Fear and Loathing in the Swimsuit Aisle

It’s time.  I have to buy a new bathing suit.  This isn’t an endeavor I approach lightly nor with little planning.  How do I put it?  I HATE bathing suit shopping.  The main reason?  I hate bathing suits.  I don’t know whose idea they were, but they are really a modern day form of torture.  But, warmer weather is fast approaching, and the day when the girls ask to get back in the pool is just around the corner.  I’ve lost some weight, and my already slightly stretched out suits are not going to cut it for another season.

I went through the ads on Sunday, and saw that Target has every swimsuit on sale this week.  If I have to buy one, at least it can be cheap, right? Armed with the knowledge of a potential bargain, I headed to Target yesterday.

Enter Exhibit A.

 

OMG, this is what I have to work with?  Is that a bouquet of flowers pinned to a bra?  Seriously?  OK, so, yes, suits like this one left me feeling very, very old.  I mean, do people actually wear suits like this?  There were a myriad of similar little tops, covered with animal print and sequins and ruffles.  After scouring all the choices, I found four somewhat age appropriate tankinis.  They all covered my midsection (an absolute requirement!), so I figured I had a fighting chance of finding a winner.  I was confident enough that I was willing to overlook the fact that my back would have been almost completely exposed in all of them.  Then, I put the first one on.  It was made for a boob-less toothpick!  There was no way I would parade around in that at home, let alone in public.

My dear friend Apple hit the nail on the head when she said that no single item of clothing can make you hate yourself the way the female swimsuit does.  There is no room for hiding any flaws, and they cause you to flaunt parts of your body that normally are not exposed to daylight.  And, post-childbirth, they are even scarier than before, because there are a lot more spots to hide!

Unfortunately, my quest isn’t over.  I left without a suit.  I still need one, so there is more fear and loathing in my future.

Silent Sunday

In a Dinner Rut? Some Quick Fixes

Are you tired of eating – and cooking – the same exact meals night after night, week after week?  Does it feel like you could cook each night with your eyes closed?

Here are some easy solutions:

 (1)  Re-create your restaurant favorites

Let’s face it.  We often eat out because need a break from cooking.  But, we also eat out because we like the food.  Yesterday, I had no idea what to make for dinner and thought about some favorite meals when I go out.  I really enjoy a lot of restaurant salads and decided to re-create Barbecued Chicken Salad, a meal I have ordered at several different restaurants.  It’s always on a base of regular house salad – lettuce, cucumber, tomato, shredded cheese.  Then, there’s usually corn and black beans, so I open up a can of each of those (and rinsed the beans).  Then, I coated 2 chicken breasts with a favorite barbecue sauce and grilled them on the George Foreman grill.  To top it off, I put a little barbecue sauce in to a bowl with ranch dressing.  Voila!  I had barbecue ranch dressing without having to buy an entire specialty bottle.  I also made my version of California Pizza Kitchen’s BLT pizza a couple weeks ago.  It was just as tasty, a ton cheaper, and added some variety to our dinner menu.

Try re-creating some of your favorite restaurant meals at home.  Think about the different toppings you have had on pizzas, the different ways you have seen pasta prepared, and the restaurant sandwiches you really enjoy.  Bring those in to your own kitchen.

(2)  Flip through those cookbooks

If you’re anything like me, you have a huge stack of cookbooks.  Open one of them, and flip through it.   You don’t have to make anything in it, but I find it tends to help me generate a lot of ideas to help mix things up.  I may see 2 ingredients combined in a way I never would have thought of, such as a pork and nectarine stir fry I came across.  Sometimes, I also come across a recipe that will remind me of a dish I used to make, before I entered my current rut.

(3)  Turn on the TV

I can’t watch the Food Network for a half hour without seeing some new technique or cooking method that I have never tried.  I have picked up such ideas as roasting cherry tomatoes to put on salads or pasta and boiling green beans with my pasta (same water at the same time) and then tossing them both with pesto.  (Although mine comes from a jar, not a food processor.  Sorry, Rachael!)

(4)  Take matters in to your own hands

I have a friend who recognized she was in a rut and asked for help.  She sent out a note to several of her mom friends on Facebook and asked us what we have been cooking lately.  She asked us to send her recipes for favorites in our own rotations that she could add to hers.  Not only did we help her out, but we also got to read what everyone else was making to expand our own cooking repertoire.

I also subscribe to daily emails from

These recipes have been posted by home cooks, and many of them are reviewed.  They feature a recipe each day, and at least half of them seem worth trying.  I love having new recipes to try, and I love it even more when they’re tried and true successes.

These methods certainly work for me!  Have your own tips or methods?  Please feel free to share them here! 

Happy Valentine's Day

If you’re like me, you have a busy day — parties with playgroups or at school, dinner plans, trying to find a few minutes with your significant other to actually tell each other you’re still in love.  So, I am giving you a short entry today.  It’s a list of things you can do to make Valentine’s Day special for your young children.

1)  Have a special dessert.  Something you would normally never let your toddler eat.  Think Death by Chocolate.

2)  Dress up your kiddo for the occasion. Admittedly, this is easier with girls, with hearts and bows and pink.  But, with a boy, just put him in a nice red shirt, and everyone will know you remembered what day it is.

3)  Get out the construction paper and make good old fashioned valentines.  You don’t even have to give them away, but cut out paper hearts, cover them with stickers, paper doilies, and marker or crayon drawing, and you have a memorable holiday keepsake.

4)  Take your kid on a date.  Babysitters are super busy on Valentine’s Day.  Pick a different night to go out with your own valentine (think cheaper dinner specials and shorter restaurant waits) and take your kiddo out on a date.  Think about his/her favorite foods and what restaurants won’t be full of couples on romantic dates.

5)  Give your child a valentine.  Dads, give your daughters flowers.  It’s sweet.  And a wonderful tradition.  Buy your kids a small heart full of candy or maybe a Valentine’s-themed book.

6)  Go for the cheese.  Turn on some music and dance the night away with each other.

7)  Have hot cocoa and storytime.  Fireside. 

8)  Call loved ones and let your kids talk on the phone.  Nothing like a long distance “I wuv you” to melt Grandma’s heart.

9)  Make your children a special breakfast.  Maybe try your hand at heart-shaped pancakes.  Hopefully, they’ll turn out better than my attempt this weekend.  (Let’s just say that no amount of 3-year-old imagination could remotely see a heart in any of those pancakes!)

10)  Spend some extra quality time together.  Read one more book at bedtime, or let that bath go an extra couple of minutes.  Just because.

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers!

Make Your Own Playdough

If you are looking for a fun activity to do with your kids that has some lasting power, try making playdough with them.  There are several recipes out there, but this is one I have used successfully.

Kool-Aid Playdough

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

2 packages of Kool-Aid (small, unsweetened)   (This is the source of your color, so choose wisely)

1 T. plus 1 1/2 teas. cream of tartar

Mix these 4 ingredients together.

Pour in:

2 cups boiling water

1 T. plus 1 1/2 teas. vegetable oil

Stir, then knead when thick.

Store in airtight container once it’s cool.  You can refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks.  (I use a Ziploc bag.)

Just like any other playdough that you have used before, it can be rolled out, cut in to shapes, and molded in to figures.

Silent Sunday

A Board Game That's a Real "Hoot"

I come from a family of serious board game players.  My grandparents met playing Monopoly, and my brother used a Scrabble board to propose to his fiancée.  So, it is no great surprise that The Big Cheese is a big fan of board games at the ripe old age of 3.

When Peaceable Kingdom contacted us at Gen X Moms Blog to see if any of us would try out and review a new board game for kids, I jumped at the chance.  I must admit, however, that I was skeptical.  The game they wanted reviewed is a cooperative game, where everyone plays together, and everyone either wins or loses together.  The Big Cheese gets in to her game playing, often jumping up and dancing when she wins, singing, “I won. I won. I won.”  A cooperative game for this girl?

No reading required, and it helps your kids learn their colors.

They sent me Hoot Owl Hoot!, a game for ages 4+.  I admittedly worried about a January game review.  After the deluge of new Christmas games and toys, I wondered how some game The Big Cheese had never seen in the store would stack up.  I want to go on the record as saying this:  none of Santa’s gifts came close to stacking up against this game.  We played Hoot Owl Hoot! for seven straight days – at The Big Cheese’s request.  She is 100% in love with this game, and Dear Hubby and I have not tired of it, either.

Let me give some examples of how much The Big Cheese loves this game.  First, she gave it a nickname. Around here, Hoot Owl Hoot! is affectionately known as “The Owl Game.”  On Day 4, at 5:00 in the evening, she declared “We haven’t played The Owl Game, yet.”  This is how it has been every day since we started playing Hoot Owl Hoot!

The concept of Hoot Owl Hoot! is very simple.  The playing pieces are owls, and they all need to make it to their nest before the sun rises.  On each turn, you have a combination of color cards and sun cards.  When you draw a sun card, you have to play it on your next turn.  When you play the sun card, you move the sun along its path in the sky. While you play, you keep your cards face up in front of you, so you can strategize with the other players on what cards to play when.

The key to winning the game is that 2 owls cannot occupy the same space, so if an owl is on an orange space, and you play an orange card, you get to skip over that space and go to the next orange.  Teaching a 3-year-old this strategy has been an adventure.  She follows our strategic suggestions about half the time.  But, as a typical preschooler, she often does what she wants.  She completely understands that the point is to get the owls in to the nest and that it needs to happen before the sun rises.  But, she does not always play the most advantageous owl or play the correct color at the right time.  All of that said, we all love playing this game together.

Last week, our 30-year-old friend (who is not a parent) came over, and The Big Cheese wanted her to play The Owl Game with her.  So, Dear Hubby, Friend, and The Big Cheese played away.  At the end of the first game, Friend uttered, “I don’t even know why this game is so fun!”  That is exactly how Dear Hubby and I feel.  We have played this game so many times I cannot even count, but we still enjoy playing it.  In fact, Dear Hubby gets so in to the strategy that I am actually waiting for the day I “catch” him playing it by himself.

The other thing that makes this game stand out is that The Big Cheese can play it three or four times in a row without losing interest.  With other board games, even by the second time through, she tends to lose focus.  Not with Hoot Owl Hoot!

You can also play the game at different levels by playing with different numbers of owls from 3 to 6; the more owls you play, the harder the game.  We started at the beginner level with 3 owls and have moved up to 6 already.  When Bugster gets a little older, maybe two-and-a-half, we’ll introduce it to her with just 3 owls.  She already watches closely and chants “No Sun, No Sun, No Sun” with the rest of us when we’re drawing cards late in the game and are afraid of a Sun victory.

The negatives to this game are very minor.  The biggest one is that Sun piece is very, very small.  I am quite sure, that at some point, this Sun will get lost.  Then, I will have to replace it with something that is not a sun and not nearly as cute.  The board and playing pieces are rather vibrant and colorful, but the coloring of the owls is actually not distinct enough from the board, causing an owl to sometimes get a little lost on the board.

Bottom line: Hoot Owl Hoot! is fun for kids and adults alike.  And, The Big Cheese is learning about teamwork and developing strategy at a young age and in a really fun way.

GIVEAWAY: Peaceable Kingdom wants to spread the joy and is giving away a copy of Hoot Owl Hoot! to one of our lucky readers.  Entering is easy.

There are three ways to enter:

1) Like Peaceable Kingdom on Facebook and leave us a comment here.

2) Like GenXMomsBlog on Facebook and leave us a comment. If you’re already a fan, let us know!

3) Tweet the following sentence exactly: Have you entered the board game #giveaway at #GenXMomsBlog? http://ow.ly/3OAIu

All entries must be received by 12:00 midnight PST on Monday, February 7, 2011.

If you aren’t the lucky winner, you can purchase the game on Amazon.  Peaceable Kingdom’s full catalog of cooperative games is available at: www.peaceablekingdom.com.

Disclosure: The Legal Eagle was given a sample of Hoot Owl Hoot! in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Target Debit Card = Money in Your Pocket

If you’re anything like me, you may think of Target as your mothership.  I am there all the time, and I buy basically everything at Target.  This means I spend serious money there.  If you’re a Target regular like I am, you know there are regular offers to sign up for a Target REDcard.  I have always said “no,” because a credit limit at Target would be oh so very dangerous for me. 

Then, one morning, right before Christmas, this angel in red spoke to me from behind the cash register.  She told me about the Target Debit Card (also a Target REDcard).  It is not a credit card, requires no credit application, and takes money directly out of your checking account.  And, it comes with a 5% reward.  Every time you use the Target debit card, you save 5% off your purchase – instantly.  You can also register your Target debit card in the Take Charge of Education program, and Target will donate 1% of your purchase to the school of your choice. 

I got my card a few weeks ago, and the savings are racking up.  5% off every purchase is awesome!  And, enrolling is super easy, too.  I only had to give the cashier a blank check and answer a few questions while standing in line with my purchases. 

The Target Debit Card is reason #1,200,001 why I love Target.

For more information on the Target Debit Card, see https://redcard.target.com/redcard/content/rcw_benefits_tgt_rewards.

Some Ways to Combat Cabin Fever

Last night was the BCS National Championship game.  For Dear Hubby and I, that means dinner in front of the TV.  To pull that off with the wee ones, we had to get creative.  Our solution is one that I think a lot of families can use, especially this time of year: a living room picnic.  We laid our picnic blanket down on the floor, used paper plates, and ate finger foods to minimize mess.  The Big Cheese was so excited about our picnic, she was contemplating the menu most of the afternoon.  And, the girls and I baked a special batch of cookies to make our picnic extra special.   

When the weather makes you spend more time inside, don’t let that take all the fun out of your family time.  Just get creative.  In addition to our living room picnic, we’ve had hot cocoa in front of the fireplace (in sippy cups, of course!) for a special family story time, and we’ve also increased the frequency of our board game playing.  Have any boxes left over from all the Christmas loot?  Turn them in to art projects, dog houses, baby beds – the possibilities are endless.