not have confidence in me, but I am capable of deciphering the difference between an unopened, and full, package, and an empty one. I also don't make it a habit of paying for other people's trash, so like last time, it was meeeee.

She compliments me on my Disney shopping bags, saying that they're great because they can be rinsed out, not laundered. At the time I did not realize that this was bagger lady code for "I'm going to put the opened, baby-finger-molested package of pork ribs in your grocery bag without wrapping it in a plastic bag first."

Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.

And we leave, and hour later. I imagine the building bursting into flames as we make our quick exit, like in some action movie staring Bruce Willis. But no, Giant Eagle is still standing. Until next time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

no sew roman shades

We moved into our first home (ok, townhouse) in April, and I wasted no time in making the place our own. I even painted Baby Wonder's room blue (unless you're my landlord, in which case, I did no such thing). My focus today is on one space. Our kitchen is pretty generic, and though we are fabulously lucky to have a relatively updated look (I've cooked in some scandalous kitchens in my college rental days), it's boring. There wasn't much room to do anything, though I did my best. One place I failed miserably though was my window. We are lucky enough to have a kitchen window, and I totally dropped the ball. I abandoned my kitchen window, and I felt guilt every time I looked at my barren, builder-grade white mini blinds and bent screen. I'm pretty sure the last tenants locked themselves out (at least that's what I'm hoping) because our screen was pretty nicely dented when we moved in.I don't wanna look at that!

So, almost 5 months after moving in, I decided to do something about my sad window situation. One reason I love Pintrest is that I suddenly have access to people far more talented and creative than I am. I decided on a Roman shade for my kitchen window, since it's a tidy look for a kitchen. I looked all over the Pintrest- accessed blogosphere, and became overwhelmed for a short time. There were so many different options, and some seemed super complicated. I like crafts that take a minimal amount of time, preferably something I can orient around nap time. One tutorial called for overnight drying. Ha. No way, ma'am. I am an instant gratification type girl. I combined several methods I found online to come up with this. I hope it's easy to follow, because it was pretty easy to make. It was also the most inexpensive project I've ever done. I topped out at just over $4 for this one. My fabric was $1.50 a yard at Walmart, and my set of mini blinds cost $3. HOLLA.

This is why craft projects are best done when Baby Wonder is sleeping. He's throwing around my cut up blinds.

You'll need a set of standard, boring mini blinds for this. The cheapest brand you can find is perfect. You'll also need fabric to cover the entire height and width of your blinds, plus about 3 inches on all 4 sides. My window called for a 32" blind, so I used about a yard of fabric, with some left over. Measure your blinds, height by width, and bring your measurements to the fabric store if you're unsure. Someone will help you get the right cut.  Lastly, you'll need scissors, an iron, and a hot glue gun. If you have fabric glue that doesn't show through to the other side, then more power to you. Mine stained, but it wasn't an important part. What gives, FABRIC glue??

Step 1: Open your blinds the full length of your window, take them off the window, and lay them on a flat surface. Mark out which rungs you're going to KEEP. I put an "X" on every tenth rung, since my window is short and I wanted enough gather. If you're doing a full length window, every 15th rung should work.

If you mark close to the string, there's less of a chance you'll accidentally cut the rung you want to keep!

Step 2: Cut away all the rungs you did not mark (if you want to see what it looks like all cut to make sure you're doing it right, see a step below). Be careful not to cut any of the strings holding the blinds together. If you cut one slit, as shown, you'll be able to slide the string out without hacking away at the plastic to free the rung. Do this on each side, and you can just slip the whole rung out between the string. It took me a while to get this rhythm down.

Step 3: Lay out your fabric with your funny looking blinds on top. Cut your fabric so that you have about 3 inches on all 4 sides (a little less on the top and bottom is ok). Do me a favor: after you've cut your fabric, move your blinds and iron your wrinkles. You're not doing all this work to have wrinkly curtains. Thanks.

Make sure ALL your rungs are face down, that is, "U" side up. Unlike my second rung from the bottom. But don't worry, I flipped it.

Step 4: Start your gluing process, You'll first want to take a quick measurement of how far your top bar slides into the bracket on the window (the part the holds the blinds in place). You don't want this part covered in fabric, so cut a small square (below) and glue around the top edge of the blinds. Next, glue each rung. You don't have to glue the WHOLE rung, small squiggles of hot glue at the two ends and the middle will work just fine. Then, just like the top, wrap around the bottom rung and glue.

TIP: Once you have your fabric straight and your blinds set evenly, DON'T MOVE your project. Get an extension cord for your glue gun if you have to, but do yourself a favor, and don't slide anything around on  the floor.

Step 5: Fold over your sides, gluing them to each rung. Iron your edges to give the curtains a clean look. One tutorial said this was optional, but it's really not. Iron your curtains, friends.


Step 6: Hang your curtains and be proud!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

brandishing a sword

Single moms don't have it easy. I was close to that situation myself, so I feel a special attachment to women who are kicked to the side by selfish boyfriends and forced to be both Mom and Dad. Recently, a friend of mine in this situation expressed her frustration at being ignored again and weekend plans falling through again. This frustration was expressed on Facebook, and no matter how I feel about "serious" topics on Facebook, the reply by Baby Daddy's fiance irked me, especially since it was directed at me (I replied to my friend's comment by saying something like "because he sucks, but we don't! Let's go to the park"). While battling via Facebook is not up my alley, as I graduated from high school several years ago, this argument will be finished by me, though it was not started by me. I decided to post here, because like I said, I will not battle over Facebook. I also have no other way of contacting her, or I wouldn't bother with typed words at all. So this is to you. I won't be rude and use your name, but you deserve to know the things I am going to say.

My friend, we'll call her Megan, is a dedicated mother. I have said before, we have different parenting styles and I know more of her flaws than I probably should. But, lets be honest. She knows most of mine, too. If this was just an attack on me, I'd probably steam for a minute, then get over it, as the opinions of 18 year olds don't often ruffle my feathers. But as I am tired of seeing my friend being ignored or recovering from bruised feelings, or trying to figure out how to one day explain to her son that Daddy isn't coming this weekend after all, or being told to "wake up" and realize what a "great dad" he is, I will defend her. She has had to so often polish her own shining armor and mount her own white horse that every once in a while, she needs someone to brandish a sword in her name. I know she's not perfect, and I know that it can be difficult to deal with "baby mamas", but I've also seen, firsthand, how all she wants is his respect and a little bit of his time. But I've also seen how he doesn't even acknowledge her when he sees her, and how you do all the conversing for him. She really isn't that hard to get along with, even if he doesn't like her. She has more reasons than stars in the sky to hate him, yet she makes regular efforts to be mature and polite. That is not reciprocated. You yourself have admitted that.

I was with Megan when she realized she'd be a single mom. I was with her when she struggled through her pregnancy because "someone you care about" dumped her and abandoned her. Yes, he abandoned her, don't try and argue with that. There is proof on so many tangible levels. I was with her when she worked several jobs while pregnant, and ridiculous hours after having the baby. I was with her when she went to her ultrasound alone because the one person who should have been there decided neither human being was worth his time or energy. I was with her when she was called all sorts of horrible names, accused of somehow creating this child with someone else, because there was no way it could possibly belong to "someone you care about". I was there when she held her brand new baby, again alone, in a hospital room. I smuggled in food so she didn't have to live on hospital food. Did you? Did he?

I have been there for Megan when no one else would be (not withstanding her parents, of course). I have taken her son when she needed a night to herself, or on countless nights when she had to work so late that it was just better if he slept at my house. I have taken him when Megan was sick, so she could rest. I have held him while he was sick. That child has thrown up in my hands. I have been in his life since the day he was born, far longer than that "someone you care about". I taught him how to use sign language, and he called my husband "daddy" before he ever said it to "someone you care about". I have been there for Megan when she has cried for her son because your man isn't man enough to be a regular in his life. I have listened to her furious questions as to how people can claim that he is a "great dad". Let's make this clear. My husband is a great dad. Yours is a mediocre dad who shows up when it's convenient and who makes his child support payments because his mom does it for him. Or at least did. I won't claim to know if he's grown up enough to do it on his own yet. No one has made him, or shown him how to, take regular responsibility for his own son. A great dad isn't conditional. A great dad is a constant, something he cannot claim to be. Just because he plays with his son every once in a while, when he has him for a few nights, does not qualify him as a great dad. I have been there when plans have regularly fallen through, with no news or notice, and have picked up more broken pieces that this "great dad" has left behind than you can possible wrap your clouded mind around.

So don't you dare tell me I don't know enough to make a judgement. The side I know from firsthand experience is pretty grim, and the "assumptions" I make have never been disproven by his actions.

He doesn't deserve him for Christmas, since he doesn't want  him any other time of the year. I am in fact shocked that you even think that you have the right to state your opinion on this, that you have the nerve to entertain the fact that this child should be away from his home on Christmas. Donating genetics doesn't give him the right to open presents together on Christmas morning. To be honest, it seems like you're the only one who cares. Why can't this "great dad" ask himself? Did it ever occur to you that if he showed interest, not just you with your almighty opinions, that it might come across as sincere? You can't force a big happy family; I admire the fact that you're trying, but maybe you'll have better luck getting your man to apply more time to your children. Open presents with them.

You have in fact admitted that he ignores Megan's texts and phone calls. You claim that you are the one who replies to her, not him. I am not interested in why you have chosen to be with this man for the rest of your life. That is your decision. If you know the truth about him, about the man who abandoned his pregnant girlfriend, who required a paternity test to believe that this baby was his, yet took over a year to show any interest in his child, about the man who cannot be mature enough to set aside his personal feelings and have a real discussion with the mother of his child, the man about whom the truth you claim to know, then you deserve him.

I am not interested in having a battle of wits with you, as it is extremely likely that you will come unprepared. And I am not interested in your opinion of me, so don't bother retaliating. While I don't understand it, I admire your defense of the man you love. You said your part, in a post that you knew I would not see, and now I say mine. As far as I'm concerned, this is now over. I only answer to one being, and to be honest, I'm pretty sure He thinks "someone you care about" is a dirtbag, too.

BOTH of my boys.

Friday, July 20, 2012

recipe: marinated steak fajitas

I have quite a few friends on Facebook who have recently decided to make healthy changes to their lives, be it by exercising, eating healthier or a combination of both (for the record, it should always be a combination of both, but that's a commercial). The fact that they announced this to the world, therefore allowing others to both hold them accountable as well as encourage them is fabulous. Nothing but good can come out of taking care of yourself and your family.

Children hear what you say, but imitate what you do.

That being said, it is time to wow you with another of my favorite recipes, this time adapted from the Food Network kitchens into mine. It has passed Baby Wonder's Taste Bud Test with flying colors (though let's be honest, there isn't much he won't eat) and my man claims, with every first bite, that this is one of his absolute favorites. There you have it, no further testimony required.
He wanted to wear my apron... he loves to help!
I don't have many pictures of this one since I decided last minute to post it. You'll have to figure out for yourselves how to cut your steak and veggies.

On top of being delicious, this is a pretty healthy meal. You can make it even more so by making small changes to your typical topping choices. Most brands offer a reduced fat version of the same type of shredded cheese, and the taste difference is minimal, if not non existent. A favorite for my family is the substitution of sour cream with Greek yogurt. Again, no taste difference, and no guilt when you pile it on. In fact, I've heard people say that they don't like plain Greek yogurt because it tastes like sour cream. Because it's naturally fat free, there aren't any weird substitutions to make it fat free, like in sour cream. I could go on for days about how wonderful Greek yogurt is.

Don't start this meal last minute, as it requires at least 4 hours to marinate. That is the longest part, as it only takes a few minutes to put the marinade together, and even less to cook it up. I usually make this the night before, after Baby Wonder goes to bed, and let it sit in the fridge until dinner the next day.

For the marinade:
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (I use Simply Orange's mango infused orange juice)
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large limes, squeezed. I'm not going to pretend my readers aren't as lazy as I am. 1-2 TBS of lime juice will work too.
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 TBS dried oregano
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the meal: 
  • 2-3 lbs of flank steak
  • red and yellow bell peppers
  • onion
  • tortillas
  • sour cream/ Greek yogurt
  • cheese
 Because we eat a lot of chicken in our house, I use just steak for this meal. You can also use shredded chicken, and marinate and cook the same way, but my instructions will be for steak.

Cut the steak into long, thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide, small enough to put in a tortilla. Again, no picture, but I have faith that you can figure this part out.

Put cut steak strips into a gallon ziplock bag, and combine all marinade ingredients in the same bag. Shake to evenly coat the meat, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Cut the peppers and onion into long strips, and add them to a saute pan with a little bit of olive oil. Saute until the veggies are as tender as you'd like them.

Meanwhile, add the meat mixture, marinade and all, to another pan. It won't take long for the meat to cook, but make sure the marinade bubbles for about 10 minutes in order to kill any bacteria left over from the raw meat.

Remove, putting the veggies and meat into pretty dishes, and serve! 

Sometimes I'm in the mood for tortillas, and sometimes I want to taco-salad my fajitas. I opted for a bowl this time.. doesn't it look yummy??

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

summer: rosemary & lemons

Come Christmastime, my mom and I always put on a pot of "Christmas smells". It's a stovetop combination of all things Christmas, and it wafts through the air and makes the house smell just like it's supposed to at the holidays. My dad makes fun of it, because it looks like garbage soup, but what do boys know anyway?

I love this tradition, so imagine my excitement when I found this recipe at One More Moore. It's a Springtime version of my Christmas air freshener! Now, I know it's July but I'm all about my house smelling fresh like springtime, so here we go! I've never made this before, but the blog's author said this is the same recipe used when she used to work at Williams Sonoma, therefore automatically gaining my trust.

So, grab a lemon and a few sprigs of rosemary. You'll also need vanilla extract and a medium stockpot. Fill your stockpot about 2/3 full and slice your lemon. No need to cut up the rosemary, it goes in whole. Add the sliced lemons and rosemary, then add 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla extract. I also added 1 tablespoon of almond extract, and it smells amazing. I know I should have done the original recipe first, then variations later, but I just couldn't help myself. At least I save my lavender sprigs for next time!

  Start your mixture on a boil to kick start the wafting process, then lower it to a simmer and let it be for the day. You can use this mixture for just a couple days, then you should remake it. Add water as needed, since no one likes the smell of lemons burned to the bottom of a stockpot. One of the comments from One More Moore suggested filling a jelly jar or Mason jar with some of this and putting it on a candle warmer somewhere else in the house. I don't have candle warmers, but I thought that was a fabulous idea, so I'm sharing it with you!

It looks so pretty! It would look prettier if my pots weren't the same ones from my Sophomore year of college, but we have better things to spend our money on. Like crafts. And babies. But that's another post :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

car seat cooler

I should probably try to budget time in my week for this blog, since several people have said they've enjoyed it so far. So, to you few, I apologize for not organizing my time a little better, though to be honest, I'm not quite at the point where I can promise to do better yet :)

I was perusing Pintrest (which, yes, I do happen to have time for) and found a fabulous idea at Five Crafty Sisters, accompanied by a tutorial, and decided to try it out. It is a car seat cooler, which initially sounded like a way to fashion a beer supply to Baby Wonder's car seat, but is in fact something far less illegal. Since everyone reading this knows me personally, you know that we live in Ohio, and Ohio is freaking hot in the summer. Anyone who lives somewhere hot knows the impending doom felt in the pit of your stomach as you approach the car after grocery shopping for an hour in July. The feeling of opening an oven door, then having to climb in said oven and melt until your AC begins generate relief is enough to make you glare at those beautiful rays you were dreaming about in December.

While my craft doesn't offer grown ups relief (though I suppose you could make a bigger one for yourself...), it does make strapping in a toddler, who feels that same sense of doom but articulates it by thrashing like an alligator in a death roll, a bit easier.

No, this is not meant to be added to a car seat. This is for putting over the car seat while the toddler is NOT in it, to cover the hot metal and dark fabric so that it is nice and chilled when he gets back in it. You remove it when a baby is in the seat.

The original post was a simpler process. That tutorial only called for a bath towel, cut and sewn. Again, since many of you know me, you can assume that a bath towel was simply not cute enough. This called for dinosaur fabric.

Everything deserves to be beautiful.

I got the idea for the size of the cooler by looking at Five Crafty Sister's final product, then used discounted fabric from JoAnn's (I am not a fan of full price, nor am I a fan of buying something when I can make it myself). When I explain how to do something, especially if I'm not there to walk someone through it, I tend to be loquacious. I don't think you're stupid, oh faithful reader, however I like clear instructions when I am making something, so I am projecting my preference onto you. You're welcome for long winded details.

Your supplies:

3 cold packs (IN THE CAMPING SECTION. You're welcome. Now you won't roam Walmart like I did). Half yard of fabric (I got a yard because I wasn't sure how much I needed, so ignore the obviously-not-half-a-yard pictures). Ribbon (I used 2 feet, use however much you will need to secure around the back of a headrest). Scissors. Pen. Sewing machine. Iron or straight pins.

Step 1. Start by folding your fabric in half so that the"cut" ends are on either end, AKA fold it like a hamburger. Doesn't matter if it's right or wrong side at this point.

Step 2: Take your 3 cold packs and place them end to end. You're making sure they fit perfectly lengthwise (they should) and you're also getting an idea for how wide you need to trim your fabric. Leave about 1.5-2 inches on either side of the cold packs, and cut. This is the piece of fabric you will be working with.

 Step 3: Remove the cold packs and set aside. You'll need them later. Open your fabric and flip it wrong side up. If you have straight pins, grab them. If your husband works 3rd shift and is sleeping in the same room as your straight pins, grab an iron (and a towel to act as an ironing board). I actually prefer ironing my hems down. They stay put perfectly, and my sewing machine eats pins like I eat gummy bears.We're hemming ONE long side and BOTH short sides. Iron or pin 1/2 inch all the way up the long side. It's easier to sew this side, and then iron and hem the two short sides.

Step 4: Set your seam, and sew the long side. Repeat the step above, ironing the two short sides (and maybe a few of those nasty wrinkles, too). Sew those.

Step 4:  Fold your fabric in half again. It should look like the picture on the left, wrong side out. Now sew the UN-HEMMED side shut, and flip it right side out, like on the right. It will remain right side out for the rest of the project. You should now have 2 closed sides: one short side (which is folded), and one long side. You should have 2 open sides, both hemmed.

Step 5: On the short, hemmed side, place your ribbon. This will be the top, and the part that loops over the car seat headrest. Pin the ribbon, and sew the top CLOSED, securing the ribbon between the fabric. Try to stay as close to the original hem seam as possible. You should now have 3 closed sides, with only one long, hemmed side open (pictured on the right).

 Step 6: Grab your cold packs again and place them evenly on your fabric. With a pencil (I know I said pen, but it is better to use a pencil since the fabric is right side out), mark between your cold packs in a straight, horizontal line. This will be where you sew your individual pockets for the cold packs.

Step 7: Sew along your two pencil lines to create the pockets. Backstitch to prevent the thread from coming loose, and trim your thread as close to the fabric as possible.

You're done! Keep those cold packs in the freezer and fold up the cooler so it stows in your car. It's not like anything else fits in those tight backseat pockets. As always, let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, July 6, 2012

recipe: chicken & avo

This is one of those recipes I don't bother to be humble about. It's awesome. Bottom line. It's not overly difficult, and most of the ingredients are things you should already have lying around. If you don't already have avocados lying around, you're missing out. But that's a different post.

You will need: 1 ripe avocado, lemon juice, 2-3 whole chicken breasts (if you've ever seen my husband eat, you'll know why I made 3), salt & pepper, olive oil, butter, vermouth or white wine, heavy cream.

This recipe originally calls for veal, but as baby cows have a special place in my heart, veal isn't something I keep in the house. Chickens, however, are not so lucky. Feel free to use veal cutlets though, if you don't have a soul. 

Now, I know I said "heavy cream", but as we had a zombie-apocalypse level power outage in our area, I did the best I could with the half and half my mother-in-law gave me. 

Commercial break: Buy a bottle of vermouth. Trust me. I know someone who uses white wine (ahem, Mother) and it just isn't the same. I promise, it is worth it. Even if you only ever use vermouth for this recipe, which is a pretty good chance since, let's be honest: vermouth is only good when it's heated and mixed with cream.

Step one: Cut the avo in half and remove the pit. Sprinkle lemon juice to slow the browning.

Step two: Slice your chicken breasts VERY thin. This part is a pain, but super important. Since veal cutlets are super thin, the chicken should be as well so it cooks quickly. Each of my chicken breasts gets sliced  horizontally into 3 thin pieces. It is best to do this when they are still slightly frozen; waay easier to handle.

Step three: Heat about 2 TBS olive oil and a bunch of butter in a skillet. A bunch: the only way butter should be measured. Meanwhile, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

Step four: Cut grapes for your helper. Tell him to say please and thank you.

Step five: Add chicken to skillet and cook on each side for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through. This is why it's important to have thin pieces. You have better things t do than to wait 15 for a thick piece of chicken to cook. Remove cooked chicken onto a platter.

Step six: Add 1/4 cup vermouth to the pan, using a spatula to deglaze. Add in 3-4 TBS cream and stir. Turn down the heat and let the mixture cook for a few minutes. Make sure you let it cook for at least 4 minutes, or you will be tasting the alcohol in the vermouth. Not what you're going for, cross my heart.

 I ALWAYS double the sauce recipe, but hey, we're dippers. I gave you the original amounts to be fair. Decisions, Decisions. 

Step seven: While the sauce is bubbling, grab your avo halves and a spoon. Gently scoop between the rind and the soft green meat, separating the two all the way around. Once the center is free, turn the whole avo half upside down on a cutting board, then take off the rind. This is the easiest way to slice an avo. Now you can cut it in long strips. Arrange those strips on the chicken breasts.

 Step eight: Pour your sauce over the chicken and avocado. Wow your friends with your culinary masterpiece.

Good luck! Let me know what you think!