Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Good Stuff - February

Grown-up Stuff

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almonds made with Belgian chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar - Four of my favorite things put together into a 10 oz. box of joy. If you have a Trader Joe's or a TJ connection, hook yourself up!

Design Mom - The only problem with this blog is that it has its own gravitational pull and sucks me in, sometimes for over an hour at a time, to the absolute neglect of my home, crying children, ringing phone, overflowing bathtub, and all other responsible things I should be doing. The pull is so strong it even draws drool from my mouth and occasionally tears from my eyes. Otherwise, it's perfect.

L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream - I have been on the hunt for the perfect hand cream for many years. I was very happy with The Body Shop's Hemp Hand Protector for a long time, until I found this. My hands get dry and cracked, especially in the winter, so I love a good, thick cream that really sinks in rather than evaporating. Non-greasy is a plus. This cream really fits the bill, figuratively speaking. Literally, it is pretty expensive for lotion, which is why I ask for it for holidays. I got a 5 oz tube last Christmas and just ran out (thanks, Tona, for my new one for my birthday). So it comes out to $2 a month, really. It feels like silk and smells lovely but not overpowering. J'adore.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - I do think it's magical. Especially life-saving when, say, hypothetically, you discover your new flat screen TV that you saved up for for a long time has been scribbled all over with blue colored pencil. Stuff like that.

PataPri Etsy Shop - Hello, there are thousands of fabulous shops on Etsy but I just dig this one a lot lately. Especially love the mushroom dish towels and the tree pillow covers.

Kid Stuff

A is for Annabelle - This book is a blast from the past for me. My Grandma Cummings had this book, plus a very old doll named Annabelle. In the book Annabelle is "Grandmother's doll" and comes with an alphabet of old-fashioned accessories, like a muffet, a nosegay, a parasol, and a tippet, all in rhyming couplets. Two little girls play with and dress Annabelle for various outings and occasions, just like we used to do with our Grandmother's doll. I bought this book for my own nostalgia, but Hazel saw it and asked me to read it to her. I thought she wouldn't like it since she usually loses interest in alphabet books, and this one was full of stuff she'd never heard of. But she was riveted from A to Z and asked for it again.

The Picnic Game by eeBoo - Hazel got this game for Christmas and we play it almost daily. The pieces are large and sturdy, the rules are simple with no reading, the colors are pretty, it moves quickly so turn-taking isn't frustrating, and every game is different. There is also a tea party game with the same rules, just different pieces.

EeBoo makes lots of pretty things I like. Hazel also got this memory game for Christmas, but she's not quite ready for it. They also have nice growth charts, and I bought a set of four 11x14 weather art prints on ebay to hang in a kid room someday.

Zingo - Speaking of games we play everyday, we average 2-3 times a day with Zingo. It was intended for Hazel but Ginger "plays", too, and feels like quite a big girl doing it. I was surprised to discover Hazel's excellent visual memory - she glances at a card and for the whole game remembers what was on it - she often hands me my tiles while I'm still checking my card to see what's on it. We avoid the winner/loser thing with our games, at least so far, by having the person who is done first help everyone else get done, too. Then we are all winners (pass the Cheese Whiz.)

Stockmar Beeswax Crayons - I am DYING to try these out. My girls don't really like to draw with crayons, and I can't blame them. The color is so light under little hands. It's an unsatisfying experience. If these beeswax crayons are as rich in color and as fun to use as I suspect, maybe the Hickmans can have a crayon renaissance. I also like that this site is called Hazelnut Kids. I might be biased.

Monkey Pants by Sckoon - Everyone knows I love a good diaper butt. These pants with a big circle in the crotch set off the diaper butt like nothing I've seen. I could die. Ginger has these red striped ones and I was dying at how cute she was walking around in them that I did a web search for a pattern to make my own. Couldn't find anything. So in a shocking burst of ambition I did some finagling and tracing and made my own pattern and tried a test pair with some scrap fabric. I still have to hem them but they turned out ok. Sewing a circle is harder than I thought, though - there's definite puckering. Sckoon does a better job.

Hard-Boiled Eggs
- We were at a friend's house playing and she brought out hard-boiled eggs for a snack. Her son loves them. I make scrambled eggs for breakfast sometimes but I didn't think Hazel had ever had hard-boiled. She loved them as well. What a genius idea, a new snack to take us out of the yogurt/goldfish/grapes rut. Hallelujah for new ideas!

All that being said, what are the absolute, top drawer, must-have toys of the month?
Drumroll, please....

A sink full of dirty dishes...

a bubble bath!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Frozen in Grand Central


Yesterday, lunchtime.

Get everyone's smocks on, in seats, food before them. Hazel picks up her transparent sippy cup of water, takes a sip, and asks,

"Mommy, is it water or milk?"

Kind of surprised she doesn't see that it's water. Remember that whenever I answer this question with "water" she cries that she wants milk. Try a new tactic.

"What do you think it is?"

She takes another sip, considers.

"Milk! Mmmmm."

He he he. Congratulate myself on another meltdown averted and the occasional ease of tricking a toddler.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

1st Annual Mothers' Easter Basket Exchange

Us moms are sick of it - if we want an Easter basket, we have to make it ourselves...until now. Last year we talked about it and this year we're doing it: the 1st Annual Easter Basket Exchange.

Here's how it will work:

1. Easter is March 23, a month away. By March 5 (about 2 weeks from now) you must post in the comments here that you want to participate (see Eligibility below).
2. Make sure I have your email and mailing address. If you don't think I do, email it to me (kyounc at yahoo dot com.) I will take all the names, shuffle them, and make assignments. All the assignments will be made by email so no one's personal information will go on the blog. If I don't know you well, also email me basic stats - age, occupation, food allergies, whatever.
3. Compile an Easter basket/box for your assignee.
4. Spending cap is $25, not including shipping.
5. Your compilation must include good chocolate (doesn't have to be a bunny.)
6. The guideline is to make a package you would love to receive*. No waxy cheap chocolate or goofy useless fillers. It doesn't have to be extravagant, but it does have to make the recipient glad she participated. Quantity is not necessarily better than quality.
7. Put your package together and mail it out in time for your assignee to receive it by Easter. The entire point of this exercise is for each of us to have a wonderful Easter basket on Easter morning that we didn't have to make ourselves, so please be sure it will arrive on time.
8. Easter morning, open and enjoy your package that someone else made for you.
9. Follow up with a thank you note.


1. You do not have to be a Mom. You do not even have to be married, female or Christian. The exchange is so named because Moms in general get the shaft on Easter baskets and every other holiday they work so hard to make special for others. But anyone that meets #2 can participate.
2. I have to know you personally or through a reputable source (like you're a friend/relative of my friend/relative.) Even though it's a public blog and I sometimes get comments from strangers, no total strangers in the exchange. Include in your post how I'm supposed to know you.

I'm excited. I figure if at least one person is in, then I have someone to exchange with. If more than one is in, we have a full-blown success.

* Stuck on what to include? Here are some ideas (feel free to suggest others):
CHOCOLATE - gift card - seasonal candy - recipes - candle - lip gloss - kitchen gadgets - lotion - soap - gourmet food item (hot chocolate, soup or muffin mix, biscotti, etc.) - fizzy bath ball - manicure stuff - jewelry - socks - note cards - book - cd - local specialty item

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Escape to Paradise

Reading the following may cause
you to feel jealous of or happy for me, or a combination of the two, depending on your natural disposition. Last weekend I had a rendez-vous with my sisters, the beach, and my inner child in an alternate reality located in Clearwater Beach, Florida. We got to escape the cold weather and responsibilities of normal life for a few days. It took a miracle to make it happen, working with budgets and schedules of three very busy families, but miracles are more common than you might think. This was one I won't soon forget. And yes, I actually took this picture with my own camera from a 5th floor window of the hotel.

Friday, February 15
We were all scheduled to meet in the Tampa airport within a few hours of each other, around midday. I secretly relished in being dropped off at LaGuardia by Ed and the girls and waving bye-bye as they drove off. Before boarding I even bought an actual newspaper and even actually read it on the plane. When I arrived in Tampa I had a message from Maren that her flights were all screwed up and she wouldn't come in until later that night. Major bummer. But I met Tona and we loaded into our little "economy" rental car and drove over two awesome causeways to get to the Sandpearl Resort, our home for the next 3 days.

As if the sunshine, warm green-smelling air and palm trees weren't enough, things just got more surreal as our car was whisked off by a pith-helmet-donning valet, and we were brought goblets of non-alcoholic champagne with pomegranate seeds while we waited to check in. An exploration of the hotel and grounds confirmed we were no longer on planet earth.

We had 3:30 spa appointments so we made our way to that wing after wandering the beach, pool, and numerous outdoor corridors. After changing to chenille robes and sipping cucumber water we had massages. What a way to start the trip. I could write a whole post on that massage. Next we had manicures and retired to our room to savor the moments. We had a quick dinner at a beach cafe best known for their grouper sandwich, then headed back to Tampa to pick up Maren, who had waited 4 hours in Burlington and 7 hours in Cleveland to reach us, 17 hours after she had woken up that morning.

Saturday, February 16
I slept like the dead. No dreams, no stirring. I don't even think I moved for 10 hours. Maren and Tona rose early but I slept in until 9am - it was heaven. Maren had rescheduled her spa appointments for Saturday so while she got pampered Tona and I swam in the pool and then went to a local Italian festival at a park, where we got lunch and watched Italian folk dancers. I also got my main souvenir of the trip, a Venetian glass necklace. After meeting back up we went to the beach. I've never been on sand like that - it felt like powdered sugar and was almost as white - so white that it didn't get hot even in the afternoon sun.

We each had a few must-do's on the trip, and one of mine was going to a movie, preferably a chick flick. Saturday afternoon we saw Definitely, Maybe, a perfect 3-star romantic comedy for the occasion. Then we had dinner at the hotel's beachside grill cafe, each of us opting for one of their delectable salads. Saturday night was a facial extravaganza back in our room, where we pooled our skin care products and performed full facial regimes, complete with cucumber slices on the eyes. We also looked through Maren's blog book created on, which was amazing and reinspired me to make one of my own. That night I again slept like the dead.

Sunday, February 17
We got up early and went shell hunting on the beach. Maren found some amazing shells Saturday morning - see her blog post for details -, so I went with her the next day to gather some for myself. I could really get used to a morning walk on the beach as part of my daily routine - talk about a serene start.

We attended church at a local ward. It was their ward conference and we heard awesome and inspiring talks from the Bishop and Stake President. The Stake President had blessed his new baby boy earlier in the meeting so he based his talk on names - choosing his own children's names and also us as a people taking the name of Christ upon us. We all glanced at each other - kind of spooky since we had spent part of the trip trying to name Maren's baby (due in May.)

Not complete gluttons for luxury, we did improve our minds and cultural competence on the trip as well. After church we visited Weedon Island Preserve, where we toured an awesome visitor center and walked around the grounds and up an observation tower. Sunday night we ate at a popular panasian/seafood place called the Island Way Grill, where we sat on the deck overlooking the water and sunset. I could have died. But I still had to eat my seared scallops over sesame lime noodles followed by ginger creme brulee, so I snapped out of it. After dinner we took a final dip in the hotel pool, which by the way is treated with ozone instead of chlorine and geothermally heated.

Monday, February 18
Poor Tona had a cruelly early flight so we said our goodbyes at night. When the sun rose Maren and I ventured out for a final shell comb on the beach, then returned to pack up and head out. The rest of the day is not much to mention, though flying alone was a luxury in itself. Ed was quite late picking me up, which only attests to some of the important lessons he learned over the weekend, among them being how nearly impossible it is to get out the door with the kids, especially on a deadline. Another was how much he loves and appreciates me, which was nice to hear. Another was that doing Hazel's hair is harder than it looks. But everyone was alive and well so it was a success all around.

Telling what we did is the easy part. But it was what I saw and felt, and the conversations we shared, that made it such a meaningful trip for me. And that's what is hard to put into words. All I can do is use my notes and pictures to bring it back. The most important determination of the weekend was that we are not waiting another ten years before the next sisters' getaway.

I'm already doing research.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Momono's Going Out of Business!

In this January post I mentioned the Momono (mom-kimono) as a product I thought worthwhile and I've kept it in my try-someday list. I just saw on her website, though, that they're going out of business. All Momonos are $20 (originally $68) until stock is gone. It's a good price for what seems like a good product to me. Though we have no immediate plans for #3, I bought two, either to keep for myself or give as gifts.
Just thought I'd spread the word...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PR Dish - Final 3(ish)

Well I was surprised but I think things turned out the way they should have. I was so glad to see a calmer, more inspiring challenge. I've been in that sculpture hall and European paintings wing at the Met and it even made me feel artistic.
  • I loved the peacock painting Sweet P chose but her resulting dress was disappointing - where was the flair and drama? Sorry, SP, you deserved to be out.
  • Everyone else's stuff was almost predictable, but so well done. Chris's was to die for but yikes, it did look just like his last avant-garde look, especially on the same model.
  • And of course Rami did Greek drapey, but it was gorgeous.
  • And of course Christian did big sleeves and tight pants and black & white.
  • And of course Jillian did a military style jacket and short skirt. But it's amazing what she can put together in short time frames. Do you know how many months it would take me to make a lined jacket like that?
  • But in terms of creativity, Christian and Jillian do deserve to move on and Rami and Chris should have to battle it out. I'm totally curious what Chris will make since his track record is not full of high fashion, but Rami will have to step it up as well.
I'm bummed next week is the reunion episode. I never watch those because it's so uncomfortable for me watching people in confrontation, but maybe I'll watch for whatever PR fix I can get. I'm going to try to have a mom's night out party at my place for the final. I don't think any of my mom friends here watch it, but maybe I can make the "night out" part sound fun enough to lure them out.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Report

Just getting my act together to do a quick birthday report. As many of you know, or really should know, my birthday is February 2 and Ed's is February 3. And until recent years my birthday is a big, big deal to me. I'd like it to be again. Dave, Michelle, Hilde and Enoch are moving to England in April, and so they chose to come up on Birthday Weekend for a final visit. It was a crazy whirlwind but it was a blast and I'm so glad they came.

They came late Thursday night so we could be rearing to go and play on Friday, February 1. Unfortunately Friday we woke to a disgusting windy, icy, rainy mess outside, just the kind of day we would normally hunker down, stay in jammies and watch Noggin all day. But we had visitors, and decided to make the most of it. So we headed out into the icy driving rain with four kids and three adults. One bus, three subway rides (including a nap against a stranger for Hazel) and over an hour later we stepped out into more icy driving rain in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Luckily, even though the kids were cold, wet, tired and hungry, it was still fun and worth it. We ate lunch at RICE, a very funky and kid-friendly rice-based restaurant (drool over the menu!)Revived, we walked a few blocks over to my Happy Birthday Destination, Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop. Michelle and I stocked up on chocolate delights while Dave kept the kids corralled on a big comfy armchair in the corner. It was a long ride home in the afternoon but upon arrival we felt we had earned the right to put our feet up and enjoy being home. I made a big pot of one of my favorite pasta dishes for dinner, and a Snickerdoodle cake, and when Ed came home we opened some presents and watched a movie.

Saturday was another chance for a big city adventure, only this time we drove. We loaded up in two cars and headed to the Manhattan Children's Museum on the Upper West Side, ducking first into a corner pizza place for lunch. We've never gone to this museum so I was happy for an excuse and there was plenty to keep everyone entertained, including a Greek Myths section, a Dora the Explorer floor and a bunch of other cool stuff.
On the way home Dave and I stopped by my favorite Turkish market in Bay Ridge where I get his sour cherry juice, and he was able to pick out a few fun things for himself. In the evening Dave & Michelle watched all the kids while Ed and I went out to eat. Bay Ridge has a great restaurant scene, and since we only eat out a few times a year, there is always a new place to try. This time we went to Chadwick's, a steak and chop house. I went out on a limb and ordered one of their specials - rack of wild boar with wild blueberry sauce (sorry, vegetarians.) It was awesome. The only thing that could have made it better was if Ed and I could have had a conversation over the live music (guy with a keyboard and a mic in the corner.) But we talked on the way home.

Saturday night we had Chocolate Pistachio cake (2 cakes for 2 birthdays) and opened more presents. Dave and Michelle gave me a Virginia guide, and even better, a binder they made called "Virginia is for Hickmans" full of menus, brochures, web printouts, and magazine articles about things to do in the DC area. I have been getting so excited for the move as I pore over it!

Sunday things started to get crazy, with Church and Ed's blackberry started going nuts with work issues, and when we got home we were trying to get lunch done so the Younces could head out at a good time. I'm a little glad for the chaos because it kept me from dwelling on how long it will be before we see each other again. It's hard to wax too sentimental, or draw out goodbyes, when you're herding a family. So thank you, Dave and Michelle, for making the trip and making our birthdays great. If England in February wasn't quite so unappealing I'd say we'll come to you next year. We love you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Released from - but not Leaving - Trebekistan

Well I finally finished it and what a wonderful book to spend a month with! Yes, it's by and about a Jeopardy! contestant, but it's much more, and unlike any book I've read. It's personal, suspenseful, hilarious beyond description, and very touching. I felt as if I was going through the last 10 years arm-in-arm with Bob rather than actually living my own life. I've come to care deeply for the people in his life as well as the profound realizations he encountered while on the Jeopardy! roller coaster. It also offered me personal hope for a continual lifelong education - a hope I desperately welcome after experiencing a sharp and discouraging intellectual regression the last three years. I've been busy surviving and doing other things.

If you like Jeopardy!, read it. If Jeopardy! makes you want to puke, read it. If you've ever heard of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup, Sony, President Garfield, Jabberwocky, galoshes, the snowbelt, stage make-up, Bhutan, Radio City Music Hall, E.M. Forster (you'll never think of his works the same again), traffic signals or masking tape and a ball point pen, read it. Just read it.

If you're human, you'll love it.

Prisoner of Trebekistan receives a coveted 5 out of 5 Disco balls:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Little Happy Birthday to Me

It was a whirlwind weekend but Ed and I did celebrate our birthdays on the 2nd and 3rd. Hopefully I'll write more on that soon, but in the meantime Maren wrote me a sweet little birthday tribute, complete with photos you've probably never seen before:

Check it out.

A Fortunate Asian Lunar New Year to You

To celebrate Chinese New Year around here,

1) Alternate side parking was suspended, which I didn't realize until after I'd already moved my car, and

2) The girls and I had Chinese take-out for dinner.

I just read an article in a magazine yesterday about a perfect little Chinese New Year party for 8-year-olds, complete with astoundingly clever crafts, a dragon living room parade, healthy homemade dim sum and cupcakes topped with cherry red fortune cookies and sparklers. Pah! Not to be outdone, we walked up to Szechuan Garden, the closest of many horrible Chinese places in the neighborhood, and ordered rice, noodles and lots of greasy fillers that were supposed to be meat and vegetables.

On the walk up there I considered this video I just saw last night on Katy's blog, and thought maybe I wasn't teaching Hazel enough about the world. So I gave China a shot. We have some Chinese friends here so there's a little context. So I told her who we know that are Chinese and that they're from a place far away and today is a special holiday for them. Then she said, "Yeah, and I am Chinese!" I said, "No, you're not from China. You're from Colorado." This only resulted in sulking and mumbling, "I wish I was Chinese..." I'm so proud of these enlightened teaching moments we share...

When we got home Picky-Eater Ginger scarfed all the greasy morsels she could get her hands on while Pretty-Tolerant Hazel refused to take a single bite of anything, even with bribes of fortune cookies and ice cream, informing me with emphatic hand gestures that everything before her was, "Disgusting!" I think if she knew it was all completely non-nutritional she might have at least tried it, but we'll never know. In the end Ginger and I split the fortune cookies. I threw the stupid one away but kept the other just to share with you. Ready?

Treasure your good memories and you need not worry about ending a banquet.

Consider and interpret.

PR Dish - WWE (E is for Embarrassing!)

As soon as I saw what the challenge was, I thought, Please - they have gone too far. Is Bravo so desperate as to go so far over Cliff Tacky? I found it totally despicable. My biggest concern was that it was so far out of normal fashion range that someone like Chris or Ricky would end up winning and someone with real fashion design talent would go home. Luckily only one of those was the case. I was very surprised that even in a super spandexy challenge like this, those with talent excelled and those without didn't. Here are some notes:
  • HALLELUJAH!!!! Ricky and his crying and his hats and his lame designs are finally gone!
  • I love that they actually shopped at a place called Spandex House. I only have 5 more months in NY to get over there myself.
  • It was only fitting that Chris won the most costumey challenge so far - I'm genuinely happy for him because he is a really nice guy and good at what he does. But he's still not really a serious designer.
  • I expected Christian to be complaining the whole time that it wasn't a fashionable enough challenge, so I was glad to see him embrace it and love it in a way that I think even surprised himself. I think he was so busy having fun he forgot to be as arrogant as he usually is - refreshing. And his design was very fierce.
  • Now that it's down to 5, Sweet P and Chris are for sure the next ones to go home. I just can't possibly even remotely begin to imagine either of them actually designing a collection for fashion week.
  • I'd still like to see Jack or Simone brought back. Jack left early for medical reasons and Simone was the first to be cut. Her dress was bad but maybe she had some potential we just didn't get to see. At least she didn't seem as annoying as some people.
  • That leaves Jillian and Christian as absolute shoo-ins for Bryant Park. Rami is kind of a wild card but given the others he must be #3. Since fashion week is going on now it's probably possible to cheat and find out who showed, but please don't spoil it for me!

Also, any Bravo junkies out there willing to admit getting hooked on the new Thursday night show Make Me A Supermodel? I mean, please, I've got better things to do with my time...but if someone else also admits to it maybe I could be persuaded to dish on that one, too...
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