Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monster Trucks and Pop Tarts

On a whim last week, we decided to buy tickets for M. and Finn to go to a Monster Jam show this past weekend at the Verizon Center. M. saw a commercial on TV, we checked out ticket prices, and boom! Purchase and plans were made. We kept it a secret from Finn until the day of the show (event?), because he is a Monster Truck fanatic (he remembers practically nothing from our trip to the Outer Banks a year and a half ago, EXCEPT that we passed by Grave Digger's house twice; he owns a metric ton of toy Monster Trucks; etc), and we wanted to be able to rise at a decent hour on Saturday morning. Anticipation + kid = 5 am wake up time typically, which was NOT part of the plan. So we waited patiently to spring this surprise on Finn until he woke us up at the (not unreasonable) hour of 7:35 Saturday morning. The event (we'll go with event, sounds more manly) was set for 2 pm that afternoon, and since Metro is "doing repairs" (whatevs), M. and Finn braved a drive in to the city and parked at M.'s work. Finn got a chance to see the White House ("Obama's House," as he likes to call it), eat lunch in M.'s office, and use facilities far nicer than those at the Verizon Center (I assume). A quick walk to the stadium, and it was show time!

Ready, set...

Go! (Batmobile!)

Crushing cars!!

Grave Digger

Monster Mutt

A very happy boy - see how the trucks look pretty small/toy-like in the pictures above, but you can tell from this picture (and the way they really fill the floor of the Verizon Center) that they are actually HUGE. And loud. Earplugs were worn.

Finn and his precious souvenir, a Grave Digger novelty cup full of blue Snow Cone goodness.

Lucy and I whiled away the time swimming at the local pool and watching a Tinker Bell movie - fun, indeed, but much quieter, I'm sure.

Sunday marked another foray into the realm of baked goods for me, when I tried my hand at homemade pop tarts. I used this recipe from Confessions of a Foodie Bride. Here is the recipe as written on that website, along with the blog author's notes on how she altered/executed the recipe:

Homemade Pop Tarts

2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (cold)
4 Tbsp ice water
12-14 Tbsp good quality peach preserves/jam (or other favorite fruit)
2 cups chopped peaches
1 egg + 1 Tbsp water

1. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
2. Add butter and mix with fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
3. Add ice water and mix lightly and form into a ball.
4. Or, shred the cold sticks of butter with your food processor. Remove the grater attachment and place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Add the the dry ingredients to the bowl fitted with the dough blade and pulse a few times to mix. While running, add ice-cold water by the Tablespoon just until the dough mostly forms a ball. (You might need a little more water.)
5. Divide in half; shape each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
6. Roll 1 disk at a time on a floured surface to about 13x11 inches. Trim to 12x10 and cut into 5x3-inch rectangles.
7. Place 4 rectangles on each baking sheet. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of preserves onto the center and top with chopped peaches.
8. Cover with second dough rectangle and gently press the edges to seal.
9. Crimp edges with a floured fork and poke a few holes on top.
10. Cover tarts and freeze for 2 hours or up to 1 week (I froze overnight and then baked the next morning).
11. Whisk egg and water and brush over tarts right before baking.
12. Bake frozen tarts at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
13. Sift powdered sugar over tarts or frost with powdered sugar icing.
I bake the entire batch at once. I supposed you could bake them fresh every morning but it's hot. I keep the oven use to a minimum. Plus, they keep really well in a covered cake plate on the counter for 4 days. 2 people + 8 pop tarts = 4 days.

Just to be clear, the "I" in the recipe is not me, it is the author of Confessions of a Foodie Bride, and the italicized notes are her own. Now that you have the recipe, here are my notes. And I must be honest, there were many, many points at which I was positive the outcome was going to be at best inedible, and at worst disastrous.

First, you should know that while I have a food processor, I rarely use it. It is kept in one of the cabinets in our kitchen that is so high up, I need to stand on my tip toes on the highest stool we have just to reach it. Plus, I don't really know how to use any of the attachments except the basic blade/"completely pulverize" thingy. So instead of taking the blog author's suggestion of using the food processor to make the dough, I cut my cold butter up into small pieces and used my fingers to crumble it up in the flour. It took a long time, and I started worrying that the butter was getting too warm, so I stopped crumbling and started adding water. It's possible that my butter/flour mixture did NOT resemble course meal at this point, but since I'm not so sure what "course meal" should look like... eh. I rounded the dough up as best I could into two balls, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and stuck them in the fridge for a few hours (because I had things to do, of course - who can sit around for an hour and wait for dough to chill?).

When I got back to the recipe, I took the first ball of dough out of the fridge, plopped it down on the floured counter top, gently pressed on it with my rolling pin, and... watched it completely fall apart. And stick to my nonstick, floured rolling pin. And basically do everything except look like a nice, thin, cohesive sheet of pastry.

How to rescue, how to rescue... Well, I ended up just adding more water, using my hands to "doughify" things, and kept on moving. Yeah, the end results weren't pretty. Yeah, things stuck to the countertop A LOT. Yeah, I had to reroll the scraps of dough several times because I couldn't get my dough to make a nice rectangular shape.

But in the end, I had an even number of somewhat matching, rectangularish pieces of pastry. I spread half of them with some strawberry preserves and diced fresh strawberries, covered them with the other half of the pastry pieces, and crimped everything together with a fork. And then I prayed.

Just kidding, I don't pray. Then I stuck them in the freezer for the recommended minimum of two hours.

Finally, when I had grown old and gray, I put the pop tarts from the freezer, directly in to the oven, and cooked them for about 25 minutes. I would have cooked them a bit longer, but finally had to take them out when my pans looked like this:

Not so much like the picture on the original blog, right?

Things started to look better once I got the tarts off the pans and out of the lagoon of melted fruit:

And then I frosted them, which helped even more (confectioner's sugar thinned with milk):

And once you get up close, they actually start to look appetizing:

The Verdict:

Smiling faces and empty plates.

Monday morning I was able to get both of the kids to eat another one (well, Lucy had half, but finished the other half today) before school, which is already miles ahead of my last attempt to bake a healthy (ish? Healthier?) breakfast snack. However, since then, Finn has informed me that he likes the boxed pop tarts better, and he probably won't be eating any more of the ones his poor mother slaved over.

Lucy said she will keep eating them. She is my favorite.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Birthday Boy

Today was the birthday of this blog's rarely seen but much loved second author (at least according to the account information). M. turned the ripe old age of 36, and despite his birthday's close proximity to Christmas (shopping fatigue) and my busy schedule, I must say I was (for once) on top of my game.

Gift from me: An Acer Aspire Netbook, ordered over the weekend and on the door step yesterday (free shipping, too!). This will give M. his very own laptop for accessing his vast music collection, and free up the house laptop (OK, let's be honest, my laptop) for wonderful pursuits like blogging and Pinning.

Gift from kids: New ear buds, to fit his oddly-shaped ears, purchased with the kids (who would have preferred to buy him a "football picture" of sorts, which sadly [sarcasm] Target was all out of) over the weekend. Wrapped in a page from a Care Bears coloring book colored by Lucy.

Cards: Two; one from me, one from the kids. Kids card had appropriate kid scribbles and signatures, done by Finn.

Dinner: Per M.'s request, I made a recipe I stumbled across recently on one of the food blogs I frequent, Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches from Smells Like Home. I followed the recipe exactly, down to finding what I think are the exact same pickled jalapenos (took me some time to find ones that were not already sliced), and I'm so glad I did. Behold the awesomeness:

I couldn't stop at just one photo, these sandwiches were that good. Served with a side of brussels sprouts, sliced and sauteed with some olive oil, S&P. Kids ate plain grilled cheese and blackberries, because they are boring.

Cake: Boy, did we have cake. Let's just say that this was not exactly an "on plan" day, Weight Watcher's-wise, for me. Finn specified that we had to make M. a chocolate cake, with vanilla frosting and a big red Wisconsin "W". And I delivered:

I used this recipe for the chocolate cake itself, and store bought frosting. It had all the convenience of a cake made from a mix, but tasted far better. In fact, it's too good, and now I need to find some way to keep myself away from the leftovers.

And with that, I'll stop patting myself on the back (and dreading the precedent I've set for myself) so I can go keep the sexiest 36-year-old I know company as he watches his fascinating and not nerdy at all [again with the sarcasm] TV show about sea life in the Antarctic.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Never Use All the Space in the Bed, Anyway

The last couple of weeks have involved lots of work travel and all-day meetings/conferences. It has been exhausting, and I am missing the “normal routine” badly. I’m not spending ZERO time with M. and the kids, but it has been abbreviated, and the feeling of upcoming work obligations always makes that time seem even more rushed/less relaxing.

Of course, not every aspect of work travel is unpleasant. I commuted into Washington, D.C. two days last week, and it was kind of fun to get swept up with the rest of the masses riding the Metro, pounding the sidewalks, and in general moving with purpose. No one walks slowly in D.C.! My new Kindle (and the engrossing book State of Wonder) definitely helped pass the time during the lengthy Metro ride. Food I don’t cook myself, conversations with new and familiar-but-rarely-seen faces, (for last night and tonight) a big hotel bed all to myself... there are some bonuses to work travel. But I never sleep as well – I imagine that, even though M. told me that Lucy woke up 3 or 4 times last night, I probably would have had a more restful night of sleep had I been in my less-than-crisp, crowded bed at home. And I miss my family.

A few observations from the last few days -

1) There is nothing like an alarm malfunction to allow for speed records to be set in the sport of “getting ready.” Last Thursday I was supposed to wake up at 5 am and leave my house by 5:30 to begin the long trek into D.C. (for a meeting that was beginning at 7 am). My alarm did go off at 5, but without any volume at all. It was apparently caught between radio stations, or some such nonsense. Fortunately, an act of God made M. look at the clock at 5:34 am, and he woke me up. I was out the door 15 minutes later, and only 5 minutes late to my meeting. Why is this kind of speed not possible on a normal day?

Panic + no kids + showering the night before + advance outfit planning = 15 minutes

On a typical day, that equation looks more like:

No early morning meeting + snooze button X 2 + shower + clothing deliberation + rousing the kids X 12 (because this step is really hard) + making kids use potty + dressing kids + forcing kids to brush teeth + brushing Lucy's hair X 46 (really, really hard) + shoes, coats, hats, mittens for all / the inverse of all the bags that need to get carried out to the car = 5 thousand years

Addended to add that I at least matched my "getting ready" record this evening - I arranged to meet work friends for dinner at 6:30 tonight, and decided to work out on one of the hotel treadmills beforehand. And by beforehand, I mean 5:40-ish. Foolish? Perhaps. But I was determined to get in a workout. I made it back to my room at 6:21, showered, dressed, and even put on some make up, and was out the door to meet them by 6:34. So apparently the appeal of dining kid-free with friends and the promise of wine is also quite motivating for me.

2) Surgeons start meetings WAY too early. A 7 am meeting in D.C.? Cah-razy!

3) I am currently attending a two-and-a-half day meeting where many different scientific and medical professional come together in an expert capacity. Representing their fields, their institutions, etc. Last night was the formal "kick off" dinner, though formal can mean many different things within the science crowd. I accept this, I know this, I understand that I will see more than one pair of jeans. And yet. I was more than a little surprised to see a woman wearing slippers.

Time to get back to my clearly-not-High-Def viewing of House Hunters, and the glass of chardonnay keeping me company. One more day to go, and then I'm back to all the wonderful comforts and discomforts of home!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blood Orange Gin Sparkler

In an effort to broaden my culinary/mixology horizons, and to follow through with actually doing some of the ideas I get from the Internet, I may occasionally post a recipe that I've made here. I would say "recipe or project," but since I'm not the crafty type, I doubt I'll be getting any "project" ideas from sites like Pinterest. Common sources of recipe ideas for me are many of the blogs listed to the right (both the "regular reads" list and the "food porn" list), Cooking Light magazine (I've been a faithful subscriber since 2003), and Pinterest. I happened to find this recipe via Pinterest, and it's of the "adult beverage" type.

There are a couple of things about this recipe that caught my eye. First, it's a gin-based drink, which is one of my favorite (i.e. most tolerable - I'm not a big hard liquor drinker) hard liquors. There is nothing quite like an icy, limey gin and tonic on a hot summer night. As you may have noticed, though, it's not exactly hot and summery right now. This recipe puts a nice twist on the classic gin and tonic by including rosemary and blood oranges, two decidedly wintry flavors. M. and I made round one last night, and liked it so much that we are currently sipping on round two as I type.

Adapted rom 101cookbooks.com:

Blood Orange Gin Sparkler

Simple syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (~2 sprigs-worth) fresh rosemary leaves
1 bay leaf (optional)

blood oranges
ice cubes
tonic water (or sparkling water) - I used diet tonic water

To make the simple syrup, combine the water, sugar, rosemary, and bay leaf (I left this out) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar dissolves and liquid comes to a simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. Strain into a jar to cool completely. Simple syrup should be kept in the refrigerator, and will keep for a couple of weeks. Even so, I found that this makes quite a lot of simple syrup, with only a small amount needed for the cocktail. You could probably halve the simple syrup recipe and still have more than enough.

While syrup is steeping, juice and strain your oranges. The recipe recommends 3 tablespoons / 1.5 ounces of juice for each drink. To give you an idea of how many oranges you will need, the first night, we juiced three blood oranges and got 6 tablespoons of juice, just enough for two drinks. Tonight I again juiced three oranges and got 8 tablespoons of juice, so I just increased the amounts of the other ingredients to make a slightly larger drink. So plan on juicing at least three blood oranges, as they are on the small side, or more if you want a larger drink/more than one drink. We used a simple lemon squeezer to juice the oranges. Note that this would probably be very nice with grapefruit or regular oranges, too.

For each drink, combine equal parts gin, juice, and tonic water with a bit of syrup and ice. So, its 3 tablespoons / 1.5 oz gin, 3 tablespoons / 1.5 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and 1-2 teaspoons of the rosemary syrup in each glass. Stir to combine, fill each glass 2/3 full with ice and top off with 3 tablespoons / 1.5 oz tonic water.

This doesn't make a huge drink, as you can see from the picture below that I took the first night we made this (we used a woefully innapropriately sized glass the first night), but it makes a damn good drink. I have a feeling I'm going to be buying a lot of blood oranges over the next few weeks!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Yesterday I left for work early - I had an all-day meeting and needed to make sure I wasn't late. M. dropped the kids off, and since I was up early, he and the kids were up and ready early, too. He dropped them off right around 7 am. My meeting, which was supposed to end by 4:30, was still going strong when I snuck out the door at 5:20 in order to make it to school by its 6:00 p.m. closing time. I barely made it. This meant the kids were at daycare for just about 11 hours yesterday.

In an effort to distract the kids from our abbreviated evening, I got them Burger King for dinner. Kind of like bribery, but they didn't know why I was bribing them.

Today I picked the kids up on the early side, to make up for the extra long day at daycare yesterday. I offered to play with the kids before starting dinner, since it was still pretty early - spend some unrushed, quality time together that we don't usually get. They decided to watch TV instead.


It drives me nuts that as soon as I get home each night with the kids, I am bombarded with demands. Help me get my coat/shoes off (Lucy, who is actually perfectly capable of doing those tasks herself), turn on the TV (both kids), put on a different show (usually Finn), get me a snack (both kids), feed me (cat, accompanied by annoying ankle-rubbing and other trip-causing behavior), cook dinner STAT (me/the "schedule"), make something healthy (also me), make soemthing kid-friendly (kids again), get me another snack (kids, accompanied by the inevitable whining when I say no), start emptying the dishwasher so M. doesn't have to do it later (M.), clean as I go (just nice to do, and I don't always do it, as I'm not very nice). All this happens in the roughly 45 minutes I have before M. gets home from work.

I wish that I could be left alone to cook [food I like] in peace.

Also, I need more "pleases" in my life.


My Weight Watchers weigh-in for the week is tomorrow morning. I ate tacos for dinner tonight. Even though I did use the 40% less sodium seasoning, this was probably not a smart dinner choice.

There are 5 loads of laundry sitting in a mountain on the floor of my basement, waiting to be folded.


Last Sunday I baked all afternoon with Finn. First we made Buttermilk Oatmeal muffins, mostly so I could use up the rest of the container of buttermilk I had in my fridge. To finish off the milk, I had to make a double batch - 36 muffins. I figured this was OK, as I could give them to the kids each morning as a pre-school snack, and also freeze some. Finn and Lucy ate one bite each, and declared they don't like them.

*I* like them, and M. likes them. However, I hadn't planned on eating 34 of them.

We also made zucchini cookies, as Finn was curious how you could make a cookie with a vegetable. It took us an ungodly amount of time to shred up the zucchini with the brand new food mill my mom gave me for Christmas. Should have gone low-tech and used a shredder, I guess, but at least it was a good upper body workout.

The kids *kind of* like the cookies, but still prefer other dessert foods.

There are far too many delicious baked goods in this house for my liking (and my diet's existence), and too few people to eat them.

I wish I could eat anything I wanted to, and still be healthy.


I have been good about getting back on track with exercise, jogging three times this week. I have not been so good about not eating all the things.

This is directly related to the plethora of baked goods in my house. And also the container of Two-Bite Brownies that sustained me throughout my all-day meeting yesterday. Two-Bite Brownies are a weakness of mine. There's just something about the slightly crispy outer layer, and gooey soft inner layer, that makes my soul happy. But not my scale, of course.


Lucy is completely potty trained, even at night. This family? Is done with diapers. In Memoriam: October 2006 - January 2012. They lived a short (yet too long), filled (if not exactly fulfilling) life. May they rest in peace.


Lucy sometimes hisses at us. She loves chapstick, princesses, Tinker Bell, Hello Kitty, Luke Skywalker, Annakin Skywalker, and Darth Vader. She does not like Emperor Palpatine. She has been getting in trouble for hitting at school lately. She wears 3T, will be 3 years old in just a few months. She looks adorable in a pony tail, and despises having her hair brushed. Her favorite song right now is "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens. She won't wear a hat or mittens most days, and is a pretty picky eater. Her favorite food at the moment is macaroni and cheese, or so she claims - she occasionally goes rogue and turns her nose up at it. Her favorite TV show is Super Why. She still sleeps in a crib. She likes to tell her father that he's handsome, but she still asks for me to be the one to put her to bed most nights (and brush her teeth, and get her out of bed, and take her to the bathroom...).

Finn has also been getting in trouble at school for hitting lately. We really know how to raise them, eh? He has now watched all 6 of the Star Wars movies, and is officially obsessed. He is capable of asking 3,472 questions about Star Wars on any given day. He plays with Star Wars toys, reads Star Wars books, and likely dreams about Star Wars. He is starting to get the hang of reading simple words, and whips through his math homework with little to no help. He is sweet and sensitive, always trying to make sure that the people he loves don't feel bad. He wants to win at games, but doesn't want us to lose, at least not too badly. He is taking swim lessons right now. His favorite food is still pizza, and his favorite TV show is The Wild Kratts. He whines A LOT (seriously, when does that end??). He is stubborn and frustrating and funny and loving. He still gives us spontaneous hugs and kisses. One of his latest tics involves a droning, constant humming while he's zoned out, which is about as annoying as it sounds. He now sleeps until at least 7 am on the weekends, and is damn hard to get out of bed on the weekdays.


That's life, lately. Just wanted to get something down, to get back to writing something, ANYTHING, here. To keep a record of life, for the days to come when we look back and try to remember how it all was.

It's better than it sounds, though. Writing out the details, it can seem miserable. On a day-to-day basis, life can BE miserable. But over all, we are fortunate and happy and decidedly NOT miserable. These kids, they are work. They are frustration in a short package. But they bring so much to our lives, and I know it's all worth it. These two little beings, that turn their noses up at my cooking and beat the crap out of each other, they are awesome. I recognize it every day, and make mental note of it. I'm just not that good at capturing it here, to share with all of you (and my future, memory-addled self). I need to get better at that, at putting down here all the good details. I hope I do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Food "Pin"spiration

Well, I did it – I surrendered myself (finally? Seems like everyone else is already doing it) to yet another internet movement/fad/obsession. I crossed over to the dark side and requested a Pinterest account (still holding out on Twitter, though...). Mainly because I’ve become a bit addicted to browsing through food blogs. Seriously, I can’t stop looking at all these delicious, beautiful looking pictures of food, and dreaming of making them. How’s that for diet inspiration – not so good, eh? Anyway, I would like to actually COOK some of these delightful recipes (the healthy ones, of course... and maybe one or two not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-yummy-looking ones), instead of just drooling over them. But I don’t want to end up with a stack of messy, crumply, tree-killing, bound-to-be-lost-and/or-stained sheets of 8.5 X 11 paper. So I’m joining Pinterest (well, I’m on the “wait list”, so I *may* be joining Pinterest, if they extend me an invitation), which I plan to use to “pin” these recipes all in one place, a place I can then reference for inspiration when I’m menu planning and what not. We’ll see if my usage extends beyond that – I’ve heard that once you start browsing and pinning, it’s hard to stop.

How about you? Do you have a Pinterest account? If you do, what do you use it for?

Also note that, to better feed my food blog obsession, I’ve started a new blogroll to the right to make it easier for me to frequent some of my favorite "food porn" sites. I’m sure I will be adding to this list. I encourage you to browse, too – you’d have to be the most heartless, dedicated, food-hater to not come away with a rumbly tummy and an intense desire to cook something absolutely fabulous!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yet Another New Year's Resolution Post

I'm trying to work back to some kind of momentum, not just for blogging (which I have clearly been lacking), but in many aspects of my life. The winter holiday season is something I look forward to every year, yet something that also keeps me in perpetual wonderment of whether I'll be able to keep my head above water with all the rushing, rushing, rushing to create a magical, or even just OK, experience for my family. Christmas is so much more stressful once you have kids!

Christmas this year was great, fun, different, and exhausting. We traveled to Wisconsin, as we do every other year. New this year was that our time in Wisconsin was spent at an indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells. SO. FUN. The kids had a blast, we had a blast. But oh my god, was it exhausting! Take all the planning and shopping for Christmas, figure out how to transport it to another (far away) state, and then add in countless hours of running around in a bathing suit, whipping down slides, and making sure no one drowns.

Once we got back in to town, we dealt with some of the typical traveling/winter illnesses that are inevitable (Lucy! Puked on the plane! This was a first for us! But we survived! She left the plane without any pants on!), particularly when one spends a great deal of time with hundreds of other people in a very warm, water-filled, indoor area. By the time New Year's was over, it had been nearly two weeks since I'd last been in the office. Needless to say, getting back into the swing of our everyday routine has been tough.

Also tough? Getting back in to the swing of: Exercising. Blogging (obviously). Being a responsible adult. General career motivation. Eating healthy.

Regarding that last one - I realize it's pretty common to derail one's eating habits for a time over the holidays. I certainly don't want to deprive myself of these goodies that only come around once a year or so. So I gave myself leeway. But now? I can't stop. I am eating ALL THE FOOD. Things that I never would have let myself eat a mere three weeks ago, even. Bundt cake on the common table at work? MUST EAT. And there is a fresh new bundt cake every Monday morning. Mini chocolates on the common table at work? Again, MUST EAT. And some evil person fills that damn candy basket, every damn day.

I have no will power.

But I am approximately two weeks away from my one-year anniversary with Weight Watchers. And still 10 (OK, after Xmas, 13) pounds away from my "goal weight." I need to get this shit under control.

So, a few goals. Not resolutions, per se, but goals. I set some last year, and did a so-so job of meeting them. I found some new recipes to add in to our family meal rotation, I ran one long-ish race and one 5K, and we did a few new things in the area with the kids to get out of our shopping all weekend routine. But I didn't really broaden my work horizons (for example, I thought I might try my hand at writing some freelance stuff, even if unpaid), I didn't read my camera manual to try to take better pictures, and we (clearly) didn't move up to New England to be closer to family. Though to be fair, the last goal was really to "start working toward" moving up to New England, which I did do - I applied for a few jobs, and even had a few phone interviews. But nothing that was a great fit, so it's back to square one there.

New year, new (ish) goals:

1) Reach my G-D Weight Watchers goal weight already. Work the plan (it really does work when you properly "work it"), drop the last 13 pounds, and become a lifetime member. I just need to DO THIS already.

2) Run a couple of short races. Find a 10 mile race to enter. Make ample use of my new cold weather running apparel (don't be a wimp!). Only allow myself to watch season 2 episodes of Downton Abbey if I'm on the treadmill (shouldn't be too hard, as M. refuses to watch with me, and the treadmill is the only solo TV watching time I allow myself).

3) Estate planning - make a will, etc. Can't believe we haven't done this yet, and am very ashamed to admit that we haven't. It is utterly ridiculous, of course, and we need to stop putting it off. Anyone have recommendations of a good lawyer in the Montgomery County area who could help with this?

4) Meet with a financial advisor. More boring responsible adult-type stuff that we should already be doing.

5) Read at least 15 books this year. M. got me a Kindle for Christmas, so I'm hoping I'll be motivated to stay on top of my reading. I really LIKE books, I just (ever since Finn was born) tend to zonk out after only 5 minutes of reading each night. Makes it hard to finish anything in less than an eon, by which point I've usually lost enthusiasm for or forgotten the plot.

6) Learn to use my NEW camera. Yes, I was not successful in reading the user manual and learning how to use my camera to its fullest potential last year. But I WAS successful in obtaining a newer, better camera - a Nikon DSLR - an extremely generous Christmas gift from my parents. It is insanely nice and expensive, and I have no idea how to use it. But I've at least bought myself a new camera bag and a book on exposure, and am starting to work my way through the user manual. I have no great desire to take professional grade photographs, but I don't want to look like a bumbling idiot with this fancy thing around my neck, and I'd like some decent pictures of my family and our experiences. This must happen.

7) Continue to work toward moving up to New England. This includes figuring out what the hell I'd like to do with my career (because what I do now is just not easily transferrable to any region of the country), applying for many, many jobs, and getting our house in shape for either selling or renting. The home improvement projects will hopefully include getting hardwood floors on the main level, new countertops in the kitchen, and maybe a few new windows. With any luck and no major unexpected/emergency household expenses.

8) Post here more. I'm happier when I do. It makes me feel more fulfilled than the slug that sits on the couch watching TV at night that I otherwise become.

The last two goals are the most important:

9) Be a more patient, respectful, present parent to Finn and Lucy. I want to lead by example. I know that I already do (we all do), I'm just not happy with the example I'm setting. I yell, so they yell. Because of me, they are learning to treat each other and their parents disrespectfully. I want to be more mindful of my actions, and how they rub off on the kids. I expect this to be hard.

10) Put M. first more. He is a great parent, and a wonderful husband. He, out of guilt and a desire to be selfless, I'm sure, doesn't take any time for himself. But he always encourages me to do so - he wants me to buy things that make me happy, he is very encouraging of my time spent running or at Weight Watchers meetings. He is always willing to let me hang out with a friend or two, sans kids. He lets me put myself first, but yet never puts himself first. I want to spend more time encouraging him, and allowing him to be more selfish.

That's a lot of goals, I know. What can I say? Maybe I'm finally feeling motivated for a fresh start, only 5 days later than everyone else. Wish me luck!

And Happy New Year, from our family to yours!