Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Urgent recall of Acme Smoked Fish

Giant Food, out of Landover, Maryland, has issued a recall of 564 pounds of Imported Acme 4oz. (113g) vacuum packs of Smoked Nova Salmon. The affected packages are from lot L.05122014. It's being recalled because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

According to the FDA press release, "This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy persons may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women."

Giant Food operates grocery stores in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discovered the contamination after random testing revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in one 4-ounce package.

Fortunately, no illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Consumers who have purchased this product should return it to the store or throw it away.

You can contact Acme for further details and full refunds 718-383-8585.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's not winter, but maybe it is

This is a man holding a barn owl in front of his face, because it's funny
Daylight Savings Time ended just two days ago, and dammit it feels like it's winter already, with complete darkness by 6 p.m. every night. There are promises in the air of even earlier nightfall just around the bend, when it starts getting dark at 4:30 p.m.

What is this magic?

Unfortunately, the combination of the shorter days and the upcoming stress of the holiday season (which, in our family, is compounded by three back-to-back birthdays added in) usually contributes to a personal feeling of melancholy, and sometimes abject dread. On days like today, even though it is not yet winter, and when I have a lot going on that isn't really the greatest, those feelings threaten to overwhelm, and it sucks.

I'm not ready for winter.

I'm not sure I ever will be.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween 2014: Zombie edition

This year, the girls weren't interested in Who-inspired costumes. Thus, our costume planning was nowhere near as intense as last year, which involved dozens of little purple balls that needed to be attached to a tutu.

My 4-year-old decided early on that she wanted to be a zombie, which I thought was pretty awesome. She doesn't watch zombie anything, but she knows that they look cool and often are decorated with blood.


She saw an Elsa dress at Target and said she wanted to be Elsa.

While I encourage my kids to be individuals, I still have to let them choose what they want instead of what I want. When they're babies and toddlers, sure, they look how I want them to look, but at some point, they begin to show their own personality and embrace their own likes and dislikes. This has been difficult for me because I was super uninterested in mainstream culture as a teen, and remain so to an extent today.

However, Willow, who has watched Disney's Frozen dozens of times, is fairly enamored of Arendelle, its inhabitants and the story presented in the film. She's not hog-wild about Frozen, but she definitely likes it. And that's fine. But when she saw that costume and declared that she wanted to be Elsa, I admit that a part of me was thinking, "Crap. Just like a million other little girls. DANG IT."

I definitely thought it, but I didn't say it. Because it's not my job to judge what she likes. So I agreed and let her think about it some more, and soon she developed a new idea. "Can I be an Elsa zombie?" she asked.

Sure. Sure you can.

I got a fancy Elsa dress through a friend and ordered a non-toxic makeup kit and we were set. And her big sister decided that she wanted to be a regular zombie and this was probably the easiest, least expensive Halloween ever, and it was still super awesome.

I also have to say that the makeup kit was great. I bought a 5-pack because they looked tiny and I didn't want to run out. And when I got the kit, I was afraid that they were still too tiny and they wouldn't work.

HOWEVER. I was pleased to find that a little bit goes a long way. We barely scratched the surface even after I decorated two whole faces. It also came with applicators and a tiny bar of soap, so yes, I would definitely recommend Elegant Minerals.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Adipose jack-o-lantern inspired by Doctor Who

Well hello cutie
Another Halloween, another chance to be creatively geeky once that amazing autumn holiday rolls around. This year, my girls are being a couple different types of zombies (instead of the DW-inspired characters they were last year), so I decided to apply my Doctor Who love to our newly purchased pumpkin — so new, in fact, that I had to run out and buy one yesterday for this project.

Disclaimer: I have never carved a pumpkin with anything other than a gigantic knife. So I entered into this exercise with ignorance and excitement, thinking I could knock it out in 15 minutes or so.

Before starting, I realized that our regular knives wouldn't do the trick. And I also realized that I didn't have a pumpkin. So we went out only to discover that the first store was out of pumpkins. Thankfully, the second was stocked with four or five good-sized specimens, and I selected a decent one with a smooth-ish surface and a new package of cheapo pumpkin carving tools.

I perused an awesome pumpkin carving template gallery I found on ThinkGeek's Blurgh! blog. As you will notice, there are tons and tons of nerdy options. I selected an Adipose baby from the episode titled Partners in Crime because it's one of my favorite episodes, they are adorable and the pattern looked fairly easy.

I was ready to get to work. That's actually a fib. First, I recruited my eldest to chop a hole in the top and scoop out the innards, some of which we later roasted and ate (sorry, pumpkin, but you were delicious). While he was working, I printed out my template and wondered how I was really going to do this.

Fortunately, the pumpkin carving kit came with this really neat little tool, and yes, I had to rely on my child to tell me that.

Cheapo pumpkin carving tool set
See that little orange thing on the left? Turns out it pokes holes in things, and is perfect for punching out the outline of your pattern onto the pumpkin itself. Once I got the template piece of paper on the pumpkin, I was suddenly aware of how many tiny holes I'd have to poke to get the outlines of my little guy's hands just so. And then of course I'd have to delicately cut away with the tiny saw...

I persevered. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination as my choppy outlines and still-visible holes attest to.

Telltale pin holes and wobbly eyes
Once I got done poking holes and carving my little Adipose baby, my hands were cramping up and a solid hour had passed. But I emerged victorious.

Happy Halloween.

I only burned myself a little bit putting this candle in

Why I'm letting my kids stay up to watch the World Series

Image credit: Facebook/Kansas City Royals

Tonight, the Kansas City Royals enter the world's stage for the last time in the 2014 season. For the first time in 29 years, they have been competing in Major League Baseball's postseason, and from the first come-from-behind win at the American League Wild Card game on August 30, these playoffs have exceeded all expectations.

From multiple extra-inning thrillers to blowouts, the road to the World Series has been both an improbable one and really the only way it really could have happened. Of course KC would be in the World Series. Of course they'd sweep the ALDS and the ALCS. Of course they'd defy all predictions and their small-market status. Of course they'd belie their comparably low payroll and crush their competition. Of course.

I don't know if they will emerge as the victor tonight, and while I'll be disappointed if they don't, I am incredibly proud of all they've accomplished. And as this is the first time in nearly three decades that they've been in the mix for a title, I will let my kids stay up to watch the game — this last hurrah, this win-or-you're-done, this Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

Many of these playoff games took way longer than even I could stay awake for. I'm 40, I'm tired and I just can't hang like I used to. I've watched most of it, but not all, and my kids haven't watched them all either.

We're at the K!
However, this World Series, we've watched them all. While the only one of my four kids who likes and appreciates baseball is 15 and can handle going to bed late, even if the 4-year-old wanted to watch, I'd let her.

This is a precious time, a moment that they may not get to relive for a long, long time. I was around 11 years old when Kansas City won their first (and only) World Series. Since then, the Royals have been shuffled off to the margins of the national consciousness as other teams get the highlights, the trophies and the dollars. Nobody cares about our low-payroll major league team — except those of us who remain loyal and have been for as long as we can remember.

Me, representing in the 1980s
This is an extremely precious time to be a Kansas City Royals fan. We can now enjoy the benefits of a team who has worked hard and played hard all year to get a chance at the postseason, and that hard work is playing off. We have endured being made fun of for supporting a losing team (earlier this year even someone made fun of my Royals shirt and I'm in the Kansas City area). And we've reflected on next year being our year, for many, many years.

Well, this year may be our year. We haven't been this close to seeing Kansas City hoist the Commissioner's Trophy in a long, long time. I've enjoyed the ride, and I'm enjoying sharing it with my boy. I hope for a win tonight, of course, but no matter what, I'm proud to be a Royals fan. Thank you, Boys in Blue.

The Holderness family's Halloween video and how they minimize food allergies

Photo credit: YouTube/The Holderness Family

The Holderness family made their way into our social media consciousness last holiday season by releasing a smartly-produced cheerfest called "Christmas Jammies." They've released a few other titles since, and the latest, "Kin and Moose," is a Halloween spoof on Snoop Dogg's 1993 classic "Gin and Juice."

It's clever, it's fun, it's colorful, and it's adorable. Right? For me, though, they've honestly never been my cup of tea and to say I cringe when I see their videos would be absolutely correct. I had no intention of pressing the play button when I first saw this video posted. However, after reading a comment from another mom, I had to watch it because she said that the family minimized kids and their families who suffer from food allergies.

I'm sure those lines were put in without much thought, and they were definitely put in without actually looking at the Brach's candy corn they offered the complaining mother — all you have to do is look at the package to see that while they don't contain peanuts, they are not peanut safe.

Image source: Brach's

It's a sad fact of life for someone with food allergies that you have to scope out ingredient lists on everything your kid wants to put his paws on. Even if there are no actual peanuts in the product itself, if something is manufactured in the same facility or on the same equipment as products that do contain it, he can't eat it. Even a little bit of the offending food can trigger a dangerous reaction. So you have to be hyper-vigilant, which frankly sucks.

Everyone, however, seems to be over it. Everyone is so tired of kids with food allergies. It has to seem like kids are cropping up everywhere who have to watch their diets. But what I don't get is the attitude that it's annoying to have to cater to a child's medical condition because you love your peanuts or cashews. It's certainly not a cause for protest when your child's school bans peanuts and peanut butter because your kid's right to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is more important than keeping a small child from possibly dying.

Joking about food allergies and other dietary needs (like when someone has celiac disease and has to eat gluten free) seems to be popular now — it's fodder for comedy routines and apparently Halloween music videos. Yes, a child will have to grow up and live in the real world where food allergies are a constant danger. However, while they're small, you have to watch out for them until they're old enough to do it themselves.

I just don't think that it's all that funny to minimize the real struggle families have to go through who face food allergies or other medically-indicated dietary restrictions. We should strive to make the world a more welcoming place, not actively work against helping one another out.