Monday, November 29, 2010

Forever 16!

Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
Monday, November 29, 2010

An invitation to a “Sweet 16” birthday party and upcoming holiday events had our two teens in need of some dress-up/party clothes. So I hopped in the car with the two older Huffman girls. I knew right where to go. We were headed to Forever 21.

Any mom of a teenager can tell you, Forever 21 is the Mecca for fashionable, but cheap clothes. Best of all, everything at Forever 21 seems to cost $22.95 or less. Sure, much of the clothing isn’t meant to last more than a year or two, but for two rapidly growing teens, Forever 21 is it.

Hitting the Forever 21 store in Santa Rosa, the two girls immediately disappeared into the racks crammed with clothing. We were on a mission for dress-up clothes, and I mean appropriate dress-up clothing, so careful attention was required to separate the thigh-high strapless numbers from the more suitable pieces. Some of them were so short, I couldn’t tell if it was a skirt or extremely short strapless dress.

That’s when I saw it — the cutest chiffon dress with satin trim, covered in tiny silver polka dots. A short, but not too short, bubble skirt. The dress practically screamed “Perfect for Sweet 16 Birthday Party.” It was love at first sight.

Look at this, I said to my oldest teen. Isn’t this adorable? It’s so cute! It’s very Holly Golightly.

This didn’t exactly thrill my daughter. I don’t think she knows who Holly Golightly is. Either way, she didn’t want to try it on.

I played it cool. It’s early in the game, I told myself. We would keep looking.

Middle daughter came over with a skirt.

I like that, said oldest daughter.

I found it first, said middle daughter.

They eyed each other, as if they might start a tug of war over that skirt right then.

Break it up, I said. Each of you go to opposite sides of the store and keep looking.

Almost 45 minutes later, I was starting to get a little worried. Neither had found anything that would work as a birthday/church/Christmas party outfit. Forever 21 has great prices, but most of the clothing is casual, and not always appropriate for dinner at Grandma’s or the school Christmas program.

I tried a different tactic. Approaching middle daughter, I asked if she would consider letting her older sister buy the skirt, on the condition that she would be able to borrow it. Middle daughter considered this for a minute as she held onto the skirt with both hands.

Only if I get to borrow it whenever I want, middle sister said defiantly.

OK, let me take this proposal to your sister, I said in my best United Nations negotiator voice.

Across the store, I found the oldest. The offer was made.

She looked very skeptical at the thought of sharing a skirt with her younger sister.

I’ll think about it, she said.

I was getting tired. I should have brought water and a granola bar for fortification. To make matters worse, for some reason there are no chairs inside Forever 21 stores or dressing rooms. I could only perch on the edge of a display mannequin stand. We had one skirt, no top and no agreement between the warring parties. Desperation was setting in.

I looked back at the cute little Sweet 16 dress.

Would you just try it on, I begged my oldest daughter.

She was still dubious, but I sensed a crack in her defenses, the tiniest hint of an opportunity for compromise.

If you get this dress, I will buy you one complete outfit of your choice, I told her. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. I bribed my daughter at Forever 21.

One outfit? She asked. Of my choice?

Yes, I said, swallowing carefully. Will you try it on?

OK, she said.

She stepped into the dressing room. I paced outside, waiting for the great reveal.

Opening the door, there she was. The dress was more than cute. It was darling. She was darling. She was the picture of Sweet 16.

I got all choked up, she looked so cute.

Mom, stop, she said.

I know, I said. I can’t help it. It looks so good on you.

If I agree to wear it, will you stop? she said.

Yes, I nodded carefully. And you can pick out whatever you want.

Twenty minutes later we left Forever 21, the dress in hand.

Victory is sweet. Especially when it only costs $22.95.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bye bye island!

Here are some pics of our spur-of-the-moment kitchen island remodel. The five of us needed more room to eat in our kitchen, but a small island stood in our way. What to do? Take out the island! DJ got to work and about 3 hours later, this was the result. An island no more....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Puff pastry a la Bistro Jeanty

Well, it's not exactly the same as the famous puff pastry tomato soup served at Yountville's Bistro Jeanty, but it's pretty darn close.

DJ made Campbell's tomato soup in a little crock, then put those pop and bake dough triangles on top of each one. Yum!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New biz

I have a new job at the Register.

Click here to read all about it.

I'm about one week into the new job and I admit I've already had a few "What have I done?" moments.

I alternate between PANIC! and CAN DO!

I think about the new job constantly. Add this, change that. Ask so-and-so for something new and improved. And don't forget to do more of THAT.

Just do it, the commercial says.


I'm doing it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wine Country Halloween

Napa Valley Register
Nov. 15, 2020

Halloween at the Huffmans usually means trick-or-treating in our little court with the girls, and keeping dad well supplied as he parks himself near our front gate with a bucket of candy.

But this year, two of the Huffmans were invited to two different friends’ houses to trick-or-treat. Both houses happened to be on the same street, Wine Country Avenue in north Napa.

Now, we typically have a pretty good Halloween turnout at our court in south Napa. Many of us put up lights and decorations. I know to expect at least 100 little visitors darting from house to house. So I had my concerns about venturing out to an unproven trick-or-treat destination. Would Halloween be as good on another street as it is in our court? Were we abandoning our court for the promise of a bag or two of free candy?

The answer was yes.

The first house we stopped at on Wine Country Avenue was having a Halloween party. And so was the second house. And the third house. Almost every house was decorated, with each more over the top than the next. I was impressed. These are my kind of people, I thought. People who love Halloween and aren’t afraid to show it.

Heading down Wine Country Avenue we rounded a corner only to find ourselves looking at Blackbeard’s pirate ship. Every other day of the year, this house is your average suburban tract home. But on Halloween night, it had been transformed to something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. The bow of the pirate ship jutted out from the front of the house. Lightening flashed. A skeleton steered the wheel, as the sound of rain and wind howled. A bearded pirate sat at the doorway, handing out candy. All I could do was stare.

As it got darker and darker, the streets got fuller and fuller with Halloween partygoers. The kids were dressed up, the parents were dressed up, the dogs were dressed up. There were so many people on the street, it was like a Halloween traffic jam. This wasn’t just Halloween, it was Halloween on steroids. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the Headless Horseman ride down the street.

At a house a few doors down from the pirate ship, two giant Halloween ghouls with skeleton faces and draped in rags hung outside. Strobe lights flashed. Loud, and I mean LOUD, rock music played from what must have been mammoth-sized speakers hidden somewhere. A crowd had gathered in awe of its Halloween horror.

What IS that music?, I asked.

It’s Metallica, said a dad next to me, matter-of-factly.

Someone with one of those microphones that makes your voice sound like a scary monster cackled at people walking by.

“Come here witch!” the house yelled.

Who is he talking to? Looking around, I realized the monster voice meant me in my witch cape and hat. I shook my head. No way was I getting any closer.

Another block over, Snow White had set up a Halloween buffet in her garage. There was coffee, and cookies and candy galore. My daughter’s eyes just about popped out of her head when she saw the chocolate fountain.

Snow White said she and her husband had been setting up the Halloween spread for the past five years.

“Thank you for coming,” she said in her happiest Snow White voice, handing out beaded necklaces.

At one house, the front driveway had been converted into a haunted operating room with bloody operating table, and other gruesome sights. Our two girls refused to get any closer, and insisted we turn back.

Talk about peer pressure. If you lived on Wine Country, you couldn’t get away with just a pumpkin or two. A house with some store-bought decorations would look mighty unimpressive next to that pirate ship. How do you compete with the pirate ship and a chocolate fountain?

It was getting close to 8 p.m. but there was no sign that the party was slowing down any time soon. We caught up with our 13-year-old and her friends down the block. She had taken off her shoes and was walking in her pink tights. Their bags sagged with candy and treats.

I’m not sure if we will be invited back to Wine Country Avenue but I have a great idea for next Halloween.

Pirate Court. My husband better start growing his beard right away.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The trade off.

Aren't they a cute bunch? Annabelle was invited to a friend's Sweet Sixteen party this past weekend. I admit I had to bribe her to wear that dress. Annabelle prefers casual clothes, and rarely dresses up, but I knew this party called for a real party dress.

Annabelle only agreed to get the dress if I would buy her another outfit, "anything I want," she said.
Well, I would have agreed to anything to get her to wear the dress, which I completely fell in love with at Forever 21. It's so perfect for the sweet 16-year-old girl that she is. And it didn't hurt that it only cost $22!

As her "trade" for the dress, Annabelle picked out three of the *&%$#*&^@* sweatshirts I have ever seen. But I didn't care. She got the dress. And she wore it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Goodbye Ursuline High School

130 years and more than 4,400 graduates later, Ursuline High School of Santa Rosa will close at the end of this school year.

I'm an Ursuline grad (class of '84) and I am absolutely stunned at this news. Like some high school girls I couldn't wait to graduate and go off to college and FREEDOM. But over the years I have come to appreciate what Ursuline gave me. A safe learning environment, small classes, dedicated teachers. A faith-based education. As I wrote in a letter to the Press Democrat today, this is a loss for everyone: students, teachers, alumnae, supporters, staff and the community as a whole. These young women are the top students in the area. What will become of them now? And where will the next generation find an education like what we received at Ursuline?

I think I took it for granted Ursuline would always be there. Maybe that was a mistake we all made.

Ursuline High School to close
Ursuline closure ends 130-year education history

Monday, November 08, 2010

Laundry Monster!

Now I know what really goes on when the girls are supposed to be folding the laundry.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Pumpkin drop!

After displaying our giant pumpkin at work, our press manager John decided it would be fun to drop it 50 feet from the air. We call it "The Giant Pumpkin Drop". Check it out!

(The pieces of pumpkin you see falling mid drop were the result of a pre-drop incident. One of the straps used to hold the giant pumpkin broke as they strapped it to the crane. The pumpkin fell about a foot, and several small pieces broke off. But disaster was averted when the pumpkin crane crew stuck the pieces back onto the pumpkin and proceeded as planned.)

P.S. At the end of the video you can see me in the white pants walk behind John.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Rain, rain go away!

From Surrendering to Motherhood...
by Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register

When Grandma Sue and Grandpa Bob invited us Huffmans to join them two weekends ago at a Bodega Bay vacation rental, we all had big plans for the getaway.

Like most kids, our girls love the beach. Set them loose on the sand and they can keep themselves amused for hours looking for shells, picking up giant pieces of seaweed, and running in and out of the waves. I’m a big baby about getting into cold water, but the girls don’t care what the temperature of the ocean is — they want in.

Staying two nights at a house only “14 steps from the beach,” was almost too much for the girls to believe. And entertainment was promised inside as well as outside.

There’s a hot tub, I told the girls. Bring your swimsuits!

Bring some movies, one sister told the others. She’d been studying the website for the vacation rental and spotted a 50” flatscreen TV in one picture.

The Giants are playing on Saturday, said Dad. Bring your Panda hats!

I’m bringing the camera, I said. The beach is a perfect spot to take a family photo for our Christmas card.

Yes, siree, this weekend had “fun” written all over it.

As the weekend got closer, I started paying closer attention to the weather reports. What’s this? Rain? But it hasn’t rained in months. Surely our beach weekend won’t be rained out.

Well, it doesn’t matter, I said. We’ll just make do. We won’t let a little rain ruin our fun.

Making our way to Bodega, we arrived right at dusk. The weather was perfect — no wind, no rain. The girls dropped everything and ran for the beach. After a few minutes, I realized how dark it was getting. If we didn’t head back up the hill we might get stuck on the beach. I didn’t even have a flashlight to find our way back. Time to go, we told them. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time for the beach tomorrow.

That’s about when it started to rain.

It rained all during dinner on Friday night. At bedtime, it was still raining. Saturday morning we woke up and it was still raining. The beach was so close. Tantalizingly close. We could see the waves, we could hear the surf. All we could do was just look at it — through the rain. It was torture.

We decided to go outside anyway. We’d spent months planning this trip. By God, we were going to the beach. We all put on sweatshirts and jackets. Now I had seen the weather reports. I had been told by reliable sources that it was going to rain. But did I pack any real rain gear to take the beach? Nope. You could say I was in a bit of denial.

Heading down our “14 steps to the beach,” I saw that my husband and the girls were already down the hill near the water. A minute later, I looked closer and I could see they were running on the beach. Oh, they’re having fun, I said. Well, sort of. They were actually running back toward the house, drenched. The closer we got to the water, the wetter we got. I was starting to accept reality. When it rains at the beach, you really get wet. There are no trees or convenient shelters to stand under. It’s just you, the beach, and the rain.

Ten minutes later, we were back in the house, taking off our dripping jackets and wet, sandy shoes. Well, that was fun, I said. Now what?

Let’s go in the hot tub! said the girls. Well, why not? They quickly changed into swimsuits and hopped into the 92 degree water. It steamed around them. They sat in the hot tub, in the pouring rain, for at least an hour. As I looked out at them, I could see them jabbering away. All three seemed to be talking at the same time. They played the hot tub version of Simon Says and later experimented with putting the hot tub foam on their heads and faces like a beard or rabid dog. Who knew that a hot tub would be such great entertainment on a rainy day?

Inside, us adults alternated between watching TV, reading, and pacing. Every half an hour one of us would go look out the window. Yep, still raining.

Later, the girls put on their orange “Panda” hats and watched the Giants playoff game as the wind started to blow and howl. With nothing between us and the incoming storm, I started looking for flashlights and candles, just in case. By Sunday morning, the rain hadn’t stopped; in fact, it was raining even harder. The girls got into the hot tub again. We watched another movie. Then, about an hour before we were going to leave, I noticed something. It was quiet outside. The rain had stopped. The wind was gone. Look, girls, we said. Now’s your chance!

Yea! They shouted, and out they ran, down the 14 steps, their orange Panda hats bobbing down the beach.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Huffman Halloween!

I managed to get pictures of two-thirds of the Huffman girls this Halloween. Annabelle was dressed as a piece of pizza, but she only put on her costume after she arrived at high school. Allie is dressed as Betty Suarez from TV show "Ugly Betty" -- she's the "glamorous" Betty that appeared at the end of the series. Ava is a blue ballerina. The other photos are of Allie and friends and Allie painting faces at the school carnival. Only 364 days till Halloween 2011!