Maybe Matilda

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Lost Art of the Thank You Card

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly. All opinions are mine.

Growing up, my mom was always very firm about writing thank you cards after Christmas and birthdays. We were always told to make a list of anyone who had given us gifts, then dutifully work our way through it and send each person a note to thank them. Bonus points if we included a drawing or a particularly thoughtful note (not allowed: “Thank you for my birthday present.” High fives for: “Thank you for the book you sent me! I started reading it right away and my favorite part was  ____________.”). And the tradition goes back (at least) two generations . . . I remember spending a weekend with my grandparents, when a friend took me out for the afternoon for lunch and a movie. When I was dropped back off at my grandparents’ house at the end of the day, my grandma had already set out a stationary set in my bedroom with a little note to remind me to write a thank you to my friend before going to bed. What a nice lesson to teach your kids—to take a few moments to express gratitude for someone who has gone out of their way to do something special for you.

I’ve tried to keep this tradition going, especially since it seems to be getting more and more rare to get thank you cards. (Are they in fact becoming less common, or is it just my own guilt manifesting itself since I know for a fact I didn’t send out thank you cards for many of the sweet gifts given to Darcy when she was brand new? It’s been almost a year and everyone has probably long since forgotten about it and I can’t remember who gave what and I haven’t stopped feeling guilty about it yet.) It seems to be getting harder for me as the years go by to stay on top of sending thank yous, even though I feel like they are important. Our lives are constantly getting busier, I have more to distract me than ever before, and I always seem to remember a month too late, ‘hang on, did I thank so-and-so for Forrest’s birthday present?’

But I try.

The Lost Art of the Thank You Card //

In case you’re wondering what makes a thank you card particularly nice (although I do believe that any thank you is appreciated, even a hastily-written, overly-late, perfunctory one), I’ve done the dirty work. According to Martha (the queen of all things homey and domestic and polite), thank you notes should:
- identify the gift
- state why you appreciate it/why it has personal meaning for you
- how you plan to use it
- if a gift was given in person, thank the person for their presence/attendance at your event

The Lost Art of the Thank You Card //

And if you happen to be in the market for a lovely set of thank you notes, might I recommend the Mix & Match Stationary Sets from Shutterfly? There are 7 themed designs to choose from, and each can be completely personalized with your own name, initials, and message. And within each set, you can mix and match cards to your hearts desire—get multiple copies of your favorite card design, or up to 12 different coordinating cards. I thought it was really fun to shop the different designs and put together a set that looked just right for me. I think this would be a fun gift for a bride or newly married couple, personalized with their names. You can check out the Mix & Match sets here (my set is the Vintage Fleur).

Writing a lovely thank you note

Do you write thank you notes? And if you have kids, how do you encourage them to write thoughtful thank yous? I’m running late on thank you notes from Forrest’s birthday, so heaven knows I could use a little inspiration to get moving.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You had me at ‘teeny giraffe.’

At some point, I’m sure we’ll collectively move on from our current favorite animal to something different (it’s been birds, owls, giraffes, foxes . . . I’m casting my vote for hippos next), but for now, giraffes are doing me just fine, thanks.

crochet giraffe //

“Always with the amazing photography! How DO you keep this greatness coming?” you ask? Casual fake-humble shrug. God’s gift to the interwebs, armed with a mostly-dead iphone camera, right here.

I recently found (and then stalked and pestered into friendship) Sthefanie from Pastel Barn (you can find her on etsy HERE and instagram HERE). She is just the sweetest little ray of sunshine, and crochets darling little animals and dolls. She posted an itty bitty giraffe recently that she whipped up for her daughter’s first birthday, and was so kind to share her pattern notes with me when I begged for them. This little cutie is the result. I like.

If anyone’s interested, she’s listed in my etsy shop. And speaking of amigurumi, does anyone have a type of stuffing they are particularly loyal to? I always just choose something mostly at random, but I’m wondering if there is a stuffing that is particularly well-suited to amigurumi?

In other news:

- After picking Forrest up from preschool yesterday, the first thing out of his mouth was a very excited, “I had a gweat time at pweschool today! Some boys hurted my feelings weally bad because they were being way too cwazy and I shouted at them and then I cwied and then my teacher snuggled me all better!” Never have I desired more strongly to be a fly on the wall than since he started preschool. I would love to know what the heck goes on in there, because his reports about his day are pretty baffling.

- We have a trip to Pennsylvania coming up fast and I’m excited for the visit but sort of having anxiety attacks about our flight. Remember how awful my only other time flying with Darcy was? Based on that experience and her generally pleasant attitude the rest of the time, I can only assume that she bottles up all her anger and rage to release when we’ve reached 500 feet. So we’re looking at roughly 6 months’ worth of pent-up baby psychosis being unleashed on a cross-country flight in a few days. Financial tip: now might be a good time to buy stock in earplugs.

- Thank you all so much for your sweet comments about my little TV thingy! I felt silly doing it, and I also felt silly posting about it (but it seemed so weird not to post about it that I sort of had to), but as always, you guys are the nicest. Very encouraging and supportive and I love you all and check your doorstep tonight for a plate of thank-you cookies from me.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

That time I was on TV

Alternate title: A Beginner’s Guide to Giving Oneself Ulcers and Insomnia

Remember how I’m an introvert? And that one time I wrote about how I don’t do things I sometimes secretly want to do because they make me nervous and I’d rather just stay comfortable than do something scary even if it could, potentially, also be cool or fun or rewarding or whatever? Yes? Okay, I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page about how much I don’t want to be the center of attention, and don’t like people looking at/listening to me, and don’t do scary things, because it’ll make you extra proud of me for being brave. And that’s why I blog, really. Just want you all to be oh-so-proud of me.

I got quite the unusual email about 2 weeks ago. I even had to read it through a few times to make sure I was understanding it correctly and that it had in fact been sent to me on purpose, because it just didn’t seem right that the sender of this email actually meant to invite me to do a segment on a local lifestyle TV show. Me. On TV. Me. Surely you can understand my confusion.

This gentleman from Savers, who was very nice but also very likely confused about who he was contacting but was too polite to backtrack and tell me to get lost, wanted to know if I would like to represent the company on Fresh Living, a local Utah show, by thrift shopping at Savers for 3 fall outfits (without spending more than $50 per outfit), and sharing them on the show.

I had about 5 days before the segment was taping, and spent a good 24 hours sitting on and stewing over that email, alternately telling myself, “Hey, this could be kind of cool! How flattering that someone saw my blog and thought that I might not be a total PR disaster on television!” and “Are you insane? Tell him no. SAY NO NOW.” Jeff (who, I believe I’ve mentioned before, definitely leans in an extroverted direction) seemed shocked that I would even consider turning it down, and insisted it would be cool and great and I should say yes right away. My mom responded to my panicky text message about it within 10 seconds with a very confident “do it, it’ll be good for you” (as if I am in need of a strong dose of medical-grade extroversion) (perhaps I am—she is always right). So, with much nervousness and apprehension, I replied with a yes.

Which gave me roughly 4 days to gather 3 models and 3 fall outfits, thrifted from Savers, to present on the show. Finding the outfits was cake—one nice thing about this offer was that, well, I already love and shop at Savers often (if DI had called on the other hand—boo, hiss, a pox on you, DI!). But the models. I am not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t think of anyone I know—not a single solitary soul—who would be interested in modeling an outfit on TV. No one. This was the source of the majority of my self-induced ulcers (I am mostly kidding about the ulcers, but sort of not, because I have had mysterious stomachaches for like 2 weeks now, so I’m going to go ahead and call them ulcers because it sounds suitably dramatic for this post).

Jeff’s receptionist at work came to the rescue—he mentioned that I’d be doing the segment without telling her that I was desperately seeking modeling help, and she said something like, “Oh, that sounds fun, and I’ve modeled before! Does she need models for it?” YES, YES ACTUALLY I DO, thank you for asking. She rounded up her younger sister and a friend, and just like that, I had my 3 models, ready to go.

So the morning of the taping arrived. I had about an hour in the morning to get things ready before my mom was set to arrive to watch the kids so I could head up to Salt Lake to tape the segment. About 10 minutes before I had to leave my house, I got a text saying the receptionist’s friend had backed out and wouldn’t be coming to do the show. OF COURSE SHE BACKED OUT, because of course the one time I convince myself that I can manage to do something bold and big and scary, it all falls apart at the last minute. A very good reason, I was telling myself, that I should stick with my normal routine of never doing anything new!

I called my sister to see if she could step in at the last minute—busy working. With great trepidation, because I knew there was no way she’d actually want to do this, I called my sister-in-law Nicole to see if she could fill in. By some miracle, she had the day off from work, and was feeling extra nice that day, and said yes. I knew she didn’t want to do it, but this is what family is for: guilt-tripping people into doing things they don’t want to do by calling them in an emotional tizzy and almost breaking down in tears of desperation on the phone. She had something like 15 minutes to get off the treadmill (I am very grateful that she answered the phone mid-workout!), get showered and ready, and get out the door to make it to the studio in time for our segment (and of course she looked amazing when she got there despite the time crunch, because she is one of those people who doesn’t ever not look amazing) (try standing next to her in a family photo sometime if you’re in the mood for a real gut-punch to the ol’ self-esteem).

One last model mayhem tidbit: all 3 of the outfits I had purchased were practically baby-sized, since all 3 of my planned models are itty bitty petite little things. So I had 3 size 1 outfits, and one last-minute sister-in-law model who is my size. I put Nicole in the outfit I had been planning to wear (it was, in fact, from Savers [lucky!], although I’ve had it forever and didn’t buy it during the same shopping trip that I bought the models’ outfits), and I just grabbed something else to wear.

Somehow, everyone arrived in one piece and in relative calm at the studio. (Can you believe you’ve read 9 paragraphs already and we just got to the studio? Brevity, thy name is Rachel.) The experience at the studio was so much different than I had expected. I thought we’d stroll in, be ushered around like a bunch of hot shots (ha!), maybe chat with someone on the show’s staff about how the segment would go, what questions I’d be asked, what I should say (or not say), etc. Here’s what actually happened: we got shuffled around from one spot to another for a good 20 minutes, then were left outside alone for a while longer (“A cameraman will show up soon, just hang out here!”). Someone gave us a 10-second brief on where to look (me: not at the camera; models: into the camera), then all of a sudden the show hosts arrived out of nowhere and we got a 30-second countdown from the cameraman before he started taping. It was all over in like 3 minutes, and afterward, I honestly could not recall a single thing I had said. Truly, I spent the entire drive home trying to remember what I had just said on TV and couldn’t come up with anything except remembering that I’d said “stuck her in” at least twice (like, “We stuck her in this cute jacket!” Why, why would I say it like that? Twice, no less!), and could distinctly recall bumbling over some wording near the end. I was dreading watching our segment when the episode aired later in the day, but after I saw it (and then rewatched it 3, 4, 5 times), I decided, all in all, it wasn’t so bad. I wish I had planned out more specifically what I was going to say about each specific outfit (I had an idea of what I wanted to say in terms of an introduction, but hadn’t really planned out exactly what to say while walking through the outfits, and it showed), and I really wish I’d gotten a chance to talk with someone beforehand about what questions the hosts would be asking. I was too nervous to come up with anything coherent on the spot when they asked questions (case in point: my little brain-fart moment near the end—thankfully, the hosts must be very used to smoothing over bumbling guests by this point in their career, and they stepped right in and rescued me very gracefully).

All in all, I think it was a good experience. Prepping the outfits was a lot of fun, and if I were to ever do something like this again, I think it would be a lot less stressful now that I know more or less what to expect from doing a TV segment. I think if I hadn’t had to deal with getting my own models, I would have had like 80% less stress overall. And so far, only 1 real-life acquaintance has mentioned seeing me on the show, so I can rest easier knowing that almost no one watched it :-)


Next stop: Ellen.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. Try this recipe using low calorie popcorn with better ingredients. #SkinnyGirlSnacks #CollectiveBias

We are big popcorn fans over here. Fast. Easy. Healthy. Tasty. Low-calorie. Those are all my snacking requirements, and then some. And although we have been known to down entire microwave bags of it in mere minutes, we certainly don’t turn up our collective noses at dressed-up popcorn. It’s a little easy to get carried away when you take something that’s already delicious and top it with even more deliciousness, so I tried lightening up a favorite caramel-type popcorn recipe. It came out delicious and decadent and satisfying, but without all the guilt that comes with your typical caramel corn recipe. Because sometimes you want an amazingly tasty snack, without feeling like the button on your jeans is about to pop off and fly across the room and put someone’s eye out (you never know—it could happen).

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn //

I started off with (brand new—it just hit stores this month!) Skinny Girl Popcorn in Butter flavor, which I picked up earlier this week at Walmart. They come in mini bags (so bitty and cute!) so you could easily eat a bag by yourself and not feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake after you finish it. It’s definitely a more subtle butter flavor than most microwave popcorns (which is probably the point, since it is also lower calorie than most microwave popcorns!), and I thought it was good—especially in a recipe like this, since the flavoring is subtle enough that it doesn’t compete with the toppings you’ll add. If I’m just eating handfuls straight from the bag? I’d prefer something a little more buttery and salty than this. But if you’re adding toppings of your own? This is perfect.

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn //

2 of the mini bags were exactly the right amount for a pan of cinnamon bun popcorn—after popping, I poured them into a big bowl along with some roughly chopped walnuts.

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn //

Then melted some butter (a drastically reduced amount, compared with most caramel corn recipes), mixed it with some brown sugar and cinnamon, and poured it over my popcorn. Look at that delicious waterfall of bliss. LOOK!

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn //

Give it a good mix, and spread it out onto a large baking sheet to bake for a bit. It gets so crispy and fragrant in the oven—I can’t help but sneak a few bites every time it needs to be stirred, and it makes the house smell so dang good.

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn //

Toss a few white chocolate chips on top during the last few minutes in the oven (I’ve never mastered the art of the pretty chocolate drizzle, so I take the lazy approach), then let it all cool before digging in. Such a tasty treat, and it’s way lighter than most caramel corn recipes!

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

2 bags Skinny Girl Popcorn in Butter flavor, popped (roughly 10-12 cups popped)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons white chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the popcorn (be careful not to let any unpopped kernels fall into the bowl!) and walnuts.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Pour over the popcorn and gently stir until the popcorn is evenly coated. Spread over a large baking sheet lined with foil or a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until it’s as crunchy as you like it! In the last 1-2 minutes of baking, sprinkle with white chocolate chips. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then break up and store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

Want to try some Skinny Girl Popcorn yourself? Pick up a box next time you’re at Walmart and see what you think!

Lightened Up Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Darcy’s Bedroom

I’m almost embarrassed to be posting this. I mean, first we’ve got #1: the likes of the Wills posting nurseries that blow all other nurseries out of the water and all it takes is a quick gander at Pinterest to reveal that Darcy’s room has no business being on the internet whatsoever. And #2: she’s almost 11 months old, and her room still isn’t ‘finished.’ But really, neither is any other room in this house and I’m thinking that this is par for the course when it comes to homeownership: nothing is ever finished (or—and this is a very likely explanation—we are just incredibly slow-moving and uninspired decorators). I think a colorful rug would be a nice addition to the room, as well as a lampshade that isn’t perpetually tilted and hey, let’s really shoot for the stars and maybe plan to rehang the closet door that fell off its tracks 2 weeks ago and is currently just leaning awkwardly into the closet, shall we?

Anyway. Darcy’s bedroom. You can see my ideas for the nursery way back when in THIS post. I wanted it to feel clean and light and bright, with pops of fun color. Not tooooo tremendously girly, but still feminine and playful and fun.

It’s an itty bitty little bedroom, so this tour will be very quick. You’ll be done scrolling through in like 2.4 seconds and can chuckle to yourself for another 3.7 seconds about my very unimpressive photography and go about your day. A home d├ęcor blogger I am not.

(The bunting is not missing pennants, btw—the ones that appear to be missing are actually white lace, so they didn’t really show up in the picture.)

colorful baby girl bedroom

colorful baby girl bedroom

colorful baby girl bedroom

colorful baby girl bedroom

colorful baby girl bedroom

- My angel mother did all the heavy lifting in getting Darcy’s room put together—she refinished the crib (it was once honey oak, a hand-me-down from a friend that has belonged to at least 4 children so far that I know of, probably more!), reupholstered the glider cushions, and painted the dresser. She also gave me the purple shelf and sewed the changing pad cover, as well as the little pillow on the glider. All I did was sew the curtains and crib skirt and provide the infant. I considered painting the glider white to match the crib, but let’s be honest, it would have just been me asking my mom to paint the crib for me, and the poor woman has done enough.

- Now that I’m thinking about it, we hardly paid for a single thing in this room. The crib was a hand-me-down. We picked up the glider off the side of the road on trash day a few years ago (ha!). The dresser was a flea market find, purchased and painted by my mom. I found the shelf in my mom’s barn and I sort of stole it. 2 of the prints above the dresser are leftovers from my mom’s shop, and the center print is from my sister’s etsy store. I guess all I really paid for was the fabric.

- The darling quilt on the crib was made by Jeff’s parents. They’ve made a quilt for each grandchild so far, and they are always adorable. Darcy’s quilt matches her room perfectly!

- The bunting is a leftover decoration from Bekah’s wedding, and the tissue pompoms (from Beau Coup) were first used at Bekah’s bridal shower, then at her wedding, and now have ended up in Darcy’s room. They’re starting to show some wear after being smooshed into bags and hauled back and forth from one event to another, but they’ve got life left in them still. I would not have expected to get so much use out of them, and I think they look so cute up in the corner there!

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Thoughts on Quiet

I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking last month, and I had more to say about it than could fit in my end-of-the-month reading recap post. I’m not a huge reader of nonfiction, but this one was un-put-downable (if I can borrow that term from Modern Mrs. Darcy for a minute). I think poor Jeff was forced to listen to probably 2/3rds of it because I kept reading interesting parts aloud to him (“Ooooh, come here and listen to this!!!”).

Review of Quiet //

I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything before that resonated this strongly with me. Reading Cain’s descriptions of introverts—their nature, their thought processes, emotions/reactions in social situations, etc.—was like reading about myself, a line at a time.

I wouldn’t call myself anti-social (and I’ll come back to that in a minute), but I easily find myself overwhelmed in social settings. I often feel drained after spending time in a group setting, and always need to ‘recover’ after social activities by being alone and reading or crocheting. I love spending time with small groups of friends, but I hate being in large groups or parties, and I would almost always rather sit alone on the outskirts of a gathering than jump in and strike up a conversation with someone new. I’m perfectly content to be alone much of the time, and if given a choice between staying home and heading out to do something social, I would choose to stay home 9 times out of 10. And I haven’t exactly felt badly about any of that, but you can’t help but look at others’ social lives—people who seem so energized by and excited about big social settings, and are eager to spend as much time as possible with friends—and wonder if you’re some sort of misanthrope for preferring quiet, solitude, or the company of just a few friends.

This is why Quiet was so riveting. Cain explains that our culture values extroversion. The socially-accepted ‘ideal’ personality is one that is outgoing, talkative, a risk-taker who thrives in groups (whether in a team work setting or a big social group). Somehow, this has become the default personality that we all think of as normal/best, and introverts end up looking and feeling like we’ve got something the matter with us. Many introverts even get pretty good at faking extroversion to get by in an extroverted society (at the expense of some mental/emotional health, it turns out, if you force yourself to keep at it for too long).

The beauty of Quiet, for me, is its acceptance and support of introversion. Rather than calling introverts antisocial for their preference for small groups or solitude, Cain points out that introverts are actually very social in their own way—rather than having superficial friendships with a vast number of acquaintances, introverts tend to have deep and meaningful relationships with a smaller group (extroverts might have more friends, but introverts might have better friendships). Introverts will likely pass up on the chance to make small talk, but will easily dive into deep discussions. They might not share much of themselves or their lives with acquaintances, but will easily pour out their thoughts or feelings in writing or online (hi!). And introverts frequently possess some really fantastic qualities that can be very powerful: they think deeply about problems/solutions, are sensitive and intuitive, can focus and concentrate well, and are thoughtful and often very creative/artistic.

One point I found interesting was the link between introversion and creativity. Introverts certainly don’t have a monopoly on creativity, but as Cain puts it, “introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.” She says that for introverts, spending time in their own thoughts sparks creativity, which is often why introverts don’t respond well to group/team projects at work or school. Instead of being fueled and energized and motivated by the group, introverts often find that they can’t develop thoughts and ideas the way they can on their own. And with schools and workplaces increasingly moving towards group settings—open office plans, classrooms set up with desks in ‘pods’ or clusters, and group assignments—introverts struggle to do the quality of work in a group that they do on their own. Cain mentions at one point that we’ve all known someone reserved or quiet or ‘geeky’ who seemingly ‘blossomed’ after high school/college into a secure, happy adult—she says this probably isn’t due to them actually changing in any huge, significant way; it’s more likely that they simply found a career or work setting or lifestyle that allowed their introversion to work to their benefit instead of against them.

So if you’re an introvert, how do you function and thrive in an extrovert’s world? Cain’s takeaways are:
- Don’t worry about not being the most gregarious person out there. Focus on the relationships that mean the most to you, and don’t stress about socializing with anyone else.
- As an introvert, you have great insight and sensitivity and persistence—use those to do work you love and make an impact in your sphere.
- If there are things in your life you’ll have to do that are outside of your introverted comfort zone (public speaking, for instance), accept that they will be hard for you, get whatever training will make them easier, and get it done. If you need to adopt an ‘extroverted persona’ to do the things you need to do or are passionate about, make sure to give yourself the time and space and quiet you need to recharge afterwards.
- At some point, you’ll probably care about someone who is your polar opposite in terms of socialization needs. Respect their need for socializing and your own need for solitude. Find a balance between your needs, and learn how to handle conflict with them (unsurprisingly, extroverts and introverts handle conflict veeeeeery differently).
- Spend your free time in a way that restores you, rather than how you feel you’re ‘supposed’ to.
- If you have an introverted child, help them learn how to handle new situations and people, but let them be themselves. Don’t try and force them to be someone they aren’t.

I loved reading Quiet (and snapped it right up when I saw it was on sale for Kindle for $2.99 recently—as of the writing of this post, it is still on sale for that price!). If you’re an introvert, it might help you understand yourself better, learn how to make the most of your personality and qualities, and how to make small changes in your life/home/workplace that will help you feel and function at your best. If you’re an extrovert, it might help you learn how to better communicate with your introverted friends and family and coworkers and understand how they think and operate. I think the author might idealize introversion a bit, and it’s somewhat geared towards introversion in a workplace setting, but all in all, an extremely insightful read.

So, assuming there’s an introvert-extrovert spectrum, where would you say you fall on it? And how have you made it work best for you in your life/relationships/career?

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Deep Thoughts with Forrest #6

Copying Grace yet again, because that’s how I do.

Preschool started this week and at first I was all ‘yay!’ and then I was all ‘boohoo my babies are growing up and leaving me!’ and now I’m all ‘yay? I think?’ It’s been confusing. Forrest seems to be loving it, and as soon as he emerged from his classroom at pickup yesterday, he shared his most exciting tidbit from the day . . .
Forrest: Mama! I pooped-ed in the potty and my teacher wiped-ed my butt!
Then I pooped-ed AGAIN and the OTHER teacher wiped-ed my butt!!!
I hope those kind souls are well-paid. Note to self: teach wiping skills.

After getting a suggestion from Lisa on my facebook page to check out Revlon Super Lustrous (her favorite drugstore lipstick), I picked out what looked to me like a nice classic red lipstick and put it on when I got home from the store. Forrest entered the room a few minutes later and . . .
Forrest: Whoa!!! What is on your lips???
Me: Lipstick. Do you like it?
Forrest: (thinking) . . . well, I guess I fink it is pwetty intewesting.

a few minutes later, Darcy started whining and  . . .
Me: What’s wrong, Darcy-bean?
Forrest: I fink she hates your lipstick.

a few minutes later still . . .
Forrest: Hey, I have a gweat idea!
Me: What is it?
Forrest: You could get a napkin, and you could wipe that lipstick off! Isn’t that a weally gweat idea?!

(Pictured for your viewing displeasure: the lipstick in question. I mean, maybe pairing it with pink wasn’t the best idea, but geez.)

In the car on the way back home after a particularly challenging shopping trip with lots of naughtiness and scolding.
Forrest: (huge sigh) Mama, I’m tired of being naughty.

Forrest: Hey Mama, do you know how to spell OK?
Me: (deeply impressed that he made the connection between the sound of the word ‘OK’ and the letters involved) How?
Forrest: You write an ‘N’ and an ‘O’ and that spells OK.

After spending a few hours making roughly 4 zillion cupcakes for Forrest’s birthday party, I left them all lined up on the counter and collapsed on the couch. Forrest saw the cupcakes and asked if he could have one—I said no, he couldn’t eat one until the party. A few minutes later, I see him walk by with a half-eaten cupcake in his hand.
Me: Forrest! Are you eating a cupcake?!
Forrest: Yes I am.
Me: You asked if you could have one and I said no!
Forrest: I know dat. But I said yes.

Later that same night, while I was tucking him in bed . . .
Me: What was the best part of your day today?
Forrest: When I stealed-ed a cupcake.
Me: What was the worst part of your day today?
Forrest: When I stealed-ed a cupcake, and I was very sowwy.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Grandma Brown’s Chinese BBQ Chicken

I’ve got to hand it to Jeff’s family—those folks know how to cook. Every time we travel out to Pennsylvania for a visit, we are always greeted by a fridge packed with all the homemade goodies Jeff loved most as a kid (without fail, there is always a cheesecake waiting for him, as well as some pudding pies, cheesesteaks, and more recently, homemade doughnuts for yours truly). And every time we come back home after a Pennsylvania visit, we have no choice but to immediately go on a diet because we inevitably put on a few pounds thanks to Jeff’s parents and their irresistible cooking. So it goes without saying that Grandma Brown’s cookbook, compiled by Jeff’s dad as (I think) a Mother’s Day gift a few years ago, is full of wonderful recipes. This dish is among my favorites—I make it often, and I was more than happy to have an excuse to make it yet again when I was invited to come up with a dinner idea that would showcase Success® Jasmine Rice.

Chinese BBQ Chicken--yummy sweet and sour chicken over flavorful Success Jasmine Rice

I’ve mentioned before that Jeff loves and always requests Asian dishes, so it probably goes without saying that I’ve tried many a version of sweet and sour chicken. Grandma’s recipe is my favorite, far and away (I’m not completely sure what makes this “Chinese BBQ Chicken” instead of plain old “Sweet and Sour Chicken,” but that’s the recipe’s name in her cookbook, so I’m sticking with it!). We all love this dish (even Mr. Picky Pants Forrest, and that is saying something, my friends), and this makes an appearance on our dinner table regularly. Thank you, Grandma Brown—I owe you for this one.

Chinese BBQ Chicken //

Although there are a few steps involved in making this dinner, I’ve figured out some ways to streamline it so that it’s done within roughly 30-40 minutes (including time in the oven). It used to take me a bit longer to get this meal prepared, but after making it probably a dozen times, I finally got wise and started overlapping some of the steps to speed things up. Always a quick learner over here.

You’ll start out by coating the chicken in egg, then dredging in a flour mixture and pan frying them to give a light crispiness. The chicken finishes up in the oven, so don’t worry about cooking them all the way through on the stovetop . . . just enough to give them that crispy bite.

Chinese BBQ Chicken

While the chicken is frying, get the sauce mixed up in the baking pan. This sauce is so irresistible—I could honestly just drink it straight.

Chinese BBQ Chicken

Once the chicken has that perfectly crispy coating, add it to the dish with the sauce and stick it in the oven, then get the rice going. This was my first time making boil-in-bag rice—I used Success® Jasmine Rice, and truly? I’m impressed. Seriously so delicious, and so quick and easy to make. I’ll definitely be keeping it in my pantry in the future. I’ve always used regular old white rice with this recipe (and just about any recipe requiring rice) and have never felt it was lacking anything . . . I figured rice is rice, right? I didn’t expect that a different variety would make a huge difference, but it really did. The jasmine rice is so fragrant and silky and rich, and absolutely stepped this dish up a notch. And I loved that it was pre-portioned (no measuring!) and required almost no work to make—stick in water, set timer, 10 minutes later have perfectly-cooked rice with almost no cleanup.

Chinese BBQ Chicken

Halfway through the bake time, you’ll pull the chicken out and spoon some of that delicious sauce over it, then return it to the oven to finish up. Since the rice was so quick to make and didn’t even need to be measured out first, I even had time to do the dishes while the chicken finished baking.

Chinese BBQ Chicken

When the chicken is cooked through, serve it over the hot rice and enjoy!

Chinese BBQ Chicken //

Chinese BBQ Chicken
adapted from Grandma Brown’s cookbook

3 chicken breasts, cut into roughly 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few cranks of fresh black pepper

1/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 bags (comes to 3 cups, cooked) Success® Jasmine Rice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and pour the oil into large skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the beaten eggs in a small dish. In a separate small dish, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Dip the chicken pieces into the beaten eggs, then dredge in the flour mixture. When the oil is hot, add the chicken to the skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side, just long enough to brown the outsides (the chicken does not need to be cooked through at this point—it will finish cooking in the oven, so just fry it long enough to get the outsides crispy).

In a baking dish (I used a 9 x 9” glass pan), combine the water, sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and soy sauce. When the chicken is browned, place it on top of the sauce mixture and put in the oven for 16-20 minutes, taking it out halfway through to spoon the sauce up over the chicken and returning to the oven until no longer pink in the center.

Cook the rice by placing 2 bags in a pot of water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; boil 8-10 minutes, then remove bags from water and cut them open to pour the rice into a bowl.

Serve chicken and sauce over hot rice; if desired, top with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

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Do you have a favorite Asian recipe to make at home? I’m always open to suggestions!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Success® Rice.

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