Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Old London Melba Toast


I wrote  this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Old London Melba Toast and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Because I am sure that my last 2 posts sparked everyone’s appetite, I thought I would change the subject.  So, food!  Ha.  Seriously, I love melba snacks.  It really is an illness.  When someone buys the bags of ready made chex mix?  I totally dig for the melba toasts in it.   When there is dip that shares a plate with melba snacks at a party?  I totally go for that dip first because it has to be good on melba snacks and if the dip disappoints, I can snag a few extra melba toasts to eat plain.  The sea salt is very light on the salt (the box says new bold flavor – I personally didn’t find the flavor bold but I liked them as is) – just a nice, crunchy treat.  I ate most of the box of  the sea salt while I was sick this week.  No toppings, no recipe, no frills – just melba snacks and me on the couch.  My children love them too – they are like pigeons and draw around me as soon as they see the box…one saying “I want some Mommy.  I like those” and the other signing hungry and more.

The Spicy 3 Pepper flavor was bold and I liked it.  It made me think of spices in taco seasoning – definitely some peppery flavor and a little cumin in the background I think.  Fabulous with hummus.  Yum!  It didn’t overpower the hummus at all…just added another layer of flavor.  And it wasn’t like a powder coating of flavor like you find in chips (you know those orange fingers you get) – it seemed to be baked in.  It didn’t leave my tongue burning but it was a little too spicy to let my kiddos try (darn, couldn’t share).

They included a link to a few recipes and they sound yummy – unfortunately with the sick lingering in my house this week, I haven’t done much cooking.  But the idea of dipping 1/2 of a sea salt toast into melted semi-sweet or dark chocolate and sprinkling with crushed pistachios? Gah.  I love the salty/sweet thing.

They also included a link to a sweepstakes to win a trip to Hollywood! From their website:

“Dance Your Way to Hollywood” will send one lucky winner and a guest to Tinseltown for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, including private dance lessons and tickets to watch the taping of a highly popular television show. The four-day, three-night, all-expenses-paid experience includes air travel and accommodations at a popular Hollywood hotel. Sweepstakes entries accepted March 17 through June 30, 2010.

Sounds like a good time.  (Wonder if they would stock my hotel room with boxes and boxes of melba toast?)  I’ve never been to California but there are several cities there I would love to visit – and having Old London pick up the tab would be sweet!

5 minutes after these photos…


We clinched the complete loss of our deposit on this rental house.  And be very glad I’m not that dedicated to blogging as to provide photos.  Also, everyone who said it was different when you had to clean up vomit unpleasant things from your own children LIED.  Finally? I hate when my little ones don’t feel well. Tessa actually seems to be feeling okay but taking her cue from Sabrina who isn’t feeling well.  I kept kidding this morning that Sabrina woke up 13 – all attitude, full of sighs and eye rolling while moving at the speed of maple syrup.  I asked her at least 4 times if she felt okay and if her tummy hurt (prompting more eye rolling and sighing).  She insisted she was fine.  I should have known better because when she feels fines she fakes all sorts of pains and ailments.  But when she is truly sick she doesn’t want to admit it.

I’m a little traumatized from cleaning up.  Fortunately, my mystery fever broke yesterday and I’m feeling good today.  As I was gagging and scrubbing, Sabrina kept insisting “But grown ups don’t puke, Mommy”.  I almost disproved her theory but managed to Mom Up.  Blargh.  Honey?  I deserve an extra large slice of Mother’s Day Bruster’s ice cream cake  (Coffee Ripple please) for this – have you ordered it yet?

posted under parenting | 6 Comments »

Why yes, we are still alive


Our household has been struck with a strange assortment of ailments this week so blogging just hasn’t happened.  Sabrina threw up in her bed on Monday morning and complained of her stomach hurting for an hour and then seemed fine.  (Child has the constitution of an ox…she is never sick for more than a couple of hours.)  She was quite upset that I insisted she spend a little time on the couch taking it easy.  Steve has a cold or sinus infection and is feeling crappy.  Tessa has 6 teeth coming in right now so she is pleasant.  And out of the blue on Monday night, I spiked a fever.  And I haven’t been able to get it to break.  No other symptoms (other than the associated aches and crankiness associated with fever).

Sabrina is ready to lose her mind because every morning she asks where we are going today and for the past 2 days she has received the disappointing news that we aren’t going anywhere because mommy is sick.

Sick mommy and sick daddy = no cooking.  Monday night, I picked up Chinese because I figured the soup and the spicy mustard might aid in clearing out Steve’s sinuses (and it did briefly).  Tessa loves fried rice and mai fun so she was quite happy.

I’m hoping to break this stupid fever today and be back to normal tomorrow.

posted under Misc. | 3 Comments »

Brown thumb be damned


I mentioned that I decided to try container gardening this year since we can’t dig up the yard in our rental house.  I started everything from seeds…I’ve never started anything from seeds before except herbs so this should be interesting.

It isn’t pretty and it is unintentionally very orange.  We bought inexpensive Sterlite containers from the store which shall not be named (oh the shame) and 5 gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  We drilled lots of holes in the bottoms for drainage then put an inch or so of rocks and then dirt.

We found out after starting this project that our home owners association doesn’t allow vegetable gardens.  WTF?  We have a privacy fence and decided to take our chances.

I have no real idea what I am doing.  My dad gardened some while using us kids as slave labor but beyond his pride at having the first ripe tomatoes in the county I didn’t pay much attention.  And I can guarantee he didn’t start his tomatoes from seeds.  At this point, it looks like we might have plants big enough to bear fruit next July but we shall see what happens.  The cucumbers and hot peppers and radishes are very happy.  The lettuce is finally starting to look like it might live and might provide us with 1 salad some day for our efforts.

My herbs are out front where I had them last year.  The parsley and oregano both came back like gangbusters.  I’ve also put in thyme, basil, cilantro and chives.  I have a rosemary plant but I am going to put it in a pot and hopefully keep it alive so it can move with us next year.

And so that everyone will forgive this dull post, I’ll throw in a little cute.  Tessa loves to sit on my lap and watch what I am doing on the laptop.  But she insists that she sit in such a way that she can prop her feet on the table.  We’ll work on manners once she can talk.  I promise, Mom.



Guess this blogger needs to start acting like one!  I hit my upload photos button because I usually have a few miscellaneous photos around for days like this one when I haven’t posted in awhile and still don’t have much to say.  I can usually at least keep the grandmas happy with a little cuteness thrown up here.

Today all I found was this photo which most of you saw on facebook last week.  Sabrina picked out her own outfit – she was immensely proud.  I laughed at the somewhat mismatched and odd choice.

There is one other photo but I hesitate to post it.  I usually poke fun at people who deserve it because they are stupid and annoy me…or I poke fun at myself.  But at Home Depot this weekend we saw a women in such an odd/unattractive outfit that Steve nonchalantly snapped a photo with his phone.  She was a voluptuous woman.  She was wearing a black sports bra, black bike shorts, white tube socks pulled up to her knees, and black tennis shoes.  I just can’t post the photo…I’m afraid of how hard karma might kick me in the ass in return.  So you’ll have to stick to the cuteness that is Sabrina.

Speaking of cute – her ballet recital is coming up in a few weeks.  Her class is bunnies.  Their costumes are insanely cute.  And their little dance – they all wiggle their little tails and I could just keel over from the cute!  Photos will follow.

posted under Misc. | 4 Comments »



p1020998There is a certain Target I tend to avoid because this is their double cart (as opposed to the type where both children are at glare level eye level and next to each other).  I’m guessing that even those without children can come up with 10 reasons these carts are a bad idea.  Who looked at this cart and said “Brilliant!  This is the perfect double cart!”

Obvious problems:

  • The children are at crotch level.  It is difficult to put the fear of God into them with The Look when they can so easily avoid your eyes.
  • Because they are below eye level, those little hands can snake out and grab things on low shelves without you realizing it until you hear the crash
  • Sitting knee to knee just begs kicking
  • And poking
  • And hair pulling
  • And slapping
  • All of those actions lead to whining within in 3.2 seconds of the straps being buckled
  • Which makes my eyelid start to twitch
  • And leads to me becoming that mom – you know that one that you first hear hissing at their children about the loss of treats and other privileges if they don’t stop that right! now! and 2 aisles later hear her yelling at her children that she isn’t! kidding! as her voice cracks because she knows the wheels are coming off the bus and she has lost

Don’t get me wrong, the double cart is a necessary evil for those of us with multiple young children.  I don’t love any of them but some are better than others.  And this design is the worst in my estimation.  I think they should come with a free shot of tequila and a lime.

posted under Misc. | 9 Comments »

Flexible Field Trip


Saturday morning we set out for a little small town, red neck fun.  In a rural town 15 miles south of us, they celebrate Mule Day (used to be the day of the year everyone took their mules to town to sell or trade).  There is a parade and little festival.  I miss the small town festivals from my Ohio hometown and Steve always enjoys a good southern story to share with our northern friends and family.  We loaded up the car and headed south.  We found that everyone else in a 100 mile radius also apparently wanted to attend Mule Day.  We didn’t find a place to park until we were approximately 4 miles away from the parade route.  4 miles in 30 minutes with a double stroller and no sidewalks?  That wasn’t going to happen.  So we aborted that plan and came up with another.

Saturday was the most perfect, gorgeous day so we decided to head to the downtown area of a wealthy community just north of where we live.  It is a great area to window shop.  I spent tens of thousands of dollars mentally.  There were so many neat shops with some amazing items.

I saw a very young (23-ish) bride to be registering at one boutique.  She was declaring to her mother that she definitely needed a particular pair of silver platters.  I chuckled because at 23 I needed paper plates and beer.  At 37, I am still limping through life without silver platters.


I thought these rubber rain/cowboy boots were a hoot.


We had the best pizza for lunch.  Pesto instead of sauce, 2 kinds of mushrooms, jalapenos, and feta.  Yum!


Thinking of Aunt Lulu during our day out.






All of the excitement made Tessa pass out before we even got out of the parking garage.


We returned home to find an invite to a BBQ at a friend’s that evening so after naps we took the girls to hang out with friends.  They ran and played – a great night sleep was had by all!

posted under nashville | 6 Comments »

Feeling crafty


p1020680I lost my crafty mojo after all of the Christmas ornaments I painted.  It started creeping back a few weeks ago.  I attended a Premier Jewelry party.  There were all sorts of pretty bracelets and necklaces and rings and earrings – many that I would have happily bought if funds were unlimited.  As I was browsing, I realized that many of the items would be relatively simple to make.  I could find some neat beads and capture the spirit of the pieces rather than replicate them exactly.  I did look at several items that I wouldn’t be able to make myself and settled on a lovely necklace to call my own.  But a couple of days later, I found myself at Micheal’s to use up a gift card and then Hobby Lobby for bigger crimping beads.  The bracelet pictured is one I made after the Premier party.

p1020719While at Hobby Lobby, I saw these letters on sale (either for $.99 or $1.50 – I don’t recall).  I thought I would pick them up for the girls and see what I could do with all of the paint I have in my craft drawer that I bought thinking I could use it on the ornaments.  I also knew I had some glossy top coat spray I could finish them with so I was in business.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them and they turned out completely different.  Sabrina’s is rather simple and whimsical and Tessa’s is a less so.  I hung them on their doors with some extra double sided 3M sticky stuff that you use for the removable hooks (we rent and I didn’t want to put holes in the doors).  I had trouble getting a good photo of them but here are the finished products.



posted under Crafty | 7 Comments »

3 years ago today…


I’m never sure what day to officially call our family day – the day I went down to foster Sabrina, the day we got out of PGN and our adoption was legal in Guatemala, the day Steve arrived for our embassy appointment so our family was together again for good, the day Sabrina arrived in the US with us and became a citizen?  I have mostly settled on April 12th.  April 12th is the day that we flew to Guatemala and picked up Sabrina for the very last time.  She never left my care again after that.

I’ll never forget that period of time before I moved to Guatemala.  I was so excited and so terrified.  I didn’t know if I would be there for weeks or months or years.  I just knew that I couldn’t let our daughter get any older without us (she was 7 months old).  I didn’t want her leaving her foster family to be any more traumatic than it already would be.  I didn’t want to struggle with attachment issues if I could avoid it.  I didn’t want to spend another day knowing my daughter was in another country and I couldn’t hold her.  In the weeks leading up to my departure, I couldn’t get the REM song “Its the End of the World as we know it” out of my head.  I was quitting my job and moving away from my family and husband to live in a place that I barely spoke the language.

antiguahouseAnd it was hard.  It was very hard adjusting to another culture and becoming a single mom in 1 day.  I was terrified of doing the wrong thing as a mom and as a gringo in Antigua.  But at the end of each day we found ourselves safely locked behind our walls together.  Sabrina didn’t have nearly the trouble with the transition that many babies did but it was enough that I bought a pack of cigarettes at the little tienda down the street and would smoke a cigarette outside each night after I wrestled her to sleep.  (I had quit a couple of months before moving to Guatemala.)  I cried in the shower every day.  I missed my husband.  I was struggling to figure out how to be a mom alone.  It did get easier with time.  And I had family visit so I wasn’t all alone.  And the support system of other adopting moms in Antigua was nothing short of amazing.  I never would have survived without them.  Heck, I never would have gone without their encouragement.

EDITED TO ADD: I guess sometimes I think it goes without saying but I should say it since I don’t know everyone who visits my blog – it was hard but it was the most amazing experience moving to Guatemala.  Living there even for a short time was unforgettable and something I will never regret.

Here I sit, 3 years later.  I am still awed by Sabrina’s beauty and wonderful disposition.  And I am still worried about being a good enough mother and hoping I don’t do the wrong things.  I am blessed with an amazing little family.  It all started 3 years ago today in Antigua and Sabrina who made me a mom.

April 2007



April 2008


April 2009


April 2010


Freezer Jam


p1020948I’m not sharing this because I have any new twist or ideas or recipe.  I just wanted to share it for anyone who didn’t realize how easy it is (like me 10 days ago).   Strawberries were crazy cheap at Publix last week (4 1-lb packages for $5) so I picked up a bunch and started making jam.  I tried 1 no sugar recipe (packet on the right) and 1 lower sugar (reduced by 25% so don’t think we are talking low sugar) recipe on the left.

The no cook no sugar recipe was super simple.  I pulsed the strawberries in my food processor (you can smoosh them with a potato masher if you prefer).  I combined 4 cups strawberries with 1.5 cups Splenda and the pectin from the packet and stirred.  That was it.  It didn’t taste bad but it didn’t taste great either.  I think I would rather just eat strawberries.  The Splenda (which I use in my coffee and tea and like) left a chemical aftertaste that I wasn’t crazy about.

p1020993BUT the lower sugar jam?  YUM.  I might possibly have used Ritz crackers to eat it straight out of one of the containers.

How easy was it to make this incredibly good jam?  Easier than I imagined.  Apparently, you want to be very exact in measurements.  I took off the stems and put them in the food processor and pulsed.  Don’t puree – you want it to be chunky.  You want 4 cups (that was about 2 of the 1 lb containers plus a couple of additional strawberries) of crushed strawberries.  Then you combine 3 cups of sugar (this is 1 time to not eyeball things – measure and level it w/the back of a knife) and the pectin.  Add 1 cup of water.  Bring to boil and cook 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add strawberries.  Stir for another minute.  Put into containers of choice.  Allow to sit for 1 day to set up.  Freeze or refrigerate.  It will keep in the freezer for up to 12 months.

p1020790That is it.  You know have strawberry jam.  Sabrina likes it on her waffles.  The only problem I ran into was the strawberry pieces floated to the top of the containers.  It still tastes great but if the container isn’t shallow you have jam at the top and jelly at the bottom.  Being a jam making novice I have no idea if there is a way to remedy that.

Visit Rachel’s Mouthwatering Mondays for other great recipes.

posted under food | 12 Comments »
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