Dinner’s on Influenster Tonight

I love free stuff. I mean, seriously, I almost don’t even care what it is, because: free! (I also feel this way about lasagna. Who cares what’s in it? It’s lasagna!) So it’s a nice surprise when it’s actually, you know, good.

My inaugural Influenster perk* was a free Annie’s Homegrown family-size frozen entree, which we devoured with glee.

2014-03-21 17.35.07-4Like I said, I am a fan of pretty much all lasagna, but this one was really good. WAY better than most frozen lasagna (*cough* Stouffer’s *cough*). I could actually taste the ricotta, and the meat sauce was yummy. The noodles were a little bit chewy, but that’s better than being too soft.

And – wonder of wonders – the kid LOVED it. He’s very much not a child who enjoys food of any non-pizza variety, so the fact that he wolfed down his portion goes a long way toward making me love this dinner.

The big downside? The Annie’s entrees are SMALL. The box says “Family Size,” but honestly it’s couple-sized. Two people could split one of these and be very happy. I suppose if I were supplementing with a big side dish it’d be fine for three people, but lasagna in particular isn’t really something that screams out for a big side dish, you know? Even with a salad and some crusty bread it’s not quite enough. (The suggested serving size is one cup, which…is not very much lasagna. According to the box, there are 3.5 of them in there.) If the entree were just a little bit bigger, I’d recommend it without reservation.

Oh and hey, want to try it? Here’s a $2.00 off coupon. (You may have to Like the Annie’s page to get it to display.)

*The deal with Influenster is that I get stuff to test in return for an honest review, which I’d do anyway, because no amount of lasagna** is worth turning my blog into an advertorial.

**Although, obviously, more lasagna is better than less. In general.

My Favorite Parasite

2014-02-24 14.38.41Oh, babies. They scream and excrete and scratch you with their sharp little talons and yet you still just want to kiss their little faces off.

Take my baby, for example. She’s six months old now and has just discovered the exciting world of separation anxiety. Mean old mama keeps insisting on leaving the room (my house is 850 square feet in total, so “leaving the room” is somewhat relative) to do things like use the bathroom or get a glass of water, which obviously necessitates screaming. Mean old mama also feels compelled to put the baby down every once in a while, cruelly surrounding her with toys and playthings, so that she can use both hands to check email or eat food. Mean old mama wants to gently lay the baby in the crib when the baby is napping, and clearly that kind of behavior cannot be condoned. And sometimes mean old mama wants to sit down while holding the baby. Sitting down! While holding the baby! Have you ever heard of something so inhuman?

I took to the internets to see if there was any sort of six month mood shakeup that I’d forgotten about, because my memories of Ellison’s infancy are basically one big sleep-deprived blur, and also because I am currently so tired I barely remember my own name. I did find posts from people saying that their six month olds screamed when they weren’t being held. My people! Here’s what the internet suggests:

I would never ever leave a baby to cry in distress. I can’t imagine how any mother could actually bear to hear that distress. All my children and their children were picked up if they were distressed.
-“Most Helpful Reply”

Uh huh.

There is nothing wrong with holding your baby. That is the way things were meant to be. Personally I could not let my babies cry. This early they are learning to trust.

Awesome. So I should constantly carry the baby while somehow also feeding myself/showering/doing laundry/working? So that she can learn to trust and not grow up to be a serial killer?

Why are so many in a hurry to lose precious moments with our children? They grow so fast. The time I have spent caring for my children are the greatest moments of my life, even the middle of the night feedings. We as a society are often led to believe we need to force independance on our kids way to soon often leading to a neglect of their emotional needs.

Why indeed? I personally intend to neglect my children’s emotional needs as long as possible in order to make them grow more slowly. That way we’ll save money on school clothes. Wait, that isn’t what this is saying?

In the meantime, I’m off the parenting communities and on to bigger and better things, like learning to sleep while writing HTML. I’m pretty sure if I can get that one down, I’m home free.

Origami Valentines

2014-02-13 16.22.01-1This year Ellison is super into origami (thanks, Origami Yoda books) so when I saw this Pinterest tutorial for origami Valentines I knew we had to give it a try. The kid took one look at the tutorial and was like, “That’s what I want to do.” He has been going crazy with anticipation all week waiting for the lollipops to arrive, and today we finally got down to business!

As far as origami goes this tutorial is pretty easy (see the embed at the bottom of this post or go here to view the pin on Pinterest) and the kid got the hang of it pretty quickly. We used plain paper so he could write on them, but they’d be really pretty with patterned paper like in the original example. Our paper was a little smaller than in the example, too, and we didn’t use double-sided tape (just a bit of Scotch tape on one side).

Ellison ValentinesThey might be a little messier than the Pinterest version (because, let’s face it, he’s 8) but I think they look fantastic. I think the kid likes them, too – he made one for himself to put in his Valentine’s box at school!

Plus, who doesn’t love lollipops? (We got YumEarth Organic pops to accommodate the gluten-free, free-range sugar eaters, and there are a few left for sneaky moms and dads – not that I know any of those.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!


For more Valentine ideas, check out my XOXO board on Pinterest.

g bottom

gdiaperI’m not exactly the cloth diapering type (too much effort, too much laundry, an intolerance for saggy bottoms – take your pick), but I LURVE gDiapers.*

The whole concept of gDiapers appeals to me: they’re hybrid diapers, so the inside is still disposable (and I can compost the wet inserts – HUGE bonus, since the city switched us to an every-other-week garbage pickup and OMG that is not nearly frequent enough), the gPant covers are super cute, and they contain blowouts like nobody’s business. Plus they’re a Portland-based company, and you know how much I like to buy local.

I like them so much that I’m even thinking about getting cloth inserts to use at night. Yes, you heard that right: I am willingly signing up for more laundry. THAT IS LOVE, PEOPLE.

The initial investment is kind of steep – you’ve got to buy the covers, which can be pricey, and the inserts, and if you’re going cloth you’ve got to get enough of those to keep the baby diapered while you wash things. I got the starter kit off the gDiapers website, but it looks like eBay has some good deals on bigger lots, too. I’m kind of wishing I’d gone that route because I only have the two covers currently, and a couple more would be handy. My friendly neighborhood consignment shop gets them in sometimes, though, so I’ll keep my eye out. Also, you can sometimes find gDiapers on Amazon Warehouse Deals (aka my very favorite part of Amazon).

Also also, how cute is Rory with the little g on her butt?

*They did not pay me to say that. I remain sadly uncompensated for my many opinions on things, although I did sign up forĀ Influenster, so that could change – and obviously I would make a point of mentioning if I got something in return for a review.**

**Although there’s the whole Netgalley thing, so I suppose I am compensated where book reviews are concerned. Some of them. Hm.

All the ARCs

God I love Netgalley. I’m an ebook addict as it is, and now I can read things that haven’t even been published yet. It’s like someone pulled that directly from the I WANT section of my brain.

Netgalley

The flipside, of course, is that I must review all of the books I read through Netgalley – which is no problem in theory, but I kind of hate publishing bad reviews. And some of the stuff is…not so good. (Some of it is VERY good and I do a little dance every time I’m approved.) I’d been publishing all my reviews here as well as on Goodreads, but I think I’ll stick to Goodreads for everything that I don’t absolutely love. So, you know, follow me there if you want to read about my less-than-favorites. And follow here for things that blow me away, like the latest Lisa Unger book, which – have you read it yet? Go! Now!

 

Pink Think

Dear younger self,

Remember when you were all “I will never dress my girl baby in pink because patriarchy and also blech”?

Yeah. How’s that working out for you?

pink

Book Review: In The Blood

In The BloodTHIS is how you do a thriller.

Nothing about In The Blood is what it seems. Nobody is who you think they are. You want an unreliable narrator? Main character Lana Granger isn’t even sure she herself is telling the truth. It isn’t until you’re about three-quarters of the way through the book that you realize how cleverly Lisa Unger has obfuscated things with the use of simple pronouns.

Quite simply, this book is genius. Read it. And then read it again, slowly, now that you know the ending. It’s worth it.

Book Review: Coldwater

ColdwaterThe entertainment industry, amirite? Also drugs and alcohol. Because redemption.

Coldwater calls itself “femme noir,” which I’m not at all sure about as a genre in general or in reference to Coldwater in particular, but whatever. Our hapless heroine is Brett Tanager, a member of the Hollywood elite until her drug problem renders her unemployable. Rock bottom is hit. Life changes are made. There is a stepdaughter who goes missing and several murders that it seems only Brett can solve. Also AA meetings, and a hit-and-run that eats at Brett’s conscience.

But despite all that, it’s a really fun read. The action is fast-paced, the storyline is engaging, and Gould obviously knows a thing or two about addiction and recovery.

My main complaint has to do with the ending – more specifically, the fact that it didn’t end. There’s a whole chapter tacked on that drags out the feel-good finish and concludes with an almost cutesy “…and that’s the book you’ve just read” (I’m paraphrasing). Coldwater would have been SO much better without the last bit.

Gear Post: Baby Number Two

Pinterest Board

Now that I’ve had the baby for a few months, let’s talk gear. There’s a TON of stuff on the market, and everyone you ask has a different opinion on what’s crucial and what’s crap. (The reason for this: every baby’s different! There’s no way to know for sure what will work for your baby until you try! Ugh.)

Rory’s kind of a high-maintenance baby in a way that Ellison wasn’t – he wanted to be held, while she wants to be entertained. Here’s the stuff that’s been awesome for her:

  • Cradle ‘N Swing: Rory believes babies should always be in motion. This swing saved my sanity.
  • Teethers: I like the Comotomo one, and the Winkel is hands-down Rory’s favorite because it’s easiest to grab.
  • International Playthings Flash Beat Drum: The only electronic baby toy I actually like. Ellison had one. (He still jumps up and dances when the songs come on.)
  • Kidsme Food Feeder: She can gnaw to her heart’s content without swallowing any chunks.
  • Bumbo: She’s pretty much figured out how to get out of it now but for a while it was great.
  • She’s not attached to a lovie the way some babies are, but she really likes this one.
  • If your baby drools even half as much as my babies do, you will need drool bibs.
  • I got this wipes thing on accident thinking it was a wipes warmer (hello, fourth trimester sleep deprivation, how are you?) but it turned out to be kind of useful. More useful, though, are these changing pad liners, which make it so I don’t have to wash the changing pad cover nearly as often.
  • I am deeply in love with the Puj bath. Used it a ton when Rory was a newborn.
  • I got a Mei Tai because the Ergo was hurting my back (and also because we didn’t have the infant insert). LOVE it. Matt can’t wear it but loves the Ergo.
  • If your little is too little for high chairs but wants to sit in one anyway, this Leachco strap will make your day. Keep in mind it’s a little too short for a standard restaurant high chair, so buy a piece of Velcro to extend it and you will be very happy.

I’ve started a Pinterest board that I’ll add to as Rory grows so you can follow along with the current gear recs.

Book Review: The Orphan Choir

The Orphan ChoirCreepy psychological thriller FTW.

I love Sophie Hannah, and while I didn’t inhale The Orphan Choir the way I did, say, Little Face, I did stay up half the night reading it. I love, love, love the fact that the protagonist is so unlikable. She’s unlikable in a very real way; several times while I was reading I found myself making faces at the page and thinking how very much I would hate to be married to someone like that. It’s exhausting to be Louise Beeston. She’s paranoid and neurotic and narcissistic to the point that she can’t imagine how everything could not be about her. She keeps herself awake weeping because she’s sure her neighbor is plotting against her.

But here’s the other part: her neuroses stem from the fact that her seven year old son, a singing prodigy, has been accepted to a prestigious boarding school. I’ve got a seven year old son; I cannot imagine only getting to see him at performances and on holidays. So she’s horrible, yes, but I can sympathize with some of it.

The horror element of the story builds slowly; if you’re looking for something that will plunge you into the action, this is not the book for you. But because Louise is so self-involved, the reader actually starts feeling the horror before she does, which is a lot of fun.

The bottom line: this is a great ghost story, and a nice departure from Hannah’s other thrillers (which are fantastic in their own right).