Birthday Baking, We Meet Again

Well, April is quickly approaching — and that can only mean one thing in my house: My annual irrational desire to bake a nice birthday cake for my son has kicked in.

I can’t explain it.

I have to say, I’m a pretty good cook.  If you want a kick-ass chicken parmigiana for your birthday, I’m your gal.  But I’m not a great baker.  So why I torture myself with some combination of guilt, delusion and sheer stupidity is beyond me.

For those of you who were around for my son’s birthday last April, dinosaurs were all the rage in Fordeville.  And, so, I set out to comply with his very specific wish:  A stegosaurus cake — green with red plates on its back, to be exact.

That didn’t work out particularly well.

It really stressed me out.  It was time-consuming.  And, worst of all, it made me set foot in craft stores, which give me the creeps.  Something about all those plastic flowers and scrapbooking supplies.  Plus, I feel like all those crafty types are laughing at me as I ask all kinds of Amateur Hour questions of the employees.  Like “Can I just hire you to make my cake?” Or, “Does this box of baking supplies come with a case of wine?” {It doesn’t, FYI.  But I do think this is an excellent marketing opportunity.}

Anyway.  In the end, Project Stegosaurus Cake aged me immeasurably and the final product ended up looking not unlike a chihuahua.  The upside?  I got great comments on the blog from fellow non-bakers who fully supported the notion of the professionally made supermarket cake.  I swore I’d go that route this year.

And now I’m feeling all Baking Delusional again.  Shit.

This year’s theme, you ask?

The birthday boy has requested — wait for it…

A pirate ship.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

I knew this was coming.  Especially since our trip to Disney World, as I find myself frequently yelling things like “Don’t run with that sword!” and “I don’t know where your gold doubloons are — did you look in your treasure chest?”

But a pirate ship cake?  Why can’t the kid declare his 5th birthday The Year of Pac Man? Or The Year of the Flat Rectangle With Minor Embellishments?  Why?

Damn pirate ships.

OK.  I took a deep breath and decided to start at the beginning:  A Google search for “Totally impressive pirate cakes that make themselves in the comfort of your home while you drink wine.”

What?  No results?! Apparently, I have to modify my search terms.

Google sucks.

So, I searched more broadly:  “Pirate birthday cake.”

Well, that was somewhere between demoralizing and comical.

I came across all sorts of the baking impossible.  But I’ve pared it down and would like to share with you the Top Three Pirate Cakes I Won’t Be Making:


Cake 1.  I love that this cake comes from a website called  Because this is obviously 101, super-basic stuff.  Sweet Jesus, I think this is a regulation sail boat that may actually float and shoot fire from the cannons.  But the ocean part — that little blue swirl of frosting at the bottom — I can totally do that.



Cake 2.  This makes Cake 1 look like a dinghy.  The woman who baked this took the liberty of describing how she did it on a cake website.  But with throwaway phrases like “I…cut the cakes into a boat shape” and “I…used a decorating tool to make the ship look like wood…and I made the ship flags with my crafting supplies,” I’m not sure she and I are on the same planet wavelength.  But damn, that’s a fine looking ship.  Plus she has chocolate-chocolate chip and vanilla bean loaf cakes inside.  File under:  Not Happening.



Cake 3.  What I like about this cake is that it uses a pirate ship cake pan.  Now we’re talking.  I thought.  Until I realized that I need a cake decorating class to make this thing look like something other than a leftover game piece from my childhood Battleship Travel Set.



So there you have the cakes I won’t be baking.  Not all hope is lost, though.  I did find these options, which seem to be more my speed.


How cute are these?  Although it may be anti-climactic to yell “Blow out your cake pops, son!”  He’s still perplexed by the chihuahua-stegosaurus of 2011, so I’d like to avoid any further confusion.

This may be the win.


This, or a phone call to the Shop Rite bakery department.

Stay tuned.


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Hibachi PTSD

Today, I regret to inform all of you that I must officially withdraw my name from consideration for Mother of the Year.

Sad but true.

The reason? No, not the profanity I use with my General Contractor (there is a loop hole clause for that, you know).  No, not the introduction of Entenmanns Chocolate Pop ‘Ems to my kids (this is a rite of passage).

No, no.  My application withdrawal shall be filed under the category of Hibachi Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, hereafter known as HPTSD.

In my quest for a fun change of scenery on the 298th third day of Winter Break, I remembered I had an unused Groupon for a hibachi place near our house.  Then I learned that it was Kids Eat Free Night.  And there was a FourSquare promotion there as well.  Extreme Couponers have nothing on my iPhone and me.

iCouponing aside, I figured my kids would marvel at the fun hibachi displays that the chefs put on.  You know, a little knife-throwing.  Some fire.  Tossing food into patrons’ mouths. It’s not unlike how we eat at home.

Plus, they have a big bar at this place.  Just saying.

I had all good intentions.  New experience for the kids.  Booze for the parents.  Fried rice for all!

What could be bad about this?

Let me count the ways…

First, never go somewhere during Kids Eat Free Night.  Ever.  I can’t believe I made such a rookie mistake.  The noise level was just beyond anything the human ear can tolerate.  My kids had their hands glued to their ears.  My kids.  Thought it was too noisy.  Oh, the irony.

Also? It turns out that the knife tossing and fire display was not entertainment as much as, shall we say, abject terror for my kids.  I won’t post a photo of them because it’s plain mean and they’ll kill me when they are old enough to read this. But I found this one of other people’s kids, which I think gives you a fair indication.


So there were my kids.  Both ears covered, while whining and cowering down at the base of their chairs.  The chef, having zero experience with either kids or humanity in general, then goes for the big guns and starts the hibachi game of “catch this piece of food in your mouth.”  Cute for those who understand.  But my kids, unfortunately, thought they were being assaulted with steaming hot shrimp and chicken.  More screaming.

“No fire!”

“Don’t throw that food at me!”

“It’s soooo loud in heeeeere!”

“Fire!  Fire!  Noooo!”

I mentioned they had a big bar, right?

And just when we felt we had managed them through this trauma — the birthday songs began.

Have you seen the hibachi approach to birthdays?  It’s usually over the top.  Here, it involved a disco light, loud music (more noise, yay!), and an employee with a big light-up hat who grabbed the guest of honor by the arms, and yelled “Banzai!” repeatedly.  The birthday boy in the restaurant seemed to enjoy this.  Most of the patrons smiled and clapped. And even yelled “Banzai!” in unison.

Not my kids — this was the last straw.  They were horrified.  They thought this boy was being attacked.

“Why is that man grabbing the boy by the arms?  He’s screaming at him!  What’s happening?  It’s so loud.  Is there going to be more fire?”

Another drink for Mom and Dad, please.

When the trauma was over, we left the place with the kids still covering their ears and asking to be carried out. When we got in the car, my son asked — no, begged us — if he behaved all the time to never, ever bring him here for his birthday.

So much for something new.

Oh, and the biggest mystery?  They didn’t like fried rice.  Clearly, I’ve done something wrong.

Happy Winter Break, folks.  Let Day 299 Four begin.  Next stop:  Indoor bouncy castle place.  Since I’m already out of the running for Mother of the Year — why not?

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Checking In

It’s funny how my social media addictions document my life.  Between the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (those fun photos on my home page) and Pinterest, there’s a lot that I put out there about myself.

And then there’s FourSquare.  All this business of checking in somewhere.  I’ve been FourSquaring for about a year and a half.  It’s way more fun when I’m in the city for something or when I’m traveling.  Who doesn’t love being the mayor of an airport terminal, even for a fleeting three minutes?  And that Starbucks mayorship?  I worked super hard for that.  Until I was ousted under the scandalous cloud of Keurig ownership.  Now some dude named AJ took my spot.  But, don’t you worry, I have my eye on him and am secretly mounting a Shock-and-Awe-style Starbucks comeback.

But, day-to-day, FourSquare basically confirms how very lame predictable I am.  In fact, as I looked at the stats, I realized it might be a little depressing.

Case in point:  My top places on FourSquare over the last six months are Starbucks (89 visits), Pure Barre (my crazy workout — 49 visits), the Y (more workouts — 16 visits), Trader Joe’s (16 visits) and a pub up the street  (9 visits, and counting — maybe 12 by the time you read this, depending on how the long weekend goes).


Let’s dig a little deeper.


So, basically, my life can be reduced to the following cycle:

–Consume food and drinks.  Perhaps in excess.

–Attempt to burn resulting calories.

–Douse body with caffeine to keep going.

–Get dragged to Home Depot for endless basement renovation issues.

–Address Home Depot PTSD via retail therapy.

–{And possibly forget to check FourSquare friend requests — just noticed that.}


To boost my FourSquare points — and my lame factor — I could check in at other places I frequent and snag some easy mayorships.  Like the grocery store.  My car.  Pre-school.  The laundromat.  And the hole formerly known as my basement, where I stare at the future site of my laundry reunion — there’s no line of FourSquare rivals competing with me to hang out there.

But I don’t really think this is the purpose of social media.  You don’t need to know when I’m buying diapers or screaming at my contractor.  Just assume that both happen frequently.

Thanks, FourSquare.  As uplifting as this has been, I’m starting to think it’s time for me to check out.  Right after I drink coffee, eat something, work out, pour a glass of wine, eat more and then look at cabinet pulls at Home Depot.  While eating and holding a Starbucks latte.

But you already knew that.



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Twitching in 2012

Happy 2012, everyone!

Personally, I’m very happy to be in an even-numbered year again.  It’s just one of those things — odd numbers make me uneasy.  And prime numbers downright scare me {I’m looking at you, 2011}.  So, welcome, you beautifully even and divisible-by-much 2012.

And yet, I have been a little twitchy since we rang in the new year.  More than a little perhaps.  And I attribute this to two primary causes.


Twitchy Cause #1:  My blog was hacked on New Year’s Day.

Nothing really says Happy New Year like being locked out of your own site.  At first, I thought it was some kind of bizarro, Y2K-ish fluke.  I would go to log into my blog and it didn’t recognize my info.  Username.  Password.  Email address.  Nothing.

Did you ever have one of those moments — in school or at your job — when you typed up a long piece of work and then lost it before it was saved?  That internal {or external} scream.  I  kind of felt like that.  Times four million.

Ever the vigilante, I took matters into my own hands.  I turned to Facebook and offered Fordeville Blog Hacker Amnesty, which proved strangely unsuccessful.  I thought social media was a powerful tool, but now I’m not so sure.

So, I turned to professionals.  No, not those professionals.  Geeks before thugs, my friends — even in New Jersey.  I called my web hosting company and tried to muffle my sobs of despair.  And they were total rock stars.  They detected some malicious files placed on my site.  Files that, when I googled them, had all kinds of horrific tales from affected bloggers calling this malicious code “pure evil” and “a nightmare to eradicate.”  Great.  I had visions of my site redirecting to penile implant and bulk prescription drug sale ads.  Or worse — Lady Antebellum or Katy Perry fan pages.

I was twitching.  Who had control of my site?  Was it a Russian gang?  A nerdy teenager in his parents’ basement set up like NASA?  Or a mean-spirited blogger who really wanted my espresso martini recipe?  There was no way to know.

But the folks at Liquid Web fixed the problem, and all is back to normal now.  At least it seems.  Unless you are seeing a big photo of Lady Antebellum right now.  Or their music is playing upon entering my site — with no mute button.  If so, please alert me immediately and I’ll get you the far less offensive penile implant ad instead.


Twitchy Cause #2:  The Keurig arrived.

As requested, I got my new Keurig.  Wow.  It’s magnificently easy. Too easy, methinks.  Because, people, I’ve averaged about six cups a day since this device entered my home.  From the Desk of Captain Obvious:  This may be the real reason I’ve been twitching.

Also, I think I’m boring a hole through my stomach lining, one k-cup at a time.  In my unprofessional medical opinion, this ulceration can be alleviated by drinking frothed milk.  Right?  Good.  Because my mother, fearing the societal consequences of my Starbucks withdrawal, bought me the companion Keurig Milk Frother to enable my latte addiction in the comfort of my own home.  Which is pretty amazing.  Now I can be all skim-latte-but-no-foam-high-maintenance without getting dirty looks in public.  You rock, Mom.

And look what arrived today.  These should get me through the rest of the week.

I will say one negative thing about the Keurig, though.  In what I’d call a shortcoming of epic proportions, this thing doesn’t make very hot coffee. Really.  I mean, it’s hot.  Ish.  But once you add milk, it goes to lukewarm in an instant.  If I were manufacturing a coffee machine, one of the first things I might check is the temperature of the coffee.  But that’s just me, I guess — high maintenance and all.  Nothing a microwave can’t fix, but seems silly.

But don’t listen to me.  My brain is on caffeine overload and online criminal chasing highs.  I’m off to a twitchy start in 2012.

And I think wine seems like the logical antidote.


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The Year That Was


Well.  I think I’ve managed to climb out from under the Christmas tornado that has taken over my house.  What a week.

I’ve been busy.  There was, of course, this.



And this.


And this. (More on this soon.)


And today, this.


Because quality control testing is important.  And it’s midnight somewhere.


And here we are, the last day of the year.  The truth is that I always get a little bluesy after Christmas is over.  As much insanity, planning and chaos is involved, I do love it — and I’m sad whenever it comes to an end.

And as 2011 winds down, I’m thinking about the ups and downs of the year and how, as usual, incredibly quickly it flew by.

2011 was the year I stopped working.  The year my kids turned four and two.  The year we began (but did not finish!) the longest basement renovation in modern American history.  The year my family vomited in multiple states up and down the east coast to mark each road trip and vacation.

But more than anything, 2011 will always be the year that I lost my dear friend Jen.  And I have spent more hours than I can count since that last day of May wondering how this happened.  On certain days, I still wonder if, in fact, it’s actually true that my healthy, magnetic 38 year-old friend of 27 years went to bed one night and didn’t wake up.

My mind has turned to Jen every day — multiple times a day — since she passed away.  I keep her picture up on my fridge, which sounds terribly unsentimental, but it’s the highest trafficked area of my house.  I’m forced to walk by it a lot.  And every time, I look at her photo and wish so much that she was here.  For her kids and for her husband and for her parents and brother.  And for all of her friends who loved her so much.

I found myself thinking of her even more during the holidays.  I played my Christmas music, baked my cookies, bought my gifts, asked for my Keurig.  And wondered, every step of the way, how her family was going to get through this season without her.

I’m not the preachy type.  But I’ll ask you for something as you think about the 2011 that was, and the new year around the corner.  Please think about my friend Jen once in a while — even if you never knew her.  Trust me, you would have loved her.  Please think about her six year-old son and her four year-old twin daughters.  Please think about her husband and her parents, who somehow carry on with so much dignity to be there for those kids.  And please think about how quickly things can change.  Because, in a million years, you never could have convinced me that we’d all live in a world without Jen’s unforgettable laughter.

You would think that I’d come out the other side of this whole thing being a better adjusted person.  Not sweating the small stuff.  Having better perspective.  Living for the moment.  All of that.  The truth is, I’m working on it.  And maybe 2012 will be the year I pull it off.  For Jen.

In the meantime, I wish you all full champagne glasses at midnight, and a wonderful year ahead.

And if someone can take the rest of these Christmas cookies off my hands, that would be great.



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Forget the Cookies

It’s T minus 48 hours until the big guy comes down the chimney with some presents.  Hopefully, leading with my shiny new Keurig.  Then, if I’ve been very good, perhaps he’ll ban Lady Antebellum forever.  And maybe he’ll even force all website articles to default to “view as a single page.”  Hey, we all have our Christmas wishes.

Meanwhile, it’s crunch time in Fordeville.  Not a single gift is wrapped.  I am cooking for 20 people on Sunday — and I lose all of Saturday because we are celebrating at my in-laws’ place that day.  Also, I’m considering throwing some Christmas lights on the dumpster and a port-a-john in my driveway — just to make sure I welcome my guests with holiday home renovation cheer.

But don’t worry.  I am fortifying myself with spiked egg nog, Christmas cookies and caffeine.  It’s all good.

As we approach Christmas Eve, I thought I’d recycle this post from last year, so that anyone getting stressed about baking for Santa can feel free to take a less traditional approach.  I mean, the guy can’t eat cookies all night.

* * * * *

Santa’s Sandwich {originally published December 16, 2010}


{Photo courtesy NYC Food Guy}

I was thinking about Christmas traditions.  This, of course, brings my mind to cookies (it’s easy for me to bridge quickly from any given topic to baked goods). Did you all leave milk and cookies for Santa as a kid?

We didn’t.  In our house, we were raised to leave Santa an Italian hero on Christmas Eve.  Seriously.

If you’ve never had a real Italian hero, well — that’s a whole other discussion for another day (and you have my sympathy, by the way).  But my mom used to make them a lot when we were kids, mainly because my father loved them.  She piled up the meats, the cheese, some shredded lettuce, oil and vinegar.  Amazing.

So how stupid were my sisters and I not to put the pieces together?  It’s like a basic 2nd grade workbook problem:

  • Dad loves Italian heroes. 
  • Santa loves Italian heroes. 
  • Dad and Santa were under the same roof Christmas Eve. 
  • Therefore, Santa must be…
  • (Come on, girls, you can figure this out)

Nope, we were clueless.

Maybe my parents billed it that Santa couldn’t run on cookies all night and needed a real meal (or sandwich) at some point in his travels.  Maybe it was about food for the reindeer.  But, if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t think they had to sell it at all.  I think we just believed them because leaving that Italian hero on Christmas Eve was what we always did.

 And that’s what I like about tradition — you don’t question it because it’s just the way it’s done your family.  It’s not until we’re older that we compare notes with the real world and realize that our way might have been wonderfully different, a little quirky, pretty naive or — in some cases — just a bit off kilter (see Competitive Post-Thanksgiving Gaming).

But I like the story of Santa’s sandwich and, as my kids grow up, I wonder what variations we’ll bring into our own Christmas traditions — and whether I should buy some sopressata, cheese and a 6-foot roll this week.

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Girls’ Night In

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There’s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On!

 * * *


After my recent baking mishap that led to the spiked egg nog-scented holiday cards, you may wonder why I am hosting a little holiday cookie baking party next week.  Have I finally lost my mind once and for all?

Not entirely.  At least not on this point.

It’s simple.  I had to lure the female members of my family together for a Christmastime gathering.  And if someone told you to come over for holiday cookies and wine, wouldn’t you show?

Yeah, I thought so.

This all started when I found out that, this year, my cousin and her husband have rented a ski house for Christmas — which means that I won’t get to see her part of the family that day.  Or even that week.  Which just doesn’t work for me.

So, first I tried reasoning with them.  I told them they would freeze to death up at the ski place.

Then, I tried scare tactics.  I reminded them of when we all did a ski getaway for Christmas in 2003.  Due to the extreme height of the snow banks, the bitter cold and the middle of nowhere vibe — as well as the lack of hot water and our slow descent into insanity — it is forever known as Misery Christmas (as in the Kathy Bates movie).  Did they really want to make the sequel?

They weren’t budging.  Something about it’s already paid for, they’ll have lots of fun, blah, blah, blah.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  My mom and I agreed on the plot, which I hatched during the Annual Day After Thanksgiving Catch Phrase Tournament.  I was on a losing team and about three wines in.  My cousin and I were screaming at some inept member of our family for the poor clues he was giving out.  And, because timing is everything, I decided to give my plan a go.  I think it went like this.

Me:  “I can’t believe you guys are going skiing for Christmas.”

My cousin:  “Yeah.  Sorry.”

Me:  “But when will we get together?”

My aunt:  “Did you bring more red wine?  And why did your team lose the first round of Catch Phrase so quickly?”

Me:  “Wait.  That’s coming from the woman who somehow turned the clue for Uncle Tom’s Cabin into Uncle Ben’s Tavern.”

My aunt:  “Did I do that?”

Me:  “Yes.  Anyway. What if we just get all the girls together?  We could, uh, bake cookies or something.”

My aunt:  “We’re not really a group of bakers.  You know that, right?  I mean, we could do a mean lasagna production line, but the cookies are not really my thing.”

Me:  “Yeah, yeah, that’s fine.  But my mom has good recipes and I’ll ply you with wine.”

My aunt:  “Ohhhh.  Wine party?  Of course.  Which day?”


And thus, a sentimental holiday tradition for the ages, in the true spirit of Christmas, was born.  Much like you see in those Lifetime movies or Hallmark TV Specials.  Plus it works well with my aspiration to become a better baker.

In reviewing the essentials, I’m almost ready:

–Mom’s fabulous cookie recipes:  check.

–Cookie press:  check.

–Cookie cutters and decor:  check.

–Cookie tins and gift bags:  check.

–Butter, eggs, flour, sugar:  check.

–Chocolate (because these Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies have to be in my immediate future):  check.

–Two eager mini-helpers:  check.

–Wine: check.

–More wine:  check.

–Emergency nuclear incident backup stash of wine:  check.

It’s pretty much going to go like this:

My mom will be the only good baker in attendance.  But she can’t eat gluten, so it will be an exercise in torture for her.  She will likely oversee the operation and probably save us from ourselves.  Thank goodness for her.  20 times over.

I will do my best to assist  my mom, but I can’t neglect the wine opening either.

My youngest sister will probably be playing with the kids in an effort to secure the title of Favorite Aunt.

The dog will be inspecting the ground for scraps, quickly identifying and sticking with the group’s weakest link.

My aunt and cousin will be in charge of wine refills and will probably ask, more than once, “What’s with all the cookies?”

And, in between, we’ll get to have that amazing holiday catch-up after all.  Who knows — maybe we’ll do it every year, even if I have to compete with Misery Christmas sequels.

* * *


Remember to check out Duncan Hines’ website to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

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Cookies, Egg Nog and Consumer Confidence

I screwed up a batch of cookies tonight because I wasn’t paying attention.  I mean, there is no bad cookie, per se.  So of course I am still eating the defective batch.  But I’m annoyed.

And this annoyance led to my first spiked egg nog of the season.  That’s right, folks:  I hereby declare The Egg Nog Restraint Period to be over.  Have at it, I say.

But not this way:  Not by purchasing the low fat egg nog that I picked up.  I had heard it was pretty good on Twitter.  But this was clearly tweeted either by a) undercover members of The Low Fat Egg Nog Association, or b) very drunk people who put a near-fatal dose of rum in there and didn’t know the difference.

Then I spilled the crappy low-fat-but-still-heavily-spiked egg nog on the holiday cards I was addressing.  So, my husband and I will now be known as the people who send out cards with photos of their kids who smell like booze.  Awesome.  I think that works particularly well with the season’s greetings we’ve now sent to P’s boss and colleagues.

All of this occurred after 11:30pm.  But, in the first 16 hours of my day, I was a rock star.  Mostly because I survived both the UPS Store and the Post Office today.  Back to back.  That’s serious business, people.

And then I single handedly revived the economy and increased consumer confidence. Like this:

–First, Starbucks.  There were gift cards to purchase.  Mainly for me, so that I can still visit after my Keurig arrives.  No, I’m kidding {mostly}.  The gift cards were, in fact, for others.  But I totally threw the cashier off his game with my purchase.  He was clearly wondering why I was not there to consume my weight in steamed milk and espresso.

–Then, more gift cards at a department store.  What’s with all the gift cards, you ask?  Am I really such a thoughtless person that I buy generic plastic cards for people?  Uh, sometimes, yes.  But mainly because we have an army of teachers who deserve a gesture of our thanks.  And I mean army.  Between my two kids’ pre-schools, we somehow have 13 teachers in the mix.  Morning teachers, afternoon teachers, lunch bunch teachers — on and on.  They are all lovely — they deserve more than my inconsistent baking, and so the gift card thing.  I believe the Dow started to tick up at this point.

–Next, Trader Joe’s.  Because I hear that the hot holiday items go quickly and I, for one, am not going to be stuck without a fix of dark chocolate peppermint waffle cookies.  Oh and I really wanted to pick up that ill-fated low fat egg nog.  And of course there’s the wine section.

–Let’s not forget the 38 pounds of laundry I had to drop off at the wash & fold place while my shiny new washer and dryer sit in my garage, unable to be hooked up for several more years weeks.  But the good news is this:  Now that the machines are on my property, I can go to the garage and visit with them.  We talk about our future together and all the fun we’ll have once the renovation is over, the laundry is restored to its rightful place of glory and the Fordeville Condiment Ban is lifted.  Meanwhile, I’m starting to think the laundromat owner is in cahoots with my General Contractor to keep this thing going as long as possible.  He practically squeals with delight when he sees me, the dream client:  No laundry machines, two young kids and utter desperation for clean clothes and linens.

–After picking my daughter up from the pre-school with 179 teachers, I took her to Target.  And that’s when things started to fall apart.  You know that shopping fatigue you get after a while, when you don’t even know what you’re looking for anymore?  It’s like a combination of dehydration and delirium.  Yeah.  In the moment, I totally thought that Scotch Tape Christmas tree had a certain artistic je ne sais quoi that someone would love to unwrap and take home.  It’s not clear to me at this hour who that someone is.  But I think I hit a new personal best at the Target cash register.

So, sorry in advance to family members who get gifts that make no sense.   And double sorry if my cards smell like booze.  I would offer you a cookie to make it up to you — but perhaps a gift card instead?


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Listen Up, Santa

Dear Santa,

Unless you have finally started to suffer that inevitable hearing loss after years of screaming kids on your lap, you’ve undoubtedly heard my kids’ Christmas requests.  In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone in a 25-mile radius has heard them cite, at the ready, what they would like you to bring down the chimney for them in t-minus 17 days.  Correct me if I’m wrong, Santa, but that’s really soon and, presumably, you have your house in order.  Right?  I hope so, because I sure as hell don’t.

Anyway.  Enough about the kids.  Can we move on to me for a second?  Because it has been a long year and I’ve been a good girl.  Mostly. Well, relatively.  Whatever.  The point is that I’d like to make sure I don’t get overlooked in this whole down-the-chimney endeavor.  Alternatively, I can leave the front door wide open if it’s easier, because the last thing I need is to be sued for your injuries on my property.  As you may know, I am already up to my scalp in an endless renovation that is sucking the life out of me.

Back to my list.  It’s short.

No, I don’t want expensive clothes or that ribbon-wrapped Lexus.  And please, whatever you do, don’t go to Jared.

Since you can’t deliver my youth or four extra hours of sleep every night to me, I would like this:

Yes, Santa.  Bring me a Keurig coffee machine.  Check your damn list twice — or more, if you have to — and get me some K-Cup action {this sounds dirtier than I intended}.

What’s that?  You’re confused by my request?  Yes, I know — I am a Starbucks junky/loyalist/quasi-shareholder.  And I don’t take my FourSquare mayorship over there lightly, as it took 108 visits (also known as approximately $378) to reach this notable achievement.  Without my leadership over there, who will make sure that the line forms to the right?  Who will see to it that the Crazy Super Fit Moms don’t suffer a fat overdose and, by extension, a nervous breakdown by erroneously being served — gasp — whole milk in their drinks?

But, as much as I enjoy my daily stops at Starbucks, it’s not always convenient.  Or easy.  Or cheap (see figure above).  So I’ve been considering the alternatives.  First, there was the obvious intravenous drip of espresso solution.  And, although highly appealing, I guess it would appear unseemly at my weekly playgroup.  Another option would be to give up caffeine entirely.  But that won’t work either, since there is not a local methadone clinic where I can detox before picking up the kids from pre-school.  One of the many drawbacks of suburbia.

Plus, I hear I can now purchase Starbucks blends in K-Cup sizes, so I don’t lose my entire Starbucks buzz experience if I convert to the Keurig.  I know, it’s not the same as a latte, but I’ll bet that, for a premium, I’ll soon be able to purchase an upgrade to the Keurig model that comes with its own barista.  And that’s really the win there, Santa.  In fact, I bet Keurig has that in the works to coincide with their Mother’s Day marketing plan.

So.  I want the Keurig for Christmas.  Please.  I think my reasons are clear and compelling.

Is that all?  Well, since you’re asking, there are a few other things:

–A case of wine.  Or five.  Ask my husband which kind I like best, since he is in charge of tracking my fickle taste.

–A new General Contractor.  Oh hell, skip that and just give me a shiny new basement, like the one that was supposed to be finished in late September.

–Oh, and a lifetime supply of Purel.  Since my two year-old is about to start potty training — and I so love a public restroom.

All of that would be great.  But, to be clear, the coffee is the priority.

Please don’t let me down.  I promise to leave your Italian hero sandwich in its usual place on Christmas Eve –– I hope you enjoy it.  It’s so funny, my dad has always liked those too…

Thanks in advance, big guy.  See you soon and good luck with the last-minute prep.

* * *

{This post was part of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt was “An Open Letter to Santa.”}

Mama’s Losin’ It

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Sweet Justice

With the holiday season in full swing, out comes the abundance of food and drinks.  It’s a tough time for anyone trying not to double their BMI in the course of six weeks.

And then there are those people who can eat whatever they want, do no exercise and never gain a pound.  You hate know those people, right?

I’m not one of them.  But my husband is.

Well, he was, until very recently.

With his blessing, I can tell you that my 5’10” husband has consistently weighed between 151 and 158 pounds since he was twenty years old.  When I say that he was always able to eat anything he wanted and do zero exercise without suffering any consequences, I’m not exaggerating at all.  He’s a really thin guy and he eats like three grown men.  {I mean, not in a disgusting, gluttonous, or competitive eating way — he just has a really big appetite.}

I, on the other hand, have worked very hard for every pound I’ve ever lost and also seem to possess the unique genetic ability to gain weight merely by visualizing junk food.  I have my weaknesses but, on the whole, I eat a balanced and healthy diet.  I work out at least three times a week, often more.  Just to avoid gaining weight.  Losing any is a bonus.  Or a fluke.  Or a stomach virus.

So, you’ll forgive me if I feel a little giddy about my husband’s recent dose of metabolic justice.  It’s about time, I say, to live like the rest of us.  After all, he has made it to his mid-40s without ever once having to think about his weight.

To be clear, P has not fattened up.  He looks great to me.  But, at his recent physical, he was surprised to learn he had put on about ten pounds, even as he had noticed his pants were feeling a little snug.  And he was pissed.

I want to offer him my empathy, because I know how it feels to gain some weight.  But I can’t.  I’m too busy thanking the forces of nature for finally giving him a constitution like most of us mere mortals.

But I know I should support him.  So I did a few things.

First, I waited until he left the room to raise my fist in the air in some sort of gesture that expressed both joy and victory.

Second, I put together a short list of things he may want to change if he’s looking to drop a few pounds. Having lived with him for seven years, I have some suggestions.  No more of the following:

–Adding these items to my grocery list:  Ring Dings, coffee cake, Entenmann’s donuts or the ever-broad “just get us more snack food.”

–Calling my entire dinner the size of an appetizer and then mumbling about how I must be starving.

–Snorting in disgust at the widely accepted idea of substituting beef with leaner meats.  This includes hot dogs, tacos and meatloaf, for starters.  Turkey is not the devil.

–Entitlement to several courses of desserts throughout the day, always capped off with the late-night slice of cake.  While I sit there with a cup of tea topped off with a Splenda and skim milk.  Good times.

–Responding with seemingly genuine surprise when confronted with the fact that we own a scale.

–Having a pre-dinner before we go out to dinner.

–Ordering General Tso’s Chicken.  Even if you’re not trying to lose weight.  Unless you plan to make it your caloric intake for an entire month.

–Requesting another form of starch as a side to one’s pasta dinner.


I think this is a good start.  Although I totally wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that his doctor’s scale was broken and he, in fact, lost twelve pounds.  Even though he was weighed right after a three-course lunch.

With any luck, my kids will win the DNA lottery and take after P in this sense.

In the meantime, let’s all nod our heads in a moment of silence for the Fordeville Ring Ding box.  It’s time for P to say goodbye.



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