Next Stop? The Food Channel!

Child ChefI know a little girl who truly enjoys her time in the kitchen. Not at the table eating, mind you, but at the counter preparing! She loves to slice, stir and sift, and she and her grandmother have signature dishes. Cooking classes are attended with all of the unrestrained enthusiasm only a seven-year-old can muster, and recently, she asked Santa to leave bakeware under the tree. I take enormous pleasure in supplying her with grown-up tools-of-the-trade that have little girl appeal: a pink hand-held blender for Christmas, polka-dot monogrammed cupcake bands for her birthday, and a cupcake “corer” so she can infuse her confections with chocolate, icing, cookie dough and brownie batter (just because).

One online site I frequently use as a go-to for this petite Paula is Sur La Table. I’ve discovered they sell many an appliance, utensil and gadget in appealing colors with easy-grip handles. Case in point: I love the icing spatulas, multi-purpose scrapers and assorted mixing bowls and measuring cups. I also really dig this pretty mortar and pestle set.  It may not be purple or pink, but I firmly believe (and this little Giada gem will back me up) there is much kid pleasure to be derived from grinding herbs into oblivion!

Mini Martha, if you’re reading this (and I know you’re smart enough even at age seven to do just that!), while I do not dig icing inside my cupcakes (though on the outside is just fine!), I do love, love, love zucchini in my pasta. Mi cocina es su cocina. Please approach it with reckless abandon!

Take a Bow!

child-actingLast night, my neighbors and I participated in a time-honored theater tradition: the neighborhood play. The plot was a little sketchy…something about a dolphin, and a dolphin family…all of whom had names reminiscent of Disney’s Dwarves: Splashy and Bubbly and Somersaulty and Frank (?). I believe the message was that dolphin safe nets are important to the environment (nice), and the soundtrack was a keeper – dolphins swimming along to Lady Gaga? Hey SeaWorld, eat your heart out! The actors, all four feet of them and all union of course, gave top-notch performances and I was impressed with how well the dolphin mother delivered her “Time Out for Bad Behavior” soliloquy in the second act. I’m sure she wasn’t drawing from real life experience…a-hem.

At any rate, after the final bow was taken and the curtain closed, it was time to feed the theater masses in my living room. While pizza and Christmas cookies sufficed beautifully for the cast, the audience was treated to Ina Garten’s lasagna, my absolute “cozy evening at home” fave. You don’t have to pre-cook the noodles, you can make it ahead of time, and yep – it’s delish (as if anything that includes three kinds of cheese and fresh basil leaves wouldn’t be!).  Here’s the recipe, in case your neighborhood actors’ guild has opening night scheduled for this weekend:


Pack your PJs!

My girls beg for sleepovers.  Every Friday, every Saturday, as the playdates wind down in the evening, the request comes in, “Mommmmeeeeeeee……can my best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world spend the night?  Most of the time, I say no.  I think sleepovers are highly overrated, especially since our best-friends-in-the-whole-wide-world live next door, across the street, and/or behind us and therefore we can pretty much wave to them from our windows at night anyway.  Why invite the opportunity to spend a Saturday or a Sunday with over-tired kids?

But every once in a while, I relent.  And truthfully, there are elements to a sleepover that I do love: the sound of giggling at night, the array of cute bedheads in the morning, and the way my house smells when I make homemade pancakes for everyone.  The girls and I also have a fun sleepover tradition – we make nightshirts or pillowcases to commemorate the event.  I keep a supply of super cheap men’s tees and white pillowcases on hand, and we have a healthy supply of fabric markers.  I set the girls and their buddies loose at the dining room table, and when the artwork is done, we have a) spent an hour doing something other than running wild through the house b) provided the hostess (ME!) with some time to clean up the pizza/fruit salad/lemonade/cupcake strewn kitchen and c) created fun sleepwear and accessories.

Now all you need is a glass of wine (or maybe a dose of Ambien)!

Don’t forget your bunny slippers!

Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda

My 6th grader is going to 6th grade camp.  Does that bring back grade school memories or what?  When I went, I was also in sixth grade, and we went for a whole week (god bless those teachers).  I still remember some of the songs I learned, and I love to geek out and sing them for my girls: “Here’s a story, doo doo, doo do, about Jaws, doo doo, doo do…”  They always respond the same way: “Oh mommmmm….”

At any rate, my daughter is only going for a quick overnight, but the packing list is a little daunting.  We tackled it last night, and this is pretty much how it unfolded.

Sleeping bag?  Check.

Pillow? Check.

Socks?  Check.

Jeans?  Check.

Sunscreen?  Hmmm….don’t you have to replace sunscreen every season?  Does Fall count as a new season?  Okay.  That goes on the grocery list.

Bugspray? From my daughter: “What kind of bugs?  Big bugs?  Like spiders?”  Yeah…good luck with this one, Mrs. Johnson.

Pajamas?  Check.

Raingear?  Check.  Oh wait a minute.  We should try that on.  Your arms are like a foot longer than they were last Spring.  Yep.  As I suspected.  You could use a new raincoat.  From my middle child: “I’m not wearing any hand-me-downs that are pink!”  From me: “Grrrrrrrrrr…..”

So mission number one this morning was to quickly locate a raincoat sturdy enough to withstand three go-rounds in our closets, in a shade other than pink (now watch, next year my middle child will be obsessed with all hues in the rose, blush and coral families).  And lo and behold, I think search success is mine! (Now if I could just do the same for my own raingear!)

Anyone else out there love Uncle Dan’s?  They always come through in a camping emergency for me (because I have so many…).  Here are my options this morning:


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(also comes in pink for those of you who do not have children who have declared a ban on the shade!)


Girls Printed Resolve Jacket


(mad for plaid!)


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(also comes in blue, pink and black…but I think the yellow is super cute!)

Now that makes for a happy camper!

Brrr…Be Gone!

I know it is only Fall.  I know for some of you, the weather is actually quite warm.  But I am perpetually cold.  According to the google machine, the reasons for this arctic state of being range from low body weight (nope) to hypothyroidism (gosh I hope not!) to being overly tired (potentially a bingo!).  Though my family makes fun of me, I wear my Ugg slippers year round, and I like to watch TV with a blanket over my feet.  I throw a big green wool sweater on over my clothes almost the minute I get home from work and I’ve even been known to sleep in it, hence my girls refer to it as mommy’s “sleep sweater.”  (I’m sure the men reading this have nicknamed it something else).  🙂

At any rate, I noticed One Kings Lane is featuring a sale on Wednesday for Tourance throws, and so, in case there are other ice cubettes out there, I thought I’d share.  And just in case your linen closet is full, here are some other great ways to warm up!

Do yoga!  (Check out the “We Made Too Much” section on the Lululemon site to save on gear!)

Take a steam shower or bath!  Cute Lacoste bathrobes available at Macy’s!

Cuddle with your kids and watch a movie!  50% off classic DVDs at Barnes & Noble!

Grab a cuppa coffee!  Love the Nespresso Espresso Machine (in red, no less – remember your rebel yell!)

Eat a warm meal! Slow cookers are not just for your grandmother!  Think delicious soups with fresh bread from the bakery!

All thawed out now?

Pong, Pac-Man and PlayStation

I am not a video game person.  I never have been.   Even when I was young (very young!) and Atari and Intellivision arrived on the scene, I lacked interest.  Maybe I was too busy with swim team practices and dance lessons, or maybe on some level I knew my hand-eye coordination was a little on the pathetic side.  Regardless, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man’s female counterpart, Ms., never did it for me.

So imagine how perplexed I am by my daughter’s obsession with all things media.  DS, Wii, iTouch – if left to her own devices, she could spend hours, maybe days, with these little machines and their carefully choreographed digital adventures.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder, “If I never set a time limit…if I never pushed or prodded…Would she eat?  Would she sleep?  Would I find her locked in a room channeling Howard Hughes?”  But I do set time limits, and I do push and prod, and time spent playing DS, Wii and iTouch is “earned” in my house, only to be used on the weekends and only in set increments (usually a half hour).  It may not be the perfect parenting strategy, but it works for me most of the time.

With the “obsession” kept somewhat in check, what I then find challenging is the cost of digital entertainment.  Wii, DS, and PlayStation games are not cheap, and I feel as though there’s always some new gadget we “have to have:” a steering wheel for Mario Kart, a special mat for a dance game, headgear and 3D eyeglasses…Wait a second, headgear?  Eyeglasses?  Do my vision and dental benefits cover those?

But a good buddy recently introduced me to GameStop, where so many games and accessories and even headgear (Again, headgear?  Note to self: Review the Summary Plan Description for orthodontia and verify coverage ASAP!) are either offered at a discount or can be purchased used.

So go check out the savings and treat your mini Marios and Luigis to a new adventure at a discount.  Just be sure to pick up a cute kitchen timer from Jo!e so you can remember to shout “Time’s up!” before they think WuHu Town is an acceptable answer to any question on their next geography test.

Happy gaming!

My Very Own Tinkerbell

There are so many, many things I find delightful in my oldest daughter (and yes, numbers two and three, I blog about you too!), but one thing that “tickles” me is her propensity to “tinker.”  If she finds an empty shoe box, one hour and one tube of glitter glue later, it’s a car for her Ugly Doll.  Hand her some chopsticks, a few plastic spoons, and a roll of scotch tape, and she’s made catapults for herself and for her sisters (I have a great video of my trio running around the backyard flinging erasers at each other).  Pretty much the best way to keep my girls entertained without the television is to hand my eldest some art supplies.  Give her a few minutes, and she’s sure to concot some elaborate machine or art project in which all can participate.

With this in mind, I keep a lot of art supplies on hand at home.  Glue and tape, mosaic pieces and yarn – even paper clips, rubber bands and empty toilet paper rolls are fair game.  And I always pop into Blick when I’m close and can spare the time.  Blick’s “Crafts” section has everything imaginable for my aspiring DaVinci.  The various collage paks usually scream “buy,” and yep, so does the ModPodge, which comes in every color imaginable including preppy plaid.  Moms, if you have never tried it before, ModPodge is the equivalent of glue heaven.  All three of my girls LOVE this stuff and we have ModPodged tissue paper, leaves and flower petals onto everything from flower pots to baby food jars and maybe a few fingers in between.  The feathers assortment is kinda’ cool, and our Zhu Zhu pets have soft, downy beds as a result.  Oh – and be sure to check out the sand art supplies.  If you can plan around the mess, these are pretty entertaining.

So throw a plastic tablecloth on the table and turn ’em loose with some great art supplies this weekend.  You might end up with homemade birthday cards (the very best kind!), but you might also end up with a “fanboard.”  Wheeee!

Sky’s the limit!

Oily Bohunks Need Not Apply

My oldest daughter will be participating in Fortnightly dance classes this Fall, the first of which is in two weeks.  I’d like to say I am taking this in stride, but truthfully?  I’m not really sure I’m ready.  All of a sudden my memories of those cute little boys in her kindergarten class are taking on a new dimension.  Didn’t I catch Jack carrying her backpack for her the other day?  Why is Alex lending her all of those books?  Wasn’t she a little too excited when we ran into Henry at the grocery store?  And then I remember all of my own school dance disasters, and my fear for her is no longer just related to the boys, but to all of the socially awkward hurdles you potentially have to navigate at a social dance class.  Case in point:

Remember Farmer Ted?

But I promised myself I would match her own enthusiasm about the activity, and I promised her that if she assumed a few extra chores around the house, she could select a new dress or skirt for the occasion.  My hope is she’ll find a full suit of armor at a discount.  (Just kidding, Almost Tween)

Wish us luck as we cross yet another milestone off the list!  And yes, I know this is far more tame than the ones to come (I heard someone out there whisper “otto-mo-biiile…”). Gasp!

Calling all Gryffindors!

My nine-yeard-old is obsessed with all things Harry Potter.  While my eldest daughter read the first book, proclaimed it “scary” and immediately moved on to tackle the Penderwick series, her younger sister read the first book, declared it “the best thing EVER” and has now read the entire series, twice.  There are so many things I love about this little obsession of hers: her newfound appreciation of owls, her bottomless knowledge of the rules of quidditch, and (oh! ) the vocabulary!  Is there anything better than a still-little girl with a mouthful of retainers and expanders saying words like “hufflepuff” and “expelliarmus?”

So imagine how “stupefied” I was to discover there is a Harry Potter version of one of our favorite family game night go-tos, Clue?  Heads up Hogwarts, if you love calling Colonel Mustard out for dastardly deeds in the library, you’ll really love accusing Draco Malfoy for poisoning mead in the Enchanted Forest!  While my little witch (and I mean this in the most endearing way) absolutely loves playing, I think she also takes great delight in showing off her expertise!  There isn’t a question she can’t answer, a plot she can’t re-tell, and yes, she must have her own personal petronus (help your kids discover theirs with this quiz!), because she quite often wins.  Check out the fun for yourself and go from muggle to wizard in no time!

Signing off with my very best Petrificus Totalus!