Thursday, September 29, 2011

atypical Wednesday night

In a radical departure from my usual Wednesday night activities, I went to a concert last night.

A concert in a loud, smoky bar, no less. I saw one of the great 80s one hit wonder bands, Modern English. But oh, what a hit it was!

I mean, it just can't be disputed that I Melt With You is one of the top ten iconic 80s songs. Probably top 5, if we're really being honest here.

This adventure came about when a friend of mine, who runs the best 80s site ever, was looking for someone to go to the concert with her. Her husband was not into New Wave so much in the 80s (she tells a story about how after falling in love with him, marrying him and having his baby, she found a Richard Marx cassette of his in the garage -- I mean, you think you know a person) so he had no interest in going. But she didn't have to ask me twice! (As an aside, I wish I had an equally interesting for-work outing I could take her on to return the favor. Maybe a raging 341 meeting will pop up in the near future?).

When I told the kids I was going to a concert, they were surprised and curious.

Cathy: Guess what guys! I'm going to a concert tonight!
Jacob: A concert? What concert?
Cathy: Modern English.
Jacob: Are they famous?
Cathy: Well, they're kind of famous. They were really famous in the 80s.
Jacob: The 80s?!?! And they're still ALIVE?
Cathy: The 1980s! Not the 1880s.
Caroline: Mommy, are you going to be IN the concert?
Cathy: I sure hope not.

My friend interviewed Robbie Grey, the lead singer, before the concert. He was totally cool and down to earth (which was obvious during the concert as well). She asked him how it feels to be mostly known for one song, to which he responded: "It's (bleeping) great! It's paid my bills for 30 years." Love that refreshing honesty and the total absence of Serious Artist ego there.

This was the original band performing. The hair is generally less fabulous now but other than that they are at the top of their game. Most of them are pretty clean cut 50 year old guys -- you'd have no idea that they are actually British post-punk New Wave rockers! Look at this guy; he could be an actuary:

The one exception is Gary McDowell, the guitarist:

Yup, Gary has embraced the rock 'n roll life.

This was hands down the BEST time I've ever had a concert. The band was awesome and the show was just plain fun. They gave the people what they wanted and played I Melt With You three times, and then hung out afterwards signing autographs and taking pictures. If I wasn't a Modern English fan before, I am now!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MomFail 2 (ballet edition)

You may recall that a few weeks ago I sent Elizabeth to ballet in a pink leotard when at her new, hardcore ballet studio, the 6 year olds wear blue. Well, I'd just barely gotten over that humiliation when this happened earlier today:

You'll notice that Caroline is wearing a right-footed ballet shoe on her right foot (the one with the shamrock - they may be hardcore, but they're not afraid to use stickers). And if you'll look closely, you'll see that she is also wearing a right-footed ballet shoe on her left foot. The one on the right is a size smaller than the one on the left (she pretty much wears Elizabeth's hand-me-downs, and Elizabeth has ballet shoes in just about every size). Somehow in the frenzy of gathering supplies for class I grabbed two right shoes. We didn't have time to run back home after I realized my mistake, so I just sent her into class and prayed that the teacher would not notice. I figure that two right-footed pink ballet shoes are more subtle/less egregious than a pink leotard on a 6 year old, right? Right?

My kids are unlikely to have a future in ballet, but if they do, it will be in spite of me, not because of me.

overheard from the back seat

E: Stooooooopppppppp iiiittttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
J: Elizabeth, you can read with a foot in your face. Anybody can!!

So grateful for my minivan and the distance between the driver's seat and the way back.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's a family affair

I really didn't want to have to drag David into my little table situation. We're not DIY people, but that's not for lack of interest on my part. In my dreams I'm laying flagstone patios and retiling the bathroom on the weekends. I'm the person who will fantasize about putting in a patio so I could sit out on it and drink my morning coffee, but in reality I'd never sit still long enough to actually relax on said imaginary patio, because mentally I'd be on to the next project. It's a moot point; these projects rarely happen because we have kids (i.e., no time), but it really didn't happen much before we had kids either because, frankly, in David's dreams he's relaxing and watching some football on the weekends. Which is definitely the more normal of the two dreams (and one that does not come true for David any more than tuckpointing the stairs on the front porch comes true for me). David works hard and then spends his free time coaching multiple soccer teams and running Jacob's Cub Scouts den, so I really try not to force my weirdo manual labor dreams on him.

Still, while I'd been working on this project mainly during the week, once I broke out the sander on Saturday, David wanted to help me. What a guy!

And then Jacob also wanted to help. Here he is using the Dremel rotary tool:

Once they saw Jacob doing this, the girls wanted a turn, so we instituted a "no power tools before age 9" rule on the fly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm still sanding (yeah, yeah, yeah)

Wow, and to think I went into this table project thinking this was a pretty basic pedestal table with clean, simple lines. Once I got deeper into sanding this thing, I found ridges, nooks and crannies that I never knew existed. And I've been dealing with sanding them, slowly but surely. Serious, how does Rococo furniture ever get refinished?!

Not by this girl, that's for sure.

After doing what I could with our little hand held belt sander, I finally broke out the Dremel rotary tool (as seen on TV) to help me get into the little nooks. Anything to avoid hand sanding. Much as I dread the prospect of hand sanding, I'm mechanically challenged /impatient when it comes to reading manuals/assembling things (generator victory notwithstanding) so my two-year old-esque attention span would not permit me to focus long enough to I couldn't really figure out how to attach the circular sanding disc that was probably best suited to my specific sanding needs, but I was able to get a drum sanding attachment on, as that was somehow more intuitive (i.e., did not require me to study the manual). I then proceeded to chew up the wood on the ridges in the table legs with the drum sander until I was able to steady my hand a bit. I'd stay steady for a while, chew up some more wood, steady up again, chew again, and so on. The stain is coming off, however, so I'm calling it a victory. I really hope that by the weekend I'll be in a position to start applying wood conditioner (don't be jealous now) and begin staining.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ziplining away

We ended a fun weekend with a picnic at the park with David's brother and sister-in-law, my nieces, and David's grandmother. The kids are almost all at ages where they can just run off and play while the grownups look on and visit -- it is sooooo nice! Here's Jacob ziplining:

Elizabeth needed a little boost to grab onto the handle, but after that she was able to ride the cable herself:

Caroline was all over the place -- monkey bars, tire swing, seesaw, turtle, moving steps. I got tired just watching her. She stopped for a millsecond to have a bite of the last watermelon of the summer:

We say this every time we have one of these playground picnics, but we really need to do this more often!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

country photo session

Last weekend the kids and I visited our favorite photographer at her lake house in the country. We told the kids that if they let Heather take a few pictures of them, they could go swimming. Heather took us on a fun mule ride to the property across the street from her house -- with its majestic rolling hills, wildflower fields, ponds, horses. And being the amazing photographer that she is, got the most incredible pictures of the kids in pretty short order. You can click on the link here to see the blog post she did of the session. After the pictures they played with Heather's kids in the lake and ate hot dogs. As Phineas would say, "best day ever!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Project table

I'm at my happiest when I have some home improvement project cooking. Unfortunately, my ambitions far exceed my skill set, so mostly I just ogle DIY blogs and obsessively pin project ideas on Pinterest. But every once in a while I come across a project that seems both doable and useful for us, like this one on restaining a wood tabletop. This is our kitchen table:

I bought it back in law school and it's traveled with me across the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. It gets heavy use, for daily dining, of course, as well as daily gluing (gluing being a daily activity if you have kids of a certain age). The finish is pretty worn, and the light wood tone doesn't particularly jibe with the rest of the house. Eventually, I'd love to replace it with a huge, rustic farmhouse table like this:

But it's not a priority at the moment, so I just lived with our old table and didn't think much about it other than to be grateful for it when my kids broke out the aquamarine glitter glue -- until I saw that blog post and decided right then that I had to refinish our table.

While the pedestal itself is less graceful and a little more tree-trunkish, our table bears a slight resemblance to these Pottery Barn tables:

if you could picture the Pottery Barn tables with slightly different styling:

The table under than mess is my parents' kitchen table, which they kindly let us borrow while I work on our table - thanks mom & dad!

The table is solid oak and pretty well made, so between the Centsational Girl tutorial and the images of those PB tables, I was inspired to attempt to spruce it up.

After the initial setup, procuring our substitute table, etc. I dove right in with sanding. Home Depot didn't have the 80 grade sandpaper that Centsational Girl used to sand off her finish, so I used both 60 and 100. To my great relief, the finish is coming off pretty easily - I had nightmares of having to break out the chemical strippers (which some sources say you need to remove stain). That is some uber-nasty stuff that I really hoped to avoid. Thankfully, I think we can get the finish off without it.

Here's the tabletop, mostly sanded and free of the oak finish:

I started trying to sand the feet while they were attached to the pedestal, which was kind of awkward, so I decided to unscrew the feet:

Usually when we start taking things apart around here bad stuff happens, so I'm a little nervous, but at least for now, the sanding is going much more quickly. I totally LOVE the project so far -I see a kind of observable, immediate progress that just doesn't tend to come as easily in the non-sanding areas of life.

Sanding the tree trunk is going to be a bit of a challenge, as it has some rounded areas that our belt sander can't easily hit. That will probably require some hand sanding, which I am likely to find boring and hard -- which creates the danger that an upside down, footless table will take up my side of the garage for the foreseeable future. Hopefully I can keep my eyes on the prize, though, and forge ahead in the face of adversity.

Monday, September 12, 2011

climbing the caterpillar

I took Caroline to the playground on Sunday while the big kids were in Sunday school. I always feel nostalgic at this particular playground because it's in our old neighborhood, where we had our first babies, and it's the first playground we came to regularly once they got to be playground age. I clearly remember when the Big Red Caterpillar was something the big kids climbed on, not my baby Jacob, and now here is my baby-who-is-no-longer-a-baby kicking off her shoes and climbing on it like she's a monkey or a kindergartner or something.

I'm crazy bothered that I cut off the caterpillar's tail -- I walked backwards with my phone to try to get it all in, but didn't want to get too far away from Caroline, and I got back just far enough to get in the whole thing except the tail. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days when I wouldn't even notice those things.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

hear me roar

If it seems like I'm standing a little bit taller and prouder than yesterday, it's because I started up this puppy all by myself yesterday:

Yes, that would be a Powerboss 5250 Portable Generator with Briggs & Stratton engine that requires its own separate manual. So not only did this involve operating power equipment, but two manuals.

From reviewing my email and phone history, I can see that this only took me 50 minutes, ten emails and 15 phone calls to David at work to figure it out. Girl power! Some of my questions were accompanied by pictures with subject line "what does this switch do?"

I know that I made David nervous because he offered to come home to get it started. I'm not sure why he thought he needed to bail me out; oh wait! yes I do! Perhaps it was the email sent at 11:16 that said "This generator is intimidating to me. I'll tell you when I'm about to start it so if you don't hear from me within 3 minutes of the start time you know something's gone wrong." Or maybe it was the phone call at 11:18 inquiring: "does the exhaust come out of the vents right over where the pull string is located? Trying to figure out which way to position this thing." Or could be the phone call at 11:25: "I'm sorry. Nothing about this is intuitive to me. Is "choke/run" the same as "on/off?" Finally, at approximately 11:50, I called him to tell him I was about to pull the string (I then had three minutes to call him back before he rushed home to put out the fire). Then at 11:52:50 I called to tell him that I was afraid I might not be strong enough/tall enough to pull the string hard enough to get it started. I decided to try one more time, and at 11:54, I heard some prolonged sputtering. I called David to give him a listen to see if that's what it was supposed to sound like. When he said no, I slid one of the little switch thingies from choke to run (or maybe it was run to choke) and voila! -- a smooth sounding engine sound. After letting it run for a few minutes per the manual's instructions, I plugged in our basement freezer and fridge and saw this beautiful green light:

Which told me that the freezer was running and its contents would be safe. (cue singing angels). Between the generator thing and successfully heating up my lunch in a cast iron skillet on the gas grill, I was really riding a "survivalist high" all day, until I realized (on the way back from Home Depot with Elizabeth and Caroline and a 5 gallon gas tank and a bag full of D and C batteries) that our whole flipping (large) neighborhood has power restored except for the 10 house pocket right around our house. Typically when life throws me a low-level nuisance like a flat tire or a power outage I choose to remain upbeat and roll with it rather than wallow in it, but today, I choose to wallow. That is all.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

toasted almond scones

I really loved the time that I spent blogging along with Tuesdays with Dorie. I had lots of fun doing it, made friends through it and learned tons about baking (and cooking, as the baking kind of spilled into food blogging in general). I served my family far more creative, interesting, varied and delicious meals when I was food blogging. That was great for David and me, who both enjoy really good food, although maybe not as great for my kids, who act like I am trying to kill them when I serve them something with a stray fleck of parsley. I definitely feel like I'm in a rut in the kitchen lately, not really inspired to cook anything in particular and never knowing what I want to make. That never happened when I was food blogging.

I love breakfast baking most of all, probably even more than dessert baking. Scones, muffins, coffee cake, cinnamon buns, baked doughnuts -- to me a happy morning is enjoying some freshly baked deliciousness along with a cup of coffee, the newspaper, and my family. And with fall coming (by calendar, if not by temperature), I can feel the baking bug coming on again. One recipe that caught my eye from the beginning in Dorie Greenspan's incredible Baking: From My Home to Yours was the toasted almond scones. It was chosen as the weekly recipe after I left the group by a guy whose blog I really enjoyed. Anyway, I had some heavy cream to use up, so I decided to celebrate the official end of summer (yay, fall!!) by baking up a batch of these babies this morning. They had just a hint of almond flavor (I might add a little extra almond extract, a.k.a. the nectar of the gods, next time around); they weren't too sweet, so they could handle a little jam if you are so inclined; and they had the perfect flaky texture. In the "just like soap opera, you could miss two years and pick up right where you left off" department -- David and I really enjoyed these; Jacob and Elizabeth would not try them, and Caroline liked them once we got the butter/jam situation worked out (jam, no butter, wait yes butter, no MELTED butter, just soft spread-on butter, not on TOP, on the inside, etc. etc. etc.)

Hopefully this is the kickoff to an abundant fall baking season!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

ambitious labor day plans

The boys are off to a football game today, and Elizabeth has been sharing her ideas about what the rest of us should do today from the moment she woke up. I told her that she better start writing it all down because otherwise we won't be able to remember everything she wants to do. She came up with this to-do list (and kindly offered to add my items to her list as well):

The Barbie idea followed her viewing of the Barbie: A Fairy Secret, which she loved, unfortunately. And Furfi is Elizabeth's dog.

I really wish my daily to-do list looked more like Elizabeth's.

Friday, September 2, 2011

sick day, part 3

In which Caroline finally gets "Barbie: A Fairy Secret," after months of being denied by her mother.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

sick day, part 2

Well, I pronounced Caroline well too soon. She fooled me with all the running, splashing, dolphin food bowl lapping, big pool begging, and normal acting that she was busy doing yesterday. So I was a surprised when she came downstairs hacking in the middle of the night. She crawled into bed with us, and it was like sleeping next to a radiator. Well, not really sleeping, because neither Caroline nor I slept with all of that coughing and heat radiating going on. I took her in to the doctor this morning, and the diagnosis is: cough and fever of indeterminate origins. I have a prescription for an antibiotic if she doesn't improve in a day or so (I would personally rather not commit to a 10 day antibiotic regimen if it's something viral). On the way home, we had this conversation:

C: {cough, hack, cough, hack}
C: Well, that didn't work.
Me: What didn't work?
C: Going to the doctor.

Here's to hoping she's on the mend!