Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arts and Crafts

Today is a snow day. It is a day one really shouldn't leave the house, except to play in the snow. Since we baked Halloween cookies yesterday, carved pumpkins Monday, we created Construction paper pumpkins today.

It has finally happened, Cookie is old enough for arts and crafts. When teaching, I loved doing art with the kids. I think those organized chaos days prepared me for parenthood. One has to be willing to let the mess happen. It also helps to have all the materials for said project. On Sunday we made a little trip to Michaels. I bought pipe cleaners, pom pom balls, glue (3 kinds), construction paper, and some little projects like finger puppets and stained glass. Cookie was so excited about getting started that we made the finger puppets and the stained glass as soon as we got home. So I am glad that she likes to create.

The only down side is that I am having a hard time finding proper safety scissors. The plastic kind when I was a kid, the kind that won't even cut hair. After an Internet search I have found some, but we have to wait to get them in the mail. So, I am doing all the cutting. But I like this new phase. Now if anyone can tell me how to get Jelly Bean to enjoy being on the floor alone, or how to get her to nap w/out having to be held, (another blog perhaps) life would be perfect.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Easy Mexican Crockpot Chicken

I know that there are just some days that I don't feel much like cooking dinner. There are days that we have things going on that I just won't have time to cook something fancy. So here is my quick and easy Mexican Chicken. It literally takes all of 5 minutes to put together...if not less time.


2 Chicken Breasts (or as many as you need for your family's needs)
1 packet of Taco Seasoning (if you make your own, 4 tbsp, or if more than 4 breasts 2 packets)
1 jar of your favorite Chunky Salsa (sized for the amount of chicken breasts you are using) I like the Safeway brand salsa, only because it has so much in it: beans,onions, and corn. Plus it is really chunky, cheaper than all of the brand names and comes in a small and large jar. I can use half a large jar for this recipe and have the rest for another date.

1. Trim fat off Chicken
2. Pour Taco Seasoning into Crockpot and roll the chicken in the seasoning to cover.
3. Pour the jar of Salsa over Chicken
4. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4 hours.

Your chicken should shred easily for Tacos, Burritos, Quesidillas, Taco Salad, etc. any Mexican dish you want shredded chicken with.

Side with some Mexican Rice and Refried Beans. (Mexican Rice recipe will be provided on future date).


Friday, October 23, 2009

When less is not more

Please note the size differences in these two T.P. rolls.

I noticed something the other day while going to the restroom. The toilet paper roll was smaller. It wasn't thinner or had less ply. The actual length of the roll was shorter. While most of us could probably due with cutting back on things like sweets and coffee or liquor, a smaller width of T.P. is not one I can readily say is a great thing.

This reduction in product while charging the same price seems to be the new M.O. of companies. First it was the ice cream, where buying a gallon was not really a full gallon but 3/4 of a gallon. I've noticed that cereal boxes have been reduced to "original" sizes, but the prices are the same current day prices. If Kellogg's or Post wanted to charge me 1955 prices, the size reduction would not bother me.

While the obesity rate in this country has reached epic and tragic proportions, I can see how companies can pretend to care by reducing their food products in order to say they care about the growing waist lines of Americans. So, if our asses are getting larger, why is our T.P. getting smaller? Less Frosted Flakes and Rocky Road I can understand, but shorter T.P? And many of these companies claim "bigger rolls." By bigger I think they mean thicker. But in reality we are not getting more, I think we are getting even less.

The only good thing about this new sized product is it rolls easier on the T.P. dispenser in our basement bathroom thanks to the poor installation by our house's previous owner. I am sure there are much more important things to obsess about, like debt and health care, but when grabbing for the T.P. in order to wipe my 2 year old's posterior, one notices these things and it does make a difference in the amount of coverage. I'm positive these toilet paper companies are rolling in new profits. One simply has to use more to get clean.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And a Carousal Ride

I love fall. There is something special about this time of year. Whether it's the smell, the weather, or the two great holiday's, Autumn is awesome. Even while living in L.A. I loved this season. Halloween was always fun, but the culmination of the season with Thanksgiving has always given me a warm fuzzy feeling. Or possibly it was the cooling weather and the high winds that always made it feel different than the hellish heat during the summer months that contributed to my love of the season. Not that October or even November are that cool in Southern California, but it always felt different and wonderful.

Living in Colorado has given me the opportunity to really appreciate the seasons. The feel and smells of Fall are more intense. The trees start to turn these beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow, then they literally litter the ground. Even with the cooling weather that sometimes brings us snow and ice, familiar winds rush over the Front Range making it feel like the Santa Ana's of my home town.

Something happens when one reaches adulthood. Holidays kinda lose their luster. No longer does one anticipate the joy of Trick or Treating or a visit from Santa Claus. So in that in between time of young adult until parenthood, holidays kinda are a nuisance. But the magic seems to come back when you become a parent. Watching your child's eyes light up as she picks a pumpkin or listening to her talk about the animals she pet at the pumpkin patch makes Halloween special again. Baking Halloween cupcakes (thanks Kelly for the Vanilla Cupcake Recipe) and cookies is a special bonding time between Mom and Daughter. Anticipation of Halloween trick or treating in a Monkey costume makes me anticipate the day just as much as Cookie does.

Of course the one thing I hate about fall is the cold snowy days pushing us indoors, when we were used to being outdoors, but something about Colorado makes this okay. Today we had clear skies and perfect 80 degree weather. It was a day to enjoy the outdoors. And so, I talked hubby into taking a bike hiatus and make a trip to Denver Zoo.

Cookie has been asking to go to the Zoo, so I thought, before the weather gets too cold, before it is too miserable to venture outside, we should go. It was the perfect day. We told Cookie we were going some where fun, but it was a surprise. By now, Cookie knows what the parking lot of the Zoo looks like. So when we pulled in, her sheer joy and excitement brought tears to my eyes. In the past she was only good for about an hour and a half before she crashed in exhaustion. Today, Cookie ran from exhibit to exhibit, walking the entire time for three hours!

It was the perfect day, ending with a train and a carousal ride. Last time we went to the Zoo, Cookie wanted to go on the carousal but got too scared when it came time to get on. This time, she had her Daddy to hold her hand, talk her through it, and she was scared and exhilarated at the same time. It probably would have been wiser for us to get prepared for winter on this warm October weekend, but giving one's child joy is much more rewarding. While Thanksgiving had been my favorite holiday, because it was the most non-religious of holidays, I think Halloween might replace it. There is just so much fun for my little girls to have. So the next time the holiday's get you down, find a carousal and take a ride. It will probably leave you with a smile.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Religion: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I consider myself a modern woman. I also think I'm pretty open minded about most things. I don't care about people's sexual preferences or religious choices, as long as they don't infringe on my personal rights and freedoms. However, I do have some issues with religions that embrace some sort of double standard.

Hear me out. I actually understand some of the Islamic and Orthodox Jewish beliefs and where they come from. Being a history major, I have studied the origins of most of the major religions' beliefs. If I had taken those religions classes earlier in my college days, I may have switched my major to religious studies. As it is, I think I only need something like 9 more units for a minor in religious studies. What annoys me is those who preach one thing and then do another. Or those religious sects that have one standard for men and another for women.

Usually when I see a woman in a burka or a head scarf I generally understand the history behind the clothing. Not that I always agree with it, but I understand. When I was a teacher, I had a Muslim student who invited me to break the fast with her family at their Mosque. I had no reservations covering my head out of respect for their religion and beliefs.

But today I found myself kind of mad. I took Cookie and Jelly Bean to the mall today, as the weather was a little cold and it looked as if it might snow. I noticed a family where the woman was dressed in a prairie dress and wearing a white cap. What looked like her husband and son were dressed in modern clothes, jeans and t-shirts. I know that I really don't know their relationship to each other, but for a split second I was angry. Angry at the woman for allowing herself to be subjected to a double standard. Angry at the man for suppressing women. And then angry at myself for being so judgemental.

Of course if any of you really know me, then you know that I threw out my belief in God and religion a long time ago. In part the decision was because of my studies. I just had trouble following one religion when all of them seemed to have a similar message and purpose. I also gained an understanding of how each of them came to be. The blending of one religion into another. The bastardization of one religion in order to gain followers left a nasty taste in my mouth. And not one religion can claim they are not guilty of such acts.

If I really had to choose a religion to follow I most likely would pick Buddhism. I like the idea that life is suffering and once one understands that, then they are released from suffering. I also believe that it teaches some ethics and right action, which in a nutshell is what religion is there for anyway; to give people a path to follow. But I don't like organized religions, I don't like someone telling me how to interpret the Bible (which in my opinion is a great book full of interesting stories, but so is the Bagavad Gita). I don't like people thinking bad about others because they failed to show up for church or temple or whatever that week. To me religion is spiritual and for each person to follow as they see fit, not by some law enacted by government or a few of the religious leaders.

But, I understand why people believe what they believe, and I respect that. I know that deep down people need to believe in something greater than themselves. And maybe there is something or someone out there. And sometimes religion and beliefs are a good thing. Some people need that tie to others or the set of rules to keep them on a righteous path. Organized religion can do good. They can raise all kinds of money for all kinds of good deeds. It can provide a family to someone who has no one. And it can make people feel welcome in a new and strange place. Religion can provide peace to someone in a less than peaceful world.

I once read an editorial by a man who wished he had religion to provide him the comfort it gave his wife....but he couldn't start believing in something he was sure didn't exist. I wish I saved his article because it mirrored my feelings almost exactly. One reason I loved Job's Daughter's growing up is because I love the whole ritual of it all. Like Job's Daughters I think that Catholicism is beautiful in it's ritual also. I loved going to the Lutheran church as a teenager, not because I loved God and Jesus or even believed, but I loved the comfort of the ritual of receiving communion and the kneeling while praying as a whole congregation. I enjoyed visiting the Mosque, because like the sit, stand, kneel of the Lutheran and Catholic Church; the bowing on the knees and then standing was beautiful to watch. I felt the sense of calm come over the women as together they participated in their religious devotion. I'm interested in religions in a historical and the social sense.

So I am amazed at how one woman's dress could incite such passion and feeling in me. I realize that maybe I am still on my own spiritual journey. But one thing I am certain, you will not find me ever turning to organized religion ever again. I will not become a Christian, or a Jew, or a Buddhist. I am just too cynical and free thinking to ever follow some doctrine that tells me what is right or wrong. I know what is right and wrong. I think I will stick to the old model of do unto others.....and by the way, that saying does not exclusively belong to the followers of God and the ten commandments, the Buddhists and other religions also claim it for their own too. So live freely, believe what you believe, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Evil Me

I think it has happened. I have turned into an evil person. I totally blame hubby for this transformation. I used to be a "glass is half full" positive outlook type of person. But over the years I have noticed that I have become more and more cynical. When I had Cookie, I so didn't want to become "that Mommy." The kind that brags about her kids left and right. The kind where she believes that her kids can do no wrong. I also didn't want to go around judging other moms. I think I have been sort of successful in this endeavor.

Here's the thing, I do talk about the girls quite often, but really I'm a stay at home mom. I have nothing else to talk about but my kids and the "cute" (at least to me) things they do. I do not so much as brag, as just talk about them. And mostly, I think I complain.....a lot. I really have become a negative person. I don't know if this is a result of living with a negative person or the result of aging. Maybe it's just in my DNA. But I do not brag, all that much...I hope.

Of course my budding negativity prevents me from thinking my kids are perfect. I will be the first to admit that Cookie can be a pill ( to say it nicely). One reason we decided to have another baby was the fact that Cookie was acting like a spoiled brat. Always expecting us to jump when she said jump. We felt she needed to learn a little patience and how to share. The fact that Cookie liked to pee on the furniture, albeit embarrassing, was not something I kept to myself. I readily admitted my kid was being a snot.

But judging other moms is where I have failed. I was once at the Zoo and was shocked when a mom pulled out a gigantic bag of Cheeetos and fed it to her one year old. I must admit, I felt slightly superior having packed Cookie a nice healthy lunch with plenty of fruit and organic, low fat snacks. I make special trips to Whole Paycheck for her "gummy snacks" because they only contain pectin and pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. I used to make her baby food. I would even like to make my own bread...if I can actually manage it to turn out edible instead of heavy as a brick. Of course my slightly superior attitude is always kept in check by those moms who really make their own granola bars and bread (I am really quite jealous of Evolving Mommy's baking prowess and commitment to healthy eating).

Lastly I am kinda ashamed to admit it, but I did a little dance of joy in my head when that annoying ever perfect Mommy with the perfect kid, is having the less than perfect pregnancy. Not that anything is wrong with her baby, thank goodness. But she has placenta previa and frankly seems quite done with being pregnant..with about 6 weeks left to go. I even heard a complaint come from her today. She was as obnoxious as usual when announcing she had the previa and I said, "oh hopefully it will correct itself, as it did with me when I was pregnant with Jelly Bean." She said, "well, did you have a partial or a full? 'cause I have a full and it is only partially resolved, so I am sure I'm having a C-section." Even in her distress, she has to be better than me. So am I evil because I have found a small amount of joy in her discomfort and less than perfect pregnancy?

I hope that I can curb the negative attitude and avoid turning into my miserable and angry grandmother. But really, am I evil for enjoying another's distress?