Santa lives at the Mall?


My 5-year-old daughter explained to me yesterday that Santa lives at the Mall (something she learned at school). What will they teach them next? That the world is flat? There is a new alphabet? The Easter Bunny was trampled to death at the Walmart Black Friday Opening?

I believe Santa lives in the North Pole, although a Mall in Arizona would be preferable to shoveling off the walkway (and the sleigh) every morning before heading over to the toy-making workshop. I wondered where my daughter got the idea about Santa’s ‘home’, because we have seen Santa many different places (the Mall being only one of many). I had to remind her of the many places we have run into Santa (many of which were completely unplanned) and as I made a list I realized that kids really do need to watch out, because he is everywhere!

Santa ‘Hot Spots’
1) Dairy Farms (Alpenrose, Superstition) – I think he likes the free milk to go with his cookies!
2) Malls (Beverton, Chandler) – A little last minute shopping for Mrs. Clause? Maybe new shoes for those elves?
3) Any Corner USA – He usually stands there ringing a bell and asking for money for the Salvation Army.
4) Albertson’s Grocery Store – Santa has to eat of lot of food to maintain that belly, or maybe he needed to pick up snacks for the elves since they get grouchy with all of the December over-time.
5) Cool Cuts for Kids – Maybe his beard needed a trim?
6) Bass Pro Shop – I heard him asking for wax for his sleigh and some XXXL long underwear.
7) Parades – Sometimes if there isn’t enough snow Santa needs to hitch a ride. Why not on a Christmas float in a parade? Beats my 10 year old VW Golf.

Where have you seen Santa lately?

Eat This

Man has survived for thousands of years on a variety of food that depended on location, climate and how hard they were willing to work for the food. Did they forage, farm or hunt? Could their tribe or community kill a whale or elephant to feed the whole village? Think about how Native American Indians lived off the land, sometimes killing buffalo or catching fish, while other times picking berries. In the past, man had to eat to survive, but it seems today instead of just surviving, man is thriving. Maybe thriving too much, if obesity is a measure.

Could the food that has allowed humans to survive, actually be killing us? With our bountiful food choices, we can choose to help ourselves or kill ourselves. Heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases occur, but is it caused by exposure to chemicals, bad genes, or something more sinister – food. How is food and the way we eat impacting our health? We have indigestion and doctors prescribe a variety of purple and other colored pills to ease our pain, yet our problems may be rooted in the food we put in our bodies every day.

Every week news stories expose more foods that are good for us, yet 6 months later the same food (according to the news agency) is no longer good. Wine is good, oh, no it isn’t. Well, some is good. Women, they shouldn’t drink wine, well, not too much anyway. How are we supposed to decide on what to eat when no one really knows what is best? How do we shop at the grocery store and make intelligent food choices? I want to eat nutrients but which ones? How do I get the nutrients? Is my only option is to listen to my body and let it decide what food is best for me? Seems as good as any other method for choosing food. Isn’t each person an individual and don’t they have different nutritional needs? Instead of mocking someone for being a vegan or a meat-eater, shouldn’t we embrace the fact that we are listening to our bodies to optimize nutrition and our body’s performance?

Recently I chose to go gluten and dairy-free (because that diet makes me feel better) and I am fortunate to have so many food options. I know I should eat something healthy, but I wonder if a gluten-free, dairy-free cookie counts? No one can be perfect in food selection and health, so it is time we made food decisions for ourselves instead of leaving it to scientists, reporters or peers to dictate what is ‘good’ for us. Thousands of years of human survival cannot be all wrong. What do you want to eat?

The Feeding Habits of Children

Today I made the mistake of letting my 5-year-old take a nap. She had a tough morning of soccer in 100+ degree heat, swimming in the pool and then a trip to the grocery store. She was exhausted. Everyone knows that you don’t wake a sleeping child (why interrupt perfection?). My daughter awoke in time for dinner, but ate almost nothing. She ate the cheese off of a cheese dog. I didn’t think this was possible, but she figured out how.

Now it is 9:17 PM and she is not sleepy at all. She is sitting at the kitchen table munching on a bowl of Rice Chex. Where was this appetite at 6:17 PM? Why couldn’t she have eaten the hot dog then, instead of deciding she is hungry now? Clearly children’s appetites are not limited by time or food availability. They don’t care that you just made dinner, they will simply tell you, “I’m not hungry.” Now it is over an hour past her bed time and she ‘has’ to eat. At least according to her, she ‘has’ to eat. It could just be a ploy to further extend the already late bedtime.

This incident made me wonder if our country’s obesity problem might be better served by getting people to listen to their bodies and asking themselves if they are truly hungry when they eat. Even a baby knows when it is hungry (it will cry to inform you of this) and children still have this ability to understand their level of hunger, yet we tell them, “Eat your breakfast (or lunch or dinner) now!” when they may have no hunger at all at that particular moment. As adults we seem to just eat at pre-specified meal times. But why is this? Is this healthy?

Maybe we should all learn something about the feeding habits of children to discover healthier ways to eat that are closer to nature instead of the man-made invention of ‘3 squares a day’. I just finished a chocolate square myself and feel satisfied with that. No need to eat the whole one-pound bar. I am not really hungry for that. So eating food at 9:17 PM isn’t a crime, but we do need to listen to our bodies to determine if this is what our bodies really need. What? You can’t hear what your body needs? Maybe it is time to listen a little more closely because the more we practice, the better we can get at it. Are you hungry, or are you eating just because you are expected to?

Truth is Better Than Right

I was recently listening to the audio version of Innovate Like Edison and it was very enlightening (no pun intended). Edison discovered and designed through exhaustive experimentation. His belief was that without experimentation there could be no progress. Every experiment was an opportunity to learn something new and to invent something innovative you had to learn a lot of new things.

Experiments do not have to be limited to science, but can be used in everything that humans do. Getting kids ready for school in the morning, writing an e-mail, or soothing a crying baby all require experimentation of some sort. It isn’t just about knowing or guessing the right hypothesis, but instead is about understanding the results. What do the results means and what needs to be tested next? It could even mean using the results (what was learned) in a completely new way.

At 3M in 1968 Spencer Silver was trying to create a stronger glue, not a weaker one. The weak glue that was invented was considered a huge failure as far as the desired test result. With the information discovered (the glue is weak) it opened up possibilities that the glue could be used in another way – if only someone could identify a use. By 1980 a new use was discovered for the glue, and it has enjoyed a huge commercial success as the critical component of the Post-It note.

Any inventor has to accept the truth about the results of their experiment before they can see how the results can be used. Whether the experiment is with glue or with trying to get you kids to eat their vegetables at the dinner table, opportunity for learning abounds. So what experiment are you going to run today and what will you do with the results?

Stay-at-home moms only shop. Yes, even me!

Being a stay-at-home mom is not ‘all that’. I realize after being home with the kids this week, doing the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up at school, that my day gets consumed very quickly. Here is an example of a typical day this week…

Get up at 6 something and throw on yoga clothes. Plan to sweat at yoga anyway (after dropping the kids off). No one will see me, just driving by (and slowing down) so kids can jump out of car and run into school.

Make Lunches. Of course kids can’t both eat the same thing. Cream cheese rolled-up in a tortilla? Of course, that is exactly what I thought I would have for lunch. At least older brother likes peanut butter and jelly like normal school kid.

Serve breakfast. Cereal anyone? Breakfast anyone? Cereal? No takers. Bagel with cream cheese? No, no…the 7-year-old wants peanut butter. Too bad he neglected to tell me AFTER the cream cheese was applied.

Getting ready to leave house. Can you please put your shoes on? Put shoes on guys, come on kids, put shoes on! Also, can you brush your teeth? Grab your shoes, we are leaving NOW!!

To my daughter…why are you wearing pajamas? Get dressed, you are going to school! Ok, we are leaving NOW!!

Drop kids off. Yeah!! Now I am free for six hours.

Go to Yoga, actually new thing, PI-YO. This is not relaxing! Kicked my butt. Literally my gluteus maximus muscles have been maxed out by this workout.

Go home to clean layer of dried sweat. Ahhh. Peace!

Time to go to Costco for toilet paper, paper towels, napkins. Decide I need to buy stock in paper company. Spent $175 at Costco – on toilet paper? Must of grabbed a few other things like peanut butter and jelly. I must have saved a lot if I spent that much!

Dash home and unload car. Lunch time! Missed earlier caffeine infusion, grab chilled frappacino from refrigerator. Make lunch. Roll tortilla around turkey and cheese like sensible adult! (Instead of just around cream cheese like silly 4-year-old!)

Check e-mail. Delete stuff. Why so much junk mail? Unsubcribe to non-sense salesy e-mails! That should save time tomorrow.

Decide need new clothes. Old clothes disaster. Fraying on sleeves. Need crisp white shirt. JC Penney! No shirts? Are they hiding all the normal clothes? All fancy blouses here. Clearly I have been working from home too long. What are people wearing to work these days. Scary! Finally hit jackpot. Hunt down white and blue shirts suitable for work. Definitely not for ‘club’ like all the fancy blouses! Check watch…time to pick up kids! Already? Buy shirts and run out of store.

Arrive at school. No parking and have to park down street. Walk over to school. Stand outside in heat only describable by one word, “Oven”. Sweat dripping down back in large droplets. Why did I bother taking a shower today? Sun burning skin. Forgot sunscreen as I was only planning on Costco trip, not trip to side of sun.

Finally kids emerge. Yes, it is the end of my day. I can’t believe all I did was yoga for an hour and shopping? I don’t even like shopping? Unfortunately, now I have to take the kids to the grocery store!

Rotten Bananas = Great Smoothie!

In my quest to save money on groceries and not waste food, I have found the perfect use for the rotten banana. To be more accurate, 2 rotten bananas. For some reason bananas in Arizona go bad fast – very fast! I buy new ones and within hours of getting them home, they are past the ‘ripe’ level where I (or anyone else in the house) would want to eat them. I often dream of freezing them for later use but usually find myself throwing them in the trash bin. Yesterday I procrastinated no further. I found a use for these browning, ugly and nearly rotten bananas. One banana was actually past the point of no return. I just couldn’t stomach using a banana with mold on it so it joined a long history of bananas who got to see inside of a Hefty bag.

So my very simple, quick and tasty ‘solution’ to get rid of the bananas was to put ice, two bananas and a healthy amount of vanilla soy milk in a blender. I added milk so it would actually turn into something resembling a milk shake instead of a snow cone (for those of you who cringed at soy milk, you can use regular milk with a teaspoon of vanilla). After the ingredients were loaded, I pushed the “ON” button on the blender. What? nothing happened? Ice got jammed? I tried again on a lower setting resulting in a very loud noise. Eventually things in the blender got moving to create a tasty concoction that my 7-year-old gulped down with a passion. He kept filling up his cup (like it was all for him?) until there wasn’t much left and he resorted to drinking right from the blender. He was really happy his sister was napping so he could drink it all. No way was he going to share this treat!

My lessons learned:
1) Something delicious can be made from rotten bananas besides banana bread
2) You can fool your kids into thinking that this ‘smoothie’ is dessert and get them to eat something healthy.
3) Cooking can be entertainment. My 7-year-old liked the idea of grinding stuff up in the blender, and it actually got him to stop watching “How it is Made” for 90 seconds.
4) I need more rotten bananas, because I could really use a smoothie right now but we are all out!

Do you have any rotten bananas you need to get rid of?

First Day Unemployed

Get up at reasonable time then decide yoga (gentle) is excellent course of action for first day unemployed.

Look in mirror – face already breaking out with rash due to stress. Take 50 mg zinc plus regular vitamin. Realize family might have to live on 300 tablet bottle of vitamins if things get tough.

Eat waffle with syrup. Realize no more maple syrup and back to $1.89 bottle of generic Albertson’s brand from now on.

Push reluctant kids into car after arguing about how 7-year-old cannot take DS to school/camp.

Start car….hmmm…making funny sound. Car is vibrating and rumbling. Can’t be good. Brilliant idea…check oil. Check it…a little low. Add quart of oil. Looks good. Start car. Now “Check Engine” light is on. Bugger. Check manual for indicator light ‘meanings’. Irritated it is 8 AM and it is already 100 degrees. Wish manual had Google search! Find needed info in manual…light not blinking = ok to drive, just go slow.

We are off to school. Drop off kids uneventfully. Arrive at health club for yoga. Have wait time! Call car dealer – opening tomorrow 8:30 AM. Yeah, car will be fixed.

Yoga, very nice. Relaxing. Still thinking of list of things to do. Not dwelling on ‘why me’! Way to busy!

Stop at store to buy external drive for computer – $79 for 320 GB. Wow! Actually feeling high-tech now!

Start car…hmmm…”Check Engine” light is off. Car fixed self. Realized no time for car doctor visit.

Doorbell rings…..release papers to sign. Delay reading for a few minutes. Already know what it says.

Phone rings. Coworker (sorry, ex-coworker). Yes, e-mail still works. No one knows why e-mail still working. Forward needed info to ex-coworker. Why sending when no longer working? Want to be good friend. If was non-friend would not have answered phone! Glad had good friends at work!

Check Linked In. More good friends! Recommendations are rolling in. Amazed! Can’t believe overwhelming support!

Time for haircut! Darn, no time for lunch. Not hungry, plus way too busy. Beautiful color and professional coiffed hair! Who wouldn’t want to hire me now?

Rush off to pick up kids. Four-year-old wearing different dress than when dropped off in morning. “Got dress dirty” she says. Borrowed dress from friend because she didn’t have any extra clothes at school. Bad mommy. She has to leave in only skirt, no shirt. Glad she has skirt at least!

Get to parking lot. Phone ringing! Another ex-coworker. Yes, yes, can’t believe they let me go. What? You will write recommendation! Great!

Pick up 7-year-old. Where is he? No one seems to know. Suddenly see him. He is holding DS!! Hmmm…must have snuck it to school. Punishment: 1 week – no DS!

Arrive home. Add note to DS with date of when available. Place on refrigerator for safe keeping.

Paige takes cold macaroni from refrigerator. Eats directly from container then puts self to bed. Meanwhile make pasta with brocolli and salad – all leftovers! Amazing feat…also healthy meal! Husband says, “Great dinner. You must have gone shopping today.” If he only knew how busy I was – no time for shopping!

Can you believe it? I survived day 1 of unemployment. What will happen tomorrow?

Smellicious

Will scented candles replace meals? I was sniffing the 10+ Gold Canyon candles that my husband brought home from work the other day and I got this idea of candles being ‘smellicious’. Could these scented candles actually curb my appetite? I thought of this as I was smelling black licorice flavor (my favorite). What if I could just burn a candle and smell it instead of actually eating the desired food?

Imagine waking up every morning to a burning candle smelling of bacon and eggs. Could I just smell the candle and head off to work with my appetite satisfied? Would I be hungry later? The best thing is that the candles are fat-free and calorie free. Candles will rival water as the zero calorie (food?) for every fad diet.

I am unsure if these candles actually curb my appetite, although this afternoon when I burned the black licorice candle I had no desire to eat anything. Coincidence? I think not. As humans we have a need for sites, sounds, and smells, otherwise why would we be given this amazing sensory capability? We are stuck in our homes and offices all day long away from the smells and sounds of the outdoors. It seems it is time to bring the smell back into our lives. I am not talking about candles that smell like old garbage or wet dog (then again maybe some people like that scent?). Maybe all these scents could put us in a better mood if we were inhaling lemon meringue pie or black licorice all day. Imagine the improvement in my work productivity.

Honestly some of these candles smell good enough to eat – Gingerbread? Birthday Cake? I can’t figure out how I could have my appetite satisfied by a candle, or without actually eating, but it seems there is something to it. Lewis and Clark really could have used candles like this on their western exploration so they could have avoided eating their shoe leather. Could they make candles that smelled like shoe leather? I never ate shoe leather, but someone might find it…’smellicious’.

Garlic, don’t breathe on me!

My eyelids are heavy from a dinner of tortellini and Caesar salad. I love the taste of pesto on my tortellini, I just don’t like tasting it for the next 24 hours. At least when I have pesto it satisfies my palate for weeks, if not months. I like pesto because it is easy to make and serve. Just cook the pasta and stir in the pesto – then eat! Making the pesto itself isn’t hard either, although it seems like I hardly ever make it from scratch.

Why don’t I make pesto from scratch? It seems a matter of ingredients (is it thyme?). No, not thyme, it is time! Either I buy the basil and it withers and browns to an unusable state (because I didn’t have time to make the pesto) or I have the time, but I don’t have the fresh basil. Maybe this is the reason I like to cook from canned or frozen foods – because of the availability issue (time and ingredients).

Tonight I stuffed myself with store-bought pesto on my tortellini and enjoyed lounging and reading a good book by the pool. Sometimes I have thyme for pesto, but unfortunately you don’t need that ingredient for it. Also, tonight I just don’t care that I didn’t have the basil, because I can always find other fun activities to do with my time – or thyme? Either way!

Schlotzky's or Cheesecake Factory?

I arrived at my hotel this evening after a day of traveling and meetings and I was starving. For breakfast I had eaten a bowl of yogurt. At the airport I drank a Cafe Mocha and for my lunch (if you can call it that) I ate a granola bar. I was starving and I wanted something to eat quickly. I also didn’t feel like sitting in a restaurant (alone) to eat. I was first thinking Cheesecake Factory (for the obvious desert reasons), but it didn’t quite fit my need to avoid dining alone or the desire for immediate satisfaction.

Another option for dinner was a Schlotzky’s Deli down the street. The sandwiches are yummy and I could get take-out! Best of all, I could sit comfortably in front of the TV in my hotel room while I ate. I can’t believe my desire to sit comfortably in front of the television while I ate was such a significant factor in my decision making process. If I wanted TV while I ate, I should have just gone to a sports bar. If I was a guy, a sports bar would have made a lot of sense. Unfortunately there isn’t a “Lifetime” bar or a “Sex in the City” bar.

I opted for Schlotzky’s and ordered my turkey and guacamole sandwich, jalapeno chips, root beer and chocolate chip cookie. It was all that I thought it could be. Best of all I didn’t have to do the dishes! Who knew that eating out on a business trip could be so satisfying even without going to the Cheesecake Factory.