Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 10 Picks from the International Housewares Show 2010

As I prepare to head to the 2011 IHA show, I shared a few thoughts about the top ten items that captured my interested last year.

Last year when I attended the show, I was still in a "clearing out" mindset and I didn't know when we'd move out of my parents' house. We could (in theory, please please) have a house under contract or in our possession by the time the show roles around in March. And I will be coveting everything in sight.

Have I mentioned we gave away or sold almost everything, determined to start fresh in our new place? Dishes and plates? Gone. Though our silverware stayed.

Appliances? Mostly sold to a couple we found on Craigslist who collects Braun items.

Furniture? Well, that inflatable stuff is looking kind of appealing at this point. See what I'm talking about in the video.

Oh, there's also one bonus item--Aebleskiver. And my trendspotting instincts are sharp. Look whose talking about Aebleskiver these days.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Taste of the Chicago Wolves

Cross-posted at The Chicago Moms.

In a family where we have more mathletes than athletes and the Olympic heroes are not gymnasts, but scientists, professional sporting events don't rank high on our to-do list, especially when we look at the cost of taking a family of four to a professional sporting event.

Talk about sticker shock.

(Yeah, Chicago museums, I'm lookin' at you, too.)

That's why we're fans of minor league sports. Or at least fans of the cost of minor league sporting events.

We've enjoyed watching the Kane County Cougars, the Schaumburg Flyers, and though not a minor league, the Chicago Sky, our WNBA team.

These sporting events are not only budget friendly, but family friendly as well.

We recently added one more team to the list when we were invited to watch a Chicago Wolves hockey game. When I say we had a taste of this hockey team, I mean it.

We started off with a hot pretzel prior to the game as we walked around the stadium. I haven't been in the Allstate Arena in years (decades!) and I was impressed by how relatively cozy it seemed. Not a bad seat in the house. (Note to self: go to a concert there one of these days.) There were games for the kids, live dogs up for adoption hoping to find forever homes (most of them did before the night was over) as well as various happenings on the ice.

We grabbed some Dippin Dots for the boys before we settled in our seats to watch the pee-in-your pants pre-game fireworks. If you have children who freak out at loud noises, maybe you shouldn't arrive until the first quarter period is under way. But if you don't need to leave the room for a loud boom, the indoor fireworks display and shooting flames are something to behold.

The second period brought sticky blue cotton candy and some hockey action, including a scuffle on the ice. Even that was much tamer than I recall from a 1980s Chicago Blackhawks game with the crowd back then (and still today?) yelling "Fight! Fight!" As the players were thrown off the ice, I considered how I might use such a tactic as a discipline strategy for my tween boys.

After the second period we, and other bloggers at the game, were treated to cookies emblazoned with the likeness of Skates, the team mascot, who is at once both fierce and cuddly, as well as a meet and greet with one of the team members.

We never did make it to the popcorn, but our bellies were full and our sugar buzz rocking by the time we headed home.

As I said, we're not that into sporting events, but we are into giving our boys a wide range of experiences. If I had realized our family of four could attend a hockey game, eat, drink and pay for parking for less than $100, we probably would gone to a Wolves game* a long time ago.

But those people paying $800 to see the Chicago Bears? I'll never be a part of that crowd.

* I sense some irony as I read over my words because I'm aware that our local libraries have long taken part in the Wolves' Read to Succeed program, but my boys, obsessive readers both, have never signed up for the club. They probably could have won free tickets ten times over by this point. D'oh!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gifted and Talented Students in Chicago

Not just for gifted and talented students, but also "motivated" ones, there will be an Educational Forum for Gifted Student Families at The University of Chicago on March 6, 2011.

Co-hosted by what I'm assuming is a for-profit service that connects families of highly gifted kids with educational resources, the Forum is offered at no charge and will provide informational sessions for parents as well as (in theory) fun and interesting programs for the kiddos. I say in theory, because there's not much content posted for the Chicago event at this time. However, it looks like they'll be rockin' it in Stanford this weekend, so watch for the Chicago agenda to fill in.

Did I mention it was free?

Will you be there?

Thanks again to RL Julia, who is clearly on more GT mailing lists than I am.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Blissdom Bound!

We're on a plane to Nashville today!

Need some last minute advice or encouragement before you head to Blissdom?

See you there!

By the way, the first MomImpact member to introduce herself to me, gets one of these*!

*Cool, huh? Totally paid for them myself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Smokin' House: Property Sluts Episode 12

Neither cold nor snow nor ice will keep us from finding a new home. Join me as I dish on our latest potential casa, The Smokin' House and eat a pan of brownies.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My New Talis

I wore my grandfather's talit, or prayer shawl, when I became a bat mitzvah in May 2010 (more here). It was at once special and a bit awkward to don it. You see, back in the day, this was a holy garment designated for men only.

What would he think if he could see me wearing his talit? As proud as I was to wear it on my special day, I knew I wouldn't keep it for long term use. My parents offered me a new talit as a gift. I wanted something more than his traditional blue and white striped shawl for myself; something a bit more feminine, too.

After seeing how one of my b'nai mitzvah classmates created a beautiful talit with the help of a local artist as well as family members who donated special fabric scraps, I decided to follow her lead.

I engaged the same artisan, Rebecca Hamlin of Chichonia Designs, to design a custom talit, incorporating bits and pieces of my grandfather's talit.

Yes, bits and pieces.

Meaning, she had to Destroy. His. Talit., an object of prayer.

Just as I felt some uneasiness wearing it in the first place, I wondered if it was ill advised, blasphemous even, to destroy a prayer shawl even if the end goal was to give it a new life.

I heard my dilemma addressed, and solved, in a recent episode of "This I believe." Listen to (or read) Priya Chandrasekaran's thoughtful essay on cutting her grandmother's saris.

I know I did the right thing.

As the name talit implies, donning this shawl, I create a "little tent," a small, sacred space. It truly feels special to be wrapped in fabric in which my family history is quite literally woven.

For another look at my talit, check out this episode of Property Sluts, "Kim on Holmes, God and Homes."

No compensation was received for this post. Rebecca is just wonderfully creative and talented.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gifted Kids: It Gets Better

Chances are you've seen on of the "It gets better" videos. After the suicides of several gay and lesbian teens, relationship and sex columnist Dan Savage posted a YouTube video to send a message to GLBT teens that despite a tumultuous, frustrating and perhaps closeted adolescence, life gets better.

Dan's video launched a movement, the It Gets Better Project.

From the site:

Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying.

I've long wondered, "What if you substituted 'gifted' for "LGBT' and 'giftedness' for 'sexuality'?"

It could happen, right? I certainly know gifted kids who get taunted for their quirks and smarts, gifted kids who shut down or rebel rather than apply themselves for fear of being taunted or socially ostracized.

The Its Gets Better videos spurred me on to start the "When Geeks Grow Up" series (which admittedly has been eclipsed, for now, by my not-ready-for HGTV house hunting series). In WGGU, I highlight the now cool career of someone who grew up geek.

But I digress.

I'm not the only one to argue that adolescence is one big hormonal, physical, sexual and psychological mess for, oh, pretty much everyone. Why the big deal for GLBT kids?

So when I caught Dan Savage on the Colbert Report a while back, this grabbed me. Colbert asks that same question. Savage responds by, well, watch the clip to see and let me know what you think.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Dan Savage
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why I Won't Talk to You at Blissdom or Other Blog Conferences

Originally published at Chicago Moms Blog prior to BlogHer 2009.

My 10 year-old recently half-jokingly hurled an insult at me, "Mom, you are a wannabe nerd. And that makes you a dork."
Me? A dork? I resemble that remark.
And now as Twitter is abuzz with chatter about upcoming conferences like the one in Houston this week and SXSW Interactive in March, his comment made me realize that maybe it's best that I'm not attending either of those events.
After all, there are two conversations from BlogHer08 I still haven't lived down.
The first conversation took place last summer in the elevators of Saks. I was headed for a makeover with a few my Silicon Valley Moms Blog friends and two young women joined us in the elevator. One of them had mascara smeared under her eye.
As soon as we took off from the ground floor my internal dialog started. Do I tell her? Do I keep my mouth shut? If it was me, wouldn't I want to know? It's like when you have a bit of food stuck in your teeth all afternoon, but no one tells you until after your big presentation?
As she exited the elevator I decided to act. "Excuse me," I said. "But your eyeliner appears to have smeared a bit."
"It's a birthmark," she replied as she turned her head and walked away leaving me to recoil in shame at my faux pas.
And then, within a few hours of this interaction, I found myself talking to another mom blogger. We were discussing motherhood and nonprofit work. I have a master's degree in nonprofit management, but always figured my life would take one of two paths- the mommy/family route or the traveling the world helping women and children route. I never saw a convergence of the two.
My new friend was telling me she thought a woman could do quite well at both things and I continued to explain, perhaps defend, my limited view.
I later realized this mom who could do it all was none other than Beth Kanter. The Beth Kanter. One of the best known, most influential, do-goodingest women on the whole damn Internet. In fact she just received glowing kudos in a little magazine called BusinessWeek. She's awesome.
And I'm a dork.
So anyway, if I don't talk to you at BlogHer09, don't take offense. It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's just that I'm all too aware that a closed mouth gathers no feet.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our Relationship is Over. Property Sluts Episode 11

We began 2011 with such high hopes. But both house-hunting and living with my family are taking a toll on us. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I announce the end of our relationship.

On a lighter note, the subtitle to this week's episode is "Beyond the spork." Watch to learn about trongs, chorks and spifes.

When does that "spring housing market" begin?


Oh, and my Outlook (email) account has apparently ended its relationship with me after I diligently sorted through and deleted close to 1,000 emails last week. I'm screwed.

Forget the coffee; can anyone pass me a little Prozac this Monday morning?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Muslim, Jew Clash in Local Parking Lot; Police Called

My first post at Chicago Moms Blog. Originally published May 12, 2007.

It was Friday afternoon and I was running around like a madwoman trying to accomplish a series of errands before school pick-up which fell 1.5 hours earlier than normal because, well, isn't there always something interrupting the 5 days/week, 7 hours/day school routine?

I'd stopped at the Hadassah resale shop to drop off a few household discards items. Hadassah is a national Jewish women's organization; this little store helps support Israel's flagship medical institution, Hadassah Hospital. Just as the hospital treats patients without regard to religious background or financial concerns, the Hadassah Resale shop sells to anyone and their prices are gentle on one's wallet. As is my bad habit, after delivering my goods I got distracted. This time, a vintage apron grabbed my attention because it matched my blog. Stained retro apron in hand, I jumped in my car and started backing up when I saw the woman in the parked car next to me frantically waving her hands. My right, back bumper scraped her car above the left side of her tire well. Damn! I pulled forward and we both got out and inspected the damage, which seemed minimal. Both cars had a few minor scratches (never have I yearned for a camera phone as at that moment).

I profusely apologized as I wiped our cars clean to further assess the damage (still minimal IMHO). She insisted we I call the police to file a report. I know a police report was as much for my defense as hers, but the clock was ticking...I had to pick up my kids in ten minutes. It seemed inappropriate to call 911 for a couple of scratched cars, but when we tried the non-emergency police number that's exactly what they told me to do.

I explained the incident to the 911 dispatcher. She asked if our situation was an emergency. "Only in that I have to go pick up my kids from school really soon," I replied. (Note to self: avoid making sarcastic jokes to emergency dispatchers; it took forever for a policeman to arrive.)

Once the good officer arrived and handed us copies of the accident report and I noticed the woman had a common Muslim surname, I saw the whole incident in a new light. Suddenly we, Jew and Muslim, were a metaphor for Middle East peace. If we could get through this little incident without hurling insults, weapons, or involving the insurance bureaucracy, then my hopes for peace between our people would be raised.

Sure, I'd encroached upon her territory, but I hoped we could reach an amicable settlement. During out negotiations we learned we had much in common- we live in the same community, we're both mothers with multiple jobs and responsibilities, we both drive seven year-old cars--but here we reached an impasse. Whereas I planned to repair my two quarter-sized scratches with a $25 bottle of touch-up paint, she headed to a body shop and received a repair estimate of nearly $550! Things got tense, but she agreed to seek out another estimate. The second estimate, which came from a reputable shop, was close to $500.

The agreement has been sealed. I am to meet her at the body shop later this week to pay for the repairs. My moment of inattention is surely going to cost me, but at least I'm able to pay with cash, not my life. If only we could broker a deal like this in the Middle East.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

IMSA Fusion Accepting Applications Through March 2011

The Illinois Math and Science Academy, a public high school for our state's best and brightest math and science students (yeah, the ones who are guaranteed nothing in the form of an appropriate education K-8. No, I'm not bitter? Do I sound bitter?) is accepting applications for IMSA Fusion, an after school enrichment program for 4-5th graders and 6-8th graders for the 2011-12 school year.

The program is designed to

* Maintain or increase students’ interest, involvement and literacy in science and mathematics;

* Enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers in science, mathematics, and technology;

* Stimulate excellence in schools’ science and mathematics programs;

* Help increase access to programming for students who are historically under-resourced in science, mathematics and technology and for all areas of the state.

Our program is committed to working with schools in IMSA's field office regions: Chicago, Metro-East and soon, Rock Island; as well as schools that may have limited STEM resources and, or opportunities for students and teachers.

Click for further details on IMSA's Fusion program.

Thanks to my friend RL Julia for the tip!

Apparently IMSA has a sister school in Israel?! If you've read the book Start-Up Nation, you're probably wondering why we don't just move there. I might be asking myself that same question if I wasn't busy filming episodes of my house hunting show.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico: Wordless Wednesday

Some of you noticed I was off of Twitter and Facebook at the end of 2010. I was offline chillaxin' in Puerto Rico with my extended family.

We took a break from the sand and the sun at our resort and headed on a guided tour of El Yunque Rain Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System. I'd love to go back.

Coqui frog, so tiny, yet so loud!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Buyer's Market: Property Sluts Episode 10

Spoiler alert: This may be our funniest episode yet. And most true to life, despite the animation. *sigh*

This video was inspired by Jen Singer of MommaSaid.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tassimo T20 Single-Serve Beverage Maker Review and Giveaway

When we sold our house last year we gave away or sold many of our worldly possessions. And our coffee maker, an under-the-cabinet job, stayed with the home.

In his eagerness to start furnishing our new kitchen, the kitchen in the
house we don't yet own, DH jumped at the chance to review a Tassimo T20 "not just a coffee maker" single serve beverage maker. Yes, we get to keep it for our theoretical new home.

And guess what? You can win one for your home, new or old.

Some thoughts on the product from DH:

My boss, bless his heart, provides us with free coffee and snacks all day long. I don’t know if anybody ever cleans the communal coffee pot. (Lord knows I don’t!) Results of said communal coffee vary from pot to pot. We generally drink bitter, acrid, nasty tasting free coffee in the morning, and dump the remainder of a full pot late in the afternoon because somebody wanted just one more cup. Except you have to make a full 12 cups in the brewer in order to get the proportions right.

On two of those counts, single cup brewers like the Bosch Tassimo get it right. Not only does every cup taste consistently like the last one, but you never throw out wasted coffee. And if the next person in line wants something different, they simply put their own mug under the spigot and insert the desired capsule, or T-Disc, of their choice.

It took a while to figure out how to operate the Tassimo. It’s not as intuitive as I’d hoped. The bar code system imprinted on the T-Disc must tell the machine how much water to pass through at what speed. A green plastic tab is inserted to let the machine clean itself, and it took me a while to figure out that the cleaning process (just passing through heated water) is ideal for making tea, though there are T-Discs for tea as well. Whether it's tea, hot cocoa or coffee, it only takes about a minute to make your beverage.

After a few weeks of use, we’ve got it down and use our Tassimo on a regular basis. It doesn’t result in a too-hot-to-handle ceramic mug from the microwave or take nearly as long as boiling water in the old-fashioned tea kettle.

It’s straightforward enough for the kids (tween boys, not tots) to operate safely, although it requires a little more cleanup as a result of some spillage and dripping that happens from time to time. I hate throwing away plastic and prefer to recycle coffee grounds, which is a downside of the disposable T-Discs.

(Kim adds that though she doesn't like the extra waste either, but she's the kind of gal who typically only gets coffee at Starbucks-they put whipped cream on top!- so the cappuccinos from the Tassimo save her an unnecessary car trip.)

The Gevalia coffee capsules that came with our beverage maker were not a hit (too sour for my taste and Kim only drinks her coffee in cappuccino form).

The Tassimo delivers extremely consistent results every time, and once we find the ideal beverages, I’m sure this appliance will hold a reserved spot on our kitchen counter (once we find the ideal house).

The Tassimo T20 retails for $129.00 and is available at major retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond, as well as on the web.

Win it!

Head to the Tassimo site and comment telling me what beverage you'd like to make in your shiny new Tassimo T20.

Comment prior to 9 PM CST on Friday, January 21, 2011 to be entered to win.

Extra entries, one for each method below

* Tweet about this contest and come back and let me know about it for an extra entry.
Sample tweet: Win a Tassimo T20 from @KimMoldofsky

* Share this giveaway with a link back on Facebook and comment here to let me know.

* Comment on an episode of Property Sluts, my not-ready-for-HGTV home buying series (I'm not property virgin, yo!) and come back to let me know you did. They are funny, not smutty; I promise.

* Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you don't miss an episode of Property Sluts and come back to comment so I know.

Open to U.S. residents only.
I must have a way to contact you based on the comment. Winner must respond within 48 hours.
Winner will be chose via based on the total number of comments.

Congrats: Commenter #8
Congrats to Gayle Weiswasser!

Advice for the Blissdom Bound

Headed to Nashville for Blissdom at the end of this month? Me, too!

I'm delighted to be speaking again this year, sharing tips on buying a home.

Just kidding.

I'm talking about Making Your Own Opportunitie$. Okay, I added the dollar sign in myself. The session is Advanced monetization is not for whiny complainers: Making your own opportunities. I'll be alongside none other than Barbara Jones and Esther Crawford (yes, that Esther Crawford!) with Sommer Poquette moderating.

Whether this is your first blogger conference or your fifth, it's not uncommon to feel little butterflies of excitement and anxiety before gathering IRL with several hundred of your bloggy BFFs.

Here are a couple of posts to help your prepare, mentally, for a great conference. I leave the packing and wardrobe tips to someone else.

And one post for after Blissdom, just in case you're feeling as dejected and let down as I was after my first blog conference: You are not invisible.

What are your Blissdom hopes and fears?

Oh, and if you have a success story that might be good to share at my presentation, let me know about it here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Blogger Outreach: I thought I had seen it all until I got this email

I'm in my 6th year of blogging, which is to say that I've been here since the dawn of the "marketing to mommy bloggers" trend. At this point I've received thousands of pitches. I've also written a few myself on behalf of MomImpact clients.

I thought I'd seen it all.

And yet, I found this in my inbox this morning:

I just came from visiting your website (link to my long defunct review site) and found a broken link on it and thought you should know:

404 Not Found (link)

Okay that's cool; helpful even. Then I read the next line:

While you are in fixing this would you add a link to my website as well? (link)
My site is: (link) 15,000+ coupons and promotional codes.

Thanks and talk to you soon!


Any outrageous pitches in your inbox lately?

If you're looking for tips on sprucing up your website and clearing out broken links, which is never a bad idea, check out Google's free tools. It's been a while since I've used it, but Website Grader also provides useful, free feedback.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Book: Manifesto of the Gifted Girl

Dr. Joan Franklin Smutny, author of many useful books about understanding and educating gifted students has a new book, Manifesto of the Gifted Girl.

As you know, we're a boy-heavy house, so I don't think I'll be reading this book, but I thought some of you might want to.

From a review on the publisher's site:

This inspirational and informative book, Manifesto of the Gifted Girl (2010) is a very attractive discussion of three major areas concerned with academic, social and educational development. I should emphasize that the format, graphics and illustrations are excellent and clearly highlight the three major sections:

Part I emphasizes that gifted girls should follow their own interests and motivations to decide upon their life goals and careers…

Part II discusses many of the characteristics that gifted girls must have to reach their highest academic and life goals…

Part III is the culmination of the two previous sections, since it concentrates upon how gifted girls can attain their life goals, and make important contributions to all endeavors by applying their knowledge and self-understanding with confidence…

Click over to Royal Fireworks Press for further details and ordering information.

Drop me a note if you would like to write a review of this book in a guest post here (400 words or less).

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

On God, Home and Holmes: Property Sluts Episode 9

Inspired by my beautiful new+old talis (details in the video), I was thinking about praying for a new house, but it didn't feel right.

And speaking of feeling right, have you seen Mike Holmes from HGTV's Holmes on Homes? He's a Canadian contractor who goes in and fixes botched and otherwise half-assed home renovations.

He's strong, commanding, knowledgeable in ways I am not and he always wants to make it right. He's also got a new HGTV debuting this weekend, Holmes Inspection. I'm practically squeeing with excitement, certain that I will learn useful bits from this new show given that we have a home inspection in our future (in theory; sigh).

So what do you think? Do I need patience and peace? Prayers? All of the above?

Monday, January 03, 2011

My Gynecologist is a Man

I long subscribed to the theory that seeing a male gynecologist would be like going to an auto mechanic who's never owned a car, but here I am.

DH announced last week that his office was closed today, the first business day of 2011. I told him I already had a lunch date--with my gyne.

Well, it's not a lunch date, it's my annual exam. It's actually my 16-month exam; I held off so as to start chipping away at our insurance deductible from day one. Though come to think of it, this wellness visit might be fully covered.

At any rate, during my first visit to "Dr. Man" he met with me, fully clothed. I mean I was fully clothed. I mean we met in his office for a "get to know the new patient" chat, both dressed to the nines.

We talked, we laughed and then I was directed to the exam room where I disrobed and he stuck things inside me. Honestly, I've had dates worse than that.

Speaking of TMI, did you see my recent post, "The baboon who loved me"? Nah, I didn't think you did. It went live on December 28.

Stop in tomorrow for the 2011 season premiere of Property Sluts!