Sunday, February 21, 2010

That's Mighty Tasty Ice Cream*

In an effort to eat more whole, real foods, I recently purchased a Cuisinart ice cream maker. After my first attempt at ice cream flopped, I've had several moderate ice cream successes. Just so you know, I consider my ice cream a success if the kids like it. I'm not sure why I hold to this ridiculous standard. They are fairly picky eaters with years of Dryers and Tillamook to compare my meager efforts to.

At any rate, I'm getting better. Bless Amazon's little heart, when I ordered the ice cream maker, they suggested the Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book as something I also might be interested in. And what do you know, I was. So I got that too. I let Ethan choose tonight's ice cream flavor from the Ben and Jerry's book and he chose chocolate chip cookie dough.

This was my 4th ice cream attempt and probably my best, if I do say so myself. I couldn't wait for the boys to taste it and give me their feedback. Here's our conversation:

Jonah: It tastes like ice cream.

Me: It is ice cream.

Jonah: I mean real ice cream.

Me: It is real ice cream.

Jonah: I mean real ice cream from the store.

Ethan: It's pretty good, but not as good as the stuff from the store.

Isaac: Mom, your ice cream is better than ice cream from the store.

Me: Thank you Isaac! That's the answer I was looking for.

Jonah: But I didn't know what the right answer was!

*Robert's reaction to the ice cream. Also a correct answer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Coming out of Hibernation

This is the cozy den* I've been holed up in for the last 3 and a half months. It was filled with canned peaches and pears and salsa and pickles. It had an endless supply of books. There was a gas fireplace and warm blankets and lots of sugary treats. It was the perfect place to fall asleep listing to the patter of rain on my roof and windows.

Hibernation is good, but it can't last forever.

The time has come to wake up and face life and responsibility again. It's time to plant a few things in the garden: peas, broccoli raab, beets, lettuce. There are weeds that need pulling and pretty flower blooms that need admiring.

Mostly, though, it's time to get moving.

Because I can't afford to buy all new clothes in a bigger size. Nor do I want to.

Hibernation sure was fun while it lasted.

*an approximate representation of my actual den.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What Happened to "Be Mine?"

Change is hard.

Today I picked up a package of my favorite Valentine candy at Target: conversation hearts. The chalky sweetness makes these candies good, but the messages make them great.

I'll admit to using them as a means to predict the future when I was younger. I'd think of my current crush and reach in and grab a heart. The message always indicated what I was sure would happen. And if I didn't like the answer, I could just reach in and grab another heart till I got the answer I wanted. (Similar to the scene with George Michael in Arrested Development, season one, episode title: Marta Complex. It was really funny. Trust me.)


However, when I tasted my first conversation heart right out of the bag (which, by the way, said "tweet me.") the texture was spot on, but the taste was awful. It was tart and disgusting. I checked the bag to see if I'd purchased a bag of sour hearts on accident.


Same old conversation hearts, all new flavors. I'd just enjoyed blue raspberry. Green is now green apple and pink is strawberry. There is no white anymore, which I know many people didn't care for, but I always liked it. In the old days. Before they changed EVERYTHING!

The flavors are one change that I just can't live with. The phrases might be another. I realize the conversation heart people need to stay current so from time to time they throw a trendy message or two on their hearts. I'll never forget the very cool "fax me" from the 80's.

But some of these messages seem a little too casual.

"Hey babe?"

"UR Hot?"

What happened to the more romantic and formal, "be mine" and "say yes?"

And I'm sorry, but "marry me" is just too forward a message for conversation hearts. Imagine the trouble one could get in to with that one!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Love My Clunker

According to the US Government, I drive a clunker.

Last summer's "Cash For Clunkers" program stipulated that if you drove an old car that got bad gas mileage, you could trade it in for money towards the purchase of a new car.

Robert and I considered the deal: Our car is 12 years old, has over 117,000 miles, and the CD player doesn't work (I think someone put pennies in it years ago). Among various body imperfections and dents it has all three of our boy's name's scratched into the paint. The wimpy 4-cylinder engine totally lags on hills. The shocks are shot, and it currently has a cracked exhaust manifold that will almost cost more to repair than the current value of the car. (Also, the cracked exhaust manifold may or may not also be causing odorless carbon monoxide gas to leak into the cabin of the car, slowly poisoning our entire family. I feel so sleepy.)

Still, I love my clunker and didn't want to give it up then, or now.

I love how our car looks different than lots of other cars on the road. People can see me coming from blocks away. I get lots of waves. And of course with the kids names scratched on the side, it's a piece of cake to identify in a parking lot full of dark blue minivans.

The doors open to a full 90 degrees. You may not think this is something you'd find useful until you actually have the luxury--and a kid who plays trombone in middle school band.

The seating is configured so no one has to touch each other while we are driving. Whether it's a 1000 mile trip to Disneyland or a 2 mile drive to church, it is crucial that no one touches each other.

On long trips, we get 19 mpg, which not too bad. We've taken this car through 7 western states, into 2 national parks and many state parks. We've watched Orcas swim while looking out it's automatically rolled-down windows and it's provided shelter during many rainy baseball games. I even slept in it once while riding the late ferry back to San Juan Island. (The front and middle seat recline flat to create a not-to-painful sleeping surface.)

But most of all, having a reliable, working car is so much better than having a car payment.

You can have your fancy cars with wi-fi and voice activated GPS and video monitors and shiny, unscratched paint and carpets that don't have throw-up spots. I love my clunker.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Savings Goal

Once every seven years of employment, Intel gives its employees a 7 week sabbatical. It's Intel's way of saying, "thanks for working all that unpaid overtime, 7 days a week, for the last 7 years. We hope your family still recognizes you."

Robert's sabbatical will be summer 2011 and we are eagerly looking forward to it. I've decided we will spend part of Robert's time off taking a cruise with the whole family for 5 days. I'd prefer a Mediterranean cruise for 12 days, but did I mention all that unpaid overtime? I think instead we will set our sites on a Western Caribbean cruise embarking from somewhere in Florida.

It will be amazing.

I talked to the kids yesterday about how I have a special savings account just to save money for the cruise. I told them about all the different things we could do on a cruise: swim, mini golf, arcades, ice cream any time they wanted, dessert at every meal, fun shows, maybe even water slides and kids clubs. And that was just on the boat. When we get off the boat, I told them, they could expect to jet ski, snorkel, swim with sting rays, and zip line.

They were sold.

So sold, in fact, that both Jonah and Isaac started handing me money for our cruise savings account. At first it was just a quarter from Isaac, but Jonah felt generous and forked over his last dollar. Isaac scrounged up the remaining nickel, dime and penny from the couch cushions.

$1.41 down, $4998.69 to go.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tricky Treat

Good job Wonka Candy Company and Nestle. You tricked a 5 year old. I hope you are happy.

Deceptive packaging seems to be the trend du jour. My last box of Honey Maid graham crackers had a full inch of air space to hide the fact that their graham crackers are smaller. Cereal boxes, like supermodels, are just as tall as they always were, but much thinner. If you've ever opened a box of Andes Mints, you know firsthand the disappointment that a few cardboard spacers can cause.

Pulling a fast one over on adults is one thing, but fooling kids seems a little low. This Nerd's Rope cost Isaac 75 cents. Compared to other candy on the grocery store shelf, 75 cents was a reasonable price for a 10 and a half inch rope of candy. So why did Wonka feel the need to employ deceptive packaging and make the rope look 13 inches long? Does the Wonka Company find joy in getting children ridiculously excited, then dashing their hopes? (e.g. Flying through the air with fizzy lifting soda is a blast until you consider you're about to be sliced to bits in the exhaust fan.)

I called the toll-free number on the back of the Rainbow Nerds Rope to lodge my complaint about the lameness of their candy packaging. By the way, the people over at Wonka have done a splendid job of making their automated phone system as creepy as a boat ride through a psychedelic tunnel. I half expected the customer rep I finally spoke with to carry on with the theme and have some hyperbolic persona. He was normal.

I essentially told him: candy good, price OK, packaging stupid. He assured me that he'd let the marketing department know of my feedback and asked if I'd like some coupons.

And that is how coupons doused the fire of my righteous indignation.

Well, it was really more like a small flame, but still.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Laundry Channel

We upgraded to the Laundry Channel on Saturday when a new LG washer and dryer were delivered to our home. The old washer and dryer were 13 years old and, I thought, headed for the big Sears repair shop in the sky.

Shouts of "Come upstairs! Quick!" and "This is so awesome," peppered our afternoon as we did our first load. We would have liked to have watched more laundry spinning around, but due to the washer's large capacity, we simply ran out of dirty stuff. On Monday Ethan was eager to wash his own load. He had fun pushing the buttons to get the settings just right. Unfortunately, when the load was done, he found he'd inadvertently washed his Nintendo DS. A complete loss.

Now, after 5 days, the Laundry Channel has lost some of its cache. In fact, Ethan hasn't been back to the laundry room since the Nintendo DS tragedy and I expect won't be until clean clothes become important to him. I'm guessing 3 years?

I, on the other hand, still get a little excited when there are enough dirty things in the laundry basket to wash another load. I carefully dry the gasket and the inside of the door of the washing machine with a little towel so we don't get a mildewy smell. I lovingly wipe fingerprints off the shiny surface and windowed door. I sneak a peak at it's sleek newness every time I pass by.

Give me another week and I'm sure I'll be over it.