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What I Want to Teach My Son (If I Have One)

2 Nov

I just witnessed a most disgusting display of juvenile chauvinism at lunchtime in the quad.  Discussions like the one I overheard should never be part of a mutually respectful environment such as a college campus, but so often are.  These discussions lead to a male sense of entitlement that, in turn, leads grown men to believe that their paternalistic view of the world is what’s best for women in general.

Allow me to elaborate.

A young college student, I hesitate to call him a “young man” because it implies manners and respect that he has not yet achieved, was discussing his girlfriend with a friend of his.  Talking about how she was always down, depressed.  How her job prospects were slim.  How she didn’t care to ask his dad for help.  “It’s just calling on a contact!” he argued.  “You know, they say that guys are the more immature of the species, and I guess in some ways we are, since we make more immature jokes at older ages.  But women?  They’re such children when it comes to stuff like this…”

He went on. “You know, there’s a reason why things have turned out the way they did.  I mean, can you imagine if we had a woman president and she was on her period?  And other countries just wouldn’t talk to us if they were on their periods too?  I mean, obviously, there’s a reason why men are in power, right?  There’s a natural order to things.  If it was supposed to be the other way, we’d be the ones without the power.”

To his friend’s credit, he answered, “Well, does that mean that black people were obviously supposed to be slaves, since that’s how THAT turned out for such a long time?”

The misogynist laughed.  “I don’t know man, I guess that’s true, but women…  They’re just a species of their own.  They make no sense.  They’re just totally irrational.”

Their conversation continued.  I seethed.  How, in this day and age, could a young person say such a completely irrational, insensitive, illogical, and chauvinistic statement?  Aren’t today’s students meant to be enlightened?  Public education is supposed to widen your worldview.  Is it possible that this student had missed the very point?  At the college where I work, by the way, women are the majority; not in every major, and we’re still making progress in the STEM majors.  But I would have thought that outside of the 1950s or 60s, such ideas would have been limited to backwoods country types with very little education (my apologies to anyone who lives in the country).

I was silent until I got up, finished with my lunch.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I turned around and faced the child.  A jock with a muscle shirt on, he looked like the very definition of everything I don’t want my future son to be.  “If your mother heard what you said about women and presidents,” I said, quietly, but startling him just the same, “she would be most disappointed.”  I walked away.  I wanted to tell him about all the women we have serving in high office around the world, and all the women who managed to get over their “periods” and get some excellent work done.  Eleanor Roosevelt.  Margaret Thatcher.  Sally Ride.  Madame Curie.  Mother Teresa.  Benazir Bhutto.  For God’s sakes, the last two Secretaries of State – the very people who talk to other countries on a daily basis as the representatives of our country – had two X chromosomes.

I’m certain that he’s now rationalized to his friend that I proved his point; women are crazy.  Or something.  But maybe, just maybe, I got through to him.  Perhaps.  If only it were that easy in every instance.

At any rate, this got me thinking.  As you may know, I’m expecting.  I find out in under three weeks whether we’re having a boy or a girl.  At this point, everyone’s been saying girl, but I know my husband has a (small) preference for a boy.  Either way, I’m thrilled.  But I started thinking hard about what I want to teach my son, if I were to have one (now or in the future), about the differences between men and women.  Such as:

  • Women are just as smart and capable as men.  There is no physiological reason that women’s brains would not function as well as men’s.  In fact, studies have shown that women generally have better capacity for memory and multitasking.  Want to see this in action?  Go ask any mother.
  • Women are very much capable of higher-level thought and study.  Often, lack of opportunity is confused with lack of achievement.  But women can and have broken the glass ceiling for hundreds of years in the fields of science and math; whether or not we know their names is another matter.  Anyone know about Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin?  She discovered that the sun is made up of hydrogen, and that hydrogen and helium are the most abundant elements in the universe.   Before women had the right to vote in this country.  And before she, an English woman, could officially be awarded a degree at Cambridge (they didn’t give degrees to women until 1948).
  • Women might not be as physically strong as men, overall (that is, they can’t bench press as much).  However, their bodies are made with reproduction in mind.  Physically, someone with both X and Y chromosomes (biologically male) cannot get pregnant.  No, the movie Junior couldn’t possibly happen in real life.  Anyone who has studied any part of the science of reproduction can tell you that this is a pretty incredible feat, and that women’s bodies are well-equipped for the task.  Anyone who has gone through natural childbirth can tell you that there is very likely no greater pain that can be survived; and it takes an awful lot of strength to do that.
  • EVERYONE has specific reasons why they might do things (apply for/not apply for a job, be friends with someone in particular, act a certain way in a relationship).  These reasons are built on both nature and nurture – personality and environment – and our ideas about what is right and wrong are formed through our experiences.  Therefore, just because something makes perfect sense to you doesn’t mean it makes perfect sense to someone else.  Therefore, we have to do our very best to treat everyone’s decisions with respect.
  • On that note, women’s hormones do sometimes affect how they feel.  Contrary to popular belief, SO DO MEN’S.  There is a vast psychological arena studying things like responses to hormonal and pheremonal stimuli and decision making.  Generally speaking, large decisions are not affected.  So whether a country would “not talk to us” or, as has been argued, bomb another country, based on a single woman’s hormones, is not something that could ever be tested.  But if it were, we would inevitably find that a woman has no more chance of making an irrational decision on that sort of scale based on hormonal changes than a man does.
  • Mutual respect should be the number one priority of anyone, man or woman.  I believe that this extends to respecting one’s wishes, beliefs, religious or political affiliations, and right to control one’s own destiny.  In case anyone’s wondering, joking about a woman’s lack of judgement when she’s hormonal, or her inability to make a decision, or her education, or her sexuality, or her weight are disrespectful.  Likewise joking about how men “always think with their reproductive organs,” or how they can’t have a fulfilling emotional relationship, or how they are too sensitive, are disrespectful too.

I hope that my calling upon his mother helped me to get through to that particular young person.  Perhaps he can, in time, call himself a man.  Maybe when he learns respect for everyone – and doesn’t make such illogical statements.  But even if I didn’t, I hope that I can teach my future son that viewpoints such as these are not only uncalled-for, they’re flat wrong.

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Family

2 Mar

I’m a firm believer in welcoming as many people into your “family” as possible.  I was blessed with phenomenal parents and a sister who is my very best friend.  I married an exceptional partner – a man with an incredible mom (whose dad I wish I could have met because I’m sure I’d love him too) and brothers who treat me like I am their sister (I am, after all, but it feels very special to be welcomed like that), and a multitude of cousins and aunts and uncles.  They love me so much that they never stop asking me when I’m going to get pregnant because they want a grandchild/niece/nephew to spoil! 😉

But I also have other people I consider my family.  People my heart has “adopted.”  People who are more than just friends to me.  Maybe it comes from my parents – after all, I grew up calling (and still call, yes, at almost-32-years-old) their best friends “Aunt” and “Uncle.”  I grew up with three sets of grandparents, too, and not because of divorce.  My mom had been “adopted” into a family when she first came to California, before she met my dad.  Once my dad came along, he was quickly accepted (in fact, he became best friends with the patriarch) and we were their first grandchildren.  They didn’t treat us any differently once they actually had biological grandchildren of their own.  When someone is family, they’re family – no matter who they were born to.

I didn’t decide to make these people into my “family” – they just were.  Sometimes completely subconsciously.  Sometimes from the moment I met them, sometimes completely out of the blue.  Further proof that how well you know someone, or how often you talk with them, doesn’t determine how important they are to you.  It also doesn’t necessarily make any sense at all.

Sometimes I feel like a momma duck with ducklings, even with the “family” older than me, checking up on them to make sure they’re going to be safe and happy.  I think it’s my personality to want to make sure the people I love are okay.

My best friends from high school and college are my “brothers” – in fact, when we weren’t sure if my dad’s back would hold up long enough for him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, my second choice was walking up the aisle with one of them on either side of me.  One is married now, and I am so thankful that he found someone I could love like my sister; the other has just started dating someone and I am pretty confident I’m going to love her, but I’m still holding my breath (seriously, these are worries that go through your head when your male best friend first starts dating someone, silly as it sounds…  Will she like me?  Will she feel weird that he’s already got a girl that he shares so much in his life with?  I suppose I’m lucky, too, because my husband’s best friend is a girl, so I know she went through the same thing, and I know I passed that test!).

In Kindergarten I was best friends with two girls.  We’d dance around the soccer field, singing doo-wop songs in harmony with choreographed dance moves.  One of the girls moved to another school shortly afterward; the other moved a few years later.  Fast forward to the end of Fifth grade (I went to a Catholic school from K-8) when I found out that (my favorite) one of the two was moving back to town and coming back to school.  We were together almost constantly that year until disaster struck (her dad was killed in an accident) and she moved away again.  Thanks to the magic of technology we’ve stayed in intermittent touch ever since; we even got to see each other for a nice long day when I was visiting relatives a few years ago (and we’re hoping to do the same this year).  We might not talk every day, but when we were together it was like we’d never been apart.  We’re always laughing, too, that we’re sisters separated at birth, because we’re still so similar – we even get sick at the same times (yes, 2,000 miles apart).

About 9 (!!) years ago I met six women I consider sisters, all through the same thing.  I won’t get into it here (nothing bad, just slightly embarassing to look back on…  Itwasasillyfanthingokay?), but from the first week I knew them I knew they were going to be a big part of my life.  For two of them, we’re just months apart in age, and we’ve grown from nerdy 23 year olds to…  Well, less nerdy 32 year olds (I hope).  We’ve been in each other’s weddings.  We’ve had sleepovers like teenagers, staying up giggling all night.  They’re the first people I think of when something amazing happens, or when I need an honest opinion.  The others range in age from just a few years older than me to a few months older than my mom, and while we don’t talk as often as we used to (I remember one day in particular when we stayed up until about 3 am chatting via e-mail; considering one lives on the East Coast, that was awfully late!), we keep tabs on each other, celebrate with each other, and support each other.  For a long time I was the baby sister, and I guess I still am, but they’ve helped me to grow up into the woman I am today.

Two summers ago I was introduced to someone who would open my “family” circle even wider – at the time, just someone else I was singing with, with an amazing voice, who could sight read music (okay, I was more than a bit jealous!); I didn’t get close to my “little sister” until last summer, when we sang together again, in a similar group, along with several other members.  One of the members was a young girl who reminds me so much of myself at her age; her mother and I started chatting and realized we had so very much in common.  Soon the three of us grew close.  Within a few months my “little sister” and my “older sister” and I could hardly think of life without each other.

Around the same time I was introduced to another “sister.”  We’re both wedding professionals, and officially met over coffee.  But it was as though we were just picking up a conversation where we left off; we immediately started talking about all the great things we were going to do together.  We’ve collaborated on projects and created beautiful things, come up with ideas and will (hopefully) be starting something else amazing together soon; the latest was a photo shoot we put together in just one crazy week, an insane ride where it felt like we were sharing a single brain.  We disagreed on one single point throughout the whole process, and we were both totally surprised by it.  It’s strange to me that I’ve known her less than a year, since it feels like I’ve known her my whole life.

About a month ago I was going about my business when I was suddenly struck by worry for someone I’ve known for two thirds of my life, the father of my ex boyfriend.  I know it sounds bizarre but I was suddenly (and when I say suddenly, I very nearly pulled over on the side of the freeway to check on him) worried to distraction for a man I haven’t seen in over a decade.  I followed up and it turned out that he was very sick (sicker than anyone knew at that moment, in fact), and he had surgery a few days later.  I kept tabs on his surgery and recovery, and a few weeks later was struck by the same worry.  Sure enough he’d been airlifted from the recovery center to the hospital about the same time I was thinking of him, with an infection, which (thankfully) cleared in a few days.  I’ve always felt a lot of love for him and his wife – they were so very good to me for many years (before, during, and after I dated their son; in fact I was thrilled to send them a Christmas card last year) – but I had no idea I’d “adopted” them until this experience.  I guess you can never have too many godparents.

This week it appears I’ve “adopted” another sibling.  It’s kind of a strange case, and I’m still not 100% sure I understand it.  But regardless of whether it makes sense, I was introduced to my new “brother” several years ago, as potential boyfriend material.  It would have been a rather spectacular failure in any case, for a lot of different reasons, and I’ve never been sorry that it came to a quick end (okay, maybe for a few hours), but I’ve always felt slightly protective and concerned toward him.  Over the course of the last eight years he’s had more heartbreak than anyone should ever have to; it hurts me to think about it.  Regardless of how we initially met, I am now firmly in the “protective big sister” category in both our minds, and that’s exactly as it should have been all along.  He actually apologized for treating me not-so-well all those years ago, to which I replied, “Actually, I’m glad you did; if you wouldn’t have, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now!”

Earlier this week, out of the blue, he started pestering me about when my husband and I were going to have kids.  “Why,” I asked, “are you so looking forward to becoming an uncle?”  “Yes!” he answered.  “Only I’m way more excited about spoiling your kids than my [biological] sister’s!”

I couldn’t help but feel the warmth come through in that sentence, and I grinned.

There are lots of ways to become family with someone.  You can be born.  You can marry.  Or you can somehow connect and simply choose to be.  And when it comes to what’s important in my life, the family in my life trumps professional success or personal accolades every single time.  I just feel so blessed to have every one of them in my life.

Oh, and even though my heart is full, there’s always room for one more.

I’m Still Here!

22 Apr

I just came on my own site to look for a recipe (Buttery Plain Muffins, if you must know… Breakfast!) and realized it’s been over two months since I last posted.  Oops.  I wish I could say I’ve been out saving the world during those last two months, or that I have an exciting announcement (nope, no babies around here for a while), or that I’ve been cooking up a storm and can share all my latest recipes with you…  But really, I’ve been working.

I’ve been without full-time work for over a year now.  This economy just stinks, jobs are scarce in non-computing and non-healthcare fields, and most employers want a specialty (I tend to be a generalist, and can usually do anything you put in front of me, but this fact takes me out of the running for a lot of what’s available).  I LOVED my last job and would go back in a heartbeat, but because of some regulations with how I was hired (nothing I did – and no one did anything wrong at all, I was just classified as a special interim employee, and because the last position was at a government institution, there are a ton or regulations about employee classification…  No one expected the position to still be vacant by the time the regulations kicked in, or I’d have been hired in a different way), I had to leave after a certain amount of months.  If they called me up tomorrow and asked me to go full-time I’d take the position without any hesitation whatsoever.

I’ve been planning events for a really long time (like, more years than I’d care to admit at the moment), and worked for several years as an event planner for a nonprofit.  After the wedding I planned last November, I realized how much I really loved it.  Once the photos came back I started thinking seriously about starting a wedding planning business.  Of course this was something in the back of my mind since I planned our wedding in 2008…  But I was always stalling out with the details.  What should I name the business? What should I specialize in?  What should I charge?  Was I ever going to have a free weekend?  I finally just decided to go for it, whether I came up with a killer name or not.  In a single week I just jumped right in, found a name that I liked well enough, purchased the URL, started a Twitter, and created the basic outline of my business.  I then spent a painstakingly long few months designing my logo, writing out my website code by hand, and putting my thoughts in order.

I’m still learning how these things go, taking each client as an experience to learn from, and finding that some things are harder than I thought.  I’m still learning how to charge for things like my time (8-hour-marathon-design-session anyone?), figuring out what crafts I can handle (I made a giant mess of the first fabric bunting banner I created until I realized I could use my paper cutter to make beautiful straight lines!), and looking for clients.  I’m actually teaching myself things – like how to use Illustrator – and have been really pleased with what I have been able to create (when you visit my site, because I know you will, check out the Design section of the Gallery for an art-deco peacock invitation.  It was my very first custom art piece using Illustrator and I’m ridiculously proud of it).

And of course, I’m still looking far and wide for a “real” job too (I have an interview!Tuesday! that I’m really excited about), since I’m currently not making enough money to buy ramen noodles for the month without one, and the costs of starting a business are seriously understated!!!  But at least this a) keeps me busy, b) is an awesome creative outlet, c) is something else for the resume, and d) is potentially laying the groundwork for my future.  I may decide in a year or two or five that I am so done with weddings and social events and I want to go back to having my weekends free, but I may also decide in a year or two or five that I am ready to go full-time (er, since I’m currently not working any other jobs, I guess that should be “go back to full-time”) in the event planning world.

My husband has been SO patient with me, not complaining when I took over the office with my boxes and boxes of event supplies or when I forgot to make dinner for days in a row, or when I didn’t shower all day because I was working on a deadline, or when we didn’t have any food or water or TP in the house because I hadn’t gone grocery shopping in three weeks…  He is my rock, and the reason I can even do all of this – if I didn’t have his full support I’d never have considered spending money on a new business in a financially-strapped time like this.  I am blessed to have him, and blessed to have the incredible network of family and friends that I do (several of whom are in the industry – and who have been invaluable resources!!!).  I am blessed, too, with some incredible clients.  It’s the best feeling ever when you can meet someone and realize you’d actually want to be friends with them, even if they weren’t paying you to help them create something awesome.

For anyone who is wondering, the reason that a wedding planner (or a graphic designer, for that matter, since a lot of what I’ll be doing and I’ve been doing is graphic design) charges so darn much is because we’re always working.  Like, seriously, all hours of the day and night.  I will probably just have to figure out a way to go without sleep once I get a full-time job because I’m already waking up early and going to bed late, working through meals and time with the hubby, getting up on the weekends to finish projects, and having to physically be dragged away from the computer.  It’s grueling work, and wedding season is just gearing up!  It’s not glamorous, but it is rewarding to see the faces of the people you’ve helped to have the best event possible.  I’m currently making about $.05 an hour (maybe I can raise that up to minimum wage by the time this year is over?) because a lot of what I have to do is marketing, recruiting, creating content, designing and redesigning my website (after less than 6 months, I’m already realizing I want things that aren’t there, and I don’t like things that are…  oops), and working on things like invitations, which are so much fun to do but which are, after costs, not what I’d call money makers.  I’m also spending a ton of time in thrift stores, since I’m offering unique and vintage pieces to clients and performing event personal shopping too), and even the most focused and rewarding thrift store mission (like when I happened upon a 75% off sale on a TON of vases, scoops, cake plates, etc.) involves sifting through junk for an hour.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t had much time for this blog, or for the activities I so love to share on this blog.  I’m hoping I can achieve balance, but at the moment I’m just trying to achieve.

If you’d like to check out my site, please visit http://www.EventsbyElisa.com.  While you’re there, leave me some blog love, or like me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  I do try to keep up with those forms of social media, at least somewhat.  I can’t guarantee when the next time I post here will be (although I do hope it’s next week when I attempt – and hopefully score big with – some baked goods for my friend’s bridal shower – which I’m technically planning with myself as a client…  that’s fun). If you have any friends you know who are here in Southern California and are planning a wedding (or a shower, or a birthday party, although I do tend to focus on weddings because most people say they can’t afford a planner for a shower), please share my site with them.  I try to keep my rates as reasonable as possible (reason #438 why I am making $.05/hour at the moment?) and offer a lot of services (event design, planning, and/or coordination, graphic design, event shopping, etc.), so I’m a good value too.

Oh – and if you’re curious, the muffins were YUMMY. 🙂

<3

20 Dec

It’s during the holidays that you miss the most the people you love who have passed away.

Christmas always makes me think of my grandma Noni, who was probably the best cook I’ve ever known.  She would make mountains of cookies and keep them in tins in the basement.  She’d hand roll and shape hundreds of tortellini and spinach-filled tortellachi by herself, keeping them in big freezer bags until they were ready to be turned into soup or topped with creamy tomato sauce.  She taught me to make bread (and pizza and pasta fritta, which is basically just bread dough that’s been stretched and rolled out and fried)  and never, ever said no when it came to cooking with me.

When I was very little and my mom went back to work as a teacher, my grandmother would watch me during the day.  We’d watch Sesame Street and Mister Rogers, and then Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet, on PBS.  We’d walk to my grandfather’s accounting office a few blocks away and I’d play with the typewriter and the copier while she helped him with tax-season paperwork.

During Christmas she always had two trees – a giant one, by the front window, impeccably decorated with angels and flowers, and a smaller one, in the corner next to the piano, with ice cream cones and wooden trains, especially for us girls.  We were the only grandchildren, but we had so many relatives nearby – cousins from both sides of the family, and aunts and uncles – that we were never lonely.  In fact, the house (where we’d go every year at Christmas, even after we moved back to California) had an open-door policy and was always busy.  My grandmother always had incredible food to share with whoever decided to stop by.

She’s been gone for 17 years, now, and I still wish she was here.  She would have loved my husband.  She would have loved to be around to see my future kids.  She would have been proud to watch us grow up.  I would love to be able to call her up right now and ask her for all of her recipes (they’re somewhere in my grandfather’s house, but I couldn’t find them this past summer, so my sister and I are recreating most of them for a gift for my mother – don’t tell!).  She’d be able to tell me all about family history too, and dig out photos.  She kept everything – this summer when we were looking for the recipes we found every birthday and Christmas card that had ever been given to her).  She had a beautiful singing voice and would be preparing right now for her Christmas Eve solo at church.

I dug these photos out this morning, of her reading to me.  I miss you Noni!

 

Halloween Party!

4 Nov

A few weeks back, we were at my parents’ house.  It was a party they were having for the annual Air Show at our local Marine Corps Base – their backyard is right in the flight path and it’s always a spectacular show, with planes screaming over just a few hundred feet overhead – you can even read the pilots’ names at times, if you’re quick enough.  Anyway, the point is that my parents invited my best friend and his wife to come along to the party, and we were sitting at the table with them.  We happened to ask them what they were up to for Halloween.  Nothing, they said, so we suggested they come over to our place.

We always have tons of trick-or-treaters, so even though Halloween is my least-favorite holiday (something to do with scary masks the year I was three, I think), we thought it would be a fun way to spend the evening.  Later in the month, we happened to be hanging out with two other couples and mention the idea of coming over to them too.  Suddenly we had a party on our hands!

First, decorations.  We’ve only got 2 boxes for Halloween (as opposed to about a dozen big Rubbermaid tubs for our Christmas stuff), but we were able to do a little bit of decorating.

I love these guys... I bought them about 5 years ago at Big Lots, and haven't seen any scarecrows cuter since!

Above the television sat my two gorgeous pumpkins, a bunch of our photos (including this one from our first anniversary, courtesy of Melissa McClure Photography!) and these little cuties, picked up for us two years ago by my grandmother.

I spent a lot of the morning cooking, including spinach artichoke dip.  A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for this, but I tried to make this a little more standard:

Elisa’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 bag (16 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 bag (12 oz) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped (they have these at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic or 1 medium garlic clove, chopped fine
  • additional mozzarella for sprinkling over the top of the dip

Mix all the ingredients except the additional mozzarella in a bowl.  Smooth into a greased baking dish and cover with additional cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees until cheese is melty and browned.  Notice that I didn’t say what size a dish to use – that’s because you can really use anything it’ll fit into.  It depends on whether you want a lot of brown bubbly cheese on top (use a wide dish) or just a little (use a deep one).  This will feed 4-8 people, depending on whether you use it as an appetizer or a side dish.  Serve it with toasted baguette or tortilla chips.

Waiting to be uncovered and eaten... Spinach artichoke dip with chips!

I also made these babies, gorgeous fluffy cupcakes from one of my favorite blogs, Patent and the Pantry

Pretty and tasty!

I did make a couple of adjustments to the recipe, specifically the spices.  I used 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (mostly because I actually don’t have ground allspice, plus I actually like the mixture), and a pinch of ground cloves.  I’m not a big fan of ginger in pumpkin dishes – I’m not sure why, I just have never really liked it.  Anyway, these were originally a Martha Stewart recipe, and sometimes her stuff is a little too fussy for me but these were quite easy and really delivered on flavor.  With the cream cheese frosting (at the same link), they were perfect.  Honestly.  My sister commented that they tasted like pumpkin cheesecake.  Which gave me an idea…  I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’m pretty excited.  Let’s just say that if my idea ends up being good I’ll post it next week.  Anyway, I digress.

Our dinner was a pizza bar.  I didn’t get any good photos, unfortunately, but I made a TRIPLE batch of my basic bread dough recipe.  I mixed up the dough Saturday afternoon and let it proof in the fridge overnight in two huge bowls, and then Sunday morning I took it out and let it warm up to room temperature and get all beautiful and puffy.  I divided it into roughly the same size pieces and rolled them into 1 1/2″ balls and pulled them into odd-shaped thin crusts by hand and poked them with a fork so they wouldn’t rise too much in the oven.  I made five or six dozen of them, dusting the bottoms with corn meal and baking them in batches, 5 minutes at a time.

The beginning of our pizza bar, with plates and sauces. The pizza crusts are in the big basket at the back!

The rest of the pizza bar was made of various sauces, meats, vegetables, and cheeses, laid out and labeled (you can see the cute little labels I made in the photo below).  On the menu:

  • tomato sauce (bottled – the best one I’ve found is by Barilla)
  • BBQ sauce (our favorite is Sweet Baby Ray’s – it’s very sweet but full of great flavor)
  • Trader Joe’s curry sauce
  • garlic oil
  • homemade pesto (no real recipe for this one – I just blend up some basil leaves, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in my food processor)
  • roasted garlic
  • carmelized onions (cut and mixed with a little butter and salt, and placed in the crock pot on low overnight)
  • roasted eggplant from the garden
  • roasted zucchini
  • roasted sweet peppers
  • garlic mushrooms (sauteed with a little butter)
  • artichoke hearts
  • spinach
  • olives
  • cut basil leaves
  • figs
  • cooked chicken
  • Trader Joe’s sweet Italian chicken sausage
  • Trader Joe’s pepperoni
  • garlic shrimp
  • mozzarella cheese
  • parmesan cheese
  • cheddar cheese

I know it's a poor photo, and this was before I dished out the meats. But you can see our toppings and the labels I made!

I had planned on using goat cheese too, my Mexican hot sauce, and fresh tomatoes.  But I didn’t realize the goat cheese had been opened the week before (and it was no good, sadly) and forgot the tomatoes and hot sauce completely.  Even so, one of our guests said there were just too many choices!  I say there are never too many…  Especially during a party like this, it’s totally worth giving people lots of options.  Each person grabbed one (or two, or three!) pizza crust and decorated it with exactly the toppings he or she wanted.  My favorite was roasted vegetable; my husband loved the BBQ sauce with chicken sausage and figs (no one ever said he was conventional!)

Of course I got to wear my Wonder Woman costume again, this time with a modification to the belt.  It still sort of flopped down, but at least it wasn’t unsticking all the time.  You can also see the “golden lasso” I got at WalMart for $1.75 (that Iaccidentally left at home on Friday).

I love this costume!

I also made my hubby’s costume – he was Clark Kent, wearing a blue shirt underneath his button-up that I applied an iron-on Superman logo to.  Since he used mostly clothes he already had, this was an $8 costume, thanks to Old Navy.

We had an awesome time with our friends, even though L&J couldn’t make it.  We had over 200 kids come to the door, gave out lots of pencils and plastic spider rings (what can I say?  we learned how expensive candy can be at our house on Halloween, plus it’s kind of fun to be different), and watched Halloween cartoons (including my very favorite “Disney’s Trick or Treat”, with Donald and his three nephews and Witch Hazel!  Thank you ABC Family for showing it this year!).  By the end of the night we were totally exhausted, but it was such a fun time that hubby suggested this might be an annual event.  We’ll see…  More than 6 people in our teeny living room would be a bit of a stretch, but maybe by next year we’ll have a new place?

Anyway, since we had costumes, we suggested our friends dress up too, and we took this on my camera’s timed setting:

Happy Halloween!

My Beautiful Niece

14 Jun

I just got back from a whole week of visiting with my husband’s family.  I wanted to share a little bit here about one of my favorite parts of the whole week.  My niece.

You see, my niece, D, is six years old.  Her favorite animal is the penguin, and she could spend all day at the aquarium looking at them.  She loves swimming and kept wanting me to throw her into the pool. She’s an excellent eater – the night before we got there she had frog legs with her grandparents and we couldn’t find a thing that she wouldn’t eat happily (also – one of her favorite words is “Yummy”).  She likes the pretty fireworks, but not the loud ones.  She loves to read, but her favorite thing to do is have us show her flashcards so she can identify things.  And I have yet to find a picture flashcard she has that she didn’t know.  She loves to hear “Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly!” over and over.  She hates to have her long beautiful hair brushed.  She doesn’t watch much TV at all, but she did throw a pretty good pitch in Wii baseball.  She plays sports off the Wii too – this year she was part of a soccer team and a baseball team.  She gives great big puckered up kisses but every once in a while she’ll lick your face instead.  She adores canoeing and will happily splash other boats, sticking her arms and legs over the side and into the water without fear (and once, her head!).  She loves to “fly” on knees, be flipped upside down, do summersaults, blow raspberries on bellies (and have them blown on her own!), and jump from her bed to the air mattress her grandma was sleeping on for part of this week.  She has the most gorgeous smile you’ve ever seen on a kid.

Oh yeah, and she has Downs Syndrome.

D is an amazing, amazing kid.  Downs or not, she’s a better eater than any ten kids I’ve known, combined, and is more fearless than many little girls quite a bit older than she is.  Like other little girls with Downs, D has her share of problems – she didn’t walk until she was 3 (although you’d never know it now, the way she tears about!).  She’s still in pull-ups.  She has trouble forming words “correctly”, although she communicates extremely well (just not all verbally – she uses a lot of American Sign Language and has taught a lot to her parents and grandparents; I took ASL for a year and a half in college, but she was making sure my hubby knew all her often-used signs before we left!).  In addition, she was born with a heart condition and had several surgeries before she was five years old.  And she’s got ADHD.  This kid has so much against her.

But D is a happy, sweet, loving little girl.  Probably more so than most her age.  She’s got impulse issues (she grabs a lot of things, like hair and computer keys and other people’s drinks), and doesn’t much like waiting.  But she’s learning – she knows not to touch things that are hot, and was very gentle with my sunglasses when she’d pluck them off my head (I’m told she used to be quite the glasses-breaker). 

And even though she doesn’t form words very well (I’m “A Li Li”, not quite “Aunt Elisa” yet), she picks things up.  She loves little songs.  On Monday my husband taught her “Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly” (which she loves because it has a lot of hand motions too), and by the end of the week, if I paused at the proper places, she’d tell me that we were making Peanut Butter and “Lelly”, and that you needed to “Yew” and “Lallow” it.  She asked for that song so many times that we got sick of it, and ran the gamut of other cute/fun/interactive songs to sing with her.  She picked them each up, and before we left would ask for “Humpty Dumpty” by putting her fist on her head (to indicate the egg sitting on the wall, something my husband does when he sings the song), “The Little Green Frogs” by making the motion for their eyes (which, unfortunately, is the sign for owl, something I didn’t remember until after I taught it to her, although she does know that the song is about frogs, because she’ll do the sign for frogs to ask for it too), “The Skunk Song” by signing skunk (a very cute sign that indicates a skunk’s swishing tail and includes a held nose), and “Thumbkin” by making fists with each hand and moving her thumbs.  She also would ask her dad for the “Finger Family Up” song (even though hubby and I didn’t know it).  Of course “Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly” was still the number one request!

If you read a book to her once, you can hand it to her and she’ll “read” it to you.  She’ll say or sign words she knows at the right pages – she was paying enough attention to know where they go.  And she’s quick to learn new words too – it wasn’t two days before she was trying to say “Aunt Elisa”, and before we left I taught her the sign for “smart” (which her dad said he’d never seen her do before – the first few times I just showed her, and then had her do it with me, but our last day I said that she was so smart, and she did the sign unprompted).  I blew raspberries once on her tummy and she wanted to do the same to me.

We had such a fantastic time with her – first in the Smoky Mountains where she did her ABCs and learned the PBJ song (she wasn’t all that into deer and trees), and then in Pigeon Forge where she rode the go-karts (once with her daddy and once with my hubby, who said she just wanted to go faster!), and at her baseball game (she plays in the Miracle League, where all sorts of special needs kids come together to play with one another – her favorite part is batting, and she’s good at it!),  in her pool (where she loved splashing, throwing balls, and being tossed in the water).  I made pizza with her (she got to squish her hands in the dough of her own pie, and then apply sauce and toppings – at a rate of 6 or 7 in her mouth to every one on the pizza!).  We went canoeing, which she loved (she’d tap her grandma to get her attention, and then splash her as soon as she turned around!). 

We had a great time with the rest of hubby’s family too – my Sister-in-Law and I helped my Mother-in-Law look through a ton of photos, and we had nightly Wii tournaments and great food.  But D is the reason I left a little of my heart back in Alabama.  When my Brother-in-Law took us to the airport (after hubby’s other brother and mom had taken D to stay with her other grandma for a few days), the back seat (where I’d sat with her on a ton of car trips) looked so bare I wanted to cry.  I had actually cried as they pulled away.  Hubby joked yesterday that it was too quiet and he felt like he needed to sing “Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly” to someone.  The sad thing is that the next time we see her she’ll be so much different, even if we do manage a visit next year (the last time we saw her before this was at our wedding over a year and a half ago, and before that I’d seen her only twice – the first of which was when her parents came out here for a visit when hubby and I were first dating).  Honestly, I don’t want to move to the South, but seeing D all the time would be the only thing that would make me consider it.

For now I’ve got 2500 photos and a dozen or so short videos, and hubby and I are planning a little something special for her (that her parents will probably hate, but who cares?).  And I miss my beautiful, incredible, smart, loving, awesome niece so much it hurts.

Yes I know I’d normally include photos in a post like this, especially since I took so many, but truthfully if I were her parents it would creep me out to have my kid’s face splashed all over the internet, so I didn’t even ask…  If you know me personally you’ll probably not escape seeing a ton of them, never fear!

Happy Earth Day to Meeee!

22 Apr

We just got our first CSA delivery!  For anyone who doesn’t know, CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture.  Otherwise known as a farm share, CSAs are gaining popularity for their support of local agriculture and their awesome fresh organic produce.  I’d looked into joining one three or four years ago, but at the time there were few choices in San Diego and those only offered large boxes which were prohibitively expensive (and far too much food for one person). 

Fast forward to two and a half weeks ago, when hubby and I were walking through the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market.  We started seeing that, at every other booth or so, they were advertising various CSAs.  Several of my friends have joined up lately, too, and so I mentioned that we really should consider one.  My husband leaped at the idea and before we left the Farmer’s Market we’d decided to do a bit of research.  By the end of the day we’d decided on joining up with Farmer Steve.

If you’ve been doing research in San Diego for a CSA, you probably won’t have heard of him.  He’s got no website, and if you Google him, you’ll come up with nada (well, except perhaps for this post!).  But he grows fruit in Ramona and has a business partner who grows veggies in Oceanside/Bonsall.  He and his wife deliver fruit and veggies (and EGGS!) to you.  Which was just about enough to make us sign up on the spot (most CSA boxes need to be picked up at central locations, which may or may not stay open late enough for you to pick them up!!!  Farmer Steve will also bring boxes to at least Hillcrest, just in case you won’t be home).  But when we got home and started comparing the prices, we decided that his price of just $45 every two weeks (for a box of fruit + a box of veggies + a dozen eggs) was a value we couldn’t pass up.

Disclaimer: I am neither employed by nor getting anything free from Farmer Steve, okay?  And I can’t vouch for whether his prices might go up at any point in the future, or whether he’ll stop home delivery…  I’m just so excited I can’t stand it!

Anyway, our first box was supposed to come on Monday, but there was a crossed communication line.  So they rescheduled with us to come by today.  Farmer Steve himself (an incredibly personable guy, by the way, that both of us liked instantly, another reason we decided to go with his CSA) delivered my boxes to my door.  And LOOK at the haul we got!

Holy COW - what a gorgeous CSA haul!

Yes, this all came from our $45 share.

What’s inside?

  • 18 oranges/tangerines (I think 6 of them are tangerines and the rest oranges, but there are 3 different types)
  • 1 large grapefruit (I’m not sure but I think it might be Oro Blanco…  Despite my aversion to grapefruit – I think it tastes sort of like cat pee smells – I am determined to try a wedge, pith-off, with a little salt… I’ll post how it goes!)
  • 6 lemons
  • 6 avocados (3 of one type, 2 of another, and 1 giant one…  the 3 small ones are smooth-skinned and the large one is not the softball-shaped one, but still looks like it might be an heirloom)
  • 1 extra-large tomato (IN APRIL!) and 2 small ones
  • 1 purple mystery fruit*
  • 3 baskets strawberries (these smell AMAZING!!!)
  • 1 basket brown mushrooms (OMG, I had no clue these could be grown successfully in SD County!)
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 3 ears corn
  • 1 bunch (11) carrots
  • 1 bunch (7) beets
  • 1 bunch beautiful red lettuce
  • 3 small bunches spinach
  • 1 dozen free-range brown eggs

Now, if you’re new to the concept of a CSA, there’s one more thing you need to know.  Unlike a Farmer’s Market, where you get to pick and choose what you get, CSAs put together a box of whatever they’ve harvested that week (or two weeks, or what have you), and everyone gets some.  Typically everyone who is a part of that CSA gets the same share, but sometimes it’ll vary, depending on what they have.  The point is that you might get fruit or veggies you don’t like or haven’t tried yet.  Once this would have probably scared me (as a kid, I could count the veggies I regularly ate – and we had veggies every night, but just not a huge variety – on two hands).  Now?  I’m so excited!  It gives me an opportunity to taste new things, and in their best possible states (um, hello?  fresh and organic?).  Joining a CSA does involve a certain willingness to try new things, though – or a friendship with someone adventurous to whom you can give what you don’t like!  Luckily, hubby and I have been on a “trying new things” kick for a while, and I’ve discovered 8 or 10 vegetables over the last 2 years that I’d never tried and LOVE now (including 3 just this year).

I cannot WAIT to have the eggs (I actually think I’ll make eggs for dinner…  Perhaps with a gratin or something on the side…  Hubby and I LOVE fresh eggs!).  I know how I can use just about everything (except the mystery fruit), but I have to admit that my love for beets is less than a year old, and any time I’ve bought them (which has only been once or twice) we’ve eaten them raw…   So if anyone has any beet recipes they’d like to share, I’m all ears!

Oh yeah, I forgot to share Farmer Steve’s contact info.  You can only call him (he doesn’t have e-mail, at least public e-mail).  His number is (760) 751-0805.  I don’t know if it’ll make any difference at all, and I certainly haven’t told him that I was planning to blog about it so it might come as a surprise to him, but if you do call him please tell him Elisa sent you – if nothing else I’d like him to know how very happy I am to be a part of the CSA!

*Mystery solved: it’s a passion fruit!  Thanks Helena! 🙂  Can’t wait to try it!

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