Thursday, April 30, 2009

Because this blog has been awfully quiet lately...

A few recent obsessions for Eva- messing with her hair (twirling, twisting, clipping, pony-ing), layered leotards, and the girliest tricycle you've ever laid eyes on. I didn't capture it this day, but Hope often hitches a ride on the back board, which will make for the best picture some day soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I love summer!

Don't tell me it's only April... we spent a lot of time outside today in the dry, 85 degree sunshine. The girls were totally wiped out and sun kissed at bedtime, and I had to fight myself from going to sit on the patio to enjoy the evening breezes after they had drifted off to sleep. Instead, I did a little reading then continued my assault on the hall closet.

There has been some major restructuring- no longer a sheets shelf, the most beloved "upstairs" sheets are joining the "downstairs" sheets in their home. The rest are going in the good-bye pile, which is next to the totally trash pile. A tote labeled "small candles" is returning to it's original home in the basement storage room. I was surprised to find a very large stash of feminine products (the quantity due to the fact that I've only used them a total of 8 times in the last 4.5 years), six partially used cans of bug repellent (apparently I've fallen prey to all the folklore about MN mosquitoes), and an equal six bottles of sunscreen (how can this be when I don't even believe in using the stuff???). Happily, we discovered an unopened multi-pack of girly hair accessories which were modeled all afternoon by a certain almost-four-year-old.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for (or at least one of you)!!! I will present the finished product one shelf at a time. On the bottom, the newly designated bread making shelf... or just the shelf for the small kitchen appliances that don't already have assigned seats in the kitchen cabinets.
Next, the tidied towel shelf.
Next, the reorganized dish towel/hand towel/sock basket/random hair stuff shelf.
I created a whole new shelf devoted to "school stuff," which mainly consists of preschool workbooks, quiet time puzzles, an over sized game, and kid craft supplies. This is an area of life that I'm just starting to explore and collect accessories for. I am certain that we will quickly outgrow this one shelf, but I'm glad it all fits for now!Lastly, the pharmaceutical/cosmetic/toiletry/homeopathy shelf. Plus an extra long feather duster. I was surprised to find many things that I thought I would have weeded out long ago, but I took swift action against them this time. If you would like to be the proud owner of any of the following, only tell me and it's yours (unless you live a long way away, in which case, I suggest hitting up a garage sale or two).
Well, that's all! The job is done, but don't worry I'll have more to add to this de-cluttering series next week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Becca Hi-Techa

I feel confident in claiming my status as the blogger with the biggest computer screen, perhaps on the planet. It's because I'm so high tech... you know, I love gadgets and gizmos and anything that runs on electricity and human ingenuity. Hah!

You all know that it is my husband who drives the technological advances around these parts, and he has really been racing ahead lately. First, here's a view of my ginormous computer screen (which also serves as our TV screen... spoiled little girls!). See, a few years ago Eric installed a sweet HD projector in our family room, then used fancy paint to make a screen on the wall. By the way, he insists that I note that the image in this picture is crystal clear in real life, but the flash is washing it out. Ahem.

Remember driving through suburbia in 1989, all the houses looking like wedding cakes with behemoth, tacky cake toppers sticking off one side of the roof. Antennae, we called them. So we could watch Full House or Duck Tales on television. Or maybe you had a dish... pretty sure you could channel aliens with a dish that big now days. Anyway, here is our newly installed HD antenna, hidden low to the ground on the back of the house.

Eric has been watching me type this Ode to his technology (on the big screen, no less!), but now he has requested permission to finish this post. Permission granted!

Hi. I'm so excited to have been granted this privilege. I will not use it frivolously.

Continuing on with the antenna...maybe about 13 months ago I negotiated with Comcast for a really great deal on a big package of HD stations for something like $20 a month which is just slightly more than the cost of basic cable (no HD). We also rented a DVR (a device that you could use to record your favorite TV shows) for about $7 a month to record The Office and Lost (the two shows Becca and I watch). It was awesome, friends coming over to watch all kinds of sports in HD, Becca and I watching Lost and The Office by ourselves or with friends at our convenience. And all for really cheap! However, a month ago it all changed.

I noticed on out Comcast Bill our rates had gone up considerably and our total bill was near $100. What I thought was a long term deal was only a 12 month deal. I tried my best to negotiate the rate back down, but to no avail. It was time to take swift, decisive action against a company that wasn't flexing to the will of the consumer.

So I, with the help of my brother Ryan, bought a few pieces of equipment: a new video card and tuner card to install in my computer, an HD antenna (above) and a wireless mouse and keyboard. With a little work and a lot of research, we converted my computer into an all in one DVR/DVD player/Live TV tuner (thanks to the built in capability of Windows Media Center standard on most Vista operating systems). Now, completely free of charge, we can record both The Office and Lost and watch them at our convenience. Take that Comcast.

I wish I could have recorded the cancellation call I gave to Comcast to post here, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time. I was too elated by the endorphins released by "sticking it to the man".

End of story.

Becca here. And so, friends, we are so high tech around here, I can hardly stand it. Really, I'm just wowed by my husband's intense desire for technological frugality and his savvy know-how. End of story (again).

Do you find it ironic that the game is called "Topple"?

We're still hemming and hawing about selling our house, but in the meantime I've been trying to get some much needed de-cluttering done. We will appreciate spruced up closets, cabinets, and crawl spaces whether we sell or stay, so I've set my mind on a little spring cleaning. Just kidding- we have no crawl spaces, I just needed another "C" for my alliteration :). Anyway, yesterday I cleaned out the front closet, boxing up winter coats, hats, gloves, and the like. I also cleaned out a wide variety of backpacks, duffles, and diaper bags that had collected there. In the process we discovered two board books we had forgotten about, a handful of spare change, and two tubes of my favorite chap stick. Jackpot! Sadly, I did not take a before picture, but here is the finished product.
Tomorrow you can anticipate a post presenting the rehabilitated hall closet. To whet your appetite, here is a before picture. Yes, that is a children's game nestled among the towels. And right again! There's a box of sidewalk chalk crammed under a couple of aprons. Now, in my own defense, I don't usually keep it this messy! And in the five years that we've lived here, I think I've cleaned it out at least once a year. I guess this closet has been the casualty of months of feeling un-well combined with the knowledge that major revamping was soon to come. You know, a subtle mind game of, "why keep it tidy when I'm going to be deep cleaning soon anyway?". So anyway, by posting this I have given myself great incentive to make sure this closet looks great, and soon! I bet you're all on the edge of your seat, right ? :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter in Pictures

We spent a most relaxing Easter weekend at my parent's house this year. There weren't many unusual activities, and we even scaled back on the food preparation and inhalation, but it was a refreshing time nonetheless. Here's a (detailed and long) glimpse-

I made a valiant attempt at capturing the girls in their pretty Easter dresses, but they were both too busy and annoyed by the bright spring sunshine. Instead, I give you a very realistic series of shots-
We had a very normal Easter morning: eating a "special" breakfast at church, attending the Easter service complete with trumpets and choir, simple post-church hors d'oeuvres, and Easter dinner consisting of ham, potatoes, salad, and rolls. Of course we did not neglect to celebrate the glorious truth of the holiday. We spent time on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon reading the Easter story together and in meaningful conversation. The next picture is Hope happily eating her Easter dinner wearing a basket from a few years back.
By default, the main event of the weekend (at least for the kiddos) was the Easter Egg Hunt. My mom does not let this tradition die, but this year we filled many of the eggs with nuts and dried fruit in place of candy and we even hid a few dollar bills around the yard as well to make it healthier and a more interesting for the grown-ups. This was the first year in my memory that the weather was at all cooperative for outside fun. We spent a lot of time hanging out outside, not just for the egg hunt, but swinging, walking, eating, and just running around!
This was Hope's first egg hunt, and perhaps her first time having candy. She really went at it with gusto too!
Eva of course had been anticipating the event all week, so she was all business when it came time to play hide and seek with the goodies.

After the lawn, trees, fences, wood piles, and rocks had been scoured for treasure, the girls sat down to admire their loot.
Hope gravitated to the Hershey's Special Dark chocolates, and I eventually had to cut her off. Her response to "Hope, do you like chocolate?" was an emphatic, "UH HUH!"
Back inside we enjoyed a dessert that had intrigued me earlier in the week- Ladyfinger Lemon Tart. It was pretty good, but it didn't earn a spot in the starting lineup at our house. I did think it was pretty nice looking though-
You can imagine, a good part of the weekend was spent indulging our imagination concerning the baby boy in my sister's tummy. There were discussions about names of course, but we never did get around to looking through a tub of hand-me-down baby boy clothes. Next time. We did however, take a picture of two sisters, gradually becoming great with child. Considering I am barely out of my first trimester, I'd say I'm becoming "great with child" a little less than gradually, but I'm not surprised considering my track record for ending up at 9 months really GREAT with child. Anyhow, I think this picture will be so fun to look back on in 40 years (when we're both, GREAT with no child, but looking well-aged and matronly). :)
And last but not least, Hope is so fun to take pictures of. She is somewhat photogenic, and she isn't disgusted by the camera as her older sister is. I thought these were precious.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

She turned 60!!!

Eric's mom turned 60 last week, and since most of the family was gathering in nearby Mankato for the Easter weekend, we decided to throw a big 'ol birthday bash. We only stayed for the afternoon as we were planning to spend the weekend with my family, and Eric had Friday evening church commitments. However, it was a well spent afternoon!

Remember? Mom Patenaude had her knees replaced about two months ago. Well, she was looking fantastic, walking around, up and down stairs, only helped by a cane here and there. And, as an added bonus, the surgery and stress have had a "positive" effect on her figure. She's going to deserve a shopping spree soon!
The festivities started with a re-worded rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas," which Nedra cleverly put together. I'm including a video here, mostly for Ryan and Stephanie who were the only immediate family who couldn't make it. We missed your lovely harmonizing, Stephanie! The video is a little long, but it is entertaining.

Next, we sent the kids on a clue hunt of sorts, gathering 60 things we individually love about Mom or Grandma. Each of the grand kids gave some variation of, "Grandma always gives me gum from her purse" as well as other precious memories. And each of the adults had some touching and funny things to share about their Mom or Mother in law, such as Jessica's "Mom always prays for me during hard times and I know her prayers work."
Mom's sisters Bev and Phyllis joined us for the day.
After wrangling up 60 clues, we enjoyed two of Mom's favorite cakes in the shape of a 60- lemon and chocolate. Yum, yum! And, although the afternoon took much longer to unfold than it did to blog, it wouldn't have been quite the same without the birthday hat (which Eva and I proudly take joint responsibility for)! Since the picture is so sketchy, I'll give you the highlights: the Danish flag and Deanna written in Scrabble letters. We had fun putting it together, even if it didn't fit on her head the right way :).Happy Birthday, Mom Patenaude!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

She's makin' her list...

Sitting at the table munching oatmeal chocolate chip cookies yesterday, Eva and I discuss life. She loves the cookies, despite the fact that I "guessed" on the salt, adding too much and accidentally added an extra 1/4 c. of oatmeal which made them D-R-Y. Obviously, she doesn't have very high expectations of my baking! And really, any cookie is a treat at our house :).

The new baby conversation starts again, taking a surprising turn.

Eva (joyfully): When the baby's three, I'll be seven!
Me: That's right.
Eva (with pride): I'm growin' up fast!
Me: You sure are!
Eva (sounding a little overwhelmed): I don't know what boy I'm going to marry, though.
Me: Well, you have a long time before you need to know.
Eva (assuredly): But when I'm a grown up, I'll know.
Me: How?
Eva (smiles and shrugs): I'll just put it on my list!

I think there are a few of you out there who could test that advice for me... would you mind? Just so we're ready when the time comes? -wink, wink-

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Change is in the air

This post could end up being completely premature, but I just feel like opening my big mouth!

First, I finally "resigned" from my brief career in daycare. After the ups and downs of the last few months, Eric and I decided that it was time to close the book on that chapter of my life. Of course, it will probably still be months until Ella's parents have found a different daycare that suits them, but the ball is rolling. It feels good to know that one small stress will be gone, and at the same time I feel a little sad. I knew that I wouldn't watch her after the new baby came anyway, so I guess it is just sooner rather than later.

Second, tomorrow evening we meet with our realtor to talk about the final details of putting our house on the market. Hopefully, all will go as planned and we will be able to list our home around May 1st. Again mixed emotions: excited, but a little apprehensive about the whole process. And somehow keeping my house spic and span while caring for three small children?!? Eeek!

In other news, if you haven't checked out Terri's simple description of sprouting grains, head on over. It is wholly inspirational!

Although I'm contemplating a major bloggy makeover, it is my bedtime, and that will have to wait. Nighty-night!

Friday, April 03, 2009

I Love Lentils!

I've been meaning to post this recipe for some time, but Stephanie's post today inspired me to get it out there!

Here's my personal lentil history. Well into my third decade, I was certain that I hated the hard little bean substitute. Bland, chalky texture, extreme lack of eye appeal. My lentil dislike was not for lack of exposure either. No, lentil dinners made a regular appearance in my home growing up, usually in the form of ground meat substitute. After hearing a glowing review of the following recipe, I decided to give them another try. After all, they are cheap and highly nutritious... a combo I cannot resist! So, without further delay, I give you Baked Lentils with Cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine in shallow 9 x 13 baking dish:
1 3/4 c. lentils, rinsed
2 c. water
1 bay leaf
2 t. course sea salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/8 t. each marjoram, sage, thyme
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
2 c. canned tomatoes (sometimes I omit this)

Cover tightly and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and stir in:
2 large carrots, sliced in coins
1/2 c. thinly sliced celery

Bake covered 40 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in:
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
2 T. finely chopped parsley

Sprinkle on top:
3 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Bake uncovered, 5 minutes until cheese melts. Serves 6. Total cooking time 75 minutes.

Eric groans when he hears that this dish is for dinner, but then usually says, "Oh yeah, I like this!" once it is out of the oven. Adjectives I might use to describe it are: hearty, savory, meatless, and kid-friendly. Enjoy!

Spring has sprung (tentatively, of course)

We spent a good part of this week experiencing snow and sleet, but it was last week that I took this picture. The earliest tulips have sent up a flare, giving the all-important signal that spring will arrive (though we're not sure when...). Although I feel "beaten" by the circumstances of the last few months, one always feels hope when new life springs from the ground!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Lighten Up

It's been awhile since I posted a funny kid quote, so here we go:

At breakfast one morning last week, Eva asks her routine question, "How big is the baby now, mom?"

I answer by holding my thumb and pointer finger about an inch and a half apart.

She responds with her usual response, "Ooooh, that's big."

Then she asks, "How big is my furnace, mommy?"

I stare blankly until the light goes on upstairs, "Do you mean your uterus?"

Eva, "yeah."

Again I demonstrate a very small space with my fingers. Again she says, "Wow, that's big."

So, the next time some one asks you about the age of your furnace... or suggests you get a more energy efficient model... or for that matter, mentions prolapsed uterus or hysterectomy... make sure to clarify, "Do you mean my furnace or my uterus?"

Eva is in constant conversation about the baby these days. She is so excited! And it is so fun to know that she really understands what she is so excited about. She calls the baby "him" and cannot hide her conviction that the baby will be a boy. When Eric asked her what she thinks we should name "him" at dinner tonight, she responded with "Zaccheus" (pretty sure that's not the right spelling, but you know him, right? The short guy from the Bible in the sycamore tree!). She doesn't have a girl name, but she exclaimed, "Not Baby Suzie... that's a baby doll name!"