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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I've been getting excited about Spring Cleaning. Have I mentioned that I love to organize, make lists, and weed out? Love it, love it.

This is the longest I have ever lived in one house - 4.5 years. I'm sort of itching to move or travel or something. Well before this time we would have fixed/cleaned up the house to sell it. I'd like to have a home that is in the state we want it and not wait until we are moving to make changes.

Then I read Sarah on Clover Lane's spring cleaning how-to and I got really excited.

Sarah gets a cute notebook each spring and makes a page for every room, closet, deck, patio, flower bed, etc. in their home. And then makes a to do list for each space. She spends the year working on the lists. She's motivated by having the put-together and organized house that she's always wanted - and not just because they are moving again.

I love this idea. I always have lots of "to do's" in mind for my house, but have never organized these by rooms. Love lists, love getting organized, love accomplishing my list!

So, step one is complete - I got a super cute notebook at Target a couple of weeks ago. Step two - then I had fun by making a sheet for each room, hallway, closet, flower bed, patio... from our house. Step three - I made a great start of a to do list for each list. And then I.... got completely overwhelmed.

So the cute little notebook has been put away for a little while but I still love the idea and will begin to tackle one small thing at a time, one day soon.

But right now I'm going to focus on getting over bronchitis and playing piano with Brennan.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Look Me in the Eye

This weekend I finished reading "Look Me in the Eye" and really got a lot out of it. In case you are not familiar with the book or the author, John Elder Robison is the brother of Augusten Burroughs who has written a number of popular books including "Running with Scissors". John Robison has Aspergers, a mild form of autism.

My book club chose this as our February read and we had a terrific discussion last week. Aspergers is a fascinating condition and I found tremendous comfort in the author's success in his life and in his self-discovery in a time where there was no diagnosis, just a feeling that he was "a bad kid, up to no good." I also found comfort in the fact that not every Aspergergian is going to pull the same stunts and make the same decisions that John did. Woah.

In short, Asperger's is a condition that cannot be cured, but can be managed. The result is a difficulty in social situations. We know a number of families who are dealing with other forms of autism and count ourselves as extremely fortunate that our little man's struggles are minor in comparison.

My new word is "navigation". Now that Brennan's speech is more typical and he is in no way struggling with academics of the classroom, I find that my role as Mommy is to help him navigate all the rules and mores of his world outside of our home. When the "opportunities" are presented in a logical, nurturing way, he gets it and applies the learning right away.

"Brennan, next time I'd suggest walking around those people in the museum instead of walking between them on your way to see the dinosaurs. People who are talking don't want people walking between them."

"Oh right, Mommy, I forgot about that."

And I paid special attention to the author's description of how his wife handles him and how their marriage is so successful (unlike his first marriage). I took notes and will be on the lookout for someone with similar traits in 20 or so years when I'm ready to let my baby go.

Brennan does beautifully with people who:
>Are calm, soft spoken, and loving
>Love him no matter what silly things he might say or do
>Think he's the best
>Love to listen to his stories and explanations of all things of his interest

He's been so fortunate to have a nanny, countless babysitters, grandparents, peers, teachers, therapists, and a big brother who all fit these characteristics above.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you know and love Brennan but aren't quite sure how he ticks.

Finally, I realize I am very protective of Brennan. I'm aware of it, and I'm really OK with it. :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Tom Collins

Mmm, Tom Collins. This is a drink I would enjoy. Maybe because it's so similar to a gin and tonic? Last week I tried this cocktail. Had to use my new Tom Collins glasses again, didn't I?

In 1874 there was a prank going around bars in the Eastern U.S. often called a "hoax of exposure." In a bar someone (the Pranker) would ask "Have you seen Tom Collins?" The other person (the Victim) would explain that they didn't know a Tom Collins. The Pranker would then say that Tom Collins had just been in to the bar and was talking about The Victim and wanted to know if The Victim had been in yet. The Victim would get agitated and exclaim they really didn't know a Tom Collins and what did they MEAN this person was asking about him? Of course, the other bar patrons were in on the joke and the prank would only work once, or on the very gullible. This hoax was said to have started in New York, Pennsylvania but quickly spread to other bars on the East Coast. It's documented in a paper called "The Great Tom Collins Hoax" in the U.S. historical section of the Library of Congress. The Tom Collins cocktail was named for this prank.

The Tom Collins is a "long drink", which means served in a tall glass. David and I both enjoyed this, although I would have given it 5 swizzle sticks.

David's Swizzle Stick Ratings:
The Tom Collins - 4 Swizzle Sticks

Tom Collins - 2 oz. gin, 2 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp sugar syrup, club soda. Fill a Tom Collins cocktail galss with gin, lemon juice, and sugar syrup. Swizzle and top off with club soda. Garnish with a cherry.

Cincinnati Day Trip

We took a day trip to Cincinnati on Saturday. We went to the Cincy Museum Center (see above). This photo was NOT taken on Saturday - the photo would have been overcast with spits of snow and the picture would have been fuzzy as my arms were shaking in the freezing wind. No, this was taken in October 2006 when we spent 2 days in Cincinnati for Fall Break.

This trip didn't turn out much like we had planned. We got a late start and then were going to spend a few hours at the Natural History Museum in the Museum Center. But the line to get tickets was averaging a 1 hour wait time. So we treated the boys to ice cream, the museum shop, and headed to 2 of 3 stores that I have been wanting to visit.

First up, Fresh Market. I enjoy going to more gourmet grocery stores. Thomas went wild and got mustard pretzels. Brennan got whole pistachios. It would be AWESOME if we had a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods or Fresh Market within 30 minutes of here.

Then, P.F. Chang's for lunch. It's hard to go wrong at P.F. Chang's. We especially love the vegetarian lettuce wraps.

Then we headed here. I hear so much about Ikea but had never been. Wow - Ikea on a snowy Saturday is PACKED. I mean, overwhelming. And so much to see. We bought a big boy lamp for Thomas's room, but that was about it. What we wish we had realized - the chaperoned kids play area is for while mom and dad are shopping. We dragged the boys all over the crowded store and promised them playland time once we were done. Little did we know they could have been there all along.

Finally, I wanted to go here. I hear great things about this International Market. In order to get to all of these new places in Cincinnati I did a multiple destination map and directions listing on mapquest.com. The Jungle Jim directions I got took us through a distribution center part of the city and we ended up at the end of the road at some warehouse. Never mind - time to head home.

The boys had fun despite not getting to visit the museum. David was a good sport and I can now say I've been to IKEA and Fresh Market. And it's always nice to go on a little road trip!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flowers, flowers everywhere

February is one of my favorite months. Not because of the weather, but because I usually have flowers around the house because of my birthday or Valentine's Day, or my need to buy some pretty flowers.

It's a gloomy day, so I was happy I had taken these over the weekend so I could see them here at work. Maybe spring IS on the way someday soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Long Island Iced Tea

This one's for you, Miki.

Yesterday, David and I attempted the Long Island Iced Tea. Since I reviewed various recipes and am on cold medicine, I knew this was something we could split. Because THIS is a strong drink. But yummy. I really enjoyed it, although David didn't as much.

The Long Island Iced Tea was invented in the late 1970's at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island, New York. It was named for its look that is similar to a regular Iced Tea. Patrons liked the ironic name because this is anything but an innocent drink.

As with any cocktail I've researched this year, there are variations to this drink - cracked ice or whole ice, blended or on the rocks, garnish or no garnish. I went with the United Nations Plaza Hotel recipe - which seems to be a standard version.

David's Swizzle Stick Rating:
The Long Island Iced Tea - 3 Swizzle Sticks

Long Island Iced Tea - 1.5 oz. Gin, 1.5 oz. Vodka, 1.5 oz. Tequila, 1.5 oz. White Rum, 1.5 oz. Triple Sec, 2.5 oz. fresh lemon juice, 2.5 oz. simple syrup, splash of Coke to give it color. Mix alcohols, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a Tom Collins cocktail glass. Add ice and good splash of Coke. Swizzle.

Instead of making simple syrup, I bought a bottle at the wine shop. I thought it was a great substitute.

I would definitely make this again for a party at home. After just a few sips that went down a little too easy, I could see how this could be a dangerous drink if done right.

Indiana State Museum

I got to spend Valentine's Day with my 3 Valentines. It started with me wanting to go to Indy to redeem some birthday gift cards and coupons. Then we decided to turn it into a family day in Indy.

Brennan loves this restaurant - Kabuto. It's a Japanese steak house where they cook at your table. See the onion volcano? A big hit with the kids.

Then we went to the Indiana State Museum and IMAX theater. We had never been there but had heard good things. There are a lot of science exhibits, which of course go over very well with my boys.

There was an area with famous people from Indiana. Here are the boys posing by Jim Davis, creator of their favorite comic strip - Garfield.

There is a 3 story pendulum that knocks over these pegs as the day progresses.

Thomas with a painting of William Henry Harrison - 1st Governor of Indiana and 9th President of the United States. Thomas likes reading and learning about Presidents.

We finished the afternoon with an IMAX 3D movie called Under the Sea. It was a lot of fun. David and Brennan saw an IMAX movie at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, but Thomas had not seen one before. The 3D aspect made it even cooler. It was beautiful to see all the underwater creatures up close (except for the sea snakes). The movie was narrated by Jim Carey. We'd definitely go again!

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm ready for some of these...

I'm ready for some of these to come up in the garden. This unseasonably warm weather is making me sooo ready for spring!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My favorite birthday gift

Brennan wrote this birthday song for me on the piano.

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Blow out the Candles
Blow out the Candles
Happy Birthda-a-a-a-y to You
Happy Birthday

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fred and Friends Products

Last week Mrs. Jelly Belly had this cute pitcher on her blog. I had never heard of the company, Fred and Friends, and looked up more of their products on amazon. They are really funny. Can't decide which is my favorite.

Sadistic cookie cutters

Finger in the batter spatula

Salt and pepper shaker

Roman numeral birthday cake candles

Toothpick holder

Princess ice cube tray

Mouth mold ice cube tray - totally disgusting!

Jewel-shaped ice cube tray

I think I need them all :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Bellini (and Mamma Mia)

Today was a terrific day. I'm 38! Not only was I able to celebrate with my boys and David, but I had girlfriends over and tried out a new drink. And, it's a weekend birthday. What could be better?

I invited friends over for a Bellini Birthday. I had never tried this drink and had always wanted to. However, I sent out the invitations before I fully looked into it. Turns out they require white peaches and fresh raspberries - not exactly in season in Indiana this time of year. But after consulting many recipes, I found that the majority recommended V8 Peach Juice. And Kroger had beautiful raspberries, so I was set.

The Bellini was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy after WWII. Harry's were popular spots in Europe. The Bloody Mary and The Sidecar were both invented at Harry's in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s.

A traditional Bellini is made with white peach juice and Prosecco wine. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white, rather sweet. It's delicious by itself, and even better with the peach juice.

David did not care for the Bellini. Too sweet and more of a syrupy flavor than a light, refreshing flavor that I was expecting. I think it's the V8 peach juice I used. I think white peach juice would have been much crisper and less syrupy. Elise recommended frozen white peaches since the juice was not to be found. Great idea, Elise. I'd like to try these again sometime.

David's Swizzle Stick Rating:
The Bellini - 2 Swizzle Sticks

The Bellini - 1/2 cup Prosecco, 1/4 cup white peach juice, raspberry. Chill a champagne flute. Pour the chilled Prosecco and peach juice into the champagne flute. Mix and add a raspberry for garnish.

While I did not enjoy the Bellini as much as friends did, I had a WONDERFUL time with everyone watching Mamma Mia on the big screen. We put the sing-along words on and had a blast joining in. Three friends hadn't seen it yet so it was even more fun to share it with them. Bellinis, Mamma Mia, and yummy snacks? I can't think of a better way to celebrate turning 38!
Thanks Ladies!

Tae Kwan Do Green Belts

We had a fun-filled weekend. David and Thomas tested for their Green Belts in Tae Kwan Do yesterday and they both passed. Here is Thomas holding the board he broke, sporting his new belt. He's very proud of himself and we are too.

Thomas is in the middle. He's answering the judges questions on Korean vocabulary.

During the testing the participants free spar for the judges. Check out the look of determination and yell on Thomas's face.

Preparing to do the Form for the judges.

Here is the video of David breaking his board. I wish I could have gotten a video of Thomas doing the same but one of the instructors was standing in my way.

Brennan and I were really proud of Daddy and big brother. Next up - blue tip!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spring Cleaning

David and I started Spring Cleaning over the Christmas Break. There is nothing I love more than weeding out a room. That's rather sad, isn't it?

Maybe it comes from growing up in a military family where we moved and cleaned out a lot. Maybe I get it from my mom who likes the same. Maybe it's that recycling gene in me. David definitely likes a non-cluttered look so maybe he's the influence. Regardless, I love organizing and getting rid of all that stuff we don't use.

And it's not just me. A co-worker said to me in early January that she smiled all the way to Goodwill with a truck full over the holidays because she too had weeded out her house and it felt so good. I shared her enthusiasm.

Last weekend we worked on the office. It's a loft above our kitchen and I have not enjoyed going into it for awhile. The boys are great about putting things away in the house. All the office stuff I just kept saying "just stick it on the desk." Thomas said - "but there's no room anymore!"

Desk Before
Desk After

Tall Shelves Before
Tall Shelves After

Low Shelves Before

Low Shelves After

Low Shelves After

I see from these pictures that it doesn't look ALL that different. Believe me, it is. We cleaned out every drawer in the desk and discarded a ton of stuff. And now I actually enjoy going in there just to look around!

(A big thank you to Thomas for taking the "before" pictures and for helping with the big clean up)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kids Journals

When we were expecting Thomas, we received great advice from our Executive Director at work. He suggested we get journals and write to our little one(s) each month.

Mike had heard about this at a recent couple's baby shower he and his wife attended and wished he had been writing to his sons all along. I headed to Barnes & Noble that afternoon and picked up a blank journal. The next day we had our ultrasound and found out we were having a boy! I started journaling to Thomas that day. And have been for 9 years this month.

With Brennan, I started journaling right after he was born. The boys sometimes ask for me to read excerpts from their journals to them at night. I'm on their 3rd journals now. Their birthday month I ask them about their favorite things (foods, tv shows, books, movies, friends, classes...) and they help me with that entry. I haven't turned the journals over to them yet - I will wait until they are much older and maybe have responsible wives who will put them somewhere for safekeeping!

I try to write a few pages every month and am pretty good about it. There have been times where I've skipped a few months and I miss so much! I love going back and re-reading old entries.

David also has journals for the boys with this own approach. I hope the boys appreciate the tales from their childhood when they have their own little ones at home.

And that Works for Me! For other great tips, visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I think I need a girl...

Yesterday. Building something with Thomas's electronic circuit kit.

We cleaned up our office area yesterday and decided to throw out the old p.c. But not before taking it apart, of course. The boys LOVED it. They love all of Daddy's science experiments (and the time he spends with them!)

Video of Brennan telling me about the monitor of the pc they just disassembled. If you are seeing this in email, you'll need to go to the website to watch the video. Notice the missing two front teeth. He's soooo cute trying to talk through this gap!

I saw these on another blog and thought they were so sweet. The 1st and 3rd ones are adorable. I sent them to Amy to try on Ellie for V-Day. So sweet...

Well, if I can't have a girl, I definitely need to learn more about science.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Bloody Mary

The Lirettes came for brunch today! We had a nice meal of fruit salad, crab quiche, egg casserole, and banana muffins. The highlights were conversation and the drink of the week - The Bloody Mary.

David had never had a Bloody Mary so was pleasantly surprised. I consulted a number of sources again, but found that everyone is willing to share their Bloody Mary recipes when I mentioned what I was making today.

I used the recipe most often cited. The Blood Mary is generally believed to have been invented in 1924 at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. This famous bar was frequented by many American expatriates - Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald , and Ernest Hemingway to name a few. It is also noted that George Gershwin wrote much of "An American in Paris" on the piano in the downstairs lounge. The patrons encouraged the bartenders at Harry's to invent more creative cocktails. This drink became an instant hit in Paris and gained popularity here once Vodka was legally exported to the U.S. in the 1940's. The Sidecar was also thought to have been invented at Harry's.

David's Swizzle Stick Rating:
The Bloody Mary - 5 Swizzle Sticks

The Bloody Mary - Tomato juice, 1.5 oz. Vodka, splash lemon juice, splash Worcestershire sauce, splash Tobasco, celery for garnish. Fill a Tom Collins glass half way with ice. Cover ice with tomato juice. Add Vodka, lemon juice, Tobasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and garnish.

I really enjoyed the Bloody Mary as well. I think it would be great with Spicy V8 too. And did you notice the new Tom Collins glasses? I couldn't find them anywhere in town. But Crate and Barrel online came through!

Snowy Saturday Ramblings

Brennan and I did a bunch of errands yesterday. I'm sooo behind on my errands. He was a great help. We stopped at our favorite Japanese place for a little lunch. Since Brennan doesn't eat meat I wondered what he'd order. Without looking at the menu, "Yes, I'd like miso soup and edamame please." Here he is enjoying his miso. He lost another tooth last week. Now he really needs his two front teeth, just a little late for Christmas.

After errands and Tae Kwan Do, we took the boys bowling.
None of us played well enough to post our scores, but I'll point out that David did win (by 2 points).

Took some nice pictures of the snow since it was a sunny day. David took most of these and they turned out well. Maybe it's not the camera - maybe it's me!

Now, THIS is an icicle!

Pool area - see the diving board?

Backyard from Kitchen Window

Look at those icicles!

Front yard

And now for something really important. I'm getting my hair cut next week and haven't been happy with it. It never looks right when I fix it in the morning so I had David take a picture before I curled it or straightened it or anything so I can show Kristen. I'm thinking the bottom layer is too long - I need it shortened so the top layer and bottom are closer. This thick hair tends to look like a big poof if I don't have it layered. Thoughts?

Have a great Sunday!