Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tiffin Picnic Lunch For 3

Years ago, I picked up a Tiffin lunch box in Brattleboro, Vermont. It was on a whim and way before I had ever given bentoing any thought. I was lured by the stainless steel of the Tiffin Box and even the cute matching insulated bag. Tiffin boxes are most common in India. Tiffin is a term used in India for a hot light meal or snack anytime of the day.

The other day I met a friend for an outting at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. As I was packing up our lunches, I decided to bust out the Tiffin. Our Tiffin is large, so it's more like a picnic lunch size. Rather than pack 3 separate bentos, I just packed one Tiffin! It has three stacking trays that lock into one another. I used the top as a plate for one of my daughters. One tray contains our sandwiches or meat/cheese wraps, Whole Foods 365 cheese puffs, and some fresh strawberries with decorative picks. Easy and waste free.

Very convenient and fun!

If you like the ease of a Tiffin, I recently saw a personal size one for very cheap at Cost Plus World Market. There are also many websites, just search Tiffin.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's official, I have lied to my children. It was in their best interest...

Well, part of our situation with having to remove Milo from our home was complicated by what we would ultimately tell our girls. Anyone that is a parent or basically with a functioning rational brain knows you can't tell a six year old their dog, the one they love more than everything, needs a new home because THEY are allergic.

Wasn't gonna happen.

My daughter is very sweet and caring, a bit of a joker, but takes things very close to the heart. She's always worn her heart on her sleeve and with maturity has learned to work through feelings of hurt or frustration, rather than just shutting down and pulling away. She has a infectious smile with beautiful large dimples. All I could imagine was the tears. Lots of flowing tears.

J and I danced around the talk so many different ways. We had to text one another in the same room, I may have even gotten an email, we phoned each other. All of our processing was Top Secret! Maybe I have some potential to be a spy. All of our processing was stressful. We talked through so many scenarios as to what to tell the girls. We talked through do we tell them their dog is moving away and scoot him out the door promptly, do we tell them and let them hang out with him for another week? Which is more painful??? If only we had the manual on the perfect way to handle the situation.

I had a dog when I was my girls' age and he went for a ride one day and never came back. That I know I wouldn't do.

Oh the scenarios that came into our discussion. We contemplated the moving excuse (even though it's a bit far fetched as our home isn't even on the market yet), my dad said tell them he ran away (we thought of the months and months of endless searching and sign making), then my mother came up with the best idea yet.

So this is how the story goes...

I would be lying if I said our girls weren't on to us. They knew something was up, but I don't think they anticipated what we were going to tell them. We sat them down and told them a lie. A lie to protect them, a lie to keep innocence nurtured, a lie which I don't think is right. But guilt and sadness brought on by something that is uncontrollable (allergy) is not something I could live with, so I chose lying. Gulp. Consider this my trip to confession.

The story basically went that Milo was a stray at the Humane Society when we adopted him. Truth: he was a surrender from Kansas. We went on to tell them the family that originally owned Milo contacted us and they had been in search of him since this summer. We discussed it and the girls thought it would be best to return him to his original family. That's what they hoped someone would do for us if we ever lost our dog. We talked about how we loved Milo so deeply for this family, but it would be time to give him back.

Innocent lie, no?

The first thing out of my 3yo's mouth, "mom what was his name?". I thought that little shit, she has such a deep thinking mind, she wanted to know what his real name was, as we gave him the name Milo. I wanted to say Mommy is improving here darling, I definitely didn't get that deep into my tall tales. Our 6yo was incredibly upset, but also very brave and head smart about situation. We talked a lot and shed many tears.

Even though we will miss Milo, one fabulous dog, it's wonderful to know he's moved on to a loving home. Ironically enough they have two girls 6 and 3. If there could be a happy ending to the sadness we feel, we achieved it. We will certainly miss our pup.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

But I Thought We'd Be His Forever Home...

Well this week has turned out to be a bit more emotional than I anticipated. There are things I'd like to talk about and other things I don't feel quite like discussing. Long story short, I found out this week that one of my daughters is allergic to cats and dogs.

When we were sitting in the Doctor's office during the allergy test, the dog test lit up like a light bulb as soon as it was placed on her skin. I believe my eyes instantly welled with tears. I've been worried she had a dog allergy from the first time hives appeared on her face when our first dog Guinness innocently licked her years ago. I asked our Doctor about it and she brushed it off, no big deal. I told myself she has sensitive skin, hence the hives. No hives mean a reaction, an allergic reaction. I feel stupid for kidding myself.

Then this past summer, after 4 years of not owning a dog, we stopped by the Humane Society. We found a wonderful dog, ironically enough 4 years to the day after our first black lab passed away. It was fate. He's so sweet and kind. He instantly took to our girls, going a few times a night into their room to check on them sleeping. He waits patiently by the door when we get home. He lets the girls rough house with him, with only sweet licks in return.

But now we have to give him up.

My daughter's health is our first priority and unfortunately the symptoms that have been stressing her body aren't quite worth "Fido" remaining in our house. So now i've turned to friends to spread the word, help us find a new home for our pal. I haven't quite figured out how I am going to tell the girls their favorite doggie is moving on to live with someone else. I don't want my daughter to feel guilty that he needs to find a new home. My stomach is in a pit and I tear up when our sweet dog comes up to me looking for some affection. I feel like I've betrayed our rescue.

I do know it's our responsibility to find him a loving forever home. A home I always thought that we would give him. Now if I can only find the right things to say and one kick ass family to love him for the rest of his life.

If you are in the denver/boulder area and know of someone looking for a wonderful doggie to complete their family, please send them my way. I'd love to talk to them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Cheap and Effective Way To Reduce Dust In Our Homes, Cheesecloth!

A couple of weeks ago I received a newsletter containing Healthy Home Tips from the Environmental Working Group about dust. It contained tips on how to get rid of the toxic dust that is in our homes. Dust is toxic because it is known to contain chemicals that have been shed from products in our home such as furniture and our televisions. One type of chemical found in household dust is flame retardants, which is a known endocrine disrupting compound. Dust also contains pet dander, fungal spores, soil, and fibers. Yuck! And all along I just though dust was made up of our shed dead skin cells.

Read more here about how to remove dust safely and effectively or how to create dust that's less toxic in the first place.

My Tuesday Tip is one way i've tried to reduce the dust that is being circulated via our forced air heating system. I once read about using cheesecloth as a tool to reduce the dust and allergens. There are two ways to utilize the cheesecloth, one is to put it over the "air intake" for your furnace. The second way is to put the cheesecloth over the heating vents in a place where it is important to reduce the dust and allergens such as a bedroom. We choose just to place it over our air intake, but you could just put it in the outtake vents.

Below are some photos of how simple it is to place cheesecloth over the air intake. FYI, the air intake is a large grate in your home where the air is sucked into the furnace, it provides the first flow of air into the furnace that is circulated and heated and then blown throughout our homes as heat. Most furnaces have a slot for a HEPA filter which should be replaced monthly. Go check yours now, they are fairly inexpensive and do a great job to filter out particulate matter.

For $2-3 you can have a first line of defense against particulate matter flying through your home and eventually into your lungs!

Remove screws and take off grate:

Don't be surprised by the lovely dust you find lurking!

Wrap cheesecloth around grate, I place tape on the backside:

Voile, finished product:

I simply use my vacuum attachment to remove dust and dog hair that collects!

Well, It's Spring Break!

Colorado schools are kind of funny. We have different breaks for neighboring towns and school districts. Our posting will be scattered from March 20. We are definitely back April 5!

Enjoy a peek of my delicious breakfast in bed. Frittata!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Walking In A Fog, But I'll Always Remember A Face...

Two days back to back this week I found myself at the Pediatrician's office. They were both long, draining visits. The kind of visits you just want to be over with. It's like a fog seems to settle into your mind, your legs and body move, but sometimes I wonder how present I really was. I told my husband who didn't have the honor of joining us at the Dr, that I wanted to lock him in the closet for two hours so he could feel what it's like. I have a mental image of all the wall decor of the room, what the view looks like from the office window, the small tattoos on the wrist of the nurse, the coloring of the horses off in the distance. There's a little plugin animated faux aquarium that sits on the counter next to the sink, it's never plugged in. I am always tempted to plug it in while we are sequestered to our checkup room, but I never do. I also want to peek in the cabinets, but I refrain.

After the second visit I ran out to do a few errands after J came home from work. I stopped by a local smoothie shop to pick one up for the girls. I'm not sure if I put makeup on that day, but I do know I had my brushing properly done (hair and teeth). I know I looked disheveled, but I thought who cares just a couple of stops and I'll be back home. As soon as I walked in the door I recognized the face of the young man behind the register. I glanced down at his name tag, I looked into his eyes as he placed my order. It took about 30 seconds before I realized I once knew this young man, but I knew him when he was a boy. Eight years have passed since I last saw *Johnny. His face was the same, he was taller and slimmer. I could tell he recognized me by his demeanor, he became very nervous all of a sudden. He was one of my fifth grade students years ago.

I didn't say hello to him. How lame of me.

Of course today I regret that. I was hoping I could say hello to him while waiting for my smoothie, but the place filled up. There was never a lull in the room so I could go back up and start up a conversation. Whenever I run into my former students they are always surprised by the fact that I remember them. When you spend a school year, day in and day out, with a group of kids it's hard to forget them. I think about so many of them often and a handful of them have found me on facebook. All of my former students were memorable in one way or another, I don't think it's possible to forget them.

Hopefully the universe will give me another chance to check in on *Johnny and see how life is treating him. Even better yet, maybe I won't look like some anxiety ridden wreck of a mother, but just be a glimpse of myself from eight years ago. I'll be sure to wear my smile next time.

Yes, I switched up my former student's name to *Johnny for this post.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bento Tips! Easter Eggs Aren't Just For Easter...

Have you ever packed your child's lunch and thought, I hope they wash their hands before they eat? I believe in my daughter's class they do wash their hands in the classroom before lining up for lunch, but I'm not sure if they get to it everyday. Sometimes time slips away and they are running late, sometimes the teacher may forget.

I like Sj to be prepared, so I always pack a little hand wipe in her lunch for her. Now is the time to pick up some plastic Easter eggs at your local store and put them to good bento use. The eggs are a perfect reusable place to store the hand wipe! Better yet, you can find really neat ones that have characters on them. I always keep my eye out for cute and interesting eggs and definitely hit up clearance sales.

Fair warning, sometimes the eggs are hard to close. It's nice to have a big go to selection so you don't find yourself struggling for five minutes during the morning rush. The new Hello Kitty eggs I just picked up for $2.00 for a three pack are very easy to open and close!


Ugh, Mud Season!

I'm sitting here laughing a bit. Last week I posted six times, this week it's looking like life just got the best of me. The weather has been wonderful all week. I felt compelled to make the best of it. For some odd reason I had it in my head that it was going to snow, on Wednesday there was a little tease of snow and rain mix. Luckily for us, it was just a tease and the sunshine has come back in full force!

Our friend Milo, the goofy black lab loves our backyard. Unfortunately with the snow sticking around longer in shady spots of our yard, it's officially mud season back there. Muddy paws make me cringe and quite frankly tired. Off the back of our house we have a garage door and french doors. I decided to build Milo his own potty aka dog run. The other day when it was 50 degrees, I headed out back, tore down the wire fencing I had on my planting bed and made better use of it. See my work below!

Luckily for us, our 75lb big dog doesn't realize he can literally just step over the fence. Yes, those are leaves, still on the ground in ummm...March. They help manage the doggie waste much easier than just on the rocks that sit on that awful looking side yard. With the looming prospect of putting our house on the market preparing the backyard just scares me. I prefer the fun landscaping, gardening and planting flowers. Unfortunately my husband is not that obsessive yard guy, so we are both in for some work before the for sale sign goes up!

So you heard it here first, Goodbye mud season! I won't miss you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Easy To Make, Magnetic Door Weekly Organizer!

At the start of the school year, I had a really hard time keeping track of the days my daughter needed to keep things straight for school. On Monday and Tuesday she must wear sneakers for gym class and on Thursday library books are returned. The first day she came home in tears because we dropped the ball on sending back her library books, I knew I needed a system to help me stay organized.

I thought, well where do I look when I'm heading out, where is the best place to put reminders? I found myself writing post it notes and sticking them on the backside of our front door. Sometimes overnight the sticky notes would fall off, which is of no help at all. Then I decided to take it to the next level, I would create a calendar on the back of the door that is reusable. My front door is made of metal and in turn, magnetic. I decided to make the best use of that feature when I made the weekly calendar. Cost to me- $0, as I had all the necessary supplies on hand. Make due with what you have, that's the best part!

How-To Make Your Own:
  • Paper (plain or fancy, whatever you have!)
  • White Board tack paper (this comes in a roll like shelf liner paper)
  • clips
  • roll of sticky magnets
  • dry erase marker

1. Print out the days of the week on your computer, these will be the backbone of your calendar. Be creative (unlike me) decorate them or color them by hand! Let your kids share in the fun.

2. Print out reminders that stay consistent from week to week, dance class, sports, library day, PE day, homework, etc.

3. Print out 4-5 reusable shapes that you can write activities on that change weekly.

4. Cut out all days of the week, activities, and reusable shapes.

5. Turn your reusable shape into dry erase marker user friendly either by laminating (at an office supply store or if you have access to a laminator) or simply cut out some "white board tack paper" which I found at target. It's just like shelf liner paper. I suppose you could even make due with some packaging tape.

6. Take your laminate reusable shape and place a small square of sticky magnet on the back of it. You can purchase a roll of magnets that have sticky adhesive on one side, you simply cut the size you need, peel off the sticker and apply to the back of your shape. Easy enough! Then use a dry erase marker to change your reminder from week to week.

7. Organize the back of your door!

I started with Monday and left plenty of space in between days so my shapes with changing reminders for the week had enough room. I simply taped the activities on the back of the door under the week that wouldn't be changing.

What about the clip? I use the clip to hold important papers, such as my public library book print out. I keep it on the back of the door so I can quickly glance at it when I am hauling my load of books and dvds back to the library. I also have a post card there with my milk delivery order (which I just started) to remind me to grab the milk on my deliver morning. I will be making a regular reminder for that now.

Where can this go?
Well obviously you can make it really creative with the paper you use to print on, font, or hand decorated days of the week. Seeing it in the photos all white on the back of my white door looks awfully boring. I think it's time to switch it up. Here's an up close shot:

Enjoy! How do you stay organized and on top of weekly tasks and reminders? Please share.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where Colorado Locals Go: Ooka Sushi and Asian Cuisine

The intersection of 120th and Main Street in Broomfield has turned into an Asian food mecca. Dim Sum to Pho to the Pacific Ocean Market are some of the offerings within a quarter mile radius. Where once there was a Boston Market is now a Sushi and Asian cuisine restaurant called, Ooka.

Of course we had to give Ooka a try and I am glad we did. This is what we ordered:

Summer Roll with Shrimp (spring rolls not fried, in rice paper)
Spicy Salmon Roll
Avocado/Cucumber Roll
Sesame Tofu
Yaki Udon
Brown rice

Definitely liked the spring rolls, the peanut sauce had great flavor. The sushi was nothing to write home about, don't expect high quality. Go with vegetable rolls and you won't be disappointed. We are very fussy about where we eat raw fish, so keep that in mind when ordering. I always think when in doubt avocado/cucumber is a safe bet.

As far as our main entree dishes, I was very happy with our order. The sesame tofu had a nice body of flavor and was mild enough for our girls to enjoy. There appeared to be lots of red pepper flakes, but turns out they weren't spicy. Plus, the portion that we received was really big, enough to feed J and I for lunch leftovers. Typically we are playing rock, paper, scissors for dibs on leftovers.

The Yaki Udon noodle dish we ordered did have chicken. There was a delightful smokey back note in the dish that I couldn't quite place. I enjoyed it . The vegetables in the dish were fresh and cooked just right. Once again, portions were great.

Another mention that always makes us happy, when an Asian restaurant offers brown rice.

Lastly, would I go back? Absolutely, we paid around $30 for what I considered to be a ton of food. I was happy with the quality and will probably stick to our original order, once I hone in on something I think a delivery place does well, I don't deviate much.

Our menu just happened to offer 10% off Grand Opening pick up or delivery special!

Here's what some Yelpers are saying about Ooka.

$15 minimum delivery
Mon-Sat 11-10
Sun 12-9:30
Disclosure, my Where Colorado Locals Go posts are places that we chose to patronize. I was not asked to write this post for trade or payment.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Brits Are So Proper...

Strolling through the side streets of London on a Monday morning, a friend pointed out the signs on a few doors. Apparently this row of flats was known to house friendly women. Well not anymore, but let's just have a plastic placard made up because that darn hand written sign keeps blowing away. Those Brits are so proper, aren't they?

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Love This Community, I'm Scared of Blogher, and Sometimes I'm Just Left Wondering...

So the story goes, a couple of years ago I naively started this blog. When I say naively in some regards I had no idea what I was getting into. Realistically speaking I joined the blogosphere well after it was established. I just thought, I'll write and let's see what happens. If it turned out two years later it was STILL only my mom reading this via email and my group of supporting friends than so be it. I was ready to take on the adventure.

My life at the time had become dominated by motherhood and my career became a distant memory. I had no idea how wonderful and powerful the blogosphere was at the time. I started slowly finding my way around to the most read blogs, but then started clicking on the names of those that commented on the big blogs. I found their writing to be just as wonderful. Before I knew it names became more and more familiar and relationships just naturally formed. It's community building at it's best. I was amazed at how organically I found blogs written by women that I could relate to. Motherhood became enhanced by other's stories.

Most importantly I didn't feel so alone.

From day one, I felt a delineation in the blogging community. There were the blogging homesteaders who clearly arrived first, had a strong community of commenters, and quickly made you feel like another number. Sometimes the writing was wonderful and other times I came back just because it's what you did, you read "so and so's" blog. Then there's other levels, people you read because you're simply entertained. Beautiful, gorgeous cooking blogs. Photo blogs. Blogs you read to become informed. Sometimes you read blogs written by people that you so easily relate to, you feel like you're sitting down having a conversation with a friend. I tried to keep up with the blogs that were most talked about. It's hard work, blog reading and commenting.

Then something odd happens. One day you realize people are reading your words. I'll never forget my first comment from a stranger. It was on a post I wrote about a political bumpersticker. I was in awe and wanted take the woman out to lunch.

After I thought I had my feet under me, a well established google reader rotation, I went and joined Twitter. It's Greeblemonkey's fault, she knows that, but of course I have her to thank for opening my eyes. There was a huge shift in my perspective on the blogging community because of Twitter. It was like someone was throwing a huge party and you may just be in the room at the same time as all the bloggers you've ever read! I've interacted and discovered so many new writers on Twitter. I've also chatted up some bloggers that I commented on for a year straight that never once acknowledge my existence. I love Twitter for broadening my notion of community.

When a community is formed with people from all around the country and even globally, hello my Canadian friends, there's going to be a natural progression for people to meet up. Like in real life, face to face (could be scary, but it's really not). It's in that moment you turn stories, pictures, and words from a computer screen and turn it into real life smiles, big hugs, and sounds of laughter. I've met up with many local bloggers and people I chat with on Twitter around the Denver/Boulder area. I am a part of the Mile High Mamas community and we have quarterly meetups. So far my experiences have been great, but there are other levels to take face to face meetups.

National Conferences.

Blogher hosts an annual conference and it's the creme de la creme of blogging conferences. There are other conferences through out the year that are just as wonderful, but haven't quite reached the popularity of Blogher. As of just a week ago, the pre-sale early bird tickets to Blogher came to a close. There was a buzz of anticipation from people deciding if they were going to attend, people snatching up hotel rooms, making arrangements with roommates, and thrilled with a weekend away in NYC! I just wanted to fast forward to September when the rush of Blogher will be over and I won't feel different.

I'm not attending Blogher for a few reasons. I was just in New York with my family in December/January, I have family in New York which complicates me just stealing a weekend away, August is the busiest time of year for my husband at work, money (want to sponsor me?), and I don't quite feel popular enough for Blogher. I greatly fear rejection at something as grandiose as a Blogher conference. I catch many snippets of conversations of people that are so excited to see their friends at Blogher and I of course envision sitting alone in a hotel room with a box of Billy's Cupcakes on my lap.

What about that community I spoke of? The blogs I've been reading for a few years and the women I feel like I know as friends, what about them. I would love to meet them in real life. But there is a huge barrier that stands between us and that is, many of them have met before. I feel the divide so deep when people chat up one another because they shared moments that I wasn't part of. It doesn't take away the feelings of friendship, it just feels different.

When I really get down to it, sometimes I feel left out. Casual mentions of texting, gmail chatting, christmas cards, phone calls, small packages in the mail, all those things just make me realize that maybe I'm confusing acquaintances for friendships. Maybe that's the true problem for me, I feel like I know someone from their words and stories, but really do I know them? Would they hang out with me if they lived in the next town? If I were at Blogher would they meet me for lunch in NYC, would they ask me to attend a big party with them? Right now, I'll never know.

I'll just continue to navigate my way through the blogosphere behind my computer screen, figuring out how to carve out my place in a sea of so many unknown possibilities.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Countertop Aesthetic, Good Bye Coffee Pot, Hello Water Kettle...

Come step inside my kitchen. Countertop aesthetic is something my husband and I have always agreed on. We prefer to have space on the countertops and cluttery appliances tucked away. Cookbooks are stored in my office and piles of papers have to be removed nightly. For years, I've fought the coffee pot on the countertop. J is the coffee drinker of the family, so I just see it as an eyesore. We've never invested in a top notch coffee pot because they wear out or we break a carafe, so cheap and easy to replace is the way we go. Well taking that route has a price, they are just dreadful to look at. We have a special space in a cabinet for ours, but getting it put in there daily is a chore. Instead most of the time, it gets left out. I am happy to share I've found a solution to our eye sore!

First let's see our other counters.

Below you will see the two countertops that are adjacent to our range. Simple, fruit basket. I will admit, I tend to allow cookbooks to accumulate to the right of the fruit basket, but they do have a spot on a bookshelf in my office. It's just habit, especially if I'm using them for a few days in a row. Other counter, houses the toaster oven, an appliance we use at least once a day. Hiding just behind it, cutting boards which are too big and cumbersome to store anywhere else. I would love to have them put away.

On our largest countertop, we have open space, except for my favorite kitchen appliance my stand mixer. It was designed to be looked at, I could never fathom having it stored away even if I had the cabinet space. The green apple color was my husband's choice, unique huh?

Now let me introduce you to our coffee pot or Exhibit A. Blah. See to the right, that cute cabinet that was perfectly designed to house our coffee pot? Coffee pot in the cabinet, me not itching out of my skin or also known as, very content. Maybe if I consumed coffee I'd feel differently.

Now, this is the exciting part of the story. A month ago I was given a new beautiful, shiny, stainless steel electric water kettle. After my trip to London, an electric kettle was a must! Press a button and voile, hot water for tea is ready. Oh and it's pretty, isn't it? With my tea consumption, I decided I must have a cute sugar bowl to keep on display (uh, oh what happened to an uncluttered countertop) and I found this lovely one with birds at Anthropologie a few weeks ago. Then for my husband's birthday I had a brilliant idea.

A french press.

It's on the tray below, left hand side. Isn't it lovely compared to the grey and black coffee pot? Now I know coffee lovers appreciate a cup of french press, so isn't my new set up just wonderful? I do need a better try to house the french press, tin of tea, and sugar bowl, but for now I'm making due with what's on hand.
disclosure: all products shown and mentioned were purchased by our family. Kitchen Aid, Breville, and Anthropologie if you are looking for a blogger to style out, email me!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Scaling Down, The Time Has Finally Come...

It may have been just four short days after I returned home from London when I called my husband into the bedroom. I told him, it's time. Of course he inquired as to what in the world I was talking about, really it could be time for anything.

It's time to sell the house, I said in a very nonchalant calm tone.

Just like that. Bam. Let's move. I'm done, I'm ready, next phase. Let's do this.

You see, it's always been me, the resistant one. I'm comfortable in our current home. Where we want to move to is way more expensive, which means less house for more money. But I'm over worrying about the size house we are going to buy and more concerned about the life we want to live. We are moving back to the town my husband works in and where our daughter attends school. Our move out to the suburbs wasn't a move into our dream home. It was our first home. A house i've cherished from day one, but I am ready to say goodbye to. Now it's time to move on to our second home, which I am sure won't exactly be our dream home. In my heart I'm truly okay with taking steps, small steps to achieve our goal. Once I am working again full time, we'll be even closer to the home we may want to settle down in for years and years and years to come.

Last night I checked out a huge armful of books from the library. They were mainly books on home organizing and purging, some books on selling your house (we've never sold a home before), and cook books. I had the realization that I need to keep my family nourished from the inside as we shed so much on the outside.
The first book I started to read and became enthralled by was called, Scaling Down. The content immediately lured me in, it's written by a woman that helps people let go of their stuff. Really, I have stuff, more stuff, and then even more stuff tucked away on the high shelf of the closet. When we moved in, we didn't have full closets and stuffed shelves in the garage, or even a 10x10 shed that has it's fair share of items. We've grown over the past seven years as a family, we now have two children, and we've filled our home. Literally and figuratively.

It's like, have space, let's fill it!!!

What struck me most about this book, is that I am reading about downsizing when most of my friends are upgrading. It's that phase in life, where friends are moving into homes they envision spending a good 20 years in, maybe more, maybe less. Some friends have recently told me they need a bigger house just for their stuff. For us, now we are working through our possessions, belongings, emotional attachments. We are working towards our goal of living a lifestyle that more fits our family. I want to grocery shop in the town I live in. My husband wants to bike to work everyday and come home for lunch, if he so chooses. We want to be a short bicycle ride from a hiking trail. I want the mountains to not be a squint off in the distance, I want them to be in my backyard. We will more than likely become a one car family.

I want to be back in the town that once left an impression so strong in my heart that I picked up and moved 1,800 miles from my family to live there. Seven years away in the suburbs and the silent song is calling my heart back.

There are many things I will miss about my first home, but for now it's time to focus on all the wonderful opportunities that will be just looming on the horizon. It feels like a load off to share this news. I'm sure this will be just the first of many posts about moving, letting go, packing, and discovering our new home.

My hardest job, convincing my girls that it's okay to not have so much stuff. Oh and let's throw my husband in the mix, does anyone other than Lance Armstrong need 6 bicycles?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Secret to Fast and Easy Meatloaf, In Less Than 30 Minutes...

I miss Tuesday Tips, they were some of my most popular posts. I've decided it's time to bring Tuesday Tips back. I've had some informative posts brewing and Tuesday Tips are the best place for them.

So meatloaf?

Yes, we are huge fans of meatloaf in our house. 99% of the time I make ground turkey breast meatloaf. Have I ever mentioned I am not particularly fond of ground beef? Well, I'm not. Turkey meatloaf gets the job done just splendidly for me. I don't ever feel like there is anything missing. I make meatloaf often because it's so easy and quick to prepare, I don't need special ingredients, all items I use to make it are always in stock. If I am missing something, it's pretty easy to just replace it with an item on hand. Take for example bread crumbs, if I'm out, I just use quick cooking plain oats in place of the bread crumbs.

The only problem with cooking meatloaf is that it takes so long to bake. 45 minutes at least?! I never have 45 minutes when cooking dinner. My maximum time limit is about 30 minutes from start to finish on weekdays. So how do I get my meatloaf on the table in less than 30 minutes?

Cupcake/Muffin tins!

By placing the prepared meatloaf filling in a muffin tin, the meatloaf only takes about 25 minutes to cook. What's even better about this cooking method, my girls get their own little meatloaf. They love them. It seems silly, but sometimes presentation just makes or breaks dinner.

Recipe, I don't have a specific recipe because making meatloaf is always a result of what I have on hand, but I do have a basic backbone for the recipe. It goes a little like this. I emphasize turkey breast in my recipe because some ground turkey can be full of random parts, fat, and skin which isn't very healthy! My meatloaf tends to go Italian, but you can substitute with other spices to take on the flavor range you are looking for (example substitute out Italian spices for cumin and dried chipotle).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Use cooking spray to coat muffin tin.

I take out a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix:

1lb ground turkey breast
splash of milk for moistness
squeeze of organic ketchup or 3/4 cup tomato sauce
handful of breadcrumbs or dried quick cooking oats are a wonderful addition
1 egg
handful of feta cheese or grated cheddar cheese
handful of romano cheese (you could use parmesan, we only use romano here)
pinch of dried parsley, oregano, and basil
1 clove of fresh garlic minced

Mix well, but gently with your bare hands! Eek! Then I use a scoop typically reserved for cupcakes/muffins to just scoop the portions out into a greased tin.

I rarely make a meatloaf in a loaf pan anymore, so I have one muffin/tin that has become my go to meatloaf pan. You will find over time it gets heavily baked in and harder to keep pristine clean, so just throw in the towel and buy yourself a pretty new muffin tin if you become a fan of this baking method!

Other additions that go well with the turkey meatloaf base (just add in when mixing):
*Chopped baby spinach, sundried tomatoes, feta, red bells
*sauteed vegetables such as onions, carrots, and bell peppers

Mom Has The Photo Evidence, Better Eat Up!

The other morning I made my daughter a bare bones bento. By bare bones, I mean thank goodness for canned mandarin oranges and peanut butter sandwiches. I hadn't been grocery shopping for the week yet, so I had to fall back on pantry staples. It's my goal to pack a nutritious lunch everyday with fresh fruits and vegetables, but sometimes it's just not possible.

Below you will see, just a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Some mandarin oranges are hiding under the piece of wax paper I slip over the wet items in the bento to protect them from getting the crackers wet. Also filling the reusable silicone cupcake cups are some vintage cheddar cheese and Annie's graham bunnies. Just like a nice mom, I put one girl scout cookie, broken in half to make it fit.
When my daughter got home, I noticed she only had a few bites of her sandwich. I couldn't remember if I made her a half or a whole. I inquired if she had a half or whole, but said it slipped her memory (do I see a pattern here). Well, lucky for us I just happen to have the photo evidence from that morning.

Beware children of bento bloggers, we no longer have to rely on our failing memory we have proof! Eat up kids, it's the good stuff.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sea World, Do I Support You or Shame On You?!?

Today over at the Rocky Mountain Moms Blog, I've written a post about Sea World. Before the tragic loss of a trainer's life and some heavy national press, I never really had a vocal opinion on the matter. Do I support the captivity of Orcas or believe they should be at home in the wild? Find out here.