Sunday, March 31, 2013

First Run of the Season

I've been a total slacker with running and exercise in general for that matter. Coming home from the mall this afternoon I noticed the outside temp was 61. My husband was going out tonight so as soon as I realized I had enough time for a quick run, I changed and hit the road.

I wasn't expecting much as it's been over 3 months since my last run, I hadn't had time for my usual pre-run hydration, but I figured I'd go for it. I purposely shuffled my usual playlist and took a different route so as not to get bummed about slow pace or not being able to make the distance.  I was expecting to cramp up, get tired, something.

Final result - 3.01 miles in 28m:35s.

Thanks Bon Jovi for having so many power songs to keep me going.

Bottom line - stop making excuses, just do it!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Shopping Day

Today I took Little Reader shopping for some new clothes. We started at Target for some basics and then on to Old Orchard for lunch and more shopping.

We got most of her stuff at Gymboree but also a new fleece from LL Bean and a couple of things from Justice. It's funny she's been asking for clothes from there for a while since a lot of her friends have Justice clothes but we'd never been in. Even she was overwhelmed by the bright colors and abundance of sparkle and sequins. She did pick out a couple of things and while it wasn't stuff I would have picked for her it wasn't too teenagerish so I let her get it.

We stopped for frozen yogurt at TCBY, and Claires to use some gift cards she had. Throughout the day I had been making quick stops on the department stores to look for a dress for me for an upcoming black tie event. Our final stop at Bloomies was successful. I found four dresses on the clearance rack to try on. Two were good, but this was the winner (best part it was reduced from $220 to $120)------->>>> .

There were a couple of sequins that had fallen off but when I mentioned that to the saleslady, she said that was no problem they could fix that for me no charge, and I'd have it in plenty of time for my party. Love stores with good customer service :)

We had a fun day and this was the first time in a long time it was just the two of us. She told me silly stories about her friends and things about books she's reading. It was fun to hear her opinion on formal dresses. In most cases we agreed, and she gave me honest (but not too honest) opinions in the dressing room. It's hard to have one on one time when you have three kids, but I definitely need to do it more.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cheap White Wine - Blue Fin Chardonnay

My husband and I drink a lot of wine (ok, I admit I drink more than he does) To keep from going broke I try to stick to cheap wines.  Decent cheap whites are certainly easier to find than reds.  We've been drinking Barefoot Chardonnay a lot but were getting a little tired of it.

Here is one my current favorites Blue fin - a California Chardonnay I found at Trader Joes for 3.99.  At that price it definitely doesn't taste fancy but it is very drinkable and much better than 2 buck Chuck.

The only problem is that I don't really shop at Trader Joes so when I go in to get wine and buy 12 bottles they always ask if I'm having a party.  Um, no, I just like cheap wine.  

Do you have any favorite cheap wines?  I'm trying to mix it up a bit so I don't have to keep going to TJs so often. I'm sure the people there already think I'm an alcoholic.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break Staycation

My kids are out of school for Spring Break so we're playing tourists in our own city.  Check out our plans on Chicagoland Moms Blog

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Coming Out via Social Media

Anderson Cooper received a GLAAD media award in recognition of his stature and accomplishments as an openly gay journalist.  He came out through a post on someone else's blog a few months back.  My celeb obsessed friends all posted links and comments on Facebook. My reaction, I wasn't surprised but didn't really care either.

I did start thinking about how this is now an increasingly common way to come out. I can think of at least 3 examples of friends of mine.

My husband and I are still friends with his college roommate. He transferred to a different school for the last 2 years of school, so we didn't see him often, but still talked on the phone often and occasionally visited each other. In all that time, he would talk about girlfriends but we never met any of them. After a while we stopped asking.

We reconnected via Facebook, and at first I thought his profile pic (of himself indoors shirtless) was a little weird, but didn't think much about it as he does a lot of weird stuff. Then as time went on, I noticed all his pics were of him with other guys. He would RSVP to events that were sponsored or in support of gay organizations.

We went to visit him last year, and while I wanted to, we never talked about it. I think he has wanted us to know for a long time but wasn't sure how to say it. Maybe he thought it would have been weird for my husband since they were roommates for 2 years. Truth is we don't care, he seems happier than he used to be.

Pre kids I worked in the travel industry, where many of the men are gay. Not sure why, they just are. Anyway, at the time most of us assumed that our boss was gay. His family was ultraconservative and I have a feeling that is part of what kept him closeted. He never talked about it, so we didn't push.

About a year ago (7 years after we stopped working together), he friended me. He was listed as being in a relationship with a guy, and had lots of pictures of his s.o. I didn't feel the need to comment on his relationship, but was happy to notice in subsequent posts that he seemed happier now than he was then. I assume being able to be true to himself and the rest of the world is part of that.

The other day I was looking through Facebook pictures from another former coworker. She worked for the Obama campaign and had pictures of her at the Pride Parade promoting Obama. The main thing I noticed though was that she was wearing a tshirt saying LGBT for Obama. The more I thought about it, in all the years I've known her (probably about 10 by now) I've never known her to be in a relationship with anyone, so maybe she is a lesbian. Of course now I'm curious to know if I'm right or not. Either way doesn't matter to me, as long as she's happy. It seems to me that people can't be truly happy unless they can be true to themselves and the people close to them.

But is this how people come out now through Facebook relationship status and pictures? I guess it's not surprising, but I do find it kind of funny.  FB is efficient.  None of them made big bold proclamations, it just slowly trickled out.

Just to test my theory.  Do you have any friends who came out via Facebook, either with bold statements or just slowly unveiling their true selves?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Liebster Award

I have been nominated for my first ever blog award!

A while back I was nominated for the liebster award and never got around to passing it on. So first, many, many belated thanks go out to Holly @ Not Done Growing for the nomination.

The Liebster award is given by fellow bloggers to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

So, what is a Liebster anyway?

The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.

And now for the rules:

Each person must post 11 things about themselves

Answer the questions that the nominator set for you plus create 11 questions for the people you’ve nominated to answer.

Choose 11 people and link them in your post.

Go to their page and tell them.

No tag backs!

11 Things About Me

My musical tastes are stuck in the 80s 

I prefer chocolate over fruity treats every time

I like bananas, grapes and cherrys but not banana, grape or cherry flavored candies

I can't stand jello

I love John Hughes movies, when I first moved to the Chicago burbs I would drive by locations from his movies.  Love the internet :)

I have no interest in reality TV, which means I watch a lot of old reruns - Frasier, Friends and Family Ties are among my favorites

I have a tankful of goldfish that are 8 years old, and I look forward to being rid of them

I really want a dog, but want to wait a couple of years til my kids are older

I am convinced I have face blindness even though I passed the online tests (but those pictures were all of celebs)

My Dad worked in One World Trade Center from 1977-1987.  Even though his company moved out long before 9/11, and I didn't lose anyone that day, anytime I see a photo of the skyline with the towers it makes me cry.
I would rather bake than cook any day.  My specialty is chocolate chip cookies.

Holly's Questions

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate Chip - the more chocolate the better.  

What is the best book your have read in the last year?
I've read a few good ones but The House I Loved was probably the best.

You have just won an all-expense-paid vacation to the destination of your choice, where do you want to go?
African safari

What song always makes you happier when you listen to it?
So many it's hard to choose - Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds.  Summertime or It's My Life by Bon Jovi, Everlasting Love by Howard Jones, Hey Mama by Matt Kearney, Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis (cause it means the Hawks scored :)

Are you a going to have a scary or funny jack-o-lantern for Halloween?
Scary - it was a mummy

When the alarm goes off in the morning, do you jump up ready to face the day or hit the snooze button as many times as possible?

Do you have any siblings?
1 older sister

Is your bed made right now?
Nope. I only make it if company is coming

How would you spend your time if all of a sudden you have the afternoon free and all to yourself?
Browsing at a book store for new reads, a craft store for inspiration, and then stopping somewhere for a treat (bakery or froyo spot) to read my new book.  

Who is your favorite super hero?
Superman - Cause he can fly

Which is more you:  sneakers or high heels?

My questions - I'm stealing a couple from Holly cause she had good questions

How would you spend your time if all of a sudden you have the afternoon free and all to yourself?

What's the best book you've read in the last year?

Do you drink wine?  If so what's your favorite?  (I'm always looking for new ones)

What was the one of your most memorable meals?  (Either because of the food or the experience)

If you could have one super power what would it be?

How long have you been blogging and why did you start?

What's the first item on your bucket list?

If you won the lottery what would be your first indulgent purchase?  

What was your first job?  

If you could go into outer space, would you?

What's the most daring thing you've ever done?

I have decided to be a rule-breaker with this part. I have been blessed with this award numerous times and every single time, I have a hard time choosing who to give it to. So this time, if you are reading this and you have never been given the Liebster Award, I am giving it to you! If one person takes it or 50, it doesn't matter to me! Anyone who has a blog is making their mark on the world and worthy of the award in my opinion ..... So, if you would like it, it's yours :) Just answer the same questions I had to answer with your 11 random facts and pass it on to 11 more bloggers!

This award officially goes to all the bloggers out there without a Liebster Award and who would like one! 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Keeper of Lost Causes

I read the Stieg Larsson books as I felt like I had to after all the hype. They were ok. Some parts were disturbing but I guess that's a testament to how well written they were.

A couple of weeks ago my cousin in Denmark recommended this author. The back of the book puts Adler-Olsen puts in the Nordic Noir category with Stieg Larsson. I didn't realize that was actually a subgenre of thrillers but I guess it is.

I figured if a Danish author was doing well internationally it was worth checking out. I read the book in English which in hindsight I shouldn't have. There were a few things that just didn't translate right. I knew what the author meant but a few subtle things definitely got lost in the translation. I'm not saying I could have done a better job, but if I read another book by him I should read it in Danish.

The book alternates between Carl Mørck and Merete Lynggard. Carl is a police detective who recently shot in the line of duty - his partner was seriously injured, another was killed and while Carl physically recovered, the department is not so sure of his mental state. He refuses to take a leave of absence so the powers that be relegate him to a basement office to handle cold cases from around the country. He knows they are trying to force him out, but in his passive aggressive way refuses to go. After twiddling his thumbs for a while, he decides to investigate the disappearance of a member of Parliament five years before - Merete Lynggard. Merete was heading down to Berlin with her brother and disappeared on the ferry. After a brief investigation it was assumed that she had fallen overboard and the case was dropped.

The truth is much worse. Merete has been captured and wakes up in a small dark room. She is given a bucket of food once a day but that's it. She has no idea who has captured her or why. She does her best to keep herself from losing her mind and strength as she has no idea how long she will be held. Some of the parts of her story are pretty disturbing.

The book goes back and forth between Carl trying to solve the case and flashbacks to the ordeal that Merete's story. Little by little we learn more about who has captured her and why.

Like Stieg Larsson it is well written which is what makes the story so disturbing. Carl is an abrasive character and not really one you sympathize with. He has a Syrian assistant, Assad, who's story I am interested in knowing more about.  Not sure that I would recommend this book unless you're a big fan of this genre.

We're heading to Denmark this summer so I may pick up the next one then.  In the meantime, I think it's time to get back to more uplifting reading.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Our local fire department recommended changing the batteries in your smoke detectors when you change your clocks.  I guess I should have listened.  3:12am - BEEP!

I woke up thinking it was my husband's pager.  He was on call but didn't wake up.  60 seconds later - BEEP!

I realized it wasn't his usual pager alert, and dozed off again.  60 seconds later - BEEP!

Ok, ok, I get it now.  Smoke detector in our bedroom needs a new battery for the battery backup.  But at 3:14am - NO.  I kept willing it to stop, and thinking it had, and then, BEEP!

The only way to reach the smoke detector is to turn on the lights, get the step ladder and a battery and change it.  Not happening - BEEP!

I keep hoping my husband will wake up and at least remove the battery.  Then I remember since all the detectors are hard wired to each other messing with one, can set off the others.  Don't want to scare the kids by waking them up to the fire alarm - BEEP!

I consider taking my comforter and sleeping on the sofa, at least I'll be far enough away that I won't hear it.  BEEP!

But, I'm too tired to get up and move, so decide to suffer through it, figuring it will stop eventually.  BEEP!

Finally it stops and I doze off.  6:50am, my husband leans down to kiss me goodbye before he heads off to work.  "You need to change the batteries on the smoke detector when you get home", I tell him.


"Didn't you hear it beeping last night?"


"Oh, well, the battery is low, so we should change them all"


It started beeping again around 9am, I told Little Man that he could help me change all the batteries in ALL the smoke detectors.  Little Man - who like most little boys loves firefighters was all over it.  I got the step ladder out, and realized I still couldn't reach.  Little Man was disappointed but I told him he could wait and help Daddy do it when he got home.

We spent most of the morning in the basement so we didn't have to listen to the beeping and the rest of the day out of the house.  My husband got home a little late and grumpy but Little Man and I convinced him to at least change the battery in our detector.  The rest will be taken care of this weekend.

Moral of the story - if you haven't changed your batteries yet, do it NOW.  In my experience the damn things always start beeping in the middle of the night, and sometimes give scary spoken warnings, but that's a story for another time.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Disposing of Drippings

About a month ago I saw a post on Pinterest from a woman on how to dispose of your meat drippings after cooking without clogging your pipes.  Her idea was ok but I like my way better so here it is.....

I like Hillshire Farms lunch meats so after we finish eating the meat, I save the containers for all sorts of things, including drippings.  After cooking I pour the fat into the container.  Even though the container is made of plastic I haven't melted one yet.  Then I put the cover on and pop it in the freezer.  I keep it there and keep adding to it until it's full, and then I toss it.  You could also use coffee or soup cans as long as you have a place to store it in your freezer where you don't have to worry about spilling.  Personally, I like having a lid on it, just in case.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Little Reader

Yesterday was Little Reader's actual birthday. We don't do anything special in the morning as my husband leaves for work before the rest of us get up. Although Little Man was constantly giving her hugs and saying Happy Birthday :)

Little Man "helped" me wrap all her presents while she was at school. My husband got home early so we were able to have her open all her presents before dinner (lots of Lego friends stuff, American Girl stuff, some books and games).

Dinner at her request was hamburgers and mashed potato casserole and brownies for dessert. Since it also happened to be Pi Day, she asked me to cut them into a Pi shape.

Once we've had a chance to go through her spring/summer clothes and see what fits, I'll probably take her shopping for some new clothes. I used to buy her stuff for her birthday but as she gets older it's harder. She's outgrown Carter's and Oshkosh and I'm not ready for her to be wearing stuff from Justice and some of the other places her friends shop.

She had really wanted a pair of silver Uggs but I refused to pay $140 for a pair of kids shoes. Even I don't have a pair of shoes that cost that much. I know she was a little disappointed about not getting them as so many of her friends have them, but I told her when we go shopping we'll find something else for her, and next fall maybe she can get some Fuggs.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Want to Run

Last summer I started running again, ran a 15k Hot Chocolate and enjoyed it. I used to think runners were crazy but after finishing my first race, I got it. I live in Chicago and I don't like running in the cold I haven't. Problem is I miss it. I want to run.

I joined a gym in December to try and keep up an exercise routine. I don't like treadmills so used the ellipticals, but quickly got bored. I want to run.

I see people around my neighborhood running as I drive my kids to school. I think they are crazy for running when it is literally freezing outside, but I respect them. I wish I could do it. I want to run.

Chicago went 300+ days without snow so I was hopeful for an early spring. Mother Nature decided to dump a bunch of snow on us recently. Shoveling snow may make me break a sweat and burn some calories, but it's not good enough. I want to run.

My daughter's birthday is on Thursday and I've been using my few kid-free hours to buy presents and party stuff. Shopping is fun, but I want to run.

I don't count calories or even weigh myself but due to my laziness, clothes isn't fitting the way it should. I want to run.

Enough excuses. Just do it. Tomorrow I will drop the kids at school and I will run.

Little Reader Turns 9

This weekend we hosted our first slumber party. It was Little Reader's 9th birthday and she has been to two sleepovers at another friend's house, but this was the first time any of her friends spent the night at our house. She invited her 3 BFFs and they all came. The party started at 5PM and one of her friend's showed up on the dot. The other two didn't show up until 6 as their parents had misread the evite.

Once they had all arrived and finished the initial fits of giggles, I set them up to make T-shirts with fabric paint. I gave them the supplies and left them alone. One of their friends is known as the creative one, in no time we overheard comments praising how her shirt looked so nice, and better than theirs. I checked in periodically but the funny part was that by the time they were done each shirt represented their personalities perfectly.

I set up a seperate table for the foursome for dinner - pizza followed by ice cream cake and Nutella fudge. To drink - "cocktails" My daughters love the Welchs juices - especially mixing the white grape peach mango and the orange pineapple apple. I think it's overly sweet but I'm putting off allowing sodas as long as possible.

After dinner Little Reader opened her presents - a lava lamp, Apples to Apples game and a color your own messenger bag and panda bear. She loved them all. Once we got the little ones to bed, Little Reader and her friends played her new game and talked for a while. Finally they wanted to watch a movie and we hit the first glitch of the night. Little Reader had picked Princess Bride as her movie and despite the fact that we just bought the movie I couldn't find it. We have one of those turntable 400 disc players, but unfortunately you have to load the info yourself and for some reason this one never got labeled.  As hard as I tried I couldn't find it. We checked Netflix and found Princess Protection Program (or something like that) for them. One of them had seen it before and they all agreed on it. Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez instead of Robin Wright and Cary Elwes - no contest to me, but it was getting late and I wasn't going to fight this bunch. But in my passive aggressive way I will make sure to find it before the next sleepover ;)

The movie ended around midnight and Little Reader asked that we set up their beds.When I was a kid we slept on the floor in our sleeping bags. Little Reader had told me that their prior sleepover they had slept on sofas and beds but I assumed they all had sleeping bags. I got our pull out couch set up while my husband blewup the air mattress and told them to get their sleeping bags out and they all looked at me dumbfounded. They didn't have any. ????? Not sure why, but luckily we have a few extras due to Indian Princess. My husband and I left them and hoped that they would sleep in in the morning, especially given the time change.

No such luck, 3 of them never slept, and Little Reader came in asking for breakfast around 730 - no chance kid, see you later. 830, she and 2 of her friends were in my room. That was inappropriate (and I'll talk to her about that later). I sent them away, got up and started on homemade pancakes and bacon. 930 we had breakfast and they were all gone by 1030. Little Reader swore she wasn't tired after staying up all night, but dozed off by 1130 for 3 hours, got up had a late lunch, dozed off again, and then woke up for dinner, watched the Hawks game - they lost :( and then off to bed.

Bottom line - she had a great time and it was a very easy party.  Two years ago we had 10 kids at our house for a science party for two hours and were exhausted, this time it was 4 kids, 17 hours and pretty easy - aside from a little badgering to get breakfast started.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Sleeping Snowman

Last week Little Man and I made a snowman. Today's snow was not snowman snow, but after a few days of melting our original snowman was looking a little sad. We took him apart and reinvented him

4 Day weekend

Yesterday my kids had the day off from school as they hadn't used any of their allotted snow days. Today they have the day off because it is snowing. Glad I took them to Sky High yesterday do they could bounce off the walls there.

The Big 4-0

My husband turned 40 this weekend. I asked him a while back if he wanted a big party with friends and he said no. Still I wanted to do something more than our usual dinner out.

He was on call on his actual birthday so we just gave him his presents and had ice cream cake at home with the kids on Friday night and watched the Hawks game.

Saturday night he and I went out for dinner and downtown to see Book of Mormon. It's the story of elders in Uganda trying to convert the locals. One of the elders makes a connection with a local girl and tries to convert her. The problem is that he's not as well versed in the Book of Mormon as he should be and makes up a lot of it. It was totally irreverent and hysterical. I highly recommend it. Unless of course you are Mormon - then you will most likely find it insulting. This is not one of those shows where you come out singing the big number though, the music is good because the songs are funny but don't have the big notes of Les Mis or Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Sunday was a lazy day spent watching another intense Hawks game. They beat the Wings in an intense game to keep the streak going.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cajun Chicken with Pasta

Have you ever had one of the recipes where you know it has the potential to be really good, but you just can't get it right?  For me that was Cajun chicken.  A friend had posted her recipe on Facebook and no matter what I did it didn't turn out like I wanted.  I loved the idea of the spice with the creamy sauce but her recipe called for sour cream and mine always curdled.  Then I stumbled upon this recipe from Comfortably Domestic.  I combined the two and finally got what I was going for.

4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ¼ lbs.)
1 ½ Tbs. Cajun blackening spice (you can buy it in the spice aisle but I make my own using this recipe)
2 Tbs. butter, divided
1 Tbs. olive oil (or more if needed)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 C. (1/2 pint) thinly sliced red bell peppers
¼ C. dry white wine (or chicken broth)
1 ½ C. heavy cream
1 ½ C. freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese 
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
1 pound cooked pasta

1 Cook pasta according to package directions

2.  Season the chicken with the Cajun seasoning.  Add some EVOO to a warm skillet and brown the chicken.  Don't cook it completely as it will be cooking more in the sauce later.  Take it out with a slotted spoon when it looks like this.

3.  If the skillet looks dry, add a bit more olive oil. Re-heat the skillet over medium heat.
4.  Pour in the dry white wine (or chicken broth) into the skillet to deglaze the pan. (1-2 minutes)
5.  Add the garlic and peppers to the pan and sauté to soften and lightly caramelize, stirring occasionally. (1-2 minutes)
6.  Reduce heat to medium-low and pour the heavy cream to the pan with the pepper mixture, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
7.  Add the salt, pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of butter.
8.  Continue to stir the cream mixture while it simmers for 3-4 minutes. The cream will reduce slightly.
9.  Remove the peppers from the pan. Add the Monterey Jack to the cream sauce. Stir constantly until all the cheese has melted, and sauce is smooth. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings.
10.  Add the chicken and peppers back into the sauce and cook until done (another minute or two).  Serve over pasta.

Bragging Post

I usually don't brag a lot about my kids in my posts, but since this is also my personal journal once in a while I feel the need. I actually started this post ages ago but never got around to finishing it in the Super Bowl aftermath.

Super Bowl weekend is always a busy time in our house since we host a big party. This year to make it more hectic, Little Reader had two other events - Science Olympiad and her AIM exam. The Science Olympiad had a number of different events that 3-5th grade students competed in. She and her partner were doing the mystery box event. There were 15 different stations and at each one was a coffee can with an object inside it. The kids put their hands through a big tube sock attached to the coffee can to feel the object and try to determine its length, weight, material and what it actually was. They took turns feeling the objects (things like golf balls, rubber ducks, pieces of sponge, finger puppets, action figures, etc). She and her partner got 3rd place and only got 2 points less than the fifth graders who came in first. They each got a medal and certificate, were mentioned in the morning announcements Monday morning at school, and their names in the local paper. They were very excited and look forward to doing it again next year.

The next day before our party started I drove her down to a local college for her Achievement In Music exam on piano. It was her first time doing it do she was a little nervous but well prepared. The exam consisted of sight reading, repeating what the judge played by ear and also a written portion. She didn't get her score that day but later that week found out she'd gotten a near perfect score - 99.5 out of 100. When I told her she was naturally proud but also wondered what the deduction was for. Apparently on one of the sight reading portions she started on the wrong note but then corrected her mistake.

A very successful weekend for our Little Reader who is already looking forward to doing both events again next year.