Archive for June, 2010

It wasn’t in the 90′s today!

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

We celebrated our high of “only” 89 degrees by finally getting to play outside.  It has been so hot and dry, even the weeds (flowers) that Sabrina picked for me were crispy.  She insisted I get a photo of them.

The girls were so excited to play with their outside toys.  Our driveway/front yard is in direct sun in the morning and it has still been too hot to get out there very much in the afternoon when it is shaded.

Uncle Ben’s Brown Rice

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I miss the early and mid-90′s when everything was good for you if it was fat free.  It was a carb lover’s dream.  Pasta, rice, bread – all fabulous as long as you didn’t put butter on them.  Somewhere along the way, we realized that wasn’t the healthiest way to eat and I had to grudgingly give up eating rice, pasta, and bread as often.  Everything in moderation.  But we’ve also learned that whole grains are good.  Brown rice started appearing on the shelves of the grocery stores.  Uncle Ben’s Rice has gotten in the game.

Brown rice is a whole grain because the bran layer isn’t stripped (for white rice, they strip the bran layer).  Leaving the bran layer intact means leaving a lot of fiber intact and a few other nutrients and minerals (e.g. magnesium, selenium, and zinc) that are lost when processing it into white rice.

We, like many families, are trying to incorporate more whole grains into our meals.  I have stopped buying white rice except where it exists in a some mixes I buy (e.g. Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix) because switching to brown rice is such an easy change to make.  When the Uncle Ben’s Brown Rice campaign came along, I was happy to sign up.  We had tried the Ready Whole Grain Medleys that came out last year.  (BTW Love, love, love those! The Santa Fe has brown rice, red and white wheat, and black beans.  The Roasted Garlic has brown rice and red and black quinoa.  You pop them in the microwave for 90 seconds and you have a whole grain side dish. Yum!)    But I hadn’t noticed the varieties of brown rice they were offering.

My box arrived packed with Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice, Boil in Bag Whole Grain Brown Rice, and Fast & Natural Whole Grain Instant Brown Rice.  I was especially excited to see the boil in bag variety because I often don’t decide what is for dinner in time to cook traditional rice.  Boil in bag is ready in 10 minutes!  We’ve had both the natural/regular and the boil in bag since my box of rice arrived.  Both tasted great and were no more work than white rice to prepare.  I haven’t made the instant yet because I’m not a fan of instant rice to eat as a side dish but it works great in things like stuffed peppers or sloppy joes so it will definitely get used.  I also so some boxes to give away but because of shipping costs, I will gift it to local folks to try (sorry blog friends).

Last week, Publix has Uncle Ben’s on sale BOGO and with coupons I was able to pick up a couple boxes of the brown boil in bag rice for less than $.50 so we are stocked up for awhile.

Uncle Ben’s sent some recipes to try.  I, sadly, haven’t tried any of them but I will definitely be trying the chicken and brown rice sloppy joes soon.  I included photos of 2 of the ways I’ve used the rice.  First was shredded chicken, peas, and a korma curry sauce over Traditional Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice.  The second photo is a quick side dish I threw together to go with grilled chicken and a green salad.  I used the Boil In Bag Whole Grain Brown Rice, a can of black beans rinsed, a box of frozen corn, and about a 1/2 cup of fresh salsa – threw it all together and YUM! I also used some brown rice in a soup but I didn’t get a photo.

I’ll leave you with a couple of ideas Uncle Ben’s sent for incorporating more whole grain brown rice into everyday meals:

* add cooked whole grain brown rice and blueberries to your whole grain pancake mix

* make your own veggie burgers with cooked whole grain brown rice, chopped veggies, cooked black beans, an egg, and chopped nuts

* use cooked whole grain brown rice in seafood cakes with tuna, salmon, or crab – makes a gluten free alternative to breadcrumbs or crackers

* try a high fiber risotto with by using whole grain brown rice instead of white rice – add veggies to increase nutritional value

Have you made the switch to brown rice? How do you try to incorporate whole grains into your families meals?

I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Uncle Ben’s and received samples to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. Opinions are my own.

The one where I complain it is hot in the south

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Everyone is a critic.  Tessa seems to be trying to tell me it is time to vacuum the dog hair off the stairs.  It is a never ending job.  Just wait until she is big enough to handle a real vacuum…

Sabrina is extremely unhappy that we aren’t getting out much this week.  It is hot hot hot.

Yesterday was 98.  The weekend was high 90′s with heat indexes in the triple digits.  Last night at 10pm it was still 86.  Friday actually looks like a bit of a relief.  We live in a very shiny, new area so there aren’t even trees big enough to provide much shade in parking lots.  We have the a/c set on 78 upstairs and for the hottest hours in the late afternoon it can’t manage to get it below 80 upstairs.  So yeah, hot.  I expect hot here in the summer – just not so early.  Gah!  I keep joking with Steve that I’m taking the girls and visiting family up north – we’ll be back in time for Halloween.

Reward for reading my rant about the obvious – some cute.

Sabrina chooses moments to take her big sister role seriously.  Lately, her favorite big sister activity is to help Tessa put on her shoes when I declare it time to go somewhere.  Tessa seems amused by this and usually lets Sabrina do it as long as I’m not in her line of sight.  It is adorable to watch and listen to but unfortunately when I manage to grab the camera it distracts them both and ends the moment.

I rarely watch videos that people post on their blogs and as a result I don’t share videos often.  But this is hilarious.  Seriously.  Watch it. I’m going to try and embed it but I’m not very good with video on my blog so click THIS LINK if it doesn’t work below.  I’ve watched it 5 times today and Sabrina has started singing along with it.

Dad Life from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Aquafina end

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I’m sad to say the Aquafina campaign has come to an end.  There will be no box of water arriving on my doorstep today.  This was the most fun PR campaign I’ve participated in.  It was awesome getting shipments (of a product I love!) every single week for 6 weeks.  It was so fun to hand out the coupons.  And it was great to try all of the flavors – I tend to find one I like and stick to it.

The final flavor was Peach Mango.  I have to admit that once again I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I like fresh peaches but I don’t like peach flavoring.  But I really liked the water.  It wasn’t overpowering and the flavor was nice.

My personal ranking of flavors:

1. Lemon

2. Strawberry Kiwi

3. Grape

3. Peach Mango (tie for 3rd)

5. Mixed Berry

6. Raspberry

And I found my personal preference for drinking the water was to not refrigerate it.  I prefer a lighter flavor than I got straight out of the bottle so I poured it warm over ice and it diluted a little bit and was perfect.  But most folks I talked to like to cold and straight out of the bottle – so however you like it, drink up!

I do have 2 suggestions for the Aquafina FlavorSplash folks.  First, give us an orange flavor.  Also consider apple.  I had apple from another brand once (never to find it again) and it remains my all time favorite flavored water.  It is like my Moby Dick of flavored waters – ever elusive.  Second, see what you can do about finding a natural way to sweeten your waters.  I don’t like my children to have artificial sweeteners so I didn’t let them drink any of the waters even though I know they would have liked them.  But I have to admit that I like the fake stuff because it keeps it calorie free for me.  So maybe just leave it alone.

Now for the winners I said I would announce last week (no wonder I don’t do giveaways – I kind of suck at them).  Since I am a week late, I figured I would just give away the rest of my coupons instead of doing another giveaway this week.  So the winners are: Julie P, Michele P, Alleen, and Pattie.  (Chosen randomly out of a bowl by my daughter.)  I’ve emailed you all – just send me your snail mail addresses and I’ll send you your coupon for a free 6 pack of Aquafina FlavorSplash.  Enjoy!

I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for Aquafina FlavorSplash and have received various FlavorSplash samples to facilitate my participation. Mom Central will send me a gift card at the end of the program.  My opinions are my own.

Happy Father’s Day

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Hope everyone had a nice Father’s Day weekend.  This is the craft the girls and I made for Steve.  I think he liked it.

We took him to brunch this morning and I made his favorite dinner (stuff shells in this heat – ugh).  It was too hot to go out and do much so we had a pretty quiet weekend.

I’ve been missing my dad a lot this weekend.  I miss him and I miss my girls knowing him.  After 3 1/2 years, I have finally reached a point that I can have photos of him around the house.  I couldn’t before – it made me too sad to see them.  I think I’ve also stopped pretending that he isn’t gone…since I moved away right after he died, I was able to largely live in denial.  Healthy for the mental health professional, no?

From my first wedding because it was such a nice photo:

Canning Party. Oxymoron?

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

So. The canning party.  Wait.  Before I get into that can I just tell all of you who don’t know me in real life how much money I would have placed on the fact that the words “I am hosting” and “canning party” would never belong together?  Loads.  I would have in fact bet that “canning” and “party” didn’t go together unless canning was a new term for drinking a lot.  (Foreshadowing: turns out in my world it might be.)

There are days I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person I am.  Playdates, baby pools, couponing, gardening, bunco, and now canning.  Michelle from 5 years ago would point and laugh at Michelle today.  Michelle from 15 years ago would be too busy working and having fun to notice Michelle today.  (Crap, now I’m discussing myself in the third person – I really have lost it.) It is all good.  I made the choices that led me here and am happy with my life.  It is just a little twilight zone-ish if I give it too much thought.

But I digress…canning party.  Not an oxymoron if you do it right!  You all know about the site House Party?  It is pretty cool.  You apply to host a party.  They send free stuff for you and your guests in return for highlighting their product.  Stroke of PR genius on their part.  Good way to try new stuff for us.  Win-win.  A canning party came up right after I started my garden.  I thought I might get lots of tomatoes and need to know how to do this mysterious thing that our generation doesn’t do much of so I applied.  And was picked.  Woohoo!

I invited my friends (look at me! with friends! plural! such a braggart!)  and waited for the mocking to begin.  Strangely, no one really mocked (except my BFF who is still laughing – seriously, she is reading this and chuckling to herself waiting to get the part that I got drunk and blew up the jars…btw D, only 1 of those things happened) and a lot of people agreed to come.  A huge box arrived with my canning kit (nice kit: big pot for boiling and all of the accessories needed).  They recommended we make salsa first and send a jar home with everyone.  I spent hours chopping stuff to make 12 cups of salsa.  Carpal tunnel set in around cup 8.  I made some munchies and mixed some drinks and guests arrived.  We all ate, drank, and canned.  (Although to be honest I think we ate and drank more than we canned.)  The drinks? Went down a little too well.  The salsa was canned – surprisingly easy.  But by the time we got to the second recipe, I might have had one or six drinks too many.  Oops.  The marmalade didn’t exactly reach the consistency of jam – more of a thin syrup.

I like my salsa fresh (I make really good fresh salsa) and am not sure how it will taste canned so I haven’t opened it. And the marmalade contained so much sugar it probably shouldn’t be eaten anyway.  I haven’t tasted either but both jars are sealed safely so in theory I could eat them. And in theory, I can now can tomatoes this fall.  But my tomato plants aren’t looking like they are going to bury us in tomatoes so I might not have to test that theory

My canning tips: get help when chopping for 12 cups of salsa and drink after the canning process is complete.  Oh and make sure you educate yourself a little so you don’t give your family botulism by doing it wrong.  What did my guests learn?  Hopefully that canning isn’t rocket science and that drunk Michelle is amusing.

Thanks to House Party, Ball, and Jarden Home Brands for sending us a party in the box. (Add your own tequila.)  FCC: They sent me free stuff but it had nothing to do with blogging about it.  Not sure what disclaimer you want here so go pick on one of the bloggers who got free appliances or trips rather then a free canning boiling water bath pot and boxes of pectin.

Summer ain’t playin’

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Summer isn’t even here, according the calendar, yet I would be hard pressed to name the last day where it didn’t reach 90 degrees.  It is currently 93* in my back yard (minus sun factor).  I spent 30 minutes mowing – couldn’t handle more than that.  It is going to have to happen in chunks because it is only supposed to get hotter and there is no cool time of day to get it done w/o the girls underfoot unless I get up at 5:30am and that isn’t going to happen.  (Truth: I didn’t want Steve to have to do it all on Father’s Day when it is supposed to be 100.)

Our prior 3 summers here, it hasn’t gotten this hot in a sustained way until July.  This  year it almost went straight from “It’s too cold to play outside” (coldest winter in memory  here in TN) to “It’s too wet to play outside” (rained for weeks then flooded) to “It’s too hot to play outside.”  Poor girls are not happy with the 2 or 3 weeks of playground/bike riding fun they got.

I bought them a blow up pool last week and they now spend every waking moment asking to swim.  Did I mention it is hot out?  Poor Tessa is so white you can almost see through her so even with sun screen I can’t let them stay out for too long.  (That and the fact that momma has to sit out there and watch.  In the hot sun.  Did I mention it was hot?)  Be prepared to see a lot of photo with the orange pool for the next 3 months.  Did I mention it is hot?  I should have considered photo ops when choosing the color of the pool.  Heh. Sadly I’m only sort of kidding. Any photo not sporting the orange pool will be indoors where there is plenty of a/c blowing.  My Scots-Irish self isn’t made for these temps.

And my favorite photo of the weekend:

Pasta Pomodoro

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This dish tastes like summer on a plate.  Light and fresh and easy.  I bought at Sam’s Club a big package of Roma tomatoes to make salsa but decided to divert some for dinner.

Back when I thought Olive Garden was good Italian food, I would drag my mom there.  The only dish she liked was the capellini pomodoro.  (She is a food snob of the first order. Love you mom.)  When trying to come up with dinner the other night, it was that dish I had in mind. I have to say I was surprised by how wonderful this dish tasted…the ingredients are deceptively simple.

Pasta Pomodoro

Favorite pasta (I use Dreamfield’s almost exclusively and it was a 13.5 oz box…the kids usually eat one of the pastas with added protein and omega-3s)

2 Tbl olive oil

1 medium vidalia onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced (please, use fresh…no jarred stuff and NO garlic salt…a unicorn loses its horn every time you use garlic salt)

1 lb+ Roma tomatoes (err on the plus side of a pound), seeded and finely chopped (seeded means cut the stem out of the top and squeeze them over the sink to get the liquidy gook out…you just want to fruit/flesh of the tomato)

1 tsp sea salt (yes, that is a lot but the tomatoes need it…give the tomatoes some salty love people!)

1 Tbl balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine (you can use 1 Cup broth and skip wine if you wish…but increase the vinegar to provide more acid)

Handful of fresh herbs, chopped finely (I used basil, oregano, and parsley – wish I had had more basil to add)

Red pepper flakes to taste

Freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese

Cook pasta according to package.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Saute the onion until it starts to brown a little.  Throw in the garlic (don’t burn it – burnt garlic is bitter) for a quick minute.  Add the tomatoes, salt, vinegar, broth, and wine.  Cook 5-7 minutes.  You want the tomatoes to retain their red color and some firmness – you don’t want to turn them mushy.  Turn off the heat and throw in the fresh herbs (if you insist on using dried, add them with the liquids before cooking because dried herbs need time to soften and marry with the rest of the flavors but this recipe really deserves fresh herbs).  Toss the pasta in the pan with the sauce.  Top with red pepper flakes to taste and some freshly grated cheese.  YUM!

Visit Rachel for more Mouthwatering Monday concoctions.

And a little preview of our attempts to stay cool in this early summer heat wave:

Aquafina Friday

Friday, June 11th, 2010

My Aquafina campaign is almost at an end.  I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.  I love having a 6 pack of water show up at my door every week in a different flavor! So far I’ve received mixed berry, lemon, strawberry kiwi, grape, and raspberry.

Raspberry is the flavor this week.  I love raspberries.  I love to throw them in a salad.  My mom makes a yummy salad dressing with them but I’m lazy and use raspberry all fruit preserves because pushing all of those strawberries through a sieve seems torturous to me.  I also love them in the cocktail I talked about in this entry.  I had a canning party last weekend (that is an entirely different subject and I promise to write about it soon…now pick your jaw up off the table) and drank a few too many of those yummy raspberry cocktails.

As for the waters, lemon was my favorite.  My second favorite was a toss up between strawberry kiwi and grape.  This week, I’m surprised to not be loving the raspberry but I just don’t like it that much.  The flavor is a little too strong I think.  It isn’t awful – I am drinking it right now…just not a flavor I would purchase.  I am a little sad to report that in my area the lemon isn’t easy to find in stores…but the other flavors seem to be pretty common.  And I am very curious to see what the last flavor of our campaign will be.

How about we make that the question for entry to win a coupon for a 6 pack and 2 lip balms (one raspberry and one mixed berry)?  What flavor do you think is the last one? I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday 6/15 around noon central time.

Don’t forget you can print your $1 off a six pack coupon right here.

I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for Aquafina FlavorSplash and have received various FlavorSplash samples to facilitate my participation. Mom Central will send me a gift card at the end of the program.  My opinions are my own.

Boycott Pants

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Sabrina has been all girl from day 1.  But now she wants the world to know it.  For the past 2 weeks, she has demanded to wear a dress every day.  The only problem I have with that is: she only has a few dresses.  I bought a few dresses and a bunch of shorts and tops for the summer.  This is the first time I’ve had to fight with her over wardrobe options.  She also wants Tessa to wear dresses – thankfully Tessa doesn’t care yet.

This is the current favorite dress.  Every time I do laundry, she immediately requests this dress.  The reason she loves dresses?  Because she can dance and twirl in them.  This from the girl who didn’t like dance class.  She will turn on her radio* (thanks Grandma Freida…it is now her favorite item…and mommy likes it too now that Steve loaded songs on it that don’t drive me crazy) and twirls for longer than anyone with an inner ear should be able.

Unfortunately, the twirling makes it difficult to capture a picture in our dark cave of a living room between the bad lighting and the fact that my camera always snaps the photo at the exact moment she turns her head.

And neither child will actually look at me when I have the camera out.  Tessa will purposefully turn her head and refuse to look at me when she hears me turn it on.

But sometimes it still turns into a cute photo.

*This is the radio (Discovery Kids MP3 Player) that Grandma Freida got Sabrina for Christmas 2 years ago.  It is an MP3 player that you can load songs onto.  It comes pre-loaded with 20 really annoying songs but you can remove those.  We put music on it that Sabrina likes dancing to but that doesn’t drive us crazy.  (Abba, Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi, Barenaked Ladies, Go-Gos, Def Leopard, AC/DC, etc.)  Click here for the listing on Amazon.

Dear FCC: No one asked me to plug the radio and the link is not an affiliate link…assuming I am using the term affiliate link correctly (meaning I get nothing if someone clicks on the link).  Just sharing a good product with my friends.


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