Sunday, July 20, 2014

Everett's first trip to The Bowl

We were excited to take Everett to the Hollywood Bowl for the first time

The show was similar to the Hank's first show. Instead of Pixar movies, however, the show we saw this year was based on animated movies from DreamWorks. We admittedly had not seen all of the movies featured in the show, but there were a few favorites such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and Madagascar.

The show was very well put together. Jack Black was the host, and kept everybody laughing. There were many executives from DreamWorks there -- in fact I think the only one missing was Steven Spielberg, lol.

For our pre-show picnic, I put together a meat and cheese platter

and used some clearance items from Target

to put together picnic baskets containing wraps for the grown ups

and Kung Fu Panda shaped sandwiches for the kids.

It was a great show. The majority of people at The Bowl are nice and down to earth. But -- there are definitely a few that like to flaunt their Bowl worthiness -- making a point to state that they are season ticket holders, that they have been coming to The Bowl for decades, etc. One of these types was sitting behind us. She made an assessment of every kid around her, including ours. Overall she didn't like the extra noise, and thought it was too late for kids. If this is how late all of the parents attending last night's event normally kept their kids out, there would be a problem -- but most kids can handle one late night. The lady thought Everett was passed out (What's the point of bringing a baby, she said, or something along those lines), but he was actually laying still as could be while the music was playing, eyes wide open, taking it all in. At one point both boys were laying across me with their heads on top of each other -- wish I could have gotten a picture of that.

I am the first one to call my kids out as monsters if they are acting up in public. The Bowl is magical, though. It shows how deeply we all are affected by music. Despite showing scenes from popular movies, there is hardly any noise at all when the orchestra is playing. If the music was softer to allow the movie dialog to be heard, or if somebody on stage was talking, then you heard kids making a little noise. As soon as the music took center stage -- it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. I enjoyed whispering to Hank about the instruments and making sure he understood how the different people introduced assist with making movies. Yep - everything was great until on our walk down the big hill, Everett projectile vomited all over me, Hank, and a couple of young women. He did it again on the bus ride home (which I was prepared for -- as much as one can be to deflect barf). Even that experience and our cranky seat mate could not hamper how much fun I had cultivating a love of music in my two boys out under the glow of a few stars and the famous Hollywood sign.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dungeons & Duplos party

We celebrated dada's last year of his 30s yesterday. I asked the kid what kind of theme we should have for a little family party for BT, and Hank quickly replied with Dungeons and Duplos

BT and Hank started setting up a Dungeons and Dragon type game on our dining room table using Duplos starting a couple of years ago, and called their game Dungeons and Duplos. They were beyond ecstatic (well, I think one of them fueled the excitement) when they found out that LEGO had games along the same line -- Heroica.

We went through a Walmart store hop last year hunting down sets that were on clearance. So this

is just a small selection of the Heroica worlds they have amassed. BT has everything neatly organized in divided storage containers, but each game takes forever to set up.

The rest of the mini party came together relatively easily. Most of the disposables were from our Peter Pan Valentine's Day celebration and I still had a few napkins from Hank's Ninjago party.

In fact my only purchases for this little soiree included a couple of foam swords,

a crown for dada

and a box of purple jewels (to supplement treasures we already had) all from the 99 Cents Only store. These elements fit in line with the treasure quest nature of the Heroica game.

I put colored water in a few glass containers representative of the potions used during the game.

BT requested nachos (big surprise)

and we had yummy cupcakes from Sweet & Saucy

Hank just couldn't understand why his dada didn't want to invite his friends over for this fun party.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Speed Buggy!

Everett's school had another cardboard car drive-in event. As promised after the last event, I made a representation of Speed Buggy. This car was a little more involved than I thought it would be. It took a whole night just to make the tires! I got the rest put together

and then covered most of it in duct tape.

I found the many colors of tape at Dollar Tree. This will hopefully make it more durable in case the school has a cardboard car drive-in event again -- I don't think I have it in me to make a 3rd car!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

Three schools, 10 teachers to show our appreciation for...

For Hank's T-K class, the room moms sent home a list of activities to do for the primary teacher, and suggested we do the same activities for her teaching partner and a college student who has been helping out the class while working on a project. Here were the week's activities:

Monday: Bring a flower to make a bouquet from the class
Tuesday: A bookplate was sent home to put in a gently used book to donate to the room
Wednesday: Bring seeds for the teacher's garden
Thursday: Bring a recipe (for the teacher, print it on an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet)
Friday: Have the child write a letter and draw a picture of the teacher, plus the parents could write a letter. Money was accepted for gifts for the teacher and co-teacher

The packet with instructions, the book plate, and two sheets of paper for the letters was sent home last Wednesday, and I busted my hump to send everything back the next day so I didn't have to think about anything but the flowers this week. I also had another gift idea in mind -- inspired by this cute clipboard from the dollar store. I included a picture of the kids, and added stickers to indicate the school year.

Everett's school also had daily activities. Luckily 3 out of the 5 days had you bring themed items ahead of time, and the school's director was going to put together gift baskets. I didn't take a picture of those items, but they included facial wipes for spa baskets, popcorn, snacks and candy for movie theme baskets, and apple body wash for apple themed baskets. Today was a parent hosted breakfast and lunch, and I signed up to bring cereal and milk. I remembered seeing cute mini boxes of cereal with cute statements including the word "cereal-ously" and cute spoons tied on via Pinterest. Fortunately I stopped that train to crazy town after one stop by just adding chalkboard contact paper hearts with witty sayings to two large boxes.

I also put together the seed packets for Everett's teachers (5 - printable here).

There were paper flowers to fill out acknowledging the teachers. Today they also celebrated Cinco de Mayo, and had a little party, so we had to bring a food item. Annnd -- Everett needed both diapers AND wipes replenished at school today, so I have felt like a bag lady as of late hauling crap into that school, lol.

Hank's after school center did not specify anything to bring (hallelujah, thank you Jesus) -- just that we were celebrating the teachers this week. They had Post-it notes out to write notes to the teachers. I made personalized tumblers for his two teachers at this school (printable here). Using the glitter glue around the edges of the stickers was a trick I learned from a co-worker, and hopefully sealed them on enough to get through hand-washing at least.

Luckily we have awesome teachers, so they are worth all these little trinkets and notes -- plus so much more!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Celebrating Mother's Day early - Derby style

A couple of weeks ago or so, I received an advertisement magazine from Kroeger that included some cute entertaining ideas, including a Cinco de Mayo party theme. I thought it would be fun to have a Cinco de Mayo party as a way to celebrate Mother's Day early, as my parents will be out of town next weekend. Cinco de Mayo parties are pretty ubiquitous in southern California, and it is pretty common to find displays similar to this in grocery stores this time of year

One of the appealing things about the Cinco de Mayo party in the magazine was a recipe for cupcakes that had slices of lime and little pieces of straws jauntily inserted in the top so they looked like margaritas. The decor was simple and, again, since Hispanic food is so common here and we have had Mexican themed dinners/parties in the past, it would have taken minimal effort or cost to throw a party along these lines.

Well, for some reason this year more than any other year I can recall, I had been seeing lots of blog posts and articles about the Kentucky Derby, and more specifically hosting a Kentucky Derby party. I started looking into it more, and used this article as a platform for planning the party. Seeing these mint julep themed cupcakes, in line with the margarita ones described above, sealed the deal, and I started planning a Kentucky Derby themed party instead of the Cinco de Mayo one to celebrate my mom.

I admittedly don't know much about Kentucky, but I could tell from reviewing the Kentucky Derby's own website about hosting a party celebrating the "fastest two minutes in sports" that Kentucky southern cuisine is different than what a native California girl who has not visited the South would think of as southern food. There are common elements to be sure, but southern themed restaurants around here are pretty standard in terms of offering a selection of barbequed meats - rarely indicating what type of BBQ sauce/style is used - potatoes, greens, grits, and cornbread. Here is an example of a menu from the most popular southern food restaurant in our area, for an example as to how southern Californians view southern food.

I am probably way over-thinking things, but I have been trying to make a parallel between how southern California folks view Mexican food, and how southern states, I would imagine, view southern cuisine. Here you come to know where to go if you are craving street tacos or tortas, Baja style versus Oaxacan style (moles, etc.) There are restaurants that are pretty generic, and some that have the basics, but also emphasize a certain Mexican state, and/or highlight regional distinctions that may not be made at a Mexican restaurant in, say, the Midwest -- which I do have some familiarity with. There is low end (everybody has their favorite parking lot tamale lady), and high end. Anyway, I would imagine southern cuisine in a state like Kentucky is the same -- some broadly defined southern restaurants, but you can also find ones emphasizing Kentucky's own style, or ones with an influence from other southern States. I would gather you always know if you are ordering your ribs Memphis style versus Kansas City style versus Texas style.

In any case, I find myself suddenly obsessed with Kentucky, and I want to go there to check out its regionally influenced southern food and local grocery stores. Do they have grocery store displays this time of year like the one above for hosting a Kentucky Derby party? God, I hope so!

My Kentucky Derby party probably seems rather naive -- there are recipes I found that indicated they were Derby party standards, but perhaps they are not. Even calling it a Derby party -- is that ok, or is there some other lingo?? I so want to find out more. In any case, there were four food items that seemed to be standards - Hot Browns, Benedictine spread, Derby pie, and mint juleps. Of the four, mint juleps were the only item I had ever even heard of. I realized I had never had a mint julep before -- other than the sugar bomb non-alcoholic version at Disneyland, lol. An excerpt from our conversation about mint juleps:

BT: So what's the ratio of mint syrup (which I made -- a simple syrup with mint leaves added to soak overnight) to booze (bourbon -- likely did not pick a good one)?

Me: 1/2 an ounce of the syrup, and 2 ounces of the bourbon

BT: (mixes drink and tries it) Wow -- are you sure? You might as well just drink straight whisky

Me: Let me look (Googles mint julep). Ahh -- this one says to use 1/2 ounce of the syrup and two and a half ounces of the bourbon...

BT: OK -- well all those rich bastards are standing around betting on horses sloshed all day then.

I have no frame of reference to know if our Hot Browns (I made this mini version here),

Benedictine spread,

or Chocolate pecan pie (apparently the true Derby pie is heavily guarded recipe?)

were anything like they were supposed to be. The Benedictine spread could have been kicked up a few notches -- either with more Tabasco, or we were thinking the sour cream recommended to make it more of a dip would have been good just for some bite. The Hot Browns were excellent --  I would likely make them again, likely using leftover Thanksgiving turkey. We also made a fruit salad recipe we found on the Kentucky Derby site,

served some homemade bread and butter pickles I made recently,

baked sweet potatoes,

ribs (just store bought -- no clue as to what type of BBQ sauce used), and the mint julep cupcakes (added mint flavoring to mix)

I used the silver wrappers to look like mint julep cups!
For decor, I didn't want to spend too much, but again didn't have too much on hand to use. I found a beautiful silver plated bowl at the thrift store, which was used to make a centerpiece of red roses. I added a picture of a horse, and a crappily last minute made horseshoe aluminum foil covered. I had the sheet of moss on hand, as I had envisioned touching up the letters from the wedding we helped decorate to sell. I have spent more in the moss to fix them up than I would hope to recoup, so I need to just come to terms and get rid of them. I ordered a bag full of horse ribbons online, which clipped nicely onto our dining room light. I asked my co-worker who likes to prepare for parties as well if she had any hats.

I told her about the party theme, and she was very excited, as she had been seeing a lot of things about the Kentucky Derby as well. She brought me two great hats, and a bunch of red dishes to use. One more side note -- I do know of a local store that sells hats like this (church hats). Are they common, though, in the South -- like you can buy them at any department store? I have so many questions!

One thing I forgot was a card to choose the winning horse. Likely we would have been prone to choosing the winning horse, California Chrome, anyway based on name alone. So here was a California girl's best take at a Kentucky Derby party -- maybe I will have to go check out the real thing some time!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!

Hope you had a nice Easter! We did our little desert camping trip. It ended up being really fun! It was nice to go back with my parents to a place I had pretty much sworn off ever visiting again -- the Anza Borrego Desert -- due to the excessive visits to this area (in excessive heat -- no time of the year was off limits according to my dad) in my youth.

One thing that made the trip more enjoyable was this cute cabin. It was just the perfect size, and made us want to go buy 10 acres some place to plop one down on. The only downside with this one is that it really needed a window on the back side to allow for some air flow.

But, on the upside (literally), we got to sleep Little House on the Prairie style!

I bought a few Easter themed toys and activities at the dollar store before the trip. One forgets how much kids like just playing with rocks and sticks in the desert, which is what kids are supposed to do.

I had fun planning the menu for the weekend. We had banana boats (with Easter themed marshmallows) the first night.

They were roasted in the fire (which was started using my homemade fire starters -- egg cartons, dryer lint, and candle wax)

In the morning, berries were prettified in little plastic berry baskets (I have the ceramic version as well, but the plastic worked great for camping).

For dinner, our one Dutch oven meal included brats, potatoes, and onions in a brown sugar based broth.

It was very windy that evening, so we should have refreshed the coals around 45 minutes -- and roasted the brats after cooking.

Although we usually use reusable tableware when we are camping, I made carrot inspired bundles to eat with.

For dessert on night #2 -- S'mores made with bunny Peeps

The next morning was Easter. As far as I could tell, all the kids in the campground had received a visit from the Easter Bunny, despite being far from home.

Our neighbors had to keep their daughter in check, as she had her eye on the eggs in our site, and the late risers had not gotten up yet. One they did, they found Easter baskets -- Angry Birds themed for the big boy (lots of generic Angry Birds themed candy starting with glucose, sucrose, etc., a stuffed red Angry Bird wearing bunny ears, and a small mystery package toy), and the baby received a "Happy Birds" themed large egg

containing the book Are You My Mother?, a little grow kit, a rubber ducky, stuffed chick, and a chocolate covered Peep.

It was a fun trip, and was nice to see this area again through new eyes. It was cool how much I remembered. Like -- I know I've been up this wash before