edamomie

An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Lego of Your Santa Gift Expectations December 29, 2010

Filed under: Outings,The Unknown — edamomie @ 11:15 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

O and U: Outings; Unknown

Despite what you know is good for your children, when it comes to Christmas, the rules don’t apply. This may have been one of the last years to use “the elves are watching” threats to my advantage and most importantly live vicariously through their belief that Santa still exists.  And I blew it.

Lego Calendar, T-shirt and Truck

Lego Calendar, T-shirt and Truck

 

My logic got the best of me. My 7-yr-old wanted a DQ Blizzard Maker. It was the only thing she asked of Santa. Rather than buy this cheap piece of plastic, I searched out other ways to recreate the experience. Luckily, when Christmas morning arrived, the explanatory note from Santa justified the ice cream sprinkle toppings, two special ice cream bowls and directions to the ice box where smoothie mix and ice cream awaited.  Santa said our blender would work just fine to create magical ice cream treats. She seemed happy and nary a mention of the missing blizzard maker have I heard.

 

My 5-yr-old asked Santa for Legos and Hotwheels. After comparing gift purchases with the family and learning that they were getting him every variation of gifts in these areas (from PJs and T-shirts to calendars), I decided to go my own route. I got him a castle. He was astonished on Christmas morning. Baffled. Didn’t Santa understand his wishes? What about sugar-plum dreams of Legos and Hotwheels? He wouldn’t go near the castle, he insisted it was a mistake and must have been meant for his sister. How spoiled, right? Regardless, I still felt bad.

 

Larger-Than-Life Legoed Woody

Larger-Than-Life Legoed Woody

After all, we had just visited the new unveiling of the new Lego store at the Mall of America two nights prior. There was a huge Legoed Toy-Story Woody and a clear Legoed wall with each circle half-open for reaching in for Legos by shape and color – a Lego collectors dream. Surely, there were many items there he envisioned getting from Santa.

 

Which brings me to the conclusion that the Santa gift is the all-important, most anticipated one for children who still believe. It’s our job as parents to make that happen. I should have swapped out some other stuff, insisted that a massive 1,333 piece Lego masterpiece arrive via Santa. I have regrets.

 

Lego Wall Mosaic

Lego Wall Mosaic

Later on Christmas Day as the sleepless night prior kicked in for my son, we had a talk about graciousness in accepting a gift, Santa’s gift in particular. He was a bit stubborn and held out, “why did we go see Santa and tell him our wishes if he was just going to get us what he wanted to anyway?” He had a point. A bit more discussion and he came around to see it to my advantage, finally falling into a deep post-Christmas slumber.

 

The battle of wood (castle) vs. plastic (legos)

The battle of wood (castle) vs. plastic (legos)

I am glad I didn’t give into making up some creative gift exchange/return clause for Santa gifts. I was close. The next morning, both kids happily played with their new castle from Wonderment. I am feeling better about it now  – choosing to believe that maybe Santa did know best.

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Wiggle It. Just a Little Bit. December 24, 2010

Filed under: Eats — edamomie @ 10:32 am
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E: Eats

Keeping the kids occupied while you’re deep into Christmas craziness is a challenge. Throwing in a playdate with friends doubles the fun. I used to think the kids would keep themselves happily entertained, each with one friend over. However, I learned long ago that you need to plan more activities than you’d expect for these occasions. You would hate to think the kids go home and tell their parents that “all she did was work on the computer” or that they were bored the whole time.

 

To plan our first winter break playdate we asked, what’s more entertaining for kids in the kitchen than jello? You know the jello jingle about watching it wiggle and seeing it jiggle. Our version is the Knox Blox. It’s like a mini science experiment to make these tried and true kid-pleasing treats.

 

Mixing of the Blox

Mixing of the Blox

Step one: choose your flavor (there are 20!) and color. For us it had to be cherry red and lime green for Christmas. Buy 3 3 oz packages of jello (don’t use the sugar free), one box of knox gelatin (each box has 4 envelopes) and 1 cup of heavy whipping cream for each color you plan to make. We had 2 teams – the boys were the reddies (cherry knox blox) and the girls were the greenies (lime knox blox). This meant that all 4 kids happily took turns making them.

 

Step two: Mix the 3 packages of jello and knox together. Boil 3 cups of water and add it to the mix. Stir until all the gelatin dissolves.  The kids love seeing the dull dry mix go bright with color when water is added.

 

Step three:  Add the 1 cup of cream and continue to stir.

 

Christmas Blox

Christmas Blox

Step four: Pour the mix into a 9 x 12 pan. Place in the fridge for 1.5 hours. If you’re a kid, keep opening the refrigerator door every 5 minutes or so during this phase to check the wiggle factor. It needs to be set before cutting.

 

Step five: By the end of the playdate, the blox are set. The 2 teams take theirs out and hover over them waiting to pounce as a cut them. We also have some small cookie cutters we’ve used in the past, but today we’re just going for squares due to timing. We cut and arrange them on a fancy plate for them to bring out for Christmas Eve as their contribution and send some home with their friends to share the fun.

 

Building Blox

Building Blox

Step six: fold and eat. Scientifically, these blox are fascinating to kids. Since they’ve separated while chilling – the cream rises to the top creating a blox that is equally divided into 2 parts of creamy jello and pure jello. Even more interesting is what happens when you fold them. They resist at first, but then form a neat even line in the center of the blox when folded.

 

I’ve witnessed holiday jello gone wrong with fruits, vegetables, nuts and even olives in the mix. Knox Blox are jello at its best in my opinion. I’ve been making them with my mom since nursery school and have yet to tire of them or find the recipe by this name on the official JELL-O web site. Try them out with your kids and remember its cool and fruity JELL-O brand gelatin that makes the fun.

 

Don’t Belittle the Elves December 19, 2010

Filed under: Outings — edamomie @ 12:42 pm
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O: Outings

Old traditions with a new twist. From Daytons to Marshalls to Macy’s , we’ve remained loyal connoisseurs of the downtown Minneapolis holiday offerings. And even though the Day in the Life of an Elf 8th Floor Macy’s exhibit is back for its third year in a row, we don’t belittle it because the story used to change every year. We get that it’s a down economy and it’s actually sustainable to reuse it. We also understand that this is a chance to walk through a Christmas storybook and discover new things each time (the kids still have short term memory working in their favor). um, yeah, and it’s free.

 

Candy Cane Makers

Candy Cane Makers

This past Friday, with schools out for their two week break, we kicked it off with our annual visit to Macy’s. We headed downtown around 2:30 and parked in the Macy’s parking ramp. Straight to the eighth floor we went, relieved to find that we weren’t re-routed to the 3rd floor like last year on a Saturday afternoon to wait for 2.5 hours. We chatted with the volunteer elf at entrance to discover that the lines last Friday were long. We lucked out today with no wait whatsoever.

 

A Day in the Life of an Elf seemed to go remarkably quick. We took some time out to read all the story lines and get engrossed in some of the elaborate details of the story. We check out all of the life-like trees, learn about the rigors of Reindeer Flight School and intently observe the bakery and present wrapping areas. Calvin especially liked the candy cane maker.

 

We left the elves and shuttled right into the Santa line. About a 7 minute wait – the kids barely had time to compose their mental list. Santa looked the part, but I wish he had prompted both kids to list a few more things. Now I am stuck trying to find an alternate to the DQ Blizzard Maker Ava (7-yrs-old) has seen on TV. In less than a minute, Macy’s gets $14 from me for a 5×7 picture (this year I see they added 1 image on a flashdrive for $21). A woman in line marveled that Macy’s wouldn’t allow her to snap a Santa photo with her own camera. As we leave Santa, Ava can’t resist a parting shot, “You’re not really Santa, you’re just an elf.”

 

Mrs. Claus’ bakery is right at the exit. Normally after long lines and waiting, the kids are absolutely starved and I end up buying all sorts of fancy cookies here. Today, we breeze through and hop into line for something new they’ve added this year: Moose Crossing, a Puppet Show. For $4, totally worth it. I stand in line next to a woman who is here to see her son, a puppeteer (who has actually performed this show in New York and thought Minneapolis would enjoy it, so brought it here). They show is frequent enough and there’s seating for about 60 with kids welcome in the front row, as long as they don’t cross the braided carpet that allows them to see the puppeteers (of course one kid does during the show, everyone laughs).

 

A Minneapolis View from the Skyroom

A Minneapolis View from the Skyroom

Twenty minutes later, we’re on the way out. I like the concept, but felt it was a little disconnected. I thought it was odd that Timber Tony, an emcee with another character, had an Italian /Bronx accent (I am sure this puppeteer was Ben Affleck), but given the insight that the puppeteers were from NYC it made some sense. Calvin noted that Timber Tony never listens to anything. There were singing trees and some holiday drama – I think I drifted off at that point.

 

Need food. I’ve always shied away from the Skyroom on the 12th floor at Macy’s. Never again. We enter along the curved wall of sky and clouds and find several deli options, noodles beckons us in. Kids go for the mac’n cheese (with star sugar cookie, fruit and chocolate milk) and I order a tomato, olive oil parm pasta with a glass of wine. The portions are substantial and it all comes to $20.

 

Siblings by the Silver Tree

Siblings by the Silver Tree

We find a window view. Some kid is standing on the window ledge, “Mommy, this looks just like New York!” I agree – it does have that feel to it – complete with background music, a piano (not in play at the moment), a silver tree and the sparkly “Believe” sign. Now, I believe, I am ready to shop.

 

Angel's Delight Smells Just Right

Angel's Delight Smells Just Right

We head to the first floor to Lush Cosmetics. I need some fun holiday gifts and the kids love to smell everything and give it their best no-holds-barred reaction. Some soaps they want to eat, others they think stink.

 

The packaging resembles how you’d buy cheese – They cut it for you right there, wrap it up like a deli would and slap a barcode on it. We end up with Angel’s Delight Soap (shown here), Bubblegum LipScrub and Honey LipBalm. We thank the Lushish girls and visit the accessories section before it’s time to go home, just post rush-hour traffic at 6:10.

 

Old traditions and new inspiration made for a good visit to Macy’s. We’ll be back for the Holidazzle tomorrow!

 

A Prime Climate for the Cookie December 14, 2010

Filed under: Eats — edamomie @ 10:08 pm
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E: Eats

Probably the coolest thing I can think of to do in the winter is quit talking about it. Remain unflappable and resilient to the temptation to begin each conversation with “OMG it is so cold out.” If someone attempts to draw you in to their weather small talk, be prepared with an, “oh it’s negative ten? I hadn’t noticed,” comeback or just be super stubborn and let your wardrobe speak for itself (open-toed shoes, a light-weight stylish jacket, mittenless). Or you could embrace the climate and all of the activities it affords so you’re primed with some great conversation starters.

 

Sure there are countless things one could do outside to enjoy winter at the 45th parallel, but I’m going to stick with what I know – indoor activities. It’s no surprise Minneapolis and St. Paul have a ton of  bakeries to choose from as our climate is conducive to baking and consuming these treats, particularly in the winter. Enter the cookie. Specifically the Christmas Sugar Cookie.

 

Cookie Mixologists

Cookie Mixologists

I have been making sugar cookies every Christmas since I was about 8 years old – it’s a tradition. My mom is quite the baker, but for this tough cookie, my aunt took me under her wing and schooled me on its art. Let’s just say after 3 decades or so of experience and with the help of new technology, I’ve got this down pat.

 

I’ve enlisted both kids’ help for this for several years now. My oldest at 7, Ava, is getting pretty adept at it.  The recipe I use is pretty simple, but I’ve never questioned it. It makes about 8 dozen cookies, which used to take me days to complete – there were a lot of do-overs.  Now I purposely break it into 3 parts: making the dough (20 min); rolling out, cutting and baking the cookies (1.5hrs); and decorating (1.5hrs). Perfect for a Fri – Sun activity on a winter weekend. With snow.

 

Day 1: We all chip in to make the dough – remembering to mix liquids and dry ingredients separately before combining them. Super important for baking. I remind the kids of the figure 8 fold-in motion, not straight-up stirring, so flour flying everywhere is reduced to a minimum. They sample way too much dough as usual – always trying to one-up the other. Calvin, my 5-year-old, notes it tastes a bit salty to him. It chills.

 

Cookie Line-Up for Sprinkles

Cookie Line-Up for Sprinkles

Day 2: I bring out the pastry mat (this is the technology I referred to earlier). This is year 3 using it. Makes all the difference in the world. The kids are pretty good with roll out duty, although it’s difficult for them to get a consistent thickness to it.  I make some final adjustments and we’re ready to cut. The best cookie cutters are those not too fussy and those not too small or too big. We use stars, christmas trees, candy canes, holly, snowflakes, stockings and two exceptions to the prior rule: 2 detailed, large Santa cookies and a few mini-candy canes. We’re on a 400 degree oven with 6 minutes per cookie sheet, so we’re moving quickly. When it’s all done and cookies are cooled, we move them into two 10 x 10″ tupperware containers with wax sheets in between.

 

Day 3: I’ve tried making my own frosting and none is really worth the work compared to store-bought cream cheese frosting. I buy two containers and use about 1.5. I like frosting, but don’t like it overpowering my cookie. I microwave it just a bit and work quickly spreading the frosting, which is thinner because it’s been heated up. This is followed by Ava who is on sprinkle detail. To avoid spending lots of money on colored frosting in the tubes ($5 per tube), I change up the color of the frosting from the can with food coloring (7 colors) and stick to colored sprinkles and 2-3 writing tubes of frosting (red and green in this case).

 

The Stars Align

The Stars Align

We mix up the cookies when putting them back in the containers, so we can pull out a few over the holidays to take to parties and deserving neighbors. They go immediately into the freezer for safe-keeping. Ava helps me keep watch over them and has learned to scold others who try to eat more than their share. She is a quick study.

 

And there you have it. A Christmas cookie years in the making and a reminder that baking with kids equals messy fun and creativity. We laugh about the cookies that don’t look quite as perfect and have a Misfit Cookie and Tea Party on Day 3, humming “since there’s no place to go (due to huge snow drifts and freezing cold temps), let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

 

So sorry to those Floridian and Californian homemakers, trying so hard to create Christmas memories and traditions, baking away while their kids frolic in the outdoor pool, the Minnesotan cookie-baking experience may have you beat by about 20 parallels.

 

A Wonderland Tea Party for Three December 10, 2010

Filed under: Activities,Outings — edamomie @ 7:21 pm
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A:  Activities and O: Outings

With the impending blizzard that my neighbor deemed Snowmageddon, we are prepped with all sorts of indoor activities to keep the need to flee to warmer climates at bay.  First up: Tea Party. Prep work: teapot, cupcakes and napkins.

 

Teapot: Short & Stout

Teapot: Short & Stout

Teapot:
This work of art was discussed, designed and painted over a week ago at Paint Your Plate (I would link to a web site, but until their college web designer can work on it during winter break, they won’t be launching one) in the 50th and France neighborhood and shops.  They have a wide variety of stuff to paint – some of it functional and some of it useless, but charming and kitschy. The $45 pot came with use of all of their paints, brushes and tools. There was a self-explanatory plate that showed techniques like the toothbrush for splattering and stencils and stamps (which we found difficult to use on a curved surface).

 

I mistakenly assumed we could come back two days later to pick it up. Holiday season finds their kiln and workers with a bit of a backlog. That Tuesday we learned it would be 7-10 days. The kids handled that news fairly well.  After all, we had just painstakingly applied several layers of paint to this precious pot over the past 1.5 hours, and anticipated giving it as a birthday gift to Nana that weekend.  Oh well, there was Christmas right around the corner.

Sweet Pink Seat at Sweet Retreat

Sweet Pink Seat at Sweet Retreat

 

Cupcakes:
Fast-forward 9 days to Thursday. We picked up our little teapot and headed straight for part two of our Tea Party plan – cupcakes from Sweet Retreat. You can’t miss it – there’s a big bulldog cake in the window of their shop. Cupcakes are 20% off, making it an ever sweeter deal. We each select a different one – Vanilla Princess, Gingerbread and Cookies & Cream.

 

We chat with the super friendly cupcake-tenders for a bit and learn they placed second in the Childrens’ Theatre Company Birthday Cake Competition. How sweet – they did a Dr. Seuss themed cake. Oh and did we want four tickets to the show currently playing  there – A Christmas Story? We assured them we’d go and thanked them (I now have third-row seats for tomorrow’s matinee due to someone else’s blizzard fear cancelation).

 

Gifts not to be Lived Without

Gifts not to be Lived Without

Napkins:
I am giddy with the Christmas spirit at this point. Sur La Table on the corner was our last stop (madness from kids about not being able to also go to the Bead Monkey.). Sur is inviting – the kids get whisked away to the back of the store where someone makes them a hot chocolate from a machine ($69) that makes espresso to chocopinos (how could I not know what this drink is?). Drawbacks were the packets of 8 priced at $9, and for Calvin, that the HC was not kiddie temp so it “killed his tastebuds.” He worried about ever being normal again, then we quickly moved on to the napkin rack.

 

From fancy tea party to a martini-flowing cocktail party, they had it all. I almost picked up the “I childproofed my house. But they still found a way in,” napkins but instead, I appropriately opted for polka-dots. Ava also enjoyed the 3 older ladies in bikini’s poolside, “The older you get, the less the lifeguards try to save us.” They had all sorts of reasonably priced gifts from the mini herb chopper to the super difficult to find silicone egg poacher (how is my mother, who has been in search of this, living without it?). Could have browsed much longer, but it was a school night and we were set for the tea party.

 

Lego my Oreo

Lego my Oreo

Vanilla Princess Tea Party:
Friday afternoon tea was held promptly at quarter past four. The kids indulged in tangerine orange zinger tea and I opted for black chai. The cupcakes were yummy. We were quiet with frosting.

 

Suddenly it was dark and time for Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Calvin is fascinated by BigBen (PigPen) and why the snow doesn’t squelch his dust. We pause it a few times, rewind and watch the crew’s dance moves in slow motion. We all agree that the shoulder shrug dance by the kid in the orange is masterful (I marked it as a fave video on my channel at youtube.com/user/edamomie).

 

We’ll have plenty of time to perfect the dance this weekend and host a few more tea parties, seeing as though we’re in the midst of Snowmageddon.

 

Camp Christmas: Real or Fake? December 6, 2010

Filed under: Activities,Outings — edamomie @ 10:40 pm
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O: Outings and A: Activities

I grew up with fake, my husband with real. Thus the ongoing family conversations about what’s better and why. For the record in this household, real wins out. And yes, as you might have guessed since it’s December, I’m talking about O Christmas Tree and her lovely branches.

 

It was the much anticipated day when Tannenbaum was to be chosen.  But first, the kids had enough of their decorating wits about them to insist that the Halloween bats and scarecrows must come down. With the living room prepped and ready, we set out to select the tree from the Richfield Farmer’s Market.  The grandparents have been with on this occasion before. Although they have always enjoyed it, they are never really able to lend any direction to tree selection (although Dad likes to endlessly speculate on the height of each tree – and he’s pretty accurate). They were and always will be, fake tree owners.

 

The Family Locates our Tree

The Family Locates our Tree

I’ll admit I switched over to camp real after a few holidays with my husband. Growing up, I remember sorting the branches by letter and inserting them into the tree accordingly. And while the end result produces similar results the process differs. Possibly the important part.

 

To this day, I don’t quite yet have the most critical eye for picking out the best tree in the lot. I leave that up to the husband.  The kids run around the tree lot. We discuss different branches and tree-types, always coming back to the tried and true Frasier Fir. To make matters more challenging, some trees have been on the truck or in storage for days. Their branches are all folded in like a collapsed umbrella. One year, we ended up with a tree growing out of the side of a tree we purchased. A bit odd, but we still loved it.

 

Tannenbaum Comes Home

Tannenbaum Comes Home

Upon agreeing on the final selection, the base is cut off and its netted for the short journey home. Ava loves this tree already. I think she really wants a pet. Or at least to show me how much she can love something that we pick up, pay for and bring home to care for as our own.

 

Turns out – it’s a beautiful tree when the branches are all settled. No one is jumping at the task of daily maintenance, however. “I am not your Tree Waterer,” Ava defiantly states. Luckily, it’s just an act. She’s watered it everyday since we got it home without complaints. A right of passage I tell her. And just like that, after 9 years, I’m no longer the waterer.  But I’m still the light stringer.

 

No matter how carefully I put away the lights last year and pre-tested days ago for this season, by the time I’m ready to put the lights on, at least one strand doesn’t work. I consider doing only popcorn strings and cranberries, but way too real for this city girl. I make due with what we have, promising to fill in any missing spots with more lights later on.  Decorating must not be delayed.

 

Final Decor

Final Decor

I don’t take decorating lightly. There must be Christmas music, a real fire in the fireplace and hot chocolate with marshmallows. By day two of Tannebaum’s stay, the antsy children override my wishes and they begin without the circumstance I envisioned. I’ve got an ornament for every occasion. In recent years, we’ve upped our game with personalized ornaments for every family / friend combination possible. The kids even recently presented uncle Pauly and his girlfriend with two bashful blushing reindeer swooning over each other. Really, consider it for everyone on your list. It’s like Hallmark with a card for every occasion.

 

We play I-Spy when the ornaments are all up, quizzing each other on where stuff came from and if the kids were alive when the ornament first landed on the tree. A few nights later, we actually have a fire and enjoy the realness of that and the tree. The relaxation of the evergreen, joy the kids have had throughout this process and smell of a real fire just reaffirm which camp I’m in. For real.

 

 
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