Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oh, the fun I am having...

Jeff always said I will love having a girl simply for the ability to dress her. I had no idea how right he'd be. Now that Sam walks, everything under the sun is possible! Dresses, skirts, hats, and shoes are at my disposal. And let me tell you, I am having FUN! Call me crazy, but I think Sam is enjoying it too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not for the faint of heart

It's been awhile since I've been up all up hours of the night. Now I know why. It is painful and it hurts. My BFF Heather and I feed on each other's energy and the idea to go to Toys R Us when they opened at 12:00 midnight last night didn't seem like it was a good idea until I spoke to her. All of sudden, we decided we HAD to be there. I am normally asleep by 10:30pm and wasn't sure how we'd stay awake to when the store opened. Heather came up with the brilliant idea to see a movie beforehand. The plan was to go see "The Blind Side" at 7:50pm and afterward hang out in the parking lot of Toys R Us until they opened. When we arrived at 10:20pm, the line had already started forming and was easily 60 people deep. How could I wait in the warm, dry car watching the line get longer and longer? No way! So I took my place in line and waited for more than 1.5 hours in the cold and rain for the doors to open.

The line got longer and longer. We were at the Fair Lakes, VA location and it stretched all the way to BJ's. CRAZY!! I asked a police officer what he estimated the crowd to be and he said easily 1,200 people. All standing in the cold and rain. Wow! At about 11:55pm, they handed out the tickets for the first 100 people to get this season's hottest gift - the Zhu Zhu pet hamster. Heather and I made the cut. Who knew this was something we even wanted?

The police did a great job of keeping the crowd under control and when it was time to go inside the store, they opened the doorway just enough for one person to enter at a time. Meanwhile, the police held back the big groups of people who all of a sudden appeared from the parking lot and was prepared to cross the street and enter when the crowd started moving.

Once inside it was the absolute craziest environment I've ever seen. These people were professionals. They knew what they were doing and had apparently done this before. Shopping carts were filled up to the top in a matter of seconds. Stacks of toys on display in the store disappeared with the blink of an eye. It was insane! People had a strategy on what they wanted to buy and scoped the store out the day before. I admittedly, didn't bring my A game and was clueless. In my sleep-deprived state, I thought I would be able to wander around and take in the sights and smells of the store with all their glorious toys at my leisure. Heather and I even said we'd shop until 1:00am and then plan to be home by 2. Ha!!

The one big item Heather really wanted was the princess vanity. It was originally $69 and would be on sale for $25. Wow! What an amazing deal! I knew that eventually Samantha would be old enough to enjoy something like this and told Heather to pick me one up if we got separated. She also had said she would get one for another one of our friends. I was going to hit the pick up of the hamsters (we told to get them immediately upon entering the store) and Heather was making a beeline for the vanities. We are not entirely certain what happened, but all we know is that there were exactly 8 vanities to be had at the store and all 8 were gone by the time we realized what end was up. I heard rumors that the vanities had been moved to the front of the store and the hamster crowd was blocking the view of them. I never did see any of the vanities, not even in people's carts.

I do believe the amount of people in Toys R Us at 12:10am was a fire hazard. You couldn't move. There were people everywhere. It was so congested that if someone fell over, we'd all go like dominoes. I inched my way through the GeoTrax section and Heather was nice enough to point out an item or two she thought Sam would like. They ran out of carts and was making big apologies to people over the store's intercom.

Finally by 12:15am, we had it. There was no more fight in us and it was time to call it a day. We started hearing announcements about where the end of the line was and realized it would've been easier to go in the other direction to get to the end. It took us 10 minutes to make our way to the end. The end of the line by the time we got to it (at 12:25am) was located back in the toy baby area -- near bikes. Seriously. I kid you not, the line weaved in and out of most aisles and bordered the entire left half of Toys R Us. Heather and I soon realized we weren't going anywhere fast and decided to take turns wandering the aisles (cartless) and see if there was anything else we wanted to get. When it was my turn to go, I was in awe that every single person in the store was now standing in line waiting to check out. It was seriously out of control. Some of our best finds came from pilfering people's carts who dropped out of the line and gave up.

I had no idea if what was in my cart was on sale. Some of the stuff apparently didn't go on sale until 5:00am. People were standing in line talking about the great deals they were getting. I never felt more out of it not knowing exactly what was going on in my cart. It took us until 3:00am to reach the registers. I lucked out big-time and got a cashier (named JJ), who took the time to tell me the price of each thing in my cart and let me know if it was on sale or not. It was then that I was starting to come back to my senses and told him to put stuff back that wasn't on sale. He added my rejects to the growing pile behind him and said he didn't mind in the least because he wasn't the one who was going to reshelve these items. When we came to the items that would be marked down at 5:00am, he graciously gave me on-the-spot price adjustments and rung me up at the sale price.

I walked out of Toys R Us feeling beaten-up. My eyes hurt from still being open and my body was starting to go through dehydration from lack of water. It was not pretty. I have no idea what I ended up going home with (and won't until Ian goes to sleep tonight) nor do I have any idea if this was even worth my time to do this in the first place.

I know I saved a total of $51. I know I received an electronic hamster for $9.99 that the same exact thing is being sold on Amazon for $46. And apparently no one can find one to buy. I also know I received the 64 pack of crayola crayons for free with my purchase. And I know I saw an amazing movie that I would've probably had to wait until it came out on Netflix to see.

Will I do this again next year? Not if my life depended on it. Heather and I excel at getting to stores at 5:00am when they open. Not at midnight the night before. They call it Black Friday for a reason. Lining up in the outside, cold and rainy night for 1 hour, 40 minutes before they open the doors on Thanksgiving was not as fun as it sounds.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tooting my own horn

This is my 100th blog entry. Happy Anniversary to me! Who knew I had so much to say? When I first started the blog, it was to make sense of all the stress/anxiety/overwhelmed feelings I was having. Writing everything down gave me a chance to sort through it and put it in perspective. Since then, I've been writing about everything under the sun; from what the kids are currently doing, to my diagnosis and frustrations with Celiac, to snippets about our life. I've included the good, the bad and the ugly, and hopefully put a smile on your face from time to time. It has turned out this blog is very cathartic for me and is something I greatly enjoy doing. Who knew?

The thing I am most pleased with is that when the kids get older, they will have a very detailed account of what life was like. They can read about various things they were doing and what their reactions were to different events from the mundane to the momentous. Of course, it will all be from my point of view!

To all those who read my blog, a big Thank You to each and everyone one of you. I am enjoying sharing my life and plan to continue for a long time to come. Every now and then, I fear I will not have anything more to write about, but then, lo and behold, I wake up and a new adventure has begun.

Happy reading! And remember to live each day to the fullest.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I see you!

Oprah has done wonders for the book industry, girls needing an education in Africa, and many other worthwhile causes. But for me, I am most grateful to Oprah for introducing me to Skype.

For last couple of years, every guest Oprah has on her show via satellite is possible through Skype. Without her, I probably wouldn't have known just how cool the technology is or how easy it is do. Having my family live in Orlando is tough. I miss them more than what is considered normal and have been known to call anywhere from 1 to 5 times a day. It is a rare day that goes by when I haven't spoken to my mom at least once.

With the magical powers of Skype, my mom gets to see Sam take her first steps and waddle around. She eats breakfast with the kids in the morning and sometimes greets Sam when she wakes up from a nap. She makes us laugh with her efforts in trying to get the webcam up close and personal -- sometimes too much and all we see is up her nostrils.

Samantha watches the netbook get powered on (this is where our webcam is located) and instantly starts waving. She points to her chair and wants a front row seat to the action. Every now and then she'll take a look behind the computer to see where the rest of Mom-mom is located. It is very cute. And on command, she'll blow kisses to the screen when I tell her it is time to say good-bye.

Ian is a goofball and talks to Mom-mom like she is his peer. They have a unique relationship and enjoys chatting with her about what he is eating, who he will be playing with later that day and what his toys are doing.

I love technology and the ability for my kids to see their grandparents more than they would be able to. It's wonderful that my mom can see them grow, develop and what new things they are in to.

And the best part is, Skype is free and budget-friendly. Now this is even something that is Jeff approved! Who knows, now that Oprah has decided to end her show, maybe she'll want to skype with us too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Say cheese

I question why I do this every year. It is a painstaking exercise and I put a lot of pressure on myself and the rest of the family to comply. I get very stressed-out as soon as I wake up in the morning. I pray that Ian and Sam got enough sleep the night before and will hopefully be in a good mood. My fingers are crossed that Jeff is in good spirits too and up for the challenge. I realize that when it is over and we are headed back home, I have not been breathing properly and let out a huge sigh of relief it is over and I have another year to go before attempting it again.

This is the annual family picture I am talking about. The one where we include the dog.

The big thing is figuring out what color we will wear. It is very important that we are color coordinated. I like to change the colors so the picture looks a little different from year to year. The bottoms are easy and will either be jeans, khakis or black pants. And, I try to assess what we already have in our closets so that I am not buying new outfits for everyone.

Once that is figured out, it is important to get on The Picture People's calendar for their first appointment of the day. This is the only time (other than at 8:00pm at night) that they will allow pets in their studio.

When we arrive, I calmly tell the photographer what she is up against. She probably has all of five minutes to get the best picture she can. After that, more than likely, someone in my Toppall team is done. And by that I mean, D O N E. There is no changing poses, no changing backgrounds, no adjusting anything.

If it isn't apparent by now, let me say that I am the only one who wants to be there. Last year was a real disaster when we sat perfectly posed for 15 minutes and everyone was on their best behavior. I got very excited at the thought of how great these pictures were going to turn out. After a mysterious disappearance by the photographer, we come to learn that his camera was malfunctioning and not one single picture turned out. I left there in tears and the manager followed me out offering everything under the sun to get me to come back and do a re-shoot. I guess she didn't get the memo on what a challenge it is for me to get us in there in the first place.

This year went a bit better. Ian is finally old enough to understand what I am trying to accomplish and didn't even give me one bit of trouble on wearing a turtleneck. Bailey was happy to get out of the house and take a trip to the mall. And in his own way, Jeff even has accepted my need to do this each year and does his best to go with the flow. My wild card was Sam. She wanted nothing of it. She saw the decorated plastic Christmas trees and longingly looked at the ornaments calling "ball...ball....ball...ball." She was not happy sitting in my lap or even staying within the perimeter of where the picture was being taken.

Each year it does get a little easier. Although I have a feeling that once Sam is old enough to want her picture taken, then she is going to want major say in what she is wearing too. How will I convince Jeff and Ian to wear pink?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Good help is easy to find, if you know where to look

Sam loves taking care of her brother Ian. At just 17 months, she is proving to be a good mommy.

On the rare occasion that I am the one to give the kids their bath, I take the most efficient route possible and bathe them together. No one ever tells you how great this is when deciding to give your only child a sibling. But being able to bathe two kids at once is a wonderful thing! You have both kids in one place, they are getting clean and having fun playing -- all at the same time. What can be better? Since Ian is a boy and Samantha is a girl, I know bathing them together can't go on for much longer, but for the time being, I do enjoy it.

Once the bath is over, I'll take Samantha out first, get her dry and pajamas on. Then I'll go back to the bathtub and get Ian. While I am doing this, Sam goes into Ian's room and pulls out a pair of pajamas for him to wear. I guess I did something right years ago, when I put his pajamas in the bottom drawer!

In the morning, Ian gets up very early and heads downstairs first thing. By the time I catch up and bring him clothes to change into, Sam has helped and given her input. Once Ian makes it into the bathroom (when taking off his pjs he realizes he needs to go pee), Sam is right there, meeting him at the bathroom door, holding out underwear for him to put on. She then goes to get his pants and hands them to him, and then, last but not least, she will give him his shirt/sweater. With each item, she holds out it to him and says "this...this...this...this" until he takes it from her and puts it on.

And, when I shout out "Ian, it's time to get your socks and shoes on." Guess who is the first one bringing him his socks? Yes, it's Sam. Most of the time she is faster than him.

The only thing Sam asks for in return for this help is a bite (or two, or three) of whatever he is eating. I guess her food never looks as good as what he has.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sleepover? Close, but no cigar

You never know how something is going to turn out until you give it a try. Ian has been talking about having a sleepover since the beginning of the summer. I am still not sure where he first heard about them, but he talks non-stop about all the friends he will have over to spend the night.

Being the naive and fearless parents we are, we decided to throw Ian a bone and let him get the sleepover thing checked off his to-do list. Everyone who has kids and knew me well enough, told me that Ian was way too young and this was a crazy idea. We picked Ian's lowest maintenance friend, Johnny, and asked him over. Johnny's incredibly cool parents were up to the zany idea and willing to give it a try. The plan was for Johnny to come over at 4:00pm and be picked up to go home at 10:00am the next morning. All day Ian was looking forward to Johnny coming over. He kept asking how much longer until he arrives.

A particularly funny moment happened when the boys proved you can be outnumbered. We had gone to the mall earlier that day and allowed Ian to pick out all the colors of m&ms he wanted from the candy store. He was so excited to be able to share these with Johnny when he came over. We told Ian he could have them after dinner. Dinner was a success and both boys ate well. As we are getting up from the table, Jeff started his speech on the perimeters for eating the m&ms. While Jeff was talking, Ian and Johnny worked together to get the step stool, grab the HUGE bag of m&ms from on top of the microwave and walk out of the room together with the goods. Jeff is still talking. It was hilarious and I couldn't stop laughing. Clearly he was not in charge.

The boys got along fabulously (as we knew they would) and when it came time to go to sleep, they eagerly got into their pajamas and brushed their teeth. The sweetest thing was when Ian asked Johnny if he needed to borrow a Gymbo (Ian's lovey) to sleep with.

Between Johnny's CARS pajamas, CARS sleeping bag, CARS pillow, Ian's CARS bedding and pajamas, it looked like the movie threw-up in his room. Ian has a rule that he can't watch tv when having a friend over. But seeing as how the friend wasn't leaving, we said they could watch one thing before bed. They chose the movie "CARS". Fortunately we only kept it to an hour and then turned it off.

At first there was giggling, talking, endless "last" trips to the bathroom, a call to Johnny's mom to say good night, and then it got quiet. Ian fell asleep, but Johnny was still awake. Wide awake. Johnny has this lingering cough (not contagious) that will go away once he falls asleep. But until then, Johnny was coughing this half-cough every 10 to 15 seconds or so. For 1.5 hours. Jeff and I weren't sure if the cough was keeping him up. I felt bad that it was taking him so long to go to sleep. I called Johnny's mom and asked if there was something we could do to help him. After a quick discussion, Johnny's mom offered to come get him. I wasn't sure what to do. I know how badly kids need their sleep and I didn't know if Johnny could fall asleep in a strange bed. Johnny's mom said he usually falls asleep pretty fast. I guess it was best for us to call it a night and for Johnny to go home. Better at 10:30pm at night, then 2:00am, right?

When I went upstairs to tell Johnny his mom was coming to get him so he could go to sleep in his own bed, he instantly broke into tears. He didn't want to leave. It broke my heart and I felt so bad that I was doing this to him. Ian woke up briefly when he heard Johnny cry and started crying too; he didn't want Johnny leaving either.

We had plans for Jeff to take the boys to get bagels the next morning. Johnny really wanted to still do this, so we stuck with the plan and picked Johnny up at 8:00am to get some breakfast with us.

I think my friends may have been right. But you never know until you try. Ian is already going back to his list on who is next to sleepover. I think we are going to give it more than a few months before trying again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Adventures with Celiac continues II

I think this week I actually got my Celiac groove on! I picked much simpler recipes to make for dinner, with the emphasis on it not taking 1.5 to 2 hours to prepare.

GF Pizza Crust - I tried a new recipe. This one was listed in the 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes Cookbook. I never had to use a food processor before when making pizza dough, but I followed the instructions and it turned out. In fact, we all found the pizza to be very tasty. Usually there is easily a piece or two left for Ian to take to lunch bunch at school the next day. This evening, we were all wanting 2nds and 3rds. It was that good. Yay! Now the next time I make the dough, I can make a much bigger batch and freeze it for subsequent pizza and game nights. It will be a breeze to roll out the pre-made dough and get it in the oven.

Chicken Parmesan - this was yummy and so easy to make. It helps that Wegmans sells gluten-free bread crumbs.

Jeff had a Happy Hour for work and once I got done feeding the kids a nutritious dinner, I got to indulge in my favorite single girl dinner - popcorn!

Black Bean Enchiladas with rice - Another winner! And the recipe had me making the enchilada sauce from scratch too. It was very tasty. Easy to prepare in advance and just put in the oven 20 minutes before we sat down to eat.

Baked Aloha Pineapple Chicken - My time management on getting this recipe done was off by 2 hours. While I cooked it, Jeff fed the kids dinner, played with them a bit, gave them their baths, read them stories, put them to bed and then we ate this dish. It was easy to make, but took forever to cook. I LOVED it! Jeff, however, was not a fan. It's a shame too, because he had to wait so long to eat that night. :)

Ian's religious school was having a special Shabbat dinner and family-friendly service. Because of the late start time, Jeff took Ian and I stayed home with Sam. I ate an Amy's gluten-free frozen meal for dinner.

Ian had his first sleep-over and I wanted to make a dinner that I knew would be a winner with Ian and his friend. I did spaghetti, salad and bread. I used regular spaghetti for everyone and boiled a small batch of gluten-free pasta for me. And, in an act of self-control, I stayed away from the bread.

Sometime during the week, Jeff came up with the idea that the slow cooker may be the way to go for making dinner a few of the nights each week. I can't believe I hadn't thought of this myself. I guess there is a reason I keep him around. :) I did a quick Google search and found some awesome Slow Cooker Gluten-Free recipes listed online. Next week I'll be making a minestrone soup and a chicken with rice & vegetables in the slow cooker. Plus, as luck would have it, I had a friend email a Thai Chicken recipe that goes in the slow cooker and only contained gluten-free ingredients.

I think I am getting a handle on cooking gluten-free. There are many benefits to eating this way and it is causing me to really stop and think what we are putting in our bodies. I just hope my enthusiasm continues.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Toys, toys, toys; there are never enough!

If you ask Ian what he wants for Hanukkah, he'll point you in the direction of this year's Toys R Us "Our Biggest Big Book Ever." It is a catalog of toys that gets produced each year and is conveniently included in your Sunday paper right around the end of October.

I put the catalog on the table to take a look at later and get some ideas for the kids. Ian found it and started looking through it. I could hear him telling Jeff, "I want this one. And, I want that one. And that one. Oh and I need this one." etc. Jeff was doing a good job of half listening and continuing with whatever activity he was in the middle of; I am guessing reading the newspaper at the time. I could tell that Ian just wanted someone to listen to him, so I decided to pull up a chair with my trusty red sharpie marker and ask him to point out what he would like us to consider. As Ian pointed to each item, I circled it, and before I knew it, the sharpie left my hand and found its way to Ian's. Ian had a field day flipping through all 80 pages. He circled crazy-expensive things like the Power Wheels Lightning McQueen Car (on sale for $229.99) and Adventure Playhouse (on sale for $249.99). Ian even circled a few things for Sam. Some pages had every item circled on it even if it wasn't age appropriate or anything he expressed interest in before. Some of the items he said he wanted "super bad" and other ones he has been wanting for years (he is only 4!).

Last year Jeff and I got a babysitter for a few hours and got all of our holiday shopping done in one evening. It was a very productive outing and we were able to bounce ideas off of each other and brainstorm in real time. I am hoping to do the same thing this year and take the Toys R Us catalog with us and see just how much of Ian's dream wish list we can make a reality. Seeing as how his big boy bed is his big gift, we still need to fill up the rest of the 8 nights with smaller presents.

Wouldn't it be nice for adults to have a similar catalog with their wish list items like a bigger house, new car, dream vacations? I'd happily circle everything too and hope my mommy and daddy fulfilled it. Oh wait, I am a grown up now and live in the real world. Maybe that is why Toys R Us has a song about not wanting to grow up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing hooky from raking

There's always time to rake leaves, right? Jeff is very quick to want to hire someone to rake them but I feel there is much better use of our $200 and some dollars. It's a back-breaking chore, but we can do it ourselves. Last year I did it all by myself. I ended up filling 32 bags of leaves. Once I got started I couldn't stop. That's the obsessive-compulsive side of me. Also, I do a very thorough job and usually have to go back and start all over again before I can call it a day. After all, more leaves fell in that first section after I left it to move on.

The leaves aren't going anywhere, but the wonderful weather will be. Last Sunday was a picture perfect day for the greater Washington D.C. area. The temps got into the mid-70's and the sun was shining the whole day. When we have a day like that with nothing already on the calendar, my Toppall team makes a beeline for Gravelly Point. It is one of our favorite places to spend a few hours outdoors. Gravelly Point is a big open field next to Reagan National Airport. The view for watching planes take-off and land is spectacular. Plus, the Potomac borders one side of Gravelly Point and you can see boats sailing in the water.

We packed up a few snacks, drinks, balls, blanket, back-up clothes and the dog. We can be gone for an hour or for 10 days, it is the same amount of crap. It was a fun afternoon and knowing that this beautiful day in the 70's wasn't going to be around long made us all appreciate it even more.

Driving back home (after stopping at Cold Stone Creamery for some ice cream) I saw all my neighbor's houses with their clean lawns and their bags with the picked up leaves. Our leaves were just where we left them. I felt guilty for about a minute and then it occurred to me that when we look back on how we spent Sunday, Nov. 8th with a rare day in the 70's, it won't be raking leaves, it will be having fun at one of our favorite places.

I can only hope a strong wind comes and blows some of my leaves to the neighbors. I can't have their lawns looking that good for too long.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


There is a weird fascination with underwear in our household. When I am folding Ian's laundry, Sam comes over and picks out all of Ian's underwear, gathers them in her arms and hugs them close to her chest. Fortunately they're clean!

About a month ago, I asked Jeff if he thought Ian's current supply of underwear (little boys tighty-whities) were looking too small. Jeff replied with, "borderline." Wanting to be prepared in case a growth spurt occurred (you never get warning with this sort of thing), I tried to figure out the next size to get him.

Each stage in dressing a boy is new territory for me. It turns out there is no size in between 6 and 8. Size 6 is what Ian is currently in and size 8 is apparently what he would go to next. Unable to find a decent selection in the stores with Ian's favorite characters, I went to, ordered them online and got free shipping. Ian was very excited when they arrived and couldn't wait to try them on.

They are HUGE on him!! At first glance it looks like him and a friend can fit in there. Ian tries to make them fit and pulls them up higher than Pee Wee Herman wears his pants. Now Ian looks like he is 4 going on 84. When he pulls them down to a more appropriate level on where they should be, Ian has a lot of 'junk in the trunk'; only it is all air! Oh my!

Obviously we have a few months (maybe even a year) before Ian will be ready to wear the new underwear. But this is Ian we are talking about and if there is new CARS or Spiderman underwear in the house, he wants to wear it.

You always hear how important it is to wear clean underwear in case (God Forbid) you get into an accident, but no one mentions they should fit. At least we will get our money's worth out of this batch because I predict Ian will be about 8 years old before I am asking Jeff if they look a little snug.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Adventures with Celiac

In an effort to embrace my new way of eating, I ordered 3 cookbooks online (got to love Amazon) so that my family and I would have something on the table for dinner each night. It has been one interesting culinary adventure after another. I think the term that can best sum up this past week is "OY!"

The titles of these cookbooks held a lot of promise:
The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Kitchen
1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes
Gluten-Free Baking Classics for the Bread Machine

Next to the microwave, our bread machine was the most used appliance in our kitchen. I was known to easily bake 1 to 2 loaves a week. There is nothing better than a fresh baked loaf of bread and getting to control the ingredients you put in it is the icing on the cake. Getting the diagnosis of Celiac really put the kibosh on my bread making and the bread machine has sat lonely and unused for the better part of the last 2 months. Finding the cookbook Gluten-Free Baking Classics for the Bread Machine made my heart sing again.

Let me just say, I was a little dismayed at the size of the bread machine book that arrived. I would say it is more like a thick pamphlet. Pre-Celiac, my go-to bread machine cookbook was The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook; it totals 643 pages. This new Celiac approved way of making bread cookbook was all of 72 pages. Dare I tell you it takes until page 22 before the recipes begin? In the interest of full disclosure, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook does have a small gluten-free section - there are 6 recipes included.

Armed and dangerous with my new ammo, I sat down last Saturday night and planned out a week's worth of dinners. Sunday is always pizza and game night at our house and Ian and I make the pizza dough from scratch. I looked up a new gluten-free pizza dough to try and wrote down all the ingredients needed. The rest of the week was a wild card and I concentrated on the gluten-free vegetarian cookbook first to get meal ideas out of.

Cornmeal Pizza Crust - This tasted like pizza sitting on cornbread. Yuck! Not at all what we are used to and everyone agreed I will need to go back to the drawing board on finding a new pizza dough recipe. Fortunately I made an awesome salad to go with this and it saved Jeff & I from hunger that night.

Tacos and Burritos - No recipe needed for a fun, festive meal. Taco-seasoned chicken, rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, chips -- need I say more?

Spaghetti Squash Primavera - I never ate spaghetti squash before, much less cooked with one. This took me over 1.5 hours to make (not including the 1 hour bake time the squash needed in the oven first). Oh my! I do find it fascinating how the spaghetti squash does a really good job of impersonating real spaghetti. This recipe was chock-full of fresh vegetables and very tasty. I liked it. Jeff didn't. And as much as Jeff hates to waste food, he couldn't even finish what was on his plate and had to turn to foraging in the refrigerator to eat that night.

Zucchini Risotto Pie with Rosemary and Marinara Sauce - Even though it is billed as a 'main dish', I do not believe it had enough umph to be considered the entree. I think this recipe would make a stellar side dish. It was very tasty and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jeff did finish eating it for dinner, but turned-down the opportunity to take leftovers for lunch the next day (this is my true test for knowing how much he liked the dish). I would make this again, but only when time is not a factor (it was time consuming) and as a great, tasty side the next time we have company for dinner.

Five-Ingredient Potato Lasagna - I have to be honest, I got excited when I saw the title to this recipe. I LOVE POTATOES! All kinds (fried, baked, sweet, boiled, etc). There isn't a potato I met I didn't like. Now this recipe was a breeze to prepare, but it didn't set like a lasagna is supposed to. I gave it the 10 minutes it asked for at the end and still it was very soupy and had an extremely runny consistency. I brought it to the table and gave Jeff and I each a portion. Immediately Ian said he wasn't going try that. Jeff took one look at his plate and agreed with him that he wouldn't have to take the obligatory bite we make him try. (side note: Ian is on one heckuva chicken nugget run and this is what he has for dinner each night. We do make him try one bite of whatever it is we are having. Samantha has a little of everything and is already proven to be more adventurous). I personally have no desire to make this dish again, but I was pleasantly taken aback when Jeff said he would put the rest in Tupperware containers and take it for lunch. Wow.

Pasta with pesto sauce, pine nuts and broccoli with a fresh baked loaf of gluten-free bread - this dinner is something I used to make before in my pre-celiac days. It is a winner with the whole family and even Ian will eat it with us. All I had to do was get gluten-free pasta in its place. Baking gluten-free bread is new territory for me and it required me to manually program my bread machine for this recipe. I was taking a huge leap of faith that it really would be necessary to cut out the knead 2, rise 2 and rise 3 cycles from baking this loaf. The end result didn't look like any loaf I've made before. It was small and compact looking and the color seemed off. The gluten-free pasta taste was pleasantly masked by the pesto sauce. Overall, I'd say this dish was a big success. Jeff even mentioned that he really liked the bread. I am not sure I am such a convert yet.

Lessons learned - I need to find simpler recipes. While it is good to try new things, it might be best to limit myself to one or two per week. It was a little overwhelming going to Wegman's getting the ingredients for 6 nights of dinners. I do want to point out that we haven't eaten this healthy for these many nights in a row EVER! All of the dinners were heavy on fresh vegetables and spices. In fact, there were so many vegetables used, that I didn't know what kind of sides to put with some of this stuff. I still have yet to walk away from this week with a new recipe I am dying to make again. My adventures with Celiac continues...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mostly sweet, with a side of creepy and gross

Halloween this year was a real eye-opener. As Ian gets older, we are able to trick-or-treat at more and more houses. Of course, we went through his candy and sorted through everything to make sure it was safe for him to consume. I thought it was odd when I saw a square piece of chocolate from Royal Caribbean. I updated my status on Facebook to the following:

"oddest piece of Halloween candy collected by far is the Royal Caribbean chocolate they give you when they turn down your bed at night. Seriously?!?!? Someone went on a cruise and collected them to give out for trick-or-treaters? So bizarre! And no, we won't be eating it."

Then in Ian's pumpkin bucket I came across a baggie with a loose marshmallow in it. What is going on here!?!?!? So I added the following comment to my Facebook status:

"2nd oddest prize goes for the random marshmallow in a baggie. heheheheheheh. Don't these people realize if it is not wrapped, we won't let our children (or ourselves!) eat it?!?!?!"

I quickly had friends chime in with their kid's strange candy collection and realize we were not alone. Apparently every neighborhood has an nut who will give out loose candy to kids. In one instance, my mommy friend wrote that she had the marshmallow thing beat and had a lady handing out candy corn (loose in a bowl); every child who came got to reach in the bowl and take a handful. Yuck!

Other Facebook friends reported on loose jelly beans being handed out. The only thing that could get better with loose candy is if it gets sneezed on first.

Do these people not watch tv or read the paper? The media has a done a real number on the public and has most of the parents with young kids in mass hysterics over the Swine Flu epidemic. The story has been building and gaining speed for months on how hard it is to find the H1N1 vaccine. And the few places that do get a supply in, have crazy long lines of people waiting hours on end until they run out.

Not to mention, we see endless stories on talk shows, news conferences and the evening news on what you can do to prevent the spreading of germs. Sneeze or cough into your arm, do not shake hands with anyone and wash your hands frequently to name a few things you can do. Handing out loose candy should be such a no-brainer it doesn't even deserve to be part of the list of precautions.

And even if they are in the dark about the threat of the cold & flu season, do they not remember the 80's when parents were in fear of something tainting the candy and all WRAPPED pieces needed to be inspected very closely?

Fortunately Ian is only interested in the bags of m&ms. Everything else he gets in his bucket is open for grabs for Jeff and me to eat. And Sam is still too young to know that some (or all) of her candy will go missing as soon as she turns her head.

But I would really like for these people who hand out loose candy or let kids grab a handful for themselves to explain to me what they are thinking. And, to the person who handed out packets of jelly (yes, the kind you get at a restaurant) and a CVS coupon for $1.00 off Head and Shoulders shampoo - what were you thinking!?!?!?

I am so happy that Halloween only comes but once a year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Norman Rockwell kind of day

We ended the month of October on a high note. It was a great day and I don't think it was possible to have more fun than we did.

Saturday, October 31st had gray, cloudy skies looming overhead the whole day. The threat of rain was a possibility at any point, but the weatherman had correctly predicted it wouldn't until the evening. We started the day off with Ian going to soccer first thing in the morning. I got to take him while Jeff stayed at home with Samantha. Ian really got into all the exercises/games the coach set up and before you knew it, the hour flew by.

When Ian and I returned back home, we gathered up the rest of the crew and headed out to Cox Farms. Knowing that Saturday was going to be the better weather of both weekend days and it also being the day of Halloween and one of the last chances to visit Cox Farms, I thought for sure it was going to be packed. However, to our delight, it was relatively empty and there was no wait or line for any of the activities.

We went on every slide more than a few times, played on the rope swings, kiddie area and even did the hay ride twice. Since it was Halloween, they offered trick-or-treating at each of the stops and our candy eating crusade began early in the day. We all had a great time and still had our evening activities of getting dressed up to look forward to. A bonus came when Samantha stayed awake the whole way home (a 30 minute drive) and instantly went down for a nap at 3:00pm the moment we put her in her crib.

For the past 3 years, we've had a tradition of going trick-or-treating with one of Ian's best pals, James. However, this year, James' mommy wasn't feeling that great and wanted to stay close to home. So we went with our back-up plan and got to go trick-or-treating with one of my best pals - Heather. Heather is one of 'the girls' and has 3 girls of her own all close to Ian and Samantha's age. Due to the impending rain, we started our trick or treating early and was finished just in the nick of time. Ian was intent on filling up his entire pumpkin bucket and got very close to fulfilling his goal. Even after a full day of running around and being outside, his enthusiasm for trick-or-treating was more than all the kids we were with combined. He kept count of how many bags of m&ms he was given (his favorite kind of candy) and proudly yelled, "I just got another one. I now have 8 bags of m&ms!"

We got back to our house still relatively early in the evening and Ian and Samantha helped hand out candy. We have a good system worked out where Bailey keeps an eye out and gives a little bark/squeal to let us know kids are approaching. Even as it was raining out, we still got a pretty good stream of traffic at our door.

The day was easy. There were no temper tantrums, meltdowns, or whining of any kind. It was refreshing to be out in public, having a great time and enjoying being a family. I didn't even carry a diaper bag! We figured everything we needed was in the car and could go back if necessary - which it wasn't. I was able to do all the slides with Samantha and traveling lightly was the way to go.

This was the kind of day I dreamt about when wanting to have a family, including the kettle corn.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It really is the thought that counts

The other evening my husband was at the Reston Town Center to meet up with some friends for dinner. He was amazed at all the changes the Town Center has gone through and called to tell me what was different. Upon mentioning the Apple Store, I said, "feel free to pick me up a little something."

Jeff tried hard to surprise me. He went into the Apple Store and got me an iTunes gift card. He purchased the gift card, wrote a sweet a little note on it and then put it in his jacket pocket. After dinner he came home and went to retrieve my surprise. To Jeff's surprise, it was no longer in the pocket. Apparently it fell out somewhere upon taking the jacket off and on in the restaurant. I am still clueless as to what is going on and Jeff quickly makes a call to the restaurant and the Apple Store to see if it was found and what to do. The iTunes card is no where to be seen and he tries hard to put a request in to get it deactivated and another one sent out.

Jeff comes upstairs and hands me my surprise. It is the Apple Store receipt from his purchase. Yes, it is the thought that counts.

Today is Jeff's birthday. I love how sweet you are and how you make me laugh. There is no one in the world like you!! Happy Birthday darling.