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Chai Cider – A Delicious Fall Treat

Good Earth Decaf Chai Tea and fresh apple cider make a warm fall treat that is not too sweetI love fall. I love the crisp air and the changing of the leaves. It feels like a time to draw in and take stock.

I’m a also an apple fan and my lust is sated come late September. I love fresh cold apple cider and usually buy a gallon as soon as our local apple farm stocks a fresh batch. Non of this pasteurized $#@! for me, I live on the wild side. A few glasses in, I remember that cider is REALLY sweet. It seems a sin to water it down, but I can’t drink it straight for more than a glass or two.

During a snack break the other day, I was looking for something warm, but not too sweet. I spied the chai tea bags and set about brewing a cuppa. When I went to the fridge for milk, I spied the apple cider. I love me some good mulled cider, but it takes a while to get a full flavor. Hmmm I thought, what happens if I put the cider in the chai and mix it all up? It’s apples and spices and chai, OH MY! The chai adds a nice spice to the cider, while the cider adds some sweetness to the chai.

Try it yourself

  • Heat water to boiling and pour over a chai tea bag (I use Celestial Seasonings or Good Earth Decaf Chai).
  • Make sure you leave room (I fill my mug a little over 3/4 of the way full).
  • Add the cider like you would milk. Stir, and enjoy!
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Summer Memories AND the T-shirt

Summer 2010, been there, done that and now we have T-shirts!

When I saw this article in the most recent issue of Family Fun Magazine, I knew this was a craft I could actually complete and it might even come out looking good.

I talked to the kids about their favorite activities from our very busy summer and then tried to find photos that captured their experiences. Family fun suggests assembling your memories and snapping a photo, I used Photoshop Elements to arrange photos and scanned the other items. It is easier for me to manage digital formats.

Other than that, I followed the instructions exactly. We’re all very happy with the results!

Helloooooooooooo!

Sorry for almost two months of radio silence, but wow it has been a busy summer!

Since I’ve last checked in there have been a few blog worthy occurrences. My dad visited from Arizona (and yes, we watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s together), we caught up with some of my mom’s family on Cape Cod, took a 10-day trip to Washington, D.C. for some volunteer work and sightseeing and we added a new member to our family.

We had a wonderful visit with my dad, he’s a low maintenance house guest. He’s been a desert dweller for the past 5 years so he really enjoyed the lush green of the Northeast. We visited some places nearby and took a day trip to the lake. Towards the end of the weekend, we met his sister for lunch and a little coastal fun.

After Dad left, we had two extra girls for a few days. We brought them home, picked up my mom and headed to Cape Cod for the annual family gathering at my Aunt’s house. It was a short trip, but a great time was had by all. The highlight for my daughter was winning the egg toss with my cousin T. We returned home for a scant 16 hours. Just enough time to do the laundry, finish packing for our trip to D.C. and catch a few hours of sleep. Thankfully, we were already 90% packed for D.C. so, we threw in a few last items and took to the skies.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip to Washington, for at least 4 years and the trip did not disappoint. The main purpose was to attend the NOAH conference. NOAH is an organization I co-founded that supports people with albinism and their families. I was 14 at the first conference and there were 70 people in attendance. There were over 900 attendees in Washington, D.C. NOAH Conferences are always fun, but as a former National Conference Chair, I volunteered to be the utility infielder and assist with any challenges that arose on site, so I didn’t get to any of the sessions. The kids had an awesome time. Each was in their own group. Among other things, Mim’s group had an introduction to Judo, and talked with doctors about what it meant to have albinism. Fish’s group had a lesson on how to travel safely on the Metro and then they were off on small group adventures throughout D.C.

Speaking of the Metro, I think Mim could have stayed in the hotel and ridden the trains throughout the system and been as happy as a clam. He enjoyed reading the maps to tell us what stop we were at and how many stops we had left until we reached our destination.

After the conference we did some sight seeing in Washington. Our stops included, several Smithsonian museums, The Spy Museum and Mount Vernon. I hope to do some more detailed blog entries on trip in the near future. Let me summarize by saying that Washington, D.C. is on of my favorite destinations. I highly recommend a visit, just not in July.

We lost our beloved dog Daisy in February. All of our hearts needed some time to mourn, but by June, we were all talking about wanting another dog. While summer is the best time to get a dog, we knew we had a lot of travel at the beginning of the summer, so, we decided to wait until we returned from D.C. to seriously entertain the idea. Dory, joined us the Sunday after we returned. The story of her arrival and immersion into our family is a blog entry for another time. She is a very sweet dog and has made herself right at home.

The kids are squeezing in a few last summer activities, Mim is at the town’s theater camp and Fish is rock climbing at Girl Scout Camp. They head back to school in just about two weeks time. I knew we had a jammed summer, but it flew by even faster than I expected.

Even though I have not been blogging here my fingers haven’t been completely idle, I’ve had a few posts over at Live to Write, Write to Live, the blog of the New Hampshire Writer’s connection a group a co-founded with other local writers. Stop by and check us out if you have a minute.

Our adventures have given me lots of fodder for this blog. I promise once the kids get back to school, I’ll be on a more regular posting schedule here. I miss it.

So, what have you be doing this summer?

The Verizon Wireless Arena

The other night my husband and I went to see Daugthry at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. I’ve seen lots concerts in venues ranging from a crowded living room to a packed stadium. I tend to prefer, the smaller settings, but lets face it, the chances of getting Daughtry to set up in my family room or even my back yard are slim to non-existant.

The Verizon was a great addition to the New Hampshire landscape. Before the Verizon, New Hampshire sports and music fan’s choices were included driving to Massachusetts or summer shows at Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavillion in Gillford. I have a huge soft spot for outdoor venues, but the short summer season in New Hamsphire puts a damper on things. Plus, that type of venue isn’t suitable for certain types of performances (namely any of the Disney on Ice shows).

According to the web site, the Verizon was opened in November of 2001. Seating capacity is 10,000 to 11,000 plus depending on the show set up. Hockey and end stage concerts seat fewer while basketball and center stage shows seat more.

The Verizon Wireless Arena is easily accessible, from route 293. Parking isn’t too bad. Lots closer to the arena charge between $10 and $15 to park, but if there is a minor league basball game, at the same time, spots can be in short supply. If you are willing to walk a few blocks, you can utilize municipal parking garages or even street parking. My husband and I walked 5 blocks but we paid just $2.25 to park. For the price of a cup of coffee and a little exercise, we zipped right out of the garage and on to the highway to head home. Not bad at all.

There are lots of great restaurants with in a short distance of the Verizon and if you are inclined to make a night of it, there are several hotels within stumbling distance.

I’m not a huge sports person, but I’ve seen Toy Story on Ice, the Ringling Brothers circus and a handful of concerts at the Verizon. We had front row seats for Toy Story on Ice (thank you Grammy) which is hard to beat no matter where you see a show. Because it is a smaller arena, it was a perfect place for the circus. We had seats mid-way up for that which provided optimum viewing for the whole show.

As for concerts well, in my opinion, the acoustics leave a little to be desired, but that is to be expected from a building constructed out of concrete and steel. Depending on the act, I might choose to drive to Massachusetts if say the same band is performing at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium or Meadowbrook at a later date in the tour. Still, the Verizon Wireless fills a niche in the New Hampshire sports and entertainment landscape.

For more information on the Verizon Wireless Arena visit their web site. Tickets for most shows and events are available via Ticketmaster.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and I was not compensated in any way for my words.

Chandler’s Cakes and Candy Supplies and a Birthday to Remember

Top Intense focus on decorating, Piping a cake border, Sue's finished cake, A masterpieceKids birthday parties. Ugh, they can be such a minefield. I want to do things that are memorable, but not ridiculously costly. Fun is the primary focus as opposed to extravagance. In my daughter’s case, the party also needs to have a creative component.

This year, we were scratching our heads trying to think of something a little out of the ordinary but also budget friendly. Last year, we took a trip to American Girl Place in Natick, Massachusetts. We had a lovely time, but due to the expense, my daughter was limited to bringing one friend. This year, she wanted to include more of her friends so we had to come up with an activity that had a lower per attendee cost. My Mother-in-law found the perfect solution. Cake decorating with Sue Chandler of Chandler’s Cakes and Candy Supplies in Concord.

Sue and I coordinated ahead of time, for the type of cake (chocolate) and preferred colors (blues, or greens) and a theme (music). On the appointed day, I borrowed my mother-in-law’s car and picked up a gaggle of giggly girls from school and headed for Concord. I would have preferred a weekend, but when I called in March, all the Saturdays in April were booked.

When we arrived, there was a cake waiting for each girl to personalize along with a beautiful bouquet of blue balloons. Each girl had 3 pastry bags of buttercream frosting, one each of pink, purple and teal. They also had a some musical notes made out of sugar.

After a quick snack (I brought, some healthy snacks, along with juice boxes and bottles of water), Sue set about the business at hand. She demonstrated techniques and encouraged the girls to be creative. She was engaging and complimentary and the girls ate it up (no pun intended). They experimented with spray on food coloring, they used cookie cutters to outline an fill shapes, they made borders and polk-a-dots, and a added a handful of sprinkles for the finishing touch.

When each girl’s cake was completed and boxed (what an awesome party favor!), we gathered around to sing Happy Birthday and enjoy the cake that Sue decorated. Then it was time for presents and before we knew it goodbyes.

From a parent perspective, I don’t think we’ve ever had an easier kids party. The girls had a great time and we didn’t break the bank (total cost for 7 girls was just over $125). Working with Sue was a breeze, I didn’t have to clean up and each girl went home with a favor that wouldn’t collect dust in the toy box.

From a kids perspective all the girls had a blast. When asked if she would recommend it for other kids my daughter gave an enthusiastic YES!. She wants to go back next year and try the candy making class.

Details:

Chandler’s Cakes and Candy Supplies

7 Perley Street

Concord, NH 03301

603 223-0393

Chandler’s has a full compliment of cake pans and decorating supplies as well as flavorings, candy melts and molds for candy. You can event rent a pan! Perfect for making that character cake that is a must have this year and a has been by next year.

Sue also teachers cake decorating and candy making classes. For more information, schedules and pricing, visit her web site at http://www.chandlerscakeandcandy.com/. To schedule your party call 603-223-0393 and tell her I set you!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this blog post. This is my personal experience with wonderful New Hampshire small business.

The First Weekend in April

BUSY! BUSY! BUSY!

Friday was Fish’s tenth birthday. So, there was some of this.

A chocolate bundt birthday cake with heart sprinkles

Grammy & Grandpa gave her a “Just Like You” doll from American Girl and we thought she was going to cry.

Fish hugging Grammy

The arrival of her new doll encouraged her brother to get his doll, named Sonic. (This is an improvement from the doll’s original name, Knuckles. Don’t ask, we don’t know).

Timmy Hugging Sonic, his Bitty Twin Boy Doll

Saturday brought gorgeous weather that just begged to be enjoyed, so after we completed a few chores, we headed for the local skate park so Mim could get back on his big bike and Fish could try her new skate board. I tried it too 😦

Mim and fish at the top of a ramp.  He on his bike her on her skateboard.  My scraped knee.

Sunday of course was Easter and the whole family gathered at Grammy’s house. There were deviled eggs, a ham, an egg hunt, a bunny cake and crack pie (a dessert that will have a blog post unto itself in the near future).

An egg dyed to look like a devil, the bunny cake, Grumpy old man smiling, dyed eggs, a hidden egg, Fish hunting eggs, Cousin Smiling, Group shot of kids counting their egg hunt loot.

We came home and while the grown ups settled into a food coma, Fish taught herself how to ollie.

Found My Bliss At Blissdom ’10

Images from the Blissdom'10 ConferenceI’m home, I’m jazzed and I’m really glad I went to Blissdom10 in Nashville.

I was fortunate to have an awesome travel experience. Unfortunately, some got stuck in Nashville unable to leave due to the massive storm that socked the mid-Atlantic region. Although I guess there are worse things than being stuck at the lovely Gaylord Opryland Resort, I know I was glad to get home.

Thanks to my roommate Jennifer Wilson. It was pure serendipity (and great luck on my part) that we ended up rooming together, but I couldn’t have asked for a more fun and considerate roommate. Jennifer blogs about digital scrapbooking here at Simple Scrapper and also about life and food at Midwest Neruotica. Pop over and see her and tell her I sent you.

At the beginning of the conference, Alli Worthington one of the conference organizers told the assembly of 500+ women “We decided to go big or go home” and I’m really glad they didn’t go home. Blissdom ’10 was a great event and their hard work showed at every turn. Hats off to Alli Worthington, Barbara Jones and Paula Bruno. Take a bow ladies, ya done good.

My roommate Jennifer came to the conference armed with a specific list of goals and questions. In hindsight, I did too, but I didn’t wasn’t conscious of them them in advance and they were more internal than external.

Of late, I have been feeling overwhelmed. I know I want to write, I know I want to blog, but making time to write, making it a priority has been a real challenge. As much as I was really looking forward to the conference, I felt guilty about going since I wasn’t blogging as much as I would have liked. I was also feeling put upon and weighed down by family responsibilities.

This weekend away surrounded by all things blogging, brought me to some important realizations. No one is going to make this happen but me and I really DO want to make this happen. No one is stealing my time to write but me. No one is asking me to put myself at the bottom of the list, but me. It was a disturbing, but freeing realization. Freeing because if there is one thing I am certain about in life, it is that I cannot change others, but I can change me. And, since I’m the one causing the problems, I can fix them too.

While I Blissdom, I generated a number of important questions about my blogs, and I also identified some next steps that must be taken. Lastly, I practiced some self care. I made sure I ate relatively well, I socialized, but I also snagged some alone time. Most importantly, to me, I exercised all three days. The first day, I walked in the gray 40 degree temperatures. I was nice to be outside with only a fleece. The second and third day, I swam in Opryland’s amazing indoor pool. It was an excellent kick start to the day.

Blissdom has given me tons of content for this blog. A few sessions provided some interesting writing prompts, which generated some writing that with just a little tweeting will be posted here. I met lots of awesome people some of whom I want to introduce you to. While I have a renewed focus my writing, there are still only so many hours in a day, and a large number of my hours are committed to nurturing my marriage, raising two beautiful kids maintaining our home, so I’m going to string you along 🙂 and share bits and pieces of information as I can.

Lest you think I am all talk and no action, I have made some changes. I committed to leaving the house twice a week to write. To that end, I woke up early Monday morning, early enough to dress, shower and even put on a little make-up before I woke the kids. I made conscious choices about the clothes I put on, maintaining comfort, but also insisting on style. I did the same things at Blssdom and felt like they were good habits to continue. After I put the kids on the bus I made a beeline to Starbucks. My husband did an awesome job holding down the fort while I was gone, but, there were piles on the island and laundry awaited. I was (still am) behind on my Facebook news feed and Twitter, not to mention my RSS feed reader, but I was there, at the keyboard writing and I can’t tell you how good that felt.

So, thank you to the producers of Blissdom, thank you to my tribe (more on that later) and thank you to my husband for his support. I am home, I am jazzed and I’m on it!

Blissdom highlights
Kevin Carroll’s inspiring presentation including:

  • “Your work can be your play if you always have joy.”
  • “How’s your want to? Can’t do anything with a broken want to.”
  • “Sometimes you need to resign from adulthood.”
  • I also learned the rules to the game toilet tag.

Learning the phrase “Brain Porn” from Megan Jordan.

The awesome media training session from Dan Barber at Fleishman-Hillard. I’ve been a part of media out reach campaigns before, so not all of his information was knew to me, but it was awesome to have all the important information included in one place and Dan related to the audience exceptionally well.

Bearing witness to a reader recognizing a blogger she reads regularly (BookieBoo) and smile of pride that crossed the blogger’s face when BookieBoo lavishly complimented her dress.

My awesome tote bag from Land’s End

My husband tweeting he wished I’d win a Roomba from iRobot.

The yummy Hebrew National Hot dogs in puff pastry (thank you ConAgra foods for your sponsorship).

I met LOTS of people.  I have a 1 inch stack of business cards to sort through, but it was cool meeting two bloggers I regularly read, Amy from Chicken and Cheese and Casey from Moosh In Indy IRL.

The pool at the Opryland hotel.

I had a “ME TOO” moment during the Striking Balance session when Megan Jordan admitted she was completely overwhelmed by the check list from the Building Community session.  I seriously gained some perspective when she explained what she was going to do to battle the overwhelm.

Watching Casey sit straddling a wall four feet high to get great shots of Harry Connick Junior.

All the cute babies that thankfully were not mine.

The flower arrangements for the arrangements Redenbacker pop corn break. The arrangements coordinated with the types of popcorn being served. (like Limes with Salt, or cheddar cheese).

The creative center pieces at lunch on Friday and discovering that I do like grilled eggplant. I might just have to go buy George Duran’s book. He swears I’ll like Brussels sprouts if I do. I’m skeptical, but after the eggplant, I might give it a try.

Southwest airlines calling ME to rebook my cancelled flights.

Watching Casey and Tanis sing redneck woman

Admiring all the little chubby cheeks and nummy toes but not having to deal with the smelly diapers or the cranky babies 😦

Watching Casey dedicate “I Want You To Want Me” to Heather Spohr (a.k.a Mamaspohr ) at Karaoke.  I don’t know the back story, but both of these ladies have been through there own personal versions of hell this past year and their friendship is inspiring.

I have a list of action items that I will be tackling slowly.  The truth is on a good day I have about 2.5 uninterrupted hours a day to work and very few days fall into the category of “good days” in that respect, but, I’m going to keep plugging away because I have recommitted to my passion thanks to the Ladies of Blissdom.

Nine

She’s nine.My nine year old sporting her snazzy new glasses.
Almost ten she reminds me frequently.  Soon to be double digits. Dear God, how did that happen?  A decade?  Really?
There is the constant physical growth.  She’s long and lean and it seems 2 minutes after I buy her new pants or shirts, she’s sporting floods and complaining because her belly button is hanging out.
She’s most definitely a ‘Tween.  I usually hate pop-culture descriptors, but this one is dead on.  She’s not a little girl anymore and she most definitely (and thankfully) is not a teenager.  Yet.
In recent weeks, she has informed me that she no longers wishes to eat from a kids plate, the character dishes kept in the lowest drawer for easy access.  No, she’s ready for the glass plates, that the grown ups use, and no more plastic cups or utensils either.  I am corrected, if forget. She is gentle, but she corrects, none-the-less.
Her room, she informed me, is just a little babyish for her, but she’s personalizing it to meet her needs, so it will be ok for now,  She says this as if to warn me that a redecoration will be necessary in the not too distant future.  I’m not ready to part with the light lavender walls or the border of large pastel flowers.
Last week was perhaps the the coup-de-grais of recent growth and development. An angst ridden conversation about why she can’t stay home alone. She IS nine after all.  Don’t we trust her? Sweet Jesus, her Dad and I are in for a long ride through the teenage years.
The thing is, at nine, she is responsible and the factors that prevent me from even considering the idea of letting her stay by herself for any length of time are external, and completely beyond her control.
First, SHE’S NINE!!!! Responsible or not, she is nine years old and dammit, that is just too young to stay home alone.  I mean there’s DSS to consider.  I don’t know anyone in Social Services, and frankly, I’d like to keep it that way.
Next on my list of reasons why Fish can’t stay home alone is location.  I grew up in suburban Philadelphia the houses were maybe 50 feet apart.  Many in the neighborhood worked, but by the time I was staying home alone, I knew lots of our neighbors (from my days peddling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door) and could have gone to many of them for help if I needed it.
If she’s at home alone and something goes awry, she could run to her grandparents, but there have been and will continue to be large chunks of time when they will be enjoying their retirement in locations nowhere near our home. If they aren’t home, we’re talking a quarter of a mile walk to a neighbors house that we know.  (Why yes, our zip code is EIEIO, thank you very much).
Aside from the foolishly practical reasons, there is the is the sentimental and emotional reason.  I’M not ready for her to stay home alone.  She’s my first and will always be my baby.  I know that I have to let her go.  I know she has to grow up and that she will do so MUCH faster than I am ready for her to do so, but still, SHE’S NINE!!!!
Despite warning me earlier in the evening, that she wanted to be talk to me about staying home alone, I was still unprepared when the conversation occurred.  I tried to reassure her that this wasn’t about trust, that her Dad and I did trust her and that she had been demonstrating tremendous amounts of responsibility, but my statements sounded weak even to me.  I tried to explain that is just wasn’t GAH “appropriate“ for a nine year old to be staying by herself.  I explained that her Dad and I could get in trouble for leaving her home alone. I could see in her eyes, that her innocence and age appropriate naivete didn’t believe me.  I’m secretly glad that she hasn’t had the life experience that will teach her that the world can be cruel, but still I don’t like being at odds with her.  Yes, I know on a logical level that if I’m doing my job right, I’ll be at odds with her frequently during her teens years.
I suggested we talk with her Dad about this.  He’s just better at explaining things that I am.  I’m much more the ”because I said so“ type and I know that doesn’t fly anymore.
At some level I’ve known this was coming.  I’m trying to prepare myself.  I’m reading Queen Bees and Wanna Bees to familiarize myself with Girl World as it exists now, but it is slow going because I just am not ready to go there yet.
The Red Cross offers a class that teaches teens and tweens about staying home safely.  The Recreation Committee has sponsored this class in the past.  I’m optimistic they’ll do it again. She also has the AmerIcan Girl Book about staying home alone.  I think I need to read it so that I can continue this discussion on her terms.
I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready, so I guess it is time to suck it up and plunge in, but, did I mention, SHE’S NINE!!!!

You Caan’t Get Theyah from Heeyah

Remember when Saturday Night Live used to be funny? In the fall of 1989 there was a skit called “What’s The Best Way”.  It poked fun at the way New Englanders give directions. I remember half the room laughed hysterically and the other half sat there with puzzled looks on their faces. Clearly, they’d never asked for directions from a native New Englander.

Let’s face it, New England roads can be quirky to put it politely, and the way natives give directions can be equally as peculiar. We offer guidance one of two ways, either we assume that everyone has lived here all their lives and knows the history of every building and plot of land. Or, we assume everyone is a tourist and proceed to tell them about every nook and cranny that shouldn’t be missed. You know you have become a native when a) you understand the directions they give and b) you start to do it yourself.

Example #1

I was talking with the mother of a boy from my son’s class the other day and she was trying to clarify where in town I live (names changed to protect the innocent).

Her: “Are you near Suzy Smith? You know Suzy right?”

Me: “Oh, I know Suzy, but I’m not sure where she lives.”

Her: “”She lives in Jane Jones’ old house.”

I gave that “Whaaa?” look and we both laughed.

Example #2

My husband and I heard an advertisement on the radio for Ron’s Toy Shop.   I thought it an odd time and station for this type of ad until my husband pointed out that Ron’s Toy Shop sells and maintains toys for BIG boys.  He then proceeded to tell me where it was.

Him: “I think that’s the place down on Route 3 and 28 in Hooksett.”

Me: “Oh, Ok so North of where the drive-in used to be, and the 99 that that they torn down and rebuilt.”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “Like sort of in the area of the Chinese food place that burned down.”

Him: “Right across the street actually.”

Me: “Oh, I thought that company that Lulu’s father used to work for was right across the street?”

Him: “Not any more, they went under and I think Ron’s took over the site.”

Image courtesy of Google Maps
Image courtesy of Google Maps

Two things you need to know:

The Chinese food restaurant burned down in the 80’s, LONG before he and I got together.  I’ve NEVER EVEN SEEN THE PLACE, but I know where the empty lot is. I doubt most people even know there WAS a Chinese food restaurant there.

Secondly, when I was doing some cursory research for this blog entry, I discovered that Ron’s Toy Shop is actually on Elm Street in Manchester. 8.5 miles South of the location we identified.

Thanks goodness we own a GPS!!!

Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Ron’s Toy Shop.  They don’t know me, and I only know them from their ads on the Radio.