Final Week for Haiku Contest Entries

Final week for Haiku Contest Entries

What a beautiful day outside (at least it is in Virginia)!  My dogwood tree is finally in bloom and it is gorgeous.

What does that mean?

It means haiku opportunities are also in full bloom!

If you haven’t already, make sure to get your haiku contest entry in this week to Button Jar!  Entries are due by Monday, April 25 at 5pm ET.  Winners will be announced Friday, April 29th. We have already gotten some really great entries, so the competition is strong!  Send your submission to buttonjar3@gmail.com.

And as a way to entice you further…here is a sneak peak at the prizes!

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Urban Explorer: Finding Fun in Unusual (and Free!) Places

Urban Explorer: Finding Fun in Unusual (and Free!) Places

Posted by Katie Gambone

As a new parent, I am always looking for fun new things to do with my baby.  Philadelphia has a ton of amazing spots for kids like The Please Touch Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo and The Franklin Institute. While they are always fun, they aren’t always free.  It takes thinking outside of the box, but there are fun, unusual and relatively inexpensive or free places to spend a few hours with your little ones that you may not have thought of.  Here are two places that I have passed through or by so many times and never thought twice about stopping and exploring until I experienced them through the eyes of an (almost) one year old little boy.

The great news is that these unexpected places are in every town if you just look around!  Do you have favorite unexpected places that you like to visit?  Share your ideas with Button Jar readers.  And next time you are in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by these two recommendations!

Favorite Sunny Day Spot: Azalea Garden at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

I jog (when I have time) and I have probably run by the Azalea Garden at the Philadelphia Museum of Art  a hundred times, but I’ve never taken the time to walk or sit in the Azalea Garden unless it was for a quick stretch.  A friend of mine recommended the Azalea Garden as a great spot for families on a sunny day.   While the Azalea Garden is sandwiched between Kelly Drive and the Lloyd Hall parking lot at the top of Boathouse Row, the shrubbery and trees that surround the perimeter make it a quiet, peaceful and serene secret garden.

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There is plenty of green space to spread out a blanket for a breakfast or lunch picnic, kick around a ball, or run your baby’s hands through the flowers or the grass for the first time (can you imagine how amazing that must feel?!).

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I recommend grabbing a sandwich at Rye Bread on Fairmount Avenue for your lunch or breakfast picnic, or, in keeping with the free them, bring your own.  Here is a picture of one of my favorite days in the Azalea Garden with Matteo when he was about 3 or 4 months old and some pictures from a more recent visit.

Favorite Rainy Day Spot: 30th Street Train Station

I travel to New York City on Amtrak for work every other month so I am often passing through Philadelphia’s 30th Street Train Station.  I am always rushing because I operate on a “just in the nick of time” schedule.  In my rush, I don’t think I ever realized how amazing the train station is.  A few months ago I had to run an errand there and I decided to take Matteo with me.  What a delightful experience for us both!  From taking the glass elevator in the parking garage, which offers an amazing view of the city, to riding the escalator, to watching the trains go by through the big glass windows in the Cira Center, the train station is full of cool experiences for kids.  And the people watching is fantastic!  Matteo loved sitting on the pews and waving to all of the different people walking by.  The poor kid almost broke his neck looking up at the cool Art Deco chandeliers and ceiling, but clearly he couldn’t stop (see picture below).

There is a large open space that is perfect for little ones to practice walking.  The beautiful wall relief sculpture in the background is also pretty special.

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The train station also offers several different breakfast or lunch spots and an open cafeteria space if you and your little ones get hungry.

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If it is a nice day, you can sit out on The Porch, just outside the cafeteria doors, where there are swings and climbable sculptures that your kids will love.

Now that the weather is warming up and it’s easier to leave the house, get out there and be an urban (or suburban or rural) explorer and let us know what you find!

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Corned Beef Brisket and Vegetables (with a twist)

Posted by Abigail Branham

Although Saint Patrick’s Day has passed, we would be remiss if we didn’t share this Irish feast, which also happens to be one of our favorite family recipes – Corned Beef Brisket with Vegetables.  Our mother has many creative, quirky qualities.  One of those qualities is her uncanny ability to add interesting twists to signature meals, forever marking them her own.  She incorporated mustard and brown sugar into this recipe, which makes the meat extra yummy.  So, when March rolls in, it is time to make this special meal.  It is tradition, plain and simple.  It also happens to be delicious!

Substitutes

If you are concerned about the meats you eat, Wegmans offered a nitrate free corned beef brisket this year.  It had wonderful flavor and texture and I would highly recommend it.

I listed a small head of cabbage in the ingredients list, but if your family loves cabbage as much as I do, you may want a larger head.  My better half isn’t a huge fan of cabbage, but here are a few tips to make cabbage tastier for those doubters or haters:  put some butter on it, pour a little pot liquor over it (pot liquor will be explained later in the recipe), try some vinegar on the cabbage, or experiment with a combination of the aforementioned.  I personally like a little butter with a bit of pot liquor.

I have used many different kinds of mustard in this recipe, but this time I used a honey mustard and it was extra fantastic!  You can use whatever mustard suites your palate though.

My mom always used whole carrots, but I use a bag of baby carrots, that way I can just throw the entire bag in, and not have to think about peeling carrots.

Ingredients 

Corned Beef Brisket

Small head of cabbage

5 or 6 carrots

4 or 5 large red potatoes

1 whole onion

Mustard

Brown Sugar

Let’s Cook!  

In a large pot, cover the brisket with water, and bring to a boil.   Simmer for at least 2 ½ hours, but follow the package instructions as boiling time will vary depending on the size of the brisket.

While the brisket is simmering, wash your vegetables.  Chop the cabbage and onions into wedges, cut the potatoes in half, and either peel and cut whole carrots into 2 inch pieces or, if you are using a bag of baby carrots, just have them ready to go.

Just before the meat is done simmering, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Take the meat out of the water after it has simmered for the appropriate amount of time and place it on a platter, pan or in a baking dish.  The water that remains in the pot is pot liquor (more to come on this).  Add all of your vegetables to the pot liquor and bring back to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat and let the vegetables simmer for 30 to 35 minutes.

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Once the vegetables are simmering, cover the top of the brisket with a mustard of your choice.  Pack brown sugar into the mustard.  Bake for 30 minutes while your vegetables are finishing.

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Finally, when your vegetables are done, reserve at least a cup of the pot liquor that has been flavored by the meat and vegetables.  Not everyone cares for the pot liquor, but I recommend you at least give it a try.  The pot liquor has a warm buttery flavor to it.  I usually pour some pot liquor over my vegetables. 

Now chow! Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

For more recipes of the week, click here.  To print yourself a copy of this recipe, see the printable recipe card that follows.

Corned Beef Brisket and Vegetables

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

Corned Beef Brisket

Small head of cabbage

5 or 6 carrots

4 or 5 large red potatoes

1 whole onion

Mustard

Brown Sugar

In a large pot, cover the brisket with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for at least 2 ½ hours, but follow the package instructions as boiling time will vary depending on the size of the brisket.

While the brisket is simmering, wash your vegetables. Chop the cabbage and onion into wedges, cut the potatoes in half, and either peel and cut whole carrots into 2 inch pieces or, if you are using a bag of baby carrots, just have them ready to go.

Just before the meat is done simmering, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Take the meat out of the water after it has simmered for the appropriate time and place it on a platter, pan or in a baking dish. The water that remains in the pot is pot liquor (more to come on this). Add all of your vegetables to the pot liquor and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and let the vegetables simmer for 30 to 35 minutes.

Once the vegetables are simmering, cover the top of the brisket with a mustard of your choice. Pack brown sugar into the mustard. Bake for 30 minutes while your vegetables are finishing.

Finally, when your vegetables are done, reserve at least a cup of the pot liquor that has been flavored by the meat and vegetables. Not everyone cares for the pot liquor, but I recommend you at least give it a try.

Now chow!


Before

Master Bath Redo Part I – Painting Cabinets

Posted by Alicia Sell

I am a spontaneous person.  I get ideas in my head and I just make it happen, even if it is at 9:00 pm.

So one Friday evening I was looking on Pinterest and there were tons of posts about painting cabinets.

You can see where I am going with this, but I will preface this by saying that my master bathroom, while nothing special, did not particularly bother me either.  However, that night, while looking on Pinterest, it became crystal clear to me that my master bathroom needed an immediate remodel, starting with the vanity cabinet.

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7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog

Posted by Katie Gambone

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This is Misha, my 2.5 year old Rottweiler. She has a curly tail that flexes like an arm, dog buns that shake when she runs and soulful eyes. She is smart, silly and loyal. At her core, she is a fierce protector.

About a year and a half ago, Misha began to transition from a silly puppy that loved everyone to an overprotective guard dog. The personality shift was surprising because we had socialized her with dogs and people from the moment we brought her home and hired a trainer to teach her appropriate social skills.   Looking back on what went wrong, it was probably a million little things that added up during a critical time (I got pregnant, Misha developed urinary tract infections, we missed opportunities to correct bad behaviors when they started and so on.) To say we were concerned is an understatement. My husband, Carlo, and I love dogs and we want Misha to have a happy life. The good news is we are now on a much healthier path and navigating our way through this challenging phase. I hope the life lessons I have learned through this experience help you, whether you have a pet exhibiting behavior issues, or are just tackling a personal or professional problem:

  1. Before You Blame Someone Else, Take A Look in The Mirror

When things with Misha were getting out of control Carlo and I became obsessed (OBSESSED!) with Cesar Millan, “the dog whisperer”. (I highly recommend attending one of his live events because he is very funny and entertaining). Cesar Millan’s mantra is “The problem is not with your dog. The problem is with you.” Misha was becoming overprotective because she was anxious, fearful and didn’t have the proper direction. Acknowledging that I was a part of the problem was key to moving past it.   I had to take a hard look at my own anxieties, understand the triggers, and learn to relax.

  1. Ask For Help

I have a hard time asking for help. It took me a few months, but I eventually waved bye-bye to my ego and reached out to The Philly Pack. They are equal parts counselors, friends and trainers. We would not be where we are today without them. Like Cesar Millan, they believe that helping dogs overcome behavior issues requires rehabilitation of both the owner and the dog. Through this experience, I no longer feel ashamed to ask for help, even if I think I know how to do something. It never hurts to ask.

  1. Exercise, Both Mental and Physical, Can Help You Control Anxiety

Misha is a working dog breed and she really needs to work. At a minimum, we spend an hour a day playing and, perhaps more importantly, practicing mental activities. When Misha is working, her mind is calmer and she is more capable of handling stressful situations. The same is true for me. If I spend too much time lounging in front of the TV, my mind wanders, my anxieties creep in and I can’t sleep. I am as much a working breed as my dog.

  1. Learn from the Bad Days and Move On To Tomorrow

On our journey rehabilitating Misha and ourselves, we’ve had plenty of setbacks, especially in the beginning. The Philly Pack’s best advice to us was to not obsess, but reflect on what we could do differently the next time and move on. Holding onto bad situations only held all of us back. I now follow this mantra in all aspects of my life and focus on living in the present.

  1. Carry Lots of Cheese

Misha loves cheese. We always have some nearby in new situations that we know will be stressful for her so that we can reward good behavior. I use a similar tactic in my own life. When I want to tackle a situation that makes me nervous, I promise myself a reward. Having something to look forward to makes it possible to get through almost anything!

  1. You are Not Alone

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When things were at their worst, Carlo and I (and Misha) felt isolated. As part of our training we started “pack walks” on Sundays, and connected with a whole community of pet parents and dogs on our same journey living right here in Philadelphia. Talking with other owners made us realize that we really could improve our relationship with Misha and help her become a happier, healthier dog. Today it feels good to be able to talk with others about our journey.

 

  1. Never Give Up

There were plenty of bad days that I thought I’d had enough. Luckily, Carlo and I never felt that way on the same day. Misha, though challenging, has been a wonderful gift to us and I am so proud of her and how far we all have come together. We still have a ways to go, but we will never stop working to help her, and us, become the best version of ourselves we can be.