IT’S STILL CHRISTMAS AT MY HOUSE!

January 6, 2015 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Making Life A Little Easier

 Love this “tree” from UC Davis!

It is an odd thing to leave your home the day after Christmas. After a marvelous Christmas Day, I spent December 26 packing my suitcase with books, schedules, and writing samples I had critiqued in preparation for my red-eye flight to my Winter Residency, ten days off the coast of Mystic, CT. Time was limited: between packing, laundry, and chowing down on Christmas cookies, the only Christmas cleanup I could manage was taking down the tree.

My ten-day residency was suspended in time. We were holed up on a tiny island where our days revolved around workshops, seminars, readings, and meals. We had no TV, thus no contact with the outside world, and no protection from the biting wind coming in from the sea looking for skin to slice through. It was almost as if we were living in a snow globe, an isolated world with periodic snow flurries.

When we were released back into the real world, I flew home to a house glowing brightly with Christmas lights, a fireplace lined with stockings, and Santa and snowmen decorations covering every mantle and window sill. There are still Christmas cookies in the freezer (for better or worse), and our living room is dotted with presents that have yet to be put away and stray scraps of wrapping paper that did not quite make it into the trash bag. There is a Christmas card on the counter I have yet to mail and a pile of wrapped Christmas presents I need to box up and send. (Naomi, your gift is going to be late!)

On the plane ride home, I made detailed lists of all the things I needed to do, including taking down the Christmas decorations. But now that I’m here, I am not feeling a big rush to shut the door on Christmas 2014. My Christmas season was cut short, so being surrounded by the holidays for a little longer seems fitting, and not only because it cuts down significantly on my workload.

Wishing you all an extra dose of the holiday spirit! (And maybe someday soon I’ll get to those New Year’s Resolutions.)

THE GIFT OF SELF CARE

December 19, 2013 in Adventures in Parenting, Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Making Life A Little Easier

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it can also get a bit crazy. Lately, I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, tackling Christmas shopping lists, holiday baking, wrapping presents, and mailing packages in time for a Christmas delivery. My patience and time are wearing thin.

The kids are hopped up with excitement and have short fuses themselves, so we have entered a complicated stretch of days filled with overwhelming joy descending into wicked tantrums. Direct quote from my youngest son: “I don’t like you and my teddy bear doesn’t either!”

I can think of no better time to indulge in a little self care. While we’re all so busy trying to make the Christmas season special for our families, it can be easy to forget that this should be a special time for us too. Instead of filling every minute with Christmas preparations, wouldn’t it be nice to take a moment to do something enjoyable for ourselves?

My gift to you this holiday season is a list of suggestions for things you can give yourself. After all, there is a reason this saying exists: “If the mom is happy, everyone is happy.” If you’re feeling guilty about self-indulging, don’t. Just think of it as a gift of happiness to your family, from you with love.

1)    Take a nap. There is nothing like a little rest to completely rejuvenate you. It doesn’t have to be long: if I’m pressed for time, I set a timer. Or, as a very special man once told me, lie down on the couch with a tennis ball in your hand and close your eyes. When you have relaxed enough to drop the ball, that is all the nap you need to get you through the rest of the day in good spirits.

2)    When you’re out Christmas shopping, buy something for yourself. This is the best time of year to go shopping for yourself. Everything’s on sale! For example, I had a couple of pairs of shoes that were way past their prime, and had been for months. While out shopping for the loved ones on my list, I came across a huge shoe sale and replaced my worn shoes at 50% off. That’s not selfish; that’s good common sense. As an added bonus, I love my new shoes, which equals a new stockpile of happiness to share with my kids.

3)    Get a pedicure. Think about it: 30 minutes of sitting down, soaking your feet in blissfully warm water, getting a foot massage, and then emerging with a set of perfectly pink (or red or purple) toenails and a sense of calm that you haven’t felt in days? Oh yes. It’s totally worth it.

4)    Commiserate with friends. You are not alone! Call up a good friend and complain about how frazzled you are, preferably with a glass of good wine in your hand.  Laugh, cry, and be sympathetic together. I guarantee you’ll feel better.

5)    Laugh. The other morning, I blatantly ignored my children and their before-school preparations and watched an inappropriate clip from a Conan O’Brien show courtesy of my friend Susan. I laughed so hard I almost cried. Shortly after that, my son, already late for school, wiped out on his bike. Even though the clock was ticking, I had the patience to give him the TLC he needed to get back on his bike and ride the rest of the way to school, where against all odds he made it on time. And I owe it all to Susan and Conan O’Brien for starting my day with laughter! (See the clip here.)

Happy Indulging!

 

SOCCER SEASON IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART

September 30, 2013 in Adventures in Parenting, Making Life A Little Easier

Soccer is a great sport. It is fast paced, with lead changes occurring nearly every five seconds as someone new wins the next 50-50 ball. It is a game of skill, strategy, and stamina. It is an all-out battle for the ball, within legal limits of course, and it is played in every weather condition except lightning.

Which is great if you happen to live in Hawaii or southern California.

It’s not so great if you happen to live in Seattle, one of the rainiest places in the United States.

I spent the weekend on the soccer fields watching my sons play in pouring rain and wind so brutal it inverted my umbrella five times, knocked down several branches off our trees, and had me resetting all the clocks in the house when we finally returned home.

But there was no lightning, so the games carried on.

The players were frozen, soaked through to the bone. UnderArmour, hats, and mittens did nothing to keep out the cold or the wet, but at least they could run around to try and stay warm. We had no such luxury. We stood there on the sidelines, valiantly cheering on our team as the cold wind froze our hands to the handles of our umbrellas. When I caught myself doing squats on the sidelines to stay warm (and embarrassing my children to no end), I realized it was way past time to pull out my real soccer-watching gear.

Here are my tips for staying warm—but not necessarily stylish—during the wet fall and winter sports season:

  • Layer: wear an UnderArmour or a turtle neck beneath a long sleeved shirt or sweatshirt.
  • Layer some more: long johns under a pair of pants are great for those really cold days.
  • Consider a hat: a baseball cap, a ski cap, or the hood of your jacket can do wonders to keep the heat in.
  • If your hat doesn’t cover your ears, you will need ear muffs.
  • A warm, waterproof, knee-length raincoat is a must.
  • So are waterproof, knee-high rain boots and thick socks, especially when you have to traverse grass fields.
  • Wear a nice cozy scarf around your neck to keep those icy winds from slipping beneath your raincoat.
  • Mittens are a necessity: nice, cozy, super warm mittens that give you enough flexibility to grip your umbrella and a hand warmer.
  • For those extra cold days, I stick a toe warmer into each rain boot too.
  • Bring some sort of handheld electronic device that can direct you to the nearest Starbucks for the hot beverage of your (and you children’s) choice after the game.
  • Keep a towel in the car to dry off wet, muddy bodies before they trash your car.
  • If it’s a long drive home, pack a change of clothes for your athlete and their siblings who thought it was fun to dash about in the rain without their raincoats—for about 15 minutes—after which they complained about being cold for the next 45 minutes.

If you have any tips for staying warm and dry during the fall and winter outdoor sports season, please share! After this weekend, I might need to step up my game a bit.

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS, PART 2

December 19, 2012 in Making Life A Little Easier, Random Thoughts

I wrote about Random Acts of Kindness here, and since then, I have heard about something amazing: a simple push through word of mouth to do 26 Random Acts of Kindness, one for each of the 20 children and 6 adults killed in Sandy Hook, CT.

I admit I haven’t been able to follow the news coverage of this horrendous event very well because it makes me cry. I get my information through bits and pieces…a sentence here before my chest gets tight and tears threaten, a paragraph here before I simply burst into tears, an image that has me quickly turning away in sadness.

I read a story online about a woman wanting to make a donation. She said “My grandson is in first grade, that’s it,” and she had to turn away, overcome with emotion.

I feel exactly the same way.

I am going to spend the next 23 days doing one Random Act of Kindness a day to honor each of their memories. I began on Monday with a giveaway to one of my lucky blog readers (leave a comment below by Thursday, December 20 at noon PST to be eligible!), and I have also done an anonymous Random Act of Kindness for Tuesday.

Today’s Random Act of Kindness was a donation to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund via United Way of Western Connecticut. There are a lot of different places to donate, but I chose this one as it is the one our school district recommends, and I like the idea of one school district supporting another.

There are lots of other ways to donate, like this list of beneficiaries set up by some of the families: http://duluth.patch.com/articles/sandy-hook-memorial-donations-how-you-can-help-444805f3 and this list http://newtown.patch.com/articles/ways-to-help-sandy-hook which also includes ways local PTAs can help.

In my sporadic reading, I have seen some truly beautiful ways to help. PTAs can have their students make snowflakes to help decorate the new school, transforming it into a Winter Wonderland. Plant a tree in Israel in memory of Noah Pozner. Donate a first grade level book to the North Wales Area Library in memory of the children killed. Send a condolence card.

There are a lot of options for Random Acts of Kindness, and they don’t need to be directed specifically to Newtown to have a benefit. The goal is to spread moments of unexpected joy, and this can be done anywhere at any time, and they don’t need to cost you a cent.

To whoever left The Elf On The Shelf on our front porch, you have brought our family much more than one moment of joy…you have brought days of joy. My kids wake up and immediately start searching for Boogs, and look what he’s up to today! (See photo above) Boy, do I wish I could take credit for that creativity!

So go forth, everyone, and perform a Random Act of Kindness!

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS YOUR KIDS DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THEY WANTED

December 10, 2012 in Making Life A Little Easier

There is an inverse relationship between the age of my sons and how easy it is to buy them gifts. It used to be so easy: Hot Wheels cars, Legos, Thomas the train, balls of every size and shape, action figures, and I’d be done.

But now my boys are growing into men right before my eyes, and you know what that means: finding them a gift that makes their eyes light up on Christmas morning is getting harder and more expensive.

So I am going rogue this year. I’ll still use their wish lists as a guide, but I’m going to delve into another gift giving avenue as well: getting them things they didn’t even know they wanted.

Like these, available at Amazon.com:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between their iPod touches, my iPhone, and my iPad that the have somehow confiscated for their own personal use, I can never find a free charger to charge my own devices. I’m sick of fighting with them over the one charger we can still find around the house. I think this multi-port USB charger is genius! I’ll be putting this one in my own stocking. Hands off, boys! The pink one is mine!

 

 

Last year, my sister gave the boys robes. They have worn them every day for a year. Every day. They love them. They roll out of bed and slide into their robes before they come downstairs. I’ve felt them: these robes are cozy and plush, and have held up beautifully after being worn nearly 365 days in a row. It’s the gift that they didn’t even know they wanted, but now can’t live without. From Crazy for Bargains.

 

If you don’t know the Bad Kitty series, it’s basically about the unkind and selfish antics of a very bad kitty, with some non-fiction facts about cat behavior thrown in for good measure. Now, I’m not a cat person, and I’m definitely not a fan of bad cats. So imagine my surprise when I read A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel to my kids and found myself nearly in tears! It’s told all in rhyme in the style of The Night Before Christmas and it is a wonderful tale of the true meaning of Christmas and the generosity of spirit from even a Bad Kitty. Your kids may never have heard of this book, so they won’t know to ask for it, but wrap it up and slide it under the tree. It’s a treasure!

For older boys, consider The Kill Order by James Dashner, the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy. It just came out and my oldest son doesn’t know it exists. He is going to be beside himself when he realizes what he holds in his hand. We both read the entire trilogy, of which Maze Runner is the best, and we couldn’t put the books down. They are exciting, suspenseful, dystopian society-esque books where even the characters in the books have no idea what’s going on, and the twists come faster than you can keep up with him. Honestly, this prequel is a gift for both of us, because I’ll be next in line when he’s done.

 

I don’t even remember how I came across PrepSportswear, but I did and I have never looked back. It is a website where elementary schools, junior highs, high schools, and colleges offer their school’s logo on sports attire, and it’s customizable! You go in, find your school and a T-shirt/sweatshirt/pair of shorts you like, and then you can add a graphic you like, i.e. basketball, soccer, football, etc. But here’s my trick: I don’t look for the schools my kids go to. I look for schools that have the same name as my kids, and would you believe it? 2 out of my 3 kids have an existing school with their name. They love having their own first name splashed across their sweatshirt with a picture of one of their favorite sports, and they never would have thought to ask for that because they didn’t know such a thing existed! (Wouldn’t a little athlete named Joyce love to have this T-shirt?)

If your kids like challenging their minds and/or games, look no further than Marbles: The Brain Store. If you are lucky enough to have one near you (Bellevue Square for you locals), do yourself a favor and go in person. Games are out and available for you to play to see if it’s something your child (or you) would like, and you’ve got to love a store where they make periodic announcements like “Excuse me! We are about to launch the catapult!” There are games, puzzle books, things to build, IQ tests, games targeting memory, math, visual perception, word skills, and logic, and they are fun! There are stocking stuffers galore here as well. I’ve already been once, and you can bet I’m going back again before December 25. It’s just so much fun!

If these ideas aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, try these:

RecipeGirl’s Unique Holiday Gift Ideas For All Ages

Julia Tomiak’s Four Great Gift Ideas For Readers and Word Nerds

Elissa Field’s 25 Top Gift Ideas Writers Really Love

And if you have any great gift suggestions for boys, please share!

WHAT I LEARNED FROM NANOWRIMO

December 5, 2012 in Making Life A Little Easier

This November, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month challenge: 30 days, 50,000 words. I’ll admit that I approached this with a hefty dose of fear. 50,000 divided by 30 is roughly 1,667 words per day, which amounted to approximately 6 2/3 pages per day. That’s a lot!

I made that 1,667 mark every single day for 30 days, primarily because I was afraid that if I didn’t quite make it one day, I’d never catch back up again. There were times I’d hit my writing stride in the morning when I was fresh and clear-minded and would write over 1,667 words in a day. There were times when I couldn’t get to the keyboard until 9:00pm and I’d be nodding off in the middle of sentences, almost crying to hurry up and hit the word count so I could lie down and go to sleep. (Those sections will need some heavy revision later on.)

The good news is that I won NaNoWriMo! That is to say, I hit the 50,000 words goal.

The bad news is, my novel is not complete. Most novels run 75,000-95,000 words, give or take. In fact, I’m quite at a loss as to how the powers that be came up with the magic 50,000 words=1 novel formula.

I’m still writing 1,667 words per day, and I will continue to do so until this novel is complete. By my calculations, I should be done just in time for Christmas.

There are several reasons I’ve decided to extend this process (a complete novel being one of them), but the main reason is I can work with a manageable goal. I can write 1,667 words and know I’m done. I can turn off the computer and feel good about the fact that I finished something and can move on to the next item on the list. It’s a great way to divvy up those large projects into smaller, bite-sized pieces that have an end.

I’m going to apply this technique to Christmas. No matter how much I’m incorporating simplicity into this year’s holiday planning, there is still a lot to do. Christmas shopping, both in stores and online, wrapping, mailing packages, shopping for ornament exchanges, holiday art projects in my sons’ classes that need to be planned, executed, wrapped, and sent home in time for winter break, gifts for teachers…it’s overwhelming. And like with NaNoWriMo, Christmas doesn’t come with extra blocks of time in which to accomplish everything.

I’m dividing my Christmas To Do list into small 1,667 words equivalents. Today, I’m going to get ready to send these adorable glass gingerbread houses home with the kids and prepare for tomorrow’s art project. That’s it: that’s enough.

Glass Gingerbread Houses

 

Iris Folding: A Lesson in Pattern

Iris Folding: A Lesson in Pattern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, I might tackle some online shopping so I can take advantage of all the sales, including free shipping.

The day after that, I’ll start drafting my Christmas cookie list and stockpile the necessary ingredients.

Small, manageable, bite-sized pieces one day at a time: I think I just might get through the Christmas season without puddling on the floor in a heap of “Bah Humbug!” exhaustion after all!

FALL FASHIONS

October 22, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Making Life A Little Easier

I am not a fashionista. I pay no attention to which famous designer might be adorning my clothing labels, although I do enjoy a good episode of Project Runway.

I am equally comfortable shopping at White House Black Market and Target.

My tastes run toward the simply classic or the simply comfortable in shades of black, white, gray, and navy blue. Jeans are my best friends, and I have some that can be dressy or casual.

So when someone compliments me on something I’m wearing, it’s a cause for celebration. When more than one person compliments me on the same piece of clothing, I look to the sky to see if the planets have aligned in some mysterious way. And when complete strangers chase me down in parking lots to ask me where I got my jacket, I head back into the grocery store and buy several lottery tickets because surely my lucky star is on the rise.

In honor of these crisp, fall mornings standing in the pouring rain on a field dotted with puddles so deep you could lose a small child in them, all to watch your sons play soccer, I am going to share with you my all-time favorite fall fashions. They have earned their spot here by receiving multiple compliments from not only my friends, but from complete strangers.

From Splendid Avenue:

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I need garments that are not just water-resistant, but waterproof. It’s harder than you think to find something that is waterproof, not bulky (because then I feel like I can’t move and that just brings up an old claustrophobic issue), and stylish, so I didn’t even bother looking. Luckily, my friend Monika has done the looking for me and has found the most awesome products to keep me outfitted during the rainy season.

Behold my favorite Ilse Jacobsen Full-Length Rain Coat and Tall, Black Rubber Boots!

Waterproof, stylish, breathable, and comfortable…these items have it all. I own the basic black, but they come in a variety of colors.

The boots come in varying heights as well to suit all your waterproof needs.

 

They are both fantastic for rain and snow, but I recommend layering underneath the Rain Coat for extra warmth as needed.

Go to Monika’s website for the Rain Coat and Rubber Boots, but stay for the myriad of items she sells, all with a Scandinavian flavor. Clothing, jewelry, home décor, kitchenware…it’s all there.

As it says on Splendid Avenue: “Unique items. Great designs. High quality. Not many. Just the best.”

From Victoria’s Secret:

It’s a classic button-down shirt in simple colors (white, black, navy) with an elegant series of ruffles in the back.

I know what you’re saying: “Of course she likes it. It’s so basic!” Well, yes, but I also get complimented on this shirt all the time.

“That shirt is so flattering on you!”

“Excuse me, miss? I just have to ask…where did you get that shirt? I love it!”

Classic never goes out of style, and those ruffles just made classic a little more interesting.

From CAbi:

My friend Amy sells CAbi through this site. She’s fantastic, and so are these clothes. It’s an unusual set-up. If you’ve never heard of CAbi, you can’t buy it in stores. It’s more like a Tupperware party, where you go to someone’s house and place your order. If you’re not comfortable with that kind of shopping, I completely understand. I am that way too.

But the clothes! For some of you working moms, you are going to be in heaven. It is high-quality, stylish, and formal enough for the office. If you’re like me, though, a stay-at-home mom who only has to get out of her pajamas when the dishwasher repairman is scheduled to arrive, is it worth it?

Yes. One of my all-time favorite items is called the Slouch Tee. I’m wearing it right now while I slouch around on my computer and I’ll still have it on when I go slouch around on my couch to watch The New Adventures of Old Christine on syndication. And I get compliments on it!

Their merchandise is seasonal, so you probable can’t even get the Slouch Tee anymore, but don’t worry: there are plenty of new items to enchant you!

You can order directly from CAbi: no party necessary!

If you have a Fall Fashion to share, please do!

Happy Shopping!

IT’S OK TO BE LAZY: DEEPAK CHOPRA’S LAW OF LEAST EFFORT PLUS THE PANCAKE PEN GIVEAWAY RESULTS!

June 8, 2012 in Book Reviews, Making Life A Little Easier

Life is hard. It throws you curve balls that force you to reconfigure your entire schedule. It showers you with rain when you are planning an outside party for 40 of your closest friends. It has no problem flinging a few bacteria your son’s way so he has to miss his own birthday party, and it can turn the simplest computer task into an hour-and-a-half phone call to tech support.

When I’m at my busiest, like now during the end-of-school madness, I often wonder: Why can’t things be easy? Why can’t the 10-minute task actually take 10 minutes, instead of turning into a 75-minute event? Why can’t the parents of our graduating 6th graders send in their child’s baby photo by the deadline so I don’t have to spend my precious time hunting them down? Why does my water pump have to pick this exact moment to fuse itself to the engine?

So many times in my life things become more difficult than I think they should, and so it’s a revelation when something, despite the odds, goes according to plan. It’s almost…miraculous!

That’s how I feel about the electric griddle and the pancake pen for making pancakes: it turned a not-so-pleasant task into something fun and easy. I went from struggling against my children and their pancake demands to going with the pancake flow in an effortless way.

This ease doesn’t apply only to making pancakes. Deepak Chopra, in his The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, addresses this in his “Law of Least Effort.” He points out that:

“Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim.”

To me it sounds suspiciously like a Nike commercial: Just do it! As in, stop complaining about all the tasks you have to do and do them already!

But he also says The Law of Least Effort is about doing less and accomplishing more.

Expend less energy, but get more done? How, Deepak? Well, he tells you, sort of, in a spiritual, zen, relinquish-yourself-to-the-present kind of way: “…least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love…”

Well, I love making pancakes now, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to love taking my car to the mechanic. But, ok, Deepak, I’ll try. As I’m wrapping up the bzillion end-of-school projects I’ve got going on, I will take three deep, calming breaths, and I’ll remind myself who I’m doing this for: my kids, their fellow classmates, and their teachers. I’ll remind myself that these tasks aren’t torture devices designed to beat me down, but great projects that I dreamed up and volunteered for because I loved the idea back in September. I will practice loving my computer and the iDVD movie program even when glitches occur, and I won’t try not to throw my computer out the window when something goes wrong, I just won’t do it.

Sometimes, though, practical tips can work wonders too:

1)    If per chance you should get candle wax on your carpet, which I have managed to do twice so far this year, here is an easy way to get it out…but be prepared! It’s so easy, your jaw will drop open in amazement, and you might purposefully drip more candle wax on your carpet just to have a chance to perform this magic trick again.

Spread paper towels over the wax. Run over with a warm iron. The wax will be absorbed into the paper towel, leaving your carpet completely clean.

2)    To get stubborn stains out of clothing, mix up a paste of Oxiclean and Resolve (formerly Spray ‘n’ Wash). Apply it to the stain and scrub with a toothbrush designated for laundry. That’s it! Easy and effective!

In the spirit of decreasing our effort, I am delighted to present the Pancake Pen to the person who left the #5 comment (based on the Random Number Generator): Linda Hatton! Congratulations! If you send me your address in an email or in a Direct Message on Facebook, I’ll get that right out to you!

I wish you all an effortless day!

PANCAKES! PLUS A GIVEAWAY!

June 1, 2012 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Making Life A Little Easier

 

There is nothing my boys like more than pancakes. If they had their way, they would eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every meal in between. The only other food that comes close to the throne that pancakes occupy are waffles.

I used to hate making pancakes. I’d stand for long periods of time over a tiny griddle that would barely hold four small sized pancakes at best. When my batch was finally done, the boys would pop each mini pancake in their mouths like they were jellybeans and then clamor for more, and none too quietly. Hovering over a stove while your children yell at you for being too slow is not my idea of a good time.

And then…my pancake-making life changed. While on vacation, we stayed in a rental house that came equipped with an electric griddle.

An electric griddle? With that much surface area? I had never used such a thing. In the blink of an eye, I had the appliance plugged in, whipped up a batch of pancake batter, and doled out six large sized pancakes…all at the same time! There were so many pancakes coming out of the kitchen my kids didn’t know what to do with themselves. I was pleased myself. Making pancakes on an electric griddle was so easy!

As soon as we returned home, I went to Macy’s to buy my own Wolfgang Puck electric griddle with two surfaces: one smooth for pancakes, grilled cheese, quesadillas, and the like, and the other like a BBQ grill for, well, grilling.

I use my griddle all the time. I no longer groan when my kids beg for pancakes. In fact, now when they ask, I practically skip to the cabinet that houses my griddle, pull it out, set it on the counter, and start cooking with a smile on my face. Could making pancakes ever get better than this?

As it turns out, yes it can!

Over the holidays, I took advantage of a chocolate sale from one of my favorite online companies. (I like to dip things in good quality chocolate.) In addition to receiving 25% off my entire order, I was going to receive a mystery gift. A  gift from a chocolate company…wow!

When the package arrived, I eagerly dived in, pushing my bags of dark and white chocolate aside to see what my free gift would be. A chocolate mold? A chocolate sample? More than one chocolate sample? But no, it was…a pancake pen? That looks suspiciously like a water bottle? From a chocolate company? Huh.

Well, it was free. I might as well try it. I pulled out my electric griddle, made my batch of pancake batter, poured it into the pancake pen, and waited for the griddle to reach its optimal temperature.

And then the fun began! I have never had so much fun making pancakes in my life…not even when I made chocolate chip pancakes and gave myself one chocolate chip for every one I put in a pancake. With the pancake pen, you can do anything! It stays in the shape you want, unlike those pancake molds which my pancake batter always seems to ooze out of unattractively. I made pancakes in the shapes of the letters of my sons’ names, so they each had their own plate of personalized pancakes. I made suns and moons and stars, and then I made creatures under the sea.

On the night of the Academy Awards, I made Oscar statues and movie clapboards.  In fact, I was so busy creating, I didn’t even realize the kids had finished their breakfast and left the table. For the first time in my life, I was bummed they were full and I wouldn’t get to make any more pancakes.

In honor of successfully completing my first month of blogging, I am excited to try my first Giveaway: a Pancake Pen from Williams-Sonoma! Just leave a comment on this post by noon 12:00pm PST June 7, 2012, and the randomly chosen winner will be announced on June 8! (I can only ship to US addresses.)

If you like pancakes, if you have kids that like pancakes, or if you simply enjoy playing with your food, this Pancake Pen is for you!