Friday, January 9, 2009

Message Beans

Sometimes you come across something that is so... different that you just have to share it. Has anyone else seen the SMP Bloom in a Can Message Bean? I'm not really sure how I feel about this one. I certainly wouldn't spend $14 on a single bean plant or a greeting card, but it's still kinda cute. Maybe. Something about a laser carving into a seed makes me cry a little inside. Yep. I'm weird like that. At least it's organic. Not sure about the cans. It looks like the lids may be plastic?

What do all of you think?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changin' Up the Menu

One of my goals for awhile now has been to vary our lunch and dinner menus. The Husband is an extremely picky eater, not to mention the two 5-year-olds I have to cater to. Oh, did I forget the toddler? She's actually the easiest to please if that gives you any indication as to what I'm dealing with here. Seriously, my husband only eats pizza, plain cheese burgers (that's just meat and cheese), a touch of spaghetti with meat sauce, lasagna, or manicotti, and the occassional sub sandwich. It's not exactly bliss for my palate. I remember those days long, long ago where having pizza each Friday night with my mom and brother was awesome, and I never seemed to tire of it. Now, if I never see another pizza in my life, it'll be too soon. Par example, when my mom died, The Husband and I stayed with my step-dad and brother for about two weeks to get everything settled. Daniel ordered a pizza from Tiffany's every single day for lunch and dinner. (Best pizza in Monroe, Michigan BTW, if you're ever in town...) The first couple of days my step-dad and brother found it a bit odd but were game. After five days, they were wondering why I was with this guy. :-) They thought for sure he'd give up after one full week of pizza, but no...

But I digress. I was talking about our current menu. Being in my third trimester now, the tomato-based diet was absolutely killing me. The heartburn... Ugh. So I decided to look around the web and see what other people were eating, how they planned their menus, etc. Eventually, I decided to take the super-duper-uber-easy way out and use the weekly menus put together at Every Day with Rachael Ray. Some of you will know her from her 30-minute Meals gig. Not all of the dishes in the offered menus can be prepared in 30 minutes, but I'd rather have slow food anyway. As I looked around at the menus, they did a fairly good job of keeping things seasonal, and most of the ingredients are already in my very limited pantry. If I have it, I bet you do too!

Unfortunately, as easy as the dishes have been to prepare, they haven't all been big hits around here. Not by a long shot. The first recipe we tried was the Pumpkin Ravioli with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. I traded the wonton wrappers for homemade ravioli following Rhonda's tutorial, and as I was rolling out the pasta dough sans pasta machine (yikes!) I kept thinking how many of these ingredients could be homegrown and/or homemade. A few chickens would cover the eggs, pumpkin puree is simple enough, even I've done toasted pumpkin seeds before, cream and parmesan cheeses can be homemade even by folks without their own dairy animals, and the butter could at least be home churned, right?

And then I took a bite of my ravioli. The ravioli that took me hours to make. And it was DREADFUL. I barely choked down one entire ravioli and couldn't manage a second to save my life. It wasn't the pasta part. That was good and light, even being hand rolled. The filling though? Blech. It was like I cut open a pumpkin and started chowing down. I like pumpkin, but this was a bit too much for me. Perhaps I didn't cook the ravioli long enough, though they were all floating when I began spooning them out. Needless to say, the kids wouldn't eat it either. I think The Bean ate one or two raviolis, but that was it.

I'll admit that after all the time I spent on this dish, I almost gave up completely on the Every Day menu. Very luckily, though, the very next day produced a meal as fabulous as this one was horrid. But that'll have to wait for another post. ;-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Toy Review 3: Melissa and Doug Wooden Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle

Ahhhh, the last toy review. A family member purchased this Melissa and Doug Wooden Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle for Callie. Some of the Melissa and Doug stuff I really like, some not so much, but this one is pretty great. It doesn't have any of the plastic pegs in the pieces as some wooden puzzles do. All three of the kids like to play with it, claiming a bear for themselves and acting out imaginary scenarios. Each bear in the family has several facial pieces to choose from, each with its own expression. This adds a little something beyond the normal mix-and-match clothing puzzles that I see so often, and Callie really gets a kick out of it!

My favorite thing about this puzzle is that the pieces store in a sectioned box onto which slides the puzzle base as a lid. No more hard, wooden puzzle pieces to step on or lose! You can just pop this baby on a shelf and go about your day.

I'd recommend this for the toddler and pre-kindergarten set. The head pieces are choking size, so don't buy it for the toddler who is still prone to sticking things in their mouth.

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): *****
Affordability: *****
Educational value: ****
Durability: *****
Ease of use: *****
Versatility: ****
Environmental Friendliness: ****
Fun: *****

Monday, January 5, 2009

A (Nearly) Happy Ending

Today was back-to-school day for the twins. At 2:30pm or so, I got a phone call from the school asking if I could come pick up Airius because he was running a temp of 102 degrees Farenheit.

I pulled into the parking lot and waddled my way through (yeah, that's part of being firmly planted in the third trimester of pregnancy) only to be greeted at the sidewalk by an eager little kitten. In the busy Head Start parking lot. You know, where the buses that couldn't possibly see a kitten drive and park. Yikes. But I was on a mission to retrieve my ailing son, so I sidestepped the kitty with an apology and headed into the building.

A few moments later, I was towing two children by their hands towards the front door and was contemplating whether or not to mention my feline run-in with them when, both at the same time, Annie and Airius began the tale of their morning entrance into the school... complete with how their was a "cute little kitty" (Annie) or "scary, poisonous cat" (Airius) running around the parking lot that their teachers warned them not to approach because it might bite or scratch. Just as I lay my hand on the knob to enter once again the sea of asphalt, a Head Start administrator poked her head around the corner and said that if I like cats, I could do them a favor and take the parking lot kitten home. Apparently, she'd called the Humane Society but was told that they do not do pickups. I smiled and told her I probably wasn't her woman, but, well...

Back out to the parking lot we went, and the scary, poisonous, cute, little kitty trotted up to us once more. It was then that I noticed he wasn't walking perfectly on his hind legs. He looked a little shaky all over, in fact. Oy. If I wasn't in love with the little guy before, I certainly was once I knew that he really needed help. I'd noticed him sniffing at the rainbow pools scattered about the pavement. Maybe he drank some antifreeze? Perhaps someone hit him but not hard enough to kill him? I got the kids into the car, all the while trailed by our little buddy. I couldn't help it. I had to call The Husband and do a little groveling. He was so friendly that he must belong to someone. I'll just put out a found ad for him, I assured The Husband. No go. We can keep him just a few days in a comfy bed out of doors until I find someone willing and worthy to take him. Still an emphatic no from my other half. I could at least transport him to the Humane Society. No no no. "There are hundreds of stray cats out there. If you bring one home, you'll want to bring them all home. NO!"

Sigh. By this time, the kitten had taken a couple of tries at crawling into my minivan, despite its shaky, uncooperative limbs. On its third try it succeeded, at which point Airius let out a pealing scream and begged me not to take it home. That smart little cat scrambled from the van at the racket but waited just outside, staring woefully at me. Sorry kitty. Not today.

Kitty and I weren't the only ones upset. Annie was rather peeved that Daddy hadn't given into my pleas and was very worried that the kitten would be hit in the parking lot, or would freeze to death, or would starve because he hadn't had any food. I promised that none of those things would happen. I would find someone to go pick the cat up. And if I couldn't manage that, I'd use all my womanly nagging powers to whittle down The Husband's resolve. Muahahahaha!

Back at the homestead, I tucked Airius onto the couch with a new book to read, and Annie and I headed next door to our neighbor's house. It was probably a long shot, but E. and J. had brought home a couple of kittens right around Halloween, so I thought it might not be too late to add another. And, hell, what's one little kitten to a woman who cares for herself, a boyfriend, six kids, a dog, two kittens, a few hermit crabs and an unknown number of fish, right? I was in luck! They were looking for another kitten for J's oldest son, and J's as much of a sucker for a sob story as I am. She was without transportation though, so I straightened my spine and told The Husband I'd be driving J. and two of her kids back to the Head Start building to pick up the cat. J. had a carrier and some canned food as a bribe, but I assured her there would be no trouble from the little guy. He was eager for a human (or 8) to call his own, I knew.

And so unfolded the easiest cat catch ever (uh, approach cat, pick up cat, point cat towards carrier and watch as he walked in of his own accord and greedily gobbled the canned food). All that was left was to name the little fellow, and J. gave the honor to Annie. "Sunny" it was to be. And off to the vet he will go, it was promised, on Wednesday. Let's hope for a promising prognosis and that he gets along with the other kitties already in residence next door.

I love a happy ending.