Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Awesome and the Awkward

Read It:
I just finished The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship, written by Jeffrey Zaslow (who co-authored The Last Lecture book with Randy Pausch). If you need a reminder to appreciate and nurture your female friendships, check it out. I have much more to say about female friendship (a whole dissertation full, as a matter of fact) so I'll blog more about girlfriends later. But, for now, let me just say how much I appreciate my Girls from Butler County and the way--whether by phone, email, facebook, blog comments, post office--you make me feel loved and inspire me to be the best version of myself that I can.

Eat It:

Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese. I buy the big brick of it at Costco, but it's also available in regular grocery stores. Melted on a sandwich thin with some ham and honey mustard, shredded on top of some scrambled eggs, sliced atop Triscuits . . . I can't get enough.

Admit It:
In the interests of pacing and sanity (someone gets pretty touchy if the Princess Frostine pink card goes to mommy or daddy), I sometimes stack the deck when I play Candyland with the Bub.

Let It Crack You Up:
Awkward Family There were tears in my eyes when I checked this site out, and I will return regularly from now on. The photos are deliciously awkward and the titles and captions are the icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, I still want you to check out Cake Wrecks if you haven't already.

Resist It:
Speaking of awkward . . . Jon and Kate Plus Eight. I stopped watching midway through last season but found myself tuning in to Monday's episode to glimpse the train wreck of the new season. There are many things that can be and already have been said in the "What did they expect?", "I don't blame him/her" and "What's up with her hair" vein. No matter what you think of reality television or the specifics of the Gosselin family dynamics, there is something so profoundly sad about watching a marriage and thus potentially a family falling apart. I'm not particularly fond of Jon or Kate, but I cried while watching it and teared up again when I talked to LAP about it and described it to my husband. I hope that the Plus Eight make it through all of this as unscathed as possible. To that end, my gift to them it to stop watching from this point forward.

Okay, give me your own list of Read It. Eat It. Admit It. Let It Crack You Up. Resist It.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heloise, if you please.

I love reading the little helpful hint blurbs peppered throughout women's magazines. And, as a recovering magazine junkie, I have read many a hint in my day. I don't use the hints very often, though some are quite helpful, but I am always intrigued and/or amused by them. I like to wonder about the persons and lives behind such hints . . . The woman who dutifully saves all the crumbs from her chip and pretzel bags so she can sprinkle them atop a casserole. The home cook who figures out one more way to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. The individual who saves all of her warranties/product instructions in a binder with dividers. The mom who creates a "to do" jar to combat her children's complaints of "I'm bored." The person who discovers a new/better/cheaper/more efficient way of doing anything and feels moved to write in to a magazine to share the good news.

A few months ago, I read a helpful hint that left me wanting more. A woman wrote in to say that when her husband leaves to go pick up their pizza, she goes and lights their grill. That way, when her husband arrives home, the grill will be ready for the pizza. I have heard of people cooking pizza on a grill, but the hint made it seem as if this couple would be grilling an already cooked pizza. I started wondering how far they lived from the pizza place. Did the pizza get so cold on the way home that it needed to be warmed again . . . on the grill? Or, do they simply enjoy the flavor of grilled pizza so much that they want to add that extra step? Or, is there guilt involved with ordering a pizza so that the extra step of grilling it is some kind of penance? Perhaps this couple does not see convenience and immediacy of intake as one of the key benefits of ordering pizza. I'd love to know more.

I've always sort of wondered what helpful hint I would send in to a magazine if, you know, there was some situation where I had to come up with something. I already bragged about my new cutlery sorting/loading system, but I don't think it's original enough (compared to grilling cooked pizza) to warrant two inches of type.

On Saturday evening, I had a helpful hint breakthrough. There I was in the kitchen, mixing up some rice krispie treats for Bub's playdate the next day. I can't manage to memorize the recipe (so many ingredients, you know) so I glanced on the marshmallow package for guidance. I noted the phrase, "Using buttered spatula or wax paper, press mixture evenly into buttered 9x13 inch pan." In the past, I sprayed a spatula (bonus hint: the same one I used for mixing the ingredients) with cooking spray before molding the treats into the pan. When I read the directions on the bag, I thought, "Oh, butter would be better than cooking spray on that spatula." Then, I thought, "Wax paper would be nice too, but who keeps that around?" Probably lots of people do, but I'm not one of them. Then, I noticed the perfect item for pressing the treats into the pan. Wait for it . . . the BUTTER WRAPPER!!! I can't tell you how pleased I was when I thought of it. Sure, I could butter a spatula or grab a piece of wax paper, but why bother when you have a piece of buttered wax paper right before you that you were just going to throw away.*

So, there you go. Butter Wrapper. NTB.

I promise this is the last household hint post for a while. What else have you got for me? Do you stock wax paper in your kitchen? Have you read a helpful hint that left you wanting more? Any insights into the grilled pizza hint? Do you prepare rice krispie treats even though you don't personally like them all that much and then eat them until you feel sick?

*unless you know some hint for re-using butter wrappers . . . if so, speak up

Friday, May 15, 2009

Oh, go on with your bad self, MEP

NTB, but I have formed a new good habit recently. I don't know what prompted it, but for the past two months or so, I have been sorting my silverware as I place it in the dishwasher. Our utensil thingy has five sections: forks, spoons, knives, sharp knives, and kiddie cutlery. I'm not sure why it has taken me so many years to get with the program on this. It only takes a few extra seconds to sort the stuff going in and yet makes the dreaded (for me) task of emptying the dishwasher far more bearable. The less I dread and then procrastinate on emptying the dishwasher, the less likely dirty dishes are to back up in my sink. Thus, I no longer find myself emptying the dishwasher only to immediately fill it up again.

It's a little thing, but it's improved the quality of my life or, at least, the cleanliness of my kitchen.

Now, I know those of you who have assigned spots for your nail clippers, an effective routine for dealing with junk mail, a schedule for running the self clean cycle on your oven, and the ability to consistently defrost your proteins in advance of needing them are thinking, "Oh, poor MEP, she's just now catching on. I've been sorting my cutlery for years!"

What else are you people doing? Please tell me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eat to Live . . . Live to Eat?

Readers of this blog likely have noticed one of my defining contradictions: I love talking, reading, thinking about, and eating food. I also love talking, reading, and thinking about weight loss. It's true. I have many, many cookbooks--54 last time I counted--and also many diet books--around 20 (I have put them away in a box, but have not been able to let go of them). I enjoy reading recipes and enjoy reading articles and books on healthy lifestyles/weight loss, especially success stories.

Here are some recent television shows that have fueled my good intentions, if not always my good choices, with regard to eating and losing weight:

1. The Biggest Loser on NBC -- I am a longtime fan of the show. I was a little disappointed in last night's finale as I had been hoping to see Mike or Tara win. I have been holding a grudge again the winner, Helen, for strong-arming her daughter into going home before the daughter was ready. It's not that I think motherhood has to be exemplified by sacrifice, but I just feel like if your poor example is one of the reasons why your child might be overweight, then maybe you owe your child the best opportunity to get fit. That said, Helen worked really hard, and I was so impressed when she ran a marathon on last week's episode. As much as Ron got on my nerves throughout the season with his scheming, I cried real tears of happiness when he finished the marathon (after walking injured for almost 14 hours). I feel genuinely sad for the contestants who struggled to continue their weight loss efforts once they left the ranch. Yes, I get caught up in the reality show, backstabbing bullshit that goes on, but that's not why I tune in. I watch season after season because it is so exciting and powerful to witness people transforming their lives.

2. I Want to Save Your Life on We -- This show features Charles Stuart Platkin, a "diet detective" who works with overweight people for a week, giving them tips on eating right and exercising. He visits again several months later to see how their lives and bodies have changed. Platkin comes across as really kind and sincere and passionate without being frighteningly intense (in manner of Jillian Michaels, though I love her). On the last episode I saw, the diet detective worked with an overweight couple who had two small children. He filled a table with some of the stuff they were mindlessly eating throughout the day--mostly a bite here and a taste there of the stuff their kids didn't finish. All of those bites and tastes (including the leftover peanut butter on a knife) added up to 462 calories. I try to watch myself in this area, but I do eat my kids' scraps--waffles, nuggets, cheerios, yo-baby--sometimes and tend to assume that eating stuff I'm not really enjoying or thinking about does not really count.

3. Cook Yourself Thin on Lifetime -- This show features three slender women who know the secrets of "cooking yourself thin" and on each episode share them with a different woman who eats fattening stuff but would like to lose a dress size or two. The slender chefs (my title, not theirs) show the woman how to make healthier versions of some of her favorite foods. They leave her with a cookbook and a basket of goodies and check back in about six weeks. Same old story (though a good one) of how you (yes you!!!) can lose the fat and calories without losing flavor. At times the slender chefs come across as a bit patronizing. I don't, for example, think it's necessary to use air quotes when employing the word caramelize. I also get a little annoyed when they use the adjectives "right" and "wrong" to describe the women's food choices. The strange tag team cooking of the slender chefs, the contrived girlfriend vibe, and the overuse of "amazing" and "unbelievable" at the six week check-up all annoy me. And yet, for all this petty complaining, I am definitely a fan of the show. I think as the series continues, the slender chefs will get more comfortable and real on camera. Bottom line is that the food looks really delicious and flavorful, and many of the recipes are intriguing. I love seeing the women at the end when they have dropped a dress size (often two) by cooking themselves thin. I even think it would be fun to form a Cook Yourself Thin club to try some of them. As an added bonus for Top Chefanatics, one of the slender chefs is Candice, who was the culinary student cheftestant whom the deliciously arrogant sommelier Stephen mocked for her heart-shaped food presentation. I always remember how much I enjoyed it when Candice gave Stephen the what's what at the reunion show.

So, there you go, a recent history of my good intentions. I'm not ashamed that I am blogging about weight loss and contemplating a snack while my hubby is at the YMCA.** I feel fortunate to have plenty of food in my pantry and fridge and, more than that, fortunate to possess an abundance of passions, interests, and good intentions.

Food for thought? Please share in the comments.

*I was tempted to use the word "obsessions" but if I were obsessed with losing weight, I would have, you know, lost more weight. For the record though, it was a long time coming, but I have lost my baby weight and am now working on the ten or so pounds I gained before becoming pregnant with Little Bit.
**After all, if I were at the YMCA, no one would be here with our kids.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

These are the days . . .

Parents of young children are often warned, by parents of grown children, that time flies. I've heard "They grow up so fast" so many times, and I know that it is true, even though on some particularly long days, I have moments when I wish they could grow up a little faster. Years ago, before I had kids, I was talking to a friend's mother, who told me, "I wish I would have enjoyed my kids more." This woman is a great mom, and I'm sure she did enjoy her kids, but I imagine most parents of grown children still end up feeling some version of "I wish I would have enjoyed my kids more."

Here are some things I will miss when my boys are grown up and that I try not to take for granted now (NTB an understood for each):
* the joy I feel when they make each other laugh
* the way they touch and wrestle with each other, almost like playful puppies
* how sweet they look and smell after bathtime with their hair wet and brushed, their jammies on, and their skin smelling like baby lotion
* the way Little Bit looks these days as he experiments with finger foods -- bananas crusted in his hair and eyebrows, pants covered with morsels that did not make it into his mouth
* Bub's enthusiastic descriptions of what he and his imaginary friends are up to, his eagerness to go to school, his hopeful sense that all other kids are potential friends
* how darn cute Bub looks when he runs around the house in his big boy pants
* how often and how easily Little Bit smiles, the funny little hop/crawl thing he has going on right now, how proud he is when he climbs up on to his little chair (even though he does not know how to get down without hurting himself)
* the moments when Bub will tell me, unsolicited, "I love you, mommy."
* the fact that Little Bit loves me so much that he wants to be awake and hanging out with me almost all day and a couple of times at night too!
* the fact that Bub still likes to be rocked some nights before bed -- some nights I am tired and wanting bedtime to be over so I clean up, blog, watch television, or check facebook, but as I sit rocking him, I think, "Ten years from now, five years from now, maybe even one year from now, you will give anything to have this boy wanting you to rock him." Then, I squeeze him a little tighter.
* the moment when Little Bit finishes eating before bed and passes out on the boppy, looking so peaceful
* seeing Little Bit asleep on the video monitor with his little behind up in the air
* having a snack with Bub, often a soft pretzel, during Little Bit's morning nap -- "We can share it, mom!"
* the fact that I can dress them in matching outfits and neither complains
* the wet kisses Little Bit now gives
* the way Bub trots back from "storytime" at church with a huge smile on his face

This list could go on and on. There are hundreds more things I want to remember, and I hope I do remember them.

Mostly though, I want to remember to enjoy my kids.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What's the name of the game?

This post is a mixed bag. I want to know some things and hope you can help me. I have a few things I want you to know.

Talking Points: What I Want To Know

1. Space bags. Those bags you fill with stuff you want to store, like clothes and comforters and stuff, and then suck all the air out of them . . . have you seen them? Have you used them? Would you recommend them?

2. How do you prepare turnips? Let me fast forward to the answer I want on this one. I want to know if I can just wash them, cut them in large pieces and roast them in the oven? Can I? Do tell.

3. How do I know what wattage my microwave is?

4. Do you truly consider 1/2 cup to be a legitimate serving size for ice cream?

5. Have you tried Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred? (question possibly related to question 4) 5a. Are you watching The Biggest Loser this season? 5b. If so, do you have a favorite? I've been thinking Mikey (though would have loved to see Kristen hang in there), but I am way over Ron.

6. What chocolate chip cookie recipe do you use? I've been trying a bunch this year but don't have a definitive winner yet (but no real losers either).

7. Should I Twitter or will it take over my life?

8. Do you know about Cake Wrecks? So, so funny. I learned about the Cake Wrecks blog from my friend E. . .

Talking Points: What I Want You To Know

1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is fantastic. It's a novel told in stories, and I loved the characters and the way their stories, especially Olive's, unfolded. I'm not going to say much about it because it just won the Pulitzer Prize, which means there are plenty of people taking the time to write thoughtfully and eloquently about it.

2. You can download the "Hot Dog!" song on itunes. It's performed by They Might Be Giants, which I did not know until yesterday and makes me like the catchy tune all the more.

3. Bub's favorite song is not "Hot Dog!"--though he loves that one and Minnie Mouse--but "Boom Boom Pow" by Black-Eyed Peas, which he calls "Get, get, get." He told me at the park last week, "You're so two thousand and late."

4. There are two new healthy lifestyle/weight loss shows on right now. I've caught the first few episodes of I Want to Save Your Life on We and liked it. The show's "diet detective" seems like a really kind, positive good guy. I am DVR-ing Cook Yourself Thin on Lifetime. I'll let you know what I think about it.

5. The title of this post comes from an Abba song.

6. I am now declaring 30 Rock my favorite show. It's even funnier than The Office, though I still love The Office. Phyllis and Pam in matching purple gingham shirts, trendy sweaters and capri pants? Love is in the details.

7. I've never seen Star Wars and don't plan to, but I wish you all a Happy Star Wars Day!

8. If you order something from the Land's End catalog, you will begin receiving emails from Land's End on an almost daily basis. All the free shipping offers you need, baby.

Discuss amongst yourselves by leaving a comment. Pretty please.
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