Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just Can't Let This One Go

I don't often get my panties in a bunch over trivial matters, but this one I just can't leave alone. Have you seen the new round of Zyrtec commercials? If you haven't, let me enlighten you: attractive woman talking about allergies...some people have indoor allergies, some have outdoor allergies, and some people, "like me!" she gushes, have BOTH! BTW - I'm guessing all these Zyrtec ads are now about the fact that Zyrtec is now available without a prescription, but I digress. Anyway, she goes on and talks some shop about how it's all wonderful, and then she concludes with the statement that because she can now control both her indoor and outdoor allergies, she's now "Free-er to do what I want". Ummm. Free-er? As in, more free? I write it like free-er, because otherwise it looks like freer, pronounced frear, but you get my point. Is there such a word? How can you be more free? This bothered me for weeks - everytime I saw the ad. So I looked it up. Sure, free-er, or freer is a word, but it's a noun. One who frees. I couldn't find another usage for it, besides just the word free itself, which is an adjective - which, if they meant it that way, wasn't used as an adjective the way she said it.

No, I'm not an English professor, and I don't go around correcting people's grammer, and I'm certainly not a stickler for perfect speech around the house - ain't that right? But c'mon. This got through the writers, the editors, the Zyrtec people, all the people on the set, and at the very end, the chick who actually SAYS it. Nobody questioned this? Nobody questioned whether there's a state of freedom that exists beyond the usual state? You're free. Items at the market are free. If the manager sees this isn't working, nobody is taking these free items, does he hang a new sign to say that they are now FREER?

C'mon Zyrtec. I'm not impressed. But I'll reserve too much judgement, after all, like I said, the English language is complex and I could be completely wrong here, and if I am, feel FREE or FREER to let me know.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mini Maestri

Or would that be "Maestroes"? I have no idea. But it sounds right. ANYWAY. I have my old keyboard lying around to help me out when I get stuck with a piece from choir, or I need to see if my flute is properly tuned....we keep it in our mudroom of all places, and the boys just can't resist it. I'm wondering when the best time to start piano lessons would be for Jonathan? Hmmm, perhaps when we can actually find the time, floor space and funds for a piano?
This past weekend, we were in Pittsburgh. We went up, mainly to just get away: change of pace, change of scenery. Pittsburgh's not that far away - just over 2 hours or so. We visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photos of that venture later) and also went to one of our favorite brew-pubs - the Penn Brewery. German food and awesome micro-brews - an indulgence we started before we were even married that has endured the test of time, geography and children. One of these days, I'm going to start listing the brew-pubs we've been to across this great nation of ours, but that's probably fodder for another whole blog altogether. I'll see.
At any rate, what does it say about family travel when the best behaved traveler, including the parents, winds up being the dog? Bella was an awesome little traveler! She never peeps, she's great in the car, very comfy in the hotels, and she's so patient. We did leave her in the hotel room for about 5 hours on Saturday - when we came back to get her later, we discovered she'd been curled up - probably the whole time - in our suitcase we'd left open. We don't even know how she got up into it, but that's where she was. Not to say that everyone else wasn't well-behaved, but those of you who travel with children know what a challenge it can be sometimes. It is getting better, though. Slowly, very slowly. At least this time we didn't have to take the two of them on a plane - twice in six months in 2007 was enough of that, thank you very much! No, this was a good old-fashioned road trip, and not even a very long one. A few weeks ago we invested in the greatest invention ever - a portable DVD player - and we bought the case that you can use to string it up between the seats or over the back of the front seats. Wonderful. Mark and I actually had a conversation with each other about something other than highway exit numbers, having to go pee-pee-potty, and whether we should be dispensing animal crackers or goldfish. Seriously - for once - the kids did their thing, we did least for PART of the journey! Our next car will definitely have the "entertainment package" - something we opted out of when we bought our first mini-van - oh, hindsight. Where were you?
Anyway - back to the grind now - that's one thing about weekends away - you get back on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning comes way too fast!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cookie Baking Time

It occurred to me that it has been quite a while since I've posted anything foodie. Not that I've stopped cooking or anything - no - we're sticking to our "only eat out 3 times a week" so that still means I have to put 18 meals a week on the table. I've got "cook once, eat twice" down to a science, and sometimes even "cook once, eat three or four times"!
Last night, I got creative. First of all, Jonathan has a cold, so I wasn't going out yesterday. Had plenty of time (did I say that?) to devote to a nice meal. Secondly, it was rainy and grey outside, perfect day to warm up the place with nice smells. And third, I had some goodies in the refrigerator leftover from one of my Mommy play date/lunches that I had to use up or they were going to go to waste. A big package of white mushrooms became stuffed mushrooms with sun-dried tomatoes, bread crumbs and fresh parsley. More of the parsley and mushrooms went into a rendition of chicken marsala - I say a rendition because I didn't have any marsala wine - used chicken broth instead. Made up a big pot of rice pilaf to go with it, and peas on the side. When the mushrooms came out of the oven, I grated pecorino romano on them, called it an "appetizer" with the proper French accent.....and Mark actually liked them! Matthew ate a good amount of peas, a slab of chicken, and a little bowlful of rice (good boy!), and Jonathan ate...well...elbow noodles with butter. Under protest. What can I say. One day at a time.
The pictures above? Taken about a week ago, when we made these cute little cookies. Found in my new Land O' Lakes cookbook that my mom gave to me for my birthday - they're called Holiday Shortbread Squares or something like that. So simple, combine the ingredients, press the dough into an 8x8 that has been lined with plastic wrap, then lift the plastic wrap out and cut the dough into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch cubes, bake and voila! Little bite-sized shortbread with party non-pareil colors in them. Jonathan was a big help - he actually did really well placing the little delicate squares on the trays. Easy recipe - went quickly and didn't make a huge load so we were done in no time.
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 + 1/4 C. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 teaspoons multi-colored non-pareils
Oven to 325, line 8x8 with plastic wrap. Combine butter, sugar and almond extract and cream until fluffy. Mixer to low, throw in flour and salt. Beat until mixed, then stir in non-pareils. Gather up dough into ball, then press evenly into 8x8. Lift plastic wrap from pan, and use sharp knife to cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place them 1/2 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets, bake for 14-16 minutes or until bottoms are just beginning to brown.
Great for the kids to help! They love the colored non-pareils - those are the little round hard things - don't use regular sprinkles - they will melt and be a mess in the oven.
Tonight? Leftovers! With a new batch of rice. And a tossed salad - ran out of peas last night. Bon Appetit!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Jonathan likes his hoodie with the hood up for some reason. I guess in his logic, if something has a hood, you use it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Mom's Life

This is my oven door. This is my oven door after being in the presence of a 4 year old and a one year old. I'm not sure who was responsible for this - I guess if I took some hand measurements, it would more closely match Jonathan (the 4 year old). But they're both perfectly capable of this kind of mess. And many, many others.

See, this is the life us moms lead. You take your time picking out great stuff for your home. You measure, you imagine, you dream. You install, you paint, you measure, you fit, you hang, you measure again, you hang (then, if you live in my house, you measure AGAIN...but I digress...). My whole point is - no matter what you do to get nice stuff and keep it nice, something like, well, a 4 year old and a 1 year old intervene, and all the sudden, your nice stuff isn't so nice anymore.

Last weekend we got so much done. I think I already bored....I mean, BLOGGED about it last week! Well, Jonathan was in and out, helping and not helping, and at one point, he sort of wandered away from us. Wasn't gone for long, and our house isn't right on the road, so after a few minutes, I went looking for him. On the way around to the driveway, I strolled through the patio, and noticed my grill brush was missing. My grill brush - you know, the one that has the really coarse STEEL bristles for cleaning the grill grate before using it every time? I'm thinking...Jonathan/grill brush - deadly combination. So I yell..."JONATHAN? Where's my grill brush?" Small (really cute) voice answers, from the driveway: "I'm using it to clean your car, Mommy!"

DOH! Thank goodness he doesn't have a whole lot of upper body strength! The hood took a few scratches, but my mini-van's silver to begin with, so they're not really noticeable, and not very deep. He was so proud of himself...I couldn't yell at him. Just one more thing going to rack and ruin around here!

Jonathan's under the weather this weekend - a nice chesty cough and fever for a few days. Hopefully it'll blow over in the next couple of days - I hate it when they're sick!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Play Date

This is a rare moment of sanity, captured on film....three boys all playing with the same toy all at once, and SMILING. Doesn't happen often, trust me.
Let me introduce you to Micah. He's the cute little guy in the middle. He's the 4th of 5 boys (so far!) that belong to our good friends Jeff and Judi. Also present at this particular date was Boy #5, Nathan, who is only 9 months and is still too little to be crawling around with these three. Needless to say, Judi likes a break now and then, so at least once a month, we try to get the little ones together for play dates. What, you don't believe me? Okay, I admit it. They're not play dates at all really. They're excuses for the MOMMIES to get together and have rockin' food and great desserts!
Seriously, we do try to have lunch as often as we can, and as often as our little ones allow us. At this last lunch, us moms shared a Rustic Veggie Tart and Chicken Soup with Wild Rice, while the kids had homemade cheese pizza. Then for dessert we had blondies. The time before that, we had Turkey Panini, made with roasted turkey, spinach, roasted red peppers, cheese and pesto. We also had gourmet potato chips and for dessert, chocolate mint brownies.
So you can see, we may call it a play date, but it's really a great chance for us moms to chat, to share recipes, to make some great stuff and to let our kids burn off some energy that's usually directed in our direction!
Anyway, we're looking forward to when it gets warm and stays warm - we're going to hit the trail in the morning, then go for lunch...get a little exercise in while we're at it. Yet another reason for SUMMER to HURRY UP!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Exit Sign Saga

So for Christmas, I found these really cute road signs made out of wood for Jonathan. There were 14 of them to the pack, with signs that were miniatures of real signs - Stop, Yield, Parking, etc... He adores them. Plays with them everyday, makes sure there all there in the morning. Sets them up on the kitchen table and makes "roads." I figured it was only a matter of time before he was going to want more.

Sure enough, about a month ago, he started. "Mommy, how come I don't have any exit signs?" Hmmmmm, what to do. I hit the internet. Hard. Came up with....nada. Let the matter drop. He didn't. "Mommy, can I have some exit signs?" Explain to a 4 year old that THEY don't make something you want.

Then I got to thinking, how hard could they be to make? I called my parents. Grandma suggested all kinds of things - popsicle sticks and green construction paper. Not bad. But his other signs were these cute wooden things. I was thinking he'd probably like something similar. Poppy had a few ideas. He said he'd work on it. I said I would paint them if he could make them. Well, a few days later, we got a package in the mail. Poppy had raided a very old bin of tinker toys that were still down in basement of my childhood home. He made the bases and the posts out of tinker toys, and then cut the little signs by hand, and drilled holes in the bottom.

When they arrived, Jonathan and I had a painting party - then we used white crayon to make the numbers and the arrows. Voila - exit signs.

I keep telling my dad he should go into the toy-making business.

Thanks, Poppy. You made a little boy very, very happy!

Monday, April 14, 2008

With a Name Like That....

Whew - what a weekend. A long weekend, since Mark took Friday off! We got so much done around the yard - scratched ALMOST every project off the list that we generated - hmmmm....let's see, maybe just over a year ago? Now all we have to do is make a NEW list, with all the new projects that either a) created themselves out of the work we did this weekend, or b) popped into our heads as we cleared brush, tore down a dilapidated tree house in our woods, tore out more sod, cleaned the garage, planted grass where we took out stumps last week, made two trips to the dump (with 3/4 ton of crap from our yard and garage!!!) and did some more mulching around the pool and around the gardens. Let's see, anything else? Oh yeah - Mark washed up all my screens so they're ready to go in the windows....
A big thank you to my two little angels, who were very, very cooperative this weekend and allowed us to get so much done! When Matthew wasn't napping, he played contentedly in his play yard. He also got to run around the yard a little - but only under our watchful eyes. Jonathan actually helped us a little, but for the most part, created more work as he soaked himself with the hose and needed a complete outfit change one day, tracked in about a bushel of dirt every time he walked in the house and didn't take off his shoes, made endless requests for drinks and snacks at the most inopportune times....wait, didn't I say he actually helped? Well, yeah, he did, sort of. Let's just say we could do without his brand of help! Mostly he just hung out with us and said cute things.
On a different note, Matthew took a fall last week - and was bleeding like crazy from his mouth. We weren't sure if it was his lip, or a tooth, or what, but it stopped as quickly as it started and he seemed okay, so we didn't investigate it too hard. But a few days later - this would've probably been lunch on Thursday, I looked at him and noticed he had a blob of something in his mouth that didn't quite look like anything we'd eaten...then I realized it was his tongue - oh how gross. His tongue looked like it had a blob of raw hamburger on it...but it wasn't raw hamburger - it was a chunk of his tongue that he probably had gotten caught between his teeth as he fell! Yuck - we could hardly look at it! It wasn't affecting his eating or drinking, though - and although it bled a few more times, it has gotten a lot better and the tissue has really shrunken. My sister told me that type of injury is called an avulsion, and with the tongue there is really nothing you can do except watch it for infection...which we did, and luckily dodged a bullet. But just for fun, and to satisfy my curiousity, I googled "tongue avulsion" - came up with the name of....a rock group.

On that note, I'd better get started on my day. I wonder if any of the members of that group have actually seen, or ever even had a tongue avulsion. Kinda makes you wonder....what's next, Clogged Arteries? Ingrown Toenails? Oh, wait! Let's welcome our headliners this evening, the Infected Absesses! Is that redundant? You get my point.....

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tales From the Petri Dish

Germs, germs everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I was doing well today - keeping up with four little hands, plus two of my own. First stop - the pediatrician's office so Jonathan could have his 4 year well visit. We washed our hands twice there, and my aversion to germs must be rubbing off on Jonathan somehow - he was fussing at Matthew to get away from the toys in the waiting room. "Don't get germs, Matthew!"
After the (extended) doctor's visit, we were off to Jerry's Subs and Pizza, because Jonathan was an angel at the doctor's office, and I told him he could pick where he wanted to eat. He wanted pizza, so off we went. Another round of wipes. Those same 4 little hands, the table, the back of Jonathan's chair, and a good wipedown of Matthew's high chair. Yes, MOM - we're doing good, we're doing good.
Off to pick up the dog at the groomers. On the way, we stopped to say hello to Daddy at his office because he had to leave early this morning and nobody got to say hello. A few minutes of chit-chat in the parking lot, and then we were going to be on our way. But wait! Jonathan had gotten out of the car to give Mark a "big hug and big kiss" and somehow managed to get his fingers black. "I need a wipe, Mommy!" Out comes my pack of wipes, yet again. Take care of that mess, everyone buckled in. Let's pick up the dog. No surprises there, but Jonathan again smears all over everything: door handles, countertops, you name it. Oh well, we're on our way home now - I think we made it. Yeah, right.
Out on the road, driving, kinda busy traffic. A voice from the backseat. "Oh, hand is dirty. Mommy. MOMMY. WIPE!" Ummmm - sorry buddy, Mommy can't get a wipe right this second, I'm driving. Heavy sigh from the backseat. "Oh well, guess I'll just have to lick it...."


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Weekend in Brief

Question: What happens when your husband goes and gets a triple load of mulch on Saturday morning?
Answer: You spend the rest of the weekend slaving in the yard.

I'm sure he didn't PLAN it that way, but that's how it kind of worked out. We needed to weed the front flower bed a little, clear out some winter debris, and mulch it good before the REAL weeds come up, and before planting season. Fine. But there was this old stump in the middle of it from a huge tree we took down 3 years ago. Previously, we'd been using it to rest a bird bath. This year, it looked rotten. Out came the axe. An hour or two later, it was gone. But we didn't have time to mulch. After all, Jonathan was out "helping", and Matthew was being an angel in his play-yard, and it was time for dinner.
Overnight into Sunday, SOMEONE had the brilliant idea to use some of the mulch on a patch of old weedy sod inside our pool fence. I mean, it needs to be cut with the lawn mower, it's a pain, it's weedy and unsightly, and gee, if we tore all that out and mulched it, wouldn't it look nice? Then this summer we could just stick planter boxes with flowers right on top of it, and our pool would look so much NICER! And really, it's the perfect time to tear out sod, because the ground was wet. (And guess what? All these arguments worked - Mark thought it was a great idea!) But then, he had an idea of his own....since we're tearing out sod, and since there are more stumps in the actual yard, why don't we tear them out, and then we'll use the sod to cover the holes? Brilliant! Our arms were sore from patting ourselves on the back.
So after church, and then after breakfast, out we went. Matthew took a 4 hour nap, so at least he was out of the equation for the day. Jonathan resumed "helping", but sometimes he ran inside to watch tv and get snacks. And Mark and I worked for...well, the whole afternoon - we didn't stop until starvation dragged us down. And we started to hear some babble on the baby monitor!
The nice thing? It got done. We were filthy. Our jackets will most likely never be the same, but hey, that's what yard work clothes are for, right? We took a huge step forward in making the yard look nice this summer, something that's been really neglected the past few years because we've got really little kids who don't cooperate when you need to mow something, or chop something or prune something. This is actually the first year we think we'll be able to do stuff and have them out in the yard with us and not really have to worry that they're going to take off, fall down a ravine, or get lost.
So welcome Spring, and with it, welcome the never-ending yard work, the never-ending dirt under the fingernails! Now if it would only get WARM.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Newest Additions

Welcome to our home, Chick Hicks and Young Mater. We hope you enjoy your stay and don't get lost behind the couch.
These are two of the three latest additions to the household - joining the already TOO many Cars characters and Cars-related stuff already in the house. The third? Leak Less. That one belongs to Matthew:

It's a little dark, but you can see that Leak Less and RPM 54 are having breakfast with Matthew. My children are obsessed with these things. They appear on Christmas morning, for birthdays, in Easter baskets. And yesterday? Just a trip to Walmart. Usually, I don't go in the toy section because they want everything and I hate to say no all the time, so why tempt them? But the other night, Jonathan fell on the driveway and really did a number on his head - blood everywhere, huge bruise...ugh. Poor little guy. He was so very brave. That night, after I'd given him a bath and washed all the dried crusty blood out of his hair, he was playing with his Cars, and he asked me if we could go see if Walmart had Chick Hicks, how could I say no? So he got some new ones....just because.
This brings the grand total of Cars in our household to...heaven only knows. I know we have at least 7 Lightning McQueens with different paint jobs and different personas. Two Sallys. All the hot rods except for DJ. Most of the Radiator Springs folks. Most of the Piston Cup racers. Even the blimp and the Dinoco Helicopter.
It's taken over the house! We have Cars sheets, Cars lunchboxes, Cars clothing. Cars drinking cups and blankets, Cars pillows. Books about Cars, puzzles with Lightning and Mater. The actual movie. What's next? Oh well, it keeps them happy. And by some magical reasoning, BOTH the kids are really into it, and are very slowly learning to share a bit, even though whenever some new ones come on the scene, they have to re-learn about sharing!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mother Nature's April Fool

So yeah, the weather's been pretty crappy lately. Colder than usual. Rainy. Still getting down to almost freezing every night, and over the past weekend, it was below freezing overnight. But today, oh my, today. Today was WARM. It was a bit cloudy in the morning with some sprinkles here and there, but it got to just over 70 degrees, and when the sun came out, boy did that feel good. I threw some steaks on the grill, we took a quick walk around the neighborhood after dinner, and when I took the kids out today, I didn't need to struggle with coats and hats and gloves....yuck. So I'm thinking, WOW - Spring is HERE! Finally! Until I checked the 10 day forecast. Nope. Try again. Back down in the low 50's tomorrow, and clear on into next week, the only time it's supposed to get above 60 are when it rains! What's with that? So I got irritated at good old Mother Nature and had a word or two grumbled in her direction. And you know what? A few minutes later after a quick, passing shower, she gave me this:

So there's hope. I can't tell you how much my little boys loved their walk tonight and Jonathan was saying "we can walk every night!" Well, Jonathan, take it up with old Mom Nature. We'll be waiting.