Monday, May 30, 2011

Kreative Thoughts by Stephanie in Suburbia

I want to thank Married in Chicago for awarding me this awesome award!

I really love reading her blogs for so many reasons, but mostly because she lives in Chicago and if I hadn't ended up moving to Minneapolis and then the 'burbs, I would totally live in Chicago. So I just live vicariously through her life in the Windy City.

So my task is to come up with 10 facts about myself, which is always an awkward endeavor. I'll give it a shot.

1. I have a food issue with carcass. If anything looks like what it did when alive, I have a lot of difficulty eating it. I made my first ever Thanksgiving turkey 2 years ago and it still haunts me a little.

2.  I'm half Puerto Rican and half Irish. I look like neither and both, which has led (on more than one occasion, sadly) to a rousing game of "Guess Stephanie's Ethnicity" while in a bar. True story, I did an article once on the L Street Tavern where they filmed Good Will Hunting. One of the Irish guys there is like "you have a dimple in your chin, so you must be Irish, but what's the rest of ya" (I believe looking down at my, um, ample rack and backside). People guessed the usual: Greek, Italian. I finally let the cat out of the bag and the dude did an ACTUAL spit take with his beer and shouted "What the f**k kind of mix is that?"

3. My parents started dating when my mom was 16 and they are the single strongest relationship I've ever seen.

4. I'm a very intelligent girl, but I love television. In particular, I am hooked on Real Housewives (Atlanta, New Jersey and slightly less so on OC), Lifetime movies, and any shows that show the inside workings of jail or the justice system. If a Lifetime movie is based on a true story that involves the inside workings of jail and the justice system, I am SOLD! Also? I will watch any Lifetime movie with anyone formerly on any Aaron Spelling show. Because even when they're bad, they're sooo good.

5. I am a Boston sports nut. Like total dude sports nut. I will shush my husband if he wants to talk during a Patriots game. I pay for HD service for the very few games of Boston sports I can see. My daughter was brought home in full Patriots gear. Also important? I do NOT EVER wear pink sports memorabilia. It goes against everything I believe in.

6. My husband and I decided not to find out the gender of our baby. The thinking was both heartfelt and logical. Heartfelt because I always feel there are too few good surprises in life. Logical because I also 1) dislike pink and 2) didn't want a ton of clothes. I knew I had people to give me clothes for my baby, but what I didn't have was ANYTHING else. At my shower I got mostly bath stuff for the baby, leading to a complete breakdown in my third trimester when I looked around the baby's room only to see a crib and towels. We'll be finding out the gender when we have another.

7. I have traveled to or through all of the 50 states except for Hawaii and Alaska. We took a lot of road trips growing up and those are some of the happiest memories I have.

8. I didn't do much cooking until after I was 25 and I decided it was time to learn. I found I was quite good at it. But I didn't experiment much, or at all, really, until I met my husband. He is single-handedly responsible for my ability now to be okay with eyeballing a measurement now and then, and even make substitutions. He is also responsible for having me try and like foie gras and sweetbreads.

9. I am an organization nut, but my house is never neat. All of my recipes are organized perfectly in two binders (one for healthy recipes under 400 calories and the other we refer to as "entertaining"), but my laundry is almost never folded and put away. I used a label maker and labeled every spice bottle in my ample spice cabinet, but my bedroom floor has never been clean enough to vacuum the whole thing at one time.

And the #10 interesting fact? I met my husband online dating.

I really don't like tagging people and pressuring them to answer things, so instead I am going to cheat and list my 10 favorite posts of the last month and if those named wish to be tagged and accept their award, great. If not, you guys find some great blogs.

Incidentally, if you are looking for new blogs and/or promotion for your blog, I highly recommend checking out SITS Girls' #commenthour hashtag on Twitter. You sign up Mondays and Tuesdays, and the blogs are chosen and announced every few minutes for an hour on Wednesdays on Twitter. I've gotten about 20 new followers (hiii, guys!) since signing up. And found twice as many great blogs.

On to my faves:

I'm Gonna Kill Him writes a hilarious but also serious post about making a will.

Holly at Holly's House wrote a maddening post about facing some very ignorant people and yet doing the right thing.

Frogs in my Formula writes a hilarious and cringe-worthy post about what happens when you have food poisoning and two kids.

Pampers and Pinot wonders about those minor characters in cartoon movies and what it would be like to hang with them.

Just One Donna makes one of the prettiest chicken piccatas I've ever seen.

Wait in the Van tries to joke about her kid sucking down wine and meds. (seriously, one of the funniest posts I've read this month).

Life with Baby Donuts realizes you can go home again, and sometimes it rocks.

Taming Insanity writes a story about getting locked out that I think it's okay to laugh at now.

It's Blogworthy and baby in a tie. Nuff said.

Hungry, Healthy, Happy (Hungrigyrl) gives her perspective on the Mommy Wine controversy. I'm all for it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why do Moms Matter? One Word: Mascara

When I was going into middle school, we moved from Minnesota to Tucson, Arizona. I wasn't all that broken up about the move. I wasn't overly popular, I was constantly teased, or sometimes worse, ignored. While I had a core group of friends I would miss, I was a little more focused on how I could be DIFFERENT. Plus this was around the time of 90210 (Lord, I'm dating myself here) and they moved from Minnesota to Beverly Hills, so it was almost the same (actually it kind of was because the area we moved to was quite well to do).

Like one of those 80s transformation movies, I cut my hair and got contacts. I had my braces off a few years before, but the picture was...well, an improvement.

I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of a sweet girl named Tracy who then introduced me to her friends and within a few months I had a GROUP of friends. A real group of girls who went to boy/girl parties and had sleepovers and went to the mall to hang out.

One such boy/girl party had me the subject of much scrutiny with this group of friends. See, they almost all wore makeup and were slightly distressed that I didn't. I honestly hadn't really brought this subject up with my mother, so I didn't know where she stood on makeup. I had a general idea it wasn't going to be a hit. Sure, I'd stolen a few red or coral lipsticks discarded from her freebies at the mall makeup counter (sorry, Mom), but I'd never actually SEEN her put on makeup, nor did I have a clue what it involved.

That night I acquiesced to my group of friends and found out it involved A LOT! Like three people and a lot of blotting and closing my eyes and fearing for my contacts and the inevitable mascara wand stabbing that would occur.

But the result when all the fuss was over? I felt beautiful. I felt AMAZING. I felt a part of things, finally in these girls' league. Like Cinderella watching the clock on the wall dreading midnight, I dreaded the next day when I had to go back to ME. The me without the glass slipper of foundation and eyeshadow.

So I was in the car the next morning with my mom and I casually broached the subject. These girls had allowed me into their group, had experimented on me, and the boys that came over were quite responsive (I'm sure I downplayed that part).

My mom shocked me and said "if you want to wear makeup, you have to do it right."

WHAT? If I want to wear makeup? As if...had I had that choice the whole time?

My mom made an executive decision and got us an appointment at Merle Norman. I don't know if those even exist anymore. It certainly wasn't your average MAC or Sephora counter. It was definitely geared toward a...more mature crowd. But to me it was like the Disney World of hotness. This.Would.Change.My.LIFE! Of this I was sure.

And you know what? It kind of did. The woman showed me how to blend makeup to make sure there were no makeup lines (something I thank her for to this day when I see chicks with a huge orange ring around their face), how to apply mascara properly, and how to care for my brushes and skin.

You guys? Going home with that little bag of makeup was one of the happiest days of my life. I still look back on it as part of that overall transformation to a place where my ethnicity wasn't scrutinized, where people could actually pronounce my Puerto Rican last name, and where I felt beautiful.

And I still think this may have been one of the most beautiful gifts my mother has ever given me. So on this her birthday, I want to thank her for the gift of confidence and belonging that had long been missing in my life. There were so many other ways that day could have gone, but she looked into my eyes and realized what this meant to me and did what only the best mothers do: whatever it took to make her daughter happy.

I will carry this with me when my daughter comes to me with a similar know, in 20 years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memories in the Corner of the Page

Before I was even pregnant, I knew I would keep a journal for my baby. I didn’t want a baby book with lines that specified firsts, I wanted a blank canvass to write whatever I was feeling. When we got our first ultrasound at 10 weeks, I went ahead and bought a journal for what was going to become Wee ‘Burb.

I have been trying to write in the journal every month and during milestones. Some months have been easier than others.

When I write in it, I often think about Wee ‘Burb reading it. I imagine and hope she will pick it up after some terrible fight we have when she’s a teenager, and it will humanize me somehow — remind her that there were phases in her life when she wanted nothing more than to hug her mommy and daddy and be with us. I hope that it will show that she was created in love, nurtured in a peaceful and happy home. And then, after I wrote the post on 5 Things To Do Before Getting Married , I started thinking about what I wanted this journal to be.

I started to think about the kind of advice I wish I could have gotten. I wanted to go beyond just what she’s doing now. I started to think, not in a macabre way, about what I would want her to know if for any reason I couldn’t be there. Maybe not even be away, but just disconnected somehow. What would I want to tell her, that teenager who would never listen to her Mom, because, really how could Mom EVER understand HER plight?

So I wrote my first entry dedicated to future Wee ‘Burb. I titled it “Boys”, but now I wish I had just put “Love.” Because, you know, who knows who she will love down the road? But in the end the message I wanted to share was the same, and while I wrote a lot, here’s the summary I left her with: You do not need a man, or anyone, to complete you. When you find the right person, they will enhance you enough to realize you are already complete. And that’s how you know it’s real love.

What advice would you give your future son or daughter? Do you keep a journal for your child, or plan to? Do you focus on their life chronologically, or do you offer tidbits of advice, too?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thank You Notes: An Imperative in My World

When we were little, many a night was spent at the kitchen table writing what then felt like an epic thank you note. We could not simply say "thanks for the loot, Grandma!" We had to outline what she gave, how we wanted it every so badly, and how we were currently using it.

Confession: I plan to do the exact same thing to Wee 'Burb.

In the world of the evite and invites via Twitter and Facebook, I know the hand-written paper thank you card is a lost art. But I will never let it go.

For right now, Wee 'Burb personalizes her thank you cards with her handprint and the date.

For my own thank you cards, I try to follow the basic rules my mom taught me.

Yes, they will likely be thrown away. Yes, other than weddings and birthdays, some people may never care about getting a thank you card. But I care.

I keep a bin of thank you cards handy for all occasions. I'm looking to renew my bin (Wee 'Burb has been the receipt of much generosity lately, the girl is cleaning out my supply...and possibly turning completely blue with the plethora of handprints she delivers) so here are a few of my most coveted:




Do you write thank you cards and/or make your kids write them? Do you think they've lost importance? If not, where do you get your favorite thank you cards? Do you pick them individually or buy a box of them?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Were THESE Shoes Made for Walking?

We have, more or less, reached the end of the walking saga. And in true form, it was not without its hilarity and frustration.

The county’s free program had its advantages in that it was free and they committed to completing Wee ‘Burb’s evaluation within 45 days. I’m still on the waiting list for the private company.

The disadvantage was that it was a PROCESS.

Even though the only concern was in the gross motor area, we had to have two other meetings: one with a special ed teacher to review social and cognitive skills and the other to review fine motor skills.

Now, these ladies could NOT have been nicer, and Wee ‘Burb came around to them pretty quickly. But it was exhausting for both of us. Their skills test basically goes through her age group and up until she misses three tasks.

I have to say, this was amazing to watch. I was amazed at some of the things that Wee ‘Burb could actually do. Like the lady took out a peg board and Wee ‘Burb just put the pegs in all in a row like she’d been doing it forever. It was one of the most amazing moments I’ve had as a mother, to see her intelligence on display like that. To see that hamster wheel in her huge head turn and turn and get it right, then have her smile a huge smile and acknowledge the claps.

But on the flip side, when she couldn’t get something? It was excruciating. To watch her struggle and not step in was just borderline torture for me. Particularly when she seemed to be struggling with tasks I absolutely knew she could do.

Then to top off the drama? I was in the midst of some huge deadlines at work so I had to pick her up from daycare, let these strangers make her perform tasks like a cymbal-playing monkey, and then drop her back off at daycare. I’m going through deadlines, but she’s going through mega separation anxiety. So she sobs hysterically whenever I drop her off, which I got to go through twice a day.

We were both ragged by the time the actual physical therapist arrived. At this point I was completely convinced we’d never get through this. Wee ‘Burb picked up her car and walked with it a bit so the PT could see her stance.

As we were discussing her stance, Wee ‘Burb looked at me, then at the PT, and hand to God took three steps like “See? TOLD YOU!”

I was floored. The PT jumped up and clapped, which of course made Wee ‘Burb’s day because that child is a whore for applause. And she’s been walking a little bit more each day.

We still have a final meeting scheduled for the 31st, but the PT indicated that more than likely it is just an issue of low muscle tone. Wee ‘Burb was on the smaller side when she was born and it’s possible her muscles are just slower to develop. So more than likely we’ll just need to be patient with her and know her gross motor skills will just take a bit longer.

Of course the PT also indicated it may just be a “personality” issue. Once again: diagnosis, baby jerk!

Whether or not your baby has any issues, I would so suggest hooking up with whatever county programs you have. The time it takes to do the questionnaires is so worth it compared to the issues you will have if you get your little one to preschool not knowing any issues.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My 5 Things to do Before Getting Married

Shine ran this article on things you should do as a couple before getting married. Their list:

1. Living Together
2. Babysit
3. Get a Joint Checking Account
4. Couples Counseling Classes.

I actually think this is a pretty good list given that it represents the common pitfalls for couples in marriage: household duties, children, money, and long-term relationship health.

But I have a slightly different list, although I am going to co-opt their #1 for mine. I understand completely that some people don't believe in this, and that is of course totally your prerogative. But I think for most couples, cohabitation is imperative to really understanding how your relationship will progress. When you each have your own corner to run to when things get tough, it's just not the same as having to be in the same space and work it out. You can read my opinions and recommendations on this here.

2. Travel Apart and Travel Together. When Scott and I first met, I took off for four days with my friend to Rome. It was important to me to have this time away and be on my own a bit. I missed him like crazy and it took our relationship to a more serious level when I returned because I realized I missed HIM, not just having a relationship. So then we also traveled together. And one of the highest compliments Scott has ever paid me was "you're the only person I can travel with for more than a day or two without getting totally sick of them." Though I don't like the thought of a "test", traveling together is definitely a good indicator of the foundation of a relationship. Before I met Scott, I had traveled with a guy who liked to get to the airport 30 minutes before the plane takes off (I'm a 2-hour before girl) and planned a million things to do right off the plane (whereas I like to settle into my hotel, get organized). Don't believe me that it's a test? Just look at the Amazing Race.

3. Live on Your Own. Yes, living together is crucial. But living on your own before that is crucial, too. You don't know who you are until you're paying your own bills, cleaning your own place, cooking your own meals. You start to separate your needs from your parents and roommates. And then when you go into a relationship, you go into it with a solid idea of who you are and your wants and needs.

4. Make and Keep Your Own Friends. I can't tell you the number of people who "joked" that Scott would never be "allowed" to go out once he got married. I was horrified. Why should a piece of paper and a name change alter the fundamentals of our relationship with each other and our friends? Keeping your old friends and making ones outside of your marriage is crucial to a healthy separation of church and state when it comes to coupling. But also?

5. Have Stuff That's JUST for You Two. My first fight with Scott was over hobbies. He was afraid we didn't have much in common because I wasn't into the outdoorsy things he was. BUT, we found common ground on cooking, reading, watching the same movies, and even kind of silly things like UFC (I freaking love UFC, I have problems). We like to spend our spare time doing the same types of things. And even more long term we agree on how we want to spend retirement.

So, tell me, what are your 5 things you think need to happen before someone gets married?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Making Lemonade

In this nearby town, there's a little boy with a lemonade stand. But he's not your average little boy, and he isn't sitting behind the usual cardboard box or folding table. He's wearing a full suit (no matter how hot the weather) and he stands behind a very fancy wooden stand with a clearly Kinko's manufactured sign proudly displaying his name.

Seeing this article on being a lemonade stand entrepreneur made me think of him and took me back to a simpler time.

I was lucky to have grown up next door to my godparents and their three kids. They were close in age to myself and my brother, and we got up to all sorts of shenanigans.

Like most kids, we had our own lemonade stand at the end of our road. We weren't quite aware of just how out of the way we were, so most days were spent getting tan and getting high off our own supply.

But one day a jogger ran by. He was clearly at the end of a long run and was looking longingly at our lemonade. We were holding it up, tantalizing him with our 25 cent wares.

He came up to our stand and we were all standing a little straighter, putting our professional entrepreneur hats on as we said "how many cups do you want, Sir?"

And he admitted he wanted one. Oh so badly. But sadly, he did not bring money with him on his run. But he'd gladly pay us later.

We pointed to our mailbox and said he could leave it in there. Forget how stupid it was that we just gave this strange man our address, we were SO excited.

Every day that next week we ran to the mailboxes, anxiously awaiting the 25 cents.

It never came.

I've been thinking about this lately because the best part was our parents were totally supportive. I mean, of COURSE they knew we'd gotten taken (if you can count being out nothing as "taken," since we didn't purchase ANY of the items for this lemonade stand with our own non-existent money) but they totally indulged us. And when the money never came rolling in, they feigned shock and horror at the violation.

Now, I keep change in my car and any time I see a lemonade stand, I always stop and buy a cup, even though I haven't had a taste for the sugary stuff in forever. Hey, I may be working for them someday!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pawning it Hardcore: That's Pawn, You Gutter Minds

If you think you have a tough job, you should try wrestling over a fur coat or getting threatened with bodily harm through a tiny plastic window.

I’m talking about the good, but totally insane, folks at Hardcore Pawn, my new-to-me favorite show. It’s new to me because I just found this gem on On Demand. But it’s in its third season already, so maybe you already know about it?

I’ve had a fascination with pawn shops forever. Now I don’t want this to turn into a Basketball Wives “Oh my God, Jennifer has never seen a food stamp" thing. I’m not some privileged snob who has never fallen on tough times. I’ve just honestly never had anything I thought I could pawn.

But, see, apparently you can pawn ANYYYYTHING. In the time I’ve watched this show, people have pawned and sold skulls, gold teeth, and even a prosthetic leg (that he was WEARING INTO THE SHOP! Like, he just left on crutches minus one leg so he could pay some bills).

So what I learned is that pawning means you can get it back. It’s like getting a loan on your crap so you can pay the credit card bill you probably used to buy said crap. If you don’t pay back the loan, they can sell your crap. And you’re crap out of luck, although this particular pawn shop in Detroit is slightly more lenient than I imagine most.

You can also choose to sell your items outright. Which then they re-sell, almost always at a higher cost. Which is what really kills me. People go in there either having no clue what something is worth and get wayyy underbid, or they go in with their fake Chanel purses and demand $300. It’s called the INTERNET, PEOPLE! Take five seconds to look it up on eBay so you don’t get hosed or embarrass yourself. Those aren’t mutually exclusive, by the way.

Ok, so naturally a big part of the reality show is the people, right? This is a family-owned business, started by Les Gold. I refuse to believe that’s his real name, but we’ll move on. He’s hoping to pass it on, he says, to his son, Seth Gold, and his daughter Ashley Broad.

Les Gold: Source TruTV

Only I have some serious doubts about Ashley getting her hands on any of this. Despite TLC’s upcoming show, Pawn Queens, I’m convinced pawn shops are the height of misogyny. There are almost no other female workers featured in this shop other than Ashley. And every time Ashley screws up (which is kind of a lot, I’ll confess), Seth and Les are right there to tell her that since she went off and had a couple of kids (how DARE she, that selfish cow), things have changed in the pawn world.

Seth Gold: Source TruTV

Ashley Broad: Source TruTV

Um, really? REALLY? Far as I can tell people who need money for Lord knows what enter this store, get up in someone’s face, get half of what they want and need, and leave unhappy. How has three years changed this gig?

Now, in fairness, Ashley doesn’t exactly have her MBA in salesmanship. She’s the first one to get in a customer’s face when they’re late and Les wants her to make a deal with them. She also gets very snotty when she asks what the person wants for something and the person gives a price she thinks is outrageous. Her little nose turns up and she gets this very combative stance.

It’s not exactly the type of ‘tude you want in an already volatile transaction.

But a lot of the time she’s right in her thought train, it just don’t make it to the station without a few bumps in the road.

Only half the time, Seth and Les derail it completely and take over, leaving her looking stupid. You can just see the resentment building and quite frankly, if anyone was in my store pawning a gun, I’d make sure Ashley didn’t know about it if I was Les.

But at least Ashley isn’t smarmy and smug like her super closeted brother Seth. That dude’s gaydar reading is OFF.THE.CHARTS.

Perhaps he just resents his sister’s ability to spawn children when he, himself, wishes he had a womb. I’m not sure, but his hatred of his sister is of the hair-pulling “Mom, she’s touching my part of the seat” variety.

While I think Ashley has legit beef with her brother, his constant undermining is just pointless and petty. We rarely see him sell unless he’s making a bet with Ashley, or jumping in on her sale because, excuse you, he’s the expert on jewelry and entertainment and everything other than masking his latent homosexuality.

Then there are the customers. I’m not sure why the customers allow themselves to be filmed, but at least once an episode there’s someone who is SHOCKED.THAT.THEIR.CRAP.ISN’T.WORTH.MILLIONS and downright insulted at the offer Les levies their way. More than half the time it escalates to where security has to drag them out.

Half those times involve someone whose feet don’t touch the ground on the way out. Those are my favorite parts. Judge me as you see fit.

Also, of course, there are some sad stories. This person or that died and left them something sentimental, and now they have to sell said sentimental something to make rent.

One couple almost sold Les on their hard-luck newly married just trying to make their way in the world story until the dude admitted he was a gambling addict.

But, look, Les does occasionally try to help a few people out in the pawn department, playing the hooker with a heart of gold role very nicely as he sympathetically nods and says he’s so sorry about their tough times, while giving them roughly a third of what something is worth.

Anyway, if you have TRU TV, you can check out the current episodes. And if you have Comcast On Demand, you can check out the first season there.

So now, tell me. Have you ever pawned anything or been to a pawn shop? I think I’m planning a trip to replace my poor stolen GPS.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Where I Sheepishly Admit I'm Hooked on Sheep Shearing

Ok, so Saturday was just about the most beautiful day we've seen around these parts in quite some time. Which was perfect for the Shepherds Harvest Festival in Lake Elmo. It also included Llama Magic, which so absolutely lived up to its name, I can't even describe.

Last year we went to this festival and I had such high hopes, but it was pouring rain and Wee 'Burb thought this of the whole experience:

So this year I was so excited because she has gotten really into animal noises. We practiced our "Baaas" all the way there, and even threw in a "llama" for good measure, though I didn't exactly know what sound, if any, a llama makes. Anyone? We heard one doing a sort of low whine at one point. I'm just not sure how to channel that into toddler language.

She was definitely more aware this year. But possibly more freaked out, too.

That would be her baby death grip on me the WHOLE day.
The highlight for me is always the sheep shearing. The sheep go to this happy place and just lay there, glassy-eyed while the shearer does his thing.

I used to feel really bad for them, but when you see everything that comes off, I gotta think it's somewhat of a relief to walk around bare nakey for awhile!

That's JUST the wool! Doesn't it look like a separate animal?
So, in addition to the sheep, Llama Magic was happening. Wee 'Burb is verrry into llamas, her favorite book is Llama Llama Red Pajama and whenever I'm putting her jammies on, she repeatedly says "llama."

She was much more willing to touch the llamas, but still not willing to let go of her death grip for these nice fellows.

If you're ever sad, you seriously need to see a picture of llamas. They might be the funniest looking things EVER.

More cute sheep pics:

Afterward, I convinced Wee 'Burb to do some finger painting so we could put some fingerprints on her Mother's Day cards.

This mess required immediate tubby time.  There were not enough wipes in the world.

And that was about enough for her Saturday. 6:00 bedtime? Yes, please!

I found this event through Festival Net (not a paid or even known endorsement on their part). I highly recommend if you like to get to some different cities and check out great crafts or local fairs.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kitsch-en Window

You guys, I am forcing Lola to do a monthly column here. Here's her most recent post for me. Poor Lola has been in the middle of insanity trying to help her parents move all the while beginning renovations on her own condo. Please to enjoy.

I’m remodeling my kitchen. These words strike terror in the heart of anyone who’s ever had to undertake a remodeling project. I could tell you about how I remodeled my bathroom a few years back, but that’s still something I’m only able to discuss with my therapist. And yet, here I am, back for more, more, MORE! Because I am Lola and I’m a masochist.

But the reality of it is, I need to turn that early-70s dimly lit hell into something that’s passably 21st- century. Of course I don’t want it to bankrupt me, so all the changes are as cosmetic as possible (at first, I thought I could get away with maybe just changing the cabinet handles…or maybe just blind-folding all my guests, but realized that wasn’t going to be enough).

First of all, it has this awesome fluorescent-light drop ceiling with yellowed-out panels that make me want to cry. It also makes the ceiling about a foot lower than it is. Here’s a shot. That ceiling has GOT to go. Unless I buckle down and wait for plastic-panel drop ceilings to come back in style over the next 50 years or so. Hey, it could happen, right? Martha Stewart will SO embrace the look one day! Or Martha Stewart’s floating head in a jar will.

But what other retro horrors lurk in Lola’s freakshow kitchen? And why haven’t the producers of That 70s Show ever contacted me for a shooting location? Let’s take a look. How about the wallpaper that hides inside my nice, white cabinets?! Have you ever seen a more groovy pattern of green and poopish gold paisley? Well, that’s just the TOP layer of wallpaper, people! I’m sure even more psychedelic treasures hide within!

So yes, traveling back in time got me thinking about other faded trends of the past millennium. Who remembers mood lipstick of the 1980s? It always came out kind of beigeish/greenish/brownish on me, but maybe that’s because my mood never changes? And then there were jelly shoes! And speaking of jelly, who was onboard with the jelly roll pens – my favorite was this barely-there pink that was completely illegible to my high school English teacher. Who needs to study when you can just write gibberish in almost-invisible ink?

And how about the slightly more recent trend of the Rachel – that hairdo that looked so effortless yet took hours to recreate? For some reason, I usually have a perfect example of that retro classic whenever I roll out of bed on the days that I work from home. Yet when I actually have to go into the office, it takes me hours to concoct anything decent on my head. Why, oh cruel gods of Friends episodes past?? What have I done to anger thee??

I’m sure I’m leaving a few awesome trends out, but I’m sure you guys can think of some! What were some of your regrettable or perhaps nostalgic trend favorites?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What's In Your Kitchen?

When Scott and I were registering for our wedding, we were totally stuck. Because we had both lived on our own for quite some time, and we were both foodies, it was virtually impossible to find something that we didn't have. A lot of our presents were things like mugs and serving dishes that were upgraded versions of what we had.

I saw this list from Gal Time and it made me think about what I have in my kitchen now, and my top 5 kitchen loves.

1. My Cuisinart. For the obvious reasons of chopping and shredding. But I also used it extensively when I was making baby food, and it saved me from having to purchase one of those $300 combo baby food makers. I just used our steamer and then threw it in the Cuisinart. Because this bad boy wasn't cheap, I also got a cheaper Hamilton Beach one for Target when it went on sale for $30. It does not chop as well, but works on simple veggies and makes a decent smoothie. I also have a smaller one for a single onion or herbs.

2. My Salt Pig. Scott saw these on Top Chef and he basically did the adult equivalent of "please, mommy" over and over until I got one for him. This one was VERY cheap on Amazon and it's served us well. It's survived many a top-over from a clumsy cook. And there's just NOTHING like tossing in some salt straight from this bowl that makes me feel like a legit chef.

3. My Go-To Cookbook: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I got this when I first got my apartment and was scared about doing ANYTHING with food. I mean, down to how to hard boil an egg, this book has everything! I highly recommend the banana bread and cookie recipes. MAGIC! My uncle gave this to me and even added his own specially made seal of approval. Because that's how my family rolls.

4. My Herb Scissors. I got these for Christmas and I ADORE them. Have I mentioned I am a lazy cook? So often I would try to rip or coarsely chop my herbs and so some people would get potatoes with a mouthful of rosemary and other pieces would have none. My FAVORITE feature is that it has a stem cutter at the base. Genius and cheap!

5. My Herb Keeper. I used almost exclusively dried herbs before I got these bad boys about two years ago. I was so tired of spending money on cilantro and parsley when I used barely a TBSP of them. Now thanks to my meal planning and I can use more. Still, with the Herb Keeper, I can keep them fresh for two weeks or more (leafy ones like parsley and cilantro hit about 2 weeks, but stronger ones like rosemary can last closer to 3).

So what are your five favorite kitchen items?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cooking Tips I Love

The April issue of Food Network Magazine was exciting for me because it advertised their article on the 100 Greatest Cooking Tips by their famous chefs.

I'm a new foodie, having really just gotten confident in my cooking skills in the last year or so. This article was AWESOME for me!

Here are some of my favorites:

Always make stock in a large quantity and freeze it in plastic bags. That way, when you want to make a nice soup or boil veggies, you can simply pull the bag out of the freezer. Charlie Trotter, Charlie Trotter's, Chicago

Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.
Mario Batali, Iron Chef America [I'm TOTALLY trying this!]

For rich, creamy dressings made healthy, substitute half the mayo with Greek-style yogurt. Ellie Krieger,
Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger [You guys, if you don't read Ellie Krieger you need to immediately. I don't think she's the greatest TV personality, but her recipes are TO DIE FOR!]

For an easy weeknight meal, save and freeze leftover sauces from previous meals in ice cube trays. The cubes can be reheated in a sauté pan when you need a quick sauce. David Burke, David Burke Townhouse, New York City

Buy fruit at its peak at a farmers' market and freeze it in an airtight container so you can enjoy it year round.
Mindy Segal, Mindy's HotChocolate, Chicago

Cook with other people who want to learn or who know how to cook. Laurent Gras, New York City [I'm testing out this idea: MN Blogger Cooking Meetup???]

So what are your favorite tips?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stephanie's No Good, Terrible, Very Bad Sunday

Usually, Sundays are my happy day. It's usually a chance for some family togetherness and some quiet.  On a typical Sunday, Scott gets up with Wee 'Burb, feeds her breakfast and plays with her. I get to sleep in, which is seriously the most heavenly part of my day. Even though I get up and get her and I ready for church with Scott and his dad,which should be probably more heavenly.

Most weeks I accompany them to church.

I do NOT blog about religious stuff here. And this post isn't about that. Not really.

So this morning, I decided to forgo my sleeping in for healthier pursuits: a trip to the St. Paul Farmer's Market. Now, being in the 'burbs means this is a bit of a hike. But since I didn't see any snow this morning, I was determined to bundle the kiddo up and make the trek with my husband and roommate.

We get there and it was so windy I expected the horse-drawn carriage in front of us to go over at any moment. But we parked, got out, and fought our way through the wind to get to fresh produce. I'm THAT dedicated, you guys. This day, opening weekend of the farmer's market, has been on my calendar for a MONTH! Frost-bitten baby be damned, I was going to get my rhubarb.

Yeahhh, except there were approximately 8 vendors there. Almost all of whom sold meat or soaps. Even my favorite hummus vendor (Seriously, Deena's is the bomb) had brought a paltry amount for selling.

So five minutes later we crammed ourselves back in the car, turned up the heat, and really turned up the pouting.

As I said, I make an effort to go to church with Scott and his dad. But sometimes during busy times, it's one day I take to myself. Today was that day. I had a few appointments and errands I needed to get done today, so I sent them on their way.

With the diaper bag that held my wallet and cell phone.

Luckily I had Scott's cell memorized and managed to get him from my land line. He had just arrived at church and rather than have him put Wee 'Burb back in her carseat and drive home, I met him at church. But because his dad hadn't arrived yet and he had claimed a coveted seat in the lobby (last week at Easter, Wee 'Burb yelled out "Elmo" just as the priest was getting to the resurrection. It's imperative we not sit in actual church for this reason), I had to run in and grab my stuff.

I was dressed in yoga pants and a fleece.

It was apparently First Communion Day.

Now, one would think the fact that I was dressed this way and parked with hazards on in front of the church would be an indication to those STARING at me that I was not going to be attending mass today.

In my hurry, I noticed people were extremely dressed up. But did not yet realize it was First Communion Day.

I used to be one of those people, by the way. Being a lapsed Catholic, I was always taught growing up you dressed your best for church. It's taken me much convincing to show up there in jeans. MUCH convincing.

Anyway, so I'm frustrated and still in a bad mood and I hear this man BELLOW to his wife, standing not two feet from me, in his khakis and polo shirt "Gee, honey, and I thought I was underdressed!"

Which of course caused other people to turn and stare. Which of course caused me to immediately blush and tear up. I ran and got my stuff, whispered "I am so embarassed, I need to leave" to Scott and ran out the door. I didn't even say hi to Wee 'Burb who just stared at me like "who is this flash of orange that sounds like my mommy?"

Once I was done the humiliation, I got a little angry. I've seen people show up to church in Vikings jerseys, white tops with black bras, skirts that show wayyy too much skin, stripper heels, flip-flops, you name it. I'm not perfect. I tooootally judge!

I'm just nice and appropriate enough to wait until brunch to sigh and go "oh my gosh, did you SEE that???"

I have no moral or question. This is purely a vent post from a girl with a beer trying very hard to salvage a cranky Sunday. Thank you for your time.