• It’s a snow day!  For everybody.  The boys are home and playing happily, I handled my dietitian appointment over the phone (and cancelled my therapist and physical therapy appointments), and Jason’s working from home/looking at Black Friday ads.  With all this fluffy whiteness outside, it feels like Winter Break.  All we need is some egg nog (not on plan) and Christmas carols/movies (not happening before Thanksgiving dinner is cleared from the table).
  • Speaking of ‘on plan,’ please cross your fingers that my home scale matches the one at the club.  If it’s right, I lost 4.2 pounds this week, bringing my total lost to an even 25 pounds.  I KNOW.  And that’s with adding bread back into the diet and going out to a nice restaurant for Jason’s birthday.
  • We saw Harry Potter on Saturday night.  Loved it.  After the Lavender Brown fiasco of installment six (her portrayal ruined the movie for me), it was nice to be back on track.
  • We’re doing Thanksgiving at home, just the four of us, this year.  I’m looking forward to it.  I love seeing extended family, of course, but as that’s not an option right now, this feels right.  It reminds me of holiday dinners growing up, when it was often just Mom, Dad, Heather & me.
  • The boys have discovered a fun new game – snow shoveling!  They have kid-sized shovels and think it’s such a great time.  Heh.
  • Dancing With the Stars – What do you think the chances are of Jennifer winning?  I adore Kyle, he’s been my favorite since Week 1, but I can admit that Jennifer out-dances him.  And their competition.  By a half mile, at least.  I hope the results reflect that.
  • ‘Tis the season…to be updating Amazon Wish Lists.  What’s going on yours?  I started a separate Board Game Wish List for the family, and lists for each of the boys.  It makes shopping easier for long-distance grandparents and aunties.  One list is somewhat Lego-heavy; the other is very Sherlocky.  Any guesses as to which is which?
  • Speaking of Sherlock.  PBS.  Wow.  We are loving these.  Holmes & Watson in the 21st century.  And Watson is a strong, smart, adventurous character.  Love him.  Love them both, actually.  No, not true to the stories, but a great modern adaptation.  There are only three episodes in the first series (season for us American-types).  I hope they make more, and soon.  Ooh, it looks like you can watch them online for a while!
  • Now, go click that purple button up top and see how random we can get.  It’s good for you.  I said so.

At 6:55 this morning, it was cold, there wasn’t a flake in the sky, but we knew the snow was coming.

By 7:30, I had to head out to brush the snow off the car, so I could drive Nicolas to band practice at the junior high school.

At 8:00, I was seriously concerned that I might not make it back from band drop-off, but thankfully, my little Civic spun its wheels only a few times before digging in and getting Kalen and me up the little hill.

At 8:20, I was standing outside nervously, chains in hand, trying to remember whether they are supposed to go on the front or rear tires.

At 8:22, I realized my nervousness had nothing to do with actually getting said chains on the tires, but with the facts that I’ve never driven on snow, we live on the top of a very high hill, the gym is a distance from the bottom of said hill, and I have no earthly idea if my little car – even with chains – could manage to get back up the hill after several more hours of snow.  Trapped at home I can handle.  Trapped at the bottom of a 500-ft. elevation hill that I would then have to walk up with a still-healing knee?  Not so much.

At 8:40, I flagged down some neighbors who were walking to school and sent Kalen along with them.

At 8:46, I emailed my trainer to cancel our session today, promising that I would do my best with my resistance bands and hand weights at home.

At 8:57, I took this picture from our back deck.

At 9:36, I realized that since I’m not spending several hours going to and from the gym this morning, I actually have time to blog.

How was your morning?

Look at what’s simmering on our stove right now…

(I know, I know, I need to study up on food photography.)

This is our new favorite chili recipe, given to me by my dietitian.  Our annual Halloween tradition is to have a pot of chili, but our old recipe used a seasoning packet (containing sugar) and Jason’s “secret ingredient” (a few of Wendy’s chili seasoning packets, with high fructose corn syrup).  We made this recipe Halloween night, and we are converts for life.  I’m pretty sure, judging by comments from Jason, that we’re going to be chowing down on chili a couple of times a month all fall and winter long.

Not content to leave a recipe be, of course we had to add a little something extra.  Enter the family’s newest favorite “little something”:

This stuff is GOOD.  I’m not a big Tabasco fan, but this version isn’t quite as spicy as the original.  Even the boys love it.

Incidentally, I was not yet on the phase of our plan that allowed beans when Halloween rolled around.  In addition to the big pot of chili with kidney beans, we made a half recipe, substituting finely chopped zucchini and a bit of water.  It was just as tasty.  (Happily, I am now allowed beans, and I am looking forward to those kidney beans tonight!)

Our New Favorite Chili
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 pounds lean ground turkey or lean ground beef (we use a pound of each)
2 cans (16 oz. ea.) low-sodium dark red kidney beans, no added sugar, drained & rinsed
1 can (28 oz.) low-sodium diced tomatoes with juice
1 can (28 oz.) low-sodium tomato puree
2-3 tsp Tabasco Chipotle sauce
Low-fat cheese, shredded (for garnish)
Non-fat sour cream (for garnish)

1. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven.  Add onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano and cayenne.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add the ground meat.  Break the meat up with a spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.

3. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.  Remove cover and stir in Tabasco Chiptotle sauce to taste.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally.  (If chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer).

Serves 12 (1.5 cup servings)
Calories 260, Fat 7 g, Carbohydrate 26 g, Protein 23 g

Howdy, Strangers.  Today’s the 12th, which means it’s that time again.  We’ll just ignore the fact that I’ve ignored the internet for the past month, shall we?

This month, all photos are SOOP – Straight Out Of [my simple little] Phone.  No fancy iPhone or Windows Phone or Apps or Photoshopping.  Just some good, old-fashioned grainy snapshots.


8:29 am – After we drop Nicolas off at band practice three mornings a week, Kalen gets some piano practicing in before school.  I love everything about this photo, including the graininess.  It reminds me of snapshots from the 70’s.  Notice the giraffe keeping him company on the keyboard.

9:06 am – Driving through a valley on my way to a doctor’s appointment.  The valley’s fields, to my left, were completely encased in fog.  The road was clear.

9:07 am – This was the scene to the right of my car on the same stretch of road.  Not a wisp of fog!  Very odd.

9:17 am – This office has an unusually broad variety of magazines.

9:25 am – I couldn’t resist a shot of this guy while I was waiting for the doctor.  I think he needs a visit to the chiropractor.  That twist can’t be comfortable.

11:50 am – Post-doctor, post-workout, leaving the gym.  Not a good shot of the building, but an inadvertent self portrait.

3:38 pm – The usual pile of backpacks et al to be found by the playground after school on a non-rainy day.

4:18 pm – Happy place.  I impulse-bought a papaya.

4:23 pm – Autumn in the Pacific Northwest, and Daylight Saving Time is over.  Hence sunset in the mid-afternoon.

5:58 pm – Coming out of Occupational Therapy, the moon was much prettier than my little phone could capture.

8:37 pm – We got the first couple of seasons of The Muppet Show and have been sharing them with the boys.  The guest stars and musical numbers are hilarious in their outdatedness, but Waldorf and Statler never go out of style.

9:41 pm – This is Otis.  I love Otis.

I got started!

The Sketchbook Project: 2011 <— Click here to find out what the heck I’m talking typing about.

The theme I chose for my sketchbook is Down Your Street, which seemed to be a nice story prompt.  I have only a vague idea so far of where the story is going, but I thought I’d share it as it evolves.

Page 1

Pages 2-3

Pages 4-5

For the entire project, I’m using Prismacolor colored pencils and outlining with a Marvey scrapbooking pen.  (Hooray for stashes from college design classes and my paper scrapping days!)

First, an item of business: yesterday, my humble little blog surpassed 20,000 visits!  That means, in the past two-and-a-half years, people have clicked over here twenty THOUSAND times.  Wow.  Thanks, everybody!  If I had my act together, I’d have thought of a giveaway.  Maybe for 25,000.  Any ideas?

Now, onto the fun stuff:

Have I mentioned how much I love Halloween?

Oh, I have?

Once or twice?

Thrice even?

So, yeah.  I love Halloween.

Jason took Nicolas out for some guy time today, so Kalen and I took the chance to spookify the yard.

I suppose introductions are in order.  That fellow on the right is Spot.  We acquired him years ago, when Nicolas was a toddler.  He was named (by Nicolas) after Rolie Polie Olie‘s dog.

The pirate on the left is a new addition to our graveyard family.  I found him at the thrift store last November.  I’m not sure who that extra skull belongs to, but we do have his twin brother up on the deck.

He’s keeping all the dead flowers from Garden Week!™ company.  Now that I’ve gotten the cobwebs up, I feel much less guilty about my lack of green thumb.  The dead plants fit the mood perfectly.

Kalen’s creativity added the perfect touch:

Nice spider placement, kiddo.  He’s got this creepy thing down.  Mostly.

Hey, Spot.  Are you glad to be out of that box?

Okay, forget what I said yesterday about two posts in one day.  I was tired.  Plus, I barely got all twelve photos in before hitting the hay.

8:12 am – Dinner being put in the Crock Pot.  Verdict: YUM.  So good.

11:02 am – Heading home from my dietitian appointment with ‘The Skinny on Fat’.  Literally.  That’s what this packet is called.

1:46 pm – A replacement for our often-used, well-loved, and getting-frighteningly-hot-on-the-outside-whenever-we-use-it Crock Pot.  The locking handles sold us – great for office chili cook-offs!

4:02 pm – Homework time.  (In his favorite shirt again!)

4:45 pm – Rushing out the door for a busy evening, homework in hand.

5:04 pm – This is how Nicolas spent Kalen’s piano lesson time.

5:45 pm – Piano lesson’s done, now to the pool for swim lessons.  The smile is because he loves both!

6:56 pm – Jason got to the pool at 6:30, so I could run home, eat one of the chicken breasts from the Crock Pot, and get to the PTA board meeting at 7:00.  Like I said, one of those busy evenings.  Thankfully, the PTA board is all busy moms, so I wasn’t the only one eating dinner while standing at the kitchen counter before showing up a couple of minutes late.

9:0o pm – What I found when I got home.  He’ll sleep through anything, including the flash.

10:31 pm – A recent remake of The Music Man, starring Matthew Broderick and Kristen Chenoweth.  I love them both, and their singing was great, but the acting was…uncomfortable to watch.  It probably didn’t help that we watched the original just last weekend.  The kid playing Winthrop sounded remarkably like Ronny Howard, though.

10:40 pm – Filling in a few blanks before bed.

10:58 pm – Last thing before setting the alarm clock and going to sleep – check my day’s steps.  My daily goal is 5,000, outside of any formal workouts.  Not too shabby!

That’s it!  My day.  Unexciting, but certainly not boring.  Click here to visit Chad’s site and take a World Tour of October 12.


  • It’s Tuesday!  It’s the 12th!  Yes, that means TWO posts today, you lucky readers, you.  Unless you just pop in here from Keely’s for Randomness or from Chad’s for 12 or 12.  Then you probably won’t even notice the other post.  So forget I said that.
  • Yeah, I know.  I’m doing well these days if I can manage two posts a WEEK.  I was stressing about it there for a while, but now I’m just letting it go.  This whole spend-three-hours-at-the-gym-every-day deal is eating up the time.  And I’m okay with that.  Even if the antibiotics did halt my weight loss this week.  Dammit.
  • Today, I made this chicken.  It is cooking as I type, and it. smells. glorious.  It also looked quite pretty when I put it in the Crock Pot this morning.  I took a picture.  You have to wait ’til I post my 12 of 12 tonight to see it.  I hope you can handle the suspense.
  • When I was at the gym yesterday, I noticed a couple of those really buff guys in the free weight room* giving me encouraging smiles.  I told my trainer that it was a nice change from other gyms I’ve been to where the encouraging smiles are lacking, and the smirks are poorly hidden.  He replied, “Well, to anyone who works out regularly, it’s obvious you have great form and know what you’re doing.  So that might be part of it.”  I might have actually blushed, but thankfully, I was already beet-red from my workout.
  • My sons are amazing me.  Kalen has had four or five piano lessons, and he’s doing great.  Nicolas has had three trumpet lessons and three weeks of band practices, and he’s zooming through the songs in his book.  My dad, who was a trumpet player for many years, admitted to being impressed at his progress, too.  I suppose there’s a reason neither of them has been interested in sports.  Looks like I’m not a soccer mom — I’m a music mom!  (Phew!  Even with folding chairs, recital halls are much more comfortable than Seattle-rainy soccer fields.)
  • Have I shared that Jason is doing this program, too?  He, of course, is down nearly 20 pounds, but as my dietitian reminds me every week, I am NOT allowed to compare myself to him.  Because he’s a guy.  And guys, when it comes to weight loss, suck.  Jason also reminded me that antibiotics and monthly visitors do not contribute to weight loss.  Which also sucks, but is true.  Watch out next week.  I plan to rock that scale!
  • Purple button.  At the top.  Press it!  Or, if you’re Southern, mash it!  Go random; you’ll never go back.

*Yes, I work out with my trainer in the free weight room.  Me, an overweight, 30-something, stay-at-home mom — in the free weight room!  I love it and feel so strong in there.


  • I have a voice again!  Turns out, I also have strep throat.  Which I’ve been unknowingly spreading around my family and my kids’ school and the gym for the past however many days.  In my defense, I haven’t even had a low-grade fever and honestly thought it was a cold.  I need to practice my innocent look for when people around me start coming down with sore throats, though.
  • Tuesday is my weigh-in day, so those of you who just pop by for Random Tuesdays are going to get to watch my weight plummet as I go through the program over the next few months.  This week, down 4.5 pounds, for a total of 8.5-ish.  You may commence with the happy dancing on my account.  Oh, and I can take my jeans out of a hot dryer, put them on, and zip them up with nary a breath held.  That, my friends, is real progress.  (My arms and shoulders are so sore from working out, however, that I can’t open a jar of applesauce.  Ah well, small victories.)
  • It’s Fall!  I know, September 23 or some such day was the official start.  In my mind, though, it comes with October.  I need to pull out all the fun Halloween decorations.  Unfortunately, with the house a wreck, there’s really nowhere to put them.  First things first, I suppose.
  • Whereas October 1 means Fall! Halloween! to me, to Jason it means Bring out the Christmas music!  Seriously.  It’s apparently genetic, since one of his cousins mentioned something similar on Facebook recently.  Still.  October??  It’s only because of my very strict must-Trick-or-Treat-and-finish-Thanksgiving-dinner-first policy that the Christmas movies aren’t pulled out around now, too.  I have my priorities, you know, which include raising my kids to value the importance of spookiness, dress-up and giving thanks.
  • I’m joining this.  I ordered my sketchbook over the weekend.  Who’s in?  You certainly don’t have to be an artist…I can’t draw worth anything and am turning mine (I think) into a hand-lettered storybook.  Everyone from very accomplished illustrators to moms and kids coloring may participate.  I encourage anyone who wants to share any creativity to jump on in!  My mom and sister have ordered their books, too.  I’m even more excited now that they’ve added Seattle to the tour.  I can’t help but think it would be a really fun project for homeschoolers.
  • The Sketchbook Project: 2011

Today, I’m thinking about a few years ago, when after school simply meant having a snack, watching a video, and playing until dinner time.

I kind of wonder if they even remember those days.

This is why we stay on the school playground and run wild for a while at the end of the school day.

The painful part is knowing how much bigger the workload is going to get in the next few years.

My boys

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