Sunday, November 30, 2008

What a long strange month it's been

I started this month (less than 2 weeks after I started my blog) committing to posting each and every day. I joined NaBloPoMo for the month of November - and miraculously was able to keep the blog posting up. I completed the challenge! And...I signed up for December's challenge.

I have met so many great bloggy moms in this past month (virtually) and feel like I'm really a part of a community.

Yesterday, a friend came over with her daughter to play. It was 1pm and no one had eaten so I decided to make lunch.

The way I cook my Thanksgiving Turkey is to boil it (with onion, celery, carrots and peppercorns), breast side down, for 2-2.5 hours, flip it breast side up, remove most of the broth, smother with mayonnaise, and bake at 350 degrees for another 1.5-2 hours (this was for my 17 lb. bird). The bird turns out amazingly juicy, and beautifully brown.

Anyways, I keep the turkey broth from the bird, to use instead of chicken stock. It makes the most amazing stock. And I had leftover turkey, of course. So, I decided to make the most amazing Tortilla Soup from, of course, the Cooking Light Bulletin Board. If you click on to the thread, you will notice that this recipe is #1 on the Most Popular threads archive. For good reason, too! I just swapped out turkey stock and leftover turkey for chicken stock and chicken breasts.

Since I was in a hurry to put this on before our friends came over, I forgot to take a picture of my ingredients. The picture of the final product is from today (I had 2 bowls left over).

According to my girl-friend, "If I cooked this for my husband, he would buy me lots of jewelry". That's sounds like a resounding thumbs-up to me :) And the perfect way to use up left-over turkey without most people realizing it is turkey.

Tortilla Soup
6 tablespoons vegetable oil [I used 2 at most]
6 corn tortillas, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 diced tomato
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock (I used turkey stock)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 to 6 cooked chicken breast halves, shredded (about 2 cups) (I used leftover Turkey)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add tortillas, garlic, cilantro, and onion. Saute 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in canned tomatoes and diced tomato. Bring to a boil and add cumin, chili powder, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Return to a boil. Reduce heat. Add salt and cayenne. Simmer 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and stir in turkey. Reheat.

Garnish with cheese, avocado, sour cream, and tortilla strips (we just used avocado).

Serves 6 (1.5 cup servings)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I can be a normal mom

I am not the mom to do arts and crafts with my kids. I am not the kind of mom who chases butterflies through a field with her kids (like the woman who is free because she is wearing pads with wings). I am not the kind of mom who will walk along a block for a whole hour, delighting in her child stopping every two feet to look at a flower.

I am the kind of mom who would LOVE for my children to get so engrossed in a movie that they sit still for 1.5 hours (I'm still waiting for that day).

However, there is a weekly ritual I have with my kids that puts me in the "normal mom" or "good mom" category (yes, there is a person who puts moms in different categories ;)).

Since the big monkey was 2.5 years old, I have been taking her to the Calabasas Farmers Market. When the little monkey turned 3, she started coming with. They both know to stick by me and not to run away. They know which vendors we go to, and the vendors know the kids by name. In fact, the few times I go by myself, they ALL ask where the kids are and are upset that I didn't bring them.

I figured early on that if the monkeys saw fruits and vegetables in a fun setting, and got to help pick them out, that they would eat more fruits and vegetables. I don't know if our weekly outings had anything to do with it, but my monkeys are, in fact, lovers of fruits and vegetables. On any given Saturday you can see the monkeys chomping down on raw cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, persimmons, Asian pears and other assorted fruits and vegetables.

And everything we buy is organic, which I am a big believer of.

A good friend of mine asked me "what's the deal with you and organic food?"

A long time ago, I read a number of studies that showed that pesticides and hormones in produce and meats have contributed in great part to girls going through puberty early. With my genes, my girls DO NOT NEED any help in that department. Therefore, we try to eat primarily organic and/or hormone free.

The funniest thing happen to me at the Farmers Market. I had been thinking about taking pictures of the Farmers Market for my blog but forgot my camera. So, we were at our favorite citrus vendor and up comes a woman to me and asks if she could take my picture for her....BLOG!!! My mouth opened so far down she must have thought I was a freak. I recovered and agreed. Apparently, this vendor uses bio-degradable bags and she was doing a blog post on these bags. I was so dumbfounded that I forgot to ask the name of her blog.

I'm hoping I can do a search and find it, since somewhere there is a picture of me putting citrus in to a bio-degradable bag at the Farmers Market.

So anyways, that's my one contribution to spending quality, wholesome time with my monkeys :) Whew - am I pooped!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The early bird gets the...zzzzz.....

Per my cell phone:
Friend 5:16am At Target in line. Mall on. Approx. 20 deep. Coming?
Me 5:17am You crazy. What time is it?
Friend 5:19am It's time for you to get your ass out of bed.
Me 5:19am OK.OK. I'll be there in 15.

This was my first Black Friday. It wasn't too bad. Of course, my friend had been in line since 4am, so I got to cheat a little bit and get there at 5:45am.

Who is more crazy? My friend for going that early, or me for agreeing to join her?!?!?!?!

So, I hit Target, Macy's, Toys R Us, Sports Authority, Bed Bath & Beyond (bought nothing), Talbot's (bought nothing) and Barnes and Nobles.

I got a 26 in. LCD for the little monkeys room, Play Doh, Princess Scooters, birthday gifts for a bunch of the monkeys friends, a GPS for my parents and an 11ft. Trampoline.

Thankfully, I drive a BIG ASS car :)

After I got home, and took a nap, I promised the monkeys I would take them to a movie.

BOLT was a GREAT movie. I absolutely loved it. The monkeys thought it was a bit long, but in the end they loved it too! I think the 4 year old might still be a little young to sit through a movie, but there is NO WAY the little monkey would let me take the big monkey somewhere without her. And if she found out afterwords, there would be HELL to pay!

Crazy woman I am, I am going out tonight to see a band (a friend from college is in a band).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I am extremely thankful:

For this country...
Where I am free to "Pursue happiness" no matter what my religious, political or moral beliefs are.
Where people voluntarily get in a Best Buy line at 2pm to be the first when the doors open at 5am the next morning - instead of standing in a bread line for hours to get food to live.
For the immigrants who came before me, who paved the way for my family to escape religious and political persecution.

For my children...
For reminding me that there is a fine line between sanity and absolutely frickin' nuts!
Who don't take me as seriously as I take myself.
Who remind me that it's OK to be sad and mad - by teaching them I reinforce these lessons in myself.
Who I love more than anything else in this world - and who infuriate me at the same time!

For the 16 lb. turkey...
Who gave his life so I may stuff at least 4 of the lbs. in to my face in one sitting, and then pick at at least 1 more lb. throughout the rest of the day.
Who is responsible for me laying on my back, with my belly looking at least 5 months pregnant.

For my friends...
Who I know will always be there, via telephone, text, email, facebook or blogger, for me day or night!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Ask and once in a while you shall receive:
Today, I went to Nordstroms. I picked up boots I had purchased on pre-sale 2 weeks ago. The zipper clasp (not sure what it's called) was broken and so the store sent the boots out to be repaired. When I picked them up I wanted to try them on one more time. For some reason, the repair place had sealed the zipper shut or something (there are zippers on both sides of each boot). The sales lady took them in back and did something to unseal them. As I go to put them on, I notice a tiny tear (almost like a scissor went through it) in the under lining of the zipper part (it is the zipper guard or something). This part is never noticeable from the outside - it is on the other side of the zipper. I was OK with it. Of course, like the bargain shopper I am, I asked for an extra discount. I got it. Instead of paying 40% off the regular price, I got 50% off! I am so proud of me :)

You can spot grandma anywhere:
When I was a child, my grandma would follow me around and stuff my face with food whenever I would turn towards her direction! I could have a mouth full of food, but if I didn't swallow fast enough, she mould somehow push more food in to my mouth. At the big monkey's Thanksgiving party, one of the little boys had their grandma come. She was running after her grandson and stuffing his face with food. One of the items - chips drowned in ranch dressing! It's not like she was just pushing the vegetables. At one point, he ran in to a closet to escape her!! This grandma was Persian, I believe. The only relevancy this has on my observation is that maybe it is a "non-American" trait. MY mom does this to my kids, as does my mother-in-law. Yesterday, in the classroom, watching the interaction between that grandma and grandson, in that moment, I was transported back to my youth, and even though I don't miss her stuffing my face, I do miss my grandma.

Rain in LA:
I was talking to an acquaintance last night. I mentioned that I was going to Zumba tonight and asked she wanted to join me. She told me that it was supposed to rain tonight. She then asked me that if it did indeed rain, would I STILL go to class? Um, I don't melt. And I am not scared of the rain. I grew up in the bay area, and we had constant rain! But I understood her point. Here in LA, people don't go out in the rain!! I remember when I just moved here to be with my then boy friend (now husband), I wanted to go to the movies one night. His response, "No. It's raining". I was like, WTF??????? Really????? People in LA do not like to drive in the rain, and for the most part, do not know how to drive in the rain. Yes - the roads are rarely wet, so when they are, they get slick and dangerous. Yes - the right lane and left lane get flooded when there is more than 1 inch of rain. But still - it's just rain people!! I hope I never adopt this particular LA attitude.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Self Sabotage

Today was the big monkey's Thanksgiving party/lunch at school. I took a 1/2 day and was able to attend. It worked out well because after they had lunch they were dismissed for the day (Tuesday's are early days anyways).

At the lunch, the "entrees" were Chicken Nuggets and pizza. I offered to bring an entree, but apparently they figured my choice would have been too healthy (especially after I brought a fruit salad to Halloween). I was asked to bring go-gurts and water. Fine, no problem, see if I care :p

After the parents served all the kids, we were able to eat. Ummmmmm, I believe, and I could be under-estimating things, but I ate my body weight in Chicken Nuggets. They are my guilty pleasure. I will ALWAYS steal Chicken Nuggets from my kids happy meals (when grandma buys them, because I am way too perfect a mom to ever stop by McDonald's ;)).

Anyone want to buy a bridge????

Now we all know (hopefully) that these things are not healthy or low calorie! So why did I eat at least 20 of them? There were some vegetables and fruit available.

Why do I sabotage myself? I work out 3-4 days a week (2 days treadmill and 2 days Zumba), eat healthy for the most part and try to lead a healthy lifestyle (let's forgot for a moment the Vodka binge of Saturday night). So, knowing that Thanksgiving (my favorite gluttonous meal of the year) is coming up, why would I eat so much of something so bad for me?

No seriously, does anyone know why, and how to make it stop???????

Please note: This whole conversation will be repeated, in my head, on Thursday, after Thanksgiving dinner :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Something Comforting

As some may have guessed, I spent Sunday recuperating. By 9pm, I was HUNGRY! And I felt like a nice light Asian soup.

On to the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards I went. I ended up with a fantastic, light recipe that took about 40 minutes from getting out the ingredients to eating. I had all the ingredients on hand (OK, fine, you caught me, I made a couple of substitutions) and it was super simple.

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
Cooking Light, MARCH 2001

Vietnamese cooking often calls for adding herbs and sauces to a dish at the end. More than just a garnish, these ingredients allow you to tailor the final product to your taste. Additional chili oil and fish sauce will, though, increase the fat and sodium.

4 cups water
1/2 cup sliced shallots (I used a 1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced)
1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger (I used about 2 tablespoons ginger powder)
5 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (15.75-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 pound uncooked rice sticks (rice-flour noodles) or vermicelli
1 cup fresh bean sprouts (omitted)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (thought I had, but didn't, so used parsley)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil (from my back yard
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint (used all my non-dead mint from the front yard, from the summer)
4 lime wedges (forgot to add)
Chopped hot red or Thai chile (optional) (didn't)
Fish sauce (optional) (didn't)
Chili oil (optional) (used sesame chili oil drizzled on top)

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan; cool slightly. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Cook rice sticks in boiling water 5 minutes; drain.
Divide chicken and noodles evenly among 4 large bowls. Ladle 2 cups soup into each bowl. Top each serving with 1/4 cup sprouts and 1 1/2 teaspoons each of onions, cilantro, basil, and mint. Serve with lime wedges; garnish with chopped chile, fish sauce, or chili oil, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

CALORIES 346 (18% from fat); FAT 7.1g (sat 1.7g,mono 2.1g,poly 1.7g); IRON 2.6mg; CHOLESTEROL 141mg; CALCIUM 61mg; CARBOHYDRATE 29.1g; SODIUM 1279mg; PROTEIN 40.4g; FIBER 1.1g

I'm not the best photographer, but I think it it looks pretty good!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's no party like a Russian Restaurant Party

If you've never been to a Russian Restaurant evening, you are truly missing out. It is an amazing mix of food, alcohol (vodka or cognac - no mixers), music and the most AMAZING people viewing you have ever seen.

My closest friend came in to town and we all decided to go to The Russian Restaurant (I hadn't been in about 3 years)

This experience is best told through pictures - because it sounds pretty unbelievable otherwise. And the old adage is true - "When in Rome, do as the Romans". Translated into Russian Restaurant speak - "When at a Russian restaurant, you MUST do shots".

The evening starts between 8 and 9pm. We got there at 9m. We sat down to a FULL table of food - the appetizer course.

This included a trout head:

There were 2 or 3 more rounds of appetizers that were delivered (all sorts of cold cuts, hot potatoes, beef pelmini, sauteed shrimp, and many, many more).

Between the courses of food there was dancing. Just to give a glimpse into what people are liable to wear:

The outfit would not be complete without a big white bra underneath:

I'm wearing my religion on my back - OH WAIT! I'm Jewish!!:

Spotted! The Russian Cougar wearing leopard print:

The obligatory picture with shots of vodka (this was not far in to the evening, since we all still look sober, and yes the shots are meant to be taken in one fell swoop, and yes they are BIG shots):

In between eating and dancing and drinking, there is usually a balcony where people go to smoke.

This shot displays an outfit that can easily be taken from day to night just by unzipping the skirt:

Damn! She's sexy:

Entrees are served anywhere from 11pm-12am. It sounds like a late dinner, but with all the dancing and drinking, the timing is just right.

A typical Russian entree - something in a birds nest made of potato smothered in mayo or sour cream:

Coffee was served at about 12:30am. The night is over at 2am! Sunday is spent recovering and reminiscing about what we saw, who was wearing what, who was drinking what, who was saying what to whom and deciding when we will get together again.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


First off - my temptations have nothing to do with men or anything like that.

I was in Nordstroms this afternoon. I am going out tonight to a Russian Restaurant. I will post about that tomorrow - trust me, it's better told with pictures. So, I wanted to get my eye make-up professionally done. Off to the MAC counter I went.

After getting my eye make-up done (and buying some shadows and eye-liner, because I felt bad) I started looking at the Designer shoes... Swoon...

Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Valentino, and on and on!!! And all at 40% off!!!!

I was so tempted, but I resisted. Now I'm not that good - part of the reason I was able to resist was because I bought a pair of amazing Prada boots on pre-sale last Sunday ;)

After Nordstroms my feet started to carry me to the other side of the mall - where Neiman Marcus was having their own 40% off sale. Half-way across the mall I planted my feet, turned around and went to my car.

I feel so virtuous. Of course, tomorrow is another day :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting Together

Tonight I saw a friends who I haven't seen in a while. She's not the friend that I will talk to for hours - but she's a good friend none-the-less.

She's one of those amazing women who is constantly on the go. Traveling to different countries, always triple booked, seems in control of her destiny. I became friends with her at one of my past jobs. She was the "go-to" girl. She knew ALL THE ANSWERS! And was very self-assured. We became friends pretty quickly.

Of course, when we get together and REALLY talk, I remember that she has the same problems we all do, regardless of whether we're married or single, have kids or are childless.

She recently started a new job and is still trying to find her place. She is wondering where her career will take her and whether or not she will find some one to share her life. Still, she keeps on going, looking fabulous every step of the way. In many ways I admire her - it's a strong, SMART, woman. She's detail oriented and writes out lists of what she has to do - and then she does them!! She is also constantly busy - she constantly has some sort of plans going one. Even tonight - she had dinner planned with me and then Salsa with another friend later.

I have realized that I am VERY lucky - I am surrounded by strong, amazing women that love life (even when they are complaining about it - because those moments make the best storied) and are there for me whenever I need.

Tonight we went to Vino Wine and Tapas Room. I really like this place. I've been a number of times and I know what to expect.

The Sangria is wonderful. Even my friend who does not like wine enjoyed the red Sangria. The tapas are very god too. I really like the Eggplant with Honey, the Ground Beef with Hummus, the Papas Bravas and the Cheese plate. In fact, I haven't really had anything I don't like.

One caveat - the service can be spotty at times. You have to flag down a waitress for most things, but it is better than it was.

There is also live music on the weekends. I hope the place survives the economic times. It's nice to have a place like this in the valley - casual but nice. Easy enough for a group of girl friends but sophisticated enough for a date.

Here's the drool worthy menu.

By the way, does anyone know how to make my pictures bigger?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The definition of insanity

I have been meaning to clean up/out my mail for the last 2 weeks or so. I constantly let it pile up until it's spilling over and then get pissed and tackle it.

By the way, why do i keep getting magazines? I love Bon Appetit, but really, if I'm looking for a recipe I go online. So, why can't I just throw them out??? No clue!

About one month ago, I even went out and bought something similar to this:

It looks great. It organizes my bills, my coupons, my follow-ups, etc...

There's one thing it does my mail and put it in the correct slot! OK - two things. It won't pay my bills for me! Stupid organizer!

The following is a true IM exchange I had with my friend tonight:

Me - hey! I skipped the gym 9:39 PM
Friend - you know - that's quite alright 9:39 PM
Me - I'm about to take care of ALL of the bills 9:39 PM
Me - hopefully 9:40 PM
Me - and junk mail - I'm effing sick of it! 9:40 PM
Me - I hate that I have to get to that point9:40 PM
Friend - you should sign up w/ ProQuo 9:41 PM
Friend - get off junk mail lists and catalogue you don't want - and sign up for ones you do want 9:41 PM
Me - but I like some of it 9:42 PM
Me - I just want to take a quick peek and then throw away 9:42 PM

Now - my statement about junk mail would be fine, if I actually did just take a quick peak right away and then throw out. Alas, I let it sit there until I go nutz!!!

This is a constant repetitive cycle. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results??

Oh well - on and on I go. Maybe tomorrow will be different ;)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today is not one of those days

Today - I am not very lucid ;)

I have a lot of thoughts in my head, but none are REALLY landing in a cohesive pattern. So, with that said I will walk you through my day (not that anyone is interested, but I'm not really sure what else to write about). This day is pretty typical except for the fact that Wednesdays are one of the 2 days of the week when the monkeys don't have activities that I am taking them to or picking them up from.

7am-8am - Wake-up and take a shower. As soon as I get out of the shower, the big monkey comes in and starts talking to me. We review the concepts of "greater than" and less than" - this involves me making the "greater than" and "less than" signs with my arms and threatening to eat her because she is bigger than the little monkey. Pretty good for just wearing a towel . Subsequently, I get to referee a battle between her and the baby sitter about her "crazy hair day" hair style! Too late to make lunch for the big monkey, so $1 it is (for school lunch).
8am-9am - Drive big monkey to school going west, head back east to drop off the little monkey, listen to pre-school teacher complain that little monkey isn't memorizing her words for the winter concert (um, thanks for bitching about this every day but we have over a month left until the damn concert). Drive back west to work, getting in at almost 9am.
9am-7pm - Work, be nice to people calling on the phone, repeating the same answer I've given AT LEAST 100 times already, all with a smile in my voice. Get taken out to lunch by a vendor (yay! free lunch at a yummy place! with leftovers in the office kitchen for tomorrow! can't wait). Work some more, be nice to more people on the phone, off-load some work on to my amazing staff, work some more and go home! At home, review "greater than" and less than", "1 more and 1 less", "10 more and 10 less", realize that my ranting and yelling has worked and the big monkey understands (at least for today), eat some dinner and play with the kids for a few minutes.
7pm-8pm - Go to my FAVORITE new obsession - ZUMBA. This is like a dance class on CRACK! I can tell that I'm getting an amazing workout. It's also renewing my love of dance. I haven't taken dance class in so long that I didn't know if I would just suck the big one! Well - I'm on my 3rd week (2 times a week) and am actually doing quite well (in my own mind). I keep up quite well and am even starting to anticipate some of the steps.
8pm-8:30pm - Come home and read the big monkey the end of The English Roses by Madonna. Great book and the big monkey falls asleep.
8:30pm-now - Procrastinate cleaning and paying bills by zoning in bed, watching my TIVO'd shows and reading other peoples blogs for inspirations.

Wow! Wasn't that just scintillating???? If you're still awake after hearing about my THRILLING day, drop me a line and tell me what you do on a typical day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What do you think?

Why does the big monkey think that I should come up with her spelling sentences? And decide whether her writing is neat. It's constantly "what do you think"? I guess I should be lucky that she's asking my opinion at all. It's just that suddenly -I'm in 1st grade. I don't remember my parents ever helping me come up with sentences - heck their English was pretty darn poor only 2 years after coming to America.

So how did I survive??

Either kids were more resourceful back then or the kids today are just plain dumber (I'm only partially kidding). We've made it so easy for them to get help on the answers that they don't need to think too hard about anything. We are making "survival of the fittest" a crap shoot for their generation.

It's not just me either - there are plenty of articles that talk about parents enabling kids to the point of writing notes to their work excusing "Billy" from work due to illness or just being tired!! As I have stated before, my parents are immigrants. We are used to hard work! My parents stood in lines for hours for bread and then trudged home in the snow! No excuses for them!

Maybe that's why I am struggling to draw a fine line with helping my children with whatever I can (each generation has to do better than the previous) and teaching them how to be independent.

In regard to my goal of health and money savings, I've realized that I need to plan for bringing lunches - otherwise I'm more tempted to go out and spend money. I've been taking whatever is available. Some examples:

* Two garden burger patties (taken from home) covered with salsa and queso cheese dip (found in the work kitchen).
* Lean Cuisine Ravioli (that I brought to work about 1 year ago)
* Leftover Waffles

It dawned on me - if make a crock pot meal once a week I will be able to have at least 3 no-brainer, healthy lunches. Apparently I'm a slow learner ;)

Last night I decided to make a meal I have been eyeing for a while.

Crock pot Thai Chicken

8 chicken thighs (I use 3 lbs chicken legs)
3/4 cup salsa (I should have used 1.5 cups or whole jar)
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (didn’t added – I had walnuts, pine nuts and macadamia nuts, but no peanuts)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (I forgot to add)

Place chicken in crock pot. Mix other ingredients except peanuts and cilantro. Pour over chicken. Cook for 8 hours on low. (4 HOURS ON LOW FOR BONELESS BREASTS)

Save the peanuts for garnish, along with the cilantro.

Posted by Claire 797 from the Cooking Light Bulletin Board

WARNING - don't do what I did!!! Don't layer each ingredient separately in to the crock pot. If you do layer each ingredient in to the crock pot, mix around before cooking, if you don't mix before cooking, mix about 1 hour before taking out of crock pot.

If not - the top pieces will have chunks of creamy peanut butter on them - BLECH!!! Then, you will have to re-heat in a frying pan (see above) to mix up all the ingredients sufficiently.

So - I think that this could be really good if it wasn't for user error - and a little bit of tweaking on my part.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Massage and fitness...right...

So, I got the latest Brookstone catalog in the mail.

Based on the pictures it can be a lot of things, but to my dirty mind, it's basically a $4500 sex toy (lots of use either alone or together :))?!?!

When I went online to find the pictures, I found an even more interesting item at Brookstone.

Do I even need to say what I think this is?

And surprise, surprise - it's one of the "TOP 5 Our customers' favorite gifts". No effing duh!!

And on that note, does anyone really use the shower massagers they sell at Walgreen's because their necks hurt (especially the pink ones)??

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday mornings

During the week we are always busy. The kids eat a European supper (main big meal at 3:30pm or 4:00pm) and then a light meal (usually cereal and milk)at about 7:30pm (before bed). Which means that we don't eat dinner together as a family.

On Sundays, we try our hardest to eat breakfast/brunch together as a family. Recently, I received an AMAZING All Clad waffle iron (a Williams Sonoma exclusive) as a present. We had had the Disney Mickey waffle maker, and the Disney princess waffle maker, but neither of those turned out "REAL" waffles.

With this waffle maker I've been able to turn out wonderful (and pretty) waffles. Normally, I'm an omelet person, but I'm good with eating these waffles - because they are SO TASTY!

Lately I've been using a Mark Bittman recipe for waffles but my brain was so scattered this morning that I didn't remember which cookbook his recipe was in. So...Cooking Light to the rescue. I used the recipe from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook (the one published in 2000, not the latest one).

Blueberry Waffles
8 (4-inch) waffles (serving size: 1 waffle)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1 2/3 cups skim milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used mini chocolate chips and PB chips instead)


Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir well. Combine milk, oil, egg whites, and egg in a small bowl; stir well. Add to flour mixture, stirring until well-blended.

Coat a waffle iron with cooking spray, and preheat. Spoon about 1/3 cup of batter per waffle onto hot waffle iron, spreading batter to edges. Spoon 2 tablespoons blueberries (I had the kids sprinkle on the chocolate and peanut butter chip) per waffle evenly over batter. Cook 6 to 7 minutes or until steaming stops; repeat procedure with remaining batter and blueberries. Serve with syrup.

Note: If you are using frozen blueberries, do not thaw them before adding to batter. (This did not apply to me).

Nutritional Information
Calories:152 (30% from fat)
Fat:5g (sat 1.0g,mono 1.4g,poly 2.1g)

These are really good, and don't taste "light" at all. The big monkey LOVES to cover hers with the Greek FAGE yogurt (very thick, almost sour cream like), syrup and strawberry slices. The little monkey LOVES to DRENCH hers with syrup.

I actually made a double batch of these so that the big monkey can take some to school for lunch - which is my daily battle to try and find something she WANTS to take for lunch instead of buying lunch at school (which I sometimes give up on and let her do anyways).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Beans - yes, I'm immature

Beans, beans, they're good for your heart.
The more you eat, the more you fart.
The more you fart, the better you feel.So let's eat beans for every meal!

I love me some Rancho Gordo Beans. I found out about them on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board, one of my favorite places on the web ever! Before Rancho Gordo Beans I had never cooked beans from scratch. I always used canned - it was easier, faster and truthfully I didn't know what to do or how to do it.

It turns out - it's SUPER easy. And these beans are about 10 times tastier than canned - including the broth, which oddly enough is not supposed to be sticky and filmy looking (like the stuff you rinse off of the canned beans)!

This is where, for me, the crock pot comes in. There really is no recipe, just Steve Sando's (of Rancho Gordo) method... or at least my version of it.

Crock pot Beans (any type really)
1 lb, beans
Water to cover beans by 1/2 inch
1 Onion, roughly chopped
2 Carrots
2 Stalks of Celery
5 Whole Peppercorns (I just throw in a couple)

Rinse beans in colander for at least 1 minute to get rid of any dirt or pebbles. Dump Beans in crock pot. Add onion, carrots and celery on top of the beans. Pour water over beans until the beans are covered by at least 1 inch (I layer the vegetables over the beans before I pour in water so that the beans don't float up to the top). Add peppercorns and salt.

Set the crock pot on low for 8 hours. Taste after 8 hours and adjust seasonings.

Don't resist the urge to have some beans broth soup. Super yummy, super tasty and no pre-soaking or fussing. So far for me, it has worked perfectly every time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Always racing...

My mind is always going, never stopping. I was one of those kids who needed a constant noise (more like a din actually) around them, and I still do. I would study by watching TV, reading my school text and talking on the phone at the same time. When I took my SATs is was so quiet that I started an internal dialogue in my head (yes I'm a little nuts)!

This is the reason I can't do mind during a massage is either racing or sleeping...even when I get a mani/pedi, I bring a book to read. Yes, I am constantly being told to relax my body and my mind.

I don't fully understand why I can't relax, just to relax. I don't necessarily do anything about the thoughts I have (like paying my soon to be late bills), I just have them.

I have also realized that I constantly need to plan out my "next" - as in "next" we drop off the big monkey, "next" we have 10 minutes to get gas and "next" the little monkey goes to dance.

As much as I love all of the inventions of the past century, and all of the conveniences, I wonder if my mind would stop racing if I simply couldn't race to the next thing. If I slowed down and simplified.

OK - who am I kidding? I would go bored from it being too quiet and my mind would start racing. It's a vicious circle I tell you ;)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Once in a while I rock

One of my favorite blogs is

Today she had a really interesting post. What I got from the post is that as moms, and women, we tend to put ourselves down, and/or make fun of ourselves. So, she wants her readers to make a list of things we like/love about ourselves.

So I started thinking! And thinking! And realizing that I have 2 daughters, and I have a responsibility to them! A responsibility to show them the way - the way to become strong women. And not just by having strong actions - but by having strong feelings! And not just about the outside things that happen - but about the inside women that they will be/are. Because people will try to knock them down (it's inevitable) - but if they love the people they are and believe in themselves, those naysayers/nay doers will not stand a chance!

So, without further ado:

I am kind
I am empathetic
I have 2 amazing daughters that I am raising to also be kind and empathetic
I love to cook
I love to laugh, and laugh often
I am a good friend
I am a loyal friend
I am a voracious reader
I don't usually give up on things/people that I am passionate about
I have a GREAT sense of humor
I am in the best shape of my life

OK - I'm done. It was very hard not to give myself "back-handed" complements. I should work on that ;) Oddly enough - I do feel better about myself just by listing out my good points.

I challenge other bloggers to do the same thing on their sites and link back to


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time on My Hands

I decided to take the 7pm Zumba class tonight and was home and done exercising by 8:05pm (still LOVE the class). After putting the big monkey to sleep (she was waiting up), I ran out to Ralphs, picked up the 2 ingredients I needed and was making these bars by 9pm! Usually, I am only heading out to the gym at 9pm! Woo Hoo, extra time!

So, what did I do with my extra time?

Well - I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out the LAUSD "Choices" brochure. It's the crazy "points" getting game you have to play if you want your child in a gifted program. And I'm already a YEAR LATE in accumulating points :0 !!!! I guess we'll find out in May if and where she gets in.

So far, these bars smell and look great. Taste test tomorrow!

Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars
These bar cookies strike a nice flavor balance: not too sweet and not too tart. Be sure to zest the orange before you squeeze the juice.
24 servings (serving size: 1 square)

·4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
·1 cup quick-cooking oats
·1/2 cup packed brown sugar
·1/4 teaspoon salt
·1/4 teaspoon baking soda
·1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·6 tablespoons butter, melted
·3 tablespoons orange juice
·Cooking spray (I didn't use this - I used the wrapper of the butter)

·1 1/3 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
·3/4 cup sour cream
·1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used Splenda instead)
·2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
·1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 1/2 cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. (This crust is SUPER thin - for a more substantial "bar" I would double the oat mixture for the crust).
3. To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar (Splenda instead), and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well.

Doesn't the filling look amazing? White, red and speckles of orange - YUM!!

4. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 133 (31% from fat)
Fat: 4.6g (sat 2.6g,mono 0.8g,poly 0.2g)
Protein: 1.5g
Carbohydrate: 21.9g
Fiber: 0.9g
Iron: 0.6mg
Sodium: 67mg
Calcium: 20mg
Kathy Farrell-Kingsley, Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Was There No Space in the World for Us?"

I received an email from the Simon Wiesenthal Cneter. I normally don't pass things on - this one spoke to me. It's not a funny post (hopefully some of my others are ;)).

Feel free to skip or to read and comment.

As reprinted from

KRISTALLNACHT SEVENTY YEARS LATER"Was There No Space in the World for Us?"
by Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean

Seventy years ago, while Jews in America gathered at the Algonquin Hotel and Waldorf Astoria at banquets in support of Jewish causes or in personal celebration of a Simcha, the most notorious pogrom was unleashed by Hitler’s Germany. On this day was born the Night of Broken Glass, Kristallnacht.
The Nazis said it was in reaction to the killing of a German official in Paris, but as documents showed, it was a state organized pogrom involving the highest officials of Nazi Germany. As Reinhardt Heidrich instructed his SS underlings – synagogues are to be burned down but only when there is no danger to the surroundings...businesses and private apartments of the Jews may be destroyed but not looted. Jews, especially the rich, are to be arrested - as many as can be accommodated in our prisons. Upon arrest, concentration camps should be contacted immediately to arrange their confinement...
In Baden Baden, a Christian who was forced to watch the march of the Jews that night wrote, they looked like Christ figures, their heads held high, unbowed by any feelings of guilt. At the local synagogue in Baden, Dr. Arthur Felhinger was forced by the SS to read to the Jews gathered, passages from Hitler’s, Mein Kampf. Every time he lowered his voice, an SS man stood behind him and clubbed him. The readings went on for a long time. Those who had to relieve themselves were allowed to do so, provided it was up against the Ark of the synagogue. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the synagogue was torched.
Meanwhile, the Nazis arrived at the Dislanken Orphanage on the morning of November 10th. There were 46 people there, 32 of them children when the Nazis began their destruction of the orphanage. As the children raced outside, seeking protection, the senior police officer of the town said, "The Jews are not entitled to any protection."
Terrified and standing outside, the children watched as the books, chairs, and beds, were thrown out of the window. Encouraged by the mob of some 200 that stood outside, the Nazis continued the pogrom. As he looked at the crowd, the director of the orphanage noticed that standing with them were the suppliers of the orphanage and the trades people who were regularly employed there. There was no remorse and no compassion.
None of them said a single word in defense of the children who were now left homeless.
While most non-Jews acquiesced, or joined the mob, a few did not. A week after Kristallnacht, in Swabia, Pastor Julius von Jan preached to his congregation, "Houses of worship have been burned down with impunity.
Men who served our nation and have done their duty have been thrown into concentration camps because they belong to a different race. Our nation’s infamy is bound to bring about divine punishment." One week later, Pastor von Jan was brutally beaten and taken to a concentration camp.
Soon after Kristallnacht, a German official in Berlin tells the US Consulate that the 50,000 Jews arrested after Kristallnacht would be released to other countries willing to take them in.
In a poll taken in America in the days following Kristallnacht, "88% of Americans disapproved of Hitler’s treatment of Jews, but 60% thought it was their own fault.
A few months after Kristallnacht, twelve-year-old Eric Lucas was sent by his parents to England. "We lived right on the border, beyond it stretched the free towns of Belgium and Holland. It was just an hour by train to the channel port of Ostend. It was a cold, dark February morning when I left Germany. I was the only passenger who boarded the train at the station. There were few travelers but many customs officials and soldiers.
When I was at last allowed to board the train, I rushed to the window to look for my parents, whom I could not see until I left the custom’s shed. They stood in the distance, but could not come to the train. I waved timidly, full of fear, but even that was too much for the guards.
A man in a black uniform rushed up to me and said, "You Jewish swine, one more sign or word from you and we shall keep you here."
And so I stood at the window, in the distance stood a silent and aging couple, to whom I dared neither speak nor wave a final farewell. But I could see their faces very distinctly.
A few hours before, just before they took me to the train station, my father and mother had laid their hands gently on my bowed head invoking the ancient blessing, that G-d let me be like Ephraim and Menashe – let it be well with you, do your work and duty, and if G-d wills it, we shall see you again. Never forget that you are a Jew, do not forget your people, and do not forget us. This, my father had said – his eyes had grown soft and dim.
My boy, added my mother, it may be that we can come after you, but know what? you will never be away from me, as tears streamed down her kind and sad face. With a last effort, she uttered familiar Hebrew words, "Go now in life and peace." Standing at the window, I was overcome with the certainty that I would never see them again. Cruel hands kept us apart at that last intimate moment. Why, oh G-d does it have to be like that?
There stood my parents, my father, leaning heavily on a stick, holding his wife’s hand. It was the first and the last time I had seen them both weep. As the train pulled out of the station to wield me to safety, I leaned my face against the cold glass of the window and wept bitterly."
In March of 1939, in London, Eric Lucas was still trying the find a foreign embassy willing to get his parents a Visa but, unfortunately, he was unable to do so.
Eric received one final letter from his parents. In it, his mother wrote:
"We shall never see you again, was there no space in the whole wide world for us two old people? I hope we shall not live very long now. There is nothing left to hope for. We are so lonely and forsaken. Was there nobody who could have helped?" Three years later, Eric Lucas’ parents perished in the Holocaust.
Of course there were heroes during the events of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust and we should do all in our power to make sure that their stories live on and are passed from generation to generation, but the other part of the tragedy must also be passed on – that there were more villains than saints – more experts at closing doors than those brave enough to open them – that hundreds of train operators went to work each day with their lunch bags while women and children were loaded onto cattle cars to go to the death camps. Then, they drove the trains to Auschwitz and Maidanek, never having second thoughts about what they were doing.
Let us take these lessons to heart – let us remember how many opportunities the world had to stop this, but did not – and let us vow that never again, under our watch, will we sit back and allow humanity to be so debased. May the memory of the martyred millions lead us to a better world for Jews and for all mankind.
If you have not already sent a petition to Lithuanian President Adamkus demanding that he immediately stop the distortion and trivialization of the Holocaust in Lithuania, please do so now...

I'm a wimp

Temperature = 66 degrees at 8:15pm

My internal dialogue = Wah - it's too cold to "DRIVE" to the gym! Wah- why is the studio where I take Zumba cosed for Veteran's Day? Wah! And it's only November - what am I going to do during the REAL winter?

And then I wonder where my kids learned how to whine??? REALLY!?!?!?!?!

On the fiscal note, I am continuing to bring my lunch so far (or go to company-paid lunches). I need to be better on the frivolous spending front - I bought the big monkey water at dance class today and the little monkey a snack there. I SHOULD carry a little bag of snacks in the car vs. I DO spend money on snacks way too often.

On a completely random note - Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars is not normal!! How is she dancing like that 2 weeks after surgery??

Tomorrow I will make another recipe - maybe a dessert to bring to work? The new Cooking Light magazine caught my eye (or at least the November desserts did) ;)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Should vs Do

I feel like I have a constant running dialogue in my head (or maybe it's voices and the men in white coats are on their way to take me away ;) ). It goes something like this: I should get in to the right lane now, now...Doh! I should have gotten in to the right lane!

So here's a list of the typical things I should do vs. the things I actually do:
  • Should wash my face at night vs. Splash water on my face at night
  • Should pay my bills as soon as I get them vs. Leave them until the last minute and incur late fess
  • Should make the phone calls I need to make vs. Procrastinate until I can no longer wait (and then chastise myself for waiting so long)
  • Should talk less and listen more vs. Talk more and listen less
  • Should have patience and let my kinds help me cook, etc... vs. Turn on the TV and hope my kids are enthralled enough to sit still and leave me alone
  • Should get timely haircuts vs. Let my hair grow out and wear it in a pony tail until I get my butt to my hairdresser
  • Should go to the dentist/doctor every six months vs. Go to the dentist/doctor every two years
  • Should look through my clothes and ebay what I don't wear vs. look at my closet and do nothing
  • Should save money and go to the library vs. I saved money by bringing my lunch so I can buy books, right?
  • Should not eat fried food, drink more water, be healthier vs. yummy fries and garlicky ranch dressing (cheesecake factory)!!!

So those are my top ten. Please comment and let me know your "should have" vs. "do"s! Misery does love company ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday evenings

are the one time in the week that the kids fall asleep early and the house is quiet. I know that tomorrow they have school and I have work. I don't have to think of things for them to do, or friends for them to hang out with. I wish Sunday evening were on Fridays, but then that wouldn't really work ;)

I had a random thought today and had the laptop with me so I wrote it down (I should write more things down):

Having kids means telling them to leave you alone in one breath and kissing them in the next.

Actually, they were pretty darn good today. They were enthralled with Pokemon VHS tapes! My mom brought them with the last time she visited - they had been in the garage since my 15 year old nephew watched them as a kid! Ah, the circle of life ;)

So, we got together with the kids and moms at a friends house because it would be cold and windy at the park (of course, only cold and windy by LA standards).

I looked in my to try pile and came out with a great, quick recipe that tastes like it took a long time. Everyone loved it, from the adults to the kids.

Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk
makes 6 servings

For the Marinade:
1 1/2 cups rice vinegar (If you're like me, you have multiple bottles with little amounts in it)
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled (1 head of garlic)
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Drizzle of sesame chili oil (at the end)

12 chicken legs, approximately 3 to 4 pounds

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Add the chicken pieces and turn in the marinade to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I did 40 minutes).

In a wide heavy pot or dutch oven, bring the marinade and chicken to a boil over high heat, arranging the chicken in a single layer if possible. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with a tight lid and braise for 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and tender.

Pour marinade in high sided pan. Boil on high for 5-10, to reduce liquid by 1/2. Add back to dutch oven.

Serve with rice.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Girl Friends

I absolutely love my closest girl friends. They are there for me whenever I need. When I need to go out to eat, or for a drink, they are always ready - especially the ones without kids.

However, their weekends consist, generally, of waking up late, lounging around, running a couple of errands, and getting ready to go out.

MY weekends consist of 1 child droped off here, another child taken there, mommy mommy I want, grocery shopping to have food in the house to feed the kids, mommy mommy I want, play dates, or setting up play dates, and maybe a couple of minutes of down time!!! I am lucky enough to have a wonderful baby sitter, so I can go out at night. Of course, by 11pm I am yawning and looking at my watch! Yes, I do get made fun of, and I feel bad, but I have had a LONG DAY, and tomorrow starts the same cycle. Them - tomorrow means getting up late, lounging around and getting some errands done. Repeat every weekend....

Tomorrow is another recipe - is it wrong that I look forward to getting together so I can have an excuse to cook????

Friday, November 7, 2008

Good friends

So, I have to give a shout out to this amazing couple I know. In the past year, we have become amazing friends. The kind of friends that you feel like you've known forever, and that will be there for you, FOREVER! The kind I am blessed to know (yes, I can be sappy as well as sarcastic). They can be over-bearing and always think they're right, but guess what???? So do I!!! To them I say - thank you (they know for what) :)

Anyways, I met them tonight for happy hour (I was only planning on staying 1 hour - honest) at a great sushi place. This place has a wonderful happy hour until 7pm, and after 9pm.

Bistro Ka is one of those places with great ambiance even though it's in a mall (but a very nice mall). The sushi is 1/2 price, but we usually get:

Spicy Tuna and Avocado with Crispy Chips - really good usually, but tonight had too many big chunks of onion.
Crab Cakes - just crab, no filler, amazing sauce
Chilean Sea Bass with Mushrooms - first time getting this (it's a special) but the mushrooms and sauce were wonderful (the sea bass was just good)

The happy hour appetizers are less than $6 and the portions are quite good (except for the Chilean Sea Bass - smaller potion and $8). The draft beers are $3 as is the sake!!

A good, fun place to go that won't break the bank! And in the lounge - we always talk to the most random people - tonight was politics with the table next to us (and it didn't turn into a shouting match - yay!)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A good influence

I went to another Zumba class tonight and did not have time for dinner (but I did have time to eat 2 chicken nuggets). I got home and was starving!

Since I'm blogging, and haven't posted a recipe yet this week, I decided to cook instead of eating eggs or left overs. See - this blog is a good influence on me.

I wanted something quick, easy and healthy. So I went to my "go-to" source - The Cooking Light Bulletin Board.

Bobmark226 (Bob) posted a recipe from Bittman: HTCE, 2008 revised edition. Of course, and I don't know HOW THIS HAPPENED, I am out of onions and garlic. I also made a couple of other substitutions and eye-balled the ingredients.

I will post the recipe as written and add my changes on the side.

Beer-Glazed Black Beans (turned out to be Wine-Glazed Black Beans)
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes with cooked beans

It's amazing how much flavor you can get from adding beer to black beans. Lagers and wheat beers will produce a lighter, fruitier dish; porters will add richness and stouts a deep, caramelized flavors.Other beans you can use: pinto, pink or black-eyed peas

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, chopped (I used onion powder)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (I used garlic powder)
1 cup beer (I used white wine - which isn't in the picture)
3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained but still moist (I used one can Black Beans since I scaled it down just for me)
1 Tbsp. ground chili powder or ground cumin ( I used both)
1 Tbsp. honey
salt & freshly ground pepper

1. Put the oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic, cook for about a minute, then add the remaining ingredients with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.
2. Bring to a steady boil and cook til the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot or refrigerate for up to 3 days and reheat.

While searching through the pantry, I noticed a tin of sardines!!

Yummy!! So - I added one on top (I think it's a European thing to love sardines).

WOW!!!! This was "lick my plate" good. Eat "way too much" good. The honey, chili powder and cumin really packed a flavorful punch!! So tasty!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's not a sprint, it's a marathon

I did not go to the gym tonight. Truth - I was tired. Tired from working out every night during the week and tired after last nights Zumba class.

As a typical mom - what am I going to do with that extra hour?! I ran to Trader Joes before it closed at 9pm. Then a girl friend called and she was going to Target, so I went with her.

A couple of comments:
  • why does Trader Joes work from 9am-9pm????? Working parents can not make it to TJs during those hours!! At least close at 10pm! Gah!!
  • Target is like Disneyland. There are always fun things to see and buy!

We walked around Target (me in my heels) until they turned down the lights on us (1 hour) and checked out the kids clothes, the end caps and the leftover Halloween clearance items. I think the 1 hour walk around Target definitely counts as exercise.

I bought 1 item - Halloween facial hair tattoos. Kids don't really care what the tattoo is of - they just LOVE tattoos.

Total Spent: ~$2.60 for the tattoos, $38 for groceries (but I paid in cash, whereas I would normally put it on credit card).

Total Saved: I brought lunch (still leftovers from Sunday's dinner) instead of going out to eat.

I've been Blog browsing and reading lots of money saving blogs.

I figure first - my mindset, then - my actions. Both in fitness and finances, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Two of my friends have recently done something called Zumba.

Wikipedia says:
Youtube shows:

I've been doing "treadmill with a smidgen of elliptical" and getting pretty bored. With all the dance classes my kids take, I've been getting the dancing bug. I haven't REALLY taken a dance class since I was 18! I've half-heartedly began looking to see if anyone had classes after 8pm! I put the kids down at 8pm and can be out of the house by 8:25 (usually).

After hearing about how great Zumba was,I realized there is a studio 4 blocks from my house, next to the kids Taekwondo, that advertises Zumba. Lo and behold, there's an 8:30pm class on Tuesday nights!!!!! So, I went tonight.

WOW! What a workout - I was drenched afterwords. I am looking forward to going back.

Best of all - I held my own. Apparently, everyone else has been taking for months. The instructor thought I had taken Zumba class somewhere else before coming here. I was really pleased. I will take Zumba again - and yes I do like saying Zumba :)

Frugal count:
Brought my lunch - saved on lunch
Trial Zumba class - $10 +$1 for water
Net = my savings for lunch paid for Zumba.

Trying to blog every day

I was surfing the net looking for other blogs and came across a number of people who joined NaBloPoMo, which is the National Blog Posting Month site.

I decided to join for incentive to stay dedicated to this every day. I guess they say that when you do something a certain number of days in a row you get used to it.

So I joined.

Now - how do I get the widget (or whatever) on the side of my blog???

Monday, November 3, 2008

I will pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today...

I think that this was the line that Wimpy said in the Popeye cartoons.

This is a very typical mindset that many Americans, including myself, have come to resemble.

My parents came to this country with me, my sister, my grandmother, $500 and not a word of English in 1980. We did not go on welfare or accept charity. My parents, who were both professionals (architect and engineer) in the former USSR, went to work doing what ever they needed to take care of us. Within 5 years, we bought a house. Both my sister and I were put through college - and emerged with no debt. Thanks to my families frugality, my parents emerged, after raising two children, with no credit card debt and were able to pay off their house in 20 years. And FYI, neither of my parents had "high-paying" jobs. They were simply FRUGAL. Few dinners out, saving where they could. They had enough for the essentials and 2 frugal vacations a year. And you know what...I really didn't feel like I was missing out.

So, why didn't I pay more attention and inherent their frugality?? I've been using the "Wimpy" way of spending recently and with this economy I have had a reality check.

So....I will try to save more. And be accountable here. Maybe I can change my habits and save more than I spend, make a dent in my debt and save enough for a contingency plan that doesn't involve my 401(k) plan (at least in its' current state).

Today I brought my lunch and spent no cash. Stay tuned for tomorrow...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Play Date

I love the day that we "fall back". I feel like I gain an hour for the next couple of days. I know it's all a trick of the mind, but it's one I'll gladly take.

Yesterday was one of the odd days in LA - it actually RAINED! So - instead of meeting at the park this afternoon, our weekly play date was moved to my house. I was very excited - this meant I got to cook (yes, there is a padded cell with my name on it).

We had (including me and mine) 4 moms and 6 kids!! Lot's of playdoh, stickers and temporary tattoos.

I made Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms, Venetian Shrimp and Scallops (actually calamari rings, not scallops), Barbara Bush's Crab Dip and Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives and couscous. One friend brought Pizza to make for the kids, yummy cream cheese and caramelized onions in phyllo (Trader Joes) and a spinach and artichoke dip (Trader Joes). My other friend brought this amazing Thai dish of fried pancake, condensed milk and sugar (YUMMY). My other friend brought fruit salad and cherry pie. Add 3 bottles of wine (2 Chardonnay and 1 Merlot) and we had a GREAT meal!!

The chicken was quite amazing. The shrimp and calamari was fabulous and the crab dip was ok! The roasted green beans with mushrooms (and broccolini) tasted awesome but looked horrible because I cooked it on convection roast instead of bake (oops!).

Pictures and recipes (yes my pictures kind of suck):

Roasted Green Beans and Brocollini with Mushrooms
No picture because it looked nasty
Cremini mushrooms are a surprisingly good source of niacin. Roasting is a great way to cook green beans, giving them crisp browned edges and intensifying their flavor.
6 cups quartered cremini mushrooms (about 1 pound)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 lb brocollini
Cooking spray
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450°. Combine first 4 ingredients on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with thyme and pepper. Toss well to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until beans are lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt; toss to combine. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)
NUTRITION PER SERVINGCALORIES 107(32% from fat); FAT 3.8g (sat 0.3g,mono 2.1g,poly 1.2g); PROTEIN 4.8g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 75mg; SODIUM 310mg; FIBER 4.6g; IRON 1.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 16.7g
Julie Grimes
Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2006

Barbara Bush's Crab or Clam Dip

A family favorite at Walker's Point
1 (6 1/2 ounce) can crabmeat or minced clams - I used a 6 ounce package of fresh crabmeat.1
(8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
2 tbl chopped chives (optional)
2 tsp dry sherry (optional) Did not use

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Transfer to a 1 quart casserole dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with corn chips or crackers.

Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives
From Cooking Light

A tagine is a terra-cotta pot with a conical lid used in Morocco. The stews that come from the pot are named for the cooking vessel, though you can cook them in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Serve with couscous or flatbread.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (used chicken breasts)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup pitted green olives, halved (about 12)
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine juice and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade.Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Dredge in flour; sprinkle with salt, black pepper, turmeric, and red pepper. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Return chicken to pan. Add broth, olives, rind, and cinnamon stick; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Discard the cinnamon stick; stir in cilantro.


Gilgamesh37 from CLBB

1 lb sea scallops (used calamari)

¼ cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 Tbl (1 turn around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbl butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large shallot, finely chopped

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken broth or stock (I used water_

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice

¼ tsp saffron threads (I used turmeric)

1.5 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

12 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

1 lemon, zested

Hot, crusty bread, for plate mopping

Lightly coat the sea scallops in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Discard remaining flour. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil (1 turn around the pan) and butter. When butter melts into oil, add scallops. Brown scallops 2 minutes on each side, then remove from pan. Add an additional drizzle of olive oil to the pan and add the garlic, shallots, and crushed red pepper flakes. Reduce heat a little and sauté garlic and shallots 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine to the pan and free up any pan drippings. Reduce wine 1 minute, then add stock, tomatoes and saffron threads. When liquids come to a bubble, add shrimp and cook 3 minutes. Return scallops to the pan and cook shrimp and scallops 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer shrimp and scallops to a warm serving dish and top with basil and lemon zest. Pass plenty of bread to enjoy the juices.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

More for Less

People always say that coupons aren't worthwhile. That they really don't add up to very much.

I know that's not true. And I re-prove it to myself, time and time again (not on purpose).

Thursday I stopped in to the grocery store for a couple of items. No coupons, but I did buy things on sale, and with my Ralphs card. The total - somewhere around $25 for about 12 items.

Late Thursday night, after the gym, I went back with my coupons.

The result: