Thursday, June 30, 2011

Red, White and POP!

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. It's the one holiday that seems to bring the country together and it's the one holiday that is smack in the middle of SUMMER!  Every year, we go to an outdoor concert to hear and see the Minnesota Orchestra play and then we get to watch some pretty amazing fireworks.  It's something I look forward to every year and we nearly make a day of it.  We show up a good 3 or 4 hours early, have a picnic dinner, walk around to see the kids' activities and then wait through the warm up bands until the real thing starts.  You just can't beat the full luscious orchestra playing some of the crowd favorites and I always love hearing some of the unexpected selections of the night too.  I might be slightly biased toward the world renowned Minnesota Orchestra.  I think they're pretty darn great.

The last few years I've been in charge of bringing one of the family's favorite treats: Red, White and Blue Kettle Corn.  It's a great way to "Fourth of July" your popcorn!  It's fun, easy and kids love it.
olive oil (any oil will do, but I prefer the flavor of olive oil)
blue and red food coloring

1/3 c. popcorn
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. sugar
1-2 drops food coloring

1.  Add one or two drops of food coloring into the sugar and mix well.  (If you have candy or oil-based food coloring, I would guess you could add that to the oil instead, but I've never done it that way, so I can't vouch for how it works.  Most people use regular liquid or gel colors anyway.)

2.  Add the colored sugar, oil and popcorn into the popcorn popper and cook over high heat according to the poppers directions (basically turn the crank until it's popped).  There's a fine line between popping it all and burning it.  I always use an oven mitt since the steam can escape and burn my hand slightly.

3.  Pour the popcorn out onto a pan or parchment paper immediately to cool. 

4.  Salt lightly while the popcorn is still sticky so the salt sticks to it.  If you wait too long, it won't stick and you won't get the yummy sweet and salty flavor mix.

5.  Repeat with the other color.

I usually do a 1:2:2 ratio - one recipe of white popcorn (which I pop first), 2 of red, and 2 of blue.  I mix it all together and the color ratio is perfect. The 5 recipe batch is enough to fill 2 two-gallon Ziploc bags or one large paper grocery bag.  You can do little gift bags.  I made these for some little friends we saw at the park.

There you have it.  It's yummy, easy and very fun!  You can mix up the colors for different holidays or game days (I did the Super Bowl teams' colors one year), but this is my favorite!

Happy Independence Day!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

all "Tangled" up in birthday cake

I can't believe my oldest baby girl is 5 years old already!  We were going to have only a family party, but then decided we would let her have a very small party and allow her to invite a couple friends and her cousin who lives nearby.  It made for a fairly inexpensive affair and she had so much fun shopping for party favors and filling the bags for each person.

I blame my friend Shanna for this particular cake.  She calls me crazy, but she's the one that gives me all my ideas.  I think she secretly is trying to make me go insane.  I emailed her and asked her for any ideas how to make a Rapunzel/Tangled cake.  She said "how cute would it be to make the tower?"  That said, it was one of those cakes that when it was done, I was nearly dancing around the room, and when we cut into it, a small part of my heart died a bit.  So, thank you, Shanna, for challenging me to be crazy.

In case you're wondering, I made the tower out of Rice Krispies (thank you, Cake Boss), and carved a hole in the middle of my cake to add a little extra support.  There you have it.  It was a big project and lots of fun.  It's 99.5% edible.  The only non-food was the embroidery floss I used for the hair.  It was pretty funny when I walked outside to my husband to say, "I'm sorry I couldn't help sooner, honey, I was busy putting hair on the cake." - To which he replied, "Well, that's just gross."

The best part of the project was working on the flowers and grass with my mother.  She taught me how to make butter cream roses.  It's been a while since my mom and I worked on a project together and it was a relaxing and fun time despite the "work" of it.

White chocolate sprinkles cake with blond cookies and cream filling - per the birthday girl's request.  YUM!

And there you have it!  She's a pretty special girl.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sneaking up on me...

A few weeks after telling an unsuspecting new friend that I was 29 (never dreaming she'd actually believe me), I told her that I'd been married for 14 years.  She had the most confused look on her face, "Wait. How old are you?"  


I know I'm not old, but I'm starting to see the physical signs of age and it seems that I'm being reminded from every angle of the mirror as well as family and friends (because coincidentally most of my immediate circle of friends are at least 5 years younger than I).  After I finally lost the baby weight, I noticed lines that weren't there before I had kids.  They weren't even there when I had an extra 10 pounds to lose.  I took a trip to the dermatologist and grilled her for a good skin care regimen to stop the aging process in its tracks.  I've started wearing daily SPF, using this cream and that cream and shockingly the signs of aging are still there.  I wish there was a cream to boost my declining energy level.

I'm not one of those women that feels comfortable in a bikini even in front of perfect strangers in another country.  (See my swimsuit shopping post for more on that)  I look in the mirror and see everything heading south, not just the parts one would expect.  The skin around my knees, the flab on my inner thighs, the tummy pucker, the neck skin: it's all heading toward the floor.  Even my elbows and fingers have loose skin.  Who knew?

If you've had children, you intimately those few months when your hair starts to fall out in masses.  You clean clumps out of the drain catch after every shower, but even after a couple months, you still end up pulling what seems like a small cat out of your drain because so much of it still made it past the catch.  Well, mine never stopped falling out.  Thankfully, I have my mother's genes, so I don't have to worry about gray yet.  Bald, maybe, but not gray.  I think I'd rather go gray.  Is it already time to start using Rogaine or Propecia? 

Then there's my eyelids.  I started noticing within the last couple of years or so that it was becoming increasingly difficult to use a regular eyeliner pencil without my eyelid stretching along with the pencil...across my face all the way to my hairline.  When did my skin have so much give? 

I remember hearing a speaker once say that a good test of age is pinching the skin on the back of your hand and seeing how quickly it bounces back.  I was 18 when I heard this man and my skin snapped back like a rubber band.  It's slowed down quite a bit during the last few years, but it's not as slow as it could be, I suppose, if I were a smoker and sunbather.  I don't remember what the point to the speaker's message was, but I remember occasionally to test my aging skin when I want to feel depressed.

Children are supposed to keep you young, right?  Mine just keep reminding me that my mind is going.  Literally.  I was trying to teach my 4 year old how to make a pocket by rolling up the bottom of her shirt to hold the rocks she was collecting.  She declined that idea and decided to put the rocks in her tiny shirt pocket instead.  I said something to the effect of, "Honey, I'm a lot older and wiser than you, so I know more than you.  You can hold a lot more rocks if you do it my way."

She replied by saying, "I know, Mom.  I'm younger than you and I remember everything."

Yep, everyone and everything is reminding me.  And I'm OK with it, for the most part.  I am much more comfortable with who I am the older I get.  I'm generally a wiser and happier person with each life lesson I learn.   And my relationships and friendships, though not untested, are healthier and more stable.  I do realize I'm not old.  I know I can't really complain for at least another 10 years.

So until then, I shall be 29.

"The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age."
Lucille Ball

Saturday, June 11, 2011

friendly projects are the most rewarding

My friend Kristy approached me a couple months ago about a project that she wanted to do.  She ordered some of the supplies, and amidst our busy schedules, we finally got together to do it.  She was the High Master of Scissors and I was the Sewing Machiner Extraordinaire.  We made a great team.  It was fun to have our girls play together, and we got to spend hours just talking and creating at the same time.  What could be more fun?

It was all starting out great, but I was starting to get a little annoyed that the kids kept asking for snacks - until I realized that it was already 1:30 and they had not had lunch yet.  Kids these days!  They just want to eat all the time.  You feed them in the morning and they want to eat again a few hours later.  We were all having so much fun playing that we'd forgotten to eat lunch, so we had to take a small break.  Project mode makes me a little crazed.

Our project was to make soft fabric fridge magnets.  We each made an alphabet set and then a set spelling each of our kids' names.  It was quite a lot of work sewing and cutting and tracing, but look what we ended up with using some scraps of fabric, magnets and cotton batting.  Kristy's turned out incredibly cute too.  She had the most amazing micro wale corduroy fabric from Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, so I was a little jealous of her, but she graciously gave me a large scrap of it to use on another project, so I couldn't hate her for long.

The instructions were found on the very cute Chez Beeper Bebe blog and the only thing we did differently was zig zag the the lines instead of sewing straight lines.  We also put the magnets between the two layers of batting because we didn't want to risk the fabric wearing thin where the magnet was.  The magnets we used were strong enough to hold through the fabric and batting. (magnets purchased here from


We came up with some more great ideas along the same lines.  I'm thinking I need to start an Etsy store soon, but I'm a little overwhelmed with the projects I'm drowning in right now.

One set for my purple girl...

And one for my orange girl...

My little shoe obsessed 2-year-old picked this out as the one fabric she wanted, along with all things orange.  I love this Alexander Henry print I bought about 8 years ago when I was in New York City fabric shopping.  I have just a tiny bit left and just when I think it's not enough for anything, I find that there is something I can use it for.  The company's designers will come up with something else just as cute, I'm sure.  They always do every year.  It's one of my favorite fabric companies for quality and cute prints.  I'm sorry, but Amy Butler doesn't hold a candle to this!

This is going to be little Gertrude's birthday gift in September, so away they go.  She'll have to just play with her name until then.

If I could decorate the world in Swiss dot, I think I would.  I love it.  Every woman and girl needs a dress made of it.  To me, it is happiness in the form of fabric.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

disgusting dozen

I’m not going to judge anyone on what you do with your children’s hygiene in public because, let’s face it; there are desperate times we face occasionally.  With my first child, I was the idealist mother who was going to have the perfect child who never cried or pooped in public.  I decided to parade my perfect 6 week old in her perfect outfit in the perfect baby wrap that I had made.  It was summer and time to find a new pair of shoes, so I went to Marshall Field’s with my just fed, just changed baby and my flip flops.  I picked out 4 pairs of summer sandals and I was excited to try them on.  The associate brought out my size and just as I was about to take off my shoes to try the first pair on, I suddenly felt warm all over - all the way down to my toes.  I looked down.  And there it was - dripping from my perfect baby through her diaper, through her pants, through the wrap, on to my feet.  I was mortified.  I had no time to rush to the restroom across the store.  So there I was, in the middle of the expensive shoe section at my then favorite store covered in baby poop, changing her diaper and her clothes.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a change of clothes for me, so that was the end of my shoe shopping for the day.  I had suddenly and without warning become “that” mom. 

That said, there is no excuse for changing your baby's diaper in the middle of the dining room table during family gatherings...yes, a friend of mine told me this happened in her presence.
As an adult, you have a choice as to what you do in public and based on my own personal experiences and stories from friends, here’s a short list of some things that have been witnessed that are entirely inappropriate.  Please, for the love of everything that is good and right, do not do the following:
1.  Clip your fingernails during church, in the doctors' office waiting room or any other public place.  Also, don't leave nail clippings in your work desk drawer.  You never know when you’ll be moved and someone else will use your desk.
2.  Dig your undies out of your butt in public.  As much as they're bothering you, it bothers others more to see you digging around.
3.  Let your “whale tale” peek out above your pants.  Besides the obvious inappropriateness of it, it kind of makes most of us throw up a little.
4.  Scratch your butt while people are talking to you.
5.  Tweeze your chin hairs in the Wal-Mart parking lot (even if it IS Wal-Mart).  In fact, try to refrain tweezing anything in your car, but especially your chin hairs, even though natural lighting is fantastic.  Just don't do it.
6.  Put your purse on the public restroom floor and then on your kitchen countertop.  Even if you don't put your purse on the public restroom floor, you do put it on every other public surface and on the floor of restaurants.  Please be aware that it picks up every germ on those surfaces and it's not really very sanitary to set it on your countertop that you prepare your dinner on. (and don't put it on your friends' counters either)
7.  Floss your teeth during a work meeting.  Yes, those little nasty food particles and bits of plaque that pop out of your teeth do fly a significant distance.  Try to do it in the bathroom.
8.  Drop sterile needles on the floor and then draw blood from my children with the same needle.  (No, I have still not forgiven you Southlake Pediatrics)
9.  Pop your zits in public.  I don’t care how discrete you think you are, it’s still gross.
10.  Pick your nose anywhere except the bathroom.  I'm amazed at how many people will just dig and dig as if they're the only people in the world, and you just want to tap them on the shoulder (while wearing rubber gloves) and tell them to please refrain.  And please don't dispose of your gold by dropping it, eating it or wiping it on the nearest surface. (I have to go throw up now just from typing that last sentence)
11.  Pick dead skin off your feet during family gatherings.
12.  Pick ear wax out of your ears in this Australian politician (watch the blond guy in the background):

And with that, I rest my case.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Martha, Martha, Martha

Martha Stewart and I have a love-hate relationship.  Well, I have a love-hate relationship with her.  She doesn't know I exist.  If she did, she'd LOVE me.  I used to simply love her until she promoted this brilliant idea of making chocolate bowls for your Valentine.  You simply blow up a small balloon, dip it in melted chocolate, let it set up, then gently deflate the balloon.  Voila!  You're left with a perfectly round chocolate bowl for ice cream or whatever delicious romance you can serve up.  Sounds easy, no?  Yeah, well, being young and inexperienced in these things, I didn't let my chocolate cool enough and upon dipping my balloons in the melted chocolate, they popped, splattering chocolate everywhere.  And I mean everywhere: on the ceiling, up into the recesses of the hood above the stove, onto the curtains 6 feet away, up my nose.  I found little specks of chocolate in the adjoining room years later.  To this day, I'm not so certain Martha's Things are all that Good, and I approach her ideas with great trepidation.  I do admire her.  If she weren't around, I wouldn't have that story to tell.  I just wish the editor would have included "let cool" in the directions...for those of us who had horrible physics professors.

Well, I happened upon a free subscription to Living, and got sucked in once again.  I really do enjoy reading it.  This time, I found something pretty cute and it didn't have balloons involved.  Though it's not her original idea (is anything really?), I have to credit her magazine for introducing it to me.  I made some pretty stinking cute Father's Day cards, if I do say so myself.  The directions on were pretty bad, so I googled "folded shirt card" and got some better illustrated instructions.  So, here you go, write your message, fold away, and impress the fathers in your life. 

(I used 6.5 x 11" paper size and added a pocket with puffy tape)