Category Archives: Culture

Like Candy?

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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On Oprah recently, I saw Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, talking about her love of sweets and her numerous candy shops called Dylan’s Candy Bar. Three levels of candy, candy from around the world, candy from your childhood, just look at it and you’ll be amazed!

If you want to give a unique valentine’s gift to someone who isn’t necessarily nutty about chocolate, I think these little items are great finds!

Here’s the swag bag she gave to the members of Oprah’s studio audience. It includes things like a “Lollipop Tackle Box, gummy bears, gumballs, Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, Laffy Taffy, Mary Janes and a limited edition Pez Princess set and can be yours (or your daughter’s (?)) for only $50:

Oprah’s swag bag for Dylan’s Candy Bar

Or, if you’d like to surprise your wife with a whimsical trinket, you can get a candy charm bracelet for that same price:

Dylan’s Candy Bar Charm Bracelet

I was so amazed at all the adorable items on this website, I just had to include a few more for you.

Dylan’s Candy Bar Makeup Bag

That’s Dylan’s Candy Bar Makeup Bag Set (above) for all of you travelers that still like a little whimsy (I’m looking at you, Missives) and the little gummy bear bag (below) for less.

Dylan’s Candy Bar little bag

Or just a simple, sassy tee with a good message.

Dylan’s Candy Bar tee

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Filed under candy, Culture, food, Fun, holidays, Oprah

What Did Paula Do Before American Idol?

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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-written by bmg mom (Being a Mom is Great blog)

That phenomenon, American Idol, started up again last week. Hey, by the way, did you know that Idol “loser” Chris Daughtry managed to get five hit songs off of his CD, Daughtry, while Taylor Hicks (2006 American Idol winner) is in some kind of dispute with his record company? Fascinating. Those folks were from a couple years back. As for this season, we watched one of the episodes last week and actually did begin humming Renaldo Lapuz’s song, “Brothers Forever.”

“I am your bro-other. Your best friend forever…”

You just have to see it. Go on — give this guy just a couple minutes of your time. He is truly endearing and seems to have a good heart. Well, at least you can agree that he’s coming from a…special place. No?

Renaldo Lapuz’s “Audition”

So…did you start humming it? Singing it?

Anyway…

We’re sitting there watching it when one of the kids asks me, “Hey, Mom. What did Paula do before she was on American Idol?”

Well, thanks to that wonder of wonders called YouTube I was able to show them (because my description was sorely lacking). And now, in case you, too, were wondering, here it is:

Paula’s “Audition”*

Somehow I like Renaldo’s audition much, much more…

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*Just for the record, I showed the kids Opposites Attract, not this one.

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Filed under American Idol, Culture, Entertainment, family, Fun, life, TV

A Tribute to Mom (or How to Decorate a Christmas Tree)

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Yes…the holidays are upon us.

Stores blare Christmas music, commuters face nasty holiday traffic, shoppers swagger through crowded shops, busy busier frazzled parents lose patience with tired kids, and families spend hours (or days!) decorating their homes. It’s a time filled with ritual and traditions. And every family has its traditions. Some families go nuts every year on the outside of their homes hanging lights and signs…we don’t get crazy with our property — maybe we’ll put a few strands of white lights here and there, hang a couple of wreaths with bows, that’s about it.

But our Christmas tree inside our house? Ah, now that’s different.

We give heartfelt attention to our trees. My mom loved decorating Christmas trees. She trimmed beautiful trees. So did my grandmother. She had two trees at Christmas time with an elaborate, magical, snowy Christmas village underneath both of them, complete with kings on horses (or were they camels?) pointed toward her fireplace which had a beautiful creche inside. She spent a lot of time putting puffs of cotton underneath cotton batting then sprinkling glitter around to make it look like a shimmery, snowy fantasy land. She had little houses, animals and figurines spread all around and then a lovely little wooden fence on the edge of all of it. When we were old enough, my sisters and I would help her assemble this (what was in our minds massive) world. It was absolutely delightful.

We don’t even try to replicate that magic, but, sort of as a tribute to my family of origin, I put some effort into our tree. I enjoy decorating it. It all starts with the search for the right tree. We go out to a tree farm and my hubby uses a wimpy little saw (provided by the farm) and a whole lot of brawn to chop down a tree.

This year, our son spied a Norwegian Spruce (super prickly but great for holding lots of ornaments). It’s a funky tree, and we actually heard another family rejecting it because its branches were a bit wild and dense. We didn’t mind. So, in a Charlie Brown (well, Linus) kind of way, we decided that was the one for us. With a little TLC, we trimmed it, removed some of the sappy branches (and the twisted weedy thing that was growing up the trunk) and took it home.

Hubby and I put it in the stand without incident and then it was up to me to do the rest. I turned on some Christmas music, got a cup of tea and just sat and looked at it — not because I was feeling contemplative and pondering all my Christmases past, rather because I couldn’t find the box of lights. I had the tree topper, so I climbed up the ladder and set it on top, then I went back through the dozen or so boxes of decorations to search for the lights. I was just about ready to give up when, almost an hour later, I finally remembered that I stowed them in the attic.

Thank you, God! I mean, I needed the lights, because it’s the first step in the system. Yes, I have a decorating system that I’ve developed after years of advice and assistance from Mom. I start with the lights (I used to do a spiral around the tree, now I just zig zag up and around it and place them in spots that will optimize the sparkle factor). Mom always said that the key to making a great tree is to put some of the lights deep into the tree (in toward the trunk) to give it depth and provide maximum twinkle. Can’t skimp on the lights.

tree lights

Ornaments are another place to be generous. I try to find great ornaments each year (preferably after Christmas, to get a good deal on bulbs I wouldn’t otherwise buy) and I have a color scheme to which I am loyal — clear lights with red, gold and white (but very few white) bulbs. So when I see a special red or gold bulb after Christmas, I scoop it up, add it to the collection, and look forward to putting it up the following year.

Mom insisted that the general idea is to hang the largest bulbs around the bottom and the smallest bulbs at the top, but I save a few small bulbs to sprinkle here and there around the middle (where I need more color). The shiniest bulbs go closest to the lights to maximize the sparkle. All of this is probably basic, basic tree trimming knowledge.

So now I’ll share some of my favorite Mom tips. First, how to use very effective little trimmings called sprays.

gold spray

I’m not much of a crafty gal, but this trick is worth a trip to Michael’s (or AC Moore or whatever craft stores you have near you). Mom gave us some red and gold sprays that I carefully place in those bare spots that are otherwise just big, bland sections of green (Mom also used to add feathery birds to her tree, but I chose to omit them).

Another important Mom tip: ocassionally stand back a few steps and look at the whole tree to find the bare spots and fill them in with just the right decoration. I did just that and tweaked until I was satisfied. Then, I gathered up my french ribbon (the kind that has wire on each side — I use red ribbon with gold beads on the sides) and carefully wound it & twisted it around the tree. Finally, I used strings of beads and draped them around the tree, up and down the branches like this:

Christmas tree beads

Then, when I finally finished, I made another cup of tea, got a little plate of cookies and sat and looked at it.For me, it’s the most special part of my ritual. That’s the time when I reflect back on all the past Christmases, back when mom was still alive. I think about my mom and grandmother and silently thank them for all the wisdom they passed on to me. I think about the time in college when my mom took me shopping for Christmas decorations because she wanted to help me set up my very first tree (away from home). I remember marveling at her attention to detail and understanding what a difference it made.

When I spend that special time looking at our tree, I am so grateful for the many warm, loving memories. I feel blessed to have had all those years learning Mom’s tips, decorating with her, buying new decorations, laughing and singing carols. All sorts of feelings start rushing through me. I start to wish she could be sitting there with me, also having a cup of tea and some cookies. I wish I could see her beautiful, sparkling eyes as she gazed approvingly at the tree.

At this time of year, I miss my mom the most. So my ritual often ends with tears. Sometimes I cry, other times I just sit and smile. No matter what, though, just before standing up and going on with the rest of my day, I always say, “This one’s for you, Mom. Thanks.”

BMGmom Tree

2007 Christmas Tree (during the day)

2007 tree at night

2007 Tree at Night

Merry Christmas!

Happy Chanukah.

Happy Eid.

Habari Gani.

Happy Winter Solstice (that one’s for you, Dan!)

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Filed under Children, Christmas, Culture, design, family, holidays

The Office, The Sopranos and Other Families

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Tony Soprano (HBO)

I love The Office starring Steve Carell. It’s an NBC series about everyday life in an office in smalltown USA (actually Scranton, PA) but it has something in common with The Sopranos. Yes, really. Part of the magic of The Sopranos was that the lead character, Tony Soprano, in many ways represented any-man USA. He could have been the head of a major corporation or a power partner in a law firm. I know he wasn’t…I mean he was the head of a family which happened to be involved in organized crime. But the point is that the series creator, David Chase, humanized Tony. It’s kind of the opposite of war mentality – soldiers are taught to dehumanize the enemy to make the vicious acts of war more tolerable. Chase did the opposite, he humanized a vicious criminal to somehow make him endearing.

Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) NBC

Ricky Gervais is the genius behind The Office. He created the original (English/UK) version and still has a big role in the American version. In my opinion, he works the same kind of magic with the character of Michael Scott.

Not that he humanizes a criminal, but rather, I think the workings of his office are often analogous to the workings of a family. Yes, I know, that would make the mom (in most families) Michael, the manager of the office. And that’s not a good thing. He’s an example of everything you don’t want in a manager.

So, I’m not saying that I want to be like him or that I parent the way he manages. Rather, he experiences situations to which I really can relate. Take, for example, the episode where he wants to order pizza for the office members. They’re excited for this relatively rare delight and seem happy about it and eager for its arrival until one of the members tries to clarify precisely which kind of pizza they should be expecting — pizza from Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe or Pizza by Alfredo. They all love Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe but they all hate Pizza by Alfredo. So, when Michael says he ordered from Pizza by Alfredo, they all groan.

Okay, stop there!

The Office (NBC)

How many moms can honestly say they haven’t experienced something similar to that little situation? A group of kids are in your house at dinnertime and you say you ordered pizza. They all say, “Great!” Then one of your kids says, “Where did you order it from? Pizza Hut or Dominos?” (or whatever pizza places you have where you live) You answer one or the other and the kids all say, “Awww. That’s not the good kind of pizza. We like [the other one] way more!”

Okay, now back to the episode of The Office. Michael drops his head and simply says, “Harumpf. Okay…” Then figures out what to do next. He’s the doormat I’ve been too many times in my short career as a mom.

But the most recent episode, Money, was different. Different from any I can remember (and I think I’ve seen them all). It struck me as…well…sad. It’s a comedy, right? But so many things happened that made members of my family look at each other and say, “Aww…” For example, the office geek, Dwight, is distraught over a recent breakup and finds himself wailing in a stairwell. Office manager, Michael, has serious financial problems, tries to take on a second job but fails miserably, then tries (and fails) to run away on a freight train. Just when it’s looking its bleakest, the episode turns the corner with touching moments of caring and support.

Isn’t that the way many, many families operate? When times are really tough, our family members or friends are there to emotionally support us. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it ’til I die…this life is all about love. It’s not about the snazzy cars or the bling or the handbag that costs thousands of dollars. It’s not about bossing people around or pushing your kids to be the best on the sports team or the smartest in the class.

No matter whether you’re the head of a crime family, an office manager or a mom, when you’re 85 (God willing) and you’re sitting in a rocking chair somewhere (I really hope I have a cool rocking chair when I’m 85) and someone asks you if you have any regrets, I sure hope you’re able to answer with a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye, “Oh, no. I’ve really enjoyed my life.” If you take a moment right now, right this very minute, to just imagine what that would be like…what do you hear yourself saying?? If the answer is yes (with a lengthy list of regrets), I would compassionately suggest that you get to work on ridding yourself of those regrets…whatever they may be. If it’s “I wish I would have gone sky diving. I always wanted to go skydiving.” Then, heck do a little research and figure out how you could make that happen. If it’s “I wish I would have told my kids I loved them more.” Then, well, you know what to do. Whatever it is, take care of it today. It’s worth it. You’ll be happy you did.

As for me, I’m going to stop taking myself so darn seriously and work on letting go. And if Michael reminds me of myself in any way, I won’t get defensive, I’ll just smile.

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Images from hbo.com and nbc.com.

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Filed under Culture, Entertainment, family, Thoughts, TV

John Mayer’s Music is Just What This Mom Needed

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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John Mayer Playing Guitar

Have you heard John Mayer play the guitar? Have you been lucky enough to attend one of his concerts so that you could actually see him play the guitar? Ahhh, grace in motion.

Before going to his concert this summer, I listened to his music, but didn’t truly appreciate it. I mean, it was nice to have playing in the background, nice to sing along with occasionally, but didn’t exactly make me sit down and breathe it in, you know what I mean?

Then I saw him perform live.

Oh my goodness…

I really don’t know how to describe the experience. I’ve tried to explain it to friends but I just couldn’t capture my feelings in words. When I told the moms in my book club about it, they looked at me like I was slightly nuts, asked me whether I was going through a midlife crisis then concluded I must have a crush on the guy!

No, no, no. I’m a happily married woman. It’s nothing like that. Not at all. It’s more like a deep appreciation for great talent. I had the same kind of feeling when I saw Michael Jordan moving (well, flying) around the basketball court. Or even when I watch Roger Federer play tennis. Or (yes, really) when I watch my husband cook or paint portraits. It’s the creative artistry that I admire and fawn over. That’s what makes my heart skip a beat. It’s grace in motion. God given talent at work right before my very eyes.

In the case of John Mayer, his music is full of passion. His vocals are just so pleasing to hear. They fall gently on my ears at first and then drift deeper in. You know what I mean?

Here’s an example. I listened to his song, Gravity, from his Continuum album (do they still refer to them as “albums”?) and thought it was okay. Fine song. Then I saw him perform it and…oh…my…goodness…back to that part where I simply can’t describe the experience.

If you want a sample, click on the “play” button below. That song is called “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” about the agony of a doomed relationship. Honestly, doesn’t sound as good on the video as it does in person (or even on the Continuum CD).

He’s an artist. He plays guitar with so much talent, passion, and skill. He makes that guitar sing. No, he makes it speak to you. Oh, these words just don’t do it justice.

Just listen to the song Gravity. It’s a ballad that starts out slowly, in a fabulous, bluesy way. Some people might give up there. But…stay with it…stay with it. And listen.

Interpretation of all art is necessarily subjective, right? To me, Gravity is about negativity, excess and greed. Specifically, it’s about negative people trying to drag you down into their pessimistic, dark world. Later in the song he makes a plea to keep him “where the light is” (i.e., to stay positive, healthy and grounded and out of their muck (which they often characterize as ‘reality’ even though it is just not…not…my reality!)).

You might interpret the song in a completely different way, but for me, it’s an uplifting song that picks me up, helps me lift my head again whenever I’m feeling low–whenever I’ve been subjected to people being rude, snotty, whiny or unreasonably negative.

Take this morning, for example. I checked my email before starting my daily running-around-town chaos and found a formally worded, snotty, harsh message from some parent saying she never got our check for our order of cheap, goofy gift wrap that the school pushes on us every year. I put the check (in an envelope) in my daughter’s backpack (and told her it was there) nearly three weeks ago. Okay, so she was irresponsible and still hasn’t turned in the envelope. Acknowledged. She should have turned it in. Agreed. So send me a simple e-mail saying, “Hey we still don’t have that check.” Instead, Miss Serious sends me an e-mail threatening to withhold the order until payment is received, blah, blah, blah. Are you kidding me? This fundraiser is like a crumb on my floor. Fine, keep the two or three stupid pieces of junk that you practically coerced me to order. I could care less. I don’t even want them anyway. Grrrrr. She needs to read that “Power of Kindness” book I posted about (earlier this month). Heck, I think at this point, I need to re-read it…or turn up the John Mayer music. Breathe, girly, breathe….like our measly little order is going to hold up the closing of your accounting books. I don’t buy it. Or if it is, then please, just cancel it. I don’t want to support the program anymore anyway!

It’s like customer service at some big box store. If they treat me harshly and/or disrespectfully, I don’t go to that store. Why the heck should I patronize a store that treats its customers poorly? I won’t. That’s what competition is all about, isn’t it? Vote with your feet.

Oh, gosh, I’m way off on a tangent I certainly didn’t intend to explore.

The point is that, after refraining from sending back a nasty email, I went off and did my errands while listening to John Mayer’s music and I felt much better (and, as I said earlier, I’ll be cranking it up again soon). I hope you take a moment to listen to it. If you find it’s just not for you, then I hope you have some other music that you can play when you’re feeling blue. Good music has a way of speaking to our souls. Today, instead of focusing on that unreasonably negative email, I’m choosing to focus on Mayer’s music and to feel grateful that he’s in this world making music that makes my heart sing.

Thanks, John.

Image from his MySpace page (but you’d be better off visiting his site or his Facebook page).

Read more about him here:

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Filed under Culture, Entertainment

Decidedly Disappointing “Deceptively Delicious” Cookbook

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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A week ago, I purchased Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Steps to Get Your Kids to Eat Good Food.” Hopeful and eager, I quickly got to work and pureed six types of vegetables and some fruit (using two pots of boiling water), produced over a dozen little baggies of purees, and prepared four different recipes.

Jessica Seinfeld’s Cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious”

After eating Turkey Chili (with carrot and red pepper puree), Tortilla Cigars (with yellow squash and carrot purees), Banana Bread (with cauliflower and banana purees) and Scrambled Eggs (with cauliflower puree), my family announced, “Sorry, but this stuff is honestly awful.” Rats! I was really looking forward to making Gingerbread Spice Cake (with broccoli and carrot puree).

Seriously (or truthfully), I wanted to like this food. Of course, I wanted my kids to like it, too. It seemed like such a great idea! Even Oprah’s wiz doc, Dr. Mehmet Oz, supported it and thought Ms. Seinfeld was on to something. And heck, we are loyal “Seinfeld” fans (of her husband’s old television series on DVD).

But, this whole “pureed vegetables snuck in kid-friendly food” thing? For our family, it’s a total bust. Sorry, Jessica (and Jerry).

Okay, I confess that I didn’t take that first suggested (perhaps most important) step — deceive the kids. In fact, I actually described the concept of vegetable purees being put into kid-friendly food and even disclosed at the outset which veggies I was putting into the food — even showed the kids the recipes (!). Then, when my son heard that I intended to actually make several of the recipes, he looked hurt (and a bit irritated) and asked, “Why would you do that to vegetables? Why would you do that to us?” He didn’t like the idea of moms deceiving their kids. Then when he tried a few of the dishes, he sounded like a food critic from the New York Times (or maybe just a son who felt angry at the notion of parents trying to pull a fast one on their kids). “Mom,” he said emphatically, “I’d much rather have real carrots in this Turkey Chili than this orange…goop you put in it.” Then he told me he would rather eat brussels sprouts than anything I made using the recipes from the cookbook.

Sigh.

Back to the drawing board.

Or maybe to the movies. Jerry’s “Bee Movie” comes out soon…

Book image from Amazon.

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Filed under Children, cooking, Culture, family, food

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

Watch this if you’re interested:

It’s a chance to express yourself on environmental issues and how ignorance (and/or denial) of them significantly impacts the world.

What first came to mind for me were newspaper articles I read recently about Al Gore’s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — the same year that President Bush is polling at embarrassingly low numbers (primarily based on his botched war). So…War and Peace. Or Peace (and War). I think it’s wonderful that Mr. Gore earned recognition for decades of work. It’s even better that his awards have brought much needed attention to the issue. It has worked for our family. I mean, I am really just starting to dig into it to try to get my arms around the issue and provide suppport where possible. Like providing the link in support of Blog Action Day.

Then I started to think about my audience – parents, moms, kids. And I talked to my kids about what they know about the state of our environment. They’re taught about it in school (yay!) but there’s always more to learn. We’ve changed lightbulbs in our home (to compact fluorescent lightbulbs or CFLs), replaced our water heater and other appliances with high efficiency models, we recycle everything that can be recycled and we’ve planted many, many trees.

But those things probably won’t help my readers in their lives, so I decided to highlight some books that you can buy (or get, if available, from your local library) for your kids.

Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming

50 Simple Things Book for Kids

Everything Kids’ Environment book

What can you do right now? Well, if you’re a blogger, click on the link and participate! Or, if you’re a reader and not a blogger, click on the link and read some of the tens of thousands of posts that were posted today. Give our kids and their children (and all of your descendants) hope for the future of our planet.

Images from Amazon.com.

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Filed under books, Culture, Thoughts