Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm Warning You, Beware of Cowl Neck Sweaters

Today I reached a new level of public embarrassment. I usually have bright red cheeks a healthy glow, but today my flushed skin went from hairline to chest. So what in the world did I do?

This morning I was out doing some birthday shopping for my soon to be 5 year old when I just quickly perused the women's sweaters in the shop I was in. I tried on a cute sweater and it was a steal, so I decided to buy it. I got home ripped the tags off the sweater and tried it on. I looked in the mirror and was confused. Somehow I had brought home the wrong sweater.

Did I set down the sweater I wanted while looking at other things? I mentally traced my steps in the store to think when such a switch would've occurred.

Then I thought, how in the world did I buy the wrong sweater? It was the same color and brand, but I didn't even try on a flowy sweater like the one I saw draped on my body in the mirror. Odd, just odd.

I decided to head back to the store and look for the sweater I wanted. When I got there I checked the dressing room rack, the sweater rack, and a few other places I had been earlier. Finally I headed to the register to return my wrong sweater, as I couldn't get my hands on another. When the clerk called on me, I tried to explain that somehow there was a mixup and I wanted to return the sweater that was in the bag. We started to talk about the sweater I wanted and he starts looking over the receipt and asking if the person that checked me out was at the store. I pointed to the other guy that helped me earlier. Before we went any further, the clerk flipped the sweater upside down to look for where he could reattach the tag I pulled off. That's when I saw IT.

The sweater WAS THE ONE I purchased, I just tried it on upside down at home. Now, in my defense the sweater is very odd shaped and has a large cowl neck.

See the photos below:


<- The Wrong Way

The Right Way ->

I looked at the clerk with a bright red face and said, oh my goodness that is the sweater I bought! I realized in that moment, I must've tried it on upside down. We both had a good laugh and he placed the sweater back in the bag. I walked out very embarrassed and definitely a bit humbled.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Tips: The Broken American Food Supply

With great eloquence and candor, a mother (Robyn O'Brien) tells her story about why she started paying attention to the broken American food supply. She doesn't know me, but I am on her team. Join us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eggnog Cake with Eggnog Buttercream Recipe: Fabulous and Easy Holiday Dessert!

Invited to dinner and want to whip up something easy and fabulous to wow your friends and family? The possibilities are endless, but it's November and a great way to celebrate the season is with an Eggnog Cake. While I was surprised to find that there were very few eggnog cake recipes online, I was also surprised that the ingredients were so varied. I actually came up with this recipe after not finding exactly what I wanted. It turned out wonderfully. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
From the picture of the buttercream, you can see it was made with love! What a moment to capture. 

Eggnog Cake with Eggnog Buttercream Frosting

Cake batter:
1/2 cup butter soft at room temperature (NOT melted)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp rum extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup eggnog

2 sticks butter soft at room temperature (NOT melted)
1lb Confectioner's Sugar
1/3 cup eggnog
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
*1 tsp rum extract
*1 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour 2 round cake pans (I used 9"). You can also cut parchment paper rounds for the bottom, I did not have an issue with my cake sticking.

2. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on medium until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated well. Take a moment to wipe down the bowl with a spatula.

4. Add vanilla and rum extracts.

5. Combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl. I do sift them, it's not absolutely necessary.

6. Add dry ingredients from step 5 to wet mixture in 3 parts. Alternate with 1/2 of the eggnog to the wet mixture. It will go like this, 1/3 dry mixture, 1/2 of the eggnog, 2/3 of dry mixture, 2/2 of eggnog, 3/3 dry mixture. Until gently combined. Do not over mix.

7. Pour evenly between both pans.

8. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes. If using 8" pans, it could take 30-35 mins. Keep an eye on the cake, pulling it out right when it browns will prevent it from overcooking and drying out.

9. Make the buttercream frosting while the cake is baking. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer, it will look thick and hard THIS IS OKAY! (It is preferred that the butter is not too soft because it will soften in the next step, to a perfect consistency.) Add the *extracts, *nutmeg, and salt. Gradually incorporate the 1/3 cup of eggnog to soften the butter and sugar mixture in three steps. If you think it's necessary for spreading you may add up to 1/2 cup total of eggnog to the mixture. Do not make it too moist, as your frosting will be runny. For my buttercream 1/3 cup was perfect consistency (see heart photo above). *notes, try the frosting if you would like w/o the nutmeg and rum extract. They greatly change the flavor, it will be much milder (if you prefer) with out them, more like a vanilla buttercream. I liked the bolder flavors of the added nutmeg and rum extract. It does not overpower the cake, but rather compliment it with it made as I listed above.

10. When the middle gently bounces back from touch, place cakes on cooling rack for 5-7 minutes in pan, then gently invert to cool completely before frosting.

11. Enjoy and delight your guests! Questions, feel free to email or comment below!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Post Wherein I Judge Another Mother

Eight years ago, I left my full time teaching job to stay home to raise my daughter. Over the years my absence from the classroom was lengthened after the birth of my second daughter. This decision never came lightly, but I can wholeheartedly say I have never regret my decision to stay home to raise my children. While I wish I could candidly say it's been all rainbows and Rockwell moments, I don't think I could go that far. There's some witty quote about the hardest job you'll ever have just waiting to be thrown in here. I definitely have my fair share of hard days, but I guess how I choose to handle it varies differently from my experience today.

While I was running a few errands in the morning, I was walking down the aisle of a store when I came across this mother...

Let me break down what you are seeing. A mother on her cell phone talking so loudly, that I gathered she was speaking to her mother about the wonderful pillows she just found. The search was over for pillows! Woohoo! I wonder if she also told her mother she was sitting on those pillows in the middle of the aisle at the store blocking customers from walking by or how her daughter was being completely ignored. As you can see her two year old was destroying the end caps and pulling everything off the shelves. It wasn't until the toddler reached above her head for a pile of towels and a stack of soap dishes fell onto the little girls head, that the mother realized she had better go. I am sure you can guess who got yelled at for acting so stupid. Yes, the poor toddler.

When I first turned the corner and happened upon this mother so completely checked out, I honestly didn't know what to make of it. This grown woman, responsible for a young child, is lounging on the floor of a store while her daughter does what ever she wants to the store displays?!? In some ways I do get it, but that level of desperation for me is only reserved to the comforts of my own home. I can't quite wrap my brain around how any of the above photo is something that feels okay. How do you get to that moment of chaos and blatant denial? The other thing that really angered me about this mother is how her actions negate all the hard work the majority of us mothers put in with our children. It takes time, patience, and consistent effort to teach your children what behaviors are acceptable in the home and out in public. When my children don't cry in the checkout aisle because I won't buy them a candy bar, does one assume because I am lucky? No, it's because I do the work, every single day.

I wish this photo was the end of it, but unfortunately due to the size of the store and the acoustics, I proceeded to hear this same woman berate her toddler, who had now become tantrum enraged, for the next twenty minutes. While I may see or hear things everyday that I don't necessarily agree with, I typically just let it be. I don't like to judge another mother's decision for how she parents her child, rarely do I ever write about them, but this moment I simply couldn't shake. In this case, I'm still wondering if I should've asked her for a cup of tea. If I should've smiled at the little girl and handed her an age appropriate toy to distract her while her mother was busy.

The thought that is mainly on the forefront of my mind is, if it's this bad in public, how is life behind closed doors...


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hike Boulder: Mallory Cave from NCAR

I'm a creature of habit. I have trails I like and I pretty much hike from two trailheads in my neighborhood. On Sunday J and I went for a hike without the girls and when we rolled up to one of our go-to trailheads, it had more cars parked than I've ever seen before. I suggested we drive up to NCAR and hike from there. NCAR is the sandstone building you see perched on the mountainside in South Boulder. If you drive west on Table Mesa Drive, the road will dead end into the NCAR parking lot. There is no fee to park here.

If you proceed to the backside of NCAR, you will find the Walter Orr Roberts Trail which leads to the Mesa Trail. The Mesa Trail can take you from NCAR to Eldorado Springs if you head south or to Chautauqua Park if you head north. In between there are many routes to take and on Sunday, we hit the Mallory Cave Trail.

J and I had a short window of time for our hike, the most important one was it was late afternoon and I wasn't sure what time the sun would be dropping (first day of time change). On a whim we picked Mallory Cave and I am so glad we did.

Here are some shots from our hike just taken from my iPhone. The trail was wonderfully carpeted with pine needles and leaves. Luckily most of the direct route up to Mallory Cave is south facing, so we had no issues with a mud or ice on the trail. The Mallory Trail is a great uphill climb, but tempered well with many switch backs. A handful of times there are wonderful open areas to get a great view of the city and eastern plains. If you look closely at the photo on the bottom left (above) you can see NCAR sitting off in the distance, it looks tiny from the trail. I couldn't believe how quickly we felt so far away. 

The photo on the right is of J climbing the final 75 feet of the trail. You do have to scramble up the sheer rock face to get to the top. I promise it's worth it, but I don't want to spoil what you find up there with a photo, you'll just have to find out for yourself. Please note, there was only a bit of ice on this final ascent, use caution if it is wet or icy! The cave is not accessible because of a fungal disease affecting bats called White-nosed Syndrome, but none the less there is something worth seeing.

Close to sunset, the view on the way back. We couldn't help but ponder how incredibly grateful we are to have such amazing hiking access within minutes of our house.

Hike Info:
From parking lot: 2.8 miles round trip (Mallory Cave trail climb closer to .75 miles up)
Elevation gain: 950 feet
City of Boulder, Trail Map and Information for Mallory Cave

Where To Buy Bentos in Los Angeles [w/ Photos]

There's a great little section of Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles that is referred to as Little Osaka. While you may find yourself wandering around a number of shops in the area, including a great grocery store, I wanted to share the best spot for bento supplies I found.

Tokyo Japanese Outlet is like a dollar store, it's stuffed with all sorts of unique goodies like skin care products, stuffed animals, stationary goods, bento supplies, and many household items. You can see what some folks on YELP enjoy about this particular location. The bento boxes they carry are very plain, but super affordable (average $5 or less). I didn't pick up any bentos, but rather some accessories such as rice molds and small hand towels.

Tokyo Japanese Outlet

West Los Angeles, Sawtelle Center 
2109 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA
Tel: 310-914-5320

Hours of Operation:
Sun-Th 10:00-23:00
Fri & Sat 10:00-24:00

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sometimes Lunch Packing Isn't Awesome!

One of the biggest mistakes of being passionate about packing healthy and cute nutritious lunches Monday through Friday, is not having fresh ingredients on hand. I'm being honest when I say as someone who LOVES packing lunch, it can be dreadful with an empty pantry. This morning it was crunch time to get the girls out the door for school and we were out of bread (well except for 4 heels). I'm not usually thrown back with no bread in the house, I simply reach for a tortilla or pasta leftovers.

No tortillas in the house. No leftover pasta, only stuffed peppers. I just couldn't see packing stuffed pepper leftovers to my 8 year old. Not only did it have a food safety issue, I feared the social impact would've been greater.

I did what anyone does in a pinch, I cut off as much of the hard end of crust as I could and threw together gently crafted a sandwich with almond butter and jelly. I included some frozen edamame and an apple with a little sprinkle of Italian Volcano Lemon Juice (organic) to keep it from turning brown.

Sometimes it feels good to be real and share what I consider to be a pretty lame attempt at lunch. It helps me want to do better because I know I can. Today definitely would've been a hot lunch day for my girl if the options weren't a hot dog or cheesy broccoli baked potato, two things she snubbed!

My New Unicycle Riding Elephant Fetish

Really Chris Martin? You had to one up this bizarre intrigue I have with you by skillfully riding a unicycle in an elephant costume? I didn't know you could peak my interests any further, but they're totally tuned in. I'm going to call this one, check mate. Hot, hot, hot.

Interview with Mat Whitecross the Director of the Paradise Video! Great Story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Tips: Contemplating a Conscious Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner and knowing some of you are already done shopping, my thoughts are just turning to how I want our Christmas to be. I've taken a few different approaches during the holidays, one year avoiding items Made In China (that is tough work), another year keeping a tight budget per child (that is tough work), and others just picking up things here and there that caught my eye which I like to refer to as mindless Christmas shopping. I remember one year on Christmas Eve feeling as if I hadn't done enough and running around trying to find something meaningful for the girls. I can guarantee I did not accomplish what I set out to do on Christmas Eve. I never feel good about the mindless approach, especially in January when my bank statements arrive and I see toys strewn about.

Here's where my intentions are going into this Christmas Season:

1. Handmade items, for example my oldest daughter has a special blanket called, Silky,  that a friend of mine made for her years ago. Miss GL was never given a Silky, so I am going to make GL one this year. Obviously that won't be a Santa item, but it will be something special under the tree.

2. Shopping online with small business retailers that value Made in the USA and selling items that are made from non-toxic paints, plastics, and that are made from natural materials. If I catch the timing right and keep an eye on my emails, I can typically find great free shipping deals combined with a percentage off of my total purchase. Bonus, I'm supporting a small business. I AVOID the large online retailers (yes, pun intended) after they stopped working with their Colorado affiliates back in 2010. If I am going to shop big box, I just do it in my neighborhood rather than online.

3. Asking my daughters to think about one or two special toys they would like, but providing a list of no more than 5 items. I don't like encouraging them into thinking Christmas is a gift giving free for all.

4. Choosing toys and craft items that encourage imaginative play. While we are not a electronic free house, I am always amazed at how creative my girls can be when given the right inspiration.

5. Experiences as gifts. I love having a Zoo Membership or tuition for Ballet School as gifts for my girls. Those gifts keep on giving year round, which are my favorite.

6. Sticking to a budget. I don't want any buyer's remorse come January. I want to find a comfortable number we can afford with out having to use credit cards and have a cash only Christmas. This is hard because so many other incidentals come up during the holidays, but I am hoping if I start now I can achieve this.

7. Family time, I want to take the focus off the stuff and make it about our family. Family fun baking, decorating, visiting museums, hiking together, and slowing down to cherish time!

8. Handmade items for our family. I can't quite divulge what I am making right now, but I am crafty and I am hoping my skills will be appreciated come December.

I hope setting my intentions now will allow me the chance to achieve what I am putting out there. I want to be free from regrets and the depression that sets in from post-holiday glut (physically and mentally). 

Mom, I Need A Break From Carrots

I've always wanted to post a photo collage on Fridays of what my daughter's bento looks like when it arrives home everyday. At her school, they aren't allowed to dump leftovers in the compost from lunches that were brought from home. I'm not sure if this is a new rule or if it's even a rule, it's just what my daughter has mentioned. So I believe what comes home to be a true representation of how she ate that day.

The only problem I have with posting "how'd she do" today photos is that I actually have to follow through with taking them. I'm not so good with that. I see a lunch box return home and I just want to get it into the sink. I'm going to work on my follow through because I do find leftovers interesting.

I recently purchased a 10lb bag of EarthBound Organic Farms carrots from my wholesale club. I feel like we have carrots coming out of our ears, which also may be represented by the photo below.

While I love Laptop Lunches for their waste free component, sometimes something like a squeezable organic applesauce sneaks into a lunch. It's rare, but usually a indicative of what's lacking in my refrigerator or fruit bowl. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I swear that hot dog is a penguin... Bento

Back in March I picked up two different hot dog shape makers. One turns a hotdog into a penguin, the other into a crab. Today I tried the penguin, can't you tell...

Organic chicken hotdog, bun, organic ketchup (joyful bear)
strawberry hearts
veggie booty
red pepper flowers

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: In Awe of Murmuration

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Fruity French Toast Bento

It doesn't take much thought when you glance over and see an extra piece of French Toast just sitting there. My reaction is to cut it up and put it Sj's lunch for the day. Easy enough.

Vanilla yogurt with fresh raspberries in the thermal container
grapes, carrot flowers, heart strawberries
french toast (no syrup, I figured the yogurt was sweet enough)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Tips: Genetically Modified Foods, Americans Are In The Dark

Did you know that the United States of America is one of the only developed countries in the world to NOT label GMO's (genetically modified organisms) or GE (genetically engineered) foods? You can find  labels on foods in Europe to Japan, but Americans are still in the dark on this issue. ABC recently reported that 93% of Americans polled are in favor of labeling GMO's in our food, but the FDA continues to drag it's feet. Do you know how incredibly amazing it is to have the support of 93% of Americans surveyed, Wow! Could we actually call this a true bipartisan issue?!?

What is standing in our way? Corporations that buy elected officials which skirt the concerns of everyday Americans. I believe it's time for our voices to be heard.

Sign the Just Label It Petition now, let the FDA know we want action.

Do we really want to be the family represented in this video? I certainly DO NOT!

More GMO related posts I've written, can be found here NOgmo.