Sunday, February 28, 2010

...Outside the Box: Slipcover

You all know I love my microfiber couches. They are easy to clean. Or rather, stuff will come off when I get around to cleaning them. The problem is boogery kids. The couches are rather tall, so small children have to pull and wiggle themselves up, leaving a streak of snot almost every time they make the climb. Also, sticky, Valentine-type candy takes some considerable dissolving and scrubbing to come off. To save some time and elbow grease, we looked at slipcovers for the couches. What a disappointment it was to learn that those things start at about $50 each. But what a nice thing it was that Wal-Mart put some sheets on clearance. A king-size, fitted sheet works almost perfectly. I do have to readjust it almost daily after the kids have spent the day jumping and rolling on it. But for $7 each, I don't mind. I do wish we could have found red sheets, because I've really loved having that bold color in the family room. But I won't mind that the sunlight pouring in the window fades these brown "slipcovers" instead of my red couch.

Monday, February 22, 2010

...Outside the Box: Starting Seeds

I know I get excitable when it comes to gardening. I try to contain my enthusiasm in my gardening blog, but this post crosses the boundaries of inside and outside the White house. I was pretty pleased with my creative solution to this problem. You can read the extended version at How My Garden Grows.

I am taking a gardening class taught by Gordon Wells. On Friday he told us he would be starting the seeds for his spring garden this past weekend. I have never planted a spring garden, so I was excited to learn it is already time to get started.

Brother Wells advised starting seeds indoors so they can be transplanted in mid-March. He said to put the seed-start box in a place where it will get plenty of sunlight so the seedlings don't get "leggy" and topple themselves over when the leaves grow. I wanted a place where small children would leave the box alone, but it would still get light all day. I thought about every window in my house and finally arrived at the perfect place: my skylights! The playroom has an angled ceiling with three south-facing skylights. The tray for the pellets was exactly long enough to set it in the skylight box easily and in a position where it holds its own weight. I jammed two wooden dowels in the frame of the skylight to catch the box just in case it falls. When I checked this afternoon to make sure the plastic lid was still in place, the temperature in the skylight was noticeably warmer on my skin than the playroom. I am so happy to find these three miniature "greenhouses" that are out of reach for my kids but at arm's length for me.

I know not many of you could copy my solution, but I suggest thinking about all your options, not just your obvious ones, if you want to get light to start your garden early.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Last year, my friend, Martha, decided to recognize Lent by abstaining from sugar. At the time, I thought her little quest was amusing and a little absurd when she couldn't enjoy treats with friends. I knew minimizing sugar intake was a good thing, but I thought it strange that she wouldn't just exercise more self-restraint throughout the year and thus enjoy less total sugar with the occasional treat.

This year, I'm eating my, rather, my thoughts.

Our trip to Mexico after Christmas did me in. The food there is SO good! I threw out my normally balanced, mostly vegetarian eating habits and ate meat and large quantities. Given the option, I wouldn't change my eating and lack of exercise for that week; it was more of a vacation to not think about those things. However, since we returned, I have found myself more out of control with food than I have been in many years, and sweet things are my weakness. Monday at a family party, when I was working on my third cookie, which complimented all three flavors of ice cream nicely, Kent shot me a quizzical and astonished look and asked if I was really having more dessert. That's when it hit me. I felt emotionally excited about the treat and passed a quick rationalization that my workout that morning would cancel out the damage. I recognized the emotion-rationalization combo as the same one that met me at work almost every day for the semester that I worked at the BYU bakery 15 years ago. Yep, that would be the same semester that I put on 20 lbs.

Tangent, and maybe I've already shared this in another post: Growing up, I got lots of comments about how skinny I was. I wore long sleeves my entire freshman year of high school because I was so embarrassed by my bony wrists. I loathed the word "skinny" and would threaten people unless the referred to my body type as "slim" or "slender". When Kent went on his mission and my prospect for a future marriage with him was 99% sure, I didn't mind gaining the bakery weight. I had wondered what it would be like to not be skinny, and I found out. I didn't like feeling stuffed into my waistband each day or prancing around the football field with love handles under my color guard leotard. So I decided I was done with that experiment and commenced eating lots of celery and grapefruit, which accompanied hour-long daily workouts. That's when I learned another lesson: losing weight is not easy. I was still chubby 18 months later when we got married, and I didn't get back to my ideal weight until I had a baby in the middle of a busy Church calling. Stress was the key!

Anyhoo...Monday night I decided to join Martha in her sugar fast. Because sugar so often comes with fat, I'm hoping to feel healthier and I hope sugar does not taste good to me by Easter. Another friend, Kelly, announced today that she has also taken up the quest, though she will quit sooner to enjoy a vacation coming up. Does anyone else want to join us? I have to say, even though the LDS Church doesn't teach Lent's observance, it is nice knowing there are people around the world also beginning a penance with me today.

I am giving myself a little indulgence, which I think will help me stick to the rest of my plan: chocolate. I can have up to one square of dark chocolate per day. I once heard Oprah say dark chocolate has antioxidants, so it must be kind of healthy, right? And it's really not that sweet. Besides, my true sweetie presented me with an Amano chocolate bar for Valentine's Day, and that is simply too much to resist.

So here I sit on Ash Wednesday, my first day of no sugar treats. (I had to define treats to not include apple butter, because I've got to put something on my pancakes.) The day went well. I was craving sugar cookies this afternoon, but I looked forward to my chocolate, which I earned after a day of constant cleaning, and which is melting ever so satisfyingly slowly in my mouth at this very instant.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Officially Part of the 21st Century

I like my computer and my new Cricut. I like the freedom that women have to pursue any career, including that of mother. I've even warmed up to some of this century's music. But one thing that I've resisted--not quite kicking and screaming, but almost--is getting a cell phone. I have LOVED not being reachable at times. I figure the voice mail on our home phone was good enough for anyone who wanted to talk to me, and I usually got back to them within the day. Sure, it would be nice to have a phone to get help in an emergency; but since the other 99% of the population has a phone on them, I didn't think it would be too difficult to get that help if I really needed it.

A few things have changed.

I was standing in line at Wal-Mart's checkout a few weeks ago when the power went out. The lights came on ten seconds later, but it took nearly 25 minutes for the phones and registers to come back online. I had to borrow an employee's cell phone to ask my friend to pick up #5 from preschool. My own phone would have been nice.

My kids are reaching the age of hanging out with friends for long hours, and it would be nice to have one number to reach them at instead of memorizing all the friends' numbers.

Plus, I very often find myself thinking about how I would react in situations involving an emergency or an attack on someone. For certain, a cell phone would be handy there--not to mention a taser, but I'm not ready for that yet.

It all came to a head yesterday, and I had to make a choice. Kent and his business partner upgraded to iPod touch phones, which meant there was an extra phone for me. Again I resisted and insisted that I didn't want one, but their plan includes service for five phones regardless of if there are five people to use them. So I swallowed my cell phone pride and accepted this little thing. I justified it in my own out-of-the-box thinking: it's the perfect size for a door stop the next time I need one.

I'm still holding out on Facebook and Twitter though! I just can't bring myself to complicate my time any further.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Inside the White House and Outside the Box: Melting Frosting

I've learned that one of my talents is thinking outside the box. Ever since I was a child, I've thought up inventions and new ways of doing things, and sometimes I've seen my ideas being marketed by someone else who thought them up well after I did. As a side note, I am currently in the process of patenting an idea, but I am stuck at the part of doing a patent search. Anyone know a good and not-too-pricey patent attorney?

Back to this post. I've also learned that some of the things we do around our house are "different". This series of posts, which I plan to revisit sporadically, will give you insight to the way we do things. Maybe you'll see an idea you like, or maybe you'll just get a good laugh. Either way, I hope you enjoy the series.

Yesterday I made brownies from a Ghirardelli mix that included a fudge frosting. (For the record, it was good but not great.) The frosting was more the runny type than the whipped type. It's one of those you put on the warm brownies and it gets melty and smooth before it cools.

This morning, #2 asked if she could take three of the remaining brownies to school as special Valentines. Unfortunately, one of my kids hadn't been able to resist the chocolate goodness, and there were three dragged finger prints in the frosting. That certainly wouldn't be appealing. How could I smooth the frosting quickly without making a mess of it? My answer: a hairdryer! In only a minute, I was able to just melt the damaged portions of frosting and make them look nice. I don't know if you'll come across this exact problem, but keep your hair dryer in mind next time you need a concentrated heat source for something.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Speaking of Cool Photos...

...I really like this one of #3 showing one of her Karate kicks.

She looks like she is flying! I swear, the only editing I did on this photo was to fix the redeye.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Portraits of a Fly

When I was pruning my Locust tree last month, I found this fly frozen to a little stick.
Which picture is your favorite? (Click to for an enlarged photo to see the details.)