Names have been changed to protect the innocent...and my husband...and me...but not the dog. His name is Dexter.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kindness Begins With Me

I've tried making resolutions a lot of different ways....themes, a certain number, no resolutions, 20 gazillion resolutions, and more.  I like resolutions.  Not because I think that on January 1st I can change my whole life.  Mostly just because I like making goals.  Even more, I like reaching my goals.  And then making more goals.  I am one goal oriented gal. 

One of the things that I haven't actually tried is picking a word for the year.  This is a popular concept in the blogosphere and there are a plethora of posts in January dedicated to theme words.  I've watched this trend the last few years with mild interest.  I like the concept of it.  Even thought about doing it.  But I never did.

Until this year. 


As I pondered upon my potential word for the year, I thought about what some of my other, unofficial, goals are right now to see if I could find a theme.  A word that would stand out as all encompassing of my goals.  As I thought and thought and thought some more, one thing did become obvious. 

I have a lot of things I want to do in life. I want to learn new things and try new things and become better at some things.  I want to be more organized so I can spend less time cleaning and more time being with my kids.  I want to carve out some time to see if my brain is still up inside my head or if it's just completely given up on me.  I want to knit.  And sew.  And get caught up on the girls scrapbooks...I'm about five years behind.  I want to read.  And try new recipes.  I want to paint and sketch again.  I want to become an awesome runner.  And a yoga teacher.  And I want to write.  And maybe even paint my nails.  And touch my toes.  And for the love of all that is holy, I want to finish this house that is under constant construction.  Honestly, the list keeps on going, but I think we all get the idea. 

And then my word became painfully obvious.  Nice.  Be nice! 

I'm a pretty nice person.  Sometimes a little too nice, which doesn't lead to good things.  But I really do think that niceness matter.  And I have SO many things that I want to do, it's not even reasonable to think I can do them all this year.  Or even in the next five years.  Especially the part about the house.  A lot of times, I set goals and when I struggle to meet them (or not meet them) I'm really hard on myself.  Looking at my very long list of things I want to do, I decided that the best thing I can do (for me, but also as an example to my girls) is to go a little easier on myself.  

Years ago I was chatting with someone about passive aggressive behavior.  She pointed out to me that, for some people (such as myself), the passive aggressive behavior is being passive towards others and internally aggressive, beating myself up for every little thing I do wrong or don't do as quickly/perfectly as I want to.  And I say beating figuratively, not literally.  I'm not a house elf.  (Yes, we have been listening to Harry Potter almost constantly.  Why do you ask?!)  

This is not an easy thing to do in a society like ours.  Even if you are not hard on yourself, there are plenty of people who will happily let you know how you don't measure up.  Perfection is expected and not even the tiniest bit attainable.  And heaven forbid your house not be clean when someone drops in unexpectedly or you get a wrinkle or have a bad hair day or forget to have the kids do their homework.  Unforgivable!!! 

And I think this is the sort of thing that comes and goes in phases.  Sometimes we are pretty impervious to others judgements, while other times we are just more fragile.  Personally, when I'm feeling more fragile, I tend to avoid people who are negative, whenever possible.  I have plenty of my own negative, thankyouverymuch, I don't need any extra.  And I think that's okay.  And if you don't think that's okay....well, that's okay too.  Just keep it to yourself.

I have two deep thoughts from two women in my neighborhood.  The first one is this....I'm not going to apologize for myself anymore.  Clearly, she's not referring to when we make mistakes or hurt some one's feelings.  It's all about our constant need to apologize just for being.  The one huge thing that has made it obvious to me that I need to work on this is that Lolly apologizes for everything (obviously excluding things that need apologies).  I didn't have to look too far to see where she picked up that particular habit.  And here's the other deep thought...I was talking parenting with another woman in my neighborhood (she's now a grandmother) and she commented about how you really should not judge others because there is just no way you can know what's going on in their life, leading to the situation you're judging.  It's easy to look at kids and feel superior if your child happens to be behaving well in that moment, but it's so much more complicated than that.  One child could be shy while the other struggles with ADHD.  It doesn't mean that one mom is better than the other.  The quiet child could be the playground bully while the ADHD child could be really kind, but struggling to manage their huge amounts of energy.  Personally, I'll take the nice, hyper child over the quiet bully any day.  And just because a child is talented scholastically, it doesn't mean that child is better than the child still struggling to learn their ABC's.  And frankly, the know-it-all child who tells everyone how much smarter he/she is than everyone else is annoying.  And who wants to be around that?!

Now, I am fully aware that this post has completely gone off in a random tangent.  Lady of Perpetual Chaos, blah blah blah.  We know to expect this.  But it all does connect in a magical, random way.

It's good to be nice.  Nice to those around us.  Nice to ourselves.  You will never regret being nice.  Okay, maybe there will be a rare occasion that you regret being nice to someone who makes you mad.  But you'll never have to apologize for being nice which goes along nicely with the first deep thought.

So my word/phrase this year is to be nice.  I can't tell my girls not to be too hard on themselves if I'm constantly criticizing myself and my own efforts.  As we all know, we can tell our children how to be, but they will be what they see.  And hopefully, after this year, they will see that you can work and struggle and fail and keep going and sometimes even succeed, all while showing yourself the same kindness you would show to others.  It's all part of the journey.            

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book of The Week--I Can Make You Sleep by Paul McKenna

Me and my insomnia....we're frenemies.  We go way back.  I mean wwwaaayyyyy back.  I have had trouble sleeping for literally as long as I can remember.  And the sleep problems I had from before I can remember, my mother can attest to.  Sadly, it is not an exaggeration to tell you that I have had trouble sleeping for my entire life. 

I've tried a lot of things over the years to help me out.  In high school I gave chanting a try.  I wasn't the one doing the chanting, it was some monks on a CD.  I dreamed of spiders all night long.  Never Again. 

I've tried the prescription route.  We've all heard of Ambien.  And the stories that accompany it of people sleep walking, cleaning, eating, driving, etc.  It didn't do anything for me.  It was like I hadn't taken anything.  Prescriptions and me just don't play well together.  And the rare pill that does help not only leaves me hung over the next day, but also stops working if I use it for even a short period of time.  As in, twice.

As an adult my insomnia has gotten significantly worse, mostly likely brought on by a few of the unpleasantries of bills and stress and people. 

When Lolly was at her last school, my insomnia would increase about two weeks before school started and continue on until summer.  The first year I thought it was a coincidence, the second year I knew it was not.  And this was not my typical, wake up at 4 am every day without being able to go back to sleep kind of insomnia.  It was waking up for the day at 1 am at least three times a week.  Often more than that.  This past summer, right on cue, my insomnia increased two weeks before school even though we were sending the girls to a different school.  But after they started school and I could see what a better environment it was for them, it went away.  And I returned to my regular, 4 am insomnia. 

I'll be honest with you....even though my 4 am insomnia is an improvement over my 1 am insomnia, it's still an unwelcome guest in my life.  We have a lot going on around here and I need some sleep! 

I mentioned my sleep issues, in passing, to an acquaintance and she recommended this book.  And here's some more honesty for you.  I haven't actually read the book yet.  This book comes with a guided hypnosis CD that helps you to sleep. 
I've been using the CD for a couple of weeks now and I can really tell a difference.  I haven't been able to completely drop my 4 am waking, but I figure that it took me 34 years to get here and it might take me more than two weeks to get my brain to sleep all the way until 6.  And reading the book might help too.

And here is my personal disclaimer: this technique uses your brain to help you sleep and if you use it with the intention of "proving" this sort of thing doesn't work, then it probably won't help you.  For so many people, their insomnia defines them.  It becomes a competition....whomever has the worst insomnia wins.  But really, that person loses.  Because they don't get to sleep!  Duh.  Kinda dumb. 

And in further pursuit of a good night's sleep, I went in search of a sleeping mask.  The girls were with me when I finally found one and they both insisted on this one.
When I asked why, Lolly informed me that the purple of the sleep mask matched the purple under my eyes.  She said it with such love and fashion sense that I just couldn't be mad.  Besides, a girl should match her accessories whenever possible.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Recipe Swap Wednesday-Pizza!

Pizza.  Oh how I love thee.  Oh how my whole family loves thee.  In my opinion, pizza is one of the best foods in the world.  Therefore it must be made every week.  Usually on Fridays.  And because I mostly just post pictures of food on Instagram, I am driven to post our pizza every Friday night.  I'm a really exciting person to follow.

The pizza recipe I usually use I got from The Hairyshoefairy, but I couldn't find it on her blog so I'll post it here as well.  I thought I had gotten it from her blog, but it must have been a live, in-person recipe exchange.  Not all that common these days, but I do try to have real human interaction occasionally. 

Pizza Dough
1 tbsp. yeast
1 cup warm water
2.5 cups flour
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add remaining ingredients and beat vigorously 20 strokes.  Let rest 5 minutes.  Roll out and add toppings.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

This recipe makes enough dough for two thin crust pizzas.  I prefer a thicker crust so I have been using this recipe to make one large pizza and one small dessert pizza. 

Until recently.  Now we are a stuffed crust pizza family.  And I LOVE it!  I use the full dough recipe and tuck the yummy cheesiness into the extra crust.  And for those who prefer pictures, I have some step by step tips to make the best pizza ever.

First, take your mozzarella cheese sticks and cut them in half, length wise.  I usually use just under five cheese sticks.  I end up cutting off about an inch with the size of my pizza stone.
 Next, roll out your dough leaving an edge around the pizza.  Then line the cheese sticks along the outer edge of your pizza dough.  (please excuse the blurriness....I was in a eat pizza...)
Then gently tuck the dough around the cheese stick.  Be careful not to put any holes in your dough because the cheese will melt and ooze out of that hole.  And then drip onto the bottom of your oven, where it is still waiting for you to clean more sufficiently.  Or maybe you can just leave will burn off eventually.
When the cheese is all tucked it should look a little something like this.
Then feel free to add whatever toppings you like. 

We have a few personal favorites.  We LOVE pesto pizza.  We use pesto for the sauce (we grow lots of basil in the garden and I freeze pesto to use the rest of the year) (or you could use store bought) (or even make it fresh! whatever works).  We like tomatoes, broccoli and carrots on our pesto pizza, topped with lots of mozzarella. 
We also love the traditional margherita pizza (tomatoes,basil,olive oil, garlic, mozzarella), but prefer it in the summer when the tomatoes and basil are fresh out of the garden.

Our recent favorite has been to use Alfredo for our pizza sauce.  We put sausage, olives, peppers, tomatoes and fresh basil on it.  SO good.  I use this Alfredo recipe from the lovely Jessica of Butter With A Side of Bread. 
And of course, the good old fashioned Hawaiian Pizza.
You can even make it into fun shapes.  This heart pizza was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. 
And as we all know, if I can do it, pretty much anyone can do it. 

So!  Here is where the recipe swap part comes in to play.  Since we're a pizza every week family, I'm always looking for fun new toppings to try.  And it's polite to share.  Especially when it comes to sharing yummy pizza toppings.    

Friday, March 1, 2013

Seuss-iful Chocolate Treats

I'm pretty sure I saw this somewhere in my online travels, but I just can't remember where.  So, if you have posted all about this, please let me know.  When I consulted The Google the other day to see the details of how to make these, I couldn't find this specific treat so I decided to put a little something together to share the Dr. Seuss love.  This is such an easy treat that you can easily put them together for the big day tomorrow. 

For our Green Eggs and Ham treat you start with two simple ingredients.

I got the candy melts at a craft store and the yellow M&M's at a party supply store.

You can melt them in the oven or the microwave, but I opted to use the oven to make a lot at one time.  Make sure you put wax paper on your cookie sheet to make it easier to get the candies off once they have cooled.  The wax paper is very important so don't forget it.

Layer two candy melts, off set from each other.

I put them in an oven preheated to 250 degree for three minutes.

They look a little like this when they are ready.
Then you take your fancy chocolate smooshing tool to make them look eggy.
Like so....
Then you put a cute little yellow M&M on top and let them cool.  If you're in a hurry, just pop the pan in the fridge to speed up the process.
And not to worry, everyone will like the green eggs and ham.  They will love them, Sam I Am. 
The rest of our Dr. Seuss celebrations with also include the delicacy of green eggs and ham (omelets) and a colorful dessert that will take me hours to prepare (rainbow sherbet).  And tater tots.  I think the fine doctor would approve. 

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