Showing posts from 2010

Make your own Silly Bandz...again

AGAIN?!? Yes. This is a take two version of the Halloween ghost silly band project I did here . Check it out if you wish to see some clear and more simple silly bands. Continue reading on if you're up for a challenge... and a week of green thumbs. First, a disclaimer. This is not the easiest of projects. It's a bit of of a novelty, being able to create a piece of rubbery plastic in any shape you like, but at some point you may yell out loud "I can buy these for two dollars! What am I doing?!?" That said, it's still quite impressive. And relatively simple. You will need: -100% Silicone. Note the color: we first bought "almond" by mistake and they were pretty ugly! Go with "clear" unless you want something else. And make sure it's 100% silicone. If you've got an Ace Hardware, find the matching tube in the photo so you don't look like a dork standing there in the aisle with men making fun of you. -A design. For size, look at a similar

Enjoying Christmas present and presents

There’s a certain magic of Christmas that isn’t much talked about, mostly because not many take the time to notice. It’s not their fault, though, because this magic is easy to miss because you’re too glazed over with Scotch Tape and curling ribbon. It starts much earlier in the season, when we first start getting a taste for the holiday ho ho ho’s and we spend every waking moment living in a winter wonderland of cheer and candy canes. Even the stop lights blink in bright red and green; it’s everywhere. We eat, sleep, breathe, and shop Christmas until we have exhausted ourselves. It’s all pretty much a giant build up to Christmas Eve night when the world is truly glimmering with excitement and anticipation. A last push before the big day finishing odds and ends, or if you’re like some, it’s the day you rush the stores for any last minute gifts, no matter how inappropriate they are. (My parents will remember the year of the potato chip maker, a gift of desperation and unfortunate drug st

The spirit of Christmas future: going paperless

It’s a rather bleak future, I’m afraid. I think it all started with the invention of the “gift bag” which was the first step in lazy holiday goers to forego the daunting task of paper, scissors, and tape. From there came the fancy and convenient “pre-lit” tree which is great for saving men and women from cursing knotted light strands during such a religious season, but also takes away the fun of getting tiny cuts and sap all over your arms from trying to string the lights just perfectly among the boughs. The coup de grace, however, was the invention of the e-card. To date, we have received six measly Christmas cards in the mailbox. Normally I’d have a complex about people not really caring to send their very best, but I know it’s not really our fault. It’s a change of the times, the rising cost of postage, and the fact that people just don’t want to send Christmas cards anymore. The world is going paperless, stampless, and cardless, which leaves my designated card hanging area che

The spirit of Christmas Past

As if Jiminy Cricket himself floated down on his tiny umbrella, I can’t help but think about the Christmases of my own childhood past. In my mind I hold dozens of snapshots of memories, each one prized and in perfect form. A single moment in time, preserved in color so rich that if I close my eyes I can still smell the sauerkraut served at every Christmas Eve meal. They are beautiful pictures, all of them. But unfortunately, like the snapshots in real life, they lay completely unorganized and without order, tossed in a box marked “Christmas” and all turned upside down, backwards, and without a single date to be found. It’s not as bad as you’d think, though. The mind works in mysterious ways, and my Christmas memories can all come together to make for one glorious story… It was yet another Christmas Eve. We all sat in my Grandmother’s dining room which for some reason had one wall that was completely mirrors. This made for an entertaining meal for myself, as I would make faces an

Christmas carols ring true

Any major retailer will tell you that the Christmas season starts in September, when they start taking down the racks of seeds and put up the giant inflatable Santas on top of every aisle. The radio stations will tell you that the holiday season is upon us sometime around Veteran’s Day. My husband is adamant about not celebrating anything Christmassy until the day after Thanksgiving, while I crank up my favorite Willie Nelson holiday album the minute the Macy’s Day Parade features good ol’ Santa coming down the street. Whenever you started or think you should start, the holiday season is now full on. The entire month of December is just week after week of wild preparation, celebration, anticipation, and decoration. Each of our senses is attacked by the spirit of Christmas in one form or another, from the prickle of the evergreen needles, to the taste of frosted cookies, the vision of sugarplums, the smell of the dust that comes out of the boxes of ornaments. But for all of the sensory

The cher-pump-my-stomach-ple

The picture says it all... DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EAT MORE THAN ONE PIECE (OR EVEN ONE PIECE AT ALL) IF YOU ARE NOT A PROFESSIONAL EATER! IT WILL RUIN YOUR APPETITE FOR HOURS AND YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PARTAKE IN THE OTHER DELICIOUS NON-OBNOXIOUS PIES AND CERTAINLY NOT A TURKEY SANDWICH. This warning has been brought to you by yours truly, who had to wait until the next morning to eat apple pie. But boy, I was one proud baker! Massive and gluttonous, long live the Cherpumple . At someone else's house.

Diary of a Cherpumple: the assembly!

Admittedly I had my doubts, but after having completed the Cherpumple , I now pretty much glow with pride. Three glorious layers waited in the freezer for a quick few hour chill so they would be easier to frost. I whipped up the frosting, using a minimum of 2 pounds of powdered sugar (who really counts at this point?) and began the layering process... I am fully aware that I am a terrible cake baker and even worse at frosting. But I'm thinking when it comes to the cherpumple , beauty is on the inside. The baby sized in at 6 inches tall and 9 inches round. And weighed in at... ...OVER 13 POUNDS!!!! Granted, there's a plate there, but still, it's huge. We read somewhere that there is 1800 calories in one slice of this monstrosity, and I fully believe it. But does it taste as good as it looks? Time will tell.

Diary of a Wimpy Cherpumple

"You've got to remember the number one rule of baking a cherpumple : never fret. Things will be OK." This coming from my husband who previously asked me if we needed to grease the cake pan... The evening was not without its difficulty, but in any case, should you want to try this at home, follow along and learn from our experience. First, bake your pies. I opted for the cheater version because I didn't want to encase the fruit of my labor in cake. Make sure that your pies are a maximum of 8". (This is important, but I can tell you that crust covered in cake batter is a treat all its own.) Once your pies are baked and cooled, assemble your remaining ingredients. You can see that I included a sample of holiday beverages. These are not for the cherpumple , but for the cherpumple bakers. (And no, no one is getting any of my Christmas Ale.) Mix your cake batter to box directions. Grease and flour a 9" cake pan. Pour 1 to 1.5 cups of batter in the bottom

The year of the Cherpumple

There’s a new level of gluttony that we’re about to achieve, and I for one cannot wait. As if the holiday season wasn’t hoggish enough with its gigantic turkeys and heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, there’s a new dessert making news that will send us all over the top. Bulging over the top that is, spilling out the sides, and probably busting zippers and buttons across the nation. The dessert was first introduced to me by my husband (proud follower of the Turduckhen craze) in a simple email. “Saw this in the paper. We’re making it.” I clicked on the link to find the most outrageous, obnoxious, and fantastic dessert I have ever seen. Enter the “cherpumple.” Haven’t heard of this thing? Pronounced “chair-pump-pull” it’s the epitome of holiday desserts all rolled into one frosted mass. A slick combination of a cherry pie, a pumpkin pie, and an apple pie, encased in a blanket of cake and slathered with icing, the cherpumple is quickly catching on as the latest and greatest dessert of

Make your own marshmallow shooter!

If ever there was fun to be found in the hardware store, this is surely it. With just a few pieces of PVC pipe and fittings, you can whip up you're very own marshmallow shooter. And if you shop correctly, your bag of ammo will cost more than the gun itself! The completed marshmallow shooter: And now, how to make it! You'll need: 22 inches of 1/2 inch PVC pipe 2 1/2 inch end caps 2 1/2 inch elbows 2 1/2 inch T's Either con the nice man at the hardware store to cut up the PVC pipe or use a handy hacksaw to saw that 22" into: 1 7" piece 5 3" pieces Then, assemble as follows. You don't need any glue-- just push the pieces together. To shoot, put a mini marshmallow into the long end. Blow a puff of air (with pursed lips) into the mouthpiece in the open elbow. It'll take some practice, but it's great fun! A word of warning: If you have kids breathing into it too much, it'll get wet and gummy. Disassemble and clean/dry. A word of educati

Shopping solo is the way to go

It started with garbanzo beans, which is not something that has probably ever been said before. Call them chickpeas or ceci beans if you wish, but they were on my husband’s salad and he scarfed them down. “You like those things?” I asked, never having seen him eat a legume with such gusto. “Of course. I always eat them on my salad. You just don’t buy them at home.” I personally don’t like the garbanzo type, so naturally since I’m the one doing the grocery shopping they don’t end up in my cart. But I started to wonder, just how much is my husband doing without because I have no idea what he likes to eat? I came up with a brilliant idea. “Dear, I think we should go grocery shopping together. You can help pick things out that you like to eat that maybe I didn’t know you wanted.” He chuckled and made cracks about the two of us having a romantic date at the grocery store. “Maybe we could sample lunch meat in the deli for a main course and then go to the bakery for a cookie dessert be

The curse of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle

To begin, let me tell you why I love the library so much. For one, it’s full of books and music, two wonderful forms of art that in some way appeal to everyone. They have all of the latest newspapers and magazines, movies, and a dusty set of encyclopedias that apparently you can now actually check out without being thrown in prison. It’s also got nice people, the smell of old paper, and has literally any information you want to read and learn. And all of it is free. Absolutely free. Of course we all pay taxes that contribute to the success of our own public libraries, but for the most part when we stand at the check-out counter, the only thing we’re whipping out of our wallet is our library card. In essence, it’s almost as if one of those mega big bookstores with their fancy escalators and people walking around with lanyard nametags and Bluetooth ear pieces decided to trade the cash registers for a nifty bar code system. In fact, my children often get confused between the book store an

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Mom!

Author's note: It's not often I make myself cry, but reading this when it appeared in the paper this morning left my coffee tasting a little salty. I dedicate it to every Super Mom out there! There’s been a lot of hype lately in the mom world about this so-called “Super Mom” nomenclature. From what I gather, a Super Mom is a mother who goes above and beyond the call of duty which means that she probably bathes her kids on a regular basis, dresses them in matching coordinating outfits, always has a full cookie jar (homemade, of course), and still looks like a million bucks when she wakes up in the morning. Yep, I kind of want to punch her, too. But I’ve decided that since that woman is non-existent, I’d come up with my own definition of a Super Mom. Something that is more realistic and attainable for those of us who have dreams of one day owning our own cape. So show me a mom who has gone through even the easiest of pregnancies and labor, and I’ll show you a Super Mom. Anyon

How to make your own silly bandz

You know, those ridiculous rubber bracelets that you find all over your house? That come in every shape, color, and size so that your kids just HAVE to have them? Fear no more-- I can share with you how to make your very own. It only takes a trip to the hardware store and the guts to tell the assistant there that the reason you're lingering in the glue and sealant aisle is because you're making silly bandz and he looks at you like you are a lunatic. Because you kinda are, but hey, nothing is cooler than homemade junk. After one failed attempt, here's what we did: 1. Assemble materials, including waxed paper, plain paper for drawing your design, clipboard is handy dandy, food coloring (if you want colored bands), cake decorator tip and bag, silicone sealant (see below), and ice for your hand because it will shake with pain after making a bunch of these. The silicone sealant must read 100% Silicone. I took the idiot way out and bought the bottle that actually said "10

No basements in Florida/The Seasonal Changeover

It was there, sitting among a sea of shoes and being rained upon by hundreds of mismatching gloves that I figured out why there are not basements in Florida. Of course I realize that the fact that the water table sits so close to the surface and the giant sinkholes have something to do with it, but really there must have been an underlying factor when that part of the world was cosmically being designed. Water table or not, they just don’t need basements down there because they don’t have to endure the endless and daunting task of The Seasonal Changeover. The Seasonal Changeover happens every spring and every fall and unless you’ve got a shoe closet that rivals the size of New Jersey and a clothes closet that could swallow Canada, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Out go the attire of the day, in goes the one for tomorrow. In this case, I spent hours packing up sandals and rain boots and hauled out the leather and snow boots which were still caked with last spring’s mud because

Pumpkin black bean soup - perfect for Halloween!

I was never quite sure why the colors of Halloween were orange and black. Is it the pumpkin that eventually rots on your front porch? Is it the orange teeth of the witch dressed in black? In any case, we're stuck with the color theme which is unfortunate for me because I just bought "rust" colored shoes with black soles that make me look extremely festive in October, but rather goofy the rest of the year. Oh well. If there's one good thing that comes out of this orange-and-black thing we've got going on, it's got to be this: my new favorite soup. Many thanks to my friend, Jennifer, for serving me her leftovers for lunch a few weeks ago. I am a changed woman! The results are in: Says my husband to the kids, "next time mommy gets grumpy, let's make her a pot of this soup because she can't stop smiling when she's eating it." I don't really care what the rest of the family thinks... Pumpkin Black Bean Soup (You can make this vegetarian if

What do you want to be when you grow up?

There was a time I would have given anything for a refrigerator box. They were worth their weight in gold, and whenever someone in the neighborhood got a new appliance they were quickly snatched up by imaginative children and moms desperate to contain those same kids. My containment unit was none other than a fully equipped boat with a high-powered motor, CB radio, ropes, maps, and a hook for my Smokey the Bear hat. It was my park ranger boat. And against the will of my parents, it lived for many months in the middle of our family room, where I sat daily and discovered unchartered wild waters and forests, and wrote tickets for people who cut down trees. Besides the boat-box, I also spent many hours toiling behind the secretary desk of my father’s work. I had an old broken (and gigantic) calculator that used to ring up prices and an inoperable rotary dial phone that rang constantly and at times I was scheduling appointments and adding numbers. Life was busy, but it was just so much fun

Raising a pack of dogs

If you’re out running errands or at the park or library, and you hear someone saying “coyote!” repeatedly in increasing volume and intensity, don’t panic. Chances are there is no coyote running wild among the aisles of the supermarket or stalking the teeter totter. It’s just me, telling my kids to be a coyote for once. Not that it’s a standard thing for a mother of three to do, but an introductory class to basic animal tracking has opened up my eyes to a new and exciting hobby. A single footprint in a muddy or snowy area is a natural mark of what was once there when I was not, something so simply poetic I can’t help but immediately squat down and stick my nose in this beautiful trace. From a set of tracks, one can not only determine the animal, but whether it was male or female, its mood, where it was going and why, and if you’re really, really good, even if it had a full belly. Mostly I’m happy knowing what kind of stuff ate my garbage and walked through my flowerbeds. One special thi

Easy (and easily eaten) roasted chicken and potatoes

I knew this recipe was definitely worth sharing when I found myself drooling all morning at the prospect of a leftover lunch. But if that doesn't convince you to try this one, let my kids tell you their reviews. "Wow, I'm super picky and actually like this!" (I'll take it!) "I can't speak-- I think I've died and gone to chicken heaven." (Literally, this is what he said. Goofball.) "Can I have some noodles?" (She's two and 80% of her diet consists of pasta.) Says husband, "it's a keeper!" And says I, "holy moly , if this was any easier someone would have had to drop it off at my doorstep." Without further adieu: Easy roasted chicken and potatoes 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1.5 pounds redskin potatoes, cut into medium chunks 1/3 cup mayo 3 Tablespoons dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (we looooove garlic. I load it up but not everyone likes it as mu

Sing, sing, sing

Many years ago while visiting church with a friend, she leaned over and told me to sing louder. “But I don’t have that great a church voice,” I reminded her. “Well then, give it back to God for not blessing you with that talent and belt it out!” she replied. From that moment on, I have made a conscience effort to thank God for the alto voice He has given me, even when straining up to those high notes. The truth is that I love to sing. Always have, always will. My parents have plenty of VHS tapes to prove it, including one especially embarrassing dance program where my feet didn’t move but my vocal chords got a real workout. I grew up with a singing family, and not so much a professional or choir-type family. More of a belt-it-out-in-the-car or around-a-campfire family. I don’t think we could have a car trip without the accompaniment of Merle Haggard or a fire without the accompaniment of my dad’s guitar. And it must be true, that what you are exposed to as a child makes you into y

Fall brings out our true colors

Thirty days has September, April, May, and November. All the rest have thirty-one [except Februrary] but if I truly had my way, the month of October would be 300 days long. If there was ever a time of the year that I would want to bottle up and have to myself all year long, it’s the month of October when nature puts on its finest show for all of the senses. The smell of the leaves, the sight of the first frost on the pumpkin, the taste of hot mulled cider, the sound of bare trees blowing in the wind, and of course the feel of stick jabbing you in the leg when you jump into the leaf pile. Honestly, I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it, even the stick. When October rolls around, I morph into some other person, a person who lives and breathes to embrace every aspect of the season. Like most of us who are tired of painting our toenails and shaving our legs, I welcome the return of long pants and closed toed shoes quite happily. Not only that, but I like to pretend I’m a fas

There’s something rotten in the state of my garage

If you follow this column, you might remember that last week I wrote a lovely philosophical story about the lessons I’ve learned from my garden. After contemplating how an ignored garden was really a message of personal revival in disguise, I concluded with myself slowing down, taking time to enjoy life and weeding out the unnecessary extras that keep me from living the life I want to live. And then, since then, I’ve spent an entire week sniffing around my garage. Literally. It started the very day my husband said, “you won’t see me much this week.” With meetings and conflicting appointments, our paths didn’t cross long enough for me to force him to remedy the stinky situation: the smell of death looming in the garage. Somewhere, some sort of critter had met his or her doom, and what was left was beginning the all-important job of decomposing and releasing of gases and other such unpleasantries. I opened the door from our house to a wall of odor. Granted, I have a nose so super se

Zucchini Tomato Pie - the way to send out the summer

I don't know about anyone else, but my zucchini plants were a major bummer this year. Sure, I didn't give them the normally needed TLC, and sure I did find the world's largest weed (see photo) planted right next to them, but when it comes to zucchini, I always thought that you shouldn't take care of them because if you do, you'll be swimming in them for a month. But there I was, a failure of a garden year, and left with one gigantic zucchini, and a major hankering for a garden full of them. So I swallowed my pride and went to the store and actually bought zucchini in the months of August and September. It was a sad and sorrowful day. But it was so very worth it. When it comes to zucchini recipes, there are thousands. This one is my new favorite savory dish because a)it's super simple and b) my son's exact words were, "gee, mom, I thought it was going to be really gross but it's actually pretty good. Can I have some more?" And really, you ca

Learning from the WMNG

It was a sunny late summer day when I ambled over to what I now refer to as the “WMNG.” Within seconds my expression went from cheery yard work smiles to a scowl of disappointment, because right there, in plain view all summer long, my small plot of plants had morphed into the World’s Most Neglected Garden. The beans, now four feet long and as wide as Popeye’s forearms, grew down to the dirt, their woody seeds pushing through the dehydrated skin. What was left of the tomatoes drooped rotten over their cages, spreading seeds that I’ll surely have to pull as weeds the next year. The broccoli and lettuce had all gone to seed, reaching world record heights, as if lettuce should ever be three feet tall. And the list goes on, from hidden monster zucchini to a few dozen gnarled up carrots, none more than an inch and a half long. I stood there with my wheelbarrow full of greenery gone bad and realized that the WMNG was trying to teach me something. If I listened very carefully to the rustle of

Not Penicillin, Momicillin

Many do not know, but I have a pretty substantial relationship with antibiotics. Coined "the queen of strep throat" over the past few years, I actually walk into the doctor and they look at me and say: Oh no, not again. So me and penicillin, we go way back. And now, I've got a new " cillin " to claim: Momicillin . A regular writer on there, it's the bare bones of motherhood and womanhood, often not the prettiest of pictures (but hopefully one that will be the medicine you need for a chuckle or two.) Because they have rights to the work, I can't post them anywhere else but can certainly direct readers there. So without further adieu, here's the latest installment . Or should I say... Great Shel Silverstein in the morning with cabbage soup for breakfast! ps . Gerturde Hurlbutt was the woman who won the contest and gave the name "skeet" the the sport of skeet shooting. She also won $100 for her fancy idea. Thought you should know.

Letters and laughs are a lost art

At the risk of sounding too old fashioned, I would like to throw in my two cents when it comes to lost art forms. ­(Picture, if you will, me sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch, rubbing my aching knee and starting this next sentence…) “Back when I was little, we didn’t have those fancy email forwards. If we had something funny to say, we actually had to say it. Out loud. In front of people. Over time, sure there were those blue ditto machines and eventually the fax, but still. If you had a joke, you told it, not read it.” Because really, when it comes to jokes, when is the last time you’ve heard one delivered with poise and timing? People just don’t tell jokes anymore. We just forward them, some of us with fourteen pages of past recipients situated right at the top to really kill the moment. My grandparents had a friend who was large, loud, and Hungarian which meant nothing except that his family served chicken paprikash a different way than we Polish folk did. But this guy, wi

Bed jumper learns a lesson

Let’s just say this: I was a bed jumper all of my childhood. I did it whenever I could get away with it, and even when I couldn’t because the sweet feeling of springs popping beneath my feet was worth any punishment anyone could give. And life could get no better when my new furniture suite arrived and I was awarded with a four-poster bed (with removable spindle tops that so awesomely could double as microphones). I was around eight, and when the put the dresser with the large mirror was placed directly across from my new bed, a star was born. I sang every Beach Boys song there was into those wooden bed parts while I danced and jumped and watched my talent blossom in the opposing mirror. Someday, I would be famous, I thought. Instead, someday is today, and that bed isn’t gold-plated in a museum, it was instead passed down to my daughter. Along with the bed jumping gene. It didn’t last but a few years before the cracks got too big for comfort and we had to purchase a new bed. After

Detoxify your life with fancy skin products that bring on snazzy new expletives

We have this unwritten reward system in our house. Whenever life really starts wearing me out and I work super hard not to end up yelling at stuffed animals and throwing meatloaf, my husband says to me, “why don’t you take a bath?” And I do. Because I love baths. Sylvia Plath wrote, “There must be a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know any of them.” Amen, sister. A hot bath, coupled with locked doors, a humming fan, a good book and a glass of wine are just the things I need to de-stress and de- freak and relax. Coincidentally, it’s also a good time to slather my face in mud to de-tox my skin and fight with tooth and nail the inevitable wrinkles. (I’m no girly-girl, but having a face that looks like my old leather hiking boots is just plain wrong.) And so, after a long day of sifting through not one, not two, but three people’s clothes and rearranging one entire bedroom (see upcoming column on Thursday for full explanation), when he told me to take a bath, I sprinted up th

Summer report cards

It’s late August, which means a few very standard things. For one, tomatoes are at an all-time abundance and there’s a good chance only three people are actually reading this column because the rest of them are toiling away over a giant pot of spaghetti sauce, wondering just why in the world they put in so many tomato plants. Secondly, parents of school-aged children everywhere are riding the roller coaster of emotion now that school is back in session. (Just how does it happen that the very people that nearly drove us to the edge disappear for a few days and already we’re moping around and missing them?) August also means that the stores start putting their Halloween stuff in the sale bins to make room for the ultra-early Christmas decorations. But finally, late August means the end of summer. I know what you’re thinking, that the season of summer officially ends somewhere around the third week of September, when the Earth does its fancy tilting thing and we have the vernal equinox. W