Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ARTSY: Tooth Fairy Pillow

I'm a total sentimental nut. I keep everything - from every cute Post-It note my husband (then boyfriend) ever penned to a Ziploc baggie full of five used pregnancy tests I took the week I found out I was pregnant with Alice. They are in boxes, scrapbooks, or still in my bathroom drawer (the baggie of pregnancy tests; I found Alice shaking them around just the other day). I surround myself with small, insignificant items that remind me of special moments in life.

So it was no surprise when I pulled Lucy's first tooth recently (I did! With my hands! And I didn't gag!) that I headed straight for the closet and pulled out my special tooth fairy pillow.

My Aunt Barb made this for me in 1983, when I was eight-years-old. She lovingly cross-stitched this cute little pillow with a elfin fairy dressed in blue. The poem reads:
Tooth Fairy, Tooth Fairy
Please be kind
In this pillow my
Tooth you'll find
Take it out and
Leave for me
A nickel, a dime
Or maybe three

There's a sweet tiny pocket for holding the itty-bittiest of teeth, and also a nickel or dime. While kids today expect much more from this special fairy, we talked about how she was so small and how could she possibly carry too many heavy coins? I stitched a little handmade heart with Lucy's name and date and plan to do the same for Alice when her toothless time comes.

It's my hope that my girls will pass this pillow on to their kids and I really want them to mail the pillow to each other around the country. Of course, I'm overly sentimental and am really tied to rituals and history such as this. I did, however, take into account the changes in economy over time and Lucy got upgraded to 71cents from the fairy that night. I now have that first tooth of hers safely tucked away (in a little bag in my bedroom, of course) and am already brainstorming how I'll craft a new family heirloom with all those teeth I'm soon to aquire. Just like all the baby socks and photos and pregnancy tests and swaddling blankets still floating around our house, these little teeth are physical reminders of babies that were and the girls they're becoming. And, like my pillow, I'll probably keep them all around me forever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

AMY & REE: Huevos Hyacinth

I made this easy egg breakfast for Eric and I last weekend (Lucy and Alice have been on an anti-egg kick lately, wait, make that an ANTI-EVERYTHING THAT IS KIND OF GOOD FOR YOU KICK. But, I digress). The intructions are easy. In a ramekin you layer a slice of deli ham, tomatoes/salsa, crack an egg on top, sprinkle on some salt, pepper and cheese and place under the broiler for about five minutes. Seemed to be yummy and quick. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I thought these were horrible. The egg white was still super runny while the cheese on top was almost burnt. We had to throw them out. This was a big, fat fail in my book. Well, actually in PW's cookbook. But I do take all the blame for no accompanying picture for this post, as I just accidentally deleted all the pictures on my camera. BIG FAT FAIL.


For our date night this past week, Eric took me to the bathroom with promises of a hand and foot massage. It didn't take much for me to make a beeline for it, especially since my feet have been killing me lately (I think my Jazzercise sneakers may be wearing thin). Anyhow, we lit the candles and busted out my favorite Mary Kay item ever, Satin Hands Pampering Kit. For those of you with a friend or family member who's a rep, get you some now. It consists of four really easy steps, including a rich emollient cream, a rough scrub, a cleanser and a thick lotion. Eric massaged my feet and I exfoliated his hands. We have done Satin Hands for years in this house; it's a favorite Saturday night ritual of mine, one I've recently introduced Lucy to. However, it's been done less and less over the past six years since the girls were born. It was so lovely to have a few quiet moments together in the bathroom (which has also become almost nonexistent since the girls were born) and just talk and enjoy each other's touch. He really did a great job with this date. (p.s. I would've had photos but I just deleted them all from the camera on accident. Major fail. Sorry.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

KIDDOS: Making Pine Cone Feeders

There have been several days this spring when we've all been laid up sick. One of those days not long ago we never got out of our pajamas and spent the day lounging around, but after too many reruns of Maya & Miguel and Dinosaur Train we were all about to go crazy. So I decided to teach the girls how to make pine cone bird feeders for our backyard. This little nature craft is simple and most everyone will have all necessary tools on hand. First, I sent the girls to the backyard to find some pine cones. Next, we tied a long piece of string around the middle of each one.

We then scavenged our kitchen and shed for items the birds would like to eat: birdseed, nuts and Cheerios. After smearing the cones with peanut butter, the girls rolled them in the concoction.
We made a couple of them and took them out to the backyard. I tied them up in the trees while the girls directed me to the 'correct' branches.
Afterwards, we got out the binoculars and watched from the warmth of our family room through the sliding glass doors. While we were hoping for lovely little birdies, we got the aggressive urban squirrels instead, who ate the whole thing in no time. They even ripped the pine cone from the string and took that with them. Still, it was a fun way to kill an hour when you're stuck in the house and get a little nature time in. We'll have to make some more this summer when the urban wildlife is out in full force and we can just sit under the tree drinking lemonade to keep watch.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

FOODIE: Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf

A few years ago my friend Betsy sent me this fantastic, healthy version of meatloaf she had just made for her family from a recipe she found in Shape magazine. I love ground turkey and the idea of getting more spinach into my family's diet so I gave it a shot. Plus, um, CHEESE?! It is so delicious and easy that it quickly became one of our favorite recipes.

Basically, you buy ground turkey, mix it with a box of defrosted frozen spinach and a few other essential ingredients, like onions. You mash half of it into a bread pan, top with shredded mozzarella cheese (again, YUM), and then press in the other half of the meat mixture. The recipe calls for a sauce spread over the top of it all; a combination of a mustard and some ketchup. We always eliminate that part because I don't like it.

It takes an hour to bake, though, so you have to prepare for that idea early. Also, I've made this ahead of time and frozen it with great results. (On a side note, it also makes a nice meal to give a new mother or other friends in need - the meatloaf, bagged salad and a bag of dried mashed potatoes.) We ALL love it here at the Pence-Brown house, and that's saying a lot. Slicing it cold for sandwiches with Dijon mustard the next day is wonderful. I highly recommend this healthier version of the old standard. Let's bring back the meatloaf!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Image courtesy of www.altfg.com
So, this past week was the first week of May and therefore Eric's turn to plan the date nights for a month. The poor guy got a really busy and tiring first weekend to try for, so we ended up taking the easy way out late on a Sunday night and watching a movie with popcorn on the couch in our PJs. He picked W., the Oliver Stone film on the life and presidency of George W. Bush. We are both fans of Stone's films, and I was expecting a more controversial tone than what was delivered. We both thought, however, Josh Brolin was BRILLIANT as W. I would have never guessed it, but the acting was fantastic. The story, well, unfortunately we all know it too well. We're living it.

AMY & REE: Angel Sugar Cookies

I know, I know. It's been WEEKS since I've posted the latest Pioneer Woman recipe from my challenge to make everything from her new cookbook in one year. Of course I started with lofty ideals, making one recipe a week. That didn't last long, did it? Partly because I also started this project of dating my husband one night a week and also this other eight week challenge to a healthier you with my friends. Mostly because, however, I'm just not that organized. Also, as the weather is finally warming up, I find myself wanting to be in the kitchen less and in the yard more. But, don't fear, I'm not abandoning the challenge, just changing up my own s a little. I'm no longer promising to post a recipe a week or even hold myself to making a recipe a week. Instead, I'm going to try to regularly make something from the book and will keep posting about it here. It may end up that I am cooking and baking up a storm come fall and into Christmastime just to complete the challenge, but I embrace my procrastination now. It seems to be better than fighting it.

Last week for Mother's Day we decided to try out PW's Angel Sugar Cookies to give as gifts and, well, as a gift to myself (let's be honest). I enlisted Lucy in the kitchen to help, and she is really getting great at measuring and pouring ingredients. This cookie recipe was so easy, as you scoop the dough, plop it on the cookie sheet, and flatten it out with the bottom of a glass. No rolling or cookie cutters needed, which, I'll admit, is my least favorite part of making sugar cookies. So this was right up our alley.

They are super light and crumbly and delicious. Ours grew in the oven to be huge, as you can see here, so next time I think I'll make the scoops a bit smaller. Even so, the recipe made way more cookies than PW said they would.

We all loved them. They are buttery and wonderful as they are, but many others who've made htis recipe seem to love them with frosting (also: my husband). If you're looking for a yummy, flaky sugar cookie that is so easy, this is for you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Foreign Food & Film

I know this may be cheating a little, as we already did a movie and dinner night out for our very first Project 52 date. But when the opportunity comes up that you have a babysitter and a whole night to yourselves, YOU DON'T HESITATE. I've been missing The Flicks, Boise's local indie movie theater, like crazy, so I did a little research and came up with a unique twist on the standard date we had already attempted about five weeks ago. But this time it came out much better.

Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Last Friday my mom took the girls for the night, and I surprised Eric with dinner at Boise's newest sushi restaurant, Yoi Tomo. We both had bento boxes and split a spicy crab roll and it was all fresh and delicious. (I'd completely recommend the place to the locals, except the service was terrible.) We took a leisurely twilight walk from there to The Flicks a few blocks away. We were about an hour early, but ordered some glasses of wine and tried out their popcorn sprinkled with brewers yeast and tamari (interesting, but not something I'd order again). It was so decadent, reading the local paper, sipping our wine by candlelight, and chatting about life. We watched The Eclipse (no, not that Twilight thing by the same title coming out soon), a sweet little Irish film about ghosts and love. It was such an adult night - the kind of dates we used to have more often than not in our 20s pre-kids. And being surrounded by other adult couples at the 9pm showing, sipping their wine and beer, I remembered how much I've missed it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday to The Pill!

The Pill turns 50 this week, appropriately on Mother's Day, Sunday May 9th. I've spent this morning reading the numerous media tributes to this medical phenomenon that changed the way we procreate (or better yet, DON'T) and the way we, as women, take control of our bodies, our sexuality, and our selves. Some of the articles focus some on the problems the pill has caused us, like it's negative physical side-effects and the fact that we have turned to an easy medication as a substitute for really getting to know and interact with our bodies in a more natural way. Several of the pieces are focused, of course, on a more religious perspective on birth control in general. Most of the written work on The Pill, however, provides a great social and medical history lesson, combining all of the above and often touting it's benefits for all of us.

My mom put me on the birth control pill when I turned 18-years-old, which also marked my first gynecological visit. I had a serious boyfriend at the time and it was a good thing she did. I was just starting college and the last thing I needed was a baby, as I was still a bit of one myself. Learning how to pay my apartment bills, manage a work and class schedule, and shop and cook my own food for the first time, I already had enough on my plate. Putting the seriousness of a possible unwanted pregnancy in my hands at that time would have been irresponsible and my mother knew it. I've been on the pill ever since, going on 17 years now. Lucky for me, I've never had some of the more negative side effects some of my friends have. It may contribute a tiny bit to some of my weight gain and a decreased libido, although I attribute the majority of that problem to my anxiety medication. I took the pill religiously until we decided to try to get pregnant in the summer of 2003 with Lucy. Both Eric and I had read all the research on conceiving a baby, and just KNEW it would take a few months for the pill's effects to leave my body, but were we ever wrong. Less than two weeks later, during my ovulation week, we made a baby. We were both shocked at how fast and fertile I was. During the four years between my two pregnancies I took the pill again, albeit a different brand my doctor wanted me to try out. The exact same thing happened with Alice's conception - I stopped taking the pill and two weeks later bam! Baby!

I know that we all have different conception stories and complications and that there are certainly other factors in the abilities of Eric and I to conceive these two little girls so quickly and without concern, but we were shocked at how quickly the pill stopped working for us. Pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood has really opened my eyes to the abilities of my body and its tenuous and severe connection to the earth and its living creatures. It's too bad that this didn't happen earlier in my life, however, like when I started menstruating at the age of eleven. I attribute this, however, to our culture's lack of celebrating, or at least educating, girls about their bodies and the wonders of being women. And I have to agree that the pill may have a bit to do with that, in both positive and negative ways. It makes me a bit sad, actually, now that I'm a bit older and wiser, on how little we are taught, or even TALK, about womanly things in this culture with other women until we've already gone through them. And while this is certainly no fault of the pill, it is both a physical and medical manifestation of our changing culture. In some ways the pill inspired a strong feminist movement and made possible a sexual revolution. The pill, too, can be seen as part of a movement AWAY from ourselves, our bodies, and our choices. I spent most of my early teen years embarrassed about menstruating and my later teens and twenties taking all the responsibility for not getting pregnant (not to mention the concern with STDs). And when I decided to get pregnant, it was books and the internet that were my advisers and confidants on those decisions, like my choice to use a midwife for my pregnancy and birth with Lucy.

Motherhood continues to be the most difficult and lonely thing I've ever done. Don't get me wrong, I have an amazing group of supportive women in my world, both the real one and the virtual one, that have provided me with more than they know. I just lament our lack of celebration and support of each other as women from a very young age and want to do it differently with and for my girls. I have notions of continuing a loving, open home with continuing conversations about girlhood and womanhood with my girls. I'd like to surround them with other women and girls who feel the same and will expand their support network. I'm already starting to plan a sort of special girls getaway, signifying the beginning of their menstrual cycles. What are your thoughts on this? Advice or suggestions? And, mothers of boys, what are your concerns or challenges regarding boyhood and manhood?