Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s Bridal Shower

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Easy to do
Easy to do

Mom Made Invitations

Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s just goes hand in hand for a bridal shower theme.  My daughter, who has always admired Audrey Hepburn and loves the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s got engaged last year, and as mom to not only the bride but the maid of honor and one of the bridesmaids, I was excited to help plan the shower using this theme.

We set to work on Pinterest.  The boards for an Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed shower are numerous, but after looking at so many, the ideas all seemed to repeat themselves.  The decorations are abundantly Tiffany blue (or some reasonable facsimile, because no one but Tiffany’s and God know what the heck color Tiffany blue really is), and I was surprised that so many bridal showers used balloons as centerpieces.  With the help of my great friend Joy, we were able to create beautiful and reasonably priced tablescapes that should give a more elegant, grown up feel to our shower.

Centerpieces had to be simple, elegant, classic. When you think of Audrey Hepburn, you don’t think outrageous in any sense.  We opted for white flowers, and to be perfectly honest, we went to several craft stores before finding our simple beauties on sale for under $2 a stem.  The base is a yard sale find, painted with Mod Podge, and glittered to give the table some sparkle.  Green styrofoam balls were easily cut in half with a sharp kitchen knife, and the blossoms were cut using wire cutters, and poked into the half styrofoam ball.  The half ball was then glued to the top of the yard sale dishes.  Voila!

easy peasy

Yard sale find, inexpensive craft store silk florals, and glitter

My  favorite thing was our Tiffany ring boxes we made to be used as centerpieces or decoration for the gift or cake table.  Using Papier Mache boxes found at the craft store (and bought on sale), we painted them first with a sealer, which is meant to keep the papier mache from buckling.  When the coat of sealer was dry, we painted over it with another variation of the Tiffany blue color.  This took two coats to fully cover, and you could do a third if you missed a few spots.  We created a false bottom using a styrofoam brick, then covered a piece of cardboard – cut to fit the box – with tin foil (yep, right outta the kitchen drawer).  We topped the cardboard with various size diamond “confetti” – found easily online.  A flat, white bow was added to the box, and a personalized stamp created the finishing touch of the stamped logo!

papier mache

Tiffany like boxes

On some tables, we created a blinged out cylinder vase by coating the bottom half of the vase with Mod Podge (or spray adhesive – which worked better on our later attempts) and rolling it in iridescent glitter.  We learned that finer glitter is better, but the glitter we used was an average sized cut, and it looks just fine,  When the glitter had dried, a black satin ribbon was glued around it using hot glue, and we embellished with a craft store gem.  The day of, we intend to light faerie lights inside of them, and top them with the same white floral arrangement that we used on the shorter yard sale find glasses.  The vases were less than $3 each.

ModPodge and glitter

Easy and inexpensive blinged out vases

My friend Joy, who has a wall hanging in her home of their family’s last name initial, suggested this unique guest book.  We painted a T in the who the hell knows if it’s Tiffany blue color.  It will be displayed at the shower with a marker for guests to sign.  Total cost for this little couponed gem? $8.  Best part?  Even if some shade of Tiffany blue doesn’t feature in the couple’s ultimate decor, it goes with black, grey, brown, and most of the neutral palette, so they’ll be able to hang it somewhere in their home or apartment.

Mrs T

Great alternative to a guest book

One of the bridesmaids found these adorable little Tiffany blue-like boxes at the craft store, and picked them up to use for favors.  I already had vase sized martini glasses (don’t judge), and I snagged a $1 silver charger (it’s heavy plastic with a silver paint on top).  Bulk white mardi gras beads act as fringe, and these will be used to put our favors on!

cheap and easy

Favor display

Each table will also have smaller votive holder to just add glow to the glittery, glitzy decor.  These aren’t the ones we made, but ours look exactly like these, and they will perfectly compliment the taller glittered vases.

Pinterest find

Our inspiration for our votive holders

I couldn’t help but pick up these I give up  already with this Tiffany blue bags!  We will have them at the tables for guests to put their favors in – and maybe a few other surprises we have in store!

perfect favor bag option

Favor bags for the bride to be!

I wish I could convey how much I LOVE this piece my friend Joy created.  She found a jewelry mannequin at a yard sale that looked something like this when she started:

jewelry mannequin

The Before

We picked up some fabric paint, and ours, fortunately, already had the jewel on it, and Joy worked her magic and made this as Audrey Hepburn as she could.

Joy worked her magic

After

These are not identical pieces, but the one on top is the same fabric the one on the bottom was sporting before Joy got her hands on this.  We intend to use this to hang tags, which guests will write to attach to their gifts.  We have opted for a display shower, so the gifts will be unwrapped, saving the environment and allowing the bride extra time with her guests.

Great idea

Tag Holder

Overall, decor for this party is easy to create for very little money.  With yard sale finds, craft store sales, and a friend who is excellent with coupons and rain checks, we have been able to put together some really pretty tablescapes that reflect more of the classic elegance of Audrey Hepburn in the Breakfast at Tiffany’s days and less of the Sweet 16 birthday party.

Let’s hope the bride loves it!

Classic Audrey in cartoon form

Classic Audrey in cartoon form

 

Pokemon Go requires pants

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Pokemon Go requires pants

Pokemon Go requires pants, which for a child on summer break is the biggest obstacle to catching Pokemon. If you saw my earlier tweet, the Dad spent days trying to get signed up for Pokemon Go, amidst a crush of other Dads (and not dads) attempting to do the same.  Finally, after getting set up, he called down our youngest to let her play on his phone. And there we discovered the problem with the Pokemon Go game.

If you don’t know what this is, this is a virtual reality version of the game that has ebbed and flowed in popularity here in the US since the early 1990s.  A quick run down on the Pokemon Go phone app is:

  • available for iPhone or Android device
  • Walk around to places – no, really.  As the Pokemon Trainer, your job is to hunt down the Pokemon in your area and catch them.  You’ll find them pop up on the app, where you click on them to throw Pokeballs (is that a thing?) at them to “catch” them.  Hence, the reason PokemonGo requires pants – your neighbors and community in general will thank you.
  • Then battle, collect, and have fun.  I haven’t gotten to any of these stages yet, but you will find “gyms” in your area, where you can go and challenge other trainers to help gain experience and level your character up.  But we all know how I feel about gyms, so I haven’t entered one as of now.

As a not so techie type person, it’s so cool when you snag one as you are driving around town, then you see it appear in your car, where you have to catch it into the ball.  It’s even cooler to see one on your front lawn or at some of your favorite community landmarks.  This simple concept of having your camera show the real world in front of you on the screen in which the Pokemon are also shown is so cool to me (as a mom, not a Pokemon guru).

It is fun to see the kids out and about this summer.  It moves them from in front of the TV screen or computer screen and gets them walking, running, and actually interacting with other trainers in public.  Just remember to stay safe, don’t let young children go alone on this endeavor, and make sure you aren’t walking into dangereous situations in an effort to Catch ‘Em All.

Oh, and don’t forget – to catch them all in Pokemon Go requires pants

Pokemon Go requires pants

Pokemon Go requires pants and a sense of humor –  http://owlturd.com/post/147090507219/we-have-arrived-image-twitter-facebook

 

 

Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse Review

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Seafood and steak

I hate to post bad reviews.  We had not eaten at Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse in several years because we had a rather lackluster visit our first time.  When an impromptu visit from our oldest daughter and her fiance had us looking for something different for dinner, we decided to give the place a second try.  Our second visit to Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse was more unsuccessful than the first one, and for a meal as pricey as this one was, we felt a written review was in order.

Seafood and steak

Kunkel’s Restaurant

To begin with, the restaurant bills itself as having a fresh raw bar, and Jim and the girls were all mouth-watering geared up for some fresh oysters.  We were seated, and after a few minutes (a bit longer than I think was appropriate), a waitress came over to take drink orders.  She disappeared again, and a few minutes later, returned to go over specials.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  Jim asked, as instructed by the menu, which fresh oysters they had in today so he could place his raw bar order, and it wasn’t until this moment when she “remembered” to tell us that they had no raw bar today.  The delivery truck never showed up.  Does that ever happen?  It leaves one wondering if there is an outstanding bill or a bad relationship with a supplier that would cause a delivery to just not show up.

Disappointment was obvious, and after dinner, Jim said he really would have walked out at that point if he thought the rest of us would be okay with it.  I kind of wish now he had walked out.

So, let’s get back to the specials.  This is a steak and seafood restaurant.  Tonight’s special was cheese ravioli with spicy (not really) sausage sauce.  Interesting.  Are they also an Italian restaurant?

We place orders for appetizers that we think we can share around the table.  We chose Fiery Thai Calamari, Stuffed Meatballs, and Bruschetta.

We’ll start with the Fiery Thai Calamari.  Described in the menu as “Crispy fried calamari tossed in a spicy-sweet orange chili sauce with fresh scallion also available in our Classic Fried Calamari style with marinara dipping sauce”, we opted for the spicy-sweet orange chili sauce instead of the classic fried calamari with marinara, which, after all, is not Fiery Thai Calamari.  The calamari were just slightly chewy, with a pleasant sweet flavor, but there was nothing fiery or spicy to balance the sweet.  This worked well for me, as I don’t really enjoy very spicy food, but if you are advertising a dish as “fiery”, there should maybe be a little heat attached?

Next up were the stuffed meatballs.  This is where we start to notice the “false advertising”.  No raw bar, no fiery in the fiery Thai calamari, and no stuffing in the meatballs.  The plate contained two large-ish meatballs, already topped with marinara sauce, separated in the middle by a shallow (very shallow) pool of pesto.  I’m not sure what purpose the pesto served, as it was barely detectable when added to the already marinara sauce covered meatballs.  But the biggest disappointment was the lack of smoked mozzarella.  Had it melted into the meatball as it was cooked, surely it would have imparted a smokey flavor to the meat.  Instead, the meat was a bit on the bland side, although the marinara sauce was tasty.

Kunkel's allegedly stuffed meatball

“Stuffed” Meatball

Kunkel's Stuffed Meatballs

Stuffed Meatballs

 

Next up, bruschetta.  Whenever I’ve had or made bruschetta, it has been on toasted bread.  That seems to be a key ingredient to actually making bruschetta, and it prevents the ingredients that you pile on top of the bread from making the bread too soggy to be picked up.

A poor attempt

Kunkel’s Version of Traditional Bruschetta

To begin with, this bread was not toasted.  Even though the description in the Kunkel’s menu says this:  Grilled sliced French bread toast points topped with diced tomatoes, onions, and basil and olive oil. – what we actually got was just sliced, fresh bread.  It was hard to pick it up to eat it, as the ingredients were too much for the untoasted bread to handle, and the bottom of the bread was a bit on the soggy side, which made it unpleasant to eat.  To make matters worse, the whole thing was drenched in balsamic glaze, which gave everything on top of the bruschetta an overwhelmingly vinegar taste.  I was glad not to have eaten this first, because I would have been unable to taste any of the other appetizer offerings (but maybe that would have been a good thing).

We waited no less than 20 minutes from the time our appetizers were finished until our salads and soups were delivered.  Every entree here comes with a house salad, which takes some of the sting out of the steep prices, but the salad is uninspired on it’s best day.  You can substitute the house salad for any of the other more interesting salads on the menu, but our waitress told us there was an upcharge of $5 to do so.  Jim and Brighid opted to choose a Caesar salad, and while it was clearly a better choice than the regular house salad, had they actually upcharged me $5, I’d be pissed. I don’t know if the waitress simply forgot or if she felt guilty charging $5 more for the Caesar salad.  They don’t call it Caesar salad at Kunkel’s, it’s a Sante Fe Romaine salad – basically a Caesar salad with a sliver or two of red pepper, a couple of olives, and a Chipotle Caesar dressing.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the Caesar, and the dressing was quite tasty, but had they charged me $5 more for essentially the same plate of lettuce with fewer toppings, I’d really have had a fit.

I don’t recall how long it took for entrees to come, but I do know that in the amount of time it did take between salad and entree, Eilis had long finished her glass of water and was well into my glass of iced tea.  For a virtually empty restaurant, there is really no excuse for glasses to remain empty so long.

The entrees are beautifully plated, and would easily impress the Chopped judges on their most critical day.  It’s there, though, that stuff started to go south.

Granuaile had the crab cakes.

Crab Cake Dinner

Kunkel’s Crab Cakes

Now, I have to say, we are sort of crab cake snobs.  My Aunt Annie, who for many years owned and cooked for a restaurant in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, made the best crab cakes known to human kind.  As soon as I see red pepper in a crab cake, I know that the person who made them was trying to cut corners and save money by throwing in some kind of filler.  To be fair, the crab cakes weren’t awful.  They were, however, just blah.  There was too much other stuff besides crab in the crab cake, and there again is the overwhelming balsamic glaze.  The sauce underneath the crab cakes was really tasty, and it was a shame to ruin in with the vinegary drizzle.  The crab cakes came with a side of asparagus, which you can see was more of a middle of asparagus, featuring three thin stalks of perfectly cooked, blandly seasoned vegetable.

I ordered the beef short rib, promised to be served over a bed of mashed potatoes, and finished with a bordelaise sauce and frizzled onion.

short ribs

Kunkel’s Beef Short Rib dinner

I saw the mashed potatoes, but the sauce was more of a soup, and the potatoes were already trying to stay afloat with the abundance of frizzled onion holding them down.  The beef itself tasted fine, but was overcooked and chewy.  The frizzled onion was too much to be considered a garnish, but added an off putting texture when combined with the already challenging to eat beef.  I ended up switching my entree with Jim out of fear that the beef and my gastrically altered stomach would not get along.

Jim ordered (and I ate) the ravioli special.  These were a cheese ravioli with what was billed as a spicy Italian sausage sauce.  The ravioli were light with a creamy cheese filling and a really good – although not spicy in any way – marinara sauce.  There were a few discs of spicy Italian sausage in the dish that were too spicy for me to really enjoy, but it begs the question that if the sausage had been simmered with the sauce, why did it not impart some of the spicy flavor to the sauce?  Was it just tossed on top as an afterthought?

dinner

Kunkel’s Ravioli of the day – cheese with spicy sausage sauce

Here was the main problem with the cheese ravioli.  It was $30.  No, that’s not a typo – $30.  I browsed several other Italian restaurant menus in my area – not diner menus, by the way, real Mom and Pop Italian restaurants.  This is what I found:

Lobster ravioli in blush sauce topped with shrimp – $21

Cheese Ravioli – $14.99 (add a side order of sausage for $7.50 – total for that meal about $22)

Ravioli in plum tomato sauce – $11.95 (add a side order of sausage for $4 – total for that meal about $16)

As you can see, based on other Italian restaurants in our area, the price for this ravioli dish was WAY out of line.  While this was easily the best dish of the night, there’s no way this dish should have been $30.

Pasta dinner with mussels

Kunkel’s Mussels and Pasta in white sauce

Eilis’ dish of Pasta and Mussels was deemed really good.  The pasta looked and tasted fresh, and the mussels were quite good in the butter and garlic sauce.  The pasta could have used a bit more sauce, and then a nice roll to sop it up with, but the meal was good and probably more in line with the price of similar dishes at other restaurants ($23.00).  Two questions, though, if there was no delivery of fresh seafood yesterday, are the mussels frozen from a previous delivery?  And why is this plate of seafood and pasta $7 cheaper than cheese ravioli?

Brighid and Brent enjoyed the filet mignon and the apricot butter salmon.  Brighid’s steak was under seasoned, and after the rest of the evening’s disappointments, she had begun to mentally eye up her stop for a Sonic Blast on the way home.  She ate a few bites and packed the rest for Jim to eat later.  Brent’s salmon was resting in a warm sea of apricot butter that was sweet and salty and a great combination to accompany the dense fish.  It was also one of the few highlights of the night.

Bogged down by disappointment, we ended the evening without even looking at the dessert options, however, it was a long wait from the time the busboy boxed up our leftovers to the time where we were actually offered dessert.

Then came the tacky move of the evening.  Our waitress came over with our check, and announced at the table that if we would be paying cash, we had to let her know right this very minute now, because cash paying customers were given a 3% discount on their food purchases.  Really?  This again brought to mind concerns about the financial stability of what is supposed to be somewhat of a casual elegant restaurant.

We won’t be back to Kunkel’s at any time in the near future, and while the restaurant itself is just beautiful, you can’t tease me with decor and not back it up with food.

 

Disney – Greedy Money Grab or Enhanced Experiences?

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The Family at Epcot
Christmas Castle

Cinderella Castle

A lot is being said right now about the recent news from Walt Disney World that they would be adding some extra opportunities for guests to enjoy their Walt Disney World vacation.  The most recent offerings include a test of premium parking – for an additional fee, and something similar to extra magic hours, but, again, for an additional cost over the price of a park ticket.  Is this an attempt at a greedy money grab by Walt Disney World, or are they truly trying to cater to guests who are looking for an enhanced theme park experience and resort vacation?

I want to start with the After Hours evening event.  Scheduled only for a select few evenings, the price tag for this exclusive experience is $149 per person.  Guests can enter the Magic Kingdom beginning at 7 PM, and the event itself runs from 11 PM until 2 AM.  While details are sketchy, it appears as though most of the popular attractions will be open, and complimentary bottled beverages and ice cream novelties are included in the price.

So, because of the hours of the event, I’m going to presume Disney is appealing primarily to adults – as they really have done with the popular (but also very expensive) Club Villain parties currently being offered. Are these the young couples doing honeymoons and babymoons?  Or are they the grown ups who have been married 25 years and have had enough of reality to want to pay a premium for an extra piece of the magic?  Are they the people who have extra money because they haven’t started having kids or have already paid for college and weddings and want to invest some vacation dollars into their own pixie dusted perfect vacation?

DVC Bunaglows

Polynesian Bungalows

Disney has always offered these types of “Oh, if only I had the money!” experiences.  You can rent a pontoon boat and go out privately with friends or family to enjoy a picture perfect view of the fireworks.  Walk on the wild side with the Wild Africa Trek for a cool $250 – small meal included.  $180 will let you dive at Epcot.  There are backstage tours and VIP experiences to be bought – there always has been.

The difference this time in my opinion is that Disney is rolling out too many, too quickly, when it seems like they are trying to capitalize on guests who want the “better than the average Joe” vacation to help pay for Avatar or Star Wars or any of the other new theme park offerings coming down the pike.  They are pitching these things after laying people off in a guest services capacity, performer positions, even the beloved resort greeters have been threatened with layoffs.  It appears to those of us that are average Joes that we are getting less of the magic for more of our money.

A one day wristband to Morey’s Pier in Wildwood (down the Jersey Shore) would cost me $57.  There is a list of attractions not included in that wristband, and those will likely run me $20 a pop if I want to partake in the things not included (per attraction – not for the whole shebang).  This doesn’t include the boardwalk games (those are about $5 a pop now – remember when you used to get 5 numbers for $1?).  It doesn’t include anything to eat, like the $149 Disney After Hours event does (or the $69 early morning event, which will include an unlimited continental breakfast).

I think if Disney had made these offerings seem like something more than corporate greed in action, they would be a welcome addition to the special event options, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party.  There have always been experiences for varying levels of financial comfort – deluxe resorts, special events and activities, Victoria and Albert’s.  Life is all about perception – whether you see things positively or negatively is up to you.  Yay, Disney has a bunch of great new things to try, or boo, here’s Disney, trying to make a buck off the back of the hard working people who are already scrimping and saving to give their families great Disney vacations.  Hooray, Disney is rolling out events to keep those of us who go often coming back to try what’s new, or hiss, there’s Disney greedily grabbing every dollar out of my vacation wallet.

The Family at Epcot

Epcot

No one is forcing anyone to pay extra for Extra Magic Hours – those are still free.  No one is demanding you pay a premium to park in the good spots – you can still use Disney transportation for free or park where you may have ended up parking anyway at the regular rate.  But I do fault Disney for not putting a more positive spin on what may become some people’s favorite things about going to Disney.

Like When the Lights Go Out

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I cried often my first few weeks of high school.  Being overwhelmingly shy, it felt like I had no sooner made friends in the school we moved to when I entered seventh grade, and now here I was, just two years later, having to do it all over again.  It was painful, uncomfortable, like being in a familiar place, but not recognizing anything.  It was like when the lights go out, and you know where you are, but you still have to fumble around, find your way through the darkness, and hope you come out without too many bumps and bruises when the lights finally go back on.

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There was one constant through those early tear filled days of high school.  It was Jenny.  The first day that I wandered into a cafeteria, crowded with more than 500 kids who all seemed to have established their clique in those newborn hours of a new school year, she was there at a back table.  She was all by herself, and she smiled in my direction as I approached and offered me a seat at the otherwise empty table.

It was the start of an awakening.  She argued about everything with me, which may not sound like the thing good friends do, but I felt challenged and alive.  We argued politics, religion, what we wanted to be when we grew up – if I had said the sky was blue, she would have argued that it was a particular shade of azure as opposed to just a banal blue.  It made me want to come back each day, armed with headlines from the local newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine.  I wanted to be a better me because SHE wanted me to be a better me.

Jenny was dynamic and charismatic, but she pulled no punches.  She had no trouble telling me, at our first dinner together when I moved back to New Jersey from Florida, that I was kind of a shit for not staying in touch and that I should have been writing books in addition to changing diapers all those years.  She saw potential in me that reached way farther than I’ve ever seen in myself, and no matter who you were, she looked through you to see the you she knew you could become.

She was successful and talented, and she was intimidating in her ability to overcome things without skipping a beat.  She defeated cancer  – twice.  She stared death in the face following a bleeding ulcer and went back to work almost immediately after being discharged from the hospital.  She stared down an e.coli infection that nearly cost her her life, and didn’t let grass grow under her feet when she recovered.  You couldn’t complain about your worries and woes – she’d been through much worse and lived to tell the tale.

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They say some people light up a room when they enter.  Jenny commanded a room.  To me, she was larger than life, indestructible, infallible.  A warrior and a conqueror.  It breaks my heart to know that I’ll never share a coffee with her again, and wonder how I’ll fill those days where four or five hours and two or three lattes in, I was still captivated by a conversation with her.  I’ll miss the once in a while dinners – not often, maybe twice a year – that turned into lessons for me, an eager student clinging to every word from the professor’s mouth, gleaning pearls of wisdom in her conversation that I hope to find the courage to use one day.

For now, though, it’s like when the lights go out.  Everything is familiar, but it’s darker; scarier.  And we are left to fumble through the darkness.

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Studio Movie Grill Fight Against Hunger

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$5 for a movie?  When do you ever see that happen?  Never.  But here’s your chance to see a movie for $5 and help support the Studio Movie Grill as they fight against hunger in our area.  100% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the PhilAbundance Food Bank.

In addition, to coincide with the release of the Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Studio Movie Grill will donate 10% of every digital e-card purchased from October 23 – November 25th.

To help support this cause, I am giving away passes to the Studio Movie Grill in Upper Darby.  Post a comment on the blog, on Facebook, or retweet the blog post to enter.  Enjoy a movie; enjoy a meal; help provide meals for people who need them.  Support the cause.

Studio Movie Grill Launches

Fight Against Hunger Campaign

 

Studio Movie Grill Fight Against Hunger

Studio Movie Grill Fight Against Hunger

Studio Movie Grill Upper Darby  Benefitting Philabundance

https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/Default.aspx

53 S. 69th St.

Upper Darby, PA 19082

In Anticipation Of “Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” All Ticket Proceeds Over 4-Day Period Will Be Donated To Local Food Banks

 

Proudly continuing its tradition of community involvement, from Monday, October 19 through Thursday, October 22, Studio Movie Grill locations in all 10 states nationwide will host $5 movies and donate all proceeds to local food banks.

Additionally, 10% of the proceeds raised from online sales of Hunger Games-themed digital gift cards will benefit these partnering food banks. Gift cards make great holiday offerings and will be available online from October 23 – November 25 at www.studiomoviegrill.com.

What:   “SMG Fight Against Hunger”

When:  Monday, October 19 – Thursday, October 22nd

             Every movie, any show time from open to close

philabundance1-1

Mother of the Bride – Or How Am I Going to Fit into a Size 10 Dress in 16 Months?

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I ask so little of my children.  And when you consider what I’ve done for them – months of pregnancy related illnesses; days of of my life spent trying to get spit up stains out of Every. Single. Favorite. Shirt.; not throwing up when they showed me wiggly teeth until after they were out of the room; countless hours sitting at teachers’ desks for conferences – I really, truly haven’t asked for much in return.

Except that one thing.

Most moms whisper lullabies to their babies as they rock their tiny newborns to sleep.  I sang to the beat of my own insecure drummer.  On any given day, you could see me happily gliding in my glider, singing “Fat Bottomed Girls” to my babies.  Other moms were playing Laurie Berkner on the cassette player while they drove their children to preschool.  My girls listened to Sir Mix-A-Lot and the virtues of a big butt.  Granuaile was serenaded by Mika singing “Big Girl You are Beautiful” as we dropped her sisters off at school and skipped a walk around the lake in favor of going for ice cream.

I felt I had primed them for that one thing I was going to ask.  I laid the ground work for the appreciation of plus sized people.  They should have seen it coming.

“Don’t marry anyone with a mom thinner than me.”

Simple request, no?  Remember, this was in exchange for countless changed diapers, nights sitting up with ear infections and broken hearts, and too numerous to count school plays, concerts, and talent shows.  Yes, I did.  I sat through talent shows.  Even when my kids’ grade performed last.  I know – why have I not been canonized?

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But do they listen to me?  No.  My daughter’s future mother-in-law is down right svelte.  Spindly and sylphlike. Clearly, this kid did not get the memo.  Or the subtle reminders.  Or being verbally beaten over the head with my pleas of a plump parent.

So I am back at the game I have lost so often.  Dieting.  Exercise.  Torturing myself in the name of not being triple chinned in a photo.

Wish me luck.  Say a prayer.  Send me rice cakes.  And if you don’t see this fat bottomed girl at the gym, give me grief.  Just dip it in chocolate first.

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A Separation of Souls

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I have not yet told Eilis that my mom has died.

Shortly after 10:00 PM last December 23rd, my sister called to tell me that the hospital had just called to tell them my mom died.  I hung up the phone, crying out loud, and called my family to me.  Eilis, instead of joining Jim and Granuaile next to me, raced away from the room yelling, “I don’t want to hear it!”

And I think in that outburst, she found a place in her mind where if she didn’t hear it, it didn’t have to be real.

Eilis and my mom were fast friends.  We moved back to New Jersey when Eilis was four months old, and from the time she was just a few months older, she loved spending nights at Dram’s.  At 18 months old, she would pack her own bag, anxious to have even just a few hours in my mom’s company.  They would play for hours, exhausting each other with laughter and songs, and my quiet, reserved Eilis came into her own with my mom.  She seemed more animated, more outgoing, more loving.  Eilis wasn’t a huggy kind of kid.  She would sooner hug a tree than a grown up, but with my mom, she was so different.  Eilis was her true self with my mom, and the two of them were like soulmates, destined to find each other on this earth and complete each other.DSC01864

 

The day my sister Bean died, my mother took Eilis home with her.  Instead of going home to fall into the desperate pit of her own grief, she wanted Eilis to be with her, and my tiny two year old was anxious to go.  She didn’t leave my mom’s side, know ing even at this tender age that she had a job to do, making sure her kindred spirit survived the first few devastating days after Bean’s death.

One weekend, during one of their infamous sleepovers, my mom got sick.  holakxmas2An ambulance had to be called, and Eilis was there as they lifted my mom’s pain wracked body onto a stretcher and into the glowing cavern that was the back of the emergency vehicle.  The police came, there was a cacophony of dispatching calls coming over the squawking radios, and the lights and sounds were just too much for my sensitive kid.

It was the end of the sleepovers.

Eilis was afraid to go spend the night after that, and my mother knew.  She talked to me often about how guilty she felt over Eilis being exposed to human frailty in such a traumatic way.  I had a hard time getting Eilis to even go visit after that, and she was more than happy to pass on the mantle of best sleepover buddy to Granuaile as she got older.  Eilis didn’t get over it, silently lamenting the loss of this precious bonding time, and I think it impacted her more than we ever realized.

 

Today, after one of her increasingly rare visits to my stepfather at the home heshared for nearly 40 years with my mom, Eilis and I were driving home.  We were talking about our annual visit to Walt Disney World this coming Christmas, the first one we are taking with my sister, her husband, and my stepdad.  In between conversation, she was singing along to theCD she had popped into the car stereo.  And then she was crying.  The tears were silent, yet they poured as if a flood gate had been opened down her cheeks, dripping onto her shirt.  Quietly, acknowledging for the first time the loss she suffered last December – if not those many years ago – she said, very simply, “I miss Dram.”

I can do nothing with my own broken heart except pray that this is at last a step toward healing for Eilis.  Perhaps this is the beginning of her heart accepting – or at least understanding – the loss she has suffered.  And even though they can’t be together, maybe this is the point where Eilis lets the memories be of some comfort.  Maybe she can focus more on the bond they had than the separation they suffered.

And maybe she’ll find peace.

Time Flies When You’re Raising Kids

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You hear it all the time.  You might have even said it yourself a time or two, especially if you’re a mom.  But time really flies when you’re raising kids.  They grow up so fast, that you turn around from throwing the last diaper in the trash and they are wearing a cap and gown, graduating from eighth grade.

That’s where we are in my house.

Christening

Christening

 

Most of you know my Eilis story.  After trying for 10 years and experiencing four miscarriages, a psychic told me I was pregnant.  Yep, a New Orleans street psychic.  We had tried and tried again with fertility medication, and had failure and loss after failure and loss.  I think before we left for that cross country vacation, we had pretty much decided we were done trying.  Nothing good was coming from it.  And there I was, in New Orleans, sitting across from a pixie-like psychic, asking the question about whether we’d ever have another child.  The smile that came across her face was one you normally see on the face of someone in handcuffs as they are about to declare their innocence for a mass murder spree due to reasons of insanity, but I so wanted to believe her when she said, “It’s already taken care of.”

A little more than a year later, we celebrated Eilis’ first birthday with a Mardi Gras party.

Eilis' Mardi Gras Birthday

Eilis’ Mardi Gras Birthday

 

I love all of my children, and I believe I love them all equally, but Eilis is truly different.  The other two are huggy, kissy kind of kids.  Eilis makes you work for it.  She doesn’t just pass out hugs and kisses at whim – you know you deserved it if you get an Eilis hug.  Her laugh, which I always thought was contagious when she was a baby, is absolutely infectious now.  Maybe it’s because she’s a teenager and I don’t hear it as often, but my whole body feels happy when Eilis is laughing.

Eilis Smile

She has always stood up for what she believed – whether it was demanding a blue crayon when her preschool teacher told her she didn’t need it for a fall picture or when she was making dinner for families at the Ronald McDonald House.  She has and always will make a difference in this world, not just in my life, but in the lives of those around her.

Eilis is my miracle baby – the one I prayed for, longed for, and cried for.  She continues to amaze me, impress me, and astonish me simply by the fact that I gave birth to this incredible person.

Eili007 - What a dream

I’m so proud of her every day, but as I get ready to watch her get her certificate for graduating eighth grade, I am even more proud.  She has overcome bullying, survived middle child syndrome, and blossomed into the most amazing human being.  I can’t wait to see where she takes this incredible life.

8th Grade Danc

8th Grade Danc

Not Knowing You Hit the Lottery Until You Lose the Ticket

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One of the things I’ve learned as a writer in this social media world is that the title of your blog should always tell the reader what they’re in for.  Y’all, you have no idea.  But I so truly feel today that I hit the biggest lottery in the world and was totally ignorant about the victory until I lost the ticket.

My dad was sick for a long time, and when the end came, he was in hospice.  People came in and out to see him, and through much of it, I waited in the small waiting room across the hall from his room.  I wanted all of the people that knew him had a chance to say their goodbyes, but it gave me the unique opportunity to hear their conversations as they went in and out of his room.  People loved my dad.  He was well respected, would be desperately missed by more than just us, and I heard time and again as friends and family drifted in and out of that room what a great man my dad was.

My dad the day I got married

My dad the day I got married

The same types of conversations were had at his funeral.  People approached me and talked about what a great man my dad was.  When you’re a kid, you always think you’re dad is a great man, but hearing how much he impacted the lives of others gave me a whole new perspective on just what an incredible guy he was.

My mom’s passing was much more unexpected than my dad’s.  Because she was on life support, there really wasn’t an opportunity for anyone to go in and tell her goodbye.  On her last day, when they roused her enough for us to talk to her, we were able to tell her how much we loved her, but the same opportunity wasn’t afforded to any of her friends.

My amazing mom

My amazing mom

She didn’t want a funeral.  My mom felt like she would be saving us the pain of having to greet people at a time I think she believed should be private.  But this afternoon, I had a chance to be around people my mom worked with.  “She was good people.” “You’re mom was awesome.” “Anna was the best.”  They couldn’t say enough good things about her.  My mom was loved, respected by the people she supervised, and as one of her coworkers told me through his tears, she was an amazing and incredible friend.

I loved my parents.  I knew we were lucky to have them, but I didn’t know how lucky we were.  It was both a moment of tremendous pride and incredible sadness to hear how beloved my mom and dad were to those people I didn’t know very well.

I wish I’d found that lottery ticket.  I had a treasure way greater than I ever imagined.