Archive for the ‘Holidays & Seasonal’ Category

Mar
23

Easter the daddy way

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Robert Nickell, McClatchy-Tribune

Our family’s Easter celebrations have ranged from the traditional to the creative, but as long as the family is together we always have fun. Here are my suggestions to make your Easter extra special.

  • LAWN GAMES: Venture beyond the traditional Easter egg hunt and create a series of lawn games that your family can participate in all together. I suggest a family relay race while balancing an egg on a spoon; “hopping” like a bunny in a sac race across the yard or even an egg toss (similar to a water balloon toss) — might I suggest using hard boiled eggs?
  • FAMILY OUTING: Take advantage of your time together by doing something as a family. You could attend Easter service, take a picnic to a park, head to the beach (if you live near one), take a spring family ski day, or even do something completely non-traditional like go to Disneyland. It’s not every day that the whole family can be together without the interference of work or school. Whatever you do, leave the cellphone behind and be present and together all day long.
  • THE HUNT IS ON: Of course it wouldn’t be Easter without an egg hunt. Gather all of the children inside for a snack and sneak outside to hide eggs everywhere! Divvy up baskets and let your kids loose to run around the yard gathering eggs and candy. But it doesn’t have to be all about candy — it can be really fun to put homemade coupon cards inside of the plastic eggs, too. Create coupons for “ice cream with daddy,” “an outing with daddy,” etc. Your kids will love it, and they’ll be “cashing” in their coupon cards in the months to come.
  • ARTS AND CRAFTS: My kids have always enjoyed making things; therefore, arts and crafts are a must. When Easter rolls around each year we like to make bunny masks and decorate eggs, too. Everyone enjoys being creative and there always are smiles around the table.

Remember, above all else, Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ so make sure to take time during the Easter meal to say a prayer and give thanks. Please enjoy the time you’re spending with family.

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of seven, offers his five cents-worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of Daddyscrubs.com, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the Daddyscrubs.com blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a dad’s perspective. Read more at http://blog.daddyscrubs.com/.

Mar
21

Decorate for Easter with faux chocolate eggs

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By HOLLY RAMER, Associated Press

Easter and April Fool’s Day may be far apart in spirit but they’re jammed together on the calendar this year. Here’s a quick and inexpensive craft project that can carry over from one to the other: faux chocolate eggs.

Given my weakness for chocolate, I know I could never put out a bowl of pretty foil-wrapped chocolate eggs a week before Easter and expect them to last until the holiday. But you can get the same effect — without the temptation — by painting papier-mâché eggs and partially wrapping them with pastel-hued foil. Piled in a glass canister or arranged in a simple bowl, these eggs make a sweet Easter display that will last for years.

Either spray paint or acrylic craft paint can be used for this project. Spray paint provides a slightly smoother finish, and if you use paint with a satin finish, you don’t have to follow up with any kind of clear sealant or spray. But acrylic paint is less expensive and less messy, and it can be used indoors, which is a plus given that there is still snow on the ground where I live. It does have a more matte finish, but brushing on a clear glaze over the paint takes just minutes. In any case, there is no need to be too fussy with the paint given that much of the egg will be covered by foil.

I found small gold and silver foil sheets meant for candy wrappers at a large craft supply store, but my local cake decorating supply store had many more colors at much better prices — 35 cents for a 12-by-22-inch sheet, making this project easy on both my waistline and wallet.

When I showed my 8-year-old son an early prototype for this project, he had it to his lips before I could say either “Happy Easter!” or “April Fools!”

MATERIALS:

  • papier-mâché eggs
  • brown satin finish spray paint or acrylic craft paint
  • satin finish clear sealant or varnish (if using craft paint)
  • paint brush (if using craft paint)
  • large cardboard box lined with waxed paper or parchment paper for containing over-spray (if using spray paint)
  • foil sheets made for candy wrappers
  • white glue or Mod Podge

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. If using spray paint, place eggs in lined cardboard box and, working outside or in well-ventilated area, apply several light coats of paint. Follow directions on the paint canister to determine drying time between coats. Turn the eggs to make sure you are painting all sides. Three or four light coats of paint should be enough for even coverage.
  2. If using craft paint, you can work indoors. Use a brush to apply two or three coats of paint, allowing eggs to dry between coats.
  3. If using craft paint, apply one coat of satin finish varnish. Allow eggs to dry.
  4. Cut a piece of colored foil a bit taller than the height of the egg and wide enough to wrap around it. For the eggs I purchased, I cut the foil into a rectangle roughly 6.5-by-4 inches. Cut slits roughly 1-inch long along one of the long edges. This will make it easier to fold the foil tightly around the bottom of the egg.
  5. Brush glue or Mod Podge on the lower 2/3 of an egg, then wrap the foil around the egg, with the fringed edge at the bottom, wider end of the egg.
  6. Brushing on more glue as needed, press the foil tightly against the egg, overlapping the cut pieces at the bottom. At the top, squeeze the foil together and twist it tightly. Cut off the excess.
  7. Once the egg is entirely covered in foil, peel some off to create the appearance of a candy egg that’s been partially unwrapped.
Mar
18

Modern takes on Easter décor

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By KIM COOK, Associated Press

Fuzzy chicks and cute bunnies are part of the pastel pantheon of Easter decor, and their charm helps define the look of the season.

But for those who prefer celebrating with a modern aesthetic, there are many attractive decor options that are a tad less cute and a tad more contemporary. Some reference Easter’s traditional color palette in new ways, while others put a modern twist on the holiday’s iconic elements.

Pottery Barn has realistic speckled and robin’s eggs that would make pretty filler for tabletop bowls and vases. There are luster-finished glass eggs here, too, in soft yellow, pink and blue that would look smart on a gray or navy tablecloth or sleek lacquered console. Mercury-glass pillar candle holders are rendered in an interesting new shimmery pale blue. And there’s an elegant silver-plated cake server embossed with a rabbit motif. (www.potterybarn.com)

Albany, Ore.-based designers Jason and Cara Hibbs hand-draw, then screen-print rabbit images on organic flour sack cotton tea towels. The charming result would make a great hostess gift. (www.etsy.com/shop/ohlittlerabbit)

Canadian textile artist Cristina Larsen crafts winsome stuffed felted bunnies and chicks in a rainbow of hues that have a terrific design-y vibe.

“I use merino wool to make all my felt. I dye the colors and stitch every toy by hand,” she says. While Larsen calls them “toys,” they’d be equally at home as artsy Easter décor. (www.etsy.com/shop/textileplatypus)

The key to a modern Easter look is simple, according to Kevin Sharkey, executive creative director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia: “It’s about a controlled color palette.”

Easter candies can be used to create a graphic tablescape. Fill plain glass cylinders or apothecary jars with single or multi-colored jellybeans for a colorblock effect. Consider adding a pillar candle, or place a smaller plant or vase inside a bigger container and fill the spaces in between with confections.

“Buy a bunch of the same style chocolate rabbit in different sizes and arrange them going down the center of the table like a runner,” Sharkey suggests.

Or fill a low tray with colorful Peeps, another classic Easter treat that happens to be one of Sharkey’s favorites. Last year, he says, Stewart’s daughter, Alexis, gave him “a gift box full of every color Peep they make. I brought it into the office and everyone was taking pictures of it because it was so cool to look at.”

There are some other clever decorating ideas on Stewart’s website for those with a slightly crafty hand, like studding wreaths and Styrofoam balls with dozens of pussy willow catkins.

Use eggs in interesting ways. You’ll find instructions at MarthaStewart.com on how to make decorative eggs and wreaths that have a tailored look, using muted paint and trims. Metallic paint and glitter-coated eggs amp up the wow factor. There are tips too on using eggshells and egg cups as vases for diminutive bouquets of lily of the valley or pansies.

At Allyou.com, find instructions on turning eggshells into tiny votive holders, nestled in silver egg cups — an elegant Easter dinner idea.

A range of fresh spring hues and clean, simple style elements will take your Easter décor from sweet to sublime.

Feb
01

How to have a kid-friendly Super Bowl party

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Evan Didisheim, Care.com

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching and if the biggest battle in your house is the Super Bowl versus Superman, we’ve got the answer: a kid-friendly bowl game. Here are crafts, games and food ideas to turn whining into winning.

PRE-GAME WARMUP

Here are some crafts the kids can do with the babysitter or nanny to get amped up for the game.

  • — Football necklaces: Use cardstock, foam board or construction paper to make football-shaped necklaces complete with team colors. Complete the look with sewn laces using a hole puncher and white yarn. Add another hole at both ends of the ball, loop with yarn and tie string ends together. If enough are made for guests, each person can personalize his own.
  • — Team flags: Cut 7-by-10-by-10-inch triangles out of construction paper. Get kids to decorate rally flags with markers, glitter and paint. Glue (we suggest a glue gun) the finished flags to a wooden dowel or hang them up around the room.
  • — Paper pom-poms: Cut various colored tissue paper into small strips. Gather paper towel and toilet paper holders, wooden dowels or long straws and have kids tape the ends with colored tissue. Bring out at rally time.
  • — Football cookies: Use a football cookie cutter to cut your classic cookie dough into football-shaped cookies. Provide the kids with some options for frosting and sprinkles and allow them to decorate. Or, put a scoop of ice cream in between two cookies, wrap in tin foil and freeze for 24 hours. (More food suggestions are below.)

GAME-TIME GAMES

Here are some fun ideas to keep the kids interested in the score.

  • — “I Spy”: Have the kids search for items or objects during the game starting with letters of the alphabet. To make it challenging, designate a section of the alphabet each quarter that they can count. (1st Quarter: A-G, 2nd Quarter: H-M, 3rd Quarter: N-S, 4th Quarter: T-Z) For example, in the first quarter, a football would count, in the third a quarterback and if there’s a commercial with a horse in the second, count that, too. See what quarter has the most objects spied.
  • — Team BINGO: Create BINGO cards with the players and coaches from each team. If the person is shown on TV during the game, they can fill in that square. Be prepared for the shouts of BINGO! Want a challenge? Play coveralls, postage stamps, “X” or other types of BINGO.
  • — Commercial counting: Assign each kid an object or animal: food, horses, dogs, cars, movies, etc. When watching the commercials, they get a point every time their object appears on-screen. The trick is that they have to find it.

HALFTIME ACTIVITIES AND GAMES

  • — Crab football: This may require you to be more active than you’d like, but the kids will love it — and it will burn off a few chicken wings. Instead of “crab soccer” you have to hold the cushy football with your neck, knees or armpits and get into your opponents’ end zone by walking like a crab. If your ball gets knocked down, it’s anyone’s game. Play kids versus adults, family versus family or boys versus girls.
  • — Game trivia: Want a challenge? Break up into teams and try to figure out which NFL team matches these clues. Fastest team to finish could be awarded a fun prize. (Don’t worry: Here’s the answer key.) Note: if your kids are too young for this, they can help hand out the prizes.
  • — Sunday sundaes: Halftime is the perfect time for a sweet treat. Purchase some toppings, sauces and ice cream to create a sundae bar; this is always a hit with kids! Or serve up the football cookies they helped you make (see above).

FESTIVE PARTY FOOD

Create your menu based on the locations of the two teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. The bay cities have some things in common, such as their love of seafood and sweets.

  • — Best of both cities: Start your spread with a combination of two favorites – San Francisco sourdough and Baltimore’s blue crabs. Fill a sourdough bread bowl with homemade hot crab dip (bake the dip after you fill the bowl). Try the Spicy Maryland Crab Dip on AllRecipes.com, though you may want to cut the spice a bit for the kiddos: http://bit.ly/WZbAXb
  • — Who’s crabbier?: Crab Louis, a salad made using Dungeness Crab and dressed with a Louis dressing (similar to a Thousand Island), can go head to head with crab cakes, seasoned with Old Bay, of course.
  • — Main dish options: If you’re fans of fish, try Cioppino, a San Francisco-bred fish stew made various ways so you can be accommodating of family taste. If beef is more your family’s style, cook up some of Baltimore’s famous pit beef, a barbecued beef marinated with a dry rub and cooked slowly over the grill. No time to cook? Pick up some Thai or Chinese food from a great local restaurant and challenge everyone to eat with chopsticks. San Francisco is known for its great Asian food – and it’s the city where fortune cookies originated, too.
  • — Jelly Belly taste test: The Jelly Belly jelly bean factory is actually northeast of San Francisco, but close enough to count it. Get an assortment of flavors and create “recipes” by combining different beans. See who can come up with the most delicious combination.
  • — DIY some famous cookie treats: Baltimore is known for its Berger cookies (( http://bergercookies.com/ ), a soft shortbread-style cookie dipped in fudge on the flat side. And San Francisco is home of the funny-named It’s It (( http://www.itsiticecream.com/ ), created in 1928, two oatmeal cookies with ice cream sandwiched in between and then dipped in chocolate. You can’t go wrong either way.

FINAL TIP FOR SUCCESS

As any parent knows, kids can be rambunctious, especially when there’s a party going on. If you are engaged in the on-screen drama and don’t want to be distracted, hire a babysitter to corral the home team during the game (they might even find something else to do!) and get them ready for bed — so you don’t miss a play. A savvy sitter can also help with the crafts, food prep and clean up.

Care.com — http://www.care.com — is an online service that matches families with great caregivers for children, seniors, pets and more. McClatchy-Tribune contributed to this report.

Jan
30

For the kid who thinks Valentines are gross: slime

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By HOLLY RAMER, Associated Press

My son is 8, so I knew hearts and flowers weren’t going to cut it for Valentine’s Day this year.

Sure, he likes collecting candy from his classmates, but the rest of it? Ick.

So I decided to take that reaction and run with it, designing a decidedly gross Valentine that would be fun for his friends without relying on more sugary treats. Inspiration came from a “make your own slime” science kit my son received for Christmas. The kit involved some complicated steps and chemicals, but I knew there were easier, safer versions I could use for our “Valen-slime” cards.

One of the most popular “slime” or “flubber” recipes out there involves mixing glue with Borax, but I wasn’t sure the laundry additive would be safe for kids to handle. And while I assume 8-year-olds are smart enough not to eat slime, better safe than sorry. So I stuck with a simple concoction that consists of water and fiber supplement powder (Metamucil). It’s easy to make, not too sticky and, if you use the “berry” variety, ends up a vibrant red color perfect for Valentine’s Day.

If you’re making it more than a few days ahead of time, refrigerate it to keep it from getting moldy.

While many online recipes call for using a microwave to make this slime, I found cooking it on the stovetop made it easier to monitor a large batch.

I packaged my slime in small, snack-size plastic bags and taped them to cards featuring a couple of cute aliens and the words “Be My Valenslime.” I also included a note reassuring parents that the goo is non-toxic, and reminding kids that the slime is for “squishing not snacking.”

MATERIALS:

  • Metamucil or other powdered fiber supplement
  • water
  • large saucepan
  • spoon
  • bowl, baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet
  • plastic bags or small containers to package finished slime
  • “Be My Valenslime” cards, which can be downloaded at my blog, www.stitchcraftcreations.com
  • double-stick tape

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine 6 cups of water with 6 teaspoons of Metamucil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve the powder.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Continue to boil mixture for approximately 15-17 minutes. The mixture will decrease in volume and become thick, and will cling to a spoon if you stir it. If you turn off the heat and tilt the pan a bit, running a spoon across the bottom of the pan should leave a clear path for a few seconds. You want it to be thick but not so thick it turns solid and rubbery.
  4. Pour slime into a large bowl, baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet and allow to cool. If it still seems too wet, you can return it to the saucepan and reheat.
  5. Divide slime into smaller blobs. One batch will make approximately 10 portions.
  6. Package slime in snack-size plastic bags and seal, squishing the slime into one side of the bag and folding the excess to the back to make a neat, square package. Print and cut cards, and tape them to the bags.

(For smaller amounts, follow the same 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon Metamucil ratio. Cooking times will be less. About 10 minutes is plenty for two cups, for example.)

Dec
31

Planning a kid-friendly New Year’s Eve

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By LAURA JOFRE, Associated Press

How do you make a New Year’s party that the whole family can enjoy?

For years, I barely acknowledged New Year’s Eve to my three kids so they wouldn’t know they were missing anything. I either went to some flashy grownup event or skipped it and went to bed. In the morning, I explained about the date change.

Last year, though, our family attended a party at a friend’s, and it was genuinely heartwarming. I began to think it was worth making an effort to mark the holiday, together, at home.

New Year’s is not just for adults. A small party is doable and relaxing; think about inviting extended family or close friends and their children.

“Parents feel more comfortable with their kids around,” says Selvi Rudge, a mother of three in Larchmont, N.Y., who often invites friends and kids for New Year’s. “And having the kids there just makes the celebration better.”

Preparing with some simple crafting and cooking projects can make everyone feel part of the holiday.

  1. New Year’s Poster — Take an 18-by-24-inch poster board and label it, “What I want to do in 2013.” It can be simple, with a lot of room to write, or it can be decorated by kids who know their way around a poster board. Tape it up somewhere central — I like the refrigerator — and keep washable markers nearby. Write in an entry or two, whether resolution-like (“I want to take up jogging”) or wishful thinking (“I want to explore the Amazon”). The poster can be a family project or it can be opened up to guests as a less-formal guest book at this less-formal party.
  2. Table Top — Table décor can be kid-constructed and reusable, and it does not have to look childlike or chaotic. A great idea from Sabrina James, style director at Parenting Magazine, is to paint inexpensive plastic chargers (the larger plates that go under dinner plates) with black chalkboard paint, then have the kids decorate the plates with white chalk. They can draw stars or write guests’ names or “2013” — even toddlers can scribble. “It all stays black and white, it still looks sophisticated, and the kids have a hand in decorating the table,” says James.
  3. Making Some Noise — Of course there must be noisemakers. James suggests this fresh take: Paint small, empty raisin boxes with silver or gold paint — spray paint is easiest — and then decorate them with small gems or sequins. Fill the boxes with dry pasta or rice, and tape a Popsicle stick to the back. The noisemakers can sit in vases around the table. Kids will be proud of their contributions, and you’ll be happy to have them as attractive table decorations.
  4. Food — To avoid holiday feast fatigue, a New Year’s feast should consist of foods the family actually likes. You’re not tied to tradition, so focus on old family favorites, or on foods that some cultures say bring good luck. According to Epicurious.com, cooked greens symbolize money and good fortune; pork means prosperity. Don’t eat anything that moves backwards, like lobster. My teen-age daughter likes to bake a holiday cake and get creative with frosting. Baking infuses the air with cheer and allows kids to participate. Limit how many sprinkles or frosting colors you offer; adult guests don’t always enjoy a crunchy inch-thick layer of purple sugar.
  5. After-meal activity — Karaoke is a new tradition for our family; we learned it from the friends who held last year’s party. Systems range in price from less than $100 to more than $1,000, and can be rented, too. Whether you rock the oldies or attempt to rap, the kids are just as entertained as the adults. And they will want their turn, so make sure your song list includes some current hits or favorites they know.

Finally, do you or don’t you keep the kids up til midnight? Go for it, but be prepared to send them to bed or say goodnight early if they fall apart.

And they may. But the karaoke, other kids and special treats may keep them fueled and happy enough to see the ball drop. And then you will have another family memory tucked away, and maybe another entry for the 2013 poster: I want the whole family to ring in the new year together again in 2014.

Dec
15

Disneyland expands Three Kings Day celebration

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By BETH J. HARPAZ, AP Travel Editor

NEW YORK — Disneyland is marking Three Kings Day in a big way this season, another milestone in the mainstreaming of a holiday that is beloved in Latin America and other cultures around the world.

The Christian holiday — also known as Twelfth Night or Feast of the Epiphany — takes place Jan. 6, ending the 12 days of Christmas. Many Hispanic communities in the U.S. celebrate Three Kings Day with parades and performances depicting the Biblical story of three kings following a star to find the baby Jesus, bringing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

Disneyland spokeswoman Michele Himmelberg said the theme park in Anaheim, Calif., “launched the Three Kings Day celebration last year as a test. It was a big success, particularly with the Hispanic community, and we’re expanding it this year to a larger area.”

The park will host Three Kings Day on Jan. 4 to 6 at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree in Disneyland’s Frontierland. There will be Mexican folklorico dancing, mariachi musicians, photo ops with Disney characters and bilingual hosts offering face painting, crown making and other children’s activities. Food carts will serve sweet corn tamales, chimichangas, Mexican hot chocolate and king cake, which is a round, sweet, doughy cake called rosca de reyes (king’s ring).

“I love the fact that Disney is doing this,” said Evette Rios, a correspondent with ABC’s “The Chew,” who grew up celebrating Three Kings Day with her Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, N.Y. “It means a lot. This is the changing face of America. We are becoming more open to different holidays and traditions. I don’t have a homogenous view of what America is and I’m glad Disney doesn’t either.”

As a child, Rios said, she’d leave a dish of water under her bed for the three kings’ camels — “actually for the horses because there were no camels in Puerto Rico” — along with grass to represent hay. The next morning, she’d find small toys hidden in her shoes, gifts left by the kings.

Rios still celebrates the holiday by attending a parade in East Harlem in Manhattan organized by El Museo del Barrio, a museum devoted to Latin American and Caribbean culture. The colorful parade, in its 36th year, includes costumed actors, floats, bands and real camels. It’s always held on a weekday — this year Jan. 4 — so schools can participate.

In Miami, three kings of basketball — Heat superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — are grand marshals of the 43rd annual Three Kings parade in the Cuban-American neighborhood of Little Havana. The parade is scheduled for Jan. 20 along Southwest Eighth Street.

The holiday has a French accent in New Orleans, where Twelfth Night kicks off carnival season, culminating in Mardi Gras. Each Jan. 6, the mayor and leaders of top Mardi Gras krewes — organizations that host carnival parades and balls — meet at historic Gallier Hall to serve king cake, which in New Orleans is called galette des rois and is iced in purple, green and gold, the colors of Mardi Gras.

Both the French and Mexican cakes have a toy baby representing the Christ child baked inside, but Mexican king cakes are usually topped in Christmas colors of red and green, colors also found in the Mexican flag.

Ricardo Cervantes, co-owner of La Monarca bakeries in Southern California, says they sell thousands of king cakes from their stores in East Los Angeles and the largely Hispanic city of Huntington Park. But surprisingly, sales are also strong at a Santa Monica location “in more of an Anglo neighborhood. People who are not Mexican, they are intrigued,” he said. “We also get a lot of people now bringing a cake into the office.” A new La Monarca opening this month in Pasadena will also carry king cake.

Huntington Park hosts a large Three Kings celebration, as does Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, a block-long historic attraction showcasing Mexican culture where a candlelight procession takes place each year.

Other Three Kings Day celebrations around the country include a parade in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago; a bilingual performance of the Biblical story that’s been staged for more than three decades at the GALA Theatre in Washington D.C., and festivities at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas and The Children’s Museum of Houston. Schools in Hartford, Conn., which has a large Hispanic population, close when the holiday falls on a weekday.

New Mexico’s tribal communities, called pueblos, host ceremonial dances on Three Kings Day in a tradition that dates back centuries to the influence of Catholic missionaries in the Spanish colonial era. Jan. 6 is also when new tribal officials are installed in a ceremony called the blessing of canes or transfer of canes. In Santa Fe, N.M., a play about the three kings has been performed annually for more than 50 years by the Caballeros de Vargas, a Catholic service organization.

In Tarpon Springs, Fla., home to a large Greek-American population, the Feast of the Epiphany is marked with a Jan. 6 event called the Cross Dive, where teenage boys dive into a bayou to retrieve a wooden cross. At Disney World near Orlando, Fla., actors portray the three kings at Epcot Center’s Mexico Pavilion as part of the theme park’s “Holidays Around the World” event through Dec. 30.

Cervantes, the bakery owner, says that traditionally, the person who gets the cake slice with the toy baby must throw a party — “tamales and hot chocolate” for all. La Monarca puts two babies in a medium size cake, three in a large, so the cost of the party isn’t borne by one person.

In New Orleans, the burden is a little lighter: Get the slice with the baby, you buy the next king cake.

Dec
11

Santa Claus kicks his tobacco habit

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Santa has kicked the habit in time for Christmas. No, not the sugar plum habit, or his fur-wearing habit, or his penchant for romping recklessly around open flame.

No, gentlepeople, this is the year the man in red gave up pipe tobacco, at least in a new book version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that has received attention from some lofty corners, including the American Library Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The self-published Pamela McColl of Vancouver, Canada, has a mission for her story, to protect children and their parents from the ravages of smoking. She mortgaged her house and sunk $200,000 into her telling of the 189-year-old holiday poem, touring the states to promote it ahead of its September release.

What, particularly, did McColl do? She excised these lines: “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.” And she added to the cover: “Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century.”

And she included a letter from Santa on the back jacket flap announcing that “all of that old tired business of smoking” is behind him, claiming (by the way) that the reindeer can confirm his fur outerwear is faux out of respect for animals, including the polar bears of his beloved North Pole.

“There is a huge debate raging,” McColl said of the attention. “I have been called every name in the book. One person said the only wreath they want to see this Christmas is one on my grave. Shame, shame, shame on you is the most common.”

The 54-year-old entrepreneur and mother of adult twins said she’s on Santa’s case about smoking because she has seen firsthand how harmful it can be, recalling how at age 18 she had to pull her own father out of his burning bed after he fell asleep with a lit cigarette. She smoked herself as a teen but quit and is thankful her kids never took up the habit.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the ALA’s deputy director for intellectual freedom, doesn’t have a hard heart. But she doesn’t see tobacco addiction when she considers what McColl has done. She sees “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer.”

A publisher put out a combined version of those classics last year as edited by Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who replaced about 200 occurrences of the N-word with “slave.” Of McColl, Caldwell-Stone said:

“This wasn’t a retelling. This wasn’t a parody. This wasn’t an adaptation. This wasn’t a modernization. This wasn’t fanfic. This was presenting the original but censoring the content. That kind of expurgation that seeks to prevent others from knowing the original work because of a disapproval of the ideas, the content, is a kind of censorship that we’ve always disapproved of.”

Caldwell-Stone said as much in a statement the ALA publicly released. She said the two cases involve the “altering of a classic work of literature with a view toward protecting modern sensibilities, or preventing children from being aware of the character of the original work.”

Stephen Colbert had some thoughts on the matter in November, only he was louder and funnier.

“Santa can’t quit smoking,” he bellowed on his Comedy Central show, holding back a laugh. “He needs that vice. You try dealing with the stress of delivering the world’s toys in a single night. We’re lucky he’s not doing a pa rum pum pum pum of coke off of Blitzen’s ass.”

McColl said she’s trying to offer one option among dozens of versions of the rhyme that helped launch Santa Claus as an icon. She wants to shake up complacency over tobacco addiction and believes the pipe and rings of smoke around his head do resonate with little kids who don’t have the same Santa filters as the rest of us, especially those who have parents or other loved ones who smoke.

“To them, Santa’s not some historical guy,” McColl said from Portland, Ore., where she recently finished nearly a full year on the road. “He’s a real character. He’s a real person coming down the chimney, and he’s smoking. That’s what a 3-year-old thinks like.”

McColl said she ran into supporters during her travels, including children who fret about Santa’s health. Smoking, she said, is something Clement C. Moore, a churchgoing academic, also wasn’t fond of. He once called tobacco “opium’s treacherous, villainous friend.”

A Troy, N.Y., newspaper published the poem anonymously in 1823 as “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore, who lived in Manhattan with his wife and six children, claimed the work in 1844, though some historians think Henry Livingston Jr. was the true creator.

Moore presented the New York Historical Society, of which he was a member, with a handwritten manuscript of the poem and it resides there today, along with a boxful of about 20 book versions of the work that now includes no-smoking Santa, donated by McColl.

“I think it reflects the times, so we were amused by it,” said Mariam Touba, the society’s reference librarian.

Among the courtesy stops for McColl during her walkabout promoting the book was a visit in October to the American Academy of Pediatrics in Chicago. The group of about 60,000 doctors said the book “was not reviewed or considered by our leadership in any official way,” but McColl insists that “Public health loves this book.”

A much easier endorsement stop was the advocacy group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, based in Berkeley, Calif.

“The intent of this heartwarming story about Santa Claus and Christmas remains intact despite the omission of the smoke,” said the group’s executive director, Cynthia Hallett. “My guess is many children will not notice the absence of the smoke.”

McColl estimated she has sold more than 15,000 hard copies of the book in English, French and Spanish. She has given away thousands in e-books and to hospitals and charities in paper.

What’s next, Colbert asked? Kale chips and coconut water instead of cookies and milk? “This political correXmas,” he said, “must be stopped.”

Dec
01

Clues, hints, begs: twisted tales of elusive gifts

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s not possible for Katie Jackson to be any more clear about what she wants for Christmas. It’s the same thing she has asked for three years running: a dog.

But not just any dog. A Leonberger, one of those gentle giant breeds that can cost up to $1,500 and would occupy a good chunk of her Long Island City apartment.

The first year she asked, she got a replica fashioned from chicken wire. The next year, Jackson tracked down a Leo breeder in Montana, where she was visiting her parents for the holidays. She printed out the directions, wrapped them in a big box and presented them to her father as a gift: “We went home without one, but it was a fun road trip.”

And the year after that? Her mom shipped her a giant stuffed dog to stand in for the real thing.

While her parents have good reasons for not granting her wish (cost, size), other people aren’t so sure why their numerous gift hints year after year yield a big fat nothing, even when their sought-after treasures aren’t out-of-this-world expensive.

David Bakke, 46, said he’s not the greatest at matching his clothes and always asks for new shirt-and-pant combos. It never happens.

“Time and again, I end up with a new GPS or digital camera,” he said. “People always tell me that clothes are boring to give as a Christmas gift. I’d take that boring gift any day of the week.”

Bakke also hinted for an iPad last year. Didn’t get it. “I’m a little more excited about it this year because I’m not even asking for the newest iPad,” he said.

Marissa Anwar, 29, in Waterloo, Ontario, has been left in the cold. She’s an avid snowboarder who wants a season pass to the ski club near her house. The cost? About $700.

“I’m pretty sure that I’ve wanted that for the last five years or so, but my family has a really hard time getting the hints,” she said.

She should swap parents with Bakke.

“I’m not quite sure what the issue is. I have a feeling that it may be the fact that my family really likes giving ‘tangible’ gifts. Mostly electronics and clothes,” Anwar said.

Anwar has been so bold as to suggest a few friends join forces to make her wintry dream come true, “but that suggestion has fallen on deaf ears.”

Tiffany is lending a hand in the hint department. The luxury jeweler launched its Drop a Hint program in November, in time for one of those blue boxes to show up under the tree.

Click any item on Tiffany.com and you’ll see a “Drop a Hint” link allowing you to email the details to a recipient of choice with this message: “Dear _____: We have it on good authority from our friends at the North Pole that this is on top of _____’s list and would make her very merry indeed.” The blanks are filled in upon receipt.

More than 65,000 hints have been dropped so far, said a Tiffany spokesman, Carson Glover.

Well played, Tiffany.

Persistence worked for 62-year-old Mark Kinders of Edmond, Okla. He once spotted some wonderful neck ties in the gift shop at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wis., during a conference.

“My wife wouldn’t let me buy it,” he recalled. “Over the banquet later with lots of table buzz, I interrupted with, ‘Did you hear that? I can hear that tie calling to me from the gift shop.’ My wife could have killed me. Ten minutes later I interrupted with, ‘There it is again.’”

The result: “I got the tie. Still have my wife.”

Nov
30

Let’s all decorate the fake tree

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Marla Jo Fisher, The Orange County Register

Are you still buying a real Christmas tree? Increasingly, that’s becoming an exotic niche purchase for the eccentric shopper.

I don’t know anyone on our block who hasn’t capitulated to the demonic forces of today’s retail market, which are constantly seducing you with siren promises about fake trees.

To wit: That your new artificial tree, made from real genuine petroleum products, will last for decades, no matter how ugly it was when you bought it.

It will now come pre-lighted. This removes one of the major obstacles to real Christmas joy: Having to get the bleeping strings of lights untangled and hung on the bleeping tree before you can do the fun part — hanging ornaments and candy canes.

Beware, though. When one of those new-and-improved Christmas trees blows a fuse, you’ll suddenly find yourself with a holiday decoration that has lights that only work on one side. This does not add to aforementioned holiday joy.

I continue to be one of the Luddites who does not want an electronic, oil-based tree made in China. I still want to go purchase a pine-based product grown by farmers in American soil.

If you continue to also have this bizarre pine tree fetish and would like to be cured of it, ask yourself a few simple questions:

Do I really want to go to the tree lot tonight and haul one home, scattering needles everywhere within a five mile radius? How much easier it would be to just get a box out of the garage.

Do I really want to watch the thing die slowly, turn yellow and finally have to be hauled off, scattering even more needles as it goes?

Do I really want to try to remember which exact day in January the city truck will come to haul off the tree?

Do I really want the misery and guilt involved when I forget to leave the tree out on the curb on the right day, and then I’m stuck with a dried-out pine tree for the rest of my life?

Sad but true: One year I missed the tree deadline. I looked out my door a nanosecond too late, only to watch the all-important truck moving off down the street after it passed my curb.

After using a few choice words that my children should not have heard, I had an emotional breakdown and left the dead tree in my back yard for an entire year, until the next tree recycling day came around. There’s nothing that says white trash like Christmas trees in July.

Yes, real tree lovers, you might be asking yourselves these questions. On the other hand, you might already have a tree. In which case, I need to ask you a question. When is the optimal time to purchase a real tree?

I tried to rev up my teenagers’ interest sufficiently to get a tree last weekend, but they insisted it was too early and it would become nothing but dry tinder by the time St. Nick comes down the fireplace.

When kids are little, a trip to the Christmas tree lot is exciting beyond all reason.

By the time children become teenagers, though, the annual tree hunt interferes with crucial teenage developmental tasks such as staring in the mirror and posting videos on Facebook.

The problem is that as the Christmas season moves into full swing, life becomes ever more frantic and it’s as difficult as the Normandy Landing to coordinate such a thing as a trek to get the tree.

I think that NASA might have had an easier time getting the Mars Rover onto the Red Planet than I have getting two teenagers in the car to go select a tree.

“I have track practice,” Cheetah Boy announces.

“I’m going over to my friend’s house to work on my science project,” his sister advises.

“Let’s get a tree on Christmas Eve,” they both suggest, based on the fact that several times, we’ve been so busy that a desperate expedition has resulted on Dec. 24 to find the last real tree for sale in America. We always find one, but it’s not that easy as the lots are usually torn down and returned to their former status as parking lots.

Even though I like real trees, last year I finally became so frustrated that I went into the garage and grabbed an artificial tree designed to go outdoors, stuck it in the living room, threw a box of lights and ornaments at the kids and said, “Go for it.”

This wasn’t exactly “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There was no Zsu-zsu there asking how angels get their wings. There were no jovial crowds belting out Christmas carols to the pounding of an upright piano. There was no Tiny Tim exclaiming, “And God bless us, every one.”

By the time you read this, however, I fully intend to have a real, actual, formerly living tree in my home. Smelling delicious and shedding pine needles all over my floor.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Marla Jo Fisher was a workaholic before she adopted two foster kids several years ago. Now she juggles work and single parenting, while being exhorted from everywhere to be thinner, smarter, sexier, healthier, more frugal, a better mom, better dressed and a tidier housekeeper. Contact her at mfisher@ocregister.com. Read her blog at http://themomblog.freedomblogging.com/category/frumpy-middleaged-mom-marla-jo-fisher/.