Monday, April 30, 2007

Book Review

The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for You

This book published by American Girl is a fabulous book for any and all pre-teen girls (I have to admit that my daughter is in that stage). It discusses all aspects of growing up including hygiene (including bad breath and shaving), acne, menstration (including PMS and tampon use), breast development, bras, braces, exercise and eating habits, eating disorders, emotions, and general safety. The tone is just right for the age group...9-12yos. It also includes Dear Abby-type letters to address some issues. I am a pretty straight-forward and open person and have talked to my daughter about these issues but this books does it in a way I would have never thought of and talked about things I didn't think about. My daughter loved and read it almost in one sitting. She also wanted to talk about things in the book and wanted to get on track with some things (e.g. tongue brushing, sports bras, eating habits).

The only thing left out is a discussion about sex. It talks about respecting your body and not allowing anyone else to touch it but it does not talk about sex otherwise (e.g. where babies come from, sexual feelings, masterbation, homosexuality, etc.).

Overall, I would recommend this book for girls and their parents. It is a great book for them to read alone and with you to discuss together.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cheap Thrills

This is how I entertain my kids...we drive around (ok, usually we are simply driving to our usual destinations) and look at all the different cars and trucks. Perhaps this was all happening all the time, but I never was aware of it. Now, I know all the big construction sites in town (a new library, a big apartment building near my dh's office, a new building across from school, the football stadium). The kids love to see the special trucks and vehicles (today there was a really cool crane-thing up). We also saw a car with a bike on top of it, a water truck, a pipe cleaner (power rodder trucks cleaning the neighborhood drains), a milk truck, a digger, a city bus, a school bus, and a mail truck. And that was just the 10 min ride home from school. Who needs a DVD in the car?!

One of our favorite places in town is the library...and now the kids love to sit and watch them building the new library next door. They can sit and watch out the windows while I read.

What fun...oh, and it is free, of course!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Summer Fun (let's make plans!)

It is always exciting when the park district guide come to our mailbox. Both my husband and I take a lot of time looking through it and reading about all the new programs and great events planned for the upcoming season (do I need to mention, most of the events are free!). We even talk about it....did you see this? Let's definately go to that.

Then a month passes, and by the time the events actually occur, we have totally forgotten about them and end up missing them.

So, last season, I went through and wrote the interesting events on our frig calendar (the one that runs our lives and can't live without). We didn't go to everything, but we were, at least, aware of what was happening.

I have to say, our park districts are great...award-winning even. They offer so many programs and great special events and festivals. In the summer, there are tons of outdoor movies and concerts that feature many local artists, not to mention the pools, Hessel Water Park, Prairie Farms. Both cities here offer great programs for the kids (our daughter loves Urbana's theater program*). Attending these events is a good way to participate in your community and support it. Many events are free. And in CU, you receive residency in both Champaign and Urbana. So, check out your local park district and see what is happening.

Champaign Park District
**They have extended the reduced-price (10%) pool pass until May 3rd!

Urbana Park District

*This year, UPD's Youth Summer Theatre production will be Honk! (a musical version of the ugly duckling). It is a cast of 9-18yo led by the fantastic Jen Bechtel (a new mom!). They also offer a program for the younger ones, 6-9yo. Everyone who auditions is cast and it only costs $12 plus costume fees. It is a great program and the production always amazes me in the end. There is an audition workshop this Sunday, April 29th at 6pm (with audition the weekend of May 20th). If you have one who loves to dance, sing, and act...check out this program.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The breastfeeding family

I went out of town this weekend (well, only 24 hours) without the boys for some R&R and that fundraiser. It was great, by the way. Some sleep, a bath, reading, watching some TV...

Anyways. So, when I unpacked, the breastpump was out. My two little ones took about 30 mins playing with it. My 3yo, who calls it 'the best pump', put it all together and kept asking me to get some milk in it, 'put it on there' (as he points to my chest). And I didn't think anything of it.

I guess that is just part of who our family is.

Baking for Boobs!

That was the name of the fundraiser I went to this weekend. It was a blast. It was a fundraiser for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (see It was a bake-off. There were three categories (cakes, cookies, and other goodies). You were allowed up to three submissions and each submission cost $15. Additionally, you could participate in a silent auction to become 1 of 5 judges. And finally, anyone caught sneaking a taste was fined $5.

Besides the pink decor, there was lots of information on breast health, breast cancer, and research. Lots of favors (key chains made by the Girl Scouts (getting their Think Pink badge), pencils, pink ribbons, pink bracelets, nail files, candies). And there were prizes for the top three winners in each categories (a variety of pink baking items, a spa bag filled with lotions, etc., a nice blanket, hats).

Out of the about 20 entries, I won every category! I entered my chocolate truffles, chocolate peanut butter munchies*, and a chocolate raspberry cake. And my daughter won 2nd in the cake category with her mint chocolate oreo cheesecake** and my mom won 3rd with her classic cheesecake! Everything was delicious...I tried it all.

Overall, it was a great time with family, friends, and food (we all got to try everything after the judging ended). And we raised a lot of money for a great cause.

This would be a great fundraiser for lots of things...or just a fun family activity for a large group (like a family reunion). If you want more information, let me know.

*Chocolate Peanut Butter Munchies

1 ½ cup flour*
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup peanut butter
1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

*I use ½ white and ½ wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour, for a healthier choice. I also use natural peanut butter.

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, ½ cup sugar, brown sugar, ¼ cup peanut butter. Beat until well combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture. Using floured hands, shape dough into 32 balls. Set aside.

In bowl, combine ½ cup peanut butter and powdered sugar. Combine until well-combined and will form ball when pressed (may need to add more PB or sugar). Shape into 32 balls (about ½ size of chocolate ones).

Using floured hands, flatten chocolate ball and top with PB ball. Wrap chocolate over PB and re-roll into ball. Place on baking sheet. Flatten cookie slightly with a glass dipped in remaining sugar. Repeat for all 32 cookies.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Put chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt using 30-second intervals and stirring. Once, melted and smooth. Transfer chocolate to small ziplock bag. Using like a pastry bag, squeeze chocolate to one corner of bag and cut off a small part of the end. Drizzle chocolate over cooled cookies.
**Mint Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake
1 pkg mint Oreos
¼ cup butter, melted
4 pkg cream cheese, room temp
½ cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1 8oz tub Cool Whip

Line 13x9 pan with foil. Coarsely chop 15 cookies, set aside. Finely crush remaining cookies, mix with butter. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan. Freeze while mixing filling. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add chocolate and mix until combined. Gently fold in Cool Whip and chopped cookies. Spoon over crust. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

*Can make this with any flavor Oreo.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Show Review: Thomas and Friends Live!

Ok, when I saw that Thomas and Friends Live! was coming to town, I couldn't resist taking my 3yo-Thomas-loving son.

Overall, this Broadway-style stage show is good. There is a small cast of live actors and three engines (Thomas, Percy, and Diesel, plus a Troublesome Truck). The engines are 8ft long, 6ft high engines (my dh and I couldn't exactly figure out how they worked, obviously someone was inside steering) with facial expressions similar to the TV/DVD series. The plot is simple and explained continuously for the young ones to follow. In the wake of wind storm that has ruined the preparations for the upcoming Lantern Festival and blown out the lighthouse light, Thomas and his friends must save the day. Additionally, the engine who helps out the best wins the honor of pulling the special car at the festival. I won't give away the ending ... but I think it might be an obvious guess what happens.

There are a lot of songs ... about 2/3 from the TV show and 1/3 new ones obviously written for this show (these were not as good as the TV show's) ... and a lot of crazy choreography! The actors use annoying 'character' voices (with the exception of Sir Topham Hatt, who has a very specific voice). My son told me "Percy didn't sound right." The scenery and costumes are basic ... I was really disappointed by the pitiful lantern festival at the end. They have a lot of opportunities for audience participation ... making different train noises, hand motions, singing, clapping, etc. And my son seemed to enjoy the activity. He really liked it and wanted to go again the next day.

However, we were not going to shell out the $25/ticket again (and this was for a upper-middle section ... the front section was $50). And we really wanted to take our little one, who I think would have loved it as well, but for this show only children under 1yo were allowed in free (unlike the usual 2yo policy) and we were not going to spend that money. Parking was only $5 (which we wouldn't have spend had not been running late). Speaking of money, I fully understand that in addition to ticket sales, these shows make a lot of money on concessions and merchandise and part of these sales include having an intermission. This show suffered greatly by having one. The first act is only 30mins long, then a 20min intermission, and the second act only about 20mins! It was ridiculous, and my son has lost some of his energy and interest after waiting that 20mins.

If it comes to your town and you have a Thomas-lover in your family, I would recommend it (but it not something I would tell you to run out to find ... though I hear the Go Diego Go! Show is great!).

For more info see

A Birthday for Mom

This week is was my birthday....

From my 20mon old...who cares but I get to eat cake!

From my 3yo....Mom, I have a secret...I got you a Buzz card for your birthday...but don't tell anyone! I made a snowball...its for you for your birthday.

From my 10yo....what is your favorite color? and if you can't have that color, what would be your favorite color? what is your favorite book? do you have that one? ok, what is one of your favorite books that you don't already have?

From my husband....(a cell phone call while I am at the grocery store) what do you want for your birthday breakfast? well, can you just get whatever you want to make.

No, really it was a fine day full of family (my mom, stepfather, and niece came to visit), food (ok I made my own cake (with a 3yo helper for decorating and tasting)), and fun. My kids and hubby made some great artwork for me on canvases. And there were roses for me! And my brother sent me my name and age made out of dark chocolate from a little shop in the Bay Area (fabulous!).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

This Week...

What we ate...
Beet and feta salad (my new favorite...salad greens, canned beets, feta, balsamic dressing)
White bean and tomato soup
Elbow mac with carrots, peas, and salami
Roasted Red Pepper Pasta with chicken
Tofu fried rice
Popcorn shrimp with peas and pasta
Raisin Bran Carrot Muffins
French Toast with berry syrup
Whole Wheat Pancakes
Chili Mac
Egg Salad
Fun-due (cheese fondue with veggies, fruit, and bread plus chocolate fondue with fruit)

What we read....
the baby...Look and Find books, his big word books
the 3yo...'reading' a lot independently, The Secret of Snow, Mickey Mouse books
the 10yo...Kiki's Delivery Service, Nick Magazine
the mom...Over Her Dead Body by Kate White

What we watched...
Hoodwinked and Barnyard (family movie night!)

I miss a lot of my favorite shows because not only are three on at the same time (Thursday nights at 8pm) but I don't sit down until after I watch them online. NBC, CBS, and ABC all offer many of their shows at full-episode online the day after they air on TV. It is great! No Tivo required!

CSI this week rocked! It was great! They actually were doing a re-cap show of the season before the last big push of sweeps and season finales but unlike Grey's that was doing the same thing, they made it interesting. They reviewed the major case that has been trailing along all season (and will be solved by the end, they say) but the show had a plot and was full of CSI's great dark humor. This was no clip-show! Check it out on

Have a great week and VOTE! if you are having a local election!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A bitter Easter

I'm not talking about the weather...although we enjoyed a delightful 35 degree Spring day for egg hunting.

I am a big supporter of celebrating holidays and traditions however I like to understand why we are doing what we are doing. So, when my daughter asked me why we have the Easter Bunny...I had to look it up because I had no idea.

So, it turns out that no one really knows how bunnies and eggs got linked. But bunnies and eggs actually have very little to do with Easter (the Christian holiday celebrating the the resurrection of Christ). As with most traditions, they have Pagan roots and really celebrate the changing seasons. So...bunnies and eggs represent fertility. The beginning of Spring marks the beginning of new life...and thus symbols of fertility are used in celebration.

(there is a slight reason for eggs and Easter in Catholism...eggs were part of the Lent fasting)

Therefore, since our family is not Christian....why are we celebrating Easter during Christian's Holy Week? We should celebrate it on March 22nd...the first day of Spring. Would that be bad for my kids...that they are celebrating the true roots of Easter and not conforming to the rest of the US' holiday schedule? I don't that big of a deal?

For more information on just about anything...check out

Ingredient of the month...


If I could only have five things in my spice cabinet...they would be salt, pepper, basil, cinnamon, and cummin.

Cummin is a ground spice (although you can buy it in whole seeds as well) that has a smokey but subtle flavor. I put it in lots of things.

*Sprinkle it on any veggie (I sprinkle it on frozen veggies for some interest).
*Mix with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and toss on roasted potatoes or hash browns.
*Great 'refried' beans....Mix one can of black beans with liquid, one minced clove of garlic, and 1-3 tsp cummin. Microwave for 3 minutes. Smash with potato masher or back of spoon. Allow to cool and thicken for 5 minutes.
*Add to chilis or similar dishes (e.g chili mac).
*Sprinkle flatbread with olive oil and pinches of cummin.

For more information on cummin....see

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FYI...Shoe Sale

For all your frugal families...
This month, Payless Shoe Source is having their BOGO (buy 1, get 1 1/2 off) sale.

This is a good source for kids' shoes (since they only wear them one season anyways). They also have a lot of character shoes for the little ones (our 3 yo wants some Cars shoes).

For more information, visit your local Payless or see

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Music Scene

So, my husband has recently been singing backup and playing various intruments in a band...Dan Beahm and the Invisible Three. So, I have checking out the local music scene...something my husband has been doing for years. There are so many great musicians out just have to stay up late enough to see them. The music didn't even start until well after 9pm last night, DBi3 going on at midnight. We literally paid a sitter to watch our sleeping children (do we have to paid her the same for if they were awake?). It was so fun to hang out with friends (although you can't always talk to each other with the sound), get some drinks (non-alcoholic for me, as always), and hear some great tunes....we even danced. There is sometimes a cover charge and sometimes a minimium drink charge...knowing people in the band is a great perk!

So I urge you to check out the local music wherever you live and enjoy. And bring the kids to those afternoon shows.

In Champaign-Urbana...check out...
of course, Dan Beahm and the Invisible Three (
An ecceltic mix of folk and rock including some great cello with some fabulous lyrics. The songs are sometimes fun and sometimes serious (I love the new album! It rocks!).

Lynn O'Brien (
She is a pianist, singer, and songwriter with a mix of old-fashioned (Broadway ballad-like) and new Nora Jones-like quality. Her songs are sweet, funny, and sometimes thought-provoking.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Book Review

Pirates Don't Change Diapers

by David Shannon

This great book is a the sequel to How I Became a Pirate by David Shannon. There is no doubt that pirates are big right now. Besides the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movies, kids just love pirates (and so do adults). Backyardigans has a great episode about being pirates. Of course some people think that we shouldn't encourage kids to be like pirates...they are known for raping and pillaging...but come on...let's focus on the fun! Eye patches, hooks for hands, sailing, peg legs, great clothes, parrots, and, the best, pirate-talk! (my kids, and husband, walk around saying Sarrrrrsgarrrrrd constantly). These books take all the fun and put it with great illustrations for a fantastic read.

This book takes place awhile after Jeremy Jacob returns from his time with Braid Beard and his crew. This time, the crew needs to find their treasure but first they must help Jeremy take care of his baby sister.

The illustrations are deep and rich with so many details that every time you read it, you will find new laughs. The language, filled with pirate slang, is simple and easily gets the story across, although it is a bit wordy for our youngest. The story is great for anyone with a baby in the house. Our 3yo loves to laugh about how he thinks you should babysit. Overall, it is just fun.

A mini-spa?

Yesterday, I went to the 8am! I actually enjoy going to the dentist. It gives me 30 minutes without the kids...I get to watch TV (those morning shows I never usually watch), lay down, have some adult conversation, and someone cleans my teeth for me! What else could you ask for? If only we could create a shower/bathing system like just lay down for half an hour and relax, listen to music or watch tv, and you come out clean, legs shaved, hair washed and dried for you. That would be great!

*Just a shout-out to my dentist, Dr. Jim Yu at Creative Smiles. He actually isn't the most personable or anything...but you only spend about a minute with him at each exam. You get to spend more time with him if you haven't been taking care of yourself. He is pleasant and nice. During those extended sessions, they are great and there is no pain. Their hygienists are great! Very nice, talkative but not too much, gentle, and not judgemental (why aren't you flossing more?!). And if you are good and take care of yourself, you are in and out in 30 minutes!

*Just a word about going to the it! Especially if you have dental insurance, go! It is so worth problems can lead to lots of other problems and, if not taken care of, can be very expensive to repair later. If you don't have insurance, it can be expensive, but try to get in for a cleaning and exam at least once a year. It is worth the expense you know how much a filling or root canal costs...lots! And bring your kids! Find a good pediatric dentist...or one that is good with kids. Ours is Dr. Hemann and Dr. Cheng. Our middle one has lots of dental problems and we are so glad we took him in....he was 2 1/2 years (but we should have taken him in earlier).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Community Fun!

This weekend, we went out with our dear friends for an adult night out. First, we went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Cafe ( Besides the fact there was no waiting, we got to sit outside! What a treat. The food was great...they drench everything is cheese. And they have fabulous margaritas...I don't drink often but I was out for the night, let's have some fun (and my husband did!). We like to go to local places, if possible and this is a great one in Champaign.

*This is a great place for the family. The menu varies enough to meet everyone's needs. The kids' menu is reasonably priced and they have kiddie cocktails. The service is fast and our kids love to sit outside in the summer (and they have room to move around).

So, after eating and talking about our ever-changing lives, we went to see our friend play in one of his many bands. He was playing at a fundraiser for our local organic food co-op. It was an amazing event. First of all, it was free. They had a potluck dinner (which we could have partaken of if we wanted). You could also make a donation and eat. They had wine from a local wine place for sale, as well as t-shirts and membership information. In addition to the food, wine, and people, they had fabulous music. So, the band played and people danced...lots of people danced. We had gone there to see our friend but we found this group of people that were so great.

They have this community that can party like this. Everyone chipped in and everyone was hanging out and having fun. There were people of all ages...little ones in baby wraps, kids, college students, adults in all stages of life. Besides that they welcomed us into this celebration, it really made us feel like we should be a part of this...which we have considered before (but that's another entry).

So, if you are in CU and interested in joining an organic and local food co-op, check out Common Ground Food Co-op ( It's more than a grocery store!

We also enjoyed our daughter's capoeira festival this weekend. Which is another great community to participate in in town and throughout the state and beyond. (Here's a link to that info... Additionally, we took the kids the to Annual UIUC Vet Med Open awesome, free event for all ages. We got to see and touch lots of animals, milk a cow, see where the animals go to the doctor, see x-rays, watched a video of a cow's c-section (completely fascinating, btw), horse-shoeing, police dog demo, goat cheese tasting...and on and on.

Every time we talk about moving out of our community, we have a hard time thinking about giving up all the great things about where we live. There are just so many wonderful things here...we love it.