Saturday, January 31, 2009

We Finally Did It!

Unfortunately, Circuit City is going out of business. This means they're having some good sales. Because of this, we finally got a digital camera. So, as soon as we figure out how to use it, there will be some pictures of our own on here! This will also be good for the grandparents who live so far away because they won't have to wait for us to get film developed anymore!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Jacques Pepin

It astounds me that there are so many people who don't know who Jacques Pepin is, so I am going to tell you right now. :)

Jacques Pepin is my favorite chef. He's been around for a very long time, is extremely talented, and seems to be very down to earth. He cooks very complicated fancy food, and very simple food. I have two of his cookbooks, and I use them often. They are "Fast Food My Way" and "Simple and Healthy Cooking". He has a brand new cook book out called "More Fast Food My Way", and there is a television series based upon the recipes on public television. Although I don't have the techniques to make food quite as fast as he, the recipes are certainly doable as weekday evening meals, and many of them are nice enough to be presented as special meals as well.

My favorite recipe from the books I own is from "Fast Food My Way", and it is Stuffed Scallops on Mushroom Rice.

I don't own "Jacques Pepin Celebrates", but in this book, he shows you how to cook a fish in pastry that you shape and mark like a fish, as well as how to make a Buche de Noel, which is a Yule log cake. He shows you how to make chocolate bark for the log, made a branch, and even meringue mushrooms.

He is renowned for his techniques, and his book, "La Technique" is a textbook at the French Culinary Institute where he is the Dean of Special Programs, as well as anywhere the fundamentals of French cuisine are taught. In this book, for which there is also a video, he shows basic techniques of cooking and lots and lots of knife work. In one of my favorite segments, he shows you how to carve fish out of mushrooms as a garnish.

Public television gets all its money from its viewers, and they offer incentives to get you to pledge money. Well, a few years ago, I was so sorry that I wasn't rich. They were offering a day of cooking with Jacques Pepin, then dining with him, with wines paired with each meal... for $500 per person. Ah well. Maybe when I win the lottery.

If you'd like to know more about Chef Pepin, you can read the entry on Wikipedia, which is very informative, and his books are all available at bookstores and on

Thursday, January 29, 2009

CPSIA Ruling Disasterous

This thread in the etsy forums suggests a Blog in to fight the CPSIA rulings. I am cutting and pasting the well written information.

As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.To the Avid Reader:Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.

Article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.To the Second-Hand Shopper:Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react.

Picture Exchange Communication and Picture Schedules

My son has grown increasingly frustrated and has begun throwing tantrums every time we need to change what we're doing. In therapy, they call this transition. Even though we give him verbal preparation that we're going to take a bath in fifteen minutes or we're going to go out shopping in ten minutes, and remind him as the time gets closer and give specific information like we're going to get on your coat and your shoes, he gets very upset. This is a new behavior, and it has been difficult to deal with. Almost always, I am able to stay very calm and tell him that I understand that he is upset, but this is what we need to do. Unfortunately, it also leads to me physically doing things for him, and sometimes pulling him places or carrying him, because I do not want to teach him that tantrum=getting what he wants. However, I am sure that a lot of his tantrum has to do with his delays, and I try to be very understanding as well. Firm but gentle, I suppose, is what I try to be. It's so hard to tell with a non verbal child with global developmental delays how much of what they're doing is behavioral and how much is part of their learning disability. I have handled this by treating him like a normally developing child, expecting good behavior from him and using warnings, simple language (saying look at me, listen, and then asking if he understands as per his therapists' and teachers' instructions to me), and then time outs if non-compliance continues. Generally, three strikes and he's in time out. I also try to be extremely consistent so that any threats I make, I follow through on when I say I will, and I only threaten to do things that I will actually do...take a toy away, make him walk instead of ride in the little supermarket cart car, etc.
My son only says two words or so, and he's nearly four, so he has MUCH greater communication needs. We have been working on sign language, but he's slow to catch on with signs, and his physical limitations prevent him from making the signs clear, which sometimes just creates even more frustration because even if we know what he's saying, his teachers may not, and even we can't always tell what he's trying to tell us.
The newest augmentative communication device we're going to start is called PEX or PECS which is picture exchange. You put a bunch of pictures out on a board with velcro, and he brings you the picture of what he wants or needs. We've tried this in the past, and again, he was slow to catch on, and it was difficult to figure out which pictures to use. However, now that he's been doing it in school, it should be easier to carry over to home. It would be so nice to be able to have him tell me what he did in school since he doesn't even answer yes and no questions most of the time. Also, we're hoping that putting up a picture schedule will help him to be more aware of what's coming up next, and hopefully, this will ease some of his apprehensions and frustrations and the tantrums will stop. I would even love if we could use it to ask where a boo boo is...if he's in pain, or something hurts, or he's sick, maybe he could tell us what's wrong then.
Has anyone else ever used either of these systems or something else that worked well? I'd love to read about it if you have.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Male American Goldfinch in Summer and Winter

My son made an adorable bird feeder in school the other day. It's a yellow pipe cleaner with fruit loops laced onto it. As soon as he got home, we hung the feeder in the tree outside. I was hoping at least one bird would come and taste it, but no such luck yet. And today, we've got such wet weather, I don't think there will be much left of his feeder by day's end.

However, looking out the window this morning with him, we saw some birds that I couldn't immediately identify. So, I got out my handy bird book. They looked like some sort of finch, but I wasn't sure. I was very surprised to learn that they were American Goldfinches, because they looked so different from what I was used to. In the summertime, they have bright yellow feathers. However, in winter, they have drab colored feathers. How interesting!

Here is some interesting information about the American Goldfinch from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website.
The American Goldfinch changes from winter plumage to breeding plumage by a complete molt of its body feathers. It is the only member of its family to have this second molt in the spring; all the other species have just one molt each year in the fall.

The American Goldfinch is one of the latest nesting birds. It usually does not start until late June or early July, when most other songbirds are finishing with breeding. The late timing may be related to the availability of suitable nesting materials and seeds for feeding young.

The American Goldfinch is gregarious throughout the year. In winter it is found almost exclusively in flocks. In the breeding season it feeds in small groups. Whether it maintains breeding territories is debatable.

The American Goldfinch is mostly monogamous, but a number of females switch mates after producing a first brood. The first male takes care of the fledglings while the female goes off to start another brood with a different male.

American Goldfinch information and pictures accessed 1/28/09 from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, All About Birds,

Thanks for Reading!

(Read on to see why there's a photo of a Northern Flicker at the top of this post. :) Then read all the way to the bottom for the credit for the beautiful photo.)

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the folks who stop by and read my blog. I truly appreciate it. And while visiting all of you, I've read so many interesting things that I thought would be great to comment on! I just wish I had more time to leave comments for everyone, but I do read. :)

I was reading a blog about 2012 and the predictions about the world coming to an end...I've seen many programs on that, and it's really sort of freaky, but the world simply can not end because I have plans to go see the solar eclipse in 2017...and I hate to think about anything terrible happening to my children, so I hope it's a duddy like Y2K. OR I read on about a harmonic convergence in 2012...that would be much nicer than world destruction. Very cool!

I also read a blog where Aldon Hynes wrote 25 random things about himself, and I thought it was so interesting that I had many things in common because of the variety of items. You can read it yourself at

There are many faith filled blogs as well that I truly enjoy, and they confirm my belief that God has a plan (I think it's like the military...I'm on a need to know basis, and apparently, God doesn't think I need to know very much...sometimes I am very grateful for this). So, God has a plan, and I have faith that I am exactly where I am supposed to be doing precisely what I'm supposed to be doing.

I also visited a wonderful blog by Alan Henry about birding in the Falkland Islands with photos of albatrosses and petrels. If you'd like to see the pictures, visit I remember reading The Mariner's Tale in grammar school, and I'd always wanted to see an albatross. There are so many other pages on this blog I'd like to visit, and I know my husband will love to see all the pictures too since he loves birds and wildlife as much as I do.

Speaking of birds, I saw a Northern Flicker in the tree outside my kitchen window yesterday. It was the first time I'd ever seen a Northern Flicker, and I was rather impressed with myself that I recognized the bird after having ascertained his or her identity in my birding book. :)

Another interesting read, which was also posted on the orient-lodge blog, is why people blog. I personally blog because I love to write. I don't have a lot of time for myself with two young children, and this is something I do for me. If I can be helpful to someone in any way at all, that makes it even better. If I can eventually make a little money while staying home with my children, that would be nice too. Mostly, I blog out of enjoyment. So, thanks again for reading what I have to write, and keep writing! :)

Here is the information about the beautiful picture of the Northern Flicker:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Solar Eclipse

There is going to be a total solar eclipse today, but it will only be visible over parts of India, Eastern Asia, and Indonesia. What a bummer...unless you're over there. :) The next solar eclipse that will be visible from the U.S. will happen on August 21, 2017. It will be partially visible from New York, but if we want to see the total eclipse, we'll have to head out to the Midwest or down south. Wikipedia has a neat little illustration of the path that the shadow of the moon will take on that day at,_2017.

I am seriously considering planning a trip to see that. My kids will be 9 and 12...what a memory that would be (unless it's cloudy!!!!!!). I've never seen a total solar eclipse myself. The closest I got was in May of 1994 when there was a total eclipse that passed over New York about 5 hours north of where I was. So, I got a decent view of a partial eclipse. I built a box projector to view it. I got an empty box, made a tiny hole in it, and put a piece of white paper on the ground. Then I set up the box so that the sun shone through the little hole, and its image was projected on the paper. It was really cool to see the sky darken in the middle of the day. Next time there's an eclipse, or if you're lucky enough to be going to East Asia today, you might want to consider picking up a pair of eclipse shades. They're available at You can use them even if there's not an eclipse to see sunspots. Cool, huh?

"To the whole world you might be just one person, but to one person you might just be the whole world."

This is a quote from Joseph Campbell that I got in my Baby Weekly update of what my daughter should be doing at 15 weeks. What a beautiful quote.

It's good to get the big picture of the world, but it's also important to focus on what's happening right where you are. John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I'm thinking about having to move in a year to get my son into a better school district. The school district we're in isn't very good to begin with, but after talking to all my son's therapists, I've also found out that it has one of the worst, most disorganized special education programs. So, although I was thinking of hanging around long enough to send him to kindergarten and first grade here, I'm having second thoughts about it as I don't want him to fall any further behind than he already is. Right now he's in a private school, and will be there for another year and a half. So, we have that long to find a new place. The best school district for special education services happens to be my cousin's school district, and so I'm going to be asking her advice about neighborhoods. E, if you're reading this, do you have any advice about neighborhoods in your school district? :D

But what I'm doing RIGHT NOW, besides typing, is sitting next to my daughter who is finally getting some sleep after being up most of the night because she has the cold that's been making its rounds through the family. I need to make sure that her little nose stays clear so that she can eat and not become dehydrated. So, I guess right now I'm her whole world. Isn't that a nice thought?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Really Cute Favors!!!

I think these are the cutest favors. I found them three years ago, or so, when I was looking for a favor for my son's Christening. They're made by the Tender Seed Company
I didn't want to get something someone would need to find a place for, and there are so many people on diets, I didn't want to get chocolate or candy either. I found what I thought was the perfect solution. A paper shape that has seeds embedded in it. It's decorated as a favor, and comes with a keepsake card. In the Spring, the shape is planted, the paper disintegrates, and the seeds germinate. Really neat! AND they're really inexpensive...most of them are around $2 each.
My daughter is being Christened in March, and so I decided to get the same type of favor. Now they have some new shapes and lots of new sayings, and a new way of packaging them.

They also have some beautiful sayings to choose from:

Guarded with tenderness,
guided with love,
gently watched over from heaven above.
Happily awake or safely at rest,
may our precious baby be forever blessed.

Children are sweet miracles sent by God above
To fill the world with goodness
and the blessings of His love.

The holy angels all rejoice
On your baptism day.
Our Father reaches out to you
With love that leads the way.
The Holy Spirit rests on you
And lives within your heart.
He'll walk with you down every path
And nevermore depart.
The Savior's arms are open wide,
Surrounding you with peace.
May all your days be filled with hope,
And may your joy increase.

Two little eyes to look to God.
Two little ears to hear His word.
Two little feet to walk in His ways.
Two little lips to sing His praise.
Two little hands to do His will,
and one little heart to love Him still.

Which one do you like best? Let me know, and then I'll tell you which one we chose!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ten Things That Have Worked for Me So Far in My Journey to Better Health

1. Writing down what I eat.

It's so easy to underestimate how much I eat, and writing everything down helps me to police myself. This brings me to

2. Measure and weigh what I eat.

Admittedly, this is a pain in the kazoo. However, like I said, it's easy to underestimate how much I eat, and if I weigh and measure everything, then I know that I'm eating proper portions.

3. Know the nutritional value of what I eat before I eat it.

In Weight Watchers, this is points...Points are a ratio that is determined by the caloric value of a food and how much fat it contains and how much dietary fiber it contains. The higher the calories and fat and the lower the dietary fiber, the higher the points. The lower the calories and fat and the higher the fiber, the fewer the points. Anyway, as my leader says, once you put something in your mouth, you own it, so it's good to know what you bought. Figuring out everything beforehand allows for making the decision of whether a food is worth spending points on. This brings me to

4. Planning. I have to plan what I eat...not necessarily every meal every day (although that would be best), but I plan to have only things in the house that I probably will not overeat and that are mainly low in points so that I can eat enough food and be satisfied (that means no Oreos LOL).

5. Being satisfied comes from eating foods I like. I eat foods I enjoy, that leave me feeling satisfied, so that I don't have to worry about feeling deprived and then going on a binge to make up for all I missed. I like chocolate. I've tried many times to stop eating it altogether, but that has always had dire consequences. So, I have 100 calorie packs of Hostess cupcakes, Keebler cookies, and my very favorite GIANT cookies and cream bar by Weight Watchers. I've also found fruits and vegetables that I love, and those make me happy too.

6. Preparing for success. I cut all the leftover dessert that I didn't send home with the guests after my party on Sunday into appropriate portions, put each portion in a ziplock baggie, and put it into the freezer. So, when I feel like having something from this stash, it's already portioned out, it's frozen so it either needs to defrost or I have to eat it more slowly because it's frozen, and it's in the freezer where I don't go very often, so it's less tempting.

7. Exercise. I still don't do this enough. Being sick earlier in the week threw me for a loop, and I got out of my routine. However, lifting a 70 pound stroller in and out of the car several times a day and transporting two children in and out of it and car seats and chasing around a three year old, and walking up four flights of stairs with laundry several times does count as some exercise, but aerobics and weight training would be better. I promise to get back into the routine today.

8. Drinking water. I don't like water all that much, but I do like 4C flavor packets and Crystal Light flavor packets...especially the berry ones. My husband likes the iced tea flavored ones. That helps to make sure I get all the water I need, and it's not a struggle since I actually enjoy the taste of the drink.

9. Experimenting with new healthy foods. I bought just the other day when I went food shopping, cous cous, ancho chillies, and lentils. I've never cooked with any of these things, but to keep my meals interesting, I have decided to branch out into some new areas to see what other healthy foods are out there that I may like. I love to watch cooking shows and I love, and so I'll be going there to get some ideas of what to do with these new ingredients.

10. Make a new committment every day. Take health one day at a time, see the big picture, recommit to health every single day, sometimes more than once. It's not good to wait until Monday to start again if it's only Wednesday because I slipped up. I may as well start again that very minute...why not? As Dottie from Dottie's Weigh Loss Zone says, "One day at a time, no guilt, and move on." Go visit her at She's a real person who has struggled to take off weight, put it back on, and is now working her way down once again.

Well, okay,

11. One more. Support. I have a wonderfully supportive family, and I also enjoy attending the Weight Watchers meetings. The leader is great, and lost 109 pounds herself. The people in the meeting are also lovely and supportive as well, and it always helps to know you're not alone. Thanks too to Cindy and Carole on here, who are also working their way to better health and documenting it on their blogs.

Thank God for My Two Boos

Last night I saw a horribly tragic news story. A group of preschoolers were walking back from a field trip to the library. A delivery van double parked nearby to make a delivery. The driver got out, and kept the van running. He thought he had it in park, but it was actually in reverse. The van backed up onto the sidewalk, right where the children were walking. Two children were killed (one was 3 and one was 4), and one is in critical condition in a local hospital. I turned off the news immediately. I was so horrified and upset. I know these things happen, but having a child the same age made it seem worse, if that's possible. I went into my sleeping son's room, stood over his crib, and stroked his back and cried, thanking God that he was safe in his bed. I thought about how much I worry about my son, and what will happen to him, and how you never know what will happen to your children whether they are normally developing or not. I thought about the poor parents who had to stand over an empty bed that night. I was also doing laundry, and I thought, how happy I was that my son and daughter are still here for me to dress in these clothes, and I thought about the parents washing their children's clothes, knowing they would no longer need them. It took me a long time to settle down to sleep last night, and I uttered many prayers of thanksgiving to God for my two precious Boos.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How We See Health Insurance Companies....How Health Insurance Companies See Themselves

Health insurance is a necessary evil. Oh, how I need, but hate health insurance companies. As the mother of a child with various developmental and health issues, I have had my fill of dealings with various insurance companies. Most recently, my husband's job forced us to change insurance companies because they didn't want to have to pay higher premiums (I'm happy they didn't just pass them on to us, so it's a better deal, I guess). And so, I have to go through the process once again of getting pre-approved for my son's extremely expensive medication. And of course, the folks at the health insurance company don't have a clue what they're doing. I called to talk to a customer care representative, and figured, well, let me try not going directly to a supervisor just yet because I haven't had a problem yet... I was told that I didn't need to have the medication re-approved if the process had already been completed with another insurance company. Also, since the same pharmacy would be involved, they would already have all the information about the pre-approval, and all they'd have to do was update the insurance information. Well, that sounded much too good to be true since I had to fight tooth and nail to get this medication approved the first time around because it's extremely expensive...about 20-30,000 dollars per year. I had to call the insurance company every day for several weeks, talking to supervisor after supervisor to find out what was taking so long to get an answer, and to find out what paperwork never made it from whom to whom, etc. It was a nightmare, to say the least. So, to hear that all I had to do was update my insurance information, and this from the insurance company, well, it was like an episode from the Twilight Zone. But, being of good faith, or naivete, I decided to give it a try. I called the pharmacy and they said, oh noooooo they needed approval paperwork from the insurance company before they could proceed with shipping out the medication. Now, already there's been a delay because it took nearly a month for the insurance company to send us our new cards, and we can't do a blessed thing without those cards. Anyway, I've done all I can do so far in contacting the doctor's office, sending them what they need, telling them what they need to do, and getting in touch with the pharmacy to make sure they've done their part. I have to recheck every single day to make sure everyone has done what they were supposed to do. I only have a couple weeks of medication left, so it has to be expedited. What a pain. But, I love my son, and I will do whatever it takes to take good care of him. I've become a much more aggressive person since having my son and having to be an advocate for him...maybe I should thank the insurance companies for strengthening my a subscriber, I suppose that I am a necessary evil for them too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Honey Baked Ham

There are Honey Baked Ham stores all over the country, but there isn't one within a two hour's drive of where I live. I used to live on Long Island, and used to have my choice of two stores. Admittedly, these hams are expensive. However, they are absolutely delicious...the best part is the outside where they torch some sort of sweet mixture like brown sugar and honey into a hard glaze. As you pull apart the spiral sliced ham, pieces of this coating chip off, and when you eat them, they melt ever so delicately in your mouth. Well, I was reading their website one day trying to find a closer store (unsuccessfully), and saw that they will ship a ham. Naively, I thought that would be great. Unfortunately, and I should have been able to figure this out for myself, the coating is all melted by the time the frozen ham defrosts in the fridge, and is, for all intents and purposes, gone by the time it is served. WHAT A BUMMER!!! It did still taste quite good, but not better than something I could have made myself without a terrible amount of time or effort, and it was not worth the expense. So the new question is, is it worth a four hour round trip drive? I'll have to think about that one...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday Weigh-In

Well, following along with Cindy and Carole, I am posting my progress toward health. This week I lost 6 pounds. I'm sure the stomach virus helped, although I did work hard all week to meet my goals. Nice reward! :) That's 31 down and 93 to go.
I saved up each and every extra point and each and every activity point for the family Christmas party we hosted on Sunday, which was a lot of fun. It's always so very nice to get together with family, and I am particularly blessed with a wonderful, loving family.
I don't think that if I repeat my dinner post this week, it will be all that interesting since last night I didn't eat any dinner at all, and tonight I had a piece of toast with a little bit of butter and currant jelly. My awesome and silly husband told me that it was the most up to date jelly he could find in the fridge (current jelly ha ha ha). He stayed home today and took care of me and the kids. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Technical Difficulties and the Inauguration

Well, Sunday there was an internet server outage in my area, and by the time it was up and running again on Monday afternoon, my internet still wasn't working. The fine folks at Optimum Online figured out that I had a bad ethernet cable, but I couldn't pick up a free one from their store until Tuesday because they were closed for the holiday. Then I came down with the stomach virus that's been going around. But, I'm back, hurray!

While I was standing on line waiting for my cable, I got to see the inauguration. Aretha Franklin sang, "My Country 'Tis of Thee". Then, a musical arrangement by John Williams of "Air and Simple Gifts" was played soulfully by Itzhak Perlman, (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet). Then President Obama took his oath, and made a mistake. Someone on the line said, "He must be nervous." I said, "Wouldn't you be?" And I thought, thank God he's nervous. For better or for worse, we have a new president, who I hope and pray will do his best to lead us through some of the most challenging times in the history of our country.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yummy Dinners

What we had for dinner this week:

Grilled chicken Caesar salad. I marinated two Purdue perfect portion breasts in olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. I baked them, then broiled them for a couple of minutes to make them brown and crispy. I sliced them and put them over spring greens with Caesar salad dressing, croutons, and some freshly shredded parmesan cheese.
9 1/2 points.

Pork tenderloin marinated in terryaki marinade with sesame seeds broiled and served with baby greens with homemade red wine vinegar dressing.
8 points

2/3 of a sausage roll from the pizzeria
8 points

Mushroom Veloute (velvety cream of mushroom soup)
from Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way Cookbook (see recipe below)
4 points

Pork Chops with Party Hats and mashed potatoes (see previous post for recipe)
7 points

What did you have for dinner this week?

Jacques Pepin's Mushroom Veloute with Almonds

(I couldn't find the cloud ear mushrooms, so I used plain button mushrooms once, and a variety of wild mushrooms another time...I've substituted onions for the shallots, and cream and milk for the half and half...Jacques always says make recipes with whatever you have on hand, and that's how new recipes are born, so that's what I do, and it makes for nice variety. I also omitted the almonds because I do not like them unless they're in a Hershey Bar. AND since I don't have a hand mixer and my food processor is tiny, I used a regular blender, which worked just fine.)

Yield: about 4 servings

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup sliced shallots
1 Tbsp sliced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 pound button mushrooms (Preferably older ones with open gills)
1-2 pieces dried wood ear mushrooms (also called tree ear or cloud ear),
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 cup half-and-half

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until softened, then add the flour and stir well. Stir in the stock, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, wash the button mushrooms and chop them coarsely. (You should have about 7 cups). Add them to the stock with the dried tree ear mushroom. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, to low, and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, remove and discard any tough roots from the tree ear and chop it coarsely. (You should have about 1/4 cup)

Saute the almonds in a small, nonstick saucepan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes stirring often, until they are lightly toasted. Take them out of the pan immediately.

When the soup is cooked, emulsify it until smooth with a hand blender or in a food processor. At serving time, add the half and half to the soup and bring it back to a boil (you will have about 6 cups) Divide amount four soup bowls, and serve hot with a sprinkling of the tree ear mushroom and sliced almonds on top.

Pepin, Jacques. Fast Food My Way, (2004). Mushroom veloute with almonds, page 50-51.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weight Watchers

Well, I wasn't going to write about joining Weight Watchers to get healthier, but other folks have been posting their progress on their blogs, and have offered extra support, and asked for support for themselves as well. So please cheer me on, and then go cheer on Carole who hosts Carole's Thoughtful Spot and Cindy who hosts Fenced in Family’s Wednesday Weigh In too! If we all help each other, then I hope that we will all meet with success in the form of good health.

I've joined Weight Watchers a million times. I had always been overweight, and then one year, a combination of health and circumstances resulted in a significant weight gain that I have not been able to reverse. My problem has been that I keep giving up. I lose weight much more slowly than most folks, and I get discouraged because I work so hard and don't see results others do. I've been to several specialists, and have been told that I may never lose the weight. I was told to focus on health. And so, that is what I have decided to do.

Since I've been nursing, I have been able to lose 26 pounds because of increased metabolism, which is wonderful. Of course, when I stop nursing, my metabolism will likely return to the level it was before. So, since I plan to nurse for a year or so, I would like to see if I can lose some weight and then just try to keep going later on. When I am not nursing and am exercising and eating properly, I can expect to lose about 1/4 pound each week. So we'll see how it continues to progress.

I joined Weight Watchers 2 1/2 weeks ago. The first week I lost 3 pounds, which is the most I've ever lost the first week, and that's after 23 pounds lost without Weight Watchers and the holidays and everything. I was very lax the second week, and I gained a surprise...oh, how easily it comes back. This week, I have been tremendously focussed, and am hoping for a good result.

I am very blessed with the most wonderful husband in the world who loves me no matter what and supports me in my efforts without judgement or criticism.

So, here is what I have been doing differently. I cleaned out my fridge and cabinets so that anything I chose to eat will fit nicely into the program. I have a scale to weigh portions to ensure that I am diligent in portion control. I also have large measuring utensils for serving appropriate portion sizes. My fridge is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and cheeses, 1% milk, and desserts like Weight Watchers Giant Cookies n Cream bars (see picture above), which taste like the middle of a Carvel Ice Cream Cake and are absolutely delicious (thank you Carole for introducing them to me!!!!!). My cabinets have healthy oils, lots of herbs and spices, 100 calorie pack bags of chips, crackers, and cookies, fruit leathers (sort of like a grown up version of a fruit roll-up), and whole grain breads and crackers. I have everything that we like to eat, so I do not feel deprived. I love to cook and am at home, so I make lots of wonderful vegetable soups, vegetable stir fry, lots of wonderful, flavorful, healthful dishes that are satisfying.

I also have yummy diet drink mixes, because I don't like diet soda. I like Crystal Light and 4C's berry mixes. So, again, they're yummy, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.

I've been doing my Walk Away the Pounds tape except for the past couple of days because I've been spending any free time I have cleaning for our holiday party on Sunday. But, any activity counts, so it'll have to do for now.

So, good luck to all of us in our quest for health and being good examples for our children!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


There are some days I get hung up on thinking about the future and worrying about my nearly four year old son. Will he ever learn to eat and talk? What will happen to him when he grows up? I start to feel bad that he has to work so hard to do what comes naturally to other children. Then there are days when I remember to take life one day at a time, and appreciate the fact that we get to celebrate achievements that most people probably take for granted.

The other day I was so proud of my son that I nearly kissed him to death. He walked up three flights of stairs using alternating feet. He took his coat off almost all by himself (I had to hold on to the sleeves while he slipped out his arms). AND he drank his formula from a cup for the first time!!!!! Then today he got a wipe and pretended to change his sister's diaper. It was adorable.

The picture above happens to be his baby feet...aren't they cuuuuuute?????

My son is the sweetest, most affectionate child in the world, and even though we have our challenging moments, I thank God every day for him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Tradition of Yogi Berra

While I was out running errands with my daughter this morning, I decided to give my Mom a call, as I do very nearly every day. She told me she would call me right back because she was just finishing a conversation with her next door neighbor. After we hung up, I realized that I hadn't told her that I wasn't home. I called her back a couple of minutes later to tell her this. She then asked me where I was, and I replied, quite sincerely, "On my cell phone." I realized how silly I sounded the second it came out of my mouth, and we had a good laugh.

I have decided to consider this an homage to Yogi Berra, who is well known for making statements that I believe didn't come out quite the way he intended. Here are some of my favorites:

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Half the lies they tell about me aren't true.

If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

It's like deja-vu, all over again.

The future ain't what it used to be.

And probably his most famous:

It ain't over till it's over.

Well, this post is over.

Caricature of Yogi Berra done by Jerry Breen, copied from his website

Pork Chops in Party Hats

The other night I made this dish for dinner with fresh Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. It's one of my husband's very favorite recipes that his Mom made while he was growing up. Instead of pork chops, I cut up a lean pork tenderloin and trimmed off any visible fat. Besides being absolutely delicious, this dish is easy, inexpensive, relatively healthy, is easy to prepare, and has just about the cutest name for a recipe I've ever seen.

Pork Chops in Party Hats

4 pork chops
1 onion sliced into rings
1 pepper, seeded and sliced into rings
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 can water

Heat oil in pan. Brown pork chops on both sides. Place onion and pepper rings on top of pork chops. Pour soup and 1 can of water over all. Bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer 45 minutes until pork is very tender. Serve over mashed potatoes.

If you've never thought about putting party hats on your pork chops, it might just be time for you to try it. Yum, yum, yum.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Michael Crichton

I'm still mourning the loss of Michael Crichton. He passed away from cancer this past November. Most people know who he is. He wrote Jurassic Park, Twister, and ER. He is my favorite author. He was a brilliant man, and a brilliant weaver of stories. I can't believe I'll never be able to read another new Michael Crichton book. There are other authors who write in his style of weaving fact and fiction together creating terrifying or exciting possible realities, but nobody is quite the same. I've read all of his fiction books, except for one...State of Fear. This book has so many characters and locations, that by the third chapter I was hopelessly lost. I will definitely try again to read this least it will be something new. There are also two non-fiction books of his I have yet to read...Jasper Jones, which is his exploration and comments on the works of this artist, and Electronic Life, which is about computers.

Jurassic Park is the first book I read. I remember sitting at my college job where I taught English as a Second Language, and my boss was reading this book. I found the cover interesting...a T Rex skeleton. I asked him about the book, and he said it read like a screenplay...and sure enough, soon afterwards, it became a movie, as everyone knows. I read that book in just a few hours...I walked while reading it all over campus, read it through my acting class, read it while I was supposed to be working...I very simply could not put it down. And so I was hooked on Michael Crichton's writing from that day forward. If you've never read a Michael Crichton book, please do. I enjoy the movies based on his books as well, but of course, they are no where near as exciting or detailed as the books. Best of all, I always feel as if I've learned something when I finish one of his books. He explores so many different subjects from medicine, ethics, law, history, and exploration to engineering. So, do yourself a favor, and read a Michael Crichton book. Any one will do. And say a prayer for him, his family, and all the people who are mourning the loss of this brilliant and talented man.

Here is the tribute from his web page:

In Memoriam

Michael Crichton

1942 - 2008

Best-selling author Michael Crichton died unexpectedly in Los Angeles Tuesday, November 4, 2008 after a courageous and private battle against cancer. While the world knew him as a great story teller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us -- and entertained us all while doing so -- his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes. He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget. Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand. He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world. Michael's family respectfully asks for privacy during this difficult time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 Action Plan

I'm a fan of Oprah Winfrey's shows, and was looking forward to her Best Life series last week. However, since I was too busy playing with my kids, I only got to see Monday's show. I had wanted to see the show with Suze Orman, as she gives practical and easy to understand advice on money management. I have one of her books about how to be a wealthy woman, and I began reading it last year. We moved in August, and I have not been able to find the book since. I liked some of the advice, but some I didn't care for. Volunteering time was looked down upon because there is no income involved, and time is money. However, being raised with Christian values, this gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Of course, as far as advice goes, I always filter it, and take what I like and leave the rest.

I'm happy to report that Suze Orman has published a new book to read until I can find my other one. On Oprah's website is a link to download Suze Orman's latest book for free. It is her plan for 2009, and how to manage finances in this new era of fiscal crisis.

Managing finances has never been one of my strong points (to say the least), and this combined with some of the very worst financial luck a person can face has brought me to a firmer understanding of what I must learn. I'm looking forward to reading this new book, and seeing what new information I can learn and use to improve my financial life.

Christmas and the Dobosh Torte

Every year at Christmastime while I was growing up, my family would gather at my Grandmother's house with the "the folks from upstate". My Grandmother would make a wonderful dinner (except for the peas and carrots, which my cousin and I would smoosh one at a time before putting them in our mouths to try to make the best of them), and we would exchange gifts and have a fabulous time. These folks were, and continue to be, my very favorite extended family members, because we always laughed and had so much fun. Best of all, I got to see my cousin, and we had the most wonderful times together. We never needed expensive games or toys, just paper and pens. We made up fun and imaginative games all by ourselves. One of my favorite parts of the family Christmas celebration was dessert. Every year my Grandmother would order a Dobosh Torte from a specialty food catalog called the Swiss Colony. A Dobosh Torte is a multi-layered cake with very rich chocolate frosting between each layer. The bakers at the Swiss Colony then pour chocolate over the entire confection, and place a thin decorative line of green coconut along the top. It is quite simply the most delicious cake there is. After my Grandmother passed away, I continued the tradition of ordering the torte for the annual gathering. One year, being particularly strapped financially, I thought I would make the cake myself. In searching for a recipe, I discovered that the true Dobosh Torte was a bit different from what I was used to eating, and had an interesting history. According to Wikipedia, "Dobos Cake (/'doboʃ/, Hungarian: dobostorta) is a famous Hungarian cake, invented by and named after a well-known Hungarian confectioner, József C. Dobos (1847-1924) in 1884. It is a five-layer sponge cake, layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with thin caramel slices. Dobosh or Dobos Torte (type of cake) was first introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885; Franz Joseph I and his Empress Elisabeth were among the first to taste it. " As I am Hungarian (in addition to a few other things), I was impressed to learn that this is a recipe of my heritage. I tried to find the most authentic recipe I could, and found that the recipe was time consuming and required a tremendous amount of work. If you're interested, here is a link to the recipe.
This weekend, my husband and I are hosting the annual family get together, and I have ordered the traditional Swiss Colony Dobosh Torte. I'm very much looking forward to celebrating Christmas with my favorite extended family members, and having a piece of this wonderful cake.