Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Fun" Without Dad

My husband's (second-to-last) intern rotation is not super close to home.  The drive from our house is over an hour, whereas it is just under 30 minutes from his parent's house.  The drive stinks, yes, but mostly it is the price of gas that helped us make the decision for him to live with his parents during the week.  He leaves early Monday morning and comes home Friday night.  (He also works every Saturday so we don't see him a whole lot right now.)  It hasn't been too bad, though by Thursday everyone is missing Dad like crazy.

One of the weirder side-effects of not having Dad around is that it screws up our schedule.  Even when he was going to class every day, I knew when to expect him for dinner.  We had made that a top priority.  He always had to continue studying after dinner, but we knew that we had Dad for at least an hour every evening.  That also meant that I had to be fairly punctual with dinner.

The last few weeks have changed that responsibility a bit.  We'll have dinner at 4:30 or 8, depending on whether the lid to the crock-pot was inadvertently left off what we're doing and when we're hungry.  We're also eating things that I would never feed my family if we were having a normal dinner.  Last night, for instance, I bought everyone a microwave dinner.  It took about 20 minutes to prepare all of them which wasn't exactly a time saver.  The proportions were super small--just right for the three year old, but no where near enough for the rest of us.  We decided to try out six different dinners; only one of them was worth the 88 cents I paid.  We picked up a clearance wii game and had today's version of Howdy Doody family time.

Well, it is fun every once in a while.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Still Winter, Almost Spring

Even though last week I was swooning over the turquoises and oranges of spring as shown in the magazine spreads, I was so delighted by the 14 inches of snow that dropped yesterday.  While I was scooping our driveway, I kept stopping to look around (and take a few gasping breaths--it was a heavy, wet snow).  I found myself pushed to laughter because of the joy I have found in living in this beautiful, beautiful place.  Some people would say that this is the "price" you have to pay to have so many lakes, wildflowers and trees, but to me it is no sacrifice.  Now the dead brown is a different story.

I have very fond memories of making Snow Cream as a child.  It is a recipe that has been passed down through the generations--from at least as far back as my Nebraska homesteaders.  It takes a deep snow to make it (the first few inches clean the skies, then a few more inches to gather).  Once you have that much snow, the last thing you want to do is go to the store for cream (I know you can use milk, but really, you want cream).  A few weeks ago, I bought cream and put it in the fridge knowing it has a long fridge life.  I was vigilant about shooing away robbers and was glad when last night we finally had Snow Cream.  It was every bit as good as I remembered!

In my spare moments or in times when I don't have to think about the task at hand (dishes, folding laundry), I dream about my someday house.  My current fantasy is about a kitchen garden.  We have a lot of wildlife around here--Peter Rabbit, to name one vegetable thief--so I'm not sure how successful I can be.  Nonetheless, I would love to walk out my kitchen to something like this:

Especially if it came with that lady!  Not that I don't enjoy enjoy gardening because I do, but it does take a lot of time!

So, even though we are buried in snow and I'm not wishing it away just yet, I know that spring is not far away.  And I need to plan . . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Field Trip

Denver Botanical Garden's Greenhouse
On the first day of the competition, we were instructed to not sit around all morning waiting to go to the theater.  I had done a bit of research before going to Denver and discovered that the Botanical Garden was something I was interested in seeing.  It seemed like a good activity--it would keep Isaac's body moving without tiring him and it would keep him from stewing over the events of the afternoon and evening.  

We walked in and discovered a magnificent rain forest . . . over 5000 feet above sea level.  I loved the warm, comfortable air.  And the gardens?  Well, the gardens were fantastic.

There is nothing more rejuvenating than brilliant, living color in the middle of a snowy February.

Crazy giraffe tree.
These flowers reminded me of those fiber-optic lights.

While I was totally caught up in the beauty of these glorious gardens, my son was doing this.

Yes.  Texting. Constantly. "Isaac!  Look around you!"

I took away his phone.  
Then I got this:

 Anyone who has a dancer in their house knows what this next picture is about.  For him, there is no time when dancing isn't a good idea.

Even though we visited during the dead of winter, the outdoor gardens were beautiful, too.

I could look at stuff like this all day.  That is some careful planning to make a garden this beautiful in February.

Oh, look.  A long, empty pathway.  Must leap.

All the way.  It is kind of like when your toddler runs toward your outstretched arms, except you have to watch out for feet on level with your face. 

I love my kid.

And I loved going to these gardens with him.  

I love the gray-green of the palm and the contrasting textures.
Look at the maze of shapes and textures in this one shot.

Though I don't know how we will make it through the texting.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Learning to Navigate

The ballet competition was in Denver.  Metro Denver is populated by about 2.7 million people which makes it the largest city my boy has visited (at least since he has been old enough to be aware of a thing like population).  It was my first time in Denver and even though I am generally pretty good driving in unfamiliar cities, I learned that it was because I usually have a good navigator.  I thought my rental car was coming with a GPS.  It didn't.

We picked up a free map of Colorado from our hotel lobby and ventured out.

Denver has a rather confusing set of freeways.  The thing about freeways is, you can't slow way down and ponder the signs littering the sky just above the road.  You have no time to wonder if that small arrow is one you should follow or if that would simply lead you to another freeway.  The other thing about freeways is that you can't do a U-turn to correct an error.  You have to stick with your bad decision for what sometimes turns out to be a considerable amount of time.

After the first few mistakes and becoming afraid I was going to kill us both in a high-speed, fiery crash, I decided to give up trying to read the folded paper map in my lap and turned the responsibility over to my passenger.

Now, at the kitchen table, he has no trouble reading and understanding a map, but map reading is a whole different story when you are sitting in the front seat of a fast-moving vehicle with your mother calling out road names and highway numbers and demanding to know whether she should turn right or left and after you tell her the direction she tells you that your plan has a one-way street that is going the wrong one-way and that that means you have to alter your plan because one-way streets aren't labeled on your map.  And there are a lot of cars.  By the end of our weekend, he was getting very good.  New skill learned.

Driving downtown was a lot of fun.  He had never seen buildings this tall in real life.  

Sometimes as an adult, we forget to notice things.  Driving downtown with my son who had never seen skyscrapers, I was reminded that these buildings really are cool.

"Oh, Mom!  A yellow taxi!"

At one point in my journey regarding our son's ballet talent, I realized that all of the good ballet companies are in big cities.  I've never wanted to live in a big city with it's crime and traffic and prices and polluted air.  For my children, I've always wanted wide open spaces, green fields, and tall trees.  When I realized that my son would probably live most of his adult life in a big city, I literally broke down and cried.  (It should be noted here that it was late at night and my thinking was getting more and more fuzzy.)  In a heartfelt prayer, I explained to Heavenly Father that big cities are horrible places and I never wanted to send my child there.  Do you know what I heard, in that patient, loving voice that always answers my pleas?

"Emily.  A lot of people live in cities."

I was struck dumb.  My tears dried in an instant as the realization dawned.  Um, yes.  A lot of people DO live in cities.  They are happy there.  There are wonderful things about big cities.  There are many good and kind and gentle people in cities.

I shook my head and laughed at myself.  Then, I went to bed, because that was the second thing that the patient, loving voice said.

Do you know what we found among the towering, shining office buildings?
Churches.  Many, many churches.

Thank you for hosting us, Denver.  We had a fabulous time on your concrete and within your glass and steel.

Youth America Grande Prix

After an exciting and nerve wracking weekend, we are are home.  I know many of you have a vested interest in this young dancer now, so here are the details.

The three dancers who represented the Brindusa-Moore Ballet Academy at YAGP.
Isaac danced in the Junior Classical Division, which includes dancers age 12-14.  There were 77 dances with participants from all over the United States and Canada.  Because he was one of the youngest dancers, he was near the beginning. My sister purchased a couple of hours of their video link so everyone at home could watch him dance.  She then held her camera up to the computer and recorded his dances.  They are not great quality, but you get the added bonus of hearing the family's reactions, should you care to watch.

Peasant Pas Variation from Giselle

Variation from Satanella

Isaac placed in the top twelve--the youngest to place in the Junior Division of the competition.

All of the dancers on stage before handing out awards.
Thank you to all of you who made this possible for him.  Your sponsorship provided for all of his expenses (though not mine, so don't worry that I used money meant for him for my own use!).  He learned a great deal and danced on the biggest stage of his young life.

He didn't win cash, but he did get a certificate (pink with a ballerina on it--poor boys) that was good for two pair of ballet shoes.  That is as good as money, right?!

All I wanted for him from this experience was for him to dance well, to be happy with his performances and to get exposure on a national stage.  He got all of those and more.  It was a great weekend.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Healthy (ish) Eating With Just a Microwave

Between ballet, graduation and our graduation celebration trip, our family will be spending a lot of time eating away from the kitchen this spring.  It would be easy to try a new fast food place three times a day, every day, but is that what we want?  "Not I," said the Little Red Hen.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good burger just as much as the next guy, but I'd rather it be a treat than a way of life.  Because we will be demanding a lot of our bodies--especially the dancer--I want to make sure we are putting things in them that will give us strength and energy instead of sapping it away.  In other words, I don't want our diet to make us tired.  Plus, it is expensive for seven people to eat out that much!  How to do this without pots and pans and a stocked spice cabinet?
Well, at least not all of the time!
Many of our hotels will have a microwave in the room and a coffee pot which I can use to boil water.  If I am careful, I think we can eat pretty well as we travel.  However, being one who doesn't use the microwave for much more than re-heating, I started to study.
My anticipated kitchen, plus a cutting board, knife and glass bowl with a lid.
Here we are on the cusp of travel season (okay, we aren't really on the cusp, but it makes February feel so much less dreary if I think the tulips are just around the corner) and I know many people are planning vacations.  There is also a fair number of people who eat from the microwave every day on their lunch break.  This isn't an article for Eat Raw magazine, but it is definitely better than fast food.  Plus, it is all food my family will eat.  Maybe my research can give you new ideas.

Vegetables/ Sides
Sweet Potatoes
Acorn Squash--actually it is easy to steam pretty much all vegetables
Green salad "kits", fruit salad, and other "no cook" salads
Potatoes (to make a meal of it, add chili)
There are some boxed sides that aren't too unhealthy such as stuffing and rice.
Cold vegetables with (limited) Ranch

Main Entree
Rotisserie Chicken (chicken salad or just the meat)
Those BBQ pulled pork buckets for sandwiches
Chicken salad (using the rotisserie or canned chicken)
Sandwiches with whole grain breads, turkey and veggies
Hot Ham and Swiss
Quesadillas and wraps

Yogurt with Granola and berries
Bagels and Cream Cheese
Egg McMuffin

Hummus and fresh vegetables
Fruit, both fresh and dried
Tomato with basil, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar
Tortilla with cream cheese and smoked salmon

I'm sure we'll have our fair share of Fig Newtons and Pringles, but if we keep those things as treats and not as meals, we'll be doing pretty good.

What other healthy on-the-road food ideas to you have?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cleaning Up the Diet

It started with the January seed catalogs.  I slowly searched every picture on every page.  Corn on the cob.

  I need corn on the cob.  Ohhh, fresh raspberries.

Doesn't that juicy goodness sound perfect right now?   Look at all the varieties of green beans!

Some of them aren't even green.

Then I read  this short and simple article in the Ensign.  I almost skipped it because, heck, I know about nutrition.  But, I read the captions to the pictures which got my attention enough to make me read the couple of paragraphs that made up the article.  Then I thought about it for the next couple of days.  The point about eating fruits and vegetables "in the season thereof" reminded me of the seed catalogs.

A few days later, I had a conversation with my mom about the article.  I told her about the need to be more sparing with meat.  When I really thought about it, though, I realized that I do use meat sparingly.  I'll use one pound of hamburger in a huge stock pot of vegetable beef soup.  I can make one whole chicken spread out over three meals and that is just the meat; I also boil the bones and get six to eight cups of chicken stock to use in recipes later.  We haven't had bacon in probably six months because I refuse to pay those prices. If beans will work just as well, I use beans.  I don't think meat is our problem.

Then I saw this picture on Pinterest.  The caption said The Way to Store Fruits and Vegetables.  I took it as a mild tongue-in-check joke.  Yes, the fruits and vegetables should fill the fridge.  When I clicked on the link, it actually was a practical source on effectively storing fruits and vegetables.  Useful, I s'pose, but that is not why I loved the picture and the joke the pinner didn't know they were making.

While waiting for my daughter at piano lessons, I was looking through a Real Simple magazine spread about healthy snacks.  The ideas looked so delicious.
Orange and Walnuts
I had this for my snack today and it was as delicious as it looks.
Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar.
There are a whole bunch of great ideas in that article so go check it out.

I firmly believe that our bodies tell us what we need.  I need more fruits and vegetables.  I need less sugar . . . way less sugar.  I'm not going to cut out sugar, but I know I have a little problem with the sugar.  

This diet of mine needs a little spring cleaning.  The vegetable garden planning has commenced!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Me and the Phone--My Inner Demons

I'm weird about the phone.  Always have been.  When I left home for college, I couldn't order a pizza over the phone.  (Too much pressure to come up with the topping and the crust and the deal all at once.)  I am much better, cured even, regarding that kind of phone usage.  Heaven knows I can talk to my grandma, mom or sister for well past the point of my ear feeling funny or, in the case of talking while folding laundry or washing dishes, until my neck starts having spasms of I-can't-hold-this-position-for-one-more-minute.

I don't have a cell phone.  I don't have Caller ID or even Call Waiting, for that matter.  Frankly, I don't like being that available.  But, it is also because I'm weird about the phone.

It's not that I don't like to talk to people.  I am always the last person out of church on Sunday and the one still visiting ten minutes after I've given the five minute warning to my children.  I would say that I am a social person.

But if I need to call someone for a real reason, I put it off.  I have no great reason.  I know making the call will release some of the tension on my shoulders.  I know that making the call will result in an answered question or a duty delegated.

Today, I had a bunch of phone calls to make.  Some of them I had put off for a while--I kept finding excuses not to make the calls.  I planned out the perfect time.  I couldn't call between 3 and 5 because some people were at work and others were helping with homework and making dinner.  I couldn't call between 5 and 6 because that is dinner time.  9 is too late.

7 PM on a Thursday night.  You can't pick a better time.  I made a date with myself and grit (gritted?) my teeth.  I began dialing.

Out of my list of calls, only one person was home.  Do you know what this means?  It means I have to battle my weirdness AGAIN and do this AGAIN.  Since I put if off until Thursday, that means tomorrow is Friday and no one will be home at 7 PM because they will all be out on the town.  The after school time and dinner time is still out.  What shall I do?

Email.  That is the answer.  Email will save me.  Right?  (In a small, hesitant voice.)  Unless I don't have their address.  Or they don't respond to emails.

Oh, fine.  I'll try again.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Sew Reverse Applique

Shirt #2 for our upcoming trip.  I decided to try a reverse applique.  It was super easy and made me want to try it with a more complicated pattern.  Here is the How To.

Materials:  Craft store t-shirts--one to wear and one to cut up.  These were on sale for $2.50.  Also, cloth scissors and paper scissors, thread, a template and a marking pen (crayon works, too).

For our purposes, I wanted a simple silhouette of Mickey.  I printed a couple of sizes so I could experiment.  Cut it out with those paper scissors.

At this point, I put on my shirt so I could figure out where to put the applique.  I put a pin at the top and bottom of the location.  You don't need to pin the paper, you are just marking the spot.  

One time, I was working in the Emergency Room as a Unit Coordinator and someone brought in a bunch of left-over corsages from something.  They were supposed to be given to patients, but it was a slow night.  They sat there looking longingly at me.  I decided to put one on--because nothing says classy like fresh flowers on generic blue scrubs!  I kept getting weird looks through the night, but I figured it was because I was wearing a corsage with scrubs.  At the end of my ENTIRE shift, I saw myself in the mirror of the staff room.  I had pinned that thing too low and it had fallen a bit.  It looked like I had some kind of floral torpedo coming out of the center of my breast.  From then on, if I can't look in the mirror while pinning anything on my chest, I always err on the side of too-high.

So, make sure you look in the mirror to mark your spot.  You do not want it to look like a Mickey "eye" patch.

Turn the to-be-cut-up shirt inside out and trace your template.  Cut it out with room to sew.

The arrows are pointing at the pins I put in my shirt earlier to mark the place.  

Pin it in place and remove your marker pins.  You do not need a broken sewing machine needle today.  Make sure the wrong side is facing up.

Stitch all the way around your marked Mickey and turn it right-side-out.  It should look like this.
Carefully, and I really mean carefully, cut out the top.  Do not cut through the piece sewn in place.  This would have really been easier with smaller scissors.

That's it.  (I am expecting it get a little rougher after it is washed.)

The boys' shirts are done as is, but I'm adding a couple of feminine touches to the girls' shirts.  When you divide that extra shirt by the seven I used it on, each shirt cost $2.85.  Not a bad price, eh?  That is worth a little time at the sewing machine.