Thursday, March 6, 2008

HOPE. Tiny Gestures Make a Difference

Philanthropists, and the Bible, too - tell us that when we perform some random act of kindness it shouldn't be discussed, as it may be perceived as insincere. However, for the sake of hoping to inspire - I'll tell you about something that happened today so that perhaps you, too, will reflect and follow through the next time you have an ambivalent thought about helping someone.

This morning I stopped at a convenient store with my two children and got a cup of coffee and a snack. There were three homeless people standing outside, one of whom had apparently just enough change to purchase a donut and was allowed to stand inside the store long enough to eat it, and I could tell he was eating it slowly to buy himself some time for warmth.

I'll be honest and tell you I used to have mixed emotions about the homeless. I think many of us do, but don't tell others. There's the wondering - does this person have a substance abuse problem, or did they do something to "cause" their homelessness? Are they lazy, and didn't try hard enough to get work before they were in the predicament? It's easy for us to say that to ourselves. Until now, aside from a few quarters in a hat here and there - I'd never considered helping anyone out other than what the church would ask for while I was there. I would say to myself, "oh, they'll probably spend it on booze and cigarettes anyway".

As I've gotten older I've learned to not pass judgment. Lately, I've been feeling much differently. When I see someone that appears to be homeless, I have an internal struggle about whether or not I should do something. I realize that there are a number of factors that would cause one to lose the roof over their head, and it probably wasn't one isolated issue. Many are mentally ill. Some may have been abused. And others, well - could have been someone just like me or my husband, someone that worked hard all his life, but then something happened. Maybe he lost his job or something, and just couldn't make it.

Particularly in this time in our economy, my family has felt the stress of financial burden. Perhaps this is why I felt compelled to do something spontaneous. Having children changes us, too. We become less self-centered. More empathetic. Maybe, on some subconscious level - I may have thought "what if that ever happened to me". What a horror it would be, with small children.

I sat in the car with my children and coffee in my nice warm SUV and watched the eldest of them, the one that had been standing inside with the donut. I'm not sure why I singled him out - except that intuitively I felt he looked the most sincere. He was older, too, and had a kind face. I guess I rationalized that the younger two might have more fight left in them and could still work given the opportunity so they'd be okay.

After a few minutes, I decided that it was time for me to quit thinking about it and just do something. All I had left on me was a $20 bill, because I don't carry much cash (as most of us don't). But I thought, If I don't do this now - I won't do it. I said to the kids, "Mama will be right back" and got out of the car (he was just a few feet in front of us). The strangest emotions overcame me. It was a mixture of fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, and peace. He was only a few feet from my car, but I was worrying, what will I say to him? What if he wasn't homeless? Was I making an assumption based on his clothing that was incorrect? How embarrassing that could be. But I mustered up courage, and this is what came out:

"Excuse me, sir. I don't want to insult you. Do you have any money for yourself"?

He replied, "No". I nervously handed him my meager $20. "I said, please take this and get something for yourself". That's all I could get out. He said quietly,"thank you", without looking at me. Feeling a little awkward, I hurried back into the car. As I buckled my seatbelt, he was putting the $20 in a small front-pocket mesh wallet he had, and he looked up at me - right in the eyes, with a small wave, and a really grateful look in his eye - and this time he said thank you in a much more meaningful manner. It occurred to me at that moment that he must have felt as awkward as I did - having to take a $20 bill from a younger woman who could have been his daughter so he could eat. Men are born with pride, so to have to swallow it daily must be awful.

As I pulled away, my eyes welled up with tears. I felt peaceful, and so sad at the same time, I guess because I wished it could have been more, and for the guilt of having more than he. I struggled to compose myself so I could explain to my 3-1/2 year old what had just taken place. It seemed important for me to tell my children that not everyone has comfort like we do.

Three hours later as I type this I still am feeling melancholy. I certainly haven't done anything particularly special. Then again, maybe I did. Because if you are thinking to yourself "what difference will $5, $10 or $20 do in the big scheme of this man's life"? This is the answer: this man will have food for a week on that measly $20. And, if there is another person that comes along and does that in another few weeks - he will eat for another month. If 12 of us did it - he will exist for another year.. And then maybe, just maybe - something will come along and change for him - like a job, a person that can offer him more.
Most of all, with our measly few dollars - he has HOPE.

Moms, it have been one of our fathers. It could have been our husband. Our brother. Or worst ever - in thirty years - our child. That man had a mommy once too, I'm sure. So I implore you. If you are hesitating the next time - bite the bullet and just do it. Get past your self-consciousness and make that gesture, with whatever small thing you can do. Even if its $5. Its enough.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Excessiveness Found Irritating to this Mommy!

Today's blog is really a rant. I'm not a big complainer, but there is something sticking in my craw lately.

My husband is in the construction business. We specialize in custom homes. While I don't like to bite off the hand that feeds me - I find the excessiveness in this country a bit nauseating.

Perhaps it's my values. While I appreciate nice things, and consider myself to have good taste - it seems that our country has gotten out of hand with what is "necessary" to have a new home. My mother was a product of the Great Depression, so her appreciation for what we have has probably rubbed off on me some.

My husband and I are accustomed to seeing places and people that have "more" than us. We work in homes in excess of 10,000 square feet on occasion (and that's another thing, who needs all those rooms?) But the past couple of years, while the economy is sliding down a slippery slope - people are still installing complete home theaters in their 8,000 sq. foot basements, crown moulding that is carved and 2 feet high, and futuristic keypads that have buttons for all sections of your home to be lit in the exact path you wish as you enter the garage (or you can push a remote button in your car a block away for this). Hey, I know this is cool. But is this really necessary?

And here's the one that gets me the most. Since I dabble in gourmet and provide recipes for a website (among other culinary adventures), I am in the kitchen every day for at least an hour, actively COOKING. While I agree, everyone should have a nice big kitchen if you can afford it, because that's where everyone loves to be. However, I find that a majority of people with larger homes are spending ridiculous amounts of money on features like sub-zero refrigerators, double ovens that are professional grade, and drawers for spices they've never even heard of. I can count at least five people I know that have kitchens such as these, and three of them specialize in carry-out food and reservations.

I want to know who told these people they needed to have this stuff. These are things that real cooks can use - but then again, real cooks don't need them. Maybe I'm bitter, or a bit envious. But I know one thing for sure.

This afternoon, I'll be putting my Ham & Cheese Souffle Omelet (click here for the recipe) to roast into my still-well-functioning oven from 1989 with a broken door. I'm just happy that it's self-cleaning.

Busy parents: don't forget to stop at the One-Stop-Mommy-Shop for family fun, home inspirations & free recipes!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Unexpected Guest? 3 Minutes to a Cleaner House (& Really Clean in 15)!

We all want to be proud of our homes. But it never fails. The one day you have every toy in the house on the floor, kids half-dressed, you didn't put makeup on, dishes are piled to the ceiling, and laundry half-folded on the living room couch-you get the phone call. It's your friend that lives an hour away and hasn't seen you since the 2nd baby was born.

"Hi! I'm in the area, and I'd love to say hi and see the kids. I have a little gift for the baby. Can I stop by? I won't keep you too long..."

You can't say no, it just wouldn't be right. Sure, you could come up with some feeble excuse about how you're just running out. But then another 6 months might go by. Instead, try this:
"Great! I'd love to see you, just give me fifteen minutes to freshen up".

You can do this! I'm going to show you how. I guarantee your house will look and smell REALLY CLEAN in 15 minutes or less, you'll be proud of it - and you won't look like you just did it. I swear! Set a timer and test it yourself. Just make sure you have the following on hand at all times, and if you're wearing a sweater, take it off so you don't break a sweat and look like you ran a marathon before they arrive.

Now, here's what you're going to do. Before you begin, determine a visual path that your guest is most likely to see, and close off any other areas: bedrooms, 2nd bathrooms, garage doors, basement doors. For most of us, the path of vision is the front hall, powder room, kitchen, living room, family room, dining room, and hall stairway. Plan on moving as fast as you can, and set a timer between each task so you don't get sidetracked (and then feel unprepared when your guest arrives). My stove timer works perfectly. IMPORTANT: Do this in the order written! There's a reason for it all.

3 MINUTES - Clear the path's floors & tables
except for the kitchen counter (we'll do that in the next step). Formerly in the home design business, I learned that a clean floor and cleared tables gives the illusion of a cleaner house, even if it's not. That's why we're doing this first. Take your collapsible basket, and run through the rooms in your determined path; picking up EVERYTHING you see on floors & tables. Toys, books, dirty socks, papers, doggy bones, bath towels, magazines, remote controls, whatever. Do this as fast as you can.

Put the filled basket in the attached garage, a bedroom closet, or a basement (whatever's closest and not likely to be seen). If there's clean laundry on the furniture or tables, use your second basket for this (don't mix chewed up doggy bones and dirty socks from the floor with your clean clothes).

4 MINUTES - Swiffer the path with a dry orange scented cloth, using the vacuum feature at the same time (or if you have carpet - vacuum, using some orange carpet-fresh product). While you're Swiffering, carry a damp cotton rag with you to spot clean any really obnoxious dirt spots. This will accomplish two things: pick up debris, pet hair or dust, and it will make the house smell better, quickly. Stay on task and stick to the 4 minutes - you not halfway done yet.

6 MINUTES - Kitchen attack:
  • Empty your kitchen garbage and put a new liner in it. If the house smells bad, that's all your guest will notice - no matter how clean the floors are. To save time, stick the garbage bag in the garage for now (or just outside the back door). If you have a cat litter, you'd better do that, too - but move quickly, I didn't include it in the timing (add 1 minute).
  • Empty sinks & counters. Throw every visible dish into one of the following: dishwasher, oven, or dryer. DO NOT spend time organizing right now. This is a trick I learned from a realtor (there is nothing more depressing than a kitchen full of dirty dishes)! Just don't forget they're in there when you go to preheat the oven next time. Quickly spray your kitchen sink with bleach cleaner (like Lysol with bleach). Don't clean it, just let the spray sit on there and do its work a bit while you move on. Many of us have white or light-colored sinks- this stuff will knock out the stains in three minutes.
  • Everything else into one container (preferably a decorative basket) at the furthest end of the counter, or hidden in a cabinet or closet. Exeption: food. Just stick the food in the fridge or a nearby cabinet (not the cabinet with glasses, in case you need to offer a drink). Otherwise, it includes phone chargers, bills, clean dishes, snack boxes, pens, sunglasses, calculators, etc. I keep a large basket on one end of the counter to put everything for this occasion. The trick is to keep it as empty as possible at other times so it doesn't build up!
  • Wipe down the counters, stove, faucet and kitchen table with disinfectant wipes. Then go back and rinse out your sink so it doesn't smell like bleach when your guest arrives. It will be clean enough by now.
You're almost done! The worst is behind you. Now, put the Swiffer away and grab your windex, wipes, and paper towels:

2 MINUTES - Bathroom Swipe.

  • Start with the toilet. Use your disinfectant wipes and do the rim, the bottom of the basin, the underside of the seat, and the back behind the seat. Then use your wipes to do a quick clean just around the floor of the toilet, and along the perimeter of anywhere you see hair (how many times have you sat on someone else's pot and examined the hair and dust in the corners across from you)?
  • Spray bleach cleaner along the top of the bowl of the toilet if it's particulary yucky (didn't add this into the time, so it'll take another 30 secs). Let it do its work for a few minutes while you finish the rest of the bath. If your kids' potty is in there, you might want to temporarily move it to the other bathroom if you think it's smelling (one less thing to clean right now).
  • Using your windex and paper towels, clean the mirror above the sink (splatters), the faucet (a shiny faucet always looks like the cleaning lady's been there) and the counter or sink rim.
  • Take the little trash can out on your way and dump it into the one in the kitchen (less likely to be smelly and you won't waste time walking all the way to the garage). Bring the windex and paper towels out with you too. Oh, and if you used the bleach cleaner, flush it now so it doesn't smell strong like bleach for your guest.

YOU'RE DONE! Your house is officially "CLEAN". Now, as long as the doorbell hasn't rung, here's some finishing touches:
  • Put all the cleaning stuff away, quickly.
  • Brush your hair, and either put it neatly in a pony, or stick a fun mommy-cap on.
  • Put on lipstick, mascara, and brush your face with bronzer. Even if you don't wear makeup, this bronzer is one thing that will always make you look great and one jar will last you a year (I'm not kidding, I've been using it for years)! Original Indian Earth Makeup Powder - 5 Gram Jar

If you still have time left:

Straighten pillows. Light a smelly candle. Place a silk arrangement on the kitchen table - I like this one: Foglia Bouquet Red - Roses with Green Hydrangea Blossoms
Replace your powder room and kitchen towels with fresh ones. Brew a pot of coffee. Reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate and freshen your breath at the same time (good antioxidants and still a treat). You deserve it! These look cool out on a candy dish for your guests, too:

Look around, and smile. You surely must feel better with a clean house. The best side effect of this last-minute "cleaning": after your guests leave, you'll still be feeling good about how the house looks great. So when you go to retrieve the hidden basket and the dishes out of the oven - you'll be motivated to put everything in it's proper place. The last thing you'll want to do is put the clutter back!

And P.S. : for all my friends reading this, you'd better not be peeking in my oven when I'm not looking :) !

Friday, February 15, 2008


Hey Moms & Dads, if you haven't checked out this new squidoo lens, click here & take a look:

This is a great reference to readily available red wines for everyday drinking & eating - and if you have a wine habit, you know it can be an expensive one. The author (me)! will be updating this periodically as new wines become available and as the palate experiments. This will not just be me and my opinion, but the opinion of my husband and friends as well - several tastes are better than one! Anyone wanting to share their picks of favorite wines under 9? Add them to the lens! We're always looking for new ones. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Don't forget to hit for a great recipe to make with your glass of wine!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Months, even years of interrupted sleepless nights - cause us to do things we never would have done before our children arrived. Here are a few of my confessions - can you relate? I'd like to hear about yours! Take the poll at the right sidebar, or shoot me some blog comments below!

1. Your child's sleeplessness, on more than one occasion, has qualified as a symptom requiring Benadryl.

2. You don't remember the skin color of your legs underneath all the hair.

3. You've brought your kids out in public with the same clothes on they wore the night or the day before.

4. You're latest hairdo is a ponytail and a baseball cap - and you're convinced this is perfectly chic.

5. You've played "possum" (pretended to be asleep) more than once when your hubby attempted advances on you in bed at night.

BUSY MOMS, I can help you get it together with easy recipes, quick solutions for the household stuff, and easy, fun activities to do with your kids - visit the ONE-STOP-MOMMY-SHOP - it's totally free.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


It's tradition in my husband's French family, and in many apparently in France - to make homemade crepes with assorted fillings on the eve of Ash Wednesday (Mardi Gras), or Fat Tuesday. If you are unfamiliar with crepes - they are simply very thin pancakes, which can be made with either a savory or a sweet dough. They are filled with things like chicken in white sauce (bechamel), beef bourguignonne (stew), eggs, ham & cheese, or fruits with whip cream or chocolate.

In previous years, I had attempted this tradition - often to be met with little appreciation & even veiled complaints that it "wasn't done quite the right way" or words to that effect. Finding myself irritated that I had tried to sustain a family tradition but was met with chagrin - I informed my other half that as of 2007, he (my native French spouse, Franck) would now be in charge of preparing and serving the crepes, their fillings - and all accoutriments, in the manner in which he saw fit.

Franck asked me to pick up the ingredients he needed. He chose his favorites, and said he would be home early from work on Tuesday to begin making a stack of crepes to be prepared for filling, and was planning on chicken, sauteed spinach, and bechamel (white) sauce), and for dessert - bananas, chocolate sauce, and whip cream.

At 4pm on Fat Tuesday, he arrived, prepared to cook. I had laid out all the ingredients for him, and told him I was taking the kids to the library so he could unwind and get started on his cooking (a luxury I would love to have every night before preparing dinner!) Just before we exited, I gave him a brief reminder of how to make quick & easy bechamel (white) sauce:

Melt 3 Tbl. butter
Add 3 Tbl. flour
Stir till smooth, add 2 cups milk
Heat to just boiling, reduce & simmer to thicken
Season with salt, pepper & pinch nutmeg

Now, some of you would think this is difficult for a man. But I wasn't concerned in the least. Remember, this is a staple in France- and the equivalent of knowing how to scramble eggs here in America. To boot, Franck's father was a chef, and before he met me, his mother had taught him to cook. We agreed I would return with the children at 5pm for an early dinner.

At 4:12, I arrived at the library. No sooner had I gotten their coats off, and my text message alert had gone off. "we don't have enough butter" read the message. Hmmmm, that's funny, I remembered I had a stick of butter in the fridge left. I called him back. This is how it went:

me: "Did you look in the butter compartment of the fridge?"
him: "Yes, but there's only a little over a half a stick".
me: "Do you need more than three tablespoons for some reason?"

him: "No, I need three tablespoons, so what's here isn't enough".
me: "There's eight tablespoons of butter in a stick. If you have over half a stick, you have more than enough butter for the recipe. Look at the lines on the stick of butter."
him: "Oh."

That should have been my first clue. But I just figured - it's been a while since he's cooked, he's just forgotten his way around a bit.

A few minutes passed and the kids were getting into some serious play with some other kids. This was a welcome change from the cabin fever they'd been experiencing with the 10 inches of snow we've recently had here in Chicago.

The vibrate went off on my phone again. This time it wasn't a text.

him: "uuuhhhh, you're going to have to stop for some butter."
me: "what? why?"
him: "I put in two cups of flour instead of 3 tablespoons. I forgot it was the milk that was 2 cups".

This sent me back to another story of a girlfriend of mine that many years ago, had borrowed a lasagne recipe from me. She called me up the night she was making it, and said, "I don't understand, I looked everywhere - but I couldn't find egg yolks at the store. Where are they?".

I guess when you have been cooking as long as I have, you take these things for granted. And while I may have felt a mite smug for a moment - remembering how I had attempted this feat in previous years- I must give credit where credit is due.

After we arrived with the butter and cooking was resumed in the kitchen, my dear husband presented us with a fine crepe dinner - and a wonderful ambiance with French language and wine. What more could a woman ask for? I'll save my veiled complaints for when he attempts to make a Thanksgiving turkey.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Busy Mom Cooks: Top 5 Ingredients for Easier & More Delicious Meals

  • Coarse Kosher Salt
  • Slow-cooker
  • Mini Food Processor
  • Wines for Cooking
  • An Open Mind

Busy Moms, whether you enjoy cooking or not, you're probably doing it for your family. So why not make the food taste better, and the process easier on yourself? You don't need two hours in the kitchen to prepare a good meal.

When people ask me, "how did you get to be such a good cook?" I tell them, "I know how to read". Cooking is not hard, if you just follow the directions carefully. And being a good cook doesn't have to mean complex instructions or top shelf gourmet ingredients, either. A few, simple ingredients, a few minutes to prepare, and you can have a delicious meal on the table that will make your family happy. I've been practicing for many years, so some things come naturally for me. But they can for you, too, if you allow it.

If you don't have them already, I challenge you to add these few things in your kitchen, and you're on your way to chefhood.

Coarse Kosher Salt. I'm not sure where I picked up this tidbit (Sara Moulton, celebrity chef perhaps?), but it was the best cooking advice I think I ever got. She said [paraphrase]

"If you change only one thing about your cooking, it should be the salt."
Coarse salt brings out the best in the flavors of your food. Use it just as you would table salt for any recipes. Do this for a week, and I want to hear from you if you don't notice a difference in how your food tastes! Most supermarkets now carry it. Or you can get it here This one will last a long time. I like to keep mine in an old fashioned salt container on my counter (you remember, the ones with the wooden lids) so I can just reach my hand in and grab a pinch, handful, whatever. The only time you wouldn't use this salt, "of coarse", is at tableside :) Oh! and this suggestion goes for black peppercorns, as well. Get yourself a good pepper grinder and keep it near the cooktop along with the kosher salt.

Slow Cooker. This is just a fancy name for what our moms called the crockpot, but I guess the foodie Gods felt we needed to reinvent the name - for fear of being considered outdated by using one. Get it! There's only one dish to clean up, and stuff can sit in there for hours without you having to worry about overcooking or starting the house on fire. Before the kids, I was kind of a crockpot snob - but now, its my saving grace. This is the one I have. Its cute for entertaining and doesn't look like its from a garage sale, works great - not too pricey and excellent for parties.

Wine for Cooking. You'll notice I didn't say "cooking wine". Whomever concocted that atrocity was probably not the greatest cook. You're better off substituting broth, it tastes better. Seriously? Even if you've sworn off alcohol, using wine in your cooking will enhance the recipes tremendously by adding a woody, fruity depth you can't get elsewhere. If you are concerned about the kids or allergies to alcohol, no worries - in cooking, at a low boil, the alchohol burns off usually within the first three minutes.

You don't have to have a wine cellar - just pick up a four-pack of individual bottles that your supermarket now carries. They're suitable enough for cooking and you won't waste much, if any, leftover wine - since the bottles are so small. That being said, remember that the flavor left after the alcohol cooks out will remain - so the better the wine, the better the food will taste. Many a great chef have been known to nip at a glass of wine during cooking, so if there's leftover, I'm sure you can find a use for it ;)

Mini-food Processor - I like the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus. I have a bigger one for big jobs, but this one sits on my counter to be used almost daily for chopping garlic, onions, vegetables, nuts for recipes, making breadcrumbs, "shredding" fresh parmesan, you name it. It doesn't take up much space at all, and I swear it cuts down about 10 minutes of prep time almost every recipe. The key to making this a snap to use - give the reservior a quick hand washing immediately after use so it's ready for the next job. It won't do you any good sitting in the dishwasher for three days.

An Open Mind. My children eat almost (of course exceptions) everything put in front of them. Mainly, it's because I never assume they won't like something. Just because I didn't when I was 2 or3, doesn't mean they won't. Present your children's food with a positive attitude. Let them know it's okay if they don't like something, but don't give up after two times. Just keep putting experimental things in front of them. Set a good example, and try new things yourself. Food has come a long way in our culture in the last 10 years or so - and lima beans are not the same when they're cooked down, pureed with olive oil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and parmesan cheese (they're delicious, try it!) I never even saw asparagus until I was an adult at 27, because my mother just thought all kids hated it. Its now one of my favorite veggies.

Listen, I'm not above throwing a few canned goods into a crockpot for a quick meal occasionally - as you'll see in my realistic weekly menus at the One Stop Mommy But what you'll also see there, is a few recipes that incorporate fresh, new & interesting ingredients that you might not think of as typical family food. Using the five ingredients above is a great way to add time and confidence back into your kitchen!


Sunday, January 27, 2008


It's Sunday, and I've been lying here in this crisper drawer for almost two weeks. I know my days are numbered. The person who bought me had intentions of using a few of my brothers and sisters for soups, stews, and various stir-frys. She also, I overheard, was going to whip up some ranch dressing and cut me up into bite size pieces so her children could nosh and obtain a few nutrients.

I'm not sure what happened, but the dip was never made, I haven't seen the light of a kitchen since. It's dark, cold, and lonely in here - I had some big dreams, and time is running out. When I was only a seed, I would dream about vast, exotic places like gourmet Asian stir-frys, and warm, comforting places like some one's Grandmother's tuna noodle casserole. But here I stay, beginning to see signs of shriveling - with not a shiny knife in sight.

My worst nightmare impending.... a clammy hand, scooping me irritatingly upward and then being tossed, plunging, downward, to suffocate in a smelly, day-old-coffee-ground, crowded, paper towel and styrofoam hell.

OH! but alas, the light of the door opening... and the sound of a happy cook's enthusiastic inspiration:

"Hey, I forgot I had this celery. I'd better make a soup or something before it goes bad! I've got a great recipe that will be just the ticket".

I'm so excited, I can hardly keep from jumping out of the drawer myself. But I await eagerly for the gentle hands as they lift me to my destiny....


  • 1 medium leek, bottom half only (root trimmed off and top greens discarded)
  • 1 small baking potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
  • 3 medium chopped shallots
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 full bunch of celery, including leaves - bottoms trimmed & chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse well in cold water. Drain, and slice halves crosswise into thin slices. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook shallots in butter and oil until softened, about 2 minutes. Add leek and continue cooking, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add celery and potato and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add wine and broth; bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until celery and potato are very tender, about 50 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in the food processor, or use an immersion blender until soup is smooth. Return to pan and bring to a simmer over moderately low heat. Turn off heat; season with salt and pepper and serve. Garnish with snipped chives, if desired.

For More Free Recipes, Family Activity Ideas and Help for Tired Mommies,- VISIT the ONE STOP MOMMY SHOP, an EASY WAY to get a GRIP ON YOUR DAY!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Woman Traumatized by Preschooler in Fitting Room

I had a $40 gift card from JC Penney's that I had received for Christmas. It took me this long to get to shop for myself, so I decided to get those new bras I've needed since my 2nd son was born 20 months ago.

In tow at the department store was my firstborn 3-1/2 year old, - whom is my very patient shopping companion. While of course I am biased - he is a sweet boy, obedient, loves people, and is notably outgoing. Mama dragged him into the fitting room with about 6 pieces of lingerie, feeling very apprehensive; as the parts that belong to me have not all returned to normal very well after 2 C-sections in four years at almost 40 years old.

As I raised my cotton blend T-shirt halfway over my head (blind, momentarily) I heard a most irritable exclaim from the other side of the stall, from a woman's voice that sounded about the same age bracket as me: "OH! That is just SOOOO tacky!" After I got the second half of my shirt off of my head, I glanced down to see my preschooler laying on the fitting room floor peeking under the stall. After I quickly distracted my son to a different activity and told him it was bad manners to look under the stall, I addressed the outburst. Not sure if the interrogator was speaking to him, me, or someone else in the area - I quietly inquired, "I'm sorry, were you talking to me?"

The angry voice beside me boomed "Yes! You're son was looking at me under the wall!" Admittedly, my response may have had a defensive tone, as is normal with us mommies, when we feel our children can do no wrong. "Well, he's only three, I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it, and I'm sorry if he offended you". I looked down at my son to see if he was following this, and he had his fearful face on, probably thinking he was in trouble, but not knowing exactly what he had done wrong.

I thought that would be the end of it, I had done my duty and apologized, albeit begrudgingly. But instead, the offended party responded: "Well, YOU'RE the mother, and YOU'RE supposed to control him!". I suppose what happened next amplified this situation more than necessary. While I struggled to suppress my Aries fire, out of my mouth - still quietly, mind you - came: "Well, ma'am, I didn't even see him doing it until you exclaimed, so it couldn't have been for long. You don't have kids, do you?" There was a short hesitation. Then, in disgust, she replied loudly, "Yes, as a matter of fact I do, and my kids NEVER did that.".

At this point, my blood began to boil. I probably should have apologized profusely on his behalf, but it's not in my nature. She had been rude to my son, and insulted me in the process. Possibly, I had brought this on myself. But in the heat of the moment, I couldn't let it go. So I continued: "Well, that's just great for you. I'm sure you got the Mother of the Year Award". I was so discombobulated now, there was no trying on lingerie. Additionally, I figured this altercation was probably not the best example for my child. I quickly put my shirt back on, and whisked my 3-year old out the fitting room door.

Of course, I did have a brief talk with him about privacy, respect, and why the lady was angry on the way home in the car. We have been in fitting rooms before, and I've had to tell him to not look under the stall - so it's not something I had neglected to tell him. He's going to try anyway, he's a three year old boy. He might even try and do it again, even after this experience. Myself, I've been in many a fitting room- and been peeked in on a few times by young children (boys and girls alike). I don't ever remember it upsetting me.

Afterward, I relayed the story to a few people. On an unrelated issue, a dear friend of mine, Maria, said just today, that she felt that the world would get along better if we took time to consider the other's perspective. So I keep pondering all angles of the confrontation in the dressing room of JC Penney.

Was it that she was just annoyed by small children? Was she so insecure about her body that a three-year-old looking at it made her uncomfortable? Was she really even undressed in there, or did she have clothes on and was still angry? Or the worst case scenario, had she had a bad experience - and was terribly upset by her nakedness, or someone witnessing it? Perhaps I should have been more compassionate, more considerate, more patient.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on this. Do you think a 3-year old doing this is an issue to cause confrontation?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ultimate Irony: Victim of My Own Creation

My 20-month old is wide awake, at 4 a.m - and so am I. He started at 2, with a thirst for something, and then went on to complain at a high pitched decibel about his wet diaper an hour later. My head returns to my pillow, but the possibility of returning to sleep eludes me once again - I am jolted back to hear how mad he is that he can't play with his feet in the footie pajamas I insisted on putting on him in the current Chicago-style 8- degree weather.

The typical wake-ups have me lying there in my usual state of perpetual perfectionist worrying. The subject tonight: my new adventures at project , and the fact that I am doing exactly the opposite of what my advice has been: Stay Focused, Remain on Task - and remember what's really important, spending time with your family.

To my chagrin, I find myself lost in a tangent nightmare as I try and learn how to get my brain around what seemed in my head as a simple task - "starting up my new website". In less than a month, there have been hosting roadblocks, inexplicable bugs in my software, hours of help-desks and tech support calls, and learning that I have to set up 3 or 4 other remote sites just to get traffic to the first one, and all of the learning curve that comes with each territory I stumble upon. This was supposed to be a part-time gig, based on hobbies.

As I tossed and turned, I began thinking of all the things that have been pushed aside the last few days as I tried to get my head above water at the site:

1. My three-year old tugging at my sleeve "Mama, I want to play trucks with you".
Me: "I'm sorry, honey, Mama's working, I have to finish this. I'll play trucks with you afterward." 10 minutes later: (repeat)

You can probably guess what happened: afterward never came, and then it was time to make dinner.

2. Dinner. Posted the new recipe of the day on the site. If you've not been there, one of my commitments to my audience is that I intend to be doing the steps with them, including getting dinner on the table quickly, with a good recipe. Except yesterday, I didn't have any mushrooms, and it was a crucial ingredient. I resolved that as "soon as I was done working" I would pack up the kids and we would head off to the store in plenty of time to make dinner before my husband got home.

Except, instead, this is what happened: hours on the computer attempting to install something crucial for the site to be effective. 4:30 pm came, dinner's at 5:30 - has to be on time because DH has band practice. No way to make it to the store and back and still have time to cook the recipe. Frozen ready-made pasta and a jar of Barilla sauce magically appeared on the stovetop. My husband came home and inquired about my day, and after barking at him for a few minutes about all the problems I had run into, with a deep furrow in my brow - he said, "you need to get some sleep".

3. The house is a mess. And I don't mean the usual papers on the table, clean clothes still not put away - I mean, cobwebs on the light fixtures and two week's worth of who-knows-what sticking to the microwave wall. The bed hasn't been made in days, and the sheets and towels need changing. I've been so buried in cyberspace, I've neglected my own space.

The conclusion of this rant at 5:42 a.m -
Its the ultimate irony. I've created another monster to obsess about in my perfectionism - which is what brought me to starting the site in the first place. And so, dear reader - while I love you all, I might not be back until Thursday, because I need to get back to WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT. Time with my kids, Dinner with my Family, A Tidy Home and a Good Night's Sleep!

See you at

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My New Beginning

An interesting ride so far, its been, at the new, my new project. "What a world we live in". As a 35+ mother, I hear myself now sounding like my own far too often (gaaaa!) with comments such as this.

I've spent the last three weeks spending every minute of my (ha!) free time learning about how to create a website, effectively. What a can of gargantuan worms. Never in a million years was I prepared for learning an entire new software, language, and culture. Granted, I've been out of the working world "outside" for about 5 years, but I don't even think my business background could have prepared me for this cybercrazy boxing ring.

My site will focus on helping overwhelmed moms, and preparing them for battle in an environment of hollering infants, unruly toddlers, and question-asking preschoolers - while also giving a great dinner recipe and an idea to get the house organized in the midst of chaos. Its fun, and I'm trying not to take myself so seriously.

Meantime, I'm not much of a creative writer, so this will be more like a rant until the skills improve. However, I'm excited about the endeavor I'm beginning for busy moms, and look forward to coming here to talk about the silly things that go on with young children.