Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

Current Giveaways:

$25 Target Gift Card and a whole bunch of back to school type stuff here.
Family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here. Ends tonight!
Seventh Generation prize pack filled with cleaning supplies here.


It goes ridiculously hot and humid again in Chicago, so I'm back to finding recipes that don't involve my stove or oven - the waffle maker, aside, of course. While my huband is perfectly content with having hamburgers every night (or at least it seems like every night!), I prefer more variety in my diet.

This week, I went back and dug through some of my favorite recipes to find things I haven't made in awhile. And wow, there are a ton of them. I can't believe I've forgoteen about some of the recipes I have in there that I haven't made in too long. Yay, more fun recipes coming your way.

Right now you get to enjoy (semi-vicariously since I forgot photos until there was nothing but pieces left once again) some of my Asian fare. I can't wait until it cools off and I can do pad thai again. It's one of those surprisingly easy dishes that looks like you put a ton of work into it.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Three chicken breasts, sliced into cutlets (or just slice them lengthwise into 3-4 pieces depending on the size of them)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 c cilantro
1 T ginger (grate it from the ginger you have stored in your freezer, right?)
1/4 c unsweetened coconut milk (make sure you have the right kind, trust me)
1/2 c peanut butter
2 T soy sauce
1 T lime juice
1 T sesame oil
1/2 T sugar (or less)

Combine the garlic, ginger, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and chop. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice (fresh squeezed, right?), sesame oil, and sugar and process until you have a nice smooth paste. Taste to adjust the seasonings to your preference. If you need to, thin it with water.

Skewer your chicken (personally, I like to marinate it in a little bit of lemon juice, garlic and oil first but you can go sans marinade for this) with each long piece of chicken on a single skewer. Grill your chicken until it is cooked through but don't overcook it. Since it's thinner, it will cook faster - maybe 3-5 minutes per side depending on your grill.

Serve the skewer with your yummy peanut sauce and watch it disappear! And if you're feeling rushed on time, grab one of the rotisserie chickens and dip pieces of that into the peanut sauce. I'll never tell!

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mommy Needs To Go Back To Kindergarten

Current Giveaways:

$25 Target Gift Card and a whole bunch of back to school type stuff here.
Family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here.
Seventh Generation prize pack filled with cleaning supplies here.


So Little Miss finally started kindergarten. After all the changes of last week, she finally got enrolled and met her teacher and we even (sort of) found out her bus schedule - for the afternoons at least.

Amazingly, she even let me choose her outfit today, although she rejected my first option. Note that I was smart enough not to try a skirt. (And so so weird not to see kids in uniforms! I got used to it so quickly after just a year.)

Once we got out the door, (late today and fines for both of them) I dropped off the carpool at Mister Man's school. Unlike Friday morning where the booster seats in the third row were so crammed together that the poor three kids back there were almost permanently living there (that's its own story), everyone comfortably fit in the car and we were able to use the drop off line to have my circus clown car act of four kids piling out of my car.

From there, I drove on to Little Miss's school. When I asked in the office for a map of the school, they didn't have one (note to people who work in schools: make a hand drawn map for families showing the important things in your school - front door, office, gym, parking lot(s), and so forth). I was told to park and then kids play in the playground until the bell rings and they line up with their teachers.

So I parked. And I walked to the playground. I saw lines of backpacks on the basketball court, but I couldn't decipher the codes written in chalk for which class was which. Once I figured out who the adult aides were supervising, I asked one. That's when I found out there are two playgrounds. And that kindergarteners meet at the other one. Located on the opposite side of the school.

Not wanting to be late on the first day, we hustled down the sidewalk. We heard the first bell ring as we passed in front of the school, and luckily we made it into line while it was still forming and before it started moving. Phew!

Who knew it was so hard to get someone to school? In previous years, either a bus has shown up to pick up a wee one (this year the bus arrives 15 minutes after I leave to drive carpool, boo!) or the school provided a map with good instructions on dropoff and pickup procedures. Apparently Mommy fails the first day.

Fingers crossed Little Miss doesn't!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How High Can He Go?

Current Giveaways:

$25 Target Gift Card and a whole bunch of back to school type stuff here.
Family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here.
Seventh Generation prize pack filled with cleaning supplies here.


Today we were invited to the house of one of Mister Man's best friends from school - yes, the one we carpool with and who asks her mom if she can marry Mister Man when she's older - for a party. I made the Twix bars (yum!), and off we went.

Mister Man and Little Miss were the only children aside from his friend, and she was thrilled we were there. We heard from her mom that she wanted to wait outside for us starting at noon. We arrived at 3pm. Yikes!

I was so proud of how nicely all of them played together. Mister Man - my autistic boy who doesn't always "get" how to play with others, nor is he really interested in interacting with them frequently - played with all of them the majority of the time we were there. He did the same things they did, and they invented and played games together.

My heart swelled with joy to see it.

But it gets better. I only wish now that I had taken video of it, but I of course didn't think of that until after I'd gotten home. His friend Violet (nope, not her real name - but isn't it pretty?) has a climbing dome in her back yard. Picture this like the jungle gyms we used to climb on as kids.

Mister Man has weak core strength, which leads to weak gross and fine motor, which means that athletic endeavors - especially climbing and balancing - are challenging for him. And his personality means that he's fearful in situations where he's off the ground, trying to balance, doing physical things, etc. When going on these apparati, he'll typically get just a few feet off the ground and call for help to get down.

Today? Not so much.

Not only was he climbing to the top of it (granted, maybe six feet high) and hanging out there, he was climbing down by himself. He was swinging from the outside to the inside of the climbing dome. He was jumping off from the second level of the climbing gym. And he was hanging upsidedown and doing "flips" on the climbing dome.

He has been doing occupational therapy to wore on his core strenth, upper body strength, and fine motor via a gymnastics studio for the last couple months, and I know his OT has been working on getting him to climb a parallel bar (using a mat against a wall) so that he can have his feet touch the bar, but he'd never figured out how to go to that next level and flip over - that or he was too afraid.

Today he did it - over and over - with no encouragement from anyone else, just by watching Violet do it. And then Violet went to the tree that grows in her yard and scaled it.

Mommy, I want to climb the tree, too.

He's never climbed a tree, and with his somewhat weak skills - and poor motor planning - I was a little nervous, but I wasn't about to tell him he couldn't do it. I gave him a little boost and talked him through what he needed to do - pull with your arms here, put your feet there, push now with your right leg, and so forth. He still needs that coaching, as it isn't natural to him to figure out how to climb a tree.

But he did it. And he was so proud of himself.

And of course, Little Miss (Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better) wanted to do it, too. I popped her up since she was too short to reach the first branch, and up she scampered with nary a word from me. Typical.

And yes, she gets a totally different angle - someone wore a skirt today (shhhhh! she didn't notice).

But Mister Man? Today was a little bit of normal that I loved seeing. He can do things, and after seeing what he could do with the tree he's decided he wanted to work on learning how to ride his bike, too.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I've Got To Start Some Traditions...

I am giving away a $25 Target Gift Card and a whole bunch of back to school type stuff here.

If you're up with Disney Princesses, I'm also giving away a family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here.

I have a new Seventh Generation prize pack filled with cleaning supplies for your back to school needs that I'm giving away here.


I'll explain why I need traditions in another post, but let's just have this one show something I did with the wee ones last week that I think is going to become a part of our back to school tradition. Because I suppose that should be more than making them stand on the stoop and smile into the sun, right?

Needless to say, we headed off to Build-A-Bear, since I'd heard that they had the Sanrio pets debuting and were giving out cute little backpack clips for those who made the pets. Since Little Miss has a Keroppi backpack, I figured this was win-win all the way around. We headed into the store, and Mister Man was ohhhhh-so-proud to show Little Miss what to do.

Unfortunately, that dream of Sanrio pets was apparently mine alone.  Neither of the wee ones wanted to do Keroppi. Or Hello Kitty. Or Chococat.  Or Melody.  I have no idea why, but since this was for them, I allowed them to choose any animal in the store they wanted.  Oddly, they both chose the cheapest option (with no input from me whatsoever), the $10 Cub bear.

Mister Man also chose a karate uniform for his bear, which I thought was sweet since he's now so into his tae kwon do.  He had a hard time deciding initially since there was no Princess Leia costume yet, but once he was this one, he was hooked.

Little Miss wasted no time in finding the Toy Story costumes and picked out her Buzz Lightyear outfit in a heartbeat.  Did I mention the 9 times in fourteen nights they watched Toy Story while they were in Florida?

Once the animals and outfits were chosed, it was off to the stuffer.  They were so pleased to help stuff their bears and do the little heart pledge and warmup.  I love how Build A Bear makes the children really a part of creating their pet.

From there, it was time to clean the bears.  Not surprisingly, Little Miss was wayyyyyy more into making sure her bear was perfect.

Mister Man did his, too, but he was so excited to get to the next stage that he ran off to it before I could get to the bath.  I made him come back and "fake pose" for a picture.  He was so thrilled to be making a bear of his own choosing that he took a decent picture our first shot.  Phew!

After that, it was time to get the bears dressed - an important thing that the wee ones wanted to do on their own.  Well, at least until Mister Man couldn't get the black belt off the karate costume (it was sewn on, but he wanted to put on the orange belt because he is an orange belt) and Little Miss couldn't do the shoes on her own!

Meet Karate Chops, the newest addition to our menagerie.  He is a defensive warrior who helps protect Mister Man's room from invasion but never uses his karate moves to purposefully hurt anyone.

Little Miss (and yes, we got her hair cut immediately before Build A Bear, which explains the new bangs and the fact that she has a really cute ponytail) was really proud of how well she could dress her bear.  The hard thing for her was having to take everything off to put on Buzz's pants first. (PS Build A Bear, I love how you have the little straps to go over the arms to help keep pants up - genius!)

And meet Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger protecting the universe from the evil emperor Zurg - who we hope never comes anywhere near our house.

The coolest part about this is that Mister Man went through the registration process entirely by himself.  Granted, it took him some time to type in all the info required, but he did it.  And I love that he did it and didn't ask for help.  We had nowhere we needed to be, so I let him have his time to do it, and he was so proud.  I need to remember to continue to back off and let him try!

Once we were done, we had a new family photo with our new friends.  Note that Karate Chops is doing a karate kick in the photo.  He was "showing off his defensive moves" according to Mister Man.  Little Miss, on the other hand, was just excited to get home and introduce Buzz to Snowy.

In the past week, I can't count how many times I've been asked when we're going back to Build A Bear. This is the first time I've allowed them such freedom in the store, and they are smitten. I've recently instituted a new reward system (yes, a post will come on that soon) where one of the things they can earn is a Date with Mommy. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the requested dates.

Or maybe I should just save it as a special back to school tradition. What a great way for them to remember every year and what they were super interested in at the time. Nahhhhh, we'll be back sooner than next August!

(And no, I was not paid or compensated for this post at all, nor did anyone ask me to write it. This was purely inspired by our fun trip to Build A Bear and my desire to create fun and lasting traditions for the wee ones.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Am A Paleontologist

The giveaway for a Monopoly board game here ends tonight. And there are seven entries.

If you're up with Disney Princesses, I'm also giving away a family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here.

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.


It always entertains me to see what the wee ones get into. For a long time, it was Thomas the Tank Engine. Mister Man was fascinated from the time he was two and my dad took him to a train show. He knew the name of every single train and conveyance that was a part of Sodor Island, and I think we own most of them now. His room is still decorated with Thomas from the lightplate to the sheets to a rug to wall stickers.

Sadly, Mister Man is growing out of Thomas (although he's nearly seven, so we at least got our money's worth out of it!). While he watched the Thomas movie at the salon last week when we got Little Miss's hair cut, he refuses to acknowledge that he still likes him and have given most of his trains to Little Miss.

And while Star Wars is a huge passion in our house - Mister Man has read almost all the books that are age appropriate and again we know every single character - it isn't the only one.

When given a choice, Mister Man still goes for dinosaurs over Star Wars. He reads every book he can find on them, and he recently discovered the nonfiction section of our library and the great treasure trove of dinosaur books held there.

In his reading, he learns everything he can and insists that his theory - that a meteor crashed into earth unleashing ash into the sky that killed the dinosaurs - is the right one and that no others are valid.

The kid knows more about dinosaurs than I ever wanted to. And granted, I wasn't into dinosaurs growing up (nor am I now), but I can tell you how you can in general know if a dinosaur was a carnivore or an herbivore because of him. I know the names and pronounciations of more dinosaurs than I knew existed. In fact, I now know that T. Rex isn't the largest dinosaur anymore, as I had always thought (it's Argentinosaurus, I believe or maybe Allosaurus or maybe Gigantasaurus - I need to listen more closely to my Little Professor's lectures).

It is entertaining when he's around other children an a dinosaur is part of whatever they're doing. The cute little dino silly band? It isn't just a brontosaurus - nope, it's a special kind of dinosaur, according to Mister Man, and he's probably right. The flying dinosaur picture at the doctor's office? He informed the poor receptionist that it wasn't actually a dinosaur but instead a large flying bird that happened to live during the dinosaur times, as officially no dinosaurs flew. I try to explain to him that while I'm impressed with his knowledge, not everyone else needs to know quite so many specifics about them, and some people don't appreciate being corrected.

Then again, some people do like it. When we were at the St. Louis Science Center earlier this summer, there happened to be an exhibit on dinosaurs. One worker had a game of dino bingo. You had to name the dinosaur model she pulled from under the counter and see if it matched any of the (labeled) dinosaurs on your sheet.

Mister Man named each dinosaur without looking at his sheet. And as more dinosaurs were pulled, he would separate them into groups for the worker. Each was a grouping of the dinosaurs that lived during the era. Before I realized what he was doing, I noticed that some dinosaurs he would lay on their sides, and some were left standing. He soon explained that the ones on their sides were dinosaurs that came from earlier eras and were therefore dead by the time the other dinosaurs were around. The woman was impressed.

Mister Man's favorite song on the radio right now is - of course - "I Am A Paleontologist," which I think is awfully appropriate. I won't even try to type the lyrics, as there are too many dinosaurs I can barely pronounce in it, let alone spell. The song awakened the idea in him that he, too, could one day be a paleontologist and discover dinosaurs and work with them. The idea has him fascinated, and I'm waiting for the day when he asks to be a paleontologist for Halloween (in the meantime, I snagged a really neat clone trooper costume for him for $20).

I love seeing the passion for this awaken curiosity and creativity in my children. It amazes me how much they want to learn and how they see so many ways to use their knowledge and share it with others. It makes him even more motivated in school to learn the math and science he'll need, and I've emphasized how much writing he'll be doing as a paleontologist, taking notes of all he discovers.

This passion may fade, only to be replaced by another, just as Thomas was. But in the meantime, I'll be doing anything I can to encourage his curiosity and his thirst for knowledge. What else is a mom for?

This post was inspired by the new book "Dinosaurs on the Move: Movable Paper Figures to Cut Color, and Assemble" which I received as a part of the Left to Write book club.

As a side note, because I know people will ask - this was a really cool activity; however, needing to find and use brads to put the dinos together was a bummer. We have other dino assembly books that do not require additional materials.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

If you're up with Disney Princesses, I'm also giving away a family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here.

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


Today was to have been Little Miss's first day of kindergarten. I have been really looking forward to this day because I love seeing how she's growing up. She walked into Mister Man's classroom last winter and announced that she was going to have his teacher for kindergarten this year. She was so proud and so confident, and I loved it.

We shopped for her uniform - somewhat unsuccessfully, but we had enough to get by for awhile. She loved going school supply shopping and packing her bag to take to meet the teacher on Monday in preperation for her day today. I even booked a massage for tomorrow afternoon, once she and Mister Man were both in school for a full day.

I was excited to have - for the first time ever - both wee ones in the same school at the same time. No more rushing from place to place and having slightly different schedules. No more trying to figure out which PTO I was going to do what for and feeling like I never really had a complete home at either school. And no panicking that I'd miss pickup or the bus for one child or the other because of a commitment to the first child.

In the middle of Mister Man's meet the teacher on Monday afternoon, I received a call from a number I somewhat recognized but couldn't quite put my finger on. Since the meet the teacher for him was essentially just unloading our supplies with no welcome from the teacher or orientation or anything, I answered it.

Hello, is this Michelle? questioned a voice I didn't recognize.

Ummmm, yes.

Great this is (name of the person). Little Miss has been accepted into the dual language program, as we just had a family drop out. Are you still interested in it?



I dropped my bag and panicked. Wellll yes, we're still interested. It's a great program with the opportunity for her to be completely bilingual. And I would no longer have to pay private school tuition. And the schools are close enough that I could drop Little Miss off. And the daily schedules are different enough that no one would be late.

But there goes my easy little one school situation. And the friends that I have already made from the parents of kids that fill Little Miss's class. And the separation of the wee ones.

Figuring out school has never been easy with us.

But how do you turn down the opportunity for Little Miss? We'd tried to get Mister Man into the program last year and failed. We'd been told this spring that we hadn't won our way into it again. Until Monday.

She, of course, had been set on attending school with Mister Man, and he was so eager to be the big brother and show her the ropes. He was with me when I went to the office to tell them we were likely withdrawing Little Miss before school even started. And he was really sad. I hadn't realized how excited he was to be in school with her - and it was truly her that he was sad for.

I picked her up from my friend's house (I love my babysitting co-op, have I ever mentioned that?) and broke the news to her - with as positive a spin as I could. And thankfully, she was excited.

So I've spent the last few days registering her for the program and transferring her medical forms. We had another meet the teacher event today, and I practiced driving from one school to another. I found a friend from Little Miss's two year old preschool who was in the program and set up a playdate for today so she'd have a friend going into school.

And I canceled my massage for tomorrow.

Little Miss doesn't start until Monday. And she gets out of school an hour before Mister Man.

But that's ok. This is a great program, and Little Miss is looking forward to it. We've since found out that her second best friend from the last two years of preschool will be in her class. And I think a little separation will be good for them. Mister Man will be able to focus on his class and his friends instead of looking out for Little Miss and hanging with her all the time - and his social needs that. And Little Miss won't have to worry about following Mister Man and always being in his shadow - the younger sister of the brilliant older brother.

And me? I'm replanning my days. And getting involved in a second PTO. And figuring out what school supplies and uniforms I haven't taken tags off so that I can start to return them next week. And I refuse to panic about not knowing anything about a potential bus schedule until Friday at the earliest with school starting Monday.

It does get easier, right?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Annnnnd They're Off!

If you're up with Disney Princesses, I'm also giving away a family four pack of tickets to Disney on Ice in Chicago for the Wednesday September 8 performance here.

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


Yesterday, we had meet the teacher day. Mister Man was able to go to his classroom to drop off all his supplies and well, meet his teachers. I was able to find out that there were eighteen students in his first grade class - including more girls than last year. We both got to see that he knows many of the kids in his class and is friends with many of them already.


But today was the big day. We had to be up and out the door on time, and we added a new friend to our carpool. Somehow, it all worked out, and I even had time to get a few pictures of Mister Man for our annual first day of school montage.

Unfortunately, it was really sunny today, so he couldn't open his eyes all the way. I feel your pain, son, I feel your pain.

When we got to school, I asked that they wait by the entrance so I could take our traditional in front of school pictures, too. He obliged nicely - I was so proud.

And of course our new carpool buddy wanted to be in the picture with him, too. And so did Little Miss (who was to have started kindergarten tomorrow but now won't - and that's tomorrow's post). I absoluately love this picture - and only partly because they are all so happy to be together that they are voluntarily holding hands. Seriously, how sweet are they?

Once we got past the pictures, I was chopped liver. Mister Man and his friend almost ran to get to their classrooms (they sadly aren't in the same class this year). When Mister Man came back out to put his backpack in his cubby, I asked for a good-bye hug, which he granted and then sprinted back into the classroom.

His friend was standing on the other side of me, and she gave me the saddest look ever after he ran in. But I wanted to give him a good-bye hug, too!

Ahhhh, puppy love.

The best part of the day though? I found out that Mister Man had a wonderful green day. I'm so proud of him!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


The wee ones are starting school tomorrow. Or at least sort of. Mister Man is. And there's a whole tangle with Little Miss that is good, bad, and sad all rolled into one - but suffice it to say she won't be starting school on Wednesday as we'd initially anticipated. Trust me, there's more to blog on that later.

They have requested that they have waffles for breakfast tomorrow morning, but I sort of hate giving them the kind you can just pop in the toaster - as relatively healthy as they've gotten over the last few years. Instead, I had the brilliant idea to just make my own and then warm them up in the morning for yummier and healthier waffles.

The only problem is that I don't actually like waffles (the surprisingly delicious one I had from the truck at BlogHer, aside). And shockingly, I've never made them. For all the kitchen gadgets I do have, I don't have a waffle iron. I'm apparently that one person who didn't register for one when I got married - go fig.

That doesn't deter me in the least. I make a rockin' French Toast even though I abhor it. And I have great friends who are kind enough to lend me a waffle iron to test out my theory.

So tonight? I made waffles.

And according to my husband who graciously taste tested them, I won't be allowed to buy the frozen kind again. They're "restaurant quality" - which cracks me up, of course.


1 3/4 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 c water
1 1/2 t vanilla
6 T butter, melted

Preheat your waffle iron.

Melt the butter, and let it cool. Whisk together the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk and water, and whisk again. Add the cooled butter while whisking, then add the vanilla and mix.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir quickly and just enough to moisten - you want this lumpy and bumpy.

Use a measuring cup to pour the appropriate amount of batter for your iron (mine is 2/3 cup) and close the iron. Cook until the steam pouring forth slows to a trickle. Use a fork to remove the waffle and enjoy.

I suggest Nutella with sliced strawberries. Or just plain syrup, if you're my husband.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed with Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

That's Not How I Want To Wake Up

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


And now, it's Mister Man's turn. Poor kid.

So Thursday night around 10:30pm, I was just about sound asleep when I heard the pitter patter of Mister Man pounding into the bathroom outside my bedroom door. This is a fairly regular occurence, as he wakes up having to go - and he really has to go - in the middle of the night every night.

That night, however, I heard a howl just after he jumped into the bathroom. Ohhhhhhhh nooooo! I didn't mean to, I didn't mean to! It was an accident!

That's never a good sign.

I quickly hopped out of bed to see what was wrong. When I asked him, I got an incomprehensible answer, so I tried again. I started to make a little progresss with him, but it was still mostly gibberish.

Mommy, I don't know how it happened. It was in the washing machine, and it exploded everywhere and I don't know how I did it. Little Miss's Pull-Up was everywhere and now I have it and I don't know how I did it. I swear it was an accident.

By now I was confused but pretty sure it wasn't as dire a situation as I'd first feared. I knew he was referring to the horrific incident with Little Miss's Pull-Up when it met the washing machine, but I wasn't sure how that related to him.

I took a deep breath and began to calm him. It was then that I noticed his pjs pooled around his feet. With a Pull-Up inside them. I blinked and looked more closely. Yep, there was definitely a Pull-Up there. A pink one. And this from a boy who went from diapers 24/7 to being fulled p0tty trained in a matter of days.

The pieces slowly began to fall into place for me.

The wee ones had both been very tired at bedtime. And earlier that night, my husband had given each of them a shower. When it was Little Miss's turn, he had reminded her to go get a Pull-Up, as she'd apparently only brought in her nightgown. I'm guessing that she actually had brought in a Pull-Up that first go 'round, so there was a random Pull-Up on the bathroom counter when it was Mister Man's turn.

Poor tired boy, he wasn't paying attention (not an uncommon situation) when he put his pjs on, and he grabbed her Pull-Up instead of his underwe@r. He was none the wiser (how he can fit into a Pull-Up that is a size 2-3T is beyond me, by the way, but I won't ponder that mystery for right now) until his p0tty break in the middle of the night, when he was horrified by thinking that he had one of his sister's used, nasty Pull-Ups that had gone through the washer and had exploded and somehow attached itself to the inside of his pjs.

I probably would have howled had I thought that was happening to me, too. After I reassured him - and got him a pair of his own underwe@r - he was able to trot back off to bed and go back to sleep.

I was hoping that this one another of his nocturnal adventures that would be lost in the haze of sleep, as so many of our conversations at that hour are. Unfortunately, he recalled it in the morning . I'm guessing it was slightly too traumatic for him to ignore.

Now if only I could get Little Miss out of those Pull-Ups so this wouldn't be an issue (I've fully given up on my previous strategy; it was a miserable failure defined by mountains of laundry).

And let me clarify - that Pull-Up? It was a clean one. And a fresh one. It was the possibility he was horrified by, not the reality. Thank GOODness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Little Miss Smartypants

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


Today, I noticed that Little Miss was wearing a dress for the third day in a row. I was hoping that perhaps my discussion of her tomboy ways and needing an alien lunchbox might have subconsciously rubbed off on her and her hatred of skirts and dresses (since I have only been able to find a single pair of navy dress pants for girls that she needs for her school uniform).

I commented to her on it, and asked her:

Little Miss, I noticed you're wearing a dress again. Did you decide you like dresses now?

No. I do not like dresses, Mommy.

Ummm, if you don't like dresses, why are you wearing them?

Because I want to get rid of them.

Get rid of them? What do you mean?

Well, once I wear them, they go in the closet, and I won't have to wear them again.


It all becomes clear. My little angel would only wear her Vikings jersey and a couple other soccer and such shirts last school year. I finally had to tell her that clean clothes only went back into her closet and into the rotation after she'd worn her other clothes. Instead, the clean clothes were hung on the rack over the washing machine.

Someone thinks too much.

Of course, she hasn't realized that come Tuesday she'll only be wearing her uniform, so dress or not becomes a non-issue. Shhhhhh!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That's My Ummmm Girl?

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


Little Miss had her five year checkup today at the doctor. Everything went relatively well. She's still in the 75th percentile in height (43 1/2 inches - whoo) and 10th percentile in weight (yay to adjustible waistband clothing). We were both thrilled that she had no shots, and the doctor found that she was developing completely normally.

As many pediatricians do, she has a great way with kids. She talks to them about things that they (should) find interesting and compliments them when they do things well. And yes, we're still working on her learning her address, but hey - at least the phone number part is done.

Halfway through the appointment, the doctor gave Little Miss a huge smile.

So who's your favorite princess? she asked, innocently.

Princess Leia! Little Miss somewhat lisped.

Oh, I mean who is your favorite Disney princess? she clarified kindly.

Little Miss fixed her with a gimlet stare. I don't like Disney princesses. At that point she tossed her head and sniffed haughtily. My older brother's favorite guy from Star Wars is Princess Leia, too.

The poor pediatrician took the hint, and the Star Wars conversation was off. But those poor Disney princesses. I suppose this is also why Little Miss now has an alien lunchbox instead of the pretty pink one or the lovely flowered one my mom was trying to talk her into.

I have to admit, I admire her for knowing - and stating - her mind so clearly. Even though it makes me giggle sometimes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Proof That Summer Is Almost Over

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


It's almost here. I can feel the cold breath of fall even when the humidity is still keeping my hair in a near constant ponytail and the temperature is threatening hte power of my air conditioner.

How do I know summer is almost over? It isn't because I'm madly searching for school supplies and the wee ones go back to school. It isn't because I know I'm going to spend the next few days trying on uniforms and figuring out what we need to replace for the coming year.

Nope, I have far more effective proof.

Mister Man was swimming the other day, doing his usual jumping into the pool and swimming around, playing with a noodle, seeing how long he can hold his breath (his record is an unverified thirty-five seconds), and the like.

As we was swimming across the pool, a look of sheer panic crossed his face. He grabbed at his stomach and doubled over, treading water. He made it to the other side, climbed out, and looked down. I heard him wimpering and peered over at him.

He was clutching the shirt of his swimsuit in both hands, trying to piece it back together. It had somehow ripped from the bottom all the way up to his neck where the double stitching around his neck held strong. Upon closer examination, it had simply shredded.

My 51 inch tall son who usually wears a size seven could still fit into his 4T swimsuit (thankfully he's somewhat slim) because it just kept stretching and stretching. The more he swam, the more it grew with him. It finally gave up the ghost, however.

Unlike Little Miss's swimsuit that shredded in the middle of a swim lesson at the end of last summer, his didn't render him indecent. I instructed him to simply take off the swim shirt, throw it in the garbage, and resume swimming shirtless - with sunscreen liberally applied to his farmer's tan belly.

I decided it was time to take a look at my own beloved swimsuit. The one with the oh so cute little skirt that looked fashionable instead of old lady. The fun pattern that detracted from the parts of my physique that I didn't wish to emphasize. The swimsuit I could simply put on and not have to look in a mirror and decide whether it was flattering or not because it was flat out what I own and what I was going to wear.

I noticed my own suit had stretched out over time. It was longer in the shirt than I remembered it being. And looser, too. In fact, the front and back drooped, while the side seam again held its original length. As I examined the skirt, I noticed a few places where the fabric was disintegrating to the point where I could start to see through it.

I looked more closely at the shirt part of my swimsuit. And I realized that too was becoming more transparent than I wished. And I certainly wasn't about to have it rip in half while swimming across the pool.

This morning, I bade farewell to my swimsuit by tossing it in the garbage - as hard as that was to do - primarily because this means that I need to once again go swimsuit shopping.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but there are certain desserts I like. While chocolate isn't my favorite, I could snack on homemade Twix bars for awhile. Or granola.

I generally don't like cake either. When I go to a restaurant, I'd never order cake for dessert. And at birthday parties? I generally pass on cake, knowing that it will be ... ok but probably not worth the calories or the slightly sick feeling I'll have later.

But the carrot cake I make? Ohhhhh that's another one I could sit and just grab a tiny piece of every time I walked by the pan. It isn't the fancy seven layer one that you see in the "real" bakeries, and this is more of a spice cake than some of the ones I've had, but I adore it.

Uhhh shockingly, the cake is gone and I didn't manage to get any pictures of it. Sorry. Again.

Carrot Cake

1 c. wheat germ
2/3 c. flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg, fresh ground
1/2 t. cloves, fresh ground
1 t. allspice
1/2 t. salt
1 c raisins
25 baby carrots, grated
3 eggs
2/3 c. vegetable oil

8 oz cream cheese (or neufchatel to lower fat -- it works fine)
5 T butter, unsalted
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 t vanilla

Makes one 13x9 cake, cut into 28 pieces.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 pan.

Add raisins to small saucepan and cover with water. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes while putting together the other ingredients.

Use food processors' grating blade to grate the baby carrots. This will make about 3 c of shredded carrots.

Mix together dry ingredients for cake. Add oil and eggs to a well in the center of dry ingredients. Stirring as little as possible, mix to combine. Add carrots and drained raisins and mix again. There will be just enough batter to hold together the carrots and raisins.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 for 35 or so minutes (until cake tester comes out clean).

Let the cake cool thoroughly before frosting or the frosting will melt on the cake.

For the frosting, use a food processor for best results. Also, keep the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temp. Put all frosting ingredients into food processor and blend for about 10 seconds (pulsing) until creamy. Be careful not to overmix or it will break down. Use a spatula to combine the remaining bits of sugar, etc.

Frost the cake and enjoy!
Find recipes like this and more at Tempt My Tummy with Blessed with Grace!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

She's Still Got It!

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


Today, we spent the majority of the day at the pool. It's amazing to me to watch how the wee ones have become so comfortable in the water, no matter how often we swim. Mister Man is no longer the only one in the family who can swim 25 meters unaided, and I think Little Miss is actually a faster swimmer than him now - though he has better form.

Although we were there for almost the whole day, there were times that not all of us were at the pool at the same time. At one point, my mom, the wee ones, my husband, and I were in the pool near the edge. I was playing "bally-ball" with Little Miss (her version of volleyball with a beach ball) while Mister Man was spraying my mom with water from his noodle.

Since it was such a gorgeous day, we weren't the only ones at the pool. It was crowded with all sorts of other people - and some of them are friendlier than others.

One in particular was rather enjoying a conversation with my mom. The near Speedo'd older man had a gold hoop in one ear and other gold jewelry affectations. He had a tattoo on his wrist and was holding a cup of beer in his hand as he shamelessly flirted with my mom.

My mom, of course, was quite polite to him and one could accuse her of flirting, too. Because that's just how she is. I suppressed a grin, internally enjoying the scene while I once again fetched a ball volleyed a little too far behind me.

My husband swam over to us and said - a little too loudly - Hey, Mister Man, do you suppose that Grandpa will be joining us soon?

Wow, was it amazing how fast the near Speedo'd dude got out of the pool and went elsewhere. My husband and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Awhile later, I asked my mom about him. Mom, did you notice how quickly the guy who was flirting with you got out of the water once Husband mentioned the word "Grandpa?"

What guy who was flirting with me?

Ummm the one who was wearing the almost Speedo and talking to you with the beer in his hand? You know - with the really cool gold hoop earring?

She just looked at me blankly. She had no idea anyone was flirting with her. None whatsoever.

Lucky for her, if anything ever were to happen to my dad, she's still got it. She may not recognize it, but she's got it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's A New World Record!

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


We have recently introduced the wee ones to a new game. They are absolutely loving Uno, although Mister Man has decided that he's retired for a week now because he's won too many times and it's someone else's turn.

I've yet to win. And we're absolutely not giving either of the wee ones an advantage. In fact, I've yet to even get down to Uno. We're all still having a blast with it, though.

I remember playing games growing up and having them last maybe ten or fifteen minutes. Every once in awhile, we'd have a game where we had to reshuffle the played cards because the game was going long, but it wasn't super common.

Enter the wee ones. We played a game yesterday that lasted an hour and twenty-two minutes. Today, we had a game go for well over two hours. And yes, there were multiple deck shufflings happening in both games.

Part of the reason the games go so long is because the wee ones draw past cards they could have played simply because they had a strategy. They wanted to save wild cards for the end to ensure they could go out. I wasn't the one to teach them this strategy (that would be my husband - and he soon regretted it).

Mister Man was pretty good at holding his cards in his hand - until he had too many. Little Miss had a different strategy where she'd lay all the cards facedown on the glass table and then swing underneath to see if she had any cards she could play. Mental and physicaly exercise for her.

There were times when the wee ones had more than thirty cards in their hands because somehow they were missing the color that was being played and somehow didn't have the number played either. They simply continued to draw.

I was ok with this. They had to learn that what they were doing wasn't actually helping them win in the end - with some judicious advice but not commandeering their games. It drove my husband batty. He couldn't stand watching them continue to draw. He hated seeing the game extended - again.

But really, where did we have to be? What did we have to do that was more important than playing a game with our children? What would we rather hear than the delighted squeals of joy as they once again "caught" us with a draw four or skip card?

Me? I'm hoping I'm sitting at that table again tomorrow hoping against hope that I'll be able to get to shout Uno and then play that very last card but being totally happy if I once again end the game with eighteen cards still in my hand.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

I'm giving away our new favorite book - Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten here.

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


I wrote a little while ago about how the handle on the door to my refrigerator broke off. Trust me, you want to go read that post for the backstory.

While I was at BlogHer last week, my husband had a big week at home by himself - since my parents had taken the wee ones to Florida. I called the first evening I was gone to talk to him.

So how's it been going? Are you having a good day?

Well, I managed to get in two naps. And I dropped off my car at the dealer. Oh, and I waited for the Sears guy to come.

Yep, that's the extent of my husband's day. Ok, five days I was gone. We won't get into the details of what I would have done had I been home by myself or the differences between men and women. That's an entirely different post.

The Sears man he referred to did come, and he repaired the door to the fridge. Finally. We'd had to cancel a few appointments prior to this, but we finally again have a fully functioning door and handle.

He was so proud to show it off to me once I arrived home on Sunday.

Look how shiny. And clean.

He offered to fill up my water bottle for me, and he opened the fridge to get to our water pitcher. He didn't use the new handle. Nope, just as he's done for the past ummmmm sixteen months, he reached to the top of the fridge and used the door itself to open the fridge.

It's possible that I've done the same once or twice. I'm trying really hard to remember that you can use a handle to open a fridge. And that we once again have one. It's surprisingly tough.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How To Host A Party

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


I've been seeing a ton of BlogHer recap posts, and I know I've got one or two in me to write. Before I get to that, I have another topic to address. One of the big areas of focus this year has been the parties - both private and not - that happen outside the conference themselves. Were they all successful? Ummm no. Are there things that organizers and brands can do to improve them? Absolutely.

An Open Letter To Brands Hosting Parties At BlogHer

Dear All,

Thank you so much for hosting the parties you put on at BlogHer (and elsewhere). It's a great idea and an excellent opportunity to showcase yourselves and your brands. Trust me, most bloggers love the opportunity to have some fun while being out and about somewhere they otherwise wouldn't (especially the mommies among us who may not have as much adult interaction as we'd like).

When you host a party, however, it's important to make sure that you're doing everything you can to make sure it's successful and that people there walk out of it talking about it - in a postive manner. And unfortunately, at BlogHer, that didn't always happen.

There were some absolutely great parties - and different things about different parties made them stand out. But there were some parties I heard about that I was glad I wasn't invited to. And some that I attended that I left early.

One important factor is to make sure that you have the right number of people there. While you don't want to have six attendees for a large space, you also don't want to be in a situation where people feel claustrophobic trying to maneuver in the party. I know people are always angling for invites, but you're better off keeping the guest list manageable and having a great party for those who can and do attend. While people might be disappointed that they weren't invited, it's better than being miserable at a party. Invite a more intimate group (and that can be 50-80 people easily) but make it a great experience for them. The 200 or 300 people parties become more about the venue and too generic.

And once people are at your party? Make sure there's something for them to do. I attended more than one party where we were completely left to our own devices - we got a drink and had some passed appetizers and chatted amongst ourselves. That isn't a great representation of a brand, especially if the attendees don't know each other at all. I had the most fun at parties where there was a diversion - be it someone cooking, some sort of a project to make, an interactive presentation by the brand, games to play, etc.

And since we're typically women attending the parties, we dress up. That involves wearing heels that aren't always the most comfortable shoes. And it's possible that we didn't wear the smartest shoes earlier in the day, either. Please please please offer us a way to sit down. I can't tell you how many parties I attended without a single chair. On the other hand, some parties had great groupings of seating that made it fun and easy to sit and chat with friends.

Working in the business world, I've heard and lived "underpromise and overdeliver" time and time again. I attended more than one party where something was touted as being at the party - from makeovers to chatting with a celebrity to br@ fittings and more - that simply didn't materialize. Either there weren't enough makeup artists to get through the attendees or the "fitting" was a chart that a rep walked you through. I would have been happy without those things if I weren't expecting them. I'd rather be happily surprised by massage chairs for five minute wakeup massages than anticipate something fun and see that it won't happen.

With BlogHer requiring all on-site parties to be by sponsors of BlogHer, that meant that many parties were held far from the hotel. I was so impressed by some of the brands that proactively communicated with attendees letting us know how to get to the location - with walking, cab and subway directions. That was a huge help and such a pleasant surprise. And the brands that set up shuttles to get attendees to and from the parties? That took so much stress away and was a really unexpected plus.

Several parties got knocked for making changes once invitations had been sent out. I know that things change, and that's how the world works. However, there were a few parties that changed venues, that mismanaged their invitee list and would only be able to get guests in first come, first served. Let's just say that's going to backfire via word of mouth. Hugely. Delay sending out your invites for a couple days if you need to, but get as much solidified as possible before you start inviting people. Perception is, after all, reality.

At the same time, give invitees enough time to respond. I was amazed hearing from friends that people were still receiving invites in the days before BlogHer started. While some invites and save the dates went out in June, others were far too late. I know I was traveling starting Wednesday morning and had gotten my schedule set a week earlier. I received a couple invites for parties I would have loved to attend, but I had already made other commitments. And once I say I'm going to do something, I won't back out.

With how BlogHer has been evolving, I think more and more people are arriving early and staying late for conferences now. I heard a lot of people say this year that they are planning to arrive in San Diego on Tuesday next year and stay until later on Sunday. Use that extra time to your advantage. Not everyone will be able to come, but it's a great way to separate yourself from the pack. And if you send out your invites early enough, people will be able to plan their travel around your event.

I also went to some events where swag was given only to those invited and their guests were given nothing. Some people weren't sure who was a guest and who was invited, but ... how does that make the guest feel? We don't need swag at every party. Sure, it's fun to get and some of it is really neat, but I'd rather have a great time at a great party and go home with nothing (as I did at a few parties) than have half the attendees feel marginalized as they're walking out - their last impression of the party.

Another issue for some parties was getting people into them. If you've invited a large number of people to that party, make sure that there is more than a single elevator that takes ten people at a time to the point that it takes over forty-five minutes to get in. If the party says it is starting on the hour, don't make people wait outside telling them you'll open the doors "in two minutes" until twenty-five minutes past the hour. If you're crossing names off a guest list, do it efficiently. Have more than one person doing it, and make sure you're going quickly. Nothing kills the vibe or buzz about a party more than having to sit around and wait for something you're anticipating. You don't just want to end on a positive note, you want to begin on one, too.

No one hosts a party not wanting it to go well. And I can only imagine the nightmares that the organizers go through trying to pull everything together - and dealing with some of the more pushy people out there - but there are simple things that can easily be done in some cases to make it a more positive experience. We all want to have fun, and hopefully some of this will help make more parties more fun next year.

And if you want some help planning those parties? Well, let's just say that I put spreadsheets together for fun. I'm a planning junkie.

Hugs and kisses,

PS For attendees, what other things did I miss that work really well and that don't work?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pre-BlogHer Recap

Holy cow! Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that you don't know where to start? That's me thinking about my BlogHer experience. I had so much fun and packed so much into five days that I've just been sitting here looking at a blank screen trying not to hyperventilate.

I have a plan now though... today we discuss all the fun that we had in New York prior to the start of the actual conference. Then we'll delve into the conference itself - specifically my recommendations for brands who are looking to connect with bloggers while at BlogHer or any other conference. I have lots of opinions about that - and if you do, too, share them! It can only make things more productive for everyone.

But let's start with before the conference starts, shall we? Please excuse the lack of pictures. Since I don't have a fancy camera (yet), I felt rather inadequate taking out my little point and shoot around everyone else who was taking fantastic pictures, so I didn't take nearly so many as I'd once hoped I would.

Melisa and I flew out to New York together. She booked the 6am flight on Wednesday and talked me into joining her. While that meant getting up way earlier than any human should have to (at O'Hare only one security line was open, if that tells you anything), it was worth it to have the whole day in front of us.

Miraculously, our flight arrived early in New York, and we quickly gathered our luggage and got into the near-vacant cab line. Remembering the advice Patty had given, I asked our cabbie to take us to 6th Avenue, between 53rd and 54th. It's possible I had minor panic walking up to the line trying to remember where our hotel was, but my brain somehow woke up enough to pass along that tidbit before going back to sleep. I think I sounded like someone who knew what she was doing.

Once we arrived, Melisa and I headed up to Central Park to do some reconnoisance for our 5K on Friday. Ok, so really we were walking to check out the Shake Shack's location for lunch later that day. Much like those plans, we never made it to check it out before our roommate Sue called to say that she was on her way from Penn Station to the hotel.

Once we picked up Sue, we were off on our "sugar day," as I called it. We started out in Soho at Dean & DeLuca's original store, which was really foodie heaven. I could have stayed there for hours, but other places beckoned.

For example, we had to get lemonade at Balthazaar - where Melisa did not trip in the intersection and meet Brad Pitt, much to her sister's disappointment. And yum, was that good lemonade!

Our next stop was Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes - and yes, again we were headed to the original. As we began our walk, Melisa and I noticed the same cute little shop. And when I say little, I mean l.i.t.t.l.e. It was literally one of those New York places that is a hole in the wall with shutters they open to the street. And they sold mini filled cupcakes with flavors like cookie dough and mint chocolate chip and PB&J.

Just because we were on our way to get cupcakes doesn't mean that we couldn't have mini cupcakes first. They were truly tiny. Amongst ourselves, we came up with three different flavors to try, and they came in a little paper tray - so adorable.

I looked at my friends and asked who wanted to try first. Sue picked up the mint chocolate chip cupcake and popped it in her mouth. Melisa and I looked at each other in shocked silence for a moment before both bursting into uncontrollable laughter. Poor Sue. Apparently she hadn't quite understood our intention of each taking a bit of the three cupcakes to try them all. Melisa and I shared the remaining two cupcakes, however, and then we were off to our original destination.

As we were walking, we happened upon a photo shoot. There was a pretty fashionably dressed woman doing interseting poses on a street corner with men holding up and then putting down sun filters as the clouds came and went. Up the street, we could see a "Got Milk" truck, but when we asked the photographer on our way back what the shoot was for (they were on a break then and no one was around but him), he insisted it was for birth control. We don't believe him. None of us recognized the model though.

We finally got to Magnolia and chose our cupcakes. It's a tiny little store, and the cupcake selection wasn't quite what I was expecting. You choose a box (or a plate) and pick up your own cupcake - essentially chocolate or vanilla - with either chocolate frosting or a pastel colored frosting. Somehow, I was expecting... more. More unique flavors or decorations or something. The rest of the bakery had all sorts of neat stuff that I was drooling over, but we came for cupcakes and I got my cupcake. Yes, the purple one.

From there, we hoofed it back to the hotel to meet our other roommate Momo. Melisa and I changed for tea at the Plaza (yep, more sugar and more on this event later). After tea? I met up with our group at Serendipity where there were people waiting outside with their luggage. It's was a great people watching opportunity.

Serendipity though? I would be find never heading back there again. The food was completely mediocre - and the waiter messed up two people's orders. The famous frozen hot chocolate we went there for (I know, I know... more sugar!) were beautiful, but they were really hard to drink. The chocolate chunks kept getting caught on the bottom of my straw, as did the chunks of not blended enough ice. The frozen chocolate itself tasted pretty good, but it wasn't easy to drink. And the whipped cream on top? Ick. I like whipped cream, but this one had no flavor whatsoever. And of course friends of mine who live in New York heard I went there and immediately had other recommendations of better places to get the frozen hot chocolate. Oh well!

After stuffing ourselves with yet more sugar (I was smart enough to share mine at least), we walked over to Dylan's Candy Bar. Wow is that place huge. It's of course way different from the quaint, old fashioned, super long dark wood bar I'd pictured in my head. It was bright and loud and smelled like all sorts of candy (best time for me to go, as I had zero interest in even touching any of the candy there at that point). The two floors were very fun to explore, and they had just about anything and everything you could imagine. I did find it interesting that the international candy section contained only Japanese candies, but that's just me.

You'd think we'd be done at that point, but somehow we weren't. We hung out in the lobby bar for a bit, chatting. And somehow we learned that the waffle truck was parked outside for the bloggers available and was giving out their special waffles.

We decided to investigate. We weren't really going to eat any. After all, we'd eaten so much already. But no one else was ordering anything, and the guys (Paul and ... ummm his partner) were really nice and funny. So the three of us decided to split a single waffle. We ordered it with a special Nutella like spread that has a graham cracker like taste. And Nutella. And strawberries. It was heaven. It really was too bad that we could only eat a little of it.

From there? It's possible that we just collapsed into bed, knowing what was coming the next day.

On Thursday morning, we woke up early (again) so we could take the subway down to Brooklyn and then walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge. At 7am, this was gorgeous. There were a few runners and bikers, but the bridge was quiet and peaceful - with mostly us oblivious girls wandering across it and taking a zillion pictures.

I loved how there were the points of interest along the bridge where you could stop to read about the history of the bridge and what New York looked like at various points in history. Curious me loved reading all that. My favorite part though? Ohhhh the beautiful breeze that buffetted us as we walked.

I found it really impressive that there were serious joggers going across the bridge. There was a man who was obviously in much better shape than his partner, but you could see him cheering her on and her continuing because of that. There were the commuters biking across to get to work. And there was the sweat soaked woman with a small bag over one shoulder. We saw her later at one of the open areas of the bridge. She was leading a fitness class with another six or so people right on the bridge. It was so inspiring to see her doing that - knowing she was following a passion and had found a way to make a living at it and also realizing that her workout when we saw her had only just begun.

Once across the bridge, we walked over to Ground Zero. On our way, we saw a great founding in City Hall Park, so we decided to stop to take a picture of it (ok, the camera experts did - I was along for the ride though). As we got closer, we realized that it wasn't just the fountain we'd be taking a picture of. Inside the fountain was a man. He appeared to be bathing. We didn't get close enough to confirm whether he did or did not retain his clothing.

Once at Ground Zero, we wandered a bit. It was surprisingly crowded there, and the signage wasn't all we'd hoped. While there was a ton of information on the fences surrounding the construction site, the observation deck has been removed (or at least it doesn't exist where my Droid's GPS took us - and on a side note, BOO to Google Maps for taking away the walking and public transportation navigation with the most recent upgrade; this was not cool). We did visit Engine Company Number 10, which was the fire station located nearest the fallen towers and were the first responders. The memorials there were so moving, and I'm grateful that it's still an operational firehouse. We thought about visiting the Ground Zero Museum, but it wasn't open yet since we had been up and out so early that morning!

Instead, we walked over to Chinatown where we saw all sorts of neat little shops, although we didn't have a ton of time to browse them. We were accosted by the "Gucci, Coach, Prada, Luis Vuitton" criers who were eager to show us their wares in back rooms. We didn't go. I wish we had more time to explore Chinatown - and have some dim sum - but it wasn't to be.

As the noon our approached, our group sans me headed back to the hotel for various tours they were starting. I walked up past NYU to Bar Six where I met two high school friends for lunch. I had some extra time, so I did some wandering of the streets in the general area which was fun. This also provided my most entertaining experience of the weekend. As I was walking, a woman stopped me to ask me for directions. And the best part? I knew how to get to the street she was looking for. I am a rock star.

Lunch with my friends was great. Bar Six has awesome and unique food and is a really neat and quiet atmosphere, perfect for catching up with friends I hadn't seen in two years. Time with them always flies too fast, but hearing what they're up to and sharing some fun stories made it a great hour plus. And it reminds me that I need to spend more time with my friends just relaxing and catching up.

Once my lunch was over, it was time for me to start my conference activities. But in the twenty-six hours before that, I think we did a pretty good job exploring New York! And I wonder why I'm tired now!

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