Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kicking Off Our Fun Old Fashioned Family Christmas

As promised, I switched to 24/7 Christmas mode the day after Thanksgiving. I shopped in two different cities! Friday night the kids helped me hang the stockings by the chimney, (although with only a modicum of care) and Saturday we put up the tree. Saturday night Chip and I watched Christmas Vacation, and today we will attempt to illuminate the outside of our home in homage to the great Clark W. Griswold, Jr.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Last week, a Noggin cartoon character prompted a discussion on being thankful. Chloe turned to Chip and said, "I'm thankful for yooOOUU, Daddy!" Chip melted into a puddle and we both agreed it was the cutest thing ever.

On Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to prompt another discussion on thankfulness, but didn't want anyone to feel left out by Chloe's clear preference for her Daddy. I told the group that we needed to say what we were thankful for, but up front we needed to agree that we are all thankful for friends and family, and also for Barack Obama. I was trying to encourage creativity!

Chip was thankful for sushi. My MIL and I were thankful that we live in the United States. My FIL was able to stick to the no-friends-and-family rule, but couldn't stop himself from being thankful for Obama and the hope he brings.

My kids were the opposite - they wanted us to know how much we were loved. They did, however, attempt to follow the rules. Connor just pointed his finger around the circle when asked what he was thankful for, and Chloe ran around giving everyone hugs. But they never said "family," so technically they followed directions for once.

I didn't say it on Thursday, but I think it's safe to say that I'm thankful for my kids' sweet creativity.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Day with No Turkey

This year, we went flip-mode on our usual take-all-comers-brilliantly-planned-by-Steph-masterpiece  Thanksgiving meal at our house.  We made the trip to Nashville (with Steph's mom in tow) to hang out with my folks.  Since they're vegetarian, that means no turkey.  At least no real turkey.

This is Quorn turkey:

...which is really not bad.  But then, the turkey is always the least important dish to me anyway.

It's the sides that are the important things to me:

(That's roasted butternut squash casserole with goat cheese, leeks and hazelnuts)
Two words:  Sister and Schubert.

Mac and Cheese doesn't do it justice-- Fontina, Gruyere, cheddar, and Parmingiano-Reggiano.
See all the rest, along with desserts here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Photo Assistant

My kids have tolerated my preoccupation with my camera the last couple of years, especially since they were invariably the subject of my photographs.  I still take pics of them, of course, but this year I've broadened my horizons to take pictures of other people's kids, events and food.

Last Sunday, I had two shoots for Memphis Parent magazine-- one at Baskin Robbins and another at the Zoo.  I thought it would be fun to take Connor along, since his sis was napping, and his mother sometimes just needs to be left alone to watch the NFL on Sundays.

He did that thing where he resists anything new:
"Connor, how'd you like to come along on a couple of photoshoots with me-- I'm going to take pictures at Baskin Robbins and then the Zoo." 

"Noooooo!  I want to stay home with Mom." 

The nonverbal whining commences.

"Connor, remember when I told you to come with me to take pictures of Kendo, and you really didn't want to go, and I made you go and we had a great time?"

"Yeah, but I want to stay home with Mom."  More whining.  Steph and I exchanged a look and the decision was made.

"Put your shoes on, let's go."

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is knowing when to push and when to respect.  In this instance, Connor needed a push.

He really perked up when I told him he could have ice cream while I shot the nice family at Baskin Robbins.  He was an excellent assistant at the Zoo, alerting me to those brief moments when the 16-month-old in the family was actually staying still for more than 2 seconds.  (If you're interested, some of the pics of these lovely families are here.)

When it was time to leave the Zoo, Connor admitted it.  "Dad, I had fun going with you to take pictures."  I laughed and said, "Good!  Just remember that next time when you don't want to do something new and I make you go."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Homemade Pizzas

Steph got the idea from a restaurant in D.C. to make pizzas with this interesting combination of toppings-- roasted red peppers, sauteed spinach, roasted butternut squash, balsamic carmelized onions, pecorino romano and goat cheese.

Genius at work.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, he did.

This morning, the air seemed a bit more crisp and clean, the sky a little bluer, my mind a touch less cloudy.

As we listened to McCain talk about great presidents during his concession speech, Steph and I realized that George W. Bush will go down as one of the most influential presidents of our time.  What single man has affected the course of our country more?  The Bush administration has done more to influence our economy,  ideological divisions in our country, our constitutional freedoms, and most importantly our standing in the world, than any administration in my lifetime, certainly.  It goes without saying that this influence has not been positive, and repairing the damage is no easy task.

The spontaneous elation across the country is just something I've never seen.  Sometimes politics seems like sports to me-- did your team win?  Are they coming on strong at the finish?  Last night was like my hometown team won the World Series, except that it's not just me-- it's thousands of hometowns across the country.

(Check out Shannon and Carrie's awesome spontaneous communal celebration in Ann Arbor here.)

Obama's acceptance speech contained no mention of fear, terror, or hate.  It was unifying and inspirational.

For the first time in years, I feel hope.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


My first assignment for the Commercial Appeal was published yesterday!  (Link here.)  The pics in the online version are pretty small, but the paper layout was huge and actually made me look like I know what I'm doing.

Of course, I owe it all to Stacey-- she got the assignment in the first place and finagled me into the job.  It was definitely the most challenging shoot I've ever done, what with the fluorescent lighting, the ugly meeting room, and the abundance of fast motion.  I found the Kendo fascinating, though-- so much so that I sometimes forgot to take pictures and just watched.  The speed and fluidity of the motion was amazing.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rock N Romp

As you may know, Chip is one of the people who organizes the RnRs. As such, I usually let him do the recap blog post. This time, however, I'm taking it. Chip usually tows the party line, but after three years I think it's time to hear about an RnR from me.

For the last show of the season, the RnR was at the Metal Museum. I have no idea how that came to be, but it was awesome! To begin with, the weather was perfect. But so was the venue. Plenty of lawn space that was far enough away from the music for easy conversation, but also easy access to the bands if you or your kids wanted to focus on the show or dance. And the river rolled along in the background.

Chloe and I missed the first band (the Nellie Olsens), so all I can say about them is that based on pictures I saw, their makeup was awesome. This particular RnR had four bands and lasted four hours, the longest show yet. And that's just too long. I know that it isn't a requirement to stay the whole time for most people, but since Chip has to get there early and then stay late to clean up, it really dominates my Saturday. And Saturdays are the only time I get things done! This weekend I was able to clean up some while Chloe napped, but I wasn't really able to run errands. Now I have to squeeze a trip to Target into my lunch hour tomorrow! But I digress.

We got there right before The Barbaras started. They were great! Chloe was excited to dance along, and a lot of adults were standing up near the front to listen rather than lounging around talking. They were a perfect band for an RnR.

The True Sons of Thunder were next, and they were not my cup of tea.. I know they have their place in the music world, but I didn't think they were a good fit for the RnR. They were really loud, too loud for me to tell what was going on musically. Everyone in the place moved as far to the back as possible while this band shocked all the mommies at the RnR. Even Chloe, who was determined to dance, asked for earplugs! She actually led me back to where the earplugs were, since I couldn't hear her well enough to understand what she wanted. Multiple people came up to me and, knowing that Chip has some pull, asked me if I could do anything about cutting this band off. I don't know if that was necessary, but I would like to think that the RnR organizers took note of the crowd reaction rather than just acting like that volume level was no big deal.

I've been told repeatedly by the RnR braintrust that they talk to the bands about the volume beforehad, but that they can't really ask them to turn it down once they start. I've always thought that was BS- I mean, the whole hook for the RnR is for it to be kid-friendly! The only complaints I have EVER heard about the RnRs is that they are too loud. In fact, yesterday at the show I met a woman who told me she went to a few and then dropped out because it was too loud and her family just didn't enjoy them. She went yesterday because of the venue, and felt better about the volume other than this one band. I told her the story about how you can't ask a band to turn it down, and she said, "YES you can! Whatever!" Heh. I've been telling Chip that for three years, ever since my two-week-old baby was yelled at by Noise Choir at the very first RnR. Fortunately, most people come anyway and it's just a few people who are willing to act on their dislike of the volume rather than just bitch idly about it like I do. The whole program is awesome, and I'd hate for one little flaw to turn people completely off!

The final band was the best thing that has ever happened at a Rock N Romp. The Luv Clowns featuring Harlan T. Bobo. AWESOME. Now I say this despite the fact that I visited with people during their set rather than paying strict attention. But that's okay- they were geared towards kids! They were dressed as clowns, they had puppets, and they sang songs about how cleaning up your room sucks. All the kids sat attentively in front of the stage and loved every minute of it.

The RnRs have always seemed to me like a kid-friendly venue for adults to hear music, but it turns out they can also be an adult-friendly place for kids to hear music. I think everyone approaches it differently- my kids like all kinds of music, so I'm happy for them to hear regular bands, but of course they enjoy music that is geared towards them. Usually, in my car, it's Chloe who requests kid music. However, at this RnR she ignored the clowns but danced alone while the super-loud crappy band played. And Connor, who these days only likes Weezer, was glued to the set for the Luv Clowns. I like that they had the option, but I definitely tuned out during the puppet show. Are the RnRs for kids or for adults? I think it's for both, and each band affects everyone differently. No matter what, I'm glad to have Rock N Romp in my family's life.

So ends another year of Rock N Romps. I sure do enjoy them! I'm looking forward to next year already. If you'd like to see more pics, you can find them here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Sad State of Halloween

My neighborhood sucks on Halloween. We found this out the hard way, when Connor was two and we forced him into a costume with the promise of candy. He and Chip went around our cove and found that almost no one was home to give out any treats. The following year we didn't care, since Connor was too scared to put on a costume and troll the neighborhood, but it still sucked that our doorbell only rang a couple of times. How did we manage to move into a neighborhood with no kids and no sense of community?

Last year we got with the program and traveled to a far superior neighborhood for trick or treating. Unfortunately, neither kid thought the endeavor was much fun. It was dark, we were knocking on stranger's doors- too scary! After visiting two houses the mission was aborted and we hopped in the car to go back home.

This year, finally, both kids were into it. We went to multiple Halloween festivals, had parties at school, and were ready to go back to the far superior neighborhood for another try. It was great! My Care Bear and my Spiderman and their many costumed friends had a great time trotting up and down Stonewall collecting candy. Chloe was dilligent in saying both "trick or treat" and "thank you," and could be counted on to stand on a porch repeating "thank you" until she was acknowledged with a "you're welcome." It was a lot of fun, and we got a good haul of candy.

As we drove back to our neighborhood, we were confronted at the entrance by a family standing out by their mailbox, begging us to stop. "Don't you want some candy!" they yelled, at our car and others. I felt so bad for them, knowing they were new to the area and that they had probably hyped the holiday to their toddler. Now they were standing in the yard, wishing that someone would come by. As we continued into our cove, I saw that the one house that had been decorated for Halloween was still optimistically lit up. I felt profoundly sad for them and the other family, knowing what a disappointment the night must have been.

Let this be a lesson to you all- never buy a house until you know what Halloween is like in the neighborhood. It's more important than you think.