Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Time

Well my friends, we're just two days away from Thanksgiving, which means that most of us will be gathered around the communal table enjoying copious amounts of fattening food with a side of guilt.  Be sure to double check your bottle of Xanax before you run off to catch your flight, because there's nothing worse than a National holiday spent listening to your Mother question your life choices without the muffling effect of prescription drugs!

I assume that, for many of us, our memories of Thanksgivings of yore include not only weird Uncle Ned and the lonely neighbor man with wandering hands, but also plates of dry turkey that made you question whether perhaps wallpaper paste might, in fact, be more appetizing.  It's time for Americans to stop committing culinary crime and to learn to prepare turkey properly.

I assume that some of you may be cooking (and hosting) Thanksgiving for the first time this year, so I'm here to help.  I've got a few tips for hosting the perfect Turkey Day dinner as well as a foolproof recipe (courtesy of my Chef Hubby) for perfectly cooked, moist and delicious turkey that will ensure everyone will want to come back next year for Thanksgiving dinner.  It's up to you whether to consider this a positive or a negative.

1.  Make your feast a pot luck.  There is no reason that you should spend your entire holiday slaving away in the kitchen cooking multiple dishes for your guests.  This is expensive and unnecessary.  Cook the turkey and force everyone else to bring the sides and desserts.  Yeah, Aunt Rainbow might bring a soy and wheat berry loaf, but pretty much everything tastes good slathered in gravy.

2. Have plenty of wine and cocktails on offer (unless, of course, you or your guests are Friends of Bill's. In that case, stick with sparkling cider).  Most people get kind of tense in social situations.  Booze helps loosen people up and get the conversation flowing.  Just make sure that you cut off Cousin Jeremy before he's six cocktails in and starts feeling up the decorative gourds.

3. Place cards.  Seriously, I can't stress this enough.  Yeah, they seem like something only WASPs from Greenwich use, but people really don't like having to figure out where to sit.  Put some thought into who talks and who doesn't, and seat them next to each other.  We're all children at heart and we just want someone to tell us what to do, so go ahead and print out some cute fall-themed place cards and go nuts.

4.  Clean your bathroom.  I can't believe I even have to write this, but if you're having people over, take the time to clean whatever commode they will use.  Invest in a fresh bar of hand soap and a clean towel and maybe even a nice smelling candle in case someone who is lactose intolerant over-indulges in sour cream mashed potatoes.

How to Cook the Perfect Turkey:

Defrost your turkey.  Please don't try to cook a frozen turkey.

One Day Before:
Brine your turkey (you can do this while your turkey defrosts).

Thanksgiving Day:

Rinse brine.

Stuff turkey with one whole onion, a few cloves of garlic, herbs of your choice (rosemary, thyme, etc.), and one orange cut in half.

Rub with olive oil, a splash of soy sauce, and a touch of agave, maple syrup or honey, whichever you prefer.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place breast side down until skin becomes golden brown, approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on the weight of your turkey.  

Turn turkey over, breast side up.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.  The residual heat of the oven should brown the breast skin fairly quickly, which seals in the moisture and keeps your turkey from tasting like cardboard.

Baste turkey with pan juices and a little red wine every 30 minutes.  (Bonus: this also creates a nice pan gravy, which you can reduce down on the stovetop to make a more traditional gravy; no gravy packet needed!)

Roast bird until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  With this high heat cooking method, the turkey should take about 12-18 minutes per pound.

Let bird rest at least 20 minutes before carving.

Enjoy your well cooked bird.  Here's hoping Uncle Larry doesn't get drunk and barf in one of your houseplants.
Happy Thanksgiving!  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fix My Wardrobe, November Edition

Despite my horrible photos it looks like you guys really liked my previous Stitch Fix post.  I'm so glad that the images of me with greasy hair and not wearing a speck of makeup didn't make you scream and run from your computer!  I'm also pleased that a number of you actually signed up for the service and are getting some new pieces for your wardrobe.  That makes me happy, and I suspect that you wearing something other than sweatpants will make your partners happy as well. 

You wanna see what I got in my November Stitch Fix

Good.  Because I have pictures, and I'm actually wearing makeup this time!

I didn't take any photos of my October fix, because I ran out of time before I had to send the stuff back.  Don't worry, you didn't miss much; I actually didn't keep a single piece.

This month I got smart.  I requested my original stylist, Stephania, who definitely understands my style and what I'm looking for.

A few tips to help you get pieces you'll like:

1.  Communicate.  Much like in marriage, communication is the key to getting clothing pieces that you want/need.  You can leave notes in your account requesting specific clothing items or stylists, which is how I ended up getting Stephania again.  My request for a pair of boyfriend jeans was met with less success, which you can see below.

2.  Get Pinteresty.  Set up a fashion Pinterest board and keep it updated.  When you fill out your Stitch Fix profile it asks if you have a Pinterest account and it's really helpful for your stylist if you use this.  I had no idea that I like black skinny pants with zippers, but Stefania noticed I had pinned quite a few of that style and sent me a pair.  If only my husband was as observant about my love for the kitchen trash being empty!

3. These are not cheap, disposable clothes.  It's important to understand that you're investing a little bit in your wardrobe.  That being said, you need to be truthful about your budget when you fill out your SF profile.  Don't be embarrassed to say that you can't spend more than a certain amount on clothing, and never hesitate to send something back because it's too expensive.  The point of the service is to make your life easier, not to keep you awake at night worrying about how you're going to pay your Visa bill.  Personally, I think the fact that they managed to find me jeans that cost less than $80 is awesome.  I think it's better to spend a few more sheckles on things you're really going to wear rather than throwing down $10 bucks for a cheetah t-shirt from Forever 21 when you're Actually 36.

And now, without further ado, the goodies in my November box:
My disclaimer: obviously, I am not a contender for America's Next Top (geriatric) Model, but at least this time my hair is clean and I'm wearing some lipgloss.  I promise to do better next month.

Market and Spruce Graphic Print Blouse $48.00
I would have never picked this out for myself, but I LOVE this shirt.  It's incredibly comfortable, but also looks totally put together.  I've already worn it to three preschool tours, so I've totally tricked them into thinking I'm chic and hip instead of frazzled and unshowered.  Win!  KEPT

LA Made Striped Sweater $68.00
I liked this when I saw it in the box, so I was dissappointed when I put it on.  It just wasn't that flattering.  Turns out that just because something is black and white doesn't mean it must be purchased.  Who knew??!  RETURNED

Renee C Asymmetrical Cardigan $58.00
Again, I liked this when I saw it in the box, but it looked horrendous on me, like I'm wearing a giant burlap bag as a sweater.  It was fine when it was unbuttoned, but I need another grey cardigan like I need a third child (read: NEVER).  RETURNED

Kut from the Kloth Distressed Boyfriend Jean $78.00
In my message for my stylist I asked for a pair of distressed boyfriend jeans.  While I was happy that she sent a pair, these were not for me.  First of all they were too big and kind of short in the legs (am I wrong on this? weigh in, please, fashionable readers).  Plus they made my butt look really flat.  I just haven't been able to find a pair of boyfriend jeans that look good on me, so either it's not a style for those of us with toothpick figures, or I have to continue searching.  Sigh.  RETURNED

Gorjana Double Bar Drop Earrings $48.00
Initially I was going to send these back without even trying them on, but thanks to the fact that I wanted to provide you people with photo proof, I discovered how cute these earrings are.  Okay, I normally would not spend more than $10 on earrings that I'm not going to wear every day, but these looked so good, and I figured that since I'm trying to upgrade my wardrobe I should class up my accessories as well, so I splurged.  I kind of love these and think I'll wear them often.  KEPT

Honestly, I think if you sign up for Stitch Fix you won't be disappointed.  I'm just glad that I have some cute new clothes that fit my postpartum figure, and I suspect the Hubby is thrilled that I no longer try to leave the house wearing pajamas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yum, Placenta!

I am the lady who has eaten her own placenta.  Twice.

Just in case you're worried that I'm sitting at my desk chewing on strips of placenta jerky and chugging white wine, I promise that is not the case.  Even I'm not quite that hippie dippy.  While I certainly believe in the placenta's healing properties, I don't really need to know what they taste like.  No, I have a nice little jar full of placenta capsules that's accessorized with a heart-shaped piece of my daughter's dried up umbilical cord.  I know, it's like I've suddenly become too Berkeley even for myself.

But I have to tell you that I've been tossing back the placenta pills like they are candy recently.  I've been feeling kind of "blah" of late.  I suspect it's primarily because I've been sleeping in 45 minute increments for over a month now, but there's nothing like having a new baby and a toddler to make you feel like your life is completely over.  Even though it has been four months since the Little Lady made her entrance downstage vagina, I'm still not really back to my old self.  I'm exhausted, overwhelmed, and have not even the faintest desire to go out drinking with my girlfriends, which is a sign that I am most definitely feeling down.

When I decided to encapsulate my placenta the first time around I was somewhat skeptical.  I wasn't entirely convinced that a few pills full of afterbirth would be helpful, but I figured it was worth giving it a shot.  At the cost of $250, if the pills actually did make me feel better it would be far less expensive than meeting my insurance deductible for inpatient psychiatric care were I to really go off the postpartum deep end.

It was so worth it, my friends.

If you can handle the inherent "ick" factor that exists in bringing your placenta home in a cooler, I highly recommend that you think seriously about encapsulating.  I would also like to highly recommend that you not actually look at your placenta, as you'll probably already feel nauseous after giving birth and the thought of ingesting something that looks so disgusting might just make your last prebaby meal come back up, but that's your call.

Personally, I find that the placenta pills are incredibly effective at keeping me out of the abyss.  I'm not saying that they are ever going to be as effective as an actual prescribed anti-depressant, but in my case whenever I feel that I'm just on the brink of going over the edge, taking a rather significant dose of capsules (8-10) helps me get back on track.  Sure, it's a little bit weird, and it's entirely possible it's all just a placebo effect, but I'm willing to get behind anything that keeps me from embarrassing myself in the greeting card aisle at my local Rite Aide.

Besides, supposedly there's a real demand for placenta on the Chinese black market, so if you find they aren't effective, you can always recoup your money.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let There Be Cool Lights

I'm a sucker for great home decor.  I can spend hours getting lost in the pages of Domino or House Beautiful, and there's been more than one occasion when a simple Pinterest search has taken me down the internet rabbit hole of various incarnations of "white curtains with grommets".

This is a dangerous habit for two different reasons: one, I'm supposed to be making sure that my children aren't drowning in the toilet or jumping off the back of the couch, not perusing home design blogs for the perfect set of yellow tartan pillows; and two, I can't afford my own taste.  Thanks to all those years I wasted pursuing a dead end career, my design budget is more Walmart than Wayfaire.  I would love nothing more than to be able to throw down an Amex card and purchase every single thing that catches my eye, but that's simply not an option.

The good news is that necessity (aka poverty) is the mother of invention.  You'd be amazed what you can find at your local flea market or thrift store or even on Craigslist.  I've picked up some pretty amazing pieces over the past years, and with just a few coats of paint have transformed stuff from shitty to spectacular.

If you follow my antics over on Instagram, you may have seen this photo a few weeks ago:

Every year I participate in Hollywood Housewife's One Day photo essay project, and this image was part of that series.  Aside from the fact that it's a visual record of my alcohol use that my neighbor has probably sent over to DCFS, I got a lot of questions about the horse lamp.

You guys, I have two of these lamps and they are decidedly fabulous.

However, they were definitely not fabulous when I purchased them at the Santa Monica Flea:

I figured for $35 for the pair I could probably make them work.  

I picked up two cans of my favorite white spray paint and got started.  

If you don't have children, a similar painting project will probably take you about two days.  Since I have children and the only free time I have is when they are napping, this ridiculously easy transformation took almost two months.

First, I taped off the cords, bases, and sockets.  
Then my kids woke up, so I put the lamps back in the garage.

Second, I utilized some of my free grandparent childcare and sprayed on the first coat of white paint.  I let the lamps dry overnight (read: for two weeks) until I got some more time to myself.

Another coat of white paint, another few weeks of drying time...

I think the lamps are made out of some kind of resin or plastic, because these suckers took a lot of paint.  Those horses inhaled paint the way I used to inhale cocaine.  

A third and final coat of white paint:

I had originally planned to leave the bases black, but they just didn't look that good with the white horses, so I ended up spraying those three times as well.

Finally, after everything was dry and I did a bit of touch up, I was satisfied that the lamps looked less like my Husband's ex-wife and more Jonathan Adler-esque.

Another hour of free grandparent childcare gave me time to run over to Lamps Plus for shades.  I don't usually love their selection, but for once I lucked out and found two matching shades in the exact color I wanted for a very reasonable price.

I think they turned out really well, if I do say so myself.  

Now if only I could spray paint all those heinous plastic toys cluttering my living room, we'd be in business.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Will Pay for Sleep

Seriously, kid. Go the F*** to sleep.
Yesterday we hired a night nurse.  That's right, we are paying someone to hang out with the Little Lady while we sleep.  It sounds ridiculous, I know, but when you haven't slept in stretches longer than an hour for almost a month you will do almost anything to get some sleep.  I understand now why sleep deprivation is a torture tactic; deny someone a decent night's rest for a long enough period of time, and she will tell you anything.  

Basically, what I'm saying here is that babies are teeny tiny terrorists and their mission is to break you.

The Little Lady has broken us, my friends.

During the early days of her time here with us, she was a great sleeper.  At just two months of age she was sleeping through the night.  I thought we had dodged the sleepless baby bullet.  I patted myself on the back, sure that her stellar sleep habits were entirely the result of my ace second time parenting.  Smug as a cat who ate a canary, I shared with my Mommy and Me groups about her incredible sleeping habits and enjoyed the jealous looks of the other exhausted Mommies whose kids were still waking up every two hours.

And now look at me.  I have circles under my eyes that are so dark I look like a character from The Walking Dead.  I can't remember the last time I slept long enough to even have a dream, and I drink so much coffee that it's quite possible I bleed caffeine.  I'm starting to think that this long stretch of sleepless nights is Karma for my being an assh*le during those early days of Motherhood.
Are you there, God?  It's me, Anna.  


These days I'm the exhausted one in all the Mommy and Me groups listening with envy as other Mothers describe four month old children who go to sleep at 6:30PM and don't wake up until 8AM.  I'm now the frazzled, hollow-eyed Mombie who forgot her child's birth date last week and had to call her husband to find out what to put down on the preschool application.  I'm so tired that yesterday I stood in the produce section at Whole Foods crying because they were out of Lacinto Kale.

So I think you can see why we hired some help.  It's only for two nights, and even that's a stretch for us financially, but the hope is that the night nurse can give us some guidance on what to do to get Rose to sleep for longer stretches.  We've tried everything we can think of - the dream feed, the teething remedies, letting her cry, the wombie, the sleep sack, the Zippadee Zip - if it's supposed to help a baby sleep we've given it a shot, but nothing has helped.  It's time to bring in the professionals.

And if this doesn't work, I may actually have to take my Mother's advice and give the kid some brandy before bed.  Just don't tell my neighbor

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Put Some Clothes On That (slender) Kid

I know that I don't excel at all that many things in the Motherhood department, but I like to think that my ability to dress the Muffin Man in stylish clothing kind of makes up for the fact that two days ago I let him eat a stick of butter for dinner. 

As with all aspects of raising children, putting together a wardrobe for a hipster toddler is not without challenges.  The main one is that my son is built like a bean pole.  In the grand scheme of things this is wonderful - the kid eats more than most grown adults, yet he never gains a pound - but trying to find clothes to fit his slender figure can be difficult, especially when one prefers buying everything second hand.

Now that I have almost two years (!) of shopping experience under my Motherhood belt, I've figured out which brands work best for toddlers with a slender build, and I'm finally sharing my knowledge.  Based on hours of not-at-all-scientific research gleaned from weekly trips to my local consignment store, this list is intended to provide a helpful guide for other parents, and also ensures that my purchases are now tax deductible "work expenses".

Herewith, my definitive list of tips for dressing your toddler, as well as a few of my favorite clothing brands: 
  • As a general rule of thumb, European brands tend to be cut smaller than American brands, with the French leading the charge towards underfed children.  I'm eternally grateful to our frenemies across the pond, because without their cigarette and alcohol-fueled low birth weight children, Noah would be practically forced to walk around wearing just a diaper for lack of pants that fit.
  • Leggings are your friend.  Sure, you'll have to put up with your spouse saying you dress your kid like a metrosexual, but the cuteness factor of skinny little legs in tight pants will silence detractors.
  • Look for pants that have adjustable waistbands.  Somebody came up with the brilliant idea of putting an elastic band with button holes inside the waistband of pants.  To adjust the size you simply pull the elastic as tight as you need to and fasten it onto the corresponding button.  Almost every pair of pant in Noah's wardrobe that's not a pair of leggings has an adjustable band.
  • Invest in a cute pair of suspenders.  Saggy pants are only a fashion statement in prisons and high schools.
  • Shop the girls department.  Seriously.  Girls clothes are cut smaller than boys clothes, and while this is not really a good thing for my daughter's body image and mental health, it is a positive turn of events for my son.  Just beware metallic purple stitching lurking in the seams of even the most normal-looking pair of jeggings. 
Petit Bateau.  Their skinny jeans are the best.  These are expensive when purchased new (Noah received a pair as a gift) but you can often find Petit Bateau pieces at the consignment store.

OshKosh B'gosh.  Most of the Osh Kosh pants have adjustable waistbands, and their leggings are great.  They are really reasonably priced, which I personally appreciate considering my son likes to use his pants as a napkin.

Zara Mini.  Another European brand, the sizes at Zara tend to run pretty small, which is a plus when we're talking about slender babes.  I'm partial to their pieces because they are chic and not at all babyish.

H&M.  These aren't the best quality clothes on the planet, but they almost always have stuff on sale, which means you can pick up cute hipster duds for $5 and under.  I think their pants run a little bit big, but the shirts and sweaters usually have a slim cut and the designs are hip.  

Kickee Pants.  This brand is so soft and silky that I basically just want to pet my kids whenever they are wearing any Kickee Pants pieces.  I think the clothing is made out of bamboo or something, but it's definitely eco friendly.  The sizing is a little bit inconsistent with this brand - sometimes the pants are a little bit big, sometimes a little bit small - but they do cut their pants longer than most other brands, which is great when you have a tall toddler.

Splendid.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that practically every t-shirt in the Muffin Man's wardrobe is made by Splendid.  I don't find that their pants fit my small-waisted little man all that well, but their shirts are the bomb dot com.  Super cute and stylish and incredibly soft they also wash incredibly well which is a must when you have a child who likes to paint.  On himself. 

What are your go-to brands for dressing your little ones?  Let me know if I'm missing any killer brands that cater to my kiddo's skinny legs and white boy butt!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Preschool Panic: Apply Here

And this was one of the better photos. 
We're in the final stretch of the preschool search, which means that now the hard part begins: filling out the applications.  We're not talking about a simple one page form that just asks for your kid's name, address and whether or not he's allergic to peanuts.  Oh, no.  I'm currently sitting at my desk surrounded by several reams of paper that make up the applications for two schools.

I realize I may be showing my age here, but back in the Paleolithic Age when I attended preschool, I'm pretty sure that the "application" process mainly consisted of showing up at whatever school was closest to your house and hoping that the teacher wasn't a child molester or a chain smoker.  These days the process to gain entrance into one of the finer institutes of lower learning more closely resembles what I went through when I was choosing a college.  Other than the lack of requirement for some sort of standardized testing, the applications are almost the same: multiple pages of personal information, essay questions, even a family photo.

If you follow the Misadventures over on Twitter, you've probably noticed that I've been making fun of preschool applications for the last few weeks.  There's a reason for this: it's because the whole thing is patently ridiculous.  Here are the questions I'm supposed to answer:

Please describe your child.

The honest answer: He's not even two years old!  He's barely a person.  Let's see... he thinks it's hilarious when his sister farts, he doesn't eat avocado, and he's currently laying on the kitchen floor kicking and screaming because I won't let him play with the vacuum.

The spin: My son is a happy little boy who finds joy in the smallest moments.  He is decisive and unafraid to state his opinion.  His attention span is remarkable when he finds something he's interested in exploring.  

Why do you think our school is a good fit for your son?

The honest answer: I don't know how great a "fit" it is for my son, but you're one of the few places in town that offers a full day preschool program (9am-3pm) and Mommy needs some alone time. 

The spin: My son is a thoughtful, creative, very sensitive boy who I believe will thrive in a school that offers both structure and the freedom to explore new ideas.  After touring the school and talking with other parents and students, I'm impressed with how confident and well-spoken the students are, and I can only imagine the extent to which my son would bloom under the tutelage of such an institution.

I'm an ace bullshit artist, but I feel kind of bad for the kids who don't have a parent who is a writer; it takes some major talent to figure out a good spin for "he's a biter".

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go make an appointment for our professional family photo shoot.  

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