Thursday, January 21, 2016

Growing Pains

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and winnond
Nope, not the show.

My toddler is going through a growth spurt and he's been in a lot of pain (primarily at night when we should all be sleeping). My husband wasn't convinced it was growing pains, but after looking at all the evidence I don't think it could be anything else.

Exhibit A: He's been eating nonstop for days. It's like he can't get enough food in his little body. He'll eat his dinner and ask for yogurt 30 minutes later. I think he actually ate more than I did the other day and that's saying something because I graze all day long. Side note - have you tried Boom Chicka Pop dark chocolate and sea salt popcorn? If you haven't, don't. It's like volunteering yourself for a crack addiction and I think it's only sold during the holidays. Don't set yourself up for failure.

Exhibit B: He was up off and on all night long crying because he was in pain. The other night it was his feet, but last night was his hands. He wanted me to rub them and would immediately start crying if I stopped. I finally gave up at 5 a.m. and we sat on the couch and watched PBS Kids. It was so pitiful and I felt so helpless. I've since heard about some essential oils, which I should probably look into for the next growth spurt.

Exhibit C: He took a 4 1/2 hour nap. No joke. We were driving home from Target (of course) around noon and he passed out before we got home. I ate lunch, watched the first episode of Outlander (hello, new obsession), worked out and showered before he woke up the first time. We were about two hours into his nap so I figured he was ready to get up. Nope. He climbed up onto the bed with me, put his head on my chest and passed out for another 2 1/2 hours. The only downside - and this is me really nitpicking here - is that I couldn't move. I've been surviving on a few swallows of water at the bottom of my Camelbak and a package of cookies I found on the nightstand. And believe it or not, there's not that much to look at on the Internet. I know. Clearly, I've lost my mind. But 4 1/2 hours, people!

Right so, crazy appetite, complaining about pain and finally, a ridiculously long nap. I think we're at the end of the growth spurt. I'm wondering if I should measure his feet to see if he needs new shoes? This kid's feet seem to grow faster than everything else. I've learned to stock new pairs in the next size in the closet. I digress.

Looking back, I wish I had put the computer down and taken a nap myself. Or better yet, held him on the couch so I could watch more Outlander. Has anyone else watched the series? I've read all of the books, which come out to like 500,000 pages (that may be a slight exaggeration) so I already love all most of the characters.

Anyway, where did that popcorn go? I feel a craving coming on.

Cheers,
Jen


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dead computer, celebrity gossip and a lot of rambling...

Photo courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net
My computer died. And with it, my hopes and dreams. No, really. My computer is “vintage” at six years old and they couldn’t fix it or recover the files without corrupting them. Or something like that. All I know is that my writing project is gone. Poof. Vanished. Finito (is that Italian?). 

I’m assuming it was some sort of sign that maybe my project kind of sucked and needed a rewrite. In my defense, I don’t think it sucked quite that bad. Slashing off a few pages was expected. Making the cut at page two was brutal. 

Ugh, why did I put my faith in the cloud? Why didn’t I back up my project on the external hard drive? Why are we out of chocolate?

The struggle is real, friends. 

But you know what makes me feel better when I’m down? Celebrity gossip. Not in a “my life is better than yours” kind of way or a “stars - just like us!” kind of way. More like an opportunity to distance myself from my current problems. 

Or my kid is napping and I keep making up excuses not to work out (it’s usually that one). 

There are a couple of gossip blogs that I follow consistently. Do you think they’re hiring? I think it would be a nice change of pace to write about celebrities having babies/getting divorced/banging the nanny. Like what kind of qualifications do you need to write for them? I read Bop as a preteen and like to think that makes me qualified in the heartthrob department. Although, I think JTT has since been replaced with the kids from One Direction. Side note - why won’t that guy cut his hair? Can we start a petition? 

I could totally cover royal gossip because I’m American and have an unhealthy obsession with them. A friend of mine is British and when we met I excitedly told her about my love for the royals and she basically pat me on the head and said that’s nice. They don’t particularly care about them one way or the other, until it comes to money (everyone hates taxes - fact). 

But I guess it’s quid pro quo (am I using this phrase correctly? I’m 90 percent sure I am…) because when I lived in Germany they got very excited about President Obama and I was all “meh.” I think our political system is most exciting during election years and then someone gets into office and it’s like digging a trench - backbreaking work with little reward. Also, Donald Trump is running this year and that guy is a freaking circus all by himself. Like, really, is this the best we can do, America? 

And now I’m feeling a little sad about my lost project and the state of our government.

A government partially run by celebrities (did you like that segue - it was pretty good, right?). Think about Ah-nold in California. What were his qualifications you ask? I’m pretty sure it was that he was famous. Who wouldn’t want that kind of power? I mean, celebrities are paid to endorse products because companies know it ups their brand recognition and power to sell. 

And it’s sooooo easy. Sure, Jennifer Aniston probably calls the paparazzi once in awhile so they can get a “candid shot” of her drinking Smart Water, but how much of a return is she getting on that deal? I’d be willing to bet it’s more than free products. 

Seriously, if I could endorse something and get paid I totally would. I don’t even have to like it. For example, I haven’t had tequila shots in a long time (one bad night will ruin liquor for you forever - take note, young people). But if George Clooney was like hey Jen, we need you to shill our Casamigos Tequila and we’ll pay you handsomely, I’d start washing my shot glasses. 

Just kidding. 

I’d do it for a t-shirt and two bottles of their finest  regular tequila. George, call my people. And by my people, I mean Facebook me. I am my people. On second thought, I use a slightly false name. OK, I’ll Facebook you. Or call your people. You have people, right? Or maybe I’ll just swing by your house?

And this, my friends, is how easy it is to go from working for George Clooney to stalking George Clooney (“you don’t work for him,” - you “.....” - me). 

Not to mention, celebrity gossip is great for idle chatter. We live about an hour to an hour and a half away from the city so there are a handful of things we talk about in the car. 



  1. Career Talk - i.e. when can we move, where will we move, can we make sure there’s a Chick-fil-A within five miles of the house. 
  1. Lottery Winnings - i.e. let’s buy a house, some land, chickens and expensive, but well-made shoes and handbags.
  1. Weather - i.e. are those storm clouds? I think they’re storm clouds. 
  1. Celebrity gossip - i.e. hey, you know this song on the radio? It’s about this other musician. No, really. About their one-night stand. No, he has a tiger tattoo on his chest. Yes, like the animal. Yes, all over. No, I can’t prove it’s about them. Who says so? Only everyone. 



So you see, a good 25 percent of our idle chatter is about celebrity gossip which is often sparked by something we hear on the radio. I think this is the only time my husband will engage in celebrity gossip. If we’re at home and I mention something like the Beyonce, Jay-Z, Solange elevator fight he doesn’t care. Um, I’m pretty sure Good Morning America covered that in their NEWS program. Everyone cares, Nate. Everyone. 

In conclusion (I have no idea where this is going), everyone should read some celebrity gossip (and pay me to write about it). Even if you get it from GMA every morning, at least you know what everyone’s talking about. Also, save your documents somewhere other than your hard drive. And if you don’t know how to do it, find a computer genius to help you. You can trade pop culture news for tech information. Quid pro quo. 

OK, now I’m only 75 percent sure I’m using that phrase correctly. 

Cheers,
Jen 







Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DIY Beer Advent Calendar


About a month ago, we were walking around Costco and I saw a beer advent calendar for sale. It was $50 for 24 German cans of beer. Which is probably a good deal, but I couldn't bring myself to pay that much when I knew I could make my own for less.

So because I love my husband soooo much and wanted him to have his own treat this year, I decided to make him a beer calendar (and managed to do it for less than $50). I may or may not have also been highly motivated to get 'er done because I recently dropped my laptop and we'll have to pay for repairs. But mainly the love thing.

Side note - do you know how hard it is to write a blog post on a mini iPad? Let's not make this a habit.

Right so, I started off with this bin from Target for about $6. There were some more festive prints but this one looked the least girly to me. Pros - it holds exactly 24 bottles of beer, it's reusable and most importantly, it fits in our fridge. Because who wants warm beer?  ("Some beer is meant to be served warm" - you, "I know and it's gross. Don't pretend it's not" - me). Cons - the bottom is soft so it makes picking it up difficult. You may want to place it on a piece of wood or something in order to transfer it to the fridge.


As far as the beer is concerned, I got lucky. Our local grocery store sells singles and you can build your own six pack. I'd buy one every time I went to the store so the expense was spread out over time. Of course, if you opted to buy larger cases of the same type of beer you'd likely save even more money.


Ethan picked out the holiday tags in the Target dollar spot. And I had some leftover ribbon that I added to make it more festive. There are so many options when it comes to decorating it's easy to personalize this gift. Think football colors or movie quotes or specific holiday themes.

Voila! A beer advent calendar sure to impress - or at least please - your significant other, best friend, or even yourself (sometimes you have to treat yourself, right?).

Have you made one before? I want to see photos!

Cheers,
Jen

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5 Ways to Survive Flying with a Toddler

Me: Ethan, we've made it to our final destination, but we have to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes because there's nowhere to park the plane.
Ethan: ..... 

Trying to navigate the airport with your toddler is like trying to carry a 30-pound backpack, a toddler backpack your toddler refuses to carry and your 40-pound toddler who can't be trusted to walk in the right direction all at the same time.

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

So here are five survival tips for the next time you have to fly with your toddler.

Tip #1: Stay home
Weren't expecting that one, were you? On our way to Virginia we had a connection in North Carolina. I was traveling without my husband (who had to work, but also got to sleep through the night and didn't have to watch Disney Jr. for a whole week so who really got a vacation here?) so it was just me and my 2 year old. We had been up since 4:30 a.m. in order to make our 7 a.m. flight. After three hours on the airplane, we got off and my toddler had a meltdown. I mean an EPIC meltdown. And then he proceeded to have another one. And another one. And another one. I nearly had one myself. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position, click some magical heels together and go home. Then I realized this isn't Hollywood and I'd have to get on a plane in order to get home. So E had another meltdown for me since I couldn't afford to lose my cool in the middle of the terminal. The only downside to this tip is that if you stay home, you don't get to fully experience life. And I wouldn't have traded our time in Virginia for anything. So while this is practical advice, it's not realistic ("why am I reading this again?" - you, "because my husband has already heard me complain about the meltdowns" - me).

Tip #2: Bring snacks
Think you have enough? You don't. Pack more. A lot more. Anytime your toddler wants to open his or her mouth to whine or cry, stuff it with food. Sure, this will probably create food issues when they get older, but let's not worry about that right now. Let's worry about all of the people sitting around you wishing they hadn't pulled the short straw and ended up next to your kid. Did I mention Ethan was the only child on three of the four flights we took? Couldn't exactly pin the noise on someone else... And for some reason, flying made him hungry. Just keep pulling out the snacks. Preferably new ones or the ones you never let them have. That being said, I do regret the donut at 5 a.m. Probably not the best idea to fill his tiny tummy with sugar right before asking him to sit still for three hours.

Tip #3: Do not sit in the aisle seat
But why, Jen? Then we'll have easy access to the bathroom. I know, I know. That's what I thought, too. But I was wrong. So very wrong. We had an emergency situation (he pooped, of course) and so we had no choice but to use the bathroom. When we got back to our seats, all he wanted to do was run into the aisle. Do you know how hard it is to restrain your toddler on a plane without causing a scene? He was determined to get out. He crawled on the floor. Licked my face. Pulled on my shirt. But I kept him contained without tears or screaming. How you ask? A miracle, my friends. A miracle.  On the way home, he sat in the window seat. He wanted to get to the aisle, but wasn't willing to physically assault the aisle passenger to get out. This is the way to go. Also, did you notice I was in the middle seat both times? Pffth.

Tip #4: Load up on fun games and movies
Before we left, I added a new movie to the iPad for Ethan to watch on the plane. It didn't keep him entertained the whole flight, but it did help. I also brought sticker books, play packs and those coloring books that use white markers, but color shows up on the paper. What is that called? Magic markers? Magic paper? I have no idea. He also played with some of the games on the iPad. While we were waiting on the tarmac (we landed 30 minutes early, but there wasn't a gate for us to park at) he would throw crayons on the ground, say they were "lost" and then bend down to find them. I think that kept him busy for 10 minutes. I mean, whatever works. Also, snacks. Have I already mentioned that? I don't think I can say it enough.

Tip #5: Ignore the Haters
For the most part, we had good experiences with our fellow passengers on all of our flights and in the terminals. Sure, there were some grumpy old people and some easily annoyed business travelers, but for the most part we were golden. E knows how to turn on the charm and when he was having a meltdown I think most people felt sorry for us (or maybe just me?) which isn't great, but is better than the alternative (them videotaping it and putting it on YouTube along with remarks about how they would "raise their kids right"). But if you happen to run into a hater, just ignore them. And if you happen to be one of those people who can't stand kids on flights - try to have some empathy. You can't expect a toddler to have the same amount of patience as someone in their 30s or to sit still in their chair for three hours without complaining. And if you still want to complain about all the kids at the airport well...remember that karma is real, my friend.

For the most part, Ethan did great. We had a few meltdowns at the airport and he cried on one of the flights (for about 2 minutes and then fell asleep). Oh and he cried every time I put on his seat belt. The kid does not like to be restrained. Anyone have tips for that? I tried to be stealthy like a ninja when I put it on and I even left it loose, but it didn't seem to matter. In the end, I'd wait until the last possible minute to strap him in and then threw snacks and sticker books at him until he calmed down (which felt like eternity to me, but really wasn't but a few minutes). Most of the people around us said he did well for someone his age (and were shocked he was 2) so overall, it was OK.

Anyone want to share their tips for flying with toddlers?

Oh you don't have any tips because your kids are awesome travelers and never made a peep? That's nice.

Cheers,
Jen


Friday, September 18, 2015

Save it or Dump it - Pumpkin Crescents

Pumpkin Crescents
Earlier this week, we had a Pinterest play date where everyone brought a Pinterest dish for everyone to sample. I hate to say it, but I think mine was the weak one in the group. Womp womp.

With fall around the corner, I thought for sure I'd have a hit if I focused on something pumpkin-based (who doesn't like pumpkin?).  There were lots of recipes to choose from, but after careful consideration (i.e. it looked the easiest), I decided to make pumpkin crescents

The directions themselves are easy enough to follow. You make your filling, roll the filling inside a crescent triangle, bake said crescents, add icing and voila - a tasty snack. For the record, I believe they referred to it as a a dessert whereas I envisioned it on my breakfast plate next to a cup of hot tea. I digress.

The rolling part was a bit difficult and I definitely had some filling leak through the cracks, but overall it wasn't a tough recipe. It gets high marks for ease, that's for sure. 

My two issues with the recipe are 1) my icing was too runny and 2) it tasted like canned pumpkin.  The icing was obviously my fault. It said 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of milk and I went full throttle and maxed it out. Dialing it back to 1/2 a tablespoon would easily fix that problem.

As for the pumpkin taste...I don't know. I mean, I did want pumpkin ("it's in the name of the recipe" - you, "I know...." - me). I think the problem was that it tasted like canned pumpkin. And if I wanted to eat canned pumpkin I would simply eat it out of the can. I think it needed something else. If I were to make these again (not likely) I would add pumpkin pie spice to the filling. I think that would do the trick.

Right so, the other moms assured me that it was good, but I'm on the fence about it. I gave one to my husband at breakfast this morning and he said it was gross. Granted, I did leave it in the fridge overnight so that probably affected it somewhat. 

But since I'm already on the fence, I know what needs to be done. You don't need to waste your time with an iffy recipe. When it comes to the pumpkin crescents:



Cheers,
Jen 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pin It or Screw It: Neiman Marcus Dip

Neiman Marcus Dip

The other night I was trying to fall asleep when I had the most ridiculous thought pop into my head. I have lots of pins on Pinterest, but I rarely use any of them. Which shouldn't surprise anyone, least of all me, because I really don't have a lot of extra time and the super awesome pins are usually past my skill level.

And since this is likely a common problem for most of us ("it's not" - you, "damn" -me), I've decided to include some posts where I do the dirty work for you. I'm going to pick popular pins, try to recreate them and then tell you if it's worth your time.

I have a sneaking suspicion that most of my posts will end up as worthy candidates for the Pinterest Fail site, but at least it will be entertaining for someone. Not me, of course. No, I'll probably be weeping in the corner over my hot glue gun or burnt pie crust. Which brings me to my next point.

If I can successfully recreate a pin, then you most definitely can recreate it. I'm not a professional builder, baker, chef, DIY-er, painter, seamstress, fashionista or fitness guru ("we know" - you, "shhh, I'm on a roll here" - me).  If I can do it, you can do it.

Yesterday, I decided to try something easy for our play date. This particular recipe - Neiman Marcus dip - has been hanging out on my Pinterest board for two years and never seen the light of day. You can find the original recipe with lots of photos and directions at Just A Spoonful Of.

I failed to take any photos other than the last one, but they have more than enough to get you through it. And really, you don't even need them. The recipe is simple. You take all of the ingredients, mix them in a bowl and stick them in the fridge for a couple of hours. You take it out, throw it in a dish, add some crackers and chips and voila - the perfect dip!

It took me five minutes to put it together. Seriously. Five minutes. And it looked pretty good. Or at the very least, it looked like it took some effort. And it tasted pretty good, too. Then again, I like bacon ("who doesn't?" - you, "people I don't want to know" - me).

There are a couple of downsides. One, it's not healthy. Not by a long shot. And two, it's more expensive than buying dip at the grocery store. I did the math and it probably cost me about $10 to make it - likely the almonds and bacon bits tipping the scales a bit.

So, if I was throwing a Super Bowl party I'd probably skip this in favor of salsa, guacamole and/or (who are we kidding here - AND) queso. But if I was having a dinner party and needed some type of appetizer or needed a quick potluck app, I wouldn't hesitate to make this dip.

And since I know you can't handle the suspense any longer, here's my verdict.



Cheers,
Jen

PS - Have a pin you want me to test out? Shoot me a message or leave a link in the comments section! Here's the recipe for the dip:


Neiman Marcus Dip

5 - 6 green onions
 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 jar Hormel Real Bacon Bits 
1 pkg. slivered almonds

Chop the green onions.
Shred the cheddar cheese.

Mix the onions, cheese, mayo, bacon bits,
 and slivered almonds together.
Chill for a couple hours.
Serve with Ritz crackers or corn chips.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Return from the Busy

Photo courtesy of nenetus@freedigitalphotos.net 
This is exactly how I look when I read. Pensive, taking notes, eating some kind of carb. Well, at least the carb part is accurate. 

A couple of months ago I was so excited to start my own website. I looked at different options online. I convinced my husband it was the right thing to do. I polled friends and family about possible names. And then I came up empty. When push came to shove, I simply couldn't decide on a new name for my site and so here I remain, a partly crunchy mama. Shortly thereafter, writer's block reared its ugly head. I did the only thing I knew to do. I started reading again.

Reading, for me, is both a blessing and a curse. I love to read. LOVE it so much. And that's really the problem. I get completely engrossed in my book and everything else falls by the wayside. Sure, I could've written a blog post, but why should I when I could sit curled up in the armchair during nap time and read my book? In this particular case, it's not so much a book as a book series that's kept me away from the keyboard for so long. One word - Outlander.

I scored an awesome deal and got all seven books for $1.99 on my kindle. That was about three weeks ago and I'm now on book five (and these are rather large books). I couldn't help myself. What would happen to Jaime? And Claire? And Brianna? These are things I need to know. Every time I looked at my laptop all I could think about was how my people were faring in their world and I had to stop what I was doing and feed the beast.

It's a wonder I'm writing this right now. Truly. Because I've just hit a sweet spot in book five and I'd really like to read a bit.

So this post is to let you know that I'm alive and well (so is everyone else). Oh and for those that are interested, we tried potty training for about three days about two weeks ago. It went about how I expected. Here's a quick recap:

Ethan sits on the potty for 20 minutes. Nothing happens. Set timer for 30 minutes.

15 minutes later, Ethan says he has a leak. Put him on the toilet for several minutes. Nothing happens. Reset timer for 20 minutes.

10 minutes later, Ethan says he's all wet. Sit him on the toilet. Nothing happens. Reset timer for 5 minutes.

3 minutes later, Ethan has peed his pants. 

In case you lost track, that would be three outfit changes in about 30 minutes. At this point, I was ready to give up, but we continued until nap time for a total of about three hours worth of potty training.

He peed his pants eight times. EIGHT TIMES.

And I know what you're thinking. Why isn't he naked? Just let him run around in the backyard. OK, one, it's hotter than the damn sun here and I refuse to deal with those types of burns and two, we don't even have a tree for him to pee on.

But Jen, why isn't he naked in the house? Um, because I don't want to clean up pee off the floor and furniture? We potty trained Layla (our dog) on a tile floor and I've got news for you, pees travels quickly when it has carved routes in the floor to follow. Besides, he hates being wet so you'd think he'd start to make choices that would allow him to stay dry. Right?

Anyway, it went like that for a couple of days and we had zero success. Not one time did he go to the bathroom on the toilet. And it wasn't for lack of trying. He'd get up in the morning and sit there with the iPad for 30 minutes until his cheeks had a red ring around them from sitting so long only to get up, get dressed and pee all over himself two minutes later. Honestly, I think he may have been holding it until he got dressed.

Needless to say, we're taking a break. I don't think he's ready for potty training yet. We'll reevaluate in a few weeks and maybe try again. He's not even 2 1/2 and I've heard that most boys are successful in the toilet arena closer to age 3. I'm definitely not stressed out about it yet. Although, I have stopped muttering "this will be the last box of diapers I buy" whenever I'm at the grocery store. Once I resigned myself to more diapers, I was better off.

If you have any potty training tips, feel free to share them. I'll all ears. Just do it gently. I need sage advice and encouragement. And for the love, if your child potty-trained in three days and never has accidents and uses just the right amount of toilet paper, please keep it to yourself. I'm happy for you, but let's not pour salt in the wound, eh?

On that note, I'm off to read another chapter in my book.

Cheers!
Jen