What would your mother say….about teens and alcohol?

It’s Wednesday, aka Moms Council Day! Here is the question of the week and my answer below. If you want to read the setup, as well as what the rest of the Peanut Gallery had to say, here’s the link. Hit or miss, I’d love to hear what you think….


Q: How have you, or how would you, address the topic of alcohol with your teen? Do you think allowing your teen a small glass of wine with dinner on occasion is wrong?

A: I’ve allowed my teenage son a supervised sip of alcohol from time to time – occasion permitting. Do I think a taste of champagne during holidays, or a sip of my cocktail at a wedding, is committing my son to a lifetime of alcoholism? The answer would be no. My husband and I will often have wine with dinner, or even a stronger offering, many times in front of our children. We choose not to hide, because by doing so we are categorizing alcohol consumption as wrong and forbidden, and in the eyes of a teenager this can be perceived as glamorous. Better to behave as if wine or a cocktail is an accepted and normal part of life, within moderation. The struggle has been more about the discussion of alcohol with my teenager. He’s aware of the consequences of underage drinking, as well as the dangers of drinking and driving. Our deal of the moment involves a “no questions asked policy” as long as he calls me for a pick up from any situation involving alcohol. Not exactly perfect, but better than him driving or catching a ride from someone intoxicated. My preferable situation would have him stay away from such parties, or for that matter, any gatherings using the dreaded red plastic cup.

1 comment March 30, 2011
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Drinks anyone?

I just watched the first two installments of the remake of Mildred Pierce, and a particular scene caught my attention.

Bert Pierce was offered a cocktail by his daughter, and Mildred dutifully went into the kitchen to fix the drinks. Except she poured four scotch and waters—one for her, one for her estranged husband, and one each for their young daughters! Really? The youngest one was barely nine years old, if she was day.

So that got me thinking….What was my first “official” cocktail? The sloe gin fizz my cousin Faith and I—we were 12– shared at an older cousin’s high school party doesn’t count, nor did the countless red cups of beer years later.

My first real cocktail was a Manhattan. I was 21 years old, and out to dinner with my parents and their office staff. Wanting to feel grown up and mature, I ordered something other than my usual Diet Coke—or was it a Tab? I had just finished reading Catcher in the Rye for the umpteenth time, and recalled it was Holden Caulfield’s go-to drink.

It tasted horrible, sickly sweet, and so strong you could smell the alcohol before the glass was placed on the table. The only consolation was the cherry plopped in for garnish. I gamely finished the drink, as my parents’ eyebrows raised in disapproval.

My second drink was a Tab.

What was your first official cocktail?

5 comments March 29, 2011
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Communal Tables: Jump right in

Communal tables, common at many popular Chicago restaurants, make me uncomfortable. I found myself at a dreaded communal table while dining with my family at Little Italy’s newest offering, Davanti Enoteca. How can you carry on a conversation within your party, comment on your food, and eat with gusto, knowing your opinions and eating habits are within sight and hearing distance of a group of strangers? Or do you edit yourself?

Usually, I find myself sitting up straighter, a little more careful with my table manners and servings, and more reserved with my tone—not the makings of a comfortable evening. Tonight was a little different; the restaurant was noisy and everyone had to speak up to be heard. Or perhaps because the waiter pointed to our side of the table when our fellow diners inquired of the evening’s special. Maybe because I had a BiG glass of wine with dinner. But probably because the conversation at the other end of the table was so freaking interesting…I couldn’t resist but, “excuse me,” jump in.

And I’m so glad I did. We talked about a soon-to-air remake of the classic, Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford vs. Kate Winslet!) and traded stories about their craving for a particular thin crust pizza, which by coincidence is less than a mile from my parents’ house. Conversation was short and sweet, and after the bill was paid we said goodbye. However, the outcome was exactly what restaurants desired from a communal table–interaction.

Communal tables are still not my first choice of seating, but next time I’m in the same situation, I’ll skip the self-editing, and jump right in.

2 comments March 21, 2011
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What would your mother say….about kids and cell phones?


It’s Wednesday, aka Moms Council Day! Here is the question of the week and my answer below. If you want to read the setup, as well as what the rest of the Peanut Gallery had to say, here’s the link. Hit or miss, I’d love to hear what you think….



Question: At what age should a child be allowed to carry a cell phone? And why? What parameters should be established for its use and how do you enforce them?

My Answer: Junior high school seems to be the right time for kids to carry a cell phone, at least that’s the case in our household. It made sense since our sons were involved in school activities and extracurricular sports programs that made it easier to organize pick-up times and location. At that age, they also started going out with friends, so it made it very convenient to contact or check up on them via the cell phone. Our fourth grade daughter, on the other hand, is already salivating for one but for no other reason than many of her friends already have cell phones. Regardless, my husband and I are holding strong to our junior high cutoff. While this rule is fine for our family, it may not be so for others. Some families I know choose to give cell phones to their much younger children who attend summer camps or after school day care. It gives them better access to their children as well as a sense of assurance. More important than the age requirement, parents should consider implementing strong parameters on cell phone use. Limitations on texting and photo or video access should be set, as well as explained. If kids really want the extra services, or have their sights on a smart phone, then they should be asked to contribute financially to the phone plan or perhaps be given extra household chores. We’ve taught our sons that owning a cell phone is a privilege that can easily be taken away due to misuse, poor grades or bad attitudes. From our experience, the threat of taking away a cell phone trumps any form of disciplinary action.

Add a comment March 16, 2011
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RedBox Etiquette Rules

The RedBox line was long and unusually slow tonight. (Ok, so I had my two sons wait fall in line, while I waited inside the car for my turn. And cursed my husband’s distrust of Netflix) Here are some RedBox etiquette rules I’d like to propose:

  1. You should come to the RedBox with a movie, or two, in mind. Touch screen browsing through every single available title should only be done if NO ONE is waiting in line.
  2. Available titles are displayed on the board. Already in line? This would be a good time to scan new movies.
  3. Form a line at a respectable distance behind whoever is using the screen. Three feet and a little to the right is sufficient. Don’t you hate it when you can feel their gaze and breathe on the back of your neck?
  4. Have your credit card ready for check-out. There is no reason we should have to watch you fumble for your purse, or pat your back pockets.
  5. Don’t cut in line with the pretense of a return. Unless you are returning a recently released title, then announce it—someone may want it tonight.
  6. The driver of a car, with engine running, parked in front of the box is next in line. This is considered the default, especially if it’s raining, or below zero.
  7. If you don’t see your title after browsing in the new arrivals section, don’t bother using the alphabetical listing. It’s just gone.

Add a comment March 13, 2011
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Save the Pink Bathrooms!

Surfing the net, my husband found this site: http://savethepinkbathrooms.com

Cue the music—and if this blog had audio, you would be hearing angels singing right now, playing the dulcimer, and doing jazz hands all at the same time, because….

My mom and dad have a pink bathroom in their house.

My parents’ pink bathroom—wait let me clarify—my mom’s bathroom (because I’m sure dad did not have a say in this matter) is wall to wall to ceiling to floor pink. Toilet, tub, marble sink, wall paper, rugs, curtains, accessories—all pink. It even smells pink in there, thanks to the Bath and Body Works tropical liquid hand soap. Once upon a time, you could purchase tinted toilet paper, and yes, mom always had a pink roll ready for the wiping. This is important: there is also a coordinating pink tabo aka “filipino bidet”. What can I say, the woman loves her pink, and many consider it her signature color.

Our family house was built in the late 1970s, and the pink bathroom was a hit. Visiting relatives cooed over it; some even took pictures. The bathroom is still in pretty good condition, but a little dated. However, no one would ever suggest the dreaded R word—redecorate. Last week, I snuck a camera into the bathroom, and took pictures. As proof of its existence. My pictures are not high quality, but hey, I had to snap on the sly, and quick, while my mom inquired from the other side of the door, “Boots! Boooots! What are you doing in there?!”

 I secretly….like it. So, I was tickled to find out there was a legion of pink bathroom lovers out there. Many of whom are trying their best to refurbish worn tiles and fixtures. Let me tell you, you’re not going to find this style of tile at the local Home Depot.

I can’t wait to tell mom she’s not alone in her pinkness. Hey, did I tell you she also has a pink living room, with matching dining?

Add a comment March 10, 2011
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What would your mother say….about unruly neighborhood kids?

It’s Wednesday, aka Moms Council Day! Here is the question of the week and my answer below. If you want to read the setup, as well as what the rest of the Peanut Gallery had to say, here’s the link. Hit or miss, I’d love to hear what you think….



Scene: You’re playing outside with your children and little Johnny comes along to join the fun…again. He’s a nice kid, but can get overly excited, and even aggressive, at times. He also stays on your side of the block for hours on end, without any parental checking-up-on.

Question: How do you address the situation with the neighbor? Are you responsible for the safety and well-being of this child (in addition to your own) since you’re the only adult present?

My Answer: In my neck of the woods, moms act as cook, nurse, craft leader, playground supervisor and disciplinarian to all children, regardless of whether those kids are her own. I wouldn’t say it’s my adult responsibility to assure the safety and well-being of a child not my own, but certainly my neighborly responsibility. But it’s also my neighborly responsibility to be upfront with the parents, especially if the situation is ongoing. The scenario presented assumes the mother is being negligent with her child. The question that begs to be answered is “why?” Is there a situation that keeps the parent from supervising their child’s outdoor play? Young siblings, work, or illnesses are some possible guesses, as is plain old parental fatigue. If it’s a real situation and I can lend a hand, then sure I’ll be happy to do just that. However, if the mother sees me as a free babysitter in order to chat on the phone or shop online, then it’s an entirely different story. I would insist she be present when her child plays outside, or sadly, discourage my own kids from playing with hers. Who wouldn’t want to be considered Best Mom of the neighborhood, but if the adjective “schmuck” comes with the title, I politely decline.”

4 comments March 9, 2011
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My Lenten sacrifice

The topic of conversation at the dinner table last night: what to give up for Lent. The kids tossed around a few of the obvious: gum, candy, soda, picking on siblings. My younger son is leaning towards giving up chocolate and candy, but hardly a stretch since he lacks a sweet tooth; my daughter mentioned handing over her iTouch, but thought better of it (chicken!).

When pressed on what I was giving up for Lent, I felt the need to show a good example of self-denial and sacrifice—which is what this is all about anyway. Shopping? No, since that would include grocery shopping, and we all need food and toilet paper. Television? It’s the age of DVR, so I can always catch up after Easter time. Facebook? Heck, no! How else can I strong-arm family and friends to repost Too Boots on their pages?

So after momentous decision, I’ve decided to give up…….RICE.

A sacrifice indeed. While it’s considered a staple grain in many countries, my fellow Filipinos and most Asians know it’s much more than a side dish or extender. We build our meals around it, heaping tasty morsels of meat, fish, and gravy over a mound of rice. We never feel full unless we eat rice. Pancit, our national dish, is made from rice noodles. The correct method of cooking rice is one of the first tasks we teach our children. We even have our favorite brands (Three Horse Jasmine!) and buy it by the 50lb bag to store in fancy rice dispensers. We eat it 3x a day—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and if you’re lucky, dessert is a glutinous rice confection, too.

So wish me luck and hold me accountable. It’s going to be a long 40 days….

4 comments March 8, 2011
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Grossest foods in the world….cont’d

#9 Kopi Luwak, or Kopi Alamid

(also known as cat poop coffee)

Nature plays a big hand when developing distinct flavors in coffee—volcanic soils of Hawaii for Kona coffee, or Jamaica’s foggy mountains for Jamaican Blue Reserve, are some examples. In the Philippines, Mother Nature’s #2, gives Kopi Luwak its special taste.

Kopi Luwak is made from coffee beans partially digested by Asian Palm civets, a type of cat/weasel. After civets eat the coffee cherries, a special enzyme exclusive to their stomach ferments the coffee beans which accounts for the subtle caramel flavor and aroma of the brew. Once the civet goes #2, the beans are collected from the droppings, and are then washed, roasted, and ground into the one of the world’s most expensive coffees running anywhere from $100-$600 a pound.

There are different theories for the history of kopi luwak, the most popular being native farmers, denied a taste of the delicious coffee they worked so hard to harvest, resorted to another way of collecting the beans for personal use. I, on the other hand, have a much more Filipino, albeit practical, theory. I like to think a farmer’s grandmother, after seeing the civets eat so much of the coffee fruit, tsked, “sayang naman” (what a waste!) and went about salvaging the coffee beans from the poop.

I am fortunate enough to have my own stash of this caffeinated cat poop. Knowing my love of coffee, my aunt and uncle brought me several jars as a gift from Manila. During a family gathering, I brewed a small pot of kopi luwak, and passed out tiny half espresso servings to everyone. (Hey, it’s expensive). Maybe it was the way I prepared it, drip method as opposed to the recommended French press, but I didn’t savor anything caramel-y about it. It just tasted and smelled, thank goodness, like regular coffee.

However, my cousin Noni did meow after the first sip—does that mean anything?

1 comment March 6, 2011
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It tastes like chicken.

 I ran into a list of the top ten grossest foods available in the world, as compiled by askmen.com, and was tickled (or should I be offended) that #8 and #9 are found in the Philippines. My fellow Filipinos probably already know which foods I’m referencing, but let me get my non-Flip friends up to speed on these two delicacies….



#8 BALUT. A street food, balut can be purchased in the Philippines from vendors singing out “balut!” “balut!” while carrying woven baskets filled with these duck eggs. There are no such vendors found in the United States, so I’m not even sure where to buy balut. But every so often, usually during a party, my Uncle Deo will bring some in a heavy brown paper bag, along with a bottle of Chivas.

These boiled, fertilized eggs seem harmless enough…until you crack one open. Inside, nestled in its eggshell, is an embryonic chick. With eyes. And a beak. And if you’re (un)lucky, feathers. Some prefer to season their balut with salt or a chili vinegar. There is also an established method to consuming a balut. First you slurp the embryonic juices—the louder the better. Then you eat the chick, chewing and cracking bones the whole way.  Afterwards you throw the shells into a pile, as your friends cheer you on.

Why would anyone eat this? Because it’s delicious, or so I’m told. Many Filipino men swear eating balut improves their vim and vigor; a kind of Viagra protein. My kids and I do not eat balut. We like our eggs unfertilized, refrigerated, and arranged in neat cardboard cartons from the local supermarket. My husband, on the other hand, loves balut. Does he see a change in his virility? He’s never been able to test this theory since I don’t let him come near me at the first sound of embryonic juice slurp. I also make him brush his teeth, floss, and gargle with mouthwash. Not the flavored kind, either—we’re talking industrial strength blue Listerine.

Balut = ducky abortion. It’s just gross.


I’ll tell you about #9 in tomorrow’s post. But here’s a hint: it comes in one way, and then out another. Can you guess what it is?

3 comments March 5, 2011
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