Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Good Judge

Emma's entire social world has exploded since entering middle school and our dinner conversations are filled with new names with few faces to match. One particular name keeps coming up and tonight Emma invited J over to cook dinner.
Apparently Emma has fallen in with a young foodie, as her new friend requested to learn how to roll sushi, wrap dumplings, and cook orange chicken. They wrapped, rolled, and chatted the evening away! Emma and J also managed to get their math homework done in the midst of it all.
This new friend makes a very good impression; we all enjoyed our dinner with her. J is bright, funny, and completely age appropriate! She shared tales of her family vacations and meatloaf mishap. Clearly our young Emma is a good judge of character and it delights me to see her world getting bigger as it fills with interesting people!
Apparently the evening was a success; the duo has decided dress as nigiri sushi for Halloween!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bursting the Bubble

Today I headed out to canvas for Obama in Michigan with my regular group of Oak Park and River Forest women. The campaign sent us to Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are divided by the St. Joseph River and are known locally as "the twin cities," but in reality they are two entirely different places. After stopping in at the Obama office on Main Street in Benton Harbor we crossed the bridge to have lunch in a cafe on the quaint streets of St. Joseph. We passed the McCain office on our way to lunch and suddenly the importance of Michigan in this election smacked me in the face.

When we hit the streets in Benton Harbor (after witnessing a fight and calling 911) it was clear we were in an area that was not just poor, but poverty stricken and aimless. It felt as though more than 50% of homes were vacant uninhabitable board ups and people were wandering around looking for a sense of purpose. In all my campaigning these were the most dire American conditions I have seen.

We were canvasing to sporadic and unregistered voters tasked with registering people on the spot and providing applications for absentee ballots to those over 60. As dire as the conditions were there was a spirit about the place and a true sense of hope Obama will win in November. As soon as we left the car people in the community were approaching us asking to be registered. At one point a young girl who didn't think she could vote in November because her 18th birthday was in mid-October was gleefully using my back to fill out her voter registration! We bought buttons from the office and passed them out to eager Obama supporters and kept conveying over and over just how important every single vote in Michigan will be on November 4th. It is an overwhelming feeling.

I am left sitting here tonight in my lovely Oak Park bungalow considering the bubble a large number of Americans live in. Large portions of our country are completely unaware of the adverse conditions our fellow countrymen are living and working in everyday. I will continue to do my small part to get Obama elected; I am certain he is the change our country needs. I believe he will paint a picture of the real America, bring a heightened awareness to the needs of all of it's people, and make a plan for improvement.

I promised and Benton Harbor believes.

Pot Roast on the Patio

Heading out to his game today Finn requested to have his hair done. An ask of this nature has become a good sign that he is really in the mood to play. Okay, he is due for a haircut and the faux hawk was about as tall as Finn, but it got him sufficiently fired up. His team greeted him with huge approval and declared he was "so cool"! Finn had an excellent game and the day was made even sweeter because Leif coached the team today. I find it totally amazing to watch this relationship between the men in my life develop!
When we returned home the house smelled like pot roast! I am getting into a fall frame of mind and nothing feels like autumn to me like a big braised dinner!
It isn't quite fall yet so we took our pot roast on the patio. There was something delicious about the juxtaposition of the meal!
From there Leif and I headed to the Moon Dance in the neighborhood for some socializing and cocktails. All and all a pretty great day!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Getting the Key

Tonight we held our annual meeting at the Day Nursery. We laid out the usual snacks and served up a meeting highlighting the good and the bad the Day Nursery faced in the past year. Not the least of which was honoring Nancy G for eight years on the board of directors with seven served as president. I made a little speech to send her off, but I have her phone number on speed dial!
The other little piece of business was voting MD and me in as co-presidents of this historic organization. I was ready for it and with MD, proudly took my place next to the executive director and heart of the Day Nursery tonight.I had a brief moment of panic when I was handed this key during the meeting. Apparently the alarm goes of in the middle of the night sometimes...and I will need it for that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Irving, all lit up

Irving School is a bright spot in our south Oak Park community and on curriculum night it is lit up late into the evening. Parents file out of their homes and head to the brightly shining building to meet the people responsible for educating their children everyday. Tonight Leif and I headed over to meet Finn's teacher, Ms. T, to learn about third grade delights.
Finn's teacher is exactly what we would have hoped for: calm, funny, supremely aware, and kind. Finn's desk is in great shape and his journal is filled with funny, interesting, and even sad stories. Finn is clearly on his way to having an amazing year!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Max

My neighbor and long time friend took me out to lunch for my birthday today at the Blue Max.
It is always fun having lunch with Eileen and today was no exception.
She is planning a trip to Spain and was quick to share the details of her upcoming trip.

As we sipped coffee and ate sandwiches I
suddenly realized we had been seated at table 34...ironic!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


4 candles X 8.5 = 34 beautiful years of living.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Neighborhood birthday

A neighbor asked me to cater her self inflicted 50th birthday party last night.
Emma and Finn passed along their colds to me so I was even more grateful for LB and Tee's service at the event. Before the party started there was an incident with the cake. The birthday girl had ordered it especially for her big day and let me just say it wasn't what she wanted. In fact it was disastrously ugly and juvenile. With the cake hidden in the basement it was time to serve the appetizers.

There were many memorable bites throughout the evening, but my miniature green tea crepes with daikon, cucumber, flank steak and hoisin were a particular hit with the men.

I also liked the grilled crostini stars with tarragon white bean puree and French olive tapenade, but he best dish of the evening was my homemade crab, mango, and mint maki roll. The surprising addition of a little brown sugar made the dish!

When the time came to serve the cake we discovered it had been liberally decorated by A, a friend of the birthday girl and all around creative guy! It was a brilliant moment that reminded everyone to find the humor in any and every situation.
BTW: The ugly cake was simply delicious!

Seuss In the Boardroom

On the third Friday of every month we have our board meeting at the Day Nursery. The primary responsibly of our board is financial oversight of this million dollar non-profit. Today we amended bylaws and previewed our annual audit, the usual heavy board room business. We also had a staff presentation and mid meeting found ourselves wearing Dr. Seuss hats and whipping up some green eggs in celebration of the author's birthday!

All in a day's work I guess!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Being Emma

Tonight Leif and I had the opportunity to be Emma. It was curriculum night at the middle school and it ran like a school day on fast forward. With Emma's schedule in hand we hit all of her classrooms from Advisory, pre-algebra, band, lunch, the stinky gym and everything in between. We were delighted to meet all of her teachers and can now empathize with her sprint from the first floor to the third floor between periods four and five. They gave the slow moving slightly confused parents four minutes between classes and we barely made it...and Emma has to do it in three stopping at her locker in between!
A fellow parent commented that the space is so vast compared to elementary school he could envision certain kids expanding with the space and others just whithering away when faced with all the opportunity. After being in middle school for the evening I can attest his sentiments are true and I am happy to report Emma seems to be thriving in her new environment. Each of Emma's teachers knew exactly who she was and even could report funny facts about me and Leif! Leif and I even managed to complete our assignment from Emma; we located the garbage can she and a couple of fellow classmates were responsible for painting today. I guess we deserve an A!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Donkey before Elephant

In high school, one of my very closest friends was Elissa. Yes, Melissa and Elissa...about as cheeky as is comes! We went to almost all the school dances together, spent hours at coffee shops, and even drank cheap wine out of giant plastic wine glasses in my first apartment. She was always the first to follow fashion trends, but always remained an individual. Elissa was even responsible for my meeting Leif and for that I cannot thank her enough. After Leif and I moved to Chicago and had Emma enter our lives, I am sad to say Elissa and I lost touch. It wasn't like I didn't think about her, but time and circumstances simply separated us...until she found me on Facebook.

Elissa was the first old friend to surprise me on Facebook and posted the above picture for all the world to see. I learned she is happily married to the man she was dating when we lost touch, has a beautiful daughter, and a high-end women's clothing and accessory boutique called HERS in Milwaukee's trendy Third Ward. I have loved catching up with Elissa and was even more delighted when a present arrived in the mail today from her. She sent me the most adorable Echo scarf covered with democratic donkeys! I assure you I have many places to wear my political party silk scarf and I was relieved Elissa also sent instructions on how to wear it! Please, if you are inclined, call her shop and order the donkey scarf...I think she has some elephants in the shop and I would love to see her sell out of donkeys before elephants!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Two Down

Emma started feeling ill last night and woke up this morning with a headache, totally congested, and feverish.
Wrapped in the "sick blanket," she spent the morning dozing on the couch and when her ears started hurting, I called the doctor to get her in for an ear check.
Just as we were heading out the door the phone rang.
It was the school nurse informing me Finn had the same headache and stuffy nose as his sister.
I picked him up and headed to the doctor.
No ear infections, just a nasty virus.
Thankfully pushing fluids, OJ, and couch time isn't too hard for the kids to take.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Deadly Sin?

We have been running around like crazy people lately. We have been going so hard that it took a day like today to make us realize how much we all needed to slow down.
It has been raining, I mean really raining, for the past 48 hours. Roads have closed and yards and basements have flooded all over the Oak Park area. The Elsmo family followed suit and closed for business today. We stayed in our PJ's, ate potato chips, drank soda, played Stratego, watched many episodes of The Cosby Show and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
We did nothing productive. We laughed and yawned and talked.
Just when thoughts of sloth entered my mind, Finn threw his arms around me, planted a kiss smack on my lips and asked, "When can we have this day again?"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beef, Barbie, and Blue

Need a Clue?

I made beef stew.
And shared it with a few.
We love getting together with Aim, Fresh G, and their girls. Tonight I brought stew to their gorgeous house for a little family fun. Finn was a trooper, as his world went from all boy to all Barbie in seconds flat, but the rest of us settled in for a comfortable evening filled with craftsman beers, 70's tunes, and cards.
I always marvel at Fresh G, he is a crazy smart man with an uncanny knowledge of just about anything you could imagine...especially movies. I have always wondered how he keeps track of all that information and tonight his secret was revealed. There we were, mid conversation, when he whipped out his Blue's Clues notebook and started writing. In this exact moment I think he was reminding himself to check out this video.
Thanks for a fun evening!
Sorry, I could only rhyme a few lines...I guess our book is on hold!

An important meal

The morning started with breakfast. A simple meal, baked eggs, hearty toast and fruit, complicated only by the reason for serving it. Taking over the Day Nursery board has forced me into the unusual position of assessing organizational needs and filling the emerging gaps...fun fun fun! It has become clear that our program needs some attention and the person clearly qualified to to the job has already served on the board and left for reasons I don't fully understand. She came for breakfast this morning; this was a breakfast served with a re-ask attached. She said yes to serving another term on the board, and presented me with a plum coffee cake from the Oak Park Bakery. I don't like sweet dishes, but this particular cake was among the best sweets I have ever eaten. I have visions of sweets like that cake being laid out on the board room table over the next two years and it makes all the responsibility a little more palatable.
With the pleasurable business of the day done, I was fortunate to head out to the movies with friends (I folded some laundry and drove some carpools in between). We saw The Women and finished up at Trattoria 225 with a glass of wine.
Some days are a little business, some pleasure and then you end up having popcorn for dinner...but they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day...it sustains you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Boys in the afternoon

Thursday is the only afternoon Finn can really kick back and enjoy some time with friends. Finn and S have been pals since pre-school and they never pose a problem when they are together. The second they hit the deck yesterday, they threw down their back packs and whipped out their Pokemon cards for some heated trading and conversation.

As I served them their after school snack, I overheard them discussing how the behavior of one of their fellow classmates is sure to lead to his "expelliation" and how hot lunch today was the "Salisbury Steakiest" of all time! True, an eight year old boy is a strange creature, slightly awkward and geeky, but there is something so beautifully simple about them...they posses an innocence only girls can tamper with.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Risky Postures PG13

Sometimes gravity is not your friend.
When I met my husband, fourteen years ago, I was teaching and competing on the professional ballroom dance circuit. My dances were Viennese Waltz, Waltz, Fox Trot and Tango and my body was fierce. My friend, El, even referred to me as, "tits on a stick" before she knew my name.
Over the years the tits have remained, but I am sad to report the stick has become slightly thicker...okay it is more like a log.

I started taking yoga with some of the neighborhood ladies in hopes of whittling the stick and I simply love it. Tonight we were introduced to a new posture...


So there I was, nipples in my nostrils, grappling with the fact this is not a natural position for the well endowed woman. I turned my head for air, and commented to my friend Lynn that I was afraid I may be at risk for suffocation. She started laughing so hard I feared we may have shattered the tranquil mood yoga requires.

When I returned home I explained the Halasana pose to Emma and Finn and wouldn't you know, they both dropped to the floor and rolled over. I love my kids, but sometimes they are a bit much.

Namaste...and be thankful you can breathe!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday is Meatloaf

Leif's favorite food of all time is meat loaf and with the sudden cold and rain it felt like a fitting family dinner. As hokey as it may seem it was really delicious!
I learned the secret to perfect meatloaf from a food scientist. No matter the recipe you should combine all the ingredients except the meat in the bowl of a stand mixer. Little by little begin adding the meat with the machine running. When all the meat has been incorporated you will be left with a smooth, yet slightly loose mixture. Never use a loaf pan, but shape the mixture into a free form loaf and bake.

No meatloaf dinner is complete without mashed potatoes and tonight the whipped skin on red potatoes with rosemary and cider braised Brussels sprouts were the perfect accompaniments for our fifties flashback dinner. I counted...Leif has said, "I love you" at least half a dozen times tonight. I love a man who is so easy to please! Maybe it would benefit me to make every Monday meatloaf night.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Quick Change

It felt a little like a repeat of yesterday, but something was a little bit different about the day. If you look closely you can see a child standing in the window to the left of the Joffrey sign.
That is Finn.
He headed down to audition for the Nutcracker for the first time today. It is an honest to goodness cattle call filled with hoards of adorable children hoping to make a dream come true. News crews from ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX lined the streets and filled the studios to capture images of the children brave enough to enter the highly competitive audition process. Sadly, for hundreds of children the day ends in a puddle of tears, but...

...Finn was among those lucky few to secure a role in the production. His was calm and cool throughout the process and was very proud of his accomplishment.
Changing in the car and modeling his behavior after Clark Kent, Finn went from dancer to soccer player in seconds flat. Less than 30 minutes after learning he had made the Nutcracker he was on the field with his team for their first game of the regular season and helped them to a 6-4 win!
And just when we thought Finn couldn't out do his accomplishments of the day he proved he has new talent...
...tomorrow we expect he will leap a tall building in a single bound!
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