Thursday, July 30, 2015

Iwo Jima Concerts

We've been playing tourist in our home town a bit this summer, and for the last two weeks, we went to visit Iwo Jima for the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps for their sunset parade. I haven't been to this event in years, but since Connor has taken an interest in learning how to play his trumpet better, I figured this would be a nice event for him. That, and I love a good parade!

The first week we went, I failed to bring my camera, which is too bad because the light was beautiful that night. The second week we went, we brought friends from Connor's and Helen's class. We arrived a little later than I had hoped, and ended up being on the edge of the crowd. As we were unfolding our blankets, some folks tried to squeeze in front of us with their lawn chairs, but luckily they became too embarrassed to follow through with their plan when my friend and I asked them to please not sit right there - you know - where we're putting our blanket. grrrr...

The band gets super close to the crowd, and the precision with which they play and march is impressive. Then, of course, there's also the part where guns get fired, which is pretty exciting.

There are military bands playing free concerts throughout the area all summer long. Next summer, I'm hoping to get to more of them. What say you, sister? Ready to join us?


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Consumer Education

Ed has a fascination with Jiffy Pop. He'll pick some up for camping trips (it always burns) and when we went to Williamsburg for the 4th, he surprised us with a package.

Connor was super excited (Popcorn! Yum! We always forget that it burns every time!) and so even though the directions very clearly say that an adult needs to be the popper, he was ready to take a go at it.

Only...this particular package had a small part where the foil was separated from the base, which meant that popcorn started flying out of the package during the popping process. Never fear, Ed expertly aimed the package so the popcorn was not shooting directly at any innocent bystanders, but I think at least one or two burning hot kernels were stepped on by Connor or Ed.

As the hole widened, Connor became more skeptical, but Ed forged onward.

Until eventually, we enjoyed some (partially burnt) popcorn.

When we got back to town, I suggested Connor write a letter to Jiffy Pop to let them know about our experience. He sensed immediately that this was a good time to offer up a colorful story. Here's what he came up with:


Dear Makers of Jiffy pop,

I was excited to try Jiffy pop for the first time. As I was taking the top off, I noticed that there was some oil on it. I started popping the popcorn when I realized that there was a hole in the aluminum casing. Popcorn started flying out. It was a madhouse! A bunch of kernels fell on the floor. I stepped on one. It hurt a lot because it was still hot! Then, a second hole opened up in the aluminum casing. More popcorn started flying out. It was even more of a madhouse.

I think you should figure out how to make certain there are no holes in the casing. This way, other people will not have popcorn flying at them and they won’t risk burning their foot on loose kernels.

No word from the fine folks at Jiffy Pop yet. But regardless of how they react, it was a nice exercise in putting together a letter.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Homemade Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt - I think I'm in love!

A few weeks ago, I decided to take the banilla Stonyfield yogurt that Ed purchased accidentally (banana and vanilla mixed together - not just plain vanilla) and turn it into frozen yogurt. If you ask Connor, it was an evil plot on my part, but if you ask me, it was sheer brilliance.

Here's the thing - Connor and Helen are becoming less picky (amen!), but they are still quite particular about a few things. One of the things that is most upsetting to them is when they expect to taste one thing, and taste another. That was what happened with the banilla flavored yogurt. Yes, Helen loves bananas. But apparently banana / vanilla flavored yogurt is too big an aberration to allow into our lives, so after one serving, she had decided it should be put in the "things we do not eat" part of the refrigerator. Connor has been trying to dump bananas as a food (which I am solidly not allowing). Naturally, accidentally eating banana / vanilla flavored yogurt sent him into a tailspin, and absolute refusal.

I got tired of looking at it in the refrigerator, it was time to clean the refrigerator out, and what should arrive in the mail but a new Yaylabs SoftShell Ice Cream ball? It was Sunday morning, and I had just purchased a flat of raspberries from the farmer's market, so I decided to - wait for it - taint the already tainted banilla yogurt with raspberries.

And I did not regret it one bit. Super easy. Super yummy.

The only thing that was a little sad is that Connor thought we were making vanilla ice cream, so when he saw it wasn't vanilla - IT WAS PINK - he about had a heart attack. And then we he decided that his love of raspberries and vanilla ice cream was great enough to overcome the mixing of the two sacred foods and actually tasted a bite, he was totally mad at me. Here he'd spent 15 minutes rolling a ball with me, only to discover that the dreaded banilla yogurt had reared its ugly head.

He wouldn't eat a bit.

I ate the whole thing. Every bite. It was delicious.

And I would do it again.

Although perhaps I will allow him to make some frozen vanilla yogurt or vanilla ice cream next time to ease his fear of the awesome ice cream ball. I am confident he will check each ingredient as it goes in, rather than risk having to taste something that is not vanilla.


I received coupons for Stonyfield yogurt and a free Yaylabs ice cream ball. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Asking the Tough Questions

Helen has become hyper-aware of race. It's a little surprising given that she doesn't watch television or read the newspaper, so she is not immersed in the conversation of privilege that seems to come up a lot. I think it started when her first grade teacher was talking about great Americans, and Harriett Tubman came up. Helen came home and told me her book only had "about a paragraph" of information, and she needed to know more.

Since then, she has consumed two biographies of Tubman, and continues to long for more. It's the idea of slavery she cannot get past. She was chatting with a friend after she first heard about slavery and told her friend:
Helen: "we're lucky we're white".
Friend: "why Helen? It doesn't matter what race you are, we're all the same".
Helen: "did you hear what Mrs. H. said today? White people used to OWN black people. That is the worst. You can never get over that."

And with that, I realized that my 7 year old daughter had become aware of something most adults haven't come to grips with. I suspect Helen's need to know about Harriett Tubman is because that is the only example of getting out of slavery. I suspect in Helen's mind, the institution was much smaller than it actually was, and Tubman was able to save almost everyone.

Last night, as the woman who cleans our house was leaving, Helen asked me why almost all people who clean houses speak Spanish and not English. Astute little girl, I thought. Connor and I cobbled together a reasonable response about immigration and recency in the United States probably being big drivers of the phenomenon Helen had noticed.

I have a feeling that sitting next to Helen for hours on a plane and in a car tomorrow will be an opportunity for a lot of talking. I'm grateful I'll have a friend in the car with me, who can help answer Helen's questions!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Connor started playing piano at the end of second grade. I'm not sure what about it captured his eye, but he seems to enjoy making music - and he's getting pretty good at it. Now that he's also playing trumpet, I figured he might want to scale back to one instrument. I asked him a few weeks ago whether he wanted to stop playing piano and he told me no, he loves how happy it makes his grandma.

And indeed, I think it does make her happy. It also brings me great pleasure, and I have a big dream that by the time Helen is in 5th grade, Connor can accompany a violin solo of hers.

My parents came to visit for the end of the year recital, and Connor played great. His teacher and I met years ago when Helen and her older child were in parent-child class together, so it's always nice for me to have a chance to chat a bit with her.

During my parents' visit, Connor even squeezed in some time playing with my mom, who started playing piano a few years ago.

His teacher has closed her studio while she travels this summer, which has enabled Connor to focus on trumpet lessons, which he started a few weeks ago. Who knows what will happen when the studio reopens, but no matter what, he's learned a lot about playing an instrument these past few years.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Taking her cake decorating skills to the next level - Curious Chef

For Father's Day, I decided to unleash the power of cupcakes and frosting when Helen and Connor had friends over, and much to my surprise - the project actually turned out well. Helen took a cake decorating class after school last year, and she is more than happy to tell us all how much she learned. I set her up with a box of cake mix, her brother, and a mixer - and told her to work her magic.

She was totally up for the task.

I hooked her up with a set of reusable cupcake wrappers from Curious Chef, which were a huge hit. (And since we make muffins every Monday at our house, these are going to get a lot of use!)

But I'll admit. When it came time to filling those wrappers, I took over. Because I just didn't have it in me to clean up a big mess.

The decorating was a huge hit - and just to test the Curious Chef frosting decorator tube, I had the kids trade around bags of icing and the fancy plastic decorating tube. Hands down, we got neater (and better) results with the plastic tube than the old-school bags.

Everyone went home with a box of cupcakes, and Ed even scored these, from my messy Marvin, aka Connor.

Fun times - and I will definitely be purchasing some Curious Chef gift sets in my never-ending quest to find unique birthday gifts.

Happy (late) Father's Day, Ed!


Curious Chef gave me the decorator tube and cupcake wrappers. Stay tuned to see a knife they gave me in action. It has turned Helen into our official green pepper chopper.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Grilling! With decent hot dogs!

Ed is the grill master around here, and as it turns out, that's probably a good thing. Those things are hot, dirty, and forgetting stuff on them is not a good idea.

However, in the spirit of feminism and my "I can do anything" spirit, I tried grilling.

Look, I'm grilling! It's fun. (Not really - really it's very hot, just as I suspected.)

A friend of mine that normally summers in North Carolina is here in Arlington waiting for the arrival of her third child. She might be more concerned about what her children eat than anyone I know, so it was with great excitement that I was able to invite her over to taste Applegate's Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs. Her children not only gobbled them down, she happily took the rest of the package home to enjoy.

They are hot dogs, so they are super easy to cook - just heat them through. So it wasn't hard to go from this...

to this!

Applegate gifted me two packages of the hot dogs, so I am totally ready to impress whatever sports' team finds its way to our home next.

I have decided to retire my grilling spatula (or whatever you call that long tool). I do a lot of the cooking around here these days, and grilling is one place that Ed owns. I'm happy for him to keep ownership of the grill. I much prefer sitting around waiting for the food to be cooked.



I received two packages of Applegate hot dogs, bottles of Sir Kensington's Ketchup and Mustard (totally delish - seen in picnic photos later this summer, I guarantee).