If you haven’t heard that bottled salad dressing has some junky stuff in it, you’ve probably been living under a rock. I kid. But, seriously, it seems everywhere I turn, someone is waxing eloquently about the ills and evils of buying a bottle of ranch.
They’re not wrong:
There are some sketchy ingredients in there. Of course, one must also note that, the reason I got that picture? Is because I bought that dressing. Ahem.
I like making my own salad dressings. They’re not hard. They taste great. You know what’s in them. All hunky dory. But… you know what? Sometimes I need a tablespoon or two of ranch dressing and I don’t have any made. So, yes, I reach for that bottle up there. It gets the job done.
Still, it’s not my first choice around here for dumping all over my salad.
Like I said, I make plenty of dressings. They’re really not a huge project. But, if time is really limited or I’ve just plain forgotten to get it done?
This is my new cheat:
Is the ingredient list perfect? Nah. There are plenty of articles out there to tell you why canola oil isn’t a good bet. And I’m not convinced dressings need sugar. But, here’s the simple truth– for a convenience food? This is a pretty decent ingredient list:
[cider vinegar, expeller pressed canola oil, evaporated cane sugar, water, garlic cloves, garlic, sea salt, romano cheese, parmesan cheese, asiago cheese, black pepper, oregano, basil, salt]
So… there you go. Judge away, if you must, but you will almost always find a bottle (or two) of pre-made salad dressing in my arsenal.
If you’re looking for one to keep in yours, with an ingredient list that’s not really cringe-worthy? This is one I’d recommend.
Disclosure: TOTALLY not sponsored or compensated in any way. I love Aldi’s dressings and this line is truly tasty and contains pretty good ingredients. I just wanted you all to know about it.
I remember when my maternity leave ran out. His paternity leave ran out at the same time. (Let’s just pause a moment and acknowledge how phenomenal it was, here in the States, for my husband to get eight weeks of paid leave after the birth of our child.) Okay, moving on…
We had both decided that we wanted me at home with our newborn son, so that wasn’t an issue. It’s always good to be on the same page and all. I kissed him goodbye that first morning back and set about my day with our little guy.
I had no idea how hard it would be.
It’s not even so much that I struggled with the whole “infant care” piece. Our baby was a good eater, a good sleeper, and a generally easy-going kiddo.
I struggled with my own role and purpose.
Days would go by and I’d try to recall what, exactly, I had done. My husband would arrive home from work, take off his tie, and tell me what had happened in the world of banking– my previous workplace, too– that day.
I’d listen to the disaster of loan rates as the feds changed prime. I’d troubleshoot what might have caused an out-of-balance ending in nine (– almost always a transposition.) I’d sympathize when social security day fell on a Friday.
And then I’d tell him about my day.
It got to the point where I felt like I needed to give a detailed account of, well, just what the heck I was doing with all these hours at home.
“Well, I did the baby laundry and changed the sheets. Oh! And I picked up dish soap!” I’d stammer. Even as I said the words, I’d feel almost frantic about how little I was accomplishing. When did this happen? How did I become this woman who got so very little done?
And then, one day, as I hurriedly threw some packaged “rice & sauce” stuff on the stove to concoct a make-shift dinner, I turned to my just-got-home husband with tears in my eyes.
I hadn’t even gotten dinner under-way until well after six that night.
And he took my hands.
“You don’t need to tell me what you do with your days. I know you’re working. You’re taking care of our son– you’re doing the very most important work there is. I might be the one bringing home a check but, I tell everyone… you ARE working.”
He’s never changed that tune.
It’s a wonderful thing to truly respect the work of one another.
We started planning early. And, by we, I really mean she. My sister, bless her heart, handled all kinds of tricky organizing and communications to make it happen.
My brother and his family would be in town over Christmas. It was the perfect time to get a picture of all fifteen of us. The last family photo we’d had done was in the summer of 2008, before G. had joined the group.
The scheduling of the photo session spiralled into a big ol’ challenge. Christmas week is a busy one, with Christmas, Christmas Eve, C’s birthday, my sister’s anniversary, and my sister-in-law’s birthday. This is also Connecticut, so the forecast can become an issue. On top of that, while many of us were off for the whole week, my husband’s and my father’s jobs did not have week-long breaks, so we had to schedule around that.
There were many, many phone calls. Between my sister and I. Between my sister and the photographer. We discussed wardrobe, setting, timing, and more. Finally– finally– things seemed pretty set.
And then we saw the forecast.
Snow was coming and we had to decide what to do. Should we try it? What else could we do? Would we even be able to find a different time everyone could be there? We decided to go for it. Worth a shot, right?
It snowed like mad. The parking lot was slick. If I’m honest with you all, there were some grumbles and complaints heard among the masses. But, at the end of it all, that’s not really what I remember…
I remember the laughter.
I remember cracking up as snow layered thick on our hair. I remember watching my husband and brother-in-law help haul a red couch right out into the forest in the middle of the blinding white. I remember my children laughing big belly laughs when the photographer teased them and encouraged them to goof off, play, and, yes, stand on the couch.
I remember collapsing damply in the car after, my cheeks aching from the smiles I couldn’t control.
I remember all fifteen of us pouring into a tiny pizza place and stuffing our bellies with pizza and, in a couple of our cases, beer.
The kids had their own table and they were an absolute joy to watch. The waitress brought them lollipops and was charmed when mine made sure they had eaten well before accepting one.
I remember singing loudly in the car on the way home while the kids sat in a bit of a food- and cousin-coma.
We could have had the picture done in a studio someplace. It would have no doubt been simpler.
But I’m so glad we didn’t.
Was it perfect? No. But neither are we.
Was it fun? Oh, yes. And we are that.
Family pictures should be about capturing memories. What a joy to make one in the process.
Mothers’ Day just passed. I didn’t say a whole lot about that.
For many, it was a day of joy and celebration. For some, it was a time of excitement and anticipation. There were those who faced bittersweet days of acknowledging blessings while coping with loss. And still others faced pure sadness and feelings of desparation. There’s simply too much there for me to adequately and appropriately address. Mama-hearts, whether there are babes-in-arm or not, can be tender and I want to respect that.
Still, I did enjoy my day. I guess, in the purest sense of the word, it was this one who made me “mama” for the first time:
And, oh, he’s been a wonder to have in my life.
But it’s the next one, his younger sister by less than a year, who really tested me. It is C. who revealed how strong this mama could (and would) be when faced with terror and impending doom. It is C. who forced my hand. It is C. who, in many ways, brought out the best in me. My labor with her is arguably what best displayed my calm in times of turmoil.
I brought her in to the world as Christmas Eve broke in ’05:
Today, I face her:
I am staggered. Humbled. Utterly amazed.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
I’ve been foraging! This has been long-time, semi-secret dream of mine. For whatever reason, I’m positively fascinated by the idea of eating weeds and invasives.
This week will include just a couple recipes involving foraged food, but I really do hope to become more knowledgable in that arena. You can find the recipes I’m using and follow my foraging journey on Pinterest, if you’re so inclined.
Here’s the plan for this week:
Breakfast (for the littles before 7:30am Mass)–Frosted Mini-Wheats, Yogurt
Brunch–Migas, Sausages, Mixed Fruit, Corn Bread, Mini Croissants, and an amazing Lemon Cake (<– we went to my sister’s to celebrate Mothers’ Day.)
B–Vanilla Coconut Oatmeal, Milk
D–Shredded Pork, Wilted Garlic Mustard (foraged) w/ Hollandaise Sauce
B–Dandelion (foraged) Corn Bread, Apples, Milk
D–Grilled Turkey & Cheese, Chicken Tortellini Soup
B–Spiced Carrot Bread, Apples, Milk
D–Cheese Pizza, Broccoli (C’s dinner choice for the month.)
B–Cinnamon Almond Oatmeal, Juice
D–Tuna, Rice, Peas, & Cheese Casserole (date night!!!)
B–Blueberry Dandelion (foraged) Honey Smoothies, Toast
D–Taco Cheddar Pizza
B–Eggs, Chicken Apple Sausage, Moo Tubes (G’s breakfast choice for the month!)
So… there you go! We’ve also been enjoying hot dandelion syrup drizzled on ice cream… yum!
What are you most looking forward to eating this week?
There is little that sounds worse to me than spending a rainy Saturday at the mall. Because, seriously, people, everyone in the planet seems to come out, and I believe I may have mentioned how crowded parking lots give me heart palpitations.
Nonetheless, we headed out after our ball game to check out the Microsoft Store and, I have to admit, I was pretty excited to see it. I had had the privilege of chatting with Melinda George, a training and development specialist with Microsoft, about a week prior and I already knew what things I wanted to keep an eye out for.
Continue reading Rainy Day Fun with Microsoft
Hey there! So, I’ve got a bad case of Spring fever and I’m too entranced by sunshine and birdsong to think super clearly. I asked myself, “What on earth do I have to say that’s funny or profound today?” Answer? Nada.
So I decided that I’d just take you along with me as I make our pizza for the night. We’re having Spinach Alfredo (with tomatoes on half.) Sound good? Alrighty, then. Let’s get started.
We’ll start out by making a crust. I used this recipe, because it’s ridiculously easy and I know it by heart. I subbed in a cup of whole wheat flour, which makes it chewy and rustic and lovely.
Here it is:
Looks pretty good, right? And it’s all set for the toppings. No need to pre-bake.
So let’s get to work on those toppings, shall we? First, we’re going to make an alfredo sauce. It’s really easy but, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please promise me you won’t go sticking cream cheese in your alfredo sauce. Listen, I love cream cheese as much as the next gal, but it has NO place in alfredo. ‘k?
Beginning to end, that sauce will take you about twenty minutes, but there’s hardly any active time. You just have to be around to stir it here and there. I folded a load of laundry and supervised some pre-K work while it was going on. It will thicken up a bit as it cools.
As that’s cooling (and possibly separating– just stir it up, no worries,) let’s sautee some spinach. I used what was left in a 9 oz. bag… probably about 7 oz.? I never pull the stems off, because I’m lazy and they don’t bother us. But, if you’re so inclined, get to it. Olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, and medium heat– good to go.
Cook ’til it’s wilted down, but don’t kill it. It doesn’t need to shrink into oblivion.
Now let’s get assembling! On goes the sauce…
Tomatoes, on half…
And the mozz.
Into the fridge for now and I’ll bake that at 425 for 10-12 minutes tonight for our Pizza & a Movie Night. Can’t wait!
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup whole milk (or cream or half & half, if you have it on hand)
- 1 1/4 cups fresh parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 5-9 oz. fresh spinach, depending on preference
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or smashed
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese**
1. Prepare dough for crust and pat on prepared pizza pan.
2. Heat milk (cream) and butter in sauce pan over medium heat until butter is fully melted. Simmer for six minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, and parmesan. Set aside to cool a bit.
3. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until just barely browning, about 3 minutes. Add spinach in batches and cook down until wilted. Remove from heat.
4. Spread a thin layer of sauce on crust. Scatter cooked spinach over the surface. Add any other desired toppings– I put chopped grape tomatoes on half. Top with mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
*This recipe makes more sauce than you need. You can either quarter/halve the recipe or use it for something else; we’re having fettucine alfredo tomorrow night.
**As much as I love cheese, I also love to taste the sauce and toppings on pizza. I really only use 1 1/2 cups of mozz to cover my 16″ pizza.
So, this is how I often find my husband when he gets home from work late:
I keep the kids up to see him, if I can. In jammies, teeth brushed, they’re ready to fall into bed for stories. Daddy reads the stories. It’s one of the things he most looks forward to each day and his disappointment is palpable if he’s just too late to get it done and I’ve already done the reading and tucking in.
Being piled in with his kiddos makes him happy.
What I wish you could also see in this picture is the state of the room around that love-seat.
You can just barely make out the pink polka dot doll bed in the background. It overflowed with baby princess limbs. The bay window seat in the background was littered with legos. The floor was scattered with an array of books that children had excitedly explored after learning I’d been to the library.
It wasn’t anything awful, per se. But it definitely wasn’t tidy.
The thing is– that sort of evening clutter doesn’t really bother me. It’s just the resulting flotsam and jetsam of a day well-lived, really. And I know that it can be gathered and remedied in just a few moments.
It doesn’t bother me. But I see it.
My husband? Doesn’t even seem to see it. When he walks in that door? He only has eyes for me and the children. That’s it.
He says it’s about priorities.
It is unendingly interesting to see what brings people to my site. Most of you come back here pretty regularly and that, right there, is the best. (I love you all more than cheese!)
Also awesome is when someone finds me through a link on another blog or through word of mouth. It is a true delight to “meet” new people.
But, every day, some of my traffic comes straight from search engines. That’s cool, too, in its own way. Occasionally, though, I read through the search terms and think, “Man, did that person actually find their answer here?”
And, so, in honor of some of the wacky things that land people here, today I’m doing a write-up that is basically:
JessieLeigh Answers the Search Box
1. “How big are the balls in the busy ball popper?”
I don’t really know. Maybe 2″ across? Big enough to not be choking hazards, but small enough to fit under any and all furniture, thus making retrieval a real nightmare.
2. “What goes with cheese bread?”
Everything. The end.
3. “How is hyperlexia diagnosed?”
Typically by a neuro-psychologist. There are other professionals who may be knowledgable about it, but the diagnosis will usually come from the neuro-psych.
4. “Can you freeze vodka?”
Well, you can put in the freezer. And that’s a great spot for it, in my opinion. But it won’t freeze. I mean, it will freeze at a cold enough temp, but your home freezer isn’t going to do it.
5. “Should you stomp repeatedly on a spider?”
Yes, yes you should. If it’s inside. If it’s outdoors? I’m a “live and let live” kind of girl, mostly.
6. “Baby is blue call hospital?”
YES. Oh, good heavens, PLEASE tell me you called 911 before you came over to my little site looking for life-saving advice. (Sometimes the search terms cause me great anxiety.)
7. “Can I give a baby an open cup?”
Sure thing! But I recommend you start with water. It takes a little while to learn cause and effect.
8. “I really need more balls. Where can I get them?”
Okay, you made me laugh. More than I should admit. But I know you mean Playskool Ball Popper balls. So just go here while I attempt to control my giggles.
9. “Are porch swings relaxing?”
Um, yeah. How do you even have to ask that? And why are you asking Google? You need to come over and sit on my swing for awhile. We’ll have lemonade and chat.
10. “Can I just shove my own balls in the ball popper?”
Seriously, people. You’re killing me. Oh, and to answer the question– I really don’t recommend it.
Planning family vacations can seem like an overwhelming task. With so very many options out there and so many factors to take into account, sometimes you feel like you need a vacation just from the process of figuring out where you should go and what you should do!
My husband and I are not the sort who enjoy researching, scheduling, and making reservations for nine million things before taking a trip. That simply doesn’t seem calm or fun to us and kind of defeats the purpose of a “relaxing getaway.” Our ideal vacations are pretty much all-inclusive and, once we make the choice to book them, we know we can take a deep breath and simply enjoy.
As parents of three young children (ages eight, seven, and three), there are three main things we look for when choosing a vacation: fun, safety, and value. Family vacations with Norwegian Cruise Line take all of these needs into account and provide the Freestyle Cruising® and exclusive Nickelodeon™ entertainment to keep children happy and engaged throughout the entire trip.
While gazing at the water or dancing under the stars might seem infinitely appealing to my husband and me, the children are frequently seeking, well, more activity. With Norwegian’s youth program, the little ones can learn circus tricks with Cirque du Jour, make works of art, or become pirates and create their own imaginary adventure at sea. Word on the street is that circus clowns and balloon artists may pop up at any moment for spontaneous fun all over the ship!
One of the great beauties of Norwegian’s youth program is that it’s all fun, safe and supervised, so you can do your thing while the kids do theirs. The youth counselors are highly energized and engaging, so the kids will love them! Knowing they are being safely supervised in groups divided by age range helps allow parents to relax and enjoy their time onboard, too.
When cruising with Norwegian, your accommodations, array of dining options, exclusive entertainment with Nickelodeon, and a wide range of family activities are all included in one place and for one price. That’s part of the whole “ease of decision making” that so appeals to my husband and me. Being able to plan a vacation that is both fun and safe feels like a real achievement. Knowing that we’re also getting great bang for our buck makes it even better!
Here’s the really fun part! Please visit Norwegian’s site to find out more about Norwegian’s family vacation experience, and once you have all those lovely visions swimming in your head, come back and let me know in the comments below:
What is your dream vacation for your family?
Winner will receive a grand prize of a voucher for a cruise for a family of four.
Sweepstakes Rules: No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
- Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
- Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
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- For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
Entries from all participating blogs will be pooled for winner selection; only two entries per household. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 5/7/2013-6/2/2013. Be sure to visit Norwegian Cruise Line’s brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!