Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

10/26/2007

Finding my Groove Spot

My oldest son is in a special needs preschool and right now he is labeled "Developmentally Delayed". But he is currently being evaluated for Autism. Today when I was picking him up from school he was in the multi-purpose room for rhythms class. This class is for all 4 year olds in the school and it led by an extremely energetic man called Motor Ken. He plays music and gets the kids so excited about doing the hokie pokie, along with other dances. It's exciting to get these glimpses into his world, to see how he reacts in the classroom, who he plays with etc. It's also nourishing to my spirit after being a SAHM for 4 years to know what he experiences everyday without me. As I peer in I search for my blond headed child, I spot him and watch.
He's not dancing.
He's not singing.
He's just standing there.
He has a blank look on his face.
He is staring directly across the room from where he is standing but he's not watching anything.
He is blankly staring at something...nothing.
He has withdrawn into himself.
It's a face I know well.
It scares the shit out of me when it happens and I try to avoid it at all costs. Typically what brings this face on is large gatherings. He can't handle it, it's too much stimulation and so he withdraws. So the urge I have is to go in there and take him out of the situation, but I can't. He's not being harmed and these are the lessons we want him to learn how to cope and deal in. To avoid looking at my withdrawn son, I start to notice the other children in the room and I smile and laugh to myself as they dance and move their little bodies in ways that is so freeing. If only as adults we could get rid of our inhibitions and just dance. Who cares what you look like, you are moving and dancing and damn it feels good!
That is the face I see on many of the children.
I'm struck by this one little girl, she has a walker...the tiniest walker I have ever seen. And she is in her groove spot, enjoying the music as she balances, not so gracefully on the handle bars of her walker. And I think to myself how hard it must be to parent a child with that type of physical disability. How do you go to the grocery store? I thought getting 2 kids out of car seats was hard, I can't imagine adding a wheelchair or walker to the mix.
But then the grass is always greener!
Right?!?!
How much easier it must be in social situations to have this physical disability to explain why your child is acting the way he/she is. Sometimes I think it may be easier than having a "normal" looking child who acts differently. Where people are quietly, sometimes not so quietly, asking why my son is laying under the table at the restaurant, is reciting an entire episode of Backyardigans word for word, or better yet is repeating the same line from a show or movie over and over again for a half hour straight.
To Infinity and Beyond!
But I am sure these parents who have physically delayed children wish the walker/wheelchair didn't immediately define the capabilities of their child. This little girl that I observed today and later talked to was clearly intellectually on par for her age. The conversation I had with her I dream of with my own son. Don't get me wrong Logan is extremely bright and can talk...but he can't really have a back and forth conversation without a lot prompts. I hope that every parent is at least thankful for that...that their child can tell them what they did at school today, their thoughts and dreams that are so creative and imaginative at this age.
Logan's school has opened my eyes to the disabled people that I encounter in every day. I've never honestly thought one way or the other about disabilities. I've always just tried to look at the person and not the machine they use. But now seeing these little 4 year olds trying to make a go of this world brings me such joy. And they are a reminder to me to try new things...find my groove spot...and not to care who is watching.
Just dance!

10/22/2007

The Microplane Zester

My favorite new kitchen gadget is the Microplane Zester. It must be some kind of recipe trend but it seemed like recently every new recipe I wanted to try required zest. Lemon zest, orange zest, or finely grated ginger.

Not one to want more in my kitchen than absolutely needed, mainly because it is exceptionally small, I didn't believe I needed a microplane zester - until I had one.

After ruining a perfectly good chicken fried rice dinner because the not-finely-enough chopped ginger overwhelmed the entire dish, I decided to spend the $9.99 on the zester to see what all the fuss was about. It was money well spent.

For the first time I am able to properly grate ginger and it is make all of my Asian cooking sing. Not to mention being able to buy cinnamon and nutmeg sticks and zest the spices fresh. It really does make a difference. The fresh spices have a cleaner vibrate flavor in baked goods or just on my morning oatmeal.

Here is my favorite new Zesty Recipe:

Zesty Lemon Yogurt

1/2 cup Plain nonfat yogurt (Preferably Total Greek Yogurt)
1 Tablespoon Honey
4 walnut halves broken into pieces
Zest from 1/2 a lemon

Zest lemon into yogurt and mix well.
Drizzle honey over yogurt, then top with walnut pieces.

Perfect for breakfast, desert, or a snack. It is high in protein and low in refined sugars.
Enjoy!

10/20/2007

Guitar Pick

What do you do with those plastic fake credit cards that you get with all the credit card offers you get in the mail? I use to give them to my kids to play with as pretend credit cards but then after thinking about the financial problems many Americans have with credit cards I thought I better stop. Don't want to create credit card issues in a 2 and 4 year old. :)
I get so many of these fake credit cards and I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what crafty thing I can do with them.
This is the first thing I made: Guitar Picks!All I did was trace a guitar pick on the plastic credit card. Cut it out and sand down all the sides till they are smooth.
Send a bunch to your environmental, guitar strumming pal for the holidays.

10/19/2007

Damn Blogger and their picture Problems

Ok I just had to post a rant about Blogger because I have posts ready to share with you but I can't freakin' get the pictures to upload to them. Blogger is apparently having problems. Anyway I just wanted to let you know to stay tuned.

10/17/2007

My $5 closet makeover

My son's closet was in desperate need of attention. I happened to pick up some odd pieces of a Closetmaid wire closet organizing system off of Freecycle, which was free as all things are on Freecycle. I then bought the wall brackets at Home Depot for 5 bucks and went to work. I installed a shelf on opposite sides of his closet.


And then I reached a "problem", I need some sort of bin or storage basket to hold all of pajamas on top of the shelf. Immediately I thought like most people : I'll just run out to Target and pick one up. But then I stopped myself...wait i can use what I have and make it work.
So I took the hanging canvas closet organizer that I already had and cut off the bottom 3 bins.
It fits perfectly on top of the shelf and now his pajamas can be organized by season, fuzzy footed jammies in one bin, long sleeve jammies in another and summer sets in the third. And yes for those of you that don't know me, all of my closets are this OCD organized.

Then I took the rest of the hanging organizer and put diapers and wipes in it so that it can live over the opposite shelf.
































Here is the finished closet. Not bad for 5 bucks, eh?

10/12/2007

I am not a Weekend Warrior

I've been in Colorado for about five months now. I knew when I moved here that the transition would be a learning experience but I had no idea what I would learn. So far, I have discovered that I very much like living with my boyfriend, that riding a bike isn't terrifying but fun and that I am not "A Weekend Warrior."

My definition of Weekend Warriors are the people who work jobs they have little on no feelings about week after week after week. These individuals live only for evenings and weekends when they do the things that bring passion into their lives. Of course, there are all kinds of weekend warriors from sport nuts to ballroom dancing fanatics. Most of them see their jobs as a means to an end - the end being the weekend. I am not judging these people; most of this country's work force would probably consider themselves weekend warriors. The reason I bring it up is that I am failing miserably at it.

In New York City, I worked as a Box Office Manager at various Broadway Theatres. For the first four or five years it was a dream job. I loved it. Now don't get me wrong, it was still work and I definitely didn't want to go some days, but I enjoyed that I was playing an important (albeit offstage) role in the production of high quality theatre. As the years moved along, I knew that I would not be able to do it forever because it was rote, boring, and I didn't feel like I was moving myself forward in any spiritual, emotional, or educational way. The job was what it was and it would always be exactly that.

One of the reasons I was so willing to move to Boulder, in addition to getting to live with my super-cute boyfriend, was that I would be forced to leave my comfortable job in Ticketing and do some other kind of work. But what? I thought that with 8 years of managerial experience in NYC I would easily find some type of administrative work that would pay the bills and then I would be able to become a Weekend Warrior. I didn't think about it that way at the time but that's how I imagined it would all work out. I would get some job as an administrative assistant at some hip, edgy Boulder software company or maybe work in the offices of Yoga Journal or even Crocs (both have headquarters near Boulder) and then on the weekend I would write, craft, cook, or bike ride. This I imagined would be a refreshing change to the hectic pace of NYC where you are what you do.

Boulder, CO as it turns out has the highest rate of under-employment in the United States which means that there are more people here with P.h.d.s working at Whole Foods than anywhere in the country. The employment agencies call it the 'Rocky Mountain Tax' which basically means that because it is so freakin' beautiful to live here (and it is possibly the prettiest place on earth with perfect weather to boot) that people are willing to work here for less. Way less. The good news is is that because of this people do not care at all what you do for a job; they only care what you do on the weekend. No one here is judging me because I am just a personal assistant. They are mostly concerned that I am not totally psyched about the upcoming Ski Season.

I initially overcame the Rocky Mt. Tax by landing a decent paying job as the 2nd personal assistant to a millionaire's wife. At $5.00 more an hour than the standard going rate for administrative assistants in this town, I thought that things were going to be alright. But they weren't. I am not happy at this job. And it's not because the woman I am assisting is a crazy, mean, unhappy woman that wants to control all people on her payroll. Sure that sucks, but I knew that she was a bitch when I took the job. The headhunter that hired me told me as much. When I asked her why this job was paying much higher than the other jobs in this area, she calmly told me it was a Bitch Tax. Meaning that because the person I would be working for was such a bitch they have to pay people more so that they are willing to stay. Fine. I saw myself as a mercenary. I would work this crappy office job and become - a Weekend Warrior. I would live for the weekends like so many other happy people residing in Boulder.

Unfortunately, I am failing. I feel bad at this job. It does nothing for my heart, soul, or mind. And having 48 hours on the weekend to do whatever I want isn't making up for it. How do all these people do it? I can't. It won't work. And sure, yes, by all means I can get another job. In fact, I have to. Mrs. Millionaire has fired her main assistant and wants to hire a professional personal assistant that has attened the Starkely Services Academy, which is one of the places in this country where one can train to be various types of servants to the rich. And so, I will move on to another office job which I fear will be similar in personal fulfillment for me but pay even less.

Why can't I do it? Here I am in this beautiful place with a fantastic partner and yet I am fairly unhappy. What I have learned in my first five months is Boulder is something I knew for about the last 3 years at my Box Office job - I need a career - not a job because I am not now and don't think I will ever be able to be a Weekend Warrior. My hats off to you, Weekend Warriors, you are noble people who have found a balance that works for you and brings you joy. This, however, is not my path.

I need a career not another job. If I am going to be somewhere 40+ hours a week it is going to have to be somewhere I feel useful and hopefully appreciated. I need to have a job that is important to me and that I care about. Unlike, my current place of employment where I have carefully hung a post-it note in my cubical that says, "Remember - You Don't Care."

So where am I? I know that I am going to have to take another 'job' soon as I know that I am not made of money but I hope it will be one of the last 'jobs' I will work. As the What Jessica is Reading window on the blog indicates I am currently studying to take the GRE and have to decided to go to Graduate School. For what? I am not exactly sure. I am in the middle of researching that right now. There are several great careers that I am currently exploring - all of which would make the 40 hours a week I will be working for the rest of my life more enjoyable.

So for now, I guess, I will be a Weekend Studier.

10/11/2007

Meatloaf, when there is nothing else to make

Whenever my freezer looks this bare I normally head straight to Costco and my local Co-op grocery store to restock, but not today. Today I am beginning a personal challenge, to see how long I can go with what I have on hand in my kitchen. Tonight I made meatloaf. Remember when meatloaf was what was for dinner when Mom needed to clean out the fridge? Tonight I gave it a try and it was fabulous! Now remember to use what you have on hand so if you don't have one of my ingredients try something else. Be creative....it's meatloaf after all.


1 1/2 pounds of ground beef/turkey/chicken

1 cup TVP
(ok I know I may need to elaborate here. Textured Vegetable Protein is made from soy and I buy it at a health food store. I know many vegetarians are going to scoff me for using this but it's really quite wonderful when mixed with meat. Just one cup will almost double the amount of meat you have. And it's like tofu in the sense that it takes on whatever flavor it's with. Plus it looks like ground meat so no one will know it's even in there. Trust me give it a try.)
1 2-ounce envelope of onion or vegetable soup mix
(If you don't have either try mixing up your own batch with a few bouillon cubes and garlic powder and some dried onion flakes)
Black pepper and salt, to your liking
1 cup of shredded cheese (any kind will do)
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or a many shakes of the dried stuff
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups of dried breadcrumbs

(this is where real creative kitchen skills will flourish, I always use the end of a bag of cereal. You know what I'm talking about, no one eats the last cup because no one wants all those crumbs in their cereal. Other ideas: stale crackers, the end of the bag of goldfish crackers, chips. The possibilities are endless! Just make sure you crunch whatever it is you are using so that the pieces are really small.)
1/3 cup of water
random add ins:
this is where you will scour your fridge and see what is lurking around ready to go bad. I found an almost empty salsa
jar, 1 teaspoon of ground flax seed, 1/2 empty jar of baby food spinach, a very small amount of peas that wouldn't even constitute as a serving.
Optional Toppings: barbeque sauce, enchilada sauce, ketchup mixed with a bit of spicy brown mustard.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine everything except the water. Add the water slowly...mix while you add small amounts because if you are using liquid type add ins like baby food you will need less water.
Transfer the meat mixture to a baking dish and form it into a 9 inch loaf. Bake until cooked through, about 40 mins. If using a topping rem
ove the meatloaf after 25 mins and pour the sauce over the top. Return to the oven for about 15 mins more.



10/10/2007

Save yourself some $ and watch TV online

I recently was commissioned for a custom project that involved hours of hand sewing. It was extremely tedious but the money I was being paid was well worth it. After the first day though it was hard to gather the motivation to work so I thought I'd watch a little TV while sewing but then I spent precious time flipping through the channels searching for something to watch. Not very productive. Randomly I decided to check the major stations online to see if I could stream something interesting. I had no idea that on ABC.com you can watch full episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, LOST and many more. I was hooked and soon enough the custom project was complete. Who needs cable or TIVO when you can watch full episodes on ABC, CBS, NBC. And there are great open source free ware companies like Miro that is chock full of interesting shows.

10/09/2007

Cradle to Cradle USPS Packaging

Did you know that the free packaging at your local United States Postal Service location is biodegradable? According to MBDC’s (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry) Executive Overview, the USPS’s new “products and services are designed based on patterns found in nature, eliminating the concept of waste entirely and creating an abundance that is healthy and sustaining.”
So stop buying those manila envelopes and use the extra money you would spend on envelopes to ship your item priority mail and save some landfill space.

10/08/2007

Easiest Quickest Handmade Christmas Present Ever


If you've known me for more the 2 or 3 years it is very likely that you have been given a Hot or Cold Rice Pack. Made quickly and simply with scraps of material and yet a complete crowd pleaser.

Sew a rectangle leaving one end open. Fill 2/3 full with rice and a few drops of essential oils. (Peppermint or Lavender oils smell great.) Sew fourth seem and - your done!

With ribbon or scraps of yarn tie on small tag inscribed, "Freeze for cold pack. Microwave 2-6 minutes for hot pack."

* Try to be mindful of whether or not the person you are giving this present to has a microwave. If they don't, they can still use it as a cold pack but it does decrease 50% of the gift's usefulness.

*The essential oils will wear off after a few uses. Suggest to refresh by dropping a few drops of the oil onto the material of the rice pack before use.

* These are not a great gift for shipping as the are on the heavier side.

* I've given this gift to friends, family, and co-workers. I think it would also be a great hostess gift or teacher gift.

* Finally, I've paired this gift with home-made bath salts, hand-made soap, and a crochet soap cozy and thought of it as a unique spa gift set.

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