Boys Are Noisy

Teenaged  boys can be just as noisy as girls. Maybe worse. Because when their voices start to drop deep, they carry. Far.

They talk with their mouths and their bodies, scrambling, running, kicking, shoving, wrestling, flopping, throwing, hitting.

When your bedroom is right beneath the living room, and they are sleeping (4 of them) right above you, the ground shakes when they laugh. Because they don’t just laugh. They convulse. The lightbulbs in my ceiling fan shake.

Because they watch a movie with this song in it, play it over and over for hours, then one of them (Sal) has an earworm for three days that he can’t shake.

Because you then, in turn, develop the ear worm. It’s not a good one.

Did I mention boys eat a lot?

The Power Of Eggnog

Eggnog is something I have not made from scratch. Yet. Suprisingly. Considering the amounts my family consumes from Thanksgiving to New Years, it really would make a difference in our budget. I’ve tried nearly every  ‘nog in town. The organics are good, but the the one that seems to be the majority favorite is Anderson Erickson Classic Egg Nog. Right now the only place I’ve found Anderson Erickson’s Egg Nog is at Hyvee. And, yes, I did drive clear across town at 9pm to stock up on eggnog.

I don’t really even wanna look at the nutrition information on that puppy, ’cause they use the real deal: milk and cream. But, you just can’t expect good flavor if you don’t. I picked up 3 cartons , hoping there would still be some leftover for Thanksgiving in two days. Ten bucks says one of the kids has a glass for breakfast, and one  carton will be gone by tomorrow evening.

Because I’m from Wisconsin, I like a nice dose of brandy in my eggnog. Mmm. I serve myself in little bitty glasses so I don’t go overboard. I just had two, and washed it down with one final sip of eggnog and my tummy is telling me that I overdid it. (The dairy products are starting to get to me. It’s a bad day when I run to Culver’s for my pumpkin malts during the holidays.)

When we were teenagers in love, Frank’s friend Bob would grab a carton of eggnog and drink it. All. By himself. I remember him walking down State Street with us, carton in hand, tilting it to his mouth. I don’t know that I had ever even tasted eggnog at that time, but I knew his way of consuming it was not normal. I don’t know if he had any liquor in there, but something tells me he didn’t. He just liked the eggnog.

Pear Cognac

Last winter we took a little picnic trip out to a small park a short way outside the city. We parked in the lot, grabbed the sleds and basket and hiked up a hill to get to a clearing where there is another small hill to climb. At the top is a fire pit and a beautiful view. But even better than that is the small Laura Ingalls style house that is set of at the edge of the treeline. It has a door, a table, wood and a stove. You can’t really keep too terribly warm in there or anything, it is all ambiance. Blissful, delicious ambiance. If it isn’t too chilly out, you can fire up the stove and remove your jacket, but I kept my snowpants on for good measure.

So last year while we were there, we brought hot dogs to roast on the open fire, cheese, chips, snacks for the kids. And my friend brought a pear-shaped bottle of congac. We had just enough to sip by the fire as the kids played in the snow, coming in to grab a bite or to “warm” by the stove. If they lingered too long and we ladies would shoo them out, urging them to catch as much daylight as possible before it got dark and we all had to squish and huddle in the tiny house.

belle de brillet

My whole point in sharing this is to tell you about the cognac. The sweet, savory, better-than-dessert cognac that I kept tasting days later. OK, a whole year later. It was a gift given to my friends by someone else and they were kind enough to share it with us. For an entire year I’ve searched for this ‘yac. I don’t even know if I’d buy it, as it was a bit pricey and chances are I’d make it into a snowcone, drink it all and end up in the emergency room with cognac poisoning. But I just wanted to see the bottle, caress it and reminisce over the day we sat in the little house, warm but chilly, listening to the rain coming down, the kids attempting to sled on a hill of snow while it rained, the men trying to keep a fire outside in the wet, peeing in the dark bushes, telling scary stories, getting a call from my oldest son to let me know he was home puking, slipping down the hill on our way back to the car… fond, fond memories.

The other day at our friend’s Christmas dinner party, she brought out a festive bag that she gave to me, and to my sueprise, guess what was in it? Belle de Brillet pear cognac!! I figured I’d save it for a fine occasion.

Apparently that fine occasion is a cold Wednesday night when the kids are tucked into bed and I’m doing computer work.

Ah well, savor the day, I say.

If you ever have the craving for a pear or pear cognac, let me tell you, Belle de Brillet is some fine stuff.



Possibly in other cities seeing this parked in the lot would be… weird. Here in Madison, Wisconsin– it’s normal.

Funny story. We had family over one evening, Frank’s cousin, husband and their four young kids. Two of the  kiddos immediately ran off to play with our bucketful of cars. They would scamper in to the kitchen where we sat, brining cars to ask uncle Frankie about them.

Spidey-mobile, Frank told him for one. Another was a police car. Third time he comes in with our mini Wienermobile.

What’s this?

Why that’s the Wienermobile, replies Uncle Frankie smiling at the peculiar, but familiar vehicle.

The little boy looks at it, curiously. Turns it around, contemplating it. It’s a wiener? It took a few seconds for us to realize that not everyone sees a wiener-shaped car, and not everyone calls a hot dog a wiener.

Taking Up Space In Your World

Target. Afternoon. Hopes of a quiet store, reality; chaos.

In our town we have a “West” side and an “East” side. Traditionally the West was the home of the upper class, while the East was more working class. It is a bit more blended now, but if you visit the East side Walmart, you will notice obvious differences in the patrons in comparison to the West one. Just… trust me.

Target, being an even “classier” department store Walmart, is often sardined with clickity-clack, spike-heeled cougars, mothers-with-money and plastic people. One the West side. Today was no exception.

As I stood in the isle happily alone, contemplating the iPods and accessories, clickity-clack rounded the corner talking in her Outdoor Voice, tailed by an overly excited Target employee acting as her personal concierge to the store. Her loud voice shattered my concentration and I did as I customarily do, politely excusing myself, smiling and moving my cart (yes, I do do this). Undeserving of eye contact, being a mere casualty of a populated planet, clickity-clack did not condescend to look me in the eye, turn her head in my direction or pardon herself, but continued to yak as she passed by, stopping to view the items on the shelf, carrying on with her Outdoor Voice as I drew blood from biting my lip.

“Don’t mind me, I’m just taking up space in your world honey.”

Grilling Adventure

I totally meant to expand on my Wordless post from yesterday, but then life and work got in the way. Well. I shouldn’t say they got in the way, like it IS life. Busy is life. This morning I got up, wasted as much time as I could trying to talk myself out of going to work out at the “Y” and finally succumbing to what I already knew: I wasn’t talking myself out of it.

Made it, did it (treadmill and bike), sweat like a pig in heat, took a shower, got my work clothes on and zoomed off to work. Did everything that needed to be done (bulletin done on a Thursday – what?!). Home. Took oldest boy freak to driver’s ED. Home. No clue what I did, then. Picked oldest boy freak up, took him to his friend’s for the night,  dropped the other freaks at “Y” for a bit, picked up Frank, got in a car accident (nobody hurt, not my fault, another entry will explain), picked up kids, got ice cream, went to Walmart. Home.

And now I write a Tell Me Thursday about my Wordless Wednesday, because, I’m just on top of things like that.

So it was just an impromptu grilling adventure. Nothing to do, but wanting – NEEDING – family time. Packed up what we had and set off to have an impromptu picnic with our grill. The main course was turkey burgers, but we also had a bagful of corn. The goal was to find a park with a permanent grill where we could cook the corn, and then we’d make the burgers on our smaller portable grill.

The boys grumbled for the first portion of our “adventure” as we drove around like blind mice looking for a permanent-grill-rendering-park. Finally I turned on the GPS, much to Frank’s disgust (he’s anti-GPS). He remembered a little park tucked away and we plugged it in. By this time, it was pretty much going to be the tucked away park or nothing, and if they didn’t have a permanent grill, we’d trash the corn.

One baseball diamond, a whole bunch of grass, long driveway, a shelter, park, horseshoes (for crimminy sake) – it was just too perfect. Oh, and – a standalone grill. Oh, and a bathroom. With soap pumps. We hadn’t been to the park in years. I was so glad we revisited it. We basically owned the park for the duration of our visit. It was great.

Frank grilled, I watched the boys beat each other up. Dinner was served, and everyone enjoyed the family time despite being initially bent on trying NOT to enjoy it and label it a completely fruity idea.

THE CORN: We put it on the grill, in the husk, over ready coals for about 30 minutes or so. I don’t mind a few darker parts. It adds to the flavor. Seriously, I could have just eaten the corn it was that good.

The boys played, ran, kicked balls, kicked each other, ate, laughed. The food was super simple and fantastically delicious. It was nice to just be alone, as a family, encapsulating some time for us together, even if only for a few hours. A mini-vacation here and there among the regularity of the days, weeks and months, doesn’t always have to be jetting off to another country or even visiting another state (a luxury that right now, we simply can’t afford). An impromptu picnic in the park does just fine.

Weekend Wrap-up

Weekend Wrap-up

Busy weekend at the Groovy-Mom household. Friday night was a social night, hanging out with friends. Saturday Sal had a soccer game. They won; don’t remember the score. Sal, the self-proclaimed World Class Goalie, played in goal for the first half, and then on the field the second. The team ran over to Franny before the start, at half-time and after the game to rub his head for good luck. It was very cute. (Franny tells me I need to get a new word because I say everything is cute. Cutecutecute!!! — Happy now?)

Carlito had a game to referee at the same time as Sal’s, but my dad took him to it since Frank was working and I can’t be in two places at the same time. Dante had a game later that day, too. They won 8-0. Dante plays on a team with a crew of very talented players that are a lot of fun to watch. Some games are very intense, but the Saturday’s was not (see the score), so the boys had some fun. At one point Dante, a mid-fielder, went for the ball over-zelously (not needing to) and he slid out of bounds, into the spectator section. His friend called from the other side of the field, “Dante, don’t you hurt my mom!!”

Saturday night we ordered pizza and watched the Fifa Qualifier between USA and Honduras. Go USA.

Sunday we went to Dante’s game, another 7-0 win. After the game we hit McDonalds, just me and the boys. I had a $20 limit, so we ordered cheap and split fries. Carlito treated us to brownie melts for dessert with some of his referee earnings. Dante and Franny split a brownie, and Sal and I split one. Carlito took a bite of ours, but didn’t buy one for himself. They were pretty well behaved, save for Dante distracting Carlito so that he could quickly fly in and pull his shorts down. He pantsed Lootie coming in, and he got him at the door before we left. Franny exploded in giggles both times.

We met Frank at home and decided to take advantage of a beautiful day by heading to the park for a while. Dante was reluctant, concerned that he’d miss the Uriah Faber/Mike Brown UFC fight. Boys. Frank assured him we would not. Frank brought his poles along and the boys brought a soccer ball. Can’t leave home without a soccer ball. Things have changed a bit, with Franny’s injury. He was the one who would usually instigate a game or activity, since he was always a bundle of energy. I’m thankful for his recovery, even though it is slow, but sometimes am caught off guard and get a bit choked up.

Sal, making some casts. OK, tecnically Frank did the casting, the boys reeled in.


On our walk over to the park, we encountered some geese. As we approached I heard what sounded like a cat hissing. It took me a bit before I realized the hissing noise was coming from the goose in our path. What the..? I’ve never encountered a hissing goose before. My eyes and brain needed to make a visual connection to believe it. Mouth open, heeee-heeeesss — yup, it’s the crazy goose!! Freaked me out. As I attempted to snap a picture of the hissing goose, a mother and her children hurredly passed by. “Watch out, kids, they are MEAN. They’ll nip you.” Killer geese.

They boys started messing around with the soccer ball and Franny stood off in the distance, leaning on his crutches watching. I thought we could go to the park nearby to keep his mind off of the things he couldn’t do (like soccer). “Franny, wanna go try the swing?” We made the journey over and sat on the bench for a while, resting his leg and waiting our turn. Franny removed his shoes, and watched as a father pushed his daughter on the tire swing. When they left, we hurried over.

I pushed him cautiously at first, fearful that his cast would hit the ground or that the tire itself would fly off with him riding right on it. Crazy, I know. But as much as Franny is still recovering from being hit (crossing roads are cheap therapy right now), I’m recovering from the blow as well. I am an anxious, freakazoid worrier by nature — the broken leg isn’t helping. I checked my visions of disaster and focused on the cheek-cracking grin splayed across his face.

After the festival of swinging, we parked it at a table and watched the big boys spout testosterone. Franny took the camera and tried to get a shot of me “not noticing” him with the camera. I was forced to feign ignorance of the camera in his hands. My… look at that pretty grass… is that a camera?

Yeah, me and my sexy Fitovers. They aren’t the most attractive sunglasses, but they are convenient and they do the job.

Time to make the trek back. Sal cools off at the water fountain.


My menfolk.

(Don’t ask me why Lootie is saluting.)

On the way home, Frank just had to make a couple casts. No, he’s not drunk. Looks are decieving.


We made it home in time to make chicken tacos and watch hours of cage fighting. I need to get another girl in this house.

(What did YOU do this weekend? Leave me a link!!)

Cheeseburger In Paradise – Review

Yesterday we took Franny in to get his cast checked. His pinky toe was kind of smushed and looked as if it were suffering for lack of air. They had to use that blasted saw to cut away some of his cast. Again. Not a great experience, honestly, after the whole wedging incident. I can’t believe after all he’s been through it is the cast saw that seems to be causing him so much greif. Poor thing. Once it was done it was done, though, and he could wiggle his toes more freely. We asked if our next appointment would involve the cast saw, and they confirmed that – goody gumdrops – yes indeedy he would be having the entire cast removed and either replaced by another cast, or by a walking boot. But, he would for sure have the cast removed. Good to know. There may be some pre-medding involved in that appointment. At the least numerous speckled conversations between now and then about the cast saw.

After the grueling experience, we thought we should catch a lunch, preferably one where we could sit outside and enjoy the weather. After brief consideration we decided to go to Cheeseburger In Paradise in Middelton, Wi. We’ve been there before a few times. First just Frank and I when it first opened, then with the boys (Dante was not impressed) and now again with Franny.

Cheeseburger In Paradise

To spare the mighty cliffhanger: we  doubt we’ll be going back (it took us a bit to figure that one out, apparently). Nothing major or sexy; it just simply isn’t our cup of tea. Here’s why:

  • This visit we sat outside, which was wonderful. What wasn’t wonderful was the sticky, odorous table. Also not wonderful — the music. I enjoy some musical ambiance, but not when it overpowers the option of actually using your “inside voice” while dining. Unless you are in a club  or something, you really shouldn’t have to shout or ask “Huh?” constantly over your cheeseburger.
  • The bathroom was fine, save for the fact that I had to change stalls to avoid the water on the floor. I mention bathrooms because they are important to me.
  • The fried pickles were VERY good. If I were to be lured back, it would be for that crunchy, sour and salty delight. Frank’s salad was good. Not $10 good, as it was priced, but good. Franny’s mini-burgers… not so good. He took one bite and ditched them. I took one bite and couldn’t tell if it was the oddest flavored beef I’ve ever tasted OR if my palate was fussy after eating my turkey burger (that I split with Franny so he would have some nourishment beyond his strawberry lemonade — which was tasty). I had a bacon burger (turkey). It was mediocre; nothing great, nothing horrific. I prefer Red Robin’s burgers, though. Their sweet potato chips are very good, however I opted for the fries this time, and they too were (as Frank would say) “nothing to write home about.” With my fries I always ask for a side of Ranch dressing to dip it in. That can be a deal-breaker as well, because if a restaurant doesn’t have good Ranch, it can ruin the fry experience for me. Their Ranch was watery and tasted nothing like Ranch dressing.

Bottom Line: The bill was $30. We tried to keep it lower by drinking water and having Franny order off the kids menu, but the pickles did us in, and the prices are a bit heftier than your ordinary burger joint. We still left feeling that if we were spending $30 on a lunch, we darn sure should at the very least enjoy it (and the bathrooms and Ranch should be up to par). I’m not sure if the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” means that you’re ambiance and dining experience should be similar to a tropical paradise OR that the burgers are meant to be heavenly. Either way I felt the mark was missed.


Link: Cheeseburger In Paradise

Mexican Corn in a Bowl

Yum. One of the perks of having your kid play soccer in the Hispanic soccer league. The food. Besides the Chicharrón, you have what our family calls “corn-in-a-bowl” or, if you like it on the cob, “corn-on-a-stick.” Either way, it is yummy. Corn, mayonnaise, cheese and chili.

I’ll admit, the first time I saw it made (a few years ago), I was skeptical. I mean, the mayo was sitting out, unrefrigerated for what was probably hours in hot Wisconsin weather. I gave my husband the “poopy-pants” look that we give when at potlucks, picnics and questionable restaurants. The, that-doesn’t-look-like-it-follows-safe-handling-food-guidelines-and-there’s-a-good-chance-of-poopy-pants-if-we-eat-this” look. But it smelled so good. And it was hot. And, a little diarreah every now and then is like a free colon cleanse, right? It’s not like every kid on the field was running around with poopy pants… it had to be safe. Right? Or are their stomachs are conditioned to mayo off the shelf?

In a moment of weakness, we bought, we ate, we fell in love. We never looked back.

I don’t get the corn every time we go. The kids do get the chicharrón quite often, though, using so much hot sauce it is like pork skin cereal. There’s a salad that looks extra yummy. I thought it was seafood on top of a crunchy chicharrón with lettuce, avocado… turns out the translucent slivers peppering the entire salad are thin slices of pork fat. I can’t get into it.

We’ve made the corn-in-a-bowl at home and it is very good. But there’s something about getting it served after (before or during) a game in a styrofoam bowl.