Groovy Mom

Mar 042013
 

Every time I use my foot bath (which I’ve had for about 10 years, I ask myself why I don’t do it more often.

Every.

Time.

It is a simple act that feels incredibly indulgent. I don’t pay much attention to my feet, unless it is to paint my toenails, which I don’t do very often either, it seems.

Beyond enjoying the warm water, bubbles and massage, the delicious aromas of essential oils wafting around the room – I enjoy the fact that I’m saving a good $40 on a pedicure. I know many people would look at it otherwise, willing to spend the money and have someone else do it, which I do – about once a year. Every other time, I’m satisfied with my home experience, knowing I’m saving money on something I can do nearly as good.

And I don’t have to shave my legs before I do it at home.

(Not really) sorry to say, but my razor gets way less action in the winter months. This used to concern me more when I was about 20. I’m staring 40 in the eyes and it bothers me very little to admit that. Less than it did when I was 30. So the fact that I get to sit on my couch, update my blog, wear my sweats over my non-shaven legs… works for me.

 

Mar 012013
 

It really is nice when I have a day off of work and have an idea of how I am going to spend my time. So much time I waste, honestly. I don’t mean that I need to be running around like a chicken with her head cut off; that’s not good, either. But I feel like many times I go full speed ahead, and then need just as much time to recuperate. I’ve always been more of a short burst, sprinting type of person. But that’s not always good for you. So, on days like this when I have sort of a “map” of what my day looks like, I can breathe a little more.

Today I sprint very little.

The wrestling season (in high school) is at an end. The city banquet was the other day. Lootie won All-City title at 195. He was very pleased with this. We were all proud of his accomplishments this year. I still smile when I think of his phase of not wanting to touch people (how you accomplish this as a wrestler, yet to be determined) for an entire year. It led to him getting beat more than he’d like. He got over that, and has enjoyed the sport ever since.

Here’s the team. A good group of kids.

Lootie, after one of his matches, wearing his new headgear that wasn’t quite adjusted accordingly yet. Thankfully it didn’t cost him the match.

Kinda weird watching my little freaks become men.

Sophia was over yesterday with some boyfriend drama (really wish she didn’t bring it here), but after the initial blowout of emotions, we sat down to some of Lootie’s favorite soup (Italian Sausage Soup, AKA Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup, just her and I, and chatted.

We chatted! I’m sure many people chat with their 21 year old daughters, but it’s been a rocky road for us. Chatting about simple things can even be taken for granted. I didn’t even realize we were chatting about books and friends and soups – and not jobs, boyfriends and other stressful topics. I’m really thankful for that chat. I needed that chat.

I digress, eh?

So Carlito informed me that I will be making Whoopie Pies for the team banquet tonight. I made them this summer for Dante’s graduation  Now I realize I never even posted them here. That’s how often I post. Ahem. Anyway, he requested those, here are the ones I made this past summer. Our school colors are cardinal and gray.

 

(LATER) The ones above looked better than they tasted, in my opinion, but the kids loved them. This time I made them with less filling and no sprinkles. They were still gobbled up. I couldn’t seem to bring myself to eat one. I tried a bite and that was enough. I haven’t had much as the way of sweets go lately. Mostly chocolates, a McDonald’s cone, or a Skinny Cow sandwich. These weren’t on the top of my list to eat.

The banquet went well and everyone had a nice time. I can’t believe it is another season gone by for Carlito. Since my parents retiring and moving and Dante graduating, I still feel like I’ve been catapulted forward through time on a continual basis. Now the twins will be moving on to high-school in a few short months and what-what?! Even Carlito will joke saying, “You guys are going into 7th grade next year, right?” They ignore him.

 

 

Feb 212013
 

I love how the internet is like an open cookbook, accessible, vivid, and somewhat interactive. I can do without some of the 92-picture steps (and here is the tablespoon coming out of the drawer, dipping into the baking powder, coming out, being washed…), but I do enjoy the look inside other kitchens, even down to the utensils. So there it is.

The other day I was surfing for recipes, and came across one that doesn’t exactly fit into my calorie budget without a lot of accomodations, but I couldn’t resist: Butter Dipped Biscuits.

butterbiscuits

Super simple, very basic ingredients that you probably have on hand, and they are deeee-licious.

I found most recipes for these to be about the same, but am linking to the above source since it is her delicious picture (I didn’t bother with a picture of mine).

Butter Dipped Biscuits (food.com)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk (or “soured milk”)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a microwave-safe bowl (or you can use the baking dish that you’ll be baking these in), melt butter in the microwave.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the buttermilk (add the last 1/2 cup slowly… you may not need it all). Stir until a loose dough forms. Batter will be a bit sticky.

Pour/press biscuit dough into baking dish (right on top of the melted butter). Take a sharp knife and cut the biscuit dough into 9 squares before baking.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, rotating dish once during baking.

(If you don’t have buttermilk, “sour” your regular whole milk with vinegar. Use about 1T. per cup. Add vinegar to milk, stir, and let sit for about 5 minutes.)

They were very tasty, and very easy. I had a half of one with my diner, and savored every bite.

Feb 152013
 

I’m trying to eliminate some of the things in my pantry and freezer. It’s working at about 50%, which is a start. Part of my aim is to cycle out what needs to be eaten (mainly in the freezer), and the other part is to save some money on groceries this month (pantry shopping). We had to replace tires on one of the cars, and have another unexpected expense with the van, so tightening the bootstrings even more is a must.

So I took an inventory of what I have in the freezer (up and down – one in the kitchen, one in the garage), and have tried to do what I can to rotate out some of the longer-standing items.

I can’t say I haven’t grocery shopped, but I have definitely shopped less, which is a win. I should say it is a “win” for the pocketbook, but a bit stressful on me trying to coordinate this fine dance. Some of my meals lately have been… less than spectacular. Some have been dandy, though, like the heart-shaped pizza I made yesterday.

We have a local pizza place that makes heart-shaped pizzas every Valentine’s Day. Initially we were going to order from there. So much easier (for me). The phone line was busy for half an hour. Once we got through, we learned the cost was $12 per pizza plus $2 per topping. Since the boys were off to wrestling, I figured I should be able to whip those up in the same time it would take to order out, and for less.

I made 2 pepperoni, and 2 of our favorite – sausage and banana pepper rings.

NOBODY complained. They rarely do when I make my own pizzas now at home. It’s very nice. We all like an ordered out pizza now and then, but it’s getting to where the ordered pizzas aren’t often as good as the ones made at home. These were no exception.

I had purchased two heart-shaped pans at Goodwill a while ago, thinking I might use them someday. They aren’t anything special. But lined with some olive oil and filled with dough, they were delicious.

That paired with some homemade brownies (I’ve yet to find a homeade version that is prepared over the boxed one):

And some strawberry milk (was NOT a hit, and I’m actually glad).

Today, though, a Friday, Frank’s working overtime (again). I’m tired. It’s been a long week and the last thing I wanted to do was to make another meal. I had eyed up the hot dogs earlier, figuring that could be a back-up plan, though I hate serving hot dogs. But it’s cheaper than $50 Chinese food.

But then I decided to make something I haven’t for a while. Rice Spaghetti. It is a one pot meal that is a breeze to throw together, and cooks up pretty fast.


Easy Rice Spaghetti & Meatballs

Ingredients
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1.5 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 bag meatballs (I used Fit N’ Active Turkey meatballs from Aldi)

Directions
Put everything in a pot and stir.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until rice is chewy tender, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry about removing the lid and stirring. All is good. After rice is done, vent lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Serves 6.

I had mine with a glass of wine. Two of the boys ate theirs with leftover tortillas. I think they missed the point on it, but oh well.

 

It’s quite tasty.

Years ago, I’d whip up some rice, pour sauce over it, add some OO and cheese, and we’d dig in. It was decent eats on a budget. I’ve forgotten what a satisfying meal it can be. If you don’t have the meatballs, sub it for a veggie and add that on top. I was going to roast some broccoli, but I’m seriously THAT tired that it was too much work.

 

Feb 012013
 

Supposedly this recipe is all over the internet, but I don’t recall seeing it until yesterday. I was immediately intrigued. Pancakes with only two ingrediants, eh? I guess it is Paleo, though I’m not too familiar with that, so I can’t claim it. It is a simple, no-frills breakfast, allowing for protein and fruit. I’m all in.

There are different ratios, but I went with the simple 1:1.

One banana.

One egg.

I was going to just make 1 batch, but instead I used the 3 black bananas I had and tripled it. I’m glad I did. It was genius  Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I would fail a batch, and need more to work with. In retrospect, pancakes (for me), generally start with one failed ‘cake, and the rest are beautiful, so this worked.

So I took my eggs and bananas and put them in my Ninja. I was going to just use my favorite little chopper, but the more I use my Ninja, the less I use my old faithful chopper. Kind of sad. I feel like I’m cheating on it.

Most people tend to mash theirs by hand – but I thought blending it to a liquid would be better. So I did. People also talked about adding baking powder and such to it – but I wanted to keep it simple. A true Two Ingredient Pancake.This was difficult for me, because I tend to like to experiment. But without starting with the simple base, you never know if your experiments worked. Beyond that, the verdicts for additions to this simple concoction weren’t too outstanding.

I do not like how precariously that is sitting on the edge of my counter. It didn’t fall, but just looking at it makes me think it will.

I heated my skillet to 350. I didn’t even bother with my beloved iron skillets because they aren’t the best behaved for me with pancakes, with their reputation for sticking. I didn’t want a bunch of added oils, either.

A few minutes later the edges looked like they were firming up. I tried to flip, and it gave me the whole accordian pancake look, like, I’m not ready. Soon there was a smell that one can only associate with food burning, and I had to flip it.

Batch #1, failed. Thankfully, Frank likes doughy pancakes.

Batch #2 I decided to turn the skillet down to 250. I read a tip about cooking a bit longer on lower heat, and that working better. I also used some non-stick spray. (I need to find and link to that blog, because she posted some very helpful tips… here it is: secrets to a perfect two-ingredient pancake.)

One worked great. Smelled great. The other, not so much. I think I was a bit jumpy on the gun. Out came my ipod timer.

Batch #3

Set the timer for 5 minutes to force my patience. That was the PERFECT amount of time, only I forgot the dang spray -gah- and had an issue… again. But they were cooked enough, and I saved them regardless. I ate one from #3, putting it on the bottom and topping it with the pretty one from #2. Spread a little peanut butter on them.

Yum.

Verdict: Pretty good. If you don’t like bananas then skip it. If you’re not much for bananas and peanut butter (I’m not, even though I ate it happily) – try syrup, jelly – or nothing. Mine were way sweet enough from the over-ripe bananas. Syurp would have been too much for me. As I ate them, I wondered if sweet potatoes would work in this kind of recipe. Hmm.

They weren’t light and fluffy like a pancake. They were actually a bit gooey, which is how my husband likes them. Kind of crepe-y. I liked that they were warm, and something different, had no egg and no flour. I’d like to make a few and see if they will hold to nuke on mornings where I don’t feel like making anything, and want something warm.

I think I would try these again for something different. They’re less than 200 calories and a relatively quick breakfast fix. A little vanilla in them might be nice. Or not.

Jan 162013
 

The other day Frank and I took Dante (more like Frank and Dante took me) to the shooting range. We wanted to do something together before Dante goes back to college in a few days. Dante wants to get into law enforcement (like most of the menfolk on Frank’s side of the family). Frank’s side of the family likes guns for sport. For hunting, but not too much hunting. For protection, but mostly for sport. Frank has the concealed and carry license. It is good to be comfortable with your gun if you hold that license.

At any rate, we went. My first time. It was enjoyable. I was clearly the rookie. I could see how it could become an enjoyable hobby, albeit expensive.

It brings me to examining what is going on in our country with the scramble to change the gun control laws in our country. Right now, I see people moving out of emotion, following the recent elementary school shooting. I find it strange that so much focus is on the gun, and so little on the mental health.

It’s sexier to focus on guns. Easier.

To focus on the emotional state of the young man, the way the system fails people over and over… is much less appealing. Much less emotionally charged. Most people have no answer regarding the mentally ill, but are able to scrounge one up – or pick a “side” at least – when it comes to guns. I’m not concerned with mentally sound adults having firearms in their homes. I am concerned about some of the violent, mentally ill people in our community – guns or no guns.

I don’t really know the answer to any of this. I just know that right now, at this time, may not be the the exact moment to make a decision. I personally would much rather  see the focus turned on the mentally ill than on the weapon of choice they use to kill themselves or other people. For every one of these mass-killings, there are many more where a person kills a wife, child, mother, father, sibling, self, or others on a smaller scale. It isn’t always with a gun. It’s with hands, household objects. Whatever they can attain. It doesn’t make headlines. Same problem, different stage, setting and weapon.

Jan 052013
 

As you can see, I don’t keep up on posting here much. It isn’t that I’m not online. I am. On Facebook, or Twitter, or cruising around my Google Reader looking for recipes. Paying bills, checking online wrestling brackets for my kids. Going to Amazon, eBay (Carlito has become quite the ebay fanatic lately).

Being online isn’t the same as it used to be. There’s so many places to interact with people, get tips, read, ogle food pictures… the list goes on.

I miss blogging/journaling though. I do. This place, though, groovy-mom.com doesn’t quite feel like home to me anymore. So I don’t (blog). I have other domains, and have contemplated just doing some free blogging at blogger, too. We shall see. Just when I say that, I keep things the same and continue to attempt staying here. Eh. Who knows. For the two of you that read this, I’ll keep ya updated.

Life is moving forward, like it tends to do. My kids are getting so old, yo. I look at them and wonder how we got here so quick. After this year, all my kids will be in high-school or beyond. That’s… that’s something for me to ponder on. Adjust to. We went bowling last night with the boys and had a very nice time. It was fun to just DO something together on neutral ground. Not a school function, not a church function, not a sports function – just us doing something together. I wish it could be more often. The times where the boys can hang together (and with us) is slipping by. Soon they will have girlfriends, jobs, school — whatever takes them away from each other. That is the pattern of life, but it is also something you leave behind in your youth, that freedom.

Rare is it that adult siblings can get together – just them – and enjoy time. The older you get, there’s always something waiting. Or you’re tired from your obligations of the day. I hope that they can manage time together as they get older. They enjoy each other. Not all siblings do, and they are blessed that way.

So, yeah, we bowled. I don’t ever seem to hit 100 when I bowl, but maybe if I did it more than once a year. I did get 2 (or 3) strikes during the second game. Go me.

I must be getting old because I set my alarm to get up early (that would be 8am rather than crawl out of bed at 10am) so I could have a couple extra hours. For laundry, for sipping coffee in front of the computer, listening to the space ship sounds of my washer. To make cinnamon bread. To not waste so much time.

Intentional is an over-used word. I guess in the years of accessibility nearly everything is over-used. Nothing is unique anymore – and if it is, millions know about it immediately and, without knowing it, make it common by sharing/liking/instagramming/face chatting it into over-used in a matter of seconds.

Yet, intent is the resolution I would have for 2013. Spending my time with intent. Purpose.

Nov 182012
 

Teenaged  boys can be just as noisy as girls. Maybe worse. Because when their voices start to drop deep, they carry. Far.

They talk with their mouths and their bodies, scrambling, running, kicking, shoving, wrestling, flopping, throwing, hitting.

When your bedroom is right beneath the living room, and they are sleeping (4 of them) right above you, the ground shakes when they laugh. Because they don’t just laugh. They convulse. The lightbulbs in my ceiling fan shake.

Because they watch a movie with this song in it, play it over and over for hours, then one of them (Sal) has an earworm for three days that he can’t shake.

Because you then, in turn, develop the ear worm. It’s not a good one.

Did I mention boys eat a lot?

Nov 152012
 

Too many changes in too short of a time span. Still adjusting. Letting the dust settle.

Last year, after 20-some years of living in Madison, my parents retired and moved 4 hours away. I knew it was coming. I tried to prepare myself, but did a better job of keeping myself in denial. I mean, really. Could my parents really (really) move hours and hours away from me/us? Me? The kids? The city? Me? It didn’t seem possible.

It was. It is. They are happier than ever and remind me of how much they are enjoying themselves.

The hardest part of them being gone would be the face-to-face conversations. Phones don’t capture a conversation for me. Email.. no, but I do like getting emails from my parents. The lost art of writing. But phones (especially cellphones, which we are both using) lag, stick and delete parts of the conversation making it awkward, messy. My parents don’t know how to Facetime, and if they did it would be similar to those cellphone conversations.

I miss them. Not only were my parents close to us (you could hop on the bus three houses down from us, ride it to their part of town and get off of it three houses down from their house – no transfer), but they were close to the kid’s school. Many times I would stop in for coffee or a quick chat while I waited for the boys to be done with wrestling/soccer/whatever. I’ve driven by their house on occasion, those evenings when I would have normally pulled up and walked right in. It makes my heart ache a bit. Truly ache. That’s a real term.

Then I have my college son. That was a whole new adjustment. Still is. There are people that squeal with glee when their kids reach this age – old enough to send off to the dorms. And then there are those who go through (literally) stages of greif, sadness, depression. I… well, I wasn’t squealing. I am happy for him, I am. But I really had to be honest with myself on how I was feeling. My oldest left the house for different reasons. I went through similar feelings then. It got better. This has gotten better.

But it’s still there.

My parents came for a visit this past week. My dad had a meeting close by, and they extended their time here to hang out with family and visit friends. They stayed in a hotel one night and with us the second night. We don’t have a big house. To stay with us, they have to take over a bedroom, and boot a boy out of it. It’s fine, it works, but it might not work for a week’s stay. I wish I had a bigger house. I’ll just put that out there. At any rate, they stayed here, but I didn’t see them too terribly much. Dinner the first night, ships passing in the night the next day. Talks over coffee the morning they departed. It was good to see them. Really good.

I had just learned that my hours might be getting (probably, inevitably) cut drastically in the new year. I tell you every time things look up for us, in comes some slam from the other side that we weren’t expecting. We will never be financially solvent. Will we ever be financially solvent? We will be financially solvent someday. We will. I have to believe that. Sorry, little mid-paragraph pep talk for meself. So, yeah, I was just a little bit shellshocked  about the whole thing, and I was glad -so glad- that my parents were here. That I could tell them some of this stuff face to face and have a real conversation with them. It’s cathartic to be able to speak with someone in the flesh, not through an electronic.

I’m so very tired of speaking with the people I love through electronic devices. (Yes I am thankful for the ability to do so, it just isn’t my preferred way.)

So, we have coffee with my parents on their departure day, then Frank and I go off to run errands, stop at Costco, the library, blablabla. All’s good, right?

Mhmmm.

I get home, begin to unload the groceries, walk into the garage, hear my dog waiting for me on the other side of the garage door, open it – and there it is. Coffee. The smell of the coffee pot, lingering in the air.

That’s all. That was it. All I needed.

I crumpled. Sobbed. Needed a hug from my husband – something I probably don’t allow myself often enough. Keeping hard, keeping moving, that’s what works sometimes.

Not that day.

I missed my mom and dad. I miss a lot of things. It’s OK to miss them as long as I don’t envelope myself in it, seal it up and stay wrapped in it forever.

 

Nov 072012
 

A lot of people are doing the “Thankful Thirty” this month, and I contemplated doing it, but frankly I don’t blog, tweet or facebook enough to manage. I suppose I could do it online in my paper journal. As I type this out, I realize I probably should simply for discipline’s sake. It is good to be thankful, to pick out the positive, and to massage the optimist within. It’s healthy.

Last weekend Frank had off. We went and watched Dante wrestle (his first ever college matches). It was an exciting, nerve-wracking experience. My heart swelled with pride, but also of longing. I miss my college-aged son. In the same breath that I “miss” each child, moments, segments of life that hang in time– I enjoy the dynamic that new life phases bring. It is exciting to watch my older two young adults take on life, figuring out who they are. A bleeding, swelling heart. Again, I am pushing and pulling each and every day of my life.

Saturday was spent in the car, driving hours away to watch the matches; Sunday we took to the outdoors and explored a local spot that we’ve visited before, but always in winter.

There is a small chapel on the land that was once a farm, now a public park. The owner agreed to donate the land as long as the chapel stayed. We’ve been there many times (almost always after dark), but have never seen the chapel. The hike up brought muscles to warm on a steady incline. On a peaceful day the chapel at the top and the view surrounding would have been the first slice of fresh air on a nice trek through some very manageable paths. But on that day it was laden with Boy Scouts who were on a treasure hunt, and weekenders on the same mission as we were. Inside the chapel, a Scout poked at one of the statue’s heart (a saint) saying, “Ewww. Ugggggggggly. Look at that heart.” He checked off something on his list and they ran screaming to the overlook. Kind of killed the moment.

The chapel is small.

The boys felt our hike should have ended there. They were wrong.

Franny created his own path down the hill while the rest of us took the same route to return to the fork in the path. Sal was overly concerned that we would have search parties to find his twin brother.

We did not.

We found a spider that was definitely not indigenous to the land.

When we came to the bottom of the hill, we took another trail that we figured would take about a half hour and bring us back to the beginning. Half-way through, we came to the warming hut where we have our winter picnics. The boys were spent and wanted to head back using the familiar route. I asked them a few questions to determine that they knew where they were going, and told them to go that way and we would meet them back there. Frank and I wanted to explore new territory.

We didn’t hurry.

After walking to the lake, we were faced with going back to the car through the prairie, or to retrace our steps back through the woods. We chose the woods. I’m not much of a prairie person; I like the hills hidden in the trees.

I posted the picture below on Facebook, too. As we trotted down the hill, I heard a noise that I thought was a branch falling. But it was this man, coming up behind us with his poles. He breathed a chipper greeting when he passed, and continued on his healthy clip right past us, generating more steam as he pushed up the hill. Inspired, I challenged Frank to run up that last hill with me. He shook his head. I started, and the dog (who Frank was leading), took off behind me, forcing him to join in.

We made it.

The kids were waiting, taking in the view, some more patient than others.

I sat with Sal on the bench, and we ate our cheese sticks. I didn’t want it to end. Time is short. Every age and stage in life is different. A Sunday hike with a 13 year old is different than one with a 15 year old, as it is different with one that is over 18, or under 8. I can’t say that any is better or preferred. They are all good. They are all something to cherish.