Saturday, October 31, 2009

Home, Home on the Range

This week I made yet another cross-country flight with both kids; I feel a lot older and a little wiser. About two days before our trip, I realized that a big part of my dread was the prospect of holding ChuckRoast on my lap for the duration. A quick phone-call and courtesy call-back after my wait time at 800-IFLYSWA resulted in the purchase of an infant fare ticket, and a large dose of relief.

I somehow managed not to spend a single penny at the airport, but I did have to endure the annoyance of the baggage swab which was far more unpleasant than the full body pat-down. Something in my small soft-sided Coleman cooler, in which I'd packed a plethora of flight and kid-friendly foods still in their factory seal, was showing as being toxic per their swabs.

Well, that's not good.

So, in Chicago on our layover, after we ate the majority of the contents and I was able to condense down to my one backpack, I ditched the cooler. Not only was it extra baggage, something about it made them think I was a terrorist. With Horizon Organic milk boxes. And cereal bars. And string cheese.

Plane boarded and day of travel begun, I busted out the portable DVD player that Alex had gently, and multiple times, suggested I may want to borrow. I'd survived a number of cross-country flights without an extra piece of baggage, so I'd be fine on one more, right? Once again, my faithful friend was correct and the day before I left I called to ask if the offer was still on the table.

A viewing of The Wild between Providence and Chicago, and H was ready for leg #2, as mama played the game of Sally the Sherpa to get from one gate to the next with H's back-pack, my back-pack and a small bag of diapers slung across the handles of the stroller in which both kids were blissfully secured, a car seat over one arm and a smile on my face.

I did the dance down the aisle with a car seat held as high as I could, Charlie in the sling, and Henry trailing faithfully behind under penalty of death if he touched the controls that make the jetway separate from the plane; yet another hazard in having a child whose hero is Curious would be less give-you-a-captain's-hat-and-let-you-sit-in-the-cockpit and more mommy-gets-arrested-for-suspicion-of-terrorist-activity. Especially in light of the cooler debacle.

I smiled wryly at one passenger as he was holding his head as far to the side as possible so as not the be concussed by the car seat and I quipped 'As if him crying won't be enough to make you hate me, I could give you a skull fracture as well!' Luckily he laughed.

Each time one of my snotty kids coughed or sniffled, I could see passengers giving me sideways glances...I should have put snouts on them.

I love flying Southwest, but wish they would have a direct flight. Alas, part of the lot of flying on the airline that has heart, is a lot of up and down. Being a master planner, I changed Charlie's diaper in my lap just prior to the last trash collection as we were getting ready to descend in Salt Lake, where we'd have to sit on the plane and wait for the connecting passengers to board.

Just as we were given the fasten seat belts warning due to turbulence, the most foul smell filled the air. Awesome. So glad you didn't do that before I changed your diaper. Not quite brave enough to delve into that with him on my lap, I had to wait...and wait....and wait until we landed.

Back in the air again for our one-hour romp to Boise, we were almost home-free. H had fallen asleep for almost three hours on the prior flight, dosing off during take-off while reading the brochure for the 737. Charlie had yet to sleep a wink.

After arriving safely we walked to my sister's car and I noticed a large box strapped to the top of her Explorer. What. Is. That?! Oh, just a tub surround for a friend...because Sherpas run in the family.

Kids fed and car gassed we were in the home stretch; a three-hour car ride to my parent's house in rural Eastern Oregon. As I took in the slush and the grey, the sage and the open space surrounded by mountains, it came to me again how much I love my home.

About half-way there, we realized there was a slight thumping noise from the top of the car and glanced to see if the other had heard it too. After a van passed us motioning to the top of the car, we decided to pull over and investigate. Sure enough, the slush and wind had ripped off the front corner of the box.

Small pieces that could fly out should the whole box become compromised were removed and the security of the tie-downs double-checked and we were back on the road.

As we pulled up to my parents' house, Charlie was still wide-eyed and promptly handed me separation papers announcing his intent to divorce his car-seat. It was only as I sat him down on the plush carpet and he stumbled his first few steps that I realized...he had not taken a single step since 4am EST...and it was 5 at my parents'. A full 16 hours in which he hadn't been out of a seated position, other than to bounce on my lap in the plane. Ahh...a shining example of motherhood am I. In my defense, we had just enough time in Chicago to eat, change a diaper, go potty and head to the gate as they were able to leave ahead of schedule.

Go ahead Char, you are now free to roam about the country.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lacy Lurvis Hat; Baby Alpaca/Silk blend (blue) and cotton (green)...leftovers from the ruff neck warmer I made earlier.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Black-Eyed Peas

This afternoon, I laid down on the couch in the delusional gesture of taking a nap in the living room while J read a book, oblivious to the kids re-enacting the storming of Normandy. Why I didn't go into the bedroom? Aparrently, I didn't really want to sleep.

It all started out innocently enough; H in a time-out for repeatedly doing what he was asked not to, and Charlie meandering around the living room looking for something else to bash into so that he could be told 'No!', laugh at me, be told 'No!' again, comply, and then stand in the middle of the room and start bawling because he doesn't like being told 'No!'. The fabric of our lives.

I closed my eyes for a second and asked J that if, by miracle or stroke of luck, sleep should find it's way into my body, that I be awoken by four so that I could make dinner before escaping to the theatre with friends.

Not five seconds later I heard Charlie toddle over. He's been big on giving kisses lately, such a sweet, sweet boy is he, so I kept my face slack and in peaceful repose only to be rewarded with SMACK! Yep, shattering smack of the hard plastic crocodile xylophone (not a small toy, mind you) to my cheek bone and eye socket. Nothing feels better on a Sunday afternoon.

About five minutes later, I was treated to a crack along my temporal lobe with a sippy cup. Showing mama some lovin', eh? Parenting is most definitely its own reward.

But at least I didn't actually get a black eye...unlike my senior citizen mother who fell and hit her head a couple of weeks ago on the corner of a pressure cooker box and got a shiner. Or my dad, who two days later tripped over the wheel barrel that my mom moved 'out of the way' as he was hauling her faux wishing well (circa 1985) on a handtruck so that it would be in a more asthetically pleasing area of the lawn. In case you're wondering if he's alright, I can't be sure, I could barely make out the story through my mother's hysterical laughter in recounting the tale to me. And they wonder where I get it.

Speaking of gnarly bruises...Whip It (with Juno's Ellen Page) was a fun movie and had a great ensemble cast, including Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Eve and Juliette Lewis. The coach, Lazer, is the 'other' Wilson brother, Andrew (who sounds eerily like Owen, which is how we figured he must be a Wilson even before the credits rolled). And, triple bonus, I finally found out the object of roller derby.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ruff Neck Revisited

This is the scarf we're making for the knitting sub-group of my moms' club. Cast-on Sunday night, you can see it's a pretty quick knit. I'll post again when it's completed...probably tonight!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Would You Like Some Cheese With That?

Why yes, yes I would. Last night, my girlfriends and I went to a new-ish restaurant in Worcester, The Citizen. The tagline wine+cheese+chocolate says it all. If you're from the area, it's the same restaurant group that owns Bocado, Mezcal and The Jewelbox (the former Block5 location); the expected service and ambiance delivered in full, with attention to detail such as hooks under the bar for hanging your purse, and loads of pillows on the cushy banquette.

The menu is simple, with a variety of soft, semi-firm, hard and bleu cheeses that are served in groups of 1-4 (a platter of 4 cheese varieties is $15), which are accompanied by fig paste, french baguette and honeycomb. I don't know that I've ever had fresh honeycomb, but can I just say that it was amazing on the cheese? I can imagine it would have tasted fantastic on the local chevre as well, but I was too busy savoring that on its own.

Incidentally, earlier that day on NPR they were talking about bee-keepers in Paris who'd been granted the opportunity to move hives into unused (or rarely used) city parks, rooftop gardens and public gardens. The hives are thriving there as the pesticide levels are much lower in the city. The request to move the hives in was granted as they are making an effort to 'reintroduce wildlife to the city'. The honey is then harvested and sold at local farmers' markets. It was just interesting because as I was listening, I was imagining a proposition to introduce bees into city parks in the US; I don't think that would fly. (pun intended)

If you choose, there are also a few pressed sandwiches and salads/savories, but we stuck to the basics.

The six of us shared 8 varieties of cheese (about 1 oz per variety) and two meats. I had a fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir, Next, by King Estate out of Eugene (which, not surprisingly practices organic and sustainable farming methods) followed by my own little french press of coffee, enjoyed with a dark chocolate trifle served in a martini glass. We shared a selection of 4 different milk and dark chocolates ranging in cocoa percentages (also about 1 oz per selection).

When you're thinking about 8 ounces of cheese between six people, it doesn't seem like it would be a lot, but it was plenty. I felt really satisfied when we had finished that course, and we were given ample time to visit between the cheese and chocolates.

We spent four hours, eating, talking and drinking. And I left feeling full, fat and happy, spending less than $40 each including gratuity. A fun, very affordable night out with the girls that I would recommend to anyone. Maybe this will be enough to lure some of my left-coasters out for a girlfriend weekend?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Boys' Sturdy Winter Socks

I had ordered some Swish (superwash merino) from KnitPicks awhile ago, intending to make a hat and mittens set for H at the same time I was making the Playground Mittens for Alex's kids. Then one project led to another and the wool sat in it's lonely bin. Each time I made a new pair of socks, H asked if they were for him...I figured it was finally time to make good on my promise to him so he didn't end up like the shoemaker whose children went barefoot. Last night, while watching Grey's Anatomy I knocked out the first sock in his pair. Who knew a preschooler's sock worked in worsted weight yarn would go so quickly?! The second sock, as any good sock-maker knows to do, is cast on and started already so that it gets done as quickly as the first. You, too, can make these socks! I based it on this pattern in Ravelry (find me under SallyHP79)

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Leather and Lace

I've traditionally been known as what could conservatively be called 'the most impatient person in the world'. I like things to be done and I'm a big fan of instant gratification. This has often resulted in crappy hair-cuts, acrylic nails that looked like I had jelly beans affixed to my nailbeds and a scrapbook full of slapped together pages.

I knew the next way to challenge myself in knitting was to try a lace project. I found the free pattern for this Georgian Lace Cap on KnitPicks, and used some Cotton-Ease yarn that I already had in my stash. One skein is enough to do two hats.

My first attempt, I was feeling pretty cocky as I worked the first couple rounds, but it was my first time using a chart and let's just say that about three rounds into the pattern, things didn't look so hot. So, I ripped it out.

Second attempt gave me three repeats of the 8 row pattern, so when I ripped out those 28 rows (including the four stockinette rows) it was a little more painful. I put the needles and yarn on my bookcase and glowered at them in the corner for the rest of the evening.

My third attempt, I successfully completed my first repeat and realized what my error had been before...after that, I took the hat to bookclub with me and was able to discuss the book and complete most of the hat, which I finished at home. Fairly instant gratification and a more complex looking pattern; makes my little knitty heart warm.

I think I have a new appreciation for charts. It allowed me to see what was supposed to be emerging as I knit so that after a couple of repeats (when they're done correctly, unlike my first two tries) you start to automatically sense when yarn-overs and decreases are going to happen so that you can knit a lace pattern and do something else at the same time.

Speaking of double-duty, or double fisting, I just bought the book Pints and Purls: Portable Projects for the Social Knitter and really like a lot of the patterns. Along with great full-color photos, there are ideas for fun knitting nights and drink suggestions that will result in less tears when spilled (aka Gin and Tonic vs. Red Wine when knitting with a lovely creamy silk yarn).

Next on the needles is the Ruff Neck Warmer from the book, which I'm knitting in an alpaca/silk blend that is the most beautiful shade of blue I've seen in a long time (kenai). A fun and simple gift that will be going to someone who the color may "matcher" their eyes.

For a more whimsical project, I recently knit this tooth-fairy pillow for a customer and received responses from friends and H that it looked like everything from a bunny to a fat person in long-john's with the flap on the butt. You be the judge of little Mervin the Molar.

I also finally mastered the magic loop for socks, and I don't think there's any turning back. I'm not a huge fan of using two circulars because I felt like I spent all my time sliding yard across the cables, but it's much less so with just the one in magic loop.

And, because I am instant-gratification-sometimes-a-little-manic-girl...these were all created in the last two weeks. And there you have it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shine On, Happy Family!

I've had the opportunity to try an awesome baby/toddler food line, HappyBaby, at a couple of venues, and was really excited to see that they are currently one of three finalists out of over 4,000 entries in the American Express/NBC Shine a Light contest to win $100,000 in grant money and marketing support. They were nominated for being a business that has shown dedication to customer service, innovation and a commitment to improving their local and global community.

When we were at Baby Loves Disco in Boston, they (along with Stonyfield Farms and some others) provided snacks and samples. Following my visit there, I'd offered to post about them because Charlie loved the food. In addition to great microwave-able meals like Mac and Cheese with veggies snuck in, they had puffs that were in the same size package as the Gerber puffs, but their container held about 40% more and had a LOT less sugar. Plus, from the couple I snuck, they're pretty tasty! They come in Banana, Apple and Greens. Julie at HappyFamily was happy to send me a couple of containers to try, as they're not yet widely available in our area. I wasn't able to try a lot of the other entrees because the stores right around me weren't carrying them yet.

One of the reasons I'm asking that people vote for HappyBaby in the Shine a Light is that the money and support will enable them to place their product in a lot more venues, letting babies across the nation in on the secret: baby food doesn't have to taste bland and can be really good and good for you.

It only takes a moment to vote, and you have to register your information but I'm thinking that's because they don't want one person coming back to vote multiple times. Please take the time to support a company that is working hard to support and feed families in a positive and socially responsible way. You have until October 16th, but if you're anything like'd be better to click over right now before you put it off until 'tomorrow' which will end up being October 17th before you know it!

Here's what they have to say for themselves:

HAPPYBABY organic baby foods launched on Mother’s Day 2006 with 5 products in 5 small NYC stores. The business is the brainchild of a social entrepreneur who wanted to make a difference using business, support sustainable agriculture, provide our children with the best start to instill eating habits for a healthy happy life, and simultaneously provid basic nutritional needs for less fortunate children simply trying to survive. Today, the innovative business has 26 products, always organic, formulated with leading pediatricians and nutritionists for optimal nutrition using the best ingredients nature offers, and can be found in over 5,000 stores nationwide with a loyal following.

The company’s ability to innovate is responsible for its great success. They care. HAPPYBABY pioneered a new movement in baby food with a line of sustainable organic home-style meals as an alternative to the processed jarred foods that had not been improved since the 1930’s. They were the first organic baby food to incorporate DHA, the essential fatty acid needed for brain development and used a sustainable vegetarian source. HAPPYBELLIES cereal was the first baby food to use probiotics which defend against the development of food allergies, asthma, and eczema while supporting digestive wellness. Their HAPPYPUFFS were the first organic puffed snack for baby as a low sugar alternative to the artificial products on the market. HAPPYMELTS are the first product to combine pre and probiotics in a truly healthy yogurt snack for tots. Their HAPPYBITES line encourages kids to eat their veggies by sneaking them into familiar flavors. Most recently, the company is the first to use the supergrain, Salba, the planet’s most nutritious grain.

HAPPYBABY has created a tight-knit community of its own with its Community Marketing Specialist Program whose actions positively impact local communities nationwide. These 50 moms support the mission to give babies the very best and work to educate parents about why organic is important for their baby’s delicate immune system, demonstrate how to make fresh foods, and simply get the word out. The global community is impacted in a truly unique way by the company’s very special partnership with the heroic nonprofit, Project Peanut Butter, that works to feed a starving child in Africa for an entire day based on each unit sold by HAPPYBABY!

Customer relationships are paramount to a company that exists to make babies and parents happy. The founding team personally responds to all questions, directs medically related questions to its experts, and really listens to the feedback and suggestions from parents in order to continuously improve. They further believe that being a resource for education and wellness is their duty.

HAPPYBABY ‘s philosophy is highlighted in their new book, HAPPYBABY co-authored by revered pediatrician Dr Sears, provides parents with affordable green parenting options to raise their own healthy happy babies in an environmentally friendly way.