Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Good Stuff - April

Grown-up Good Stuff

Address Stamps from Expressionery.com
- I've wanted a cool address stamp for like 10 years, that's how lame I am. Just get one, I know. But we're never in a place long enough to justify it, or I suddenly feel too cheap or whatever. So then I just print return address labels from the computer and can never find them when I need them. Well mark my words, when we move I'm totally getting one...but which one? I think I like "Gabby" best but "Maegen" and "Larrabee" are cute, too...

My New Glasses - Love the vision insurance that gets me an exam and new specs once a year. This year I was bummed at the optician's selection and almost settled for a lesser choice, then found these beauts in the bottom back of a rack somewhere - totally me, totally disco.

Weight Watchers GIANT Chocolate Cookies & Cream Bar - I usually like my ice cream rich, creamy and non-diet, but I'm certainly open to healthier options as long as they taste awesome. I'm a sucker for this kind of cookie crumb coated treat, so I gave them a try. These are going to be regulars in my freezer from now on.

GoMod.com - I love to dream of my Jetsons-like future home, but in the meantime I'm just looking. This website is the self-proclaimed "best shops, free classified ads, links directory and resources for collecting modern design and retro collectibles. Esquire magazine calls GOMOD 'The Net's premiere portal for midcentury modern collectibles.'" It does have fun stuff to look at and links to many other mod, mod, mod sites, like this one.

BabyCheapskate - The name pretty much says it all - a blog all about coupons, deals and savings on baby, kid and household stuff. Like one big gathering place for penny pinching moms, swapping great finds and deals. Definitely bookmark this one.

The Amazing OpenX - One of those darn "D'oh!" inventions - wish I'd thought of it and was sitting at home making my millions right now. As it is, many people in my life will be getting this bandaid-saver as a gift this year.

Kid Good Stuff

Water WOW! Doodle books - These have been the major lifesaver since the Magna Doodle fell out of favor about 8 months ago. We have about 5 of these - I've found them at Target, Michael's, Kohl's, Century 21 and Toys R Us randomly. You "color" on the pages with a water-filled pen and the white coating disappears to reveal the picture beneath. Best part of course is the white comes back when it dries so you can use it over and over until your 1-year-old scratches the coating off, but even then you can still use them if you're too much of a deadbeat mom to get new ones, like me. They're quiet, they're inexpensive, they're reusable, they're CLEAN, they're portable and only two parts to lose. The pens they come with, though, are kind of crap, so I get Aqua Doodle pens at Target - they're much better.

Moolka.com European Toys - I especially admire the ecotot coatrack but like I'm ever paying $140 for it. (It's no trashcan.)

Mice Squeak, We Speak by Tommy dePaola - Possibly the PERFECT board book, coming from a speech-language pathologist's as well as a Mom's point of view. DePaola's awesome, colorful, creative art set to a simple animal sounds poem by Arnold Shapiro:
Cats purr. Lions roar. Owls hoot. Bears snore.
Crickets creak. Mice squeak. Sheep baa. But I SPEAK!

Monkeys chatter. Cows moo. Ducks quack. Doves coo.

Pigs squeal. Horses neigh. Chickens cluck. But I SAY!

Flies hum. Dogs growl. Bats screech. Coyotes howl.

Frogs croak. Parrots squawk. Bees buzz. But I TALK!
It's got everything - repetition, rhythm, rhyme, colors, language, onomatopoeia, synonyms and some excellent sound verbs. My kids love it and so do I.

GALLOP! A Scanimation Picture Book by Rufus Seder
- My mom gave this to Hazel for her birthday; it's very awesome. I like to play with it as much as she does. It's kind of hard to explain so I borrow from a Washington Post review: "[This book makes] an obvious case for itself with ooh-ah graphics, using trademarked Scanimation, a low-tech marvel of sliding paper and stripes. Turn the page, and you set black-and-white pictures of various animals into motion - that is, if certain short people ever let you turn the page. Your kids will elbow you out of the way. They will also elbow each other out of the way."

But honestly? All kids really need are


...and a COLANDER!


Last night, 8:12pm.

Zzzz...huh, what? Realize I'd dozed off during post-story, pre-prayer song time in the bedtime routine. Luckily Hazel is just chilling out on the bed staring into space.

"Ok, Hazel, it's time for prayer. Your turn tonight."

"Dear Heavenly Father, we thank thee for dinosaurs and windows and Little Bill my show and houses and Ginger..."

Long pause. Look up to see Hazel again staring into space.



Watch as she examines her toes, then climbs off the bed to go play with her toy castle.


Hey, it's a start.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Great Brits

Well I talked to Dave tonight - they have found and "moved in" to their house but do not have much internet access (except at the library) until May 7 so he asked me to do a quickie update for our overlapping readership. They're in an awesome 5-bedroom Victorian townhouse in town and don't know what they'll do with all the space. Cry me a river. Their stuff doesn't arrive for another few weeks so they have crappy loaner furniture from the base but at least they're out of the temporary flat and can start to settle in. They are making friends at work and at church, and in fact many people are in both circles, so it feels like a close community. So that's the gist - email me if you want their phone number and I'll decide if you deserve it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Found an Old Photo Album...

...and decided to play with my scanner. Five million dollars goes to anyone who can name every person in every picture - enjoy. We'll start with an easy one.

1. Toronto, 1996

2. 1996, my mission farewell open house

3. circa 1990, looks like after a fireside or something
4. circa 1995 - bonus if you can tell me who gave me the Elvis picture or where we got the pie

5. circa 1992

6. California, 1997

7. 1996, seeing me off at the MTC

8. and the best for last...(circa 1995)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sharing the Love

This is like a melding of the Genius on Accident post and DM Takes on Moving series - too good to not point out. On Tuesday my friend Lindsay came over with her 9-month old son Garrett to offer moral support and manual labor as I cleaned out Hazel's closet and did some major sorting and purging of our kid clothes and baby things. She is also our Ward Nursery Leader so, along with the toys she picked up, I offered her a bag of crafty stuff I'd collected from cleaning out the office and craft supplies on Monday. (I'm on a cleaning-out rampage!)

After lunch she went home and about her business. In the craft bag was a pack of scratch-and-sniff smiley stickers, and on Wednesday, for whatever reason, she opened them and stuck one on Garrett's hand to see what would happen. Please go here to see the adorable accidental genius that followed. She said it kept him interested and occupied all day.

And by the way, the tongs thing worked tonight with steamed green beans! Hazel actually ate more of them than I did - at least 5 tong-servings - and even exclaimed, "These are really tasty!" Genius.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Genius on Accident

Many of the world's greatest ideas, discoveries and inventions happened on accident. Newton's apple, Doc's flux capacitor, et cetera. It seems to be no different in every day life, especially in parenting since there's no way of guessing what in the world is going to work, and no kid is the same. I'm amazed at the stories other parents tell of how they get their babies to sleep, how they keep their toddlers from taking off their diapers, how they get their kids to clean their rooms or sit still for haircuts. All genius out of necessity. Here are a couple of my contributions.

"Eat Your Vegetables" - No surprise that veggies are not popular at our table. I do what I can - sneak them in, threaten and reward, look the other way, depending on the day. One night we had a side salad, and Ed and I both served up using tongs like the ones pictured. I offered Hazel some salad and she said no as expected. It was a whatever, look the other way, night. So Ed and I were chatting over dinner and we didn't notice that Hazel had become fascinated with the tongs and was carefully serving herself some salad, a few lettuce leaves at a time. I told her she could serve as much as she liked but she had to eat everything she put on her plate. To my amazement it worked and the kid ate a pile of salad*, and still does whenever the tongs are out. Genius.

"Five More Minutes" - Recently Ginger has shifted her morning wake time from 7-7:30 to 6-6:30 which quite cramps our style, since Ed gets home late and her crib is in our room. We usually pull her into bed with us in the hopes she will chill out or even sleep a little longer like she used to, but she is rearing to go and we get climbed on, kicked, whomped and talked to for the next 20 minutes or so until getting up sounds better than putting up with her any longer.

Last night, though, while getting ready for bed, I had an idea. I saw some plastic Easter eggs in a cupboard, which reminded me that on Easter Ginger played very nicely and quietly in her crib after waking up, playing with her basket contents...and eating jelly beans out of plastic eggs (see picture.) So I put together an everyday basket for her - a sippy cup of water, a book, and two plastic eggs - one with Cheerios and raisins and one with gummy fruit snacks inside - and put it in her crib. I was so proud of myself, and Ed was impressed. Of course the best part was that it worked. I don't know what time she woke up but I did hear some water slurping and egg shaking. But when she did stand up and call to get out, I finally looked at the clock. It was 7:10. And the eggs were empty. Very genius.

What accidental genius ideas have you stumbled upon, either in parenting or regular everyday life? Do share, you never know how many people may fall on their knees and gratefully proclaim you GENIUS!

*"Salad" means mostly lettuce and a few carrots or cucumbers. At one produce store I found these small Mediterranean cucumbers that have soft skin and no seeds; she loves those and eats them like crackers.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Go Find My Apron

Hey that last post worked really well, making other people do my work for me. I'm going to try your recipes - Matt's looked especially good but I'm going to wait until I have the Crowleys over to dinner in Virginia to try that one.

So here's the next challenge I need your help with: the perfect apron. Give me a break, this is the kind of thing that matters in my life right now. I seem to be a messy cook because I definitely require a full apron to save my clothes from ruin, though sometimes even that's not enough. I've got a couple but they all hang around the neck and tie around the waist. I also like a pocket to put my ipod in, or toys off the floor that need to be taken to another room or whatever. But then it hangs heavy on my neck and annoys me. So I'm looking for a good bib apron that goes over the shoulders and not around the neck, 50's homemaker style like these:

I did a quick Google search for vintage aprons but haven't found what I'm looking for. It doesn't have to be just like the picture with the miniscule waist and fluffy skirt - I'm a little more straight in the figure to put it delicately. The main thing is the shoulder straps, and cool or vintage fabrics are a plus. Certainly 5 to 10 people searching the internet is better than one. So go find those cool sites or Etsy sellers and find my apron (...please...)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

DM Takes on Moving: Cupboard Inventory

Woohoo, it's another series on DM! Last weekend we went on a preliminary home hunting trip to VA, which left Ed excited and me overwhelmed. This morning I had an excellent conversation at the park with my friend Lindsay about moving, meal planning, home organization and the like, which actually had the opposite effect, and I came home inspired to start somewhere and do something.

It feels a little too early to start packing (we are moving in July) but before you can pack you've got to sort, and this is the most time consuming part. There's a whole psychology to it, but we'll get more into that later in the series. My brother Dave and his family are moving to England - today - and even though they had professional packers and movers do the job, they themselves had to sort, sort, sort - England, short-term accessible storage unit in U.S., long-term inaccessible storage unit in U.S., give away, throw away. A few times Dave called me for a "lightning round" of "Do You Want...?", usually regarding nonperishable food items like jars, cans and pasta, which they will leave with my parents in VA. In fact, when they came to visit in February they brought me a big bag of cake mixes that I am working my way through.

So now that we are about 3 months out I decided to start in the kitchen, especially since that's a good place to work with kids around - either get them eating something at the table or give them tupperware to play with. I am a great Peter Walsh fan, and he would say doing something is better than doing nothing, and you can start small, one room at a time.

So today I got on the stepstool and emptied the cans, jars, boxes and baking mixes from the cupboards. I wrote an inventory of each on index cards and taped them on the inside of the cupboard doors. Did the same for the Bermuda Triangle freezer. Now as I do meal planning, either in advance like I should, or 5 minutes before we need to eat, I can see what we've got and try to use things up that we already have. This is probably good practice for all the time but especially when you need to literally clean out your cupboards in a few months.

Now that I know what I've got I should have no problem using up most of the stuff - chicken broth, pasta sauce, canned peaches, etc. - but a few things left me stumped and wondering how or why I got them in the first place.

So, my friends, I appeal to your combined culinary expertise. I need to know what I can or should do with:

5 to 34 ounces evaporated milk
15 to 30 ounces Bush's Homestyle Chili
12 to 28 ounces salsa verde
canned green beans (besides eating them straight - yuck)
canned black beans
Italian dressing
canned tuna (I don't like tuna salad - gag me - so I'm looking for a casserole here or something that will help to balance or neutralize the strong tuna flavor)

This is much more fun than flipping through cookbooks - someone out there must have good ideas that are tried and true. You can give them in the comments, call me or email me recipes, whatever. No idea is too simple - believe me, I haven't thought of it or else I wouldn't have asked. And I do have almost every kitchen appliance available (except an industrial grade deli slicer) so have at it. Thanks in advance and stay tuned for more of the Moving Out series as my stress level steadily escalates.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

In Love with my Trashcan

It's been two months now, our ardent affair. It started on accident - a misread label and a long line of people - and the rest has made itself history, with neither hell nor high water even remotely hopeful of ever tearing us asunder. Ed loves it too.

It was honestly a dark and rainy night - in February, the night I came home from my Escape. Ed and the girls picked me up at the airport and we were catching up so animatedly in the car that, as we passed the exit that leads to Target, Ed said, "Shoot, I was going to pull off to get a new kitchen trashcan." My heart skipped at the very thought. Obviously four days as the homemaker had demonstrated to Ed, among other things, the intolerability of our current receptacle.

Not wanting to miss this chance, I thought and replied, "Get off at Cropsey and we can go to Linens N' Things." Perfect! He did as directed and offered to stay in the car with sleeping Ginger while I took Hazel into the store to get our new waste bin. It was a zoo in there but I didn't think much of it because every store in New York is a zoo at all times. We rummaged around among the cans - plastic or metal? round or rectangular? swing top or step? Not wanting to spend more than $30, or ok, fine $50 at the most since it's such a frequently used product and the plastic one we usually buy breaks so often, I hunted and hunted, keeping one eye on Hazel and trying to make a decision. Ginger woke up so Ed brought her in and helped me figure out what I was doing. We settled on a tall lidded step can, stainless steel, for $70, which made me cringe, but whatever, maybe this one would last more than a few months and not be such a hideous eyesore in the kitchen. Then last minute I changed my mind since "stainless" shows every little smudge and grabbed what I thought was its black counterpart.

Well, no one likes a long blog post. The lines, though, were super long so by the time we hit the register the kids were restless and we were all anxious to move on with our lives. The can rang up for $129.99, almost $150 with tax. We looked at each other. She asked if we had our President's Day coupon (thus explaining the crowds and lines) for 20% off. Um, no (though that's really annoying because I always save those for a big purchase and here we were without one and wouldn't it have been nice.) We both shrugged and agreed to just get it and never tell anyone we paid $147.73 for our kitchen trash can (and here I am solemnly keeping that vow.)

But what a can it is! I would never have gotten it if I knew it was so much, but I so love it! It's strong and sturdy and doesn't tip onto me when I step on the lever. It keeps in odors and has a nice little locking mechanism to hold the bag in tight. It doesn't show marks too much, and is easy to clean when it does. And the lid goes down slowly instead of slamming. It's a stabilizing - and commanding - presence in my kitchen. I can't deny what I am and what I do - my kitchen trashcan is a major player in my life. And I really, really love it.

I also love my diaper pail, but that's another post.


Tonight, 6:33 pm.

Hazel comes up and asks, "Mommy, please I watch Dora?"

Mental yucky face. Relax - she hardly ever asks for Dora anymore, it's not worth a battle.

"Ok, which one do you want?"

"The married one."

Ah, here we go, with the asking for "the married one" of everything.

"I don't know which one that is."

"What about the dancing one?"

Think. Ok, I can think of a dancing one, but we don't have it.

"I don't think we have that one."

"What about the kissing one?" Makes kissing sounds.

"I know we don't have that one." What the *&#% ? She's three years old - just barely!

"What about the hugging one?" Hugs herself with a big sappy smile at me.

"Uh, I don't think we have that one either. How about Max & Ruby?"


Small nervous breakdown. Perfect example of winning the battle but being totally and completely unprepared in every single way for the war.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Project Runway Moving to Lifetime

Kind of a shock for Bravo's original - and best - reality competition show to leave, but hopefully they can "make it work." Lifetime must have sold their souls to get it - talk about a boost! Last time I watched that channel was China Beach reruns in high school.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What Diego is Really Teaching Your Preschooler

If you watch Noggin as relentlessly as we do then you are familiar with the screen that appears before each episode, describing all the developmentally appropriate "skills" your preschooler is gaining from the program. Hey, it's like preschool on TV. Well when Dave & fam recently came to visit we parked the kids in front of Diego one evening and, to our disgust (and also great enjoyment) we adults proceeded to jointly repudiate what Diego was claiming to enhance in such innocent minds, which is:And we came up with our own list of what Diego actually teaches our children. Before you attempt to refute us, watch a few refresher episodes, there is nothing to argue. It's too bad I am not clever with photoshop - that would have really made this a good post - but for the fun of it anyway, here you go:

Enhances preschoolers'
such as the PASSAGE OF TIME,

As well as their awareness of
WILD ANIMALS' complete inability to SURVIVE in their natural habitat without

and the use of
without adult supervision.

We had some more good stuff too but it didn't all fit in the format. I like a bunch of other Noggin shows like Little Bear and Blue's Clues but Diego just drives me crazy, it's one thing after another on there. You know it's bad when you look forward to the Bobo Brothers' appearance for a little relief. Dave and I wish another annoyed parent with time on their hands would do a scene-by-scene analysis of each episode because there's just so much, it would be a hoot, but I haven't been able to find anything*. In the meantime, we'll just have to continue to entertain each other with our own cleverness.

*Just to check I actually came across this disturbing blog with one of the URL's I tried, but didn't find anything relevant to what I was looking for.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Today, over lunch of mac & cheese.

Hazel: "Daddy is a boy."

Me: "Right. Who else is a boy?"

Hazel: "Lucas and Bruce and Pierson is a boy."

Me: "Very good! And who do we know that are girls?"

She takes a moment to ponder. "Kaleigh and Kaitlyn and Abby..."

More thinking.

"...and Cinderella and mac & cheese!" with a great big mouthful, a flourish of the spoon, and a proud grin.

Glad we have the sexes straight.
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