I love this Christmas stuff

My nose is running, I’m tired and have skin so dry I could plant corn in the cracks, but I do love this time of year.  It’s all because of my 4 and 8 year old.  christmas kidThis precious time where they

1) Still want to hang out with me

2) Still believe in Santa Claus

3) are open and excited and haven’t become cynical jaded f*cks.

That time will come, but till then I’m loving it.  I love sharing them with my mom

kids, Aunt Cec, mom, niece Lily

kids, Aunt Cec, mom, niece Lily

best gingerbread house

The four at home in front. maybe I should have asked for a little guy just off the plate to represent Oliver in college

and going to holiday teas, church Christmas boutiques, (my splurge here from the Solvang Bakery) Last year my splurge was piano playing miniature teddy bear. What can I say I’m weak for Christmas kitsch.

Mom, are you sure we can't eat it?

Mom, are you sure we can’t eat it?

personalized gingerbread house

Making hot chocolate, buying our tree.  They insisted on flocked this year. decorating a flocked treechildren decorating christmas trees I have bought ONE gift so far and need to do my budget of what is possible, but in the last few years I’ve just come to accept that anxiety at what I’m putting on the credit card is as much a part of Christmas time as hot apple cider.  Oh, by the way Christmas bazaars, this year no one has had hot apple cider.  What gives?  I’m calling Fox News.

Christmas time goes so fast that one really has to have everything staged and ready to go.  I’m pretty good, but still trying to dig out my Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra holiday CD’s. Good I have spotify, but I have to skip a lot these modern ballads.. blech.

children's christmas

Thanks for the Mick Jagger pose Rex

One reason I have been looking forward to Christmas is so that Vivien can finally wear this exquisite dress that Mark’s cousin Vicki made for her.  She visited us earlier this year and we went fabric shopping. She went back to Oregon and then sent us this picture perfect dress.  Red velvet, green silk sash, ruching on the shoulders. homemade christmas dress A one of kind.  Years from now when Vivien is off clubbing or running her medical practice I will be clutching this dress, shooing  my cats away from its beauty.

kids and santaDear Santa, let this sweetness last as long as possible.teddy bear tea

 

House Porn

A friend recently sent me the architectual designs for a condo they are remodeling.  I shut my office door, put on some jazz on Spotify and let myself go.  The more stressed or anxious I feel the more I need the release of house porn.  Aspirational photos, design ideas, fabric samples, oh yeah baby.  I may never use you, but,oh, yeah, give it to me.

I can go on a tear sometime.  Lately I was fascinated with the idea of a copper sink.  I love apron sinks, but a copper apron sinks, now that’s living.  So pretty, and rich, yet earthy.  Needs some good lighting… Or I get fixated on wallpaper or rugs.  Right now I’m keen on a Greek key pattern.  I’d love one for my office.  Rex has a new blank wall since we moved his bed and now I’m looking at colorful wall decor. Rocket ship? More clouds?

We have a really beat couch.  It had been used and rode hard by our family and when my stepson’s Ben’s cats arrived the poor thing became a scratching post.  It’s now dead couch walking.  Ben and the cats are moving soon so I day dream about what couch I will get.  I’m thinking sort of streamline, yet comfortable enough for a Sunday NY Times lay about in the warmth of the sun coming in from the window. Something that does’t smell like cat for starters.

I get myself worked up wanting to buy just one special, pretty thing for my house.  Then something like this appears

Yes, the dishwasher died.  I think this gaping hole might be the first thing I need to tackle.

There goes that sink/rug/coach fund.

 

Fiscal Cliff that is not

I have been thinking this, but didn’t take fingers to keyboard to hammer this out. Fortunately, one of my favorite bloggers did.  Pundit Mom, Joanne Bamberger wrote THIS (click the “this”) great piece for Huff Po which says what I’ve been Muttering to myself. “IT”S NOT A FISCAL CLIFF”.

#1 the media are such sheep they keep repeating the same buzz word like it’s the gospel.  #2 One could say we went off the Fiscal cliff back when W was president and he raised spending and lowered taxes, wiping out the surplus Clinton had managed.

#3 One could also say that the love affair with the military industrial complex and the soaring entitlements are it’s own fiscal cliff which started decades ago.

#4 Hasn’t the tea party been saying we need to get the fiscal house in order?  Aren’t these triggers a step in the direction we have been talking about?

I will jump off a virtual cliff if I hear this phrase one more time.

Speaking of getting your house in order.  Behold one of our recent projects.  Toys in closet.

Now with Mark coming home it was time to house his extensive cookbook collection.  Voila.

Finally, I have something to show for this year

 

 

Mulching madness

I worked my self into a sweating delirium mulching two large landscape areas at Vivien’s school.  The few who could volunteer, declined.  So many people backed out I didn’t even ask anyone else.  Mark went with me to the site where the city gives out free mulch.  Quality mulch I might add.  Here I am bagging my own.
mulch
We loaded into the Campanile van and the next morning I drove to the school solo. The school was closed while the staff worked on report cards.  I clipped plants, dug my water diversions trenches a little differently and weeded.  Then I unloaded the free mulch bag, by bag, or plastic box.  I had both.  I had no pockets so I had out the key to the van in my bra.

After a couple of hours getting sweating, but making this one area of the school look better I started to leave.  I loaded my shovel, wrench, spade, clippers into the van.

Where is the key?  My bra had moved up half way up my breast with all the physical movement.  I had lost the key.

I had lost the key after I had dumped mulch over EVERY PLACE I HAD BEEN.  I was a panicking.  I lost Mark’s van key once before.

Volunteering at our school doing landscaping.  We never found that key and I had to spend about $300 to get a new key made.  I got down on my hands and knees and started to go through every square inch of mulch.  Keep in mind it’s a fairly large area.  Each of the two beds is about 15 to 20 feet long.  A dad at the school is one of maintenance workers for the site.  He was very kind and dug through the trash with me and combed through several square feet of mulch.

That damm mulch.

It’s one key with a Petco tab on it.

We couldn’t find it.  I dreaded calling Mark who was with the kids at Rex’s hip hop class.

He sounded annoyed, but thankfully he said the magic words, “I have a spare.”

I didn’t think we did.  I waited till he could drive over.

“Stop putting your key in your bra.”

I know, I’m sorry.

Sigh.

super mulch day : mulching as therapy

My lack of work is a blow to my pocket book, a boon to my daughter’s school.  I love being asked my “schedule”.
I don’t have one.  Save shuttling and feeding my children.  A few meetings to try and find new locations for The Tar Pit.
I just had to give up my beloved spin class.  I can’t afford it.

The kitchen is going to be seeing more as well as I attempt to make more food at home and employ more of the knowledge I have gleaned from Chef Peel.
But, today is Super Mulch day.

mulch

I’m dressed like crap and ready to scoop up free mulch the city gives away in order to spruce up our underfunded public school. I’m the head of the landscape committee.  I’m basically the whole committee.

Living the dream.

babysitting call

Ring, ring.. I answer

” Hi, may I speak to Rex or Vivien?” I’m startled to hear someone ask for my kids.

“um, Vivien is at school and Rex is taking a nap, I’m their mother can I help you?”  Thinking this is when the telemarketers let’s out a little laugh and says, ‘oh, sorry, I wanted to see if you need your carpets clean’ or something like that.

But, there was no laugh, the woman was dead serious.

“I’m from XYZ baby sitting and I  need to speak to Vivien or Rex about babysitting services we did for them last weekend.” Now, my mind is racing with , they want user feedback?  OMG is there some scandal? Are they going to ask my kids “did Jenny Sue touch you in a private place?”

I fall back to the position I know is rightfully mine.

“Ok, they are 2 and 6, I’m their mother, can you tell me what you want to talk to them about ?”

Still, dead straight.  ”One of the numbers on their credit card is off or I got the wrong number because I cant’ charge for the service.”

Does this woman really think a 2 and 6 year old have a credit card?
IMG_0410.JPG

I keep waiting for her to do the , “ha ha silly me, I’m looking at the name of the kids needing care, not the parental name who paid for it, ha, ha”  But, it doesn’t come.

“That’s MY credit cared.  ( again) I’m their mother.”

“Can you read the number again?”  Did someone come and steal this woman’s humility, and sense of humor?  Don’t we all operate with that lever in our heads that catches when we mess up and go to smooth the mistake out.

I give her the number.

Still non plussed, “oh, I had a 3 instead of a 6″.

Now, I want to hear  the “silly me” ( like I would say and 99% of the population) so bad I’m taunting her.  ”So we are good? Vivien doesn’t need to call you when she gets back from first grade?

Robot lady has the last word.  ”No, we are fine that’s all I needed.”

The great cousin sleepover

It’s a curious aspect of life that we often spend more time with friends that live in other cities than those that are 6 miles away.  Case in point I have some friends in NYC that I know I see more than 80% of my friends in LA.  Why?  Because the once or twice a year I’m in NY and call them they drop what they are doing and come a running for a meal and a good chat.
sleepover
Friends closer.. well, there will always be time, right?  No.

So when Vivien and her cousins said they wanted to sleep out in a tent in our back yard we decided the moms should spend the night too, but in beds.  Once you leave the nest you are rarely sleeping in the same house with your siblings so this was a treat.  I had to ask them what they liked for breakfast.  When I was little Carole like shredded wheat, figured it had changed ( oatmeal and fruit, like me!). Didn’t know that my nephew liked toast in the AM, so bought a loaf as we rarely have bread at home. I knew the sister’s were all coffee junkies.

It was great to cuddle up and watch a movie.  ”Wayne’s World” was very popular with my nephew. During the school year it’s seems we don’t allow ourselves these human breaks. Between sports and homework. Think that’s a mistake.

We all said, “it’s like we rented a vacation home”.  It was the best staycation.  Well, maybe not for Cecily who ended up in the tent with the kids till her air mattress slowly deflated and she hiked into the couch in the TV room.

I asked her how was it sleeping the back yard.  Her reply:

“you realize how noisy the world is”.

Pork Rut

Some of the sponsored vids that I have done here over the years hit home more than others. Fruit Roll ups have stopped MANY tantrums around here ( Gen Mills), I did always hope one vid would go viral ( Smart Water) and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about dinner ( Ragu). Granted I always thought about food for myself and was never one of those people who met up at a restaurant when I was single and said, “no, that’s cool I ate.” If the chow was good I was having some. But, every year I am a mother I get deeper and deeper into this making dinner thing. Partly because the ages of my children increase and present different challenges and also because I want to challenge myself. Also, the chef husband is gone more and more, so I can’t fall back on that.
I can’t just feed them cake, though that would bring a smile to their faces.
let them eat cake

For a while now I’ve been doing very well with pork. All three kids will eat it. I can make a nice pork roast or pan fry chops. It pairs nicely with a vegi, like my 4 star brussel sprouts. But, if I don’t defrost it in time I’m screwed. Mark buys a huge hunk of pork and we cut it up and freeze hunks big enough for a dinner in separate plastic bags. I’m on my last hunk today and Mark said, “maybe I should buy something different. A beef roast perhaps?” I was nervous. I’ve gotten my pork thing down.
But, wait, that’s bad I thought. That shows I have to vary it. I’m also getting low on my other go to. Chicken drumsticks in my “Hawaiian sauce” Soy, teriyaki and random spices.
I ventured the other night to  potatoes with bacon and it fell flat. So, maybe I’m in a pork rut. I love the other white meat, but I need to do something like pork belly ravioli ( Mark made this at Tar Pit recently, delish), but that’s a lot of steps for me.

When we shot the Ragu spots a few months back  ( with other mom bloggers like Mindy Roberts and Kim Tracy Prince) I was in a good dinner zone. This is our “Moms the word” series on momversation, but really exists on Facebook and it’s an ongoing conversation.  Last night I clicked on one of my Ragu vids about “dinner inspiration” to get inspired. My memory is shot, so it’s all new to me.
I seemed pretty confident in my dinner zone.  But, that was pre rut.  I’m a little tweaked in that I seem to only be able to concentrate on one or two ingredients at a time.

Okay, I will do something different.  I will use three spices I haven’t used..or used much in my pork show.  I shoved the kids into the back yard at 4pm and put brussel sprouts ( my go to ) and broccoli in on dish with olive oil, water, salt, pepper and oregano. (new)  Put in oven.  Check.  Then salted the pork roast with kosher salt, pepper, sumach( rarely use) , whole cumin (never use).  Put in ceramic baking dish with small white potatoes and a can of beef broth( usually use chicken) and a little apple cider vinegar ( new) and 4 cloves of chopped garlic and some chopped oven.  425 for and hour.   Then ran out in the back and played with my kids before my mom came over for dinner.  The best is doing it a little ahead.  I don’t like rushing to dinner because then I’m more of a rag and not enjoying myself.  Coming in muddy with some wet near naked kids and room temperature food ( I did take it out of the oven at one point) is so much better.

Oh, I over salted the pork, Vivien didn’t like the vinegar taste of the potatoes and Rex ate 4 bites and then tried to rip up my blouse.

Everything had been going so well…

What are cooking these days?  To share and get ideas check out the conversation on the Mom’s the Word Ragu page.

Rex’s puppy party

My little boy is now 2.  He is even more fun, has more words and still slaps me and kisses me ( see Italian Movie Star).  I am more in love with him than ever.

As great as he is Rex doesn’t have a lot of friends.  It’s not that he isn’t friendly.  He hugs kids all the time.  Just walks up to them and hugs them.   But, no daycare, no pre school, hard to make friends.  I didn’t want to go crazy for his bday, but wanted him to have his “happy day-o”  which is what he calls it.

So, invited family, Vivien’s best pal from school and his friends ( who I like a lot) and then just neighbors.  I was so pleased because we live at a cross section of the city.  We have Koreans, gays, Hassidic Jews, Latino’s.  I was really touched that so many showed up.  I ordered Kosher cupcakes because I want all of my friends to be comfortable.  But, they were all pleased with the main event of the party rolled up.

THE PUPPIES.
puppy party
We had a puppy party.  I have never been a dog person.  I have never had my own dog.  But, after sometime with these puppies I think I could become a crazy dog lady. Now, of course since Rex loves dogs and cats I was sure when he saw them he would squeal with delight.  No.
puppy party
puppy party
He looked frightened. I tried to get him comfortable, but he ran back in the house.

The puppy lade set up a fence and out came the puppies.  A Maltese ( Vivien’s favorite), the Doxie I was ready to adopt right there, a Doxie Shitzue mix that won my heart.  Mark loved the Jack Russel.  We had an hour with the pups. “I think I might have you come once a month for therapy” I said to the puppy lady as I absorbed the puppy love.puppy party

“Oh, I have a lot of people who do that.  They don’t think they can handle the responsiblity of a dog, but they miss having one.”

When puppy lady had to go, one little boy cried.  I have heard that other kids are still asking, “where are the puppies?”  puppy partyWe had the cupcakes and then most guests said their goodbyes. Rex loved this shirt I bought him when I was in New York.
puppy party
Then Mark said, “where are the jumper cables?”  Why?  The puppy lady couldn’t start her car.  As Mark tried to help her with her car with an assist from his brother in law, I ran for the puppies.

“Bring them back in.”  I didn’t want them in their puppy carrying case.  She came back and set up the fence again. I thought, maybe Rex will have gotten use to the idea and he will be into it now.  I ran into the Vivien’s room where they were playing with their cousin Lily.

“Rex, the puppies are back.” I got the reaction I had hoped for.

“PUPPIES” He screamed and ran down the hall way with the girls following.

I sat back down with Rex and the Maltese came over.
puppy party
“Mommy, I think they peed.” Vivien exclaimed. Yes, their was a bit of pee on the tarp.

“Well, honey, they were cooped up, they need to pee.”  Poor puppy ladies car would not start.  She was going to have to wait for a ride.  The rest of us were in heaven.  Mark got her a plate of mac and cheese he had made and we all played with the pups.  Then it got dark.  I suggested we bring them inside as it was getting dark.
puppy party
Rex and Vivien and my niece were having a blast.  Now we had a houseful of puppies.

Finally the puppy lady was picked up and I had to pry the Doxies, and the mix out of my arms.

Mark has been against getting a dog for a long time.  But, even he melted.  ”They need someone to play with , we should get both Doxies if we get one.”

The thing is I have a poo limit.  I am also still a tad sleep deprieved.  When my little human puppy is potty trained I can think about getting a dog.  But, not before then.

Rex got a lot of great presents.  People were very good to him.

He had a happy day-o.

And, God willing, when my kids are in college I will be in Palm Springs, with short dyed hair, have pink golf clothes and puppies.puppy party

Gamma Gave Me

Since my dad’s passing in August, my kids have been left grandfatherless. Mark’s dad passed many years ago.  It breaks my heart that my dad and children didn’t get more time together, but I’m so glad he held them both in his arms.

With the loss of Papa, their grandmas are even more important.  We are fortunate to have them both nearby. One is about one and a half miles away; the other about five.  They are nice grandmas. My mother-in-law is Grandma Cheryl and my mom is Aunt Mom — a nickname my nephew gave her as he heard his mom call her sisters by their first name and her mom, “mom”, so that must be her name and she must be Aunt Mom — to Vivien. But Rex is a traditional kid.  He just calls them “gamma” or sometimes my mom is “mom” (I’m momma or mommy).

I really love that my kids love their grandmas.  When either of them come over it’s like the Rolling Stones just landed on the tarmac for an impromptu concert.  I want to foster this cross-generational closeness. I want my kids to know how great it is to have loving grandmas and appreciate the love and the gifts they get from them. Always say thank you and acknowledge their kindness.

But, maybe, just maybe, I’ve gone too far. A girlfriend came over the other day and said, “how can that be?”  ”Check this out”, I said.  And grab the camera.