Happy 2013!

I love making New Years Resolutions. Sitting down with my journal every January 1 to plot out what I hope to do to improve my life is a tradition.

Oh sure, I have the perpetual “lose weight” and “save more money” goals, but I also make resolutions pertaining to house projects, my career, this blog, etc. I have a category for each goal (My Health; Writing; Our Home; My Marriage)  and list what I hope to accomplish under each one.

Before I write down my new goals, I look back to see what I did or didn’t accomplish the year before. It’s a great way to feel good about the past year because even if you didn’t lose 50 pounds or write the great American novel, you have something to show for the past 12 months, and that means anything is possible.

2012 was my year of adventure. Here’s what I did:

– Went skydiving in May

– Went zip-lining in May

– Went whitewater rafting in June

– Rode a horse up (and down) a mountain 10,000 feet above sea level

– Hiked The Badlands

– Went rock climbing in South Dakota

– Completed my 15th 5K

– Started a new beat at the newspaper, with a weekly column

– Celebrated 13 years of marriage

– Attended my brother’s movie premiere

– Visited 8 new states

– Hung out at the top of the Empire State Building

– Held hands with Matthew Modine (OK, we shook hands, but then he held on to mine while he told me I have a doppelgänger)

– Interviewed Tony Hawk

– Read 80 books

– Knitted something (That’s on hold until my hand heals)

– Ended up in the ER with a broken hand (sledding, not skydiving)

– Completed several home improvement projects, including a new floor and a new roof (I didn’t do this, but I saved the money to pay others to do it)

– Paid off all credit card debt

It was a great year! It was the skydiving that kicked it off (I bought a GroupOn deal during a boring work meeting in October 2011). I told a colleague I’d make 2012 an adventure and while I would have loved to have been thinner during all of these adventures, I also proved to myself that there’s no need to wait until the scale shows a certain number to enjoy life.

Life is a gift. I think we all need to remember that from time to time.

2013 will be my year of giving. Yes, I hope to save more money and lose weight, but I also want to have a greater appreciation for the world around me. There were unspeakable tragedies in 2012, and we all have felt anger, fear and sadness because of it.

My kids and I decided to complete 52 Acts of Kindness in 2013 — one for each week of the year — as a way to replace those feelings with happiness, caring and hope.

We can make this world a better place to live. All it takes is one person, one change, to start a revolution.


The cookie challenge crumbled

But I have a great excuse.

I was on task baking the cookies (although not necessarily blogging about them), but then I went sledding and broke my hand.

No joke.

I was going down the hill super fast, was on track to run into a shed head on, dug my hand into the snow in  an effort to slow down. There was a drop off I didn’t see and my hand went back while the rest of my body went forward. I knew something was wrong right away, but I figured I sprained something. Seven hours later, I was in the ER and the x-ray confirmed that I broke my ring finger and my hand.


Bright side? I’m left-handed and I broke my right hand.

Other bright side? I had finished wrapping all of our presents the night before.

Third bright side? The orthopedic doesn’t think I’ll need surgery.

What’s the bad? Well, typing with one hand takes forever and my doctor says it could take up to 3 months for me tl be back to normal.

Whatever that means.

No more cooking challenges for a while. I’m focusing on simple foods.


I love my kitchen

Our new floor was installed last week, as was the new refrigerator. The ice maker isn’t working, so it isn’t perfect, but we have an appointment to get that fixed. (Thank you, warranty.)

(Notice how the light is shining? It’s almost like the angels above are celebrating my kitchen.)

I’m happy. I love it. Especially because I can glide across it in my socks.


Everything old is new again

We all know I have a cookbook addiction. Well, my daughter has a Duck Tape addiction.

For weeks, she has been buying rolls of brightly colored or decorated Duck Tape to transform headbands, canvas bags and flip-flops into usable works of art. During our three-day weekend, we transformed her old dresser (purchased for $40 ast Wal-Mart in 2001) from an ugly eyesore to the coolest dresser ever.


In all, it took us about 10 rolls of Duck Tape-brand tape (purchased at our local Michaels and Target — total cost about $36, although we have a lot of the plain colored tape leftover) and three hours of labor to finish the dresser. When you consider about 45 minutes of that was spent cleaning the dresser, trying to scrape off all the stickers my daughter had attached to it over the years, that’s not a lot of time at all.

It was a fun way to spend a Sunday morning, especially as my pre-teen now considers me cool. It won’t last, of course, but I’ll still take it!

The dresser in the (sort of) beginning, as I thought to take the “before” picture too late.

We were going to continue the rainbow stripes on the top, but then E decided to go with the blue flowers tape instead.

Getting crafty

I need a bigger kitchen.

I feel silly saying that as I now have the largest kitchen I’ve ever had in the 14 years I’ve been a grown up who cares about things like square footage and adequate storage. Despite that, I don’t have room for everything I need or want in my kitchen.

My husband would say that’s a clue to stop buying kitchen gadgets.

I say he’s a kitchen gadget.

That makes no sense unless you hang out with us. It still won’t make sense, but we’re lovable and can get away with it.

Anyway, kitchen storage. I need more of it, especially because of the egg-related things I ordered from amazon.com yesterday.

Last fall, I saw a photo on twitter that inspired the project below. A woman has attached her cookie cutters to a bulletin board, then framed it. She used an ornate frame and crowded her cookie cutters very close, so it looked professional. I didn’t have the patience or the money to go all out like that, but I am still pretty happy with my results.

A bulletin board, some hemming pins and a lot of cookie cutters. Now I have an original work of art and a free shelf in my pantry.

Everyone wins!

2012 Food Resolutions

Last year I resolved to:

1. Read at least one cookbook a month. If there are only a few recipes I like in it, I will photocopy them and give the book away.

2. Try at least one new recipe a week.

3. Organize the piles of recipes I have ripped from magazines, printed off of Websites and received from friends by April 1. Anything that’s left after that gets tossed.

4. Control my family’s food bill with weekly menus that will use what I already have on hand.

How did I do?

Well, my cookbook collection now takes up two 9×9 cube shelves.

I still have three bags of recipes that need to be sorted.

I did discover some great new recipes last year, but I feel into the habit of including them in our meal cycle and not introducing anything new.

Needless to say, my cooking resolutions for this year are basically the same thing. Starting Sunday, I’ll start posting my weekly menu and grocery bill again. In the meantime, I made cinnamon rolls last night. My house smelled awesome!

Cuts like a knife

Here’s how my family helped me celebrate my birthday.

My daughter, age 10, bought me a gigantic lime green pillow. It is quite possibly the guadiest and most comfortable thing I’ve ever owned. (Keep in mind I wore Troll Doll earrings in high school, so I know gaudy.)

The boy, age 12, bought me a travel coffee mug. As I hope to give up caffeine this year, it shall later be a tea travel mug.

My husband gave me a new chef knife and International Cooking lessons. Starting next week, I will spend my Wednesday nights at the local community college, learning how to cook food from France, Mexico, Italy and Japan.

I am excited about this, but I have two concerns.

1 — I am supposed to bring an apron. Do stores even sell aprons that aren’t for men who grill?

2 — My new knife is HUGE! How do I carry that into class without looking like Michael Myers?

Best cookbook ever?

So it’s been established that I have a lot of cookbooks.

A lot of cookbooks.

But this isn’t about me.

My brother-in-law expressed an interest in learning how to cook. He already experiments in the kitchen and, according to my sister, some experiments have turned out better than others.

He’s never followed a recipe and while part of me is secretly jealous — I could never be that loose in the kitchen — another part believes the fun part about recipes is tweaking them until they suit your tastes.

The pun was totally intended.

He asked me to recommend a cookbook and I drew a blank. Do I go with something all-encompassing like The Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, a classic like The Joy of Cooking or something with a lot of pictures? I love The Joy of Cooking, but the lack of pictures always throws me. I like seeing what the dish is supposed to look like when it’s finished.

I recently gave my sister-in-law the Anyone Can Cook cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens. She is not a kitchen person, so she wanted something that would teach the basics. My brother-in-law, though, seems more advanced.

His birthday is in a few weeks. What cookbook should I give him?

Someday I want to …

Something I have always wanted to do is go whitewater rafting. It has been my “someday I want to” thing for as long as I can remember.

My husband and I decided, during a Sunday lunch in which we were enjoying time together as the kids were out-of-town for a few days, that next summer, we will go whitewater rafting. Even better, we will go west, spend a week or so at a dude ranch, and get the ‘real cowboy’ experience.

Only we will have our meals provided for us.

And we will ride horses for fun, not work.

And we’ll sleep in cabins rather than the great outdoors.

OK, we won’t be real cowboys, but we will have an awesome time! I can’t wait! I might need to try some cowboy recipes to tide me over — and get the picky kid prepared for the types of meals we’ll eat out west.

Things I Love: OXO Good Grips

Some people are lucky to have a great father. I am blessed to have two.

My dads are without a doubt the greatest guys ever. One is known for his compassion, the other for his flirting. One hates playing board games because he doesn’t like the rules — this usually happens when he’s losing — and the other never let me win as a child, which is probably the reason why I’m so competitive today.

One of my dads grew up on a farm, so he knows how to fix anything. When I was little, I’d just hand him what was broken and wait for him to return it. Now he has to deal with phone calls such as “My garage door won’t open. Why?” and “My garbage disposal sounds funky.” I know he’ll never laugh at me — in my defense, we didn’t have a garage when I was little, so I never dealt with garage door openers until we bought our house — and so far he has been able to tell me how to fix whatever is broken.

My other dad … well, he knows a guy. Seriously, that’s his thing. He isn’t a handyman and he doesn’t want to be one. He figures people are trained for specific tasks, so they should be hired to fix electrical appliances, file taxes and paint walls. He has a guy for each task and he will share their names with people who need it.

My older sister and I like to poke fun at Dad’s “I know a guy” mentality. We also joke about his other common phrase: You get what you pay for. I agree with him for the most part, although sometimes I think he takes it too far, spending $10 on a potato peeler when a $2 one also was an option.

Then he gave me a $10 potato peeler of my own.

I’ve had this potato peeler for years and it never disappoints. It is because of this potato peeler that I shell out the extra bucks to buy Good Grip items when replacing kitchen supplies. Yes, they cost a bit more than other brands out there, but they last longer which, as Dad likes to say, saves you money in the end.

I had to buy some new Good Grips mixing bowls this week. The one I received as a wedding gift — 12+ years ago — cracked when my daughter through it on the driveway in frustration after losing an impromptu water balloon fight.

She got my competitive gene.

I was bummed. She felt bad. I give myself parenting propos for not yelling because it was an accident. And when you consider I was wanting to buy new mixing bowls anyway … All things happen for a reason.