Cooking with Kids

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You know I love Cabot, right? So, I was testing how the coding for this infographic works. So I put it here. As a test. But you know what? Andrew and I have had our kids in the kitchen – cooking and baking – since they could stand. It’s so important. So great for them to learn these skills. And selfishly, such a great way to spend time with them. Now my guys are so big – 16, 17, 19… and they all spend time with us creating delicious food.

A long way around to say that I’m sharing this here for those of you with younger children. Cooking gives kids such confidence and they’ll use these skills forever.

Cooking With Kids Infographic
Presented By Cabot Cheese

College Applications. See? I made you sweat.

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image credit freeimages/iprole

image credit freeimages/iprole

I remember all those years of back-to-school shopping buying those hard cover composition notebooks. And then, my oldest son graduated to the spirals. Wide rule.

The wide rules were harder to find; it seemed as if those college-ruled spiral notebooks were everywhere. I smiled to myself knowing it would be years and years before he was ready for these grown-up books. Heck, he still had fat pencils.

Time sped by faster than I could have ever imagined and even faster than the strangers at the grocery store told me it would.

Andrew and I strongly believe that college is a wonderful opportunity to grow up and find your passions. We always hoped our three sons would go and we started saving with a 529 state savings plan when they were very small. We’ve been consistent in letting them know that we hoped that’d be college-bound some day.

Some day crept up quickly and before we knew it, Davis took the PSAT exam at school. It was 10th grade and we were petrified to start thinking about what was coming next. He was a self-starter and assured us that he was doing the SAT Question of the Day – every day. He let us know that he intended to take the ACT exam, also.

We encouraged him early to find his passion and in 10th grade, he began taking studio art in addition to his challenging AP and GT coursework. He loved expressing himself visually. Encouraged by his teacher, he found a summer program at Maryland Institute College of Art. It was hard work. But it sealed the deal. By his junior year, on the AP Art track, it became clear to us all that he wanted to pursue an art degree. But what we learned was that the resources to navigate that path were a lot less available than a traditional academic path. And we had no idea where to begin.

Somehow – probably through our school’s attentive guidance department – we found out that there was an informational session in our county for students interested in pursing visual and performing art. We learned so much and talked to representatives from art colleges and liberal arts colleges with art programs. I think that was our biggest challenge – which to choose? Art school or a school with art? How to decide? What we learned – together – was that there are pros and cons and lots of good choices. We also learned to open our minds.

And then, the real work started. Davis started a list of schools to consider and began creating a cohesive (and fabulous) portfolio. At the same time, he took the SAT and, soon after, he took the ACT. He worked with an incredible coach to hone in on his school choices and on his essays.

Oh, the essays. I was so intimidated by the essays! Article after article (and maybe I should have stopped reading so much) told of the perils of a not-so-great essay and went on to describe what a good one actually was. His coach was amazing though and, after a couple re-starts, his essay brought me to tears and also made me smile.

My husband took him to visit schools to the north. I took him to one to the south of us and to Chicago. Divide and conquer. Of the 8 schools he’d decided to apply to, we visited 5. We just couldn’t swing the time or money to see the others.

Here’s the thing. I was overwhelmed by the process. I was freaked out that my baby was going to leave and that all these details needed to be managed and that there was so much to do. But, HE managed it. He studied. He wrote and re-wrote his essays. He worked his butt off to get his portfolio ready and he set up Skype and in-person portfolio reviews with his first choice schools for input. He filled in the applications and got teacher recommendations. HE applied for college.

I was over-the-moon proud knowing that he was ready for the responsibility of GOING to college. And I was proud of him for getting into the 8 schools he chose to apply to. I can’t resist telling you that a couple of them were extremely competitive.

His decision process once he had the acceptances was easy – well, easy to get to 2 schools. I asked him just the other day (he’s a sophomore now) if he thinks he made the right choice and he thinks that he did. I think that he did, too.

Our middle son is wrapping up his essays and will be applying to 6 schools within the next couple weeks. It was a lot less daunting the second time around, but it was completely different. Our third will be applying next year. I feel confident that that will be different, too.

All a long way around to say that the college application sounds really scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Letting your teens lead the conversation is a great start. Getting great advice from a coach, the school counselor, and other terrific resources is helpful.

Don’t Freak Out! Trust me, it does NOT make it easier.

You can do this.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.

So you know what stinks?

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social-media
I keep a list of things I want to blog about when I get some time (ha, time!) and this one has been percolating for a while.

But the rush to ello the last few days brought it to the surface.

Remember how fun and amazing it was to play multi-player games on GEnie? But it was so expensive; $12 per hour during the day (less at night) and it added up quickly. The people who were knew how to navigate this system? (There was no graphic user interface!) They were awesome. Cool. Ahead of their time. FINE, you want to say geeky? Say it! But I say, these people were pioneers.

This would be a good time to tell you that I hung out on USENet, The Well, and more. Whatever. Say what you will. Aliza will back me up.

Things really started to change when Myspace popped up. We made profiles and connected with our friends. It was fun…it wasn’t bulletin boards and geeks. It was for everyone. And it was pretty cool. Until it became overrun with kids and loud music that popped up when you clicked on anything.

We (the geeky crowd) were well positioned and waiting for a better, cooler option. And the options kept coming. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram. And a ton of options in between.

And each of these was pretty darn interesting until other people started joining. Right?

I’m exaggerating but you have to admit that a lot of people complain about the newbies and the inane conversation. Because before they joined? Total intellectual stimulation and creative banter. Now? Annoying banter, marketers and people who don’t get the etiquette.

All the cool kids have been poised and ready for the newest excitement and an excuse to move out of the mainstream online spaces. So ELLO!

Today, I watched my friends sign up in droves. I’ve been there for a bit now, but not active because actually? I don’t know exactly what to do there. The folks that beat me there were so cool and so creative and posted such gorgeous images that I was speechlessly in awe. But now, my friends are there. So, I’m talking.

If this doesn’t remind you of the playground, you’re not paying attention.

I can’t wait to see what happens, but if history is a good indicator, someone is going to get suspended, someone is going to get beat up, and someone (me) is going to trip and fall.

And the cycle continues.

A penny for your thoughts.

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photo courtesy of sxc.hu jweston

photo courtesy of sxc.hu jweston


My grandmother (we called her Nana) came to our house every Saturday at 11am. We’d order 1/2 lb. corned beef, 1/2 lb. turkey, 1/4 lb. brisket, loaf of rye bread, cole slaw and potato salad from Caplan’s Deli.

Every week.

Sometimes, it was annoying that I couldn’t make other plans and had to be there. But most of the time, I loved it.

Let me tell you about the pennies.

We’d save our pennies for Nana. After lunch, we’d give them to her and tell her how many we had. She’d buy them from us and round up. So if we gave her 13 pennies, we’d get a quarter. Not too shabby.

Every week, this happened. And every week, she brought us Jelly Krimpets.

Nana had set up savings accounts for my brother, sister, and me. She deposited the pennies into our accounts. And she padded it a little. Or more than a little.

Because when I turned 18, there was over $1,000 in that account.

Do you save your pennies?

Creating Quality Time With My Son and a Power Sander

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table

Originally published July 15, 2014 at the fabulous TueNight.

I love junk. I like old stuff. Interesting shapes. Putting together odd combinations and using items for something other than what they were intended to be used for.

I was also an obsessive flea marketer and garage saler before it was considered stylish. (Is it considered stylish?) I was an upcycler before upcycle was a word.

My husband, Andrew, is an enabler like no other. He humors me on early weekend drives while we follow signs to the next sale or as I pull out my phone to scope them out using iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. My teenage sons? They tolerate it. Sometimes.

My oldest son just finished his freshman year of college. He’s an art major. He’s quiet and he likes his solitude. But I really wanted to figure out a way to spend time with him — something that involved a shared goal.

And then it came to me! This kid has the best taste. He’s always decorating his future home in his head, and I am often the delighted recipient of links to gorgeous furniture he’s found online, as well as unusually beautiful ensembles and fabulous homes. Plus, my son knows his way around tools. The natural conclusion was that we make a sofa table together. I’d been looking for one for some time and could not seem to find what I wanted. And much to my joy, when I asked if he would help, he was all in.

So one Saturday not long after, when my fabulous sister-in-law Liz asked me if I wanted to go barn sale-ing, I jumped at the chance. And I brought my son along, too. We took measurements for the table and started the hunt.

We found an old door at our first stop, which was a cute vintage marketplace called Sweet Clover. The piece was leaning unobtrusively against the wall with a $50 price tag. It had lots of personality, in addition to lots and lots of splinters. But hey, we have a power sander.

Fifty bucks seemed a little steep, especially in light of the fact that we were simply planning to take it apart and use a third of it, but before we even had a chance to haggle, the vendor told us she was pulling all her merchandise out that day and “how does $30 sound?”

It sounded great. Sold.

The door fit easily in the minivan and the three of us talked about what kind of legs it might pair well with as we drove home. We decided to order midcentury iron pin-style legs from eBay that night. And the next day, my son and I started disassembling. We pulled nails. We struggled to get the rusty hardware off. It wasn’t easy, especially since we wanted it to stay intact so we could put it back together once the wood was finished.

We sweat. We cursed. We cut wood. Together.

My son and I thought about finishes and tested different ones. We strategized and struggled. We cursed more. But we sure did laugh. And it’s amazing where the conversation can go when you’re not trying to make a conversation.

And did I say we sanded? Oh yes. We sanded and sanded and sanded. Then came the polyurethane and even more sanding. And more poly.

Then we put it all together.

The result was the best five days of my summer. We didn’t just make a table; we made a memory.

How My Husband Won My Heart and My Kids’ Stomachs

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davis-cooking

Andrew and our oldest, Davis (now 19) in 1999.

Originally published June 10, 2014 over at the fabulous TueNight.

On our third date, Andrew cooked me an incredible dinner: leg of lamb, roasted asparagus and crispy potatoes. It was truly impressive.

Years later, he told me that he learned to cook because it was a good dating move. I might have felt played, but I like eating well just a tad too much. So, I not only let him cook for me regularly, I married him.

Fast forward to when our first son was 3 ½ years old. He went to a preschool friend’s house for a play date and stayed for dinner. (If you’re thinking woo hoo, what a break for Wendy, think again. We had a 1 ½ year old and an infant at home.)

I picked Davis, my oldest son, up at about 7:00 pm and, as always, he was full of stories! What a great reporter he was. So, chat, chat, chat… and then, “Mom. Guess what? It was so weird at Daniel’s house.”

“Really, what was weird?” (You can only imagine where my thoughts were headed.)

“When we had dinner, it was weird. The mom cooked.”

It’s a true gift that my three sons have a father who has taught them some really important life lessons:

  • There’s no substitute for a good knife
  • It is loving to make good food with care
  • Fresh ingredients make better food
  • Do what you do, and do it well
  • Presentation counts
  • Doing it right takes time – don’t take short cuts on the stuff that matters (example: a good ragu!)

Andrew cooks almost every night. It’s true that I get the honor about twice a quarter (and gripe about it on Facebook), and I humbly submit that I’m improving. But I don’t enjoy cooking. And he does. I call that a good partnership. Don’t you?

But more than that, I’m grateful that our three sons have a dad who expresses pride and love through food.

Our sons are 15, 17 and 19 now. Last week, they cooked dinner for Andrew’s birthday. They read cookbooks. They searched online for hours and hours. They agonized over the ingredients. They shopped for the ingredients. They prepped and planned and strategized.

The menu? Hold onto your hat:

Andalusian green salad
Chorizo and shrimp paella
Citrus-olive oil cake with sorbet
It’s exciting to see the delicious life skills they’ll take into adulthood, thanks to Andrew. Bon appétit!