Friday, October 31, 2008

The Halloween Report

Ever since it turned October and cats and spiders have shown up everywhere we go, Hazel has had a fascination with scary things, especially scary stories and monsters. First, when she would ask for a scary story at night Ed would just pick up any book and read it in a scary voice. Then last week when their preschool class went to the library like they do every Monday, the Halloween books were out so we checked a few out. One in particular, Halloween Night on Shivermore Street, has given Hazel the creepy thrill she craves, and nightmares a few nights as well.

I don't do much in the way of any seasonal decorations. I'm not interested in keeping up with decorating, or storing, a bunch of hoo-haw. But I'm slowly coming around to the concept of being festive, and I would like my house to be inviting to trick-or-treaters, so I went this far this year:
Hazel has made it pretty clear this is the last Halloween I get to choose what she's going to be. She's not totally opposed to being a cowgirl - she loves to say "Yaw!" - but thinks next year there should be quite a bit more sparkle and lace. Ginger, poor Ginger, will never get to choose for herself until she can make her own costume because she'll always be what Hazel was 2 years ago. Luckily, it will always be unbearably cute.Last Thursday night around 9pm I got a bug in my head that I had to make the girls new matching trick-or-treat bags RIGHT NOW. It was too late to go shopping so I had to work with whatever was in my sewing bin. A quick creative consult with Tona, and I was chopping up a pair of ugly black-and-white capri pants from the bottom of my bin. The next day I did go to Michael's for the embellishments to finish them off.Last Saturday we made a lightning-quick appearance at the church Halloween party. It was two wards combined, way too crowded, loud and chaotic. Luckily, we also had tickets for "Boo at the Zoo", which was not too crowded, loud or chaotic. Only a bit rainy. But we made the rounds to about half the stations and collected some treats like ice cream cups, pencils, granola bars and apples from Whole Foods. The zoo was decorated beautifully, just-scary-enough-but-not-too-scary, and I think in nicer weather it would have been fabulous.

This week at preschool instead of an alphabet letter it was Halloween Week. They made monster masks on Monday and hand-print bats on Wednesday. Today was a Halloween parade and lunch party. I love that Hazel was buddied up with her friend Bradley, who was a cowboy.At the end of the party the class did a dance for the parents to the "Ghostbusters" song. Uh-dorable. (Hazel is towards the left between witch and Spongebob.)

Tonight after dinner our friends the Gores came over with cutie shark-suited, new walker Joseph for trick-or-treating action.

John was optimistic about Joseph's potential and brought a pillowcase he could have fit in. Ginger nearly missed the fun altogether due to a battle of wills over two bites of dinner, but as everyone walked out the door, leaving her behind with me, she ran over to the table and stuffed the two bites in. Wise choice. I went to a few houses with them, then came home to man the fort. Hazel quickly found her stride and was at every door before the rest of us, knocking and calling "TRICK OR TREAT!" before the door was even opened. Ed brought them home about 30 minutes later with brimming bags - he said when Ginger couldn't carry her tote anymore it was time to go home. The booty was a pretty good mix of chocolate, lollipops, and miscellaneous. Luckily the days of dreaded Mary Jane or Bit-o-Honey chews and Good-and-Plenty's are past, though some folks still give out Jolly Ranchers; they can kiss my butt. For our part, we bought three medium bags - plain M&M's, peanut M&M's and Smarties - and that was just the right amount. I also had a back-up container of snack-size UTZ pretzels but we didn't get into those, which is fine since the girls snack on them.

Halloween was a vastly different experience for us this year than the last few. Of course the best part was Ed's presence for so much of it. And now, on to November!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Other Thing

I can't remember who it was that told us. No, yes I do. It was my brother-in-law Quinn, who has more balls in the air at any given time than I can count. When Ed graduated and started his career, Quinn told him something that a mentor had told him once. It was that, when you have a demanding job (like consulting, investment banking, law, etc.), you can do just one other thing. You can work and spend time with your family. OR you can work and go fishing. OR you can work and serve in the Church. OR you can work and sleep.

We believed him but didn't want to. Sure enough, that first year in New York, Ed worked and served in the Church. No family, no sleep. DEFINITELY no hobbies. The second year, too. After Ginger was born I told him we had to be his one other thing, so he asked to be released from his calling. We had him around a tiny bit more - I narrowly escaped a nervous breakdown, and he even slept a few hours about every other week.

My job's harder than his was or is now. Ask anyone, especially mothers. It is the ultimate challenge. And I'm finding too that I can be a mom and do just one other thing on the side...if that. I can be a mom and read a book. OR I can be a mom and blog. OR I can be a mom and follow a TV show. I dream of joining a book club but doubt I can keep the commitment. I can barely get my visiting teaching done, and I definitely can't keep on top of the laundry.

This is on my mind this week because I've had a shift. Blogging has been my thing for so long it's like second nature, and I have dozens of posts half-composed floating in my head at all times. Then 2 weeks ago, I got remotivated to get back on Weight Watchers track, including going to the gym as often as possible. So last week and this week exercising has been my other thing, with a near absence from blogging. The slow cooker posts don't count because I had pre-written those and scheduled them ahead of time to post each day. I miss it; hence this post. I see the end of October creeping up and wonder when I will get my Good Stuff piece done - maybe not in time. What about my Halloween post, and writing about my friends the Tanners coming to visit 2 weeks ago, and Dave coming to visit this week, and all the cute stuff Hazel is doing at preschool?

I don't know. Today gives me hope - I went to the gym AND wrote a post. Maybe there will be many bulleted list style posts in the future offering points without prose.

Maybe, just maybe, only because I am a superstar...maybe I can have two other things.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Slow Cooker Week Day 7

I'm glad you folks have enjoyed Slow Cooker Week. My friend Genevieve, who has some mental block against blog commenting, told me in person about all these fabulous slow-cooker recipes she has. I told her to hook me up, then next time I saw her she said she had lent the book to someone. So they will be forthcoming and "Slow Cooker Week" may extend into "Slow Cooker Fall". Seriously. I love using my cooker and having dinner done by 10am, but need lots and lots of options for variety. So please, if you've got a good one, do keep them coming! Post it or email it to me and I'll do more slow cooker posts over the next few months or possibly forever (and give due credit of course.)

Beef Stroganoff

I just tried this one this week for the first time - it's from the Oct/Nov '08 issue of Cook's Country magazine. They really took their time to make the meat and the sauce good and I loved it. Sometimes I like the recipes that cook for 9 or 10 hours because I throw it together around breakfast time and don't have to worry about it, especially if I'm going to be gone all day. Prep is about 1/2 hour, and then about 20 minutes at the end.

1-1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and patted dry
2 T vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped fine
2 T tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 pounds boneless beef chuck stew meat cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
6 T all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sour cream (I used fat-free)
2 T chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper

1. Combine 1/2 cup broth and porcini in bowl and microwave until steamy and mushrooms have softened, about 1 minute. Line fine-mesh strainer with one paper towel and strain porcini, reserving liquid. Chop porcini fine nad set aside.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions and tomato paste, stirring frequently until lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, soy sauce, remaining broth, chopped porcini, and reserved porcini liquid, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Bring broth mixture to boil, then transfer to slow cooker. Add beef and white mushrooms to slow cooker, cover and cook on HIGH until meat is tender, 6 to 7 hours (or cook on LOW for 9 to 10 hours.)

3. Set slow cooker to HIGH, if necessary. Skim fat from surface. Transfer 2 cups sauce from slow cooker to large bowl and whisk in flour. Stir flour mixture into slow cooker and cook, covered, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in sour cream and dill and season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice or buttered egg noodles (I did whole wheat egg noodles.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Slow Cooker Week Day 6

So who invented the slow cooker anyway? Well, it's not that interesting. According to Wikipedia: The Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago developed the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker (see picture.) Rival Industries bought Naxon in 1970, and reintroduced it under the Crock-Pot name in 1971. In 1974, Rival introduced removable stoneware inserts (love that.) The brand now belongs to Sunbeam Products, a subsidiary of Jarden Corporation.

Crockpot Mexican Chicken

Hazel even ate it!

2 cups uncooked rice
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 packet taco seasoning
3 cups hot water
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
6 to 8 chicken thighs (I use bone-in, skin off)
See steps 4 and 5 for optional ingredients

1. Throw everything except the chicken in the cooker; stir to combine.
2. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the sauce.
3. Cook on LOW for 5 hours.
4. Add anything else you want (like corn, beans, jalapenos, etc.)
5. Garnish with anything Mexican - we add grated cheese and let it melt from the heat.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Slow Cooker Week Day 5

I copied this one out of a magazine at a friend's house where I was babysitting. I've never made, or eaten, stuffed peppers before in my life but these just sounded good. Hazel helped me mix the filling and put them together in the afternoon and they filled the house with yummy herbal scents for a few hours. They came out beautifully. I liked them. But next time I would change a few things, like decrease the oregano which seemed a little bitter, and add a seasoning mix my palate is more familiar with like Montreal Steak seasoning. Also I used fat free feta which tasted like nothing and lacked the salty tang these needed. Chickpeas would be a yummy substitute for the canellinis, too. Totally healthy, and lots of potential.

Greek Stuffed Peppers

4 large bell peppers (any color)
1 (15 oz) can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup crumbled feta (4 oz)
1/2 cup couscous
4 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Slice a very thin layer from the base of each pepper so they can sit flat. Slice off tops just below stem. Discard stems; chop tops, and place in a medium bowl. Remove rinds and seeds from peppers.

2. To bowl, add beans, feta, couscous, scallion whites, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Stuff peppers with bean mixture, and place upright in slow cooker. Cover; cook on HIGH 4 hours.

3. Sprinkle peppers with scallion greens; serve with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BIG Sale at Expressionery

Yo, VIP.

My lovely favorite self-inking address stamps from Expressionery are on SALE. I LOVE mine and was willing to pay $45 for it but now that almost everything on the site is 40% off (that makes stamps $27 for those of you that aren't math whizzes like me), I want to shout it from the rooftops (I mean my desk.)

They have lots of new designs plus cutie holiday ones so it will be hard to decide, but you can do it. I offer free style consultation, well worth the price. They also have gorgeous holiday cards (look at this and this!), notecards, personalized stationery, and more.

The discount code is SUPER40 and it's a "limited time offer" (it says until December 31, 2008, which doesn't seem as limited as "limited" usually means, but whatever. Sounds like somebody is anticipating tough times this holiday season and trying to keep from going under. Happy Holidays to us!) Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Week Day 4

It's funny that the hankering for slow cooker cooking comes out in the fall, because really the crockpot is my warm weather friend. It cooks something hearty without heating up the kitchen in those hot summer months, kind of along the same lines as that other favorite alternative cooker, the grill.

Ginger-Almond Chicken

While delicious and satisfying, this recipe is also light and healthy, especially with the vegetables added at the end just becoming crisp-tender, not mushy at all.

2 T sesame or olive oil
6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2 pounds), trimmed and cut into strips
1 large onion, sliced
2 T finely chopped ginger
1/2 cup reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce
1 12-ounce pkg shredded stir-fry vegetables
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 bunch scallions, slivered
Hot cooked brown or white rice

1. Coat slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over med-hi heat. Saute chicken until browned, abt 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Add onion, ginger, and teriyaki sauce. Stir to coat chicken.
3. Cover and cook on LOW 2 hours, or until chicken is cooked through. When done turn heat to HIGH and add vegetables. Cover; cook 20 to 30 minutes more, stirring once, until vegetables are crisp-tender.
4. Stir almonds and scallions into cooker. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Slow Cooker Week Day 3

The first time a crockpot really came on my radar was when we ate at a friend's house shortly after we were married. Dinner was BBQ beef over baked potatoes and it was delicious. The slow cooker is not for everything. Like other pans and appliances it has its specialties. For example, it doesn't give you tender, juicy chicken breasts but it's a champ for cooking meat to dry shredding consistency. Which is why we have three pulled meat recipes this week, including today's. Got guests coming for Sunday dinner but you have church until 4 pm? This one's for you!

BBQ Pulled Pork

1 medium pork roast (1 to 2 pounds)
1 cup water
1 onion, roughly chopped, optional
1 bottle BBQ sauce

1. Place the pork roast and 1 cup water in the slow cooker. Add some onions if you wish. Cook on LOW for about 6 hours.

2. Remove roast to large cutting board and shred with two forks. Drain most of the liquid from the cooker. Add 1 cup or about half a bottle of BBQ sauce and return meat to cooker. Stir to combine and cover to reheat.

3. Serve on buns, baked potatoes or rice with more sauce. Cole slaw, especially vinegar-based, is a great side or topping with this.

Bored with the ease of bottled BBQ sauce? Looking for something unlikelily delicious? Try this version of BBQ Pork - comes from my sister Maren's mother-in-law:

Connie's BBQ Pork

1 to 2 pound pork roast
1/2 packet or less taco seasoning
1 jar salsa
1 jar apricot jam

1. Combine the seasoning, salsa and jam in the slow cooker. Add the meat and cover with sauce. Cook on HIGH for about 5 hours.

2. Take the roast out and shred it, then put it back in and mix with the sauce. Serve hot on rice, noodles or rolls. Even better the next day.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Today, 1:13 pm. Eating lunch and eagerly anticipating the arrival of our neighbor Gillian for a playdate.

"Maybe when Gillian comes over we can make muffins!"

Hazel: "Yeah and I can be a chef and Gillian can be a chef and Ginger can be a chef."

"Well, Ginger's going to be taking a nap."

Hazel: "Yeah and Ginger will be a napper. Because that's what nappers do."

"And what will I be?"

Hazel: "Well you are the Mom."

"And what do Moms do?"

This ought to be good.

Hazel: Thinking. "Well, on the computer and just make EVERYTHING!"

Yeah, in that order.

Slow Cooker Week Day 2

So how about the vegetarians? What can they do with a slow cooker that doesn't have meat, meat and more meat in it? More than I realized. Here's a soup I haven't tried myself, but Dave and Michelle recommend it, and they know good food. Also watch for some vegetarian Greek Stuffed Peppers in a few days.

Tomato Black Bean Soup

2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped roasted green chilies
1 (14.5 oz) can Mexican stewed tomatoes with green chilies
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 (11 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
4 green onions (white part and 2 inches of the green, sliced)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 to 1-1/2 T chili powder, to taste
1 tsp ground cumin

For serving: shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream

1. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 7 hours.

2. Add some boiling water to thin if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve hot with a sprinkling of cheese and sour cream. Devour!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Slow Cooker Week!

Fall is here. Leaves falling. Halloween stuff is EVERYWHERE. Morning chill. Jacket weather. Comfort food season. Per Emily (a.k.a. Mo)'s request, tried and true slow cooker recipes will be featured this week, a new one each day. Some pulled meat, a soup or two, a few surprises and even a couple vegetarians. If you have a good one, please share it here this week too!

Chili Verde

Super delicious and makes great leftovers. Hearty, spicy and nutritious!

Note: I've made this enough times to realize that different brands of salsa verde differ vastly in spicy heat. Below is the original recipe, but taste your salsa. If it's super spicy, substitute chopped green bell pepper for the anaheims.

2-1/2 cups salsa verde*
1 14-ounce can chopped anaheim chilies
1 pound boneless pork loin roast (or chicken breasts)
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
Hot white or brown cooked rice
Shredded cheddar or jack cheese, optional

1. Place 2 cups salsa, chopped peppers and meat in the crockpot. Cook on HIGH 4 hours.

2. Take the meat out and shred with two forks. Add back to the cooker along with remaining 1/2 cup salsa and two cans of beans. Stir to combine.

3. Cook on HIGH for 30 minutes more. Serve over hot rice and top with cheese. Hello, come to Momma.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Last Friday was my turn to serve time at Hazel's preschool, or as we like to say, "cooperate." First of all, preschool is the cutest thing EVER. I already knew this from working in one during my grad program, and it's been confirmed every time I pick up Hazel and her cubby-full of paintings, crafts and handouts.

The theme this year is "The Amazing Alphabet" and each week a different letter is featured. Adorable. Last week was "Crazy C" and we went on a field trip to the circus on Thursday, which was awesome. Monday snack was celery, chips and carrots. Wednesday snack was chocolate chip cookies. I got assigned a very good day to cooperate because Friday it was carrot cake.
(Pictures from the Big Apple Circus last Thursday)

I do a babysitting switch with another mom for our co-op days, so I took Ginger over to their house early and picked up her son Bradley, who is in Hazel's class. Every day during snack they do show-and-tell and are encouraged to bring things starting with the letter of the week. Bradley had with him a baggy full of plastic food starting with "C" - cabbage, corn, cookie, etc. Hazel brought her food smock with cherries on it.

Bradley, Hazel and I got to school 1/2 hour early to help set up - put out toys, playdough, chairs in the reading area, the alphabet rug for circle time, etc. At 9:30 the kids started showing up and I was finally able to start getting their names straight. There are about 16 in the class but a few were absent, and I was amazed at how calm and empty it seemed after all the parents and baby siblings had disappeared.

The first hour or so is free play and crafts. There's a big toy and pretend play room, a couple of tables set up with things like coloring, playdough, toy phones or something, and a reading corner by the bookshelves. And a big table with one of the teachers making the craft of the day, of course always something starting with the letter of the week. On Friday it was yarn-lacing paper canoes. Every Monday the craft is decorating a large cardstock alphabet letter. "A" week they made "Aluminum A"; "B" was covered in buttons; "C" was cotton balls; and this week they made "Drip Drop D" using colored water and eye droppers. I always tape the letters up on Hazel's wall and by the end of the year we'll have the whole alphabet.
My job was to do whatever. Play with the kids. Help them go to the bathroom. Put smocks on and off at the easels. Read to them. I did all of the above. It was really a lot of fun to get to know them, interact with them, and watch Hazel with them as well. Of course Hazel was thrilled to have me there because whoever's parent is the "cooperator" gets to be the "special helper" and since I was the very last parent on the schedule she has been dying for this blessed privilege. It includes turning the light off for clean-up and back on for circle time, putting the numbers on the calendar, handing out napkins for snack, and being first in line going out and coming back in from the playground. She was positively beaming...and so was I, to be honest.

I think she's super clever and pretty close to perfect, so it was really a reality check when her teachers mentioned things to me throughout the day she needs to improve on. It was kind of like a parent-teacher conference spread out over 3 hours, and I understand now that I'm on the parent side why such suggestions usually come as a surprise to parents. But I admit it was helpful to have the feedback; since Hazel is my first and oldest I don't always know what she should be able to do at every developmental stage, and I don't always set my expectations as high as they could be. I was monumentally impressed with what they get a bunch of 3-to-5 year olds to do at school. Amazing what a set routine and some experienced teachers can make happen.

After free play is circle time. They put the next number on the calendar, count all the days in English and Spanish, sing a couple of days-of-the-week songs, name all the months, and sing a few songs by request. Hazel wanted to sing "The Taxi Song" and Ms. Love asked me to teach it to them all since Hazel always requests it and they don't know it. Then everyone went to the bathroom to wash their hands (I manned the boys' sink) and came back out for snack. Did I mention it was carrot cake? Yuuuumm. And oranges. And they all did show-and-tell. There were cranes, crowns, coins, a camel, and even a can of coconut milk (he got a high-5 for a double-C.) Then we all went out to the playground for a long play time - must have been 45 minutes out there, which is awesome. Besides the devil's own sand everywhere, that I pour by the bucketful out of Hazel's shoes every time she comes home, it's a lovely playground and it was a gorgeous day to be outside.

On the way back in they got an aloe wipe for their hands (pinworm is the current contagion) and then sat on the rug again for story time. We had brought "Corduroy" to share and Mrs. Peetz was thrilled because she loves that book. Then it was 12:30 and the rush of parents and siblings came and went. We helped clean up a little and went back to Bradley's house to pick up Ginger.

Simple and super fun. Can't wait to be cooperate again!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

PR Dish - The Mouse That Roared


Oh, I admit Leanne's final collection was outstanding and she had a handful of shining moments throughout the season, but if you'd asked me at the beginning if I thought she had it in her, I would have answered, "Who's Leanne?"

Here in my living room there was a great sigh of relief when Kenley was auf'd. I would have puked or worse if she won. I don't care how skilled or imaginative or spirited she is; I didn't like her collection except for 2 outfits. Blech.

Korto, on the other hand...when it was down to the final two, Korto and Leanne, on the runway, I was really rooting for her. I liked her collection much better on the runway than I did looking at the pictures, and I thought the tasteful ethnic infusion was more refreshing than Leanne's wave structures, as cool as those were, too.

But if Korto had won I would very likely be lamenting on Leanne's behalf. I really loved both of their work at the final show. I just like Korto better personally and wanted her to win. I was amazed when the judges all claimed they were positive of their decision - no doubt whatsoever. They had reservations about everyone so there must be some doubt.

In other commentary, I noticed Shannon from Make Me a Supermodel in the model tryouts but I don't think anyone picked her. Bummer, I used to like her. I would have liked to see Holly in there somewhere. Also, I'm SUH-ICK of that stupid airport security commercial they show every break.

Now I'm gonna cry myself to sleep (on my gigantic pillah) every Wednesday night until PR comes back in my life...or at least until Top Chef NYC starts in a few weeks.

8 Essential Non-80's 80's

The 1980's gave us some great period films. I mean really great. While viewing may not tell you much about the decade they were made in, they will certainly lend merit to its film making. I love these movies:

#1 Blade Runner (1982)
I haven't seen this in ages and I'm sure I didn't understand most of it. But it's one of the few quality futuristic films (set in now-not-so-distant 2019), with a happy ending twist of sorts at the end.

#2 Dead Poets Society (1989)
Perfect! What a fabulous film! Made in the good old days before Ethan Hawke grew up and Robin Williams became annoying beyond description.

#3 Glory (1989)
Career-defining roles for Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Matthew Broderick. Everyone should see this film. I assume it's even somewhat historically correct.

#4 The Mission (1986)
DeNiro at his finest as an 18th century slaver-turned-priest in South America.

#5 Out of Africa (1985)
It seems like every movie set in or about Africa since this has tried - and failed - to replicate it. This was the first Meryl Streep movie I ever saw, and was later shocked to find out she was American.

#6 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A true original. Nothing comes close.

#7 Somewhere in Time (1980)
"Come back to me!" Whew, I love Jane Seymor and Christopher Reeve together - talk about chemistry. Plus I happen to also love time travel stories so you can't go wrong with this.

#8 Stand By Me (1986)
An impressively well-done coming of age memoir of four preteen boys on a small adventure. It seems important to watch, but left me with unshakable nostalgia and regrets over my own adolescence.

Honorable Mention:

Dirty Dancing (1987)
Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When I Was a Mom

Everyday, often several times a day, Hazel throws her imagination, emerging complex verb structures, and powers of empathy into the big pot that is her brain, stirs, and comes out with a "When I was..." statement.

"When I was a Mom, I change my baby's diapers because that's what Moms do with their babies."

"When I was a sandbox, I ate sand, do I? Because sand is my food!"

I know the proper form is actually "if I was..." or if you're really a stickler, "if I were..." but I make no effort whatsoever to correct her. I don't know if that's actually what she means or if the line between reality and make-believe is still fuzzy enough that she thinks she could be, or has been, these things. Either way, I enjoy her comments immensely.

"When I was ice cream, people eat me. Because I'm yummy in their stomachs and their stomachs like me."

But mostly it's a lot of, "When I was a Mom."

"When I was a Mom, I cook at the stove and touch hot things, do I?" (The "do I?" is my favorite part.)

"When I was a Mom, I can drive our car and I take you to the grocery store."

Sometimes it's, "When I was your Mom..." Then I explain to her that she can't be my mom because Nana is my mom. And I'm her mom. And when she's a mom she'll have a new kid we haven't met yet. I know it's complicated but I tell her anyway. Last time we went through it she considered for a minute and said, "Yeah, and when Nana was little I was her mom."

I just smiled and said, "Yep!" Plenty of time for boring truth later.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

8 Essential 80's

So I was talking to Maren yesterday and she mentioned that Quinn is going to host a film series on campus. He's a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont and is always up to something interesting. This year most college freshmen were born in 1990, which means they missed the 80's completely. I can hardly fathom it. So Quinn has put together his list of "8 Essential 80's movies" to show the students this winter - one a week. (Don't you think it should be "8 Quinn-Essential...?")

Of course this is fodder for my inner pop culture blogger so I got to thinking about what my list would include. Coming up with great 80's movies was the easy part. Narrowing it down to eight essentials was strenuous. Here's how I came to them: first I came up with my list of 80's movies I love. Then I took out all the films made in the 80's but set in a different time period, past or future. I wanted true 80's movies that showed the 1980's. I made a separate list of the other-time-period ones because they deserve it. Then I thought about what I would show college students. I was age 5 through 15 in the 80's, so I did not catch a lot of adult dramas or foreign films in those years. When I looked at my remaining list I thought, "How is it possible anyone hasn't seen these? They're so classic!" But I guess that's the point. I suppose it's possible that people born in the late 80's and early 90's might not have been exposed to them. The final cut was either my personal preference or how well a film represented the filmmaking or culture of the 80's. I considered having "14 Favorites of the 80's" but it doesn't have the same ring as "8 Essentials" so I had to close my eyes, cut some more, and here they are (in alphabetical order). I'm trying to ignore how many of these are Rob Reiner films.

8 Essential 80's Movies

#1 Back to the Future (1985)
Though mostly set in the 50's, the beginning and end make a point of being very 80's for contrast; plus many lines and scenes have become iconic.

#2 The Breakfast Club (1985)
You can't have an 80's movie list without something from the brat pack and it doesn't get more bratty than this one.

#3 Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

#4 Ordinary People (1980)
Here's our only drama in the group, for a little balance. I caught this late one night on cable a few years ago and was kind of spellbound by how well such an everyday story was told. Afterwards looked it up and was pleased to see it had won Best Picture that year.

#5 The Princess Bride (1987)

#6 This is Spinal Tap (1984)
This is more of a cult favorite than mainstream blockbuster but it's a fabulously funny farce on 80's rock bands, and college students should love it.

#7 Top Gun (1986)

#8 When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Barely makes the 80's cutoff, but it covers a period of like 15 years through the 70's and 80's so it does count. This is a lovely and funny tale of a friendship-turned-love that echoes the real relationships many of us have. Singles love it.

Also Highly Recommended for a Full 80's Experience:

Raising Arizona (1987)

It was a toss-up; I wanted this in the list but not sure what to trade for it.
Big (1988)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
E.T. (1982)

So what’s your list – what would add or take away from mine?

Remember we're not talking about anything set in another time (i.e., no Raiders of the Lost Ark or Dirty Dancing) - those will be addressed in a soon-future post.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

PR Dish - Wedding Aisle Runway

The Challenge: The four remaining challengers return to NYC with their collections including a wedding dress. When they arrive they receive a final challenge - to make a bridesmaid dress to go with the wedding dress. Those two dresses will be shown and judged to determine who moves on to compete at Bryant Park.

The Winner: No one was exactly named, but Leanne and Kenley were the judges' favorites. Really I think everyone loved Leanne's the most and I did, too. Wow - stunning!

The Loser: It was close between Jerrell and Korto. Honestly I thought Korto's wedding set was worse but I was more excited about her collection so I really wanted her to stay. Jerrell is out.

The Dish:
  • Um, so everyone took Tim to meet their friends/family except Kenley...she doesn't have any?At least Kenley apologized when she got there to ease the tension a little.
  • Like I said, Leanne's wedding set was amazing. She's right, too - Tia is an asset.
  • Jerrell's wedding dress was heinous but I really liked his bridesmaid's dress - guess I'm matronly. Poor Korto - her collection looks interesting but that wedding dress was the worst ever and the bridesmaid was even worse.
  • Kors said what? Kenley's bridesmaid dress is the most adorable dress he's ever seen? I thought it was kind of boring.
  • OK, I've been holding off, but guess I'll go online and look closely at the full collections now. It's here - the final runway show!
  • Who thought up Project Runway in the first place? Genius.

The Good Stuff - Special Fall Edition

While there's a lot of Good Stuff out there, only a few choice items earn their own special edition. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix is the only one I can think of so far. My sister Maren told me about it a couple years ago, and good heavens, I've never been the same since.

That first year we were sorely disappointed to find it's a seasonal item. It shows up in September and disappears after Thanksgiving sometime. That's a lesson I only had to learn once, and now every fall we stock up for the year - about 30 boxes.

I've actually never made a loaf from the mix - we always do muffins. And with mini eaters around here we make mini muffins. The mix itself is perfect, but embellishments only improve it. Our favorite is adding a handful of oats, a couple tablespoons of ground flax seed and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips. Sometimes chopped pecans. A friend told me she made them with white chocolate chips, which I'm sure is good if you believe in white chocolate. I think they'd be good with anything - any nuts or dried fruits, coconut, lemon or orange zest, etc. Maybe not capers. It makes about 4 dozen minis. After they cool we freeze them and eat them straight from the freezer for breakfast or snacks - they crumble less when frozen, which means less mess.

I've never met a kid (or adult) that doesn't like these. Once I took some on a visiting teaching visit in New York, and my friend's kids gobbled them up while I was there; she had to rescue one for herself and put it out of reach. They truly disappeared at Hazel's last birthday party. Today I babysat a little 1-year-old girl for a few hours who cried almost the whole time except when she was snarfing muffins.

Making these has of course become a favorite family activity for us. We even made them for FHE last week. Talk about a perfect evening - fillling the house with spicy autumnal aromas while having a little lesson, then eating them warm with milk before bed.

I mean, I'm truly sorry if you don't have a Trader Joe's. I know that pain. But get a friend to hook you up - it's only here once a year, and it's quickly becoming my favorite thing about fall. It's hard to compete with something that elicits, "Mommy, you make the best muffins in the whole world!"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Peanut Butter Hitler

Took this shot at lunch today. It's really too bad he ruined this look for everyone for like the rest of history.

Why couldn't he have ruined this:
or this?


Last night, 6:12 pm. We're eating dinner.

Hazel: "Mommy, what's the favorite part of your life?"

"My favorite parts were when I married Daddy, then when you were born, then when Ginger was born!"

Pat myself on the back, good answer.

"What's the favorite part of your life?

Hazel: "My favorite part was seeing you get smaller and smaller and then you were a baby and I was your Mom."

Benjamin Button flashes to mind. Then I remember Hazel's obsession with mother-child relationships and her still-fluid conception of time and tense. Phew, I'm good. I'm still the Mom.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

PR Dish - And Then There Were Three (or so we thought)

Okay. Now we are getting somewhere. Bryant Park to be exact. Almost.

The Challenge: Design an evening gown inspired by nature (from the NY Botanical Garden.)

The Winner: Jerrell

The Loser: No one. All four get to go home and create collections, letting thier hope build up, then come back and compete for the three Bryant Park spaces. I think that's just too cruel, but I am looking forward to seeing the collections.

The Dish (written while watching):
  • It's ridiculous for Kenley to blame Leanne for her screwed up hip hop outfit last time. Yes, Leanne's walk was goofy but that is NOT what put it in the bottom. What a brat.
  • What a fabulous challenge - it reminds me of the final four challenge last year, taking inspiration from art in the museum. I can't wait to see what they create.
  • When Kenley was walking around the garden talking about bright colors I'm just waiting to see what kind of obnoxious 80's print fabric she picks out. She did choose a great photo - they all did, really - and she especially lucked out with the fabrics she found.
  • I love everyone's color palette. How can you go wrong with a challenge inspired by flowers? Well, perhaps I speak too soon...
  • I'm actually very, very sick of Leanne's plaid shirts!!! Oh, great, and then the next day Kenley wears one. I read somewhere plaid is in this season but it's not in for me.
  • That makeup guy is amazing. When are we having him over for a girls' makeover night?
  • OK, I guess it's only fair Kenley gets her tulle.
  • Did this season go waaaaaay faster than the others?
  • Geez, it's nice to see Heidi in pants for once. And when is Michael Kors going to wear that hot pink t-shirt I know he's hiding in his closet?
  • Though heinous in other ways, Kenley's dress did fit like a glove.
  • I didn't think Korto's dress was as bad as the judges did. I thought the sillouette was kind of pretty.
  • I didn't have a favorite this time. I didn't really love any of them.

Next week: Tim visits the designers at their homes. They return to New York to show the judges their collections and somebody gets kicked out before Bryant Park.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Call for Crafts for Teeny Tinies

Nursery is going...ok. Let's just say there is room for improvement. We need to get more organized and stick to a tight schedule. We've been kind of experimenting with this the last few weeks but it's time to nail it down. Please help. We also need about 10 on-call non-nursery-parent helpers that can come hold cryers as needed. But that's not what this is about.

This is about a desperate need. During the second hour of nursery we have three stations that last about 10 minutes each, and we rotate three evenly numbered groups among them: lesson, activity, snack. Everyone loves snack, it's no problem. Lesson is pretty good with the new manual.

Activity. Please help. The lesson manual usually has coloring pages but honestly the kids get tired of coloring, and if they're bored it doesn't take the 10 minutes. So we tried branching out last week, and not doing something necessarily related to the lesson. We made macaroni necklaces* and they loved it. Even kids who are usually bouncing off the walls sat still and concentrated on what they were doing for a few minutes. Please help. Today I got Mom over and we brainstormed a little on other arts & crafts we can do, and we did come up with a few ideas. But I figured if two of us came up with a few, all of us can come up with a lot, especially since there seem to be several moms and ex-nursery workers out there! Please help.

  1. Something a young 2-year-old can do at least partially by himself. For each 10-minute period there are 5 to 8 kids (age 18-47 months) and 2 adults so it has to be supervisable with that ratio.
  2. Take a group like this about 8 to 10 minutes to complete, and it has to take up the whole 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. No glitter or paint or anything else too messy. They are all wearing their best clothes. Minimal glue or other things the adults have to do.
  4. Cheap enough so about 25 can be made for less than $10, preferably much less.
  5. Either fun to make or motivating to have the finished product. Please help.
  6. Nice to make something to take home but don't have to every time.
  7. Bonus is relating to a gospel topic or particular lesson, but I don't expect it every time

Here's what we came up with:
  • Egg carton caterpillars
  • Cotton batting circles on paper snowmen
  • Leaf activities (rubbings, headbands, possibly laminatable placemats)
  • Hand tracings are turkeys
  • Paper or plastic cup bells
  • Paper plate shakers full of beans
  • Popsicle stick puppets
  • Paper bag puppets
  • Paper airplanes - decorate, fold and fly
  • Spiral paper plate snakes - color paper plate, cut in a spiral, hold one end up and it falls in a descending spiral
But honestly only about half of those seem truly fun to me, though they're all better than a plain coloring page week after week. What have you got? Please help.

*How to make a macaroni necklace: Cut long pieces of yarn. Tie a wooden bead on one end. Dip the other end in glue up to a few inches so it will be stiff. Let dry on wax paper. Decorate large rotini pasta with glitter glue and allow to dry on wax paper. Give a handful of pasta and one string to each kid. Rotini is so big that almost every kid could string them themselves with the stiffened yarn.
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