Sunday, July 17, 2011


Everything was going so well the day before our trip back east commenced!  Laundry was clean, packing list had been prepared, and most of our clothes had already been pulled out.  There was ample time to run a few necessary errands.  I thought happily to myself how nice it was that I was on top of everything--which is precisely the thought that lead to the destruction of my phone.  Why did I have to have that kind of awareness?  It was only minutes later that gravity pulled my phone out of the elbow that was precariously balancing it as I toted a carseat, wallet, grocery bag, and handful of mail into the house.  Despite the protective cover on the device, it took a hit in just the exact spot that caused it to suffer a shattered screen.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't stop to consider how much I was willing to tough it out and deal with pulling shards of glass out of my hair after each use.  This mother of two young'uns probably considered it a bit too long.  I relinquished myself to two facts:  1)  I was going to have to pay for this physical damage and 2) I needed to figure out how quickly I could make this happen.  Other trip preparations ceased for a while as I reluctantly tackled the issue.

After the girls woke up from their naps, I trekked everyone over to the Apple store.  After looking up my information, they reported that they could not explain it, but the computers were showing that this repair would be done at no cost!!!  I almost hugged the associate!  I wasted no time asking him for a recommendation on the mother-of-all protective phone covers.  He advised me to visit the AT&T store a few doors down to get something called an Otter Box.  He explained that it provided the best protection...but was sorry to inform me that it would make my phone look uncool.  I literally laughed out loud.  With one hand on my stroller and one eye anxiously fixed on my sweet little monster as she navigated a nearby Macbook, how did the word "cool" even enter his mind as he spoke to me?!  I'm about five years past cool.  Fine.  Seven.  You know what I think is cool?  Protecting your investments.  Fiscal responsibility.  Of course I didn't bother to share any of this with the cool Apple associate.  He will one day be enlightened, I'm sure.

So we are now the proud owners of Otter Boxes (yours will soon be on the way, honey).  I came home, ripped open the box, snapped both covers onto the newly-repaired phone...and couldn't help but whisper, "Cool."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Freeze Frame

Watching our girls grow as time passes, I am constantly recalculating where I am positioned on the sliding scale of bittersweetness.  Today was a day when I repeatedly caught myself basking in the glory that is a 3-year-old who is maturing out of the terrible-insert-whatever-age-your-child-demonstrates-the-"terribles"-here.  It's funny how at one moment you can feel thankful for the enjoyment, relaxation, and release of some anxiety as your child grows...while simultaneously searching her face for evidence of the little(r) girl who was JUST in front of you.

She's three.  I'm going to be a total wreck when she leaves for college.
Don't even get me started on how quickly seven months has passed with the other one!!!

While I happily anticipate what the future holds for our children, I sadly experience images and memories rapidly become filed as "the past."  I remember coming across a piece written by a woman on the topic of age.  She compared our lives to the trunks of trees; all the rings are still inside there.  In the cases of our children, I think I much prefer to think of the past as just that--that which is still in there.

It's like there's a new roll on those arms every week!

Thankfully, I can still see our baby's face in there :)

We can always hold onto the fact that some things will never change.  Like her love for ice cream.  And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Not long ago I made the realization that pretty much ANYTHING can look fantastic if you just wrap it up in some cellophane and finish it off with a bow!  I mean think about it:  would you rather have me open up my hand and give you the brownie, OR would you like to see it wrapped up beautifully with a bow???  I thought so.  

A sweet friend I met at church just welcomed her second precious baby boy last week!  I offered to bring dinner to her family and was so relieved that I had some cellophane downstairs.  Crisis averted.  

See what I mean?  As for the green ruffly paper tied with a ribbon and blue tag to identify the alfredo sauce...that's definitely a recycled Stoneyfield Farms yogurt container in there.  Finally, the glass jar on the side went from being a store-bought jar of tomato sauce into the new home for my sauce--as evidenced by the embossed sticker!  You'll hear more on the embossing tool in a future blog post, I'm sure.  But I digress.  It was fun to deliver this box filled with the sauce, a box of pasta, loaf of garlic bread, broccoli, and (of course) brownies for dessert.  Writing all of that out makes it sound like it was a lot of work, but it wasn't!!!  I really only made two things:  the sauce and brownies.  

Here are two recipes that taste like they are worth so much trouble and effort, but actually require very little of either!  

I made the brownies the evening before since they cut so easily after they have cooled to room temperature and chilled in the fridge.  They also made a HUGE quantity, and freeze so wonderfully!  You can wrap them individually in plastic wrap and thaw one (or five) for about an hour before you're ready to devour it (them).  The most difficult thing about this recipe is just waiting for your eggs to come to room temperature, but be patient!  It is essential.  Also, I don't own a double-boiler but I do have two pots, one of which nests nicely into the other.  Consider whether or not that will work for you, too.  

Follow this link to heaven, I mean Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies:

Two things:  I recommend using Ghirardelli chocolate chips, and cutting them into 20 servings is CAN make them smaller.  

Fun fact:  a wrapped-up brownie fits perfectly into the Multicam cargo pocket of a soldier who is on his/her way to Afghanistan!  The Army was thoughtful enough to include a brownie pocket on the new uniforms.

The dinner I prepared was Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.  I love so many things about this recipe.  It is easy to make.  It tastes fabulous!  And coming from my Healthy Cooking magazine (submitted by Heather Privratsky and revamped by the magazine's Test Kitchen), this dish finishes at just 462 calories for one cup of sauce served with two ounces of pasta (insert gasp of disbelief and excitement here).  Choose the whole grain fettuccine and have a salad on the side, and you've got yourself a well-rounded meal!  

Makeover Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

1 package (16 ounces) fettuccine
1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
6 garlic cloves, minced, divided
3 tablespoons reduced-fat butter, divided
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt (I use Kosher salt for everything)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups fat-free milk
1 cup half-and-half cream
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

1.  Cook fettuccine according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken, Italian seasoning, and 2 garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon butter until chicken is no longer pink;  remove and keep warm.
2.  In the same skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in remaining butter until tender.  Add remaining garlic; saute 1-2 minutes longer.  Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper until blended; gradually add milk and cream.
3.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.  Add the Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and reserved chicken;  cook and stir until heated through.
4.  Drain fettuccine; serve with sauce.  Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon of remaining Parmesan cheese.

Even though it hasn't been that long since my baby was a newborn, I was still hit with that amazement that you feel when you see a teeny tiny days-old neonate and think, "He/She was JUST in that belly!"  I'm not getting baby fever just yet, though.  I've got plenty to handle behind these precious smiles :)

Monday, June 13, 2011


It's been a good week so far.  Food-wise, that is.  Deployments have a way of making me want to eat foods that require little to no cooking.  Of course, my conscience weighs in on this decision, driving me toward quick choices such as raw vegetables with hummus and whole wheat pita bread.  Woman cannot live by pita bread alone, though.  To my surprise, I have actually already cooked more than I would have expected by this point.  I've managed to choose dishes that make huge quantities, so as to get at least four meals out of each dish.  An added bonus to a meal choice is if it's something I can grab, serve, and eat with one hand while holding baby in the other arm.

My friend, Cori, taught me how to make her amazing pasta salad!  It is a deployment favorite because it is balanced and nutritious, especially when I choose to use whole wheat rotini.  It's easy to make and inexpensive!  Great all around.  :)

Cori's Pasta Salad

1-16 oz. box rotini
1 green bell pepper, small dice
1 yellow bell pepper, small dice
2 tomatoes, seeded and small dice
1-14 oz. can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1-14 oz. can reduced sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1-14 oz. bottle Italian dressing (I really like Kraft's basil parmesan vinaigrette)
1-4 oz. container feta cheese

Prepare pasta as directed on package.  Meanwhile prepare vegetables and rinse and drain beans.  Drain pasta and immediately add remaining ingredients, only using HALF of the dressing.  When you toss pasta with dressing right away, the pasta absorbs all of the flavor quickly and well.  If you chill this ahead of time or have leftovers, toss chilled pasta with additional dressing, as it dries out as the pasta absorbs the vinaigrette.

Another favorite around here has been the black bean quesadilla.  It's another one that's a heart healthy winner when made with whole wheat tortillas.  I love how quick and easy it is to prepare AND how much our sweet girl loves the taste!

Black Bean Quesadillas

1/4 cup reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tomato, seeded and small dice
1/4 avocado
1/2 tsp taco seasoning
1 tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tortillas

Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl and mash with a fork.  It's okay to just do this roughly.  It's nice to keep the texture a little chunky.  Heat one tortilla on a skillet over medium heat.  Spread bean mixture on tortilla, sprinkle with cilantro and cheddar.  Top with remaining tortilla.  Heat until you see cheese beginning to melt.  Check the bottom tortilla.  When beginning to brown and crisp, flip quesadilla to brown the other side.  Remove from heat, cut, serve, and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I recently purchased my first Groupon deal to have the carpets on our main level, staircase, and upstairs cleaned for only $60!  I thought it was too good to be true!  Sadly, it was.  Our appointment was conveniently scheduled right after baby's naptime, which inconvenienced us by making us homebound the entire morning.  A small price to pay for professionally-cleaned carpets.  It was lunchtime when I finally realized that these people weren't going to show up.  Afternoon naps followed, allowing me time to call the company's full voicemail box that was not taking messages.  It was starting to smell like a rotten day.  Except it wasn't because my house smelled clean.  After all, who would plan to have her carpets cleaned without picking up around the place?  Even though I wasn't able to get to the Y for a morning workout, I did enjoy being at home with our happy girls.  Getting those chores accomplished this morning left the afternoon naptime free for some paperwork and computer getting my Groupon purchase fully refunded.  Having those things knocked out leaves the evening open for a workout on the elliptical downstairs (theoretically...although it's already after nine and that ship is almost underway).  So the day was not ruined after all, despite that dishonest company's best efforts.  Jessica: 1.  Air Comfort Green Seal: 0.

It is nearly impossible to see a smiley baby first thing in the morning and NOT have a great day!  It should become the next scientific law.

I took full advantage of her mood to prepare breakfast and put away the dishes.

The answer to your next question is, "Yes."  Yes, she most certainly is wearing a red tulle tutu underneath her nightgown.  How else do you have a tea party???

She wanted to show you the new jammies she picked out that deem her "Daddy's Little Princess."

Doesn't she look so sweet and ready for sleep?  After a spin move off the bed, a couple of laps in the hall between our rooms, handstand-like jumps with feet kicking in the air, one story, and three songs...she was.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Week One Down...almost

Hooray, we successfully* made it through week one!  It hasn't really been seven days yet, but it is Saturday night and I'm deciding to count it.  This week has been filled with many activities to help us pass the time, all within a structured schedule also designed to help prevent time from passing too slowly.

* "Success" is a relative term.  My successes may not look as graceful as those of other moms at this moment in time, but I'll take each one!  :)

We began our time with the highly-anticipated project of making cake pops!  Luckily it was not as frustrating or messy as I feared.  Rather, we had fun AND it occupied two free times during our day.    

We also initiated "Daddy Time" each afternoon, consisting of creating a card to place in the mailbox, watching a previously-recorded "daddy video," and enjoying a treat from the countdown jar.  I think more than a dozen cards have already been sent out...hope there's a big mailbox on the other side!

I used to eye this jar in Williams-Sonoma, wondering who on earth would need one so I know!

Finally, we made sure to build in time each day to talk about how thankful we are for each person in our loving family.  It's nice to share hugs, but it will be even more wonderful to have a big FAMILY HUUUG once again!