Wednesday, October 31, 2012

P is for Princess (and that's ok)

Happy Halloween, and Happy ABC Wednesday! I hope you've all had a positively perfect day, packed with plenty of pleasant experiences. :)

Like many parents, I took my kids out trick-or-treating this evening. And sure, getting buckets full of candy is always fun, but for them (and for me) the most fun part is getting dressed up in costume.

My son went as an Angry Bird this year (which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows him, since this is his latest obsession) and my daughter went as a princess (which is also no surprise to anyone who knows her.)

This is her fourth Halloween, and her third time dressing up as a princess. She loves wearing the pretty dress, and the crown, and having everyone tell her what a "pretty princess" she is. It's fun for her, and it's adorable. And I'm perfectly fine with it.

I know there are people out there who have a problem with little girls dressing as princesses (or any other kind of gender-specific "female role," for that matter.) And I completely agree that nobody should be forced into a stereotype. But I also believe that if a little girl wants to pretend to be a princess every now and then, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

On last week's Halloween episode of The Office, Pam dressed up as "Dr. Cinderella" because her daughter likes Cinderella, but Pam wanted to set a positive example and remind her that girls can be anything they want to be, not just little princesses.

Sure, it was kind of funny. But this isn't the first time I've seen this type of reaction from a TV mom. On a show a few years ago there was a high-powered-lawyer mom who was all in a tizzy, wondering where she went wrong, because her daughter wanted to dress up as a princess. (How have I not taught her better than that? She doesn't have to fall into these gender stereotypes!) I actually found it kind of irritating.

My daughter knows that she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up. And sure, sometimes she says that she's actually going to be a real princess, but she's four, so that's understandable. She also sometimes says that she's going to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a builder, or a mom. Or maybe even a race car driver. For a while she was even going to be an astronaut doctor.

The point is, she knows she has options, and that she's not limited to some antiquated idea of what a girl is allowed to be. So if, every now and then, she wants to dress up in a frilly pink dress and pretend to be a princess, I don't see anything wrong with that.

What do you think? Should we discourage our daughters from dressing in stereotypical gender roles (or at least encourage them toward something else) or is it okay for a little girl to play princess if that's what she wants? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Witch Hat Cookies, Part 2

Because we had so much fun making the first round of cookies, and because I just can't leave well enough alone, I made a new batch with a few design changes. So of course I had to share these too.

This time instead of the Fudge Stripes cookies I used Grasshopper Fudge Mint cookies. (Besides having such a problem with the Fudge Stripes breaking, I also thought they were a little big in relation to the Kisses, so I wanted to try something a little smaller.) Plus, mint chocolate cookies are just awesome.

This time we didn't have any problems with the cookies sticking together or breaking. (Score one for this recipe!)

Plus, these cookies don't have holes in the center, so they were a little easier to put together. (Putting a dollop of frosting in the center is simpler and requires slightly less skill than putting a ring of frosting around a hole.) And this way you also don't have to deal with frosting squishing out the bottom.

So when it's all said and done, I don't know that I necessarily prefer one variation to the other. These had their merits, but the problems we had with the other ones weren't big enough to make them less worthwhile. They're all cute, and all fun to make (and eat!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

LML Monday - Juicing, School Carnivals & The Walking Dead

It's Monday once again, my friends. And as always that means it's time to reflect on the things that made us happy over the past week. And of course now is also the perfect time to set the tone for a great week to come! 

If you missed my take on LML, you can find it here. If you missed the explanation of LML Monday, you can catch up here.

Not surprisingly, I spent a great deal of time last week experimenting with my new Kitchen Ninja system. The ice cream was pretty good, and kind of fun to make. The kids love the fruit smoothies as an after-school snack. And the fruit/yogurt/flax breakfast smoothies are a great way to start the day.

But my absolute favorite thing (and the reason that I most wanted the machine in the first place) is the juicing.  I love being able to toss a bunch of whole vegetables into the pitcher and get a super-nutritious and (usually) very tasty meal out of it.

The best one I made this week was spinach, celery, cucumber, and pear. It made a really pretty green color (which made my daughter wrinkle her nose in a very cute expression of disgust) and had a nice refreshing flavor (since mostly all you can taste is the pear and cucumber.) I wasn't sure about adding the celery (because you know how I feel about it) but as I had hoped, I couldn't even taste it. Yea! :)

School Carnivals
My son's school had their annual Fall Festival on Friday. They had a pretty impressive assortment of carnival games (so the kids got to win lots of prizes and candy) and a ridiculous number of inflatables (bounce houses, slides, etc.) The junior high kids even turned their building into a "haunted house," which was really cute. The kids had a blast, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the whole carnival was put together. We all had a really great time.

The Walking Dead

This is one of the few shows that my husband and I both watch, so Sunday night is The Walking Dead night at our house. Sure, the show is kind of ridiculous sometimes... but in a good way. And like most people, I still can't stand Lori and Carl. But Daryl is still awesome, and the more hard core Rick gets the more I love him.

Public service announcement: If you ever have some time to kill, and want a good laugh, head over to The Dork Side on Facebook and check out their Walking Dead photo album. The whole page is great, but if you're a Walking Dead fan there are many great laughs to be had in that album.

Ok. I shared mine - now it's your turn! Please feel free to leave me a comment and share some of your recent LML moments. Focus on the happy thoughts, and let's all have a great week!

And if you're a blogger and would like to get in on the LML fun, feel free to grab the code and join the blog hop! Your post doesn't specifically have to use the "LML" label (although you're welcome to use it if you'd like.) But if you have any kind of happy, positive Monday message that you'd like to share you're welcome to join. The more happy vibes, the better the Monday!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Witch Hat Cookies

Like some of the other projects that the kids and I have done in the kitchen, I can't take credit for coming up with this idea. (I saw a picture floating around Facebook a while ago.) But I can take some of the credit for how adorable my kids are, so at least I have that. :)

We thought these looked like a really cute Halloween treat, so of course we had to try them out. They're fairly quick and simple to make (although, as you'll see, it didn't turn out to be quite as easy as I thought it would be. But apparently that's a fairly standard occurrence around here.) Even so, they still turned out cute, and we still had fun, so we're still going to call it a win.

We start with simple enough ingredients: Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies, Hershey's kisses, and some frosting. I went wacky and got two different types of the cookies (original and dark chocolate), two different types of Kisses (original and pumpkin spice), and two different colors of frosting.

Now, the first step in the process - laying the cookies out on the tray to decorate them - was the one thing that I thought would be the simplest. Unfortunately I was oh so very wrong. The cookies stuck together - horribly. So we ended up with several broken cookies before we were done. On the upside, broken cookies taste just as good as unbroken ones, so who cares if we didn't get to decorate all of them?

I thought maybe it was just a problem with the dark chocolate cookies. But no. The other ones stuck together even worse. It was a little frustrating, to say the least, but once again the kids were happy about the prospect of all the broken cookies they'll get to eat later.

Eventually we managed to get enough cookies to come out of the package intact so that we could start putting the "hats" together. First, the frosting.

Next came the Kisses. (The kids were very excited to finally have a job of their own, and took great pride in carefully unwrapping each Kiss.)

At this point we decided that the pumpkin spice Kisses were a little too orange, and wouldn't really go with the cookies, so we scrapped that idea and decided to just go with the chocolate ones. And just like the broken cookies, the kids were more than happy to dispose of the unused Kisses. (Once they're unwrapped, they have to be eaten, right?)

Finally it was time to put it all together - another job that the kids took very seriously.

And, as usual, they were very proud of the finished product.

So yes, these were slightly more time consuming than I had expected, but not enough to be a problem. And above all else, those two beautiful smiles make it all worthwhile. You just can't argue with results like that. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

To the Guy in the Gas Station Parking Lot...

I know he'll never see this. (Sure, nothing is impossible, I guess. But the chances are pretty slim.) Nevertheless, I just have to say something about what happened this morning. Because I really feel bad, and I have no way of apologizing personally. So I'm hoping this will help balance out my karma a little bit.

Driving around looking for an open pump at a busy gas station, I turned a corner just as another car was pulling out. We both stopped, and made the questioning eye contact of two drivers who are waiting to see who is going to go first. Since I'm the type that will usually let the other person go first (because too many people are unwilling to do that) I waved the guy on.

But rather than the customary "thank-you" wave, the guy gave me an unexpected look - kind of an offended, "what-was-that-for?!" kind of look - and drove off. I thought it was weird, but then it sank in. I'm pretty sure he mistook my quick waving gesture for a different, much less polite gesture that drivers sometimes give to each other.

There would have been no reason for me to flip the guy off. But sadly, I've seen many a driver who would do that (or something equally or even more rude) for no logical reason, so it's not hard to understand why someone could see a quick hand gesture from another driver and mistake its true intention for something less polite.

So to you, man in the gas station parking lot this morning, I want to apologize. I really was just trying to be nice and let you go first. I could tell by you face that you were offended by what you thought I had done, but I truly hope that you were able to quickly blow it off and not let it continue to bother you.

And to the rest of you reading this... you know me well enough by now to know that I just couldn't let it go without embracing the chance to get a little philosophical about the whole thing. :)

I started to think about all of the times when I have been upset (or offended, or irritated, or whatever) by another person's actions. And of course I had to wonder how many of those times I had misinterpreted those actions and unfairly judged the other person. I'm sure it doesn't happen all the time, but I'm equally sure now that it probably does happen sometimes.

Of course there are plenty of reasons to not get bothered by the little things that other people do. But now I have another reason to add to the list, and maybe it will help make it a little easier to remember not to judge. I don't really know what is going on in someone else's head, and I can't necessarily judge a situation based on my interpretation of what someone else does.

I will try to remember that from now on, because I have a feeling it might make dealing with people a little easier. Oh, and I also promise that from now on when I wave to another driver, I will make sure that it is clearly a wave.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Joys

This week's ABC Wednesday brings us to the letter O. And so this seems like a perfect opportunity to celebrate the happiness that is the month of October.

Now, I can't really say that I have a favorite month. Just about every month has something to love about it. (Plus, I'm really too overly analytical to have just one favorite of anything - books, movies, songs, food... I can never narrow it down to just one.) But I do tend to rank things. And October is definitely near the top of my list.

For one thing, October is usually when we finally get a break from the triple-digit temperatures. It still isn't cold here yet (not that it ever really gets cold in central Arizona) but our highs have actually been down in the 80s all week, which has been lovely.

And of course October is when the Halloween decorations come out. I've always loved Halloween, but now that I get to share it with my kids it's even more fun. They love to help decorate, and do holiday crafts and baking. (We actually have some more planned for this weekend, as a matter of fact, so be sure to tune in next week for more Halloween fun.)

October is also the only time that I indulge in silly cartoon cereal. I'm usually not big on the sugary cereals, but this is my one exception. They're a fun, once-a-year tradition. And I'm pretty sure you will find these in my pantry every October for the rest of my life.

And perhaps best of all (or worst, depending on your perspective) October is when we start finding pumpkin-flavored EVERYthing in the stores. I know it's not for everyone, but I for one love it. And I don't even have to be eating it - just the smell of pumpkin and spices makes me happy.

This is the latest pumpkin-flavored thing that I discovered this year. And yes, they're pretty tasty. (If you don't like pumpkin pie, I'd say give them a miss.) Otherwise... Yum!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Early Christmas Presents

I know it's super-early to be getting a Christmas present, but my husband just got me a new toy, and it's the one thing that I have been telling him that I wanted for Christmas, so that's what I'm calling it. But semantics aside, I just got something new that I'm very excited about.

This is my new Ninja Mega Kitchen System. If you've seen the infomercial, then you know how awesome it is. I mainly wanted it for its juicing capabilities, but it has a lot of other cool features too, and I'm looking forward to trying them out in the weeks to come.

Since pretty much everything in my house is a family event, the inaugural run of the Ninja was no different. We decided to make orange cream smoothies (because we happened to see someone making them while demonstrating a similar machine the day before, and the kids loved them.)

It was very simple to make, and the kids were happy to be able to help.

We just added two cups of milk, roughly two cups of ice, two peeled oranges, a splash of vanilla, and roughly two tablespoons of Splenda. (The demonstration we saw used Coffee Mate instead of milk, so it was considerably sweeter. The milk is better for you, but it definitely needs a little bit of sweetener if you do it that way.)

The machine worked great, and really did crush the ice like the infomercials say it does. (Of course I forgot to take a picture of that part.) But it really did turn out nicely.

And most of us thought it was yummy.

Unfortunately not everyone was as thrilled with the outcome.

You can't please everyone, I suppose. But we'll definitely have some fun trying out different recipe ideas and finding things that we all like.

Monday, October 22, 2012

LML Monday - House Guests, Mobile Apps & Smiling Food

It's Monday once again, my friends. And as always that means it's time to reflect on the things that made us happy over the past week. And of course now is also the perfect time to set the tone for a great week to come! 

If you missed my take on LML, you can find it here. If you missed the explanation of LML Monday, you can catch up here.

House Guests
As part of my mom's birthday celebration last week, my brother flew into town to surprise her. He was only here for a few days, but it was a really nice visit. He and my mom both stayed at my place while he was here, so the kids were absolutely in heaven.

My brother is one of my favorite people in the world, so of course having him visit is always great. But this time there was another good thing about his visit, too. I got to see that one of the bits of wisdom that I have been trying to teach my kids actually did sink in.

I was a little concerned when we got to the airport, because the kids were being pretty clingy, and I thought we might end up with some tears when we said goodbye. They did start the "I don't want him to go yet!" and "I wish he could stay longer!" thing. But when I shifted the conversation to being happy that he got to come, instead of being sad that he was leaving, they actually agreed without much hesitation at all.

So I got to have a great visit with my family, and I got a nice reminder of what great little people my kids are. Definitely reasons to be happy.

Mobile Apps
Last week I finally got to use my Walgreens Mobile App to refill a medication. I know that doesn't really sound like a big deal, but it kind of is. It isn't so much about using the app (although it is kind of cool to just be able to scan the barcode on your bottle to place an order.) What made it exciting, though, was why I could finally use it.

Because of the chronic pain, I've been on prescription pain medications for many years. And as much as I disliked taking narcotics, unfortunately it was sometimes necessary. But last month, as part of my whole new-approach-to-pain-management shift, I switched to a new non-narcotic medication. So far it seems to be doing a pretty good job, and doesn't have the side effects that some of the other meds were causing.

There are several reasons to be happy about finding something other than narcotic pain killers to help with the pain, obviously. But the super-special bonus is that now I don't have to jump through all the hoops to get my medication every month. (When you take narcotics you can't just call and ask for a refill - you have to make an appointment and go in to see someone to get the prescription. Lots of extra time and money spent every month just for a medication.) Now I can use the nifty mobile app, which is much more convenient.

Smiling Plates
The other day my son was enjoying his mini-waffles for breakfast, and when he was almost done he told me "Look Mom. My plate is happy!"

It really is the simple things in life that you treasure. And you just can't help but smile when you see something like that.

Ok. I shared mine - now it's your turn! Please feel free to leave me a comment and share some of your recent LML moments. Focus on the happy thoughts, and let's all have a great week!

And if you're a blogger and would like to get in on the LML fun, feel free to grab the code and join the blog hop! (And please be sure to link back here!) Your post doesn't specifically have to use the "LML" label (although you're welcome to use it if you'd like.) But if you have any kind of happy, positive Monday message that you'd like to share you're welcome to join. The more happy vibes, the better the Monday!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Cupcake Saga Continues

My apologies for taking so long to bring you the conclusion of the cupcake story. In addition to celebrating my mom's birthday and having house guests for a few days, my son got really sick and was home from school (and miserable) all week.

So it may be a bit after-the-fact, but I had to come back and share the rest of the story - partly to show you how cute the cupcakes turned out, and partly to reassure you that nobody lost their lives in the process. (If you missed part one of the story, you can catch up here.)

It turns out that frosting cupcakes isn't quite as dramatic as baking them, but it does have its own challenges. First, if you bake cupcakes one day and have to come back and frost them the next day, be prepared to hear "Can we frost the cupcakes now? Please? Please? Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease?!!!!!" from the second you wake up until the time you finally say yes.

So once I finally did say yes and we gathered everything up, the kids were very excited (obviously.) Everything worked out pretty well, too, with only a couple of "seriously?!" moments. The first was when the pull tab on the frosting didn't work, and I had to cut my way into it with a knife. The second was when my son managed to get frosting on his clothes, and I wondered what I was thinking when I agreed to get chocolate.

As you can see, the kids took their frosting job very seriously.

And with just a tiny bit of help from me, this is what we ended up with.

That, and a chocolate frosting mess to lick off, of course.

Add some candy letters (because I learned long ago that I'm terrible at writing with frosting) and we have beautiful "Happy 70th Birthday Grandma" cupcakes for the beautiful birthday girl.

I'd say they were a big hit all around. :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cupcakes for Grandma

It's my mom's birthday tomorrow (Happy Birthday Mom!) and as part of their gift, the kids decided that they wanted to make cupcakes for her. You all know how much fun the kids and I have in the kitchen (you might remember the S'mores Pops, and the Flax Brownies) so of course I agreed to let them bake for Grandma.

And it occurred to me as we did this that there are probably some of you out there who have never experienced the joy of baking with children. So I thought we'd share some helpful tips that we learned through today's experience.

1. Pull out the cupcake pans, and let the kids count how many spaces are in each one. (Never pass up a chance to increase the educational value of your activity.)

2. Let the kids put the paper liners in the pans. (Discover later that several of the cups have whole stacks of liners in them. Wish you had noticed it sooner. Shrug and move on, because there's nothing you can do about it now, and you suppose it really doesn't hurt anything anyway.)

3. Gather up all of your ingredients.

4. Discover that the recipe calls for eggs, and realize that you don't have any. Laugh at your kids' reaction, and make them do it again so you can take a picture.

5. Go to the store to pick up some eggs. Remember that you need several other things, and decide to pick them up too since you're there anyway. Remember why you hate bringing children to the grocery store.

6. See the store's display of alcohol. Think that a drink sounds really good right about now.

7. Somehow manage to make it home with your sanity. Discover that it's already lunch time. Pause to make lunch and feed your starving kids. Sigh, because this is taking way longer than you expected it to.

8. Finally get back to making the cupcakes. Rejoice that you finally have all of the ingredients that you need.

9. Add all of the ingredients to the bowl, and let your kids take turns with the mixer. (Discover later that several of your pictures came out blurry.)

10. Pause for a moment to let your kids enjoy the best part of baking.

11. Let your kids play with the camera while you fill up the cupcake pans. (Come back later to see all of the crazy pictures they took.)

12. Put the cupcakes in the oven, and watch with amusement as the kids check on them every few minutes, giving you detailed status updates each time.

13. Pull everything out of the oven, and discover that using different types of pans makes the cupcakes cook differently. Pause to wonder why you don't have matching cupcake pans. Shrug, because once you put frosting on them nobody will know what they look like underneath, so it really doesn't matter.

14. Let the kids show off the product of their hard work.

15. Remember that you have other plans in the afternoon, and realize that you aren't going to have time to frost the cupcakes before you have to go. Decide that you're going to have to come back and finish this tomorrow.