I Heart Giraffe Puppies

I know in the past I have encouraged everyone to go out and buy relatively expensive jammies and cookware and candles, and so today I feel the need to redeem myself and do something on the super cheap.  I started by NOT going to my fave cafe for a latte this a.m. (that noise you hear is me opening the Tylenol to ward off my caffeine withdrawal headache), and I am following with a post to alert any and all to the fact that Crewcuts has a great sale section.

We all say the same thing, “They grow so fast,” especially when that DNA of ours is in baby form.  But if you have a Tween, you know what I know: that DNA of ours is growing at warp speed!  My 11-year-old looks like (and I say this with nothing but the greatest affection) a giraffe with puppy feet.  Her legs are LONG.  And her feet are way too BIG for that lithe little body of hers.  And both are growing at a pace my budget cannot sustain.  I think the two most common exchanges between us go something like this:

Exchange #1

Tween: “Mom, my shoes are too small.”

Me: “Tween, we just bought new shoes.  That’s impossible!  Take off your socks and loosen the laces.”  (yeah, I know…that doesn’t really work)

Exchange #2

Me: “Young lady, that skirt is way too short.  Off it goes!  And quickly, ’cause we’re running late.”

Tween: “But we just bought this and I’ve only worn it once!”

Middle child: “Does that mean I can have it?”

So where do I go to keep my 11-year-old in appropriate length skirts (for the record – I don’t make her kneel to check the length…yet) and shoes? I check out the sale section of Crewcuts!  I love how well priced the merchandise is, especially the things she outgrows rapidly like jeans, skirts and leggings.  Also, I feel their selection is age appropriate.  Nothing is overly mature or makes me think “put a sweater on!”  And right now, the deals are unbeatable.  I can pick up some cute solid color tees to mix and match for $15, her favorite leggings for under $20, and even some cute dresses for her to run around in next summer in the $15 to $30 price range.  Great savings on Tween-approved clothing.  Love it!

Happy outfitting!

Brrr…Be Gone!

I know it is only Fall.  I know for some of you, the weather is actually quite warm.  But I am perpetually cold.  According to the google machine, the reasons for this arctic state of being range from low body weight (nope) to hypothyroidism (gosh I hope not!) to being overly tired (potentially a bingo!).  Though my family makes fun of me, I wear my Ugg slippers year round, and I like to watch TV with a blanket over my feet.  I throw a big green wool sweater on over my clothes almost the minute I get home from work and I’ve even been known to sleep in it, hence my girls refer to it as mommy’s “sleep sweater.”  (I’m sure the men reading this have nicknamed it something else).  🙂

At any rate, I noticed One Kings Lane is featuring a sale on Wednesday for Tourance throws, and so, in case there are other ice cubettes out there, I thought I’d share.  And just in case your linen closet is full, here are some other great ways to warm up!

Do yoga!  (Check out the “We Made Too Much” section on the Lululemon site to save on gear!)

Take a steam shower or bath!  Cute Lacoste bathrobes available at Macy’s!

Cuddle with your kids and watch a movie!  50% off classic DVDs at Barnes & Noble!

Grab a cuppa coffee!  Love the Nespresso Espresso Machine (in red, no less – remember your rebel yell!)

Eat a warm meal! Slow cookers are not just for your grandmother!  Think delicious soups with fresh bread from the bakery!

All thawed out now?

Friday Night Bite

Friday nights in my house are “pizza picnic” nights.  We order pizzas, the girls spread a blanket on the floor, and we watch a movie together.  Sometimes, if I’m watching “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” for the 32nd time, I’ll multi-task and watch the movie while simultaneously pulling a “sip and flip” (translation: glass of wine and the pages of Vogue).

Pizza picnics are preceded by making dessert in the kitchen, and we take turns with the dessert recipes because I have two who love chocolate (way to go girls) and one who detests it (way to be your own person, sweetheart).  This past Friday night it was my anti-chocolate gal’s turn to indulge her sweet tooth in the kitchen, and so we basically made jello (bold move, huh?).  Here’s the recipe, in case you too have offspring who are missing the cocoa DNA strand.

Strawberry Yogurt Squares


2 (3 oz) boxes strawberry jello

2 cups boiling water

2 (10 oz) packages frozen strawberries

2 large bananas, finely diced

1 cup strawberry or banana yogurt


Dissolve jello in 2 cups of boiling water.  Add frozen strawberries, stirring occasionally until thawed.  Add finely diced bananas.

Pour half of the strawberry mixture into an 8x8x2 inch pan.  Chill.  Spread evenly with yogurt.  Pour remaining strawberry mixture on top of the yogurt.

Refrigerate until set.  Cut into 9 squares.  Top with whipped cream, or more yogurt if desired.

Enjoy!  And hey, you didn’t hear it here, but there’s a bag of chocolate chips waiting for you after the kids go to bed!

What’s Grosser than Gross?

Okay, so I know I’ve shared that I live in a house built in 1929, and that on the whole, I find it charming.  However…the pipes are also very old, and apparently the ones between my house and the sewer have a million tree roots finding their way inside, which is FAR LESS THAN CHARMING.  Yep folks, I am the unfortunate victim of sewage backing up into my basement.  I’ll spare you the particulars, but what you are imagining right now?  Uh-huh.  It’s that bad.

I learned a lot of things from this unfortunate incident, and in no particular order:

a) A homeowner’s insurance policy that covers this kind of mishap is a valuable thing.

b) And speaking of valuable things…don’t keep them in your basement.

c) Telling your girls, “She’s covered in poop,” is the best possible way to purge your basement of the long forgotten Barbies without evoking any “But she’s my favorite, I was going to play with her today” drama.

d) Hiring a firm such as ServiceMaster to pump scalding water and bleach everywhere is worth every penny in peace of mind.

e) Per the plumber: only use Scott TP.  No exceptions.  Everything else blocks and clogs and therefore is synonmous with disaster.

And good news if you’re looking to save at the supermarket – Scott TP is cheap. 🙂  In fact, at their bargain basement (pun intended) prices, I could end up with enough for a Project Runway moment all my own:

(Yes, that’s made of toilet paper!)

Heading downstairs to do the laundry in what is now a dry and surgically sterile basement!

PB&J Mini Muffins

My seven-year old loves PB&J.  I find this endearing, since my other two are all about the yogurt-crackers-fresh-fruit kind of lunch in their lunch boxes.  Something about PB&J feels nostalgic.  Sentimental.  And I love it.

So I tee up PB&J just for my seven-year old, in all of its forms (and there are many!).  It’s our “thing,” and I milk every opportunity I can find to bond with her over this tried-and-true lunchtime staple.  These muffins are fun to make, mostly because she likes to do the dollop of jelly all on her own!


1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/3 cup vanilla yogurt

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons strawberry or grape jelly


In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small bowl, beat the eggs, yogurt, peanut  butter and oil on low speed until smooth.  Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined miniature muffin cups half full.  Top each with 1/4 teaspoon jelly and remaining batter.

Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack.  Yield: 2 and 1/2 dozen mini muffins.


There’s More than Laughter on these Lips!

I’m gonna’ jump right in today: yippee skippee, it’s chapstick weather!  Shocker I’m so excited about this, huh?

Moms and more, that box in front of my family headquarters next week from C.O. Bigelow?  It’s mine.  And it’s filled with $100 worth of Rose Salve (that’s more or less 18 tins, for those of you wondering).  Yep, I can’t live without this stuff.  You’ll find it in my desk, in my gym bag, in any and all of my purses, in coat pockets, in my daughters’ backpacks, the junk drawer in the kitchen, the car…did I mention that I can’t live without this stuff?  With apologies to all of the Chapstick, Carmex and Blistex devotees out there, I’m convinced C.O. Bigelow’s Rose Salve is the only thing that truly heals my chapped lips, and an added bonus – it functions beautifully as a lip gloss.

Mind you, I’m not knocking the the other C.O. Bieglow products.  As previously disclosed, I do relish a good scented candle, and the assortment of candles is promising for all those with similar olfactory inclinations.  C.O. Bigelow features many of the Diptyque scents, which are favorites of mine.  My sensory advice?  Treat yourself to the Pomander during the cold winter months and pick up Tuberose for the Spring.

I also think the packaging on their soaps is pretty, or in some cases quirky, and I think these might make great hostess gifts – tied up with a grosgrain ribbon of course, and complete with a handwritten note on matching stationery.

With laughter (and Rose Salve) on the lips – smack!

Easy Turkey Chili

I don’t know about you, but I have picky eaters.  I’m not too sure how this happened because I served, and they ate, everything when they were little.  But somehow my darling divas deviated from a well-balanced, well-rounded diet into beings who would prefer to subsist on mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets alone.  I’m sure if I retraced my steps I would discover it’s my fault (yes, I suffer from loads of probably unnecessary mommy self-blame), but regardless, I now find myself hard-pressed to conjure up meals that are not processed, preserved and pretending to be nutritious.  And guess what?  I have had oodles of success with turkey chili!   Who knew my tu-tu clad gaggle of gals would dig into a dish commonly associated with sporting events?  Yay!  So in an attempt to rescue any and all of you also held hostage in your kitchen by discerning diners, here goes:


1 lb. ground turkey

1/2 onion, chopped (I use a whole onion, because for some bizarre reason, my picky eaters actually like their chili spicy!)

1 can kidney beans

1 can diced tomatoes (I actually use Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, see note above.)

2 cups corn, frozen or fresh

1 pkg of taco seasoning (you can cut back and use less if your family prefers only a little zing!)


Brown the turkey.

Add the onion and saute, approximately 5 minutes.

Add the beans, tomatoes, corn and taco seasoning.  Let simmer approximately 10 minutes.

Serve with low-fat shredded cheese.  (I also let my kids add a few oyster crackers!).

And if you, like me, are cooking after a long day of work and feeling tired and frazzled, what better way to brighten your day than to cook with pretty and/or fun cookware?  My chili gets whipped up in a Le Crueset stockpot.  I have it in “cherry,” which completely clashes with the color scheme of my kitchen, and for some reason this energizes me – you could even say I feel a little rebellious!  (Now don’t go judging – this evening I drove a carpool, made a compass out of paperclips and sewed some girl scout badges onto a sash.  If a bright red stockpot feels like a rebel yell to me – so be it!).

Enjoy the chili!


Pucker Up!

My middle child, bless her soul, loves all things sour.  At the ice cream store, she orders lemon sherbet.  When treated to dessert, she’ll request lemon meringue pie.  Her candy of choice is either a SourPatch Kid or a Lemonhead.  And she actually hates most lemonade because it is too sweet.  I confess, this is NOT my DNA at work.  I can’t relate AT ALL.  I mean, my go-to when closet eating is a handful of jellybeans.  Can you get more sickly sweet than that?

But, I do try to accommodate and encourage each of my girls’ quirks and idiosyncracies.  Who knows?  Maybe one day this one’ll grow up and revolutionize citrus farming.  And so, here’s my tried and true recipe for frozen lemon yogurt.  As an aside, it actually makes for a great dessert when entertaining.  Throw some fresh blueberries or raspberries on top or “accessorize” with a sprig of mint, and you have an attractive, refreshing way to finish a rich meal.


1 quart (4 cups) low-fat vanilla yogurt

12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate (thawed)

1 cup half & half (fat-free)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar


In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemonade concentrate, half & half, lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Chill mixture until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker (1 & 1/2 quart capacity) according to manufacturer’s instructions, until motor stops or dasher is hard to turn.

Transfer yogurt to an airtight container and freeze until firm enough to scoop, about two hours.

Pucker up!

Pong, Pac-Man and PlayStation

I am not a video game person.  I never have been.   Even when I was young (very young!) and Atari and Intellivision arrived on the scene, I lacked interest.  Maybe I was too busy with swim team practices and dance lessons, or maybe on some level I knew my hand-eye coordination was a little on the pathetic side.  Regardless, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man’s female counterpart, Ms., never did it for me.

So imagine how perplexed I am by my daughter’s obsession with all things media.  DS, Wii, iTouch – if left to her own devices, she could spend hours, maybe days, with these little machines and their carefully choreographed digital adventures.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder, “If I never set a time limit…if I never pushed or prodded…Would she eat?  Would she sleep?  Would I find her locked in a room channeling Howard Hughes?”  But I do set time limits, and I do push and prod, and time spent playing DS, Wii and iTouch is “earned” in my house, only to be used on the weekends and only in set increments (usually a half hour).  It may not be the perfect parenting strategy, but it works for me most of the time.

With the “obsession” kept somewhat in check, what I then find challenging is the cost of digital entertainment.  Wii, DS, and PlayStation games are not cheap, and I feel as though there’s always some new gadget we “have to have:” a steering wheel for Mario Kart, a special mat for a dance game, headgear and 3D eyeglasses…Wait a second, headgear?  Eyeglasses?  Do my vision and dental benefits cover those?

But a good buddy recently introduced me to GameStop, where so many games and accessories and even headgear (Again, headgear?  Note to self: Review the Summary Plan Description for orthodontia and verify coverage ASAP!) are either offered at a discount or can be purchased used.

So go check out the savings and treat your mini Marios and Luigis to a new adventure at a discount.  Just be sure to pick up a cute kitchen timer from Jo!e so you can remember to shout “Time’s up!” before they think WuHu Town is an acceptable answer to any question on their next geography test.

Happy gaming!

Gear Up

According to various weather reports, Chicago is due for a bad winter.  I’m not saying I put any stock in these reports, last year they said the same thing and we were the beneficiaries of the balmiest winter ever despite dire predictions of an arctic armegeddon.  However, these reports have made me think a little bit…about running.  Not from Chicago to Cali (I wish!) but from my house to the lake and a few suburbs up “the Drive.”

Because the weather was so unusually warm last winter, I was extremely lucky to log some runs that were neither uncomfortably cold nor windy.  This meant I simply threw on a pair of leggings under my skort (love it!), donned a long-sleeved tech shirt and hit the pavement.  If the weather gurus are right about this winter, I need to actually dig up a hat, gloves, and yes…some kind of a jacket.  The jacket part of this equation gives me pause.  I HATE (yes girls, mommy used the “H” word) and I mean HATE (yes girls, mommy used the “H” word again) any kind of bulk while running.  I also HATE (uh-huh girls, I went for the trifecta on bad words today) feeling cold.  The product designers at North Face, Patagonia and Helly Hansen couldn’t possibly make a jacket thin enough…yet warm enough to meet my needs. (In their defense, they do try.)

In fact, I am so picky that what I have worn for my longer runs for the last 20+ years is a very well loved North Face windbreaker that I owned in college.  For whatever reason, it is the perfect combination of weight, flexibility and warmth, and I have never been able to part with it.  Unfortunately, it is also from the late ’80s, and the last time I wore it, my friend actually said to me, “Did you wear that to a screening of the Breakfast Club?”  Yeah…by 2012 standards, it’s ugly.  But aside from my skorts, I don’t really think running is meant to be a beauty pageant.

However, his teasing comment has prompted me to do a little online research, and now what I’m really appalled by are the prices of performance jackets!  Holy 50-yard dash, Batman!  $189 for a jacket in which I am going to sweat?  You have got to be kidding me!  Fortunately, I managed to find a few on sale at Athleta which look promising.  I’m also going to see if The North Face has an updated version of my beloved windbreaker.(Added bonus, my girls love those fleece-y beanies from North Face, and I feel like I can’t have enough of them on hand once it’s time for sledding and snowmen.)

Wish me luck in my jacket quest! And hey, if you’re northbound on Sheridan Road this winter and you happen to see someone on the running path in a skort and a day-glo jacket, it’s okay to roll down the window and shout, “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”  (quote courtesy of John Bender, The Breakfast Club)