Monthly Archives: February 2012

Happy Leap Day!

It only comes once every four years, and it’s like it never happened at all–it’s Leap Day. I imagine that in olden times, you could’ve committed a crime on February 29 and then at your trial, you could dramatically exclaim: “But Your Honor! Everyone knows February has but 28 days!” Case dismissed.

Anyway, before you start to look ahead to your plans for March–or flip over to the next month in your “babes” or “hunks”-themed wall calendar–here’s a final February photo: a baby in his finest Leap Year regalia. Presenting our new nephew Damien in a frogman suit, ready to leap onto the next lily pad and grab some flies with his extra-long tongue. You have to start eating solid foods sometime.

This day never happened…



ADIDAT: The Neil Helsper Story

Neil’s cube neighbors, work microwave sharers and occasional house guests are all too familiar with the 12:15 cumin odor that surrounds him each day and settles in the air like a heavy fog. A true creature of habit, Neil has eaten tacos for lunch an estimated 950 out of the last 1,000 days. If I were in Vegas and playing Neil’s Lunch Roulette, I would put my money on black (tacos) every time. (If you are wondering what the red would be in this analogy, it’s meatball anything.)

How much does Neil love tacos, you ask? So much that I once caught him eating just the shells because he was out of taco meat. So much that we have to buy Taco Bell seasoning in bulk. So much that when he “needs a break” from them, instead of taking an actual break he switches to taco bowls for a carb-free indulgence – taco meat, black beans, cheese and salsa/hot sauce in a bowl.

I know you think I am exaggerating, and I don’t blame you. So I’ll show you first hand the best that I can. The other day over lunch, I lied and told Neil that I was just practicing with my new camera and taking pictures of all the details in our apartment and our new couch. I believe my exact words were, “I’m telling a story.” Well I was telling a story alright, I was telling a story about a boy whose sodium levels have got to be just atrocious. I was capturing the pure joy of my husband eating his taco lunch for the 951st time.

But honestly, have you ever seen anyone so happy?


With Tacos and Enchiladas For All,


It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts

Wait, seriously? Shoot.

Neil and I have been relying on our condo’s incredible views to wow our guests. I guess we were sort of hoping that no one would focus too much on our bare walls. (Don’t get too impressed, we’re just renting.) When we wake up to this, decorating is the last thing on our minds:

The truth – and real reason – is that despite working at HGTV, I am not so great at decorating. (Don’t tell my boss!) But something rare happened this morning; Neil and I woke up with a sudden disgust for our bare walls, and enough determination to actually do something about it. One trip to Michael’s and two Qdoba burritos later, we had a plan.

Neil was hard at work and Caili was hardly working.

Before and after pictures coming soon! Hint: There is an ‘H’ involved.



We’re Not In Kansas Anymore (Because We Only Went There for One Day)

On Sunday, our parents/parents-in-law Guy and Patti were flying to Kansas City anyway, so Caili and I decided to hitch a ride. The coolest thing about this? We didn’t have to book a ticket, go through security, or overpay for Gardetto’s at Hudson News. Nope–we were flying in Guy and Patti’s 4-seater plane! (Or as Guy would probably prefer I call it, the PA-28 Piper Arrow.)

Not that you need a reason to fly around in a private plane, but we had a specific goal for the day: get to Kansas City and see our brand-new nephew, Damien. He’s managed to pack a lot of life experience into his five days on earth and a lot of cuteness into his 7-pound frame.

We arrived in downtown KC at about noon and raced to his house to meet him and to see the rest of his family. Our nearly 2-year-old nephew Kendan was a pleasure as always, trying to con us into giving him candy from the pantry and telling us about the “bock-bock” (chicken) he was going to eat at lunch. He seems less interested at this point in his doppelganger Damien. (Doppelganger, of course, is German for “someone who moves into your house unexpectedly and starts wearing all your old clothes.”) But we are sure that as Damien gets bigger–and shows Kendan that he’ll be a good partner for golf in the front yard–that their friendship will grow.

As we flew home that night, the thought of two beautiful nephews in our minds and the whirring of a propeller in our ears, we felt very thankful to live in an era of air travel, good postnatal care and plentiful chicken fingers.

Celebrate Love

Growing up, Valentine’s day meant waking up to a bag of candy outside my room from mom, chocolates from my brother (usually the kind shaped like race cars, baseballs or monster trucks), flowers from my dad, and cupcakes baked by my big sister. This Valentine’s Day, Neil and I are making sure to celebrate all of the love we have been given. Family, extended family, friends and work friends. Parents, nephews, and each other. So many reasons to be thankful.



Cheers to love!



Say It With A Cake

When our friends Drew and Shea asked me to help them break the news of a new sibling to their daughter, I knew just what to do: blind her with sugar. I got right to baking and hurried over as soon as the frosting was set. Because when words won’t do, say it with a cake.


Someone’s having a boy!



Yes, I know. We went to great lengths for a one year old who has no idea what’s going on.



But then I caught a moment where, I think, it all sunk in. We’ve all seen this face before – on this blog even. I think her regurgitation of little blue crumbs was her way of protesting.



Self-soothing with sugar. That’s my girl. Eat your feelings!



Siblings have got to be just the worst news ever…Omi took all day to recover.



For future reference, if anyone has bad news for me I insist that you tell me over a cupcake.




Looking To Get Chubby? There Are Apps For That.

The Helsper Chef Trifecta is back with another cook off. This time, we attempted to solve an age-old problem: filling up on appetizers and having no room for dinner. Except we don’t see it as a problem, we see it as awesome. This week’s challenge was Appetizers: Reinvented. Why not make a meal out of ’em?

Things got intense, fast. Ten minutes in, Neil and Eric were already fighting over two feet of counter space and I think it unearthed some resentment from that one Nerf gun fight in the dark in 1991.

Once things calmed down, I jumped in to see what was going down. Neil was hard at work with a mallet and toothpicks, so I knew he was going to live up to his reputation of choosing the concept that is least likely to work…Yet somehow his always ends up at the top of the rankings.

Eric surprised us with some sort of dumpling concoction. Was he reinventing the dumpling into a new dumpling? So not the concept. Let’s hope not.

My prep was going swimmingly, because I showed up early and claimed the biggest counter top.

Finally the prep work was done, and it was time to get to it. Neil’s was the first out of the oven fryer.

His recipe was a reinvention of the mozzarella stick.

Wait, are you kidding me? Can we get a closeup of that?

He combined the mozzarella stick with the ever-popular chicken crisper and made chicken sticks stuffed with mozzarella, breaded, deep fried and served with marinara dipping sauce. How he pulled it off I don’t know but we ate every last bit. So good!

Next up was my dish. I reinvented the jalapeno popper. Making it into a grilled cheese was surprisingly easy and crazy, crazy delicious. Jalapeno cheddar bread was topped with a layer of cream cheese, roasted jalapenos, cheddar jack cheese and panko bread crumbs (you can’t forget the crunchy topping!).


I was obsessed with my sandwich. It was all I could think about. That is, until….

Don’t hold your breath for this sentence, it’s a long one. Eric’s submission was French Onion Soup: realized in individual dumplings in a Swiss cheese bath, sprinkled with bits of compound butter and green onion, and topped with a homemade crouton. It was the entire french onion experience, in one bite.

Mr. Fluffypants always comes up with these long-winded recipes, but the guy knows what he’s doing. I’m trying to get this recipe from him so that you can all try it, but it’s taking longer because he MADE IT UP as he went. Talent.

I am telling you, you HAVE to try a cook off (and invite us). I never knew any of us could come up with such creative and fun new recipes. It was definitely the highlight of our week.




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Happy BIRTHday, Damien!

Talk about good days! Today we woke up anticipating the arrival of the newest member of our family. And he did not disappoint. Damien Nolan made us an Aunt and Uncle once again right around my favorite time: the 2 o’clock post-lunch snack time. We spent a good portion of our afternoon and evening cursing a crappy cell and internet connection in the hospital that stopped us from meeting him in (video) person, but here are the things we know about him for now:

  • He weighs about 7 ounces less than my favorite 8-pound bowling ball.
  • He makes pathetic attempts at crying that are completely inoffensive. Good luck waking anyone up at 2am!
  • He is not very tall, but there’s time to make up for that.
  • His older brother Kendan was not immediately pleased to make his acquaintance, but we think that will change.

We won’t know more until we meet him later this week, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.


Welcome, perfect Damien! We’re so glad that you are here.

With love and two new nephews,


What Do You Call Yourselves? The Aristocrats.

Lord Grantham and his 1914 hoopty.

The Duke of Edinburgh. The Duchess of Cornwall. Count Chocula. How did they get their titles? That’s the subject of my latest fascination, peerage.

Peerage is the incredibly sexist, terribly outdated, woefully unfair, really cool system of aristocracy that passes down titles like “baron” and “earl” from generation to generation. I first got interested in peerage after getting obsessed with the show Downton Abbey. On Downton (set in 1910s England), the Earl of Grantham has no job other than to rock really great formalwear, act like a badass (but a benevolent badass) in front of his servants, and keep up his sprawling estate. As someone who aspires to have no job, peerage is right up my alley.

Here are some of the top things to know about peerage:

-In the UK (the only system of peerage I’m interested in), there are five main titles for lords and their wives. In descending order, they are: Duke/Duchess, Marquess/Marchioness, Earl/Countess, Viscount/Viscountess, Baron/Baroness. (On an interesting sidenote, viscount is pronounced “vy-count.” Also, historians speculate that England uses the title “Earl” instead of “Count” because the latter sounds too much like an obscenity. No joke.)

-Peers used to have all sorts of special privileges. If charged with a crime, they were judged by literally a “jury of their peers”—other dukes, earls and viscounts. Although they were also immune from actual arrest because they needed to be able to “advise the sovereign” at any time, as if the king cared what the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury thought about anything.

-Parliament killed all the fun with a bunch of new laws in the 60s and the House of Lords Act of 1999, which took away some Parliamentary seats from the heirs of aristocrats and gave the power back to “the people.” How dreadful.

-In modern day England, life as a peer is both a blessing and a curse—you get addressed by a really cool name but you also are often expected to keep up an elaborate palace that you’ve inherited. The current Earl and Countess who live in the castle where Downton Abbey is filmed sound like they’re really not that rich, yet they have a house that costs at least $200,000 a year to maintain.

So there you have it, lords and ladies—a quick overview of peerage. Now if you’ll excuse me, my butler needs to use the computer.

Happy BIRTHday, Baby Yandel!

Today is a very special day, because we get to welcome a brand new member into our family. Our new baby nephew was born early this morning, and I already like him because he’s punctual! He arrived on his exact due date, which from now on we will call his birthday.



My sister and her family live in Texas, so we are thankful for technology allowing us to meet Yandel right away over video chat. We even got to sing happy birthday to him…which he actually hated. You can see the beginnings of a scowl here:



Grandpa Guy has already asked Yandel where he got that full, thick hair piece – and if they make them in adult sizes.


Seriously gorgeous, right? Congratulations to Pete and Holly, and welcome little Yandel! You are already so loved.

And what’s better than one baby, you ask? The answer is two babies. Thanks in no part to me and Neil, the grandchildren on the Kaplowitz side are increasing exponentially, and the next new pledge is due in just four short days. Get ready for hazing, little ones! I know two older brothers that are hopped up on fruit snacks.


With love love and more love,