Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Making a Mess

A couple of weeks ago, Steve and I visited a Montessori school, where we were considering sending Camden in the fall. At some point during our tour, the owner of the school made mention that, while kids tend to be messy, they are not overly comfortable with "making a mess" anymore. We teach our children not to get their clothes dirty, or to be careful not to spill, etc. I thought about this in the context of my own family, and realized just how true his statement was. So, on a recent visit to our library, we checked out a great book entitled, Messy Activities and More, by Virginia Morin. What a wonderful little book! I decided to try it out with Camden, so I took him into the kitchen one day, and proceeded to spray a huge pile of shaving cream onto the linoleum. He looked a little horrified, especially when I told him to "have at it" and make a big ol' mess. He promptly looked worried, and said, "but I will get it on my clothes", to which I replied, "Who cares! That's what the washing machine is for!" I tell you, although my boy is a very happy little guy, I hadn't heard him laugh as hard as he did that day in quite some time, up to his elbows in shaving cream. Gosh, did we have fun. That only reinforced the fact that we need to do a whole lot more "mess-making" going forward.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Last Friday, I checked out a couple of local yard sales with my in-laws, and boy did I find some treasures. First, this lovely enamelware bowl caught my eye. I've been searching for a nice fruit bowl for some time now, but just haven't been able to find quite the right thing. Then I spied this gem, hidden amongst a pile of old Tupperware, kitchen gadgets, and other odds and ends. I picked it up and carried it around, while I continued to case the sale. At one point, I walked by an older woman, who was obviously part of the family holding the yard sale. She noticed I was holding the bowl, and she said, "I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've helped myself to a serving of my mother's potato salad out of that bowl." That was all that I needed to hear, to know that I had to buy it. $4.00 later, it was mine. My sister-in-law, Danielle, bought a matching cook pot (which was missing its cover, unfortunately) and then gave it to me, so here is the pair together:

I had noticed a stamp on the bottom of the bowl, but couldn't really make it out, with the exception of "Norway". The Potato Salad Lady proceeded to tell me that her family was Norwegian, and that most likely, her father had brought the bowl and cook pot back to America, after going to Norway to visit family. I had to know more about these dishes, so of course I Googled "Norway, enamelware", and discovered that they were in fact Catherineholm of Norway cookware, in the 'Lotus' pattern, created by Grete Prytz Kittelsen. She was born in 1917 in Oslo, Norway, and was one of the most influential designers in the mid-century in Scandinavia. I came across many pictures of other Lotus pieces, and would just about kill for a tea kettle or fondue pot from this collection. Beautiful.

I found this Fire King coffee mug (in Peach Lustre) at another yard sale. I have one just like it in Jadite, but I think I might love this one even more. It was manufactured sometime in the 1950's.

Finally, there has been a set of three of these little snack trays/cups, sitting on the shelf collecting dust, at the local thrift store. I originally thought they were Fire King, but there were no markings on them, so I passed them by. Over the weekend, I was at the local antique shop, thumbing through some of their reference books. They had a great Fire King book, and wouldn't you know, I opened it up to a page with a picture of this exact snack set. The pattern is called "Fleurette", and it originally came in a set of four, manufactured in the 1960's. Perfect for tea and biscuits, if you ask me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

While I Was Away...

Life is returning to normal around here...I've found it difficult to blog consistently as we've had company on and off for the past month. Alas, it is just the four of us once again, and I have a backlog of topics in my brain to share with you all. First, however, shall we do some catching up?

Camden had his final soccer game last week. "Orange Crush" went undefeated for the season! Here he is, doing his team cheer at the end of the game.

Camden was very excited about his soccer medal, which I believe he wore for a good 24 hours straight.
The "end of soccer season" was all the excuse I needed to make some soccer ball cupcakes, and have a little soccer party.

Griffin is now wearing this 30-something year-old Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. Yes, it was once mine, and yes, Camden use to wear it, too.

Camden was eating a graham cracker one day, when he informed me that he'd eaten it into the shape of Idaho, and in fact, he had. Sometimes I don't know what this little guy will come up with next!Will you please look at the blue eyes on this boy? And while you're at it, will you please not look at my crow's feet?
The past couple of days have been full of spring cleaning. I mean the kind not meant for sissies, people. Closet cleaning, mattress flipping, cobweb removal, etc. Today I've been cleaning the patio because it is currently 78 degrees outside. 78 degrees! I'm giddy at the thought of digging in the dirt, soaking up the sun, and just being OUTSIDE.
Stay tuned this week for some yard sale treasures, some Favorite Things, and other random thoughts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake yourself a favor and make this cheesecake. After you sit down and eat a piece, you will want to run for the hills, screaming like a lunatic. It is that good. If you've never attempted a cheesecake, it really isn't as difficult as it may seem. I think one of the most common problems that people encounter is under baking and over baking. It is very difficult to tell when a cheesecake is actually "done". I remember, years ago, making a chocolate chip cheesecake for my dear friend Jen. That thing was so incredibly over baked that I still cringe when I think about it (sorry about that, Jen!). One easy way to ensure that your cheesecake is baked through is to turn the oven off after the directed baking time, and then letting the cheesecake sit in the oven for an hour. Another trick that works really well is to bake your cheesecake in a water bath. Check out this link for all kinds of helpful tips for fabulous cheesecake.

Anyway, back to the cheesecake I made the other day. The recipe originated in Bon Appetite magazine, and it is a keeper. I found it at (another wonderful website). The batter was almost like mousse. The best part was the chocolate ganache topping, because my cake cracked, but after covering it with the ganache, nobody was the wiser. The texture of the cake is almost like fudge, and a little goes a loooooong way. Very, very rich, and very dense. I think it would also be delicious with a raspberry sauce drizzled over the top. So, do yourself a favor and bake this. You will not be sorry!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thank Heaven For Little Boys

Meet Max. He's here visiting with his mom, Dani (Steve's sister) and his dad, Aaron. He is a happy, happy boy - - so easy to smile, giggle, and just so very content. I'm so glad that they are here, and that we have this time to get to know our nephew better. I already know that I'm going to be very sad when they head back to Maine next weekend!

The weather is a little nutty around here lately - - the tulips are blooming, it has reached a high of 76 degrees already, but it is supposed to snow later on today. Um, yeah. You never know with weather though - - it could always change. Just the same, the boys and I took the opportunity to eat some ice cream sandwiches the other day, on the swing set of course.
Yes, that is a big bruise in the middle of Griffin's forehead - - when you climb on top of furniture and think nothing about hurling yourself off of said furniture, you are prone to bruising, you see.

The boys are happy to have their Aunt, Uncle, and cousin here. Camden and Griffin are both very good at spotting a "kid person" at a hundred paces, so they wasted no time at all, corning their Uncle Aaron and holding him hostage with book after book.
Steve is away at drill this weekend, so we are missing him, but looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow evening. Now, please excuse me while I go and wrangle some midgets.
Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Please Excuse the Mess

I'm in the middle of overhauling my blog - - I have been itching for a template change for quite some time now, so I am plugging away at that as time permits. I realized earlier this week that my blog is now two years old...I cannot believe it! I seriously never thought I would stick with it for this long. At this point, I can't imagine not blogging - - I really love it. What I love even more are all of the great comments you all leave. It means so much to me that you take time out of your day to check in with me, and even more so, that you want to read what I have to say. Speaking of which, is there anything in particular you'd like to see more of? More pictures? Fewer pictures? More recipes? Crafts? Crazy Griffin stories? Please let me know (via comments) what interests you, because, you know, I aim to please, after all!

Imagine my surprise this morning when I visited one of my favorite blogs, and saw that I'd won a delightful prize. If you haven't done yourself the favor of visiting Thrifty Goodness, please do so - - you won't be sorry! Anyway, I got so excited about winning the gaggle of Martha Goodness, it made me want to have another contest of my own. So, stay tuned for that in the coming days. I am currently dreaming up a goody basket to give away.

We were expecting guests tonight - - Steve's sister Danielle, her husband Aaron, and our new nephew, Max. Alas, their connecting flight out of Chicago was cancelled, so they will not be arriving until sometime tomorrow. My heart goes out to them, because one of my biggest fears is having that happen while traveling with children. I will be happy when they finally make it to Idaho!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sneak Peek

This kitchen makeover is taking much longer than I had anticipated. That would probably be due to the fact that I have two busy little boys at my feet at all times. It is coming along though, so that is good. I have one more valance to make, and a few more cupboards to paint. My goal is to wrap all this up by the end of the week, but this week is a very busy week, so we shall see what I actually end up accomplishing.

I am loving my new table and chairs, and the bright colors in the kitchen. Remember the crazy yellow light fixture, above the table? Well, when I painted the walls, it looked just awful and didn't match at all, so my dad scrubbed it and painted it bright red, which turned out to be a great accent color. I also found the most perfect cherry print material, and proceeded to dust off my sewing machine and make some valances.

The telephone - - I had Steve move it down to cover the unsightly hole that I'd discovered beneath the paneling, but soon it will be going away for good. I've found a great looking retro desk phone (in red, of course) that will look perfect on the little telephone stand...must hurry up and order that.

Here is the original kitchen, for a little comparison. I do not miss that wood paneling at all. Or the wall paper, for that matter.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Heart Cuisinart (and chocolate)

Please, go to your kitchens, grab all of our various appliances, and throw them in the garbage. Throw them away, I tell you! Now, do yourself a favor, and replace anything you've thrown away with a Cuisinart-brand product. I'm madly in love with Cuisinart, and I will try to convince anyone who will listen, that they should be, too.

You see, I've always been the kind of girl who buys what is on sale, not getting hung-up on name brand items. However, with age *ahem*, comes wisdom. First, I realized that a girl simply should not go through life wearing cheap bras. I'm sorry, but it is true. Then, I realized that sometimes it pays to splurge on certain hair care items (remember, I said sometimes). Now, as a homemaker, I spend way more time in the kitchen than I ever use to. I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but I really only ever use that when faced with a recipe that requires heavy duty mixing (i.e., not often). As for hand mixers, I'd always owned one that I'd paid $14.99 for at a random department store, multiple times. That was until 2006, when I asked Santa for a Cuisinart PowerSelect 7-Speed hand mixer. I'm not sure what possessed me, because it was quite a bit more than I cared to spend on a kitchen appliance. The first time I fired that sucker up, however, I was sold. That mixer purred like a little kitty. Now I can't believe I wasted so many years on low-watt, wimpy mixers. This thing is awesome. The bad news is, after approximately one year of use of 2-3 times per week, the beaters decided they didn't want to stay in the mixer, usually while I was busy mixing. A pretty annoying problem. In steps my husband, thrifty man that he is, and fired an email off to Cuisinart to tell them about the problem. Last week, I was minding my own business, when the phone rang. It was a lovely man from Cuisinart calling. He proceeded to inform me that they'd received our email, and simply asked me to explain the problem with my mixer. I did, and he then informed me that they would send me a brand new one. No other questions asked. It arrived in the mail yesterday. Um, okay! I've told you before, I value good customer service. It is very hard to come by these days, which is pretty sad. So, I love Cuisinart not because they have the absolute best appliances - - I'm sure there are other great ones out there - - but because they have fabulous customer service. Seriously, I am jumping up and down and clapping my hands while I type this, I am so happy. Now, get thee to Target and buy yourself a new Cuisinart mixer. You know you want one.

While I am spending your hard-earned money for you, do yourself another favor and try to find yourself a Seattle Chocolates Truffle Bar. I'm not even supposed to eat chocolate, but if I'm going to be naughty and do it anyway, this is the chocolate I want to eat. It comes in a bunch of different flavors, but I like the Espresso or the Cappuccino Crunch the best. Yum!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Letter to Griffin

Dear Griffin,

Mummy loves you so much. You are a beautiful, sweet, smart little boy, and I feel so blessed that I get to be at home with you every day. That being said, I have a bone or two to pick with you:

  • Griffie, please stop climbing on top of the dining room table. How do you get up there so fast? Your brother never did this. Why do you? Mummy doesn't understand.

  • Please stop dumping the various garbage cans in the house onto the floor, over and over. It makes Mummy twitchy.

  • Also, would it be too much to ask you not to grab the plunger or toilet brush, or rub your hands all over the toilet seat, every time you find a way into the bathroom? That's just gross.

  • Honey, please stop making Mummy call Poison Control. I think they recognize my voice now, when I call.

  • When Mummy has spent hours and hours painting the kitchen walls, please don't steal a barbecue skewer ( a barbecue skewer! That's dangerous, for goodness sakes!) out of the drawer and scrape the new paint off the walls. This makes Mummy a bit cross.

  • When I'm trying to put your jammies on you at night, please sit still. It would also be helpful if you wouldn't scream, "N00000000!" and run off down the hallway, naked.

Can you do these things for Mummy, Griff? It would really help me cut back on my alcohol consumption in the evenings. Thanks!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Day Among Adults

Yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to get out on my own, and attend the Idaho Library Association Regional Conference. The conference was held on the campus of The College of Idaho, which was the first place I worked, when I moved to Idaho seven years ago. I hadn't been there for years, and had forgotten how much I use to enjoy the peaceful drive to Caldwell each morning. I attended a seminar on evolving library spaces, a couple on story telling, and a seminar about Web 2.0, and moving toward blogging as a way to get information out to library patrons. Recently, my boss asked me to take on the responsibility of updating the library web site. Mind you, I know nothing about doing something like that, but I am so excited about taking on the challenge and learning something new. Although I currently only get paid for two hours per week, I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to earn a bit of mad money, without having to put the boys in day care. Mostly, I enjoy having a little something that allows me to use the creative part of my brain in a different way. It is my hope that this tiny job will someday turn into something with more hours, when the boys are both in school full-time. A special thank you to Steve, who took the day off from work, so that I could go yesterday. Thanks, honey!

I am still painting the kitchen. I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever finish. Mind you, my kitchen has 20 cupboard doors, and 10 drawers. That means removing hinges and handles from all the doors, priming, then painting, putting them back together, and then hanging them back up. I've finished all of the upper cupboard doors, but still have a bunch of lower ones to do. These are challenging because I have to figure out how to keep nosey little boys out of the cupboards while they are door-less. If all goes as planned (and who am I kidding, things rarely go as planned around here!) then I will finish with the painting tonight, and will go and pick up my new table and chairs tomorrow.

The boys are doing just great. Camden has recently had an obsession with the Titanic, after his good buddy Hayden directed him toward a book about the Titanic at the library. I don't know if there has been anyone who has entered our house, that has managed to escape Camden spewing forth various facts about the iceberg, the manner in which it sank, what happened to the people, etc., etc. Camden and I even had to make an "iceberg" one day, so that he could play "Titanic" in the bathroom sink. Next week will be busy with kindergarten registration (insert sound of me, weeping softly), assorted doctor's appointments, and the arrival of Steve's sister Danielle, her husband Aaron, and our nephew, Max.

Griffin is as crazy as ever. His vocabulary really exploded while my folks were visiting, and continues to grow. Right now, his favorite thing to say is, "NO!" (no surprise there). He says it all day long. He's also very interested in books, and his favorites right now are Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? I'm pretty sure I can recite both of those books backward and forward, in my sleep.

Steve is busy with work and command (no surprise there, either!). Recently, he's been rearranging the garage/shop so that it is more to his liking. He hung up his canoe plans, and I'm guessing it won't be long before he starts building it. This is something that he has been dreaming about for years, so I am glad that he is finally going to do it.

To round out the family update, I'm happy to report that Roy finally had his *ahem* nether regions altered last week. You may recall we had a couple of failed attempts at getting that accomplished. I thought maybe it would mellow him out a little, but he came home from the vet and proceeded to chase his tail, turn cartwheels down the hallway, and act like a lunatic. Riley continues to think he is in charge of everyone, which is so not true, but given his old age, we let him think whatever he wants.

Lots to do this morning. Boys to dress. Faces to wash. Laundry piling up. And painting. Oh yes, more painting.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things: Estate Sales

Okay, so I didn't know I loved estate sales until yesterday. I picked my mother-in-law, Bev, up a little before 8:00 yesterday morning, and we made our way over to an estate sale here in town, that we'd seen listed in the local paper. My game plan was to hit the kitchen first, in hopes of finding some Pyrex and such. So, we walked in the door and I quickly elbowed my way through a group of ladies gathered in the kitchen, and started snatching up treasures. I really hit the jackpot. First, I found a pink Pyrex rectangle cake dish. It has seen a lot of use, but still has some life left in it:

Next, I found a couple of Pyrex cinderella bowls:

Then, I found this lovely Fire King Primrose cake dish:

A very retro serving tray (which I used this morning, by the way):

I also found this great little bread tray, which I plan to hang on the wall in my new kitchen:

My favorite treasure is this Corning sauce maker bowl - - my mom has one just like it, and I use to like to make pudding in it, when I was little:

Oh Lordy, it was exhilarating. We found so many treasures. I have to say though, there is something about an estate sale that seems a bit sad - - the physical remnants of someone's life, spread out on tables, being picked over by a bunch of strangers. I overheard the woman who was running the estate sale say that she was doing it for a family friend. She said that the husband had recently passed away, and the wife had immediately moved to an assisted living facility. Some of the Pyrex shows a bit of wear, so I'm guessing they were well-loved and used for years.

If you look closely in some of the pictures I've posted today, you can see that the walls in my kitchen are looking very different than they looked a couple of weeks ago. I spent a good deal of time painting yesterday, and will be back at it today, after I get Griffin down for his afternoon nap. I'm hoping to be able to "unveil" my new and improved kitchen by the end of this week, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I Dislike Dishes

Washing them, that is. Maybe it is because at times, when I am being a big baby and acting really ridiculous, I like to whine to myself about how I sometimes feel as though I spend all my days wiping bottoms, noses, and washing dishes. Funny thing is, I use to have a dish washer, but I got rid of it. It came with this house, but it was old, it was a stand-alone, and so it took up way too much room in my kitchen, for something that didn't work very well. So, on a typical day, I think I wash dishes 3-4 times. The reason for my whining this morning is twofold. First, as you know, my parents were recently here for a visit. Besides being The Most Fabulous Grandparents, they are also The Most Fabulous House Guests. I'm mildly embarrassed to admit it, but in the fourteen days that they were here, I think I washed dishes one time. Once! That would be because my parents are saints and they did it for me. I didn't ask them to - - they just did, because they are good like that. So, as you can imagine, I am experiencing some major (Major!) withdrawal from this. The rest of my whining comes from the state of my kitchen this morning:The counter space on the other side of my sink is also covered with dirty dishes. Ick. This is the result of my preparing dinner for 9 yesterday afternoon, while also attempting to keep a small boy with an ear infection entertained and happy. I won't name names (Griffin), but this small boy always naps in the afternoon, at precisely the same time that his older brother is at preschool, in this case giving me the perfect opportunity to cook in peace and quiet. Not yesterday, though. Yesterday, he fell asleep in the morning, therefore cancelling out his afternoon nap. Alas, I still managed to prepare a pork roast, yeast rolls, tossed salad, oven roasted potatoes, peas with pearl onions, and an Apple Crisp Pie, between the hours of 1:00 and 6:00 p.m. AND kept Griffie from causing any major disasters. So, although my kitchen is a complete mess and I am not looking forward to washing dishes all day long today, I'm feeling just a tad bit smug that I managed to pull it all off.

The reason for the big dinner? Steve turned 40 yesterday (yes, he's an April Fool). I can't believe I am married to a 40-year-old man! Oh, wait a minute...I guess I am pushing 40 myself so I'd best keep my comments under control.

As for the cooking and baking, I wanted to let all of my lovely cousins know that I attempted Grammy's yeast rolls in my bread machine, and they came out great. Not anywhere near as good as Grammy's of course, but good just the same. All I did was add just a little more water than her original recipe called for. When I asked Steve what he wanted for dessert, he'd said either an apple pie, or some apple crisp. So, I jumped right on the Internet and found a great recipe for Apple Crisp Pie. In the past, I've always bought pre-made pie crust (gasp!), but I won't be doing that any longer, because making crust is a cinch. Of course I relied on Martha and she didn't disappoint. I just followed her instructions for Making Pie Crust, and it turned out lovely.

The Birthday Boy, getting some help unwrapping gifts, from a gaggle of midgets.

Must run. Time to wash more dishes.
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