Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dirt & Noise has moved!

Dirt & Noise has moved on and up! We've packed our bags and moved to a posher spot. And I'm pretty sure it won't be any cleaner or quieter over there. Dirt & Noise is now here: http://www.dirtandnoise.com/
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lights Out at Project Enlightenment

Project Enlightenment's lights are out. Not literally, though they might as well be. It seems that those rumors flitting about in March about Project Enlightenment's budget cuts that the school board was squashing were actually right on. At the time the board told us to lighten up. John Tedesco, the board's most vocal newcomer and staunch conservative who's confusing politics with public service, even stated how much he values and supports Project Enlightenment.

Yet with a zip of a box cutter the budget's been slashed.

This isn't about politics. Let's not muddy what's best for children and families with political gain and pretenses of martydom and bootstraps and other such cliches. Children aren't political pawns. Education is a community value.

Hop over to Deep South Moms where I've continued my venting.
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Friday, April 23, 2010

5:00 Fridays: Schneider Mike in the House

My buddy Schneider Mike wrote a fantastic guest post today all about beer. Beer! I love Schneider Mike. I love beer. It's an age 21+ peanut butter and jelly match made in hoppy heaven. I met Mike at Social Media Business Forum last fall. We clicked. Just like that. Not in a smitten way, more of a you-are-so-witty-smart-fun-irreverent-and-cool way. I dig him so much that I've been nagging him to move down here. But I'm trying my best to keep him near me in the city and not in hinterland suburbia like his best pal Greg (whom I also adore!). Anyhow, here's Schneider Mike's take on beer, brewski, beevo, whatever you call it. Cheers!

The first taste of beer that I remember was a Ballantine Ale at 6 years old. Knowing my old man, it was probably sooner, but I remember liking the carbonation and the bite, but not the acidity. I now refer to old school beers like Ballantine and Schlitz as "drinking a battery". There is a metallic electricity and aftertaste that has been all but eliminated from the beer world. He also used to really enjoy Blatz. Blatz was a beer that would haul off and punch you in the mouth every time you dared to sip. I recall trying Goebel, American, Molson, Genny Cream Ale and my grandfather once let me try "generic beer". The bottle was brown. The label only had the word BEER on a yellow background. He came from a different era and so did my old man who still thinks it does not get any better than Ballantine Ale.

Unlike my dad and grandfather who find what they like and usually stick with it, I am really hard to satisfy. My dad would take me to the beverage store with him and I noticed that just like cereals, yogurts and sodas, there were beers I hadn't tried yet and I was curious. I tried a few beers in high school. I first drunk at a graduation party, but still I wasn't satisfied. Michelob Dark couldn't be the best, most interesting thing that the beer world had to offer, could it?

Enter Samuel Adams, who, in 1985 first introduced their Boston Lager and, in my mind, gave us hope that there was more to beer than Budweiser, Miller and Schlitz. I had my first Samuel Adams in college at 19. We had a friend pick us up a couple of six packs for the first ever "good beer night". The idea was concocted when Andy, Karl and I decided that drinking mass quantities of swill like Natural Light and Busch Light Draft was unacceptable, that we did not like drinking to get drunk and that we wanted something more. This was a very good idea and we spent the rest of the evening reveling in the fact that I was right all along about beer and that we had finally discovered the Holy Grail. This was a huge step up from freshman year when we decided that Miller Genuine Draft was the "Nectar of the Gods".

Since then, I've tried many beers in many glasses, casks, bottles and growlers on my show at belchingmonkey.com and wanted to tell you about 4 IPAs that I really enjoy.

Bear Republic Racer 5
(BM rating: B+)
They call it aggressively hopped, but I find this to be incredibly well balanced between orange zest, pine and floral notes. Highly drinkable, but beware of the 7% alcohol by volume.

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (BM rating: A-) The pride of Delaware starts with a gentle, floral nose. Sipping reveals surprising java bean complementing bitter flowers and some vanilla.

Great Divide Brewing Company Titan (BM rating: A) This sucker has delicious forest-like notes on the nose. The hoppiest of the bunch (most bitter), the flavor reminds me of sushi that goes nicely with a little green tea, pine and lime zest. The packaging for Great Divide beers is also brilliant.

Avery Brewing Company (BM rating: A) Big lemon and spice nose. Perfect balance of pine and zest with gentle sweetness. When I am drinking this one I usually think "favorite".

What are your favorites?
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Everyday is Earth Day

Earth Day is like Valentine's Day to me. Do we really need a day to go rah rah and ignore the hearty issues the rest of the year? It's like being treacly sweet and clad in pink lace to woo your man one day of the year and check the hubba hubba off your list. I don't get it.

One day does not a habit make.

Everyday is Earth Day in my house. I need a T-shirt that says so.

Bird and Deal are in on it, and I love when they follow Mac Daddy to the trash and bust him tossing junk mail in there and yelp for him to put it in the recycling bin. Nowadays our trash can is practically empty while our recycling bin overflows. I am a nutso, recycling clothing tags and all bits of cardboard that pass through my fingertips. And yes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls can be recycled too, folks! We also save all sorts of "trash" in the art project box to craft into various nifty creations. Egg cartons are a big hit. Ditto for wrapping paper tubes...except that no matter the project at hand, those turn into swords or light sabers.

I happen to love Earth Day and get jazzed by all the attention it gets. Earth Day totally kicks Arbor Day's ass. It's kinda a shame since Arbor Day is all about the trees and all. Earth Day is the only holiday that espouses Love Your Mother. I happen to dig the double entendre.

Oh Earth, how do we love thee. Let me count the ways...

  1. Our garden is planted: lettuce, chard, spinach, cucumbers, beets, green beans, tomatoes, all sorts of peppers, mint, basil, sage, lavender, thyme, cilantro.
  2. We're the last family in North Carolina to turn on our air conditioning and the first to turn it off. Also, it's set at 80. Heat is set at 67 in winter. Mostly we rely on open windows and ceiling fans. And if you visit us in winter, pack extra socks. Pack scantily when traveling here in summer.
  3. We ditched plastic water bottles. Thermoses are all the rage.
  4. Mac Daddy packs lunch for the boys in reusable containers. When we do use plastic bags, we wash them and reuse them. Over and over and over.
  5. When we take walks, we take along garbage bags and pick up trash. And wow is there a heap of junk littering our walkways, waters, and wildlife.
  6. No dog poop is left behind.
  7. Most of what we eat is organic (and local!).
  8. All our appliances are energy efficient. And yes, we explain what that means to our kids.
  9. Hand-me-downs rule. So do thrift stores and girlfriends' closets.
  10. All our cleaning products are green. No bleach and icky fumes that make you go ewwwww...
  11. Even our toothpaste is chemical free.
  12. Deal collects rainwater in sand buckets to water the garden.
  13. We embrace our clovered, creeping charlied "lawn." No ChemLawn here. And no, I'm not fooled by the rebranding to TruGreen.
  14. I don't vacuum often. This saves electricity, right?
  15. I turn my underwear inside out to double the wear. KIDDING! You know the neatnik in my couldn't stand for such a gross violation of grooming.
  16. Rain organic vodka is the bomb.
  17. If I used FourSquare or TriOut or any such location blabbering tool, I'd be the mayor of the public library.
  18. Our cars, while not hybrids or electric, are not behemoths.
  19. Front load washing machine. Double the load, half the energy and water.
  20. We talk to our sons about the environment and our responsibility to it.

My family doesn't take drastic strides to be green. We value our planet more than we value a pristine lawn. That's about values, not sacrifices. Every one of us is a visitor here, and we owe it to our children (and theirs) to leave the earth a better place. Cliches ring true for a reason.

Everyday is Earth Day.

At least it should be.
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Friday, April 16, 2010

5:00 Fridays

I have professed my love for Fat Tire before. Beer delivery among local watering holes just happens to be around the time I take my sons to school. We inevitably spot a Fat Tire truck. Bird and Deal whoop and holler like it's the Peeps truck. Even when I buy a different beer brand (GASP, the horror!), Deal asks, "Mommy, are you buying Fat Tire?" Bird puts the bubbles from his bath into a plastic cup and presents Fat Tire to Deal. A hallmark of stellar parenting.

It might come as a surprise that today's drink isn't Fat Tire, but it's another New Belgium masterpiece. A seasonal pale ale has me cheating on my beloved Fat Tire (nevermind the other pansy brands I've partaken in before).

Mighty Arrow.

Sounds like a good Y Guides tribe name. I'm tucking that in my back pocket for when Deal is of age.

In the mean time, I'll be donning my $9.99 Tarjhay shades and spending my moulah on Mighty Arrow instead. You can find me on my patio admiring my garden, chasing my dog, tossing the lacrosse ball with Bird, or just kicking back with Real Simple and a beer.

Mighty Arrow, named after a beloved dog. Crafted by a beloved brewery.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mom Makeover: The Road from Ho-Hum to Hawt

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I got from my mother involved mascara.

I've shared my opinions on mom jeans, Keds, denim jumpers and the like. I don't believe that being a mother is license to be a frump. We all take a few steps away from our dry clean only wardrobe once we have children, but it's not necessary to trade in fab for frump. Yet all too often, it happens. Like back fat. It just creeps up on you before you realize that everything in your closet has an elastic waistband. When we stop putting ourselves first, we plummet to stretchy pant hell.

I'm guilty as charged. To a certain extent.

I recently embarked on a journey with a few other women to do a Mom Makeover. Nothing extreme to walk the catwalk or sport a tiara. Just a simple makeover that's realistic for a mother who spends her time in car pool, at the park, or on a date. I was hoping to transform a couple moms who could go from "Park to Party" in a flash.

With the help of Jill, Joanna, Pam, and Amanda, we pulled it off for our first contestant on Park to Partay!

Meet Liz.

36-year old mother of a three-year old daughter and 5-month old infant son. Liz is tired. She's been feeling frumpy and is scrounging up the time and energy to hit the gym again. Her own sister in law even threatened to turn her over to What Not to Wear. Ouch! Liz knows there's a sprinkle of her former self sparkling in there somewhere.

We were there to help Liz regain her shimmer so she can put some shimmy back in her step.

Meet our makeover team.

Jill, owner of hairdos. Before Jill pulled out her scissors she talked to Liz to get a sense of her style, preferences, and lifestyle. Clearly Jill took the time to know the client first instead of treating her head as a canvas with license to chop. We've all been in a salon seat like that, right? Jill gave Liz a kicky little cut and even gave her options to wear her hair up or down. Options are good. Did I mention that Liz donated a whopping 11 inches of her mane to Locks of Love? I know how freeing it is to cut off all that hair. The key thing about the magic that Jill worked is that she kept Liz's hair maintenance free. After all, what mom wants to deal with a high maintenance hair style that involves multiple gooey products and various electrical devices? It's a wash and go cut that will grow out lovely, meaning Liz can look good while not swapping out style for sleep.

Joanna, makeup artist and owner of Look at Me Makeup. And I don't use the word artist lightly. Every girl dreams of the make up case Joanna was toting. Oh, the creams and powders and shadows and blushes and liners! Some of her go-to products to make us moms look more awake than we feel: mascara, concealer, blush, lip gloss, moisturizer! Also, maintain those brows, ladies. Like Jill, Joanna focused on making Liz's makeup regimen fast and easy. Wearing makeup doesn't have to be a 30-minute ordeal that requires paint brushes and spackling. I don't even own blush and I've never put a drop of foundation on my face in my life, yet I think I don't look half bad. Joanna gave Liz makeup tips that fit her lifestyle and schedule. The beauty is that she also gave Liz tips on how to turn the makeup amp up to 11 for date night. Va va va voom! Again, options are good.

Pam, owner of Dress. and fashionista extraordinaire. Pam is that rare blend of fashion and frugal. Pam's shop perches at the intersection of Quality Road, Style Boulevard, and Affordability Avenue. Dress. is a lovely little boutique that features consigned and new designer clothes, shoes, and handbags. And boy are the brands in there mouth watering! Pam, having the honor of being my most fashionable friend (who is blessed with lean long legs and a tiny waist...damn her), not only sells the clothes, she helps with personal styling too. She gave Liz so many fantastic options that it was nearly impossible to make a choice. Sometimes options aren't so good. ;-) The ticket was to find Liz an outfit that's comfortable, versatile, fun, and easy. Do you see a trend here? Perhaps the best testimonial is that I left Dress. with the most perfect little black dress, and our photographer bought three! Ooh la la.

Amanda of Amanda Olson Photography. She's one helluva talented photographer whom I'm going to hire to take my headshot for my book jacket one day. Amanda captured not only the activities of the day, but the spirit as well. Though she and I were in the same room, her eyes saw things mine did not. She really has a storytelling gift. Amanda's photos were simply glorious. There's nothing phony or diva about her, but she is a true artist. You have no idea how hard it was to select photos for this post. Every single shot rocked. I kid you not. I'd pepper my walls with Amanda's photos and spent a good hour just perusing her gallery on her site. Poor Amanda will now have to chase my two sons and a pesky dog to capture some family shots this fall. You can see more photos from our day here.

So the key is this: style and comfort are not mutually exclusive. We owe it to ourselves to put our best face on and our best foot forward. Clad in a touch of mascara and some swoon worthy shoes.

Motherhood is hot. Bring it.

Mom Makeover: The Road from Ho-Hum to HawtSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reading a Lullabye to My Bird

Books can mend your spirit, even if you're a six year old who needs his mommy to read a lullabye to shush away scary dreams.

Read more at Deep South Moms...
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Friday, April 9, 2010

5:00 Fridays - For Duke

So I suppose it's not news anymore that Duke won some big basketball tournament. I inadvertently taught my sons to do air quotes and say "the game" because everyone around the water cooler seems to talk incessantly about "the game" regardless the time of year. Now Bird and Deal taunt and mock Mac Daddy every time he watches sports (It's only sports or the news with that guy. I don't know why he can't branch out into quality programming like Gossip Girl.).

I don't know squat about sports and usually choose my bracket based on very important, studied criteria such as school colors, mascot, and the city the school is located in. I don't know any player names and sure as hell don't know any stats. I didn't even know what "in the paint" meant until I got my friend John Hollis' book called Life in the Paint (Dude, it's for sale on Amazon. Check it out. John is a whole mess of awesome, but don't tell him I told you so. I like to keep him on my curmudgeonly stubborn side.). And then on Twitter @illig sent me straight to Google with his cager reference.

It would only make sense that I honor Duke in today's 5:00 Fridays post.

Duke Ellington, that is. You didn't really think I'd toast Coach K and the Dukies, did you?

Duke's a Champ (from The Daily Cocktail book my friend Kate gave me)

1-2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce blackberry brandy

Pour the vodka and blackberry brandy into a mixing glass half filled with ice (cubed, not crushed). Stir and strain into a martini glass. Kick back and listen to some jazz...and I ain't talkin' Utah.

A few lyrics from Duke Ellington's Cocktail for Two:

"Most any afternoon at five
We'll be so glad we're both alive
Then maybe fortune will complete her plan
That all began
With cocktails for two
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Friday, April 2, 2010

5:00 Fridays: Tipping My Glass to Laura Bennett

I recently got a copy of a fine read Didn't I Feed You Yesterday? A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos from the author herself. I've even exchanged emails with the author herself. I feel like it's a brush with fame. Well, if said brush were but one hair thick. A brush nonetheless. And nevermind that I have never owned a pair of stilettos in my life.


The author of Didn't I Feed You Yesterday? A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos, Laura Bennett, is someone I'd like to have a weekly cocktail with. We'd have our 5:00 Fridays inked in our calendar books, and it would be a weekly standing date while our boys would tear up the joint. We'd kick off our shoes, hers, 4-inch fabulous Manolos, mine, more modest cowboy boots or handmade leather sandals my aunt brought me back from India. I'd drool over her shoes and bags while she'd secretly be thankful I'm not her size. Then Bird would deck someone or Deal's whining would reach epic levels and she'd ask us to leave.

Laura and I would make quite a pair. She towering at close to six feet, while I stand at a solid five feet if I throw my chest out, yank my shoulders back, and hold my head up. She, a redheaded red lipsticked beauty. Me, a brown skinned and eyed, dark eye-circled, 40-something with a swoosh of black eyeliner and lip balm. I think I'd mostly like to hang out with Laura in hopes of her cool factor, sense of style (Did I mention she was on Project Runway and made it excrutiatingly close to the end?), confidence, and ability to shake it off.

You see, Laura (We're totally on a first name basis. I mean, we did exchange emails and all.), lives in Manhattan in a two bedroom loft. With FIVE boys (her daughter is lucky enough to be away at college...incidentally, her daughter and I went to the same boarding school...but let's just say I didn't graduate from the same school). And of course Laura has a husband, who's really like boy #6. And here I thought a lousy two boys and a husband (boy #3) was bad. Even my dog is a male. Being outnumbered isn't the issue as much as the sheer dirt and noise. You did know the meaning behind my blog's name, right? If two boys can run amok and wreak havoc, I can only have nightmares about what five boys can do.

Laura's life is pretty much a gassy cloud of burps, farts, shrills, guffaws, spills, and well, Chaos.

Yet she thrives in it. What I learned from reading this laugh-aloud funny book was that I could use a lesson in taking it easy. I'm clearly wound too tightly, and it ain't from my Spanx (which, thanks to Laura, I must run out and buy because it's apparently the miracle non-surgical surgery fix). My version of letting loose is to declare Sunday as no-making-the-bed day. In fact, on a recent vacation Bird cleared Deal's stuffed animals off the hotel bed and started to make it. I stopped him, but part of me was damn proud. In an admittedly sick way.

I'm a stickler for rules, manners, healthy food, home cooking, blah blah blah. After reading about Laura's philosophy on mothering, take care of yourself first (akin to putting on your oxygen mask first as Laura recounts), I realize I am piling on loads of couch fodder for my sons' future therapy. But can I really exchange my rigid cookin' ways for a more fabulous MO? I mean, it doesn't seem that Laura's sons are any worse for the wear. Actually, they appear quite smart, gracious, and downright funny.

And yes, she has help. Dear God, she must. But let me be the first to say that having help doesn't make Laura less of a mother. There are no blue ribbons in motherhood, so get off your soapbox and make room for us all to share a piece of the winner's circle.

I might not be as relaxed, charming, talented, and funny as Laura Bennett but I could at least don some red lipstick and stop yelling for a spell. Luckily for me it's 5:00 Friday so I can put up my kicky-shoed feet and relax with a cocktail.

This one's for Laura. Her candor. Her humor. Her style.

Now go buy her book. If you don't laugh aloud I'll buy you a drink. Make that three. Because if you don't laugh out loud, it clearly indicates that you are a fool with no sense of humor and a corncob stuck up your ass.


3 ounces of Hendrick's gin
1 ounce of Stirrings Bitter Lemon Soda
1 cucumber slice

Drop a few ice cubes into a highball glass. Pour in the gin. Top off with Bitter Lemon Soda. Float a cucumber slice in there to make it look fancy and spa-like. Put on some of that long lasting lipstick that doesn't wear off, you know, the kind flight attendants and Mary Hart must wear, and sip away. You'll tune out that chaos in no time.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Lesson in Peel n' Eat Shrimp

My sons are at an age that I can recount stories from my formative years. Only the G-rated ones, of course. Um, not that there are any stories that venture out of NC-17 territory. While we were waiting to be served at a restaurant recently, I told Bird and Deal about how I was a waitress for many years. Seven, to be exact. I was about to lecture them on how hard the waitstaff works but I knew they would be like the dog in the Far Side cartoon so I stopped myself. Instead I shared a personal story about one of my waitressing experiences.

I waited tables in an English pub in town. It was part local watering hole, part tourist trap, part college cheap eats, part businessman's brouhaha. I donned the requisite khaki shorts and hunter green polo shirt and set out for the night. I sipped Diet Coke in the back while noshing on ungodly amounts of bread slathered in butter. I was in college then and had no idea that one day my thighs would touch. I remember being in a particularly chipper mood. Again, this is because I didn't have a crystal ball telling me about my mushy future.

A tweed jacketed gentleman of about 50ish came in alone. He was the kind of guy whose jacket actually needed suede patches on the sleeves and weren't there merely for professorial effect. He had a mop of brown hair that was tousled and sloppy, and I recall that his pants were so ill fitting his belt looked as if it could wind around him twice. He ordered a Boddington's and the Peel n' Eat shrimp.

Not only was the entree entitled "Peel n' Eat Shrimp," the menu blurb clearly described it as such. I did not feel the need to be even more explicit when he ordered the PEEL n' EAT SHRIMP. I served 'em right up, and he smiled and nodded, as anyone with a dollop of manners would do. When I checked back, he had cleared his plate and piled up the shrimp shells on the side of the table. I asked him how his meal was in my most friendly waitress voice (This is akin to phone voice but much trickier because people can actually see you.). In one sweeping gesture that caught me totally off guard, the gent (who turned out not to be one) picked up a handful of shrimp shells and threw them at me. In the middle of the dining room. In front of everyone. He exclaimed, "I didn't realize I'd be working for my dinner!"

"Well sir, the dish is called PEEL n' EAT SHRIMP, " said I, suddenly feeling my chipper attitude being chopped away.

The bastard wanted his meal comped.

We said no way. After all, he hadn't flagged me down to complain. I'd like to interject here that I was a very attentive waitress so it's not like I deserted him and hung out in the back smoking with the cooks or anything. Besides, he ate the whole damn thing. He paid but didn't tip me. The good news is that all the other patrons who witnessed his tantrum generously tipped me as a kind show of sympathy.

So I recounted this tale to my sons at lunch as we were waiting for a waitress to serve our chicken and dumplings and crayfish soup. I was hoping they'd get the gist of my parable, as I going all Aesop on them. I asked the boys what they thought of the man's behavior and how it made me feel. I was probing for a lesson in empathy here. Bird and Deal gave the expected head nodding and shoulder shrugging and said that the man was mean. Not exactly what I was going for, but I took it.

Then Bird, who couldn't hide his killer grin that's gonna make him the male version of Helen of Troy one day, snickered and said, "He was rude, but it's still pretty funny." He cracked up while saying this and could barely get the words out.

And with that, we all laughed.
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Wordless Wednesday: The Real Deal

Wordless Wednesday: The Real DealSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, March 26, 2010

5:00 Fridays

Today's 5:00 Fridays post is a special creation for my friend Gina. Gina of Taste This! fame. You know, the cookbook? Yeah, I have a friend who wrote and published a real cookbook. Cool, eh? You might know Gina better as the Bowl Licker. Based on Bird and Deal's kitchen antics, especially when we bake together, I think her blog is aptly named.

So we're toasting today for Gina's birthday. Everyone wish Gina a big ole Happy Birthday, mkay?

Nevermind that I haven’t yet met this fellow foodie and cocktail maven on the left coast, though I count her among my friends. I have a hunch that when we meet we could very well gab for hours on end whilst shopping and sipping, leaving little room for breaths and pregnant pauses. Gina perks me up, makes me chuckle, and whets my appetite. I’m dying to pull up a barstool in her kitchen and nosh and toast and laugh.

I imagine Gina has a lovely kitchen. I bet she has really cute aprons too.

A little bird, known as Facebook, told me that Gina will be blowing out candles on a cake this week. Nevermind just how many candles. Since she’s the one who inspired me to start baking from scratch (I’m telling you, her blueberry muffins are sinfully delicious.), I’m pretty sure she’s indulging in a damn good cake. Let’s just say that I’m a better mixologist than a baker. I’ve concocted a little birthday cocktail for my friend Gina.

I’d whisk her away to a blue hued sea with white sand beaches and red pedicures if I could. We’d eat fresh fish, succulent pineapples, and sweet coconut juice. This must sound like a romantic rendezvous to some, but for mothers who work work work, paradise is a beach replete with libations and girlfriends where no one calls us Mommy.

So to toast Gina on her big day, here’s my little taste of paradise. Cheers!

Gina Bina Bobeena

1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce coconut rum
1 ounce banana liqueur
5 ounces pineapple juice
splash of grenadine
pineapple wedge and banana slice for garnish

Pour first three ingredients over ice in a high ball glass. Add pineapple juice and an ever so slight dash of grenadine. Skewer a pineapple wedge and banana slice to plop in as garnish.

Happy Birthday, Gina!
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Monday, March 22, 2010

My Latest Hang Up

You know how when you bring home all those teeny tiny itty bitty onesies and Jon-Jons that are so cute when your baby is the size of a sprinkle? You know how the outfits are so dang small that your husband couldn't wear them as mittens, much less snap the things? You know how you so gently washed them and folded and hung them on those precious little hangers that are impossibly adorable and fit for a pixie?

Remember how small they once were?

Being small equates to so much more than size. The utter smallness of a newborn son nestled in his Moses basket or better yet, upon your chest, is love and mortality and family and goodness at their finest. The simplicity of smallness. That smallness means miracle, responsibility, opportunity, potential, glory, dedication, future. That smallness is the starting line for the growth of a family and the bonding of a mother. The first drop of immense love that fills you up a thousand fold over. That smallness is larger than life.

And then they grow.

And grow.

I was almost awash in tears last night as I was putting away Bird's laundry. Yes, his laundry nearly drove me to tears. Granted, I hate laundry so it often drives me to whining hissy fits but this is not what I'm talking about. I caught a fat salty drop before it fell to my cheek. You see, Bird's teetering on the cusp of seven.

7. Years. Old.

His clothes aren't so small anymore. His clothes aren't even all that cute(sy) anymore. His shirts could pass as mine, and in fact, Mac Daddy often questions whose T-shirts are whose when he folds the laundry (Yes, I have a husband who folds laundry. I told you he is a keeper.). What made me weepy was that Bird's big boy clothes don't fit on the baby sized hangers anymore. Those tiny hangers that have been in his closet since the day we started stockpiling a baby wardrobe are now too small. My little Baby Bird is becoming a Big Bird. All that means to me is that he's slowly growing wings. To fly.


And all I can do is watch, beam, love, applaud.

And maybe shed a tear.

Fly, Bird, fly.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

WRAL GoAskMom: I Get Around

While I might seem like a willy nilly blogger here at Dirt & Noise, I assure you I am no slacker. I've been writing at other places and have been too busy to even get the word out. It's ironic that I write about myself and am a marketer yet neglect to pimp myself effectively.

Don't hold it against me.

I'm contributing to WRAL's GoAskMom blog these days. Check out my post about eating out with kids here.

And if you want to read the weeks you missed, you can find them all here.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

5:00 Fridays

First of all, I'd like to thank all 12 people reading my blog today. I realize March Madness is upon us. In hindsight, I realize that is precisely why Mac Daddy whisked me off to Charleston for a tenth anniversary surprise getaway last weekend. Points scored and subsequently redeemed for an inordinate number of hours perched in front of our old dusty TV following an orange ball bouncing from here to fro. I can't get past the lanky guys in ill fitting shorts who have massive pipes. Did boys have muscles like that when I was in college? I think not.

Couch therapy takes on a whole new meaning during March Madness. Pass the chips, man.

Basketball is more grunge less refined, right? It's a beer swilling sport for the most part. Then again, all sports are beer swilling sports. Well, not polo or horse racing, but I'm not talking country club and cotillion here. Mac Daddy is a slave to basketball. He evens follows my alma mater to keep me abreast of all that's (not) happening on the court in Hooville. Apparently my guys weren't on the bubble this year. They weren't in the same zip code as the bubble. There might have never even been a bubble.

In any case, because I'm not a bitter kind of girl, I'd like to celebrate the bubble today. A toast to those teams whose bubbles didn't burst (not that I know who they are).

The Bubble

2 ounces lychee juice
3 ounces dry champagne

Pour the lychee juice into a champagne glass and top with champagne. Leave the garnish out today. I mean really, you can only fancy up hoops so much.

Cheers to the Madness that is March!

So tell me, who'd you pick to go all the way?
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pavlov's Dog Redefined

I don't know much about old dogs and new tricks, but I do know a thing or two about new dogs and old tricks.

So we taught our dog Lark to ring a bell when he has to go to the bathroom. We had heard of such a trick but were naysayers. Truth be told, between my poo-pooing of great ideas that are not my own and Mac Daddy's contrarian cynicism, we are naysayers much of the time.

Lark has made believers out of us.

Because we adopted Lark just after Thanksgiving, we had jingle bells of all shapes and sizes and tones jing-a-linging all around us. Every store front and street corner were practically jingle bell rocking in jingly style. I bought some large brass bells tied to the tackiest of red velvet ropes adorned with a big ass red velvet bow. I suppose this doorknob accoutrement was meant for someone's front door, but for us it was perfectly suitable for the mudroom door that thankfully no one sees. There are certainly times I have poor taste, but tacky I am not.

And so we began to take Lark's paw and ever so gently tap the bell before we opened the door to take him out. He looked at us quizzically like we had bells for brains. We thought ourselves fruitcakes to even be trying such a trick. Yet even in the wee hours of drizzly sun up and sun down, we took his little paw and made that little bell ring-a-ling.

Fast forward several months.

Well hells bells! It worked.

Little pooch Lark rings the bells every time he has to potty. Even my kids, who can talk for cripe's sake, don't communicate their system flushing needs that well. This is how we ended up with poop on the dining room floor when Bird was two.

So now when we hear Lark ring the bell, we come running. Lickety split.

Who's Pavlov's dog now?
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Wordless Wednesday: Active(ist).

Wordless Wednesday: Active(ist).SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wake County School Board Has Me Fired Up...and Worried

Our school board has bullied, bushwhacked, and axed a wedge clear through the county, and it reeks of party line politics. I'm up in arms, fancying myself an activist these days. Read on to see what has me so irate.

Here's a hint: Diversity isn't just about color.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

5:00 Fridays

You might imagine that I am difficult to live with. I'm testy, persnickety, hyper, emotional, opinionated, oh, the list goes on. Not many people can put up with me. I get that. I owe Mac Daddy a lot for putting up with me. He's a gem, that one. I might be foolish but I'm no fool. I know a good thing when I see it. Mac Daddy is the Mac Daddy of husbands. If I had fewer student loans and more dough he'd get more than a blog post for our anniversary.

Mac Daddy and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary on Sunday, March 14.

That's 10 freaking years. Married. Happily. More than happily.

4 cities.
2 apartments.
4 houses.
3 home renovations.
2 kids.
2 cats.
1 dog.
7 jobs.
1 true love.

It's so cliche to say this, but really, where has the time gone? We met at work. We were friends. I used to set him up with my girlfriends. Wiley E. Coyote came around and dropped an anvil on my head to get me to see the light. We easily transitioned from friendship to relationship because, well, we were friends. Real friends. We celebrated our 30th birthdays together (Mac Daddy threw me a surprise party worthy of a blog post all its own). We traveled to some amazing cities, dined in dives and hoity toity venues, and gotten our groove on in juke joints all over creation.

I first fell in love with Mac Daddy when he unabashedly hopped onto the dance floor and rocked out to the likes of Andy Kim, Earth Wind & Fire, and The Gap Band. We have always laughed so easily together, though he doesn't think I'm nearly as funny as I do (rather, am). I like to say he has Funny Envy. Mac Daddy is more sarcastic than funny; the two are indeed mutually exclusive. Mostly we can laugh at each other's expense without getting our britches in a bundle. And when we do get our britches in a bundle...well, that's another story...

Mac Daddy and I got married in Key West on somewhat of a whim. That kind of no frills fun affair suited us perfectly. Our simple wedding was more about us, less about fuss. We were under the glorious banyan trees in the gardens of the Audubon House. Those trees are magnificent, seeming to defy gravity and the very assertions you had about nature. The limbs climb every which way, sweeping up, across, down, and back up again. Intertwining along the way, peppered with leaves so hearty you can carve your initials in them (As tradition goes at the Audubon House, we did just that, with our wedding date too). The banyan tree's trunk is sturdy and thick, elegant in its rugged simplicity. The kind of tree that beckons you to climb its branches in a fit of frolic, have a seat to chill in a comfortable silence, lean against it for unfailing support.

In typical laid back Mac Daddy and Key West fashion, today's drink would be best imbibed from a tin cup chalice.

Which incidentally, was our first dance.

And tin is the traditional 10th anniversary gift.

The Mac Daddy

2 ounces Hendricks' Gin
Juice from 2 key limes (Fresh! You can't possibly use imitation juice in Mac Daddy's signature cocktail!)
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Few sprigs of fresh mint
Key lime wedge for muddling and garnish

Muddle a couple limes wedges with the simple syrup and mint. Add to martini glass. Shake gin in cocktail shaker filled with ice. Pour over simple syrup, lime, and mint. Garnish with a key lime wedge. Have a sip with someone you love. And remember, the things worth toasting are the ones keeping you toasty every night.

Chalk this one up there with things that make you go hmmmm.

Happy Anniversary to Mac Daddy! You make my world bright and have given me the life I've always dreamed of. I love you.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Old Navy Work Out Gear Rocks for Gym & Grocery Store

You are aware that I hate to work out, right? I mean, sure, I go to the gym. I even go to a Butts n' Guts class twice a week (not that I'm a poster child or anything). I haul my butt to the gym because I know it's good for me. And yes, I admit I feel better after a good sweat. But I don't enjoy it. Ever.

What I do love is to at least look the part. Gone are the oversize shorts and trade show T-shirts. This mama has graduated to far chicer gym attire. I don't need to wear bags to cover up my flaws. Instead I simultaneously embrace and mask them with the right fit, color, and proportions.

I've been a loyal Target shopper for many years. The workout clothes suit my budget, size, and style. It's no Athleta but it's...shall we say...fine. Just fine. The fit isn't all that great, and teh pants lose their stretch after a couple sets of squats and donkey kicks. I'm no high end fitness freak so I can't justify spending oodles on gym clothes. I could never find a happy medium.

In steps Old Navy.

Did you know Old Navy is cranking out fitness wear now? It's all super cute and comfortable. And what's key for this 60-inch powerhouse is that the styles come in petite sizes! Trumpet fanfare ensues. The yoga pants I got to try out as an Old Navy Brand Enthusiast are softer than the stretchy pants I wore post-pregnancy (many moons post-pregnancy...ahem). The moisture wicking fabric is light and really works. But again, since I'm no real athlete, what I love best is how the gear looks. I am that superficial after all. As an active, busy, overscheduled mom (bet you readers can't relate to that at all, eh?), I don't have time to actually shower before running errands. I mean really, it's a banner day when I sneak in a shower at all. Usually a swipe of mascara carries me until I can hit the shower. However, I do like to look more fashionable than frumpy at any given time.

I'll be checking out the racks at Old Navy to stock up for summer workout wear. Try it out out and let me know what you think.

Here's what I'll be dropping into my shopping cart:

Active mesh skort (in bright purple!)
Piped active shorts
Racerback tank
Graphic mesh racerback tank
Foldover yoga pants
Active shorts (though I have miles to go before I can wear these for public consumption)

Thanks for the test gear, Old Navy! Even if I'm never the poster child for Butts n' Guts (the "After" image, natch), I'll at least look good and feel great trying.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Read Read, It's Good for Your Heart

I remember when Bird was born some people from the church we had joined threw a baby shower for us. Being the most clueless of mothers, I asked the pastor at what point we should start reading to our son. She emphatically charged, "NOW! It's never to early. Read now. Read often. Rejoice." And so from that point on we have cuddled our son in the crook of our laps and read to him. All the classics and treasures and gems from Indian folklore to add a bit of culture to our repertoire. Thank you, Pastor Julie, for your sage advice.

Fast forward several months. Norman, ranking among the kindest, most generous guys I know, gave me and Mac Daddy one of our most favorite gifts to welcome baby Deal into our family: Honey for a Child's Heart.

We loved flipping through this book pointing out our childhood favorites. Sadly, one my favorites isn't listed, and it's not available at my local library. I'll give you my firstborn* if you can get your hands on Andrew Henry's Meadow. I can still picture the tattered lime green cover and ink illustrations. I remember never tiring of that book and daydreaming about escaping to my own meadow. Honey for a Child's Heart speaks to the value in reading aloud to your children and really creating a reading culture in your family. Setting an example is key. Read here about the example I set for Bird. I have about three books on my nightstand at any given time. I carry a book with me practically everywhere (Note: I need an eReader to lighten the load.). My kids see me reading All. The. Time. Reading trumps TV in this house (because we have DVR to watch stuff later).

When I was a child, life at home was rather tumultuous. I craved an escape but had nowhere to go. Books were my light, my savior, my sanity. My most happy times were when my nose was pressed into a book. Then, and now, I was careful not to bend the spine, maintaining the primness of the books I held so sacred. I've lately been reliving my childhood through books that moved me way back when. So far I've read the likes of A Wrinkle in Time, The Borrowers, Sounder, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Bridge to Terabithia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is remarkable to see these tomes through my 41-year old eyes. Most remarkable is that I still love those stories. I cried at the end of Sounder even though I knew the ending and had been anxiously anticipating it through the whole book. Bird just finished a couple Roald Dahl books -- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Danny Champion of the World. Tonight he embarked on the ambitious journey of the first in the Harry Potter series. I applaud him!

You have no idea how proud I am to see my Bird read. His first experience of "the book was better than the movie" was with The Indian in the Cupboard. Throughout the movie he kept remarking how it had taken liberties with the book. Well, he didn't phrase it that way, but you get my drift. I swell with pride at the very sight of Bird curled up in what we call the comfy chair with a book. He stays up late with his nightstand lamp illuminating the words that beckon him to dreamland. He recounts tales to us at the dinner table and on a good day, he reads to his little brother. The beauty of those two little boys nestled shoulder to shoulder in the comfy chair makes my heart pitter patter and my pride gleam.

Deal, while only four, loves books too. He can sit quietly for ages with his face pressed to a book. At a glance he'd fool you into thinking he's actually reading. He could spend everyday at the library, and they know us by name there. Once, when given the choice of the library or the park, both boys screamed "Library!" in unison. You have no idea how proud I was. Deal and Bird both love when we read aloud to them. Even though Bird can read on his own now, he still relishes that lap time when he gets to hear the words leap from the pages in our character voices. Our laps are getting smaller, but our love for books is growing deeper.
Read on.

*You shall get my firstborn when he is in the throes of disobedience and defiance, not to be returned until he is docile and ducky in demeanor.
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Friday, March 5, 2010

5:00 Fridays

So the Oscars are on this weekend. Yawn. Ho hum. Whatevah. It's normally kind of a big deal in my house. Over the last 12 or so years I have seen all the Oscar nominated films in the top six categories. You know, the ones in which the actors get accosted on the red carpet and make the cover and center spread of People magazine.

Mac Daddy and I would fill out our ballots and sit down to a feast of the surf and turf variety. We used to call our old friends Chris and Shan during commercial breaks to taunt them since we took our balloting seriously. I never liked Oscar parties because of all the...talking. I like to watch it all in uninterrupted silence: the pre-show, post-show, fashion police show, and everything in between. Shan is the only person I have ever met who would watch the Oscars with the same riveted attention. Back in the day we ended up shooing our loud mouth husbands out of the room so we could watch in peace.

This year our Oscar night will be a wee different. For starters, we've seen about two movies. Mac Daddy and I are the only people on the planet who have not seen Avatar. The only category I have covered is Animation. I have a hunch Chris and Shan are in the same boat. And now instead of shooing our husbands we'd be shushing our boys, which is never very effective. Also, no more surf and turf since we gave up red meat. Surf is still on the table but doesn't have quite the same ring to it. I'm also a tired wreck these days so it's likely I'll fall asleep somewhere between the Cinematography award and the recap of the technical awards where all the geeks are segregated from the real stars but get to ogle a Hollywood hottie in all her cleavagey glory for an evening.

The one thing that won't change is toasting our love of the movies with champagne. Even if we're curled up in fleece PJs a size too big (that would be me, not Mac Daddy) and a shedding farting dog between us, we'll crack our the Tiffany champagne glasses my brother (who happens to be a Hollywood type himself who has been nominated for an Oscar...ooh, the irony) and pour some bubbly. Not to be confused with the Buble that might be on your iPod, not mine.

I'm mixing it up a tad this year as a nod to our dear friends Chris and Shan whom we miss terribly. I recall some excrutiatingly fun evenings with them way back in the day, just a bevy of buddies sharing some Absolut Mandrin libations.

Oscar Oranj

5 ounces good quality brut champage
1 ounce Absolut Mandrin vodka
teaspoon Grand Marnier
Orange slice

Pour the vodka and Grand Marnier into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with an orange slice. Sit back, pretend you're dolled up in a custom gown so fancy and tight that you're taped and tucked into it, toss your head with a gay lilting laugh, bat your eyelashes, pout your ruby lips, be charming, and have a sip. Now revel in the escape of the movies.


In the words of Kevin Spacey at the 1995 Academy Awards (Holy shit! The Usual Suspects is 15 years old?!):

"Whoever Keyser Soze is, I can tell you he is going to get gloriously drunk tonight."
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Project Enlightenment Saved My Family

I posted this to Facebook this morning when I read about the drastic cuts proposed for Project Enlightenment.

"My family was in crisis when our son was 3. Not medical or financial crisis. Behavioral crisis. It is no hyperbole that we would not be who and where we are today without Project Enlightenment's support and care. Without those counselors and programs, our son would not be thriving in first grade now. The impact of that experience fixed what was a potential shattered relationship with my son at that tender young age. I'm emotional even harkening back to that time. These programs are not just for those people whose paths you don't cross. "Those people." These programs are for ALL of us. And they work."

My fingers quiver on the keyboard as I conjure up the memories of when Bird was 3. He had violent raging temper tantrums. I'm not talking the I-Want-Candy variety. He'd overturn furniture and fling books out of his bookcase in a head spinning rage. He would yell like a banshee and writhe in fits of fury. 15 minutes would pass. Then 30. 40. Most rages lasted 45 minutes to an hour. Full on screaming, flailing, kicking, hitting. Deal was an infant then, cradled snugly in my arms for fear he'd be in the path of Bird's destruction.


Not just his room and his belongings. Our family. Our relationship.

I sat in tears, quaking with stress, worry, fear, resentment. I never knew what would tip the scale to make Bird fly into a tantrum. I tiptoed and spent every waking moment anxiously awaiting the rage to begin. He saved it all up for me. Bird didn't demonstrate this behavior at school. Whatever he corked up at school came gushing out at me. He spewed all his emotional venom and bile upon me. We spent many hours huddled in his room sobbing. Feeling helpless. Alone. Defeated. Guilty. And just terribly sad.

All while tending to an infant.

I was alone. No family support. A husband at a new job.

Bird's tantrums were escalating. It was as if he were possessed. Seriously out of control and a danger to himself. I began to resent this behavior. To resent my own son. Do you know how that feels? I feel ashamed admitting it now. My heads hangs, my whole being awash of guilt. I defied all truths of motherhood; suddenly I was rewriting what unconditional looked like. I loved Bird, of course, but I didn't want to be around him. I didn't want to cater to him and fear him. I wanted to instead protect the sweet baby Deal who was innocent and vulnerable. And yes, easy. Easy to love. Easy to care for. Easy to adore. Then I was swept with such guilt for feeling so that I mentally collapsed.

Once, just once, I slapped my son.

In the midst of one particularly violent rage I slapped Bird across the cheek thinking I could get him to snap out of it. It didn't work. He didn't even take note of my hot hand on his wet cheek. I still feel the sensation of my sweaty shaking palm making contact with his tear streamed soft skin. His face. I literally shake my hand to get rid of the sensation as if it were an EtchASketch. My eyes well with tears and a coal-like lump rises in my throat as I write this. I've never said this before. I never talked about what hell it really was. For all of us.

But that afternoon I called Mac Daddy. I told him I couldn't do it anymore. I wasn't fit to be a mother. I was overwhelmed and under supported. In retrospect I am most certain I suffered remnants of undiagnosed and untended-to post partum depression. I was the camel, and my slapping palm was the straw.

We called Project Enlightenment.

Our counselor saved us. Saved me. Saved our son. Saved our relationship. Without the skills and insights and therapy we received....

I'm afraid to even think what might have been.

Project Enlightenment gave us specific tools, words, exercises to manage Bird's tantrums. We learned how to handle anger, fear, anxiety, in him and in ourselves. We learned how the parenting we were a product of made us the parents we were becoming. We learned how to repair what was shattered. Just yesterday I opened my Project Enlightenment file to get a quick refresher on how to teach empathy to my sons.

That file has sat atop my desk for almost four years. Its contents are dog eared and highlighted. Those resources have given me my son back. Project Enlightenment served a need, a desperate need, that no doctor or grandparent or teacher could have filled. Or fixed.

If our counselor at Project Enlightenment hadn't helped us, my resentment toward Bird would have surely escalated. I know this much is true. I find myself still battling it at the times he's particularly difficult or defiant now. My brain takes me back to those fits when he was three, and I think, "Haven't we been through this? Haven't I paid my parenting dues?" But now I know how to change. Now I know what resonates with him. Now I know. The self loathing I have from that time still haunts me. There are times I want to rewind, words I want to retract, steps I want to retrace.

Project Enlightenment, while unable to magically erase or rewrite the past, has enabled us to walk into a shinier future. Hand in hand.

Bird is now a thriving first grader. He has no behavioral or medical or psychological issues. Well, he does pick on his little brother and talks too much in class, but that's all normal, right? My Bird is bright, curious, eager, and awfully funny. He knows he is loved and adored. I still call him my first baby when I kiss him good night. We exchange Eskimo kisses, butterfly kisses, and lip kisses. Then he blows me a kiss from his bed, and I pretend to catch it and put it on my cheek. This is our ritual.

And we have Project Enlightenment to thank.

Join the Facebook Group here.
Send an email to the school board. You'll find their contact information here.
Write to the paper.

Raise your voices, people. Cutting funding for early childhood development and education will prove to be disastrous, and expensive. Our children are an investment, not an expense.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

5:00 Fridays

You know I like it hot.

And there's only one thing I like dirty.

My martinis.

I'm one stoked mama when I can have it hot and dirty.

You sweating yet? This is starting to get bit frisky.

I've proclaimed my love for Dirty Sue before. Dirty Sue has made a dirty martini snob out of me (like I needed more to be snobbish about). I don't dare order one at a bar anymore, what, with the barkeep's hands digging around the brine in the tray of olives that's set right out there for public consumption and all. No thanks.

I've decided to take a whirl at my own concoction to make my martinis the way my life's unfolding these days:

Hot and Dirty

3 ounces of Rain Organic Vodka
1/2 ounce Dirty Sue
splash of olive juice from Trader Joe's Jalapeno Stuffed Olives
2 Jalapeno stuffed olives (or 3, if you tend to be a bit piggish like me)

Fill your shaker with ice. Add liquid ingredients. Hum a little KC and the Sunshine Band and shake shake shake. Strain into a martini glass (I'm digging these.) and drop in a couple of those bad boy olives. Sip. And say ahhhhh.

Oh, and sadly, the only thing that's really hot are my flashes. As for the dirty, if you have two boys and a dog, you know what I'm talkin' about.
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Sit mens sana in corpore sano

The Spartans believed in a healthy mind in a healthy body. Shouldn't we embrace that basic tenet as Americans?

Mushy brain in a mushy body is more like it.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Michelle Obama's Let's Move Initiative and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Have Me Fired Up

Tater tots, while funny in Napoleon Dynamite, are not the stuff of healthy lunches.

Green beans with no crunch and the slightly tinny taste of a can. I'll pass.

Cole slaw bathing in mayonnaise. Not the best way to dress the otherwise healthy cabbage.

Hot dogs full of nitrites, sodium, and um, meat parts perched in a bleached white bun. Gag.

Ketchup and french fries deemed vegetable servings. You've got to be kidding me.

Fruit cocktail in which the cherry is more the color of a mustang convertible than what grew on George Washington's tree. Gotta be FD&C Red #3 Erythrosine.

Chocolate milk. Strawberry milk. Soda vending machines. Looks like the Wiggles need to teach all youngsters to Gulp Gulp drink some water.

Such are the "healthy" options deemed appropriate for school lunches. The very institution that enriches our children's minds poisons their bellies. No matter how gifted the student, he'd be hard pressed to properly pronounce the ingredients and additives that comprise his lunch.

Propylene glycol.
Sodium nitrite.
High fructose corn syrup.
Monosodium glutamate.
Potassium bromate.
Butylated hydroxyanisole.
Butylated hydroxytoluene.

Sounds more like the chemistry lab than the school cafeteria. What a ghastly disservice to our kids. Some of those kids only get a "nutritious" meal at school. Some of those kids don't have produce drawers stocked with snap peas for munching and bowls of washed fruit within reach. While we're pumping our students' brains with reading, fractions, history, and the arts, shouldn't we add a healthy dollop of nutrition and activity? How many school districts do you know of that have reduced or all together axed their PE programs?

We as a nation of partisan bureaucratic greed mongers, choose to fail our children. This is not a byproduct of government snafus; this is a conscious choice. It's no cliche that children are indeed our future. Our future is starting to look bleak.

We see childhood obesity rise while test scores plummet. We sit back and nod our heads to news that for the first time a generation's life expectancy will be shorter than that before it. We cross our arms and ignore the rapidly rising rates of childhood diabetes. We are incredulous that children have high cholesterol. We wonder why health care costs soar to jaw dropping peaks.

Corn subsidies and continued policies that put the value of a buck over the value of a child are why we see such a drastic increase in childhood obesity. Look around, people. What you see ain't pretty. Chunky babies are cute; portly preteens not so much. While their bodies fail them their self-esteem gnaws away at their core. Eating disorders ensue. Yo yo dieting perpetuates health concerns. Broken self-esteem leads to grave insecurity and depression.

In the case of my childhood friend, poor eating literally lead her to the grave. Dead of anorexia at age 16. She battled weight her whole life, having been poked fun of as the chubby kid one too many times.

I was fortunate to participate in a conference call with Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. He shared his personal tale of childhood obesity and the indelible mark it left on his psyche. He shared his vision of keeping our children safe and well. We talked about Michelle Obama's initiative Let's Move and how she, as a shining paragon of health, can help shape our nation's food policies and school programs. Fingers crossed!

The goals of Let's Move are simple:
  • Give parents the support they need.
  • Provide healthier food in our schools.
  • Help kids be more physically active.
  • Make healthy food affordable.

Do I hear an AMEN?!

And while I find packing lunches the most tedious task in my nightly routine, it's the most important one. I might fail my sons in multiple ways, but through their bellies ain't one of 'em.

For more of my food rants and raves, check out:
Foodie Mama
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

5:00 Fridays

Today's 5:00 Fridays is a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers. We haven't met (yet) in person, but I think I might squee and pee when I get to belly up to a bar with this fellow mama of boys. I imagine it will pan out a lot like when I met my lovely Caroline for the first time.

Meet Melissa, sweet Melissa. Green Girl in Wisconsin. Click over on that thar link and read some of her stuff. Then sign up for the RSS feed. She's a whole lot of awesomeness and smack talk.

When Ilina (and many, many other East Coast bloggers) wrote about their Snowmeggedon, I totally sympathized. After all, I live in Wisconsin, land of the Nanook, the Frozen Tundra, the legendary Ice Bowl. Ten inches of fluffy stuff to us is commonplace where everyone owns a parka, snow boots and tire chains. Between snowmobiles, skis, sleds and snow shoes, we make the most of winter here.

The time of year we hate here is early spring, when the temperatures warm up to 36 degrees--enough to turn pure white bountiful flakes into a slushy, dirty, sloppy mess. It coats our cars, it tracks into our houses and leaves charcoal-colored puddles on the floors. Children are resigned to playing around the puddles in their driveways. Snowmobile trails close, ski hills shut down, and while the rest of the country enjoys mild weather, we curse the ice floes clogging up our rivers and the mountains of gritty slush stubbornly blocking the storm sewers along the roads. We wait impatiently--staring out the windows at the gray landscape. Whether farmer, baseball player, teacher or fisherman, early spring is a cruel time.

Regardless of the calendar, whether it's a hot summer night, a blizzard or the slow thaw of spring, one cocktail brings a smile to the faces of people living in Northeast Wisconsin. The Dirty Snowball. A recipe developed and perfected at Cleo's Brown Beam Tavern, Dirty Snowballs are as potent as Long Island Iced Tea and more delicious than fudge brownies.

I told Theresa she needs this legendary recipe because soon all that snow will start to melt, leaving behind snowdrifts pockmarked by auto exhaust and gravel. When her two boys are outside chucking dirty snowballs at each other, she can stand at the window and watch--while tossing back her own Dirty Snowballs.

Dirty Snowball (the real recipe from Cleo's Brown Beam Tavern*)

1 shot vodka
1 shot dark creme de cacao
1 shot coffee liqueur
1 shot cream

Blend to the consistency of slush.

*I searched the internet to find this recipe to no avail. Many other "Dirty Snowball" drinks exist, but they call for Bailey's and Mint Schnapps--NOT the same drink we toast and get toasted on in Northeast Wisconsin! I knew that Cleo's used vodka in this cocktail, so I went straight to the source and asked one of their bartenders. This, Ilina, is the real deal!

And further cause for celebration...

This year Cleo's Brown Beam Tavern turns 40 years old. Named both for the original owner and for the beams that stretch across the ceiling, Cleo's is known also for its crazy decor. The first Christmas after it opened, Cleo never took down the decorations. Since then, decorations from EVERY holiday have been added by patrons, making the interior truly unique and memorable. Name the holiday and tacky decor and you will find it somewhere inside Cleo's!
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Monday, February 15, 2010

What's for Dinner

While I make a hearty home cooked meal (almost) every night, I'm often flying by the seat of my too tight pants. I find myself subbing walnuts for pine nuts or simply doing without ingredients because I didn't have my shopping shit together. My paltry pantry pinches my panties in a pickle. And there goes my culinary mojo. Down the drain with the grease (Kidding! Don't ever ever put grease down the drain, people!!!).

I've decided to try a new MO this week. I'm not committing to a WHOLE. YEAR. like a resolution or anything. I'm talking a lousy week here, folks. Not even all seven days; I'm just thinking about the six days that I'm usually flying solo and wondering who the hell granted me my motherhood license in the first place.

This week I'm planning my menu. For the whole week. I perused cookbooks, websites, my recipe box (yes, I have a splattered old recipe box), and the clipped magazine cutouts stuck to the only magnetic side of my smudged stainless steel fridge that is practically tucked behind the cabinetry and hard to access. Note to self: Must add those recipes to aforementioned box.

So here's how our menu is stacking up at Chez Dirt & Noise:

Proscuitto wrapped salmon with herbed lentils and spinach, roasted endive, balsamic marinated strawberries, bananas foster (Thank you, Jamie Oliver!)

Baked chicken drumsticks with carrots, black olives, lemon, roasted parsnips, baked maple apples, cheesy garlic bread, ice cream (The boys chose Neopolitan.)

Proscuitto and goat cheese risotto, spinach salad with craisins, walnuts, homemade dijon/orange vinaigrette (We don't do bottled dressing here. Why bother when the homemade stuff is oh so easy and exponentially more tasty?)

Fish tacos with avocado and cabbage/cilantro slaw, chili/cumin corn, black beans

Tofu stir fry with broccoli and snow peas, brown rice, sliced pears

Homemade pizza with whole wheat crust, raw sugar snap peas and apple slices (Finger food fun!)

I actually went to the grocery store on Sunday to stock up for the week. I normally go to the store or farmer's market 3-5 times a week, depending on what kitchen fantasy strikes me. My goal is not to cut down my shopping trips, but it would be a nice byproduct (particularly for Deal, who gets dragged from Trader Joe's to Costco to Kroger to Harris Teeter umpteen times a week). I simply want less frenzy in the witching hours when Bird is cranking out homework and Deal goes from Mr. Congeniality to Commander Crankypants. And, it seems, the dog rings the dang bell to pee 600 times whilst I make dinner. Lark's small bladder makes the risotto a risky proposition considering the constant attention and stirring that dish needs. Alas, I shall persevere.
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Friday, February 12, 2010

5:00 Fridays

Photo courtesy of Laurie White:
Photo courtesy of Laurie White:

Photo courtesy of Brenda Bartella Peterson:

I hear that some people in my viewing area have been hit with just a tish of snow.

Prepare yourself for a sidebar here:

When I was in about third grade I recall writing a story about where snow comes from. This was a creative writing assignment, not a science paper. I mean, really, I might have fared better in science class had there been more writing and less calculating. I didn't even know that snowflakes have six sides until Bird (who's 6) told me. All I knew is that each snowflake is unique and that that fact makes for a tired metaphor. Nothing like digressing in a sidebar that is already a digression of sorts. Anyway, I wrote a rather in-depth folkloric tale, replete with glitter in my illustrations, about snow. My story was that every time the angels combed their hair it snowed. My teacher hated it. She visibly shuddered. Back then we didn't need to pad self-esteem to the Nth degree and pat kids on the back for every gosh darn pea they ate and pee they tinkled. My teacher even took me into the hall for a good old fashioned talking-to.

You see, I equated snow with angel dandruff. Apparently angels are holy creatures not to be taken snidely. And apparently that little itch was totally telling my teacher something. I was too young to be irreverent; I was just being creative. So I thought. Lesson learned: Some people are very touchy about their dandruff.

Here in Raleigh we got some snow too. All of four inches. We missed three days of school. I'm not mathy but I think that figure to an average of about a day or so for every inch. I donated almost three times that much hair and didn't get a day off. When it snows here it's equal parts glorious novelty and pain in the arse. The novelty wears off as quickly as the white stuff melts. The pain in the arse lingers since the yard is pretty much a sodden mush pit now. From mosh pit to much pit in the course of a few years. Such is the plight of those of us who grow up.

Since our snow left us as quickly as you can blow dandruff off your shoulder, I'm honoring my friends just over the state line and beyond with today's drink. My pal Colin was serving these the first night it snowed here. I hear the plows aren't making much headway so you must have some untouched snow to use. Word to the wise, leave the yellow snow alone.

This cocktail is Head & Shoulders above the rest.

Snow Cream

Fresh snow
Maple syrup (The real deal only, folks!)

Fill a tumbler with fresh snow. Add a shot or two of bourbon, dash of vanilla, tablespoon or so of maple syrup, and a healthy pour of cream. Stir ever so slightly. Keep this one pure and don't add garnish.

Remember, the more you drink, the more quickly the snow will go away. Be your own plow.

When life gives you snow, make snow creams.

When life gives you dandruff, make a trip to CVS for Head & Shoulders.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Want vs. Need

Bird's homework yesterday was to make a list of five things he Wants and five things he Needs. Then we had to work together to determine the price of one item he covets, find out where to get it, and figure out how he could earn the money to buy it. We went through the exercises, but the outcome is realistically never gonna happen. Can a six-year old really earn 300 bucks to buy himself a freaking gaming system? Pretty damn unlikely in this house. I can't speak to what grandparents might succumb to.

Bird's homework got me thinking about how we're teaching our sons the difference between wanting and needing. There's simultaneously a fine line yet a jagged abyss between the two. It's clear that I'm not setting a very good example. I pine for the perfect pair of black boots and whine about how I nnnneeeeeeeeeddddd them. Of course I know and Mac Daddy knows I don't need them. Mac Daddy knows me well enough to know that all I really need is a slick cool slap of reality once in a while. That, and ice cream.

Have a look at Bird's list. You'll note that it ain't gonna win him any points on the pageant circuit. Looks like I'll have to return all the bow ties and black tap shoes I've been hoarding in his closet.

Need (He's clearly one to harp on the obvious.)
Mom and Dad (I'm amazed we made this list, with me getting top billing even!)
Car (This is because we live in Raleigh, the world's most unwalkable city.)

Want (Hmmm...this list harkens to the letter Bird wrote to Santa.)
Nerf gun
TV in my room (Nevah!)
Blendy Pens
Wii games
Ds games

The pageant folks might be impressed with the inclusion of artsy Blendy Pens (despite the As Seen on TV pock mark that blemishes this choice) or the future architect potential of LEGO, but the rest of the stuff is mindless clutter, literally and figuratively. I will say this: Bird is a kid who knows what he wants.

But what he needs is an attitude adjustment. As for me and those perfect black boots, I realize I don't need them. But I really really really really really want them. In a size 6. You know, just in case anyone is feeling particularly generous.

Maybe Bird and I can get a BOGO deal on that attitude adjustment.
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