Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baking with Kids - "Those Darn Cookies"

Today my daughter and I made one of my mom's recipes, "Darn cookies!" You got it, because they're so darn good! And simple to make too! I have to admit that we actually call them something else when the kids aren't around :-)

Yes, it's true, I totally went ahead and chose a recipe that I was very familiar with to share first, and I am ok with that.


1 1/2 sleeves of Saltine Crackers

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup butter

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nuts, today we chose walnuts

Here's What You do

Pre-heat oven to 350

Line entire cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with Pam.

Lay out Saltines, completely covering bottom of pan.

Cook sugar and butter for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly (on a low to medium heat) until caramel colored. Do not let it boil over.

Pour hot sugar over crackers. Then spread  butter and brown sugar mixture over the crackers with a spatula. Bake at 350 for 4-5 minutes. tip...bake on top rack and keep a close eye.

Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top of hot crackers.

Return to oven for an additional 4-5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate.

Sprinkle with nuts (optional).

Place the tray in fridge to cool. Once the cookies set, you can either just break them up by hand or cut neatly into squares with a butter knife.

My daughter and I made these cookies a couple weeks ago to bring to a party at her school. We didn't make them with nuts then, but decided to "mix it up a little" today (as my daughter says) and sprinkled walnuts on top. They taste delicious both ways, but I think they look prettier with the nuts on top.


Adventures in Baking

One of the things that I enjoy most is sharing quality time baking with my daughter, so I was very excited, back in August, when my mother gave me three of her Gooseberry Patch Holiday cookbooks. I can't help it, I take comfort in reading cookbooks. I just love them!

My daughter and I went through all of them together right away and began flagging the pages of both the sweet and savory recipes that we thought would be fun to try together.

Just going through the books together, in itself, was great fun. I had some of those post-it flags, that she calls staffs... (she thinks they look like a Shepherds staff). As we went through the books, my daughter placed a "staff" on all of the pages containing recipes that looked good to us. We used pink and yellow for the sweets and blue to mark the savory dishes.

When my daughter and I bake together we make very simple, yet delicious treats. The recipes made from scratch are also very simple and most of them have been passed along by family members. I also have some favorites from the Food Network stars.

When we make cakes, cupcakes, brownies and muffins, I typically use a store bought mix, but then dress the recipe up a little or just have fun decorating. For instance, just a couple of weeks ago we made a boxed brownie mix, but then my daughter lined Reese's Peanut Butter cups, up and down the pan, after I poured the brownie mix in it. It was delicious! Another time we made store boxed cupcakes but then "mixed it up a little," like my daughter says, and decorated them with M&M's.

I made sure that all the recipes we flagged from the Gooseberry Patch books were simple. Well, they looked simple. This is going to be an adventure but one that I would like to share with you! I hope that you will try some of the recipes that I share, both new and old.  I hope that you enjoy the old ones and that we both enjoy the new ones too!!!

There is a comments section on my blog, so if any of the recipes look good to you, and you end up trying them out, I would love any feedback that you have. Also, if you have any simple recipes that you would like to share with me, I'd love to try them too.

So as not to make this a super long post, I am going to share today's adventure in a separate entry.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Am Wherever You Are

I have been operating way outside my comfort zone lately and it has me all out of sorts. I hate feeling this way.  I am mostly unbelievably happy and optimistic about my blog, but sometimes I'm riddled with doubt.

I find this emotional rollercoaster that I'm on has me feeling a little off-kilter. We were at a party this weekend and although I was having a great time, I still sometimes feel a little uncomfortable when there's a lot of people around, mainly when there's a lot of people that I don't know well or haven't seen in a while. Unfortunately for me, and anyone standing next to me, when I feel uncomfortable, you just can't shut me up. I do not stop talking. I'm always thinking, "hmm, what can I talk about next?" and I talk and talk and talk and then start to feel uncomfortable by the fact that I'm talking so much.

I had to remove myself and my nervous chatter from the party for a couple minutes and went back to my apartment alone. I sat on the couch staring at the book that I have displayed on the mantle in our living room. It's called, I am Wherever You Are, (In the light of loss, paintings by N.A. Noel). It's a beautiful book that was given to me by a close friend a few weeks after Isabel was delivered. The paintings and poems still move me to tears.

I had received the package while headed out one day to a follow up visit at my OB/GYN's. When I arrived at my Dr's office, I was left sitting there in the waiting room, surrounded by all of these pregnant women for what seemed like an eternity. It was a difficult time. I was still carrying an extra 30 lbs and looked like I had just had a baby, but I had no baby to hold. My body didn't realize that my baby had died so I was still producing milk, but had no baby to feed. I didn't know what to do with myself around all of these pregnant women, so I decided to open up the package I was sent, and once I did, I saw this beautiful book sent to comfort me and I began reading the excerpts.

"It is not always ours to understand why morning passes to midnight without full chance of day. But in the darkest hours, the light you were given, however briefly, will shine above you...in the stars and in the eyes of an angel". - P.S. Points

and then

"The sweet Angels take us to peace, never fear, quietly, lovingly, the Angels come." - Marshall Stewart Ball

and then

"The time may be delayed, the manner may be unexpected, but the answer is sure to come.  Not a tear of sacred sorrow, not a breath of holy desire, poured out to God will ever be lost, but in God's own time and way will be wafted back again in clouds of mercy, and fall in showers of blessings on you, and on those for whom you pray." - Saint Therese

I was moved to tears and felt so comforted by these beautiful poems and paintings. I also felt comforted and loved and understood by my friend. The book was a perfect gift and one I will treasure for the rest of my life.

It's been two years, and naturally as time passes, the sting of it all eases. The birth of my son has brought us all great joy. I don't know who I would be now if he were not here with me. I am so grateful for him.

Still, there are times when I get these waves of intense grief. The other day someone announced that a little baby girl was born and I got all choked up. This morning at kickboxing Sarah McLaughlin's song Angel was playing during abs and I got all teary again.

"It's gonna be ok Mommy," was what my then, 2 year old daughter, said to me one day soon after Isabel's delivery. I had been resting in bed and she came into the room to see me.  I was so sad and here my amazing little girl was comforting me. 

And she was right...it's gonna be ok. Because, although there are still days like today, where I think of Isabel and feel a little sad, I know that I am blessed.

I am blessed in that, it is on most days, whether at the park with my daughter and son, or reading to them and mostly in times when we are just sitting still, and one or both of them are on my lap, that I am overwhelmed with feelings of profound joy and love and gratitude.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Add it to Your List

The kids and I spend a lot of time in Barnes & Noble. Partly because it's something to do, but mostly because I love to buy books. All kinds of books. I buy a lot of children's books and since having kids, mostly non-fiction for me. I read a lot of books on child rearing, books on politics and above all else, I love cookbooks. My love of food and cooking will be a common theme in my blogs. Lately though, I've been keeping the Dummies books in business: Blogging for Dummies, How to Get Published for Dummies, Search Engine Optimization for Dummies...you get the picture.

I also buy a lot of books from Amazon.com, as I find filling my electronic shopping cart up highly enjoyable!  But there's just something very comforting to me in walking into any bookstore and walking out with a book that I get to take home and read, or at least flip through, right away.

On one of our recent outings to B&N, my daughter was eyeing a couple of those stuffed toys that they sell. This time she wanted Ho Ho and Tolee from that cartoon, Ni Hao, Kai-Lan.

I said no to the toys that day but told her that she could add them to her list for Santa. She was upset and also worried that by the time Christmas came around, there would be none left in the store for Santa to buy for her. I wanted a quick end to the conversation, so I told her not to worry about it and that I'd send Santa an e-mail as soon as we got home.

I wasn't expecting the sudden look of excitement and happiness that spread all over her face....."You're friends with Santa?!!!" I've never seen anyone so impressed with me than in that moment.

Side note... although I tell her to put things she wants on her list for Santa, I am clear about the fact that Santa does not buy everything on the list. That being said, in this instance, I felt compelled to come through with Ho Ho and Tolee.

So, I went back to the store while she was at school one day and was really excited that there were some left. I picked them up and thought how great it was going to be that she'd think that Santa made a special trip to the bookstore just for her, all because of an e-mail from her mommy. I knew there wasn't going to be time to drop the bag off at home before pick-up, so I thought that a clever thing to do would be to pick up a small book to give her that day. This way there wouldn't be a lot of questions as to the contents of the bag.

She WAS super excited about the book. We had errands to run so I threw it back in the bag.
Our first stop was lunch and then the hair salon (we both needed haircuts) and I didn't give the book another thought. We get to the salon and as I'm sitting there in the chair, I suddenly hear, "OOOOOOH, Mommy, thank you so much!" I turned around to see my daughter holding Tolee in one hand and Ho Ho in the other.

She had discovered the toys while going into the bag, to take out the book, that I so cleverly bought for her that day.

Deep sigh.


What time is it?

"Mommy, what time is it?"

It's 6:39(am) honey.

"Wow!"..."That's A LOT!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cool Find - The Zoo

I thought that from time to time, instead of my usual blogposts, it would fun to share product recommendations, recipes, and maybe some photos too. 

In this blog post, I want to share a cool product that I found on the internet. We bought it about 1 1/2 years ago. It's a unique stuffed toy storage unit called The Zoo.

Due to my daughters love of stuffed toys, our place was beginning to look as if Noah had unleashed the contents of his Ark all over every single room in our apartment!

I started surfing the web for a solution to our stuffed toy clutter problem and stumbled upon the Zoo.

It's worked out really well for us. It was pretty easy to put together, a.k.a. there were no tears shed or expletives unleashed during assembly . We haven't had any accidents, a.k.a. my son hasn't pulled it down on top of himself. You can actually fasten it to the wall but we haven't had to do that.

The only down side is that when you over stuff it, as you obviously aren't supposed to do, but we do anyway, some of the animals fall out of the back. Another downside to overstuffing is that the kids definitely have a harder time getting the animals out themselves. I guess though, with proper use, we wouldn't have these problems.

I've provided a link so you can check it out.

Do you have any cool products that you would like to recommend?

The Zoo by Beaver Works Inc. Your playroom storage solution!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are You Decent?

Tonight my sister and I took the kids out to dinner. We planned on her coming back to the apartment with us afterwards to hang out for a while before she made her way home.

We're halfway up the stairs to the 3rd floor walk-up, my sister leading the way, when she suddenly turns to me and asks...

"Does Stephen know I'm coming over?"

Yes....Well, I think so....Well, I'm not sure if I told him.

Without a moment of hesitation, my daughter whizzed by my sister up the stairs and shouted in our hallway....

"Daddy put your pants on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Penny for Your Thoughts

Stephen and our little guy were having the best time playing the other day.

Stephen was really enjoying the interaction they had going on together. He was making funny faces and the baby was sticking out his tongue and babbling happily. He doesn't have a very extensive vocabulary. Our son I mean, not Stephen (ha, ha, ha). He says mama and bye, hello and bath, cheese and shoes. But, Stephen swears he hears him say, I love you daddy.

Stephen was overjoyed at how amused the baby was by the funny faces he was making. The baby kept sticking out his tongue and saying aaah. This happened over and over again. The more the baby stuck out his tongue and said aaah, the happier Stephen became... "My son and I are bonding!"... "I am the funniest daddy in the world!"

There Stephen was imagining again that his amused little fan was saying, aaah love you daddy!

But soon Stephen realized that the baby wasn't saying, aaah love you daddy at all.

Our little guy was simply, and very proudly, showing Stephen the penny he had placed on his tongue.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go Ask Daddy

"Mommy, how do they put babies in your belly after you get married?"


"How do they put babies in your belly after you get married?  How do they?"

I don't know... Go ask daddy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Party of One

I woke up this morning feeling awful. My hands were swollen and tingling from all of the sodium I had consumed the night before. We had taken the kids out to dinner to celebrate our daughters first week back at school. There is a meatball pizza at one of the Italian restaurants in town that both kids just love, so we chose that restaurant to celebrate in.  I go to Weight Watchers and follow their points system and made wise choices during the day so I could enjoy dinner. I chose the scungilli salad as an appetizer and the linguini with clam sauce as my entree. I had stayed within my daily points allotment and was feeling good.

We got home from our "night out" by 6:30 and I was feeling a little down that our big night out was over already. Stephen had plans to hang out with his cousin and my sister was out with a friend, so it was just going to be me and the kids. My son fell asleep right away and my daughter was asleep by 8:30. I started feeling really lonely, so I decided to go into the kitchen to look for a snack.

I looked in the fridge and saw the turkey pepperoni I had bought the day before. I had been craving pepperoni pizza and figured I'd buy the turkey pepperoni, to get the taste I'd been wanting. I wasn't sure if I should go for it though, because although it is a point friendly choice, it's jam-packed with sodium; 640mg per serving to be exact. That's a lot of sodium and I retain water easily.

I couldn't resist. So, I took a couple of pieces and thought, "Wow! This is great, I'm going to have a few more."... "Hmmm, how many slices are in a serving? Ooh, there's 17, right, I'll count out 17."... "Mmm, that was good!" "I bet this pepperoni would taste really good as a sandwich, I'll grab one of my sandwich thins and put it on that."... "Mmm, that was so good. I could really go for another."... "No, I'm not making another pepperoni sandwich. That would be piggy."... "I'll just grab a couple more slices."... "These pepperoni slices are really thin, I wonder how they'll taste if I stack them?".... "They taste really good, I'll just have one more stack."

And I had one more stack and one more stack until 3,840mg of sodium later, I had devoured the whole package.

Party of ONE.

Serving size...SIX.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Awakening

My daughter drinks chocolate milk every single day, and every single day as I prepare her milk, my son stands next to me watching me prepare it and cries for some of his own. 

Every single day I breath a deep sigh, as I feel sorry for the little guy, and begin to make a cup for him as well .

It's not that I don't think he should be drinking the chocolate milk. It's Ovaltine so it's packed with Vitamins and to be perfectly honest, I really wouldn't care if it were plain chocolate syrup.

It's the fact that every single day when I give him chocolate milk in a sippy cup he manages to get it all over himself, all over the kitchen floor, all over the living room rug. If I hand it to him while sitting down, soon I see that it's all over the leather couch. It doesn't matter which cup it is. Every single cup we've bought leaks.

Every single day I wonder how the heck he manages to do this and every single day while preparing his milk I think to myself," I hope the cup doesn't leak again this time." "What is it with all of these cups?" "I cannot believe that we don't have one cup in this house that doesn't leak!" "Maybe my daughter's princess cup will be ok?" "Let me check the little plastic insert to make sure it's secure."

So, every single day I check the plastic insert on the chosen cup and I press down on it really really hard, in an attempt to fit it in there tight, and I think, "that should do it". But it doesn't do it and every single day I feel like I got ripped off.

Until today.

It was today that I realized, or to be more specific, witnessed, that it's not the little clear cup we bought by Playskool, or the Dora Explorer from Munchkin, it's not his Cars cup from First Years or the personalized cup we picked out for him at Toys R Us. It was today that I turned around, saw him take a big swig of milk from his sippy, swish it around in his mouth and spit it out.

This is not a wine tasting.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taking the plunge and the anxiety that goes along with it

No, this is not about my wedding day, when Pachebel's Canon in D started to play and it was time for me to walk down the aisle and I completely started to panic. It's not about how I was standing there in front of Stephen and the priest and everyone else in the church scared to death. It's not about the rapid breathing and the scare I put Stephen through, thinking I was going to faint, or worse, sprint! It's not about our priest standing there with both hands up, palms facing me, slowly easing them up and down in an attempt to get me to calm down. This is another story.

This is about how yesterday I announced on my FB that I had started Stay At Home Mommy Daze. I had been thinking about what I wanted to blog about for a while and finally mustered up the courage to go ahead and start my blog. The days went on and I wrote and re-wrote and fixed up my blog page as best as I could. I e-mailed my Mommy Blogging friends with lots of questions, picking their very smart brains, in hopes of making this blog the best that I could.

Then, the realization set in that it is was not enough to start the blog, the time had come to actually tell people that I had it. Yikes! I knew it was going to take a lot more courage than I had at the moment so I went into the kitchen to summon the help of my good friend, Pinot Grigio, and he nudged me along.

I did it! And friends read and responded with great support and well wishes and I was so happy. I felt so good. I read through the comments. They can't wait to read more! They can't wait to read more every day! Every day! Every day. EVERY DAY?!!!! What did I get myself in to? What if I can't pull it off? What if I fail? What was I thinking?!!!! So, I panicked through The Biggest Loser, I panicked through Jay Leno, then Chelsea Lately, then the repeat of Top-Chef. I shut the TV off and lied in bed panicking until about 3am. Yes, that's exactly how I roll.

So I've decided to set small attainable, not so scary goals for myself and I will update my blog at least once a week. Small, manageable goals to ease my ever so active, thought juggling, sleep depriving mind.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Railing

Stephen and I took the kids to an Italian festival this Sunday. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect. A fantastic day to hang out by the water.
I love going to Italian feasts. I remember going with my parents, aunts and cousins as a kid. I remember my mom buying me a "Proud to Be an Italian" shirt at one of them when I was a little girl and absolutely loving it. It was a black t-shirt with one of those iron-on decals. Naturally, it featured an Italian flag and the words were written in silver. The decal sparkled. I wore that shirt until the iron-on decal came off in the wash. I had another favorite shirt at that time too...The Dukes of Hazzard, as I had a big crush on Bo Duke, but that's another story.

Anyhow, I am overjoyed that my daughter has inherited my love of the Italian feast.

This Sunday we started out at the vendors to buy something to eat. We then found the perfect spot at a table right on the water to enjoy our food and drinks. The slice of pizza that the kids shared was finished and our daughter was ready to go and play some games and enjoy the rides. I asked my husband to stay behind with our son so he could save the table for us. That's another thing about me. When we go to these festivals, I always like a "home-base" if you will, so we can sit back, relax and enjoy the day.

As my daughter and I were leaving the table area I reminded Stephen to keep a close eye on our son, as he is a sweet little boy who is also filled with mischief. I looked at the rail separating my little son and the River and sensed that he needed to be watched carefully. My husband scoffed a little but said he'd keep a close eye.

Don't you know that when we returned from playing games and going on rides, my husband told me that our little Chunk-A-Bunk actually got down on the ground, laid down on his back, and then tried unsuccessfully (thank God), to shimmy his little body, feet first, under the rail, and into the River!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who is that woman staring back at me?

Ever look in the mirror and feel like you don't even recognize your own face? That is what happened to me.

When I was growing up I was always outside running around playing some sort of sport. Started playing baseball as a kid, made Varsity softball as a freshman in High School and also played on my co-ed church team for years. Then I became sedentary.

I was always a huge music lover. My dad jokes that when I was a kid I used to shout out, "I love this song" after every single song that the DJ played on the radio. I began playing piano when I was five years old, and took up French horn and clarinet in High School. Now I hardly even listen to music. I don't even own an I-pod.

My children are everything to me and their world has become my world. Which is great and important but I began to realize that anytime anyone asked me what I had been up to, I immediately started telling them what my daughter was up to.

In between our daughter and son, I had a stillborn baby girl. Her name is Isabel. I will talk about her in another blog post but when she died, so did a part of me. So did a part of my husband. I was already someone who was afraid. There was always this little voice in my head saying, "don't do this or don't do that, you couldn't possibly pull it off, it's not going to work out" and then the unimaginable happened...something so terrible and unexpected and for two full years after her loss, I walked around wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.

I would look at photos taken of me after I had her and I'd notice how tired and sad my eyes were. I didn't want to look like that in my pictures so whenever anyone got ready to take a picture of me, I started opening up my eyes really really wide in hopes that the picture of me was going to be a good one. You can imagine how that worked out for me.

I am determined to get back to me. I want to feel good. I want my kids to be proud of me. I want to be the best mom that I can be. I started back at WW in February and in March started kickboxing 2-3 times a week. I've lost a significant amount of weight and am down to where I was back in High School. Kickboxing has been absolutely amazing for me both physically and mentally. I am finally active again.

I have always loved to write and was very impressed by friends who are mommy bloggers. I thought to myself, "Wow, that's so much fun, I would love to do that, but no, I couldn't possibly." And then I reminded myself that I have to stop being so afraid of everything. So, with a little encouragement and help from a friend, here I am.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Pretend Park

Pre-K 4 is starting soon and today we are scheduled to visit my daughter's classroom. I don't like to leave the apartment a mess so as I was doing dishes, I asked her to start picking up the toys she and her little brother had scattered all over the living room.

"But I'm at the park with my baby doll."

Ok, well if you're at the park with your baby doll, then I guess you can help out when you get back home.

She was completely confused by my lax acceptance of her refusal. And looking at me as if I must have lost my mind, she added, "You know, the pretend park."

Yes honey, I know that you're not really in the park.