Friday, October 24, 2014

My New Favorite Catstagram

This is Whiskers. She likes to sing, "I wanna be a lion. Ev-everybody wanna pass as cats." (Yes, I know this is a tiger, but still ....). Happy Friday!! Enjoy the weekend! A/J

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Can Never Go Home Again, But You Can Make Chicken Noodle Soup.

This is not my dad's chicken noodle soup. I don't even think he knows what soba noodles are. But it was just what I needed on this cold, dreary day.

Yesterday, when I came through the door after a long day of work, I could smell chicken soup. Granted, it was ramen chicken soup my mom had whipped up quickly for the kids after she had picked them up from the bus stop, but I was nonetheless immediately transported back to a time that was simpler and quieter. You know, that time when I was the kid.

When I was a little girl, I loved coming home from school to chicken noodle soup. It was one of the things my dad loved to cook, and on his rare days off, he often made it. I think it reminded him of his mother, who was the queen of chicken soup, complete with homemade, hand-cut egg noodles, sliced carefully on a cutting board that had a divot worn in the one side from many years of noodle-cutting. He would get out this giant, dinged-up aluminum pot (now that I think about it, I think it was his mom's pot) and throw in bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, a bouquet of herbs (tied in a bundle), carrots, potatoes, celery, sometimes diced tomatoes - you name it, it might have made its way into his chicken soup at some point.

One of the clearest memories I have from when I was young is coming in the front door of our old house on a cool fall day and throwing my backpack down as the scent of the soup hit my nostrils. I can smell this memory as well as I can see it and hear it. It hit me, physically, when I came home yesterday. That day, I think I was about nine years old. The house was crisply clean (a rarity in our house, if I'm being honest - we were always so busy, it was hard to keep everything spic and span). The windows were open (I can see the white curtains, fluttering). The TV was off. The soup smelled amazing. I know I ate bowl after bowl after bowl of that soup until my stomach felt like Winnie the Pooh's. I always did. I think I was trying to eat up the love I could taste in the bowl.

Smelling the chicken soup yesterday afternoon made me feel ... well, sad. I can't go home again. First of all, my parents don't live there. They have long been divorced and now live in different houses in different cities (which was the right choice for both of them, honestly). I'm older. I'm supposed to be the adult who has her shit together, her ducks in a row. The world is different - noisier, faster-paced.

What I wouldn't give to be able to turn back the clocks and walk through that door one more time, one more time when I knew that it would be my last time. And that I would have to grow up. When the divorce finally came down, I was living in a different state and avoided that house like the plague. As a child would.

And so, here's the soup I made today for lunch. It was quick. It was easy - which my grandmother's and my father's were not. You know, the faster-paced world and all. Sophie still loved it.

Chicken Soba Noodle Soup

One tablespoon of coconut oil
Five carrots
One medium-sized onion
One package of chicken tenderloins
Two cloves of garlic
One handful of parsley
One box of chicken broth
One cup water
One lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
One package of Annie's Japanese Buckwheat Soba Noodles

1. Over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of coconut oil in a large pot (I use a Dutch oven my dad bought me when I make soup).
2. Cook the peeled and diced carrots and the onion, diced, in the oil for about 5 minutes (until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown). Season with salt and pepper.
3. While the carrots and onion are cooking, dice the chicken tenderloins and mince the garlic. When the 5 minutes are up, add the chicken and garlic to the pot. Cook until the chicken begins to brown.
4. Add one handful of chopped parsley, one box of chicken broth, one cup water, and the juice of one lemon. Allow all to cook together for about 15-25 minutes.
5. In the meantime, cook the Soba noodles according to the package directions. This is the first time I've worked with Soba noodles (I bought them on sale in my local market). Sophie looooooved them. If my four-year-old picky eater loved them, that is a definite win for the Soba noodle. I thought they were delicious. Delightfully chewy and toothsome, with a great nutty flavor to balance the lemon in the soup.
6. You know the rest. Drain the noodles, plate the soup with the noodles. Eat. Reminisce. So good. I mean it. And fast enough to make for a weekday lunch when you are working from home.

While I was making this for lunch, Sophie informed me that she was "skeptical" about what I was making. #ohsheoflittlefaith

Enjoy! A/J

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#whatwerereading: A List of the Latest Books I Just Had to Buy (and Why I Loved Their Covers)

I swear, for me, books are like crack. I just cannot pass them up. Even if I know I will most likely not read a book for many, many, many weeks - maybe even months or years, I still feel compelled to buy it. And I totally judge books by their covers.

Here are the books I just couldn't pass up of late (and I tell you why their covers intrigued me, in the spirit of one of the books I recommend). Let us know if you've read any of them and what you thought. The only one I've tucked into thus far is How to Read Literature Like a Professor (I'll tell you what I think of it so far below).

I've heard really good reviews of this book, and the cover, I mean come on. It looks like a Bell Jar for the new generation of high-waisted-jean wearers. It also makes me want to run out and replace the Docs I so mistakenly got rid of years ago.

If I'm being honest, this cover is a little underwhelming. But I really want to know what Bone Clocks are. That's enough to make me want to buy it. A snappy title. Why can I not impress upon my students the importance of a good title?
This book, by Peter Mendelsund (famed designer of over 600 book covers), amasses many of those covers alongside insight into how he designs them. I heard Mendelsund interviewed about the book recently on NPR and had to purchase it. He claims, for example, that we don't really picture characters' faces when reading books, but only their bodies/shapes/etc. I don't know that I agree with that. I can see Jane Eyre, for example, very clearly in my mind's eye. What do you think?

Where to start with this one? I'm drawn to Moran's in-your-face-but-in-a-daze facial expression. Then there's the grey streak, which suggests that she just doesn't give a f*@% about those, which is then counteracted by the fact that she's working a red polka-dot dress slightly reminiscent of Minnie Mouse and a very carefully sculpted eyebrow. I also was drawn to the tattoo-like script and the fact that it seems to be a companion piece to How to Build a Girl.   
I read about this book in my local paper, of all places (my local paper is not usually where you find intelligent conversation about much of anything. Instead, it's usually where I read about my former classmates' run-ins with the police and some 65-year-old man who thinks a woman's place is barefoot and pregnant). I like the premise, that we are losing touch with important recesses in our brain by relying on automation.

Honestly, put Neil Gaiman's name on a book, and I'll buy it. End of story.

Being a teacher of literature, I just couldn't pass this one up. I wanted to know what exactly it meant to read literature like a professor to Thomas C. Foster. Turns out, dude knows his stuff, although his attitude is a little off-putting. He constantly has sentences that read like, "Voila; I just worked my magic on you. See how I did that? I. am. The Man." Still, fun reading while I'm sitting waiting for Sophie to go to sleep. I've actually been reading it aloud to her. Maybe she's learning something? The fact that it usually puts her to sleep is not promising.

Horrible picture, great book. My mother actually bought this for me in Disney World. She also can't pass up a good cover. This cover is perfection. The dark wood. The evolution of Maleficent. Tons of great images from the original Sleeping Beauty and the Maleficent of today (even if I didn't really love that movie - did I ever post about that??? Where has my brain been?). I highly recommend it.

I received desk copies of these two books from Broadview Press to review for future use in my classes. The Fairy Tales in Popular Culture one is highly readable (even though an academic text) and is filled with visual texts and great contemporary fairy-tale revisions in song, poem, and story form. If you're interested in the evolution of particular fairy tales, the Folk & Fairy Tales book is a good one, tracing different versions of the same tale over centuries. I highly recommend both for fairy-tale fans.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Guys. Parenting is hard.

God bless these people. But this here; this is a load of BS. Parenting only looks like this maybe 10% of the time. Via
I'm writing this to you from my darkened, blissfully silent living room at nearly 11:00 PM. Let me tell you, the battle for this silence was hard fought. I mean, we're talking borderline Gettysburg here. I don't even know where to begin.

Somehow, I deluded myself over the first few years of my children's lives into the belief that things get easier. Like, "Once we get past the diaper phase, then these kids will just start marching around like little minions, and I can even ask them to do chores, which they will do happily. Oh, and we can hang out and talk about cool stuff, like books and music." This actually kind of happened with my oldest child. The girl is so conscientious and responsible that I only really have to look at her sideways, and she straightens up.

Then, along came Sophie.

I mean, this child refuses to take anything I say at face value. Let's take tonight as an example. I tell her not to throw her brand-new tutu down the laundry shoot because it will end up stuck there, and she just refuses to accept the fact that this advice I am giving (which is actually good advice - I'm not just saying here, "Because I said so!!") is worth taking. Our "conversation" about the tutu then devolves into a shouting match in which she and I both lose our shit, I end up yelling, "Fine! Throw the damn tutu that we just spent $20 on down the laundry shoot and see what happens. I'm only almost 40 and YOU ARE 4!!" This then results in much crying, a tutu stuck in the laundry shoot (I'll leave that for my husband to figure out when he gets home from his fun night of beer and football), more crying, bed with no stories, high blood pressure, and general stress on everyone involved, including the oldest child who just was trying to dodge tutu bullets and stay out of the "conversation."

I seriously have a conversation with Sophie every day that includes, at some point, "I really don't want to argue with you. Arguing with you makes me have a very bad day."


What to do? I mean, really, what do I do? Do others of you have one child that pushes every single one of your buttons? Don't get me wrong. There are many, many wonderful things about Sophie. She's funny, smart, creative, independent - and everyone loves her. But sometimes, sometimes I wish she was just a little more pliable. How do I let her continue to grow and be independent and question things and not go completely insane?

Double sigh. A/J

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our Disney Villain Party

Villains Only: Enter at your own risk!!!
Every story needs a villain.
Think about it. Tell me one compelling story that does not include some horrible (if not horrible, at least skewed) person wreaking havoc on all of the good people involved. I dare you.

For my daughters' birthday party this year (their birthdays are exactly one week apart, so we typically have a joint party - apparently, my husband and I make poor birth-control decisions around the Christmas season;)), we had a Disney Villain party. Every single person attending had to dress as their "favorite" villain from a Disney film. It was such fun, dahling. Let's relive it (you still have time to theme your Halloween party - and if you do a Disney Villain one, please please please please send me pictures/tag me on Instagram at @aliceineastwash. TIA).

I ordered these poisoned apple cupcakes from a friend's home bakery business. I basically told her I wanted apples that resembled the ones in the Snow White film and edible glitter and she ran with it. The kids LOOOOOOOVED them. Out of 48 cupcakes, zero were left.

We dolled up the house, with mums, skeletons, pumpkins, and our black candy pumpkin.

I made my own poisoned apple to carry around, purchasing a fake apple from the dollar store and covering it in glitter glue.

The d├ęcor included typical scary accoutrements and my favorite fairy-tale books, these Camille Rose Garcia ones figuring prominently. ... Gee, I need to post about those books. I don't think I ever have. More to come.

Spider-web cupcake tiers were perfect for displaying the wares.

I think I loved this costume just a little too much. Shoot me.

Poor Maleficent. She really couldn't help smiling. These costumes were borrowed from a friend, who had purchased them from the Disney Store years ago.

Don't tell my Mom I posted this, but they look so cute. Cruellas. In full regalia.

Evil Stepsisters.

Alice in Wonderland represented.

My niece was not so sure of me. Smart girl.

Maleficents go marching one by one. Hurrah. Hurrah. My mother-in-law made these cupcakes from recipes found on Pinterest.

The whole crew. I think my favorite costume was the Big Bad Wolf.

These two have my heart forever. Who says Evil Queens are rotten to the core?
 What party to plan next year???? The wondering is upon me. A/J

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Nest at Halloween

One good thing about my house is that, at Halloween, I really don't have to change all that much to make it creepy/scary;).

That said, here's how we're looking here at the Nest. How are you decorating for Halloween this year? Any new and fun projects? A/J

Special props if you can spot the #hiddenariel. Sophie was intent that she should be included in the picture. For more on our Black Candy Pumpkin, see here.

The rats are back. As is a passed out Ariel. Naughty girl. For more about the rats, see here.

Who doesn't love a #catalier??
I love vintage Halloween cards:)). For more on the candles, see here.

Bats and rats.

The Halloween mantle.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Let's have a chat about yoga pants ...

I'll start with the simplest question. Why is it so frigging hard to find yoga pants that actually do their job? I mean, almost every pair of yoga pants I've ever had an intimate relationship with have been out-and-out failures. I can't even count how many times I have had to stop what I'm doing in my yoga class because my yoga pants have let me down. After two gigantic kids and two less-than-forgiving pregnancies, my cute-little-foldover, Pink-yoga-pant days are long gone. Yes, I love those pants. But they do not love me. Wonk wonk. Hence the vast number of break-ups that have landed many a pair of yoga pants in my trash can.

So, when Victoria's Secret sent me the Knockout Tight from the VSX Sport line from Influenster, I've gotta say I was decidedly skeptical. To test them out, I decided to wear them in each of my most trying of classes - Zumba, PiYo, and straight-out yoga.

Here's the deal. These pants DO NOT MOVE. I mean, they don't budge. They hold you tight, suck in your gut, and are supportive in the way that many husbands and boyfriends fail to be. The hidden drawstring waist is awesome, especially if, like me, your hips are larger than your waist. The "Body-Wick" fabric is also great. Let's just say that, like me, you need to run to the grocery store after your super-sweaty Zumba class. Do you want to go with sweat stains in all the wrong spots?

Plus, they just look super-cute.

I swear my behind looks better in these pants. Props to the "nylon performance fabric."

I love the higher waist on these.
The Incredible by Victoria's Secret Sport Bra is also a win-win. To be honest, it looks like quite the contraption (with the cups, the back closure, etc.). But it held me in place, stayed in place, and is very flattering.

Disregard the mess behind me. Ugh.
I don't spend money lightly. Anyone who knows me knows that this is an absolute fact, especially when it comes to clothing. But I would splurge on these yoga pants. They are the bomb. A/J

PS. Thanks to the Pittsburgh radio station WDVE, this is the only song I hear when I think about yoga pants. Those guys are jerks.

 *** I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.