Monday, August 31, 2009

Merry Mixes Monday

Know what I've realized after my 36 years-so-far of living? I like to eat good foods and drink tasty beverages. It literally has taken me 36 years to figure that out. Now I just have to keep up my running schedule to accompany the eating regimine. Today, as I write my 251st post, I thought I would share a recipe I recently found. But first, the story.

Last year, I took my mom out for lunch on her birthday - to The Cheesecake Factory - because every good meal begins and ends with chocolate. On that warm August afternoon, I decided to steer off my usual margarita course, and I ordered a mojito. That drink changed my cocktail life.

Over the course of the next year, I attempted to recreate that first delicious beverage in my own home - because, in the words of one wise beerman, "to create good drinks, one must not go to a bar --- one must go home." OK, he might not have said that exactly, but you're getting my point. I have squeezed the juice out of too many limes to count. Don't ever ask me to tell you about the time I juiced key limes. For four hours. To make 6 drinks. I will cry. The ugly cry. ... I have boiled water and sugar until my pans have turned black (OK, that might have been the rice I burnt that one day, but I digress...).

Last night, I discovered the Holy Grail of mojitos. Move over Martha. This one beats the limes out of the rest (literally - you'll see). Hands down. The best mojito I have ever tasted.

Here's the wanted poster:

To give credit where it is due, in St. Louis, you don't go purchase your groceries at the Hy-Vee or the Happy Owl or whatever place it is ya'll shop your groceries. Nope, here in town we shop at Schnuck's and Dierberg's. Ever heard of them? Well, the fine folks at Dierberg's put out a monthly recipe flyer for free. I think everyone flocks to the store for it. They even have cooking classes - which I will be partaking in tonite with my mom (she's having another birthday, Lucky Me!!!)...but I'll talk about that tomorrow. So in the June 2007 issue of everybody Cooks, Modesto Tapas, a local restaurant, shared this recipe:

6 small lime wedges
6 mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces rum
1/2 ounce simple syrup *
4 ounces club soda
mint sprig

In a cocktail shaker, combine lime and mint; muddle by pressing with a twisting action. Add rum and simple syrup*. Fill shaker half way with ice; shake vigorously until chilled. Pour into glass. Top with club soda. Garnish with mint sprig.

You mean, I don't have to juice a lime?! All you have to do is throw 6 lime slices and 6 mint leaves in the bottom of your glass (who needs a shaker when you're using simple syrup* anyway?) So, basically, beat the tar out the stuff in the bottom of your glass with whatever long blunt device you have lying around your kitchen (mine was a tart making thingy from Pampered Chef) 'til it looks about like this:

Then add all your other stuff, til it looks about like that photo at the top!

Enjoy! And thank your luck stars that I found the absolute easiest way to make a mojito (not that Martha's way is 'difficult' - unless you're hankering for a key lime...) and it is a refreshing delight!

*And muddling limes and mint in the bottom of my glass isn't the only way I've found to cut corners. Simple syrup is basically equal parts water and sugar boiled to dissolve the sugar (used instead of superfine sugar that actually does dissolve when you shake it in a cocktail shaker). Yup - just throw that sugar and water into a microwaveable glass, hit the 'boil' button on that handy machine - but avoid burning yourself when removing the glass from the microwave!!!

:: instant simple syrup ::


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Birthday Bonanza!

Two nights ago I commented to my own little corner of Facebook Nation that I wasn't really in the mood to go all out for the twins' friend party this weekend. I think my specific words were, "Is swimming enough at a birthday swim party?"

I'm all partied out. And that's sort of the way I feel every year about this time. We have a great backyard for summer parties...and we've utilized every inch of real estate again this summer. It's been done, though, you know? How many times can you have some of the same kids over to swim before swimming becomes ... well ... boring?!

I scoured the internet for ideas, all the while sort of dragging my feet. This wasn't supposed to be a year for a backyard-friend-birthday-party for the twins. And how could I beat last year's end-of-the-summer Olympic blow-out?!

I love Google. I don't know what people (moms!) did before Google. Seriously, how did they clean their glass shower doors? How did they create memorable, unique backyard swim parties? Google saved me. Here are some of the ideas I found (or re-used in the end) while aimlessly yet avidly searching for something to jump out and come to my backyard birthday party rescue:

Hula Contest:

Sponge Races:
(contestants race to fill their bucket at the top of the hill with their sloppy wet sponges!)

Slip-n-Slide Races:
(this one cracks me up - & if blogger was uploading better, I'd show you the sequence of photos that followed this one...maybe another day...)

Balloon Toss (OK, it totally morphed into a water balloon fight - but, they had fun!)

Water/Sand Art:

Sundaes Made Their Way (instead of cake & ice cream --- this made it SO easy! YAY!!!):

Cookie Medals for 'participating':
(the kids helped me cut out and frost these the day before!)

And swimming!

The twins' favorite part of the entire 3 hour, 12 child event?
"The presents!"

Well OK then!

Friday, August 28, 2009

:: How to Clean Your Glass Shower Door ::

Have I told you Hubby's been gone on a business trip? No?? Good. Cuz he's back now and he would so get you with his baseball bat if you were looking for that kind of trouble.

But don't worry - I'm writing this and auto-posting it for later, so really, he is back. And he is so loving that I've been bored out of my mind most nights this week and looking for things to keep myself occupied. (There's only so many times you can log back on to the same blogs before you realize - you're the only one writing more than one blog a night cuz you AIN'T GOT NOTHING ELSE TO DO...)

ANYwho. Tonite, I cleaned my glass shower doors. (Seriously. THAT bored. --- Although, as you're about to see, it needed to be done. In, like, a HUGE way...) Now, I'm only showing you these pictures in the name of science, cuz man-o-man have I found the science to cleaning glass shower doors.

Everyone likes a good before and after shot, so here you go. (Again, in the name of science. And this blog. But not my reputation for keeping a clean house...if I had a good reputation for keeping a clean house...)

This is Benn.
This is Benn trapped outside the shower behind a day's worth of soap scum.
(OK, years'. Whatever.)

Here he is behind one clean shower door, realizing I'm probably not going to let him in, after tantalizingly calling him into the bathroom for no reason. (Other than to take his picture.)

Here he is behind both shower doors - now clean - letting me know he doesn't really care about me anymore, that, in fact, the fly buzzing around him in the air is faaaar more interesting.

Until he sees what I now see. And he, too, is amazed and must take a closer look:

The secret to clean glass shower doors?

:: fabric softener sheets ::

Just wet one down and go to town. No lie. Raise your hand if you already knew this. OK, never mind. Put your hands down.

Now go, clean your house as if you're selling it some day and enjoy the feeling of knowing you have changed the world. One dryer sheet at a time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Designing to Sell

Don't get excited. I've driven by the house daily (wish I could pull those two all-too-telling stickers off the back of my van window to improve anonymity, but oh well...I do have a wig...) and the new for sale sign hasn't come up yet.

However, it's amazing what a little motivation does towards improving your current home! I recently read this blog post over at Clover Lane. I nearly died at the thought of everything that truly needs to be done to get this house into tiptop shape (and to glance at it with eyes half closed and a lemondrop martini in your hand, it doesn't look all that bad...) and we've actually been designing to dwell here for some time now! Yet, this week finds me doing things that I would have done anyway, now that school's back on and not so many feet are underfoot...and other things that I wouldn't have dreamed of watering the lawn. I have moved the sprinkler every 15 minutes this afternoon while folding countless loads of laundry to make that room downstairs look like this again.

Then, Sarah at Clover Lane wrote this post recently. And I know, in my heart, that this other house may never be mine. My hubby looked up the comps in the neighborhood --- not that the house is worth NEARLY as much as its neighbors, it's in such disrepair, but homes in foreclosure rarely sell for less than 5% off the comparable homes in the area. And for years now, we've been making financial decisions on a single income. Being blessed to do so. Yet, it may never be mine, this other house. Since I'm not done with this one yet, I'll be OK. I swear. But still, I have to go. Move the sprinkler. Just in case.

Oh - and help me name my house here!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Name this house contest!

**insert cute picture of my house here...**

I've never done this before, but have long wanted to have a name for my house. I've decided to get some help from you all. I am incredibly inspired by Layla at 'The Lettered Cottage.' She meaningfully named her neighbor/friend's house 'The Half Note Cottage,' as well. Even Sherry at what used to be This Young House (now changed for legal reasons to Young House Love) calls her abode Casa Petersik. If you know our last name, then you'll know it doesn't go with 'Casa' ... anymore than Petersik does, for that matter - and yet, Casa Petersik does have a certain ironic ring. Not my name though. And I'm looking for something 'cottage'-y in my home's name, as well. Any ideas?

Leave a comment with your name idea. There's a $20 Target gift card up for grabs if I choose your concept! [Don't tell my husband... ;)] And make sure I have a way to reach you in case you win (email address, blogger profile with email enabled, you're my mom so I know how to reach you...whatever!)

Oh - and if you read my blog and never comment (you know who you are!) --- you can comment as 'anonymous' and just put your name within your comment ... then you won't look creepy!

Love you guys! Can't wait to see if anyone has any ideas out there...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sweet 'Little' Girl

Next weekend, this little girl will turn 8. I'm not sure the world is quite ready for her. She's all that and more.
I love you, Pookie!
Love, Mom
edited to add: yesterday, I set out three possible outfits for Pookie to choose from for school. She lithely took one piece from each of the sets and came up with an outfit far classier than anything her mama could have paired. Her second grade teacher aptly named her "a fashionista." I couldn't let the moment pass without a trip to the park when I should have been making the family dinner - in just that hour when the sun would be best - to snap some photos of just Pooks.
Now this morning, she came out of her room for school wearing makeup. I washed it off. And she told two to get her twin brother in trouble, and one to keep herself out of trouble. Some days, it's not just the world that isn't quite ready for this one. Some days, I need more than one cup of coffee to be ready for her myself!!!
Love that girl. Imperfections and all.

A Redemptive Day

Today began kind of scrappy.

From about 4AM on, I couldn't sleep. I considered why and reasoned that my insomnia probably stemmed from worries about this house, and worries about that house, and worries about certain school kids making friends, worry about Hubby traveling again, ... and just plain worry. Oh yes, I know by heart that we cannot add numbers to our days with worry, yet I seem to find it second nature to ignore the verse and keep right on worrying.

Yesterday, I took all four kids to 'the WalMarts' after school to grab more spray paint and some plant fertilizer, since - you know, I'm designing to dwell in this house (yeah, right. haha. stifle feigned, albeit forced laughter...). The kids wanted to play in the shrinking display of fountains in Lawn & Garden, and I appeased them by promising they could do so when we came back through to check out. As soon as we came through the door at the end of our quick excursion, Sashi took off for the little bird baths, a smile etched onto her face and Meiners in fast pursuit. Smiles soon gave way to screaming and crying when the back door Door Greeter squashed the kids' plans to splash in the water. Evidently, Ms. Fussy Door Greeter had had enough of kids splashing on her grounds for the day, and she sent the kids walking (or running) back to Mama with giant splashless alligator tears streaming down their faces.

I refused eye contact - cuz good grief, what's a little splashing among friends - and told tales of splashing in city fountains to appease their sadness. Not long ago, my dear friend Faith shared photos on her blog here of the new City Garden in downtown St. Louis. I decided that since my kids couldn't splash in WalMart fountains, I'd be sure and let them splash in City Fountains.

After a sleepless night of worry, with the two big kids off to school, Meiners, Sashi, and I took a trip downtown. After we redeemed our splashless Monday, we ate hotdogs from a street vendor and soaked in the beautiful day. I sat with two of my kids planted in my lap and soaked up the lovely of this Redemptive Day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I love our house.

We moved in over 11 years ago. It's not the same house. Every. room. has. been. changed. The outside, too. Fortunately, in my humble opinion, for the better.

It is small. I even like it for its smallness. A friend from my Bible study once said incredulously, "Your house is SMALL!" Why yes. Yes it is.

Lately, I have really been enjoying my bedroom. It is small, too. I like it that way, actually. I redid the room last spring. Ever since, we have not failed to keep it clean. I want to keep it clean. (...not that I want the rest of the house to be a giant moshpit of sloppiness. Quite the opposite. But I have become passionate about keeping the bedroom clean...) This weekend we moved a piece of furniture my father-in-law built for my daughter from a basement room into our bedroom. It made all the difference. I'm in love with my room. Again.

I find peace in the cool tones of the bedroom. I turn on the lamps every night, just so I can be consumed with the ambience as soon as I turn the corner. All the photographs are of us - it makes us feel a little more special. I haven't finished the wall of photos I planned. I did one in the girls' room of them. Maybe too many walls of photos is too much. But maybe it will come.

There are two more things I would like to do to this house. I want to install craftsman-style columns over the existing pillars on the front porch. And I want to redo our toy room. And I want to name her. (that was 3)

And I want to move. The house I prayed for last winter may become available again. My heart is set on it already. In a heavy way. Because I love this house. It is perfect. But the other house has loads of potential to love, as well.

It may not become ours. Once, when we first started 'looking' for a new house, I asked God to find it for me. Find me a house. He answered that He had found one. I'm still waiting to see what house He had in mind. As all the other houses we have briefly 'loved' have fallen out of our grasp, I have rested - assured that THIS house is the one He had found for us. So, I wonder as I remain content in this home that safely holds my growing family tonite (growing in size, age, and wisdom --- NOT in number...) I wonder - is this still the one? I'll have to wait a little longer.

One way or the other, I really do love this house.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"I wasn't ready!"

Remember when you were a kid playing Hungry, Hungry Hippo with your brother, and suddenly he started pounding on the black lever at the end of the hippo's bootie on his side of the board, and his green hippo scarfed up all the white marbles before you even started to push your lever down, and you totally lost the game, but you shouted: I wasn't ready! in whatever effort you could summon to avail the opportunity to start over?


This morning I wanted a re-do. I wanted one more lazy day of summer lounging on the couch watching the same episode of Hannah Montana for the eighteenth time or packing the kids into the van for one more outing or sipping a lemonade by the pool while they laughed with their friends and fought over the water toys. I wouldn't even overreact to the fighting. I promise...just one more time.

One more minute.


I wasn't ready!
I'm not ready.

And yet, they were.
I guess that's how it's supposed to be.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Review

We made a list at summer's onset. I asked each child: Name three things you want to do this summer.

The responses were varied and interesting...or at least similar - and fun!
Ferry Ride
Baseball Game
Chuck E Cheese.

The Arch

Chuck E Cheese
Baseball Game

Truly, the requests were simple. No one wished for Hawaii. Perhaps they just inherently understand such desires are unlikely to be fulfilled right now. But a ball game, we can do. And we did. The arch? Check. Movies? Even popcorn. Chuck E Cheese? Done. Zoo? Easy Peasy.

Tomorrow, we'll find a ferry. I don't know what spurred the 'ferry' comment - I wonder if he even remembers this early summer desire. But we'll fulfill the request. And as we float across the river, I'll reminisce about the summer where every kid participated in camps-a-plenty --- heart camp, scout camp, VBS, soccer we ran and swam and slurped up the summer in ice cream sundaes made 'their way' - with friends and family. I'll think back on Meiners' chilly birthday party, the bus stop kids' smores and sundaes bash (x2), the Princess Protection party, the Backyard Baseball party...I'll wonder if we used the pool enough, how we could watch so much tv, how many books we read and worksheets we didn't finish ... despite somewhat noble efforts. I'll ask myself how I could let it pass by so fast. How I could allow myself to miss one single moment. So precious and fleeting the time is. I'll cry over the reality of missing them. Knowing they'll come home every afternoon. With stories and homework and love for Mom. Cuz I'll always be 'Mom'...and to at least one growing little kindergartner, still "Mommy!"

And I'll promise to embrace the newest 'normal' for our family. With second graders and a new kindergartner, and even the baby growing into a little girl now, not so much a baby...I'll talk to myself about healthier eating, and childhood chores, and the revitalization of "The Organization Movement." Soon enough the leaves will change and boughs will be hung with full anticipation of yet more wonderment.

But for today, for even tonite, I stop. And remember. And smile. And love. And know.
I am blessed.

It is ~ A New School Year.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Having a Voice

I can say honestly that I don't pay a ton of attention to the news. I don't play the evening news on tv with the kids in the room. I don't even watch it on the late edition. But something tragic and overwhelming, really, happened nearby while we were on vacation last week, and it has just made me sick. A townhall meeting scheduled just down the street in our local junior high school broke out in violence over the current healthcare debate.

Here is a pic of my husband and me taken on our riverboat cruise last Friday night in Minneapolis.

I love this photo. It's a nice one of the two of us - just enjoying each other on a Mississippi Riverboat and a welcomed, albeit quick vacation together with our sweet family of 6. I sort of just want to post it. Yet, I think it also tells the story of who we are.

I guess you could say we're midwestern to the core. I was raised on a farm and a small college town in South Dakota and Missouri. As a teenager, we moved to 'the big city' --- Kansas City, to be exact. I am not radical. I am not even political. But I do care about what is happening in our country. And I would like to have my voice heard. I don't think that is really occurring in our country today. Perhaps those with differing views say they haven't had a voice before, so now they do. Does that mean it's OK to take mine away as you find yours? I am not an angry mob. I am not an organized protestor. I am an American with a voice.

Do you have one, too? Regardless of what you believe and how it aligns or differs with mine, write a letter to your representatives. Mine don't actually represent my views. But if enough of us write, it can make a difference. Don't sit idle and wait to see what happens in September. Hand write a note to your congressmen & women and your senators. If we don't, we have added nothing to the conversation.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sometimes we face a fear

I've been gone. Literally - we actually took a family vacation! I wanted to post pictures and show you the fun we were having, but I also wanted to come home to all my stuff. You know, just in case...

To make a long story short, before Sashi's surgery, we planned a sort of mini-vacation to Minnesota, where my husband works about two weeks per month. After her surgery, I really struggled with whether or not to travel so soon. Our plan was to drive from StL to Minneapolis - about a nine hour trip by car - and spend a little less than a week touring the city while Daddy worked. I didn't want to regret not trying to go. There are a finite number of opportunities we have in this lifetime to enjoy each other in unfamiliar adventures. I wanted to go and enjoy a new city with my kids - and to see a side of my husband's life we only hear stories about. I finally settled on the idea that we would go, and if needed, we would find a hotel room and return home if Sashi seemed to be in too much pain from the lengthy traveling. I was nervous, but we forged ahead.

Let me just tell you, we enjoyed a wonderful week. Sashi did remarkably well - especially since we dragged the car ride to a lengthy 11 hours! (We stopped frequently and enjoyed sit down meals instead of our typical eat-on-the-run!) We enjoyed the apartment and the area where JT lives while he works in Minneapolis (and saw the most amazing tree house ever!). We loved the aquarium and Mall of America in its entirety (though it proved challenging to keep track of four kids on the run while flying solo on a Friday there in August - despite their matchy-matchy clothes a-la Jon&Kate+8 ~ pre-divorce). We spent time with my 'long lost cousin' and her family on a Minnesota beach - and brought home our own special version of beach shells! JT and I shared a beautiful (albeit chilly) riverboat cruise with his employees and coworkers. And we made it safely back home about 2:00 this morning.

Sometimes we fear the unknown. I'd say it's safe to say I always fear the unknown - and often even the known! It's a beautiful thing to face fear, see yourself through it (by the grace of God), and to look back on the loveliness with a smile and fond memories. That's what this week felt like: a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Friend's a Friend Forever

I only have a minute - but wanted to thank so many of you for your prayers and your well wishes as we went through the last week with Sashi. Her recovery far exceeded that of any of her doctors, and she came home on Sunday!

I want to use this venue as an opportunity to send a HUGE thank you to a few of my real life friends who helped us is such sweet and tangible ways. Specifically, Sweet Christy --- I tried to phone you this A.M. to say THANK YOU for the surprises on our porch last night!!! You should have seen the joy on the kids' faces when I told them they were having their FAVORITE pizza for dinner! And Pookie took one lick of the frosting on that moist, yummy cake and exclaimed, "It's my FAVORITE!!! Cinnamon!!!" She helped Sashi parade around with the balloons for at least an hour...or just until the pizza came, but nevertheless ;) Thank you for taking the time out to do such an extraordinary thing for us!

And Mama V - you know I love you! I nursed that coffee the whole day, if you can believe it! THANK YOU for thinking of me in such a personal way :)

Others, please know that I felt wrapped up in your friendship, truly. It was such an amazing feeling to see people from so many different walks of life - past, present, computer - all sending love and best wishes. I'm telling you, it kept me together. I bawled like a baby as Sashi and I drove away from the hospital on Sunday. But I was able to stay strong when I needed to because God has blessed me with each of you.

Yay God! (And Yay YOU!)


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Like a Box of Chocolates

I headed down to the cafeteria to buy something chocolatey tonite. Because everyone knows chocolate makes the best dinner. And I walked past two bowls of chocolate pudding sitting on the dinner tray by the door. Not quite what I pictured for my late night snack. I needed something ... more chocolatey. Laughing at the irony of chocolate not being chocolatey enough, I opened the door and proceded down the familiar hallway.

Funny how food - even chocolate - evokes specific memories. I remember when Pookie was in the hospital frequently, the cafeteria served the absolute best cake. Rich, moist, dark chocolate cake with a creamy chocolate frosting, the end of each piece blanketed in a thick coating of mini chocolate chip pieces that added just enough texture after refrigeration that thinking about it even today - 7 years later, my mouth waters.

Searching for such a delicacy, I headed downstairs tonite. No, pudding wouldn't cut it. I needed that cake.


The cafeteria also used to serve the absolute best mandarin orange crispy fried chicken on salad greens with a honey mustard glaze and tiny almonds. Always on Thursdays. Every Thursday, folks from all over the Barnes-Jewish Children's complex converged on the lower level of Children's Hospital, standing in an endless line, waiting for that necessary drizzle of dressing before paying and sneaking off into the corner to share laughs and tasty lunchtimes with my co-workers. It wasn't chocolate. But it was almost as good.

Thursday I think I ate a cold spinach bacon souffle for my only meal - about 4 hours after purchasing it down the street at the Bread Co. They didn't have that just off campus all those years ago.

If they had, I may have started my coffee addiction years before I actually did. Back then, St. Louis Bread Co. sold German Chocolate danishes. Yes. Those were the product that single-handedly forced me into icee mocha submission. Flaky pastry on the outside. Pile of coconut-laced german chocolate frosting dolloped in the center with a light smattering of mini chocolate chips adorning the top. That yummy goodness paired with a large cup of frozen chocolatey caffeine goodness would send any common mortal into a sugar-induced hyperstate.

Not this connoisseur.

Know what I ate tonite? A hot fudge sundae. Just not quite enough chocolate. Yet, the only choice (save those two bowls of pudding sitting bedside up on the 10th floor...)

I wonder who ate the final piece of that cake. Who took it off the menu, thereby denying mere mortals the chance to experience such chocolatey heaven on earth?

I should write a letter.

In the meantime, I should also write one about the salad, the danish, and any other absolutely amazing food that I can no longer get my hands on!

... oh no! I just imagined what would happen if suddenly icee mochas went the way of the danish.

I think I need another sundae.
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