Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We Have Lost All Semblance of Common Sense

Taco Bell has a diet! Seriously!



The "Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet" is a new "diet" from Taco Bell that is trying to capitalize on Subway's success by offering 7 (coincidentally the same number as Subway I believe) "low-calorie" items on their menu. They even have a story of a woman, Christine, who has lost 54 lbs on this "diet".


They do go out of their way to say that this is not a "weight-loss program". However, they do call it a "diet".


The items are basically tacos and burritos that have no sour cream, no cheese and no guacamole on them. Now isn't that just common sense? If you take out the fattening items out of anything you normally eat, you will lose weight!! Also, who the heck can eat just one taco or burrito? Those things are TINY!


How stupid do they think the American consumer truly is? You know what, we are pretty darn stupid.


This reminds me of the Special K "diet". Replace two meals with a bowl of special K and milk and you will lose weight. No kidding?!?!?!?! One bowl of cereal and milk is less than 300 calories. You can eat anything for those calories and lose weight.


I guess what I'm saying, even thought I don't always adhere to it myself, is that if you really want to lose weight, make good choices, don't eat too much and exercise sensibly! That is truly the only way to "diet" for life.


Of course if anyone finds that magic pill that make you skinny over night, CALL ME!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Presents

Presents are an interesting thing. Most people like getting them and/or like giving them. I like both :)

I have one friend who is so stretched so thin, that it is a pleasure to be able to help her out. However, she HATES receiving things from other people. She makes sure that you take her money when it comes to getting take out, going out somewhere, etc... but throws a fit if you try and give her money for the same things.

Tonight we got her family season passes to an amusement park for 2010 (it was a joint present between 2 families for her kids' birthdays and for the holidays). She acted like she didn't really like the gift!

The other family we went in on it with thinks that she didn't like the gift. I think that she thought it was too nice of a gift and/or was just not expecting it.

She's also the person who you can never take out for her birthday because she hates being fussed over.

I'm a bit different - you can get me whatever you want :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Parents

My mother is an amazing woman. She is almost 70 years old and never complains! She still works in a very busy office where she is expected to do a weeks worth of work in 2-3 days. She never sits still, anywhere, and is constantly looking for something (or someone) to fix.

On Tuesday at 7:30am she was wheeled in to the hospital for a hip replacement. At 11:30am she called me to tell me she was out of surgery and "fine". By Thursday morning I was at her bedside (we drove up to visit her on Wednesday night) where she proceeded to tell me that they were transferring her to the rehab facility that same day! The physical therapists are teaching her how to walk, climb stairs, sit down, be in a kitchen, etc...

She is coming home to my father tomorrow.

He is legally blind but if you didn't know it, you would never figure it out. He cooks, he takes the bus, he tells you when to make a right or left turn. He doesn't complain either. Well, except when my mom starts feeling like she should stay at the rehab facility longer. Then he tells her that if he can live with his illness then she can figure out hers.

My father loves my mother so much that he hasn't eaten since she's been in the hospital (nerves). He can't imagine a life without her!

These people are truly my role models! G-d Bless them - because I would go nuts if I had to live with either one of them again :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Persimmon Pecan Bread

I was at the Farmers Market this past Saturday and was talked in to buying some super ripe Hachiya Persimmons (the tear drop ones, not the short, squat ones called Fuyu).

I googled for recipes and found the recipe on David Lebovitz's blog. The recipe ended up making such sweet, rich bread with a unique persimmon flavor. I didn't have two loaf pans so I made it in a 9.5 * 11 pan (which was about two loaf pans full).

One caveat - this tastes MUCH better hot out of the oven (or even microwaved for 30 seconds).

Persimmon Bread
Two 9-inch Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

Ingredients:
3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar (I used 1 3/4 cups of agave syrup)
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (I food processed the pecans)
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates) (I omitted)

Directions
1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank you, Officer!

In California, it is illegal to talk on your cell phone while driving. Of course, most people still do it. I try to keep my phone on speaker at all times, but when the monkeys are in the car, that's pretty impossible to do.

Yesterday I was just getting off the freeway, had my two monkey's and their friend in the car with me, and see flashing lights in my rear view mirror! Efff!! I knew what he was pulling me over for. After fines and fees, the ticket for talking on the cell phone is over $100!

The officer was actually very nice. I didn't even TRY to play dumb. Right away I told him I knew why he pulled me over. I handed over my license, registration and insurance. The monkeys all said hi to him and started talking to him.

I think it was the monkeys' smiles because the officer let me off with a warning about the cell phone and just a fix it ticket for not having my most up to date insurance information in the car (only a $20 ticket).

I thanked him profusely and he was shocked - he told me that most people yell at him for pulling them over!! Ummm, I am in the wrong, I was doing something illegal, and he let me off with a much less costly ticket! Why would I be mad at HIM?!?!

For the rest of the weekend all three monkeys told everyone they met that I got pulled over by a police man :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holidays

I haven't been doing as much baking this season as I normally do. However, I was reading the Amateur Gourmet today and he mentioned his "favorite dessert recipe of all time" so I knew that I had to make this RIGHT AWAY.

My excuse is that I signed up to bring "other" to the big monkey's holiday party tomorrow at school :) I'm making 2, so if I taste it and it's way too "sophisticated" for the kids (or just tastes way too good) then I'll keep both for the house or turn the second one in to a gift for someone.

On a related note, I am giving the little monkey's teacher wine for her gift (aside from chipping in for the class gift). She says she like wine and she has to put up with my child, so that's OK, right?


Almond Cake
From Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser

Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering pan
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
7-ounce tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioner's sugar, or sifting over cake

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter sides and bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt in another bowl.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a tie, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled, don't worry. Blend in the almond extract and the sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake about 1 hour (note: mine took about 20 minutes longer). It is done when you press the top and it returns its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioner's sugar over the top.

Note: Amanda Hesser says in her book that this cake always sinks.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here is how we Celebrate

I was walking around our neighborhood last night and was enjoying looking at all the beautifully decorated houses. Even we put out reindeer, a snow man and Santa Claus (even though were Jewish). In fact, this neighborhood has quite a number of Jews in it.


I guess this house decided that they were going to go all out and celebrate Hanukkah with the same zeal that people celebrate Christmas with:



There's a Maccabe holding a shield with a dreidel next to him :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

They are kids

My parents have discovered email, so I have been taking blackberry pictures of the monkeys whenever we go someplace and emailing them to my parents. The love the pictures! It gives them a way to see the monkeys whenever they want (the live in Northern California and we live in Southern).

My mom has been forwarding the pictures to my uncle. He called me recently. He told me the picture were great but...

"Is it my imagination or are the kids getting fat?"

WTF?!?!?! They are 5 and 7. Seriously? This one goes down in the category of "Only Russian people can insult you at any time, any where and think it's no big deal"! And since he said something nice first, he probably thinks he gave me a compliment!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ewww - Sweat Flavored Food

I really like to watch cooking shows. Recently, there are more and more cooking challenge shows.

Tonight, while watching Chopped, 2 out of the 3 competitors were sweating PROFUSELY from their faces. I am absolutely sure that the sweat ended up flavoring the food. Ewww!

I love to cook - and I understand how hot a kitchen can become. Really, super hot - and when you add the pressure of a contest to the mix, sweating ensues! But COME ON!!! Keep a sweat rag, some paper towels, a cold glass of water to cool you down. As good as the final food looks, the judges can not be thrilled eating sweat covered food.

Now I'm not naive enough to think that this doesn't happen in restaurants. I guess I just try to keep that thought out of my mind while eating. Too bad it comes rushing back when watching these shows.

The question becomes - why is it that professional food network chefs don't sweat from their faces as much (like Bobby Flay)? You think it's the dozens of takes that they do? You think that their PR folks are busy making sure that they aren't seen from a bad angle?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hanukkah Party

Tomorrow I am having people over for my 2nd Annual Jew"ish" Hanukkah celebration and decided to do some of the prep tonight. I spent about 2.5 hours, but it will definitely be worth it tomorrow. I am making:

Matzo Balls - balls prepped and ready to go in to soup tomorrow
Chicken Soup
No-Cook Cranberry, Raspberry & Apple Relish - made
Pomegranate-Rosemary Royale - rosemary infused simple syrup is made
Jugged Chicken
Brisket - in the oven for the 1st leg of it's 8 hour journey and will shut off at 2am
Latkes - Apple Sauce
CrockPot Sweet and Sour Caramelized Onions - onions blanched and ready for the crock pot

and maybe:
Barbecued Spiced Salmon with Chinese Mustard Sauce

Tomorrow I will do some last minute shopping and enlist my friends 13 year old daughter to help me finalize cooking before the party.

Hag sameach! Happy Hanukkah! May we all experience little miracles in these next 8 days!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holidays

Here some Friday observations that I'd like to share with regards to the holidays:


  • People are having difficulty finding their "holiday spirit" - not sure if it's due to their personal situation or the mob mentality of the financial crisis.
  • There are more decorations up in our neighborhood than in the last couple of years - I guess people are trying to "fake it" until they "make it" in regards to holiday spirit.
  • People are being more thoughtful with holidays gifts this year - they are spending the same as, or even less then, last year but are making the presents more meaningful (I know I am).
  • I am eating out less but taking opportunities to spend more time with friends - we either have dinner at someones house or do other activities (such as roller or ice skating with the kids).
  • Company Holiday parties are on a much smaller scale this year and most employees are OK with that - although what we'd really be OK with is forgetting about the holiday party and being given the afternoon off.
  • Everyone is busier than ever but I'm not sure why. Are we spending so much time worrying about the economy that we don't have much time for everything else? Then we have to scramble to get things done?

Are you guys out in the blog-o-sphere observing similar things?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Blind Side

If you haven't seen this movie, RUN TO GO SEE IT! What a great movie.

I went with a friend and her teenage daughter. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is about a boy who is all alone in the world. He gets taken in by a family who make him a part of their family. This boy has had a VERY rough life, but is thankful for every little thing that is done for him. He teaches the family that you don't have to be defined by your surroundings or the past that you have lived. You need to make the best of what you have, and not take for granted the opportunities presented to you.

It's a great teaching movie - especially for teenagers. Humility and perseverance are two big themes in this story; themes that most teenagers have trouble grasping.

In this age of "what have you done for me today" these are lessons that many of us have forgotten. Hopefully this movie will remind those who see it that there is more to life then school, work, cell phones and our own little insulated lives.

Once my monkeys get old enough to understand it, I will sit them down and watch it with them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

CBS Cares

As much as I agree that getting Pap Smears is a great idea, please DO NOT THINK about getting this as a "present" for anyone.




Is this the worst PSA ever or what?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dark-Chocolate Souffle Cake

My friend went to dinner tonight with other friends and her daughters came over and hung out with us. Her little one (8) is best friends with my big one, and her big one (13) loves to cook and bake. We opened the The Complete Cooking Light cookbook and choose this cake to make.

Wow! It's good. Very rich and chocolaty, but quite light. My suggestion - don't let the cake cool down. East it nice and hot out of the oven!

Dark-Chocolate Souffle Cake

Cake flour is a fine-textured, soft wheat flour with a high starch content, and usually comes in a box rather than a bag. It can be found with the cake mixes at the supermarket.

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon instant espresso or 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2/3 cup Dutch process or unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons Kahlua (coffee-flavored liqueur)
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sifted cake flour (such as Swan's Down)
6 large egg whites (at room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/4 cup raspberries (optional)
Chocolate curls (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300.
Coat bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, water, and espresso in a large saucepan; stir well and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add cocoa, salt, and chocolates, stirring with a whisk until chocolate melts. Stir in Kahlua and egg yolks. Stir in flour; cool to room temperature. Set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed of a mixer until foamy. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-fourth of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; repeat procedure with remaining egg white mixture, one-fourth at a time. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake at 300 for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely on wire rack. Remove sides from pan; sift powdered sugar over cake. Garnish with raspberries and chocolate curls, if desired.

Note: A substitution of 1/4 cup all-purpose flour may be used in place of 1/3 cup cake flour.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

CALORIES 205 (27% from fat); FAT 6.1g (satfat 3.2g, monofat 1.9g, polyfat 0.4g); PROTEIN 5g; CARBOHYDRATE 34.2g; FIBER 0.2g; CHOLESTEROL 55mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 91mg; CALCIUM 31mg;

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good For Her

When the Tiger Woods story came out recently, a friend of mine wrote an interesting status update on her Facebook.

It said: "it's seldom the husband spills the beans. It's usually the freak who disregarded the ring on your finger and now thinks you owe it to her to leave your wife and kids. Cheat on your wife=cheat on your kids. Buy a blow up doll next time."

I agree with her 100%. That being said, Tiger is TRULY going to pay for his "MISTAKES":

The Daily Beast says that Tiger is not only trying to put a little hush money under Rachel's pillow, but he's also waving cash in front of his wife's eyes to get her to stay. According to them, Elin's current prenup states that she will get $20 million after 10 years of marriage. But since Tiger's dick has jumped into someone else's vagina, Elin wants the prenup to be rewritten.

The source claims that Tiger is willing to add $55 million to the prenup. Also, if Elin agrees to stay, Tiger will immediately transfer $5 million into her personal account. So if Elin signs a nondisclosure and plays the perfect wife and mother for the next 7 years, she will be able to skip away from the marriage with $80 million in her pocket.

Tiger's advisers have told him to do whatever it takes to save his marriage so that his sponsors won't dump him too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sick

I hate being sick :( I feel as though I am wasting time when I am sick. I stayed home from work today and ended up taking a 4 hour nap in the morning. Thankfully I woke up feeling a bit better. The only worthwhile thing I did all day was watch a Top chef marathon so now I an all caught up going in to the finale ;)

I am definitely going back to work tomorrow. I guess I am just a really big baby about being sick - I just don't feel I have time for it.

My big monkey, on the other hand, after coughing most of the might, woke up today all full of smiles and energy! What a trooper!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Coughing

I am laying here in my bed, nose fully stuffy and throat feeling like shards of glass have invaded, and all i can do is think about my big monkey in her bedroom coughing while sleeping :(

Being a mom is the best thing in the world, but it sucks when they're sick or you're sick. One of the great things about my monkey is that she will wake up tomorrow and WANT TO go to school. I don't know if I will let her (it will depend on how she feels tomorrow) but I LOVE the fact that she doesn't ever want to miss a day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday

I follow deal websites, such as Coupon Cravings, Money Saving Mom and Frugal Shopping With Julie on a daily basis. It's where I get most of my "insider information" from these days. I also start looking at the "Black Friday" ads and spreadsheet weeks before Thanksgiving. However, I can't get in to "Cyber Monday".

I can never figure out if the deal is truly amazing. I also think that with the number of homes who have home PCs, and with how quick people are, that most of the true "deals" must be gone within the first 5 seconds of going on-line. I am cynical enough to think that re-sellers buy up all the quantity at the TRULY low prices and then put the goods up on ebay or another similar website.

Am I wrong? Are there amazing deals on Cyber Monday? Can you get the same delas on Black Friday through the comfort of your own home?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No-Cook Cranberry, Raspberry & Apple Relish

My mom sent me a new recipe to try for Thanksgiving cranberry relish. At first I was hesitant, primarily because my sister sent it to my mom. Then I started looking at it and realized that I had almost all of the ingredients.

I made it in addition to my standard cranberry sauce. The result? Let's just say that NO ONE, including myself, even touched the other cranberry sauce!

I will be buying bags of cranberries to freeze, just so that I can make this dish year round. It is THAT GOOD! I love it on bread, on pancakes, out of the jar just plain, and yes, on turkey.

Make this TODAY!

No-Cook Cranberry, Raspberry & Apple Relish
SF Chronicle
Submitted by the
From Marlene Sorosky Gray.
This can be made several days in advance.

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh cranberries
(about 4 1/2 cups)
2 tart green apples, halved, cored and coarsely chopped
(about 3 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 package (10 ounces) frozen raspberries, thawed and
drained (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste



Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the container of a food processor fitted
with the steel blade. Pulse with a quick on-and-off motion, just until
finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes 6 cups

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sexy

Conversation the other day:

Big Monkey - Mommy? What's does sexy mean?
Me - It means cute. But it's a grown up word so I don't want you to use it.
Big Monkey - Mommy?
Me - Yes.
Big Monkey - You're sexy!
Little Monkey - Yeah, you're sexy!

Should I be flattered they called me sexy or pissed that they didn't listen to me?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Before last year, I thought that the people who went to black Friday were idiots! Then last year, I friend woke me up at 5:30am to meet her at Target. It was a rush - the people, the bargains, OMG!

This year, we took it to the extreme! Thankfully, the stores near my house weren't as crazy as others around the country.

12am - Toys R Us - we parked at 12am, were in the store by 12:10am. The line to check out was way longer but snaked through the aisles so we could browse while in line. We even got some Zhu Zhu hamsters.
3am - Old Navy - we stood in line for 30 minutes, got in at 3am and were out at 3:30, with some great bargains.
5am - Target - Some us got in line at 3:45am while the rest of us went to the Disney Store (which was empty). We got nothing at Disney. Target had amazing sales on TVs but I just got some kids toys.
6am - Macys - Straight up to housewares and got a couple of great deals. My friend got a queen down comforter and 2 pillows for $40 (normally $120).
7:30am - Drove past Walmart. Even though they had been open since 5am, the line was still down the block and there were armed cops there to make sure it was peaceful. We decided nothing was worth that!

So, I didn't make it to Walmart or Staples. I was exhausted and asleep by 8:30am! Overall, a successful Black Friday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

We ate "dinner" at 2pm and I am STILL stuffed!

In 1/2 an hour I am leaving to hit the Black Friday sales with friends.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and was able to find many things to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Twas the night before Thanksgiving

The monkeys are asleep :) The house is filled with sweet and savory smells.

The following dishes are done:
No-Cook Cranberry, Raspberry & Apple Relish - The San Francisco Chronicle
Sangria Cranberry Sauce - Don't remember where I got it
Mom's Turkey Stuffing - Simply recipes, but completely bastardized

Tomorrow I will make the rest of the dishes and will start posting recipes and pictures.

While waiting for the stuffing (actually dressing since it's outside the bird), I opened the Pampered Chef packages I received today and segregated every ones orders. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

I LOVE their products and had A BLAST at the party I hosted. The last party I hosted was about 8 years ago. Every now and then I get the idea that I want to sell Pampered Chef. I believe in the products and use many of them daily in my cooking.

However, I already have very little free time. I wonder if I would make enough money for it to be worth it? Has anyone had any experience with selling Pampered Chef? In this economy, extra money would sure be a good thing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thankful Challenge

Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday. I love the Thanksgiving meal - every recipe works harmoniously together to create the perfect balance of sweet, tart, savory and buttery :)

As the big day approaches, and I am in the middle of planning my cooking schedule, I want to take the time out to say what I am thankful for.

  1. I am thankful for my parents - they are alive and kicking. They taught me to never be afraid and to always work my hardest. That anything is attainable, even through adversity.
  2. I am thankful for America - my parents brought us to this country, a country where they didn't even know the language, when I was almost 5 years old. We left a country where it was not OK to believe in a certain religion, or say whatever you wanted. A place where democracy did not exist. I truly believe that living in America, knowing that I have the right to pursue happiness, and that I am truly free, is the reason I am who I am.
  3. I am thankful for my children - they are healthy (knock on wood), happy and well adjusted. They wake up with smiles on their faces and have been known to laugh in their sleep.
  4. I am thankful for my children's' grandparents - they have 4 grandparents who love them unconditionally and are always there for them to talk on the phone, take them to Chuck E Cheese or go on vacation with them.
  5. I am thankful for having a job. In today's economy there are many smart, talented people who are struggling to find work.
  6. I am thankful to have a nice home - my husband and I have worked very hard to put a roof over out heads and are working even harder to keep it there (and I am grateful that we are succeeding).
  7. I am thankful for my friends - when I am depressed or feeling sorry for myself, or even when I am just looking for someone to share a laugh with, they are there for me no matter what!
  8. I am thankful for this blog community. I am constantly amazed that people actually read what I write and are kind enough to comment on it.
  9. I am thankful for the health of my family.
  10. I am thankful to have a voice and be able to express my opinions no matter what.

I challenge everyone to create their own "Thankful" lists and then come back and leave comments of what you're thankful for, or linking to your list.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the message it is sending, I thought that the following article made some really good points.

The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting
By Nancy Gibbs
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1940395,00.html


The insanity crept up on us slowly; we just wanted what was best for our kids. We bought macrobiotic cupcakes and hypoallergenic socks, hired tutors to correct a 5-year-old's "pencil-holding deficiency," hooked up broadband connections in the treehouse but took down the swing set after the second skinned knee. We hovered over every school, playground and practice field — "helicopter parents," teachers christened us, a phenomenon that spread to parents of all ages, races and regions. Stores began marketing stove-knob covers and "Kinderkords" (also known as leashes; they allow "three full feet of freedom for both you and your child") and Baby Kneepads (as if babies don't come prepadded). The mayor of a Connecticut town agreed to chop down three hickory trees on one block after a woman worried that a stray nut might drop into her new swimming pool, where her nut-allergic grandson occasionally swam. A Texas school required parents wanting to help with the second-grade holiday party to have a background check first. Schools auctioned off the right to cut the carpool line and drop a child directly in front of the building — a spot that in other settings is known as handicapped parking.

We were so obsessed with our kids' success that parenting turned into a form of product development. Parents demanded that nursery schools offer Mandarin, since it's never too soon to prepare for the competition of a global economy. High school teachers received irate text messages from parents protesting an exam grade before class was even over; college deans described freshmen as "crispies," who arrived at college already burned out, and "teacups," who seemed ready to break at the tiniest stress. (See pictures of the college dorm's evolution.)

This is what parenting had come to look like at the dawn of the 21st century — just one more extravagance, the Bubble Wrap waiting to burst.

All great rebellions are born of private acts of civil disobedience that inspire rebel bands to plot together. And so there is now a new revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical overprotectiveness and overinvestment of moms and dads. The insurgency goes by many names — slow parenting, simplicity parenting, free-range parenting — but the message is the same: Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they'll fly higher. We're often the ones who hold them down.

A backlash against overparenting had been building for years, but now it reflects a new reality. Since the onset of the Great Recession, according to a CBS News poll, a third of parents have cut their kids' extracurricular activities. They downsized, downshifted and simplified because they had to — and often found, much to their surprise, that they liked it. When a TIME poll last spring asked how the recession had affected people's relationships with their kids, nearly four times as many people said relationships had gotten better as said they'd gotten worse. "This is one of those moments when everything is on the table, up for grabs," says Carl Honoré, whose book Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting is a gospel of the slow-parenting movement. He likens the sudden awareness to the feeling you get when you wake up after a long night carousing, the lights go on, and you realize you're a mess. "That horrible moment of self-recognition is where we are culturally. I wanted parents to realize they are not alone in thinking this is insanity, and show there's another way." (See the 25 best back-to-school gadgets.)

How We Got Here
Overparenting had been around long before Douglas MacArthur's mom Pinky moved with him to West Point in 1899 and took an apartment near the campus, supposedly so she could watch him with a telescope to be sure he was studying. But in the 1990s something dramatic happened, and the needle went way past the red line. From peace and prosperity, there arose fear and anxiety; crime went down, yet parents stopped letting kids out of their sight; the percentage of kids walking or biking to school dropped from 41% in 1969 to 13% in 2001. Death by injury has dropped more than 50% since 1980, yet parents lobbied to take the jungle gyms out of playgrounds, and strollers suddenly needed the warning label "Remove Child Before Folding." Among 6-to-8-year-olds, free playtime dropped 25% from 1981 to '97, and homework more than doubled. Bookstores offered Brain Foods for Kids: Over 100 Recipes to Boost Your Child's Intelligence. The state of Georgia sent every newborn home with the CD Build Your Baby's Brain Through the Power of Music, after researchers claimed to have discovered that listening to Mozart could temporarily help raise IQ scores by as many as 9 points. By the time the frenzy had reached its peak, colleges were installing "Hi, Mom!" webcams in common areas, and employers like Ernst & Young were creating "parent packs" for recruits to give Mom and Dad, since they were involved in negotiating salary and benefits.

See iPhone apps for new moms.

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Once obsessing about kids' safety and success became the norm, a kind of orthodoxy took hold, and heaven help the heretics — the ones who were brave enough to let their kids venture outside without Secret Service protection. Just ask Lenore Skenazy, who to this day, when you Google "America's Worst Mom," fills the first few pages of results — all because one day last year she let her 9-year-old son ride the New York City subway alone. A newspaper column she wrote about it somehow ignited a global firestorm over what constitutes reasonable risk. She had reporters calling from China, Israel, Australia, Malta. ("Malta! An island!" she marvels. "Who's stalking the kids there? Pirates?") Skenazy decided to fight back, arguing that we have lost our ability to assess risk. By worrying about the wrong things, we do actual damage to our children, raising them to be anxious and unadventurous or, as she puts it, "hothouse, mama-tied, danger-hallucinating joy extinguishers."

Skenazy, a Yale-educated mom who with her husband is raising two boys in New York City, had ingested all the same messages as the rest of us. Her sons' school once held a pre-field-trip assembly explaining exactly how close to a hospital the children would be at all times. She confesses to being "at least part Sikorsky," hiring a football coach for a son's birthday and handing out mouth guards as party favors. But when the Today show had her on the air to discuss her subway decision, interviewer Ann Curry turned to the camera and asked, "Is she an enlightened mom or a really bad one?" (See pictures of a diverse group of American teens.)

From that day and the food fight that followed, she launched her Free Range Kids blog, which eventually turned into her own Dangerous Book for Parents: Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. There is no rational reason, she argues, that a generation of parents who grew up walking alone to school, riding mass transit, trick-or-treating, teeter-tottering and selling Girl Scout cookies door to door should be forbidding their kids to do the same. But somehow, she says, "10 is the new 2. We're infantilizing our kids into incompetence." She celebrates seat belts and car seats and bike helmets and all the rational advances in child safety. It's the irrational responses that make her crazy, like when Dear Abby endorses the idea, as she did in August, that each morning before their kids leave the house, parents take a picture of them. That way, if they are kidnapped, the police will have a fresh photo showing what clothes they were wearing. Once the kids make it home safe and sound, you can delete the picture and take a new one the next morning.

That advice may seem perfectly sensible to parents bombarded by heartbreaking news stories about missing little girls and the predator next door. But too many parents, says Skenazy, have the math all wrong. Refusing to vaccinate your children, as millions now threaten to do in the case of the swine flu, is statistically reckless; on the other hand, there are no reports of a child ever being poisoned by a stranger handing out tainted Halloween candy, and the odds of being kidnapped and killed by a stranger are about 1 in 1.5 million. When parents confront you with "How can you let him go to the store alone?," she suggests countering with "How can you let him visit your relatives?" (Some 80% of kids who are molested are victims of friends or relatives.) Or ride in the car with you? (More than 430,000 kids were injured in motor vehicles last year.) "I'm not saying that there is no danger in the world or that we shouldn't be prepared," she says. "But there is good and bad luck and fate and things beyond our ability to change. The way kids learn to be resourceful is by having to use their resources." Besides, she says with a smile, "a 100%-safe world is not only impossible. It's nowhere you'd want to be." (See pictures of eighth-graders being recruited for college basketball.)

Dispatches from the Front Lines
Eleven parents are sitting in a circle in an airy, glass-walled living room in south Austin, Texas, eating organic, gluten-free, nondairy coconut ice cream. This is a Slow Family Living class, taught by perinatal psychologist Carrie Contey and Bernadette Noll. "Our whole culture," says Contey, 38, "is geared around 'Is your kid making the benchmarks?' There's this fear of 'Is my kid's head the right size?' People think there's some mythical Good Mother out there that they aren't living up to and that it's hurting their child. I just want to pull the plug on that."

The parents seem relieved to hear it. Matt, a textbook editor, reports that he and his wife quit a book club because it caused too much stress on book-club nights, and stopped fussing about how the house looks, which brings nods all around the room: let go of perfectionism in all its tyranny. Margaret, a publishing executive, tells her own near-miss story of how she stepped back from the brink of insanity. On her son's fourth birthday, she says, "I'm like 'Oh, my God, he's eligible for Suzuki!' I literally got on the phone and called 12 Suzuki teachers," she says, before realizing the nightmare she was creating for herself and her child. Shutting down your inner helicopter isn't easy. "This is not a shift in perspective that occurs overnight," Matt admits after class. "And it's not every day that I consciously sit down and ask myself hard questions about how I want family life to be slower or better."

See the best back-to-school iPhone apps.

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Fear is a kind of parenting fungus: invisible, insidious, perfectly designed to decompose your peace of mind. Fear of physical danger is at least subject to rational argument; fear of failure is harder to hose down. What could be more natural than worrying that your child might be trampled by the great, scary, globally competitive world into which she will one day be launched? It is this fear that inspires parents to demand homework in preschool, produce the snazzy bilingual campaign video for the third-grader's race for class rep, continue to provide the morning wake-up call long after he's headed off to college.

Some of the hovering is driven by memory and demography. This generation of parents, born after 1964, waited longer to marry and had fewer children. Families are among the smallest in history, which means our genetic eggs are in fewer baskets and we guard them all the more zealously. Helicopter parents can be found across all income levels, all races and ethnicities, says Patricia Somers of the University of Texas at Austin, who spent more than a year studying the species at the college level. "There are even helicopter grandparents," she notes, who turn up with their elementary-school grandchildren for college-information sessions aimed at juniors and seniors. (See pictures of Barack Obama's college years.)

Nor is this phenomenon limited to ZIP codes where every Volvo wagon just has to have a University of Chicago sticker on it. "I'm having exactly the same conversations with coaches, teachers, parents, counselors, whether I'm in Wichita or northern Canada or South America," says Honoré. His own revelation came while listening to the feedback about his son in kindergarten. It was fine, but nothing stellar — until he got to the art room and the teacher began raving about how creative his son was, pointing out his sketches that she'd displayed as models for other students. Then, Honoré recalls, "she dropped the G-bomb: 'He's a gifted artist,' she told us, and it was one of those moments when you don't hear anything else. I just saw the word gifted in neon with my son's name ..." So he hurried home and Googled the names of art tutors and eagerly told his son all about the special person who would help him draw even better. "He looks at me like I'm from outer space," Honoré says. "'I just wanna draw,' he tells me. 'Why do grownups have to take over everything?' "

"That was a searing epiphany," Honoré concludes. "I didn't like what I saw." He now writes and lectures about the many fruits of slowing down, citing research that suggests the brain in its relaxed state is more creative, makes more nuanced connections and is ripe for eureka moments. "With children," he argues, "they need that space not to be entertained or distracted. What boredom does is take away the noise ... and leave them with space to think deeply, invent their own game, create their own distraction. It's a useful trampoline for children to learn how to get by." (See pictures of college mascots.)

Other studies reinforce the importance of play as an essential protein in a child's emotional diet; were it not, argue some scientists, it would not have persisted across species and millenniums, perhaps as a way to practice for adulthood, to build leadership, sociability, flexibility, resilience — even as a means of literally shaping the brain and its pathways. Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and the founder of the National Institute for Play — who has a treehouse above his office — recalls in a recent book how managers at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) noticed the younger engineers lacked problem-solving skills, though they had top grades and test scores. Realizing the older engineers had more play experience as kids — they'd taken apart clocks, built stereos, made models — JPL eventually incorporated questions about job applicants' play backgrounds into interviews. "If you look at what produces learning and memory and well-being" in life, Brown has argued, "play is as fundamental as any other aspect.'' The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that the decrease in free playtime could carry health risks: "For some children, this hurried lifestyle is a source of stress and anxiety and may even contribute to depression." Not to mention the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation of kids who never just go out and play.

Remember, Mistakes Are Good
Many educators have been searching for ways to tell parents when to back off. It's a tricky line to walk, since studies link parents' engagement in a child's education to better grades, higher test scores, less substance abuse and better college outcomes. Given a choice, teachers say, overinvolved parents are preferable to invisible ones. The challenge is helping parents know when they are crossing a line.

Every teacher can tell the story of a student who needed to fail in order to be reassured that the world wouldn't come to an end. Yet teachers now face a climate in which parents ghostwrite students' homework, airbrush their lab reports — then lobby like a K Street hired gun for their child to be assigned to certain classes. Principal Karen Faucher instituted a "no rescue" policy at Belinder Elementary in Prairie Village, Kans., when she noticed the front-office table covered each day with forgotten lunch boxes and notebooks, all brought in by parents. The tipping point was the day a mom rushed in with a necklace meant to complete her daughter's coordinated outfit. "I'm lucky — I deal with intelligent parents here," Faucher says. "But you saw very intelligent parents doing very stupid things. It was almost like a virus. The parents knew that was not what they intended to do, but they couldn't help themselves." A guidance counselor at a Washington prep school urges parents to find a mentor of a certain disposition. "Make friends with parents," she advises, "who don't think their kids are perfect." Or with parents who are willing to exert some peer pressure of their own: when schools debate whether to drop recess to free up more test-prep time, parents need to let a school know if they think that's a trade-off worth making.

Read "To Help the Kids, Parents Go Back to School."

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A certain amount of hovering is understandable when it comes to young children, but many educators are concerned when it persists through middle school and high school. Some teachers talk of "Stealth Fighter Parents," who no longer hover constantly but can be counted on for a surgical strike just when the high school musical is being cast or the starting lineup chosen. And senior year is the witching hour: "I think for a lot of parents, college admissions is like their grade report on how they did as a parent," observes Madeleine Rhyneer, dean of students at Willamette University in Oregon. Many colleges have had to invent a "director of parent programs" to run regional groups so moms and dads can meet fellow college parents or attend special classes where they can learn all the school cheers. The Ithaca College website offers a checklist of advice: "Visit (but not too often)"; "Communicate (but not too often)"; "Don't worry (too much)"; "Expect change"; "Trust them."

Teresa Meyer, a former PTA president at Hickman High in Columbia, Mo., has just sent the youngest of her three daughters to college. "They made it very clear: You are not invited to the registration part where they're requesting classes. That's their job." She's come to appreciate the please-back-off vibe she's encountered. "I hope that we're getting away from the helicopter parenting," Meyer says. "Our philosophy is 'Give 'em the morals, give 'em the right start, but you've got to let them go.' They deserve to live their own lives." (See the 10 best iPhone apps for dads.)

What You Can Do
Among the most powerful weapons in the war against the helicopter brigade is the explosion of websites where parents can confide, confess and affirm their sense that lowering expectations is not the same as letting your children down. So you gave up trying to keep your 2-year-old from eating the dog's food? You banged your son's head on the doorway while giving him a piggyback ride? Your daughter hates school and is so scared of failure she won't even try to ride a bike? "I just want to throw in the towel and give up on her," one mom posts on Truuconfessions.com. "This is NOT what I thought I was signing up for." Honestbaby.com sells baby T-shirts that say "I'll walk when I'm good and ready." Given how many books and websites drove a generation of parents mad with anxiety, a certain balance is restored to the universe when it becomes conventional for people to brag about what bad parents they are.

The revolutionary leaders are careful about offering too much advice. Parents have gotten plenty of that, and one of the goals of this new movement is to give parents permission to disagree or at least follow different roads. "People feel there's somehow a secret formula for parenting, and if we just read enough books and spend enough money and drive ourselves hard enough, we'll find it, and all will be O.K.," Honoré observes. "Can you think of anything more sinister, since every child is so different, every family is different? Parents need to block out the sound and fury from the media and other parents, find that formula that fits your family best."

Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, teaches seminars on how to peel back the layers of cultural pressure that weigh down families. He and his coaches will even go into your home, weed out your kids' stuff, sort out their schedule, turn off the screens and help your family find space you didn't know you had, like a master closet reorganizer for the soul. But any parent can do it just as well. "We need to quit bombarding them with choices way before their ability to handle them," Payne says. The average child has 150 toys. "When you cut the toys and clothes back ... the kids really like it." He aims for a cut of roughly 75%: he tosses out the broken toys and gives away the outgrown ones and the busy, noisy, blinking ones that do the playing for you. Pare down to the classics that leave the most to the child's imagination and create a kind of toy library kids can visit and swap from. Then build breaks of calm into their schedule so they can actually enjoy the toys. (See how to plan for retirement at any age.)

Finally, there is the gift of humility, which parents need to offer one another. We can fuss and fret and shuttle and shelter, but in the end, what we do may not matter as much as we think. Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt analyzed a Department of Education study tracking the progress of kids through fifth grade and found that things like how much parents read to their kids, how much TV kids watch and whether Mom works make little difference. "Frequent museum visits would seem to be no more productive than trips to the grocery store," they argued in USA Today. "By the time most parents pick up a book on parenting technique, it's too late. Many of the things that matter most were decided long ago — what kind of education a parent got, what kind of spouse he wound up with and how long they waited to have children."

If you embrace this rather humbling reality, it will be easier to follow the advice D.H. Lawrence offered back in 1918: "How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning."

Of course, that was easy for him to say. He had no kids.

— With reporting by Karen Ball / Kansas City, Mo.; Alexandra Silver / New York City; and Elizabeth Dias and Sophia Yan / Washington

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Monkeys

The monkeys tried on their new dresses today and decided to ham it up. I love this one:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Random Thoughts

It's Saturday night and I'm about to fall asleep. These are things I think about:
  • Why do we always say that you know if an ethnic restaurant is good but the amount of people of that ethnicity eating there? If it was REALLY THAT GOOD, wouldn't everyone eat there?
  • Why do we insist our children learn things that are dangerous - roller skating, ice skating and bicycle riding are the ones that come to mind first?
  • Why can't I stop eating when I'm full?
  • Why do most people only make a whole turkey once or twice a year, while whole chickens are made all the time?
  • Why is it that if you eat 3 meals worth of calories at one meal, you will gain weight, while spreading them out between 3 meals won't necessarily make you gain weight?
  • Why can't I just close my eyes and go to sleep?

Good night.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't Be Afraid to Ask

In the past month or so I have gotten some great deals. I do look at coupon websites and blogs, but sometimes it is just a matter of asking the right questions:



  • A friend of mine showed me her Promenade (it's an outdoor mall) discount card. She explained to me that her HR department handed them out to everyone. So I called the management company of the Promenade, and asked about getting these cards for our company. I was told that it was too close to the New Year but that they would keep me in mind for next year. About a week later, I received a call asking if some of our management would like to eat for free at a restaurant about to open in the mall (they needed guinea pigs to rate service, food, etc...). We had a great lunch for 3 for the price of a tip. I also received an email for a new nail salon opening up there. I paid $16 for a manicure and pedicure.

  • I went to my gym/spa for waxing. They were having a special where a series of 12 services was 40% off. So I asked if they'd be willing to split the 12 up in to 6 of one service and 6 of another service. At first the girl wasn't sure but I gently prodded her to try, and the transaction went through.

I often forget but situations like this help me remember. It never hurts to ask for a better deal!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Mother-In-Law

My MIL can be a very generous woman. She helps me out with the kids whenever she can and is constantly bringing me clothes. She actually enjoys spending time with me.

However, she is a narcissist. She means well, but it is all truly about her. Today I found out that my mother is going to have hip replacement surgery in December. I called my MIL to tell her, since they are friends (which pisses me off to no end because then they gang up on me). I was explaining to her that it would actually be great timing for me, because it will be easy for me to take off work, the monkeys will be on winter break and we can go up to the bay area and stay with my dad, help him around the house and visit my mom in the hospital.

MY mothers reply - "OH yes! We'll go up too!". Now I understand that she truly believes that she wants to go up there and help, but doesn't she realize that my mom will then be spending the days before the surgery cleaning the house and cooking meals so there will be food for her "guests" to eat? And then when they leave she will be forced to get up and do the sheets, etc... from their bed. It will be so much easier just to have her immediate family around her.

I explained this to my husband and he agreed. I spoke to my mom about it and she is afraid to tell them no.

Sigh! I am book-ended by the narcissist and the woman who goes out of her way to be nice to everyone (except me)!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tis The Season

The parties are starting and the drinks are starting to flow. I made this a couple of weeks ago and it went SO quickly that I didn't have time to take a picture.

It actually comes from Cooking Light, which is not the publication I usually get my drinks from.

I will be making this OVER and OVER again! And you should too!


Pomegranate-Rosemary Royale

This simple twist on the traditional kir royale blends tart-sweet pomegranate juice with subtle herbal notes from a rosemary-infused syrup. Float rosemary leaves on the drinks for a pretty garnish.

Ingrediants:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 cups Champagne or sparkling wine

Directions:
1. Combine 1/4 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add rosemary; let stand 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
2. Pour 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon rosemary syrup into 4 Champagne glasses. Top each serving with 1/2 cup Champagne. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

CALORIES 115 ; FAT 0.0g (sat 0.0g,mono 0.0g,poly 0.0g); CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.5g; SODIUM 4mg; PROTEIN 0.1g; FIBER 0.0g; IRON 0.1mg

Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Dog

I love our dog - she really is cute and super smart and loves the kids and has only barked once (when my husband grabbed her from behind and scared her)!

One thing - she keeps pooping on the rug when we're not there!!! We leave the door to the back yard open. We leave for 1-3 hours, 2 to 3 times a week, and what does she do? She poops on the rugs; little piles of poop all over the rug. Not on the tile floor, not on the cement in the back yard, just on the living room rug!

WTF?!?!?! When we watch her we stick her outside for the next 2-3 hours but she doesn't learn!

I am signing her up for obedience classes on Saturday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

One Big Holiday

I know others have blogged about this, like Lucy, but it finally hit me over the head today!

I received and email about a tree lighting on the 19th. I figured it was for December 19th - a little late, but OK. Oh no - it turns out that it was for THIS coming up Thursday. November 19th!!

WTF??? How is there a tree lighting before Thanksgiving has even come and gone? And then a co-worker of mine told me that Santa is already in the mall near his house! Really?? Doesn't Santa need to eat his turkey first?

We truly are turning in to one big commercial holiday and Thanksgiving doesn't make the cut because no one is buying "Happy Thanksgiving Cards". We gloss over the holidays that are meant to teach a lesson - thankfulness on Thanksgiving, appreciation for our Armed forces on Veterans Day or Memorial Day - and go straight to the holidays where we can make money.

This Thanksgiving let's be thankful just a little bit more and maybe the power of positive thinking (OK, yes I read the newest Dan Brown book recently) will counteract the commercialism of America.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Royal Raspberry Bars

Apparently, I like to be tortured! Right around this time of year, I start getting emails from MyRecipes Cookie Countdown. Instead of unsubscribing, I open every email and drool!

These bars were particularly drool worthy, and yes, they do taste just as good as they look! Perfect for company - they look extremely festive with the white meringue and red raspberry filling.


Royal Raspberry Bars

Phyllis Ciardo developed her own rich and chewy version of the meringue-topped bars she remembers her mother baking every Christmas.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sweetened flaked dried coconut
1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (3/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup raspberry jam
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar



Directions:
In a bowl, mix oats, flour, coconut, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt. Add melted butter and stir until well blended. Press dough level in bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.
Bake crust in a 325° regular or convection oven until edges begin to brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes, then spread jam evenly over warm crust.
In a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until thick and foamy. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar and continue to whip until mixture holds soft, shiny peaks. With a spatula, spread meringue evenly over jam.
Bake until meringue is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then cut into 24 bars. Let cool completely, then use a wide spatula to remove bars from pan.

Yield: Makes 2 dozen bars

CALORIES 158 (39% from fat); FAT 6.8g (sat 4.3g); CHOLESTEROL 16mg; CARBOHYDRATE 23g; SODIUM 124mg; PROTEIN 2g; FIBER 0.9g

Sunset, DECEMBER 2001

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Day

Sometimes I like to list out what I did today, to remind myself why I am SO tired. then I smack myself upside the head and wonder why I never learn to do less.

9:30am - Leave the House
9:30am-10:30am - Farmers Market with monkeys
10:30am-11:00am - Drop monkeys off at Russian School
11:00am-12:00pm - wax (and boy did I need it)
12:00pm-12:30pm - Buy birthday present
12:30pm-1:00pm - Pick up monkeys from Russian School
1:15pm-4:15pm - Kids Birthday Party at Ice Skating
4:15pm-5:00pm - Park with monkeys
5:00pm-6:00pm - Frozen yogurt with monkeys
6:00pm-7:00pm - Home
7:00pm-9:30pm - Left monkeys at home and went to a friends house

I'm home, I'm tired and am ready to watch TV and fall asleep.

Good night!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friends

You know those friends? The ones who you can see very week or every other month? And you have so much to talk about, that the hours just fly by? Thankfully, I have been blessed with many such friends!

The great thing about these friends is that no one monopolizes the conversation. It's not the "ABC" show. We each take turns telling the stories of our days, weeks and months. If one person feels like being silent, the others will make up for it. If one person feels like they have ALOT to say, then we let them have their moment in the spotlight - because we know that each of us will have our time to shine.

Today I was sad - I was planning on going up to the bay area to have a girls night with my best childhood friends in the world. The trip got cancelled :(

Luckily, I met up with two of my best friends that I have here in town. We got to sushi at 7:30pm. The next time I looked at my watch next it was 9:10pm. The next time after that it was 10:30pm. We closed the sushi place down and I got home at 11pm!

We had so much to talk about we could have continued for hours, and the 3 hours we spent at dinner flew by in what felt like 5 minutes. In fact, the two friends continued on to a pub down the street. I came home because I have a family to take care of in the morning. That's the other thing about truly great friends - there were no hard feelings about me going home. They know how my life is and were just happy that we got to hang out.

This was the perfect way to spend an evening.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kids Eat For Free

I had like 3 different topics on deck to write about tonight. I have forgotten them all!!

So, I am going to direct you to my latest Examiner.com article. It's about a website where you put in your city or zip code and they tell you restaurants where kids eat for free any day of the week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

REALLY??

I know this is ironic given the fact that I have just give airtime to this douche bag, but come on?!?!?!

Doesn't he realize that he is truly a dirt bag and that people aren't laughing with him, they're laughing AT HIM!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day

The monkey's have tomorrow off of school. They asked me why? I told them that it was to honor the soldiers that fight for our country. I can't wait until they are old enough to TRULY understand what that means.

We take our freedom for granted. We think that it will always be around, and in some ways, that it is HAS always been around.

The movie that made me understand what freedom is about, and how thankful we should be for the soldiers that fight for freedom, is Escape from Sobibor. It is a holocaust movie which does not have the mass cinematic appeal that Schindler's List had, but it gripped me none-the-less.

I was 11 when they showed it to us in school, which was too young, but perfect in the way that it was my first real look in to what it meant not to live the life I took for granted. It truly left an impression.

Thank G-d for the service men and women who fight today, and who have fought in the past! With out you, there would be NO us!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Busted by My Little Spy

We get in the car to go to school this morning:


Big Monkey - Mom, where did you go last night?
Me - Huh?? You were asleep.
Big Monkey - Yes, but you went somewhere.
Me - I went to a friends house to watch Desperate Housewives. How did you know?
Big Monkey - Because when we came home the odometer was at 82 miles left to empty and now it's at 75 miles to empty!

OK - I am so screwed. If she pays this much attention to detail at 7 years old what will she be like as a teenager?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Prizes Given Out at Carnivals

When went to the monkeys' fall festival today and I helped out at one of the booth's. I think I figured out why all of the prizes give out delight kids and aggravate parents. Look closely at what's written on the top left of the box (I circled it).




Yup that's right - it's "Squeezable BS"!

Friday, November 6, 2009

At A Loss

I had friends over today for a get together. The kids (ages 5-7) were all in my bedroom towards the end of the night.

My friends went to look for them and found my little one (aged 5) and the older boy (aged 6) in the bathroom - the boy was fully nude and my little one was fully nude from the waist down.

OMG!! They yelled at them, got them dressed and sent them out (and no more closed doors for sure) but now what?? I talked to the little one for a bit but how do I handle it?

We'll talk more to them tomorrow - to both of mine because the older one (aged 7) should have never let the little one go in to the bathroom with the boy.

Should I be super concerned? Is this normal? I feel so embarrassed, upset, at a loss?!?!?!

I need advice.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Real Nobel Prize Winner

This is not meant to be political. It is meant to be in memoriam and in remembrance.


Irena Sendler
There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive' .. She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German.) Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids..) She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize ..... She was not selected.
Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.
Powerful message, especially the "cartoon." Let us never forget 63 years later!



In MEMORIAM - 63 YEARS LATER
Please read the little cartoon carefully, it's powerful. Then read the comments at the end.



I'm doing my small part by forwarding this message. I hope you'll consider doing the same.
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian Peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iraq , Iran, and others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide

Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Conversation With My Mother

Mom: How's the puppy doing
Me: Great
Mom: You don't want to get rid of it yet?
Me: No
Mom: I know - your husband is the one who wanted the dog
Me: Actually he was against it at first - I wanted the dog
Mom: The big monkey told me the dog is sleeping in her bed
Me: Yes, by her feet
Mom: That is so unhealthy for the big monkey
Me: No it's not
Mom: I spoke to someone at work today and they said...
Me: I don't want to have this conversation any more - leave it alone
Mom: Well, if the dog is more important to you than the big monkey
Me: Yes, that's exactly it!
Mom: Starting to scream something about how horrible a dog sleeping on a child's bed is
Me: CLICK!!!! (Sometimes it's nice having her 400 miles away and not being able to do anything about me hanging up on her - teehee)

Argh!!! I am in my 30's. Why is she still trying to run my life?!?!?!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Years In A Row



Soon after I started my blog, I joined NABLOPOMO 2008 (is it just me or does it sounds like "hey would you blow me").

Thanks to the challenge, I end up establishing a writing discipline. I try to write daily and succeed about 75% of the time. I found some great blogs and made some wonderful bloggy friends. I came out of my comfort zone and blogged even when I "thought" I had nothing to say. 9 times out of 10, it turns out I had plenty to say ;)

It's been a long time since I blogged daily for a whole month. I look forward to the challenge this month.

Who else is participating?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lucky

According to my big monkey:

Boys are lucky because they can't have babies
Girls are lucky because it doesn't hurt when they get hit "down there"

She has repeated this numerous times over the past week which makes me wonder what it is that she talks to her friends about during school. Also, how does a conversation like that get started?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yummy!

After Friday and Saturday, I have had absolutely no energy today. Of course, that didn't stop me from yelling at the monkeys every five minutes!

We went to the park late this afternoon and the little monkey skinned her knee. As we were driving home, I looked down at the clock and saw that it was 5:30pm. I realized that all the monkeys had all day was two bites of omelet and pita sandwiches (one with cream cheese, one with peanut butter) to eat (well, aside from the mass amounts of candy).

So, what did I do? Did I go home and make them a nutritious meal, complete with fruits, vegetables and protein??? Heck no!!! We drove through McDonald's, where I stole two of the little ones chicken nuggets, 1/3 of the big ones hamburger and had my own fries! I LOVE chicken nuggets and fries!!!

The monkeys thought I was the best mom ever -all the yelling was erased, and the boo-boo forgotten (at least for a few minutes). McDonald's really can be a magical place :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wordful Wednesday/Thousand Word Thursday

This past Sunday we went to the pumpkin patch and thankfully I had my blackberry on me - so I could snap this picture:

I call it "Goat on The Roof":

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Costumes

I am an adult! Yet, every year at this time I feel the need to dress up for Halloween.

Kids have such cute costumes you can buy! But adults, all the costumes make women look like prostitutes! How can I wear one to work? And how can I take my kids around trick-or-treating when social services would be called on me???

Any suggestions? What do you wear? Please - I need help!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beef in Pomegranate Sauce

I love looking at blogging websites and came across this recipe from Karina's Kitchen. I adapted it a bit.

Beef in Pomegranate Sauce
Ingredients:
2 pounds beef tips
Sea salt
1 onion, sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup agave (I didn't have any maple syrup)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon Penzeys Pasta sprinkle (or other dried herbs)
A small pinch of cinnamon



Directions:
Turn your Crock Pot to High. Add in sliced onion and garlic. Place the beef on top. Pour in the pomegranate juice, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to combine. Add the raisins, dried herbs, a pinch of cinnamon, sea salt and ground pepper.

Stir a little bit to co-mingle ingredients. Cover and let the magic happen- about 6 hours until the meat is tender. Taste test the sauce for seasoning adjustments.

I served this on top of soft Polenta originally and on top of steamed rice for left-over lunch today.

Serves 4.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Procrastination Again!

The Halloween edition:

  • The little monkey has not yet picked out her Halloween costume (we have like 15 at home to choose from - between Halloween's and dance recitals)
  • I only TODAY asked my mother-in-law to make the big monkeys Halloween costume (she's going to be Little Red Riding Hood).
  • I'm starting to think about dressing up or Halloween (but have no costume).

I'm sure I'm not the only one with these "issues", but am stressed out anyways!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Admit It - I Am Star Struck

We went to the Pumpkin Patch today at our local City College and they really did a great job. This was our first year there and I was pretty amazed.

There was a corn maze, a merry-go-round, food, a local music station was DJing, mining for "gold", a petting zoo, horsey rides, and on and on!

The monkey's loved it all (except they didn't get to ride the ponies because one was "acting up" and no one was I going to go near that). My favorite part - seeing Tori Spelling and her family!!! I was the same age as the 90210 cast (or at least their TV ages) when it came out and like everyone my age, was obsessed.

Since two of my friends have already asked, I will post it here - NO she does not look anorexic. She is skinny, but not any more so than any other LA woman (size 0 or 2 here is normal). They parked like everyone else, walked around, stood in line and ate. She seemed very down to earth. No one bothered her, that I saw.

I was a big person and didn't come up to her, but OH MAN, I SOOOO wanted to get my picture taken with her!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Polenta with Smoky Mushroom Ragout

Tonight we had a play date. The older child is in the same grade as the older monkey, and the younger child is in the same grade as the younger monkey.

This was the first "get-together". The mom brought pizza for the kids (the monkey's other friend was there too) and I made dinner.

I prepped/cooked most things last night. Tonight I only needed to put the crock pot on and put one thing in the oven (the polenta below).

Of course I didn't have time to photograph anything. :(

One of the dishes I made was a SUPER simple polenta. Most people don't like polenta because you have to stand there and stir forever! Also, most polenta has heavy cream or tons of butter or milk.

With this recipe, you can easily make it non-dairy, and almost no fat, without sacrificing ANY of the taste.

In fact, my friend's daughter is lactose intolerant and went nuts over it. I gave her the polenta leftovers and had to call her to snap a picture and send it to me :)

Polenta with Smoky Mushroom Ragout
Serving Size : 8
Cooking Light April 2004
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
Ingrediants
POLENTA
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups cornmeal -- (polenta)
1 tablespoon butter - I used olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
RAGOUT
1 tablespoon olive oil - I used less
2 cups chopped onion
8 cups oyster mushrooms -- sliced (about 1.5 pounds) - I omitted this because I didn't have any
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon chipotle chile canned in adobo -- finely chopped - I subbed chipotle powder because it's what I had on hand
1 tablespoon dried oregano - I subbed dried parsley and dried italian blend because it's what I had
3 cloves garlic -- minced
28 ounces canned tomatoes -- whole, drained and chopped - I just used canned diced tomatoes
8 ounces queso fresco -- 2 cups - I omitted for my lactose free friend
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro -- chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350

To prepare polenta, combine first 4 ingredients in a 13x9 baking dish, stirring well. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until liquid is absorbed. Cover and keep warm

While Polenta is cooking, prepare ragout. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion, saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms and salt, saute 10 minutes or until mushrooms release liquid and begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Add wine, chile, oregano, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook until liquid evaporates, stirring constantly (About 1 minute). Stir in tomato, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes or until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally.

Spoon ragout over polenta, sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 350 15 minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Sprinkle with cilantro.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

This is my first attempt at mobile blogging since the website isn't working for me.
It's 11:30 and am laying down to enjoy Grey's Anatomy. Details to come...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Huh

Things that make me go HUH:

The little monkey came home from Kindergarten with her classmates tooth (that her classmate had lost that day)???

The big monkey is having "meetings" with her friends during school?

The puppy still whines at night in her crate?

The men from NCIS: Los Angeles are much hotter but the original still has better writing?

Costco is selling wedding dresses?

I will leave you with a picture of the Costco wedding dress:



Monday, October 19, 2009

Boys Learn Young

Overheard today:

Little Monkey: Can I have a potato chip?
Little Boy she's been friends with since birth: No!
Little Boy's Mom: Give her one!
Little Boy she's been friends with since birth: No - she's not my girl friend any more!

Both the other mom and I were trying SO HARD not to crack up!

I guess boys learn at a young age that you don't give girls anything unless you are dating them or want to date them!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Back to School Night

Tonight was back to school night, for parents only, at the monkeys school.

The 1st hour was bake sale/raffles, etc... The 2nd hour was classroom visits. This time we had to do 30 minutes in one monkeys class and 30 minutes in the other monkeys class.

These informational sessions are always good but feel a bit sterile. There isn't really enough time to go through everything and there definitely isn't time to ask questions about your own kid.

For many working parents this was the first time actually really getting to spend time in the classroom.

It would be better if the 1st hour was the classroom visits and the 2nd hour more in depth sessions with the teachers. If we wanted to speak to them we could sign up for a 5 minute time slot or something.

I always leave these nights thinking that something was missing and that I forgot to ask A, B, C.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hiding Out

I am a grown adult, living in my own house.


And yet, here I am, hiding out in my bedroom, with the TV turned up, so I can't hear the puppy whine and cry in the living room, in her crate.


I am contemplating sleeping with the TV on all night. I can't spend a 4th night sleeping on the couch!

This will get better right? I will start to think of Maya as a member of my family, right?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Little Monkeys Boy Friend

Location: Little Monkey's Room
Time: Bed Time

My baby sitter walks in to the little monkeys room and sees her in bed talking on her "cell phone". When she asks the monkey who she's talking to, the monkey answers "my boy friend".

Unfortunately, the monkey was speaking English and the baby sitter didn't understand what the monkey was telling her "boy friend".

Young love :)

Upon texting my husband to let him know, the response I get back is "I'll kill him".

Scaring dad for the future - priceless!

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Puppy


We got her on Sunday. I spent from 11pm-5am sleeping on the couch beside her crate. Keep your fingers crossed that the puppy will be crate trained soon.

I go through feelings of "OMG! What have I done?? I don't have time for a puppy!" to "She is so smart. Look how much she loves the kids already, and how much they love her!" and back.

Am I a schizophrenic dog owner or what??


Friday, October 9, 2009

Angel Food Cake

Recently, I bought the most amazing, light and tasty Angel Food Cake. So, I decided to try and make my own.

The first recipe I came upon was the Barefoot Contessa's Angel Food Cake. She has not failed me yet so I am hopeful that I can same the same for this recipe. Hope bad can it possibly be with egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract and lemon zest?!

So far I've tried the stuff that's on the bottom pan and the little crumbs that have fallen off the cake :) It's very good but next time I will experiment with reducing the sugar.

Lemon Angel Food Cake
Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 40 min

Serves:8 servings

Ingredients
2 cups sifted superfine sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (1 large lemon)





(I forgot to take the lemon out of the refrigerator before I took the picture)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine 1/2 cup of sugar with the flour and sift together 4 times. Set aside. Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs make medium-firm peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Whisk for a few minutes until thick and shiny. Whisk in the vanilla and lemon zest and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute. Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour by fourths by sifting and folding until it's all incorporated.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack until cool.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Traumatized Child

I heard today that my baby sitter traumatized the big monkey's friend yesterday!

This little girl is the big monkey's best friend and spends a lot of time at our house. Normally she loves it and loves our baby sitter. Yesterday my husband picked them up from school and took both of my monkeys, and the friend, back to our house. He then went back to work.

In our house, we eat a European Supper. The main big meal is at about 3pm, when the monkeys get home from school. "Dinner" usually consists of cereal and milk, or something light. And my baby sitter is OLD SCHOOL. You will eat everything on your plate or she will feed it to you.

The friend is extremely picky. Our baby sitter made plain pasta with pieces of chicken, bell peppers and tomatoes (which is actually quite a plain meal in our house compared to the normal stuff we eat). This girl told her that she wasn't hungry. So what did our baby sitter do? She literally fed the friend with a spoon until she had eaten all but 3 bites.

When I found out I called my friend (her mom) and told that my baby sitter had literally force fed her child. She said "good" and we laughed about it. And thinking about it, it is pretty funny. But this poor child - she will probably be scared for life.

The moral of the story - don't mess with a European baby sitter!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Puppy

We are getting our new puppy on Sunday and I am starting to panic. So I am looking for help. Can you guys PLEASE let me know what I definitely should have ready at home for the puppy?

So far I know I can get a great dog bed at Costco. What else? Please comment and let me know because there are only a couple of days left.

Also:
  • How do I get the puppy not to scratch the furniture?
  • How do I get the puppy not to cry at night? Will she for sure?
  • What's the best dog food?
  • Do I need to buy doggy gates?
  • What am I forgetting

Wow! I feel like I am getting ready to bring my first child home (I don't remember being as freaked out about that).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

FINALLY

Finally, someone has enough guts to stop pussy-footing around Jon Gosselin and ask him the "real" questions.

I'm not saying either of them were perfect in this marriage, but COME ON! At least she has acted with a modicum of decorum since the separation.

You go Nancy Grace!



Sunday, October 4, 2009

Asian Super Slaw

I made plans with friends to host dinner. We decided on Korean BBQ meat from the Korean grocery store. Friends brought the meat already pre-marinated. I added a salad, that I found on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board, by applecrisp, to round out the meal.

My friends COULD NOT STOP eating this salad!!

Asian Super Slaw
Servings: Serves 4 to 6. (many say serves more than that)

Ingredients
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil - used 3 tablespoons
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 cups thinly sliced green cabbage - used a bag of coleslaw instead of both cabbages
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage - used a bag of coleslaw instead of both cabbages
2 large red or yellow bell peppers, cut into matchstick-size strips
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips
8 large green onions, cut into matchstick-size strips
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado - my own cal-asian addition that added an extra creamy something to the dish

Directions:
Whisk first 7 ingredients in small bowl to blend. (Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.)
Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.