Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My life has been go, go, go lately but something interesting happened this weekend that made me shift my plans and drive two hours last night...all for a little blackbird my kids name Phil.

Friday a blackbird swooped into our lives, literally.  My kids were playing outside and their screams alerted me to this bird that would not leave them alone.  It flew around them for hours, diving and perching on their basketball hoop and our porch.  By the next day, we weren't afraid of the bird because we realized he was friendly.  By Sunday, he welcomed us that morning when we left the house to get a Sunday paper and coffee.  Monday morning, he was perched on my head when the school bus picked up my son.

Between perching on my own kids heads, shoulders, and arms - as well as the neighborhood kids - he was becoming quite the personable feathered friend. 

Phil perched on my shoulder

I worried though - he was TOO friendly.  One kid was throwing rocks at him, another threatened to "kill the bird" and the soccer players in the field across the street were constantly being "attacked" by our friendly little bird.  He wasn't aggressive, but people aren't used to having a wild animal so comfortable around humans.  Plus, we live in the NE and it will snow in a few months so I worried about him in the colder weather.

Long story short, I drove 2 hours round-trip to a Wildlife Rescue Center last night.  They suspected he imprinted on a human and therefore thought he was human rather than a bird.  I was told too that he was young, born this year.  They will try to rehabilitate him and release him back to the wild, or else use him for educational purposes.   He will not be harmed - it was a humane rescue center that was concerned in giving him a safe living environment.

Phil came into our lives and left a big impression on us.  He was a great little bird and I'm looking forward to getting updates on him.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Working it Out Wednesday: Extra-Slow Cook Meal

I was so proud of myself yesterday. I took the time to prepare a slow cooker meal- one of my favorite recipes. I chopped, mixed, and stirred and went back to work, happy to not have to think about what was for dinner.

A few hours later, I happened to be in the kitchen (coffee time!) and peeked in the crockpot. Nothing was cooking. I hesitantly touched the bottom of the pot and it was completely cool. My eyes flashed up to the wall socket. Yes, I had plugged it in (just checking...embarrassing, but it has been known to happen!) and it hit me: check the GFI. It was the culprit, alright--must have been tripped and needed to be reset. The question of what to have for dinner was upon us after all.

Thought I'd share my boo boo. Here is my favorite crockpot meal-- which will now be dinner tonight-- in case you were wondering:

Moroccan Crockpot Tajine
1 (3lb) package of frozen stewing lamb or lamb shoulder or stew beef chunks or 8 skinless chicken thighs, bone-in  (I only use the chicken and it's boneless)
4 cloves garlic
2 onions
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot red chili pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups small chunks of carrots
3 cups large chunks of peeled squash or potatoes (I always use butternut squash)
1 (10 ounce) can condensed chicken broth or 1 cup chicken bouillon
1/2 cup pitted green olives (this is optional, but I love olives)
1 (19 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (also optional, but love the chickpeas, too!)

1. Thaw lamb, trim excess fat from lamb or beef, and cut into large bite-size pieces. If using chicken thighs, leave whole.
2. Mince garlic and thinly slice onions.
3. Stir garlic with onions, cumin, paprika, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt, chili flakes or cayenne pepper, carrots, squash (or potatoes), broth, and olives (if using).
4. Add meat.
5. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 9-10 hours.
6. Stir in chickpeas, if using, during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
7. Serve over couscous or crusty bread.

Total Yumminess

I found this on a couple of years ago and love love love it.

Enjoy your day (and dinner tonight)!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Pause

We now take a break from our normally scheduled dance party.

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.-- Dalai Lama

Happy Hour 
World Peace Cocktail
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 splash of elderflower syrup
2 drops blue curacao liqueur
2 drops almond syrup

Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain and serve in chilled martini glass.


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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy Changes!

This week I've buddied up with a friend and we began working-out together at each other's houses.  Granted, it's only our second day but this has been a great thing for me - both mentally & physically.

Physically - I'm already a bit sore but I feel great for making the commitment to exercise daily for up to 60 minutes.  Plus, I have to friend to do it with - it's fun to talk & workout at the same time, the time flies!

Mentally - what a great stress relief!!  My friend has also mentioned how good she feels afterwards too. 

Of course, this isn't anything new to me.  I've gone through spurts before of working out and feeling the benefits from it.  But this time, I'm making the commitment with someone else.  I've never worked out daily with a buddy before.  Our kids are on the same little league team so we've committed to working out for the full 6-week season and hopefully by then the habit will stick and we can continue throughout the winter.  We have enough exercise equipment & DVD videos at home to keep it fresh & fun without getting boring.

Go ahead & make some Happy Changes in your life to benefit your overall well-being.  Give it a chance to become and habit and appreciate the rewards.  For me, I have a great pair of jeans hanging on my closet door and I can't wait to wear them!!!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Mother Nature

In the wise words of Alex Trebec:
If you can't be in awe of Mother Nature, there's something wrong with you.

Happy Hour
Hurricane Sunrise
 1 1/2 oz light rum
 1 1/2 oz dark rum
 2 oz gold tequila
 4-8 oz orange juice
 4 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
 1-2 oz grenadine syrup

Combine all in glass with ice and mix well. Garnish with maraschino cherries and orange slice, if desired.


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Stay safe and enjoy your weekend!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When in Rome

Fifteen stops. That's how far Coney Island was from where my friend, L, and I stood. We were in the city on our very own photography adventure and what better photographic opportunity than the home of the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone? Off we went.

Fifteen stops later, we arrived. Every couple of feet I would pause to snap a picture (because who can resist a sign beckoning you to "bump your ass"?) and then we encountered the Freak Bar.

I had heard about the sideshow at Coney Island, but had never seen it in my previous visits. L and I looked at each other and reached into our pockets for the $10 admission price. Couldn't take any pictures inside, but it was still an adventure. Once the show started, though, I asked myself what was I thinking.

Now I love horror movies, but I cover my eyes during the gory parts. If I think the icky part is over I may peek but will quickly close my eyes if it's still not done. What does this have to do with the sideshow, you may ask. Well, there was lots of ick. It started with a guy swallowing razor blades and included someone hammering a nail into their face. Oh. And someone else swinging an anchor. From hooks. Attached to his EYES. Did I already say ick?

The best part, though, was when L "volunteered" to go on stage. Not for her, maybe, but definitely for me! I briefly had a flashback to when I would look everywhere but at the teacher in school hoping not to get called. Public speaking is so not my thing.

So I sat there starting to get clammy hands looking down as the guy who hammered the nails in his face looked in our direction. Next thing I knew, L is being encouraged up. Whew. I did feel really bad for her. Especially when hammer guy says he's putting her in the electric chair (my fear is public speaking. L's? Electricution!)

It was really cool, though, and L was awesome. Especially the finale of her "performance" when she started a fire with her tongue!

The afternoon ended at Nathans. Because when in Rome...

Ready for my next adventure!  --M

Monday, August 29, 2011

Manic Mondays: School!!!!

First day of school for my two older boys (ages 10 & 8).  It's always with mixed emotions that I watch them board the bus:
  • Regret, for not having done everything I wanted to do with them over the summer. 
  • Elation, for not having to listen to them quarrel anymore (during the day). 
  • Sadness, because they're growing up and I can't stop the clock.
  • Determination, because now I can buckle down and focus on my own schedule & not theirs.
  • Relief, because I don't have to cook "hot food" anymore for lunch for my middle-son.  I'm content with fruit & yogurt, or a sandwich - but he's not.  He likes a hot meal at noon.
  • Happiness, because I can surprise them after school with homemade cookies for their 1st day!
These are just a few of the emotions I'm feeling right now.  We had a great summer - fun & relaxing.  The kids are ready for school again too.  They miss seeing their friends.

Happy "Back-to-School" Monday!!!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Manic Mondays: Girlfriends

Today is an ode to all my Girlfriends (you all know who you are!). The days when I'm feeling overwhelmed, under appreciated, exhausted, angry, frustrated...or simply happy - you are THERE. Just THERE with the right words to keep me encouraged & smiling.

Tonight I have a "date" with my long-time high-school girlfriend who lives an hour away. We don't get to see each other as often as I'd like, but tonight - despite the chaos at home and work needing to be done, I'm getting in the car to meet her for coffee, dinner, whatever! We'll figure it out. It's not WHAT we do, it's the fact that we're together.

Hope you all take time to meet with your friends - it's what life is about, being social, making connections, having fun!



Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Flying!

Did you know that it's National Aviation Day today? Neither did I. But in honor of the Wright brothers and the development of aviation, why not dance (and drink!)? :)

Happy Hour
Jet Fuel

1/2 oz cinnamon schnapps
1/2 oz peppermint liqueur

Stir together in shot glass and drink!



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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Working It Out Wednesday: Move It!

It's not a secret that childhood obesity is an issue in the US.  I have 3 kids of my own and I'm conscientious of the amount of exercise my kids get daily, and how balanced their meals are.  Granted, some days are better than others in our household, but lately we (our family) have been particularly active.

Last weekend I picked up a brochure at our local grocery store for (see photo below) because this photo was so easy to visualize healthy eating, particularly for my kids.

Because the weather has been cooler in our area, plus added rain and grey clouds, the kids have been indoors lately rather than at the pool.  However, after dinner we've been going on a family walk each night and then we go to a nearby elementary school and run sprints.  Running sprints is especially beneficial for my oldest son who is playing baseball so we visualize the baselines from home to 1st base and time him. 

My husband and I use the stop watch on our cell phone and the kids love the fact that we time their runs.  It's become a game rather than dreaded exercise.  Plus, we've created an obstacle course on the playground equipment that we all, including my husband, myself and even our 2 year old, run through.  We incorporate sit-ups and upper-body strength moves.  I have to say, within a week we're already seeing improvements in the kids speed, agility, and weight.  Plus, we're all having FUN with fitness as a family.  That's most important.

These are the small changes in our household we've taken to keep our family healthy and active. 

What do you do to stay fit - individually and as a family?


Monday, August 15, 2011

Manic Monday: Cheering with a Cowbell

My husband and I have become fans of the Sunday night TV show on NBC The Marriage Ref .

Tom Papa is the host and he alone usually gets my husband and I laughing.  Having been married for 13 years, I enjoy watching the issues that other couples disagree on.  Overall, the underlying issues always tend to revolve around one spouse giving the other more attention, or a spouse needing more "me-time", but the stories are so obscure and crazy it's fun to watch. 

Last night's show hit close to home because it included a story on a woman who was a fanatical football fan - she loved watching football on TV and particularly enjoyed watching her young sons play football.

Although I don't like football I have loved watching my son's play baseball and enjoy cheering them on.  I had one moment last Spring that they've been ribbing me for all year.  I've told them repeatedly that it wasn't my proudest moment, but I can't take it back, it happened.

The issue on the Marriage Ref was the woman's husband wanted her to tone down her cheering at their sons games.  She cheered loudly, she yelled, cursed and....rang a cowbell! 

When celebrity-judge Nick Cannon asked, "What's up with the cowbell?!?" she replied, "I'm proud of my sons."

All three judges sided with the mom, loving her enthusiasm.  Comedian/judge Jim Breuer even said that when the kids are older and look back on these moments they'll think, "Mom was crazy!"

I've toned down my own cheering after that one instance but I will continue to root for them (minus a cowbell!!!).  Let them look back and remember my enthusiasm and excitement  and even call me crazy. 

I too cheer for my boys because "I'm proud of my sons."


Q: What makes you cheer and shake a cowbell??

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Working it Out Wednesday: Comic Book Day

Today is uneventful for me but at least my husband - editor of GrayHaven Comics - is happy because (ta-da!) it's Wednesday which means its Comic Day!
Speaking of Comics - Issue # 4 just arrived via UPS from the printers and is now in our hands.  Come and order The Gathering: Into the Abyss if you haven't already...

Before we know it Issue # 5 will be here and that's when Michele and I will have our first comic featured!  Yay.

Happy Comic Book Day!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Manic Monday: Happy Hour Dance Party!

Starting off the week with a Happy Hour Dance Party this week... It accomplishes two things: make up for missing last Friday and making this Monday a fun day!

Happy Hour
Black Monday

1 oz dark rum
1/2 oz sambuca
1 tsp cherry brandy
1/2 oz lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker half-filled with ice. Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.


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Manic Monday: Great Book, Great TV

I stayed indoors all weekend and today I feel like getting out.

Over the weekend I became consumed by a great book that I just finished reading early this morning.

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey is worth the read.  It's a YA Paranormal about a 17 year old girl that brings her dead boyfriend back to life.  Very haunting and romantic and just so utterly consuming.

I also now understand how epic it was for Derek Jeter to reach 3000 hits this season.  Okay, so it happened, as many of us already know, and I knew it happened and thought, "Oh that's great." But we watched (twice) the HBO documentary Derek Jeter 3K and the line alone that states how 18,000 men have played baseball but only 30 of them have reached 3000 hits puts it all in perspective.  Wow!  And a home run hit no less!

The kids were inspired by his story and by seeing how a Yankee player can also experience highs, lows, injuries, and bumps back to the minor leagues along the MLB path.

I've never been a baseball fan but watching my own boys play little league ball, and playing it so well (!) has made me a big baseball fan (I even watched several Philly games this weekend on TV too)!

As I said earlier, though, enough reading & TV watching has me wanting to get OUT now so that's where I'll be this week - outside while the weather is still nice.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Manic Monday: August OMG!!!

August has opened its welcoming door to us all, and I am not happy about it. If we could have just extended the month of July a bit longer that would have been wonderful. Nothing personal against the month of August, but it represents so many things to me...

Book Deadline: Michele & I are on the path of completing a paranormal romance book that we are co-writing.  Very exciting to know the end is near, but also alot of pressure.  I have loved the process of co-writing w/ Michele and I'm looking forward to writing the other 2 books in our Demon series.  Perhaps we will post our 1st chapter as a teaser soon....

Back to School: The Sunday Target/Walmart/Sears/Staples ads are just a constant reminder that the kids will be going back to school at the end of the month.  This is bittersweet for me.  My kids DID NOT want to go to day camp this year (they went last year) so they've been very good about staying quiet (inside) during the day so I can write & work and usually by 2ish I have completed my work and I then reserve the rest of the day for them, which usually includes going to the community pool.  I've spent more time at the pool this year than any other year and find that the evening hours at the pool have been wonderful for us! I've had a great time with the kids this summer and my oldest will be going to a new school this year so that is a reminder of how they are growing up.

Baltimore Comic Convention: August 20 & 21.  My husband self-publishes a comic called The Gathering.  This is a labor of love for him and I'm happy to say he's publishing issues 4 & 5 over the next few months so order a copy and familiarize yourself with the series.  Michele & I collaborated on a love themed story called "Post Cards" for Issue # 5.  We will be at NY Comic Con in October at the Grayhaven/Gathering booth (yay, hubby got a booth this year!!) selling copies so come out and say HI if you're there.  But I diverge...Baltimore Comic Con is just weeks away and I have to lock down a hotel & plan for our trip, just one more thing to do this month.  I do LOVE the Baltimore Harbour and they have a fabulous Science Center that the kids & I spent hours in last summer (sorry Aquarium, you are just too crowded for my comfort, but I went last year and it is amazing so go when it's not peak time).

Fall: I'm not ready to retire my comfortable summer clothes for anything heavy and scratchy.  Before we know it, though, we'll be carving pumpkins, eating turkey, and holiday shopping (ugh!).  I'm not going to let thoughts of Fall enter my head just yet as I'm having too much fun going to the pool and being outside in the nice warm weather (ok, you'll find me inside w/ the AC cranked during a Heat Wave, but otherwise I love the warm weather).

So enjoy the rest of your Summer - as I will - and take advantage of your vacation time and make those last minute plans to travel before the weather changes to snow & ice.  Or, just enjoy the outdoors, or take in a summer blockbuster movie.  Whatever your Summer pleasure is, keep doing it....


Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: National Dance Day!

July 30th is National Dance Day, so there's another excuse to get up and dance!

Happy Hour
Dancing Dana

1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
1/2 can Raspberry Twist vodka
1/2 can blue Curacao liqueur
1 can ice cubes

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender
2. Blend until smooth
3. Add water to taste if needed
4. Pour blended drink into margarita glass
*You can rim a margarita glass with sugar, if you'd like

My name's not Dana, but this drink looked good. Plus, Dana wanted to dance :)

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Happy Friday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Manic Monday: Heat

Air conditioning is a gift. I don't know what I would do without it. So my previous comments about technology and simpler times? The one where I mentioned I don't know what I would do without my iphone? I have to add air conditioning to that list of things I wouldn't want to be without. It was H.O.T. But then, I don't think I'm sharing anything that anyone reading this wouldn't already know.

I enjoy Saturdays because it's the day the bf and I spend together. I like to do things outside- especially in the summertime. This weekend, I was hoping we would take the dog on a hike. Really looking forward to that and to possibly making it to the tennis courts for a game since we haven't played in a while.

We quickly amended our plans upon stepping outside. I grew up in Miami and for some reason, I couldn't remember it ever being that hot down there. The heat fried my brain because that can't be, can it?!

So we had the bright idea of going to see a matinee. It was such a good idea. So good, everyone else had the same thought: the movie was sold out. Ever adaptable, we decided to have a True Blood marathon instead and went home for Season 1. The bf never saw it and I won't pass up True Blood. So I made some white sangria (yum), he grilled a pizza (even yummier), and we enjoyed vampires in ac.

It was a great day.

Hopefully, we can go on that hike next weekend!

Happy Monday!

PS I haven't seen season 1 in a while. Eric looks soo much better now. xxoo

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Ear Worms

At some point in time this week, the songs chosen for the dance party were stuck. In my head. On repeat. While I love most of them, having them playing over and over was getting old. So I elicited help from others to try and get the songs out of my head. You would think that friends being...well, friends...would help a girl out. Instead, they created an even uglier, meaner ear worm: Macarena. *shudder*

I hope you enjoy what's in my head (and gummy worms)!

Happy Hour Drink
Gummy Worm
1/2 oz mango vodka
1/2 oz raspberry vodka
1/2 oz blue curacao liquer
Splash of Sprite

Stir together and serve! 
Note: drink will be neon blue


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Monday, July 18, 2011

Manic Monday: Confessions

I have a confession to make and I hope you don't hold it against me. I love Pitbull. Yes, Mr. Worldwide. Maybe it's the fact that his songs and collaborations have a good beat. Or that every time I hear his Spanglish, it makes me smile and reminisce about growing up in Miami; makes me think of being surrounded by family and Cuban food. Yummy croquettas, media noches, pastelitos, and cortaditos. Mmmm... I'm not sure, but's out!

South Beach

And since I'm throwing that out there, I might as well add that I am fascinated by Russell Brand.

It feels good to come clean!

Happy Monday!

On the same page....

I love when Michele and I don't talk about what we're going to blog about, but then have such similar always makes me smile and love our friendship even more.

I too love Russell Brand, a secret I've been harbouring...I even like him in Bunny form (the movie "Hop"). 

And Croquettes!  Funny enough, my father-in-law gets a mystery subcription to "Latina" magazine so he gives me the issue whenever it arrives...and I'm such a magazine junkie that I totally look forward to reading it.  This weekend he brought the August 2011 issue and inside was a recipe for Potato Croquettes & Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder.  Just as Michele was reminiscing about our Miami upbringing this weekend, I was too as I read Latina.

Finally, I confess that Saturday night as we hung out at our friends house with all our kids (ages 2-10) all the adults, including myself, knew way too much about Selina Gomez & The Disney Channel.  I think we all watch The Wizards of Waverly Place more than we'd like to admit.

Enjoy your guilty pleasures this week!!!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Obliviate

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are back (and Neville...have you seen Neville lately!?! W.O.W!) It's bittersweet because it's the end; still, I'm excited to reconnect with that world! So, what better way to honor the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 than creating a Happy Hour Dance Party!! :)

Happy Hour Drink
Gryffindor Shot

1/2 Cinnamon Aftershock
1/2 Goldschläger

1. First layer the Aftershock
2. Then layer the Goldschläger on top.
*It’s best if you shake the Goldschläger first so you can get some gold flakes.

via --check them out as they have shots for all the houses! I chose gryffindor because that is what the sorting hat told me I was! ;-)

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Extra Treat! (cuz I love Ron and this song by All Caps!)

PS The sorting hat at can tell you what house you belong in. Then you can check out the corresponding drink recipe at!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Manic Monday: Comfort

Last night my 2-year-old son woke up several times.  By the third time, he'd come into my room and I knew he didn't need anything - no milk, no diaper change, nothing like he usually does.  I scooted over in bed and pulled him under the covers beside me and within a minute or two he was sound asleep.  Just like that.

This may be typical for any other parents, but not for me.  Actually, it's been a year since my little one has slept beside me.  I can recall exactly when it was - on vacation, in an Orlando hotel...our first night there after a late check-in.  My then 1 1/2 year old was confused and upset so I finally got him to calm down and he fell asleep beside me.  The rest of the vacation he (thankfully) slept in the port-a-crib I had taken with us.

Last night it was comforting to feel his little body against mine, to hear his soft breathing, and to know he was just there. 

This weekend I found out two of my close relatives are sick, one is in critical care in the hospital and another is awaiting diagnosis for something I wouldn't wish upon anyone.  I've been thinking of them both non-stop all weekend.  I also read a great magazine article about survivors of the recent US tornadoes that tore through cities months ago, leaving shredded houses and destroyed lives in its wake.  The article featured several families that survived - a reminder of how precious life is, how unexpected life can be.

I didn't expect to find my son asleep beside me last night, but I relished it.  What a comfort to know that we both have each other today. 


Comfort can have so many different meanings for us which may not necessarily be the same. I find comfort in moments: snuggling on the couch with my bf and our dog, Hayley, as we find a movie we love playing (this weekend, it was Napoleon Dynamite!); hot chocolate at the end of the day; Bob telling me everything's gonna be alright; being behind a camera; making myself giggle; the silence around me on a secluded hike. What I find hard, though, is knowing how to comfort another when they need it. It's hard to find the right words to say--and this coming from someone who labors over her words compulsively!

This weekend, I found myself thinking about comfort during a family celebration for my bf's birthday. An unexpected dilemma occurred which resulted in the grown-ups discussing the news and me with the nieces chasing fireflies. I didn't want to overstep any boundaries and thought by keeping the kids occupied, the adults could discuss freely. Until my bf's mother sought me out and I was left scrambling for those words. I want everyone to be happy so seeing her cry made my search for the perfect comforting thing to say even more difficult. Bob came to mind without the same results he usually has on me. So I hugged her and told her that we were there for her and would all figure it out together. 

I wish there was some magic thing that one could do or say that would make everything alright and provide comfort as needed. I hope I had an effect on her and was able to at least let her know she wasn't alone. And that it provided her some solace.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: New York

There hasn't been a happy hour dance party in a couple of weeks and I apologize. Have been busy with vacation. (yes, busy!)

We were in New York last week and I have to admit that I would like to still be there. And on vacation.

Alas, I'm not. BUT it is FRIDAY!!

Happy Hour Drink

3/4 sweet vermouth
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 dash bitters
1 maraschino cherry
1 twist orange peel

Combine the vermouth, bourbon whiskey, and bitters with 2 - 3 ice cubes in a mixing glass.
Stir gently and place the cherry in a chilled cocktail glass.
Strain the whiskey mixture over the cherry.
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink (don't drop in glass).


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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mr. Mom for a Week, written by Rudi, Elena's older brother

I have the three best nephews any uncle could ever wish for. Nitro (10), Ox (8), and L’il Eddie (2) are my boys and I love spending time with them.

So when my sister started talking several months ago about attending the RWA conference in New York this summer with my mom it was basically a no brainer for me that I would offer them my apartment and I would simply truck out to PA for a few days of fun with the boys, or “Dudes Week” as I called it.

My studio apartment is just a few minutes from the hotel where the conference was being held so it would save them a lot of money. Plus, my time in PA would basically be like any of my other trips out there, just fun time with the kids. The one point I was adamant about from the beginning was that I would help out but that I expected the father would be taking the days off as well so that I wouldn’t be babysitting all week. I was clear I wasn’t coming out to change diapers and make bottles.

For months we planned and Elena and I arranged everything. We would trade places from Monday night to Saturday afternoon. My week as “Mr. Mom” basically began the Saturday before as I needed to scrub my apartment from head to toe in preparation for my mother and sister both staying there. Weeks earlier Nitro and Ox both told me that I was “crazy” for allowing them to stay at my place. “They’re just going to snoop through all of your stuff.” I was warned, and that warning stayed with me as I cleaned. Two days of cleaning and one last day of work lead to me racing to the train to catch the ride to Philly, which wound up being my last moment of peace of quiet for the week.

Come the end of the day Monday Elena is settled into my place in NYC and I’m on a mattress on the floor in the room shared by Nitro and Ox listening to them joking about how I should be in the room with their dad sharing his bed since I was going to be their mom for the week (for an image of what that would have looked like picture the famous “Those aren’t pillows” scene from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles but with John Candy playing both parts!).

I forgot to mention two key things I discovered upon my arrival Monday night: 1) Elena had basically left a “to do” list waiting for me and 2) Dad didn’t take any time off from work. WTF?! So the fun “Dudes Week” was actually “Uncle is babysitting week” and now I have a list of things that include L’il Eddie’s tutor coming by in the morning and watering the neighbors stupid tomato plants while they’re away on vacation. Again, WTF?! I fell asleep Monday night wondering what just happened and terrified of the first diaper change Tuesday.

I’m not joking about that. I haven’t changed a diaper in years. It’s one of the pleasures of being an uncle, you just pass the kid off to the parent when it’s that time and there’s no guilt involved in doing so. The question running through my head was if Dad leaves the house at 8:00am and is back for lunch around noon can L’il Eddie hold out so uncle doesn’t need to change him? How often will I need to change him? Can he make it through the day on one diaper? Two? And what about the dreaded really dirty diaper (you know what I’m talking about), will I need to deal with that or will the gods favor me and the boy will save those for daddy? I was warned to not let him eat oranges so those went off the menu right away. I fell asleep with these thoughts in my head and woke with the diaper dilemma still marinating there.

We were all up late Monday night, so the boys slept in pretty late Tuesday morning and daddy was off to work before they woke. When L’il Eddie stumbled from his room Tuesday morning I knew I had to bite the bullet and deal with the diaper right away. In fact, we both kind of looked at each other nervously with that, “Sooooo, how’s this going to play out” kind of look.

I have to admit, I could tell he was as apprehensive about that first changing as I was and I do believe that helped get me through it. I had soldier through and put on a good confident face just to make him feel better about it. After fumbling with the first diaper for a few minutes I finally got him cleaned up, got his little Phillies shirt on him (he likes to have a say in the outfits he wears each day, and he liked a new outfit with each changing), and sent him out into the world (or rather the living room to watch his kiddie shows). I made him the first of what would be many milk “bobbles” and he settled into his usual morning routine. In fact, all three boys are quiet after waking so the mornings provided me a little time to check email and pretend to do work.

Tuesday was a dreary rainy day and we just played inside, a lot of Xbox with Nitro and just goofing around with Ox and L’il Eddie. Things were going great until the late afternoon when L’il Eddie handed me his diaper while I was getting clobbered in MLB 2011 by Nitro. I looked at him confused. “What’s this? What are you giving me?” I started to panic. Nitro just turned from the video game and casually said, “Oh yeah, he takes his diaper off sometimes when he needs to be changed.”


How could Nitro be so casual about it? What happens if it’s a really dirty one, does that come off too? All new levels of panic flowed over me. Why does no one tell me these things? I reached down and grabbed L’il Eddie’s butt to confirm what I already knew…yeup, he truly had removed his diaper and wasn’t wearing anything under his shorts. Quickly I tossed the video game controller, picked up the boy, and ran for the changing table before anything else happened. I was carrying a loaded bomb and it could go off at any second. I needed to get it contained fast.
This was basically the next two days. Walking the gauntlet of messes that needed cleaning, diapers changed, bobbles made, lunches made, dinners made, laundry done, floors swept, and garbage taken out. But it wasn’t just me and the three boys, they also have three cats, a bunny, some little cage with some sort of rodent thing in it, and a big old fish tank. So on top of the three kids there’s a Dr. Doolittle menagerie of critters in the house too…and I’m deathly allergic to cats. Have been my whole life. I take 2-3 Claritin a day when I’m out there (one is supposed to last 24 hours). I can’t sit on any of the plush furniture so I drag one of the wooden dinner table chairs around with me and I have to be ultra cautious of what it is I’m touching and that I don’t then touch my face. I’ve learned to deal with it over the years, but it’s not fun and at the end of the day when I just want a couch and some TV I’m SOL.

After Tuesday I got the hang of the diapers and L’il Eddie and I got into a groove with the changing, although Thursday he decided he was going to make up for being nice to me the first two days and basically had a stinky little present for me every hour on the hour. I won’t go into detail, but they got progressively worse and I think he was doing it just to have some fun with me.

My routine established, I tried my best to keep the boys on a normal schedule and to keep the house clean and tidy. But every day I’d be counting down until their dad got home and “the responsibility” was lifted from my shoulders. I think that’s what I was really the most nervous about and what weighed on me the most. For a large chunk of the day I was responsible for the well being of each of these boys. If anything happened to them, it was on me. It’s a weight I’m not used to carrying. Elena asked me one evening why we weren’t using the pool in the backyard and I hinted at this. I know nothing would have happened to them, but I was still worried that something could happen. And it was there all day, every day, so I tended to play it cautious.

For all my griping about the diapers and the chores the week wasn’t without a lot of fun as well. I got to spend some quality time with each of the boys doing simple little things they like to do, playing Xbox with Nitro, throwing the baseball with Ox, clowning around with L’il Eddie. We went out and cheered Nitro and Ox on as they played in their basketball league games, I took the two older boys to see Transformers, and we all went to a Reading Phils game on Friday night. I definitely got to do the “uncle” things with them I like to do.

But come Saturday, I was looking forward to just getting home. I arrived home, unpacked, and popped into my local dive bar for a few cold ones and some time around adults for an hour or so before eating a quick dinner and finally crashing. I think I was asleep around nine or ten that night and slept like a baby through to late Sunday morning. They wore me out.

I still have no idea how my sister does this. How does she maintain the house, keep the three kids in line, handle all the errands and running around, keep a social life, take care of her husband (and trust me, sometimes he’s the fourth kid) and do all this writing?  Maybe there’s a freedom and ease that comes with knowing they’re your kids? Yes, you’re still looking out for them but maybe you just learn that they’re kids and that things will happen and you just deal with it when it does and move on. That boulder of responsibility that I felt on my shoulders might just be a tiny little stone to them. I don’t know. What I do know is that I came home with a newly found level of respect for both my sister and parents out there in general.

I already look forward to my next visit with the boys. But playing Mr. Mom again? Not sure how soon I want that boulder back on my shoulders again.

Uncle Rudi

(Note from Elena, thank you, brother!!!)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transformers. Need I say More?

Bumblebee from Transformers

My week of "bachelorhood" has been overshadowed by conference mayhem.  Although, I'm including the Transformers photo above because that was the big movie premier in NYC this week (regretfully, I did not see Josh Duhamel as many conference attendees did).  I've been attending the national Romance Writers of America conference in NYC, which coincidentally ends tomorrow.  It's been an exciting event.  What was most exciting to see were the number of readers that attended the "open to the public" event Tuesday night at the hotel for the autograph signing.  The room was overflowing with best-selling authors signing books for their fans.  Unbelievably, the line wrapped around the hotel, even as the Transformers movie premier was setup on the street outside the hotel (see photo above that I took at noon that day while they were doing sound-check).

This is just a quick update...I'm off to Macy's, dinner, and then drinks at the downstairs dive-bar my brother frequents (daily??).  Being out of my element has been so much fun this week and the contacts I've made at the conference have been amazing.  So excited & positive about the possibilities with my writing.

I wonder if Josh Duhamel is still in's time I go looking for him...


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Living like a Bachelor

I arrived late last night in NYC - took Amtrak and have to say it was so quiet and relaxing on the 90 minute ride in.  I caught up on some reading that had accumulated during the week.  Once in the city, I immediately went to my brother's apartment (he's at my house watching my kids while I'm gone, we literally switched lives!) to get settled.  My first night alone for was very strange to say the least.  I'm married with 3 kids and pets so even if I escape to another room in the house to be "alone", I will either have a cat purring for my attention or I can hear the family in the other rooms. 

That wasn't the case last night and it was a bit unnerving.  Take advantage of it, you might say.  I did, I continued reading in fact.  I love, love, love magazines so I enjoyed the ones my brother has lying around his place, different than my usual Redbook or Parenting magazines I subscribe to.

I got engrossed in Men's Health magazine and now feel like powering up on protein powder and going to the gym to work on my biceps.  Actually, I'm a huge True Blood fan but not necessarily of Stephen Moyer, "Bill Compton", but I admit he's rocking the July/August '11 cover of this magazine.

As I was brushing my teeth last night I thought....I should document my "bachelor" days in NY this week.  I am attending a writing conference, which begins in a few hours from now, so I will be surrounded by scores of women (not such a bad thing if I was a male bachelor)...I do plan on visiting the dive bar that my brother frequents...and who knows what else will ensue. 

I'll have to keep you posted.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Swimming, Dog Sitting, Socializing & Packing (oh, and Writing!!)

My summer is going swimmingly, literally.  My kids and I are at the pool every other day taking advantage of the community pool membership we bought for the summer.  It's a great pool and we've been going there for the past 5 summers.  Often times, we arrive later in the day (4 PMish) and stay a few hours when the sun isn't at its peak hours, my 2 year old has napped and when I've finally had a chance to break away from writing.  Plus, we avoid the mid-day crowd, another bonus.

This week my neighbors waited till the last minute to find someone to watch their dog before they went on vacation.  I don't know about you, but one of the first things we plan before going away is who will watch our cats.  The fact that they were scrambling at the last minute for someone to watch their dog before they left for 10 days had me shaking my head.  They found someone, in another state(!), to watch the dog and I graciously accepted to watch her for 2 days before the couple could drive in and pick her up for the rest of the week.  I couldn't watch her the whole 10 days because I'm not going to be here (off to NY tonight).  In summary, this little dog was a BIG problem - we didn't sleep, she barked the whole time, and growled at anyone who dared to come over to our house...

The kids have been happy because we've had so many different families over to the house lately - for BBQ's, drinks, board games, and outdoor games (family vs. family wiffle ball).  I have to admit that I'm having a blast with it too.  I know the reason why we're socializing more too - and it may seem silly - but I was embarrassed to have people over to my house because my carpet was THAT UGLY.  Yes, we got new floors in our house several months ago and it's made such a difference in our lives. Best investment we've made to the house.

Finally, I'm leaving for NY tonight (Michele is already there as of last night).  We'll both be attending the RWA conference and I'm personally looking forward to the networking & socializing.  Writing from home is great, but I am looking forward to being around people for a week who are involved with the same craft. 

Will have photos to share from the conference & twitter updates as well so stay tuned!!! 


Monday, June 20, 2011

Countdown to NYC

A week from today - Monday the 27th - I'll be getting on a train to NYC to attend the RWA National convention.  Although I feel overwhelmed thinking of all the necessary preparation involved, I'm extremely excited.

In January, I attended a "Cruise with your Muse" conference and it was so inspirational.  I came home so excited to write and had so many stories formulating in my mind.  I think I've been productive since January, with a completed YA paranormal book written and a romantic paranormal almost completed by myself and a co-writer, as well as a paranormal novella written (all are written, not published).  I am patting myself on the back for my writing accomplishments but now I'm in the position where I want to get my work published, I want to start writing new books, and I believe another inspirational conference will maintain my momentum.

Last week was the first week of summer with the kids home from school and one night, after my husband came home, I went to the library and wrote for several hours until the library closed.  Being there, without the distractions from home, was very beneficial.  Today I took all 3 boys to the doctor's office and while in the waiting room my 2 year old became very active (running around, yelling, laughing, etc - all mortifying behaviour) and as I was taking him outside to wait (my older boys stayed in the waiting room and alerted me when the nurse was ready for us) I met a friend and her baby as they were coming in.  I immediately said, "Can I switch kids with you?" because my 2 year old had me so embarrassed and upset.  But, we're home now, he's sleeping and viola, I'm on the computer enjoying this quiet time.

A week in NYC will be great - time to myself, time with my mom (whom I rarely get to see), and time to focus on my writing.  Yes, I'm excited and I'm excited too about the books I'll begin writing when I return.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Irony Mix

Semi-inspired by Life Goes On... ;)

Happy Hour Drink

1/2 oz 151 rum
1 oz pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz apricot brandy
1 tsp sugar
2 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum
1 oz lime juice

Blend all ingredients with ice except 151 proof rum.
Pour into a tall glass.
Float 151 proof rum on top.
Garnish with a fruit slice, sprig of mint and a cherry.


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Manic Monday: Expectations

Too many?

I didn’t expect summer to be upon us as quickly as it has. I also didn’t expect that I would feel as overburdened by my workload as I am. So what expectations did I have? I was looking forward to enjoying the outdoors, finding time to take a mini vacation where I could just do nothing, relaxing and reading the stack of books that have been accumulating, finding more time to write and paint…

Granted, summer is only beginning; still, looking at my calendar only makes me feel pressured to try to live to the expectations I have. Feeling as I am with work and time, I thought about a promise I made to myself as I sat in a leather recliner in my doctor’s office, an IV sticking out of my chest pumping drugs into my veins not even half a decade ago. I told myself that I would just be. 

While I have relaxed a great deal since then- despite what those who know me post-cancer might think- I am still a bit of a Type A person. I need to stop setting all these expectations upon myself and relax. I would say it’s something I need to work on, but I don’t want to worry about more expectations upon me! So I will just be and take things as they come. 

Hoping you all just be this week! 


Too few??

As Michele mentioned above, summer is upon us and with it, those relaxed, fun, enjoyable expectations of just sitting back and enjoying the warm weather (or stifling heat) and having fun with the kids while they're home.  Yet, how long till I'm wishing they're back at school? 

I am setting my expectations LOW this summer.  I will continue to write, mostly in the mornings since that's when I'm most productive. I have re-arranged my daily walks for the early morning (vs. the afternoons) before my husband goes to work so he's home with the kids while I'm working up a sweat.  I will reserve my afternoons for fun-time with the 3 boys (mostly attending the community pool).  And finally, the evenings will belong to my husband and I.   These are my - attainable - expectations for this summer.

But speaking of expectations, something that has been discussed lately in my house is pushing kids too far to excel at sports (at age 8 and 10 specifically).  I feel that too much pressure will eventually backfire once the kids are in their teens.  We will continue to support their sports interests and I do strongly believe that as they get older sports will keep them out of mischief (I hope), but my husband and I are not going to put the pressure of attaining a scholarship on their shoulders at this age, as many parents we are meeting at Little League, specifically, are.

Furthermore, I have recently submitted my writing for review so I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting for feedback.  Will my writing meet their expectations?  That is to be determined...


Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Hour Dance Party: Heat

Happy Hour Drink

Heat Wave
1 1/4 oz coconut rum
1/2 oz peach schnapps
3 oz pineapple juice
3 oz orange juice
1/2 oz grenadine syrup

Add all ingredients except grenadine to a glass half-filled with ice. Top with grenadine. If desired, add a slice of peach.


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