Monday, July 27, 2009


Now that I am married, my life is a partnership, right? We collectively pool our strengths to cover our individual weaknesses, correct?

So ... if I still only check my rosemary plant weekly, but Matt joyfully spends his free time tending to the Little Garden That Could, does that mean I can once again give up on the whole "green thumb" idea?

This guy has taken to having a yard to care for like a duck to water. He can't get enough of it! And it makes him happy to see things grow. Do two of us really need to take responsibility for all the plants in our life?

And while I'm on the subject, let me brag on my husband a little bit more:

A few weeks ago, we decided to switch duties: I was to take over the household budget. I was intimidated. Matt hates it so; and I've never been able to accurately balance a checkbook. But with the spreadsheet he's worked up, it's been fun! I think it speaks to the organizer in me (some would say "control freak." But some can just shut up!). And yes, everything balances.

So while I was concentrating on the budget on Saturday, Matt was flitting about the house. He'd mentioned something about doing laundry, but I had a bit of a tangle in the ATM-fee category to deal with. By the time I looked up, a couple hours later, something was different ...

The house was clean. And swept. And vacuumed.

Even the front bathroom was spotless.

He'd done all the chores while I was doing the budget. I couldn't believe it. Without much to do, I sat back down to address some envelopes for Team in Training fundraising while he sped off to Home Depot (a just reward).

When he came back, I was once again deep in busywork. Once I was done, though, I looked out in the backyard to see him putting the finishing touches on ... a hammock! We've had one for years, and only recently had a backyard to put it in. I'd begun asking him about where it would go, but never really planned on having it up.

But there it was! On a perfect, sunny, 75-degree summer day, even! As soon as the last rope was secured, I scrambled to get two old throw pillows and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." I threw myself into the hammock and only got up to pour a bowl of cherries for a snack.

As I rocked, read, and spit cherry pits in the lawn I could hear Matt inside, finally resting and playing "MarioKart: Wii."

It was a good day. With my favorite husband.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Team in Training Update 1

Money Raised: $330 (13 percent of goal)
Days of training: 0
Miles run in one session: 3.5

Sunday morning, I decided to issue myself a challenge. Do six miles on the treadmill, however long it takes. See if it can be done.

Six miles, you see, is what the Team in Training running coach said we'd be doing Aug. 1, during our first session at the track.

By slowing down my running speed, and doing 2:1 intervals (two minutes of running and one minute of walking--although you'd call it more jogging/walking for me!), I made it 45 minutes and just over 3.5 miles before calling it a day.

No, I didn't make it to six miles. But I got past 2.5, which was the most I could do last week before nearly collapsing on the treadmill. I pushed past the 20-minute mark, which is generally my cue to move on to something more interesting, like breakfast and "16 and Pregnant."

So while I didn't make my goal, and am still miles away from feeling prepared for my first session with the team, I couldn't have been prouder of myself on Sunday.

As a bonus, the treadmill said I burned my way through 500 calories. So maybe this will help me with a couple other goals as well!
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Yes, We Have No Bananas

Because I used every last one of them!

Ever since I moved out on my own and baked my first loaf of banana bread, I hate to see bananas go to waste. Those uneaten, browning pieces of fruit stab me with guilt every time I pass them and choose NOT to bake a loaf of something or other.

Already this summer I've had to toss out at least eight bananas. Yesterday, when I saw four sitting in the fruit basket on the counter, I pushed up my sleeves and muttered, "Not today!"

First, I dragged over the July issue of Cooking Light magazine, and threw together a batch of their Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I'll take them to work, I reasoned, knowing that Matt doesn't like his food messed with.

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
5.6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray
*I added a large handful of coconut flakes to the batter, too. Yum!

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
Lo and behold, they smelled so good while baking that Matt grabbed one as soon as they were out of the oven. He raved about how delicious they were! Long story short, I've only got about a dozen left, and I'm pretty sure they're all spoken for.
With three bananas left, I had no option but to bake some bread. So I visited Sugar Mama Baking Co. for a recipe, and she didn't let me down! Click here for her banana bread recipe, and be sure to have it handy the next time you have leftover bananas.
It took me less than 10 minutes to get from assembling the ingredients to putting the pan into the oven. I was finished before I even realized what was happening--not bad for someone who'd already spent a couple hours baking cookies. At Sugar Mama's suggestion, I pulled the loaf out about 10 minute before it was finished and covered it was dabs of butter for an extra-crispy crust.
The added bonus of that move was that the crack in the top of the loaf was saturated with butter, giving the bread an extra-moist stripe down the middle. The bad part was that I used salted butter, which added an unexpected flavor that still couldn't diminish the delicious taste of the bread!
Matt accepted the slice I gave him--much more interested in the cookies--tasted it, and immediately cut himself four more. And ate half of mine that I left on my plate, conquered by crock-pot chili at dinnertime. About every second bite, he raved over how good the bread was.
I have one lonely banana left. Let's see what happens tonight.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I love Logan!

Is it possible to love a kid you've never met?

A friend of mine from college has a little boy named Logan, and a blog. Her posts about Logan's adventures make me laugh out loud, and I always pass them on.

So, dear readers, check this out!

Adventures of Logan: What CAN You Do On a Bus (That Won't Give You Cancer)?
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Team in Training

This weekend, I did something totally out of character.

I signed up to run a half-marathon. But in case that's not enough of a personal challenge to take on, I'll be running it with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, and fundraising $2,500 to boot.

Basically, I'm committed to doing two things I don't enjoy: Running, and asking people for money.

The strange thing is, I'm excited about it. I have this feeling that I can run 13.1 miles, but currently my mind and body get in the way. I also think that $2,500 spread around 50 or so people, a handful of fundraisers and a couple corporations isn't such a terrible thing.

This morning, I decided to get a jump start on the coaching and training that begins Aug. 1. I hopped on the treadmill and started doing 2:1 intervals. After 20 minutes and less than 2.5 miles, I hit the emergency stop button and flopped over, panting.

This is not going to be easy.

But I keep thinking of how nobody expects me to do this. When I texted some family members and close friends about my decision, there was a heavy note of surprise along with the support and encouragement. A good friend suggested that hell may be freezing over.

I told my husband over the phone, and while I know he believes that I can do anything, I'm sure my announcement raised an eyebrow or two.

So I think about changing people's perceptions of me; and of changing my own perception too. I think about how I'll feel during training when I can run for 20, 40, 60 minutes without collapsing. How it will be to run by friends and family cheering on my accomplishment.

And I think about what might run through my mind when I cross the first finish line of my life.

To show your support, please visit my Team in Training Web site at
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a confession to make.
"Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies" aren't exactly unique. Like Phoebe, the recipe was handed down to me by my Swedish aunt, Nestle Tollhouse.

Yep, they're just the plain-Jane chocolate chippers from the back of the yellow bag.

Truly, my husband and I are not a match made in heaven. Ask me for pancakes, and you'll get a delicious batch with cinnamon swirls, vanilla flavoring and berries baked right in. When I make cookies, I melt the butter before mixing with the flour, use unusual ingredients and make them as giant, soft and chewy as they can get.

When Matt wants pancakes, however, he prefers the no-frills version. When he wants cookies, he'll beg me to color inside the lines ... just use the Tollhouse recipe and nobody gets hurt. And while I'm always disappointed at how flat and uninspiring the Tollhouse cookies invariably turn out, he will rave for hours about them. A batch doesn't last long at the Miller house!

For those of you who aren't familiar with them, here's the recipe.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
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Pineapple-Upside-Down goodness

Pineapple-Upside-Down-Cake is the mother of all diet busters.

It's sinfully delicious, deceptively easy and unbelievably inexpensive to make.

I added the ingredients to my grocery shopping list on Saturday, and left them out on the counter: five things. I had to buy flaked coconut, two types of canned pineapple (crushed and ring), maraschino cherries and a yellow cake mix.

It took all of about 15 minutes to put the cake together (using the recipe for the layer cake here). After 45 minutes in the oven and some cooling time, it was done.

As it was my first layer cake, I had to figure out a way to even out the bottom of the layers (which, in this case, were at the top of the pan). Not too easy with an 8" pan! Eventually, I made a slice with a small kitchen knife and used dental floss to shave off the peaks ... which Matt gobbled up immediately.

Then it was just a matter of not breaking the cakes in half while I layered them. The first layer--with crushed pineapple only--went down on the platter, no problem. The second, however, was when I realized that now I not only have to not break the cake, but get it centered, too! But it worked fine, and I cut around the cake to make sure everything was symmetrical (plus, then I had scraps of gooey goodness to enjoy!).

After his first bite, Matt pointed to the cake with his fork.

"Is is eye ext ufmfay ake," he said rapturously, through a mouthful of cake.

I said no problem. Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake can certainly be my dear hubby's next birthday cake.

I left him working from home today with two slices left in the fridge. Any bets on how many are left when I come home today?
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Faking it

This morning, I received a dazzling flurry of compliments from a friend and coworker that left me breathless. My eye makeup, my hair, my layered t-shirts, etc.

Everyone should receive that kind of greeting in the morning.

Upon reflection, though, I felt like the tiniest bit of a fraud. Because, while I may look somewhat put together occasionally, it's generally all fake. Here's why:

My eye makeup: I've worn it the same way for three years, ever since I sat down at the MAC counter at Macy's, slapped two gift cards down, and told the aesthetitician that I'd spend $60 if she'd just update my eye makeup. I left with a blue pencil, pale beige cream primer, a light-brown shadow and a dark maroon shadow. She showed me how to line my eyes and where to blend the shadow, and I've been copying her for over 1,000 days now.

My hair: Yes, I did take the time to blow-dry and curl it this morning ... one morning out of 10 that such a thing occurred. But the curling is just so that no one can see that I haven't been to see my stylist in three months. I'm a four-times-a-year haircut gal, even though I prefer a shorter cut that requires more frequent maintenance.

My layers: Today, I chose a blue lace camisole from Banana Republic to wear under my sleeveless brown sweater from Banana Republic. Because I'm oh-so-fashion-forward? Nope! Because the undergarments I'm wearing make it very easy to see when it's cold outside. Plus, even though I'm wearing Spanx so tight I need a bodybuilder to help me pull them up in the morning, the double layer helps smooth any leftover pudges.

Speaking of Spanx, I wear them daily. Even on weekends. I'm afraid to buy more than the four pair I own, though, because someday I'll buy such a small size that I'll stop trying to lose weight altogether. I'll lose the ability to bend at the waist, and I'll have boobs in the front AND in the back, but I'll still be able to fit into all of my pants.

No, it's not a good idea for me to have access to more Spanx.

So, you can see, that my knowledge of fashion and makeup is more practical than anything. It just so happens that the stars and planets aligned for me today, and the whole package came together!

But I'll take the compliment.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rosemary still kickin'!

I feel a little guilty about making zero progress on my gardening goal. But hey ... I've been busy. And avoiding it.

When my mother-in-law came to visit, she brought me a rosemary plant. Just put it in the backyard, she said. Water it occasionally. You can't kill it.

Yeah, right, I thought as I found a place for it in the sun. Watch me.

But so far, despite my best efforts, it hasn't died!

I set it down next to a lavender plant that receives midday sun next to the house. It gets a little water when Matt does the lawn twice a week.

About one a week, I remember that it's there, and guiltily head out to check on it. Every time, I expect to see it sad and brown, on its way to the organic waste trash can. Every time, it's still green and fragrant! I usually soak the poor thing in water at that point, knowing that it'll be about seven days before I find it again.

Yet, as of last Friday (see? One day to go!) it's still there! I used a handful of sprigs from it to make my rosemary butter for the roast chicken.

Obviously, I am not ready for a full-fledged garden yet. I doubt that plants grow on weekly tending, and the guilt would suffocate me. I am considering, however, picking up some tomato plants in a couple weeks. I won't go for the grown-up stuff, though. I'll hit Toys R Us and grab the planters aimed at teaching toddler's how to garden.

I'm pretty sure that's all I can handle.
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Coming up ...

Here are my plans for more kitchen adventures:
  • Bison ribeye kabobs (Cooking Light July 2009)
  • Stir-fried beef with broccoli (Cooking Light July 2009)
  • Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Cooking Light July 2009)
  • Matt's Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Pineapple Upside Down Cake (darn you, Sugar Mama Baking Co.!)

I'm not sure when all these magical things will come to pass, but it's safe to say over the next week or so. I usually come up empty from Cooking Light, but these recipes seemed more tasty than low-cal.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

4th of July Wrap-Up

What a weekend! It's rare that those four-day breaks are actually refreshing, but this one definitely was.

After checking online Thursday night, I learned that the Ikea summer sale was only on through July 5. I rearranged my plans and hit the store as soon as it opened Friday morning. I spent two hours and $138 on:
  • Two toilet-paper roll holders
  • One outdoor basket to hold toys in the summer; miscellanea in the winter
  • A heavy-duty outdoor mat
  • A bright red indoor catch-all rug
  • A cedar shoe rack
  • A $1.99 stepstool
  • Mason jars to hold spaghetti, almonds
  • New tumblers
  • New drinking glasses
  • A plastic bag holder
  • A sturdy black scrapbooking box
  • Kitchen shears
  • A tray

Not too bad! On my way home (after fighting hours of traffic: Thanks, tourists!), I stopped by a great local grocery store, Shopper's Corner, and picked up my 4.5 pound chicken, along with some Brussels sprouts, shortcake and organic strawberries.

Arriving home, I made one frantic call to the butcher ("Is the chicken ready-to-go? I don't have to cut the neck off?") before taking out the innards, rinsing and patting the bird dry, kosher-salt-and-peppering the cavity and skin, chopping up potatoes and onions for the bottom of the roasting pan, and tossing it all in the fridge so I could run back across town to pick up Bryce.

When we got home, it was already 5 p.m., so I started preheating the barbecue (warned that the roasting process would be rather smoky, I elected to try the first bird outside). I set up a fan to blow smoke away from the house, and waited until the temp reached 500 degrees before popping the bird in.

And boy, was there smoke! Great billows of black smoke, and what sounded like a waterfall of grease popping inside! I panicked again, started making phone calls (how can no one be home at 5:30 on a Friday night?), and relaxed once the smoke cleared. After that, it was a waiting game as I adjusted the burners to keep the temperature at a stead 450 degrees.

80 minutes later, there was roast chicken! A little blackened, but the skin was crispy and delicious, and the meat was juicy and flavorful. I made a little rosemary butter (sounds fancy, but I just tossed a handful of rosemary into a cup of melted butter and let it sit for awhile) for "gravy," but it wasn't really needed.

Because the chicken was so good? Actually, because neither Matt nor Bryce cared much for it. They both picked at it, and at the Brussels sprouts. So roast chicken isn't a hit for my guys. But I do have the satisfaction of kn owning that I did it to perfection. :)

Matt and I aren't big 4th of July fans. I don't care to drive around where kids and adults are darting into the street with rockets, and he doesn't care for crowds. Bryce, however, was very anxious about the illegality of fireworks.

We solved that problem by taking him to Toys R Us and adding a little extra coin to his allowance so he could get a couple Star Wars Lego sets.

Meanwhile, Matt had soaked some Texas Toast overnight in an egg and cinnamon mixture for french toast. Delicious! After breakfast, he went to pick up food for the night (ribs, corn on the cob, herb-cheddar rolls, and the makings of spinach-artichoke dip) while Bryce and I scrubbed the house. By the time we were finished, Matt was back and it was time for the two of them to hit Toys R Us while I stopped in at Bev Mo for some margarita mix.

We met up at the house for a hot dog lunch. They spent time putting legos together, I set up shop outside with a frosty margarita and "The Count of Monte Cristo." Matt set up the dip, which turned out to be my late-afternoon dinner. They were still working hard after I'd finished "The Count," so I cracked open a library book and snoozed in the bedroom until it was time for everyone else's dinner. Then I rocked some organic strawberry shortcake and retired once again with Jodi Picoult.

Another calculatedly lazy day. Matt took care of laundry and cleanup from Saturday while I hit up Costco and Safeway to stock up for the week. Matt did some household chores, Bryce played with his legos after we put the kibosh on more TV, and I picked up some books given to me by my Grandmother.

Matt was at work, Bryce was off to camp, and I hit the Gilroy Premium Outlets. When I got home, I decided to match the sunburn I got on my front side while reading Saturday. All warm and cozy in my outdoor nest, I lost all track of time. Thankfully, my skin kept an eye on things. About an hour after I came inside, I took a look in the mirror and wasn't too shocked to see that I was completely sunburnt. Worth it. :)

As you can see, ambition died as the weekend wore on. But now that I'm back at work, gingerly sitting in the only position that doesn't irritate my flaming red skin, I feel rejuvenated instead of just glad to be back where I have a purpose.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Living With Boys

Let me preface this by stating what Matt reminded me when we had this discussion: I have it pretty good.

BUT ...

I still live with two boys right now. Ordinarily, that's fine by me. I get to be the Lady of the house, and the go-to gal for anything requiring a feminine touch. As the only lioness in the pride, I don't have to mark my territory as often, which is also nice.

There are times, though, when a gal needs another set of X-chromosomes around for backup. What made me run screaming for my bedroom, cell phone in hand, to reach out to another girl--any other girl--was the following:
  • Toilet paper is optional for men. Not in the ucky way. Just generally. Toilet paper is not optional for women. It is right up there with food and shelter. With two boys in the house, somehow all the toilet paper is consistently used up before I enter the bathroom. Apparently, if your dignity does not depend on a consistent supply of TP, you just don't think about refilling the roll when you leave the room.
  • A shower has multiple uses for a boy in a hurry. I love to take baths. I don't want to get too into this, so go ahead and do the math.

It was just too much for me this week. So I'm taking tomorrow off work and spending the day my XX way: shopping. I'm overdue for some cute summery tops that will stand up next to my hubby's rock-n-roll preppy look; could use some new candles and room fresheners; and just need some retail therapy. It's the Gilroy Premium Outlets for me.

So how does one prepare for a trip to an outlet mall that takes up four blocks?

  1. Throw open the closet doors and take a long, hard look inside. I like to make sure the laundry has recently been done before taking this on.
  2. If something doesn't fit, is falling apart or no longer makes the wardrobe cut, put it in a bag. Even if you've worn it recently. I have a couple sports bags I use for this purpose. That way, it's not in my closet but not at Goodwill, either. If I pull it out of the bag over the course of a year, I keep it. If not, all my giveaway clothes are in one place.
  3. Take note, mental or otherwise, of needed necessities. I, for instance, will be on the lookout for a white button-down shirt, a plain white t, and a new pair of jeans.
  4. Also note favorite colors. I am guilty of buying everything in blue, brown or shades of red. Knowing this, I try to avoid those colors in the store to freshen up my wardrobe.
  5. Recognize the stores that carry clothes for your figure, and stick to them. I don't waste my time shopping outside of Ann Taylor, Banana Republic or Gap.

I have a good mental picture of the outfits I consistently wear, so if something goes bad or missing, I can generally replace with without too much trouble. But there are times when I go clothes shopping with a list of things to be on the lookout for.

I am also a penny-pinching shopper. I look for the lowest prices possible, even if it means I skip out on some trends. Why? Because trends are disposable. I will shell out top-dollar for well-made, nicely cut classic items. Like the white Anne Klein trenchcoat I saw at Macy's last season but couldn't afford. This year, it's mine ... and I know it will work for years to come because well-cut trenchcoats never really go out of style.

So that's why I'm spending the day at the outlets tomorrow.

When I come home, I'll be roasting my first chicken. In the barbecue, no less. Check back for updates!

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