Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yay! New Year!

I would stay up late and do this right, but my daughter still went to bed at 7 and will still be up some time around 6 AM or so.

Yeah, I'm lame. I also didn't have a babysitter so while I would really like to be partaking of Iron Bartender with friends this year, I am at home, in half of my jammies.

So, I'm off to bed so tomorrow I can get up, go grocery shopping, and try to catch up on my house work. Um... yay?

Happy New Year! May the next one be so so much better than the last, cause 2008 sucked for so many people I know.

PS. If you totally all of a sudden had a little bit more money, money you were supposed to mostly spend on yourself, what DSLR camera would you get?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why you should care deeply about CPSIA

When I was a kid growing up my dad regularly participated in craft fairs. He would sell his hand carved spoons, I would barter away his hand carved spoons for toys. I had a soft box, an apron that held all of my crayons and many other things. To say that I have been supporting handmade all of my life is no understatement.

It goes well with my commitments to buy local, fair trade and support women run businesses. After the major toy scares of last winter, I made a point this year to buy more American, more from small companies and more handmade. For my niece I got a rockin' cape from Ellie Bellie Kids. For M I got a sweet little frog from Crabtree Studio. (who is local and hand made) I also got a couple of great shirts from Harrilu, amazing people who gave me a discount for being a volunteer at the No Coast Craft Show. (because every little monster needs a little monster shirt).

M's birthday is coming up in April, and I had planned on further stocking her kitchen with a collection of crocheted fruits and veggies and other food from Etsy and local artists. Unfortunately if the big toy manufactures and their organization get their way, I will be supporting law breakers to get anything made by hand, by caring and wonderful small businesses owners, here in the US. (and some imports as well)

After the scares last winter everyone overreacted. While the recalls involved Chinese made toys from large corporations, now every person who sells something intended for children under the age of 12 must do major testing on their products. Testing that in nearly ever case costs far more than they would ever dream of making selling it. ($4000 per item) It also virtually kills artists who reuse things like old sweaters and vintage fabrics.

You can help though. You can contact your congress person, you can learn more about it, you can write your own post. You can help save handmade. No one wants less safe for kids, we just want the focus to be on the right things, and not put the important small business owners out of business (since everyone seems to agree that they are the heart of a good economy).

Save people like My Friend Jess, Plushroom Soup, Wild Oats, Hazel & Melvin's Room, Critterbee and so many others.

Help? Please?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Redux

I survived! Hot damn yeah! Here is a little summary of how things went:

This year was likely the best year I've spent with my in-laws since A and I started dating. For so many reasons, it worked out great. M handled transitions, and lots of new people like a pro. She danced around the kitchen with her Nana and cousin, and people barely caught on to just how tired and cranky she was. (we can tell thankfully and left right before it got ugly) I know there were some issues (the least of which was me turning crazy right before we left because it was not happening fast enough) but overall it was great. I hope they think so too.

M loved her presents. She got two babies, (one from A's cousins that was unexpected and perfect) and she now will not lay down without at least one of them. She also got some great accessories for them including a baby stroller from my mom (which tears around the house regularly now. sometimes even with a baby in it) and clothes and a diaper bag sewn by one of my MIL's friends. Other highlights are her kitchen (with seriously all of the stuff to go with it), more Lego's, and a super awesome pink tutu that was made by my SIL at the direction of M's cousin who requested it for her, and picked out the color.

I got pretty much books and music for Christmas, which was just what I wanted. They are things I have a hard time buying for myself, and I save up all of my desires for the holidays. The music has all been imported, and my iPod synced. I just need to finish the cleaning and reorganizing (to fit all of M's new toys in) and I will have time to read.

My brother loved his new Shuffle and having him here is great. We've taught M to say "uncle" and she's really warmed up to him. She even ran to give him a hug last night.

Last night we had beef stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts, tonight is the hottest green chili in the west. It is also a good year for food. We even got some seriously swanky eggnog that I am practicing restraint with. I will not drink the whole half gallon.... I will not drink the whole half gallon...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

My secrets to good cookies

I regularly get compliments on my holiday cookies. I have heard that there have been fights over who gets the last one. So, here are my tips. Totally stolen from other far better bakers.

1. Start with a good recipe. Yeah, Joy of Cooking has some good ones, so does Better Homes and Gardens. However, the best come out of church anthology cookbooks. Or in my case, Red Wing Shoe 100th Anniversary cookbook. The one I use has no instructions, just ingredients.

2. Get a little geeky. Knowing the science of baking helps. What makes things chewy, what makes them crunchy (oil/shortening vs. butter not telling which is which). Best resource is Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For More Food.

3. This goes with being geeky, but don't skip out on the creaming. Creaming butter & sugar well makes for a very different and fluffier cookie.

4. Don't overmix.

5. Stand mixers make everything better. Give the baker you love one. I would loose my mind if I had to use a hand mixer.

6. Give it a rest. I saw a special about cookies (or maybe I listened to it on Splendid Table) but nearly every professional chef that adores cookies says the secret is to rest the dough. At least overnight, if not for days. It may be part of the reason that the stuff in a tube is sometimes better than what you do.

7. Stainless steal icecream scoops are the best. Perfect portions every time. Great for any type of drop or shape cookie.

8. For cutout, roll out the dough warm between two sheets of wax paper and put in the fridge on a cookie sheet. Chill (it happens quickly) then cut out. Easier than rolling out cold dough.

9. Only take on what you can. Seriously. My cookies are best the years I admit what I am capable of. If I try to take on too much, the cookies suck.

10. Don't forget the love. I'm convinced that anything I make turns out good because I care about it and the people it is for. If I half heartedly do it, it sucks.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh, right I have a blog

Sorry for the absence. It was my on call week for work and I spent a good portion of last week working in the evenings for that. It leaves me drained and out of energy usually. I also had a lot of holiday things to get done. Some last minute shopping for stocking stuffers, in store returns of things ordered online that didn't fit, and trying to spend time with my husband (who really just wanted the laptop).

There was also the Macy's field trip for daycare (really should go see it), the holiday party at daycare, dropping off my adopt a family gifts. Oh yeah, and lots of snow, and the near blizzard yesterday.

We (I) got M out in the snow yesterday before it got too cold. It was worth it, even if she did want to shovel more than play in the snow.

I have all kinds of things I want to write about, but right now they are all escaping me. Maybe I will have more energy after I bake more cookies (yeah right...)

Or maybe after the super simple gingerbread house is done...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Really, it is a dry cold. It isn't that bad.

For those of you not in Minnesota, lucky you. It is cold here. Colder than it should be in December. Which is sort of a cruel joke because the weather is all messed up and last weekend it was warmer than it should be in Minnesota. Global warming sort of sucks. And we might lose all of our moose because of it. Which is too bad, because M now says "moose" but it comes out more like "mooshe".

I actually like winter. It is one of the reasons I moved back here. I really do like the seasons. However, I can't help but think that mother nature just likes messing with us here. It is silly hot and humid in summer, and in winter your snot freezes halfway up your nose. Sure, there are all kinds of fun winter things to do like ice skating. However, by the time it is cold enough to actually skate on any of our 10,000+ bodies of water, you don't want to be outside because more than your snot is freezing. Then it warms up enough to be comfy but you may fall through the ice. Those wonderful western European/New England scenes of girls wearing fifteen skirts and skating around the lake with their hands in a muff just don't seem possible when the high temp is somewhere around -15.

M can actually tell that the lake pond we drive by regularly is actually still water, despite it being frozen. That she remembers and makes the connection pretty much amazes me. It makes me a little sad that I can't let her out to play on the ice or anything. It is just too cold. Because of that I'm thinking about taking a class with this winter. Either the Y or maybe Little Gym. Anyone local have anything they've liked? If I don't find a way for her to get some exercise this winter, you may find me in the loony bin again come March. (which is when it turns out she'll be moving up to older toddlers at daycare. *sniff* so fast...)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Enough with the excuses.

2008 has really been a wonderful year for me, but I've let a number of things slide. All for good reasons. See, there was the major project at work, the second job, the nursing baby, the now toddler, the list goes on and on. However, I'm running out of excuses. Here is my list for next year.

Work one job, and do it well. (more on that later)

Figure out why I could do a mean bearded lady impersonation. That means likely a lot of time off for going to the Dr, getting tested, and trying new medications. I don't tolerate meds well usually. However, I would like to look at myself in the mirror and have my picture taken again.

Spend more time my with toddler. She's going to be two(!?) in April, and I keep forgetting that there are more things all the time that we can do together.

Be a better wife. With two jobs, I haven't spent much time with anyone other than my computer.

Lose weight. This may relate to the facial hair issue, but it is also just excuses on my part. I quit nursing, I'm going to cut down on stress and time sitting, so I need to just suck it up and commit.

Improve my writing. Hopefully if I write less I can spend more time making sure what I do write is awesome.

Spend time on my hobbies again. I've really gotten into doing photography again, I miss knitting, and I keep meaning to sew things. I also want to take some classes again. M's steady bedtime of 7 PM means that is possible if I'm not spending all of my time writing.

Be more organized. If you only knew the state of my desks (home and work).

Spend more time with extended family. The more we talk about it, the more it seems that M will be an only child. I need to make an effort to make sure she spends time with her cousins. Some day, they may be all she has.

Be a better me. Yeah, I know...

This list and post are part of a blog blast by Parent Bloggers Network, sponsored by Big Tent. If only writing it meant that I would actually do all of it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Because It Is Easier

A fun little holiday meme.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Wrapping paper unless it is something that is either too large or too pointy. Then it gets either a gift bag or a big bow. I love wrapping stuff enough that I have often wrapped my own gifts (given to me in nondescript boxes). I also love ribbon over bow because bows are too easily removed or squished.

2. Real tree or Artificial?

I won the fight, artificial. A likes it because we can leave the lights on a lot more, and it really does look good.

3. When do you put up the tree?

When we have time. This year it was last weekend. Now that we have a fake one, I think it will go up earlier.

4. When do you take the tree down?

By New Years, but now that we have the fake one, maybe I will procrastinate more.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Love it, especially with a little extra milk and some real nutmeg (fresh grated of course)

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Hard to say. I love the scarf my grandma made me but there was also the year I got a fake Cabbage Patch doll that I named Mary Lou (1984, the year after the Olympics).

7. Hardest person to buy for?

My MIL. I hate feeding her accumulation of stuff, but the other more non stuff gifts I have tried to do never get met with the kind of response I want, even though I have put a lot of thought into them. No matter what, I always feel like I am letting her down, and I want so much for her to appreciate me and like me.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Easily M or her cousin R. I she is going to love playing with all of her toys this year.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

No, us heathens usually don't.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I am going to post a card to my private family blog, and then actually attempt to mail cards this year.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

I don't think I've ever gotten a bad gift. Maybe the year I got tea because someone heard I liked tea, but I was pregnant, couldn't have caffeine, and herbal tea made me want to puke.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

Love Actually (and I have to fight every year to watch it, but it is just so... awesome)
White Christmas
A Year Without Santa Claus

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

I try to hold off until November/December. Usually because my work bonus isn't until mid December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Only very honestly. We do it occasionally with duplicate gifts. It isn't recycling, so much as repurposing.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Cookies. I finally think I am healthy enough to make them now.

16. Lights on the tree?

Yes, multi colored or single colored. Not such a fan of white.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

All of them? I really like Christmas music. My favorite album is without a doubt A Very Special Christmas.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

Yes, but I bounce around the list and have to count them off on my fingers.

20. Angel on the tree-top or a star?

Star. We finally found one we like.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

I'm with my SIL on this one. Santa won't come until you're asleep, so Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

Parking lots. That and how it always leaves me feeling a bit empty. This year though, that seems to be changing. Could be the extra adopt a family I took on at work.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?

I tend towards the non religious and I love snowflakes, especially the ones my grandma crocheted. The only thing I really hate are gold balls. HATE them.

24. Favorite food for Christmas dinner?

The beef roulaude stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts I made last year.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

To not have any hard feelings, and to get to see my brother. When I wrote about Santa before my mom said she didn't remember when I quit believing, but that when I did it was still really important to me that my brother still believe. He has always been important to me (despite the fighting) Other than my parents, he's all I have for family, and I haven't seen enough of him lately. I would also like a DSLR camera (a Canon) and Photoshop Elements.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Open Letters

Dear Shutterfly,

I adore that you offer print at Target as an option. I especially love that last year I was able to print my holiday cards there. Sure I never sent them, but who's counting that. However this year that wasn't an option no matter how hard I tried. Franky, not amused.

Dear Target,

What's up with not having the easy printing of holidays cards from Shutterfly. Not sure who is to blame here, but I am not liking it. Sure I could go into your store and actually pick out and assemble a card design and have it printed. However, I am busy, and I like the use of an actual mouse for cropping and editing as opposed to the silly track ball thingy. I still managed to print something, but it was not what I originally intended. Not so sure I liked that it required buying actual cards from you to get what I wanted.

Dear darling Picnik,

You are my new BFF. You have collages, you never mess with my emotions about printing. My only request, please make your collage layouts come in standard photo sizes. It didn't quite fit perfectly and I had to crop out the cute border I had put on. Also adore that you have direct interface with Flickr now. Mrrrow!

Dear friends and family,

Umm, sorry about no Christmas cards since M was born. I promise this year I'll try harder. It is just that I don't mail much of anything. However there is a post office by M's daycare and I'm going to make more effort this year. You may get them for New Years however. (or you can check the private family blog and see what I post there)

Oh, and if any of you want to comment about how A and I aren't in the picture, I'm shoving my bearded lady face at you and asking if you really want to remember it forever.



Monday, December 8, 2008

Who could it be... could it be Santa?

When I was little, I sort of believed in Santa, but I never hung on to it for that long (I think, maybe mom can correct me). By the time I was older, I firmly believed in the spirit of Santa Claus. I got into it enough that I filled the stockings, and when I lived out east and made good money, I still enjoyed do extra "Santa" work.

With M, so far, I'm just not feeling it. Maybe it is because I realize that she won't really remember this holiday season, or because she's reached the point where stranger anxiety hits extra hard, but I don't feel the need to push her into the man in the red suit. I agonized over what we should do about taking her to see Santa this year. After all, are the crowds really worth it?

Thankfully for us, daycare brings in Santa for the kids. A really really good Santa with a real beard and an amazing calmness about him. It was great, and a steal at the three buck "field trip" fee. Especially since M screamed the entire time we were anywhere near him. I thought the issues with getting her to stand next to her cousin who is barely taller than she is were bad, try a six foot tall jolly old elf...

Maybe next year...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Whew! Now that that is done.

Well, the grandparents pictures are done, and not a moment too soon. Saying we survived would be an understatement. The good news is, we have good pictures. Pretty sure that while we didn't get either girl's best look ever (together at least), we got pictures that I will have no problem with being blown up to an 8x10.

My fears were realized to a point. M doesn't know her cousin really, and so she didn't want to stand next to her and have her picture taken. She can be a bit of a ham, but rarely on cue. We used bribes, silly faces, chairs (she loves to sit) and a pretzel in a box. It was hard work, but we did it.

We've learned lessons for next year including that SIL and I need to shop for outfits together to prevent any conflicts (and next year there will be three to coordinate, so it will be that much more important). We also learned that it is worth it for me to take time off from work so we can do it on a week day. If we had less pressure because they were already late, we could have spent more time working on getting them warmed up. The biggest lesson is that while I work two jobs, and SIL is a busy business owner and work at home mom, we need to make sure the girls see more of each other. M is likely going to be an only child, so her knowing her cousin is important to me and I haven't been doing a good job at making sure that happens.

Now to find the perfect frame for the pictures, and birthday & Christmas gifts for my niece. It really is less than three weeks until Christmas isn't it?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On a cold winter's day

M is a snow bunny. She loves to be outside. It didn't matter that the wind child was somewhere around zero degrees, she just wanted to be outside.

This morning when I went to the store to buy our tree (yay!) she came running out with a jacket and hat begging to go outside. I took her with even though it meant the tree nearly didn't fit. I promised her after her nap we would get properly bundled up and go outside.

Her cheeks were very red, she was shivering a little, and she still cried when I had to pick her up to go inside.

She likes licking the snow off of her mittens, she wanted to walk up and down the sidewalk, and I think she looks like a purple marshmallow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shameless Plug for the People I Love

If you are local to the Twin Cities, go here this weekend. Say "Hi!" to Trish from Crafty Planet and show them some retail love.

Happy Shower Antigone!

Along the way while reading the blog of one of A's friend's wive's (keep that straight), who was going through some tough fertility issues (and is now pregnant, Yay!), I happened upon this wonderful blog written by the most wonderful and courageous woman. She's seriously an inspiration. And she's having a baby! Congrats Antigone and Perseus!

And, in the spirit of all good baby showers, some advice:

There is no such thing as too many kisses on the top of a soft baby head.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

OMG! Have you heard I have a girl!

My has one cousin, on her dad's side, 16 months older than her. She is M's opposite. M has brown eyes, brown hair that will likely only get darker. Her cousin, R, has white blond hair and stunning blue eyes. M is pale, R is even more pale.

To make my MIL happy last year we got pictures of them together. This year we're doing it again, this coming Sunday. With everyone trying to get less for the holidays, some professional pictures of the girls together will be the perfect gift.

It takes a little work, and a little wardrobe coordination, but we got it all planned out. So far my only two fears are that since M hasn't seen R in awhile that she might all of a sudden get shy and just what to do with M's baby mullet.

So tonight, just for fun, we tried out some pigtails. It was like someone all of a sudden made my baby into a little girl. There is a slight issue with evenness when trying to work with such fine hair. I think it is going to require more practice. Good news is, she likes them. Especially when I put in a matching set myself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Real vs. Fake

Well, M is definitely recovered from her convalescence. She's back to being a non stop kind of kid. The first two days so far this week have included things like "full of energy" and "She did lots of running and dancing today. She LOVES to move! :)" on her cards from daycare.

Now if A and I were just feeling better.

Total topic change:

We're having a little argument in our house about our Christmas tree. A wants a real one, I want a fake one.

I grew up selling Christmas trees with my family, I thought fake trees were horrible things. However, I've had a change of heart. Here are my arguments:

1. We have a small house with a small living room. We can get a fake tree that is narrow, and while it may not hold all of our ornaments, it will hold most.

2. I don't think M will want to eat a fake tree, or be able to easily get parts off like she could needles on a real tree.

3. Since we will most likely have to protect/fence in whatever tree we have, might as well be a narrow one.

4. No one else waters the damn thing, and I'm a wee bit scatter brained these days. It almost always dries out and since I'm the only one that takes it down, I'm sick of dealing with the cleanup.

5. It will pay for itself. A quality real tree runs around 50 bucks, a fake one (the one I like at least) 130. Three years, paid off. (ooo, and they appear to already be on sale)

6. Seriously, no needles to clean up.

7. We can always buy a wreath to get that nice fresh tree smell.

See, makes total sense, right? Fake trees look nothing like the pipe cleaners on steroids thing that my grandmother had. The one I really really love is pretty much this one I think. Isn't it pretty? And no clean up!

Are you real of fake tree people? I'm curious (if it will help my argument).