Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sentimental Eating

If you asked, I'd probably say that I am not a sentimental person. Or at least that is what I thought.

Last week at the beach I was strolling by The Buzz candy store. (The Buzz was the inspiration for my fudge blog post last July.) In the window of The Buzz, I spotted something I hadn't seen for over 30 years...FLICKS.

One of my earliest memories is of my mom taking me grocery shopping and letting me pick out a treat from the candy section. I'd always pick Flicks because after I was done eating the chocolate bits (actually, "chocolate flavored" according to the package) I was left with a paper tube that could be used for all kinds of fun.

Mostly I pretended the tube was a telescope, but sometimes it was a slide for my wooden Fisher Price Little People.

I've actually thought about my happy Flicks memories over the years, so when I saw them at The Buzz, I knew I had to have them. The Buzz's owner helped me find Flicks on the shelf, then commented that I looked too young to remember Flicks.

Well, I was going to buy them anyway, but her little compliment made it a whole lot easier to swallow the price. When I was a kid Flicks were no more than 25 cents. Today however: $2.

One other interesting addition to the packaging which makes me glad I discovered Flicks in the 70's and not the 00's, besides nutritional information, is this warning: "Choking Hazard! not suitable for children 3 years of age or younger."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thoughts on Cleaning the Bathroom and Kitchen

If you ever find yourself looking to purchase a new home and you find a home you think you might want to buy, if that home has white tile counter tops with white grout in the kitchen and bathrooms, turn and walk away.

Do not try and convince yourself that the tile will be easier to clean than it looks. If the tile grout you are looking at is currently white, it was either put in 2 days ago or was scoured for 3 and a half days with a toothbrush and several bottles of "Soft Scrub."

Do not lie to yourself and say that you will install fashionable granite counter tops and redo the whole kitchen. Just buy the house with the kitchen you want in the first place. Trust me on this one!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seaside: The Good and Bad

Good: We had a great time in Seaside, Oregon this last weekend. Seaside may not be the most glamorous place on the Oregon Coast, but all the kitschy attractions are perfect for our no-frills family.

Bad: It was cloudy for most of our visit.

Good: It didn't rain! At least while we were outside. Very much.

Bad: The ocean water was freezing.

Good: 80% of the people in our family didn't mind one bit! I suppose once you got numb, the water didn't seem too bad. Ethan and Robert practiced their skim boarding and Jonah and Isaac jumped the waves.

Bad: The boys found it difficult to look at the camera or refrain from making a funny face for most of the pictures I snapped.
Good: I've stopped caring and will get my revenge when I show my stash of "bad" pictures to my boy's future girlfriends. I can't wait.

Bad: The price of a generous Tillamook ice cream cone at "The Candyman" has risen in price from 75 cents to $1.
Good: $1 is still a fabulous deal. And you can get a kid cone for 75 cents if you can't part with an extra quarter.

Bad: The boys went through almost all the clothes I brought for them in the first 5 hours of our vacation.

Good: They didn't mind wearing dirty clothes.
Bad: The sun broke through the clouds just as we were pulling out of Seaside.
Good: We knew we'd be back soon on a sunny day.
Bad: The car encountered problems about 30 miles from home and our 90 minute drive turned into a 90 minute drive with a 4 hour wait. (photo NOT available)
Excellent: Brother-in-law to the rescue! Dale brought us 3 new belts AND is smart enough to have tools in his car. He and Robert got their hands greasy and got us safely on our way.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Late Fee

We failed to return the power tamper to Home Depot by 8pm tonight. Also, I made Robert stop using it at 9pm out of fear the neighbors would hate us and call the cops. We plan to return the power tamper tomorrow morning after a few more hours of use. We will make the late fee worth it, I suppose. (It's a $50 late fee, thank you very much.)

Here is a picture of Robert using said tamper. For those of you who don't own a copy of Home Depot's "Patios and Walkways 1-2-3" here's what we did. We started by compacting 2 inches of gravel, then another 2 inches of crushed gravel on top of that.

The power tamper is loud and emits carbon dioxide. So, it should not be used in an enclosed car (according to the "warnings and precautions" section of the instructions.)

After the gravel is sufficiently compacted, we installed edging and started to lay our pavers. Here is a view from my upstairs bathroom.
Another trip to Home Depot, I thought to "rent" a concrete cutter. As it turned out, one was purchased. But look at the results. All those little spaces filled in with nicely cut-to-fit pavers. Divine!
The concrete cutting tool is also very loud and while it does not emit carbon dioxide, it does puff out an alarming amount of concrete dust. It is also a tool I've forbidden Robert to use after 9pm.

You might notice that the path seems to end without purpose. I noticed that too. I'm not sure what to do about it.
Anyway, the next step will be to sweep sand in all the cracks, then use the power tamper to make the sand settle and add even more sand.
And lest you think that in 14 hours we got just one pathway complete, there is a second, longer path on the other side of the yard that is so close to being done. I just didn't take pictures of it. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's About Time

It only took 12 hours for everyone to be out of the house at the same time. Finally, peace, quiet, bliss.

This is short-lived bliss to be sure. Robert will be back soon with the power tamper he is renting from Home Depot. We are going to do some power tamping tonight and maybe get a few more rocks off the driveway in the process.

And the boys will be back soon too. They are running around the neighborhood, or something. I think they left while I was watching Jeopardy. Speaking of Jeopardy, I was a bit disappointed this week when the skinny guy with the big hair and suit from the dumpster didn’t win. I seriously could have handled having him as a Jeopardy champion for a few nights. He was funny. And smart.

I’ve been systematically carpet cleaning the downstairs all this week. Tonight was supposed to be the final room: The Family Room. I was really looking forward to cleaning the family room because it is the dirtiest room of them all. I get giddy when I empty the water collection container and the water is really, really dirty. I call people to come and look and everything. Nobody ever comes, but they should. They are missing out on seeing some totally disgusting water.

I don’t think I’ll be able to do the carpet cleaning tonight, however, because a) I’m not really sure where I will move the furniture, b) I can’t move it by myself, even if I did know where to put it, c) the kids are all hyped up to watch a Lion King video we checked out of the library and they will be watching it in that room, and d) I’m pretty sure I will be involved in the power tamping…woo hoo.

Other Stuff I’ve Been Doing

Picked Waldo blackberries on Tuesday, maybe about 12 pounds. Also ran every last one of those suckers through a cheese cloth strainer to remove all the seeds. I know it sounds time consuming, but it only took about 4 hours including my lunch break.

On Wednesday (that would be today) I picked about 12 pounds of blueberries—YUM! I also took the blackberry juice/pulp (from yesterday) and made seedless blackberry jam: twelve half pint jars and 2 whole pint jars to be exact.

I also am in the process of freezing some blueberries and we made blueberry smoothies and a blueberry pie today. Did I mention I love living here?

Coming Up

Robert is taking tomorrow off to work in the backyard. Hopefully I’ll have some stunning pictures of our “finished” paver pathways to post tomorrow.

I’ll make another pie for “Pie In Here” Day, which is tomorrow. Happy Pie In Here Day everyone.

I’ll get ready for our beach trip and optimistically pack bathing suits (for the kids, OK, not me!) (What? The water is really, really cold!)

I’ll take the kids to see a movie…probably Space Chimps.

Summer Craft #4 and #5

A few days ago Jonah showed me this caterpillar craft from his Ranger Rick magazine. I purchased a bag of pom poms and googly eyes from the craft store and gave Jonah and Isaac a needle and thread. They did a surprisingly good job stringing their little caterpillars together. Best of all, they spent quite a bit of time and had a lot of fun making these cute critters.

We added magnets to the bottom so they stick to the fridge.

For about an hour today, Isaac was the only kid at home. He was supremely bored because it's a "no screen" day so there is no TV, video games or computer. (Well, I can use the computer because I'm the mom!)

Isaac wanted to play with Play Doh, but our Play Doh supply had been reduced to hard, colorful, useless bits.

I remembered this recipe for play clay that I used to make all the time for Ethan. It's quick and easy and best of all, Isaac was able to help. Within 5 minutes Isaac was playing with a big lump of warm clay.

If you are interested, here is the recipe:

Play Clay

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 TB cream of tartar
1 TB vegetable oil
food coloring if desired

Mix all the ingredients together in a sauce pan over medium heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes together in a ball. Turn the ball of clay out onto the counter and knead a bit to combine any remaining lumps. Let cool. Store in an air tight container.

Keep and use for a couple of weeks.

Isaac only played with his clay for a few minutes, but he actually sang a "clean up" song and picked up all the clay when he was done.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Piles of Popularity

A few of the neighbors have mentioned that our house seems to be the most popular on the block because there is always a group of kids in the front yard.

The reason for this, of course, is the huge pile of gravel in our driveway. Actually, the pile is small compared to what it used to be. About three quarters of the rocks have already been shoveled and hauled into the backyard. Currently we are wondering what to do with the rest of these rocks that seem to be "left over."

Of course the boys in the neighborhood aren't wondering what to do with them. Tonight when I peeked out to check on how everyone was doing, I noticed that Ethan had buried Jonah up to his neck. (Must be getting ready for the upcoming beach trip!)

Directly behind the boys in this picture is a green tarp. Under it is a sizeable pile of dirt. And it is very possible that we will order a load of sand, also to be dumped in our driveway. I fear our driveway will never be free from piles.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thank You

Thank you to those of you who do not dress up to go to Target and the Grocery store on Saturday. Thank you for wearing the clothes you exercised in this morning, or the dirty jeans and holey t-shirt you wore to shovel rocks and dig dirt for several hours earlier in the day.

And of course, thank you for not wearing make-up or washing your hair. (Even though I really can't tell you didn't wash your's looks fine, honest.)

To those of you who are wearing coordinated, clean outfits and have darling hair-do's while strolling the aisles of Target...what is your problem? It's Saturday for crying out loud. You have six other days to look cute and accessorized. Are you all dressed up just to make me feel like a sweaty slob?

I think you are.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ten Seconds to Launch

As part of the requirements for his Webelo Scout badge, Ethan built this model rocket. There was model glue involved and lots of patience, but I was impressed that Ethan made the rocket all by himself. Even the Scout manual suggested he make it with "an adult's help."

Last night he, Robert and Jonah went to a nearby field to launch the rocket and after a few failed attempts, the rocket launched, soared so high it was practically out of view, and returned to earth. The good news is the rocket was recovered. Jonah was the hero, locating one of the 3 tail fins, which had detached, under a clump of grass. (In Jonah's mind, his presence guaranteed the success of the mission).

Ethan has a couple tubes of rocket fuel left, so there will probably be a few more launches before the summer is out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We Have Carrots

Our rainbow carrots worked! I only had to do two plantings and it took about twice as long as the packet said it would, but he watered and waited and now we have carrots. I didn't find any red or purple carrots, but we got plenty of yellow and white and a few orange.

The one white carrot I tried was bitter and disgusting. The orange and yellow carrots were delicious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Barnes and Noble on Breaking Dawn

Here's something that will pass 6 minutes of your time while you are waiting for Breaking Dawn to come out.

Warning: The red-bloused gal is kind of totally annoying AND possibly on something. She can't ever quite seem to figure out where to focus her eyes, she's got a weird body sway thing going on, and there's the little bit with her hyper pinky during the interview with the two bookstore gals.

Additionally, there are at least 3 things she says or does that make me think she has not read any of the Twilight books. What do you think?

Why I Love Living Here

Just 10 minutes from my house is a u-pick farm called West Union Gardens. They have lots of different things to pick through-out the summer and fall, but raspberries are my favorite. This morning the picking was so good it was hard to stop. I even saw a little grass snake and it was kind of cool, becuase how often do you see a grass snake?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Week-End Wrap-Up

These are things we did, or thought about, or talked about this weekend:

Vocabulary Lessons--Ethan asked me what "dojo" meant. I wasn't really sure myself, so I asked him to use it in a sentence. He gave me this non-sentence example: "Super Mario Smash Brother's Dojo." I guessed it was some kind of martial arts thing. Then he asked what "melee" means. I had a better idea of the definition of this word, but asked him to use it in a sentence anyway. His super creative non-sentence was, "Super Mario Smash Brother's Melee." Hmm, I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Destructive vs. Productive--Destructive is when you take a stick and whack the lovely yet helpless weeping spruce in the front yard which just this year started to "weep" over the rocks in a stunning display of landscape perfection. Continue whacking until all the new growth has been violently severed.

Productive is when you clean out the garage the next day.

Rock Tumbler--In a triumph of birthday gift selection, I got Jonah a rock tumbler for his birthday. And not one of those light-weights they sell at the craft I got him a real rock tumbler from a hardware store. Jonah loved it.

As it turns out, the rock tumbler is the sort of "perfect" gift rivaled only by the frog habitat of December 2007. According to the instructions, the first of 4 tumbling steps will take 7-10 days, in the which the tumbler will be running continuously and we will be checking the "slurry" every 24 hours. At least I will not have to "feed" it live bugs.

Chevy's--Oh how I enjoy a delicioso Fresh Mex meal. We have a tradition of going to Chevy's for each of the kids' birthdays. They love it, but I think I might love it more. However, we are starting to notice the cruel hand of inflation has had it's way with the Chevy's menu. Chip baskets are half what they used to be, although the muy feliz staff will bring out more chips if you are able to flag them down to make the request.

The entree portions, however, are what seem to have taken the biggest hit. In the past, the portions were so grande we were able to bring home enough left-overs for a second Fresh Mex meal. Now, we only have enough left-overs for a pequeño snack the next day. Estoy triste.

Extreme Home Makeover--I enjoy watching Extreme Home Makeover from time to time. Sometimes I skip all the build-up and tune in just to see the amazing homes they build. Last night, however, I was able to catch the beginning of the show where the cast tours the existing home, usually being held together by duct tape, staples and sheer luck. One gal went into the teen brother's room which he shared with his younger pre-teen brother. This was the dialogue that ensued:

EHMO Lady: So, this is your room?
Teen: Yep.
EHMO Lady: Well, why are there two beds, do you have to...share your room? (disgust and disbelief in her voice.)
Teen: Yes, with my younger brother. That's his side of the room. (gesturing)
EHMO Lady: So, you don't even have your own room? (a tear trickles down her cheek)
Teen: Nope.

Gosh, I never realized how horrible some people have it. To have to share a room! What is the world coming to?

Webkinz--Oh dear, the Webkinz have invaded. Jonah and Isaac went to a birthday party on Saturday and came home with a bag full of Webkinz paraphernalia and a Webkinz toy. Don't know what Webkinz are? Count yourself lucky.

Friday, July 11, 2008

How To Be A Boy: Wrapping a Birthday Present

1. Wake your mother up at 6am and ask her where the wrapping paper is.

2. Measure how much wrapping paper you will need to wrap your gift, then double or triple that amount. Tear the wrapping paper from the roll. If you don't tear straight, try tearing another piece of wrapping paper.

3. Barge in on your mom while she's taking a shower. Yell over the sound of running water that you can't find the tape. (She won't be able to understand what you are saying.) Yell a few more things, then tell her to "never mind" (which she also won't understand.)

4. Locate a stapler. Staple all the edges of the wrapping paper so that your gift will stay securely inside.

5. Leave the stapler on the floor where someone can step on it when they get out of the shower. Do not put away gift wrap. Make sure extra wrapping paper pieces that were too small get left on your mom's bed, the kitchen floor, the stairs--anywhere but the garbage or recycling bins.

6. You're finished!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to be a Boy: Garbage Day

Three neighbors are out of town and our family was asked to take their garbage out in their absence. So last night, I pulled many garbage and yard waste recycling bins down to the curb. I did not, however, take out our family’s garbage and yard waste recycling bins. That's Ethan’s job.

It’s not a hard job, but evidently it is tedious and highly inconvenient because Ethan usually waits until the very last possible minute of the day to take the garbage to the curb. Sometimes he’s already wearing his pajamas and slippers when he embarks on this weekly task.

Last week when Ethan took the garbage out, the neighborhood was treated to a sneak peek at the contents of my bathroom wastebasket. Nothing like having a slew of embarrassing personal items scattered in the street. Right in front of our house.

And when I say embarrassing, I am talking about things like waxy, yellow Q-tips, strings of used dental floss, a large wad of hair pulled from my hair brush, those little plastic disposable razor covers, conspicuous, “feminine” pastel packaging, and several little toilet paper wrapped, “bundles.” Right in front of our house.

How could this possibly happen?

I’d asked Ethan to empty the 2 upstairs bathroom wastebaskets before taking the garbage bin to the curb, but he’d forgotten. Not wanting to let him out of the chore, I told him to dump the bathroom trash into a plastic bag, then bring it out to the garbage bin already on the curb.

Evidently these instructions were too confusing, too difficult, or completely ignored because Ethan ended up hand carrying the two bathroom wastebaskets out to the curb, trailing used Q-tips and dental floss through out the house (because the wastebaskets were really full and it’s just hard to carry two at a time AND hold your nose from the offensive odor AND try and open the front door at the same time.)

Once he'd made it to the curb, he opened the lid of the garbage bin. Whether or not he noticed that it was already full to the top is still unclear. What is clear, however, is that he took the first wastebasket (mine) and up-ended it over the garbage bin. To be fair, about 10% of the bathroom wastebasket contents did actually make it into the garbage bin. The rest, of course: Right in front of our house.

This week I made sure those bathroom wastebaskets were emptied, the contents tied up in a plastic bag, and securely sequestered somewhere in the middle of the garbage bin before Ethan took the garbage out.

Lesson learned.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Great Moments in Baseball

I don't even like baseball, yet this little video made me very happy. I found it today on Laini Taylor's blog and she said it reminded her of the spunky awesomeness of Magpie, the main character in her book "Blackbringer."

Deep down I wish this was the kind of girl I was. At the same time, I hope that just a little part of me is. Not in sports, of course, but in other things.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer Craft #3

I was going to have the kids make glycerin soap from a kit for our third summer craft, but the the Family Fun magazine came in the mail. This month's issue had a cute craft for tin can stilts. Actually, the only crafty part was having the kids paint the outsides of the cans.

The Family Fun directions suggest using acrylic paint and star shaped sponges to create a festive red, white and blue star pattern. I didn't have acrylic paint or star shaped sponges and didn't want to buy any, so I just used what we had on hand, which wasn't as fancy, but the kids still enjoyed painting. (I know the cans don't look painted, but trust me, they are.)

I bought and drained 4, 29 ounce cans of tomato sauce to do this craft. Does anyone have recipes that require lots and lots of tomato sauce...besides spaghetti?
The boys actually spent longer painting the cans than they did walking on them. That's not to say they didn't have a fun time walking on their stilts. It just got old quickly I suppose.

As a side note (to be used later in my Power Point "Awesome Summer So Stop Complaining" slide show): I suggested walking down to the water fountain with a picnic lunch today and letting the boys run through the fountain. They all said NO!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bob: The Movie

Last week I bought the "Bob Books." I'm not really sure yet why they are called the "Bob Books" because while we've read about Mat (pictured left), Sam, Mac and Dot, as well as their pets Mag and Mit, Bob has yet to make an appearance.

If you don't already know, the "Bob Books" are designed for early readers. They are simple and consistent and progressively introduce all the letters of the alphabet in the 12 short books that come in each set.

I got these books to help Jonah with his reading and so far, I'm really happy with the results. Since the books are short, Jonah has quick successes. I suppose it also helps that I'm doling out marshmallows each time Jonah finishes a book. (I know--I'm creating eating issues. I'll deal with it after we get this reading thing down.)

Isaac has also been interested in reading the "Bob Books" and has the first one memorized. He loves to sit and read it to himself. The other day he asked, "Is this book going to be a movie?"

The text of the first book is as follows: Mat. Mat sat. Sam. Sam sat. Mat sat. Sam sat. Mat sat on Sam. Sam Sat on Mat. Mat sat. Sam sat. The End. I'm sure you can imagine the exciting movie this would make.

I told him it was not going to be a movie. He asked, "Then why are we reading it?"

Evidently Isaac has the idea that we only read books that have movies.

Well, at least he has the book-reading part right.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Buying Fireworks

How I buy fireworks...
I go to the fireworks stand. I have an idea of how much money I want to spend. I find the multi-pack of fireworks for about that price, buy it, get in the car and go home.

How Robert buys fireworks...
He goes to the fireworks stand. He has an idea of how much he wants to spend. It is not based in reality. He sees the multi pack of fireworks and notices that it is crammed with all kinds of worthless filler. He looks at the "open stock" fireworks and reads the description of what each firework does (i.e. 1 minute 14 seconds of gold sparks followed by 33 seconds of silver bursts ending with an ear splitting whistle).

He will spend the next 30 minutes studying and gathering up fancy looking fireworks like "The Pink Diamond" and "Blue Planet" until he feels like he has enough for a good show. Then he will grab a bunch of extra stuff for the kids like sparklers, poppers, flowers, tanks that shoot things and smoke bombs.

The price of the fireworks ends up being about double what I would have spent, but it's ok because that is all we are buying. We are not going back to get more, we have what we need. Unless, of course, a particular firework is so fantastic that we need another one or two, and we run out of sparklers, tanks, poppers, smoke bombs and flowers. And we always run out of sparklers, tanks, poppers, smoke bombs and flowers.

Cheesy Birthday

Thank goodness the birthday party is over. Even though the Chuck E. Cheese employee did a fabulous job at making sure the party was well organized and completely stress free, somehow the party still took it out of me.

I came right home from Chuck E. Cheese and took a nap and when I woke up, every gift had been opened and box parts and packaging were scattered from the kitchen to the family room. Toys were being assembled, the slip and slide was minutes away from being slipped and slided on, and the snow cone machine was about to make its first snow cone. It was a little crazy.

Fortunately, Jonah had a great time at the party and I think that the guests did too. I worried that the parents were bored stiff following their kids around the arcade, but I guess I will just have to let that go. Not much I can do about it.

In the end, I waited for the kids to turn in their tickets and choose between a tiny plastic frog, a Tootsie Roll or a mini Pirates of the Caribbean notepad with 5 pages in it. You'd think this would not be a difficult decision, but it is. Very difficult. Requiring no less than 10 minutes of deliberation.

You'd think that Jonah would be party-satisfied, but he knows that his real birthday is still a few days away and keeps playing the "birthday boy" card any time he thinks he can get away with it. Also, he's mentioned several times about his next birthday, which I nicely told him to stop talking about for at least a year and a half.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Healthy Snack?

This morning Isaac came to me with our Ranger Rick magazine and asked if I would make these ladybug fruit snacks. I was shocked because Isaac generally does not eat fruit. Especially strawberries and blueberries.

I told Isaac I would love to make these snacks for him and asked if he'd really eat them.

"Well, not the blueberry," he said.

"But you'd eat the strawberry?" I asked.

"No, not the strawberry either. Just the chocolate chips and the licorice."

Kind of a lot of work just so Isaac can have chocolate and licorice, but Jonah would totally love these little bugs. I might just make them yet! Here's the instructions if you think your little ones might like them.

Stay tuned for posts on Jonah's Chuck E. Cheese Birthday and my second instalment of "How to be a Boy," focusing on taking out the trash.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Backyard Update

Things are moving right along for our backyard renovation project. Robert took the last few days off from work to put together this sprinkler system.

Everything is going according to our plans, although there have been a few minor obstacles to our progress:

Floods: One of the sprinklers in the open space behind our house (owned by the Parks Dept.) is broken and gushes water into our yard every night creating a muddy mess to deal with daily.

Pestilence: A mole or other nocturnal, underground creature has decided to tunnel into our yard and explore the trenches we've labored to dig. New mole hills appear daily and mole traps have been set. (Watch this blog for mole trap results)

Extreme Weather: Saturday turned out to be the hottest day EVER--or at least it seemed like it. It was 100 degrees and quite humid. Not good ditch digging weather at all.

We will soldier on until the yard is finished. Once the sprinkler system is buried, my job will be to dig out the area where the paths will be and prepare those areas for the pavers.

I love it when plan comes together.