Saturday, January 30, 2010

More fun on the internets

Have you been on Failbook yet? HILARIOUS. I had to read them all. I sincerely hope I never see myself or anyone I know on there. Not that 1/8000000 of what I discuss is anything like those posts.

Oh the humanity!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not a paid advertisement

I don't often endorse specific products here. Mainly because I think 1) my regular readers (all 4 of you!) probably have their own brand loyalties and 2) I'm not sure who wants product advice from a stay-at-home mom with a Polarfleece addiction and who's primarily goal in life is to keep her house clean for more than 2 hours at a crack.


I have to give a shout out to Suki's Naturals. Their amazing products, specifically the 21-day Detox regimen, have completely revitalized and rescued my very sensitive, completely parched, horrible winter skin. The long, cold Florida winter had taken its toll. I was a bumpy, patchy, peely, bumpy, itchy, cracky, scaly, spotty mess. One week after starting the Detox my skin is soft, clear, smooth and so even-toned that I can go out without makeup!

I salute you, Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ten things I learned about camping

I had an awesome time camping with Dag's Brownie troop this weekend! Maybe because it was only one night (Friday to Saturday) but that seemed to be about the right length of time for a first camping trip. I certainly could have used a shower, but no one else seemed to care. The girls were all on their best behavior-- no squabbles, tears or fighting! -- and we only had one girl from our troop get homesick and bail out on Friday. Overall, it was one of the best organized events I've ever been to.

Friday night was check-in. I had been at the campsite most of the afternoon setting up tents with one of the troop dad's, and I was very concerned because it was horribly muddy from the rain we got Thurs. night and Friday morning. But by the time the girls checked in at 5:30 the pathways were mostly dry and only the edges of the tent field were icky. After we got the girls' stuff settled in the tents, they got to watch a movie, have pizza and make s'mores. Have you ever tried to get 150 girls organized around a campfire? Yeah, me neither. But the staff were EXCELLENT. They got everybody in and out safely.

Lights out/quiet time was at 9:00 and I think everyone had fallen asleep by 10:30 (I know I did!)

It was so much fun sleeping in a tent! You hear things that you just don't anywhere else like coyotes howling and, best of all, owls. They were hooting all night long. So cool. And yeah, I didn't sleep much (see items 8 & 9 below) but it was still cool.

Saturday was a full day - 8 hours of programs and activities planned and executed entirely by 8th grade girls earning their Silver Awards. I was so impressed! There was a scrapbook program, a "SPA-tacular" program (exercise, manicures and make-your-own lip balm & bubble bath) and a full afternoon of Outdoor Skills. (When I told him about it, Mr. J was a bit confused - he was a Boy Scout and he was sure they never had a scrapbook badge.) The girls really enjoyed them all, but I loved the Outdoor Skills. We - I mean THEY - made foil packet meals, learned how to make campfires, learned how to set-up and take down a simple tent and then learned a bunch of Girl Scout songs. I (I mean THEY) loved it!

Overall it was a great experience for me - I mean THEM. Our troop can be tricky - most of them have known each other since they were 3 and since our school is small, only one class per grade, they can be pretty clique-y. But they got along beautifully and it was good to see girls who don't normally play together getting along just fine. Mr. J said Dags looked like she'd grown up two years overnight.

So, in a nutshell, here are my top 10 things l learned this weekend for future Girl Scout camping experiences (and oh yes we're already planning on more trips!):

1) Everyone will overpack - some girls had a full rolling SUITCASE with them. Make a very concise packing list and make sure people stick to it. And then tell everyone to take half the stuff off it. Most everyone wore the exact same thing Friday night to Saturday with maybe just a change from long-sleeves to short. Obviously, we can do this because we're in Florida so don't really need heavy gear and also because it was only one night. If you're going to bring multiples of anything, make it socks. On a side note -- after everyone checked out I noticed no less than 7 pairs of unde*rwear scattered around the field. What the heck? Did the girls change their unde*rwear and then just drop them outside? Weird.

2) Make sure everyone packs a cup for water (this is a GS camping rule anyway). We had bought the girls water bottles for the trip, but they turned out to be a total pain - they weren't as portable as we thought. Only one girl also bought a cup with a handle that she could easily tie to her belt loops with a bandana.

3) Make sure everyone has a lightweight backpack!!! I can't tell you how many girls asked me to carry stuff for them. The backpacks can be for water bottles, SWAPS, goodies that they make, mementos, sunscreen, etc. Make sure it's a backpack - not shoulder bags, not totes, not a teeny tiny Hello*Kitty messenger bag. A backpack. You can get lightweight cloth ones at Oriental Trading for about $1 each and I'm headed over there ASAP to purchase a bunch for future events - I think you can even iron-on your own troop numbers and stuff on them.

4) Check out the bathroom facilities ahead of time, know where they are, make sure the girls know where they are and plan accordingly. There were 6 toilet stalls and 10 sinks for 200 people. For someone like me who places a really high premium on bathroom privacy (and cleanliness!) it was a total nightmare. I didn't have anywhere to do my contact lenses, there were girls in line for days, there was only one mirror, it was gross. So next time, the girls are going on their OWN (I might wait nearby to make sure they all come out) and I will wait until everyone is in bed and then go do my own thing. I will always be the first one up -- 5:20 a.m! -- to make sure I can wash up without a crowd around me. I will also either wear my glasses or make sure that I bring a disposable pair of lenses with me so I don't have to fuss with cases and solution, etc. Also invest in a quick-dry towel like an Aquis especially if you will have access to a shower. The girls all had regular towels and not a single one dried after Friday night wash-up. There were icky damp towels everywhere and no place to hang them.

5) Bring snacks and drinks - and definitely some breakfast stuff - for yourself! The girls all had plenty of snacks at the programs and always had access to water, but by 10:00 on Saturday I would have sold a kidney for a Diet Coke and a granola bar. I tried to beg for a bag of GORP from a 13 year old who told me they were "really just for the girls." Thank goodness I had gum. This might have just been our encampment, but the main reason I was a low-blood-sugar basket case was...

6) Breakfast was totally kid-centered! They had a thing of very watery coffee* for the adults. That was about it. The rest of the breakfast was kids' cereals, muffins, milk, donuts, some very green bananas and tangerines. Next time I'll bring some instant coffee (to add to their coffee-flavored hot water), a packet of instant oatmeal, some granola bars, nuts, maybe some apples or something -- anything -- with some fiber and protein.

*Disclaimer: I like very strong, hot, black-as-night, full-caff coffee and I drink need about 6 cups in the morning. (My name is Trish and I'm an addict.)

7) Make sure you have a very portable camp chair to sit on, especially while the girls are doing their activities. The girls can sit anywhere, but if I tried to sit on the ground for more than 20 minutes at a crack I'd probably need knee surgery.

8) If you are tent camping, make sure the girls are told about taking off their shoes before going in the tents. And also about not touching the sides of the tent with anything, including themselves. I didn't even know this rule myself, and the condensation on the tents soaked just about everything by the morning. (Again, this might be an issue only in Florida where it's pretty humid.)

9) Bring a foam mat or something to put under your sleeping bag and also a soft, small, DRY towel or something that you can roll-up and put under your head. The ground is much harder than it looks or feels. I was being all macho "I don't need the extra gear" but by 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning I was wishing I had bothered. Lots of girls bought blankets and pillows, but they mostly ended up soaking wet by morning.

10) Allow some free time! By lunch everyone just wanted a chance to run around and explore. The programs were pretty tightly timed and none of the kids are into watches yet, so unfortunately we had to keep them pretty contained. In hindsight, I wish we'd taken time to just let them run, swing on the rope swings, play by themselves. I'm sure they would have all come back sooner or later. (Maybe next time we'll make sure they wear watches.)

So that's about it! I ( WE) had an excellent time and it will be even more fun next time I'm sure! And the best part is I think we're ready to start doing this as a family, now that Anders is out of diapers and both kids are less picky about food. I'm looking forward to some cool family camping adventures. Watch for us at a campsite near you -- we'll be the ones with an abundance of coffee and Ritz crackers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I did it! I made it! I slept in a tent and didn't shower, do my hair or put on makeup in the morning. I almost didn't brush my teeth Friday night, but finally decided poor oral hygiene was more disgusting than sharing a rusty, cobwebby old bathroom (10 sinks, 6 toilets) with 199 other people, most of which were under the age of 8.

Full recap to follow after I get unpacked. Which I did not do last night, contrary to my SOP, because I was so tired I barely made it home at all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hey NBC! I got your drama right here.

Holy crap. Brownie campout tomorrow. Supposed to rain all day. Booo!

Need some drama in your life? Then YOU try equally dividing 12 emotionally unstable seven year old girls between two tents. Did we tell them the tent assignments are basically just where they will be sleeping tomorrow? Yes. That they would get to spend the WHOLE DAY Saturday and most of the night Friday with the same people that they are attached at the hip with anyway? Yes. Did we tell them that "you get what you get and you don't get upset!"? Yes. Did we tell them that, rather than letting 12 emotionally unstable seven year olds figure out where they will sleep, we decided to assign tents to "break up" some of the groups/duos that we know would cause problems and allow the girls to get to know some of the other girls better? No, of course not.

But while we might have warded off some nighttime problems tomorrow, we bought ourselves a world of drama today when we handed out the tent assignments. Some of them took the news as if we told them they were being permanently exiled. Which I guess is what it feels like to a seven year old, but you know what? My kid is one of the ones being assigned away from her BFF and she's not crying.

Ugh. I'm already over it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tummy trouble

Little tummy trouble going on here.

Be back soon!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tasty treats!

Want to enter a blogger giveaway for some tasty treats from Blackberry Farm? Head over to Spice & Sass!

We're off to the Saturday Morning Market early this morning - trying to beat the rain. Stay tuned next week for fun posts as we gear up for the Great Brownie Camping Trip (the one where me & my brave co-leader attempt to take 12 rowdy little 2nd graders camping, most for the first time.)

Have I mentioned I'm more of a Four Seasons kind of girl?

That said, I think it will be fun and I do love gearing up for events like these. I found awesome sleeping bags for Dags & I and these cute little mess kits at Target. Until two days ago I didn't even know what a "mess kit with dunk bag" was! I also got a little LED leopard-print book light, my current Book Club book, and a really pretty leaf-green fleece. I'm also considering some dry shampoo since this campout does not feature shower facilities and everyone who's ever seen me in the morning knows I have to shampoo every day. My hair does not wear well otherwise. But I've also heard funky things about dry shampoos and darker hair - you can get a dandruffy effect. Option 2: The Hat. Oh well, it's all about the girls, not me!

Friday, January 15, 2010


I had planned a frivolous Friday post about this and that. But then I got an email from the Parish about our twin parish in La Gonave, Haiti and how we are able to contact anyone there - the people who administer the project or the priests who administer to the parish - to find out how they are doing.

We are having a special fundraiser collection at church on Sunday for them. If you'd like, you can read more about St. Paul's "Partners with Haiti" project. Note: the website is a little out of date, but the basic gist is there.

Part of our funds collected will also go to Catholic Relief Services, who are already on the ground in Haiti providing aid.

Having grown up in the Caribbean and having seen first hand the absolute poverty that many live in, I can't imagine what it must be like to actually be there. Can you imagine being a mom, with kids, not knowing how to feed them? No bathrooms? No place to do laundry? And that's probably their NORMAL everyday life. Now imagine what little shelter or comfort you have is destroyed. Yeah, makes our problems seem petty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crisper drawer: FAIL

My crisper drawer, overloaded with lettuce and kale from my CSA all nicely tucked into Green Bags, froze over last night.

N.B.: You can't thaw lettuce. It turns into mush.

However dinner (grilled flat iron steak, roasted red potatoes and peas - not salad as planned, see above) was a resounding success! Everyone ate! Woohoooooo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

J. Crew: FAIL

No, no, no. Dear J. Crew - you are still getting it wrong. Guess why? Because back in the day when you made quality clothes that really were meant to last, I bought some J. Crew chinos. And they have been naturally destroyed not by 400 minutes of being worked over by a machine, but by almost 20 years of being worked over by me!

And your model? Still looks drunk and/or boneless. Didn't your mother ever tell you to stand up straight? Can't you find a hairbrush? Also, I'm not sure adults should wear clothes that purposely looked patched. It's sorta cute and charming on little kids who are clearly wearing hand-me-downs, but is that the image we want to portray when your over 10? Somebody please help these people out.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dinner: FAIL

It's finally supposed to warm up into the 50s this week! Yay! I am so over hibernating, frozen feet, layering the kids in fleecy blankets and the furnace running 24/7. Our gas bill this month is going to be SCARY, like maybe middle-of-August-a/c-bill scary.

It was also too cold to go anywhere for dinner, and usually we go out on Saturday night or at the very least for brunch after church on Sunday. But not this weekend. As a matter of fact we didn't make it to church until the 11:30 Mass, which was PACKED so it looks like a lot of other families had issues with getting out of bed for the 9:30 service. Anyway, knowing it was too cold to want to venture out, I had carefully planned and prepared delicious, easy, warm meals for us to eat all weekend. And what did the kids eat? Mostly bread & jam.

Friday we had baked ziti. Picked at by Dags, ignored by Anders.
Saturday we had homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese on homemade bread. Dags drank about 2 tsp. of soup, picked her sandwich apart. Anders ate PB on Ritz crackers.
Sunday we had slow-cooked beef brisket. Choice between hard rolls or tortillas with a topping for every palate. Dagny ate about half a tortilla. Anders had a roll.

The Great Homemade Bread Experiment is off to a steady start. I've made honey wheat (kids didn't like) and homemade white (kid tolerated, as long as it is lightly toasted and slathered with jam). I'm going to try a sandwich loaf later this week. Homemade bread does take some getting used to, but making it is way, way easier than I thought and boy, is it FUN. Love it!

Today is Matt's birthday but also Dagny's First Reconciliation at Church, so we'll be celebrating Dagny today and Matt tomorrow (flat iron steaks for us. bread & jam for the kids.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ice watch

We're basically the same temperature as Juneau, ALASKA this morning. We're watching for the much-hoped-for (by the kids!) wintry mix that's on it's way.

Brrr. Send hot cocoa!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cupcake cabin fever

In a futile attempt to warm up the house Anders & I made cupcakes today! The oven may not do much for warmth, but all the extra pounds I'll put on sure will help. (I really should lay off the baked goods. Maybe when it warms up.)

These are moist rich chocolate (anti-oxidants! yes!) cupcakes with a creamy, butter-less buttercream frosting. So I guess it's really 7 minute frosting, but I made it with vanilla sugar to get the flavor party going. It's thick and creamy and no, it doesn't have that crazy buttercream richness, but it goes awfully well with the chocolate anyhow. And some have toasted coconut, which Anders declared disgusting but that just means there are more for me. The best thing about that frosting was I made it with frozen egg whites that I had on hand. I usually have a lot of frozen egg whites because I use a lot of yolks for ice cream (although I need to lay off the ice cream too). So it's nice to have a purpose for them. These treats might even be relatively healthy. They're definitely low-fat: no butter in either the cake or the frosting; one whole egg in the cake and two egg whites for the frosting. You just have to overlook the 3 cups of sugar.

Oh and don't worry I didn't eat 17 cupcakes. I made a mini-batch so I wouldn't over do it.

Here are some money shots of the frosting, before it got spreadeded (Anders word).

Watch out! You're drooling on your keyboard.


High tomorrow is 41. Low 31. 60% chance of rain. There is the slight, tiny chance of flurries, but I think we're too close to the water for it to stay below freezing. The kids are praying like anything for snow, no matter how tiny the amount.

It is so rare to be this cold here! Unfortunately, Florida is not really a winter sport kind of place. There's no where to go when it's cold out - parks are out of the question as is the beach. Not that we're going anywhere because of COURSE Anders is sick. Just a chest cold, but enough to keep him home from school. Poor kid. I don't even mind getting up 23,000 times a night when they are hacking and coughing and wheezing all night long. I finally snuck him some illicit Pediacare around 2:30 and he was able to sleep until 7.

Another cozy couch day!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Don't stop believing

It's great watching the kids grow up and discover how to do things like read, write, make "magic potions" or put together Indiana Jones Lego sets. I watch and help and wonder when/if they will discover that they have a real talent for something like singing or painting or French or piano or soccer or skiing.

It's OK if they don't; I'm not trying to raise the next Bode Miller or Carrie Underwood here. I'm happy if they are happy. And so far they are happy pretending they are chihuahuas or fairies or Indiana Jones.

It's just that at age 43 I still wonder every day if today's THE DAY I'm going to discover I'm really talented at _______. Fill in the blank, cause truly it could be anything. Although I've ruled out ballerina, American Idol singer and Rembrandt-style painter. But everything else is fair game.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Blankets. Not just for bed anymore.

Greetings from the frozen tundra of Florida! Yeah, I hate to complain about that when most of the country is in the teens or negative numbers this morning, but trust me when I say that Floridians, for the most part, are completely unprepared for more than 1 day of this kind of weather. We don't own that kind of clothing. I had to haul out my old wool coat back from when I was working - it looks kind of funky over my mom jeans, multiple sweatshirt layers and new Uggs, but I'm warm. The kids have ski jackets, but not really any suitable outdoor play clothes. Not that we're playing outdoors.

But let's take a moment of appreciation for our ancient boiler, the sole source of heat for our house:

It spends it's days in a dark utility closet. For 9 months out of the year we barely think of it, other than in an abstract, "gee, I hope THAT never breaks" kind of way. But on these cold days it's all we've got. Thankfully, it was converted from coal to oil to gas before we bought the house. It may not be quite as efficient as forced heat, but it does a fairly good job most winters. I say most because it's NOT so awesome during really cold weather.

Our lovely 85+ year old house was totally built for Florida. The downstairs retains cold pretty well. Which is great in August. Notsomuch when you're on your 4th day of not breaking out of the 50s. The master "sun"room and downstairs artroom both clocked in at 51 this morning. Which makes the 62 in the house feel pretty cozy. But what it really means is that we've taken to wearing our blankets around the house, since short of wearing outdoor gear, our clothes just aren't warm enough. Anders has a lime green down blanket; Dagny is the one in red plaid fleece. Very festive. I myself am sporting a eggplant-colored chenille throw and Mr. J is wearing an on-trend aqua blue and chocolate brown plaid wool blanket. It is especially convenient in the evening since, if you're wearing your blanket over your jammies, you really can just fall right into bed.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Cold snap

Brrrr. I love winter!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Starting fresh

The first thing I do every new year is purchase a year's worth of the following products:

- fridge water filters
- vacuum bags
- trash can liners
- white vinegar
- baking powder
- Kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- Jet Dry
- notepads - I'm leaning toward these this year, I think, probably
- tape: regular, mailing and masking (on a side note, does anyone know where the kids put my heavy-duty tape dispenser? How can that be lost?!)

Fairly random list, no? However, those are the common, non-perishable household items that I'm most likely to run out of during the year and then repeatedly forget to buy. It is so much easier to remember to buy trash bags when you only have to remember ONCE a year, right?

I'm also totally lucky to have the storage space to indulge this little habit. And I usually get coupons or really good deals on all of these things (notsomuch the fridge filters) so it tends to be a pretty cost effective strategy too.

It's also fun to know that at least one chore is off the list for the year.

Poor Cinci

That loss to 'Bama? Looks like the Gators took it out on Cincinnati.

Go Gators!

Friday, January 01, 2010


Looks like we're rained out. Oh well. Fondue will go on!

Happy 2010!!

Good morning! Happy New Year! Happy Twenty-ten? Or are you going with Twothousandandten? Whichever, I hope you've had a wonderful holiday season and that your Christmas was as merry, bright and filled with fun & family as ours was. And I've got pictures to prove it!

A lot of our traditions revolve around the kids, especially New Year's Day. We spend the morning at Lowry Park Zoo (the animals are usually playing with Christmas presents; fun for all) then we come home to a special dinner of hot dogs (actually beer bratwursts this year) with all the fixins, roast potatoes & the first of the Florida sweet corn on the cob. I'm also making Hoppin' John this year because we could all use a little luck. Our dessert is Chocolate Fondue with bananas, angel food cake and Plant City strawberries. Yum!

And although we don't do anything special for New Year's Eve, I did find this intriguing recipe to try at home:

Scotch Fizz

serves 4

2 oz single malt Scotch
3/4 oz Cointreau
12 oz Champagne or sparkling wine

4 large lemon peels

Shake Scotch and Cointreau with ice cubes until shaker is frosted. Divide into 4 chilled champagne flutes. Top with the Champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with the lemon peel and serve.

Happy New Year!