A Hummingbird and a Honeybee

It is that time, the annual move up day at the boys’ school.

Zach is now in the Pre-K Hummingbirds and James is in the two year old Honeybees. That is the same class Zach was in at that same age. I am thrilled as I love, love his teacher in that room. She is an angel sent from heaven to potty train my children.

PS This is James saying “cheese”

 And here is my annual retrospective of each June since the boys started school.

This was almost exactly a month before his brother was born. Look at that innocent, unknowing smile. He had no idea how his world was going to be rocked by a very unimpressed baby.

2012 – Zach
 2012 – James (back when he was impressed)
What a HUGE difference age 3 to 4 makes! Look at those legs on Zach and the total lack of baby fat. I kind of want to cry. However….him being able to get dressed on his own, pee on his own and shower on his own make up for me missing that sweet squeezable Zachary. 
And I still have that fat baby James to squeeze. When he lets me. Who am I kidding, I have him saying “Mama’s baby” now when he sees himself in the mirror. It makes my day and horrifies Alex.
You are welcome future daughter-in-law. Hahahahahahahaha…

I can’t make this stuff up

When I arrived home from work yesterday this is what I found.

One child pants-less and one shirtless. And pants-less was NOT impressed.

Don’t think we didn’t take a walk with them both like this. I pushed pants-less James in the blue car and Zach rode his tricycle.

Maybe a tad more shame would be good for me.

So very Houston


Houston is home to the Art Car parade, a tribute to crazy people who glue fruit and all sorts of other things to their cars. The parade happens every spring and winds its way through downtown.  It really is something I love about my otherwise very laced up city. The parade has cars covered in glitter, fake dog fur, made to look like roaches, bananas and dragons and one is a guy sitting in a port o potty. People roller skate and roller blade alongside the cars and it feels very 70s. Other things are smoking aside from the cars.

This year the boy’s school was selected as one of the schools to get their very own tour of a few art cars. Zach came home talking all about it. So when my friend Hillary invited us to walk over with her I knew we had to do it.

Zach was a huge fan of the parade. We were there long enough to feel like we saw it but not so long that James was having a fit when we left. This is our new standard of how long we stay places, FYI.


Hillary’s baby is just so stinkin cute, isn’t he? 
Don’t worry James was still not impressed with mini-vans decked out as tiki huts. 

Becuase you know you want to crush something

You guys I made this chicken the other night and I forgot how much I love it.
It is from Food and Wine magazine years ago but I first saw it on Dinner a Love Story. And it is my second favorite chicken, closely behind my favorite. I tweaked the original recipe and technically I don’t even measure it any more. I just put the mustard, oil and vinegar (stay with me) in a bag, shake it up then add the chicken to coat. I have let it marinate overnight and just for a few minutes. Both times it worked out well. My boys like it as they really like pretzels. 
The pretzel chicken is also great for freezing, but if you use a smaller cut of chicken like a breast cut in half or tenderloins it is perfectly quick for a weeknight meal. Serve it with roasted green beans and thank me later.
Pretzel-Crusted Chicken
Mustard-Baked Chicken with a Pretzel Crust
Heavily adapted from Food and Wine
1/2 pound hard pretzels, coarsely crushed (4 cups)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons spicy brown or regular mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Cooking spray (Pam)

  •  Preheat the oven to 375°. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels until coarsely ground; you should have coarse chunks and fine crumbs. You can also put into a zip top bag and go wild with a rolling pin if you are having a bad day. Transfer to a large, shallow bowl.
  • Add the oil, mustards, and vinegar to a plastic bag and shake to combine (you can also put it in a bowl and whisk it but then you have to clean a bowl and a whisk).
  • Add the chicken the bag/bowl.
  •  Dredge the chicken in the pretzel crumbs and transfer to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with cooking.  Spray tops of chicken with cooking spray.
  • Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes (for large chicken breasts) or 15 minutes for thinner cuts.
  • You can turn the chicken once to ensure both sides are crispy but by using the rack they crisp up nicely either way.

You will note there is no salt added. I don’t add it as there is always plenty between the mustard and the pretzels. And you know I like to over-saltthings.

For a great teacher

Last year when I was room mom in Zach’s class I was determined to kill it on Teacher Appreciation week. My mother always told me my standards are too high and perhaps I could just do my best vs THE best. Not when crafting is concerned, Momma.

So I made this sign for the door of the room. My sister happened to be in town the weekend before it was due and had the pleasure of cutting out all the bees. I technically only needed 20…but sort of forgot to tell her until she had cut out 42. Whoops.
Luckily (before she came after me with the scissors) I figured out how to use all the extra bees to spell out the word, “bee”.
You all know I was sooooo proud of myself.
The 20 bees were for the Honeybees in the class. I had all the parents send me a photo of their child which I then cut out and glued to a bee. I am still giddy over the cuteness of this project.
My sister was less than impressed with this whole procedure. She rolled her eyes at me and thought I was absolutely ridiculous for doing this and thought my plan of cutting the poster board in the shape of a beehive was over the top. Turns out my crafting does have limits and that end part looked like a melted ice cream cone. But I loved how the poster turned out.
Cut to this year when Lauren is room mom and what does she do?? Have my brother in law cut out 11 bunnies and corresponding children’s faces. That is right; my crazy crafting is officially rubbing off on people. You have been warned.
Last year I also put together a book for the teachers of all the things the children loved about them. I titled it “How do we love you Ms. Renee, let us count the ways” and had each parent send me five things. Yes, five things for both teachers. For 20 children. What the hell was I thinking??  It was a massive undertaking. I had to format all the sayings with a cute font, print them all, cut them down to size, hole punch them then print a cut cover. Even for me this had gone too far. I swore to never do that again.
Except that when Lauren needed an additional item for her week I knew what needed to be done. I suggested she only ask the parents for two things the children love about their teachers and print them out on a piece of paper.
If only I could have left it at that.
I insisted on recreating my undertaking for her teachers. Because they do deserve it and it was only 22 per teacher. Sounds easy compared to 100.  And it was. I also insisted that she take full credit for it as it was not about me. But here it is on my blog.
Poor baby sister, can’t have anything. Hopefully her teachers feel her sacrifice was worth it.

Safety Scissors my A**

When I arrived home from work last Thursday I was met with a hysterical child wearing a cowboy hat and clutching his teddy bear.

Zach had cut his hair. Three big cuts right up the front. With his plastic handled, rounded tip safety scissors.

Contrary to the photo above he was crying hysterically. I am pretty sure our babysitter scared the daylights out of him thinking I was going to be livid and that she was going to get in trouble. Neither of those things happened.

I had to immediately sit down on the floor of the garage and attempt to console both he and James,  who doesn’t like anyone receiving more attention than him. I assured Zach I was not mad (I was not) and that Daddy would not be mad (he was not) and that we loved him and he really needed to calm down. And I told James to pull it together I am right here.

Allegedly the baby sitter was changing James’ diaper when Zach got after his hair in the back room. The scissors were in the art box on the cabinet. He could reach them if he got on a stool, pulled the box over to him, unlatched it and grabbed them under some paper. Never underestimate a child’s perseverance I guess.

He did a bang up job of butchering his hair. The hair in front is cut down to his hairline and the two following cuts are almost as close. So he left us no choice but to get him a buzz cut.

I sent a picture of his hair to Alex saying that he finally got his wish. He has wanted to buzz Zach’s hair for the past two years and I have staunchly vetoed that. I love that kid but he has the Wall head. Long and oval like a football – he needs some hair.

And I was right. The head only a mother could love.

I told him if he cuts his hair again he will get the wrath he was so worried about…

Soccer Snacks – How it is done

A few weeks I volunteered to bring snacks for the soccer game if no one else could. The issue is that I am now a full time working mom and should not volunteer such things.

The game was a rare weeknight game. I got out of work late and had completely forgotten that said I would bring snacks. Well, crap.
Since this is me we are talking about, and I am crazy, I did not just want to phone it in with apples and Goldfish like I did the first time.

I had seen watermelon on a stick and knew that is what I wanted with some cheese sticks for protein. However, the Randall’s on the way did not carry Popsicle sticks. As I ran through the store (still talking to Sonia) I debated using bamboo skewers.  You can tell I was not thinking correctly. Surely someone would poke a friend’s eye out and even if I broke the pointed tip off that seemed like a bad plan. So I thought plastic spoons. I could stick the smaller end in the watermelon and they could hold onto the spoon.

Love. It.
Did I mention that I did not have time to go home and assemble these? So I did what any normal person would do: I bought a knife and some Ziploc containers and made these in the back of my car.  I’m sorry, was someone just saying if there was ever a time to phone-it-in this would have been it? You are correct. I managed to miss basically the entire game fixing up my snacks.
However, I don’t care.  Zach had eight games and eight practices. I was tortured supportive through them all save this one and I have YEARS of sporting games ahead of me. I decided to make myself happy with the snacks this time.  And I was.
So were the guys. They loved the watermelon though I think Zach and Tyler ate the lion’s share. OK really they were excited about the juice and who could blame them?

I really don’t know why they are standing so close to each other. I just said to stand next to each other so Tyler’s grandma could take a photo for me. She knows I have a blog to maintain.

For my garden loving mother-in-law

Every season my mother-in-law, Olivia asks me if I would like some new plants and then lists what she is thinking of bringing. I always say yes.

Because she then comes and plants them for me. Usually with some help from Zach. But never with help from me (she is so lucky to have me). She plants them where she knows they will get hit with the sprinkler because I am obviously not going to traipse out there and water them. She then reminds me to turn on the sprinkler (again, so lucky). And I love it. I love having veggies the boys and I can pick and herbs to use when cooking. I never have to buy chives again. Ever.

She has a bigger garden in her backyard. So this year for mother’s day, when I started looking around for gifts for her and my mom, I spotted some homemade plant markers. You know I loved these:

DIY garden markers

Not only would I have to buy polymer clay but I love how simple they are. However I am trying to de-hord my crafting supplies and not buy more so I pinned the idea but nixed it for this.

Next I spotted these and initially I liked the kid involvement aspect and how bright and colorful they are. Liv likes bright and colorful.

I was thinking through all the craft supplies I have when I thought of the large rocks flanking our sidewalk in the front yard (terrible). What if I combined the two above ideas and have the boys paint rocks and I could stamp them?
Bright and colorful for Liv but I had to buy one of those mini-stamp set I have been coveting at JoAnn’s. My handwriting is simply not an option. HAD to buy them. Not to worry, I had a 50% coupon so it was a minimal investment and they are tiny so don’t take up much room. I know, I know….call TLC.
The boys really enjoyed it. We walked to the front yard and both boys were instructed to pick rocks that had as flat a surface as possible. James was really just excited to get to pick up rocks and throw them into a bag.
Then we set up in the driveway and I let them paint their little hearts out with acrylic paint. I put James in pants I didn’t care about which was good, as evidenced by the first photo, but Zach stayed clean in his smock.
James really was going to town. He painted about 4-5 rocks at one time. I kept asking him if he was done which he consistently replied, “NO”. Not nicely, naturally.
And the finished product! A couple coats of spray polyurethane and they are done.
The stamps do take some getting used to but I love them and will be stamping many things in the future. Spoken like a true horder.

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One of my cousins is getting married. I remember when she was born and have watched her grow up, as I have done the same. She is the daughter of Aunt Vickie so you know she is special.

For one of her wedding showers the theme was “kitchen”. I was going to get her a handful of utensils that I love and gift cards to the restaurants around where she will live, which just happens to be in my neighborhood. She is young and does not cook (yet) and I really thought she could use that more than some plates or a chafing dish.

But my mom suggested I get her what I got my mom and sister for Christmas. For them I had one recipe from each of my grandmothers made into art via Articipe on Etsy. I picked my Jane’s ham and cheese casserole (that is my favorite thing she made) and my Granny’s chocolate chip cookies (my dad’s favorite thing). I then gave my mom and sister a framed copy of each with a picture of my sister, me and our Jane for Lauren and my Granny and baby Lauren for my mom. Scene. Stealer.

As if I would have it any other way.

So when my mom suggested that for Stephanie’s shower I create one for her, I knew it was the perfect gift. And it would obviously be the best gift at the shower. Win-win.

Erin with Articipe has a six month lag time for new orders so instead of doing another one of Granny’s recipes I just had the chocolate chip cookie one reprinted. My dad sent me some photos of a little Stephanie at Granny’s house and one of Granny in the kitchen. I think she will love it as much as we do!

The only issue? The night of the shower I had to sprint out of the house so James would not see me and forgot the gift. And once we are out of the house there is no going back in. Not a chance in hell.

So I still have the frame nicely wrapped at my house. She is getting married in three weeks so it might turn into her wedding gift if I can’t get it to her soon.

And I am keeping those utensils I got her. That was actually not my choice. The boys started using the spoonulas as swords and James was whisking Norman last time I saw the silicon whisk.

I miss you Cookie

Does anyone else remember the hip mom’s magazine Cookie? Anyone else maybe scream at their husband about its demise? I knew we were friends for a reason.

Cookie was this awesome magazine that was a step up from Parents. “It was the go-to resource for modern parents, offering not only high style for kids, but also meaty and interesting stories and essays about the shape and face of the modern family” says the Huffington Post.  So, so true. You didn’t feel like you were reading the same magazine that women read in the 80s. It was fresh and young with a mix of working mom stuff and stay at home mom stuff. In a word: Awesome. And I miss it.

So I was pretty excited when a few of the editors wrote a cookbook in 2010 Time for Dinner: What to Cook. Many of the recipes are right out of the magazine. They are written by moms who like to cook but often don’t have time. So they have options like “cook once, eat 3 times” and “if you have this (name an ingredient) make this (with 4 options of what to create)”. They, of course, also have options for moms who like to cook and do have time.

My go-to recipe from the book calls to me for its sneaky use of tofu. No one in my family knows there is tofu in it and it is going to stay that way. Oh don’t worry, Alex doesn’t read my blog. He says he is “living the blog” so he doesn’t need to read it.

Anyway, this is a family favorite. It is filling, has (sneaky) tofu, veggies and is really good. I do add chicken for Alex so he thinks it is a meal. Yes, you vegetarians are not eating “meals” in case you were wondering. Only if an animal dies can it considered dinner. I think you are “snacking” which in Alex’s mind is the worst. THE worst.

Rigatoni Casserole with Tofu (shhhhhh)
with some modifications from Cookie

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 pinch dried oregano
1 (12- to 14-ounce) package firm tofu, drained
1 large egg
1 pinch grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
1 (1-pound) box rigatoni, cooked al dente and drained
1 pound fresh mozzarella, grated (about 4 cups)
3 ounces grated Parmesan (about 3/4 cup)
2 cups chopped chicken (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Sauté for 1 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes more.
3. Add the tomatoes and oregano. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a blender, process the tofu, egg, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until smooth.
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the spinach, cooked rigatoni, tomato sauce, chicken (if using), 1 cup of the mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan.
5. Drizzle a coating of olive oil into a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Add the pasta mixture and sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.