Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Month in review: June

June has been a good month. I am keeping up with my own resolutions and finding time for myself. We've also been busy as a family.

- I finished 12 books this month (4 audio, 3 Kindle, 5 paper).
- I finished 2 books for my Summer Reading Challenge.
- I did not read my June selection for the 2015 Reading Challenge, so that will be one of the first books I read in July.
- My YA Book Club selection for July is Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. We'll be discussing the book on July 29th if you'd like to read along with us. I'll be posting about our discussion after the meeting.

- My new job is going well. After learning more about what my responsibilities are, I have some actual work to do.
- I'm enjoying dressing business casual, now that I've figured out my workday uniform and bought some new clothes.
- I've figured out how to use the water cooler to make hot water for my tea: Tazo Wild Sweet Orange since I'm still off of caffeine. I do miss the free tea at my old job.
- I've been walking a few laps of the parking lot during the late afternoon, getting some steps in and listening to my audio book.

- I've gotten up early every weekday morning to exercise unless I was sick or Jim was out of town for work. The past three weeks I've been in a good routine of running on Mondays and Thursdays around the neighborhood and going to the YMCA on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to lift weights and walk on the track.
- I'm still eating low carb, and it's going really well. I've lost 6 pounds so far. I'll post more recipes soon. I haven't cheated at all yet, although I might tomorrow night. I decided Girls' Night would be my one cheat night each month.

- Jim went to CA at the beginning of the month for orientation for his new job. I was a single parent for 3.5 days. Not fun. But I did get a babysitter one night, so I could go shopping and read at the library. It helped my sanity a lot!
- Baseball is still keeping us busy. We had a couple of rain cancellations earlier in the month that were a nice break. But we're back at it. The last two games have been really fun for me as an assistant coach. The kids are definitely improving. We're actually making some plays, which is exciting.
- Christopher is still doing chores, but we're not really marking them off on the chore chart. He sometimes protests bringing in the garbage cans or putting away the silverware, but he's doing everything except brushing his teeth. We're still helping with that.
- I'm hoping to find a better balance of family time vs. me time in July. I have been a little stressed out this month with the new job, and unfortunately I've taken that out on Christopher and Jim a little more than I'd like.

- My aunt and uncle came to visit earlier this month. They visit annually before my uncle's big convention in Chicago. We had a lot of fun with them even though we didn't really do much. It was nice to just hang out and catch up, and for Christopher to get to know them better.
- We celebrated our niece's graduation from high school and Fathers' Day with Jim's family.
- We went camping last weekend with some good friends of ours. The weather was perfect - not too hot. The kids fought a little more than I would have liked, but we got some hiking and beaching in and enjoyed hanging out around the camp fire.
- We had several play dates with Christopher's friends this month, including one new friend from baseball who will be going to the same Kindergarten in the fall.
- Jim and I had several date nights, and Christopher enjoyed some evenings with his babysitters - so worth it!

- Our flowers are looking so beautiful. Jim and I hung some string trellises for our clematis, and they look amazing. But I have a TON of weeding to do. I just haven't had time.
- We've been able to use our pool a couple of times even though the water isn't very warm. Christopher doesn't seem to mind.

I chilled out on planning weekends away this summer, so I'm looking forward to some fun times at home in July, after the holiday weekend.

What have you been up to this month?

Friday, June 26, 2015

My workday uniform

I've read a couple of blog posts lately about having a uniform: a go-to formula for your everyday outfit. Since my new job requires business casual dress, I decided that before I went shopping I needed to review my wardrobe and think about what I actually wear.

First of all, you need to understand that I do not have a lot of clothes. My husband and I started sharing a closet a year and a half ago when we had our big walk-in closet painted. And we've never switched back. We just don't really need the space. We each have one clothes rod - about 6 feet long. I have mine split into work clothes on one half and weekend clothes on the other half.

Our shared closet. Jim's clothes on top. Mine on the bottom.

My rack: casual clothes on the left, work clothes on the right.

So once I got rid of the clothes that didn’t fit and the ones I didn't wear, I was left with one pair of black pants, three tank tops, two nice t-shirts, two long sleeve shirts, and three cardigan sweaters. That's not much when I have to dress up 4-5 days a week. But what I did realize is that my uniform is black pants, an undershirt (tank, tee, long sleeve tee), and a cardigan. It's not the trendiest outfit, but it's what I actually wear. I wouldn't buy anything else since I'd just end up not wearing it.

First week at the new job in my uniform.

I hit up our local consignment shop first. And I found some great deals, but I only bought things that fit my uniform. I bought another pair of black pants, Banana Republic for only $14! And I found an adorable dressy tank, White House Black Market for $14. And another black flow-y cardigan top for $17. And the most shocking of all – a black necklace for $10. I never wear jewelry other than my wedding ring, but my mother urged me to find something plain that could go with everything, so I did.

The next day I went to the real mall. I had planned to go to Loft and Chico's. All of the Loft shirts had pockets - weird and not dressy enough. But I did find two fun colored cardigans - fuchsia and periwinkle. The ones I had were all black or cream. I love wearing color! Chico's was a bust. Other than some basic tanks I didn't find anything that fit my uniform. And they didn't have the color tank I needed to go with my new Loft cardigans.

On the way back to my car I saw White House Black Market. I had never been there before, but remembering my cute consignment find, I decided to check it out. I explained to the sales woman what I was looking for. I think she thought my uniform was a little odd for work, but she was incredibly helpful. I've never tried on more clothes in my life! I grabbed everything I liked, and she brought me some of her favorites. And after about an hour, I spent $300! But everything fit my uniform: one cardigan and six tanks. I loved the fit of their pants, but I decided to stick with my black pants for now. I'm not sure what other color will work into my wardrobe, and none of the pants I tried on were on sale. I'll go back in the fall.

I am loving getting dressed for work each morning. Everything now fits my style. I even found two other necklaces that I'd been given over the years. Knowing my uniform made my shopping so much easier, and I know I'll wear everything I have. It's not quite the 10 item wardrobe that's the hot topic right now, but I have enough for two weeks of work, which is what I need.

A close up of my work clothes.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Movies I plan to see this summer

It's officially summer, so that means...great movies! Why do all of the good movies come out when the weather is nice? I've never understood that. And why are there more action movies and less girly movies in the summer? Also a mystery.

Regardless, there are a bunch of movies I'm planning on seeing this summer.

Inside Out (June 19)

I love cartoons, especially Pixar movies. Jim and I went to see animated movies way before having Christopher, and this movie is another we'll be seeing alone. Christopher has been watching the previews incessantly on YouTube, but he's too afraid to see the movie. We may be able to convince him to go after we see it and make sure there are no scary parts. So there's a good chance we'll see this movie in the theaters twice. That works for me! Then we'll get to see it in 3D when we go without Christopher. Because of his glasses and eye issues, we haven't taken him to a 3D movie yet.

Self/less (July 10)

I hadn't even heard of this movie until we went to see Jurassic World (such a disappointment), but it has Ryan Reynolds in it, so I have to see it. I love Ryan Reynolds. And it actually seems like a cool  Sci-Fi plot as well.

Minions (July 10)

While I am not thrilled about seeing this movie, it is one that we can take Christopher to, so I'm sure we'll be seeing it soon after it comes out. Jim and I love going to the theater, and we jump at any chance to share that love with Christopher. Even if the movie is less than stellar. Although the first two Despicable Me movies weren't too bad.

Ant-Man (July 17)

Super hero movie? Sign me up! Paul Rudd as a super hero? Hell yeah! It seems like all my favorite actors are becoming super heros - Ryan Reynolds (The Green Lantern), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), and now Paul Rudd. Yay! I don't even know anything about Ant-Man, but I don't care. I love almost every super hero movie, and I won't mind watching Paul Rudd for two hours, even if he is the size of an ant.

Pixels (July 24)

This movie will probably be stupid, but it's about old school video games. Jim is a huge gamer, so I'm sure we'll end up seeing this one. It won't end up on my favorite movie list, like Wreck It Ralph, but it should at least be entertaining enough for one viewing.

Paper Towns (July 24)

I love John Green's books, and while this book wasn't my favorite, I think it will make an awesome movie. The previews at least make it seem like it follows the book closely, so I hope I'm not disappointed.

Fantastic Four (August 7)

This movie is another super hero reboot. I didn't really like the first Fantastic Four movie, but I know Jim and I will go see this movie. We cannot resist a super hero movie. And the cast looks decent. I enjoyed Michael B. Jordan in Friday Night Lights and Miles Teller is growing on me after seeing him in every YA-book-made-into-a-movie in the last two years.

Are you a fan of seeing movies in the theater?  What are you looking forward to seeing this summer?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Building memories

Christopher has been asking since the end of April to have a lemonade stand. I don't know where the idea came from. Possibly from Lemonade in Winter, which we read last year, or maybe from something he's watched on YouTube lately.

Last week I bought the ingredients, so we'd be ready when a nice day finally came. On Sunday, the weather was perfect - 86 degrees and sunny. After our Fathers' Day brunch at my sister-in-law's house, we came home and got to work right away. I used Country Time lemonade mix, but garnished it with slices of lemons because Christopher wanted to make it with lemons. 

Christopher stirring the lemonade after adding ice.

Then we made some signs to hang on the table. I wrote one, so he could copy the letters. But since he wrote his kind of small, I decided to hang both.

Christopher making his sign.

We live in a small cul-de-sac, so we set up at the entrance where everyone driving by would be able to see us, but we'd be safe from traffic. We live right near the entrance to our development, so we got a good amount of cars coming by. And a few people walked by as well. We had a lot of neighbors stop by pretty early on, and Jim bought lemonade twice, but we had a lot of strangers stop as well.

Christopher manning the lemonade stand. Full pitcher, ready to go!

Christopher wanted to go inside several times, but every time I asked if he was sure, he was determined to sell all of the lemonade. He really wanted the money. I had given him $5 in quarters to get him started for making change. He didn't need much change since most people let him keep the change as a "tip." 100% tip - not bad!

Christopher looking a little bored after our initial "rush" of sales to neighbors.

We finally sold out after exactly 90 minutes and about 23 customers. We cleaned up and headed inside to count the money. He remembered to pay me back my $5. I didn't charge him for the lemonade supplies - maybe when he's older I will. I let him keep the profit: $13.97. (We'd gotten a donation of $0.47 from one man who didn't want any lemonade.)

Christopher counting his money.

He was pretty pleased with himself. That was 7 weeks of allowance made in one afternoon. I was pretty impressed he lasted that long. And I was a little sunburned.

I certainly never expected to be running a lemonade stand again. I didn't think my child would want to have one until he was old enough to run it by himself. But it was fun. He got some real life experience with money and business. And I got to be part of another experience he'll likely remember forever.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The story of growing up

Last February I started reading Santa Claus: The Tooth Fairy, and Other Stories: A Child's Introduction to Religion. It reads like a textbook, but that's not why I haven't finished it. It's not even a long book. I got this feeling when I started reading it, like it was going to change my life. It's an atheist's guide to talking about religion with kids. But what if it doesn't have the answers I'm looking for? I'm afraid to finish it. And I need to be in the right mood when I do read some it. So I'm progressing through it very slowly. And I'll probably need to re-read it as soon as I finish because it's been a little disjointed.

But one thing that I have taken away from the book so far is "the story of growing up." I didn't even realize until reading this book that this is even a story that we tell our kids. Growing up is scary. Getting old and dying is even scarier. And yet it's something that we all have to face as mortal beings. So we start to introduce it to our kids in the form of a story. We celebrate the milestones: walking, talking, starting school, losing a tooth, etc. And we talk to them about the big changes that are coming up.

Christopher will be starting Kindergarten in the fall, and we've been talking about him going to real school since we moved almost three years ago. We've been hyping up Kindergarten (and so have the bigger kids at daycare), and he's so excited. It's helping him deal with things like taking on more responsibility for himself. He doesn't like wiping his butt when he poops, but he knows he has to do it all on his own at Kindergarten. So he's beginning to do it himself. I don't get called into the bathroom every time he poops anymore. And hopefully soon the poop stains on his underwear will stop.

We've also talked to him about losing teeth. The magic of the Tooth Fairy makes that more fun, but it's essentially another part of the story of growing up. Christopher's cousin, Cece, who's 3 months older, just lost her first tooth about a month ago, so that's made it even more real. He has his first loose tooth, which is barely lose, but again...big excitement!

The car provides lots of opportunity to discuss growing up. Christopher has already made the transition from car seat to booster seat, an event he eagerly looked forward to as he turned 4. And now he's looking ahead to age 8 when he won't need the booster seat anymore. Then he knows that at age 12 he can sit in the front next to Mommy or Daddy. And finally...at 16 he'll be able to drive. To him, this is the ultimate. He wants to be a race car driver when he grows up, so he's already learning the rules of driving. Asking endless questions while we drive around. Why can you make a right turn on red but not a left turn? What does that sign mean? Etc.

Looking even further ahead, we've had a lot of opportunity to talk about college and leaving home recently. Our niece graduated from high school this weekend, but we've been telling Christopher for a couple of years that at age 18 he'll go to college for four years. And possibly even graduate school after that depending on what career he picks. I try to explain that he won't always want to be a race car driver. He disagrees.

Right now he wants to go to college in Kentucky. That's his favorite state. And he's used to the idea of living far away from family. I moved to Wisconsin from Buffalo, NY, where my brother still lives. My sister lives near Philadelphia, and my parents live in Florida. Christopher has traveled a lot in his 5 years.

Recently we were watching Home, and when Tip said something about how you're not supposed to leave your family. Christopher's response was "yes, you are." It's the story of growing up that he's learned. You turn 18, and you leave home. It breaks my heart, but that's his reality.

It was mine too growing up. My mother had this poem hanging in her office, and I read it lot when I was in middle school and high school.

Children Are Like Kites

You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground.
You run with them until you're both breathless. 
They crash.
They hit the rooftop.
You patch and comfort, adjust and teach them.
Finally they are airborne...
They need more string and you keep letting it out.
But with each twist of the ball of twine, 
there is a sadness that goes with joy.
The kite becomes more distant, 
and you know it won't be long
before that beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that binds you two together
and will soar as it is meant to soar, free and alone.
Only then do you know that you did your job. 

Author: Unknown

I can only hope that Jim and I will do our job as well as our parents did. And I know no matter where Christopher lives when he's grown up, we'll remain close. My mother talks to my sister and me at least once a week. But she talks to my brother almost every day. Boys need their moms. Even when they're grown men.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What a difference a day makes

I've finished up my first week at my new job. It's been a pretty typical week. A lot of sitting at my desk getting my computer set up, digging around on the intranet and in shared file folders trying to find relevant information, reading documentation, learning new systems, etc. I completed one small assignment to compile a comprehensive list of business requests for the application I’m going to be working on.

But yesterday I was kind of blasé. I wanted to be doing something more productive, something more interesting. I was unsure whether I'd made the right decision in taking this job. I was feeling about the same as I’d been feeling at my old job after the project work stopped. Then I received a rather ambiguous assignment from my boss, and I started feeling overwhelmed and lost.

So I scheduled some meetings for today. I set up a check in with my boss for first thing this morning to get some better direction on the assignment. And I scheduled a walk through of the application architecture with the main architect.

Today, I am feeling much better about my job transition. My boss took me around to meet the development and QA teams. She and I discussed the assignment, and I now have clarity. And it's something I can do without any knowledge of the company. Yay! I understand what my role is within the organization and am excited about the work I'll be doing once I get up to speed. I also found out I’ll likely be traveling to FL in July to meet the business team, so I’ll get to know the people I’ll be calling and emailing daily. And I had the architectural overview and another informal overview of the project by the PM, so I’m feeling a little less lost.

Now I can enjoy the weekend and look forward to returning to work on Monday.

Book Review: The Running Dream (YA)

This review has been moved to Opinionated Book Lover.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Writer's Workshop: Listen

I'm linking up with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop again today. This time with the prompt:

Write a blog post inspired by the word: listen

I say that word a lot. Listen. I have a five year old son who does not like to listen. Well, more accurately, he doesn't like to obey. I often have to tell him to do something several times before he'll do it. Or worse, I yell because he's not doing what I told him to do. Sometimes I ask. I try to remember to ask vs. tell, but that doesn't always work either.

At the end of last year I participated in The Orange Rhino 30 Day Challenge to stop yelling. I read the book and followed along with the daily forum posts. And I did stop yelling. I'm not sure if it was the book or the forum or just my revelation that Christopher was only 4 (at the time). And he was still figuring things out. He wasn't going to get it right all of the time. I needed to cut him some slack. Show him some love. And help him navigate this world.

I didn't yell for about 6 months. I'm talking crazy lady yelling, not just raising my voice. I sometimes lose it completely and find myself yelling in a way no child should be yelled at by their parent. Out. Of. Control. Yelling. But I didn't do it for 6 months. And then a couple weeks ago before baseball practice, I lost it. I don't remember what it was about. But I know it wasn't Christopher's fault. Not really. I was stressed out and tired and not looking forward to coaching baseball. And I took it out on my son.

But this week already I've yelled twice. Not in that completely crazy way. More of a "why can't you just listen to me" kind of way. I'm dealing with a strong willed child. And I'm dealing with the stress of starting a new job. And it's been a tough week.

Christopher does need to work on being a better listening. He needs to practice following through with several directions at once, so he's ready for Kindergarten in the fall. But yelling isn't helping. It's scary. It just makes him cry. And then I have more to deal with. I need to check myself. Make sure my needs are met, so I can be a better mother. I need to show him love and ask him to do things in a caring way. I need to teach him to be responsible for himself. I need to go back to not yelling.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Choosing what to read next

In the last few days I've finished several books, so right now I'm only reading one book. That is very rare for me. I need to get a couple more books into my queue. I don't like to be without reading and listening material.

Any time I see a book I think I might like, I put it on my Goodreads "to read" shelf, so I don't forget about it. I read a lot of book blogs, so I get ideas from other bloggers' reviews. I also get emails from Goodreads each month with new titles by authors I've read before. And of course I get recommendations from friends and family as well. Or sometimes, when I have some free time near a bookstore, I'll just go and browse for ideas.

The greatest thing about having this Goodreads list is that when I need something new to read, I pull up my list and search the library catalog to see whether it's available in the format I currently need. For example, I finished the CD version of The Last Anniversary Saturday morning, so last night I searched the library website for books from my Goodreads list that appealed to me at the moment. The fifth one I searched happened to be available at our library, so I'll be picking that up this afternoon. The fourth book was available from another library, so I reserved that for later this month, so I won't be without a CD audio book again. I do the same thing when I finish an Overdrive e-book or e-audio book (which I've finally started using) or when I finish an actual paper book.

During a month I also read my YA Book Club's pick, so that's one less book I need to find on my own. And of course for the next three months, I'll also be pulling books from my shelf for my summer reading challenge.

When I have a stack of books waiting to be read, I pick up whichever strikes me when I'm ready to start a new book. So I might try to switch from YA to adult if I just finished a YA book. Or I might just pick the cover I like the best. Often I have to read the book that's due back to the library the soonest or the one that isn't renewable, so I make sure I finish it in time. I like to reserve new releases right before they're published, so I often have non-renewable books. 

How do you decide what to read next?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Writer's Workshop: If I had to be a Disney princess...I'd be Belle


Today I'm linking up with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop with the prompt:

If you had to choose a Disney princess to live the rest of your life as…which princess would you choose and why?

I'd choose Belle. She's bookish and introverted, but she also wants to go out and find adventure. She's a confident woman who goes after what she wants. Who wouldn't want to be her?

Here are the top five reasons I'd pick Belle if I had to be a princess for the rest of my life.


5. Yummy Bread/Pastries

She lives in France, land of delicious pastries and French bread. I know, I know I'm eating low carb right now, but if I was a cartoon, I could eat all of the bread and pie and sweets I wanted without gaining any weight, right?


4. Her Voice

She can sing! I've always wanted to be able to sing. I am pretty much tone deaf, and I married into a family with amazing vocal talent. It would be so nice to have a beautiful singing voice. I once told my high school guidance counselor that if I could be anything it would be a Broadway singer/actor, if only I could sing.


3. Family Nearby

Belle may not have siblings or a mother, but she does have a very loving father. Maurice is a little eccentric, but he lives nearby. I relocated to Milwaukee 13 years ago, and, while I love it here, I have missed having my family nearby.


2. Her Library

Look at all of those books! As someone who typically reads 4 books at a time, I could last forever on all of those books. I would miss audiobooks, and I'm not sure how much Young Adult fiction there would be, but I'm still sure I'd never get bored.


1. Her Relationship 

Unlike some Disney princesses, i.e. Cinderella, Belle actually gets to know Beast before falling in love with him. She doesn't just pick him because of a beautiful face. Their relationship has substance. And they're going to last.

Disclaimer: I wrote this post before reading Kathy's own post. She'd like to be Belle also.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Review: Raising Twins

Raising Twins: A Real Life Adventure by Freya Manfred

Amazon Summary:
One of every thirty babies born today is a twin--close to double the percentage of twins born just a quarter-century ago. Raising two children born on the same day presents special challenges to parents, and offers unusual rewards. In Raising Twins poet Freya Bly offers a unique perspective on the experience, based on weekly notes she kept from the time of her pregnancy until her sons, Rowan and Bly, were in college.

Raising Twins isn't a ''how to'' book, however, or a manual full of bullet points. It's a recount of twenty years of improvisation and adventure. Freya and her husband found that many theories about raising twins were cultural fairy tales inadequate to the task at hand. She describes the parenting ordeal with a poet's graphic touch--sleep deprivation, the need for superhuman energy, choosing schools, managing sibling spats honestly and diplomatically, while striving to bring out her sons latent gifts and nurture their creativity. I was far from a ''tiger mother.'' I was more like a dolphin mother, swimming beside our sons, letting two souls who happened to be born on the same day explore the depths and heights of their surroundings. Perhaps the extra energy level of twins puts a parent in the position of being an avid follower and facilitator; it takes too much energy to steer them or control them...

If you're a twin, if you know a twin, or even if you just care about parenting and the passages from infancy to adulthood, this book is for you.

A little background:
Last October my friend, Colleen, emailed to ask if I'd consider reading a book by Freya Manfred, a local Minnesota author who'd presented at a Young Authors Conference that her company organized. The book was about her twin sons, and she was looking for twins to read it and write a blurb for the cover. I was ecstatic! As you know I love reading about twins, so I said yes right away. I emailed with Freya a few times, and the book galley came to me in late December. I was given a February 1st deadline to read the book and send Freya my blurb.

January was a crazy month for me at work, but I managed to finish the book on my birthday, January 29th, on the airplane on the way to visit my mother and my twin sister in Florida for a girls' weekend. It was the first time the three of us were alone together in at least 5 years, probably longer.

I didn't know how to go about writing a blurb for a book cover, so I sent Freya a rambling email with my impressions of the book, all good. She and I even corresponded a bit throughout the weekend, and she revealed some information about the boys current lives. After reading of their upbringing, I was curious to know what they were up to. They're both artists, still living together.

My Review:
As I twin, I appreciated that Freya and her husband, Tom Pope, have such a refreshing view of twins as two individual people. A lot of parents of twins give their twins similar names and dress them alike. Freya called her twins "siblings who were the same age."

The book is such a great tribute to her sons, Rowan and Bly. As a mother of a boy, I enjoyed the chronicle of the different developmental stages of boys. It gave me some idea of what I have to look forward to in the coming years, as my son is only 5 years old.

Throughout in the book I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the boys similarities and differences. It was interesting to learn of the roles other twins play with respect to each other. There is always such fierce competition between twins. It is so hard to have someone so similar to you - sharing almost the same experiences - and to have different opportunities or difficulties face you.

The beginning of the book was so amusing at times I almost laughed out loud. The tone in which Freya recounts how naive she and Tom were is so perfect.

As an atheist (ex-Catholic/Christian), I was encouraged by her open conversations with the boys about God. I sometimes don't know what to say to my son. Her willingness to let the boys make up their own minds was a great example for me.

I also admired the open discussion of feelings in their family. And as the boys grew older it was easy to see how that benefited them.

Throughout the book I was struck by how honest Freya was. Things all parents think, she actually wrote.  This book is a great read for any parent, of twins or singletons.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The ultimate cheat

Jim and I first started a low carb diet in May 2013 after I finished reading Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Probably the day before we started, I had my last Coke for two years. Two years! Prior to May 2013 I wouldn't have thought that was possible. I was a Coke fanatic. If I needed caffeine, I never drank coffee or tea, just Coke. My husband gave me a Coke Santa Christmas tree ornament one year. That's how much I liked Coke. But after reading Taubes' book, I didn't ever want to drink soda again.

A few times over the last two years I had Sprite or orange soda in a bind, but I never had Coke...for two reasons. I didn't want to be tempted to start drinking it again. And I was afraid I wouldn't like it anymore, and that was kind of sad. I didn't want to ruin my memory of what it tasted like. Weird. I know.

The most amazing thing is that for most of the last two years, we've had cans of Coke in our fridge. We entertain a lot, so it's nice to have it on hand for others who drink it. So even with it staring me in the face, I didn't drink it. Until this May.

I had been cheating more and more over the last year or so. Cheesecake. Ice Cream. Cheez-Its. Pretzels. But never Coke.

I gained back all of the weight I originally lost, plus some, so I wanted to start being good again. I just started eating low carb again at the end of May. But before that, I had one Coke.

At my niece's 13th birthday party, I had a bad headache, which I thought might have been a caffeine headache. Maybe that was just an excuse. When I saw my nephew drinking a Coke, and he offered to get me one, I took him up on the offer.

It tasted like Pepsi. Too sweet. I should have had a bottle instead of a can. The acid-y bite of Coke, which is what I love (loved), has always been harder to taste when drinking a can. But maybe it's good that I didn't like it. Now I'm not tempted. It was the ultimate cheat, and now I can eat low carb again without that temptation.

The ice cream in my freezer is still calling to me. But the 5 pounds I've already lost is speaking louder.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A time of unexpected change

I usually love change. Moving...yes, please! A new job...sign me up! But this time, I'm not ready. I start a new job next Monday, but I'm not feeling excited. It has nothing to do with the new job. The position sounds perfect for me actually. It's going to be an amazing opportunity. A way for me to stretch my abilities.

It's the situation under which I am leaving my current job that is making me rather apathetic.

I've mentioned before that I found time to start this blog because my work load is very light right now. The company I work for announced about a month ago that it was up for sale or, absent a buyer, it would be closing. My business unit stopped all new work almost immediately after that announcement. So there really isn't anything for me at the company. I have been doing only a small part of my job (the least interesting part) for the last four weeks.

But still, I don't want to leave. We had a great team. We were about to attend a week long training, scheduled for the week after the announcement came, that would have changed the way we worked together in new and exciting ways. I had been very much looking forward to that training. My job was pretty awesome, but it was about to become even better. And then...

Unexpected change hit. And now I'm leaving the company.

It was my choice. I couldn't wait around doing nothing, facing a potential lay off. And yet, I'm in this strange and uncomfortable position of starting a new opportunity that I am not really ready for emotionally.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Adventures in cooking low carb, volume 1

I've been meaning to get back to low carb eating, and I decided that after our Memorial Day camping trip would be the perfect time to start. But since restarting habits can be hard, I needed some inspiration - new recipes! I spent a morning on AllRecipes and Google hunting down low carb recipes, and I found a lot of interesting ones.

Here are the ones I've tried in the last two weeks.

Avocado Tuna Salad
While mayo is actually considered good for low carb diets, I have grown a little bored of my traditional tuna salad recipe. It's rather bland. So I decided to give this a try, and I made it for Jim and me when I was working from home last Wednesday. It was very good. I could mostly taste the avocado. I will likely make it again. It was very easy to prepare. I cheated and used bottled lemon juice. There weren't any leftovers, but I do worry a little about the red onion getting too potent. I'll have to make more next time, so I can see how it works as a prepare-ahead-and-take-to-work kind of lunch.

Shrimp Cauliflower Lemon Salad
This recipe was my first ever experience of cooking with cauliflower. I'd never even bought a cauliflower before, having only ever had it on veggie trays or in a steamed vegetable medley. Since so many low carb recipes use cauliflower as bread replacements, I thought I'd give it a try. I bought frozen shrimp at Costco, so I used Mellissa's suggested technique for perking it up a bit.

The predominant flavor of this "salad" was lemon. Here I did use a fresh lemon. I also added feta cheese for a little extra flavor and protein. I made this for lunch on Friday while working from home again, and it made three servings, so I ate the other two for lunch on Saturday and Sunday (adding the feta right before eating). It held up very well with the lemon flavor actually lessening a bit over the time in the fridge. I will definitely make this again. I felt very healthy eating it!

Dijon Garlic Salmon
Since I'm trying to eat more fish, I needed another salmon recipe. I love anything with Dijon mustard, so this recipe caught my eye right away. It was so easy to make: no sauteing needed, just a little veggie chopping. I used only a half a red onion since that's what I had left from the avocado tuna salad. That was plenty!

I made this recipe Tuesday night for dinner. Jim and I ate it with steamed broccoli topped with butter and Parmesan cheese. I cooked fish sticks for Christopher following my meal pairing plan. Jim and I both loved this recipe, although he didn't enjoy the garlic quite as much as I did. There are two salmon fillets in the refrigerator, and I look forward to having one for dinner tonight.

Zucchini Lasagna
I was inspired by this recipe to try replacing noodles with thinly sliced zucchini. However, I used my normal lasagna recipe. I made this lasagna last night for dinner using some of my Grandma Puleo's homemade sauce that Jim made last month. Christopher had homemade meatballs which we'd frozen with the sauce.

I started by putting some sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Then I layered the zucchini across the bottom. Initially I was overlapping each piece, but then realized I'd run out of zucchini, so I switched to laying them flat right next to each other. I had cooked half a sweet onion with two pounds of ground beef, drained the grease, and then mixed in some sauce (maybe about 2-3 cups, enough to make it look like sloppy Joes). I layered half the meat mixture on top of the zucchini in a thin layer. I had also mixed two eggs and about a cup of Parmesan cheese into 15 ounces of part-skim Ricotta cheese. I layered all of the cheese on top of the meat, and then I spread another layer of zucchini. I topped that with the rest of the meat, and covered the whole thing with sauce before cooking at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

I overdid it on the sauce. Unlike noodles which absorb the water from the sauce, the zucchini adds more water as it's cooked, so our lasagna was a little soupy. But it was very good! It tasted like lasagna, unlike the noodle-less lasagna I made two years ago when we first started eating low carb.

I will definitely be making this again (with less sauce), and we'll be enjoying it for the rest of the week as there are 7 more servings in the fridge.

NOTE: Next time I'll include pictures. I'm always more enticed to try a new recipe when I see a picture. I planned to take a picture of the lasagna last night, but it didn't turn out to be very appetizing looking, even though it tasted great.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Books I plan to read in June

One of my favorite book blogs, The Deliberate Reader, has a monthly link up called "New on the Stack". It's a preview of the books that she has added to her stack during the previous month and plans to read this month.

Here's the list of books I hope to get to this month. I will definitely add some additional ones along the way, but this is a start.

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson
How did I get it: I borrowed it from the library.
Why did I get it: I reserved it from the library a while ago and I've been on the waiting list for a while. I think I read about it in a Goodreads newsletter about new YA fiction.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
How did I get it: I borrowed it from the library electronically.
Why did I get it: After I returned The Princess in Black to the library after reading it with my son, I thought I'd look up Hale's other books for kids. I was reminded that she wrote Austenland (one of my favorite Austen fan fiction books), so I decided I should read some of her other YA/adult books as well. I found I already had this book on my to read list.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
How did I get it: I borrowed the audiobook from the library.
Why did I get it: It's the only Moriarty book I haven't read yet. She is one of my favorite authors.

Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock
How did I get it: I found it on my bookshelf. I got it from a work book exchange cubicle a few years ago and had forgotten about it.
Why did I get it: It's the first book of my summer reading challenge.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
How did I get it: I borrowed it from the library.
Why did I get it: It's my June pick for Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2015 reading challenge. This month's requirement is to read a book not originally written in English.

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
How did I get it: I bought the paperback from Amazon. I own the Kindle version, which I read in early 2013.
Why did I get it: I am starting a low carb diet again, and I want to re-read parts of this book. It's too hard to find the parts I want to read on the Kindle version since I didn't bookmark anything.

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
How did I get it: I bought the Kindle book.
Why did I get it: I saw it on Modern Mrs. Darcy's book deal list, I had some Amazon No-Rush Shipping credits, and I've had this book on my to read list for a while.

Book Review: Sisterland

This review has been moved to Opinionated Book Lover.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My summer reading challenge

Every time the New Berlin Public Library holds a book drive for their thrice annual book sale, I look at my bookshelf and think that I have many books that I could donate. The problem is that I haven't read them all. And while I love to purge my house of things I do not need, I hate to get rid of books without reading them. Over the last three years or so, since moving in August 2012, I have acquired these eight books but never read them.

I've decided to pose a summer reading challenge to myself. The next library book drive will be in early September, so I am going to read these eight books before then.  I will then either:

1. Keep the book if I think it's worth reading again. I love to re-read good books.
3. Donate the book to the library's book drive.
3. Return the book to its owner. One book is borrowed.

Yesterday afternoon I started reading Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock. It seemed fitting to start this challenge on June 1st. Reading eight books in three months (along with everything else I want to read this summer) seems a little ambitious, but I think I can do.

Do you have books you've been meaning to read? Do you want to join me in this summer reading challenge?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Naming a child

While watching a movie, Christopher will sometimes ask, "why is he named that?" about one character or another. Rather than explain about writers and other people involved in making a movie, I usually just respond, "His parents named him that."

It's a big responsibility for us parents: the naming of our children. You want to ensure that your baby isn't teased during childhood, that he has a respectable name as an adult, maybe that he also has the possibility of a cool nickname during adolescence and beyond.

When I was pregnant with Christopher, Jim and I had the luxury of already knowing what our baby's name would be. Well at least we had it narrowed down to two possibilities: one girl name and one boy name. We had picked them out 4 years earlier while we were still dating.

Since sometime in my earlier twenties I had wanted a son named Christopher, after Christopher Robin from Winnie-the-Pooh. Before meeting Jim, I had hoped this baby might be a red head, but after meeting Jim, I decided I could settle for a blonde son. Jim didn't object to the name when I suggested it. He selected the middle name: Jacen (pronounced Jaken, in his head anyway). Jim just told me recently that this was the name of Princess Leia's son in the Zahn trilogy of Star Wars fan fiction novels. Perhaps I knew that back in 2005, and I had forgotten.

This middle name was short lived because a few weeks after we'd selected this name for our future son, Jim's aunt and uncle had a baby boy and named him Christopher Jacob. Since they intended to call him C.J., we decided we would keep the name Christopher, but that we should select a new middle name. I don't remember when, but sometime well before I was pregnant, we decided on Link as the new middle name. Jim is a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda video games. The hero in those games is a young boy, named Link. It seemed fitting that our son should be named after a character we each loved.

Both Jim and I prefer the name Christopher to the nickname Chris, and we're hoping to hold on to his full name as long as possible. Or if Jim gets his way, that we can persuade Christopher to use Link as his nickname when he starts thinking Christopher is too long or too babyish or whatever.

For now, he tells everyone his name is Christopher and quickly corrects them if they try to shorten it. At his first baseball practice I was filled with a strange sense of pride when he told one of the coaches, "I don't like to be called Chris." I know it won't last forever, but a mom can dream, right?