Archive for November 2008

Getting Jiggy With It

November 29, 2008

When I was growing up one of my mom’s hobbies was putting together jigsaw puzzles. She often had a card table set up with an on-going project. Sometimes she would let me help, and she taught me how to separate edge pieces out first. By around age 10, I had my own table and puzzle board to work on. In recent years it’s a hobby that I have embraced again from time to time. The hardest part, besides finding room to set up a table, has been keeping little hands from running off with my pieces.

I have found that puzzles are a fun and educational learning tool for my children as well. We have a variety of little wooden puzzles with shapes, letters, numbers, and animals for toddlers. Then we have a few floor puzzles with an alphabet train and the solar system. We also have some 10-piece wooden puzzles that fit together to form a picture. From there we move up to a half-dozen 25-piece puzzles with a built in board that my parents got a deal on. Then we have a few fifty and one hundred piece puzzles.

My middle daughter is at just the right age (3) to start working on more puzzles together. I’ve started going through the process with her of sorting the edges and the middles. She doesn’t completely distinguish the difference yet, but she will. Right now I only give her a few pieces at a time to try to fit together. I give her some hints about where the piece might fit, or have her examine colors on a piece that might match a section she has already done. She is learning to pay attention to detail and process things in a logical manner while building confidence and just plain old having fun.

Pulling out the puzzles for my middle daughter has my oldest intrigued with doing them a bit again. I don’t know when, but somewhere along the way she and I got out of the habit. It may be one that we should revisit. In the meantime, with a little rearranging I’ve set up my table upstairs.  The winter-time just gives me the itch to get up to my elbows in little puzzle pieces and sawdust.  It also gives me something to do nearby the baby while she is napping.   Now if I can just get my “little helpers” to stop being quite so helpful.

Recycling Equals Money and Memories

November 25, 2008

A lot of people in the blogosphere have noted that frugality and environmentally friendly behavior often go hand in hand. I was thinking the other day about what it was like before recycling became mainstream and not just something for tree-hugging hippies. It used to be about making a little bit of extra money.

I have very vague memories of helping my babysitter return glass soda bottles at the grocery store. More prominent in my memory is recycling aluminum cans. It was the big fundraiser for the Student Council each year when I was in grade school (Catholic elementary). All year long we would save up our cans for the annual drive, and then my dad would help me haul them in on the collection day before he went to work. Then the moderator for the Student Council would haul all of the cans to the Reynolds recycling plant.

For every hundred cans you brought in, you received a voucher for an out-of-uniform day with a maximum of five. Out-of-uniform days were the greatest incentive when I was in school. Furthermore, the homeroom from each grade (there were two per grade) that brought in the most cans got a prize. I seem to remember that some people got to go to a pizza party via limousine at the local Pizza Hut during school time, but I can’t remember if it was the top individual in each home room or the top 10 in the whole school. I never got a pizza party.

Now the most interesting part of the whole thing was that all of the cans had to be crushed. The school pretty much trusted the students not to lie about how many cans they brought in. However, the recycling company didn’t trust that the cans wouldn’t be full of liquid or some sort of something to make each bag weigh more, because the recycling center paid by the weight. So, usually several times throughout the year I would have the job of going outside and smashing cans in the driveway. Often my friends and I would do it as a group, then when it was time to do their cans I would help them out.

We never had one of those fancy can smashers that you crank. We used the old fashion stomping method. You had to be careful to stomp just right or the can would go flying out from under you. Some of the boys would line four cans in a square and do a jumping stomp with both feet. After about an hour of stomping though our feet usually started to ache.

These are memories my children will probably never share for a variety of reasons.  First of all, recycling is a part of everyday life for them, and it’s not just cans and newspapers anymore.  Secondly, recycled cans no longer have to be crushed, just rinsed.  Third, I don’t know if we will ever live in a neighborhood with so many kids for them to do such things with.  I’m afraid this will be one of those nostalgic things that my kids will not be able to fathom, like “walking to school five miles in the snow”.

The Big 6

November 20, 2008

Today is my oldest daughter’s sixth birthday. It is so hard to believe that it has already and only been six years. I can barely remember what life was like before she was born. I seem to remember something about sleep, but it’s kind of hazy.

So, this afternoon we’ll be loading up for her first official Chuck E. Cheese party. Usually, we just walk in on the day and spend some time. This time she gets the whole birthday show and a visit from Chuck E. (which DD#2 is especially excited about it). This will also be her first birthday party that includes friends. We’ve invited five of her homeschooling friends and one from tee-ball to share in the fun.

And if that isn’t enough, my parents are coming from Kentucky. Since the older girls have birthdays a month a part, we try to alternate their fall visit so they are in for each girl’s actual birthday every other year. They started staying at a nearby hotel as of their last visit, and we are looking forward to going for a swim at the hotel pool. In addition to the birthday celebration, they’ll get to see DD#2 do gymnastics for the first time. We haven’t seen them since DD#3 was born in May, so they’ll see how much she’s grown, too.

The only bad thing is that my oldest has to miss her gymnastics class tonight. But today is her actual birthday, my husband had late meetings at the beginning of the week, and there was no way I was going to schedule a Chuck E. Cheese party for the weekend. I’m not that crazy! Anyways, she seems to think that a big birthday party is a fair trade for one missed gymnastics class.

Happy Birthday, Big Girl!!!

Harry, A History–Oops!

November 19, 2008

So, I had this post up about Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli.  Like an idiot, I accidentally deleted it this morning.  I have no idea if it can be retrieved, and I do not have the time or the inclination to reconstruct the post.  So, let’s just say that the book is a must read for any fan of Harry Potter and leave it at that.

Facebook and MySpace

November 12, 2008

Recently we got back in touch with a friend of ours we hadn’t heard from in awhile. My husband had tried to reach him through his MySpace account, but unfortunately the guy hadn’t logged into MySpace in three or four months. Come to find out he is pretty much spending all of his time on Facebook instead. My husband decided to set up a Facebook account just to see who he could find, and I became intrigued enough to do the same.

I can’t really say that I like Facebook better or worse than MySpace. They each have their good and bad points. Facebook seems to have more activity going on as every little change or response is marked on your “wall”. Of course, like most graffiti, it is nothing of any significance. Facebook does seem a bit cleaner as the advertisements seem a little less inappropriate. Also, all of the profiles are the same, so unlike MySpace there is not much room for personalization with wallpaper and jukeboxes and such. On one hand it’s kind of stifling of personal creativity, but on the other it does lend itself to an air of respectability. MySpace at times can come off like Facebook’s raunchy little sister.

I will say that Facebook does seem to have better search engines, and it helps that people are required to use their full name.  I’ve found a lot of people on Facebook that I went to high school and college with, including most of the people I had already connected with on MySpace.  Facebook also suggests people that you might know.  Of course, then you have to make the decision of who you want to add to your friend list and who do you just want to check in on without having any contact, like some ex-boyfriends or the girl who hit on my husband at karaoke one night while she knew I was at home pregnant.

It’s so funny when you come across the profile of someone you haven’t thought about in years.  There has been a lot of  “OH, MY GOSH” moments the past few days.  And it’s interesting to see who is married, who has kids, who is divorced, who has put on weight, who has lost hair, and who looks just the same.  There are some people whose name you don’t remember or picture you don’t recognize until you check their friend list.  Of course, it’s been at least ten years since I’ve seen most of these people anyway.

Once the dust settles I don’t see myself getting on Facebook more or less than I get on MySpace.  It’s a nice way to keep in touch with people from time to time, but I’ve got lots of other ways to spend my time than absorbing the minutiae of everyones lives.  I hope that they also have more to do than absorb the minutiae of mine.  Of course, things like Facebook and MySpace both lend themselves to a certain level of narcissism and superficiality as you count up the number of people on your “Friend” list and wait to see who recognizes your greatness.

Not that I think that I am above such narcissistic and superficial things, writes the woman on her own personal blog.  I guess I just enjoy other narcissistic and superficial outlets more.

Mexican Dinner

November 10, 2008

The other day it was time for a little batch cooking. I don’t do that much, but one thing I batch cook is hamburger. We don’t eat a lot of it at home. My oldest never thinks that home-made hamburgers are as good as fast food, and my middle daughter doesn’t like hamburger at all. So, for what few things I use hamburger in I find it much easier to brown a whole two-pound package seasoned with onion and garlic powders. Then I freeze it by the cup.

One cup of hamburger is perfect when I’m rushed or lazy for whipping up some quesadillas and tacos. This recipe is quick and easy to fix. Besides the defrosted hamburger, I take a bag or half a bag of shredded cheddar and sprinkle in some chili, onion, and garlic powders. Then I brush some olive oil on one side of two flour tortillas per quesadilla.  I lay one tortilla oil-side down on a griddle, sprinkle a handful of cheese, and place another tortilla oil-side up on top of the cheese. Then I brown it lightly on each side making a tasty cheese quesadilla for DD#2. DD#1 eats hers with a little defrosted hamburger sprinkled with the cheese. I use a pizza cutter to slice the quesadillas.

I tend to prefer tacos to quesadillas, so I cut a pita in half with the pizza cutter. Then I fill each half with cheese, hamburger, and more cheese. Next I nuke them for about 45 seconds in the microwave. As a finishing touch, I add some salsa. I can often prep this while one of the quesadillas is cooking on the griddle. Sometimes I just throw some hamburger and cheese in a bowl. I microwave it for thirty seconds, mix in some salsa, and eat it with tortilla chips.

For the most part, I am trying to break away from Hamburger/Tuna Helper.  However, I’ve found that a little defrosted hamburger works really well for that as well.  Like I said, DD#2 doesn’t like hamburger, so I make the Helper with out the meat.  (Worked for Randy Quaid in Lampoon’s Vacation.)  Then after I spoon her a big plate-full I mix in some warmed up hamburger for me and my oldest.  This is much easier then having to dig through cheesy noodles picking out little pieces of meat.

Last Minute Election Ire

November 4, 2008

I thought the Catholics supporting Obama were catching a lot of flack, but apparently the “Slytherins for Obama” are, too. The wizard rock band Draco and the Malfoys received some angry responses to their public endorsement. They even felt compelled to write a blog entry on their MySpace page defending their decision.

I must admit that I was a little surprised at the endorsement. After all, Slytherins are known to be ambitious, greedy, self-preserving, and bullies. They seemed more likely to vote Republican. 😉 Whereas, I would expect Ravenclaws to go Democrat because they are smart but often cross the thin line between genius and stupidity. Of course, neither political party is that great, just like every Hogwarts House has its pros and cons and anomalies.

Perhaps, the fans are less upset that Draco and the Malfoys endorsed a candidate, but that they presumed to speak for all Slytherins. Draco Malfoy always was a presumptuous little git. Of course, the whole business brings home Dumbledore’s concern that “maybe we sort too soon”.