Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Eve Whine

The year was 2003. I was five months pregnant with Bird. We had bought and renovated an 80-something year old house. We were planting roots.

And then I got laid off from my job at an advertising agency. Funny how it's so easy to fire a pregnant woman, yet it's a stretch to hire one. I did get another job, though that agency was toxic, and I left soon after Bird was born. Our once comfortable life was beginning to crack a tish. The year proved to be bittersweet, with the sweet beating out the bitter.

Bird was a lovely, easy baby. He brought us so much joy and completely changed our perspective of the world. You'd never see me without a camera as I snapped every little milestone and cornerstone. I started my marketing consulting business (What, you mean you thought the words on this screen pay my student loans? Not by a long shot.). Baby Deal came soon after, 22 months after Baby Bird.


Our lives were complete, if not completely chaotic. We juggled two more house renovations, two jobs, two kids, one breast cancer scare, all on our own without the benefit of family. What could have torn me and Mac Daddy to shreds actually made us stronger. We became our own little hub, knowing it was up to us to protect and nurture this little foursome we call Family. well, we call ourselves The Curried Cheeseheads too as a nod to our mixed Indian and Wisconsonian heritage.

Every year since that fateful layoff in 2003 we have chanted on New Year's Eve, "This is gonna be our year." So far our mantra has failed us.

We haven't caught up to where our lives (and bank accounts) were. We've faced some scary illnesses, bid farewell to friends, battled some demons, lost our beloved pets, and buried a father.

Life's hardships are de rigeur. Our downs are not as low as others', and our ups are grander than most. But, there was so much left unaccomplished this year. So much stress. Too many financial obligations. Not enough time. Too little of everyone and everything to go around. I'm not complaining, though I am admittedly whining a bit.

I'm letting 2009 go with a sigh. A great big exhale.

Then I'll hold my breath for a moment. Count my blessings. Kiss my family. Cuddle my dog.


Welcome 2010. This is gonna be our year.
A New Year's Eve WhineSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Baba Ghanouj from Scratch

Here's a recipe I posted a while back on Foodie Mama. It's a real crowd pleaser, and since we're still in for a few more days of entertaining, I figured I'd pass this along. Have some red wine or Sambuca on hand.

I'm from the kind of family who travels for food. We talk about what we ate 12 years ago at a mom n' pop place in Palm Springs, the extraordinary apple strudel we had in Heidelberg, the ostrich we enjoyed in Walnut Springs, the eisbein we shared at a neighborhood pub in Berlin. We talk about food. A lot. Chances are our dinner conversation revolves around what we ate once upon a time or what we're going to eat next. In my family food is the great equalizer among us.

And now my sons chime right in. They share memories of eating with their fingers while watching the belly dancers at the Moroccan restaurant in Savannah, squishing the injera at the Ethiopian restaurant, gasping in awe at the flaming haloumi in Chicago, squealing at chef's knife tricks at the habachi grill, and tossing the crawfish tails into the hole cut into the table at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island. Bird and Deal clamor to visit places like Hawaii, Italy, India, and France just to try the local flavors that we talk about. Their latest kick is Greece. The boys don't know this yet, but Mac Daddy and I are trying to swing a family trip to Greece next year to celebrate our tenth anniversary.

In the mean time, we have to settle for the Greek delights we can find in our fair city. Since no one's baba ghanouj is up to snuff, I've tried my hand at making it myself. I have no idea if it's authentic but I do know it tastes damn good.

Baba Ghanouj

  • 1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini (You can make it, but I just buy it to keep things simple.)
  • juice of 1 lemon (Fresh lemon is imperative! I will totally hold it against you if you use the stuff that comes in the plastic lemon shaped bottle.)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • handful flat leaf parsley
  • salt to taste

Score the eggplant several times and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour. Let it cool. Scrape out the meat, seeds and all, from the eggplant into a food processor. No skin or stem! Add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until it becomes the consistency of creamy dip. A few chunks are okay so don't over process or the baba ghanouj lest it turns out too runny. Serve in a bowl garnished with a few black olives and sprigs of parsley. Cut pita bread into wedges and serve along with some carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or whatever crudite tickles your fancy.

I happened to use a Ninja Kitchenfor my baba ghanouj.

Full disclosure here: I got to go on a blogger junket to New York to see the Food Network's Robin Miller demonstrate the many uses of the Ninja Kitchen. I was lucky enough to get one for free so I have waved buh-bye to my old blender and food processor. The Ninja Kitchen makes perfect dip, smoothies, soups, and all kinds of other stuff. I will tell you that former attempts at making baba ghanouj resulted in the wrong consistency so the Ninja Kitchen worked perfectly for me. A blender definitely won't cut it.


Baba Ghanouj from ScratchSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, December 24, 2009

5:00 Fridays

I love egg nog. This statement will not be a non sequitor in a moment.

Read on.

Merry Christmas!
Feliz Navidad!

Joyeux Noel!

Froliche Weinachten!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

We shared a lovely Christmas Eve by the outdoor fireplace with dear friends (who luckily enough, happen to be our neighbors). The children frolicked in noisy abandon as only children can. We stuffed our jelly bellies full of smoked salmon, fennel salad, steamed shrimp, crostini, apple/cranberry pie, and chocolate truffles. There was much merriment to be had, and Christmas spirit(s) flowed.

We all remarked how stress-free and footloose and fancy free our celebration was. As the kids get older the hovering gets easier. Bird and Deal know to stay in the yard, they can claw their way through tussles, and there are enough dart guns, remote control cars, and stuffed animals to go around. Lark was an exhausted little champ who happily retired to his crate to escape the onset of Kid-dom ruling.

After our friends went their merry ways we perched the boys at the kitchen table with a plate of smoked salmon and set to cleaning up. They then showered (must be clean for Santa!) and donned their matching plaid Christmas jammies. So cute it would melt the Snow Miser's frigid heart. We settled in under blankets to watch the old Rankin Bass Twas the Night Before Christmas and romped in the yard to sprinkle glitter and oat reindeer food.

Now that the boys are tucked in bed and sleeping (not even pretending!), Mac Daddy and I opened a beribboned gift from a neighbor. Lo and behold, my most favorite of Christmas spirits was there!

And so it is with an iced crystal tumbler full of this I toast you this Christmas. Merry Christmas to my delightful readers. I hope your season is so bright so you gotta wear shades. I know you're all so Hollywood like that.

Evan Williams Holiday Egg Nog

Da Bomb.

First of all, let it be known that I love me some egg nog. Our family friend Ty makes some killer homemade stuff that I cannot replicate to save my life. I settle for the grocery store brands and spike it myself. Then I get a work out just swallowing that gloppy thick stuff while I trick myself into believing it's the real deal.

Evan Williams does it all for me. And it's oh so good.

Not treacly sweet. Not fake. Not so thick you could condition your hair with it.

Evan Williams is the Avis of straight bourbon whiskey in the US. It's "extra aged," which I can totally identify with.

5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tis the Season

I love Christmas. Really I do. Yes, I revel in the spirit of the season. But admittedly this year I'd rather imbibe the spirit(s) of the season than anything else.

Christmas is kicking my ass this year. It's par for the proverbial 2009 course.

I've baked hundreds of goodies and have mint and chocolate and sprinkles oozing out of my pores. Rolls of wrapping paper sit tucked behind my closet door. I don't even bother with ribbon anymore. When I was a kid I was often charged with wrapping my own presents (that my parents boxed up lest the surprise was ruined) so I made expert Martha-esque fancy schmancy bows on my boxes. I settled for the bag o' bows for my brother's boxes because I knew he wouldn't be impressed by my handiwork anyway. And now 30 years later, I don't even stick an adornment of any kind on my sons' presents. Let's look at it as my way of greening up the season.

I've decorated the house, including the bathrooms. I stopped short of the snowman toilet seat cover and rug ensemble. We have two full size trees and a handful of miniature ones scattered about the house. I even raced out to buy our new dog a stocking. I was *this* close to restaging or digitally enhancing our holiday card photo to include our newest addition. Mac Daddy poo-poohed my idea to send doggy birth announcements.

But humor me while I digress.

Fa la la la Lark!


It's a good idea, no? Well, perhaps you should know his name is Lark before you go judging.

Anyway, we're not sending birth announcements for Lark. We might not even send holiday cards since I haven't ordered them yet. Perhaps we'll make it for New Year's greetings. Or realistically, there's always Arbor Day.

For some reason I cannot get my act together this Christmas. I'm an over achiever in all the wrong arenas. Homemade Christmas goodies, personal, thoughtful teacher gifts, stocking stuffers galore. Is it all really necessary? I even shopped ahead and have a stash of gifts squirreled away for Bird and Deal. Lord knows what's in that loot. I didn't keep track of what I bought. I pray it's gonna be equitable distribution of gifts. I suppose I'll find out when I dig it all out to start wrapping tomorrow night. And yeah, we even wrap stocking stuffers. Le sigh. On a positive note, I did find an ornament I bought for my mom last year and forget to give her. I'm pretty sure she'll still like the Obama glass ball this year.

I'm pretty much overwhelmed with Christmas this year. I haven't made any progress on our dinner and brunch menus, much less hit the grocery store. Is there pizza delivery on Christmas Day? A green pepper and tomato combo would be festive, no?

Among all the hubbub of the season, the single most important thing we did was deliver gifts to needy families. It wasn't just about the boys choosing something from a child's wish list (while meandering Target's aisles chanting "I want..." repeatedly). We hand delivered those boxes and met the very kids for whom we brightened Christmas.

And that made all the difference.

One house was in such squalor that we didn't let Deal out of the car. The wretched barking dog tied with a rope to the front porch cemented that for us. I was aghast at the living conditions in the house and was praying Bird didn't let his nose pucker at the stench, giving away our shared persnickety nature. It turns out he was a champ. He delivered two loads of boxes, met the children, displayed lovely manners, and excused himself to the car.

And all he said was, "Wow, Mommy, that house is a lot different from ours."

He remarked without judgment. Without pity. Without snobbery. He was simply observing the obvious differences in our home and theirs. Luckily it was dark so the boys couldn't really see the state of the yard and didn't take notice of the burned down boarded up house across the street. They were fixated on neighboring Christmas lights.

We haven't talked so much about the differences in our homes but we have talked about how grateful those kids will be to get simple things like the pajamas and socks on their wish lists. We talked about how the spirit of the season is about love and generosity and empathy. Regardless of religious affiliation and where you fall on the Santa debate, I think the spirit of Christmas is about Jesus' message, if not his birth. It's about the giving spirit that Santa imparts. Peace and goodwill abound.

Christmas is about sharing and love and joy and selflessness. And it's sprinkled with a healthy dose of glitter, non pareils, and nutmeg atop some bourbon enhanced egg nog.

Tis the SeasonSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, December 18, 2009

5:00 Fridays

Drink wine. Donate to a worthy cause. No catch.

Well, the catch is the great wine secret I'm about to let you in on. Shuffle in a tish closer, won't you? Oh hell, let me drag out my soap box. It's practically an extra appendage anyway. Are you listening?

Lean on in, friends.



This grassroots wine company has a big philanthropic heart. Red wine and my bleeding heart pair nicely together. OneHope donates 50% of its profits to various causes. Fifty. Percent. That is no piddly 5% or the like that we usually hear about. For those of you who are as bad at math as I am: that means half. One. Half. Of. All. Profits.

This is not chump change.

I know that my readers can help make a dent in some of the great causes that OneHope supports. This is a lovely wine to serve at your holiday open house, block party, neighborhood progressive dinner, office gathering, book club, bunco group, tennis social, family dinner, or any ole time you're popping a cork with a friend. OneHope wine also makes a generous gift to friends, colleagues, or neighbors. I really can't think of a better way to capture the holiday spirit of giving. And for the record, I'm not being paid to tell you all this. I happened to try the wine at the BlogHer conference in July and again at my local grocery store.

If you drink Chardonnay, support the fight against breast cancer. My wine drinking pal Jenn will thank you for it.

Are you a Zinfandel kind of guy? Well, word on the street is that you can imbibe your favorite cool weather wine and support the troops while you're at it.

Merlot? AIDS awareness. All these years after its story hit the presses we are still fighting this battle on many fronts.

So you say Sauvignon Blanc is more your speed? Drink up and help save our planet. Make sure you recycle that bottle, mkay?

Cabernet Sauvignon, my personal favorite for these winter months, helps spread the word about autism awareness.

OneHope wine is available at my local Harris Teeter and in grocery stores in 14 states. They'll ship to 47 more states. Just have a look here to see where you can find it.

Now hop on to Facebook to become a fan by December 31. OneHope is donating $1.00 to charity per fan through December 31, 2009 (and "charity" is not capitalized so I don't think charity is a girl living in a Chevy van somewhere). Another easy way to donate a buck. It might not seem like a lot, but in aggregate, that dollar makes a difference.

Cheers! And here's to OneHope making a million and one differences.
5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kids & Pets: All the Same

There are days I'm a better pet owner than I am a mother. I seem to have more patience with Lark, perhaps because he doesn't whine or throw temper tantrums. He also does not kick me or scream "NO" in a volume that would raise the OSHA red flag. Did I mention that Bird kicked our babysitter last weekend? Twice. Buh-bye date night.

Back to today's regularly scheduled post.

I have learned a few things from my recent life as a pet owner. The funny thing is how raising children is so similar to having a pup. Seriously, the physical demands are much the same, and the mental capacity is huge. The similarities have been enlightening. My three boys, two of the two-legged variety and one of the four-legged variety, have taught me a thing or two.

Shit happens. Often in places it shouldn't. Like the time Bird pooped on the dining room floor when he was two. And when Lark did his business on the bathmat. While I was in the shower.

Accidents happen, as in things get broken and shit happens.

No one pees, poops, eats, drinks, or sleeps on demand.

Fleece feels as good to wear as it does to chew.

Treats are better than meals. Always.

A back rub is never long enough.

Dry clean only outfits stay in the back of the closet.

Don't play tag in the house.

A potted plant or vase of fresh flowers set just-so on a side table will end up catawampus in minutes.

It's hard to distinguish what's a dog toy and what's a plush toy. Poor Deal, who has an FAO Schwartz sized collection of stuffed animals, has battled Lark for sneaking under his bed and stealing his stuffed bear, dog, hamster, yes hamster, and cat.

Selective hearing runs in the family.

No one comes when called. Unless treats are at stake.

The most expensive piece of furniture is the most coveted.

No one gets water after 6:00 PM.

It's easier to clean pee out of a dog crate than it is to change crib sheets.

Christmas sweaters do not belong on children or dogs. Or anyone else, if you ask me.

It's important to let the least out a tish as trust and responsibility grow.

Kisses are best when wet.

Clipping nails is no fun for anyone.

Bacon is good.

Potty training blows.

A warm head nestled on your shoulder is divine.

A queen sized bed is only comfortably big enough for two people.

I might need to change my blog's name to Dirt & Noise & Stink.

The biggest thing about being a mom to boys as well as a pup? They make your heart swell. With pride, affection, love, humility. They make you laugh. Every. Single. Day.
Kids & Pets: All the SameSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, December 11, 2009

5:00 Fridays

Since I played the Indian card (coined by my friend Erin), I figured I'd stick with that theme this week.

I'm no beer connoisseur but I know I'm generally not a Coors Light kind of gal. Well, if Bird and Deal are particularly whiny or petulant I might succumb to whatever is within reach, Coors Light included. All that acrimony can make a girl pretty durn cantankerous. Trust me. I speak from experience. In fact, I was such a crab apple sourpuss last night that I wrote the boys apology notes sprinkled with scented marker hearts because I felt so bad. Not a proud parenting moment, but I am finding fewer and fewer of those this time of year. Funny that the stress of making Christmas perfect and just-so turns me into such an impatient bitch. Next year I'm considering going to Tahiti for the holidays and forego all this candy making, cookie baking, gift buying, light stringing, stocking stuffing stress. What does this have to do with beer?


Did you hear me? I have children. Basic math and physics lesson here. Pay attention.

2 boys + 1 mom = basket case

Children drive you to drink.

There will be a pop quiz next Friday.

When I was 18 years old I went to India with my dad. We stayed in some pretty posh places, including where the movie Octopussy was filmed. Seriously, what was Ian Fleming smoking (or stroking) when he penned that title? I almost can't say it aloud. Perhaps a more fitting name for that nut job woman who birthed eight babies last year? Geesh, now I'm all flustered and off track. Where was I?

Beer. India. 1986.

I was a world traveler. Young. Footloose. Fancy free. Worldly. Daring. Too-cool-for-school.

I drank beer. Legally.

I have fond memories of ordering up a Kingfisher at the Lake Palace Hotel bar. I was stunned by how the epaulet adorned waiter made the opening of a simple bottle top and pouring of liquid gold into a frosted crystal goblet such a grand gesture. I was 18 and easily impressed. That was before I even knew the beer was brewed in copper urns back in the day. Keep in mind that "back in the day" in India means something slightly different than it does here. I'm not talking 1972, folks.

I'm 41 now but still serve up Kingfisher when I have friends over for a good home cooked Indian meal. It's not fancy. It's not pretentious. It's not complex. But it is a gilded symbol over the arch I walked through on my way to adulthood. Join me on the lovely stroll that hasn't yet ended. You can fish with kings too.



Pour into a frosted glass, preferably with a stem instead of a handle.

(Image from Rocky of Hoppsy.com)

5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear Santa, Bring me Gadgets. And an Elf.

(The following has been spellchecked by a grown up to save you, dear reader, from translating kid spelling.)

Dear Santa,

I would like another dart gun and a XBox 360 and a iPod Touch and a iPhone and a limousine and a big T-rex.

Please bring all your elves so I can have one. And my own computer. And Play Station Three.

Two guesses who penned, rather penciled, that letter.

One hint: Deal can't do much more than write his own name.

Christmas lists sure have changed a lot since I was a kid (Oh, a sign of the age old generation gap!). Keep in mind Bird is six. In first grade. He has never seen an Xbox or a Playstation. And he doesn't ride to carpool in a limo, though I do wish I had a magic button to close that privacy window that limos have. Imagine driving in soundproof bliss!

I cracked up when I first read Bird's letter. I stuck it in his special box to save it. It's endearing in a way. But then I got to thinking. Some of you might argue that I was over thinking, but hear me out.

We are not a gadget family. Our television is almost 10 years old and weighs 200 pounds. Our other TV is a lousy 13 inch model that doesn't even have video inputs. And the remote is busted so it's stuck on local news or the Food Network most of the time. I still have a twirly cord phone in my office. Mac Daddy uses a ThinkPad that is more pad than think. I still have, and use, a camera that uses film. Gasp! We are not techie people by any stretch. We are clearly not hip enough to even be laggards. I bet you gadgety people out there are throwing up a little right about now. You must find us to be Losers, which I'm pretty sure is the technical consumer profile moniker for anyone ranking behind a Laggard.

So where does Bird get this affinity for all things electronic? What happened to his insatiable love of LEGO skyscrapers, Playmobil knights, and intricate art projects? What happened to his hankering for toys that spark imagination rather than suck it dry? What happened to his appetite for books and penchant for storytelling?

One visit from his uncle, my brother, and grandfather, my dad, changed his whole perspective. I'd go so far as to say it fucked it all up. They are tech heads. They get off on all things electronic and all things Apple. Their iPhones were appendages, as they so often are with all iPhone enthusiasts. They read news, checked scores, listened to tunes, flipped through photos, played games. Again, all the things iPhone addicts around the world do. But look people, there must be limits. Is it really necessary to always have phone in hand? I see it in meetings, lunch appointments, check out lines, and now among families.

The very contraptions that are supposed to be connecting the world are really just making us all more bubbled. We're connecting avatar to avatar, not face to face. Children should have no part of this world. What awaits them is even more mindblowing.

While children need to be comfortable with technology and wade into its depth at appropriate levels, they do not need to be immersed in it. They have a lifetime to wile away the hours in front of one screen or another. Their time to snuggle on a lap reading books or perching on the floor balancing blocks is limited. And Oh. So. Dear. Too much technology fast forwards them from precious to precocious in a blink.

And it sucks the creativity from the natural wealth of imagination that children harbor. Video games and iPhones might be cool, but they are not the way to engage a child. A six year old child. The time it takes to whiz through apps and gadgets is better spent playing Uno or coloring or playing frisbee or reading from chapter books. There's no benefit to dunking kids this young into technology. In fact, it's a diservice if you ask me....not that anyone did. You can't discount the power of play. Pure frolicking and mayhem peppered with giggles of glee. Kids develop relationships, build comfort, and gain confidence through unplugged means.

We are already a world of plugged in, uber connected, frenetic consumers (raising my own guilty hand here). There's no need, or value, to dragging children down with us. And yes, I do believe the direction we're doing is down. Etiquette, grace, articulate speech, proper punctuation, letter writing, meandering, stopping to smell the conversational roses. All gems from our past that are wilting as I type.

Needless to say, Bird's list won't be fulfilled this year. He had asked for a Nintendo DSi that we just might succumb to buying. That is, unless we find some cool new pieces at the LEGO store.

Oh, and that bit about wanting an elf? I'd love a psychologist's interpretation of that one! Then again, maybe I don't.
Dear Santa, Bring me Gadgets. And an Elf.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Debate That Mary Sparked

Once again the boys showed just how different they are. And yeah, it's painfully obvious that our parenting is severely lacking. Read on. I'd like to pull what my friend Erin calls the "Indian card" and just say hey, I'm Indian, what do I know about Jesus?

While listening to Christmas music on the radio, Bird was asking why all the songs were about Jesus. Gulp. If I said that on Twitter I'm betting I'd lose most of my followers. That song about "Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ" did him in. I was beaming with pride right about then. Yeah, oodles of it. I emphatically explained that the whole point of celebrating Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ. I further covered my bases and explained that some people believe this, but we just respect their beliefs and embrace them. I babbled. And babbled.

Deal chimed in right about here as I was fiercely backpedaling, which is pretty difficult considering I don't even know how to ride a bike.

Deal: (flabbergasted) "Yeah Bird, Christmas is for Jesus! It's Jesus' birthday! Christmas is about Jesus!!!"

Bird: (very calmly) "No Deal, Christmas is about SANTA."

Sigh. Parenting fail.
The Debate That Mary SparkedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, December 4, 2009

5:00 Fridays

Don't be fooled by my shoddy photography. That's no regular barber shop candy cane you see there. I have something way better in store.

Some of you regulars out there already know that I am the only Indian in the world who is bad at math and science. What you might not know is that I also have the world's worst sweet tooth. The. World's. Worst. One time Mac Daddy and I tried the South Beach Diet, and I'd hide in the pantry scarfing down packets of Splenda just to taste sugar (fake or otherwise). It's an illness. I'm telling you, it's hard to satiate this sugar crush I have.

I have been delighted to work with a new store in town called The Lollipop Shop. Can you imagine a more fitting gig?! All the cliches about being a kid in a candy shop would not be lost here. I went there to load up on lots of old skool treats before my brother came for a visit. Bottlecaps. Zotz. Those wax bottles filled with sugar syrup. Pixie Stix. Mallo Cups. Bird and Deal tagged along and filled their bags with the rainbow mix n' match smorgasbord of Jelly Bellys and M&Ms. Our dentist just might retire to Bora Bora if we keep this up.

Today's cocktail was inspired by perhaps the greatest marriage known to we non-teetotalers. Candy meets Cocktail.

The candy geniuses at Hammond's created the cocktail candy stick. The stick looks like a run-of-the-mill candy stick that used to cost a nickle at the Hickory Farms store at the mall and came in flavors like Horehound and Sassafras. Wow, those sounds pretty hoochie when coupled like that, eh? The cocktail stick not only makes for a lovely garnish (and you know how I feel about the importance of appearances), it flavors your drink.

The candy comes in a variety of flavors that I am totally going to try. I swear there's a perfect one for each season.

Fresh mint: This will be great in Hendrick's gin on the rocks when the first dogwood buds start poking out their weary little heads this spring.

Lemon Lime: Oh, this just might make it very difficult to leave the hammock come summer when paired with an ice filled Tervis Tumbler of Rain Organics Cucumber Lime vodka.

Sour apple: Luscious in a caramel martini by a fall fire.

Pomegranate: Hint...read on...

This makes for a fetching Christmas drink can that you can totally repurpose for Valentine's Day. And if you want to add these delightful candy cocktail stirrers to your bar, just contact The Lollipop Shop on their Facebook page. You can order some for way cheaper than I found them online. And for the record, just because the FCC cares about bloggers these days, this is a totally unpaid endorsement. I'm just sharing my amazing find with you, my cadre of happy hour pals.

With no further ado...drum roll please...

Ra Pa Pom Pom

Pomegranate juice
Hammond's pomegranate cocktail stick

Pour about 1/2 ounce of cold pomegranate juice into a champagne flute. Top off with chilled Lambrusco. Add pomegranate cocktail stick.

The stick will flavor your drink, cutting the tartness of the pomegranate juice with a tish of sweetness. The natural air bubbles in the sticks make for a fine straw. Beware the danger of sucking these down.

5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 30, 2009

On a Lark

Meet Lark.

He is one and every bit a toddler.

He is more affectionate and sweet than any pet I have ever known. Truly.

He is an 18 pound beagle/corgi mix. This means that we are part Charlie Brown, part Queen of England.

We got him on a lark.

The SPCA had given him his moniker.

He is aptly named.

Did you see that face? Those ears? The ever-so-slight cock of his head?

While Deal is the self proclaimed animal lover, Bird has turned out to be the real Dr. Doolittle. All he wants to do is sit next to Lark with his hand or head in contact with his new pup. Deal loves when he gets Lark time, but I'm afraid he is feeling pangs of jealousy when we are all home together cooing over him.

Lark is still getting used to us. He is the consummate lap dog who revels in our presence. He is sweet, affectionate, peaceful, and gentle. All the things we want our companions to be yet rarely are at one time. Lark is humble, grateful, pensive. My friend Lisa noted that those eyes are filled with a dollop of trepidation and a dose of mischief. He is not a banshee who insists on hopping from lap to lap. Lark is much too loyal for that.

The boys are having a grand time taking turns walking Lark, though Deal has some leash skills to hone. He's only four so I'm not being hard on him. In the two days Lark has been a part of our family, we have already spent even more time together, gabbing on walks, frolicking in the yard, snuggling on the couch. I'm certain the novelty won't wear off. This kind of love, while novel, doesn't get stale.

I remember Skip and Toto and Sambeau and Adam from my childhood. Dogs who graced our home when I was a kid. Each one mysteriously disappeared, and all these years later I have no idea the fate they met. We weren't dog people. We weren't pet people. Hell, we were barely kid people. I am thrilled to share the joy of a pet with my boys.

They are too young to really remember my beloved Casey and Capote, the cats I had for 16 years. Bird and Deal remember that they used to hide under foot when a storm blew in, and that they were our meteorologists foretelling wind gusts and thunder before we even heard a thing. The boys know I get weepy time to time, and that reading "Cat Heaven" is cathartic. I never even blogged about finding Casey in the guest bathroom, curled up as if she were napping from a tuna juice hangover. I'm still numb from saying goodbye to Capote, his liver failing, his weight dropping. It's still too painful to conjure up the words to do them justice.

And now, more than a year since Casey's passing, I am filled with love again. I am admittedly facing Guilt just a tad. I don't want my Casey and Capote thinking they are replaced, for that is impossible. All this time my heart gaped a tish, pulled at the corners from losing my sweet kitties. Bird and Deal are painfully aware of that. They know how much I loved having a pet. They know that Mac Daddy grew up with dogs. They know that pets graced our lives once upon a time.

What they don't know is how our house was filled with love when pets shared our walls. I knew unconditional love from my pets. And I'm hoping Lark will in turn teach Bird and Deal that lovely lesson.

"The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic." ~Henry Ward Beecher

We adopted Lark from the SPCA. I urge you to save a pet's life too. Your home and your heart are the best gifts in the world. And your home and your heart aren't full until you let a pet share a piece.
On a LarkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, November 27, 2009

5:00 Fridays

Before the din of Christmas falls upon us like the anvil from Road Runner and Wiley Coyote cartoons, I'd like to pay one last homage to fall. I'm feeling a tish lachrymose about bidding adieu to the season that is upstaged by Christmas even before the last leaf has met its acorn match in the mulch.

Fall is my favorite season, with its bounty of gourds and roots that roast into succulence, apples so sweet and fragrant that they leave you wondering what happened to the 5 pound basket you just bought, sweaters and fleece enveloping you on a crisp afternoon watching the kids rake and jump into leaf piles, tall boots that give way to flip flops. Fall brings us Halloween and Thanksgiving, my personal favorite.

As my last toast to fall, I'm conjuring up some spiked cider. I get the natural kind from the farmer's market that is ruddy and more golden brown than yellow. The grocery aisle jug that looks like a day's worth of urine samples is not the way to go here.

Spiked Cider
1 mug of good quality, fresh apple cider
shot of whiskey or bourbon
shot of cinnamon schnapps (optional)
cinnamon stick for garnish

Pour a shot of your favorite whiskey or bourbon into a heat proof mug. Add heated apple cider. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. For those who are not faint of heart, toss in a shot of cinnamon schnapps. And for the record, Mac Daddy spikes his cider with Maker's Mark.

Now light a fire (whether inside with a remote control as ours works in these uberly modern times, or outside with wood and kindling gathered by neighborhood kids) nestle into a toasty fluffy wrap, shawl, or blanket, sip on a mug or two of this spiked cider, and take time to chat. Turn on some music but turn off your cellular devices. This is a sipping drink that is meant for chatter and conversation.

No one needs to be texting or blipping or tweeting or gaming while they could (should) be relishing each other's company. Christmas will hurl us into a frenzy soon enough. Let's just take one more moment to enjoy the crunch of leaves underfoot, the glisten of the night sky, the culinary treats that fuel our souls.

Cheers to Fall, may we not take you for granted, may we revel in your memory when winter bares her frigid snare.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks. Giving.

At the risk of ringing the cliche bell and sounding treacly mushy, I'm going to tell you that today I am feeling particularly blessed. I am thankful for Mac Daddy and my family. I am most thankful for my Bird and Deal. I cannot imagine what I was thankful for before I had them. I am thankful that they gave me the kind of family I longed for.

On this day of pies, crumbles, brown bettys, cakes, dressings, gravies, turkeys, hams, taters, casseroles, and elastic waistbands, I want to just say that I am most thankful for the little things.

Those little things that are actually quite grand.

I am hugging my family a tish tighter.
I am counting my blessings a bit slower.
I am saying my prayers a pinch louder.

This Thanksgiving my heart is full. My belly is full. My life is fulfilled.

And in my prayers are my dear friend Jen who is battling stage 2 breast cancer, Anissa, 35-year old mother of three who suffered a massive stroke one week ago, my nieces who are desperately missing their mother, Mac Daddy's sister, who passed away eight years ago, and my father-in-law, the grandest of grandpas, whose gracious gravely laugh and 'Sconsin accent I still hear.

Let's take today to show Thanks for those who have touched us. And to be Giving of our hearts, our tolerance, our grace, our goodness, our selves.

Happy Thanks.Giving.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Down with Pink Gloves

My dear friend has stage 2 breast cancer. I haven't written about it because I can't bring myself to. You see, she is the most lively, funny, zesty chick I know. And she is lovely. Lovely, I tell you. She wears sassy like it's a fashion accessory and dons pearls 24/7. Even to the gym. Trust me. I've seen her curling barbells with pearls dangling over the stretched out collar of her tattered T-shirt. The pearls are a cheeky juxtaposition to her swearing, bantering, tell-it-like-it-is self. This friend, this strong, smart, witty woman, cannot possibly have breast cancer. The universe doesn't work this way. Or does it?

She's too young.
She's too spirited.
She's too too too...everything.
She's my dear friend.
She's a mother.
She lost her mother to breast cancer just a few years ago.
Her mother never met her daughter.

This friend has a punchy sense of humor. She can laugh heartily at herself, though she prefers it when someone else is the butt of the joke. Sadly, that is rarely the case because she is simply too perfect not to poke fun at. My Lilly Pulitzer wearing friend who is perfectly lovely with nary a swipe of lip balm cannot have cancer. Her laugh is more akin to a toddler guffaw, which is naturally infectious. She is not a patient, in a hospital with probes and pokes or otherwise.

My friend is always up for fun and mischief, and she appreciates the wackiness of life. This, I know she got from her mother. Oh, they are so alike, yet I wish they were as different as Lilly and Betsey when it comes to this battle. My friend, who loves a laugh more than she loves a sunset sail in the Keys with a cold brew in hand, is a good sport. She'll resign herself to link arms on the dance floor to form a kick line to Sweet Caroline. She'll bitch about it, but you'll catch her cracking up and having a grand time.

So on that note, I'm sharing this silly little video that my pal Scot sent me. My dear friend will get a kick out of this video. And you can bet that if some cameraman came barreling down the hall cajoling her to strut her stuff for a viral video about breast cancer awareness, she'd hide in the bathroom stall with her blue pedicured toes propped up on the toilet lid until sundown. But I guarantee she's tapping her foot at the silliness of it all right now.

Pass this link on to everyone you know who's been touched by breast cancer. That's pretty much everyone, right?

Here's what my buddy Scot shared about the video:
Emily Somers created, directed and choreographed this video in Portland last week for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves. I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it.

When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community.

Sounds like that's something to get down to.
Getting Down with Pink GlovesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, November 19, 2009

5:00 Fridays

Did you know that Milli Vanilli was stripped of its Grammy almost 20 years ago today? If you're finicky about details, it was actually 19 years and 1 day ago. I don't see why it was a big deal. Does any pop star actually sound like the album with all its digital remastering and sychronizer magic? I mean, really, remember Smelly Cat?

Not that this little bit of cocktail party chatter has anything to do with this post. But next time you're at a cocktail party, tweet up, PTA meeting, or Trader Joe's check out line, start humming the chorus of Girl You Know It's True and see what sort of reactions you get. The foot tapping will start things off, with the head bobbing shoulder popping to come. The famous white man's overbite will soon follow. If everyone is a wet rag, blame it on the rain. Meh.

Cabin Fever
3 ounces Rain Organic Vodka
splash orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
sugar cube and mint leaf

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake it like K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Shake. Shake. Shake. Put sugar cube and mint leaf in a martini glass. Strain and pour cocktail shaker contents into glass.

Sure fire way to add sunshine to your day. Cheers to a breaking fever!
5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bring Sexy Back, One Girls Weekend at a Time

Reporting for duty after a much needed vacay from reality. Reality doesn't suck, but it sure does suck the life out of me. Sometimes it's nice to steal away and forget that my name is Mom. Sometimes I like to be Ilina again. You know, the woman who wears dry clean only clothes, tall leather boots, carries all her belongings in a pocket, wears red lipstick, and has runway posture. Life with children can be shackling. Come on, I know you've thought it too. Now before you get all high and mighty on me, let me explain that I wouldn't trade my life. I love my family and cannot imagine life without my Bird and Deal (Mac Daddy too, natch). Seriously, folks, all that goes without saying, but I can't deal with the holier-than-thou freaks out there who are ready to pounce. Allow me to extinguish your fiery words of contempt.

No matter how you cut it, once in a while a girl's gotta break free from the shackles and don some sexy heels.

Girls weekend was a blast. A downright full blown spring break romp. Spring break minus the hooking up. Not that the boys weren't trying. A Shaun Cassidy lookalike thought I was 24. In the the din of the dance club he thought I said 31 when I corrected him. His eyes popped like a bad Spencer gag gift when I held up my fingers to make a 4 and a 1. And then there were the flock of boys and men wanting to get their groove on with the eight of us shimmying and breaking out all the bad moves together. We had not a care in the world except that we were free and together.

What's so great about aging (gracefully), is the confidence you gain. No worrying about looking just right, is he looking at me, is she giving me the stink eye, will he call, do I look like an ass doing this move, is he gonna buy me a drink, should I, would I, could I. The dizzying questions that run through a girl's head in a bar are far from the questions that run through a woman's head.

Am I going to trip in these shoes?
Will I be able to walk if I groove down to ground?
Are my ears going to ring tomorrow?
Does that guy realize I'm old enough to be his mother?
How do I get the smokey smell out of my clothes?
Am I too old to down a Slippery Nipple?
How many calories am I burning dancing this hard?
How far past my bed time is it?

The biggest difference between rocking the dance floor as a girl versus a woman is that at the end of the night, the single thought we all left with was, "I still got it."

And that, my friends, is the kind of confidence that money cannot buy. We're bringing sexy back to motherhood.
Bring Sexy Back, One Girls Weekend at a TimeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, November 13, 2009

5:00 Fridays

When my girlfriends and I get together there's a whole lot of hoopla going on. We can somehow follow six conversations at once, sip wine while getting pedicures, read trashy magazines, gossip, and try on shoes, remark on what works and what doesn't, and swap lipstick shades all at the same time. Of course this is all after we've cooked and frozen three healthy meals, changed the sheets, mopped the kitchen floor, packed lunches, paid bills, stocked beer, and negotiated world peace before leaving town. We're quite adept at the one-man-band version of girls weekend.

This is no Moms Gone Wild I'm talking about (Unless of course you count the time a certain someone was caught dancing atop the bar after spinning some god awful Wheel of (mis)Fortune that pointed to the shot she'd have to down...which she, in somewhat sound mind, did. Twice.). And there was the time another certain someone, upon madly hugging her friend on the dance floor because Omigod! the DJ played our request "Pour Some Sugar On Me," tripped and toppled, landing on her elbow, which proceeded to swell to the size of a light bulb and required physical therapy. Yeah, never mind that. Where was I?

Truth be told, we generally spend our time lazing around in sweats (what I refer to as my "buffet pants"), watching sappy movies like The Princess Diaries (I and II), noshing on chips and salsa, giving ourselves facial masks, and giggling a whole lot. What we really dig is not being on a schedule or being interrupted eleventy times a second. On girls weekend, we can actually finish a thought. And a sentence.

And if we get a tish obnoxious on the dance floor, it's just because we're so excited to be grooving to something other than Victor Vito. You might get irritated and shout obscenities like Mother Fucker at us. But we don't care, because no one's calling us Mommy.


1 shot vanilla vodka
1 shot Rain Organic Honey Mango Melon vodka
3 ounces mango juice
splash soda water
honey & sugar to rim glass
lime wheel for garnish

Brush a martini glass with a bit of honey (not to be confused with the candy), then dip into a dish of sugar. Pour vodkas and mango juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into martini glass. Add splash of soda water. Garnish with lime wheel.

Repeat. Often.

Shake your booty.
Tip your bartender.
Hug your friends.

Call a cab.

5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Veteran's Day Salute

"Um, why are we getting the day off from school to honor animal doctors?" Bird, age 6
Wordless Wednesday: Veteran's Day SaluteSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 9, 2009

Steaz, Please

I've been drinking.

I recently got some samples of a new beverage hitting store shelves. While it's not of the alcoholic ilk to fit right in with 5:00 Fridays, it's a dandy drink nonetheless. And let me be clear here in the interest of disclosure: I got these samples for free, with no obligations to write a darn thing. You know that being the opining foodie and mixologist that I fancy myself to be, I like to share the little things that I discover and dig.

With that being said, as soon as I took one sip I tweeted that I want to marry this company.

I don't generally drink anything but water, coffee, wine, beer, and whatever I'm serving up at 5:00. We don't have soda in the house, and there aren't iced tea fixins to be found (reason enough to kick me out of the South...Shhh...mum's the word). My children get the choice of water or milk with the occasional juice (that I dilute with water). We do indulge in fresh apple cider in the fall and egg nog as soon as it lands on store shelves (sans brandy for the boys, natch). But this new stuff has just expanded my thirst quenching repertoire.

Well, I suppose by now you want to know the nectar of which I speak.


It's an all natural, fair trade, organic iced tea. Iced tea. Here comes another gonna-get-me-kicked-out-of-the-South confession: I am not a fan of sweet tea. But Steaz has an ever so slight hint of sweetness that is neither treacly like Bojangles tea nor nauseating in that carcinogenic, fake sweet way that the aspartame/Splenda crowd tastes. The flavors of Steaz are amazing. I think the pomegranate with a hint of lime is my favorite. I wouldn't normally be so gaga over a lousy iced tea, but anything that is all natural, fair trade, organic (and tastes good) totally speaks my language.

Let me be clear. Steaz is no big brand disguised as a newbie. Steaz is the consummate little fish in a big pond story. Make that a little fish in a Michael Phelps kind of way. Did I mention that you can buy Steaz in the ultimate of brand distribution hot spots. If you guessed Target you hit the bullseye! Happy dance that I can easily find this delectable refreshing treat that comes in a great big ole can!

But let's be clear, this stuff is so good, I might not share. Lucky for you there's a buy one get one coupon deal going on right now.

And don't be surprised if I try Steaz with a shot of some Rain organic vodka one of these days.
Steaz, PleaseSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Just Don't Get It

Based on some recent and some not-so-recent observations, I've been chronicling things that I just don't get. Some of this stuff simply makes my scratch my head (but not in that "That little itch could be telling you something." kind of way). Some of it simply irks me. All of it leaves me thinking "I just don't get it."

The Dirt & Noise I Just Don't Get It List

People who keep their dining room tables set at all times. Even though they never sit down for a meal there. Ever. Don't those dishes and swan folded napkins just get all dusty? Seems to me that after a while, your dining would start feeling like a restaurant that no one patronizes. It becomes a sad place rather than the hub of family time, festivity, and fabulous fare.

People who have formal living rooms with hand carved chess pieces left just-so on an ottoman by the fireplace. Keep in mind, these are people who are not clever enough to play chess.

People who have formal rooms that children are banned from. I figure my house is my kids' house too so why would I ban them from playing where they want to? Sure, we have rules. Like no sumo wrestling in the living room. No playing frisbee inside the house. I've been jolted by the sound of a pottery lamp shattering and multiple spills of a kelanchoe plant (three times in just one evening of late). Such is the price we pay to having children dwell among us. What are the alternatives? A kennel? The garage? The neighbor's tree house? Look, having children is what makes this house a home. I'll be damned if I ban them from being playful children in their own home.

Raisins. Why ruin a perfectly good grape that could be eaten in its juicy succulence or smashed into wine? Hmmmm...wine or trail mix filler? You tell me the better use for a grape.

Ferrets. And their owners.

Scrapbooking. Oh, I'm sensing some hate mail here. What I mean is that I don't get the actual crafty act of scrapbooking. I totally appreciate the end result but I don't want to paste a bunch of forget-me-nots and argyle socks and candy canes all over a book laden with cutesy captions. Call me old fashioned but I sorta prefer the ol' photo album (acid free paper, natch). And did I just use "scrapbook" as a verb?

Vanity plates that boast the make of a car. Like "BMW" on a BMW. Um, doesn't the logo already tell me that, dude? Redundancy (and idiocy) at its finest. Waste of money there. Clearly someone who has money to burn yet not a brain cell lit up.

I'd like to add Bible verse license plates too. This is not something I saw until moving to North Carolina. Tell me, Midwestern friends and readers, do you see this anywhere in the frozen tundra? I don't recall any of that from my 10 years freezing my bloomers off up there.

People who eschew cake frosting. Worse are those who prefer whipped cream topping to frosting. Blasphemous cake eaters!

Wall-to-wall carpeting. I've had it in all the apartments I ever lived in. I never liked it. It smells like carcinogens. What's the point exactly?

People who hang a big ass television over the fireplace mantel. In my world, that's an interior design no-no deserving of a Glamour magazine black bar. This one's for you, Sam. wink. wink.

Couples who take separate vacations. I mean separate his and hers getaways all the time yet no rendez vousing together. Nothing better than Mac Daddy by my side and a lazy stroll following our taste buds' every whim through the streets of a new city. I reckon that might happen again in oh, about 14 years. Til then, it's Family Vacation. Chevy Chase style, baby.

People who don't read. Books are my drug. My escape. My fantasy. My brain stretch. My dreams. My love. Nothing in my life has made me prouder than watching my son, my Bird, learn to read.

So tell me, what's on your "I just don't get it" list?
I Just Don't Get ItSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, November 6, 2009

5:00 Fridays

It's no secret that I love coffee. Coffee ice cream is even my favorite flavor. One of the reasons I grind my own beans is that it just smells so dang good. I love the sound of peeling the foil off a new canister of beans. I stick my big fat nose right into the top and inhale. Deeply. Then I do it again with gusto. This is quite possibly what heaven smells like. I'd wear coffee perfume if I had it. I've found that a dab of real brew isn't so effective. And it can burn. Ouch!

I never understood the point of mixing a perfectly good cup of coffee with a perfectly good shot until I tried this:

Coffee Fit for a Nut

1 steaming cup of coffee
1 shot of hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico is one brand I bet you recognize.)
1 shot of creme de cacao
whipped cream (Not Cool Whip or the canned variety! Use the real deal.)

If you have one of those tall glass mugs that restaurants have, go ahead and use it. I prefer things more homespun so I just use a big ole mug my brother got as swag from TBS about a century ago. Pour the hazelnut liqueur and creme de cacao into the mug, add hot coffee. Top with generous amounts of whipped cream. Garnish with a cinnamon stick that can double as a stirrer. If you want to be little miss fancy pants, add some chocolate shavings to that puppy. Your friends will ooh and aah...but that means you'll be stuck making drinks for everyone all night. I'm a DIY kind of gal when it comes to mixing drinks.

If you really want to make friends and influence people a la Dale Carnegie, serve your coffee artistically. See how lame your coffee skills (and mine) are compared to Micheal Keen's. If you master this, you'll be all the rage. Maybe you'll even be hired out to work the party circuit. Cha-ching!

Since this drink is technically brown, it would be perfect for our weekly neighborhood Brown Liquor Night!
5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ace of Cakes Cake Bakery Flops

Alternate Title: Let Them Bake Cake!

There's nothing like a little Food Network to bring a family together. Other than Phineas & Ferb, it sure beats the other crap on TV that is fit for kids' consumption (not to be confused with the consumption of kids, which would just be plain creepy and disgusting).

I happen to love food. I could watch the Food Network 24/7, and for those times that I am holed up in bed with a fever, I do just that. But let's be real, no mother with a fever gets to hole up in bed; no rest for the weary as they say. I don't know who "they" are, but they sure do know what they're talking about. If there's one thing I want to impart to my sons, it's a love of food. I want them to see that food is about so much more than sustenance. It's tradition, culture, adventure,

The boys like to watch the Food Network Challenge. We don't much care about the wacky burger recipes or food styling competitions. Bring on the cake challenges! The next best thing to eating cake is watching the pros making cake. It's good fun to see the extreme decorating and smoking, spinning whatchamacallits. We teeter with tension when it's time to move the cake to the judging table. We all hiss at the mere sight of sugarcraft hall of famer Kerry Vincent. She's like the pinch nosed Simon Cowell of Food Network Cake Challenge.

The one show we all love best (though Mac Daddy would still put anything with Giada in it at the top of his list), is Ace of Cakes. I've been a huge fan since before Duff, Geof, and Mary Alice were household names. I can't bake worth a lick so I live vicariously through the team at Charm City Cakes. What I really want is to share a whole mess of 5:00 Fridays with the crew and laugh until my jaws ache. I also really want to chow down on all those carved off bits of cake (The waste is criminal! All that lost cake...sigh.). Bird, Deal, and I gasp whenever we see those carved off hunks of delectable cake brushed into the garbage. Cake!

Bird and Deal like to pretend to make and decorate cakes. They use Kapla blocks, LEGO, cardboard remnants. Then Deal grabs the toy mayonnaise squirter from the toy kitchen and pretends it's frosting. He conjures up all kinds of wacky odds and ends to manufacture his own brand of gum paste. Bird was doing his homework the other day and asked me how to spell "fondant." The boys love to play Ace of Cakes. Bird is always Duff (the boss, no surprise there), Deal assumes the role of Geof, and I am Mary Alice despite my whining to be Elena since our names are so much alike. Mac Daddy is always Ben, particularly fitting on Sundays when he hasn't shaved all weekend. Whenever we see a dalmatian Deal is relieved that Duff isn't around because he apparently has a fear of dalmatians. And yes, Deal even mentioned this to the fire chief on a recent field trip to the local station.

I have been thinking about getting the boys some sort of Ace of Cakes present for Christmas. Perhaps this. But not this.

Now take a moment to click on those links or the rest of this post won't make a lick of sense to you. Go on. I'll wait.

<Insert Jeopardy music here.>

I find it pretty disappointing that Duff, a tough yet affable guy who bakes cakes for a living, is supporting a product so clearly geared toward girls. Does he really want to limit his brand like that? Does he really want to turn off (and away) all the boys who finally have society's permission to explore the kitchen? For starters, the company is Girl Gourmet. The colors, while not treacly pink, are decidedly girly and definitely not unisex. Bird and Deal would have loved this toy, but the packaging would be a big pee-ewww (best said with your nose plugged for full effect). And sure, being the liberal progressive mom that I am, I should go ahead and buy it. And I just might. But that's not my point.

I'm wondering why such a toy is targeted just to girls in the first place. As if the pink irons and dishes and brooms aren't bad enough. The toy aisles are clearly demarcated by a gender line these days. Girls engage in domesticity while boys flirt with violence. Do you have any idea how hard it was to find a gender neutral play kitchen and accessories for my kids?
And pink tools in the aisles of Sears and Home Depot and Lowes?! Don't get me started. Alas, I have already started. Who's sponsoring the time travel back to 1952 trip here? Is Dr. Laura lurking around the exhibit booths of the Toy Fair, saddling manufacturers and buyers with subliminal messages of feminine obedience and servitude? Girls should be encouraged to do more than cook and clean, no? If anything, boys could use some bolstering in that department. I live with three of them. I should know.

Ace of Cakes Cake Bakery FlopsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Problem with Reading a la Bret & Jermain

The problem with Bird learning to read is that I ca no longer wear my favorite T-shirt that my friend Will brought me from a Flight of the Conchords concert (never mind that he bought the shirt in a youth size for his son and in his Newcastle stupor he didn't realize that the shirt looked like this).
The Problem with Reading a la Bret & JermainSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, October 30, 2009

5:00 Fridays

Funny how all holidays are colored with signature hues. Green and red for Christmas, despite the Ballard Designs and Pottery Barns of the world trying to trick us into adopting purples and blues and pinks. Red, white, and blue for Fourth of July. Brown for Arbor Day. Green for my Half Birthday, I mean St. Patrick's Day. Naturally Halloween conjures up spooky images of black and orange.

Store aisles have been festooned with the color combo since, oh, July (and what a clash with the red, white, and blue!). While the Halloween imagery used to teeter somewhere between cute and creepy, it has turned plain macabre in some places. There seem to be dead dudes with bad hair all over the Target aisles, and even the grocery store has one too many severed hands served up in a candy bowl to make me want to shop for food., at least not meat.

If you people want the creep factor exponentially revved up from years past, who am I to disappoint? These 5:00 Fridays libations are for the over-21 set anyway. If you have nightmares just hum "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille like I did when I was a kid and got spooked by things that went bump in the night.

Today I bring you an unique concoction from our friends across the pond who speak with a lovely lilt and use the word "mate" as a noun.

Blavod Black Vodka Screwdriver (in the spirit of gory Halloween and revenge, let's pretend that this particular screwdriver bored its way into the brain of the asshole who just made snide racist comments about my friend's adorable little children yesterday...note the use of "bored," yet another homonym!)

2 shots Blavod black vodka
3 ounces pulp free orange juice or tangerine juice
corn syrup or honey
red food coloring

In a shallow dish, mix a couple of tablespoons of corn syrup or honey with several drops of red food coloring. Dip the rim of a highball glass into the mixture. It will drip down the sides like oozing blood. Add ice cubes and orange juice. Slowly pour the Blavod black vodka on top so the orange and black colors are layered. Serve with a straw or swizzle stick. This cocktail is best stirred before drinking, but the layered look packs a punch for Halloween presentation.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween, Dirt & Noise Style

I happen to be a big fan of Halloween. I love eating candy, dressing up in costume, being spooked, eating candy, dancing to the Monster Mash, snacking on candy corn mixed with dry roasted peanuts (a deliriously divine treat that my friend @turnaroundart turned me onto!), carving pumpkins, eating candy.

I also happen to look good in orange so I embrace any chance I get to sport it. If I keep on eating candy I just might look like a pumpkin myself one of these days. That'll save me money on my costume I suppose.

The boys of course love Halloween for all the same reasons I do. Mac Daddy hates Halloween for all the same reasons. He detests dressing up, could care less about spooky movies (He flat out laughed at Blair Witch Project whilst I peed in my pants.), hates candy corn, thinks dancing to Monster Mash is dorky, and is painfully uncreative when it comes to carving a jack-o-lantern. Meanwhile I buy pumpkins at every turn and even planted a kitschy scarecrow in our yard. Our table is bedecked with sparkly black and orange place mats, candy corn shaped candles, and plastic spiders. I listen to the Monster Mash station on Pandora and read Halloween stories in creepy voices with much ballyhoo.

I sounded every single one of my 41 years when I proclaimed to the boys that we'd be making our own costumes this year. Their mouths hung agape. And Mac Daddy laughed. Then these preachy words came out of my matronly mouth: "When I was a kid no one bought costumes. We used our imaginations and creativity to make stuff up. We were green without even realizing it. No one wasted money on costumes, even if that meant dressing up as a hobo or the unknown comic every single year of grade school." I must have spoken with authority because no one questioned me...though they clearly questioned my sanity. And for the record, I am the least crafty person I know. Luckily the boys are too young to know how ridiculous they might look, and by the time they figure it out, they will hate me for many more reasons (like the bowl haircut Bird seems to sport in every school picture).

I do hate all the high fructose corn syrup that cannot be avoided without paying an arm and a leg for carob bars or other such crap that the children would toss out with the razor bladed apples and arsenic laced popcorn balls. I wish there were some viable alternatives (stupid tombstone shaped erasers and skull emblazoned super bouncy balls aside). I suppose next year I could serve the fair trade natural stuff and rig up a fake gory arm and leg with a sign stating "I paid an arm and a leg for this candy."

Or I might just put up a sign that says "I paid an arm and a leg for healthcare. Can't afford candy."

In the mean time, I'll be dressed up as Rizzo and trawling the hood for candy. Bird will be a ninja warrior, and Deal will be his own super hero known as Super Deal. Mac Daddy will be dressed up as a corporate cube dweller who works for Da Man.

Halloween, Dirt & Noise StyleSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wordless Wednesday: OUCH!

Wordless Wednesday: OUCH!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, October 23, 2009

5:00 Fridays

I like words. I've been having fun with words ever since I had my first little ditty published in the Mini Pages back in grade school. This tidbit just boosted my cool factor significantly in my 6-year old's eyes. I have even been known to keep an Excel spreadsheet of homonyms. My friend Will gives me endless grief for this, which is clearly a sign that he doesn't have The Gift (never mind that "gift" means "poison" in German. We're sticking with English here. And never mind that if you add an "s" to "poison" you get "poisson," which is "fish" in French...see I told you I like words.). Anyway, I haven't a clue how to use a spreadsheet for numbers, but it turns out to be a fine tool for alphabetizing my homonym list. I've been teaching Bird and Deal about homonyms ever since they could talk. I crack up when they discover one on their own.

"But/butt" was a recent example.

As was "booty."

This is why I don't home school.

Since entertaining season is almost upon us, I wanted to share a recipe for a refreshing, wait for it...punch.

Homonym Punch

In a large punch bowl (I totally looted one from my friend Christy's yard sale pile. I bet your mom or your friends have an equally kitschy one in their attic that you can snag. By the way, that's her up there drinking with me. One look and you can totally tell that she is awesome beyond words, right?), mix one liter (or litre for my British readers) bottle of ginger ale, 1 large can of pineapple juice, about 5 cups of mango juice, a small can of cream of coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk) and gently stir. Add a handful of fresh raspberries, chopped fresh pineapple, and sliced lemons and limes. Add Malibu coconut rum for the grown ups. Keep it virgin for the kiddies or your knocked up friends. But add a paper umbrella to give your drink that hanging-out-barefoot-in-a-hammock-tied-between-two-coconut-trees-on-the-beach feel. Even if it is Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is one way to give yourself a winter vacation on the cheap.


And if you have a favorite homonym, let me know in the comments. I could always use some new material in my spreadsheet.


5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, October 19, 2009

Food Safety: Caveat Emptor

"Caveat Emptor: is one of the many phrases I remember from my early days of Latin in the esteemed Dr. Larrick's class. (Sidebar: Every student should have been lucky enough to have had Dr. Larrick. He continues to inspire students in ways few can. Teaching is a gift. One that he keeps on giving. And for that we are thankful.) Anyhoo, "Caveat Emptor" is of course the commerce principle that means the buyer assumes the risk. It translates to "Let the buyer beware." We generally think of this in terms of purchasing cars, property, and pretty much anything from eBay, Craigslist, or the classified section (that is, if anyone still lists and buys stuff that way these days).

I never thought Caveat Emptor would apply to the food I buy.

We take leaps of faith everyday. We trust that the drivers among us will stop when the light is red. We trust our children's schools are secure. We trust that the bank protects our money. We trust that our municipality's water reading is accurate. We trust our cribs are tested and our toys lead-free. We trust the food stocked upon market shelves is safe.

Thanks to the likes of Stewart Parnell, the infamous Salmonella Peanut King, consumers can no longer afford to take a leap of faith when it comes to food purchases. The FDA has long been riddled with powerlessness and plagued with inefficiencies. Food safety, and in effect consumer wellness, has been on the back burner. It seems to me that we as a nation have focused more on making a buck and pulling a fast one on consumers than protecting public health. I'm thinking of the policies and attitudes of a certain eight years in the all-too-recent-past. Ahem. The FDA, through years of neglect and failure to modernize itself, has floundered in protecting us.

Well finally, in a bipartisan leap, the food safety bill looks like it's making headway to overhaul the FDA. Despite the fact that the Senate looks like it will wait until next year to address it, the bill is still getting some much deserved attention. It's at least a starting point. Slow but steady, right? The FDA, the government organization upon which we rely to ensure the food we consume is safe, has had puny resources to actually to its job, making us take leaps of faith in the grocery aisle, off restaurant menus, and in school cafeterias without even knowing it.

Spinach. Peanuts. Cookie dough. Ground beef. Chicken. Pet food.

Pretty basic items on any grocery list, right?

E. coli. Salmonella. Listeria.

I bet those aren't on your shopping list.

So where do we go from here?

Until our government gets rolling on passing and implementing this new food safety bill, it behooves us all to exercise Caveat Emptor in every food purchase we make. Even buying local, organically produced food does not guarantee it's safe for consumption.

Note that I write this a mother, a cook, a consumer. I'm not a pundit, a biologist, a lawyer, a lobbyist, or a politician. And my bet is that if you're not either, you too don't care about the in-fighting. We simply want to trust that the food we serve our children is not tainted. Food is sustenance, and should not be suspect.

Check out these resources for more information.
Safe Tables
@SafeTables on Twitter
Sign up for eAlerts about food recalls.
FDA food safety

Thanks to Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Mike Taylor, advisor to the FDA Commissioner, Safe Tables and the fine bloggers (@GloPan, @punditmom, @morningsidemom, @soapboxmom, @jippert) who joined in on an informative call last week about food safety. Cheers to good health instead of just wealth!

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