Monday, November 30, 2009

Tis The Season

I read about my friend Michele's neighbor- the Christmas guy. I have seen National Lampoon's Christmas movie and I have lived next door to what I consider to be the all time, hands down, tackiest, merriest, and most over the top Christmas house ever.
It is hard to be in the Christmas spirit when you live right next door. Trust me.

In trying to show you the magnitutde of this house, I stumbled upon this video. It helps put some of the images in perspective, but not really. For about 6 years I lived next door to this:

The video does not do the grand and elaborate moving parts justice. But worse yet, it does not really showcase the sights and sounds of heavy traffic and idiots clogging up the street by parking their cars and tromping across my lawn to a closer look at this winter wonderland. The city made the street a one way for those 8 weeks, and during the season they posted NO PARKING signs on both sides of the street to keep the traffic moving. That did not stop people though. I lived in Hell from Thanksgiving until New Years and there were times when I would get home from working long, ridiculous hours at Nordstrom and want to wring some moron's neck for blocking me out of my own driveway. Tis the season to go ballistic on the neighbor, yes sirree. Clark Griswold would have been my dream naighbor compared to this.

My biggest beef with this whole Christmas chaos was the invasion of my privacy. The cars and tour bus loads (yes real tour buses of drunks and outta towners) would let their passengers get out and traipse across my front lawn (often really, really close to my front windows) causing my two Jack RussellsBeetle and Abbey Road to get all territorial with barking and going nuts.

I was a street fighter even before I met Jeff. I did not always get mad, I would just get even. There were nights when I could not take all the insanity, and my biggest complaint was the gobs of people tearing up the wet grass and reeking havoc with the dogs. I decided I had to do something to protect my turf (pun intended)- so I did what any self respecting homeowner could do. I collected my dog's poop in plastic bags every day. Times Two. I came back from walking them and promptly emptied the poop sacks along the curb in front of my house, right along side the signs that said, No Parking! I made sure there was a thick layer of dog crap along the perimeter of my yard. I took great pleasure in watching people park where the city clearly put up NO PARKING signs knowing that when they exited their vehicle they were going to step in some fresh doggie doo. In fact, it became such a source of joy to me that when my other neighbor four doors down the block, got a Great Dane,I made him deposit his dog's waste right along side my Jack Russell turds. It was my bah-humbug revenge.

So if you think you got it bad with crazy Christmas houses, I would beg to differ. Try to top this. You can't. So when Jeff asked me to marry him and move to Columbus, you can see why I did not want to wait until Novemeber to put my house on the market. I listed and sold it in February after I shoveled my share of shit off the lawn. Merry Christmas Y'all!

We Missed You, Let's Eat

The theme of the welcome back dinner for Argenida was simple. "We missed you, let's eat" sums it up best. We selected the Buca Di Beppo restaurant downtown because when you are feeding a large group of hungry people Buca knows how to serve it up family style.

I invited all the Latina Diva Au Pairs from the area along with Argenida's cute boyfriend, Edgar. With Edgar originally being from Mexico, Jacielle from Venezuela, Betzy from Peru and Lany & Argenida from Panama, it was a like a Convention of my favorite Latin people in an Italian restaurant.

The only one missing was Alejandro, from Chile but he is busy having fun with my sister and fabulous BIL in Overland Park, Kansas.

The nice thing about all these great Spanish speaking people is that they have a lot in common with us: They like to laugh, eat, drink and have a good time. We did just that to celebrate getting Argenida back to town.

The kids continued the love fest and were truly happy to be with their Argenida.

Kisses and hugs were plentiful with everyone. They took turns sitting in her lap as if it was too good to be true.

Here are the photographic images of my children pounding down the Sunday night Italian dinner.

They speak the international language of all food.

So we are back in business people. Back to our crazy life with 6 kids, a Jack Russell Terrier and a Panamanian Au Pair. Stick around, who does not love a blog about the Silly Slutskys? Oh yeah, and Let's eat!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Prayers Answered

Argenida is back. She is safe and sound here at home. I am really not sure who was the most excited for her arrival because the kids were completely jazzed all day and we all know that I was in full countdown mode for weeks, which turned to days, then hours.

Her plane arrived just before midnight and Jeff and I picked her up.

We got home and showered her with a bienvenida gift. Nothing says we missed you like a Coach purse!

We all knew the kids would be up at the crack of dawn to see their Argenida. They waited until 9:45 before they invaded her room and totally loved on her. There were power hugs.

There was dancing and jumping on the bed.

There was non-stop catching up to do, like showing her every boo boo, hang nail and telling her all the pesky details of the last two months. There were more giggles, hugs and I missed yous. It was welcome home overload on toddler terms.

My prayers have been answered. I have said it before and I will say it again, GOD BLESS ARGENIDA. Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Scented Pine Cone Recipe

Since it is Gluten Free Friday I wanted to share a non-edible recipe with you all. At this time of year this is a project that is fun and festive. Technically, it is a gluten free recipe, so when the shoe fits?

Scented pine cones are becoming increasingly popular, and with that popularity they are also becoming more expensive to purchase commercially. But never fear! If you have access to pine cones you can scent them yourself. If you have 8 little hands helping you collect the cones it won't take long before you have a bag full and ready to go. (Note to parents, be sure the kids are picking up only pine cones, and not dog poop. Trust me on that!)

Used similar to potpourri, scented pine cones serve as great aromatic hearth decorations. You can use them as a festive centerpiece in a decorative bowl. The fragrances used are the same ones that are used in potpourri. After being displayed for a while the scent will begin to diminish. Simply toss old cones into the fireplace and the burning will release more scent.

These are quick and easy to make, they are ideal for group activities or school children or if like me, you have birthed your own classroom of toddlers, you can just line them up in the kitchen and start crafting.

Rinse pine cones under running water, shake to dry, lay pine cones on an old cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (easy clean up) and bake at 200F until the pine cones open up (kills bugs, melts sap etc) or for about 15 minutes. Shake the tray periodically to wiggle them. When baked, spread pine cones out on layers of newspaper. Pour cinnamon, clove or Christmas blend essential oils into a spray bottle with a little water and spray cones until they are damp. (I used a pumpkin pie spice oil from Michael's) I sprinkle a little ground cinnamon and cloves onto the moist cones and shake the excess off. It is like a double layer of natural scent. Place scented pine cones back on the parchment papered tray and put in 200 degree oven, turn off flame and let them sit until the oven turns cold or overnight. Then place the scented cones in a plastic bag and seal for 24 hours to lock in the fragrance.

The whole house smells amazing while you are making these and they make awesome gifts from the kids. My children took pride in presenting them as a hostess gift yesterday, and they were a hit.

My camera battery was dead as a door nail when we made these, so I do not have photos, but we plan to make them again this week, so I will upload some shots to this post and give the visuals for the recipe.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tales of Thanksgiving

So we got invited to a friend's New Albany home for Thanksgiving. I should have been thrilled with the thought of just bringing a couple of things and showing up, but I was plagued with anxiety all week. Taking four kids to someone Else's home for Thanksgiving is a lot of pressure. I thought about all the things that could go wrong and I was freaking myself out.

I spent a good portion of Thanksgiving day just hanging out with the kids at home. It was cozy and relaxing day of snuggling and sharing stories. We talked non stop about good behavior, nice manners, and acting appropriately. It was all fine and dandy but I was not 100% convinced it soaked in. After all, taking 4 kids out of a toddler friendly environment is risky at best.

I prepared some of the gluten free pumpkin pie tarts and the gluten free corn pudding casserole to bring. My Martha Stewart-esque pine cones were the hostess gift (see recipe tomorrow) and when we walked in Lauren and Ted's home smelled amazing. It was all the familiar Thanksgiving day scents wafting in the air. I smiled as I entered the front door and then, I almost fainted.The house had WHITE CARPETING. White. Carpet. Clean. Perfect. White. Carpet.

I considered shuffling all the kids back into the van before they realized what was going on, but I could not do it. I sucked it up and prayed my children would behave and act nicely. Thankfully, on Thanksgiving they were as close to perfect as possible. Everyone sat and ate like ladies and gentlemen.

They used utensils, napkins and drank from open cups. There was little if any whining or fighting and they all ate the meal and asked for second helpings. In Mommie-land this is what is known as the calm before the storm. I kept waiting and waiting for someone to spill cranberry sauce on the carpet, or for projectile puking, or for a sharpie marker incident. Can you imagine how thankful I was that my people were being solid citizens? Thanksgiving? YOU BET IT WAS!

The finished basement and play area was a huge source of entertainment.

I was able to send the kids down there to play and let them enjoy themselves under Amanda's supervision. I was thankful for Amanda's help. Very thankful.

There were are few moments of embarrassment, but fortunately, this occurred in the basement bathroom, when CJ did not realize he was supposed to close the door. On the plus side though, we know he washed his hands after going pee.

I was full on prepared to be blogging about the terrible tales of Thanksgiving. I was hedging my bets that we would be paying for carpet cleaning or offering to replace broken knick knacks. This is another Thanksgiving where I am truly grateful, pleasantly surprise and very, very thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A lesson in shopping

I frequent a few places on a weekly basis. Aside from the beloved Giant Eagle, I have my weekly trips to Trader Joe's, Costco and my bi-weekly stops at Big Lots and Whole Foods. I pay attention to products, prices and selection and I can tell you what to buy where based on value. I would like to think that when it comes to shopping, I have the karma for what, when and where.

I have been teaching my children the system- my system. They listen. They know what coupons are and they value a good sale or clearance rack. Sometimes when they really, really want me to buy something, they will ask if it is on sale or if we have coupon because they know that may just cinch the deal. I am not sure they get it 100% yet, but overall, I think they got my genes in the shopping department.

For example: I would never buy San Pelligrino Limonta or Orangina in cans at Giant Eagle. Never. A six pack of 12 ounce cans is $7.99 there. At Costco 24 cans, (12 of each flavor) is $13.29.
I allow the children to indulge in this special Italian soda because it is one of the few carbonated beverages made without High Fructose Corn Syrup. They love it and we ration one can among the four of them so it is a highly coveted item around here. G-d forbid they ask me to buy it anywhere except Costco.

Likewise my kids are trying to teach me their shopping system. They subscribe to the "I see it, I like it, I want it, I must have it now" philosophy which was my own rationale back in the good old days. I invented that one, so when they try that shit on me now, I am on to them- big time! They do try though. They try and try and try and rarely, if ever do I kiss ten bucks goodbye.

I treated Charlotte to a girls day with Wende Powell and me. We hit the Jeffersonville Outlets and spent the time getting some holiday gifts. I scored some great buys at the Children's Place Outlet and with my handy dandy 20% coupon the 99 cent tights were about eighty cents. I made Charlotte take note of that one. In turn, she was sure to show me the retro kitchen pieces at the Pottery Barn Kids outlet.

She played and pretended to prepare some cookies while Wende and I lamented how if I was going to drop almost $200 bucks on a kitchen appliance, I would replace my actual ones with a upgraded model, and let the kids play with my old appliances. While the Pottery Barn Kids version is adorable, I know that even if it were marked down to $25, I would not buy it because with four small but mighty people monkeying around, it would be destroyed in about a week. If that.

Later with all the kids along for the fun at Costco my monkeys sampled everything in sight. They tried some freshly ground strawberry sorbet creation made with 5 or 6 fresh vegetables and fruit, and a vita-mix blender. My children were mesmerized by the demonstration.

They watched the sales guy make three different rounds of smoothies while he talked into a microphone head set. It was a slick sales pitch for the whirling machine making the samples they tasted. He gave the schpiel over and over and my little shoppers were in complete awe. They hung on his every move while he preached into the amplified speakers. They begged me to buy the Vita Mix and when I resisted they quoted the sales pitch almost word for word. While it is quite convincing coming from a bunch of four year olds, I was able to resist the $395 blender and get the hell out of there. Does anyone own this miraculous machine? Do people really fork over $400 for a blender? I need a lesson in Vita mix apparently.

So on this day before Thanksgiving I am shouting out about my shopping prowess. I am probably one of the few people who love this time of year for all things shopping related. I hope that my sweet children begin to understand why Mommie is leaving at Midnight tomorrow night. I am not sure who was getting the lessons this week, the kids or me. Stay tuned!

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