Friday, October 31, 2008

Wrap Up: The Electric Blanket debate.

So I asked for feedback in the whole "Is an electric blanket totally white trash?" debate. I have given it serious thought and I thank my readers who responded with salient points. I have come to the conclusion that it is about a five on the White Trash Scale. It is clearly not high class but the truly poor would not have one. The argument I keep coming back to is that "rich" people- or non-white trash- probably buy down comforters and feather beds to keep them warm rather than a plug-in device.
But after all that, I really don't care... I crank my electric blanket up to 9 every night and when I climb into bed, I just lay there like a mummy and thank the Sweet Lord that someone invented them.
It's positively delicious.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

When Fantasy and Reality collide.

Here's the Fantasy:

I picked up a kit at the grocery store to make caramel apples. Having fond memories of doing this as a kid, I thought it would be a fun, soon-to-be annual Harvest-y tradition. This afternoon, when Michaela got home, I pulled out the kit, washed the apples and explained to the girls what we were going to make. "Oooh, goody!" exclaimed Michaela.

We followed the directions, all warm and cozy inside our kitchen, and the girls and I shared some good laughs as we wrapped our apples in caramel, snuck a few tastes, and carefully chose our sprinkles for the finishing touch.

And ta-da! Here are the finished products, ready to eat after we enjoy a hearty dinner of roasted chicken, stuffing and a healthy vegetable.

Here's the Reality:

I picked up a kit from the grocery store to make caramel apples. I think we made these once or twice when I was a kid and it's definitely a possibility that my mom bought a kit to do this in 1991 and may very well still have it in her pantry. (Love ya, Mommy!)

I explained to the girls that I'd like to make caramel apples. "Oooh, goody!" Michaela exclaimed. "Can I just have the caramel? "

We'll make them and then decorate them with sprinkles, I tell them. Then I realize that the chicken I'm roasting rules out the 'bake in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes' part of the directions, so we move to plan B: the microwave. We stretch out the caramel to try to cover the apples and make a big mess. Tendrils of overstretched caramel are all over our hands. Jenna starts eating it off of her hands and declares, "I don't liked taramel."

When we get the apples covered, we microwave them for 20 seconds on high, which barely melts the caramel. After a few tries, at least it is semi-warm so we move on to the decorating part. I take out the sprinkles and ask the girls which one they'll like. They promptly start arguing about who is getting which sprinkles and I intervene at least twice so they stop yelling at each other. As I finish up rolling the apples in the sprinkles, the girls totally lose interest and instead start throwing bags of Smartfood popcorn at each other. "Popcorn fight!" is the battle cry.

While I am doing the final plating and presentation, Michaela and Jenna leave the room with the leftover caramel mushed into a little ball and go to the family room to watch SpongeBob Squarepants.

And this is the leftover scene in the kitchen:

So everytime you hear a story about someone's perfect family or heartwarming tradition, remember this story. There's two sides to everything: it's all how you spin it. Neither is totally untrue, just .... massaged.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Signs from above.

Today's Proof that God does Exist and He Loves Me Very, Very Much:

This morning I was able to sleep in until 8:20am, was not woken up by anyone, and discovered that the two little girls in my house had woken up, gotten dressed by themselves, and had poured my cereal and milk into a bowl and left me a note on the table next to the cereal bowl explaining "Dear Mama, Jenna and I made brekfast for you. Love, Mimio and Jenna" on green construction paper.

I almost wept with joy.

Mothers of young children, take heart!!! It only gets better!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

All Things Harvest-y.

Wow... I'm really on a roll here with the fall/ harvest/ pilgrim theme. Today I present you with pictures from Michaela's Harvest Dance at school, which took place Friday night. I am not just a freak carrying around a camera to every event my kid goes to: I am an official photographer for the Slingerlands Elementary School Yearbook. (I will try not to let that go to my head.)

So the Harvest Dance is an annual event held in the gym of the school with a very, very loud DJ playing very cute music (no 50 Cent) and a bunch of 5-10 year olds jumping/ dancing/ skipping/ conga-lining to the music. There was also some pizza and baked goods and crafts you could do while cooling down from dancing. Oh, and there were also about 200 parents standing around, watching their kids and glancing hopefully at their watches about every ten minutes.

Caitlin, Michaela, Olivia, and Kate: 2nd Grade classmates

Jenna and her friend Ryann work on some craft projects at the Harvest Dance
While Dan and I may have been deaf for an hour afterwards, it was a great success in Michaela's book. Here is a taste of the evening for your viewing pleasure:

Speaking of succeses, I also finished my apron project. It is ready to go for Thanksgiving morning. Bring on the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pies!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Barn Party Action!

Tonight we went to the annual Kleinke's Barn Party. What a blast! I worked for about an hour on the terrifically complicated, yet requested by both girls, costumes:

Total cost: $7.00
Total amount of time worn: 3 minutes

Michaela even tried her hand at bobbing for apples and got totally soaked. We went on a hayride, ate yummy treats, drank hot chocolate, and played a couple of games. Lots of our friends were also there and it was great to see them all in their costumes. Here are a few more pics from the night, using my NEW Canon camera, which I am very pleased with.

Erin, Jenna, Jack and Michaela

Sara was a highly successful bobber!

Michaela tries her luck at bobbing.

No apple, but lots of fun!

Michaela and Aidan enjoy some hot chocolate.

Michael (The Dark Knight, not Batman) and Sara

Sara, Michaela, Jack as Scooby Doo and Jenna check out the dancing skeleton.

Jenna provides some type of motherly assurance to Erin.

Michaela, the Skeleton, and Jenna

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flashback Friday

See the difference a year makes....

October 2007

October 2008

And now two years:

October 2006

First Day of School 2006

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More signs of the season.

Two things I did today to herald in Fall: threw out three pairs of the girls' grungy flip flops and put an electric blanket on our bed.

(Which leads me to this unrelated question I thought of while I was putting the blanket on... on a scale of one to ten- one being "Very!!" and ten being "Not at All!"- how White Trash is an electric blanket?
Food for thought.
Please comment.
I will post my analysis soon.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I have lots of little ways to help me escape from my mostly-wonderful-but-occasionally-need-a- good-diversion life. I was on a kick a few summers ago-when Jenna was at the height of her crying, nursing, clingy self- about living a Town and Country life. (Have you ever read Town and Country magazine? Full of society people and richness and yummy pictures and pretty things.) I got really into it and planned it all out: I would winter somewhere around Boston, where Dan would have a fabulous job to pay for all of this, and we would summer on Nantucket Island. Our Boston house would be a regal brownstone, comfortable yet elegant, and the Nantucket house would be beachy and carefree and all whitewashed and blue inside, with a little bit of lobster red thrown in. The girls and I would stay there for the summer, eating out, drinking in the culture and social scene and Dan would come in on the weekends. It was a pretty nice fantasy life.
I even told my friends about it as I was thinking the whole thing through... and thank you, Gina, for suggesting getting a bike to ride on the Island with a basket in the front to carry the wildflowers I'd gathered that day. That is a great detail that really fleshes it all out. I called it "my secret fantasy life" until my friend Angel, without any mockery in her voice at all (well.... maybe a little mockery), suggested that I stop calling it "secret" since I was telling everyone about it.

Anyway, I tell this story because I have another secret obsession to report.

I am obsessed with Pilgrims.

So you can see what an exciting time of year this is for me. Pumpkins, gourds, hay bales, turkeys, Thanksgiving recipes, rich soups, warm breads, the simple life, falling leaves, being with family, harvest-colored candy (soooo dangerous. And enticing. And delicious.), Wampanog Indians... I love it all. And it's all around me. I have even added the fact that I have been to First Encounter Beach in Eastham, MA, where the Pilgrims and natives first "encountered" each other- with rifles- to my list of Pilgrim-related accomplishments this year. I love the history of the Pilgrim settlers, I love the folklore that everyone got along at first, I love the silver buckles and tall hats and long dresses and wool blankets. I love their hardscrabble faith that it was going to better here than where they came from. Eventually.

And of course I love Thanksgiving. It is my High Holy Day of Homemaking: gathering the family together, in preferably matching outfits, of course, and showing off your skills as a hostess, cook and baker. Delicious. I love the traditions of it, the anticipation, and the joy that the Christmas Season REALLY begins after Thanksgiving Day. Put up the tree!! Crank the holiday music! Drag out the much-loved copy of Christmas Vacation DVD!!!!


I am adding to my Thanksgiving/Pilgrim hysteria this year by making a reversible apron for myself. It was supposed to offset my need to purchase new scrapbooking supplies, which has only led me buy material for various unnecessary sewing projects instead. I went to the fabric store and found the most yummy fabric and guess what they had? PILGRIM TOILE!!!!!

I'll say it again: PILGRIM TOILE!!!!!

With real Pilgrims! Hoeing the ground! Gathering gourds! With cornucopias full of Bounty! It was too much for me. I am almost done with it and it's gorgeous. Here's a peek at the fabrics and ribbon I'm using.

Wow. This was cleansing for me.

Here are some more pictures of the gorgeous fall around us here in the Northeast.

Happy October! Happy Fall!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Family Party: High School Musical Style

Michaela had her family birthday party this past Saturday and what a blast it was! We enjoyed a day of beautiful weather so the kids could all run around outside and blow off sugar-induced energy. Michaela chose the High School Musical theme for her party and it was super cute. I bought a big plastic HSM poster and took pics of people as they arrived in front of the poster, paparazzi-style. We enjoyed cupcakes instead of a cake (per Michaela's request) and Michaela got lots of wonderful gifts from everyone. One of the nice parts about your kids getting older is that their presents get smaller: she got lots of games, video games, CDs, a few pieces of clothing and some money and gift cards. And it all fit into one neat pile.

So without further ado, here is my pictorial essay of the day:
There were HSM balloons, and napkins, and tablecloths, and centerpieces, and confetti...
Michaela, Jenna and Aunt Jaime
The kids all enjoyed the Bouncy-bounce outside. I loved this picture of Michaela!
Michaela with the Fabulous Strauss Boys
Uncle Michael, Michaela and Jenna
Michael and Michaela
Aunt Michele, Uncle Jimmy, Cousin Olivia, Michaela and Jenna
The girls loved being with their cousin... Jenna thought she was a real-life baby doll.

The birthday girl with her Mom and Dad

Make a Wish!!

(Look at Uncle Mikey bending down to be in the picture.)

Michaela and Sara, who turned five on the day of the party.

Enjoying cupcakes on the deck

Opening presents... lots of High School Musical and Hannah Montana merchandise.

Thanks to my mom for letting me borrow her camera. And many, many thanks to our family and friends who made Michaela's birthday so special!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The End of an Era.

It's official: while cleaning up her room last night, Michaela took down her Disney "Royal Princesses" poster and replaced it with a poster of the very hunky-yet-sweet Zac Effron, aka Troy Bolton of High School Musical.

Who knew this day would ever come?

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Toadily" Me by Michaela

This getting-to-know-me worksheet was posted outside the classroom for Michaela's Open House at school.

My name is: Michaela Libutti.
I am 48 inches tall.
My eyes are: brown.
My hair is: brown.
These are some words to describe me: pretty.
My favorite color is: pink.
My favorite toy is: all of them.
My favorite book is: Froggy Goes to Bed.
My favorite tv show is: Spongebob Squarepants.
My favorite school subject is: P.E.
When I have free time, I like to: draw.
There are four people in my family. I have one sister and zero brothers.
We have one pet: cat Kiara.
The best thing about my family is: they are fun.
This is what we like to do together: play games.

There is so much side commentary I could add to this... but will refrain.
I will, however, add that the day after I wrote my moving and touchy-feely letter about my newly-turned seven year old, I wanted to wring her neck. She was completely exasperating. A little too much birthday fun, me thinks.
Coming up this Sunday: the Family Party, High School Musical-style.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Happy Birthday to Michaela!

Dear Michaela,

Today is your seventh birthday and I couldn't be more excited for you. You are such the light of our lives and it is so fun to see you eagerly anticipating your special day with the presents, treats and attention that comes with it.

I had a whole letter planned to write out to you about how you grew in every way this year, but I will only say this: when people ask about you, I always say the same thing. "She's got the world on a string. I never have to worry about her." I mean, as a mom I worry about lots of stuff but you are so strong and smart and loving and caring that while little bumps come along here and there, deep down I know you have got this whole life thing figured out.

Here, in much shorter form than I first tried, are the 10 best parts about you right now:
1. You are as healthy as an ox.
2. You are caring and compassionate towards those who are hurting. You have very, very strong physical and emotional boundaries with everyone but when someone gets hurt or needs a friend, you are the go-to girl.
3. You have an awesome sense of humor and joy for life.
4. You are constantly in motion. Not hyper, just always moving. You love swimming and running and playing. And soccer, if you're in the mood.
5. You have a wonderful creative streak that I do all I can to nurture. You love to make jewelry, paint, draw, and have even tried your hand at scrapbooking and sewing.
6. You are so beautiful that you take my breath away. I can only imagine what you'll look like as an adult.
7. You are a fun, loyal friend and a loving sister. You have wonderful social skills and people skills.
8. You are so smart and so eager to have everyone see the world the same way that you do that you can manipulate anyone to do just about anything. You can figuratively split hairs in a discussion down to the molecular level. I have seen my own parents do things for you that have made my head spin. You have convinced me to do things that make my head spin. You are profoundly skilled at pushing the envelope as far as it can go and then retreating as soon as you know you've gone too far.
9. You adore animals- anything cute and furry. You play constantly with your stuffed animals of cats and dogs and squirrels and rabbits and bears. Your Webkins are your favorite toys right now.
10. You are a wonderful mix of little girl and big kid. Every once in a while you help us see that you're not quite as big as we all think and let us know you still want to be kissed and hugged and loved and comforted like we always have. Usually when you are trying to stay up later.

Happy Birthday, my baby, my big girl, my Mimi. You made Daddy and I parents and you are exactly what we wanted in a child. Thank you for being such a good girl; thank you for being with us in this journey through life; thank you for being YOU!

I love you with all my heart and soul,

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Busy Weekend!

We had two exciting things happen here over the weekend. The first and Most Important was that the week long extravaganza known as Michaela's Birthday has begun. We had her kids party on Saturday (squeezed in after a soccer game and Jack Strauss' third birthday party) at a local art store that does fabulous kids' parties. Mimi chose a bird theme and the owner just did a awesome job of picking fun, age appropriate crafts for the kids to do. Michaela invited 6 of her friends from school and Brownies (including one of her "oldest" friends, Erin, who she's known since 3 year old preschool) and of course little Jenna. It was a two hour party: about an hour and forty five minutes for crafts and 15 or so for cake and presents. They even make a list of who gave what gifts. It was incredibly easy and well-done. Dan asked what his role was for the party and I told him all he had to do was pay for it.

Well, my goodness, Cheryl, why don't you post some pics so we can see this wonderful event? Because they are AWFUL!!! I got a new camera last week after doing all kinds of research and hemming and hawing and finally looked at the pics I took at the party on my computer this afternoon and they are just terrible. Blurry and washed out and streaky and blah. Nothing warm, rich or sharp about them. I was sooo bummed that I made Dan take us to Best Buy this evening to look for a new camera and to drown my sorrows in the Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar. (Yeah, it's that good. Salad from there actually made me feel better.)
Here's some of the pictures from the party (some aren't too bad, but when you look at them a little bigger, they are quite blurry and the color is totally off).
Michaela paints her bird house

Jenna was doted on by the staff... but she held her own with the big girls.

Opening presents. Lots of Webkins.

Sorry this is sideways. Michaela has painted her hand and was allowed- encouraged, even- to make a handprint on the bare wall of the store. I can feel my mother shuddering from here.

The back of Michaela's bird pillow: her name in block letters and three top-hat-wearing dancing hearts.

So going out did make me feel better and I'm continuing to look up information and mull over my options for the next camera... I'm sending this one back. I'll let you know what I decide...