Here comes the sun

Don't know if I've mentioned it or not, but the weather here the past few weeks has pretty much sucked. As a life-long Californian now living in Oregon, I still have a tough time adjusting to the differences in weather between here and there. I mean, in California the sun's been out for months. Here in Oregon, though, it's been pretty damn cold. Oh, and then there's the rain. You have heard that about the amount of rain we get here, right? So for weeks now we've been searching for some sign that the sunny weather is on its way and, if this weekend is any indication, it has arrived. Friday was hot and yesterday was even hotter. And even though Will is still getting over the croup and cold he had last week (poor kiddo), we spent a few hours out at the pool yesterday and today. The kids had an awesome time splashing and swimming around and we all enjoyed getting out of the house and soaking up the sun. Now we're just counting down the days until the official start of summer. Look out summer 'cause here we come...


Impress yourself (and your mom)

Okay, so I'm a pretty hardcore baker and usually I make everything from scratch, but sometimes I just want something simple and easy. The following recipe couldn't be any easier if I came to your house and made them for you and it yields delicious results. These are guaranteed to be a smash hit with anyone, but why not make Mother's Day a little extra special and whip up a batch of these?

Choco-Chunk Cookies

1 box of Devils Food Cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines)
½ Cup Canola Oil
2 Jumbo Eggs
½ (6 oz.) package White Chocolate Chips = ½ cup
½ (6 oz.) package Milk Chocolate Chips = ½ cup
½ Cup Toasted Pecans – (OPTIONAL)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.
Beat eggs, oil and cake mix in a medium bowl with whisk. With a wooden spoon, mix in chocolate and nuts. Drop giant spoonfuls with large eating spoon onto a cookie sheet that has been lines with parchment paper or a Silpat (silicone baking sheet to prevent cookies from sticking to cookie sheet).
Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack… or plate to cool completely. Makes 4 dozen cookies or 3 dozen monster size cookies.


Silly rabbit, parks are for kids

Yesterday the kids and I ventured out a to new park, one we'd driven by, but never visited. It's in a part of town with which I'm not very familiar, but change is good, yes? We were all very excited (okay, maybe some more than others) as we piled out of the car and headed toward the playground. After playing for a while, Will discovered a sculpture on the hill that he wanted to check out so Brody and I followed after him. While we were up there I noticed a couple of cops on bikes stopped on the corner, but couldn't really see what they were doing. A few minutes later, one of them started up the hill in our direction. Wouldn't you know that he came to say hi to my kids? How sweet, I thought. As it turns out, though, he had an ulterior motive: to tell me to run, not walk, away from said park.

I should probably back up and tell you that I was little apprehensive about some of the people hanging around the park when we got there, but the park is plenty big and I can certainly take care of myself, so I shrugged off my misgivings. Bad idea. He and his partner? They were attempting to rouse a drunk sleeping on the lawn in the corner of the park. And those sketchy people riding their bikes around the park? Druggies and drug dealers. In fact, I'm almost certain that at one point I saw a drug deal going down. Sweet. Now I grew up in the Bay Area and have spent plenty of time in Golden Gate Park; there's not much I haven't seen in terms of nefarious park activities. However, I've never been with my kids and seen that kind of stuff...it was back in my high school and college days. So the kids and I hauled tail back to the car and headed for another park across town.

The funny thing is, we've got a park right here in our neighborhood that we can walk to in about ten minutes. That park, though, has some of the strangest play equipment I've ever seen and doesn't really work for kids under the age of 6. Usually we head that way to ride scooters or look for frogs in the marshes, but there's not much my kids can do there when it comes to the equipment.

Oh and that first park we went to? When I spoke with a few friends later in the day they were more than happy to share with me all of the sordid tales of sex and drugs that take place there. There's even a website dedicated to exposing all of the stuff that goes on there. Google the Monroe St. Park Whore Watch if you're interested. Good times.


Please and thank you

It occurred to me earlier this week that while we taught Will the importance of saying "please" and "thank you" and some other basic manners, we haven't exactly schooled him in the art of etiquette (my apologies to Emily Post). Now, that doesn't mean that he's a an unruly child (most of the time) or that he doesn't have some sense of how to behave like a civilized human being, but lately his table manners have been less than perfect. And actually, if I'm being completely honest with you, eating a meal with Will sometimes ranks right up there with having a tooth pulled sans anesthetic or standing in front of a fast-moving train. In fact, there have been plenty of nights where I've sat with the kids during the dinner, but opted to eat after they go to bed just so that I can actually relax and enjoy my food (rather than having it sit in my throat for the next three hours). Also, we used to take Will out to restaurants quite a bit before Brody was born, but that has changed since he pretty much refuses to sit down and eat his meal without getting up a million times for one reason or another. Well we're finally at a point with Brody where it might actually be enjoyable to take the two of them out to eat, but since I absolutely refuse to take Will out in this current state, it's time for Manners 101. Here's the syllabus for the course:

-Take a seat on your seat: Sit on your bottom on your chair with your legs in front of you.

-Pass it on: Do not reach across the table for anything. Instead, ask politely for what you would like and someone will gladly pass it to you.

-Utensils are our friends: Please use the forks, spoons and knives placed in front of you to eat your food. Unless the food is specifically designated as "finger food," you may not use your fingers to eat it.

-Licking fingers is not finger-licking good: The napkin set to the left of your plate is there for a reason--use it. Do not lick your fingers or wipe your dirty hands on your clothes. For that matter, please do not wipe your dirty mouth or nose on your clothes.

-Excuse me?: Mealtime is not an active sport, so stay in your seat until the end.If you would like to leave the table once you have finished eating, please ask and wait to be excused.

So that doesn't seem to difficult, right? We're not asking for much, just some basic manners and civility. Will's reward for improving his table manner? We will, as a family, go to a restaurant of his choosing to enjoy a nice meal. Personally, I'm hoping he picks sushi, but my biggest hope, of course, is that his manners improve and family meals become enjoyable again.