15 December, 2014  |   2 Comments

Dorothy’s Fifth Birthday Party – The Villains Party

Dorothy has never been much for big parties, so when she told me she wanted a Villains Party for her fifth birthday, I was eager to help. So was her Auntie.

Auntafee dressed the part

Dorothy dressed as Maleficent for Halloween this year. We’re learning that she is the kind of person interested in our dark sides. She is interested in every side.

The royal family says, "Hey." Thanks to @kerrygirvs for the pics!

I tried to work off of a Pinterest board of Villains party ideas but we just couldn’t seem to find all the elements that would make our Villains party right for us.

Grownups snacking and watching

It is a testimony to the adaptability of our species that this lack of a complete and total party template annoyed me.

Ha!

For crying out loud, I didn’t even USE Pinterest two years ago! Now I can’t make dinner without it!

Dorothy will own all the balloons

All this just meant was that we just had to come up with some simple ideas that worked for us.

Dorothy's Villainous Birthday Party Plan

On the menu:
Poisoned Apple Slices with Antidote Dip
Have you ever whipped together 1 package cream cheese with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup brown sugar? It’s the perfect antidote for poisoned apple slices. The kids and grown-ups couldn’t get enough.

The kids also were grossed out by the green and brown goo (guacamole and hummus). Tortilla chips and veggies rounded out the menu.

Dorothy isn't sure who is eviller, Maleficent or Dorothy?

Dorothy’s cake was made by our friends from Model Bakery — the flavors were mint and chocolate and even us cake-haters couldn’t get enough.

Dorothy will own all the balloons

For the decor:
Balloons, and lots of them.
We busted our budget on balloons this year, and it was a great investment. Kids really don’t care about activities as long as there are balloons to push to the breaking point.

Dorothy will own all the balloons

We hung the bunting I made for Halloween a few years ago. Three cheers for reusable decor!

I also cut some mirror mirror frames out of foam core — the kids played with those on their own and there we had an impromptu photo booth!

Dorothy will own all the balloons

We rented a room from our city’s rec department. At $50, it was a great investment. The kids had lots of space to run around and I wasn’t chasing kids away from holiday decorations. I’d encourage you to find out if your city’s rec department has spaces available to rent.

(Since our annual holiday cocktail party was right before Dorothy’s birthday party, let’s also say our house wasn’t yet in good condition for a five year old’s birthday party. Grin.)

Auntafee and Pops

For the activities:
On my to-do list for the three weeks running up to the party I had written, “Invent Villains Games.” I just never seemed to be able to think of anything — Duck, Duck THIEF?! Capture the jewel? We’d invited them to dress up as villains, but I was stuck on an activity.

Then I talked to mom. She told me that if I threw the kids in a room with some balloons and room to run around, they’d be fine.
(Mom was right. She always is.)

Bad Guy Coloring Pages
When the kids showed up, we had a table covered with some bad guy coloring pages and crayons.That kept the monkeys focused as well as provided a space to get some quiet time when running around got a little too hectic.

Dorothy will own all the balloons

Goodie Bags
In the bag we put these sticky, slappy hands (perfect for snatching), an evil plan notebook with erasable evil plan pen, some Pirate’s Booty and Monsters Inc gummies. The slappy hands became the party’s most fun activity.

Three cheers for not coming up with an elaborate game!
Dorothy's villainous goodie bag held a sticky hand, a notebook, a pen and some Pirates Booty

Happy fifth birthday Dorothy. You continue to surprise us.

Happy birthday Dorothy!

18 November, 2014  |   1 Comment

She used to wink.

Her thumb, tho.

The autograph book came with Country Western Barbie. She had a large, flat button in her back. When you pushed it, her blue eyelid would drop over her eye.

Eventually it broke.
Or we broke it, depending.

As I keep getting older, I find myself wanting to take Country Western Barbie out for a drink.

Find out what she’s been up to.
See who she’s been winking at.

22 October, 2014  |   1 Comment

October’s Wriggly Bits

This October is squirmy.

I put my knee on it,
to hold it down,
to make it comply with
ME

But October will have none of that.

So far today, 39 silos. Dorothy calls them ice cream cones.

We visited my family in Wisconsin.
October wriggled out of my grip.

James and family

My mom and her husband sort though hundreds of boxes of collections. They are moving. Assisted-living-2-bedroom-apartment and they couldn’t be happier.

I wish the American Way gave more aging parents this love.

Girls and grandma

There are more boxes to sort than there are years. I hate these boxes.

I stomp and whine
I don’t want to be faced with all the evidence of my bad decisions.

No one does.
October escapes me again.

Cousin's room

It’s not a sadness,
it’s more of the resigned sigh

We returned Napa’s harvest bustle. Winemakers and vineyard workers work all night long. Grape trucks turn in front of you on the highway, dropping sticky purple fruit onto your lucky, lucky car.

Grapes

The air smells like wine.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of grapes being squished within 10 miles of my house and it is in the air.
October found a secret way out.

6 August, 2014  |   1 Comment

Wine Wednesday: Barnacle Bubbles

Govino gls

We were encouraged to share our knowledge at Y&YY. We were encouraged to teach that magic only we know how to make.

Uncovering what I might know enough about to share was tough. I mean, there are all these experts in the world about everything. They all know better than me.

Wait. Wine.

I know wine.
Better than that, I know people who know more than me about wine.

My newlywed friend Erin from Acme Fine Wines and I put together a little tasting in the spirit of Y&YY.  She found wines where the producers reworked, retooled and reinvented their corner of the modern wine world.

And that brings us to: Barnacle Bubbles.

More accurately, the wine is named Bisson Abissi, Spumante Metodo Classico. It’s from Liguria, Italy and was bottled in 2011. $101.

Piero Lugano is a winemaker from Italy who wanted to make a Methode Champenoise styled wine. He just didn’t have the space to age sparkling wine the way sparkling wine needs to be aged.

So Lugano put it in the ocean. As Acme Fine Wines says, “The temperature is perfect, there’s no light, and the rocking of the waves acts like a riddling rack, gently moving the lees through the wine.”

He got approval from the Agricultural Ministry in Rome (no small feat). They determined that there would be no environmental impact, so Lugano put his wine made of Vermentino and Bianchetta grapes in a big cage that he then dropped into the Mediterranean Sea.

“Thirteen months later, the bottles were still intact; however, the sea certainly made an impact. The bottles were covered with algae, seaweed, and barnacles, all of which were carefully cleaned, dried, and preserved onto the bottles. The result? A pale yellow wine with tiny, soft bubbles, the palate reveals sweet ripe stone fruits, swiftly followed by bracing acidity and an almost salty minerality.”

What a story, right? A delicious wine with the sea on the bottle, cleverly created, with a good story to boot.

Sneaky, Y&YY, you’ve found a great way to get me sharing.

No one paid me to write this. I like Acme Fine Wines, I like this wine and I thought it a cool story to share.

24 July, 2014  |   6 Comments

The Cherry Cordial Revolution

Probably thinking about Grandma Yeager's candy drawer.At 96, my Grandma Clara Yeager (far right) was pissed. A tough Irish broad who raised all 5 of her children during the Depression, she had broken her third hip and could no longer stay at home alone.

Dad and his siblings sent her to live at Woodbridge Nursing Home.

We visited her once a week. My sister and I sat on the end of Grandma’s twin bed watching Star Search while Grandma groused at Dad for putting her there in the first place.

She had a legendary sweet tooth. Fifty years of grandchildren still talk about that candy drawer in her house.

So, when Grandma established a Woodbridge candy drawer, we assumed she had come to terms with staying at the nursing home and the grousing would stop.

One day, a nurse took Dad out of the room for a private chat. My sister wasn’t there that day, and Grandma took the occasion to make a request.

“Listen,” she said, grabbing my hand tightly. “Next time you come, bring me a box of Brach’s Cherry Cordials. Here’s 3 dollars. For some goddamned reason, they won’t let me have them. Put the cherries in my sweater drawer at the bottom, the drawer above my candy drawer.”

Grandma rarely talked to me, much less made a direct request so I didn’t ask why. Soon my dad returned to the room and it was clear this was secret.

A few days later, I bought the cherry cordials at the drugstore across from my middle school.

That night, from the computer, I overheard a conversation between my parents

“…leaving the cherries all over the nursing home.”

“What?”

“She’s sucking the chocolate off the cordial and spitting the cherry out. She leaves them all over the nursing home. The nurse said Mother refuses to comply. The home has offered napkins, containers, special times of day but still, she leaves the sucked on cherries on windowsills, in drawers, in the art room, on the piano, on the table in the cafeteria.”

“So no more chocolate cherries,” said my mom.

Cherry Cordial RevolutionNow I knew Grandma was unhappy with the nursing home, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be complicit in this… sabotage.

NOW it made sense, why she wanted me to put the chocolate covered cherries in her sweater drawer.

Revolt.

Do I help Grandma? Or do I follow the (eavesdropped) rules and refuse to buy Grandma her cherries?

At the time of Woodbridge, I was twelve, I wore thick glasses and headgear. HEADGEAR.

I preferred writing computer programs to interacting with humans and I was growing hair between my eyebrows.

My body was changing and I didn’t like it. I felt trapped. I had no control over the changes happening to me — and I had less control over my living situation.  I felt like I couldn’t make my own decisions. I wanted my own space, I couldn’t have my own space.

I totally got it.
I decided to help.

It wasn’t her fault her body was changing and everyone told her what to do all the time. That was the worst. I knew from experience.

The next Thursday, I snuck the box into the bottom of her sweater drawer. I did this every Thursday for the next 2 months until she died. They never knew where she got the cherries.

Last fall, I toured Woodbridge Nursing Home with my mom. She’s moving into a nursing home this year under far different conditions (willingly! cheerfully!).

I couldn’t help but look in all the corners, on all the windowsills and shelves to see if they missed one – that maybe, just maybe, I’d see one quivering red cherry, sucked free from its chocolate cover.

Cherry cordial, candy of the revolution.

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