Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Son, the Gourmand

Ethan loves cheese. Not just any cheese, though; he has to have the very best. And preferably, it comes from some faraway (and thus expensive) place. For instance, he absolutely adores the Cotswold cheese, also known as Double Gloucester with Chive and Onion. It happens to be imported from England. It also happens to be my absolute favorite, which means we end up fighting over the last remaining bites every time we take out a loan to buy some.

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It's so good! Creamy, strongly flavored, very cheddary, and oh so delicious in just about anything, from plain crackers to omelettes to a cheese sauce for veggies. If only it weren't something like $19.99/lb...

He also loves the sage-flavored Derby cheese, also from England.


I'm not sure I like this one by itself as much as I like it when layered with other cheeses, or mixed into recipes. But Ethan loves it! Did I mention that he won't eat American cheese? Could be the texture issue, but I'm leaning towards the gourmet-food-loving genes he got from his mammy.

One thing that we all agree on is this layered "Five Counties" cheese, that has a sampling of several regional cheeses in the U.K.

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Talk about YUM! Now that I think about it, I can understand why he loves these cheeses. Who could go back to bland and ho-hum cheese after they've tasted these beauties? Maybe we should look into the Cheese of the Month club for this kid! (You know, not for us, ahem....)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Date Night, part 2

On our last date, after dinner we wandered down to our usual spot, the Speakeasy Lounge. We met there in 1995, and enjoy the ambience; it's more neighborhood bar than dance club, and more alternative-friendly than fratboy-friendly. And they make the strongest drinks I've ever had. Ever. For a vodka tonic, they fill about 80% with vodka, then add a couple of spritzes of tonic. Toss in a lime wedge, and voila! You now have to take a drink without visibly wincing. (I don't do well at that.) And they probably have the least expensive drinks of all the downtown establishments, too, which makes it even crazier that they give such strong drinks. Can you see why we go back there when we can?

Still, we always end up leaving there with a sense of being let down. It's the music; they have played exactly the same stuff every single time we've been there. It's gotten to the point that we could print them out a playlist of the songs they'll play and probably get 9 out of 10 right every time. Here's a sample:
-- Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd
-- Bust a Move, by Young MC
-- Blister in the Sun, by the Violent Femmes
-- Baby Got Back, by Sir Mix-a-lot
-- The Joker, by the Steve Miller Band
-- What I Got, by Sublime

And so on. Come on! Let's mix it up! Do an alt/folk/rock cover of a rap song, like Ben Folds did with their cover of a classic gangsta rap song by Dr. Dre... or something a la Jonathan Coulton doing his folk-guitar version of Baby Got Back...

That's my challenge to you, downtown Modesto; mix it up!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Date Night, part 1

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We got to have a date night recently that started off well, but ended as most nights "out on the town" in Modesto end-- with the same music, the same people, and the same general feeling of disappointment and frustration that there is very little that changes here. The beginning of the night, though was great; we love, love, love our babysitter! She is great with Ethan, and he adores her. We took him over to her house that night, and were pleasantly surprised to see three other young kids there. Ethan was so excited to see them that he pretty much forgot we were around, making our exit that much easier. She's just a perfect sitter, in many ways; calm, caring, affectionate, not bothered in the least by crying or fussing, and very pleasant to be around. Lucky us!

After we left him with our fave sitter, we went out to grab a light dinner at Firkin & Fox Pub in downtown Modesto. We chose the fish 'n chips, and the fish was delicious. Maybe a little too battered for our tastes, but the fish itself was perfection: White, firm but flaky, buttery smooth and nicely flavored. And the "chips" were actually tasty rather than being greasy or soggy. YUM! I attempted to make progress in my self-imposed challenge to learn how to drink beer, and I actually put away some Blue Moon. Not without work, though; that stuff is hard to get used to... for me, anyway. Maybe I'll just skip it, as I don't really feel like you should have to struggle to enjoy a drink.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Food: It Tastes Good!

Ethan is finally starting to eat more, meaning that he's gone from just having snacks every so often to having an actual meal at least once a day. Granted, the amount of food he ends up putting down his gullet isn't exactly the full amount recommended, but at least he's eating. I think it was partially the fact that lately he's been teething like he's in some sort of competition; he seriously has about four or five teeth coming in at once right now. Ouch!

Another factor was, of course, the bottle situation. Yes, that's right, he still is on the bottle. Not that there's anything wrong with that, right? It's strange how everyone is so gung-ho to get kids away from the bottle the minute they hit the one year mark. Why the rush? We're not stressing about it too much, really, but I'm trying to slowly move him into the straw-type sippy cups as a sort of half-way point between bottle and cup. He already drinks his juice and water out of the taller 12 oz. cups; now we just have to get him to take his milk from one.

And guess what? This week, he finally drank milk from his straw cup! Three things were different: First, I used the smaller Nuby straw cup (8 oz.) that my mom found at Wal-Mart-- but which you can buy pretty much anywhere.

It has grips on each side and may be easier for him to handle. Second, I held him on my lap just like I would if I were bottle-feeding him. Third, I heated it briefly before giving it to him, the same way we do with his bottles. For the first time ever, he drank down the whole thing; looks like we're on our way, folks! Oh, and the only bad thing about these cups is that they do leak when they fall over onto their sides. It's a little irritating to walk over and stand the cup upright and find a pool of juice has leaked out, making your floor (or carpet) a wet, sticky mess.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I want a new bed. I know, I know, "want" doesn't mean "need"-- especially when we're both still looking for jobs, and other mundane details like that. But still, there is this little part of me that wants things even when it's impractical or selfish or (sometimes) impossible. Like that cruise to the islands, for instance; gonna happen? Probably not. Do I still want to book it? Of course!

So, on to the subject: I want a platform bed. Ever since we visited my cousins in the Bay Area and slept on their wonderful, amazing, perfect guest bed, I've had this type of bed on the top of my "want" list.

It was so awesome! I loved the idea of it as much as I loved the actual experience. It looked so clean, and simple, and straightforward; no headboard or box springs or dust ruffles, just the pure lines of the bed frame and linens. And the sleep we got was perfect-- I think the movement associated with two layers (mattress and box springs) is partially what wakes me up all the time. Any time Joel shifts in his sleep, I feel the whole bed shiver and bounce, and boom! I'm awake. I'm sure it's actually pretty minimal, but for some reason I'm a very light sleeper and it doesn't take much to jostle me out of dreamland. These platform beds, which we've slept on a couple of times now, don't seem to have that problem. It's like sleeping on the couch, kind of, which I've always been able to do without any problems. That's where I spent most of the last trimester of my pregnancy, actually!

Anyway, I do love the lines on the bed above, but I wonder if I'd end up destroying my shins on the sharp corners. There are a few other designs out there (a few? try thousands!), but it's harder to find ones that have rounded corners. I guess it doesn't fit the whole "platform bed" aesthetic, or something. Typically the rounded ones are covered with a leather-cushion material, but I found this one as well:

Not sure I like it as much, but it definitely seems more skin-and-bone friendly than the sharp-edged beds. Which also makes me feel better about kids being in the same room; they tend to head straight for the sharpest edges around to test out their healing capabilities.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creating Armor

No, that isn't a metaphor for developing a better buffer between yourself and other people... I'm actually considering making a sort of shoulder-armor called a "spaulder." I saw it in the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. We've watched a few episodes, and let me tell ya-- it ain't for the weak of heart. It's sort of in the style of 300, with similar special effects during fight scenes, lots of slow motion, and exaggerated and almost comic-book type movements at certain times. It is also directed squarely at adults, and makes no apologies for being strictly grown-up entertainment. I've only watched two or three episodes so far, and have blushed more times than I can count at the very mature content. Speaking of which: Holy moley, Lucy Lawless--I don't remember you acting this way when you were Xena: Warrior Princess! Sheesh Louise!!

Anyway... we're still watching it, but be prepared for lots of lasciviousness to go along with your basic gladiator mayhem. (And by lasciviousness, I mean this could sometimes get a soft-core rating; yipes!)

The main actor, Andy Whitfield, is pictured below wearing his typical gladiator gear. This photo really shows off his segmented leather (?) spaulder, which I want to try to replicate for Joel to wear during Burning Man.

I also found a less theatrical one for sale at ElvenForge, a company that makes armor and weaponry for everything from re-enactments to Hollywood. The picture below, from their website, will give me more of an idea of where to put the grommets that will attach each "scale" of leather together. And an even better idea of how much these things normally cost! ($195 + shipping, in case you were wondering...)

I'm planning to use old purses from garage sales, plus a belt, and keep it low-cost and more in line with the Burning Man DIY ethic. Can't wait to get started on it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yo Gabba Gabba

Holy moley, people; this is the most bizarro kids' show that I've ever seen. Seriously. The guys who designed this must have been on one long trip, starting around 1982, punctuated periodically by overdoses on pixie sticks and possibly some bad 'shrooms.

We just bought the DVD below because Joel thinks Ethan likes it (hah), but also because he thinks it will greatly enhance our Burning Man experience. As in, it will make everyone who visits our RV and watches it trip out hardcore. It is super weird, with all of these 1980s Atari-style graphics popping up out of nowhere, and just way-out-there voices and sounds and songs. S-t-r-a-n-g-e.

We're thinking about bringing Yo Gabba Gabba costumes with us to Burning Man, actually. Joel, of course, would go as DJ Lance Rock:
... while I'm thinking of going as Foofa:

Well, you know, my version of Foofa. It will involve pink, and flowers, but will probably be different in several other ways. Once I get my costume together I'll be sure to post up some pics.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Or, as some others might call them, "frozen snacks"... quick and easy, just like your-- uh, never mind. Anyway! I found these little delights at my local Grocery Outlet, currently my favorite store, and decided that they might be perfect for camping/Burning Man.

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They heat up in a minute, can be eaten at room temp if necessary (not as good as melty-hot, though), and are actually tasty. They're small and light and make for a fast little snack or in-between meal. I actually got them for Ethan to try out, as he can just fit them perfectly in his little mitts, and he really likes them. For the first couple of bites, anyway. He's not a big fan of bread right now, so the dough parts bug him.

I also thought that he might be into these veggie burgers, but we haven't tried them on him so far. Luckily, we love them, so it doesn't matter if he can't stand them-- they'll get eaten!

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Lastly, we tried out these stuffed baked potatoes.

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I think next time I'll just split one in half for both of us to share, because they're pretty hearty and filling. I'd also probably add some toppings (broccoli & cheese, bacon, maybe some sour cream or chives or something like that) so that it has got some extra flavor and also makes a complete meal. Overall, though, they're all pretty good. Now I just have to find freezer space in the RV!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


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Doesn't my front yard have a great view? ;)

Seriously, though, I love Joel's Honda. Someday soon, he's going to go up to the next larger size, and maybe this one will be mine. I can handle one like this, I think; smaller, easier to maneuver, less difficult to move around in case it tips or something mechanical goes wrong, and besides-- so cool-looking! Joel's always getting compliments on it. It's an older Honda, and I guess (according to him) the kind of bike they turn into a "cafe racer"- -in terms of styling, rather than doing it for speed/racing. Vintage bikes are always cooler, for some reason, and this one is no different. It's just not big enough to take out on the freeways, which limits Joel to in-town driving. One of these days, though... watch out!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Temper Tantrum Time

So, this week Ethan started with the temper tantrums. I mean, full on tantrums, with everything you could ask for: throwing his body down onto the floor, kicking his feet into the air, flailing his arms about, and yelling at the top of his lungs. It's actually kind of hilarious, because you can tell he's just doing it to be dramatic, and at this stage of his life it's more cute than aggravating. I have to look away and try to keep from laughing while he's doing it, because I don't want him to start thinking this is a great way to keep Mommy entertained. (Even though it is.)

The funniest thing about all of it is that while he's throwing his grand tantrum, he isn't *really* crying; he's more like yodeling out these dramatic yells, and thumping his body along the ground. One time, I told him, "I know, it's frustrating when you can't get the toy box open," and then accidentally chuckled-- and he started laughing in the middle of his fit! It cracked me up. Sometimes I can also tell he is sort of practicing; he'll flail his arms and legs (and torso, weird), and then look down as if he's checking out his own body parts to see what the heck they're doing. What I want to know is, where is he getting this from?? It can't be from daycare (he doesn't attend) or TV (we watch very limited amounts of shows, none have tantrums featured) or siblings/friends, so where is he learning this? Hmm; must be in his genes. Gee, I don't know *who* he could be inheriting that from...

(Sheesh, is this Grandparents' Revenge, or what?)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Edible Delights

This is what I got Joel for our anniversary...

An Edible Arrangements fruit bouquet. YUM! The white items in the front are actually white and milk chocolate dipped bananas. My favorite part of the bouquet, of course.

For lunch, I picked up some tasty chicken salad with grapes and slivered almonds from Raley's, spread it in a multi-grain wrap, and served it with our favorite Claussen's dill pickles. What a great meal... simple, but oh-so-good. And I found a red wine we adore at Raley's, as well: Michael David Petite Petit, which is a blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. A few years ago it was my introduction to red wine, and it didn't disappoint. In fact, it converted me! It tastes like plum, berries, and luscious goodness, and it's not just me. The Petite Petit gets a very good rating from a lot of people, like Ken's Wine Guide and many more. I love it, especially when it's going for only $12 a bottle (it's normally $20). Can't wait to pour it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


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Today is the third anniversary of our wedding. I sometimes find it hard to believe that we've actually only known each other five years, and been married such a relatively short time, because it seems like I've known this man forever. Other days, I feel like I'm only just scratching the surface of who he really is, what he believes and feels, and how he looks at life. I guess that's the dichotomy that keeps us intrigued and moving forward in relationships, though; the contrast between feeling like you've known and loved someone your whole life, and then feeling like this person is a brand-new treasure that you get to open and explore, discovering them anew on a regular basis. Frustrating sometimes, sure, but also invigorating and comforting, and never dull.

This is one of my favorite memories from our wedding vows... I may have cried a touch during this part.
"Melanie and Joel, please take each other’s hands, and hold them so you can see the gift that they are to you. These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear and grief temporarily comes your way. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours."


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ring Around the Noggin

Sometimes, it's the simple games that are the most fun. Games like, oh, I don't know, "What's On My Head?"
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Who knew it could be so easy (and so fun) to entertain him-- and me?

Oh, and that is one of my absolute favorite outfits of Ethan's. I found it at Once Upon A Child for $4-- what a bargain! Love, love, love it. I only wish we had more just like it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ethan's Playground

We prepared a small play area for Ethan in the kitchen, where we have a little nook under the bar... He's always in the kitchen anyway, while I'm cooking or cleaning, so we decided that we should make an area that's more kid-friendly for him. He has his little couch-seat, plus a three-drawer cabinet filled with toys and books. This is theoretically supposed to keep him from the kitchen drawers and cabinets. Yeah, right.
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But at least he enjoys himself while he's in there. And when he leaves, he goes straight over to the fireplace play area, where we have his toy box and books.

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It is less dangerous than it sounds; Joel rigged up a cloth-covered board to cover the opening, so that we don't have to worry about finding him trying to climb up the chimney someday. We also covered the edges of the brick with those handy-dandy cushions, like these below, to keep him from braining himself in his enthusiasm for a toy or book.

So now we just have to worry about everything else that could bruise or cut him!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mr. Right vs. Mr. Good Enough

I just stumbled across the most interesting article, just in time for Valentine's Day. In it, the author discusses why she has come to the conclusion that it is sometimes better to settle for someone who may not come up to the skyscraper-high expectations that you and I and the Western world have set for love, marriage, and happily-ever-after. Here's a short clip from her article "Marry Him!", published in The Atlantic (March 2008):

"Obviously, I wasn’t always an advocate of settling. In fact, it took not settling to make me realize that settling is the better option, and even though settling is a rampant phenomenon, talking about it in a positive light makes people profoundly uncomfortable. Whenever I make the case for settling, people look at me with creased brows of disapproval or frowns of disappointment, the way a child might look at an older sibling who just informed her that Jerry’s Kids aren’t going to walk, even if you send them money. It’s not only politically incorrect to get behind settling, it’s downright un-American. Our culture tells us to keep our eyes on the prize (while our mothers, who know better, tell us not to be so picky), and the theme of holding out for true love (whatever that is—look at the divorce rate) permeates our collective mentality."

I found this interesting , because she is right: We DO have ridiculous standards for love and for our mates, and we drag those standards right over the altar with us into family life, making it almost impossible to be happy. It's as if we sabotage our own chances for happiness by making it so difficult for anything to be enough... as if we have to have glamour and magic and pure ecstatic joy every single day in order to have a happy, satisfied, contented life. Well, do we expect the same thing from our friends? Do we denigrate friendship the moment someone disagrees with us or eject them from our lives every time they lick their lips the wrong way or snort while laughing? Do we expect our own children to be perfectly adorable and loving and kind at all times, and then belittle parenting or reject family life when they act out or talk back to us? If we do, we shouldn't; we ourselves can't be held to those same standards of perfection, so who are we to demand others do so? Let's show a little love, here, people!
I only disagree when the author starts talking about "sub-par" partners and "sub-par" father figures. Just because someone doesn't fit the exact mold of Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Awesome, doesn't mean that they are sub-par; it just means they're different. And in the end, is that so bad? What's more important: To find a loving and stable and happy home in which to raise a family and share a partnership, or to find that perfect person with everything you desire and nothing you don't, at all costs? All I can say is, if my husband had waited for the perfect woman, he'd still be single.

So think about it... maybe "settling" isn't the term we ought to be using; maybe it would be more accurate to say that we are "accepting" someone, faults and all, and committing to love and honor them as human beings instead of waiting forever to find the Ideal Man or Woman... who doesn't really exist.

On that note, Happy Valentine's Day! Or, for those of you against the notion:

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Thar she blows! Our motorhome, that is. I think that, in the end, she will be a lovely thing. Full of joys and wonders and smelling of sweet happiness, rather than what she smelled like when she arrived: cat urine. Thank god Joel was the one who had to drive it home, sticking his head out the window the whole way in order to avoid being knocked out by the fumes. Anyway, after a bit of cleaning, with much more to come, she's already looking much better. Here's a view of the motorhome after a minor rinse off by some recent rain.

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The inside is actually pretty roomy, and with a bit of DIY fixer-upper attitude and some elbow grease will become a nifty pad for camping trips. This is a view of the inside looking back towards the couch-sleeping area at the rear of the vehicle. There are two sleeping areas (one on top of the driving area), a dining table/couch area, a bathroom with shower, a stove, sink, and refrigerator with freezer, and plenty of storage space. We'll be adding a microwave to the kitchen, because seriously, who doesn't use one on a daily basis these days?

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And this is the opposite view, looking up past the galley (tee-hee! RV lingo) towards the front of the vehicle.

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It's actually really neat. We are picking up a generator for half-off (!) this week, and can finally try out some of the stuff inside the RV that um, you know, runs on a generator. We also still need to dump some liquids (eww), pick up some propane, and basic cleaning and repair work, and then add our little extras to make it ours. Extras like bedding, and curtains, and door & drawer latches so that everything doesn't fall out the minute we turn a corner. Not that anything like that already happened, or anything... heh, heh. Well, you've gotta learn somehow, right? And we're ready to learn!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why I Don't Read the News.

Stories like this one are why I try to stay away from newspapers. Reading something this horrific about the way people can treat another human being sickens me. The tears were streaming down my face reading this article; I don't necessarily recommend it, but wanted to share in case you felt like getting a glimpse into the darkest side of humanity. As a person, I am disgusted and appalled. As a mother, I dread to think that my son would ever meet up with the type of sick, twisted individuals who could torture someone-- an innocent, mentally challenged young woman, in this case-- to death. I feel for all the parents involved here; the terrible loss that Jennifer Daugherty's parents sustained, and in such a shockingly horrible manner, is impossible to even imagine. The parents of those disgusting men and women who committed the heinous acts are also to be pitied, just not in the same way; I can hardly even conceive of what it would be like to find out your child is a murderer. Anyway... I have to go play with my son and enjoy his smiles, and try my best to cheer up. :(


Ethan is trying out various ways to play with us, including jumping out and scaring us at random moments. Of course, his technique needs a little bit of work, as he tends to let us know before he is going to jump out, but still... give the guy some credit, okay? He's doing the best he can. Here's his latest, caught on camera. I like to imagine he was going to say "Boo", but in reality his words at this point seem limited to dada, mama (sometimes), duck/quack (not sure if these are separate words), and shh.

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Who *wouldn't* be scared by that little face coming at you, ready to pounce? ;)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweeper, No Sweeping!

Along with his deep love of gardening tools, Ethan loves brooms. He thoroughly enjoys sweeping, or at least his version of it. It would be so awesome if he kept up this attitude in the future; I'm sure his future roomies (and wife?) would appreciate it.
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Unfortunately, he also retains a deep fear of the vacuum cleaner.
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The last several times I've vacuumed, I've ended up holding him on one hip so that he doesn't wound himself bawling and running for the hills. Once he almost ran directly into the fireplace trying to escape the dreaded vacuum cleaner.
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Once it's been on for awhile, though, he starts to calm down. In fact, he gets much calmer once I actually leave the room, and he can stay on the couch-- never on the floor, it's much too close to the monster-- and watch me move away down the hall.
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So, either he has to get used to vacuum cleaners, or he has to end up living in a house with wood flooring so he can use his beloved broom instead. We'll see how it turns out!
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gardener in Training

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Ethan just LOVES to be outside. Whenever we're out there, he's right along with us. When we're raking up the leaves that seem to never stop falling, he wants to rake. When we sweep up those annoying little round seeds that are perfect for stepping on and twisting your ankle, he wants a broom. When we take the garbage out, he's yelling on the doorstep to be helped down so that he can accompany us to the glories of the garbage can. A few weeks ago we were outside hanging out, and he discovered the mysterious wonders of the garden hose and the strange contraption containing it.

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"I can see the hose, and it's really cool, but where does it come from?"

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"Getting warmer.... getting warmer..."

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At this point, I had to intervene because I was pretty sure he was about to climb right over onto the other side and do a face plant into the bricks. Not on my watch, Gardener Boy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Blood

Ethan face-planted the other day. He was running full-blast towards the kitchen, and got caught up in his own feet somehow, taking a lip-first dive directly onto the threshold between the carpeted living room and the linoleum of the kitchen. BOOM! The tears and panic were coming from more than one person, I can tell you that much.

Yet, only a few minutes later, he was clapping away with Daddy.
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But the carnage was still visible underneath...
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Yes, that's blood all over his shirt and Joel's shirt. I almost had a coronary when I saw how much he was bleeding. Who knew one cut on his lip would drench both of them like that? Here's a close-up of my poor baby's boo-boo.

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Well, it may leave a scar, but then I have a matching one on my lip from taking a face-front dive onto a pile of rocks when I was a kid, so... can't say much about it. Either way, he recovered fairly quickly, and it didn't even stop him from taking his bottle, so I'd say he's a trooper!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Nightlife

I never added the photo of what I wore out the last time Joel & I went to San Francisco and tore up the city with our bad, wicked ways. Or, in reality, went to a nightclub for less than two hours and then drove our sorry butts home, sick as dogs from overindulging. I think we spent more time driving there and back than we spent actually dancing. How sad is that? Anyway, here was my "va-va-voom" outfit.

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I loved that outfit! The dark slim-fit jeans are sooo awesome, and super-flattering. I may end up going back and getting pairs in different colors if I can find them again (thank you, Macy's Juniors section). The top was such a wild choice for me; usually, I end up picking something I could wear again downtown in Modesto. This one was more of a step outside my typical choices, and I loved it. There is a part of me that wants to be so crazy and wild with my clothing and hair and my whole image, but then the practical side pulls back on the reins and I go for less flash and more versatility. Well, no more of that! Even if I only have one or two awesome, glitzy, radical pieces, it's worth it-- not *everything* has to double as work clothes, right?

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Take THAT, conservative side!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Food: Rustic Settlers Beans

I found this awesome recipe in the Save Mart "cookbook" magazine called INternational Good Taste, in the Winter 2010 issue (p.13). I adjusted it and made some changes to our tastes, and included the adjusted recipe below. We absolutely loved it, and can't wait to bring it to summer barbecues, camping trips, and Burning Man later this year. Yeah, it leaves you a little "fragrant" later that night, but it's worth it!

Rustic Settlers Beans, by Barb Dosh

1 lb. ground beef chuck, seasoned (we used cumin, garlic, chili powder, oregano, ground red pepper, and paprika)
1 lb. EACH apple-smoked bacon AND mesquite bacon
1/2 cup sliced lil' smokies
1.5 cups cubed steak (rub with salt, pepper, and garlic before cooking)

2 tbsp. Butter
1 onion, chopped, plus 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup chopped yellow/red/green bell pepper
1 can diced green chilies

1 can EACH Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Pork & Beans, Butter Beans
1 can Lima Beans (optional)

1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup EACH BBQ sauce (we used Jack Daniel's Original #7) AND Ketchup
2 tbsp. molasses
1 tbsp. EACH chili powder AND stone ground mustard
2 Tbsp. carrots en escabeche (marinated carrots)
1/3 cup cooked, diced carrots

Salt & pepper to taste

Optional garnishes: Green onions, thinly sliced; shredded cheese; crumbled bacon

1. In large skillet cook ground chuck until no longer pink; drain and set aside. Repeat with steak, then lil' smokies, then with bacon. Crumble bacon and set all meat aside.
2. Melt butter in skillet. Add onion; sauté until translucent, then add diced chilies, chopped bell pepper, and garlic. Saute an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add BOTH types of carrots (cooked/diced AND en escabeche).
3. In large Dutch oven [or slow cooker] combine beef, bacon, and drained
beans. Add vegetable mixture (onions, peppers, chilies, etc. from Step 2). Place over medium-high heat [or set slow cooker on HIGH].
4. In small bowl mix sugar, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, molasses, seasonings, if
desired; stir into mixture.
5. Reduce heat and cook 1 hour on medium-low on stovetop [or 2 to 3 hours on HIGH
in slow cooker].
6. About 15-20 minutes before serving, prepare sourdough bread rolls. Slice off top of sourdough roll and scoop out centers; set centers aside. Place all bread on a baking sheet and lightly toast at 350-F for about 5 minutes, or until golden and lightly crispy. (Center pieces can be offered as sides or dusted with garlic-parmesan butter and served as toast.)
7. Scoop bean-meat mixture into the sourdough "bowls" and garnish with shredded cheese, green onion, and additional crumbled bacon if desired. Place toasted bread alongside bowls and serve with a fresh green salad.

Serves 12

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Almost Active Again

I will probably be out of it for a couple of more days, recovering from the surgery. It's just too much to juggle blogging along with resting my arms, spending time with the baby, and keeping the house under minimal control without using my upper body. (ha!)

So, that said, I'm very very hopeful about a job that Joel interviewed for yesterday. It's in Livermore, and located close by some close friends of ours-- godparents of Ethan, in fact. It seems like such a great opportunity, with a fairly big range of pay scales for the motivated to pursue, and a locations all over the place for those with itchy feet who want transfers. The Livermore location caught Joel's eye right away because of the lovely bike paths all around, one of which actually debouches almost outside the door to the office. Maybe if we get lucky enough to move out that direction, we can finally get the bike trailer we've been coveting for so long. This great website has lots of recommendations and well-written reviews, and we'll probably use it to make our choice when we finally purchase. That might be a few months away yet, and we might get it from eBay or craigslist, but this website is kind of our go-to guide.

What we will most likely end up getting because they're affordable and yet still good-quality is an InSTEP bicycle trailer like this one:
...but a dream would be the Burley Solo ST Bicycle Trailer that converts easily from trailer to stroller, so that you can bike to the store/park/farmer's market, unhook it and then use it as a stroller to wander around. Pretty cool, but fits one-kid only, and a bit on the pricey side. burleysolotrailer

Anyway, once we get up to that area (cross your fingers!) we can check out some of the "cycling for fun" rides throughout the east bay area and keep our family active. Can't wait. :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Recovery

Let me re-cap the past few days since surgery...

1. Ouch. And I do mean that. O.U.C.H.

2. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn.

3. Why is that weird guy pouring bagfuls of almonds on my chest while riding a pony around the room, and who's chanting? Or, wait, was it meds time recently??

4. I miss my baby.

5. Owie.

6. I can't believe how lucky I am to be blessed with such a caring, wonderful, amazing, stand-up guy. Joel has been a rock for the past several days, doing everything to take care of Ethan and still finding time to come check on me and make sure I haven't dissolved into a puddle of melted pain-pills and saltines. At one point, he even rigged up a laptop so that I could watch Dexter on Netflix. What more could a girl ask?

7. Did I mention the soreness, achiness, pain, twinges, and generally yucky feeling?

8. Joel set up the gate by my door so that I can at least see Ethan's head peek over and smile at me every so often. Usually, though, I have it closed; it's just easier on both of us not to have to see what we can't touch.

9. Hunger is strange; I think I feel it, but actually eating makes me feel a little worse. Stick with soup and crackers for now. Great, now I'm craving those puffed cheese things from Trader Joe's... dangit!

10. As things get better, I can see what a wonderful hubby I have to have been so supportive and to take such excellent care of Ethan while I'm out of commission. And my kick butt friends and family, too! Thanks to all for your support and love while I recover. Let's hope things relax down from their current heights to more manageable proportions. Either that, or momma just found a new career! ;)