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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lovely Weekend in pictures

Nothing special. Just wanted to share some highlights of a nice and relaxing and fun Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I could do this every weekend.

We drove on up to the in-laws homestead in rural Wisconsin.
In tow was my small addition to the giant Thanksgiving feast. My MIL always goes all out in the food department. I rather enjoy it. My contribution was home made rolls and cranberry sauce.
We of course wandered the property, which I think believe to be heavenly, and snapped some pictures and chased some kitties.



Bill found a kitty he was rather concerned about. She was sickly, small and friendly. However somewhat secluded form the other kitties who snuggled together for warmth once the temperature plummeted. My sweet husband whispered to me that we may have to nurture this one back to health as he feared she would not last the winter in this state.


After dinner the family poured over the Black Friday adds in search of who knows what. This year no one really had anything big to be in search for. It was more the fun tradition of going. I have enjoyed doing this with the in-laws. We went and my main items I was searching for included gifts for our sponsored families and a Dutch oven for me (per ATK's recommendations.) Bill, his dad and Ben all hung out back at the homestead. 3 generations of boys. Love.

We drove home the next day after some bird watching, sewing and the guys dismantling a 100 year old piano that had never left the homestead. Apparantly is was unable to hold a tuning and was just rarely used.



My MIL was sweet enough to refresh my memory on the usage of a sewing machine. And with her help I actually followed a set of sewing directions. In an incredibly short amount of time, a several pulled out and restitched sections, we came out with something pretty cute, functional and that I am pretty proud of. I will still mess around with some other materials and ideas (I found the top cuff a little bulky). Here is the finished product. Just need to add someones name to it.


AND an inside with lining that I can show you without an ounce of embarrassment!


Finally we drove home and on the way called my vet for an appointment for the sickly kitty, whom we have named "Blackie". (For the record, Bill named her- I couldn't argue since the whole thing was his idea. He also has a track record of such names-  i.e. he once had a gray stuffed animal he named "gray-ie".  I wish I was making that up).  we had in tow. She was able to get in the next morning. She currently resides in our basement as to not to spread anything to our current kitty. I can't wait to see them finally able to interact.

Saturday we took Blackie to the vet. She got some medicines. We then took Ben out to our little downtown area to do our Small Business Saturday shopping and just walked around. We have such an adorable little town with consignment shops, a music store, coffee shop, chocolate shop, bakery, wine bistro, pet shop, train/hobby shop, theatre, home accents shop, and lots of great restaurants. We added to our Christmas shopping for the weekend, stopped for a cup of coffee and could not leave town without something from here:


(Recently voted the best wedding cake in Chicagoland by The Knot. We enjoy the cupcakes)

And we visited Santa. Ben was unimpressed to say the least. I should have known better from when he freaked out a few weeks ago looking at a guy in line at Woodman's who looked just like Santa.


Came home for a little relaxing and cooking of dinner. Some rad soup.



And a supply of baby food for little buddy

 a beautiful run



And lets not forget that Sunday is Packer game day. Ben is always ready and dressed for game day. Its his birthright.


I'd say that I have it pretty good.

Happy Holidays!



Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Black Friday Dilemma

Oh Black Friday. What do I do with you this year? I am torn.

Here we are the Day after we celebrate all the things we are thankful for. We go into "wait-I-need-more-crap" mode.

Last year, while it was fun, left a slight bitter taste in my mouth.

My sister was able to join me in going up to the in-laws, which has been our tradition now for the past 10 years. 10 years ago I also joined in their tradition of rising early and joining the minions of standing in line for some "awesome deal". I always say that I mainly go for the company. The deals don't hurt either.

MY sister and I decided Wal-Mart was are strating place. I wanted a 19" flat screen for my basement gym. She wanted one as well. As well as some other incidentals. So we got there about and hour and a half before our deal came to fruition and waited. And waited. And laughed. And took turns looking around for other things. And finally midnight came and we picked up our prizes. And eventually met up with everyone else at Kohl's and then went home.

Later in the day we drove the hour 20 back to my house. And I realized I needed milk. So I drive to my closest "grocer", the 1.5 mile drive to Wal-mart. And upon entering my local Wal-Mart, what greets me...but a giant pallate of THE SAME D*** TV I JUST STOOD ALMOST 2 HOURS IN LINE FOR. Probably like 200 of them. To say I was mad would be an understatement. I felt like I had been tricked.

A few years earlier my sister in law and I were probably the first 2 people in line at Target. We thought it was pretty funny since we didn't really require anything. When the time came and the doors were opened we ran into the store like idiots screaming in a mocking tone "tv's! vcrs! cameras!" Yes, vcrs. whatever, it was 5 am. I of course left the store with a 40" tv

This year. I don't know. I am torn. I love the company, and yet and jaded by feeling like I being tricked by corporate greed. I can't think of anything I need, yet looking at the ads I can see things I "want". I also have a list of needy kids I would like to get some nice things for...and black Friday deals help me afford more things for them. I'd like to be the guy that buys a kid a bike. A $50 adult sized bike is do-able.

And then I think about all of this crap that is made in China or wherever. SO my need for a deal keeps supporting US manufacturing overseas. So what? right? But those are jobs that used to be here. MY neighbor needs a job and I am buying into the culture that sends his job somewhere else. Who's to say my husbands job won't be the next to move overseas.

And then what about the cute little downtown area of my hometown. I want to see it survive and thrive. I want to support the little guy. Who is my neighbor. Whos taxes go to my town. Who participates in the fun little towny events and festivals like the wine walk and the art crawl and "taste of___"

I kind of am at a point where I would rather spend a little more and have a little less. Would I rather have 3 shirts made in China or one shirt made in the US from my local business. i don't need 60 shirts (don't look in my closet please), Ben doesn't need 1,000 blinking musical toys. Dh (despite his protest) doesn't need 20 more Star Wars figures (sigh_ unless you get them at a local hobby shop I guess)

Do you see the dilemma?

It does not need to be all or nothing. I think every little bit helps. Its just being more aware of our consumerism. Maybe this year I get a few more things from a local business AND I do some black Friday shopping. AND small business Saturday. AND I can get a few more things for the needy kid (whos parent might benefit from more domestic job sources)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankfulness


 In light of many people posting their daily Thankful list. I decided to just compile a list here. I like the idea of being grateful daily. It reminds of to stay focused and positive. Even on the little things. I hope we can remember to do this all year long. Not just in November.

I really am thankful for so many things. I have been blessed beyond measure. My complete list would take volumes and frankly, you don't want to read it, and I don't want to write it. So how about a significantly condensed version where I will feel guilty about all other the wonderful things I ended up leaving out. ha.

In no particular order:

1. My family. And by my family I mean, my brilliant hubby, my precious precious son, my sisters, my in-laws, my gramma and some pretty cool cousins. So much love and beauty. The smell of baby, watching him sleep, shared dreams, inside jokes, laughter, shared history, trash-talk,  Much much more than I could have ever expected or hoped for.

2. My son. I sometimes cannot believe that I have been entrusted with another human being. And this boy, only 9 months old, is so sweet and beautiful and good-natured and fun to watch. His laugh alone is one of my favorite things in the universe. A close second is watching his sleep.

3. I get to have the best of both worlds as a mom and a working professional. Working part time I get to do both. I get to work just enough to satisfy my ego and stay home plenty to not have to miss a thing with my baby. And my work is fulfilling. It also helps to have great childcare when I do work, with someone I can call  "friend". I am very Thankful for that.

4. At the end of this year I can say that I have known my husband for 10 years. 10 years???? Seriously, where does time go? Each year gets progressively better. Richer.

5. Health. I went to my OB and he is always impressed by my blood pressure. I take pride in that. lol. And I can honestly say that I feel great. Probably better than I have at almost any point in my life. Physically, mentally, emotionally. more at peace. Stronger. And in awe of what the human female  body is capable of, and capable of coming back from. Seriously, having a baby is no joke people. And I just had 1. Bless you mamas of several and all you have endured physically.

6. I Have been blessed to watch some friends and loved ones work on some of their own personal development and in turn it has helped me. Proof that all changes you make do not affect only yourself, but those around you, in ways you may never know or realize.

7. That I have means. That I am able to do the things that I want to do without too much worry. That I can buy local meat.That I can afford to be picky.  That I can pay the mortgage, buy Christmas presents, food, clothes, etc, and not have to worry if we have enough to cover utilities and other expenses. its such a relief that I am always aware of and always aware that could not always be the case.

8. Kitty. I know. It might sound lame, but I cannot begin to tell you how good she is for my soul. She brings me such peace and calm. Petting her, hearing her purr, seeing her sit right in front of the door when I get home, it all brings me joy. Pets are able to do that. Just wait till we one day get our hobby farm...

9. Food. I know I write about food a lot. But I love food. I love the taste, texture, smell, comfort, all of food. And yes, I recognize that I have a "relationship" with food. I am okay with it and have been learning to make it a much healthier more connected relationship and it helps me enjoy and appreciate it more. Knowing where my food comes from, taking pride in what I can create, and especially being able to enjoy the fruits of it. Home made anything always trumps store bought/processed/prepackaged anything.

10. The internet. I love that I have this medium to talk to and connect with so many people from so many different times and groups of my life. I probably never would have met my aunt/cousin/sister without it. It is a constant source of information. A place to share thoughts. And, like anythimg else, it can be used for bad. It can be addicting in many ways. But if I can learn to keep it limited, it is a very good thing.

And I am keeping it to 10.
Though there is much much more.

What are you Thankful for?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

excuses

So yes, I've decided to run a half marathon. 13.1 miles. And yes, it is a long ways a way, in April. I have almost 6 months to prepare. Not the 3 months most halfers give themselves. And there is a reason for that.

Excuses.

 All of the runner friends post on Facebook lovely inspirational things and pictures that say things like "no excuses". Well people, I am full of them.  And I'd like to think that I have some pretty darn good ones. Would you like to hear some of them?


1. I have a 9 month old baby (aka mommy guilt)
    Most runners I know have kids, but they are all either in school or are able to somewhat be alone for 30 minutes or be watched by an older sibling while they go for a 30 minute run. And I can't really leave the house while my sweet boy naps. or when hes running a fever. Now I do have a jogging stroller. And yes, I do run with him in it sometimes. However its not always the most motherly nurturing interactions while I'm trying to focus on a run and also, its cold. I feel guilty taking him out in the cold, even with bundling him up. I'm sure its not that fun for him. So we can do it sometimes. Just not every day.

2. Um, I am training in winter.
     Yes, winter. In the midwest. This means its cold. Which I am a bit of a baby about the cold. Especially when the wind wants to rip a hole right through my ears. Additionally it get dark so darn early. Daylight savings. So if I wait until Bill gets home, its dark. too creepily dark. even though my neighborhood is relatively safe.

3. I work.
     I see the appeal of being a full time stay at home mom. Granted, I only work part time. 2 days and one night per week. And those 2 days I am gone 8-5. Then there are all of those home duties at night. And I just want to cuddle the little monkey I haven't seen all day. So running those days are out. I can get in an elliptical or bike workout in the basement, but again, its dark. so no running outside.

4. Don't even ask about mornings.
     Geez. My dear son wakes up at 6am every single morning. sometimes a tad earlier. He feeds, we nod off a little, we both get dressed, bathed, fed again, packed up and ready for the day. I will not arise at 5am. That is just insanity and out of the question. Especially with full milk ladies in the a.m. and little sleep. I am lucky to make it to the sitters on time those 2 days a week. very very lucky.

So what the heck then, right?

I have lots of excuses. And don't we all.

But we just do the best that we can. If its important, we will make it happen. In some wacky form. So no, I will not be running or training daily. And no, I do not expect to finish this race in anywhere near a record time. But I do expect to finish.

So I will train. On  a very extended schedule. For 6 months about 2-3 days a week of actual road work. Mostly weekends probably. Slowly increasing in length. Then maybe my in between cross training of elliptical, bike, yoga, etc to keep the fitness levels up. Like most things in life, I'm going to do it my way.

Excuses and all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

By the Chimney with Care

So I have another new project. Shocking, I know.

With the holidays fast approaching, I realized that I am going to need a few new-ish things for my little Buddy. I can't wait to get him his first ornament. Sing and play Christmas songs with him. Celebrate St. Nicholas day and wait... he needs a stocking!!

So I start thinking about a cute homemade one and where to get one. So I look on Etsy of course, because I love Etsy and want to support the little guys. And then the cheapo side of me looked at the prices of the cute ones I liked and thought...ugh. I want matching stockings eventually...and I'm not into $100 for 3 cute and handmade stockings. And none of them were quite what I envisioned.

Of course I start my crazy thinking and go..."wait a minute, I can make a stocking". Completely disregard the fact that I haven't sewn diddly since my 4-H days. 15+ years ago.


And I am kind of following through on it. I went to Hobby Lobby the other day and was completely overwhelmed with the fabric selection. I bought at least 10 different fabrics and some pins and a pattern. Slightly scared of the idea of turning into the crazy fabric hoarder my mom was. By the time I got home I realized that I didn't have thread, needles, basting or a clue on how to use my moms old sewing machine.
 some of my fabric choices, while most are not very Christmasy, I especially love the green zig zags


I did make another run with Ben to get some of the other supplies, and started cutting out some ideas. I have also so far disregarded the pattern. I found mine and bills stocking and sort of traced it. I'm just kind of messing around/flying by the seat of my pants and experimenting a bit for now. Shocking, right? I have enough fabric to be able to that with. I am sewing by hand until next week I can get a little more direction from my mother in law, who used to have her own sewing business (and will more than likely be horrified by my techniques/abilities).

My short term goals are:
1. practice a little
2. learn something from the M-I-L
3. have some semblence of 1 functional stocking for Ben by the time St. Nicholas Day comes around (early Dec). and then I have all of next year to make a real one for Ben
4. Make a real one for Ben
5. Make real ones for Bill and I (probably sometime next year)

Here is my first attempt.

It doesn't look awful from the outside, but the inside is pretty mutilated. Its also pretty simple. I may want to do a toes with the same fabric as the top and add/embroider a name. And a loop to hook it onto things.

The good news is there will be something for St. Nick to put Ben's goodies in this year.

Wish me luck. I will be needing it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

9 months

 Ben is now 9 months old.


Its kind of hard to believe a year will be here before I know it. Time has flown. And fast.

here are some of the recent highlights with my little buddy:

- Teeth. he has 6 teeth. Most came in about a month span, so pretty quick. I'm hoping for a break before the next ones come in. And he loves to use those sharp buggers.

-Movement. Ben seems to have 0 interest in crawling. He does love to move around, but he prefers the rolling method. He will roll and roll back and forth, from one end of the room to another. He loves to rach and bang whatever is within reach. He enjoys bouncing with you holding him in standing position or in one of those jumparoo type things. And he still kicks all of the time. He has been sitting up by himself for a while now. Oh and I melt a little each time he reaches his arms out for his momma.

- Observant. its so much fun to watch his brain work. He knows where to look now when he drops things. He knows to peek around things, like corners or over or under whatever is blocking his view. he likes to turn pages of books for me and reading is one time he likes to just sit and not be carried or moving around. he thinks kitty is probably the funniest thing he has ever seen. He laughs and laughs as he watches her. Also any form of peek a boo is hilarious to him. Cover my face, cover his, with hands, a blanket, whatever. He claps. He waves. Babbles incessantly. Sticks out his tongue at you on purpose.

I'm really excited about the upcoming holidays with him. Going to the in-laws farmstead gives Ben all kinds of things to look at and interact with. Kitties, the dog...it will really be something when he can run around the 20 acres. He can eat some of what will be on the table. Lots of cousins to love on him. and I have already begun Christmas presents for him. (which I have actually spent exactly $0 with 6 presents, another blog post for another day). And present opening will be more exciting next year when he is more aware.

There is so much to look forward to in his development.

But man is he all kinds of fun right now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

God Bless America

I love America. I love it, love it, love it.

I love that I can have opinions, that you can speak your opinions. Political, religious  etc. That we can talk about them in either a respectful or condescending way, and still be safe. (although I despise the condescending/know it all way)That disagreeing with or disliking a particular political idealogy with not get you imprisoned or murdered. That as a woman I have the right to vote. And am considered a peer, an equal. Seriously, when you look at a lot of the world, that is HUGE.

I love that we are not a dictatorship. That we have checks and balances. We have a president, a house, a Senate and a judicial system. None with more power than the next, just different power. I think we forget that sometimes

I love that I can go to the store down the street and get anything I want. No standing in line for hours for a loaf of bread or wondering if pestulance will ruin my only food source. I have the luxury to be annoyed by modern American conveniences like waiting 2 minutes for the next gas pump to open up or joke about first world problems.

I love that in an emergency people pull together to take care of each other. Regardless of what the government does, Americans take care of each other. Marathoners inconvenienced by a cancellation and not being able to do what they've trained months for, instead put their energies into Sandy relief. People are still rebuilding and working on the gulf coast. After tornadoes. Fires. Oil spills. etc. At Christmas time in my county alone, over 2,000 underprivileged children are sponsored by private donors so that they can feel special and to ease one burden from their parents.

I love that a child from a single parent home can become president. We've had 2. America continues to create a climate where anyone can dream a little, and become something. Now, its not perfect by any means. I still see how poverty is destructive, but here, as compared to say Mexico or Sudan, a poor kid has a chance to dream a little bigger and see others who have done so and succeeded.

I love that I feel safe. And there are degrees of safety. I won't go run at night.And there are pockets of unsafe places. Places you won't catch me driving through if at all possible. but I can safely walk in my neighborhood during the day. I don't have to worry about a gang of guirillas going on a rampage through Antioch. I don't have to worry about invasions from the country to the north or to the south of me. I don't have to worry that the government will despise my or my neighbors ethnicity and decide to systematically dispose of it.

Are there things I would change, of course. I could write loads of blog posts about that. But I CAN IF I WANT TO AND THERE WILL BE NO REPERCUSSIONS (excepting your unfavorable Facebook comments) . Complain if you will after this election or celebrate if you will. This is not about who won or who lost. Because I think America will be okay either way. Its not about who the president is, its who the people are. I'm kind of fond of Americans too. And American values.

I just want to celebrate America for a moment. I can't think of a better place to live.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

crackers

In response to the 10,000....ok more like 5 requests for my "make your own cracker" recipes (ones that I have stolen from this book and somewhat modified). I especially like the cheesy ones. I have my modifications italicized.
keep in mind that they won't taste like boxed crackers because they are fresh and don't have crap in them. and there is no wasteful packaging!

here they are:

Wheat Crackers:
Ingredients:
-1 c. all purpose flour
-1 c. spelt flour or whole wheat flour (i usually do 1/2 of this wheat flour and 1/2 millet flour)
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/3 c uncooked millet (which I have never used. I have put in quinoa or whole flax seed instead or nothing)
-1/3 c. ground flax seed
-1/2 tsp salt
- 3 TBSP minced garlic (I either use Penzys dried or used Wildtree scampi blend)
- 1 TBSP rosemary (this is unnecessary if using scampi blend)

- 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP olive oil (I use this or wildtree natural or butter flavor grapeseed oil)
-1/2 cup water (i use a tad less)
-freshly ground pepper

1. preheat over to 350. IN a bowl mix all dry ingredients except salt and pepper. Add oil and combine with a fork. slowly mix in water, mix with your hands as you go until dough holds together. knead with your hands for 2 minutes

2. put dough onto floured surface and press into a disk and roll with a rolling pin until about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. to cut into squares use a pizza cutter. to do circles use a biscuit cutter (i use a small whiskey glass) reroll any leftover dough for more crackers

3. transfer cut cracker dough on ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. bake for 20-22 minutes and rotate them midway through until hard to the touch. transfer to a wire rack.


CHEESE CRACKERS

ingredients:

-3 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into 1 inch cubes, plus additional for baking sheets ( I cut the butter into slightly smaller squares so I am not mixing for as long)
-1 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour puls additional for the counter (I am obsessed with wheat flour so I usually use at least half wheat flour)
-1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (if no dry mustard, I find using wet brown mustard from your fridge works just as well. I also tend to add about 1/2 tsp of sweet curry powder)
-1 tsp salt
-1 and 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (i have found that other varieties of shredded cheese work just as well if you are out of cheddar)
-2 tsp distilled white vinegar
-3/4 c water
-1 ice cube

1. combine flour, butter, salt, mustard (curry) in a bowl with a stand mixer (or I do it by hand as I hate washing beaters) until mixture gets crumbly. add cheese and mix again

2.in a liquid measuring cup combine water vinegar and ice cube (to chill) then slowly pour into mixture and blend until it easily forms into a ball. take ball and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and put in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours up to 3 days

3.take out (let sit 15 minutes before use) pre-heat oven to 325 and put on lightly floured surface and press into disk. roll out with rolling pin until 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. cut out as you like either with pizza cutter or a biscuit cutter.  leftover dough can be rerolled for more crackers

4. transfer crackers with spatula to greased baking sheets. bake for 30 minutes rotating trays halfway through. turn off the oven but leave crackers in the oven as it cools for at least 1 hour

Friday, November 2, 2012

running

So its true, I have decided to run a half marathon. I have actually paid the entrance fee, and because I am not one to waste money, its officially on.

My sister and I will be running this thing together.One because its easier to do with some accountability and two, its just more fun. What whats more fun than running, right? *cough*

In adding to the comraderie and accountability we have decided to run for a cause. I work for a local domestic violence organization that provides counseling, shelter, housing and prevention education. I work in the abuser treatment program and most of those guys grew up witnessing dv themselves. Also I know many people who I care about who have experienced domestic violence in some way shape or form: past, present, be it physical, emotional, verbal, etc. If there is one place you should feel safe and secure, it is at home. Am I right?

So we are running to benefit A Safe Place/Lake County Crisis Center. Please check them out and see their wonderful work. (also if you like to run yourself, they will be hosting their first 5k next year in May)

Here's the deal. Neither my sister or myself are elite athletes  Not by a long shot. We aren't very fast. But we are pretty tough. But we know its going to be hard and we are dedicated to being healthy and strengthening our relationship through this. And we are asking for support. Both emotional and financial. Ask us to go for a run. Ask us how its going. Share our fundraising link with friends, by e-mail, by facebook, twitter, your blog. And if you are able, donate financially. Even $1 helps.

Every dollar will directly go to provide counseling for children, for victims, for abusers (so they can get help and are less likely to hurt again), for food and utilities for the emergency shelter, it keeps the 24 hour hotline running, for safe visitation and exchanges for separated couples, for assistance in obtaining orders of protection, for empowering those who have been shot down.

here is my link to my fundraising page. My goal is $1,000. And to raise more than my sister. If I can get the one out of 2, I will be happy. If my sister far exceeds $1,000, that is AWESOME!!!

http://www.crowdrise.com/jennaburris