Thursday, March 28, 2013

Girls Gone (not that kind of) Wild

So much going on here. First, this recipe--and the many other versions thereof, which I seem to see everywhere on the Internet right now--is haunting me, taunting me, and tempting me. I'm probably going to have to go ahead and just make the damn things. My husband is lobbying hard in favor.

Yesterday the girls and I got up close and personal with a 12-foot-long, 1,000-lb. alligator named Big Al.



I have never been so close to such a huge, deadly creature in all my life. There was merely a thin sheet of glass between us and Big Al. He slooooowly, in stages, crawled ALL THE WAY OVER to the glass in front of where we were standing, so that his nose touched the wall. He eyed us in a most disturbing way the entire time. The note on the zoo wall said that alligators eat deer, antelope, raccoons, etc., but that they are animals of opportunity and will eat anything that crosses their path if they can. I took that to mean, "If this glass wall wasn't between you and Big Al, you'd be inside his gullet right now."

YIKES.

The Reptile and Amphibian Zoo in Owatonna, MN, was awesome. It was almost deserted, so we got great views of everything, and it's small, so it was extremely kid-friendly. I can't say that I liked the snakes, however. Honestly: so many, many evil pythons and boas and vipers staring me in the face. Terrifying. Several of them, too, clearly wanted to eat us and appeared to be calculating potential ways to escape (of which I am convinced there are none; no worries).

Justin Bieber's snake was even at the Owatonna Reptile Zoo. For reals! I didn't get the whole back story. I was too busy chasing after children around display cases of reptiles to read the whole explanation. Maybe you can research it for me.

 that's him!

 In case it's not clear, this is a photo of Justin Bieber. No, he was not actually at the zoo.

Need a cute Easter craft? My friend Kathy sent me this link, and the girls and I made salt-dough spring ornaments for an Easter garland (not yet assembled). OK, so, I'm not a craft blogger, so ours don't look quite as lovely as the ones in the link, but check it:

making the salt dough shapes in advance


 the salt dough was simple to make, super smooth, and easy to work with 


 that's actually Genevieve wearing an old paint shirt that says 'Julia'




We had lots of fun with this springtime craft. It was easy, too (FYI, I rolled out my dough thicker than 1/4 inch, and they took a very long time to bake hard and solid--like six hours or something). Try it!

What else have we been up to? Getting three inches cut off our hair:


Reorganizing the playroom until we can afford to redo it with new big-girl desks and chairs and proper storage for non-toddlers:


I'm pretty happy with it for now. Sorry for the dark photos. It was a very sunny day.

Getting suckered by my girls into buying spring/Easter placemats at Target:


That sort of thing. Listen, I know I promised to talk about other things today too, but I'm out of time. Children home, you know. I'll be back, with stories of kids, clothes, (more) crafts, candy, and neon pink. Promise.

(p.s. still no stomach flu. dodged the bullet. can't believe it.)


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So Scared to Say it Out Loud.

What? It's Wednesday already?? Spring break is almost halfway over?! It's funny that, right before spring break, I was worried about having the kids home all day for ten days straight when we had so little planned. Here it is, Wednesday, and we've been perfectly busy and fine. Plenty of lazing around, but plenty of errands, haircuts, playdates, movies, etc. Today, for example, we are off to the Reptile Zoo in a nearby town. We've also done some great spring crafts. I'll tell you more about that soon, but for now I just wanted to pop on here and let you know that NO ONE ELSE CAUGHT THE STOMACH FLU. It's safe to say that now, right? OMG. It's truly a miracle and I'm still a little scared to say it out loud. Our school vacation has been preserved. We're not all lying around in misery nibbling on saltines and drinking ginger ale. I feel like I should do some sort of sacrificial offering to the correct god(s) right about now.

More soon, regarding salt-dough eggs, first sleepovers, spring clothes, Easter candy (it only appears once a year, after all! you have to eat it!), some new favorite blogs, and the pros and cons of neon-pink chino shorts from J. Crew Factory. We will discuss.

Oh, and p.s. It's still winter here, although the sun came out which makes everything better.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mom Style for Spring Break (When It's Not Very Spring-Like)

So let's say you want to wear your new spring skirt (an Old Navy steal, by the way, although I snagged it for even less than it's currently on sale for in that link) on the first Monday of spring break, when it's 25 degrees outside with snow on the ground. Because you are SO DONE with winter. You have no desire to pull on jeans and three shirts. You don't even want to put on leggings or tights. You just want to wear your new spring skirt. With bare legs.

So you layer it up with a cami and a long-sleeved tee, and put tall boots on under it. And you wear it anyway.



And that's how you wear your spring clothes when it's still winter outside. (Of course you could also put tights or leggings on under your spring skirt, with your boots.)

Inspiration from Erika, here. (She's adorable, no?)


Update

cookingclassy.com

I just want to let everyone know that much later yesterday, after I wrote my last post, I went running and was so horrified by the wintry weather, bleak landscape, and hideous white/black/gray color scheme that currently covers my entire town that I gave up halfway through, came inside, and enjoyed a bunch of refined carbohydrates. I'm sorry, but when you live up here in the unforgiving frozen north, you take your serotonin from whatever source you can. And if it's not from spring and sunshine, it might have to be from sugary carbs. So, in reality, it's not cancer that's causing my poofy belly; it's WINTER.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Few Important Things

It's a sweatshirt, you guys. Really!
image courtesy jcrew.com

Oh, so many things to tell you. Starting with this reassuring fact: It turns out that eating more healthy foods and fewer chips, cookies, and jelly beans DOES IN FACT alleviate both belly bloat and those suspect extra pounds that so annoyingly interfere with the fitting of one's jeans. I have been consciously avoiding junk food (well, for the most part, that is--there is Easter candy in my house, after all! I'm not superhuman!) and making a point to eat more fruits and vegetables since last Wednesday. Miraculously, within those four days I have lost about five pounds, which puts me pretty much back where I generally belong.

The lesson here: If you get into a habit of mindlessly snacking on junk food and homemade baked goods for several weeks on end, you should assume that any resulting extra body fat is due to your snacking habits before you convince yourself that you have a deadly cancer.  Mmm-hmm. WHO KNEW? So that's a relief.

We are on spring break. Last year, spring break actually included spring weather. This year? Well, I am currently wearing three shirts, if that tells you anything. It is FREEZING COLD here. Literally. It's about 30 degrees. There is a cold wind. The snow piles are high. I don't even want to talk about it anymore.

So, did you know that, apparently, fancy sweatshirts are the thing for cute moms with style (and I'm assuming also cute women without kids as well) right now? I see pictures of and references to them all the time these days on parenting and style blogs (and mamas-with-style blogs). No, not fancy as in (horrors!) embellished or screen-printed or holiday-themed. Fancy, like....not your usual sweatshirt. I don't know. They're just a thing. Which at first I thought was really weird, but now that I'm sitting here in my three shirts, shivering while gazing out the window at snow and more snow, they're starting to sound rather smart. Anyway. Tell me if you've bought one, and if you have, what you think.

Lastly. On Friday morning our washing machine broke. (It has since fixed itself. I know. Weird. Don't ask. Just read the story.) Annoying, but whatever. On Friday after school, spring break began. Woo-hoo! The kids were super excited. Just as fabulous, I had promised to take them out for frozen yogurt if they completed their entire five weeks of YMCA tennis. Which they did, on Thursday night. So, after school on Friday, off to Cherry Berry we went. Awesome! Friday afternoon, Cherry Berry, and spring break starting! Could it get any better? Forget about the broken washing machine for a moment!

Shortly after we got home from Cherry Berry, Julia turned and looked at me over the back of the couch where she was sitting and said, "Mama...my stomach hurts." At this moment all of you parents out there are imagining ominous dun-dun-DUNHHHH... music in the background. Because every mom knows what comes approximately thirty seconds after a child says "Mama...my stomach hurts."

Within half a minute she was pale, sweaty, and beset with the stomach flu. Yes. At the start of school vacation. On the day my washing machine broke. You do the math.

On her first night of spring break, my eldest threw up seven times. All through the night. With me at her side. With my washing machine broken. Ah, parenting. (Sooooooo tired......)

Fortunately, since then the washer has resumed working AND none of the rest of us has succumbed to the throwing-up flu, as my children like to call it. Yet, anyway. (Although Genevieve came down with a cold--what's with that?) Julia is still sickly, pale, feverish, and miserable (not to mention bored), but she's no longer throwing up and my use of hand sanitizer and Lysol spray has reached epic proportions. I'm so paranoid that we're all going to get it, one after the other, and it will take over our entire school vacation.

And that's my first-weekend-of-spring-break so far! Here's hoping it improves FAST.

Maybe a fancy sweatshirt would help?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Winter, Spring Break, and Hypochondria. Fun Times.

So today is the last day of tennis. THANK GOD.

No, actually, Genevieve has really liked it. After her initial rant against all things tennis--which, honestly, is so typical of the sort of ridiculous things little children do--she has had a great time each week. Julia, on the other hand....not so much. Despite both girls being good at it--racquets actually make contact with balls--Julia hates every second. Or so she tells us. I have no idea why. She just does. Many tears and much begging not to go are involved. Makes Thursday night dinner (right before tennis) a lovely affair, let me tell you.

OK, so, my firstborn is not going to be the next Maria Sharapova. We've determined that. Onward.

This week has been absolutely crazy. To get a sense of just how crazy, consider this: today is the first day this week that I will have children in school for a full day. On Monday, the kids were released from school early because of a blizzard. On Tuesday, the kids started school late because of the blizzard. On Wednesday, it was the usual weekly Late Start day for teachers' education/training. Let me tell you, I don't know whether I'm coming or going this week. Oh, and it's the last week of school before spring break, which means that perhaps I should have started planning what the heck I'm going to do with two children home all day for ten days (counting weekends) straight, starting on Saturday, when the weather is still appropriate to mid-January rather than almost April. (The windchill has actually been below zero every morning this week.)

OMG. I have no idea what we're going to do for all that time. I'm a little (very) scared (terrified).

Most likely, another reason I don't know which end is up this week is that I've been distracted by paranoid fears of ovarian cancer. It seems like I've been hearing and reading a lot of things about ovarian cancer lately. There was a New York Times column about a recent study showing how inadequate ovarian cancer treatment tends to be in this country. I heard a story about ovarian cancer on NPR. A friend told me that a friend of hers had died of ovarian cancer the year before--in her mid-thirties--leaving four children behind, including a two-year-old.

You all know about ovarian cancer, right? About how it's almost always deadly, because people tend to have no idea they have it until it's too late? About how the symptoms, if one even has any, are nondescript complaints that healthy people experience all the time--bloating, indigestion, stomachaches, a few extra pounds in the belly area? And so it can be there, growing, while you obliviously note that you've got gas pains and you maybe should lay off the potato chips? Um, yeah--that.

So I heard and read all these stories right around the time--within the past few weeks--that I happened to gain a few pounds--most visible in my belly--and start feeling sort of bloated and weird. Which clearly meant I have ovarian cancer, and that I'm going to die soon and leave my young children motherless.

But then yesterday it occurred to me that maybe before I assume I have ovarian cancer because of weight gain and a bloated belly, perhaps I should first try EATING HEALTHY. It occurred to me that, between birthdays, Girl Scout cookie season, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, upcoming Easter, parties, playdates, dinners with friends, and lots of cozy baking to ward off winter's chill, there has been an excess of desserts, pastries, cookies, jelly beans, chips, brownies, etc. in my life as of late. I may have been mindlessly snacking on jelly beans and mint chocolate chip cookies more than I should have.

And it occurred to me that perhaps I should experiment by eating more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and omega-3s, and drinking more water and green tea, while laying off the junk food and baked goods, for a few weeks before I panic and rush to the doctor convinced that I am dying.

I know, I'm brilliant. Why consider the most obvious and logical reason for a larger waistline when one can keep one's self awake at night convinced that one has cancer? 

So, I'm eating healtheir to see if that takes care of the problem. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sigh. Perhaps I just need the distraction of SPRING.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Best Homemade Granola Ever. For Reals.


Yesterday I made a version of granola that ended up being the best homemade granola ever. I basically fooled around with a random granola recipe I'd found in some magazine long ago, changing it up and adding some crazy stuff like Grape-Nuts cereal. It's kind of unconventional but if you have these ingredients around, I promise you'll love this recipe. I've made other homemade granola recipes numerous times, but this one takes the cake. As it were.

The Best Homemade Granola Ever
makes about 1-1/2 quarts. perhaps more if you don't keep sampling it as you make it.

Ingredients:
2 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup Cheerios cereal
1/2 - 3/4 cup Grape Nuts cereal (I like the larger amount)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 - 1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups add-ins: I used dried cranberries, roasted unsalted whole almonds, roasted lightly salted peanuts, and flaked unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mix oats, Cheerios, and Grape Nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together canola oil, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Pour honey mixture over cereals and stir to coat thoroughly.

Spread granola out evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until deeply golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes.

Leave on pan until completely cool. Once cool, crumble into large mixing bowl and stir in your add-ins. Store in airtight container. (I like to use large-mouthed Mason jars.)

Seriously: YUM.

Monday, March 18, 2013

They're Cute But They Don't Sleep Enough.

the rare sight of my children sleeping


On Friday night we all went to my daughters' school's Family Movie Night. (It was crazy. But fun.) We were out pretty late (for us), and the girls didn't get to sleep until close to nine. I went to bed right after; what with the time change and a busy week, we were all super tired.

Cue to Saturday morning, when the girls slept UNTIL SEVEN A.M. Which meant that I, also, slept until seven a.m. I'm not sure if you can fully grasp the miraculous nature of the situation, but I posted on Facebook that a choir of angels appeared and sang Hallelujah over my head and then the entire world turned into chocolate. At least that's the way it felt.

You all, I got TEN HOURS OF SLEEP.

TEN. HOURS.

In case you were wondering, that was most probably the first time I had gotten ten hours of sleep (or anything else remotely resembling a long night of solid, uninterrupted sleep that did not end at six a.m. or earlier) since I became a mom nearly nine years ago. That is almost a decade, people. A DECADE of short sleep.

(Once again I marvel at how rewarding having children truly is---if despite things like that, I've never heard a mother say--nor have I felt--that it isn't all completely worth it. Right??)

Moving on. So, the day seemed remarkably pleasant. All day, I kept wondering why the heck Saturday seemed so....nice. Usually Saturdays--particularly frigidly cold, winter Saturdays (because yes, it is still winter here)--are rather miserable in my house. I can't exactly tell you why, but there's something about no routine, no school, no work, nothing to do and nowhere to go, too many people in a too small house getting up way too early (well, aside from Daddy (most of the time)) that makes my children CRABOLA. Which, in turn, makes me crabola too. Actually Saturdays often make me crabby no matter what my kids are doing. But generally that's because my kids are fighting, yelling, or crying.

So anyway, la-di-da, Saturday is going along, nothing out of the ordinary, coffee, homework, breakfast, reading the news on the laptop, chores, fireplace, bathing and grooming, Legos, etc. An errand. Some baking. Preparing for a little party in the afternoon. Etc. AND EVERYTHING SEEMS STRANGELY ENJOYABLE. No one is even fighting or crying. What the?

And then it hit me: TEN. FREAKING. HOURS. OF SLEEP.

You all, I put two and two together and realized that I have been a cranky bitch on weekend mornings (and most other times as well) because I have been sleep-deprived for the past nine years. Oh.....my.....God.

And now my brain was rested, and now I was acting like my old self. My nine-years-ago, normal self. (Note, also, that one of the reasons I was in a good mood and the day seemed easy was that my children were not bickering, yelling at each other, or crying most of the day, as they seem to be usually doing on weekends. Hmmm. No coincidence, right? PERHAPS YOU SHOULD SLEEP PAST SIX A.M. OCCASIONALLY, CHILDREN. LIKE OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN. JUST A THOUGHT.)

In my book, I devoted an entire section to the importance of sleep. I wrote that if your sleep is dysregulated, everything else will be too. There is NO overstating how important sleep is for mood, brain chemicals, hormones, behavior, health, and outlook on life; that's one of the things I learned as a health psychologist and psychotherapist. And you can see just how true that is. You can probably see it in your own life too, but let me tell you, seeing it via a nine-year experiment is more compelling than anything else.

Good Lord.

The End.

p.s. Please don't comment that I should just take a nap. Not everyone's brain can fall asleep in the middle of the day. Personally, unless I am sick, trying to sleep during the daytime is just a big waste of time, because I can't do it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: St. Patrick's Day Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies

 
St. Patrick's Day is coming up! Now, despite my first and middle names, I am not Irish. Nor is my husband. So St. Patrick's Day isn't exactly a big thing in my household. But come on--green-tinted mint-chocolate cookies? Why not?! Yum. These are based on a recipe I found on babble.com last year, but I tweaked it so much that it's now become my own original. Enjoy.


St. Patrick's Day Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on size

Ingredients:

1-1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 to 1 tsp. peppermint extract (to your taste; a little goes a long way. that said, I wish I'd used more)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
8 (or so) drops green food coloring
1 cup semisweet, dark, or white chocolate chips, or a mix of all three as I used

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar until well-combined. Add eggs, vanilla, and peppermint extract; mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt (or, just dump it all in with the wet ingredients and make sure the leavening gets mixed in evenly). Add flour etc. to butter-sugar mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Carefully scatter about 8 drops of liquid green food coloring onto the dough. Mix into the dough thoroughly. Add chocolate chips.

Roll generous teaspoons of dough into balls and flatten slightly between your palms before placing on baking sheet. Bake about 6 to 7 minutes--or more if your oven does not run hot like mine does or if you want a crisper cookie rather than a soft and chewy one. I started with 7 minutes and ended up with very browned cookie bottoms, which I did not prefer, so I gradually went down with the next sheets. Start low, then add in 30 second increments if needed.

Let cookies cool on baking sheet for a minute or two before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat, and feel very lucky.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!


Last night between bath and bed, when time was running short, Genevieve ran into the playroom, saying that she needed to write her "newspaper." She then spent the next half hour furiously writing with a pencil on a regular 8-1/2" x 11" piece of paper, turned sideways. She drew lines down the page and made several columns that way, and wrote words inside the columns, just like newspaper copy is printed. Finally she ran into my bedroom, where Julia and I were hanging out, and proudly showed us her finished "newspaper." And you guys....I died. I died laughing.

She had written "headlines" and then explanatory text underneath each one. The page was jam-packed with her six-year-old printing (which, truth be told, is more like most eight- or nine-year-olds' printing). 

Here are some examples of her stories:

Headline: "Strongest Man in the World Taps a House and It Falls Down!" [Here, Julia and I collapsed in gales of laughter.] Underneath, the text reads, "Strongest man in the world John Johnson tapped a house and it fell down! 'That was when he was 2,' his mother said. Nobody can believe that surprise!"

Headline: "Came Back Alive!" Underneath: "Jacqueline Zubiz was 42 when she died, but then she came back alive when she was 82! 'It was a miracle,' said her mother." [Indeed, right? Particularly because her mother must have been, what, 110 or so by then? Talk about a miracle!]

Headline: "Donkey Elected MAYOR!" [No text underneath. Apparently, the headline says it all. Genevieve swears to me that this is a true story she read about in a book.]

At the very top of the newspaper page, the corner of the paper is turned over, and Genevieve had written on the back of that little corner, "Follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, twitter, and 8-block." She says that "8-block" is an imaginary application, from her make-believe kingdom, "Genevieveland," which we hear about quite often in our household. Now, watch--she'll probably invent a new social media platform called "8-block" when she's like, twelve, and become a multi-billionaire. And when she does, I hope she remembers who sat on the floor beside her crib and slept in the hallway outside the nursery when she was a toddler because she cried for an hour at bedtime every night for two straight years and her father couldn't take the screaming. (That would be ME.)

Um, seriously.....how does she know something like, "Follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, twitter..." etc.??!

You guys...this child.

I can only shake my head.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Do These Glasses Make Me Look Smart?

Finally, finally, FINALLY posting photos of the new Warby Parker designer eyeglasses I ordered in January. Do you know of Warby Parker? You should. An online boutique designer eyewear company, they let you choose five pairs of frames for FREE at-home try-on and you get five days to decide which style you want to order. They pay for ALL shipping, both ways, and all returns are free. The price is fantastic ($95 all inclusive for most Rx frames). AND they donate a pair of eyeglasses to someone in need for every pair they sell. Customer service is excellent and frames are suuuuuuper stylish. (I was not compensated in any way for saying all of that!)

Anyway, I'm a horrible cell-phone photographer, but here you go. (These are the "Reece" frames in Sandalwood Matte.)





Friday, March 08, 2013

Who Has Time for This?

via cafepress.com

You guys! It's that time of year again: the time when my running watch once again displays the accurate time. That's because this weekend we turn the clocks ahead. And since I don't know how to change the time on my running watch, I just leave it the way it is year-round. For half the year, the time is an hour off. Or, wait a minute: maybe it's BEEN correct? and now it will be an hour behind? I forget, and going to check would involve standing up and going downstairs, so never mind.

So by the way. Isn't it crazy that it's already time to turn the clocks ahead? This is WAY early, wouldn't you say? I'm not really arguing, because who doesn't want more daylight at dinnertime?? But honestly, the whole Daylight Savings Time is a ridiculous pain in the rear. Let's just abolish it already, okay? I mean, let's face it--when you're a parent, DST pretty much sucks. It messes with your kids' schedules and body clocks and sleeping times. You never, EVER get an "extra hour to sleep" (yes, I know, that's in the fall, but still). Never, girlfriend. You just LOSE sleep. No matter what's going on and what direction the clock is turning, you lose sleep. That's it. That's all. Always.

Plus, do parents of young children really need MORE minutiae to remember? Remembering to turn every clock and watch in the house forward (or back) on Saturday night before going to bed? Do you think there is room in my brain for details like that? Maybe back when I was childless and had only myself to worry about; but now? Let me tell you: I can no longer remember something ONE SECOND after it leaves my visual field. Those brain cells are long gone, burned up in the early baby/toddler years of intense sleep deprivation and tantrum-endurance. The ones that are left are being used for things like remembering what day to pack a sack lunch because the third grade is going on an all-day field trip, and who's supposed to bring a dollar in change to school to learn coin-counting, and when. Not to mention the more important things like when did I last dose the six-year-old with Nighttime Cold & Cough, and is it too soon to give her more because no one can sleep with all that coughing? And TOOTH FAIRY DUTIES, OMG! The hardest thing to remember of all.

So, to recap: Running watches are complicated. I have no memory. Turn your clocks ahead. But not till Saturday night. Don't say I didn't remind you!


Thursday, March 07, 2013

Sugar Snow

Tuesday was truly an amazing snow day. A good, old-fashioned, EXTREME snow day. Around ten inches of new powdery snow on the ground after two days of snowstorming. Schools in every direction closed for the day. A few lucky grown-ups stranded home from work (not my husband, but some).

So how did we spend it? The girls played outside in the snow, of course--a lot. What could be more fun? Especially when the temp is pleasant; kiddos can stay outside forever in weather like that. They played and played until they were wet and chilled. Then there was hot chocolate, and blankets, and books. There was Play-Doh, and art supplies, and cartoons. There was also a fair amount of baking.

First, I made this banana bread, which I tweaked from a Money Saving Mom recipe.


I've made the original version many times, and it's scrumptious, but I wanted--for once--a thoroughly healthy bread, so I left out the chocolate (I know! Crazy) and reduced the sugar, but kept the 100% whole-wheat flour. My bananas weren't overly ripe, so the bread ended up with a firmer texture and less-sweet flavor than a traditional banana bread. The outside baked into a gorgeous, perfect, crispy crust. All in all, it was fantastic.

Later on we moved on to Baked Glazed Chocolate Doughnut Holes.


Yum, you guys! You should make these! They're very easy, do not involved deep-frying in oil, and are actually NOT bad for you! And yes, they're delicious, and really do taste just like chocolate doughnuts. Mine weren't as pretty as The Naptime Chef's (seriously, how does she get hers to look like that??), but who cares. My fam gobbled them up. Warning: the recipe is small. You may want to double it.

In keeping with the snowy-day vibe, I also made a big pot of Lemony Lentil Soup for dinner. Also yum.

Are you bored yet? Sorry. There is nothing else going on around these parts! Tell me what you've been baking or cooking.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

March + Minnesota = Lots of Snow


 You guys. We're on day two of a snowstorm, and the kids got a snow day. School's closed! All day!

Unfortunately by the time I learned of the school closing, I was up (super early as always) and getting ready for the day. And since I knew my children would be popping out of their beds at six or so anyway, I knew it was pointless to go back to bed. The coffee was even made! So, I didn't get to grab any happy extra sleep. But that's OK. I'm used to it!

By the time the snow ends around noon, we're supposed to have gotten about 8-10 inches, which seems about right. The pine tree boughs out back are laden and sinking under the weight. The world is a mass of undifferentiated white. We're inside in front of the fireplace and kid TV. There will be plenty of sledding and snow-playing and hot-chocolate-drinking later. It's early still. And we have the whole day.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Tennis Part Two


Some of you wanted to know how the second week of tennis lessons went last night. I say "lessons," but it's a large group class with multiple teachers. Not one-on-one or two-on-one individual lessons, per se. Which is fine, because it's much more fun-based and laidback this way--it's clearly meant to be simply an enjoyable introduction to the sport for small children who haven't played it before.

First, let's recap: after last week's initial lesson, there was much crying and sobbing and the dramatic vow (from Genevieve) to "never pick up a tennis racquet ever again!" Genevieve also informed us that "the worst letters in the English language are T, E, N, I, and S!" 

Genevieve now loves tennis with the heat of a thousand suns.

(eye roll)

Just as we suspected she would when we originally signed her up for tennis.

In fact, she seemed to love it with the heat of a thousand suns the second she walked in the door last evening. It didn't even take an entire second lesson to win her over. She ran off onto the "court" with her racquet in tow, thrilled to death to be there and without one backward glance at Daddy (whom last week she insisted stay glued to her side for the first half hour of class).

Kids.

As for Julia, ermm, no. She is not a tennis fan. Actually, I had high hopes, since she started off just fine, too. No tears, no scowls, no protests. She was doing really well, hitting the ball more times than not and looking like she was (might be?) having fun. No such luck. At about ten minutes left, Julia started to cry and never really recovered. She'd been hit by the ball in the arm twice--yes, it left bruises--and she was frustrated by "always getting corrected." (Um, that's the teacher, TEACHING.)

I hope and pray that Genevieve's enthusiasm rubs off on Julia. All I want is to give her a little exposure to and skill development in a new sport, something we can do for fun as a threesome on summer weekdays and with which she can hold her own, at least a little bit, in P.E. class at school. She doesn't have to become a tennis player. But she does have to finish the five-week YMCA tennis class. (Only three left!)

So there you go. A perfect example of the kind of crazy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants situations you find yourself in as a parent, and of the unpredictable and head-spinning behavior of children.

But it's all good. Because at least one of us LOVES tennis.