Saturday, January 31, 2009

Plant a Seed and Watch It Grow

Be Mine, Valentine

Last night I went to a "Pizza Crop" night at a local scrapbooking store with some of my girlfriends. Since I can't even pretend that I'm organized enough to gather stuff for my quasi-scrapbook, I decided I'd make Valentine's instead. I had purchased the book Originals through my friend's business, so I popped the disc in for the first time, printed off some envelope templates and picked a couple cards I wanted to try.

When I was done making the smaller cards, I did their envelopes out of some regular scrapping paper I had. One of the girls at my table commented on how her sister loved to make envelopes since you can do it out of something as simple as a brown paper bag...lightbulb moment! I inevitably forget my cloth bags every once in awhile, so have a stash of some paper bags in our closet...2 bags later, I had enough envelopes for all of my cards; I was easily able to make 16 envelopes out of the two bags from just the top portion...the bottom just didn't make a nice envelope. Stamp the bottom corner, and you've got another way that going green is not only saved me money since the envelopes were free. My favorite price.

Friday, January 30, 2009

When Enough is Too Much

I've had this ever-growing feeling of being overwhelmed by all the stuff in my house. With two kids, a crazy knitting and crafting habit, myself and my music/biblio/dvdophile husband, our little two bedroom apartment has become overgrown with the things that make our life go...or was purchased with the intent to do so.

I have been planning to organize our loft, aka the place I take armloads of stuff swept from the counter each time we have guests over, for awhile now and have decided that, like Marvin K. Mooney, the time is now. I've had all these ideas floating around about what we'll do to be better which sometimes equates to more. In my head, my version of better is pared down, clean lines and a place for everything, but what that usually translates into is a to-do list longer than War and Peace, which adds to the anxiety because it's not realistic.

I was reading Rookie Moms and Whitney referenced Enough Monthly , which is a blog based on the idea that big changes in your life can be made in small ways over time...over the course of a year, the blog author will make a change that she maintains for 1 month at a time; no new shoes, clothes or toys purchased for one month, no eating out for one month, not using a cell phone for one month,etc.

How much can we do without if we don't use it for just a little while? I don't think I'd even attempt the zero cell phone use, but the shoes and toys? You betcha! I think the one that was the most intriguing was "Don't yell at others for one month" I can feel a marked difference in myself and H when I have a day that my frustrations with dawdling, potty training, sleep issues, you name it, are dealt with by yelling...they say it takes 2 weeks of doing something routinely for it to become a habit.

It's almost like she'll be doing a rolling lent for an entire year! I'll be interested to look back and see the progress. I've given up Ice Cream for Christ's sake (literally), I'm sure I can stop spending money frivolously...or less so anyhow.

I'll be proposing to J tomorrow that we do the 'no non-essentials (clothes, shoes, toys, books, dvds) for one month', it'll be interesting to see where we stand at the end. Super Bowl Sunday seems like a very good day to begin a life without excess, right?

Stay tuned for progress on the organization and paring down of the HP Household. I'd post a before picture but it's simply too humiliating. Freecycle has become my new best friend, because for so long I'd been hanging onto things that I just didn't want to toss out, but also didn't want to drag to Goodwill. J and I agreed that the things we want to sell can be posted to Craigslist for a posting cycle, and if they don't sell they get listed at Freecyle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Party Time

I saw this post on Rockin' Mama and found the one sentence that should be in every training resource: "Someone once told me that everybody they’ve ever known is potty trained, which means that our chances of being successful with our son are pretty much guaranteed."...If only it were that easy to keep the perspective when you're in it.

I am very happy to announce, however, that the pity I mean potty party at our house is winding down...stickers are now only awarded for successful number 2's as numero uno is under control once he realized it's an activity where he not only gets to stand up, but that he is sanctioned to hold and aim his parts while doing so.

I was wiping off the outside of the toilet bowl with some of the GreenWorks wipes that I'm testing out for MomCentral, and the realization that this is just the beginning of the bathroom messes struck me. Oh, the joys of raising boys!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Park City

Want the chance to win a fantastic family vacation this winter? Check out my post on Park City Mountain Resort and enter to win a ski package by January 30th.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

DC 24

I had posted on Inauguration Day that I left the TV on the inauguration coverage most of the afternoon so that the kids would at least be exposed to the goings-on of their world, even if they aren't old enough to really grasp it. I was excited to hear about a group of 24 Chicago inner-city fifth and six graders who traveled to DC to witness the inauguration, and were sponsored by the McCormick Foundation. The DC24 Kids were in the crowd of over one million people that flooded the Washington Mall on January 20th at Obama took his Oath of Office.

This isn't just a randomly selected group of kids, they were chosen based on a written essay, grades, test scores, an oral interview, but most importantly, citizenship. They then participated in a weekly civics course where they learned more about the Constitution, our election process and African-American history.

During their four-day journey to Washington, D.C., the students visited landmarks such as the Capitol Building and the Smithsonian and got to attend the inaugural ball. When they return to Chicago, the DC 24 will publish a newspaper describing their experience and deliver a presentation about their trip to parents, faculty and peers.

A major goal of the McCormick Foundation as well as the DC 24’s principal and their teachers, is to inspire and enable a lifetime of giving back to community and country.

What an amzing experience! The kids attend Frazier Preparatory Academy in downtown Chicago and this trip to Washington D.C. was the first time many of them had traveled outside their neighborhood. These kids were so excited to be there, and to be able to experience everything from attending a dance in the hotel to talking with a Naval Glee Club member in the crowds outside the White House.

Watching the clips they created and reading the sentiments they shared just further exemplified the kind of excitement that has been a long time coming in the arena of politics. People who hadn't been involved before, or were involved only out of a sense of obligation (myself included) got swept up in the excitement, hope and emotion that resulted from Obama's win and entrance into office.

Be sure you look at the site that's being kept with the DC 24 kids thoughts, videos and adventures

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ending the Reign of Error

I'm sitting, listening to Obama's speech following the taking of his oath. I couldn't help but get misty-eyed when it dawned on me that this is the first president that I've helped to elect. While I voted in the last two elections, my candidate did not win...though I have to say I didn't vote with gusto as in this election.
The inauguration events are playing with H and C in the room. I know that it doesn't really mean anything to either of them, but at least they're being exposed.
I am so filled with hope for the future of our nation, and with pride in the fact that my candidate not only won, but that I'm whole-heartedly supportive of him and his administration.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Progessive Era

I finally got the cabled yoke done and seamed, picked up 198 stitches along one long edge and am in the middle of the garter stitch yoke. I'll at least have a dickie right? I figured I needed to start working on this again so that I have it to keep warm before Winter's this rate, we'll be hovering below and above zero until May...

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Potato, Potahto

Meatless Monday in the HP household commenced with Spicy Sweet Potato Soup, another recipe I found on Late Nite Kitchen. The single batch made enough for J and I plus about 3 days of was so good! Each day the chilis in it got a little bolder, but it never was overwhelmingly spicy. I had to use a blender, as I don't have the little hand-held one to use directly in the pot. What I loved about this as opposed to squash or pumpkin soup was that the starch and the flavor came from one thing, so I didn't have to add anything to the was so good!
A couple nights later, we had the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (also of LNK fame) and we are again having the Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Spicy Peanut Sauce. As I've been writing all meals on the calendar two weeks in advance, including leftover nights, J got a puzzled look on his face glancing at it, wondering what activity my mom's group was doing that I'd call it "Butt Squash". I gently reminded him that it was the name of our dinner, not an activity. Oy veh!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Windows Mobile

Interested in all that Smartphones have to offer? Come see what Windows Mobile may have to offer you at Knitty Reviews.

Monday, January 12, 2009

She Was...An American Girl

I just finished reading the book American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, and just can't say enough good things about it. Not only is Sittenfeld an amazing writer who's character development draws you quickly into the world she's created, but she also took a really interesting idea and went far beyond the Law and Order 'ripped from the headlines' style that would have been so easy.

A fictionalization of the life of Laura Bush, this book was enthralling. The 'George' character is named Charlie, and I was amazed how endearing I found him. He's this alcoholic f-up, who genuinely loves 'Alice' and his family, but just lacks in maturity in so many ways. I found myself several times throughout the book glancing up as the sickening realization would again strike me that, even though this is a fictionalized characterization, he's our president!

I have to admit that, while I'm really not a fan of W, I do like and respect our First Lady. I remember being completely disgusted during the '04 campaign when Theresa Heinz-Kerry made snide comments about her. 'Teresa Heinz Kerry told a newspaper she doesn't know if Laura Bush has ever had "a real job." She apologized Wednesday for having forgotten about the first lady's 10-year stint as a schoolteacher and librarian.' (USA Today)

While it's clear it's a novel, I can hear their voices in my head so distinctly that I found myself googling small facts throughout the book. Sittenfeld nailed this family while still taking plenty of artistic licence and creating a storyline that kept me turning the pages to the very end. How close she is on some of the points, I guess only the 'Blackwells' will ever know.

I've got Sittenfeld's other books in my 'to-read' queue on goodreads, and also enjoyed this article she wrote after interviewing Michelle Obama.
(This review cross-posted at Knitty Reviews and Goodreads)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sally's Sense of Snow

In honor of J, I decided to join a new meet-up that is for 'outdoorsy families'. People that know me would most likely not ever choose 'outdoorsy' as one of my descriptors, but I finally gave into the fact that family fun with J and two boys would most likely involved camping, hiking and the like. While I'll be content to be left behind when they're older and want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as J did the summer before we started dating, or go ultralight camping, I'd like to join the fun while they still want me around.

One of the first outings that appealed to me was snowshoeing. I've never done it before, and actually haven't participated in any winter sports since taking skiing lessons in sixth grade and never really figuring out how to slow down, resulting in the running over of my instructor at a high speed...more than once.

I RSVP'd yes to snow-shoeing at Weston Ski Track, pre-paid for two Pulks so that J and I could pull the kids in a relatively warm and comfy way and then anxiously awaited the big day. As the time drew near I realized a few things.

1. I don't really own any snow gear. I have a winter coat, but no ski pants, gloves, boots...
2. I'm really out of shape. What if it's super strenuous?

3. The fact that I don't own any gear for winter activity, and haven't since high school, is further demonstrative of my un-'outdoorsy' nature.

I started to get anxious.

I posted to the talk loop for my mom's group to see if anyone had ski pants I could use for the day and learned from a thrifty mama that Dick's had them on sale for less than $30. Whew! I arrived at the store and started flipping through the large rack of clearance ski pants and bibs. The bibs were only available up to size L...yeah, no. I took the XL pants to the dressing room and quickly stripped down. Because I'm currently built like Miss Piggy, my old problem of things fitting fine in the waist but being too tight in the thighs reared its ugly head.

The sale pants did not come in XXL, so I did a couple quick tugs at the knees and little bends to see if I could at least partially function and determined that if I didn't stride too large, bend over or fall down, I'd be golden. A little Tommy Boy "fat guy in a little coat" but I had my black Nike dry-fits I could wear underneath for cover in the event of a mortifying rear blow-out. Sweet. Coupled with my running shoes that I was wearing with two pairs of wool socks, I looked like a freakin' PRO.

On the morning of, we got bundled and arrived at our destination which turned out to be a huge golf course that they convert to cross-country ski/snow-shoeing trails in the winter. Perfect! Nothing too strenuous. To make it even easier, there have been several warm/freeze/warm/freeze cycles, so the crusty ice over the top of the snow would be much easier to navigate than powder that didn't offer resistance.

We had to park on a side road and they had shuttles taking us to the site, as it was a free trail use day and the place was packed. I saw my first obstacle when I realized I'd have to climb up into the van...without ripping my snow pants. Shit.

I vividly remember in Junior High when skin-tight wranglers were all the rage and I stepped into the stirrup from the ground for a long ride at one of my friend's houses only to hear the sickening rip of denim along my inner thigh...that was an interesting ride, let me tell you.

I was so relieved as we were driving up and I saw people walking around in snowshoes that were only about a foot longer than regular shoes, and were a metal frame. Because I'd never done it, I was still imagining the wooden framed monstrosities of the type that my college boyfriend had hanging on his wall in the I have a feeling they were all for show and he never really used them. Knowing him, this is not surprising.

We weathered the rental lines, filled out the forms, strapped our kids into the pulks and away we went. As we were descending our first real 'hill' I felt the gentle pressure of the trailer in the small of my back, and started laughing as the mental image of me falling down the hill with the trailer attached to me filled my mind. Since it's attached by a metal frame, I wouldn't have been run over by it, but still. What would have happened? As I posed this question to J, his answer was that I would never have been able to stop laughing.

He's right about that. The only thing funnier than watching someone else fall, is when it happens to you in a humiliating public display; the fat girl who decides to be athletic for the weekend in her too-tight ski pants goes tumbling down the hill with her child attached, ripping her pants, overturning the trailer and falling in a heap at the bottom, in uncontrollable fits of laughter. He's right, I would never have recovered.

Alas, that did not happen and we had a wonderful time. Now, we're discussing a camping trip to The Cape this summer. Yeah, because I do so well in the heat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Food For Thought...

Momversation is such an interesting's a discussion on Motherhood vs. Marriage...which is harder?

Heather Armstrong (of fame) had the following to say about her contribution:

"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I really had no experience with babies, whereas before I got married I dated a wide variety of men, some hairy, some bald, many of them gay. I'd lived with men before, had shared my stuff, had compromised my tastes and time to make things work, and so I understood what kind of energy it requires to make a relationship last. And when I started dating Jon I knew that he was the person with whom I could make it work, with whom I wanted to make it work.

This does not mean my marriage is easy by any means, and in the original footage I talk about the many years of therapy we have been in personally and together as a couple. Our therapist has been paid a lot of money to teach us to tell each other, hey, stop treating me this way, you're not meeting my needs, I feel this way when you act like that. And yes, my nose scrunches up like that often when we have those types of discussions. And the argument usually ends with Jon going OH MY GOD I'M MARRIED TO YOUR GRANNY.

And while motherhood has become so much more natural to me there is still so much unchartered territory ahead, and I find that each age is so different than the one that preceded it that sometimes, although infrequently, it feels like we're starting from the beginning all over again. Sure, there are similar surprises in marriage, but right now almost eight years into our relationship I feel like what we share is the rock I use to stabilize myself when being jarred by everything else around me."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hana Hou!

(I took this picture at Molokini!)

I just finished the book Sweet Life by Mia King, and it has me waxing poetic about warmer climates and tropical fun.
The month before J's graduation from medical school, I took him on a trip for which I had saved (I know...shocking; I am not a great saver) to Maui. Granny and Papa came to stay with H at our home in Portland so that he could continue with his routine, and we could have a real vacation before leaving everything we knew for the next chapter on the east coast.

With our trusty copy of Maui Revealed in hand, we had an amazing ten days filled with fresh coconut and mango ice cream, gorgeous sunsets from the up-country (Kula) house that we rented from a friend of mine at work, sunny beaches, amazing views from Haleakala, a harrowing drive to Hana and, of course, a few days of plate lunch.

I wasn't sure if I'd get claustrophobic scuba diving, so wanted to try snorkeling first; it was such an overwhelming feeling of peace once your face is in that water, so clear and beautiful in the protection of the crater of Molokini. We attended the requisite luau, but mostly we just relaxed, drove around the island with the top down, wind in our hair, and enjoyed each other's company.

We flew Hawaiian, which has direct flights to both Maui and Honolulu and still has a meal service for us plebes in coach.

Having grown up in the waters of creeks fed from mountain snow run-off, dipping my toes in bath-tub warm water was deee-lish. I always knew I was a summer person, but that clinched it. Ironically, I'm also "Sweaty Betty" so this trip was well-timed and allowed me to embrace the wet heat before moving to the sweltering summer that was our first in Massachusetts.

Much to my delight, I learned that a part of J's residency is an elective month in the third year to Oahu in order to practice tropical and hyperbaric medicine. I think the keikis will love a trip to see Granny and Papa, then I can gracefully exit and join J for a good week of R & R. I foresee scuba certification at Central Mass Diving before departure.
This Haole can't wait to be laying on the beach with a book, by myself, slathered in Maui Babe tanning lotion (over SPF 400 of course), drinking iced tea and eating all the fresh fruit and Saloon Pilot crackers with guava jelly and peanut butter a girl could ask for...mmm...Hana Hou!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Crouched in the Fecal Position

Today, J installed the BumGenius diaper sprayer that I ordered from amazon, and was declared 'defective' by J before we left on our trip. After talking to "Support Guy" at The Mini Shower, I was pretty certain that it was more operator error than defective product. Sure enough, it now works like a dream. Well, I guess it's all in perspective because I'm not sure at what point in my life I let the purchase and successful implementation of a diaper sprayer be a highlight, but alas...

I went grocery shopping after being gone for 2+ weeks, and filled our cupboards and fridge to the gills with foods that would help support our resolution to be a healthier family. I was a little shocked that after following my meal plan shopping list, along with some lunch and breakfast staples, that I had not let my weak self take over and buy the ice cream that was on sale. That's right, I got home with the only "dessert" in my bags being three boxes of fat free instant pudding. On that trip, I got some of H's favorites; clementines ("baby oranges"), grapes, bananas and "cheese from the bag" (shredded cheese). Apparently we need to offer a little more cheese from the bag and white meat chicken nuggets because the by-product of our ships in the night parenting style today was that H had a Fiber One granola bar and two clementines for breakfast with J. Then when I awoke from my post nursing-all-night stupor and tagged J out to have a nap before work, I let H have two more clementines when H George (because he is anyone but himself these days) assured me in monkey-speak that he'd not had any yet today.

Two Numero Dos accidents in the underwear later, and I was pretty sure that he'd told a little white lie about the oranges.

For our big meal of the day, I served a vegetarian lasagna with applesauce and green salad...yes, our first Meatless Monday. All H ate was the applesauce and some grapes. He was mid-sentence talking to J and got a little's so nice when the kids appreciate your culinary efforts. But, wait..."Are you pooping?!" I yelled with surprise...yep. No shame, just let it rip at the table. Awesome. J got to take that one for the team, as I ate my cup of chocolate pudding. However, after H knocked over the glass of milk he was drinking beside the table, after being told about 4,000 times to sit down, he was relegated to his room.

All too quiet in there, I went to check on him, and noted the bow-legged saunter of a bull-rider, and knew he'd poo'ed again. Awesome. He looked at me and said "My pee makes polka dots! Isn't that silly?!" Yes, that's exactly what I'd call it. It's so silly, when you spatter your carpet with pee.

H is now in the tub, and will be wearing a diaper for the remainder of the day. He'll not be eating anymore fruit today as we finally put two and two (well, actually it was 4 number twos) together after examining what he'd actually eaten all day.

I would recommend the sprayer to any cloth-diapering or potty-training parent. Now maybe I need to invest in a stool to sit on while crouched over the toilet bowl spraying out all of H's underwear and C's diapers, it's a bitch on the ole back. I can say, however, that it sure beats the dunk and swish. Ahhh...remember the days when crouching over the toilet bowl was the direct result of having too much fun?

Thank god for hot water, anti-bacterial soap and hand sanitizer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Match Point

Because I am instant gratification girl, I've been on the kick of knitting socks. I made my first pair in October and then in December I knit four pair, one that I mostly knit on the drive from Eastern Oregon to Portland. I picked the second sock up to finish it two nights ago and measured it against its mate in order to determine the point at which I should start decreasing. Measuring tape, Schmeasuring tape I say.* I was surprised to find that it was already time to start my little k2 together, then k1, sl1, k1, psso (What, Milly?!...Oh, you don't like it when others speak a language you don't understand in your presence? Pobre cita!)

I got the second sock completely done; perfectly grafted for a seamless toe, ends woven in, put a fork in it, it was d.o.n.e.

Oh, wait...

Since the intended recipient does not have a hobbit foot paired with a giant foot, I guess I'll be buying another skein to make a mate for each. I made a valiant effort to put both on my feet, and while the smaller sock stretched to fit, it would make a pretty lame gift. A former practitioner in the church of 'good enough'. I've learned that it's sometimes just not, well, good enough. (This is also the reason I'll be frogging the yoke portion of the sweater I'd started after I learned to do a provisional cast-on and make a seamless back.) Becoming faster at knitting has opened my world to the possibilities, and it's also made me a little more fastidious about the appearance of my finished product.

*Note to self: You have a tape measure within arm's reach for a reason.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Home is Where Your Bed Is

After two weeks of being away from what we've created as 'home', slipping into the cool cold sheets of our humble queen bed last night was an emotional sigh. Flying into TF Green to multiple inches of snow on the ground, snow in the Jetway and blasts of cold air past the sliding doors made entering our apartment that was left, literally, ten times warmer than the 6 degree air outside feel a little heavenly.

Thank Jesus that H and C saw fit to reward me with the flip-side of the time-zone difference and we all slept in a little today. All three of us were in the bed long after J left for work, and I didn't feel one bit guilty. For whatever reason, C took an extraordinarily long nap today and they both went to bed at their normal (EST) time.

I bought a "My Heart is In Oregon" sticker at New Seasons that will ride proudly as the lone adornment on our car. I have to say that it feels good to be back in the space that holds our new friends and our own warm, cozy, fit just to our bodies (and our family) bed.