Monday, June 30, 2008

What's for dinner, side dish: squash casserole

In honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I thought I would throw in a few recipes this week that you might want to consider for the weekend.

So, you are going to a backyard BBQ and asked to bring a side dish? Let's face it, there will be ten others there with baked beans and potato salad and no one really eats that jello thing that your grandma taught you to make. So do everyone a favor and bring some yummy squash casserole. Now, if you aren't from the south you may never had the pleasure of the squash casserole. Even my little brother who wouldn't touch a veggie until he was 16, ate this. I've won cookoffs with this recipe. It's probably the most requested recipe I make. You really want to try this recipe.

This is the south, and it is a casserole, so there will be large amounts of butter involved and it won't be low fat, low cal, blah, blah, blah. But there are veggies in there so it can't be all bad. Besides, you won't be eating the whole dish yourself (not at one sitting anyway), so it's ok. The calories and the love get spread.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 lbs yellow squash, sliced (I save myself time and just buy two bags presliced and frozen)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 8oz. container sour cream
  • 1 8oz package Herb stuffing mix (recommend Pepperidge farm)
  • 1 stick of butter

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Cook squash, drain if necessary (I just cook it in a saute pan with water and season salt, sometimes a little butter. I cook it until it is mushy and begins to fall apart. )
  • In a 9x13 pan, mix together soup, sour cream, onion, carrot. Add in cooked squash.
  • In a medium bowl, melt the stick of butter. Use a fork and mix in the stuffing mix.
  • Mix in 2/3 of the stuffing mix to the 9x13 pan with the squash and soup mixture.
  • Even out the squash mixture, add the remaining 1/3 of the stuffing mix evenly on the top.
  • Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes.

If I get around to making it this week I'll come back and add some pictures.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reagan's favorite things, the iconic necklace

It is amazing what kids get attached to and like. Reagan knows what she likes. And what Reagan likes is this:

When we were in Iowa last week Reagan spotted this eh, pretty(?) little number within 30 seconds of entering her Great Grandma's (Gigi's) house. Now Gigi's house looks like your stereotypical Great Grandma house. There are lots of knick knacks, trinkets, and pictures to get lost in and in trouble with. But Reagan and her laser beam eyes focused in on THAT neckace. She picked it up and said, "Ooooohh, it is beautiful!" and she put it on. Gigi didn't even know what it was or where it came from, but insisted Reagan have it. Reagan wore it the rest of the day and every day since.
It is probably laden with lead and giving off radioactivity, but she doesn't care. But what amuses me most is what is on the necklace. Of course it's not a butterfly or a flower or a cupcake. It is a picture of Mary and and an inscription bearing, "Virgin of Carmel" and another religious picture on the back. Virgin of Carmel? I had to google the term just to find out what it was. It's too complicated to explain in a sentence (because my pea brain doesn't get it), something about a Catholic visitation of Mary in Mt. Carmel.

What two year old would decide this necklace is the bomb? The other kids talked Gigi out of cool shells, pictures, and teddy bears. Not my kid. My kid is proudly sporting a cheap lead lined necklace with the Virgin of Carmel emblazoned on it. Figures.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

All alone with my screaming kids and guilty pleasures

I haven't even finished the road trip entries yet. Yes there was more to the story. But that will have to wait for now. About the time I got home after a terribly long week with the kids on the road trip to hell and back, Bill had to leave for a business trip. So as though I hadn't had enough quality time with my children I love so dearly, I am now by myself with them again.

Last night I worked until 1:30 am and had to get up at 6 so that I could get the kids to daycare and back in order to give a huge presentation first thing this morning. During that time Bailey woke up twice. I had one of those days that was so busy it was 2:00 before I could step away long enough to grab a granola bar, diet coke, and take a pee. Time to pick up the kids came all too soon and as luck would have it I once again found myself having to go to the grocery store by myself with the kids (darn my healthy milk drinker).

No, it wasn't anything on the level of disastrous proportions like the last time I attempted it. But to the woman that was in line behind me that just rolled her eyes and went to another checkout line when my kid dropped the milk on the floor--you are not a nice person. You saw I was pinned in by the giant green racing car cart and couldn't reach the milk. You saw I had one in a carrier crying and one pitching a fit because she dropped her milk. You could have at least picked up the milk while rolling your eyes and going to the next aisle, natch. It was dropped right at your feet. I have one word for you: KARMA.

Ok, I feel better.

Anyway, I've have a massive headache all day and the girls certainly didn't help things. Especially when they both took over an hour to go down. They both miss their Daddy terribly, as do I, and just cried and cried tonight. They are finally down. I've taken some migraine medicine and other than posting this blog I am doing one other thing before crashing for the night (and by night I mean three hours before Bailey wakes me up again). I am enjoying my guilty pleasure.

My guilty pleasure is ice cream. But not just any ice cream, Ben and Jerry's ice cream. It's my guilty pleasure not so much because of the calories (but yowsers there's a bunch!). It's my guilty pleasure because it's forbidden when Bill is here. Bill boycotts Ben and Jerry's for political reasons and I go with it when he's around. But when he's gone and I'm PMSing, stressed, and have a headache, all bets are off. I say ice cream has no politics. That little container of Chubby Hubby with the ribbon of peanut butter and the chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzels is nothing short of the best thing this side of heaven on a day like today. I am enjoying every bite of it. Then I'm going to go to bed and try to figure out where the hammers are coming from that are beating so fiercely on my head.

I told Bill by the time he got back I was checking into a hotel--and he wasn't coming. I was only half joking.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Road trip day five- Oh keys, where art thou?

I think I've now eaten more times at McDonald's in the past week than I have in the past five years combined. It's cheap, fast, and there is usually a playground to let the kids burn off energy.

We had just finished a disastrous trip to the mall when we decided to let the kids to to McDonald's and run around and get out of our hair. At one point I left the table to go change Bailey. When I came back, the table had been cleared of the food and trash. We let the kids run around some more and then we got up to leave. Only my keys weren't in my purse. We were just walking out to the car while I am digging through my purse and the sky opens and the rain pours. I've got the girls out in the rain and my keys are no where to be found.

We threw the girls in the other van temporarily and I ran back inside to look for my keys. They aren't on the table. They aren't on the floor. They aren't on the changing table. We go in the kiddie area on the chance a kid walked off with them. They aren't on, under, or next to any surface in the entire restaurant. We recruit a few random kids to look through the play maze, no dice. Not satisfied with their searching capabilities, I send Megan up through the maze and slides to look. She got the honor because she's smaller.

At this point I begin to panic, the kids begin to cry, and the rain continues to pour. My mom and sister, Tara, take the kids next door to the John Deere store. They take over the store running through the aisles, jumping on and off tractors, and pulling the little ones around in wagons. I've decided that the only logical place my keys could be are in the trash. I believe they were sitting on the tray when all of the food got cleared. I knew what I had to do.

I talk to the manager and he hands me a rubber glove (uh, that is a sentence I hope I never type again). Megan and I pull out the current bag in the can and proceed to go through it. I can honestly say I'd rather change 50 of Reagan's diapers after eating baked beans and chili than dig through another McDonald's trash bag. I felt like I was being dared on a Fear Factor episode. We dig through the bag and despite our torture, come up empty handed.

It turns out that wasn't our bag of trash. They had already changed out the bag and our trash bag was in back, with 200 other bags locked up and getting rained on. They wouldn't let us dig through any trash that had been taken in back. The manager said he looked through the top two bags but refused to look any further.

So, I'm 900 miles from home, in the rain, with two young children, and no keys and no access to spares. I called Bill crying and upset and he reminds me that there is a valet key in the car. I just needed to get into the car first. Megan remembers she and mom have AAA. Mom calls them and we wait, and we wait.

AAA shows up, gets the car unlocked, and there is the beautiful valet key. We are set. Only now it is 3:55, the wedding rehearsal starts at 4 and we are soaking wet, exasperated, and reek of McDonald's trash.

We finally made it to the rehearsal, just about as they were finishing. Then it was off to the dinner at the Shot Tower. I remember going there as a small child and standing in the window watching them making the pizzas. Reagan and the other kids enjoyed watching them just as I did 30 years ago.

What I learned today

  • Lesson 1: Don't leave your keys sitting on a tray for someone to throw away
  • Lesson 2 2: Don't dress your two year old in head to toe white when the rehearsal dinner is pizza (Oh, you already knew that one because it is clearly obvious? Whatever.)
  • Lesson 3: Programmable keys and key fobs cost $310 to replace

Pictures from the day:

Reagan admiring herself in her new "tractor hat" she picked out herself in the John Deere store while I was digging in the trash for my keys.

Here is the happy couple: Justin and Jordan at their rehearsal

Family with the little ones

Dinner at the Shot Tower

Reagan and Bailey- you can see how tired Reagan is getting by this point

Looking through the window at the Shot Tower, watching them make the pizzas

Celebrating my mom's (Nana) birthday back at the hotel after dinner

Road trip day four- flooded waters, drowned plans

We saw a lot of flooding along the roads on the way up to Dubuque. Fortunately, we were never detoured on the way. Our luck didn't hold out when we attempted to leave Dubuque for other destinations.

My sister Tara decided she wanted to take her kids to Nauvoo, IL. It's a really neat place that holds a lot of history for the LDS church. They recreate life in the 1800's and you can visit a blacksmith, baker, brick maker, newspaper printing, etc.

I have enjoyed my trips to Nauvoo and would certainly love to go again. But not this trip. After all the time I spent in the car getting up there, I wasn't about to subject my kids (and me) to more driving, especially since they are too little to enjoy or remember it. Since it is on the river, we called to make sure it hadn't been flooded. They assured us they were dry and open. So Tara, my mom, and Tara's four kids headed to Nauvoo. My sister Megan, who is childless, couldn't be talked back into the car either so she stayed with my girls and me.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of flooding between Dubuque and Nauvoo. Tara spent four hours getting detoured, turned around, and just plain blocked before she had to give up and turn around and go back to Dubuque. They spent seven hours in the car and never got to see anything. By the time they got back to Dubuque the kids were off the wall.

Meanwhile, Bill's mom and sister live in Des Moines. They wanted to see the girls, but after checking things out we realized the only way to get between Dubuque and Des Moines was to go through Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. These are two cities that are flooded and closed. So we stayed put and missed seeing them.

My heart goes out to all that were affected by the floods. On this day we were temporarily inconvenienced, some have been permanently displaced.

Road trip day three- down on the farm

We had one relatively uneventful day the entire trip. That would be this day. It was a welcome day.

You can't go to Iowa without going to a farm, right? My aunt, Stacy, lives on a farm and breeds greyhounds (there is a big dog track in Dubuque). We took the kids to the farm and it was like going to a free petting zoo. Good thing it was free because Reagan didn't actually pet anything. She loves animals. Really, really loves them. From afar. Like way far afar. Get her up close to any animal and she freaks out. I think we are going to have to start taking her on field trips to Pet Smart to get her a little more used to animals. Getting a pet to get her over her fear is just not going to happen.

But before we headed to the farm, we took a visit to the cemetery where my beloved Grandpa, "Pop" is buried. I hadn't been back to Dubuque since he died six years ago. It was bitter sweet to visit his grave site.

Then we went to Eagle Point park. There is a spot where you overlook the river and you can see Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa all at one time. But the kids don't care about that. They just want to know how good the playground is. I think it passed the test.

Finally, we made it out to the farm where we spent a good portion of the day. They have something like 90 dogs (including three litters of puppies), a litter of kittens, a bunch of chickens, a turkey, cows, bats, raccoons, horses, and who knows what other critters roaming around. It is paradise when you love animals. It is your own personal hell if you don't. Reagan loved running around and watching everything from a distance. But here is how she looks when someone shoves a kitten or puppy in her face to touch.

While we were there, I spent some time working on my aunt's computer. She has teenagers that like to go places they shouldn't on the internet. Hopefully, I took care of that for her. I was able to forbid specific sites, put on an adult filter that would block sites containing certain content, and I locked out the computer between the hours of midnight-7am. My aunt can override the blocks at any time with her password. The kids can't. And it even sounds a nice little alarm and records all of the blocked sites they were trying to get to. I think a few kids are going to get a talking to before too long. If you are in need of some parental controls for your home, try this free service: It seems to be pretty user friendly and pretty customizable.

I can't take credit for all of these photos. My sister Megan took some of them. I think there is a Nikon D80 purchase in her future. She got a hold of my camera and she was hooked.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My 15 minutes are up

Edited to Add on 07.08.2008: I'll be starting a comment's hall of fame based on this post. Until I have an official dedicated post for it, here is the start...
In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes
~Andy Warhol

Yep, that's right. My 15 minutes are up and I've had my day to shine. Last week in the middle of my road trip chaos, my blog was a featured blog of the day on The Secret is in the Sauce (SITS). It's a fun, awesome site just recently started by a couple of fellow comment junkies. They feature one blog a day with three of your blog posts and encourage all of the "members" to check out the posts. Here is the post where I was featured.
I had a terrible time choosing three posts. I finally decided on these three:
  • You couldn't pay me to try that again: If there had been an I Love Lucy episode where Lucy took two small kids to the grocery store, this would have been the episode.
  • I a pirate!: The day Reagan decided she was going to be a pirate and no school uniform was going to stop her.
  • Hello sushi lover!: Pics of Reagan eating sushi and a little tutorial for those that have never ventured into the world of sushi.

I had over 900 hits on the site and close to 300 comments in my 24 hours. On a normal day, I'll see anywhere from 175-200 hits so I was definitely feeling the love. I had some great comments. Of course, I also get some awesome comments from people that have been regularly reading my blog all along. Some of you are way more clever than me. So I think from now on, from time to time I'll do a little feature post where I'll highlight some of my favorite comments that people have posted. I'm going to start a comments hall of fame where I'll keep the all time best.

Here are excerpts of some of my favorites from the day:

Grocery store:


  • Melanie said... And I have a new word, Craptastic...
  • EmBee said...Let your freak flag fly Reagan!
  • Jen said... boy, I wish my son would be a pirate. He is stuck on being a princess.

Thanks to everyone new and old that reads my blog! It was really fun to be queen for the day.

Work! Oh, how I love thee!

I'm back. I've survived my week of "vacation." I don't know how you call it vacation when you are glad to be back at work to get a break. I didn't bill my client for my week off, so he got a vacation, but I don't think I did. Can I get a Mulligan? Never mind. I don't want to relive that week again. Ever.

I've got many days worth of posts to catch up on, I'll be working on that today. Let me assure you that my kids and family never disappoint in giving me interesting blogging fodder.

Oh, and Mrs. R totally won for best photo caption in the previous post. As Joanna rightfully said, how do you beat "Holey Moley"?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I've been super busy on the road trip and I'm about to fall to bed and collapse. For at least two hours. That's when Bailey will be up again. Ugh.

I have got to tell you all about my awesome day in getting featured on SITS yesterday. But the story will have to wait until tomorrow. I don't want to do a half arse job in telling you about it, which is exactly what you would get if I told you now. And I have a bajillion sites to visit and read from people that have been kind enough to leave me comments the last few days. I am honestly looking forward to perusing every last one and will absolutely be doing just that at my first opportunity.

I'll also post day three of the road trip tomorrow. Unfortunately for you, there were no elevators involved in the making of the story. But we sure had fun anyway.

In the meantime, here's a challenge for you: put a caption to this photo of Reagan taken today...

No there is no prize involved. Just the elite status and bragging rights to having the most awesome photo caption ever!

Road trip day two- back for more

A little more about this road trip...
One of my cousins is getting married this weekend in Iowa. I haven't been to Iowa since my Grandfather died six years ago. That means some of my family has never met the girls. My mom and two of my sisters decided to make a road trip of it and I figured it was as good as time as any to go.

So we are caravaning in two mini-vans since one of my sisters has four kids and I'm hauling my two. Bill did not come along. I'm pretty jealous of him right about now.

The itinerary
We started out the day about two hours south of St. Louis (two hours according to the navigation system which means 3.5 hours for us). We planned to spend a little time seeing the arch and letting the kids blow of some energy before heading the rest of the way to our final destination...Dubuque, IA. The nav said five hours from St. Louis to Dubuque. It was a little more than that for us.

The fun begins
We got to St. Louis and found the river front to be flooded. This means we spent a lot of time finding detours to the arch. It's a big giant half of a McDonald's arch. You can spot it from Mars. But I can't tell you how to actually drive to the parking for it. We drove past it countless times and waved at it. At one point a guy cut me off and flipped a U-turn in the middle of the road. I railed on the horn and Reagan shouted at him, "DUDE!" I suppose there are worse things I could have taught her to say in that situation.

Elevators shall be avoided for the rest of the trip. Once we finally found a parking garage, we had to use the elevator to go up one level to exit. The elevator came, the kids ran on, the door shut, and off they went. All of the adults were left standing in front of the elevator while you could hear the kids screaming from the elevator as it took off. We started laughing and then we hear the kids getting off. They went the wrong way and were a floor below us. Kids were running up the stairs, Mom was running down, while my seven year old niece had Reagan in a stroller and couldn't take the stairs. She gave a frantic, I'm stranded, "HELP!" The nine year old was crying because we were laughing and was coming up, I was going down. We all missed each other several times. We finally got everyone back in one elevator and headed up when a couple got on with us. We were still laughing so hard they were a little scared to get on.

But that wasn't enough of the elevators. It turns out there is an elevator in the arch--a really, really long ride elevator. It's not so much an elevator as a spaceship like evacuation pod that happens to ride up and down the arch. It is small, it is cramped, and it freaked out my two year old nephew, Landon.
Here is my mom, my sister Megan, and Reagan and Bailey in our "pod" up into the arch.

We got to the top of the arch, took a few photos, and got in line to head back down in our space pods. They are so small we had to go in two pods. There are eight of them that are stung together like a monorail that run up and down the arch. My sister, Tara, and her kids in one, the rest of us in another.
Pictures from the top of the arch. Looking out the little windows:

Landon was so freaked out going up, that he didn't want to go back in to go down. The doors were starting to close so she picked him up and tossed him in, kicking and screaming. While he was kicking, his shoe flew off. Her five year old noticed it and as she was throwing one kid in and blocking the door, the five year old was popping out to dive for the shoe and the door continued to close. We could hear Tara screaming and in between screams we hear "Landon, JD, shoe." Our doors had already closed and the pods were starting to move while we still hear shouts. We couldn't see anything going on, we just had visions of one of the kids left behind at the top of the arch. Losing the kids one floor in a parking garage wasn't that big of a deal. Leaving a kid at the top of the arch...big deal. We panicked and started banging on the pod door to help get someone's attention for Tara. But through all of our banging the pods moved and down we went.

I turns out Tara managed to block the door long enough to get all of the kids and the shoe back in. We were relieved, but decided no more elevators for the time being.

The drive
Total time according to navigation between Nowheresville, IL and Dubuque, IA- 7 hours.
Our total time- 12 hours
That's what happens when you stop every hour because someone out of ten has to pee, poop, eat, get gas, give off gas, or stop to buy Red Bull and ear plugs (hypothetically speaking on that last part).

I think after two solid days of driving with cranky, crabby, crying, kids I have one of two choices...
1) Sell the car and fly home
2) Declare permanent residence in Dubuque

Tomorrow's agenda
I do not know what is on the agenda for tomorrow. I know it will start with my kids up at the arse crack of dawn. I know I shall not do anything in the car that requires more than a ten minute drive to our destination.

P.S. Cool tidbit
Today, Reagan learned to do complete sommersaults by herself!
Other pics to share because they are cute and fun...
My niece, Savannah, age nine on the St. Louis riverfront looking at the river.
My neice, Shelby, age seven contemplating the universe while chillin in the grass at the park at the arch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I'm not sure what I was thinking. I'm wondering if it is too late to turn back.

It was only eight hours to St. Louis, as far as we wanted to go today. Ten hours later we are stopped for the night in a hotel in the middle of Nowheresville, Illinois, still several hours from St. Louis. I could do some math and figure out our exact rate of efficiency. Or I could just put on my Captain Obvious costume and say, "Wow, that took way longer than it should have."

Right now, I'm sure Bill is at home having a big old party for his week of no kids and no 2am feedings. I, on the other hand, still hear ringing in my ears from the hours and hours of crying and Wheels on the Bus songs. I'm going to go curl up in a fetal position in a corner of the sweltering hot hotel room and rock myself to sleep.

This about sums how all of us felt at the end of the really long day:

All except for the surprise winner of the "Last Man Standing" contest:

Bailey got to the hotel and was ready to get her party on. Too bad no one else was.

Tomorrow we head back out on the road, along with my mom, two of my sisters, and my sister's four kids. I'm not sure I can be talked back into the car again. Well, maybe for the sake of having brilliant blogging material for the weeks ahead. I'll think about it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not by the hair on my chiny, chin, chin

I was driving to a business meeting today and as was customary for me, I started to put on my makeup in the car while I was sitting at traffic lights. Part of what I do when I put on my makeup is look for this one nasty, coarse black hair to pluck that I have had on my chin for years. I pluck and pluck and pluck, yet it always returns.

So today I flipped down the mirror in the bright beautiful sun to check for that hair. I was shocked at what I saw! It was a good thing I was stopped at a light because had I have been driving, I probably would have driven off the road. There on my chin, was not one hair...there were SIX! SIX ugly black course hairs; three on each side gleaming in the bright sun like they were proud to be sprouting from my chin.

I wiped at my face thinking maybe a few eyelashes fell and got strategically stuck on my chin. No dice, those suckers were stuck. I looked in the mirror again. My mirror betrayed me. Instead of me, I saw a prepubescent teen who was proudly bearing his six chin hairs while attempting to channel his inner beatnik. One chin hair was so long I swear I could have hung a bead from it.

How did this happen? Where did these come from? Will they come back? Will they bring friends? I need some answers.

Someone know a good plastic surgeon? I'm in need of some laser hair removal and lipo before my beard and post-baby belly starts having people confusing me with the Pregnant Man.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bailey grows up

Bailey has had a few firsts over the last month. She's now 5.5 months old and she's catching up and growing up like crazy. The little peanut is still in the 10th percentile in size, but that's to be expected when you decide to make your entrance into the world six weeks early. She's becoming more baby and less infant. I've got to tell you, I'm not really shedding any tears over that development. Some people like that newborn stage. I'm not sure what they like about the sleep deprivation, the constant crying, changing 20 diapers a day, feeding every three hours, and doing 15 loads of laundry a week. But that's just me.

So here are our signs that our little Bailey is growing up...

First time in a high chair.
Yeah, we had to have the massively padded high chair cover to keep her in there; but she was there, alert, and excited to be a big girl in the high chair. She sat in it through the entire meal, grinning at everyone that walked by. Let me tell you, when you go to IHOP on Senior's night, that's a lot of grins to give out. Here's her picture of the event.

Got her ears pierced.
We pierced Reagan's ears at 4.5 months, just after her second set of shots. We did the same thing with Bailey. They both have matching little flower earrings now. She cried when I held her head. She didn't cry for the piercing. She was grinning ear to ear as soon as I let go of her. Here's her picture of the event.

And no, it doesn't stop people from calling her a boy. Bailey will be dressed from head to toe in pink, sporting her earrings, and a giant daisy stuck on the top of her head. And yet people will still say, "Oh, what a cute little boy, how old is he?"

I ask you, what self respecting parent that loves their child would dress their BOY like this?

Or this?

And now you are asking yourself, "what self respecting parent that loves their child would dress ANY baby like that?" Yeah, you've got a point. Moving on.

First solids
We tried cereal about a month back. We've moved on to veggies. She had her first taste of squash yesterday. To say she enjoyed it was an understatement. She would flap her arms and dive towards the spoon like a little birdie going for a worm. She ate 3/4 of the container before she petered out. I'd say she was ready for solids. Hopefully it will keep some food in her belly at night so that mommy and daddy keep to their beds more at night. We'll see. I can't wait until she's sleeping through the night.

Where's her picture of the event? *Gasp!* I don't have one. I've taken over 6,000 pictures in the last year and I made a conscious decision not to film her first feeding of solids. I thought about it. Then I remembered my last 2+ years on BBC (mommy board) and the 4001 pictures I've seen of messy face kids. I've decided that all pictures of messy face kids look exactly alike and somewhere around pic 3998 it stopped being amusing to me.

So I'll spare you pictures of Bailey covered from head to toe in squash. There was an added benefit to me not taking pictures. My camera stayed squash free. Nothing says, "My camera is headed for the repair shop" like a camera covered in squash from the onslaught of impending raspberries and sneezes that can only occur at the precise moment that you loaded her with more squash. She did manage to cover Reagan in squash. Is it wrong to say I was amused and felt slightly vindicated after Reagan's behavior over the last few days? *Chu-chunk* What's that sound you hear? That's the sound of me adding 20 more bucks to her therapy fund bucket for when she reads that sentence as a tween and tells me I ruined her whole life. Don't worry. There's plenty of money there already. She'll have a good therapist when she reads this blog one day.

Bailey slept through the night.
Ok, that wasn't really a first. A girl can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tecnical difficulties, please stand by

So clearly I have no business trying to customize my blogger template. I did a full backup, but apparently a full backup doesn't actually backup your widgets. Now I am getting all kinds of bizarre errors and I'm about ready to dump this thing and open a wordpress account instead.

So, the blog is a mess right now. I've lost ALL of my lovely blog links so I'm trying to piece those back together. Pardon the dust.

What's for dinner, tator tot casserole

Tator tot casserole was one of those dishes I remember having as a kid. I love potatoes, and tator tots in any form always seemed a treat to me (ok, they still are). I wanted to recreate that childhood memory and made a tator tot casserole, just like I remembered. I dug in, I was disappointed. It was so bland. Was it that bland when I was growing up and didn't remember? I looked at versions of tator tot casserole recipes and they all seemed pretty much what I made. Then I came across an Alton Brown recipe that used blue cheese and bacon. Ok, now we are talking! Once I had that idea, I was off to the races and had my own version cooked up in no time.

I should mention that I made this dish last night because I decided I wanted to start cooking again. But we hadn't been to the grocery store in weeks and I had no meal plan. So I started looking around at what I had, and discovered I could make this recipe without having to go out for anything. Everything I need to make this tator tot casserole is part of my staples list. Meaning, I always have these things on hand because I use them in everything, and I always wait until the items are on sale and then stock up.

Blue cheese and bacon tator tot casserole
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr

1 10 oz package of bacon (or 8-10 slices)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 bag of frozen onion
3 tsp minced garlic
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
2 tsp italian herb blend
1/2 bag of frozen green beans
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1 bag of frozen tator tots
1 c crumbled blue cheese
1 c shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Spray nonstick spray in 9x13 baking dish, set aside
3. Cook bacon, drain it, and crumble it. (Make sure you make it very crispy!)
4. Brown the ground beef. While it is browning, throw in the frozen onion and garlic and cook all of it at the same time. Drain the ground beef mixture.
5. In a large bowl, combine the bacon, beef, italian seasoning, cream of mushroom soup, frozen corn, frozen green beans.
6. Add the mixture to your 9x13 baking dish
7. Spread your blue cheese and cheddar cheese evenly over the mixture
8. Add the frozen tator tots over the top
9. Cook in 375 oven for 1 hour
10. (Optional) IF you have any cheese leftover in your package, 15 minutes before finish, add a layer of cheese over the top of the tots (you can never have too much cheesy goodness!)

Serving info
Estimated cost: full price- around $15. If you buy everything when it is on sale- around $8.

This makes a lot of food. We have two adults and one child eating and this is several meals for us. Often when I make a dish that uses a 9x13 dish, I divide it. I use one glass 8x8 pan that we'll cook and eat. I'll also use a disposable 8x8 pan that I'll assemble then freeze for later.

The results
Reagan was patiently waiting to dig into the tator tot casserole last night. This was a huge hit with her.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What's for dinner, intro

What's the deal?
I've decided to start posting recipes from time to time. I thought it would be nice for the girls to have a record of recipes that they used to eat growing up so they can cook them later in life. It will also give me an incentive to get back on track to doing the meal planning, sale shopping, and daily cooking that I used to do. When I came back from maternity leave, all of those things fell by the wayside. We've mostly eaten frozen entrees or eaten out for the last few months and we are all tired of it. I think if Bill sees one more Stouffer's lasagna come out of the microwave he's going to go on a hunger strike.

How are you going to do it?
This is going to be a challenge for me because I don't actually follow recipes, I never make anything the same way twice, and I don't measure stuff (which is why you'll probably never see a baking recipe here, I stink at it). I'm thinking those are probably prerequisites to be a chef; good thing I'm not one.

I like to think I am good at cooking, regardless. I figure some osmosis has occurred with my hundreds of hours of watching every Alton Brown Good Eats DVD ever recorded. I have quite a few recipes that others might enjoy if I discipline myself to measure and record things as I go. So, as I cook something for my family, I'll be writing it down to share with you. I'll expect you to let me know if you cooked it and let me know how it turned out and if you changed anything to make it better.

Don't worry. I'll post the recipes after the family ate it and liked it. I won't post anything that was a science experiment gone arwy. Uh, forget I said that. That never happens here. (Why am I grinning like a cheshire cat?)

Wat'cha cookin?
As far as what I cook, let me remind you I work full time and have two little ones. So simplicity has become a priority. Bill and I love to cook big, elaborate recipes but these days those are saved for weekends or special occassions. I like the ease of one dish meals like crockpots and casseroles. I take shortcuts when I can so I use things like precut frozen veggies to save time where possible. I cook just about any ethnicity of food because I enjoy variety and want to expose the girls to lots of different types of foods. I cook anything from southern comfort food to gourmet foods that seem complicated (but aren't) that are sure to impress company.

Do you do requests?
To make things a little more interesting and interactive, I will take requests for recipes. Want a good recipe for deviled eggs? Tired of cooking pork chops the exact same way every week? Just leave me a comment on any post with of what type of recipe you are looking for. If I don't already have a recipe for it, I'll add it to my weekly meal plan and work out a recipe during the week. That gives me the added bonus of adding cool new recipes I may not have otherwise thought to try so I really hope you guys take advantage of the special request. I love a challenge!

What's in a name?
Now, I just need a clever little name to identify all of my cooking posts so I can categorize them one day. Anyone have any suggestions for my cooking blog segment?

Weekend tidbits

I have some things from this weekend to post later, but I wanted to share a few Reagan tidbits from this weekend. We drove to Alabama for a family visit. My Dad and stepmom, Kerry, drove down from Wisconsin and we met them there so they could meet Bailey for the first time. We also got to see my grandparents and other family relatives. Good times were had by all.

Where are we?
When we arrived Friday night, it was late and Reagan had already been asleep. She was in a fog as we got her dressed for bed and laid her on her roll away in the hotel room. She didn't move the entire night. When morning came and she woke up, she sat up, looked around and said, "Mommy, where are we going?"

Anatomy of a bird and a bee
Reagan, ever the careful observer, noticed her cousin getting changed after swimming. Her cousin is four months older and a B-O-Y. As she watched him getting changed, she saw something not quite right on the landscape. She ran over, gave a honk, and said, "what's that?" His shocked mother yelled, "Bridget, Reagan has a question for you." Reagan came over, I looked at her and said, "Go ask your Daddy."

Yep, I handled that well. Next week when she asks where babies come from I've got it covered.

ETA: I was just over at Laura's blog. Apparently Alex could have answered Reagan's question this weekend. He did a much better job than I did.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I'm a little teacup...

These are straight out of the camera (SOOC) shots so I'll be playing with them later to make them even better. But they were so darned cute I wanted to go ahead and share a sneak peak at the photos.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bill's birthday surprise

Let me start by saying I am terrible with surprises. I mean really, really terrible. Surprises require you to fabricate stories to cover your tracks. I cannot lie. When I lie, I grin from ear to ear like a cheshire cat. I have no poker face. And I can't keep a fabricated story straight. Surprises also require you to keep your pie hole shut and not spit out what's going on. Again, another thing I can't do. Especially to Bill. I get that from my Mom. My Mom is the person when you want everyone to know something you tell her, "This is a secret, don't tell anyone." And within two hours everyone on her speed dial and email spam list knows the worst kept secret in town (come on Mom, you know it's true).

So generally, I just don't even attempt surprises. They'll just end up being a miserable failure, so why bother? Well, this year I decided I wanted to attempt a little surprise anyway. Bill's office had a few elements of personality hidden in it if you really looked. But it for the most part it pretty much said, "non-descript IT Manager's office...put your name here." So I decided I wanted to try to decorate his office a bit. Add some art, some pictures of the girls, some fun little distractions. I wanted it to be decorated so that when he entered his office on his birthday, it would be all set up.

I looked through his Blackberry and found a phone number of one of his co-workers. I arranged to have her let me into the office the night before when I knew Bill would be gone to take Reagan to swimming lessons. This required my lie. I told Bill that I wouldn't be home because I had to go pick up a laptop from a woman rolling off at my client. I told him this as I was busy dealing with bottles so I had an excuse not to look at him and keep my chesire grin turned away. Whew, he bought it! I was all set.

So the day came to decorate and his co-worker got me signed in and the security lady was nice enough to give me the key to unlock his office (thanks security lady!). His co-worker gave me a photo that his team had photoshopped that they wanted me to include in the decorating. Perfect! I started hanging things and putting out little gadgets and blowing up the moose head. Then it happened. My phone rang, it was Bill! Oh noes! I answered the phone and Bill asks me to get the truck emissions test done while I am out. "Ok" I eeked out, and we hung up. Whew, he bought it! Had he asked me a single question, it would have been all over with. All he had to do was say, "So what are you doing?" or "Where are you?" and I would have blurted out, "Standing on the desk in your office trying to hang a giant inflatible moose head. What are you doing?"

Ok, I realize that I shouldn't be whining about wanting to be an interior designer in one post and then talking about installing a giant inflatible moose head in the next. The irony isn't lost on me. But remember I was talking about wanting to add some personality to his office too, making it more non-descript. I can't explain it, but when I saw the moose head, it screamed Bill's office. That and I probably don't have any business being an interior designer, but we can analyze that in another post.

I finished the decorating, locked his office, and then couldn't wait to tell Bill what a clever girl I was. Oh, wait. I couldn't do that. Then it wouldn't be a surprise. I was dying to tell him and couldn't wait for him to see his office the next day. I actually managed to keep my mouth shut and act normal (for me) until he walked out to go to work the next day.

Woo hoo! I did it! I pulled off a SURPRISE! Hmmm...this opens a whole new world of possibilities for me. Watch out Bill! You don't know what I might think of next!

Bill took these pictures on his camera phone since I couldn't take pictures with my camera (I'll explain that fiasco in another post). You don't really see a lot of the desk accessories I added, but you can see the pictures of the girls, the Kandinksy print, and the infamous moose head I hung.

I'll be adding a few more things for him on Father's Day. No, it won't be a surprise.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Hubby

Today's is Bill's birthday. He's 41. Let me tell you about Bill.
  • He's the devoted Dad that leaves his office each day at 4pm and returns home at 6:45pm, all so that Reagan can get in a ten minute swimming lesson on the other side of town.
  • He's the devoted husband that picks up an extra night feeding when I'm sick and overly tired.
  • He's my best friend that I share all of my secrets with and laughs at my dry and not so funny sense of humor.
  • He's the class clown that is not above poop and fart jokes.
  • He's the political activist that listens through hours of AM talk radio, that makes it his duty to know the facts on global warming, candidate's platforms, and what is happening in the economy.
  • He's the patriot that served his country for three years in the Army (in the infantry no less, and he is NO runner).
  • He's the devoted friend that brings his truck to help them bring home new furniture.
  • He's a spiritual man who is trying to know who God is and who every night says a prayer with Reagan before tucking her into bed.
  • He's the good sport that took two weeks of vacation and 5000 miles to roam all over the country with me to see my family and needed a vacation when he returned.
  • He's the supportive husband that tells me to follow my dreams.
He's my hero.

I love you Bill, happy birthday!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Nothing to see here, move on

One of the obvious risks to a public blog is anyone can view it. On my stat counter I am able to see pretty nifty stats like how many people visited and where they were from and how they got to my blog. The analyst geek in me loves to look at the stats and I do on a regular basis.

I am also able to see what people searched on to get to my blog. Let me tell you, we google some really strange garbage. And apparently I blog about some really strange garbage because these search terms somehow find their way to my blog. The stranger stuff I just look at it kind of sideways and go on my way. But today as I was perusing the searches, one caught my attention. It was one of those searches where there was no mistaking it. No matter how you thought about it, it couldn't have been anything put a perv trolling the internet for pictures he had no business getting. I would love to give you more details than that but frankly, the more I type those words used in the search terms, the higher on the search engine I go for other pervs looking for the same thing. And while I love visits to my blog, there are some visitors that are simply not welcome. Mr. Ozarks perv would be one of them.

Mr. Ozarks perv landed on a page that was actually supposed to be an innocent inspirational post where I retold a story I had heard in church. It is annoying that something so innocent would bring someone so nasty to my site. Once might be tempted to think, maybe he read the story and was inspired? Uh, no. Jesus said not to put pearls before swine for a reason.

The stats showed that he clicked on the page, didn't see what he was looking for (of course) and immediately jumped off, which makes me feel better. But the fact that he still landed there at all still irks me. Mostly it is because I would like to deny these people exist and it makes it kind of hard for me to do so when they are wandering on my blog, my virtual backyard. I chose to make this blog public and I don't regret that decision. I knew that was a risk I was taking when I made it public. My reasons for making it public still outweigh the occasional evil doer troll that comes my way.

I know there will be more, but for now I will not change how I am doing things. But let me just make it perfectly clear to any other pervert that might happen across this site...this is a family blog. These are real people. These are MY children. There is NOTHING for you to see here. I welcome all to my blog...EXCEPT YOU. GET OUT of my backyard!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Height predictor

I plugged Reagan's height and weight into a height predictor along with Bill and my heights. I should note that I am 5' 2" (if I stand up real straight and I'm having a poofy hair day) and Bill is 5' 11" (he claims that when he was in the army he was 6' but I think they must have measured him with his boots on, I'm not buying he shrunk a whole inch already).

And it appears Reagan will take after her mama. She is predicted to be a statuesque 5' 3". Sorry baby. I spent 30 minutes googling height predictors that would make her taller, but they all seem to be the same. Here's one if you are interested click here.

I'm going to dig up my baby book and plug in my height at age two and see what I was predicted to be.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mid life crisis?

Ever the over achiever, I think I am experiencing a mid life crisis years before I am supposed to. I turn 35 this month and as Bill puts it, I am "at a crossroads."

For much of my life I have put my self worth and validation around my career. I have tried to lessen that as I added a husband and added children, but over the years I have found myself still drawn to jobs that require that I have more "work" and less "life" balance. I constantly struggle with the two and rarely feel like I have actually achieved my blog titled "Equilibrium."

I don't really talk about my job on here partly because I would bore you even more than I normally do (How is that possible you ask yourself? Don't tempt me to show you) and partly because I don't want to be fired (Dooce, anyone?). But I'll share with you where this mid-life crisis is coming from. For starters, for the money that I get paid, it generally comes with strings attached. Things like taking conference calls at 5am or 10pm or pulling all nighters during a big release. It also seems to come with a lot more stress. Stress that I don't seem to handle well with a lack of sleep and priorities pulling in all directions. I don't get paid to make a mistake or to not have an answer. My job is to double check to make sure I don't make mistakes and to find someone who has the answer if I don't. Sometimes I would really like the option of saying, "Oops, my mistake" or "I don't know the answer. Please help me."

There was a time in my life when I would have happily done all those things. That was a husband and two kids ago. Now I want a job where I can go in an office, leave at 5, and never think about that job again. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to put less responsibility for the kids with Bill. I want to have more time to clean the house and do the laundry (ok, let's face it...all the time in the world isn't going to make me get laundry done). That's what I say I want, but here's the dilemma:
  • I haven't found any jobs that meet that criteria that pay my same pay. So what are we willing to sacrifice for me to make less money? A smaller house? A longer commute (counter productive to the goal)? Cheaper childcare?
  • I'm not sure I can be an Indian and not the chief. Again, counter productive goals. I want a job where I am in charge but I don't want to deal with it after I leave there. Most chiefs carry Blackberry's for a reason. And I'm pretty sure I see more gray hairs on the chiefs than the Indians, purely from stress.
  • I actually don't even care for the field I'm in. I've been in IT my entire career. I'd rather be picking out sofa fabrics and paint swatches. But that field doesn't pay much when you are starting out and I don't know how to get into that field without going to school. I'd want to be an interior designer, not just a decorator (designers can move walls, a decorator can just paint them). All the classes are during the day around here and are terribly expensive.

I was kind of hoping that once I laid all this out, by the end I would know what I needed to do from here. I think I've been too busy looking for all of the answers for my client because I don't seem to have any answers left for me.