With three kids, and a full time job, I’m constantly looking for the fastest ways to get dinner on the table. And, now, when you throw sports into the mix, I need it even faster than the fastest. I need it in an instant.

Enter the Instant Pot.

Honestly, as I type this, I wish I was given this pot for free and then asked to review it. I was not. I paid full, Prime Day, price for it. But, it’ll be worth it. I hope. My pot got delivered (along with 215,000 other lucky Prime Day shoppers) 4 days ago and I still haven’t used it.

So, if you’re as intimidated as I was after you received your Prime Day Instant Pot, don’t worry, I’ve created a handy guide:

10 Easy Steps to Start Using the Instant Pot

Step One: Remove the Instant Pot from the outer shipping box.

Blendra-Instant-Pot-1

Step Two: Start having buyer’s remorse. Am I ever going to use this dumb thing?

Step Three: Join the Instant Pot Community on Facebook. <– you’re welcome Instant Pot for the link.

blendra-instant-pot-3 2

Step Four: Spend hours scrolling through the recipes on the IPC on FB.

Step Five: Remove buyer’s remorse. This pot is awesome. 83,204 members keep telling you so on FB.

Step Six: Promise yourself you will make a meal using the Instant Pot. Just as soon as you go to the grocery store.

Step Seven: Go to the grocery store.

Step Eight: Hide the Instant Pot Community on Facebook. It’s taking up too much time and making you feel guilty about not using your Instant Pot.

Step Nine: Text your sister and ask her how to do the water test. I hear this is the real first step.

Step Ten: Unhide FB group and put the kids to bed. Tell yourself you’ll do the water test tomorrow. Just as soon as you get home from work and find the perfect recipe on the IPC FB page.

I really wanted to whiten my teeth, but I wasn’t sure how people even did that. So I phoned a friend (actually just Facebook messaged, I hate calling people on the phone), and she told me she uses Crest Whitestrips, the cheap ones on Amazon. “Don’t get the really expensive ones, these cheap ones work the best.” Dude. Sold.

Here are the exact ones I got: Crest Noticeably White Whitestrips, 10 Treatments, (20 Total Strips)

When the box came in the mail I promptly put it in the bathroom. And then I stared at it for 4 days. It said it took 30 minutes. I needed to find a 30-minute time slot when I wasn’t eating candy and the kids had gone to bed. This was challenging. I knew it couldn’t be during Fuller House; Because even though the kids were in bed, I had some Sour Patch Kids that needed to be eaten. Priorities.

I decided tonight would be the night I would whiten my teeth and let the baby cry it out, at the same time. I knew I’d need a distraction and this might be the perfect distraction. They would both be over in 30 minutes. Hopefully.

I open the box and read the instructions: To apply, simply remove the whitening strip from its liner and place the gel side to your teeth, aligned with your gum line. Press against your teeth for best contact and fold the remainder of the strip behind your teeth. 

Hmm, sounds easy.

I remove the bottom strip first, because further directions recommend it.

I carefully give my biggest smile to the mirror and start applying the strip. What the hell is this stuff? An unusual amount of saliva accumulates in my mouth and then my tongue starts messing up the strip. Shoot. Damn. I feel like I’m swishing with that fluoride stuff from the dentist. Should I swallow? Should I spit? Damn. Now the strip is all balled up. I hate these things. I spit the strip and the saliva into the sink.

Maybe I should try again, with the top strip. I’m not giving up yet. I did pay for these. 10 applications worth, 20 strips. I’ve got at least 19 more mess-ups and then I can just buy another box.

I carefully peel off the strip and give my biggest smile, to the mirror. And that top strip slides effortlessly on my teeth. Hmm. That was easy. Shoot. It’s starting to foam, but I think that’s normal. I ignore it and push onward.

I quickly grab in the box and get out another top/bottom strip. I tear it open and the bottom strip comes off with the first tear. CRAP. It’s fine. It’s just a little rip in the bottom. I can do this.

I start by giving my biggest smile, but not too big, I don’t want the top strip to move, to the mirror. I start applying and the saliva is back. Oh man, I can’t do this. It’s too much. I can’t get this straight. I need to spit. Maybe it’s good enough. No it’s moving. Wait, that’s my tongue. My tongue keeps wanting to touch the strip that has been folded to the back of the teeth. And then it moves the strip. It’s foaming. Is this bad for me? Should I swallow this? What is this stuff? I should google while I wait 30 minutes.

I walk out of the bathroom and proudly tell Preston, “I’m whitening my teeth!” Three minutes later, “I can’t do this. I can’t keep these on my teeth for any longer than five minutes!”

Preston responds, “at least you got them for free.”

Um, no I paid for these, but I’ve got 18 (and a half) more to try. I walk to the bathroom and pull them off.

The directions never said if I could use 6 more strips, each in 5 minute increments, to total the 30 minute time frame. Ugh. I guess it’s time to get the baby to bed. So much for whitening my teeth while the baby cries.

Preston and I are going to our friends’ (that’s plural, because we like both people equally) house for dinner on Saturday. We haven’t really been out together without the kids since I had the baby. He’s 4.5 months old and I’m excited. I’m so excited I told Preston I would make a cheesecake. A made-from-scratch cheesecake!

I’ve made this cheesecake before. Actually the last time I made it, we went to dinner at the same place. It was delicious. Or at least we all thought it was. Surely it wasn’t all of the wine we drank before we ate the cake.

BLENDRA-CHEESECAKE

This cheesecake has 5 boxes of cream cheese and whipping cream! WHIPPING CREAM! How can it not be good?

Since I have a million kids now (or three, but it feels like a million) and 2 of them are in sports, I knew I would need to make this cake on two separate nights. It’s what working moms do.

Wednesday night I make the graham cracker crust. See recipe below. OMG, as I’m typing this, I’m realizing it was the butter! The butter is what started the fire! Keep reading. I’ll get to the fire.

It’s Thursday. This is cheesecake makin day.

Preston and the big kids leave for wrestling. I stay home with the baby. I put Mav in his highchair, with some toys on his tray to play with. That’s what Mom’s do, who want to bake. I click the oven on to 500 degrees and turn my back to my baby and my oven. Mom of the year.

I start going about my cheesecake business… stirring, dumping, whipping, licking. In that order. I think I smell something burning. Eh, it’s probably just a little something that fell into the bottom of the oven. 500 degrees is really hot. It’ll burn off just in time for me to put my delectable cheesecake into the oven. It’s totally fine.

But the responsible mom in me decides to turn around. Mav is happily chewing on his rubber giraffe. The oven is on fire. Holy shit, the oven is on fire. ON FIRE! Don’t freak out, it is on the inside of the oven. But there is a flame. And the flame is reaching from the bottom burner all the way to the top burner. That’s quite a flame. Luckily I had just talked about a work lady’s oven catching on fire and how you should never open the oven door. Because giving oxygen to a flame is like giving candy to me. They both get bigger.

So I do what any sane person would do. I yell, “SHIT WHAT SHOULD I DO?” Then I quickly shut off the oven and pray for the fire to go out. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE go out! It does. But then the smoke starts. What next? Wet towel? I’ll throw a wet towel over the top of the oven and turn on the exhaust fan. It’s still getting smokey, so I open all the doors. But it’s only 17 degrees outside, so the baby and I put on our stocking caps and discuss what I should do about the delicious made-from-scratch cheesecake batter that is sitting on the counter.

The baby isn’t much help.

I call my mom. She doesn’t answer.

I call Sister A. She doesn’t answer.

I call Sister B. She doesn’t answer.

I call Sister C. She answers, thankfully. She tells me I’ll probably need to clean out the oven or the fire will start again, but the cheesecake should be fine sitting on the counter.

But now the baby is crying. It’s bathtime and bedtime. This sister ain’t got time for cleaning the oven.

Sister B calls back.

Sister B texts Sister A. Sister A calls back. We decide, with her husband’s help, that the self cleaning option might be the best option. I pour the cheesecake into a glass bowl and leave it to bake tomorrow.

cheesecake copy

DELICIOUS MADE-FROM-SCRATCH CHEESECAKE

Graham Cracker Crust
12 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers (this was 1 sleeve plus 1 cracker)

Mix all ingredients together. Mixture should be somewhat dry, add more graham crackers , if needed. Press in bottom of spring form pan. Place spring form pan on cookie sheet before baking (butter may drip from edges of pan) Bake in preheated 375º oven for 10-12 minutes, cool completely.

Cheesecake
5 boxes of cream cheese
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup whipping cream

Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, lemon juice and vanilla on high speed until fluffy. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, beating until well combined. Slowly blend in whipping cream. Pour into chilled crust.

Bake in preheated 500º oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 250º and bake for an additional 50-60 minutes. Times vary by oven, might take as long as 90 minutes. Cake may crack. It should be somewhat firm when jiggled. When it stops jiggling, it’s done.  Cool cake overnight and serve with your favorite fruit topping.

Enjoy.

 

“It’s your turn.”

“I was just up at 2.”

“Well I was up at 3:12. Clearly, it’s YOUR TURN!”

My husband and I have this argument on a nightly basis. Or, I guess it would be early morning.

Maverick is 4 months old and he’s been on a sleep strike for 3 weeks, with one Christmas miracle in between (he slept for like 7 hours straight on Christmas night. Whaaaaaa? I’ll take it).

I miss sleep. My husband misses sleep.

COFFEE_BLENDRA

I’ve come to realize I do unreasonable things when I don’t get enough sleep.

I do things like buy sleep sacks named Zipadee-Zip. Shark Tank bought into it, it’s gotta work. Let me tell you, it ain’t all rainbows and sleepy unicorns with my zippy. I’ve found the key to the zippy is to put baby down very much asleep, and never awake. Never, ever awake. Self-soothing is not your friend with the zippy. At least not with my child. All he likes to do with this thing is look like a starfish. That and suck on the material over the hands. Probably because that’s what 4-month-olds like to do. They like to suck on their hands (or the material that covers their hands). That’s cool and everything, if he’d just put himself back to sleep after he gets the zippy hands disgustingly wet.

But, nope, after he’s done sucking on his hands, he just gets mad and starts hitting himself in the face. Probably because that thing called the moro reflex is still a real thing. I thought that would be gone by now. Sigh.

Blendra_Zippy

After two failed attempts. Maybe three. Who knows how many, I just know I tried really hard. I wanted to like it. Okay, I wanted to like THEM. I bought two Zipadee-Zips. It was the best deal. Two zippies and a cute onesie, all for the low price of $59.95. Yes, indeed, I’ll buy me some sleep. Now, since the zippy didn’t work, I wish they would have had a free hotline to go along with your purchase. Or at least a “things will get better, just keep pushing through” line.

So, now, the zippy was out.

The next unreasonable (that seemed totally reasonable at the time) thing I tried was only allowing myself to follow a strict bedtime routine… I would hold the baby with my left arm, while feeding him a semi-warm bottle and patting his butt and humming to the tune of Silent Night.

That didn’t work, either. The humming kept him awake.

So, I thought I’d outsmart him and close my eyes. If I can’t see the baby, the baby can’t see me. That may have been the best idea yet. We both fell asleep. VICTORY! But shortly after I startled awake, probably because I almost dropped the tiny human cradled in my arms. I tried to put him back in his crib, carefully, very, very carefully. But, he woke up. Again.

The strict bedtime routine was now out.

Then I thought, why not take this opportunity to get him transitioned out of the swaddle during this horrible, no good, non-sleeping time. I’m not sleeping. He’s not sleeping. Let’s make it worse. Let’s let his little arms flail about and hit him in the face, without any material or resistance (at least the zippy had a little of both. Totally worth $59.95).

Quickly the no swaddle was out the window, too.

Back in the swaddle, he went. Both arms in. Because it made me feel secure. It brought me back to those lovely newborn nights that he would sleep 4-5 hours straight. The swaddle made me feel like the night would be a success. It had to be a success. He’s all bundled up in his sleep sack with his arms velcroed to his sides. If he can’t move, then surely he’ll stay there, sleeping. Peacefully.

Some nights he would surprise us and sleep a 4-5 hour stretch, playing with our sleep-deprived emotions. Maybe he’ll keep doing that, we think. Yes! We will sleep again! Then an hour later he’s crying, begging for food. And then 1-2 hours later, he’s up again. And then again. We’re never gonna sleep again. Siiiiiiigh.

All the books say this is the dreaded 4-month sleep regression and nothing you do will make it better. Great. Perfect. I love a good excuse for my baby not sleeping. I’ll take it. Preston doesn’t buy it.

But, now, I’m afraid if I call it the 4-month sleep regression and he’s still not sleeping at 9 months, it’ll be my fault. And, if it’s my fault, that means it’s not the 4-month sleep regression’s fault.

Maybe I should just go ahead and blame myself. After all, I didn’t let my poor mom sleep for 18 months after I was born. 18 months! That’s a long time.

Sweet Maverick, I’m giving you 14 more months of waking me in the night and that’s it. Not a day more.

Until then, I’m keeping score and I’m pretty sure it was just my turn. At 3:12 am.

This year, since I really slacked on the kids’ birthdays, I decided I’d give them a yummy dessert to stick their candles in.  So, here’s what I came up with: chocolate chip buttercream frosting sprinkle cookies.

Aren’t they beautiful?

sprinkle-cookies

I love buttercream frosting. I’d eat it with a spoon. You know, if that weren’t frowned upon.

So, after I baked my chocolate chip cookies (use your favorite recipe, or get the tube in the refrigerated section, whatever, I won’t judge), I whipped up this trusty buttercream frosting recipe. It’s never failed me.

However, if you don’t want your frosting to be off-white, I suggest using the clear vanilla extract. It’s a thing. Amazon it. Or just go to your local cake store, they’ll have it.

For mine, I didn’t care if the frosting was off-white, I used the original (black) vanilla (is that an oxymoron? black vanilla) extract, I was throwing sprinkles on there, because it’s for a birthday! Holla!

Happy 8th and 5th birthdays to my little gingers!

sprinkle-cookies-2

Don’t worry, these cookies can be for any occasion. Like a world record, 1.5 billion Powerball ticket party. The little sprinkle balls might get everywhere when you eat them, but hey, you’re gonna win that billion. You won’t care. You can hire a person to clean up the mess.

I miss blogging. I’ve done a few posts here and there, but for the most part, during my absence, here’s what’s been going on.

First this happened.

image

Then this happened.

image

Then this happened.

image

And now it’s been 7 weeks. SEVEN weeks with three kids. I’m feeling pretty normal, as normal as any sleep-deprived mom of three kids feels. I’ll say I do a solid good job mom-ing, 3 out of 7 days. Ha.

Right at this very moment, no one is yelling. Partly because, all three kids are in bed (can we pause a moment to rejoice in the quietness and high five over all three kids being in bed) and Preston’s downstairs watching football (I take that back. There is yelling. Just not at any kids).

Seven weeks and two days (but who’s counting?) ago, I couldn’t imagine what life with three kids would be like. And today, seven weeks, two days, seven hours and five minutes (I’m counting) later, I can’t imagine what life would be like without all three.

I’ve found the way to keep good readers, is to listen when they ask for things. Like Gourmet Mac & Cheese.

That’s want you want? You got it.

Blendra_Mac_1-6

That looks delicious, right?

It’s super simple. I made it tonight, in approximately four minutes. Whaaaaa? Being almost 9 months pregnant, that’s how we roll around here. Fast. And easy. And me, barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen, makin’ gourmet mac & cheese.

Step 1: Buy this. Hint: it’s in the refrigerated section at your local grocery store.

Blendra_Mac_1

 

Step 2: Be careful with that knife, if you don’t want any dishes. If you’ll be cutting up microwaved hotdogs for your son, then don’t be careful. Poke those holes, in that plastic, where ever you darn well please.

Blendra_Mac_2

 Step 3: Put that bad boy in the microwave for 2 minutes (basically just follow the directions printed on the side)

Blendra_Mac_3

Step 4: Remove from microwave. Carefully peel plastic back and stir. Again, to minimize amount of dishes to be washed, give the spoon you’re using to stir this with to someone eating the mac & cheese.

Blendra_Mac_4

Step 5: Microwave again. Following the directions on the side of the container. Spoiler: It’s 2 minutes.

Blendra_Mac_3

Step 6: Stir again and serve in a pretty little dish. Splurge on the pretty dish, because why not. You didn’t get take out, again. Yolo.

Blendra_Mac_1-6

It’s 100 degrees and I’m pregnant. And, personally, I think this mac and cheese tastes super gourmet.

*Hormel did not pay me to write this post. But, if they wanna pay me, that’s cool. They can pay me in containers of mac & cheese.

Somes days I want sweets. Okay, who am I kidding, all days I want sweets.  But, being pregnant has made this worse, because now I feel guilty eating them.

This sweet was almost health-food so I didn’t feel too guilty… it had peanut butter. (;

PB_COCOA_TREATS_BLENDRA

And, who can pass these up, especially when there’s only three ingredients: marshmallows, cocoa crispy cereal and peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Cocoa Crispy Treats

1 bag of regular or mini marshmallows (one bag, the regular-sized bag)
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy, crunchy, natural, if you’re feeling super healthy)
6 cups cocoa crispy cereal (generic is just fine)

Scoop peanut butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds to melt. Next, pour marshmallows on top of peanut butter and stir to coat. Pop back in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stir. Microwave for 1 more minute, until all is bubbly and delicious. Pour in 6 cups of cocoa crispy cereal (you can add more if it’s too marshmallow-y.)

Pour in a greased cake pan and eat it all up. Or, save some for your family.

Enjoy.

At work I was asked to bring in some artwork that inspires me, and share a little about the artist who created it. I thought this was such a cool idea, I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog: Thirsty for Design. Every Thursday (you know, Thirsty Thursday), I’ll grab some artwork, with the artist, that inspires me.

Today’s artist and artwork: Gary Taxali with this awesome wine label.

GaryTaxali_WineLabel

Gary_Taxali_Wine_Label_Grenache_Spot

Last year, I got this voucher from Naked Wines. Cool. Imma get me some free wine, I thought. Well, when I went online to pick the wines, I found these wine labels I LOVED. They weren’t so much in the price range to get as free wine… But, I loved them. So, I threw out the idea of getting free wine and snagged both bottles. I drank the wine. Cleaned the bottles.  And, they’ve been sitting on my wine shelf since.

Now, I think I’m gonna go buy his book: I Love You, OK? By Gary Taxali

I may have already bought this book for my kids: This Is Silly! By Gary Taxali

Check back next Thursday for my next piece of design inspiration. What inspires you?