Monthly Archives: April 2011

I’m Convinced They Were Trying to Kill Us

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I was reading @burghbaby’s post the other day about 80s toys and how they have led to many failures in life and my first thought was “I’m old”. No really. Because I didn’t have toys in the 80s – I had toys in the 70s When 80’s kids were playing with Strawberry Shortcake, we 70s kids were taking drinking beer in a barn somewhere. When 80s kids were playing with Cabbage Patch Dolls, we 70s kids were taking the SATs. When 80s kids were playing with Transformers, we 70s kids were researching birth control (by which I mean NOT researching birth control – teens are notoriously stupid). And while 80s toys may have caused failure, 70s toys were known to maim and kill. For instance:

Click-Clacks (or Clackers, Klackers, etc):

They were 2 hard acrylic balls on strings that you would hang on your finger. Then, you’d move your hand up & down and they would “clack” against each other loudly. It was quite fun until you hit yourself in the face with them and broke your orbital bone.

Slime:

This one was only dangerous when you inevitably got it in the carpet and your mom lost her mind.

The Streaker:

This was one of my favorite toys as a child. It was two long nylon ropes threaded through a football-shaped hard plastic ball. At the four rope ends there were handles that each player would hold. You would spread your hands apart, which would send the ball “streaking” towards the other player, who would them send it back. The object of this game seemed to be to get that thing going as fast as possible and catch your opponent off-guard so it would slam against their hands and hopefully break some fingers.

Ice Bird:

This was a snow cone maker. You froze a block of ice and then used a bird with a scary ass grater on the bottom to shave the ice. I don’t know about you, but I have shaved off my knuckles a ton of time while grating cheese, etc. Cheese is soft, and this grater was strong enough to grate ice.

Suzy Homemaker Oven:

This was similar to the easy bake oven, but it was more awesome, because instead of sliding the cake in a slot, it opened up like a real oven. This meant you could cook whatever you wanted – not just those little bullshit easy-bake cakes. This toy wasn’t super dangerous in and of itself (other than the fact that an oven for children = burns, but it became dangerous when my friend Sue and I cooked up one too many nasty-assed concoctions and my grandma started making us eat them. That? Was deadly.

Creepy Crawlers:

Oh how I loved my Creepy Crawler maker (I had a thing for a lot of “boy toys” – I had about 5 slot car sets). This was a toy that allowed you to make your own rubber-like bugs, by pouring a liquid “goop” into die-cast molds. But see – the metal molds on this thing heated up to approximately 23 thousand degrees. I think I still bear scars from that toy.

Incredible Edibles:

These were the same as the creepy Crawlers, only you could eat them. Burns on the hands AND mouth.

Paddle Talk:

This was a plastic paddle that you took in the car. It had different messages that you could flip around and “talk” to other cars. The toy itself wasn’t dangerous, but showing the “Same to You Turkey!” or “Get Off My Tail” to the wrong person could get your ass kicked. Not to mention that the rest of them where in the “You’re Cute”/”Hot To Trot”/”Let’s Park” vein and could get you molested.

Super Elastic Bubble Plastic:

That shit had to be toxic.

Krazy Kar:

I loved this with a passion. You sat in the middle and “pedaled” with your arms. This definitely wasn’t as dangerous as some of the other toys I owned – it didn’t heat up, or explode, or shoot your eye out, but you sat so low to the ground that no car could ever see you. And it had no brakes, so riding it down a hill pulled your arms off and sent you crashing into the neighbor’s bushes. Not that I’d know anything about that.

Jarts:

It’s like they wanted us dead. Irwin Mainway would be proud.

But as dangerous as the 70s toys were, it was even worse for the 60s kids. My Aunt Cee, who is a few years older than me, got this for Christmas one year:

The Big Burger Grill

That, my friends is a real, working grill. To cook burgers on. Somehow my aunt managed not to get 3rd degree burns or set the house on fire. But that may have been because she never really “got” the toy. It was intended to be a Christmas present, but she went snooping and found it before Santa could put it under the tree. Then she proceeded to open it, head down to the fridge for some ground meat, and cook up a burger and eat it. Then, being a child, it never occurred to her to clean the thing before she put it back in the box. Needless to say, when Santa was doing the wrapping, he smelled the telltale smell of cooked meat and got suspicious. Strangely, the box never appeared under the tree.

I could go on forever listing these – like the one I can’t remember the name of which was a silly-putty like substance in bright colors that you would throw against the wall and it would stick. My family was dangerous with that stuff – things got broken, people got beamed in the head. Good times.

But not all of the 70s toys were dangerous. I also have many fond memories of toys like Fidget:

And Shaker Makers:

And Fuzzy Wuzzy soap:

Tell me – what was your favorite 60s-70s toy? And was it dangerous?

Tick Tick Tick…Boom

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On Easter, we sat at my aunt’s house, talking about childhood injuries & illnesses and the talk turned to lice. I have been through that devil plague wit my kids and I can tell you that long after the infestation has been cleared, the effects will live with you for a long time – possibly forever. not your kids – your kids will be all, whatever two days later, but you’ll be the one who – five years later – still loses my shit every time I feel even the tiniest itch on my head (and I didn’t even have them!)

So anyway, I was telling everyone how I’m nuts and obsessive, and how I completely overreact if one hair as much as moves in the breeze and feels like a tiny tickle or itch. I immediately go into a several hour panic, scratching and feeling around in my scalp for what is obviously some kind of creepy crawly. And then we all laughed and laughed at how crazy I am.

And then Monday, I was sitting at my desk at work, ran my fingers through my hair, and discovered a tick.

A TICK!!!

IN MY HAIR!!!!!!!

Who’s crazy now, bitches???

(OK, it’s me – I’m still crazy. Because once you find a tick crawling around in your hair, it’s pretty much crazytown from here on out. Of all thing to be right about, it had to be this one.)

Conversations

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The Girl & friend visiting my SIL, Weenie, at her work (a makeup counter):

The Girl: “Can we put on lip gloss?”
Weenie: “Sure – what color do you want?”
Friend: “We want red!”
The Girl: “Excuuuuse me, Friend, but YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME! We’ll take red, Weenie.”

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Bathing suit shopping with my mother (gives you chills, doesn’t it?):

Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: hmm
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: *rolls eyes*
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: sigh
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: pfft
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: *getting a headache*
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: (silent) omgomgomgomg
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: *trying not to kill anyone*
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: *thinking about killing myself*
Mom: “I don’t like that one – it makes your boobs look huge.”
Me: “Mother – I have had these boobs for THIRTY YEARS – you should have accepted by now that they ARE huge!”

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After school:

The Girl: “Mom, someone wrote a bad word on the board today.”
Me: “Really?”
The Girl: “Yep. You wanna know what they wrote?”
Me: “Sure – what did they write?”
The Girl” “They wrote the A-word!”
Me: “No way!”
The Girl: ” Yes way. AND they put ‘hole’ on the end!”
Me: “Get out! I wonder who wrote it.”
The Girl: “Maybe it was Charley – he probably thinks that’s his name anyway, since that’s what you call him all the time.”

Tomatoes!

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When it comes to struggling to manage work, home, kids, etc, something always suffers (I have finally accepted that I cannot be supermom), and for me, that thing tends to be meals. I try – I really do try – to have a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table every night, but I fail by a long shot. Time is a factor – I get home after work and often have a very short time before I have to run someone off to soccer practice or scouts, and that means cooking/eating quickly. And home-cooked and healthy don’t often go hand in hand with quick.

Add in the picky eaters in my house and it’s a recipe for disaster (or crappy, empty meals). When it comes to vegetables for instance, the girl loves green beans – she would eat them every day for every meal. The boy hates them. Mr b loves Brussels sprouts. The rest of us laugh at him when he suggests we have them. They’ll eat raw cauliflower and carrots, but gag at the thought of it cooked. They like broccoli cooked, but raw? No way. It’s enough to make you crazy. Or crazier, in my case.

And if I am being honest, I can be picky, too. There isn’t a lot that I won’t eat, but the things I don’t like, I really don’t like. I will continue to try foods I don’t like, because you never know. I eat a ton of things now that I didn’t eat as a child. Or that I didn’t eat even a few years ago. Beans, peppers & peas, for instance. But other things – not matter how many times I try, I can’t stomach – like peanut butter. And one of the main things that I won’t eat is the girl’s absolute favorite food in the world – fresh tomatoes.

Now, I love tomato sauce and Lord knows I think ketchup is a food group, but fresh tomatoes? I just can’t seem to develop a taste for them. But I try to work them into our meals as often as possible, because tomatoes are quite good for you.

Did you know that tomatoes and tomato products have been shown to help with reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, ultraviolet light–induced skin damage, osteoporosis, and other conditions?

And that tomatoes contain high levels of carotenoid antioxidants such as lycopene, but also serve as a significant source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium (in fact, calorie for calorie, tomatoes contain more than twice the potassium of other common sources such as bananas, potatoes, milk and orange juice).

Tomatoes are so good for you that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee outlined a new red-orange vegetable sub-group for Americans to provide a greater focus on tomatoes. This guideline can be easily met by consuming just one more half-cup serving of tomatoes each day.

Since I don’t eat fresh tomatoes, though, I thought that I probably wasn’t getting the health benefits, because fresh is always better, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that canned tomato products (which I do use regularly) are not only as good as fresh, in some ways, they can be better. While all tomatoes contain high levels of the powerful antioxidant lycopene – canned products such as tomato paste, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce have approximately seven times more lycopene than raw tomatoes!

See – you learn something new every day!

Hunt’s has shared this information with me, so I can pass it on to you, along with a recipe showing that even crazy, busy, tired moms of even the pickiest eaters can manage to throw together something delicious AND nutritious and not lose our minds.

The problem with recipes is that I am not a recipe-style cook. I am a throw it together using the “dash of this” and “handful of that” method (which is why I suck at baking – it’s too much of an exact science), but I’m sure you all can figure it out – it’s quick, easy and delicious).

We have this pasta dish once a week, because we all love it (and I did have photos to go along with this, but then I lost all my sense and somehow deleted them from my camera). I dedicate this recipe to my grandma who – for years – watched me pick every tiny tomato morsel out of every dish she ever made.

You’ll need:
• 1 box of pasta (I prefer campanelle – it’s pretty, so it looks nice when you are serving it to guests, plus the shape of the pasta holds the flavors better)

• 3 red peppers, thinly sliced (sometimes I use combinations of red/yellow/orange – it tastes the same, but it’s pretty. And yes, I clearly have a thing about “pretty” food)

• 2 packages of sliced mushrooms (you can slice your own, but my own personal feelings about that are: HAHAHAHAHAHA – pre-sliced it is)

• 2 cans of Hunt’s diced tomatoes (I use the no-salt added because I like to control the salt, plus my family are food-salters, but they have a ton to chose from – they have diced with garlic, or with basil or balsamic or peppers or lots of other combinations – you can see them all here – but definitely use Hunt’s because theirs are the best quality – they go from vine to can in just hours and they use flash-steaming to remove the skins, which many other companies use LYE – ewww)

• Garlic – lots and lots of garlic (you can use fresh & mince it yourself, or do what I do – buy a jar of it already minced. You can use garlic powder if you want, but it’s not the same).

• Minced onion (or fresh, sliced onion if your kids won’t cry and whine and choke and gag and possibly convulse at the sight of an onion in their meal)

• Extra-virgin olive oil. (I suppose you could use the oil of your choice, but I am telling you in all honesty you want the extra virgin for the flavor. Or at the very least some sort of olive oil. Don’t ruin this with canola or vegetable oil – I’m begging you).

• Grated cheese- whatever you prefer – romano, parmesan, asiago (personally, all the cheeses are my favorite – I have made it with fontinella which was delicious, but my kids tasted the difference, and I sometimes make it with crumbled bleu, but only if it’s just for me because if you think the onions will make my kids cry/whine/choke/gag/convulse, hoo-boy, try giving them bleu cheese).

• Salt & pepper

Now here are my very technical directions:

• Cook the pasta to be al dente

• In the meantime, pour some oil in a large pan and throw in your minced garlic. At least a tablespoon, though I tend to use more – garlic is magic.

• Then add your sliced peppers & sauté.

• After a few minutes, add the sliced mushrooms & continue to sauté until the veggies are tender. You can add a little oil or even water if needed.

• (This will sound weird, but I tend to let my veggies start to brown/scorch a tiny bit, then I will throw in a little water – it will give everything a nice flavor and color)
• Mix in your Hunts diced tomatoes & sauté for a minute or so (they don’t really need to cook, so much as just incorporate the flavor.

• Once the veggies are done, add a little more oil and dump your drained pasta into the pan & toss it all together (this is why you need a large pan – of you don’t have one, you can always do the mixing in a large serving dish, but I like to get the pasta in the pan for a minute or two to really get the flavor in there), adding salt & pepper to taste.

• Before serving, I usually mix a little bit of the cheese into the pasta to get some melting cheesy deliciousness, and then have more on hand for each person to add some of their own.

• Enjoy!

• Also – you can use the veggie part of this recipe as a bruschetta topping and it’s delicious – just cut everything up a tiny bit smaller.

OK – here’s the legal stuff: I was contacted and am being compensated by Hunt’s and The Motherhood to do this post, but the opinions expressed are my own. We really do eat this recipe once a week and we love it. And I really do use Hunt’s tomatoes because they are the best. My grandma used Hunt’s, my mom uses Hunt’s, and now I do too.

Maneater

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I was emptying out The Girl’s folder this morning and I came across a note written by her so-called “boyfriend”. It read, “I’m sorry I made you mad. I will do anything!”

OMG

Like No One Is Watching

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It started back in December with a tweet from @unclecrappy that Furthur was coming to Pittsburgh. I have a tendency to see that a concert or a play or a musical is coming to town, think yeah, I’d like to go to that, then go on to either forget all about it until it’s sold out, or decide to be “responsible” and not spend the money. I can’t tell you how many things I have missed this way (and regretted it afterward). I’m sure if @unclecrappy had left it at that, I would have done the same as always, skipping it and kicking myself after the fact. But he didn’t leave it at that. Instead, he sent me a message that he wanted me to come along with him and @mrscrappy and offered to get the tickets. And for the first time in a long time, I thought, the hell with it, I’m going. And I am so glad I did.

These days, not a lot of people know that I’m a Deadhead – I dress for work, and don’t generally blare my music at my desk. I have to fight for radio time in the car with three stubborn people. I don’t have the time or freedom of my late teens and early twenties to take off to parts unknown to see a show (or in some cases, camp out for tickets). But those who knew me “then” had no doubt – I was a Deadhead. It’s not just a love for a band and their music (although for me, that’s how it started), but it’s a way of life.

I liked the music when I was still in high school, but I didn’t know anyone else that did. And lord knows if there’s ever a time when you want to “fit in”, it’s high school. Sadly, for most of us, no matter how badly you want to and try to fit in, sometimes you just don’t. So imagine my delight when I went away to college and found my people. What a difference a year made for me. In high school, I had friends, but the majority of them weren’t real friends – they were the kind of friends that you have to actively work to keep – always watching what you say and do and wear. Always watching who else you befriend. And anyone who knows me knows that this is simply not the way I live my life. I have never been dazzled by an in crowd. I have never held back my feelings or actions for fear of someone liking me. To keep from hurting someone – sure – we have all done that. But to impress someone into being my friend? No thanks. Needless to say, by the time I graduated. I had a lot of acquaintances, but probably 3 or 4 true friends.

But then I went to college & met a deadhead and we became friends. And slowly but surely, I met more and more. And I knew I had found my tribe. Never in my life, had I come across a less assuming bunch of people. They cared about each other. They loved each other – and me – without judgment. Their doors were always open to whomever wanted to come in. They weren’t impressed by money or clothes or status, but by kindness and compassion. I was home. The next 10 years of my life, I moved around, changed schools (twice), had relationships, and lost and gained jobs. But one thing was always constant – the Deadhead friends I made in each place.

I grew up being criticized a lot, and that made me a pretty self-conscious person. I was comfortable enough with myself to not let it show – to not care what anyone thought of me, but even if I didn’t care about being judged, I still felt self-conscious much of the time. but around my deadhead friends, that part of me would disappear. And it wasn’t just my friends, it was that community in general. The community of Deadheads was like that – you didn’t need to be self-conscious about anything. I went on vacation by myself to visit my aunt and looked in the paper for something to do. I found a band called New Potato Caboose (a Dead song), and went with my aunt to see them. Before the night was over, I met some folks who invited me to hang out with them that weekend. By the next day, I had extended my vacation, changed my flights, and had a great time with my new friends.

I moved to a new city and heard about Dead night at a local bar. I headed there alone, but by the end of the night, I had made friends that I had for many years afterward. I once got separated from friends at a show and within five minutes of looking lost and alone, I was asked to join a group of folks sitting nearby and I spent the entire evening with them and had a great time. This – this – was what being a Deadhead was to me. I even found myself a more tolerant person in that environment. And another concert, people bumping into me and squeezing through the row of seats where I sat would irritate me. Not there. At any other concert, people standing up and dancing the entire time would frustrate me. Not there. There, it was expected, encouraged. I joined them.

But then Jerry died and the shows came to an end. They regrouped and started back up again, but by then I had had my first baby and then my second. Suddenly finding time or money for a concert was hard. By the time, I could finally go again, I always seemed to be on vacation or broke, or something, and I never managed to make it. And I lost touch with most of my Deadhead friends. And the old self-conscious me took hold again. I am constantly down on myself – I am too fat, my face is breaking out, my clothes are out of style, I’m out of shape, my hair is a mess. I miss out on doing things because of it. The thought of wearing a bathing suit in public makes me feel queasy (though I push through that one for The Plunge), I rarely appear in photos, though I happily take them of everyone else. I don’t dance unless I (or maybe everyone else) have ample alcohol to forget about my lack of rhythm and how awful I must look.

So last night, as I was walking into the venue with @unclecrappy, @mrscrappy and @cjyohe, surrounded by people – young, old, thin, fat, black, white and everything in-between, I suddenly realized I was feeling…I don’t know…weird. And then I realized that it wasn’t what I was feeling, but what I wasn’t feeling. Not one of those people cared about my hair looking bad. No one was offended that my t-shirt was a little clingy, showing off my belly. No one even noticed the ripped hem of my jeans. No one looked me up and down (except the one old guy who did and liked what he saw, as evidenced from his somehow inoffensive, “ooo, mama, you look good) And no one gave a damn whether I could dance or not. And dance I did. For the first time in a long, long time, I danced like no one was watching.