I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Wine Cellar

 I have tried many times to start a wine collection. But this is difficult for me because (1) I am content with wine that costs less than $10 a bottle and (2) I drink it all.

 Living in New York has been somewhat of a drinker's paradise after living in the alcohol police state of Pennsylvania. The grocery store has aisles of delicious microbrews and the liquor store down the road has its own loyalty/discount card. YES. Value prices for those who willingly sign up to admit they like booze! Not to mention the plethora of rebates available - sending in those little annoying cards has become part of my couponing madness and I must say, it is very gratifying. (When you cease to have a "real job", it's nice to see my name on an incoming check every so often!)

  Right now my wine collection consists of the remainder of the case of Ravenswood Zinfandel that Gregory gave me for Christmas. I am not going to admit how many bottles are left.

 However, until the New Year, I had achieved a personal record for hanging onto a bottle of wine for almost a year. For purely sentimental reasons, it was hard for me to open up this bottle and find the "perfect" time to savor it. It wasn't expensive; it didn't hail from a prized wine region - but the grapes were smashed and the liquid goodness was then bottled in Sewickley by the group at Fern Hollow Nature Center.

  Why would this bottle mean so much to me? Well, it's more of a "who" than a "why". This type of traditional Italian wine-making has been carried on by Marisa Tobias and her family... but I enjoyed it as well when Marisa's father was the one growing, smashing and preserving wine in his basement. I grew up across the street from her family and to say the least, Pete and Nanny served as an extra set of grandparents.

 I clearly remember spending many afternoons and nights in their house - eating (homemade) Pizelles, (homemade) spaghetti, (homegrown) peppers.... you get the idea. In our little pocket of Sewickley, it could very well have been Italy. And I'm not the only one who thinks so! Just after Elliot was born, I attended the Italian garden tour.  I knew all of these families growing up, but I never appreciated how important their traditions were and how unique that kind of lifestyle has become. I follow their mantra when I envision over half of my yard being used as gardening space (and someday chickens and goats!).

 But back to the wine. After moving away from my hometown and carrying this one bottle of red goodness to another state - I seem to have focused many of my sentimentalities on this one item. Of course I missed the rooms of my house, and my neighbors and friends and yard and neighborhood Giant Eagle. I felt like I needed to wait for the perfect time to truly appreciate this symbol of my past.

After almost a year of living in Buffalo, that time had not come! And duh, this wine had nothing to do with anniversaries or birthdays or Christmas... it was something that only I was placing utmost importance on.

 So I drank it. Mostly because I was warned that homemade wine might not have the longest shelf life. And it was delicious. Cheers to my surrogate grandparents and their legacies, and to the Tobias family for being true historians (I haven't even mentioned my Nanny cookbook!). Cheers to Sewickley (and Buffalo) and many more bottles of wine: whether they are store-bought with a value card or stomped with loving memory.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Ever Changing Food Pyramid

 I like Michelle Obama. I think she is cool. I think she puts up with a lot of crap from the fundamental right wing media - comments about her "big butt" and communist leanings (and for anyone who says that, I challenge you to stay away from a tried and true "communist" place in every community... the library! The devils!). Which is ironic because one of her major initiatives is to make our children healthier by providing better food in the lunch room. She envisions a world where our kids don't gorge on french fries every day and get so hyped up on strawberry milk that they can't sit still for the second half of their school day.

Honestly, I don't think healthy food should even be considered a political agenda. As with many other things in our country that are bizarrely wrong, it is a no-brainer. If the federal government is going to subsidize or mandate nutrition for children in public school: it should be healthy. It should not be contributing to the growing American obesity epidemic.

 Now I approach this topic with a true sense of realism. Kids love junk food. They love sugar. It is often more of a struggle to force broccoli than it is to appease them with hamburgers. I am not a fan of fad diets or extreme eating in any way: the name of the game is moderation. I understand why people are vegans or vegetarians: it is a very healthy lifestyle. But it is also expensive, time consuming and not entirely realistic for growing children. I used to pay close attention to every label and spend the extra money for organic this and organic that... but as a family of five, it is virtually impossible to weed out the unwanted fats, sugars and (gasp!) high fructose corn syrup.

 Recently, our "food pyramid" changed to MyPlate. If you grew up in the eighties like me, you remember the different colored levels of the pyramid - calling for a certain number of servings of grains, fruits/veggies, fats and proteins. MyPlate is still that general idea - but recommends filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal. Easier said than done. Because many of us lack the initiative or time to closely inspect calories - the plate image teaches us to have visual cues for how much is enough. We all overindulge. It's almost impossible not to. Restaurant portions are absurdly large and well, snack food is just so damn delicious.

 Like it or not, our food choices and availability are influenced by corporations and the USDA. McDonald's is the largest purchaser of potatoes in the country: so their preference in potatoes dictates what 90% of potato farmers will grow. Say goodbye to diversified crops. All of this makes it more difficult for independent farmers to be successful or even make a living. The USDA chose to subsidize corn, which led to insanely cheap corn byproducts that are now in almost every food we eat. The same goes for soy... it is in everything. These are not necessarily good choices; and when the government has such a huge influence on what our kids are eating: we should pay attention.

 The guidelines over the last century have changed dramatically. When food was rationed during WWII, the pyramid reflected our limitations. And earlier than that, when our country was recovering from the Great Depression, the USDA recommended that a good meal was a main course of whole milk, with a side of white bread to dip in it. Milk was the most affordable protein and kids at that time needed as much fat as they could get to thrive. I read this all in a really neat article in Food Network Magazine a few months ago - and of course I can't find it online anywhere.

My point is this: the government doesn't always get it right when it comes to our food. They do a horrible job at regulating the meat industry. Not to mention genetically modified foods and Monsanto! And right now, it is a disaster in school lunch rooms. If you caught Jamie Oliver's show where he challenged the state mandates for chocolate and strawberry milk, it is obvious that change is hard to come by. Basically, he wanted flavored milks OUT of the lunch room because they contain more sugar than soda. What kid is going to choose the 1% milk when they can have delicious flavors? The government's "logic" was that more kids will choose milk if they have enticing flavors. Jamie's logic was that elementary age kids don't get a choice when it comes to milk. They will get thirsty and they will learn to like the white milk. His Food Revolution is pretty freakin awesome.

 I really respect that Michelle Obama is making this a priority because while most of this responsibility should fall on parents to teach good food choices, from the state of our collective health, parents are not doing a very good job. Heart disease, diet-induced diabetes and high cholesterol are all serious problems our kids are facing. I don't say this with judgement. I took my boys to McDonald's for lunch today. That indoor playground has us hooked! But you can bet we are eating broccoli for dinner tonight.

 All I know is that I pack Ayla's lunch every day because the two times she has ordered lunch in the cafeteria, she promptly threw up later that evening. No one is helping her to make good choices. When we ask what she picked - it was the winning combination of chicken nuggets AND a hot dog AND fries. The week that highlighted the "National School Lunch Program" was a different variation of pasta/pizza/cheese every day. How's that for moderation?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Am I a Muppet?

As if it wasn't exciting enough to see the most recent Muppet movie, most of the songs were written by, quite possibly, one of the funniest performers I know - Bret from Flight of the Conchords. I had heard a few of the songs before realizing this, and upon watching a video of him singing with Kermit the Frog, it all came together.

Flight of the Conchords. The Muppets. Kermit the Frog.

I really don't need much more than that in life.

Unless I wanted to share this joy with my children. Jackson has the appropriate response when he sees Animal screaming and bashing his head on things: laughter. Ayla... well... she rolls her eyes and leaves the room. My own daughter! How could she betray me like this?

I don't understand where her intense dislike of pure hilarity began, but we are working through it. Therapy may be necessary for us both.

Our household has been singing, "Am I a Man... or Am I a Muppet?" quite often lately. So of course I started singing it when I took this picture of Ayla's fuzzy slippers. You can see by her face how she felt about MY shenanigans.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.3

Friday, January 20, 2012

Living in the Minivan

This is why I am a virtual captive in the Odyssey. What was intended to be a quick drop-off at the library and some veggie shopping at Wegmans has turned into Elliot's nap time.

Even though I am shushing the other two maniacs every two seconds, and making them wait to get into the Wegman's playplace may be considered inhumane - I will take the half hour nap over ridiculous grumpiness during dinner.

Since I see that most Moms I know have posted the link to the recent "Don't Carpe Diem" article on the Huffington Post... is this a Kairos moment that I will miss someday? Or will I someday see a young mom bored out of her mind in her minivan twenty years from now and gleefully skip by myself into the grocery store?

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.3

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crafts of Christmas Past

 I have to say that my idea of a "sewing business" has taken on a life of its' own. Last summer I spent many a night agonizing over all of the amazing, artistic, genius, professional, gorgeous sewn items that are for sale on Etsy. I wanted to be a part of it but was (and still am) very intimidated by the sheer artistry out there. But I posted a few items and sold a few things. (Thanks to generous friends and family, of course, but I did have two unknown buyers!)

 Almost six months after posting that first pillowcase on Etsy, I am now spending more of my time with shall I say "commissioned" work. So exciting! I am thrilled that friends are trusting me with their beloved t-shirts to turn into quilts and pillow shams. My brain starts to feel rusty after my daytime activities of changing diapers, chasing Baxter around the neighborhood and trying to justify my parental decisions to a saucy five year old. Therefore, it becomes such a welcome retreat to delve into a sewing project and learn something new like Claudine curtains (okay, it can be frustrating when I break my sewing machine twice in a month!).

 The question remains if it would be wise, or just self-indulgent, to start a more professional blog under the ThreadAbell name/brand. If you ever delve into the world of online crafting and sewing tutorials - it is yet another overwhelming array of incredible teachers and incredible ideas! But I was intimidated before, and after putting myself out there... I have to say it has been rewarding.

 I wanted to post a few photos of my recent projects: items that had to be kept secret until gift-giving days. This is where my December went!

Matching stockings for my sister and Matt - the flannel is beautiful, but honestly too itchy to be used for any apparel.

Beast, you beast! It's a long story... but Genevieve needed a Beast at school. He missed her.

A friend entrusted me with her old t-shirts to make into gifts for her god-son and god-daughter. Such a great idea!

From a $4 pattern on Etsy. I didn't like it the first night we put it up... but upon the morning light, I dig it!
The god-son pillow. I always use my t-shirts so selfishly, have to start thinking about better gift ideas.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wii Dance Party

The temperature here just dropped to six degrees the other night. Winter came late, but hit hard. Needless to say, we are all cuddling under blankets and drinking hot cocoa. And dancing, of course!

 Instead of turning up the heat... we have been dancing every night on the Wii. Nickelodeon Dance Party (a dancing Diego looks pretty creepsters), Kids Dance Party, MJ The Experience (hell yes!) and Just Dance 2 and 3. If you think you need to start exercising, try these games instead! I am winded and cramped up after just a few songs... but it is worth it. 

 Ayla turns into Ms. Competitive while Jackson watches from the couch. Elliot has to hold a Wii remote, therefore he gets one without batteries. Or maybe I should start giving him a working wiimote... stay tuned to the end of the video to see why!

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.3

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

FreeCycle Score!

Just the other day I was beginning to feel annoyed with my daily onslaught of Freecycle emails. A lot of members refuse to even try to spell correctly or use punctuation or even coherent sentences. Deleting more than 30 emails every day, none that even seem useful and if they are... you missed the response by an hour. Items go so fast!

That is why I was disappointed when someone offered "sewing supplies", including bias tape, zippers and other such delicious items. I sent a response giving my name, number and pick-up time. Then the same person posted that the items has been promised, but since I had not received a reply, I believed that some other lucky seamstress/seamster (?) had gotten the items. Boo hiss.... cut me a break Freecycle!

Imagine my excitement on Monday morning when the person called to tell me that they had completely forgotten to confirm with me. I was the lucky winner after all!

I drove to her house during my two-hours-to-kill time while Jackson was at preschool and picked up the supplies. I had no idea that these were vintage items. Double score! If you look closely at the packaging, the price is a whopping 19 cents. In such beautiful retro colors! It is uncommon to find such unique designs in my frequent trips to Joann Fabrics... let alone for free instead of dishing out about $2.50 per package.

The contents of my sewing bag has about fifteen zippers (cool colors too - turquoise, purple and bright green), ten packages of bias tape, curtain hooks and really cute trim. Suddenly, my perspective has changed and it is totally worth sifting through all of the unwanted, stupid posts to really win out on something you can actually use!

Thank you freecycle for being my daily virtual Thrift store.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.3

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don't Shoot the Messenger

 Disclaimer: This post is about a five year old and her Binky. If you walk into this with judgment ... turn away now.

 The new year has brought on a new fire to Ayla's streak of independence (defiance) and  strong emotions (drama). We have already bought the battle of  THE BINKY many times before, but like a true addiction, it always returns in small, seemingly innocent ways and turns into a huge problem. We take the binky away, the Binky fairy writes lovely notes and Ayla seems to accept her new fate as a grown-up girl. Then a few weeks pass and she is sneaking a binky (where she finds them, I don't know!) in front of the television in the middle of the afternoon. When we had previously agreed that binkies are only to be used in bed at night or preferably not at all - this is a major violation.

 Before Christmas (and with the help of our elf, Elfabet), the Binky fairy finally laid down the law. All binkies were confiscated and rightfully given to the new babies that needed them. Ayla made peace for the moment, but come bedtime, there were many tears and laments for how difficult life had become. However, over the holiday in Pittsburgh, the binky was not mentioned once.

 Then we came back to Buffalo and the drama continued. Every night is a full-force tantrum, loud wailing and inconsolable crying. Ayla naturally turns her anger and frustration towards her evil parents for causing her such misery. When the crying and screaming and names and guilt stopped working - she has now turned to her next device: Jackson.

 The poor, loyal guy has now been assigned the role of messenger. He makes the trip up and down the stairs from their room with Ayla's comments and pleas for her Binky. Ayla uses him to sneak into the kitchen for snacks or to deliver angry messages.

 We can hear her lying in bed, telling Jackson what to say... then he trudges across the room.... walks down the stairs... and proclaims whatever Ayla has told him to repeat. And if he gets it wrong, she clarifies and makes him tell us again. An example:

 Ayla (muffled under her covers): "Tell Mama and Dada that you only love me and you, that you don't love them anymore because I can't have Binky."

 Jackson: "I love Ayla (pronounced Allah) and me." (Walks back upstairs.)

Ayla: "NO! Tell them that you don't love them!"

Jackson: (Walks back downstairs) "I not love you anymore."

 Gregory has always said that he would prefer that they stick together as siblings rather than become competitive with each other - well, that wish is coming true! This whole process has been comical but also wildly frustrating as Ayla's screams go on for 45 minutes when our infant is sound asleep at 10 pm. Let's just hope that Ayla will return that loyalty to her brother someday!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First Night Buffalo

When it came to planning our big night out for New Year's Eve... the main idea was to find something family friendly (that didn't cost a bazillion dollars) and how to tire the kids out so they would actually be sleeping at midnight.

  The only person sleeping at midnight was Elliot but we reveled in family fun at First Night Buffalo. It is growing into a huge event for families, especially families that cannot find a sitter on New Year's Eve!

 I bought our advance tickets at Wegman's and we drove downtown to the Convention Center. We even showed up late (the whole thing runs for five hours) because I didn't think we could possibly need to be there that long. But I didn't factor in the long lines for bounce houses and carnival rides. We watched a little bit of the "Birds of Prey" show. What's more exciting than sitting in a large room with hawks flying low over the audience and instead of returning to their trainers... they perch in the fake ficus trees? We also became acquainted with this dude, Wacky Chad.


 Unfortunately, we missed out on arts and crafts and the Storytime village. There's always next year! For under $40, we ate ice cream, were nearly attacked by wild birds, laughed at a guy on his pogo stick, watched indoor fireworks, rode the merry go round and supported a downtown event in Buffalo. Not too shabby for a night out.

Elliot wasn't too sure about Wacky Chad.

 And due to our new digital antenna (thanks Gramps!), we watched the Times Square coverage after returning home. It had almost been a year without local channels and news - and it is comforting in a way to have it back. Just in time for the ball drop. Happy New Year everyone!