Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Putting my magazine subscriptions to good use...

I've said it once and I'll say it again.  I have a problem... the magazine subscriptions have taken over my life!  I'm slowly weeding my way through the magazines and the articles.  Tossing the ones that aren't worth the trouble and hanging on to the articles and magazines that have a nuggets of wisdom or articles of value.  Goodbye Time magazine - into the recycling bin with you... I'm getting my news from the internet... Food and Wine?  I just can't let you go.

One of my work colleagues had a birthday today.  I agreed to make a cake for the occasion.  He's not much of a dessert kind of guy.  But he's a big fan of tres leches cake.  (A Mexican cake with three milks).  I am also a fan of tres leches cake.  It's one of my favorites.  I've tried my hand at a few recipes and had one on file that was a favorite... one with a bit of cinnamon and spice to it.  But then, as I was flipping through my latest delivery of Food and Wine Magazine there it was.  A new recipe for tres leches cake.  And just by reading the recipe I KNEW it was the real deal.

Last night, after Sweet Pea drifted off to sleep I got to work making the cake.  It did not disappoint.  Flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves.  Just the right amount of saturation with the "milks".  The cake absorbed the mixture nicely and held together without getting sloppy or mushy.  The strawberries as a garnish to the recipe were an excellent touch... the cake and the berries brought of the flavors of one another.

One of my co-workers has given up all foods with flour for Lent.  Today, he caved and had a piece of cake.  He then confided that my cake was officially "sinful" - I really hope I don't go to Hell for causing him to cave on his convictions.  But the cake really was amazing, if I do say so myself.  Not only amazing - but amazingly uncomplicated and relatively quick to make.

But don't take my word for it - I've decided to share the recipe with you!  You can find it here.  I hope you enjoy it.  Make sure it let me know if you decide to try your hand at it.  Since Lovey is out of town he missed out on the deliciousness.  He's quite disappointed... something tells me I'll be making this cake one more time this week.  I'm not complaining.  More cake for me!

What are your favorite recipes to make?  I'd love to know!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The "Cry-It-Out" Question

We're quickly approaching Sweet Pea's one-year milestone.  The time has sped by at lightening speed.  I'm not quite sure how we've gotten here - perhaps that is because I've been in a zombie-like sleep deprived stupor for most of this past year...

It's been an amazing process to watch Sweet Pea's accomplishments and the growth.  First smile.  First laugh.  First words ("hi".  "mama".  "hat".  "dog". ) Crawling (sort of -- it's more like a scoot... a-la Gollum from "Lord of the Rings").  And now pulling himself to a standing position - which has brought a about a whole new set of challenges that I was hoping to avoid entirely.

As we speak, Sweet Pea (or Not-so-Sweet-Pea, tonight) is up in his crib, pulled into a standing position, and screaming bloody murder.  There are no tears.  Just a full-on, pissed-off, temper tantrum.  Apparently he has decided that it's NOT time to go to bed - even though he was sound asleep in my arms for about an hour before I decided to take him upstairs... the minute the words "bed-time" escaped my lips - I had a "REVOLT on my hands!

I've read numerous books.  I've talked to my doctors.  I've discussed with my family & friends.  And it's 50/50 about how to handle the situation.  Half of the parties polled are firm believers in the "cry-it-out" method.  The other half believe this to be torture and cruelty... "Why don't you just pick up the poor little guy and give him what he needs?"  I really don't know the answer here.  (and apparently whichever way we go, half of everyone will disagree.)

This is night number two of "Baby Bootcamp" (stole that phrase from a friend - can't claim it as my own -- props to J.J.)  And tonight is no better than the last.  And just when  I feel sorry enough to rescue him from his cage of misery and pick him up... the kiddo gives me a grin and a hug and his happy little bouncy dance... and I think to myself. ("Self -- this kid is totally playing you -- who's the BOSS here?") And he gets set back into the crib again.  Pretty soon he's going to stop screaming and go to sleep... right?  Right?  Otherwise I'm going to have to get noise-canceling headphones - because the sad little sounds are making me feel terrible.  I don't think I'm up for Mommy-of-the- Year for the hell I'm putting my kid through.

Here's the worst part.  We TOTALLY had this under control about two months ago.  Before he was able to stand up in his crib.  We'd done the baby boot camp and went through the screaming and came out the other side with a kiddo that understood that bedtime was sleepy time.  And when we put him in his crib he laid down and happily went to sleep.  I was SO IMPRESSED with Lovey and me.  We were bedtime PROFESSIONALS.  And then came teething.  And a really bad cold.  And an ear infection.  And a really, really miserable kid who needed love and snuggles...

And now we're paying the price and starting all over again.  Forty-six minutes later and no end in sight to the screaming.  Awesome.

So how do YOU handle the bedtime routine.  Snuggles or Tough Love?  Anyone have the perfect answer?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Latest Project

I've not posted in a few days, but it's not because I'm slacking off... I've actually been quite busy!  Sweet Pea is growing like a weed and is need of some new threads.  I've been busy sewing gifts for kids of friends and family, and Sweet Pea has been getting the short end of the stick.  The last few nights I've been busy sewing (and unsewing and recrafting) pants for the little guy.  I am so happy with my results.

Yeah, that's right.  I am awesome.  (It only took me about 4 more hours than it should have...)

For those of you wanting to sew a pair of kids pants, yourself... I would suggest the following book by Emma Hardy.  I've enjoyed many of the patterns.  The pants above are not in the book.  But I did use one of her girl-specific patterns and rework it so that it is boy appropriate.  I'm quite proud of myself for figuring out how to make changes and work through challenges.  I added a cuff to the bottom of the pants that can be rolled up (as seen in the photo) or unrolled to give my kiddo extra inches as he grows.  Simple stuff for all you sewing experts, but for a girl who is teaching herself.... PURE AWESOMENESS. (forgive me. i am just very excited.)  And since there are so few boy-patterns out there I am pleased that these turned out so cute!

What I like most about this pattern is the roominess in the butt.  There is plenty of room for Sweet Pea's giant cloth diaper butt.  Many other times we have to buy a size up just so they fit over his bum!  Not so much with these... there is room to grow and move!  I can't wait to make a few more pairs!!!

I think I might get started tonight.  After Glee, of course.


Friday, March 11, 2011

A Shout Out to Single Parents

Lovey has been out of town this week.  Back in our "pre Sweet Pea" days, I would look forward to the times when he was away for a trip.  It meant staying up late, watching all the chick flicks I wanted.  An after-work happy hour or two.  And the whole bed to myself!!  Sleeping free of the snoring and the kicking and the blanket stealing... (ok, I might be stretching the truth a little here - apparently I am the blanket stealer... the rest of the story I stand behind).

Life is a bit more complicated these days when Lovey is on the road.  In addition to a full-time job, I have to find ways to get Sweet Pea to and from daycare, complete with all of his daycare "stuff" (cloth diapers, food, milk, etc). Then, once we are home for the evening, find time to figure out a plan for dinner, bathe and snuggle and nurse Sweet Pea and attempt to keep the house in some semblance of an order.  It's a tough job when there are two of us here to tackle it... it near impossible when it's just me. 

So as I reflect upon another week of single-motherhood... I'm struck by two things.  First - that I appreciate Lovey (and I don't tell him this enough).  He's a team player.  A great dad.  A wonderful husband.  I am so lucky to have a partner that is really and truly in every sense A PARTNER.  We are in this together.  For better or for worse.  And I'm better with him.  (he's also better with me.) 

The second realization came to me because of the circumstances of this week.  Mid-week I encountered my first real "illness" since Sweet Pea arrived.  I've had a cold here and there... but this was an all-out I. AM. SICK.  As Sweet Pea and I laid on the couch together, wrapped in blankets and surrounded by pillows... I considered myself lucky that my kiddo is exhausted from daycare by the end of the day and that he loves his mama and really just wants to snuggle any chance he gets.  But as I laid there with the heating pad on my back and neck... feeling sorry for myself and my circumstances... I wondered... How do single parents DO this?  

And the answer is that perhaps they don't.  I was laying on the couch feeling miserable and sorry for myself and really wishing that my mom lived closer so that she could come help me.  We have great neighbors and Lovey's  family nearby.  And great friends, too.  But asking for help felt so...WEAK.  But perhaps it's the NOT asking for help when I really, truly need it that makes me WEAK.  Being part of a community means being INTERdependent.  And being interdependent - being able to give AND receive help - is much more difficult than going it alone.  Being able to admit that I can't do it all myself is much more challenging than pretending that I've got it all under control.  As much as I like to think of myself as "superwoman" - nothing could be further from the truth.  I'm doing my best to hold it together and some days I'm hanging on by a thread.

Maybe single parents have determined that they can't go it alone.  And they know how to ask for help and WHO to ask for help when they really need it.  However they make it work - it appears I have a thing or two to learn from them.

Sweet Pea is (hopefully) in bed for the night, I'm finally feeling somewhat back to normal, and Lovey is due home soon.  Looks like I better get to work. I've got some cleaning to do - apparently, a tiny tornado went through my house this week!  And maybe while I'm at it I can figure out something for dinner that doesn't come in "cereal box" form...

I'm interested to know if it's easy for any of you to ask for help when you need it - and who do you feel comfortable asking?  Do you have your "go to" people? Or does it depend on the situation?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One of my writing inspirations

From a young age I have loved reading.  My mom always read to me every night before bedtime.  By the time I was in 2nd grade I was reading "Little House on the Prairie books to myself.   While other kids were busy playing outside in the summer - baseball, kickball, hide and seek - I had my nose stuck in a book.  While I've learned to embrace my athletic side... (in my pre-Sweet Pea life I completed a couple marathons, sprint triathlons, and biked  to work when the weather is nice).  Not much has changed regarding reading.  I am an avid reader.

I have also been writing since a young age.  THIS I also blame on my mother.  In third grade I had TERRIBLE penmanship.  I wasn't really too keen on the cursive thing.  My grade school made a big deal about it.  Sloppy penmanship was not acceptable.  (Looking back now, I see myself as a bit of a trend-setter.  Turns out I was right - there really isn't a need for cursive after all!  So THERE Ms. Roy!!!)  Due to the school's high expectations regarding penmanship, my mom laid down the law.  I would need to spend time EVERY DAY of the summer working on my penmanship.  (she was a bit of a slave-driver).  She came up with some possible themes for stories.  I could write about whatever I wanted.  But it needed to be neat enough for her to read it.  I actually had fun writing the stories!  A number of years ago, I decided that those stories weren't really worth hanging on to - so I tossed them.  It was a poor decision and I've regretted my lapse in mental judgment ever since.  But in those first years of reading and writing... a love for the craft was born.

While I'm still working hard to perfect my "craft".  I aspire to some day make a career - or a career of sorts out of writing.  I thought I would take a few moments to share my favorite author with you.  He inspires me to continue to tell my stories and to keep plugging away at my prose.

I first came across Michael Perry when I was hanging out at the Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado.  It was a lazy Saturday and I was browsing through the "New in Hardcover" section.  I didn't have the intention to purchase... back then I was the type of girl who borrowed books from the  library or shopped the bargain book section.  Too many books and too little time - there was NO NEED to go hog wild and spend top dollar on a new hardcover book!

I happened to pick up a BookSense 76 pamphlet.  (Looks like the group is now called Indie Bound) This organization is a group of independent booksellers (the Tattered Cover is one) who recommend books that they are LOVING.  On the list was a little known author by the name of Michael Perry.  His new book Population 485:  Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time was getting rave reviews.  The book looked intriguing and it was about Wisconsin (my homeland).  I decided in a heartbeat that I needed to have it and that I would (GASP) pay full price and give er a read.

Micheal is one of the most poetic, insightful, humorous writers I have come across.  The book spoke to me in ways that no other book has.  At times I was laughing, at times I was crying.  At times I was doing both... while I was on the commuter train to work... there were a few strange looks.

I had finally found someone who experienced the Mid-west as I had.  And had found humor in the craziness of the small-town life.  He was able to express how communities are formed over the emergencies that occur... He reminded me of home - and made me appreciate where I came from... in ways that I didn't think were possible.

This book is one of the few books I go back to again and again... and again.  Michael has written a few other books since Population 485 hit the scene.  I'm also a big fan of COOP:  A year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting.  I appreciate this book for his sentimental look at becoming a dad... I was reading it at a time when we were "Sweet Pea Free" -- but I've also come back to this book again with the new eyes of being a mom.  It's just as beautiful as it was the first time I read it - but I appreciate it in different ways, now.

Some day I hope to be as great of a writer as Mike.  Until then, I make every attempt to attend his book readings when he graces us with his presence in Denver... and I continue to wait (somewhat impatiently) for his next book.   And as I wait, I continue to read and re-read his books in print... in the hopes that some day my "writer's voice" will be half as beautiful as his.

If you've never read anything by Michael Perry.  I encourage you to do so.  Start with Population 485.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An exciting find... for the designer in all of us

I've mentioned this before.  But, I'm going to put it out there again for all the word to read.  Yesterday I mentioned that I have issues with magazine subscriptions.  I also seem to have issues with saying "NO" to purchasing books (cookbooks, and sewing books), and I seem to have issues when it comes to fabric.  I love fabric.  When I see fabric I love - I just want to buy it.  Even if I don't have a project in mind.  So I'm really better off just not looking for fabric at all.  But I just. can't. help. it!

Yesterday I happened upon a very cool website  And now I'm in even bigger trouble.  Have you ever heard of Spoonflower?  If you love fabric... or if you are a graphic designer... or if you have a little of both lurking somewhere inside of you... Then you are going to really LOVE this website.

It's a website where you can upload or create your own designs.  And create custom fabric.  You can then order your custom designed fabric in a variety of fabric choices.  Some of the choices are even organic (for those of you who need to get your granola on...)!  There is a sample pack of the fabric swatches that will cost you $1.00 to order and have shipped.  Mine is on the way.  The price per yard of fabric is a little higher than ordering a yard of fabric from an online store - but it isn't exactly outrageous.  I think it would be worth the expense to be able to order something completely original, completely mind, and something that can't be purchased off a bolt at Joann's.

I am SO excited about the opportunity to create my own fabric that I can hardly stand it!  I don't even know where to start. And, for those of us who don't know where to start - the website even has regularly scheduled contests - to give you a theme or direction in your designs/ creations.

Check out the site and tell me what you think!  And - please let me know if any of you create and upload any of your own fabric designs.  I'll be interested to see them.

In the meantime, I'm going to get working on some of my own ideas.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse

I have a magazine subscription addiction.  It's not pretty... Lovey would agree.  We have magazines scattered all over our house.  On my nightstand.  One the living room coffee table.  In the bathroom... in ALL the bathrooms.  In my purse and in my work bag.  It's those darn United miles that I need to spend down .  And now I just can't stop. The good news in all of this?  I have made a commitment to work my way through the piles and then recycle or re-gift the magazines that I'm through reading.  No more hanging on to the magazines that I might get to... someday.  And I'm actually making some progress!

I recently participated in a "groupon" or was it a "living social" deal for a subscription to 5280 magazine for $10.00 for the year.  Then I got another offer to add an additional year for the same price.  Done and Done.  While this Denver-based magazine is sometimes a little "out of touch" with those of us who actually WORK for a living... (I mean, REALLY, who is actually buying the $430 suede and nylon Prada sneakers you put in your men's fashion section...) I can usually find an article or two of worth in every magazine.  Sometimes I find a nugget that might be relevant to my work life.  And sometimes it's an article of value for my personal life.  Other times it's just a really great restaurant that I add to the list of places I'd like to eat some day... you know, when I actually have time to go on a date night again.

This month's magazine has a fascinating article that every parent should read.  It's horrifying.  Scary.  Relevant.  And packed with information that you should know to keep your kids safe. 

This article discusses a preschool here in Denver that was hit with allegations of child sex abuse.  Something that no parent wants to even consider.  But guess what?  By not considering the possibility - you could be leaving your kids exposed to a sex offender.  I've included a link to the article - but feel it necessary to re-iterate a few of the high points.  In case you don't have time to read the entire article, here are the cliff notes.  Forgive me for pretty much quoting the article verbatim.  This information is extremely important and I want to make sure I don't take it out of context.  All credit goes to the article's author Lindsey B. Koehler.

  • By age 18 - about 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused.
  • More than 20% of children are sexually abused before age eight.
  •  Up to 50% of sexual offenders are juveniles.
  •  96% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by males.
  •  The average pedophile abuses approximately 250 kids.
  • The four most common places for child molestation to occur are at school, during sports programs, at religious institutions, and inside homes - the child's or someone else's.
    • uniformed about sex abuse 
    • not spending time with them 
    • not asking your them questions or not listening to them

So -- what can you do?  How can you be informed?  What can you teach your children so that they are informed?  The article lists 10 "Body Safety Rules" from author, Feather Berkower.  She wrote the book Off Limits:  A Parent's Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse.  The book is available here.

Again - forgive my copying straight from the article - but here are the rules you need to teach your children.  Word for word.

  1. No one is allowed to touch your private body parts, except to help you clean them or if the doctor or nurse needs to examine them. (This includes siblings.)
  2. You are not allowed to touch someone else's private body parts.
  3. It is OK to touch your own private body parts as long as you do it in private.
  4. No one (adult or teenager) is allowed to take pictures of your private body parts or show you pictures of naked people.
  5. When playing with friends, play with your clothes on.
  6. You and all of your family members are allowed to have privacy when bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. (model privacy for your children)
  7. No one is allowed to make you kiss or touch him or her if you don't want to. No one is allowed to kiss or touch you if you don't want him or her to, including relatives. You are allowed to choose whom you kiss and touch and when you kiss and touch other people.
  8. You have permission to say "NO" and get away if anyone tries to touch your private body parts or tries to break any of your body safety rules. You never have to do what an adult or anyone tells you to do if the person is breaking a body safety rule or making you unsafe.
  9. If someone tries to or does touch your private body parts, try to get away and then go tell a trusted adult.
  10. If someone tells you to keep a secret about touching private body parts, tell an adult.

I know that this is a scary topic.  I know that as parents this is not something we want to consider, or discuss... but it's really important that we're all aware.  It's really important that we're all talking about these issues and asking questions -- talk to your kids teachers, daycare providers, babysitters... Even though the topic is uncomfortable, by asking questions of the people who spend time with your kids -- you let them know that you are aware... that you are paying attention.

A person with the potential to sexually abuse your child does not want to get caught.  They want to continue abusing.  Kids and parents who are uninformed make better targets.

Be informed.  Be aware.  Spend time with your children.  And talk to your children about these and other issues that matter and can keep them safe!

I hope you all find this information (and the link to the 5280 article) as helpful and as informative as I did...