Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Yes, I love the food and the chaos in the planning...but mainly I love to be with family and friends. And, its a special time for me to stop and be thankful. And this year, I am very thankful. Down on my knees thankful. Although I am not a religious person, I feel prayer might be in order to make sure my thankfulness is heard wherever it needs to be heard.

There are several special people I know and love who are going through such difficult times. Dealing with loss of income, loss of health, loss of love. And although life is far from perfect here in our little tree house, we are so lucky. I am so lucky, blessed really. My family is currently healthy. We are currently earning incomes. We still agree to be married and follow our marriage vows, even though we might skip a paragraph or two from time to time.

This is the first year in a long while that I have felt that, life is really hard. This is the first year of my 7+ year marriage that I understood why people could so easily get divorced. This is not the first year that I have felt so trapped by the need to earn an income, yet this year seemed harder.

I share this to be clear: life is far from perfect but....I am reminded at Thanksgiving of all to be thankful for. I have wonderful family and friends. A roof, with leaks, but a roof all the same, over my head. And love. Wobbly and wonderful love. At least for today. As the 12-Steppers say, "One day at a time."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vacation in Fresno

Jeepers I'm exhausted. BZ went away for the weekend to visit family, and I decided to have an adventure of my own. I picked up the boys after school on Friday, packed up the van and headed out to Fresno. Friday afternoon heading East may not have been the best plan but who knew there would be 4 accidents to navigate? It took a bit longer than expected....

Fresno may not seem like a great vacation spot, but listen, there are lots of activities there for kids. And, I have an apartment to stay in for free. I kinda wanted to show my place to them and it ended up being a really good idea.

My plan for Saturday was to start the day at the zoo, go across the path to playland, then down another path to Storyland. Once done in the big park of activities, go grab lunch and head over to the Amtrak station. A colleague in the area suggested taking the boys on the Amtrak for one stop (30 minute ride) to Hanford. In Hanford, around the corner from the station, is a famous Ice Cream parlor and restaurant. The best laid plans....

So the first part of the day was really fun. The zoo was surprisingly entertaining with tigers, elephants, flamingos and crazy colored frogs and lizards. And hot chocolate, it was cold!!!!!! Storyland was being renovated while we were there so although the price was reduced significantly, it was disappointing since half the displays were inaccessible. Playland had a limited number of rides but...still fun.
Amtrak. I was really excited about this and had already bought our tickets online. How cool, right? Well, trains are noisy...really noisy and loud. And Aiden would have none of it. He screamed and cried which made Max start bawling as well. Before I burst into tears, I dragged both boys back off the train and back into the station. Got a refund, went to Baskin Robbins by car. Good enough. In fact, they had two different rainbow sherbet flavors.

Oka Sushi for dinner and then, I had planned an evening of giggling and playing games...but I was wrecked. I cheated and turned on some kid TV channel with cartoons. Nice easy ending to a ridiculously long and over-planned day.

Sunday, time to head home. Aiden didn't want to leave what he dubbed, "the guest room." And in a way, either did I. I almost never get to spend such concentrated time with these guys. It wasn't easy, I got tired out but, it was mostly really fun.

On the way home, we stopped to play miniature golf at Boomers in Modesto. Also fun. My kids love these places. We then grabbed a fast food lunch (with prize) and finished the rest of the drive. We had a whole afternoon and evening to settle back home. We played Star Wars, Lego something-or-other, ran around the living room, played Wii Fit, jammed in a dinner and bath time...oh and homework, stories....lights out...boy, much more tiring doing this parenting thing alone.

I look forward to a good night's sleep tonight. Knock on...where's the wood?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Aiden's Scooby Doo Party

Preparing for a Scooby Doo party can take longer than one might inspect. Especially if one has been drinking the night before. And even though that first drink, a cucumber gimlet, might have tasted like "summer in a glass," it wasn't very helpful.

So at 12:30 am Saturday night/Sunday morning, I thought I would save some time by baking the cake for the next days festivities. This great idea might possibly have been related to my alcohol consumption.

Eek. Some technical difficulties for sure. Yes, I have an electric oven which I hate and cannot control for the life of me. But, I also had a cucumber gimlet and a sake dancing through my wimpy little mama veins. Not incredibly attractive (the cake) and, what you cannot see is the bottom, or the lack of a bottom. The whole bottom of the cake stuck to the pan.

Enter the most incredible invention ever. Sleep. I just hung up my apron and went to bed.

And the next morning, Sunday morning, I remembered the second most incredible invention: Chocolate icing. Lots of chocolate icing. More chocolate icing. And decorations, lots of decorations.

And of course other stuff, like cookies, Scooby snacks, ghost meringues.

Oh right, this is about Aiden, the birthday boy and his loving brother (at least in front of the cameras).
And finally, a party with party games. No one was interested in Pin The Blame on The President, so we played Pin the Bowtie on the Skeleton and Make a Mummy. Special thanks to our volunteer mummies: Gwen, Amy, Jessie and BZ. All good clean fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yummy mini meatloaf

I actually cooked something with taste. Meatloaf. No really, delicious. I found the recipe on Epicurious, a new Iphone App. I know, I know...but there it is...rather, here it is:

You can view the complete recipe online at:

Speedy Mini Meat Loaves
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup plain unseasoned bread crumbs
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, garlic, onion**, salt, thyme, and pepper. Divide the meat mixture among the 12 muffin cups, pressing the meat firmly into the pan.
3. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the meat is almost cooked through—the "loaves" will be firm when pressed lightly in the center but not set.
4. While the meat loaves are baking, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce*. After baking for 20 to 25 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze, using it all up, and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes more, or until the glaze has thickened and the meat is completely cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes total. Run an offset spatula or butter knife around the edges of the muffin cups and pop out the meat loaves. Serve hot.

The Deen Bros. Take It Easy
August 2009
by Jamie Deen, Bobby Deen and Melissa Clark

*I skipped the glaze for the kids and just had them decorate with ketchup.
**The only change I made was to saute the onions before mixing them into the rest of the ingredients. I did this since BZ is allergic to raw onions, and freaks if he bites into a crunchy onion. It worked, he loved it.