Saturday, January 29, 2011

Something Special Saturday - 1/29/11

Hope you are having a great weekend!  Here are a few things I discovered this week that are special enough to share.

As you know, health and fitness have been on my brain, lately, so I was intrigued when I ran across this post by Beth of The Stories of A to Z.  Beth asked her blog readers for their tried-and-true weight loss and fitness tips, and then compiled their top answers into a nice, easy-to-see chart.  Thanks for sharing, Beth!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Drumroll, Please....

So.  This post is for those of you who have been sitting--literally--on the edges of your seats, wondering, "How's that diet going for you, Ruth?"  I pray there aren't many of you, because, well--frankly--I hope you have better things to do.
Nonetheless, just in case, here is my report of how Week 1 and Week 2 of the Game On! Challenge have gone down:

Impulse Shopping

Yesterday, I was in the natural foods section of my grocery store, looking for a Game On!  approved cold cereal, when I discovered these:

I've heard about Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products.  Somewhere--but I can't remember where--I've read extremely favorable reviews.  Supposedly, they are made with natural ingredients and they smell incredible.  In the last few months, I've been leaning towards a greener (read: fewer chemicals) home, so I've been wanting to try out Mrs. Meyer's stuff.

There was only one problem: when I looked online for their retailers, the only one listed in my area was Wal-Mart.  Have I told you about my issues with Wal-Mart?  We won't go into that, right now, it's enough to say that I have sworn never to darken the doors of any Wal-Mart, anywhere, for the rest of my life.  So, if it's not at Target....I'm out of luck.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Project Time, Part 2

You can read about Part 1 here.

This project has been a long time coming:  a tile backsplash in our kitchen.

Bionic Man has plenty of tile installation experience.  He tiled both the kitchen and the bathroom in our Connecticut Cottage.  He had promised me a tiled backsplash at least two years ago, but I waffled.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Project Time, Part 1

At our house, we've been working on a few projects.  (And by "we" I mean Bionic Man.)  The one I'm showing you today is almost complete.  So, I don't have an "after" shot for you, yet, but I do have a before and a during.  The change is so nice that I couldn't wait.

Here's the before:
What you need to look at is the funky shelf, up high above the dresser.  We have a vaulted ceiling in this room, and I guess that shelf was the builder's idea of "architectural interest."  Huh.  It took me years to stick stuff up there.  The thought of getting up on a ladder to dust.....{shudder}.  Finally, Bionic Man promised me he'd do the dusting, and we threw a few things up there.  But still, it's just kind of blah, and I never could quite figure out why.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Train to Crazy

As if the tale of the Christmas tree that lasted 'til Easter wasn't proof is more evidence that, here in Holland, we're just a little insane.

Luckily, we have a very patient dog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Something Special Saturday - 1/22/11

Here is this week's list of things that I've enjoyed looking at on my computer screen.   You might enjoy seeing them on yours, too!

Just discovered a new site that I'm anxious to explore:  Jessica of Good(CHEAP)Eats has some fantastic ideas and recipes that will stretch your grocery budget.  I'm soooo very ready to try her version of beans and rice, get five easy pantry meals into my recipe file,  and then go learn more about how to build a frugal pantry with beans and lentils.  (And that was a sentence that my sixteen year old self never, ever, dreamed of writing.)  Just from what I've seen so far, Jessica's food photography makes trimming your grocery budget look very, very good.

Friday, January 21, 2011

We're Making Progress

I'm happy to report that we've made so much progress this year in taking down our Christmas Tree.  It's only January 19th, and we already have the ornaments packed (or close to it), the lights off, and the branches are down!

I know, I know, some of you are shuddering right now at the thought of having Christmas decorations up past Martin Luther King Day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I've Got a Drinkin' Problem

Uh, a water drinkin' problem.  I don't drink enough of it.

You see, last week, I joined up with some friends for a round of the Game On Challenge.  It's a way to incorporate healthy habits into your life, with the motivation factor of some friendly competition.  (I did this last year, and you can read a little more about that, here.)  I get points for drinking water, but in order to earn those points

I have to drink 3 liters every day!

Comforting Soup Recipe

It's such a cold, yucky day outside my house today.  A perfect day for eating soup!  Today I'm sharing one of my favorite soups that is soooo delicious AND soooo easy to make.

Quick Garden Vegetable Soup

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meal Planning and Organization

Last year, I shared my system for keeping track of menus and the recipes that I use frequently.  This has proved to be an invaluable tool for me, especially when I'm trying to focus on healthy eating habits.  Since I started the Game On! Challenge again last week, I thought I'd revisit last year's post and show you what works for me.

Healthy in Holland: an Update

Remember how, back in November, I announced that I was making an effort to take better care of my body?  I did a whole post on my strategy, here.  It involved taking pictures of myself and posting them online.  (Seriously, did I really say I was going to do that?)  I managed that once, here.  I felt incredibly silly.

Haven't seen any posts like that since, have you?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Something Special Saturday - 1/15/2011

It's definitely been a while since I showcased some of my favorite internet finds.  So, here you go!

What do you think the Bionic Man would say if I painted our piano?  (Click on the link to see how it is done.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

We're All Growing Up

All those pictures of Justone made me nostalgic.  We've just entered the annual brief four month period in which Justone and Endeavor's ages are sequential.  (He just turned ten, she's still eleven.)  Not such a big deal now, but back when those ages were 1 & 2, 2 & 3, and 3 & 4.....not so easy.  Particularly 3 and 4, because at that point, I also had a newborn.

I'm totally impressed that I survived.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Justone, the Decade

Justone celebrated his 10th (and "golden" - 10 on the 10th) birthday on Monday.

After being sick all week before, I had to really scramble to get the family party ready for Monday evening.  (Justone will celebrate with friends later.)  I'm a little late with the blog celebration.  Actually, not late--can't this be part of the week-long jubilee celebration for Justone's golden birthday?

After Justone's birthday dinner, but before we played games and ate birthday cake, we all shared our favorite memories of Justone.  Let me tell you, this boy has a special place in all of our hearts.  As the only son and brother, he is a person of importance around here.  Justone is the best brother to his sisters.  Despite some teasing, he is so concerned about their feelings and willing to help them have fun.  I have never seen someone put so much thought into gifts--he is very generous.  We just love our Justone!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I had big plans last week.  Plans that extended into this week.  After all, it was the first full week of 2011.  Not having big plans would be--well, it would practically be un-American not to start a new year with big plans.

So I had big plans.  Plans that involved organization and redecoration and revolutionary discipline tactics and radical lifestyle changes and the implementation of amazing new habits.

2011 was all set to be the year that defined my life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bento 2011

Just so ya' know, I'm still bento-ing.

Here's a pic of the first bento of 2011.

Clockwise from left:  ranch dressing, thin-sliced turkey breast, Pringles chips, 
Golden Grahams & Chocolate (my marshmallows went stale--drat!--or this would have been s'mores!), applesawuce, carrots

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lego my Lego

On New Year's Eve, the Bionic Man and I usually go out to celebrate at the home of some friends who know how to throw really great [non-alcoholic] parties.  This year, we were all set to go out, but at the last moment both the Bionic Man and I realized that neither of us felt very well and we were both too tired to party in public.  We cancelled the babysitter, put on our jammies, and let our kids decide how they wanted to spend the night.

The children, of course, were thrilled.  It was determined that we would spend the night playing games and watching movies and lighting fireworks.  We did just what they wanted, even though the fireworks were lit in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Job Charts You Can Wear

Since January is the time of year when most of us moms decide, "This is it!  I'm getting our lives under control once and for all!"  I'm going show you something that has been helping me control the chaos around our place since November of 2010.  It has worked well.

Over the years, I've tried all kinds of charts and systems to help me get the children involved in our housekeeping chores.  Some have worked better than others, but all had their failings, which meant that I resorted back to just calling the children in and giving them verbal instructions.  As you know....those verbal instructions have their own pitfalls, like both the kids and mom forgetting what they were.  The alternative has been lists on our planning center's white board, which has the advantage of helping me remember, but the disadvantage of the children running back and forth to check on their job list.  Note:

children running back and forth = 
children getting distracted and forgetting that they have jobs

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Can you believe I haven't run out of embarrassing moments, yet?    Admittedly, it is getting harder to come up with those moments, because we are rapidly approaching the point at which the ones remaining in my memory are just too embarrassing to share.  In public.  Now that you've read the one about the gastroenterologist and my shirt, you probably wonder how it could get any worse.  It could, my friends, it really could.  But, like I said, we're not going to go there.  At least, not anytime soon.

I'll never forget one day, after a trip to the grocery store with all of my children, which had been particularly hair-raising, Endeavor said to me, "When did you stop feeling embarrassed?"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

After yesterday, you may have thought that my store of embarrassing moments was dwindling.  You might have suspected that I'd shared them all.

My friends, I have only skimmed the surface.  I have not yet played my Germany Card.  Until now.

Innocents Abroad

For anyone new to this blog, I lived in Germany for a year.  Shortly after Endeavor was born, the Bionic Man's company sent us over to Munich, Germany for a year long work assignment.  While the Bionic Man was at work during the day, Baby Endeavor and I had fabulous and sometimes frightening adventures every time we stepped out of our apartment.  At home, Endeavor stayed busy running Motherhood Bootcamp, while I tried to keep up.  We also watched a lot of Teletubbies and Little House on the Prairie, dubbed into German for television.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Tenth Day of Christmas

Today's embarrassing moment occurred very recently.

I'm Not a Creepy Lady

So, I was visiting Endeavor at her middle school for lunch.  The middle school she goes to is very large, and--don't tell her this--I'm still not sure I know my way around it, yet.  Actually, I am sure I don't know my way around it.  But, I decided to go eat lunch with her anyway.

The only problem was, I really, really, had to go to the bathroom.  Since there were just a few minutes  to spare before Endeavor came to the lunch room, and the halls weren't swarming with kids yet, I quickly ducked into the first restroom I saw.  I had to go so badly that I dropped my purse and coat on the handy bench just inside the doorway.  (Obviously, the pressure on my bladder was so great that I wasn't able to clearly think through the possible consequences of leaving my purse unattended in a middle school bathroom.)

So, like I said, I dropped my purse and coat and dashed around the corner to find the first available stall, only to discover that there weren't any stalls in this particular restroom, except for one waaaaaay down at the other end of the room.

But there were urinals.

I had walked into the boys' restroom.

Luckily, no one was using the urinals, but I did startle two boys at the sink.  I gasped, and said in dismay, "I didn't see the sign!  I'm not a creepy lady!" then I whirled around and ran out of the restroom, leaving my coat and purse behind me.

Endeavor found me outside of the cafeteria, blushing furiously, without a purse or coat.  "Endeavor!"  I hissed.  "I just left my coat and purse in the boys' restroom over there!  I don't know what to do!  I'm afraid someone will take them!  I have to go back for them!"

Endeavor stared at me in horror.  "Mom!" she gasped.  "What were you doing in the boys' restroom?"

I felt like crying.  "I don't know, Endeavor, I didn't see the sign!  I thought it was the girls' restroom!  I'm not a creepy lady!"

"Well, you can't go back in there, Mom," Endeavor said sagely, "or you will be a creepy lady."

"I know, I know!" I wailed.  "Don't you know someone who could go in and get them, for me?"

Endeavor sighed.  "Mom, this is really embarrassing.  And I'm late for lunch.  I think you had better go find the janitor or the principle or somebody."

What could I do, but follow my eleven-year-olds' advice?  I walked into the cafeteria, and started to look around for the principal.  I finally saw him, a man in a pin-striped suit who looked strangely identical to my A.P. American History teacher, wearing a name tag that said, "Principal."

Somehow, I thought if I approached him casually, making a joke out of the whole situation, it would be better.  So, I went up, punched him on the arm, and said, "What's the deal with not having any signs on the restroom doors, dude?"

To which he replied, "Dude, are you dissing my school?" as he put me in a headlock and vigorously rubbed my scalp with his fist.

It was at this point that I realized I was dreaming and woke up.

Upon waking, my first conscious thought was, "Oh good, I can't wait to write about this on my blog!  I wasn't sure I could remember another embarrassing moment.  But luckily, I just had one, and I can use that one for Day 10!"  Then, I promptly fell back asleep, content that I had just found the subject for Day 10.

The next morning, I woke up, and realized that I had just dreamed an embarrassing moment to write in my blog.  As if what happens in real life isn't enough, I have my subconscious working overtime to make sure that I have plenty of subject matter.  And you know what?

That's embarrassing.

Just to make sure we are all clear on this:  I did not actually walk into the boys' restroom at Endeavor's middle school at any time, nor did Endeavor's middle school principle ever put me in a headlock.  Furthermore, Endeavor wishes me to state, for the record, that I should never join her for lunch at her middle school.  It was all a dream.  An embarrassing dream, but a dream, nonetheless.  Also for the record, I'm really not a creepy lady.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Time to Take Down the Holiday Decorations

Americans have a long-standing tradition of wondering when it is time to take down their holiday decorations.  December 26th?  January 1st?  January 6th?  Easter?  The Big Box Stores and Hallmark have yet to designate an official day for this, and we just aren't used to such independence.  The lack of a designated un-decoration day leaves many Americans to worry: have we left the holiday decorations up too long or not yet long enough?

Americans, worry no longer.  I have heard your concerns, and now I will address them, with this very handy, FREE guide.   (I do not plan to seek office, but thank you for asking.)

It is Time to Take Down
the Holiday Decorations when:
You begin to feel a little deflated.
Your evergreen swags have been at the bottle,
they are obviously a little tipsy.

 The glowing nativity set has seen better days.
 The wisemen, clearly, are dead on their feet.
And their camel, unfortunately, really is dead.
 The Baby Jesus figure has sat out there in that manger so long 
he is no longer a baby
and is able to get out of the manger, unassisted.
(He'd probably try to get back in the garage, 
but swaddling clothes are so restrictive.)
The flamingos think that LED lights are the new pink, 
because that's what they've seen everyone wearing this season.
Santa is down to just one reindeer.

And other assorted lawn ornaments, left to their own devices,
have begun to commit heinous crimes.

In this case, I suspect that the guy with the sharp stick
or the Santa carrying a blunt, heavy object
are the most likely perpetrators.
The usual suspects.

And finally, you know the holidays are officially over
when you discover Santa has left behind 
all his clothing on your lawn.....except his shoes!

Happy New Year!

All these pictures were taken in my own Midwestern neighborhood, using the very thoughtful gift Santa left in my stocking this year.  Thank you, Santa! 

The Ninth Day of Christmas

Today's embarrassing moment wasn't embarrassing when it happened.  Only in retrospect.  When I look at the pictures.  Which I'm about to show you.

Remember how the Bionic Man and I recently celebrated an anniversary?  I found some old wedding pictures that the Bionic Man scanned into our files, and they sent me on a trip down memory lane.


The story of how these pictures came to be begins before our wedding.  The Bionic Man's sister, Kristine, got married a few weeks before we did.  Now a professional photographer, Kris was a photography student back when she got married.  She had all her wedding photography done by a photographer that she chose very carefully.  The images that he produced were everything Kristine and her mother dreamed of.  The portraits of Kristine and her groom were so breathtaking, that her mother had visions of creating a "wedding wall" in her home, where she planned to hang gorgeous, matching, professional portraits of her six children on their wedding days.

There was only one problem with that dream:  the Bionic Man and I had not planned to hire a professional photographer for our wedding.

We were budget-minded do-it-yourselfers even before we got married, and we just weren't planning to spend much money on photography for the wedding.  We figured we'd just have a few friends and family members snap pictures throughout the day, get duplicates of the prints, and call it good!

But snapshots were not part of The Wedding Wall vision.  Not only was my future-mother-in-law planning on something professional, she was planning for a portrait done by the same photographer who did Kristine's wedding.  The photographer who would charge extra for traveling the 80+ miles from his studio to our wedding location.

So we compromised.  The Bionic Man and I agreed to put the tux and dress back on after we came back from our honeymoon, and have the professional photo shoot that my mother-in-law wanted.

On the appointed day, the Bionic Man and I showed up at the designated location, a beautiful, old building in downtown Salt Lake City, popular with wedding photographers.  We made my sister and her husband come along, so that my sister could help me get into the rather complicated wedding dress once we arrived.  Poor Lorene and David did not know what they were getting into.

The photo shoot went well.  The photographer knew exactly where he wanted us to pose for the portraits, and quickly went through various poses.  All in the same spot of the building.  Unfortunately, the Bionic Man had envisioned a little more variety than that.  It was a large building, with many points of architectural interest.  The Bionic Man was less concerned about consistency in light and composition than he was about variety and fitting several Feats of Engineering into the background of our portraits.  He was able to convince the photographer to take a couple of pictures of me next to a piano (my mother's only request from the session), but after that, the photographer made it very clear that he was not going to follow us all over the building snapping photos.  He was done.
But the Bionic Man and I weren't!  We were going to get all the mileage out of that white tux and nine foot veil that we possibly could!  So, after the photographer left, we dragged David and Lorene all over for our own, personal photo shoot.  (You didn't have anything better to do that day, did you, David and Lorene?)  David manned the camera, and the Bionic Man and I picked all the backgrounds.  The results are nothing short of hilarious.

It was a productive day, photographically.  We got a portrait for The Wedding Wall out of it, a couple of pictures to hang on our own wall that depict us in all our wedded glory, and then we got a stack of dark, grainy prints that depict us as we really were that day: imperfect, goofy, and more than a little in love.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Eighth Day of Christmas

I'm seriously questioning the wisdom of sharing with you a solid twelve days of my most embarrassing moments.  Do you really want to get to know me this well?  I have to admit, though, recording them for posterity is cathartic.  Another positive benefit is that, after reading my blog, Endeavor has decided that accidentally tripping in front of her locker isn't that embarrassing.

Speaking of children learning about embarrassment....

My Very First Embarrassing Moment
Mary Cassatt, Ellen Mary Cassatt in a White Coat

I was in third grade.  In an effort to bring music and art appreciation to our low-budget elementary schools, the PTA sponsored monthly classes taught by parent volunteers.  Once a month, we had visits from our "Art Mother" and our "Music Mother", who helped us learn about a famous composer or artist.  We viewed great art or listened to great music, learned more about what led (Or is it lead?  There goes my left eye) each artist to create such a body of work, and then had a special activity to help us apply our new-found knowledge.

Looking back, I'm quite impressed with what the local PTA was able to accomplish!

My mother was the Art Mother for my third grade classroom.  

One day, I was busy finishing my math worksheet, innocent of all that was about to bring misery to my young life.  Suddenly, the classroom door was thrown open, and a woman, bedecked in a ridiculous flowered hat, entered the room, trilling in a sing-song voice, "I'm here, children, I'm here!  And I'm wearing my beautiful spring hat!"

The woman was my mother.

She wasn't just wearing any spring hat.  She was wearing a pink-gingham pillbox with a large bow that sprouted prolific blooms of purple plastic lilacs.  She had made it herself.

The room erupted in gasps and giggles as my mother pranced into the room, ready to give the monthly Art Appreciation Lesson.  I had no idea she was planning to visit that day, and I certainly had no idea that she'd make her visit wearing a spring hat!  I put my head down on my desk and covered it with my arms, hoping that this was just a very, very bad nightmare.  

It wasn't.  It was real life.  Mom proceeded to tell us all about the artist Mary Cassatt, known for her primary subjects of children and women in hats.  A gifted teacher, my mother had our third grade class in the palm of her hand, unable to do anything but listen with rapt attention to the woman in the silly hat.  The lesson went exactly as she had planned.  

Only, I don't think she'd planned on her own daughter being quite so mortified.  I'm sure she and my father enjoyed a few laughs over the re-telling of the horrified expression on their daughter's face when Mom made her grand entrance.  Mom got a lot of mileage out of that hat, threatening to wear it again in public if she ever needed to "motivate" me.  

And that moment, when my mother danced into my third grade classroom with purple lilacs bouncing from a bright-pink-gingham brim, remains my earliest memory of embarrassment.

Aren't I lucky?