Friday, November 20, 2009

Pie Dish Giveaway!

You wouldn't think that someone who doesn't know much about cooking would write about it very often, but apparently I have. Somehow, the people from found my blog and decided that it would be an appropriate place to host a giveaway of something from their collections. Imagine that!

I looked back and I guess I have written about food and cooking quite a bit. Between describing my own attempts, working with the kids at theirs, or just ranting about the changes to Sanders Bumpy Cake, it has added up.

Which makes sense if you think about it. Food is such a central part of our lives, of course we are talking about it in addition to preparing it and eating it. (I might have been doing a bit too much of that last one lately!) And, as I've mentioned before, cakes are at the heart of just about every celebration and event we seem to have. I've got the pictures to prove it!

Also, cakes can also be funny! If you haven't already, check out You will sit there at your computer laughing at cakes. Hilarious.

So for this giveaway I got to pick out one fabulous item for one of you lucky readers to WIN. I selected this adorable covered apple pie dish. Just think how awesome you would look walking into a party holding this cutie, regardless of the appearance of whatever lurks inside. It would also look good as a decoration in your kitchen. Because I said so. You know you want it.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, and from those I will randomly select a winner. You could write about a favorite cake or food of yours, provide a recipe, or just say hi. (US and Canada only) I'll pick the winner at the end of the month, Monday, November 30. Good luck!

Thanks to Jamie from CSN stores for making this happen. Check out their sites for Christmas Decorations and Dining Room Furniture

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A happy little video to watch

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What to do about Jeffrey

Last night I went to Parent-Teacher conferences at Jeffrey's Middle school. He seems to be doing really well and I was looking forward to his teachers telling me all about it.

They had all the teachers lined up at tables in the gym, and the first one I got to was the teacher he has for both Science and Social Studies. Since she has him in two classes she has probably gotten to know him pretty well, and he has a solid A in both classes. This should be a good one, I thought.

She was sitting there looking prim and proper in a tidy little suit, and I smiled big as I walked up and proudly announced to her that I am Jeffrey's mother.

"Oh, Jeffrey!" she said. "What are we going to do about Jeffrey?" This was not what I was expecting to hear.

"What do you mean?" I cautiously inquired.

"He's obviously very intelligent." Normally those are words I love to hear, but she wasn't making it sound good. "I call him the 'absent minded professor.' He can't seem to focus."

I asked her for an example of what she was talking about, and she showed me his grades so far. He had A's for every test and assignment, except for five Cs.

She tapped at them with her pen. "Those were LATE assignments, five is a very high number."

I pointed out that he still received As for the quarter. She said "I know, the lates don't really affect the overall grades very much." She seemed a bit disappointed about that.

I know that Jeffrey did all of his homework as it was assigned, but he didn't always get it turned in, either because he forgets or it gets mixed up in the jumble of doodles and papers he carries with him. I told her that I would see to it that Jeffrey gets more organized, and I'll try harder to work with him to turn things in on time. Then she went on:

"The real problem with Jeffrey is that he doesn't seem like he's paying attention. He usually has a spacey look on his face, and he often puts his head down on his desk as if he's sleeping. I try to catch him by calling on him to answer questions, but he always gets it right."

I felt like I should offer something here. "So, what you'd like is for Jeffrey to look more alert during class?"

She agreed, and then looked at me expectantly.

So I said "I will work with Jeffrey to help him look more like he's paying attention."

She seemed pleased with that and I thanked her and went on my way. Except...I have no idea for how I can help him to do that. Out of my two sons, he is already the perkier one. I decided I would at least mention it to him, and remind him before school, that he needs to sit up and look straight at the teacher when she's talking. I figured that maybe we could practice, somehow, like we did for his career project speech. Maybe I could play a CD of some slow music, like they use at the end of yoga class, while he looks in the mirror and tries out alertness expressions. Too bad he's not a girl, I could put his hair into really tight braids so his eyes were stretched open. I wondered if I could blame his food allergies for this. Was his restricted diet causing daytime lethargy? Does he need to eat more protein? Maybe I should introduce coffee to his diet in the morning. Or expresso. Should he take Ritalin? Everyone else is.

Well the next morning I didn't get to try out any of my ideas because for the first time ever the alarms didn't go off and our entire family overslept by an hour. Jeffrey got whisked out of bed in confusion, handed a pop tart and zipped away in the car with Larry while I got everything together to drive Tim. Poor Jeff probably wasn't looking very awake at all today.

And then just now I saw something over on the kitchen counter. I'm pretty sure it's his Social Studies homework.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high

There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Last night they were showing "The Wizard of Oz" on cable, and I got the boys to sit and watch it with me by allowing them to stay up late. They have seen the movie in bits and pieces but we've never actually sat and watched it from beginning to end, together.

Tim sprawled on the loveseat with Missy perched on the back, and Jeffrey and I snuggled on the couch with our bowl of microwave popcorn. I told them how when I was young they would only show this movie on TV once a year, and it was a big event because there wasn't very much good to watch back then. I described to them how my sisters and I would pile pillows on the floor in front of our large console TV that was low to the ground and make air-popped popcorn to watch it.

This movie has become so iconic that I've forgotten some of the little surprises in there when you're seeing it through fresh eyes. I'd smile when they would say things like:

"Isn't the wizard the same as the fortune teller?"
"Hey, we played that song 'Over the Rainbow' for our band concert in 7th grade!"
"Those are the ruby slippers we saw in the Smithsonian this summer!"
"Flying monkeys - cool!"
"The balloon got away! Now how's she going to get home?"

They were curious about how old the movie was, and it being close to the invention of color in films. I told them that came out in 1939.
"Guess who was born in 1940?"
"Grandma!" Tim figured that out first, and then,
"Hey, do you think this movie is the reason they named her Dorothy?"

I said that it probably was. I liked the idea of them imagining their Grandma as a baby, and thinking about their great-grandparents, who they've never met, naming her.

The whole movie is just so good, in so many ways, every time you see it, and it was wonderful seeing it with them, and of course reinforcing that idea that "there's no place like home."

Just as the movie was winding to its close, I told the boys to promise me that someday they will watch this movie with their own children, and remember the time that we sat here in the year 2009, sitting on our couches watching it on our flat-screen TV, controlling the commercials with the DVR remote, and streaming the sound through the stereo speakers.

Jeff said "Sure, but by then they will be watching it with strap-on virtual helmets or something! And chewing popcorn flavored gum!" We all took a moment to try to visualize what the future might hold. There's no way to know. The only thing for sure is that this movie will still be around.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come true.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Go to Scout

My cousin Pammy has opened a new store in Royal Oak. You can read about it here, or go check it out in person. She always has the best stuff.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nanner Muffins

After I complained on FB about how my attempt to make banana bread resulted in a pile of mush, my friend Darrin sent me this:

Nanner Muffins - Grandma McAlister's Recipe

OK so this is a recipe I got from my Mom's Mom (my Grandma). She used to make these for all the grandkids for their birthdays. It took Sue and I about 2 years to make them "exactly" like her since the recipe was all in "pinches and dashes and handfuls" of ingredients. Don't have Bananas? Chop up apples and use apple sauce instead and add a "dash" of cinnamon.
Don't throw away any bananas - if they turn too brown for the kids (or you) to eat - pop them in the freezer and save them for when you want to make these muffins. Just pop them in the microwave long enough to soften the skin and thaw the inside a bit.
So... here it is...

2 1/4 Cups flour
3/4 Cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Cup shortening or margarine
1 1/2 Cup mashed bananas (brown are best - use about 2 large or 3 smaller nanners - don't through any away)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put in paper muffin cups in a muffin tin or just a greased muffin tin and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes (until browned on top). Remove and cool for a few minutes then place in a tupperware (or anything to cover them and keep the moisture in... this is part of the secret and the reason it took 2 years)

Good Luck! - If they are good, you owe me a muffin!

I thought it was cute that he called his Grandma "Nanner" but then then I thought about it some more.

So I made the muffins, substituting egg replacer for the eggs. I also added walnuts. They came out great! They could probably be a little sweeter, I think that might be a function of how brown the bananas were, so I'm going to try to make another batch and see. But these were definitely the best LOOKING thing I have ever baked, so I took a picture, check it out:

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Adds Up

Yesterday one of those things happened that seems like a small thing, but because there was some coincidence involved, it seemed like a signal to take notice.

Jeffrey was home from school because he complained of a stomach ache. By the end of the afternoon he was feeling better so we agreed to go to Rite Aid to buy vitamin water and then pick Tim up from school. When we got to Rite Aid Jeffrey remembered that he needs a calculator for math class, and that they have the kind he needs there.

The reason he needs a new calculator is because last year I bought a nice new one for Tim that did all the advanced functions needed for his math class. I was very pleased to get it at a good price on clearance, just after the back-to-school sales. Within a matter of days, it was GONE. I got really aggravated with Tim because he said that he must have left it in class or somewhere, and then it was stolen. I insisted that he check the lost and found and ask his teachers if any calculators had been turned in, and then I went on a rant about who would steal a calculator, and why wouldn't such a person consider the feelings of the person who had lost it and turn it in?

Well the darned thing never turned up and Tim got through the year using the app on his cell phone or old cheap calculators we have laying around the house. The kind you get for free that look like credit cards.

Then this school year started and Jeffrey needs a good calculator for his 6th grade honors math class. I hadn't gotten around to buying one yet, partly because I hate to pay full price for such a thing at Rite Aid. But there we were, and Jeffrey was asking for it, so I pulled it off the hook and put it in our basket.

When we got to the high school to pick up Tim, he saw that we had bought the calculator and said that it was funny but he found a calculator on the floor during band class earlier in the day.


I asked him what he did with it and he said that he turned it in to the teacher. He told me that it was an expensive graphing calculator, and that whoever lost it would be upset to lose something that cost about a hundred dollars. And, he added, he knew that I would notice it if he suddenly pulled out something like that to do his homework.

The Quinky Dink part of this is that I know when his band class is and it is quite possible that the very same moment he was picking it up from the floor, I was pulling the new one off of the hook at the store.

The thing for me to notice about this small incident was that when faced with the decision about what to do with the found calculator, Tim did the right thing and turned it in. That decision was at least partly influenced by his memory of what I had said in the past, and how he anticipated I would react if I found out he had kept it.

I think that might boil down to the goal of all parenting, which is that you hope you get your kids to do the thing you would want them to do even when you aren't there to tell them what that is. It feels even better than the things I don't truly influence but am always at the ready to take the credit for, such as my kids being good looking, musically talented, or good at math.

But then, as I wallowed in my smug satisfaction, the thought occurred to me that the "right thing" in this situation is relative to my own perception of what "right" is. Where I got this perception could have been from my own parents, or church, or even from watching all those Brady Bunch episodes. It occurred to me that what I think is right is sometimes different from what I might actually do. And, that other people might have an entirely different perspective on the situation, and their reaction to their kid pocketing a found calculator could be "Way to go! Now we don't have to buy you one! Check around the floors tomorrow and see what else you can scoop up!" It still meets my definition of successful parenting. even if that person's kid passes my kid up in the corporate world, or excels in sports, or politics.

Maybe what we parents really want for our children is not for them to fear us, or please us, or to be just like us. We want them to be...better.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Doll Show

My sister Becky asked me to go with her to a Doll Show in Hazel Park. I agreed, because these are always interesting. This time I brought my camera so you could enjoy it too.

There were the usual collections of dolls that you might expect:

Classics like Shirley Temple

Kewpie dolls that remind me of the expression Jeffrey used to make when he was a baby:

Barbies Displayed in boxes

Barbies in bags

Barbies with great outfits
Lots of Madame Alexander Dolls

I had this Alice in Wonderland doll. In fact I still do, but she is not nearly in this good condition:

I think that this is the Cinderella that my friend Susie had. I thought she was the best.

This doll had pansies, I thought she was so pretty:

We wondered if our cousin Pammy ever had these Pebbles and Bam-Dolls. If not, she would have wanted them.

For the guys

Some collections such as these

Paper Dolls too!

There were collections of shoes

And arms. (I know, kind of disturbing!)

And, of course, there was the weird:

At the end I bought Becky a doll for her Christmas Present. She has to wait until December 25

Halloween 2009

Jeffrey was a Banana