Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Ottoman: Keep it or Chuck it

This is my ottoman. When Robert and I purchased this set of furniture, I was especially thrilled about having an ottoman. I thought it was much more fashionable than a recliner, yet offered the same, relaxing benefits. Our ottoman was able to double as a seat when we had family get togethers, and sometimes, the ottoman was a great place to very carefully set a snack to eat while watching TV.

We have had this ottoman and the other furniture that goes with it for about 10 years. As kids have come to our family, the ottoman has undergone a drastic change in appearance. Of course there are some obvious flaws in our 10 year old ottoman, I'm not going to pretend they aren't obvious, but it wasn't always this way.

When the ottoman was new, we took very good care of it. We didn't wear shoes when we rested our legs and feet upon it. I really didn't set food there, in the beginning. And, if a little runny nose should happen to brush too closely to it, I was quick with a damp sponge to wipe away any traces of snot.

As the kids got older and the stains became more damaging, I kept on top of cleaning the ottoman as best I could. Sometimes a little soap was needed, or even a fabric cleaner to keep the ottoman looking good as new. On several occasions I used a steam cleaner with an upholstery attachment to clean the tops and sides. Our ottoman became a little faded, but still looked like a fairly decent piece of furniture.

Then, about 3 years ago, things took a turn. I had our third child and didn't have the same amount of energy or time to stay on top of keeping our ottoman clean. A water stain didn't get cleaned up immediately and left a mark. A warm, homemade chocolate chip cookie left a round grease stain in the upper left hand corner. One day, one of the kids got a hold of a permanent marker. While your average super mom would not even have a permanent marker in the house to begin with, and your average "average" mom would at the very least have them safely out of reach of the kids, the mom of 3 small children is under the impression that she doesn't have permanent markers in the house at all and that if she did, they'd be safely out of reach. She is wrong on both accounts.

So there were lots of artistic markings with a permanent marker, more spills and stains, and eventually, the fabric began to wear very thin down the middle. Somewhere along the way I gave up trying to keep the ottoman looking good. What was the point. I was fighting a losing battle. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em (or something like that). When the fabric finally wore so thin that it split down the middle, I went to a home store and purchased a very fashionable "throw" in a coordinating color to casually drape over the ottoman to hide the rip and stains.

This technique bought me about 8 months and I could probably still get away with the throw if I wanted to. But today, a new straw was added to this camel's back. Today, Isaac wanted Gatorade. Why we have disgusting, blue Gatorade in the house to begin with is another post all together.

Isaac had a 2o ounce bottle of blue Gatorade. Yesterday Isaac had a 20 ounce bottle of blue Gatorade and he nursed it all day long, and still had about 6 ounces over at the end of the day. Today, Isaac got his Gatorade (which I swear I will never buy again!) and I got on the phone with my mom, and about 10 minutes later I noticed that Isaac's blue Gatorade was all gone. I knew for a fact that he could not have consumed that amount of Gatorade in 10 minutes, so by default, I also knew that the Gatorade had to be somewhere else.

I did a quick look around, felt Isaac's shirt, which was dry, and checked the sink. I saw a slight blue tinge in the sink and breathed a sigh of relief. He must have dumped it down the sink, I told myself. I was in denial, but pretended the mystery had been solved.

About 20 minutes later I noticed the ottoman. There was a dramatic moisture stain (as you can see in the picture) and my beloved and practical throw was sopping wet. "Maybe it's just water," I told myself. More denial! Why do I keep doing this to myself? I lifted the throw and sniffed. It didn't smell like water, it smelled like BLUE!

I quickly threw the throw into the wash and began the task of getting a bowl of warm soapy water and rag together so I could clean the ottoman. Then, I looked at the ottoman. I really looked at it. What is the point? Do I really need to rest my feet that badly when I sit? I could certainly use my decorative throw on the thread bare sofa or the ripped easy chair that is oozing stuffing.

Is it time to pull the plug on this ottoman?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lexus Drives the Road to Apathy

I have many skills. My un-official “authors bio” states I can unclog a toilet with a single plunge. I can also put a well-balanced lunch on the table for my 3 boys in under 5 minutes flat and I can clean their bathroom from top to bottom in around 7 minutes. If you’ve followed some of the posts on my blog, you may also be aware of my stellar efforts with vomit.

But one of the skills I am most proud of is my ability to parallel park. There is a joy that comes from pulling into a tight space with just 3 nimble moves of my car, back, forward and back. When I open the door and find that I’m a perfect 2 or 3 inches from the curb, I realize that I am indeed something special.

So, today when I saw the latest ad for the Lexus that can parallel park itself, there was a part of me that wondered just what this world was coming to. Isn’t the American Spirit all about accepting a challenge and doing the impossible? What could be more challenging and sometimes impossible than parallel parking? Letting your car parallel park for you will rob you of the sense of self-worth and joy you can feel from doing the job yourself!

The parallel parking Lexus is just the thing that will put our country on the slippery slope of slothfulness and malaise. Come on people! Make a statement and parallel park your cars manually. Don’t let the Lexus people trap us with this decadent superfluousness. Just think of where this evil extravagance could lead us:

? Escalators and moving walkways on our most popular hiking trails so we don’t have to exert our selves by putting one foot in front of the other.

? Rubik’s Cubes that solve themselves.

? Self-cleaning cars that absorb empty juice boxes and smashed goldfish crackers into the floor after 6 minutes.

Clearly, the parallel parking Lexus will lead to a lazy and apathetic society. Just my opinion.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Passion vs. Obsession

In the "about me" section of this blog, I state that I'm currently exploring the subtle differences between passion and obsession. Well, I wasn't kidding. Deep down, I know I'm an obsessive person. I am currently obsessed with reading to the point where dinner is often delayed until 7pm so that I can read just one more chapter of my latest book. I have been reading in my dreams, strangely cognizant that I am in fact dreaming and therefore must be making up the text of the book I'm dream-reading and curious if it's really any good or if it's just a bunch of whacked-out mumbo jumbo. I often wake up at 3am with thoughts of characters and wondering what they'd do in certain situations.

If the previous examples were not enough to let me know that I'm obesessed, I did in fact send my 3 year old son downstairs with a note for my 9 year old son asking him to make breakfast for his little brother so I wouldn't have to stop reading my book and do it myself.

I'm only going to claim partial responsibility for my actions because I come from a family with wonderful obsessive tendencies and surely some of the fault must lie with my progenitors. I'd get my mom to back up this assertion, but I can't get her to stop playing computer solitare long enough to comment. (I'm joking mom!! I know you don't spend all your time on computer solitare...where would you find time to cut up fabric into teeny, tiny pieces and then sew it back together in intricate, geometric patterns?)

I did a little googling today to try and find out if I'm currently obsessed, or if I might be simply "passionate" about reading. I would have done this sooner, but I was so busy reading, I didn't have time to turn on the computer.

I found this lovely little quote that, I think, sums things up nicely, even if it does incriminate me just a bit.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” Paul Carvel

I think I might be ok for now, after all, I'm obviously not reading while I'm writing this. Although I have to admit...I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Security Risk?

Robert had the opportunity to attend a friend's wedding in San Diego this past weekend. While waiting in line at the security check point, he noticed there was a delay and overheard some talk of someone's luggage containing knives.
As he patiently awaited his turn through the metal detector, one of the airport security agents pulled him aside and asked him to open his carry-on luggage. They explained the x-ray machine had shown HE was carrying knives.

Robert was a bit confused, but then realized his mistake: He had in his carry-on a wrapped wedding gift for his friend. The gift was 2 sets of flatware, which included spoons, forks and knives. They weren't steak knives. They were just regular table knives, capable of slicing through a cooked carrot or spreading a soft pat of butter. The forks probably would have been able to cause more bodily damage if that had in fact been Robert's intent.

After Robert unwrapped the wedding gift for further inspection, the security agents had a short pow wow and decided the knives were too dull to pose a threat. However, they did confiscate his 2 bottles of water before sending him on his way.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Spit it in my Underwear

Isaac, age 3, has many exceptional qualities. He loves to snuggle and plays well with others. He is easy going and he knows how to share. He doesn’t take naps, but last week, he fell asleep at 6pm and didn’t get up until 7:30am. As Isaac’s mom, I have very little to complain about.

BUT, when it comes to meal time, Isaac’s good nature takes a nose dive. Always starving, but overly picky, Isaac’s dream food pyramid would include fruit snack, cold cereal, dessert and toaster waffle segments with a teeny, tiny little vegetable wedge at the very top. I know…we all are baffled that a child as finicky as Isaac would happily chomp on broccoli, green beans and carrots, but he does.

Lest you fall under the impression that all I only feed my little boy fruit snacks and cold cereal, let me fill you in on our nightly dinner routine. With the exception of pizza night, and the very rare “breakfast for dinner night,” I prepare and serve a healthy meal with a main dish, vegetables, fruit and milk to drink. Everyone gets the same thing and is welcome to eat it or refuse it, choosing to wait until breakfast for the next opportunity to eat. Of course, I encourage my kids to at least try their food, even if they think they won’t like it.

Everyone has seemed to fall in line with this eating routine and I get very few complaints, except when it comes to my sweet little Isaac. Rarely does a meal pass without the words, “I don’t yike dis. Dis is yukky!” uttered by our Isaac. Isaac has a serious aversion to anything that is fruit. With the exclusion of apples and bananas, Isaac is loath to touch, get too close to, or even rest his eyes too long upon fruit.

The rest of the family simply can not understand how anyone could not enjoy a lovely fruit salad (yummy, yummy), a strawberry shortcake, or a nice cold slice of watermelon on a warm summer evening. As a variety of summer fruits become more available and have found their way to our dinner table, I’ve encouraged Isaac to try a wafer thin sliver of one kind of fruit or another with the idea that surely, once he tastes the fruity deliciousness, he will realize what he’s been missing, and join the majority of humanity by eating fruit.

Last week, the rest of the family got in on this encouragement as I plead with Isaac to try a small piece of the most delicious pineapple I’d ever tasted outside of the Hawaiian islands.

“Come on Isaac!” Robert begged.

“You can do it.” Ethan cheered

“If you don’t like it, you can spit it out.” I bargained.

“If you don’t like it, you can spit it in my underwear!” Jonah offered.

Our coaxing temporarily halted to consider Jonah’s proposal. Of course there was a bit of laughing, mostly from mom and dad I’m a little embarrassed to say, but with in a few seconds, we were all cheering on Isaac with the same refrain: “If you don’t like it, you can spit it in Jonah’s underwear!”

Isaac’s dubious fa├žade broke for just a moment to reveal the slightest grin, and he popped the pineapple in his mouth. Suddenly, a look of revulsion came over him and the surprise of the undesirable taste caused him to immediately swallow, momentarily forgetting Jonah’s offer.

Jonah’s underwear was spared the addition of a masticated lump of pineapple, and we all congratulated Isaac on giving fruit a try. However, something gives me the impression that Jonah’s offer is a standing one…at least he will have to stand if Isaac ever takes him up on it.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Summer Reading

Lately, I've had a thing for young adult and juvenile fiction. Maybe it's because I can whip through them quickly, spending less time ignoring my kids. Or it could be a little self-indulgent research as I think about one day writing a book of my own. Whatever the reason, I've come across some really great reads among the YA and Juvinile fiction shelves of the library and have been on the look out for more.

The Horn Book has come out with its summer reading list and it includes everything from pictures books, early readers and middle grade books, young adult books and even poetry and folklore. One thing it doesn't include, however, is a book about a certain 17 year old wizard. That's ok because there are many other great suggestions on The Horn Book summer reading list that will fill your time before and after July 21st.

Here is the link

Here's one more list of summer reading goodness.

I can't personally vouch for all the selections at "bookshelves of doom" as I haven't checked absoultely every single one of them. However, this site was referenced by one of my favorite children's lit blogs, fuse #8, which is written by the librarian at the Donnell Central Children's Room of the New York Public Library, and this plucky librarian has rarely steered me wrong.

There are plenty of ideas for books to read, lots of groovy info on children's authors and illustrators, plus a lot of other stuff I didn't know I wanted to know.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Canning Instructions

If you are interested in preserving the strawberry lemonade concentrate from the recipe given in my last post, here are the instructions. You will need a water bath canner, quart jars, new lids and rims. Other optional equipment that might make your canning experience go a little more smoothly is a wide mouth funnel and a jar lifter.

After the lemon juice, strawberry puree and sugar mixture has reached 190 degrees, skim off the foam and ladle hot concentrate into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Strawberry Heaven

One of the best things about living in Oregon is the strawberries. You will never find Oregon berries like Hoods and Puget Reliance in your local grocery stores. They are too delicate and juicy for shipping and won't last more than 2 or 3 days after picking. These berries need to be picked and eaten or processed immediately and that is why I love them. They are completely red all the way through and super juicy.

We got word on Thursday that Groveland Acres strawberry fields were ready for picking. They offer u-pick strawberries for 75 cents a pound and after just 30 minutes of picking, the kids and I had about 13 pounds of berries.

I went home and made a delicious strawberry lemonade concentrate, as well as an angel food cake for strawberry shortcake. That night, we had hamburgers, home made french fries, strawberry lemonade with strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Not used to the kids complimenting my cooking, Ethan's dinner comment caught me completely off-guard. He said, "Mom, this meal is so good, it's like we went to a restaurant and all ordered the same thing!"

It was definitely one of those moments where everything comes into perspective and I realized that life was good. Life was good, but the strawberries were delicious!

Just in case its not too late for you to get delicious strawberries where you live, here is a very simple recipe for delicious strawberry lemonade concentrate. It can be preserved in a water bath canner (let me know if you want these additional instructions), or simply refrigerated for a few weeks or so and used with in that time.

6 cups hulled strawberries
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used bottled lemon juice)
6 cups granulated sugar

In a blender puree strawberries until smooth. Transfer to a large stainless steel sauce pan and add lemon juice and sugar. Stir to combine. Heat to 190 degrees farenheit over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
Ladle into clean quart jars and refrigerate or process in a water bath canner.

To make lemonade, mix one part concentrate to one part water. You can also add 1 part lemonade to 1 part of lemon lime soda, club soda or gingerale.