Friday, March 26, 2010

Casting About...

One of the things I look forward to the most as the weather keeps getting warmer (not today! SNOW???!!!) is more regular walks with the kids. They love to get out and ride their assorted vehicles around the circle at the end of our street, but when I need to get some serious exercise, I make them both get in the wagon and pull them behind me. It's actually easier to do this than to try to push the double stroller up and down hills. O. just isn't ready to keep up on his bike yet.
While we walk, I often listen to my iPod. I take the earbuds out to answer the many questions the kids ask as we go, and when we pass other people, on the off chance someone might want to actually have a conversation. (In our neighborhood, usually not.) If it sounds like I'm being antisocial here, I'm not. I just really enjoy having some time to listen, not to music, but spoken word. Sometimes, I'm listening to an audiobook I've downloaded from Audible.com, but more often than not, I'm listening to a podcast.
I didn't even get an iPod until a little less than a year ago. And I'm pretty sure it was the idea that I could listen to audioboooks on it that finally convinced my husband that it was not something that would just lie around on my desk; that it was not just something I wanted because I thought I was the last person on earth not to have one. (I'm still sure it was pretty close)
Soon after I downloaded iTunes, I discovered podcasts. A friend had mentioned that she listened to This American Life for free, and I was all for that. Then, I discovered more and more that I liked, and now have a regular subscription to about 7 or 8 podcasts. I love knowing that it's Monday morning and there is fresh new material waiting for me to download and synchronize to my little machine. I take it with me and listen in the car -- it's almost completely taken over my NPR habit. Though truth be told, most of what I'm listening to is NPR material.
So, for the next couple of weeks, I thought I'd share with you some mini-reviews of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. I still love my audiobooks, and listen to them when I have a little more time than a run back and forth to school pickup, or to the store.
My list is certainly not one that goes outside the mainstream: most of my listens are ones that regularly show up on the top ten most downloaded. I think that's because they're so well done.
I'll start with my two favorites, probably the best produced and highest quality of my subscriptions, and also two of the most popular overall:

This American Life: Hands down my favorite podcast, and easily one of the best produced examples of journalism out there right now. Each week follows a theme of some sort, usually with several different stories. They range from quirky and humorous, to important national issues, to heartwarming profiles of humanity. I loved the recent one they did about America's #1 Party School, Penn State, which was more a fascinating peek at university culture in general than an indictment of any specific school. I also really enjoyed "The Middle of the Night," a look at different slices of the population whose waking hours occur at night. From this show, I have learned that there is a whole group of people who make their living bidding on other people's unclaimed stuff in self storage units, the origins of the phrase "I'm not here to make friends" on reality television, and some facts I wish I didn't know about the longevity of bedbugs. I've also learned far more about the health insurance crisis and the mortgage crisis from this show than from any other news organization. "The Giant Pool of Money" should be required listening for anyone who has ever asked "How did we get in this mess, anyway?"
One of my favorite things about this podcast overall is how much fun host Ira Glass seems to be having doing it all. I just love his laugh when he gets cracked up by someone he is interviewing: purely infectious. I also had the pleasure of seeing Ira Glass speak in person years ago at this awesome Dave Eggers-organized event my dear friend MEP and I got to attend in Chicago. He was highly political in that appearance, so I've been surprised to see that is not the case overall.

You had to know one of my other favorites would be a food show, right? I just LOVE listening to host Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about food. She has such passion for it, and genuinely seems to love just about every imaginable food. I adore it when she starts chatting about dives across the country with Jane and Michael Stern, especially when they rhapsodize about such things as "burnt end sandwiches" IE: the fattiest, most flavorful parts of a piece of barbecued meat sopped up in the cooking juices. She also interviews food historians, people doing research about new food trends, and regularly gets advice on wine. She visits restaurants and cooks in their homes. She also answers questions from callers, and often has such great advice I find myself wishing I could write down the recipes she seems to invent off the top of her head. I've gone to the website more than once to look up other recipes that I've heard discussed on the show. It's just a collection of all the things I love to think about most when I start thinking about good food. I find myself humming some of the tunes they use as introductions for different segments quite frequently.
I also discovered a most amazing blog via this podcast after she featured Sally Schneider, author of The Improvisational Cook on an episode. It's The Improvised Life, and it's this great collection of finding ways to be creative with what you have in all areas of your life. I so enjoy popping in every once in a while to find out what they've posted lately.

So there's a couple of the ones I most look forward to listening to each week. I'll update with some of my other favorites when I get a chance, but in the meantime, share with me what YOU love to listen to. (We'll get to the sad state of my music library another time.)


Thursday, March 25, 2010

N-Speak

Here are some of my recent favorite N-isms:

After completing her latest costume change (usually mismatched pajamas):
"Wook at me, ever-buddy!"
(she has a way of pronouncing "everybody" that always reminds me of Charlie from Lost singing that line from Driveshaft's hit: "We all everybody")

Snuggling with me on the couch under a blanket:
"Tose your widdle eyes, Mommy."

At music class, when asked how she would like the class to sing to her:
"Spin wike ballerina!"

Touching that strange cord that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth with her finger:
"Show you what under I tongue. Show you. Wook."

After deigning to give O. a hug and kiss at bedtime after weeks of refusing:
"I not mad at O. anymore. Last morning, I mad at him two times."

Overheard conversation between O. and N.:
O: N, I'm mad at you because you messed up my game.
N: I wuv you, O.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tips from the Small World

How to Pass Time Adjusting to Daylight Savings,
While a New Roof is Installed at Your House.
(and your Mommy has a nasty cold)
Tips from an almost five year old and a two and a half year old

  • Stand in the front yard and watch the guys on the roof with binoc-ee-lars.
  • Set up your little table and chairs in the dining room right by the window so you can watch the shingles being lifted up to the roof on a really cool powered bucket thing connected to a ladder.
  • Every ten minutes, put on a different pair of the "new" underwear from the grocery bag full of hand me downs sent by your cousin. (Is this gross?)
  • Brick a nap* even though the workers are not even working above your bed, even though yesterday you eventually had no problem sleeping through the scraping, pounding, and stomping one inch from your head after Mommy spent an unsucessful half hour trying to get you to sleep in your pack 'n play in the basement.
  • Learn how to climb out of your pack 'n play. (see above)
  • Pretend to "blow eyeballs" at your sister (similar to blowing kisses only designed to get someone to be disgusted). She will of course be unfazed and just say "I wiping them off and throwing them on ground!"
  • Continue to be fascinated with creating "swimming pools" for toy animals in every sink in the house. Add grass pulled from the yard for "water plants." "Accidentally" take off your clothes and try to go swimming with the animals in the sink. Act amazed that there is a corresponding pool on the floor, but agree that you should be the one to clean up the mess (with some help from Mom).
  • Help make these cool rainbow cupcakes that Mom found in Family Fun magazine to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
  • Halfway through making cupcakes, suddenly act very ill, complaining of "belly hurting", uncontrollable crying, and possible fever, causing Mommy to cancel the babysitter and her plans to go to Bible Study.
  • Half an hour later, after refusing dinner, request a cupcake while running around the kitchen as if you've never been sick a day in your life, and ask why babysitter is not coming.
  • Ask impossible questions. "Why did God make there be sickness if it makes you feel so yucky?"
  • Come up with your own answers. "I know. Because he just wanted to try out his magic."
*term stolen from mep

Thursday, March 11, 2010

All Thumbs Thursday

Thank you again, mep for such an easy way to get a blog post written!

Thumbs Up this Thursday:
  • Results of N.'s allergy testing: NEGATIVE for eggs! Hooray and hurrah, and welcome back to the world of real baked goods!! I can't tell you how much easier this makes my life! We won't be adding scrambled eggs to the menu quite yet, but we already celebrated with powdered sugar donuts for dessert last evening. My mom took the photo with her camera, so I don't have it share with you, but let me tell you, the white sugared grin was priceless!
  • J. is on his flight home as I write this, and O. seems not to have kept his promise to "stay up all night to see Daddy".
  • Third evening in a row without Daddy entertainment: 20 minutes playing with Christmas gift soap ball with toy hidden inside in the bathroom; 5 minutes searching for bathing suits while pleading with Mommy to please get them so we can swim in the sink with our newfound dolphin; 45 minutes doing laps in the bathtub with said dolphin -- no complaints about getting hair washed halfway through.
  • My brother and sister in law have agreed to have O. and N. at their house tomorrow night for their first sleepover so J. and I can go out to dinner with some friends who will be in town. (this is adding to O's anticipation of tomorrow and reluctance to go to sleep. He cannot wait!)
  • Grandma Choo-Choo (J.'s mom) is coming to visit on Saturday!
  • Pinkalicious serendipity. N. pulled this charming book randomly from the shelf at the library on Tuesday, and was delighted with the pink cupcake eating girl who turns completely pink after eating a few too many. The next day, on the way home from allergy testing, just as I was thinking about what sort of treat I should buy her for bravely handling the skin pricks and accompanying itching, the kids meal I picked up at Burger King for her featured, you guessed it: an adorable little figurine of Pinkalicious! She took it to bed with her after showing it proudly off to Grandma and Grandpa.

  • My cousin-in-law's great new Etsy store: Gracie Leigh by Shelly She has impeccable taste, and her product reflects that. If you're looking for a baby gift, she has some adorable purses for little girls and some great bibs: all in great color combinations. She also has handbags for you, and great vintage housewares finds. All the sort of thing you'd love to find at the sort of hip, and fun boutique you would shop at if you could actually go to those sorts of places with children in tow. Never fear, you can order them right from her site! She's starting with just a few select things on the store, but will add more as she designs and creates them. She tells me she has lots of great fabric around and would be glad to make you something in a different color combination if you just send her an email. I hope you'll go check it out!
Thumbs Down:
  • N's relatively recent bedtime request for both of her music boxes to be wound up. Each plays a different song, so the noises coming over the monitor are startlingly like that you'd hear in a particularly creepy scene from a bad horror film.
  • Springtime rainstorms (though I am thankful thankful they are not snow showers) makefor muddy dog paws, and I'm not always as quick or effective with the towel to wipe them off as I should be.
  • Too much money spent on fast food this week. (see BK note above)


P.S. I was struggling a little to come up with more Thumbs Down, and decided not to sweat it, but instead be thankful!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring is in the air...

I'm marking it on the calendar -- yesterday was the first park day of the season!

After N's music class and O's preschool, we picked up some Happy Meals and headed up to a park near us that has that spongy mat-type stuff for a base, rather than muddy mulch. We met O's friend from school, and had a glorious time breathing in the sunshiny air. O. and his friend ran and climbed and pretended they were explorers.

N. even decided to lose the clingy attitude she's had in public for the last couple of months and actually went down a couple of slides by herself. She also served up some pretend ice cream from underneath the playset. Pink or white was on the menu. Yum! I sure had been missing my pretend ice cream.

The only snag in the visit was that the restrooms were not yet open for the season. There was a port a potty on location. As far as we've come on the toilet training for N., I am really just not ready to navigate a port a john. Call me a bad mommy if you will, but I told her that this was a legitimate emergency, the very reason we still wear Pull-Ups in public, and she would just have to take care of business in her pants. I promised I would take her to the car and change right away, and we did. She made sure to announce to her brother at the top of her voice upon our return: "O! Potty is wocked! Wocked!! Have to pee in Pull-Up!"

Later, some further business had to be conducted in the van, as my girl apparently can no longer poop in public. Good for her, but I am really not looking forward to the many many situations we will find ourselves in the coming summer months when toilet access is less than ideal. If I were a better mother, we'd have our own portable set up in the back of the van. I'd also have extra changes of clothes and not just tell my kid: "It's just milk, it'll dry" when she spills half her milk jug on her lap.

So, add to the list of projects: revamp and restock the traveling closet that is my van. Sunscreen, bubble stuff, beach towels, balls? All sound a lot more fun than mismatched mittens and snowscrapers. Hooray!

Speaking of spring projects, there were no less than three status updates among my Facebook friends this morning related to spring cleaning. I personally was on a little bit of a cleaning frenzy this morning, though I'm not sure I would have labelled it "spring cleaning." I'm never sure what that process actually entails, or whether it actually gets done at my house.

I don't know about you, but I picture someone hauling the rugs out to the clothesline and beating on them with a tennis racket, and lots of buckets full of watered down Clorox. I'm pretty sure my grandmother's idea of spring cleaning involved moving the furniture in the living room and her bedroom from its winter configuration to its summer one. She still can't understand how anyone can stand to have furniture stay in the same place all year long. My mom's house is always clean, so I think for her, she'd probably get to something like cleaning behind the refrigerator once the birds started chirping.

For me, this morning's "spring clean" consisted of stripping sheets off of all the beds, opening windows to let some fresh air in, throwing all the bathroom rugs into the laundry room to hopefully get washed sometime soon, and scrubbing some Pop Tart "fruit" off of a toilet seat. (Oh yes, it's all about the bathroom adventures around here these days. Sorry.)

So tell me, what's on your spring cleaning regimen? What should I be adding to my to-do list, when and if I ever get caught up on regular old cleaning?

Friday, March 5, 2010

All Thumbs Friday

I'm borrowing a post theme from mep today, a day late for All Thumbs Thursday.

Thumbs Up:
  • The song "Here Comes the Sun" has been running through my head all morning, and I actually had to wear my sunglasses in the car on the way to drop O. off at school!
  • The prospect of dinner out this evening, even if it will just be chips and salsa and enchiladas with the kids at the local Mexican joint. J. already asked where I wanted to go, to avoid the inevitable low blood sugar discussion in the driveway at 5PM, so now I have all day to think about where we would all like to go.
  • O. spent a delightful half hour yesterday preparing a home in a cardboard box for the first ladybug of the season. He was a little bummed when it flew away, but recovered at the thought of lots more creatures to discover in the coming (warmer) weeks.
  • N. may soon get to eat eggs baked in things! Pending some allergy testing next week, the allergist thinks she should be able to tolerate them in this form. Goodbye, Diet Sprite cake recipe, and hello again, brownies! Also, she has to be off her allergy medication for a week before the testing, and so far, has not had a major eczema flareup!
  • The return of non-rerun television this week!
  • J. and O. went to the grocery store last evening to get dog food and came home with snacks for everyone! Mmmm. Dill pickle chips.
  • A whole stack of library books is waiting for me on reserve at the local branch. Which will I get into first?? I've been relying on my own backlog of neglected books for too long.

Thumbs Down:
  • N. has lately begun to wake at all hours of the night wanting to snuggle in our bed, and hardly EVER sleeps later than 6:00AM.
  • Having to tell N. the names of all the "girls" in the American Girl catalog for the fiftieth time.
  • I'm not exactly thrilled with the competition on American Idol this season. I'll still watch and all, but it's pretty much been a snoozefest so far.
  • O's recent resistance to school on Wednesdays (ie: Chapel Day). Thought we were finally over having to have him peeled off of me by the teacher. In his defense, I don't think chapel is probably all that fun.
  • Scout's new wireless invisible fence continues to act oddly. Her collar beeps at all hours of the day and night, and requires an elaborate reset procedure.
  • Having to turn on word verification on the comments section of the blog. Getting far too tired of the spam on old posts and its accompanying let down that I'm not actually getting a new, fun comment.
Oh, and a little update/correction on the grocery post from earlier this week:
  • The Eggo situation is not a recall situation, or in any way related to quality of food. I think it's just a production problem, so there is never enough inventory. Didn't mean to alarm anyone.
  • Onions are actually a relatively safe vegetable to buy the conventional version. I did a little checking, and they are actually on the "clean" list (ones you can save money by not buying organic because the risk of pesticides is relatively low). Potatoes ARE high on the "dirty dozen" list and are a good organic buy. I thought since they both grew underground, they'd both be bad. I'm guessing it has to do with the fact that you discard a lot of the outer layers. Now, if I can just find some non-moldy ones...

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Grocery Chronicles

Finally got the grocery store over the weekend after putting it off a week past when I SHOULD have gone. Let's just say the kids got a few orders of chicken and fries last week.

On the whole, though, I've been doing a good job overall with the food budget this year. Meal planning has gotten firmed up, thanks to the cool magnetic notepad my sister in law gave me for Christmas that has a little chart to list the week's meals. I actually have been writing down my ideas, and then making purchases appropriately. It makes for a lot less waste, but it has also cramped my improvisational style a bit. If you don't buy things like canned tomatoes "just in case" because they're not on the menu, you can't just throw together a sauce. It should be said that you also do not end up with five giant cans of tomatoes because you can't remember if you have any at home or not.

I've been having a few issues with my beloved Kroger lately -- or maybe my head just hasn't been in the game. All those "rush to stock up before the big snow comes" trips made for some haphazard purchasing.

Anyway, here were some of the thoughts I pondered while I had the time to actually THINK in the grocery store on Saturday. (I left the kids at home with J.)

Will my Parmesan and Garlic Cheezits EVER return to the shelves? The Parmesan/Cheddar duo is not really doing it for me. When what I want is stinky parmesan and its accompanying bad breath, I do not need the Cheddar squares to disrupt the flavor intensity. I should mention that I was able to secure a small case of the real deal via Amazon. I ordered some Pull-Ups for N., too. And I remain convinced that it wasn't the strangest order some dude packaged up all day in Amazonworld.

What is the story on frozen waffles these days? There's been a sign posted about Eggo production issues for six months or so now, and I read a headline about it somewhere or another. I admit I didn't quite care enough to do the required reading to get the full story, but it seems odd that something would take this long to sort itself out. And it means that everyone buys my cheap-o store brand waffles, so the inventory is always low. I'd like to buy these by the case via Amazon, but I don't think they're doing frozen foods yet.

Great little discovery: steel cut oats in the natural foods aisle. In a bag, at least half the cost of the Quaker or McCann brand in the cereal aisle. If I lived closer to a Trader Joe's, I'd be buying mine there, but I don't, so this was a nice little discovery. Loving my slow cooker oatmeal with craisins lately. Except for the time that I forgot to take them out of the crock pot and refrigerate them right away and they grew mold REALLY quickly.

Speaking of mold, onions and I are not getting along these days. I buy a whole bag every time I buy them, because I use them almost everyday, but lately I can't finish a bag without throwing out two or three that have gotten ridiculously moldy on me. I thought at first that it was because I had switched to organic (Trust me, do NOT do any reading on the levels of pesticides in things that grow underground). Not that the fact that they were organic made them more spoil prone, but that they had been sitting there longer because not as many people buy them. But I switched back to regular and had the same problem. So either Kroger is selling me bad stuff, or I need to find a better place to store my onions than my laundry room floor. The gross avocadoes I picked up on Saturday are making me suspect the former.

Whatever happened to the Brach's Pick a Mix section? I know some big grocery stores have the bulk bins of candy, but didn't just about every store used to have the root beer barrels and the caramel cubes, and the sour balls right there in the candy aisle next to the Hershey bars? Mine doesn't. I do not need this to return, just curious.

What is up with California Pizza Kitchen? Used to be hard to find them, and all they had were a couple of flavors in a size that was supposed to be for a couple of people but functioned as personal size for me. Now, there are tons of them in all different crust thicknesses and sizes, but are basically boring. Their barbecue chicken is yucky, and if you're going to spend $6.50, you want a little more than Margherita. Where is my Thai Chicken??

And finally: Kroger, I do not care how long you continue the $1.88 special on the Healthy Choice Entrees, I will never fall for that dirty trick again. The graphics and photography on the boxes are lovely, but Healthy Choice, your food tastes awful. Lean Cuisine, I will never stray again.

What questions have plagued you in the pasta aisle lately?