Feb 29, 2016

Belgian Fries

2/29/2016 — cori

Doesn't that look just scrumptious!?! 

In our never-ending winter quest of keeping the cold at bay we were yet again perched in front of our tv the other night watching the most riveting of shows, Food: Fact or Fiction. We were being educated on whether or not pizza really originated in Italy or not. Then there was the ever suspenseful fry debate, are they French or Belgian? The pictures were painfully tantalizing. Our collective mouths were watering. We knew that we had to do whatever we could to get our hands on some of these most delicious sounding fries.

Thanks to Google, within minutes Chuck had found the top 5 places in the Twin Cities that serve authentic Belgian fries (you can clearly see where we fall in the fry debate). Unfortunately for us, it was like 9pm when we learned of this helpful information. So we made a date for the following evening. We would go in search of the perfect fries. 

We were merrily on our way to The Amsterdam, the #1 rated place for this delicacy in the Twin Cities. We knew from the reviews that it was a bar. But really, how bad could it be? Chili's advertises itself as a bar and grill and it is innocuous. I told the kids we were off on an adventure. Chloe asks, "So does that mean you're scared (remember my famous quote: It's not an adventure unless mommy is scared.)? Well, come to think of it, I wasn't scared. So we decided to call this an expedition instead. This is what we walk up to:

The three Xs on the sign make me a little nervous. But we proceed anyways. Our desire for fries outweighing our common sense. We walk in and it is dark. Like almost black. The windows are all covered with black-out curtains. People don't come here to be seen or enjoy the view from the windows or to even try and communicate for that matter. And, oh ya, they're fixin to have a concert. We were unaware of this. But as the sign declares this is a bar and concert hall. Just our luck. It just so happens that a hip/hop/rap/R&B artist was doing a sound check for his show that night at the exact same time we arrive. What luck! We do know about my noise and motion sensitivity issues....right? I just kept thinking: fries, fries, fries.

So, here we are waiting for a waitress to notice we snuck into this loud, black hole. The volume is turned ALL THE WAY UP! You can't hear yourself think, forget about trying to have meaningful conversation about whether or not you like the fries. At this point, we're beginning to wonder if the fries are worth it. I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath for our answer. And it is NO. This particular expedition did not win the Best Belgian Fries award. At least not in our book. I'd say atmosphere plays into this decision a little bit.

Did you hear how loud the "background" music was? This is not the typical type of environment we like to have a nice dinner in. Chloe even said, "I feel like I shouldn't be here." But after a while, we were having fun with it. Chuck and I felt a little like the Swagger Wagon parents. We're so pathetically white.  

After this experience we went home, put on the tea kettle and watched a calming episode of "The Great British Baking Show". This activity was a little more up our ally.

Feb 24, 2016

TV Guide

2/24/2016 — cori

Winter in Minnesota sucks. We all become like little hermit crabs and hole up in our shells during the wintry blast. We hibernate by the fireplace and tv while the cold invades our precious outdoors. All the things we love about Minnesota come screeching to a halt when the wind chill plummets, the roads are covered in snow and ice and the gray months seems to play out like a perpetual Groundhog Day.

But have no fear, we have adapted to our surroundings and have learned how to cope. No, there are no more long walks after dinner. And no, there are no bike rides or beautiful sunsets to be had. And sadly, there are no outdoor games of basketball or around the world. Our outdoor time comes to a halt and we are forced to entertain ourselves indoors. For the love.

You can only play so many games of chess, nertz, q-bits, etc. Kids eventually come home from sports practices and want to do something together. It doesn't take all night to exercise. After a while, your eyes start closing while you're nestled up close to the fireplace with your favorite book. What else is there? The tv. We do about a year's worth of tv watching in the 4-5 months of winter. We probably watch an hour or two every night. That's a ton of tv for us. We don't normally watch tv. We prefer to be outside whenever possible.  Obviously, that's not an option right now.

So I thought it would be fun to document the shows we watch that entertain us night after cold night. Five years from now the kids are going to laugh at this list, I just know it. But, trust me, it's hard to find things that all of us will enjoy that are appropriate. One thing we can all agree on is: investigative journalism. Yes - we love us a great reporter! The kids have loved these shows ever since we started traveling with them and would end up in hotels with not many channel options to choose from. From there our love of investigative reporting grew and grew. We love us a good conspiracy theory, whistle blower, fraud or court case (however, we can't watch anything too sad because...Chloe). We've since added anything from the Science Channel, National Geographic Channel and our old favorites, HGTV and Food Network. Thankfully, for us, football and basketball are usually always an option as well. So, without further ado, here's the list:

1. Outrageous Acts of Science
2. Man vs. Wild
3. Brain Games
4. 60 Minutes
5. The Amazing Race
6. The Great British Baking Show
7. Chopped
8. Super Nanny
9. Fixer Upper
10. Flip or Flop
11. House Hunters International
12. Ellen's Design Challenge
13. River Monsters

Well, there you have it. I feel like I've done an adequate job of justifying our nightly ritual of tv watching. I feel better already. Thankfully, spring is around the corner and our DVR will be filled with a back log of programs we're too busy to watch.

Feb 23, 2016


2/23/2016 — cori

As Gavin, Bennett and I were waiting at the Doctor's office yesterday we were making small talk (I've got to practice on someone). I was telling the boys how, many nights, as I lay there falling asleep I'm mentally composing an email I need to write or a blog post. I just can't find the "off" switch. Frustrating, right?! I need to relate to somebody. I asked Gavin, "Does the same thing happen to you?"

"No. I think about Quantum Physics and String Theory." he responds.

"Hmmmmm. Ya, I don't have that problem. Bennett, how about you?" I ask.

"I don't think."

There you have it. Us in a nutshell. The conversation was over and we went back to staring at the wall waiting for our name to be called.

( Huffington Post came out with a hilarious article just today about this very same phenomenon: 8 Illustrations Over-Thinkers Will Relate To On A Deep Level. )

Feb 17, 2016

How We Do Valentines

2/17/2016 — cori

For 6 years now Chuck and Chloe have been enjoying their very special time together each Valentine's Day. The very first event was a Daddy/Daughter Dance when Chloe was 4. She was the Princess going to the ball and Daddy was her Prince Charming. They went to these dances year after year. Chloe adores her Daddy. Now, the dances have been preempted by a Date with Dad. They pick a favorite restaurant (usually something very spicy) and then go somewhere fun. This year they went to Blick, an art supply store, to look at all the cool art stuff and buy a sketch pad. Chloe definitely has her Dad's creative flair and eye for design.

While those two are off galavanting and living the high life of Princeses and Knights in Shining Armor, I have the joy of getting in touch with my more masculine side. These are my people. They tower over me now making me feel like the kid. But, believe it or not, there was once a day when I was taller than them. This rowdy crowed opted for my kind of fun on this eve of Valentine's Day...we hit Half-Price Books and Smash Burger. Then we came back home and watched Dateline NBC. This is how it goes down when you're mature like we are.

But not to fear, we have continued with our beloved, time-honored tradition of Valentine's Date at Home.  You know, the one where Chuck cooks, the kids serve, and we pretend to be out at a fancy restaurant. Over the years we have progressed from sitting at a tiny kids table in the middle of the living room to actually getting to sit at the big people's table. But now "the help" talks to us while we're dining and don't always stay in the kitchen where they belong (but it's kinda hard cuz the table is in the kitchen). Whatever the set-up, it's always a blast and a tradition I'm so thankful we started. Leave it to Chuck to turn something unfortunate (lack of money and no one to watch our kids for a date nite) into something spectacular (a tradition we couldn't imagine living without).

Feb 15, 2016

Inspiring Documentary

2/15/2016 — cori

Normally every Friday night at our house is pizza and movie night. The movie selection this past Friday was a documentary entitled, "Fed Up". So, of course we're sitting in front of the tv shoving our mouths full of pizza while watching a film that documents America's poor eating habits and addiction to sugar. Apropos.

This is one of those things that once you learn, you can't unlearn. Once you know something, you are now responsible for what you're going to do with it. Kind of like what happened when we watched Food, Inc. 

So we had a family talk and all agreed that we should probably better monitor our sugar intake. We did a great job of this years ago. I had the crazy rule (that I borrowed from Michael Pollan) when the kids were younger that we could only eat sugar on a day that started with "s". So, basically on the weekends the kids could indulge in sugar ladened products but would try to make healthier choices during the week with real food. That served us pretty well for many years. But as they got older, our rules got laxer.

The kids took this message to heart. I was surprised by how convicted they felt. We kinda all agreed to go back to our sugar only on the weekends again. I even took them to the store with me the next day (we all know what a feat of heroism that is!) when I did my grocery shopping so they could have a part in making healthy food choices for the week. They paid close attention to the sugar content in packaged foods and tried hard to pick only real foods. We agreed that soda was completely out. I also decided to learn how to cook more tastey vegetable sides. We knew all this change was for the best, even though it would initially be hard.

I absolutely love how the kids had a hand in all this. They are owning their choices, not just doing what we say. We are by no means turing into health food fanatics or growing our own vegetables (I suck at gardening) or going off the deep end with this. We want there to be balance in the whole endeavor. If we go cold turkey - this will never work. But we've decided to be more purposeful in our food choices. But that is very hard when sugar is the driving force behind every single snack food flooding your frontal cortex. We are inundated with sugar. We've become desensitized to it. It's become such the norm that going without it seems somehow 'un-normal'.

One more way the Mallotts like to go against the grain I guess.

First College Visit

2/15/2016 — cori

I can't believe I'm even writing this post. It sounds surreal coming out of my mouth. But this is our new reality. Gavin and I had his first college tour today. He decided he wanted to check out Carlton College in a town only 30 minutes south of us. We've known about this college for years and have even walked around it's campus before - but only in appreciation of it's beauty.

Obviously I wasn't prepared for the magnitude of this moment because I totally forgot to pose for a picture with Gavin on the actual school grounds. We took this picture once we got home. I know...a total fail. This was my first time; I'll get it right the next time, I promise.

By the end of the Information Session I was sold. Apparently, it doesn't take much to sell me anything. I buy anything that's wrapped in a pretty package. Especially if there is a cool video and music to go with it that might possibly make me emotional.

But, I'm not the one about to spend 4+ years at an institution of higher learning. So...I bit my tongue (often times very hard) and said nothing. I just walked along acting like a cool cucumber (cuz that's what Gavin wanted). My main job was not to embarrass my uber-cool son.

As we got in the car to go home he said, "Well...I wouldn't be disappointed if I went here." That is very positive people. These are happy words. He went on to say that he mostly appreciated the culture of the college. I asked him to share with me his top 3 pros and top 3 cons. Surprisingly, his were the same as the ones I was mentally cataloging. But I didn't want to say anything because I don't want to in any way influence his decision. Imagine that! We both appreciated the same 3 things about the school. I knew we were uni-mind.

This is going to be a super fun journey, I can tell. We have many more places on the list to visit. I'm excited to see the final destination of where this journey ultimately leads.  Exciting times my friends, exciting times.

Feb 12, 2016

The Basketball Date

2/12/2016 — cori

My awesome boy and me on our long awaited Date Nite. What else would the two of us do if it didn't involve basketball? I love basketball as much as Bennett, I just don't play it. Granted, I also don't spend all my free time watching basketball highlights on YouTube like my sweet boy.

On this fabulous night we chose to go see a local favorite team, the Apple Valley Eagles. The town right next to ours is the hometown of the NCAA Champs 2015 star player: Tyus Jones. He went to Apple Valley High School before attending Duke University last year. He was playing varsity ball by 8th grade. He's kind of a local legend.

We watched his team play to victory during last year's March Madness. There was a lot of hype around here since he is local. To top off our wondrous luck, he got drafted this year by the Minnesota Timberwolves (although we've yet to see him play there). And he was at last night's game cheering on his younger brother. That was a bonus for us.

But this was who we went to see last night: Tre Jones. He is definitely following in his older brother's footsteps. It was a thrill to watch him. At only 2 years older than Bennett, he is a starter on the varsity team. His team is ranked number 1 in Class 4A ball in Minnesota. He scored an amazing 35 points against rival, and second-ranked team in our division, Shakopee. 

All I know is that I was standing for the last 10 minutes of the game. The energy in the stadium was palpable. The teams were evenly matched, answering each other's call all night. With less than 15 seconds to go, Apple Valley was down by 2 points. Then Tre drove into the basket making a clutch 2 pointer that would tie his team and bring them into over time. The crowd went wild! Apple Valley kicked it up a notch in overtime and ended up sealing the victory with a 75-65 win. It was beautiful. If my sportscasting skills aren't up to par, you can read all about their sweet victory and all the play by play details here.

Needless to say, it was the perfect night for Bennett and me. 

Feb 7, 2016

Adventures with Pericles

2/07/2016 — cori

For my last birthday Chuck gave me tickets to go see Pericles at the Guthrie. We've become rather fascinated by the theater lately. We were filled with anticipation as the night approached. We had no idea what the performance would be about other than the brief description on the Guthrie website:

Enter Pirates! Set sail with Pericles, Prince of Tyre, on an action-packed, epic journey. In heroic fashion, Pericles woos a princess, fights a famine, weathers storms and a shipwreck, wins the hand of his wife, loses her at sea, and entrusts his only child to a king and queen. From a riddle to a heartrending reunion, Shakespeare’s tale charts one man’s sweeping voyage from a headstrong youth to a sage, world-weary man, with humor, pathos and passion.

Sounds good to us. Little did we know it would not be in English. At least modern day English. This was real, literal Shakespeare people! Not an adaptation. Not a revised version. Not a modern day reenactment. This was the real McCoy. And we were beyond confused.

We sat there befuddled from the very beginning. We each thought the other knew what was happening. I'm afraid this confession shows our level of intellect. Not that we don't enjoy intellectual pursuits - just not on the Shakespearean level. At intermission (Chuck referred to it as 'halftime') we looked at each other and bust out laughing. "Do you have a clue what's happening?" he asks me. I dug deep to come up with an answer that sounded like I appreciate this gift of time at the theater together without telling him I had no clue what it was we were watching, "Well....I think I understand it by context clues. But I don't actually understand any of the words."

We felt like we were sitting at the Big People table when we should have been at the Kids' Table. We were clueless as to the conversation. I once met a family who would all sit around the dinner table reciting Shakespearean quotes to each other and laughing in response to the prose. I felt completely out of my league. My idea of funny dinnertime quotes is Brian Regan. Speaking of which, he has a skit that precisely describes how we felt. Even though it deals with opera, this could also come in handy during an evening out with Shakepeare . I believe our endeavor of trying to be more cultured would have been better accomplished if it followed this ideology:

Feb 1, 2016

On Playing Chess

2/01/2016 — cori

This game. (Imagine me shaking my head side to side with my eyes closed as I say this.)

Gavin is ALL ABOUT this game.

This is his thing. It's filled with logic and strategy and rules. Heaven for Gavin.

Me, not so much.

But I love my boy and I want to take an interest in what he likes. If that means I need to learn how to play chess so we can spend time together, so be it. I am now a chess player.

Apparently all these pieces have names. I was previously only aware of the King, Queen and Pawn. I still am not 100% sure of the others, I like to refer to them as my horse, castle and other thingy. I just learned they each have a point value attached to them. Like I'm not supposed to sacrifice my castle for something with lesser points. This was news to me.

Gavin willingly spends his own money on buying books about chess strategy. He studies the games of Magnus Carlsen and tries to copy his moves. He knows the names of certain starting moves. This is stuff that all blows my mind.

Did you know that serious chess players even write down their moves? I did not. As I said before, I'm new at this whole chess thing. Apparently people are very serious about chess. I can relate because I'm very serious about nertz. So on some level we're the same. I prefer a game that's all about speed, chance and hand/eye coordination. Gavin prefers a game that's slow, logical and methodical. Figures.

If I ask Gavin to teach me as we play, he does. He explains why a move I made was bad or good. He shows me how to make better choices. He helps me think about more than just my next move. Isn't that what parents are supposed to do only in regards to life?

This is a lesson in humility, trust and logic for me. I don't ever want to be too old to learn something new...especially if my son is teaching it to me. I may never win, but life isn't about winning, it's about growing. Chess is growing me closer to my son and deepening my appreciation for people who understand and play this game on a regular basis. Man, they're smart!

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