Monday, September 5, 2011

Awaiting Free Time

My son started Kindergarten this past week, and my daughter starts preschool very soon. I'll have more time than I know what to do with, which will be in stark contrast to the insanity of the past few years. I found projects in the closet that have literally been put off for 5 years.

If you ask me what I've done over the past few years, I couldn't tell you. I've tried to figure it out, but I can't tease out the specifics. The best I can say is that I've cooked and dealt with food a lot (buy, properly store, prep, cook), cleaned up after messy people, and tried to entertain young minds without stressing everyone out. The last one is the hardest because young minds have short attention spans and you can seldom correctly guess what they will truly enjoy and what they will scoff at. I've seen a lot of the latter.

But I digress. It's been fun and I've learned a lot. And now, I'm looking forward to a few moments of quiet to read, write, and so on. (I forgot what else, so I'll sum it up with "and so on.)

More soon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Learning to Ride with a Balance Bike

At the suggestion of a friend a few years ago, I made a note to look into getting MetaBoy a balance bike when he turned 3. A balance bike is a lot like a traditional bike, except it doesn't have pedals. The idea behind this is that a pedal-free bike is that it allows a child to walk while seated on the bike, allowing him to learn to balance and steer. This action gives the child the ability and confidence to speed up, and before you know it, she's flying along with her feet off the ground, and your running behind her trying to keep up.

I saw several models, ranging in price from $50 to $350. I finally settled on a Skuut, primarily because I wanted to patronize my local toy store, and that's what they carry. A quick search online revealed that its price currently ranges from $90-100.

We bought it for my son's 3rd birthday. He was pretty excited, and on his first ride, he did well. He walked several blocks sitting on the bike. Then he lost interest completely, and I thought it was a lost cause. But one day, out of nowhere, he asked to ride his bike again. Whew!! He got on, and walked like before, but this time he was a little more confident. And he got better with each ride. Now, he sits and runs (think of how the Flintstones drive their cars), then picks up his feet and soars on the bike path...with one of us running and panting behind him.

The best part of this bike is that one day, he'll be able to make an easy transition to a bike with petals, and he won't have to endure training wheels (I hated training wheels!). At least, that's what they say. We're not there yet, so I can't say for sure. But for now, he's doing great, and he loves it. And MetaGirl, who is now 2, will get it when he graduates to a bike with petals.

As for the specific bike, I don't know that one is better than the other. Is the $300 one better than the $50 one? I don't know. But I know that a $50 price tag is much more accessible. And on that note, here's one I found at Costco for $50 (shipping included). And because it's Costco, you know that you can always return it if you don't like it.

If you can afford it, though, consider patronizing your local small toy store. You might pay a little more, but I'm sure they could use the business these days. And your dollars are the best way to assure that the stores you truly appreciate will be around when you need them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cool Dollhouses

Browsing around, I found some gorgeous dollhouses here. Lovely enough for parents to engage in some play time, methinks ;-)

Better yet, I found the A-Frame second from the bottom for sale at Totsy for 75% off retail (otherwise, $75). It's a quirky house, but fun! And for 75% off, worth a second glance, no?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ice Cream Maker Give Away!

I've been thinking about ice cream lately. I stumbled across this post, and I thought I'd share in case anyone else is thinking similar thoughts.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Give Away

As posted recently, I purchased one. It's super easy to easy, and the result is fantastic. All you need is a little patience, since it does take at least a day from start to finish (mostly chilling time, not actual work). And there's nothing nicer than knowing what you're eating and feeding your family.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Motrin "Phantom Recall"

I haven't been able to find Motrin at any of my usual stores. Finally, I asked the pharmacist at Target, and she said it was recalled, but there's plenty of generic (i.e., ibuprofen).

A quick Google search later yielded McNiel Consumer Healthcare's attempt at a "phantom recall."
"The company at the center of a massive recall of children's Tylenol and other popular over-the-counter products tried to perform a "phantom recall" of defective Motrin by sending contractors around the country to buy up the medicine from stores without alerting regulators or the public, according to the chairman of a Congressional committee investigating the company."

Washington Post article: Maker of children's drugs accused of hiding Motrin recall from public

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Striving for Success and Relief in the Kitchen

Food makes me feel better. It's not just the eating or talking about food, it's the making it. I'm not talking anything gourmet, I just like trying new recipes, new ingredients, new techniques. The fact that you can make something from start to finish with a tangible end product is really gratifying. So while I've always been inclined towards baking cookies, cakes, muffins, etc., I've recently been branching out. It seems to help me regain a bit of myself when I'm lost in the throws on toddler tantrums.

These past couple of weeks have been particularly trying. MetaDaddy has been traveling for work, so he's been gone for 10 of the past 14 days. And when he gets back, I can't expect much because of jet lag. As usual, the kids got sick the minute he stepped foot on the airport. Why, why why!?! MetaBoy started it, and MetaGirl was lucky enough to get a mild version of whatever he had. Then she caught something somewhere else, and now he's sick. Tomorrow is two weeks with one stomach flu or another.

So, I'm having a pity party, and everyone's invited!! Except you probably don't want to come over because you might get sick ;-)

And what's a party without presents? I "happened" to find something on sale that I've been eyeing for a while. I figured it's time to indulge.

Sur La Table is having a sale on Cuisinart ice cream makers (well reviewed by Amazon users). Supposedly, they retail for $90, but they seem to be $50 everywhere. You could get it at Bed Bath and Beyond with one of your million 20% off coupons, though I couldn't seem to find it on their website. The Sur La Table deal, available thru May 31, 2010, offers a $15 gift card with your purchase, which works out to for $50 plus tax, less $15 for a future purchase. Amazon's best offer, if you're willing to take the white machine instead of selecting one of the 5 other colors, is pretty comparable (currently $41.48).

No, I didn't need it. But we all like ice cream. And MetaBoy loves to help me in the kitchen, so I'm excited at the prospect of showing him how to make ice cream. I think it's incredibly valuable that he knows that foods he loves like bread, cake, or ice cream are easily made from scratch at home, even though we can also buy them at the store. As a kid, I didn't know that pancakes could be make without a mix. Or that butter is so incredibly easy to make!! Heck, I didn't know a lot of stuff about food until well into adulthood. We've learned to take basic stuff for granted, and it's a real shame. How can we know how to eat well if we don't know what we're eating?

Anyway, I haven't made anything with the machine yet because everyone's still recovering. But once we're ready, I've been eyeing a decadent mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. I love that book. Some recipes are a little tedious or labor intensive, but there are several great, easy ones, like the amazing cauliflower soup that I could eat for days, or the chocolate shortbread cookies. Best of all, whatever recipe you make, you're guaranteed something delicious. There's comfort (food) in that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Never Trust My Oven's Temperature

When I used to pre-heat my oven to 350F, I couldn't help but wonder if the temperature was as promised when the oven beeped. To quell my fears, I bought a thermometer and placed it on a rack inside my oven oven (on the outermost bar, near the door). I felt pretty smart when I found out that it took 10-15 minutes longer after the oven beeped to hit the target temperature. That's why I was having so many problems!!

We since moved, and I brought my thermometer. I put it in the oven here, and as I learned its quirks, I realized it similarly took longer to heat up than promised by the oven's thermostat. But I was having other trouble with the oven, that involved heat, smoke, and char everywhere (food and oven walls). On a whim, I put the thermometer further into the oven (now hanging on a rack in the very center of the oven), and I find out that the oven is hitting then exceeding the target temperature by 25, 50 or more degrees!! My 400 oven hit 500 (and beyond?)!

Now, I'm not sure where I'm going from here, but knowing is the first step. I've been much more cautious with high temperature cooking, which can lead to burning, smoking, and splats (aka dirty oven). I've considered looking into getting it repaired, but we're thinking of moving soon, so it might not be worth the expense.

Whatever I do now, the take away lesson: Never take the temperature of your oven for granted. Whether too high or too low, it can affect your cooking, and in turn, your confidence in cooking.