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Saturday, July 30, 2005

"More Milk" Products

If you've read my posts on breastfeeding, you know that Motherlove's More Milk Special Blend is a big reason why I am still nursing my son. More Milk Special Blend is a combination of the popular product, More Milk Plus, and Goat's Rue. The Special Blend is only available in liquid drops, which can get messy and tastes a bit nasty. I had to put it in Naked Juice's Green Machine so that I wouldn't taste it (now I use Trader Joe's knockoff, Very Green Juice Blend, which is just as good and more affordable).

The good news is, Motherlove has come out with capsules of More Milk Plus and Goat's Rue, so I don't have to deal with those nasty drops anymore. I've read that concerns about milk supply is the number one reason that women give up breastfeeding, so everyone should be aware that if milk supply is a genuine problem (and often it's not!), then it can usually be fixed. While I'm not a lactation expert, my personal experience is that More Milk Special Blend made a huge difference in my supply, and is the reason I was able to stop supplementing with formula. I definitely think anyone who wants to increase their supply should consider trying it (please check with a lactation consultant or Motherlove if you have any questions or concerns).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Maximizing Your Diaper Dollars

This tip is a moot point for me, since there is only one type of one brand of diapers that fits my son. But maybe it can save others money. I've found that Pampers run a little bit bigger than Huggies, so when your baby moves into a bigger size, start with Huggies. Then as he or she outgrows the Huggies, get Pampers in the same size. You save money because each package of diapers is the same price, regardless of the size, and the smaller the size, the more diapers per package. You could also work Luvs or even the store brand into the mix, but I can't tell you where they fall on the size continuum.

Another note about the number of diapers per package: you may get more or less depending on the type, even in the same brand. For instance, there are more size 2 diapers in a Pampers Baby Dry package than a Pampers Swaddlers package (because the Swaddlers are a little bit more cushy).

It pays to carry a calculator when you're shopping so you can determine the price per diaper in each package (what sleep-deprived parent can do math to two decimal places in his or her head in the middle of Target?). When you see a good deal, stock up, but don't buy more than your child will wear before moving into the next size.

Sometimes, though, there's no point. I've given up trying to save money on diapers by buying different brands - I now save money by sticking with what I know works. I just wish Pampers would hire Alex for a Cruisers commercial!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Steak Sandwich With Blue Cheese And Spinach

This is a good way to stretch your steak dollars or simply use up leftover steak.

Steak Sandwich With Blue Cheese And Spinach
Serves 4

4 4-oz. rib-eye steaks
nonstick cooking spray
3 demi-baguette loaves
4 oz. blue cheese, crumled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
dash hot sauce
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried

1. Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray and place the steaks inside. Sear on both sides, approximately 3 minutes per side.
3. Transfer the steaks to the prepared baking sheet and bake for another 5 minutes or until steak reaches desired doneness.* Remove steak from oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
4. In the meantime, combine the blue cheese, mayonnaise and hot sauce in a bowl and stir. Slice the baguettes lengthwise in half and toast.
5. Slice steak thinly against the grain on a slant. Divide and spread the blue cheese mixture on one-half of the baguettes. Layer with steak and spinach, then top with the remaining bread. Cut each baguette in half and serve immediately. (One serving is half a sandwich.)

*See the "Use Your Palm To Read Your Steaks" section in this link for help achieving your desired doneness.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Make The Most Of Your Credit Cards

I love my credit cards, but not because they let me spend a lot of money. I love them because I no longer have to carry much cash, I can shop online, and I earn points and miles on every card I carry.

The worst thing you can do with your credit cards is carry a balance from month to month. I've done it, when I was in law school and couldn't quite pay my card off. That was the most expensive loan I've ever taken out. Now I make it a point to pay off each card every month. The cards work for me, not the other way around. (If you can't afford to pay off your cards each month, it's time to take a look at your expenses and rein them in.)

Thus, with the caveat that you must pay off your credit cards every month or not use them at all, here's how you can get the most out of your cards by getting something for using them. Notice that I don't mention the interest rate, because it's irrelevant if you pay your cards off every month.

It seems like most people I know have a miles card - a credit card tied to an airline so that they earn frequent flyer miles for each dollar spent. I have one. And I used to have a different one before the one I use now. I cancelled that first one because I didn't think I was earning enough miles to justify the annual fee of $50. Keep in mind that most frequent flyer miles cards have an annual fee, so unless you're really going to rack up the miles and take trips, a miles card may not be right for you.

If you've decided a miles card isn't for you, or if you need or want more than one credit card, there are plenty of cards that don't have an annual fee. Look around for one that suits your lifestyle. Do you buy a lot of things from Amazon? If it weren't for my miles card, their card is the one I would get. American Express lets you accumulate points, which you can then redeem for a variety of products - gift certificates, luggage, miles and more. lets you search for a credit card that fits your needs.

Once you have the right credit card for you, don't forget to use it every chance you get. I've used my miles card for purchases as small as $3.74. (Unless I'm at a drive-thru, paying with a credit card is at least as fast as paying with cash.) I also use my miles card to pay off my cell phone bill, the regular phone bill, insurance payments, and more. I've been surprised at how quickly the miles add up this way. So take a few minutes to see what's out there. The rewards are worth it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tuna Pasta Salad

This yummy pasta salad can be served hot or at room temperature.

Tuna Pasta Salad
Serves 6

8 oz. penne pasta
1 lb. frozen broccoli
2 tablespoons pinenuts, toasted
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
2 cans tuna, drained
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, optional
black pepper
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta and broccoli according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside. If desired, cut broccoli into smaller pieces.

2. In the same pot that you cooked the pasta in, heat the olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano over medium heat. When the garlic and herbs are sizzling, add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, tuna, and balsamic vinegar if desired. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Make ahead tip - The following can be done throughout the day and set aside until you're ready to cook the pasta:

  • Toast the pinenuts
  • Cut the sun-dried tomatoes and olives


Monday, July 18, 2005

Asparagus . . . YUM!

My favorite way to eat asparagus is roasted (see my July 5 post on Roasted Vegetables For The Summer), but it's also delicious in pastas and risotto. I thought I'd provide more info on this yummy vegetable:

One-half cup of asparagus contains: 14 calories; 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrate, including 1 gram of fiber; 35 micrograms of folate, 136 micrograms of potassium, and 4 micrograms of vitamin C.

When buying asparagus, look for spears that stand tall and have tightly closed buds - this indicates freshness. Thick and thin asparagus taste the same, so choose according to how you intend to cook them - or, be like me and pick the thin ones because they require less preparation. Thick spears may need to be peeled if they're tough. To trim asparagus, bend the spear and let it break at its natural breaking point - this ensures that the part above the break is tender.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Product Review - Breathable Bumper

Update 7/11/08: I used this bumper with Tyler before he could pull himself up, and recently re-installed it because he got his foot caught between the slats one night and woke us all up. It's worked like a charm, and I love that it's breathable, even if I don't have to worry about SIDS anymore. The bumper is unavailable at One Step Ahead right now, but you can get it for $35.87 ($26.97 + $8.90 S&H) at Amazon (affiliate link).I think I paid about the same amount two years ago and it's been worth every penny.

I mentioned last week that I'd ordered a crib bumper from One Step Ahead. Well, they came and we put them up. They're great! They're made of mesh, but are lightly padded, so it's really the best of all worlds. They keep Alex from getting his hands and feet caught between the slats and from ramming his head into them, and I have peace of mind knowing that they're breathable. It's catalogue item number 11492 (this is their picture, by the way; our nursery is too messy for a photo shoot right now).


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Some Random Kitchen Tips

  1. Put a plastic bag on the counter and throw your garbage in it as you're cooking - peels, plastic wrap, seeds, empty containers, etc. Fold down the edges of the bag to avoid unwanted spills when you pick it up. I like to use plastic grocery bags - when I'm done, I tie the handles together and throw it into the big trash can in the corner.
  2. Microwave your sponge for one minute on high every day to kill germs and keep your sponge cleaner. Be sure to squeeze out as much water as possible before microwaving.
  3. If, like me, you hate mincing garlic because you can never seem to get it small enough, grate it with a microplane instead.
  4. Store Siplats (silicone baking sheets) on the inside of a paper towel tube.
  5. Use only half the amount of powdered dishwasher detergent that fits in the well and add a few drops of liquid dish soap to prevent spots.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Suggestions For New Moms

I went to my support group for new moms today, and since these related and important ideas came up, I thought I'd post them here, too:

  1. Forget about the things that aren't important - things like a squeaky clean house. Focus on your baby - he or she is your priority now.
  2. Make things as easy as you can for yourself (this does generally require money, but unless you'd have to go into debt, spend the money - it can help save your sanity).

Specific examples for the second suggestion are:

  • If you're having supply problems and are pumping all the time, buy extra sets of pumping supplies - extra valves, membranes, shields and bottles. The more sets you have, the less washing you have to do between feedings. You could even buy enough sets so that you can throw them into dishwasher baskets and run them through the dishwasher once a day. You can buy extra parts from certain retailers or check the pump manufacturer's website for retail locations or to order online. (Ellen Steinberg, my lactation consultant, sells Medela parts if you're in the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area.)
  • Do less laundry. At first, my husband and I did Alex's laundry every day - his clothes, burp cloths, receiving blankets, towels. Now it's every other day or sometimes every three days. I must have close 100 cloth diapers now (we use them as burp cloths and to cover him while we're changing his diaper), and 15 to 20 receiving blankets.
  • Don't cook every day, or even every other day. If you don't have meals you can pull out of the freezer, get a salad from a fast food restaurant or the salad bar at your market. Get a sandwich from the deli counter or take-out sushi.

All of these ideas can help you feel less frantic and stressed about the changes that are happening in your life. Take it easy and don't be too hard on yourself.

Crock Pot Shredded Beef Sandwiches

This is so easy and makes plenty. Leftovers freeze well, too.

Crock Pot Shredded Beef Sandwiches
Serves 6

3 to 3 1/2 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 cups water

8-10 crusty rolls
prepared creamy horseradish sauce (optional)

1. Place the roast in a 4 or 5 quart crock pot. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce and water. Cover and cook on low for 8-12 hours.

2. Shred the beef with two forks. Using a ladle or fat separator, remove the layer of oil that's at the top of the au jus in the crock pot.

3. Split the rolls and scoop out some of the dough, without tearing the crust. Spread horseradish sauce on one side of the rolls, if desired. Place 1/3 cup shredded beef into each roll and serve with a side of au jus for dipping.

Tips: Be sure to freeze some au jus with the beef so you can dip when you reheat. Also, use a roll with a thick crust so the bread doesn't fall apart when you dip.

I love Oxo products!


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Classic Banana Bread

This family recipe is the best banana bread. I'm working on lightening it and will post that version when I've got it right.

Hanalei Plantation Banana Bread
Makes 2 large or 4 small loaves.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ripe bananas, mashed
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix in order given. Place in greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.


A Loving Family Rule

When I was a kid, I always felt so awful after I had a simple accident - usually breaking a glass or bowl. I always came away feeling like a failure - accidents are preventable and it was my fault for not taking the proper precautions or paying enough attention.

When my husband and I first started dating, I broke a glass and had a meltdown. He calmly and lovingly reassured me that everything was okay, it was just an accident, and it certainly didn't make me a bad person.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have developed a family custom when one of us has a simple accident: the other one cleans it up. That way, the person who caused the accident doesn't feel worse by getting mad at him or herself and instead feels loved and reassured. It's a lesson that I hope we'll pass on to Alex.

What A Difference A Year Makes

One year ago today, I found out I was pregnant with my son. I had had two miscarriages, and was having trouble getting pregnant again. I was 10 days past ovulation, and I convinced myself that morning that I wasn't pregnant because I had no symptoms. I decided to take a home pregnancy test so I could mentally prepare myself for the next cycle.

My husband was in the shower so I took the test to the downstairs bathroom. I was sure I had enough time so that he would never know about it. I didn't want to stress him out, too, and I didn't think he needed to know the true extent of my neuroticism.

When I checked the test stick five minutes later, I couldn't believe I was seeing the second line that meant it was positive. I turned around with the intention of heading upstairs to show the test to my husband and practically ran into him. He'd followed me into the bathroom - I guess he knew me too well.

We had a few moments - maybe even a few minutes - of pure joy. And then the fear set in. It was Saturday, so I had to wait until Monday so I could call my doctor and go in for a blood test. Fortunately, my pregnancy went smoothly. Even then, though, I breathed a huge sigh of relief at 23 weeks, which is the earliest possible moment of viability for the fetus. I refused to let anyone buy anything for the baby until I had passed the 28 week mark, when the viability rate goes up to 90% at a good hospital. I didn't even want to talk about my baby shower until then.

The miscarriages were awful and the greatest pain I've ever experienced, and I miss my angel babies every day. But I know now that Alex is the child my husband and I were meant to have. Yesterday, he laughed for the first time. What a difference a year makes.

Success Journal

This is an idea passed down by my wise dad, who's always been there to guide me:

Keep a list of all of your achievements and accomplishments so that you always have a handy reference when you need a pick-me-up. It can be useful for other things too, such as when you're applying for a new job and need to show what you've accomplished.

The list doesn't need to be narrowly construed. Go ahead and write about the compassion you demonstrated when you rescued that stray dog or spent 3 hours on the phone consoling your friend when you really wanted to be doing something else. Anything that will make you feel good when you read about it in the future should be included.

I keep my list in a blank journal with a cover that's pleasing to me. I must have been in college when I started it, but I listed all of my achievements that I could recall up to that point, including awards I'd won in elementary school. It's been a while since I've updated it, and I'm not sure where it is after we moved so many things to get our son's room ready for him. I'll have to look for it - it's past time to record Alex's birth.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Fresh Garbage Disposal

Here are two ways to keep your garbage disposal clean and odor-free:

  1. After you're done with a lemon (whether you've juiced it, zested it or put it in water), cut it into small pieces and run the pieces through your garbage disposal.
  2. Run ice cubes through your garbage disposal.

In both cases, run the water before you turn the disposal on to prevent pieces from flying out and hitting you.

Another thing to do is run cold water when you're pouring something really hot down the drain (e.g., when you're draining your cooked pasta). It will protect the pipes from extreme temperatures.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Congratulations From The White House

I think this is pretty cool: Apparently, the White House will send a note of congratulations on your baby's birth. Send your baby's name, address, and birth date to:

White House Greetings Office
Room 39
Washington, D.C., 20500

I'm going to do that today.

Acupuncture and Fertility

There's an article in the Los Angeles Times about whether acupuncture really aids in fertility treatments. The article says they can't conclusively rule out the "placebo effect," i.e., whether the women who are treated with acupuncture are getting pregnant simply because they believe the treatment is helping, but states that more and more doctors are adding acupuncture into the mix because it can't hurt. (Free registration is required to read the article.)

The article reminded me that when I was trying to get pregnant, I came across this abstract concluding that acupuncture likely increased the success rate of in vitro fertilization.

Personally, I think acupuncture can do wonders, and at least it can't hurt if you're trying to conceive. I had three treatments before and during the cycle in which I got pregnant with my son. And since I had two miscarriages and had some trouble conceiving after the second one, I really believe the acupuncture helped restore some balance to my body. I also think it's quite likely that the treatments I received during my first trimester helped me carry to term.

The only caveat I have is that if you're going to have acupuncture done to aid your fertility, try to find an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility or at least has a lot of experience in it. I went to my mother's acupuncturist for my first treatment and got the impression that he only knew how to treat my body in general, not specifically my fertility. Then I found a woman who treats a lot of women with fertility problems and felt that she really knew how to help me. Unfortunately, I know of no list that you can consult to find such a provider. I think your best bet is to ask around.

Good luck!

$3 Magazine Subscriptions

You can get a one-year subscription to 57 magazines for just $3 at I've subscribed to magazines like Shape and Cooking Light through them for several years and never had a problem. The sale ends today, so check it out soon!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

If You've Ever Wanted To Write A Novel, Try NaNoWriMo

Have you always wanted to write a novel but never gotten around to it? Or maybe you've started but never gotten past the first chapter? Then maybe NaNoWriMo is for you.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a 50,000 word (175 page) novel during the month of November. Check out their website for details.

As for me, well, you might have guessed from the fact that I publish this blog that I have writing aspirations. Always have. I have an idea for a novel based on some of my legal cases, so I'm thinking about signing up for NaNoWriMo (you know, if it were up to me, I'd probably call it something else). Sign up doesn't start until October 1, so I've got some time to decide if I have the time for this. (Don't ask me what my ideas are. I'm neither courageous nor confident enough to share.)

I don't know if you've ever felt this way about writing, but I find it scary. It makes me feel vulnerable, especially fiction. Too many hidden truths can find their way out. Madeleine L'Engle, one of my favorite authors, has written about that fear and the courage needed to be a true writer in several books, but my favorite is called Walking On Water. I haven't written fiction in a long time. Maybe in November I'll be brave enough to try again.

Easy Lingerie Hangars

I found this tip from another blogger (she has a picture to demonstrate): Put clips or tape paper on the "shoulder" of the hangar to keep straps from slipping off.

Getting Out Of Debt

Few things are more stressful than being in debt. But committing to getting out of debt can go a long way toward making you feel in control of your finances and even your life. Here's a strategy for getting rid of that debt:

1. Make a list of all of your debts. List the total amount, the minimum monthly payment, the interest rate, and how long it will take you to pay off the debt at the current rate of repayment. (If you're not sure how long repayment will take, try this calculator.)

2. Add up all of your minimum monthly payments, then determine how much more than that you can afford. For example, if your minimum monthly payments total $500, you may decide that you can afford to pay back $575 every month.

3. Rank your debts in the order in which you are going to pay them off. There are a couple of different ways to do this, and you can also combine methods to suit your needs and personality. One way is to put the debt with the highest interest rate at the top of your list and work your way down. This will save you the most money, since it will minimize the amount of interest that you pay.

Alternatively, you can put the smallest debt at the top of the list and the biggest at the bottom. This method allows you to eliminate debts the fastest, although you may end up paying more in interest.

You may want to put the smallest debt at the top of your list, then rank the rest according to interest rate. That way you can pay off one account and give yourself a sense of accomplishment. Determine what's best for your personality and what you will stick with, and go with that route.

4. Pay the minimum on all of your debts except the one at the top of your list. Take your "extra" money ($75 in my example) and apply it to the principal of that debt. Depending on the type of loan, you may need to make an extra phone call or write a letter to make sure that the extra amount is applied to principal and not simply used to advance the next payment. (An example of this is one of my law school loans. Whenever I pay more than the minimum, the company applies the extra amount toward the next payment and advances the next payment due date - in essence, they treat the excess as the next month's payment. I have to email or call them to instruct them to apply the excess to the principal of the loan and not to advance the due date.)

5. When you've paid off the first debt on your list, give yourself a reward, keeping in mind that any money you spend on that reward is money you're not applying to your next debt. I think a good rule is to limit the amount of your reward to the amount of the monthly payment you had been making on the debt you just paid off.

6. The next month, apply the money from the first debt toward the principal of the next loan on your list.

7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 until all of your debts have been paid off.

8. When all of your debts have been paid, put most of that money into savings and watch your net worth grow!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Great Parenting Tips

I read these tips in the July issue of Parenting Magazine and we are definitely going to use them!

1. Allow only full-blown tantrums. If Alex is simply cranky or whiny, my husband and I will tell him he can do better - we want to see him on the floor, arms waving, legs kicking, etc. Hopefully when we say "Try harder," he'll have to laugh!

2. If Alex forgets to say "please," we will have him repeat a special phrase along the lines of, "Daddy, oh most wonderful father of all fathers, please . . ." I think it'll be good to find ways to teach him what's proper without nagging!


Last Wednesday, I posted about Cheryl Richardson's weekly e-newsletter and mentioned a book I really like, Take Time For Your Life. In the book, Cheryl discusses a concept she calls "self-care" - it's kind of like being selfish, but in a good way. The idea is that you have to take care of yourself first, so that you can take care of everything else - your family, your work, your friends.

As an off-shoot, I've just created the concept of "self-affection" for myself. In trying to lose weight and get in shape, I realized that I have a very distant relationship with my body. I'm not in tune with it. It scares me, in the sense that I never quite know what's going on with it (am I going to be able to hit the max incline on the treadmill today?), what it's going to do next (break out in a rash? give me a terrible headache?), or what it's capable of (if I keep working out, will I be able to run a 5K with my husband?). We just don't seem to get along.

I've never been much of an athlete, even when I played sports. I dreaded PE in school - especially gymnastics and track. (Note to PE teachers: Is it really a big deal if an 8-year-old can't do a cartwheel? Do you really have to make her practice for 10 minutes off to the side in front of everyone?) I've never felt coordinated or in control of my body. This is not likely to change, but that's okay.

What I want is to feel an affection for my body. A warm, fuzzy feeling. I practice compassion towards other people in my life. It's time I showed a little compassion towards myself.

Free Audio Books

I've never used it, but this appears to be a legitimate site: They have a variety of books for download, both fiction and nonfiction. Their MP3 files can be listened to on a computer, smart mobile phone, PDA, CD-MP3 player, portable MP3 player, portable DVD player, or iPOD, or converted into regular CD-audiotracks. Apparently they make money by inserting between-chapter ads (I haven't confirmed this), selling a subscription to better-quality and zip file audiobooks for $100 per year, and selling a portable player, hard drive or DVD set containing all of their audiobooks. If you like audiobooks, it's worth checking out!

Do You Know Mutts?

If you read the Sunday comics, you're probably familiar with Patrick McDonnell's strip, Mutts. The main characters are an adorable dog, Earl, and his neighbor cat, Mooch. The art is amazing, although the storyline often leaves something to be desired. The official Mutts website has archived strips, freebies like wallpaper and e-cards, a store with Mutts merchandise, bulletin boards, and information on animal adoption and conservation. Last Christmas, I got my husband a $12 "Box of Nothing," which is exactly what it sounds like - a cute box containing nothing. The proceeds went to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

This is a classic Mutts strip:

Mutts Rain Dance

There are over a dozen Mutts books and I think I have them all. The most recent is Who Let The Cat Out?.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Jello Aquarium Recipe

This Jello Aquarium might be making an appearance at Alex's birthday party one day. Clare Crespo's website has more recipes.

She's Not Real

This is a German site (at least, I think it's German) that has a cool but disturbing demonstration of magazine retouching. When you go to the site, a pop up window will open. In that pop up window, click on "Retuschskolan" at the bottom. A new pop up window will open. It will look like a magazine cover - give it a little time to load, then click on the model. A menu will show up on the top left. As you click on each item, you will see the retouching that has been done to the model, from whitening her teeth and making her top lip fuller to plumping up her bust. It's a good reminder not to compare yourself to what you see in magazines.

Roasted Veggies For The Summer

*I know I posted a random smoothie recipe on Friday. I couldn't help it. I promise to continue to post recipes on Tuesday, but I guess you never know when one might pop up!

My favorite way to cook vegetables is to roast them. It's hard to bring myself to turn the oven on in the summer heat, but I also get tired of salads. Enter my toaster oven. As long as I only cook 2-3 servings, I can use that little oven and get roasted veggies in less than half an hour. I wrote this recipe for asparagus, but you can substitute just about any vegetable you like (those are cherry and grape tomatoes next to the asparagus).

Roasted Veggies For The Summer

Roasted Veggies 2

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Line the pan that came with your toaster oven (or any small pan with sides that will fit) with foil, then with parchment paper, making sure both go up the sides. (This will make for easier cleanup.)
2. Spread the asparagus on the pan into a single layer and sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper.
3. Roast in toaster oven at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Don't Yawn Game

Can you look at this site without yawning?

Computer And Video Games That YOU Will Enjoy

If you have the time to play some computer or video games (or know someone who does), there is a wonderful company called Popcap. I do not have the hand-eye coordination to play my husband's video games so Popcap was made for me.

My all-time favorite video game is Tetris, the one where you fit differently shaped tiles that fall from the top into rows at the bottom. Popcap's Bejeweled and Chuzzle are somewhat similar to Tetris, in that you're matching colored jewels or chuzzles. If I'm not careful, I can Chuzzle away a whole afternoon without realizing it. Another great game is Bookworm. You link up letter tiles to create words and eventually become Supreme Bookworm. It's a good game for teaching kids new words, too.

The best part is, you don't have to pay for these games - you can play all of them online for free and even download them to your desktop or Palm Pilot (Chuzzle is currently available only as a demo because it's new but eventually it should be available for free like the others). You can also buy a game card for your Palm.

Bookworm is also available for the Gameboy Advance. I've played through entire plane flights.

Baby Steps - Fitness/Weight Loss Update July 4, 2005

I feel a bit like a failure having to report that I lost no weight this week. I kind of feel like, if it's only week 3 and I'm stalling, I might as well give up.

That was the old me, though - a bit of failure is just a lesson now (or so I keep telling myself in the hope that I'll eventually believe it). Besides, this was a rough week. There's been some family conflict (thankfully, not between my husband and me), and it's been very stressful. I know I should have tried to get to the park more because it would help relieve the stress, but I was too emotionally worn down to get out there.

On a more positive note, I put my desk chair aside and am using an exercise ball in its place. This is supposed to work my core.

So what have I learned? I have to stick with the program. Not blindly, but thoughtfully. I know last week I said I would schedule in strength work and stretching, but it just didn't happen. With all the turmoil going on in and around me, it was all I could do to maintain. I'm feeling better now, though, so this week I will move forward once again.

I will give myself the clear, concrete goal of stretching every night. My back is killing me from carrying my son (who oh-so-politely insists on being held upright if he's not sleeping). Stretching is more important than strengthening right now. That will be my baby step for the week.

Happy 4th of July!

On this 4th of July, I thought I'd share the chorus of two of my favorite patriotic songs. The first is from Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue":

Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist
And the eagle will fly
And there's gonna be Hell
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell
It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you . . .
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

The second song is Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?":

Have you forgotten how it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

I haven't forgotten the men and women who make it possible for us to continue to live in freedom, and for me to raise my son in the greatest country in the world. I'm off to contribute to the USO. I hope you'll join me!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

3M Security Glass

Not too long ago, to promote its new security glass, 3M encased money between the glass and put it at a bus stop. Okay, so only $500 of the money was real. Still, I can't help but wonder how many people tried to break the glass.

Reproductive Exchange Rates

I got this from the July issue of Wired Magazine and thought it was, well, sad. Compare the cost of in vitro fertilization treatment in the following countries:

Russia --------------------- $1500
Thailand ------------------- $2125
Brazil, Greece, India -- $2500
Israel ----------------------- $2560
South Africa ------------- $3500
Canada -------------------- $4800
Australia ------------------ $7000
United States ----------- $12000

I know some of the difference in cost is the quality of medical care. But that much?

Neverending Fall

This Neverending Fall site is mesmerizing, and runs astonishingly smoothly. Hint: If the woman gets stuck, drag her with your cursor.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Speaking of Diamonds

If you do get that diamond, be careful who you show it to. According to a report from the AP:

BOSTON - Russian President Vladimir Putin walked off with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring, but was it a generous gift or a very expensive international misunderstanding?

Following a meeting of American business executives and Putin at Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg on Saturday, Kraft showed the ring to Putin — who tried it on, put it in his pocket and left, said Russian news reports. It isn't clear yet if Kraft, whose business interests also include paper and packaging companies and venture capital investments, intended that Putin keep the ring.

*Incidentally, the ring has 124 diamonds. Can I have it?

A "What Am I Doing?!" Moment

I just got back from the post office. I got there before it opened, so I chatted with a very nice postal service employee who was also in the lobby area. All of a sudden, I realized that I was swaying and jiggling the packages in my arms! (Alex was at home.) After that, I concentrated on maintaining tadasana, or mountain pose in yoga, where you stand up straight.

I have to add this funny story that the postal service employee insisted was true: in the mid-1980's, a man mailed a package containing a bomb. He didn't put enough postage on, but he did put his return address so it came back to him. He'd forgotten what he'd put inside and opened it!

One last tidbit: Did you know that any theft from the postal service has a fine of up to $25,000 and/or 5 years in federal prison? This came up during our conversation this morning because a woman did not take the 21 cents that someone had left in the stamp machine.

How To Get That Diamond Now

Did you know that July and August are the best time to buy jewelry? I'll bet your honey doesn't know it either. But it makes sense, because there aren't any major gift-giving holidays, and people are doing other things besides shopping, like taking vacations. The other times to shop for jewelry are January, after the holiday season, and April, after tax season when stores might need more cash.

My darling husband has excellent taste, but for some reason, often picks out jewelry that I wouldn't. I discovered that Blue Nile periodically sends out emails with pictures of their jewelry, and often there's a piece that catches my attention - at a reasonable price. For example, I liked this $50 silver heart pendant with a pink sapphire, so I emailed the page to my husband using their link and a couple months later, he "surprised" me with it. It works for us, because he gets to give me something he knows I like, and I don't know I'm getting it til I get it. (I've got my eye on a few other more expensive pieces that I haven't gotten yet. Hint.)

You could do the same thing with other companies such as Red Envelope. If you've had a good experience with a company I haven't mentioned, please let me know. I could always use more suggestions to forward to my husband!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Too Lucky For Words

I took this photo earlier tonight. I have no idea what I've done to deserve this.

Alex & Marc 6-05 smiles

Berry Blend Smoothie

This is one of my husband's favorite snacks, especially after a workout.

Berry Blend Smoothie
Serves 1

1/4 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen raspberries
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/4 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Nutrition bonus: Blueberries and raspberries are chock full of antioxidants, and the milk and frozen yogurt will give you a calcium boost.

*Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritionist and I'm not a doctor. Consult an expert if you have any questions or concerns.

If You're Going To Eat Chocolate, It Might As Well Be Really Good Chocolate

Endangered Species Chocolate Company makes delicious chocolates that are also ecologically responsible. The organic chocolate is grown in a manner that protects the rain forests, and the wrappers have information on protecting endangered species and ecosystems. The company also donates a minimum of 10% of its net profits to environmental groups. If you order online, you can create your own box of bars. They also have "Baby Bars" and some cute gift packages (as you can see). I've found them at Whole Foods markets, too.

Friday Funny - July 1, 2005

Did you know that you should avoid seat 29E on some Continental Airlines aircraft? I concede that this letter written by a Continental Airlines passenger sitting next to the lavatory has not been verified. But who cares? It's so funny. The link I've provided has the text of the letter, as well as a link to the pdf version. If you can, it's well worth opening the pdf version for the drawings the writer included. If anyone knows any more about Continental Airlines seats 29E, chime in. Enjoy!