Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkins and a Grocery Store Tangent

While I am still wondering where the first 9 months of the year went, I am so jazzed that tomorrow is October 1. I think of October as the month of all things pumpkin...including my two little pumpkins born in the middle of the month.

Pumpkin is a wonderful source of beta-carotene and potassium, and very versatile in baking. When you add pumpkin to a recipe there is no need for added oils.

Taking this into consideration and acknowledging the importance of a healthy lifestyle, I decided to make these Pumpkin White Chocolate Chunk and Candied Ginger Blondies from Picky Palate.

I did it for my healthy...because pumpkin is so nutritious.

These blondies are super yummy. They sound very sweet, but they really aren’t- they have a perfect balance of pumpkin, spice and chocolate. The ginger candies on top add a nice kick, but are a bit much for my kids. If you are not a fan of ginger candy, leave them off- they are an acquired taste, in my opinion. These blondies are just good without them.

For those of you who are not fans of white chocolate chips, I highly recommend the white chocolate baking bars from Trader Joes. They don’t have that fake chocolate taste and can easily be chopped up in place of chips.

Speaking of Trader Joes‘s, I have completely stopped shopping at the grocery store.

I have been a captive to the big chain grocery stores for years because it was the only place I could shop and keep all three children contained in one cart. Now that the boys have enough self-control to walk in the store without touching everything or breaking out in a wrestling match, I have a lot more freedom to shop where I want.

Trader Joes is my go to store. They are clean and well stocked, prices are competitive and often pretty cheap, and the employees are pleasant and helpful- what a concept! I was already sick of the awful customer service and quickly rising prices at the big chain stores, but this summer when they announced the stalled union contract negotiations and potential for another grocery worker strike I decided to stop shopping at traditional groceries all together.

If it is not stocked at Trader Joes, Sprouts, Costco or Target, I don’t need it.

I was able to get all the blondie ingredients at Trader Joes and the kids picked out this happy but ugly pumpkin for the porch.

Go enjoy some pumpkin yumminess. Happy October everyone!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Wisdom Teeth, Tomato Soup and Tyler Florence

As I told you last week, we have had a lot of dental appointments this September. My poor sweet husband had the unpleasant one. Patrick had four wisdon teeth removed. He also had a molar removed, which was cracked due to the wisdom teeth. Then there was a bone graph...because of the lost molar...due to the wisdom teeth. It is a vicious cycle. Anyways, the poor guy has had it rough the past week. His jaw is still sore and the bland diet he has been adhering to is boring. I bet he is dreaming of me Doritos at night.

In other September news, our tomato plants are still insane. It has gotten to the point that I cannot use the tomatoes fast enough. We have given them to friends, piled them on salads, topped tacos, added them to pasta and quinoa, made fresh salsa and guacamole and Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad.

Given Patrick’s current state and our out of control garden, I figured it was time to call in the big guns- enter the Barefoot Contessa.

Are you familiar with the Barefoot Contessa? Her real name is Ina Garten and she is a cookbook author and TV host on the Food Network. I’m going to keep it real here and admit that she kind of creeps me out. She has been married to her husband Jeffery for over 40 years. She speaks very fondly of him on the show...often and in a weird way. Then at the end of most of the episodes he shows up to eat. The whole thing gives me the willies. If you have seen the show you might know what I’m talking about...or maybe it’s just me.

Anyways, she has a couple things going for her.

First, I have never tried one of her recipes that I didn’t want to make again, and again.

Second, and more importantly, she is NOT skinny. This is good because I do not trust a skinny food professional. Paula Dean, Emeril Lagassee, Mario Batali and Ina Garten could all stand to drop a few lbs, but as food professionals it is necessary for them to maintain a certain weight for credibility.

And a quick shout-out to Tyler are perfect just the way you are!

photo credit: Jeffery Ufberg


I made Patrick this Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup from Ina Garten this weekend. It did not disappoint. Vincent ate a whole bowl of it and sopped up what he couldn’t spoon with sourdough bread.

Colette fell asleep at the table after eating hers. This alone merits my praise- it’s like a lullaby in a bowl!

Patrick got a nice reprieve from yogurt and applesauce, and the garden is four-pounds-of-tomatoes lighter. Perfect.

photo credit: Southern Living Magazine



Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy First Day of Fall!

I love FALL! I adore just about everything fallish, from football to apple picking. Here are the things I am most looking forward to this Fall 2011:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins Pumpkin muffins are the easiest thing in the world to bake and they make your house smell super yummy. It is like having a cupcake for breakfast...not that I have ever done that. Never. Ever.

There was a canned pumpkin shortage last year, so if you plan on making anything with canned pumpkin this season, stock up. I would hate for anyone to miss out on “getting your pumpkin on.”

This is the recipe I like to use for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, from Our Best Bites. It’s very complicated.

Soups- In my book, the most homey comfort food is a big bowl of soup, preferably with a crusty bread, but at least with crackers. You can find my favorite taco soup recipe here. I have also wanted to try some of the Soup Chicks recipes. The great thing about soup is it can be thrown in the crock pot on a busy day.

How awesome are these Buddah Bowls? Love!

Sweaters and Jeans- If I could, I would wear jeans everyday. And on most days I can- it is a job perk of being a SAHM. Now that the weather is cooling down (maybe) I am looking forward to some nice jean weather, with a few sweater and jacket days thrown in.

How cute is this jcrew sweater? It's available in lot of colors, including orange. Swoon.

Or this Gap Puffer jacket.

Thanksgiving Dinner- It's all about the potatoes, gravy, turkey, potatoes, cranberries, buttered rolls and pie...and potatoes. This is always how I dress when I serve Thanksgiving dinner.

Pie- I have never met a pie that I didn’t like. I am thinking of trying Ree’s this year. Come to Mama!

My Godson- Due to arrive October 2nd, but I predict he will keep his mother pregnant and miserable for a few extra days. I CANNOT wait to meet him!

Pumpkin Spice Lattes- PSL’s need no introduction or explanation. Word.

Orange and all other fall colors- Living in SoCal, we don’t get the beautiful fall colors that other regions get to enjoy, so I have to get my fix at the pumpkin patch, and with whatever centerpiece I can throw together for my kitchen table. This was last year’s pumpkin patch adventure.

Caramel Corn- Yes, it has a lot of sugar and you have to pick out the old maids first, but on a cool fall day homemade caramel corn is so yummy and totally worth the effort! You can eat it while watching football, or at the park, or at 1:00 in the morning while watching the new episodes of Saturday Night Live. It is a flexible treat. This is next on my “to try” list.

I think the thing I like most about fall is that it ushers in the two seasons I most associate with family. Halloween rolls into Thanksgiving, which quickly turns into Christmas. Add to that 8 family birthdays and you have yourself three months of get-togethers... and food.

Food and family- my favorite things no matter what the season!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Adventures in Dentistry

The kids had their dentist check-ups and cleanings this morning.

I DREAD taking the kids to the dentist. I have vivid memories of my childhood dentist. He was a horrible, wretched man. He had no bedside manner. He wouldn’t let my mom stay with me when I needed fillings- and I needed a number of them before turning 6. I remember biting his latex covered fingers-hard. It was my only defense. He died a few years later, at a pretty young age, in a horrific speedboat accident.

Luckily, my kids love their dentist’s office. The staff is patient, calm, and kind. The kids all sit lined up in their chairs, in the same room where they can see each other and me. They watch cartoons while their teeth are being cleaned. They get to pick out a toy when it is all over.

Sweet, sweet Vincent. He is such a trooper! He has already had some extensive dental work done- most of it before he turned four years old. I felt terrible and cried for days when I learned the state of his teeth. I brushed and flossed him everyday since the time those teeth had come in. I never put him to bed with a bottle- in fact he stopped using a bottle when he was 16 months old. Juice was an occasional treat. Where had we gone wrong?

It turns out that it is a combination of genetics (my contribution, not Patrick’s) and a compromised immune system his first year of life (due to his bad kidney) that left his teeth weaker than most. It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid, who still remains cooperative at night when we brush- and we brush a lot... with prescription toothpaste. We had a good report today. Nothing needs to be done. I feel like we have dodged a bullet.

Then there is Franklin. While Vinny tells me when it is my turn to brush and wants his teeth flossed, Frank turns and runs the other way. I struggle with him every night. Of course, his teeth are perfect. Go figure.

And Colette. We are still waiting on her last molars to come in, which is fine because there is lots of room in there. Her teeth are looking more like Franklin’s than Vincent’s, without Franklin’s overbite. Third times the charm, I guess.

We have a really fantastic dentist, but I’m happy not to see him for another 6 months.

I hope he is not a boater.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Manageable Mornings

Occasionally readers will email blog topics they think I should write about. I appreciate feedback and suggestions so very much, and I keep a running list of requests/ideas.

For the last few weeks a friend who will remain nameless (Bridget aka Anxiety Gal) has been harassing me to write a series about how I run and structure my days. And when I say harass... I mean harass. I think she has brought it up everyday.

She suggested I call it, “Setting Yourself Up For Success”. I love this title because it accurately describes why I do some of the occasionally militant things I do during the in and day out. And it sounds so much better than a series entitled, “How Anal-Retentiveness Can Work For You!”

For the purposes of tagging the series, look for “Winning” under content. Again, it sounds better than “Tiger Blood”. Thank you, Charlie Sheen!

So without further ado (no I have not been drinking this morning), I give you the first installment in the “Setting Yourself Up For Success” series... insert mental drum-roll...Manageable Mornings!

I firmly believe that the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. This may be scary to you, especially if you are not a morning person. Believe me, I am NOT a morning person either.

When you are frazzled, rushed, disorganized and just generally grumpy in the morning it seeps into the rest of your day. Your afternoons are spent trying to catch up or are written off all together. By the time bedtime rolls around you may look around your home (and family) and think, “what did I accomplish today?” And, “why am I in such a crappy mood?”

A big trick to successful mornings is getting things done the night before. Here is what it looks like in our house- maybe you do some of the same things.

Pick out your clothes the night before and make sure they are ready. For school mornings this means making sure the kids’ uniforms are hanging on the door the night before. On swim lesson mornings I put their trunks and swim suit next to their beds. Church outfits are picked out Saturday night. This applies to me as well. If I am going to the gym after preschool drop off, I make sure my clothes are laundered and ready to go in the morning. Mornings are not for choosing what to wear, looking for clean underwear, or locating an errant shoe. Ironing does not happen in the morning...but that never happens in this home. The weather is no excuse- check the weather channel for updates the night before. You get the picture.

Have a dumping spot...and use it. I have a spot by the front door that I dump every thing I need to take with me in the morning. Things you would find here (depending on the day of the week) would include forms that need to go to school, towels for swim lessons, packages for UPS drop off, my gym bag, bank deposits, dry cleaning etc. I hate forgetting things and even more than forgetting things I hate rushing around before dashing out of the house trying to locate everything I need. If you have a lot of stuff you could keep a basket by the door and take the basket to the car with you. The key is that this spot is not for clutter to collect, it is for things you need to take to the car for the morning.

What’s for breakfast? Figure it out the night before and get it prepped. I set the table with what ever we need- bowls and spoons for cereal, cups for milk, etc. Slice the melon. Make the OJ. Lay out the vitamins... or vodka...or Xanax- whatever it takes.

Prepare lunches the night before so they just have to be packed in the morning. Once they are packed in the morning, put them in the dumping spot so they are not forgotten at home.

Get up before the rest of the family. Have a cup of coffee, shower, get dressed, check your email. Whatever you need to do to be ready for the day, do it before the kids wake up. Tend to your personal needs. Start the day happy. There is plenty of time later for it to go south!

Plan to leave early and be on time. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved my behind. When you calculate how long it is going to take you to get somewhere, add 15 minutes. Mornings are crazy, and even with preplanning there is going to be a hiccup here and there- a child has a hard time waking up, someone doesn’t want their hair combed, the dog won’t go to the yard...traffic! If you plan for these unexpected things in advance, they won’t be such a big deal if they happen. You won’t be screaming like a banshee because you are feeling stressed and rushed. Most importantly, you won’t be late.

My remedial algebra teacher in high school (yes, I said remedial...I’m not a math gal) would say, “Be on time when time matters and time always matters,” or something to that effect. This is so important, especially to teach our children. Being late causes needless anxiety and makes you look like you don’t care. When kids are late to events they miss out on stuff. Don’t do that to your kids!

So this is how I make my mornings manageable, and start the day off on the right foot. Some people like to make their beds first thing in the morning. This is not top on my priority list, but if it works for you, go for it!

The boys had their first day of school last week. We were on time. We didn’t forget anything. I didn’t raise my voice. These photos pretty much sum them up. I hope Franklin never looses his zest for life, and I hope Vincent learns that he doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.

My algebra teacher also said, “Life is like a burrito- don’t get all wrapped up in it,” or something like that. I love a good breakfast burrito!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Resurfacing Day!

Our schedule was shot to you-know-where earlier this week when the city decided to shut down the neighborhood to car traffic for 24 hours in order to repave the streets. The streets were not bad to begin with, but I’m not complaining- it is nice to live in a city that doesn’t wait until there are potholes to get something done.

Anyways, I really didn’t want to fight for a parking space on the street then walk with the kids to and from the car for five blocks...uphill both the rain, so I did something unheard of- I rescheduled all of our appointments for the day, and prayed no one had to be taken to the emergency room.

We got lucky- they paved our cul-de-sac first thing in the morning. However, the adjoining streets were done last- go figure!

Vincent watched the guys work for an hour, occasionally joined by his siblings. And I had a great excuse to sit on the front porch sipping coffee in my PJ’s at 7:30 a.m.

Most importantly, no one split his or her head open while it cured.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Colorado Road Trip

I can hardly believe it has been 6 weeks since our family road trip to Colorado.

We covered 2500 miles, and only heard “are we there yet” once. I think I was the one who said it!

We spent six awesome days in Boulder. We hiked. We visited the Butterfly Pavilion, and Sweet Cow Ice Cream. We made our presence known on Pearl Street. We played at the recreation center pools. We ate...alot. I went for some great trail runs. We made a total of 13 coffee runs. It was for everyone’s health and safety.

But the best thing about the trip was hanging out with family.

Trying to catch the lightning on the iphone.

Blowing bubbles.

Playing ball in the yard.

The kids being with their cousins.

Totally worth the 2500 miles!


Monday, September 5, 2011


Hi everyone. It’s Hilary. This is my blog, Mom’s for Xanax. I have neglected it for the past month. Thanks for your emails and messages- all is well!

Earlier this week I was talking with my dear friend (we were running on the treadmill side-by-side so we were probably more like gasping, or mumbling, but it resembled the English language).

I was lamenting the end of summer. This is unusual for me because I hate the heat, I fret over the proper SPF level, and have a general distain for swimming pools. All this aside, I am sad to see the summer go.

My friend, who is a very good listener (and when you are on the treadmill, it is so much better to be the one listening) asked me why I thought this was. I came up with two reasons.

The first is that school is starting next week and I am sending both boys off to preschool. BOTH of them. They are getting so big. It is happening too fast! I am going to miss my buddies, even if it is just two long days a week. Poor Coco is not going to know what to do without her brothers to follow around. I am certain I am very boring.

The second reason why I am sad to see summer go was not as easy to articulate. What it boils down to is this: I took advantage of three months of doing nothing except what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. It sounds very selfish, doesn’t it? But my dear friend summed it up in a much nicer way- she said I took the opportunity to “REBOOT”. That is EXACTLY what I did!!!

I said no to things I would usually say yes to doing but didn’t really want to...then curse the fact that I said yes when I knew I shouldn’t have. I ran...a lot. We splashed at the water park on Friday afternoons. I cuddled with the kids in bed at night when it was well past all of our bedtimes. We went on vacation, and visited family. I cut my hair...short. I quit reading two different novels in the middle because I just wasn’t enjoying them. We ate a lot of Golden Spoon frozen yogurt. I quit dusting. We tried every fruit snack known to man. I moisturized.

Is it any wonder why I don’t want the summer to end? The school year brings schedules and responsibilities, the two things that I usually relish and find comfort in. But this summer I realized that only doing what is expected of you isn’t always very satisfying.

Alas, we will go back to school next week. We will be punctual and appropriately dressed. Our lunches will be nutritious. I will dust the house.

But I will still run a lot, and cuddle too long, and stop reading books if I don’t like them, because what good is a reboot if you don’t retain the lesson you learned from it?

And what a glorious reboot summer, it was!