Thursday, September 10, 2015

Confession: I Hated Confessions of a Shopaholic (Especially the Movie)

Yes, yes. I know I am way behind the times on this one. But I picked up Confessions of a Shopaholic at my personal library (otherwise known as the local Goodwill) about a month ago and finally gave in to reading it.

I wanted to like it. Really, I did. I'm one of those people who argues regularly for the value of mind candy, fun reading that has no purpose other than for one's own personal enjoyment.

I didn't like it at all. I did like The Devil Wears Prada. The Nanny Diaries. But the main character in this one, Becca, was so frustratingly silly that I found it hard to take her seriously when the time finally came to do so. I could barely bear to read all of the long-winded descriptions about giving in to conspicuous consumption (and I LOVE clothes!!), but I'm also one of those people who believes that we should finish what we start.

I thought the film could not possibly be any worse, but it was. The movie starring Isla Fisher, an obvious rip-off of Sex and the City, complete with jumpy camera work, effervescent pop soundtrack, and whacky Patricia Field wardrobe, took what was already a book that pandered to the worst of female stereotypes and made the protagonist even more ridiculous, because she is left with very little agency. At least in Kinsella's book, Becca toughens up, supposedly wakes up to her bad habits (I hear she actually doesn't in the sequels), and lands herself a pretty sweet job ... all by her own doing. In the movie, things just happen to her. God forbid that the main female character in a rom-com actually make her own way in the world, without a man's help. Actually, by bringing a smug man to task (come to think of it, I kind of liked that part).   

And that's my feminist two-cents for the day. Oh, and I'm currently wearing sweatpants. I love the first real taste of Fall. A/J

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dinner with My Four-Year-Old

Every evening, getting my four-year-old to settle down and eat actual food that does not consist of confetti waffles, peanut butter in a flour tortilla, pop tarts, or "monkey drinks" (yogurt smoothies) is a battle of epic proportions.

Dinner with kids refuse to eat

Here's how it usually goes:

1. She approaches the dinner table warily, like a cat stalking some kind of unappetizing prey. When she gets close enough to see what is actually on her plate, she asks, "WHAT is THAT?"
2. Before she deals with the food again, she looks reprovingly at the rest of us sitting around the table, and says, in her best Church Lady voice, "Grace!" She then proceeds to give us a reggae-style version of thanksgiving prayer ("Thank you for this food; thank you for this da-aa-ay. A-a-a-aaaaamen") complete with hand gestures that look like a cross between a flopping fish and a third-base coach desperately trying to give signals to a batter.
3. After grace, she again looks at her food, pokes it with her finger (if she deigns to touch it), and declares, "That. Is. Disgusting." This is typically followed by the statement "I am NOT eating any salad."
4. Throughout the rest of dinner, she treats her chair like it is about 350 degrees in temperature, bouncing up and down, doing leg stretches inappropriate to anything but a gymnastics class.
5. After I tell her that she has to try what's on her plate (at least two bites), she proceeds to bring the food toward her mouth while wearing an expression like Stephen King's screaming Carrie.

Then, finally ..... she says .... "This is actually good." And goes on to eat most of it.


So, last night at dinner, I told my husband, "What would it be like if we acted like four-year-olds at dinner?" I then proceeded to play out the scenario complete with inappropriate leg stretches and laying down in my chair. Picture it.

I mean, what else do you do during a nightly situation that borders on the ridiculous except roll with the punches? Until Monday all:). A/J

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Long time, no see ...

Hello out there. It's been so long since I've written anything here, the wheels feel a bit creaky. I don't know what happened, honestly. My three jobs started to take up a ton of time, the kids had a ton of stuff going on, I started to feel like I didn't have much to say that could compete in this new atmosphere of perfect blog confections, filled with white space, hand-drawn arrows, and delicious pictures.

I like clutter. Knick knacks. Stuff.

Anyway, I want to start writing here again. It'll probably still be the same random assortment of stuff, without rhyme or reason or branding potential. But I'm ok with that. Because it will reflect the various, incongruous things that make me ... me.

So, until tomorrow. A/J

I have been letting a lot of sunshine into my soul. One good thing about some time off.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Spring Cleaning 2015

This morning begins the 2015 Cleaning/Purging Frenzy. It's going to be epic. There is so much in this house right now that just needs to go. So, I'm curious. What is your Spring Cleaning method? Do you have a method? Do you do one big clean at some point throughout the year and then let everything go to hell in between (guilty)?

Here's my typical plan (because I am a college teacher and generally have my time in the summer at my disposal, I can do this. It would be harder if you work 9-5 five days a week; you'd have to break it up on the weekends or in the evenings).

  • I only tackle one room per day. If I try to do more, even if I finish early, I get lazy, and I don't do as thorough of a job as I should (especially purging). This is my plan for the next few weeks: 
    • Tuesday: Living room; Wednesday: Dining Room; Thursday: Kitchen (then, Memorial Day weekend off); Tuesday: Playroom; Wednesday: Office; Thursday: Our Room; Friday: Maggie's Room; Saturday: Sophie's Room; Monday: Basement; Tuesday: Garage; Rest of the week: Outdoors. That schedule will have me wrapping up right as Maggie is finishing school. 
  • As I tackle each room, I start in one corner and work my way around (that way, I'm working methodically through the room). Again, I do this so I don't get overwhelmed and dart around the room like a ping-pong ball. I move all of the furniture and sweep underneath, wipe all furniture down, throw out any randomness (papers, etc.), and try to reorganize. Final step: I sweep and scrub the floors. This method also has me only spending about 3-4 hours cleaning per day, so I can then devote time to beginning other summer work projects (or the pool, whichever seems like the better option that day;)). 
I love the feeling of a clean, organized house. Too bad about that little thing called entropy. Wish me luck!! A/J

Friday, May 8, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015

I just found out this morning that my summer class, which would have run for 2 hours on MWF from this coming Monday into mid-June, was cancelled. I suddenly have the feeling of a gigantic ocean of time opening up before me. One that I can swim around in. Having time is such an indulgence (if only I had the extra money to go along with the extra time; I guess the Rolling Stones were right after all).

So, what do I plan to do? Well, lots of things. Here's my Summer Bucket List.

1. Read the following books: Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis, Bad Feminist, So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It EnduresBorn with Teeth, Girl in a Band, Zelda (I'm starting there; I'm sure I'll add more).
2. Re-read the Harry Potter series with my oldest daughter and watch all of the movies. Again.
3. Prep for my new classes coming up in the Fall.
4. Write my essay on Carroll's influence on Bishop and Plath and wrap my other book project.
5. Remodel the kitchen (paint the walls and either get new counters/paint the old ones - I'm over the 1970s turquoise).
6. Clean out my home office so that I can actually walk through it/sit in it. Oh, and work in it, I guess;).
7. Spend almost every evening at the pool.
8. Refurbish the wicker couch I inherited and reupholster the French antique chairs. And the bench. Have I mentioned that I have never reupholstered anything?
9. Clean out my closet, getting rid of every article of clothing that makes me feel like a stuffed sausage.
10. Relax on the porch. Regularly.
11. Take a Ducky tour of Pittsburgh.
12. Eat at Pho Van in the Strip.
13. Take the kids to Sandcastle for the first time.
14. Paint the book spines on the basement steps.
15. Let the kids run around in fountains in the "Big City." Free entertainment.
16. Bike ride and swim at Ohiopyle. Teach Sophie to ride a bike first. And how to read.
17. Sip wine at the Summit Inn while watching the sun set on the hills beyond the mountain.
18. Eat Pamela's Pancakes.
19. Have my kids think magical toy fairies came and rid them of excess toyage in the playroom.
20. Dig my toes into the sand.

That's not too many things, right;)? Oh, summer, how I love you. A/J

Feel free to steal this printable and write in your own ideas. I love doing one with the kids with the things they want to do. They love crossing things off as we go:). 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Spring "Pho"ward

Good morning, friends! It's been a while. But the sun is shining. And I'm beginning to feel more like myself as spring settles on the hills. Lots of life changes from February to now that threw my world into something of a tizzy, but I hope to be back on a regular basis as summer arrives.

Yesterday, I should have been doing a lot of logistical tasks around the house. Instead, I made my version of a healthy Spring Pho (one of my favorite soups) and painted pottery. We all need mental health days, yes? Here's the delicious recipe for the soup. And our "expertly" painted crafts.

Healthy Chicken Pho
Healthy Spring Pho
Spring Pho

What you need: (to make enough for six generous servings)

Two boxes of chicken stock (I like Rachel Ray's brand)
2 cups of beef stock
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of either soy sauce or fish sauce (The fish sauce I had was dated "Best Used by Feb. 2013." I decided not to chance it.)
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
6 garlic cloves (I throw mine in whole)
1 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced small
1 package of chicken tenderloins, chopped into small cubes (seasoned with Lemon Pepper seasoning)
1 package of sobu or udon noodles
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
Handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of cilantro, chopped or torn
Alfalfa sprouts
Green Onions, diced
Lime, quartered

What you do:
1. About two hours before you want to eat, combine the broth, spices, ginger (essentially, the first 8 ingredients) in a large stock pot (or dutch oven). Allow the broth to simmer over medium-low heat until it reduces some and the flavors meld.
2. As the broth nears completion, stir-fry the chicken in a large pan, using coconut oil to coat the pan before tossing in the chicken.
3. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package directions. I cooked mine a little under time because I like a toothsome noodle.  Also, prepare the toppings (the cilantro, alfalfa sprouts, green onions, limes).
4. Just before serving the soup, stir in the tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I like the bite it gives the soup) and the parsley for a fresher flavor.
5. Layer the soup accordingly to serve: noodles on the bottom, then the chicken, then the broth, then any of the toppings you want. Serve with the lime wedges on the side (the lime juice really makes the broth sing).
6. Enjoy!! My kids loved this soup. Which made my heart happy, because I love Pho so much. They have turned up their noses at this soup every other time I made it. Last night, we finally had a breakthrough LOL.

It was $89 for the three of us at the place at the mall (certainly a lot more expensive than I remember pottery painting being)!! Still, it was fun. And I now have a $30 pencil holder for my desk at my new job (more on that soon). 
See you again soon. I promise. Much love, A/J

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lemon-Kale Turkey Meatballs

One of the things my kids love to eat, and that I can sneak healthy superfoods into, is meatballs. They especially love Lemon-Kale Turkey Meatballs (they even know there is kale in them nowadays, which I consider a win; I'll be sneaking some kale into the chicken soup I'm going to make for lunch to test them out).

This past Saturday, I hit on the best recipe yet, so I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy! A/J

Lemon-Kale Turkey Meatballs (Makes about 12 Meatballs)

What you'll need:
1 package ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
1 lemon
1 cup finely chopped kale
1 small onion (peeled and grated into the mixing bowl to catch the onion juice)
2 tablespoons pizza sauce (save the rest to make mini-pizzas for lunch one day:))
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup egg whites
4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan
1 tablespoon of the liquid from the Pepperoncini jar (optional, but you should totally add it:))
Salt and pepper

What you'll do:
1. Heat the olive or coconut oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the zest and juice of one lemon and the kale, onion, pizza sauce, breadcrumbs, egg whites, garlic, paprika, shredded Parmesan, Pepperoncini juice, and a few cracks each of sea salt and black pepper.
3. Add the turkey and combine with hands. Don't overwork it. Just hand-mix it until the ingredients are evenly combined.
4. Form the mixture into medium-sized meatballs, and place the meatballs in the pan. Don't overcrowd them. Brown on all sides.
5. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with either a Silpat or a cookie cooling rack (if you want a crisper meatball with less oil).
6. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes until the meatballs are fully cooked (no pink).
7. Eat:)). With loved little ones.

My latest other trick is to get Sophie to think she's competing in MasterChef Junior (she loves that show). Here she is making the salad, cutting up red peppers with her cheese spreader:). She eats whatever she makes, including the leaves. Win-win!! Less work for me, and a more adventurous eater. PS, don't mind the mess. We're busy 'round here:).