Friday, March 29, 2013

Perfect Books for Mothers - Quick Reads - Review & (UK) Giveaway Competition

There's this thing I've done since becoming a mom. It really started after my second daughter was born, when those moments of quiet when my only child was sleeping and I still had time to myself became a distant memory. When I could sit, nourishing my child by my breast and while she nursed I would read.

When my second child came along, my attention was no longer focused... ever. I discovered a way to keep a grasp on my love of books; to continue feeding my own desire to devour the written word. I call it, "Toothbrush Reading."

No matter how crazy the household is, or how many times I hear, "Mom!" from the kids or "Babe!" from the hubs, there are 3 minutes every morning and every evening that I can almost always claim for myself: when I'm brushing my teeth. Add a thorough floss and we're up to 5 or so! Woo hoo! There is no mommy-guilt attached to brushing one's teeth. It has to be done!

Some books take longer than others to ready by this method of mine. When I was offered the opportunity to read and review 3 Quick Reads, I jumped at the opportunity because they are perfect for my Toothbrush Reading time! The longest of the 3 is a mere 125 pages and the author wastes no time! The story starts right where it should, grasping the readers attention from the very first words.

Quick Reads is a UK literary charity that has been providing short, fast-paced, exciting books to encourage reading for pleasure for people who otherwise might not take (or have) the time for leisurely reading (like mums/moms). They also aim to improve literacy among the one in six adults in the UK who struggle with reading. Not only are they easy to read, but they cost a mere £1 - something any of us can swing now and again. 

I have to admit, the books were so engaging that they extended beyond my Toothbrush Reading. A Sea Change by Veronica Henry was light and breezy, with a moral dilemma that most of us can identify with. A Dreadful Murder by  Minette Walters, a bestselling author, pulled me in immediately and I found myself playing detective, trying to solve a true, still un-solved, murder. Finally, Wrong Time, Wrong Place by Simon Kernick had me on the edge of my seat. My teeth got very clean whilst reading this book! I read it in less than an hour!

Now you UK residents have the opportunity to win one of the four following books:
  • Wrong Time, Wrong Place by Simon Kernick (Arrow)
  • A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters (Pan)
  • A Sea Change by Veronica Henry (Orion)
  • Love is Blind by Kathy Lette (Black Swan)
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fresh, Healthy Dinner (or Lunch!) in 30 Minutes or Less

Photo Credit: Me. 

Sliced Carrots
Sliced Pecorino Cheese
Tomatoes with Basil
Sliced Grapes
Green Beans
Cumberland Sausages

This is dinner for my kids tonight. It is quick, very easy and hits the mark on the healthy scale. 

I find my kids are more likely to dig into their greens if they have a little fruit on the plate as well. 

What to do:

Grill the sausages for approximately 20 minutes at 400˚F (200˚C). In the meantime, prepare the rest and plate it. Add a teeny-tiny pinch of salt to the tomatoes, if you'd like or Olive Oil and/or Vinegar, but I didn't tonight. A dash of butter perks up the beans and I slice the grapes in half so the kids aren't assaulted by sweetness when they burst open on the first bite.

For The Boy, I add a smiley face in mustard and a heart in ketchup because little ones always eat better with a hint of entertainment!

Yell at the kids Call the children for dinner and they'll just have time to wash up while you slice the sausages for them and serve!

Want more tips for getting your kids to eat healthily? Check out my 5 Tips For Getting Your Kids to Eat a Healthy Diet. 

What are you serving for dinner?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How To Peel Garlic Easily - a Vlog

Photo Credit
Garlic is one of my very favorite ingredients for almost any dish! I add it to nearly everything. Not only is it tasty, but also has huge health benefits, like strengthening your immune system and lowering cholesterol.

But garlic, as you may have noticed in your own cooking endeavors, can be tricky to peel. So, today I'm sharing with you two ways to peel it quickly and efficiently. Per the title of my blog, I should go domestic at least on occasion, shouldn't I?

Plus, I'll share with you my very favorite lunch recipe after the vlog, which I'm linking with Mama Kat's Vlogging Workshop. You should check it out after you've watched my vlog and left me a comment.

Well? Go ahead. Watch it now.

Problems? View it on YouTube.

Learn something new? Leave a comment and let me know!

Now for the recipe:

Caprese Sandwich

My take on the traditional, delicious Caprese Salad is to take that baby, remove the Balsamic Vinegar, add garlic and pop it on top of fresh Ciabatta bread. You can bake your own bread from scratch if you're feeling ambitious (it's really quite easy, but you have to plan ahead). For a quicker version, those fresh, half-baked breads from your grocery store are great. Even frozen, like La Brea, makes for a quick, delicious lunch.

So, your ideal ingredients are:

Ciabatta bread
Fresh Tomatoes (Vine Ripened or Cherry Tomatoes are best), sliced
Fresh Garlic, minced or sliced (your preference)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced (DO NOT use that dehydrated crap! This is not pizza, people!)
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Basil, torn or sliced (but slice only at the last minute)

I'm not big on precise recipes, so add as much or as little of each ingredient as you want. The goal here is to put a balanced amount of each on top of that bread in the order that I have listed them. If you prefer your sandwich hot, wait until you grill it for 5 to 10 minutes before adding the basil (or do half before and half after).

I love to have mine open-faced, but to each her (or his) own!

Bon appetite!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Obstacle, Barrier or a Stop Sign from God?

I read this wonderful quote today, "Obstacles are not Barriers." I apologize that I have forgotten whom to credit for that quote. It's been one of those weeks days. It means that just because you encounter challenges along the path to your goal, those challenges don't need to stop you. Keep going! Every small step toward your goal is a step nonetheless.

But when do you decide that an obstacle is, in fact, a giant stop sign from God (Universe, Source, whatever you call it)?


Help me out here...

I'm studying for an NLP certification at the moment. It encompasses a couple of other things, but never mind those for now. "Studying" means not making any money yet. We are barely, barely, barely cutting it here and so far I can just pay for the one I'm on (thanks to a few fantastic contributors). Writing makes me peanuts, even though I enjoy it. So, I've thought about getting a job in the meantime. A traditional 9 to 5 that I'd qualify for would hardly pay the childcare required and frankly just won't work with 3 kids (who seem to have been sick since we got to England) and no family or friends around to help out.

In December, I received an email that one of my mentors was hiring. She is starting a new company and she is hiring for virtual, but meaningful positions! So, with bated breath I've awaited the email that would tell me she was finally accepting applications for one of the two positions I thought would fit for me and the details of those positions.

Saturday, it came. Well, technically Friday, but it was in the middle of the night for me. Bygones. I am an amazing fit for the job! It is people/service oriented and before becoming a parent and dropping out of the working world, I was a rock-star in that department!

However, I had a couple of concerns (obstacles?) with regards to what they're looking for -someone who has a Mac and is available from 8am to 6pm in the Pacific Time Zone (I'm GST at the moment). Then... what about the school run (8:15am to 9am and again from 2:45 to 3:45 most days)? After school? Those hours are a bit long for a work-at-home mom of 3.

Still, I wasn't going to let those little things stop me! A Mac can be acquired and the time zone... well, the tag of the company name is "International" so why not start with at least one person (they're hiring 1 or 2 for this one) who fits that goal?! The number of hours? I leave it at a question mark.

Even so, I was super excited and I wanted to do it (written app and 2-minute video) first thing Saturday, but if you read yesterday's post (well, it feels like yesterday to me), you'll know that I've been a bit busy since then cleaning up and care-taking. Today (Monday) was supposed to be my day to get to this application. All 3 kids should have been in school. This is my day to get. things. done. !!!

Didn't happen. Two were at home and they required cuddles, holding back of hair while you-know-what-ing  and small sips of water every 10 minutes throughout the day (revisit tummy bug care here).

Finally, finally... it's 8pm. The kids are in bed and quiet. At least 2 out of 3 (my two poor sickies) are asleep and I am assured the healthy one is settled and on her way to dreamland. Or, at least staying quiet in bed so I can do my thing! Yes!

I start going through the application process. It's very specific. I'm writing down the detailed instructions that they've put on an audio and on 2 out of 7 I hear a rustling upstairs. Then, more than a rustling. A running, racing, desperate attempt to get to the toilet in time. At least she made it to the tiled bathroom floor.

I abandon my application, obviously. I do the required care-taking, cleanup and cuddling. As I sit down to get back on task, I have to wonder: Is this repeated interruption a sign that I shouldn't apply? That if I got the job it would somehow take me off the course I'm supposed to be on?

Or, is it a test to see how committed I am to the opportunity? There are only two days left to apply and my husband returns tomorrow evening (which means I won't get my time after bedtime). I'll still have two home sick tomorrow.

How would you interpret this situation? What would you do?

Allergic to England or Just a Bug?

The Sad Eyes of The Boy Who Just Keeps Throwing Up
Either we're all allergic to England, or the schools need to buff up their 'sick' policies. They still tell kids to cough in their hands, children may return to school as long as their fever is gone (no time frame) and it's 24 to 48-hours (instead of a solid, no-longer-contagious-48) after vomiting or diarrhea.

Last Monday Sweet Rose was down with a fever and a cough. Her fever lasted around 30 hours, so I kept her home Tuesday as well, when big sis was also hit with a fever. I kept all 3 of the kids home that day, as I saw no point in dragging them all for a 20-minute return trip just so The Boy could attend playschool.

Saturday, around 1:30 in the morning, The Boy awoke with his first of many, many, many episodes of vomiting. It began hitting his other end by Saturday afternoon. I ended up putting a Pull-Up on him for the first time in months because we ran out of underwear!

I thought he'd be better today. He last threw up yesterday morning, but no, just a few minutes after waking up and having a drink of water, he threw up all over me! Thank goodness it was clear and minimal.

Nature Girl complained that her tummy hurt, but as Sweet Rose was feeling fine and needed to get to school (her attendance is lower than standard for the first time ever in our school experience), I told her to get ready for school anyway and we'd take it moment to moment.

I brought along 2 containers, just to be safe. What do you know? Minutes away from school I had two kids throwing up at the same time. I pulled over, did minor clean-up, dumped The Boy's watery bucket and put the lid on the other, as it would have been rude to dump it where we were. I considered just turning around and taking all 3 of them home, with perhaps school is the best place to keep Sweet Rose for the day!

Back at home, I dumped two kids on the couch, cleaned buckets and gave them back. Nature Girl had her second episode in the middle of me writing this post and The Boy has managed a few sips of water. Thank goodness he managed some yogurt and a banana yesterday.

I'm exhausted. Did I mention my husband has been gone since last Tuesday? At least I've been going to bed earlier without him, but man alive. What does a working mom do? Thank goodness I'm not employed. There is no way I could keep a job with the frequency of my kids' illnesses.

That's it. Thanks for reading. It's times like these, when I'm completely wasted from caring for my own kids, that I desperately wish my own mom was here to take care of me! Through all of it, I just keep asking what purpose this is serving. There is always a purpose, a meaning or a learning to be had. I'll tell you more about what I think this experience is serving later this week.

Send me hugs. I need them. Then give yourself one for me just for caring enough to read this lengthy vent. :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Beyond the Baby Years

A distant memory -
two weeks into motherhood. 
I've been reflecting on the fact that I am completely out of the baby stage of my parenting journey. 3 pregnancies, 3 births, 3 babies. All in the past. Now I have children.

They grow so fast. Some mothers wish to keep them small, preserve time and precious moments. I don't. I hardly know any greater joy than watching them grow. Seeing them change, mature, develop. I am no longer laden with 3 clingy, dependent young children, but 3 interesting, inspiring people.

Nature Girl, fast approaching her 8th birthday, is curious, clever, imaginative, playful, free-spirited. She knows the path she wants to follow in life (animal rescuer of some sort), reads to learn and be inspired. She writes beautiful stories, draws stunning pictures and asks questions about everything. She cares so much about creatures big and small that she cries at the sight of a squished spider and move worms off the sidewalk to protect them from passing feet. Her baby face is long gone and her fine, graceful features foreshadow a beauty that will have the boys sighing far too soon.

Sweet Rose
Sweet Rose, smack in the middle of her 7th year on earth can push my buttons like only one other person can - her papa! Shy, yet confident, she doesn't hesitate to tell you what she wants and she damn well expects to get it. She's crafty and simply loves to make things. Her creations are gifts full of love and soft sweetness. She's claimed herself an artist since age 3 and I am sure that she's right. Her mind is sharp, she's focused and neat. She seems so grown up sometimes, but she still wants her songs and cuddles every night. She looks like Snow White and will surely be a stunning woman. Yet, I'm certain she'll hardly give boys the time of day.

Then there were 3 (in just 4 1/2 years!)
The Boy. The one who will always be my baby. He's adorable, funny and dizzyingly energetic. At 3 1/2, he's just starting to show us who he really is. He counts to 20, recognizes as many numbers and most of his letters. He loves chocolate and treats and only sits still for a meal in restaurants. He's drawn his first recognizable pictures in the past few months and has started to recognize a few words. He learns so fast! He can tell you the name of every train on the island of Sodor, and happily, he'd rather read about them or play with them than watch it on TV. He's learned French from his papa and Spanish from Dora and Diego. I imagine he'll be a lot like my charming little brother when he's older - an absolute lady killer. He knocks me off my feet every day!

I love watching them grow. Experiencing their growth. I love conversations and mutual learning and respect. The older they get, the more I like them and like to be around them. The fact that my oldest can now serve the youngest breakfast on a Saturday morning rocks my world! I'm literally seeing the fruits of my labor and the results are delightful. I'm proud of my children and proud of my parenting.

I''m grateful for my family and to finally be beyond the baby years! What parenting stage are you at? Which have you loved the most (so far)?

Thanks to Brandi at Yee Wittle Things for the inspiration today!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Middle Name is Sue

There's a saying that goes, "Writers write." Writing exercises help us to hone our skills and utilizing prompts forces us to stretch our writing muscles in ways we might not otherwise stretch them. That's precisely why I'm linking up with Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop!

Mama Kat provides 5 prompts; choose one and off you go. Today, I've chosen prompt #4: Your middle name. Though this isn't the most stellar piece I've ever written, it is about something that has been bothering me my entire life.

My middle name is Sue.

When I think of my middle name, I have apathy. Or maybe not. Maybe, I've never really liked it. But I've never hated it either. I just don't get it. Why "Sue?" Maybe because "Tamara" was so unusual compared to my sister and brothers with their "top 10 names of the 70s" names that my mom felt the need to neutralize it a bit. My maiden name was very cool, so without the "Sue" I had a great name.

Tamara Vellozzo has a lovely ring to it, don't you think? It suits me. It feels right. But Tamara Sue Vellozzo? No. "Sue" is a detractor of cool. It ruins the flow. It doesn't fit.

Names have a vibration to them. Numerologists even use your name to predict your life's destiny. I don't take much stock in that, but you can feel it when a name resonates with someone, can't you? We didn't spend hours in high school signing our autographs for nothing, after all. You had to switch your last name with the name of the boy you liked to see if it sounded good, right? To see if it flowed. Because names have a certain power to them, a dynamic, an energy.

"Sue" just doesn't do anything for me. It isn't even a special family name. I'm the only one of 4 whose middle name isn't a family name. Well, Mom? What were you thinking?

So, how about you? What do you feel about your middle name? Do share!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eggcellent Easter Gift Giveaway - Deluxe Bakery Tower (think cookies)!!!!

I love Easter in all of its current commercial glory! Yes, there is a deeper meaning, but it is also just plain fun, not to mention full of delicious sweets and treats! To celebrate this year, I'm teaming up with Gourmet Cookie Bouquets to offer one lucky winner this gorgeous prize:

Thank you to our sponsor: Gourmet Cookie Bouquets

How tasty does that look?! If you win you can keep it all to yourself (you wouldn't!), share it with your family or give it as a really lovely gift. Who wouldn't love to receive such a pretty package of edible delight? 

This amazing Easter Gift Tower includes: three pastel striped gift boxes filled with freshly baked goodies! The bottom tier holds 18 assorted gourmet cookies with flavors such as M & M, classic chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and more. The middle tier holds 12 cut-out cookies that are hand-decorated with butter-cream icing in an array of perfectly springy pastel colors. Last, but not least, the top tier holds 12 delectable brownie bites and 8 classic foil-wrapped chocolates.

Is your mouth watering yet? It's time to enter to win. Please note: Winners must be 18+ and residents of the Continental United States (sorry to the rest of you)! Enter now! Good luck!!!

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's World Book Day! 3 Ways to Inspire Reading at Home

I spent a wonderful morning reading my book, How Do You Sleep, Baby Dolphin? to all of the classes at Sweet Rose's school today! Why? Because it is World Book Day!!!

To celebrate, all of the children (and teachers) were invited to dress up as their favorite characters from books. There were little ones dressed as The Very Hungry Caterpillar as well as the butterfly it became, plenty of Princesses, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Super Heroes and even one of the Dalmatian Dogs!

It was very special to see the school putting such an emphasis on reading and, moreover, an emphasis on the fun and the joy of reading! As part of the celebration, the children got to meet a real author (me!) and ask their questions.

Now, to be honest, "Author" still feels a bit weird, but as I already have a second book in the works, I suppose I'll just have to get used to it! What I am, in my own words, is a lover of words! A lover of books and reading and telling of stories; a lover of information and imagination. That's what I am!

So, to help you encourage your children to become as passionate about reading and books as my children and I are, I offer these three tips:

Start Young! Photo Credit
1. Read Often - Starting early and reading often is the best way to develop a love for books. If you start reading with them when they are small, reading becomes a part of their lives and they'll naturally take an interest. I use the phrase, "reading with them" deliberately. Reading is an interactive process with children. You don't just read to them, you engage them and bring them into the experience by talking about the pictures and asking questions about the story as you go along. Let them do the same!

A few of the kids today told me they weren't good readers. My response to them was, "Then keep reading until you are!"

2. Follow Your Children's Interests - Children are curious! No one wants to read a book about a subject that have zero interest in! So, if your daughter loves horses, find books about horses. If you son loves to draw, find books about drawing and how to draw. Mix it up and read both fiction and non-fiction books.

Unicorns are what got my Nature Girl reading. She loved to be read to, but she didn't want to do any reading herself until we found a book (a 7-book series, actually) that she loved so much she couldn't wait for me! Then, I supplemented this new found passion of hers with non-fiction books about myths and legends including unicorns. Dinosaurs, insects and fairies have all been hot topics in our house!

3. Get Cozy at the Library - I love bookstores (I often dream of living in one), but it's the library that I've made my second home since having kids. Today, most libraries have bright, colorful children's areas with comfortable seats and a warm, welcoming feel to them. Many even offer developmental toys to keep really little ones entertained and most have free early learning programs each week!

Get your library card and visit frequently. Spend an hour just letting your kids explore. Sit and read right then and there and then bring a few (or many) books home. We take a tote bag with us and I tell each of my kids to choose a handful of books. When the bag is full, it's time to go! Sometimes we'll have 30 books out at once! I could never buy that many books just to browse through, but I can borrow them for weeks at a time from my library.

Now that my girls are in school full-time, I often go with just The Boy. I ask the girls the day before what sort of books they'd like me to look for and then I bring them myriad choices! This method also works well if it's time to have a discussion about something you're not sure how to bring up (like sex!). Get a few books on the topic and leave them out for your child to discover. It's a great conversation starter.

Inspired? Great! Go read and read and read some more!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vlogging Workshop: What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

It's been a while, but I'm linking up with Mama Kat today! Watch as I ask The Boy the questions, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Then, I answer the same question.

Not featured are Nature Girl, who listed her occupation on a form the other day as, "Animal Rescuer," and Sweet Rose, who has moved from wanting to be a couch (age 2) to an artist. She's well on her way with this gorgeous (if I do say so myself) pastel Dragon!

Isn't it cute?! Artist: Sweet Rose, age 6
Now, for The Boy and me! Enjoy, then tell us what you want to be!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Is It Possible to Change a Food from One You Love to One You Hate?

Just Say, "Yuck!" Photo Credit
Yes, it is! And vice-versa! Our habits are simply deeply ingrained neural pathways. I mentioned these the other day - they are the connections between neurons that form as we learn or experience new things and then repeat the experience.

Loving a certain food is simply a habit. Yet, occasionally we can love a food a little too much! Like me with my mochas. Those foods melt our resistance and our good common sense! Or so we think, anyway. We think we have no choice but to love them and eat them because the food has total control!

But what if you could flip a switch in your mind? What if you could take that ice cream or that Twix bar or that one food that you give in to every time and the results are around your waist? Would you flip the switch?

If your answer is, "Yes!" then I need you! Through my NLP certification course I've learned a process to help you do just that, but I need someone on whom to practice! The process works for many other things as well - I'll be working with my husband to get him to stop smoking as soon as I'm feeling proficient. My homework (or homeplay as my instructor calls it) is to do this process to switch a food love to a food aversion!

So, are you game? Willing to help out a student in need? Let me know in your comments or email me at adgmommy (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll set up a Skype session.

One caveat - you must be willing to make the change. Our subconscious is our gatekeeper, there to protect us. You have to give it willing permission to make that change. Ready for it? Contact me (please!).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Circling Back to My Path - My Own Hero's Journey

Yesterday I listened to an interview with Jean Houston. If you haven't heard of her, she's a leader in what she calls the Human Potential Movement. In the interview, she talked about the "Hero's Journey." It's a calling, she says, that we feel, but often choose to ignore.

I've felt this calling at various points in my life. The "calling," by the way, is different for everyone. I've felt a calling toward a path of service to humanity. I remember the first time I really felt the pull was in the mountains of California. A beautiful slice of heaven where my mother's family has camped for decades.

The River at Camp Photo Credit
I was around 18 or so and I was reading The Clan of the Cave Bear, my absolute favorite book, for the very first time. The smell of pine and dust filled my nostrils, the sound of the rushing river in the Stanislaus National Forest was a gift to my ears. You couldn't have asked for a more perfect place for a spiritual awakening.

I didn't know what to do, I just knew a yearning had started inside of me. As the years passed and I went to University, I collected book upon book in the area of spirituality and Native American Wisdom. Books like James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy, Animal-Speak and Earth Medicine.

I studied Psychology and Family Systems so that I could eventually go on to be a counselor. I knew my path was to help people; to serve. Then I had a rough year or two that knocked me off course for a bit. As I picked myself up and brushed myself off, I met my husband. In a whirlwind romance, I was swept off the path of my life's purpose once again. Happily, but off my soul's course.

The door to my path opened once more for me while I was in Singapore working for a chiropractor. She didn't practice traditional chiropractic techniques, but something called Network Spinal Analysis, which uses gentle touches on specific points along the spine that somehow open the body to its own healing. She encouraged me to take courses in a branch of it that involved a specialized breathing technique. I felt the call and the pull again and my body and soul shouted, "YES! Do this!!" But my brain said, "No, take that other job that pays more."

So, I did. Now, here I am again at the precipice of my soul's path, but this time I'm continuing the journey. I know that I'm meant to help people. I know the challenges in my experience have been meant to help me to grow, to see, to learn so that I can be of great service in the world.

I've never really prayed before, but today I'm praying for my Indigogo campaign to be a success, for the doors to keep opening and for the teachers to keep appearing so that I can stay focused on my path and make the difference that I'm meant to make.

Have you felt a calling? Have you answered or ignored it? I'd love to know your experience.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Son is Obsessed with a Song!

I can't escape this song. Do you know it? Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5. It's The Boy's favorite and he wants to hear it all. the. time. 5 times in a row. That's what he asks for whenever he sees my phone. I  purchased the single from iTunes in a moment of temporary insanity (that of delighting in pleasing my children) and now I'm stuck with it.

To make matters worse, a crazy thing happens every time we turn on the radio in the car instead of connecting the phone for music. The darn song plays!

I recorded a video of The Boy singing nearly the entire song. It was both adorable and disturbing, yet I think my daughter's must have deleted it. They're as tired of the song as I am. However, he isn't just singing it; he's making jokes up around it!

Enjoy! Maybe he's got a future in comedy (wink, wink)!