Elmo Visits the White House Kitchen

We loooooove Elmo in our house. We also love healthy food. When Munchkie's Daddy came across this video, it was the perfect way to advertise to our family about the changes in school lunches. I hope that the meals displayed are actual meals going to be served in cafeterias.

I remember growing up in public school my mom would pack us a lunch almost every day. We were allowed to pick 4 meals a month to buy a school lunch. I also remember how I would get so excited to be cool like everyone else, but then the food would be so gross! Mushy, soggy, greasy and I don't think there was ever a full meal that I actually ate. Isn't that sad? The only "good" things were baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc) and the fried foods. I hope that with melons, peppers and apple slices kids will start to be able to understand what real food is like.

I thought that I would have this as a post to the good things to come in 2011. Hopefully it just gets better from here!


Oh yes, the time has come for reflecting and resolutions

It's that time of year, the Christmas cookies are dwindling and you begin to think that maybe you shouldn't have eaten so much.  It's also a time to reflect on your life throughout the past year and see what kinds of positive changes you have made.  From there you think about the changes you want to make in your life for the upcoming year.  Usually this time of year makes me so depressed, I think about all the resolutions from the previous January that were blown off by February.  It makes me so upset and disappointed in myself that I couldn't stick with it enough to make a few changes in my life.  This year however, I am very proud of myself.  My resolutions last year were to loose weight and get healthier (the #1 resolution), become more green in our home, build a stronger relationship with Munchkie's Daddy, and reduce our debt. 

I'll start with the first one because it's the one that makes me the most proud.  So here I go Biggest Loser style.

Things were getting pretty bad, but then this happened, and it got way worse.

Then this was me last Christmas.
It makes me want to throw up (as if I haven't been doing enough of that this week thanks to a stomach bug) just looking at these pictures.  But maybe publicly posting them will make me never want to go back.
These are the jeans in the above pictures.
And this is me tonight.  While I still have a ways to go, I feel much better about myself. 

My next resolution was to go greener in our home and I have eliminated almost all chemical cleaners, using homemade cleaning solutions and use cloth rags to clean (we don't even have paper towel in our house unless Munchkie's Daddy has a secret roll hidden from me).

Munchkie's Daddy and I have had a lot of ups and downs this year but our relationship is the strongest it's been.  It's been a hard year, but we have grown both more mature and closer together.  We are able to communicate effectively and have learned (with some help) how to understand each other better.

I also wanted to reduce our debt and hopefully by next week we will have our car, washer/dryer and all credit cards paid off in full.  Yippeeeeeeeee!!!!!!  This is a huge weight off of our shoulders!

Now, if I haven't already lost you, I am figuring out what I want to do this year to make myself a better person.  Sometimes I feel like I run run run and don't think about how I need to change.  It seems to be this week between Christmas and New Years that I always think, "Oh crap!  What have I even done this year?"  I think that my first resolution will be to think about my resolutions throughout the year instead of just for one week.  I need to try to make myself better all year long, not just in January and December.

Next, I think that I need to exercise.  For more than 2 days.  I need to become fit enough this year that I actually enjoy exercising like so many people talk about.  I hate to sweat.  I hate to feel the out of shape crappiness.  I also hate being around people when I have to do these two things.  I need to get myself into shape, so I am not miserable every time I exercise. If only I could have a free personal trainer who came with a free babysitter and I had my own personal gym in my house.  *Sigh* I'll go back to my $1 Target exercise DVD.

I also would really like to start doing something for other people this year.  I'm not quite sure how this will work out.  I pretty much have Munchkie with me whenever I'm not at work, so maybe I could find some way to volunteer somewhere with Munchkie.  Any ideas?

Organization is something that makes me feel really good about life.  I do not feel like we are very organized in our lives since moving multiple times in multiple years.  It makes me feel very unstable and out of control when there is not organization/cleanliness in my life so I think that I would feel better in general if I could sense this control around me.  I know this is going to be a huge undertaking to overhaul as much as I would like to, general appearance, closets, finances, etc.  Good thing I have a whole year to do it right?

I think it's easier to keep your resolutions if it is a short list and easily obtainable.  If they are obtainable goals, it makes it easier to complete them.  I think part of the reason why I never completed my resolutions were because I never made obtainable goals.  I hope that this year I can be strong enough to make these changes in my life.  Happy New Year!


Facebook vs Cranium

This year we spent the Christmas holiday at my inlaws’ house and had a very enjoyable time.  They live in upstate NY and let me tell you, it’s waaaay up there!  It’s amazing how different parts of the country can be so incredibly different.  It’s like a completely different country up there.  A country where hunting is a hobby that you are expected to have, you are used to driving a distance to a Walmart and you expect feet of snow at any time from October to May.  I feel pretty out of place there.  I hardly ever remember to bring an appropriate winter coat and I definitely don’t have northern country appropriate footwear.  I also really enjoy having communication with the rest of the world.

It’s amazing how much you rely on modern technology.  I feel so isolated and out of touch when I go visit.  My cell phone stops working the last hour and a half of the trip and we don’t get service again until we go down a certain hill on the way home.  They have basic basic cable so there is hardly ever anything interesting on TV, and there definitely isn’t a DVR to watch whatever background noise show you watch but aren’t really interested in.  There also isn’t wireless and so the family computer is shared upstairs.  Wow it’s really amazing what a difference these things make in your life.  

On the other hand, we spend genuine time with each other.  We play games and sit around talking to each other.  Last night after Munchkie went to bed we played Cranium which had been purchased that day (on sale at Target of course!) and had a great time together.  I haven’t laughed as hard in a long time as I did when Munchkie’s Uncle had to puppeteer Munchkie’s Daddy to make him guess that he was airport security.  What fun family is.  

I survived for those days without my cell phone, mindless TV shows and immediate internet access.  Maybe I could survive a little more often without these and focus on doing something a little more active and meaningful.  I need to overcome the thought that I might miss something by not being connected.  What if someone tried to call and I missed it?  Hey guess what, I have voicemail!  What if I missed someone’s Facebook post that said something important?  Hmmm was it really that critical for me to know if it was a general Facebook post?  Maybe not.  I hope that I can continue to be slightly more removed from the technology that is weighing me down and a little more active in what is happening in my present life. 


A Merry Christmas with my Family

I had some time this afternoon to myself while Munchkie was crashed in her pack n play and everyone else was busy trying out their new Christmas toys.  Since all I wanted was a pair of nice, comfortable boots, there wasn't much fiddling around that I could do.  I do intend on going downstairs and lazily flipping through the stack of magazines in a little bit while drinking a cup of coffee, but for now, I will write.  Since I haven't been doing well at keeping up with my blog, I figured two in one day wouldn't be to bad.

I love Christmas.  I love the excitement of waking up and knowing that it's Christmas.  I love watching as everyone opens their presents in excitement and anticipation.  I love the yummy food (especially the desserts, which is my huge problem).  I love that for one day out of the year, family is the absolute important thing. 

This morning when we realized that there really was no putting Munchkie back to sleep I was so excited that it was Christmas I asked her if she wanted to come cuddle with us in bed.  She was so excited and said "Yes! Yes!"  As she laid there snuggled in between us I felt truly blessed for my little family.  Although we don't have much, we have each other, and that really is the best gift you can have.  I loved those moments before she got too antsy to sit still, when she laid there with us giggling and giving kisses.

Then the present opening began.  Although she really doesn't understand Christmas quite yet, she loves getting caught up in the excitement.  Of course several times she got so caught up in the great toy she had just opened, that the toy had to be hidden to convince her to open another present. 

And of course she was still opening presents long past the time when everyone else had run out.  By the time the presents were finished being opened, Munckie didn't even know where to begin in playing with her new things.  I am a mean mom and said that if it had more than 2 parts that didn't go into a container, it was not being opened until we get home.  Never fear, there are still plenty of entertaining things that fit that category.

After practicing some Zumba with Munchkie's Aunt I saw that she was getting pretty tired and asked if it was naptime yet.  Surprisingly there was no fight.  Munchkie was so exhausted that she said "Nigh nigh?  yes!  Nigh! Nigh!" and ran to the stairs.  Hopefully after many hours of naptime the fun and excitement of Christmas can continue. 

I love today.  I love my family and I love how exciting this day is.  I hope that you have had a wonderful day filled with such love and excitement that you crash into the most peaceful sleep imaginable.  Merry Christmas!


Merry Xmas, yes Xmas

Yesterday we were driving through the Upstate New York countryside and I saw a big sign from my in-laws city that said "Put Christ back in Christmas" and I was reminded of an article I read recently.  Growing up in a Christian family I have heard this saying many, many times, but reading it yesterday made me think and reevaluate those lessons learned in my childhood.  I vaguely remember hearing someone say to me that people who couldn't handle the fact that Christmas was about Christ had turned it into Xmas, to take Christ out.  I remember that the phrase "Put Christ back in Christmas" was due to this trend of writing Xmas and that it shouldn't be used.  Funny how you just do something because someone tells you to do it when you are young.

I read this article and realized that if only those who started the "put Christ back in Christmas" movement had only taken a few moments to research why Xmas was used, they might not have started the movement. See, as this article shows, the Greek word Christos (Christ) is literally translated into the English language as X and in earlier churches the X was used as a shorthand for Christ.  So, I started thinking about this and realized that by using the X to mean the word Christ, instead of writing Christ out of Christmas, we are actually showing how deep the history of the Christmas celebration runs.  This is not a new, made up Hallmark holiday such as Sweetest Day, but has been celebrated for so many thousands of years that ancient Greek words are used to describe it.  I don't see any ancient Greek in Sweetest Day.

It makes you stop and think doesn't it? How could I, for so many years, mindlessly follow something that was not even true?  I do agree that Christmas has become way too commercialized and Christ is slipping away.  But I will never feel that twinge every time I see the word Xmas written.  Instead I will be happy that I celebrate a holiday founded on the birth of someone so special that there are different words across many different languages used to call him by name.

And so, I will say again, Merry Xmas to you.  Remember who you are celebrating.  As Munchkie says "Baby Sheshus!"


I Haven't Forgotten

Don't worry I have not forgotten about my blog.  I think that if I don't have time to read the blogs I subscribe to or take care of my house, then I myself shouldn't be blogging.  I have 147 unread emails in my blog folder alone.  With my netbook power cord out in a United States Postal Service black hole, I sat around wishing that I could feed my internet addiction while on vacation.  I realized that since it was vacation, maybe that meant I needed to just chill out and enjoy a vacation. 

Now I'm back to work, trying to also prepare for an in-law Christmas.  I am so tired tonight after working all day, but I have to get completely packed and make sure that we have everything ready to take with us tomorrow.  Munchkie's Daddy, Munchkie, Pup 1 and Pup 2 are picking me up from work tomorrow and we're heading straight to the north country.  So I'm giving my legs/feet a brief break and catching up on my very delinquent blogging.

Now that I have let out my excuses, I can let out what I've been thinking about.

Today at work I had a patient with a diagnosis that I had never taken care of before, so of course I did what everyone who needs to know something does.  Google it. 

When my search results popped up I naturally clicked on the first link because it seemed pretty legit.  I started to read the article and noticed that the author was a professor from the same hospital I work in and it had been published within the last few months.  It really hit me how blessed I am to be able to work in a hospital that produces first-result-in-Google-articles.  I know that everyone grumbles and groans about their job, and I will definitely admit that I have those days, but I sometimes just have to be very thankful for the experiences I have been given.  I often forget where I came from and where I am now.  I have seen all kinds of things that I never would have seen had I stayed in my home town or at my first nursing job.  How incredible is it that my fellow coworker (I'm sure the distinguished professor would not appreciate being considered my coworker) is so knowledgeable and experienced that their article is the number one search result on the biggest search engine in the world.  Wow.  While there are days that I may come home exhausted, drained and not overjoyed with my job, I need to remember where I am.  I may not realize it while I am in the moment, but I am experiencing things that some people can only read about in articles.  How amazing is that?  It doesn't really make my feet hurt less or make it any less difficult to leave Munchkie before work, but it does make me pause and appreciate this season of life.


Recoup and Regroup

Since I'm cool and remembered my computer, but left my power cord in Munchkie's Daddy's bag, who went back home, my battery is almost dead.  I had to be old school and write out my thoughts on paper, so I could quickly type and shut down.  I'm on vacation this week and doing a Midwest tour again.  Munchkie and I are at house #3.  Munchkie's Daddy did some PhD program visits and then returned home yesterday, but Munchkie and I are visiting a few more people before we head home.  Once our friend comes home from work, Munchkie and I will be headed back to house #2 for a couple days.

I am loving this vacation!  I know my friends feel bad that they are working, but I don't care at all (well, of course I would love to spend more time with them).  I am hanging out, playing with Munchkie and there is no stress.  I don't have to feel guilty because I'm not cleaning or doing laundry.  There's nothing to do and nowhere to be, because I don't have a car.  I seriously think this is the most relaxing vacation ever!  It's not very often that there isn't something you should be doing once you're "grown up," especially when you have a kid(s).  I think that every mom should take a day or two vacation to do nothing but recoup and regroup.  When you take care of yourself, you can take care of others better.

Although I wish that I had taken this vacation at a different time than right before Christmas, I am glad that I can be fresh and energized for the holidays.  I also get to spend some great time with Munchkie.  What's better than that?

Hopefully my power cord reaches my parents house before I do so I can continue to feed my blog addiction.


Oh the Relief

What a huge sigh of relief I let out tonight.  We have finished our Christmas presents and are almost finished wrapping them all.  Oh what a labor of love this has been.  We came up with our ideas at the beginning of the year and began working on them slowly.  Once I decided it was time to crack down and get going on them I realized I might have bit off more than I could chew.  But each time I was about to give up I just kept thinking, we have worked too hard on this to give up now.  I was bound and determined to make this project a success.  I never thought I would spend every free moment working on this, however it was thousands of hours (maybe a slight exaggeration) well spent.

I am very glad that instead of buying random things, we have put together something with meaning.  While a homemade gift may not be the favorite gift of the year, I had a lot of fun creating them.  You can't say that there wasn't thought, time and effort put into it when it's homemade.  I cannot wait until Munchkie is old enough to understand what we are doing.  While she minimally contributed this year, I hope that we can continue to make Christmas gifts together.  I hope that she learns the importance of thoughtfully creating something for others.  I hope that she won't be concerned with what she wants, but what she can do for others.

It's always great to have your Christmas shopping finished, you can let out a huge breath.  Once you know that everyone is taken care of and you haven't forgotten anyone you, can really enjoy good times with family and friends celebrating the holiday season.  I can let out a huge breath because not only am I finished, I never had to wait in a line.   



Great Invention for the Busy Mom!

I am posting another post for today because I love love love these.  I know they are not very organic or green, and probably have a lot of chemicals in them.  I really love to have painted nails but have been smudging, scratching, and smearing my nails for the past couple years.  These are perfect for anyone who can't sit still long enough to paint their nails and let the polish fully dry.  No mess, no smudging, and quick.  It's also way cheaper than a manicure, I found mine on clearance at Walgreens  for under $3 and bought every one they had.  I also put them on in the ca,r in the middle of the night by the light of the glove box.  They lasted 2 weeks after that.  They actually hadn't chipped at all, I took the polish off because it had grown out so much it annoyed me.  I suggest trying them out.   

Check out to see all the possibilities.

Picture with Santa = Disaster

We went to the mall today to visit Santa.  Munchkie was so excited.  She can point out Santa anywhere and everywhere.  We went to the Macy's bathroom and changed into her Christmas dress.  She was chatting about Santa the whole time.  She kept saying "ritty ress Santa." Which means "I'm wearing a pretty dress for Santa."  She was pointing out the balls and snow in Macy's and then we saw Santa.  She was excited, saying "Hi Santa!" There was only one family in front of us and so this was perfect, fast and low stress.  The two little girls were placed on Santa's lap and with Munchkie watching, the youngest looked up at Santa and then began to cry.  As the little girl became increasingly more distressed Munchkie's eyes got bigger and bigger.  She moved to Chris's leg, held onto his pants and slowly began to back up as she continued to stare at the little girl.  Next it was our turn.

Munchkie's Daddy took Munchkie's up and she clung to him.  We tried to get her to warm up to Santa by giving high fives, getting a candy cane,  trying to show Santa a favorite book.  Nothing worked and when we tried to place her on Santa's lap she wouldn't let go of Munchkie's Daddy's shirt.  When we tried to pry her off she began to near hysterically cry.  Definitely not worth it.

We went to walk around the mall for a couple minutes to see if she would warm up later.  We walked down one section, and when we turned around to go back she wouldn't move and actually clung to a nearby object.  We tried to tell her that we had to go that way to leave and she would have none of it.  I had to pick her up and carry her, screaming, back to Macy's where our car was parked. 

On our way out, we happily waved "bye bye" to Santa.  Munchkie then said "Bye Bye Santa" the whole way home.  I said "Munchkie would you consider sitting on Santa's lap for a picture another day?" She replied very adamantly "NO!"

At dinner tonight we put her requested pasta on a Christmas plate.  She ate a couple pieces and then saw Santa on the bottom of the plate.  She said "Santa!" so Munchkie's Daddy pushed the pasta to the side of the plate to fully expose Santa.  After acknowledging that it was Santa, Munchkie pushed the pasta over Santa's face and stated "All done." 

Hopefully this isn't a permanent scar.  Munchkie's Daddy says we need to find some other Christmas figure to get yearly pictures taken with. 

Free Entertainment

Lately Munchkie's Daddy and I are completely amazed at how fast Munchkie is growing and changing.  I think part of it is in the holiday season you reflect to past times and last year she was just a little baby.  We can now almost have conversations with her and it's truly incredible.
My little Munchkie last Christmas.

Somehow I never really imagined myself the parent of a child.  I know this sounds funny.  Since you take each day one at a time, I focused on parenting a baby.  I no longer have a baby.  I have a child.  A talking, walking, opinionated child.  This is part of the reason why it is so incredible to me how much she is changing.

When they are babies you get so excited over their milestones.  You try to capture their second smile on camera (because you saw the first and grabbed the camera hoping for a repeat), their first time rolling over on video.  You get excited about first baths, first full nights of sleep, and first mouthful of tasteless rice cereal.  Then all of the sudden those capturable milestones turn into something that is not so noticeable.

My Grammy sent Munchkie The Elf on the Shelf last year and we've been reading it multiple times a day.  We make her find the elf on every page and it has become almost a Where's Waldo.  Yesterday when I was reading it to her there is a page that says "Please do not touch me. My magic might go, and Santa won't hear all I've seen or I know."  Munchkie started waving her hands saying "no touching no touching."  We read and read and read some more and I never really know how much she is retaining.  I looked at her in amazement and couldn't believe that she realized that there was no touching the Elf.  What a milestone!

There are daily milestones now that I don't even realize are happening.  Munchkie is noticing what is happening around her and trying to copy cat what she sees.  Every day when I get ready she stands on the toilet trying to put makeup on with me. She picks up each thing as I finish and does exactly what I just did.
While Daddy is reading the paper, so does Ana. She loves to be where ever we are doing whatever we do.

She pretends to feed her baby doll and pushes the baby around in the stroller.  She knows the exact place that traffic gets heavy on our way to work and says "Ohcomeon!" because that's what I say when I get frustrated.  Incredible.  I now realize that every day is a treasure.  Every day is an adventure and a new discovery.  I need to learn to be a good role model for the copycat following me.  While I am daily amazed by how incredible it is to see my little girl growing up, I also am daily reminded of how important it is to be a good parent.  These are the times that shape and form a person's life.  I hope that we can help form a wonderful woman of God while we have fun reading and playing.


Set Your Piggies Free part two

I don't claim to be very good at computers.  I definitely can only maneuver my way around my select websites and use the few programs that I understand.  So therefore when I tried to type after posting a video from youtube I couldn't figure it out and so just decided to start another post.

I am learning a lot of lessons from Sesame Street these days.  I swore I would not let my child watch TV.  I swore that my daughter would not know who TV characters were and I would not use TV as a source of entertainment.  Unfortunately it all started one day and due to the massive amounts of books we have read to Munchkie she was already in love with Elmo.  Watching him play music and dance around just sealed the deal.  Now the first thing I hear in the morning is "Elmo!  Mommy?  Elmo?" coming from her crib.  Multiple times a day Munchkie brings me the remote and says "Elmo? Bert? Please?" and when I try to read one of the multiple Sesame Street books we have laying around it works until the book is over.  It's official.  We are addicts.  I try to make myself feel better with the thoughts that we probably read 20-30 books (sometimes the same book 10 times) at least each day.

So today this song was on (along with the I Love My Hair song, which is a huge hit) and it made me think.  "Set your piggies free, set your piggies free."  We cram our feet into tight uncomfortable shoes and suffer through pain because we are supposed to.  We do so many things because we are supposed to we tend to get quite stiff.  We forget that we need to set our piggies free.  We all need to let ourselves go sometimes.  We get so caught up in our day to day schedules that we don't take time to have fun and truly relax. 

Munchkie has shown me how to take pleasure in the small things.  She loves to dance, shake and spin around.  Especially at the end of the day she loves to have dance parties.  I think that is our way of debriefing from our day.  I think sometimes it's good to have Sesame Street remind us to let our piggies go.  We can't necessarily throw our schedules out the window, but maybe we need to let our piggies free from the stress of life.  Maybe we need to just debrief and let ourselves go once in a while.  Have some fun, dance in your living room, sing to some silly songs and ignore the life that causes stress.

Set Your Piggies Free


Decorated Up!

After finishing our Thanksgiving dinner we set up our Christmas tree and decorated for Christmas.  It's incredibly difficult to decorate with the helpful hands of a toddler.

  I love when there are Christmas decorations everywhere.  I just wish that we could have had a real Christmas tree, the smell is unmatchable.

For now I will have to settle for our Charlie Brownesque tree and fake evergreen garland around. 

When we went to church on Sunday the church was filled with Christmas decorations as well the spiritual preparation for Christmas began with the first Sunday of advent.  In the bulletin there were daily bible passages for the next four weeks of advent and so I am passing those along to you.  In case you want to spiritually prepare for Christmas as well.

The First Week
Sunday- Romans 15:4-13 So that you may abound in Hope
Monday- Psalm 78:1-7 They should set their Hope in God
Tuesday- Titus 2:11-14 We wait for the blessed Hope
Wednesday- Romans 5:1-5 Hope does not disappoint us
Thursday- 1 Peter 1:13-21 Set your Hope on the grace Christ brings
Friday- Romans 8:18-25 In Hope we were saved
Saturday- Colossians 1:21-27 Christ in you, Hope of glory

Second Week in Advent
Sunday- Isaiah 52:7-10 The messenger of Peace
Monday- Luke 1:68-79 To guide our feet in the way of Peace
Tuesday- John 14:15-27 The Peace Christ gives
Wednesday- Luke 2:8-14 Peace to God's people on earth
Thursday- Isaiah 26:1-12 The Lord keeps us in Peace
Friday- Philippians 4:4-9 The Peace of God guards hearts and minds
Saturday- Numbers 6:22-27 The Lord's benediction of Peace

Third Week in Advent
Sunday- Isaiah 9:2-7 You have increased our Joy
Monday- Psalm 98:1-9 Joy to the World
Tuesday- Luke 1:8-17 Joy at the birth of John
Wednesday- Luke 1:39-53 The child leaped for Joy
Thursday- 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Joy in Christian fellowship
Friday- John 16:20-24 Your hearts will Rejoice
Saturday- 1 Peter 1:3-9 An indescribable and glorious Joy

Fourth Week in Advent
Sunday- 1 John 4:16-21 We love because God first Loved us
Monday- Lamentation 3:31-33 The abundance of God's steadfast Love
Tuesday- John 3:13-17 God so Loved the world
Wednesday- 1 John 4:7-12 Let us Love one another
Thursday- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 The greatest of these is Love
Friday- 1 Peter 4:7-11 Love covers multitude of sins
Saturday- Ephesians 3:14-19 The love of Christ surpasses knowledge


Thanksgiving For Us.

Since I was supposed to work for Thanksgiving, we had planned on having a Thanksgiving dinner with just the three of us for Saturday.  I was canceled from work on Thanksgiving day so we had a wonderfully chill day hanging out.  Today we woke up and started our Thanksgiving preparations.  Well, I guess Munchkie's Daddy had started his turkey prep the night before, but we really got working this morning.  Munchkie's Daddy had seen "the perfect turkey" in our Food Network magazine and wanted to try it out, of course Food Network can't make anything easy.  As soon as a very whiny Munchkie went to take a nap we started chopping, mixing and baking.  Amazingly Munchkie slept 4-5 hours today, which was the perfect amount of time for our dinner preparations.  We have been talking all night about how amazed we were with the perfection of our thanksgiving feast.  We planned everything perfectly and the turkey, stuffing and potatoes were all finished as precisely the same time.  Everything was amazingly delicious as well as ready and on the table 15 minutes after Munchkie woke up from her nap. 

The turkey was by far one of the best turkeys I have ever had.  I had purchased a frozen turkey breast from the grocery store that was hormone and antibiotic free and after 16 hours of brining, it went into the oven seasoned and rubbed with coconut oil.
The turkey popped when cut and the the juices literally squirted out.  The flavor was incredible and I was amazed at how well Munchkie's Daddy had done with his very first turkey.  He did an amazing job following Alton Brown's instruction and it really make it feel like Thanksgiving.  I followed my great grandma's sausage stuffing recipe and it was also the best stuffing I had ever made.  I have attempted this several times, but it never quite turned out.  Today was my day! 
It was absolutely delicious!  I really don't think my mom could have made it any better.  The only flop we had was the pie.  Munchkie's Daddy wanted a pecan pie and I wanted to try a twist to the standard pecan pie.  It was not good.  Very disappointing.  Obviously we don't really need desert so I'll get over it and eat a few more bites of my healthy sweet potatoes instead.

So now that I've talked about food I want to talk about the things I am thankful for.  Because that it was Thanksgiving is really about, I want to take a minute and be grateful for the blessings in my life.

  • My beautiful family that has grown and strengthened over the last year.
  • Munchkie who brings us constant entertainment and amazement.
  • The house that we have been able to rent, giving us privacy, a safe and quiet environment as well as beautiful views.
  • A new job that I absolutely love and can't believe I get paid to play with kids.
  • Munchkie's Daddy ended up taking a year off of school and is able to focus on our family instead of being stressed by school work.
  • Munchkie's Daddy was able to find a job, while he took a year off from school, during this difficult economy.
  • We have health in both our small family and our larger extended family.
  • We have had many incredible celebrations this year, 1st birthday, 80th birthday, 55th wedding anniversary, high school graduation, and college undergraduate and master's graduations.
  • We have been able to travel several times this year to visit family and friends.
  • We have been able to become more organic, green and ecologically friendly.
I hope everyone had as amazing of a Thanksgiving as we did, on whatever day you celebrated.  What are you grateful for this year?


For Better or Worse

I've been meaning to write about our trip last weekend but we've all been fighting colds and I just didn't even have the energy to do anything.  We traveled to the farm in Canada for Munchkie's Daddy's grandparents anniversary last weekend and spent time with Munchkie's Daddy's side of the family.  The first time I met his side of the family, it was shocking to me how different families can be.  I was warned at that time of the ornery and sarcastic Poppa and the forgetful Nana.  It's only been a few years since that initial meeting and it seems that there has been quite a transformation since then.  I was quite scared of Poppa, he made fun of people and was brutally honest to those around him.  He told me I looked like a flying kangaroo (whatever that is!) and that he sure wouldn't want to see what my mom looked like (indicating that I was bad enough to look at).  Nana was so sweet, telling repetitive stories of when she was young and giving advice from her life experiences. 

Now several years later we have seen the progression of Alzheimer's and how it effects everyone involved.  When I first met them I wondered what brought them together, what made such opposites fall in love and start a family.  As we celebrated their 55 years of marriage I could see the love and tenderness that brought them together.  I was touched at the transformation in a grumpy, ornery old man who spent his life working the farm and promptly being served dinner at 6:30pm every night.  I could see the loving glances and kind eyes turning towards his bride.  I could see that he now has taken the position of caregiver and provider for the wife who is slowly slipping away.  A disease that can slowly creep up and sometimes goes unnoticed for years can change an entire family's dynamic and transform the most stubborn of people.

I think that "back in the day" it was supposed to be the manly thing to avoid emotion and be almost harsh towards family members.  The man of the house was supposed to rule with an iron fist and under no circumstances show any kind of soft spot.  Once these men grow and mature they start to realize the life they have built around themselves.  How can you not be touched at a beautiful family of children, grandchildren, and super cute great granddaughter (wink wink)?  When you add to that an increasingly more dependent wife it's pretty impossible to continue to avoid emotion. 

The love that may not have been so apparent throughout the years now is visible.  It gives me hope that in 50 years Munchkie's Daddy and I can have a marriage that can come through anything.  There are so many things in life that can bring you down, so many things that can pull a family apart.  What dedication and commitment it takes to be married for 55 years.  Most young couples (myself included) say the words "for better or worse" flippantly and don't really stop to realize what those words really mean.  This means financial struggles, difficult times, and when you think you're finally catching a break, your health may fail you.  It is truly a testament of the love for one another and commitment to promises made that can get a couple through all of these situations. 

On my first trip to the farm in Canada I never would have imagined the weekend that we had last weekend.  I never would have thought that the kind sweet Nana would not be able to remember who I was.  I never would have thought Poppa would have such kindness and love in his eyes.  Amazing how much things can change in just a few years.  I hope that I can learn many lessons from the weekend of celebrating 55 years of marriage.


Good Weekend with a Not so Good Ending

So I'm just too upset right now to talk about our weekend.  We spent all weekend traveling and then finally arrived home to New Haven to find our luggage including our car seat was "misplaced."  It was midnight, we were all snot nosed, feverish, tired and sick from all the unhealthy food that comes with traveling.  I did my absolute best to keep my self under control, to not cry or yell.  Through clenched teeth I asked if there was a car seat for us to use since we had no way of getting Munchkie home.  The employee produced a car seat that looked like it was straight from Saved by the Bell, I'm sure that Kelly's little siblings must have used it. 
No matter how hard we tried we couldn't get it to be secured in the back seat very tightly.  We were too tired and too drained to fight, just wanting to get home and into our own bed.  When I woke up with morning I looked at the car seat, called Evenflo and then emailed US Airways.
Here is my email, hopefully written in a calm moment, not a moment of anger.  Maybe once I get my belongings back I will be able to talk about my thoughts over the weekend.

My husband and I were traveling with our infant daughter this weekend to and from Canada for a family event.  I first have to say that our flights were some of the smoothest flights I have been on and the flight attendants were all exceptionally nice and accommodating.  However, after booking our tickets my husband called US Airways to inform them that our infant daughter would be traveling with us to and from Canada and asked if there were any additional fees or people to call and was told that there were none. Once we were checking in at the Toronto airport, we were asked to pay a fee including taxes for our daughter.  Although this fee was minimal, it is very frustrating that we had asked ahead of time and been told there were no fees.  Next, while we had over an hour and half in Philadelphia my husband went into one of the restaurants by our gate to watch a football game while we waited.  While in there, he noticed several baggage handlers standing watching the game as well.  He commented that he was surprised so many employees could take breaks at the same time on a Sunday night with decreased overall staff, or that they were not doing what they should have been doing.  While he was sitting in the restaurant I was sitting in the gate with my sleeping daughter in my arms, waiting for our 10:50pm flight.  A US Airway employee unnecessarily yelled down the terminal which woke my daughter who was then unable to fall back asleep.    While boarding our flight my husband was asked to gate check his backpack, which included two laptops among other personal items.  When we arrived to New Haven, when picking up his backpack it was found several feet from the cart where the other gate checked items were.  We had specifically carried on these items to prevent damages and were not pleased with the lack of respect for our fragile belongings.  When we went to collect our checked baggage we found that neither of our items had come with us to New Haven, along with several other fellow fliers.  l was very upset by the fact that our car seat was among the items misplaced.  As this is our only car seat we had no way to bring out daughter home after a long day of traveling.  I asked the US Airways employee who was assisting us if there was a car seat for our use or a rental car seat and was given a car seat to use.  To start we were unable to secure it into our car tightly enough to be safe.  When we arrived home I called the Evenflo number (1-800-233-5921) found on the car seat to find out if there had been recalls regarding this car seat.  I found that the date of manufacture was February 16, 1999.  When I reached an Evenflo  employee and gave the model number (217198 P1) with date of manufacture (16FEB99) I was told that the car seat expires after 6 years and the car was not legal to be used or given for use.  I was extremely upset with the fact I was given an expired and unsafe car seat to replace my carefully researched and government approved car seat.  First I want an immediate discontinuation of the use of this and other expired car seat to prevent injury to any child and replacement car seats that are approved to be provided to your patrons who have had their car seats misplaced by your baggage handlers.  Next I want to know how this will be prevented from happening in the future.  I am extremely dissatisfied and will be recommending our family and friends to choose another airline to prevent them from having a horrible experience with US Airways such as ours.


Making Huge Strides

Oh my goodness, I can't even believe how crazy busy we have been!  When I saw how long it's been since I've posted I couldn't even believe it, I thought it was the day before yesterday.  We are planning a trip to Canada to see Munchkie's Daddy's family for his grandparents 55th wedding anniversary.  It was a pretty last minute trip, so we have been rushing around trying to get everything planned and prepared.  I had to beg several people to switch with me at work so I could have this time off, and beggers can't be choosers, so needless to say, I'm exhausted. 

In the middle of all of that, we realized that since we would be flying for the first time, Munchkie actually needed a passport.  Well that made for a fun trip to the passport agency this past Monday.  Amazingly it only took an hour in the actual passport agency.  The drive however was a different story.  Several hours in a car was not how I like to spend quality time with Munchkie.  I can only listen to "Mr. Sun Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me!"  so many times.  Every time we get into the car, she starts saying "sun? sun?" until we turn on the Little People Go to the Beach CD. 

Munchkie is so strong willed and independent and is becoming more so each day.  This morning we dropped Munchkie's Daddy off at work after picking me up from work and took her to the babysitter.  Instead of her usual crying and clinging to me, she demanded to "Galk" or walk by herself to the door.  After climbing the stairs to the front door, the babysitter came downstairs to get Munchkie and she just walked right on in.  Said "Bye Bye Mama!" and didn't even look back.  The babysitter and I looked at each other and shrugged in surprise.  I crouched down and said "Munchkie give Mommy a kiss!" and she turned around to come give me a kiss, but turned right around to start climbing the stairs to their apartment.  What huge strides she has made in getting dropped off at the babysitters!  I'm amazed by her growing independence and at the same time feel twinges of heartbreak that she's no longer my little baby anymore.  She's a "little person" now and lets us know it all the time. 

Who is it harder for to drop Munchkie off at the babysitters? Me? or her?  Today, definitely me.  I will have to work on this.


Sesame Street on a Saturday Morning

I never wanted Munchkie to watch TV, in fact I made it quite clear to our families that there would be no TV watching.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV until after age 2 and then minimal TV after that.  I wanted to be a good mom and follow their recommendations.  Obviously the AAP never had to work a night shift and then try to stay up to watch their kids the next day.  It all started with me being exhausted and I opened up an Elmo DVD someone had given Munchkie for her birthday.  The rules went downhill after that.  She just loved Elmo so much that she begs for him all day long.  She loves that he has music and singing on Elmo's world.  She is usually standing in the living room dancing along with Elmo.  So before Elmo's world one day there was a song about hair and Munchkie loved it.  Shortly after we heard about the song on NPR.  It was a beautiful story about why the song was written, check it out here.  So I did a quick youtube search and found the video.  Now Munchkie asks "hair? hair?" multiple times a day.  You know how great youtube is at recommending similar videos to watch so this morning we went through and watched several "music" videos from Sesame Street. 

I love Saturday mornings with nothing to do anyway, making breakfast, waking Munchkie's Daddy up with a fresh cup of coffee and hanging out in our pj's.  We were all sitting on the couch crowded around my computer watching Sesame Street videos.  I love spending time like this with my family.  All cuddled up together, dancing and laughing.  It's so much fun.  Munchkie's Daddy and I looked over Munchkie's head at each other and just smiled because it's so heartwarming to see how happy Munchkie gets when two of her favorite things are combined- Elmo and music. 

Singing "I Love My Hair"

As much as I don't want to admit, I am really starting to like these Sesame Street videos.  They are quite fun and I really don't mind them as much as I thought.  I was not looking forward to children's shows and music, but I'm finding that they are kind of funny.  They bring a smile to your face and put you in a good mood.  Here are some of our favorites to put a smile on your face and make you feel better about yourself on this beautiful Saturday.


Friday Night and No Plans

It's amazing how much life can change in just a short amount of time.  It's Friday night and I'm sitting on the couch in my pjs watching DVRed tv shows.  Exciting beyond belief I know.  On a good note Munchkie went to bed early, but the other side of that is that it's 7:15 on a Friday night and we're all in for the night.  Before Munchkie came along it's not like we went crazy on the weekend.  In fact we usually didn't do too much, we're not really the partying type.  However, it's the thing you can't have that you want the most.  I think that I just always associate staying in on the weekend with being old and I don't want to feel old (the truth is that I don't really even have the energy to do anything). 

I wonder sometimes how this happened.  That I am ok with staying home on a Friday night. Tonight I felt like I just needed to go out and do something.  Anything.  I had cabin fever but knew that if we went out there would be meltdowns because it was so close to bedtime.  I guess that is part of being a mom, you stay at home most of the time to avoid public meltdowns.  So as much as I want to be doing something somewhere other than my house, I will sit here watching this week's shows while Munchkie peacefully sleeps upstairs. 

I am learning to adjust to the lack of independence and freedom that comes with motherhood.   There are not spur of the moment, rush out the door to go do something times anymore.  You can't just go where you please, when you please.  I think it takes a lot of planning and preparation along with organization to be a mom.  We can plan ahead and go do something tomorrow, but that means adjusting naptime, making sure there are full bellies (Munchkie's Daddy is just as bad as Munchkie at being grumpy on an empty stomach), diaper bag is well stocked and a bath is taken the night before. 

I guess that it doesn't necessarily make me old to stay in.  It just means that I am a mom now and I have responsibilities that change the way you do things.  I will have to push off my need to go do something until tomorrow and on that note I better go start planning tomorrow's activities.....


1,000 page views!

I worked last night and am working again tonight, but just happened to check my blog and saw that there were exactly 1,000 page views.  Wow!  I started writing because I'm addicted to reading blogs and wanted an outlet to share as well.  I really enjoy blogspot because there is a Stats section that tells you all about your page views.  I know that there are have been page views in Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, South Africa, and Russia.  Pretty amazing isn't it?  Both that there have been international views and that I can know this.

As I sit in my horrid blue scrubs typing this Munchkie and Munchkie's Daddy are playing in the lliving room and the giggles are too much for me to take.  Munchkie keeps running to me to "protect" her from the Saur-Saur (dinosaur) that is coming to get her.  I love her giggles and it does not make me motivated at all to go into work. I wish that I could just stay here and induce Munchkie giggles all night.  I realize though that I need to go to work so that Munchkie has a living room to giggle in. Apparently this is what life is about, doing things we don't necessarily like because we have to.

I enjoy that I have somewhere to write out my thoughts and how my day is going.  I like to talk about Munchkie and I think that there are actually people who like to read about our lives.  Thank you to all of my blog readers who have looked at my page and added to those 1,000 page views.  I will continue to write about my life as Munchkie Mama, Munchkie's Daddy's wife and a nurse and I hope you continue to read.  Have a wonderful day!



I haven't been doing as well keeping up with my blog posts because every second Munchkie free is spent working on our Christmas presents.

Speaking of Christmas, our mail box has been stuffed full with holiday toy catalogs since November 1st.  The first day, the Target catalog slipped out of the handful of mail and Munchkie grabbed it up.  She immediately went to the couch and sat there flipping each page.  As each page turned she ooooh and aaaaah.  This catalog provided her with such entertainment and I was in awe of the genius marketing of Target.  She has flipped through this catalog an uncountable number of times now and it has provided literally hours of entertainment in our house.

The funniest part about this is that Munchkie has absolutely no idea what she is looking at.  She gets so excited and searches each page for what she recognizes. Exclamations of "doggy!", "kitty!", "car!", "Elmo!" "Saur-saur! (dinosaur)" can be heard from almost every room in our house.  Do you think that Target's marketing department envisioned my daughter spending endless hours pouring over their catalog with absolutely no interest in the actual toys?

I think one of my favorite parts of this age is how exciting every small thing can be.  Isn't childhood joy amazing and inspiring?  I wish that I could have such enthusiasm and excitement over a bow, or a pink toothbrush with Elmo and Abby on it.  Shouldn't we all take lessons from these small children?  Shouldn't we look around us each moment of each day and be so thankful for every small thing?  If we took the time to acknowledge the small things, I think we would each have the joyful and carefree life we wish we could have.  Maybe instead of focusing on what material possessions we "need" or want we can take a lesson from Munchkie and get excited for what we know and can recognize.

This season of giving I'm going to try to look around me for the small blessings instead of focusing on all of the things I have to get done.  Thanks Munchkie for such a valuable lesson!


Is it Munchkie or Mommy?

Our babysitter's son says that all Munchkie does is dance all day.  She looooves to dance!  He said that their family is a huge family of dancers.  So I emailed my mom and asked her to send a few pictures to me.  There is no doubt who's child Munchkie is! There was no nursery switch on the day she was born.  Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Is it Munchkie..... or Mommy?

The distraught ladybug is Munchkie
The overtired Raggidy Ann is Mommy
The joyful tapper is Mommy
The couch dancer is Munchkie


I've Been Thinking About Trying Gluten-Free

So I've been thinking about going gluten-free just to try it out.  I've heard so many people say that they feel so much better once they go gluten free and I just want to see if it's true.  The problem is that I don't even know where to begin!  I really need to sit down and spend hours doing research and see what all gluten is in and then what I can use as alternates.  Who knew there was gluten in soy sauce?  Not me!  I got this blog post today and and thankful that she has done some of the research.  I will have to figure out when I can try this out, it will take some days to get it all straight I think.

Food for thought: Katie Learns About Gluten

Does anyone have any input about going gluten-free?  Any ideas?  Research that you want to share?  I'm and blank slate here!


A Change of Colors

A few weeks ago I started to notice a change of colors in stores.  The colors normally seen in the stores this time of year are warm tones- oranges, browns, reds and golds.  These are beautiful colors that make my heart warm.

I have decided that living on the east coast has made me appreciate warm fall tones because they are all around as the trees turn.  While these colors make me feel warm and happy inside, there are two other colors that really make me smile.

Red and green.

I LOVE Christmas.  As Munchkie and I were walking through the aisles of a store I just had to laugh, there are shelves of Halloween candy and costumes with Christmas trees and decorations just next to them.  We are just so anxious we can't even wait for one season to be over because we are moving onto the next.

I'm ok with skipping Halloween completely, so seeing Christmas trees instead of skeletons doesn't bother me (I am quite sad that we skip over Thanksgiving and the season of being thankful for what we have).  I start to think about Christmas months before I want to admit.  I used to love Christmas as a child because I knew that I would get presents, but as I get older I love the season because of what happens during the Christmas season.  People become nice, friendly, selfless.  The world becomes a better place when the colors red and green begin to show.  I love giving gifts to people, baking delicious things, spices and sweets wafting in the air.  I rounded an aisle to see the Christmas section being set up in the store and bent over to talk to Munchkie.  I said "do you know what season is coming?  Christmas!  You don't remember what Christmas is, but it's so exciting.  We have to remember why it's exciting, Jesus came as a little baby on Christmas day."  To which she responded in a very excited tone "Baby? Jesus?"  She may not get it quite yet, but I am looking forward to showing her how wonderful this season of giving is.

I've been working for a while on our homemade gifts for this year, but this week I realized I need to get serious and can think of little else. I came up with the last part of our gift today and immediately ordered online the supplies I would need.   We decided that instead of buying family and friends something just to buy something, we are going to give homemade gifts.  While sometimes they might be perishable and only last a little while, we put our thought, love, and time into it.  I know this means more than a random material possession.  I can't wait to lovingly put these gifts together with Munchkie.  I am looking forward to this time of making, baking, giving and sharing.  This year I will be teaching Munchkie, the sponge, all about what this season of Christmas means.  Bring on the red and green.  I am so ready!


Revision of Granola Bars

I made a new batch of granola bars last night for Munchkie's Daddy to take to work with him.  I think that they turned out better this time and Munchkie's Daddy says he likes them better.  He's not a sweet person so when I buy him bars he usually doesn't like them because they are so sweet.  He also said that they were very filling and held him over until lunch today, he wasn't hungry by 10:30 like he usually is.  I guess that's a good thing!  So here is my revised recipe.  You can look here for my previous post with recipe and here for Katie of's recipe that I adapted.  The basic jist is that you need 1 cup flour, 4-4/12 cups oatmeal or comparable ingredients (quinoa, puffed rice, slivered almonds), you need a sweetener which I substitute 3/4 cup applesauce (only using 1/4 cup honey), and then 2 cups of "mix-ins" of your choice.  This last time I cut out the butter without a problem, I think because the quinoa is so moist. You can use all kinds of things for mix-ins, coconut, chocolate, any kind of dried fruit or nuts, whatever sounds good to you.

1 cup oatmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup puffed rice cereal
1 cup dry quinoa
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup dry cranberries
2 cups water
3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and lightly grease a 9x13 pan
  2. Cook the 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water as directed on package.
  3.  I crushed up the slivered almonds in a ziplock bag until they were crumbs and little pieces.
  4. Mix together applesauce, honey, vanilla, baking soda.
  5. Add oatmeal, flour, quinoa, almonds and then puffed rice.
  6. Last add the "mix-ins"- cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  7. Press the mixture into the pan, pressing firmly with your hands to ensure it is tightly in the pan.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until light brown on top.
  9. Let sit for 10 minutes
  10. After 10 minutes, cut into 20 Quaker Chewy granola bar size
  11. Do not take out of pan until completely cooled.
  12. Store in an airtight container.
And drum roll-
Nutrition facts:
Serving size 1 bar, servings per batch 20
Calories 141
Fat: 5.1g
Saturated Fat 0.6g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g
Sodium 66g
Total Carbohydrates 20.5g
Dietary Fiber 2.3g
Sugars 4.9g
Protein 4.5g

Not so bad!


    Cleaning is not so fun

    When I was college I used to love cleaning.  My roommate would come into our room and ask which class I had a test in because my method of procrastination was to clean.  I also made a little bit of money cleaning a few people's homes because I enjoyed doing it.  Then I graduated and had a whole house to clean.  I did not enjoy that so much. 

    Obviously cleaning is something we have to do, but I just don't enjoy putting elbow grease into anything, as evidenced by my earlier post on not liking dishes I would rather just put it off.  Now I'm trying to make my own cleaning products to help clean better without the elbow grease or the fumes.  This is the research that I've put together to create my own cleaning products.

    1 cup white vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

    All Purpose Cleaner

    • 1/4 cup white vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 gallon (1 liter) hot water
    • a few drops of essential oil (optional)
       Daily Shower Spray
      • 1/3 cup rubbing alcohol
      • 1/3 cup hydrogen peroxide
      • 2 squirts Dr. Bronner's
      • 1/3 cup white vinegar
      • few drops tea tree oil
      • few drops essential oil (optional)
      I really like Dr. Bronner's and so I use it for a lot of things.  I have an old dish soap bottle that foams and so I put a few squirts of Dr. Bronner's and fill the rest with water.  I use this to clean my my dishes.  I also use Dr. Bronner's diluted in a spray bottle to do some cleaning.  

      I also use vinegar for a lot of things.  I add it in the dishwasher as a rinse agent to prevent buildup from forming on my dishes.  I use it with my laundry in place of a fabric softener.  The best thing about vinegar- it has antibacterial properties AND you can buy a gallon for under $2. 

      We also have almost eliminated paper products.  I say almost because I have quite a bit of paper napkins and I'm not going to just throw them away, so we're using them up.  I also just recently found a hidden roll of paper towel that Munchkie's Daddy had because he just couldn't handle the thought of paper free cleaning.  I read Simple Mom's article about a paperless kitchen a while ago and wanted to try it out.  She said the key is to make sure there are rags handy.  For us there had to be rags handy and a laundry basket handy.  I keep rags of different textures and sizes for all different kinds of cleaning in a bucket on the counter, under the paper towel holder, so that it is easily accessible for spills or cleanups.  I then have the laundry basket sitting out that is just for dirty rags and towels so they can go right into the basket.  I wash all of the rags every couple days on the sanitary cycle of our washing machine. 
      We've now been doing this for several months and it's been working out really well.  Between our homemade cleaners and rags we have eliminated several different expenses while helping the environment out a little bit.  This doesn't really mean that I enjoy cleaning any more, but at least I can be a little creative while I'm doing it.  Just a few more ways I can be green, economical and of course, clean.