Author: Janna

Don’t blog when you’re upset

Right now, my house seems like the setting of some screwball family comedy.  We just fixed the master bathroom toilet Sunday, and by pure coincidence, the sink in the same bathroom started to leak…straight through our kitchen ceiling.  You can’t turn on the upstairs or downstairs bathroom lights if you have heaters on in the two bedrooms.  I keep forgetting this and have to trek down to the basement in the early morning to flip the circuit breaker.  Then yesterday, the garage door decided not to close.  Can’t you see Lucille Ball cast as a real estate agent, showing the house to a young couple on a freezing January day.  Ethel would be poised in the basement, ready to flip the breaker after Lucy shows off the bathrooms, and then would rush upstairs and pretend to mop the kitchen floor with the bucket that’s been catching the leaking water.  On the way out, Lucy would promote the latest in “ventilated garages.”

I can write about this now, but yesterday I only wanted to write “AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”  It wasn’t just the crazy house quirks.  Both my boys school starts at 9:00 am, and their schools are about 20 minutes apart.  It was 12 degrees yesterday morning, and my kids were whining, legitimately, about the freezing weather as I fought with the darn garage door.  My three-year-old easily gets into a sulk when routines change, and getting to pre-school after all the other kids were sitting in circle time threw him off for much of the day.  My 1-year-old daughter has a cold and a tooth coming through, so she pretty much spent the day crying and refusing to let me put her down.  At one point I tried to bribe her into sitting in her high chair with chocolate (mother of the year, right here), and she threw it at me.  To top it off, Moose had a half-day of kindergarten, which meant that my kids watched more TV and played more video games than I care to admit.  Really racking up the parenting points.

I should have spent the one hour my daughter napped on laundry or possibly a well-rounded, nutritious dinner, but the laundry wasn’t going anywhere, and loaded baked potatoes still sounded good.  I’ll make sure to have extra veggies on the plate tonight.  Yesterday, I needed to bake something.  I needed cookies.  So I made these:

toffeshortbread

For some reason I have an excess of sweetened condensed milk on hand, perhaps from last summer when I drank a lot of iced coffee.  A Google search for recipes using that ingredient brought up this toffee shortbread.  It’s  a a layer of shortbread, topped with a soft toffee, topped with melted chocolate.  They sounded delicious and bar cookies required just the amount of effort I was willing to put in yesterday.  Next time I make them, I think I’m going to try a different shortbread recipe; this one was a little to dense for me.  Still, just what I needed.  After dinner, as I took my first bite, I literally felt stress leave my body.

 

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Zero to Hero: Build on your last post

I’m falling woefully behind on the Zero to Hero tasks.  Some of them, I’m thinking I am going to skip or come back to later.  I am active on Facebook and Pintrest, but not quite ready to publicize each time I post to my blog.  I do plan on adding pages later on, but with only a dozen or so posts, I don’t think my blog really needs them yet.  So I think that gets me to task 21, build on the last post where you published something in a “new to you” format.

Happiness Makes Up In Height For What it Lacks In Length” is a title of a poem by Robert Frost.  Here’s the poem:

O stormy, stormy world, 
The days you were not swirled
Around with mist and cloud,
Or wrapped as in a shroud,
And the sun’s brilliant ball
Was not in part or all
Obscured from mortal view–
Were days so very few
I can but wonder whence
I get the lasting sense
Of so much warmth and light.
If my mistrust is right
It may be altogether
From one day’s perfect weather,
When starting clear at dawn
The day swept clearly on
To finish clear at eve.
I verily believe
My fair impression may
Be all from that one day
No shadow crossed but ours
As through its blazing flowers
We went from house to wood
For change of solitude.

I’ve had conversations about happiness with my husband a lot recently, when we speak about what we want for our purpose and our family’s purpose.   My younger self would call me a bitter old lady now, but I don’t believe in happiness as an end goal.  I believe I can work for a life free of fear, a life of understanding and personal growth.  I can look for beauty in things, I can practice patience.  I can learn to be content, but I can’t learn to be happy.  Moments of happiness are byproducts of all those things.  You just get moments, some last longer than others, but it’s not a constant state.  They leave memories for you to recall during the inevitable times of sadness; those clear, warm days that still shine in our minds when the world storms around us.

January Snow Day

Yesterday it was 58 degrees outside, and today there are several inches of snow on the ground, with at least a little more on the way.  My kids are home from school, my husband is home for work.  I’m not getting much of anything done, except eating.

 When my husband is home, I find I eat a lot more.  Normally on weekdays I keep things pretty under control, knowing I’ll indulge more on the weekend.  Snow days are the worst though.  There’s the fact that the whole family is together, combined with warm, cozy, baking thoughts and comfort food cravings.

And we’re totally giving into them today, giving into them all.  We had bagels and cream cheese this morning (thank you Panera’s “Happy Tuesday” deal), a hearty lunch of leftovers, and tonight I made spaghetti carbonara with chewy, fruity chocolate brownies.  I used to watch that show Northern Exposure, which takes place in a small town in Alaska.  There was one episode when all the townspeople were getting ready for the winter, trying to pack on pounds.  They local restaurant was advertising the food by how many calories it contained, but in the opposite way we’re used to.  “We’ve got a pecan pie with whip cream that clocks in at 930 calories, or a warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce and ice cream and a 1150.”  Hmmm…pecan pie and bread pudding…anyway, that’s how I am when snow rolls in.  I feel the urge to bulk up for the winter.

We didn’t even go outside today, although making a snowman is on the agenda for tomorrow (since most likely school will be out again).  I feel a little guilty about that, although at least this way no one saw the very amateur job I did on my daughter’s bangs last night.  The boys played games with their dad while I tried to learn about the DSLR I got for my birthday two years ago.  I’m a long way from actually being able to take really good pictures, but I can now take a picture in Manual mode and you can actually see what it is!  I used to just roll the dial for ISO and F-stop and hope that enough light made it through the lens to make out the subject, but now I kind of actually know before I click.

All that was written yesterday.  I wanted to publish a post, but before I could finish it I got caught up in brownies and wine and Sherlock.

The snowman is not happening today.  We were outside a total of two minutes before the screaming about how cold it was started.  At least two of my kids have pretty thin skin.

I get to make four dinners today instead of one since I neglected to look at the use-by date on the ground beef until this morning. I’m sure later on I will appreciate this, but not today.

There needs to be school tomorrow.  I never thought I’d be one of those parents dying to get their kids off to school, but I guess I am.

but back to those brownies…

brownie

I get brownie cravings a lot.  I am a “chocolate person.”  I have  few friends who tell me that they’re not, and I nod politely like I understand, but I don’t.  Brownies are one of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate.  When they’re good, they are dense and rich.  I tried to make Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies my go- to recipe, but although they are AMAZING, they’re a lot of work, and they yield way too many when you just are trying to get a chocolate fix.  I’ll them for a party or a bake sale, but for the most part it’s Yvette van Boven’s Chewy Chocolate Raisin Brownies all the way.

I know some people aren’t big on raisins, or any fruit/chocolate combo.  You can just leave them out.  Sometimes I add hazelnuts and do a fruit/nut brownie.  Sometimes I don’t add anything but sprinkle them with fleur de sel. I didn’t have chocolate covered raisins on hand, so I used some chocolate covered pomegranate a friend had given me.  Just try to use the best quality chocolate you can.

Chewy Chocolate Raisin Brownies adapted from Yvette van Boven’s Homemade

  • 1 1/4 sticks butter, cubed
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar*
  • 1 1/3 cup self rising flour**
  • pinch of salt (I like a little salt to my sweets, so I use a generous pinch)
  • 1 cup chocolate covered raisins

*if you don’t have vanilla sugar, just add about a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract along with 2 tsp of regular sugar

**I frequently don’t have self rising flour on hand. You can make your own by adding 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt per 1 cup of flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter/grease a 9″ pan.

Melt your butter and chocolate.  You can do this by microwaving it for about two minutes, taking occasional breaks to stir, or you can do this in a double boiler.  I like to use the double boiler method.  That way I can enjoy the smell and smooth texture of the melted chocolate and butter, and I don’t have to worry about butter exploding in my microwave.  Once it’s all melted, let it cool for a few minutes.

In another bowl, beat your eggs and sugars until foamy.  Slowly fold in the cooled chocolate until well combined, and then gently fold in the flour and salt.  Lastly, add your raisins or whatever additive you like.  Pour into your pan and bake for about 25 minutes.  It may take longer (it did in my oven), but look for a crinkly top and a tooth pick stuck in the middle should come out clean.

 

Zero to Hero: Personalize a Prompt

Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was:

The Luckiest People: Who was the first person you encountered today? Write about him or her.

We have gotten ourselves into the habit where I pretty much sleep with my 15-month-old daughter every night.  I’m not trying to promote or disparage the benefits or detriments of co-sleeping; I’m just stating that this is where we are right now.  Even though my eldest slept with us for a while, until his brother was on the way, and then his brother would end up sleeping with us half the night, right until his sister was on the way; this feels different.  Maybe it’s because we don’t have an end in sight (no more sibling will be on the way!) but also because I’m sleeping with her in her room.  Her room was/is the guest room, with a comfy double bed, and it’s so easy to lay down next to her each night and drift off.

That is where I was early this morning when I hear noise and movement coming from my sons’ room.  Each morning it’s like this.  I try to wake up before they do, sometimes setting alarm so that I can get up and out of my daughter’s room before they come in.   They run on tiptoe into the room, holding at least one stuffed animal.  They climb into the bed I’m sharing with my daughter, and I whisper “go to my big bed,” or on the weekends, “go see Dad.”  In response they normally yell “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

Today it was my oldest.  I’m trying to decided whether to use his actual name or not in this blog.  I can see pros and cons for both.  Other parent bloggers, what do you guys do?  Right now, I’ll call him Moose.

It’s hard for me to write about my kids, not because I don’t know where to start, but I don’t know where to stop.  Moose is 5-years-old, turning 6 on Valentine’s Day.  He frequently treats us to fits of temper and whining, which I don’t think is atypical for kids his age.  Kindergarten started this year, and for the first 30 days he complained the whole walk down to school and was in tears by 7:00 each night.  He hates losing, frequently shouts “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” and I don’t think he accepts that I may actually know what’s best for him, at least when it comes to dietary concerns and sleep requirements.  He’s a lot like how I was as a kid, which is what my mother kept wishing for me.

He’s also a sensitive kid, easily sent into bursts of giggling or fits of anxiety.  One day a year or so ago, we cleaned his room, organized his books, dusted the furniture, while he played downstairs.  He started to throw a fit about not getting his way about something or other, and we sent him upstairs to calm down.  One minute in, the whining and yelling stopped, to be replaced with quiet sniffles.  His dad went up to see what was wrong, and Moose hugged him and said, “my room, it’s just so beautiful.”  (An anecdote which reminds me of Moose’s sensitivity, and that I don’t clean nearly enough.) He worries that he is dressed appropriately, that he’s doing things “the way the teacher telled him to.”  He hates being late.  He’s super supportive of his little brother, praising his pictures and writing. He’s fascinated by all the new things his baby sister is learning and doing.  He has told me, when I’ve been in an off mood, “Mom, don’t be sad, the world is wonderful.”  Actually, personality-wise he takes a lot after me.  This makes me happy for him, because hopefully he’ll always think that the world is wonderful; but also sad, because I’ve been down the anxiety road and know that sometimes you have to really remind yourself of that fact.

Catch Up Days

I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong, because every morning we reenact the battle of the coats and shoes.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much advance time I give them (today I gave the almost 20 minutes), I end up getting my mean mom voice out, telling them we have to leave now!  The short ride to school is then spent calming down, trying to make sure my son isn’t super stressed before I send him off to kindergarten.  On the way back, I get to play an *awesome* game that my 3-year-old recently invented:  Every 3 seconds he tells me “straight” or “turn”.  I have to answer “okay” each time, except I’m supposed to randomly say “McDonald’s,” to which he will reply “We got another pancake.”  Seriously, it’s easier on the days we just walk.

But I’m getting into a productive groove, which is good, because this is a catch up day.  All of my sons’ clothes are clean, but they’re still in the hamper, in the living room.  This is a normal state for laundry in my house, but hearing my son whine this morning, “Mom, I’m tired of getting dressed downstairs,” has activated my maternal guilt.  I’ve already babysat for a friend, someone I’m comfortable with enough not to mind her seeing said laundry in my living room.  I baked some homemade bread.  It didn’t turn out quite right; one side rose perfectly and the other looks like it just got tired and gave up, drooping over the side of the pan.  It won’t be the best for sandwiches but I’m sure it will make delicious French Toast.  I’m still looking for my perfect sandwich bread recipe.

The little bread that couldn't

The little bread that couldn’t

Now it’s off to the store for milk and few ingredients for tonight’s dinner, Italian Bread Soup.  And maybe before school gets out, I’ll bake something for dessert tonight.  I guess the laundry can wait a little while.

Liebster Part 2

Here is the second part of my Liebster post appreciation.  I thanked Cabin Pressure May Change and Art Catalysts by KathyClem in my previous post, and now want to thank The Zombies Ate My Brains for my third nomination.  Their questions for me:

  1. Keaton or Chaplin? I’m not sure which is the right answer, but I’m going to have to go with Chaplin.  He wrote Smile, after all.
  2. How many times a day do you check your email? Since I got a smart phone, too many.
  3. Do you have a pet?  Is it on your lap/laptop at the moment? I have four pets, and surprisingly none of them are in physical contact with me at this moment.
  4. Do your friends/family/associates read and follow your blog? Not at this time.
  5. Does the fact that your friends/family/associates read and follow your blog make a difference to how or what you write?  I’d like to think it wouldn’t
  6. When you are on hold waiting for the customer service rep to come back with the answer, how do you pass the time? I always seem to get pulled into kid emergencies every single time I’m on the phone.
  7. Do you consider blogging a hobby or a job? Hobby
  8. Introvert or extrovert? Definitely an introvert, although at first those who meet me are surprised by this.
  9. This Liebster thing is a lot of work, do you agree? A little bit, yeah.
  10. Do you forgive me? Completely.

Again, thanks to all three folks that nominated me.  It’s nice to know that this early on, people are finding and taking the time to check out my blog.

Truthfully I’ve been a little remiss at finding new blogs, and if I would name 10 right now I’d probably be renominating several that have very recently received this award. Here are a few that caught my eye for one reason or another.

Monkey and Squish

The Incident-prone SAHM

Fonts and Frosting

This Crazy Little Farm

I know it’s far from 10, but I hope the blogging spirits will forgive me and I promise I’ll find another way to pay it forward.  Here are my questions for those above:

  1. What is your comfort food?
  2. Is there someone in the media who really makes you laugh?  Who is it?
  3. What is your favorite time in history?
  4. Why?
  5. What’s your favorite season?
  6. Pie or cake?
  7. What was the last book you read?
  8. To where do you most want to travel?
  9. When do you most feel in your element?
  10. When do you most feel out of it?

liebster

Just a review of the rules: 

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.
3. You must nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.