Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gasoline the powerful wallet killer

Just found this tool on Mapquest.com (there may be others like it); type in your zipcode and it will tell you how close the cheapest gas stations are.

While the price of local premium gas just topped four dollars a gallon (yesterday?), the price of a local bagel just broke a buck.

Believe me, I'm still in denial about all of these price hikes and how they are affecting our budget. It does mean that the price of driving to work is getting edged out by Metro. That wasn't the case when I blogged about it over two months ago.

I must finish my telework proposal!

Monday, April 28, 2008

3 M&Ms pleeeeez?

Originally uploaded by Patty B-e-a-r
We've been trying a reward approach to potty training with Dash; if he gives it a try and succeeds, he gets 3 M&Ms (green&brown&red!). It's been a slow process, but I'm not pushing hard. This morning went well; the M&M reward was Dash's.

Rosie wanted 3 M&Ms, too (and she's way past needing a potty incentive), so I thought up something I've been trying to get her to do for a while: dress herself. If she got dressed all on her own, I said, she'd get the M&Ms.

Two minutes later, here comes Rosie, fully dressed, tights and all! (The tights are usually a problem & they were inside out but didn't bother anybody.) This was almost totally unprecedented!

M&Ms for everybody!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The morning constitutional

IT IS SOOOOO FREAKING BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDE!!! The birds are singing, the air is warm and soft, and it's too early in the season for the nasty bugs.

This is the view from my front door:

There were a few gentle bumble-bees floating around the blossoms on our azelea bushes. I haven't spotted any of the more aggressive wasps and mosquitos that make trips outside a hazard as summer approaches.

Why am I inside blogging? No good reason at all. I convinced AJS to take our bikes out this morning, since I just threw down some $$ to get his fixed and get Rosie the trail-a-bike. It was our first family bike-out together in, maybe two years? I thought it was fabulous!! However, AJS had a health issue about 25 minutes into it and we had to speed home. Note to self: make that guy a doctor's appointment.

Rosie and I continued on for a while longer and she was pedaling!!! "Pedaling's fun, Mom!" Yay!

This morning was the community yard sale starting at 9 a.m. I put my cash aside to bring along in case something looked good, but my adorable fish-shaped change purse went missing right before we left the house (I blame my pack-rat stashing kids). As it got closer to 9:30, the roads in the hood got clogged with car-driving bargain-shoppers and it was too hazardous to be on the somewhat-wobbly tandem with my novice passenger. We're back inside for a little while.

And a treat for all of you who joined me at the online happy hour last night (a pic of the rib rack AJS grilled):

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy hour poll for you

No happy hour today!
Originally uploaded by gwen
Here's a quiz:

If your coworker invites you to enjoy free beer and excellent food out on her deck on a fabulously beautiful Friday evening (and gives you at least a week of advance notice), do you:

A) say "HELL YEAH" and show up early.

B) avoid her and mutter a sad excuse when confronted.

C) tell her to her face that you have plans to weed your yard instead.

D) say you're coming and then back out at the last minute.

Consider your choice. I like to think that the Strings are generous hosts and AJS is a sensational cook.

I'll give you a hint. Nobody chose A. I've been working with this particular group of coworkers since October and I don't think they'll be getting any more invitations.

I am rising above, with thoughts of my wonderful friends who will come by for a party at the drop of a hat. I heart all of you!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So easy to forget

It's like I don't want to remember my tips to keeping my weight down! I lost 5 lbs in January by sticking to a few lifestyle changes and then plateaued, mostly because I let it slide a little. Heck, I was doing so well!

Counting calories is no fun for me and neither is massive deprivation, so I found a few things that did work. I'm going to put them down here to give me more incentive to pay attention to them.

1. Be aware of my appetite; if I'm not hungry, don't eat (even if the doughnuts are free!).
2. Only snack on things between meals if they have 4 ingredients or less.
3. Avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup in it.
4. Drink lots of water & take vitamins.
5. Make grapefruit & oatmeal my 1st choice for breakfast
6. Eat smaller portions, no second servings.
7. No snacking after dinner

That's it! See you in my catsuit for the June dance recital!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dash's New Haircut (and bonus party vid)

Here's a post-nap, sweaty-haired Dash cowering in my bosom at the hair salon. The course of the entire haircut was rife with screams, tears, and entreaties of "Ijuswannagohome!"

Witness here the happy, confident, post-haircut Dash! (with a slightly pink right eye; he was home with me all day in quarantine from daycare)

And just cuz I LOVE YOU ALL, here's a video AJS took of Dash about 2 weeks ago. Yes, he's eating the ice straight out of the beer cooler. Yummy!

Home-milled flour

I posted a while back about buying whole wheat berries and have been meaning to follow up. We did mill the flour and bake bread with it and have photos to prove it. They follow, for your enjoyment. Firstly, I wanted to mention a few reasons why we went to all this trouble:
  • whole wheat lasts a for years without going stale or rancid.
  • commercial milling removes nearly 30% of the the most nutritious parts of the whole grain.
  • within 72 hours, whole grain flour has lost over 80% of vitamins.
  • people claim that foods made with freshly ground wheat have amazing health benefits, like curing hypoglycemia, constipation, and even warts! I'll get back to you on that.
For bread recipes using freshly ground wheat, go here or here. Overall, you can use it pretty much like regular flour, depending on how fine/course it's ground. Here are our results:

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Perfect Pimm's Cup

Pimms Glasses
Originally uploaded by will wade
While most Flickr users are adding strawberries or raspberries to the original recipe, here is the how for a perfectly refreshing warm-weather cocktail (I could use one today!):


1 1/2 cups Pimm's No. 1
1 navel orange, cut crosswise into thin slices
1 lemon, cut crosswise into thin slices
3/4 cup firmly packed mint leaves and tender stems
1 1/2 cups cold ginger ale or lemon lime soda
1 cucumber, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
About 3 cups ice
1 apple, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices


In a large pitcher, combine the Pimm's, the orange and lemon slices, and the mint. Chill for about 10 minutes. Stir in the ginger ale.

Put two cucumber wedges, standing on end, into each of four 1-pint glasses. Fill halfway with ice. Pour in the Pimm's mixture. Push the mint down into the drinks and divide the orange, lemon, and apple slices among the drinks.

Recipe courtesy of Food and Wine. All rights reserved.

ditched meme post

Memes don't usually need a point, except to be funny, fun, and revealing about some aspect of the author. The Priviledge meme that I recently participated in (and subsequently took down) did have a point, or was a means to a researcher's conclusion, and I intended to research it after participating and post about said point.

I didn't find much except criticism. Priviledge isn't based on whether you have a TV or a new car, necessarily; different classes have myriad cues that don't come close to the Indiana State U prof's questions. Ivy-Leaguer Megan McArdle of The Atlantic observed that having a television in your room was seen as vulgar by ultra-priviledged private school classmates; having a more austere lifestyle was seen as a sign of class.

All that to say, that list was making me uncomfortable in its pointlessness. So what if I stayed in a hotel or flew in a commercial airliner before I was 16. Not fun or funny.

At least Radical Mama's point was to show a change between her sitch and her daughter's, and I didn't manage that. Not for me.

If any of you can find a fun point to it all, I'm listening!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

#22 Follow-up: Prisoner's Art

Regarding the origin of the original art (#22) my previous post: In the early '70s my dad had competed with the prisoners of Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum security prison outside Joliet, Ill, as a one of team of chess players. The highly educated engineers and physicists from Argonne National Laboratory's team, the ANL Pawns, played the Stateville Rooks under the supervision of the Chicago Industrial Chess League. The CICL Bulletin archive has a record of my dad's team playing the Rooks in their February 1974 issue.

Here's my dad's take on the event (his is the "one" game with a non-convict win):

"Bill Walsh, one of the Argonne players, decided to call a Chicago Tribune reporter after the match to tell him that the convicts won all their games but one.

The story made the front page of the Trib and got Bill into a lot of trouble with Argonne management! It was very unusual for Argonne to make the front page and they certainly didn’t want to be there with a “negative” story."

Having grown up with his prize painting on the wall of our split-level suburban home, I never thought it was all that unusual until I was in my teens. It is a large (4 ft by 6 ft) canvas, an abstract oil painting, depicting what appears to be a silhouette of a pine forest—aflame. The lower half of the canvas is black, spiking with the pine trees' peaks into a chaotic sea of yellow, orange and red streaks that fill the top of the frame. Only in my adolescence did it occur to me to think that this high-contrast, high-energy, and somewhat violent art maybe didn't fit in fully with our tame slate foyer, goldenrod carpeting, faux-buckskin recliner, and warm wood upright piano in the living room.

Even so, I've always loved it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Half-size, same price

AJS does all the grocery shopping and I generally eat at the office cafeteria, so the increasing prices for foodstuffs only hit me today.

Since I'm teleworking this morning, after dropping the kids at daycare, I decided to treat myself with a fabulous Misha's coffee and their droolworthy morning-glory muffin, my absolute favorite muffin on the planet. After a short wait in line, I order the dark coffee and my muffin; to my surprise, the barrista grabs a mini-thing about 1.5 inches across (rather than a typical, generous 3+in with overflowing cap). This teeny muffin has no cap and is delicately encased in some preciously embossed paper muffin cup that actually dwarfs it.

She informs me, "oh, yeah, we've switched bakeries." This doesn't bode well.

I examine it: a quick once-over shows that it does in fact have carrots, walnuts, and raisins in it, so I continue with the purchase. CRAZY me, I figure that this itty-bitty thing would somehow ring up for a smaller amount than the regularly sized muffin, twice as big. Can you guess where this is going?

No, she rings up the SAME PRICE (or maybe a few cents more) than usual. I say, thanks, but I don't want the muffin and just get coffee.

It was a pretty muffin, for sure. But, I'm eating here, not at an art gallery. I generally leave the muffin in a brown bag and tear off hunks while I'm driving to my destination. I don't sit and meditate with it to absorb its beauty before consuming. Has the price for materials risen this much already, or it is just that perhaps the new bakery is more pricey or has more chi-chi caché?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just Rosie and me

Plastic beads
Originally uploaded by TomMartinArt
Rosie and I went out for our first ride on the trail-a-bike this past weekend. I think she really enjoyed it, despite the regular fear of falling off and being too wobbly. She needs some more experience with pedaling and balancing on the bike, so it'll be a great training tool. We were out for just a short while as she was only getting used to it; I kept encouraging her to pedal, but I think she was worried that if she moved her legs, she'd fall off. We need to try it a few more times to gain her confidence!

My favorite neighbor, Gretchen, gave Rosie a bead kit that her daughter wasn't interested in. Rosie, however, LOVES IT!!! She made two necklaces almost by herself, amazing girl that she is! It came with a variety of plastic beads in different colors and sizes and not much else. The directions went something like, "string your beads, attach the clasp, and you're done!" Um, there is a little bit more to it, TYVM. Good thing that I have better equipment and know how to finish the jewelry, or this kit would have gone in the dead project bin.

While Dash took a marathon 3 hr nap Sunday, Rosie begged me to let her make a necklace. She picked out her beads, started a pattern (I helped maintain the pattern), and then strung 90% of them on her own! I was very impressed with her patience. There were a few times that she complained about her back hurting or being tired of the process, so I only suggested that she lie down for a few minutes and come back to it. Once she finished her necklace, I added the clasp and we were done.

One of her classmates at school, Taylor, loved it so much that she asked Rosie to make one for her. Guess what we did last night?

UPDATE: We went for a ride last night and the wheel on Rosie's bike LOCKED UP. Refused to spin, pedals unmoving. I couldn't get it to budge & had to drag the bike 1/2-mile back home. Not fun. Will be taking the trail-a-bike back to the bike shop to see what happened. There were metal shavings around the rear gears, so I'm thinking the shop didn't properly lube it before the sale?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bookbinders, the Strings are out to dinner

I didn't take a pic, but we are sitting across from James Carville.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You look like a princess!

Originally uploaded by ola75smith
Our boy is already workin' it with the ladies. If he keeps this up, we are in sooo much trouble.

When Rosie came out of her room after changing into her favorite-est pyjamas last night, Dash announced:

"Rosie! You Look Like A PRINCESS!!" over and over again until all she could do was cover him with hugs and kisses. Who could ever be immune to that?

His teachers at daycare (all women) tell us that when they ask him to complete a chore, such as cleaning up, he'll come back with:

"Ms. Kandace, I have a hug and kiss for you!" and tries to get out of it by using his wiles. He's got them all under his thumb...at 2 and a half.

Sometimes, he can be so brightly enthusiastic and encouraging, he's almost a caricature, singing out during our plodding morning commute:

"Come on, cars! You Can Do It!"

Some other hilarious catch phrases that you can hear from Dash regularly, that just sound bizarre coming from such a small person are:

"Leave that to me!"
"Just THINK about it!"
"What's all this about?"

I won't even get started on how he's quoting Star Wars and Lord of the Rings these days. It's just disturbing to hear a little guy with a light-up key fob wheeze out, "my precioussssss."

I got AJS talking about bikes...

Originally uploaded by Organizer Fairy
From dcist.com's Morning Roundup yesterday, AJS (a.k.a. monkeyrotica) is geeking out about the Pope's visit:

"Man, I really hope the Pope rides his pimped out pennyfarthing when he comes to town, all covered in jewels and s**t. Even got a horn what beeps "Ave Maria" and "La Cucaracha." If some creep jacks the pontiff's ride, you can bet the DC cops will be all over that joint like brown on dookie. But I bet Benny don't give a fat rat's fart about tailpipe emissions and carbon footprints. All he care about is not gettin mud on his dress.

If Jeebus was around today, you can bet he'd ride a unicycle and smoke hemp and be talkin bout LOVE with a capital "F." Now that's the kinda blackeyed pea-eatin, strychnine drinkin religion that I can get behind. So long as they pay taxes and don't marry off 14-year-olds to geriatrics."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pining for cycling

Originally uploaded by nylonthread
Cycling has always been a huge part of my life, until having two kids. Even when we just had Rosie, I still went on 25-mile weekend rides and occasionally biked to work, but once Dash arrived, I've only rarely been more than around the neighborhood. The last time I seriously biked for cycling's sake was on our Rehoboth trip late last Fall, when we realized that Rosie-plus-Dash were beyond my trailer's capacity and we had to rent a second one. We'd travel about 10 miles at a time, because of the heat and the kids' attention span.

Growing up, my family belonged to a cycling club, where my dad had a few terms as president. We spent almost every weekend on a tour with the club around the Chicago area, occasionally venturing out to Indiana and Wisconsin. When my sister and I were teens, our dad discovered VBT and better, Bike Vermont. We'd travel to Vermont in the summers and stay for a week, biking during the day and either follow the guides on set tours, or go on Dad-led rides. I remember "cork-screw hill" and "suicide hill" fondly, as well as the maple syrup shops and later, the Woodstock Cider Brewery. Sis and I would usually take the 40-60 mile/day trips, while Dad would go for the Century rides and take all the options. He would always be back at the lodge before us, super-athlete that he is!

When AJS and I first met, he didn't own a car and traveled 100% by bike; on our first date, he was wearing his bike gloves and a scrubby helmet was on the bench seat next to him (at Food for Thought, a long-gone dive on Conn Ave.). Before Rosie was born, we used to ride together all over DC on the weekends, picnicking on the Mall. AJS got a job in Rockville and bought a folding bike that he adored to commute with until it was stolen.

When we lived in Mount Pleasant, I was training for a bike tour in Ireland (in '98, with Bike Vermont, my dad & sister) and I did hill training by looping steep Hobart St.>Mt Pleasant St.>Harvard St.>Adams Mil Rd.l>Irving St.>Hobart St. over and over again. It really paid off, even though the residents must have thought I was nuts. The last tour the three of us went on together was in 2001 to Hawaii's Big Island, which was spectacular -- imagine riding your bike on the edge of a volcano's crater.

The past two summers, my dad, sister and I have taken both the kids to a beach house in Rehoboth (pictured from 2006), where we have taken bike trips throughout our stays. One-year old Dash looks veeeeery mischevious in this pic -- he's holding a stolen ID in his grubby hands. But that's it for the biking lately. Kind of lame for such a cycling soul, eh?

I recently stumbled upon Gwadzilla's blog; he's a dad living in DC that lives for cycling and the outdoors. Reading his entries is making me want to get on my bike and get out there. Not to bike to work -- I've tried cycling in Tysons Corner before; it's a NIGHTMARE I wouldn't recommend to anyone-- but to bike when I get home and on the weekends. I think only Dash will fit in the trailer now, so I've been considering if Rosie will be jealous if we are out without her.

Maybe tonight? It's looking sunny out! I'll see about pumping the tires up when I get home...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dance class recital 2 months away...

Originally uploaded by Semioticghosts
It's been awhile since I blogged about the jazz class I'm taking, mostly because it's been more of the same stretching, learning a monthly dance combination, listening to the teenagers say goofy stuff, etc. Not very interesting, since you've already read it here.

But it is starting to get exciting now. Two weeks ago, we began learning the choreography for our June recital. I've purchased the costume and saw a photo of it (burgundy top, black pants, gold accent). I put in my 2¢ with the teacher, requesting some dance club music (instead of the Hanna Montana/High School Musical stuff that's usually played), and got a mild glare from Mrs. H, the instructor. I was educated that she has a theme for the recitals, with this year's being "Dance Quotations." Each class gets music appropriate to that theme. It's all very complex and she doesn't appreciate getting input from the masses.

Even so, I'm at a loss as to how "You Are the Music in Me" by Vanessa Hudgins (a remix) fits the theme, but hey, that's her job not mine. And by a quick search on You Tube, I learn that it indeed is a High School Musical song. Woo.

Anyway, because I'm a geek and have a bad memory for the choreography, I created a spreadsheet that breaks down the dance moves by counts of eight. Hey, don't knock it!!! This is going to seriously help me! I also learned last week that while the instructor writes down the choreography, she doesn't plan ahead: she does it WHILE WE'RE RIGHT THERE, is inspired by the previous moves/the music/stuff we've done in earlier classes and scrawls it down on her legal pad in shorthand. With other ballet/tap/modern/jazz classes all day, all week, she depends on the individual students to remember the dances. Sometimes the shorthand fails her and we have to reinvent a section.

Wish me luck! The class is tonight and I have my spreadsheet.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mmmm... bunny cupcakes....

For the egg hunt after-party, Kelly baked and decorated these adorable bunny cupcakes. They are just astounding in their cuteness! We should just admire them in their bunny glory.

Kelly and Liam give the bunnies their whiskers (yes, Liam really did help!).

What? You want to eat them? Noooooooooo!!!!!!!

Rosie eats her cupcake under a napkin (maybe nobody will want to take it if they can't see it)...

Lila's removed the bunny face...

Liam's loving the icing! 

Lauren & Emma are feeling the buzz...

Thea says, "bye, Easter bunny! See you next year!"

Easter Egg Hunt 2008


Go get those badly hidden eggs, kids!!


We need more, MORE!

Mommy, we need your help! Our baskets aren't overflowing yet!

Look at all of our eggs, Mom!!! Um, what do we do with them?

Open them up and chipmunk the chocolate till you feel sick. 

And that's what the Easter egg hunt is all about, friends.

I.O.U. photos

Photos have been piling up on the camera and I just haven't found the time to sit down at the home computer and weed through them all.

I know many of them are adorable, so I can't wait too much longer. The easter egg hunt is almost a distant memory. We also milled wheat berries, baked bread with the flour, AND documented the whole experience.

There should be some time tonight; it's friday before a busy weekend (a birthday, playdate, and dinner party). I will get them up tonight!

Just letting you know that I've been thinking of you and meaning to post. Check back soon.

Love, Nylon
(writing on her Sidekick from the bus)
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