Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

My duo 2011
I have no time for a real post today, but being that I'm a generous person and recognize some of you do not have to prepare for upwards of 500 trick-or-treaters, I thought I'd provide a "Halloween through the years" post.  

You're quite welcome.

Click through for a myriad of spooky costumes and ghoulish delights! 

Halloweens' Past - my duo pictured from 2003-2010. This made me laugh again this year. Tell me it's not just me?!? And just wait until you see this years costumes.  Oh my!

Green Halloween!? - discussing how to be "green" at Halloween. 

Wicked treats - yummy and cute Halloween treats (this predates Pinterest).

Carmel Apple Martini - as the title implies: yum! 

Candy Corn Fudge - again: yum!

What a mother will do - the longest and most gut-wrenching Halloween story ev-ah!

Death be not proud - for a good Halloween laugh!

I hope you all enjoy a ghoulishly good time this evening!!

Monday, October 29, 2012


My thoughts and prayers are with everyone on the East coast this morning.  
Be safe and God bless you!

via LikeCool

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Life lessons from Pinterest.

I joined Pinterest what seems like eons ago -- back when an invitation {albeit clearly not an exclusive one} was required. Since such time I've pinned well over 1,000 images to my 40 boards

In the beginning my pinning was fairly pointless and misdirected {witness my J'adore board - j'adore indeed, but what's the point}. As I've honed my pinning skills and limited my pinning time, however, I've become quiet adept at pinning that which I will use or refer back to and skipping over those items which belong on a crafty person's pin board. 

As I scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll though the images pinned by those I follow, a few consistent themes emerge: beyond the gorgeous home interiors and luxury travel destinations there seem to be a few other commonalities unifying the world of pinners. 

Top ten things I've learned from Pinterest: 

1. I am the only person in America who does not own a crockpot. 

I'm sure I'd love the meals you cook in the crockpot, but when I was young and returned home from school to the smell of dinner simmering in a crockpot I quickly sought out a dinner invitation to a friend's.  Ewwww. 

2. People are seriously devoted to obsessed with Nutella.

I'm a serious chocoholic, but Nutella just doesn't do it for me.

3. Women are inspired by images of semi-naked twenty-year old women.

Not me - those images remind me I will never, ever look like that {wish I could add "again"}.

4.  Chicken:  it's what's for dinner.

Here too.  And thank goodness for the 5,345 chicken images I've now pinned. 

5.  Armed only with blue Dawn, vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide, you can clean absolutely anything in your house.

 I admit, or rather, my housekeeper will attest: my homemade dawn/vinegar potion works better than any store-bought cleaner. 

6. There is a conspiracy among bento box mothers {you know who you are} to make sandwich mothers {sheepishly raising hand} feel insignificant and lazy. 

It's working.

7. I am the only mother in America who has not fallen prey to the Elf on the Shelf.

 Call me lazy if you must, but who needs one more thing to remember around the holidays!?

8. People cannot stop themselves from pinning cute kitty images.

An intervention may be in order.

9.  Keep Calm and _________________ {fill in the blank}.

Your imagination is your only limitation. Or not. 

10.  It doesn't matter if it's 5:00 anywhere; women love their wine. 

all images via Pinterest

Cheers and happy pinning!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm fragile.

You've heard Breakable by Ingrid Michaelson, right?! She sings about how we are quite fragile and quite breakable -- "Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts? Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts." 

Yes, I agree, we are fragile. More so than we'd even like to admit most days. 

But I disagree about my heart being protected by "rib bones and other various parts." 

Because, you see, I allow little parts of my heart to live outside my body. 

And there is virtually no protection for them. 

I cannot stay with them all day. 

I cannot protect them from the inevitable bumps and bruises of life. 

I cannot ensure they will not encounter pain. 

Real - feel it in your marrow - pain. 

In fact, I can virtually guarantee they will. 

Because you have to allow for growth and refinement. 

But it hurts . . . me when in hurts them. 

And, at times, I'd prefer to simply place them back inside my rib bones so I could keep them safe. 

Take the blows. 

And suffer the discomfort on their behalf. 

I can take it myself, but I can't stand watching them take it.

photo by N.Cole Photography
And so I'm looking for a bubble. Since they are now too big to place beneath my ribs, I'd like a large bubble in which I can encapsulate them so the world cannot affect their innate confidence and joie de vivre.  

Anyone found such a device?  


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mission Accomplished.

The Red Bull Stratos mission carried Felix Baumgartner to an altitude of over 128,000 feet -- more than 24 miles above the earth -- when the daredevil took the plunge into thin air. Despite a minor issue with his visor causing it to fog up unexpectedly, the ascent progressed as planned. 

The New Mexico weather even allowed a picture perfect ascent over Roswell.

via Discovery News
After the event, it was deduced that Baumgartner traveled in excess of Mach 1.4 (1.4 times the speed of sound) -- or 833 mph. Unfathomable. 

I am in awe of and completely humbled by this amazing accomplishment. 

Baumgartner's words - right before the leap - ring true: 
"[S]ometimes you have to go up really high to see how small you really are."

This makes me want to go skydiving again! And this time I'd like to go higher than 12,000 feet . . . though not quite 128,000!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Detox Diaries.

As many of you are aware, on October 1st I began a 10-day Fall Renewal Detox. Part of my detox journey involved journaling. I've never been much of a journaler - ironic coming from a blogger, right?!  - but here's my attempt at capturing the ups and downs of the last 10 days. 

a typical lunch
Detox Day 1: 

Why can I not stop thinking about pizza?!?  I don't eat pizza everyday so why in the world am I completely obsessed with counting the hours until I can eat pizza again? 

Detox Day 2: 

OMGoodness, I must be pregnant. This is exactly how I felt pregnant -- nauseous all day long. Of course I am completely infertile so that can't be it. Oh no, and now a headache on top of it. Coach says my body is working hard to rid itself of all the built-up toxins. But it's only day two! It's not as if one day of healthy eating is so novel it would throw my body for a loop.  Okay, maybe it is.  

Detox Day 3: 

Better. I can breathe again. And turn on lights. Yea! I'm feeling much better but nonetheless spend all day dreading dinner: brussel sprouts {which I love but which do not constitute dinner in and of themselves}.

Detox Day 4: 

I'm totally rocking this detox program. No big deal. I'm over the hump, feel great, and am not even hungry. Why don't more people detox? I even attended my book club {read: wine fest} and didn't eat or drink a single bite. Easy peasy. When a friend asked what I ate when I had a sweet tooth, I replied, with a straight face: I just grab a raisin or two. Who am I?

Detox Day 5: 

Who's idea was this? I am a nauseous, grumpy, gassy old lady. Bedtime cannot come soon enough. And it's only noon. Dark, dark day.

Detox Day 6: 

Feeling good again. Please tell me I'm over the hump!?!?  Please!!!  We are headed out of town for just a night. I am forced to cook {using every pot and pan I own} all meals prior to departure. I am so tired of my stinkin' kitchen! But getting out of the house is good. Until that is, I find myself sitting at our friends' ranch, enjoying the cool fall air and watching the sun set . . . without a glass of wine. Who does that?! 

Detox Day 7:

So very, very tired {and if you ask the hubs, grumpy}. Maybe I'm dying. Maybe it's not the detox or lack of caffeine. Because I'm over the hump, right?! Maybe I simply cannot live on gluten free oats, quinoa, beans, and kale. Because my body needs PIZZA to survive!

Detox Day 8: 

I've sworn off beans. The gassiness was making me manic. Yes, it was the beans. I was not heretofore manic. See, manic people don't say heretofore. NO MORE BEANS!!! Sent hubs and kids out to eat for dinner. I cannot possibly cook one more meal I cannot eat. Or maybe I just wanted them out of the house. It's anyone's guess. 

Detox Day 9:

I feel great. I'm not hungry. I am sleeping soundly and waking before the alarm {miracle of all miracles}. I am not craving anything at all. This was such a wonderful experience. I am going to start cooking three vegan meals / week for our family. Meanwhile as I make this enthusiastic plan, my kids eat sugary cereal for dinner. 

Detox Day 10:

Finally - the detox glow! My skin looks better. I feel better. And - the kicker - I put on a pair of skinny jeans and they are quite loose. Too big, actually. They better be after all this. Of course, the weight loss is temporary . . .  unless I make permanent changes.

And maybe I will, but not tonight because we are all going out for PIZZA {and wine}!     

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bathroom remodel.

When we purchased our 1928 home it was already quiet gorgeous. Besides reworking the entire foundation and spending oodles and oodles of money you'll never see {another story entirely}, the interior required no significant renovations.  

At the time. 

That was 2006 and I had three-year old twins. The kids' bath had only a tub -- a large jacuzzi tub which was perfect for bathing twins. We realized a renovation was inevitable, but when they are little it seems as if they will always be little. Right?!

Fast forward a few years and my duo no longer bathes each night, but showers. In my shower. 

It was time. 

And so we began planning the remodel. In 2009. 

Little Miss Thang helping me plan
the location of the new vanity. 
The space is small {old house} and has windows on two sides. The area between the front window and exterior wall {where the bath sits currently} is too narrow for a shower. Did I mention I don't have a bath tub in my bathroom either?! As this is the only bath in the house we felt resigned to a tub/shower combo instead of just a shower stall. Bummer, though, because keeping the shower in the same location as the existing tub would have saved a lot of heartache; not to mention money. 

Late in 2009 our plans get side-tracked. Maybe it was the hubs starting his own firm. Maybe it was fear of the Great Recession. Or maybe I just got used to the kids showering in my shower.  For whatever reason, our plans - complete with wallpaper, marble, fixtures and everything - sat untouched for more than two years.  

Late 2011, with nearly nine year-old twins, I realized we all needed a little privacy. 

Or was that just me?!  

Regardless, I called my good friend Brooke, designer extraordinaire, and asked that she order everything. Slight hitch - all those fixtures and wallpaper we picked out three years ago - yeah, they were discontinued. So much for timeless choices. So the design process began anew.

In early 2012 we demolished the space and began construction in earnest. 

Let me say at this point: sharing a shower with your children is one thing. Sharing a bathroom is entirely different. We started the remodel in February. In March I was only slightly annoyed it wasn't moving along a bit more quickly. By April, I was a frantic mess with much too much on my plate.   

But luckily, somehow, despite workers not showing up for weeks at a time, progress became evident.

By mid-July the renovation was complete, or rather, complete enough. We encountered more than our fair share if issues, delays, and budget crises, but we lived to tell the tale. 

And I adore the finished product. Our house is old and quiet traditional, but I wanted a younger, more modern vibe for my tweens' bath. I think we struck the perfect balance by using classic stone -- carrera marble -- for the counter top and floors, subway tiles {because I was too cheap to put marble in my kids' shower despite Brooke's urging} for the shower, classic fixtures, more modern wallpaper, and cleaner lines all around. 


Have you suffered through any harrowing remodeling projects? 

I'll likely take a break from the mess of construction {as with child birth, I need a few years to forget}, but up next: our kitchen. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Homemade Granola Bars

The thought behind handing our kids a granola bars is that it is healthy, right?! Better than a cookie at least?! Unfortunately, the list of ingredients in most pre-packed bars contain more that a few words I cannot pronounce. And possibly worse: many contain high fructose corn syrup.

But my kids love them and they are an easy, portable snack. 

Determined to find a better way to satisfy their hunger and my need to stay out of the kitchen at snack time, I discovered granola bars are quite easy to make at home . . . with ingredients you have on hand . . . and without much fuss.  Yes, it requires baking, but baking one or two batches may satisfy snack cravings for weeks to come! 

This recipe was originally featured on Weelicious {photo credit too}.  I tweaked my version as to allow for the fact that I only had 1/4, not a 1/2 cup, of honey handy, and no unsweetened coconut. Additionally, I'm trying to incorporate healthy oils so I opted for coconut oil opposed to canola oil.

The kids adored my version so much I'm not sure I'll ever try the original.  

Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars


4 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips {can substitute raisins or other dried fruit}
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar


Preheat oven to 325 F. 

Combine the first 5 {the dry} ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla extract, honey and agave nectar. Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir to combine. 

Place granola mixture on a parchment lined {or spilit pat}baking sheet and shape into a rectangle, about 13 x 9 x 1 inch thick. Bake for 40 minutes.

Allow to cool completely then cut into 3 x 1 inch bars.


What homemade snacks or easy fixes have you discovered?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Funny.

Have you seen the BLR or Bad Lip Reading videos on Facebook? A friend sent me a couple yesterday and I've been laughing ever since.  

If you have a few minutes or need a laugh take the time and choose one or more of the following.  They are quiet innocuous and equally hysterical regardless of your political views or affiliation.  

If you like Bad Lip Reading videos on Facebook you can find future funnies in your news feed.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Amy's Top Five: Chapter Books to Read with Kids.

I love to read.


I love the escape, the fantasy, the surprises, and the emotional releases books provide.

I love turning the pages, anticipating the next twist, and cheering for the underdog.

And what I've discovered in the past few years is that I also love reading with my children.

Yes, I enjoyed reading to my duo when they were wee little tikes. I enjoyed endured Where is Baby's Belly Button so many times the flap covering baby's belly button is nowhere to be found.

I also enjoyed teaching my duo to read. Watching their faces light up as they grasped a new sound and could put together -- Dog on a log -- was one of the true joys of motherhood.

But what I really love, is reading true children's literature with my children. My kids are quite competent readers on their own, but I still love cuddling in bed or on the couch and fully immersing ourselves - transporting all three of us to another world - through the imagery and prose of a really good book.

This list contains, in my humble opinion, a special class of literature: children's books which have as much to offer to adults as children.

I believe each book on this list weaves timeless and universal themes through eloquent prose; incorporating unexpected characters and intriguing plots. I am also not afraid to admit that every single one of them made me cry. Like a baby. Which is when Little Miss Thang grabs the books and takes a turn reading.

Amy's Top Five: Chapter Books to Read with Kids:  

In the book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon the main character, a young girl named Minli, decides to change the fortune of her very materially poor family. She embarks on a quest during which she meets many interesting characters - a talking goldfish, a dragon who cannot fly, greedy monkeys, a King, and many more. Minli's quick mind, generosity, caring, and selflessness eventually take her all the way to the one she seeks: the Old Man of the Moon. 

With this book, Grace Lin has created an entire magical world as well as an enchanting piece of literature. The language is filled with original similes based on Chinese culture, and the imagery that Ms. Lin creates is both vivid and powerful. The book is skillfully woven within a patchwork of Chinese legends. Ms. Lin reworks the legends to fit seamlessly into her engaging plot. Not a thread is out of place, and all the pieces fit smoothly together by the end of the story.  

Long after putting the book down, readers will still remember the story. And hopefully a few of us will truly digest the true secret to happiness revealed therein.

We could not read this book fast enough.  Upon completion Boy Genius aptly said: "I think that was the best book we've ever read." I tend to agree.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. 

A Wrinkle in Time has remained, to this day, one of my all time favorite books. My memory of reading this book as a child is so vivid it undoubtedly made an impact on me at the time. Years later, reading it with my duo, it did so again.

A Wrinkle in Time is a book that defies easy classification -- it isn't typical fantasy or sci-fi, it's a children's novel that integrates physics and philosophy into the story, and it's rife with religious symbolism. L'Engle also had a truly sublime writing style -- she wrote in a rich, almost sensual style with lots of little details that make you feel like you are actually present with the characters. This is a story where you can be instantly swept from our planet to a dark world filled with four-armed eyeless yetis, or a grey planet of perfect order, and somehow it feels wholly real.

A Wrinkle in Time is a novel that expanded my horizons as a young child and has done so again. As L'Engle says in her medal acceptance speech, "A book, too, can be a star, `explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,' a living fire to lighten the darkness leading out into the expanding universe."

What can I say that has not already been said? The Potter series is, quite simply: magical and this book is where the magic begins. I waited to read the series  with my children, not has the books were published. We started reading out loud together, but after we were swept into the world of Hogwarts with the Sorcerer's Stone, the kids left me in the dust and forged ahead solo. Boy Genius and Little Miss Thang read all seven books in a little under two months early this summer {it took me another six weeks to catch up}.

One of the best things about this book, and indeed about the whole series, is how Rowling plants details which, when reading, you may not necessarily pick up on, but are later rather important in later volumes. Who would think Griphook and Hagrid's admonition no one breaks into Gringotts would have such prominence in Book 7? Or the importance of Harry being able to talk to the boa constrictor, something which is not referenced again until Book 2 and then not fully explained until Book 7? Or the Invisibility Cloak, a device first introduced in this novel, but you have no idea of its importance, or even that it has real significane, until Book 7. 

Rowling is the undisputed queen of her genre, and an inspiration on how it's done. With this series she has most certainly proven that good fiction doesn't have to be snooty or pretentious to be classic.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

In The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane we are given a glimpse of arrogance gone wild. The china doll is made to feel special and is loved so much by his owner that he can't conceive he holds any other position than the center of the universe. Then, in an unexpected event, Edward Tulane is thrust into the depths of despair and only thru the kind acts of others is he taught the meaning of love.

Each of his various handlers and owners throughout his journey contribute to Edward's salvation in a small way. And through his journey we all learn about the redemptive, transformative, and enduring power of love.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

Part of this novel's brilliance is the fact that the author makes a heroine out of a spider: a creature that many people probably regard with fear. White's Charlotte is a truly remarkable character from whom we learn truths about love, friendship and sacrifice.

White's witty, compassionate prose style is an ideal vehicle for telling the story of Charlotte and her friends. Charlotte's Web is a masterful blend of whimsy, humor, gentle satire, and life-and-death drama. But above all, it is a powerful story of friendship. Deeply moving and superbly written, this is a book which, I believe, will always endure as a treasured classic.

Have you and your children read any enduring  books that touched you as much, or possibly more, than your children?

Please share them with me in the comments below! 

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