Monday, June 30, 2008

Kitchen Appliances You Absolutely Love?

As a follow up to my Kenmore (P.O.S.- 5 year old faulty oven starting on fire) we need to buy a new oven. We actually have the option to run a gas line and just replace it with a gas range. But we will probably go for a new dishwasher, refrigerator, and oven. My other appliances are older and I know I will have new appliance envy once my new oven goes in and I am loading the old dishwasher, or opening the not-sealing-very well old Kenmore refrigerator.

With the internet world at my disposal, I am checking customer service quality issues before I buy this time.

My question is, do you have appliances (stove, dishwasher, or refrigerator) that you have purchased recently that you LOVE?

Please share the love...

Seventy Meatballs, Firemen, and a Faulty Oven

My intrinsic need to feed people was highlighted with the falling of the Cottonwood. Simple enough, I would cook dinner for my neighbors that so graciously spent their entire Saturday watching and sweating over each limb that was removed. Instead of an event with everyone filling my house to the brim, I did what any grateful neighbor would do, I cooked six pounds of meatballs and two hundred and eighty ounces of tomatoes. Meatballs and sauce, for everyone!

Now, with the stove on all day long, on a whim I decided, I should make chocolate chip cookies as well.

Maybe I was in a cooking fog and the garlic had gone to my head?

Why not throw in some homemade cookies to compete the meal, for I had all the ingredients on hand anyway. After dinner, I gathered up everything I would need for the cookies, and simply turned on the oven to 375 to pre-heat it.

After I started creaming the butter and sugar together, I noticed a flickering of light in my oven. I found this odd, considering I had just replaced the bulb last month. With my stand mixer humming, I took a further inspection of the oven.

Oh, it was on fire?!

We shut the oven off immediately. Quickly took another peeksy inside, to see the W H I T E flames, not going out, but moving. The fire was not red, nor was it indicative of something simply burning off the heating element. The heating element itself was internally burning and it was moving through the element, like a wick.

What do we do?

I'll call dispatch, our town's version of the non-emergency 911.

me: Hello, can I be patched through to the fire department?

them: What's the problem, ma'am?

me: My heating element is on fire in my oven, and it's not going out.

During this time, we are keeping an eye on the oven, watching the white welding flame in my oven grow larger, and the smoke become more intense, in an electrical fire kind of way. We literally had no control over the fire, like a paper or wood fire. At least I felt somewhat at ease with it being inside my oven.

them: I can't patch you through to them, sorry.

me: CAN YOU SEND THEM NOW (insert my address), which is very luckily about 3 blocks from the Fire Department.

In three minutes, my husband doused the fire with Baking Powder (ummm..I casually mention it's Baking Soda, darling). Which helped do nothing, but make some more sparks and a big mess. I took the girls outside. Put the doggie outback.

My hubby whipped out the handy fire extinguisher, gave it a spray. Other than creating some bizarre chemical fumes in his face, it did nothing.

Now the fire was getting closer to the back of the oven, near the wall.

With relief, I hear the Fire Truck heading down our street.

The fire went out.

I wait for them, telling the men, all four of them, suited up, axe in hand ready to go, the fire is out. The flames were so hot and intense it literally melted the heating element to a point where it disintegrated, so the fire could no longer move through the coil.

They checked it out, used a very powerful fan to get the lovely electrical fire smoke from our house.

I snapped not one picture of this event while it was happening. Why?


Damn it, next time crisis strikes I am going into reporter mode, complete with uploadable video.

Let's just say, I have a batch of cookie dough in my refrigerator, slowly being consumed, and a few phone calls to make this morning to Kenmore. Which I can almost guarantee will be fruitless. I know there will be a separate post dedicated to the aftermath of having a faulty oven, in which the wiring causes it to set fire.

This was the scene of my countertop, after the entire ordeal had ended. Baking supplies abandoned.

I know this isn't the last of my story, friends....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

When Things Go Awry

Long could be the tale I am just reeling to tell, but heavy are the lids on my eyes. Funny how sometimes things take a turn in just a moment and leave you contemplating all the possible scenarios that we almost encountered.

Fatefully we are all fine, but I will add a bit of a teaser, for I have pictures and a story to tell.

A story about making dinner for 4 neighbors that graciously gave up their Saturday last week to help us safely bring down the Cottonwood Tree.

A story that ends with a BIG RED FIRETRUCK arriving at my home.

Sorry ladies, but I was too shy to actually take pictures of the Firemen. The photo story will be the big headline Monday morning, bright and early.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Thirteen Mental Snippets

Today I am not focused, but tired. Today, I have plenty snippets floating around in my head, so here they are:

1. I successfully completed 8 boot camp sessions. Hip Hip Hooray!

2. My trainer apologized to me last week on Thursday for her comments on Tuesday. I sensed she was having some guilt.

3. I guess we aren't the only family wanting to go camping in Colorado every weekend. Our choice spots are full every weekend through Labor Day.

4. Seems as if many people are having issues with their dogs or children swallowing plum pits, as google is sending them my way. They'll be fine, trust me. Not sure if I would care if my dog swallowed a plum pit, but those dog guardians are getting some relief from this post.

5. On a related note, if your child ingests cotton from your monster Cottonwood Tree, it will reappear in their diaper! Surprise!

6. For some odd reason, I am playing the "how long can you go" game, trying to avoid grocery shopping. We are getting desperately close to a big shopping trip.

7. Lucky for us today is Vege delivery day.

8. Apparently my genetics are for breeding supermodels, as my 18 month old is 90th % in height and 10th % in weight. Aye, Aye, Aye.

9. If you don't have any pasta sauce left in the freezer from the batch you made a few weeks ago, you can whip up Bechamel Sauce in a pinch, even with limited ingredients around (see #6). It's super fast, easy, and my definite go to lately.

10. I simply adore the time I spend in my garden, watching the plants grow, picking out Cottonwood pods, morning and evening. Amazing.

11. I took advil BEFORE BootCamp this morning, we had a new trainer this week. A real tough cookie, may I add.

12. Officially I have registered for my first Master's Class this fall. Eek!

13. Is it time for a pedicure if 7 of my toenails are 25% chipped off and the other 3 are completely bare?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the Orange County Beach House Post-Armageddon

Let's take a moment and envision the "closed doors" meeting at Mattel, the unearthing of a brand new Barbie. All the details are meticulously planned out, right down to the packaging. Hundreds of hours of overtime have gone into the final product. Large glossy color posters adorn the board room.

Eyebrows raise at the unveiling, side conversations begin. It's the birth of a new Orange County Barbie. The executives are in love. Simply in love.

Just for the sake of detail, let's even imagine an argument ensuing over the number of twist ties that hold the O.C. Barbie into her packaging and the sewing of her hair onto cardboard to create the perfect effect. The argument was a shot in the dark, from a real life mother and top Mattel Designer, to give all of us consumers of Barbie a voice at last. She knows what it's like, ripping into the box, can't move your hands fast enough, the scissors get caught up, all while a four year old is screaming, "I WANT IT NOW"!

The new, latest and greatest Barbie hitting in mass quantities at every local big box retailer straight off the boat from Taiwan (so Mattel can boast in today's climate, not made in China) is complete with a twenty piece line of accessories. Cell phone, purses, a small arm held pooch, lovely black eyeliner, gravity defying ta-ta's, a gorgeous hybrid convertible, and a Laguna Beach House. Orange County Barbie has it all.

But what the executives fail to see, is after her newness wears off, Barbie sits in a bin with the other cast off Barbies. Crammed to the gills, next to accessories, clothing, missing shoes, brushes, and glitter. Her hair becomes rather nappy in a gorgeous Hippie Barbie kind of way. Maybe someone even brought her into the bathtub and applied bar soap to her shiny coiffed locks.

Eventually her Laguna Beach House is replaced by some other latest and greatest marketed toy. And then it happens, it finds it's way into the backyard, because no mother in her right mind would house and unwanted Barbie Beach House in the confines of a organized bedroom or playroom to collect dust.

See these days, Barbie is rolling up in her Tonka Dump Truck, to her weathered abode. Shaking her head and wondering where the good old days of glamour have gone?!

***The identity of this Barbie has been changed to protect her innocence in the Blogosphere. Please note, she sold her diamond ring to pay for back taxes on her house when her secondary role in Sex and The City was cut.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday's Tips: The Dirty Dozen

With the price of everything skyrocketing these days, it's hard to make healthy food choices for your family with out breaking the budget. When it comes to grocery shopping, I will not compromise quality due to price, but rather make smarter informed choices. We live the philosophy of eating less meat through out the week, instead of purchasing meats with additives and nitrates or from factory farms. I definitely sing the praises of our organic vegetable and fruit delivery service, Door to Door Organics, many times in the past. Our delivery is every other week, so I have to supplement our produce from the grocery store on the off weeks.

Quite honestly, I find I play the produce game around my local markets. I suggest if you jump around from grocery store to grocery store, like I do, take a look online at their sale flyers and hone in on the best deals that way.

Another great resource is The Environmental Working Group's Food News. They have tested over a five year period produce for pesticide loads and come up with a dirty dozen. The theory is, if you want to reduce your exposure to pesticides, there are specific fruits and vegetables to avoid that are not organic, which is what they call the "Dirty Dozen".

Top Twelve Fruits and Vegetables To Buy Organic:
1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet Bell Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Lettuce
9. Grapes- IMPORTED
10. Pears
11. Spinach
12. Potatoes

Now these fruits or vegetables had the highest percentage of pesticide residue found on them (called pesticide load) AND/OR also had multiple pesticides found on them. Technically, if you could not afford to buy all organic, these top twelve would be the best to focus on. Interestingly enough, Domestic Grapes are 20 on their list, so they are graded differently. Although, we all know how international our food sources are these days. If you can't find organic grapes, atleast try to buy domestic.

I really have to hit home about Apples. We love apples, but beyond being treated with pesticides, typically more than one, they are also treated with a "food grade wax". We know it's to make them pretty! Who needs pretty apples? Not me. The food grade wax is sometimes a mystery and also contains chemicals. Yuck.

At the other end of their list, would be the fruits and vegetables that don't have a very high pesticide load, which to me equates, not as bad if I can't buy organic.

Lowest Pesticide Residue found on Non-Organic Produce:
1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn- Frozen
4. Pineapples
5. Mango
6. Sweet Peas- Frozen
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Bananas
10. Cabbage
11. Broccoli
12. Eggplant

Check out the EWG's methodology here for more info, you can also download a dirty dozen guide on the first link!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Please Don't Crash Into My House

Over the past few years, we noticed the health of a Cottonwood in our front yard deteriorating. First, some of the limbs lost it's leaves and didn't grow back the next season. Then bark would just appear in large chunks after big storms. Soon enough the base of the tree was shrinking back, it was visibly noticeable how the bark was eroding away from the bottom of the tree.

We had tree guys come out and yes, confirmed the tree was diseased. On top of it, the disease could be passed along to other trees, more notably the ginormous cotton blowing healthy female in our backyard. Which even though is a thorn in our side, we do not want to cut down. In passing conversation, when my neighbor saw me having estimates about removing this particular tree, he said he wanted to cut it down. Finally, we moved forward with cutting down the Cottonwood.

We had no idea at the time, but the removal of the Cottonwood turned into a true neighborly affair. We are friendly with our neighbors, the houses next to us and the three across the street. With some it's just a friendly wave, with others it's playdates for Sj, and others it's family parties celebrating baby showers or graduations. I've said before to my husband, we are just screwed when we move, for you don't get wonderful neighbors twice in a row. So the next time around, we should have some doosies!

From about 11 am to 8pm, we watched the tree come down. There were heart racing, heart pounding, stomach churning moments, when some limbs looked as if they weren't going to take their destined course. A few times there were flying hammers, unexpected limbs cracking before anticipated, and stuck chainsaws.

In the end, about 12 of us held onto two ropes, as the final portion of the tree came down. Two neighbors from up the street came running, when the Cottonwood gave us one final heart stopping moment, it swayed towards our house. Finally we pulled it towards us, running out of the way, as it exploded into the ground, away from our house.
One large piece remains, with it being removed today. I am happy to report all of the wood was given away to a family in my neighborhood with eight children, that heat their home by fireplace all winter long. All the branches with leaves went on to our community limb recycling center, where it will be turned into mulch and given away.

Thank you to whatever tree angels were sitting on the shoulders of everyone that helped on Saturday, we certainly needed you!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

will she, Knock The Ball Out Of The Park?

Baseball and summer go together like hand in a glove, they are just meant to be. I spent the majority of my summer vacations at the ball fields watching my three brothers play baseball, from a toddler well into elementary school. And eventually one summer, I had my big break. For more details, read this.

So this year, at the ripe age of four and a half, we decided to indoctrinate Sj into the world of organized sports, but even more importantly T-Ball. I gave soccer a thought, a passing thought mind you. I enjoy soccer, but where I grew up, soccer is a fall sport. Playing soccer over baseball in the summer would almost be considered sacrilegious in my family.

Our local T-Ball league is only six weeks long. Every week on our way to practice, Sj comments on how she's going to knock the ball out of the park. That's my girl. Funny enough she's a righty, but she bats lefty and my eyes just open in amazement every time she gives the ball a good solid whack. The biggest excitement from two weeks of playing was that she tagged a kid out last week. Once again, that's my girl.

Here she is in action:
And here I am, 28 years ago with one of my big brothers, classic, I tell you!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Her Very Own Goo's

There's nothing more magical then watching my 18 month old daughter's personality blossom everyday. At this age, it seems to be leaps and bounds from one moment to the next. GL's at an age where she already knows what she wants to wear and has a serious obsession with shoes.

Typically she loves to trot around wearing Sj's shoes, anything from flip flops to her Crocs. So, on a whim, I decided to pull out Sj's first pair of Crocs, which I knew would be big on her, but a bit easier for her to handle. Of course she got the hang of them right away (they are about 2-3 sizes too big).

She'll even tell you, in her own special way "Goo's" and "Crocs" and she always wants her shoes on inside.

With GL being the second child and more importantly our second daughter, she has the luxury of wearing all of her sister's hand me downs. Now trust me seconds from Sj are wonderful and plentiful. She is even wearing hand me down sandals this summer.

On a whim, while at the mall the other night, I broke down and bought GL her very own pair of Crocs. Brand new Crocs. They make the sizes much smaller now than when they first introduced the toddler sizes on the market.

She really wanted the Wall-e ones, but come on, she's 18 months, I am not starting the Disney mass marketing machine already. So hot pink it was.

GL loved her new shoes so much, that she freaked out when we tried to take them off of her for bed. So, here she is, asleep in her very own brand spanking new, Fuchsia Crocs!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

it's White, it's Fluffy, and it's J U N E...

During our romantic phase of house hunting, my husband and I both agreed on a few things. We wanted an older home with some character and a decent yard with mature trees. Of course there was a laundry list of other things, but those first two sum up how we came to settle in our house. 

Now one could argue, five and a half years out, that around here character has certainly come to mean, cracks in the walls, random wear and tear, and all sorts of surprises when things need to be replaced. Fifty years later, things are done much differently. For example, gas water heaters for crawl spaces were phased out a decade ago. Gulp. So glad ours wasn't one of the reasons why they were recalled off the market, apparently they were very volatile. We were fortunate enough to just have a slow leak, due to rust. Very typical for water heaters.

Let's talk about mature trees. Or more importantly very mature Cottonwood Trees. This particular tree of ours, is quite large. It shades pretty darn close to my entire back yard. Which while having a garden, is a bit of a burden. I have cursed the tree many times, but just can't bring myself to spend thousands of dollars to kill a tree. I just can't do it. It feels wrong, so instead, we deal with the monstrosity. 

Every fall that means, approximately, and this is not an exaggeration about 50 large black trash bags of leaves, filled to the brim. Each bag stretches out with leaves and small branches, all hand raked and picked up by J, me, or my parents if they are visiting at that ill-fated time. Funny enough, lately their trips have been late summer and winter, now I see that is not a coincidence.

Depending on the type of winter we had, every year, during June, our dear friend the cottonwood, BLOWS COTTON. I don't mean, oh some little dandelion type whispy cotton flying through the air. I mean, up to your knees in cotton, sticks to you like no other cotton.

And to top it off, it's now become the don't leave your house to play in your yard that the children adore because there is so much particulate matter in the air, cotton. Or everyone will be coughing, sneezing, and rubbing their eyes all night long, cotton.

I may be so bold to say, the cotton may have stopped flying. But now there are little hardened pod shells covering the ground. Landing in my fragile garden. Literally covering every square inch, of our outdoor space. It's truly amazing. Amazing in an overwhelming way.

All from one romantic notion of how wonderful mature trees in a backyard can be.

Please enjoy the photographic evidence, btw this is my front yard, the Cottonwood Tree is in the backyard:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

and then IT happened...

Few laps around the field, straight into squats. Feel the burn. Then some lunges with side squats in both directions around the circle in the center of the field. Boot camp was once again a mix up of the typical in new and unusual ways. Sprints, jumping jacks, crunches, scissors, plank.

Our trainer, is very happy go lucky, but not too over the top. I would even call her mild mannered. She balances us with just the right amount of pushing. There are the occasional whistles, but only for drills. She never screams at anyone, or puts people down. She is definitely not a boot camp drill Sargent type. I was beginning to think I liked her, a lot. I even contemplated seeing if she would work me out in the gym, so I could get a routine going on the weight machines.

About 45 minutes into our hour long session, our trainer called us over for some hills. Basically we partner up with someone, while one person is running up and down the hill, the partner is doing core strengthening exercises on the sideline, we switch when the hill climber returns to the field.

Today we were asked to do push ups on the side line while our partner did the hill. Push ups are a big part of boot camp and I literally ached in my chest and shoulders for days after my first week. The ache is still there, but not as intense.

While I was dropping and giving push ups my best shot...


IT caught me off guard and threw me for a loop straight out of left field and hell maybe into Kansas.

Our trainer, my mild mannered trainer, made fun of me and my push up technique. And even went so far as to jump down next to me, show me what I was doing, just enough to grab other's attention, and make me feel about a half inch tall. Or smaller. Yeah, put your thumb and first finger together so a piece of paper could barely fit in there and that's about how big I felt.

Now may I remind you, boot camp for me is not about my ego. I fall right about in the middle of class, on a fitness level. I know damn well, I have a long way to go, to feel strong, stable, and accomplished.

I always knew push ups were a weakness of mine. I do the bent knee variety. My upper body is about half as strong as my legs, it's just my body type. I'm all legs, strong legs may I add.

During my lovely, called out, making fun of my push ups experience, I mentioned to the trainer that push ups are a weakness of mine and I have no idea what I am doing. A cry for help. But she didn't bother to take a moment and help me or guide me through my obviously flawed technique.

As my partner returned on the field, way later than I needed her, I jumped up. Ego bruised. Maybe even fighting back a pout in my lip. I tried to brush off what happened, but it just left me feeling hurt. Feeling like, I should just show her and walk off the field. But I didn't, I stayed. I participated as strongly as I could for the last 15 minutes. With much less zest than I would've had, if I wasn't oh, I don't know, kicked while I was down.

Thursday should be interesting.

Wouldn't you know, I clicked on MizFitOnline (who just commented a day ago on my blog) and she had a post about push ups. So, this my friends would be an example of what I aspire to do (thank you, Carla!), the universe is just amazing sometimes:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Tips: 3 Hidden Household Toxins

I have never really given too much thought to my lifestyle. I am one of those people that lives a bit off mainstream philosophies, I casually say off the beaten path, just a tad. To me, I believe in living a life that has a minimal impact on the environment and I am thrilled "Being Green" is hip these days. Just thrilled. Toxins present themselves in many forms a thousand times over through out our day. I like to give myself a fighting chance against some toxins that haven't yet been pulled from the market, making them more of hidden risks, many you may not even think of. Sadly, sometimes I feel that our government protects large corporations before it protects our health. 

Born from my lifestyle, comes Tuesday Tips. I've decided to share some of the things with you, that I don't give a second thought to, but maybe it may have never occurred to someone else, that it could be potentially toxic. I am even offering up alternatives, for the most part, they aren't even more expensive. This is not a paid endorsement for these products. This is just how I live my life. You may think I am neurotic and once again, I will quip with, this is just how I live my life. As you will quickly read, I am not presenting hard evidence, we all make our own decisions and the information is out there for you to decide.

These are simply some things to give a second thought to. 

Hidden Toxin: PVC Clear Shower Curtain Liners:
For years, the smell of my shower curtain liner would just annoy me. My liner of choice was a PVC or polyvinyl chloride, clear plastic. Same thing many of our children's blow up toys are made from, such as blow up pools. The aroma is definitely unforgettable, the bottom line is because it's toxic. A strong chemical smell is never a good thing. One of the biggest toxins found in PVC is phthalates, which has already been removed from many children's toys because of it's toxicity to the body. For much more information, google pvc shower curtains or click on this article.

Alternative: Fabric Shower Curtain Liner:

Right next to the vinyl shower curtain liners, are a much healthier alternative. Fabric shower curtain liners are 100% polyester. For now, it's a step in the right direction. No toxic fumes, machine washable. Maybe $2-$3 dollars more. Target for $9.99.

Toxins in House Paint- Volatile Organic Compounds:
Partner your PVC shower curtain liner with some paint right off the shelf at a local big box retailer or paint store and you will seriously up the toxicity level of the air in your house. Remember the, if it smells toxic it probably is line? There are minimally more expensive alternatives to paint containing toxic fumes. Basically VOC's start to add up in our homes, they come from many sources, and the level of VOC's is much greater inside than out. Opening windows sure does help, but purchasing low or no VOC paint is a better choice. Once again, we are brought back to toxins that are at the fume level in our homes, we can't see them, but the chemicals become a part of our system. Report from the EPA on VOC's.

Alternative- Sherwin Williams, GreenSure Initiatives Line:
Most mainstream paint companies have started to come out with low VOC paints. Some even take it a step further and have created NO VOC paint lines. I purchased the Harmony Line when we painted Sj's nursery, five years ago, which was one of the few low VOC lines on the market, and now I believe it's even NO VOC. I commend Sherwin Williams for using sustainable materials such as soy and sunflower oil in their paints, recognizing environmental impact in our homes as well as in manufacturing. Sherwin Williams GreenSure Initiatives.

Teflon Non-Stick Cooking Pans:
Now I will be the first to admit, that the jury is still out on Teflon. There is plenty of evidence to show the chemical materials used in production of Teflon, called PFOA and PTFE have been linked to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. But is it toxic to humans? Toxic chemicals are emitted from the pans when they are overheated, which is fairly unlikely in a typical household.

This is one of the biggest battles my husband and I face in our home right now. Quite honestly I don't want to own any, but cooking eggs and pancakes in a stainless steel pan or even a Le Creuset is just a clean up nightmare. Although I have told my husband I'd rather scrub a pan that doesn't have the potential to kill me over easy clean up. I have thrown away our one and only non stick frying pan and hopefully another one will never return in it's place. The blogs and articles on Teflon are endless. Find a source you trust and make your informed choice.

The GreenPan- Teflon Alternative:
If you are fortunate enough to have a cast iron skillet handed down from your grandmother, count your blessings. For the rest of us, a non-stick skillet really does have a place in the well stocked kitchen. While doing my research for alternative egg pans, I found a new Non-Stick Technology, called GreenPan™.

GreenPan™ stands for:
Temperature resistance up to 450°C (850°F)
No toxic fumes are released if overheated
High Quality Non-stick
Durable and highly scratch resistant
0% PTFE & 0% PFOA
Environmentally friendly production, significant reduction in CO2 emissions in production.

Where to find it, online or Martha Stewart GreenPan collection from Macys. I purchased a 11" skillet last week, with a coupon for $24.99, about the same price as a decent Teflon pan. It's been working fabulously.

Hopefully, the Tuesday Tips will be something to look forward to. I welcome any inquiries you may have on related topics! I am always learning something new.

Monday, June 16, 2008

From Breakfast to Dessert

Trust me, I know how lucky I am when I say this, many mornings during the week, I receive breakfast in bed. My husband gets up with the girls, fixes breakfast, brings a tray along to me in bed. He has the opportunity to spend time with the girls before work and I am given some space before my day begins. Win, win for everyone, I would agree!

Of course yesterday, with it being Father's Day, I decided to cook up a lavish meal. I am not sure exactly how long this meal took to concoct, but it started on Saturday night with the creation of a splendid out of the ordinary simple fruit salad, compliments of The Gluten-Free Girl.

Sunday morning, I began making pancakes. I decided on banana pancakes, the girls expect their pancake fix every weekend. So pancakes were thrown into the Father's Day Breakfast in bed. Eggs benedict, with avocado, freshly made hollandaise (wow!), Diestel Ham, steamed baby spinach, on a whole wheat english muffin. Then came the breakfast potatoes, typically another one of my hubby's specialties. I took on the challenge.

This is what we presented my hubby in bed:

After spending, what seemed like the entire day in the kitchen, of course we had to have some delicious dessert to grace the end of a wonderful day. One of my husband's favorite desserts is a Fresh Open Face Strawberry Pie from Grandma's Restaurant, back in our hometown in New York.

So, I set out to do my best job to re-create it. I decided to add some blueberries, just for fun. It wasn't a Grandma's pie experience, but it was definitely second best.

(The filling is just stove top (not instant) Vanilla Pudding, the little bit of labor is definitely worth the pay off in taste. I prefer to use Dr. Oetker Organic Pudding and Pie Mix from Whole Foods or the like, link here)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just One of Those Moments

A few weeks ago, the four of us were walking out of a store together. The girls were in the double stroller, being pushed by my hubby. It had just been raining all day and if I do recall, it was sprinkling just a bit in that moment. As I picked up my pace to get to my car as quickly as possible, I turned my head to get a glimpse of...

My husband and the girls careening swiftly straight towards a huge puddle. Where he proceeded to push them through it, splashing close to knee deep water everywhere. All the while the girls were laughing and screaming with delight. And of course my husband had a huge grin.

In that moment, as in many fleeting moments, I realized how fortunate my girls are to have such a wonderful father. Because I know damn well, I would never give them such delight, delight of a simple splash in a stroller. I am way to practical for that.

So thank you hubbs, for giving our girls the taste of adventure, we adore you for it.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Beautiful PBS Commercial

Considering PBS is our station of choice, I was surprised I hadn't seen this before. A beautiful commercial, now isn't that a dichotomy in our culture these days?  

Please enjoy yet another reason to fall in love with, Ben Harper. Jack Johnson is sitting in on this version.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Glimpse Through The Window

Every time I walked away from the glass window taking a final glimpse of my daughter at her Performing Arts Camp this week, I was instantly brought back to my own childhood. My four year old, Sj, started a new camp this week. It's run by amazing artists and I secretly wish, I was being dropped off for two and a half hours to relish and bask in my own creativity. But instead, I am giving my daughter the gift of such opportunity.

The first day of camp, we arrived a bit early. Assessing the space, peering in through the glass at the teacher's preparing for the kids, and taking in some art that is on exhibit filled our ten minutes to spare. When the doors finally swung open, Sj ran into class, introducing herself, and quickly found a chair at the table that was full of her peers. She didn't know a child in the room, but it didn't seem to phase her. I on the other hand, was a bit timid, hoping she would make some friends and feel comfortable on her first day.

After I kissed her on the forehead goodbye, she quickly returned to decorating her name tag with markers. She was drawing a picture of herself, next to her name.

I glanced back once, but she was consumed. The transition was amazingly seamless.

When I was a young girl, I went everywhere with my mother. We were inseparable. Grocery store, errands, department store fitting rooms, bedroom, doctor appointments, kitchen, I was her shadow. I remember taking swim lessons when I was about 6 years old and being worried that she would just drop me off. I would question her on the entire car ride to the lessons, about her staying or leaving. I can even recall one day, my mother slipped out and feeling so scared in the pool, as if I had been abandoned. Honestly, how long is swim class, 45 minutes tops?

I love my daughter's independence, but sometimes it makes me nervous. Obviously the decisions we've made in raising her has given her the confidence to take on new situations with ease. Now, I wonder about her sister,GL, given the same parenting styles, boundaries, how will she take on new situations? Time will tell.

One more glimpse of my little girl through that glass and I see into the future, see her growing up so quickly before my eyes, where does the time go?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bravo and Frasca TOP CHEFS

Watching the Top Chef finale tonight, I was so tempted to take a little peeksy online to see who won, before the episode aired here. But I reconsidered and decided that patience in this case was a virtue. Top Chef is the only television show I watch with "shushing" regularity. There's nothing like watching a group of people that are passionate about food create meals. I suppose those who watch other contest based reality shows feel the same way, but I am just not an American Idol or Dancing With The Stars kind of girl. Food, drama, guest chef-lebrity appearances, now that's what I am all about.

Last night did not disappoint. I called out Stephanie (center in photo above) about week 2. I wish I put some cash on that in Vegas months ago. Stephanie was always the played down chef, that regularly dazzled the judges. I enjoyed Richard's take on cooking, but ultimately, I really wanted a woman to finally take the title! And Lisa, well no comment, I was still a tad bitter that the single mother, Antonia , was booted the week prior. Season 4 and finally we have a woman Top Chef! Fabulous. Now how long do I have to wait for the next Top Chef?

On a related note, as far as Top Chefs go, we were delighted to find out Boulder Chef, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, of Frasca was awarded the James Beard Foundation Best Chef of the Southwest! The James Beard Southwest category covered restaurants in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. For those of you wondering, the James Beard Awards are essentially the Oscars of the restaurant world. The awards are national and even include cookbooks, so it's a nice resource if you are looking for a special place to dine when traveling or even for a new twist on cooking at home.

So let's talk about Frasca. It's an Italian Restaurant in Boulder that specializes in cuisine from Fruili (north eastern Italy). I had never eaten there, until Saturday when my husband surprised me with a dinner out and even arranged for a friend to come hang out with our girls. Frasca is notorious in the foodie culture of Boulder, complete with "months out" wait for a reservation, which seems super silly for a place like Boulder. But we got in. We got in on our 10th wedding anniversary weekend.

At first, I have to admit, Frasca seemed a bit hoity toity to me. There was an air about the place and I wasn't sure if I felt comfortable. But after some conversation with the staff and a half a glass of wine, that feeling subsided. The service was impeccable. The love for food just seemed to ooze through out the entire restaurant. The menu changes seasonally, to make use of the freshest local produce. We dined on Salumi, fresh breads, warm salad with panchetta and potatoes, risotto with sweet peas, halibut, and a beautifully crafted dessert of bananas with hand made puff pastry, vanilla ice cream and peanuts.

Lucky for us, the stars aligned and our dinner date was on the eve of the big announcement. The James Beard Award, was presented on Sunday. I can only imagine how long the wait is now for a reserved table. Beautiful meal, beautiful company, I can't wait until I am graced with the opportunity to dine there again. It won't be soon enough.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mind vs. Body

As I was jogging around the Championship Field this morning for boot camp, my blogger brain was on overdrive. I was embracing the distraction from how my body felt at 6:15 this morning. Then my thoughts turned to mental defeat. I started to contemplate how easy it is for my mind to control my motivation or typical lack of motivation.

When I signed on for Boot Camp, just like Grad School, I didn't give it too much thought. I knew in my heart I wanted to do it, I kept thinking about it, so I just signed up. Honestly if you give most people the ample opportunity to mull over working out at 6:15 in the morning, eventually their mind is going to win. Especially when, in my case, I have never really worked out regularly.

I have to admit, I just kind of laughed to myself as I rounded the field for what looked like some lovely lunges across the field. After completing my third boot camp class, I know I am physically getting a work out, but more importantly I am mentally enabling myself to take on the new role that comes with working out. With that is also letting go of the labels and the perceptions I have convinced myself to become.

There once was a time when I would tell people, I can't run. There's no way, I can run. Can't do it, not a runner. Then I just eased into it. I found my body's natural running rhythm and worked through not being the fastest woman on the block. But ultimately I could run and I wouldn't let my mind tell my body I couldn't.

The same rings true for working out at 6:15 in the morning. Most mornings I lounge around, half asleep in bed while my husband gets up with the girls. You know, I am one of those, not a morning person type. See where I am going with this?

Obviously it's premature to envision getting up all the time at 5:30 to work out, but you know what, it feels damn good. I like being up, getting in a little sweat accompanied by my famous red cheeks, coming home to my family refreshed and revived, ready to start the day.

I know these feelings are going to be permeating into other facets of my life. How often am I shutting the door on opportunities for personal growth just because I have become comfortable with my mind telling me I can't or I am not capable? Plenty, I am sure of it. So watch out mind, I am not giving in so easy from now on.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cursed Dots Template

To all my Blogger friends, (all others you can SKIP THIS POST)
I am starting to believe someone has put the jinx on the Dots Template. The other day, I noticed that my line spacing had changed. Typically if I post in Compose and hit return, it creates a (<*div*>) with corresponding ending ones. When I take those out in the Edit Html the spacing would return to normal.

But my entire archive had been converted to single spacing and I couldn't figure out why. Well, apparently Blogger was playing around with things. Now the problem was solved through Blogger on June 6, but only if your template was original. I've edited my template in the past to change the header. The Dots typical header is very small and sits off to the side. I like the large, across the top header. So the fix, did not fix my template.

After many heart palpitations, I have finally restored my blog to the original look, with proper spacing. Boy did things really look bleak at one point, I thought I was going to completely lose the look of my blog Forever! It's a really easy fix, but you have to be willing to play with your template code. Although I have noticed the width of my posts has increased, but for now I am ok with it.

If you have issues with line spacing aka line condensing with the Dots Template and need a quick fix, check out this link. Go for it, switching up code is nerve racking excitement. Even joyous when it works out.

Ten Year Delight

Immediate reactions to talk of a tenth wedding anniversary usually turns to what big plans my husband and I had. Alone. Just a celebration between the two of us. Honestly, some time alone is always much savored and enjoyed, but for us our anniversary wouldn't have been much of a celebration with out our girls. That's just how we are.

J left work shortly after lunch time, we loaded the girls into the car before dinner. We packed a wonderful salad, snacks, and picked up a pizza on our way up the canyon. J purchased an adorable mini cake as a surprise, which very much resembled a wedding cake from Whole Foods.

The best part about returning to a special place that is protected Open Space (reserve), is that we didn't find much change. The landscape still looks the same, with the exception of some taller native grasses. Our girls ran through the meadow where we sealed the deal. I regret not coming to this spot more often (it had been a few years), it's so wonderful.

On a whim, we decided to also spread our beloved Guinness' ashes on our outing. He loved frolicking in the mountains and it was where he was truly at peace. It seemed most appropriate to finally let him go there. I thought back to our wedding day, where Guinness was drinking beer out of the cups people placed behind them on the ground during our ceremony. I still miss my boy dearly three years later.

Here are some wonderful photos from our ten year celebration:

Driving in Boulder Canyon, scenic delight.

The girls in the meadow. Sadly some of the Pine Trees are succumbing to Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, which is represented by the yellowing lower tree limbs. 

The adorable and delicious mini cake, very sweet. I will not turn talk to our actual wedding cake (it was a disaster). 
The big surprise, my gift. A little blue box hadn't graced my lap in a number of years. It truly was a special occasion. It contained a necklace, a beautiful sparkly flower necklace. 

Even though I had a wonderful day, my husband had another surprise up his sleeve. I couldn't believe it. We had dinner on Saturday night, just the two of us, at Frasca in Boulder. A review will follow. A wonderful friend came by to spoil and play with our girls while we dined, I am happy to report ALONE. It truly was the icing on the cake for me. A tenth year celebration to remember, indeed.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Some Rings and a Kiss

We all know that time passes faster than we can grasp these days. Well, for me anyway. Long gone are those coveted dog days of summer. Sometimes, I wonder where does the time go? Is it passing too quickly to really relish in the beauty of the time we have?

But honestly with the passage of time, marks the milestones, the achievements, the WOW moments. Take for example today, today marks ten years that I was married to the love of my life. We sent out some invites to our closest friends, invited our families from New York and Vermont, rounded up some food, a cake, and a photographer and called it a wedding.

I often joke with my husband that he is very fortunate he married me when he did. Young and carefree. When you could throw a wedding together for a few grand. A beautiful wedding that really cut to the core of what marriage ceremonies should be. Not a show, but a union. A coming together of two people committing to spending their life together. I was never much for the Cinderella story, nor was I a little girl that had dreams of how perfect my wedding would be. For us the mountain top, the circle of loved ones, was just perfect. Not FairyTale perfect, real life beautiful.

Today we will take our girls back to the spot, the spot where we shared our love for one another and sealed it with some rings and a kiss. A kiss that was almost forgotten...That's a story for another day. And I will once again look into my love's eyes and give him a kiss and remember what a beautiful day it was. And the days that have followed, all 3,650 of them, give or take a day or two.

I wore my mother's wedding dress, that didn't need a stitch of an alteration, just a tender cleaning. Sugarloaf Mountain, Boulder, Colorado. 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pain and Not A Gift In Sight, Thursday 13

unfortunately I lost my first two when I was playing around with font, line spacing, and template today..Luckily my blog is resembling it's normal self, so I will take 2 things from a Thursday 13 post as a gift to the Blogging angel that just sat on my shoulder for the last hour.

I believe they were related to boot camp and much to do about 615 am boot camp class in the rain. You fill in the blanks.

I wish I never looked on Craigslist for a cute tandem. Someone else got it. It would have been the ultimate perfect gift. Ultimate. GRRRRR....

I have many ideas, but nothing for a gift for my hubby.

Tomorrow is my 10th wedding anniversary.

I want to get tattoos, not necessarily matchy-matchy tattoos. Isn't that a great anniversary gift?

Shopping with 2 kids in the rain sucks.

Not buying anything after spending hours shopping in the rain with 2 kids super duper sucks.

Seriously, what is the equivalent of a beautiful piece of jewelry for a man? Men have it sooo easy in the gift giving department. Sigh, groan, cry!

How can it be ten years since we tied the knot?

I wish I had tickets to Europe in a few weeks, like I did ten years ago
Did I mention it hurts to walk up stairs, bonus of boot camp.

Even though I like to moan, pain is good. Hopefully I'll see results in a few weeks. Any gift advice that I can produce in a mere day, would be much appreciated. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Orangutans Adore Blue Eyed Girls

Waking up and staying up at 5:15am to head out a bit before 6 am for bootcamp class, went better than I anticipated. I had those first class jitters and just couldn't sleep in. Let's just wait a couple of weeks and see how it easy it is to get out of bed then. For those of you inquiring minds, the class was energizing. Which means tomorrow I will be hurting. We did very basic things, but in new and exhausting ways, such as squats, jumping jacks, running up hills, sprints, side-steppy things, all of it. No bells or whistles (well the trainer had a whistle), just our bodies working us out. I actually didn't feel so out of shape, which leads me to believe the trainer was breaking us in, being gentle to us newbies.

Later this morning, I met up with a friend at the Denver Zoo. We walked the usual route, saw all of our furry, scaly, and feathered friends, then we had a very cute experience in the Primate Panorama. Unfortunately, it did not dawn on me to video this little moment, so instead I just took a couple of crappy photos. Oh well, next time.

As to be expected my four and a half year old darling daughter, Sj fell in love with every animal we encountered. "Mom, mom, did you hear that (insert random animal here) call to me, saying hello. Oooh..I just love (insert random animal here)." Yep, that's what it was like the entire three and a half hours. Animals and Love! Then of course GL had to pipe in with her love for, " MON-KEEES". Very sweet, I couldn't wait for her to see a real monkey for the first time.

When we were checking out the Orangutans at the Primate Panorama, we saw an older fella, hanging back outside, sort of lounging around. When he caught a glimpse of us, fellow primates, he headed over to give a closer inspection. Turns out this Orangutan had a thing for my Sj. He put his face right up to the window and gave it a kiss. She melted, we melted. It was beautiful. Then of course I felt very sad that this incredible relative of ours is in a zoo.

The moment of exchange, Orangutans apparently adore blue eyed girls.

Here is a moment or two later, after the kiss! I love how Sj was mirror imaging the Orangutan's moves. Arms up everyone!

What a splendid day. I am assuming my eyes will be shut by 7:30 tonight. I love a good night's sleep.

Orangutan Outreach Information, Here !

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mommy Is Going To Camp

As of recently, I have become way too familiar with the Summer Recreation Catalogs put out by my town and surrounding cities. I've been thumbing through them to find enriching activities for Sj this summer, now that pre-k is out. With the cost of everything on the rise, I had to be selective in my choices, but wanted something just right. Not too far, not too expensive, a couple days a week with her off to kindergarten this fall, I didn't want her to be too consumed with activities this summer.

Oh, the choices, the mulling over.

I found a perfect camp, just two days a week. One day the kids have music and fine art, the next it's dance and drama. Then, we'll also be subjected to our first initiation into team sports. We've succumb to T-Ball, I believe it's 6 weeks, Saturday mornings, co-ed, hilarity at it's finest. I am already charging the batteries in our video camera because I know the footage will be priceless, or at best maybe we'll get a $10,000 America's Funniest Home Videos shot. Hey, it could happen.

As I was looking compulsively through my pile of course offerings yet again, I thought, it might just be my time. Time for me to take a class, sign myself up for something, or more like anything. Honestly the pottery class would have been my first choice, but I don't think the instructor would enjoy my girls joining me on a Thursday morning for two hours. I skimmed back through the catalog and was continually drawn to a Boot Camp style class. I'd read the description and looked at the time it was offered. They all seemed like they could work, all I would need to do is ACTUALLY register.

Hmm.... Is this what I really wanted to do with my time, my potential hour and a half to myself?

I took the plunge. It's two days a week, for an hour. I have never taken a regular fitness class with the exception of yoga. And I have never taken a fitness class at the crack of dawn. The evening one was full. Yes, I waited too long.

Tomorrow is the big day. The class even comes with a complimentary body fat testing before and after the session. I don't even know what I weigh right now, so this should be real eye opening.

All I really can say is that I am truly going out on a limb here. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, with a group of complete strangers no less. Wondering what my limits are and what the pay off can be with some regular hardcore body punishing work outs. Where in the world is my head? Well, I guess I'd rather not think about it.

Definitely to be continued....

Sunday, June 1, 2008

There's a Half Empty Pie Tin...It Must Be Summer

Technically speaking, the first day of summer is nineteen days away. Although, I know my summer has begun when I see a half empty pie tin sitting on my kitchen counter, accompanied by a bone dry pint of ice cream. The scene reeks of my summer dinner club. Well, it's not officially a club, but it feels like a club.

I suppose you could say it all began last summer. We'd invite our friends over for dinner, they would have us over the next weekend, then sometimes it would turn into a slumber party. The kids wouldn't have it any other way. Before dinner even started, I could hear the whispers, the girls chatting away about sleeping over, my house, your house, it doesn't matter, let's have a sleep over, I want a sleep over!!!

And always, in good summer time fashion, the dessert was definitely the centerpiece of the evening. Really there's no other way to have dinner and friends. The best part about the summer dinner club, is that for the most part, it is hotter than H*E*Double*Hockey*Sticks, so there is no pressure to bake something homemade. And to tell you the truth, ice cream cones, with must have sugar cones became my favorite dessert last summer. Once again, last weekend the tradition started, complete with brownies and vanilla ice cream. Maybe i'll have to stock the makings for banana splits. The possibilities are endless.

We went super easy, I made a couple of whole wheat pizzas with fresh basil from my garden. Woohoo! Soon, it will be fresh basil and tomatoes from my garden. The salad had blueberries, apples, and a lemon zest vinegarette that J whipped up. Delish. And for dessert, cherry pie and organic vanilla ice cream. And of course, the boys cracked open a Maharaja, boys will be boys.

I'm all smiles, knowing summer has arrived, complete with my dear friends and full bellies.