Monthly Archives: March 2014

Some Fun For Your Friday

The Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! Here are five fun things to check out today.

Easter is really late this year.  Ever wonder why Easter changes dates?  Listen to this chap explain it in his smashing English accent.  The lovely ladies had me at hello.  Doris and Winifred,  I wish I was sitting next to both of you.  Or in between the two of you.  We would be fast friends. Drinking tea.  And making hats.

Kid President says “you were made for awesome.  And we can make every day better for each other.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Have you seen this kid?  He rocks.  Click here if you need a little pep talk today.

Cutting things in unusual ways has become a running joke around here this week.  I was reminded that I used to cut the boys’ hair.  Until I stopped because I really wasn’t that good at it. Maybe if I had this tutorial on how to cut kids’ hair I would still be at it?  Probably not.  But this did make me want to try it again just for fun. Or just play with a toddler. And have a absolutely adorable baby on my hip. And be crazy cool and live in an amazing NYC flat.

Anyone else see this commercial while watching basketball on TV and crying while their brackets were destroyed?  I made the boys replay it about five times and laughed harder each time.  I wanted to see it a sixth time but they told me no.  Luckily I have seen it aired since then.  And I can see it here too.

The mornings are finally not as dreadfully dark as they were a few weeks ago.  Dark and cold mornings are painful, aren’t they? I used to be a morning person.  Now I only halfway am. Halfway at best. But I’m working on it. Here are 24 tips on how to start the day off right.  I’m thinking no on #4.  But I am all about #8, 10, 13 and 24.

Enjoy the weekend!

Cut It Out

Sometimes my family does odd things. Like cutting, for instance. Most people cut in a straight line with order and continuity. Most people, when cutting bar cookies or brownies or krispy treats from a pan, start on the left and and move across the pan.

Not necessarily the case in this house. I made krispy treats the other day and some wisecracker teenager thought it would be funny to cut a chunk right out of the middle. When I asked what the brilliant thought was behind cutting that way, he said that he was avoiding the “crispy edges.” Hmmmm. Interesting. Silly me, I thought that the very nature of a krispy treat ensured that all edges were crispy.

krispy treat cut out

I called him out on his ridiculousness while the rest of the family rolled with laughter. Even I thought is was funny. Odd, but funny. I told them I thought there was something wrong with all of them and that the cutting disorder must be genetic.

Here is the cutting job that Erin did while wrapping a gift last Christmas. Only I cut her some slack (pun intended) seeing that she was 7. The krispy treat mauler is nearly 16.

20140327-110020.jpg

But I’m thinking that age must have nothing to do with the mutated cuttings that go on around here. My oldest child husband decided to get in on the action and mess with me too, cutting himself a virtual maze through the middle of the pan.

crazy cut krispy treat

You know those quirky family inside jokes that everyone in the house gets and thinks is funny but no one outside the walls of the home gets? The kind that go on for years and years and come up at odd times? I have a feeling this cutting business is well on its way to being one of ours. I can only pray they all control themselves when mowing lawns, trimming bangs, or cutting wedding cakes. With a multitude of birthdays, a First Communion and a graduation around the corner, you can bet that I will be the one with the cake knife, lest we scare all our family and friends with our inability to cut like normal people.

Everyone’s a comedian around here.

Now, if they only knew how to use knives and scissors …

 

Sharing The Gold

headband and gold
A couple of weeks ago I had a golden day at a dance competition. And when I say golden, it’s probably not quite what you think. It had absolutely nothing to do with the trophies and medals that came home with us. In fact, I can’t even remember if any did come home with us that day.

What I do remember is a golden moment that will stick with me for a long time, an incredible example of how to share our triumphs with those we love and care for.

I was stepping outside the hotel ballroom where the Irish dance competition stages were in full swing, taking a small break from the blaring music and hundreds of pounding hard shoes. I struck up a very brief conversation with another mom who was doing the exact same thing. We exchanged comments about the healing benefits of Excedrin and sunshine, as I recall, and then we parted ways and headed back to our seats in the competition room.

My girls were not on stage, so I was entertaining myself by watching other dancers and spectators.  Need I say more? While happily people watching, I spotted the woman I had moments ago been talking with. She was standing on her tip toes, craning her neck to and fro, peering over a sea of people to watch her daughter dance on the stage at the front of the ballroom. All the while, her hands were resting on the thick handles of a large buggy-style wheelchair that held another daughter who was severely handicapped.

I looked from the woman and the wheelchair to the stage, and spotted the dancer the woman was earnestly trying to watch. I knew immediately the dancer was her daughter because she looked just like her; and as she danced, her gaze repeatedly came back to her mother and her sister. The strength and comfort the dancer drew from the pair in the audience was palpable. As she danced, kicking and clicking and twirling so precisely, I watched, mesmerized by both her graceful strength and the connection she had with her mom and sister. She danced beautifully and I was sure she would place high in the competition. It was her dance.  It was her moment.

Once the dance was completed the dancers, all dressed in their finery of beautiful fabrics and sparkles, made their way to the back of the room.  The dancer I had been following traversed the crowd while removing pins that secured a golden tiara to the top of her curly head.  By the time she came to her mom, the sparkling headpiece was in her hands.  She kissed her mom and graciously accepted her words of praise for the competition well danced.

And then, as second nature, as if she had done it a thousand times before, she gently stroked the cheek of her sleeping sister in the wheelchair and placed the golden crown on her head.  Her sister awoke and smiled and held her hand for a few long seconds before succumbing to her sleepy state again.  The dancer adjusted the headpiece gently, as if happy it was back in its rightful place.

That gesture by the dancer to her sister was one of the most touching displays of affection I think I have ever seen.  It was so tender and gentle and unassuming.  Caring for her sister was clearly second nature, as was her intent on sharing the beauty of her sport and the exhilaration of her competition.

While she danced and competed by herself that afternoon, a culminating event of her own hard work and determination, her moment was made better by sharing it.  Watching her place the tiara on her sister’s head reminded me that the sharing of the gold, be it an actual golden headpiece or the things we do in honor of, or in spirit for others, are often what those golden moments are really all about.

Finally Spring?

mini daffodil

Today is the first day of spring.  And I feel like that should be said in a whispered, hushed tone.  Or better yet it should come out of my mouth as a question, asked prayerfully.  Really? Pretty Please? Can it finally be spring?  I feel like if we get too excited about the tentative blooms (who can blame them?!) or the sun that has hesitated to peek out from behind the gloomy clouds this sunny and seasonable day will be snatched away.  Again.  Another tease in this insane winter that will not end.

Everyone has been grumbling about the winter we have had.  Even my husband who complains about nothing finally cracked with a comment that he is “just tired of being cold.” This has been the longest, coldest winter ever.  Or so we thought, but maybe it really it hasn’t been.  We heard just yesterday that it is only the 34th coldest winter on record.  Now, exactly who is recording and precisely what record they are speaking of, I do not know.  But it is interesting nonetheless.  Maybe we are becoming a bunch of wimps.  Could be.  I’ll buy it.  Polar vortex or not, I’m done with it.  I’m beyond tired of being cold and waiting for school cancellations, and making runs for milk and bread to avoid empty grocery store shelves, and washing piles of snow clothes.

D-O-N-E done.  I’m just ready for sunshine.

And I likely just doomed us all by saying that out loud too.  Given the way things have gone through the winter, this lovely sunny day will end with a crack of thunder which will bring us snow in 10 days – an odd “snow lore” discussed all over town and noted apparently in the Farmers Almanac.  But odd or not, it has happened nearly every time we’ve had snow this winter.  We know.  We’ve counted.

We were duped on the first day of spring a couple of years ago this very same way.  I sincerely hope today will not be a repeat.  I’m bravely going to test fate and open a few windows.  I may even cut the few blooms that did not freeze in the ice two days ago, and I’ll sweet talk Mother Nature and shout ask nicely if it can, indeed, finally be spring.

 

 

Lucky Rainbow Cupcakes For St. Patrick’s Day

St. Paddy's Day Rainbow Cupcakes

Hi! My name is Maggie and I am named after my great-great grandma, Maggie Ryan. It doesn’t get more Irish than that! That may be why I love St. Patrick’s day SO much. I am also an Irish dancer which makes this holiday extra exciting for me! This St. Patrick’s day I wanted to do something fun and all by myself, so I did. I made these lovely rainbow cupcakes and hoped to share them with you so that you can make St. Patrick’s day lots of fun too.

Here is what you will need to make these awesome cupcakes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow or white cake mix
  • 1 can of vanilla frosting
  • Blue food coloring
  • 2 boxes of Sour Airhead rainbow candy strips
  • Mini marshmallows

Making Rainbow Cupcakes

Directions:

  • Bake cupcakes according to the package directions. Let fully cool.
  • Mix the blue food coloring into the can of frosting and stir completely. Frost the cupcake.
  • Bend the candy strip into an arch and push into the frosted cupcake, forming a rainbow. [You may want to cut about an inch and a half off the strip for a slightly smaller rainbow.]
  • Put about four marshmallows on each side of the candy strip to create cute clouds that support the rainbow.
  • Do the same thing on each of the other cupcakes.
  • Enjoy your lucky rainbow cupcakes! I hope they are as delicious as they are cute!

Maggie and her Rainbow Cupcakes

Love,

Maggie

 

Easy Irish Soda Bread With Greek Yogurt

Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day is one of our favorite holidays around here.  I usually buy Irish soda bread from a great local bakery, but this year I decided to try making it.  This recipe is super easy and uses Greek yogurt in place of some of the buttermilk.  Greek yogurt and Irish soda bread….who would have guessed that particular culture combo could be so yummy!

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

4 Tbs. cold butter, diced

1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup raisins tossed in a pinch or two of flour

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone liner.

2. In the bowl of a large mixer, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt until combined.  Add diced butter and mix until small crumbs form.

3. In a separate bowl, mix egg, yogurt and buttermilk.  Add to dry ingredients in mixer.  Do not over mix.  Toss raisins with a pinch or two of flour and add to dough, mixing until raisins are distributed.

4. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and gently kneed a couple times, and form into a rounded mound.  Transfer to the baking sheet and slit the top of the loaf with a knife.  Bake 50 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Irish soda bread with honey

Extra yummy with butter and honey … then again, what’s not?

Stuff Gets In The Way

40 bags in 40 days2

Ash Wednesday was a week ago and today I triple dog dare myself to one more Lenten challenge.  Giving up ice cream and worry wasn’t hard enough, I guess.

This one involves my favorite black Hefty bags and a major clean out of all the superfluous stuff that has invaded our house. I’m jumping on the 40 bags in 40 days challenge and I’m getting rid of as much stuff as I can. You can read about some specifics over here at Clover Lane.  While I don’t think I will be as good as Sarah about cleaning as I go, I certainly hope to make some major progress and at least do a good job cleaning out. In all honesty, I am pretty certain that I could come up with more than 40 bags before Easter. Which is kind of disturbing.

The challenge is a good one for me. Besides the fact that I have an unnatural affinity for black Hefty bags and an unrelenting bend towards liking things picked up and tidy (something no one else in this house seems saddled with), I often find myself feeling swallowed by all the stuff that is just plain around.

You know what I am talking about.  The random pink striped glove or the white sock, which along with a collection of other random singles, waits for its mate to magically appear after a fresh load comes out of the dryer.  Or the headless Barbie, who, with her pants that are too tight and her shoes that are mismatched, has been long forgotten. I know how she must feel some days, and I hate to tell her that her condition is not likely to improve.  Or how about the billowing tub of dollhouse furniture and accessories?  Even the Fisher-Price Loving Family that resides in the playroom has too much stuff.

And it’s not just kid stuff that is overtaking the house.  I have a cabinet full of mismatched plastic cups from college that have seen better days (or decades).  And what about the three tubes of mascara that clutter my make up drawer?  Was one not enough?  Or how about the entire bag of cleats that is hanging on a hook in the garage, sagging with the weight of numerous kids in field sports at different ages and stages. I could fill an entire shelf in a shoe store with the contents of that mesh bag of cleats that I insist we hold on to.  And I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

We I have every excuse imaginable for having all this stuff.  Trying to stretch a household budget often means hanging on to stuff like single gloves and cleats that don’t fit anyone at the moment in anticipation of needing it in the future, thus saving myself from having to repurchase it down the road. And being a sap sentimental means holding onto things that might need to go, yet I hate parting with real-life reminders of sweet memories. But at some point all this stuff – the good, the bad, the broken, the multiple, the sentimental – just becomes too much. It’s hard for me to see past all of it or through any of it.  Sometimes it leaves me with the overwhelming feeling that there is very little value in any of it.

And then, sadly, I realize that I am not grateful for much of it.

Stuff that has no meaning and no purpose is just in my way.  It’s in the way of other things that are more important, like gratitude for starters. Getting rid of stuff that clouds my way and clutters my space makes me realize how much we do have and it is a great reminder to care for it purposefully.  Jason once told me that “if you can’t take care of it, you shouldn’t have it.”  While I can’t recall what I was whining about at the time he threw these wise words my way, they ring in my ears more often than I’d ever admit to him.  He is right.  There is joy in taking care of what you have, and when too much stuff gets in the way of that, it’s time for some of it  lots of it to go.

Considering we are a week into Lent already, I’d better get on it.  I’ve got my list of areas to tackle and my black bags are ready to go. The first bag of items I collect might include the headless Barbie (lets put her out of her misery, shall we?) and a tube or two of my mascara (really? three open tubes?!).  And the second bag might be made miniature for the dollhouse mom so I can share my love of black Hefty bags with her.  No one in the Loving Family house will ever have to know what disappears.

And, like the loving family that lives in my house, very few things will even be missed.

Do You Want To Make A Snow Cream?

snow cream

I’m finding that silver linings come in all shapes and sizes. And temperatures.                            We’re freezing.  Well, not really.  But almost.

Today is downright nasty.  It started with a wintry mix and turned quickly to rain.  Sideways rain.  Stright down in buckets rain.  Umbrellas and boots and cats and dogs kind of rain.  But, because God is good to me and He knows one more snow day may push me over the edge, it is hovering at a balmy 35 degrees.  Which means, that even though it’s raining every direction imaginable, and even though my floors are marked with muddy paw prints, and even though it’s so cold I have my heavy coat on inside the house, I am thrilled.  Why?  It‘s not snowing.

35 degrees is my silver lining today. Who knew one would be so happy to have a rainy, cold day.

Even the kids are over the snow.  But it was, admittedly, a fun and snowy winter.  Fun because it doesn’t happen every year.  And even more fun because it is nearly over. (Right?!)  We were talking about winter this morning as we listened to the gloomy forecast on the radio.  The girls, looking back on the past couple months, said they enjoyed the day they made snow creams the most.  Which turned immediately into a carpool version of the Frozen song – “do you want to make a snow cream?  Just a little bitty snow cream?”  You get the idea.

Ever had a snow cream?  Me neither.  I’d never even heard of them until a few weeks ago.  I grew up in California where we did not have snow days.  We went out for snow cones or made them with the neighbor’s Snoopy Snow Cone Machine.  The idea of making a snow cream would have dazed and confused us.

Thankfully my kids have friends with parents who had memorable childhoods growing up in the snow.  They had barrels of fun with all kinds of clever shenanigans to entertain them through long winter months.  The kids heard about the snow creams and wanted to give them a try.  I was hesitant and skeptical. But the power was out, school had been out for days, and I had no reason whatsoever to say no.  Besides, I was curious myself. And I who am I to argue with making ice cream out of snow?

If you are still snowed in and getting another winter wallop, I am sorry.  Take heart in the fact that it is March and soon you too will be 35 degrees and rainy and freezing.  And that will make you happy too.  If you haven’t made a snow cream yet this winter (or in your whole entire life) then grab the chance while you still have snow and make one.  You won’t be sorry.  It will take you 3 minutes and you likely have everything you need to make it in your kitchen right now.

Besides, before you know it, it will be August and we’ll be sweltering with our snow cones.

And that will be a whole new story.

How to make a snow cream

Goodbye Ice Cream, Goodbye Worry

Today is Ash Wednesday. I’m giving up ice cream and worry for Lent. Yes, Ice cream. It’s a vice, I tell you. It is my friend in good times and in bad and especially when I worry. Which is why I am giving that up too. I worry about, well, everything. I worry to the point of stupidity. Which really boils down to the need to work on strengthening my faith, don’t you think? As my wise husband says, believing and trusting are two different things. And I can say that I believe things will always work out until I’m blue in the face, but if I find myself worrying about everything, I’m not really trusting God’s plan for me, am I?

Hmmmm ….. something to ponder and worry about with Ben and Jerry. Blast! Why do ice cream and worry go hand in hand for me?! Is it a chicken and egg kind of thing? Who knows.

I wonder if it’s odd that the ashes on my forehead today look simultaneously similar to both a cross and Oreo chunk from the tub of cookies and cream? Probably not. Anyway, I won’t worry about it. I’m good with both.

And is it a coincidence that this is the truck I was stopped behind earlier today? Not likely.

20140306-120737.jpg

 

Susie and I were discussing our Lenten sacrifices and when I told her one of mine was worry. This is what she sent me – the bible verse my sweet Godson is memorizing this week. She told me to read it. Twice. And I did. Coincidence? I’m thinking no.

 

Aidan's Bible Verse

 

Don’t you love it when little signs like that land in your lap? Or on your forehead? Or in front of your car windshield?

I sure do.