Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Back to School

It's that time of year again. All around me I see moms scurrying here and there, buying clothes and backpacks and school supplies and generally looking harried and rushed. I'm getting ready as well - took the boys to get haircuts today, went clothes shopping, got Arden a backpack (which he loved dearly on sight), and I'm trying to figure out lunches ahead of time. Thankfully the PTA put together a group buy for school supplies that each parent pays for on the first day of school (a whopping $22 per student - not bad!), so I don't have to hunt down glue sticks, paper, pencils, etc. Oh, and both boys want me to make them cloth napkins to go with their lunchboxes. Nevermind that we just found out Arden won't be having lunch at school (he's going to morning session from 8:00 - 10:40). He still needs a napkin, thank you very much.

This year will be bittersweet since Arden is going off to Kindergarten. I can't believe my little guy has gotten so big! He can't wait to start, and I just want to give him a great big hug and tell him to stop growing so fast. He looks so much older in his new clothes, proudly carrying a backpack. Sigh. Time goes so quickly.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

House warming

I've been running around like crazy this week: making lists, grocery shopping, cooking, marinating, cleaning serving trays, and getting the house as decent as it's going to get at the moment. Actually, it's in pretty good shape considering we moved from California not even three months ago and into a much larger house. There are still boxes, but not that many. The yard has been hacked and trimmed and weeded and watered and planted, though it still has a long way to go. Most importantly, we're starting to feel at home here, like this is our home now. I find fewer and fewer moments where I start to talk about something "back home", and find myself saying "back in California" more and more often. I even mostly remember to leave the "the"off freeway names, something that is absolutely ingrained by a lifetime of living in a gridlocked state where giving a road a title was pretty appropriate, given the amount of time most people spent there. Now I remind Dan not to say "the 405". He's getting there.

Tomorrow is our housewarming party. Figured it would be best to have it while we still have the excuse of not being here very long. And some extra warmth always helps. The neighbors will be coming by, and our next door neighbor even planned her garage sale so it would be over by 1:00 so there'd be extra parking.

Of course, the main thing I've been figuring out and planning and working on is the food. No surprise there! It's going to be an Asian-ish theme, all finger foods. I'm having a blast putting it all together.

We'll be having:

  • Cheerwa - an Indian munchies mix
  • Samosas with cilantro and tamarind chutneys
  • Chicken satay with peanut sauce
  • Vietnamese salad rolls with sweet and sour sauce
  • Robatayaki - Japanese grilled vegetables
  • Char siu pork
  • Pineapple, kiwi, and orange slices
  • Ginger squares
  • Sesame-brown sugar shortbread
  • Chocolate chip cookie bars (the boys begged for these)
  • Kettle corn (boys idea, again)
  • Limeade (adult types can add home made limoncello here)
  • Thandai - an almond and cardamom milk drink
  • Sodas

Friday, August 25, 2006

Quick knitting

I have so many projects half done or waiting to be finished. More than I'm happy about and far more than I usual - I'm a one project at a time kind of gal, for the most part. But somehow I haven't been in the mood for serious knitting at all. Nothing with charts or requiring the use of brain cells. What do do? knit slippers for the boys. These were made up in two evenings out of Plymouth Jelli Beanz, an acrylic and wool blend that has all kinds of wild colors popping out here and there. Hopefully the yarn will hold up to washing and much sliding across the wood floors - we'll see. Ultra fast knitting, which is exactly what I needed. May have to make up a few of these to donate as well. Hey Norma, does Duulan need slippers?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More domesticity

Care to guess what those are? Napkins, baby! Realized that the boys should probably be using something other than shirt sleeves (or the occasional toy) to wipe their mouths and spills after meals. However, the thought of buying package after package of paper napkins just to toss them after each use seemed really wasteful. And expensive. Yes, I'm just that frugal.
So off to the fabric store I went, in search of something that would look cheerful on our new (to us - I heart Craigslist) dining table. Oh, and all cotton. Washable and practically indestructible would also be nice. Finally found this fabric in with the quilting bolts. Something about the sunflowers and the bright, sunny print called out to me.

Making them up was pretty simple, if a bit boring. Wash fabric (always, always wash fabric before cutting anything out - you take care of a lot of unpleasant surprises this way). Meanwhile, make a square template - in my case, I used printer paper taped together and cut out to 17 by 17 inches. Cut out as many squares as you can using the template. Now, I wanted to miter the corners. Look up above - see? Nice and neat. I could have used this method, but it was far too persnickety for simple 1/4 inch hems. I did something more like this - just folding down each edge, ironing, then cutting the very tip diagonally across and stitching the whole thing down at once. It's not perfect, but just fine for an everyday napkin, at least to my mind.

I made a dozen, which seemed to take forever but more likely took a bit over an hour or so. The only thing I don't like about these is they're a little on the small size for my taste. Next batch I make will end up 17 1/2 inches after hemming, which seems about right. Cause of course I need some fancier ones, right? Hopefully I'll get those done before Sunday - we're having a housewarming party and I'd love to have cloth napkins for everyone if possible.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Picnic in the park

Ryan and Arden have eagerly been awaiting the arrival of their Laptop Lunchboxes. Both of them were attracted to the itty bitty boxes and drawn in by all the colors. I was hoping lunch would be a bit less of a struggle this year.

The box arrived right before lunch, and they were both thrilled! We decided that a picnic lunch in the park was in order, to "break in" the new lunchboxes. We all started putting things in the different sections, with both the boys coming up with some pretty good ideas. It was hard finding enough to fill out the sections - they're really big! The larger ones hold 1 1/2 cups and the smaller ones 1/2 cup, which is a lot of food. I, sadly, have no bento box container for myself, so I made do with a cloth bag and some saran wrap for my sandwich (cue violins).

The booklet that comes with the lunchboxes has a lot of really good information in it. A few recipes at the end, too, which both of the boys are excited about. We're trying "Fruit Triangle Treats" for snack this afternoon. There's a lot about choosing healthy foods, reducing waste, and a great set of lunch ideas and combinations to try.

Wanted to add that having all the containers open and all the food where the boys could see everything right when they opened the lunchboxes really made the food more appealing. It helped Ryan especially, as he's a really visual little guy and has a hard time with lunches that are all wrapped up. He kept telling me how much better he liked having it all where he could see everything. And Arden ate so much more than he usually does, I think because using the spoon (which has a cool star and moon and sun in the clear plastic) was so fun and because he liked all the itty bitty containers. It was wonderful seeing them so happy and excited about lunch. Well worth the rather large investment, I think.

Arden's lunch on the left - apple slices (dipped in orange juice so they don't brown), crackers, Havarti cheese cubes, hazelnut spread in the covered container, and pistachios.

Ryan's lunch on the right- ham sandwich on wheat with some lettuce from the garden, crackers, mini carrots, pistachios and hazelnut spread in the covered container.

After lunch, the boys played for a while - at least until Ryan noticed some ripe blackberries. We quickly emptied out Arden's lunchbox and filled it to the brim with ripe berries. Can I say how much I love being able to pick berries just a few blocks away from my house? Ahhhh...I love it here :-)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hi ho, hi ho....'s off to work he goes. (whistling happily in my head here)

On Monday, Dan is going to start working with Hewlett Packard out in Vancouver, WA (which actually isn't far at all - maybe 30 minutes commute total). He won't be working for HP directly, but with a group that works with them. The pay is what he got at his last job, with better benefits and far more potential for moving up. Also a lot more to learn and gain in terms of marketable skills. The really nice part is that for once he was able to really think about the job and decide if he wanted it instead of jumping at any job opportunity that presented itself, since there just weren't that many jobs out there for him where we were in California. He'll still be doing consultant work on the side with his CAD software and networking skills, which means even more of a cushion financially.

It feels so good to finally be in a place where we aren't just barely getting by, where we can actually make choices. We've given up a lot financially to have me home, and that has been an important choice, but it has meant living on very little at times. I know Dan has felt like he was a lousy provider because we didn't have extras that he felt were important (even though I don't really care about having "stuff" in general). Nice to finally see him feeling like he can do all the things that he feels are important - and just to see him so happy.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My new mantra

I love my Mother-In-Law. I adore having her living in my house. I have enjoyed every minute of the last month she has been here and wake up just waiting to see her smiling face again. I will be bereft when she finds an apartment and moves her computer and lamps and chairs and books and large cans of hairspray away, as I will miss them so. I am not at all excited at the want ads and apartment listings laid out on the desk upstairs. I will miss her advice on parenting, grocery shopping, landscaping, time management, house cleaning, and budgeting.

(I repeat this, as needed, every time I walk through a cloud of hairspray or smile and nod as she cheerfully shares how I should plant the garden and/or raise the children. I do like her quite a bit, but living together 24/7 is a wee bit chafing.)