Last week I had a coupon for Ann Taylor Loft's "Friends and Family" sale so I dropped in to see what I could find. This is one of the few stores locally that carries a great selection of petite-sized clothes that don't look like they belong on my 92-year-old grandmother (a la Bergner's, Macy's and Kohl's).
Because I don't buy full-priced clothing there, I perused the sale racks and came across a pair of jeans in my size. I tried them on and they fit just right (love when that happens). The price on the tag made me do a double take and wonder if the decimal point was misplaced. Regular price for these jeans was $54.
Wanna know what I paid?
Yep, two dollars and ninety-one cents.
That's with the 25% off coupon. Their final sale price was $3.88.
I also picked up a dress for under $23.
I have never paid under $3 for a pair of jeans in my life - for myself, my husband or my kids.
On our way home from preschool, my daughter and I popped into our favorite international grocery today to pick up some things for dinner tonight and a few other things I didn't know I needed until I walked in the door (as is always the case).
I've written before about how much I adore Euro-Mart and my feelings have not wavered.
As Flynn and I browsed the aisles, one of the gentlemen that work there asked me if I needed any help. I mentioned I needed some Mimolette, a French cheddar that my son is addicted to (Euro-Mart's price is slightly better than Art Mart's). While he attended to that I went to the back of the store to pick a salami. Flynn picked out a package of Swedish fish to share with her brother.
While the young man was ringing up my order he says, "Did you write something nice about us on your blog?" For a second I thought he had me confused with Lisa at Champaign Taste, then I remembered my post, "Uh, yeah, I did." "Thanks," he said and then gave me a generous discount and Flynn a butterfly-shaped lolly.
That's customer service and a lesson clerks at some other stores I won't mention by name should learn. Euro-Mart rocks!
And I was completely blown away (and slightly freaked out) by the fact that a) he's read my blog and b) recognized me.
By the way, Euro-Mart's celebrating their 4th anniversary this weekend. For those of you in the Chambana area, pop in on Saturday - they're having a party (there'll free baklava, cheese, chocolate and a bunch of other stuff). See for yourself the goodness that is Euro-Mart.
Flynn's preschool teacher decided that since the majority of the class celebrates their birthdays in the summer, it would be fun if each summer baby got to celebrate their special day at school.
Tomorrow is Flynn's turn and we're on deck for snack. Since we're celebrating her "birthday" I'm allowed to bring in a special (i.e., homemade) snack. Since our preschool is a licensed center snacks must be store-bought, but we make an exception when big days roll around.
A week or so ago I asked Flynn what she'd like to bring. She said, "S'mores." I tried to think of a way to do this without each child getting covered in goo. No dice.
Instead we made s'more cupcakes. Flynn and I made a batch of vanilla (because there are kids in her class that can't eat chocolate, poor things) and a batch of chocolate cupcakes from the awesome Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. The icing is decidedly non-vegan: it's marshmallow. And then we sprinkled graham cracker crumbs on top.
The cupcakes look pretty good, if I say so myself. I hope the kids like them.
To make the snack a little healthier, we're also having strawberries.
And, yes, I know the kids will be covered in gooey marshmallow icing. Should make for some fun pictures.
Flynn's been carrying this thing around for the past couple of days.
And I hate, hate, hate it.
If I could shoot laser beams from my eyes, that unholy candy-colored machine would be toast.
I don't know how she found it stashed away in the basement. But she did. And she brought it upstairs.
When Evan was a wee toddler, I purchased one of these at a garage sale for something like 25 cents. I figured he could croon along with his then-favorite group, The Wiggles, and it would be super cute.
It was until he discovered that if you hold the microphone in one hand, you can swing the tape recorder part around and around over your head. It then became a weapon and I relegated it to the basement, where, in our house, all noisy and destructive toys go to be forgotten until they're unearthed by a nosy child and receive a stay of execution (until I can hide said toy again or smuggle it out of the house and give it to Goodwill or our preschool's rummage sale fund raiser).
Flynn's been more attracted to the (accursed) Playskool tape recorder than Evan ever was. She carries that thing around with the mic pressed up against her little mouth so the only sounds we (meaning her father and I) can decipher are ones akin to those uttered by an adult in a Peanuts special. And because she insists on keeping the microphone so close to her lips, there's also a lot of feedback.
She howls into the mic pretending to be a wolf. My ears bleed.
She sings Hannah Montana songs, which is very cute but very loud. The sound of fingernails scraping down a chalkboard doesn't bother me. My daughter belting out "We Got The Party With Us", however, sends the shivers up and down my spine - and not in a good way.
She makes up her own songs (again, very, very sweet but incredibly loud). I grit my teeth and tell her, yes her singing is lovely, but to bring it down a notch. Or two. Or to please stop.
Last night as she climbed into bed, noise maker clutched lovingly to her chest, I told her that the microphones had to stay out of the bed. "But, Mommy," she protested,"if I wake up in the night I can use the microphone to call you and you will hear me nice and clearly."
She then proceeded to interview the 900 stuffed animals in her bed. All the animals responded to her questions with animal noises; ducks quacked, seals barked, dogs woofed, cats meowed. Except for her current favorite, a lamb she dressed in a Baby Born swimsuit. Lambie answered the question, "What would you say to Flynn?" with the following statement, "I would tell Flynn that I love her and that she is the best girl. And that I love Flynnie."
Heartwarming, yes, but I'm still planning on "accidentally" backing over that tape recorder with the car. A few times.
Warner Bros.'s "Feed The Kitty" is quite possibly my all-time favorite cartoon. No exaggeration. It's Chuck Jones at his absolute best. There's also a scene in Monsters, Inc., when Sully thinks Boo's in the trash compactor, that's an almost frame-by-frame homage to the cookie-making scene in this short - something the director unabashedly admits because he's such a fan of the cartoon.
I love that Marc Anthony's owner does her housework in 4 inch heels, like me (yeah, sure).
Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot leave my kids almost breathless with laughter each and every time. Me, too.
I triple dog dare you to watch this classic and not laugh along.
Well, not exactly under my feet as I was in bed when the earthquake struck New Salem early this morn. The bed shook so hard I woke up and wondered what was going on. I'm the only one in my house that woke up.
In my sleep-addled fog was my first thought "Earthquake!"? Um, no. Lying there in the dark, I thought my house was haunted and there was a poltergeist shaking my bed. I started praying "Our Father"s and "Hail Mary"s. I'm not proud to admit it, but it's true. Oh, not that I pray. I do that every day. What makes me laugh at myself was the fact that my first thought was that some malicious spirit or whatever had moved in and was taking over.
That's what a childhood spent during the 1970's will do to you. That decade was the most frightening thing I can imagine: devil movies were a-plenty (The Omen, The Exorcist, Satan's School For Girls, and countless others - not that I watched them but I remember hearing snatches of them from the TV while I was in my room and being scared to death), Charles Manson and his group were still fresh in the American psyche, teenagers were scary, songs were creepy ("Witchy Woman", anyone?). Pair that with a child with a very active imagination and you get me.
A woman who, when woken from her slumber by a small earthquake, thinks Satan's snatching for her soul.
Mrs. Chicken has given up and I do, too. These pictures were taken just before my "hurry and pick up before the housekeeper gets here" mania kicked in and I tidied up. My cleaning woman comes tomorrow, God bless her.
The game cabinet runneth over.
Lego-a-go-go (the cardboard boxes on the right are a "space station" Evan and Frank built some time ago - it's been well used by Star Wars and Littlest Pet Shop figures).
This is my "desk" (I can hardly type that without giggling) in the kitchen.
My kitchen. The center island is the holding place for all incoming and outgoing pieces of school-related paper. There's also a chocolate Easter calendar from Germany in there and my beloved Yellow Submarine cookie jar. Frightful, yes, but scarily enough I know where everything is.
When I saw this SNL short a couple of years ago, I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. It was the funniest thing I'd seen on SNL in eons. And it seemed that whenever I did watch SNL (which isn't that often) this was the episode they were showing that week (Jack Black was the host). I just love the contrast between the hard edge of rap and the geekiness of Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg.
Rear Window is one of my all-time favorite movies, Hitchcock or otherwise, and I grew up loving Three's Company. I wouldn't call this the best of both worlds, but it's certainly amusing.
This is just the kind of day that's perfect for curling up on the couch and savoring a Hitchcock film (or a marathon) or reruns of the gang down at the Regal Beagle. Fat chance, though, with the kinder running around and Frank at work.
Though maybe tonight, after the kids are down for the count, I'll watch me some Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.
While perusing the April issue of Good Housekeeping magazine this morn over a cup of tea, I came across what is now my new favorite word: "uni-butt".
I think I almost laughed so hard tea came out my nose.
I'd not been aware of the term, "uni-butt", before but it's used to describe what happens when a girdle, or other shapewear, squeezes the buttocks together. Got a mental picture of that? It ain't pretty, folks.
I don't have that problem, not that I don't wear shapers. I do (love Assets from Target). It's just that I have let's say, a junk-free trunk. I prefer the term my friend Diane came up with to describe our mutual "affliction": the skillet-ass.
I am the anti-J. Lo. (and thank God for that - that woman, at least her public persona, drives me nutty).
Hips? Got 'em.
Thighs? Yup, you betch'a.
Butt? Uh, that's a negatory.
I'm just flat front and back and that's ok. It's just the way I'm built and no amount of lunges or leg lifts is going to fix that.
The verdict is in: this year's Spring Muscial is not as hard to take as last year's.
Each year, Evan's school puts on a Spring "musical". It's not a musical in the traditional sense of the word, it's more like a school-wide concert surrounding a common theme. Last year they attempted Joseph and The Amazing TechnicolorDreamcoat, a musical when done right is fantastic but when done not-so-much-right-but-incredibly-wrong is excruciatingly painful. I sat through it 2 times and could not force myself through the final performance, no matter how much I love my son. I have a bit of a background in theatre (I have a B.A. in Theatre Arts in addition to the English degree), so I may be judging these kids too harshly. But I recall my sister's junior high putting on this musical and doing a decent job of it (they also had a fantastic director in Mrs. Mary Ellen Page, the teacher who made me want to be a teacher and all of them actually wanted to be in the production).
This year's offering is selections from various Disney films and TV shows. The upper grades do some staging and a few of the 5th & 6th grade girls have fine voices. It's a cute show, but I've never seen more lack-luster pirates in my life (watching the upper grades you can tell who's so over being in the Spring musical and there's no getting out of it as I'm assuming most of the 4th quarter's music grade is dependent upon participation).
Evan's school does not have an auditorium. They have a gymatorium, which was opened last school year and is a very nice facility. For a basketball game. Musicals? Mmmm, not so much. What the stage really, really needs are mics suspended over it, all the better to hear the lovely, lilting voices of the children (mainly because they don't project very much). Need I say the acoustics in the gymatorium are not conducive to the spoken, much less singing, voice?
Flynn, being devoid of my critical eye, loved it. When the 1st grade girls broke into Hannah Montana's "Best of Both Worlds" she about lost it, "Mommy! It's Hannah Montana!". And when a 5th grade Cinderella was paraded around in a "glass" coach, she whispered, "She's so beautiful!" And even though she was desperate for a drink of water, she would not leave our seats because she didn't want to miss anything.
We're seeing it again tomorrow. Maybe the second performance will be better than the first, the kids won't be as nervous. Maybe they'll sing a little louder and enunciate. Maybe the pirates will have a little more energy.
And even if they don't, they'll still create a little magic for a certain 4-year-old little girl.
Frank took the day off last Friday and we headed northwards to visit his mom and other family. We left C-U around 1:30, after picking Evan up early from school and lunch at Panera.
We arrived 3 hours later (traffic on 294 wasn't too bad - we beat the rush hour). The first thing the kids did, other than hug their Oma, was head outside to the swing set. The weather was fantastic. Spring has finally arrived.
After the kids had had their fill of swinging, we celebrated Easter (since we were unable to be there on the actual day, the Easter Bunny waited and brought baskets to Oma's house and then hid about 50 eggs outside).
When the Easter carnage was over we retired inside to choruses of, "Can we play with Daddy's old toys?" My mother-in-law grew up in post-war Austria, which explains why she does not throw anything away. If you're of a certain age maybe some of these toys look familiar? She also has the old Fisher-Price little people and all the accouterments. The kids love playing with those old toys.
Saturday was just as fantastic as the previous day: warm, sunny and a bit of a breeze off the lake. We headed over to Woodfield Mall to Maggiano's, an Italian-style restaurant, where we were treating Frank's sister and her family to lunch in honor of Karin's birthday (it's Thursday but, hey, any reason to celebrate). The food was good, the company even better. After stuffing ourselves we retired to my SIL's house in Bartlett for MORE Easter (and dessert - a Boston creme pie from Baker's Square and my sister-in-law's amazing homemade cheesecake). A more frenzied egg hunt I've never seen. My nieces were "coaching" my kids, "Go! Go faster! There! Pick up that one! Look! Here's another one!".
Sunday morning we went to Mass at the church my husband attended growing up and where both our children were baptized. Afterwards we joined other family at Wildfire, a local restaurant, this time to celebrate Frank's cousin's husband's 50th birthday and his mom's 75th. The food was amazing. We begged off joining everyone at Gary and Gabi's for dessert so we could get on the road and come home.
It was a whirlwind trip, as always, and most likely the last trip for a long while as Frank won't be able to take any time off until his game ships.
Since Mrs. Chicken has so graciously called me a "fine writer" (gosh, I'm blushing), I'll take my part in the book meme.
I'm currently reading Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night, an homage to mid-Victorian fiction (it reads much like Dickens with a touch of Wilkie Collins and a dash of ghost story to boot). It's not every one's cup of tea, but I'm enjoying it: takes me back to my college days, being the only underclassman in Victorian Literature class and loving delving into the history, fiction and poetry of that time period (one of my favorites).
Page 123, 5th sentence and the next 3:
"He is able in many ways, but weak and easily led. It is better for him that he should remain here, under my care, until such time as he attains more discretion and application than he presently possesses. You are, perhaps, a little hard on him, sir, "said Lord Tansor, stiffening slightly. 'And you will permit me to say that I do not altogether concur with your plan. It is a bad thing for a boy to be shut up at home."
I added an extra 4th sentence to complete "Lord Tansor's" thought.
This passage is especially pertinent to my life as Evan is presently on his knees begging to go to the park. It is, indeed, a bad thing for a boy to shut up at home.
The kids watched Yellow Submarine last night and wanted to know if there were any more "episodes". So I found some of the old Beatles cartoons on You Tube. The quality's not the greatest but still.... it's The Beatles.
These do my heart good. I just adore those four lads (even made the trip to Mecca, I mean Liverpool).
I know, I know, I just reformatted my old mp3 player (a cute little Sansa m240 with 1 GB internal memory that my mom gave me for Christmas 2 years ago).
I was at the gym the other day and during my workout I got a nose full of something rank. I thought, "Wow. Who smells?"
It was me.
Rather, not me per se, but my mp3 player armband. I've been going through 2 of these babies a year. Even after going through the wash they were still more than just a bit whiffy. And at about $25 a pop, they aren't exactly the least expensive gym accessory.
So I decided to purchase another player and gift my old one to my kids.
This is what I bought:
For the price of a year's worth of armbands I purchased a hot pink ScanDisk mini clip by Sansa. This little cutie has 2 gigs of internal memory and is approximately the size of a Tic Tacs box. Like my other Sansa player, the mini clip's menus are very easy to navigate. Not only can you load a variety of audio formats (mp3, wma, etc.), it also comes with preset FM stations (you can change them and add your own), and it has a voice recorder.
As if these features weren't enough to sell me, there is no armband required since the mini clip does exactly that; it clips to your clothes. And it stays put. I put mine through a vigorous workout today and it didn't budge from the collar of my shirt.
After some on-line research, I purchased mine through Amazon (free shipping if you're an Amazon Prime member like me).
The mini clip is charged on the computer, connecting via a USB cable that comes with the unit. I was able to add well over 200 songs (everything that was on my old player plus tons of songs by The Jam, Joe Jackson, The Shins, and some Monty Python for a laugh) and still have plenty of room left for more. The one charge should last about 15 hours or so.
That's over a week's worth of workouts.
My Sansa mini clip is just the weapon I needed in my workout arsenal.
After reading the review of La Panaderia, C-U's newest bakery, over at Champaign Taste I made up my mind to go there. And a coupon came in the mail for buy 3 breads or pastries get the 4th free. How's that for a coincidence?
My daughter and I stopped by on the way home from preschool today. She chose a cream roll, which looked delicious (she said it was). I chose a cream puff for myself and a strawberry empanada for my son's after school snack. I also bought a small french roll that we will have with our dinner tonight.
The store smells heavenly, like a bakery should. Business was brisk and selections were limited. You can tell this is a true bakery - no frozen stuff heated up here.
Normally, I would've waited until about 3-ish to sample my cream puff (that's normally when I take a little "coffee break"), but today I was high on a great lunch with friends so I made a cup of Earl Grey and dove in.
Isn't it lovely?
Who cares that the cream tasted like Cool Whip? For all I know it was, but do I care? Nope. Not a whit. Would I have preferred handmade cream? Sure, but I'm not picky. And maybe it is handmade and their stuff is just like Cool Whip? Anyway, the puff pastry was reminiscent of my mom's - light and eggy and all goodness. A pure delight and much better than the eclair I bought at Sweet Indulgence last Saturday (they lost me on the custard which was a bit too sticky for my taste, not creamy at all, and it did not have enough vanilla).
While I wallowed in my cream puff's carb- and fat-loaded deliciousness, Flynn decided to do a little painting.
My sweet, beautiful girl wanted to make a picture for her daddy.
I'm a crazy proud mother of an 8-year-old Star Wars obsessed black belt boy and 6-year-old clothing and make-up designer girl.
When I'm not teaching high school English or volunteering at my kids' school, I manage our household. If I'm not driving children to and from karate lessons and play dates, I can usually be found logging miles on the gym treadmill, elliptical or stairway to nowhere.
Or sitting under a tree reading a book or magazine.