web analytics

My Grandmother’s Green Bowl

One of my most favorite shows is Mo Rocca’s “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”.  If you haven’t seen the show, Mo visits other people’s grandmothers, where they share stories, recipes, and delicious food.  I laugh during the show sometimes, but just as often, I tear up, thinking of my own grandmoms.

Both of my grandmothers were Irish, and as you might imagine, boiled potatoes were about as creative as either of them got in the kitchen.  But everything that came out of their kitchens was simple, comforting, and always tasted like they were made with a grandmother’s love.

My Grandmom Bilbrough had a green glass bowl.  I remember seeing that bowl often through the years.  Sometimes, there would be a salad in the bowl, but more often than not, there was something wonderful being made in there.  Grandmom would mix her famous Irish soda bread in that bowl.  The bread – with a few small tweaks from my stepmom – went on to win awards, appreciated by family and culinary judges alike.  She would mix peaches or apples in that bowl with sugar and vanilla, on their way to becoming the most delicious peach or apple pandowdy.


But then there was her signature dish.  For every birthday in our family, my grandmother would make a pudding cake.  Back before cake mixes had pudding in the box already, my grandmother was making pudding cake – moist, delicious cakes that she made in a tube pan.  They were boxed cake mixes, boxed pudding mix, and even icing from a can, but I so looked forward to the birthday parties my grandmom would have so that we could have that cake.

Somehow, I acquired that bowl.  I don’t use it much anymore to mix cakes, both out of fear of something happening to the bowl and because of the stand mixer I now own.  But I love the bowl.  I love that some of my best childhood memories originated in that green bowl in my grandmother’s kitchen.

Grandmom B 2

Let’s Put Doc McStuffins in Charge of Peace Talks

The Sunday New York Times published an article describing how Doc McStuffins was a financially successful “crossover” toy – popular equally with minority children and non-Hispanic white children.  The article talked about how “minority” children make up just over 50% of children in this country, and this growing demographic is influencing the sale of merchandise on a wide scale.

It wasn’t always like that.  African American children had their dolls, white kids had their dolls, and never the twain shall meet.

I remember when Christie was introduced as the first African American Barbie doll.  Christie was actually the second in the line of minority Barbie dolls, as a year prior, Mattel manufactured Colored Francie (yep, you read that right).  The problem with Colored Francie is that she was basically tan Francie (Jersey Shore spray tan color), complete with top knot pony tail and slightly darkened Caucasian features.  But I digress.  None of my white friends had Christie dolls.  I was about five when she came out, fully into Barbies, Barbie cases, Barbie houses – the whole ordeal.  But I didn’t have a Christie doll.  Because she was African American.

When the Julia doll came out, I wanted one.  I saw the show on TV, and I wanted the nurse Julia doll, especially because this was back in the day before Barbie had real jobs – like astronaut and doctor.  Julia had professionalism.  She was a working woman, a strong female role model, raising her child alone and succeeding.  But I didn’t dare ask for one.  I knew my parents wouldn’t buy Julia because she was also an African American doll.  I don’t know where the perception came from, but white kids played with white dolls, and the African American dolls belonged to African American girls.  Even my own kids played with white dolls until Dora the Explorer hit big.

Doc mcstuffins

Doc McStuffins, though, has really crossed the line.  She transcends race and gender.  This little girl who plays doctor to her stuffed animals is not a doll for African American children, although the appeal to African American children, who see a doll in the store that looks like them, is unquestionable.  Doc is everyone’s doll.  White kids don’t see her color, they see Doc McStuffins, the beloved character from TV.  Little girls see a strong role model, even in Doc’s pretend world, and even little boys are wearing Doc’s lab coats and checking out their animals.

Doc McStuffins is single-handedly changing the perception of the buying public – the public at large.  Gone are the moms from my parents’ generation who believed a doll of color wasn’t for “us”.  And going are the moms who think their boys can’t play with toys from a “girls'” TV show.  The borders this character is crossing are farther reaching even than the borders crossed by Dora and Diego.

There are some African Americans who see this as a victory purely for African Americans.  It’s not.  Doc is a victory for all of us.  As Margaret Atwood said, I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all members of it.” 

Doc McStuffins has gone further to bring together people of all races than any politician or any government.  Imagine if we could take a page from her book and apply it across the board.


Eric Garner – The Punishment Should Fit the Crime

Some of you reading might think I finally drank my husband’s Kool-Aid, have turned against police departments all over the world, and am rising up in defense of the “innocent” against the “man”.

I haven’t.

I still believe most police officers are the good guys. I think the majority still believe in a badge that stands for protection, service, and the courage it takes to fulfill those promises made to society. I’m not even 100% convinced that Officer Daniel Pantaleo is one of the bad guys. But he did a bad thing. And he should be punished.


As of this minute, Officer Pantaleo has been relieved of his badge and his gun while he awaits the outcome of an investigation. Four emergency medical service team members who responded on the scene are also on modified duty. Why? Because maybe even worse than the prohibited choke hold used on Eric Garner was the lack of appropriate treatment for his blatantly obvious medical distress. Eric Garner lay unresponsive, with no obvious signs of life, and not a soul started CPR. He remained handcuffed, motionless, and at one point, his eyes fall open and he is not even offered the dignity of a blanket. No medical services whatsoever are performed on the scene.

Tramadol should be used as prescribed by a doctor. The dosage regimen is chosen individually depending on the https://www.cuttingedgevitamins.com/product/tramadol-online/ severity of pain and the patient’s sensitivity


Whether they determine the choke hold is what killed this 43 year old husband, father, and son or not, Officer Pantaleo’s use of that choke hold should be punished. It lead to the death of Eric Garner. Those EMS workers and the other police officers who stood around, failing to attend to the medical needs of Mr. Garner, should be punished.

I know, Eric Garner was not standing there with clean hands. But did he deserve to die for whatever his minor crimes may have been? He did not.

My heart breaks for Eric Garner. For his family. For the community, where he was well known and liked.

eric garner

And for all of us. ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

The actions taken against Eric Garner are taken against each one of us. And it’s time that each one of us – regardless of race – acts back.

The badge you wear as a police officer is not a shield to protect you from being punished for the things you do wrong. Things were done wrong to Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD. Let this be what finally causes the punishment to truly fit the crime. You are not immune because you wear a uniform. Let’s hope the investigation comes to the same conclusion.



Today, I Shall be an Ultrasound Technician

You are never more empowered than while watching daytime television.

I have always told my children they could be anything they wanted to be, but being home, with no kids in the house, and free time to watch quality television (Maury, Jerry, Judge X, Y, and Z), I am convinced even more this is true.  Hour after hour, I am offered amazing opportunities through the benefit of television commercials, all intended to guide me on the appropriate career path.

Interested in a career in medicine?  Of course you are, because according to commercials, there are JOBS available in the medical field.  With a few months of your life, a few thousand of your dollars (that they will help you find if you don’t currently have it in the bank), and the investment in a super cute set of scrubs that will scream PROFESSIONAL, you could be a medical assistant, a medical biller, or a licensed practical nurse.  Until daytime television, I did not even know they still made licensed practical nurses!


Medicine is not your thing?  That’s okay!  You could be working in Hollywood rightthisveryminutenow with just a few weeks worth of training in cosmetology.  Apparently, the movie industry is looking for you; no, not you – you, with the fuzzy bunny slippers and two day old salsa stains on your jammies.

Touching the faces of enormous celebrities creeps you out almost as much as taking the pulse of an elderly person with Skeletor wrists?  Dude, you could be the next Top Chef!  Do you like to eat?  Do you like to eat food?  Do you have an interest in putting food on a plate before you eat it?  Then you – no, not you with the salsa stained jammies, who clearly doesn’t care about plating that food before you eat it – could work alongside professional chefs like FILL IN THE NAME OF A CHEF YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF.


But today, ultrasound technician school is on the hard sell.  I can make the difference in the lives of expectant mothers or save lives of patients with heart problems.  I might spot cancer, surround myself with medical professionals, and still be home when my kids are done school.

Who needs the army to be all you can be?  You might discover it just by watching daytime TV.  Now pass the Cheetos.

Alaska or Aloha Bound? Part 2 – Getting There

The first thing to think about when trying to decide whether we are going to plan our vacation next summer to Alaska or Hawaii is how we are going to get there.  When you consider that we have to transport five people, just getting to our destination could be a big chunk of the travel budget.

Aloha plane

Hawaii is pretty much a no brainer.  Flying is really the only option, and currently, airfare from Philadelphia to Hawaii (with a stop in Phoenix) is $480.  For five people, even for someone who cried at the mere thought of math class, it looks like close to $2500.

Now Alaska.  My husband is a huge fan of the road trip.  We could fly out to Vancouver for about the same price that it would take to fly to Hawaii, but Jim wants to make it “fun” by packing the car with a gaggle of children, their bickering, fidgeting, and body odoring.

Alaska Road trip

A tentative road trip schedule would look something like this:

Day 1 – Bellmawr to Chicago – 12 hours; one night at the Springhill Suites in Rosemont for $100/night (military discount available) with breakfast included

Day 2 – Museum of Science and Industry; Navy Pier; Garrett Popcorn; drive to Milwaukee – 2 hours; one night at the Fairfield Inn, Downtown Milwaukee for $104/night (military discount available) with breakfast included

Day 3 – Morning miniature golf.  Drive to Fargo, ND – 9 hours; one night at the Courtyard in Moorehead, ND for $83/night (military discount available) with no breakfast in the morning

Day 4 – Drive to Glacier National Park – 14 hours; one night at Glacier Park Lodge for $202 (no military discount) with no breakfast

Day 5 – Early morning visit to Glacier National Park, then a drive to Vancouver – 11 hours; one night at Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle for $200/night plus $30 parking fee (no military discount available) with no breakfast

Day 6 – Arrive at the port to depart for the cruise

Fuel cost for the trip (one way) as estimated by AAA – $650 http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/fuelcostcalculator/

Total before attraction fees:  $1339

Now, assuming approximately the same costs going back the other way, this makes the road trip a little more expensive than the airfare to Hawaii, but there are two ways to look at this option.  It is 48 hours in the car together.  That’s a lot of time.  But we’ve always seen some of the best parts of this country during road trips.  We’ve done the big things, like Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon; and we’ve done the little things like the Corn Museum in South Dakota and the world’s tallest Jolly Green Giant.  It’s always fun, it’s always different, and it reminds me that one of the big reasons I married the man that I did was because we could do a nearly 50 hour car trip and not run out of things to talk about.

For some, there would be no question but to fly to Hawaii.  For others, the adventure of the road is really appealing.

Which team are you on?



The Demons That Haunt Me

Obesity is such an ugly word.  I’ve hated being fat my entire life – which is about how long I’ve been fat.  And the weight causes me to hide myself from so many things.  I’m uncomfortable in my own skin most of the time – even when I leave the house feeling like I don’t look too bad.  But maybe I need to be that uncomfortable.

Me just prior to my gastric bypass (on the right, weighing just over 300 pounds) and about a year ago, weighing about 20 pounds less than I do right now.

The two times in my life I can honestly say I wasn’t overweight were the result of drastic measures.  In high school, I stopped eating.  No, seriously – just stopped.  I drank iced tea all day long, and then for dinner, had small portions of whatever my mother was cooking.  Nothing to eat, all day long, took me from a size XL teenager to a size medium teenager.

The other time, I had gastric bypass surgery.  The surgery took me from a size 3XL woman to a size medium/large.  From a size 26 to a size 10.  And aside from the grey pallor, I thought I looked damn good.  I didn’t – and I had friends and family telling me I didn’t – but I was convinced.

Then I had a couple of surgeries, followed by complications, and with each instruction to rest and recuperate, I ate.  I learned that my surgically altered pouch could hold way more than I thought it could – especially if I ate stuff that was bad for me.

Thank you, Tania Lamb, for the photographic evidence of how far I've let myself go!
Thank you, Tania Lamb, for the photographic evidence of how far I’ve let myself go!

I’ve started and restarted diets more times than I care to count since my surgery.  It really is like an albatross around my neck – and every time I feel like I can lift my head up and move forward, it drags me back down.  We’ve started cooking all of our meals at home, so there are no fast food temptations, but I find myself grabbing a bag of chips or package of cookies every time I hit the supermarket.

And guess what?  I’m about to turn 50 years old.

This last surgery, combined with the realization that I am now only 6 years younger than my grandfather was when he died, and only 16 years younger than my dad was when he died, has issued yet another wake up call.  I don’t know how many of those calls I’ll need before I finally “get it”, but my kids leave for camp on Monday, and Jim and I are going to head back into the gym.  We have no running around or excuses to prevent us from getting there.  And the cookies and chips that I buy because I think my kids need them?  No need to have them in the house for two full weeks.  Maybe by then, I’ll have cured my own need for them.

My most recent blood work came back excellent – and my sugar level (I was full blown diabetic before my gastric bypass surgery) was 85 – which is great.  But the rest of me is a hot mess.  I’m going to see what I can do about that.  Maybe I’ll celebrate turning 50 with a little less of me.


Alaska or Aloha Bound? Let’s Decide!

In September of this year, I turn 50.  In March of 2016, Jim and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We made the decision to do a big summer vacation in the summer of 2015 to celebrate both of these momentous events, and we immediately set about planning our second Alaska cruise.


But hold on a minute.

There is also a possibility of making a trip to Hawaii.  We’ve never been to Hawaii, and there are certainly things we’d like to see in the Aloha state.  So after completely making our minds up to revisit Alaska, we are now weighing options.


Over the next couple of months, we’re going to do our research, consider things like activities, relaxation factor, look at the difference in cost overall, and discuss all of the components that go into making this type of decision.  We would absolutely love your feedback every step of the way, and from those of you with more experience in these two locations than we have, your advice will become crucial as we make the final decision.

Keep an eye on the blog for updates in the decision making, or follow along on Twitter – #AlohaAlaskaAnna

When Must Haves are Can’t Haves – Disney Dining Alternatives

It’s here – your day that is exactly 180 days away from your Walt Disney World vacation, when you can get up at the crack of dawn and make the dining reservations you’ve been planning for since your last Walt Disney World vacation.  But your alarm doesn’t go off, and you’re dreaming of a Club Level room at the Yacht Club – who wants to wake up from that?  You over sleep, and your best laid dining plans crash and burn.  What’s a Disney vacation diner to do?


Believe it or not, there are restaurant options at Walt Disney World.  I know when people talk to me about making dining plans, they all have the same restaurants on their list – Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, and Le Cellier.  Not being able to get these restaurants can really ruin a vacation for some people.  Let’s see if we can save the day by recommending some alternative dining options.

1 – Can’t get dinner at Be Our Guest?  Grab lunch.  There are no reservations necessary for lunch at the Beast’s Castle, and if you don’t mind going early or late for lunch, you may not even have a very long wait.  The best thing about lunch here is that it feels very table service, even at lunch.  You’ll order as you go in, sit down, and the restaurant does the rest.  Lunch options also include some very “sit down” dining food.  Go for the French onion soup and braised pork, and you’ll feel very much like you’re at a table service meal.


2 – No room at Cinderella’s Royal Table?  Happens all the time.  This has always been one of the most coveted reservations to secure, so weigh your reasons for wanting to eat there.  Is it the castle experience? Do lunch at Be Our Guest in Beast’s Castle.  Is it meeting Cinderella?  You may also find her at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for dinner, and she may also appear at breakfast, lunch and dinner at Restaurant Akershus in EPCOT.  Want early entry to the Magic Kingdom?  Try Crystal Palace.  Is it the food?  Nah, it’s never really about the food here, but hopefully, one of the other options will satisfy your reasons for wanting to dine there.

3 – Le Cellier is Le Sold Out.  You’re obviously looking for a great steak dinner.  If you want to stay in EPCOT, try Monsieur Paul, where you’ll get an amazing beef tenderloin.  Jiko has my most favorite filet mignon anywhere, followed closely by the California Grill.  For a great selection of steaks, hit up the Yachtsman Steakhouse.


4 – ‘Ohana means family, and if you don’t book early, your family may be waving to your cousins from outside this wildly popular restaurant.  I can almost always get a breakfast reservation here – even at the last minute.  I know, you want the all you can eat grill.  Keep calling – up to the day you leave.  And if that fails, turn up at the podium as soon as the restaurant opens for dinner.  They may be able to squeeze you in.

5 – Chef Mickey’s – I hate to say it, but I got nothing.  You can see each of the characters that appear there at other restaurants, and there are other buffets.  But there’s just something about Chef Mickey’s that you can’t get anywhere else.  You’d better set a backup alarm so you can snag this one!


An American Kid In London (or Paris or Rome or Dublin…)

Face it, it’s going to be a pricey vacation to take the family to Europe.  When we told family we were taking our then 3, 6, and 16 year olds on a European tour our family assumed our kids would never remember, we got looks that ranged from “bless their hearts” to “where did I put that straight jacket I always knew she’d need?”  And really, with so many theme parks and destinations in the United States, why take your kids so far from the welcoming hands of their grandparents when they’ve tested your last nerve?  Here’s why.

1 – They LOVE kids in many European cities.  Population is on the decline throughout Italy, for example, and they don’t see as many kids as you might think.  We knew we made the right choice to visit Rome for the first time with our then 9 year old Brighid when she sneezed in the taxi on the way to the hotel, and our cab driver pulled off the highway, got out of the car, and rummaged around in his trunk until he found tissues, a blanket, and vitamin C lozenges “per il bambina!”  Kids were welcomed throughout Europe, and they always got an amazing amount of attention.

Europe with Kids

2 – You might be from there.  If you’re like many Americans, your family may have emigrated to this country from a European country.  No matter how recently your family crossed the pond, your kids can’t get a real feel for where they come from unless you take them there.  Besides, they might enjoy meeting someone who looks like their grandfather.

Europe with Kids 2

3 – They will learn about other cultures.  Even taking your children to places where people speak the same language, there is much to learn by visiting Europe.  They will see things older than their own country, and learn that history goes back way further than we do.  Show them some of the pomp and circumstance they’d never find here – like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  See the Pope. Visit museums.

Europe with Kids 7

4 – They will learn to appreciate other cultures.  We have the global community at our fingertips, thanks to the internet.  But to immerse your kids in the culture of another country gives them an understanding of people you can’t get playing Minecraft with a kid from the Bronx.  I am so grateful for the experiences my girls had in Europe, and love it when they remember how people did things differently from the way we do them.  I mostly love it when they want to have afternoon tea.  There is never really a bad time for scones.

Europe With kids 5


5- They might learn something about you.  Why are you in love with a simple lunch of fresh crusty bread, incredible cheese, and perfect grapes?  Why do you cry when you stand at the Pieta?  What’s the big deal about the Beatles?  Giving them the experiences that made you who you are might give them a glimpse they wouldn’t have normally had.

Europe with kids 3

6 – By the time you get home, they’ll know better than to wash their hands in a bidet.  ‘Nuff said.

Europe with kids 4



So, You Want To Marry My Daughter…

In case you haven’t noticed, we are a society bound by the chains of technology.  Believe it or not, we used to leave our homes without our telephones – primarily because they were anchored to the wall and the handset anchored to the part anchored to the wall.  There wasn’t texting, Tweeting, Skyping, online dating – none of that nonsense.

I won’t say we’re not better for the things we have, but some things are more special the old fashioned way.  Remember the way your heart pounded when a boy called you?  I used to take the time to fix my hair and check my makeup before I took the phone.  How about the time your favorite guy stopped by because he was in the neighborhood and couldn’t find a pay phone to call you?  It still makes me smile to think of the times it happened to me.


But even more than that, getting engaged is one of those things where men should take a step back in time.  With high school kids pressured from the sophomore cotillion to come up with more and more elaborate “promposals”, by the time people get engaged anymore they need a camera crew, costume changes, a flash mob, and a YouTube channel.

You wanna marry one of my girls?  Here’s what you should know.  Before you ask her, ask her dad.  I can promise you this – he’ll never agree to “give away” one of his daughters, but let him see that you love her nearly as much as he does and want to give her a life that will bring her happiness in the happy times, comfort in the sad times, and companionship the entire way and he might just agree to walk her down the aisle to you.  Besides, if it’s good enough for Sean Bean, it’s good enough for you.


Don’t worry about sky diving into Yankee Stadium with a ring that will have her digging your family out of debt for the first five years of your marriage.  Find a place that means something to both of you, get down on bended knee (just one – no groveling), and don’t make promises.  Tell her what your intentions are, what you want your life to be like, and how much better you know things will be if you travel the road together.  So skip the side show and circus acts – just bring the sincerity.

And finally – enjoy your moment.  Give yourselves an hour or so to let it all soak in before you make phone calls to your moms.  Then give your moms a few minutes to call the people they love and want to share it with firsthand before you make it “Facebook official”.  With a wedding to plan, that hour you give yourselves may be the last calm hour you’ll have until you get back from the honeymoon.


And wait until you get back from your honeymoon to make your marriage “Facebook official”.  The people who matter most will have shared it with you the old fashioned way – by your side.