Friday, September 12, 2008

After the party - September 3, 2008

Well we have finally done it.

The 6-year old party of the century had been concluded.

And a good time was had by all!

When it comes to kids parties I am of the firm belief that it isn’t a party unless the adults have a good time too. When I sent out the invitations we gave the parents the opportunity to leave their kids for a few hours or stay and enjoy the festivities. No one left. Everyone stayed with his or her kids and everyone had a good time. Maybe its because I was serving Sangria. Maybe it was because there was chili, macaroni and cheese, fresh buffalo mozzarella, cole slaw and a bunch of goodies. Maybe its because there was a balloon artiste extraordinaire. Whatever the reason everything worked out great. The kids went upstairs for most of the beginning of the party and made a lot of noise and the grown-ups had a chance to talk and catch up. Pete, my balloon guy was getting ready so I had a game planned.

“TIME TO PLAY PASS THE BOX!! Hey kids wanna play?!” Some said yes, some said no but by the time we got started everyone was on board especially my aunt who convinced everyone she was 6. So we sat in a circle and passed a box while some music played. I think it was the Ramones. The person holding the box when the music stopped got to take off the wrapping paper. BUT WAIT!! There is more paper underneath, eight layers to be exact. Eventually, we got to the bottom of it and found the pirate ship in the super ball in the plastic packing material in the box.

I had more games planned and more prizes that I gathered from the Scholastic store but we never got to them. Actually it is amazing what we never got to.

I had gotten a face-painting book and planned on putting sharks on some kids faces. I went through the book and pretty much decided that I could handle this but… I forgot to paint faces. I did get to paint some at another party we were invited to the day before school started so all was not lost.

I forgot to have the kids make erasers. There is this really cool stuff called Sculpey. It is polymer clay that changes texture when you put it in the oven. One variety of Sculpey turns into an eraser when it is baked. I figured that since it was a few days before school was scheduled to begin, erasers would be a propos. Its really cool stuff but I am going to have to save it for another party or play date activity.

Nor did we get to decorate shark cookies as we had planned. Unfortunately with the dough production, chilling time and making all the other food the cookies just didn’t materialize. The good part though is that we did get to take them to a party at our friend’s house a few days later. That worked out well. Who can refuse a sugar cookie in the shape of a shark, T-Rex, Sabertooth, brachiosaurus, or Pteranodon?

So if I didn’t get to any of that stuff what did we do? Well, as kids will do, we just had fun. They played dress-up, ate cake, ran around, had balloon sword fights and eventually left with their very own copy of What do Sharks Eat For Dinner? also from the Scholastic store.

I have this thing about goody bags. Some people say, “I don’t get it, we didn’t give away goody bags when I was a kid,” but when I was a kid I do remember goody bags. I like the idea of sending kids away with souvenirs of our party and I know the kids look forward to it. What I try not to do is send the kids home with more stuff that won’t get used or be thrown away. Some of what we have done in the past is to do a craft so the kids can make something and take it away with them (eraser Sculpey anyone?). One year we had the kids use textile paints to paint on t-shirts. That worked well. This year they got books. I think people were appreciative.

I was kind of freaked out about the party this year. It hasn’t been an easy year and the party seemed to be just another thing I had to do. I didn’t like feeling that way but as I got going I began to lighten up and enjoy the process. I ended up having fun cooking, going shopping at the Scholastic store, hanging streamers, and ordering the cake. One thing that’s terrific about Scholastic is that they publish a bunch of titles that you can buy in bulk inexpensively. That helped. Also since the store is dedicated to children the environment is good for shopping for one thing while your kid does something else. Sure you tend to leave with something you weren’t planning on but buying something cool and educational for your kid is really a joy, don’t ya think?

Monday, August 18, 2008

August 18, 2008 - Spreading the Word

Can I help my friends feed their families better?

As I struggle to find a direction for my blog I found myself away with a good friend who went to the market. She is a smart, educated woman with two children. I mention this because she came back with a plethora of processed foods in boxes. Stuff I have a hard time figuring out how a smart educated woman with two children would buy. I am sooooo not perfect and I know that so I helped to put the stuff away and tried, in my head, to figure out how I would parlay that stuff into food me and my son would eat. As I did that I came to the realization that there are times when I will have to give myself over to processed food. This was one of those times and I would be grateful as I was going to be fed. Besides, she also bought some of the best lobster salad I have ever had.

So here is a run down of what was in the larder.

I asked her to get lemonade but all they had was Newman's own. I don't like to buy that one because it has High Fructose Corn Syrup. She knew I didn't like it but didn’t know why. I resign myself to the fact that sometimes that's all there is. Instead she got Hi-C lemonade boxes. From evil to greater evil.

Chips Ahoy refrigerated cookie dough with colored mini chips (I couldn't even count all the ingredients)
Shake N Bake
Sugar free (i.e. Artificially sweetened) popsicles. Since she has a diabetic condition I guess I can understand that one.
Orville Redenbacher butter flavored microwave popcorn
A case of bottled water
Lay's salt and vinegar Stax
Aunt Jamima pancake syrup (corn syrup with a HFCS chaser and a dash of caramel coloring)
Eggo Cinnamon toast frozen waffles
Bagel Bites
Bagged romaine lettuce form California (we are in farm country)

I’m no journalist. I get my information from what I think and hope are informed sources; Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, Babrara Kingsolver, the film King Corn, the Park Slope Food Coop’s Linewaiter’s Gazette, Gourmet magazine, Vegetarian Times, NPR shows like Leonard Lopate and Radio Lab. I mostly trust these sources. I do not trust the food industry and government agencies that would argue that irradiation is the answer to e-coli in our food rather than looking at the production of the food itself.

I, as do many of the people I know believe the food system in this country is broken and do our part when we can to be active in small ways; buying local when possible, cutting down on packaging, eliminating plastic bags from our lives.

Now I know I could be doing more to save food and out planet like…
Not buying all those yummy things from Trader Joe’s that come in frozen trucks or train cars from places far away.
Not buying cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery and going without Parmigiano Reggiano.

For now I will stick with trying to eliminate HCFS from our diets, buying local when possible and not buying anything with ingredients I can’t pronounce.

You get the picture. I’m not perfect and will never be but what I am trying to do more and more is feed my family food. Real food. I got so much joy making my partner’s birthday dinner and really it wasn’t hard. The whole experience from the shopping to the preparation made me happy. I just have to be more focused on doing that more.

As I was writing this I was wondering if artichokes could be grown in the Northeast and found that there are people doing just that. Why? Because I wanted to know whether or not I could buy them and still reduce my carbon footprint. It does seem as though there are people trying to cultivate artichokes in this region but not on a large scale. I am including a link for a blog entry that addresses just this.

When I replayed my few days away, I realized that we actually ate very little of that processed stuff and a good time was had by all. When I go back I am going to plan a few menu items and treat my friends.

School will be starting in two weeks. Now I can start planning lunches and figuring out how to make lunch at my son's public school a more enjoyable experience.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August 11, 2008

One down, one to go.

We had my partner’s birthday dinner on Saturday and it was a success. On the menu?

Seared baby eggplants and shishito peppers
Aged Manchego and a nice little soft cheese from The Cowgirl Creamery in Northern CA
Whole wheat pizza with caramelized onions, smoked mozzarella and oil cured olives
Carrot cake without raisins
Negronis and wine

I made some fresh pasta for Gusty who wasn’t interested in much of our little feast. I was proud of him though because he tried the gazpacho which he didn’t like and discovered a taste for Manchego.

Now for Gusty’s party.

We put together the guest list, which isn’t unmanageable and now I just have to work to inexpensively indulge his desire for a shark themed fete. I hope I can find the cookie cutters. I am also going to put together a simple craft where the guests can make their own shark masks. That should keep them busy and pretending for a good long time. I am also going to get that Klutz book and work on the face painting. Between all that and Pete coming to do his balloon magic we should have a heck of a party. Gusty also wants some streamers in shark themed colors; blue, gray and black.

For a party favor I am considering these cool science books. Each one is about a single subject and has transparent pages that show the insides of things. We have one about the human body and another about dinosaurs but the one Gusty saw and like the best is about Egypt. It has the insides of pyramids and rather politely talks about the humans who built them. He has a fascination with mummies as he does with sharks. Anyway, I think there is one about sharks that will work as parting gifts.

As far as the food goes, that will be the next thing I tackle.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August 7, 2008

Well Gusty’s birthday is in three weeks but my partner’s birthday is on Saturday.

In his style we are keeping it simple. He invited his friend Tim, another artist and friend over for dinner and I am going to make something special. Daniel chose Italian. A universal crowd pleaser and I want to do something unusual and seasonal. Lord knows my son and partner would eat noodles until hell freezes over but… it is a birthday. So far I have grilled radicchio with Sicilian sea salt and balsamic vinegar and some kind of little fried shishito peppers. Then I am going to make pizzas with caramelized onions, smoked mozzarella and oil cured olives. That is a combination that we are really fond of. I’ll make one Margherita pizza for Gusty. There is also a dip I like to make that has:

One bag of frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 can of chickpeas
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Some grated Parmesean cheese
Olive oil

Put everything in the food processor except the oil and whiz. Drizzle the oil through the feed tube until the desired consistence is reached.


As far as Gusty’s birthday is concerned I think I have settled on August 30 and he decided that we should have the party in the apartment. He wants a shark theme and our friend Peter Waldman to come and entertain the kiddies. Peter is a glass artist and in his spare-time a balloon manipulator extraordinnaire. I am posting some of his work here for you to see. His hats are whimsical, colorful and down-right fun.

Now the challenge is to come up with some creative ways to introduce sharks to the masses and spend very little money. I have the cookie idea I spoke about in my last entry but what else? The Scholastic store has those Klutz books. Maybe I can find one that will help with some aquatic themed crafts. I know they have a highly recommended face-painting book.

If I go there I’ll take Gusty with me. He loves sitting inside The Magic Schoolbus looking at the books and reading on the dinosaur’s tail. Unfortunately we always leave there with something we weren’t intending to buy,