Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trying new foods

I grew up eating certain foods. As far as fruits and vegetables, our family stuck with very basic things like carrots, cucumbers, celery, carrots, onions, and potatoes. We had canned corn, peas, and green beans. The fruits we ate were red apples, cantelope, oranges, and bananas. There was also alot of canned peaches, pears, and fruit cocktail. Back in those days, our grocery stores were not as abundantly supplied with variety like they are now. Every time I go to the grocery store I see new foods that I've never had before and wondered what they would taste like. Up until now I've avoided buying new foods because they made me nervous. New things can be intimidating, but lately I find that I am more compelled to just jump right in and try them since I am trying to eat more vegetables and fruits these days.

One area of cooking that has always mystified me is asian cuisine. It was always something you went out to eat, or got it as take out and ate it at home. When we moved to Germany, I was very happy that several restaraunts here serve asian cuisine. After searching the menu for my absolute favorite chinese dish, beef with broccoli, I was completely bummed out! That's what started my search for recipes for asian foods. I have been happily surprised to find out how simple many of my favorite dishes are, and now I just want to learn more! My good friend from Japan is going to help me figure out new flavors and dishes that I will be trying out.

I don't know about you, but that video really made me want to try some soup dumplings. After some research on, I found a great book for dim sum using the ratings to guide me. The irony is that the amazing book that I bought was written by...the SAME lady in this video!!!
Here is her book:

You can look inside it with, so take a gander. I will be posting pics when I do get a moment to try my hand (I'm guessing it will be half disaster and half success) at making my first asian dumplings. So fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Who Doesn't Love Playdough?

I'm not crafty. At all. I love the idea of making things, but I have very little patience and a perfectionist nature that makes crafting difficult for me. I will start a project on full blast, get bored and lazy with it while I try to rush to the end, then get frustrated with my end product which is normally too big, too small, lopsided, discolored, or smelly. Because of this, I tend to shy away from making things with my kids, even though I have to admit that these activities make me feel like a good mom, even when they go horribly awry and I end up overwhelmed with damage control and clean-up. Well, I have found the perfect project for me and my kids: Playdough. It's easy, cheap, takes about ten whole minutes to make, and I always feel like an awesome mom when I cook some up for the kids.

I have tried lots of different recipes for playdough, and my favorite is as follows:

2 cups plain flour
2 cups colored water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup salt

Combine all the ingredients in a pan and stir over low heat. It will gradually thicken into dough, and then you just plop it out of the pan, let it cool off, and play with it.

I play with it, too!

This dough is freakishly similar to the stuff you buy at the store; it stays pliable for hours, and it will keep for weeks in the fridge, in a sealed container. I divide the dough between my two kids and give them forks, toothpicks, cookie cutters, plastic knives, pizza rollers, glitter, beads, pipe cleaners; everything and anything I can think of that they can use to shape the dough. My kids play with it for long chunks of time, and when they get bored (as all kids inevitably do) I make myself a playdough stressball to get me through the destruction that follows. So, really, everybody wins!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PB&J Wrap Bento Lunch

These quick wraps are very convenient and add a great twist on the classic pb&j sandwich. I only eat wheat bread, so naturally, I use the wheat tortillas with these as well. The white tortillas work just as well, but it might take a trial period to train your taste for them. They taste just like bread, but more like when the bread has been squished flat.
Here's how I make the wraps:
  1. Lay your tortilla on a plate. Spread one half with peanut butter, and the other half with jam. Try not to use too much jam or it will ooze out when you roll them.
  2. Fold over one side, and continue folding it until you have a little burrito shape without the folded bottom.
  3. Cut the wrap in half and serve.

One half peanut butter, the other sugar free jam.

Fold it a little past where the peanut butter starts.

Fold again, leaving a small flap on the end.

Tuck the last bit over. The peanut butter will make it stick.

Once you cut it, you can easily lay them in a bento box, or on your plate.

My daughter ate every last bite of this!
I love using these in my bento lunches. They are pretty sturdy, so if they are jostled a bit, they won't be destroyed. I slip these in first, and add my other foods to the bento afterward.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Month of the Military Child

April is the month of the military child. We celebrate how amazing these children are not because it is just some random thing to celebrate, like garlic day (which happened to be yesterday). In the military community, we take this month to really look at how strong our children are, and the unique struggles they face.

My sisters and my brother grew up as Navy brats. We were never asked about whether we wanted to move again and again, saying goodbye to countless friends and being forced to make new ones when we reached our new base. We had to start fresh in a brand new school and dive into a curriculum that was often either things we had already learned and done, or things we had never seen before and had to work extra hard to catch up.
One of the worst parts about moving schools is that upon entering high school, several of the credits that you earned could be wiped off your record, only to be replaced with a gaping hole of credits the new school required. This is an especially troubling state to be in when you might possibly have to attend summer school and/or complete an additional year of classes in order to graduate...even if you had exceptional grades.

Military children often deal with separation from their Mom or Dad. Even in times of peace, our service men and women have to separate with their loved ones for a time due to assignments, training, and things the military demands. If a parent is sent off to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, or any other dangerous place, it is a terrifying thing for a child to grasp. The whole family feels it, but children do not have the understanding that adults have, so it is much harder for them to deal with.

Since I grew up as a military brat, and later married a service member, I can tell you that it was much harder for me as a child to deal with the military because there were very, very few times when things were "fair." Now that I am a grown woman, I know that life in the military doles out more unfairness than things that are fair, but I can also appreciate the benefits that the military provides our family. Thankfully, both of my daughter's parents were military brats, so we can be sympathetic to her struggles. Growing up is a difficult process for all children, but military children have much more to deal with on top of that. This is why we celebrate the month of the military child.
 What do we do for the month of the military child? I am happy to say that our military community has wonderful MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) programs that celebrate our children, and they host all sorts of wonderful things for our children to do all month long. Our children have been given live shows sponsored by the USO and Sesame Street. Sesame Street has also made a special DVD for our kids to watch that helps them prepare for a love one's deployment, and other important issues that our kids face. Heck, we even get some AFN commercials that talk about the month of the military child, and how great they are. Elmo loves military children. Find out how our military children are being celebrated by googling "the month of the military child." You might find some great activities in your area that you can participate in!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Keep Your "O" Off My Book!

I like Oprah. I admire her, I watch her show, I subscribe to her magazine, and I think she's a fairly cool lady. When she started talking about books and got everyone to read, I thought it was great, and wished more power to her and the ubiquitous "Oprah effect." Sometimes I would read the monthly selection, most of the time I wouldn't. She chose some good ones (I am still grateful for the introduction to Wally  Lamb) and she chose some really awful ones (I thought James Frey's A Million Little Pieces sucked before everyone found out it was full of lies and got all mad about it) but it didn't matter; my reading habits had nothing to do with her. Well, that was true until she started putting her darn sticker on everything.

I don't remember when the "O" sticker first appeared; it's possible that it was plastered all over the cover of her first selection (which happened to be Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean, if you were curious) and I somehow just didn't notice it. Once I did notice that sticker, I saw it everywhere, and it unnerved me. That little sticker changed the way I read. It made me self-conscious. I didn't want anyone to see me reading a novel with Oprah's seal of approval and think that I was incapable of chosing books for myself. That sticker undermined my expertise, and as much as I like Oprah, I refuse to believe that she's better at choosing books than I am. The easy fix would have been to simply peel the sticker off, but those things were made with some kind of freakishly strong Oprah-grade glue that wouldn't come off without taking a good chunk of the cover with it. So, I could look like one of Oprah's reading minions or like I don't take care of my books.

Oprah huh?

That sticker made me wary of certain books. I rebelled against Oprah and her super-sticky stickers. They were designed to make me want to read something, but instead, they repelled me, and I would often refuse a book simply because Oprah told me I should check it out.  My rebellion extended beyond the obviously branded books to books that looked like something Oprah might like; there was nothing worse than having a stranger ask me if I was reading an "Oprah book." If I happened to read a book before Oprah got her mitts on it, I had to make sure that everyone knew about it. That's right, I had The Road on hold at the library at least two weeks before Oprah said a word about it. I still feel a bit smug about this, ridiculous as it is.

At one point, I decided that contemporary fiction was getting to be too stressful for me, so I went back to the good old classics. Of course, soon after I made this decision, Oprah stretched out a bit and started encouraging people to read Faulkner and Tolstoy and Dickens. That would have been great, except that now the sticker was gone, replaced by a permanent graphic printed right on the cover. Oprah has officially proliferated the reading world, and now she cannot be peeled away. Even your non-fiction isn't safe; if the author appeared on the Oprah show, watched the Oprah show, or has heard of Oprah, there will likely be an endorsement somewhere on the book. 

Now that the heyday of Oprah's book club has largely passed (it helped oodles when she stopped making regular selections and instead chose books when she darn well felt like it), and the show is in its final season, I have hope that the "O" emblem will gradually fade from existence, at least on my books. I don't begrudge Miss O and her embrace of literature, I just wish she hadn't gotten so stamp-happy with her love. Couldn't the graphic have been smaller? Or maybe it could've been tucked inside the book somewhere, like in the middle of a random chapter or hidden within the cover art itself. I wouldn't be opposed to a fun game of "Where's Oprah" with my copy of She's Come Undone. In the meantime, I suppose I'll have to continue avoiding the mark as much as I can, and when that's impossible, well, there's always electrical tape.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cooking with your kids: Pink Lemonade

Pink Lemonade
I love cooking with my daughter, even though she tends to make more of a mess than anything else. It's important to start cooking with your kids at an early age because they will love cooking more if they are familiar with it, and have the confidence that years of practice can give. Oh, and you can get them to make you some excellent food for you when they are old enough to cook by themselves and it's a special (or average) occasion. Score! Seriously, though, my favorite recipe to make with my daughter is my version of pink lemonade. If your child can roll a ball, they can help you make this yummy drink!

You will need:
5 lemons
Marachino cherries (optional-not for small children as it's a choking hazard)
1 cup sugar (or less if like it more sour)
1 or 2 drops red food coloring
Enough water to make 2 quarts of lemonade
long handled spoon for stirring
cutting board
*Always be very careful when using knives around children. Be sure that you cut the lemons far out of reach of the child, and quickly remove the knife after use*

  1. Reserve one lemon for later. With the remaining four lemons, take turns rolling them on the counter with the palm of your hand, applying pressure. This releases more juice.
  2. Cut each of the four lemons in half. Have your child help you squeeze out the juice with the juicer. With small children, place her/his hand on top of yours as you squeeze, or take turns juicing them until you collect all of the juice.
  3. Check to make sure no seeds have fallen into the juice. Discard the extra pulp and seeds from the top of the juicer. Add the juice of all four lemons to the pitcher.
  4. Add the cup of sugar. Have your child hold the cup with you as you pour it.
  5. Add one or two drops of red food coloring.
  6. Stir the sugar and lemon juice well. Have your child help you stir, or stir by themselves. Slowly add the water, and continue stirring until all water is added and the sugar is dissolved.
  7. With the fifth lemon, cut off the stem end and the opposite end. Slice the lemon into circles about 1/4" thick. Reserve two circles, and add the others to the pitcher. With the remaining circles, cut a slit going halfway up so that you can rest it easily on the rim of a cup. Add a fun straw. Enjoy!

She is trying to get the juice out. I had to help her since she isn't strong enough yet.

I can do it, Mom!

One drop of food coloring goes a long way.

If you prefer your lemonade to remain yellow, omit the food coloring.

Slip the cut side of each lemon slice on the edge of your cup and add a straw.

Adding the extra lemon slices to the lemonade makes it so pretty and adds more flavor.


For an extra touch of flavor and color, drop a marachino cherry into the bottom of your cups when serving, but only for children who will not choke on it.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Monday, April 11, 2011

Short Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

The gist: The world of little girls is a hot pink mess, thick with pink princessy frou-frou unlike anything parents have dealt with before. Is all this extreme girliness just a harmless phase, or is there something more sinister lurking behind all that pink?

What I Liked: The conversational tone and sense of humor made this an easy and enjoyable read, without skimping on the hard facts, and there are some surprising hard facts. Orenstein navigates this territory with honesty and hubris, dismantling the mighty pink monster in a way that enables you to see it clearly without completely admonishing it. She doesn't offer any concrete answers, but provides the reader enough information and space to decide whether those Disney Princesses are friends or foes.

What I Didn't Like: I got this feeling like I was a tiny post trying to protect my kids from a hurricane. More than once, I felt the urge to move to a cabin in the woods without electricity and pop culture, and I still don't know what to do about my daughter's insistence that she wear dresses in subzero temperatures so that she can be "pretty."

Should You Read It?
If you have any young girls in your life, yes, absolutely read it. At the very least, it will make you laugh.

For more information, check this out.

You might also like Can't Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne and So Sexy So Soon by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Drumroll please...

The winner of the red rose filigree necklace is....
Guinivere Norrington of Camelot's Treasure


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Market Day

I love living in Germany, and some of the great perks of living in the Eifel are the farms and open spaces. I remember when I learned we were moving here. I was under the impression that everything in Europe is smaller, especially houses and apartments. However, when we got here, we found these amazing towns clustered together in beautiful little communities, and the houses are much larger than I ever dreamed they would be. They may not have closets built into the rooms, but they make up for the lack of space in storage spaces and bedrooms (ours has five bedrooms). The people in Germany are very outdoorsy, so you can spot them in the fields walking with long walking sticks (which reminds me of the travelling Uncle from Fraggle Rock) or just walking with their dogs. Several homes have stunning gardens and many people grow their own fruits and vegetables. I love driving through the towns in spring, when the flower boxes on the houses bring an explosion of color that instantly makes you feel happy and welcomed.

The people here are very friendly, and even though my Deutsch is not by any means perfect, I find that when I try to speak German, they are put at ease, and usually can speak better English than I can speak German. In most cases, people are terrified that their language skills are worse than they really are, so when they see me struggle, it lets them know that I feel exactly the same way about my own skills.

I recently went to a market in Wittlich. I've been really wanting to eat more local fruits and vegetables, so this was the perfect opportunity to find some! Even though there weren't many vendors, we found everything we needed, and I even saw some new foods that I'd never seen or heard of (purple carrots!). I saw some amazing carrots with the green leafy part still attached, so I instantly snagged those. Aren't they gorgeous?
I was amazed at the quality of the foods offered, and even more at the prices. I got a bunch of carrots, a bag of celery, four apples, five lemons, a bundle of cherry tomatoes that smell amazing, and an english cucumber all for eight euros and some change. The bag was pretty heavy when I finished shopping. Since my family eats a ton of veggies and fruit each week, this really makes me happy.

The kind lady who was selling at this stand gave my daughter a free banana. She was really great. Since this was my first experience going to the market, I felt a tad bit awkward with what I needed to do, so I asked if I could use the bag I brought to corral my items while I shopped. She was pretty helpful, and assisted me in getting my goodies into the bag. The market had fruits and veggies, organic fruits and veggies, eggs, baked goods, fresh meat cuts, deli meats, and olives/spices/jars of oil with foods inside. While we waited for our friend to get her donut holes, the lady even gave one to my daughter for free!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Read, You Will.

I have always been an enthusiastic reader, and as such, I don't get why people don't read. Sure, I understand that people are tired and busy and prefer movies and television and video games to books. I like to think (and hope) that these are just weak excuses and that the real reason people don't read is because they haven't heard about how awesome it can be. No, really. Reading is awesome! It expands your vocabulary and knowledge, and it's much easier than Sudoku. The real beauty is that you can read whatever you want, and the benefits are the same. A raunchy romance novel may not have the same distinction as a hefty classic, but it will still do amazing things for your mind.

I know that my enthusiasm for reading is anomalous, and I don't expect people to be as voracious about it as I am, but I do want people to read, even if it's just a little. I can't say exactly why it means so much to me; maybe I just want to share this thing that has shaped me into an amazing, intelligent, verbose, and totally modest individual. Books changed my life, and I think everyone can benefit from reading. So, to make the idea a little easier to swallow, I'm going propose a few flexible rules for reading.

Rule #1. Read whatever you want.
Read magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, literary masterpieces, Harlequin romances, murder mysteries, science fiction robot love stories, poetry, travel pamphlets, whatever you want, as long as you read something. I believe that there is something for everyone, and if you put in a little effort, you will find something that you will enjoy reading. Keep searching until you find whatever it is that you love, and then read the heck out of it.

Rule #2. No reader's guilt allowed.
I suffered from reader's guilt until my senior year of high school, when I told my English teacher that I hated the book she was forcing us to read at the time. She just shrugged and said, "Well, then, don't read it. Life's too short for crappy books." It was the first time I had ever been given permission to not finish a book. I  used to trudge through a book until the bitter end, bound by a sense of obligation to finish what I started. Now, I'll give a book no more than 100 pages to grab me. If I don't love it by then, I'll put it down and read something else. So if you start a book and at any point you start to hate it, I give you permission to start using it to level your kitchen table.

Rule #3. No time requirements.
Someone once told me that if you read for five minutes a day, you will read about 22 books a year. I'm having trouble substantiating this claim, but I think it's important to remember that you can make a long journey with small steps. Even if you read just a page here and a minute or two there, you will eventually get through whatever it is you're reading, and you will be better for it. This is leisure reading; there are no deadlines, no pop quizzes. Take all the time you want.

Rule #4. Use your library.
Libraries are underutilized, and this makes me sad. Is there anything better than free books? Sure, you don't get to keep them forever (well, you're not supposed to, anyway) but how often do you re-read a book? Most libraries have online catalogs, so you can search for your book and even place it on hold so that it will be waiting for you at the front desk. You can also re-check your books online to avoid late fees. Libraries also have audiobooks, CDs, movies, and even e-books available, all for free. Your library card also gives you access to all their databases, which is something I'll explore in-depth in a later post, but trust me, it's awesome. So use your library and learn to love it.

Rule #5. Talk about it.
If you loved a book, recommend it to all your friends. Write about it on your Facebook page, lend it to reliable people who will return it, put it on your t-shirt. If you hated a book, get out the loud speaker and talk about it even more. There is no better way to find out about great books than by talking about books, and it always makes for great conversation.

So get out there, find a book, and bury your nose in it. Not literally, though. That will make the words blurry and defeat the purpose of this post. If you find a keeper, let us know about it. Happy reading, everyone!

Nose planted firmly in book. 

Time for a giveaway!!

Since our wonderful fans on our facebook page were able to help us spread the word about our brand new blog, we are now hosting a giveaway for this red rose filigree necklace. The chain is 15" long and is antiqued bronze. This necklace has been donated by Cupcakes and Cameos.

How to enter: Step 1-Follow us on facebook!/SodaPopPages
Step 2-Follow us on SodaPop Pages with the "follow" button below. (Way down there)
Step 3- Visit CupcakesAndCameos and find your favorite item. Leave a comment here about why you like it.
*For extra entries, share a link for this giveaway, and leave a comment with a link to your page. You can also get an extra entry for following us on twitter:!/sodapoppages

Monday, April 4, 2011

Welcome to SodaPop Pages!

SodaPop Pages is brought to you by a pair of bubbly sisters with a mutual love for food and cooking, summer fun, vintage style, trying new and sometimes crazy things, and books, books, books. Why the name?We have big plans for fun things we'd like to share with our readers, and our interests are hard to categorize. Soda pop makes us think of food and drink, which is one of our main areas of interest, but it also makes us think of summer fun, vintage style, and the joys of childhood. Our other main focus with this blog will be on books and reading, hence the Pages of our title.

Allow us to introduce ourselves:

Hello! My name is Jennifer. I live in Germany with my husband and daughter. My husband is in the Air Force, so home is where they send us. I love the mystery of how things are made, and am a DIY fanatic. Cooking and crafting are some of my major interests. I love to sew and design, and plan to start attending online classes for fashion design. So far, I am self-taught. I learn from my mistakes, and revel in my failures as much as my successes. I am also an avid reader. I have two etsy shops featuring my handmade designs.

Here I am with my signature hair flower.
I am Melanie, mother of one girl maniac and one boy maniac, living with said maniacs and my husband in a little city in the land of Montana, or as I like to call it, "Not-Quite-Canada." I'm an imperfect stay-at-home mom, doing my best to keep my kids alive and happy and my house at least a little clean. Some days are better than others. I'm a reader and a writer and an aspiring librarian, and when I'm not hiding my face behind a great book, I like to make a fool of myself in front of large crowds singing bad (and sometimes good) sober karaoke. Mornings are tough for me and I don't truly wake up until after noon, my bowling average is dismal, but I get very lucky at pool, and I hate gameshows.

I love fire.

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