Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Flip Flop of Love!

A flip-flop book, that is. I made this a while back, and think I'm going to make a few more. I made the crumpled paper flowers, and did some co-ordinating stitching with this little mini sewing machine that I have (which I despise!).



Opened up-


More of the inside-



All the materials were Close To My Heart, but I've got some gorgeous Anna Griffin paper that's calling my name!

The Craft Bug Returns!

After a long bout of crafter's block and general ambivilence towards anything creative, I finally dipped my big toe back into the scrappy water last night, and found it wasn't too cold, wasn't too hot. In the words of Goldilocks, it was just right.

I still need to get my crafting area re-situated down in the Man-hole. Hopefully we can get to that this weekend. But last night as Kai worked on homework, I dragged out a few supplies and actually got 4 cards made. I worked with some of my current favorite color combos: robin egg blue and red, pink and brown, and light blue and brown. I'll post some pics later this evening. They're far from perfect, and far from done (I have a habit of looking at a project and thinking 'it needs more' and then kicking myself later for doing too much), but it's a start in the right direction. I'm looking forward to getting some work space going so that I can get everything laid out and actually focus and get something done for a change.

I've been in a funk craft-wise since my mom moved in with us this past September. It's not that she's living with us, it's that I gave up my craft room for her, and all of my stuff has been languishing in totes and tubs in the laundry room. I tried to make Christmas cards, but it was a huge ordeal to drag everything out, dig around for what I needed, etc. By the time I was finally ready to make something, I was disgruntled and out of the mood. I even toyed around with the idea of giving up all together and selling all of my stuff. I'm glad now that I didn't do that, because I really would miss it.

Kai started using the patch for his ADD today. I'm cautiously hopeful that it will work well for him. Our pharmacist has a son that uses it, and said that it has been very successful for them. I know that it certainly was easier this morning to stick a patch on Kai's hip, rather than go through the daily drama of getting him to take a pill. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Rhonda and I waited in line for over an HOUR yesterday for our free burrito from Chipotle. I hate to admit it,but I caved and got the burrito (hello, 6.5 ww point tortilla!) AND the guacamole. Not very healthy at all but worth every dimple of cellulite it will no doubt deposit on my backside. It was so huge though, that I couldn't even think of eating dinner. And today I'm back on the wagon so to speak and doing fine. I think you need an occaisonal indulgence to keep you on track. At least that's what I'm telling myself!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Just Another Manic Monday

Everyone was especially zombie-like at work today. A typical Monday morning at the bank. I daydreamed all the way to work about stopping at Scooters for a white mocha latte with a shot of raspberry. And a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin to go with it. Man, those muffins are good! Especially if you warm them up for about 15 seconds in the microwave. Mmm....but, I didn't do it. In my quest to try to be healthy, I said 'no' to the latte-muffin combo and had a turkey and cheese roll up instead. I know that doesn't sound very breakfast-y, but if I eat a high protein breakfast, I stay full all morning long. And I don't eat eggs, so I just get a whole wheat tortilla, a couple of slices of deli turkey and a slice of non-fat cheese and have at it. I'll save the latte-muffin combo for my mid-week 'hump day fiesta'. What, you don't have a hump day fiesta? You should, you really, really should.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, my best friend Rhonda and I will truck down to the new Chipotle that's opening Downtown at 14th and Walnut. They are giving out FREE burritos or bowls all day tomorrow! I wonder if the homeless people know? I kind of like the idea of them knowing, to be honest. I would like to know that they were all able to get in line for a hot, free meal. Now, if they gave away free margaritas, I would beat everyone else down for the first spot in line. OK, maybe not beat, but jostle roughly, for sure.

I've been cross-training another co-worker on my desk, which is a challenge. Sometimes, you just do your job without thinking about what you're doing, let alone why, and when someone starts asking questions, I don't have any answers. 'Because that's the way we do it' seems to be my standard answer for nearly every question she has. She's already informed me that I can not be absent on any day that starts with an M, T, W or F.

Kai went to the doctor today, and he agrees that we should try the Daytrana patch. I hope it works better for Kai. The only way we've been able to get him to take the pill is to open the capsule and sprinkle it on a bite of pudding. The patch will be much easier, and the worst that we might experience might be some skin irritation at the patch site. I felt really bad tonight, when he said that he would be in college and still wearing a patch. Kai thought that as he grew, the patch would get bigger and bigger. I explained to him that no matter how much he grew, the patch would always be very small.

I'm having a very powerful urge to make up a big pan of lasagna, some cheesy garlic bread and nice big salad, very little of which goes along with my healthy living plan, but sure does sound good!

Since a few posts back, I promised a recipe from time to time, here's one of my favorites. Flour-less peanut butter cookies. They are wonderful, and full of nothing but yummy peanut butter flavor. Best of all, you've probably got most of the ingredients just hanging out in your kitchen, waiting for you!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cream the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat in the baking powder. Add the egg. Mix until it is all well combined. ( I found that it was easiest to do this by hand, rather than fire up the big mixer)

Roll the dough into fairly small balls (heh,heh, I said 'balls'. Sorry!)(the dough will be a little sticky), roll in sugar and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Dip the tines of a fork into a bit of sugar and make that lovely criss-cross pattern.

Bake in the oven for about ten minutes. They're done when still just a bit soft in the centers. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve with a big, cold glass of milk. Makes about 1 dozen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Awesomely Bad Food, Pt. 2

Oh boy. OK, according to our good friend, The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook from 1953, sometimes the harried housewife needs to make a hot, satisfying meal in 30 minutes. Sometimes, it wasn't enough that Suzy Homemaker made breakfast for the family, packed their lunches and cleaned the damned house all day. God forbid Suzy take a little time for herself to go play bridge with the girls or maybe just get the happy hour started a little early with a martini while little Jack and Mary Sue were off at scouts and dance class. Maybe sometimes...oh, sorry. OK. Suzy was really super busy sometimes, you know? Even more busy than she usually was taking care of that pack of ingrates. And on days like that, Suzy might have fed them this-



Yep. That's a 'Roast Crown Dinner'. Do you want to know what makes it such a cinch to make on those really busy days you and I have? The roast crown is made of Spam. That'll teach 'em to mess with Suzy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kind of Random

This is the third time I've tried to write this today, I can't seem to form a coherent thought for some reason. I gave up on trying to focus on a single topic, so we'll just do a little free-flow random thing here. Ready? Here we go...

The 'healthy lifestyle choices' program (remember, I'm NOT on a diet)is going well. By not dieting and going for healthier choices, I've lost just under 8lbs over the past 2 weeks. Yay, me! It's a nice start, but I'm comfortable with losing the weight slow and steady. I went to the doctor on Friday, and my BP and bloodwork were all normal.

Kai is not doing so well with his ADD medication. On Saturday, we discovered 4 Adderall pills that he had hidden. Kai was telling my mom that he was taking them, but he wasn't. Hubby asked him what happened and Kai said that they all 'slipped' out of his hands. Apparently one part of our home has exceptional gravitational pull and just snags stuff right out of your hands if you're not careful. He's also figured out that going to the nurse's office complaining of a headache will get you out of class for about 15 minutes at a time. He was there 4 times today for a headache, once for a papercut, and then again before he left for the day to tell the nurse that he threw up in a wastebasket. He's going to the doctor again next Monday, and we're going to discuss the patch.

I'm really, REALLY tired of the cold weather. It seems like winter is going on forever. It's hard to get hyped up for St. Pat's or Easter when it's sub-zero outside.

I'm getting tired of the presidential campaign, too. I'm a Hillary supporter, but damn. I almost feel sorry for her. I made a $5 online donation back in November, and the blanket emails I get from the Clinton campaign are getting increasingly desperate. Today, she said the reason that Obama beat her in Wisconsin was he outspent her on campaign advertising. It seems so easy to say that's the reason she lost, isn't it? 'Oh, well, he spent more on TV time, that bastard.' I have to admit it, I do like Obama. But I like Hillary more for her experience. Whomever gets the Democratic nomination will get my vote, but I'm just kind of over it already.

Tomorrow is LOST. Yay! The one show I look forward to each week. Besides Real Time With Bill Maher, that is. Now that the writer's strike is over, I'm hoping for some new TV shows soon. I can only take so much of reality programming.

It's very hard being an adult, and a parent yourself, and having your mom live with you. Very, very hard. Wow.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All Hail The Cupcake

I can hardly think of a food more perfect than a cupcake. It's portable, tastes wonderful and is the perfect size to satisfy a serious cake (and chocolate!) craving.

I like to think I'm a connoisseur of cupcakes. I will happily devote my life to tasting cupcakes and cupcake recipes to find the best ones. About a year ago, I bought a package of Sprinkles cupcake mix. If you've never heard of them, Sprinkles is a cupcake bakery that had it's first store in Beverly Hills. Well, lah-di-freakin'-dah, you might say, and you'd be right. Although they charge an arm and a leg for their cupcakes,($36 for a dozen, or $2.25 each), I forked over the $14 for the mix. I selected the dark chocolate cupcakes, because well, chocolate is my life. Ok, maybe not my life, but it's pretty high up on my list of priorities. When I finally made those cupcakes, I was blown away. They were rich and dense and moist and everything that a chocolate cupcake should be.

The best thing about those fancy Sprinkles cupcakes? The frosting. They give you their chocolate buttercream frosting recipe so that you can whip up a batch when you make your cupcakes. If you've never taken the few minutes it requires to make your own chocolate frosting, then shame on you! Once you taste homemade, you'll never want the canned stuff from the grocery store again. Besides, that canned stuff is full of hydrogenated oils, gluten and other stuff you can't pronounce, and I can't spell. So in the name of your health and well-being, I'm giving you the Sprinkles chocolate frosting recipe. Ready? Here goes-

6 oz. of unsalted butter, softened (that's a stick and half. Yes, use butter. Not margarine. Margarine is one ingredient away from being a plastic. I read that on the internets so it must be true. Anyway, use butter. Please.)

pinch of salt (I do two shakes of the salt shaker)

2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract (use real vanilla, not imitation vanilla flavoring. Believe me, there is a big difference in taste)
3 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Gihardelli, but Nestle's is also good. I don't recommend Baker's, it tends to be kind of bland, and has a 'metallic' aftertaste)

Melt the chocolate in your microwave in 30 to 45 second intervals. Don't over-nuke it! Stir it each time you check on it, and microwave it only until just melted. Mine took about three 30-second nukes. Give it a good stir, and set it aside to cool.

OK. Fire up your kitchenaid and beat the butter and the salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed and gradually add the sugar, until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla and the chocolate, mix until combined. Be careful not to overmix and incorporate too much air.

Yay, you just made frosting! Now, to use it. I made chocolate cupcakes for Kai's class party with Betty Crocker dark chocolate cake mix. They are yummy! And very close to the Sprinkles mix that I plunked down $14 for. After the cupcakes cooled, I put them in the fridge to get good and cold. I took them out from the fridge and gave each one a healthy dollop of frosting and dashed on some Valentine's day sprinkles. Take a look-



Mmm....I wonder if I can knock some of those kids out of my way at the snack table? OK, maybe not. Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Awesomely Bad Food

Yesterday, the boys and I went to an estate sale at a house a few blocks from home. The house had lots of great stuff, and as yesterday was the last day of the sale, everything was half price. Score! Whenever we go to an estate sale, I always head for the kitchen first. I love to find antique copper molds, maybe an interesting dish of some sort or maybe some vintage linens. The best thing to find is, though, vintage cookbooks.

I love vintage cookbooks for many reasons. First, they give you a glimpse into the way people used to live. A cookbook from the 1950's for example, shows us that in the post-war United States, the wife was still making the majority of meals at home and from scratch. Using frozen and store bought canned vegetables was still a fairly new concept for many families. Second, the pictures in these cookbooks, especially the color ones, are so spectacularly awful, you have to wonder how anyone could have been inspired to make these dishes to begin with.

From time to time, I'll be posting pics from my vintage cookbooks, and if there are some truly good recipes (and trust me, there are), I'll be posting them,too.

Today, we'll start with a picture from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1953 edition. Got friends coming over for some wingding? Why not impress them with this spread-



Sweet Lord. Where to start. Ok, according to BHG, from right to left, we've got deviled eggs, cream puffs filled with chicken salad, and for the kiddies, pretzel pops. Simply spear a halved olive and a cube of cheese on a pretzel stick. What? Oh, that thing in the middle? That is a 'liver sausage pineapple'. No, you don't want to know how to make it. Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you. Mix 1lb. of liver sausage with lemon juice, worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. Shape this mess around a jelly jar. Notice the lovely sheen on the liver-apple up there? That comes from the 'frosting' you make for it. Unflavored gelatin and more mayonnaise. God. Top with a real pineapple top if you made it through making the thing without retching.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Time To Live

Thursday afternoon, I called home from work to see how Kai was doing and basically to see what was going on here at the casa. If there's anything major going on, I like to know before hand, so that I can decide whether or not to go home or just stay on the bus. Just kidding. The bus only goes as far as Olathe. It's not 'running away' if your just in the next suburb over.

Anyway, Tim said that 'some guy' called from my cousin's house. We chatted for a bit more, and then he said 'wait. I think I hear your mom. Kelley, I think your Aunt Judy has died.' And that's exactly what it was. 'Some guy' turned out to be my cousin Robert, calling to tell my mom that my cousin Brenda had found her mom, my aunt, dead. Her passing was sudden and completely unexpected, and I know that she's looking down at all of this and telling us to stop crying, already. While I sat at my desk at work, in shock, I felt a moment of peace when I thought to myself that she was reunited with her brothers and her mother. I know how much she missed my father after he passed, and her life was never the same after my grandmother and Uncle Terry died.

My Aunt Judy was my father's sister, and even after my parents had divorced, she and my mom remained close. We even lived with her for a year in Phoenix when I was about 8 years old. She was a wonderful mother to my three cousins, and a proud and doting grandmother. Family was very important to her, even extended family, and she was forever looking out for various nieces and nephews, cousins, etc.

I feel so blessed to have so many great memories of her. She was funny, full of life, loved to laugh. She was a fantastic cook, who always shared with me some new recipe she found. She absolutely adored Kai and was at every birthday party he's had, and always made sure she had presents for him on his birthday and Christmas, usually books, because she believed that all children should share in her love of reading. She was a voracious reader, and she often shared books with me and we talked about our favorite authors.

Aunt Judy had a huge circle of friends from the Red Hat Society, her job at the community center, her book club and all of her artist friends. So many people have been blessed, as I have, to have had her in their lives over the years. Our world will never be the same without her laughter and her smile.

On a final note, ladies, take care of your heart. My Aunt Judy suffered for the past few years with heart disease and died from a sudden heart attack. Heart disease is currently the number 1 killer of women in the United States. It can hit any one of us, at any time. I encourage you to go to http://www.americanheart.org
to learn more about heart disease and what you can do to prevent it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Food Fantasies

So, I'm trying really hard on this diet thing. I'm not even thinking of it as a 'diet'. I'm just thinking of it as eating healthier. Yesterday morning I saw that my BMI was higher than my IQ and it scared me. I've decided that if I make healthier choices, that will go a long way towards helping me to lose weight. Along with portion control of all those healthy choices and exercise, too.

Today was a good day. Until lunchtime. From out of nowhere, the perfect meal popped into my mind and it's been entrenched there ever since. I want a burger. But not just any old burger, no sir. I want a nice, big, meaty burger, preferably angus beef, grilled to medium well, with just a hint of pink in the center. It should be lavishly adorned with two strips of peppercorn bacon, and some creamy, tangy bleu cheese, then stacked with SHREDDED lettuce and some carmelized red onions. Finally, it should be served on a perfectly grilled kaiser roll, buttered and toasted and smeared on the bottom half of the bun ONLY with Helman's mayonaise (NOT miracle whip). This delectable masterpiece should be served with beer-battered onion rings with mustard to dip them in. And a Coke with crushed ice. Heaven!

The problem with a food fantasy, much like a sex fantasy I would imagine, is that reality can never truly compare with the fantasy. My fantasy meal is a perfect, unblemished product of my imagination. The reality would be grossly disappointing. Either the bun would be soggy from too much lettuce, or the burger to bun ratio would be off (where's the beef?!), the onion rings would suck, etc. About the best I'll ever be able to do is the coke with crushed ice.

And so, with this bit of bovine bliss dancing in my head, I had to go to the grocery store tonight. Despite an overwhelming urge to hold the butcher hostage so he could grind up a couple of filet mingons into burger for me, I managed to fill my cart with healthy, good for me and my family foods. This is why dieting, sorry, eating healthy, is so difficult for me. I LOVE FOOD! I love to eat, and I love good, simple food. I want to like vegetables, I really do, but I just can't make myself go there. I bought some cans of green beans, that will have to count. But I did look at the fresh brussells sprouts and the recipe that my boss was telling me about ran through my head.

Seems she takes fresh sprouts, lightly steams them and then cuts them in half. She then sautees them in olive oil and garlic, or if she's feeling really crazy, she fries up some bacon and then tosses the sprouts in the bacon grease. I really think I could try to eat this. To be honest, I've only had brussells sprouts once, and they were the frozen ones and they were cooked to death. They tasted horrible. But maybe fresh would be better? Hmm...

*OK, I just went to Red Robin's website and built the fantasy burger. Yeah, that meal has like 1500 calories and God knows how many grams of fat. But, at least I know where *maybe* I can get it if I ever want to live out my fantasy!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cabin Fever (and other airborne viruses)

Well, the plague is alive and thriving here at the casa. Tim is a feverish, hacking, wheezing mess, and Kai is not far behind him. Tim said he actually feels a little bit better today, as he doesn't feel like he's been dragged down I-70 by a semi anymore. Kai, though, is right in the midst of it. He had a fever of 101.7 on Friday, so he missed school. He was a little croupy over the weekend, but we had the fever licked. Or so I thought.

Kai was kind enough to wake me at 4AM this morning. "Mom, is it time for you to get up?" Well no, it wasn't, but I staggered out of bed and took a good look at the boy. Poor kid. His cheeks were flushed pink and when I placed my hand on his forehead, I could have probably cooked an egg on his head. I took his temp and he was a balmy 102. Yay, no school! That was too much excitement for him apparently, because he promptly barfed all over me. Sigh.

Needless to say, I got ready for work in record time and hauled ass out of this house of a thousand corpses. I love my family dearly, but today was one of those days when work was a safe haven away from home.

The weather here was beautiful today, which is a sure sign that it's going to crap out any minute. It was close to 70 today, and sunny. It was, dare I say it, spring-like. When I was walking home from the bus stop, the neighborhood was all a twitter with people enjoying the weather. It's not pitch black night by 5:30 PM anymore, so kids were out on their driveways shooting hoops, couples were out walking their dogs, and husbands were out roaming around their property looking for signs of damage from the winter storms. It was like everyone was out soaking up as much nice weather as we all could, because the weather forecast for tomorrow calls for falling temps and snow.

Once inside the Casa, life ceased to exist. My mom is getting sick too, I think, because she didn't even open any of the blinds around the house today. Our parakeet, Re-Pete (Pete I died right before Christmas), sat numbly in his cage in the darkened living room. Thankfully, I came home just in time to throw off his internal clock by switching on a light in there!

And that's all that's going on around here today. Tim is doing some volunteer work for the Obama campaign; he's calling folks and reminding them to get out and vote in the primaries tomorrow. So, while I'm thinking about it- get out and vote!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The History of Weight Loss (as told by me!)

Well, I'm getting ready to jump back up on the dieting bandwagon. The department I work in is starting up a version of 'The Biggest Loser'. There are already a lot of big losers there, but I guess not so much in the weight loss division.

So begins the weight loss attempt for the umpteenth time. I have been losing (and gaining) weight for what seems like my entire life. As far back as I can recall, I have been surrounded by people obsessed with weight loss. I have been on or heard of every fad diet that's come along in the past 30 years. The Dolly Parton Diet (cabbage soup), the Bloomingdale's Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, the Rice Diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins and South Beach, just to name a few. I am a professional dieter.

I wasn't always heavy. I really didn't start to put on weight until I was around 8 years old. I didn't have the best of childhoods, and to cope, I think I turned to food. I had a wonderful great-grandmother who spoiled me rotten, and let me eat whatever I pleased. I was chubby throughout all of grade school for sure. When I started in Junior High, my mom really started cracking the diet whip. I lost some weight as my body changed (I blossomed!), but she constantly chided my heavy thighs and hips. My well-meaning grandmother gave me a Weight Watchers cookbook from the 1960's that I won't even discuss here. Over and over again, I heard from my mom and other family members, 'you have such a pretty face. Don't you want a nice thin body to go with it?' I'm sure their words were meant as encouragement and 'constructive criticism', but they made me feel like I never quite measured up.

It's only now as a 40-year old woman that I understand where my self-loathing comes from. When you hear an endless stream of "you're fat, you need to lose weight, that looks awful on you, boys won't want to date a fat girl", etc., you begin to believe it. It becomes so ingrained on your sub-conscious, that you don't even realize that you feel that way about yourself. But you realize that it is a part of your mindset, when you notice that there aren't any full-length mirrors in your house. If you've ever dreaded going shopping because the thought of trying on clothes leaves you in a cold sweat, those words are still affecting you. It doesn't help when you pick up any woman's magazine and see models who are thin and smiling. In our society today, just as it has since the dawn of advertising, thin = happy.

Now that I'm going to try to lose weight again, I'm looking back at all the other times I tried to lose and why they failed. And I realized that I never tried to lose the weight for the right reasons. I dieted and lost for events, like getting married. I dieted to look good enough to find a man. I skipped meals or picked at them like a bird to please my mom. I never tried to lose the weight for the most important person, me; I never tried to lose the weight for the right reason, to stay healthy.

So this time, I'm really going to TRY to do this for me. Not for my mom, who will never be pleased no matter what anyone does; not for my husband, but he never says anything negative about my weight, bless his heart. He simply says that he wants me to be happy and healthy. Not even for Kai, although it will help me to stay an active part of his life. Now is for me, for my own sanity and self preservation.

I wish that every woman who has had a life long struggle with her weight could learn to let go of the self hatred and shame and guilt that so many of us live with. We should learn to accept ourselves as we are now, and to love ourselves for the people we are. Not hate ourselves because we're not the person others wish we were.