Monday, June 30, 2014

The Kind of Princess Disney Needs Next.

I'm nine days into my vacation in California and having an absolute blast and part of the fun has been being able to spend plenty of time in Disneyland!

Now, I went through a phase of being less than enchanted with the Magic Kingdom and I think this is just because I got old and didn't have kids and I went through a phase of kind of being over the whole thing - the crowds, the heat, the drive to Orlando, bleh.

But now, I'm experiencing an all new love for Disney as I see it again through my three year old daughter's eyes. That and I have discovered that I like my experience at DisneyLAND here in California more than my former experiences at DisneyWORLD in Florida. Mainly, I like the cool, dry weather here much more and I like that it's closer to where my in-laws live so instead of a three hour plus drive to Orlando from where I live, we can do a 20 minute drive up the Freeway and boom, there we are. I also find Disneyland smaller and more manageable and it has been significantly less crowded. Besides that, I absolutely love the California Adventure park. It's super cool, very pretty and I find it relaxing.

Part of the Disney experience with a little girl is going to involve princesses. Lots of princesses. I used to be kind of anti the whole princess thing, but I've come around especially after the past few days getting to meet some of them. Let me just tell you, the girls who play those Disney princesses are so incredibly sweet and lovely with the children. They're a lot of fun and all the Disney employees make the experience so meaningful with their thoughtfulness.

Part of what has redeemed the whole princess thing for me is that Disney has really made an effort in the past several years to create more diverse princesses who are really good role models. My daughter likes Merida because she climbs and jumps and shoots a bow and likes to play outside. She's three so she doesn't get the whole getting married thing yet. My favorite princess is Tiana because I just think it's the coolest thing in the world that a princess likes to cook and has a goal to own her own restaurant. Plus, she has what I think is the prettiest dress. Just kidding. I have to admit that I'm looking forward to having my photo taken with Tiana at some point on this trip and yes, I will post it if I get one.

So we have a black princess, princesses who don't want a prince, princesses who like to play outside, princesses who like to read, princesses who save all of China by dressing like boys, princesses who are brave and funny, awkward, plucky, kind, sweet and princesses who are more complicated characters than dear, helpless Cinderella and I love that. I love that more different looking princesses are being celebrated, but I still think Disney has a little further to go in that department.

What Disney really needs is a fat princess.

Now that would be truly revolutionary.

And a fat princess would be a hero to so many girls and women who feel they don't live up to the willowy standard of beauty to which every single other princess regardless of race, culture or personality conforms.

In the past, all of the curvier or more overweight characters in Disney films have been either evil, old or stupid. I'd like to see a more voluptuous princess who is smart, independent, beautiful and complex. I'd like to see her weight not being a main issue in the storyline either, as in that it's something for her to overcome. Her weight should be secondary to her real story, whatever that might happen to be.

Disney is doing much better with their fairies of Pixie Hollow. If you haven't seen any of the Tinkerbell spin-off movies, I highly recommend them. I'm a big fan. The animation is gorgeous for one thing and the fairies are extremely diverse and YES! There is a fat fairy in Pixie Hollow. Her name is Fairy Mary.

I'd like to start a Fairy Mary fan club. Fairy Mary embodies everything that I'd like to see in a princess. She is confident, beautiful, smart and in a leadership position in the fairy world. She isn't old, evil or stupid at all. In fact, she shows extremely good sense and her weight is never, ever mentioned or an issue in the story. She's just a big, beautiful fairy loved as she is. On top of that, she is the best ice skater of all the fairies, so she's even athletic! Here is a blog post that someone else wrote all about Fairy Mary that I think is an excellent and eloquent read. 

Disney is definitely headed in the right direction. I love that we now have single princesses, warrior princesses, entrepreneurial princesses and bold, intelligent princesses who do their own thing. I love that we have a Native American princess, a black princess, and a Chinese princess. We need a princess who truly goes against tradition by daring to redefine our preconceived notions of what it means to be beautiful.

Come on Disney. You can do this.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good Ideas...For Someone Else.

I have more ideas than I know what to do with or that I have the actual skills to put into action. Every day I think up new stuff that someone else ought to do, so I thought I'd share a couple.

1. I want someone to start a blog where for a set period of time, say, two weeks or so, they try a new diet plan and report on it everyday and say what they ate and what it was like and how they felt and if the diet works. For example, they could do Paleo for a couple weeks, then try a vegan diet, then maybe do Atkins, then South Beach, then Weight Watchers and then go all raw for two weeks. I would be totally fascinated by a non-biased, experimental, almost scientific approach to trying and reporting on these diets. It could probably even be turned into a pretty interesting book at the end of a year or so. Reasons why I won't be doing this? I am lazy and totally undisciplined and could never stick with any crazy eating plan for more than like a meal at a time.

2. Somebody needs to write a children's book that teaches kids about privacy. As in, leave Mommy alone when she is going potty. Please. I seriously cannot go to the bathroom in peace. Between my daughter and the cat, because the two of them have actually teamed up with the common goal of not letting me poop in peace, I will never, ever have a moment's privacy. I really need a book that teaches my daughter about this. I'm not even kidding, the other night we were out in the yard and the cat was pooping in the flower bed and she was all up in the cat's business. Maybe we could title the book "Let Me Poop in Peace!!" The alternate title could be "Get Out of the Cat's Ass."

3. Most women hate their nipples, especially after childbirth. You know how they have vaginal rejuvenation surgery? They need nipple rejuvenation and nipple reduction surgery too. I have a friend who says after nursing her son her nipples look like Ipswitch clams. Lots of other women think their nipples are too big or weird looking. In fact, all the women I know are way more self-conscious about their nipples than their vaginas. If someone could come up with a nipple fixing cosmetic procedure they would be a gazillionaire.
Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Have Fun With Your Friends Like You Did When You Were a Teenager

“Forever Young, I want to be forever young…” – Alphaville, 1984.

Although my grown-up friendships are profound and fulfilling, I sometimes long for the excitement and adventure of my teen years when everything I did with my friends took on a sense of thrilling urgency. I miss both the innocence of adolescence and its experimental sort of naughtiness.  Back then I lived in a world that buzzed with anticipation. I survived middle school and emerged butterfly-like from puberty, and my burgeoning independence intoxicated me. 

Everything was fun. 

But you know what? Life is intoxicating now too. Everything is still fun.

There is absolutely no reason that we can’t bring a little bit of that teenaged excitement back into our lives once in a while no matter how old, fat and wrinkled we’ve become (or not). It simply takes a little imagination and some courage.

Forget  the dry dinners out and stuffy cocktail parties of adulthood. Here’s how to have fun with your friends like you did when you were a teenager.

Spend a day at the mall. 
Yes, you may do this already, but going to the mall as a grownup isn’t the same as it was when you were a kid. Back then we used to wander around the mall for entertainment, not to run errands. Leave your to-do list at home, bring your best friend and roam freely, arm in arm. Try on fancy dresses for which you have no occasion. Get free makeovers at the MAC counter. Buy a new tube of Clinique’s Raspberry Glace. It was your first lipstick. They still make it and it still looks pretty. Share a soft pretzel and a cherry slushy and giggle at all the crazy, racy toys in Spencer’s. Bonus? You don’t have to find a payphone to call your mom to pick you up when you’re ready to come home.
Go to an amusement park, a fair or a boardwalk. 
Ride the rides, win at skee ball, get an old time photo taken because you always wanted to do that and your parents would never let you. Go nuts on the Gravitron, pig out on carnival food and then scream your way through the Haunted House before you conquer the bumper cars. Be as silly as you can. Walk an invisible dog or buy that turd bird you always wanted. Wait, why did you want that, anyway?

Have a sleepover. 
Sleep in the same bed and stay up all night talking. Make popcorn and binge on a late night John Hughes marathon. Wonder if you’re more Amanda Jones or Watts. Swoon over Andrew McCarthy. Cry, laugh and tell secrets.

Scare the hell out of yourself. 
Teenagers love a good scare. Since they don’t have real world fears yet -taxes, high deductibles, mortgages, threats of layoffs at the company and you know, actual scary stuff, they like spooky thrills to get their hearts racing. Share supernatural stories with your friends, go on a ghost tour, get lost in a corn maze together. Take a walk or a drive through a graveyard at night just like you did in high school. Even better if it’s foggy. Wear all black and sit amongst the gravestones and listen to Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. Then, go home and watch the movies that terrified you as a kid: Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Prom Night.

Sneak out.
Sneaking out as an adult doesn’t have the exact same sense of danger as it did when you were fifteen. You can’t get caught and get grounded now after all, but find a good friend and take a walk at night. Be careful, of course, and use the good sense you probably didn’t have when you were younger. For old time’s sake, find your way onto a golf course, run screaming from the security guards and get soaked by the sprinklers.

Roller skate
Put your hair in a side ponytail and slip on some pin-striped Jordache jeans and hit the roller rink for an afternoon or evening of retro fun. Eat crappy, roller rink pizza (oh the memories of that taste). Ask the DJ to play some 80s classics so you can shuffle to The Romantics, The Scorpions, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Billy Ocean and Yes. Couples skate to Phil Collins. Yeah, you know you still remember all the words to “Against All Odds.”

Get tickets to see your favorite band.
Wear cheesy tee shirts, sing every song at the top of your lungs and sneak your way up to the front row so you can make eyes at the lead singer. Scream and yell, whistle and dance your butt off. This is way more fun as an adult because you’ve outgrown your adolescent self-consciousness and you don’t have to worry about what the hot guy you like will think about you acting like a nutcase in public. You married him and he already knows you’re nuts. Even better than that is now you have no curfew. You can stay out as late as you want and you don’t have to call your mom at ten to check in. On the way home, be sure and stop at the greasiest 24-hour diner you can find for a late night grilled cheese, fries and milkshake. Don't you dare even think about calories.

Cast a Spell
My friends and I totally, okay, desperately wanted to be witches when we were in high school. It’s a little embarrassing to admit now, but at one point we wanted to start our own coven. Mainly this was because we wanted to magically make the boys we liked fall madly in love with us. It was silly and it was fun and as adults, we could still use a little mysticism. Bring some mystery into adulthood. Believe in magic again. Cast a love spell or two. Be careful though. Remember what happened to those girls in The Craft.

Throw a bonfire party.
Good news. You don’t have to wait for someone’s parents to go out of town. Get the red Solo cups ready because it’s party time. Back in high school, all sorts of legendary debauchery happened at bonfires. They were a really big deal and bonfires can still be fun. Use that fire pit you put in last summer, invite a bunch of friends over, put some REM on the boom box and let the fun begin. Start a game of Truth or Dare, have a Dead Milkmen sing along, roast some hot dogs and make s’mores. If you’re feeling really wild and you’re single, Spin the Bottle might be in order.

Make a photo album.
Not on Facebook or Instagram. I’m talking a real photo album, with actual prints that you have to get developed. Take a bunch of pictures with your best friends. If you’ve known each other since high school, maybe recreate some of your best memories all over again and document the hilarity. When you get the prints, arrange the pictures on the sticky pages and cover with the plastic film and give the albums as gifts.

Go thrift store shopping. Buy funky vintage outfits.
Remember back in high school when no one had any money and twenty dollars seemed like a fortune? Remember how many outfits you could get at the Goodwill for ten bucks? And cool stuff too! Nothing has changed. You can find a lot of surprising second hand treasures. Get together with your BFF or a group of girls, dig out your old Cure tee shirts and clunky Mary Janes and go pop some tags! Hit every used clothing store and yard sale in town and make a day of it. Then go out that night wearing your funky, (not-so) new outfits. You always wanted to be cool and dress like Iona from Pretty in Pink when you grew up. Here’s your chance.

Go Swimming at Night. Naked.
No further explanation needed here. Skinny-dipping at night is the best. REM even wrote a song about it.

Hang Out at the Bookstore.
Some of my greatest hours as a teen were spent hanging out with my friends at the bookstore. We’d gather armfuls of books and find a quiet corner where we’d sit on the floor and flip through romance novels until we found dirty parts. We’d creep ourselves out in the occult section and fantasize about cool clothes with fashion mags like Sassy. We’d read funny books like The Joy of Sex, cookbooks, anything really and then we’d head over to the cafĂ© for an iced hazelnut latte with extra whipped cream, feeling a little smug that we were grown up enough to drink coffee. You know what else? It’s okay to read trashy books and Young Adult novels as a grownup too, so go ahead and get that V.C. Andrews series. 

Make Mischief, Rebel a Little, Indulge, Experiment.
This is what made being a teenager so much fun. Our lives were thrilling because we had few responsibilities, we felt free (but not too free that it was scary) and we were brave enough to buck authority once in a while. We experimented with everything from our own identities, to what music we liked and how we dressed and it didn’t matter. Trying new things was like our job in life, yet somehow, as we grow older and take on more adult roles like mom and dad and branch manager, we lose touch with our wilder, younger, braver selves. The good news is that we can always find a balance. We can bring adventure back and as an adult it’s even better. No curfews, no worries about getting grounded and yay, no drinking age to worry about. Plus, everyone can drive now, so way easier. Have fun, but caution. You can now be charged as an adult, so no stealing your neighbors’ mailboxes, k?
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 Summer of Fun Bucket List

Picture from HERE via Pinterest.

I'm so excited. In a little more than one week, I will be in southern California for a whole month, relaxing, having adventures and enjoying a desperately needed break. It's been a very difficult year and I deserve some fun. Last summer I made a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do during my Summer of Fun, and it worked so well that I wanted to do it again. Summer of Fun - The Sequel has arrived, people.

1. Balboa Island, Ferris wheel, tortilla soup, frozen banana stand.

2. Disneyland. A lot of Disneyland. I want to get my picture taken with Olaf. I want to take my daughter on Peter Pan's Flight and Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time.

3. Sawdust Festival in Laguna. Make some art.

4. Pageant of the Masters.

5. Fish tacos.

6. Tide pools. Shell collecting.

7. Make homemade ice cream with Little Lawns.

8. Fireworks and glow sticks over the Dana Point cliffs by the beach on July 4th.

9. Yoga outside.

10. Coffee on the beach.

11. Paddle boarding in the harbor.

12.  Really good mexican food. 

13. Really good sushi.

14. San Juan Capistrano Mission.

15. Eat at the Crab Cooker in Newport.

16. See someone famous.

17. Lots of BBQs with family.

18. Connect with my in-law family and bond with them.

19. Watch my daughter playing with her cousins.

20. Plant a tree for my daughter at her grandparents' house.

21. Farmer's market and learn about California local produce.

22. Try some good, old fashioned, California, New Age hippie yoga.

23. Sleep with the windows open

24. Enjoy a fire in the fireplace in the middle of summer.

25. Walk off a few pounds.

26. Work on my third book.

27. In 'n' Out and Pinkberry. At least once.

28. Shop at Trader Joe's as often as humanly possible just because I can.

29. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Genmai Cha.

30. KCRW in the car, Sunday morning, oh yeah. I know I can stream it on the computer but somehow it's different when I'm actually there.

31. See a whale, or at least try to. A seal would be good too.

Okay, I already don't want to come home and I'm not even there yet. This is going to be an amazing adventure. I'm not from Orange County, California and I don't know a lot of the exciting things there are to do there so if I am missing something, please let me know in the comments, on Facebook or just email me some ideas.

Also, I am trying to manifest attending one of Jennifer Pastiloff's classes or workshops, so Universe, hope you're listening. Thanks in advance.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I'm Obsessed with Brazibites: My Love Affair with Brazilian Pao de Queijo

 * I am a fan of BraziBites cheesebreads and contacted them after trying and loving their product. After I contacted them, they sent me coupons for three free bags of cheese breads in return for writing this post, which I was going to do anyway.*

I am obsessed. For real. With a Brazilian snack called pao de queijo. This has been going on for a long time - for about 12 years now and it's all my husband's fault.

When I first met my husband, he was fresh from a long trip to Brazil and he introduced me to a lot of new Brazilian foods, my favorite of which was pao de queijo, which just translates to cheese breads. Except cheese breads doesn't exactly describe what these things are. They're like crispy, chewy little puffs of tart, cheesy wonderfulness. Made with tapioca flour instead of wheat, they're also naturally gluten free and have been that way for hundreds of years. In Brazil, they eat pao de queijo with everything and for every meal and it makes sense that they do, because these things are versatile. They go nicely with a lot of other foods and they aren't too filling that if you eat them as an appetizer that they'll ruin your appetite.

It's hard to find good cheese breads in the US. You can get a boxed mix at Brazilian grocery stores, but honestly, I don't love it because it tastes like it's made with Cheeto powder. Usually, the best cheese breads can be found in Brazilian restaurants and if you haven't been to a Brazilian restaurant, make it a priority. They take the concept of a salad bar to a whole new level. Plus, unlimited cheese breads and really yummy, salty steaks.

Recently, I discovered a new company selling frozen bags of cheese breads in Whole Foods and naturally I had to buy them to check them out. My life was changed. Oh my goodness. I had found the holy grail of pao de queijo in Brazibites.

They were super easy to make too. Just put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. They're all natural, made with wholesome, real food ingredients and no funky, artificial Cheeto powder taste at all.

The problem is, they are addictive. I can't stop eating them once I start and unfortunately, I could probably eat an entire bag. There are about 20 per bag. Yes, I counted.

Until now, I had never had flavored pao de queijo, but Brazibites come in bacon flavor and fire-roasted jalapeno flavor as well as the standard, traditional cheese. The original cheese is still my favorite, followed closely by the jalapeno, which is pretty spicy but has a good, pronounced green chili taste. The bacon is great, but it was my least favorite, surprisingly. It was pleasantly smoky and my three year old loved it. Shockingly, she also ate the jalapeno ones, even though they were definitely hot. One thing I liked about the flavored varieties is that they didn't contain big chunks of bacon or pepper. They retained the smooth, velvety texture that I like in my cheese bread. I think they should do a cheesy garlic flavor too.

We've been eating a lot of cheese breads around here lately. Apparently so have a lot of people because my Whole Foods was sold out for two weeks!

I like my Brazibites for breakfast with a big mug of coffee and they've become a weekend morning staple in our house. My daughter is just as obsessed with them as I am.

For lunch, they're good with tuna salad or lunch meats and sliced tomatoes. We found that all the flavors are particularly yummy with tomato soup.

I took a fresh basket of the jalapeno variety to a dinner party and they were extremely well received. We had them with the appetizers, but I think they'd be just as good as a dinner roll substitute.

Remember, they're naturally gluten free too, so they are perfect for people with gluten issues, just as long as they don't have dairy issues too, because remember, they ARE cheese breads after all.

I loved Brazibites so much and was so excited to have them in my Whole Foods that I wrote to the company expressing my admiration. They were generous enough to send me coupons for several free bags so that I could try all the flavors in exchange for this review.

You guys know that I don't normally do sponsored posts and things like that. This is a company with a delicious product made with real food ingredients that's easy to make and has mass appeal. They didn't come to me and ask me to write this. I wrote to them first because I liked their cheese breads so much and wanted to help support them.

Please, do yourself a favor and try Brazibites cheese breads. They can be found at various places all over the country. Click here to find your nearest location. I get mine at Whole Foods in the freezer section with the gluten free breads. They are about five dollars per bag of twenty.

You can also follow Brazibites on twitter @Brazibites or find them on Facebook. They're doing a giveaway on Facebook right now for National Celiac Month.

Let me know if you try them and what you think!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Your New Summer Cocktail: Blueberry Vodka Lemonade.

(photo found here, with a different, but I'm sure equally delicious blueberry vodka lemonade recipe that is way harder to make than mine.)

Since I'm busy finishing up my second book, I figured you should all go get drunk while you're waiting for me. Just kidding. We know I'm a big teetotaler over here.

But even though I'm not a drinker, I do enjoy a light cocktail (like a half of one, but still) especially at social gatherings.

It's almost summer. Memorial Day is in a couple of weeks and I know I'm going to be BBQing, so I came up with what is going to be my signature summer drink and I'm excited to make it for the upcoming holiday weekend. Once you guys try it, you'll be hooked too. I decided to pass it on to you without exact measurements because you can make it as strong or weak as you like and you can either make a single one or a big pitcher full of it. If you want to get totally Pinterest about it, you can even serve it in chilled Mason jars, which would be really pretty.
So, blueberries have been my favorite food since I was little. I love anything blueberry, especially in the summer, so I wanted to make a refreshing blueberry lemonade perfect for every summer event and I wanted it to be really easy and accessible so I didn't have to fool around in the kitchen when I could be in the pool.

Here's how to do it.

Start with this:

You can use any kind of blueberry lemonade you want. This is not any sort of product endorsement, however, this is the only brand of ready-made blueberry lemonade I've ever seen and it tastes good and has real ingredients so I'm sticking with it.

Then add some of this:

Again, use whatever brand of blueberry flavored vodka you can find and make it as strong or as weak as you like. 

Then add some of this:

This is unsweetened, lemon flavored seltzer water. Lots of brands make it. I'm not really partial to any particular one, but LaCroix is the brand I see the most and the one I usually end up buying. Add as much seltzer as you like. I tend to add quite a bit to my blueberry vodka lemonade because I like the fizz and because it cuts the sweet syrupy-ness of the lemonade.

At this point, taste it and add more lemonade, vodka or seltzer until you get the flavors balanced how you like them.

Then throw in a few of these:

Use frozen blueberries from a bag or freeze your own. Either way, they chill your cocktail without watering it down and as they melt they add more flavor. Then you can eat them. I just think they make the whole thing even more summery and festive.

Now pour your cocktail over ice, sit back, relax and enjoy. You are going to LOVE this. For real. And if you're the president of the temperance society like me, just leave out the vodka and it's just as delicious. I swear.

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