Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Allergy Free Trick Or Treating - Or Not.

While the wee ones love all parts of Halloween, there's a few small sticking points for us.  The candy is the big one, as Little Miss has a dairy allergy, and none of us eat HFCS, plus we avoid dyes and other nasties.  That limits the candy we end up eating each year, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It's hard for the wee ones - especially Little Miss who usually ends up with just a few bags of pretzels - and I always have a stock of "trade" items on hand that are treats I know they can eat.  We're lucky, though.  A local organization put together an allergen free trick or treat for the special needs children in the area, knowing that so many are on restricted diets and can eat none of the candy they collect.

It's a brilliant idea, and I love that the neighborhood bands together to do this.  They even have tables at the ends of their driveways for the most part so the kids can trick or treat more easily instead of having to go all the way up to each of the houses.  One neighbor also creates an incredible haunted house for the kids to go through - altering the scary factor based on the requests of the kids going through in each wave.  This year, one person even rented a giant bouncy house so the kids could play once they finished trick or treating.


Here's where I start to feel ungrateful.  There were eight houses participating this year.  That isn't the issue.  My irritation - and I feel slightly justified in it because this was advertised as allergen free - is that this is what we collected from the eight houses:

Treats collected from the allergen free trick or treat that weren't allergen free

So the most common allergens are peanuts, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.  Many more children have issues with corn, even though it isn't in the major 8 - yet.  In fact, companies are now required to label when their products have any of the big four: nuts, wheat, dairy or soy.  Most of the special needs children are on the spectrum (including Mister Man), and many of those are on gluten free, dairy free diets.  More avoid HFCS and dyes, including many who are diagnosed with ADHD.

I appreciate that many of the houses decided to go "natural" for the allergen free trick or treating.  But they missed the boat.  Natural is not allergen free.

The Pop Chips contain dairy.  The Barbara's contains wheat and soy and is produced in a factory with milk, eggs, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, and coconut.  The breakfast cookies contain wheat, soy, eggs, and are produced in a factory with wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, eggs, and dairy.  The Back to Nature contains wheat, egg, milk, and soy.  The Sunkist "fruit flavored" snacks?  There's no ingredient listing on them, but I can tell you that fruit flavored snacks will contain HFCS and dyes.

So of the eight items we collected - oh, they also handed out prepopped popcorn in bags that contained dairy, wheat, and soy, I forgot that one - Little Miss can have one.  The big event that she's most excited about because she can actually eat the treats she collects was a bust because unfortunately people don't understand allergies.  She was inconsolable, and I don't blame her.  She was looking forward to this for weeks.

And I feel like a complete schmo for complaining, but... it's advertised as an allergen free trick or treat, and it wasn't anything of the kind.  And she's my neurotypical kid.  Try explaining to a more profoundly impacted child that the candy they can eat... they can't now.  It was so disappointing and so unnecessarily so.

The concept is brilliant.  And Surf Sweets has great allergen free candy.  So does Yummy Earth.  Indie Candy makes wonderful allergen free candy.  Strawberry Hill sells all kinds of allergen free candies.  There's even Glee Gum that is an allergy free alternative.  And that's just a small sampling of the companies I buy from regularly that I know are allergy free.  There's a ton more out there.  None of it was included in what the houses handed out this year, but it could have been if there was better education of what allergen free means.

I love the idea.  I love that the neighbors are willing to do this special event.  But creating the special event and then providing items that the children can't enjoy makes it worse than not having it at all.  Because they're kids.  And they don't get why they can't enjoy an event created for them.  Next year, we may not go because I don't want the wee ones to have this disappointment again - and I can't take on another project so it gets done right (so I say now; watch, I'll end up spearheading this in another eight months).

Because we have allergies in our house and because we know so many who have severe allergies, we always provide an alternative to traditional candy.  I wrote Monday about the book or treat option I'm having this year.  And I'm passing our Plants vs. Zombies trading cards.  And we have a small stash of "special" allergen free candy for those who request it.

What do you hand out for Halloween?  Do you have children with allergies?  How do you handle it if you do?

Updated: I have since found out that the treats that were provided by the neighbors for the special needs allergy free trick or treat was purchased by the special needs organization that arranged this.  So the people who put it together who are supposed to be smart about this and advertised it as allergy free were the ones who provided the treats that absolutely were not allergy free.  I've moved past disappointed to disgusted and very sad.  These are people who are supposed to know better!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cream Of Celery Soup - Tasty Tuesday!

It's cold in Chicago now.  Our beautiful days of sunshine and 70s are gone.  It's no longer easy, comfortable, or even possible to go outside without a coat.  In my mind, we've officially entered Soup Season.  Earlier this week, I made my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, and it was good.  Last night, I did a new one, and it was awesomely yummy and again perfectly healthy.

Interestingly, my Cream of Celery Soup doesn't require any cream or milk.  And since I was in the process of doing a 14 day gluten free challenge, I was happy to make this gluten free, too.  Potato does an amazing job of making a beautiful thick texture and a creamy taste.  I've used this technique before with my potato and corn chowder that has barely any milk in it.  It feels wrong calling it "cream of" when there's no cream or milk, but this is exactly what it tastes like.

And this soup was good.  Even my husband who doesn't like celery ate it, and Little Miss kept taking spoonfuls from my bowl after she finished hers.  That's a good sign, right?

Bowl of cream of celery soup

Cream of Celery Soup

6 good size celery stalks (about a pound, but my digital scale broke, so I'm guesstimating)
1 medium baking potato
2 T oil or butter
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c dry wine
4 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make vegan)
1/2 t nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Chop your celery into small pieces.  I cut my stalks in half lengthwise (after washing them well) and then chopped them into 1/2 inch pieces or so.  In a heavy soup pan, heat the oil (or butter).  Add the celery and cook over medium low heat.  Stir, then chop the onion after peeling it. The onion should be about the same size as the celery.  Add the onion to the pot and continue to cook.

Cut the potato into similar small chunks.  Personally, I like keeping the potato skin on, so I don't peel it.  If you feel differently, go ahead and peel it.  You want these smaller than you normally would so that they cook more quickly in the soup.

Cut potato into fairly small pieces for cream of celery soup

Smash the garlic and remove the skins.  Add the smashed garlic to the onions and celery and cook for a few more minutes, stirring periodically.  You want to cook it until the onion is fairly translucent but before it truly caramelizes.  At this point, add the wine, and cook it down until the wine has reduced by about half.

Cook the onion and celery until the wine is about half reduced

Add the potato after the wine has reduced, which will only take a few minutes.  Then add the chicken stock - adding the potato first means you don't get splashes of stock.  I'm always thinking, and no, I didn't learn that one the hard way, why?  Add the nutmeg, and stir once.

Bring this to a boil (cover it to bring it to a boil more quickly, then remove the cover once it boils), then turn it down to a simmer.  Cook for 15-20 minutes when the potatoes are soft but not mushy.

Use your immersion blender - still my favorite kitchen gadget - to puree the soup.  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use your regular blender.  You'll puree it in batches.  Don't fill your blender more than one-third full of a hot liquid, and be sure to use a kitchen towel to hold the lid on.  You don't want the pressure from blending hot liquid to case the top to fly off and spray scalding liquid, so be careful (see, this is why I love my immersion blender - it reduces danger, and it's useful).

The immersion blender makes pureeing the cream of celery soup easy

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.  This is fantastic, even for me who doesn't like celery.  It's a light, fresh and slightly sweet flavor that is a perfect fall dinner.  Because this is such a light soup, it may work better as part of a meal rather than the entire entree.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Book or Treat

Halloween is almost here again, and I'm getting ready for the crush of children and teens who will bombard our house once again this year.  We average well over 350 trick or treaters each year at our house.  Our neighborhood is the place to be.

This year, I'm doing things a little differently.  Just a little.  I talked about how I'll be handing out free Plants vs. Zombies games, but that isn't the only non-candy alternative I'll be distributing.  But then I was cleaning out our bookshelf.  Again.  I'm not sure where all our books come from, but we seem to collect them like other people collect dust bunnies.

Many of them are books that the wee ones have long outgrown and are no longer interested in reading.  And we're lucky that they tend to take pretty good care of their books, so they're in good condition, too.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that I could very easily share our wealth of books with many of the younger kids who come trick or treating at our house.

So we're putting these books into a large bowl.  We'll have it available along with the candy so children can choose which they prefer.  Without a doubt, there will be many who will choose the candy, but I'm betting that there will be many who will choose a new-to-them book instead of the candy.  And I'll bet their parents will be thrilled.

Bowl of books to hand out instead of candy for Halloween

Now that's a win-win-win.

What are you doing for your trick or treaters this year?

Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm A Saint Who Washes Dishes

It's always enlightening to hear what your children think of you.  Their opinions and perspectives are so often skewed - and so frequently entertaining.  My husband couldn't wait to share what the wee ones had to say about me this past week.

While at Sunday school, the family activity was to build scarecrows representing the saints they were studying.  As the group talked about saints, the teachers asked them to think about what saints were.  The children came up with people who act selflessly, who do good things, and the usual platitudes.  When asked for examples of people they thought were saint like, Mister Man came up with a long list that included John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.  Little Miss's list was much shorter.  Just "Mommy."  Apparently, I am a saint to her.

When we got home, I asked her why she thought I was a saint.  Because you cook and clean for us all the time, Mommy.

The girl's got a brain in her head.

Little Miss, angelic

And on Tuesday at Cub Scouts, the den leader was talking about occupations and how important they are.  He shared his job and asked the children to talk a little about their parents' jobs.

Mister Man apparently piped right up with, Well, my mom doesn't have a job.  She doesn't really work.  She just does laundry and cooks all day.  She used to have a job at a bank, but now she doesn't anymore.

That child needs to have a little talking to.  And for the record "now she doesn't anymore" isn't code for me being laid off.  I'm pretty sure my husband is still laughing somewhere.

Mister Man thinks I don't have a job but enjoys my cooking

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Have We Voted Yet?

I love the #VlogMom prompts because they make me think.  And this was a much longer vlog than I thought it would be (ok, just over 3 minutes, but still...), and after I was done, I still had more to say that I left unsaid.  For now.

This week, Julie Meyers Pron from Julieverse asks:

What do you think of this year's political season?  Not what do you think of politics and your beliefs, but the season and how it's gone.  Have things gotten out of hand?  Has the media been fair and even?  Are you exhaused?  Too many phone calls, doorbell rings, etc?  What do you REALLY think?

I feel like a bad citizen.  I really do.  But tired is definitely the word that sums it all up for me right now.  How about you?  Are you dressing your kids in racially charged political t-shirts like I've seen on some of my friends' children?  Are you out canvassing or sharing your every political thought on Facebook?  Or are you done with it all for one reason or another?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Four Eyes? Nah, We're Sixteen Eyes!

Little Miss started saying at the end of the last school year that things were fuzzy.  As she admired both my glasses and the ones that Mister Man now wore all the time instead of just for board work, I wasn't surprised.  Don't tell anyone, but when I was a kid, I faked an eye exam just so I could have glasses.  And I could totally see Little Miss doing the same thing.

So I blew her off.

Great mom moment, yes?  Then came June when Venus made a transit across the sun.  Mister Man was beyond thrilled that he had made a special viewer in school.  That afternoon, our whole family trooped outside to take turns with Mister Man's cardboard tube of wonder where we could see the little black dot moving across the sun.

Well, most of us could see it.  Little Miss couldn't find it.  Neither could I, but then I got smart and grabbed my prescription sunglasses, and voila there was Venus!  Little Miss still couldn't find it.  And so I offered her my sunglasses, with one eye nearsighted and the other eye farsighted.  She looked goofy with them on, but she closed one eye and gasped.  Mom!  I can see it!

So apparently she really is nearsighted.  Oops.

So yes, I took her to see an optometrist.  It may have been a month later, but she was busy with summer school and then went out of town for two weeks - I get a pass on that, right?  And she officially needs glasses, just like the rest of us.  The whole family is four-eyed now.

But I think she looks the cutest in her glasses.

Little Miss modeling her glasses while baking

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

S'mores Bars - Tasty Tuesday!

This past week was teacher conferences.  Our PTO provides dinner for the staff both nights of conferences, knowing that they're constantly running.  They absolutely appreciate it, and they adore that we make everything homemade for them rather than catering it.  I signed up to bring a dessert and wanted to bring something creative.  There are always a ton of brownies and cakes.  So I decided to make s'mores bars.

I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I had marshmallows, chocolate, and tons of graham crackers in my house, so there had to be a way, right?  I finally decided to do a takeoff of a shortbread bar recipe, and my luck held - it worked.

I brought a sample to a friend before conferences, and she ate the whole thing in one sitting.  After conferences, there were no leftovers even though desserts are usually overboard.  I made them again to bring to the Chicago Food Swap this past weekend.  My husband requested that I just trade with myself.  And they went over nicely at the food swap, too.  Even Mister Man liked them.  This was his reaction to them after he'd finished his sample.

Licking the plate clean after s'mores bars

S'mores Bars

3/4 c butter at room temperature
2/3 c sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 t vanilla
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
20 graham crackers
1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c chocolate chips
20-25 large marshmallows

Crush your graham crackers.  I love pulsing them in my blender, because it's easy and not messy.  I've found that the best way is to break the graham crackers in their quarters and do half, pulsing until they're just about crushed, then adding the other half and proceeding the same way.  Otherwise, that large bag and a rolling pin or can works well, too - and helps get rid of frustration.

Use the food processor to crush graham crackers for s'mores bars

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  It doesn't get light and fluffy if the butter is cold, so make sure it's at room temperature.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat again. until well combined.  Add the baking powder and mix once again.

Add the graham crackers and flour and stir until just combined.  Grease a 9x13 pan and put the graham cracker mixture into the pan, reserving around a cup or a little more for a topping.  This is a press with your fingers exercise.  I tried to be dainty and use my spatula, but it didn't work.

Pat the crust into place for your s'mores bars

Pour the chocolate chips over the crust into a nice, even layer.  You can use chocolate bars (it takes about 7), but the chips taste better and are cheaper.  The marshmallows are the next layer.  Take the marshmallow in your fingertips and use your other fingertips to twist and pull it apart so you have two non-smushed marshmallow halves.  Place the halves sticky side down in rows over the chocolate.  I did five halves per row, but do what works for you.  Crumble the last of the graham cracker mixture over top that, and voila!

The s'mores bars are ready to bake now

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Let them cool fully before cutting.  By using the large marshmallows instead of mini-marshmallows, you've given yourself room to cut without your knife getting stuck in marshmallow and the topping pulling off.  See?  I'm thinking!

S'mores bars are done when the marshmallows are puffy and golden

Once they're ready, you can serve them at room temperature and store them in a sealed container for three or so days.  If they last that long....

S'mores bar ready to eat

Mister Man voluntarily got a fork for his s'mores bars
Mister Man decided he needed a fork to eat these.  Smart kid.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Good-bye, Captain Underpants!

The wee ones love to read.  If they didn't, I'm sure I wouldn't be writing this post.  But they do.  They wake up in the morning and read.  They try to read at the breakfast table.  They bring books to read every time we get in the car.  And on it goes.

I've generally not really censored much of what they read.  I'll push Little Miss to get more Spanish language books from the library because she's supposed to read 30 minutes every night in Spanish and she whines about our selection that she's read "50 kajillion times, Mom!"  And I've recently had to pull Mister Man back from the Heroes of Olympus series that is not really meant for a just-turned-nine-year-old.  Beyond that, I've let them choose the books they're interested in.

They recently discovered Captain Underpants and Super Diaper Baby.  And those have been the majority of the books that have come home from both the school library and the public library.  I actually thought that I'd been blessed and we'd missed those books, but no.  And I've noticed a change.  The language has become (literally) very potty mouthed.  They talk about butts a lot.  Mister Man is discussing wedgie prowess.  And I gotta say, I'm not a fan.

They read some of the book out loud to me, and the tone is just not one I like.  I had already limited them to one Captain Underpants or Super Diaper Baby book at a time.  My mom laughs and tells me that I went through a potty fascination of my own.  Except I was four at the time.  When you're older, you apparently can get far more creative, and I'm just tired of it.  I limit the television and movies they watch, so why not the books, too?

Mister Man is currently reading The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.  It isn't like taking the series away will dampen their interest in reading.  They are constantly quoting or reading a portion of a book to me.  The "all reading is good reading" theory only goes so far with me.  And in our case, those books are gone after today.  The final straw was finding Little Miss's notebook filled with alternate - potty mouth - names for family and friends.

Reading Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants

There was one small pearl that came from this.  The other day, Little Miss turned to me...

Mom, what does turd mean? she asked curiously.

Well - I started to reply.

It's a really fancy word for poop! interrupted Mister Man, with arguably the best definition of turd ever.  But that didn't earn the books a reprieve.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hot Apple Cider - The Adult Version

This week's #VlogMom prompt is being answered a little late, but when it comes to yummy alcoholic drinks, better late than never, right?  I didn't mix up any for myself in this video, but I'm tempted to do so now.  I just have this thing about drinking when I'm home.  Alone.  With wee ones around.

Kelli Williams from Momma Needs a Beer asks:

As the weather starts to cool, what is your go-to belly-warmer (beer, cocktail, etc)?

So how about you?  What do you drink when it gets cold out?  I'd love some more inspiration.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BHBC: Diary of a Submissive

I enjoy book clubs because they expose me to books I might not pick up on my own.  I love working book fairs at the wee ones' schools for the same reason - and we found some neat books for Mister Man today that we might not otherwise have discovered.  So Diary of a Submissive: A Modern Tale of True Sexual Awakening is admittedly something a little different from what I normally read - though yes, I like everyone else I know read the 50 Shades books.

This isn't 50 Shades.  This is a memoir written by "Sophie Morgan" - which is a probably very necessary pseudonym.  She tells her story starting back in her childhood through ... now.  The book shares when she had her first spanking, and examines her changing desires as she discovers more about who she is and what she likes.  And as she's changing, the book continues right with her, becoming very graphic and detailed.

This isn't a "how to" manual, but a look into a lifestyle that isn't anywhere near what was portrayed in the 50 Shades trilogy.  Some of it made me twitchy because I was uncomfortable and would never have made the choices she did - and knowing that this is a memoir and not fiction makes me all the more twitchy.

You would expect that Sophie were someone who suffered in her life somewhere and had a whole that needed filling, but from everything you can see, Sophie is the epitome of success.  She is a journalist and has good relationships with friends and family.  And yet she finds that traditional relationships just don't do it for her and she explores her urges - and those encounters with Tom and Charlotte, with James, and more.  And we see all the details of her exploration in painful (and sometimes repetitive) detail.

The book was hard to read because it was so hard for me to watch what Sophie did to herself, as she seemed to simultaneously need it and hate it.  Closed doors are closed doors, but I hate to see such disparity in power.  This is no fairytale, but it's definitely a unique look into a world far from that in which I live.

Cover of Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan

We'll be discussing this book all month long as part of BlogHer's book club. Come join our discussion of Diary of a Submissive.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a book review as part of the BlogHer Book Club.  I was compensated for writing this post, but all opinions remain my own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cherry Cake with Fudge Filling and Triple Berry Frosting - Tasty Tuesday!

So Mister Man is officially 9.  While we haven't had his birthday party yet - and to be honest, I haven't planned it so shhh - we did celebrate as a family the day he turned 9 on 10/11/12 (seriously, how cool is that?).  And celebrations mean one thing: he gets to choose his dinner and the kind of cake I make for him.

Once again, he chose French toast, so once again I didn't actually eat the birthday dinner I made.  I know... I make an awesome French toast, but I don't like it.  Go fig.  I just discovered that I haven't put up my recipe for this, so apparently that happens the next time I make it.  Because you want that recipe.

Mister Man also asked for a cherry cake with triple berry frosting.  It was good.  Really good.

Delicious cherry cake slice

Cherry Cake

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c sugar, separated
4 eggs, separated
2 3/4 c flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 c milk
1 t vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, same quantity)
1/2 t almond extract
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 t cream of tartar

Beat the butter until it's creamy.  Slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups sugar while it's mixing (save the extra 1/4 cup for later), and beat on high until it's lightened in color and nice and fluffy, somewhere around three to five minutes of beating.  Separate your eggs while the butter and sugar are mixing.  Slowly add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.

Eggs and sugar should look like this

Add the baking powder and salt, and mix well.  Add 1 cup of flour and stir until mostly combined.  Add the vanilla, almond extract, and 1/2 of the milk and stir until combined.   Add 1 more cup flour, stir.  Add the rest of the milk and stir.  Add the last of the flour and stir one last time.  Next, add the cherries, and carefully stir until just combined.

Why stir so little?  You don't want the flour to form gluten strands, which happens when you overmix it.  That's why you get bubbles in your muffins and cakes, which is not the look we're going for.  It also makes them tough, and we want a nice, light cake.

Note that the batter hasn't been completely stirred. Stir as little as possible to avoid air bubbles in your cake due to overmixing

Next up is the egg whites you've been saving.  When they start, they'll look like this:

Egg whites ready to beat

Add the cream of tartar, and start beating the egg whites.  Once they've gotten nice and frothy, go ahead and slowly add the last 1/4 cup sugar you were reserving while still beating the eggs.  Continue to beat them until they form soft peaks.  If you overbeat, they'll dry out and get nasty - again, not what we're going for.

Egg whites with a soft peak

Add about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to your cake batter, and stir gently to combine.  You need to sacrifice some of the lovely fluff so the batter loosens enough to accept the rest of the egg whites.  This helps make the cake stay light and fluffy.  Once you have the first bit incorporated, pour the rest of the egg whites into the batter and gently fold the egg whites into the batter.  Scrape with a spatula under all the batter and twist to lift.

Grease 2 9x2 pans well (or 3 8x2).  Pour the batter evenly into the pans, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cherry cake still all nice and fluffy in the pan

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cake tester comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting them to remove from the pans and cool the rest of the way.  Once they're fully cooled, frost as desired.

Half the cake gone

So.  We did a fudge filling (because my dad wanted chocolate in there) and a triple berry frosting.  While this looks like I used some sort of dye, I didn't.  And the crumbs?  Because of the cherry bits in the cake, the knife sticks some while cutting and pulls them loose.  This is actually a cake that doesn't have a lot of crumbs because it is so moist and yummy.

I don't measure anything when making frostings or fillings, so play with them.  They're very forgiving.

So the fudge filling: I used about 3 T butter, 1/2 c cocoa powder, 3 T milk and 2 c powdered sugar.  Oh, and a teaspoon or so of vanilla.  Maybe.  Basically, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the milk and cocoa powder and stir.  Start adding powdered sugar.  Add a little more milk if it's too thick.  Add powdered sugar until it's as thick as hot fudge sauce (not chocolate syrup).  Keep stirring over the heat until the fudge starts falling off the spoon cleanly.  Stir until it's cooled down to almost room temperature and has thickened nicely.  The constant stirring helps incorporate air and keeps it soft and yummy.  Spread it on the cake.

And the triple berry frosting?  I used maybe half a cup of frozen berries, 2 T butter, and powdered sugar, maybe 3-4 cups.  Again, heat the berries and butter in a heavy saucepan until they're melted, then start adding the powdered sugar.  After awhile, I used my immersion blender to puree the berries in the frosting, then added more powdered sugar and cooked for another five minutes or so.  I stirred while letting it cool some, then spread it over the cake.


Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Because An MRI By Itself Isn't Freaky Enough

I have been getting migraines for the past year or so.  It started out that they would happen rarely, but when it regularly because a once or twice a week issue, I made an appointment with a neurologist to see if I can figure out what's going on, especially because so many in my family suffer from migraines.  The fact that I developed a funky shoulder on the same side as my migraines five or so months ago - around the same time the migraines because that much more common - was only added fodder.

The neurologist, not surprisingly, ordered MRIs on my brain and cervical spine to rule some things out before we move forward.  I wasn't thrilled by this, as I'm somewhat claustrophobic, but I'll do what I have to do to get answers.  In talking to others who have had MRIs, my fears weren't allayed.

The actual MRI was not good.  The MRIs were back to back, so I was stuck in that little tube for a good long while.  I kept my eyes closed the entire time, so I didn't really know how small the space was, and I think that was a good idea.  But no one told me how the table shakes and horrible noises it makes - all sorts of different horrible noises.  And there is a halo they put over your neck that sort of straps you in.  And a helmet that goes over that.  And they screw the helmet tight so the earphones press into your head.

That was not pleasant.

But what made it worse was the release I'd signed prior to the MRI starting.  I don't remember the exact language, but essentially it said that if there are any fragments or shavings of metal in your eye at all that the MRI would make your eyes bleed that could lead to permanent damage and blindness.  If my eyes were to start bleeding, I released the hospital to do whatever care necessary.

Because apparently this happens a lot?

The entire time I was in the tube, all I could think about was whether I felt any unusual liquid in my eyes.  And whether maybe I picked up some metal fragment somewhere and rubbed my eye with it.  Or if this is an issue with our eyes, would it be with teeth, too?  I don't have any fillings, but I was born without one of my permanent teeth, so I have a fake one.  What if that one has metal in it?

I get the warnings that appear on medications of side effects that can freak people out.  But this release just has me all the more convinced that the MRI - for all it's diagnostic benefits - was invented by a sadistic freak.

Disc with MRI images

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wrong Closet

Yesterday was Mister Man's birthday.  He turned 9 on 10/11/12.  It was pretty cool, I thought - and yes, the post next Tuesday will be the recipe for the cherry cake with fudge filling and triple berry frosting I made.  Yum.

As we went through the presents, Mister Man was excited.  He got all sorts of fun things from my parents (and two books on Greek mythology from us that he loved).  My mom is never one to let one child have the spotlight and  the other child remain to the side, so much like we had the "birthday sister" when I was growing up, she made sure to have a present for Little Miss, though at least it wasn't wrapped.

As Mister Man worked his way down the pile (my parents tend to go overboard), her present became visible, and she loves her new Halloween shirt.

Halloween shirt from my parents

Mister Man got to his last box, and he soundly denounced it as "clothes."  He opened it up, and he was right - it was clothing.  He held it up to show us, and my husband and I looked at each other....

This is not a boy's shirt

Personally, I noticed the hot pink on the inside of the collar and around the "Boo!" first.  My husband noticed the sequins first.  We both noticed that the cut of the shirt is a girl cut.  My mom still didn't understand.  She bought a black shirt.  Why wouldn't it be for boys?

It was only when I asked her if she had moved from the girl department before finding this that it really dawned on her.  Remember the nursery rhyme rewrites?  She's losing it.

And that black shirt?  Well, Little Miss two Halloween shirts now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Kind Of A Sports Parent Are You?

The wee ones don't play sports with the usual competitions with parents on the sidelines cheering them on.  Gymnastics and tae kwon do don't exactly lend themselves to that.  But I cheer them on in my own way, both in sports and in life in general.  That doesn't mean I don't have opinions about sports parents!

This week, Tina Kelley of Mad Hatter Mom asks the #VlogMom prompt:

Do your kids play sports?  Are you a quiet spectator, or do the people in the next county hear you screaming for your kid?
So what are you?  Let me know your opinions, and go visit the other #VlogMom members, too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whose Child Is This Anyway?

I received a call from Mister Man's teacher this afternoon before they got off the bus. "I'm not sure how to tell you this," his teacher began, "but Mister Man bit someone at recess today."


My child isn't a biter. And he turns 9 tomorrow.  How does this happen?  As the story came from her - who wasn't there but heard about it after he was brought inside - he was trying to climb up a slide and a friend of his was trying to go down the slide and Mister Man somehow bit his friend in the shoulder.  He didn't break the skin, thank goodness, but it will leave a mark for awhile.  And it's totally not ok under any circumstances.  Mister Man had to miss the remainder of recess today and will stay inside with the teacher for the rest of the week, a fair punishment for a third grader, I think.

When Mister Man got home, I asked for his side of the story.  He explained that he and other boys were going up the slide, and some of his friends were at the top of the slide.  Another friend pushed the friend he bit, who came tumbling down the slide, and Mister Man was shocked by the boy tumbling into him.  And in his surprise, apparently his instinct was to bite the other child.  That's where I start blinking in confusion.

When my husband arrived home and heard about it, we immediately looked at each other.  "Was it you?"  "Were you a biter?"  The questions over whose family this trait originated began.  It obviously wasn't something that was taught, so it must be innate, and we immediately start looking to see if a trait came from my side or from his side, not tallying, not keeping score, but just knowing.

It's human nature in some what to want to understand where you originated, what  you pass to your children, what little things will remain forever memorialized.  But it isn't and can't be the focus.

Instead, I sat Mister Man down and had him write a very nice apology letter that he will give to his friend, explaining most importantly that he didn't mean to hurt his friend.  And, of course, asking to have a playdate soon so that he can show how good of a friend he can be.

And I'll be crossing my fingers not to get another call like this one for a long time.  I don't want to be responsible for any more entertaining Facebook posts on her wall.

Child writing an apology letter to a friend

In the interest of full disclosure, this post was written as part of the From Left to Write book club where we write posts inspired by the books we read rather than traditional book reviews.  This month's book was "The Black Count" by Tom Reiss.  I receive a copy of the book for review purposes, but there was no compensation as part of this campaign.  All opinions remain my own.

book cover of The Black Count by Tom Reiss

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How To Cut A Pineapple - Tasty Tuesday!

So this week is a little different.  Instead of providing you with a recipe, I'm sharing a tip I use all the time with the wee ones when I'm making snack for school.  They adore pineapple, as do I.  We have it all the time, by itself, in a smoothie, chopped and over ice cream, and more.

But do you know how to cut up a pineapple?  You see them for sale all the time in the store (I got this one for $1.98 the other day), but what do you do once you buy it?  Cutting and serving it is simple, and today you get my demonstration, along with a few other tips.

A couple things to note.

First, when I am cutting, I always move the material I'm cutting so that the flattest surface is against the cutting board.  The last thing I want to have happen is for something to roll and me to cut myself - badly.  I do this for anything I'm cutting, whether it be a carrot or a potato or an onion.  Always create a flat surface, then cut with the against your cutting board.

Second, always use a sharp knife that is the right size for your job.  A dull knife won't cut cleanly through what you're trying to cut.  You will have to use more force, and it's likelier that something will slip or that you will cut yourself.  Find a professional knife sharpener near you, and sharpen regularly.  And use the right size knife.  My husband has a penchant for using a paring knife to cut vegetables.  Just like when a knife is too big, a knife that is too small is also dangerous.

A bowl of freshly cut pineapple

How to Cut A Pineapple

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yes, Changing Schools In The Middle Of The Year Works

As my friends have children who are school age, more and more of them are becoming concerned about waiting until the end of the school year before they move.  So many of them want to be sure that they finish the school year at the current school and start the school year at a new school.

Me?  I have a different perspective.

When I was growing up, I moved around a lot as my dad was transferred.  Sometimes we moved in the middle of the year, and sometimes we moved during the summer.  And honestly?  It was always easier to move during the school year than it was during the summer.

Why?  Well, there were a lot of reasons....

First, when you come into school during the year, everyone knows you're the new kid.  In elementary school, you're likely to be assigned a buddy to help you find your way and make friends.  I usually got cards from the entire class welcoming me, which was an amazing feeling for the new kid.

It made it easier when everyone knew I was the new kid.  When I didn't know how the lunchroom routine worked, they knew why and the teachers were patient.  When the curriculum was different from what I'd studied before, they got why and were easily able to assess what I needed to work on to get where I needed to be.

At the beginning of the school year, the kids are so excited to see their friends, many of whom they haven't seen all summer.  A new kid easily gets lost in the shuffle of everyone else.  It wasn't ever as easy to make friends at the start of the school year.  The teachers were less likely to know that I was new to the school, as well, and they weren't as patient when I made mistakes - whether it was not knowing how to get to gym class or not understanding the curriculum because it was so different from what I'd learned previously.

And the biggest part for me?  When I moved in the middle of the year, we moved, and I started school right away.  In the summer?  We moved and then I waited.  The anxiety of the first day of school built up while I waited and waited to start at my new school.  It was a lot harder in that sense, too.

I get the adults wanting to make a clean break.  We know about finishing a task before starting something new.  Kids?  That's not always how their minds work, and it isn't quite the same for them.

Why do I write this now?  We moved Mister Man in the middle of the year.  In fact, we moved him from the private school he had attended since kindergarten to a public school with three weeks left in the school year last May.  It was a shock to many of my friends at the school, but I explained the whys to them, and they got it.

Last year was a rough year for Mister Man for a lot of reasons, but the loving and nurturing teachers he had in kindergarten and the teachers who supported and then challenged him in first grade were not what we experienced in second grade.  The second grade teacher was one who wanted all students to fit into the box, and we weren't the only parents whose child was not in that box, not the only parents who had issues with the teacher - although I was lucky in that the teacher was still speaking to me, unlike her reaction to other parents in the classroom.  By spring, it was obviously a toxic environment.  When we had the opportunity to move - because we didn't move him to our home school - we took it.

moving during the school year was easy for Mister Man

And it was amazing.  His teacher was incredibly supportive and let us know how wonderfully he was doing in the classroom.  Instead of saying that there were 18 kids in the class, so no she couldn't put his math sheet upside down while giving the verbal instructions (not mentioning the fact that there is also a full time assistant in the class), the new teacher figured out on her own what she needed to do to keep Mister Man engaged in what he was supposed to do.  I never once heard "He just wants to do what he wants to do" from the new teacher, because that was not my child.  There are so many stories I could tell about last year that are just flat out wrong that led us to pushing for a move.

Had I not had the experience of moving during the school year and knowing how smoothly it can go, I might have had him finish out the year at the old school before moving.  I was lucky.  We made the change, and Mister Man's experience of moving during the school year was exactly as mine were years ago.

So what about you?  Did you ever move schools during the school year or over summer?  What was your experience?  Would you do it differently?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Three Movies I Couldn't Live Without

I love this week's #VlogMom question.  It comes from Grace Duffy of Formerly Gracie, and she wants to know:

If you could only watch three movies for the rest of your life, what would they be, and why?
I figured that if they are the only movies I'd ever watch for the rest of my life, the first criteria had to be that they were movies in my collection.  So you'll see that I cheat a little bit.  Do you have any of the same movies on your life that I do?

What are the movies on your list?  I need some recommendations on what to watch.  And... can you guess what the three scenes are that make me cry each. and. every. time?

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