Monday, March 29, 2010

Annabel Karmel’s Welsh “Rabbits”

Last Summer I had the pleasure of meeting British Children’s Cookbook Guru Annabel Karmel.  During that meeting, I came up with the idea of presenting Annabel’s newest cookbooks: Top 100 Finger Foods and Top 100 Baby Purees to the Silicon Valley Network of Mom Blogs for inclusion in our Book Club.  Being quite the non-cook, I was really excited by Annabel’s recipes and the easy to follow layouts of her books which are full of photos.  I wasWelshRabbits really happy when Annabel’s books were accepted for the book club!  So here I am, the not-so-much-of-a-cook determined to do this book club!  I flipped through the Top 100 Finger Foods and early on in the book I spied my salvation: Welsh “Rabbits”!  Perfect I thought.  Easter is coming and I could bring these in to my son’s preschool class for snack.  We are not obligated to bring snack in, but there are a lot of moms who seem to sign up an awful lot to do it.  I thought this would be a way to make a splash and it looked fun and I love themes!

Welsh Rarebit is something my mom used make when I was a little kid.  I think we used to call it Welsh Rabbit though.  It was toast with ham, tomato and cheese sauce all broiled.  I think it is considered pub food in England and is often made with beer in the cheese sauce.  Although, to be in honest, all the time I lived in England, I don’t believe I ever saw Welsh Rarebit on any pub menu.  I never did go to Wales, however.  Anyway, to me it’s real comfort food.  The fact that I was sharing an echo of my childhood with Chip’s classmates made the recipe appeal to me.  I also felt fairly secure in the fact that it seemed to essentially be “glorified grilled cheese”.  What kid doesn’t like melted cheese on toasted bread?  With that mental encouragement I set off to the store.  I lucked into a “breakfast sale” where English muffins were half price and a dozen eggs were .99 cents.  I took it as a sign that I was on the right track.  I secured the shredded cheddar cheese next.  Then I had to focus on the rabbit face.  I knew presentation would be key.  Peas, Top100FingerFoodshcccheck.  Black olives, check.  Fresh chives, located with the help of cute produce guy, check.  Snow peas, check.  Next I had to get into substitution mode.  The teeth called for scallion.  I couldn’t see coming up with enough white part.  Cute produce guy suggested parsnips and showed them to me—white carrots!  Parsnips look just like white carrots.  Educational Bonus: I learned what a parsnip is in conjunction with writing this post.  As a final touch I grabbed a bag of baby carrots because rabbits eat carrots.

Last night I prepped everything, and got it into containers.  I lined the cookie sheets with tin foil.  We had pizza for dinner so I could reuse the boxes to transport the Welsh Rabbits to school.  I had it all planned.  I would take Chip to school for 9am.  Come home and take care of Lulu and do some preliminary prep of the cheese and egg mixture.  The sitter was due to arrive at 9:45am.  Then all I would need to do would be to broil, assemble and go!  Of course that’s NOT how it went.  Right around midnight last night Chip woke up with a fever.  A pretty high one, 105.  So I gave him Motrin and sat up worried and watching.  His temperature went down but I didn’t really sleep.  I woke up a few more times to check on him.  No school for Chip.  I figured I’d still bring the Welsh Rabbits in because 1) I bought all the stuff and had it prepped to go and 2) I was all set to write my fun post here.  But, part of my well oiled plan was that when I dropped Chip off I was going to ask the teacher when to time my arrival with the Welsh Rabbits.  So now I had to call the school and ask the director to ask the teacher what time I should arrive.  The director was insisting I didn’t need to come in since Chip was sick.  I was insisting I really wanted to.  Frankly, I just wanted to see my well oiled Welsh Rabbit plan through and nothing would stop me.  So the response came back that 10:15 would be the perfect time to come in.  My sitter arrived and I swung into action.  I executed 16 Welsh Rabbits in about 20 minutes and headed out to the minivan.  I kept the snow peas and baby carrots in separate containers for the plating.  Cool mom victory was at hand.

I reflected a bit about the recipe.  To be honest, I wouldn’t typically have all the ingredients on hand to make Welsh Rabbits.  But, cheese and English Muffins are fairly typical staples in an American kitchen.  From there you could leap off and use whatever fruit or veggies to make a character or animal.  Asparagus for antennae, apple slices for ears or cucumbers for eyes.  I kind of realize that a lot of recipes get adapted to what works for you or what you have on hand or simply what you like.  This is definitely one that I think I could do again with whatever I have in my veggie drawer.  I also think this could be a fun do-it-yourself activity for kids.  So, at about this point I pulled into Chip’s school (without Chip) and headed into his classroom.  While the kids were finishing up an Easter story and went to wash their hands I plated their Welsh Rabbits for them.  The kids came in and sat down.  I guess I don’t know what I was expecting.  Oohs and aahs?  Wow, isn’t Chip’s mom the coolest?  It was funny almost…If I hadn’t worked so hard on those rabbits!  I guess I should understand my audience is a bunch of kids who are all about to be 4 yrs old within the next couple of months.  I did put something in front of them that they had never seen.  Slowly, though, the kids warmed up.  A couple of the boys really started chowing.  One tiny girl asked for more snow peas and another asked for more carrots.  A lot of the kids started nibbling.  My son’s teacher said I needed to give the kids some time, that they would probably eat.  To be fair they also had me in the class so that might have made things a bit odd.  The mindset of toddlers is not my strong suit.  At least none of the kids said “yuck” or “ick”.  I mean a number of them really were eating the rabbits.  I don’t know what I was expecting…I guess I just thought that when I was 3 I would have thought the Welsh Rabbits would have been cool to get for my snack.  So, I packed up my stuff and sauntered out.  I glanced back and saw the kids were still working on the snacks, so I would say you could call that a hit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life on Discovery (and my discovery)

Have you ever had those times when you look back and go, “Geez!” and kick yourself a little?  Yeah, well, I recently had one of those times.  Now let me start by saying, in the grand scheme of things, it’s NO BIG DEAL, but still, it bugs me a little.  Here’s what happened:  I was invited by The Discovery Channel to attend the premiere of their new series Life being held at The Getty Center in Los Angeles.  If you’ve never been to the Getty Center, you must go, it’s an amazing art museum, up on a hill and an architectural work of art itself.  So, this recent evening, I was running a little bit late, well kind of exactly on time, but really close, if you get my drift.  I was rushing up a flight of stairs to the theater and a nice young couple was next to me and we smiled and exchanged knowing glances of “yeah, we are kind of pushing it.”  At the top of the stairs was my friend, Maria, and another gal who was sort of yelling to the couple to hurry.  I looked over again and I thought I maybe recognized the guy, but by then we were at the top of the stairs, I was hugging Maria and we rushed in to find seats.

Many of my readers will remember the series Planet Earth from a few years ago, the same makers are responsible for Life.  The all-new 11-part series, Life, premieres Sunday, March 21 on The Discovery Channel.  Here is some info I found read in the program and press release: More than four years in the making, filmed over 3,000 days, across every continent, “Life is the definitive exploration of our planet’s living things and their spectacular, bizarre and fascinating behaviors.”  I was looking forward to the show starting.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was tuning up and would be playing live throughout the show.  I looked over and saw the couple who I walked up the stairs with being escorted to seats in the front row.  I nudged Maria and asked her if she knew who they were.  She said she didn’t.  Then the show began.

I got sucked right in with amazing scenes from all over the world.  A couple of my favorites were the Brown-Tufted Capuchin monkeys from Brazil learning how to crack nuts and a male hippo in Africa that had to give up his shrinking mud puddle and search for some new digs.  The LA Philharmonic was amazing, adding to the action and drama.  It was such a nice break, like a retreat from the stress and chaos of MY life where I could just cruise around the world and watch story after story of another animal’s life.  Too soon, the episode was over.  With ten more to go, I can’t wait to see where I get to go next.  I highly recommend this show especially because it really is something totally different.  This is reality television.

Next we headed over to the central lobby area for the reception.  It was good to catch up with Maria and I ran into a couple of people I know.  Hollywood is such a small town.  The party was still going relatively strong as Maria and I decided to head out.  As we made our way through the people, I noticed the same guy from earlier.  He seemed friendly and was just casually speaking with some other guy.  I asked Maria, “Do I know that guy?”  Which can be a dangerous thing to say in Hollywood.  Because, you could be looking over at some guy in a bar, and be like, did I go to college with him?  And then realize, it’s Matt Damon.  Hey, it happens.  I know a lot of people.  Maria knows a lot of people.  We’ve been friends for over a decade, usually we can work it out.  The guy appeared friendly and cool enough that he’d be open to someone going up to him and saying, “you look really familiar.”  I even ran into a college classmate I hadn’t seen in years at the last Discovery Channel event I went to…Except I recognized her right away.  I’m just saying I know people.  It wasn’t totally crazy.  So anyway, I decided to shrug mystery guy off.

Then, the next day, it suddenly hit me who mystery guy was:  Bear Grylls!  I was talking to Chip, my 3 year old, who, along with Surfer Guy is a HUGE, ENORMOUS fan of Man vs. Wild which is Bear Gryll’s show!  I looked at Chip and said, “Chip, you won’t believe this, but I saw Bear Grylls at a party last night.”  Chip looked at me with a goofy smile and said, “Noooo…”  I explained that I didn’t realize it was him because he wasn’t crawling through a jungle, looking for bugs to eat, in fact he was all cleaned up.  I e-mailed my PR contact who confirmed that it was him at the premiere with his wife.  When Surfer Guy got home, Chip said, “Mom, are you going to tell Dad who you saw at the party last night?”  Surfer Guy was totally impressed and disappointed I didn’t talk to him.  So, you see, I am looking back and kicking myself a little.  Bear seemed like he would have gotten a kick out of me going up to him and telling him my son and husband were really huge fans and could I get a picture?  Aw, shucks, maybe I’ll get another chance.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Suze Orman Says Save

One thing I don’t believe I’ve yet revealed to my dear readers is that in a former life I worked for a major investment firm.  Combine that professional experience with a bit of genetic predisposition to managing money well (thanks, Dad), I’m in a good position to handle my family’s finances.  However, I realize that most people don’t share my background.  I further realize that many people feel overwhelmed when they even start to think about tackling their money lives.  One of the few "financial gurus” out there who I actually listen to regularly is Suze Orman.  I particularly like Suze because she presents things in a simple fashion.  Sometimes you just gotta take the first steps to get some momentum when it comes to taking care of your money.  I think that by following at least *some* of Suze’s advice, you can get on the right track.

So imagine my excitement when I heard Suze would be in town and she was interested in meeting with a couple of LA Moms Blog members.  How cool to be chosen along with one of my favorite fellow LA Moms, Kim Tracy Prince who also wrote about our adventure with Suze on the LA Moms Blog.  Kim and I headed over to Smashbox Studios in Culver City where Suze was shooting some video for her newest venture with TD Ameritrade, Suze Orman’s Save Yourself Retirement Program.  It was really a trip to step from the pouring rain outside to the bright lights and Suze Orman and all the production crew doing their thing on the set.  Suze’s girlfriend, K.T., came right over and made sure Kim and I were all situated.  Then Suze came over and we were introduced.  Her first question: “Ok, mommy bloggers, do you make money from your blogging?”  Both Kim and I answered, “That’s what our moms want to know!”  Then Suze was off for an outfit change and then back out to tape another segment.

I totally agree with Suze: you do need to save yourself.  Saving for retirement is an absolute necessity.  This is underlined considering we don’t even know if Social Security will exist by the time my generation retires.  But, like anything that seems difficult or complicated or overwhelming, opening an IRA is something easy to put on your to-do list and never get to-do.  Suze’s Save Yourself Retirement Program is certainly NOT the only way to save for retirement and I’m NOT saying it’s the best way for YOU to save for retirement.  But, if you are reading this and you are over, say, age 18 and you DO NOT have any retirement savings, then Suze’s program is quite possibly for you.  Suze literally holds your hand through the process of opening your Save Yourself Retirement Account.  You only need $100 to open the account which, I applaud Suze and TD Ameritrade for allowing such a low opening amount.  Many investment companies require $2500 minimums to open accounts.  I was given a membership kit when I met Suze and just put it through a test drive.  There is Suze on the screen talking you through the steps.  You really don’t have an excuse not to open an account.  It is not difficult and support is available if you need it.

During breaks I had the opportunity to speak with Paula DeLaurentis, Managing Director, Strategic Alliances, TD Ameritrade who happens to have been employed at my old firm at the same time I was.  Small world!  I was able to get some more info about Suze’s program from Paula.  There are some specific benefits of opening up this IRA: you can make 24 commission free trades (a savings of $9.99 per trade).  Members get access to Suze’s Retirement Resource Center and Webinars including 30 video guides, access to timely AND updated articles, invitations to member only live webinars with Suze, and the ability to ask questions online anytime.  Suze strongly believes that anyone who has at least ten years to go before they intend to retire (and need their money) should invest in ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).  Suze says ETFs offer you a great way to diversify your money in a cost-effective manner.  I would agree, I am a fan of ETFs myself.  However, how do you decide which ETFs to invest in?  Suze has turned to Dorsey Wright & Associates for her program’s ETF research.  According to Suze, “DWA is the ETF “go to” source for the financial industry, including professional investors on Wall Street and around the world.”  Access to DWA’s investment guidance is included in the Save Yourself membership.  Finally, Dorsey Wright & Associates have created three ETF model portfolios for members to use as their investment choices if they choose. 

Then, at last, Kim and I got to sit down with Suze.  We had our flip cameras with us and got some great video clips.  I was so thrilled to get all this awesome info and to be sitting right across from Suze!  I'm an active Twitter user, and spoke with Suze about how great it is to see her on there, @SuzeOrmanShow, interacting with her followers.  She even tweeted back at me a few months ago.  She also is relatively new on Facebook and YouTube, which are all great ways to keep up with the latest Suze information and happenings.  As a follower of Suze Orman, I know she is very much against people leasing cars as well as being in debt.  When I told her the name of my blog was “Traded My BMW for a Minivan” and “I paid cash for my BMW and traded it for my minivan at 0% financing.” Suze replied, “Good girl.” Woo hoo!  Suze Orman gave me props!   At the end of our meeting, Suze signed copies of her book “Women & Money” for us and left us inspired to go save ourselves and encourage you to do the same.

Update: Suze discontinued her Save Yourself Retirement Program at TD Ameritrade. However, all the ideas and content in the post and videos are timeless.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Los Angeles Moms Blog Party

I am a proud contributor to the Los Angeles Moms Blog.  I was privileged to attend a very fun party last week along with some members of our soon to be launched sister site, The Orange County Moms Blog.  The event was held at the lovely Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.  I was really excited for the opportunity to catch up in person with so many of my sisters-in-blogging.  It was an added bonus to meet so many great companies with all kinds of swell products.  My readers know that I love checking out products and experiences and reporting what I find out.  So, with that, I share with you a bit about who I met and what I learned:  BitDefender is global leader in anti-virus/internet security.  BitDefender  is about to launch which will be THE security resource for online moms.  Stride Rite shoes was on hand and I learned that they also have Keds and Sperry Topsider…All three names echo from my youth!  I was really intrigued by Litl, which is a new kind of computer that really has something for everyone.  I have decided that I must have a Litl.  As I was pondering obtaining a Litl, I happened upon Cinnabon, but not Cinnabon’s cinnamon sticky buns.  Cinnabon is actually coming out with cupcakes.  For you, my dear readers, I tasted all 4 flavors and I loved them all.  But my favorite?  The carrot cake.  To burn off the cupcakes, I kept moving on to Ebates.  Everyone who shops online should sign up for Ebates.  You get paid to shop.  I belong and get a few checks a year.  I think that says it all.  I’m going to play favorites, and the next one was a favorite: iGo was there and gave me their Charge Anywhere and I was in love.  It’s a charger that you can recharge and take so that when you are away from power, you can recharge your cell phone (as well as many other devices)!  Dole was talking about their Dole Challenge.  I needed a caffeine boost and luckily Bosch Appliances had set up shop with their Tassimo and I was able to make myself a tasty latte.  I think I need a paragraph break. Ahhhh.  This might be a good time to play Bejeweled, actually, which we received in our gift bags.
When I lived in West Hollywood, I practically lived in the Whole Foods across the street.  I’m sad that I no longer can walk to a Whole Foods.  However, I was able to walk over and chat with them at our party.  Growing up in New England, I’ve been a fan of Stonyfield Farms for a long time.  I was interested to try their new Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt, which was so tasty, it made me want to break the dish.  But, I didn’t.  I’ve used Erba Organics on both my babies and was happy to pick up some samples from them.  You just have to check Taga out to believe it.  It’s a bike…No…It’s a stroller…Wait! It’s a bike!  All I know is I want a Taga and I want one in orange, please.  Babies, the movie will be in theaters Mother’s Day Weekend and is a film that follows four babies in four different countries.  How perfect that the next table I visited was Ju-Ju-Be?  I’m a total diaper bag minimalist.  Two years ago, I found the perfect bag, the Ju-Ju-Be Be Quick in Citrus Sorbet and I was so happy to see one of my favorite brands at our party!  Next up was Joseph’s Rugs, they are doing a cool thing where you can have the service of a rug consultant online for free!  I am really looking forward to visiting Pretend City in Irvine with Chip and Lulu, it’s an interactive museum that allows kids to pretend to be the adults.
I love Skechers because you can get shoes for the whole family in one store.  So, I was very happy to see they were in attendance at the LA Moms Blog party.  I was even more excited when they offered me a pair of their new Shape Ups.  Shape Ups are shoes that promote weight loss, reduce stress on knees and tone muscles among other things.  I got a cool pair in black.  I can’t wait to try them out.  They are kind of “different” in that they look like a rocking/rolling type of sole.  But the idea is that they get you to walk a certain way in order to get all the benefits.  I learned about Bootights at the party and then received a pair to try out a few days later.  They are one of those, “Finally, someone invented this!” things.  They are tights that have a sock built in to the foot area.  The sock portion comes in ankle and mid-calf lengths, perfect for the two types of boots I have.  I highly recommend Whrrl, a cool application that allows you to “check-in” and tell stories with pictures using your mobile device or computer.  You can share your stories on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.  PosePrints is a unique way to personalize your invitations and cards and Busy Body Books are a great way to keep your family organized!  Whew, what a great party and what an interesting mix of companies and products!
Photo Credits: Carla Duharte Razura of for all the photos in my post.