Thursday, October 30, 2008

Business Venture #1

OK, I'm putting my salesgirl hat on. If you're not interested, just skip this and wait until my next normal post.
I got this idea when I posted the cool baby announcement Mike made for me. (I'm too lazy to find the link. Just keep scrolling down if you want to see it.) Heidi asked if he did Christmas cards, and I thought...why don't I do Christmas cards? So, I asked Mike's permission to totally steal his thunder and he relented.

I've invested in a few digi-supplies to experiment a little. I have no idea if anyone will even be interested, but I had fun creating all kinds of sample cards. If, by some chance, you are interested in having me make your photo christmas cards (ala shutterfly, etc--but slightly cheaper and with more personal touch) then scroll through these samples and check my prices at the bottom. If not, just see how creative I had to get finding sample pictures--thanks to friends and family for letting me steal your photos. Some of these I like more than others. Some I don't really care for, but you never know what will strike a fancy.

Style A B
























Most of the colors can be changed, and I can add/delete/change font on any text. If you are interested, leave a comment or email me at You send me the jpg you want, choose a style and the text (and font, if you have a preference) you'd like.
Any card, any size, with one photo, sent to you as a jpg, to print as you choose: $10

4x6’s printed and sent to you: $ .40 each

5x7’s printed and sent to you: $ .70 each

4x8’s printed and sent to you: $ .80 each

5x5’s printed and sent to you $1 each
Prices are based on 50 cards or less. If you want more, let me know and I'll figure out a discount.
These prices do NOT include envelopes. I take cash, check and PayPal. :) (Really!)
In addition, if you are the type who pays for convenience, and you are interested in having me buy envelopes, stuff cards, address them, etc...send me an email or comment and we can arrange something.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seriously! (plus)

**Author's edit: after I posted this, I added a comparison pic at the bottom. Be sure to check it out.

Seriously, how cute is this?! My friend Beth MADE this little tutu and headband for Sydney. I finally remembered to take advantage of the nice weather and get a photo-op before it got too cold. I learned this with Carson, but it is still funny to me how crazy in-love I can be with this little person when I was crazy mad last night when she was waking up so often. (We've turned a lousy page in the sleep book, and she's been getting up 3-4 times a night, rather than her usual 1.) But when I see her smiling away, I just want to eat her up! Again, I know these all look the same to you, but they are different to me! Plus, I want to give the grandparents ample choices for their new desktop wallpaper.

That little tongue melts me!

Please look closely or enlarge to see her left eyebrow arched. I love it.

Whoa! Check this stuff out!

Here's a comparison pic of Carson and Sydney, both at 4 months. I hope they continue to look like each other!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sock it to me.

OK, wow, I've not been living up to my own frequent-blogging standards. Sorry about that. I've been busy this week helping the girls with their consignment sale. It was such a hoot! I don't think any of us thought it would be so big--I'm talking amount of clothes (could barely fit it on our racks) and people (huge lines and sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder shopping!). They did an awesome job and I was glad I was able to help. Check out the BunchBunch blog to see how famous they got! (Even though the newscaster mispronounced Becky's last name. If I had a nickel for how many time I was called "Jen Brunch" growing up. Grrrrr....)
So, I will be posting more this week about a couple of business ventures of my own, but first I have a survey question for all of you who have small kids or have bought for small kids. Sydney owns exactly 3 pairs of socks. I know! It's horrible. All summer she either wore pj-type outfits or little sundresses with bare tootsies. But little baby socks have always been such a headache for me. I can never get them to stay on.
Anyone have a suggestion as to a brand of socks that work well for babies?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My neurosis. And at least one perfect picture.

You'd think I'd have figured it out by now, but sometimes I forget to lower my expectations. In some cases, I do really well. For instance, when we went to California last spring, I mentally prepared myself for NO sleeping in whatsoever, for a moody and challenging toddler while I single-mommed it for a few days, and for possibly an unimpressed or cranky kiddo at Disneyland. These lowered expectations helped make the trip very enjoyable. The first two came in as expected, the last one exceded my expectations so I was pleasantly surprised.

But this last week I did it again. I had my hopes set on a new family picture at our annual trip to the pumpkin patch with my family. I managed to piece together matching outfits for the whole family, with much preparation and planning and care. I envisioned the PERFECT family picture taken by Mike, one that would adorn our Christmas cards and the joy of the Pumpkin patch day would shine through our gorgeous little faces.

Everything was falling into place, even though GETTING to the pumpkin patch was already a comedy of errors, including one stop by the side of the road for Carson to pee on the guard rail, because I wouldn't allow us to go as far off the freeway as a gas station. We miraculously were right on time, but I knew I needed to feed Sydney before we met up with the extended fam, so as we're getting out of the car for a quick feed and onto the fun, I go to get my little birdy out of the car seat and suddenly, my hand is soaking. In. Poop. Her poop. Which has soiled her from thigh to neck. Stiffled the cuss word and the tears but allowed my vanity to flare while I announced that she WOULD be wearing those jeans and the vest because a little bit of poop is not going to RUIN MY PICTURE! If you need details, just know that the long sleeve onesie was destroyed, the jeans were only slightly affected, the vest had not been put on yet, so we forced the issue with pj's under the jeans, even though they were pink.

Everything is back on track....this story is getting too long...yada, yada,yada...get to a break in the action, grab Mike and his camera, the lighting is not very good because the sun is too bright but we'll deal with it and of COURSE Carson is not at ALL interested in looking anywhere near the camera. Thanks to all the other children and adults who tried their darnedest, but he just wasn't having it. He didn't get the memo, evidently, of the importance of this one picture. And although I knew that this was the one chance we had, and I knew that they probably weren't going to turn out like I had hoped, I made a choice. I decided to--wait for it! LET. IT. GO. I'm quite proud of myself. I decided to not stew in my frustration and just try to enjoy the moment. I have no idea if any of the shots turned out. I'm sure I'll see them sometime. Part of what is helping me is that we had a great day with our family and friends and also, I did get one shot that is just perfect. (Please enlarge to bask in the cutest little tongue you ever did see.)

Here are a few more from the day. I'll post one of the family pics after I get them from Mike.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Even more Carsonisms

OK, seriously, my son cracks me up. I can't even remember all the funny things he says. I'm loving this part of 3 years old. Lots of talking and conversation all day. Except this conversation that happens a lot. Imagine me doing the dishes and Carson talking but also kind of gazing off, not exactly sure of what he wants to say:

C: Mom?
M: Hmmm?
C: Mom?
C: Mom?
M: WHAT, Carson?
C: Mom?

This one is a classic, though. It happened last week:

C: Mom, Sydney can stay for just a little bit.
M: What do you mean?
C: She can stay, but only for a little bit.
M: You mean stay on my lap or stay in our house?
C: Stay here in our house. Just for a little bit. Then she has to go back.
M: Go back where?
C: To the doctor.

But this one made me happy. At least I know he's listening! Just now, C and hubby are wrestling on the bed. I hear this:
C: Daddy! Don't do that! You are making a choice! Make a good choice!

Also, I have a new revelation. For three years I have studied, shopped, researched, interviewed and longed for The Toy. You know, that elusive Toy that would fill the void in my child's life. The Toy that would beckon to him all day long. The Toy that would keep him entertained WHILST educating him for hours on end. We have a bedroom full of toys, but not The Toy.

Turns out, the equivalent to The Toy was here all along: in his head. His imagination starting shaping last year but it has multiplied exponentially in the last month. It is absolutely filling our days.

One frequent game in our house stems from the doctor's kit he got for his birthday. First we examined each other back and forth, multiple times a day. Then I added the element of a clip board, and when I was the doc, I asked him questions about height, weight, ailment, etc. and wrote the answer down. This caught his attention, and then he was not to be seen all day without the clipboard and a crayon, asking me all kinds of personal questions and "writing" the answer down. (I don't think he spelled "none of your business" correctly.) But one time, I asked about his family and if he had any pets. THIS then morphed into the clipboard interview about all of his animals and then my animals. And people, there are a lot of animals. C-dog is not super confident on all his letters, but he KNOWS his animals. (Ironic, since I'm not exactly a member of PETA.) He told me all about his mouse, elephant, dog, fish, lion, meerkat, hamster, racoon, dolphin, tiger, giraffe, beetle, etc. They all have names, but often the names are of characters from the last movie or TV show he watched, or whatever phonetical sounds come flowing out of his mouth. Yesterday there were several animals named Lurla or Choolee.

NOW the imaginary animals have taken the form of the stereotypical imaginary friend/animals. He has a bunny, a cat and 2 dogs that have been consistently with us (and I mean CONSISTENTLY--Target? check. Bathtime? check. Dinner? check.) for 2 days. Cute? Sure, for a while. But at nap time yesterday, I hear this:
Sigh. I gave in and opened the door for the bunny to pee. Then:
"MOM! The bunny can't get back in! LET MY BUNNY BACK IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I really don't mind that all my tupperware has been spread out all day because, evidently, this cat, 2 dogs and bunny are quite hungry. He feeds them approximately every 10 minutes. But when I'm trying to calm a crying baby and he asks me to feed them, and I pour "food" into all the bowls, he had a total meltdown because I gave dog food to the cat. I'm totally serious. I'm even kind of embarassed to tell you about the bed I made for the dogs in the car so we could leave the garage.

Wanna know my little secret to keeping my sanity? I convinced him to name the cat Monica, one of the dogs Chandler and the bunny Rachel. It makes me giggle every time. ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sneak Peek

OK, obviously my recipe post bored you all, judging by the ONE comment. (Yes, I tend to judge my posts by how many comments I get.) So, here's one that should please you more. Here are some very recent pics of my sweet Syd. She is growing so fast, and I fall more in love with her every day! She's definitely past the "newborn" phase, which is good and bad. She's not as mellow as she was at first--she definitely cries and fusses more. But she's also filling out a little, getting cuter, getting more of a personality, and last night she slept for 9 hours! (She's only done this 3x in her life--not in a row. Of course around 6 am I wake up from a dead sleep and run in to check that she's breathing. I know! I thought I wouldn't do it with the second child, but I do. Not quite as much, but I still do it.)
Also, I know I should save it to post on November 1, but I just can't resist. Here's some pics of her Halloween costume. We got it for 60% off, and Carson's is borrowed, so his is free. I decided to be a silly mommy and get it. It was the smallest size they had: 0-6 months.

Our little Pea Pod.

Here's some more pictures from yesterday. It was the first day in a long time that Carson went to play with Mimi and Tara, so Sydney and I were able to have some good quality time alone. She really loves this bouncy seat, hand-me-down from C-dog. The little arch with hanging toys was off for this picture, but just 2 days ago, after much staring and determination, she finally coordinated her hands enough to reach out and grab the leg of a little hanging elephant. She was so pleased with herself, but then she couldn't figure out how to let go, so she was just gripping it for about 10 minutes. I'll try to get that on camera soon.

I love this relaxed pose. I want to raise an independent, confident girl. So far, she looks like she's got a good start. And a sweet tummy to boot.

These 2 pictures may look identical to you, but there is one small nuance a mother notices. In this one, below, she's sporting the pouty lower lip, a new favorite of hers. I love it!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spaghetti, Ice Cream Sandwiches and Apple Crisp

Let's share!

As a post script to my last post, I'm sharing with you some of my favorite recipes. May I suggest you read, copy if you'd like, but then you post a recipe on your blog that others might like. Maybe it's your signature dish, maybe not. :) Celeste already started the trend with a very yummy sounding cake.

Here goes. This post will be long. I'm sure the spacing will be all messed up, so I apologize in advance. Also, just a note, the ice cream sandwiches are kind of a big undertaking, especially the first time. I do not consider this a "naptime recipe," meaning, I would not try to start and complete it within 90 minutes.


1 lb ground beef

1 small can mushroom pieces

1/2 onion, chopped

1 can diced tomatoes

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 tsp minced garlic

1 envelope spaghetti seasoning



garlic salt

1/2 tsp all spice

Dash of sugar

1 Tbsp Italian seasonings or spices

(additional veggies-finely chopped or pureed-optional)

*Brown hamburger and drain. Add chopped onions and cook until transparent.

*Add all other ingredients (salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Keep hot until spaghetti noodles are ready.

Jen's note: Sometimes, if I have my act together, I'll pull a Jessica Seinfeld and sneak in some veggies. It can change the taste a bit, though, so I don't do it all the time.


*This part of the recipe can be done in advance.

1/2 cup butter, cubed

4 squares (1 oz each) of semisweet chocolate

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

*In a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan, melt butter and chocolate; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Stir in vanilla and chocolate mixture. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to choco mixture.

*Pour into a parchment paper-lined 15 in x 10 in x 1 in baking pan. (Jen's note--I don't have this, so I just use the largest one I do have. A smaller pan makes the brownie thicker, but not as many sandwiches.) Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes or until center is set (do not overbake). Cool completely on a wire rack. Invert brownie onto a work surface and remove parchment paper.


4 cups of Snickers ice cream (I've used mocha, Heath, cookies 'n cream--they're all good.)

1 bottle of magic-shell, any kind

*Prepare, bake and cool brownies. Cut brownie in half widthwise. Spread ice cream over one brownie half. Turn over remaining brownie half; place over ice cream. Cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm.

*Cut into bars, squares or triangles. Drizzle with Magic shell. Let stand for 1-2 minutes or until topping is set. Wrap individualy in plastic wrap. Freeze until serving.

Jen's notes: There is a learning curve on this. Working with ice cream can be tricky. I found that buying the ice cream that comes in a cube and cutting it into squares to place on the brownie is very helpful. If things start to melt, just put it all in the freezer for a couple minutes so you can work on it again. I also found that using a large bread knife and "sawing" through the large frozen brownie/ice cream sandwich is the best way to get little sandwiches.


I found my recipe at this site. I read several of the comments and suggestions, and incorporate many of them. I use white or yellow cake mix, and I add a lot of oatmeal. I also use a little less water. I change it a little every time, but it is easy and yummy. The hardest part is peeling and cutting the apples. (Granny Smith are best.)



Do you have a signature dish? Did you grow up with one at your house? I guess, in its truest sense, a signature dish would be one that the author cook actually invents and creates the recipe. You know "secret ingredients" and all that. Well, I do not foresee in my future that I will ever create any recipe that has more than 3 ingredients and does not include the instructions "first, roast the marshmallows." So, for the purposes of this blog post, a Signature Dish is one that the "cook/baker makes often, makes well, makes to the delight of others and that few other people make."
I would like to give a shout-out to some favorite signature dishes in my life, both past and present. (This list is not complete. Please do not be offended if your dish was not mentioned. Be assured that I love it.) OR, recipes that I've been given that I love and associate with those people.
-My mom's Minestrone soup, homemade caramel corn, potato & cheese casserole and otter pops. (Ha--just had to throw that one in there for fun!)
-My Grandma Mulkeys spaghetti, ambrosia salad and white chocolate almond bark.
-Mamanina's tortillas.
-My mother-in-law's pear salad, sweet & sour chicken, and grilled salmon and grilled steak. (Father-in-law helps with those last two.)
-My grandmother-in-law's red velvet cake and eskimo pie.
-My aunt Carol's white chocolate Chex Mix. (This stuff is my own personal meth. Seriously, I think it has an addictive chemical that makes me crave it fortnightly.)
-Steph's spinach & artichoke dip, and monster cookies.
-The Bowder's Mexican chicken and Mounds bars.
Maybe my family and friends can remind me of any that I've skipped?
Well, I'm not, nor do I think I'll ever be known for my culinary skills. However, in the last 7.5 years that we've been married, I've been doggy paddling in the deep end of providing meals for your family, and I've emerged a better swimmer. I have a few go-to meals that tide us over, and I'm hoping that I'm establishing a few dishes that my children may assign to me as my signature. All of my recipes, including these favorites, have been borrowed, adopted, stolen or copied, but they're ours now. :)
One of those such dishes I mentioned last June. It will be one of my signatures partly because I love it so stinkin' much, and will make it forever. It is brownie and ice-cream sandwiches with Magic Shell.
Another dish is my Grandma Mulkey's spaghetti. I make it a LOT. Part of the reason I decided to write this post at all was because I made this the other night and my husband and my son make me feel like Julia Child when this is for dinner. Carson stops talking for the first time all day to cram his mouth full of the stuff, and Trent goes on and on about how jealous his coworkers are the next day when he takes leftovers. He even gave me the ultimate compliment and said "When Carson grows up, he'll probably tell his wife that her spaghetti is not as good as yours." Once my in-laws took Carson to a specialty dessert place and let him look at the glass case with all the cakes and pies. Gpa Phil says, "Well, Carson, what's your favorite?" He said, "Spaghetti." Ha!
We also have a "no-shirt" rule for Carson when we have spaghetti, because of the many stained shirts.
Other than that, I'm still working on my signatures. I've stumbled on a few winners, but I haven't made them enough or had enough people try them to classify in that special category. I have a great apple crisp, a baked chicken with swiss cheese that I got from Margo in the BCC choir, and a crockpot chili from Parents magazine that I make enough to be well on their way. I'll keep you posted. Any signatures you want to share?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Play-doh in the dishwasher and grapes in the oven

A) The name of my new book about parenting
B) Our family's secret distress code
C) Discoveries I made during naptime today

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A contradiction?

OK, I hope I don't step on any toes here. This is just my personal opinion.
For some reason, I tend to steer away from "character" clothes and/or decor. Let me explain. I would probably not buy Carson clothes that have Diego or Spiderman on them. A shirt or two here and there or PJ's is not that big of a deal. But a Monsters Inc. bedspread is out of the question. I'm not sure exactly why. I think it is because I prefer a more timeless look, especially for something like a bedroom, that I hope to not redo very often. These cartoon characters that the kids love are really a fad, a phase they are going through, and I'd rather not invest lots of time/money in this month's favorite TV show.
HOWEVER! I feel the exact OPPOSITE when it comes to birthdays, which is really strange. I think it is way fun to have a birthday theme that is totally topical, all about what my kid is into RIGHT NOW. I will always look back and remember that Carson loved Elmo when he turned 2, and loved CARS when he turned 3.
I think it may stem from my childhood! I think it is a total hoot to look back and see the cakes that my mom made (and now I know how HARD she worked to make them!). They remind me of the fad I was into at the time, or the toys I loved. It takes me back on a very enjoyable trip down memory lane. We'll see how long I can keep up the cake decorating tradition, but for now it's definitely worth my time.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Better late than never!

I forgot to post a picture of our baby announcement for those of you who didn't get one in the mail. Stamps are expensive, so it was a short list...don't be offended. My brother made these for us, and I LOVE them. You know, for a reasonable fee, he might consider freelancing for your next announcement! (Mike, I'm now your agent. I expect 10%.)