Nov 24, 2010 What's Going On
Holiday weeks are awesome. As we get closer to the actual holiday, emails slow down. No press events get planned. It doesn’t mean that I work less, it just means that I get a chance to catch up a bit, finish the dozens (I’m not exaggerating) of posts that are sitting in draft mode, and I can stop waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat muttering “I swear, I’m getting to it today!”
I also love holiday weeks because, let’s face it, I’m not little miss domesticity most of the time. My son is a picky eater, my daughter wants tomato soup every night, and my husband usually gets home late and makes his own dinner at about 9pm. The dreams I originally had of setting the table each night and serving an elaborate homemade meal changed to grilled cheese, plain pasta, and delivered pizza years ago.
So, I try to get my fill of cooking on the big food holidays. I’m a bit disappointed that we’re not having any friends or family joining us this year, but I’ll probably make enough food for ten people anyway.
When I figure out the menu for holiday dinners I do not take into consideration calories or variety. I make sure that everybody has at least one thing on the table they love. If Jake wants to eat a plate full of fluffy white rolls, so be it. He’ll be thrilled.
Some years we have a turkey, some years not. Yes, this vegetarian can make her own turkey, and I have many times. But we’ve also gotten into the habit since moving to Brooklyn of picking up a turkey from a local restaurant that deep fries them, and has a line around the block in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. This year, with only my husband and daughter eating meat, neither of them wanted a turkey; we’re having a roast chicken instead. Blasphemy, I know. :-)
So, tomorrow’s menu will be a hodgepodge of comfort food, old favorites, and artery busters. I’m also making a couple of recipes for the first time, which breaks one of my cardinal rules for big fancy dinners. But since we’re not having any guests, I’m using my family as guinea pigs. They won’t mind.
- Fresh Direct soft white dinner rolls, the kind you just heat up in the oven. They’re Jake’s favorite
- Caesar salad. But with the dressing on the side, since I don’t eat fish (or whatever anchovies are). I’ll be having ranch.
- A Perdue roast chicken, already dressed and rubbed and soaked and tied and whatever you do to a chicken. I just have to put it in the oven. There are some things I think benefit from being totally homemade, and that’s not one of them.
- Martha Stewart’s Perfect Macaroni and Cheese. I’ve never made this recipe, but my husband made it once and it turned out pretty well. But I bet mine will be better. ;-)
- Green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic.
- Butternut squash, roasted and mashed with butter and a little brown sugar.
- Stove Top Stuffing. Do not try to feed me homemade, fancy stuffing. Stove Top is my favorite and the only stuffing I want on holidays. The chicken flavor, even though I’m a vegetarian. Go figure.
- Mashed potato bake. This is the kind of dish I can ONLY make on holidays. If I started making it regularly I would weigh 300 pounds.
- Apple pie, my favorite.
- Pumpkin pie, which I don’t like and have never made but my husband requested. The kids don’t like pie. So, yes, we will each have our own pie. So?
- Brownies for the kids.
- Homemade ice cream with this amazingly easy and fast in-the-bowl soft ice cream maker from Hamilton Beach I was given at a BJ’s event last week. Fiona’s had homemade ice cream for dessert every single night since the event. Trust me, at under $30 this would make a great gift. Fiona likes it with cut up Kit Kats and rainbow sprinkles. :-)
So that’s it! By this time tomorrow I’ll be licking my fingers, in the home stretch. I hope you all have a great holiday, whatever you do.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1 (for the ice cream maker). Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 23, 2010 Uncategorized
My kids and I saw a sneak preview of the new movie Tangled, and I’m thrilled to say that Disney has once again produced a movie that I enjoyed as much as my kids did. The story revolves around Rapunzel and her seventy feet of magical hair. She’s spent her life trapped in a tower, being “protected” from the world by Mother Gothel. Yearning to be free and experience life outside of the only home she’s ever known, Rapunzel embarks on an adventure with a dashing criminal, Flynn Rider. Add a stolen tiara, a determined horse, a couple of thugs, a very protective pet chameleon, and a kingdom missing its princess, and you’ve got all of the ingredients for a beautiful adventure with some gorgeous songs and a lot of laughs.
Tangled is a 3D, CGI movie, but don’t expect soulless faces and gimmicky special effects. It’s a lush, expressive, visually stunning movie that makes you forget it’s in 3D. Believe me, that’s a good thing. Coming close on the heels of Toy Story 3, another great example of how studios should use 3D, Tangled draws you in with its depth and detail, and never slaps you in the face with any “Hey, look at me, I’m in 3D!” moments. Rapunzel’s hair is almost a character itself, and I shudder to think how many Disney animators went to the loony bin making it look so realistic.
Mandy Moore is just perfect as the voice of Rapunzel, both speaking and singing, and Zachary Levi conveys both unbridled confidence and tender longing as Flynn. Broadway powerhouse Donna Murphy annoyed me a bit when speaking Mother Gothel’s lines, and I can’t quite figure out if it was her interpretation, or just the way the character was written. But it doesn’t really matter, because she made up for it completely with her show-stopping number “Mother Knows Best.”
The supporting characters are all perfectly cast, but my favorite didn’t even talk: Maximus, the royal horse who takes it upon himself to hunt down Flynn. I get annoyed easily by talking animals, even when animated, so I’m very happy that Disney chose to leave all of the animals in Tangled mute, save for their natural animal sounds.
The best news for Disney is that my nine-year-old son loved the movie. My six-year-old daughter was a sure thing (Disney? Princess? Singing? Hair? No question she’d love it), but based on the commercials I’ve been seeing Disney is really hoping the boys show up to theaters too – they play up the adventure aspects of the movie much more than the romance.
We’ve actually seen Tangled twice so far (the first time was a fascinating early screening with a full story and score, but with the animation in different stages of completion), and my kids were riveted both times. And I sobbed in several places, both times. I laughed, I cried, I was moved…and you will be too.
Article first published as Movie Review: Tangled on Blogcritics.
This was posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 23, 2010 Product Review
For a couple of years I’ve been looking for a perfect pair of black pants. They should be a staple in every woman’s wardrobe, like the perfect little black dress. But I was never able to find a pair that felt good enough, or looked good enough. The ones that are more structured wrinkle too easily and can look cheap, and the ones that flow nicely have showed all of the – ahem – lumpiness in my thighs. What I definitely did not want to do was have to wrestle myself into some kind of girdle just to wear pants. I hate being that high-maintenance. And I burp uncontrollably when I wear anything that tight.
I was thrilled when I heard that Ralph Lauren would be sending me a pair of Sanderson stretch dress pants from the Lauren by Ralph Lauren line. But I was also a little apprehensive at the thought of reviewing and possibly promoting a pair of Ralph Lauren pants, because I don’t spend a ton of money on my clothes (and it shows). But then I found out that these pants retail for $109 (and can be purchased for less than that on sale – I found them just today on macys.com for $85). To me that’s a completely reasonable cost for dress pants that have gotten me through many different situations in the three weeks that I’ve had them so far. I wore them on a six-hour plane flight and they came out looking great. I wore them to a couple of blogging events and a dinner. I dressed them down with a white button down shirt and up with my favorite red sweater.
The thing I love the most about the is how they make me feel when I’m wearing them. I don’t like my legs and hate the way I look in skirts and dresses, but usually feel like I’m being too casual if I wear pants. These Sanderson pants solved that. I can wear pants to more formal events now and still feel dressed up. But just as important, these pants are not so expensive or delicate that I worry about them when I have them on. If they ever decide to sell them in a cream color, I’ll buy them in a second.
If I have one little complaint about them, it’s that they’re dry clean only. But I’ve “refreshed” them in the dryer several times now for a few minutes on the no heat setting, between cleanings, and that worked very well. So, that really is a tiny complaint – overall I’m thrilled with these pants, and if you know me you’ll be seeing me in them a lot. :-)
I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for Ralph Lauren and received a pair of Lauren by Ralph Lauren pants and other special offers to facilitate my review.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
The following post was commissioned by PictureItPostage.
I have to be honest, I hardly ever send anything through the mail anymore. When I do, it’s usually for a special occasion – an invitation, thank you notes, an announcement, a holiday. And those mailings would be even more special with personalized picture stamps from PictureItPostage. You can put any picture you want (at least anything appropriate for sending through the mail) on a real USPS stamp. Imagine how tickled relatives would be getting their Christmas cards from you with pictures of your kids on the stamp? Or you could send out wedding invitations with engagement pictures on the outside of the envelopes. It doesn’t stop at personal stuff either, you could put a business logo on the stamps as well.
I was given the opportunity to try out the service in order to review it, and it was amazingly quick and easy. From start to finish, the entire set-up and ordering process took about four minutes! You can either do it online in a browser, or you can download software (both PC and Mac). You upload your picture, make simple edits (zoom, center, crop, choose background color, etc.), choose which kind of postage you need, and check out! I can’t wait for my stamps to arrive. I chose a really cute picture of my kids, and I’m going to use my stamps to mail our Christmas cards.
If you want to try PictureItPostage for yourself, you can get a $4 discount off of your order by using the code “MOTHERHOOD” through January 31st, 2011. Just enter it at checkout. With stamp packages starting at just $15.95, this discount can save you a significant percentage off of your order. Plus, everyone who orders from PictureItPostage using the discount code “MOTHERHOOD” between now and December 15th will be entered into a drawing for $500 cash! I bet that would go a long way for holiday shopping. You can see the official contest rules here, as well as some suggestions on how to make your holiday mailings more special.
Check out this amazingly easy service for yourself. You can upload pictures and preview your stamps before deciding if you want to buy or not, so you have nothing to lose. I’ll post my stamps when they get here so you can see how they turned out.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 2. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 19, 2010 Paid/Sponsored Post
The following post was commissioned by Wisk.
For this last Wisk experiment (you can see us battling protein stains here and carbohydrate stains here), Fiona got to do one of her favorite things: put on make-up. One of the many reasons I don’t like wearing lipstick is that I always manage to get it on my clothes. Sometimes it doesn’t even happen directly: it goes from my lips to a glass, and I manage to brush up against it with my sleeve. Oily splatter while cooking, damage from the school’s popcorn machine, the oil from pizza cheese dripped on my pants…yeah, I’m a slob, and could really use something that tackles oily stains. They’re the worst.
After Fiona was done putting her mark on the towel, I put some Wisk on it and rubbed it in for about 30 seconds. Then I rinsed the detergent out, and voilà, no more lipstick!
It’s been fun doing these little laundry experiments with the kids. They’ve definitely taught me how to fight stains that might have otherwise ruined clothes, especially since I don’t always get around to washing them for days or weeks. But even I can take a few minutes to rub a spot out before any permanent damage is done.
I’ll end my tenure as a Wisk Beta Blogger by showing you this new Wisk commercial, touting the stain spectrum technology – I hope you enjoy it!
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 2. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 18, 2010 Contest/Giveaway
[The comments on this post are now closed. I'd like to congratulate Evelin on winning the bicycle, and thank Performance Bicycle for providing such a great prize.]
The other day my husband took the kids out for a long bike ride, and while Fiona is still clinging to her training wheels like a non-swimmer to a life jacket, Jake is quite the biker, even if he is getting too big for his current bike. The kid just grows too fast. I wasn’t able to convince him that his knees are supposed to be level with his chin when he pedals, like a clown in the circus. So, it’s time for a new bike.
I try to buy whatever I can online, where possible and practical, but buying a bike online is annoying because it means that we (uh, me, usually) have to put it together. And it’s not like bikes come in a thousand pieces, but getting the brakes right and other adjustments are hard. However, there’s a store, Performance Bicycle, that will put their private label bikes together for you and adjust the fit to the height of your child, and ship it right to your door for a great price. No staying up until three on Christmas morning getting the big surprise ready! The bike arrives in a very big box, all ready to go. Look for “Shipped 100% Built” in the item description, and all you’ll have to do is roll the bike out of the box, tighten the handlebars, and it’s ready to ride. No tools, no yelling (oh, is that just us when we assemble things?).
Performance Bicycle also has stores in sixteen states, so if you buy in-store look for bikes with the Kids’ Bike Growth Guarantee, which gives you discounts on future bike purchases (see the site for details).
Performance Bicycle is giving Jake a new bike from their own line, and I also get to give one away! The winner can choose either the Boys Burnout 20″ 7-speed, or the Girls Starling 20″ 7-speed, both shipped 100% built – these bikes retail for $249!
To enter, all you have to do is tell me something about your family and bikes – where you like to bike, a funny learning-to-ride story, anything you want. Just leave a comment on this post.
For a second entry, you may tweet about this contest with a link back to this page. Or, you can copy and tweet the following:
Enter to win a fully assembled $249 kids’ Performance Bicycle from @SelfishMom! http://bit.ly/can4DI
Make sure to leave a second comment with a link to your tweet, or it won’t count (instructions on how to find and post the url of your tweet can be found here).
So, that’s a maximum of two entries per household please! This contest will close at noon-ish on Friday, November 26th and the winner will be chosen by random.org. You must be at least 18 years of age to enter. Prizes may be shipped within the continental United States only. See my complete Giveaway Rules page for more information.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 10. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 15, 2010 What's Going On
Earlier this month I went on a fantastic trip to California with some other bloggers, hosted by the California Milk Advisory Board. The CMAB represents California’s dairy farms, 99% of which are family owned (the rest are owned by institutions, such as prisons or universities). Its job is to promote California milk products through education, research, commercials, and events like our blogging tour. We got to visit a couple of dairy farms, talk to people in the industry and eat a lot of cheese.
So this is the part where I tell you how dumb I am. Not long ago, Fiona was drinking some milk and asked me why it was OK for us to drink cow’s pee but not our own pee. Once I was done laughing I explained to her that we were drinking cow’s milk, just like she drank my milk when she was a baby. This led to a bunch of questions from her about how we get the cow milk, what the cows’ babies were drinking if we were drinking their milk, and why we don’t just keep drinking people milk. I was only able to answer some of her questions, and vowed to find the other answers for her. But of course, life got in the way (doesn’t it always?) and I never got around to it. Her questions were filed away, and I was fortunate enough to have this great opportunity to get the answers, right from the experts.
We started the first evening at Galletto Ristorante in Modesto, with a fantastic cheese tasting and dinner led by Juliana Uruburu from the Cheese School of San Francisco. This was a little nerve-wracking for me, because I’m a processed American/Mozzarella stick/packaged cheddar kind of person (or at least, I thought I was). I sometimes refer to myself not as a vegetarian but as a cheesetarian, and I always have about seven or eight different cheeses in my fridge, but the most exotic it gets is a good Parmesan for shredding over pasta and sometimes a nice stinky blue cheese. But I found several cheeses in our tasting that became instant favorites, including one I’d never heard of before, Burrata, which is a fresh mozzarella wrapped around cream. I’m drooling thinking about it.
I think I may have caused a mini-scandal by passing up the sparkling wine and sparkling water and asking for a Diet Coke with our fancy, gourmet dinner. Then, after dessert I was practically falling asleep on the table (remember, three hour time difference) so I left with a couple of other bloggers to go back to the hotel. I said goodbye, I took my coat, I even waved on my way out. But for some reason everyone thought that I had merely gone to the bathroom, and when a long time had passed and I couldn’t be found the group started to panic. I was blissfully unaware of all of this, back in my room asleep. I didn’t find out until the next morning. Really, you can’t take me anywhere.
The next day started bright and early when we boarded a bus to the first of two dairy farms. I’d like to think that I always go into learning experiences with my critical eye wide open, but I’m guessing that I was affected more than I’d like to admit by the recent “corn sugar” blogging tour brouhaha. I knew that there were several hot-button issues to be raised: rBST, antibiotics, and living conditions for the cows. And I also knew that I was not going to be visiting dairies with small herds grazing peacefully in fields of clover. But I don’t buy organic milk (neither of the farms we visited were organic) and wanted to see how the kind of milk I’m likely to drink (or eat in cheese and other products) is produced. I was proud of our group – we didn’t shy away from tough questions. But it was also heartening to meet the people whose livelihoods depend on these animals and see for ourselves how much they care about them. As we were reminded many times, if the cows aren’t happy and healthy, they don’t produce milk.
The first farm, the Charles Ahlem Dairy, is a large one with 2,800 Jersey cows (the pretty brown ones). We were led on our tour by the owners of the farm, who showed us the very cool milking carousel, which held about fifty cows and rotated as the cows were milked. The cows knew the routine, lining up and entering their milking stalls without help. Then their udders were cleaned and the milking machines attached, and the cows stood still for about eight minutes as the carousel turned slowly. At one point, one of the dairy’s workers popped the machine off of a cow so that I could give milking a try. It was easier than I thought it would be, but then again her milk was already flowing.
At the second farm, the Durrer Dairy, we got to see newborn calves in their “cribs.” This is a smaller farm, with less than 1,000 cows, almost all of them Holsteins (the more familiar black and white ones). The calves get taken from their mothers immediately and are not allowed to be fed from their mothers at all, to avoid infecting the udders. The colostrum is pumped and bottle fed to the calves instead. The young calves are kept in small pens in the shade. Cows can’t sweat, so at both farms a lot of resources and energy were put toward keeping the cows cool – shade is plentiful, and water misters come on automatically at certain temperatures.
Earning Their Keep
I won’t lie, it was a little sad seeing a newborn (less than a day old) calf in its little pen, all alone. But these are not pets, they are work animals. What I saw at both dairies was that the animals were cared for and treated very well, but everything is geared toward the production of milk. Cows are inseminated about once a year, so that they will continue to produce milk (they get a break in the weeks before they give birth; other than that they are milked two or three times a day). Great care is taken to make sure they don’t get sick. If they do, and need antibiotics, they are immediately taken out of the general population and stay isolated from milk production until their milk is completely free of antibiotics.
A sample of the milk is taken before it is trucked away, and then before the milk can be unloaded at the milk processing plant all of the samples from the dairies on that particular truck are tested. If any antibiotics are found, the dairy responsible has to pay all of the other dairies on the truck for their milk, and the processing plant can’t use that milk. This gives dairies a huge incentive to make sure that their milk is completely antibiotic free.
Ahlem Dairy uses rBST on some of its cows at certain points in their milking/pregnancy cycle, to increase production. Durrer Dairy does not. According to the USDA, rBST is used on less than 20% of cows in the U.S. Artificial growth hormones in milk are a pretty controversial issue, and honestly I have no idea if I’m buying milk containing rBST or not, since Monsanto (which produces the hormone) has done a pretty good job of making sure that companies are not even allowed in most states to state whether or not a product is rBST-free (the implication being that touting a lack of something means that that something is bad). Frankly, I think that’s kind of disgusting – I don’t necessarily have a problem with rBST (my kids don’t eat much meat so I’m just not worried about the cumulative effects of artificial hormones), but I do have a problem with a giant corporation dictating how food products can be labeled. I think when possible and practical, consumers should be given more information, not less, and be allowed to decide for themselves.
At both farms we visited as well as the other farms we learned about through personal stories and videos, we kept hearing over and over about second- third- and fourth-generation dairy farmers. Toddlers accompanied the tours at both farms, and there were lots of other children around. These are not just businesses, but lifestyles passed down from parents to children.
Besides the owners, we got to talk to veterinarians, nutritionists and caretakers, all of whom work together to make sure that the cows are healthy and productive. Touring these farms made me feel good about the California dairy industry, and I’m going to seek out information on the dairies closer to me, where the majority of my milk is coming from. But I’ve also been looking for some of the specific California cheeses I got to try – I’m lucky to be in New York City, with some great grocery and cheese stores.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has Compensation Levels of 1 & 7. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 12, 2010 What's Going On
I don’t really listen to music on the subway. It’s enough just getting out the door with my metrocard, wallet, phone, maybe some chapstick, a book if I’ve got things especially together. And I don’t really need to be in that bubble. The subway noises don’t generally bother me. Every once in a while there will be a screaming baby, or a yelling, swearing mom, or a crazy person shouting about dogs and french fries, but it’s just part of the background noise of my day. I tune it out. I read. I answer emails on my phone. Whatever. Even the most annoying people on the subway, the ones who try to convert us heathens between stops, are gone in sixty seconds. Tune out, read.
But this guy today, he got on a minute after me, stood in the middle of the car, and preached at the top of his lungs. After a couple stops I couldn’t tune him out anymore. I don’t know why. Maybe because he was breaking that unwritten rule: you don’t annoy me for longer than it takes to go under the East River, I won’t point out what an obnoxious, intrusive presence you are. Or maybe it was just the volume. He was LOUD. And the car was otherwise completely silent, which just made him seem all that much louder.
And he stayed in my car. Two stops. Three. Four. This is getting ridiculous. He’s not even taking a breath. My brain is only capable of handling this kind of shit for 30 seconds at a time. I’m going to explode.
No I’m not, I only have a couple stops to go. If I can tune out my kids fighting, I can tune this guy out.
But I couldn’t. And I yelled. As far as I can remember, it went something like “Shut up! Believe whatever you want to believe, but stop bothering the whole car! This is ridiculous! Go to another car. Leave us alone!”
I’m not sure what I thought would happen next. A movie moment, where the entire car starts clapping and cheering for me, would’ve been nice. But no. One woman near said “I’m with you.” But that was it.
And through it all? Through my yelling? Through everyone looking at me as my face turned as red as my sweater? He kept preaching. Didn’t miss a beat.
I thought he hadn’t even heard me. I’m guessing that if you’re going to spend your days yelling your beliefs at strangers you have to tune them out to a certain extent too. But then, right before my stop, he said something like “And you think that if I shut up you will be left in peace. But you won’t.” That made me smile a little. He had heard me.
And that was that. I got off of the train and went about my day. And he probably went about his, more determined than ever to reach people like me.
It’s not about religion (although that aspect of it probably contributed to my mood - my regular readers know that God probably doesn’t even know who I am). It’s about a bunch of people living and working in close quarters, all trying to go about their lives in different ways, following the unwritten rules that we’ve all developed together. A person who will stand in the middle of a subway car shouting about God for ten or fifteen minutes at the top of his lungs is a person who has decided, for whatever reason, not to follow the civil rituals the rest of us have tacitly agreed upon. He was playing by different rules, so I reacted in a way that I would normally find rude and wrong.
I’m not sorry I yelled. I don’t think walking up to him and calmly asking him to please stop was called for. I just wish I hadn’t waited a full ten minutes. And I do wish a few more people had joined in. I’m pretty sure nobody else in that car wanted to be shouted at for their entire commute, so I wonder why we all sat there taking it.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.