Friday, July 31, 2009

Does your car SAY something about you?

"Hope>Fear: Barack Obama 2008"
"How's that Hope & Change Working Out For You?"
"the child being aborted has no-choice"
"Driver carries only $20 worth of ammunition"
"Drive a Hybrid...I need the gas!"
"Nothing dumber than driving a Hummer."
"Stop, Drop, Roll will not work in Hell!"
"Have you hugged an Atheist today?"
(These phrases were all found on

Aren't bumper stickers entertaining? When I'm stuck at a red light behind someone whose vehicle is covered in bumper stickers, I love having something to do other than just breathing exhaust fumes.

My car is bumper sticker-free though. Honestly, the biggest reason I've never used bumper stickers is because I don't want to ruin my paint job. But in reading this post from Call Me Cate recently, I realized I have another reason for not using bumper stickers...specifically stickers that address emotional issues like politics, religion, abortion, etc.

In "real life" I think most of us can have friends who have opposite views from us on these issues. We can sense whether that person is respectful of us and our views, whether they are trying to force their views on us or not, etc. I know I'm always happy when I can have a respectful friendship with someone even though we disagree--it makes me feel like I'm NOT living in a bubble full of only people like me.

The problem with bumper stickers about such emotionally-charged issues is that there is very little nuance in a bumper sticker. Fellow drivers are being invited to make judgment calls. "That car must have someone in it who holds wonderfully high moral standards, and that one must contain a non-showering tree-hugger atheist." Or, "That car must have a closed-minded religious fanatic in it; that other driver is a sensitive, reasonable conservationist." (And that's two very different people, looking at the same two cars!)

Emotionally-charged bumper stickers invite those who agree with us to feel connected to us...and they invite those with opposite views to sneer in disgust. I've never heard of someone reading ten words on a bumper sticker and saying, "Oh, you're right! I think I'll alter my view on (religion, abortion, politics, gay marriage, etc.)!"

So I'd prefer that I tell people what I believe (when it's appropriate, and in a respectful way) instead of letting my car do the talking for me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recipe: Slow Cooker Granola

Recently I've been making tons of granola to go with our homemade yogurt. I started with the recipe on the fantastic blog, A Year of CrockPotting. But I have switched it up to fit our tastes, so I'm sharing my version here. By all means, though, check out the original and see if it fits you better!

Slow Cooker Granola


10 cups old fashioned oats (avoid burning by not using quick oats!)
1/2-3/4 c. honey
1/2 c. canola oil or other neutral-flavored oil
1/3 c. milled (ground) flax seed
1/3 c. wheat germ
1 1/2 c. chopped, sliced, or slivered nuts (I've tried pecans & almonds-both great)
3/4 c. shredded coconut
1 1/2 c. of any combination of the following: dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, etc.) &/or chopped fresh apple
2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Put all ingredients in a 5 qt. or larger slow cooker. (Halve the recipe if your slow cooker is smaller.) Please note you can throw whatever you want in there! The oats, honey, and oil are all necessary. Everything else is flexible--play with whatever's in your fridge and cupboards.

2. Grab a cute preschooler and have him or her stir the mixture.


I think this step might work if you do it yourself, too. (And even if you happen to have a preschooler available, you will probably need to do a more thorough stirring yourself.)

3. Cook on high with the slow cooker lid vented with a chopstick, wooden spoon, etc. (I usually forget to vent it, and it still works--but the granola may be drier/crunchier if you vent.) Stir every 15 minutes to avoid burning--set the timer! Cook until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Determine doneness by color, not by how dry it is--it will dry more when cooled.

4. Pour on sheets of waxed paper to cool. Or turn off the CrockPot, and just let it cool in there. Again, this may affect its ability to dry & crunchify, but I don't mind my granola being a little more on the moist side, and I love cooking shortcuts!

You can eat like cold cereal, with milk; add to yogurt; or just eat it by the handful. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Listening to a house

A cookie cutter
(for Play-Doh-turned-gray)
dropped by
still-small fingers
onto the tile floor

Toenails (grown too long)
on the persistent dog
at the back door
ready to exchange prowling
for air conditioning

A toy being used
as a spoon in a plastic bowl
stirring imaginary food
stirring a toddler's
growing mind

Bang and
Clonk and
Hhhh and
Eeee! and
Aaah... and
Crinkle and
Tap and

Children seen.
Children heard.
(Dog too.)

Happy home.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Chickie is at that age where her little ears pick up so much, and her young brain processes things so quickly, and she asks questions--lots of questions! She's also still very literal, which makes some of the questions both comical and difficult! It's a little like talking to Data, that android from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Yesterday morning we were trying to get out of the house so I could drop off the kids at a friend's and go to an appointment. "Chickie, we need to go to your friends' house--we're running late," I said.

"We're running?"

"Well, I mean we're just going to be a little later than I wanted to be," I explained.

In her voice of logic, she informed me, "We're going to drive there, Mommy. It's too far to run."

Later in the day, I was getting ready to put both kids down for their naps. (Yes, Chickie has been napping again, almost daily! Mama's happy.) I was singing a song from Sandra Boynton's album Dog Train. "I need a nap," I sang. "I just can't taaake anymoooore."

"You can't take anymore what, Mommy?" Chickie asked.

And you know, it's really hard to explain these phrases that are part of my vocabulary but really make little logical sense. I said, " just means you're so tired that you can't take being awake any longer."

I love these literal questions, even though they sometimes leave me stumped! It shows me how much she is listening, and learning, constantly. If that rapid level of learning continued into adulthood, we'd all be brilliant. We'd still run late and find that sometimes we can't take anymore...but we'd be brilliant.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Micro: Happy

A couple of things that made me happy to be a mommy this weekend...

*Warm baby hugs accompanied by infectious baby giggles.
*Conversations with Chickie. Daddy asks her why she's been drawing faces of herself and me, with bugs on our mouths. "Well, they're nice bugs!"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blueberry Streusel Bread



This bread is fantastic.

You must make it.* If you think you can't bake, trust me, this is very doable. The dough recipe is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which makes bread-baking genuinely easy. If you still don't think you can do it, pay someone else to. Yes, it's that good.

A note: I used challah dough for this, and it was excellent. The recipe is on page 180 of the book. It would also be fantastic with brioche, which is similar to challah...but with more butter and eggs. Mmm. The brioche recipe is on the Artisan Bread in Five blog.

Ready for the recipe?

Blueberry Streusel Bread
1 pound challah or brioche dough
Blueberries (to taste, about 1 to 1 1/2 cup)
Streusel topping
Streusel topping ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1. Make dough in advance--it should be refrigerated for at least a few hours prior to using.
2. Lightly grease full-sized loaf pan.
3. Make the streusel topping. Mix flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Use pastry blender or food processor's "Pulse" mode to cut in butter until crumbly.


4. Stir oats into streusel topping.

3. Sprinkle dough surface with flour. Break off a 1 pound piece of dough (grapefruit-sized.) Cover with flour, then quickly form into a ball. Place on flour-sprinkled surface.
5. Use hands and rolling pin to stretch/roll dough into a rough rectangle. Short side should be about as long as the loaf pan; long side should be about 12-16 inches.
6. Liberally sprinkle dough with blueberries.
7. Liberally sprinkle blueberries with streusel topping.
8. Carefully roll dough, starting with short side. When done, gently pinch edge to the body of the roll to seal it.
9. Place roll in loaf pan, seam side down.
10. Let loaf rest for 1 hour 20 minutes. Near the end of this time, preheat oven to 350 degrees. At end of resting time, use kitchen shears to make several slashes in the top layer of dough.
11. Liberally sprinkle loaf with streusel topping, gently pressing the streusel into the top of the loaf. If some topping falls in between the loaf and the pan, even better!
12. Bake about 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool a bit on a rack.
13. Cut...and enjoy!

*If you're dieting, make it anyway. When it's done, cut a thin slice out of the center, take the rest of the loaf to a neighbor, and then come home and eat your slice. It's the only diet-safe way to eat this calorie-full comfort food. The small slice will be worth the time you put into it, and your neighbors will worship the ground you walk on, spontaneously starting to mow your lawn each week in hopes of getting more Blueberry Streusel Bread.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's super cool blog by clicking the button below.

My six words...

Nothing scheduled today. Time to RELAX!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Giveaway, & Chickie's new outfit

First--check out my giveaway blog for an adorable children's apron my mom made and is giving away!

Wow, there have been a lot of fashion photos on this blog this week! Can you handle a couple more?

After I won the handmade dress from Chigger Hill Cottage, I was so thrilled with it that I wanted to buy something from the same maker, something that would fit Chickie now. (The dress is for next year.) So I ordered this outfit, which came yesterday. It is so cute! She tried it on last night and liked it so much that she asked, "Can I sleep in it?" I told her no, but that she could wear it today! Here it is:



Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breakfast with a one-year-old

First, it's a sound, coming to my ears as I drink my coffee in the relatively quiet dining room.

"Nnng? Nnng?" (His tendency to make this particular sound through his nose--often--has led us to seriously curb his binky usage.)

"What do you need, Buddy?" I ask.

"Nnng nnng nnng nnng!!" he replies.

"Are you hungry?"

"Nnng!" (That's affirmative.)

I get up, and realize he's holding his bib out to me, the plastic bib that I never washed after dinner last night. Oh, well. I put the bib on him, and strap him in his booster chair, where he can wait while I prepare something. Hey...there's still some granola on the tray from yesterday's snack! Cool.

Here ya go, kid. He digs in to the leftover granola, while I scoop fruit, yogurt, more granola, and some cinnamon into a big bowl. After mixing it and scooping some out for the big sister, I sit down.

I offer him a bite of yogurt/fruit/granola mixture. He reaches out his hand. "No," I say with a smile, pulling the spoon away so he can't grab it. "Aaah." I'm lucky, and he copies my, "Aaah," and I pop a bite into his open mouth.

I start on my own granola, and am quickly greeted with a whine. "Mmmore?" I prompt him. "Mmmore?" He grins and proudly says, "Mma! Mma! Mma!" I reward his "talking" with another bite.

We continue this way for awhile, until he decides he really wants the spoon. As I move it toward his mouth, his chubby little hand, quick as lightning, reaches up and grabs it. His mouth, messy with white yogurt and blueberry juice, breaks into a wide smile.

Okay, okay, you can have the spoon. I let him hold it, and he manages to get some of the food into his mouth. He's obviously very proud. I praise him, then try to use my spoon to feed him another bite. He's having nothing of it. He's reaching toward the bowl.

I give up, and plop some of the chunky, messy mixture onto his tray. He tries to get a bite on his spoon and quickly gives up, digging in with his fingers, picking out the blueberries and raisins and leaving most of the calcium and whole grain behind.

I sigh and figure at least it's a good opportunity to finish my own breakfast. A couple of minutes later as I eat my last bite, I glance over and realize he's no longer eating, but using the yogurt as finger paints on his tray. His two-toothed grin is wide as he catches my eye, and his hands eagerly continue to make finger-paths in the white goo.

And here's the most difficult part of breakfast. He's getting more and more messy, with little bits of food being flung on the floor. I want the tray gone, but I don't want his messy hands to then grab the chair and his clothes and, oh, please...not his hair. I make a quick decision and grab the tray, putting it on the table as I rush into the kitchen for a washrag. By the time I get back a couple of seconds later, he's grabbed the booster seat with yogurt-covered hands, and his shorts have telltale white smears on them, but I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize there is no granola in his hair--not this time, anyway.

He's trying to climb out of his seat, so after I give him a once-over with the washrag, I unstrap him and let him loose in the living room. I put the tray, bowl, and spoons into the sink and wipe the messy seat, but I know if I'm to really clean up, I should get the food off the floor too.

So I open the back door, and our four-legged Schnauzer-brand vacuum cleaner enters to take care of the rest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm a girly girl again

I love that over the last few summers, casual dresses have been in fashion. Chickie has several this season and wants to wear them almost every day.

But for so much of the last few years, I've had a breastfeeding baby, and most dresses just aren't nursing-friendly. (I'm pretty sure the people at my church, as supportive as they've been of me nursing in public, don't want to see me with a dress pulled up and bunched around my neck.)

I realized recently that Zoodle is at the point that I rarely need to nurse him in public. So I decided it was time to go shopping for new dresses! I went to Ross and lucked out. I found two dresses that are both comfy and casual enough to wear on an everyday basis. (And I spent a total of $30 on the two dresses, so the price was definitely right!)

This one is that floor-length, flowy silhouette that is so popular this summer. I'm only 5'2" and didn't think I could get away with a dress this long, but somehow it seems to lengthen me. Very fun!


I almost didn't take this next one off the rack, since I tend to have too many muted colors in my wardrobe. But I decided to try it, and it was just so flattering that I snatched it right up. The jersey knit will be so comfy! And the length is good--it's a couple of inches above my knees, so it makes my legs look longer, but it's not short enough to make me look like I'm trying to be 15 again.


How about you girls? Are you enjoying the dresses that are in fashion this summer?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cute, cute, cute handmade dress

I have a secret.

I'm lucky when it comes to blog contests. I don't win them all, but I have won a few. And I was thrilled to win a recent contest over at ChiggerBytes. Chiggerbytes is a blog connected with Chigger Hill Cottage, an Etsy shop full of adorable, handmade, little girls' clothes. The shop owner designs and sews all the clothing herself, and her designs are so charming.

My prize for winning was a dress for Chickie, and a requirement of the contest was for the winner to blog about the dress. No problem there--it's so cute I probably would have shared it with all of you anyway!

When the package arrived in the mail, the wrapping was a really cute paisley paper, and inside the dress and matching hair bow were nicely packaged.



The dress itself is beautiful!


And the work is so high-quality. Look at those gorgeous pleats, covered buttons, and expert gathering.


The bodice is fully-lined, and there are even professional tags including washing instructions!


The dress won't fit until next summer, but I had Chickie model it for me anyway.


She was not in a modeling mood.


But even a sulking little girl can look pretty cute, if she's got on the right outfit.


I love this dress so much, and now I'm finding myself a little disappointed that I ordered it in a larger size! So I've ordered a different outfit in Chickie's current size, and I'll be sure to post a picture of it when it arrives.

To check out Chigger Hill Cottage, go to these links:
Etsy shop (Mention in the comments that you came from C. Beth Blog to get free shipping!)
Follow @ChiggerHill on Twitter
Read ChiggerBytes the blog, where there will be another giveaway soon!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Micro: Sibling love

Chickie was crying. I was comforting her.

Zoodle walked up and put his face close to Chickie's. "Mmmmah!" he said. That's his version of a kiss.

Then he reached his arms out and gave his sister a big hug. And another, and another.


Mommy's heart melted.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More than fine art

Chickie is turning into quite an artist. Now, I know I'm biased, so to be fair I'll admit that it's not exactly fine art. But she loves making it, and I love looking at it.

I've started asking her to explain some of her pictures to me, since lately more and more of them are representational, instead of just pretty scribbles. As she described one of her pictures to me the other day, I took notes on it.

First you'll notice the face in the middle--prominently situated and larger than the other faces. She informed me this one is Grammy. It makes sense, considering that Grammy is perennially Chickie's favorite person in the world. (The lines on the mouth are teeth.)

To the left, and smaller, are Mommy and Daddy. Mommy's mouth looks a little funny, though. Chickie informed me that's because Mommy has a spider on her mouth. Mommy's saying, "Aaah! Aaah! Aaah!" (That's a high-pitched scream, and I appreciate Chickie not demonstrating it nearly as loudly as I would if I really had a spider on my mouth.) Photobucket

There's one other face, but Chickie tells me it's "Abstract." That's a term she learned from Caillou, and while she often uses it correctly, in this case I think "Abstract" may actually be the name of the person she drew.

I was confused about the shapes on the top left of the picture, until Chickie explained to me, "It's somebody who is fishing, but his fishing pole is not working." I told Grammy about this, and she said, "Oh, it must be Sampa!" Poor Sampa--he doesn't have the best luck fishing.

Lastly, I asked her about the creatures on the right side of the picture, and she told me they are her "pet sheeps." The one on the right is standing on grass. I'm happy to see that her sheep have four legs each; past versions have had about six.

No, it's not fine art. The artist's proud momy thinks it's way too good to be just "fine!"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's fantastic blog by clicking the button below.

My six words...

Hey, let's talk about physics today!

(Doesn't make sense? Check out yesterday's post.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Requests to fellow bloggers

Wow, I'm on a roll this week. Yesterday was an ultra-stimulating post about yogurt, and today is about technology. Tomorrow I'll post about physics and guarantee you'll be in a boredom-related coma all weekend.

With that intro, I bring you today's post.

Dear fellow bloggers who use Blogger software,

Blogger has bugs. I guess we should expect that when there are bazillions of people using it, for free. So I'm trying not to let my head explode with annoyance over these bugs, considering the bargain I'm getting by paying exactly zero dollars for bandwidth and software.

That being said--you know, it really is frustrating. I have Windows Vista, a program that comes straight from the pit of...uh, Microsoft...and so many programs just don't work nicely with Vista. My usage of Firefox and Chrome as browsers has been discontinued; I had too many issues with them. I think Vista may have something to do with that. Interestingly, in a technological version of Stockholm Syndrome, I've reacted to this by using yet another Microsoft product...Internet Explorer 8.

And in using Internet Explorer, I'm suffering--suffering, folks--from some Blogger maladies, when I read your blogs. If you use Blogger, there are a couple of things you can do to make your blog play nicely with Internet Explorer so that your readers don't throw their computers across the room and replace them with Macs. (On the other hand, that wouldn't be such a bad thing....)

Here's how you can make your Blogger blog work more consistently:
  • Disable the blog following widget. When that widget is active, blogs often won't open in Internet Explorer. Blogger says you can move it further down the page to avoid the issue, but this doesn't work. What I've done is remove my following widgets altogether and replaced them with messages advising my readers that they can follow the blog by clicking "Follow Blog" at the top of the page, in the blue Blogger bar.
  • Disable embedded comments, and replace them with full page or pop-up comments. (Go to Settings-Comments to change this. Personally, I like pop-up comments.) Embedded comments were kind of a cool idea, but these days it's not uncommon to type a comment, try to post it, and be informed that it didn't publish. At one point it seemed that disabling Word Verification fixed this issue, but now it's an issue even without Word Verification. I'm not sure if this is an issue in Explorer only, or in other browsers too. Note: Since I originally wrote this post, Blogger has suggested switching to pop-up or full page comments for yet another reason--see here.

Thanks, bloggers, for making my life as a reader a little easier...and mostly thanks for entertaining me with your writing!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yo yo yogurt! (Subtitle: When did I become so domestic?)

I love yogurt. Thankfully both of my kids like it too. Neither of them cares much for milk, so yogurt is a great way for me to get dairy into their growing bodies. I'd gotten in the habit of buying Dannon plain whole milk yogurt, which is all-natural. I add fruit to it (and often granola too), and no extra sweetener is needed. (Usually I use frozen berries, thawed in the microwave. During thawing a little juice is released and that sweetens the yogurt.)

I'd heard of how good homemade yogurt tastes, but was a little nervous to try making it--it needs to sit for long periods of time at a specific temperature range while it's culturing. So when a Yogourmet brand electric yogurt maker showed up on one of Amazon's 2-hour Lighting Deals, I snatched it up. (Normal price: $59.99, with 2 free packages of yogurt starter. Lightning Deal price without free starter: $37.88.)

Now, the yogurt maker doesn't take all of the work out of it. Here's how it works:

1. I put 2 quarts (half a gallon) of whole milk into a double boiler, and heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, using the digital thermometer included with the yogurt maker. (I don't have a real double boiler, so I use a big pot with water in it, with a smaller pot set inside it.)

2. I take the milk off the heat, and when it's cooled a bit, I put the whole pot in a bath of cool water in the sink. I cool it to 110 degrees, and use a spoon to get the "skin" off the top.

3. I pour the lukewarm milk in the smaller chamber of the yogurt maker, and check the temp again. I add two ounces of Dannon yogurt, since it has the live and active cultures in it, and I stir well. (I froze a bunch of Dannon yogurt in one-ounce batches and can thaw it as needed.) The Yogourmet instructions suggest that you use their freeze-dried yogurt starter, but using Dannon is way cheaper.

4. I put a bit of water in the large yogurt maker chamber, then set the smaller chamber inside the larger. I plug it in and set my kitchen timer for four and a half hours.

5. When the timer goes off, I put the yogurt in the fridge and let it cool overnight before eating it. I store it right in the container I used to make it in.

So, really, all the yogurt maker does is keeps the milk at the right temperature so that the cultures can do their work. That is a pretty simple task for the price, so I'm glad I got it on sale! To me it's worth it. Other methods (which you can easily find in a Google search) require the yogurt be wrapped with towels, placed in an insulated cooler, etc. The yogurt maker helps take out the guesswork.

The yogurt is creamy and yummy. I like the smooth texture, and I may try using the included cotton bag to filter out some of the whey and make a thicker yogurt at some point.

Best of all, a quart of Dannon costs about $2.50. A quart of homemade yogurt costs about $0.91. That means when I've made 24 quarts of homemade yogurt, I'll break even, factoring in the cost of the yogurt maker. If we keep eating yogurt at the rate we're eating it now, that'll just take a few months.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Accidental fashion

I really think a lot of fashion trends through the years must have been accidentally created.
  • In the deep South on an old cotton plantation: "Ah do declare, ah just adore mah new embroidery hoop. It's the biggest one in the whole county, big as a carriage. But how in the world could ah have lost it? Oh, there it is...under mah daughter's dress. Scarlett, shame on you for taking my hoop.... Why, that looks pretty cute!"
  • In an American high school, years ago: "Dude, you have holes in your jeans. Loser." "Dude. You're the loser. Obviously I ripped those holes on purpose." "Oh. My bad. Cool, dude."
  • During the Cold War, an American agent was captured in another country. Finally she escaped, but not after having the lower half of her body cruelly forced into an ultra-tight, ultra-sweaty combination of nylon and spandex, in a particularly horrifying torture session. As soon as she sneaked out of the dungeon where she was being kept, she started hearing whispers from the other women on the street. She picked up snippets like, "Skinny!", "Svelte!", and "Her legs are so tan!" So she used the torture device as a prototype, and thus was born control top pantyhose.

I made the poor choice of letting Zoodle play with my sunglasses yesterday, and I shouldn't have been surprised when they didn't fare well. So keep your eyes open for the next big fashion trend. But don't just keep those eyes open...


...keep them covered by super-cool new one-earpiece sunglasses, the hottest new example of accidental fashion.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Clichés, Full House, and me

This is going to be a post about business. And, you know, I've read enough motivational sales stuff to know how difficult it is to write on this topic without falling into tired old clichés.

But no clichés for me--nope, I'm going to think outside the box. Hopefully I'll succeed, but if not--well, I always reach for the moon, because even if I miss, I'll land among stars. Failure is not in my vocabulary. Double the "c", double the "s", and you'll always have "success."

Okay, that last one wasn't a cliche, it was a line from the old sitcom Full House. And now that I've lost all your respect by actually quoting a line from that cheesiest of TV shows, let's talk about business.

I've had my real estate license for almost seven years. For the first few years, I was a full-time agent. I worked hard, and I loved it. Since Chickie was born, I've kept my license active and have occasionally represented clients. I truly love self employment and the freedom that comes with it.

A couple of years ago, a new idea entered my mind, and I presented it to my broker. I suggested that I'd like to help him recruit agents into the company. Then I'd like to mentor them. He wanted to grow the company; I wanted a way to help new agents without the time-consuming responsibilities of owning my own brokerage. I'd say it was a win-win idea, if that wasn't a cliché. We worked out a plan and a compensation structure.

Yesterday morning I had my first mentoring appointment with someone who is intelligent, driven, and excited to be entering the real estate industry. And he's not the only one who's excited--I'm psyched to be starting my first real estate mentoring relationship.

But wait--two paragraphs back, I started with "a couple of years ago," and I'm just now finding success. Why did it take so long?

Well, getting that first new agent was hard. We didn't have immediate success; then I took off a year or so to have Zoodle and focus on him. During that time I wrote an agent handbook, hoping some day I'd use it. Finally we started the recruiting effort again, and we communicated with a lot of people before one of them ended up being a good fit. Hopefully it won't be too long before we find a few more agents for me to mentor when they join our company.

Clichés aside, what have I learned from this? Sometimes when you try something new it doesn't just "click" immediately. It takes time, and failure, and frustration. But if it's a good, doable idea, it's worth it to press on. (Doable isn't always the same as easy.)

I sure am glad that, in the words of a brilliant television theme song, "...a little voice inside you whispers, 'Kid, don't sell your dreams so soon!" I guess I really didn't ever need any sales training--Full House taught me all I needed to know about business, and about life. ("You got it, dude!"*)

*Bonus points if you know what character loved to say "You got it, dude!" Cheating allowed.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again! Check out Call Me Cate's super duper blog (by clicking the button below) to find out more about Six Word Saturdays, and to participate.

My six words this week are celebratory....

LAST DAY for Zoodle's evil medication!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Another makeover revealed

Last week I did a giveaway for a blog makeover, and the lovely Kara won. Kara and I have "known" each other since our 3-year-old girls were babies--we "met" on a message board for mothers of kids all born in the same month. Now we both also have one-year-olds. I was so happy to be able to do this project with her!

Kara asked me to redesign a blog that she writes mostly for family members, so I won't be supplying a link here. The blog had a cute title (Abby & Lizzy's Excellent Adventures), and she kept it from being boring by posting tons of pics of her very non-boring, adorable little girls. But the layout was just a Blogger standard, and she wanted something more interesting.

Here is a "Before" screenshot:


Kara let me know that they are "girly girls" in her family. She suggested polka dots, and pink with black accents. Here is the "After" screenshot:


I designed a repeating tile background, and muted it because Kara didn't want it to distract from her kiddos' pics. I used the full-color version in the header. I also widened the posting area, so that Kara can start to post larger photos. The design was rounded out with larger text and coordinating colors.

It really is so much fun doing these designs. I wouldn't have a clue how to design a website, but with a graphics program and lots of free online tutorials on how to hack Blogger layouts, there's a lot you can do!

Even though you can't visit the blog I redesigned for Kara, you can visit another blog she authors (along with her friend Celeste.) It's professionally designed, and is one of the cutest blogs I've ever seen. It's called Itty Bitty Bistro, and on it you'll find lots of great recipes for toddler-friendly foods. Yesterday's post has a delicious-looking chicken dish. I can't guarantee that my kids will like it, but I know I will!

Kara, hope you enjoy the makeover!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Throw it together" meals

I like being able to make a whole meal out of stuff I just happen to have around. I've blogged about my meal planning, but I supplement our planned dinners with more spur-of-the-moment options.

I'd love to hear what meals you throw together, from the items in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards. Please leave your suggestions in the comments. Here are some of ours:
  • Pasta salad (Yesterday's version included whole wheat rotini, chopped up cheese, baby spinach, carrots, tomatoes, celery, white beans, artichoke hearts, green olives, chopped pepperoni, and a couple types of salad dressing. I was feeling creative--I usually don't throw in that many ingredients!)
  • Bean and cheese burritos
  • Cheese quesadillas (grilled on the stovetop)
  • Breakfast for dinner (in various incarnations)
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Frozen chicken breasts, which can be seasoned and then baked...without thawing!
  • Pizza (Since I usually have bread dough in the fridge, I can easily make pizza--individual-size or full-size--as long as I keep a few other ingredients on hand. I have started keeping shredded mozzarella in the freezer so I have it when I need it.)
  • Baked potatoes with toppings

Looking forward to your suggestions!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My dough, my dough, it's off to church I go...

Last week I opened an e-mail from a church friend. She usually brings a light breakfast for our congregation each Sunday, but she knew she wouldn't be there on July 5, and needed a couple of people to do the food shopping for her. On a whim, I hit "Respond."

And offered to make enough baked goods for our entire (small) church. Temporary insanity, I guess. (Spare the "Temporary? Chuckle, chuckle" comments.)

Now, I've blogged about the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which I got as a Christmas present. Sure enough, bread baking has become a wee bit of an obsession (a very yummy obsession) for me this year. I figured I could find a few recipes to make for Sunday's service. It would be fun.

Well, it was fun. It was also a lot of work. It's kind of like childbirth. Right afterward I said, "I don't think I'd ever do that again!" But now, a few days later, I'm thinking it wasn't so bad. Which means in another few months I'll find myself repeating this whole process. (The baking. Not the childbirth.)

Friday I made three types of dough from the book...

...bagel dough,...


...brioche dough,...


...and my own version of oatmeal bread dough. (It was "my own version" since I ran out of white flour and had to replace most of it with whole wheat and rye flours. It didn't initially rise well, but I gave the loaves plenty of rising time in the pans, and they did well.)


I rearranged my fridge, stacking things precariously, so that all the dough would fit overnight. (See that little bottle next to the brioche? That's Prince Zoodle's Augmentin, the evil antibiotic that my pediatrician's office assured me yesterday he still needs to take.)


Saturday afternoon I got to work making a mess. Let me tell you, I am not a neat baker. I get flour and sugar and oatmeal all over the place. I was working barefoot, and with all the ingredients my feet picked up, I probably could have scraped my soles afterward and made a streusel topping. (Don't worry, I didn't.)

By the evening, though, the kitchen was (fairly) clean, and my countertops were filled with baked goods.

There were sesame seed bagels, chewy and moist.


For sweets-lovers, I had cinnamon rolls. (For the filling and topping I used this recipe for rolls that are supposed to taste like Cinnabons. I actually used the Artisan Bread in Five brioche dough because I know I can make it correctly and I haven't had the best luck with cinnamon rolls in the past...but the dough in the original recipe sounds delicious.)


And for those who wanted a healthy, whole-grain option without any refined sugar, I made two loaves of oatmeal bread swirled with raisins and walnuts.


So, for those of you who asked in Saturday's comments whether we stayed home or braved the sweltering park for Independence Day...well, after being in a hot kitchen so much of the day, I really didn't have any desire to spend the evening outside. It was still 100 degrees at 6 p.m. Next year, I won't bake all day on July 4th, and maybe our kids will get to see some fireworks. As for this year...well, they enjoyed the bagels and cinnamon rolls. That's almost as exciting as fireworks, right?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Prince and the Prescription

I must have looked at him wrong.

That's the only explanation I can conjure for why the ER doctor last week gave Zoodle a prescription for what might possibly be the worst pediatric antibiotic ever. It almost makes me jealous of my ancestors who lived in the pre-antibiotic years. We could have just bled him with some leeches and called it good.

The doctor warned me that the medicine might cause Zoodle to have diarrhea. Zoodle, anxious to meet the expectations of adults, has dutifully complied.

But the doc didn't give me the full story. It started when I went through the drive through at CVS Pharmacy to pick up the meds. The pharmacist looked down at the prescription, and then his eyes rose to meet mine. "Looks like you have a deductible," he said. "So it's $124."

He paused. I think when I sighed and said, "Okay," he was relieved. He was probably never more thankful for the glass in between him and the customer. I handed over my Southwest Airlines Visa and was rewarded with a little bottle of medicine (and .00625 of a free airline ticket!)

Knowing how expensive this tummy-destroying medicine is, I'd hope at least it would taste good. (Insert canned laughter.) Zoodle is usually good at taking meds, and at first he did fine.

But the kid is old enough and smart enough to quickly learn what he doesn't like. After a couple of doses, and lips that were tightening more and more upon my approach with the oral syringe, I realized I'd have to use some covert tactics.

One dose went down in a smoothie. Oh, good, I've figured it out, I thought.

Not so fast.

Remember that story of The Princess and the Pea? You know, many girls are claiming to be a princess, but the only real princess is sensitive enough to toss and turn all night thanks to a pea that has been placed under her stack of mattresses. Then when she wakes in the morning, she falls to her death from the top of the huge stack of mattresses. (I might have made up that last part.)

Well, apparently Zoodle is a true prince, because in the story of The Prince and the Prescription, he quickly gained an uncanny ability to detect the taste of medicine in pureed fruit, smoothie, even JELL-O strawberry cheesecake. (Hey, I was desperate.) He'd take a bite or two, then forcefully shake his head, refusing to eat more.

A couple of doses were squirted in the back of his cheek by his mean mommy, while his equally cruel daddy held his head and his hands still. A small amount might have made it down his throat; the rest he angrily spit out. We went one whole day without even trying to get him to take the medicine, at our wits' end.

Finally yesterday I managed to get him to take his meds, by putting just a drop in each bite of food. It's not the easiest way to feed him--squirt a tiny bit onto his hot cereal, scoop up a bite, feed him, repeat (over and over and over.) But between breakfast and morning snack I got 80% of his dose into his little tummy. As I write this Monday afternoon, I'm hoping the same tactic works tonight. I won't be surprised, though, if our little prince once again proves his royal blood, and, with a sealed mouth and a shaking head, sends us back to the drawing board. (Edited: Even a milkshake couldn't get Zoodle to take the medicine in the evening.)

(And Doc? If we ever head to your ER again, I'll be sure to bring you some cookies and a dazzling smile. You just bring me a better prescription, okay?)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Last day for iPod Touch Giveaway!

It's the last day to enter the iPod Touch giveaway on my other blog. So hop to it--and good luck!

Click here to enter.

Monday Micro: Extreme Sports

I hadn't felt that sense of exhilaration, of nervous giddiness, in a very long time. Not knowing what would happen next, my heart pounded and I couldn't keep the giggles from exploding out of my mouth.

I had no idea how much fun it would be...playing tag with Chickie and The Engineer.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declare your independence from long blog posts! (Six Word Saturday)

It's time for the July 4 edition of Six Word Saturday! For the history of Six Word Saturdays, and to participate, click the nifty little button below. (As always, thank you, Call Me Cate!)

My six words this week are a dilemma:

Comfortable house or sweltering park celebration?

We'll see what we end up choosing.