Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Bit of 2009

Hi there! It's New Year's Eve already...

Steinvic is on his way to Cincinnati for the weekend. We'll likely do our usual NYE routine, which I'm very happy with. We'll go out, have some toasts with friends, then get home well before midnight. We'll nibble on appetizers, watch things on television, drink lots, smooch when the ball drops and eventually snuggle down into bed, grateful for another good year, and hopeful for the next one.

I'm pretty excited about my future. While I'm an optimist, I can't say that I've always felt like good things are coming to me. I mean, I'd hope that they would, I'd hope for mankind, I'd hope even when others had stopped hoping. Even if I had to vent or have a fit after facing some challenge, I'd always look for the bright side after. But, even with all of that, I can't say that I've ever been like, "Yeah! Things are going to be AWESOME!!" until right now.

Steinvic changed my life in so many ways. Getting engaged this year is a huge deal to me. I know, I know...people will say things like, "A ring shouldn't make a difference!" or "Getting married isn't so important." Even more, for people like us, who have both been married previously and neither union went so well, you'd think we'd be a little more than gun shy.

But I feel that this is right. Our marriage is the start of something really good, something that I know will work. I know that Steinvic feels the same way, because he is damn picky (a good thing) and if he didn't believe in us, trust me - he never would have proposed. So...I feel like our marriage will be the icing on the cake after all these years of searching for the right ingredients, carefully putting everything together, and waiting patiently while that cake bakes. Not rushing the process. Enjoying the process.

I know that in 2010 and beyond, my best friend will be right here, with me, finally in our home, making the life we deserve together. It's so good already...the concept that it will be even better is just... it's all more than I ever imagined. I am so very lucky.

My folks are in Wisconsin - my aunt and her family are there - ringing in the New Year together. My Grandma loves that, I know. Our families have plans, most similar to ours. Our friend, J, will be with her parents and children tonight, and that sounds so cozy and special to me, having all those people you love, right there with you. Our other friend, Em, will be on her couch with her two pups at midnight. While in some ways this troubles me - that she will be alone to ring in the New Year - there is another side of me that thinks this is a good thing. She's newly single and exploring her independence. She's had a half-dozen offers to spend this evening with friends and family, and this is what she chose to do instead. So...a toast to her strength and to embracing solitude....if she can enjoy being alone with herself, I believe she is on the path to being even more amazing company for the right person, maybe in the coming year, maybe next. Cheers to our friends and families!

Anyway, I hope that you have someone you love - people who are precious to you - with you this New Year's...and always. Happy New Year! See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ode to Cornelius (aka The Walmart Dance)

I'll admit that some nights, my "To Do" list is a little ambitious. When I think of things during the day, I'll go, "Ooo! I gotta write that down..." and before I know it, the list is more than one Post-It long, and I'm a complete slave to it: I won't feel good unless I accomplish everything.

Last night's list read like this:

  • Home
  • Don't forget to pick up Walmart and Michael's gift cards from piano!
  • Check underneath sink for Allen wrench size
  • Go to Walmart for Bike
  • Go to hardware store for wrench
  • Go to Michael's for non-toxic permanent glass paint
  • Pick up compact, olives, pineapple
  • Grocery store? Sauerkraut, potatoes, pork for Steinvic, snacks

I had the first three things checked off my list in no time. The fourth was started snowing big time and our local Walmart didn't have my exercise bike. The online store locator for the bike wasn't working, so if I was going to get my bike, I was going to have to drive around from store to store looking for it. So, with crummy visibility, I drove to a second Walmart and when they didn't have it, I gave up, totally disappointed. Instead of touring all the Cincinnati Walmarts, I decided to order it online when I got home.

Go to hardware store for wrench. After walking around and around and around looking for the wrench I needed or someone to help me find it, I found a cashier and got her to radio someone to help me. He magically emerged with another worker from the aisle I'd just been in (they weren't there one second before! I swear!) found my wrench (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way back in the appliance area, next to garbage disposals...not with the plumbing tools like I thought) and promised that it would solve my garbage disposal issue.

Go to Michael's for non-toxic, permanent glass paint. They didn't have the paint I needed. Grrr...

Pick up compact, olives, pineapple... Went to Target for my compact. Decided that, at this point, I needed some wine, too. And of course the pineapple, olives...

The grocery store would have to wait.

Finally, I was home. Fixing the garbage disposal was a breeze! (I was so anxious to find out if this simple wrench would do it that I didn't even change out of my work clothes to try it out.) Relief!

Then I hopped online to order my bike. Remember how I said that Steinvic had given me many gift cards inside many sweet, heartfelt Christmas cards? Well...the Walmart online ordering system only accepts 4 gift cards per order. What. The. Heck?! Apparently, they don't appreciate cuteness or cleverness or multiple gift cards.

So, I started trying to call the 1-800 number to see what I could do about it...every number I tried took me to something automated. All I wanted to do was talk to someone. So, for the sake of my exercise bike and in the Spirit of Christmas, I did what any bike-deprived girl in my situation would do: I lied. I picked the "problem with service in store" option, waited forever, and began to tell her my woes when she kindly interrupted me transferred me to someone else "who can help with your ordeal."

Enter Cornelius. Now, given that it's Christmastime, you may immediately be thinking of this Cornelius:

But no. This Cornelius sounded more like this guy:

and as funny as he was, Cornelius couldn't help me at first. I mean, he was totally willing to help, but he said he had no idea what to do about my problem. And - this is strange - he said that and the actual stores weren't really "connected." He said there was no way to determine which store might have my exercise bike because the stores only agree to show inventory levels of certain items. My bike wasn't one of them.

He suggested that maybe I go in and see if a manager would trade four of my cards for one big $100 card and that I could use that, plus my two others, to make my online purchase. I said, "I'll tell them that Cornelius is going to beat them up if they won't agree," and he laughed at that. "Yes! Do that! They'll have to do it!"

Then he said, "Wait...maybe you can order a $100 e-card online and pay for it with your four $25 ones. Then the system will send one big gift certificate to your e-mail for $100...try that!!"

Well, Cornelius, you are a genius. Because it worked!

Bike ordered! Soon, I will be burning calories on this:
and I can't wait! Thank you Steinvic!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Was Yours Merry?

Welcome back to reality...aka The Week After Christmas. While some smart folks did that thing with their vacation time that my sister used to do with her candy at Halloween (save it to taunt me with long after mine had been devoured), I did not. That means, back to work today. Back to reality. Back to Cincinnati.

We had such a great Christmas. Time with Steinvic's son on the 23rd and 24th. Time with friends on Christmas Eve. Time together. A lovely time at Mom's on Christmas Day, and more lovely times at Steinvic's Mom's the day after.

My favorite part of the Holidays is spending time with such amazing people...why we don't insist to ourselves that we do it more all year long, I don't know.

For more than a year, I've wanted this particular exercise bike. It's recumbent and while it's not super expensive, it seems that every time I save fifty cents, something big happens to undermine my savings progress. When Steinvic wanted to know what I'd most like for Christmas, I said, "A Walmart* gift card for $25, and a mushy Christmas card." I totally meant it. I wanted him to save for his trip with his son that's coming up in a few months.

Well, he honored my wishes...but in a much bigger way than I expected. I got many, many beautiful, mushy Christmas cards and many $25 gift cards ( also from his Mom - who had my name in the family drawing - and his son, too ) and now I have enough to buy my beloved exercise bike. I plan to go tonight and I can't wait!

There were other highlights...seeing Steinvic's son's face when he opened his Reds tickets (the game is in Phoenix) from his Dad and realized that they had something big to look forward to this spring...that was awesome. Seeing Steinvic putting on his new leather jacket made me happy. I had Steinvic's 8 year old niece in the family drawing and had customized a Chipmunks painting for her and watching her walk all around, carrying that canvas because she didn't want to put it down...that is something I won't forget any time soon. Knowing that J's little ones believe that Eli the Elf really wrote those Christmas letters to them... precious.

All those little moments...all because at this time of year, we go the extra mile. We're a little more clever, a little more committed to surprising those we love, a little more elf-like or Santa-ish than usual. I love it. I live for it! But more importantly, I want that, on some smaller scale, all year long.

I hope you had a fantastic Holiday and that every time you think of it, you smile...

* For those of you who hate Walmart, I'm sorry! I do understand. I honestly don't shop there for my everyday items. If I purchase something from Walmart once a year, that's a max. However, I got a stepper there a few years ago...exact model priced elsewhere for $299 and up...Walmart's price? $80. Same with the recumbent bike I least $50 - $150 more everywhere else I've priced...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's About That Time...

Steinvic and his son are on their way down the highway, right now. They should be here any minute and this means our Christmas officially begins!

Of course, I'm not at home with them to crack open the bourbon and some Leinenkugel's. (not together, of course...) Noooooooo...I'm still at work. But just for a couple more hours.

I hope that whatever you and yours are doing for the Holidays, that your time together is merry and bright!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Christmas is coming, and this one is different from every other Christmas I've ever known.

My Grandma loved Christmas. She was the kind of hostess - all year round - who never minded the fuss and preparation that went into having a massive number of guests in her home. In fact, as my family would pile in at the Holidays, I'd hang out in the kitchen with her and help her and she just enjoyed it so much. (I love my Mother tremendosly, but she does NOT enjoy the hostessing...she gets pretty stressed!)

As a musician, my Grandma adored the lush, bright, sentimental and spiritual variety of songs that surround this Holiday. As a devoted Christian (no, not the fanatical, judgmental sort...more the sincere, well-versed, accepting, forgiving, unwaivering sort) she truly enjoyed celebrating the Glory of Christ's birth. And of course, any reason to gather family...she was all about Christmas.

So it only stands to reason that the giant sinking feeling - which I've really been working to keep at bay - is here, cropping up at moments when it really shouldn't. Take last night for example...folding laundry is not sad, is it? No! But there I am in the laundry room, crying so hard that I had to sit down. Sobbing instead of folding. Of course, I let it last only for a minute because I know what my Grandma would say about those tears. And I know that crying doesn't help a thing. I just wish she were here.

Amidst all of that, this Christmas is different in a GREAT way because I'm now engaged to Steinvic and while our relationship is still the same incredible, solid, fun, deep, meaningful bond we've always shared, it does feel even more exciting to know that we're officially committed to spending our lives together. It's romantic! It's reassuring. It feels extra-permanent and I haven't really had any of that in my lifetime.

Because Steinvic loves me, I have so much: a wonderful man who really wants my happiness, who makes me want to be a better version of myself, who really thinks I'm pretty cool just as I am (it's shocking!) And a young man who says he couldn't be happier about me being his Step Mom...that he wouldn't want anyone else in the world to play that role. (How amazing is it to hear someone voluntarily say that and know he means it!?) A huge family full of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and a Mother-in-Law-to-be who is so very dear. I finally have a big, beautiful family and it's full of some of the best people I know. And to think that just maybe, next Christmas, Steinvic and I won't be doing all of our Holiday preparations in separate cities, but together! In the same home! So, it's an incredibly joyful time.

In short, I'm a mess. I am happier than I've ever been. With an undercurrent of extreme sadness as a bonus! Go figure...

All the while, I've been in full-force Elf Mode. Busy and loving it! I've made my specialty felt mice for a few fantastic folks, painted some pictures upon request, painted a lovely jewlery box for a dear friend's daughter (Hello, J!), and was even asked to write a few Christmas letters as an Elf - a major honor that I hope to repeat for those precious kids every year. I've been shopping and creating and cooking and wrapping and humming and enjoying every little detail...all the things that make this season just a little nicer.

And I think I may have just found my Grandma in this Christmas after all...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Product Endorsement For Which I Will Not Be Compensated - ULTA

Hello, Holiday Shoppers! It's been a while since I have endorsed anything - hard to believe, huh? But today, I'm going to endorse an entire me!

So, I drew Steinvic's youngest sister in the family Christmas-Gift-Drawing.* She's close to my age and she likes girly stuff, so I was happy to pop on over to the Web site of a cosmetic giant I've loyally shopped for a decade. I found the right thing, completed my transaction and then got an e-mail two days later that there was something wrong with my order. The e-mail indicated that it was a problem with my card (GULP?!), but I could call and talk to a representative. Meanwhile, they'd hold my order for five days.

When I called, the line was busy for hours. I tried again this morning and it turns out, the problem wasn't my card (of course not!) It was that they were out of the size of Prada perfume I'd ordered. But if I wanted, I could just "go ahead and order the next size up" - but I couldn't reuse my $15 discount certificate, which had expired the day I made my order.

I told her to forget it, and with heavy heart, started fretting about what to buy instead.

That is when I logged on to ULTA. And Whoa, Nelly! They have some KICK BUTT deals going on right now!

With a $35 fragrance purchase - and yes, they have lots of nice fragrances at that price and less - I could get a free luxury robe, which actually looks kind of plush and lovely. It also comes in a variety of sizes and colors, so I wasn't stuck with some ol' plain thing that doesn't fit.

THEN, I got 3 free samples...this is a staple for ULTA and it's always a nice way to dress up a package!

THEN, since I spent $35, I got to add on a free little bag with 8 more samples in it! Samples are so much fun...

THEN, since I spent $25, they offered free shipping. Now, this shipping looked to be standard ground, so if you need your gift before Christmas, it might be a good idea to upgrade. But still! If you're not in a hurry for it, free shipping!

So, for my $40 purchase, I'll receive perfume, a plushy pink robe, and a whole bunch of samples. This makes a very nice Christmas gift for my sister-in-law-to-be!

Oh, I have to add...there is an actual ULTA store about 20 minutes from me. I have been there twice, for hard-to-find items, and most recently visited to pick up my favorite LipFusion product. The cashier was extremely professional. She looked at my purchase and says, "Wait..." and turns to start going through some packages behind the counter. Seconds later, she produces a smaller version of my LipFusion. "I thought I'd seen that packaging before! Here is a smaller size for your purse!" and pops it in my bag. This stuff is kinda pricey, so I really appreciated her thoughtfulness and the free, deluxe sample. Check out ULTA and you may be pleasantly surprised, too!

*(Actually, that's not true. I didn't actually draw her name. Steinvic fixed it! He knew I'd like buying something girly for his sister, so he matched me up with her. I just had to come clean here...but thank you Steinvic!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Here We Go...Around and Around...

Shannon over at Everyday Stranger suggested a great idea...Around the World in 80 Blogs. Bloggers who read her blog could post on their blogs about the towns from which they blog. So, I signed up for the OHIO-ish part of the world, more specifically, Cincinnati. And I intended to include some photographs, and time got away from me and so I'm borrowing - and crediting - photos in this post. (I hope that is okay. I don't know what the Universal Internet Commandments are, but I think if I give credit and don't claim these photos as my own, we should be okay. I hope.)

I've lived in the Tri-State area my entire life and while I've spent a fair amount of time in Columbus these last five years, I've never lived anywhere besides Cincinnati.

What is it like?

The people. Depending on what part of town you're from, the folks here are very different. There is a bit of an East Side/West Side rivalry. From my home town, about 12 miles north of Downtown Cincinnati, there is also a little parochial/public school rivalry. As a city, we've had our share of very unfortunate (and embarrassing) racial tension. Generally, people here are morally, financially and politically conservative. However, I've met some amazingly open-minded people here and most everyone is eventually friendly, if not a little reserved at first.

(Photo from

The sights. We're a river city. The Ohio River runs right along our skyline, dividing Cincinnati from our neighbors in Kentucky. The river atmosphere makes life a little more exciting and definitely more beautiful. You can go right across the river into Newport or Covington and have a great time there, too.

The culture and events. In the downtown area, things are very different from the suburbs. Except for restaurants and bars, shops and businesses roll up their carpets really early and many are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. For a number of years, after the race riots, no one did anything in downtown Cincinnati, some due to fear, and some due to protest. Slowly, as the wounds have begun to heal, this has improved greatly and it makes Cincinnati feel like home again. When we have our big events, like the WEBN Fireworks any Bengals game, Reds game, Opening Day, Taste of Cincinnati or Oktoberfest, you'd never know what a ghost town The Queen City can be. We've got the Aronoff Center, the Taft Theater and The Cincinnati Art Museum to appeal to the artistic. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the best in the country. And if you like to ride on horrifying metal structures that can make you hurl/fear death/scream, you can't do any better than Kings Island. A few food items that come from Cincinnati have earned cult-like followings - Skyline Chili and Montgomery Inn are probably the two items we're most known for.

(photo from Wikipedia's description of Taste of Cincinnati)

If you ever visit Cincinnati,you've got to... Spend an evening in Mt. Adams. Stay somewhere downtown and take the five dollar cab ride up to to the top of this awesome Cincinnati landmark. It is one of our favorite places to go. It just feels special. Sitting on the back patio at the Blind Lemon in winter time, sipping a hot buttered rum, watching the fire, listening to music, looking up at the big, open feel small and significant at the same time. Excited and comforted at once. Like you're starring in some very cool movie. Mt. Adams is home to a lot of neat little restaurants and pubs. If you go before the "beautiful people" get there on a Saturday night (come before 9:00 p.m.) you can kind of have the whole place to yourself and you won't have to share the view tables with anyone, or wait in line to get a drink, eat or whatever you might like to do.

What do I love about Cincinnati? The diversity and the art culture. I know that is like the opposite of what anyone would expect considering how conservative this town is. However, the conservatives embrace the artistic community...they fund it, they support it...they just don't want us marrying their sons/daughters! All this squareness actually makes the arts and diversity pop! You know, kind of like how a red throw pillow can add zing to an all grey room? The arts pop against this plain background. I love that there is so much to do...sports, festivals, just a nice buzz of excitement all around.

What I don't like? It's not as friendly as I'd like it to least not at first. When I head north for Columbus on the weekends, I find that everyone there is very relaxed, down to earth and accepting. Here, it takes a little longer. I'd like people to warm up faster!

So, that's my overall take on this town. Why not mosey on over Shannon's blog and read some of the other city features that are being posted right now? If' you've stopped by here as a result of her Around the World in 80 Blogs post, welcome! I hope you'll come back. (I'm not usually so Julie-Your-Cruise-Director, but I really wanted to participate in her cool project!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Present for Myself

I've been Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping and gift-making lately.

I don't get wrapped up in the materialism of this time of year. Working in retail for more than a decade really opened my eyes to just how twisted some folks can get with greed and want and aquisition.

But what I like about the gift-giving part of Christmas is that it's an excuse to shower those around me with thoughtfulness. Yes, I am one of those people who like to do things for others all year 'round. I do! But at Christmas, you can get away with it a little more. I seriously want nothing more for the Holidays than for everyone around me to feel happy. No stress. Loved.

So, it takes me a little longer to find the right things sometimes, or to save for something special, or to sew or glue or paint something for someone. But it all works out. And I love that.

But this morning, I accidentally stumbled upon something for me. I saw this and instantly felt haunted by it...could see it arriving in my mailbox, knew how it would feel in my hand, and could already see it around my neck. Since it was $25, I treated myself. After all the coupons and sales I'm constantly minding, I felt I could spring for it. Isn't it pretty? I know I'll wear it often... Merry Christmas to me!

p.s. If you have time, please check out Haley Luna's Web site. I am blown away by her photography. There are some truly amazing images there (the praying mantis' face! Whoa!) and you might like a little peaceful diversion this time of year, too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back At It

While I want to spend every second I can with Steinvic, there are times - gross times - where living alone is probably best for the illusion that I am perfect. (of course I am kidding...)

Moments where your body does things you didn't know were possible...things you have not witnessed in your 38 years within that body.

Moments where you find yourself saying out loud, "Really?"

"Is that all? Are you through now?"

Or just, "Oh, hell no..."

I am finished being sick. Thank goodness. I was ready to pack my bags and leave myself.

The good news?

  • I got caught up on Season Two of Big Love.
  • I think I lost five pounds. Wow! My pants were like, so loose this morning!
  • I had crazy, effed up dreams. Steinvic and I got married at Boy George's summer home and his Mom is lovely. Her dog is toilet trained. I kept thinking about how guilty I felt having our wedding in a home where we didn't really know the host/hostess, but I was so grateful for the beautiful surroundings!
And I'm feeling better. I still look like crap but I feel pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

More later...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sickety Sick Sick...

We had a good weekend...even had the folks over last night to celebrate my Step Dad's birthday. I made a wicked vegetarian lasagne and we had a good evening.

But I woke up this morning feeling like crap. At one point, my ankles, knees and feet hurt. Ugh...

Steinvic stayed with me until 11, checking on me, getting medicine for me, and soothing me while I slept. He is so amazingly good to me.

Sore throat, achey head, stuffy nose, bad belly...the whole shebang.

I'm on the couch with juice, a blanket, watching sitcom reruns and feeling blah. I have NO energy. I can handle pain but the blah feeling is the worst.

So, until I rally...stay healthy and warm...

p.s. First snow overnight! Less than an inch, but I guess December is officially here...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shake 'N Bake Revisited

I was cleaning out my cabinets and found a box of Shake 'N Bake. It reminded me of a somewhat humorous exchange I had with Kraft Foods, Inc. and I thought I'd share it with you:

A while back, I got on a kick where I was breading tofu with Shake 'N Bake Hot and Spicy and then baking the heck out of it. At first glance, Shake 'N Bake seemed like it was vegetarian, but I'm a label reader and I just wanted to be 100% sure I wasn't consuming beef or chicken.

So, I sent this simple comment in on Kraft's Web site, thinking I'd get my answer, and then shake 'n bake to my heart's content:

"I am a vegetarian and would like to use your Shake N'Bake products to coat tofu before I bake it. do the natural flavors include non-vegetarian components?"

And here was the response:

"Hi ________,

Thank you for visiting I'm glad to share some information with you about the "natural vegetarian flavors" used in SHAKE 'N BAKE(r) Seasoned Coating Mix.The term natural vegetarian flavors means that all flavor components are both all natural and of vegetable origin. While we are not at liberty to reveal specific details regarding product formulations, please be assured that our products are formulated to meet the specific needs of vegetarians and natural food consumers.If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

Okay...but that didn't answer my question. So, I tried to get the clarification I needed:

"Thank you for your response.

I want to clarify that the ingredients do not say "natural vegetarian flavors." They say "natural flavors." I want to make certain that "natural" does not mean meat/chicken/animal derived.

Can you please verify?

Thank you!"

And Kim cheerfully replied:

"Hi ________,

Thank you for visiting

I'd be glad to help explain the labeling of the spices and natural flavors used in our products. Spices which may be declared by name or included under the term spices on the ingredients label include the following: Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaves, Caraway seed, Cardamon, Celery seed, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin seed, Dill seed, Fennel Seed, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard flour, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper (black, white, or red), Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Star aniseed, Tarragon, Thyme and Turmeric. Garlic and onion aren't included under the term "spices" on an ingredient label.

All of our food labeling is in accordance with strict United States government regulations.

A natural flavor must come from a natural source and can't be synthetically manufactured. Examples of natural flavorings include lemon oil, almond extract and garlic extract. Because of the sensitive nature of the formulas for our products, information regarding the specific spices and/or natural flavorings is considered confidential. Of course, all of our food labeling is in accordance with strict United States government regulations.

Again, thanks for contacting us, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

What the heck, Kim? Are you a robot? Can't you just tell me what I'm eating?

"Dear Kim,

But you can't tell me if the natural flavor is vegetarian? With all due respect, the translation is - I want to use your product, but I don't want to consume MEAT! If it has chicken or beef or fish, then I can't buy it.

I want to recommend it to fellow vegetarians, but I can't, if it has meat in it.

I just want to know if I can use Shake N' Bake Hot and Spicy, that's all. I'm not trying to recreate your recipe.

Can you please provide me with a "YES, it's vegetarian" or "NO, it's not vegetarian" answer?

Many thanks,

And here is where Kim politely tells me "tough toenails":

"Hi ______,

Thank you for visiting

I understand that knowing what ingredients are in the food products you eat directly affect how you practice your dietary lifestyle, and Kraft Foods does all that it can to assist its consumers in making educated food decisions.

I apologize but unfortunately this ingredient information is not currently available.

As you can imagine our products change frequently, and maintaining a list of products for specific dietary practices would be virtually impossible.

If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

Do you think Kim was gritting her teeth when she thanked me for visiting their site...again?! Do you think she really wanted me to add their site to my favorites? Just sayin'...

So...are you as freaked out as I am that no one at Kraft knows what is included in their products? This scares me a little! Natural the sweepings that usually get whisked into the dust pan count as natural flavors? How about sand?

Needless to say, I haven't Shaked N' Baked since. Which is why the lone packet of S'NB was up in my cabinet when I put groceries away last night...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Wish I May...

No one knows this...

When I was little, I'd stand on my bed and look out the window at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I could feel the cool air coming through the frame of the glass - we lived in a starter house and the windows were just barely there. I would look out into the dark at the lights way far away and I'd pretend the convenience store and town lights were stars.

"Star light, star bright..."

I imagined the life I'd one day have. A life where I wouldn't be awkward, where I'd be able to drive a car, where I could put on pretty clothes and makeup and not be the scrawny class nerd. A life without an angry father. A life where I could sing and dance and be famous, like Donnie & Marie. A life where I could, I could, I could...

Fast forward to tonight. I'm wishing again.

This evening, I put up the Christmas decorations. They're simple and modest and I love that. I mean, really simple - it takes me a whole half hour to prepare for the Holidays. But Mom and my Step Dad and Steinvic will all be here this weekend and I thought, Christmas decorations would be just right, even if it's only early December.

I think Steinvic likes that I handle the decorating. I considered waiting until he got here so that we could decorate together, but I thought it would be kind of magical if everything was just so when he comes home.

So, my wishes are different now. I wish that Steinvic loves the warmth and sparkle whe he gets here tomorrow. I wish that I will be a good wife and that Steinvic always thinks I'm beautiful. I wish that I'm always the best version of myself that I can be. I wish that the things which once challenged my strength will truly make me the most stable, strong, capable person I could imagine. I wish that if I live to be 91, I look back and feel I've been half the woman my Grandma was. Oh, how I wish I could see her this Christmas...

I wish.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy December! (And can you spare $5?)

Happy December 1, Party People! I hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving...we certainly did. Almost all of Steinvic's siblings made it to our family celebration and it was great fun, as always. (How I love these people!) Most had not seen us since our engagement, so it was really fun and exciting.

I spent most of the weekend cheerfully sewing small mice for Holiday gifts, cooking and relaxing with Steinvic. And sleeping. (I have no idea what is up with the sleeps, but I can't seem to get enough of them...highly unusual for me.) I'll post some mice photos here in the next day or so. I'm considering making a bunch of them through the next year and opening up an Etsy shop...

At work, we've adopted a large, single-parent family for the Holidays. This year, our family consists of a Mom and nine children, ages 1 through 14. (I know what some of you might think...why would someone impoverished have all these children and then have the nerve to ask for help? Well, we don't know how she happened into that situation, do we? We don't know if all the children are hers, if she is fostering, just lost her husband or partner, or

As a team, we used to buy each other ornaments or treats and found that with ten of us, we could each easily spend close to $100 on nothing. Then we realized that our accumulated funds could really help someone. So, in the Spirit of the Season, we adopt a family, we don't judge or ask questions, and we try to make sure that we provide as much food and home goods as possible, with the hope that it will last them a few months. The last few years, we've shipped off 20 boxes (the boxes are those that reams of printer paper come in) of goods to our families. I signed up for "items that can't be bought with food stamps" - cleaning, personal care items, laundry supplies and paper products.

Every year, I stay around to help number and pack the boxes, and every year, I get this big giant lump in my throat while packing up. It's not because we're doing this great's that for this one family who will receive a drop in the bucket, there are hundreds of thousands of others who don't have the resources to get help, who won't have food, new blankets or a $2 box of crayons under the tree. And it's not just for the Holidays, but for everyday...they will struggle.

I've had an interesting life, and in that life, I've gone hungry at times. There were brief periods of no heat, a box of rice to last a week, or bread and peanut butter for days (and days.) But I still can't imagine a fear that there was no end to that hunger, or the feeling of no hope, of no love, of true solitude. I always knew it would get better and with hard work, resourcefulness and luck, it did.

Maybe you can help change someone's outlook this winter. If you have an extra $5 - and I know that times are tough, trust me - would you consider purchasing and donating some food to your local food bank? Check to see if your employer sponsors a program, or your local grocery. If not, maybe you have some spare time on your hands to coordinate something?

I wish for you and your family to have all you need to eat and stay warm this winter. And I wish for you that the Spirit of the Season moves you to do something for someone random...someone who could use a little cheer.