The skinny on The Chew (and a recipe)

Earlier this week we were part of a “Thanksgiving Family Face-Off” on ABC’s The Chew. I told our kids, “this is a pretend competition.” It’s not like a race you run and have a definitive winner, or a spelling bee when there is a clear RIGHT or WRONG.  A cooking competition is entirely subjective based on the particular taste of the judges, in this case five audience members.

I had to keep reminding my kids of this because, like most kids I think, they aren’t great at NOT winning. I feared a tearful scream from my little guy if the trophy went to the other family. I even promised hot chocolate if we didn’t win. Bribery! That always works, eh?

The hosts and producers of The Chew were lovely, and the family we “competed” against is adorable. (They are perhaps the most photogenic family I’ve ever met). They were making a gorgeous macaroni and cheese dish with FIVE cheeses. FIVE?! I can’t compete with FIVE cheeses!

I made my Aunt Ellen’s famous (famous in our family, at least) sweet potato casserole.   We even practiced the recipe the night before we left for NYC to make sure I didn’t miss a step on television.

In the end, three out of five of the audience tasters preferred this recipe. (Our children were a little upset they wouldn’t get hot chocolate).

*FULL DISCLOSURE: Our children preferred the other family’s macaroni and cheese. I will try to track that down!

Here’s our recipe:

Sweet Potato casserole…unleaded.  Add bourbon to topping mix to make leaded!
INGREDIENTS:
4 cups sweet potatoes
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup milk whole milk…really!
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract x 2 once for the sweet potatoes and once for the topping!
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped pecans
 *note from Kim (I have a sweet tooth so I double this topping mixture)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Pierce sweet potatoes with knife and place on a foil covered cookie sheet.  You may need to rotate potatoes if not using a convection oven.  Put sweet on foil covered rack to cool.  (I usually do this a day before!). This should take 40 – 50 minutes…just check on them by sticking a butter knife in them.  Should glide right through.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, salt, butter ( room temperature), milk and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.  I really mean they looked whipped…fluffy ( Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish.
3. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour and vanilla.  Yum!  Cut in the butter with pastry cutter) until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture. It really clumps but don’t worry!  It melts together!
4. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

All about that basTE: a true story

from Penn:
This has been such an amazing year for me.  After nearly two decades of working in TV news,  and not getting home until the kids’ bedtime, I discovered something I honestly haven’t ever been a part of….
The nightly family dinner.
I mean, we had dinners together on weekends and vacation, but there is something so special about doing it every night.  The conversations just pick up where they left off the night before, they get more funny, more meaningful, more EVERYTHING.
Plus, I get to cook again!  I love cooking. It’s always an adventure.  I never follow the recipe. I always add something that either makes it amazing, or a total disaster.  I can’t help myself.
Kim is cool with it either way, or at least she’s sweet enough to pretend to be.  We always find a way to eat enough, and laugh enough, and go to sleep, and do it again.
Except for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving, there is no I in TEAM.  Wait, actually, there is, because there’s an I in KIM.  She’s plenty patient with me during the week cooking for amateurs (my kids), but for that one day of the week, I have to get the hell out of the kitchen (and the Dining Room at that… Apparently my table-setting abilities are woefully inadequate).
Thanksgiving is Kim’s Super Bowl.  She is up at 4 AM.  She has an intricate schedule to make sure everything makes it in the oven, and all 9 of her dishes are ready, somehow, at the exact same time.  So if I saunter in with a goofy smile and say something like “Hey babe I’m gone just go ahead and make the stuffing”, her head spins around like Linda Blair, and I back out quietly.
So basically, on Turkey Day, I have the following responsibilities:
Make sure the kids don’t get in her way (unless she wants them to)
Entertain the guests (which I do by turning on the NFL)
Baste the Turkey

That’s right! I do get to go in the kitchen every 30 minutes.  She straps a timer around my neck and when it goes off, I take the turkey out as quickly as possible, and douse it with butter.  I get this responsibility because A) Our oven is a perpetual smoke factory, and B) Our Turkey weighs about 659 pounds and you cant slide it out of the oven or the grill will tip over.  You have to work the baster into the oven like you are playing Operation and try not to burn your hands off (which I do anyway)

I AM NOT COMPLAINING.  Kim does a phenomenal job every year, and I’m lucky to be in the same zip code as her on Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the video, and tell us some of your Thanksgiving stories – comment below!

 

 

Down came the plates: Confessions from a multi-tasking flunkie

Is it just me? When I wake up in the morning, I immediately start this wonky plate-spinning circus act. Remember, before the gymnasts that balance their entire body weight on one finger became vogue in the circus world — it was just fun to watch that guy spin a dozen plates on thin sticks racing to make sure each one stayed perfectly balanced.  But one missed step, one plate goes too long without attention, and they all come crashing down.

We all have so many THINGS to worry about and STUFF to do. Things and stuff rule my life. Well, this is a story about how THINGS got all messed up when I let too much STUFF get in the way:

I was already on red-alert for recent multi-tasking failures. Our children’s Halloween performance (the one they’d been practicing for the entire month of October) was at 10:00am on the 31st. I showed up at 11:30 with video camera in hand. I wrote it down wrong. I didn’t read one of the 20 emails with the correct time. So there was me: camera charged and confused. And there were my kids, both tearful because the performance I promised I would be there for — I missed. For no other reason than I had a busy day at work and I entered the wrong time in my calendar. My heart is still broken remembering their disappointed tearful faces saying, “Mommy, you missed it.” Mommy guilt is a bitch.

I vowed to become the Calendar Queen. Yep, that’s me! No more missed performances! I and going to keep all the THINGS and STUFF organized.

Then, just yesterday, the plates I had spinning started to wobble. I was up early, as usual, to pack lunches, snacks, sign homework sheets, send a few work emails, try to convince a 4 year old to brush his teeth, and the other 97 things one does in the morning. Lola’s cheeks were flushed, she had a fever and needed to stay home.

I juggled my work schedule to be able to manage tasks from my kitchen table while keeping an eye on my baby girl. I then made a quick dash to Target for some ibuprofen. People were looking at me. “That’s weird,” I thought. It crossed my mind, “Well, maybe they recognized me from our silly videos. I wish I had worn makeup. Wow… why are all these people staring?”

I got home and Lola started giggling.

Nope, the people at Target didn’t recognize me from YouTube. This is what they were staring at:

Those pockets? Those are supposed to be in the back. And that tag? Supposed to be on the inside. My pants were on backwards and my shirt was on inside-out.  Well, I hadn’t missed anything technically — so those plates, though wobbling,  kept on spinning.

I monitored Lola, participated in conference calls, wrote scripts for clients, checked on Lola, checked email, sent email, wrote a proposal,  and heck, I even made a service appointment to check out that “thud, thud, thud” sound I hear when I drive my car. PLATES! SPINNING! THINGS! STUFF! I WAS DOING IT ALL!

At the end of the day I started packing for our trip to Florida (HSN is crazy enough for letting us appear on live television on November 7th). We were supposed to be flying in today. Right now. Well, here’s where the plates came crashing down.

I went to check in online, I saw our reservation and thought, “That’s weird Delta doesn’t have record of a trip to Florida. Why are they asking me to check-in for a flight to New York? THEY must have something wrong.”

DELTAOOPS

The plates started to really wobble. I started sweating. A frantic phone call to the Delta revealed I had, indeed, booked FOUR tickets for our family to New York City. I booked tickets to the WRONG STATE. FOUR of them. Wha? Why? NO! NO! I had THINGS to do and STUFF happening. We all needed to be in Florida early the next morning. Instantly, dinner started to burn triggering the smoke detector, Penn Charles was screaming for me to wipe his butt, and Lola started crying thinking we weren’t going to be able to make the trip.

That crashing sound you hear? That’s the sound of all my plates hitting the ground.

Penn, my darling husband poured me a (large) glass of wine. I started emotionally sweeping up the mess of all that dishware that tumbled to the floor. For a hefty fee, we are re-booked to the correct city. I’m embarrassed but world keeps spinning.  We will arrive just in time for our HSN pre-production meetings.

No one is hurt by my multi-tasking mishap.  So I’m going to give myself a break just one more time.

Everything is going to be fine. Well, except for my car. That “thud, thud, thud” sound I was hearing apparently will NOT wait for my scheduled appointment next week. After being towed to the repair shop,  I’m writing this from the waiting room.

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Here’s to more things and more stuff!

How do you guys keep the plates from crashing to the ground? And don’t say wine. Because I’m doing that and it’s not working.  I’ll take any hints and help I can get.

More couch time = less holiday stress

(This blog post and video are made possible because of a partnership with HSN. They rock)

Call me crazy, but at this point in November I’m actually craving the craziness of the holidays. We are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for nineteen people at our house and I. CANNOT. WAIT.

And let’s face it — I haven’t even planned the menu for that meal, and we’re already catapulted into Christmas.

Still, I picture myself hosting parties with Pinterest-inspired holiday cocktails, creating a spreadsheet for the perfect gifts, and checking them all off by early December during leisurely strolls through our nearby boutique-filled mall. Every single year I vow, “This is going to be the year I’m organized. This is the year I will ENJOY the season. This is the year!”

Inevitably, I won’t host a single party. And If I’m not careful I might do a mad dash to the mall, overspending on gifts the people in my life really don’t need.

But at least this year I’ve promised my family I will simplify. Yep, THIS IS THE YEAR! So here’s how it’s going to shake out here at the Holderness House:

1. I will attempt only one Pinterest recipe/craft and not feel ashamed when it’s a complete failure.

2. I will do as much shopping as possible from the couch. That’s pretty much it. Fewer crafts and more time on my butt.

Last year was a memorable holiday season because we made this little video a few people were nice enough to watch. Some of those people were the fine folks at HSN. This is not your grandmother’s home shopping network. Penn and I flew down to visit their studios over the summer and had a blast.

Since that trip, HSN.com already helped me simplfy. No mad dash to the mall! It’s just easy — they have everything. AND, get this – they’re the parent company to Chasing-Fireflies (read more about my children’s obsession here). So this was a no-brainer partnership for our family.

We’re excited about this video we created for HSN. It’s become our mission statement for the holiday season. Here’s the inside scoop on what you’ll see:

1. Good grief, did we have fun with this one!  HSN basically let us do whatever we wanted. What we wanted were a bunch of over-the-top Victorian carolers following us around and getting in our business.  I think you’ll agree they steal the show.

2. Those carolers are all members or friends of our production company, Greenroom Communications!  See that bobbing head over Kim’s shoulder? That’s Sharon Delaney McCloud. She had the courage to start this business and lure Penn and me out of our TV jobs.  Without her, there’s no Xmas Jammies video.  The crazy redhead handing me my spectacles? That’s Ann Marie Taepke, our director of digital strategy.  Also making appearances: our Business Manager Ketti Kluth, her husband Dan, and his buddy Fredo (the guy running behind the SUV in the mall scene).

3. The city of Raleigh was a great backdrop for the video.  We stayed away from the big malls, but the independent shops were so great to work with – they opened their doors for a bunch of crazily dressed people, and they seemed to love every minute of it.

4. If you ever want to make a Victorian caroler outfit, we’re pretty sure those neck accessories were actually TREE SKIRTS that the rental shop re-purposed.  Genius.

Watch here:

 

 

 

This dad FINALLY gets to celebrate Halloween (and he’s doing it in a MOOSE costume)

Post from Penn:

I can’t tell you how psyched I am about Halloween this year.  Not because of the near perfect weather, the chance to check in with neighbors, the fun block parties, or the increasingly skimpy adult female  costumes (whoever is responsible for this trend deserves a medal, in my opinion – Kim begs to differ).

It’s because for the first time in my life, I get to go trick or treating with my kids.

As a former local news anchor, Halloween always happens at the start of a period called “November Sweeps.”  You CAN’T take time off from work, and at my station I was at the anchor desk until about 8:00pm. I’d rush to my neighborhood (well, not “rush” – there are like a billion kids stumbling through the street like drunken sailors) and find my kids, and see them knock on two doors before they crash from the impending sugar coma.  Not enough time.

So this year I am making up for lost time.  I am picking the kids up from class and we are getting dressed immediately. I am taking enough pictures to fill up a NORAD server.  I am toasting pumpklin seeds.  I am setting up an adult margarita station in my driveway for pregame.
Oh, and I am wearing exactly what my kids want me to wear.  But that’s the rule now, anyway, right?
Sure, I love the ironic, irreverant, borderline insensitive costume. This year it’ll be the Ebola Hazmat suit, Breaking Bad Guy, or “Zombie Anyone Famous who Died This Year”.  But those are for adult parties.
For the 31st, PARENTS WEAR WHAT THE KIDS WANT.
Which means this year, there will be 6,238,549 families dressed in Frozen costumes this coming week.
Don’t believe me? Check out Google’s costume predictor for most used outfits this year!
1. Elsa
2. Olaf
5. Anna
I mean, the movie came out LAST YEAR!
Granted, this will probably be the last big cash influx of the Frozen Empire, but we are contributing, once again.  There was never any doubt.  In JANUARY, Lola and Penn Charles came into the kitchen and assigned the costumes.  She’s Elsa, he’s Olaf, Kim’s Anna, I am the Moose, or Reindeer, or whatever.  Discussion over.
But how fun is it to dress up as a family in the same theme? I love the “Team Halloween” concept. Sure, the costumes invariably look ridiculous on the grown-ups, but the kids LOVE it, and the parents can get in on the action as well, instead of skulking at the edge of the lawn, awkwardly waving and waiting for the kids to run back to them.  We are allowed to have fun, too, right?

We hope you enjoy our Halloween Video. We had a blast making fools of ourselves, once again.
And send us pictures of your family’s “team costumes”.  We’ll post em in our next blog!

Dear Chasing Fireflies: Our catalog obsession

(This blog post and video are made possible by a partnership with Chasing-Fireflies. If you haven’t seen their catalog, then.. well.. read on..)

As an adult — you probably have a favorite store or designer. Penn can lose himself in an Apple store for days. Me? Drop me off in front of a Williams-Sonoma and I’m good for at least a week. (YES! I NEED a ruffled pie plate in every color)

For our children, it’s Chasing Fireflies. They don’t have a brick and mortar store — but they send these catalogs. THE CATALOGS. They are like something out of a dream for a little one. The clothes and costumes are fantasy-like. I don’t even know how we got on their mailing list years ago but they are our special occasion go-to since their catalog made it to our mailbox.

SIDE NOTE: You remember those striped Christmas Jammies we wore last year? Yep. We bought them from Chasing Fireflies.

Additional side note from Mom on a SoapBox: I don’t know about you — but it’s been harder and harder for me to find age appropriate clothing for my little girl. She’s seven. Does she need an off-the shoulder, midriff baring shirt? A scoop neck, glitter dress? SHE’S SEVEN. So I’m thrilled when she circles a sweet dress in the Chasing Fireflies catalog.

So imagine our children’s reaction when we got a call FROM Chasing Fireflies. It looked a little like this:

Our family will be featured in an upcoming catalog, you guessed it, in our Christmas Jammies.

We put this video together for them: It explains our children’s obsession with their products and how we handle it.

Watch it. Share it. And get the catalog.

PENNterest: Penn takes on a Pinterest project

Post by Kim, craft by Penn

I grew up in an incredibly crafty, do-it-yourself family.

Long before Pinterest, my mother and grandmother went to the store and bought patterns to make a lot of our clothes.

Before home improvement superstores, my father would take on massive projects around the house.. for fun. The house needs a new roof? Bathroom need new tile? Why pay someone to do it when you have two hands to do it yourself.

Fast forward a few years. I marry a guy that is CLUELESS. He admits it.  So that means if something is broken in our house I dive in to make the repairs.

Penn even pokes fun at my Pinterest obsession. I mean… what’s not to love? The JOY in finding a perfect “pin” and the inevitable TEARS when it doesn’t turn out anything like the picture. I’ll admit — I have an unhealthy relationship with Pinterest. I have more Pinterest #FAILS than successes. Still.. it’s Autumn. This time of year just calls out to the craftiness in my genes.

But this time — I wanted my dear husband to give it a try. I found a great wreath I wanted to duplicate — and of course, there were no step by step instructions. Of course.

So here’s his first try at a Pinterest craft. You have to watch until the end. Classic.

Have more crafts he should try? Leave a link in the comments.

You’re never too old to be bullied (but now we’re doing something about it)

Post from Kim:

I’m guessing there isn’t a person reading these words that hasn’t had a run in with a bully. Growing up, those bullies were in the school yard and had to confront us face to face.

In the 2nd grade a group of girls called me over to their game of four square. One girl looked to her friend and commanded, “Tell her.”
“Tell me what?” I asked.
“We all hate you. Now go away,” the ringleader snarked.
I asked why, and the girl said, “Just because.”

I kept it together and did what any girl of eight years would do: I ran to the bathroom and cried. I remember what I was wearing, a Rainbow Brite t-shirt and yellow shorts. The shorts were recently stained from where my “Fox and the Hound” tin lunchbox leaked on my lap. The memory is still vivid enough to sting.

There were other times: Like when I was in 6th grade and a girl pushed me into a locker. “Just because.”  Again, I gathered myself. I went to the bathroom. Then, I cried.
The guy who always called me, “porker.” When I got mono and lost 15 pounds — he then called me “HIM” instead of Kim because my voice is so deep.

I know there are far, far worse stories out there. Heartbreaking stories.

Then yesterday, a post was written about my family. Here’s the link in case you want to read.
I read the whole thing (it’s surprisingly long). I went to the bathroom — but this time I didn’t cry. I got pissed.

Here, in front of me, was another bully — but this bully wasn’t powerful enough to push me into a locker or call me a name to my face. This bully wrote an entire post without even contacting us .. just put it online. I bet if this woman saw me in the grocery store with my family, she wouldn’t have the nerve to say these things to my face. I’m 38 years old and sick of being bullied. I’M DONE.

Several sympathetic friends reached out saying, “don’t worry, people are defending you in the comments” and “Don’t dignify this post with a response.”
Then I realized I by NOT commenting, I was letting this cyber-bully win.
I tried to make a comment to the actual post — but it was never approved. Hmmm… Well, here’s my comment:

“On the other side of your hateful words sits a real family, with real struggles, and real feelings.  We realize by posting videos online we open ourselves to this critique. The beauty of the internet is this: IF YOU DON”T LIKE IT, DON”T CLICK.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. We leave even the negative comments on the YouTube page, that’s how much we believe everyone deserves to be heard. But this isn’t sharing an opinion with your friend at carpool or a cocktail party, this is bullying.

Some advice was given to me; I was told to say a prayer for the bully. I did that — then got upset with myself for spending time on a prayer for this person when there are so many families that need the positive energy.
So here’s the thing that has brought me peace with this bullying experience: We have made a $500 donation to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center charity in the name of Jezebel (the site that published the post).

I encourage you to talk to not only your kids, but your friends about cyber-bullying. After all, this hate was coming from an adult.

UPDATE: I’m moved my the support and donations to bully prevention charities. Thank you! But let’s agree that sending hurtful messages to the person who wrote the article is not advancing the situation. Thank you again for your kind words and support.

How our kids handled a weekend in the spotlight

Post by Kim:

Penn and I had everything we needed growing up. We didn’t necessarily have everything we WANTED (Guess jeans, a real Members-Only jacket, and Michael Jackson parachute pants), but our parents did everything they could to make sure we had the necessities (we got those jeans with the upside down triangle, a generic jacket with zippers, and a pair of pants that squeaked when we walked).
Now that we have our own children, we realize our own parents were onto something: There’s enough stuff; experiences are what matter. That’s why we try to bring the kids along for any opportunity to travel with our day job. Our company, Greenroom Communications, was hired to provide digital strategy and a social media launch for the Legends of Oz DVD release for Fox Home Entertainment. We have a team of social media ninjas who developed an AWESOME plan that included a Friday night Twitter party and a Saturday morning double-decker sing-a-long bus ride throughout New York City.

 

 

At the same time, we were invited to be on Fox and Friends Saturday morning to talk about our newest family video.

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I tried to remind the kids: 


“An airplane trip to New York is not something mommy and daddy did as children. We are fortunate to be able to do this.”

I went on: “A national television interview is not something mommy and daddy did on Saturday mornings growing up.”

And: “A double-decker bus ride through the city is not something mommy and daddy did as children.”

I suppose I just wanted them, at age four and seven, to be grateful for these opportunities. Remember, Penn and I decided if we had the means, our children would have amazing EXPERIENCES (I’m saying this with jazz hands and spirit fingers — “EXPERIENCES!”), not necessarily more STUFF. And THIS was it — THIS trip was an experience. EXPERIENCE IT, KIDS!
But soon, Lola had enough of the “experience.”  (She’s so much like me it’s scary). While Penn and our son get their energy from being surrounded by people, Lola and I need quiet time to recharge.


 I had spent so much time saying, “We didn’t do this when we were kids” that I forgot –  we DIDN’T do this when we were kids.
 I had to remind myself:
 we never took an airplane to New York City for the weekend as children.


We never appeared on national TV when we were growing up.


We never saw our dads perform on a double-decker bus as children.

Yes, these were great opportunities, but it was a lot for my little people. About an hour into the bus tour — Lola was done. She wanted off.
 So that’s what we did. Penn stayed on to lead the crowd in song — Lola, Penn Charles, and I walked back to the hotel. Lola didn’t want to hold hands. She wanted some quiet time ten feet in front of me (on crowded Manhattan streets). There was still so much to EXPERIENCE, but we closed the shades and tuned out the world for a bit. It’s what my girl (and I) needed.

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During those quiet moments I told the kids, “We don’t have to tag along on trips like this. You don’t have to do television interviews. Help me know when it’s too much for you too handle.”
Lola, now fully re-charged, scoffed. “In these interviews you and daddy do all the talking. It’s not fair. Next time, I’m answering all the questions.”
Well, ummm . . . okay.

Next, we hit the city as a family. 
We found the spot where Penn proposed to me years ago. We rode the carousel in Central Park. Stopped by the Plaza, where our favorite six-year-old Eloise used to hang out. We even had time to see our girl, Lady Liberty.

 

Lola actually cried when it was time to leave. She said while wiping the tears from her face, “Promise me we can do this all over again soon.”  There’s a tug on my heart when she cries. But this time, I must admit I was a little relieved. It had never occurred to me that these “EXPERIENCES” wouldn’t be 100% positive for our children, but I was grateful she was going to remember this trip fondly.
P.S. Before every video or interview or picture we snap with our cell phone — we ask our children’s permission. If they aren’t in the mood or simply don’t want to participate, they have veto power. I even read this post to Lola before hitting publish. She was mostly concerned that I wanted “pants made out of parachutes.”