Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meet Me in St. Louis

We had a great weekend trip to St. Louis.  Mike has been an Atlanta Braves fan for many years and I thought it would be nice for him to see Chipper play in person one more time in his last season.  We decided it would be better to drive to St. Louis than Atlanta.  Mother's Day weekend was our only choice.  The kids were really good for the 12 hours we were in the car.  I was pleasantly surprised.  We loved our hotel.  We stayed at the Drury Inn at the Arch.  It was full of baseball fans, mainly cardinals, but everyone was friendly.  Here's the view from our room.

I was very impressed by how classy Cardinals fans are.  We received no dirty looks or snide remarks as we went around with our Braves garb.  When Chipper stepped up to bat the first time, the entire stadium rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.  I thought that was something else!  The cards catcher even called time so Chipper could enjoy the moment.  Here he is at bat.

Busch stadium is gorgeous.  Addie's friend Caleb in Oklahoma, is doing a Flat Stanley project and he sent Stanley to her and asked her to take pictures of him somewhere interesting, write about it, and send it back.  So Flat Stanley came with us.  She had a great time with that!

Saturday, the girls and Mike went up inside the Arch.  Not me!  I kept my feet firmly planted. Then we went to the zoo and did a lot of walking!  I wore the wrong shoes and had very sore feet.  Later, the girls swam in the hotel pool, then we went to the City Museum.  It was a very cool place with tubes, coils, and tunnels for kids to crawl through.  The girls had a blast, but I had a major anxiety attack because I couldn't find Caroline.  There was no way to follow them through all those small spaces.  I knew deep down there was only one exit and she hadn't gone out of it, but I just couldn't stand not being able to see her!  So I would definitely recommend this for older kids!  Here she is climbing in one of the outdoor tunnels.

Oh, and here is a neat photo Mike took of an elephant.  I've never seen an elephant playing in the water at a zoo before!

St. Louis is definitely a great place for families.  There were many things we would have liked to do, but didn't have time.  We can't wait to go back!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


After Addie climbs into the van after school, we go through the normal how was your day chit chat on the way to guitar, gymnastics, or home.  Here's how yesterday went:

A:  Today M told me I'm unfashionable.  She's told me that three times.  I asked her what she'd like me to wear and she said something that matches and not to wear leg warmers on my arms anymore.  I told her the package said you could wear them on your arms.

Me:  Oh, who cares?  You can wear whatever you want.

A:  I know.  I don't care.  It doesn't bother me.  Everyone thinks I'm obsessed with Justice.  I don't even have anything from there.  It's too expensive!  $20 for flip flops?  Seriously!  You can get 'em for $3 at Walmart.  

I love this kid!  I'm SO glad she doesn't let comments like this get to her.  I've always said I don't want her to take after my bad qualities.  One is caring too much about what others think.  I'm mostly over that now, but as I kid, a conversation like the above probably would've landed me in the bathroom crying.  She's always had a wonderful sense of style.  She started out young I tell ya, very young.

My Mom, who is convinced she'll be a fashion designer one day, calls it a gypsy style.  Her 4th grade teacher said in opening remarks at parent/teacher conference this year, "What an eclectic child!  She has an interesting style, but it works!"  I love that she enjoys thrift store shopping to see what kind of fun accessory, scarf, purse, or belt she can discover.  I love that her favorite store right now is The Mustache.  I love that she is learning to sew.  Middle school is just around the corner and I know that peer pressure will be harder to shrug off, but I hope she never changes.  I'd miss my Eclectic Gypsy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dreams of Helsinki

Last night, during one of our many walks around the neighborhood, my friend and I were discussing dreams.  She had mentioned that she had a very scary and disturbing dream the other night.  I asked her what she had read or watched on TV that night thinking maybe that prompted the dream.  So from there we started talking about what shows we like to watch.  Several were brought up including The Walking Dead, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and 30 Rock.  Sometimes we walk pretty close to bedtime, so I got back home, did a little reading of my current book, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and hit the hay.  Well....I had the weirdest dream.  First, I was at some sort of business conference.  But the people there were co-workers of Mike's, not mine.  Then, I was trying to catch a flight to Helsinki and was having the worst trouble getting on.  I was seriously stressed because I thought I was going to miss my flight.  This part of the dream seemed to be on repeat because I kept trying and trying to get on that plane!  When I woke up, I had tons of sinus pressure and a bad headache.  What in the world brought on Helsinki?  Honestly, the first thing I did when I walked in the kitchen was ask Mike where it even was.  Geography was never my strong suit.  So, was it the TV talk, the Ya-Ya's or what?  Maybe I need to take a trip to Finland.  Who knows?  Addie learned to make worry dolls in Girl Scouts and she made Caroline and I each one to place under our pillows at night to ward off bad dreams.  I'm gonna make sure this little beauty is under there tonight!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fitbit Fanatic

I confess.  I'm a Fitbit fanatic.  A few months ago, I decided I wanted to start making sure I was getting 10,000 daily steps.  I researched a few pedometers and settled on the Fitbit.  We have literally been attached at the hip, and sometimes bra, since then.  It goes everywhere with me and tracks my daily activity.  If I forget, and leave it at home, I will turn the car around to retrieve it.  Usually to whines of "Uggghhhh, not the Fitbit again!" from the backseat.  There have been a couple of times that I have driven to a local park or trail to run and didn't remember until I got there that I'd left it.  And I feel like it's all in vain because those steps are not being recorded.  Isn't that crazy?  But, it has kept me on track with my exercise.  I love scrolling through the the little screen during the day to check my steps taken, calories burned, floors/stairs climbed, miles traveled, and flower growth.  Yes, I said flower growth.  One screen sports a little flower that continues to grow if you stay active.  Caroline loves to check it during the day to see how tall it is. Since it is early in the day and I've only traveled around the kitchen, it is just a sprout right now.

This handy little gadget also came with a wristband for wearing it when you sleep. It monitors how restful you are sleeping by how much movement you make.  I was pretty much getting 99% sleep efficiency every night, so I don't track that anymore.  Mine just takes a break on the nightstand.  And in the morning, when I pick it up, it says things like Move it, Burn it, Howdy, Love Ya, and other cute motivating sentiments.  

If you want to track your food, you can do so on the Fitbit website.  I use MyFitnessPal for that, and guess what, it integrates with Fitbit.  So, if I forget to record my activity in MyFitnessPal, Fitbit will do it for me.  I just love this little motivator.  It was really an eye opener.  On days that I work and spend most of the day at the computer, I usually only get around 2,500 steps.  It makes me want to get out in the evening and at least take a walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise in.  It has paid off because I've lost some weight and inches and I feel better.  So, get a pedometer. I bet you'll be surprised at your steps.  Well, gotta get moving.  My Fitbit dashboard says I've only walked 32% of my 70,000 weekly steps.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Morning Muffins

We generally do weekday breakfast in shifts.  Mike and Addie eat first because they leave earlier.  Then Caroline and I eat later.  This morning she wanted muffins.  I remembered I had a package of Martha White Cranberry Orange muffin mix in the pantry.  I'm a fan of from scratch baking, but I'll occasionally buy these little mixes to have on hand in case of a muffin emergency.  I pulled out a bowl then remembered Mike mentioning we were out of milk as he walked out the door.  But.....we do have Silk Fruit & Protein Mango Peach.  I figured it was worth a shot.

Fourteen minutes later we had some perfectly fine muffins.  I couldn't really taste the mango peach, although they may have been a little more tangy than usual, in a good way.  This was a very simple example, but always improvise in the kitchen.  If you don't have something called for in a recipe, try something else.  You might end up with something really great.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fun Day Friday

Friday turned out to be a "Fun Day".  I decided to have lunch with Addie at school because I heard they were having a Farm to School Event.  Partnered by Apple Seeds, Inc. and Energy Corps, this event brought fresh, local food to the school lunch table.  We enjoyed baked chicken legs, snap peas, spinach salad, and fresh strawberries with cake and whipped cream.  I thought the food was both wonderful to look at and taste.  The colors were so vibrant.  It would be great if this type of meal was served every day in the lunch room.

It was fun to watch the kids at Addie's table try the foods.  Parent volunteers were walking around encouraging them to try and handing out stickers.  For the most part, we practice this way of eating at home, so Addie is used to seeing a lot of "green stuff" on her plate.  I'm proud to say she ate everything except for the cake.  I can't complain about that!  I have to mention that the chicken came from Little Portion Monastery Farm in Berryville.  We actually made a trip there a couple of years ago and bought some chicken for our freezer.  Nice people!  The strawberries were from Dickey Farms in Springdale.  We have purchased produce from them both at their farm and the Farmer's Market.  Love, love, love local foods!  Addie complained that I took her picture, but here she is enjoying her spinach salad!

One of Addie's friends and her Mom celebrate the end of the week by having "Fun Day Friday".  They have ice cream and go to the book store, pet store, or other fun store.  My girls have been begging to do this, so I finally gave in and we went to Starbucks after school.  You can't beat half-price Frappuccinos! Then Mike surprised them by taking us all to play mini-golf.  I almost stayed home to get some work and house chores done, but I'm glad I didn't.  It was a wonderful evening.  I think we have a great little golf course in Fayetteville and it is nicely shaded in most areas.  We all enjoyed ourselves.

As we were leaving, our neighbor texted and invited us over for birthday cookie cake, so "Fun Day Friday" ended on a sweet note!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Great American Bake Sale

Several months after we moved to NWA I joined a playgroup that I found on www.meetup.com.  I have met so many great women and kids through this group.  Occasionally, our group does fundraisers for various causes.  Today, we participated in the Great American Bake Sale to end childhood hunger.  We setup a booth at an event on the Fayetteville Square called First Thursday Fayetteville.  I love to bake, so I spent most of the day in the kitchen.  I decided to make chocolate chess pie, spinach sausage quiche, strawberry cake, and double chocolate chunk cookies.  The pie, quiche, and cake are recipes from my Mom, and the cookies I found years ago on www.verybestbaking.com.  Here are the cookbooks I used today.

As you can see, the one in the middle has seen a lot of action!  I think that book is about 27 years old.  It came from my home church in Oklahoma and it is a treasure.  There are so many well-loved recipes in there from some special ladies in my life.  The Paula Deen cookbook on the right is what I use for my pie crust.  I pretty much have it memorized, but I  always get it out anyway to be sure.  I think it is fine to use ready-made pie crusts, but I grew up with a Mom who is famous for her crusts, so I just don't feel right not making them from scratch!  The book on the left is a new cookbook from my church in NWA.  There are several recipes that my Mom has collected in recent years that I find myself calling her for frequently.  "Mom, I need the chocolate chess pie recipe again."  So, I decided to include those when I submitted my recipes for the book.  Now I have them all in one place!  I have many more cookbooks, but I use these most frequently.  The Rick Bayless books in our house are also falling apart, but I will write about those another time.  Mike is the main user there.

When I make pie crusts, my girls LOVE to eat the scraps.  When I was a kid, my mom would roll out the scraps, spread with butter, sprinkle with cocoa and sugar, roll it up, and bake it.  It was so good!  I haven't tried that on the girls yet since they seem to be content with the plain scraps.

I thought I would share the Quiche recipe today.  Mom came across it several years ago, and we have used it numerous times.  My sister owns The Josie House B&B and it has been used there.  It always gets rave reviews.  It is really simple.  I forgot to take a picture of the ingredients before I opened them, but here is a picture anyway.

Sausage Spinach Quiche

3/4 lb pork or turkey breakfast sausage, browned and drained
1 pkg frozen spinach, cooked and drained
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 unbaked pie crust

Mix all ingredients, pour into pie shell and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

Here are the results of my day of baking.

When our group has bake sales, we get so much participation.  There were many wonderful things like homemade rolls and french bread, apple butter, cupcakes, muffins, and on and on!  I took home carrot cake cupcakes and pumpkin apple strudel muffins.  And there might have been a chocolate cupcake and a bag of snack mix that didn't even make it to the car.  I didn't stay until the end, but judging from this line before I left, I think it was probably a success!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ZOKU Quick Pop Maker

I've had my eye on the ZOKU Quick Pop Maker for awhile.  For my birthday, my bestie gave me a Williams-Sonoma gift card, and I pretty much knew it would either go on the ZOKU or the mini-pie maker.  Since summer is right around the corner, I went with the ZOKU.  The kids play outside with their friends a lot, especially summer evenings.  And popsicles are usually involved.  I thought this might be a way to make them a little healthier.  As soon as I got back to the car from said kitchen store, I had to shoot my friend a picture to show her what she got me!

I had to place the ZOKU in the freezer for 24 hours before we could use it, so the girls were a little bummed about that.  It was a fairly easy process.  I had 3 kinds of Silk Fruit & Protein drinks, so the girls chose which flavors they wanted and I just had to place the sticks in, pour the drink to the fill line and wait 7 - 9 minutes.

It came with a little tool that you twist around the handles of the sticks which loosens them out and they are ready to eat!  They also had little drip trays to attach to the bottom.  The girls thought they were yummy!

You can make up to 3 batches at a time before you need to freeze the base again.  I bought the 2 pop maker.  It also comes in a 1 and 3 pop size.  You can use almost any kind of juice, yogurt mixed with milk, sweetened coffee, chocolate milk, etc.  They don't recommend juices with artificial sweetener, drinks with a low sugar content, or soft ingredients like pudding or ice cream because they may be difficult to remove.  If you're not in a hurry, you can make striped pops or use attachments (sold separately) that allow you to make flavored core pops.  The best part is that they don't recommend washing after every use!  Just put it right back in the freezer for next time!  I'm thinking we will get a lot of use out of the ZOKU this summer.  Thanks Robin!