Saturday, January 30, 2010

Family Fotos

I had a request from Grandma Sheila to put up more photos of the kids. We've been doing lots of indoor activities, what with the short days and colder weather lately. The kids were making popcorn for some movie watching; I was drawing either a penguin or dinosaur patterns for kids toys, and Dash was mugging with his daddy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fortified Wine Class at Brabo Restaurant

This past Tuesday evening, Monkeyrotica cheerfully headed off to Lorien Hotel's Liberty Room, attached to Brabo Restaurant in Alexandria, VA to learn about fortified wines. He'd enrolled early on, thinking it would be exactly his type of class, what with the way he stocks up on sherry and madeira. What would be better than learning to pair his wines with Brabo's Chef Chris Watson's wonderful food?

Lo and behold, he arrived to find that the instructor was a long-time friend, Jason Whiteside (pictured, from our dinner party in 2009). We've been a little out of touch with Jason lately, and didn't know that he had recently completed a Level 4 Diploma through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Monkey was happy to be witness to his expertise. Jason, a wine consultant for The Country Vintner, knows his Madeira, Port, and Sherry and masterfully matched his picks with delicious small plates.

Here was the line-up (from the class brochure):

Hidalgo "La Gitana" Manzanilla Sherry / sardines stuffed with tomatoes and spinach, quail egg

Blandy's 5-Year-Old Verdehlo Madeira / lobster bisque espresso, puff pastry fleuron

Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes 2005 / mini fruit tart

Domaine du Mas Blanc Banyuls 2006 / house-made chocolate truffle

Smith Woodhouse Late-Bottled Vintage Port 1995 / stilton cheese, quince paste

When describing his experience to me, Monkeyrotica expressed delight in all that he tasted and learned, but thought I'd be most interested in the mini fruit tart (he knows me well). He explained that at first blush, the Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes was over-sweet (which is normally a turn-off, to me), but went on to say that the tart was prepared in a natural way — the sweetness in the wine gave the tart its missing glaze as the flavors melded. Oh, my. Wondrous!

I am oh so jealous: all this at the very reasonable price of $35 per person? I am totally joining him if/when Brabo holds an event like this again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rosie writes me notes

"I need help clening my bed. Can you do it/ yes or no"

Rosie writes me notes. It's usually when I'm doing something for her brother or trying to finish a task and she's already asked for help once or twice. I tell her I'll get to her in a minute, or ask your father, or maybe — just postponing it, really — and that's just not immediate enough for her.

I was thinking that this reminded me of myself when I've gone by my boss' office a few times and he's been on the phone or in a meeting, so I resort to sending him an email instead of speaking to him directly.

In this case, she got tired of waiting for my help and cleaned her bed by herself. That's the best solution, right?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Next Craft Night: Reusable Snack Bags!

I have been meaning to make some reusable snack and sandwich bags for some time now, as we go through SO. MANY. PLASTIC. BAGGIES. every fracking day. GUILT. And I just found a solution on the We Wilsons blog—make your own! I have lots of leftover fabric here and there, and fabric stores sell scraps for a generous discount that would be just the right size. Here are instructions and a link to a PDF tutorial.

  • scrap sizes of cotton prints - anything that makes a reasonably sized rectangle)
  • equal size piece of PUL (fabric laminated with a waterproof backing), oil cloth, or second piece of cotton print
  • velcro
  • scissors, thread, pins
  • sewing machine

  1. Cut your two different fabric scraps into two equally sized rectangles. You may use a ziplock bag as a reference, or just whatever size your scrap will allow. You will be folding the rectangle in half for the final bag, so keep that in mind when you decide on the size and orientation of the rectangle.
  2. Right sides facing, sew one short end of the rectangles together. Repeat this with the opposite end.
  3. Now turn the rectangles right side out. It may help to iron the seams flat at this point, or don’t bother.
  4. Cut a length of sticky and soft velcro about 1/2” shorter than the seam you just sewed. First, position the sticky velcro centered just below the seam on the inside of your bag and pin in place. Topstitch the velcro in place along the top edge of the velcro, and again along the bottom edge. Repeat this with the soft side of the velcro on the opposite seam.
  5. Fold the rectangle in half, with the inside (the side with the velcro) out. Line up your top seams and pin in place.
  6. Stitch down both sides of the rectangle with a 1/4” seam allowance, and neatly trim and threads or rough edges.
  7. Turn the bag right side out, closing with the velcro. If you don’t care about raw edges, you could stop here. Or take it one step farther and top stitch down both sides, encasing the raw edges inside this new seam.
You're done! If you try this, send me links with photos. Otherwise, craft night in February? Who's in?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Early Adopter: Gadgets!

As I was fruitlessly rampaging through drawers and closets for an item that never came to light, I found a decade's worth of powered-down, abandoned gadgets of mine.

In 1999, I chose the Handspring Visor (top left) for a PDA. It had a stylus that required that you learn a shorthand peculiar to the device. I loved it! It was like using a secret code.

Based on the recommendation of the late James Kim on TechTV's show "Fresh Gear," Monkeyrotica & I both purchased early smartphones, Hiptop Sidekicks (top right), in late 2002. I adored my Sidekick, updating to a color model when available and used Sidekicks almost exclusively for seven years. I switched to the T-Mobile Sidekick LX (bottom right) in 2008 and used it for one year, and although it was super-cool... (skip past the Helio blurb for current gadget)

When I said almost exclusively, I had a 30-day trial period in 2007 with the Helio Ocean (bottom left). I didn't get the hang of the thing in those first few weeks, and it ended very badly. Helio can rot in he11.

In February of 2009, Monkeyrotica gifted me the iPhone. At first, I didn't know what to think, as I was all googly for my querty keys and wasn't sure about the touchscreen tapping. That's still the thing I like least about it, but I've grown to use it with ease and love, love! all the apps. I even got rid of our landline and have my work number forwarded to it, I have so much enthusiasm for my iPhone. I use it regularly through the day to check traffic, check email, check my calendar, twitter, SMS, facebook, take photos; oh, and make phone calls.

My kids use my iPhone whenever they get a chance (E got an unintentional SMS message from Dash a few days ago!). They both love the games (I only have Dice, but Monkey has more), sending EMOJI to everyone and occasionally sends email to friends through mine and parents' addresses. It's amazing how easily they picked it up. The next generation is going to amaze us!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Big changes and my little positive thinker

Dash's first instinct is to answer "Yeah!" to any question (even when it's no, he *might* backtrack). He'll tell you that he's Good! and his food is So Tasty! (in restaurants, he'll ask the waiter, "please tell the chef that I like his cooking!"). He likes new things, taking what life throws at him in easy stride.

I wasn't all that worried about moving him to a new school, even though it's the only school he has known since he was an infant (that's over four years now for those of you who just stopped by). As of today, we're at the end of his first week and so far, all's well, he's having fun. He comes home with excellent comments on his daily sheet, like "happy", "friendly", and "helpful". He was thrilled this morning because his school is taking the pre-K class on a field trip to the local high school, where a band will perform. He's going to ride there in a SCHOOL BUS. You know, the yellow kind with the bus driver and all the seats for kids? I can hardly wait to hear what he has to say about it! Good times, big changes.

He hasn't completely moved on, thankfully. Although he made the move with few or no bumps, I don't know how I'd feel if he didn't have any attachments to his old school. He does miss his classmates and teachers and I'm glad of it. Dash dictated this note for me to write to all his friends:
"From Dash. I miss you. AND, besides, I am Spiderman, and you're all invited over to eat cheesy-poofs and play in my rock band. A-one, a-two, and-a-one-two-three-four ROCKANDROLL!"

So, who's coming to Dash's rock band party? You'll have to bring your own instrument—all we have is a toy piano, a harmonica, and an accordion. Takers?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

"Why Do Paired-Off Women Get Fat?" Australia asks

This question seemed ridiculous to me after getting a few paragraphs into the article I read today on, and I thought that maybe, somehow, my crystal-clear vision wasn't obvious to these researchers. Here's what the scientists from University of Queensland, Australia discovered:
"After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner...There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study."
One of their suppositions was that with a partner comes a circle of friends; socializing leads to eating out at restaurants with fatty foods and large portions. Hm, possibly contributing. I have a different take on it.

Factor 1: Other people in your life demand your time. This is a good thing, and goes both ways. When I was single and on into early stages of dating, I had a membership at an awesome gym. I went to the gym for hours, several times a week; I love studio classes. When I wasn't at the gym, I was going on long, challenging bike rides, training for biking events, or going for local/regional hikes. One of my partner's biggest complaints, early on, was that I was spending too much time at the gym and not enough with him. In the interest of compromise and making the relationship work, I significantly cut back on my workouts for my spouse. When children are added to the family, your personal time is even more popular with them.

Factor 2: Caring for children and eating their food doesn't burn calories. After having kids, sure you gain lots of weight during pregnancy and trying to get rid of it seems simple: go to the gym! But, wait. Who will watch the child while you go to the gym? Will you entrust your newborn to the gym nursery that never gets cleaned? Do you even have the cash for the gym membership, or has your diaper budget taken all of your thin margin? Also, with small children, you're basically doing a lot of cooking, cleaning, and sitting around entertaining them. Not much cardio. AND, once kids start eating solid food, they refuse to eat healthy things! You wind up stocking more and more junk food in the house to keep them fed, and start eating it yourself. I was reading somewhere that a major cause of weight gain in moms was during meal clean-up, eating the food your picky kids leave on their plates, rather than toss or save as leftovers. Don't get in that habit.

Factor 3: There is no more spare time. Available time is an issue. I work full-time, I am married, I have two kids, hobbies, friends, and responsibilities. Finding hours or minutes to fit in cardiovascular activities, indoors or out is tough.

All said, it's tough to avoid weight gain with major lifestyle changes. When you're single, you can be as active as you want; you're not accountable to anyone but yourself. Is weight-gain when partnered metabolic? Probably not. I think that when you make compromises in your lifestyle to accommodate other people, you might gain weight without realizing it. If you want to take the weight off, it takes awareness of the changes that occurred and an effort to be as active as you were before, or to eat less of the kid-friendly foods and find healthier options for you. Fitting cardio activities back in wherever possible (I changed my schedule to work out on the lunch hour) can really help, too. Best case: find an activity that your collective family enjoys and can do together!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Out skating

We went to a local ice rink today for a birthday party. I think it was
warmer inside the rink than out! The girls all had lots of fun. Here,
Rosie is pictured with a party-friend named Vivian.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Aughts, only the good stuff (mostly, anyway).

Because the bad bits are best forgotten anyway, am I right? Here are some standout things that happened in each year, that are foremost in my mind.

2000: Scene set, homeowners in Shaw DC rowhouse. In January, my office moved to McLean, VA, 17 miles away; I braved it, but refused to drive/buy another car, taking public transit only. I turned 30 & had an excellent party at AV Italian Ristorante with many friends. Monkeyrotica (AJS) and I vacationed for a week in London and Dublin, with a brief trip to Galway. We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary in September (dined at TenPenh). Hobbies: bicycling, jewelry making, clubbing, aerobics, inline skating, dining out, socializing.

2001: Still living in DC, though I quit my NoVA job for a better commute at a DC firm. My mother survived the 9/11 plane crash while working at the Pentagon. My dad, sister, and I went on a week-long cycling tour of The Big Island, Hawaii. Celebrated 4th wedding anniversary at DC Coast. Still dancing, going to bars and shows.

2002: Travelled to New Orleans for Jazz Fest with several close friends early in the year. Grandfather died at 85 years in February; Rosie born in November. AJS lost his job, but was able to be at home with me during maternity leave. I spent most of this year pregnant and breastfeeding. Took infant-Rosie to lots of parties and a few bars, made a few parent-friends, but were still the first in our peer group to breed. Bought a second car. Bought my first smart phone, a T-Mobile Sidekick. Started blogging, privately.

2003: Sold the DC house; bought a house in NoVA. Quit DC job, took job in Arlington. AJS found a new job with the gov't. Hurricane Isabel crashed a tree that fell on both our cars/totalled new car; bought another second car. Rosie celebrated her first birthday in our new house. Rosie and I flew to Connecticut to visit relatives for a week. Attended Lisa & Joe's wedding. Our friends Melissa and Ed were married. And, the very first of our friends to become parents, Kelly & Todd, had their daughter, Thea.

2004: Job moved me to Alexandria. Celebrated 7th anniversary at Restaurant Eve. Lisa & Joe T's daughter, Lucy, was born. Rosie turned 2 and we moved her to a new daycare center in Alexandria. Visited family in Connecticut with Rosie. Also, I waited until the very last moment (8 weeks?) to announce to AJS that we were expecting another baby, to be born around father's day the following year.

2005: Dash born mid-year (naturally, with no meds!); Lisa & Joe's son Jack was born days apart. Kelly & Todd's son Liam was born in November. My job moved back to Arlington. I really, really got into genealogy, tracing AJS's sketchy family roots back eight generations! Sold my first car, bought a used late model. Celebrated 8th anniversary at Restaurant Eve. Flew to Connecticut with Dad, sister, and both kids for my cousin's wedding. Rosie turned 3. Lisa & Joe moved to Alabama. I got a tattoo inked on my leg. Dash started crawling at five months old.

2006: We learned that Rosie was afraid of people in costumes. Dash started walking at 8 months, had his first birthday in June. Liam turned 1 & Rosie turned 4—we had a joint party for them. Thea turned 3 in December. AJS and I flew with the kids to Florida. Celebrated 9th anniversary on 9/9 at 9 p.m. in Restaurant Eve's tasting room with their 9-course menu! Joe barbecued for 220 Air Force workers. Our friends Etta & Brian were married. Isabel was born to our friends Tiffany & Nick. Daniel was born to our friends Susan & Don. Ian was born to our friends Kristin & Nathan. We spent our first annual beach house week in Rehoboth.

2007: We spent New Year's Eve with Kelly & Todd. My job moved me back to McLean, VA (see 2000), now 25 miles away. Celebrated 10th anniversary at Restaurant Eve. Rosie turned 5, Dash turned 2 and both had a blow-out barbecue house-party birthdays! Reinier was born to our friends Tiffany & Nick. I signed Rosie up for a dance class and decided to start taking one myself. Got back into making jewelry. Saw my first live show in 5 years. 2nd annual Rehoboth beach week was fabulous.

2008: Our friends Karen & Bryce were married. Bloggy friend Dee gave birth to twins! I lost 10 lbs between January and June. Rosie and I performed in a recital with my dance class and started running; then I switched my dance practice to modern. We bought a projector TV and I built a 120" screen for it. Dash turned 3, Rosie turned 6. I met Anthony Bourdain on my birthday. My mom retired from work. 3rd annual beach house visit! And Rosie started Kindergarten at public school and rocked my world (and hers).

2009: Our friends Becky & Ryan were married. I performed in a second dance recital as did Rosie; after his 4th birthday, Dash started dance class in the summer. My friends came over for a painting party. Joe continued to rock at BBQ! I went to Hello Craft's Summit of Awesome & Crafty Bastards. I got an iPhone, shut down our landline, canceled satellite TV, and started watching Internet-only television. Rosie started 1st grade, turned 7, and had her first school-free summer. Baby Idris was born to Ivy & Ken. With friends' help, I set up a raised garden in my yard. Beach house year 4 included AJS & Alan.

The end to the aughts. So many changes for us! Hello 2010 & the teens. I hope you treat us and all of our friends well. Stay happy, healthy, and connected, everyone. I <3 you!
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