Thursday, December 24, 2009

And a very merry Christmas eve to all!

I'm enjoying my last few minutes of peace and quiet for the next two days. And I'm OK with that!

I think I may be as excited as Noah is. Is there really anything better than sharing Christmas morning with children that believe in every bit of the magic the season entails?

It is pure magic to Noah. From the Elf on the Shelf that he looks for and talks to every morning, to his video message from Santa. From the very large package that one of Santa's elves brought early because it wouldn't fit in his sled and is now driving him crazy wondering if it is a giant box of Lego's (it's not :( - It's a Wavemaster), to the daily count down that has led to today - Christmas eve!

I'm in a good place too. I'm feeling very grounded and appreciative of all that I have. We "adopted" a boy from a local childrens home for emotionally troubled children and provided him Christmas presents (all organized by the awesome instructors at Action Karate - New Britain). It makes me so thankful that no matter what Noah goes through, now or in the future, he will always have his family with him, loving and supporting him.

The last package we were waiting for arrived this morning. It is a play kitchen for Kiel, his main present from Santa, and I have to thank customer service at Step2 who made sure one was overnighted to us yesterday when we realized that the original box had never shipped.  While it wouldn't matter to Kiel if it had arrived late, it would have concerned Noah that a present was arriving late from Santa. I'm glad we don't have to try and explain that one.


I'm about to go get a head start on our Christmas morning breakfast. I'll make my favorite Jewish Apple Cake but bake it in a Christmas tree-ring pan. I will also make the almost famous MNT Sneaky Pumpkin pancakes. And then bacon quiche biscuit cups, a recipe from Pillsbury that we tried a couple weeks ago when our nephew and his family came for brunch and Rich loved.

And after lunch and a nap I have everything needed for the boys to decorate gingerbread men cookies. I anticipate lots of fun and mess from that. Rich is in charge of Christmas eve dinner. I have a feeling we will be ordering Chinese.

After the boys are in bed we will put the kitchen together and make sure everything is ready for Santa! We are even setting up the camera to get a picture of him when he is delivering the presents. That is going to blow Noah's mind!


If we aren't up half the night putting the kitchen together I'll try and post that picture.


Don't forget to follow Santa on NORAD!


Wishing all of you a very merry Christmas from the entire MNT family - Kristine, Rich, Noah, Kiel, Stell and Thor!




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Saturday, December 19, 2009

"The greatest sin is judgment without knowledge." Kelsey Grammar


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Mommy makes Latkes!

One of the best parts of having married into a Jewish family is the food.

Mmmm....until you have tasted brisket, or true kosher chicken soup you haven't lived.

I've learned to cook a few things over the last ten years. I make a mean hamentaschen! I can throw together a delicious brisket. And my Jewish apple cake is to die for, seriously!

But one of my favorite things to make is latkes at Hanukkah. I don't really follow a recipe anymore, but I thought I'd show you how I make them.

This year I decided to use purple potatoes.


First grate the onion (I used one large sweet onion) and the potatoes (five medium to large sized purple potatoes plus one sweet potato). I have an electric mandoline which makes it easy.


After you have the onions and potatoes grated you need to drain the liquid from them. I use a colander and press out what liquid I can with my hands.


Then I get aggressive and using a clean dish towel I twist and squeeze out the rest of the liquid. 


I put the liquid aside and let the potato starch settle out.


Then I add a couple eggs, some matzo meal or flour (this time I used both) and some beer.
I use the beer as a leavening agent instead of baking powder or baking soda to help hold things together. It adds a little extra flavor too. Just don't use too much if its a dark or strong beer or the latkes will end up bitter.

Let's not tell Rich this time I used one of his fancy ales because that was all we had.


You add salt to taste. And yes, you really should taste it to make sure you have enough.
Let's pretend this is Kosher salt. It would make a better visual I'm sure.


Now, remember the liquid from the potatoes that you set aside. Most of the potato starch should have settled out by now. Pour off the liquid and add the starch to the potato mixture. The starch helps everything stick together and firms it up.



Now mix everything all together.


Heat up your griddle or frying pan. I use olive oil that I brush on with a pastry brush. I admit it tastes better if you use a lot of oil (doesn't everything?), but I control the amount by using the brush. 



I scoop it out with an ice cream scoop then flatten it down.


Flip,


and flatten to get out any excess moisture.
Don't rush them or you will be serving raw potatoes.


Purple Potato Latkes!



I serve them with sour cream and apple sauce.
I've been known to make my own apple sauce, but that didn't happen this year. Plus, Rich prefers the cheap version out of the jar (high fructose corn syrup anyone?) and Noah would probably freak out if I served apple sauce with chunks in it. Kiel doesn't touch the stuff either way.


This year he ate the sour cream. That's it. Don't try and trick him with purple potatoes.
Everyone else enjoyed them though!

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

We are hunkering down for a big snow storm here in the Philly burbs. I still find it cute how excited everyone gets by the threat of SNOW. After living in Michigan and getting lake effect snow I'm not easily phased by all the hype until I actually see it coming down.
  
I lived in Kalamazoo for several years, which is about 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. When we got snow, we got snow! Snow measured in feet, not inches! With lots of drifting. I remember storms where I couldn't get my back door open, and when I did manage to squeeze through I had to dig through 3 plus feet of snow to get to the garage (and yes, up hill both ways, barefoot!). The really crappy part of it was that as a pharmacist working in a hospital I had to pretty much do what ever I could to get to work. Driving in that shit sucks. But at least Michigan drivers have a clue how to drive in snow.



I moved here ten years ago (this week as a matter of fact) and in those ten years we have had two snow storms that impressed me and actually lived up to the excitement. Not that I'm not hoping every time they start talking about snow that we'll get a big storm. Now that I don't have this obligation to do everything I can to get to work since I can do most of it from home if needed, and the pressure isn't that great on Rich to get to his job either, I enjoy a nice snow day. And since Rich enjoys taking the boys outside to play, I can stay warm and cozy inside and have the hot chocolate ready to go.


So yes, lots of hype right now about the "big storm" that's a'comin'.


We had to stop at our local market on the way home today to get a prescription filled. There were a lot of people there buying milk, and bread, and toilet paper, and cat food (seriously, cat food...you know, in case there are unannounced Survivor auditions I guess). In Michigan at least people would be buying beer or wine, but in PA they don't sell alcohol in the grocery stores. Silly state.


Anyway, I felt obligated to buy milk too...and cat food. And a couple frozen pizzas, boxes of cereal, and some avocados to make guacamole. Thankfully we are already stocked up on beer and wine.


But shit...I forgot to stock up on toilet paper. It is sure to turn into a nor'easter now!


So here's hoping for a good snow storm when we wake up tomorrow. There is nothing better to tire out Noah than playing in the snow. And since I'm not the one shoveling anymore, I say bring it on!


Maybe we can recreate Noah's snowman from last year, with the inappropriately placed carrot. 

Update: We only have a couple inches here, but other parts closer to the shore have been hit pretty hard. So definitely not just hype for this one. Although it still cracks me up when they start calling it the "storm of the century."


The boys are definitely enjoying it!




Update to the update: We woke up this morning to over a foot of snow.  The boys had a ball! And now Rich wants a snow blower.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Better late than never --- The Second Annual Great Bloggy Holiday Card Exchange

Meghan at A Mom Two Boys has a Holiday Card exchange going on at her blog! I'm like, oh, five days late or so to link up to it, but better late than never right?



And may you be blessed
with laughter and love
all through the year.


                                     Rich and Kristine
                              Noah and Kiel



If you usually receive a card from me in the mail, no worries, you'll probably get it sometime around New Years!


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Santa is talking to YOU!

If you haven't heard about Portable North Pole TV and you have kids you really need to check it out!



You enter your child's information and it creates a personalized video message from Santa Claus himself using the PNP console, a technological breakthrough that makes real-time communication with the North Pole possible!


It's adorable, or hilarious, depending on what information you give it. And it's free!

I made one for Noah and the look on his face while he was watching it was priceless. He is a true believer!

I made this one for Rich. He's such a good sport! You have to watch it, it is hysterical!

After you watch it make one for your own kids!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bob the Builder giveaway on my review blog!

Bob The Builder review and giveaway up on MNT review blog!!

Don't forget to enter the Thomas & Friends and Barney giveaways that are there too!


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas came early! aka My review of EcoMaids of Philadelphia - part 2

This is my review of EcoMaids as I promised in my post from yesterday.  I took some before video because I temporarily misplaced my camera (shocking I know). I spent about two hours editing it today and now I can't get it to save and format correctly. Fortunately, I found the camera just before they arrived so I did get some before pics of the kitchen and I was able to pull some off the video for the bathroom.

Friday afternoon Adrienne, Clara and Michelle arrived from EcoMaid. They came prepared with everything they needed to clean my kitchen and master bath. They even brought their own step ladder.

They changed out of their street shoes when they got inside, which impressed me.

I showed them around and they got to work. Adrienne worked on the bathroom while Clara and Michelle cleaned the kitchen.

They were here for three hours. I know that was at least an hour longer than they had anticipated.

I was surprised by two things. One, I didn't realize just how long it had been since I'd done a thorough cleaning of everything in these rooms, and two, I had no idea they would be so thorough! By hour two I was getting embarrassed that my house was so dirty! I mean seriously, my kitchen is not that big, but I have a lot of stuff. Tons of stuff! Too much stuff on the counters and not enough cabinet space. *sigh*

They cleaned everything! Even on top of the refrigerator.

They wiped down the cabinets, cleaned all the crockery I have on the counters holding things, and even cleaned the canisters that I keep flour and sugar in. And they organized the stuff.

For example:


  stove area before



and after



kitchen sink and counter before



and after.


and more after.

Noah is actually in awe at how shiny the sink is.

And yes, I really need a liquor cabinet to put all those bottles in. Those women must have thought we were alcoholics. I didn't even bother trying to explain that we really don't drink that much, we just don't have anywhere else to put them or are too lazy to find a place.

Adrienne did a wonderful job in the bathroom. And if you thought I had a lot of stuff on my kitchen counters, check out the shit in my bathroom.


 before
(where the beauty happens)



And after. All clean and organized.

before

after

This is an after pic, but it shows more of my crap. I did go through and throw some of the stuff out on top of that cabinet after I took the pictures. It's a start people...


Another after pic without a good before. Look, no shampoo bottles, cars, trucks, or blocks in it!

Kiel likes to crawl in and out of the tub when Rich and I are getting ready in the morning. He also likes to throw things into it, and race his cars up and down the sides.

The negatives:
  • They were scheduled to be at my house between 11am and noon. They called right at noon and said they were held up at another house and would be at my place in an hour. They arrived shortly after 1pm. It wasn't a big deal as I was home all day. I imagine its a bit difficult to schedule exact times when they are working with new clients and learning how much time is going to be involved. I know they were late for their next client (I overheard them call him/her) because they took much longer at my house than they expected.
  • I wasn't super excited by the smell of the cleaning stuff they used in the kitchen. It wasn't a horrible smell, just an odd clean smell. I think it had peroxide in it and I was smelling that. It didn't last long and it certainly wasn't a deal breaker. I still like that they were using "green" and "safe" products.
Overall? I was thrilled. Obviously my kitchen and bathroom have not been clean like that in quite a while. And I can guarantee that it has been even longer since they were both clean on the same day! I've been trying very hard this weekend to keep them clean. So far so good!

If I had actually paid for this service I would have felt like I got an absolute steal for the price ($49.95). Of course if they came back in a couple weeks and did it again it wouldn't take as long. And if they did it regularly it would be even easier. Theoretically anyway.

Thank you Adrienne, Clara and Michelle! And Avi at EcoMaids! You really did give me a wonderful early Christmas present.

If you are looking for someone to clean your home check them out! And tell them Kristine from Mommy Needs Therapy sent you! 

**Update: Avi from EcoMaids is offering $25.00 OFF their cleaning service to anyone that requests an estimate and cites this review as the referral source.**

Discloser: While I did receive a free kitchen and bath Fill In cleaning from EcoMaids in exchange for this post, my review and opinions of their service are completely my own. Like I said yesterday, I don't bullshit my readers when it comes to money.


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas came early! aka My review of EcoMaids of Philadelphia

Last week I received a most amazing email. This is going to blow your mind, seriously!

Are you ready for it?

Last week I received an email with an offer to clean my kitchen!! For Realz people!

And not only my kitchen, but also a bathroom!

I know! Christmas came early to MNT!

So here's the story. Avi at EcoMaids emailed me and offered a complimentary Fill-In Service Visit (usual cost of $49.95 - in which they thoroughly clean a kitchen and one bathroom) in exchange for a fair and honest review of their services.

It took me approximately 3.2 seconds to email back and say "yes, please!" and "how soon can you be here?"

EcoMaids is an Eco Friendly Non-Toxic cleaning service. Here is a little blurb from their website:

EcoMaids isn't your typical cleaning service! We pride ourselves on taking special care to clean your homebusiness using methods and products that are better for you as well as the environment. We are committed to providing you with the highest quality cleaning service possible and using products that keep your living and work spaces naturally healthy and sparkling clean. And we operate a truly green company, working daily to minimize our carbon footprint and our overall impact on the environment.

I love the fact that they are a green company and that they use safe products. That is important to me and my family.

And yes, I loved the thought of having someone else come in and clean my kitchen and bathroom! I've had cleaning people in the past (pre-kids mostly) and it was a wonderful luxury. Unfortunately, its not a luxury we have been able to afford since shortly after Noah arrived.

And now I have a confession to make. Shhh...don't tell anyone...

I'M A FREAKING SLOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND SO IS MY HUSBAND, AND MY OLDEST SON!

I do a lot of things very well.

Cleaning is not one of those things.

So yes, I told Avi to set me up. I warned him I would be taking before and after pictures and he said no problem.

Three of his technicians arrived Friday. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They spent three hours, yes THREE hours, cleaning my kitchen and master bath. And wow! I seriously felt like Christmas came early.

They did a super job!

Come back to MNT tomorrow and I'll tell show you some before and after pics and give you some details.

If you are looking for someone to clean your home check them out! And tell them Kristine from Mommy Needs Therapy sent you! 

**Update: Avi from EcoMaids is offering $25.00 OFF their cleaning service to anyone that requests an estimate and cites this review as the referral source.**

Obligatory disclaimer: I received a free cleaning of my kitchen and master bath from EcoMaids of Philadelphia in exchange for a fair and honest review on my blog. I don't bullshit my MNT readers (well not about something they have to spend money on!) so believe me if I say I'm happy with something, I am.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The best excuse for being late ever. Ever!

I was on my way to karate this morning with plenty of time to spare to get to my 11:40am class.

OK, I may have been running a few minutes late. One or two minutes at the most. And only because I had to run back upstairs and shove a Poise in my pants.

Shut up! We do a lot of jumping during the workout!

Anyway...there I am driving to class, when what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Why yes? It's true. St. Nick was in front of me. But instead of his miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer he was riding on top of a big red fire engine. Lights and sirens on. But they weren't exactly in a hurry.

Noah still doesn't believe that I was driving behind Santa. I'm not sure my instructor did either.

But friends, it is completely true. Santa Claus made me late.


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