Monday, February 28, 2011

"Egg Plants"

My sincere apologizes to all of my friends in arctic regions of the world, but spring is in the air here in sunny Central Florida and I just have to talk about it.

Now, I'm not bragging, but it has been nice enough outside to wear shorts and sandals.  And once or twice this past weekend I actually felt hot standing outside.

I'm not bragging though.  I am just sharing.

And the monkeys have actually been in the pool.  Of course, they have no nerve endings and so they can handle the frigid water.  Not me though.  I'll wait until the water warms up another 20 degrees or so.  I prefer the water when it is more like bath water than pool water.  I am weird like that.

But, I am just telling you all this because I like to share.  I am not trying to rub in the fact that you are still shoveling snow while I pick oranges or anything like that, really.  Honestly.

So, since it is really beautiful outside and spring is almost here in Central Florida, in February, we have decided to start our adventures in gardening.

We are starting on a small scale for now, but we have big plans.  BIG, I tell you!

For now, the youngest monkey girls and I wanted to celebrate the lovely weather by growing some flowers.

Enter "Egg Plants"...

These adorable eggs were sent to the monkeys by Music Man's mom and dad.

The monkeys cracked the top of their "eggs" with a spoon. Each egg holds seeds for a different flower. We will be growing Marigolds, Snapdragons, and Impatiens.  

A little water...

And presto!  We will keep you updated on the progress of the egg plants.

For now though, I need to go sit outside on the patio and have some iced tea.

Now, I am not bragging or anything.

I just love iced tea on a warm, nearly spring day.

And I just want to share with you how much I love living in sunny Central Florida.

But I am not bragging.  Really.  Sincerely.

You can come and visit anytime.

Hugs and sunshine,


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Something Beautiful - A Death and a Birth

This past week was one of wonder for me.  Really, I was in awe of life and its lessons. Of God and His goodness and mercy.

The realization that there is a time for everything.  A time to be born and a time to die. 

I found myself pondering how profound it was to be writing out a sympathy card to a dear lady from our church.  She and her husband of 59 years parted ways (for awhile at least) last week.  His death was sudden.  His life's journey on this Earth was complete.  It was time for him to go home. My heart aches for his sweet bride.  A time to grieve...

The other card that a held in my hand was addressed to a young couple we know who are expecting a baby very soon.  A time to be born.  A new life.  A life journey beginning here on Earth.  All the newness, all the promises.  A time to rejoice...

The ebb and flow of life.  Endings and beginnings.  As we travel on life's road full of joys and sorrows.

And that is something beautiful.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mr. Green Screen

Our middle monkey boy loves to make movies.  He and his friends will spend hours shooting scenes in and around our house.  It makes me feel like I am on the set of some crazy, stream of consciousness sitcom.

I am impressed by their focus and their stamina.  Like when they need to get that fart scene just right even if it takes them twenty tries.

I am also a bit paranoid that they will pull some kind of candid camera stunt on me and post it on You Tube for the entire world to see.  I find myself looking over my shoulder a lot and checking cabinets and laundry piles to make sure there are no hidden microphones or cameras.

Recently, our monkey man got himself a green screen and lighting kit.  He had saved up some sweet moolah for about a year. Then he researched and educated himself on the right supplies to purchase.  He made us very proud, he did.

This picture makes me smile.  All the big monkeys are working together to set up the green screen which proved to be quite a job. 

The concentration (Or is that constipation?) on his face just kills me.

And here he is plotting his next cinematic masterpiece.

Which probably involves taking this shot of his sisters jumping and editing it to look like they are wearing flatulation powered suits that are blasting them off into outer space.

Just imagine if you will, the sound effects and visuals that would go along with this scene.  It's enough to bring a tear to my eye.

I am one proud / paranoid / potty humored momma.



The Newbie's Guide to New York City-Part II-Food Glorious Food!

Someone once told me that New York City has over 18, 000 places to eat!  From five star restaurants to little mom and pop shops and everything in between.  Whew!  That is a lot of places to fill your faces.

It would take someone like 50 + years to eat at every single eatery, if they went to a new place each day. Crazy!

Well, when my oldest daughter, in laws and I were in NYC recently, we did not even come close to trying all 18, 000 restaurants.  But we did enjoy some totally amazing food.  My hips and thighs can testify to it.

Here is a culinary recap:

The luck of the Irish was with us as we paid a visit to Langan's, located near Times Square.  The corn beef and cabbage soup was just delicious and the bread pudding, help me!

For THE BEST HOT DOG you will ever eat go to Gray's Papaya.

Gray's Papaya? Yes, you read it correctly.  This hot dog joint is named after one of the famous juices that it serves.

Here is the wall of juicy drinks:

And here is my oldest monkey girl and her grandmama enjoying THE BEST HOT DOG EVER!

We had some pretty near perfect pizza at John's Times Square.  What a cavernous place this is!  There is a gorgeous winding staircase that leads up to a large second floor dining area and I counted three brick pizza ovens. The service was excellent. 

Pasta, pasta, pasta, the soul food of my life.  Hey, I'm part Italian, what can I say?  The best place to find real Italian, homemade pasta is on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.  Il Palazzo proved to be a winner in my book.

And since I have this obsession with gnochhi (potato dumplings in blush sauce), I ordered a large plate full of the little darlings.  My great grandparents used to make gnocchi from scratch.  It is such a comfort food for me.  And thus, I ate so much of it, I almost could not move which was not comfortable at all.

There are so many options for breakfast in New York.  I really enjoyed one place in particular,  Pershing Square just outside of Grand Central Station.  The oatmeal and walnut waffles were to die for!

Okay, I have gained 10 lbs just reminiscing about the glorious food in New York, and I have not even mentioned the desserts yet.  Well, suffice it to say, that I sampled a sweet or two or three or ...

I have to give kudos to the Olive Garden for supplying us with some very tasty desserts.  I had a custard sampler that was divine.  White chocolate amaretto... dark chocolate with caramel.  Oh my!

Well, there you have it.  I may have been a NYC Newbie, but I can testify to good food when I taste it.  And boy, did I ever taste it.  My scale can testify to that.



Monday, February 21, 2011

My Quest for Skinny Jeans- I am a Camel

I am a camel.

I need very little to drink on a daily basis. I have to remind myself to drink frequently throughout the day.

And what I drink needs to be somewhat fun and definitely refreshing.

Water?  Please, no, no, no!

Water with lemon or even better water with lime?

Why yes, I do believe I will have a glass.  And can you put one of those little umbrella thingys in it for me please?  Thank you!

Oh and fan me and feed me grapes...What?  Wait!  I digress.

Yes, staying hydrated is not an easy task for me. Since I have started this quest, I have been much more diligent about taking in enough fluid.  After all, proper hydration helps the body to process nutrients.  When the body is properly hydrated it can effectively get rid of waste, and fat, and other undesirable junk (like the hot dogs, soft pretzels with cheese, and Snickers bar that I had in New York last week).  

I want to share with you some of the beverages that have wet my whistle this past month:

Kombucha- oh yes!  This stuff is the pro-biotic bomb!  If you are not familiar with the goodness that is kombucha, you can find out more about it here.  I happen to love the GT's lavender and elderberry infused kombucha.  So relaxing and mellow.

Or, when I want to kick it up a notch Bradford Tonic B-Ginger does me right!  This sassy little beverage is amazing served over ice and sipped pool side with Music Man fanning me and feeding me grapes.  Or it would also go great with tortilla chips and homemade salsa.

I also enjoy Prince of Peace Organic Jasmine Tea and their ginger drink crystals (this has honey in it so there is a higher sugar content).

And, one other drink that has peaked my interest lately has been coconut water.  It is light and refreshing.  I have only tried one brand but I can not remember the name.  I will be exploring this drink more this month. 

To be honest, I do not drink the suggested 64 ounces of fluid per day, but I do try to drink a beverage with each meal and most every morning I start the day off with a smoothie which counts toward my fluid intake.

So although I am a camel by nature when it comes to hydrating, I am changing my camel ways these days and going for the oasis.

How about you?  How do you hydrate?  Are you a camel?  Or a fish? Is your momma a llama? (Never mind, I have been reading too many children's books to monkeys today.)

And now the moment we have all been waiting weight's bad.  I have gained some weight since my last weigh in.  Right now the scale is showing 163!  Yikes!  But, I am not going to get too discouraged.  Weight can fluctuate up and down a bit.  Especially after an epic trip to New York that included copious amounts of fantastic food.  And am I not sorry for it.  Nope, not one bit!

How about you all out there?  How's everyone doing on their quest?  Inquiring camels want to know...



Saturday, February 19, 2011


There are these domes of dessert goodness that beckon to me night and day...

I dream about them.

I see them in mirages on the hot Central Florida highways.

I crave them with a fierce intensity that just doesn't cease.

Hi, my name is Melissa, and I am a cupcake-aholic.

There I said it.  I admit it.  I am accepting full responsibility for my cupcake addiction.

The intervention?

Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly is a local cupcake boutique located in the Waterford Lakes Town Center in East Orlando.

This sweet little shop is a cupcake connoisseur's dream come true. The cupcake case is loaded with miniature domes of culinary perfection.  From Red Velvet to Creamsicle cupcakes, there are flavors galore for your taste buds to explore. 

Recently, we took the littlest monkeys to Sweet for a treat.  They are all sweet tooths like their mother before them. 

We bought a dozen of the mini cupcakes (Miss Holly makes full-sized cupcakes too).  The kids helped us select a variety:  German chocolate, White Out (white chocolate), Creamsicle, Boston Cream, Chocolate Strawberry, and Top Hat.

The monkeys' went wild for the Top Hat cupcake.  It is a delectable dark chocolate cake topped with a chocolate ganache dipped vanilla buttercream "hat". So, so yum!

Sweet!  is family friendly and oh so fun!  On Mondays, the mini cupcakes are just $1.  A lovely price for the perfect cupcake.  Miss Holly even serves up a selection of gluten-free cupcakes.

Oh, and if cupcakes just aren't your thing (please seek intervention), then Sweet! also serves up frozen yogurt.  There are tons of toppings and you can create your own frozen masterpiece.

So there you have it.  One cupcake lover's solution for her addiction.  Feed the addiction!  Get your Sweet! on.




Everyone in our family is a musician.

Everyone that is except for me.

I just drive them to their lessons and pretend like I know what a treble note and eighth signs are.

Every good boy deserves french fries, right?

Staccato / Stiletto or something like that.

Anyhow, this is a musical family all right (minus one).

Piano, guitar, bagpipes (just kidding), drums, didgeridoo (not kidding).  You name it they play it.

Oh, and they also sing.  Boy, they are their father's monkeys when it comes to all things musical.

Recently, two of our monkeys participated in a regional piano competition.  They practiced their piano pieces daily for months in preparation for the competition.  Played their finger tips to the bone.  To the bone, I tell you.

And all that hard work paid off.  Because they each got a superior (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) rating.  Way to go musical monkeys! 

And a great big, huge, heart felt thank you to the monkeys' piano teacher.


The Proud Non-Musically Inclined Momma of Some Very Musically Inclined Monkeys

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Newbie's Guide to New York City- Part I - Getting Around

One week ago today, the oldest monkey girl and I hopped on a plane and went on a little adventure...

in New York City.

We met my awesome mother and father-in-law at LaGuardia Airport.

They were to be our fellow travelers.
The only catch is, that none of us had ever really spent much time in NYC before.  The only memories that I have of New York are blurry at best.  (Central Park as a hippy toddler in a backpack with flowers painted on my cheeks and then again as a brace-faced teenager hoofing it around Manhattan with my two hip uncles.)

Needless to say, we were New York City Newbies. 

The first lesson that we learned right out of the gate (literally right as we walked out of the airport doors) was a lesson in transportation.
We needed a taxi to take us to our hotel, but none of us knew the whole "taxi drill" of the airport.  As we stepped out onto the carport, we were immediately approached by a town car driver who offered to take us to our destination for a mere $50!  WHAAAT??? Um, no thanks!  

Off to our right we saw the taxi stand, where many, many cabbies were lined up waiting their turn for a fare.  This we knew this was the place to go.

The sign kind of gave it away too.

Our cabbie was a really nice gentleman who owned his own cab and had been driving cabs for 44 years in NYC. We enjoyed chatting with him as he expertly navigated the highways and bi-ways.  By the end of our twenty minute ride, I knew how many kids he has, where he lives, his hobbies, what church he attends... I ask way too many questions.  What can I say? I love people's stories.

And, you know what?  Our fare was only $40 with the tip!  The town car was a total rip!

Moral of this transportation lesson:

Take the taxi, not the town car.

We took a couple other taxi's during our stay and that worked well.  You just have to tune out the fact that the driver is weaving wildly in and out of stop and go traffic, going about 70 miles per hour.  And the horns, oh, the horns...

The other really cool way that we got around New York City was by double decker bus.  We wanted to get "the lay of the land" and at $54 per person for 2 full days, the "Double D" proved to be a great investment.

There are a fleet of these buses that make stops in lower, upper and mid Manhattan. It's called the Gray Line and there are stops all throughout the city.  The buses run every 15 minutes, from 8 AM until 9 PM.  Each bus comes complete with an experienced tour guide.  Each of our tour guides was a total character.  One tour guide was a history buff and pointed out historical landmarks and told incredible stories. Another loved music and showed us where famous musicians had made their mark. One guy was quite humorous and kept us smiling and laughing the whole time.

There was even a night tour to Brooklyn with a drive across the Manhattan Bridge and amazing views of the city all lit up. 

The fact that you are sitting up so high off the ground with a clear dome over your head, really does give you a "bird's-eye view" of the city.  The buildings, the people, the shop windows, you see it all.  And when you want to get off and go explore on foot, you can.  Such a cool way to see the city! I highly recommend it.

We also enjoyed hoofing it around the city.  We walked all through SoHo, into China Town, down Canal Street and over to Mulberry Street in Little Italy.

All that walking made me hungry and I had to eat pasta.  Who goes to Little Italy and does not eat pasta?  So I ate, and ate, and ate.  And I fell in love.  It's name was gnocchi and I cry just thinking about that meal.  It was heaven on a pasta plate. But that is a whole other subject.  There will be another post about the darling gnocchi and other yum stuff that we ate.

So to sum up:

Taxi not town car
Double decker bus is way cool
Walk only if you can reward yourself with piles of pasta or some other amazing New York delicacy.

Pasta rules,


P.S.  If we would have been staying in New York for more than a few days, I would have felt very inclined to utilize the subway or the public bus system.  But, I am pretty slow when it comes to reading mass transit maps and directions.  I just did not feel that adventurous this time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Little Bit of This and a Lot of That

It's been awhile since I have blogified.

Life has been fun and full and full of fun this past week. 

There's been some of this...

And some of that...

 A little bit of this...

A LOT of that...

 Some of this...

 A little more of this...

And this...

And that... (What?  It's Hercules.  A beautiful work of art.)

And this!

To be continued...



Monday, February 7, 2011

Love is in the Air!

We have never been a family to get all caught up in the Valentines' Day hype. 

Sure, we have made and received some fun little cards from friends and gifted some candy or cookies here and there, but not much more than that.

So it puzzled me a few weeks ago, when our youngest monkey girl proclaimed that Valentines' Day was her favorite holiday.  She has been making heartsy crafts and has even picked out an outfit for the special day.

"Hmm"... I thought, "Where did this sudden onset of Valentines' Day love come from? Is our girl a true romantic at heart? Will we have to fight off the boys and lock her in the tower when she gets older?"

Then it hit me, our little monkey LOVES candy.  Adores it, asks for it every day (she's persistent), and enjoys every type of sugary goodness known to man, woman and child.  And since we are very strange parents and do not consider candy an everyday necessity, we figure our monkey girl sees Valentines' Day as her golden opportunity to score some sugar. Smart monkey!

I never decorate for Valentines' Day, but this year, I have gone and done it.  Two years ago, I found some very fun heart ornaments at IKEA.  My intention was to use them to decorate a Swedish themed Christams tree in honor of my husband's Scandinavian roots, but I never got around to it.  So, they sat in their plastic wraps and waited ever so patiently to make their debut.

And here they are adorning the love shack:

This Valentines' thing is contagious.  I am smitten.  And I have a serious sugar craving!



Sunday, February 6, 2011

From Green Crackers to Super Bowl Champs - Thata Baby, Pack!!!

 When our middle monkey boy was two, he called the Green Bay Packers the Green Crackers.

Music Man's parents were born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  They remember when the Packers used to play in the high school football stadium.

Being a Packer fan is not an option in this family.  You are born a fan, it's in the genetics. Period.

In this family, you are also genetically pre-disposed to loving cheese, lots of it.  Oh, and bratwurst, lots of it.  Burp.

Yep, we are Cheese Heads.  The whole lot of us.  From the itty bitty babies to...

the tumbly, bumbly toddlers to...

The Old Gultachuser. (click to read more)

And I think that I speak for us all when I quote the rally cry of my dear father-in-law...

"Thata Baby, Pack!!!"