October 31, 2011

Vegetable Man

Pink Floyd, 1967

Sometimes, I wonder what my kids will think of this blog -- this spot I have designated as my happy place.  Will they roll their eyes at my posts that were obviously written in soft focus?  Will they remember all the times I screamed, got impatient with them or worse, lost my temper?  Or will they also view these times through the filter that time mercifully often grants us?

This past weekend, I decided to make a very conscious choice to not yell at them, to not constantly get on them to hurry up or slow down.  Each day, I gave them choices and let them decide what we would do for the day.  And except for a poor choice on Anjali's part which involved a broken pencil and the surface of our dining room table, the weekend went swimmingly.

The weather was gorgeous and we spent much of it outside.  I could not have asked for better, unfiltered memories.

First, we went to Boo at the Zoo at the Kansas City Zoo.

I loved this shot of her feeling the wind on her face.

And bonus, she even willing posed for me.  For once.

Arun will almost always pose.  Which results in goofy grins.

On Sunday, we went to Schaake's Pumpkin Patch.  It was our first time there and it was so utterly AWESOME that we will go nowhere else from now on.  It is a lovely, family-run pumpkin patch which offers simple activities - a hayride, hay maze, pumpkin slingshot, etc..  There were no over-the-top amusement park things that so many patches feature these days.  This was all about picking the perfect pumpkin.

Or riding them, as the case may be.

Next year, we will go BEFORE the first hard freeze, before all the vines have died.  Oops.

We saw some witches who appeared to have been tippling the potion.

After Schaake's, we went to the Natural History Museum at KU.

We had a gander at the mosasaur hanging in the front entrance.

And encountered some angry fish.

And an angry girl apparently channelling Olivia Newton John.

Fashion victim, indeed.

The Font Geek in me will rue the day they update all of the information placards.

Then, we went home and carved the pumpkins.

I was skeptical about Arun's choice, but this was truly beautiful.

Even thought it was full of worms (GROSS and yet, Halloween Appropriate)

My favorite emoticon.  It's a design I've done before, but decided to revisit because I love it so.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend.

No filter required.

October 27, 2011

Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast

Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother 1970

This is a post title that I thought surely I would never use.  Find out why it seemed appropriate, later in the post. (Gentle Reader, cue the ominous foreshadowing.)

A few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to host a Bridesmaids watch party.

So, that is exactly what I did.  I carefully made cream cheese mints from flower molds, scrounged up my Serva-Snack trays and grabbed a can of mixed nuts and a copy of Bridesmaids at Target.  Then, I waited for 11 other lucky ladies (or were they lucky??  Stay tuned..... Earworm yourself some Twilight Zone music while you are at it.)

I was so excited that everyone had as much fun as I did digging out their cheesy wedding stuff, bringing pictures and wedding albums, sharing stories.  Seriously, WHAT IS IT about wedding fashion?  It never, ever, ever stays in style.  For example, my sister Maureen just had a gorgeous wedding in September - truly, it was very tasteful and classy.  Pulling out  my very best Olathe Used Car Salesman here, I can GUARAAAAA-NTEE that she will have something to poke fun at in 5 years time (my father decked out in a Frasier clan tartan kilt with a bone-handled knife stuck in his knee high socks notwithstanding. Of course.)

Anyway! Not only did a few ladies bring their wedding dresses, but a few brought bridesmaids dresses and other sundry marital accoutrements.

My friend Christy came wearing her nuptial hat.  She's hardcore like that.  We love her anyway.

Average Jane's vintage wedding dress is the one on the right - it was originally her mother's dress from 1965.  All of us Font Freaks swooned over the original Jones Store logo on the garment bag.  

Now, let us examine ye olde table of Cherished Wedding Clutter:

How precious, right?  RIGHT.

Hey.  Wait a goddamned second.  What is a DOLL doing in there??

Gentle Reader, meet Elizabeth.  She is my Single Girl Freakout Doll.  In my late 20s, I had my heart smashed to bits then summarily handed back to me along with my CDs and VHS tapes. In the ensuing insanity,  I managed to convince myself that I would never get married......  that no one would ever LOVE me in the manner to which I was accustomed...... and that menopause was lurking at my front door much like Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

Heeeeeere's Elizabeth!
Come out, come out, where ever you are.

Yes, in a fit of desperation, I ordered this DOLL from one of those Fancy Pants DOLL Places with the perfectly reasonable explanation (in my Real Life-Like HEAD) that since I would never get to buy myself a wedding dress, I could buy my goddamned DOLL a wedding dress.

It made perfect sense at the time.

Obviously, you know how this story ends.  I found the guy, we got hitched and I now live a life of grand, sumptuous luxury in the Soul-Sucking Suburban Prairie of Olathe. KANSAS.  You would think after all that Freaking Out that I would have taken my Honest-to-Goodness, Real Life-Like Wedding more seriously.  Yet, that did not happen.  We got engaged in May 2002, picked a venue in the fall of 2002 and signed up a priest in New Hampshire.  And then??  I did NOTHING.  Finally, in April, a few of the guests, including but not limited to Average Jane and the aforementioned Hardcore Hat Christy,  began hinting around as to whether they were going to get food or not.  At this wedding of mine for which they had paid Real Life-Like money for airline tickets. For a wedding that was to happen in 2 months. Oh, right.  THAT. So, I picked up the phone and ordered food, a cake, flowers and somewhere in there, made a hair appointment.  I tried on a few dresses and picked one that I liked, but did not love (seriously, my kingdom for a goddamned dress with SLEEVES.)

However, I did hunt high and low for the wedding handbag and the cake topper.  I researched endless online sites for a much-desired Lladro cake topper and trolled through store after store after store.

For a cake topper.  Because I had priorities.  Obviously.

Apparently, I also harbored secret desires for a Silver Fox.    And that ain't Lladro, either.

Anyway!  Friday's party was so much fun.  Then, we had Saturday -- which was low-key.  We had some birthday stuff for Arun that day, dinner consisted of some chicken burritos that Manoj picked up at the nearby panaderĂ­a and then we went to bed. (The ominous foreshadowing just got more ominous. Crank up the music!  J.S Bach be in the house, yo.)

At 2am, I found myself making sweet love to my toilet .....caressing its smooth, porcelain curves.....whispering sweet nothings in its ear.... swearing that American Standard would never tear us asunder.

Food poisoning, right?  Nope.  Turns out, others from my Bridesmaid party also picked up a Bridesmaid Bug.  Oh, the sweet irony.  If you haven't seen the Bridesmaids party here......is......your ......

$#@%* ZOMFG

Yes, FOUR of us from my Bridesmaid party had a fun reenactment of the Groundbreaking, Historic Brazilian Food Poisoning scene from the movie.

A scene that I actually mocked in the invitation to my party.

October 25, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Shutterfly Holiday Cards!

My Pretend Lawyer Made Me Write This: This is not a sponsored post.  Shutterfly gave me 50 free holiday cards for review and additionally, 3 promotional codes for 25 free cards to give away to my readers.  However, I did purchase additional prints with my own money to further test and review the entire process since I am a new Shutterfly user (the auditor in me insisted on completing a "real" payment process.)  All opinions expressed are my own.

Updated 11/16/11
The Winners!
Leah, Jendo89 and AliMomof3!  Congratulations!  I've sent your promo codes for 25 free 5x7 photo cards.  Let me know if you have questions or issues on checkout.

A few months ago, the service I used for printing photos and my holiday cards closed shop.  Forever.  I had used this service for a long, LONG time and when I got the news they were closing shop, I did not relish the thought of finding a new site to use for my holiday cards.

Here's the thing -- I am pretty serious about Christmas cards.  I love, LOVE doing Christmas cards, even way back in the day when I would just grab a box of cards at Target...... back in the day before photo cards were the "cool thing" to do.  Even now, with photo cards, I still look forward to the process of sitting down with a cup of a hot tea (or wine, if it's a Friday.  Ahem.), grabbing a fresh Sharpie, settling down into my chair and getting to the task of hand-addressing each envelope.  Additionally, I always keep a stack of holiday stationary nearby for jotting quick notes to those recipients that I may not have seen in awhile.  I always try to order my cards around Thanksgiving so that would leave me a few weeks to get the cards out in time.

My old service shutting down left me in a lurch until Shutterfly sent me a request to review their Holiday Cards.  Which I had to carefully consider and ponder, of course.

For all of 2 seconds.

When I went to check out the selection of cards, I was little overwhelmed at first.  For example, I went to look at their Christmas Cards and I was greeted with 928 choices.  Gulp. Fortunately, I could narrow those down by size, number of photos per card, color schemes, format (flat vs. folded), themes (i.e. "Religious") and categories (i.e. "Whimsy" or "Merry & Bright").  And that helped.  A bit.  So.... I clicked around some more in their other lines.

The first that caught my eye was the My Favorite Things card in their Holiday Story Cards line:

However, I fear that I am too sarcastic for something like that and I would prefer my grandmothers not leave coal in my stocking.  After all, a few of my favorite things include proper male aim at the toilet, an 8pm Sharp bedtime (for the kids), a slightly warm bottle of Boulevard Amber Ale and a freshly recorded episode of Breaking Bad.  All of which are inexplicably related. Indeed.

I also considered this card from the Holiday Cards line:

I liked this card because it reminded me of Kerala - the tropical area of India from where my husband is from.  He did not grow up with pine trees like I did - instead, he grew up with coconut trees.

I eventually decided on two other designs and made cards with each design (because seriously, that is how easy it was that I could make TWO cards in no time flat.)  I'm waiting for my husband to approve one or the other.  So, which one did I decide on??   It's supposed to be a surprise, right?  Right.

In the meantime, I did order and pay for prints from Shutterfly because I wanted to see their ordering process from end-to-end (yes, I am a former auditor.  Why do you ask??)

Overall, what did I like about my experience with Shutterfly?
1. It was very, very easy to download/organize albums and the download speeds were quite good. The user experience was pretty much exactly what I would expect from an online photo service.  No surprises! Also, I appreciate that my photos are hanging out there, just waiting to be turned into a cool photo gift or photo book.

2. I liked that on the prints I ordered (Disclosure: and paid for with my own money), I could designate text to be printed on the back.  I don't remember that being an option from my previous service and I appreciated that Shutterfly offered it.

3. I noticed for the Christmas cards they have two really cool options.  One of them includes pre-addressing the envelopes for you (I believe the pricing was 25 cents per card) and another option included even directly sending some of the cards (or if you choose, all of the cards).  Those aren't options that I want or need right now, but they are certainly something to consider if you are a small business owner or someone with a really busy schedule.  

Giveaway Time!
Shutterfly has given me promotional codes for 25 free holiday cards to give away to THREE readers (excludes shipping and taxes, valid only in the US).  I am opening up anonymous commenting for this and the rules for this giveaway are simple:

Leave a comment on this post by Midnight, CDT Friday, November 4th, 2011 and I will choose three winners using Random.org.  That's it! Please include an email address if you're not a regular commenter so that I may contact you if you win.

And more!
Shutterfly would also like to reach out to other bloggers!  Are you a blogger? Want a chance at 25 free cards this holiday season? Register here.

October 21, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Pulling your leg.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Last weekend, we went to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.  I am not sure how other cities do it, but here in Kansas City, the festival is held on grounds that house permanent structures year-round.  There is no slapping up of tents, these wenches and wizards mean business.

The food is pretty good -- Arun and I had a turkey leg (of course) and Anjali chose barbecue.  Later, I could not resist a crepe with apples, brie and almonds (judge me.  Go ahead.)  For dessert, we had a root beer float.  Here's something -- I LOVE root beer floats now after a lifetime of HATING them.  I discovered this new found Food Love about a year ago. What the hell is up with that??  It leaves me to wonder which tide will turn next on a former Food Hate.  Will I suddenly start craving  ropes of licorice?  Horseradish? Grilled cheese? Cheetos? Zeus forbid, KETCHUP?

In what may be destined to become a tradition, I present for your viewing pleasure some snaps of my kid mowing through a turkey leg at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival



What is it about a turkey leg that makes it so damned delicious???  It's certainly a step up from traditional fair food.   I suppose there is a particular primal satisfaction to be gained from ripping through tendons, ligaments and whatnot with your bare teeth in order to get to that lovely pink meat.

Does your city have a RenFest? Does it also serve up the roasted turkey leg?  Also, have you discovered  new Food Loves after a lifetime of previously hating them?

October 16, 2011

Lost for Words

Pink Floyd, The Division Bell 1994

On Arun's 1st birthday, I wrote this on his First Status Report:
I wanted to be a mother for a long, long time and he is everything I could have ever hoped for in a child. And more. He's so much more than I dreamed of that it takes my breath way. To have all of one's dreams and fears encapsulated in one tiny, beautiful human being is equally daunting and awe-inspiring. And I wouldn't change a thing.
And nothing has changed.

Well, that's not entirely true. This boy has progressed a bit.  We have even installed some hardware updates.

However, the software updates are all his own doing.

Overall, we are quite satisfied with our First DNA Project v6.

I am still in awe of the fact that someone in charge decided that I would get to be this boy's mother. In fact, I am still waiting for the product recall.

Happy birthday, Arun.  You are so sweet, kind, generous and thoughtful.  No worries, baby boy.  I won't tell a soul.  After all, I wouldn't want to ruin your street cred.

October 14, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
When restaurants serve more than just food.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

This is going to be a quickie Cheater Post. The Team of Chaos is out of school today and we are heading to Crown Center -- I am going to pick up my packet for the Waddell and Reed 5k, then we are going to check out the Hallmark's Vistor Center.

After we grab some grub at Fritz's Railroad Restaurant, of course.

Fritz's is a bit of a Kansas City institution. In the mid-1960s, Fritz invented (and patented) a food delivery system whereby the food is delivered directly to the table via a car and track system located above the tables. The food stops at the designated table, then is slowly lowered down to the table. You give your order directly to the kitchen using a phone at the table while servers handle the drinks. While Fritz initially resisted the "train theme", eventually he gave in and the rest is history.

I love going to Fritz's and as you would guess, so do the kids. But here's the thing: their food is not all that great. It's not bad, per se, but I would never purposefully go there for eating.  But man, that thrill of the CLUNK! when the metal arm slams down and you know your food is about to make its slow descent??

Folks, Pavlov was not just a man with a dog and bell.

This leads me to wonder -- what other restaurants do I go to for the entertainment value, rather than the food?? Immediately, I thought of two: The Top of the World restaurant in the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and the T-Rex restaurant.

I love, love The Top of the World restaurant.  It is situated 884 feet in the air, sits on the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard and revolves (I seem to remember it completes a revolution every 45 minutes)  The views are stunning and I always try to get our reservations just before the sun is setting.  Watching the sun set behind Red Rock Canyon while the Boulevard comes to life to the south and Fremont Street to the north cranks on their lights never ceases to amaze me.  Don't get me wrong -- the food is actually very good, but it is extremely expensive for what you get.  Truly, you are paying for that gorgeous view.

The T-Rex restaurant is another one that grabs me by the pocketbook.  Holy Zeus!  Their food is outrageously priced and frankly, just plain sucks.  However, the view of my kids' bright, gemstone eyes?

Yeah, you know the rest.

What say you, Gentle Reader? Any restaurants that lure you in using bait other than food?

October 12, 2011

Hey you

Pink Floyd, The Wall 1979

I never quite know what to say when I have taken a little bloggie vacation.  That I was too damned busy to post?  That I was in a blogging rut? That things have been so boring there is nothing to write about? Lies, all of  them. The truth is rather mundane.

I did not feel like posting.

Oh sure, I have been busy, but not any busier than anyone else and certainly not too busy to post.  And we are not bored -- just enjoying the gorgeous weather, reading books, enjoying the return of television (Hands down, Showtime's Homeland is my very favorite of the new shows this season.)  October, for us, is busier than the Christmas season.  With Arun's birthday and all of the Halloween and Fall festivities that we like to partake in, every weekend quickly gets booked.

In a good way.

So, I'm going to use the rest of this post for some housekeeping and tying of loose ends.  I have a more topical post coming tomorrow.........

1. Can Mishri and frequent commenter Olivia both email me, please?  I have a question of each of you and I have no contact info for you!  I am cagey333 on gmail.  Thanks!

2. Awhile back, Jodifur posted a wedding Shoe Friday edition which featured shoes from my sister Maureen's wedding.

3. A few weekend's ago, we had a photo session with my friend Dee of Dee Perrin Photography. We met at the Ernie Miller Nature center and walked around a bit.  Arun was in a spectacularly crabby mood and Anjali refused to let me style her hair, in addition to DRESSING HERSELF.  Sigh.  Dee managed to make some lemonade at the situation and I was so happy with the results.  My favorite shot is the very last one in the series -- the one of them sitting on the wall with their notebooks.  I brought the notebooks because I wanted to capture that particular image of them -- notebooks, paper and pens are an important part of our lives.  They are constantly drawing and writing -- in the car, in the house and even out and about.

4. Anjali began Pre-K and I neglected to post about it.  Bad mommyblogger! Bad!

I was worried about sending her off to Pre-K -- she is a July Birthday, which makes her one of the youngest and she had already been struggling emotionally and socially in her Preschool Class.  However, knowledge and skill-wise, she was ready for Pre-K and after consulting with her teachers and my own Teacher Friend LuAnn, we decided not to hold Anjali back.  And wow, am I glad for that decision.  She LOVES Pre-K, has already made several new friends and happily skips off to school every day.  Furthermore, she has latched onto Arun's Kindergarten homework and now, has nearly as many sight words as he does (score one for  Competition With One's Brother!)

Yes, Pre-K was the right decision.

5. Speaking of Arun....This is the view out of my windshield every morning at drop-off:

 He RUNS into the school and we have had more than one Extremely Stern Lecture about him opening his door to jump out BEFORE I have even stopped the goddamned car.  Can you say "heart attack", kiddos?

Yes, he LOVES Kindergarten and doesn't appear to have any issues (we have conferences next week - hopefully there will be no surprises!)  His bright, excited attitude makes me so happy and proud.  Still, I miss him - he's gone every single afternoon now.  And next year, will gone every single day. I haven't known how to wrap my head or heart around that, much less how to write about it here.

And so, I won't even try.

October 7, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Here's a Barbie even a feminist could love.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Last Friday, Manoj and I went to the American Royal BBQ. He knows a few of the members of the Burn Rate team and we had an invitation to their party tent.  The entire thing was just as much Awesome as you would expect.

For those of the Uninitated, the American Royal BBQ is a Major Deal here in Kansas City:
The American Royal Barbecue is the opening event of the American Royal and the season finale for the competitive circuit. Spreading over 20 acres in Kansas City’s historic Stockyards District, and with nearly 500 teams competing in four meat categories, The Royal is the largest barbecue contest in the world. Combine this with a barbecue-related trade expo, this four-day food festival is truly the “World Series of Barbecue.”
The scene was crazy. And huge - the equivalent of 10 football fields.  And smoky - besides the food part, apparently celebrating The Cigar was in order.  I didn't mind, though - I LOVE the smell of a good cigar.  And cheap, canned beer flowed like champagne.

Or something like that.

It was also the scene of many, many questionable fashion choices.
Run, pig, RUN.

A fiber-optic mohawk that actually twinkled like a Christmas tree.
And punk rockers everywhere weeped in shame.

Fortunately, the food more than made up for it.
Although, I do believe this qualifies as a complete Food Photography Fail. I never did figure out how to get good shots in that dimly lit, smoky tent. And then I got hungry which signaled the end of our photography session (obviously, the very best part of food photography is eating your subject.)  Speaking of shots, I had a Nickler shot with some fancy-pants vodka that was so pure, it tasted like water.  Which was sorta of scary so I limited myself to just ONE shot, lest the evening unravel into something that I couldn't blog about, much less REMEMBER.

Now, that's a fire!
That behemoth saw a lot of pork butt over the weekend.

Moaning Myrtle meets Simon Majumdar

That's some stellar Double Chin Action there, Kelli.  Also, would it kill you to use a blush brush just once? Anyway! Simon is a British author, Iron Chef judge and food blogger extraordinaire at Dos Hermanos.  He is buddies with one of the Burn Rate fellows and loves coming to the American Royal BBQ (which was featured in his book Eat My Globe (extract of that article is here).  We also found out that Simon is a desi via Calcutta , which always increases one's street cred in my book.  Y'all know how I love me some Indians.

I used to work at the Livestock Exchange building down in the stockyards. This smoky, ethereal installation never ceased to inspire me. Simple, beautiful and wholly representative.

Man, I love Kansas City.