Thursday, May 29, 2008
At least Karly didn't post photos - and you KNOW she's got 'em if Cleatus liked it that much.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Then last year we ended up buying Liza the stupid Calico Critters mouse family in hopes that she might actually want to play with a dollhouse if it contained animals instead of people. Oops.
Liza has shown minimal interest in the mice - when we first got them she liked to carry them around, and she loved rending the clothes into hunks in an effort to remove them, but that's about the extent of their play value for a barely-three-year-old.
When I was at the resale shop yesterday and I looked behind the counter and they had not one, not two, but all three sets of Calico Critters wedding stuff, I was unable to resist. Because, you see, Liza is going to be a flower girl in July, and I figure all the play-acting I can jam in between now and then increases the likelihood that she'll actually make it down the aisle without being velcroed to me. And the stuff was ridiculously cheap - I think I paid $12 for all three sets, which is less than half the retail price of just the wedding car. Score!
Liza was all about carrying around the bride and groom, which have predictably been named Susan and Jeff. She insisted on hearing wedding stories in the car, and she wanted to unpack every last little piece as soon as we got home from dropping my MIL off at the airport.
That took a while, because somewhere in Japan there is an extremely detail-oriented designer who gets off on making ridiculously meticulous sets of stuff to go with these dolls. The bride and groom are like 3" tall, and yet the wedding luncheon set comes complete with a dozen appetizers, each of which is approximately 1/8" square. Lord, how I wish I was kidding about that.
The best is the ice bucket, which includes a removable clear plastic "ice" cube that is molded to fit around the removable bottle of sparkling cider. Yah - like the 3-yr-old is really going to have a use for that. I, however, have been getting those mice drunker than Homer Simpson at happy hour, and boy, is that fun!
For now the luncheon set is packed away because I can't handle the thought of all those tiny pieces getting lost in the first day and a half of play, and Liza was just getting uber-frustrated with the fact that everything fell over whenever she touched anything. One of us was going to lose it if we had to stand those sparkling cider flutes up again ... trust me, we'll both be happier if those disappear for a few months. Or I may investigate the option of "securing" the tinier pieces, which is what some of the eBay sellers seem to have done. Where's that Gorilla Glue?
In the meantime, though, we'll be running "Susan" and "Jeff" up and down the aisles, right behind the little mouse flower girls dropping minute plastic flower petals on the tiny little carpet (not kidding) while the mouse preacher signs the wedding certificate with the quill pen the anal Japanese guy so thoughtfully included.
Sometime between now and July I just have to explain to Liza why Jeff won't be wearing a baby blue satin tux at the real wedding, unlike his kitty counterpart ... or maybe I'll just rent him one. That might be easier.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Just look at the fine craftsmanship! You'd never know that my Stonemason's Motto is "Looks level enough to me."
And while I was doing all this, Jason was sitting on the couch eating bonbons. Oh, no, wait - he was down in the basement, vacuuming up mouse poop and fixing holes in the foundation and adding insulation to the tops of the walls, all in a space that required him to bend over backwards and reach blindly into the rafters while standing on top of the clothes dryer. I'm not sure whose job sucked worse ... okay, it was his, mainly because mine was voluntary, and his actually needed to be done (and involved fiberglass insulation, expanding foam that's now covering his forearms and hands, and wearing a respirator).
Why did it have to be done? Because last week we finally found the mouse that's been pooping on the dryer ... or rather, Bella found the mouse and proceeded to kill it and leave the still-warm corpse outside the door to the guest bedroom so my Sainted MIL almost stepped on it when she got up to pee. And she didn't even scream - see, she is a saint.
Luckily, we both managed to get the worst parts of our projects done today, so we can finish up the last bits over the next week or so, as weather and level of medication permit. In the meantime - K's mom and/or K's brother, what the hell is this?
They're on the left of the main photos - about 2' tall with downward-facing flowers at the top, lobed leaves at ground level (foliage looks kinda like clover, kinda like coral bells). Blooms nowish, won't die even when Round-Uped twice last summer. I inherited four of them, and I'd like to know what to call them since they seem to want to stay.
And how am I feeling tonight? The only quote I can come up with is from the Jerky Boys (watch starting around 3:55 on the timeline): "My ass is killin' me." I have GOT to learn to shovel with my other leg, too.
You may remember that last fall we took the Bermuda Tree Triangle of (Lawn Mowing) Doom and turned it into the site for Liza's plastic castle? Well, part of the reason it's there is because when she outgrows the castle, I've got a date with a large shovel and a gross of hostas that are going into that same location. In the meantime, the castle and all the foot traffic do a great job of killing off the grass and weeds in preparation for the garden.
We've got even less lawn to mow this year, and the castle has a new neighbor ...
I got all motivated and actually prepped the ground underneath the sandbox so that when we're ready to plant in a few years, the soil will look more like soil and less like PlayDoh than the surrounding area. Hopefully. And any time Liza throws sand outside the box, it's just helping to improve the surrounding soil.
Poor Bessie has been sitting in a pile on our deck for a year. I bet she's glad to be back in action!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Thai Chicken Wraps, from the Better Homes and Gardens Big Book of 30-Minute Dinners - kid-tested, husband-approved. And yes, if you push it you can actually have these done in 30 minutes, especially if you don't have a 3-year-old "helping."
In other cooking news, yesterday I tried a new variation of my mother's standard banana bread recipe, and boy, did it work well. The original recipe specifies to cook the batter in a small loaf pan, but usually by the time the center is cooked, the outside has gotten dark brown and borders on crusty. It's unfortunate - I'm forced to nibble around the outside edge of each slice first so that the last taste in my mouth is the yummy center.
Yesterday I tried cooking it in a 8x8" Pyrex pan, and it was SOOOOOOO much better. The whole thing cooked in about 45 minutes, it's a nice light brown, and there's none of that weird bitter chemical almost burnt taste to the outside. Liza actually prefers the outside part to the inside, nibbling off the top and sides and leaving the rest in a forlorn little pile of banana-y goodness that I'd totally devour if it wasn't covered in kid spit.
So here's the recipe:
Bohl* Babes' Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco
3 whole bananas, mashed (the older and mushier, the better)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix ingredients in order in an electric mixer. Bake in a greased, floured loaf pan for 50 minutes (or a greased, floured 8x8" pan for about 45 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then release from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Store in airtight container or plastic bag.
*Bohl is my maternal grandmother's maiden name, and it's how I sometimes refer to the women on my mom's side of the family. Grandma is one of 10 or 11 kids, so there are plenty of Bohl ladies around, even if very few of us have "Bohl" in our actual names ... and we're all stunningly beautiful, of course. They're the family I visit when we go to reunions.
Edited to add: tried another recipe from the BHG cookbook tonight. I wasn't crazy about the chicken, but the veggies and sauce were nice, and they would make a great side dish on their own. Check it out: Thyme Chicken Marsala.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I scrambled to save as many as I could, pitching the half-bathmat-digested ones and any that landed in the cesspool behind the toilet. The rest, however, I carefully picked up and dusted off, placing them back in the bottle and closing the lid tightly. I'm going to be inspecting my pills each night for pubes, cat hair, and that ubiquitous bathroom dust made from toilet paper lint. Gonna be a looong two months until the new (hopefully unsoiled by bathroom skeeze) bottle of Prozac gets here.
Guess I'd better go do another sweep to make sure I'm not going to have a drugged-out kid tomorrow ... then again .... hmmm ...
Nah. Better not chance it, especially with my mother-in-law due for a visit later this week. That would be a fun conversation ... "What fun things would you like to do in Cleveland? I know! Let's go visit Liza in the hospital! I think they should be done pumping her stomach by now!"
Not a bad way to stretch 1 lb of pork to feed four people, especially if you serve it with rice and the green beans I've raved about before.
You can do most of the prep in advance - I put the seasoning on the pork at least an hour before I cooked it, and the finished skewers sat around for half an hour or so while the rice got started cooking. Didn't seem to hurt anything, and it was nice to have dinner that only required 6 minutes of cooking at dinnertime.
My only note on this recipe is to try to get the pork strips as even in thickness as you can so there aren't thinner ones to dry out while you try to get the thicker ones done.
I am inordinately proud of the fact that she seems to have bypassed the "arms and legs coming out the sides of the head" phase of artistic development and skipped straight to "Ronald McDonald Shoe Drawing."
And she's got the eccentric artist routine down, as she claims this is a picture of her sister. You know, the one that doesn't exist. Sorta like her new friends, "Peepah, Sahmah, Glinda and Elphaba," who are inexplicably visible only to Liza. The last two arose from her having listened to the Wicked soundtrack about 100 too many times, but I have no idea where she got the first two. I do know, however, that Peepah has black hair and is a girl (most of the time), and Sahmah started out as what Peepah was calling me, but today he/she apparently is a separate person.
On Friday morning she had a 30-minute play session with Peepah and her stuffed animals, all before she got out of bed for the first time. Fine with me - I'm happy to sit there and eavesdrop via the baby monitor ... it's a lot easier than trying to deal with Ms. Shiny Happy Person on four hours of sleep. So Peepah is welcome to come visit anytime she wants, especially around 7am.
Friday, May 16, 2008
She's been only lukewarm about skating up until this point, not really digging the ice skating videos I found on YouTube and only managing a brief totter out onto the ice when we tried her on skates a few weeks ago. She's not anti-skating, she's just not very pro-skating, either. If she's really not interested in it, I'm not going to push it, but I'm still not convinced she actually understands what's going on. I figured the ice show would be a good way to pump up her interest a little, what with all the fancy costumes, ice dancing, and tiny kids on skates.
The only glitch in the plan was that the show started at 8pm, which is Liza's bedtime. I figured that if she napped today, it probably wouldn't be too horrendous of an ordeal. Then she didn't nap, and after two hours of trying to convince her to go down and rest, we finally agreed that she could still go to the ice show, as long as she was completely ready for bed (and in pajamas) before we went. Jason decided to skip the $12 admission fee (which he figured was going to be a waste for the 5 minutes she would last before either melting down or falling asleep) and stayed home, convinced I'd be dragging home a sleeping wreck of a child fairly soon.
Nope. She loved it. She loved the lights, the music, the people in the audience - even the smelly dreadlocked person sitting next to us in the stands. She loved the tiny kids showing off their first skating skills, the big kids doing synchronized stuff, the solo skater "in the pink dress!" - pretty much everybody. All of the routines were short - maybe 2-5 minutes long? - which was about the attention span of a 3-year-old at 8:30, so it was perfect. She sat on my lap the whole time, bouncing in time with the music, clapping when everyone else did. She sang along with the ABC song the tiny kids** skated to, and I thought she was going to levitate straight out of the stands when she recognized the music from the Nutcracker. And the look on her face when she recognized a They Might Be Giants song from her YouTube favorites was priceless. We stayed until intermission, then made a graceful exit - we didn't even step on anyone on the way down the bleachers!
Of course, on the way out we had to stop by the rec center swimming pool, where the Friday night open swim was going on, and Liza was all in favor of jumping in, pajamas and all. We picked up some flyers in the lobby for the summer class schedule, and Liza announced that she wanted to learn to swim underwater this summer. We talked about taking ice skating lessons, or dance lessons, and she said she wanted to take swim lessons. I mentioned that I had read about another girl her age who was taking soccer lessons, and she allowed as how she needed to take swim lessons AND soccer lessons this summer. Guess I've got some soccer research to do here before all the classes are full, huh?
** 3-year-olds in Shirley Temple dresses (or sparkly tuxedos) and ice skates? Gah, that right there is enough to make even the crustiest old maid want a kid.
Glitter glue prints. Yay.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This is what happens when we live primarily off of leftovers for two or three weeks. Any time I can see both sides, the back, and the bottom of my freezer, it's a sign I need to haul out the soup pot and start cooking in bulk. Double recipe of Tomato Gorgonzola Soup, anyone?
I'll be covering the whole quilt from start to finish - the only out-of-class work will be the initial cutting and maybe some of the hand-gathering on the yo-yos. It should be a lot of fun, and the quilts should be showstoppers when we're done.
Liz is selling kits for the project in two different color ways - one lime/fuschia like my sample, the other a more muted one based on the red/gold colorway for the yo-yos. Kits are available either as part of the class, or separately if you don't feel like being social while you work on the project. I understand. Just remember, though - where I go, chocolate follows, so you might want to think about that class after all :)
Anyhow, if you're in the area and interested, I'll be teaching the 2-session class on June 22 and June 29 from 1-3pm each day. Contact Birds of a Feather at 440-934-2374 to register or to order a kit.
Hope to see you there!
PS - My butt isn't really this big - it's just a bad angle. Right. That's the only explanation.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Anyway, at some point I started doing crosswords and Sudoku puzzles when I was pinned down on the couch by a sleeping kid who would wake up screaming if I made any attempt to move her into a crib, and it began to annoy me that I couldn't continue to work on them at 2am while nursing. Eventually I managed to convince Jason to read the crossword clues out loud while he sat beside me in bed, giving me a chance to answer before he wrote anything in.
My ability to do the not-terribly-difficult crosswords without seeing the grid almost made up for Jason's lightning speed on Sudoku puzzles, which to me are only one step better than those annoying logic problems I hated in math class. The fact that I was doing them at all was a sign of my desperation at the time.
I'd do pretty good on the easy and moderate ones, but anything more than about two stars had me hitting a wall pretty early on, with three possibilities for each of several boxes and no visible way to omit any of them. It used to really piss me off that I'd be sitting there at the table, sleeping kid in one hand, sandwich and pencil in the other, slaving away at the puzzle, and Jason would have solved the bugger upside down from across the table. Showoff.
But I've gotten him back now. He's been buying the Sunday paper solely for the crossword puzzles, and while the local puzzle usually isn't much of a challenge, the NY Times puzzle is a beast, full of all the crap we both hate about crosswords. Usually he gets first crack at the puzzle, then he leaves it laying around on the dining room table and we alternately curse it and chip away at it throughout the rest of the week.
But I just finished Sunday's Times puzzle, the one he only had about 1/4 full when he went to bed last night, and which he added a few answers to this morning. And I only had to peek at like two answers to do it. Shazam!
Monday, May 12, 2008
And while watching over her shoulder when I'm supposed to be editing a new pattern, I just learned how a water faucet works, with interior diagrams and everything. Thanks, Sesame Street - that was cool. Doesn't help me figure out how to get our shower to stop leaking without busting out the whole wall, but it was informative just the same.
And did I mention, No Elmo? NO ELMO! THANK YOU JEEBUS, NO ELMO!!!!!!!!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
... or the fact that Jason found a card that was both hilarious and appropriate.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Then yesterday I got the idea to just convert all of it into barbecue, thus using up the pork AND the leftover hamburger buns from last weekend. It was quick, easy, and darn tasty.
Basically, I thawed the frozen blocks of pork in gravy in the microwave for a few minutes to loosen them from the plastic containers and pry the slices apart. I used kitchen shears to cut the slices into bite-sized chunks, and I dumped the pork and the gravy into a skillet. I heated it to a simmer, then added enough ketchup to turn the sauce red enough that it looked like barbecue sauce (there's a specific measurement for you!), a couple glugs of apple cider vinegar, and a few tablespoons of stadium mustard. I think I threw in some salt, too, just for good measure, but the rest of the seasonings were already in the gravy. Tasted, adjusted seasonings, threw it on toasted hamburger buns with a slice of cheddar cheese on top - done.
It was really good - good enough that we both had seconds, and eating the leftovers will be more of an "I get to" rather than "I have to." Score!
"There was a dragon coming into my room, so I had to put on my special flip-flops so I wouldn't get hit by a dinosaur clomp."
Makes perfect sense to me - how about you?
... if that kid drops huge pieces of stupendously awesome fudgy brownie on my not-clean-enough-for-the-three-second-rule floor one more time, I'm going to backhand her clean over the dining room table. In this house there are some things you DO NOT WASTE - biscuits, brownies, and bacon being chief among them.
From now on, learning be damned - I HOLD THE BROWNIES.
Oh, and the brownie recipe can be found here, courtesy of Fine Cooking and Cindy Mitchell. It was yet another recipe that's been in my "to be tried" folder for years, and when Liza demanded at 7:30am that we had to bake "cookies," this was the only recipe for which I had all the ingredients. Happy accident, that.
I like this recipe - everything gets mixed in the top of the double boiler you use to melt the chocolate, so there's minimal cleanup. And the old "grease the pan and parchment paper the bottom" trick worked like a charm - the whole brownie flipped right out onto the rack when commanded to in a stern voice. Yummmm - 8" square of brownie goodness ... and six more hours until there's anyone here to prevent me from eating the whole thing myself - bwahahahahahaha!
Seriously, though, if you like your brownies dense and fudgy, these are really nice, if a bit greasy - I'm interested to see if that diminishes when they're stored overnight, but fat chance of that happening :) For the rest of you brownie lightweights, I'll report back on the "cakey" and "chewy" variations once I get more chocolate and eggs.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
L - "Mommy, move! Move your head so I can fall in love!"
me - "Huh?"
L - "Move over so I can fall in love with you!"
me - "Um, are you sure you know what 'fall in love' means?"
L - "Yeah. I'm falling ..." (slides off the couch cushion onto the seat next to me) "... in love!"
me - "'Falling in love' is when two people love each other so much, they want to live together forever."
L - "Oh." (climbs back on cushions) "But I want to live with you forever, so I'm falling in love with you!" (slides off cushion again)
Yeah, okay, there's just no way to recover from the cuteness of that, is there?
My grocery store shopper's club keeps track of your purchases, and every $50 you spend gets you $0.10 off per gallon of gas at their stations. Given how expensive groceries are now, it doesn't take much to whack quite a bit off the price of a fill-up ... especially since the gift cards count as double points toward my gas discount. So $100 = $0.80 off per gallon, which if I wait until I'm on fumes and almost fill my gas tank translates to as much as $12.
And I paid for the cards with a credit card that gives me cash back on my purchases ... where I earn twice as much for grocery purchases. That means I earned about $2 from the credit card company.
And when I made my purchases today, anything in excess of the amount of cards I purchased went onto the same credit card, which is the one linked to my UPromise account. I earn UPromise money at Bed Bath and Beyond for any purchases made with that credit card, so that's another $1 or so. And I get the cash back on the credit card purchase, too, which is another $1 or so.
So basically it boils down to this: Buying the gift cards at the grocery instead of just paying with the credit card at the store earned me up to an extra $13, in addition to the $3 I would have earned if I just used the credit card linked to the UPromise account. Not too shabby, considering I was at the grocery store anyway, and I was going to buy the same stuff at the same stores whether I had gift cards or not.
Now, I know why the companies offer their cards for sale at the grocery. They're hoping that if you spend $25 on a gift card from Bath and Body Works, and your total comes to $22, you'll throw in an extra purchase so you won't have to carry around a piece of plastic that only has $3 left on it. If you buy one extra thing in addition to what you would have bought if you weren't using the gift card, they're making money off of you. But if you have the willpower (and purse space) to walk away from the extra purchases, gift cards that earn you extra grocery store credit can be a very deal.
Now I plan to go clean the store out of Home Depot cards so I can buy a new sink for our bathroom ... bwahahahahahahaha!
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Then, they ate the cake.
Finally, they took a nap and the big kids got to play.
More about the cake here.
More about the gaming here.
For the real Liza fans:
Liza encounters her bounce house for the first time:
Liza blows out the candles - three in one blow:
Thursday, May 01, 2008
About 3/4 of the way to the corner Liza's pace really slacked off, and the rest of the trip was one extended dandelion picking session. I tried to convince her to turn around and head home, but she's nothing if not literal. Tell her you're going to race to the stop sign, and she's going to the stop sign, by jiminy.
My entertainment while she did her dandelion hunt? Attempting to absorb every bit of crabapple blossom fragrance from the one tree that bloomed a few days ahead of the rest.