Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Friday, October 9, 2015

My Top Ten Most Useful Products - Updated!

I originally wrote this blog entry back in 2012 and decided it was time to update!  I didn't change a thing other than adding two new ones at the end - guess useful is useful!

My readers and friends know that I'm OCD about everything, but especially about shopping.  It's not that I'm a compulsive shopper... I don't overbuy (believe it or not).  Rather, I obsess over every.  single.  purchasing decision and then I take to blogging and posting about it.  I've been doing this for years; I once spent close to three hours reading and re-reading reviews of every single kind of measuring cup that exists - on Amazon.com, BedBathandBeyond.com, and Target.com.  I bought the perfect set and then wrote a review that 353 people found helpful.  And it *is* better than the others.  Wondering how?  Among other things, the 1/4 cup is properly weighted to sit up on its own and the circumferences on all the cups are slightly lower than on other sets, so even the 1 cup will scoop in a canister, and not make a mess when you level off the extra.  Cooking is more fun with these.

Anyway, here are a few products I consider to be worth every last penny.

(1) Amazon Prime.  For $99/year you get free shipping on almost anything you could ever need, from toiletries to food to baby products and more, with Amazon Prime.  Let me tell you, it pays for itself many times over.  First off, you'll never need to go to Target, Walgreens, Babies R Us, Kids R Us, or anywhere other than the mall for your own clothes ever again.  A lot of people don't consider wear-and-tear when they think about driving their car but the federal reimbursement rate is $.55 cents per mile, and gas is only getting pricier.  Each trip to Target costs me 40 minutes in the car and 14 miles (so about $8.00 according to the feds).  I would probably need to go once every 2-3 weeks as a mom without Amazon prime.  Say I went every 3 weeks for a year, and multiply by $8.00/trip.  That's $140.  And that's just Target!!  So considering that it literally pays for itself, you're left with all the time and hassle (and pollution!) you'll avoid by pointing and clicking on your item.  GOLDEN.  Bam, your life is so much easier.

(2) A Rockin' Umbrella Stroller.  I'm talking nothing less than a Maclaren, but if you find a sale go for the Uppababy G-Luxe.  This stroller weighs just 11 lbs... about as much as a newborn named Matthew.  SO easy to pop in and out of your trunk, and folding and unfolding is a DREAM.  It's also a one-handed push.  So if you need to run into a store, you pop it out, pop baby in, and you've got a free arm for your grocery basket.  It also rolls well enough to do walks anywhere, so you'll never have to lug your heavy jogging stroller over to a friend's house.  The cup holder for your coffee is worth its weight in gold (obviously).  And don't forget to calculate resale value into your stroller purchases... you'll get a decent return on this someday, and you can subtract that from the sticker price.

(3) The Best Floor Steamer You Can Find.  Still mopping?  How would you like to mop your floor in 1/5 of the time?  Trust me, you'll NEVER go back.  No more getting out soap and waiting for a bucket to fill.  No more going back and forth to the bucket with the mop.  Just sweep, plug this baby in, run it over your floors, and you're done.  My kitchen floor takes me about 10 minutes to sweep and mop.  Bonus:  no more cleaning chemicals for your baby to crawl on and then suck his hands.  We got the Shark "Vac then Steam"(then on sale at Costco).  They don't make that model anymore, and we never used the "Vac" part, so I now recommend the Bissell for its excellent reviews.



(4) A Kindle.  Okay I cheated and my mom gave me her old one.  But these are truly worth buying, and have come way down in price since back when I first wrote this blog entry in 2012!  Especially if you have a baby - you can read while nursing without needing to hold a book open, you can half-read while you play with your baby (until they get older), you can read on a plane even traveling "infant in arms" because you don't need both hands, you can read more easily on a machine at the gym, etc.


(5) Key Finders.  Probably going to be my new baby shower gift.  They should hand these out at the hospital.  Found them out of desperation after the 3rd time I searched through a very stinky kitchen garbage can for our keys.  Free shipping if you have Amazon Prime!

Especially if you have a toddler, best $20 (or so) you will ever spend.

(6) Laundry Sorter with Removable Bags.  Space is at a premium for us but we still made room for this thing.  Now I can see at a glance what load needs to be done (whites, brights, or darks), grab the bag, and head to the laundry room (down two flights of stairs in our basement).  Bonus:  It's a LOT easier to carry a bag than a basket, especially downstairs (and then back up) - safer too.  Double bonus:  The bar overhead on ours isn't very pretty but it enables us to keep more hanging clothes in our master bedroom - key, when you live in a 2-bedroom apartment with almost no closet space!
Love.  It.
(7) A DSLR Camera.  Oh, we had to save up for this.  I believe it was my birthday present from parents, in-laws, and husband and then some.  But this is another purchase that pays for itself.  And  the new version is now LESS than what we paid for ours way back when - click here to check it out!  We've never once paid for professional photos (update:  We did start these, when my son turned 3).  While we certainly still would if we could, we really had to choose.  We chose the camera and have never looked back.  I love that we have such high-quality photos from all ages and all trips, with all family members and with backgrounds that are meaningful to us and will bring back so many memories over the years.  After a *lot* of research we settled on the Canon over the Nikon.  I can tell you why, if you're in the market.



(8) The Libman Soap Wand.  I've been through all the other brands and they all either leak soap or require you to repeatedly press a worthless button to get soap out.  This is the one to get.  Makes doing dishes a breeze - you don't have to bother getting soap out or opening it.  I also wear some cheap kitchen gloves (from the grocery store, or often available as an "add-on" item on Amazon) - that way the water can get scorching hot and it doesn't damage my skin.  Hot water + this thing = dishes done in a snap, even the ones that can't go in the dishwasher.
(9) A Backpack Diaper Bag.  Nobody ever listens to me on this one, because they want something "cute."  But if you're a SAHM, believe me, the last thing you want to do 24/7 is have your baby on one hip while you're balancing something else entirely on your other shoulder.  I had the Columbia Trekster Diaper Bag, but they don't make it anymore.  The newer diaper bag backpacks look a lot better, actually.  It almost makes me want to have another kid.  No.  No no no.
Those were the days
Looks awesome.  No for real. See more like it here.

(10)  Lemon/Lime Juicer.  Best $1.99 I ever spent.  If you're serious about cooking, you're going to end up juicing lemons and limes - and there is a **major** difference between fresh squeezed juice and that nasty stuff in the plastic bottles.  You'll need lemon juice for salads like the divine Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing, or in various cakes, cookies, and glazes.  I've also discovered that a little fresh lemon juice stirred well with sugar can really jazz up a fruit salad - add some crushed mint leaves; even better.  Lime juice you'll need for various tex-mex dishes and meat marinades.  Lemons and limes are a major pain to juice without a juicer, but even the very cheapest juicer will make the task a piece of cake.  Ours (like the one pictured) is apparently too simple for Amazon but here's one that looks great - for $5, measures the juice and strains seeds.
Ours is too simple for Amazon - snagged it in the grocery store.
(11)  I'll end this piece with a list of other kitchen gadgets I would never want to live without.
  • cookie dough scoop - scoop cookie dough (and muffin batter!) 5x as fast and have more even cookies, wish I had invented this one.  
  • Mini muffin tins for Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies - an absolute all-time fave.  
  • An immersion blender for Curried Butternut Squash & Pear Soup - the recipe that is the staple of our autumns.  
  • Glass "tupperware" like these or for babies, these - so much safer than plastic and so much nicer to use - goes straight in the oven or microwave. 
  • I also think any serious cook needs a Le Crueset.  Mine was my Christmas gift from Dear Husband last year - his idea, kudos to him!  
  • And a *really wide and flat* "pancake spatula," like this.  
  • Oh oh OH!  And I could NOT live with out our egg cooker - best $20(ish) ever spent!  Hardboiled eggs for all our salads and for egg salad and deviled eggs (it also soft-boils and poaches) at the push of a button - and they always peel easily!  
  • Finally, our newest addition:  The Griddler.  Best gift EVER EVER EVER.  It is crazy-easy to use and it grills perfectly indoors, or use the flat side as a griddle for the easiest pancake flipping ever!  

The Griddler.  

Egg Cooker.  Best $20 (or so) you'll ever spend.

And there you have it, my master list.  If anyone else has products they can't live without, I'd LOVE to hear about them!

And if you've been following me for awhile now, please join me in my new Facebook group where we all post our best-find deals and coupon codes on high-end kids' and women's toys and clothing!  Click here for the group!



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Married to Medicine is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

This soup is my #1 go-to for fall, the very first thing I do when the leaves start to change color.  It's healthy - the base is fruit and veggies - my kids love it, and every friend I've ever had who has tried it has raved about it.  It's somewhat of a reblog, as I covered it a few years ago, but I've got better pics now and the old version is buried in a personal entry; this deserves its own show.

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash
3 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp fresh minced ginger root (produce section) **
1 tbsp curry powder **
1 tsp salt
4 cups chicken broth (tip: use Better than Bouillon instead of broth, and add an extra tsp)
2 bartlett pears - allow to ripen so they are soft and sweet
1/2 cup cream
Parmesan or a dollop of sour cream to top (optional)

** I tried this recipe without the ginger and curry and I might like it EVEN better that way.  Still very sweet and savory, but with more of a classic fall flavor.

The finished product... fall in a bowl.

(1) Roast the squash by slicing in half and removing seeds, and placing flat side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Roast in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.  When done, remove pulp from peel and set aside for later use.  TIP:  Use an ice cream scooper to get the pulp out - EASY!!!!

I made a double batch; highly recommend, freezes perfectly.
(2) Melt butter in large soup pot.  Stir in onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt, and saute until onion is soft. Add chicken broth (or add 4 cups of water and 5 tsp of Better than Bouillon) and bring to a boil.  Add pear and squash and simmer until pear is soft (about 30 mins).

Peeling and mincing the ginger root.
Love, LOVE ginger.
Sauteeing butter, onion, garlic, ginger, curry, salt.
Cored.
Easy pear dicing.
SO easy.  Scoop up with spatula and add to soup.
(3) Here's the labor of this recipe:  If you don't have an immersion blender, you need to transfer the soup to a food processor or blender in batches and blend until soup is pureed.  I highly recommend getting an immersion blender though.  They're not very expensive and they can pay for themselves easily when you use them to make your own baby food, smoothies, or other soups - find it on Amazon - makes a great gift too.

Immersion blender.  Perfect for making your own soups, baby food, or smoothies.

(4) Return soup to pot.  Stir in cream (or milk).  Reheat.  I like to serve with a dollup of sour cream or a sprinkling of cheese in the middle.  So fancy right?

Double batch.  It freezes perfectly in any container.

Enjoy.  Again and again :)

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"Married to Medicine" is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Cowboy Caviar": My Most Asked-For Recipe

Since part of my blogging goal is to capture our best-loved recipes, it's about time I devoted a ditty to "Cowboy Caviar."

My mom discovered this gem years ago at a party and we've been making it ever since.  People love it and I'm always asked multiple times for the recipe.  It's especially great for summer gatherings, since it's cool and refreshing.  I've altered the original to up the flavor punch and I'm telling you - it's fantastic.  Give it a try - your friends will thank you!  Just be sure to leave at least 4 hours for the ingredients to jive together before serving!

* This recipe is very forgiving, so alter it however you like.  Sometimes I add canned diced tomatoes (drained), cilantro, or avocado.

Cowboy Caviar

For the Dressing:

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
cracked pepper (however much you think)

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Simmer until sugar is dissolved.  Cool.

For the Rest of It:

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white or shoe peg corn, drained and rinsed
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 small jar pimentos, drained (optional)
1 small jar (or however much you think) diced jalapeƱo
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 green pepper, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
Additional salt, to preference
Tostitos Scoops

Combine all ingredients, stir in cooled dressing.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours.  Serve drained, or with a slotted spoon.  

Sorry these pics aren't the greatest, but you get the idea.

For this batch, I added some orange pepper.  You can add anything you want, really.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

No, breastfeeding my children did not prevent them from developing childhood leukemia. But that sure would be nice.

Sigh.

I just have to point this out because it is a classic, **classic** example of how the "benefits" of breastfeeding get exaggerated.  As my readers know, I exclusively breastfed both of my children until they self-weaned.  We used pumped milk in bottles only a handful of times ever, and I was just lucky my kids even took bottles on those occasions.  But knowledge is power and I'm all for empowering women.  And a lack of true knowledge about breast-feeding can and does cause severe feelings of guilt and inadequacy in moms who aren't able to swing it.  Because of things like this...

Earlier today, an article came across my AAP SmartBrief, "Study:  Breastfed Children Have Slightly Lower Risk of Childhood Leukemia."  As with all things statistical, there were many ways to present the findings.  As with all things media, the most dramatic way was the one up front:

"Now a new analysis finds that breastfed babies also have a 14% to 19% lower risk of pediatric leukemia, the most common childhood cancer."

Wow, that sounds significant doesn't it?  I mean, 14% and 19%, that's huge, right?  Not so much.  Later in the article a more accurate description is provided:

"If the study's conclusions are correct, breastfeeding would decrease a child's risk of leukemia from 0.005% to 0.004%, Brown said."

Now, don't get me wrong.  As a parent, I'm all for reducing risk - even risk so minuscule as to be negligible.  But here's the kicker - even if the human mind could wrap itself around the difference between .004% and .005% - which it can't - this study now making the internet rounds did not control for a single socioeconomic or environmental factor!  Literally NOT ONE (you can read a more thorough analysis here)!!!!!  And it goes (or should go) without saying that socioeconomic factors are highly confounding in any discussion of breast-feeding benefits because women with better resources are more likely to succeed with breastfeeding (and less likely to smoke... and more likely to read to their children... it is truly endless).  I can get you citations on that, or you can watch some Teen Mom.

On top of that - if we can even reach any higher to pile on one more thing - childhood leukemia has already been tied to socioeconomic factors.  Check out this study showing a higher risk for children who's fathers smoke or have high-risk jobs.  So a study that failed to control for such factors, and then found a whopping .001% benefit for breastfeeding, is simply not worth giving a second glance.  And any "professional" passing off this study as legitimate or noteworthy is - ironically - lacking in knowledge of her field.

So please everybody, let's stop with the exaggeration already.  I like a pat on the back just as much as the next person... but not when it comes at the expense of some mom out there struggling so hard to nurse her baby and failing, and thinking she's increasing his chance of childhood cancer.  Or worse:  The mothers out there who weren't able to breastfeed, who's children did develop childhood leukemia, and who are now sick with a guilt there is absolutely no basis for them to feel.

I would give anything to prevent him from developing childhood cancer.  Who wouldn't?
But alas, I had to settle for mild respiratory infections (read:  colds) and GI bugs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Our First "Starbucks Walk" of the Season, 2015

I have to capture today, because

it

was

perfect.



All winter and early-spring on I eagerly await the first day warm enough to take my kids on what we call a "Starbucks Walk."  We live right off a glorious bike trail and it's just perfect that there's a Starbucks 25 minutes out, and a fabulous park on the way back.  I can't even begin to estimate how many "Starbucks Walks" we've been on since my son was born - hundreds, for sure.  This was our go-to almost every single day until he was old enough for preschool.  And our salvation on sooooooo many weekend days when Mark was working and we needed something to fill the time.

Because it's impossible to do a "Starbucks" walk during the winter, the first walk of spring has become one way I mark the passing of time.  Today, breathing in the sweet smells of a world once again teeming with life, I found myself flooded with memories.   I can hardly believe how much time and life have passed since those first few walks with infant Matthew.  Just a smattering of the strongest memories marking the time...

  • Venturing outside, on my own for the first time with Matthew, feeling excited and brave but also nervous for what might happen when he needed to eat or needed a diaper change;
  • The time with toddler Matthew on our way home one evening when he first noticed the real moon after reading about it in storybooks - he practically hyperventilated he was so thrilled;
  • A growing sense that these walks would be ever more complete with another little companion tagging along, and happy anticipation for that time;
  • Pushing toddler Matthew and our new "B'ay Kwehr" in the double stroller, thrilled that Matthew loved Claire so much he insisted on riding in the bottom with her.
2013.
2013.

As special as this tradition has become to me, I really had no way of knowing what, if anything, my kids thought of it or would one day remember of it.  So I was pretty thrilled last night when I mentioned to Matthew that it would finally be warm the next day and he immediately asked to go on a Starbucks walk.  How cool to know that at least one child was now excitedly anticipating with me!

It started out something like this - Claire is still just learning how to scoot, and she sometimes gets sad that her brother is too far ahead.


Happy reunions, complete with hugs, are always had when we catch up:


So glad I grabbed my camera this morning - would not have wanted to miss this series:







Hooray!  We stumbled on a huge dandelion patch, Matthew's favorite since before he could even walk.  We picked some dandelions together...


And some apart.








And, of course:  The final destination!







On our way back, Matthew got a haircut.



And Claire danced.






... and there were a few more happy reunions...



And one very, very happy mommy.  Even Claire's first experience with "mean girls" at the gym today couldn't take away my glow for long - especially because the first thing Matthew said to Mark when Mark walked in the door for dinner was "Daddy!  Some girls at the gym were being mean to 'Kwehr'!  And I was in my swimming class so I couldn't help her!"  For.  Sigh.

Matthew and Claire, I hope you know that you make our hearts glow every single day.  Both your father and I feel so lucky to have you as our children.  We delight in each of you and especially in your relationship with each other.  We are shocked, blown away, delighted, and just jaw-dropingly happy that you've turned out to be such good buddies for each other (so far, anyway!).  I'll close this with a few of lyrics from one of the songs you often request at bedtime:

"A million tomorrows shall all pass away, e'er I forget all the joys that are mine today."