Archive for October 2011

How to- Dinner in a Pumpkin   1 comment

So I’m all for trying exciting, festive things for the holidays. You know, I want to be that cool mom who makes cool stuff… so I might as well start now.

A while ago I found this recipe and figured this would be great for Halloween. Althought, honestly it would look pretty cool on a Thanksgiving table too!

The whole idea is that you cook your dinner inside the pumpkin (using the oven obviously) and you have both a yummy dinner and a cool display!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 medium sugar pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice

LA helping pick out our dinner pumpkin!

Now, while reading the comments I found three things that seemed relevant. Some people advised against using the green beans at all…. so we omitted them. Others reminded that you really must use instant rice or it might not cook all the way…. I used instant brown rice. And I didn’t see any reason to use tomato juice and put in italian seasoning when I could just use spaghetti sauce.

I’ll walk you through the steps with any variations I made and how it worked out for us 🙂

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)…. easy
     2. Wash pumpkin, cut off top, scrape out seeds and discard.

           Always a fun, messy job…. if your kids are old enough this is best their job. I saved the seeds for yumminess later.

      3. Next place hamburger in a large, deep skillet. Crumble and cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain fat, add onion and garlic; saute slightly.
       I bought lean ground beef and avoided the whole draining thing.


4. Add sugar, Italian herbs, salt, pepper, tomato juice and rice; mix thoroughly. I used spaghetti sauce… in retrospect I might have used a bit more. But I like things saucy 😉

5. Layer inside of pumpkin with 1/3 of cabbage, green beans and beef and rice mixture. Repeat layers, replace lid and bake for 2 to 3 hours.

Here it goes all stuffed….

And going in the oven!

Next step… wait and wait and wait!!! I used this time to make a really yummy apple streudal cheesecake dessert, corral a 1 year old and attempt to straighten my house for company.

Voila it was done!

I did not really shred my cabbage and I feel I should have. Some of the cabbage was a bit firmer than it should have been. I also think green beans would have been fine but perhaps INSTEAD of cabbage. My other thought was that I only baked it for 2 hours and I think the rice could have used a bit more cooking.

Everyone really enjoyed it… even the baked pumpking was delicate and lovely. It didn’t taste “pumpkin-y” at all…. It got us talking about variations you could do. Vegetable Stoup. Turkey and white beans. Sweet turkey sausage, apples, rice and sauce…. all sorts of things.

Oh and we did discuss how if you were really good at that half carving thing you could probably decorate it before you bake it… although I might worry about the structural integrity of the cooked pumpkin. BUT you could give your kids a sharpie and let them go to town before it’s cooked 🙂

AND I was thinking that using pasta instead of rice might make for an interesting ghoulish visual when you scoop it out… especially if the pumpkin is decorated like a head! 🙂

It makes for a very cool presentation and I look forward to making it again next year for Halloween!!!! Maybe next year LA will eat more of it… she was only interested in the corn on the cob!
Happy Halloween!


Posted October 29, 2011 by etainl in Arts & Crafts, Celebrations and Milestones, Food, How To

Fat Free Freckles- A Short Story   Leave a comment

So I did say that part of this blog would be my own writing.

I have been a super slacker in the last year and haven’t worked on my novel or any new stories. So I’m posting an old story I wrote about five years ago. Trying to get my brain back in the game.

Hope you enjoy it 🙂  Still not sure I love the ending but I do like the premise….


Fat Free Freckles


            My first rebellion was accidental- 2% rather than fat free.  The Kevlern family believed children needed fatty milk.

            “Why would you drink that stuff?” my friend Lauren asked as she wrinkled her nose at my request.

            I envied that nose. Covered in freckles it upturned slightly at the end and was commonly referred to as adorable. My mother abhorred freckles.  That’s what she would say, “I abhor freckles. They are common.”

Never being quite sure what common was, but sensing its wrongness I followed her directions and never developed any. I was constantly covered with SPF 45, kept in the shade, and if even one freckle dared to show itself I was covered in more paste and goop than a clown at the circus.

You see, I have a pageant mom.

Not that I participated in pageants, not yet. She is not a mom who dresses up her little girl to compete in pageants.  Not a stage mom.  She was a pageant queen. She is a pageant queen she would be quick to remind anyone. 

Once a queen always a queen… a queen doesn’t forget who she is.

This queen theory makes me a princess, which seemed like fun until I was five when the preparations for my ascension became serious. My mother wanted me to be a Queen too – Homecoming Queen, Prom Queen, and eventually Miss Seminole, Miss Florida and Miss America or Miss USA basically she’d accept anything with a “Miss” title and a crown. She thought winning children’s pageants was degrading.  Aim for the stars she always said. So for the last four years my mother had tried to mould me into a future Miss Something-Or-Other.

            So in answer to Lauren’s question I mimicked my mothers rhythmic lecture voice, “Well, fat free milk has all the calcium my body needs to grow but none of the fat that will look unsightly in a bathing suit.”

            Lauren rolled her eyes, “Who cares about bathing suits? Unless you have a crush?” She grabbed my arm and continued in a sing-songy voice, “I bet it’s Jimmy. Cara loves Jimmy. Jimmy and Cara sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-“

            “Stop it,” I shoved her and we wrestled around before deciding to play dress up with her mom’s clothing and make-up.  The rest of the afternoon was uneventful.  I did earn the nickname “Princess Perfect” from Lauren for my expert make-up. Mom had made me practice since I was six while Lauren looked more like a normal nine year old playing with lipstick. I wondered briefly if mother would be happy with my “title.”

            On the way home I pondered the differences between types of milk.  Why did it matter? I wasn’t fat, I knew that. I began to think of my mother’s other rules.  We lived inFloridaand I had never been to the beach, ever.  She did take me to Disney World so that I could see the princesses and have a cultural experience.  Every night I had to check my manicure and pedicure, exfoliate, cover my body in lotion, check my face and apply whatever lotion it required, put on my chap stick, wrap up my hair in curlers or a silk scarf and go to bed in time to get at least eight hours of sleep.

            For the first time I wondered why I had to be Miss Something. At school weren’t they always telling us that we could be anything we wanted to be? What if I wanted to be something else?

            At dinner I asked my mother.

            “What?” she put down her fork, lettuce still attached. “Why wouldn’t you want to be Miss United States? It’s every little girl’s fantasy, Princess. And you have the edge, the secret weapon…. Your momma!”

            With that she flashed me her thousand-watt pageant smile and drank her sweet ‘n low flavored ice tea.

            I tried to continue the conversation, “But Momma what if I want to be something else?”

            “Like what little darling?” Her smile never wavered but I could tell it had dropped to a 995 wattage.

            I scrambled for an answer. Princess and beauty queen were the only things I’d imagined were on the list. Suddenly I knew, “A ballerina.”

            Momma did not respond as I imagined.  Instead she swooped down upon me. “You are the most brilliant little thing ever! I’ve been racking my brain for your talent and here you go finding it. Whoo hoo, I’ll sign you up tomorrow. You’re sure to be the prettiest Miss United States ever!”

            I sullenly finished my dessert, half of an Oreo (with the cream mostly scraped off) and a glass of fat free milk.




            The next day I found myself in The Prima Dona School beginner’s class.  Momma had gone to run errands and pick out all my new dance costumes. So after all my new positions were learned we found ourselves released early and I found myself unattended. 

I stood outside. At first I obediently waited in the shade but the sun began to beckon me and soon I stepped out into it. I turned my face and immediately I could feel a thin veil of sweat over my face and neck. I imagined I could feel the freckles developing. I licked my licks and tasted the salty sweat trickling from my upper lip.

The sun didn’t hurt me, it warmed me, it felt right.

The rebellion felt so good I began to think of another way I could disobey Momma. I looked around the strip mall and spotted a 7-11. I knew at once what I could do.

After spending my ten-dollar allowance I had Snickers Bars, a six-pack of Coke and one container of full fat milk stuffed into my dance bag with my ballet slippers.

Momma found me smiling sweetly in the shade where I belonged.  The whole way home she chattered about my genius.

“I have been struggling to find the perfect talent you Princess. Singing has been done so often, the judges are looking to discover something new.  I won’t have you twirling those flaming batons you might singe something and ruin your chances. Signing to a song makes you look too liberal. But ballet,” she smiled over at me fondly. “Ballet is just perfect you can show off your grace and figure while still being a classic beauty.”

That night to celebrate momma agreed to make my favorite dinner; grilled salmon on white rice with steamed veggies. And since I had surely worked so hard I would be allowed to have one Sara Lee slice of sugar free, low fat, cheesecake.  Every nine year olds dream.





Before dinner momma decided we should dress up to celebrate.  She spent forty-five minutes picking out my dress, fixing my hair and giving me a lesson in make-up before she jumped in the shower herself.

While she was there I snuck out into the garage and pulled my dance bag from the spare fridge that momma kept the veggies in for all her health cocktails.   My heart was pounding as I carefully poured all of the fat free milk down the drain. Next I slowly poured the full fat milk into the fat free container and placed it in the fridge. I could still hear the water running upstairs so I believed I’d have time for Phase Two.  Momma kept her two-liter of diet coke in the fridge. She carefully measured out one serving a day because, as she lectured, even though it only had one calorie it had tons and tons of teeth rotting, figure warping sugar.  I was pouring it down the drain when the water stopped. I froze but calculated that I had at least twenty more minutes before she wanted me to come up and observe her make up application. 

As I poured each can of coke into the container I began to worry that she’d be able to tell the difference in taste. I’d never had either but I imagined they were very different.  I could only hope that since it had been so many years since she’d had real coke she wouldn’t realize there was the difference. I managed to get the bottle back to its original level and still have one can left for my own before I heard momma calling me from upstairs.

At dinner that night I watched her very carefully as she sipped her coke.  Once she made a strange face but simply took another deeper drink from the cup and smiled at me.

“Enjoying your salmon Pumpkin?”

“Yes I am mama.  Could I have more milk?”

She frowned for a moment but than shrugged. “It’s a celebration after all. We’ll just have to be more careful that you don’t grow too tall to be a proper ballerina. In fact I think I’ll have another glass of diet coke, it tastes wonderful to me tonight, I must be dehydrated.”

I smiled to myself as I took a drink from the thick full fat milk I had in my cup.


Over the next few weeks my weight or appearance changed little.  I did attempt other small rebellions against my mother. I only drank four glasses of water a day rather than my full eight. I tried sleeping on my side even though mama told me it created premature wrinkles and lopsided breasts.  I only flossed every other night and did not actually put on all my lotions before sleep. Outside of the house I tried the French fries that my friends offered me at school. My first French fry ever was beautiful.  Ketchup was another wonderful discovery.  Plus I learned that mother had lied. There truly was a difference between fat free frozen yogurt and real ice cream. It was breathtaking.

Mother on the other hand actually seemed to put on a few pounds.  Who knew Diet Coke and Full Fat Milk had so much effect?  Of course after a while I also made her ice tea with real sugar instead of sweet’n’low and other fatty substitutions.   This weight gain sent her into a frenzy of exercise and dieting.  Soon anything that was not lettuce or water disappeared from the house.  I even found a way to sabotage that…. A simple replacement of full fat dressing for fat free. I thought she’d catch on to that one as the fatty dressing is much thicker but she simply looked at the bottle and continued eating.




“And that ladies and gentlemen is truly how I achieved the independence necessary to compete and ultimately win the Miss United States pageant. You see it is important that you learn to respect and listen to your mother, and I did eventually stop rebelling, but it is important to learn to think for yourself. To question authority. To strike out on your own and learn who you are and what you want out of life.  And, ultimately, my mother was right and I stand before you Miss United States. Thank you”

With that I handed the microphone back to the emcee.  The girl scouts in the audience all applauded and beamed up at me. I imagined there would be more than one mother who would have her fat free milk replaced with the natural variety very soon.

As I left the stage my mother stepped into rhythm beside me.

“I hate it when you tell that story.  MissUSshould set a good example for little girls not brag about their rebelliousness.”

“You fail to listen to the point of the story, momma.”

“I listen very well.  You on the other hand went out by the pool yesterday didn’t you? I see a tan line here….” With that last comment she pulled on my gown and pointed.

“No momma it’s just the lighting,” But I smiled to myself to think that the true lesson in my story was to learn how to listen, smile, and do what you want anyway. 

She continued to lecture me on the dangers of ultra violet rays and the consequences of premature aging.  I didn’t mind knowing that soon I’d be leaving my mother behind to enjoy a large ice cream cone out by the pool – wearing SPF 45 of course. 

She wasn’t wrong, but she wasn’t right either.



Posted October 27, 2011 by etainl in Writing

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Preparing for Disney   Leave a comment

So we have an upcoming Disney trip!

I’m ridiculously excited and not for myself. I know LA is just a year old. I know that she has no idea what she is in for but I’m still excited.

I’m just sure she will love Small World and some of the other shows…. which means she’ll probably hate those things (because that is how kids seem to work) but still!

I’ve read the tips on how to navigate the parks. I think I’m prepared. I’ve been putting LA in her carrier more frequently (since she’d gone mobile she didn’t like it and I was lax in using it)…. this will be extra important while we wait in line. For navigating the park I’m pretty confidant in our stroller, she likes the stroller. But ever since she’s learned to walk she wants down and she bolts. I have images of her darting through all those adult legs while Daddy and I are hindered by the metal bars in the queue…. so I’ve broken out the sling and carrier. I’ve learned how to do a back carry and am working on a hip carry (just getting confidant in it).

We’ve been told to pack snacks and water. I’m bringing some new small toys and games. We are staying in a hotel and I’ve got things prepared for there too…. I think.

So excited! After we get back I’ll blog what we did to prepare and what worked, and what didn’t….

Posted October 26, 2011 by etainl in Celebrations and Milestones, Culture, Life, Mommy-hood, New Mom

Priorities change with baby!   Leave a comment

So everyone tells you that your priorities will change when you have a baby. They tell you that your entire world will shift on its axis. It’s all true…. totally, 100%

A lot of parents know this to be true but Steve and I got to have two experiences that literally showed us the change and we also were able to watch it happen (in a way).

The first was during labor. My husband crouched besides me in the bathroom of the birthing center helping me through contractions. There was a little gnat that was buzzing around. Naturally to be the most irritating it kept buzzing around my face. I’m trying to focus and visualize my baby and breath and all that and this thing was in my face…. literally. I asked Steve if he could catch it and release it elsewhere….. and I said, “Please don’t kill it. That feels…. wrong.”

He laughed and said he was thinking the same thing.

We were both on the same page. How could we kill something, even something so insignificant, when we were working on bring a new life into this world?

Gnat remained uncaptured…Wily thing.

Fast forward one hour or so later.

Me: “Steve will you kill that damn gnat I don’t care anymore!”

I wanted to care. I still felt bad but the gnat needed to go…. now! That was one way we could see the change in us as parents. 🙂

The next was that we seem to have rats living in our garage. They come and go and have since we moved in nearly four years ago.

Neither Steve or I wanted to kill them. We bought humane rat traps, we researched ways to keep them out, etc. It just seemed wrong to kill them for doing what came naturally to them.

During the week that we brough LA home we realized they were back. My gentle, animal loving husband immediately went to Home Depot and bought rat traps. The horrible, immediate killing ones. Then he bought cheese.

Not only was he now ok with killing the rats in our garage he was gleeful about it. Every time he “caught” one he would gloat.  He kept count!

I asked him about the change and he said he just couldn’t bear the thought of “those things” being near his new little girl.

Before baby- Two animal loving, no kill, peaceful parents

After baby- Two wildly protective, dangerous, princess guarding parents

Yes parenthood changes you 🙂

Side note…. this change is not always permanent. We do still love animals and take precautions to make sure the rats can’t come in so “protective Daddy” won’t have to take extreme measures. And even in the midst of the rat removal fest Steve did note that he made sure the traps were as humane as possible and quick. We aren’t terrible… just overprotective 🙂

Posted October 12, 2011 by etainl in Life, Mommy-hood, New Mom

How to… Make a tutu   Leave a comment

So I wanted a cute little tutu for LA for her birthday pictures. We had a ladybug theme party (wow, just realized I didn’t update some of those pictures!) and I wanted a little ladybug tutu. So I checked Etsy.


but like 30+ dollars.

Surely, this is something I could do myself….. right?

So I did what I do best… researched. I looked all over the web for tutorials, preferrably with pictures (I need pictures).

I found lots…. so what I’m about to explain is in no way new or original… just what worked for me.

The two sites that helped me a lot (In the idea of full disclosure) were Little Pink Monster and  MomDot.

Supplies needed:

Tulle- 3 rolls (6 inch or so) OR 10-20 yards (unless you are working with smaller toddler baby, then 10 should be sufficient…could even do for less)

Elastic for waistband-  One inch is good for bigger girls and 3/4 of an inch good for the tinier tots.

Ribbon- I got nice thick glossy ribbon


Some thred and needle

Any embelishments (like pom poms to make it ladybuggy… or sequins, ribbons, glitter, what not)

Cardboard & Rubber bands (if you choose to use that method, it seemed like more work to me)

Something to hold the tuto for you- I used an oatmeal container 🙂

So my first order of business was how much tulle I needed. One recommended 2o yards the other suggested using 3 rolls of tulle from the wedding aisle at the local craft store. Other sites suggested more or less.

After having done it I can see why the roll would be good to do (less cutting) but I went head and bought by the yard. I bought 10 yards (6 red and 4 black) because my little LA is still, well, little. Ten yards actually ended up being more than enough. I only used about two thirds of it or less.

NOW here is where I might do things differently. You really only need the strips of tulle to be about six inches wide. So the advice about buying it on the rolls is good because then it is already the correct width. However, black tulle is not often sold in the wedding aisle…. so I did buy by the yard.

My first order of business was to cut it into 6 inch width strips. I folded it, laid it out and cut. It wasn’t too big a deal.

Next I measured how tall LA was and figure dout how long I wanted the tutu to be basically. The websites suggest about 22 to 24 inches. Basically you take the number you want it to end up at and double it. So since I wanted LA to have a 12 inch long tutu I needed to cut it in 24 inch strips. But you can also trim it up when you are done, so you don’t have to be exact.

Little Pink Monsters has a trick for using cardboard to do this cutting quickly. I just went ahead and laid it out to cut again but I can see how (if you have cardboard and rubber band handy, which I did not) it would be quick.  In that method you wrap the tulle around the cardboard, rubberband it down and just make one cut to get it right. But this also only works if you use the roll of tulle… which I also did not do.

So the next step was to cut the elastic to length and sew it together. Here was another variation in advice. One site said to measure your childs waist and subtract 2-3 inches. Another site said to add 1/2 inch to the measurement. I went with the idea to subtract an inch or two so that it would be snug and not stretch out. (by the way, it worked, I was happy with the fit). Then just sew (or use sewing glue) the ends together.

Next comes the fun part. You need to find something to hold the elastic in place while you work. Oatmeal container worked perfectly for me.

Then you take your 6 inch wide 24 inch long strip of tulle and make a slip knot.

Then some more…

If you want your tutu thicker and fluffier and fuller you can lay several layers of tulle on top of each other and do the slip knot. You could have colors layered over each other or do a patter like I did…. the skys the limit 🙂

You go all the way around and then you can (optional) tie the ribbon in a bow over the section where the elastic meets.

This whole thing literally took me about 15 minutes.

Steve said he was going to bed and I said, “I’m going to at least start on that tutu.” And before I knew it I was done!

Super super easy.

Here is the finished result:

I was happy with the results and it cost me like 20 bucks…. which didn’t seem like a huge savings until I realized I had quite a bit of extra fabric. I could probably have done it for 10 bucks, especially if I had a coupon at the craft store.

BTW you’ll notice I never did the pom poms and what not… it didn’t seem to need it!

Another variation could be to make the tutu really long and tie a ribbon in the empire waist area to make a tutu dress. Super cute!

I am even considering making a Cookie Monster tutu for my little LA to be for Halloween 🙂

Posted October 9, 2011 by etainl in Arts & Crafts, Cutting Costs, How To