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  1. Friday, May 11, 2012

    Thoughts on parenthood…

    The last few weeks have been a little bananas around here. You see, I have this job that I never talk about on the blog {for privacy reasons and because it’s boring} in addition to maintaining my blog, editing DailyBuzz Moms and being a stay-at-home mom. The job I don’t talk about has been eating up a LOT of time lately, all while the rest of my responsibilities have remained the same or been more demanding than usual. I’m not telling you this to garner sympathy. I’m just setting the stage. I’ve basically been a crazy person, unable to get dinner on the table most days and feeling stressed and exhausted all of the time.

    While all of this has been going on, our dear friends Rachel and Will lost their sweet baby boy Charlie due to complications from a rare genetic disorder. After 16 months of challenges, his little body finally decided it was time to rest.

    While I was sitting at Charlie’s funeral two weeks ago, so many thoughts flooded my mind. First and foremost was just how short and precious life is and what amazing parents Rachel and Will have been to Charlie. I also couldn’t help but think of my grandmother.

    She was herself a baby born into this world with complications. It was 1929. Her mother was older and ended up with an infection, necessitating early induction of labor, with the ultimate goal most likely being that of saving the mother’s life. Instead, my grandmother, the premature 3-pound baby, survived. The story goes that my great-grandmother held my grandma in her arms and laughed that she could have had a baby so late in life. She passed away just a few short hours after the birth, leaving my grandmother without a mother. That has forever shaped my grandma and who she has become, a loving mother and grandmother devoted to her family and the well-being of everyone she knows.

    Left: My great-grandparents’ wedding photo. Right: My grandma’s high school graduation photo.

    Here is the crazy part of the story. Will is a doctor. His father was a doctor. His father before him was a doctor, the same doctor who attended to my grandmother’s birth.

    And so, sitting at the funeral of a baby who should have been dealt a better hand, I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother. I am beyond grateful that that tiny premature baby from long-ago rural Idaho survived and that Will’s grandfather was a part of that. And I can’t help but wonder why beautiful, red-headed Charlie had to leave this life so soon. Life is not fair, but it is beautiful. Even though one baby’s life was cut short and another’s grew into adulthood, both lives touched others and made the world a better place. And watching Rachel and Will go through this experience, while beyond heartbreaking, has also been truly beautiful and inspiring. They are choice parents.

    I’ll never forget when Rachel first had Charlie. She and Will are both ivy league-educated, go-getter types doing amazing things. Rachel has a quick mind and a kind heart and I just love everything about her. But when she had Charlie, I gained insight into a whole different aspect of who Rachel is. On one night in particular, Rachel was sitting in my kitchen, cradling newborn Charlie in her arms. She was completely enraptured by him, oblivious to any of us, a smile spread across her face. It was a quiet, beautiful moment that has forever been imprinted in my mind. Motherhood brought out a side of Rachel that I had not seen…at least not at that level. Words can’t truly explain what that ‘side’ is or how it changes a person. It just is.

    So how does this all link back to my over-worked, now seemingly-frivolous schedule? When I am overwhelmed by work, the thing I get most frustrated with is that I don’t get to be the mom I want to be. I simply don’t have time to do all the things with my sweet children that I wish I could. I know in the back of my mind they are fine and happy and that “this too shall pass,” but it doesn’t change the “bummed-outness” that I feel. But then I think of Rachel, Will and Charlie and remind myself I need to savor every moment as much as I can and not let the stress get the better of me because, in the grand scheme of things, none of that stressful stuff really matters.

    As all of these thoughts have been tumbling about in my crazed brain, I’ve been feeling like I want to write them down, but not really knowing what the thoughts were entirely or how they all connected. Then today my friend Natalee sent a link to a a really lovely blog post about motherhood, our expectations and the things that our children are truly needing from us. It made me laugh, it made me think, and it made me tear up a little, too. It was just what I needed right now.

    Here’s the thing. None of us is perfect. Things rarely go as planned and sometimes go where we would never wish them to go. And life is always too short. All we can do is embrace the moments, big and small, that come into our lives, the moments that connect us with others and make it all worthwhile. And if that means we have to eat out again, so be it. At least we’re here, eating together, and that’s all that matters in the end.

  2. Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Le Creuset, How I Love Thee

    This giveaway is now closed. Thank you!

    It’s almost Mother’s Day. Do you know what you’re getting your mama? Or have you told your husband what you want? I’ve decided that if I were to get a box that says Le Creuset on the outside, I would probably be more excited for it than a little turquoise box with a white ribbon and bow. Not kidding.

    In anticipation of today’s giveaway, Le Creuset gifted me with a Round French Oven and a Heritage Covered Rectangular Casserole. The day that box arrived on my doorstep I was GLEEFUL. Because, you see, I’ve been coveting Le Creuset from afar for many years. I cracked the box to discover the beautiful cookware that I was expecting…and I used both pieces that very night when making dinner!

    For real, have bell peppers ever looked more stunning? I think not.

    And I can’t WAIT to try baking artisan bread in my French oven. My friend Lindsay swears it’s the best thing ever. I’ve eaten her bread. And she’s right.

    Want to gussy up your stuffed peppers just like me? Now’s your chance! Le Creuset is giving away a Heritage Covered Rectangular Casserole in Marseille Blue (retail value $90) to one of you very lucky, randomly-selected people. Winner’s shipping address must be in the U.S.

    Here’s how to enter!


    You must leave separate comments to get the extra entries. All comments must be added before Midnight PT on Wednesday, May 16.

    Good luck!

  3. KitchenIQ Giveaway Winner

    Time too announce the winner of the KitchenIQ giveaway!

    Drumroll please…go on, rap those fingers on your desk…

    Lynette Staszko, who said, “I just never thought about having my knives professionally sharpened. Then again, I grew up with cheap knives that we used for pretty much anything. I received my first “quality” knife for Christmas. Wow, what a difference! Great blog! Well written, and very interesting. Thanks!”

    So happy that Lynette is in possession of her very first quality knife…now she can take great care of it! AND…I promise that even thought she said really nice things about my blog, really did pick her! 😉

    Big thanks to KitchenIQ!

  4. Wednesday, May 9, 2012


    I think we need to do a smoothie post. Because it’s been on my mind for, well, years! I want to share a few tips, a few flavors that we love, and then open up the floor to tips and recipes from all of you!

    First, a small plug for expensive blenders. I have to say that one of the best things that ever took residence in our kitchen is our Blendtec heavy duty blender. This is an appliance that I think is completely worth saving up for. We use it all the time and it can handle anything. Our previous blender, which was just your regular run-of-the-mill blender, just didn’t cut it. We have a Blendtec, which I love for many reasons including the preset buttons for different foods. Vitamix is an option and I think there are others on the market now. Do some research and go get one! Or start saving up for one. They are awesome.

    Okay, on to technique! Do you know how to build your smoothie in the blender? After I got my Blendtec and read the instruction manual, I realized I had been putting the juice and fruit in the opposite order than I should have been! The logic my brain followed was that you should put the harder-to-blend items in first so that they get blended better…but it just jams everything up. As soon as I reversed the order of things, my smoothies improved immediately and significantly. Here is the RIGHT way to do it.

    1. Juice first. You can also use grapes as your juice base.
    2. Softer, unfrozen fruits.
    3. Harder fruits and frozen fruits. Say you’re doing frozen pineapple and frozen banana, put the frozen pineapple in first. Basically you want whatever is easiest to blend to go in first.
    4. Ice.
    Essentially you put the ‘liquidiest’ and softest stuff first then move up in order to the hardest items. Make sense?

    Now, on to flavors! Nate is the smoothie master in our house. He’s always blending up some sort of smoothie or “juicey” for the family and he’s quite the master! Here are the fruits and juices he most commonly uses:

    • Mango juice for the base. I also love papaya juice as the base. If we don’t have either of those, we’ll go with orange or grape, which are both nice. Apple is just too, well, apple-y for us. It’s still good in a pinch, but definitely our least favorite.
    • Frozen strawberries, frozen mango, frozen pineapple and frozen banana make the most frequent appearances in our smoothies! Oh, and when peaches are in season, we love frozen peaches!!
    • I love tossing coconut into the smoothie. Nate isn’t such a big fan of coconut, but it makes me (and the girls) super happy!
    • Yogurt…usually plain.
    • ICE. Lately Nate has been making “juiceys,” which basically means there’s no ice and the smoothies aren’t so slushy. They are very tasty and the girls like them, too…but I gotta say, I love a good, slushy smoothie! Bring on the ice!

    No specific recipes from us…our smoothies change pretty much every time we make them, which is part of the fun! We’ve also recently started adding SPINACH to the smoothies and that is a great trick! I know some of you have been telling me to do that for years…glad we finally jumped on board!

    Your turn! Please share your favorite fruit/juice combos, specific recipes, tips, anything smoothie related! Can’t wait to be inspired by all of you!

  5. Sunday, May 6, 2012

    Week 276 Menu

    Today I am on a plane…flying home…from this place

    Owen and I got to go to Miami for a few days to attend the Mom 2.0 Summit with my DailyBuzz Moms team. It was a blast…especially the closing night party at the Versace Mansion. Yup, Owen has been to a party at the Versace Mansion. How many 7-month olds can say that? Too bad I’ve ruined Cinco de Mayo for him for the rest of his life…don’t think he’ll ever be able to top it!

    It’s really hard to think about a menu right now, but I’m pretty sure that we’re going to have to eat dinner this week!

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    – Guacamole

    – Lasagna

    – Leftovers

    Oriental Chicken Salad

    – Eat out

    – If the weather is nice, grilling! I’m thinking brats and hot dogs
    – Fresh fruit and baked beans

    – Scrambled Eggs

    Wow! I did it! I planned a menu. The Miami heat didn’t completely fry my brain. You know the drill…time to share your menu for the week. Thank you all and have a great week!

  6. Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Let’s Talk Knives, Take Two {+ a Giveaway!}

    Remember my big long knife post when I rambled on and on about knives and it was awesome? Well, I have a quick update…and a giveaway! Woo-hoo!

    First off, if you haven’t read the first knife post, please do! In that post, one of the things I mention is getting your knives professionally sharpened regularly unless you really know what you’re doing (which I didn’t). WELLLLLL…KitchenIQâ„¢ recently sent me their Manual Adjustable Sharpener. I love this thing. You can adjust the angle of the sharpener so that you know you are properly sharpening your knife’s edge to the original factory angle. It was time for my knives to be sharpened again – I used this sharpener and it was fabulous. I even used the serrated slot for my serrated knife, which in all honesty made me totally nervous…but my serrated knife is cutting better than it has in ages! Another thing I love is the non-stick base…the sharpener does not move when I am using it.

    The “fine” slot is for honing and makes that task easy and quick…and again, you can set the angle to where it should be, so you know your knife is being properly honed. Now that I have this sharpener, I’ve been much more consistent with honing my knives before every use, which makes my knives very happy. (See my original knife post to read more about the difference between sharpening and honing.)

    I stand by the statement in my original knife post that you should get your knives sharpened regularly (how often you use your knife will determine how often you need to sharpen your knives). BUT I now feel comfortable doing it myself! Yippee! Here’s to happy, healthy knives in the comfort of my own home!

    As you know, I like to share the love, so we are giving away an KitchenIQ Manual Adjustable Sharpener ($39.95) available exclusively at Williams Sonoma, along with the Yellow Fine Grater ($16.99), available on Amazon. (Prize must be shipped within the U.S.) P.S. The grater is cool, too! It’s nice and wide, which makes for easy chocolate and cheese grating.

    Here’s how to enter!

    You must leave separate comments to get the extra entries. All comments must be added before Midnight PT on Wednesday, May 9.
    Good luck with the giveaway!
    (KitchenIQ provided me with a sharpener and a zester. All opinions are my own.)

  7. Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    I Am a Genius Zucchini Cutter…finally.

    I have always had a love-hate relationship with zucchini as a side dish. I love it sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper. However, I could never get it to cook just right…or at least not consistently. For some reason I always cut the zucchini into discs. They were hard to flip in the pan and I was never patient enough to make sure they were all the same thickness, yielding uneven cooking. Once in a while I’d get it right, but more often than not it was a little off.

    Then last night, as I was trying to scrounge up a bit of healthy food to go with boxed mac n’ cheese (this crazy work week is turning out to be even crazier than I anticipated), I had a lucky stroke of genius. I cut the zucchini into thirds, then turned those pieces up on their ends and cut them into sixths. Make sense? I hope so because it is AWESOME. Here’s a picture to clear up my confusing directions:

    The pieces were all the same size, so they cooked much more evenly, and the zucchini came out great! Thought I’d share this little tip as we head into the summer months when there is more zucchini than we know what to do with!

    Also, since zucchini season is on the horizon, be sure to check out the Zucchini Call for Recipes from a few years back, which is where I discovered this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe. Mmmmmm…..