Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.


The Pittsburgh Cookie Table Wedding Tradition

I'm going to a wedding in Seattle this weekend but it is a wedding between two Pittsburghers which means there are two traditions that are almost 100% likely to occur. 1.) the band or DJ will play the Beer Barrel Polka (if not several more polkas) and 2.) there will be a cookie table. Ah the cookie table, as a child I believed it and the money dance were the only things that had to occur at wedding receptions. Now that I'm all grown up, I'm pretty sure I won't being doing a money dance at my wedding and I'm damn sure I'll have a cookie table.

Image a table, or what is in fact usually several tables, filled with the best homemade cookies on earth: Lady fingers, apricot-filled sugar cookies, bourbon balls, nut cups, Hersey Kiss cookies and more. Traditionally, the cookie table consist of all the best cookies baked by the bride's aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and mother. For days and sometimes weeks prior to a wedding the family members make dozens of their best and fanciest cookies because everyone wants their cookie to be the crowd's favorite. Once on display these cookies can often upstage the beauty of the bridal party itself.

As I grew up and went to weddings of individuals not from the Pittsburgh area, I have to say I was a little disappointed to discover that the cookie table was only a regional tradition. On the flip side, I was shocked to discover prior to writing this blog post that the cookie table has gotten quite a bit of press in the last few years. Perhaps it is growing in popularity across the country as Pittsburghers migrate. Here is a great article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that investigates the claims of Youngstown Ohio as the home of the cookie table tradition and and an article that was broadcast on NPR. It is even popular enough to garner a Wikipedia Entry.

Personally, I am excited to be baking cookies for the cookie table this weekend. (I just hope they make it through the plane ride.) And just in case they don't play the Beer Barrel Polka sing a few bars to yourself....

Roll out the barrel, We'll have a barrel of fun
Roll out the barrel, we've got the blues on the run
Zing Boom Terrara
Join in a glass of good cheer
Now it's time to roll the barrel
For the gang's all here

Bicycle the week away

Wanted to warn you all that I won't be around much this week. Me and the kids leave tomorrow for a week of bicycling in Meyersdale PA with my parents and 2 of my sisters and their kids. I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with the family and having a lot of quiet time. There is no internet in this small town, no wi-fi starbucks or golden arches, and I welcome it! I need to force myself to step away and unplug for a bit. So I'll check back with you all next week and let you kow how my legs feel after towing 2 kids in a bike trailer weighing in at 90 pounds total up and down hills in amish country.
What am I thinking!!!


Happy 60th Birthday Tom!

My MIL, Gini, is taking my FIL, Tom, on a surprise vacation for his 60th b-day. This trip is special because she is recreating the exact trip they took when Tom proposed to her. Gini spoke with Jon and I about making cards that she could give him each night at dinner to give him clues as to what is in store for the next day. Jon creates the words and I create the actual card and together we brainstorm the concept. It truly is a gift from the both of us. The first day is a cable car since they are flying to San Francisco. On the cable car I added personal details; the number 26 is how many years it has been since they took this trip, the Marriott hotel ad is the hotel where they will be staying. The cable car line on the top of the car is the line that takes you to the Fisherman's Wharf where they will be having dinner. And I used Gini and Tom's heads on a cut out from a magazine. I made the cable car into an envelope and when you pull the ribbon, the card attached is a letter Jon wrote to Tom explaining what we are doing.
Here are some of the other "cards" we made. The wine bottle is made from textured card stock with clear vinyl sewn on the top, for when they go to Napa and take a tour of a winery. The tooth fairy pillow is because during the original trip Gini had an abscess tooth and had to see an emergency dentist in Carmel.
It was a lot of fun making these, hopefully it will inspire you to think outside of the box the next time you have to make a card.


Watermelon Sald with Rum and Mint

Yesterday we went to a Mexican food themed picnic. I wanted to bring a fruit salad that would compliment this theme and found the perfect low calorie sweet treat.

Everyday Food's recipe for Watermelon Salad with Rum and Mint was a light sweet salad with just the right amount of zing. It went so fast I didn't even get time to snap a photo.

Watermelon Salad with Rum and Mint:
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice (from 1 lime)
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light rum
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6-pound piece chilled seedless watermelon
  • 2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint leaves
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, sugar, rum, and salt.
  2. Using a melon baller, scoop melon into balls (you'll get about 10 cups), or cut melon into bite-size chunks. Add melon to lime mixture in bowl. Sprinkle with mint and lime zest, and toss gently to combine. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate, up to 2 hours.

Growing a Garden

After reading Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver I was intrigued to try and grow some vegetables and fruit this year. And to be on the frugal side I wanted to grow them from seeds. Well I soon discovered that we don't have enough sun light in our house to make this possible. So a dear friend who does have sunlight pouring into her house gave me a few of her plentiful seedlings. (thanks Leah!) I planted cucumbers, tomatoes, 4 different kinds of peppers, corn (random I know), potatoes and strawberries. And so far everything is going good. We've only eaten 2 banana peppers and a few strawberries but there are tomatoes ready to be baked by the sun on the vine. And I'm still unsure about the potatoes and how to know when they are ready. Live and learn, this is quite a wonderful experience.



One of our readers brought this site to my attention (thanks Jenn!) and I had to share it with the rest of you. Totlol is a brand new community-moderated video website designed to be enjoyed by those between the ages of 6 months and 6 years.
It's hard to motivate my son Logan to work on his summer school workbooks. I use these short videos as rewards for a job well done. Everything is approved by other parents and the videos are all pretty short and range from puppets and stories to animals. You are sure to find something for your kid to watch. I love being able to quickly pick a video and have Logan watch it and 5 mins later we are back to work on school readiness skills instead of using food or some other thing as a reward. There are even clips of some of his favorite television shows.
Check out TotLol here.


School Supplies

My oldest son will be in Kindergarten this fall. I was complaining to my sister that I wish the school would mail the school supply list (as promised when I registered him for school in April) so I could take advantage of some of the great deals going on right now for school supplies. My sister then informed me that all the local stores whether it be Target, Staples or Office Depot will have a print out of what supplies are needed for each grade in all the local schools. Good thing I have a veteran school supply shopping mom for a sister!
I was shocked to see on Logan list of required items 4 dozen #2 pencils, 24 glue sticks, 4 packs of 24 crayons. And this is just a sampling, there are actually 20 lines on my to buy list. This is a lot of stuff! Granted I am sure it will all get used in the year but it made me think of the families that are struggling to get by financially, day by day.
For those of you who read this blog and have the desire to help other people but either finances hold you back or time this would be a wonderful opportunity for you to help a kid go to school prepared. Pick a grade in your local school and go to your local store and pick up the supplies needed list and just buy a set of supplies for one kid. And drop it off at your local school office. It's that simple. And the savvy shoppers out there may find it fun to see how many items you can get for almost nothing. For example this week at Office Depot you can get 2 pocket poly folders for 1 cent each, and this is something that is on Logan's school supply list.
Help kids in your community come to school prepared and ready to learn!


Bike Wheel Pot Rack

I LOVE this bent bike wheel recycled into a pot rack with aid from some chain and a few S-hooks. I don't have ceilings high enough to have a pot rack...but when I do look out! I wonder how stable and functional it is, but still love the inventiveness of it.

This project was originally posted on a cool blog that I linked into somehow called Handmade Detroit.


Back to School

It's been a flurry of activity in my non-crafty/cooking life. It all began last week when I met with at adviser at The University of Colorado to discuss the possibility of applying to attend their Masters Plus program. I knew that I would need to accumulated credits in several different areas before I could apply to the program which results in a MA in Education and a High School Teaching License. This meeting was to determine what credits a I needed and where I could get them.

Because my degree in theatre is a BFA (rather than a BA) I thought I had gotten away with murder by not having to take a bunch of boring general credits, but it seems my date with college algebra was only postponed. I need, give or take, 12-15 credits mostly in general areas such as college level math and science. So this fall, I will be attending Front Range Community College part-time. If all goes well - pending a meeting with an adviser this Monday - I should be enrolled in two classes to begin THIS FALL. I knew that I needed to get started, but had been dragging my feet. Now, in the matter of less than a week, it looks like I'll be all setup to be back in school this Fall. I am half nervous, half thrilled.

After looking around at my options I've decided to attend Front Range Community College which is about a 25 minute bus ride from my apartment in Boulder. My opinion of Front Range Community Colleges thus far is A+. All of the staff I have dealt with have been informed and friendly. The price isn't going to kill me either. I think that if I continue to work full-time while taking two classes a semester I won't have to take out any loans until it is time to go back full time in 2010. The big hitch is getting "In-state" Tuition. My Proof of Colorado residency is pretty solid. The worst-case scenario is that I would have to wait till Spring, but I honestly don't think there is going to be a problem.

The best part is how excited I've been as I've been doing all the work. Reading through the course book and selecting my classes for the Fall might be the most fun I've had in months. It feels good to have some positive direction in my life.

The other best part...getting to have Student ID! I can't wait to get discounts at the movies and all the other great deals you get by being a student.

Pirate Birthday Party: Booty Bags

Each guest at the party received a pirate booty drawstring bag. These are so easy to make. I used 2 different fabrics from my scrap stash and cut them into rectangles. I then cut a piece of ribbon for each bag, 10 inches, and used Aleene's Stop Fraying on the ends. With right sides facing each other sew around the bag leaving one short side open, this is the top of the bag. Then using a serger or zig zag stitch, sew around the bag to finish the seams. Turn the bag right side out and fold the opening down , keep in mind this is the casement for the ribbon so make sure to leave enough room. Because these are bags for a 3 year old party I didn't concern myself with making sure each one was perfectly/correctly made. So that being said... I used a seam ripper and ripped a small hole so that the ribbon could be fed through, tied the ends of the ribbon and called it finished!


Pirate Birthday Party: Silver Nuggets

Inside the treasure box was the booty bags and "silver nuggets". The kids thought this was "so cool!" So after searching for the treasure box each kid got to pick their treasure out and enjoy. I wrapped 2 gluten free chocolate chip cookies with chocolate icing in the middle, in aluminum foil. So simple and such easy clean up. No plates and forks to deal with. Kids stood around ate their cookies and then were off playing on the playground. I had every intention of making cookies from scratch but as the party drew near I just didn't have the time, so I used a box mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen and it was fantastic. I highly recommend their coookie mix and their mix for the chocolate icing. Very yummy! And it's 100% natural, certified Kosher ingredients; peanut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, wheat-free, gluten-free. It does contain soy, though. Got a thumbs up from the kids but sometimes the hardest critics are the moms and all of them were found licking fingers, finishing off the cookies their kid asked them to hold.


Pirate Birthday Party: Treasure Box And Swords

I put my hubby to work with the exacto knife and some cardboard and had him create a treasure box and swords. Each kid got a sword in their "booty bag" (which I'll show you in another post), along with their eye patch. The best part is that after the kids are finished with their sword fights it simply goes in the recycling bin. No need to contribute to a landfill with a bent plastic sword, which you know is bound to happen to plastic swords.


Love Food Hate Waste

Surfing around on the internet last night I found a great website that has a couple of very helpful features. is a British Website dedicated to cutting down on the food we waste everyday. So, as you might guess, it has tips for food storage, articles about preventing food wastes, and an area/page on the site that helps you determine the Perfect Portions. This particular page has a handy calculator that allows you to enter the food and the number of people you are serving, it then calculates the the perfect portion to make and therefore stops you from cooking too much and creating waste.

My favorite section of the website is the recipes area which is broken up into 3 areas Cook Once, Eat Twice Recipes, Time Savers, and Rescue Recipes. The Rescue Recipes are such a great idea. Simply click on the food you need to use up and the websites give you a list of recipes that can save you from throwing away those very brown banannas by giving you a Rescue Recipe.

Pirate Birthday Party : Eye Patches

My sweet boy turned 3 and wanted a pirate birthday party. 4 of his closest friends came over for dessert and ice cream, Zane hates cake so I did something creative for that. I'm going to share the different things I made for the party over a few posts so that one post doesn't become too lengthy.
My overall goal was to not spend a lot of money, big surprise! But also to keep things simplistic..this is a 3 year old's birthday party after all.
Also I didn't want to buy plastic crap to fill a goody bag and junk up someone's toy box.

So let's start with the party favor: eye patches! Every pirate needs an eye patch. Also it's a great item to add to any child's dress up box.

First, I drew a pattern out and cut 2 patches of black cotton fabric for each patch. I also cut a piece of thick fabric stabilizer to make the eye patch stiff. With right sides facing each other I sewed around the patch leaving the top open. Turn the patch right side out and insert the fabric stabilizer and fold the top inside the patch. Sew around the entire patch again, this closes the opening and attaches the stabilizer so it stays in place. Next cut a 1/4" piece of black elastic to fit a child's head, I cut mine at 17". Sew each end of the elastic to the eye patch. And your are finished!


Say what you mean

Since many people don't understand what it means when we tell them that Logan is autistic, I thought I'd share a snippet of our life. We were leaving the post office and Logan reached the door before I did. Another customer, a middle aged man, wanted to pass us and get through the door first. As he approached Logan he said "beep beep". Logan just looked at him confused. The neuro-typical people reading this already know what this man was doing...he's trying to relate to a child by acting like a car. And with most kids this works. But for autistic kids it doesn't, you have to say what you mean. Because Logan didn't move the man then said, "excuse me young man". Logan then stated very matter of factly, "I'm not a man, I'm a boy!". The man then replied, "yes...well..beep beep." By that point I was at the door and helped Logan stand aside to let him through. Once outside Logan asked "Mommy, why that man acting like a car with beep beep?"
"Well Logan you know how I honk the horn on the car to get people to move? Well sometimes people do it too for fun."
"but's not funny."
"yeah Logan I think you're right. It's not really that funny at all huh?"
The man that was in such a rush to get through the door has stood on the sidewalk eavesdropping on our conversation. As I stood up from knealing to talk with Logan the man then says, "you deserve a metal!". I know this man probably thought he was being nice with this comment but I thought it was pretty rude. Why do I deserve a metal for answering my child's question? As if children should be seen and not heard..which I kinda have the feeling he would like things that way.
Since nothing gets by Logan he asks, "why you get a metal mommy?". Speaking loud enough so the man could hear I replied, "oh that man wishes he was as smart and patient as mommy that's all."
And with that I unlocked the car while Logan pointed to him and stated...rather loudly... "he's just jealous, mommy!"
"yes Logan, as everyone should be because I have 2 of the smartest and cutest kids in town."


Wonton Wraps

I tried wonton wraps for the first time last night and it was a hit! And overall the cost of dinner was really cheap for 2 adults. First I sauteed 1/2 a green pepper, 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves of garlic chopped and 1/2 a package of firm tofu cubed. Cook until the peppers are tender and the onion is translucent. Near the end of the cooking time I added 2 Tablespoons of taco seasoning. Using only 1/2 a package of wonton wraps I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of tofu mixture into the center of the wrap. Using water to wet my fingers to press the wrap closed. I then fried the wontons in oil until brown and crispy. Make sure to make all the wontons before frying. This is the part of the meal where I'll have to practice because I burned a few, but I was also trying to fill and fry as I went along and it's clearly not the way to go. Try this easy dinner on your family tonight.


Corie would be proud!

My friend Corie came to visit in May from Seattle, WA and brought her scrapbook tote knowing we would be scrapping every night. Which I think we accomplished, ok one night slipped by to a bottle of wine.
I was totally shocked that this tiny tote is what she uses at home to scrapbook wasn't just the travel bag.
This idea of reducing my scrapbook supplies has just hung with me since May. I just can't seem to get it out of my head. And Corie did make fun of me a bit when she saw my "scrap stash". I am not a pack rat except for scrapbook paper. I don't know why, I have every intention to use every last tiny piece but because I put this pressure on myself I then am not inspired to crop. So....I did a major paper purge. I listed it all on freecycle and now some other scrapper is enjoying her new stash. And I am enjoying the very minimalist look on my layouts. I'm totally into the white space right now with accents. I know it's a phase but I'm really digging it right now. Thanks Corie for always being such an inspiration!

7/11/2008 is the exercise and nutrition website I've been waiting for for years. Finally, a free easy to operate food tracking application that is smart and functional. Gyminee is based on the oh-so-popular social networking model complete with personal profile and photo. You can have gymbuddies and join motivational groups.

Sign up for a free and you can track your daily food intake and have it automatically generated into easy to read pie charts that allow you to translate your calories into carbs, fat, and protein. In the workout area you can create exactly the workout you do now and track them. You can also search other peoples workouts to do yourself. These workouts are genius because most exercises actually have not only a description of how to do the exercise but a handy video demostration. Print your workout out and take it with you to the gym.
Gyminee also allows you to set goals for specfic exercises and track them on beautiful easy to read charts. The charts are my favorite part of the site. You can track your weight-loss or muscle gain through weigh-ins or by measuring specific body parts like waist, hips, and thighs.

I love just about everything about it right down to being able to track my nutrition on the go with the use of the iphone application. I've read zillions of magazine and web articles over the years and know from personal experience that fad diets don't work as well as simply keeping track and being accountable for what you are eating. I can only speak for myself, but when I know I have to log it later I am less likely to even look at the donnuts that a co-worker has brought into the office.

Quinoa, The Super Grain!

We have taste tested every gluten free pasta product on the market and hands down the winning pasta is Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta Shells. Quinoa pasta has a higher protein count than regular pasta.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa stands alone as a complete protein grain and it's great for vegans and vegetarians to boost your protein intake. It supplies all the essential amino acids in a balanced protein.
I picked up a bag of the tiny grain, found where the dry beans are, at Whole Foods for $1.89. We only used one cup and we had enough for 4 servings. You cook it like rice and in 15 minutes it's done. Use it in place of rice or cous cous in your next recipe. It's good for you and it's such an interesting taste and texture. I predict it to become a staple in our house.


Patchwork & Crochet Baby Hat

I love to crochet hats for new babies. This one is made of cotton with a fun little patch of fabric on the front from my fabric stash. I turned the edges of the fabric in and hand sewed it on with embroidery floss.
Hopefully it will keep sweet, baby River warm this winter in the Pacific Northwest.


Free Summer Kid's Movies!

Who doesn't love the sound of that...movies and FREE!!! Regal Entertainment Group has free movies for kids all summer long. Here is what they say from their website:

When school's out, kids around the country visit selected Regal theatres for the Free Family Film Festival. It's a fun-filled nine weeks of movies for kids and parents. Since 1991, Regal has provided this service to the community, and best of all it's FREE! Selected G & PG movies start at 10AM each Tuesday and Wednesday during the festival. First-come, first-served seating is limited to theatre capacity. The Free Family Film Festival is safe, lots of fun and a great way for kids to spend a weekday morning in the summer.

My boys and I have enjoyed a few already, all are older movies. Last week we saw The Bee Movie, for example. But for us it's just the experience of going to the movies, sitting quietly, and if they get too antsy it's no big deal to walk out of the movie since you didn't pay for it.

7/06/2008 Ring Stacker Toy Lamp

Unlike Gretchen, I am not an actual Mom yet. Just a CocktailMom.

Anyway, if I did have kids I would definitely make one of these Fisher Price Toys into a lamp. Congrats to all those that are making and showing us how to make them at

What time is it?

After our friend,Carsen, came to visit I knew exactly what I'd make her for her 5th birthday. Many times throughout the trip Carsen would ask "what time is it?", "how much longer?". Questions like these are a sure sign that your child is ready to start learning how to tell time. So I made Carsen a clock, printed on cardstock and laminated with moveable arms. I then made her a book with a blank clock on each page that she can draw the hands on for the time of the activity, which is printed on the page for her to trace. Oh I love things that teach more than one thing at a time and the kids don't even notice.


Art and Crafts Table

My kids needed a new art and crafts table. They have outgrown their small ikea table that barely can hold one kid's art. I was waiting to see a deal on craigslist and then one day I passed this table on the side of the road. I new with a cosmetic facelift it could work for my boys, so I rescued it from the trash. It's an art table afterall, it's going to get painted on and glue spilled on so why spend a ton of money on a piece of furniture that is just going to get messy. As it should.

Now with a little paint and an oilcloth cover the boys have plenty of room to create their latest materpiece or have a dinosaur war where the dog won't eat the pieces.


My first quilt

My latest sewing obsession is quilts. I'd love to have a quilt on every bed in our house, I love that Bed and Breakfast feel a quilt can give to a room. But here's the deal...I don't want to buy any fabric to make them. I want to make quilts the way they were made during the depression era, using scraps of fabric from sewing projects and old clothes. I've scored some great fabrics on freecycle too. My first quilt was made for Dharma's crate. Now on to bigger ones!


"Slightly Lighter" Pittsburgh Salad

I have jokingly referred to the Pittsburgh region (my childhood stomping ground) as "The Beer-Gut above the Bible Belt". I love the food there, but it is not known for sprouts and avocados. In fact, one of the most famous restaurants in Pittsburgh is a sandwich shop called Primanti Brothers which is know for putting the coleslaw and french fries directly on the sandwich.

Another dish that I have only see in da 'Burgh is the Pittsburgh Salad. Traditionally, the Pittsburgh Salad is grilled flank steak, cheese, and hand-cut french fries served over a variety of greens and other sliced and diced veggies topped with a heavy French or Ranch dressing. Not exactly the healthiest salads.

At my house we have grilled chicken salad if not every week, then every other week. This is usually and a spiced grilled chicken breast served on whatever veggies we have in the house topped with fresh vinaigrette and served with whole wheat pita, rolls, or bread (whichever I have on hand). But this morning when I was taking a chicken breast out of the freezer to thaw, I noticed that I had some Alexia Sweet Potato Fries in the freezer as well and decided I needed to make a lighter version of the Pittsburgh Salad.

I started with a bed of Romaine lettuce and topped it with the following veggies carrot ribbons, diced green pepper, thinly slice red onion, sliced cucumber, and a hand full of canned chickpeas. Then I added the sliced grilled chicken and oven baked sweet potato fries. Finally, I dressed it with a simple white wine vinegar Dijon vinaigrette. Yum! OK, yes - I missed the hand-cut deep fried french fries a tiny bit. But this version of my basic chicken salad really jazzed up was could have been another ho-hum weeknight dinner.

Crafty Superheros!

I can not take credit for this idea. When I saw this post on Blue Yonder I knew I would have to try it. My sons' love of superheros meets mama's love for crafts! Sounds like a day in heaven for everyone. Many hours were spent flying around the living room and creating forts and tents out of blocks and scrap fabric. I love this organic type of play that doesn't involve character laden plastic toys. So on the next rainy-boring-kids are climbing the walls- day you have, pull out some wooden clothespins and create a whole new town of people.


Basic Blueberry Muffins

Now that blueberries are in season thought I'd share with you my favorite recipe for a basic blueberry muffin. This recipe will make 12 regular size muffins or 24 mini muffins.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Coat muffin tin with vegetable oil or butter.
In a large bowl combine everything except the blueberries until it is no longer lumpy. Gently fold the berries into the batter and stir. Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.


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