Friday, March 30, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Stuff & things, lazy Sunday night edition
Classic rookie mistake
Early in March I was out running errands with Nico and we stopped by Wild Birds Unlimited to get a bag of birdseed. He took a liking to the stuffed cheeping birds and has asked to go back to "the bird store" a few times a week ever since. The bird store is next to the fancy hippie pet store where we buy Indy's food, so we stopped by again today. My (foolish) thought was that we'd just go in and cheep a few of the birds and then go home. But it's a tiny locally-owned store, and as soon as we walked in the owner himself came out to see if we needed anything. And we're acquainted because his store is always doing stuff for my workplace, so I felt bad about just squeezing his birds and leaving. Besides, Nico was cutely in love with the birds and wanted to cheep all the blue ones, over and over. So I bought him one, sort of naively hoping he'd still love it once we got it home. I have a strong suspicion I've been played, to the tune of an $8 cheepy bird. I suppose I can put it in his Easter basket and call it small business support.
Speaking of Easter
How do you guys celebrate, if you do? We tend toward what can only be described as secular Easter, which I don't think is that much of an oxymoron considering the pagan roots of everything from the name to the eggs. Before Nico was born, I used to go to Easter Mass with my parents, but I don't know for sure if either of them go, anymore. My extended family has dinner and there's a big egg hunt for the kids which Nico is finally old enough to participate in, though I am planning to pack a basket of decoy eggs with not-candy inside that I can swap for the ones he finds. I don't think I'm quite ready for a kid hopped up on jellybeans. I got him a cute book about ducklings, some pull-back cars, and a very cute bug viewer (from the dollar bins at Target!) for his basket. I'm hoping we have at least another year before he figures out that Easter = candy. He has figured out all of the various places in town that = cookies, though, so I probably shouldn't place any bets on it.
So far everybody likes the haircut, even my parents whom I did not expect to be big fans. I really like it myself, but I'm still thinking about going back and having her cut it a little shorter. The back tickles my neck some and while I like the long bangs after all, the top bit behind the bangs seems a skosh too long. I'm torn, though, because I feel like as one of the most style-clueless people on the planet, I should probably trust the very hip stylist's judgement. But then again, if I don't totally love it, shouldn't I try tweaking it a little? Indecision! I have found that it looks decent - though not optimally cute - without any product, which is nice. Of course it looks much better if I put some curl stuff in it. I still haven't mailed my creepy hacked-off braid. Has anyone ever donated hair to an organization other than Locks of Love? I'm not opposed to them or anything and have donated hair to them twice before, I'm just wondering what other places are out there who do the same work but get less attention and thus fewer donations.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I guess now that it's officially Spring I'll have to stop saying, "But it's WINTER!" every time the daily temperature is forecast to hit 80 degrees. It's been going on for several weeks now, though, off and on. I have been enjoying the mild days (though 80 is a little much), but it feels like shenanigans nonetheless. Is this happening everywhere, or is it just here that the weather has been freakish pretty much since the non-winter started?
As usually happens, I'm all full of Big Exciting Spring Plans!™ that will probably never come to fruition (see: every year of my mostly-failed garden blog). But just for fun, my big ideas:
One thing that will definitely happen is lots of zoo trips. We bought a family membership this year and Nico and I have already been four times since the end of February. They're open on Mondays unlike most of the museums and other educational kid-friendly places around town, which is quite convenient since I take Mondays off to hang with the kid already.
I had decided to just let the garden go again this year. Last year I cleared and landscape-fabricked half of it before it got too hot and I gave up, and then I never ended up planting anything. I figured I could let it sit one more year and re-evaluate next year, but then Nico developed a sudden fascination with digging in the dirt. It started on a walk one day with my dad, when they stopped by to visit a friend of Dad's in the neighborhood and Nico was allowed to dig around in the guy's front porch planter. All the way home that day, he chirped in the backseat, "Play in the dirt! Play in the dirt with Grandpa!" Ever since then, he's been regularly requesting to play in the dirt again. This week Dad took him to the big park playground and let him play with his dump truck in the big dirt-filled but plant-free planter there.
Knowing that Nico is excited about dirt makes me want to get him out there in it while he's interested. Thus the new plan is to clear out the raised bed I built the summer I was pregnant and plant some easy toddler-friendly things like snap peas and cherry tomatoes. I've also decided that redoing the landscaping fabric every year is too much of a pain in the ass for too little benefit. It takes forever, it costs money every year, and inevitably the birds and Indy tear it all up. The new plan of action is to eventually go to all raised beds back there with mulch or something in between them. To that end, Dad and I picked up a half-truckload of bricks from a freecycler this week (which is another whole blog post that I want to write). Nico and I stopped by the Home Depot tonight after a spontaneous dinner date to price dirt for the new bed I want to build. Hilariously, every time we passed one of their lines of lawn tractors, Nico would say, "Wow! Look at all those toys!" Dream big, my son! He was also quite enamored of the huge rolling ladders that the guys were pushing around the store. ("That's a really big ladder! He was pushing a really big ladder!")
This weather has me all confused about the correct timing for gardening, though. Usually we don't put anything in the ground until Mother's Day weekend, because there's almost always a chance of frost until then. But the trees and grass and flowers have been going gangbusters for weeks so do we plant now? Wait until later? Split the difference? SO CONFUSED.
I don't remember how I came upon this idea, but I'd really like to raise tadpoles with Nico this Spring / Summer if possible. We had some in an aquarium at work last year and it was so cool to watch them go through their metamorphosis. All the kids who came in loved it and most of the adults did, too. To facilitate this, I got the okay from MB (who seems mystified but is willing to indulge my weird whims) and bought a 10 gallon aquarium off Craigslist for $5 tonight. Now I just need to be on the lookout for stranded tadpoles. The ones we had last year came from somebody's pool cover, so I've put the word out on facebook in case any pool-having people find some stowaways. I think this'll either turn out to be a really awesome idea or a really bad one…there probably won't be any middle ground.
This is probably unrelated to my Big Exciting Spring Plans™, but around my birthday I got this sudden and powerful urge to cut off all my hair. I had the same thing happen the year Nico was born and went out around my birthday and got my hair cut to just past my shoulders. I wore it down for one or two days with curl-product in it and then gave up and started wearing a ponytail every day again. I just can't stand hair in / around my face while I'm working. This year, I decided to go big or go home. It's the first time I've had short hair since a tragic haircut at age 12, and so far I think I love it.
I am planning to donate the chopped-off hair to some wig-making charity or another, so I drove home from the salon with it on my passenger seat. I don't care how good a cause it benefits…it will never not be creepy to walk around with a huge hank of one's own severed hair.
This has nothing at all to do with Spring, but it has to be shared. I watched two episodes of Sons of Anarchy before bed last night, which is not unusual in itself. Then this morning right before waking up, I had a long and elaborate dream which was basically my subconscious mind's version of an episode of SoA. I was even running around with Tig and Opie and shooting bad guys and eventually being rescued by Jax. More of that, please.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
How to throw a game shower
I have been best friends with bibliophile81 since we were in Kindergarten and so, as soon as she announced her engagement to Mr. Bitter, I knew I had to come up with a really cool idea for a shower / end-of-singledom party. Since Mr. Bitter and the bibliophile are both huge games fans, rabidmonkey and I each independently came up with the idea to throw them a game-themed party. We formed a planning committee with evilducky, Teacher Incognito, and Danger and started scheming. I decided my birthday would make an excellent decoy date and set up a fake facebook event inviting all our close friends over for our typical hang out / eat cake kind of thing. Then I sent an email around to everyone but the bibliophile and Mr Bitter, inviting everyone to bring a game as a gift for the marrieds-to-be and come over early enough to shout "Surprise!" when they walked in the door. Then the committee got to work.
Evilducky made a congrats banner with cards from the game Aquarius as backgrounds:
We decided we wanted to have game-themed snacks and spent several weeks kicking ideas around that we found online. We didn't want to blow the bank or get in over our heads, so we narrowed it down to a few simple things. Back in November of last year, the bibliophile herself sent me a link to a tutorial on creating a mold to make chocolate D&D dice. Making the mold was way beyond my capabilities, but I got in touch with the chocolatier who wrote the article, Ariel Segall, and it turned out she now makes the dice as one of the products offered by her Dark Matter Chocolate Laboratory. We ordered a batch of 49 dark chocolate dice to give as an edible gift at the party and I need to tell you that Ariel and her business manager Kat were great to work with from start to finish. They were patient as we spent several weeks debating the different flavor options, were able to accommodate our chosen date, and then rushed the chocolates to us after an unexpected delay so that they arrived right on time. If you want a fun and delicious gift or treat for a special occasion, check out her stuff. She can even make a chocolate TARDIS!
We also wanted to do something inspired by the game Carcassonne, and evilducky suggested that we make square cookies and decorate them to look like the game tiles, then put the cookies on top of cupcakes. Danger volunteered to bake ridiculously delicious chocolate cupcakes. Evilducky found a painted sugar cookie recipe from A Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies. She and I got together the Sunday before the party to make the cookies. We measured out 3" x 3" squares using a ruler and a pizza cutter, then painted them with egg yolks + food coloring, per the Baker's Field Guide instructions. We couldn't do a lot of detail and we had to be careful not to let the colors bleed together, but I think overall they turned out pretty awesome.
We made some meeple:
Then they were united with the cupcakes half an hour before the party started on Tuesday (wooden meeple added for fun):
Haul of games:
I think we succeeded at throwing a good, memorable party for our friends. We wanted to send them off to the wedding feeling loved and celebrated, and I'm hoping we accomplished that. It was a lot of fun, too.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
I had a really great day with Nico yesterday and now I'm thinking in parenting clichés. Where has the time gone? What happened to my baby? Blink and you miss it! Time flies! Heart walking around outside my body! But sometimes things become clichés because they're true. For instance…how did this
become this, so very quickly?
It is going so fast and I don't know where the time has gone and when I came around the corner and saw him sitting there at the table waiting for our dinner yesterday, looking so ridiculously grown, my heart just filled up. He can be difficult, loud, frustrating, messy, and increasingly defiant, but those moments, they pale next to the good ones. Next to the ones where he does something or says something awesome and I look at him and think, This. This is why I wanted a child. I know it's cheesy as hell to say so, but I am grateful every day that I get to be this guy's mother.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Life hacks 2
Here are a few more things that make things easier around the house in small but satisfying ways:
1. Folding a fitted sheet
2. Storing a silicone baking mat
Two years ago I received a silpat silicone baking mat for Christmas in July. According to the package it came in, the silpat isn't supposed to be folded. I kept it rolled up and stored in a drawer, but it would always gradually unroll and get in the way. Then one day I had an epiphany - I rolled up the silpat and slid it into an empty paper towel tube. It fit perfectly and now it stays clean and never unrolls and gets caught in the drawer.
3. Securing unruly cords
I keep a phone charger plugged in by my bed, like probably everyone in the free world. The weight of the extension cord end used to constantly drag the charger cord down in between the bed and the nightstand, causing disproportionate amounts of rage. I wish I'd come up with this one on my own, but it was in an email that one of my coworkers got with all kinds of lifehacky tips and tricks. One giant binder clip and the problem was solved. You can detach the silver bar thingie from the body of the clip if neither end of your charger cord fits through the space.
4. Storing wrapping paper
This isn't that creative but I'm including it because I can't believe I didn't think of it ages ago. I tried to buy one of those more or less trash can shaped wrapping paper storage tubs after Christmas this year, but they were all sold out before I got to Target. I found a really long flat underbed storage tub that's long enough for wrapping paper rolls and bought that instead, and now I think that was probably the better choice anyway. Underbed space is a lot less precious than closet space in our house, after all.
5. Saving a little on laundry
Have you ever noticed how fabric softener sheets usually have a little bit of stiffness left when they come out of the dryer? My mom figured out that you can use two once-used sheets and they work just as well as new ones. I just toss them up onto the top of the dryer as they come out and then re-use them all once. It takes zero effort, pretty much.
6. Keeping track of kid gifts
We end up buying lots of little kid gifts over the course of a year, and after a few months I can't remember what I bought and whom I bought it for. Around last Christmas I finally realized this is the perfect job for the note function in my phone. I now keep a list of the kids we shop for and the gifts we've already given them, and since I always have my phone while shopping, it has proved quite useful.
Friday, March 09, 2012
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
In which we have a close call
I don't know if it's a thing among homes of a certain age or if our house is just an oddball, but we don't have any actual light fixtures in our living room. There's an ostentatiously large chandelier in the dining room and a weird lantern-like fixture in the entryway, but no lights in the living room. Because of this, we have a torchiere lamp at each end of the couch and I'm constantly bitching that there isn't enough light in the room. About two months ago, I noticed that the lamp at my end of the couch had a huge crack in the plastic shade and the lip that was supposed to hold it steady around the lamp was completely gone. We never figured out how it got broken, and to my knowledge it's never been dropped or knocked over. It is pretty old, but the other lamp is much older and it's just fine. The broken lamp has been getting on my nerves ever since due to the shade sliding around any time the lamp is jostled. I used to be able to grab the pole and tip the lamp toward me so I could turn it on while sitting on the couch, but once it was broken I couldn't do that without the shade falling on my head. We haven't got around to replacing it because it technically still works and there always seems to be something more pressing that needs to be bought.
Then tonight, Nico and I were out running errands and didn't get home until about 6:30. MB had worked late and was upstairs taking a nap. When we first walked in, I noticed the house smelled funny, kind of like stinky armpit. Someone in the neighborhood had been cooking out, so I chalked it up to cookout smoke + lingering cooking smells + me being a bit smelly from spending the morning outside at the zoo. As I was getting Nico's dinner ready, I noticed the smell was getting worse and worse. I went over to the candle I had lit twice to make sure it wasn't singing leaves from the nearby houseplant and to check and see if I'd dropped the hot match onto something. And then, finally, it dawned on me to check the lamp. The traitorous, backstabbing lamp that was apparently trying to burn our house down while we weren't looking. The shade had somehow fallen completely off the lamp and was resting directly against the 3-way bulb.
It makes me a bit ill to think what might've happened if we'd left the lamp on and then gone out for several hours. Or if Nico and I had been gone on our errands just a bit longer. Or if this lamp was within inches of the curtains like the other one is. I feel like we really dodged a bullet with this one. Nico and I will be stopping by Target to buy a new lamp tomorrow after swimming lessons and the busted one is going straight into the trash, where it should have gone as soon as I noticed it was broken.
Monday, March 05, 2012
I typically turn up my nose at those extended-warranty plans that stores try to sell for everything. No, I don't really want to pay you $23.95 on the off chance that my product fails before I get years of use out of it. I have made a few exceptions, however. When my mom bought Nico's baby monitor off my registry right before he was born, she went ahead and bought a replacement plan for it. Good thing, too, because the parent half of it stopped holding a charge less than a year later. I activated the replacement plan and got a voucher, and then bought the updated version of the same monitor because it was one of the very few that didn't have a video monitor or a pad that I was supposed to put under the baby to alert me if he didn't move sufficiently within a certain period of time. Those seemed excessive (and expensive) and really, I just wanted a basic baby monitor. I hadn't been happy with the range of the one we had, but I hoped that the new version represented an upgrade. Having been burned once, I purchased a replacement plan for the second monitor. Shortly before Christmas, the second monitor failed in the same way the first had - the parent unit not only refused to hold a charge, but beeped for low battery even when it was plugged into the wall.
Unfortunately I misplaced the receipt and warranty card for the second monitor and it has not turned up in my decluttering and filing. I finally called the Babies R Us store where I bought it in a desperate bid to not eat the cost of the monitor plus warranty. The manager there was exceptionally helpful and tried going back through the computer system to see if it had stored a record of my purchase. Since I had bought it with a merchandise credit instead of a credit card, though, there was no record. He encouraged me to try the warranty company even though I didn't have the receipt, and that actually worked. The call center chick I talked to was in a big rush, but she was polite and competent and issued the order for the replacement voucher even though I had no proof of purchase. Within two weeks I received a form letter from BRU with a credit attached for the price of the monitor plus tax, which I plan to hang onto until I need another baby monitor (or other large, necessary piece of child-gear). As un-thrilled as I was with the monitors themselves, the overall experience earned a big customer-service and pro-warranty thumbs up.
The second warranty experience is from today. I purchased a Dirt Devil steam mop last May, which I dearly loved. Two months ago, it stopped making steam, so I dug out the card for the warranty plan and toted the broken mop back to Menard's today per the instructions. I don't know if you've ever shopped at Menard's, but the stores are roughly the size of Rhode Island and the employees never seem to know where anything is located. I stuck Nico and the mop in a cart and hiked over to what I thought was the service desk, only to be sent back across to the other side of the store. Once I'd turned in my mop, I was told to bring another one up to the desk to complete the exchange, so we set off to the appliance section at the back of the store where I remembered finding the first mop. Unable to locate one, I asked a guy in the vacuum aisle where to look. He sent me to the mop aisle in front of the store, which had only old-fashioned mops and brooms. I asked a girl there where to look, and she sent me back to the appliance section.
Now, I don't know if it's a legitimate medical thing (borderline hypoglycemia?) or just Get the Bitch a Sandwich Syndrome, but I get really cranky when I'm hungry. Seriously unreasonably cranky. As I was making my way back to the appliance department for the second time, Nico bored in the cart and requesting "Go home and play," I could feel the stirrings of hunger-induced rage. I found the same clueless guy and got him to rustle up his department manager, who ascertained that not only had my mop been discontinued, but the store was out of the comparable model they could've given me instead. In the end they refunded the purchase price plus the price of the replacement plan, in cash - they offered a store credit first, which I declined - so that's another big thumbs up. I guess the lesson here is to get replacement plans if they're not insultingly expensive (the mop plan was only $4.95 on a $50 product) and pack provisions (and maybe a GPS) if you're going shopping at Menard's.
Incidentally, if you have a recommendation for a good baby monitor or reliable steam mop, let me know. We had this monitor first, this monitor second, and this steam mop.
I broke the corner off the nail of my right middle finger last Thursday, far enough back that it bled a little bit. It didn't hurt horribly at the time, but I was shocked at how badly and how long it hurt afterward. On Friday it felt like a really bad bruise any time I tried to use or bumped that finger, and on Saturday the sore, bruised feeling was even worse. It wasn't horribly bad, but it was surprisingly painful for such a small injury and because of its location it's impossible to adequately cover with a band-aid. The phrase "cut to the quick" suddenly has new and clear meaning for me. I have also been surprised at how often I use my middle finger for things other than rude gestures, and how hard it is to avoid bumping or otherwise re-injuring that kind of injury. I had to be careful carrying chairs at work on Saturday and washing dishes on Sunday was a bit of a bitch. The worst, though, was earlier tonight. The bruised feeling is pretty much gone, but I was tying a trash bag and somehow stabbed the edge of one of my lefthand fingernails right into the raw spot on my wounded finger. It hurt so bad that I had to clamp my mouth shut to avoid using very inappropriate language in front of Nico.
And now, because I am still tired from the weekend (also, possibly, old and lame), I think I'm going to go read in bed until I fall asleep. Hopefully I won't throw my phone across the room in my sleep like I did last night. (W.T.F. Also, thank God for the Otterbox.) Tomorrow, the zoo!
Reading: Spindle's End by Robin McKinley
Playing: Howl by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club