Thursday, August 28, 2014

What They Say About 2nd Children is True...

There's a lot of so called facts that circulate regarding second children: there's less pictures, they're often overlooked, all the "firsts" are less exciting, they further complicate the lives of their parents, they live in hand-me-downs even to the point of **gasp!** being dressed in creepers, PJs, and onesies for the wrong gender.  Some mothers of more than one even have the nerve to publicly apologize to their second offspring. As the mother of two and a second child myself I can honestly tell you that most of these facts are at least somewhat true.

One of my favorite facts is that we progress/learn sooner than our older siblings.  With Rose this definitely rings true.  She's crawled, cruised, and walked sooner.  I anticipate that she'll swim sooner.  Talking?  Not so much but I think that has more to do with her stubborn streak than anything else. 

But this is my absolute favorite...

 That's right folks. She does chores.

Simon was well past two when he learned this skill and insisted on helping.  Rosie is a mere 19 months old.

Two children that can do chores...

I've been waiting for this.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: The Great American Slow Cooker Book

Remember a few months ago when I mentioned that I signed up to "blog for books?"  And how I was looking forward to reading more and writing some reviews?  Well, it's taken some time but I'm finally ready with my first review.  So here goes.

The Great American Slow Cooker Book boasts 500 easy recipes with measurements and cook times for three different size machines.  The recipes are well written, easy to follow, and often have modifications available in the testers' notes.  The recipes include things for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert with a variety of ingredients.  Honestly, there's something for everyone in there. 

One of my favorite things in reading through the introduction is the authors' commitments to "real foods" as opposed to using lots of canned goods.  Even better?  They wanted to use basic foods that can be found in normal grocery stores if they're not already in your pantry.  As a working mom of two who uses her crockpot frequently that's a major plus in a slow cooker book.  The recipes I've tried have turned out great and I'm looking forward to trying more.

I also never really expected to enjoy reading a cookbook.  I've heard of people who read them like other people read novels and, well, I thought that was a little weird. I kind of get it now.  The authors have an interesting way of presenting their material.  I found myself giggling at points in the book's introduction and loved some of the descriptions included. 

I do, however, have a few complaints.  I'm a busy working mom.  The days I use my slow cooker the most are work days when I'm usually gone for 9+ hours.  Very few of the recipes have the typical slow cooker direction of "cook on low for 8-10 hours" which means that unless you have a fancy slow cooker with a delay or switch to warm feature you can't use most of these recipes following the directions exactly and be gone for a normal work day.  Heck, even the "overnight oatmeal" only cooks for 6 hours and I do prefer to at least try to get 8 hours of sleep.  (It was still good after cooking for 8 hours, by the way.)

My other major complaint the lack of comprehensive table of contents.  The index is okay but I like to be able to look at the contents pages in a cookbook -- either at the beginning or divided through the book with each section -- and see the actual recipe names. I know it's a personal preference and I'm okay with that but it would have made the book better for me.

Finally, more pictures would be nice.  The images in the middle section of the book are absolutely gorgeous.  Nothing makes me want to try a new recipe more than a deliciously enticing photo. 

Did I enjoy this book?  Yes.  Will I try more recipes from it? Definitely.  Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely. 

Star rating: 7 out of 10

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Frankie

I have a new friend.  His name is Frankie.  I think I'm in love.

Last March I started experimenting with essential oils.  I've been slowly adding to my oil collection and trying different treatments with them.  I've had some really good success.  Peppermint was leading the pack as my favorite oil until about three week ago when I was introduced to frankincense aka Frankie.

In early May I started having some heel pain.  Initially I wrote it off and general achiness and I'm getting older and I need to pay closer attention to my running form.  It was always worst in the morning or on a day where I'd been on me feet constantly and either barefoot or wearing crappy, cheap shoes.  Eventually, I got of the nerve to ask Dr Google about my symptoms.  In mid-May, Dr Google and I diagnosed my foot pain as plantar fascitis.  The symptoms I was experiencing perfectly fit everything I was reading and it's fairly common in runners.

Since I'd self-diagnosed with the help of Dr Google I decided to take the treatment suggestions I originally found: rest, stretches, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs as needed, and better, more supportive shoes.  All of these things helped...But only minimally.  I missed running.  I wasn't in enough pain to feel like I really needed to see a doctor -- injections or surgery were the only medical treatments I really found.  Neither of which I want to pursue.  I felt a bit stuck and frustrated that things weren't getting better as quickly as I'd hoped.

One night was I reading some posts online about essential oils.  One phrase I kept coming across is there's an essential oil for just about everything.  Back to Google with a search for "essential oils for plantar fascitis."  Frankincense.  I read through through numerous testimonials of how it helped with joint pain and inflammation and specifically plantar fascitis.  Worth a try, at the very least.  If nothing else, I'd gain a new essential oil that had a lot of varying uses.

The day I bought my frankincense, I rubbed two drops into each heel before I went to bed.  I didn't expect miracles.  I felt almost instant relief. After two months of nearly constant pain I had some major relief!  It sure seemed like a miracle but I knew that wouldn't be the end of it.  The pain was back in the morning.  All the testimonials I read said they used it at least once a day -- usually twice -- for 30 days and then occasionally/as needed afterwards.  I woke up the next morning with the normal pain, took a shower and rubbed more oil into my foot before putting my socks on.

I'm now about three weeks into treatments.  I'm not completely pain free but it is managed so much better.  And I can run again! 

I have a new friend.  His name is Frankie.  I think I'm in love.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tutus and Running Shoes


A year ago my sister, soon-to-be brother in law, and I signed up for a 5k called Bubble Run.  I got an awesome deal for registration using Amazon Local and was super excited to take the kids along with me for their first race.  The race was supposed to take place in September 2013 but, due to high winds and rain, it got postponed until August 2014.  That's right.  We had to wait eleven extra months for our race. We were all a bit disappointed.

Race day finally arrive last Saturday.  It was worth the wait!

The first ting Simon asked me when he got up on Saturday morning was, "When do we leave for our race, Mama?"  I know he didn't truly understand what the race was going to be like but I'd tried to explain it and he was excited to do some running to me and his auntie and uncle.  At the starting line he exclaimed, "This is my first run EVER!"  I think the energy of the race only amped him up more.

Rose is unimpressed.

Me?  Well, I'm just sporting my very first race tutu. 
I will be wearing this again. 
 I plan to have a "Run Like a Girl" tshirt to go with it next time too.

 Bubble Run is a type of color run.  Instead of spraying runners with colored powder at various courses on the race they have "bubbles" that create what they call "bubble bogs" for the racers to run through. The starting line had one bubbler with white bubbles and there were four colored ones throughout the course.  Rose and Simon were both intrigued by the starting line.  Rose kept pointing and saying "bubble" and Simon so excited to get to that wonderful foam!

 We went through the red bubble bog with no problems and I still had a happy girl in the stroller.  When we got to the green bog the bubbles were nearly as tall as me and completely enveloped the stroller.  I had to "dig" Rose out. 

She was not amused.
 Simon was still loving every moment of it!

 Before the race started we had a "safety talk" with Simon. We told him he had to stay with one of us, that we'd hold hands through the bubbles to make sure he'd stay safe, and then we pointed out the volunteers -- they were all wearing orange shirts -- as safe people to find if he did get separated from us.   He did an awesome job.  My brother in law ran ahead of us while my sister stayed with me.  We did a combo of running and walking since neither of us are able to run a full 5k at the moment.  (But that's a story for another time.)  Simon actually ran more of it than we did since we allowed him to run ahead a little bit and then wait for us.  He loved it.

The yellow bubble bog was the 4th and final one.  As we approached it Simon and I took a small photo op.  I took Rose out of the stroller for this one since she started crying as soon as she saw it.  Good thing too since the bog was easily 5 1/2 feet deep when we went through.

I will be curious to see how the official race photos turned out but here's the best one of our group after the race.

Me and my little bubble runners, post race...

 Rose eventually perked up again. You can only sort of tell, but her hair is fairly green here.

And this is how our shirts looked post race...
I made Simon and Rose's shirts a year ago when I registered.  There was the option to purchase a kids package but I didn't see the point in doing that yet since kids 6 and under can race for free.  I did, however, want them to have some kind of race number.  Dollar store shirt for Simon, plain white onesie for Rose, and a sharpie.  Their numbers are their birth dates.  Easy-peasy project.  The sharpie did spread a little bit so if I did this again I'd definitely get a fabric pen.

We had so much fun on Saturday.  
And we're excited for Run or Dye 5k next month.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Little Artists...

 Simon has been asking for days to do some activities from a few of his books. We finally got the table cleared off today so that we actually could do some.
 That boy loves to create.  This is his crazy dinosaur...

And this is his Batman drawing from last night.  He's decided that he'll be "gray and blue Batman" for Halloween this year.

 Rose just likes to do anything her big brother is doing.
 She loved sitting at the table and scribbling in a book.
 For a few minutes, at least.
 Then she did this:
 This is one reason why we don't have expensive furniture.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Homemade Chicken Strips

I love chicken strips.  I especially love them dipped in a delicious buffalo sauce that's all spicy and vinegary and amazing... But my love of all things buffalo chicken is a whole post in an of itself.  Years ago I used to buy the frozen bags of chicken nuggets or strips on a fairly regular basis.  It made for an easy lunch or dinner when we were feeling lazy.  In more recent, budget conscious years I can't bring myself to buy them because plain chicken is often cheaper.  Nevermind the fact that they're really not that healthy. 
I've gotten more adept in the kitchen over the last five years so I finally decided to give homemade chicken strips a try.  It took a few batches of tweaking the spices to nail down the flavors I like but these are so easy to make that I doubt I'll ever buy the frozen version again.  I've always frozen these for later use too so I still have the convenience factor after putting in a little work on the front end.  Trust me.  It's worth it.

You'll need:
2 cups bread crumbs, panko gives them the best texture
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tbs Italian seasoning
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, whatever cut you want but I prefer thigh meat for this recipe
2 eggs
a splash of milk

In a non-stick pan combine your bread crumbs, olive oil, and spices.  
Brown over medium heat.  You'll want to keep the crumbs moving and keep a close eye on them.  It doesn't take much from them to go from the golden brown below to a singed mess.
I skipped this step once.  Don't skip this step.  It really does give them a crunchier breading.  It's worth it.  

Set your browned bread crumbs aside to cool for 30 to 60 minutes.  I usually end up cleaning my kitchen or doing other food prep while they cool.  It's a great time to prep your chicken, for example.  You'll want to trim any excess fat and cut them to whatever size you want. It's best to try to keep your pieces similar in size but I have yet to accomplish that.

After your bread crumbs have cooled you'll set up a standard breading station:  Meat, beaten eggs with a splash of milk, and bread crumbs. (The only reason my meat is in a pan is because it was clean and available.  The meat cooks in the oven.)   Breading tip: Try to keep one hand "wet" and one hand "dry" or you'll end up with bread crumbs all over both your hands and floating around in your egg mixture.   

Put two or three pieces of meat in your egg mix.  Be sure that you get egg on both sides.

Once they're coated in egg move the chicken strips to bread crumbs. I use my "dry hand" to put bread crumbs on top initially and kind of press them into the crumbs so they adhere well to the chicken. 

Move your breaded chicken to a baking sheet.
Continue this process until all your chicken is breaded.
Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

Allow them to cool until they can easily be handled then transfer to a freezer back or whatever you like to store frozen food in. 
To reheat, bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until they're heated through.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Splashin' Good Time

 Gresham has a new splash pad. It opened very recently and we are thrilled to have a new, free, fun, free, wet, free, and cool place to play that's really close to our house.  And did I mention it was free?  On Friday afternoon we trekked on down after naptime to give it a try...
  
The kids had a blast and it's set up in such a great way that it's easy for me to stand back a bit but still be able to keep an eye on both kids.  Who am I kidding?  It was hot on Friday!  I got a little wet too... Refreshing.



 Since Friday was 7/11 we also had to celebrate on of the best random holidays:  Slurpee Day! We each got a free Slurpee.  Okay...So we got Slurpees before the splash pad too... That's one of the joys of Slurpee day!  Go to multiple 7 Eleven's and get multiple Slurpees.  I must say, I found the best combination this year in about a 50/50 split of mango and lemonade with a small hint of pina colada. Yum.
 I even let Rosie-Girl have a little of the lemonade.
 Of course, Simon got his own.
And we brought one home for Tony.

We'll definitely be hitting the splash pad again this summer.  We'll likely have a few more Slurpees as well. 

And there's always the backyard "splash pad" -- comprised of a tarp with a sprinkler on top -- for those hot days when I don't even have the energy to leave the house.  Add in a few cups and you've got a water fight waiting to happen.  Works like a charm.