Thursday, March 28, 2013

While I was away

The weekend I was in Vegas the boys went to stay with the Walls on Saturday night. Alex was working like a crazy person that entire week leading up to Vegas and had to work much of the weekend. All the girls on the trip were mentioning that their husbands were ready for them to come home - I said the Walls were ready for me to come back. They spent the night at our house during the week then had the boys most of the weekend. Not to worry, the boys love to be the center of their grandparents world allowed to stay up, eat what they want (or don't want) and swim in their underwear. They are the best.

My only annoyance is how happy and calm that baby looks....he would NEVER sit in his booster seat and play at the table so happily for me. You know he would be throwing himself off the chair and hurling the figures at me.

James looking shocked at the ride at Pump it Up.
The boys supporting the home team.
James is smiling! That Grandma Ena must really be getting into the book.


Zachary is wearing his brother's 18 month shirt and just his boxers in the pool. Whenever I point out to him that he is wearing his brother's shirts which become mid-drifts and pants which become capri's he shrugs and says, "But they fit." 

Touche smarty, touche.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brussels Sprouts - the mini way

Seriously people, where is that mini cookbook I asked for? Because this recipe would be a perfect addition. When I saw the close up picture of this salad I thought it looked like tiny leaves. Oh that is because they are - you peel the Brussels sprouts then saute them. Genius. Delicious and mini, I was totally sold.

I am certain I am not unique in my love/hate relationship with brussels sprouts. I really want to like them. And I do, most of the time. But sometimes they just overpower me and gross me out. Not made this way. I don't know if it is because the green leaves are less pungent (totally making that up) or if it is just they get seared a bit with oil and garlic? Either way I have made this dish twice now and loved it both times.

I added the egg the first time (but was too lazy to find almonds) and took it out the next. Honestly I like it better without the egg. Especially if you are eating with a protein, like my lovely ruby red trout below. But for you veggies out there it would be a great filling and healthy lunch meal.




Brussels Sprouts Chop
Adapted from With Style and Grace

Ingredients:
1 lb brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
4 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup slivered/chopped almonds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:
Taking one brussels sprout at a time, cut the bottom off and peel from the bottom what you can remove. Peel until you get close to the center and you can’t peel anymore. You may either discard the center or cut in half and roast at a later time. Place all the leaves a bowl.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add brussels sprouts leaves and sauté until slightly wilted or lightly browned. Remove from heat. Add the chopped hard-boiled eggs, slivered almonds and sprinkle with sea salt and mix together.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nothing stays in Vegas

Contrary to the popular tag line, nothing stays in Vegas if you have two bloggers and 4 prevalent Facebook/Instagram users. Nothing.

About two weeks ago I was the 6th wheel on a Vegas trip to see Celine. Oh, you heard me right. CELINE DION. If you need to leave my blog this minute I will not be offended. But it was life changing.

Lauren and I have loved CELINE since the early 90s. You can't tell me you didn't love Where Does my Heart Beat Now (how she opened the show) and It's all coming back to me now. What you don't? Stop lying to yourself. As my friend KK says, "She doesn't have a bad song."

So at least 9 months ago Lauren decided we needed to go see her. Neither of us was allowed to have any more babies this year (no problem here) and we were doing something for ourselves. As we were planning, her fun friends caught wind of it and it turned into a six person girls trip.

Lauren and I were in charge of booking the room and my brother-in-law Dewayne got involved. He said we absolutely needed to stay at the Bellagio and we should go ahead and get a suite. Sure, that is totally normal for people who usually go fancy at the Holiday Inn Express. Of course this had nothing to do with the fact that D himself would be going back to Vegas himself in the near future....not one thing.

Never to look a gift horse in the mouth we agreed. And it was the best decision. We spent the mornings in the living room of the suite drinking coffee and talking until we could motivate ourselves to throw on clothes and leave the room for brunch. Joanna tells you about our delicious breakfast on the first day and takes you on a tour of our suite. It really was some of the best food I have ever eaten.


Lauren and I went to the VIP lounge to steal waters and diet coke for the room (always classy) and this is what we encountered on the way back.

That is Keri, Maria, Debra and Joanna walking through the casino in their bathrobes headed to the spa. I would like to say they got some strange looks but not really and they were some of the most covered up people in the hallways. 

That night was CELINE!!!! Here we are before the show. Before Lauren and I were throwing our arms around like she does (we are spot on) and before Debra tried it and knocked the old lady in front of her in the head. Before our lives were changed forever by the amazing voice that CELINE has. I am not ashamed. She is amazing. And not like how the Kardashian's think everything is amazing. Truly amazing.

The show staff went on and on and on about no photos before the show. That only made me want to take pictures more - are these people not parents? We were so close to the stage that I could not get a good one without being caught (@humblebrag). But she was shown up on the screens to our right and I snapped some.



Technically these are not even her. They are a hologram of her that the real CELINE did a duet with. Consider your mind blown. Are you jealous you were not there yet? You should be. It was seriously a glorious night and as the man in front of us said, "How can I go back to my normal life after this????!!". So true, my friend, so true. 

 

Here are my new besties (plus my one of 31 years Lauren) crowded into the two double beds in the second room of the suite. This is how we spent Sunday afternoon. They taught me about Twitter and how to use a hashtag. #fastlearner

That night we went to see Boyz II Men. Apparently Keri is a crazy BIIM fan. Cra-zy. Of course I say that but I too purchased a BIIM sleep shirt. That is right, a bright pink shirt that says "I'll make love to you" in sliver writing on it. Alex almost fell on the floor when he saw it. Laughing.

And the show was really, really good. They perform at the Mirage in a small stage and put on an excellent show. Keri was over the moon!! It was hysterical and awesome to see her get so excited.

I had so much more fun in Vegas than I thought I would. A huge part of that was due to the group of girls I was with. I didn't know them all that well and we are now intimately acquainted. And planning our next trip. I can't wait! It is all coming back to me now...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I am not kidding, he is terrible

I love my fat baby more than anything, but good Lord is he a terror. I think I traumatized one of Liv's very nice friends by calling him an asshole. Whoops. Surely she was warned about Liv's inappropriate daughter in law?

I mean he is mine and I am just loving him through this - but he is an ass. I think this must be what serial killers mothers feel like. They have done the best they can and their children are still assholes.

Somehow calling him one makes me laugh when he is having a full out fit on the floor of Walgreens or hitting his brother because he wants his "CRACKER!!!".

He now can say/scream quite a few words including: Zach, cat, cow, help, nonononononono, mama, dada, Norm and bird. But he refuses to even try to say "please".

This is a video of me trying to get him to say please as he is asking for "help" to get up on the couch. You will see he just gives up versus actually trying to say the word.

video

Now when you say, "James, say 'please'." he nods his head and says "Uh huh" and then "thank you".

Such an ass.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lemon Chicken and Orzo

I spotted this recipe (I am not even going to waste you time telling you where - you all know) for Lemon Orzo Chicken soup and I thought 1) my kids would eat that and 2) I can use the Meyer lemons I bought at the HEB.
Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup

It was a success even though I did try to screw it up and sort of did....here is what I did and what I would change.

I didn't have carrots as Alex had thrown them out (since he never eats at home he thinks everything in our fridge is always expired) so I added radishes and celery. Don't do that. The celery was not a good taste and the radishes were fine but they cooked way down and were unrecognizable  I also used the Meyer lemons I was super excited to find. Not good either. Something about that specific taste of lemon was just OK. So in summary - do what she says and don't try to get creative.

Lemon Chicken and Orzo
adapted from Good Life Eats (try not to be scared of her too-happy in her turquoise photo- the recipe is good)
Ingredients:
1 lb cooked and cut up/shredded chicken
1 shallot, diced 
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white wine
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 - 3/4 cup orzo pasta, uncooked
3 egg yolks
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme (I think dried would be fine, but again what do I know)
2 - 3 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, chopped

Directions:
Add 1 tablespoon of olive or canola oil in a large dutch oven. Saute the shallot over medium-high heat until golden and tender. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.
Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and carrot. Bring to a boil. 
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and lemon together. Add 1 cup of hot broth very slowly to the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you pour. Pour into the wine/broth mixture. Stir in the orzo, thyme and chicken.
Continue cooking over medium-low until the pasta and carrots are tender (10-15 minutes). 
Just before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Add the basil, and spinach. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I've made the switch

Did you know Google Reader is going away as of July 2013?? I know, it is devastating. Well I decided to not be tardy to the party and switch to BlogLovin' now. This blog has a great BlogLovin' tutorial (I refuse to use the word 'tute'). She outlines her favorite parts which I totally agree with.


Come on over!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

St. Paddy's Day - Nailed It

I am certain you all have seen and coveted these St. Patrick's shamrocks on Pinterest.

toilet paper roll four leaf clover shamrock stamp 

Darling, right? And so easy! You just make hearts out of toilet paper rolls and your precious children stamp them.

This is what happened when I decided to do this with the boys:



Nailed it. Totally the same.

I normally really like the authors of this craft, Prudent Baby, but this time I think they are lying liars. As you can see calling these "shamrocks" is a bit misleading. However I did just notice that I was supposed to do more folding and taping than I did...as usual too lazy to read the full instructions. I have serious misgivings about if it would have actually changed the final outcome, though.

Zach also refused to draw the stems which really was fine by me. And I don't own a mini-stamp set (even I draw the line somewhere) so this was our 2 minute craft for the day. James wanted to stick his fingers in the paint and eat it so it was more of a 30 second craft for that guy.

I am saving the paper for next year so we can get it out and laugh at how clever Mommy thought she was.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

She really should have asked me

The other day a mom in my moms group posted a message with her suggestions for going to the Houston Rodeo. She said she went with her two girls (mistake 1), tried to walk from our neighborhood (mistake 2) and went in the afternoon (mistake 3). Since I happen to know this mom all I could think was that I wish she had asked me. She literally did everything wrong.What? I am not one to mince words, it is the truth.

Now I am not saying I know everything - but I do know more. More about things like dealing with two children at the rodeo and how she really should have taken the light rail. Let me show you how it is done.

1. Ride the Houston Light Rail
There is a park and ride at the end of the line which is about 1/2 a mile from the rodeo. And it costs $3. You pay your $3 to park and $1.75 (for adults only) to ride one stop to the Rodeo. You will get dropped off at the front door and your children will be super excited to ride the train. Well, your 4 year old will be excited. James was not impressed.



2. Bring a wagon and snacks
Do not waste your time thinking any child is going to walk. Zach is lazier than most when it comes to walking but even so, it is a big place and you want to be able to toss them in there and get a move on. James did not want to get out of the wagon. He preferred I feed him crackers while he observed the whole spectacle  And refuse to wear a hat.

3. Go in the morning
It opens at 9 and we were there at 9:30. All the school kids are there in the afternoon plus all those part-time kids/moms. Beat them to the punch and go in the morning. Eat lunch there and you are home to put this pleasant guy down. See  how thrilled he is to be riding the carousel?


4. Once it does get hot around 11 get inside to the AgVenture
I love this area. It smells horrible but man do the boys love it. All the animals are kept in here and you can see baby pigs, cows, chicks hatching and giant longhorns. This year we wandered back into the cow pens and it was fascinating. Fascinating. These tiny boys and girls are leading calves that were 4 times their size like they are walking Norman. Such a different world.

The one mistake I made was to take both my children. And Alex too. Both boys, oh I am sorry, all three boys, want to do different things and I felt like we were always waiting on someone (which I just find annoying). So if I can next time I will take them one on one. We live so close it is worth it.

Also worth it: your husband racing your son down the slide. Please disregard me missing the first part because I am obsessed with my not impressed baby.

video


And seriously people, I know A LOT all you have to do is ask. Even if you don't I am most likely going to tell you anyway. So it is best if you can just save us both some time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Citrus Butter Cookies - Emphasis on Butter

Depressing start to this blog post, but recently one of my friends lost her mother. Tragic at any age and especially so as these two were thick as thieves and had an extra special bond. At her memorial service my friend Tracey made lemon cookies with a sweet glaze. Being the generous person I am I offered to take a bunch of cookies home from the service so they did not have to be thrown away. I know, I am always thinking about other people.

Turns out Zach is a huge fan of lemon cookies (and cake and bars). He devoured the ones I brought home more than he has any other sweet. He always thinks he is a big chocolate fan but usually gets tired of it after about 3 bites of a cookie. Again, luckily he has me so it does not go to waste.

I emailed Tracey for the recipe and she said they were Citrus Butter Cookies from The Pioneer Woman. And she was not kidding about them being butter cookies. I halved the recipe and it still called for 2 sticks of butter.

But he loved them. It made a ton so I froze most of the dough and pulled them out for Valentine's day. I thought they would make a nice sweet treat for his teachers.

Not pretty though. Mine look nothing like Tracey's or Rees....but it is the thought right?


I downloaded these small tags to attach to the bags for Zach's teachers. I actually opened up Pinterest, searched "Valentine tags" and let Zach pick the ones he wanted. You can't really see them clearly, but he picked this one
He was very excited to tuck them into their bags at school. Easy, peasy.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It is always someone

I still get these Baby Center updates for both boys mainly because I am too lazy to turn them off, but I have noticed as of late that one child is, per them, markedly more troublesome..

Your 18 month old this week:
Is your toddler a ray of sunshine at daycare but a thundercloud when you show up on the scene? These end-of-day meltdowns are actually signs of true love. Your child knows that it's safe to let out all of his pent-up feelings around you. While you may be tempted to run a few errands on your way home, you should probably put those tasks on hold until your child's more agreeable.

Your 4 year old this week:
The Golden Rule says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It will be easier to teach your child this concept now that her empathy, or sensitivity to other people's feelings, is advancing. Even though she can't quite think through other people's reactions all the time, she's capable of naming many feelings and reaching out with a hug when someone's sad. And that's huge!

I am glad someone else has noticed that my life is a complete mix of opposites.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

I am in love with a man named Joe

Houston has finally made some big steps into the 21st century. We have a female mayor AND a Trader Joe's! While I think Anise is doing a bang up job I am really excited about the Trader Joe's.

I have been reading about this weirdly named store for a while on some blogs and didn't really get it. Until it arrived. Now I love it and want to share all my purchases with you (and I want you to do the same). I also want to go all the time, but it is a store similar to Whole Foods - you can't do all your shopping there. They don't have regular toilet paper or toothpaste.

But their packaged food is the best and a huge time-saver  I have not had a bad thing yet there and I feel good about buying their items as they are all fresh, mostly organic and made from whole products (so the pancakes are actually pancakes not just sugar in the shape of a circle). Oh but don't think I have really looked at the ingredients list...people tell me these things and I believe. Oh and it is super cheap! Like, really reasonable for organic products. And on with my list below.

This the french toast made with (gasp) real bread. When I run out of the other stuff  this is my go to. The boys love it.

 The pancakes. They are tiny, silver dollar pancakes perfect for that fat baby to grip in both hands.


It is your (real) snack week you say? Consider it done: baked peas, pretzels stuffed with peanut butter, a bag of sliced apples and already sliced cheese with fake wheat thins. 


Remember my yummy coconut shrimp? Guess what, Joe has some too and it does not require any prep time.


I almost did not share the next ones as you know I am selfish. But this is the best. It is papardelle pasta, the wide pasta, with a chicken and mushroom sauce. You will need two bags. One is not even enough for you and your husband. And your children should not be allowed to eat it. Give them some of those shrimp above.


My kids love mini-tacos. I have purchased them at Target but was super excited to find them here. They are the perfect size for lunch boxes. And for sneaking in a few that somehow don't make it to the plates.


If you don't have a Trader Joe's I am sorry. For this (what I am sure is an annoying) blog post and that you don't get to have the pasta. Seriously though, don't tell anyone. It was already hard to find.

For those of you that have been what have I missed ? The chopped and bagged kale I don't know what to do with? The hummus and cheese? I need to know immediately. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cowboys and Horses part 2

This was going to be a post about me taking the morning off to watch the trail riders come down the street in our neighborhood like I did with Zach in 2010 and 2011. But turns out I was presenting at a work meeting that morning. I tried to figure out how to present then come back and get them from school to track down the trail riders, stare at them for 5 minutes, take them back to school and head back to work. Absurd right? So I did what a normal person would do; let myself be a little sad about it then went and rocked my presentation. People might have said it was the best part of the meeting. Not just one but two people. Now to be fair I did follow a buuuunnnnch of financial numbers so it was not hard to be more lively than that.

But this is not about me (I know, who am I kidding, this is all about me) this is about how I made up for that slight that neither of my children knew about. I made cowboy pasta of course.

My father in law was headed in to watch the boys that night and I thought he might appreciate something other than chicken for dinner. Liv had given me a cookbook called The Mom 101 Cookbook: 100 recipes every mom needs in her back pocket for Christmas and I spotted a recipe called One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni. The author, Katie raves about it for boys says "It is reminiscent of something that rhymes with Flamberger Felper, but it is better and it's yours." Technically, I don't like Flamberger Felper, but I knew Vince and the boys would, plus I love the way she said that so I was in.

The recipe makes a huge batch, so I halved it and still froze half of that. It also calls for elbow pasta, but those are not cowboy at all so I used wagon wheel pasta that I had in the pantry. With some broccoli it was a very well rounded (no pun intended) meal! And it was really good, much better than Flamberger Felper.

(Pre-cheese photo)

One-skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

1 lb lean ground beef
1 tbsp olive or veggie oil
1/2 cup chopped red, yellow or green bell pepper
1 chopped shallot
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can petite diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-1 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional but recommended and did not make it too hot for the little ones)
3 pinches of salt and 2 good shakes of black pepper
1/2 lb wagon wheel pasta
2 cups grated cheese

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Strain off fat and wipe down the skillet.
2. Add oil to skillet and heat it over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, carrots, shallot, one pinch of salt and garlic and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Return the beef to the skillet and add the basil, oregano, tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, chili power and 2 cups of water. Season with 2 pinches of salt and 2 shakes of pepper to taste. 
4. Increase the heat to high and let come to a simmer.
5. Add the macaroni, stir and cover the skillet.
6. Reduce the head to medium and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 8-10 minutes. (I added a bit more water as it looked dry)
7. Sprinkle the cheddar on top then cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melty, about 1 minute. Serve right out of the skillet.

Don't add the cheese until you are about to serve or it will dissolve right into the dish. I ignored that and it happened to me. But it was still delicious.




Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bieber aside, they are twins

My children are twins separated by two and a half years (and attitudes). It still freaks me out when they both look at me and it is like the same person staring me down. I have been trying to capture a side profile and this is the best I could get. They both desperately needed haircuts at the time, obviously.


Maybe other people's children have the exact same face profile down to their ears and neck? Maybe? The head shape is at least different as James has my nice (huge) rounded one and Zach has the standard Wall football shape. Side note: I distinctly remember when that happened. He came out with the most perfectly rounded head and then somewhere around 10 weeks it just popped out. And then he officially looked nothing like me.

This is what happened after they realized I was taking their picture. That is Zach's new "smile". James immediately kicked in with his signature screech since I had the nerve to take his photo without his written consent. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

I can't have anything nice

This is my standard whiny comment to myself when I see yet another thing in my house destroyed by one of the four males living here.

It seems like a day does not go by without me finding something sticky on my sweater or gum in the dyer. But the biggest insult was the treatment chevron rug that I painstakingly painted last spring has endured. I got the idea last Spring from Pinterest and I schlepped that baby to Ikea to get a plain rug and then taped and painted it. It took a while - and I loved it.

No one cares.

This is what it looked like before my family decided to use it as, well, a rug.


 And now.

Gross. You can't really see it but there is a giant footprint right in the middle. That is really what set me off.

I am used to my nice pillows being used a trampolines and the dog curling up on one of the couch blankets, but really - I specifically said to take your shoes off before walking into the bedrooms (the only place that rug leads). Sigh. And why do they have to walk around and brush their teeth?? I find toothbrushes everywhere!

This is a photo of what a corner of my kitchen regularly looks like. I barely know what all that is.


Why is the SWAT team in my laundry room? And the plastic bowling ball next to a stuffed wrench?


I know some day I will look back and miss the cars, balls and farm animals everywhere just as I will miss the messy little boys that go with it. But today is not that day my friends. Not today. 

Today I just want to make the bed and not have someone watch his movie and eat grapes in it. I would like to not have to Febreeze the boys chairs because the dog thought it was his. 

I can't have anything nice. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just in case

You go missing that is.

What? We are not supposed to talk about this? People- we are living in serious times, and serious times call for planning.

As I was preparing to go to Mexico and possibly die, I got to thinking about the photo I wanted splashed on the national news (because obviously the authorities would be involved) and I sent this one to my sister to submit.

I want my photo to say "There is a lovely young mother missing! Someone go find her! Her husband does not know how to turn on the stove or how to clean out the school bags at the end of the week!"

People, you cannot leave this your parents or horrified spouse. You know your parents think you look wonderful all the time and will send something like this:

And your husband. He will not be able to find a photo because he is so sad and under investigation so he will send your work picture. This photo will not represent what you need. It does not say sweet young mother, it says professional business woman who looks better with her head tilted at that angle and whose wrinkles have been Photoshopped out.


Truth.

So in conclusion, get your self a Just In Case photo. And hope you never have to use it. But when you are found you will be glad that is the better photo they have on file.