Monday, March 26, 2012

Just-don't-call-them-Easter eggs

One of my fondest memories from childhood was dying Easter eggs and hoping my artistic creation would be chosen for the Passover seder plate.

It's a tradition I'm proud to share with my otherwise exclusively Jewish children, and I was even more excited to get coloring when I found this tutorial for dying eggs naturally.

Zoe, Ada and I hunted around the kitchen for color-rich items we could use for our eggs and tried to predict what the results would look like after the boiling and overnight soaking was done.

Because we have a limited number of unused glass jars (we use them for salad dressing, leftovers and simple syrup) and some eggs didn't survive Ada's enthusiastic drop into the pot, we didn't dye very many eggs. But those we did are so pretty it will be hard to decide which one to pick for the seder plate.

 In case you're interested, the blue eggs were made with blueberries; the reddish-brown came from black tea, coffee beans, a cinnamon stick and whole cloves. The light green eggs were the result of green tea and cilantro, and the bright yellow egg was tumeric and a carrot. We dried the eggs and polished them with mineral oil before putting them back in the fridge. Also, this photo doesn't really do them justice--the camera on my Samsung phone is such crap.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Brownie, cake baker

Baking a cakeLast week Zoe made her first cake. Sure, she's been helping out in the kitchen since she was a toddler, but in order to enter a cake in the Girl Scouts 100th Birthday Cake Contest and Auction at her school, she had to do all the prep work and clean up on her own. (I slid the cake pans in and out of the oven and offered advice.)

Zoe made a boxed Devil's Food Cake and iced it with a white buttercream from a Trader Joe's mix. Since the mix didn't contain quite enough frosting, she "glued" Whole Foods faux Oreos around the sides with icing.

More challenging was decorating the thing. My little 7 year old had grand plans that included roses and complicated messaging along the top, but she lacked enough strength in her fingers to press out any green icing beyond "100," and that was a struggle that nearly brought her to tears.

Since we were heading to the retreat and had to miss the judging and auction, we dropped the cake off with one of the troop leaders. Apparently it sold for $10! You can see photos from the event here. Tell me if you think all these cakes were made without a parent's help. I have my doubts...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A retreat from the everyday

Sing in Hebrew and carry a big stick
The girls and I attended our synagogue's annual retreat this past weekend, and the glorious warm weather made it feel like we really were at summer camp.

The retreat is on the grounds of OSRUI, the regional Jewish sleepaway camp that I hope to send the girls to someday. (It costs an arm and a leg, but I always regretted not getting to go to an equivalent camp myself.)

It was a really relaxing weekend, which might seem surprising to those who have traveled alone with two small children. But I gave a ride to a fellow temple member who is also a parenting coach (I know!) and the girls and I spent most of our waking hours apart. I attended the adult-focused seminars and discussions (and took one glorious one hour nap) while they played games, made crafts and otherwise had an awesome time with the other K-3 kids (4 year olds had the option to "age up").

We ate our kosher-style meals together, except when the girls ran off to eat with one of their favorite babysitters, who was there with the 6th grade group. And after putting the girls to bed, I was able to leave our spartan, dorm-like accommodations and enjoy a little adult socializing (read: adult beverages and the best New York-style deli spread I've ever gorged myself on).

Oh, and while there were acoustic guitars everwhere I looked, there was none of the folk music sing-a-longs that scared Josh from coming.

So we'll be back next year. As a foursome.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Josh and I have lived in Chicago since the mid-1990s, but he'd never attended a St. Patrick's Day Parade and I last time I saw one I was still attending the University of Chicago. (And it was only because I accidentally stumbled upon the downtown parade while trying to buy bras at Marshall Fields.)

Photo courtesy of Derby Lite's own Molly Hacker 
Anyway, it was bound to happen. Josh shook off his dislike for McDonald's and became a fan of the Shamrock Shake, our kids' friends are into Irish dancing and before you know it we're bringing soda bread and honey butter to a St. Patrick's Day party and I'm sending Josh to Target to buy me green argyle socks and short-shorts and I'm skating in the Forest Park St Patrick's Day parade.

Of course, next weekend marks the real St Patrick's Day, but something tells me we won't be marking the occasion at our synagogue retreat.*

*Yes, you read that right. I'm taking the girls to our temple's annual retreat in Wisconsin. Josh declined to attend on account of there may be folk singing.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

What the InkJoy pen means to this writer

Most of the product samples offered to mom bloggers are decidedly kid-centric: toys, fruit snacks, parenting books. It's rare that I'm asked to take a look at an invention directly related to my profession. So when Paper Mate offered me a chance to sample their new InkJoy pens, I jumped at the opportunity--and it wasn't just because they promised to also send me a biometric safe for locking up "the world's most stolen pen."

I use pens all day long to write headlines, take notes, edit others' work and initial on work. And I'm picky about my pens, refusing to use cheap, non-retractable ballpoints, no matter the color. Typically I use a felt tip pen--I'm partial to orange and green--and I suffer the consequences in the form of marks on my hands and stains on the inside of my bags.

I'm also an admitted pen thief--although my colleagues' pens I steal inadvertently and  I like to think that the nicer logoed pens I liberate from businesses is really more "to remember them by."

I'd be liberating a lot more pens if more companies switched to InkJoy. I've taken to carrying around my InkJoy 700 RT and showing it off to friends--it really is that nice. The colored InkJoy 300s are less special, but still a lot of fun to write with. They're now on equal footing with my green and orange felt tip pens, in constant rotation on my desk at work.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Happy house

Our new furniture arrived yesterday and Amanda Miller came over to help me "stage" everything just so. She had me pull out all my knick-knacks, bowls and art and arranged things in some unexpected ways. I may move a few things later, but for now I like her choices. Here's a peek.
Feb 29, 2012 8:27 PM
This is our new sofa, a mid-century style from Rowe. The couch is bark colored with teal piping and buttons. The accent pillow is from West Elm, the bench/coffee table is a reclaimed wood piece I bought off Etsy and the rug was existing (it is from Pottery Barn).
Feb 29, 2012 8:29 PM
The other side of the living room now has two chairs, one a custom chair (also kind of mid-century inspired) from Rowe and a red slipper chair from West Elm. The side table is also West Elm, purchased on clearance for $99, and the lamp was a $10 item I picked up at Target years ago. The throw was crocheted by my great-grandmother and the striped pillow was given to me a few years ago. We rearranged our art collection to showcase this Jon Langford painting of The Band and our stairway is still home to a dozen silkscreened concert posters. Brown and teal are the primary colors, but I'm using ivory and red as accents.
Feb 29, 2012 8:28 PM
Viewing the room more from the front door, you can see our rearranged shelving unit, which my Mom bought for us from Room and Board back in 2000. The wall behind the unit is now teal and there is a pouf I knitted underneath, which we can pull out when we need extra (kid) seating.
Feb 29, 2012 8:28 PM
The dining room now houses Josh's guitar collection. Other changes we made based on Amanda's recommendations include painting the shelf black to match the chairs and a corner shelf (not visible here), moving my Pakistani trunk over from the living room, and adding art above the hutch. What's interesting is that she paired a Chinese silk embroidered piece (inherited from my grandma) with a silk-screened concert poster and a wood carving. The contemporary IKEA table lamp makes the orange in the two framed pieces really pop. (I'll add a photo later to demonstrate.)

I'm so very happy with how our redecoration of our main living space turned out, as I think it is a real reflection of us and our personal style.