June 17, 2014

Top Ten Things That Drain Me

Hello everyone. And welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday on MamaManagement. I must confess that I almost didn't do a post today...barely made it in before the day's out as it is! Over the past few days, I've been toying with the idea of taking a break from the blog for the summer. I am still toying with that. Not walking away completely, but getting away from the regular schedule and just posting occasionally, whenever the spirit moves me.

I'm trying to get away from schedules in general for the summer. I'm trying to fill our little world with open-ended, unscheduled time. Time to play. Time to explore. Time to be spontaneous. Time to create. Time to just lay around and hang out...without feeling guilty for not being productive.

I'm trying to eliminate from my day-to-day life as many as possible of the things that drain me. And instead, I want to fill those spaces with the things that fill me up, that energize me, that replenish my spirit. Unstructured, unscheduled time with my kids and with some friends and by ourselves. Which means we are not doing a bunch of summer camps or classes this summer. No classes, as a matter of fact. My eldest will get one week of camp at her old preschool, and that's it. We will go to the pool and the park and the library. We will take trips to visit our family. We will do a few special excursions. We will bake and craft and make ice cream and read and go for walks and do absolutely nothing.

So, for this week's Top Ten Tuesday list, I bring you the Top Ten Things That Drain Me...the things I will be trying to eliminate this summer (and beyond, hopefully). And, I give you the heads-up that my posts on MamaManagement may be fewer and farther between for the next few months. So, when you don't hear from me, know that I am somewhere chillaxing and feeling...let's hope...not so drained.

Top Ten Things That Drain Me
10. Worrying...about anything...and Guilt...about anything...though mommy-guilt and general woman-guilt top the list
9. Letting myself feel overwhelmed by things that are not intrinsically overwhelming (like normal, day-to-day life stuff or making big (but not really big) decisions, like which piece of furniture to order...this would be opposed to things that are intrinsically overwhelming, like, I don't know, war or abuse or major illness or...you get the idea)
8. Yelling...at anyone, for any reason...but mainly at my kids (it makes me feel like a bully and is usually the result of my feeling drained...though sometimes it's just because they're crazy)
7. Feeling disconnected
6. Too much time in social situations (that are not with close friends/family) (yeah, the irony is not lost on me)
5. Rushing
4. Having a too-packed schedule (often goes with #5)
3. Too much, too loud, on-going noise (have I mentioned that I have a three and a five year old?)
2. Holding a grudge...I only ever really do this when arguing with my husband...never for very long, but still...so draining
1. My own gigantic to do list (have I mentioned this before?)

So there you have it. Ten things that really drain me. And I'm doing my best to ditch them all. Wish me luck.

Until next time, make a list of the things that drain you...and try eliminate one of them from your day-to-day life; then fill the space with something that replenishes your spirit.

Then go chillax a bit.

June 13, 2014

Chocolate Bark: Best. (Adult) Treat. Ever.

This stuff is so seriously good. Addictively good. If you've read any recipe posts on this blog you know that delicious + easy is my holy grail...my piece de resistance...my titanic wreckage. And in the land of treats, this recipe is a total find. It is so simple. (It took me about ten minutes to make it.) And yet it is so, so good. It combines sweet and salty and bitter so beautifully. It makes it, well, so hard to stop eating once you take a bite. It makes the perfect special treat to have on hand for yourself or a great little gift. Perfect for a thank you or a little pick-me-up for a friend who's down. Perfect for a little after dinner or afternoon treat for yourself...as long as you can keep yourself to just one piece (which I cannot).

So, without further ado, here's this week's recipe...

"Everything But The Kitchen Sink" Chocolate Bark

3/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 c. mixed salted nuts, coarsely chopped (I used a mix of cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts and brazil nuts)
1/2 c. dried cranberries (or raisins, or dried cherries, or other favorite dried fruit)
1 c. broken-up pretzels (I used a combination of leftovers-- little broken twists and sticks)
1 lb. semisweet chocolate chips (I used a bag of 60% cacao Ghirardelli baking chips. Remember: the better the chocolate, the better the bark.)

*Note: Don't get overly worried about measuring things for this recipe. I just eyeballed everything.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Heat oven (or toaster oven...that's what I used) to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on a small, second baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, or until coconut becomes lightly golden. (Pay attention to it so you don't burn it. This step is the "hardest" part of the whole recipe.) Let the toasted coconut cool completely. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the chopped nuts, dried fruit and broken pretzel pieces and stir to combine.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until completely melted and smooth. Stir in half of the nut mixture. Spread the chocolate-nut mixture about 3/8 inch thick onto the prepared baking sheet, then sprinkle with the remaining half of the nut mixture. Refrigerate over night. Break the bark into 2 inch pieces. Store the bark between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container. (You can keep it at room temperature or in the fridge...I keep mine in the fridge.)

That's it. Super simple. Super delicious. Love it.

Until next time, happy snacking!

June 10, 2014

Top Ten Pet Peeves Just For Today

I'm annoyed. I really shouldn't be. But I am. Nothing is really wrong. No bad things have happened. As a matter of fact, things have been great. I am loving these fabulous, fun summer weekends we've been having. It's just been one of those days when all of the little stuff seems to be going wrong and ordinary stuff is getting on my nerves. And here it is: time to write another Top Ten Tuesday post. What will I write about today? You guessed it: How about a wee list of complaints. A venting. A mini-rant. A list of my Top Ten Pet Peeves Just For Today...

Top Ten Pet Peeves Just For Today
10. The interference of my husband's work schedule in my attempts at summer plans
9. When my Fitbit randomly goes into sleep mode during the day without me realizing it and stops recording my steps
8. My inability to shake my to-do list and let go some days
7. Wet grass and too much rain and depressing gray skies and sticky humidity
6. Super, over-the-top, crazy-loud kid voices All. Day. Long.
4. The dog getting into the garbage
3. That it's impossible to make a small bag of microwave popcorn in our microwave without burning it
2. That my son often wakes me up SO early and I'm SO stinkin' tired
1. Both my husband and my dog snoring a (albeit relatively quiet) symphonic duet when I'm trying to fall asleep

Bonus: That my current book took over 200 pages before it finally got really good.
Double bonus: And then I stayed up until after midnight reading when I should have been sleeping.

Now that I've gotten that little rant off my chest, here's the view of my day from a place of gratitude...

Top Ten Things I'm Grateful For Today
10. That my husband has a great job that supports our family and allows me to be home with the kids
9. That my Fitbit brings me greater awareness of how active I am each day
8. My ability to stay on top of things and get things done
7. The rain that helps our grass (and everything else) grow and stay a lovely shade of green
6. My kids and their beautiful, boisterous, energetic voices
5. That we have the means to provide, and the loving family who gives, lots of fun things for our kids
4. Having a loyal canine companion who loves me no matter how often I tell him to get out from under my feet and stay away from the garbage
3. That somebody invented microwaves and microwave popcorn
2. That my son often wakes me up with big smiles and lots of cuddles
1. That with the slightest of nudges they both stop snoring and I get to sleep in peace surrounded by love

Bonus: That my book finally got REALLY good.
Double Bonus: Yeah, I got nothing on that one...I'm really tired this morning......Oh, wait, I've got one.....That I get to enjoy a much-needed second cup of delicious coffee this morning.

Until next time, let yourself feel a little glum or a touch annoyed about whatever is getting on your nerves these days...but then turn it around and focus on what you have to be grateful for. Seriously. Actually list it out just like this. List each annoyance, then flip each one into something to be grateful for. You'll be amazed by how much this helps change your perspective and attitude. It can actually turn around a bad mood, or even a bad day. Try it.

June 6, 2014

Balsamic and Garlic Grilled Pork Tenderloin. Simply Awesome.

This Week In Food: Balsamic and Garlic Grilled Pork Tenderloin...Folks, this dish is simply awesome.

It's grilling season!! My favorite thing about grilling season, aside from the delicious grilled dishes, is that part of the cooking responsibility falls to my husband. Sometimes it's nice to share the workload! So, in honor of everyone's grills making back out onto decks and patios and balconies everywhere, I thought I'd share this scrumptious little ditty. We made it for the first time this past weekend when we had guests, and everybody raved. It is our new favorite pork tenderloin recipe. It is stunningly simple and absolutely fantastic. And, really, that's all you need to know. Try it. Trust me.

photo from kitchenconfidante.com

Balsamic and Garlic Grilled Pork Tenderloin*
4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/4 lbs each)

Stir together minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Put the pork tenderloins in a dish. Spoon the mixture over the pork tenderloins and use your hands to rub it all over the pork. If you have time, marinate it for 1 hour, up to overnight. If not, don't worry it will still be fantastic. (We grilled the pork immediately after putting the balsamic and garlic marinade on it-- no marinating time at all-- and it was delicious!)

Preheat your grill. Sear the tenderloins on high heat for one-to-two minutes on all four sides, then lower heat to medium-high and grill tenderloins over indirect heat for about 20 minutes, rotating the tenderloins periodically, until the internal temperature is about 135 degrees. Remove the tenderloins onto a plate and tent with foil. Let them rest 5-10 minutes (internal temp should rise to over 140 degrees and tenderloins will be just a little pink in the centermost slices), then slice the tenderloins in half-inch slices and serve.**

I served this with oven-roasted red potatoes and steamed, buttered green beans. The oven-roasted potatoes were 50 shades of awesome too...so here's a bonus recipe:

Oven-Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes
3 lb bag of small, red new potatoes
olive oil
coarse salt
black pepper
fresh or dried rosemary

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with sides with foil. Spray foil lightly with cooking spray. Wash potatoes and cut into one-inch size pieces. Put clean, cut potatoes into large bowl. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add rosemary. Using clean hands, toss the potatoes with the olive oil and spices until well coated. Pour potatoes onto lined, greased baking sheet. Bake 20-35 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender and lightly browned (the longer you leave them in the more browned and "crispy-outside/tender-inside" they will get). Enjoy!

Until next time, I bid ye good grilling.

*adapted from www.kitchenconfidante.com
**note: the specific grilling instructions are from my husband, who has truly perfected the art of grilling pork tenderloin over the past few years...he is a master at it!

June 3, 2014

Top Ten Things To Do Instead of Yelling

Nobody is listening. Nothing is going as planned. Nobody is doing what they're told. Nothing is going right. Nobody is cooperating.

It sounds like a recipe for yelling.

Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than things not going the way I want/need/planned them to. Not all the time. But when conditions are right (i.e. Mommy's tired, stressed, etc.), look out.

It happened just today. It was actually what prompted a change in this week's Top Ten Tuesday post. Another battle of wills between mom and child.

I had a plan. In order to leave for the pool in time to get a reasonable amount of time there before coming home for dinner, we needed to get my son's nap in a little early. Everything was going according to plan...until it wasn't. Apparently my son did not get the memo...that I sent out...in triplicate.

As we sat in the chair in his room, me encouraging sleep, him fighting it (despite being tired), I could feel my blood start to boil. I could feel my shoulder's tense. I knew what was coming. I tried (sort of) to fight it. I kept it at bay for a while. But then, when he started clapping instead of dozing, I burst. I barked out an order. (Something to the effect of "Go to sleep now or no pool!") He jumped with surprise and then started to cry. I now felt frustrated and angry...and guilty and stupid. (What a bully I am, yelling at a 3 year old.)

Eventually, we both calmed down and he went to sleep, and we all got to the pool just fine. But I sat in the chair in his room with him sleeping on me and thought long and hard about yelling. Why I do it and how to stop.

Yelling is like evening snacking for me, I know when I'm about to do it that it's not a good idea...but then I do it anyway...and feel bad about it afterwards.

So, how to stop?

Of course the best course of action is to change your mindset so that you never get to the point of "about to yell." (Lower the bar and let good enough be good enough. Let it go. Etc.) But, while we're working on that, another course of action is to interrupt the cycle exactly at that point of "about to yell." You can feel it in your body when it's about to happen...the frustration rising, the impending explosion. Right at that moment, step in and change your reaction to that feeling. Instead of yelling, try doing one of these ten things. Then, once the feeling has passed and you've calmed down, go back and address the situation that incited the yell response in the first place.

And by the way, this isn't limited to interaction with your kids. It works when you're stuck in traffic behind some *!^##(&. Or any other time your blood gets boiling.

So here we go with today's top ten list...

Top Ten Things To Do Instead of Yelling

10. Take a time out (remove yourself from the situation until you've calmed down: step outside, go in the garage, close yourself into a closet or bathroom; and stay there until you're rational and sane again)
9. Sing (sing anything; sing a nursery rhyme; sing the reason you're upset like an opera singer; sing a silly, made-up song)
8. Dance (dance like a fool; nothing interrupts the yelling cycle like blatant silliness; do anything super silly; this also works when you force yourself to laugh like a crazy person...eventually the laughter will turn from a forced act to genuine laughter)
7. Whisper (gently whisper instead of yelling; but it doesn't count if you do it through gritted teeth...sometimes that's scarier than yelling)
6. Run...around the room or around the block (how far you go depends on how worked-up you are; you can also do jumping jacks or push-ups)
5. Say positive thoughts or a mantra or prayer out loud (like Hands Free Mama, Rachel Macy Stafford's "Only love today"; repeat it over and over until you've calmed down.)
4. Splash cool water on your face/light a scented candle/massage your neck and head
3. Drink an entire glass of water (by the time you're done, your outburst potential is diminished)
2. Do 4-Square Breathing (Breath in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts; repeat 4 times.)
1. Show affection instead of anger. When you feel overwhelmed by the urge to yell, hug and kiss instead. Say "I love you. I love you. I love you." over and over again unit you feel THAT feeling, instead of frustration or anger.

Try interrupting the yelling cycle and I promise you'll like yourself better when you do. Remember, Only love today.

Until next time, go sing: "For the love of all that's goooooood and hoooooooooly in this woooooooorld, pleeeeeeeease pick up your soooooooooocks off the floooooooooor! God made for you a haaaaaaaaaaaaampeeeeeeeeeer. Uuuuuuuuuuuse iiiiiiiiit!"...like an opera singer.

May 30, 2014

Maya Angelou

I am not one to comment on the passing of a famous person. I feel sad for them and their families when I hear of a death, just the same as I would any other, non-famous person, I have never met. But I feel moved to comment on the passing of this special woman. Maya Angelou. As a voracious reader, as a writer, as a woman, I have felt a certain kinship with this particular phenomenal woman. I have been moved by her writing and I have learned from her words. She is an amazing spirit who touched my life without ever knowing me.

I remember reading on old, yellowed, used copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and feeling awe for this woman and her words...for this teacher. I remember reading Phenomenal Woman over and over and over again, feeling its power and courage and spirit. Feeling empowered and emboldened. Feeling a new kind of love and respect for myself. I have listened to her speak with wisdom and truth and love. I have read her story, the heartbreak and the pain and the triumph and the amazing spirit.

So, when I still myself and let myself re-experience the feelings I've felt when I've encountered a piece of Maya Angelou, through her writing or speaking; when I let myself, in quiet, acknowledge the loss of this woman, I find that tears come to my eyes. As if I'd known her. As if she'd lived next door and I would feel the hole left from not passing her in the yard. As if she'd been a teacher and mentor in school who'd offered me wisdom as I stretched from adolescent to adult. As if she'd been a friend. Of course, she had been none of these things to me. And yet, in a way, she'd been all of these things to me. And that was one of her gifts. Her ability to transcend; to move from the page to the chair next to me; to move from the screen to the seat across the table; to make me feel like a granddaughter receiving wisdom from her grandmother while sharing a pot of tea.

Tears pool in the rims of my eyes as I salute, with my heart, the spirit of Maya Angelou. I say thank you, Maya Angelou. I say, Godspeed, Maya Angelou. I say, may our paths cross again on another plane of life, Maya Angelou. To you, Maya Angelou, I say, good night.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maya Angelou, "Phenomenal Woman" from And Still I Rise. Copyright 1978 by Maya Angelou.

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."--Maya Angelou

And oh, what a beautiful song yours was, Maya Angelou.

Until next time, go read something by Maya Angelou and bask in her glory and her grace and her wisdom.

May 27, 2014

Top Ten Things on our Summer Bucket List

Don't forget to lay in the grass and just look at the clouds

It's Top Ten Tuesday, folks. Woot! And it's summer in our house...I know this because the kids are both out of school and I got a sunburn on my back doing yard work yesterday. Yep. Definitely summer. By August I will probably be complaining about mowing the lawn, but right now, I'm loving it. Believe it or not, mowing the lawn gives me a little time to myself...and an opportunity to listen to music other than the Frozen soundtrack. Plus, it comes with exercise and fresh air built right in. I always get 15-16,000 steps on my Fitbit on lawn mowing days. Score!

Anyway, now that we've made it through preschool graduation and teacher gifts, and 3rd birthday celebrations for my littlest, I've put "Summer Planning" on my to-do list. First I want to map out all of our summer trips--I'm spending a weekend in NYC with my sister-in-law and niece, we'll be road tripping to visit family and friends on two occasions, and we'll be taking a family vacation to Northern Michigan. Then we'll see if there's room for one week's summer camp for my 5 year old. After that, I'm looking for fun activities and lots of downtime and a light routine to carry us through our days.

So, as I start my summer planning extravaganza this week, I feel the need to create a summer bucket list for things that I want to make sure we include in these long, lazy days of summer...and I'm determined to make sure we shake the frenzied, hurry-up-ed-ness of the school year. More easy-going. Less rush. More go with the flow. Less structured, schedule-driven, formal activities. This summer, that's how we'll roll.

So here you go, this week's Top Ten Tuesday List...The Top Ten Things on our Summer Bucket List:

Top Ten Things on our Summer Bucket List

Don't forget to stomp in the puddles of a
summer rain shower
10. Take a day trip to visit the National Aquarium and other fun sights in Baltimore, MD
9. Create Fairy Gardens with the kids
8. Lay a tarp out on the driveway and have an outdoor family canvas painting day
7. Spend time hiking the nearby trails and wading through the stream in our rain boots
6. Make homemade ice cream and homemade bread
5. Use our season passes to the zoo and gardens and amusement park until they are Worn. Out.
4. Go swimming...A LOT!
3. Play lots of cool outdoor games and do lots of cool outdoor art and activities (like some of the things I've seen here and here and here and here and here and here. Oh glorious Pinterest, you are so full of ideas!)
2. Potty train Holden...not because I want to, but because the preschool says I have to. (boo.)
1. Relax. Go slow. Be together. Laugh a lot. Take naps. Read books. Be outdoors. Smile. Breathe.

You can find some other "Slow Summer" activity suggestions from Abundant Mama here.

Until next time, go get your summer on!