Celebrating My 100th Post

 At the beginning of 2011, I began this blog, and joined the WordPress “Post A Week” Challenge. Nearly 14 months have come and gone, and now WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post!

Hmmm, how should I commemorate this important occasion?

Should I revive some of my more memorable posts (memorable for me, anyway)? I could bring back the one I wrote about my mother last Mother’s Day – 13 Things You Should Know About my Mom. Or I could remind you of the love story I told about my grandparents around Valentines Day – Step One: Get the Girl. I could even resurrect the blog post that somehow managed to hit the Freshly Pressed Radar,  Mom, I Know Lots of Words,  about my son learning to read. Dear God, I was gushing with pride then, I’m almost a little embarrassed by it now.

Kindergarten Homework

Kindergarten Homework

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I look back at my posts, I realize that there is a lot of variety in my blog. (Translation: I have no direction!) I’ve shared some sappy stories about my kids, and family, as well as one or two Bad Parenting Moments.

Bad Parenting Moments Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve thrown in a few travel posts, mostly about my family vacation. I tried, once or twice, to give some advice on SMART goals, and business skills…as if I know! I’ve even shared a few recipes, like the one for my Kahlua Chocolate Chip muffins. Those things should be illegal!

Maybe I should use my 100th post to give you a list of my blogging resolutions, or some of my plans for upcoming posts (as if I have some).

However, what I should really do is come up with some fresh material.

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On Giving Up Chocolate For Lent – What Was I Thinking?

It’s Ash Wednesday evening, and while sitting in traffic of the way to work this morning, I decided that I would give up Chocolate for Lent.

Ash Wednesday is like New Year’s Day. For those of us that observe Lent, it’s an opportunity to revive those New Years Resolutions that have already gone south.

Of course, I didn’t make any New Years Resolutions this year, and I don’t often go out of my way to give something up for Lent. But this morning, something inspired me to say goodbye to chocolate for a little while. Maybe it was the fact that my slacks were feeling a bit snug this morning. Maybe, I wanted to challenge myself. Maybe I need to practice a little self-discipline, or maybe I just want to torture myself for 40 days.

From a religious perspective, I actually think forgoing chocolate is a bit of a copout. After all, Lent is supposed to be about sacrifice, but I’m pretty sure it’s about making sacrifices for the benefit of others. My six-year old is already better at Lent than I am; he earned a canned good for food drive at Church by spontaneously cleaning his room the other day. (Talk about miracles!)

Giving up chocolate is a recycled Lenten gesture too. Been there. Done that – about 15 years ago. It was a long 40 days, and I don’t think I’ve given up anything since.

Whether or not giving up my favorite little indulgence is a worthy Lenten sacrifice, I’m stuck with it now. I’ve said it “out loud” for the everyone in the blogosphere to hear.

Now it’s time to bid adieu to some of my favorite treats;

Chocolate covered pretzels (I had one last night, ooooh, so good!)

 M&Ms – the dark chocolate ones

The little wrapped chocolate hearts in the candy dish in the living room.

My favorite Kahlua Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hot Chocolate …

Oh dear, this is going to be tough. Here’s hoping for something yummy in my Easter Basket!

Is it Too Late for a New Year’s Resolution?

 I suppose I should apologize to you, “Odds ‘N Ends“, my little blog. I’ve done nothing but neglect you in 2012. It’s midway thru December, and I’ve left you teetering on the edge of a cliff since before Christmas! I made it though eight of my “12 Days Before Christmas” posts, and then I abandoned you. It’s shameful really. I have no excuse. I am sorry.

I suppose, if you’ll accept my apology, the only penance I have is to re-dedicate myself to my little blogging hobby. Like going to the gym, once you fall off the writing “wagon” it becomes easy to put it off just one more day, every day. Well, that stops now. Here I am. I am writing, and even though I don’t seem to have much to say, I do. This is just my warm-up. 

So, here it is, my February 10th Resolution: I will write at least one blog post a week for the rest of 2012. 

I am officially back.

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 3 – Spinning my Wheels

The clock is winding down, and I am getting more frazzled each minute. So frazzled, that I missed my Day 4 post altogether. Oops!

Well, instead of drafting a blog post, this is how I spent yesterday evening. After dinner was done, and 1st grade homework squared away, I decided to run” a few last-minute errands:

  1. Home Depot: This had nothing to do with Christmas, but rather a home renovation project. I had picked out some tile do a kitchen backsplash and wanted to make sure I purchased a full supply, lest I go back next week and find that it’s sold out. While there, I picked up a gift for the office Yankee Swap. Two birds killed with one stone. Off to a good start.
  2. Dunkin Donuts: Picked up gift cards for my children’s teachers. I hope they all like coffee and munchkins!
  3. The Liquor Store: I arrived there 5 minutes before closing time. Just enough time to buy a nice bottle of Scotch for my boss, and a bottle of Baileys for me. Three stops in 45 minutes, I was doing well.
  4. Target: It all went downhill from here. On my list were slippers (for my daughter to wear to her preschool, Polar Express pajama party today), a few stocking-stuffers for the kids, some gift bags, and gift cards for the folks at work.
    When I left, I had all of those things, plus: a plastic toboggan to go under the tree, a gift for my kids to give their Dad, a lovely set of gloves, scarf and a hat for the kids to give to me, gifts for the Aunt and Uncle we will see on Christmas, candy canes for my son’s classmates, candy for the candy dishes at home, and a bunch of socks and underwear for the kiddos.

Target sucked the life out of me last night, but I have a feeling I’ll be back for more before the shopping season is over.

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 5 – A Wilting Poinsettia

I’ve done it again this year. We made a family trip to the local nursery during the first weekend of December and picked out our tree, and a couple of big beautiful poinsettias to decorate living room. And as sure as Christmas on in the 25th, my Poinsettia began to wilt with a week to spare.

If there is an opposite of green (purple? Brown?) then that’s the color of my thumb. I have purchased, and subsequently tortured and killed numerous house plants. For a while, when we first bought our house, I would buy plenty of petunias each spring to add to the garden bed. For the first fee years, I did a pretty good job tending to them, until July anyway, when I would lose the battle to weeds. Now, with two children running around, the weeds begin to rule shortly after Memorial Day.

I don’t even bother with indoor plants anymore! Except at Christmas. For me, Poinsettias are nearly as important as the tree. They add color and life to our home just as the temperature is plummeting outside. Every year, I spend plenty of time, maybe too much time, perusing the greenhouse full of every variety of poinsettia. I look for one that has full, bright foliage, and no signs of wilting. I’ve learned to park close to the door, and to quickly get my plant into a warm car, lest the New England cold air choke it before it reaches my living room.

I try to follow all of the “caring-for-your poinsettia” tips I’ve picked up over the years, even though they are sometimes contradictory. Nevertheless, every year I either over-water or under-water, and by Christmas day I am sweeping up fallen wilted leaves throughout the day – hoping my guests won’t notice the sorry state of my Christmas flower.

If nothing else, I think I’ve learned to resist the urge to grab a poinsettia on the first weekend of the Christmas Season. Next year, poinsettia shopping with be on the 23rd!

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 6 – The Christmas Pageant and the Reluctant Shepherd

My first grader participated in his first Christmas Pageant yesterday at our church.

I was a little surprised that he volunteered for this gig. As of late, he’s been pretty vocal about how shy he is. (That actually seems like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it?) He announced that he wanted no part of Christmas caroling with his Cub Scout Pack over the weekend, as it meant singing in public and no six-year old in their right mind would want any part of that. When I take him to Mass, at the Sign of Peace, he refuses to greet anyone he considers a stranger. I’ve seen him stare down one or two senior citizens who have offered their hands. One afternoon, as he and his sister were belting out “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in the back seat of the car, I suggested that they sing it for Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas. “No way Jose!” He promptly announced that he would not sing, if his sister sang, he would hide in his room until her little concert was over.

So when on Sunday morning, he got up bright and early and was ready for Church on time (and was even pretty chipper about going off to meet his Religious Ed. Class), I was pretty proud, but a little surprised.

Alas, his sunny attitude was short-lived. As he was lining up with the other shepherds to make their way into the church, I saw him start to get a little antsy. He was even more edgy when I told him I needed to leave to sit in the audience. I crossed my fingers.

Mary and Joseph reached the altar first, followed by the cows, the shepherds, the angels and the Magi. About 20 children assembled in front of the altar, sweetly singing Christmas carols. My little boy sang too, or at least I saw him mouth the words. That is, until I pulled out the camera.  Once he saw me, I had no chance of getting a photo of a smiling little cherub this year. Instead, I got this:

Reluctant Shepherd 1

"Mom, do you HAVE to take a picture?"

The Reluctant Shepherd 2

Maybe if I just move behind Joseph over here...

Reluctant Shepherd 3

The Full Disappearing Act

Oh well, I’m sure there’ll be more photo-ops next year.

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 7 – An Apple for the Teacher?

With only a week til Christmas, and 5 school days, I am working my way through the Christmas list. As always, I still struggle with the gifts for the teachers. I’ll be honest, I never quite know the protocol for this. 
 
Depending on how you look at it, the teacher/day care provider list could be as long as some people’s family list. My pre-school daughter has two regular teachers, my 1st grader has only one teacher, but then there’s the art teacher, the gym teacher and the music teacher. He also has a bus driver and bus monitor. My children also have regular babysitters for after school care. 
 
So, if all teachers make the gift list, we’re looking at 10 or more people who are getting gifts. Each of these folks certainly deserves our appreciaton; they spend several hours each day molding our kids – covering everything from spelling tests, to ensuring playground time doesn’t resemble “Lord of the Flies” to reminding them to wash their hands when they use the bathroom to giving spelling tests.
 
I always finding myself wanting to give them each a personalized gift, that’s unique and thoughtful. After all, how many mugs embossed with “World’s Best Teacher” can one person have? Alas, I am neither creative, nor resourceful, and I’m running out of time. 
 
I’m fairly certain that the teachers on my list are all getting gift cards for the local coffee shop. I figure that they all probably need some caffeine to make it through most days with my children (I know I do). Here’s hoping they love a good cup of coffee as much as I do!

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 8 – Let the Parties Begin

Let me start by saying “Oops!”, this post is a day late (and at least a dollar short, I’m sure). As is always the way during the holiday season, the sand ran out of my clock long before I could finish this post.
 
But, my tardiness was worth it. With eight days to go, we spent much of the day at the first of several family celebrations. It was the first party of the season for me, which translates to the first afternoon of indulging in copious amounts of crackers and buffalo chicken dip, crackers and Brie, Christmas cookies and plenty of pie. It was the first gift exchange of the season, I this case it was a gift change just for the kids – our children and their cousins. Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit more than watching my kids, and my nieces in nephews waiting anxiously in front of the tree, waiting for the first gift to be handed out. 
 

 

Only a fraction of my large family attended this party, with less than half of my siblings there. Still, we represented six states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and Washington) – not too shabby.
 

With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I have to say – it was nice to relax for an afternoon, and take a break from the lists, the errands, the chores, and simply enjoy the company of my extended family. 
 

The party season is clearly off to a good start!
 

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 9 – Potluck Preparation

The Holidays mean plenty of get-togethers, and often times, family get-togethers take on a potluck theme. I love potlucks. They relieve the host or hostess of some of the stress of preparing a big meal for loads of people. They also lend themselves to serving dinner buffet-style, much less stuffy than the formal Christmas Dinner. It also gives the guests the opportunity to contribute to the meal, and to try out some of their own favorite recipes.

Tomorrow, we are going to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for our family party. My contribution: Roasted Carrots and Butternut Squash, seasoned with a little nutmeg and balsamic vinegar. (I confess – I am adapting this recipe from one that I found on “The Perfect Pantry” blog. This blogger has some wonderful recipe ideas – please check it out!)

Roasted Carrots vie The Perfect Pantry

Roasted Carrots from The Perfect Pantry

This got me to thinking about how many great potluck recipe ideas there are out there, but when I usually need one, I find myself racking my brain for something tasty to bring.  So here are a few Holiday Potluck ideas to keep in reserve:

  • Homemade Macaroni and Cheese:  What better example of comfort food than this? Everyone has their own favorite recipe. (I like mine with a mix of several cheeses, including parmesan, cheddar, and cream cheese.) The great thing is that you can make batches that are as large or small as you want. It’s easy to wrap in foil and a casserole plan, so it travels well – and the leftovers are just as tasty the next day!
  • Tangy Kielbasa in the Crock Pot: Just throw a couple of pounds of kielbasa and a couple of cups of grape jelly and ketchup into the crockpot and heat it until the kielbasa is hot. A co-worker made this a couple of years ago and it was great! (Just about anything you can make and serve from a crock pot could be a great potluck idea – though I’d stay away from anything too soupy, unless you are prepared to bring soup bowls to the party.)
  • Chicken and Pasta Salad – I made this for a potluck baby shower last year, and I wish I had made more of it! There are so many variations of it, as well. For me, I poach about a pound of chicken and then pull it apart. After cooking pasta (rotini, bowties, take your pick), I blend the pasta and the chicken with my own blend of creamy chicken soup, milk, cheddar cheese, frozen veggies (I like broccoli), and some sauteed mushroom and onion. After adding it to a lasagna pan, I top with breadcrumbs and bake.

Of course, desserts are the staple of any holiday party. My eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to preparing all of those creative holiday dessert ideas like peanut butter reindeer cookies, and Santa lollipops. I so want to spend an afternoon preparing batches of these with my kids, but I never seem to have an afternoon to spare. 

That being said, there’s no shame in rolling out the store-bought sugar cookie dough, and letting the kids go to town with the red and green sprinkles and cookie cutters.  Bring those to your next potluck, and you’ll have nothing but an empty plate to bring home!

Baking Christmas Cookies

Let the kids bake the cookies!

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 10 – Time to Clean!

The first wave of Holiday Hosting begins this weekend. My cousin is arriving on Friday, and my brother and his boyfriend are coming for a visit on Saturday evening. I am looking forward to seeing all of them. Of course, the only downside to this is that I have to clean the house, or at least straighten it up enough so that it won’t be featured in an episode of “Hoarders.”

This year, our cleaning chores are complicated by the fact that our two-family home is undergoing some serious renovations. We are in the process of moving from the upstairs apartment to the larger downstairs apartment, and are renovating a few rooms, in particular the kitchen. In fact, at the moment, our main kitchen is completely gutted while we await the installation of new cabinets and appliances. (That’s where the visit from the cousin comes in – Thank you Billy!)  Fingers-crossed, the kitchen will be completely functional by the time Christmas arrives.

Kitchen Renovation - During

Who needs a sink or appliances anyway?

While I am as excited as a little girl on Christmas morning (really) at the prospect of a new kitchen, the constant cloud of dust from the ongoing work makes cleaning a challenge. Thankfully, our house guests are family, and won’t be performing any “white-glove” tests while they’re here!

Cleaning Snowmen

Think I could hire these guys or a little light housework?

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