Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Done Deal

The agent called this morning around 8 am to remind us what to bring to the closing at 4 pm - drivers licenses and a big fat certified check for the amount due. I was functioning on an adrenaline buzz all day knowing we would be homeowners by the end of it. At 2:30 we met at the house for the walk-through. At 4 we were in the signing room at the title company. By 5:10 we were on our way home, and the combined relief and disbelief sent me into an emotional crash and I almost fell asleep in the car.

But we had one more thing on the agenda. We got my mom who was watching the girls, my dad, my brother & his daughter who were in town to join us at the new house for a maiden meal: watermelon slices and Pakistani takeout from Ravi Kabob.

Just the first of many, many happy dinners to come!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Good Stuff - May 2009

I know the Good Stuff posts dropped off for awhile there - I was having a hard time keeping up with them monthly, so I'll just post them whenever I have a few things to tell about.

Kid Good Stuff

Hanna Andersson Floppy Sunhat - For my fair-skinned girls, sun protection that won't fly away. And the $10 price tag is a steal for H.A. quality. Ginger chose Blossoming Pink; Hazel chose Papaya.

Sometimes I'm Bombaloo by Rachel Vail -
Just before our England trip I took the girls to Border's to each pick out a new book for the trip. Which also gave me the chance to do some browsing. I found this book about the experience of having a tantrum, and liked it but thought it could go either way with the girls - maybe they'd relate to it, maybe not. It's the story of a girl named Katie, told from her own point of view. She explains that she's a great kid most of the time, and many of the things she does well. Then she explains that sometimes she's "Bombaloo," a name for her alternate personality when her anger/frustration gets out of control. She explains what it's like, and how, when it's over, she's sorry and a little frightened and her Mom understands, and then she's Katie again. I lucked out - my girls love the book and want to read it a lot and talk about it. And today when Hazel had a tantrum, when it was over, I asked if she had been Bombaloo, and she smiled and said, "Yes! But now I'm sorry and I'm Hazel again." Not bad, not bad at all. I think it's great to have a story - a third party - to use to talk about feelings and especially feeling out of control, and to give those feelings some validation.

I Love Chocolate by Davide Cali - We went to the dance studio where Hazel will be taking a class this summer, to get her measured for shoes. Across the hall is the cutest ever children's bookstore called Aladdin's Lamp and I will probably go there every week during class with Ginger. I walked in this week and "I Love Chocolate" was the first book I saw. I read it, thought I would die over its perfection, and bought it. Just the perfect book for a chocoholic Mom to bond with her kids over.

Grown-up Good Stuff

Benjamin Moore Paint website - Playing with paint colors has been my after-hours obsession lately, dreaming of Disco-Mom-ing the new house. I will post on results later this summer. My friend gave me a good pointer on saving a little $ - she found her colors at Benjamin Moore but took them to Home Depot to be matched and bought Behr paint which is excellent quality but less money.

Chutney - I became hooked in England when they scoop this stuff out as a restaurant condiment next to ketchup. Goes with anything! Plus they slather it on sausages and Dave makes one yummy cheddar-n-chutney panini. Got myself a jar of Carmelized Onion Chutney from Bracken Hill Fine Foods to bring home. Keep your eyes peeled at your grocery stores and farmers' markets and give chutney a new chance.

The Jeeves books by P. G. Wodehouse - (I just finished The Inimitable Jeeves.) The trivial adventures of frivolous bachelor Bertie Wooster and his ever clever butler Jeeves. Insubstantial in the extreme; also enormously entertaining and humorous. And fantastically British. I wholeheartedly second my brother Dave's suggestion: "One wonders what it might do for the verbal talents of a generation if they were required to read Wodehouse in school instead of ghastly classics like The Scarlet Letter."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beginning Design

We close on our house next Tuesday, May 26. Once I have keys in hand I can go through and take pictures of everything and start slathering walls with my paint samples to see how they look. We have a truck scheduled for Saturday, May 30 to move all the big stuff and as much of everything else as we have ready, then we'll follow up trickle-style for the next week or so with the minivan.

So there's definitely not enough time to get all my painting done before we move in, but we can shuffle stuff around and paint one room at a time once we're there. So I've prioritized, and just got home from buying samples for three roooms.

1. Master bedroom
- currently a pale lavender which is actually very nice but doesn't really go with our bedding which has deep browns, light greens and neutrals. Also my Mom has made us a king size quilt; here's a sampler of some of the fabrics.So I was looking for a pale warm gray. I can't do tans or beiges but grays I love. I got a sample of Gray Owl (3rd from left.) We'll see.

2. Office - It's the second largest bedroom in the house and it will be the office/sewing/art studio which means it could be any color. So I went searching for inspiration, and found it at Modern Nursery:

I went with a slightly brighter blue since the room only has one window - Patriotic White (last on the right.)
Right now that room is the most heinous brown-orange which Ed actually likes - as soon as I heard that I realized I was on my own for design decisions. I love the anise wall stickers and am planning on getting them for the room as well.

3. Girls' bedroom - right now it's a yellowy neutral color but I want a little more definition. Plus I want to do a section with magnetic primer so that will have to be painted over anyway. I saw a room in a magazine (can't find it now) that led me to pale yellow-olive greens, and I also went paging through my set of Ida Pearle alphabet cards I've been saving and planning to hang in the girls' room (hence the magnetic primer.) I found inspiration in the W card:And got a sample of Pale Sea Mist, which looked a lot more like the W card in the store than it does on my screen...which is why we spend the extra money for samples!

The main floor - living, dining, kitchen - are OK for now but I plan on a major makeover at some point. I'm exploring wallpaper - it's making a comeback! - and could die I love THIS so much. But I mustn't be hasty!

Basing expectations on experience, I fully expect to hate whatever I do and want to change it over and over and never be satisfied. And I can. Cause it's my house!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

End of School Teacher Gifts

I was simply mortified when, on the last day of preschool before winter break, I glided in with two gorgeously plated and ribboned goody plates for Hazel's preschool teachers, only to find ten other similar plates lined up along the bookshelves. NEVER AGAIN, I vowed, will I offer goodies as teacher gifts. I should have known. I should have remembered. In my past life I did work in elementary and middle schools for a few years and teachers were always trying to pawn off gifted goodies to each other, most of which just ended up getting stale in the teachers' lounge.

So as the end of the school year approaches, I would once again like to give something small to the teachers as a token of appreciation, but I'm too darn tired to think of something myself. So I called my sister Tona who is a thoughtful, creative Mom and has had kids in school for at least 10 years. Off the top of her head (had to rush off for the American Idol final) she gave me:
  • house plant
  • 6-pack of marigolds or similar
  • travel mug with Dunkin/Starbucks gift card
  • plastic beach bucket with sundae supplies (minus ice cream)
  • new cool lunch bag
  • small tote with sunglasses, sunscreen, book
All of which are awesome ideas. I know gifts for the classroom are nice but I prefer to give something personal like the above. I started a TEACHER page in my GIFT IDEAS spreadsheet and thought I'd hit up the rest of you for even more ideas. 'Cause I'm just too darn tired. And willing to ignore the blinding silence I received in my call for FHE chart help. So let's have them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bake Sale Survey Results

Serious thanks to everyone that took my bake sale survey. Unless you signed your name I don't know who took it so general thanks to all 47 people who responded.

In case you are curious, or might be in charge of your own bake sale someday, here are the results:

1. What are
you most likely to buy at a bake sale?

Questions 2 through 5 addressed how to price various items; I asked what you would expect to pay for each. Wide range of responses; very interesting. Here are the results:

Cookies (1 large, 2 medium or 4 small) -
55% responded $1

Single slice/bar/square treat - Tie at 38% between 75 cents and $1

Whole loaf of bread -
Range $2.50 to $12, Average $4.86 so I'll probably go $5. Most indicated that it would depend somewhat on size and that they would pay more for something "special."

Whole cake or pie -
Range $2 to $20, Average $8.46. Some said they would pay more for a cake than a pie, but as you see above only 3% said they would actually buy a whole cake; 11% said they would buy a pie. There's going to be a cake walk at the fun fair where we're having the bake sale so people wanting a cake would probably go for that instead. Someone also said they would pay more for a berry pie than another kind.

The last two questions were open-ended: What is your favorite thing to get at a bake sale and any additional comments. These answers ranged all over the board. Some detested Rice Krispy Treats; others would die for them. Some wanted baklava, others a good chocolate chip cookie. Many claimed they would buy something that's too difficult or complicated to make themselves. The Fun Fair and Bake Sale are on June 6; I will be in the middle of, or just recovering from, a move so I will not be making a lot of complicated goodies - mostly cookies and breads from me, but this was great information for me to pass on to the other parents.

Flat cookies, stale RK treats, poorly decorated cupcakes, oily brownies

Yeast bread, scones, almond croissant, HUGE cookies, sweet bread, ooey gooey RK treat, killer cherry pie, homemade bread, fudge, baklava, cleverly decorated cookies, brownies with nuts, pie tarts, chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks, soft pretzels, chocolate zucchini bread, anything chocolate, mint frosted brownies, chocolate-caramel-peanut concoctions, black-and-white cookies, pumpkin bread with crystallized ginger, pie, super cupcake, good chocolate chip cookies, whole wheat bread, blondies, oatmeal chocolate chip muffins, zucchini bread, pies with sugar on top, anything with cream cheese or honey butter

One of the most surprising things I found was that some people would expect higher prices at a bake sale, it being a fundraiser and people being generous, and others would expect lower prices at a bake sale - "good price for a good cause," kind of like getting good deals at a yard sale. I created this survey in the hope of neither underpricing nor overpricing our products, but in general I agree with the first sentiment. The whole point of a fundraiser is to raise money, so as a customer I would shell out a dollar or two more than at the bakery.

But I also wholeheartedly agree with the comments that addressed product quality; attractive, fresh, homemade treats should sell themselves at higher prices than re-pacakged Chips Ahoy cookies or oily brownies straight from the mix. I won't have total control over this; every family will be contributing items for the sale, but I am going to share the survey results with everyone and encourage quality over quantity. I'm also going to package and label all the items myself so they are uniform - clear cellophane tied with a ribbon and a computer-printed label and price on each. Someone also mentioned the workers should wear disposable gloves. I hadn't thought of that since all the food will be packaged but I agree it's a good idea; if nothing else it looks good!

Thank you to everyone for all your input!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

FHE Chart Assignment

I'm off to England tomorrow so while I'm gone I've got an assignment for you.

I want a new Family Home Evening chart for our family. Family Home Evening is a time set aside, usually Monday night, for building family relationships. Usually we study and discuss religious topics and/or do an activity like a game or service. Traditionally an FHE "program" consists of:
Opening song
Opening prayer
Closing song
Closing prayer

It's also traditional for each of these items to be assigned to family members on a rotating basis. Thus the need for a chart. In my family growing up my mom made a chart by covering a thick posterboard with cloth, then making two rows of cloth pockets shaped like flower pots, with the names of each assignment on them. Each family member had a flower made from cloth and pipe cleaners with our names on them, and there was one flower in each pot. It hung on the wall in the hall so all week we could see what our assignment would be for Monday night, then after FHE we would move the flowers over one for next week's assignments.

I'd prefer not to have to make my own chart, but I'm coming to the realization I'll probably have to. I just haven't seen anything acceptable out there. For example, all of these ideas make me want to puke. These charts are not so offensive, just boring. At Women's Conference last week in Utah I got re-inspired to hold regular Family Home Evening, and the girls are big enough to take on assignments. With a chart we could be organized about it - a visual reminder to all of us to prepare and make that time a priority. I spent the better part of some of the sessions doodling, trying to come up with design ideas.

And here we run into a manifestation of a larger issue I have. When it comes to design, I know what I like and what I don't like but I suck at coming up with my own ideas. I'm already struggling with this right now as I prepare to move into my own home - my FIRST own home - and try to create a cohesive design vision for it. It's painful and I know eventually I'll need professional help.

But back to the chart. Has anyone else run into this problem? Have any of you seen a good chart - and by good I mean creative, stylish, modern, clever, fresh - or anything that could inspire one or be like one? I'm not thrilled with my own designs, and even less thrilled with the prospect of executing them, but I will if I have to. The main thing is that this is going to be hanging on the wall in my home, so it has to look like art or equally classy, not like a school project. I am very, very open to ideas. Especially you designers and artists out there, or anyone who knows one. I need everyone's help here. You have 10 days.

Monday, May 04, 2009


Tonight, 8:47 pm. Hazel and I are laying in the dry bathtub, in my dark bathroom, trying to be quiet. Ginger's looking for us and Ed, her turn at hide-and-seek.

Hazel strokes my cheek. "Mommy, I love you."

"Thank you sweetie, I love you too."

"Mom, if you weren't here our family *******." The limited acoustics of loud kid-whispering in an echo-y chamber manifest themselves.

"Our family what?"

"If you weren't here our family would be ******." Very loud whispering.

"Our family would be WHAT?" Voices on now. I really want to hear this.

"Mom, if you weren't here our family would be CANCELLED."

Heard it that time. Eyes smarting, throat lumping. Ginger's feet come pattering down the hall, closer. Hazel's hair smells like coconut and flowers. I kiss the top.

"Thanks, sweetie," I choke out. "I'm glad it's not cancelled."
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