Monday, February 23, 2009

Candy and other sweet memories

There are certain childhood memories that stay with us for life. Maybe some of the most potent are sensory memories - the enticing aroma of your mother's cooking, the sweet taste of your favorite Candy. Remember the sweet, creamy goodness of a piece of chocolate, melting in your mouth? We may not have been connoisseurs, but we knew good when we tasted it.

When you're a kid, even a piece of Gum is a taste delight. I remember those special days when my mom would give me some change and we would walk downtown to buy an assortment of candy.

Well, I am all grown now and I still have my favorites, although candy isn't a staple of my diet these days. In some ways that makes it even more special. Is it any wonder that candy is one of the top gifts people give for Valentine's? No matter what your age, you still feel a smile creeping over your face when you tuck into some soft and chewy gummy bears from Haribo. It's a universal guilty pleasure.

So when you come upon an occasion - birthday, anniversary - anytime you want to give something special, consider the gift of candy. It's like giving someone a little piece of childhood.

What I Did on My Vacation

The long school vacation has ended and strangely, I have mixed feelings about the return of Monday mornings.

At the beginning of a full week's vacation from school, the children count up all the free days ahead, lost in dreamy contemplation of nine consecutive days of sleeping in. At the beginning of a full week's vacation from school, I try to think of interesting and fun things we can do to break up the monotony, and to make the week memorable. OF course, I intend to include educational experiences that will open their minds to new academic frontiers.

Needless to say, we don't often actually do any of those things. When it comes right down to it, inactivity is what they are looking forward to. Truthfully, it's what I am looking forward to as well. Slothful is an ugly word, but let's be honest.

School vacation means nine consecutive mornings where I don't have to set three separate alarms set to make sure I get the kids up on time. Nine mornings where I don't have to trick a groggy Boy into the bathroom and then shove him under a shower while he proclaims that he's clean enough already. Nine mornings without the Girl's questionable taste in music being loudly shared from the bathroom as she straightens her hair. Nine mornings where I don't have to worry about tardiness, imagined illnesses that would prevent their going to school or explaining to The Boy that it IS important that his socks match. No hurried search for the shoes that mysteriously walked away during the night and hid themselves under the couch. No shouting "it's February" to The Girl as she attempts to leave the house without the unfashionably warm winter jacket.

Of course, it goes without saying that it's also nine consecutive days of siblings bickering, televisions blaring, loud music, loud voices, increased clutter and a heavy cash outlay for snacks and pizza.

But come Monday morning, when that first alarm sounds its warning bell, the trade-off seems so worth it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Reality Works

The Girl called me today with an astounding announcement.

"Mom, I need to get a job."

She then launched into a list of reasons why she needed one and where she could get one and valiantly defended her position against any objections. There was only one problem.

I hadn't made any objections. How could I? The Girl wants to work! It's like a dream come true. I honestly thought this day would never come, the day when she did work on purpose. I think hard work is exactly what she needs, but that's why I don't hold out hope that she'll like it.

Of course, there are details to work out before she gets permission to get a job. She will have to keep good grades, which means doing homework on time and not a week late. She will have to save some portion of it. She will have to learn that money can only be spent once. And the real shock will be when she gets that first check, after having mentally spent the money a thousand ways, only to find out that the government has already taken its legal big bite of her hard-earned wages. Reality can be like an ice cold slap in the face.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fire The Tooth Fairy!

The problem with those mystical, mythical figures of childhood is that their reliability depends so much on the ability of parents to remember that a visit from them is due.

Although Santa was very meticulous this year in fulfilling all of The Boy's requests, I cannot speak very highly of the performance of the Tooth Fairy.

The Boy informed me one evening that he had a loose tooth. He was rather anxious to dispense with this wiggling remnant of babyhood but despite his best efforts to wrest it free, the tooth stubbornly hung on. He went to sleep with visions of monetary gain slipping from his grasp.

Much to his delight, the tooth picked its moment the next day and neatly fell out into his hand. He quickly transferred the tiny bit of enamel to a zip-loc baggie for safekeeping and to keep it safe under the pillow. Sleep came bringing dreams of piles of cash, but the morning brought only disappointment. The Tooth Fairy had not been to collect her prize.

Well, it was the weekend, I explained, perhaps she takes the weekends off. This seemed reasonable to him, after all, he takes weekends off from school.

Two nights went by and still the Tooth Fairy had not arrived. By this time The Boy had become rather suspicious and weighing several alternate stories as to why the Tooth Fairy was so unreliable, decided that he had probably stayed up too late over the weekend, rather than that she had been out partying and forgot him. So he determined to go to bed early and give the Tooth Fairy a wider envelope of time in which to do her work.

This apparently did the trick, because the Tooth Fairy did indeed show up and manage to deposit a nice sum in exchange for the tooth. He was very happy and proud of himself for having determined the cause of her seeming dereliction of duty.

However, there was still one oversight. The baggie containing the tooth had never made it under the pillow and the forgetful Tooth Fairy had gone off without it. I had also forgotten to go find it and hide it, but I wasn't sure The Boy had noticed that it was still there, until The Boy appeared and asked this question:

"Mom, if the Tooth Fairy left me money but forgot to take my tooth and I put it back under my pillow, would she come and leave money again"?

"She didn't take the tooth?" I exclaimed in mock horror. "That Tooth Fairy ought to be fired and a replacement hired. First she forgets to come for two nights running and then she forgets to take your tooth?"

"I didn't say she didn't take it", The Boy quickly backtracked. "I was asking hypothetically, IF she didn't take it".

Hypothetically. While my mother's heart swelled with pride over each and every syllable of this new vocabulary word, used with such comprehension, one thing became clear. This kid is just what these mystical mythical characters need to keep them in line.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Bathroom Vanity

For the first time in my life, I have two bathrooms. With two kids, this seems like an essential amenity, so I can't understand how my mother survived living in a small house with one bathroom and five kids.

But the bathroom could use some spicing up. I remember when my father made my mother a new vanity for her bathroom and how it transformed the whole room. The key is to find the right place to find quality and stylish bathroom vanities. If I had the space, I would love a vanity with two sinks and twin mirrors. Check out the link for some examples, they're gorgeous

Truthfully, this is an older house and although I love the roominess, I know that I am going to need some new things to make it seem warm and homey. Currently, I am shopping for a new bed, and have found some gorgeous bedroom furniture here. I am torn between something modern and sleek, or a more traditional, classic sleigh bed. There's something about wood that always draws me, no matter how elegant more modern styles are.

I definitely love shopping online, and although there are lots of choices, whether you are looking for bathroom vanity sets or any other type of furniture for your home, finding the right place to shop is key.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chacun A Son Gout

One of my favorite phrases is the French "chacun à son goût" or basically, "each to his own taste". However, the good old American "there's no accounting for taste" better fits my current decor.

Each and every room is wallpapered except the bathrooms and the kitchen. I have nothing against any of these wallpapers, most are of excellent quality and the designs are tasteful and quiet. Very quiet. Inaudible. That's really the problem. They are all variations on a theme of white background with nearly invisible shades of blush, pink or more white with a hint of silver. Any and all of them would be lovely in a little girl's bedroom, or Barbie's bedroom. The wallpaper that graces the front hallway and stairway looks like Barbie's bridal shower wrapping paper.

All this quiet elegance has a sameness and understatement that is coma-inducing. These great walls leading to impossibly high ceilings are covered in bridal gift wrap.

So, when The Girl decided her room should be painted a garishly bright pink and the doors should have zebra striping, I agreed much more readily than I might normally. And I am glad I did.

The Girl's room is like an ice-cold energy drink after an exhausting workout. It's like jumping into the cold Atlantic on a hot summer day. It's refreshingly not shades of white and silver.

There's color. Lots of it. Teen girl color, admittedly, but color.

I now look forward with heightened anticipation to all the new coats of paint of whatever color that we manage to slap on any walls in whatever part of the house. My eyes, which were slipping into a state of ennui, will be grateful for the stimulation.

And as for the garish pink, well, chacun à son goût, I always say.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Save the Pilot Cracker!

There are some New England traditions that carry on from generation to generation. In the case of one tradition, I didn't even realize its importance until I researched the reason for its disappearance.

One thing that my mother always stocked in her cupboards was Pilot Crackers. These were plain but hearty crackers in a rectangular shape. Nearly as large as a piece of bread but not so wide. Although they were widely used in chowder, my mother often ate them with butter and jam with her tea. As kids, we often used them as a substitute for bread in making a sandwich and they are the perfect complement for some cheeses.

Back in 1995, the manufacturer of these crackers decided to stop making them. To our delight, there was a hue and cry went up from the many lovers of the crackers that we considered a staple. Nabisco, who made the crackers, relented and put them back on the shelves. Why don't companies ever do market research surveys before making these decisions?

Sadly, I bought my last box of Pilot Crackers some time last year. Yes, the company has again downsized their product line and decided to take them off the market. I hope that fans of this favorite are able to convince them to change their minds once again. I know there is still a large contingent of New Englanders for whom chowder is not chowder without a Pilot Cracker. And you know how seriously we take our chowder...

Baked Bean Philosophy

You don't realize it until you are grown and on your own with the full responsibility of cooking for yourself, or maybe until you are in a strange place with unfamiliar cuisine, but there's something you yearn for and cannot obtain. The further we get from our home and childhood, the stronger this need becomes. We want what Mom used to make. Mom's food was more than good, more than tasty. There's a comfort, a warmth and a feeling of strong bonds and love in a mother's cooking.

I experienced this not long after my mother passed away, when my father was ill and it seemed sure the house would be sold. My childhood was being disassembled. Suddenly, I wanted my mother's baked beans. I set about finding out her recipe and buying the ingredients and although they were not as good as hers, I felt slightly more at ease. Something about my mother still existed, some part of my childhood could stay with me, in some small way all those memories could live.

I made Baked Beans several times over the course of a year, but haven't made them since. They are not a favorite of my family, and so this memory must remain all mine. Still, I know that I can revisit Saturday night Franks and Beans anytime I like, and as long as I know that, my mom and my childhood will never die within me.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Snow, Snow, Snow

The winter started off magically, with a lovely, fresh, layer of snow just in time for Christmas. Having a white Christmas seems to make it all that much more special.

It snowed again the next week, several inches of fluffy flakes that sparkled in the sunshine and twinkled in the moonlight.

It snowed again the week after that, enough snow this time to make travel difficult and close the schools. The children were ecstatic. The driveway was full of ruts and ice. The car got stuck. The motor club was called to tow it out as it would neither go forward nor backward, but sat stubbornly wedged between snowbanks with its tail end halfway into the street.

It snowed every day the week after that, and then it snowed as soon as that was cleared off the street.

Admittedly, we have wonderful and picturesque views of the winter wonderland that surrounds us, but a few storms ago the snow stopped being quite so picturesque.

I think I could handle it if we had already gotten our quota of magic for this season.