Category Archives: advice and tips

Cocktail Time: Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz

A new twist on a old classic, with no actual gin in it.

A well-crafted cocktail can turn any evening into an event. Sometimes afternoons too. Lately, I’ve been getting creative with mixology as part of a creative process. The results of which have been, well… mixed. One of the more successful results (per my official taste-tester – the hubby) came in the form of a Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz. Which oddly enough, contains no gin at all.

What?!

As it turns out Sloe Gin is neither “slow” nor Gin. This liqueur is actually flavored with a relative of the plum, the Sloe. It garnered it’s false moniker due to the fact that the Sloe was often soaked in gin, it’s juices infusing into the juniper berry flavors of the gin. These days cheaper spirits are often used, but the name stuck.

Okay, History of Hooch 101 is over. Let’s get to the mixing. For this cocktail I chose to take full advantage of sweet, in-season, scrumptious black cherries found at the local Farmer’s Market. After pitting, they went for a spin in my juicer. 

Hey, juicing… that’s healthy, right?!

A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz uses a simple syrup, I’ve replaced that with the cherry juice. If you’re into very sweet drinks feel free to add it back in (4 jiggers for the yield in this recipe.)

Cheers!

Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz
Serves 4
A sweet, summery twist on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
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Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Jiggers (1.5 fl oz) Sloe Gin
  2. 4 Jiggers Lemon Flavored Vodka
  3. 4 Jiggers Black Cherry Juice
  4. Soda Water
  5. Ice
  6. Cocktail Shaker with Strainer
Instructions
  1. Fill Cocktail Shaker with ice. Add juice and spirits. Shake well. Strain out into your class of choice. Top with Soda Water. Garnish with a sprig of mint or slice of lemon
Notes
  1. A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz calls for a simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin. This version replaces the syrup with cherry juice, the lemon and gin with lemon-flavored vodka.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Down with Valentine’s Day – Up with Love

Few holidays are more contrived than the annual Commercialization d’Amore known as Valentine’s Day.  I wonder if martyred St. Valentine himself also the patron Saint of Beekeepers and Epilepsy, who knew?  would have had second thoughts about marrying those Christians and Roman soldiers forbidden martial bliss, had he known that centuries later his name would be attached to a day of obligatory cheap chocolates, cheesy baubles, and forced sentimentality.

Does it sound like I’m down on love?

Not. At. All.

In fact, I’m quite the hopeless romantic, prone to bouts of bad poetry and rambling love letters. Sonnet? I’m on it. (see, it’s pretty bad)

So what is my beef? Why am I again up on my well-worn soapbox? Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with receiving my annual cheap chocolate. Yes, I get it too ladies. What got me was watching a package on ABC World News last night (in 2014) in which the Roving Reporter slogged through the slick, soggy, icy and quite frankly, dangerous streets of Manhattan to deliver a ginormous bouquet of roses. 

In the piece our valiant delivery guy hands over they flora to the beaming woman, exclaiming, “Someone loves you. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

The door closes and the story goes on to chronicle the many Florists on the East Coast dealing with the dilemma of making deliveries in time for Valentine’s Day amid the storm’s aftermath. This story followed a feature on the treacherous conditions caused by the storm that had ravaged a swath of the country ranging from the South to the North East. saint valentine

I’m currently living through what the storm dumped, and I’ve gotta tell ya it was a nasty bugger.

The takeaway here folks was essentially this,  if the overpriced flowers, cheap chocolates, environmentally dangerous Mylar balloons and/or cheesy stuffed animals don’t get delivered ON or before February 14th, YOUR LOVE IS INVALID.  

Who cares about the safety of those delivering said “love”, or those who might love them… get the damn flowers there on time or my relationship is a sham!

My challenge to you is a boycott of this type of Valentine’s Day in favor of honoring True Love (yes, I said that in my best Princess Bride voice-over)

Do something from the heart, do it today. Maybe then also support those LOCAL Florists (ugh, one more box of mail-order sad looking flowers and I’m going to find a goat to feed them to) on a random Tuesday for no reason other than you love her/him and you want them to know it. 

Here are a few ideas for a NON-Commercialization D’Amore, that just might help you… um… score. wink

  • Write a love letter
  • Take care of the one chore they hate doing most
  • Make a meal, with your own two hands (seriously it’s not that hard there are a TON of blogs out there with simple recipes. Or heck, pop for one of those meal delivery kits. 
  • Rent -or stream- a classic flick that you both dig. Get some wine, snacks and act like you’re in high school all over again. Only without the insecurity and bad skin, ya know.
  • Go with the bad poetry, it works.
  • Play a game of Twister and do shots. You’re over 21, doesn’t mean you have to act like it. Let go, have fun!
  • Plan a getaway together. When you do that it allows you both to find things you each want to do and takes away some of that pressure to make it “perfect”.
  • Make a “mixtape”. Spotify is great for this. Put together songs that mean something to the both of you and then… DANCE!

Who needs Valentine’s Day anyway? Up with love every damn day!

note: this is a post first written in 2014 and now updated for 2019, meaning I pretty much just changed graphics because it’s still snow and also this shit is timeless advice, yo! 

 

 

Managing Kids Tech At Any Age

How many gadgets and connected devices are currently wrapped under your tree or secreted away in some hiding spot far from prying eyes? You likely spent months researching, vetting, shopping, and budgeting for those treasures. But, how much time have you put into thinking about managing kids tech? 

I’ve been in this parenting game for a while now. When my oldest first started asking for tech gifts, I think an iPod shuffle topped his wish list. Yes, I’m THAT old. 

This year my youngest asked for a smartphone that costs more than a few car payments.  With two kids still at home and one in college all wanting tech that I’m responsible for researching, vetting, and budgeting for, managing my kids’ tech has become a big part of this parenting gig for my husband and me. 

Oddly enough there isn’t a really big difference between how the 20-year-old and the 12-year-old use technology. Yes, they all want the latest and greatest phone. Gaming is big, YouTube is bigger. Then there is school. While the conent is varied the platforms aren’t so much. 

My two middle schoolers are lucky to attend a school that has fully integrated tech using tools like Google classroom, Chromebooks, and a cutting-edge tech lab.  The college student takes a number of her labs online. We travel quite a bit so the tech comes along there. Then they’ve got their earned screentime. In our family technology is a part of just about everything we do. 

So, how do my husband and I manage kids technology when there is so much to manage? We have four rules. 

Rule 1: Talk About It 

As the saying goes… with great power comes great responsibility.  Talking to our kids about the responsibility of using tech is huge. We openly talk about how one should conduct themselves online. What any of us, child or not, does online, lives online. It is important that the kids know that. 

We do a have some disconnect when it comes to what is appropriate in our book and what they think they’re ready for. When those impasses come, I have been known to pull the parent card. Yes, parents are and should be the final authority. As I tell our kiddos; until you pay the bill I make the rules. 

Rule 2: Respect The Tech

Respect the tech, it’s kind of my tagline. Taglines are kind of my thing. I employ them as a means of getting my point across. Plus, they’ve got the added bonus of annoying the crap out of my kids.  It’s like that one ad that gets under your skin, you don’t forget it because it gets you! The goal with this particular tagline is that our kids respect not just the value of their devices but the privilege that they have in owning and using them. 

We’ve invested in insurance for each one of their devices. If they break one (like my 14-year-old who is on his 4th phone!) they have to help pay the deductible for getting that item repaired or replaced. They don’t call it paying respect for nothin’, my friends! 

Rule 3: Not Everyone Is Your Friend

Oh boy, that is a hard one. When I was a kid it was easier to know who your friends were. You went to school with them, hung out after school, spent time in their physical presence.

In this digital world, it isn’t easy to really know someone and apps like Mama Bear (which is installed on all of their devices) can’t do the job all by themselves. Part of managing kid’s tech these days means helping them to be savvy about who they meet online.

One of our biggest bones of contention is getting the kids to understand what YouTubers and Instagramers actually are -professional content creators. That’s not a bad thing, but we want the kids to know that content is curated. 

Most importantly though, we want them to know that we’re here for them. That they need to talk to us about their online lives because that is life too. This topic often brings us back to Rule 1. 

Rule 4: Unplug 

This rule is probably the hardest for me. I admittedly have a problem unplugging. For a while, I would tell myself that I needed my phone or DSLR along for the hike, trip, play, fill in the blank with whatever was going on that day because I was recording and chronicling our experiences as a family. What I was actually doing was missing out on them. My kids were behind the creation of this rule. They did it for and because of me. Of course, I now get to wield it over them as well.  I may have just won parenting right there.

Here is the thing, unplugging is vital for their mental and physical health. Being away from technology helps to develop social and problem-solving skills. Thinking about the long road trips my family took when I was a kid when all we had to do was talk to, play with, and yes, fight with each other, those are some of my best memories of my childhood. They helped shape so much of who I am.  I fear my kids may miss out on that. 

In the big picture, this rule may be the most important rule for managing kid’s tech… know when to take it away. 

As a brand partner of Verizon, through their VZParent initiative, I’m happy that I’ve learned that there are a ton of tools out there to help parents manage family technology across all age groups.  Learning about their unlimited data plans for families may have saved our home… hello, FOUR KIDS USING DATA! But the resources don’t stop at customizable data plans. 

Family Locator is a great tool.  The two kiddos we still have at home are involved in sports, spending time with friends and seem to never be where they say they’ll be when you agreed to be there to get them! This nifty Verizon feature allows literally see where they are on the map. It also helps us to schedule by reminding us where we need to be for all those activities that keep my husband and me constantly on the go. 

Our kids are older now. One is even fully grown… chronologically speaking. The days of wondering when they’re ready for a phone, what type of tech is good for their age range are behind us. But, Verizon Family has some great tools for helping parents with younger kids answer those big questions. With that in mind, I had to share this great video featuring the adorable kids of one of my fellow VZParents. If you have littles, you’ll relate to this!

If you have questions about managing kid’s tech, reach out. Leave a comment, search #VZParent on any social media platform. Let’s use tech to support each other because this parenting gig is tough and who couldn’t use some help? 

 

Holiday Tech Gifts

When I was a kid the day the Sears & Roebuck Wish Book arrived in the post was nearly as magical as Christmas morning. My brothers and I would fight over who got it first. By the time November rolled around, that book was more marked up than a NYC subway station circa 1978. Toys. All the glorious toys!  Kids don’t want toys anymore though. At least mine don’t. Now it is all about holiday tech gifts. 

While I may wax nostalgic for the days of Barbie dream houses, sniffable Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and Shrinky Dinks I think my kids are onto something.  Holiday tech gifts certainly have more longevity than those pieces of plastic I burnt into my mom’s favorite cookie sheet. 

This year we have three teens and a grownup (chronologically, at least) to shop for. The fact that they’d rather have tech than toys these days actually makes the shopping a bit more simple. So does my brand partnership with Verizon as a member of their #VZParent program. It helps to know some experts, eh? 

So, what am I shopping for this year? Lucky for you, my offspring are in agreement that blogging is lame. This allows me to freely share the awesome I’ve found for them. 

Apple TV

Back in the day, my dad used to my dad used to make my brothers and I adjust the set-top “rabbit ears” on the tv to get a good picture. Streaming is how it’s done these days, folks. I know my oldest would love the 32GB, 4K awesomeness of Apple TV. With voice control by Siri, I also know that my grandson, who is expected to arrive this Spring, will never have to adjust an antenna. Heck, he’ll never even know what that is! 

Price = $179.99 with FREE shipping

JBL Link View

My youngest daughter is twelve this year and she has her first boy band crush. Ugh. Let me take a moment here to apologize to my parents for 1981 Duran Duran and my steadfast belief that John Taylor would fall in love with me instantly if only they’d fly me to London so we could meet. That said, they never had to deal with YouTube. 

Her band is on an infinite YouTube loop. I think she’ll love the 8–inch, high–definition touchscreen on the JBL Link View. She’ll probably dig the Chrome Cast feature and other bells and whistles. I KNOW she’ll love JBL’s signature stereo sound and bass. Me? Well, that’s another story. 

Price = $249.99 also with FREE shipping (I dig free)

Phones. Phones. ALL The Phones!

Would it be too much of a pun if I said getting your kids a phone, phoning it in? Yeah, I crack myself up. My kids? They crack phones up. My youngest son currently holds the family record for shortest time owning a phone before cracking the screen. THREE DAYS! 

So, I’ll be buying a phone or two. Right now the kids are all asking for the iPhone 10. I’m more into the Google Pixel. The camera on that thing is just sexy. I’ll likely end up with our tried and true Samsung Galaxy. I have the S9+ and it is awesome. 

I’d list a price but since there are tons of holiday tech gifts deals this time of year I’ll just say, shop around. 

Tablets

My oldest daughter is in college. She has also been a bookworm pretty much since birth. A new tablet in on her list and mine. That way she can pop it in her bag and head to class without lugging around a weighty laptop or tons of books. 

There are tons of cool tablets out there for everything from reading to gaming, streaming to actually studying 

VR Gear

Okay, it’s time to come clean. I buy VR gear for them but it’s actually for me. I LOVE me some time in virtual reality. I loathe roller coasters in real life but give me one with a VR headset on and I’m IN! I’ve used VR for everything from playing games to watching NetFlix, shopping to even planning trips. 

Though the price tags on some of the really cool stuff are quite a bit higher than the 5-buck Shortcake doll I got for Christmas, I feel like the kids will get more out of stuff like this. They’ll certainly last longer than the scent on that silly doll. 

 

 

 

 

so your kid wants to play the violin… now what?

Your kid came home with a gleam in their eye, rumpled paper in hand, informing you that they’d be taking up an instrument. So did mine. In fact, all four of my kids have come home with that same gleam at some point! Each time they did there was the accompanying dread. What instrument would they choose? Please, no drums! How quickly would they lose interest?  Once they settled on something, say the violin, how does one even go about choosing a violin for a kid? In other words, my kid picked a violin? Now now what?!

Let’s start this little chat out by saying that I come from a very musical family. My formative years were filled with my dad’s music. He was in a band when I came along. In retirement, he’s back in a band. Both my brothers play, the older one is rather gifted. Me… we’ll if you give me a sack I could carry a tune in it. The only instrument I play to any level of aptitude is the radio.  

That said, I always wanted to play. Longed to, in fact. I love music, I just wasn’t suited to playing it myself. I got my mom’s word gene, the music one skipped me. Though I can share that when it comes to playing the theme song from MASH on a clarinet, I totally channel Glenn Miller. 

When the music gene that missed me started to show up in my kids, I was so proud. My amazing humans could do this music thing! We made it through each of them taking up with recorder, most of our hearing intact. Then came the violin and some struggles.

When the folks from Yamaha reached out to ask if I’d be interested in helping parents learn more about choosing a violin, I was totally up for that. Yes, this is a sponsored piece but it is also something I really wish had been out there when we were learning all the things… the hard way! 

Things to Know About Choosing a Violin

Choosing a violin is not the same thing as choosing a violin shaped object

Trust me, I love finding a great deal. When we found a $45 violin on Amazon it was a thrill. The rental place wanted that much a month! What we received certainly looked like a violin. Did it play like one? No. In fact it was so difficult to tune, string and even play that in the end we ended up with a rental contract and out more than that $45. Lesson learned; beware the violin shaped object!

Renting doesn’t make as much sense as you think

When the oldest came home with that gleam the rumpled paper in is hand was a rental agreement. Our school system doesn’t supply instruments. We figured he’d lose interest in a month or so, which made renting seem to be the sensible choice. 

What we ended up with was a contract that got us a more than gently used instrument. The violin is a delicate thing, keeping it in good shape makes a big difference in how it plays. How it plays makes a difference in the level of joy your child may get from learning to play. 

Buying can seem a steep price to pay at first. For us, we had three more kids who might take it up at some point, so the cost savings was clear. I’d say that if you buy and have just one kiddo, see if they shop you purchase from has a buy-back program. This could make both budget and musical sense. 

Enlist expert help 

I can not stress this point enough… when choosing a violin for your kiddo, expert help is key! I’m not saying you have to spend four hours in a showroom with a guy who works on commission but certainly don’t try to go it alone. Yamaha has a great tool on their website specifically designed for families. 

The Violin Finder can help you with everything from fit and sound to the brand that will work best with your child’s skill set. Our youngest son is 6 years into playing and as he has grown so has his violin. I had zero clue that we’d need to level-up as he grew up. Yamaha has helped us figure these things out. 

Let it be fun

Yes, they’re going to need to practice and sometimes that means butting heads. Two of my four didn’t really stick with playing music because practice just wasn’t their thing. The other two found fun in not just choosing a violin but exploring their musical gifts. Honestly, I think fun is the deciding factor. Let them enjoy the process, even if that means noise cancelling headphones for you.