Thursday, March 31, 2011

Head to Hoops

From Head to Toe Big BookOne of the things I've been hoping to catch on tape (I mean digital video...what is this, 1993?) is Ryan imitating the animals in Eric Carle's book Head to Toe. He can do all the actions with even a few sound effects thrown in for good measure.  The video I captured tonight starts off with him acting but then he gets distracted by basketball.

He's like Shaquille O'Neal in his Kazaam days. Speaking of Shaq, the other day I was eating a Nestle Lion candy bar I picked up in Germany and it had so many weird things cobbled together including some vanilla creme between wafers covered in chocolate and crisp rice that for a few days I couldn't figure out how it could possibly seem so familiar. Suddenly one day it hit me...Mr. Big candy bar, endorsed by Shaq (see more pix here where a guy found this 1997 candy bar in a video store). Anyone on earth remember this candy bar, or is my grandma the only one who bought this for us back with the big man was a Laker?

Wow, we're straying so off topic it's hard to remember Carson City is the capital of Nevada.

See, there we go again.

So, on to the video before we stray in the obscure candy bar land again (which, now that I think about it, wouldn't be a bad place to live).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

When my sister was home, we celebrated my dad's birthday. Dad has 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren (with one on the way), but of course getting a picture with even the 3 grandkids together was impossible. Here's the best shot we have of Grandpa with his two grandsons:

Happy Birthday, Grandpa! Ryan can't wait until this Spring when he can sit in the tractor with you and go see the cows! For now he'll just have to settle for taking an after dinner nap with you and wrestling.

Thanks for being a great dad and grandpa!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fun with Cousins

We loved being able to spend some time with my nephew and niece recently.

Doesn't it look like they're ready for fun?

Emily is ready to capture the action.

Contrary to this picture, Ryan really did have fun playing with his cousins.

Coloring with cousin Lincoln.
After baths, we had ourselves 2 little monkeys!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Top Ten

Top 10 Facts you may not have known about me:
  1. I schedule dentist appointments at 4:00 so I can watch Ellen.
  2. I can recite Jill Taylor's monologue on the demotion of colored kitchen sponges from an episode of Home Improvement. (I was a JTT hater, not lover, btw.)
  3. The first set of CD's I ever bought (through BMG music service) included Ace of Base: The Sign and a DC Talk CD that I have yet to listen to.
  4. I made it through 2.5 years of college with no computer and no cell phone. The first computer I ever bought is sitting in our office and the first cell phone is in my glove compartment.
  5. When we were little, we used to play "Little House on the Prairie" with some family friends. There were 5 of us girls and I always had to be Carrie...the misfit sister who people barely even remember was on the show. She is to Laura Ingalls as Jan is to Marcia Brady.
  6. I once went tenting in Colorado and showered 2 times in one week. I do not think I've gone more than 2 days without bathing since then nor do I wish to ever extend that streak.
  7. I never use the right Shift key, only the left. "Z" and "X" are the trickiest to capitalize using this one-handed method.
  8. I have power-washed a hog building and couldn't bear to kill the mice who scurried up on the fence from the flooding floor, so I screamed at them until they ran away.
  9. I have played the drum solo to "Barbara Ann" in a pep band basketball game. Sadly, cheerleading ended my pep band career.
  10. I tasted cottage cheese for the first time this year. For some reason I was completely surprised it tasted like cheese.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18 is not too early to take down your Christmas Lights

The Friday before Spring officially starts sounded like a great time to finally take the Christmas lights down. They'd outstayed their welcome due to the snow and ice that clung to the roof like a marsupial clings to its mama. The task is made trickier when you consider Adam is on the roof doing all the hard work unclipping the lights and I am on the ground being handed the lights in between chasing down Ryan to keep him off the street and moving Nika from the front yard to the back yard depending on where we are so she won't annoy the entire county with her whining.  

Ryan enjoyed the fresh air and loved digging in the wet snow bank still gracing our front yard.  He also loved stomping around in his snow boots and seeing how fast he could run on the sidewalk away from his mommy!  He quickly tired of the Cozy Coupe but I think it had more to do with his inability to move his ankles than his affinity toward the toy. One thing's for sure: now that the lights are down, we're officially ready for Spring!


Adam had the day off school and took Ryan on a little eagle-watching adventure!

 They spotted at least six eagles in the trees by Willow Creek.

What a beautiful bird!
Fly away, eagle!

If you want to watch the Decorah "eagle-cam" that is "all the rage", here's the link: 

I usually am lucky enough to see some bald eagles from my office window as they stop in my dad's field for a little field-mouse snack. There are several known nests in our area of the state, so if you're so inclined to go on your own eagle-sighting adventure, you just might get lucky!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

8 Tips for Cleaning your Oven

Tip #1: Do not wait 5 years to clean oven. 
  • Do not just assume that the "self-cleaning" feature is actually functioning on the oven that came with your house and that some night you can just turn it on, skip merrily off to bed, and wake up with all evidence of frozen pizza mishaps, apple pie run-overs, and underestimated-pan-size-sins erased for all eternity. Might not happen.
Tip #2: Resign yourself to the task and gather the following supplies
  • Easy-Off Oven Cleaner: Optimistically named, but essential.
  • SOS pads: Buy the big box and don't pay extra for the "lavender" scent. This ain't your grandma's hankie drawer sachet.
  • Long rubber gloves: Get yourselves some of those "up to your shoulder cow embryo implanting" length if you've got connections, otherwise you're going to be scrubbing oven grime off your elbows.
  • Pail of water and washcloth: You will rinse and refill approximately 27 times.
  • Dust mask: Try to get one that hasn't been sitting in your dad's dairy barn or you might find yourself weighing the risks between inhaling oven cleaner and passing out from milk parlor perfume. But it'll do in a pinch, and we are in a pinch here, people, otherwise we would not be spending a perfectly good Wednesday night scrubbing the oven.
  • Forlorn TCU T-Shirt rag: Tuck in the drawer to catch the drips. This actually worked brilliantly!
Tip #3: Follow the directions on the Easy-Off can
  • I'm too lazy to go retrieve the can, but here's my rough recollection and a picture of the inside, half-clean/half-dirty:
  • Take out oven racks, preheat oven to 200 degrees, then turn off.
  • Spread newspaper liberally on floor to protect surfaces. Put on gloves, then spray the inside of the oven and door. Tip the can at a 45 degree angle, spraying the top first, then the sides and bottom.
  • Close door and let it set for 5-10 minutes. (Or the 40 minutes it will take you to scrub your 2 oven racks with seven S.O.S. pads)
  • Wipe with damp cloth, rinsing often. You'll know when to rinse when your bucket looks like it contains used motor oil.
  • Those people in the Easy-Off test kitchen really know what they're talking about. As a side note (aren't they all side notes?), at this point I'd rather volunteer to be a running taser gun tester than work in the Easy-Off test kitchen.
Tip #4: Take off the oven door
  • My mom gave me this tip and it was a good one. After letting the Easy-Off set for a while, I simply lifted the oven door straight up and off and cleaned it flat on the counter. It made scrubbing the inside of the rest of the oven more accessible, if not enjoyable.
Tip #5: Count your clothes as casualties
  • Granted, no self-respecting 28-year-old should still be owning (and wearing) MUDD brand jeans, but a part of me is still hoping this will come out in the wash.
  • Yes, that T-shirt says 2003 and the only reason I'm okay with letting my "soft as silk" State basketball T-shirt go is that I'm 85% sure I have an exact replica still in my closet. It's like they multiply while I'm sleeping.
Tip #6: Plan a reward to motivate yourself to finish
  • Trust me, you're going to want to just give up and start looking at Sears ads to see how much a new oven costs, but with the proper reward, you too can persevere.
 Tip #7: Know your limits
  • The drip pans on top of the stove are mocking me, saying "You thought that was bad? We're just getting started!" After facing the prospect of another night spent with a box of S.O.S. pads, I've decided that $11 is not too much to pay to just replace them all.
Tip #8: Line the bottom of your oven with Chef's Planet Nonstick Oven Liner so you never have to do this again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

From the Top of the Key

Ryan's been hoopin' it up for quite some time, but we've mostly seen dunks.  Recently, he started making some longer-range shots and Adam managed to catch a few on video! I can just hear Young Dan Young now "Wow! He shot that one from Doon!"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Summer I Learned My Lesson about Generic Grape Jelly

There is so much going on right now that I don't have the energy to blog about it. All three of us were sick on Saturday and Ryan's still fighting a nasty cold. Throw in daylight savings time and a list of things to do a mile long and it's a perfect storm for exhaustion. So what am I going to write about?

Grape Jelly.

I gave a little teaser in my last post and since the full story was requested, here it is:

The summer after my freshman year of college, my friend and I decided to work at Valleyfair, an amusement park up near the Twin Cities. It was kind of a crazy summer and I have lots of stories about what it was like to live on our own in a Shakopee apartment complex, work at an amusement park, and be away for the whole summer. But this story is about jelly.

See, when you work at Valleyfair, you get a 40 minute lunch break. Depending where you're working in the park, it can take up to 10 minutes to walk back to the break area, so you don't have much time to eat. There is a cafeteria where you can buy food like burgers, fries, breadsticks, etc. or you can bring your own lunch and keep it in your locker--there are no fridges. This is key.

So, being frugal to the EXTREME and determined to not let my lunches eat up my high-flying pay (which I am humbled to say was at a level that is now below minimum wage), I decided to forgo the cafeteria food and pack my own lunch.  Every lunch. Every Supper. For the whole summer. What is the easiest thing to bring to keep in your non-refrigerated locker and only requires you to buy 3 ingredients at Cub Foods?  Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich. 

So, on my trip to the cheap grocery store every 2 weeks, I'd pick up bread, JIF extra chunky peanut butter, and grape jelly. I probably bought some potatoes, Pasta-Roni, and chips/salsa for the few meals I ate at our apartment, but I mostly remember buying my three staples.  One time, I thought I would squeeze a few extra pennies out of my already meager grocery budget, so instead of buying my Welch's Grape, I opted for a store brand.

Big. Mistake.

It was terrible. I should have immediately thrown the rest of the jar away. But if you think I was going to let that $2.78 go to waste, you've ridden the Looping Starship one too many times. I ate that entire jar of jelly, one sandwich at a time.

And even with astronomical rent on the one-bedroom apartment I shared with my friend (both of us sleeping on mattresses on the floor), I came home at the end of the summer with a nice bit of money in the bank to put toward my college expenses...which led to a degree...which led to a job...which led to a better job. And now I never have to buy generic grape jelly again!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Birthdays, Jelly Beans, and why I hope Bette's Kitchen will be back in business soon.

Since life has kicked this blog to the bottom of the "to-do" list lately, it doesn't mean I haven't had all aspects of clutter clogging my brain. So, here's a few things that happened while I was AWOL, in a handy list so you don't get lost in the randomness.
  1. It was Dr. Seuss's birthday March 2.
    • See how my sister and her kids celebrated it here.  Her post prompted me to bake my own pistachio pudding-chocolate cake. My boss thought the green/chocolate swirl was magical. It made me miss my grandma a lot...she used to bake this cake for birthdays and we'd eat it with chicken buns, Pringles, chip dip, and cheese curls, all washed down with orange drink. I think of my grandma almost everyday when I go to lunch and drive past the spot where she used to park when she'd pick us up from school.
    • Check out this Dr. Seuss-inspired poem about my favorite candy here.
    • Awesome cakes decorated in Dr. Seuss was the Sunday Sweets theme at Cake Wrecks.
    • Ryan has several Dr. Seuss books but can't sit still long enough for the extra-wordy ones, so we stick with Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?  I do a mean "dibble-dibble-dopp" rain sound effect and can actually sound like horse feet on "Klopp-Klopp-Klopp". 
    1. It is Chuck Norris's birthday today.
      • I'm a pretty big fan of Chuck Norris jokes, a list of which can be found here and here
      • Chuck Norris counted to infinity...twice.
      • Chuck Norris doesn't do push-ups, he pushes the world down.
      • Chuck Norris' calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd. No one fools Chuck Norris.
      • Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.
      1. It is my birthday next month and I am feeling all of my nearly 29 years. Many things make me feel old lately:
        • Complaining of hip problems (could be from lifting my nearly 30 lb. son, I suppose.)
        • Not being able to discuss movies essential to my adolescense with some of my co-workers because they're 6 years younger than me and have never seen them (probably because they don't rent movies from the local gas station like we did and "Office Space" and "Tommy Boy" never make it onto their Netflix queue.)
        • The fact that as I sat at a show choir competition last Saturday, I realized that I started doing choreography FOURTEEN years ago! That means the freshmen in my choir were probably not even BORN when I started!
      2. Jelly beans. (I told you it was randomness up there.) Since Adam likes them so much, I am planning to pick up a different kind each time I get groceries (every 2 weeks). So far, he loved the 2-flavor Starburst ones so much that I barely got any. The Jolly Rancher ones from this week are not my favorite. Especially blue...yuck!  Historically, Sweetarts brand and Giant Bumpy Nerd Jelly beans have been my favorites but we have a few more to try. Just what I need...candy morning, noon, and now night!
      3. Ryan can say all his letters now (repeating them after we say each one). He did it so nicely when I came home the other night but now clams up whenever I have a camera out. My favorite is when you say "w" and he says "bubble".
      4. I have been dining at "Bette's kitchen" almost every day for lunch lately a/k/a mooching off my mom, so when my parents were on vacation this week, I had to actually pack my lunch again. Unfortunately, things didn't go that great. 
        1. On Monday, I ate at my sister's so I could let their dog out while they were at State basketball. I listened to the game while I ate my leftovers, but was sad that my alma mater lost in the first round of the state tournament. 
        2. On Tuesday, I was out of leftovers so packed some Special K to have for lunch. The first bite made me gag when I realized the milk I had poured on it from my parents' fridge was totally sour. Duh---they'd been gone for a while already and I should have known/and/or tasted or smelled it before pouring it all over the only thing I brought for lunch. I ended up frying myself some eggs I found in the fridge. 
        3. On Wednesday, I brought some beef fried rice we had leftover from supper and while I was taking the rubber band off their newspaper, it snapped, causing my hand to fly into the container of rice and you guessed it, dumped it all right onto the floor. Don't worry, mom, I cleaned it up, but was totally bummed to have ruined my dinner again.
        4. The slice of cheeseburger pie went just fine today at lunch. Thanks for asking.
      5. Okay, I know there were lots more topics I planned to blog about including my history of hair color, the summer I learned my lesson about buying generic grape jelly, and why I'll never be as good at Glow-sticking as Brittany Snow. But if clinical exhaustion doesn't overtake me sometime in the few months, I'll be more than mildly shocked. So, it's off to bed.

      Friday, March 4, 2011

      Home: Bathroom Closet

      We've been working on several projects in our house lately: cleaning, de-cluttering, and reorganizing. Even though today was my day off from work, a much-needed day to cut out the doldrums that exist between New Year's Day and Memorial Day, I did manage to get one house project done.  The closet in our bathroom has laundry hookups but we choose to use it as a utility closet. Once Ryan started walking, we had to also move all cleaning supplies up and out of reach, so the closet became a catch-all.  After a trip to the dollar store and a good 45 minutes sorting, cleaning, and organizing while Ryan napped, we have a fresh new closet that screams "Look! I am the picture of color-coordinated organization, if only for a moment!" instead of "Look! We have a ragtag collection of cleaning supplies, a mountain of dog towels, and a hand-held vacuum that is plugged into an outlet in the basement using the hole drilled in the floor, and hasn't worked in three years!"

      I spent a total of $12 on the 3 small buckets and 2 larger buckets which hold the condensed version of our cleaning supplies. I decided to relocate the old towels to the cupboard under the sink since that area has been empty since the cleaning supplies moved and they tend to teeter less at that elevation.
      Here's an after picture of the bottom of the closet. I just cleaned up the baskets, since our current storage method is working fairly well.  We store all of our "getting ready in the morning" stuff here so we can just pull out our basket, use it at the counter, then put it back on the shelf in the closet. Works for us!  I suppose it would look cuter with matching square boxes, but I like plastic baskets/shower caddies for easy cleaning (makeup/hair spray/shaving cream is messy).

      It was great to get some things accomplished today, (I consider making homemade caramel rolls and a Pistachio Pudding Cake a major win) but I also enjoyed just spending the day with Ryan, getting his hair cut, running errands, playing toys, reading books, and having fun!  It was great to be home since I'll be spending all day tomorrow at a show choir competition, and I look forward to the next time I can take a day to "stay home and play mom"....maybe Memorial Day.

      Brushing Teeth

      Hey! Who's ready to brush?

      My step/chair from Great Grandpa is perfect for letting me see in the mirror!

       First I have to put water on the brush.

       Then I brush and brush and brush, saying a very loud "Aaaaahhhhhhh or Eeeeeeeee," just like Mommy taught me.

      I want to keep my teeth clean and bright!

      Tuesday, March 1, 2011

      17 Months Old

       Ryan's 17 month picture was accomplished by playing one of his favorite games, run-around-the-crib/peek-a-boo.  We pulled the crib away from the wall so he can't reach the curtains and because the walls are cold in that corner, and it's the perfect space for him to run around, pausing to peek through the bars to make sure I'm following him, then laughing hysterically when you peek around the corner.

      Ryan's vocabulary continues to expand almost daily. He's pretty good at repeating words or trying to say things you ask him to. Here's a few categories of words he uses:

      Food: snack, spoon, crackers, milk, juice, cheese, apple, apple sauce, hot (while holding his hand above the food pretending that it's so hot he can't touch it, even if it's fruit cocktail) He also refers to the stove as "hot"

      Toys: books, ball, basket ball, color, balloon, car

      People: mommy, daddy, brahm-pa (grandpa), mama (grandma), Abbie, Andy, Emily, Natalie, baby (usually in reference to pictures of himself as a baby)

      Animals: dog, cow, "a moo", duck, Milo, and Nika (nee-na). He also makes the following sounds: moo moo moo, neigh, woof woof, meow, cock-a-doodle-doo, gobble gobble, quack, and he sniffs to try to make a pig sound!

      Other: nose, mouth, eyes, nigh-nigh, my (his word for his pacifier which he still uses when sleeping), cold, outside, snow (which sounds a lot like nose)

      Ryan has also started to climb more. He sets up his Step 2 chair next to his Step 2 table so he can climb on top of it to reach the couch, then climb down off the couch and do it all again. He is getting good at climbing up and down the stairs and can push all sorts of things around the house--boxes, laundry baskets, chairs, and even his little table.

      Ryan loves to wrestle (both Adam and the dog) and loves to help "fold" the laundry. He even started helping put it away by shoving it in random drawers. He dances to the music on the TV guide channel and chatters non-stop! But sometimes he'll just stop what he's doing, pull a book out of his box or the shelf and page through it. Sometimes he'll even provide commentary as he looks through it.  He is getting better at pointing to things we ask him to find on the page. He especially likes books with animals or colorful photographs of real people or objects.

      He is exploring more and more and can play more independently. He continues to be a great sleeper, has a little more separation anxiety than before, and can be a bit stubborn if there is something he wants to do that we don't want him to do (bang on the china cabinet, crawl behind the couch, throw his utensils, empty the Tupperware cupboard, hit the dog) or if there's something he doesn't want to do that we want him to do (lay still so we can change his diaper, sit down in the bathtub, let me brush his teeth or cut his toenails)

      We can't wait for the weather to warm up so we can go on more walks and get the Cozy Coupe outside!