Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Making your Motorized Igloo Street Legal

Attention Good People of St. Louis:

When digging your car out of 9 inches of snow and sleet, it is not sufficient to merely scrape the windshield and rear window clean.

You must also uncover your headlights and brake lights.

Otherwise, folks driving behind you on the highway (yes, we’re here, even if you can’t see us through the mountain of snow still on your car) can’t tell when you are slowing down or changing lanes.

(You do use your turn signal when changing lanes, right? You know, the little flashing arrow on your dashboard...)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It all starts with a small detail. Some water damage by the corner of the sliding glass door in our kitchen. And a little water damage in the bathroom ceiling in the basement, directly under that door.

We've been talking replacing carpet in our family room for a while. Hemming and hawing over what to replace it with. We like the idea of wood. Or bamboo. And then we watched four kids dragging toys across new wood floors in my sister-in-laws house of Christmas. (Truthfully, mostly my kids. The cousins aren't quite as...unrestrained in their physical activity levels as mine are). Maybe laminate would be better.

Which rooms? The family room is the worst. 9 year-old "builders grade" carpet in the most trafficked room in the house. One spot in particular is the main thoroughfare between the garage and the rest of the house. Road grime. Tracked food. Toddlers.

Decision time. The family room is one large room with the kitchen and breakfast room. It would look nice to do all of them at once. But the kitchen has "builders grade" cabinets that are groaning under the weight of my dish addiction. And the vinyl was run under the cabinets. There is no removal of vinyl possible without removal of cabinets. The family room is also very open with the front room (the formal dining/sitting room). Upgrading the floor there would be very nice for the show-off appeal when you walk in the front door. Oddly, there is little or no carpet damage near the front door from foot traffic.

Back to the water damage. My husband cut up a small section of the vinyl near the door, to examine the results. Water is flowing into the house, not out of it, from the door. Probably poor installation. And the subfloor there needs replacing. Badly. Maybe the door as well.

Decision time. The kitchen floor has just received a unanimous nomination for floor replacement. There is no repairing the small patch of vinyl removed. And really no repairing the much larger patch that must be removed to fix the subfloor. But the $%^& vinyl is run under the cabinets. We will have to put new flooring on top of it.

Or remove the cabinets. And there's no way to remove and reinstall them gracefully. So that means new cabinets. And countertops. And everyone knows that I've been itching for double ovens, which means a complete re-design of the layout (where to put them? And how big of a fridge will fit? And can I get a 6-burner stove? Gas?) And did I mention my idea of moving the laundry room upstairs and using the existing laundry room as a walk-in pantry?

Ok, now its time to panic. Could we afford to re-do the kitchen? Possibly. Perhaps not with the laundry-room move idea (Plumbing. Re-configuring walls. And closets. And new flooring for the affected rooms).

But should we do this at all? Or should we cut enough of the vinyl back, repair the subfloor, and just install laminate in the family room and kitchen? And what if we feel like refurbishing the kitchen in, say, a year? Take up brand-new floors? What a waste.

Ack! Time to go hide now. Because I dream big, but when it comes to actually spending money, I freak bigger.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Thing #6: Video Book Trailer

I watched a book trailer on YouTube today. I don't think the things are particularly new, but I'd never bothered to watch one before. What's to gain from watching a commercial for a book? Reading the back (or inside flap), or checking out a few online reviews probably gives a better feel for it. But, what the hey.

The book trailer I watched was for Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz. It's the latest in her Arcane Society series that spans both the Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary) name as well as her Amanda Quick series of historicals. I've enjoyed the series (both time periods). I have yet to buy or borrow this book, because I have neither gone to the library nor whittled down my to-be-read pile at home. The trailer is here.

Honestly, I hope she didn't spend a bunch of money having someone stick that together. Because it didn't make me any more anxious or likely to read her book. In fact, it had a sort of 80's Miami Vice vibe that felt a little dated or something given the contemporary settings. Probably the music (cringe). Oh well.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Thing #5: Crayons

Pardon the poor photo. I hate taking pictures. It doesn't help that every time I pick up the camera, someone has set it on the strangest setting combo and I don't discover the problem until I got to download the photos and see that it looks like I focused it without my contacts in. Anywho.

Today, I baked crayons. Lately, our crayon box has looked less and less like a collection of brightly colored sticks, and more and more like multi-colored mulch. Trystan has been systematically testing all of our crayons for high-speed impacts, and he has discovered that many of them have poor strucural integrity. I pulled out the worst offenders, and sorted them roughly by color. I set the oven to 200, and lined several holes in my mini-muffin pan with mini-muffin liners. Then I added chunks of crayons. I had to chop a few of the bigger ones down to fit.

They baked for a total of 40 minutes, but after 20 I added a few more crayon hunks to some cups that were looking low. Once they were cooled, I took them out of the pan, and pulled off the paper wrappers (and resisted the urge to taste them...they look suspiciously like mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, except colorful). The only thing left was to scrape a few exra bits of wax out of my muffin pan. And hand the new crayons over to the kids for a test drive

I didn't use up all our broken crayons, but it's a start. I looked on Amazon, and there are a variety of crayon molds you can buy that will save your muffin pan...The car maker looks kind of cute. I also wonder if the Wilton candy molds--the kind you use for those colored chocolates--would work for wax. Probably. Though you may want to clean them really well before eating out of them again. Maybe for next time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Cookbook Series -- I'm Just Here For the Food

Alton Brown is probably my favorite all-time food/cooking/chef-like TV personality. He's a cross between Emeril Lagasse and Mr Wizard (remember him? The science guy?). He has an explanation for every cooking technique, involving molecules, chemistry, and neat-o models made of anything from foam packing peanuts to bubble wrap. He also has a personality and a voice (I'm talking the style of his writing and speaking, not just the sounds he produces) that are catchy and quirky with a wry sense of humor that I enjoy.

His book, I'm Just Here For the Food, reads more like a science text book than a traditional cookbook. He has divided the recipes up by cooking technique--grilling, braising, roasting, frying, etc--instead of the traditional groupings by ingredient (beef, chicken, vegetable) or meal (apetizer, soup, etc). He includes tons of information that helps educate the home cook to enable us to understand the recipes that we're reading and be able to apply those techniques to other foods. And he does it all with his signature sense of science and fun.

The book is, as far as I'm concerned, Good Reads :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I karate chopped a spoon in an elevator because I'm sexy and I do what I want

From Kathy at The Second Half of My Life:

Pick the month you were born:
January-----I kicked
February----I loved
March-------I karate chopped
April---------I licked
May---------I jumped on
June---------I smelled
July---------I did the Macarena With
August------I had lunch with
September--I danced with
October-----I sang to
November--I yelled at
December---I ran over

Pick the day (number) you were born on:
1——-a birdbath
2——-a monster
3——-a phone
4——-a fork
5——-a snowman
6——-a gangster
7——-my mobile phone
8——-my dog
9——-my best friends’ boyfriend
10——my neighbour
11——my science teacher
12——a banana
13——a fireman
14——a stuffed animal
15——a goat
16——a pickle
17——your mom
18——a spoon
19——a smurf
20—--a baseball bat
21——a ninja
22——Chuck Norris
23——a noodle
24——a squirrel
25——a football player
26——my sister
27——my brother
28——an iPod
29——a surfer
30——a homeless guy
31——a llama

What is the last number of the year you were born:
1——— in my car
2 ———on your car
3 ———in a hole
4 ———under your bed
5 ———riding a motorcycle
6 ———sliding down a hill
7 ———in an elevator
8———-at the dinner table
9 ——– in line at the bank
0 ——– in your bathroom

Pick the color of shirt you are wearing:
White———because I’m cool like that
Black———-because that’s how I roll.
Pink———–because I’m NOT crazy.
Red———–-because the voices told me to.
Blue———–because I’m sexy and I do what I want
Green———because I think I need some serious help.
Purple——--because I’m AWESOME!
Gray———-because Big Bird said to and he’s my leader.
Yellow——-because someone offered me 1,000,000 dollars
Orange——because my family thinks I’m stupid anyway.
Brown——-because I can.
Other——--because I’m a Ninja!
None——--because I can’t control myself!

The sentence you make is the title of your blog post if you choose to continue this meme.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The end

Trystan is now cordless. Wait, he’s been cordless since he was 5 days old. But he no longer requires a plug.

He no longer requires a pacifier, that is. Nuk, binkie, pacy, plug.

We actually let him keep it far longer than our original plan. Before he was born, I didn’t intend to start one at all. But then after learning to nurse for a day he was whisked to surgery and the NICU, and deprived of any food by mouth for about a week. He got a pacy. And, despite the surgery, and the pacy, and all the nasty pedialyte the NICU folks kept insisting that he drink (newborns don’t even get flavors…theirs tastes like licking concrete), he still learned to breastfeed.

At that point, we knew he was facing two additional surgeries, which later became three. And there would be more days of no eating. And we let him keep the pacy. Originally, he would be done with surgeries by about 5-6 months old. His last (of the bowel series) was at 9 months. So we let him keep the pacy even longer. And finally, there was the need for an MRI to rule out a tethered spinal cord. And if the test had shown tethering (it didn’t), then he would have needed more surgery. We let him keep the pacy much longer.

And then, last summer, he was 18 months old and using an infant-sized pacifier, and he was teething. A lot. And that darned pacifier (or rather, collection of them), became wonderfully portable and washable (dishwasher, baby) teething rings. So he kept it.

Last fall, he discovered that we had multiple pacifiers, and it became a GAME. Could he do tricks with it? Roll it over without using his hands? How many would fit in his mouth at once? Would Mommy or Daddy suck on the pacifier? We banished it to his bed, for sleepytime only. And if he wanted it while awake, he had to sit in the crib.

Finally, over Christmas, he had a couple of naps without it. And one night, my husband couldn’t find one at bedtime and Trystan fell asleep anyway. That was it. The end of the pacifier. We rounded up our remaining 3 pacies, and hid them out of sight. And though Trystan asked for it a couple of times later, we didn’t offer one.

The fallout hasn’t been so bad. There have been some nights and early mornings where I suspect Trystan might have put himself back to sleep if he’d found a pacy on his pillow. Instead, like this morning, he stand up and hollers until one of us (usually his daddy, who is a lighter sleeper and closer to the door) rocks him or brings him to our bed for a snuggle.

Now if we could only get his big sister to stop sucking her fingers...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Are Wii Fit yet?

My husband and I have been having fun with the new Fit. Charlotte too, though I think she prefers running to just about any other game. I don’t blame her, the balance games are kinda hard for me too.

So, after about 3 weeks, I have a few comments.

First off, I want to blow away the little "time bank" graphic that shows up after every exercise. It was cute the first day. Now it’s just wasted time. Same thing with the trainer’s comments. How many times do I need to hear them say "great job" and give the same fitness tip after an exercise? Just move on to the next exercise, please. And I’d love to turn off the balance feedback (the yellow circles with the red dot)—I think I wobble more when I’m staring at my dot than if I focus on the knickknacks on top of the TV.

Really, what I would love is a "game" where you could have a whole fitness routine choreographed without all of the cutesy interruptions. Computer-gen or user-scripted (or maybe offer both options). Maybe some customizing based on how long you want to workout, which areas you want to target that night. And then, just hit go and have it run straight through. Does that makes sense?

Instead of clicking three screens to get to the yoga breathing, followed by my "ranking" and the bank graphic, and pointless talking from the "trainer", then click four buttons for half-moon, and repeat all the mumbo jumbo, followed by the next exercise (and the next, and the next), I want to do something like:

Enter desired time of workout (say, 45 minutes). Emphasizing (choose legs or upper body or abs or balance). Then have the option to customize or just "go".

And, before you ask, no the "favorites" menu isn’t the same thing at all. Not even close.

I have seen at least two other fitness Wii games on the market. One didn’t seem to utilize the balance board. The other (by Jillian whatsername from Biggest Loser) seems to be generating lots of bad reviews. And I don’t know if either of them would meet my qualifications. I’d have to rent them to see if they’re any good.

Now, unless you think I’m massively regretting the purchase and just hate hate hate the Wii Fit, that’s not the case. My legs have been feeling the difference (though they need some hamstring exercises to balance the lunges). My abs have been feeling the burn (I also change up the "jackknife" exercise to vary upper vs lower abs vs obliques—the game doesn’t even notice). I should try more of the balance games, but I generally quit after spending an hour doing 40 minutes of yoga and strength exercises.

Also, I was pleased the other day to do a "body test", including having the system calculate my "Wii Fit Age". My first two attempts weren't great--38 and 42 years each. This time, I hit the jackpot: 32. Now, we all know that I'm not 32 yet. In fact I will be turning 29 (for the 4th time) in March. But close enough :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Watch your tongue, missy!

I have always loved Charlotte's vocabulary. She has wonderful comprehension, if her recall is a little..offbeat. She can tell us stories of events that happened when she was 18 months old or younger--back in the single-syllabic days when we (the ignorant parents) still half-thought of her as a potted plant. More like a sponge, I think. Absorbing the world around her, ready to squeeze it back as soon as her mouth caught up to her ears. These days she not only repeats and re-tells, but re-invents. She has a wild imagination.

The very first year she went trick or treating (age 2, mostly so we as parents could meet some neighbors), she called it "Knock Snack." Very appropriate. Birthdays back then were "Happy Cakes", and Santa Claus was Ho-Ho. And has she ever told you she has a monkey in her tummy? It's been there since about the time Trystan was still the baby in my tummy. These days, the monkey tummy stories have morphed into stories of how Charlotte and Trystan used to kick each other in my tummy (they're 2.5 years apart!)

Recently, I caught Charlotte calling Trystan a "naster". I figured out, from context and from asking her, that "naster" is some sort of silly combination of "stinker" (my all-purpose adjective for precocious and capricious toddlers), and "nasty" (referring to the smell coming from his diaper at that particular moment).

And earlier this week, one of her pre-k teachers told me about Charlotte's latest vocabulary word. She had apparently been explaining to the teacher how she made her tie-dye t-shirt last fall. She went into great detail about mixing the dye, using rubber bands, soaking the shirts, and putting cardboard between the layers while painting them. (She's very detailed in her story telling lately). But the kicker was describing exactly how to remove a t-shirt from a vat of dye: with tongue-snappers.

Baby its cold outside...

Around St. Louis, the temperature has been in the single digits. But, my fellow mothers (and fathers, who are more likely to be fellows than the mothers), there are plenty of places to go with small children when the weather is bad.

  • Go swimming. Indoors, of course. Free if you're a member of your local Y or rec plex. There's likely a daily fee if you're not a member.

  • Running or rock climbing Last plug for the Y. The one near us has a climbing wall/apparatus for school-age kids. And I'm not certain of their policy for using the indoor track or gym, but give them a call and see if there's a time slot or an age limit.

  • The Playground.There's a nice large one inside the Mills mall. For small kids (I'd say 2-4 years), there's also one in West County Center. Possibly other malls that I don't frequent.

  • Go out for ice cream.The closest McDonalds with an indoor play place to us is in Florissant (Lindbergh just north of 270). Its poor form to play without buying, but a basic ice cream cone runs $1. They also have apple pies, coffee drinks, or healthier yogurt parfaits

  • The Zoo I hear that there's a new indoor area at in the Living World building at the zoo that's not only fun, but free (even if you aren't a member)! And if you're brave enough to run from exhibit to exhibit, there is also the penguin cove, Jungle of the Apes, the reptile house, and the primate house. And with the weather so unfriendly, there's bound to be plenty of the free parking open.

  • Those Other Museums The Magic House, the Science Center, and the City Museum are cool. Cost money, but cool.

  • Running I mentioned that already? This time I mean at the mall. You're not there to shop, so sling the baby, leave the stroller in the car, and give your preschooler some leeway to run (in your sight) up and down the wide (and empty) halls at the mall. It's best to show up when there aren't many shoppers (maybe right as they open on a weekday, or if they have "mall walker" hours), so you aren't allowing your kids to terrorize paying customers. For this activity, any mall will do, with or without a play area (though parking at the far end from a play area and making your kid walk the whole way will help burn off more energy--for both of you!)

  • The Library This one's not a big energy burner, but its fun, and its free. And educational. Just about any day of the week, there is a storytime at some branch of one of the public libraries around town (I once wrote a cheat sheet listing branches, day of week and times). For my kids, there's a tie between the storytime that shows "movies" (book filmstrips--just one in addition to regular stories and crafts, geared to 3-5 year olds) and the storytime that frequently features puppets, songs, and Ring Around the Rosie (a 2-3 year old group). Just bring an empty bag to haul home the dozen books your kids will insist on checking out...

  • Stay Home Yes, we have a finished basement. And a bounce house. And when we roll up the bounce house, the kids have enough running space for wind sprints. But if you aren't so lucky, you have options:
    • Push all the furniture aside, crank the stereo, and have a disco afternoon

    • If you have an unfinished basement, shove all the boxes to one half. Sweep the other side, and bring in the trikes, bikes, maybe even the sandbox. If you have bigger kids, hang netting around the perimeter so they can throw balls. And, I heard a rumor that the St. Louis City public library has large toys--like toddler sleds and trikes and things--that can be checked out for FREE (with a refundable deposit)

    • Wii Fit marathon? :) I bet your 4-year old could totally rock you at hulahooping

    • Build a tent. Drape blankets across the space between the furniture, and crawl around underneath. Opportunities abound for imaginitive play. It used to entertain us for hours as kids...

    • Have your kids raid your closet, your attic, your halloween decorations, or your donate pile for dress-up clothes. They could stage a play, music videos, fashion shows...

  • What. You're still here? I thought those were good ideas. OK. Fine. You could surf the web with your kids--try sites like PBS Kids, Nick Jr, and Noggin.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Triumphant Return of the Thursday Cookbook Series

This week, its even posted on Thursday (I think. I checked before I started typing this time instead of accidentally publishing when I should be scheduling).

Today, in honor of the wonderfully winterish St. Louis weather, I'm featuring my Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook. Everyone needs a crock pot. Maybe even more than one. We have a nice, programmable 6-quart one that we use a couple of times a month (sometimes more), and a tiny 1-quart one that is perfect for chocolate fondue, hot cheese dips, and the occaisional overnight oatmeal.

This cookbook has a nice variety of recipes including everything from appetizers to soups, meat dishes, and even dessert. I don't know if I've ever tried their desserts though (I sense a New Thing coming on).

Some of the recipes that I know we've tried include Jamaica-me-Crazzy Chicken Tripicale, Thai Chicken, and Hot Beef Sandwiches Au Jus.

Other uses for our crockpot have included: chuck roast, chili, mulled cider, barbequed ribs, and bulk-cooking barley.

Don't look at me like that for the barley comment. Cooked whole barley makes an excellent substitute for rice, especially when you have family members whose digestive systems don't handle the, ahem, thickening power of rice. Barley takes a while to cook, so I occaisionally do a whole crockpot full, then portion it into ziploc bags and freeze. Nuking frozen cooked barley is much faster than steaming rice, btw.

Also on the slow-cooker-whole-grain topic, I mentioned the overnight oatmeal. If you have a small crock pot (or a large guest list), you can cook steel cut oats overnight for an early morning, super-soft cooked breakfast (it's excellent with some chopped apples and cinnamon). Just add oats and water according to the package directions, add seasonings, and turn on low overnight. Do be prepared to scrub (or use a disposable liner) because the oatmeal sticks like the devil :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, before Aslan came in Narnia it was always winter but never Christmas.

Well, in our house, for the past several years it's been always Christmas and never spring.

I'm talking dishes, of course. I'm a bit of a collector of pretty sets of dishes. We have good china, everyday stoneware, a few place settings of a nicer stoneware free from our honeymoon resort, my butterfly dishes (also a nicer than everyday but not quite gold-edge-bone-china), and my Christmas dishes (Pfaltzgraff's Winterberry). And a few other odds and ends, of course (a set of glass plates, some nice rice bowls, etc). I have two china cabinets—one huge one in our formal living/dining room that displays some of our good china and crystal, and another smaller one in the kitchen that displays either the Winterberry (Christmas), or the butterflies. Our kitchen cabinet shelves are literally sagging under the weight of our everyday dishes. Hey, some women buy shoes or purses. I buy dishes.

Usually I rotate the displays in the kitchen between the butterfly dishes and the Christmas dishes, seasonally. But our house has been stuck in Christmas since before Trystan was born.

Last night, for the first time in years, I swapped out the dishes.

Its kind of a major undertaking, and feeling overwhelmed by the rest of life, I just haven't gotten to it the last couple of years. I have a lot of the Christmas stuff. A lot. More than fits in the one cabinet, so I don't even have everything out on display. I like it that way :) I still have all the boxes for the serving pieces, so I can store them securely on shelves in the basement. My place settings share zippered china protectors with the butterfly dishes. The kids were actually playing well without interference, and were willing to stay away from the kitchen table long enough for me to unload the cabinet and mostly package everything up. The rest was finished after bedtime.

And I played a mean game of tetris to fit all my boxes into the dedicated basement shelves. Ahem, I think my collection has grown a smidge since I last put everything away. I think I need another set of shelves down there...

It feels good to have actually gotten that done. It bothered me for six months last year that I hadn't put away the Christmas dishes. And then for the next six months I justified it that it was closer to Christmas than not, so I should just leave them. It's amazing how getting such small items checked off my mental to-do list can help my mood.

Next on the list: putting away the stray Halloween costume pieces that have been in our laundry room for 4 months.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Thing #4: Hot Tubbing

Today, I sat in the hot tub at the Y. We've been members for a year, and taking Char there for lessons for two years before that, but I've never had a chance for a soak. Too many kids, not enough hands. And they're not allowed in :) No stewing the children.

Charlotte is in another round of swimming lessons, starting today, and for once we didn't bring Trystan. (Horribly unfair parents that we are, he's not enrolled, though he normally gets lots of splash time while his sister's in class). It was just us girls, and after Charlotte's 45 minute warm-up swim, during class time I had time on my hands and a cold bathing suit on my butt (among other places).

The hot tub was nice and toasty. My hamstrings had been very tight from a yoga workout Wednesday (on DVD, not the Wii that time) followed by step aerobics Thursday. My legs aren't sore anymore.

Funny, we have a nice, large, jetted tub in our bathroom at home that hasn't been filled in a while (my clothes drying rack has taken up residence there for the winter). I really ought to take more baths. Not to say that I don't bathe, but that I don't soak in a tub nearly as often as I might like. Ahem.

I realized that there are two additional potential firsts down in the pool area: the steam room and the dry sauna. Don't believe I've ever been in either. I'm not entirely sure what the point is (besides warming up or sweating off a little water weight). Any insights?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Thing #3: How Crunchy Are You?

Clearly, I’m playing blog catch-up. I didn’t post at all between New Years Eve and Monday, and I hadn’t fully decided on my "new thing" idea until then anyway. Weekends and vacation days are much more likely to contain new experiences than the workweek, so don’t get upset if my pace slows waaay down.

Over the weekend, I made homemade granola. We eat a lot of granola in our house. I’m a fan of Kellog’s basic Granola Without Raisins cereal, or of a blueberry variety I can buy in bulk at Whole Foods (which I shop at only rarely because they're so far away). My husband likes the Schnucks generic brand, with or without raisins. Charlotte loves all of the above (minus the raisins, but she just feeds those to Trystan). It’s a kind of expensive cereal habit, but way better for us than all the sugary kiddo cereals that we never buy. The most kid-friendly sugary cereal we buy is Fruity Cheerios (which are made with whole grain and sweetened with fruit juice. At least partially.).

We have a lot of various grains and nuts on hand in our house all the time. Off the top of my head: we have oatmeal (both 1-minute and steel cut), barley (rolled and whole), cornmeal, masa harina, flax seed, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and coconut in our pantry. Have I mentioned that I like to bake? Note I didn’t mention the unbleached all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cake flour, or bread flour, none of which are featured in most granola recipes.

Granola is basically a combination of grains and nuts, together with honey or maple syrup (or potentially corn syrup) to sweeten it and make it stick together. Recipes are pretty easy—generally mix the whole mess together, spread on a cookie sheet, and bake. I tried a variation from one of my cookbooks that called for toasting most of the ingredients before adding honey and baking. My variation included oatmeal, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaked coconut, and I forget what else, sweetened with honey and a dash of vanilla.

It’s yummy. Makes a good breakfast over vanilla yogurt (with or without fruit), a snack, and an ice cream topping. I could add some dried fruit to it (we have a nice berry mix in the pantry too) and some chocolate chips and possibly pretzels to make a trail mix.

Its funny to write all this down and realize just how "crunchy" some of my food tastes have become. Who would have thunk that a former fast-food worker and Dr Pepper addict would drool over the thought of a fruit and granola yogurt parfait, and already be planning the next granola variation (I am wondering how to include some of that flax meal and maybe the rolled barley...).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New Thing #2: Oil

Over the weekend, I oiled doors and baseboards.

No, not the hinges. Not that baseboards have hinges.

When we had our house built, we opted for stained wood doors and trim throughout, a decision I'm still quite happy with. But, over the past 8+ years, the finish on the wood is starting to wear. Whether its normal degradation or crappy builders grade finish, doesn't matter.

We've been noticing the problem with our windowsills for a while, especially the kitchen window that gets hit by both sunlight and water spray from the sink. A year or two back, I went looking, several times, for furniture wax hoping that I could protect the finish a bit and delay the need to refinish. The closest I came was a bottle of "lemon oil" made for wood furniture. Not quite wax, but it didn't claim to be harmful to a modern-day polyurithane finish. It wasn't terribly effective on the kitchen window, which is just due for a re-finish. I stuck the lemon oil bottle in the back of the closet and forgot about it.

But, I ran into it again this weekend. And I read the bottle again. Effective in diminishing the appearance of scratches. Hmmmm....I wiped a little over our laundry room door, which I had gouged with the door to the washing machine (overlapping doors, tight fit). Very nice.

I kept going. The base boards in the kitchen were looking a little dry and scratched from 8 years of mopping. They look shiny and new(ish) now. The pantry door had some dry-ish looking spots. No longer. Upstairs in our master bathroom, I disguised the beginning of some water damage on our water closet (the little toilet-room inside the bathroom) door. The house smelled nicely of lemons all afternoon.

It helps that our woodwork is all honey-colored, so adding a yellowish oil really does help disguise the little scratches and dings. I don't think it would work very well with, say, a dark mahogany finish. I worried that the wood would discolor, or that the effect would evaporate off. 4 days later, so far so good. I'm not expecting permanence, and we still need to re-finish a few windowsills (probably with something weather-proof).

New Year New Thing

Last year, on my blog I recorded all the books that I was reading. It was a fun experience to actually track the quantities and categories, and it pushed me a bit to read more, especially in the beginning of the year. Also, because of my reading and tracking, I won a gift card through a contest at our local library. This year, I’m not sure I’ll keep posting my book tallies. Maybe, but my TBR (to be read) pile has some rather thick tomes in it, so my book count may be way down. We’ll see.

Instead, I’m going to try posting about new experiences. I’ve grumbled (sometimes silently, sometimes not) over the past couple of years about how repetitive our lives have become. With jobs and kids, the days sort of bleed together. Same skyline. Same commute. Same conversations. Same dinner menus. It’s inevitable, in a way. This is the life that I chose.

I thrive on routine. Routine with scheduled-in change-ups. And lately, I frequently feel like I’m missing all the change that makes the routine part feel so comfortable. I've got plenty to whine about (like how our last vacation was in 2005....), but that's not today's point. To help myself think positively about my day-to-day life, I’m going to start recording all the new things that I’m doing. Most will probably be small: a new dish I’m cooking, or a visit to a store that I’ve never stopped in before.

I’ve seen some blogs (like this one) dedicated to doing a new thing every day, and its fun to see what others come up with. I’m not that ambitious. I’m not even going to set a goal number, just start writing down my new things. Hopefully by the end of 2009 I will be able to look back and marvel at all of the growth in my life.

New Thing #1: I made French toast on New Year’s day. Honestly, I’ve never cooked it before. I only ate it rarely growing up (usually at other people’s houses for sleepovers or at school lunch, where it always tasted awful). I’ve always thought I hated it (that school lunch problem). But, there was a recipe in a recent Cook’s Illustrated, and my kids love anything covered in syrup. So…I gave it a whirl. Bought a loaf of egg bread specifically for it. The toast (fried bread pudding really) tasted fine, and it wasn’t too hard or time consuming. Not exactly “light” (made with whole milk and egg yolks), but it was so rich that I didn’t need any syrup.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Ok, so maybe 24 hours after I posted that I was giving up on finding a Wii Fit, I bought one.  The Walmart by us had two in stock.  (I’ve been told since that I should have bought both and sold one on Ebay).  So, Wii have a Fit.


My husband and I have both worked out on it almost every day for the last week.  Char is a fan of the balance games.  Trystan likes the running.  Really, when I said that he wanted a Wii remote of his own to play the games with, I wasn’t kidding.  He totally gets what’s going on.  So, on the Fit, we set Charlotte up a profile, give Trystan controller 2, and send them off on the 2-player run.  They jog all over the first floor of our house, from the front door, through the living room, figure eight around the kitchen table and island, and repeat.  They did the 9-minute run twice in a row last night, giggling the entire way.  BTW, those remotes communicate just fine with the ~40 foot radius from the TV to the far reaches of their route.


I think Trystan will also be a pro at boxing once he’s given the chance.  Charlotte spent took a couple of turns in the ring with her friend G last week (both of them trash-talking the whole time!), and Trystan insisted on playing also.  We gave him the third remote with nunchuck (turned off), and he went to town next to his big sister.  Maybe next time we’ll actually let the two of them box it out for real.


In the mean time, we might be willing to rent our little T-rex out as a personal trainer.  My husband tried to do some yoga and strength exercises after dinner last night, and Trystan helped push him to work harder.  During the plank, Trystan climbed on his daddy’s back, pony-style.  He loved the pushups (he laid down on my husband’s back, and tucked his chin onto his hands so he could both lounge and watch the TV at the same time).  He also did his own version of the torso twists (arms out!).  My poor husband didn’t get any credit with the Fit for having an extra 24 pounds of wiggly resistance—he scored extremely low on every exercise that Trystan helped with.