Fine Ingredients + 15 Minutes = Worth Spending Extra $5

It's really easy to forgot how simple and awesome dinner can be if you splurge for some finer ingredients. I was reminded of this last night. I found this post about canned tomatoes from New Jersey and my curiosity was poked.

So, I checked out the site that it referred to and started my new love affair with Primizie. I may not have placed an order if it wasn't for the coupon code in the post as well. How can you pass up a $25 coupon that can be used on any $50 order? And, the best part, when you spend $50, you get free shipping. I ordered six cans of these tomatoes, a bottle of 30 year aged balsamic vinegar, and some fresh cavatelli. All for under $30. And I used it all last night. Well, not all of it, but I incorporated everything into a meal that took 15 minutes and was amazing. Fine ingredients can make life so much easier, because they're so flavorful you just don't have to do as much to them and they take much less time to cook.

The canned tomatoes were crazy awesome and they came with a recipe for 5 Minute Tomato Marinara Sauce from Primizie. Couldn't have been easier: olive oil, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, fresh basil leaves, and a can of these bad boys. The cavatelli cooked in seven minutes and then I just tossed some lettuce with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and onion powder. Easy as can be. And, in the end, the entire meal might have cost me $5 more than I would have spent on grocery chain friendly labels. And I was done in under 15 minutes. And the left overs were delicious for lunch.

So, this is a really long-winded way of sharing this awesome site and coupon code with you. The coupon code is: SOCIAL25.

I was not compensated in any way for this post. I just really want to share this with site and their coupon code with you.


Jeffrey Baumrucker, 1957-2011

This is the post I've been dreading writing. It might explain the silence around here these days. I didn't want to post about this, but then it seemed wrong not to. This blog is a chronicle of our life, right? And our life just suffered a major loss.

My Uncle Jeff died. Actually, I should restate that: My Uncle Jeff was tragically killed in an accident. Two weeks ago today, we had just started skyping with our friends in Portland, happy to be talking to them, seeing their not-so-new baby. My cell rang, then the home phone. I knew something was going on, so stepped away from the conversation and answered it. My mom was sobbing, telling me that Jeff was in a terrible accident, that it wasn't good.

He was riding motorcycles with a friend, sitting at a red light, doing everything right, wearing a helmet, being safe. It wasn't his motorcycle, but he had his license, was just getting into riding. He was hit from behind by a woman going fast. He was placed on life support.

My mom and dad left on the first flight out Monday morning with my aunts and uncles. The cousins waited to book tickets. From there it was the longest, most exhausting week - Days melted into each other. None of us knew what day it was, only that we were waiting to be told when we should book tickets. Waiting. After less than 48 hours on life support, he passed away. I can't even imagine what it was like for my parents, aunts and uncles, and my aunt who just lost her husband and four cousins who just lost their father. The week must have lasted an eternity.

Without my mom here, I took off a couple of days to stay home with W. He heard the constant conversations, the stuff I didn't think he'd understand. The stuff I didn't want him to understand.

"Is Jeff coming over?" he asked.

"Do you mean Jeff the person or Jeff your car?" (He calls his Fillmore car from Cars "Jeff" for some reason - Always has.)

"The person."

"You've heard us talking about Jeff a lot, haven't you?"


"Do you remember Jeff?"

"Will he get better?"

"I don't think so, buddy."

"The doctors will fix him," he said.

"Sometimes doctors can't fix people. Sometimes they're too broken."

"What do they do?"

"Well, they go to sleep for a long, long time and we remember them." How do you explain this to a 2 year old who has the verbal capacity and understanding of a child years ahead of him, but not the mental or emotional ability? That was a really tough part of the week, but not the hardest.

The hardest: My sister and I had to tell my grandfather that he had lost a son. My grandfather suffered a massive stroke 10 years ago and lives in a nursing facility, so was not able to make the trip. We sat and talked a lot about Jeff and out of the blue my grandpa said something that stuck with me: "Jeff was a really good dancer." And he was. There have been four Baumrucker cousin weddings so far, and Jeff ripped up the floor at each wedding. He had a great, fun, fearless, hysterical personality. I don't know that I know anyone else quite like him.

I flew to Florida with my cousins last Saturday morning and the weekend was spent crying, laughing, hugging, walking around shocked. We're all still in a state of shock. I'm not sure when it will make sense, if it ever will. My uncle was a truly remarkable person. When we leave this life all that's left is the impact we had on others and he made quite an impact. I only wish he had more time to rub off on my little guy.

I think this article is a nice piece on Jeff and how the dental community came together to help, because that's what Jeff deserved and would have done for anyone else. This has been a tragedy for so many people. I don't know that it will ever make sense.

This post can't begin to do justice for what a loss this has been. It's hard to describe heart break. So, I'll just leave it at that.


Sassy Moms In The City Event: Will You Be There?

If you've been here before, you know that I work in fundraising and am a lover of all sorts of opportunities to be charitable, help others, share awareness, yada, yada, yada. But, I have to admit I haven't really found "our" cause. Sure, I work for a disease organization that has a personal connection to my family (my aunt) and have become passionate about the cause through the volunteers I'm lucky enough to work with every day. We've supported NPR, local public television, museums, an animal shelter, a domestic violence shelter, and environmental groups. If a friend asks for a donation to support their efforts, I try to give. But, I'm not joining any boards or committees or personally fundraising, because I don't have "our" cause yet. For this I should feel lucky. Usually you choose a cause based on the hardship of a family member.

Next week I'll be going to the Sassy Moms Night Out Event on Thursday. When I told Matt about it, explaining that it was a fundraiser for the American Heart Association and New Moms, Inc. and I'd like to make a donation. He said, "Of course, you should. That's a cause that's important to us."

How could I have never realized that American Heart Association (to which I have never donated) is an organization that is important to us? Besides the fact that heart health is important to everyone... It's especially important to a family who will face heart surgery in 30 years or so. Matt will need a valve replacement. It's really not that big of a deal. His dad just had his done in November and feels like he's got a new lease on life. It's not something we think about that much, but it will be a big deal when it happens.

So, now I can say I'm thrilled to be going to support an organization close to my heart (no pun intended). And, I'm thrilled to go because I could really use a night out. Interested in joining me?

Here are the details:
Event: WBBM Newsradio 780 and 104.3 JACK FM present Sassy Moms Night Out
Date: Thursday, February 24th
Time: 7:00-10:00 pm
Location: Alhambra Palace Restaurant (1240 West Randolph in Chicago)
Price: Tickets are $60
RSVP: Here or call 800-320-2289 ex. 1
For more info visit: Connect with Sassy Moms in the City
Other fun details: Night includes red carpet treatment, cocktails, hor d'oeuvres, swag bag from 1154 LILL Studio, a copy of "Bump it Up: Transform your Pregnancy into the Ultimate Style Statement" by fashion forward Amy Tara Koch, a fashion demo, and beauty services.

A portion of the night's tickets sales will benefit the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign and guests are encouraged to bring gently worn maternity items to help support New Moms, Inc., a Chicago-based agency dedicated to serving at-risk adolescent parents and their children. (Donations with be accepted from 11 am-8 pm at Alhambra Palace.)

Sounds like a great night, right? Well, then, come with me! Let me know if I'll see you there.

Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets for promoting this event. However, I will make a donation to cover my ticket price (more money for the charity - wee!) and I would have posted about a cool event like this anyway.


Honest Mama

For the From Left to Write Book Club, I read Exploiting My Baby by Teresa Strasser, a refreshingly honest memoir of pregnancy and childbirth. This post was inspired by that book.

During my first pregnancy I sometimes thought there was something wrong with me, like maybe I was missing a mom gene. I never got the warm fuzzies when thinking about myself being pregnant. I didn't cradle my belly or hold conversations with my mid-section. In pre-natal yoga, I internally (and possibly externally) rolled my eyes when the teacher asked us to put one hand on our heart and the other on our baby and thank ourselves for blah, blah, blah. I was more likely to refer to the baby as "the situation" (long before Jersey Shore, mind you). To me, being pregnant was a job. Nothing to feel warm and fuzzy about. Nine months of incubation then an infant. That's the situation, right?

I'm just not warm and fuzzy about stuff like that. I'm too literal. And, now that I'm pregnant again, I've gotta admit, not much has changed. I still kind of feel like a vessel. I just have a better idea of the pay off and the overwhelming sense of love I'll feel when the baby is actually born. But, it hasn't changed how I'm dealing with pregnancy since the first time.

Other moms look at me like I'm crazy when I admit this kind of stuff. But, why would I lie about it? I'm not the only mom who feels this way, right? Right?

After I first had W I was determined to dispel the "everything is perfect" mommy myth. I told everyone who would listen that pregnancy was nine months of constipation, adult onset acne, and people being really nice to you. And, no, you won't glow or feel sexy, but you will be the focus of everyone's attention, if you're into that sort of thing. And then when you have a baby... It will be isolating and scary and you'll have moments of never wanting to leave the house, but it gets better - Especially if you don't pay attention to those Facebook updates of the Super Moms who popped out a baby, ran ten miles, jumped back into their pre-pregnancy jeans, and baked muffins for their new mom group all while being well groomed and trying to convince themselves that moms can have it all.

So, yeah, when I read a memoir like this, I feel a teensy bit justified. Or at least not quite so alone. More moms should be honest with each other. We should admit to each other that it can be hard, it can be scary, you may not shower for days on end, you will start crying from lack of sleep and breastfeeding frustration, but millions of idiots have managed to do this Mom job. If they can do it, so can you. Maybe it isn't the best pep talk, but it's the one I give. It's never a good idea to make another mom feel like there's something wrong with her or that she isn't living up to the mom role.

Sure, I have my moments of getting all mushy about my crazy adorable, sweet little guy. I don't often admit it, but like most moms I also have the moments of paralyzing fear that something might happen to him or me, that someone might be mean to him one day. I can say that being a mom has become my most important role in life and keep a straight face. (OK, I might kind of smirk or laugh when I admit it.) Regardless of how mushy I get, that's not what makes me a good mom or not. I grew into a pretty good mom on my own terms (if I do say so myself). But, I had to do it my way.

This post was inspired by the book "Exploiting My Baby," by Teresa Strasser, which I received complimentary as a part of the From Right to Left Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.


A Sign We're Not Raising An Ass

Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're raising a good person. If you're like me it's one of those things that you're always hoping for, secretly pleading "I better not be raising an ass." Luckily there are these special little moments in parenthood that let you know you're doing ok. Today I realized we're on the right track.

I was reading a book to W when my friend texted, letting me know her car had broken down and she wasn't going to make it to the appointment she had in our area, nor would she be able to stop by as we had planned. Much to W's frustration, I spent a couple of minutes distractedly texting back and forth, asking if she needed anything, sending her good vibes. He finally swatted at my phone and demanded I read to him instead of texting.

"Our friend's car broke down and she is stuck on the side of the road, buddy. I need a minute," I told him.

"Should we help her?" he asked.

Wait, what?!?! I was dumbstruck. Helping others is a concept he understands? And he understands when people might need it. To me, helping others is such a core part of life, such an overwhelming part of our conscious. And he gets it? I think I could have cried.

Instead, I hugged him and told him he was quite a boy, but that she would be ok without our help. Ever since I've been wondering how he grasped the concept of helping others. Indeed helping others is something important to me and I'd love to have a child who shares those values and concern. So, have we done it? Only time will tell, I guess.

At least it made me realize we might be on the right track. And it's not just us. W spends an incredible amount of time with his Nana and Papa, who cover his weekday child care, as well as his aunts and uncles who are ready to step in whenever we need a sitter or Nana needs a hand. We're lucky and so is W, because together we all seem to be influencing him in the right way and putting a good foundation in place for him. I know he wouldn't be the boy he is it without all of their influence.

I imagine I'll have many more moments like this when it comes to this parenting thing. (At least I hope so.) Kids say things that are so simple, yet in the moment seem incredibly profound. Today's little gem will stay with me for a while.


Soon We'll All Be Soccer Players

For the Yahoo! Motherboard our January topic was whether to encourage kids to follow in our footsteps. Matt and I grew up in very different ways when it came to activities. I tried everything and weeks were an endless string of activities, Matt had a lot more free time to run through the woods. I see the benefits of both ways of encouraging your children and their talents.

Last month I signed W up for soccer. When I heard from a friend that her son (who is two months younger than W) was already playing soccer, I totally freaked. I played soccer from 1st grade into high school. It was one of the activities I really loved and stuck with as I grew up. Matt played soccer in high school, but wishes that he had growing up. We're all about soccer. Of course W needs to play soccer! Are we signing him up for us or for him?

Check out the post I wrote for Shine on trying to make decisions that are best for our child without just wanting him to be a version of you.


Update on the Mouse Situation

So, back to the mouse situation... I feel like I dangled a potentially interesting story line, but then didn't close the loop. And, honestly, I'm still not positive that there is a loop to close.

After having the entry point sealed, I was kind of living in fear that the mouse (or mice) left behind would find their way into the house from the hiding place under the sink. But, there has been no trace of them outside of under the sink. We replenished the traps and noticed that peanut butter would get swiped, so something was still lurking under there and that something was getting too smart for our traps. What to do?

Luckily my in-laws have good experience in this area (not lucky for them, I guess) since they live in the middle of the woods in Wisconsin. Their advice? Tie down something really good on the trap with dental floss. (Have I mentioned that Papa Don is a dentist?) How didn't we think of that?

So, Matt rigged the two left over traps with some delicious cheese tied securely with dental floss. And guess what we caught? Yup, another mouse. Only one. But, we're confident he was the last mouse hiding out down there. The other trap has been sitting there for days just waiting... But, we can say we're 99.9999% sure we've taken care of the mouse situation.

With the high drama of the situation, I'm waiting on my Lifetime Original Movie offer to come in any day now.


Age According to a Two Year Old

I turned 32 today. I'm cool with it. Not a big deal. We ordered in dinner and toasted to my birthday. (W and I had milk, Matt had water - My, how life has changed.)

As we set there eating I asked W, "How old do you think I am?"

"Big," he replied.

"But, how many years? If you're two years old, how many years old is mommy?"

he replied.

"What about dada?"

"Dada is three."

Really? Dada is younger than me? Totally backwards, kiddo. So, I decided to see what he thought about everyone else.

Nana Anna: "Nana is two, like me."

Papa Rucker: "Three, like Dada."

Aunty Danni: "Six, like Nonno." (side note: I think my grandfather is like 87 or something)

Aunty Tina: "Ten."

Nana Linda: "Ten."

Papa Don: "Ten."

Uncle Toto: "Ten, like Papa Don."

Uncle Sam: "Ten."

Nana Anna is coming out really good in this one. Not surprising, considering my mom has aged really well and plays one-on-one with him all day. They're best friends. But, seriously, this kid thinks I'm older than my grandfather and the same age as Matt's parents?

Maybe I should have asked for some botox for my birthday...


Snow Day 2011

In what will become the Epic Blizzard of 2011, we were snowed in like the rest of the Chicago area. We have four foot snow drifts outside of the front and kitchen doors. Our house is covered with snow.

We started the morning with cinnamon rolls, an impulse buy from Whole Foods a few weeks ago. Turned out to be the best impulse buy ever. They're The Immaculate Bakery and they're amazing. See, happy face?

The little guy was dying to play in the snow, so we hit the road...

Played barista in his little house. The kiddo is quick to offer a grande skim latte.

And then we just kicked back and enjoyed the snow. W loved, loved, loved it.

The rest of the day was spent working and cooking. There's something about snowy days that makes me feel like we should eat well... Spinach salad for lunch, crock pot rotisserie chicken and butternut squash for dinner, and rice pudding for dessert.

Being snowed in can be kind of fun. And delicious.