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The Story of Grandma Vs Pancake House

Both Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby knew a very simple truth: kids are a goldmine of unintentional hilarity.

Raising my two red heads is often frustrating and almost always exhausting, but it’s also entertaining. More times than I can remember, they have done or said something that was so funny it was spit-take worthy… a few times, like with the “Pump Up the Party Incident” it actually did cause a spit-take; but that’s a story for another day.

Life flies by so fast these funny little moments often get lost in the shuffle of mundane everyday stuff like homework, bedtime, shoe finding, meal managing, and so on. Sometimes, though – they stick. The moment becomes an inside joke, something to be memorialized as a family legend, a story to retell whenever we are in need of a giggle.

Such is the case with the Grandma V’s Pancake House story.

I was driving down the road one afternoon, my mind on the schedule for the day, when from the backseat Miss A made a comment to the effect of, “Grandma versus Pancake House, cool.” We were passing through an intersection we travel through often, and with my mind still on my to-do list, I didn’t think much of it. I mm-hmmed a reply and kept driving. A mile or two down the road my brain caught up with her comment and as I realized the source of her observation, I began to chuckle.

You see, at that intersection was a breakfast place, a restaurant called Grandma V’s.

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Miss A, however, read this sign a little differently. I blame Super Smash Brothers.

“So,” I asked Miss A, “What do you think Grandma Versus Pancake House is like?”

She met my gaze in the rear-view mirror and shrugged. “I dunno, I guess a grandma chases pancakes and tries to hit them with her frying pan.” She paused to consider for a moment, “And then the boss is like a giant pancake house.”

Later that evening I shared the story with my husband, who – being a video game junkie (hence my daughter’s familiarity with the concept of a “boss”) – was fascinated with the idea and worked with Miss A to create an elaborate back story for Grandma, and why she had to fight a giant pancake house. Other options were considered, like perhaps it was more like Tapper, and Grandma had to race to serve her customers as many  pancakes as she could before the time ran out.

You can bet  from then on we couldn’t pass that intersection without thinking of Grandma and her epic battle.

Finally, over winter break, we went there for breakfast. It was a bit of a let down, no avenging grandmothers in sight, but pancakes were served and we snapped some pics of Miss A in front of the iconic sign. (Scoring only a few odd looks from other patrons).

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The odd stares were worth it because not long after that, Grandma V’s closed up and the place is now called something completely different. I can’t remember the new name, but it’s not nearly as entertaining.

I don’t know who Grandma V was, or where she went, but I tell you this: I still giggle when I pass that intersection.

The Real Reason the Lucas Museum is Coming to Chicago

In December of 2012 I took a trip with my family to Disney World. (Seeing the Magic Kingdom during Christmastime, check, I can knock that off the bucket list!)

It was magical, yes… and the magic started before we even arrived at our hotel. (I’m not talking about the Magical Express, but that’s pretty great too).  For some reason we had decided to book a late afternoon flight to Orlando which meant we were riding the aforementioned Magical Express to our hotel pretty late in the evening. Really late, actually. But our timing turned out to be perfect for one thing. Just as we passed the arches for the Magic Kingdom, Wishes (the nightly fireworks display) burst to life. As the bus wove its way toward our hotel, the dazzling explosions of light and color seemed to follow us. And  Lil’ G (who was 4 years old at the time), pressed her face to the glass and said, her voice full of awed certainty, “They knew I was coming!”

Minutes after we arrived at the hotel, Lil’ G made herself at home in the lounge area near the check-in desk.

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There was no doubt in my daughter’s mind that those fireworks were meant to welcome her, and timed to celebrate her arrival.

That’s kind of how I feel about the recent announcement that George Lucas has decided Chicago will be the home for his Star Wars Museum (well, technically it’s going to be called the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, but c’mon you know we’re all going to call it the Star Wars Museum). The possibility has been buzzing for months, and there are plenty of stories covering the reasons Chicago came out the winner... such as the fact Lucas’s wife is a Chicagoan.

But, just as Lil’ G knew the fireworks bursting over the turrets of Cinderella’s castle were just for her, I know Lucas picked Chicago to be the home of his Star Wars Museum just for me. After all, I am the Star Wars Girl – the one who converted her dining room into a tribute to all things Star Wars. The one who celebrates each Christmas with an entire tree full of ornaments from a galaxy far, far away.  So yes, why wouldn’t the universe reward such devotion?

OK, fine. It might not be about me…but I asked Master Yoda and he agrees.

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For you, this museum is. In Chicago, it will be.

Vintage Fruity Monsters to the Rescue!

Vintage Fruity Monsters? Now, that ‘s a movie I want to see! If you are like me, your mind may have concocted an image of Bella Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff starring in some bizarre Rocky Horror meets Avengers mash-up.

But no, I’m not talking about those kind vintage fruity monsters. (and if you’re not like me, than I apologize for putting that image in your brain). To make up for it, check out this Tumblr page full of cool vintage monster images.

I’m talking about these guys.

So how, you may be wondering, are a hot pink Frankenstein, chocolate-sucking vampire, and boo-tylicious ghost going to come to your rescue? Well, let’s say it’s less than a week before Halloween, and let’s say you somehow ended up getting nominated to bring treats to a school/office/whatever function. You’ve already blown a month’s salary on candy and costumes, you need something cheap and fast. Enter, the monsters.

Like the Halloween Mood Table, I blame my husband and his love for the website Dinosaur Dracula for the birth of the Monster Krispy. Throughout the month of October I’ve been experimenting in my lab kitchen, creating a new breed of marshmallow+sugary cereal treat.

Count Chocula’s turn came first…

Count Chocula treats

Then Frankie had a turn in the lab…

Frankenberry treats

Boo Berry, get ready, your turn is coming…

To make your own monster treats, simply gather the following ingredients:

2 10 oz bags mini-marshmallows (8 cups, give or take)

1 “family size” box  of Monster cereal (10 cups) , any variety (aside from the Unholy Trinity, Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy are also haunting supermarket aisles right now)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter

Like a traditional cereal bar recipe, grab your cauldron pot, melt the butter, then add the marshmallows and stir until it looks like The Stay Puft-Man after the Ghostbusters blasted him.  Turn off the heat, mix in the cereal until it’s all a sticky glorious glob, drop it into a pan (I prefer a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper) spread the glob out evenly using wax paper, parchment, or your hands (please wash them first). Let it set, then cut into bars. The more marshmallows you use, the softer (and stickier) your treats will be.

And you’re done! Time to party. Need some Monster Music to munch to? I’m a sucker for the traditional favorites like Monster Mash and Thriller, and check out this tune, a current favorite of the 2 mini-redheads in my house.

Need Help Setting the Mood?

With temperatures dropping into the 30’s and snow predicted for tonight, I can almost understand stores who deck their halls and aisles with Hallowmas – aka that bizarre trend where Halloween rubs elbows with Christmas…

Wait, no I can’t.  October is for Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve is less than 10 days away now, and if you haven’t gotten into the spooky spirit of the season, I may have something to help.

You see, at the start of October, I had no desire to to bust out the orange storage boxes and decorate our house with witches, ghosts and all things pumpkin. I just wasn’t in the mood. The husband has always been fond of my usual fondness for holiday decorating, and he kept nudging me about it – finally going so far as to request we create a Halloween Mood Table; an idea he got from Dinosaur Dracula, a website he’s followed for years.

“You want a what?” I asked.  And he directed me to DD’s blog post about this design phenomena.

Basically,  the concept is to make it look like Halloween puked all over the table of your choice. Now, my preference for Halloween decorating is to stay away from the gory gross stuff. I strive for more of a cute creepy vs. psychotic. This is what we ended up with:

Halloween Mood Table

At first I grumbled about it, but as we kept adding things to the table, like Halloween books and seasonal movies (and video games courtesy of the husband); I found that the table was doing its job – I was getting into the Halloween spirit!

Halloweeen Mood Table Dark

We’ve continued to add some more stuff here and there (mostly crafts by Miss A and Lil’ G), and I have to say, it has been nice to have this big ol’ pile of Halloween greet me at the door. I’ve definitely gotten in the mood.

If you created a Halloween Mood Table, what would be on it?

What Gets You Through

“The only way out is through.” I don’t remember where or when I first heard this saying, but I’ve been cognizant of it for some time. This year I’ve become more aware than ever of the truth behind the sentiment, and the strength required to make the journey of “through”.

A few months ago I talked about why Friday – a day I used to look forward to and enjoy – has become a day I just need to get through. It’s been almost four months since that blog post, and nearly seven months since my dad died, and some Fridays have found me waking up without the heavy weight of grief tugging on every muscle and making me tired even before I get out of bed to start the day. But there are other Fridays, and other days that are not Fridays, that for one reason or another – for lots of reasons or what feels like no reason at all – are still very hard. Today was one of them.

Last night I had a dream about my dad. I was helping my mom move when the phone in the new house rang. It was an old-school cordless phone with a giant retractable antenna – beige – just like the kind we had when I was a kid. I can still see myself in the dream picking up that tank of a receiver and saying hello… and hearing my dad’s voice on the other end of the line. My heart gets stuck in my throat just typing that, but while I was in the dream, nothing about the phone call seemed odd or strange or off or anything. My dad and I talked about all kinds of things; very pleasant and matter of fact. Almost as if he was away on a long trip and I was filling him in on everything he had missed. I remember after talking to him for quite some time I asked if he wanted to speak to mom, and he said sure – but when I handed her the phone all she heard was static – and that’s when I woke up.

Those first few moments you wake up from a dream and come back to reality and remember? Yeah, they suck. That dream felt so real that at first I felt relieved; I had talked to my dad and he was doing ok. He sounded relaxed – happy even… I hate to use the phrase but he sounded like he felt “at peace”. It felt good to just talk to him and tell him about the girls and their activities, how Lil’ G just lost her first baby tooth, and how Miss A is really enjoying basketball. But then I remembered I didn’t actually talk to him at all – he is out of reach, and will never get to see Lil G’s gap toothed smile or cheer proudly at Miss A’s first b-ball game. And remembering sucks. How do I get through that?

A writer and a bookworm, a combination of these things have helped me work on the “getting through” part of this journey.

The first is a book a sweet friend gave to me when she heard the news about my dad.

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The Next Place by Warren Hanson

She had lost her mother, and said the book had helped her cope. It is a wonderful book, simple and loving. And it was a perfect story to share with my daughters. If you have a friend who loses a loved one and you are not sure what to do to help or what to say; I highly recommend the gift of this book.

The second is a journal; created by a mother and daughter who struggled with the sudden loss of their son/brother.

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Angel Catcher by Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon Turteltaub

This journal is honest and frank; with questions and prompts that have helped me shape my thoughts into words so I could get them on paper and purge not just the grief, but some of the bitterness, anger, fear, and host of other emotions that spiral through you when you lose someone very close to you. A children’s version of the journal is also available, and I gave one to my 10 year old daughter, who celebrated her birthday with her Papa barely a week before he passed. She and my dad were very close, and this journal has given her the time and space to work through her own feelings at her own pace, in her own way.  Sometimes we talk about what she writes, and sometimes we don’t. But I know that while I have sometimes caught her crying as she scribbles in her journal, she too is working on the “through,” and tears are part of the process.

Sharing my thoughts here is also, in my own weird way, part of my process of getting through.  So thanks for that. If you are reading this and trying to find your own way through… or know someone who is, maybe something here will help you along the way. Even if it’s just the knowledge someone else is going through the “through” too.

Halloween Crafts That Aren’t Too Tricky

Today is 10/10, make a wish!

Did you wish for fun ideas to add plenty of thrills to your child’s Halloween party? You did!? Well you’re in for a treat because October is the month I put my witch hat on and get all crafty. (I try not to ride the broom and cackle too much, it bothers the neighbors).

I admit I’m one of THOSE moms. You know, the kind of mom who just loves planning class parties and gets goosebumps of anticipation while browsing Pinterest boards for spooky crafts, games and treats. At the same time, however, I’m also the kind of mom who likes to KISS (keep it simple, silly!). Kids don’t need too much to have fun. And fun is the name of the game.

One of my easiest Halloween treats is a healthy version of the Owl Smore, a fall dessert created by Amy Locurto. I first blogged about adapting her recipe HERE. My version is super simple: graham crackers, sliced bananas, raisins or craisins, and candy corn (or even better – almonds if nut allergies aren’t an issue). Put out the ingredients in bowls, and let kids assemble their own owls!

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To make them look even more “owl-like” you can add a circle of fruit on top of the bananas before the raisin. Circles of mango or pineapple work best…but it does add to the mess!

Because my girls go to a charter school with a strong focus on healthy eating and green living, I find many of the traditional party games and foods just don’t fly. Hence, I end up tweaking things – like the owl treat above. Another tweak came about when I was trying to plan crafts and games. One of my favorite Halloween party games is the “Mummy Race” – where teams of kids are given a roll of toilet paper and race to see who can wrap a member of the team up as a mummy the fastest. However, I couldn’t justify using all that toilet paper and then just tossing it away! And while I am all for re-using, I doubt anyone would want to use toilet paper for its intended purpose after a bunch of kids have been handling it. So I decided to use it as stuffing in a craft. The idea came about when I saw a post about a Halloween puppet craft that called for turning an old sock into a bat puppet. I had a light bulb moment and decided I could do something similar. I put out a request for parents to donate lonely old socks (clean, of course) as well as buttons, ribbons, and fabric scraps. On party day, after the mummy game, the kids took all that unrolled TP flying around the classroom and used it to stuff the socks until they were nice and full and fluffy.  Then using the donated notions, markers and fabric paint, students decorated the socks and turned them into whatever Halloween-y creature their little heart desired.  Parent volunteers helped complete the creations with glue guns, and TA DA! Boo Buddies were born.

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The Boo Buddy Bat

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Mr. Bat joined by more Boo Buddies: a mummy and a ghost.

I loved how they turned out out! I think this ended up being a fun little craft that lets kids use their imagination. And  Boo Buddies make sweet take home keepsakes!

I’ll try to showcase a few more crafts and ideas before Halloween flies by, I hope you’ll stop by for a spell.

It’s the First Day of Fall and I’m Feeling Lucky (and Thankful)

Today we cross the border from summer to fall; a season so short and so sweet, but so wonderful. Sunny windy days that make me feel like anything is possible. The unique-to-autumn earthy smell of leaves that makes me happy deep down inside. On this, the first day of my favorite time of the year, I am moved to count my blessings and recognize the fact that while September has rushed by in a blur of to-do lists, I need to slow down and savor my favorite season before it’s gone. And while I’m at it, September has brought me some luck I need to take note of and be thankful for, because lord knows I’ve needed a bit of luck in what has easily been the most horrible year of my life. So, here are a few bits of recent luck I’m thankful for:

  1. Not too long ago I stumbled across a shared FB post about an article on Mamalode that led me to the blog of Alison Li. When I read something on-line that really strikes me, I track down the writer’s website to see what else they might have written that speaks to me, and Alison’s honest yet beautiful blog posts about being a writer, a mother, a woman… Well, it was a home run.  So in August when she posted about her upcoming 37th b-day, I totally could relate, as I will be saying hello to that same number in a few months. She was running a giveaway, and of course I entered, and was delighted and excited to learn I had won one of the prizes – a handmade knit purse in gorgeous fall shades crafted by Alma Boheme. Alma is also a blogger, and I soon discovered, another kindred spirit. Just from following that one shared blog post, I discovered two incredible women I can relate to, and won a lovely gift too. Now that’s lucky.

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My prize from Alma and Alison, all wrapped up in a pretty package!

Alma has graciously allowed me to extend a special offer to readers if they’d like a purse like mine or another handmade treasure available on her Etsy shop (she has some gorgeous knit pieces up right now, perfect for fall walks) – you can use this code at checkout to save 10% on your order: THANKS10

  1. I was so excited for the start of this school year, because with both girls in school (Lil’ G started Kindergarten), I was finally going to have time to write! So far, that time has been spent mostly on other responsibilities, and it’s so easy for the writing to get lost in the shuffle. Add to that the paralysis at the keyboard that seems to set in some times. It’s hard to describe, I suppose I could call it the fear to move forward, because to do so would mean risking rejection. But sometimes a little boost comes along to help urge me back on the path, and such a boost came when I was recently notified that I was a finalist in the Indiana Golden Opportunity writing contest. Earlier this year I had decided to stay away from entering writing contests, but the fact that the IGO is set up much like the RWA Golden Heart (which is pretty much the biggest writing contest for unpublished romance writers, for those of you not in the know) – well,  I couldn’t resist entering;  if nothing else, to indulge my sense of  “what if…” And I’m well aware luck as well as talent plays in to these contests. I know so many factors outside of my control can influence the outcome. I’m just glad luck was on my side this time around, and I’ll get back to work using my talent to do what I can about the rest. **ETA:  My entry took first place in the paranormal category!
  2. I’m not just a writer, but a reader – an avid one at that. But like my writing, there never seems to be enough time in the day to fit much reading in. One way I’ve managed to indulge my reading habit while keeping up with the to-do list  is through audiobooks. An audiobook review site I like, AudioGals, asked followers of their website to share their reasons for why they love listening to audiobooks. A few weeks ago my list of reasons was featured, and as a reward for contributing, the lovely ladies at AudioGals treated me to a Tantor Romance Novel audiobook of my choice. I felt lucky to share my love of audiobooks, and extra lucky to pick out a new one! For my prize, I chose the second book in the MacGregor trilogy by Grace Burrowes. And if listening to a romance narrated by a man with a Scots brogue sounds appealing, well, check out the first book in this trilogy: The Bridegroom Wore Plaid.

So yes, I’ve had some recent luck, and I’m thankful for it. There have been many dark, horrible days this year but life goes on, and I have to move past the darkness and embrace my life as I have it. Because I am lucky to be alive, now, in this moment as the seasons change.

I wish you an autumn full of sunny, windy, leaf-strewn days…the kind of days that make you feel thankful to be alive.