Wednesday, September 30, 2009


We got the official word this week that M will be moving up to preschool in a week and a half.

Preschool. As in not a toddler any more. As in, all the heck grown up. Like next big step is Pre-K1 in a whole YEAR. Next year we'll have to start thinking about what school we want her to go to. if we want to do the neighborhood school or something in our "zone".


I am the mother of a preschooler.

We're planning big things for this whole preschool thing. We've been setting it up for months now. Preschoolers listen to their teachers. Preschoolers sit nicely when they eat. Then there is the big one, preschoolers give their Nuk's to babies. Preschoolers don't need Nuk's.

I was looking for the perfect transition away from it, and preschool seemed like the logical choice. She only uses them at home, she hasn't at daycare in some time. We're done with vacation, a situation where she could possibly need a little something extra to sleep. I am hoping everyone gets over the cold by then, since I suspect there will be a few nights of little sleep. I am hoping it goes well. Just to be sure we stick to it, we are actually "giving" the Nuk's to a friend's new baby. Not that he'll use them, but it makes it look good to M.

Ack! Preschooler! How did this happen?

Monday, September 28, 2009

She has Style, She has Grace

Ok, not so much with the Grace, but I'm working on the style thing.

When I shared a cab from the hotel to Midway with Susan at the end of BlogHer, I had absolutely no idea who she was. It wasn't until I got home, wrote my post BlogHer post and then all of a sudden started getting a lot of traffic from her site that I looked up what she writes. I do believe that she may have changed my life, just a little.

Before BlogHer I was struggling with defining what my style was. I never seemed to achieve that level of comfort that some larger women have. I was never comfortable with the weight I was at after M was born. I would see women much larger than I was and their confidence made them glow. They always looked so put together. I always felt like I looked like a mess. A sloppy fat mess.

It wasn't until I started losing weight this spring that I felt comfortable enough to being to care about how put together I looked. Getting ready for BlogHer was my first real attempt at putting myself together. I knew I would be meeting some of my favorite bloggers. I knew that their style would but stunning. I tried to up my game. I did OK, but I was discouraged. I am thirty-two. I'm not a young adult any more, but I'm hardly an old woman. I had a hard time finding a style that was age appropriate. Then I met Susan and read what Susan writes. Susan has a style that looks positively effortless. She got her shoes complimented by Tim Gunn!

Inspired by Susan, and a dress code at work that got a LOT more strict, I've been trying to define my personal style. As I've lost weight I've had to buy a lot more clothes, and I'm trying to make sure that I make an investment not just in the items that I buy, but in their ability to define who I am through my style. Here is what I've learned. I hope Susan is proud.

  • Cardigan sweaters are my new best friend. They're an easy way to dress up something plain. They can be very slimming (contrary to what I had always thought). I can wear them in to work, but take them off when I'm being physical and moving equipment.
  • I will never be as funky as the teenager who once wore tie died leggings and velvet mini skirts. No matter how much I try to convince myself, it just isn't going to happen. I will think I can do it, and then never wear what I buy.
  • Shoes are the exception. My feet from having M means I have needed to replace a lot of shoes. I can pull off a far more funky shoe than I thought I could. Susan is directly responsible for that. I would have never fallen in love with the cool flat if it hadn't been for her. I would never have gotten my birthday present shoes. I still didn't get the red patent peep toe, but I may change my mind about that.
  • There is no substitute for proper fit. I feel better and more confident if my clothes fit. Contrary to what some in the business world may believe, I don't think it is about power suits and high heels. It is about how much you like yourself in what you are wearing. A good fitting pair of jeans and a great top beats a suit that doesn't fit any day. If your clothes are too big, at least stow them away. Better yet, donate them for a tax deduction. (six bags to Salvation Army on Saturday, four more ready to go already)
  • I can't do woven shirts or jackets. My arms are still proportionally too large for the rest of me. If my shirt/jacket is too tight in the arms, I feel confined and like I want to crawl under my desk and hide. I do a decent amount of physical labor in my job. I need to be able to move. I would kill for a structured jacket that fit me, but I have yet to find one that fits my small boobs, broad shoulders and huge arms. That is why I now love the cardigan sweater.

I have a wedding to go to on Saturday, and like any good social media girl I went to Twitter for help. Which I got, from Susan. She suggested a little black dress. It was harder to find than I thought (I have a relatively low price point, since I plan on losing the next 55 pounds I need to), but I finally found one this last week at Target. Apparently requiring all of their downtown staff to dress up while no longer having the benefit of a high end retailer in their portfolio has meant that they now stock pretty snappy stuff, at least downtown. I couldn't pull the trigger on the wild shoes, since this is my boss's wedding, but I did find a nice purple cashmere wrap. MY hair will be simple, and pulled back, so I can show off some fabulous earrings (I still have to find). Thanks Susan.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bert's Cabins

Dear Bert's Cabins,

We loved you. OK, so we loved most of you.

We loved your charm, your trees, your smells, your free grill to use, your fireplace (though it was too warm to use it), your fully equipped kitchen, and the fact that you are in Itasca.

The beds were a little firm for my taste.

There aren't many places up Nort' that have been around as long as you have. Knowing we were supporting a local family business was part of the appeal. The wireless internet (even though we never actually got it to work) was also a nice touch.

We heard an owl out the window, grilled good food, let M have her first s'more, and just relaxed.

Thank you for making the last part of our family vacation so wonderful. I have no doubt that we will be back. Next time, I won't forget the salt and pepper.


A. Sprout & Family

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

It is just a baby river.

There were a lot of things that M was looking forward to about our vacation. We tried to impress upon her how special and cool it was that we were going to Itasca. We were going to the home of the baby 'Sippi river. She's been calling it the 'Sippi River every time we cross since early this year. When we cross back the other way it is Two 'Sippi River. Baby was the best way we could explain how it changes from a small stream in the north woods to what it is here, to eventually what it becomes in New Orleans.

Mostly, before we left, she talked about the bike trailer. She wasn't so sure when she saw it, but she likes going fast, so any fears were quickly forgotten. It creates a bit more drag than the bike seat, but I didn't mind pulling it. I'm not sure if I would have felt the same way a few months ago.

The life of the person who takes pictures is that I always get to see these kinds of firsts. She would have walked back and forth on that all day if we had let her.

As it was, we knew we were all getting tired and hungry. Just one more time though.

If you are wondering, yes it really is that beautiful and green up there. While we have been hurting for rain here, they have had enough up north. The weather was gorgeous for the whole trip, if not a little warm.

I love the city. I love the diversity, the culture, the access to fresh vegetables. However, if I could find a way to have a good job and fresh produce up there, I'm not sure if I would want to stay here so much. It is so beautiful.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Yard Full of Memories

Part of the fun of vacation for me is to take pictures. I am still chugging along with my little point and shoot, trying to justify the expenditure of a DSLR (and the macro lens I would have to have with it).

Yarrow is a natural bug repellent. When we were kids we used to rub it on our arms before a walk in the woods. Mostly, it is just beautiful with it's lacy leaves and simple flowers.

Fine, so I have no idea what these are. They are new from when I lived at home, but are surrounded by the ferns. If we still had a shade yard I would plant ferns in it.

This is part of a small rose bush that we gave my mom one year for mother's day. It has grown in to more of a rose hedge (8 feet tall and six feet wide) more than once and been trimmed back. It lines the alley just daring the kids to ride their bikes into it.

I've said I didn't want the Hollyhocks for my yard, but I know my mom loved them. I just fear their takeover of everything.

A weed to so many, I remember sucking the nectar out of cover petals when I was little. That is what you do when your parents won't let you eat sweets.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Going Home

I ran away from home. Not in the "runaway" sense, but more I left and I never looked back. I never attempted to have any ties to the place. I visited, but I didn't care about it. The only pull it had was that my family was there. Everyone else will come to my world, here in the big city.

My parents divorced, they left town, now only my brother remains. He's itching to go, and will be gone by next year, one way or another. It is too small for him, it just took him longer to leap away then it did me. We went back for the first part of our vacation to visit him, to go through things in the house, to perhaps see it for one last time. To take M to all of the places I remembered.

To play in the parks, on the same equipment I made myself sick on so many times.

To watch A and my brother show her how to ride a chicken.

To see my big girl tackle the big girl swings in the park behind the house I lived in from fourth grade until I left (that I came back to for those few months that one time).

I can look at it differently than I did before. I look at it like a tourist more than I think I ever have. It is beautiful, quaint, slow and enjoyable. There are people who know me there, but there is comfort in the fact that they don't really know me. My life is my own now, no longer something to be mocked or talked about behind my back. It felt good. It felt like a place I could go to visit, to vacation, without the baggage. It doesn't hurt that they have the best Taco John's ever (where the owners still know me and my favorite food). There is a yarn store now, a Ben Franklin that stocks the entire Melissa & Doug line, and Dairyland. They took out the car hop area and put in a Drive Thru (sic), but they still hire only the pretty high school sports jocks. They still make the best malt in the world. I would go back for that alone.

Adventures in the North Woods

If it seemed this last week like I was just phoning it in, it is because I was. Pre-scheduled posts set up before we went on vacation.

We went on our second vacation with M and have survived to tell about it.

I have a million things I want to post about, but I need to take the time to sort it all out, along with all of the cool pictures that I took. There is the new travel bed, overcoming the fear of potties in a big big way, going home for what may be the last time, how I desperately want a Wii, and Burley bike trailer, and how coming home is so sweet.

So, what have y'all been doing?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Giant Kale

This is the kale plant in my garden. For reasons I cannot explain, it is my favorite vegetable. However, this is a decorative variety. Edible I am sure, but mostly meant to be pretty.

It was supposed to be a lovely 17 to 19 inches tall.

It will is nearly 5 feet tall. I guess after the six and a half foot tall tomatoes I shouldn't be shocked. Still, it just keeps getting taller. Maybe it is fighting for light besides the super tall tomatoes. No matter what, I love it. It continues to be great for taking pictures and making me happy.

* There is a part of this that some people will get more than others. I just ask that those of you that get it, don't give it away. Just get a good giggle at the expense of my garden.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pickle Me This

If I had my way, I would be spending the entirety of my vacation this year pickling everything in sight. I am hopelessly enamored with preserved vegetables. If there was fruit in season, I would be making jams as well. As it is, I have already done another five jars of tomato jam and I have plans to do more.

This is a dill pickled cauliflower with carrots, garlic, sweet red pepper and cayenne. When I bought jalapenos for pickling (yes, I did those too) I asked the lovely farmer's to let me have a half dozen or so beautiful cayenne peppers. I ended up with eight pints, so some will be more mild, but I don't care. Cauliflower is more dense than a green bean, so these will need to sit. Despite what anyone in my family may be thinking, these are mine, all mine.

Add also to the list of things I have "put away", four or so pints of jalapenos, half a dozen pints of a salsa that while I do not love, will no doubt make a good base for such things as chili, five more half pints of jam, and as we speak, jars are heating up for pints of tomatoes. They are once again overflowing the kitchen counter, and I just had to do something.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Run Amelia! Run!

I need new shoes.

(wait, let me go back)

I'm going to do a 5K.

(yup, back farther)

Last night I ran & walked 2.7 miles in 45 minutes. This is a woman who earlier this year took half an hour to walk a mile.

(wait, still not back far enough)

I'm doing the 5K because M is going to do her first race.

(oh yeah, better go back further)

On Monday M and I were walking back from the park and we saw a race. One that has been run a few blocks from my house for the last 27 years. (I know, how did I miss that) She LOVED it. She wanted to run with them. She wanted to race, especially when we saw kids doing it too.

Someone on the bus mentioned a kid's race that happens with the shorter distances before the TC Marathon. So I looked it up. There was a toddler trot, a mere 50 yards, but she can do that in the back yard going after a ball. (what? like you've never done that) Half a mile though, that is what she does when she goes with me on a walk. She sits in the stroller until the last half a mile and then I let her run while I cool down. However, if I am going to schlep my ass over to St. Paul for her half a mile, why not do a 5K myself. Sure, why not. I'll make A go with too. It will be a fun family event.

(OK, caught up)

So, I ran last night to see just how fast I could go if I did a 5K, and my feet were hurting after I was done. It has been 6 months since I got my shoes, and in that time I have been walking, shredding and occasionally jogging in them. They are shot as far as running goes. So this weekend I'm likely going to drag my behind to Marathon Sports in South Minneapolis because they are awesome and carry women's shoes in an 11.5. I didn't even know that was possible until back when I first tried to run and tweeted about it Brook's Shoes followed me. I looked them up, and what do you know, 11.5. In the New Balance I got before I had to go up to a 12 that was slightly too big. Woo hoo! I'm going to do a 5K y'all!

Also, in regards to letting the two and a half year old do the half mile. I agonized over that. However, she has been so giddy about the running, why not encourage her to do it more. It is good to start habits young. Running is also more about competition with yourself. If it was hockey she wanted to do, I'd have a problem. Running is a life skill. I never had that, and maybe if I had I wouldn't be where I am today.

Help! Not Just Anybody

After years of questioning me, I believe my mother finally thinks the apple finally didn't fall too far from the tree. My canning escapades have proven that perhaps I did pick something up in the years of growing up on a commune organic vegetable farm. I've been calling her regularly for advice on what to do with certain situations. Usually after I already did it the wrong way.

I am on my second batch of tomato jam after all of the previous batch became spoken for.

Work is crazy because I am near a vacation in which I am not allowed to even so much as look at my blackberry. It is why I am not finding the energy to blog so let's just keep going with this list of randomly associated things.

Oh yeah, and the new obsession with canning things. That may be interfering with the blogging too.

I made salsa, which I had no idea before tonight actually requires additional acid (or pressure canning) to make sure it keeps well. Yeah, vinegar in salsa, not so fun any more. Oh well, at least it will be a good base for things like chili. I think from now on I'm sticking to jams and pickles.

Speaking of that, do you know how hard it is to find a good commercial bread and butter pickle without high fructose corn syrup (HFCS, see rant here). Pickle season is done or I would be making some nice natural (and spicy) ones of my very own.

As soon as I get done canning everything in sight, I'm going to start my fall knitting. Summer is too warm and sticky, but I have high goals this year. My absolutely favorite yarn has these super cute kits and I need to make M something for Christmas because I have no idea what to get an almost three year old. Between us and her Nana, the girl has gotten just about everything she could possibly need until the is at least 5 or 6. Help?

Ooo, Help!, there is something. I love the Beatles. I will be your new best friend if you invite me over for Beatles Rock Band. I have been told I can't get a Wii just to get Beatles Rock Band. When I am home where my brother is, if it is there, I am going to abscond with the Sgt. Peppers with original cut outs. Sorry little bother, I reserve this right as the oldest child. You got the house, so quite complaining.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bully Bully

I've always said that while I still think it was horribly wrong, I could understand where the Columbine shooters were coming from. I know how you can feel so helpless at the hands of bullies that all you want to do is do something extreme. Something to make them pay.

I was the weird kid growing up. I had the weird parents, I lived on a commune, I was smart and showed it off, and I was odd. I was a vegetarian when I was in elementary school, I wore second hand clothes, I had a hyphenated last name. My parents weren't married, and I was poor. There was next to nothing about me that fit in. I was bullied by my peers.

I was bullied by my teachers.

Yes, my teachers. I was teased about what I ate, my parents, my name, by the people who were paid to teach me and protect me. The responsible adult in the room was my worst enemy.

These were the teachers that people listed as favorites, that won the popularity contests. The teachers that if I had ever said anything about no one would have believed. Yet they did it. Some of them could still be doing it.

There is no punishment I can think of other than firing and revoking a teacher's license that would be appropriate for the two teachers who publicly bullied a teenager for their perceived sexual preference. The small money that the district paid out is not enough. It will never be enough until it stops.

I don't care if even a small part of it was true. I've been there, I've had a principal tell me that being bullied by jocks was acceptable. I wear the scars of that. It is the emotional baggage that I carry.

I hope that M never has to deal with that. I hope that she has the same great relationship with her teachers that she has now. I hope that she can always respect and look up to the people in charge. The people we trust to take care of her and teach her. I hope they don't teach her some of the lessons I learned.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pickled Dilly Green Beans

Realistically, I won't be eating much of the tomato jam that I made. It just doesn't fit with my new lower sugar lifestyle. I've already figured out what lucky family members will be getting jars of it for Christmas. These however, may never be tasted by another person. I'm pretty sure that I could eat an entire jar in one sitting.

So in love was I that I went and bought a lot more veggies at the market today so that I could pickle more things. That means there will be more posts in this canning series for sure.

I think I ended up with a little too much salt, since I had to make more pickling solution when I realized I would run out, but I am sure they will taste just fine. The proportions here are for 6 pints.

2.5 Cups Water
2.5 Cups Vinegar (One recipe I saw had more vinegar than water, so I leaned a little this way)
.25 Cups pickling salt

Each jar has 1 large clove garlic, 1 full head of seeded out dill. They will be dilly.

I used wide mouth jars that are shorter than standard mouth, mostly because I don't have a funnel for putting in the liquid. I thought it would be easier. That turned out to be a slight problem because the beans were just a wee bit too tall. I had to smush them down and break them to make them close right.

Of the 12 jars I made (one was only half full, hehe) one didn't seal enough. It is in the fridge and I've already tried one. They are good already, but really should sit for a few weeks minimum to soak up all of the garlic/dill goodness.

PS. All ingredients except the salt and vinegar were procured at the Thursday downtown Farmer's Market. Yay local!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Diet & Exercise

Lately I've been getting a lot more notice for the weight I've lost. It may be that the last 10 pounds came off rather quickly, or how I finally got some clothes that actually fit me. Inevitably the question that comes up is "How?". The answer I usually give doesn't tell the whole story. There is so much more than eating right and exercising more.

Timing is everything. My kid was finally sleeping through the night, I weaned (at 18 months!) and I lost weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas without even trying.

Sometimes you need a push. Finding out that I had a major risk of eventually being a Type 2 Diabetic gave me all the push I needed. I am still at risk, but it is lessening every day.

You deserve to make an investment in yourself. Having good shoes, clothes that fit and are comfortable to exercise in, and even taking the time are so important. Sure, the running shoes were expensive, but so is a lifetime of going to the Dr. for diseases you can prevent. Not to mention injuries from not having the right gear.

It will take time. It will take time both to see results and it will take time away from a busy day. This is about an investment too. I wouldn't be doing this without the support of my husband. The dishes can wait, the laundry will get done eventually, but it is important for me to exercise.

Eat your damn veggies. In case you were wondering, it is not 5 fruits and veggie servings total, it is more like 5 of each. The thing is, if you eat more vegetables, there is less room for the other crud. I grew up a vegetarian and it took a food diary website for me to realize this. Oh, and fruits matter too. Sure, they are expensive, but still cheaper than medication and Dr. bills. (especially with our current health care system)

Buy some new clothes. I've shopped my closet, but my body shape has changed drastically. I still look like I had sextuplets, the skin is going to take time. Buying clothes that fit my body now not only gets me compliments (which I love) but also helps me see my own progress. Shop sales, outlet malls, consignment, or do clothing swaps with friends/coworkers. My new favorite pair of jeans came from a woman I work with who is a size ahead of me in loss. My size 18's are going to another coworker who is on the same path.

Never give up. I've slowed down, I've gained back a pound or two, but I never let it stop me. There have been bad months, there have been bad days, and I'm still doing this. I've taken strength from the community I am a part of. If I can do this, anyone can.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We be Tomato Jammin'

A has said that he has no interest in even trying the jam. Apparently I never talked to him about it, I just went for it with a single minded pursuit of a childhood memory. I can get like that. It is why I sew, knit, quilt, and have a garden. It is going to get him some pickled green beans, so he won't be complaining for too long.

My grandmother's recipes for just about everything have gone to some other family member. One I refuse to talk to for reasons I cannot share. There is bad blood there to say the least. I miss my grandmother's recipes. I wish I had been old enough to know that I should have made copies before she passed. Figuring this out required scanning recipes on the Internet, asking coworkers who make these kinds of things, consulting Twitter, and calling my mom to see what she remembered of her mother-in-law's cooking.

I found something close to what I wanted in Aunt Della's Tomato Jam. I also found references to a recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. My single minded plan didn't have time to find it however. It is quite possible that is the recipe that my grandmother used.

The Aunt Della's recipe gave me the proportions I wanted for a preserved jam. Many others I found were for small batches to be made to go with a specific meal or dish. I altered in slightly, and I offer up for you what I think it will be based on the issues I had.

  • 5 Cups tomatoes peeled and quartered - I used 9, and adjusted everything to this. Doubling jam recipes does not work well I learned the hard way. It takes far too long to reduce. Next time, I stick to the original proportions. I used Roma, Early Girl and Yellow Brandywine.
  • 4 Cups sugar - Next time, I will reduce this from the original 5 cups. It may take longer to thicken, but I want a stronger tomato taste.
  • 1 Lemon, seeded and sliced thin - I used a smaller organic lemon. If I use such small ones next time, I may add an extra half. Thin should be as thin as you can get it, as they have to almost candy in the jam.
  • 2 Inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and either grated or chopped thin - This is what I put in a nearly double batch. Same as the lemon and tomatoes, I think more would serve it well. It also nearly candies in the jam. The original recipe called for Cinnamon, but ginger gives it a better taste in my opinion.
  • 2 Tablespoons butter - No idea why this is there, but who can argue with butter.

  • Combine everything except butter in heavy bottomed sauce pan. Bring to a boil and after the foam rises add the butter, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes until it sticks to the tines of a fork (I gave up because mine took an hour and a half and it wasn't perfectly thick, but will do fine at fridge temp) Fills approximately 6 half pints. Water bath for 15 minutes.

If you have no idea how to can/waterbath, I recommend the Ball book or the back of a Ball/Kerr box o' jars. Seriously the bottom of the box worked for me.

It may be a little runny, but I'm telling you it tastes like I remember it. A may question what I'm going to do with eleven half pints, but I know there will be some very lucky people at Christmas, if it makes it that long.