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Monday, December 29, 2008

My outstanding dinner-- it can be yours, too!

Staying at the family cabin, I originally packed frozen corn dogs for dinner. But after perusing the randomly-stocked freezer and pantry, I came up with this fabulous meal. Really, even the husband liked it... (and it's dairy free!!)

Still thinking of a title:

2 fattie boneless pork loin chops
olive oil
1 medium sliced onion
some dried rosemary and marjoram
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic

Sear the snot out of the porkchops in a big skillet in olive oil. Remove once they are mostly cooked and cover with foil. Then saute the onions in the remaining oil for a few minutes to give them a head start before adding the tomatoes, spices, and garlic. Cover and cook a few more minutes and then return the chops to the pan. Cover and heat through until the chops are done, but not over cooked. Pink ain't all bad.
Served it with pasta smothered in olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and dried parsley along with a salad.

If anyone tries it, let me know! Or if you've got a clever name, pass that on as well. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is for you, GiGi...

For this year's Wigilia dinner, the kids and I baked challah bread. (Jewish, Polish, tomatoes, toma-tohs...) This shot is for you, Grandma! We did you proud-- it's delicious! And I would have pushed the hair out of my face if the bread wasn't going to slide off the rack. Promise.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The inevitable holiday part 5: The Holiday Fever

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the dwelling,
My poor back was aching
And my ankles were swelling.

Motherly duties are
Never quite done.
At this time of year
We provide all the fun.

Who does all the shopping?
Who does all the baking?
Who wraps the presents
And keeps kiddies from shaking?

Who hangs the stockings?
Who strings all the lights?
Who fills Advent calendars
For twenty-four nights?

Who decks the halls?
Who keeps the tree wet?
Who helps make the presents that
The grandparents get?

In our home, it’s me.
The mother, the wife,
Who runs herself ragged
With holiday strife.

And yet for the sweating
And weariness, I fear
I do the same thing
Again every year.

What keeps me returning
To this disorderly place?
It’s not the gray hairs
Nor wrinkles on face.

It’s not the fruitcake
Or a great love of shopping,
No, instead it’s something
Else that keeps me hopping.

It’s that little feeling
That glows and that gleams.
It’s the reason for Christmas
And what it all means.

It’s hearing the stories
Of angels and kings,
Of candles and babies
And more yuletide things.

It’s stirring and mixing
And licking the beater.
It’s decorating with frosting
That can’t get much sweeter.

It’s teaching my kids
To wrap any shape,
And how to seal packages
Without five rolls of tape.

It’s singing of Bethlehem
And singing of snow,
As off to the church
As a family we go.

It’s leaving cookies and lists
And first morning squints
As we all run outside
To check for hoofprints.

It’s celebrating the day
That Jesus was born,
And waking up super early
On Christmas morn.

It’s watching kids’ faces
As I reach under the tree
And pull out the presents
That they each made for me.

It’s trying out the new bike
No matter the weather.
It’s dinner with family
All coming together.

It’s warm and it’s fuzzy,
And the cliché is just tragic,
But it’s real and wonderful
And honestly magic.

Despite all the hassle
The push and the shove,
The true feeling of Christmas
Is whole-hearted love.

I just can’t deny it.
I am a believer.
I’ve got a very bad case
Of Holiday Fever!

So gladly I prep
For this holiday season,
Remembering to celebrate
The real Christmas reason.

And when it’s all over
And the race has been run,
I’ll turn to my family
And kiss everyone,

“What a fine Christmas
It surely has been.
And only twelve months
‘Til we do it again!”

And as through tired eyes
I turn off the tree lights,
A blessed Christmas to all,
And to all, GOODNIGHT!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why our house looks like this for Christmas

We were fortunate enough to travel for Thanksgiving, but unfortunately didn't have much time to decorate for the holidays. After the neighbors poked fun numerous time (in person and harassing via email) Ryan had enough. He promptly went downstairs and flung two wads of Christmas lights in our puny tree out front.
Half of them twinkle, half of them don't.
And we leave them on 24/7 so our neighbors can see them whenever they look out their windows, day or night.
I've had other friends try to guess what the display is, if it is supposed to be snowflakes or stars hanging in the tree. "Nah, it's just a wad of lights" I tell them.
Eat your heart out, Clark Griswold.

Our Christmas Poems

So I thought I'd put a bit of literature into our annual Christmas program. I had the kids, each separately, help me write a poem. They gave the ideas, I made them rhyme. Look out, Jack Prelutsky!

My Sister Baked the Christmas Cookies
By Mom and Toby, 2008

My sister baked the Christmas cookies
When no one was around.
My mom was downstairs wrapping presents
And didn’t hear a sound.

My sister got creative
With her culinary skills,
And when I think about what she made
It just gives me the chills.

First she took a giant bowl
And filled it with orange juice
And then added from the freezer
Some ground up meaty moose.

Then she found some snack mix
In the pantry, way in back,
The marshmallows were all crusty
And the cereal all cracked.

Then some flour and some sugar,
And eggs that totaled twenty.
I sure hope these tasted good,
Because she was making plenty!

Then she mixed it with a spoon
With lots of song and lovin’
Then scooped it into tiny balls
And put them in the oven.

When they were brown and crusty
It was time to cool and frost.
She thought a tasty icing
Would be tobasco sauce.

When mom came back from wrapping
She said, “what smells like poo?”
Sister said “I baked some cookies,
And make them just for you!”

“Oh how sweet!” my mommy said,
I was surprised she wasn’t mad.
Then mom said “I’m on a diet,
Let’s give them to your dad.”

My Brother Decorated the Tree this Year
By Mom and Ellen, 2008

My brother decorated the tree this year,
It’s the strangest I’ve ever seen.
He hung so many ornaments on
You can barely tell it’s green.

He started with his toothbrush
And then squeezed on some paste.
Then stuck a bagel on a limb!
(But first he took a taste!)

Next he got a bag of chips
And hung them here and there.
Then emptied out his dresser drawer
And hung some underwear.

And masking tape and markers too
And don’t forget the string!
Aluminum foil and cotton balls,
He hung most everything!

Near the top he hung the shoes
That gave him such a blister.
And my mom grabbed him just before
He hung our baby sister.

Then he piled up the chairs
And climbed right up so far,
And placed himself upon the top,
Our crazy Christmas star!

Merry Christmas from the McAllisters!

Instead of spending money on stamps, we thought we'd blow it on fruitcake and send out this neat video instead. Enjoy a look back at our 2008!
Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Inevitable Holiday Part 4: A slice of heaven? (and the results are in!!!)

We’ve all heard the one about the poor fruitcake who, while he had plenty of dates for the Christmas party, nobody loved him. He was just a little too nutty.
Seems like fruitcakes have been getting a bad rap for ages. Literally.
A bit of research shows us that the whole idea of preserving fruit with sugar and then baking it into a so-called “cake” dates back to ancient Eygpt and the Roman Empire. Some historians say that a form of fruitcake was considered an essential food for the afterlife (and many today may agree!) A bit later in history, the Crusaders were said to pack the sturdy little cakes in their saddle bags on their long and arduous journeys. Apparently there weren’t many other foods that could withstand that kind of travel, and beef jerky and Twinkies hadn’t been invented yet.
Keep moving on in the history of this tasty holiday delight, and arrive in Victorian England, where those people just loved their fruitcake. They loved it so much that they started a custom that said if an unmarried wedding guest puts a slice of fruitcake under their pillow at night, he or she will dream of the person they will marry.
So why do we all eat it at Christmas? That remains a bit of a mystery, but it is thought that the carolers of old England were rewarded with a slice. Makes me wonder just how good their singing was…
This rich –and rather dense—history of a simple concoction of candied fruits and nuts brings us to our own country of America, a virtual melting pot of culture and of fruitcake recipes.
All of which I admit I have never really tried.
Sure, I’ve attempted to eat a piece of fruitcake before, and I can honestly say that I never met a fruitcake I liked, and that in Harper’s Index (1991) they are very true in saying that the ratio of the density of the average fruitcake to the density of mahogany is 1:1.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on this holiday tradition that has been around for thousands of years. Something somewhere makes me think that there has to be something good about these bricks, er, cakes. C’mon, they are everywhere this time of year. At least one will pass under the turned-up nose of just about everyone between now and January 1.
Therefore, this year as part of Inevitable Holiday, I am going to attempt to introduce my family to the inevitable fruitcake so that we may celebrate in this historical delicacy. But I have lofty goals and want it to actually be enjoyable to eat. I want to teach my children that there is a good side to fruitcake before they reach the age where people make their culinary decisions for them.
So I’m trying something a little different—a fruitcake cookie. A tasty-looking recipe with all of the fruitiness and nuttiness of fruitcake without the two pound loaf of lump that, according to the New York Times, 13% of people use as a doorstop.
My fingers are crossed that these confections that I’ve been building up in my mind actually live up to the hype, and that Santa and I don’t end up eating two dozen a piece, just to clear out room in the cookie jar.
I figure if we’re going to be stuck with this afterlife-appropriate, Crusade-withstanding, marriage-predicting baked good, we might as well make it somewhat delicious. I am just so very determined to make this inevitable tradition something special for my family. Maybe I’m crazy…or maybe just nuttier than a, well, you know.

Wanna know how they turned out? My husband said, and I quote, "what's wrong with chocolate chip? Can't you just ever make a normal cookie?" My neighbor said, "well, they're not bad, but I wouldn't go back for seconds."
All this makes me happy because I ate half of the batch by myself. I love them. Love them love them love them. Especially good with a hot cup of tea.
So for any of you just dying to know the recipe, email me (karriemcallister@aol.com) and I'd be happy to share it...as long as you are willing to share some cookies with me! :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The book...

I've got a handful of my books available if anyone is looking for a last minute Christmas present. Just shoot me an email.

The Inevitable Holiday part 3: Shopping spirit

Somehow, every year, I think I’ve got all of the time in the world to get my Christmas shopping done, and then, once the turkey digests, I find myself running frantic through the stores…with every other person within a three county radius.
Shopping during the holidays, as I see it, can be approached in two very different ways. There are those who have the spirit, and those who smell like it.
Let’s examine the first type, the Holiday Shopper:
The Holiday Shopper lives for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving with all of the fabulous deals, and still sees the month of December as one big shopping extravaganza. She thinks of shopping as a hobby more than a job, and is also the person who wears the Santa hat while gleefully waltzing throughout the stores, wishing everyone a happy holiday season and the occasional outbreak of Jingle Bells.
This person loves to shop. She usually checks many items over before deciding what to buy. She carefully holds up each item and thinks about the person she is buying it for, and how they would cherish it. The Holiday Shopper has a heart of gold and is brimming with holiday spirit.
On the reverse side is the Holiday Buyer. This person is not able to walk in any sort of zig-zag pattern in the stores, but instead makes a beeline for the exact items they have come to purchase and the registers. There is no extraneous singing, and by all means the Holiday Buyer would not wear a Santa hat. (In extreme cases, this person typically makes fun of the hat-wearers.)
The Holiday Buyer does not see the season of giving as a time to be loitering around comparing prices or colors of turtleneck sweaters. The Buyer comes, buys, and leaves, often times stopping off at the gift wrapping booth on her way out because the thought of stopping to buy wrapping paper and tape after what she just went through makes her holly lose its last bit of jolly.
I personally find myself somewhere caught between these two extremes. Every year I start out with the best of intentions, fully thinking that I will be that happy-go-lucky shopper who dons her holiday socks and dresses the kids in red and green before heading out for a day in the retail world. I play the Christmas music in the car. I make a special stop to buy everybody hot chocolate. I even spend the first good 10% of my time smiling at other shoppers and spreading well wishes and holiday cheer.
But then my son shows me his collection of hangers that he’s picked up in the previous department and my daughter is still singing those Christmas carols and the baby is chewing on the cart. And I have to reroute myself and my miniature entourage that is hyped up on hot chocolate through the toy department and explain that while Santa is magic, he can’t give you every single toy you want even though hearing myself say it out loud totally blows the whole magic theory all together…
Now sweating and praying that the baby won’t pick up Malaria from gnawing on the cart, I no longer zig or zag. I head directly to the check-out counter in a straight line, grabbing gifts along the way that I hope that people I know might not hate, only to find that the line stretches to the middle of the store, leaving us stagnant in the toy aisle once again.
We finally pay and limp out the door, only to be stopped by a Holiday Shopper.
“Merry Christmas!” she chirps under her Santa hat.
I quickly flash her my holiday socks to show her I’m not all bad and wish her an exhausted Merry Christmas right back. There’s always next year, right?

Got something to add? Post a comment or email me at karriemcallister(at)aol(dot)com.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jingle Bells...WHO smells?

Shamefully enough, I had to google the lyrics to "Jingle Bells, Batman smells" today, only to find out there are a lot of different versions that I have never heard. Some nicer than not, but it stands to raise a question:
Do we teach our kids these revolting rhymes?
Does Batman really smell?
And what about Deck the halls with gasoline???
(not to mention the ones that are unfit to post on the blog...)

Thoughts, anyone?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Double Whopper

OK, for some reason Ryan is just so impressed that I ate an entire Double Whopper the other day. He told me I need to blog about it. So here it is, the whole greasy story...

We stopped at a filthy and disgusting Burger King/gas station on the way home from Thanksgiving vacation because he had to pee even though the kids were quiet and the baby was sleeping. Between trips to the bathroom (aka. "small room of fecal coliform"), I had to quickly decide what to order. And because I am still the nazi breastfeeder and the babe has a milk allergy, I quickly scanned the photos of the food for something that didn't have cheese.

And for whatever reason, and it could have just been my bad eyesight from playing Webkinz too much, I thought the #2 meal didn't have cheese.

So that's what I told him to order for me.

"Sure?" he said.

"Yeah," I replied and took a deep breath and headed into the bathroom.

When the food came, the kids asked why I ordered such a big sandwich and naturally Ryan had to start making fun of me right there and then. But I put them all in their places and I ate the whole darn thing.

And the fries.

And a diet pop.

And then, even though Ryan totally doubted this, I did not have a belly ache nor did I throw up in the car, and I even ate dinner a few hours later.

Apparently this has been my greatest feat in all of our nine years of marriage, because I've never once heard him tell someone "hey, my wife birthed these three children, isn't that impressive?" but yet he keeps telling people about me eating the entire Double Whopper.

I am woman, see me eat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Inevitable Holiday, Part 2: Your Leftover Personality

For most people, the one very guaranteed part of the holidays are large family gatherings. And if your family is anything like ours, there is a copious amount of food. I’m sure the first Thanksgiving was a feast, but I’m also pretty sure every aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent and otherwise had to bring their signature dish in large quantities.
As if one family can eat that much green bean casserole…
So as sure as the turkey starts hiding in early November, there will always be a heaping helping of leftovers after the Thanksgiving dinner. The question is then, what to do with these remaining bits of delicious food. The older I get, the more I realize that people attain their own Leftover Personality, and it subconsciously dictates what to do with the spare sweet potatoes and the surplus stuffing.
Not sure what your Leftover Personality is? Take this handy quiz…
1. Do you bring a bag full of old Cool Whip containers and plastic baggies to the family gathering? If so, give yourself 2 points.
2. Before Thanksgiving arrives, do you clean out your freezer, clearing out space? If so, give yourself 1 point (and a pat on the back for doing the work!)
3. When carving the turkey, do you pick off the little pieces of meat stuck on the bone for a snack? If so, give yourself 3 points. If not, give yourself 4 points.
4. If your mom has a fantastic turkey salad recipe, give yourself 2 points.
5. If you ate thousands of turkey salad sandwiches as a child, give yourself 3 points.
6. If you have ever served leftover turkey for a Christmas dinner, give yourself 1 point.
7. If you think a turkey carcass is worth it’s weight in gold, award yourself 4 points.
Now tally up your score and discover your true Leftover Personality!
2-3 points: The Freezer. You don’t see leftovers as leftovers, you see them as meals-to-come. Your freezer is ready and waiting for carefully marked containers of turkey and gravy, and there is a real possible chance that the dish you brought to the Thanksgiving gathering was once served at a Labor Day picnic, frozen, and reheated.
4-5 points: The Eater. When the family is done eating, you immediately fix another plate or two because you know you will be ready to eat again in just a few hours, when the football games have ended and you are finally getting to hang up your Christmas decorations. You may also make a turkey salad sandwich the next day…if there is any food left by then. You are, of course, an Eater.
6-7 points: The Tosser. This person gets their yearly fill of cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts and just can’t do it any more, so their leftovers, if any remain, are tossed out with the paper plates. They have other fun things to move on to and don’t want to be bothered with the cleaning and trying to find the correctly fitting lids for the plastic containers. This person also probably ate turkey leftovers for a month after the holiday (and had a Freezer for a mother) and doesn’t want their children to endure the same anguish.
8 points: The Soup-maker. There are no sandwiches or multiple containers in your future. You are a soup maker. You fight other Soup-makers for the turkey carcass and throw it and every other appropriate leftover straight into a giant stockpot, right from the table. You are convinced turkey soup is the best soup on Earth and it’s a good thing, because you usually make 14 gallons of it. And more often than not, some of it ends up in your freezer…
The one, unifying feature of all four Leftover Personality types though, is that everyone will enjoy the gathering of family and friends around the Thanksgiving table. The warm feelings of being together are as inevitable as the leftovers.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to cook a turkey, kid style

Ellen’s Tercy Recpe 2008
(Made by Ellen, first grade)

1 cup of stilt
2 cups of green benes
3 cups of ptatos
5 cups of corn
4 cups of fower
7 cups of apple juse
6 cups of water
8 cups of Pumpkin
10 cups of bnanas
9 cups of peper
11 cups of cinimin
13 cups of spinach
12 cups of asparirgch
14 cups of shuger
16 cups of tmatos
15 cups of butter
17 cups of coffe
18 cups of milk
19 cups of persie chees

First you torun on your ovin to 16 dgerese. Thn stuff the turkey with tmatos and stuf the trkey with bnanas. Then wipe the turkey with butter and shuger. Then put the rest of the ingedtis on top. I love turkey. My turkey is 19 feet long. And 19 feet wide.

Toby’s Turkey Recipe 2008
(As dictated to mom)

1 big flop of yogurt
some cookie dough
Apple juice
hot dogs
Glob of ice cream
1 bone of turkey

Put them all in a big bowl and grind it up. Add the finishing touch: chicken noodle soup.
And a 105 pound turkey.

TO COOK:Cook it in the fireplace at zero degrees for 146 hours.

TO SERVE:Put some sushi around it. Then I set the table and serve the drinks and then I serve the food.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Inevitable Holiday, Part 1: Sole Food

Note: The newspaper requested holiday themed columns from now through the end of the year. Why not put it in a handy, dandy format? This is the first installment...

Even though the aisles were decked with the hall-decking decorations long before Halloween, it is now -- with the onset of cold weather, snow, and Thanksgiving -- that we officially welcome the holiday season. And so in honor of this wonderful time of year, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce my readers to things they really already know in a little series I like to call “The Inevitable Holiday.”
I personally start feeling the stress of the holidays long before I need to, wondering how we’re going to get it all done, fit it all in, make it all special, and be holly jolly, by golly, all at the same time. My hopes in this next series of columns is to assure people (and mostly myself) that we’re all dealing with the same things this time of year. We’re not alone, and maybe if we realize that and all help out a little, the holidays will be as magical as we could ever hope and I won’t bury myself in wrapping paper and go on a frosted cookie binge around about December 19th…
In all seriousness, we do love the holiday season in this house. Secretly we’ve been listening to Christmas carols and have had a little tree up for a couple of weeks now. Yes, we welcome the season with open arms.
And unfortunately, also with open eyes, noses, mouths, etc.
Around here, we knew it was the holiday season long before the calendar told us because we rung in this jolly time of year with a double whammy of germs, a bunch of holiday gifts that we really didn’t ask for in the form of a weekend of pinkeye and a set of colds to beat the band.
I felt as if my home, my fortress, had been invaded, but I wasn’t surprised. I have a really bad habit of getting sick during the holidays, the best being last Christmas when I was knocked out by a case of strep throat and spent the entire day asleep. Not the merriest of holidays. So when the germs came at us this time I was ready to fight, to do whatever it takes to keep us happy and healthy.
But then the coughs came. And came.
And my daughter coughed all day and all night and no one got any sleep. And where our pink eyes had cleared, they all had dark circles underneath. Any parent with a cougher will know the mayhem that is caused by this single, simple, maddening symptom.
So for the good of the entire family I tried different cough syrups. I tried cough drops. I even tried the doctor, all to no avail. So I called upon the one person who I thought could help.
My grandmother.
At 85, she’s got some tricks up her sleeve and so I asked her for some home-remedy advice.
Naturally her first concoction contained a little something-something from the liquor cabinet, and while the thought did cross my very weary mind, I went with her second suggestion. Vicks Vapor Rub slathered on the bottom of my daughter’s feet.
The suggestion came from my great-grandmother, so I knew this was no new-fangled idea, but still it seemed a little odd. But desperate times call for desperate measures (but not liquor cabinet measures, mind you) and I made her some tea with lemon and honey, slimed up her feet and threw some socks on, and sent her to bed.
And now, after a good night’s rest, I’m not sure what it was that helped. It might have been the tea, the Vicks on her feet, or the blessing and prayers from her great grandmother. Whatever it was, we’ll take it and keep it in our arsenal of defense against the unwanted gifts of this giving season, because we know that no matter how much hand sanitizer we use, the germs will come.
It is, well, inevitable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quote of the day

Ellen, singing: The Earth is our mother, we must take care of her...

Toby: Stop singing that. It doesn't make sense. The Earth can't be our mom. How would it give us drinks?

Oh yes, it's nice to be loved.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

what a day.

We have had numerous lights on the dashboard, so before the holidays roll around we thought we'd take in my Silver Spaceship to get tuned up. And, a chunk-a-change later, I was happily rolling along on my way to Wally World for a shopping trip. I was organized and I was ready for tackling the super giant and all of its scuzzy patrons.
I was not ready for a completely flat tire in the parking lot.
So a call to AAA later and a running in and out of the store trying to keep the kids warm, the man showed up to fix the tire right smack dab in the middle of the Walmart parking lot. He told me that the tire THAT WAS BRAND NEW and put on YESTERDAY had a stem issue and I had to take it to the dealer to be repaired.
I stuffed my shopping list, my super organized shopping list, into my pocket and loaded up the kids and drove on my little spare for 45 minutes where we sat in the waiting room and played with the Indiana Jones swords that I had to purchase to appease the youngins.
Finally it was fixed, but now, here I am, with nothing that I actually need and I have to go back to the store which with two kids, is really more of an athletic event combined with academic challenge.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Memoirs of a Gen X snacker turned mother

I was having one of my especially apathetic parenting moments and when the children asked me if they could do something (I don’t know what it was, I wasn’t paying attention), I said, “whatever floats your boat. Whatever creams your Twinkie.”
I fully realize that the second line of that sentence is not the most commonly used version of that phrase. I actually thought it was something the fellow Girl Scouts of Troop 1166 made up about 20 years ago, but a quick trip to the Internet tells me it’s more than just crazy tent talk. It’s an actual saying. That said, it’s still not frequently used and I’d guess that most people haven’t heard of it.
Therefore I wasn’t surprised when my kids gave me that look—the one that says “you know, we actually do listen to you sometimes, and that didn’t make any sense.” It didn’t take me long to realize just what they were confused about:
My. Children. Have. Never. Eaten. A. Twinkie.
When I figured this out, my mouth hung open and a little drool came out because I was thinking of course about that golden sponge cake with the creamy filling, and how, when you eat it, you’ve got to take precaution so that the creamy filling doesn’t squirt out the back and leave you with a dirty shirt and an empty Twinkie…
But back to reality. What kind of mother have I been to have been harboring my children from such an American staple their entire lives? With a combined age of 12, my two older children should have consumed hundreds of Twinkies by now, let alone HoHos, Snowballs, and those chocolate cupcakes with the swirly white frosting on the top. Those are the snacks that practically built Generation X! We all packed them in our lunches and ate them after school. The introduction of the singly wrapped snack cake had our mothers dancing in the kitchen as they packed our brown bag lunches with ease. Or at least I know mine did… or that I would have.
So without further adieu, I put Twinkies on the top of my shopping list. I told the children about the wonderful little inside out cakes with the frosting on the inside (what a concept!) and their happy yellow color. I was giddy with nostalgia as I recalled my childhood days with manufactured foods. Being more of HoHo girl, I hid them in the back of the freezer so that my dad wouldn’t eat them and so that I could peel off the chocolaty coating and go straight for the chocolate cake inside. Oh, the glory! Oh, the delight! Oh, the delicate perfection of the snack cake!
Why, oh, why have I been keeping these from my children? I was trying to do the right thing. “Processed foods are bad,” they tell us. “High fructose corn syrup is virtually poison.” “White sugar bad, white flour bad, must have sugar substitutes and whole wheat flour.” These things are drilled into my head every time I open a magazine or flip on daytime television.
But forget it all. No health benefit can match the pure processed bliss I remember as a child.
Racing through the store, overly anxious to finally reveal what I have been keeping from my children for so very long, I found the Twinkies under a glow of radiant light. I chose my box and rushed home to share the wealth of happy yellow cake, ready to gift unto them an entirely new world of cuisine that had, until this day, not existed. Something so new and so radical, something so fantastically delicious that surely it would change their world forever.
The crinkle of the cellophane wrappers…
The smoosh of the cake between tiny teeth…
“Yeah, it’s okaaay,” said one.
“I give it a thumbs in the middle” said the other.
I hung my head in denial, but maybe, just maybe, kids are different these days. Maybe they don’t have the palates that we used to have. Maybe they actually prefer real homemade treats. Or HoHos.
Hey, whatever floats your boat. Whatever creams your Twinkie.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Check back a few posts and you'll see a little guy pretending to be surviving in the wilderness. This is the child that literally leaves a ring around the bathtub every time, the one who I have pulled leaves out of his ears and his underwear. The one whose feet I've actually had to scrub with pumice to get clean.
And today, in his own little world, he gets dressed by himself. He emerges from his room like this, dressed up for school in his button down shirt (all-the-way buttoned and tucked in), too-small pants, dress shoes, and he also slicked his hair down with water.
(The pen and paper in his pocket are so that he can look like his Papa, a man with a habitual habit of carrying around a complete office full of paper and pens in his breast pocket.)
"Don't you think you'd want to go on a date with me?" he asks.
Well, naturally, yes. I would certainly go on a date with him.
But now I wonder just what little girl at preschool he's going to hit up for a night on the town...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

These booties are made for walking

She woke up yesterday a crawler. And by the end of the day, she walked! A full transformation, all of which occured before my very eyes as I was folding laundry. How memorable...
Watch her grow up too fast and see her walk on youtube here.

Raphie I can't get up!!!

Colder weather has definitely arrived here in Ohio. I can tell because I'm starting to bundle the baby in such a fashion that rivals Ralphie's little brother in the Christmas Story.

Here's proof:

Monday, November 10, 2008

The most amazing calendar

I don't like to use this blog as an ad service, but I just received my EcoCalendar in the mail and have to spread the word.
This things is beautiful! Something like I've never seen, and better than I expected.
I can't even describe how very cool it is, just check it out at www.ecocalendar.info.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Creamy pumpkin soup

Here is my very own self-concocted recipe for pumpkin soup that I taught at the community center tonight. Think: pumpkin is a squash... pumpkin is not always a pie.
I love this soup, especially around Thanksgiving. It is incredibly flavorful and will impress your friends and family, guaranteed. If you're not a turnip fan, leave it out and just use 2 potatoes instead. It's still great, and will taste a little less like a fart. :)

Makes 6 servings
1 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
2/3 cup chopped sweet onions
¼ cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
3 cups chicken broth1 can pumpkin (15oz.)
1/3 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp dried thyme (optional)
~1 cup water1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley (optional)
roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or large stockpot. Add onions and shallots and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic, cook for one more minute.
2. Add stock, potato, turnip, parsnip, pumpkin, paprika, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.
3. Cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender, or cool a little more and use a blender or food processor. Return to pot if necessary. Add water to achieve desired consistency. Stir in ½ cup of heavy whipping cream. Reheat on the stove.
Serving suggestion: Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a swirl of the reserved cream and sprinkle with chopped parsley and a few roasted pumpkin seeds.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

C'mon over!

Please visit my new blog, www.karriemcallister.com, for all of this good Outdoor Mama stuff!

C'mon over!

Please visit my new blog, www.karriemcallister.com, for all of this good Outdoor Mama stuff!

Making Richard Louv proud

My son, the mighty fort builder, has again moved outside with the onset of Indian Summer. We would be up to four primitive dwellings, but our lean-to collapsed today. Thank goodess for the following:

The Leaf Pile Fort

And his own creation, the "Fort for the fire in case it rains" Fort:

(note the proud pointing: "I made THIS")

Little boy and little girl ingredients are still questionable

I can only sit on my couch between the hours of 9:00PM and 7:30AM. This is slightly distressing because it is a very comfortable couch and I do miss sitting on it.
Especially since I’ve been spending most of my time sitting IN it.
Every night when the kids go to bed, I collect the cushions and pillows from the couch, neatly reassemble them, and collect and fold the blankets that are draped here and there. And every morning, before I even get a chance to sit on my own couch, my son rips them all apart to construct his very own “survival fort” of the day that is just barely big enough for my head to clear.
Every cushion, pillow, and blanket available goes into building these dwellings. Once the walls and roof are erected, he packs his survival bag for the day which contains everything he believes, in his nearly-five-year-old wisdom, is necessary to survive in the wilderness. These items include (but are not limited to): plastic swords and guns, rope, string, gloves, binoculars, sticks, buffalo hides (really just a blanket, but we run with it), rubber lizards, and M&M’s.
These most necessary items are then usually stashed inside the workings of the couch to hide them from the so-called bad guys who are trying to invade our camp, and then naturally I find things such as whoopee cushions and rocks when I reassemble my beloved couch.
It all again reminds me of the old nursery rhyme about what little boys are made of. Actually, it wasn’t just the couch. It’s also the fact that my son has now started communicating in flatulent noises that he has perfected with his armpit, as in, “pfft! Pfft! Mom, can you help me tie my shoes?”
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails indeed.
But are boys always snips and snails? And what about girls? Are they always sugar and spice and all that’s nice?
I’m not so sure. I can think of many times during my own childhood that I put my parents (and that nursery rhyme) to the test. What instantly comes to mind is the time I tried to harness our black lab puppy so that she could pull me around the yard in my little wagon. Even though I had it all planned out, there was much barking, running, and flipping. And I think only a couple of bandages.
There is a consistent conversation among parents, an age-old question that never is resolved: which is easier to raise, girls or boys? Some will say that girls are easier, that they listen better and they are easier to potty train. Others will argue that boys are easier because they are less emotional and you don’t have to learn how to French braid and correctly operate a barrette. And still, many will dispute that boys may be more difficult as small children, but that girls take the prize by a mile when it comes to the teen years.
Being a mother of both genders, I’m not really sure how I feel. All of my children are equally wonderful and barbaric at times. But out of curiosity I turned the question to my own kids over dinner:
“If you were a mommy or daddy, do you think it would be easier to have sons or daughters?”
My daughter responds: “Girls! Girls aren’t so wild and they like to read books and color and don’t get so dirty and definitely don’t smell so bad.”
My son responds: “Boys. Boys are so much cooler than girls. Then we could play survival fort and make armpit toot noises all the time.”
The jury is still out.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mom Writer's Literary Magazine!

Woo hoo! I've just launched the Fall/Winter 2008 issue online. It's a big honkin' issue, full to the brim with good reads. Every good mom should read it.
We've got a different online format this time, so my column doesn't appear in it's entirety online...you need a real subscription for that. But we're also running a winter special, so for $15 bucks you get a whole year worth of mom writers.
Take a look! http://www.momwriterslitmag.com/.

the weary webmaster

Sunday, November 2, 2008

C'mon over!

In lieu of this blog which is completely non-identifying for myself, I started a new one. Stop by at www.KarrieMcAllister.blogspot.com. I will post columns as usual, but also a bunch of other stuff-- photos, everyday thoughts and stories, recipes, etc.
Whatever comes to mind.
You just never know.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

H-A-Double L-O-W-Double E-N: That spells holiday memories

Knee-deep in glue trying to concoct a Carmen Miranda hat and stuffing candy corn in my face, I heard the inevitable question come out of the mouth of my kid:
“What is Halloween?”
“Uh, er, well, uh, it’s complicated.”
According to the History Channel, Halloween dates back to an ancient Celtic festival, over 2,000 years ago. They believed that November 1 was the first day of the dark winter, which they related to human death and the end of the bountiful summer harvest. So to commemorate this boundary between the worlds of life and death and keep the bad guys from slipping back to Earth and ruining the next year’s crops, they lit big fires to keep them away. Not only that, but they dressed up in costumes of animal skins and heads to supposedly help predict the future.
Later, when Christianity came along, the Pope of the day declared November 1 “All Saints Day” and later November 2 “All Souls Day” when people had parades and dressed up as angels and devils. Together, October 31 (when they used to scare away the dead), November 1 (when they used to honor saints) and November 2 (a holiday to honor the dead combined to be a giant festival called Hallomas. And somehow over the past thousand or so years, it has evolved into what we now do on October 31. Halloween.
(But really, if I tell my kids this they will be more scared and confused than if Linus really saw the Great Pumpkin rising out of the pumpkin patch.)
During my stint in higher education, I was very lucky to take a trip down under one fall, to where the kangaroos roam, the water goes down the toilet the other way, and where Halloween is as mysterious as it sounds. They were familiar with the holiday, but my g’day mates didn’t understand why I was so homesick for my haunted holiday.
And because I am a terrific pack rat, I still have the email saved that I wrote to him:
“Halloween? You don’t celebrate Halloween? You guys are really missing out. It’s the greatest holiday. You spend the entire month of October trying to decide just what to be and then make your mom crazy trying to put it all together at the last minute. Like the time in fifth grade when I decided to be a foot. I can still see my dad sweating out in the garage while we carved this giant foot out of carpet foam. My head was the big toe nail. It was awesome.
And the jack-o-lanterns! Nothing beats the feeling of cold pumpkin guts oozing through your fingers. Except maybe roasted pumpkin seeds with lots and lots of salt.
Then, on Halloween night, you get together with your friends and all meet at someone’s house with your empty plastic pumpkins and flashlights and run from house to house. You start off behaving and using the driveway and sidewalk, but soon enough the excitement builds and this is the one time you can run across everyone’s yard and your dad doesn’t yell at you.
After you’ve run the neighborhood and your voice is hoarse from yelling “trick or treat” at the top of your lungs (who needs doorbells?), you all head back to someone’s house. There, you sort through the goods and trade Tootsie Rolls for SweeTarts if you are me, and when you’ve had your fill of candy, a mom will serve powdered doughnuts, apple cider and popcorn and you all sit on the floor and watch The Legend of Sleepy Hallow and laugh at Ichabod Crane until you have to go home or you just fall asleep, surrounded in costume parts and candy wrappers.”
That right there is Halloween to me. Pagan ceremonies just don’t measure up to my own memories, and as much as I would like my kids to know the real history of the holiday, there is time for that. For now I’d rather just make the costumes, buy the doughnuts and cider and let them make their own history. As long as they give me their SweeTarts.
Note: That's me dressing as myself, circa 1993. Those are my old goofy clothes from high school. Yes, score one for me because they still fit, but take that point away because really, I wonder why I was such a social outcast...

Thursday, October 30, 2008


OK, I know one day very soon I'll break down and try this myself because I just can't stand not having this totally awesome trick under my belt. (Let's face it, my exploding coffee creamer only gets me so far...)
I saw this on Food Detectives (Food network) and looked around online to prove it. And it's true.
Grapes, when cut a certain way, will explode into flames when put in the microwave. Apparently the electolytes in the little fruit arc between the halves (you have to cut the grapes a certain way) and the thing shoots up in flames.

Science is so cool.

Anybody ever try this?
Anybody want to bet how long it takes me before I set my house on fire?

(FYI: I found a video of it here: http://vimeo.com/1761680?pg=embed&sec=1761680)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My totally insightful thought for the day

I am constantly struggling with explaining things to my kids. It's nearly impossible for them to understand the adult world, but I have to admit the following description of a "bad mommy day" is nearly perfect.
Ellen to Toby getting ready for a shower while he runs around naked and pretending to sing opera at 8:45PM: Just be good so mommy stops yelling so much today.
Me: Have I really been yelling all day?
Ellen: Well, not ALL day. But a lot of it.
Me, tempers rising as Toby is still not behaving and now my daughter has called me out on my crappy parenting: Well let me explain it to you this way. Imagine you wake up and someone hands you a piece of homework and you have to do it. You have to do their work! And every time you finish one problem, they erase it. Over and over. And over and over. And then, when you finally get something finished, they hand you another piece of homework. All day long, you can never get anything done because you're busy not accomplishing anything. That is my life today, but wouldn't you be yelling too??
Ellen: Uh, yeah.

We all hope for good mommy days. And no homework.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stress-inducing school photos: Just tuck in a t-shirt?

It was pretty fitting that the forms came home from school because I was just noticing how much dust had formed on last year’s school pictures. Now that we’ll be getting new ones, I suppose I can hold off on the Pledge until I replace the toothless, hairless smiles from last year with brand new ones.
School picture day is extremely insignificant in the context of the entire world, but in the tiny world that my children and I live in, it is a huge deal. They are very concerned about what they are going to wear to be preserved in childhood history, and I am very concerned about ordering enough copies for all of the grandparents, not to mention remembering to send the money to school that day.
Of course, there are other things I worry about too, all which stem from the disastrous memories of my very own school picture days. In first grade, the cowlick that still exists on the right side of head was in full force which only complimented the bangs that my mom cut at a too-steep angle. And I can remember standing in line in elementary school forever, waiting for the two seconds you got to sit down and smile. Then you’d wait months to find out if your eyes were open or your smile was cattywhompus in the yearbook. This same kind of humiliation continued on all the way through my school-aged career, with the culmination being my senior pictures when I woke up with those puffy sleepy-eyes and wore a daisy vest I sewed myself and my grandfather’s fedora hat. (Oh, the nineties!)
To this day, I can’t believe my parents spent the money to buy any of those shots in a large print size.
But this year photo day is causing us problems even before the actual day arrives. My son, Captain Camouflage, refuses to wear anything with any class. In his mind there are two types of clothing: comfy clothes and fancy clothes. Fancy clothes consist of the tuxedo he wore at a recent wedding, and his comfy clothes are all grass and mud-stained or ripped (he is a boy, through and through.) I just don’t think the tux would fit in very well with the other preschoolers.
Confiding in some close friends over lunch yesterday, I told them that I was beginning to worry about picture day because my son doesn’t have any decent clothes that I can convince him to wear. And buying something new that he will only wear for two hours doesn’t make all that much sense, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
And bless their hearts, both of them brought me, at separate times, clothes from their own sons to borrow. They are pretty spectacular friends, with very well-dressed sons, and I was pleased as punch until I opened up the bags of clothes.
They didn’t look like anything like my son. If I dressed him in a clean shirt with a collar, I’d probably have to put a nametag on him. He’d be unrecognizable. And why would I want a picture of someone who doesn’t look like my kid at all?
For that reason, we decided to dress him in his nicest of “comfy” clothes, something that will best represent who he is this year at school. And who he is, is a rough and tumble boy who loves camping, skateboarding and building forts. I want a real and truthful memory of him, and if that means he won’t be the nicest dressed, well, it won’t be the first time. Or the last time, either.
Chances are it’ll be a fabulous shot, and I’ll be reordering large sizes to pass out to the family. I know my parents will be happy to hang it on the wall, right next to the captured moment shot of my sleepy eyes and grandpa’s hat.
Karrie and her family live in Orrville. Drop her a line at www.KarrieMcAllister.com.

Piano Practice

Ellen (aka Carmen Miranda) practices for her piano program...

CLICK HERE to view.

Darn the first entry -- THE BOOTS.

I hope to, years from now, sift back through the archives to view the very first entry of this blog. And most likely, I'll be disappointed because reading things that you've personally written aren't quite the same as reading what someone else wrote.
Just like coffee and salad always taste better when someone else makes it. It's one of those worldly mysteries that not even Nancy Drew could figure out.
I'm starting this blog in lieu of my old web site which is now defunct because the whole economy is going somewhere in a handbasket. But this [free!] alternative gives me one great place to post everything and anything I want, combining my old blogs, SmallTownSoup.blogspot.com and OutdoorMama.blogspot.com.

But to put something of substance in this first entry of this new blog, I thought I'd tell a bit about the boots you see in the logo. This photo was taken before Annie was big enough to wear shoes, so there's only two little boots following mine.
Toby's and Ellen's are self-explanatory, but my boots, my dear, dear boots, are something special.
I bought those boots in 1995. They have been all over the United States and Australia. They have walked through deserts, rivers, over mountains, and through coal mines hundreds of feet below the ground. They have smelled so bad that we had to keep them outside the tent at night, and they've been worn so hard that they've been resoled. Twice.
I love my boots, as smelly as they are, so much that I wanted to wear them under my wedding dress but I didn't because of the obvious odor. But it would have been quite fitting because I fell in love with my husband while wearing them. (And he still married me!)
These boots have lead me all over the world and essentially, into love. And now that I'm a mom, they lead my children too. They lead us around the woods in our backyard, and someday they'll lead us all around the world.
And hopefully, they'll lead my children into loving the outdoors as much as I do.
I realize that's a lot for a pair of boots to live up to, but judging by their record, they should have no problem.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Piano Practice

Ellen (aka Carmen Miranda) practices for her piano program...

CLICK HERE to view

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Too funny not to share

Toby is almost 5 years old, and last weekend my husband, Ryan, took him out squirrel hunting for the very first time. They sat silently in the woods and when the time was right, Ryan pulled the trigger and the squirrel, still with a nut in his mouth, took his final breath.
Ryan went to retrieve the little guy and left my own little guy sitting silent at the tree so that they could wait for the next squirrel to hop by. When he got back, Toby picked up the dead animal, petted it, and at one point even rubbed his cheek on the soft fur.
Ryan was very impressed that Toby wasn't afraid of the dead animal.
When it came time to dress and clean the animal, Toby was right there to learn. He happily scooped the guts out with his little hands. Again, Ryan was very impressed.
Examining all of the body parts, Toby asked "is this the poop-hole, dad?"
"No," answered his Dad, not really ready for what came next, "that is his weiner. And that there are his, uh, er, his nuts."
Then Ellen the older sister came by.
"Look, Ellen," says wise Toby, "that's where the squirrel keeps the nuts that the finds!"
Ryan quickly corrected him, but really couldn't blame him. It makes sense, doesn't it? Squirrel collects nuts, and has a little pouch for them. Good engineering?
So when I walked up a few minutes later after the situation had been cleared up, Toby held out his bloody little hand and said to me, "here mom. This is a squirrel ball," and he tossed the tiny testicle into the woods.

Squirrel stew tomorrow. Nut free.

Too funny not to share

Toby is almost 5 years old, and last weekend my husband, Ryan, took him out squirrel hunting for the very first time. They sat silently in the woods and when the time was right, Ryan pulled the trigger and the squirrel, still with a nut in his mouth, took his final breath.
Ryan went to retrieve the little guy and left my own little guy sitting silent at the tree so that they could wait for the next squirrel to hop by. When he got back, Toby picked up the dead animal, petted it, and at one point even rubbed his cheek on the soft fur.
Ryan was very impressed that Toby wasn't afraid of the dead animal.
When it came time to dress and clean the animal, Toby was right there to learn. He happily scooped the guts out with his little hands. Again, Ryan was very impressed.
Examining all of the body parts, Toby asked "is this the poop-hole, dad?"
"No," answered his Dad, not really ready for what came next, "that is his weiner. And that there are his, uh, er, his nuts."
Then Ellen the older sister came by.
"Look, Ellen," says wise Toby, "that's where the squirrel keeps the nuts that the finds!"
Ryan quickly corrected him, but really couldn't blame him. It makes sense, doesn't it? Squirrel collects nuts, and has a little pouch for them. Good engineering?
So when I walked up a few minutes later after the situation had been cleared up, Toby held out his bloody little hand and said to me, "here mom. This is a squirrel ball," and he tossed the tiny testicle into the woods.

Squirrel stew tomorrow. Nut free.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Look out, folks—there was a well-timed spark

The little fire-making workshop came just at the right time because lately I’d been really getting bogged down by the daily doldrums of being a mom.
Stuff was starting to get to me. I’d practically break into a sweat about the smallest things, like I had totally lost perspective on what really matters in life. Not that fire really matters, but I found myself worrying about what the other moms would say if I fed my kids white bread and at what percentile the baby clocked in.
It was getting out of hand, and I knew it when, driving to my little fire-making workshop, I bombarded my husband with my apparently annoying life. And if I would have been a fly on the wall in my own conversation, I probably would have thrown up. “The weather these days is so annoying. The school rule is that it has to be 60 degrees before you are allowed out without a coat, and I know this because I got scolded for not wearing a coat one morning, and now it’s like 59 degrees when we leave for school and the kid have to carrying a coat around all day. It’s nuts! And by the way, how did you like that new bread I bought? I like that you can actually SEE the whole grains in there…”
About once a year I venture away from my family for an empowering couple of days in the wilderness, or something like that. An annual program put on by the Department of Natural Resources called “Becoming an Ohio Outdoorswoman” is my latest love away from home—it’s a weekend of getting dirty and having fun. All sorts of adventurous classes are offered, everything from camp cooking to instinctive pistol shooting, and each and every one of them makes you feel, as a woman, just a little bit stronger, more confident, and ready to take on the world and the makers of the 60 degree rule.
This year, because of having a baby at home, I was only able to sneak away for one class and I begged the powers-that-be to just attend the one class that I had been dreaming about since I saw it happening the year before: primitive fire making. In the class, you actually make your own bow drill and through a series of carving and sweating, start a small fire without a match in sight.
It sounds terribly nerdy, but those who personally know me were not surprised to hear me babble about how excited I was about this class. I literally counted down the days. Then when the time finally came for the class to start, I left my family and walked into the room ready to become skilled in the ways of making fire. I had visions of myself screaming like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he finally starts that first spark. I am woman, hear me roar!
So when, not five minutes into carving my bow drill fire-making set I sliced the tip off of my left index finger with the brand new knife, I was pretty upset. Tearful, really. An entire year of waiting went down the drain with the gushing blood, and I spent the first half of the workshop holding my hand up in the air with my finger wrapped in gauze while everyone else sat there carving and all empowered.
Bleccccch again.
I could have easily spent the rest of the time wallowing in my own self-pity and band-aids, but eventually I realized that even though I was getting a late start with a handicap, I could still begin work on my bow drill. So using what fingers I had left, I started carving here and there. When the session ended, I took what I had started home and spent the rest of the weekend, in between motherly duties, carving and actually trying to create the a tiny spark. And let me tell you, it is hard work. Very hard.
But today after another round of attempting fire, I finally saw a tiny hot ember. It was very small and not even big enough to make an actual fire, but it was just the spark I needed to get me going, to empower myself and, should I need to, wave my bandaged finger at anyone scoffing at my kid’s sandwich.

Of bald eagles and cheerleaders

You’re never too old to learn something, right? Playing a child’s board game recently, I have learned two very interesting fact. For one, I never knew that a group of twelve or more cows is called a “flink.” (And I am anxious to add it to my next Scrabble game!) Secondly, I learned that the bald eagle when it is a young bird, looks nothing like a bald eagle.
Like most birds, they start off kind of funny looking with grayish down that covers their little bodies. At about three or four weeks, the little birdie begins to grow its secondary coat of gray down, and by the time the little dude (or dudette, as it may be) is around 6 weeks old, it will be nearly as large as its parents—but will just start growing in its black feathers. Not white, black.
In other words, no bald head.
The white feathers that grow on the head and the tail and that are so characteristic of bald eagles don’t grow in until sometime during the bird’s fourth year of life.
In other words, eagle kids don’t look anything like their parents.
This may not seem all that much of an important fact, but it’s something I can really relate to. Of my three children, my youngest two look very much like their father. My oldest daughter, however, looks very much like me. As if someone put me in the dryer too long. A real life Shrinky Dink. She has my same dark eyes and little nose, and she’s got the overly large two front teeth that she’ll eventually grow into, just as I did.
We both love to read and be outside. We both play the piano and love to dance. We both love garlic and can eat popcorn like nothing you’ve ever seen. So for the most part, we are very, very similar…but not completely.
It started with a simple flyer that came home in her first grade folder, advertising a cheerleading camp. Having grown up anti-cheerleader (and not because I didn’t like them, but because I split my time between the marching band and generally being a nerd), I was rather shocked when she showed some interest in attending.
“Mom, you get pom poms!” she said. “And a pizza party!”
And somehow, I felt at that moment that all of the energy I spent on raising my child as an intellectual artist (and, well, a nerd) was beat out by red puffy things and pizza. Like the little person that I always thought looked just like me really wasn’t that much like me after all.
Then came the time to make a good parenting decision, and we all know how hard it is to do the right thing. I swallowed my anti-cheerleader pride and signed the check for her to attend cheer camp.
After picking her up from her first session, her eyes were glowing with excitement and looking at her I had a flash to the future, seeing myself sitting week after week on a set of bleachers. The excitement carried over to the football game where the field was lined with little girls with little pom poms and loud screechy voices. She was hooked.
It’s hard being a parent because you tend to want your children to turn out to be like you…but even better. You instinctively want them to have all of your best traits, and carry on your legacy, whatever that may be. But sometimes you’ve just got to let them be who they really are and let them make their own choices, even if it’s not the choices you would make.
I just think of mama eagle way up in the nest, looking at her little black-headed eaglet. She must wonder if her baby will ever have her same matching white feathered head just as I wonder if my daughter will be a cheerleader or join the marching band. All we can do is let nature take its course and usually that course turns out pretty well which is good because really, there ain’t no stopping it.

Learning things the hard way prove to be real life lessons

This past week I learned, the hard way, that one should not roast hot chili peppers on the same day one goes to the dentist. This is, of course, because of that last minute rush to the bathroom, five minutes before your appointment, where you scrub the garlic bagel out of your breath and hope to trick the dentist into thinking that you floss more frequently than a full moon.
Because when you are rushing to roast hot peppers and then floss your teeth, you tend to be a bit lazy with the whole rubber glove/hand scrubbing thing, and you inevitably end up running around the bathroom, fanning your face, spitting, and yelling “my lips are on fire! My tongue is on fire!”
Eventually the burning subsides and you go to the dentist and while laying there in the chair, mouth pried open with multiple instruments that suck and scrape and grind hanging out, you sit your nine-month old baby on your lap in the hopes to keep her occupied while your mouth is sucked and scraped and ground. And to keep her quiet, you, in your infinite wisdom, grab a container of Cheerios that you’ve got stashed in your purse and slip one in her open mouth.
Her tiny tongue reaches out for the snack. Her tiny lips wrap around your finger to take in the entire oatey deliciousness. And your hot-pepper-laden finger lets go of the O…and some of the hot chili oil…into her most delicate mouth.
Then, with baby screaming, spitting, drooling, crying, etc. (I’m pretty sure there was baby goo coming out from every hole on her cute little head) the dentist happily informs me that I am cavity free! Hooray! Just what I was really worrying about at that point.
Shaking my head on the way home at my poor choice of parenting, I am taken back to when my daughter at a young age learned about creek mud. The hard way. We’ve got the stained shoes to prove it. Avid creek walkers will appreciate the hidden danger of creek mud, the semi-solid black organic muck that seems to come alive as it sucks in your foot and sometimes your entire leg. And even worse, sometimes it goes as far as to eat your shoe. It takes a trained eye to spot the quicksand of the woodlands, and guaranteed, if you step in it one time it will be your last. Your lesson will be learned.
“I learned about creek mud the hard way,” my daughter will tell people, all the much older and wiser. She’s an expert now.
We learn a lot of things the hard way, it seems. Just when we gain enough confidence to try something new and exciting, whether it be roasting chili peppers or creek walking, sometimes life just up and reminds us not to get to comfortable in our own shoes. (heh heh heh…)
But those very lessons that we learn the hard way are the ones that tend to stick with us the longest. Think back to something you did a little bit too carelessly and it backfired on you. Maybe you went too fast and rushed through things. Or maybe you didn’t look closely enough or let your mind wander. In any case, chances are you haven’t done it again.
Learning things the hard way might even be one of life’s reminders to take things slowly and pay attention to the little things. To stop and smell the roses, to look before you leap. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look before I leaped in creek mud and not have chili oil up my nose -- I know I’ll never do that again.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trying to decide whether or not to keep the change

by Karrie McAllister
I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. Maybe it’s because I see and hear the word 5,873 times a day in the political campaigns, or maybe because I’m just finally realizing how much I am surrounded by it in my daily life.
I’ve always considered myself a person who likes change. I was reassured of this when I went in for a haircut last week and told the beautician to “do whatever” and that “it was only hair, it would grow back.” She took a good five inches off of my eight inch hair, leaving me surrounded by a pile of my own clippings.
Looking in the mirror at my new self, I smiled.
“You like change, don’t you,” she said, speaking the truth.
I was reassured of how right she was when I had the sudden urge to rearrange my house. I find I do this frequently, even if it’s just moving my kitchen table (which is pretty much a square) a simple ninety degrees. I also adjust the angle of my couch for no real reason, or maybe I’ll switch the end table from one side of it to the other side. Just to shake things up. Just to keep things moving. Just to satisfy that craving for change that must make me tick.
Another reason I can tell I’m a change-lovin’ kind of girl is that I live for the seasons. I get all giddy when the weather starts to change, like when the first fall crispness hits the air and I am drawn to my kitchen to make a giant pot of soup and then put pumpkins and gourds all around my house and then pull out all of my sweaters and wool socks and grab a rake and sit outside and wait for the leaves to fall – even though it’s only early September. (Can you just hear my excitement?!?!)
But for all of the reasons I seem to welcome change in my life, there is one thing holding me back.
My kids.
They provide me with plenty of change, often more than I want.
I change their diapers when they are young. Then they grow up and change their clothes a dozen times a day. Then they grow up a little more and change their minds about dance class and a remote control dinosaur and I’ve got a drawer full of leotards and a pitiful triceratops that now sits untouched in the basement.
Not only that, but they also mature and hit milestones right before my very eyes. They are constantly changing and growing up no matter what I do. And unlike my furniture, I can’t simply move it back to the way it was.
It’s the little things mostly that really make me realize that my children are changing. My baby just started waving and eating Cheerios this week, and as happy as I am to see her make this tiny accomplishments, I know she’ll never be that babe-in-arms that only reaches out to grab my finger. My son is starting his second year of preschool and is a whiz on his bike, riding one-handed at breakneck speeds and it seems like only yesterday he was crawling onto a baby scooter. And my oldest daughter told me the other day that “actually mom, I’ve discovered in my research that…” when I’m so used to her asking me to please read her a story about fuzzy bunnies or flower fairies.
I don’t know how it all happens, but it happens fast. The change is gonna come, whether I want it or not. There’s no stopping it, although I can’t say I haven’t threatened to put bricks on their heads to keep them from growing up. They aren’t too fond of that idea.
I can hear it now. “Actually mom, I’ve discovered in my research that the placement of a heavy object atop a person’s cranium does not inhibit growth patterns in any way.”
Pbbbbt. At least I know they’ll soon be big enough to help me move the furniture.

Insider tips, straight from the trenches of parenthood

It’s time to break out the itty-bitty socks and diapers again in our family, and in my current state of total and utter chaos, I’m glad it’s not me.
It’s my sister-in-law, which will give me my very first chance to be an aunt, and my children to have their very first cousin. We’re all so excited we can hardly stand it. Not only will we be able to empty out some of the baby clothes we’ve accrued over the years, but it also gives us older, more seasoned moms, an opportunity to relive those glorious newborn days. You know, the ones where the kids are too small to dress themselves in ridiculous clothes, be picky eaters, and roll their eyes at your every word.
Besides, it gives me a chance to reflect on all I’ve learned as a parent deep in the trenches of parenthood. There’s only so much to expect when you’re expecting, but what comes in that fateful fourth trimester—the one that lasts about 18 years – is the hard part.
And even though my parental wisdom only gets me as far as the elementary school years, I thought this would be a good of time as any to start writing down a few of the things I’ve learned before old age sets in and I forget these things as quickly as I had to learn them…
1. Outlet covers and table padding can only help so much. Crawling babies can find danger in just about anything, including leaves and shoelaces. I’ve also learned that children of all ages and sizes are inevitably smarter than the average doorknob protector.
2. Children will eat just about anything that includes dip, sprinkles, or a magical ingredient. Keep in mind that pepper can also be called “fairy dust” and if you eat it without whining, you may gain mystical powers.
3. During the infant and toddler years, you will praise the maker of Cheerios because they occupy your child for more than one minute at a time. You will have various personal shrines to the Cheerio, in the form of little containers of them in every purse you own.
4. All of those so-called child specialists that say TV is terrible for your child doesn’t know how wonderful it can be to their parents.
5. As much as you love your kids, you’ll still squeeze them into shoes and clothes that are too small (or drown them in items too large) because you just bought them and they aren’t even dirty or stained yet.
6. Shopping by yourself, even if it’s the grocery store, is an absolute luxury. And if the kids are with you and misbehaving, you’ll find that you have gotten really good at threatening them through gritted teeth and a phony smile.
7. Toys that are safety-approved and brain-stimulating and made just for your child aren’t interesting at all. Give them a wooden spoon, some measuring cups and an old pot filled with scraps of fabric, and they are happy for minutes.
8. When dealing with small children, minutes are practically hours. Get used to it. The ride to Grandma’s house that normally takes 45 minutes is now officially 18.75 days.
9. It may take a few years, but you will eventually grow to love cartoons and G-rated movies. You’ll find yourself sitting to watch PBS Kids and then realize that there are no children in the room. Don’t panic, this is normal. Some people even find that they turn on Spongebob when they are all alone, but I don’t know any of those people…
10. Sending your kids to school is a blessing and a curse. You’ll appreciate the break but get all worked up the first time the school’s rules trump your own better judgment. Your desires to fight with the powers-that-be will then be trumped by the thought of your kid getting the evil eye every time she passes the front office.
11. You will worry about spoiling your child when you answer to every cry when they are infants, by putting bandages on every scrape as a toddler, or by smothering your school-aged child with enriching experiences and the latest in backpack crazes. Don’t worry all that much—no amount of spoiling you do can compare to what the grandparents are capable of.
12. There will be bad days and you will pray hard that your child grows out of that particular stage. And the moment they do, you’ll long for the way it used to be…and look forward to tomorrow. It is a continuous emotional conundrum that is thankfully soothed by the occasional random hug, kiss, or simple “I love you, mommy.”
Have your own tip? Email Karrie at KarrieMcAllister@aol.com.

Make new friends, but keep the old…

by Karrie McAllister
Guaranteed, all of the scout alumni are finishing the title with “one is silver and the other gold.” In fact, some might even be attempting to sing the ever-so-popular round, even as a solo.
I, myself, sang that around many a campfire when I was a kid, with the new friends I made way back in Girl Scouts. Someone would direct us in small groups by waving their arms around in an attempt to appear like a real conductor while looking more like a flying bird, and as sure as the s’more is tasty, we’d sing the round.
And even though it was just a silly song so many years ago, I now know what real truth rings through those few simple lines.
Today I had breakfast with a relatively new friend. We both amazingly ditched our children, leaving them in the fragile care of our husbands, and discussed the big issues in life over coffee over French toast.
It was fabulous. The conversation, that is, as well as the French toast. It’s not often that two people connect on such an everyday level, and after my breakfast I spent the entire day with a smile (and a little syrup) on my face.
New friends are something special for many reasons. We usually get acquainted in the here-and-now, and have something recent in common. We get together and discuss daily changes in our children and our own lives. We talk about current events and something good we made for dinner this week or how we feel about the new changes in the grocery store.
Easy stuff, but stuff that makes a difference in our lives. Important stuff.
Now, contrast that with old friends, the friends that I once sat around the campfire with and sang Girl Scout songs.
The same old friends that I have reconnected with on Facebook.
In a moment of weakness and sulking about the fact that I’m over 30, I went against my better judgment and signed up for Facebook. If you are unfamiliar with this web service, it’s a site where people can connect and re-connect, chat, and share about their lives. You can look up people you know and invite them to be on your “friend list,” and only then can they have access to the photos and life updates that you post.
And of course, she with the biggest friend list wins.
So in my quest to add to my pathetically small friend list, I started searching into my past. I sifted through college friends and high school friends, all the way down to the little boy who lived across the street from me when I was growing up. He’s not so little anymore.
I found old friends that I hadn’t talked to in ten years, and in just the click of a mouse we were reunited. We have since chatted and written and have even talked on the phone to make plans for a lunch date. When we meet, no doubt our conversation will not be about the new grocery store or what’s for dinner, though. It’ll be about major life happenings: careers, marriages, children. Big stuff, but stuff that makes a difference in our lives. Important stuff.
I’m sure we’ll also reminisce about the old times, too, and laugh about all of the songs we used to sing around the campfire.
Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold…but they’re both on Facebook.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

dirt baby

You know how some babies just hate the feeling of grass on their bare legs? Not mine. She loves it.
I just spread a blanket out in the lawn under the side maple, where the grass is sparse in the late summer weather. There are rocks and twigs and dry leaves, so I thought a blanket would be somewhat appealing. I hauled out toys and plopped little Annie down in the middle of it.
It lasted for about, oh, two seconds.
She crawled off and into the grass. Crunched leaves and waved sticks. And now she's digging a hole in the mulch, happy as a lark.
The toys sit untouched as usual.
Fischer Price should figure out how to market a stick toy or capture the texture of crunching leaves.
Until they do, the real thing will work just fine. Probably even better.

dirt baby

You know how some babies just hate the feeling of grass on their bare legs? Not mine. She loves it.
I just spread a blanket out in the lawn under the side maple, where the grass is sparse in the late summer weather. There are rocks and twigs and dry leaves, so I thought a blanket would be somewhat appealing. I hauled out toys and plopped little Annie down in the middle of it.
It lasted for about, oh, two seconds.
She crawled off and into the grass. Crunched leaves and waved sticks. And now she's digging a hole in the mulch, happy as a lark.
The toys sit untouched as usual.
Fischer Price should figure out how to market a stick toy or capture the texture of crunching leaves.
Until they do, the real thing will work just fine. Probably even better.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cardomom, cardomom, I love cardomom

There was a recipe in the newspaper today and to my suprise, it didn't contain dairy! I had to try it. And as usual, half-way into the preparations I realized that I didn't have half of the ingredients.
So i tweaked here and there, and the result was pretty darn good!

Dairy-free spice cabinet applesauce cookies

1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup cinnamon applesauce
1 heaping cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
heaping 1/4 tsp of: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardomom
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Stir (not with a mixer!) everything together by hand in a giant bowl. Drop by rounded teaspoons on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 375 for ~10 minutes.
Makes 2 dozen.

MEANWHILE, make yourself some coffee and after putting the grounds in the filter, sprinkle in a little cinnamon and yes, cardomom for a fabulously simple spiced coffee!

And if you haven't tried cardomom, I recommend it highly. It's insanely expensive as far as spices go, but really out of this world.

“Squeak, squeak” and before you know it, unit calculations

My husband left for work pretty early that morning, so I didn't get a chance to explain.
But the email came through shortly after he arrived at his desk: "The heating/cooling people are coming out to check the furnace in a couple of weeks. It's making a terrible noise. I don't know why, because it's not even running, but for a few bucks, it's better to have it checked out and tuned up before the weather turns."
And while I'm all for a pristine HVAC system, I had to laugh when I read his email. This was my reply: "Uh, well, that squeaky noise is the rock tumbler we set up in the basement. I heard it this morning too, only I thought it was a cricket."
Besides chuckling at the emergency call to fix the furnace, I giggled a bit at myself for the whole rock tumbler ordeal. When I was a kid, an only child, mind you, my dad constantly shoved science down my throat. Example: for my 8th birthday I got one of those electrode kits where you followed a long, complicated series of connections and something like "HELLO" would appear on the tiny screen. I got my own rock tumbler at an early age and created a ton of smoothed out gravel, which never quite made it to gem quality. And then there was the time while studying for a test on cloud types in the fourth grade that he "helped me" by teaching me unit calculations and drilled me on them so much that I forgot all about clouds and got a D on the test.
Too bad there weren't unit calculations on there for extra credit...
You know how when you're a kid and your parents annoy you and you swear that you'll never ever ever do those same things to your own kids? And then you grow up and have your own kids and you end up breaking your promise and you treat them the same dysfunctional way your parents treated you? Yep, I'm doing it to. On a daily basis.
All of that force-fed gadgetry must have worked because I find myself shoving science into our lives all the time. We've always got some experiment running that is way over my kids' heads, and I wish I was kidding, but when I want them to do something quickly I instruct them to be molecules of hot water.
It's rather sad.
But last year for Christmas something magical happened. My then 6-year-old daughter wrote "rock tumbler" as the number one thing she wanted for Christmas. We scoped the toy catalogues and found some good ones. She tore them out and hung them on a poster. It was rock tumbler mania.
And sure enough, her Papa (my dad) came through with the science, and got her the gift of the world's best rock tumbler. Double-barreled, with extra sets of grit and polish. Plus a heap of rocks sure to tumble into something decent. We could barely contain ourselves.
It took awhile to find the time to get the thing set up, but when our sugar crystal experiments were completely solidified and the chipmunk tightrope had fallen down, it was time to get things churning in the basement. Next to the furnace. Where it turns and turns and inevitably squeaks, like all rock tumblers have been doing since the dawn of rock tumbler time.
It all leaves me wondering, could we use unit calculations to figure out how to pay the furnace man in polished stones? And is my first grade daughter too young to learn?
He's scheduled to come out in 2 weeks, and if there are 7 days in one week, that makes 14 days. And if there are 24 hours in each day, that gives me 336 hours to get it down her throat.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A natural playground?

Tonight I went to my first PTO meeting. It was against my better judgement, but I went because I thought it best that I enter the school with a positive connotation, rather than the pesky mom I feel like I've sometimes become.
But low and behold, there may be a reason I was there.
One committee that is looking for volunteers is the playground committee-- a group of people who are going to help plan the playground at the new elementary school that is being built.
Maybe this is my chance to put in a HUGE plug for "natural" playground equipment.
What's natural playground equipment? Great stuff.
Trees to climb and run between.
Rocks to turn into mountains.
Logs to walk across.
The creative benefits are enormous. A slide is a slide is a slide, but a giant rock is a pirate ship, a house, a giant egg, anything.
The hard part is going to be convincing the others on the committee of this wonderful idea. I'm trying to figure out how many copies of "Last Child in the Woods" I can hand out at the next meeting...

A natural playground?

Tonight I went to my first PTO meeting. It was against my better judgement, but I went because I thought it best that I enter the school with a positive connotation, rather than the pesky mom I feel like I've sometimes become.
But low and behold, there may be a reason I was there.
One committee that is looking for volunteers is the playground committee-- a group of people who are going to help plan the playground at the new elementary school that is being built.
Maybe this is my chance to put in a HUGE plug for "natural" playground equipment.
What's natural playground equipment? Great stuff.
Trees to climb and run between.
Rocks to turn into mountains.
Logs to walk across.
The creative benefits are enormous. A slide is a slide is a slide, but a giant rock is a pirate ship, a house, a giant egg, anything.
The hard part is going to be convincing the others on the committee of this wonderful idea. I'm trying to figure out how many copies of "Last Child in the Woods" I can hand out at the next meeting...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Mom looks back at a family vacation at the beach

One version of this story appeared in the newspaper. The REAL story will appear in the fall issue of Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. Stay tuned for details, and until then...

Mom’s Un-Official Back-to-School Supply List

It’s mid-August and for the past few months I’ve been carrying around in a secret and secure place in my wallet, a tiny piece of paper labeled “First Grade Supply List.” I was instructed back in May when this paper arrived in my home, to keep it in a safe place and reminded very often throughout the summer to double-check its whereabouts.
I can’t imagine what would happen if I actually misplaced the thing. I’d have a frantic seven-year old running around and crying and screaming “how am I going to know how many number 2 pencils to bring to school!”
Chances are this would be followed by fits of convulsion over types of folders and what brand of scissors she needed to bring.
My daughter, now entering first grade, is a list-maker and a list-checker-offer. She is very concerned that everything that should be done gets done and it needs to be on time and perfect. (Consider this statement just a public warning to any of her future teachers.) She is, unfortunately, just like her mother. So when she recently asked for her supply list, I quickly pulled it from my wallet, where it had been safely stashed over the summer. We then went to the store and purchased everything on the list, all in her favorite colors and in duplicate.
“Just in case” she said.
“Naturally good to be prepared,” I answered.
But while unloading the full cart of pencil sharpeners and hi-liters into my car, I started to think about my own back to school list. They make the actual school supplies easy for the kids—a couple of pencils and folders. But what about the moms?
While driving home I created my very own back to school supply list which readers are more than welcome to clip and save…
__Lunch supplies. Moms, have you purchased an in-style lunch container for your child? Pink camo was soooo last year. And are you well-stocked with juice boxes, fruit snacks, pudding cups and salami? Have you purchased your back-up emergency jar of peanut butter? Get on it! And do not, under any circumstances, forget the special “first day of school note.” It is crucial.
__School supplies for your child. Sure, your home is brimming with giant boxes of tissues and bottles of glue, but do not forget the things the school forgot to put on the list. Have you sufficiently stocked your child’s bookbag with a little bottle of hand sanitizer to remove any perfunctory cooties? Do you have extra folders waiting in the wing just in case Sally Jo has the, heaven forbid, exact same one? Think back-up here, people!
__First day outfits. (This may or may not only apply to the mothers of girls.) Has your child chosen her outfit for the first day of school? Are you prepared? Have you washed and pressed it? Did you lay it out? Don’t forget underwear. I forgot underwear when I was in the first grade because I was so excited. It haunts me to this day.
__Your vehicle. Back-to-school means back-to-the-grindstone. Back to running your kids from school to piano to sports to dance to the library and doing homework and eating mostly en route. Make sure you have sufficiently stocked your vehicle with the necessary pencils and markers, as well as granola bars, peanut-butter crackers and other such non-perishable “health food.”
__Your first day plans. Although the build-up to the first day of school may totally wear you out and exhaust you to the point of well, exhaustion, be prepared for the first day “now whats?” that occur after your kids are safely at school and you sit alone in your quiet house and wonder what in the world you are supposed to do now. Be prepared for this feeling of blankness! Find that book that you’ve been meaning to read for the past three months and set it out by the chair you haven’t sat in for three months. Or get yourself a nice cheese plate and invite the neighbor over.
Me? I’ve got a coffee date already made, which I’ll go to just as soon as I clean the unnecessary lists out of my wallet.

Good Lord, is it back???

It is currently 10:35PM, and outside my bedroom window, somewhere in the woods, is the creature.

I'm not sure what it is, but it makes a horrible sound late at night when these kinds of sounds wake you up from a dead sleep and make you grab the flashlight and shake your husband. It's a screaming/barking/yelping/crying sort of cry that makes your heart beat in your throat just thiking about it.

A few weeks ago, on a night with perfect sleeping weather, everyone on the street heard it. At 3:00AM. And my neighbor, whose nerdiness is only matched by mine, also took the time to look it up online. We concluded that it must be a fox, although the jury is still out.

My husband isn't due home until midnight, so I'm hoping that the creature is quiet until then. I need someone to wake up if I hear it screaming.
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