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.

2/29/2008

Lush


Boulder is dry. People kept telling me when I moved out West to be prepared for how dry it is out here. I used to just think of winter as long and dark. Now, I understand what a dry winter is all about. In the summer I loved the lack of humidity here but I now admit a little moisture isn't all that bad.

I've been trying to find the right moisturizer for weeks now. My face got so dry I actually had a small breakout of a rash all around my hairline. It was awful looking and hurt worse. But my friend Darren rescued me with a wonderful recommendation. He suggested I try one of moisturizers made by Lush.

Lush cosmetics are handmade and all natural. In fact on the bottom of the product where things usually say made in France or China, my little tub of moisturizer has a sticker with a smiling image that says made by Midge. The products aren't cheap. But a little goes a long way just like the customer service person told me.

Two days after picking up Lush's Skin Drink face cream the rash subsided and my face was actually soft again. I haven't tried any of their other products but must say I am intrigued by their all natural ingredient promise. For now, I'm just happy to have my face back.

2/28/2008

Freeganism

As defined on Wikipedia.com, Freeganism is an anti-consumerism lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on "limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.

Doesn't sound too bad. I knew the movement was around but I was totally unaware of the methods many freegans practice until I saw yesterdays Oprah Show. Oprah and Lisa Ling interviewed three seemingly normal rational freegans who get almost 100% of their groceries from the garbage bins outside of grocery stores such as Whole Foods. On Oprah's website you can watch two clips from the show Could You Live with Less? and Trash Tour. Both segments show how freegans get their food right out of the garbage.

Now, I am all for re-using and I won't even deny that the entertainment center in my living room came from right beside the dumpster of my apartment building, but I don't think I'm ready to be taking eggs, milk, cheese, and even ice cream out of the dumpsters of my local Safeway. In their defense, while I was watching the Oprah show I was impressed by the quality of the food they were digging out of the trash bins, but I'm just ready not to take that leap. Yes. I want to consume less. Yes, I'm happy that I only purchase one new $100. piece of furniture for my current apartment (everything else came from craigslist and GoodWill); however, I don't know if I'm prepared to do my grocery shopping late at night with a flashlight wearing rubber chaps.

These people are deeply committed to not being consumers and I admire them for their convictions. This blog is all about re-purposing items you would normally throw away or making a gift instead of buying another gift card but I've drawn the line and it is food. I want my very own new groceries purchase before they expire from the clean store shelves.

Love to hear what you think. Please let me know if you know any Freegans or if after watching the Oprah clips you've given up buying groceries ever again.

2/21/2008

Homemade Chalkboard

It's an odd wall in our house and I was determined to make it more than just a wall to hang pictures on. My goal is to utilize every square inch of our house...kinda like living on a boat but without all the water.
So I made the boys a chalkboard from chalkboard fabric and trim purchased at Home Depot. I first measured out the area and cut the fabric accordingly. You could also use chalkboard paint but I just so happen to have a ton of chalkboard fabric, check out AuntArt.com if you wanna see what I normally do with it. :)
The trim I cut to the same dimensions and sanded and painted white to match the rest of the trim upstairs. Above the chalkboard are 2 magnetic strips purchased at Ikea to display the boys' works of art.
Wha-la Creative Art Zone!

2/20/2008

X is for Xylophone

The scrapbook store, Recollections, recently closed in Columbia, Md. I went to the 90% off sale and found these paper mache letters. They were 10 for a buck and the selection was pretty limited. No vowels to be found so the idea of spelling the boys names was out. So instead I painted all the letter to match the colors in their room and then hand painted a small picture of something that represents each letter. B is for Butterflies, X is for Xylophone etc... I attached the letters to the walls using liquid nails. They may be up there forever, who knows.
My alphabet obsessed sons are loving it. Logan's response when he saw what I did while he was at school : "This is SO COOL!!!!" I hope I'm that cool when he's a teenager.

2/19/2008

Clothesline

In our continued effort to be more "green" and to save money, my husband and I constructed a clothesline for our backyard. We have it on a pulley system so that I can stand in one spot and hang the clothes out. One of the things that I'll have to get use to is basically doing a load of laundry a day. So that each load has enough time to dry on the line. It sounds daunting to me right now but I'm sure overtime it will become part of the daily routine.

2/15/2008

Fast Food Nation out on DVD

Do you want lies with that?

There are huge lies behind the industrial food chain and the movie Fast Food Nation (adapted from a book of the same title by Eric Schlosser) does its best to expose them. .
Spoiler Warning : There will be blood. Yes, I know that is the name of a movie
currently playing in theatres about the simultaneous rise of the Southern Evangelic movements the ruthlessly ambitious careers of oil barrens. But where as the blood in There Will be Blood is mostly metaphorical, the blood at the end of Fast Food Nation is more frighting and appalling that all the Freddie Crouger movies combined.

Typically movies that are derivatives of non-fiction books are more likely to develop into documentaries, so I was wary when I heard that Fast Food Nation was a drama. In some ways this book may have been served better in documentary format; however, for the most part the simultaneous rise of 4 or so loosely interconnect stories that are inter-cut to unwrapped the various aspects of the meat packing and fast food industries are informative if not exactly entertaining. The plots of each individual story lines are often too chocked full of the meaty details of the current American industrial food chain to be able to emotionally invest in the lives of the characters or be completely swept up into the movie itself. And yet, it is still worth the renting.

The issues raised in the movie about America's Fast Food culture are some of the most challenging and ignored troubles facing our nation today. I have yet to hear any of the leading presidential candidates call for a reform of the meat harvesting practices currently occurring throughout the world in order to feed America's "Where's the Beef" appetites. Illegal immigration is, however, a topic that has come up regularly in several of the Republican and Democratic debates. Occasionally, a candidate will say, 'illegal immigration will never be eliminated because there are certain jobs that Americans refuse to do at the current pay scale that is offered. ' This always gave me mental pictures of migrate farm workers slaving in the sun working on their hands and knees to harvest blueberries. As it turns out, there are even worse jobs in the industrial food chain that illegal immigrants are often hired to do - like hosing down the Killing Floor of a slaughter house.

Fast Food Nation
tries to highlight this aspect of the fast food culture in one of the subplots which traces the fate of several newly arrived Mexicans who are recruited to work in an industrial meat packing plant.I found this subplot to be most compelling possibly because it was presented in Spanish with English subtitles and therefore I was too busy reading to notice the less than compelling acting and direction.

In the end, you are probably better off just reading Mr. Schlosser's book, as the movie is not exactly entertaining. That said, the stomach turning final scene of the movie which takes the viewer on a realistic tour of the meat packing plant's Killing Floor is something that all industrial meat eating Americans should be forced to see. The main tension of all the subplots hinge on the constant foreboding references to the "Killing Floor" and even though I knew it was going to be bad - nothing prepared me for just how bloody, violent, brutal, and unsanitary this tour would be. So, if you have strong stomach and want to see where your Big Mac comes from rent the DVD and fast-forward to the last 5 mins of the movie, then be prepared to never look at a cow the same way again.

Butterscotch Pudding

I can't believe how easy this is to make and so much better for you compared to the processed varieties on your local supermarket shelves. The flavor is very lite, if you prefer a more robust butterscotch add more brown sugar and only use whole milk.
This recipe also happens to be a gluten free dessert as well. Hopefully Logan will eat it, fingers crossed.



2 cups milk (low fat and soy ok)
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
Toppings: gluten free chocolate chips or peanuts or almond slices; optional

Combine all the ingredients except the cornstarch in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until hot to the touch. Do not let it boil! Put cornstarch in a separate bowl and pour half of the wet mixture into the bowl and whisk together. Once the cornstarch is dissolved pour the entire thing back into the saucepan and continue to cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Continue to stir frequently until it becomes thick and shiny and resembles pudding.
Pour pudding into serving bowls and refrigerate until cool.

2/11/2008

One Little Monkey Closing Sale

One of my favorite indie designers, One Little Monkey, has decided to close her virtual doors. I'm so sad to see her close. She makes the cutest little Toddler Totes that my son, Logan, carries with him wherever we go. It's the perfect size to carry his sippy cup, an action figure and his snack. Everything in her store is 30% off, take a look...the quality of her items is fantastic.

Clearance Days at Target

Lifehacker.com recently had an article about the super secret sale days at Target. I'm intrigued, I shop at Target at least once a month and as I enter I walk around the entire store to see the end cap clearance items. I've scored some great sheets and toys at super low prices. And I always take advantage of holiday or seasonal clearance. Here's the breakdown of the departments that will have end cap clearance items on these days of the week.
  • Monday - Electronics, Kids Clothing and Stationary (Cards, GiftWrap, etc.)
  • Tuesday - Domestics, Women's Clothing, Pets and Market (food items)
  • Wednesday - Men's Clothing, Toys, Lawn & Garden, Health and Beauty items
  • Thursday - House Wares, Lingerie, Sporting Goods, Shoes, Music / Movies, Books, Decor and Luggage
  • Friday - Auto, Cosmetics, Hardware, and Jewelry

2/08/2008

Supporting Hilary whatever she wears!


My friend Hugh has a great blog called Word Nerd. One of his most recent posts was about the entomology of the word outfit in which he linked to a very funny online picture spread called Hillary Clinton: My Worst Outfits Ever. I have to thank him for posting it because I would have never seen it at usmagazine.com. And for that matter, I have to thank Hilary for having such a good sense of humor about some of her fashion choices.

I wouldn't have the courage to show pictures online of my worst outfits. And there have been many - usually accompanied by outrageously big hair.

I'm glad that I might have the chance to vote for a women to be president of this country. So even though Hilary hasn't always had the good sense to avoid Christmas Sweaters (with shoulder pads), I don't think we should hold it against her when it comes time to cast our ballots.

Recycled Paint Palette


Every so often, hubby and I have a "bad for your diet dinner" aka: Fried Appetizers. JalapeƱo poppers, mozzarella sticks, spinach and artichoke dip...you get the idea.
Well with my mission to use something twice or more before it hits the recycling bins the last time we had appetizers I was left with these plastic trays. I found the perfect use for them as a paint palette. I cut them into smaller sizes and it's actually great for the types of kids who don't like it when their colors mix.

2/06/2008

Top 5 of 2007

Alright...I started a couple of years ago emailing all of my friends and family with five lists of quality things I had experienced in the previous calendar year. It's not the Oscars. Or for that matter even the SAG awards, but I enjoy the challenge of remembering all the movies, tv shows, etc. that I enjoyed throughout the year. This year I decided to post it on the blog.

The five items are not listed in order of importance. Sometimes I don't see movies in the year they came out. This year I didn't see much theatre or read as many books so I've changed some of the lists around.

Every year I call for my friends to send me a top five list because I believe that time is short and that personal recommendations save me time looking around for quality. This year feel free to post a Top five list in the comments or email me your list if you want to keep it personal. I love recommendations from friends because all of you have splendid taste.

Without apology here are some of the experiences, entertainments, and things I enjoyed in 2007:

Top 5 Websites/Blogs

So the first choice is for obvious reasons.
Hit on the link on the blog to experience freerice.com it will help you expand your vocabulary and feed the world.
I jumped on the Ebay wave extremely late. This was the first year that I bought or sold anything on the site. It takes awhile to get the hang of it, but the commercials are right - it is better to win it!
Relocating is the reason I became obsessed with craigslist.org. Before I left, I needed to sell things and after I arrived, I needed things like a job and furniture and things to do in the community - craigslist.org (Boulder version) fulfilled my needs daily.
Google reader is super cool - its like an inbox for the websites you read on a regular basis - thanks for the recommendation from Jon and Gretchen on that one.

Top Five Movies:
Don't watch Sicko if you are unsure if your insurance covers mental health services because afterwards you'll need therapy for depression and anxiety.
I am one of those people that they are studying to determine if there actually is a Harry Potter gene. Yes, I am completely aware that the movies aren't good, but this one was slightly better than most.
Charlie Wilson's War was written by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote The West Wing. A. Sorkin really knows form. Julia Roberts is ill cast in the movie, but just pretend she isn't there.
I can't decide which of the last two movies on my list are more disturbing. Go see both and let me know what you think.

Top Five Albums

Instead of me trying to describe music, I think you should just take a listen. Click on the links above to see youtube.com clips of songs from some of my favorite albums in 2007. Thanks to Jennifer and Alison for telling me about Tegan and Sarah (6 years ago). Thanks to Scotty for bringing Andrew Bird into my life.


Top Five Dishes I cooked

I definitely cooked dinner more often this year than ever before. Above are links to some of the dishes I'll be cooking again in 2008. Enjoy.


Top Five Things I Learned in 2007

  • How to ride a bike
  • That having friends over for dinner is more fun than going out
  • That I detest Office Life
  • That a truly sharp chef knife is the only thing to cut with
  • That maintaining a blog is more work than I thought - but totally worth it
That's right folks, I can finally join the rest of the adult world. After years of fear, I learned to ride a bike and it was worth it. (Big thanks to Gretchen.) I like the wind on my face and feeling more like I am in the environment instead of observing from behind the window of my car.
Before I left NYC I had as many of my friends as I could schedule over for dinner, I've known since my first CocktailMom Christmas that I loved cooking for the masses on holidays, turns out I love having over a few friends for everyday meals as well.
Yes, technically I worked in an office before but never like this. I worked for a nonprofit theatre box office for over 9 years. It's quite different from the cold depressing paper pushing I do now. Plus, I'm the only one there nearly as witty, as fun, or hard working as Michael Scott on "The Office".
Cooking is a drag with a sucky dull small knife. Do yourself a favor. Spend the money on a kickass chef knife so that you can chop, dice, and slice with ease.
I falter often with the blog by not writing as often as I should (Gretchen is must more diligent) but I love looking back over the posts we have created. It's been a good year!

Honorable Mentions:

Friday Night Lights

Just when I thought I'd never love a sugary sweet high school melodrama as much as The O.C., Friday Nights Lights came along to show me that there are plenty of guilty tv pleasures left to enjoy.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
See previous post.

The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard

More of an experience than a play. This three part epic will probably turn out to be one of my favorite plays of all time. I doubt I'll ever see it again. What theatre has the money to revive a 3 part, nine hour epic play about the philosophical debates in pre-revolutionaryRussia between1833 and1866? Glad I saw it when I did.

Please send me your lists of favorite quality things in 2007. Or better yet post them in the comments.




2/04/2008

Notes from the CocktailMoms Celebrates 1st Anniversary

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since the first blog post appeared on Notes from the CocktailMoms. Many thanks go out to all the readers and especially to all of you who have taken the time to post a comment.

Gretchen and I began calling ourselves CocktailMoms around the Christmas of 1999. That year was the first Christmas that we were not going to be with our respective families for the Holidays so we decided to cook Christmas dinner for ourselves and as many of our friends that we could fit in my tiny NYC apartment. It went so well that we did it again the following year.

We both fell in love with entertaining friends for various holidays and it wasn't uncommon for us to put our cooking, crafting, and planning skills together to throw birthday parties, Thanksgiving Dinners, Showers, or an Easter Brunch. These parties were seldom elegant or full of stuffy rules. We ate homestyle cooking and often had a handmade party favor. There were always plenty of cocktails and everyone it seemed had the kind of time that makes memories.

Although the term has many different meanings, to me being a CocktailMom is essentially a way of defining myself as a hip woman who enjoys cooking, crafting and caring for friends as well as family. In the beginning neither of us was an actual mother but when we threw our parties, we did our best to invite any of our co-workers and friends that could not make it home to their families over the Holidays. It was always fun to hear someone comment that one of our parties was just as good or better than being with their real mothers over the holidays.

Years have passed and Gretchen is a real mom now. And a great one at that. Unfortunately, Gretchen and I aren't in the same city anymore and therefore needed an outlet to share with our friends and family our crafts, recipes, and thoughts on life. So welcome to our virtual party. We hope to keep posting and hope you keep visiting for years to come.
--Jessica

We have one major rule for ourselves at our CocktailMom parties...well 2...always have a drink nearby and never, ever sit down. Once you do you'll realize how tired you are and Jessica has been known to fall asleep. You have to watch her!

When we started throwing CocktailMom parties I actually preferred to celebrate my holidays with our friends verses my family. Not that I don't love my family but the collection of people and the energy in the room was remarkable. And the big bonus was the stress level was low. Who cares if the napkins don't match or that someone has to sit on a pillow to eat. Ah well...it's a party! Have fun!
Anyway, thank you all for reading the blog and I hope you are enjoying our tips, tricks and treats. I've enjoyed this year so much...and look forward to many more.
---Gretchen

Done with Baby Carrots


I don't know when it began, maybe during college, I stopped buying regular carrots and switched to the conveniently peeled and washed baby carrots. I used them in salads, ate them as snacks, even tried to diced those little slippery root veggies when I needed carrots for a soup or stew. Not anymore.

These days I'm buying real carrots and here's why:
*Baby carrots aren't really baby carrots. They were invented by industrial farmers that wanted to find a way to use non-standard size carrots. So the idea of shaving down carrots into a standard 2 inch size was born.
* Baby carrots go bad much faster than regular carrots. Seriously, I feel like I was buying new bags of baby carrots all the time because they either dried out in the bag or got totally gross and slimy.
* Real carrots that you clean yourself have a better carrot taste. Maybe it is just me but since I switched I definitely believe that whole mature carrots have a deeper more complex carrot taste.

Martha's Next Big Idea

Check out Martha Stewart's blog and vote for the great idea of having a magazine for people with allergies. There are so many kids that have allergies today from soy, wheat, nuts to gluten. My son is on the gluten free casein free diet because he is autistic and we have noticed a huge improvement in his abilities by being on this diet. It would be so awesome if there was a Martha magazine for moms like me, trying to make delicious foods that our kids will be able to eat.


This is from her blog: "THE BIG IDEA IS A COMPANY-WIDE COMPETITION THAT GIVES STAFF MEMBERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE THEIR OWN IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE OF MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA. I WAS ABLE TO NARROW THE 40 ENTRIES DOWN TO 7 FINALISTS...BUT I JUST COULDN'T CHOOSE A WINNER...SO I'D LIKE YOU TO HELP ME DECIDE."

You can vote everyday! Martha's Blog

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