Thursday, December 27, 2012

Afternoon Hosting.

   I was fortunate enough to be invited to a delightful get-together this afternoon!  How wonderful it was to sit and chat informally with friends, while our children played in another room.
     I think that afternoon hosting may be just the thing for those of you who are, perhaps, intimidated by a big evening event!  May I offer a few ideas?  I'd love to think that someone would consider a party, simply because it would seem so fun and inexpensive!  No liquor bill!!
     First, keep your guest list small.  That is tricky for me, because I want to invite the whole world!  However, for an afternoon lunch, it's better to have just a few close friends.  Keeping in mind, however, that invariably someone will cancel at the last minute, which leads me to my next tip.
     If you have guests contribute food to the meal, be sure that it will not be a necessary part of that meal.  When they ask what to bring, suggest salads, desserts or appetizers that would not be missed if the guest must cancel.
     No fussy food - this is such a plus!!  You can have sandwiches or bread puddings or frittatas.  Such fun!!!!  You could do a light dessert table or simply finger snacks!  As for beverages, coffee, tea or soft drinks will fit the bill perfectly!
     Don't plan for a long afternoon.  These events tend to be no longer than 2-3 hours at the most.  You will have your whole evening ahead to do whatever you wish!
     Benefits of such events include: quick and easy cleanup, chance to actually visit with your guests and low cost of food and drinks.
     So get out the plastic utensils and have a few friends over for omelets!!!  And remember,

Keep Celebrating!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Cutting the Apron Strings

My 16 year old daughter just left on her first big school trip.  Her choir group, Palatine High School's Midnight Blues has been asked to sing at the White House!  Very exciting!....for her.  I'm feeling a bit lost right now.  I guess it is silly, but with all the talk about the devastating tragedy in Connecticut and the stupid end of world stuff, my mind is reeling!  I just want to keep her home and safe.

I am intellectually aware that you must let them go out into the world, however emotionally, I want to cover all my children in bubble wrap.  Poor daughter, she was patting me and consoling me...gawd, I'm such a wimp.  I remember when, as young people, my dad would have to send us off into the world, he was made of tougher stuff.  He was concerned, but had that stiff upper lip that men have.  My husband included.  The only sign that he was going to be worried was when he bought those of us remaining behind, a bunch of fatty Mickey D's for breakfast!

Anyway, I know she'll have an amazing time with this wonderfully talented group of young people.  I know she's with very responsible adults and that her choir teacher is experienced in these sort of trips, having done them for years.  I guess what I worry about is what I don't know...but I suppose that is what we all worry about...the unknown.

Looking forward to the stories and pictures upon her triumphant return!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spoiled Brats

     Here on St. Nick's Day is the perfect time for this post.  My question for you is:
     Do you get your kids everything they want for Christmas or do you set limits?
I ask because an article in the Trib yesterday posed this question.  It seems many parents are upset because they can't afford to purchase the pricey items, such as Iphones and Ipads for their little darlings.  HA!  As if I'd even consider something like that!
     My children are aware that there is a 100 dollar limit for Christmas.  Do they all have their electronic gadgets?  Yes, both daughters saved their money for Ipods and my son, well, believe it or not, he actually WON his Ipad from last year.  He is the only one in the house with one.  It is funny how people look at me, thinking how spoiled he must be!  None of the kids have fancy phones and they don't have texting.  (Well, they do, but we don't encourage it.)  Wow, you say, how can they be well adjusted living in such deprived circumstances?  Just fine, thank you.  Would you believe that I actually get along with my teens and like them very much?!
     Look, if you can afford to comfortably buy your kids their heart's desires, I still don't think it is that great of an idea.  How can one appreciate the little things when the big things are simply granted.  When I grew up, we didn't have much money.  My mother passed away when I was very young and my father had to arrange for child care (not easy in those days.)  He worked many long hours to pay bills and see that we had all that we needed....NEEDED.  A few times his lovely boss sent a delightful gift basket to our house for Christmas. This man's wife was a celebrated hostess in our town and she took special care with these baskets. It had just the things to charm the whole family.  They were not extravagant, but had items that were little treats and not something to be afforded on our budget.  Oh, how thrilled we were!  Ornaments for the tree, (I still have some on my tree yet), Candy and chocolates and other small goodies.  I still smile when I think of it.  I know, though, that my own kids would not get the same enjoyment, neither would most kids these days.
The simple things are really what make the holidays so enjoyable, so let's not take that away from the next generation.  Most of all,

Keep Celebrating!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Learning to Say No.

     In today's Chicago Tribune, which I read every morning, faithfully, though my husband thinks I'm old-fashioned for doing so, were two columns I'd like to discuss.  I cannot do it in one article, so here is my first rant.
     In the advice column, a woman wrote that she helps a neighbor with her children and her chores occasionally.  Recently this needy neighbor asked if our heroine would drive her daughter back and forth from sport practice, which she happily did.  Upon discovering that the reason her services were needed was because "Miss Needy" was at a 15 hour film festival!  Of course, one feels dreadfully put upon at that point.
    First, let me say, I am NOT "Ask Amy".  Mostly because I am extremely cantankerous and opinionated.  Political Correctness is not in my vocabulary.  I WILL tell you the truth, if you need it, whether or not you think you do.  And here's the truth:
     WHAT?!  You need me to do WHAT?  Now look, if you are in chemo, I'm your go-to person, but if you are gallivanting about town, you need to get your butt back home and parent your kids!  Personal note: I once had a neighbor who did the same things.  True story: she asked me on various occasions:

     1.) Did I have any raspberries, because she was going to make muffins and didn't have any. (We live in Chicago, any store is a 5 minute drive away.)

     2.) Did I have chicken, she needed some for dinner.  (I'm happy to give a cup of sugar or butter, but, PLEASE!)

     3.) Can she borrow my car?

     4.) Can she use the phone?  She forgot to pay her bill and needed to call the utility to restart it. (Okay, but after a long time, I walked in on her sitting in my kitchen chatting to a friend.)

    5.) Can she get some ice?  (They were having a party to which we were not invited and forgot to get ice.)

     6.) Can she have some vinegar for dyeing Easter eggs. (because Easter always just sneaks up on you!)

I used to acquiesce to most of these requests.  We were new neighbors with small children.  I thought I might need to call in those favors, but she turned out to not be available for any of my requests.  Eventually, the straw broke with the ice request.  I said I didn't have any ice, which of course, is ridiculous and she knew it.  She stopped asking.  Whew!
     On the other hand, in the same neighborhood lived a young teacher.  I didn't know him well, but he waved and chatted when we were outside.  One day I answered the doorbell and there he stood, hands covering a very red and watery eye.  He told me that he just had Lasik, but something wasn't right and could I take him to his doctor.  I said, "Get in the CAR!", loaded up my toddlers and drove him as quickly as the law would allow!

Dear readers, some things you must say "Yes" to regardless of the hassle and some things you must say "No" to regardless of the triviality of the request.  Do not be a doormat and do not be a "Miss Needy."  Above all:

Keep Celebrating.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No Fan of the Boob Tube

     I just read this wonderful book, Gods Like Us.  It follows the movie stars from the early inception of film until modern day.  I found the early days the most interesting.  I must confess, I don't watch much TV.  Oh, I know, everyone says that, but then they follow it up with, "Oh, I can't miss the Walking Dead!"  or "Did you see the new Dancing with the Stars?"  To which, I must always answer in the negative.  The fact that I even know those titles amazes me, but I have recently just been asked those same questions, so I had that covered.  Seriously, I don't watch much TV, that is not to say NO TV, because I like the Fox News Channel (Yes, I am an evil Republican), Fox Business Network (I really love the financial world, I missed my true calling with that), and Turner Classic Movies, (Especially when they have the pre-code or silent movies).

     You may ask what I have against television and really it's not anything snobbish.  It's this:  I can't sit still and stare at something that long.  Simply cannot.  Now I love to read, but I can easily put the book down when I am restless and go do something else.'d think I'd be the skinniest thing on the planet!

     When my children were young, I told them that the TV sucked their brains out and that if they watched too much they'd be mindless zombies.  This was said with a chuckle and a twinkle in my eye, so they were not horrified or traumatized.  Still they knew there was an ounce of truth to it and none of the kids are TV addicted, (though the jury's still out on my son).  Instead of TV for background noise, I'd put on the radio or jazz Cd's.  (I like jazz.)  I did worry (sometimes still do) that they'd be out of the loop when it came to socializing, but with the Internet, the teens tend to pick up references if necessary.  And it seldom is.

I have to be a bit snobbish here, because I do hear about the shows that are on.  I saw on   Drudge that a new show with hillbillies will be airing rather than that one about New Jersey.  There is also a show about a beauty pageant child.  I don't get that at all.  So, I don't watch TV.  Gives me time to plan another get-together.  We will have people for New Year's Eve and that will need to be planned soon!

Keep Celebrating!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chocolate Covered Orange Peel

     Every year at Christmastime, I make chocolate covered orange peel.  You know, the ones you buy in boutique chocolatiers.  Let me tell you, there is a reason they are so expensive!  What a task they are to make!  However, they will certainly make your friends sit up and take notice!  Here is what I do!

Take 4 oranges with a nice thick skin and remove the peel as neatly as possible.  Eat the flesh or juice the oranges.  I present my hubby with a nice glass of fresh squeezed juice on the morning I make them.  Then cut the peel into neat strips.  Place the peel into cool water to cover and boil for 5 minutes, drain and do it again...4 more times.  Then you make a sugar saturated solution of 1 cup water: 3cups sugar and gently boil the peel for 20 minutes in the solution.  Drain the peel and place them separately on a wax-paper covered baking sheet and let them dry for a few hours.

When relatively dry, melt a large block of good quality dark chocolate.  This is your biggest expense.  I find Trader Joe's brand to be the best quality for the money.  I have tried milk chocolate orange peel, but it is just not as good.  Okay, once the chocolate is melted, you must cover each strip in the lovely, velvety chocolate. This is the part that is the biggest pain.  If you can get your hubby to help or maybe one of the kids, it goes by much quicker.  I am fortunate that my middle daughter loves all things domestic and she doesn't even think this is a chore!  My husband helped once....once.  I don't blame him.  Place the peel on a freshly wax covered baking pan and place in the fridge for a bit.  Then pack into a cookie tin and dish them out at gatherings or give a few to honored friends.

Everyone will want the recipe, but no one will ever make them, so you will be special!

Oh, I should mention, do NOT skip a step.  My sister in law made them once, completely skipping the 20 minutes in the syrup.  This is the candying step and, may I tell you, without it you just have ...yuck.  Also, you should know, the repeat boiling in fresh water for 5 minutes at a time removes the bitterness of the peel.

One good thing to mention, you can eat them without covering them in chocolate!  They are very tasty just candied!

Keep celebrating!