31. January 2008 · Comments Off on Moon Sand Mayhem…Mitigated! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Timmy received a Moon Sand set for his birthday from our friends, Julie and Doug and their kids Evan and Kate. Julie recently had her kids over to play and we broke out the Moon Sand — as we saw the 7% fall to the floor (read more about my estimated 5-7% Moon Sand loss rate here), we had a discussion about the inflatable tray I was interested in. Bless her heart, she remembered and Timmy got to unwrap a set with the tray on his birthday. Yay! It’s quite nifty, with a velcro top — so after Timmy finished, it was really simple to pop on the lid and put the tray away. Probably cut my cleanup time by over 50%!

(All you Air Force-types reading this — how’s that for some action/impact statements!)

So here’s Timmy enjoying his Sand Castle kit in the inflatable tray. What a difference! The loss rate is now down to ~1%, at most! That’s a phenomenal 6% reduction in Floor Moon Sand! More fun and creative productivity for the kids! Whoo hoo!

From 2008 01 26 Ti…

Tangent: Paul sent me this funny story today, and there’s a part of the story about the purchaser having to page through all these web sites that ask you to add more stuff to your shopping cart before you can ever check out (he fell for it and bought an accessory). That reminded me of what I encountered at MoonSand.com when I was trying to look for an inflatable Moon Sand play tray earlier this month. I know you’re curious — go ahead, hit the link, note how the page is laid out to try to canoodle you into buying more and more and more Moon Sand.

30. January 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

About a week ago I rearranged my bird feeders. I also changed the type of bird feed I offered, from a general small seed mix to only black oil sunflower seeds. In addition, I took down my windowside hummingbird feeder and replaced it with a windowside standard feeder, filled with sunflower seed. I also switched one of the feeders into a nijer seed feeder, hoping to bring back my goldfinches.

From that point up till this weekend, there was very little bird activity. The new arrangement and feeding options probably spooked everyone for a while, but starting this weekend, our friends started to return.

Today I was able to photograph both Mr. AND Mrs. Hairy Woodpecker, a red finch, a tufted titmouse, a Carolina wren, a Carolina chickadee, and Mr. Bluebird. The cardinals were around, too, but I didn’t get any pictures of them. The goldfinches have been around, but I didn’t see any of them today.

I was crouched towards the floor of my kitchen, camera in hand, all the while trying out different settings in an attempt to get the best closeup shots. Here are some of the best ones I got this afternoon. This was at about 3pm.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

Mr. Bluebird on the gutters along our back porch. If this were a cloudy day he’d probably appear much more vibrantly colored.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

This is Mr. Woodpecker chowing down on suet. This is typically how he’ll remain for up to 10 minutes. After he finishes, Mrs. Woodpecker will come by.

From 2008 01 15 Ha…

Here’s a shot of him from Jan. 15th, you can see the red patch on the back of his head better.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

Mr. Housefinch looking right at me!

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

This is the first picture I’ve been able to take of a bird at the window feeder. ANY motion usually scares birds off. This is a Carolina chickadee.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

Here’s chickadee’s cousin, the tufted titmouse. They’re in the same family.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

So here’s MRS. Hairy Woodpecker for her meal. How subservient — she typically waits for the man to finish his meal, then she takes whatever’s remaining. Not that Mr. W has taken everything. That’s the squirrels’ job!

Enjoy! Click here if you’d like to see more of the pictures. I’ve uploaded 36 of them, out of the 65 that I took.

30. January 2008 · Comments Off on PW’s Buttery Thyme Bread · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

I’d read about the Pioneer Woman’s Buttery Thyme Bread on earlier blog posts and it sounded pretty good. When she posted the recipe earlier this week I was really interested to see how it tasted. So tonight we had the leftover Jack Daniel’s roast, this bread, and some glazed carrots.

You can check out her pictures, and then check out mine and laugh.

For starters, I couldn’t find that Wonder Frenchef stuff she showed on her blog, and our local Kroger’s freezer cases are full of pre-buttered, pre-garlicked bread. That was okay… I picked up some Pillsbury French Bread in the dairy case instead. Baked it up, let it rest for about 5 minutes before I sliced it in half lengthwise.

From 2008 01 29 PW…

I couldn’t bring myself to put 1 whole stick of butter on EACH side of the loaf — I COULD NOT DO THAT! So I put about 3 TBSP of butter on each side. It was all I could muster. Since the bread was still hot from baking in the oven, it didn’t need to spend long melting the butter in the oven at 350 F, as her recipe suggests.

Meanwhile, I went outside to pick my fresh thyme (I know, you might have remembered that I said my only surviving herb plant right now is my rosemary. I lied. I found some scraggly sprigs of thyme on my otherwise-dead-looking plant). Enough to do one side of the bread, but not that other. That’s okay, my kids probably would have freaked if I served THEM bread with herbs. Chopped up.

From 2008 01 29 PW…

So then I cranked up the broiler and let ‘er rip. It took about 4 minutes and the chirping of my smoke alarm…then it was most perfect.

Sprinkled on the herbs and served it up.

From 2008 01 29 PW…

The verdict — my near-dead thyme was good, but I think some larger, fresher leaves might have been better. Otherwise, the buttery goodness was a hit at the dinner table, with or without the herbs. Enjoy!

28. January 2008 · Comments Off on Night…I mean, Afternoon at the Museum · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

I don’t need to repeat what’s already been told quite nicely. Click forth and enjoy. Thanks Maryann!

28. January 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Have you ever received one of those forwarded e-mails about how “back in the day”, you could go outside to play and absolutely take off around the neighborhood and Mom and Dad trusted you to be safe, play nicely and be home by dinnertime?

We received this flyer for a fund raiser today at church…one of the youth groups is selling Joe Corbi’s pizza and cookie kits. I was browsing through the catalog this morning and saw this:

How many of you did fundraisers as a kid? For a sports team? School? Boy Scouts? Girl Scouts? Were your parents like mine? Were you cast out the door with your catalogs and order forms…having to go door-to-door around the neighborhood? Hoping you’d get one or two sales in a 3 hour trudge-a-thon?

It was great when my Dad would take my Girl Scout Cookie order form to work, or to his ship…he said he could just sit the form on his desk, or post it on the wall outside his office door on the ships on which he was stationed…and by the end of one day, the form would be filled.

But that worked well when Dad wasn’t out to sea. For some reason, I seemed to do a lot of fund raising when my Dad was out to sea. Which meant I was back to door-to-door…ugh. I really truly hated doing that. I’m not great about asking things of others (babysitting while I drill in South Carolina not-withstanding), especially their money.

I guess I was shocked, but understanding, when I saw printed on the form that the parents and adults should be doing the fund raising legwork. I think I caught a glimpse of my future: Jacob and Timmy…for whatever activity they choose to do in the future, will have plenty of fundraising for me to do. And guidance will be for me (and Dave, hopefully) to do the legwork.

Hated fund raising then, I will hate it in 4-5 years when the boys start getting involved in it.

28. January 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

‘Nuf Said. Age 17. Love the glasses. And the bangs. If only you could see the shirt I had on — I remember distinctly…an enormous PSU tank top, must have hung down to my knees. Probably from Family Clothesline, one of those $1.99 bargains?

26. January 2008 · Comments Off on Birthday Parties, Cary, NC Style · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Today is Timmy’s 3rd birthday. Today was Timmy’s 3rd birthday PARTY, too. In part because of all the wonderful parties we’ve been invited to, and in part because this is Timmy’s last birthday party while we’re living in North Carolina (sniff sniff), he had a pretty big shindig.

For Jacob, a summertime birthday is pretty simple: pool, park, or backyard, right? Well, when your child’s birthday is on the climatologically coldest week of the year, you don’t want to risk the weather not cooperating, so you take action nice and early to book a great indoor location. I booked Planet Child in early November for today’s party. I’m not making that up — I booked this venue 3 months in advance! Everything around here seems that way — preschools, soccer teams, art classes, swimming lessons. Act fast if you want happy kids, right?

So for this party I invited Timmy’s preschool class, and several of the neighborhood friends he’s known while we’ve been living here. I think it came to about 16 friends total.

But those friends have siblings. And many of their siblings happen to be Jacob’s age.

And we don’t want Jacob to not have his friends around, right?

9 friends for Jacob. So the 16 kids we invited became 25. That’s a lot of kids! Add to that Jacob and Timmy, and I was planning a party for 27 kids plus their parents!

And like Jacob’s birthday party (which was at a park with no limits on how many could attend), they ALL RSVPed “Yes”. I never expected I’d have such popular kids. It’s sorta nice — I don’t think I was ever that popular!

Unfortunately, at the last minute, 4 of the children had to back out. I was sad that they couldn’t make it, but it helped keep my requirement for goody bags to the original 24. Everything seemed to come in sets of 8 or 12…ever the mathematician. I purchased some spare items for the extra 3 goody bags, but I have to admit the stuff wasn’t quite as cool.

Anyway, the party was wonderful — the facility is first class, the people helping to set up the room helped our event run smooth as silk, and (most importantly) the kids and guests had a terrific time.

Having the party at Planet Child helped me focus on the two (count ’em, TWO) cakes I made for the party. I needed enough for approximately 50 people, and one Wilton Thomas cake just wasn’t going to cut it. Maryann had both the Thomas and Lightning McQueen Wilton cake pans, so I made BOTH. Thomas was yellow cake, Lightning was chocolate. Yes, I’m crazy.

I ran into a minor emergency with Thomas: because it was an egg-free cake recipe, the cake started drying out while it was still on the cooling rack, so I got to work pronto to frost the cake. The first batch of icing ended up with clumps of powdered sugar all over that would stick in the piping bags. Ugh! Out of frustration, I had to pitch that entire batch of icing and start over, remixing the icing, and re-coloring the colors I needed. But at least the 2nd time was a charm, and Thomas ended up looking pretty decent when I was done.

From 2008 01 26 Ti…

Note the ring of grease around Thomas — I had a brain fart and failed to cover the cake board with aluminum foil. Oops.

Lightning McQueen worked out much much better. I had him iced with no problems in under an hour. The front end of the cake severed while it was cooling, but it wasn’t a problem to re-attach it with some icing before I frosted the whole thing.

From 2008 01 26 Ti…

So far it’s been a pretty great weekend for Timmy — his Grammy and Grampy flew in from New York, he’s been showered with gifts all weekend so far! He’s making out like a bandit! And…thankfully he’s been a great kid all weekend — no meltdowns and no potty accidents (so far, knock bytes!)

24. January 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

Tonight I used up the rest of my blueberries and made Pioneer Woman’s Cobbler #2.

It was a half recipe (I only had 3 cups of berries), which worked out pretty well, but this cobbler is definitely less sweet that Cobbler #1. That’s probably why PW insists that this one be served with vanilla ice cream. She’s definitely right! I didn’t have any on hand tonight, but I’ll pick some up tomorrow.

So here are some pictures:

From 2008 01 23 As…

Juicing the berries. See the lemon on the right — it’s been squeezed and zested.

From 2008 01 23 As…

I think my dough was a bit stickier than PW’s.

From 2008 01 23 As…


From 2008 01 23 As…

…and after!

24. January 2008 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

*Okay, who knows where that one is from???

(Margaret, you can’t answer…I know you know this!)

So this evening I took that chuck roast out of my fridge and plopped it on the grill. In accordance with the recipe, I seared both sides on high (about 5 min. each side) then turned the grill down to low and gave it 25 minutes on each side on low.

I guess I should back up some in this story…

At about 4:50pm, I turned on the grill. Our gas grill is circa 2003, a Charbroil “Hybrid” grill (perhaps you see a trend here with hybrids?) that not only is a propane grill, but it also has an insert for using charcoal. We only do the charcoal thing about 15% of the time. Anyway, the ignitor is broken, so we have to take the riskier approach in turning on our grill: power up the gas, turn on the burners, and stick a lit lighter into this little hole at the bottom. Usually, this isn’t too bad…we have one of those stick lighters with a flexible neck, so we just crane the neck into the hole, and flick the lighter on.

For some reason, today it decided to grace me with a fireball. The sides of my hair were hanging down a little, so the ends got slightly singed. My eyebrows took it a little, too…but no visible damage. Since my hair has a pretty blunt cut, I don’t think there’s any visible damage to it, either. Just stinks horribly.

Back to the story — after the searing process, I stabbed the probe end of my thermometer into the roast and set the temperature alarm to 140 F — medium rare!

Of course, what good is the temperature alarm when the thermometer was outside, and I was inside preparing the rest of dinner?

When I gave the roast its flip after the first 25 minutes on low, I couldn’t help but take some pictures of how good looking this was becoming. The meat had taken in enough of the dark marinade to darken quite a bit, and the grilling was making it even darker in color. Nice!

From 2008 01 23 As…

From 2008 01 23 As…
From 2008 01 23 As…

The center of the roast was 125F when it was time to flip it over.

After the 2nd side did its 25 minutes, I checked the thermometer and it was reading about 138. Due to “carryover”, I decided it was a good time to take the roast off the grill and bring it inside to rest. I brought it in, tented it with foil, and by the time I was done tenting, the thermometer was up to 140 and the alarm beeped (“MOOOOM! Dinner’s ready!” — my boys’ typical response to any alarm in the kitchen).

From 2008 01 23 As…
From 2008 01 23 As…

(Pay no attention to how dirty my thermometer/timer looks here, it’s grubby from my meaty hands, and has since been cleaned 🙂

I worked so hard on a good roast, I merely served it up with salad and rosemary ciabatta rolls (like that bread you get at Macaroni Grill?) The guys devoured the meat…the boys complained about the rosemary flavor to the bread. Whatever.

I think this would work out really well on a London Broil.

24. January 2008 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Dave said I should talk about this one. The boys and I were looking at the scrapbook my Mom made for my 30th birthday (it’s really really awesome — covers through age 8!), and Dave comes across this portrait. It was taken in summer 1981, so I was 7.

“Who’s that little boy in the upper right corner?”

I replied, “That’s my sister, silly*!”

*I might have said something more severe than “silly”, I can’t remember.

Who remembers these kinds of pictures? I think they were all the rage in the 80s. Aren’t they the most ridiculous thing??? I’m sure the Sears Portrait Studio was showing off this incredible technological breakthrough: take two separate portraits, and merge them into one! WOW!

To put it in perspective, this is what my sister looked like when she isn’t a floating head in my thoughts. She was about 2 1/2 here: