Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bye for Now

Hey, you all! Taking a little blogging break for a bit. Sorry! I'll be back later. If you need me, e-mail me. Or leave a comment here; it will get to me. Thx!

To 'Anonymous'

Dear 'Anonymous,'

If you read this blog and prefer to leave unkind comments about it, at least have the nerve to sign your name. And as for "Always, ALWAYS..." please see:

Nothing At All About Underwear

Who Doesn't Need a Laugh About Underwear?

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Whole-Grain Cranberry-Coconut-Flax Muffins

Second Book

And that's just within the past nine days!

Oh, Anonymous. You're so silly! You have a very interesting definition of "always."

Is Anyone Still Out There?

I realize I am really lying down on the job here, and I wonder if anyone is still sticking with me out there. I just haven't had much time to write recently. We had this giant snowstorm, see. And it closed school for one day and part of the next. And then Genevieve started a new gymnastics class. (Can you call a bunch of preschoolers rolling on mats and marching around the gym making choo-choo noises 'gymnastics'? I don't know, but it's pretty cute.) And more ridiculous shenanigans are going on at my freelance job, where apparently a pack of monkeys runs the show. And my hair keeps falling out! Dangit, I'm tired of the falling-out hair. TIRED OF IT. And no, no one can blame it on weight loss anymore, because the only weight change I've been engaged in for a good six months is weight gain, thank you very much. (I blame it on snowstorms and packs of monkeys.)

And then my none-too-great day ended last evening by my beloved long run--the one I'd been waiting and waiting for all day--was aborted prematurely because somebody's crazy loose dog--an estimated adolescent black lab, not enormous but to a tiny runner like me plenty huge--charged me from behind, scared the living daylights out of me, and then continued to follow, chase, jump up on, and generally, well...DOG ME, as I gave up on running (it only made the dog charge me more), tried going this way and that to lose the dog with no luck, and finally walked a half mile home with the stupid dog still jumping on me, and fewer than half of my miles run. GAH! Here is where you picture me gashing my teeth and pulling at my own hair. (Hey! We can blame the hair-falling-out on the dog.)

I was all like, Seriously? Chased by a dog? That's how my day has to go? Really? Because it seems so....unnecessarily unpleasant.

And now I would like to know how YOU are doing. I sincerely hope no dogs have been chasing you on your runs. Let me know. I miss you.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nothing At All About Underwear

OK, that's probably long enough to keep poor Rita's post about her underwear--or, rather, my post about Rita's post about her underwear--at the top of my blog. Can we all thank Rita for writing about her underwear and making us laugh? Thank you, Rita. We appreciate your willingness to discuss your underthings with the world. But, onward.

There was no school today. A snowstorm began yesterday morning, and my part of the state got between 9 and 17 inches of snow. The girls were excited to stay home and play dress-up and make homemade granola bars and play in the snow. I didn't mind the snow as much as you might expect, probably because yesterday I got in a 7-mile run JUST before the snowstorm began. Seriously, I heard the storm was on its way, immediately changed my plans and got dressed to run right then, powered through 7 miles through dry air and bare pavement (because last week it was 50 degrees and the snow melted), and turned the corner onto my street to come home the minute the wind kicked up and the snow began to pour from the sky and it suddenly got very, very cold. I am not kidding you; it was like Mother Nature waited for me to get done before slapping my town with the most snow it's ever gotten at one time in February, ever. So I got my miles in, and I'm good for a day or two.

And hopefully you are too, because all this snow and all this running and all this no-school business has interfered with my material. Which is to say, I've got nothing for you.

Rita: any more stories about underwear for the nice people who read my blog?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who Doesn't Need a Laugh About Underwear?

Well, I don't have that much for you today. Might it be because I got approximately 11 seconds of sleep last night, due to a.) coughing child + b.) snoring husband? Yes, yes it might.

I could tell you about how I played Hangman with Genevieve the other day and got down to only one letter missing and everything I guessed that made an actual word was wrong, and yet she was clearly super-excited about her word choice and that I was not figuring it out. So then of course because it said M A _ I N E but "r" was not right and "x" was not right (not that she even knows the name Maxine or, come to think of it, the word marine), I had to eventually give up. And then she delightedly added a Z and squealed, "It was MAGAZINE, Mama! You didn't even know I knew how to write the word 'magazine'!" And it was the cutest thing ever. And no, I didn't say anything other than, "Wow, sweets, no I sure did not! That was amazing!"

Or I could tell you how, while doing art yesterday, Genevieve said to me, "I don't want to have a baby, ever. Well maybe I want a baby but I don't want to have a baby." And since I knew she was talking about how childbirth hurts, I told her she could always adopt. So then she said, "Maybe I will have a friend, who is a lady, and she will have a baby, but then she will decide she does not want the baby, so I will take the baby and it will be my baby. Because otherwise it would just cry and cry in the morning and no one would go to it." And I was like, Um, this conversation is way too serious to be having while making collage art out of Snoopy stickers.

But since that's about all I have, I recommend you go over here and read this HILARIOUS story from Rita. Rita is a fellow mom and blogger, and I count her as a friend even though we've never met, because she makes me laugh and says nice things and writes great posts about her adorable children and life in Oklahoma City, where she is trying to convince me to move. Which, you know, I totally would, if I could get the house on the other side of hers, the side not currently occupied by Susan. But that's really neither here nor there. Just go read Rita's story about underwear. I promise it'll give you a laugh and make your day infinitely better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Whole-Grain Cranberry-Coconut-Flax Muffins

Would you like to make these beauties? Maybe even today? Here you go:

Whole-Grain Cranberry-Coconut-Flax Muffins
makes 12

1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk mixed with 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt, OR 1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whole oats
1 cup white all-purpose flour
2 T. ground flaxseed, with whole-wheat flour added to make 1 cup total (does that make sense?)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with papers or grease muffin tin cups.

In a large bowl, beat egg, then add oil, milk/yogurt or buttermilk, brown sugar, and whole oats. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix white flour, whole-wheat flour mixed with ground flaxseed, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix well.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir to combine, but don't overmix. Stop when flour is incorporated. Add cranberries and coconut.

Spoon into muffin tin. Bake about 15 minutes, watching carefully so as not to overbake. Muffins should be golden brown on top with a crisp top, and a toothpick inserted into a muffin should come out almost clean or clean. Let rest 5 minutes in pan if muffins aren't in paper liners; otherwise remove immediately onto wire rack. Cool completely before storing or freezing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Next Year for Sure.

So yesterday I planned all day to make a heart-shaped meatloaf for Valentine's Day dinner. I was pretty proud of myself for even thinking of it. I often cook early in the day to get things ready for dinner in advance since the after-school hours get pretty crazy at times, but I didn't have time yesterday to do anything ahead of time. Which meant that, when I opened my ground turkey package and found that it was spoiled, it was an hour before dinner and there went my clever Valentine's idea.

So I made a last-minute fallback casserole. You can't make casseroles heart-shaped. Valentine's Day dinner FAIL.

Oh well--it's the thought that counts, right?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Second Book

You guys! I'm so excited. I got my author's galley copy of Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood in the mail on Friday. (Do you all remember how ecstatic I was the first time I got published in a book, and that book came in the mail?) The rest of you will have to wait until May 1st to see it, but you can pre-order it on right now, remember (click on the book image over there on my left sidebar).

So, yes--I have an essay in this new book. It's called, "Is Never Good For You?" and the title is a nod to my all-time favorite New Yorker cartoon. But really it's about how crazy my life was when my daughters were two and four, and how I had to set priorities and let some things slide.

It's funny to read it now, because my girls are now four and six (sometimes it takes a long time to get something published), and in child-raising terms that kind of age change feels like about a million years. Well, in some ways at least.

In other news, it's finally above freezing in my town. Hooray! But, there's a High Wind Advisory. Because the weather CANNOT be undramatic where I live. Ever. Also, totally unrelatedly, I accidentally shrunk my favorite shirt in the dryer. Boo. So that's what else is going on.

Happy Valentine's Day, you all! Go order yourself a new book, why don't you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

From the Ugly But Tastes Good Bakery

Today I decided to make some Valentine's Day candies that I'd seen in Parents magazine with Genevieve. The recipe had easy ingredients, and they looked so pretty:

soooooo pretty....

Um, yeah, well...MY Valentine's mints have a bit more character, shall we say?

First I had serious trouble with the sizing:

It's complicated.

And you notice that most of them don't even show all three colors:

Genevieve was unconcerned:

Toward the end I finally got my uniform sizing more or less figured out:

But they were my last nine pieces so it was a classic case of too little, too late.

Consider this your warning, that if you get some Valentine's treats delivered to your door sometime between now and next Monday, they may be a bit lacking in beauty. But they do taste good.

Oh, and also? Remind me next year to maybe not make homemade Valentine's candies.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Forty is the New Thirty-Two.

So I suppose you're all wondering how I feel, now that I'm forty. Forty doesn't feel all that different from 39, to tell you the truth. This may be because, in my mind, I'm still 39. And I always will be. No, no, I'm joking. People have been telling me all week that your forties are supposedly awesome. I hear Oprah says you haven't even truly arrived in your life until your forties. If that's the case, now that I'm here, I expect to be greeted with someone to carry my bags and maybe a nice little mini-bar. Or at the very least, a cold Diet Coke.

No, no, no--actually, I prefer to focus on the pronouncement my friend Kathy made to me the other day, the day that I found out I am FIVE WHOLE YEARS OLDER than she is despite the fact that our daughters are the same ages, and then had a heart attack when I realized that by the time she finally turns 40, I will be FORTY-FIVE. I realize that is simple math and should not constitute a major realization. However, I just about fainted at the time. Thankfully, Kathy told me that I'm so hip, in shape, and rocking the whole nonstop-active-mom gig that I seem more like, say, 32.

So there you have it. Forty is the new 32. My mantra for the entire year. Just go with it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Don't Forget to Dance.

This morning on Facebook a former high-school classmate, someone I haven't seen in over 20 years, sent me this video as a Happy Birthday wish. If this isn't one of the greatest birthday gestures ever, I don't know what is. Watch and be prepared to be amazed, delighted, and for some reason probably teary-eyed, too. And allow it to remind you to enjoy life! Even if you're 40. Like me.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Run-Up to Valentine's Day

Needless to say, four- and six-year-old children love making heart cut-out cookies decorated with pink icing and Valentine's sprinkles. Just in case you need an idea for what to do with your kids during all this cold and snow.


This is my last day of being 39 years old. (Or so you think.) I'm going to milk it for all it's worth, people. After all, I'm still young! So--quick, before I turn old, these are the things I should probably do:
  • sky-dive
  • have a third baby
  • stay up really, really late
  • backpack through Europe
  • learn another language
  • run a marathon
  • take more calcium to build up my bone reserves
  • wear a bikini
Do you think I can get all that done in one day? Hmmm. Maybe I should have planned a little better.

Friday, February 04, 2011

You Know You Want Her Hair. You KNOW You Do!

Hey, you all, guess what? The love of my life is going to be performing at the Oscars. I'm going to pretend she is singing directly to me. Right through the TV.

My 2nd Annual 39th Birthday is Coming Up.

Not to frighten you into avoiding me or anything, but this is the time of year when I sort of start wanting to smack people. I mean, not random people; and not people who don't deserve it. I just mean, listen: I've been holed up inside 90% of the time since that one day in November when BAM! it suddenly turned from fall into FULL-ON MINNESOTA WINTER, and most of that time I've been holed up inside with two small children, and most of THAT time I've been holed up inside with two small children with no other adult conversation or stimulation or distraction. And OMG the ice and the windchill and the freaking freezing bus stop and the slush and sand and dirt tracked into the house and onto the rugs from the disgusting winter boots that I then have to clean up ten times a day OMG kill me now.

In other words, it's not the best time to bother me in any way.

How does that differ from any other time of year, you ask? Ha! I appreciate your humor.

It's really not the best time of year to flake out on a volunteer responsibility you signed up to do, thus sticking me with all your work, even though I'M JUST AS BUSY AND INCONVENIENCED BY SATURDAY VOLUNTEER RESPONSIBILITIES AS YOU. For example.

Anyway! What I started to say was, by early February the winter-doldrums-syndrome that is very common in the northern United States--due to the extreme cold and the dark and the way winter feels like it's out to kill you sometimes--is generally at its peak for most of us, including me, and so I'm sort of torn about having my birthday at this time of year. Because on the one hand, you say, How fun! You get to have your birthday in the dead drear of winter, to liven things up and have something cheery going on! And there's cake! And yes, that's true. But on the other hand there's always, Do I really want to TURN 40 in the dead drear of mid-winter when I already feel like smacking someone? No, no I do not.

So. That's how it is. I am trying to take the former, cheery approach to having a birthday in early February. But just be warned that I'm THISCLOSE to smacking someone. Just give me a cupcake if you need to distract me.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I Need New Pants.

For example, this is the wrong color. I know! I'm very demanding.

So you know how it's next to impossible to find the perfect-fitting pants, and then when you do, the company never fails to CHANGE THEIR STYLES COMPLETELY in the time it takes you to fall in love with the pants you so happily found and decide you need another pair? Or, as for me, in the time (six years maybe?) it took me to have a couple babies, nurse them, wean them, become a runner again, lose ten or twelve pounds (beyond the baby weight, I mean), and thus need a new pair of perfect chinos?

Yeah, that happened to me, with my Gap Classic Chinos. So now I am on a quest to find myself a new pair of chinos. Except I'm picky. They have to, you know, fit. And they have to be that pale, stone/natural color, not tan or olive. Plus they have to flatter my relatively-unusual (?) body, which is petite (only 5'3"), slim (*size 4 maybe? sometimes 2 if I'm not gorging myself on Christmas cookies or chocolate-covered peanuts in a flurry of winter-related misery? but, you know--no guarantee on that), and yet super curvy. Yes, you all. You can be slim but curvy. A ten-to-eleven-inch difference between waist and hip measurements is curvy.

So anyway! Go on over to Susan Wagner's style blog and leave me a recommendation for the perfect chinos. For a short, cranky, curvy runner girl like me who only likes one chino color. K, thanks.

[*Edited to add: Someday let's talk a little bit about how the size that you wear now, in 2011, is one that would have been labelled, oh, two or so sizes larger not all that long ago. Did you know about this? Because people, yes--I am a small person; but believe me, ten years ago this size body would not have fit into a size-4 chino--or any other piece of clothing--let alone the occasional 2. Ridiculous.]

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

OK, this time I'm really cooking, not just throwing pantry ingredients into a bowl. The other day a friend of mine sent me an online recipe for homemade chewy granola bars. The girls and I made them last Friday on a school-vacation day. I altered the recipe a bit, and this is what I came up with. They were a huge success with my daughters and husband--and I think they're pretty tasty too. Listen: wouldn't it be great to have chewy granola bars on hand that don't live inside a foil wrapper with a long list of questionable ingredients printed on the side? Well, now you can.

Shannon's Homemade Chewy Granola Bars
makes 24

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup to 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (to taste)
1/2 cup roasted salted sunflower seed kernels

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan. In a LARGE bowl, mix all ingredients except dried fruit and sunflower seeds. When well-combined, add in raisins or dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.

Press VERY FIRMLY into the pan. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and, with the back of a large spatula, press the baked mixture more firmly into the pan. Let rest 10 minutes. Cut into 24 bars. Let cool completely in the pan before removing the bars from pan.

Store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and/or in a well-sealed Tupperware container.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Welcome, February

Homemade Valentine's centerpieces

It's only a week till my birthday, you all! Get ready to help me celebrate being officially middle-aged.