***This blog has moved to My Convertible Life.***

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Knew Them When

I'm a big believer in being nice to people along the way because you just never know who they're going to turn out to be. Like the neighbor who used to tease me on the bus in 6th grade and pick on me at junior high? We ended up friends in college -- now he's an international celebrity and business mogul, posting Facebook pictures of himself posing with beautiful models and seated next to Will Smith on a recent flight. I get to live vicariously through him (from the safety of my laptop), while enjoying the image of that little 6th-grade kid turned glamorous grown-up.

Another great example is John Bemis -- we were classmates and friends in college, both studying to become teachers. Now, in addition to having a successful career in education, he's also a published author. Head on over to Triangle Mamas to read my post about his new book, The Nine-Pound Hammer. The book is great and makes a nice holiday gift, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday's Five: Photo Projects for the Holidays

This Friday's Five (on Saturday, I know) is adapted from a post in April -- I think it's particularly useful for the holidays. If you're like me and you have 42 million pictures stored on your computer that you've never printed out, this is your change to turn all those smiles into something useful.

Here are five of my favorite picture projects and my favorite sites for each (from simplest to most involved):
  1. Postcards @ Winkflash: The quickest, easiest way to use your photos is to print postcards with one photo on each card. Most sites offer lots of borders and other options, but I like just using a single picture that fills the card with a glossy finish. You can print messages or addresses on the back of the card, or just leave them blank. I like to print a 4x6 picture of my children on Christmas morning, then use the cards for thank you notes. You can print multiple copies of the same photo or get an assortment. At Winkflash, the prices are low and the quality is fine for a basic postcard. And now, with the collage feature in Picasa, it's super easy to make a single image file that includes mutiple photos.

  2. Notecards @ Winkflash: Almost as simple as postcards, the notecard set is great to have on hand or give as a gift and so much more fun to use than generic cards. Again, I think simple is best -- one full photo per card and you can't go wrong. With Winkflash, you can order the exact number you need instead of having to order sets of 12. Envelopes are included.

  3. Holiday cards @ Winkflash: Okay, so you're noticing a theme here. For my money, Winkflash is the best for card printing because I like to just use my photos (no borders or other designs) so that they work for anyone -- no worrying about getting Christmas cards for Christians, Hannukah cards for Jews and so on. If you want better designs, go to PhotoWorks (see below). But the other advantage with Winkflash is that you can print your message directly into the card -- no extra printing, folding and stuffing of holiday letters. I usually get the 5x7 size card so that I can put more than one photo on the front and have enough space inside for our annual update. And you can order the exact number you need instead of having to order in sets of 25. Envelopes are included.

  4. Calendars @ PhotoWorks: Lots of photo sites have calendars, but the nicest ones I've found are at this site. They have multiple sizes and styles (sample above), including a perpetual calendar for keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries, and the quality of the printing and materials is better than the rest.

  5. Photo books @ Shutterfly: When I was pregnant with Pippi, this became my addiction. I "nested" by becoming my own little yearbook staff for baby Juni pictures -- but way better than when I was actually on the high school yearbook staff because it didn't require a typewriter, scissors and glue (our kids will never understand that "cut & paste" was a literal thing before it became virtual on computers, but I digress). Of all the sites I tried, Shutterfly was the best combination of design options, ease of use and quality final product. One tip: Don't try to work in Mozilla Firefox; for some reason, Shutterfly is happiest in Explorer.
With all three sites, watch for sales and online coupons -- they all have good ones regularly and it can really make a difference. If you're interested, subscribe to their e-mailing list so you know when they're having specials.

Happy designing!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dinner's Ready!

For all of you spending the day cooking, prepping, shopping, sweating and generally working your tail off to get ready for the big meal tomorrow, I have three words:
The. Fresh. Market.

Their traditional holiday meal comes pre-cooked with turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish and rolls -- all I have to do is heat it up and set the table. The best $80 we spend all year.

I mean, I know I've gotten all domesticated this year, what with the meal-planning and the cooking chicken and the trying new recipes. But seriously, people -- I do not find joy in spending three days slaving over a meal that will get devoured in about 20 minutes. I know that some of you do, and I respect that -- but I have no plan to join you (unless, of course, you want to invite me to your house for dinner).

After our children were born, my husband and I implemented a pretty firm no-traveling-for-the-holidays rule for our family. There have been a couple of years where we went to our parents' homes for Thanksgiving, but otherwise we've enjoyed the luxury of staying home. That policy also means that we've extended a generally open invitation to our parents to join us at our house for the holidays -- thus, the need for The Fresh Market.

My mother is the one who taught me this trick, after years of doing it all the hard way -- and I expect my children will be stunned to discover (years from now, when they get invited to a boyfriend's or girlfriend's home for Thanksgiving) that not all turkeys arrive pre-cooked with the fixings from the store. And I'm totally fine with that -- I'll just tell them I was supporting the local economy (The Fresh Market is based in Greensboro) and ensuring that I had more time and happiness to spend with them.

Happy turkey everyone!

Note: As always, I received no compensation from The Fresh Market for this post. However, if they offered me a gift card or a discount for my Christmas meal, I wouldn't say no.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Recipe: Crispy Tilapia

Like most parents, I'm always in search of recipes that are easy, tasty, healthy and popular with the whole family. At our house, one of the favorites in this category is crispy tilapia.

I buy the fish whenever it's on sale at HT and keep it in the freezer -- it's easy to defrost in the fridge a day or two before we use it. I usually cook two filets at a time -- slice each in half, with three halves for the grown ups and one half cut into nuggets for the kids (we call them "special nuggets" to make them more appealing).

What really makes the recipe easy to prepare is that I mix up a ziploc bag of the breading (usually double what's listed here, which gets us through several dinners) so that I can just pull it out of the pantry when we're ready to eat. The only downfall of the recipe is that the leftovers aren't as good, so you're better off just cooking enough for one meal. For sides, I like to steam or stir-fry whatever green veggies are in the fridge, plus some ready-made mashed potatoes.

Crispy Tilapia

  • 3 lbs tilapia fillets, about 10
  • 1/3 cup flour, for dusting fish
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • canola oil, to cover bottom of large pan

  1. Salt and pepper fish. Dust fillets with 1/3 cup of flour.
  2. Mix egg with buttermilk in one bowl.
  3. Mix flour, corn meal, baking soda and baking powder, Old Bay in another bowl.
  4. Dip all floured fish into egg then flour mixture.
  5. Heat oil medium-high in large pan.
  6. Fry in three batches, turning after 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Salt as soon as you take out of pan.
  8. Serve with tartar sauce.

Recipe and photo from recipezaar.com.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday's Five: The Lloyd Dobler Effect

I ran across this blog post recently, describing a group of men in NYC who dressed as Lloyd Dobler, boomboxes blaring "In Your Eyes" above their heads, to celebrate the 20th anniversary edition of the movie Say Anything. I'll pause for a moment while you grapple with the notion that a) yes, it really was 20 years ago and b) there really are people with that much free time.

But I can't blame them for being committed to one of the all-time great movie characters, who famously declared that "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that." Between that statement and his unfailing love for Diane Court, you just can't go wrong with Lloyd.

So in honor of Lloyd Dobler and the 20th anniversary of one of my most-loved teen films, here are five other favorite movies with John Cusack that my husband and I wind up watching every time we stumble onto them:
  1. Sixteen Candles (1984): Okay, so Cusack isn't the star of this Molly Ringwald classic, but it's so funny to see him so young as he plays one of the dorky friends to geeky Anthony Michael Hall.

  2. Grosse Point Blank (1997): Cusack stars as a professional assassin returning home for his high school reunion, where he runs into his long lost love (played by Minnie Driver). Chaos, wit and much gun fire ensue, along with a great soundtrack.

  3. Being John Malkovich (1999): This mind-bender of a film includes a rough-looking Cameron Diaz (who knew that was possible?!) and a scene with John Malkovich cross-dressing. Strange and fantastic.

  4. High Fidelity (2000): Another terrific soundtrack accompanies Cusack as he tries to piece together his romantic history (via his top five break-ups) to explain his latest relationship failure. Ah, the mix tape -- how I loved you.

  5. Serendipity (2001): I don't know exactly why we can never turn off this movie when it shows up on TV (including last night) -- maybe I love the idea that what seems like coincidences is actually life leading us to just where we need to be. Or maybe it's the fun of another side-kick role for Jeremy Piven. The movie won't change your life, but it's still worth watching.
Note: The title for this post was shamelessly stolen from the band of the same name, who will be playing in Charlotte next Saturday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Soapbox: Magnetic Responsibility

I may or may not have wasted an hour yesterday morning. That's because the magnet school I toured may or may not be there in six months. The building will be there -- goodness knows Wake County needs all the school buildings it has -- but the school, the program, the teachers, the students who make up that building today might be gone. Or not.

As a parent of a rising kindergartner, that's what's making me crazy these days -- the not knowing whether the incoming school board will make little tweaks or sweeping changes to my public school district.

In their quest to be responsive to parents, the newest four members of the Wake County Board of Education -- who will be sworn in on Dec. 1 -- campaigned on promises of a return to "neighborhood schools" and an end to "busing for diversity." I'm not exactly sure what people mean when they use those heavily-loaded phrases, but I do know that a strict neighborhood plan would eliminate or at least severely handicap Wake County's national-award-winning magnet program.

The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) lists three objectives for its magnet program:
  • Reduce high concentrations of poverty and support diverse populations
  • Maximize use of school facilities
  • Provide expanded educational opportunities
The first bullet point there got a lot of attention during the campaign because "diverse populations" got shortened to "busing" -- and no one likes "busing," even though it's not nearly that simple. The third bullet point is a big part of what draws most parents -- including me -- to consider these schools for our children. Imagining Junius learning about music, art, science, technology, language, leadership and media in elementary school sounds wonderful -- especially when I don't have to pay tuition for him to get it.

But that middle bullet point is one that gets lost in the rhetoric -- and it's one that every taxpayer in this county should care about, regardless of whether or not they have kids in the public schools. Employing a magnet program -- one that lures families from the crowded suburbs into downtown schools or schools in "less desirable neighborhoods" (how's that for a fully-loaded phrase?) -- is a fiscally responsible way to run a district as large as Wake County.

Without the magnet offerings, Wake County would likely return to the challenges seen here in the early 80s before the program began -- the same challenges now facing Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where downtown schools face under-enrollment and suburban schools are bursting at the seams. In a district of nearly 140,000 students that continues to grow by at least 4,000 students a year, despite the recessions, Wake County simply cannot afford to have empty seats.

Unlike Clay Aiken, I'm not planning on calling the new board members "selfish idiots." I'll reserve that judgement until they've had the chance to quit campaigning and start governing. I'm truly hoping that they're not idiots at all -- and that once they get into the substance of the issues facing our schools, they'll realize it's not nearly as simple as they thought.

Personally, I want the new school board members to care about the magnet program because it's been successful for the students in those schools. I want them to hear the voices of the parents of those students, even if those parents don't live in the board members' districts. I want them to find ways to provide the best education possible to all 140,000 kids.

But I know that money -- not student achievement or parent satisfaction -- is the real bottom line. And in tight economic times, I hope the new school board will remember their fiscal responsibility to use the existing facilities in the most efficient way possible -- and that includes maintaining a healthy magnet program in Wake County.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I'm Not Good at Online Dating

The fact that I tried on four different outfits -- even though I was running late and my children were running wild -- suggested I was heading out on a blind date.

In truth, it was something much more frightening. An almost-blind dinner date with eight other women. And not just any women -- blogging women. I felt like an impostor, someone who got invited to a secret meeting by accident. Although I was with a friend and had met two of the other bloggers before, the rest were all new to me.

As I got ready, I fretted about looking too mom-ish, looking like I tried too hard, like I didn't try hard enough. What if they write about me afterward on their blogs? Or what if they don't write about me at all? What if they realize that I'm just over here blabbing random things about whatever is on my mind with no ads or marketing or serious focus? What if I get food stuck in my teeth and then smile all through the meal and no one tells me?

Or what if I just take a deep breath and realize that they're all lovely and interesting people who happen to be moms (like me) who enjoy writing (like me).

Breathe in... Breathe out... In... Out...

And so of course, it was all fine. I enjoyed meeting the other ladies, sharing stories, finding small world connections. I think it's something we'll do again -- and thankfully I won't stress out so much next time. Although I am worried that I've violated some sort of blogging code by being the only one from the dinner to write about it. Was there some sort of what-happens-at-blogger-dinner-stays-at-blogger-dinner pledge that no one told me about?

Ugh. Dating is hard.

There's a Reason Babies Are So Cute

Last week, I got the happy email news that a close friend had delivered a healthy baby boy.

To say she's had a challenging pregnancy would be an understatement, so her news brought great relief as well as joy. In addition to a range of craziness at home -- caring for her toddler, listing and selling her home, and working with her husband through a job change -- the last nine months included the following:
  • 18 weeks of all day and night "morning" sickness
  • 1 bout with the stomach flu
  • 1 second trimester hospitalization and surgery for a kidney/bladder blockage
  • 12 inches of a coil stent to open the blockage for the remainder of the pregnancy
  • 3.5 months of pain and contractions
  • 16 weeks of partial bed-rest
  • 7 ultrasounds
  • 7 days of home quarantine with attack of the H1N1 flu
  • 11 hours of induced labor
  • 1 epidural that came out and stopped working between the 4 to 10 cm dilation
  • 7 pushes
Despite those painful numbers, she still got some beautiful results: 6 lbs. 4 oz. of perfect baby boy. And even though that baby has caused her an awful lot of pain over the past few months, she's already in love with him.

Unlike my friend, I'm really good at being pregnant -- I get enormous and round, but I had it so easy both times (until about week 39). Turns out I'm not so good at the delivery part -- both babies required c-sections to make their entrance into the world (see photo of Junius, fresh after his arrival). I still struggle at times with the fact that my babies' beginnings didn't match up with my Hollywood vision of what delivery would look like -- that dramatic moment when I squeeze my husband's hand, push the baby out, and immediately get to hold him close and love him. (And in that vision, of course, I'm wearing make-up, looking flushed but lovely. And the baby is all clean and beautiful, with no cone-head. And I instantly lose 40 pounds so I can wear my regular jeans home from the hospital. But I digress.)

I know it's a cliche, but my friend's experience reminded me that it doesn't matter how you become a mama, as long as you get to love the baby that makes you one. Whether through c-section or induction or adoption or marriage or fertility treatments or a drug-free birth, those babies arrive in our lives and they love us and they make us love them back. And it's a damn good thing they're so cute -- they have the power to make us forget everything else.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's Five: Pippi's Reading List

I've written a lot about favorite books to read with Junius, but haven't written much about what Pippi likes to read. That's partly because she doesn't sit still for books the way he always has, which is probably (partly) because she's been so much easier to put to bed than he ever was.

So, in my continuing effort not to leave out the Pip, here are five of her favorite books these days -- as she gets older, she's finally starting to request certain stories when we sit in her rocking chair before bedtime, which makes me really happy:
  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: A classic and lovely book -- I'm assuming you've all read it. I think she mostly likes turning the little pages and sticking her finger in the little caterpillar hole-punches.

  2. Ten Wishing Stars by Treesha Runnells and Sarah Dillard: This counting book about sheep wishing on stars at night has ten raised stars with star-shaped cutouts -- and the stars glow in the dark. Again, I think her favorite part is touching the stars.

  3. Baby Faces by Margaret Miller: We like to pretend she can read this one because she's memorized each baby's expression, saying "stinky" and "boo-hoo" and so on. It's way cute.

  4. Corduroy by Don Freeman: Another classic and sweet story. It's probably the longest book she'll sit still-ish for.

  5. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, John Archambault and Lois Ehlert: This alphabet story involves letters racing up and then crashing down from a coconut tree. I don't know why, but "chicka chicka boom boom" is just plain fun to say.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Round 1 Goes to the Pip

Today I thought I would be writing a post about how I spent my first night away from Pippi last night -- I had to be out of town for a meeting, so she and Junius were home with my husband and my in-laws. Although I've spent a few nights away from Juni, it was the first time that Pippi and I slept under different roofs in her entire little life.

But as it turns out, my night away was pretty uneventful for both of us -- and I had to be up so early for the meeting that I didn't even get to enjoy some extra sleep.

So instead, I'm going to write about this cute little outfit (shown at left), which is what Pippi was supposed to wear to preschool today. As it turned out, she wore the pants -- along with the pajama top she'd slept in the night before.

Why? Because she flat-out refused to take off her pajamas. I wasn't here to witness the struggle, but apparently neither my MIL nor my husband could wrestle her out of the jammie shirt. My husband (wisely) determined that it was not a battle worth waging.

After I stopped laughing at the vision of Nonna and Daddy trying to pin down our not-yet-two-but-thinks-she's-a-five-year-old daughter, I tried to figure out two things:

1. What about the cute outfit was so offensive to her? Did she remember that (although it's a Carter's brand) I bought it at Costco? Does she think mixing pink with chocolate brown is too trendy? Was she worried the leggings made her tushie look big?

2. How many battles are she and I going to have about her clothes over the next 16 years? And will I have enough sense to let her win the ones that don't really hurt anything so that I have the energy to conquer her stubbornness in the wars that make a difference?

At the end of the day, it really didn't matter what she wore to preschool today. In fact, some of her toddler clothes aren't so different than her pajamas -- and I'm sure her teachers love her no matter what she has on. But I can see the day coming when what she wears (or doesn't wear) Is going to make a difference in how others see her -- a skirt that's too short, a shirt that's too tight, a face-piercing. Ugh. I am so not ready for her teen years.

So I think I'm going to start working out now. Because clearly I'm going to need to be a lot stronger than she is if I'm going to win the wrestling matches yet to come.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hark the Sound of Basketball (and Rugby) Season

I know for some of you out there, it's still football season (hi Dad!). But this Carolina girl has already moved on to basketball. The Tar Heels played (and won) their first game on Monday night -- okay, so it was only Florida International, but it still feels good to know the blue and white are back on the court.

In honor of the start of my favorite sports season, I'll share one of the first pieces I wrote for my magazine course while I was studying in Cardiff. We were assigned to cover the local reaction to the start of the Rugby World Cup, hosted in Cardiff that year. Given that I knew absolutely nothing about rugby, I had to take a different approach than traditional sports reporting.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we celebrate March Madness, a month devoted to the great sport of college basketball. As college teams from across the United States compete for the NCAA title, Carolina fans flock to arenas and television sets, decorating their bodies, their homes, their cars, even their pets in support of the Tar Heels.

The enthusiasm reaches a fever pitch during the first weekend in April, when the last teams standing compete the The Final Four. If the Tar Heels have survived from the original field, every bar on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill's main street, welcomes a standing-room-only crowd of blue face paint and Carolina cheers.

In Cardiff, Wales, they celebrate the World Rugby Cup. And althought it's quite some distance across the proverbial pond, the enthusiasm of openting day, as Wales hosted Argentina, felt just like home for this Tar Heel alum.

On Friday, 1 October 1999, I was amazed to see the usually drab, grey Colum Road awash in a vibrant shade of red. Bright red rugby jerseys boasting the WRU [Welsh Rugby Union] logo had replaced the typical full-black European ensemble. Cabs flew Welsh flags from their antennae. Even the bank clerk at Barclay's sported a temporary face tattoo in support of her team. The trains passed by, filled to capacity with more red jerseys to spill into the city. Students wearing Welsh flags as sarongs cheered in the streets. And there were still six hours until kick-off.

By the time the opening ceremony began, every pub in the City Centre fortunate enough to possess even one television was bursting with rugby enthusiasts. The pub crowds joined with fans inside the newly built 72,500-seat Millennium Stadium singing anthems and folk songs, cheering for celebrities and waving their inflated daffodils and red-and-green scarves.

When Welsh performer Max Boyce took the stage, even the rowdy crowd at O'Neill's Pub hushed each other to hear the original verses in his song, then erupted with the familiar refrain in his obvious crowd-pleaser.

The volume of enthusiasm only increased when the players took the field. The crowd around me began chanting, "Wa-les! Wa-les!" But another hush came over the group at the sounds of the Welsh anthem, a patriotic tear trickling down the televised face of one of them team members.

Although it seemed impossible, the start of the game brought even louder and rowdier cheers, But as the game progressed, not all of the cheers were friendly. At the sight of an injured Argentinian player on the field, one pub fan shouted, "Let 'im die!"

As the WRU fought for their 23-18 win and their ninth-straight victory, the cans at O'Neill's never stopped their energetic support of "Henry's Army." And although I understood little of the game of rugby, I did understand the sense of pride felt by the crowds there and throughout the city of Cardiff.

The face painted and jester hats, the radio station ticket-giveaway contests and the closed-off city streets are all symbols of something that every Chapel Hill fan recognises: a true love and loyalty for a sporting team that serves to unite the community. Whether young or old, male or female, city professional or country worker, everyone who cheered for the WRU on Friday enjoyed equal status: victor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sesame!

In honor of Sesame Street's 40th anniversary, here's a re-post from June:

Really good children's television has to be entertaining for viewers of all ages -- if I don't like it, I definitely don't want my kids watching it. The beauty of Sesame Street -- in addition to its efforts to teach preschoolers about math, vocabulary, and other skills -- is that it's hilarious. When I was a kid, I had no idea who the grown-ups were. Now that I'm the mom, I'm cracking up to see everyone from Jack Black to Brian Williams to Andrea Bocelli playing along with the muppets.

In no particular order, here are five of my favorite (recent) Sesame Street segments -- the video quality isn't so great on some, but they're still funny:
  1. Neil Patrick Harris as the Fairy Shoe Person: If you're a fan of NPH, you must see this. In full Broadway style, the Shoe Fairy tries to find just the right pair of shoes for Telly Monster. I can't summarize. You just have to watch it.

  2. Tina Fey with the Bookaneers: Tina and her Bookaneers (they're the Pirates of the Care-to-Be-Readin') crash into Elmo and Alan, recruit Elmo to join their crew and follow a treasure map to the library. The clip shown here doesn't give you all the brilliant puns, but it's a start. In case you were wondering, a pirate's favorite letter isn't R -- it's F. Pirates love F-words -- you know, like fish and flugelhorn.

  3. Will Arnett as Max the Magician: A Gob-like magician shows off his tricks to Big Bird, Elmo and the crew. Being clever muppets, they realize he's actually doing math. After watching this episode, Junius spent weeks running into rooms and shouting, "Did somebody say.....MMMMMMMAGIC?!" and then hurling things over his shoulder.

  4. Pre-School Musical: It's got sass and choreography and sustained notes. It's block corner vs. dress-up corner at the pre-school (problem solved when they realize they can "just take tu-uh-uh-uh-uh-urns"). In short, it rocks. And if you watch the clip, be prepared to sing the song ALL day.

  5. Texas Telly and the Golden Triangle of Destiny: This clever spoof of Indiana Jones brings in Texas Telly and Minnesota Mel as they search for the golden triangle of destiny. After finding several other golden shapes (and meeting other characters like Virginia Virginia) and avoiding a giant boulder, Telly finally finds his most favorite shape. Sadly, the clip linked here only shows part of the segment, but you get the idea.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recipe: Pineapple Pork Tenderloin

"New Music Monday" has gone by the wayside now that I'm not on my own on Mondays... Pippi and I spend Monday mornings together while Junius is at preschool, so we often wind up at the grocery store.

So instead of music today, I thought I'd share one of my favorite crockpot recipes, stolen from another blog. What I love about this recipe: it's easy, it's delicious, my kids will eat pork tenderloin and it makes tasty leftovers. Enjoy!

Pineapple Pork Tenderloin CrockPot Recipe

  • 3 pound pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 16 ounces frozen or canned pineapple

  1. Combine meat, sugar, spices, and cornstarch in a plastic zipper bag (I add a little extra of the spices). Seal and shake well to coat. Pour contents of bag into crockpot.
  2. Add garlic and peppers on top of the meat so that they're not soaking on the bottom.
  3. Pour in soy sauce, apple juice, and an entire bag of frozen pineapple. (I add an extra splash of the soy sauce because I like the salty flavor.)
  4. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for 4-6. (The recipe said she cooked hers on high for 2 hours, then on low for another 6.)
  5. Serve with rice or pasta. (I like to serve mine over rice.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday's Five: The Wedding

Yesterday, while most eyes (including the sweet groom's) were focused on the beautiful bride featured above, mine were fixed on that adorable little ring-bearer. Our family met the bride when Junius was 5 months old -- she was one of his first regular babysitters and has been an adopted member of our family ever since.

The celebration of marriage was wonderful and beautifully personalized by this special couple -- and of course, my favorite part was seeing how happy they were to be getting married. But here are five other favorite details about the big day:
  1. Junius in a tuxedo: Did I mention he was adorable? I'm talking crazy cute. The best was watching him tap dance in his shiny tuxedo shoes during the reception. I'm thinking we could rent him out as a ring-bearer for other weddings to help pay for college later on. He was that sweet.

  2. Kid-friendly event: Not many young couples would purposely invite lots of small children to their wedding. But this event not only allowed the kids, the bride and groom went out of their way to make sure they were included. From fancy corn dogs in the buffet line to dancing the hokey-pokey to a special photo of the bride with all her babysitting charges, it was a great wedding for the little ones.

  3. Musical favor: The bride and groom created a CD for their guests, calling it "a condensed playlist of our lives... so far." With tracks from Avett Brothers, Iron & Wine, The Shins and Wilco, it's not your usual wedding fare -- which is exactly what makes it so fantastic.

  4. Ring-bearer gift: One of the most useful gifts ever, this basket (shown below) came in black with Junius's name embroidered in blue along the side. For the wedding and reception, I loaded it up with coloring books (and those Color Wonder markers that only write on the magic paper), snacks, tissues and pajamas (for the ride home). Stylish and functional -- doesn't get any better than that.

  5. High heels: Okay, so I realize this last one is more about me than the event, but it was kind of a big deal. Despite my general fear of tall shoes, I found some very cute peep toe heels that I could actually walk in. Sadly, I can't find a picture of them online, and the only picture that shows my feet in them is one that Junius took and the awkward angle makes my legs appear chunky and I'm too vain to post it. But trust me that I was walking in heels, and they look good.
Congratulations to our friends -- thank you for letting us celebrate with you! May you always love each other and enjoy each other as much as you did on your wedding day.

P.S. Looks like the "Friday" post over the weekend is getting to be a regular event. My apologies... I never have been good at being on time, but at least I'm getting it done.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Seconds Have Firsts, Too

After my recent post about firsts for Junius, one of my readers wisely observed that the real challenge is to capture the same moments with Pippi. As a first-born myself, I'm sensitive about the tendency to over-do things for the first baby and under-do them for the second -- maybe it's lingering guilt over having my parents all to myself for the first four years.

Being second doesn't appear to be all bad. One advantage -- in addition to having more relaxed parents and a really entertaining older brother -- is that Pippi gets to tag along and join in experiences earlier than we did with Junius. Several of his firsts have also been firsts for Pippi, like the football games.

Here's Pippi loving her first stadium hot dog (like mother, like daughter) at her first college football game at N.C. State...

Here's Pippi trying to pick up as many pom-poms as she can possibly hold in her chubby little hands at her first UNC game...

This past Saturday was her first real time trick-or-treating. We took her along last year, but she couldn't walk yet, so I don't think it counts. Here she is, very nervous, at her first door...
After the first house, she quickly figured out the routine. The main thing that kept slowing her down was her intense desire to stop after each house and eat the candy right there in the driveway. Girlfriend comes by her sweet tooth honestly.

And then last night, tugging on my husband's pants leg and smiling up at her daddy, she said her first unprompted, unscripted, more-or-less complete sentence: "Ca cor peese."

Translation: "Candy corn, please."

Her father, so impressed by her politeness and her new-found ability to communicate, happily obliged her request. Don't think for a minute that she doesn't know exactly what she's up to.