Monday, January 31, 2011

Clothing Optional...

We sort of have a clothing dilemma in the Jackson household.  It's the little miss...she refuses to stay dressed.  She completely disregards the fact that the weather is currently below the freezing point in the Midwest.  She could care less that the neighbors can see her
standing on the toy bench near the window (stark naked).
 And frankly, she's not at all concerned that her
bare bum is parked on our couch while watching Elmo. 

*The required uniform for watching Elmo...No one
will want to sit in this chair again after seeing this pic*

Several times a day, I follow the trail of strewn clothing (diaper included) to find her sitting at the end of said trail like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow...except I'm not leaping for joy.

A few days ago, I lamented on Facebook how the little miss refuses to keep clothing on, and I received a lot of great advice...everything from putting her clothing on her backwards, to let her keep running around naked.  I even had friends telling me to let her choose her own clothes (she's 21-months...and I'm guessing that she'd choose to be naked).

I was trying to decide whether it was a nickel issue, and then we had a breakthrough.  The little miss began pulling off her diaper and bringing it to us every time she went to the bathroom.  I was in a bit of denial that she could be ready to potty train...I hadn't planned to start until after she turned two.  But, we're taking advantage of her pension for nakedness and her love of sitting on the potty.  We're not really doing the underwear thing...I mean what's the point if she doesn't keep them on anyway?

*yes...she's watching Elmo while on the potty...hey, it worked!*

So, starting today, I'm on potty patrol.  Here in the Jackson house our new mantra will be "All Potty, All The Time."  We've had two successful sittings and a small miss (thankfully we have hardwood floors).  Thank goodness for Elmo, books, and chocolate.  I promise to not make the next few weeks of blog posts all about potty training...I mean who really wants to read all about my daughter's bowel success
(other than the grandmas).

So, I'll try to blog about other interesting things in between trips to the potty...wish us luck!

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

N hearts B...

I Love B.  If I were in junior high, I'd write his name all over my notebooks.  If I were Shakespeare, I'd be writing sonnets about him.  Instead, I'm a blog writer, so I guess this is as good as it gets.  This man is awesome.  He knows the way to my heart is through my stomach, therefore he has learned the art of baking and changed my life forever.  Saturday mornings, it's his famous coffee cake.  The guy makes a rhubarb cobbler like nobody's business.  He's no stranger to a good muffin.  And now, he has turned my former aversion to chocolate into a romance.  *Sigh* he's a keeper.

His latest conquest is this decadent chocolate loaf cake:

Oh, my, it's Heavenly.  As B so eloquently describes it, "It's fork-squishing good."  You know like in the old Duncan Hines commercials when they would use the fork to smash that last bite because it's so moist? This cake doesn't need frosting or whipped's manly enough to stand on its own two feet. 
It's a bit of a labor of love, and you need patience as you have to wait 24-hours to eat it...but it's so worth it!
Here's the recipe:

 Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 C. Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

Moist Ingredients:
1 C. Unsalted Butter (softened)
1 2/3 C. Dark Brown Sugar
2 Eggs (beaten)
2 tsp Vanilla
4 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate melted and cooled
(B uses Ghiradelli 60% baking chips)
1 C. + 2 T. Boiling Water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper
(very important as the cake is super moist and will stick).
Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter until fluffy.  Beat in sugar, then add eggs one at a time. 
Add vanilla then fold in the melted and cooled chocolate.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture.  Then
add 1/3 of the boiling water.  Continue alternating until all of the flour and water has been incorporated.
(it will be a very thin batter).

Pour into prepared pan, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees and bake for another 15-18 minutes.
Since this cake is so moist, a toothpick test isn't as accurate...B does a jiggle test...he slightly
jiggles the pan to see if the center of the cake done.  If it doesn't move then the cake is done.
This cake is better to be slightly under cooked...if it's cooked too long it looses it's moist,
dense texture.

Let the cake cool about 10 minutes in the loaf pan, then cover the pan with foil and let sit 24-hours.  Unwrap it's Heavenly goodness and enjoy!

Happy Friday!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wrap It Up...

I would say we're pretty healthy eaters over here at the Jackson '5'.  We enjoy the occasional belly buster, but for the most part we eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables and a limited amount of processed foods.  Sometimes we even go meatless *gasp*

This wrap is a favorite of the little Miss, B and myself...the little Mr. won't touch it:

It's got lots of fresh vegetables, protein and fiber...It's basically
just a salad wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. *smile*
Occasionally we add diced grilled chicken seasoned with cumin, coarse salt and garlic.
We love it for a quick lunch or dinner paired with soup and fresh fruit...
It's probably more of a Summer meal, but we eat it year round, because it's so healthy.
I hope you enjoy it!

*Spinach and Black Bean Wrap*

Whole Wheat Tortillas (warmed)
2-3 cups spinach leaves (coarsely chopped)
1/2 carrot shredded
a bit of sliced red onion (I probably do a couple of tablespoons for flavor)
1 diced roma tomato
1/4 cup shredded cheese
(we prefer a strong cheese such as sharp cheddar, feta or goat cheese)
1 can of black beans *drained and rinsed (I only use half a can)
2-3 TBS Newmann's Own lime vinaigrette
(we also love red wine or balsamic vinaigrette with this)
You could even add a bit of cilantro for good measure.

Toss all ingredients and fill whole wheat tortillas...roll up, slice in half and enjoy!
Or, skip the tortilla and simply enjoy it as a salad.

Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Embrace The Camera...

I think I'll embrace the camera today...I need to embrace something because I'm certainly not embracing this frigid, blasted, cold weather.  Yesterday I wore five shirts and two pairs of pants at the same time!!  If that's not craziness then I don't know what is.  Have you ever worn two pairs of pants at the same time (on purpose)?  Let me tell you...don't do it unless you are fricking cold and want an everlasting wedgie. 

Today, I'm on target to wear at least four shirts...I may don another in a bit...and yes, I'm wearing my cowl scarf too.  My husband reminded me we've got a least two more months of this...and I just don't know how much we can count on Punxsutawney what's-his-face (I googled that).

My rant is over...I'm stepping off my box and handing over my mega phone.  While I'm not embracing the cold, my kiddos and sweet hubby sure are.  A couple of days ago we all did a bit of sledding:

I thought it was hilarious getting the four of us all suited up to go sledding...
we looked like we were related to this guy:

(couldn't find a credit for this...but they were amazing)

Now...the sad thing is that mommy didn't make it in the photo.   B and I swapped places, got the shot all set up, and then...the camera died.  I was so bummed! But, I will not be left out of the history of that day...the proof that I braved the cold and trudged up massive hills only to slide down in a matter of seconds and repeat the craziness of it all... so I remedied that situation...
See?  It's just like I was there...or something.  I died laughing when I saw my huge head on B's little body. 
Now, go to Emily's site and embrace the camera.
Make memories...even if you have to photoshop yourself in!

Monday, January 17, 2011

El Cheapo...

You probably already figured out that my middle name is El Cheapo...Nikole El Cheapo Jackson. Has a nice ring to it doesn't it? (okay, it's not really El's Marie).

I love a good bargain, I love thrift stores, I love discount racks, and I love coupons. But you already knew that. These things make me happy. But, is there a chance that being cheap means you scrimp on quality? Not cool.

Well, a couple of weekends ago, I was looking online to blow a little Christmas money, and I found this adorable necklace:

(photo courtesy: F21)

At the time it was only $1.50!!! (it's $2.80 now). Now, being that inexpensive, I kind of pictured it coming out of a little plastic egg of a vending machine...but, it was so cute and at a buck fiddy, even I, El Cheapo, could afford this sort of mistake. So, I clicked on it and added it to my order. Then, a few days later, I saw it on this girl's site. Now, if she's highlighting it, then it's got to be good. So, I started to feel a bit better about my purchase.

Six days trudged slowly by, when finally, my highly anticipated package arrived on my front porch. I ripped open the envelope and flung clothing and tissue paper to find the little feather:

I was pleasantly surprised!  It's of great quality and much cuter than the picture online!  I love this necklace!  I've worn it several times and have gotten lots of compliments.  I love how it goes with everything and looks so delicate.  I imagine this little guy is going to be seeing the light of day quite often.
El Cheapo is one happy girl! 

Have you scored an amazing find on the cheap?  Do Share!

Friday, January 14, 2011

What's In My Bag...

 One of my favorite mags of all time is Lucky Magazine.  I first discovered it when I was pregnant with the little Mr. and was looking for some light reading to pack in my hospital bag. 
Ever since, I've been a faithful subscriber.

My favorite part of the magazine is when they show you all the products, accessories and
clothing they used for the celebrity cover photo shoot.  It's given me a lot of insight into
picking the products I use myself.

So, wanna see what's in my make-up bag?  Personally, I don't use a ton of make-up.  
I would call my style 'au-naturale' since I have a, "less is more" approach.  But,
I certainly have a few products I can't live without: 

1.  Aveeno tinted moisturizer (light/fair) SPF 30--I've never been a foundation or powder girl, but I love
 the way this moisturizer is light, yet still evens out my skin tone with a hint of color...

2.  Covergirl Bronzer (can't remember the exact color)--for the days I want to look like I'm from Florida instead of Des Moines...

3.  Almay Triple Effect Mascara (black/brown)--the only product I can't live without...
it lengthens, thickens and curls my lashes...
I almost don't need an eyelash curler...

4.  Eyelash curler--I said almost don't need it...but I still love the way
it instantly opens my eyes and makes my lashes appear longer...

5.  Eyebrow shaper--cause my brows have a mind of their own...

6.  Almay concealer (light/fair)--because I inherited dark circles under my eyes (boo)...

7.  Burt's Bees Lip Gloss (Zesty Red)--the hippy in me loves the all natural/no animal testing aspect,
the girly-girl in me loves that it's sheer red tint adds just a hint of color. 
Plus, it's not sticky!

8.  Almay Smart blush (Natural)--I love.  love.  love.  This blush! 
It's a buildable color that compliments your skin tone.
You can apply a bit for a hint of color,
or apply more for a dramatic effect...

So, that's a little peek in my bag!  Next, I'll show you a few
 tricks up my sleeve for hair and other products I can't live without!!!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are You Ever Too Old To Kiss Yo Mama...

I certainly hope not!!!

I know these pics are sort of old news...but in light of the little Mr. becoming a man turning five next month, I couldn't help but post these pics...and remind him that you're never to old to give your mother a kiss...
Now, go link up to Emily's blog and Embrace The Camera...


This 'Thrifted-Threads-Thursday' is a bit of a mixed bag...some thrifted and some hand-me-down
(yes, I'm 31-years-old and still adore hand-me-downs).
I was teaching in the little Mr.'s Sunday School class, so a t-shirt and jeans were definitely in order...and something comfy.  A hip skirt is no match for these cutie pie four-year-olds.

 (See?  I told you the scarf is always in play...)

I really love these boots.  The leather is soft and worn in all the right places. 

Military Jacket:  hand-me-down
necklace:  thrifted
Ankle boots:  thrifted
Gold bracelets:  hand-me-down

What are your best thrifty finds?  Do share!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Little Bit Of This, Little Bit Of That...

Today was a busy day for us Jacksons...

(The Dog)
First, Stella had to go to the vet for a little outpatient surgery.  She's home now and recovering well, but let me tell ya...a 120 lb. mastiff hopped up on drugs is hard to move.  It took three of us to carry her to the car.  Stella wasn't much help.  She snored the entire time...and drooled on my shirt...

(Trying to come down from her high)

(The Little Miss)
 We finally reached the 'straw that broke the camel's back' and
decided we were tired of living like this:

So, B spent the day child-proofing some cabinets and other points of temptation.

It only took the little Miss about 30 minutes of yanking really hard to get into the cabinet containing the cereal.  We may have to get creative...

(The Little Mr.)
The little Mr. begged to stay home and play in the the cool mom that I am, I smiled and said, "Of course!  When you get home from school."  It's Iowa after all...we send our children to school come hell or high water, and apparently even after eight inches of snow.

Now, before you start to feel too sorry for him, it's only half-day preschool...and, he got to watch,
 "The Cat In The Hat". 
All is well...

(Little Mr. and Little Miss)
My sweet ones were listening to some children's songs on youtube, when something went awry:

To place blame where it is due, the other parent was on duty.  B thought the mishap was so funny (and the resulting dance moves) that capturing it on film was in order.  I believe in one sitting the words 'drunk' and 'junk' were uttered in front of minors.  We are stellar parents...

Hope your day was eventful!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Art 101...

My little miss is creative...very creative. And a tinsy bit ornery.  If you've been following lately, then you may have read a few posts about her latest escapades.  She's not my firstborn, so you'd think I'd be well-versed on toddlerhood and could out smart her.  Not the case.  I call this post Art 101.  The art of skillful sneakiness.  The art of ingenuity.  The art of originality.  The art of pulling a fast one...

So, without further ado, an introduction to Eva's first art showing.  All are welcome:

Title:  Sticky Hyperbole

Syrup filtered through mesh strainer over accent pillow

Artist:  Eva Jackson

Don't ask me how in my own kitchen, I missed my daughter rummaging through cabinets to gather her supplies.  I was present.  I was distracted.  It wasn't until I perked up my ears to the content silence ringing through my house that I was alarmed. 

Upon frantic investigation, I found her.  In the living room.  Pillow layed before her.  Syrup bottle poised in the air.  A fine stream of syrup raining through the strainer.  A wide grin spread across her face.

She was pleased with her masterpiece.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Trying To Keep Warm...

Going to college in northwest Missouri during the winter was brutal. We students affectionately referred to the trek between the residence halls and campus 'The Tundra', due to the cold, whipping-winds that cruelly smacked us in the face. It would get so cold, I remember burying my face in my coat, peeking through a tiny opening just so I wouldn't smack into something
(I learned that lesson the hard way).

This isn't a post of me whining how I walked up hills in the snow both ways to class (although I did). Rather, these frigid Iowa days made me wish I would have had one of these cowl neck scarves to keep me warm back in the day...

(picture courtesy: Shopstyle)

They really are perfect! I pretty much live in them all. day. long. For the most part, they are keeping me from complaining of how freezing I am and wishing I were going some place warm for the winter.

You can find cowl neck scarves (or infinity scarves) anywhere, including some really adorable ones on Etsy, but I'm sort of on a budget, so I decided to DIY my own...

*I broke out my trusty vintage sewing machine, and set to work. I grabbed a scarf I already owned, matched the ends together (if there is a patterned side, flip your scarf over so the seam will be on the inside or UN-patterned side) and sewed a straight stitch across the ends. You will probably want to switch to the sturdiest needle (I think it's purple) to get through the layers without breaking your needle:

To keep it from being a bulky seam, be sure to sew no more than a 1/4 inch. When you are finished, you should have one continuous loop:

Simply slip the scarf over your head, twist once to wrap it a second time and voila!

What's nice about DIY-ing your own, is that when the cowl scarf fad ends (sad face), you can simply remove the stitching with a seam ripper and it's back to business as usual!
*Don't have a sewing machine? You can also do a simple hand stitch across the seam to hold the ends together. Or, if you just want to hold it temporarily for more flexibility, use safety pins.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Well, Hello boots! Look at you in all your cute, comfy, warmness! (*Picture)

These were one of my, "Are you kidding me?!" Thrift store finds. It was like a bright light was glowing all around them beckoning me to them. They encompassed everything I was looking for in my mental checklist:

Tall zip boots...check


My size (kind of important)...check

Amazing condition...double check
Then there was the added bonus, but not necessary, buckle details, giving them sort of a biker look (rawr). The best part was the $5 price tag!

Boots: Nine West via Goodwill

Jeans: Seven via Goodwill

*Ummm....if it looks like this picture was taken in a bathroom, you can just put your pretty little minds at rest...cause it was Ha! I know, ewwwwww...but, in my defense, the bathroom was empty and it had amazing lighting AND a full-length mirror. I know, it doesn't change the fact that it is still a bathroom.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Things I Wish I Knew As A First Time Mom...

Today, I read a post on Facebook from a friend who is a first-time mommy. I really felt for her as I read her post, honestly expressing frustration from lack of sleep and tears shed over a discontent little one. I so wish I could have given her a great big hug right then. I would have taken her for coffee and said, "Oh friend, let me tell you about my mistakes!"

(Behind this smile is a weary mom struggling to make it...)

Over decaf lattes I would tell her:

1) Scrap the baby advice books. Glean the basics, but don't live by it. Frankly, they are inconsistent and full of information and case studies that don't always relate to your baby. Don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole. If it doesn't work, don't force it. --I learned this the hard way. I think my little Mr. would have been much happier if I'd said, "Buh-Bye" to the book and focused on what he needed.

2) You can pretty much bank on getting up in the night to feed your little one. And guess what? So are about a million or so other women! There are the rare few babies who sleep early on, but, like I said, it's rare. When I finally accepted this (as tiring as it was), I could enjoy those quiet moments in the dark cuddling, feeding, and praying for my little ones.

3) Sleep when they sleep. Take that mid-day nap and leave the laundry for later. You need the rest to recover and gain the energy to love your little one. It's hard to love on them when you're exhausted.

(This was obviously a pretty good nap...)

4) You can't hold, rock, or cuddle your little one too much. They won't be spoiled by you, but they will be comforted and assured of how much you love them. Who cares if they fall asleep in your arms instead of the crib? They won't do it when they're 18...and frankly, you'll miss it.

5) Whatever decision you make is the best decision you are making for your wee one and your family. Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Crib or co-sleep? Store bought or homemade? Stay home or go to work? Make the choice and don't feel you need to justify it.

6) Don't compare your little one to your friend's kids. Every child grows and hits milestones at different rates. Unless your doctor has raised a concern about your child's progression, know your little one is hitting the milestones in a manner that is normal for them. Your friend thinks their child is a prodigy? Smile and congratulate them.

7) If something doesn't seem right with your child, then trust your intuition. The pediatrician isn't with your child every day. You are your child's best advocate, so keep knocking on those doors and making those calls until you get the response you need. Oh, and don't apologize for it. You're paying them to work for you.

8) Did I mention to hug, kiss, and tell them you love them with abandon? Go for it. Even in the most frustrating moments, a little cuddle time will soothe both of your fragile emotions.

9) Take that hot bath and let your spouse take over for a bit. Don't suppress that good cry, let it go and you'll feel much better.

10) Get a sitter and go on a date with your spouse. Maybe it's just coffee or a quick lunch. You both need the opportunity to decompress and reconnect. Everyone needs a little break. Oh, and no talking about the little one. Couple time only.
You're not perfect and no one expects you to be. None of us moms are doing it perfectly. We should let down our guard more often and be real with the fact that most of us are winging it. We just happened to find a few things that worked and stuck to them.

And, take heart...I'm sure your little ones aren't nearly as crazy as mine: