Saturday, November 13, 2010

New quickie recipe!

Right now, I am buried in custom orders (If you'd like to see that journey - head here -  So finding meals that are quick and easy (and not fast food) is imperative.

I found a Mac 'n Cheese recipe on the side of a soup can, messed it up by not reading the directions, and realized that my version was easier, less messy, and a heck of a lot faster... so here goes (and naturally, I forgot to take pictures.)

Easiest Mac 'n Cheese Ever (Seriously)

1 covered baking dish - I use a circular pyrex one, but an 8x8 square will work too as long as it has a cover
1 can condensed cheese soup (I use Campbells, but whatever floats your boat)
1 box pasta twists, rotinis, bowties, shells, etc.  We use whole wheat pasta, but again, whatever works for you.
2 cups frozen veggies (Your choice - peas work well)
Some form of COOKED cubed meat... chicken, turkey, hot dogs, leftover pork... or mmmmm, bacon?
Salt and pepper to taste, or if you have a fav spice - rosemary, thyme, Red Robin special seasoning... :)

Preheat oven to 400.  Mix cheese soup with 1 can of milk - just use the soup can, and 1/2 can of water.  I find a wisk usually works best for this process, and just go ahead and mix it in the dish. Pour uncooked noodles into the soup mixture, mix well, then add the frozen veggies and the meat... or leave it out and add more veggies for a vegetarian option.

Place dish (covered) in oven for about 35 minutes. Voila!  You're done. Sauce will be slightly runny. If you want it Kraft style, cut down the water to 1/4 of a can. Other ideas include: bread crumbs on top if you're into that, make it spicy mac and add some tabasco to the cheese soup mixture and a jalepeno in with the veggies.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is very easily modified in terms of add ins.  My youngest likes things sort of bland and he calls the bread crumbs "Yuckies" so we vary the veggies or the meat to accomodate him. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Changing Weather, Changing Skin

One of the downsides to fall is the changing temperatures.  Something that I've noticed is that, as the temperatures change, so does my skin.  Now, understandably, that also has to do with aging and hormonal processes.

I used to have really great skin.  REALLY great. I hardly ever broke out, even in high school, when that tends to be the norm.  When I was pregnant with both of my kids, it still looked good...

Now, however, for some reason, not so much.  I wash my brushes regularly, I switch out my makeup sponges, clean my phone and phone case, and I still break out.  My skin has gotten much more oily - and not just in the usual T-Zone area.  So.  I've been in search of a good facial... store bought, homemade, doesn't matter.

After doing some reading, initially, there were several articles that said I needed to use a clay based facial, because it would absorb the oil.  Well, wouldn't that just cause my skin to make more oil?  So, I tried a St. Ives brand clay mask.  It was okay.  Wasn't great, and my skin felt incredibly dry after doing it, and I didn't leave it on over the amount of time suggested.

Next, this evening, I decided to go the "natural" route and used a recipe that I found on  This was a simple Banana facial.  I actually found this one to be better than the St. Ives product.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 very very ripe banana (think what you would use to make banana bread
1 tbsp (or a substantial squeeze from a squeezy bear)
Squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange juice

Mix well, apply to face.  It will have a soupy consistancy, and I used cotton balls to apply it, and used several coats.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Then wipe off with a really warm, wet washcloth.  It's been about 3 hours since I took it off, and so far so good.  I doubt that I'm done trying home facials, but I do like this one and will certainly do it again!

Need a recipe for another skin type, or maybe just a refresher?  Check out this site! has a bunch of different recipes for homemade facials.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Recipe Day!

Okay, so in celebration of my favorite season... and that I like making winter food SO much better than making summer food, here are two recipes - one that I've had for nearly forever (cut out of The Oregonian years ago) and is my very favorite fall recipe and the other began life as a Vegan Black Bean soup recipe.

Alright, number one...

Pumpkin Banana Bread
(Makes One 9x5" loaf... trust me, double the recipe)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup shortening (if you want a richer flavor, use the butter flavored variety)
2 eggs
2 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I like to do half wheat/half unbleached)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I usually just put a bunch in...)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350, and grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan
In a large bowl, mix sugar and shortening, then beat in eggs, bananas, pumpkin, and vanilla - mix well.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and nuts.  Add to pumpkin mixture.
Spoon batter into pan and top with halved walnuts or pecans.  Bake for 55-65 minutes, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Notes from me... I don't usually put the nuts in.  I pop in some dried cranberries or raisins instead.  We aren't huge nut fans in breads at our house, or I will only use 1/4 cup and chop them very finely.

The next one is a Black Bean Chicken Chili... this started life as a vegan black bean soup (many thanks to Kala from for the original recipe!) and is awfully tasty as that, but my family are "meat-a-voires" as my nine year old says...

Vegan Black Bean Soup/Black Bean Chicken Chili

The basic recipe:
2 lbs dry black beans
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 tbs crushed chilis (I used the green ones for flavor without the spicy)
1/2 tsp black pepper (I think I used more)
1 medium bell pepper - chopped
1 large onion - chopped
4 cloved of minced garlic
3 tsp salt
9 cups water

Place in Crock Pot and cook on high for 6-7 hours.  Voila! Done!  Tips:  If you want it soupier leave out 1/2 of the black beans.

Add ons to make it into chili!
2 cooked, diced chicken breasts
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 palm of paprika
1 envelope of taco or fajita seasoning

Add into the soup near the end of the cook time, and there you go!  Top with some cheddar cheese and serve!  Also, there are members of my crew who like things extra spicy.  We usually tend to go for chipotle seasoning, so the Tabasco brand of Chipotle sauce is a great addition for a yummy, smokey flavor.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Girl and A Game: My history with Video Games

Imagine being two or three years old... and REALLY wanting McDonalds.  You bug and bug and nag and whine until finally your parents relent (probably because your mom has a thing for quarter pounders with cheese and extra pickles).  Upon walking into the magical place that is the golden arches (remember: you're two or three - it IS magical at that age), your parents order you your happy meal with the Strawberry Shortcake or Smurf toy, and while in the lobby, they notice a drawing box.  What could it be for?  Oh yes, the Atari VCS 2600.  Not thinking much of it, they fill out the form... and get a phone call saying that they had won!!  Said Atari VCS 2600 will hereby be referred to as "Jenifer's Atari" because if I hadn't put up the fit about going to McDonalds that night, who knows if we would have won it?

This system began the love affair with video games at our house.  I remember Combat, Pong, the ill-fated Pac-Man game, and yes, even the horrible ET game.  Space Invaders, Basketball (which, I believe, was really just Pong in disguise :) )

Next up: The NES... Nintendo Entertainment System.  We had Mario, and those guys, Mike Tyson's Punch Out, and my favorite of all time - Tetris.  We also had Tetris for our Game Boys... the original grey monstrosities with the monochromatic screens... none of the Game Boy Color, Advance... and certainly not a DS.  My brother then got a Sega Genesis... welcome to the world of 32 bit games!  There was still an arcade at Meridian Mall, and, I left for college.

College (GO Michigan State Spartans!), opened up a different world of gaming to me.  We had a computer in our house - and AOL... sheesh, but the computer games I was familiar with were ones like The Oregon Trail, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, you know, semi-educational ones.  In school, I was exposed to a whole different world of video games... at that point, PS1 was the hot thing, and a large computer hard drive was a couple of gigs.  My four year old iPod Nano has more memory than my computer did.  Pagers were the rage and kids didn't have their own cell phones.

I remember sitting and watching my boyfriend (who, like all of his friends, was a "computer guy") for hours playing everything from Myst and Riven to Starcraft (the original one, I think).  I picked up a lot, and I learned a lot about building computers too.  To this day, I can still swap hard drives and cards on a desk top with the best of 'em... although not so much on laptops.  They had random cords running from room to room, if I remember correctly, so that they could be linked and play.  I got very familiar with the store setup of Radio Shack and how to solder parts together.  Hearing now about the girls robotics teams... man, that sure would've been cool.  I also remember there was a cool arcade type deal on Grand River Ave., for those that are familiar with East Lansing, and we would go there and then go get pizza.  :) 

Then, after I moved to Texas,  I remember sitting outside of a Best Buy with some friends all night for the release of the PS2... that was the only time I have ever done that... not even for Dave Matthews tickets!  After PS1, PS2 was the coolest thing ever.  The graphics were great, it was far more realistic... and Gran Turismo was a heck of a lot easier to play on this than on the computer!  Unfortunately, being a girl, I would usually get last ups... once all the guys were tired of playing.

Pinball Lineup at Ground Kontrol
Now, living in Oregon, there are a couple cool arcade places, one being Wunderland.  This is really cool, because it charges an admission, but all the games inside are a nickle.  Yup.  A nickle.  Everything from skee-ball to motorcycle racing to shooter games (I still have yet to find Police Trainer).  There is also an arcade in downtown Portland called Ground Kontrol... they feature old games - and PINBALL!!!!, and after 5pm it is 21 and older.  Cool, huh?  We currently have in our possession: A N64, PS2, a (broken) Wii - did you know there is a mechanism on the Wii that engages if you put disks in and out too many times?  You then have to send it to Nintendo America to have them fix it... for $85!!!!  I can almost get a new one for that! 

I still have my favorite games... Tetris is still up there.  I do really like some of the new Harry Potter games (my HP obsession is a topic for another posting), and Gran Turismo is still fun.  I like a lot of the Wii stuff - especially some of the games on the Wii Fit - Hula Hoops.  Try it.  Seriously.

What brought this topic on?  I listen to a lot of podcasts while I knit.  Especially the ones from, and one of them is their Tech Stuff podcast.  Recently, they did a couple on the "Death of the Arcade" and also on "The Great Video Game Crash" and I was surprised with how much of what they were talking about I remembered.  I wouldn't consider myself a "gamer" by any stretch, but what I do find interesting is that I still have that memory of the Atari 2600 as being MINE... and did I mention my brother stole it, and apparently broks and sold it?  ARRRGGGG!  :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When I Grow Up
We all wanted to "be things" when we grew up... perhaps the better choice of words would have been what we wanted "to do".  I never thought I would be a mom, a wife, and especially a stay at home mom.  We all turn out to be things.  We all have attributes, whether we are kind, funny, sweet, even tempered... hot tempered, rude, obnoxious, driven, focused, lively, boring... these are the things that we ARE, not necessarily what we DO.

What we do can be in terms of a career choice - or a career that chooses us, it can be the volunteer work that we do on the weekends, it can be the stray dog that we take in, or the bachelor party that we choose to leave from to spend time with our families.

The things that I'm interested in now don't vary a whole lot from what I was interested in long ago.  I still love to read, I love to make things with my hands that are tangible - that show time, effort, preparation, I still like a clean space... and even better when someone else cleans it... :)

Image via The Daily Show - Comedy Central
I do wish I had better math skills.  Unfortunately, I'm not what you would call mathematically inclined.  Looking back, if I could "be" anything, and was all of a sudden gifted in math, I would be an astrophysicist.  The study of the stars, planets, orbiting bodies, how the distance between them is calculated, how black holes develop and what they are made of, the research they are doing with particle accelerators and the Hadron collider... it is all endlessly fascinating to me.  I guess I will have to just be content with watching NOVA and reading books by Neil deGrasse Tyson... who by the way, has an awesome collection of ties and vests, and also a great sense of humor.  Something tells me that not every scientist would play dress up at the beginning of their television shows (which my nine year old finds hilarious), or go on The Daily Show, or take the criticism about getting rid of an entire planet with grace and laughter... and for that, I appreciate and watch (and follow on Twitter) him all the time. 

More individuals need to realize that if you aren't having fun while you are at work and "being" then you probably haven't chosen to "be" the right thing.  Me, I'm still looking.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cycling and PDX

(image from
Portland is known as an either great town for cyclists, or as a horrible town for cyclists... depending on who you ask.  We have a great number of bike lanes, connecting bike paths, racks on the fronts of the city busses, bike holders in each light rail car, bike boxes (big green painted spaces on the roads at certain intersections where the bike traffic is heavier), and a ton of really great bike shops.

So, what's the problem then?  If there are all of these totally awesome attributes, where is the issue?  Most individuals, myself included, are of the mindset that as long as the cyclists that are using the road follow the same traffic rules as vehicles, then no problem.  Unfortunately, there are those motorists that really just don't care, and will turn into cyclists at lights, swerve and cut them off, and in general, just not play fair.  Would you do that to someone on a Harley?  Probably not.

Our family is what you would consider "Recreational cyclists".  We go on the weekends for rides, and we are usually on designated bike paths ( Nine times out of ten on the "Springwater Corridor Trail" - which is fantastic).  Both my husband and I grew up using sidewalks when we rode our bikes, and even now, to me, the idea of riding on the road - even in a bike lane - seems a little like living dangerously.  That being said, Ethan, who is nine, knows the basic rules of the road in regard to cyclists.  Stay to the right, stop at stop signs, obey all of the signs that are there for cars, wear your helmet, use lights and reflective gear, etc.

Last weekend, we were again on the Springwater trail, starting at Oaks Park and looping along the Willamette River, across the Steel Bridge, and into downtown Portland - Waterfront Park.  The route then takes you back across the river on the Hawthorne bridge and back down the bike path.  One of the things that is GREAT about the path on the East side of the river is that it has lanes marked out.  Especially in areas that are more narrow than others.  Last weekend happened to be the Seattle to Portland Ride (which I really wanted to do, but missed the registration deadline).  Some of the cyclists were incredibly courteous (Special thanks to the gentleman that thought I was doing the ride and was concerned when I didn't make the correct turn - thanks, dude, that was cool.  :) )  The waterfront area was very busy.

Ordinarily, we are used to that area being congested.  BUT, usually pedestrians are pretty good about keeping to the correct sides of the road.  This was not the case this past weekend.  There were people ALL over, not caring who they were walking into, cutting off, or nearly knocking over.  I had one woman and her daughter walk right in front of me, say "Ooops" and then laugh... as I nearly fell into the river.  Trust me, you don't want to fall in the Willamette - remember the three-eyed fish from the Simpsons?

My issue is this.  How am I as a recreational rider supposed to teach my kids to be courteous and follow the "rules of the road" when others really just don't care?  It is very disheartening for me to see people so blatently saying "screw you" and being rude... and then complaining about how the cyclists are cutting people off and winding up all over the place. While, yes, there are some cyclists that do, indeed, act like they run the show, the vast majority of us are just trying to get around like everyone else.  I model good behaviours that Ethan has picked up on, going slow or walking through crowds, letting people cross, or making sure to watch out for little kids on their bikes, or those that are using recombinant bikes (flat out, you guys are just harder to see...), making sure to say "on your left" when you are coming up to pass someone... It is just hard for me to keep saying to him that this is what we need to do to be courteous riders, and if more people did it then cyclists wouldn't have such a bad reputation.  But the more I think about it, the more I'm of the mindset that no matter what we try to do, there are still going to be those out there that just make it more and more difficult.

So, riders... PLEASE obey your street signs, stop doing stupid things that you KNOW you wouldn't do in a car, and if you are on the bike paths... make sure to let people know when you are passing them!!!!  (Side note, I did Tweet Mayor Adams about getting stripes on the downtown side, so we'll see what happens!)

Friday, July 2, 2010

So, the Other thing...

The other night, I was watching the news.  First, I remember when I was little, we had these things that we had to do at school, usually due on Mondays, called "Current Events".  We had to take a news story that we found in the paper, or later on, that we found online, and had to write a short summary of the article and our reaction to it.  As I was watching the news, I tried to think about that, and which of the articles would be appropriate for my oldest son, who is 9, to take to school... shockingly, there were two stories.  I'm not bashing the media when I say this, but REALLY?  Every other story was about a rapist, or murderer, or child porn, or something of that nature.

One of the stories that was actually appropriate, relevant, and sickening to me as a parent, was a blurb about budget issues within the Portland Public Schools.  I have gone out of my way to keep Ethan in the North Clackamas school district, specifically for these reasons.  In addition to closing several High Schools and letting go multiple administrative and teaching positions, they now want to take away Physical Education for all of the Elementary and Middle school grades.  Wow.  For a country that has a higher child obesity level as compared to almost every other country in the WORLD, good plan PPS, take away gym class. 

Yes, I know that there are budget issues.  Portland, however, has a great history of huge sports companies located within city limits.  Adidas to the north, located minutes from downtown (you can see the downtown buildings from the Adidas campus), and also Nike, located a whopping 15 minutes away, in Beaverton.  Not to mention there is also Lucy sportswear - a division of the VF Corporation, and several others.  Why not ask them for grant money?  Who cares if it's (sports equipment, gym uniforms, shoes for those who need them) logo'd?  When school districts allow Coke, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, and other various corporations into the schools, their machines go in, their ads go up on the billboards... which, side note, the sodas and energy drinks aren't really helping combat the whole childhood obesity thing.

These schools looking at taking away the physical activity from the kids who need it the most, because let's face it, by the time you get to high school, your workout habits are established.  You know if you're a runner, lifter, cyclist.  You know your food groups, and what you should be eating.  In elementary school and middle school, this is the time that all of this knowledge needs to be developed.  Not to mention, high school kids have the opportunity to get up between classes and walk around, stretch legs, etc.  (Give the teachers a five minute break before the next group of rowdies...)  These younger kids, recess isn't enough.  They are cooped up in the same classroom all day - for the most part.  Plus, even at recess (and in most gym classes) they aren't allowed to play most of what we did as kids... dodgeball, kickball, tag, red rover - they've been deemed "too dangerous".  Really?  Pretty sure we all turned out okay, and are turning around as adults to find rec leagues to play those same games!  Some schools still offer music and library once a week.  If they are REALLY lucky, they might even still have art classes.  Also, these main classroom teachers need a break!  Seriously.  You try dealing with a bunch of 7, 8, and 9 year olds for 5 and a half hours straight.  Hair.  Grey.  Or gone.  :)

Sure, parents are responsible for educating their kids on good food habits, however, with the current state of the economy, more and more parents are working at least one job, and kids are spending more time in daycare.  Sad, yes, but true.  Even after school recreational sports are becoming more and more competitive and it's becoming all about the kids who are the best on the team, as opposed to being a "rec league" to go out and have fun.  In fact, I'm not even sure that those exist for kids at this point.

So, Portland Public Schools, I appreciate everything that you do for the kids in your district.  I understand that eliminating Physical Education is the easiest, most broad reaching (meaning it will affect ALL, not just some of the schools - thereby saving the most money) cut that you can make.  However, I will continue to keep my kids in the North Clackamas district, even with our budget shortfall... last I heard, we were still having gym class and library in the fall.

There is a Facebook campaign to save gym in the Portland Public Schools.  Also, this is a GREAT article about kids brains and gym class... check it out by clicking here, and you can find Michelle Obama's take on physical education at this site.