Friday, February 28, 2014

How Pinteresting

I’m about to do it. I am wavering between shame and excitement.
I am going to join Pinterest. I think.
Like a bride before her wedding (wow well I can’t believe I went with that analogy, but ya know, ya work with what ya got), I’m wondering if this is a good idea. Or was that just me?
Background story- I quit Facebook because of… well… reasons. And many of my “friends” took to writing on it like a daily journal. There was too much awesome stuff they were doing which left me feeling inadequate, or there was too much personal stuff about illnesses and bodily fluids that left me panicky about the contagion I might catch via interwebz.
Fast forward to the present, where I am happily social-media free (except for twitter but that barely counts, since I don’t really post and follow few enough people to be irrelevant). In my very limited knowledge of Pinterest, it isn’t social media. It’s a site where people put pictures, recipes, inspiration, etc and other people “pin” it to their boards that are named various things, such as “My Future Wedding” or “Healthy Crap for my Family”. Anyone living within the regions impacted by the so-called “Polar Vortex” is feeling like I’m feeling right now- GTFO. Now I’m not one to shy away from bundling my children up when it seems ridiculously cold and schlepping them outside to play and get fresh air. But today for example- it’s -6 with windchill to -20. I’m pretty sure Child Protective Services is just driving around writing up citations for every child playing outside in this. It’s stupid cold. I can rationalize anything to about 10 degrees. Under that it’s game over.
So basically here I am with loads of indoor time on my hands, and not a lot of projects. Sure, I have crayons and markers and coloring books and paints, but as I mentioned previously, my boys can sit still and focus on that for all of 5 minutes. We did homemade playdough one day, and that was a hit for about 2 days and then my eldest decided it was “germy”. Ah so sweet to see mom’s neuroses rubbing off at such a young age. I need stuff to do, new, novel stuff to do, that will occupy time, and be pretty cheap to make/do (did I mention I just quit my job? Yep, so we be po’ folk ‘til I find a new one). It wouldn’t hurt to have recipes too, as my stand-bys are getting a little tired.
Here’s where I need help. Who is on Pinterest? What do I need to do? Have any good activity or recipe pins or boards? Am I just signing myself up for a giant time suck? Would it be easier to wade through the internet than use Pinterest?


PS I totally stole the post title from my bff, so I'm totally unoriginal. Thanks bff.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gender and The Today Show

Some days, after the kids have had breakfast and potty breaks/diaper changes have been given, they run off and play (and by play I mean tear apart their bedroom and hide under pillows) and I have a moment of adult time. I was drinking my coffee, watching The Today Show, and I saw something that raised my heckles. Most of their stories I take with a grain of salt, as the show skews more towards fluffy news pieces and frequent weather updates. I can leave it on as I put away laundry or do the dishes, and if I miss something it’s no big deal- every 30 seconds there’s something new on the screen.
This morning they decided to do an investigative report where they had a couple of young looking adults stand outside a liquor store and ask people going in to buy them a 6-pack. And the conclusion this hard-hitting investigation found? No men bought these young adults alcohol- only women. They went further to chase these women down and speak to them about why they did it. One woman said guilt. Another was so angry she wouldn’t even speak. The story showed 3 woman buying beer. And it showed a few women rejecting the request, and even more men saying no. Then they spoke with some spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving who was aghast at the results of the investigation.

Here’s where I became livid- and maybe it’s just me, having taken classes that focus in on how to properly conduct a study and what factors are important in a proper study. What are the facts for this study? How many people did they ask? To make such a grand statement about no men buying booze and women being complicit, what are the numbers to back it up? How many people were asked to buy booze? How many men versus how many women? What time of day did you conduct this research? None of the individuals shown on tv looked like business professionals- it appeared that they had stationed themselves at a liquor store during the weekday. What type of people would you say would frequent a liquor store during midday? To me, this appeared almost as a sting or entrapment of sorts. Perhaps this was the only market that produced people consenting to buy alcohol. But wouldn’t that make a better story? “We stationed ourselves at 3 other liquor stores and no one would buy our young actors beer until we went into the poorer community or went during the day”? No? Because that’s classist and profiling.
I just wish The Today Show would have said exactly how many people they asked to buy beer and how many women total actually purchased beer, where they were stationed and what time of day. Instead, I am left with a bad taste in my mouth about the generalizations made about my gender. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese

The Joy of Cooking

What a joy it is indeed. Especially on the days like today, when Captain Two-Year-Molars decides he’s up for the day at 4:45am. What a sweet and thoughtful boy. And I’m the dough-head who thought maybe I’d get him to sleep next to me and his older brother. So flash forward to lunch time (at 10:30 because when you’ve been up since 5 it seems very reasonable), and I’m doing the good mama thing, stirring the cooking noodles soon to be lunchtime mac and cheese. My oldest calls to me- “Homemade mac and cheese?” or as close as he can get because, God love him, he really can’t enunciate very well and probably needs a speech therapist (yeah it’s on my list back off). I remembered that indeed I promised him last night I would make homemade mac and cheese today. So quick change of lunch plans, I threw in some pasta sauce and cooked turkey meat and voila, not mac and cheese. I then proceeded to prepare real mac and cheese for dinner. Backstory- I grew up on mac and cheese. It’s a comfort food for me and I truly believe my mom’s is the best, only because it puts me right back at the dining room table growing up. I follow the heart of her recipe, but I definitely tweak it. This is my chance to slip in things that my children won’t normally eat (at least not the eldest, since he has decided to take up gagging loudly when introduced to a vegetable that isn’t hidden). BEWARE- I have learned the hard way that there is only so much you can slip in to mac and cheese before it becomes not mac and cheese. Then you have a bowl of noodles and something approximating mac and cheese that no one wants to eat. I don’t make this super frequently, so if I’m going to go the mile for a carb-y cheese-y meal, I’m going to tend to make it more mac and cheese, fewer hidden gems.

Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese Recipe:

Cooked noodles- use what you have. Today I used a combo of whole wheat penne and organic wheat rotini. I’ve found that all work well, but elbow and anything small with crevices cradles the delicious melty cheese much better than penne or spaghetti. There’s no judgment here though- noodles are noodles. I’ve even used rice noodles or quinoa noodles. Do it up. Experiment. Anything covered with cheese can be edible (disclaimer: do not eat inedible objects covered with cheese).
One can of evaporated milk. I used a 12 oz can. It’s a fine balance between too little and too much moisture, but I’d err on the too much side.
Bag of shredded cheese- preferably cheddar or some variant. Mozzarella is going to turn it more into pizza, which could be good. I go for Colby usually, but today it was a bag of Sargento Gourmet Blend. We shall see. I didn’t use the whole thing but go ahead and do what you want.
Veggies- today I used maybe a cup of frozen broccoli. I tried to snap all the florets off so it was in small little pieces. My kids won’t eat big hunks of broccoli. My method left me with very cold fingers but whatever. That’s love right there.
Extras- I added half a can or garbanzo beans. I try to add something protein-y when making such a carb-heavy dish. I didn’t have any more cooked meat, and truly the cooked meat can tend to add a flavor to the dish that takes it out of the mac and cheese category for me. I have tried other beans in the past, and as long as the proportions are right, it doesn’t impact the results much.
Seasoning- do it up. I add lots of pepper, salt, some already minced garlic from a jar in the fridge, onion powder. Not too much- if you’re not comfortable adding dashes here and pinches there, just stick with salt and pepper. I sprinkled breadcrumbs in the dish while stirring and added some to the top. But then I remembered I took a bag of frozen cooked squash out of the freezer to add, so I’m going to stir that in to the mixture before it goes in the oven. It should add a little color and perhaps a slight sweetness, but definitely some veggie power.
Stir together in a medium-sized oven-safe bowl that has been sprayed with Pam. Don’t neglect the Pam or half the mac and cheese will stick to the bowl.
Preheat oven to 350, cook uncovered until it starts to get golden brown on the top. This is about 30-45 minutes. Don’t cook too long or the noodles on top get so crunchy as to render them inedible.
Remove, allow to cool, attempt to restrain self from not eating the entire bowl.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Clearing the Air

Let me start by saying that if you told me a year ago that I would be giving tips on cleaning, I would have laughed. Or smacked you. That just wasn’t my bag.
Before I had kids, I had a friend that I thought was the quintessential mom. She had her poop in a group, was doing everything naturally and organically, yada yada, and her house was a pit. She was really my first friend to have kids, and so I didn’t really question it. When I had kids, I was the same me- messy, cluttered, LAZY- but with two crying diaper-soiling machines to help further the cause. When I had friends over (and I use the word “when” to mean “never” as in I never had friends over) I would wave away the mess. “You understand,” I would apologize. And for the most part, people would understand a bit. I didn’t see the stacks of dishes or the trash and toys everywhere; I saw happy kids who got played with and loved.
When I started work about a year ago, same deal. Fast forward to about six months ago when things started getting stressful. There were some major issues going on at work that whoopsie daisy spilled into my home life. I was at stress level red all the time, worried about my kids getting sick. I went to my doctor about two months ago because I couldn’t stop stressing, and cleaning obsessively. She wisely told me that I was channeling my anxiety into something that I could “fix”. I couldn’t change the swirling vortex of insanity in my life, but I could clean the daylights out of my house. That insight definitely helped me step down off my soapbox filled with Lysol, and I eventually took a hard look at my life and decided the stress of the job was too much for me.
Fast forward to everything being peachy keen. Nope. Still a bit anxious, as this was all less than a week ago. However, I’m not going to let my house get back to where it was pre-freak-out. I realize that my house can be a source of pride (I know, body-snatchers have taken the old me away. It’s a very strange feeling, I assure you). I like knowing that if my kids come down with the pukes again, it is not because of the cleanliness of my house, and I can give the stink eye to the kid’s museum or their cousins or whichever viral incubus they were subjected to. So looooong story short (and way too much TMI but that’s what my life is- one big overshare) I am a wealth of cleaning knowledge. Or at least a well-oiled machine of cleaning proportions, as I am not one to spend hours upon hours, just minutes here and minutes there.

My recipe for all-purpose cleaner

Backstory- I had Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose cleaner, which I am a big fan of. It smells great, seemed to do the job, but when you are in FREAKOUT mode, you need something more to add to the mix to make sure you have your bases covered. I used Lemon Verbana, so I can’t speak to how well the scents will mingle if you use another flavor. I have tried others, really enjoyed Clementine I think it was, until I got pregnant and had morning sickness. The smell of Clementine reminds me of that and is in the back of the cupboard and will never be used again. Much like that first liquor you overdo, you can’t go back. Impossible.
I have a big ol’ spray bottle. I got it on Amazon. You could use any sort of spray bottle. I suggest one that hasn’t been used for anything else, especially something soapy. Could be an issue- just saying.
I eyeball the portions, and some days I switch it up a bit, but for the most part:
1/10th of the bottle filled with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lemon Verbana All-Purpose
1/10th Thieves Oil Household Cleaner (whether or not you believe in the mumbo jumbo of essential oils, etc, they do leave a nice smell- and when you are a nut about germs, you can use all the mumbo jumbo you can get)
Fill to about half with vinegar. Depending how much of the other two ingredients you have used, it may be more or less vinegar. If you want to put in half a bottle of vinegar and then add the other portions, go ahead. Sometimes I use a whole lot of vinegar.
Fill the rest of the container with hot water. Just shake the spray bottle before you use it and apply liberally (disclaimer- I read online (thanks Google) that vinegar shouldn’t be used on marble. I don’t need to worry about that as I am a commoner and won’t ever be able to afford marble. If you have marble you probably shouldn’t use vinegar on it. Or instruct your cleaning lady not to use vinegar.). I use the spray on my counters, flat-top stove, microwave, windows, and on our wood dining room table. It seems to strip the varnish off of the chairs, but the whole set we got for $75 from a local thrift shop, so the varnish could probably stand to be stripped. If this isn’t your idea of a good time, test it first.
Does it leave a vinegar smell? For a bit. I like to think that’s the smell of a clean house. My mom came over after I had cleaned the other day and said she smelled a hint of cloves, which I believe is from the Thieves Oil. She didn’t say anything about hint of vinegar, so I have a feeling that dissipates rather quickly. I have a couple spray bottles and I just fill them both up at the same time. I spray this pretty frequently throughout the day, whenever there is a spill or mess or after meals. It cleans up the highchairs, boosters, appliances. Two thumbs up.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I'm a Giver aka here have some advice

Who doesn't enjoy the great blogs out there that show pictures of domestic bliss, clean tables with floral arrangements and tidy floors, or gorgeous pastries whipped up in only 4 hours with 16 ingredients? Or pages heaped with directions to knit your own organic diapers and hand-sew table runners for the fancy parties you throw for your neighbors?
Well this is not it. I lack a domestic gene. I hate washing dishes. I have two little boys who make more messes than I could have possibly EVER imagined before I dreamt of popping them out. They also can sit still for about 5 minutes of a craft project. And they can put up with about 5 minutes of my absence before they start enacting Lord of the Flies.
I recently gave up Facebook because it gave me high levels of anxiety over the imperfection that was my life. How could I not be making gingerbread houses with my boys? Or cooking meals that included at least 5 power foods and no wheat/dairy/sugar/salt/air? Where was the romantic dinner for my husband that I prepare after the children are asleep? Why haven't I learned how to do a perfect cat-eye?
I just am not that cool. Or organized.

Instead of feeling guilty about all the things I'm not, I'm going to celebrate the things that I am-
Mildly cleaning-obsessed

And I need a place to put down what works for me and what doesn't, all with a good amount of sarcasm thrown in. I want to replace what Facebook was going for- a sense of community- with an actual community. And if it's just me and myself having a good ol' time, I can deal with that, as I make myself laugh and buy myself ice cream.
Ben and Jerry's.
Blueberry Graham.
Oh yeah.
First piece of advice- a pint of ice cream a night is probably less considered "a treat" and more considered "a habit".
You're welcome.

At least I'm habitual-