Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Cooking? Peanut butter Banana Oatmeal Squares

You know that Veggie Tales song, "Oh where is my hairbrush?"  Well, the version I've been singing is, "Oh where the hell is my ketchup!?"  No, seriously, my ketchup is missing.  I made eggs the other day, and went to the fridge, tasting the tomatoey goodness on my tongue, and...I couldn't find it. I physically touched everything in the fridge to make sure that no one cast a spell of invisibility on it, but nope. It's gone.  So now...I am out of ketchup around the same time I discovered that I love eggs with ketchup, and only have eggs in the house to eat for breakfast, and refuse to go grocery shopping for the next week. What a conundrum!  Now moving on to unrelated food issues, I recently made another recipe from Pinterest.

I was pursuing Pinterest, and found and immediately made this recipe. I actually forgot to pin it when I made it, and had to go back through my internet history to be able to find it again! I loved the wholesome ingredients (no butter or added oil!), and the fact that I had them all on hand!  With a few easy ingredients you can make a breakfast bar, serve it with a little peanut butter, and have a ready made breakfast for your whole family.  I even put these out at my swap-a-thon as a 'cookie' and most of them were eaten.  Since these have a super moist consistency, I would suggest you eating them pretty quickly.

If you are looking for something super sweet, this isn't it. However, it's a great bread-like base for things like nut butters, honey, or just something quick to grab. I plan on using different spices next time. I think it would do well being spicier with nutmeg and a tiny bit of cloves. I'd also love to try it with a hardier oatmeal that maintains it's texture after it's been cooked.  Quick cooking oats tend to lose all of it's texture when they're cooked. If you want it to be a bread like texture without making you think of oatmeal though, currently, this is it.


  • Use rice milk, like I did to make it dairy free
  • Use gluten free oats to make this celiac friendly. 
  • Use Egg substitute and rice milk to make it vegan
  • Experiment with some honey/agave nectar to take out the sugar. 
  • Make them in muffin tins...I think these would make great muffins.
  • Allergic to peanuts, or don't like them? Almond butter would work! As would any other nut/seed that ends in butter!
  • Hate bananas? Use unsweetened applesauce or pumpkin puree instead. I'm not sure on the measurements, so check online and tell me how it tastes!

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Squares
From Here!

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk *(I used rice milk)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large mashed banana *(I keep my old bananas in the freezer, so I just pulled one out)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
*my comments on the recipe. The links are to the actual product that I used!

Mix together the quick cooking oats, light brown sugar, baking powder, kosher salt and ground cinnamon.

Add in the vanilla extract, milk and egg. Mix the ingredients together.

Then add in the mashed banana and peanut butter. Combine all of the ingredients.

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 8 by 8 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Cut into squares and enjoy!
Pressed into Pan
All Done!
Yes, I can see my reflection too.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jan-March Goal update and life changes

February Update on Goals:

So ... I did mention in my original post that I had some issues with procrastination right? I didn't procrastinate in my attempts to do my goals, just to update you on them!

I'll go through each goal that I set here, and update you on my progress. I should probably set new goals for myself too. Once again, these aren't all of my goals that I'm working towards.

This blog:

January goal:
Write in blog 2 times a week.  Start writing a design document to lay out how I want my blog to look after it's redesigned. Discuss the design document with the hubs.
I've been much better about updating and have been averaging about 2x a week.
I haven't really discussed a redesign of my blog with my husband, but I have spent a lot of time playing around with different layouts on my own. I discovered different tabs, and have enjoyed creating new ones. (hint...please check them out!) I could be doing a lot more with the background and I know this, which is why I keep changing it!

March Goal:
Continue to blog, 2-3 times a week. I like the game series I am doing, and playing more games with my husband has helped us get closer too!
I want to publish more meal plans, and recipe posts.
What other posts do people find interesting? I can only put up so many pictures of my cat...


January goal:
Go to Yoga class on Sunday morning.  Try a Zumba class.  Doesn't matter when or if I only do it for 20 minutes--just get over my fear of the new and unknown.  Also, get on elliptical in my room at least 1x a week.  First thing in the morning? It would be awesome. Sweat is our friend. Work on anxiety issues. Find a cognitive therapist.  Make an appointment.
Umm...can I skip this section? I was doing great for about a week, even started to lose some weight and then I got sick and used it as an excuse to backslide. I found that when I ate crap, and didn't exercise, I craved more crap and less exercise.
I didn't go to yoga. I didn't try a Zumba class either. In fact, I went to the gym 2 times.  This is really depressing. I have however been using my elliptical and going for walks more. Now If I could get myself to do that daily, I wouldn't feel guilty about not exercising enough.

March goal:
Go to the gym 2x/week. Walk at least 10 minutes a day, be it outside or on the elliptical.  I'm baby stepping on this one. I'd rather outshine my goals then feel like crap in a month when I realize that Ive once again not done what I hoped.


January goal:
meal plan meeting 1x week with husband.  Personally plan small meals/snacks for myself. Make sure to have these foods on hand so that I can eat every 3 hours.
We have been better at meal planning but I'm still having trouble with finding quick and easy food to eat.  It's a never ending battle lately. I have been better about meals in general, and not eating out as much though but it doesn't seem that it's saved us money.

March Goal:
Less eating out, more meal planning. Oh, and stop going to Costco--my spending there is ridiculous.  Always have hard boiled eggs in the fridge, and create a list of quick snacks that we can have. Why? Because you can't think when you are too hungry. Also, taking a nap when you are hungry and waking up starving is a bad life choice.


January goal: Read the first Hunger Games book. Yes, I've been told that I'll be immediately HOOKED but it's all about the starting.
Oh I read the entire series. Big thanks to my friend who lent me the electronic copy.  My husband is reading to me almost every night and it puts me right to sleep! I love it, and the series that we are reading (series name).  I also went into the physical library and got a book and a couple of audiobooks that I can listen to in the car. The library is right next to where I babysit, so it's a great stop on my way home.

March Goal:
Less TV more reading.  Find a way to play more audiobooks in the house so that you'll get more done instead of being attached to the computer.


January goal: Make decision on future of group, and volunteer. Significantly cut down on TV and Internet time by downloading audio books to listen to, with my new handy dandy library card (that I have yet to use:( ).

I've covered the library issues above.  We are volunteering more, which is great, and I have significantly cut down on my TV watching.  As far as my group goes, I'm still not entirely sure what is going to happen. I'm keeping really busy though so it's becoming less of an issue.

March Goal:

Going forward:

I am pretty excited about what has been happening in my life. I have going to more events, meeting more people and making more friends. I'm spending lots of time playing board games, organizing events, babysitting and most recently, I decided to start my own business.  Starting next month, I am going to become a Slumber Parties consultant!

If you haven't hard of Slumber Parties and you are still thinking of middle school girls having pillow fights, I'm sorry to disillusion you.  This Slumber Parties is a home based party company that sells lotions, potions, romance aids and lingerie.   I first went to a party in while in college, and another recently, was once again realized how much I love the company, and their products. I was really struck by their goals to help women create a safe and fun environment to discuss relationships, romance and sex. It's empowering to not feel constrained by society in your abilities to ask questions about sexual health and to realize you aren't alone. It's something that many women never have a chance to have.

I'm sure I'll continue to regularly write about my Slumber Parties adventure, and I hope that I can make a success out of this venture. So...let's see what adventures March brings!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Swap-O-Thon 2012

About six months ago I was invited to my first swap.  The rules were simple. You bring anything you want, you swap with other people for their stuff that they brought, and whatever is left is given to charity.  I love the idea and scored some great stuff. Since, back in December, we mistakenly assumed that February would be too cold to have the event outside, we decided to have it at my place.  After I told some of my friends about this event they all got really excited about participating and apparently starting squirreling away all of their stuff that day.  

The day before the event, I was expecting around 15 people, and even borrowed a couple of long tables so we wouldn't only have piles on the floor. In the past, we had five people...not 15 and I wasn't entirely sure if this was going to be fun, or utter catastrophe. It was certainly chaotic, but oh so fun.     

This is the before picture with Newton investigating the tables that have my meager offers on them

The day before, I put out all of the items that I had assembled from around my house.  All those toiletries that were hanging out in the rarely used guest bathroom could go, along with a bunch of old purses, some clothing that didn't fit, jewelry that I would never wear, drinking glasses we were not longer using, some pots, towels, stinky candle and shoes were among the things I had no qualms about giving away.  The great thing about the swap is that you can give people stuff that has been used. It allows me to get rid of all of those bottles of body wash that I'll never finish using, and hair products that I bought on a whim.  It's a great excuse to clean out your closets and bathroom cabinets.  

We have a pretty big house. Actually, it's too big for the two of us, and we rarely use the front room As people flooded into my house, bringing bags and boxes, and donations oh my, that room size shrunk.  We ended up having at least 12 people, almost all of them had been to my house before and knew each other.  Everyone pitched in, helping haul boxes in,  making quick work of  the pre-swap organizing.  We had boxes of books, Christmas decorations, handbags, shoes, so much clothing, kitchen appliances and more. It was overwhelming how much stuff was in my living room, and wow it was loud.  My friends are just as animated as I am,  I don't think that my husband regretted hiding in the basement with the cats. Newton, being the most sociable cat alive, apparently cried as the cats were blocked off in the basement. He wanted to join the party! I just didn't want him to run out the front door that was being frequently opened and closed.  When we did let him out, he came and rubbed on everything and flirted with everyone.  

Lots of people in my living room...

with lots of stuff

This is the same table as the first picture...only now it's really full (as was the floor in front of it)

Kitchen appliance table

Happy Hostess taking a quick break
I LOVED this hat, but didn't need another one. I did demand a picture be taken of me though .

After everyone had assembled I explained how we would deal with those 'most wanted' items. You know, that thing that makes your eyes light up as you imagine it in your living room? Well my husband came up with a silent auction idea, where cards would be assigned to each person with a symbol one side, and a number value on that back so that you could 'bid' up to 15 points on any item or number of items. It worked really well and the one time there was a 'tie,' one of the women just said the other could have it.  It was a great way to keep people from immediately attempting to claim things before people had a chance to look at everything.  I admit that I did grab a Vera Bradley cooler bag as I was helping to unpack but my friend said that I deserved to take 'taxes.' I laughed at then, but afterwards, I realized that I really did have much time at all to go through and look at individual items, so I'm glad I was able to do that.  In the end I only kept a few items, but no regrets at all!

After all of the high 'bid' items were spoken for, people found areas to claim for their piles, and went to look through all of the rest of the items that they might want.  My kitchen turned into a impromptu changing area as people tried on clothing.  Modesty apparently wasn't really in high demand, and it was all women anyways.  Nudity will not be the selling point for the next swap, but it was amusing.  

I assumed that I would have to haul everything that was left to charity and there was  LOT of stuff left. Since I offered to have the swap, I figured it was my responsibility, and I wasn't going to complain about it, but I really wasn't looking forward to it.   I really have some amazing friends though.  I was blown away when first one friend offered to take some stuff to Goodwill because she was heading there, and then another friend said she could take as much as we could fit in her car. It was...glorious. Everyone else pitched into pack up everything and take it out to cars.  Quickly my living room started looking like a living room again.  I had asked that people try to bring a donation for a local charity, and now have a huge stack of stuff to take to them, and that's pretty much it.  

A small amount of the food, before 12 ladies descended and made short work of it!
After our swaps, we were understandably exhausted (haha) and needed proper nourishment, so we assembled in the kitchen were everyone brought something to share.  It was a last second idea, asking people to bring food but  without me having to buy anything extra, we had enough food for 15 people to have a decent lunch. One friend even brought some bean enchiladas from another event she had recently attended. We sat around and ate, chatted, and caught up.  Two of my friends stuck around all afternoon and we put a puzzle together from the box of puzzles that Mariette brought to give away:
Finished Puzzle! It glows in the dark! 
And then when the noise dropped down, my husband ventured back upstairs to help make a delicious chicken dinner. Actually the husband was ONLY interested in making the chicken.  The women decided we needed more than just meat, and my friends quickly made some sides of butternut squash and potatoes that were delicious.  After dinner Julia had requested that play Munchkin, so of course we obliged.  Oh yeah, she won too....
Our exhausted WINNER! 

After all this, I was dead tired, and slept so well.  It was a wonderful day, full of wonderful people and equally wonderful memories.  I'm looking forward to having another swap in a a couple of months, and doing a deep purge of my house for that swap.  A HUGE Thank you to everyone that came!! 

Have you ever been to a swap? How did you manage ties?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winning is fun! Thanks Sara

There is nothing like going to your mailbox and finding a box addressed to you.  Oh, you don't get mail that isn't a bill? I don't get that too frequently either.  After I came inside and had a lovely conversation with USAA (no seriously, I had a conversation with a bank that put me in a GOOD mood!) I was finally able to sit down and open my box.

A couple of weeks ago I won this blog giveaway over on Sara's Organized Chaos blog.  I'm not sure how I came across Sara's blog, but she's awesome. She's witty, sarcastic, hilarious and has the cutest Wisconsin accent (that she claims no responsibility for), and adoooorable kids.  I wish she lived closer because I want to be her real life friend, not just cyber stalker!

I had been expecting a box, but I was still excited to see it. When I opened this box I expected a decent smutty romance novel to fall into my lap. What I didn't expect was all of this:
A book, a heart shaped ring pop, a pez dispenser, and this beautiful card.  The card says "Owl always Love You." The computer was a prop, not a prize, sorry guys.  Did I mention how all this awesome made my day?

Thanks Sara! I love it all, but I'll admit right now that my husband will be stealing all that pez.  I will not relinquish control of the ring pop though!

Like her beautiful card? Check out Sara's blog for all her awesome crafty shiz (her word, not mine!).  Also check out her blog for frequent giveaways, and great reading.

Game Review: Dominion

As part of my 'crap my husband bought a ton of games for Christmas!' series, we have to come to the game that most geeks I know are hooked on.  I'm late to the party, since I inherited my geekiness from my husband and it's still being cultured and crafted.
Box front (image from wikipedia)

The first time I watched Dominion being played, I wasn't in the best of moods. We had friends over, it was the holidays and instead of being full of cheer, I was full of anxiety. I didn't actually play those first two games, because I convinced myself that I would rather crochet than play with a group of people.  That was my mistake, and once I started playing I was hooked.   Dominion is a deck building game (the original game has 500 cards, you aren't using all of them at once!) where you buy cards that give you abilities to buy more money and cards and ultimately Victory Points.  At the end of the game, the person with the most Victory Points wins. It's a pretty easy concept....

Except it isn't. Why? Because the decks that you play off of and build and use change every game. At the beginning of the game, someone randomly picks 10 cards. Those ten cards denote the Action Cards that you will be playing with that game. Different Action Cards mean a completely different game each time. It's awesome but can also be incredibly annoying when you end up not getting any Action Cards that you wanted to play with.  These Actions Cards are the reason that this game lends itself so well to expansion packs. The expansion packs (which we don't own...yet) are ways to add more and different Action Cards into play, which changes the game even more.  You can always fudge the rules a little and play the Action Cards that you like the most, but that seems to me, to take away from a lot of the fun of it.

It is a game of strategy, as you are constantly choosing how you want to build your deck and budget your actions and money.  Different cards get you different ablilities, and sometimes the card you need never seems to show up in your hand. Okay, that actually happened to me when I bought a card, and instead of putting it on my discard pile, I accidentally just put it back on IT'S pile that was next to my discard pile. I couldn't figure out why I never got it in my hand.  I lost that very close game, and have since then been much more careful about the Action Card decks being far away from my discard pile!

I had only played with my husband until he introduced me to the online site. I'm not sure I would suggest it for people who haven't played before, since being able to hold the cards, and see how game play works in person makes it a heck of a lot easier to work with a mostly text based game.  There is an option to play with images, but the text based really is easier.

The benefit of the online game is how fast it goes, since you aren't shuffling your deck constantly, or having to set up and tear down the game.  The people that play online were really really nice and incredibly helpful. No one got annoyed that I would play slowly as I attempted to read all of the cards.  I wised up after the first game, where I lost horribly, and switched to using the 'base' deck that has almost exclusively cards that I'd played with before.  The first woman that I played with said that she had gotten so good, by playing online, that her husband now refused to play the game in person with her. Consider this your warning!

Awesome bits about Dominion:

  • Global Domination!
  • Quick and easy to learn but
  • Always changing and presenting new challenges
  • Lends to expansion packs, and team play
  • An entire game, including setting up and tearing down, doesn't take more than an hour
  • Game is affordable considering it will last a long time. It's cheaper than a video game!k
  • I'm pretty sure my husband loves me a little more each time I want to play
Annoying bits about Dominion:
  • OMG there are so so so many cards. It takes awhile to set up and then you have to sort all of the cards out again to put them away.  I could see this set up being too timely for impatient people
  • Did I mention that this game has 500 cards?
  • Sleep deprivation from staying up all night
  • Your friends may make fun of your new addiction
  • My husband revels in turning me into a geek
  • I'm a little worried about getting spanked any time I try to play with people who are more experienced than me. I might remedy this by playing online more, but I don't want to ruin the dynamic that my husband and I have going. 
Expansion packs

There are a TON of them (8 on the wiki page) so I'll list some from the Amazon site.  Order away! 

Hopefully all those links should work and show you each of the different expansion packs. Check them out, especially if you're already a base pack expert.  If I completely bungled a brief explanation of the gameplay, maybe this wikipedia article will help. Actually, just come over to my place and we can just teach you! I'm always looking for more people to play with, and my husband is always looking for an excuse to put off doing work, and playing games instead.  

Next in our series: I think it's time to explore that hilarity that is Munchkin.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's cooking? Minestrone soup! (vegetarian, diary/gluten free)

I just set up a new tab on my homepage called "Leaniepi Designs" to show off all my crafty goods. I will be updating it with lots of stuff, and am taking orders.  Please help support my crafting hobbies!  

I've been trying hard (as per my goals!) to make more of an effort to meal plan.  When I visited my friend last week I saw that she had this awesome meal plan/grocery list notepad (that I can't find online, but this one is similar).  I sat down with my husband and we planned out meals for the week, and made a shopping list. I then went and bought it all!  Part of that planning was making (and buying) for this soup recipe that I'd seen on pinterest.  It took me a week to make it, but I just finished my first bowl, and it was DELICIOUS!  My husband, who hates minestrone soup tries not to gag at the smell, but I'm overjoyed to have soup to eat. 

Minestrone Soup
(check out the origional URL for TONS of beautiful pictures)

Family Recipe

1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large 16 oz can of tomatoes
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 yellow zucchini, sliced and halved
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of chick peas
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves
tabasco sauce or 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
3 cups of spinach, roughly chopped
2 fresh tomatoes
small pasta

Finely dice one onion and mince one large garlic clove. Put into a large pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute on medium/high heat until the onions are clear and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add 10 cups of water or chicken stock. Add one large can of plum tomatoes. Any tomato will do, such as diced or stewed. Bring the water to a boil on high heat, then lower the temperature to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. Then with a hand blender, blend the broth until the onions and garlic have been pureed and are no longer visible. You should puree the tomatoes a little to try and break them up, but keep them chunky and not completely blended.

Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables. Rinse the canned beans and set aside. Wash and dice the celery and carrots. Wash and slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch thick slices. Cut them in half to make half moon shapes. Once your vegetables have been prepped, add them to the pot. Season your broth with the salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, sage, 2 bay leaves and a few dashes of tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer on low heat for 2-4 hours. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors will blend. This soup is even better the next day.

20 minutes before you're ready to serve, rinse and roughly chop 3 cups of spinach. Add the spinach and 2 whole tomatoes (stems removed) to your pot of soup. The tomatoes will break down in the hot broth, adding additional flavor and color to your soup. Also add your pasta at this time, about 3 tablespoons or 1/4 cup if you prefer a thicker soup. At this time, adjust the seasoning to your desired taste, adding additional salt and tabasco sauce. Continue to cook for 20 minutes and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

changes to recipe:
  • I used almost entirely organic beans, stock and veggies. Organic is good :)...and Costco carries it. 
  • I used about 1/3 cup pasta elbow macaroni--it lead to me having like 3 pieces of macaroni per serving (no joke). You can add more, or none! 
  • I used red wine vinegar. I didn't need spice, and my husband wasn't going to touch it. 
  • I used two small yellow zucchini's. They cook down and don't taste squashish at all. At Trader Joe's, they come in a pair, so I figured I would use it all.    
  • My husband managed to use our last big tomato while I was gone so I dropped in two roma's during the last 20 minutes.  I can't complain, he made some awesome spaghetti sauce with it. 
  • I served it with a bit of parm cheese. Once again, for a dairy free version, leave it out !
I bought an immersion blender after reading this recipe. I knew I needed one anyways, but after buying one at Costco, I was blown away by all the stuff that it does.  That entire onion you need to chop? I used the blender! It was fun, quick and easy to clean up.  I bought one to help me make soups, I didn't expect that I could use it for baby food, smoothies, and chopping up veggies. I think I need to get rid of some cross purpose kitchen stuff, because I've gotten a little carried away over the last year. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Leaniepi Designs Sale Time!

Happy Valentine's Day!!

In honor of our finally having cold weather, I am going to do a hat sale for the month of February.  I will be giving a 15% discount on all of my hats, and if you order more than one item (not only hats!) you'll receive free shipping. If you have questions about anything, you can either leave it in a comment or email me at eileenkward(at)gmail(dot)com.

My monkey hats have been so much fun to make and wear!  I have two left, but I can custom make them as well.

This toddler hat is a soft pink with a cute purple flower.  It's 20 inches  approx. in
diameter and should fit most toddlers and small kids. It's pretty stretchy yarn too.  ($20)

(Another kid's hat shot)

Monkey hat with his little monkey friend (Monkey Hat 1, $27)

Monkey 2, $27 
Another shot of Monkey 1, $27
This purple slouchy beret is perfect for these windy days.  The thick  multicolored purple
yarn is super soft.  $17

This black/grey beanie will fit both men and women. It's stretchy and warm. $15
Purple beanie $15

I have soooooooo much more stuff to post, and will continue to. I also plan on adding these pictures under a tab on the main page so people can continue to persuse and order.

I hope everyone had a beautiful day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fandooble Game review

Two days before Christmas my forward thinking husband (who never procrastinates) decided it was time to shop for Christmas.  He apparently walked over the mall, walked in the bookstore and just bought a bunch of games and a couple of books for me.  He loves playing games, and thinks that getting me hooked in board games will both create a geekier wife for him, and be a gateway drug to the opium that are full fledged video games. We shall see. I have the attention span for board games, but video games just seem to take too much commitment.

And the sneaky Fandooble that steals coins from your 'friends' in the game
Two of the games that we've played a lot are Dominion (I'll blog about that later) and Fandooble.  Fandooble is a pretty simple dice game that depends on a little lucky, and some strategy too.  In the gmae you are trying to get the most gold coins.  You steal coins from both red and green dragons and also the other players.  There are green dragons that end your turn if you get three of them and then there are the dreaded red dragon, which, if you are unfortunate to roll three of, you lose all of your coins. I had almost won the game...there were only a couple of gold pieces left when tragedy struck.
yeah that would be 3 red dragons and me looking very very sad
And all the damn coins I lost

 Needless to say, I lost this game really badly.  It's such a fun game though that is family friendly, easy to teach and learn and doesn't take a really long time to play.
The box top

Check it out on Amazon HERE.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When what I read doesn't reflect what I believe

I have an addiction and it's coming back to haunt me.  Okay, I admit it. As a hobby, I study religious fundamentalism, and spend exorbinate amounts of time reading blogs written by fundamental Christians.  I read about fundamentalism in other faiths too, but my link to all the blogs is mainly focused on Christian evangelical fundamentalist and the damaging effects of isolation and patriarchy.  Today while looking over my blog, I saw this ad in my adsense ad on the side of my screen.

Crap!  Google is recording all of those pages that I go to, and using that history to advertise to me. Can they not also see the fact that I come to these sites through a snark board that is dedicated to teaching about the ills of religious fundamentalism?

If Google really wanted to advertise to me, they would advertise the book The Unlikely Disciple! It's about a guy that goes to Liberty for a semester to attempt to understand the rise in religious fundamentalism in this country. Excellent book--read it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where do I come from? Nature vs. Nurture

As much as I put my life out on the Internet by having a blog, I rarely blog about things that are very personal to me.  I worry about hurting feelings, and I know that everything you put on the Internet can come back and bite you in the ass later.  The thing is though, that this is MY story and I'm going to own it, feelings be damned.

My mother and father divorced when I was a baby. I think she left him when I was around six months old.  Their relationship was volatile, abusive and crappy all around.  They shouldn't have been married to start with, and I wonder frequently if they fed off of each other's addictions and bad habits. I don't remember it, but my brother who is 2.5 years older than I am, does.  I remember seeing my biological father (let's just go for BF for brevity) only once when I was a child. My mom re-married when I was three.  I call him my Dad and I give him all props for raising me and helping me become the person I am today.

Every little girl has a dream that someone will take her away from her mundane existence and turn her into a pretty princess. Yeah, it's what Disney thrives on. Since I was raised on Disney, I always harbored these unrealistic hopes that my BF had actually gotten his life together, was married and that I would have a sister.  Yes, I wanted a sister damnit! I had the brother and he was a pain in the ass.  My mother was never coy about the fact that my biological father was abusive to her, never attempted to have anything to do with us, and had "issues."  I knew him through a singular picture that I saw once or twice as a child, and knew next to nothing about his family but I always wondered.

When I was sixteen, I begged my aunt and grandmother to let me meet my BF. I was sixteen, my home life was screwy, I was spending the summer out east where he lived and I wanted to know where I came from.  I knew I looked like my mother, not him, but there is that thing that every adopted child must go through. This quirk--did I inherit it? Can he roll his tongue? I can't (and apparently neither can he).  Does he have musical talents? I have insanely good pitch and my mother is tone deaf. What part of me came from him?  I think if you grow up with your biological parents, you miss these little things.  I saw my grandmother recently, after about a year, and I saw how her nose has a sharper triangular end like my mothers, but it has been blunted through the generations. Now the end of my nose is more rounded.  I see that she moves her body like my mother, makes the same faces like my mother and you wonder about the nature vs. nurture.

My aunt and grandmother helped facilitate my meeting my biological father that summer. This is something my mother will never forgive them for.  I'm still not sure how much of that dislike and distrust was already simmering under the surface of their 'relationship' and that this was just a handy excuse for her to cut off communication.  I refuse to feel guilty or apologize for meeting him. It was my time, I was able to make that decision and it should have been mine years before.

My aunt took me to meet him at a Barnes and Noble. I recognized him, not only from that picture, but because my brother does look so much like him, but life has been kinder to my brother.  BF was sporting a semi-mullet, and looked like the 80's never let go of him.  He smokes and it killed his teeth, he has scars on the back of his hands from putting cigarettes out on them.  Life...hasn't been kind to the guy.  His accent is thick, and he was kind to me.  We drove around, he took me into Boston one day, and for that summer he was very engaged.  He mentioned how he thought of me every year on my birthday...and then had the day wrong. Like I said...good intention, but the execution? Off.   I think that he really did want this opportunity to know us, and he does regret that he hadn't been a part of our life.  But, he also suffers from ADHD and depression which make it hard for him to cope with his own survival let alone attempting to carry on some sort of relationship with his kids who live hundreds of miles away.  

Over the summer I was able to meet my aunts and uncle, my grandmother and cousins.  When I saw my Aunt Linda, for the first time since I was a toddler, I recognized her. I could have picked her out of a crowd as being related to me. It was odd. I didn't get that with anyone else but her, and immediately liked her.  I don't regret that summer in part because my grandmother died a couple of days before Christmas that year and if I hadn't met her then, I never would have. My brother actually ended up going out to live with BF, but eventually came back home after some inevitable breakdown/blow up on BF's part.

Fast forward to now.  My brother has kept in touch with BF, but since I met him, and satiated my curiosity, didn't feel a burning desire to continue contact.  I had a life to live and college to attend.  I've sent him a few emails, but he doesn't respond much because he doesn't have much access to Internet.  The other night I was laying in bed, listening to my husband read  On a Pale Horse, and I got a text message...from him.  My brother gave him my phone number.  It didn't give me some adrenaline rush, it didn't annoy me, I felt almost nothing.  I owe this man nothing, and have gotten more or less that in response. I however have kept in touch with his sister Linda, and for Christmas she sent me pictures of when I was a toddler.  That...that meant more to me than anything else. Since I lived with my grandmother during this time, I didn't even know there were pictures of me.  Linda, I really like. Perhaps because she has a settled life, a wonderful son and a steady job. My BF is what I fear my brother turning into.  A brilliant artist without the social skills to do something with it. A wonderful brain but crippling depression that makes reaching his potential almost impossible, and a life I fear he has greatly wasted.

I thank my biological father for his ear for music and my Dad for teaching me how to play instruments and giving me an environment for learning them in.  I thank my BF for creating me and knowing that he didn't have what it took to be a dad.  I thank my Dad for being that man for me and my brother.  My desire to know my BF has never been about my Dad not being good enough. It's always been about a need to know where I came from, and a desire to better understand myself and my motivations.  I've been so lucky in my life, and so blessed.  Yes, I suffer from some of the same things that my BF and mother suffer from but since the environment that I grew up in was so radically different, I never turned to alcohol and drugs as a means to escape. I turned to books, and college.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Second Chances, how Facebook did NOT kill the high school reunion

or not! (image not mine)

Facebook** has allowed for me to get close to people that I probably would have written off after high school was over, and never talked to again.  I thank it for that because I am someone that always wants to give people second chances, and I've been blessed to meet people again at a different place in their life.  Unless you were the most popular kid in high school, you probably look back at those years and cringe at the clothing you wore, the crap you said, and the attitude that you had.  I know I do. I was annoying as all hell. I probably still am, but people seem to complain about it less now. I'm also...happier now. Numerous people have commented on this over the past decade.  I wonder how chronically miserable I was.  My teen years had happy moments, but there was so much stress, desire to escape and it felt like I had no one to talk to.  There was this chronic cloud hanging over me as I just prayed that people wouldn't make fun of me and humiliate me that day.  I gave up band my senior year because I couldn't deal with being bullied (private lessons though? Best decision ever). My history teacher wasn't kidding when he said I wore my heart on my sleeve.

High school was only bearable because I had friends that didn't care if I talked too much. They didn't care about my clothing. I had no money or fashion sense, and that's a deadly combination in high school. They didn't care about my hair, which probably always looked awful because I suffer from dandruff and didn't learn what a flat iron was until college.  Looking back...I really was a hot mess, but also fortunate to meet some amazing non judgmental people that I still consider some of my closest friends.

When facebook came around I didn't know if I wanted to invite any of the 'popular' kids to be my 'friends' but my brief  time on myspace showed me that with a little life experience under our belts, most of us turned out to be really decent people. A high school friend's ex boyfriend and I had some great conversations, and even found our significant others at the same time, and were able to share this joy with each other after reconnecting on myspace.  He was an idiot teenager, but a nice adult.

My first realized how much life had changed when I started reading a couple of blogs of women that I had attended high school with. The first was a woman that blogged about being a single parent to a beautiful little girl.  Since I moved 500 miles away for college, I totally missed that she wasn't with her high school boy friend anymore and all of the sudden (in my mind) had a two year old.  Her blog chronicled the difficulties of being a single parent while working and attending school, but also how she rose up to those challenges and kicked their ass.  She ended up moving recently and when I asked about her blog she replied that it was "written for a different time in her life, and that time is over." When I see how happy she is now, I smile to myself, understanding how far she has come.  Her blog was one of my gateway drugs to blogging. I got hooked her's and soon after I started reading it, got more serious about my own blogging. It really helped me see how we had changed since high school. We had been sort of friends in middle school (conspiring over nano pets, and our shared dislike of our English teacher).  High school, she got more popular, and I got more annoying, either of caring enough to be empathetic to the other's situation.

Another blog that I still religiously follow is the blog of the sister of one of my classmates.  Oh how I wanted to be her. Cute, petite, perky and popular. Do our feelings as teenager generally go past envy and jealousy? When I found her blog she had recently suffered a miscarriage, and I just wanted to cry for her.  But then, she was pregnant again, and through her blog I got to see her joy and belly grow. Then I witnessed the birth story and pictures, and over the last year have watched her daughter blossom.  Seriously? Her daughter is insanely adorable.

What prompted me to write this entry was being recently invited to join a group on facebook for girls that wanted to get in shape.  It was started by a woman that my brother was actually friends with first. It was startling to hear the tales of these women that I envied in high school because they were thinner and more popular than me, discussing having the same issues, the same struggles, and the same heartache in their journey to lose weight that I've had.

The moral of the story? Give people a second chance. Allow them to have some time to grow up. I needed it.  In the past, 10 year class reunions were a chance to diet frantically for the months leading up to it, buy your sexiest dress, go get drunk and accidentally slip up and admit that you cheated on so and so with so and so's boyfriend.  It was a one night thing that might lead to some renewed friendships but mostly, it seems to me, was an opportunity to show off pictures of your kids and how skinny you had gotten while feeling vindicated about how the popular kids got fat. One night.  One night isn't a second chance, it's barely enough time for people to want to spend time in the same room again.  Instead of one night, I've gotten 7 years of watching people graduate from college, get married, have children, build businesses and grow up.  I've had an opportunity for friendships that I wasn't ready or able to have years ago, and the freedom to walk away. When I go to my class reunion, instead of feeling awkward, I'll be able to see a room of friends.  We can skip the bit about showing off, and just catch up.

**Note: This wasn't meant to be a facebook is awesome post.  Yes, facebook has some serious downsides, like their business morals and privacy sharing but it has changed the reality of my generation.  I don't think that facebook has killed class reunions, but instead made them a much more enjoyable, less stressful affair.  I can finally keep in touch with family that I haven't seen in years, and watch through pictures and videos, their children growing. This to me is pretty amazing.  I can do it through google + too, and have been, so this ability to reconnect isn't strictly a facebook ability.

Sorry for typos--spell check hates me, and I can't proofread very well.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Commission--Hand Warmers

I had lots of fun making these for a high school friend. Luckily she didn't find out that a relative also made them until after they were in the mail;).  Hopefully they will keep her warm for years to when we actually have a winter!

If you want to buy a pair, just message me.
See, I can't take a picture of both of my hands at once...

Now my husband comes to help.  My wedding ring is peeking out 

I won?!??!

I just got the news that I won a blog giveaway over on my friend Sara's blog! Since I pretty much never win anything, this made my day!

Check out Sara at:

Sara's blog provides hours of amusement through her blunt and hilarious take on all things related to life, children and the morons that we all have the misfortune of crossing on a daily basis. Please check her out, and enter some of her blog giveaways!

Lastly, here is your daily dose of OMG ADORABLE!

he had his little paw over his face!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What's Cooking? Spiced Couscous and Chicken

I've been blown away by the response to my last blog.  It's amazing to see that something that I wrote resounds so much with other people.  I was going to continue today with a post about the insane week I had, but my post mysteriously disappeared so I'm moving up a cooking entry.  

I love experimenting with new recipes, and things like potlucks are an excellent audience to try new recipes on. If people don't like it, they will still have other food options.  I found this recipe in Food Network magazine, and was able to also find it on their website. My friend Juli scored an entire box of cooking magazines, and I was able to snag a few recipes the last time I was at her house. It's hard to read recipes and carry a conversation though, so I found myself flipping through the same magazine multiple times.  

When getting looking for recipes, I try to look recipe with whole foods that are either grain free, or had gluten free grains.  I was also trying to find recipes that used what I had in the pantry! This recipe calls for whole wheat couscous which obviously has gluten in it, but I have two boxes to get rid of, and the recipe turned out wonderfully.


  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup couscous, preferably whole wheat
  • 2 cups coarsely shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
  • Greek yogurt and/or harissa or other hot sauce, for topping


Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the ginger, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the carrots and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the carrots, reserving the cooking liquid.
Put the couscous and chicken in a medium bowl; pour 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid on top. Stir, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds, raisins, scallions and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until the nuts are toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.
Divide the couscous and chicken among bowls. Top with the carrots and more of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle with the almond mixture and more cilantro. Top with yogurt and/or harissa.
Per serving: Calories 441; Fat 20 g (Saturated 7 g); Cholesterol 91 mg; Sodium 853 mg; Carbohydrate 42 g; Fiber 8 g; Protein 28 g

This recipe does NOT have a strong spice flavor at all.  I actually ended up added lots more cinnamon to mine when I reheated it.  I also used the used the cooking fluid to moisten up the couscous, and the fact that the chicken I snagged was wayyyy too dry.  I learned that you do not buy rotisserie chicken on a Sunday at the regular grocery store. Costco for now on. The almond mix is amazing, and because of the butter, the raisins don't 'burn' but rather just get a nice brown to them. They taste amazing. I actually made more of the almond mixture the next day to use up my cilantro/onions because people used it all up the night before! I guess I wasn't the only person that loved it.  
I've managed to lose 5 lbs in the last week or so by cutting down on my portions, trying to cut out a lot of gluten and sugar but most of all, only eating when I'm hungry.  I'm a little worried about this cough that I still have, which gets a lot worse whenever I have dairy or gluten so cutting most of it out was an attempt to lower the inflammation in my body and get rid of this cold sans antibiotics.  The side effect was losing some weight, and realizing that if I eat lots of carbs (oh like the waffles I ate last night before bed) I wake up feeling hung over.  It's still amazing me how much I'm learning about my body and the effects that different foods are having on me.