Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review (Lite): "The Hunger Games" Trilogy

First of all, I should begin by saying that these books are technically classified in the science fiction genre.  And I read them.

And the kicker?  I loved them.

I thought I should read them, as I had heard so much buzz about them.  The name had come up again and again.  There is a movie in the works.  And since I got Katarina the Kindle, I've definitely picked up the pace with my reading.  I mean, how convenient is it to be able to carry an entire trilogy around in my purse??

Anywho, I thought to myself, "Self, maybe this will be like Harry Potter.  You know, those fantasy books that you decided to read due to all of the hype?  Those fantasy books that you will forever adore?"  (In case you haven't picked up on it, I am typically a hater of all things science fiction and/or fantasy.  Just not my style.)

So, since Katarina was in desperate need of some new material, I downloaded the first book.

I finished reading "The Hunger Games" in record time, and immediately downloaded its two companions, "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay."  You really must read all three, and it is truly one continuing story. 

Although yes, this story is technically science fiction (as it does contain technology that has not yet been invented, as J pointed out to me was the definition of the genre), it is really so much more than that.  The science plays such a minor role in the story.  The characters make the story.  The story makes the story.  Suzanne Collins can tell a story.

Katniss Everdeen, our protagonist, is a hero.  Standing up for and protecting her family, no matter the personal cost.  Peeta, her friend, such a loving, good-to-the-core boy.  Haymitch, their mentor, made a bitter drunk by the ghosts of his past.  These three are forced to make their respective ways through a terrible contest called "The Hunger Games," where 24 children are sent into an arena to fight to the death, last survivor takes all.

I call this a Book Review (Lite) because I don't want to say too much.  This may be the first time that I've finished a book and asked J to read it.  I just knew he'd like it.  This is a rarity, as those science fiction and/or fantasy books that I so dislike?  Well, he's a fan. 

What I can say is that the story enthralled me.  Unsettled me in the way that only good literature can.  It has stuck with me.  My advice?  Read it

In other book news, I have decided to give Oprah's Book Club books another shot, as I inadvertently read a  couple and loved them while in a book club a couple of years ago.  But since making a conscious effort to choose these books, I have been wildly disappointed.  "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" I literally stopped reading midway through, as I couldn't handle all of the sad Sawtelle dog stuff.  I am currently about halfway through "She's Come Undone," and not enjoying it at all.  Even though terrible things have happened in her life, I cannot get over the terrible things that Dolores Price does, and I find her a completely unsympathetic character.  And who can forget the Anna Karenina debacle of last year?

And in other book news still, just so you know I'm not a secret fantasy and/or science fiction lover in the closet- I also tried to read a couple other wildly hyped about vampire series.  And for the record, I found Twilight to be sheer and utter crap, and the first Sookie Stackhouse novel to be slightly less crappy, but still not good by any stretch of the imagination.  Hate me if you will.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gabe- Four Months

Oh, what a month it has been with my little man..  He continues to grow and learn at a positively alarming rate, and I continue to fall deeper and deeper in crazy love.

Q: What are Gabe's tricks these days?
A: Gabe is a busy boy!  He can roll over- both ways as of today!- and do a little bit of scooting around on his back.  He likes to hold his toys and put everything into his mouth.  He loves to splash and play in the water- bathtub, baby pool, or otherwise.  He stands in his exersaucer and admires all of its adornments.  He screeches beautiful, happy baby noises.  He smiles, and smiles, and smiles.

Q: How is Gabe sleeping?
A: Through the night!  (Unless we're on vacation, in which case he gets up several times a night.)  Last night, he slept for 12 hours.  That's my boy!

Q: What are Gabe's current stats?
A: 17lbs, 6 oz.  26 inches.  WHOA.  He's a big boy, alright!  In case you're wondering, both his height and weight are in the 90th percentile.  When I said he was getting chunky, I wasn't lying!  And I love, love, love it.

Q: Has Gabe found his thumb yet?
A: Nope, but he has decided that he's okay with that.  Sometimes he hooks his index finger over his gums, and other times he tries to get his entire fist into his mouth.  My favorite is when he gags himself, as he accidentally shoves his hand too far back.  (Sense the sarcasm here?)  Ah, well.  He'll learn soon enough!

Q: Any signs of teeth?
A: Teeth?  No.  Teething?  YES.  Aside from the aforementioned hands (and everything else) constantly in his mouth, this boy is one giant drool monster.  As in rivers flowing from his mouth.  Constantly.  Gross.  I have a feeling those bottom teeth aren't too far off!
See the spit bubbles?  Lovely.

Q: What's the boy eating?
A: The chunk has had his first taste of cereal.  We're experimenting with that for the time being, but it won't be long before we introduce some fruits and veggies.  (Which I'm sure is healthier than the tastes of ice cream and cake frosting that we have given him thus far.  We're pretty laid back for first time parents, no?)  I have a feeling my little eater will love it!

This Is Great

This article is hilarious.  I'm getting J the Daddle.  And the Po-Knee.  Awesome.

What's cuter than an Asian baby?  An Asian baby dressed up like a hamburger!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bear With Me

I realize that I am shamefully late with Gabe's 4 month post.  HOWEVER, I have several good reasons!
  1. I was on vacation last week, and warned you that I may be a bit of an absentee blogger.
  2. My laptop is otherwise occupied at the moment.  Apparently, 4 months of playing classical music and/or pink noise for approximately 16 hours a day can wear out a CD player.  As it did to baby G's.  As in, we had to throw it in the trash.  Well, the boy needs the music to sleep!  SO, enter laptop, and voila!  Music.
  3. "But you're blogging now!  WITHOUT your laptop!"  Yes, friends, I am.  However, what good would the 4 month post be without pictures?  And those, dearests, are with the laptop.
Patience for just a few more days.  New CD player will be purchased Thursday, at which point I can reclaim my laptop and get down to business.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Truth About Bedtime

WARNING: This reading contains mucho foul language, and is not for the faint of heart...however, if you are a parent, you are LYING if you tell me that you haven't thought these exact sentiments.

Although Gabe is the most precious, perfect baby in the wide world, I myself may have thought a few of these thoughts from time to time...

And now, Samuel L. Jackson, the epitome of BAMF, reading a new "children's book" (for adults).  Quite the bedtime story...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day, My Love

Of course, I was excited for my first Mother's Day, but I am almost equally as excited for J to celebrate his first Father's Day.  Because watching J become such a good daddy has just melted my heart.

From the moment he bundled baby G up in his car seat to bring him home from the hospital, I just knew...he was going to be a GREAT dad.

And he has not disappointed.

I can't wait to see my boys develop a relationship as Gabe grows up.  J already talks about the fun stuff they'll do together.  For now, they mostly just watch TV.  Or sometimes play video games.

Happy Father's Day, my love.  Here's to many more years of amazing fathering.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I Can't Wait!!

This new trailer, just released, literally gave me chills.  In just under a month, the epic saga comes to a close.  J and I will be there.  Anyone want to babysit?

Friday, June 17, 2011


A warning that I may be MIA for the next week.  It's not because I don't love you all, or that I've deserted the ole''s just that I'm on vacation.

Here is the view from my bedroom window this upcoming week:
Serenity.  Oh, vacation, how I adore thee.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Reason I Know I'm Getting Old

Oh, chin hair.  How could I have forgotten you? 
You used to be just one stray, lone hair.  But now you've multiplied, and have four or five friends that show up on occasion.  I sometimes find myself rubbing my chin in search of those that need to be plucked, just like the Nana used to do.  I always found it oh-so-charming when she did it...why should I be any different?  And when I DO find one, I become so fixated on it that you needn't bother trying to carry on a conversation with me, because guess what?  I'm not listening.   

I do believe that I am in need of some sort of oldster-appropriate laser and/or wax hair removal procedure to save me from myself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tips from Betty White

Oh, how I love the divine Ms. White.  HI-larious.  (Although I've come to the conclusion that any oldster using foul language is automatically funny, Betty is even more so than the average geriatric.)

Enjoy Betty White's Top Ten Tips for Living a Long and Happy Life:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Someone Has a Case of the Mondays

Not a fan of this Monday morning.
First, I didn't want to get out of bed.  I NEVER want to get out of bed, but it was particularly rough for me this morning.  (Note: this is not due to lack of sleep.  My baby now officially sleeps though the night like a boss.)

Then, while showering, the lid to my shave gel popped off, hit the wall of the shower, then ricocheted back to hit me in the face.

THEN, Gabe didn't wake up until 7:15, and I didn't get to spend any time with him before I had to leave for work.  Some mornings are just extra hard to leave him.  Today was one of those mornings. 

I'm making myself feel better about today by reminding myself that next Monday, I'll be waking up at the beach.  Bring on vacation.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Hate You, Rebecca Black

The word 'Friday' used to have such pleasant connotations for me.  It meant the weekend was here...spending lots of time with J and G...sleeping in...checking things off the to-do list (maybe I'm weird, but that IS pleasant to me)...

But Rebecca Black has ruined all that for me.  Now, when I hear the word 'Friday', or even think about the work week coming to an end, my mind immediately floods with her horrid tune of the same name.

How is it that this video blew up and became so explosively popular?  Was it some sort of colossal joke?  Because I'm not sure if people know this or not, but let me be the first to tell you all...Rebecca Black can't sing!  RB is no wunderkind with the lyrics, either.  I mean, she actually lists the days of the week.  RB, this is not kindergarten!

So it's Friday, and we're partyin', partyin', YEAH!  Or maybe we're all just trying to get through the day without this despicable song rooting itself firmly in our brains. 

And for those of you who don't know about this contemptible video...for your viewing pleasure horror:

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reasons I Know I'm Getting Old

Aside from gray hair and arthritis (both of which I have, by the way), there have been a few other instances lately that have given me pause...

And I've said to myself, "Self, I do believe you are not as young as you used to be."

Here are a few examples: 

1. I've started referring to people in their twenties as "kids."  As in, when a 25-year-old took a job at my school, I went home and told J about the "new kid at work."  WTF?
2. I put powdered fiber in my morning coffee.  Every day.  And it's true, what they say about Benefiber!  Dissolves completely and is absolutely tasteless!  No grit!  (Mental head slap.)
3. I positively crave a lush, green lawn.  What youngster cares about how the lawn looks?  I actually look longingly at other lawns, with an all-consuming jealousy.  Next thing you know, I'll be yelling at children to get off the grass and play in the street.
4. Gone are the days when the plusher the mattress, the better.  I am sad that we don't have a firmer mattress in the house.  I thought it was just pregnancy that made me hate the soft bed, but alas, no.  It's just my old, creaky bones.
5. I'm really excited when I can go out and do something fun on the weekend...and still be home and in bed by 10:00.

Damn, I'm old.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Soccer Mom- UPDATE

Remember last week, when I talked here about our complete and utter failure to procure a minivan?

Well, we've made some progress, friends.

In an unbelievable twist of fate, we didn't need to hit the used car lots, after all!

After the long holiday weekend, the mechanics at my mom's Honda dealer had a chance to really look at what her issue was.  Why would this car, that was fine a mere two weeks earlier, simply stop running on the side of the highway?  What had happened that would require a $5500 used engine be installed in order for said car to be up and running again?

Well, you'd better believe that my mom was looking for some serious answers, seeing as how she not only had a broken down car, and no desire to spend the thousands that would be required to fix it...she also had a trade-in value of approximately $0.  What had been a perfectly decent vehicle two weeks prior was now worth only scrap.

After several phone calls with various mechanics, salesmen, and managers at Honda, she had some answers.

A screw had screwed everything up.  (hee hee)  A 3-inch screw had broken in half.  One half fell inside the engine, and wreaked total havoc.
"Screws fall out all the time, the world's an imperfect place."

Well, this was most certainly no fault of my mother's.  And she made sure everyone knew that.  Apparently, something like this happening is a complete freak of nature.  As in, baffled and amazed every mechanic in the shop.  As in, phone calls to many higher-ups at Honda were made on her behalf.

Conclusion?  Faulty part.  Honda's fault.  Result?  A brand new engine will be installed...for free.

What does this mean for us?  We're back to the rotation!  We'll take possession of the van (body- 107,000 miles, engine- 0 miles!), and we'll hand my Accord over to the family.  We'll make the trade after a few months, to ensure that everything with the Odyssey is in complete working order before we drive it four states and nine hours away from the shop that fixed it.

Yippee!  This girl is one happy Soccer Mom.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Ten: Baby Edition

My good friend K's sister is having a baby.  Apparently, she is relatively unconcerned about what she needs to buy before baby month...

We were chatting about this last night, and I got to thinking about what my "must haves" would be.  Now that I've got a few months of motherhood under my belt, I can appreciate much more what I actually use versus what I thought I needed prior to Gabe's birth.

So here goes.  My personal Top Ten Can't Live Without Items of Baby Paraphernalia (also known as Go Get This Stuff For Your Kid- For Realz).

1. The Miracle Blanket
I don't know about you other moms (and dads), but I think swaddling a baby in a receiving blanket is kinda hard.  Those nurses at the hospital are AMAZING at this task, but even though they showed us how to do it, we just couldn't get baby G tight enough in his little burrito to avoid escape.  And believe me when I say, you want your baby swaddled tight to sleep (if you also like to sleep, that is).  We tried other swaddling blankets, but our little Houdini got his arms out every time.  The Miracle Blanket is the best.  It wraps each arm individually, then wraps the whole body.  It's like a little baby straightjacket.  A straightjacket of awesomeness.  Gabe's afternoon nap is 15-20 minutes long without the MB, or 3 hours long with it.  Need I say more?
Buy yours here.

2. Activity Mat
We use this  In the morning, when J and I both need to be hands-free to get ready for work, Gabe needs to entertain himself.  This is difficult for one who is a mere three months old!  But as it turns out, babies are like goldfish.  They don't remember that they've been looking at the same sight every morning for a month.  Or if mine does, he doesn't seem to care!  He adores looking up at the lights, listening to the music, and kick, kick, kicking away while he babbles to himself.
We love this one

3. Burt's Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment
Seriously, this stuff is AH-MAZING.  Clears up any hint of diaper rash in no time flat.  Put it on baby at night, rash is gone by morning.  No joke.
Buy it here.  (Or if you're a local know what to do!)

4. Travel System
I've heard various thoughts on travel system vs. convertible car seat, but for us, the idea of waking a sleeping baby is sheer and utter madness.  I love that if Gabe falls asleep in his car seat (which is inevitable), I don't have to wake him in order to get out of the car and run errands.  His car seat just snaps right into his stroller, and away we go!  The stroller is great on its own, too.  And a word to the wise: if baby will consistently be traveling in two cars, invest in an extra base.  The convenience factor is SO worth it. 
We love this one.

5. Bouncy Seat
Making dinner?  Put it on the counter and carry on.  Need to take a shower?  Put it on the bathroom floor and carry on.  Folding laundry?  Put it on the bed and carry on.  We put Gabe in his bouncy seat whenever we need the use of both hands.  The activity mat is rather large, and requires a fair bit of floor space.  When you can't sit on the floor with baby, this is a great alternative.  Take it with you wherever you are in the house.  Bonus: ours vibrates and plays music.  Baby lurves the vibration.  Naps have been had in this seat.  Additional bonus: ours folds down flat, so it's easier to take with us when we travel.
Get it here.

6. Car Mirror
This is great for two reasons.  First of all, it's nice to see if baby is sleeping, why he is crying, or where that lost pacifier went.  Second of all, baby is occupied, even whilst all alone in the back seat.  Looking at himself in the mirror gives Gabe minutes upon minutes of entertainment.  Believe me, when you're driving, you'll positively treasure those minutes.
Choose one here.

7.Pink Noise
I had never heard of such a thing prior to a few weeks ago.  It's kinda like the cooler older sister of white noise.  Much more pleasing to the ear, but has the same effect: calming baby.  It's like mama shushing her baby- constantly and without pause.  Babies love shushing, no?  If Gabe is screaming, this will calm him and put him to sleep.  Download this noise, burn it onto a CD, put it on your iPod, buy a noise generator, or yeah, there's an app for that.  Just find a way to get this noise into your baby's life.  You won't regret it.

8. Hats from The Children's Place
I never knew how difficult it would be to find a hat that would fit a small infant.  Even little babies go out in the sun, and they need a hat to protect their little faces from sunburn!  So far, The Children's Place is the only place I have found that sells (non-beanie) hats for those heads under six months of age.  Unfortunately for me, I had to order many super gargantuan hats in vain before making this discovery.
Fortunately for you, you can find several cute ones here

9. The Boppy
Yes, it looks ridiculous.  But if you are nursing, this thing is da bomb.  That's right.  It positions baby perfectly, saving your poor upper body strength.  You think it sounds simple to hold a 7 pound lil' lump, but try holding it in the same exact position for up to 30 minutes at a time.  Lemme tell ya, it ain't so easy.  The Boppy solves this problem.  Also, it's a comfy pillow to rest baby on.  Ssshhh...don't tell the people at the Boppy company that I let my child nap in this cozy little nook a time or's frowned upon.
Buy a Boppy Bare Naked and choose a cover (or two, if you're smart!) here.

10. Video Monitor
I really, really hate to call this a need.  And truth be told?  We'd probably live without it.  But it is so nice to have.  There have been many times when Gabe has been whining and making noise, but not really been awake.  Had we not been able to see this on the video monitor, we would have barged into his room and really woken him up.  This was also really great in the very beginning, when new moms just want to see for themselves that baby is breathing.  This goes back to our personal rule: never wake a sleeping baby.  The video monitor has allowed us to follow that rule much more easily.  Favorite feature?  Ours has two-way communication capabilities, allowing us the option to talk back at Gabe without entering his room.  Not such a big deal now, but I can't wait until he's older, so I can freak him out when I know he's out of bed when he's not supposed to be.  I may actually be able to convince him that moms know everything.
We're fans of this one.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Exceptional Eats: Panzanella

I've been meaning to add a food feature to the ole' blog for quite some time.  You see, I love to cook.  I fancy myself a bit of an amateur Martha Stewart- minus the crafty abilities.  I can't even sew on a button, but I am a domestic goddess in every other sense.

The kitchen is my favorite room in the house.  I not only get enjoyment out of feeding my friends and family, but I also find cooking to be relaxing and stress-relieving.  Like any good foodie (yes, J, it's a word!), I am always in search of fabulous new recipes to add to my repertoire.

Seeing as how it's officially summer, and all of you gardeners are about to enjoy the fruits of your labor (ha!), I thought I'd start my new feature by sharing one of my favorite producey recipes.  I cannot take credit for this one- it comes from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten.  We LOVE this salad, and so does everyone else** I've ever made it for! 

**This is a test, Laura...are you reading?  ;)


Olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
salt & pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 large basil leaves
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 french baguette, cut into 1-inch thick slices

1. Prepare charcoal or gas grill, or if working indoors, a grill pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.
3. Place the cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, basil, and capers in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss together.  Set aside.
4. When the grill is ready, brush one side of the onion slices with olive oil.  Place them, olive oil side down, on the grill and cook for 4 minutes.  Brush the other side with olive oil, turn them over, and continue cooking an additional 4 minutes.  Remove the vegetables from the grill and place them on a cutting board.  Separate the onion rings and add them to the cucumber mixture.  
5. Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil and toast them on the grill until golden.  Add them to the cucumber mixture.
6. Pour the reserved vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss together.

The original recipe calls for the bell peppers to be grilled in the same manner as the onions, however, I like the flavor and crunch of the peppers raw.  But if you prefer that grilled  flavor, by all means, grill away!  And this vinaigrette...TO DIE FOR.  It would be delicious on any salad.  But the best part of this dish?  Bread- my favorite!- in the salad.  Way better than a crouton.  Pure genius. 

Perfect summer eats.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


The following is a letter to the Governor of the State of Michigan, written by the Superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools:

Dear Governor Snyder,
In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren’t we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society by educating our youth and preparing them to take on the issues that society has created.
One solution I believe we must do is take a look at our corrections system in Michigan. We rank nationally at the top in the number of people we incarcerate. We also spend the most money per prisoner annually than any other state in the union. Now, I like to be at the top of lists, but this is one ranking that I don’t believe Michigan wants to be on top of.
Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.
This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!
Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. It’s the least we can do to prepare our students for the giving our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.
Respectfully submitted,
Nathan Bootz, Superintendent, Ithaca Public Schools

WORD.  I couldn't possibly love this more.


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