Wednesday, February 27, 2013

meal wars: meat trick

Meal wars will now be a sporadic series on this blog. I have a feeling that I'll be fighting this war for years to come, with certainly much more to say about the topic. Today, I offer a tip.

Mason's not a meat lover. Yes, he will gobble up any meat that's fried or breaded, but I rarely serve it that way. He's eaten Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets a couple of times, but I don't buy them at the grocery store for meals at home. He loves bread and cheese, so I can smuggle in meat on a sandwich or pizza or in a quesadilla or pasta, but give the boy a grilled chicken breast, pork chop, or steak, and he will spit it right out (if a piece even makes it into his mouth in the first place). My 17-month-old has 18 teeth and can chew the meat just fine, but dryer, tougher textures, no matter how well seasoned, seem to frighten him. 

Mason does better with meat cooked in a crock pot, probably because it's more tender, but (unfortunately) not every meal can be made in the crock pot. Imagine my delight when I discovered this secret weapon:

One night, we ate Rachael Ray's Southwestern Chicken and Black Bean Burritos and I noticed that Mason wolfed down the filling--basically grilled chicken, black beans, and BBQ sauce--without picking out the chicken (like he usually does). The next night, I rubbed a little BBQ sauce on his grilled pork chop, and he ate all of it and asked for more. BBQ sauce is now my secret weapon!

Do any of your meal wars involve meat battles? What's your secret weapon?

Monday, February 25, 2013

blue experiment

My smart friend gave me a suggestion regarding how to keep my orchid blossoms blue: add blue food coloring to the water. Apparently there's a high school biology experiment that involves turning white carnations a different color simply by adding food color to the water. I'm armed with my jug of blue water.

It looks like antifreeze, doesn't it? We'll see if this works!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

fancy dinners

Want to know how Brad and I sample DC's finest restaurants without guilty consciences? Check out my post on The DC Moms site to find out.

(Hint: if you're a longtime reader here, you already know.:)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

indoor play

A couple weeks ago, Mason contracted the Roseola virus, which kept us housebound for six days: four days for fever, and one night of vomiting, and two days for a full body rash, including his sweet little face. This was the sickest he's been in his short life, which is really a blessing because he came through it just fine. It could have been much worse.

But wow. Nothing clears your schedule faster than a sick child. I rarely get cabin fever, but those six days of caring for a miserable, feverish, vomiting, listless toddler, who had suddenly reverted to acting like a tiny baby, made me understand that his play dates are just as much for my benefit as they are for his.

Thankfully, Mason is back to his normal self and our daily excursions have resumed. We spend as much time outside as the weather allows, but we're enjoying some indoor gems when necessary.

We still enjoy Friday story time at the Library of Congress, but have fallen in love with a newly renovated local library, located just ten blocks from our house: Rosedale. Have you ever been to a library where every book is brand new? What a treat!

We regularly visit the National Building Museum to let Mason run free in the wide open space.

Of course, you can't beat the Air and Space Museum.

A recent discovery is the College Park Aviation Museum. From working in College Park for 12 years, I knew of its existence, but I had never been. It cost us $4 to enter, and I prefer free activities, especially if Mason's just going to run wild, but it was a worthwhile expenditure.

At home, Mason's been coloring, finger painting (or eating the finger paint!), and painting with a paint brush. I've also started enlisting his help in meal preparation. With firm and consistent instructions, he can assemble Brad's and my salads. Placing lettuce in the bowls and sprinkling slivered almonds on top is no problem. But the blue cheese crumbles and craisins are just too tempting. He eats more of those items than he ever puts on our salads.

Where do you enjoy playing when it's cold and nasty outside?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Corduroy and 39

My birthday restaurant of choice was Corduroy this year, and Brad and I had a fabulous time. The food was excellent. We opted for the five-course tasting menu--it was a great way to sample a variety of dishes and to really get a feel for the restaurant. Granted, it was no Komi, but it was also half the price of Komi. I would definitely return to Corduroy for the food.

My only complaint, like most years, was about the lighting. Brad and I sat in a cozy little booth tucked away in the back of the restaurant, which we loved, except for the kitchen light glaring through a faux window in our booth. Why, oh why, do so few restaurants-even the high-end ones-fail to understand the concept of a romantic, intimate atmosphere? Dim those lights, people! Keep the kitchen lights and noise far, far away from the dining room. Don't underestimate the power of a votive candle or two. This is not rocket science!

On another note, how am I 39 already? I think I need to do something big this year to end my 30s with a bang. Any ideas?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

blue orchid

For my birthday, Mason gave me something I've admired for years: a blue orchid.

I love how the brilliant blue pops against all the green in my kitchen.

These pretty blue blossoms cost $5 extra than the regular, white orchids.

So imagine my surprise, and dismay, when I removed the orchid's tag, flipped it over, and read, "With a little bit of magic, we turn a white orchid blue! New blooms will be gorgeous white!"

What? I thought I had selected a plant that would forever produce gorgeous blue blooms. I guess I'd better enjoy these while I can!

Still on the quest for that perfect, brilliant blue...

Monday, February 11, 2013

no day off and glad

Today is my birthday, and it's the first one in more than a decade that I don't have the day "off". While working at UMD, I was always able to arrange my schedule so that I could take my birthday off work. The one year that my birthday fell on my teaching day, which would have required me to work, snowpocalypse happened.

(But wait, don't stay-at-home moms have every day off? If you genuinely think that, you've obviously never been a stay-at-home parent!)

No, today will be much like any other. Mason will awake, like clockwork, between 6:30 and 7 AM. He will pester me for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. I'll change at least two or three dirty diapers and plenty of wet ones. He will bring me books to read and will beg to stand outside on our steps or at our front window and look for doggies. I will reprimand and discipline, kiss and hug. I will take big bites of the pretend meals Mason makes me and act as though they're the best thing I've ever tasted. We will listen to his Baby Einstein music on my computer and waltz around the living room as he lays his head on my shoulder and sucks his thumb. We will eagerly await Brad's homecoming, watching carefully for his car to pull up so that we can greet him at the door with hugs and kisses. Mason and I are taking a field trip to the National Zoo this morning to celebrate the birthday of one of his friends, and that will be fun for all of us.

My arguably mundane activities on this birthday are not at all about me, and yet, at the same time, they're completely about me. I am, after all, living my dream. I spend my days now exactly as I want to--caring for the two great loves of my life, Brad and Mason. I could not be happier to have this "job" that doesn't give birthdays off.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Costco - an experiment

checking out Costco
A year ago, I asked your opinions of Costco. Ten months later, I finally joined. There is a brand new store less than ten minutes from my house. It's huge and clean and has easy parking. And having the flexibility to go on a weekday morning when it's less crowded was all the motivation I needed to sign up.

I am usually one to shy away from warehouse-type stores. They overwhelm me. I never frequent IKEA for that reason. But Costco, surprisingly, fascinates me. I view this first year of membership as an experiment. I expect I'll make up the $55 membership fee on product savings, but we'll see. Some items are very good deals. But I've found that many items are not. I can certainly see how Costco makes its money. They lure you in with some awesome bargains and then I would suspect most people end up buying overpriced bulk packs without calculating whether it's actually a good deal or not.

After two months, here are my initial observations:
1. The items listed in the monthly sales flyer (with coupons) seem to be competitively priced. But remember that these are Costco's sale prices. These sales--and ample storage space at home--also encourage me to hoard. For example, I recently bought a four-pack of Scrubbing Bubbles, my preferred cleaner for the bathtub, because Costco had a great coupon for it. Granted, it may take me a year to use all four bottles, but it's still cheaper than buying one bottle at a time at Target.
2. If you are particular about a certain brand and Costco carries that brand, then it's likely that Costco is cheaper than paying regular price at Target or a grocery store. But if you're not particular about a brand, then Costco's offerings are probably more expensive. Here's an example. The Target brand of dishwasher detergent is much cheaper than buying Cascade at Costco.
3. I've only found one grocery item thus far that's cheaper at Costco than Aldi. (It's craisins, in case you're interested.) Granted, Aldi is a small store and doesn't carry a ton of items. But for basics, it's almost always cheaper.
4. Costco's meat prices seem reasonably competitive. But sometimes you can score a better deal by hitting the right supermarket sale. For example, I can find fresh, boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale at the supermarket for $1.99/lb or even $1.69/lb. The cheapest I saw them at Costco was $2.99/lb.
5. The beer prices seem reasonable.
6. I love the quality of Costco's diapers, but they're not the cheapest! Through Amazon's subscribe and save feature, Mason's Luvs, which work well for him, cost $31-$32 for a box of 204. Costco's Kirkland diapers are $38.99 for a box of 210.
7. I have no need for a shopping cart that can seat two small children, but I love, love, love this option for larger families!
8. You can't beat plentiful, free samples. Mason eats his way through the store.

What items at Costco are you convinced are the best deals? Upon crossing Costco's threshold, do you have to fight the temptation to hoard, like I do?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

goodbye paper, hello cloth

cloth napkin collection
Last summer, when I knew that becoming a one-income family was imminent, I started finding all sorts of ways to live more simply and inexpensively. Washing and reusing resealable bags more often was only the beginning.

For years, my friend has been encouraging me and others to rethink our use--and excessive waste--of paper products. Her rationale made sense, but I was lazy about following through and eliminating what was convenient and familiar. However, this past August, I drastically decreased our use of paper towels and it's been a wonderful change! I clean with all cloth rags and towels that are just absorbed in our regular laundry--no extra loads. I keep one roll of paper towels tucked away in a cabinet to use for soaking up bacon or hamburger grease, but other than that, I don't use them at all. Hurrah!

After my mom bought me a stash of cloth napkins for Christmas, I eliminated paper napkins from our home. And, like the cloth towels and rags, they are easily absorbed into our regular loads of laundry and I don't miss them one bit.

When we're at home, I've even started wiping Mason's runny nose with burp cloths that he no longer needs or uses. They are more absorbant and gentler on his irritated nose than Kleenex, not to mention less wasteful, and I appreciate geting more use out of the beautiful cloths that were monogrammed specifically for him that no other baby will ever use. I even use fewer tissues now, too!

Now, if I can just find a way to ration toilet paper, we would be all set! (Just kidding!)

Have you reduced or eliminated any paper products in your household? Which ones? How's it going?

Monday, February 4, 2013

the beloved blond shag

My baby was born with just a smidgeon of hair.

But something miraculous occurred by his first birthday: his hair had not only grown out and turned the color of butter, it had naturally formed its own style.

And now, at almost 17 months, Mason has a little shag do. I haven't cut his hair yet--I can't bear to. I love the way it has grown over his ears.

Of course, bed head can be a real problem.

But a little water on his hairbrush works wonders.

I prefer the wind-blown and tousled look myself.

I keep telling Brad that shag hairdos for little boys are all the rage. I'm not sure he believes me.

How long did you hold out before cutting your little one's hair? And why is that first haircut so painful for Mama?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Downton Abbey

Photo credit
Longtime readers know that I am not at all a television person. I turn on the tube on my own initiative once every three or four months--and that's something that hasn't changed since becoming a stay-at-home-mom. I can barely finish a book (my preference) these days, so who has time for TV? Not me!

Except, I've fallen victim to the Downton Abbey craze. I blame Brad. After buying Apple TV around the holidays to have a means to stream, he signed us up for a free trial of Netflix. I noticed the first season of Downton Abbey was offered, and decided to see what all the buzz was about.

I'm now hopelessly addicted. I'm about to finish season two. (But unfortunately, I know what went down in the most recent episode. There were too many spoilers on facebook and the blogosphere--I couldn't avoid finding out. And this knowledge will inevitably affect how I watch the remaining episodes of season two and the beginning of season three.) Regardless of knowing about the doom that's coming, I now want to watch Downton Abbey every night. So much for reading more books!

Any other Downton Abbey fans out there? When did you start watching it?