Wednesday, February 27, 2013

52 Date Nights, Week 17: Comedy Night Done Right

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

We decided to do #47 Have a Comedy Night with a little twist. We've tried watching comedians on Netflix and have never really thought it was that funny. So Thomas came up with the idea of Comedy Night Done Right/ Must See TV. We love us some NBC shows. And TV on DVD. A lot.

We were laughing before putting in the first DVD and it was pretty great, especially considering we'd just spent a half an hour staring at both the available Redbox movies and the Date Night list and not finding anything we were in the mood for.

We went from oldest to newest:

Seinfeld (No soup for you!)
Friends (Could I BE wearing any more clothes?)
The Office (That's what she said.)
30 Rock (Uhh, I don't really have any quotes for this.)

Also, no proper night of Must See TV would be complete without...

Sadly, this is not even the extent of our TV on DVD collection. Anybody want to watch some House? SNL? Sex and the City? Bridezillas? (That was a gift. An engagement gift.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

52 Stay-at-home Date Nights, Week 16: Spend the Night in Italy

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

from the 52 Simple, Stay-at-home Date Nights PDF

Originally, I thought I’d be creative with this one and come up with my own thing. I took French in high school (can’t speak it now) and this is one of our dining room walls:

Atmosphere! It’s like we’re already there!

In the end, though, can you really beat pizza, wine, and gelato? No, no you cannot. So that is what we did. 

Neither one of us are big fans of Roman Holiday, though, so we decided to go with another movie in the grand Italian tradition...The Godfather. Which, I know, isn't even set in Italy, but whatever. They're Italian. It counts. (Plus, it's super romantic.)

So that was the plan. But then Skyfall came out on Tuesday and we both really wanted to see it. Especially since we hadn't had so much as one kid-free night to see it in theaters. So...007 it was.

He's in Europe. Close enough.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Survey of FUN

I'm going to Arizona! Woo-hoo! I'm also taking both kids with me to stay with my grandparents, who are in their eighties, in their un-babyproofed house for nine days. So, uh, wish me luck. But! I shall get to see internet friends, TOO, and that is the best.

This is (most of) the get-to-know-you survey for the meetup. Each person sent in a question. Except me, because I'm lame. I also didn't come up with the titles.

Question 1: Pop Culture Shame.
Do you have a shameful pop culture secret? Has everyone in the world seen something that you haven't, making you the odd lady out when the quotes are flying around? Do you just not GET the TV show everyone else loves? Does everyone have a celebrity on their LIST that would not make it on yours in a billion years? Out with it.

Friday Night Lights. I have no interest. I’ve watched the pilot and I’m sure if I made myself keep going I could get into it, but I just don’t want to.

Question 2: Undercover.
Have you ever given a fake name at a bar or club? Explain yourself. Or, considering the fact that a large portion of us are Internet nerds, maybe it's more likely that you're undercover online and you don't actually get out enough to have used a fake name in such a situation, in which case, you can take the nerd option of this question an explain why you chose your online identity. Nerd.

I would love to give a fake name somewhere. Just feels like it would be fun, you know? But I never have. I do have a “spam” email address. I use it to sign up for free samples/coupons/etc when I don’t want the company spamming my regular email address. I signed up for it under the name Sarah Jones (I was going for plain and very common) and use that name whenever possible. Of course, often I’m signing up for a free sample to be sent to my house, so while I sometimes do still use the fake name, I often just use my real one.

Question 3: Admit it, some of you bought vinyl unironically.
What was the first with-your-own-money album purchase you remember making? Do you remember why you chose that one, specifically?

Avalon, A Maze of Grace. (Christian music) A family I babysat for listened to a lot of Avalon and I loved it. Still do, though I haven’t kept up with them (several group members have changed and I think it’s a whole new group of people now). So what I mean is I still love their old stuff.

Question 4: It's better to give. For the receiver, anyway.
What's the best gift you've ever given? Please select at least two different forms of best. Nah, I'm kidding. One best is fine. Unless you're really bored at work and want a challenge. But seriously, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm judging on creative interpretation of the word "best." No pressure!

I bought my husband a Weber Smokey Mountain for his birthday a couple years ago. It’s a top-of-the-line smoker he really loves using. He says it’s one of the best things we own.

Question 5: Set nobility aside.
If you find out you have six months to live, what bad for you things would you do? No hugging, no donating, no acts of kindness. I mean, fine, do all that stuff, Mother Teresa, but we don't want to hear about that. What are you going to do since you're going to DIE ANYWAY?

I wouldn’t do much, honestly. I very much enjoy being lazy. So, watch TV. Read books. Go on a cruise, probably, since it’s a nice lazy vacation with tons of food. 

(I’m doing all of these things in the next six months, but I would like to make sure I declare that doesn’t mean I’m ready to just DIE at the end of them, OK?) (Ed. note: Obviously, I filled this out before the cruise last month.)

I can also tell you what I would NOT do and that’s exercise.

Question 6: Imagine if someone else had to do the packing FOR you.
Aside from a random Arizona town in the middle of February, what's your dream vacation destination?

Dream vacation destination: Any random island that’s warm, has no bugs, and I can have a private beach on. And a personal chef.

Question 7: Unfortunately, your answers will not affect my plans.
Breakfast: pastry or eggs? Bonus points for pictures, recipes, and a guess as to who sent in this question.

Breakfast: Eggs, Erica Huff, I like eggs. Also sausage. Basically, I have to have a savory breakfast and pastry, though delicious, is just too much for me that early in the day. (Bring it around mid-morning.)

Question 8: Let's sit in the shallow end for a second, because I can't swim.
What's your favorite thing about yourself? Legitimate favorite. I'm going to know if you're bullshitting us. I am GOING. TO KNOW.

Ok, this is going to sound like a very weird favorite thing. You know how people are always like “I need to learn how to put me first” or “I need to figure out how to make time for myself”? I don’t have that problem. I’m unashamedly selfish and putting myself first is no problem. I take the time I need and I think it makes me a much nicer person the rest of the time.

Question 9: School, we all went there.
What was your favorite class in high school or college - either because of the interesting learning or the hot TA or any other kind of reason you can think of.

As far as subjects go, I love math. If you want to talk specific classes, anything I took online. It became a game for me. How can I do the least amount of work and spend the least amount of time on this? (I’m good at that game by the way.)

Question 10: Everyone thinks this through in the shower, right?
If you won the lottery, what's the first thing you would do, directly after changing the pants you just peed?

My answer has always been quit my job, but…I already did that. I suppose go out and buy a really expensive celebration dinner? Click “buy now” on my entire Amazon wishlist?

Question 11: The other TJ.
What's your favorite Trader Joe's product? If you've not (yet) had the pleasure of shopping at a Trader Joe's, what's your favorite snack food?

I love their dark and milk chocolate covered almonds. Oh! And the coconut fruit floes. YUM.

Question 12: Crystal ball time.
What's your ideal family composition? What would you like your family to look like 10 years from now, in terms of partner, kids, pets, etc?

Don’t I wish I knew. I’ve always thought I wanted three kids and I’d love to go though the pregnancy/birth/newborn days again, but I really don’t know. They’re hard and expensive and I kind of feel like we’re at max capacity.

Question 13: Worms
How often do you get a song stuck in your head, and where does it come from? Music you choose to listen to, stuff your kids watch, commercials, radio, etc?

I constantly have a song stuck in my head. All the time. Whatever I heard, or even read, last. Currently it's Skyfall.

Question 14: Where are you?
Do you live where you grew up? If not, what got you where you are? Are you where you plan to end up... in the end?

I live fairly close to where I grew up. I’m 4 hours from my hometown, but only 45 minutes from where I went to college. I love Iowa and hope I never have to move away. I’m a homebody, not a new experiences lover.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

52 Date Nights, Week 15: Make presents

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

This one has been nagging at both of us since we first looked through the date night list. Make presents? Uh...

The suggestion was to "set the timer for 30 minutes and race around the house collecting things from which you can each make a homemade gift for the other." My first reference for homemade gifts was, of course, Friends (make the presents), and I kept putting this one off because, well, crotchless panties really aren't appropriate for a guy. (I know you're confused right now if you don't know Friends. It's ok. Just move past it. Forget I mentioned anything.)

I was struck by the idea last week that we could just take this down a notch, pressure wise, and create homemade Valentines for each other. Seasonal! Fun! No need to make something that will be treasured forever. Also, with each person making the same thing, no comparison of who rose to the challenge and who...borrowed a sock bunny. (Friends again. I'm sorry.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recommended reading

I don't normally "get out" much on the internet, as in, spend much time reading things other than blogs or email. I've always wondered how on earth people find all this great stuff they put in their recommendation posts. I get my news from the radio and fascinating articles from magazines. This year I've made an effort to read more from around the internet, though, and I am loving it.

- I've discovered I vastly prefer running on the treadmill to outside - I can set the pace, periodically glance at the timer in front of me, and focus on a podcast to take my mind off how much exercising sucks. My favorites are from NPR's food blog, The Salt. Somehow, subscribing to the blog gets you every food-related post on NPR, even if they're not actually on The Salt. This week there was a three-part series on Sustainable Seafood that was so fascinating I almost forgot I was gasping for breath. (Almost.)

It's a lot to get through if you're reading and the written version isn't quite as interesting (I don't think) as the audio. If you have a spare half an hour (ha!) definitely listen to the podcasts.

- This second recommend is the real reason I'm writing this post. The seafood stuff was interesting, but this two-part article, The Innocent Man, was one of the most moving things I've read in a long, long time. The font is off somehow, which makes it a little hard to read, but the story instantly sucked me in and I couldn't stop reading. By part two I was sobbing. I just couldn't get past how, in being wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder, this man lost 25 years of his son's life. He lost his freedom, too, obviously, but, for me, losing Margaret* would be worse than losing my own autonomy.

The whole thing is so well written, I'd honestly recommend it just as an example of great journalism. It's one of those things that affected me so much I want everyone to read it.

(I found this story through a recommendation from The Simple Dollar.)

*His son was three at the time, which is what makes me think of her. I feel the same about Paul, obviously.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The hard questions begin

As Margaret and I were driving home from AWANA (church group) Wednesday night, she started teasing me, saying she grew in grandma's tummy, purely to get a reaction. I kept saying I remembered her in MY tummy quite well and would show her pictures at home.

Then, suddenly, she stopped, was quiet for a few seconds, and said "Hey, how do babies get out of mommy's tummies?"

Uhhhhhhhh, crap.

"God makes a special place for the babies to come out."


"He makes a special place."

"But where?"

(Oh, goodness, what do I say? what do I say?? I considered 'by your bottom' but I didn't want her to be scared. Or graphic when having pretend babies.)(Can you even imagine??)

"You'll find out when you're grown up and have a baby that needs to get out."

(I'm really not looking forward to the 'how does the baby get in talk' either.)

She asked again the next day and I did break down and say "by your bottom." I decided to go with 'things aren't as scary if you've known about them since before you could really understand it.'

I'll probably have to buy one of those books now - what is the series everyone is always recommending about sex and babies? The one where there's three different versions for different age groups? I was completely unprepared for this question so "God makes a place" came out of nowhere (probably because we were coming home from church) and wasn't an approach I'd decided on in advance.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What we ate this week

We were kind of sick of everything we usually eat, so I've been pretty much cooking entirely from the internet this week. Some Pinterest recipes I've wanted to try for a while and some I just saw and immediately wanted to try!

Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas. Recommended by Heather, I think.
So yeah, I didn't take pictures of any of our dinners this week, because I just now
got the idea to tell you about them. This repeat of half-finished enchilada filling
from Wednesday's date night post will have to do.
These are ridiculously good. Like, 'we've spent all week convincing ourselves to stick to the meal plan instead of immediately defrosting the extra batch I made and froze' good.

Crock pot chicken and dumplings that do not involve cream of anything soup from Doing my Best.

She had me at 'no cream soup.' Thomas and the kids loved this. I thought it was good and ate the leftovers, but didn't necessarily think I'd put it in the regular rotation. They begged to differ.

Salmon coconut curry from this Runner's World article (fourth recipe down)

I loooooooove this. LOVE. We made it back in November when Thomas got his December issue of Runner's World and I was excited to have it again. I use sweet curry powder from Penzey's since I don't like things too spicy (although it still has a kick). I recommend measuring out all the spices before you begin so you're not trying to hurry and measure six things into the pot when it comes time. Also, we always replace the shallots because they can be hard to find. Mr. Google told me the white part of green onions is pretty similar to shallots, so it's the perfect recipe to make right after black bean spinach enchiladas, which call for a lot of green onions.

Thai Peanut Chicken

Ok, this was also a repeat. I've made it several times and we like it a lot. It doesn't recommend any certain kind of salsa, but use something smooth. Chunky salsa is all we ever have around and the peanut butter/salsa juice mixture with tomato chunks reminds me overwhelmingly of...well, vomit. I'm sorry. I've probably ruined it. But every time I make it I have to force myself to start eating it. Then I remember how good it is.

Light smoky eye for a Friday

(I took the picture to test the shade of under-eye concealer I got in a sample box. What do you think? Too orange?)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

52 Date Nights, Week 14: Sample Aphrodisiacs

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

The article the description in the date nights PDF linked to is titled “10 Aphrodisiac Foods To Eat This Valentine’s Day” so I decided now is the perfect time to get back in this thing (you may have noticed the month-long date night hiatus...)

We selected seven of the ten supposed aphrodisiacs, which was a lot of food, so we spread it out over a couple nights.

Friday Night
The first one we selected was a no-brainer: Chocolate. If you’ve ever been on a Carnival cruise, I hope you tried the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. Because, I swear, it’s almost worth taking the cruise just for that. This was our third cruise with Carnival and I had to restrain myself to keep from blurting out “I want a Chocolate Melting Cake!” before we were even seated for dinner.

Thomas found this recipe and, well. I may not be losing weight this year after all. But, man, will I be happy.

Saturday Night
Our menu was:

With the kids: Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas with a side of avocado.
Mid-chopping for the ridiculously good enchilada filling
Asparagus with Toasted Almonds and Garlic. I figured these three potential aphrodisiacs would go together well, so I googled and voila! Three birds with one stone! (Aka, don’t waste precious room on the main course when desserts are coming your way.)
I think anything would taste good smothered in oil and butter.
(Yes, oil AND butter.)
Bananas: The article suggested this recipe for caramelized bananas, another one of my favorite desserts.

Also, to round out our dessert plates, I bought some figs from Trader Joes. I didn't know how to serve figs, so I went with their suggestion of brie (which coincidentally was on sale) to make this.

Unfortunately, I got a little enthusiastic swirling hot olive oil in the frying pan for the asparagus and ended the night looking like this:

Second degree burns are not an aphrodisiac.
Between that and the fact I had already spent three hours in the kitchen cleaning, making sugar cookie bars for a Super Bowl party, and doubling dinner so I could freeze half, we decided to put off the figs and caramelized bananas for another night. The avocado got put off, too, because after all that work making enchiladas (including homemade sauce!) I forgot to put avocado on the side.

At this point date night has gone out the window and we're just trying to use up the food in our fridge. We invited my mom over for dinner since my dad is out of town. I made the figs & toasted almonds brie for an appetizer and it was amazing. Paul, who is 19 months now, especially liked it - figs, almonds and all. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture. We also made more chocolate melting cakes to share with my mom, since my parents were on the cruise with us and undoubtedly missed the cake as well:)

We still haven't gotten to the caramelized bananas and the avocado went bad, so maybe next week on those...

Verdict: That was a lot of cooking. I think I did it wrong and this is meant to be a thing where you just throw everything on a plate, as opposed to going fancy turning the chocolate into cake and making enchiladas to go with the avocado. Also, indulging for four out of five nights (including the Super Bowl party) means those calories are going to take a lot of, uh, exercise to burn off. Was that the point?

Monday, February 4, 2013

How often do you replace your Clarisonic brush head?

This Christmas (Black Friday actually) I finally splurged and got a Clarisonic. I love it, but man, they have a racket going, don't they? $149 for the latest model and THEN they want you to pay $25 every three months for a new brush head?

(As I said, I bought mine on Black Friday and also, I bought the Mia instead of the Mia 2, so I got it for $95.)

What I'm wondering is, do I have to change the brush every three months? How often do you? My general rule with similar things (like contacts or mascara) is to use for 150% of the recommended time, so 4.5 months. Is that reasonable? Do you wait longer before changing the brush? Or is it one of those things where if you bought the system in the first place, you might as well use it with a good brush, so just freaking replace it when they tell you?

Also, they recommend using it twice a day, but I only wash my face once a day. It took me years to figure out my face fares far better if only washed at night. Does this mean I can use each brush for twice as long?

FYI, if you get ULTA coupons in the mail, the latest 20%-off one doesn't exclude Clarisonic - online ULTA coupons do - so if you can find a 4-pack of brush heads in-store they'll only be $60 (normally $75). Or you could buy the full system for 20% off if you don't have one!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Laundry oops (you're supposed to use detergent?)

In reply one of the comments on the laundry post, I said I thought the Charlie’s maybe wasn’t getting our clothes as clean as they could be, like Manda and Elizabeth have noted. We use washcloths instead of paper towels and washcloths that have been wet for a day or two start to stink. A lot of them now smell even straight out of the dryer, so I figured I’d have to use something stronger to wash them.

A couple months ago, my subscribe & save for Charlie’s got screwed up and I ended up being out of it for a month. I could have paid more (not even much more) to get it sooner, but I figured I’d take the opportunity to use up all the other random detergents I had. I used some All Free & Clear – my go-to before Charlie’s – but mostly tried to use up some Shaklee stuff that had been sitting around for awhile.

When Trisha suggested Shaklee’s color-safe bleach alternative on Tuesday, I went to look at the product listing and realized that was what I had. For the entire month of November, I used a laundry booster instead of detergent. I think the (recent) mystery of the smelly washcloths and dirty clothes has been solved.

The stain removal issues I talked about have been plaguing me since Margaret started eating solid foods three years ago, though, so thank you for giving me so many suggestions to try. And, you know, telling me I might want to use actual detergent to wash my clothes. It turns out some people really are that dumb.