Monday, May 31, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Vanilla and Peach Jell-o Pudding

Please forgive the unappealing blob of Cool Whip in the photo. I'm not familiar working with the Cool Whip medium. I'm going to get back to Grandma's molds next week, but this week I had some Peach Jell-o I wanted to try. I found this recipe and thought it sounded easy and delicious.

This Jell-o could not be classified as a salad no matter how many pretty green lettuce leaves I garnished it with. It's a dessert all the way. It was sweet and delicious and surprisingly rich.

No surprise: Robert and I loved it.

Jonah gobbled it down.

Isaac dug right in and seemed to be sold on Vanilla and Peach Jell-o Pudding until he ran into his first actual peach. Then he was done. Finished! He wouldn't even let me dig out the peaches to finish the rest. "But you love canned peaches," I said.

"Yes, but I don't like things with them." He said.

Ethan ate the Cool Whip off the top only. He didn't even try one bite.

What am I going to do with that kid?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Food Storage Challenge: Bonus Edition

Water is probably one of the most important things you can store for emergencies. We have 2, 50 gallon food grade water barrels to store water for our family. We also have a water purification filter thing (I've never actually seen it, but Robert says we have it somewhere).

I thought it would be great to access our emergency water as part of our food storage challenge since we'd never before tried to get water out of these barrels, except when changing it every year or so.

A tube or garden hose could always be used as a siphon, but we have this fancy pump thing we bought at the same time we bought our barrels. I wanted to see if it worked. Robert used a channel lock wrench to unscrew the plug on the top of the barrel and attached the pump.

We had to loosen the red cap at the very top and then pump. The water started flowing with no problem. I filled up my pitcher about 1/4 of the way (no need to waste the water when we still had stuff coming out of the faucet in the kitchen) and took it in the house for a drink.

This water has been in our barrels since October 2009 which isn't terribly long. I've heard that water stored for a long time can taste funny and needs to be stirred up a little to mix in oxygen to improve taste.

As for my taste of food storage water, I thought it was fine. It didn't have an odd taste although it didn't taste identical to the stuff coming out of our tap--the best tap water in the world, by the way.

When we filled our barrels back in October, we used clean, treated water from our city (a.k.a the garden hose). As an added precaution, in case we didn't clean out the barrel thoroughly, we also treated the water with chlorine bleach. You only need an 1/8 of a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for this process and you need to use pure chlorine bleach without any added cleansers, scents, thickeners or additives. Here is more information.

It was an educational 6 days, and I'm glad it's over.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Saturday Market

We were all on our way downtown to Portland's Saturday Market, a fun, eclectic assortment of handmade crafts, yummy food, and interesting people. Just as we left our neighborhood, I saw something on the side of the road with a sign that said: FREE!

It was a basketball hoop.

Against my will and despite all my efforts to prevent it, summer vacation from school is quickly approaching. I've often thought that a basketball hoop in the backyard would be the answer to so many of my summertime problems. The only problem is that Robert doesn't want just any basketball hoop. He wants a good basketball hoop. And evidently, those cost a lot of money.

As we drove past the free basketball hoop sitting on the side of the road I started chanting: Free, free, free! Go back, go back, go back!

"But it needs a new net." Ethan complained.

"It's FREE!" I said.

"It's probably not a very good one," Robert said.

"It's FREE!" I said.

"We probably will have to get rid of a few people to fit it in the car," Robert said.

"Who cares!" I said.

We did have to get rid of a few people actually. There was no room for anyone in the car except for Robert once we finally got the thing to fit, and he had to sit on the backboard all the way home. Good thing it was only a quarter mile drive.

We also had to remove the back seat, 3 camp chairs, two booster seats, a blanket, one baseball cleat, and two baseball hats. We set up on the side of the road like we were waiting for a parade and watched the confused look of drivers as they went by. And patiently waited for Robert to unload the hoop at home and come back to pick us up.

I'm sure we made quite the spectacle parked on the side of the road trying to get that hoop into our car, but I don't care.

It was FREE!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Food Storage Challenge: Day 6

They aren't pretty, but they're good. I would have made bread even if we weren't in an imaginary emergency because I like whole wheat bread and I like that I can make something healthy for my family from scratch starting with grinding the wheat.

Day 6 of the Food Storage Challenge will certainly turn out to be no problem for our family. We have plenty of food still left. I could probably do this for another week if I just had eggs and milk.

Speaking of eggs, I did a little research on how to store them.

Yes, they do store for a long time in your fridge when stored properly. My cousin mentioned that you could rub mineral oil on the shells and put them back in the cartons in the fridge (bottom shelf in the back, not the door) and they would last up to 6 months.

There were plenty of websites that gave instructions for storing eggs out of the refrigerator. There was a lot of different information but most suggested not washing the eggs when you plan to store them on the shelf because they have a protective coating on them that will keep them fresh longer. Since I buy my eggs from the store or from a farmer who washes them, this isn't really an option for me. Not that I even want it to be.

Another website said that eggs could be frozen. However, yolks will turn lumpy and gelatenous when frozen, so, you need to freeze the whites and the yolks separately. Whites need no special treatment, but stir in a half teaspoon of salt or a tablespoon of sugar for every one cup of yolk you are going to freeze. Use the sugared yolks for baked treats and the salted yolks for your savory cooking. A great idea I found was to freeze the whites in an ice cube tray so they freeze in single egg portions.

Freezing eggs seems like the best option for me and one that I will probably take advantage of.

The other big emergency egg information was all about egg substitutes.

Thanks to information from my visiting teacher, who recently attended a food storage seminar, real egg substitutes, such as dehydrated eggs, are usually expensive and have a short shelf life. The best option for baking with eggs is unflavored gelatin like Knox. Instructions on how to make the substitution are here.

Whew! That's a lot of egg information, but the good news is, there are ways to store eggs, or to store things that will act like eggs. This is good news for me indeed.

As a final note, I plan to have a bonus Food Storage Challenge Post tomorrow or Sunday, not that we will be extending our challenge time, but because I would like to tap into our water storage and see how easy or hard it is. We have 2, 50 gallon food grade water barrels filled with water. The water was changed out in October, so that's good. But we have to employ the use of a special pump, which we've never before tried, to get the water out of the barrels. I also want to drink the water and see how it tastes.

Robert does not want to drink the water. Something about surgery and not wanting to get sick, blah, blah, blah.

I guess I'll take one for the team.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Food Storage Challenge: Day 5

Last night's food storage dinner was a smashing success. Basic Bulgur Poultry Casserole from the Making the Best of the Basics Family Preparedness Handbook was delicious. Ethan and Robert had seconds and I would have too if it weren't for this thing I'm doing. Our side dishes were left over Mahana (you ugly) from Sunday and frozen corn from the freezer.

I made cookies yesterday and have been hoarding them like a miser. Since we are out of snacks, these have become the snacks. I need to put them in school lunches and have them available after school. So last night when Robert was eating them as freely as he normally eats chocolate chip cookies, I gave him the what for. (Part of my indignation probably came from the fact that I haven't even been able to taste any of the yummy looking cookies, because of this thing I'm doing.)

I have 5 eggs left and only 2 more days of the Food Storage Challenge so in reality, we're not in an egg crisis. But what if we didn't know how long those eggs would have to last us? What if this were a real emergency that lasted 6 weeks instead of 6 days? See how important those eggs would become? I'd need them to make bread, for example.

I know. I need to relax a little.

Ethan was very curious about the bottomless milk jug. I just told him we still had milk and he could use it on his cereal and he seemed satisfied with that answer.

We still have plenty of food to eat. I have freezer dinners in the freezer, stuff in the pantry and jars of preserves in the garage. Tonight we will have left over chimichangas, which was a freezer dinner. Friday we will have the left over Basic Bulgur Poultry Casserole.

Then, early Saturday morning, I'm getting up and going to Winco and buying two dozen eggs, fresh veggies and fruit, and I would say milk but the milkman delivered yesterday but we're holding off consuming that until Saturday.

Should be a piece of cake. Which by the way, would require 3 eggs to make.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Food Storage Challenge: Day 4

We are just starting day 3 of our 6 day fake earthquake voluntary food storage challenge. So far, things are going pretty well. The biggest success has been passing off a half powdered milk, half real milk mixture to the kids. And it's possible the powdered milk was a tiny bit expired. They had no idea they were drinking part powdered milk!

Days 1 and 2 were leftovers and a freezer dinner, as well as other things we already had in the shelf and on the pantry. Tonight, however, I'm going to be preparing a little dish called "Basic Bulgur Poultry Casserole" using some turkey I had in the freezer and this handy book. I still have plenty of dinners in the freezer, but thought it would be fun to see how we do with a more--shall we say--desperate recipe. Who knows? It might actually be good.

In my "Fake Earthquake, Real Consequences" post, Heather asked how to know what foods to store. Well Heather, this is for you! Storing food can seem like a daunting task. One day, a friend shared this idea that got me started with food storage:

Make a list of the 10 - 12 meals you eat over and over. Things like spaghetti, tacos, casseroles, etc. List out the ingredients for each of those meals then multiply ingredient amounts by the number of times you eat the meal in a year (probably once or twice a month). Some of the ingredients will be things you can store long term. Things that are canned or dry goods can be stored on a shelf, while other things might keep in the freezer for a few months at a time. Once you have that list, start storing those items. Watch for sales, or pick up a few extra items each week at the grocery store. Eventually, you will have a year's supply of items that you know you use all the time.

The Food Storage Mantra is: Store what you eat. Eat what you store. Use it or lose it!

One of the most important things to store in your food storage is water. You can live without food for weeks or longer, but you can only live without water for a day or two before your body starts to suffer drastically. Here are a few guidelines for storing water.

These have been the biggest challenges living off our food storage so far:

Milk - We've rationed our milk for breakfast cereal only, although I did serve milk at dinner last night to see if the kids would notice the powdered milk combo. I have about a quart left, but I expect that amount to magically increase later this afternoon.

Snacks - We are out of pretzels, fruit leather, and other convenient snack food. At first I didn't know what to do when the kids came home from school wanting a snack. Then I made pumpkin banana muffins out of the 2 nasty looking bananas left in the fruit bowl and a can of pumpkin in my food storage. Today I made cookies, but quickly realized that any more baking is going to have to be put on hold until this challenge is over because...

Eggs - ...I have 6 more eggs to last the rest of the week. Normally this would not be a problem, but I'm participating in a fun diet game with some friends and rely on an egg at breakfast every day.

Here are a few of the perks from taking the food storage challenge:

No Wasting - I explained to the kids last night when they claimed they were done with their dinner (plates still 3/4 full of food) that a real emergency might not last 6 days. It could last a month or longer. We would have no idea how long we'd have to make our food last and so it would be very important not to waste any food so we'd have enough to make it through the whole emergency. I suggested they take the challenge this week of not wasting food on their plates and that next week they could go back to being picky eaters. And they fell for it!

Seeing the Holes - Even after three days, it's easy for me to see where my holes are in my food storage. When the fake earthquake hit, I was low on several food storage items that I would have stocked up on had I known the earthquake was coming. But when do we ever get advance notice that the "earthquake" is coming? Today is the day to prepare!

This challenge hasn't been too hard so far, but I can tell that after 6 days, it could become a bit more uncomfortable.

I mentioned a few days ago that Robert was thrilled with the idea of me not grocery shopping for a whole week. What he may not yet realize is that after this is over, I'm going to have to buy double groceries to stock back up on what we've used!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sew What!: Roadside Mix

This is skirt number two from Sew What! Skirts. It's an A-line with a back zipper and darts. As with my first Sew What! Skirts Skirt, I drafted the pattern for this skirt using my own measurements and instructions from the book. I'm calling it Roadside Mix in homage to Clyde Robin Seed Company's number one selling wildflower mix for 40 years.

Initially, this skirt didn't take very long to make. I put it together in about 2 hours. However, I decided not to add darts which was a huge mistake. After trying it on and realizing that it really, really needed darts, I knew I needed to re-do it. Working myself up to sit down with the stitch ripper took 3 weeks and making the actual darts and putting the skirt back together took another hour.

I thought this fabric flower would really tie the look together. I got the instructions from this site and just happened to have this green button on hand. It was super easy to make.

Finally, the shoes. They're purple. A little age-inappropriate? Maybe. I sure got a lot of compliments from all the young women at church.

This skirt is the second in my 3-Skirt Plan to create the actual skirt I wanted to make from Sew What! Skirts in the first place. Skirt number one and two have been practice. Skirt number three will be the ONE.

I hope.

p.s. My head is cut off in the above pic because it's artsy, not because I was the only one available to take my picture, had to use the camera's timer feature, and balance the camera on it's end on the edge of the patio table while everyone waited for me in the car so we could go to church. And it was raining.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Eight Cow Jell-o

For those not familiar with the 1969 Sunday School film, Johnny Lingo, let me give you a brief run down: Johnny Lingo is a handsome Polynesian trader recently returned to his home island to find a wife. Rumor has it, he wants to marry Mahana. No one can believe this because, of course, Mahana is ugly. We know this because of the infamous line her father delivers with Sunday School flair, "Mahana, you ugly! Get down from that tree."

Island custom dictates a young man offer cattle when asking for a young girl's hand in marriage. The better looking and more talented the girl, the more cows she is worth. Mahana's father is a bit of a jerk and speculates he couldn't expect more than a 3 legged cow that gives sour milk for his ugly Mahana. So everyone is surprised when Johnny offers 8 cows for Mahana's hand in marriage.

Johnny and Mahana go off to the Honeymoon Place and when they return to the island 6 months later, everyone is shocked to find Mahana a stunningly beautiful woman. Johnny Lingo said, Mahana's true worth had nothing to do with what others saw, but only what she truly was.

Which brings us to this week's Jell-o.

Mahana (you ugly) Jell-o salad was brought to my attention by Margo (thank you!) who spotted it in an article about the devoted relationship between Mormons and Jell-o.

As you can clearly see from the picture, it's not pretty. But, like Johnny Lingo said of Mahana, this Jell-o salad's worth has nothing to do with what others see, but what it truly is. And that is about a half gallon of ice cream with a little Jell-o, crushed pineapple, cottage cheese and pecans mixed in.

Yes, it was good.

Of course there were still a few unbelievers at the table yesterday who refuse to look beyond the outer appearance of their food to find its inner deliciousness. (You'd think we were trying to feed him fried worms!)

Ethan said it was disgusting, but somehow managed to eat the whole thing so he could have dessert. (More ice cream). Isaac took one bite and was done. Jonah said he liked it "half" and ate half. Robert and I ate the whole thing. As usual.

If I can't get my kids to eat a Jell-o salad with a half gallon of vanilla ice cream mixed in, will I ever have a chance of getting them to embrace their Jell-o heritage?

They can protest all they want. It only makes me more determined.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fake Earthquake, Real Consequenses

In church this afternoon there was an announcement: On Saturday, there had been a devastating fake earthquake which drastically affected Portland and the surrounding areas.

As part of our stake's emergency preparedness plan, leaders decided to run a preparedness drill. For those who are not familiar with the Mormon lingo, a stake is a geographical area which encompasses several congregations. Our stake includes 8 congregations which total about 1,300 families. Part of the drill was to see how well our communications system was set up and how long it took to make contact with church members immediately following the fake earthquake.

But that's not all.

This fake earthquake comes with a serious aftermath.

We were asked to pretend that the fake earthquake has left the grocery stores either inaccessible, depleted of inventory, or both and to eat for the next SIX DAYS from our food storage.

Our food storage.

Naturally, Robert thought not going to the grocery store for 6 days was the best idea he'd ever heard.

My first thought was a little different: Trader Joe's doesn't count, does it?

My second thought: The milkman doesn't count. He's not "going to the store," he's coming to us. And I'm sure he can make it over the fake rubble, etc. to deliver fresh milk and eggs.

"Nope." Robert said. "Cancel for one week."

"You don't mean...?"

"Yes. Powdered milk."

(cue dramatic music)

So, we are going to take the challenge: No grocery store for 6 days.

Last week, I think I went to the grocery store every day except Sunday, so this will definitely be an interesting exercise.

I'll be sure and let you know how it goes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Which I Discuss the Awesomeness of the Internet, Book Reviews, and Tom Angleberger

Last week I read the book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. If ever there was a book that would appeal to 6th grade boys, this is it: It's got 6 grade boys, Star Wars, a mysteriously accurate finger puppet sage, a sprinkling of sports and bad cafeteria behavior. It just so happens I have a 6th grade boy, so I asked him if he would read it. At first he said no. He even claimed to not like Star Wars, which was a flat out lie.

I begged, I negotiated, I asked him to read just 30 pages just so he could tell my why the book was so lame.

The reverse psychology worked. He read it. He loved it. I wrote this review at

A day or two later, the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tom Angleberger, sends me a message through Goodreads in response to my review:

I really appreciate that review and I'm so glad I won over your 6th-grader!
If you'll send a picture of him with his 8 origami Yodas (or just the Yodas if you prefer) to me at I'll post them on

Thanks again!

So I did.

Tom replied minutes later:

Awesome! It's up on the Website already!

Thanks a lot! And thanks again for that review, too!


When Ethan came home I showed him his picture on Tom Angleberger's website and he was thrilled (it's in the left column, towards the bottom).

This isn't the first time an actual author has responded to something I've written and I hope it's not the last.

Maybe I'm just an overgrown fangirl, but I love how the Internet allows these quick, personal connections to take place.

As for Ethan, his brief connection to Tom Angleberger this week has put stars in his eyes and inspired him to pay more attention to all those books mom has her nose in. Suddenly he's asking about what I'm reading, grabbing books out of my hands and flipping pages like he might be interested. If I could recommend one good book that got him a little attention from a real author, why not another?

(I'm remaining calm, no sudden movements, suppressing my impulse to shove a stack of my faves in his face. But I did point out that there were a bunch of great books on the bookshelf in his room. He said, "I have a bookshelf in my room?")

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Bonus Edition

This is supposed to be a lovely Zesty Ginger Fruit Salad housewarming Jell-o mold for Samurai Mom. Instead, my inadequate mold turning-out skills rendered this salad a catastrophe. Here's where everything went wrong:

1. I felt very strongly that this Jell-o salad sit on a bed of lettuce leaves. I picked some beautiful leaves from my garden, washed and dried them, then placed them on the plate. Then I tried to quickly invert the mold onto the plate so that it would turn out in the center of the plate while not disturbing the lettuce garnish. But I hesitated mid turn-out.

2. This particular Jell-o salad has a frothy, whipped middle layer which, I quickly learned, is very unstable. Like an unnatural disaster, the top layer of Jell-o came sliding off as a result of the seismic activity of my sub-par mold turn-out.

What I should have done was place the lettuce leaf garnish on top of the mold, then the plate on top of the lettuce, then flipped the whole thing.

I'll do better next time.

Because there will be a next time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Lemon Jell-o Salad with Marshmallows

This week's Jell-o recipe was selected for it's yellowness. (Recipe in comment section). I thought it would look especially striking on my new, purple plate. Plus, it had marshmallows and 7-up in it, so I figured there was a good chance my family would like it.

Of course it also had crushed pineapple, so there was an equally good chance my family would hate it.

I decided I would not mention the pineapple.

Jonah loved it. "Mmmm. Pineapple!" He said, right away.

"There's pineapple in it?" Ethan said. "I'm not eating it."

Isaac took 5 bites only so he could have dessert later, because evidently, a jiggly sugar mold with 7-up and marshmallows doesn't count as dessert. He nearly gagged, but got down all 5 bites.

Ethan picked out and ate all visible marshmallows and declared himself "done."

As usual, Robert and I both enjoyed our Jell-o salad. I definitely detected a subtle fizz from the 7-up and felt the marshmallows offered a pleasant airy contrast to the dense sweetness of the bananas and pineapple.

Robert, I'm sure, would have agreed.

Next week's Jell-o will not be made in my grandmother's molds, but in a 9x13 casserole. Even though the presentation will be a boring rectangle, I'm sure you will want to find out how my family likes it when I tell you the name of it is...

...Mahana (you ugly).

See you next week!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Blue

"Is that Jell-o for tonight?" Ethan asked.

"Yes." I said.

"Did you put anything in it?"


"You mean...?"

"Yes. Plain Jell-o."

After last week's Jell-o disappointment, coupled with the fact that not one of you volunteered to be a new test subject (thanks a lot), I needed a big time Jell-o success. I needed to rally the current test subjects; to regain their trust.

I decided to go with the Berry Blue flavored Jell-o (not blueberry, mind you), because I can't imagine using it for any other Jell-o recipe I might try in the future. Also, the way the blue does not resemble any color one might see in nature made me certain it would be a hit with the test subjects.

And it was a hit.

Isaac ate his Jell-o first and declared it delicious.

Ethan ate his last and gave it a thumbs up, but said the portion size was "a little too much."

Jonah just nodded enthusiastically as he slurped down the last mouthful of blue goodness.

Robert and I abstained from Jell-o tonight.

Next week though, it's back to the weird stuff.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I 99% hate this tree.

The leaves at the base of the trunk have all been pulled out by the kids and have been piled back onto the basket. If the tree were to tip, all those leaves would come tumbling off. In fact, the tree tips often and I find myself picking up and reassembling those leaves over and over and over. I would just vacuum them up, but I've tried and it doesn't work. So I have to pick them up by hand.

The tree is covered in dust and aside from wiping down every individual leaf with a damp cloth, which there is NO possible way I will do, cleaning it seems like an impossibility.

The whole idea of a fake ficus is somewhat outdated. I'm pretty out of it when it comes to interior design, but I think my more "with it" friends will agree: No one does fake ficus anymore. If they did, they'd sell them at Costco.

There is really no good place for this eyesore to go in our home any more. After a major room reassignment (the front room became the dining room, the dining room became the office and the office became a guest bedroom) we don't have an inconspicuous corner in which to stash it.

So, why haven't I hauled this thing off to Goodwill, or probably more appropriately, left it on the curb for the garbage man to haul away?

A small part of the reason it's still here is because on a quiet afternoon in mid November, the kids love to play Christmas Tree. They decorate it with toilet paper garland and ornaments made from computer printer paper and copious amounts of masking tape. The kids spend hours playing and making presents for each other (wrapped in computer printer paper half a roll of masking tape).

The next day I'm left with a fine mess to pick up, but to have all three boys playing nicely with each other for 3 hours is almost worth the effort. Not to mention the wasted computer printer paper and masking tape.

The other reason that this tree is still here is that for some reason, Robert likes it. He is the tree's advocate and has saved it from doom many times.

When we made our major room reassignment 2 weeks ago, I moved this tree out of our formerly empty front room and into the temporarily empty guest room. Not having to look at that tree every day was a joy. I almost forgot that we even had it.

Which was why I noticed immediately when Robert moved the tree out of the guest room and back into the front room.

So today, when Robert gets home from work, it's possible that tree might be moved. Right out of the house. For good.

I'm just saying.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Throne for the Queen

I got an outdoor lounge chair for Mother's Day. Now maybe my pasty white Pacific Northwest arms and legs might have a chance to get some vitamin D while I lounge and read out doors. Yee haw!

Ethan made me brownies with a clean post-brownie kitchen as an added, and much appreciated bonus. (Check out the flour on his shirt!) The brownies were delicious. Too delicious.

And now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to read The Scarlet Pimpernel outside on my new chair.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In Which I Avoid a Trip to Dollar Tree

Fred Meyer was a madhouse at 10am. The row displaying Mother's Day cards was packed, shoulder to shoulder with desperate yet hopeful looking males. The scene reminded me a bit of combat fishing on Alaska's Kenai River.

I was quite prepared to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, but hit a wall when I could not find the perfect thing to hold several little gifts I got for the mothers I will be visiting with tomorrow. I knew that Dollar Tree would have just the thing I was looking for but I've made a solemn oath never to go to Dollar Tree again.

So Dollar Tree was out.

I carefully scanned all 3 aisles of gift wrap and party supplies once, then twice, then--heaven help me--a third time. I was burning daylight and the lines at the check-out were only getting longer. I thought of checking JoAnn's, but no. Visiting JoAnn's on a Saturday should not be attempted without a mild sedative and 2 hours of free time.

Long story short, I realized I had cute paper at home and the world wide web at my fingertips. I was certain I could find simple directions for exactly what I had in mind.

Aren't they cute?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Jell-o Project: In Which I Find My Test Subjects Wholly Inadequate

I refuse to believe that my Cinnamon Apple Jell-o Mold was not absolutely perfect. Because I tasted it, and it was. And if I had normal kids, they would have gobbled up this perfect mixture of applesauce, cinnamon, raisins, pecans, 7-up and strawberry Jell-o and asked for seconds.

But my kids are not normal.

And, they are fired.

Their integrity as Jell-o testers has been compromised by a strong bias against my weekly dome-shaped molds. I would suspect conspiracy, but honestly, they're not that organized.

All of them gladly sucked the whipped cream right off the top, but Isaac and Ethan would not take another bite until I insisted. "I need your feedback," I begged. Ethan took his fork and used one tine to dig out a sliver of Jell-o.

"Nope, I don't like it." He said.

Isaac witnessed me making the Jell-o earlier in the day. He helped me measure the raisins and nuts. He asked for pieces of the apple I cut up. He dumped the 7-up into the warm applesauce and Jell-o mixture on the stove. He took a perfectly chunk free bite of Jell-o right off the top of the mold and said, "I like it medium."

"Well, if you like it medium," I said, "why don't you eat a medium amount of it?"

"I don't like it that good." He said.

"You said medium! Take another bite!" I demanded.

He didn't.

Jonah has been my Jell-o ally these past few weeks, generally eating up every bit of Jell-o I put in front of him. Not tonight. "I don't like raisins," he said. I know for a fact this is a lie.

Robert ate the whole serving of Jell-o and agreed that the kids not liking it was a total mystery. "A perfect combination of chunk and smooth," he said. "The cinnamon is a delicious foil to the nuts and raisins. The bouquet is flavorful and..."

OK, I'm lying. He didn't really say all those things. But I'm sure he was thinking them and would have said them if he didn't have a mouthful delicious Cinnamon Apple Jell-o.

And to think--I thought I was doing them a favor by NOT making chicken flavored aspic with ham and peas and maraschino cherries!

They don't know how good they have it.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


A few nights ago we finished reading the fourth "How to Train your Dragon" book by Cressida Cowell. I found out that there were 3 or 4 additional books published (book #8 is currently available in the UK, but not the US) and went about ordering them from Amazon.

Jonah was curious to see what books would be arriving in the coming week and one thing lead to another and we ended up at Cressida Cowell's official website. In the "About Me" section Jonah and I read about Cressida's childhood spending part of Spring and Summer on an uninhabited island off the coast of Scotland. The name of the island, she said, was a secret.

There followed several pictures of Cressida as a child on the island writing stories. Because that is what she did as a child: write stories. Jonah was instantly inspired. Even though it was way past his bedtime, he wanted to write a story and he wanted to write it immediately.

I was able to get him to wait until today, and here is what he came up with:

The Story to Help You Remember That Dragons Hate Rain. Jonah N., Illustrated by Jonah N.
(The top of the page says: The cutting line. It cuts feet and talons.)
There once lived a dragon and he hated the rain because he is used to being warm and he can't stand cold weather. It's just like taking a cold shower--yeh just don't like it so you get out. It was the same with the dragon.

At Dragons Tribe there was a canyon that made it always rain. Why? I don't know. So as I was saying, one day the sun came out. Dragon was so happy he just had to get out and enjoy it.
(Page 3, below) It was very sunny every day and dragon enjoyed it every day too. He made a swimming pool and he tried it and liked cold water after all on hot days. So Dragon got dressed in warm clothes every day. He liked it. But then they ran out of rain. Every ocean was covered up. He was too hot. It was all up to him to stop them. He made his fire get stronger so he burnt the Stretcher.

(Page 4, above) What is a Stretcher? Stretcher is a fluffy animal that can stretch as much as it wanted. Back to the story. Then it started raining out there. There was a good thing about the Stretchers covering the ocean and I'll tell you why. Because you could walk across the ocean on them. Oh, I forgot to tell you the island we're on is Dragon Island. And the Dragon loved the rain.
Jonah included his author bio on the back of the book:

P.S. I don't like cold weather and my favorite animal is a komodo dragon. And I spell words wrong and I make backwards letters. I don't really like to write. I look like this.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!

Jonah and Isaac are playing Little League baseball this spring. It seems that Robert's employer allows plenty of time for its employees to sign kids up for sports, but not so much time for its employees to watch said sports. Sucks for me, but there you have it. (And it very much sucks for Robert too.)

Luckily I was able to get both boys on the same team and for a while, Ethan was actually helping out as a junior assistant to the coaches. So I could take all three boys (once they got their baseball clothes on, found their gloves, hats and cleats) and drop them off for 90 minutes of practice each week. It was actually working out OK.

Until the team had 3 practices and 2 games in one week and Jonah reached his athletic quota for the year. He's still hanging in there with the team, just a little bit more grudgingly. Isaac has really taken to baseball and is quite a good hitter. The great thing about this age is that all the boys are at the same skill level (a.k.a. skill-less level) so even those little hits to the infield result in a base hit.

I have to admit, my boys are pretty darn cute in their little uniforms. I also have to admit that I bring a book to every game.