Put a Pin on It – Halloween Spooktacular

You’re probably tired of hearing this every year, but just to review: I hate Halloween, I hate making food that prioritizes looks over taste, and I especially hate trying to make something look as cool as it does on Pinterest. So what did I choose for this week’s kid cooking class? Just an entire meal of cutesy, spooky food. It would be hard enough making it all myself, but supervising three 7-year-olds making eight different recipes in only 1½ hours seemed like pure crazy.

I tried to stay away from too much sweet stuff and stick to things that could be served for dinner. Here’s our menu – I’ve included links to the original recipes, but I didn’t always follow each recipe exactly.

Pinterest Fails

Surprisingly, only a few of our menu items could actually qualify for pinterestfail.com.

Mini Spider Pizzas This would not have been a fail if I had actually read the suggestion to put the olives on after cooking, but I really, really, really hate having to read through an entire blog post just to get to a recipe. Instead, I scroll as quickly as possible past the thirty two step-by-step pictures straight to the recipe at the end. That is how this:


became this:


The dough should have been rolled out more and the poor little spiders were torn limb from limb as they cooked. My husband came home later and said, “Oh, I didn’t even realize they were supposed to be spiders!” That’s how big of a fail this attempt was.

Cheesy Bones This was actually the most fun for the kids to make but for decency’s sake, I can’t post a picture of the finished product. I’ll let you use your imagination.


Carrot Pumpkins – Even a self-proclaimed carrot hater tried these, and we didn’t even lose any fingers!


Clementine Pumpkins – Easy peasy and everyone loves clementines.


Mummy Dogs – An oldie but goodie. Each kid had his/her own style. It might be predictable, but at least we didn’t make those horrible hot dogs made to look like human fingers. Those make me want to vomit.


Boo-nana Pops – How can you go wrong with white chocolate?

Candy Corn Jello Cups – (not to be confused with jello shots). I was worried about successfully layering these, but they’re pretty cute! Although, I doubled the recipe and still only had enough for six servings.


Spider Web Eggs – Full disclosure: the kids didn’t help with these. I meant to have them at least peel the eggs, but the look is totally ruined if you don’t peel very carefully, so I did it myself. The kids don’t like deviled eggs, so we just sent them home as-is, but look how cool they are!


My kitchen’s a giant mess, but it was totally worth it. I love all the cute stuff we made, and I especially love the little monsters who helped me. Look at them. With faces like these, who needs masks?


Gettin’ Jetty With It

Every December, I scramble to find the perfect calendar to hang up in my kitchen. You would think it would be simple, but it always seems like a monumental decision and I end up scrolling through page after page of options. For a few years, I stuck with the cute Play With Your Food calendars, but the novelty wore off and I had to move on. Then I found the Environmental Art calendar and haven’t looked back. I love it, my kids love it, my students love it – it’s a hit.

I think I like it so much because if I can hang interesting stuff on my wall, I seem more interesting, right? Of course, if I really stop to think about it, I realize that actual interesting people actually go outside their house to actually look at actual environmental art in real life. I started to feel like this print of Magritte’s The Human Condition (also hanging on my wall to make me seem more interesting).


We have actual environmental art here in Utah but for some reason, I haven’t managed to leave my humdrum couch to get out and see it in real life. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty has been in the Great Salt Lake since before I was born and I finally decided to visit it.

As far as planning our trip and finding our way there, we found our best information here. Our phone maps told us it would take an hour longer each way than it actually took (2.5 hours each way). We also visited the Golden Spike museum since it was on the way (and we got our 7th grader some extra credit for it in his Utah Studies class).


The drive from the museum out to the Spiral Jetty isn’t as treacherous as some websites made it seem. It is very bumpy, so it was slow-going, but it wasn’t very tricky in our minivan. Parking seems like it would be fine on a normal day, but we happened to go the same day that the Utah Museum of Fine Arts scheduled a community meet up, complete with speakers, musicians, and a big bus (which luckily didn’t arrive until we were leaving).


I wandered out onto the jetty with the boys (which I thought was the coolest)while my husband listened to the presentation (which he thought was the coolest).

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.


We definitely want to come back when we have more time, more boys, and fewer other people. This was much better than just looking at pictures. Who knew?


Mormon congregations (wards) are divided geographically, which means we don’t really choose who we’ll be worshiping with. This can be a little strange in places with high Mormon concentrations because it means your neighbor across the street might be in a different ward so you might see them every day but interact with them and their family in a very different way than you might with a next-door neighbor who is in your ward.

I’ve always thought it was a good system – bloom where you’re planted and all that, but we recently found out the boundaries of our ward have been changed a bit. As a result, some really good friends who really only live a few houses away have been moved to a neighboring ward. I know I’ll still see them, but there’s something about singing songs with toddlers together or cleaning the church building together, or sitting in adjacent pews that’s different from just waving at the mailbox or chatting at the grocery store.

In addition to one of my toilet papering partners and my friend who introduced me to Tabwe’re losing many other good friends, some of my favorites, including some very wise people I’ve looked up to for the last nine years. I know all I have to do is walk around the block to see these friends, but I’m still sad to think of going back to church this Sunday without them.

One of these friends is Julie, who lives two houses down. We’ve endured endless play practices together and my kids would live at her house if they had the choice. Julie did my hair in an updo for a fake prom and gave me a lovely facial for Mother’s Day. She was sitting behind me in the meeting where it was announced that we would no longer be in the same ward. The other congregation is lucky to get Julie and all of my other friends and I hope they treat them well.

This week, Julie suggested we try out a new dance class in town for adults. I quit dance lessons shortly after I fell in one and broke my collarbone in elementary school. It was no great loss, really, since I’m not a good dancer. Trying a dance class has been on my list from the start, but I’ve always felt too intimidated. Going with a friend seemed like the best idea.


We invited our other neighbor, Melissa, and when we arrived, we found three more members of our ward (our pre-split ward, that is), including the teacher of the class. It was the perfect going away party for Julie and our other friend Kassi.


I’m not very graceful, but in this class I didn’t feel stupid or confused. Everything was explained very clearly and we got to learn things step by step (I even tried the splits!!!). All the other ladies were friendly and funny and I really enjoyed myself. I’m thinking of going back the next time I have a free Thursday night.

If you’re local and want to give it a try, it’s at the City Center Thursdays at 8 p.m. As our teacher April said, “What happens in dance class stays in dance class,” and for that I am grateful. No one needs to see me dance. I was just happy for the exercise and for the chance to learn something new with old friends.


And in case we can’t make it to dance class consistently, we’ll always have Prancercise.



Spice Girl

It was officially the first day of fall which means it’s that time of year when we are inundated with pumpkin spice-flavored EVERYTHING. I’ve gotten over my childhood aversion to pumpkin pie and I even have a few recipes I really like, but I have to draw the line somewhere. It’s just TOO MUCH.

In fact, I hate the pumpkin spice obsession so much, I just had to make a blog challenge out of it. I spent all week eating this stuff so maybe you won’t have to, hoping to discover whether adding pumpkin spice to a product improves it or ruins it. Here are the results of my extensive study.



In case you’re in need of a one-stop pumpkin spice dealer, you probably can’t go wrong with either Target or Trader Joe’s. No shortage there. In fact, I think I exercised great restraint (mostly because none of it was tempting to me). These products were so good, I might even consider buying them again. I mean next year, though, because after this week, I need a year to cleanse my palate.

Archer Farms Pumpkin Pancake Mix (Target): Delicious with a little bit of syrup and a whole lot of whipped cream. I was introduced to this years ago and I still like it.


Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice Bagels: Nice, mellow pumpkin spice flavor. I like them toasted with plain cream cheese.


Keebler Fudge Stripe (Pumpkin Spice): These surprised me because not only did they not make me gag, but I found myself actually wanting more. My kids really liked them too, especially because of the white chocolate.

Kellogg Company Keebler Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripes Cookies

Pumpkin Crunch CakeNot really a product, but this recipe was really good. I’m not sure about the walnut/pecan combination though – I’ll probably go all pecan next time. Served with whipped cream.


The next category includes food that didn’t make me gag but that I probably won’t buy again – stuff that left me wondering why.



Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice Granola (Target): I mostly liked this because I wasn’t overwhelmed by pumpkinyness and I always like granola, but I can’t see myself craving more.


Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn: I always like a good caramel corn, and I liked the addition of pumpkin seeds, but the pumpkin spice was a little too strong for me.


Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal and Frosted Mini Wheats: I just couldn’t see the point. With the Mini Wheats, I couldn’t really tell much of a difference, and I just felt like they ruined a perfectly good batch of Cinnamon Life by adding pumpkin spice.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter: I feel like I’m the only one in my family not obsessed with cookie butter, so I can’t tell if I’d like it more or less if I had strong feelings about the original. I liked the pumpkin kind as much as I do the original (meh), but I’m tempted to add some vanilla ice cream and make a milkshake. That just might bump it up in my estimation.


The final category includes all my regrets from this week. It does not include all the things I flat out refused to try – recipes and products that triggered my childhood gag reflex associated with pumpkin puree texture, color, or smell. I stayed far away from foods I could tell might make me puke but there were still some unexpected surprises.



Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Soup: I usually like their soups and I’ve had some very delicious pumpkin soups, especially in Bali, but this was just not good. I think pumpkin works when it’s either sweet or savory. This soup was just confused.


Pumpkin Spice Oreos: I suspected I would not like these and I was right. The taste is okay, but they tried to make the color of the filling resemble pumpkin pie, and something about that color and texture combined gave me dark feelings.


Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies: I love Milanos, plain or mint, so I had high hopes for these. Maybe that’s why I felt so betrayed when I bit into these waxy things. It just felt so wrong. How did these make it past market research? Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should, Pepperidge Farm.

Image converted using ifftoany

Pumpkin Cheesecake Snickerdoodles:  So much work, so little payoff. These were a pain to make and they resulted in gigantic cookies I felt like all the milk in the world couldn’t wash down. I love snickerdoodles and my kids love snickerdoodles, but these sat mostly uneaten for several days before I finally threw them out.


Have you ever noticed that, for the most part, pumpkin spice recipes/products are really only good if you add enough cream cheese, whipped cream, or white chocolate? Maybe our obsession with pumpkin spice really just reflects society’s very basic, very real need for more cream cheese frosting. Or maybe we should ask ourselves: if we have to pile on sweet cream to mask the flavor of our food, should we really be eating that food in the first place? I think there is a time and a place for everything, including pumpkin pie. Let’s keep it in November where it belongs, the way the pilgrims intended!

Polishing Up

I was in high school the last time I remember painting my fingernails. I had a piano audition in the choir room and as I recall, it didn’t go very well. When I played, I was used to seeing plain, stubby fingernails, so it was very distracting to suddenly see flashes of blood red. I wondered what I’d been thinking, painting my nails. Why had I chosen this, of all days, to decide to be girly?

I swore never to paint my nails again, and aside from the occasional Halloween costume, I have stuck with my promise. I’ve never regretted it – with my pianist-length nails, it seemed pretty pointless. Plus, I have actual Man Hands (proven in a side-by-side comparison with my grandfather’s identical hands), and while I’ll admit they’re quite useful, they are not at all attractive and I see no reason to draw attention to them by adding polish. And, as I discussed in one of my earliest blog posts, for a long time, I snootily saw painting my nails as a frivolous waste of time (as if I spent it doing anything more noble or elevated).

Another reason I didn’t want to draw attention to my hands is that I just don’t think any hands are attractive. I know it’s common to hate the sight of feet, but I get grossed out by fingers (especially long, creepy ones). I don’t mind watching fingers doing useful things, but fingers reaching out as if they’re about to grab you really bother me. My kids enjoy drawing pictures of fingers–or things made entirely out of fingers–just to bug me. They often wave their fingers in my face just to get a rise out of me and they keep threatening to buy me those awful finger hands.


Fingers with super long nails creep me out even more. I’ve been trying to stop saying, “How can anyone…” but seriously, how can anyone find these attractive?


A few weeks ago, I babysat a little girl who asked me to paint her fingernails. Luckily, she was easily distracted and moved on to another idea quickly, but I was surprised by my panicked reaction (Fingernails? Me? Do I even know how? This is why I have no daughters!!!) and decided it was time to get over my aversion.

My husband was surprised. “You never paint your fingernails? Did I know that?” Then a few minutes later when he walked back into the room, “Wow, you’re right. I never realized it, but it’s really weird to see you with polish.”

And it was so weird. Like mirror shock, but always there in my peripheral vision. Do I have a piece of spinach stuck to me? No, just my nails.  Did I cut myself? No, just my nails.Did I not wash off all the flour after making bread? Is that White-Out? No, just my nails.


It bothered me that I could feel the polish all the time. I always felt like it wasn’t quite dry and that I’d stain everything I touched. Also, I always assumed the smell went away after a while, but every time my hand was near my face, I had flashbacks of the Stop Zit polish my little sister used to wear at night to discourage thumb sucking.

Since I wanted to get a broad range of experience, I polished and removed polish and re-polished almost daily. I realize that most people keep the same polish on for a while so it’s probably not as tedious for them, but how do they prevent daily chipping? After only a few hours of playing the piano or cleaning the house, the tips of my nails were already chipping away and looking pretty trashy. If I had polished nails regularly, I’d have to either maintain them vigilantly or just do nothing all day but sit back and admire my nails. That doesn’t seem like it would work, long-term.


I’m also really bad at painting nails. One of the days this week, I hired my 11-year-old neighbor to do it for me, but then she left town and I was forced to develop my own skills.

I even tried to get a little fancy with some lady-bug dots. I don’t think anyone will be hiring me anytime soon.


After a while, it became less strange to see my nails painted but I never felt like they made me more attractive. My hands are still just tools and I still don’t want to draw attention to them, but there was one particular color that made me feel a little nicer when I wore it, probably because it was pretty humdrum and neutral.


Maybe I’ll even pull it out sometimes on special occasions. You know, the kind that call for painted nails. I have yet to encounter such an occasion, but you never know. All I do know is that right now I just really, really want to take this stuff off!


No Comment

Why on earth did I even go there? I have a strict rule against reading the comments section online and I broke that rule, all for a dumb blog post. I took detailed notes, thought through categories and types of comments, and tried to understand where every side was coming from so I could write a balanced, thoughtful post. But it just made me feel icky to repeat stuff I didn’t want to read in the first place and I felt guilty about subjecting others to the stupidity, anger, name calling, terrible spelling, and even poetry (poetry!! terrible, terrible poetry!) spewed on the screen by people feeling safe in anonymity.


Bottom line: Don’t Read The Comments! They represent only the fringiest members of each side: caricatures of liberals or conservatives, of religious or non-religious, Coke vs. Pepsi, you name it, who paint those who disagree with them as even more cartoonish. Reading the comments made me hate everyone and I don’t want to hate anyone. Well, except maybe the dude who wrote the poem. I kinda want to hate him. It was really bad.

After School Special

After two weeks of being a full-time mom every afternoon, I can now report that our lives are very different now. I know it might sound mundane, but to us these new developments are a big deal. After 18 years, I think it’s about time.

We have time to go to the library together every week. My boys get to choose their own books instead of being stuck with whatever I used to grab for them while they were in school. I even check out books for myself and I even have time to read them, a luxury usually only reserved for summer break.

I am now a soccer mom, I guess. I don’t know if it counts if I only have one kid playing twice a week and I read books whenever he’s not on the field. We used to stick to basketball because the practices were late enough in the evening and the games were all on Saturday. Other sports were pretty much impossible, especially soccer. So even though Fritz is still figuring it out and I don’t know enough to know what he still needs to learn (and I’m pretty sure he’s playing in baseball cleats), we’re pretty excited about it around here.


I get to help my kids with their homework and practicing now. I’ve been amazed at how much progress they make at the piano when I practice with them. For the first time ever, I’ve quizzed my child on spelling words. I’m aware of upcoming projects and deadlines. My kids are pretty independent and did a lot on their own, but it’s nice to feel I’m in the loop now.

One difference I’ve noticed is that it bothers me when Big O isn’t home. He’s really busy with extracurricular activities and work, so sometimes I only see him a few minutes before school, a few minutes as I drive him to work, and, if I’m still awake, a bit when he gets home at night. When I was teaching, I didn’t really notice how much he was gone because I was busy too. I liked that he was busy. Now I’m starting to resent it because now I miss him.

I enjoy cleaning now. I don’t understand it, and I don’t know if it will last forever, but for the first time in my life, I haven’t been seeing housework as drudgery. It’s like I’m a different person or something.

And here’s one of my favorite changes. For years, my kids have begged to get to take a cooking class. Last year, I asked around to different moms in the neighborhood to see if they’d be interested in making a little extra money by teaching a kids’ cooking class once a week, but there were no takers. As soon as Fritz heard I would be available after school, his greatest wish was for me to teach him how to cook. Then my two friends (and toilet papering partners) decided to join me and rotate teaching each week. Last week, Itzel taught them to make pretzels. Have you ever seen anything cuter?

This week I had them make ice cream sandwiches. Things got a little bit crazy by the end. Far too many giggles.

The original plan was to make homemade ice cream (Fritz’s current obsession) for the filling, but then I remembered that I should ease into this Super Mom stuff and just buy the ice cream.

I may not have it all figured out, but I think I’m going to like this new gig.