Monday, January 31, 2011

My Best Buy in January

I've been looking at digital frames for a long time, but part of me was put off at the cost, and another part of me wondered if it was really something that we needed.  I do have pictures around the house, and have made a few Shutterfly books, and I have about 250G of pictures on my hard drives.

BUT, then I was in Office Max buying printer ink and I walked by a Kodak digital frame that was marked down to $31.50.  It was the display model so it took them about 20 minutes to get it disentangled from the display before I could bring it home.

Bo brought me a 8G card and I loaded about 50 pictures on it.  Then the next day I loaded 100 more.  And then another 50 or so.

The kids are absolutely and completely entranced.  They sit in front of the frame and watch the pictures change.  They talk about the people in the pictures.  They remember the events that prompted the pictures to be taken.

When it's running, they will often pause and look at the pictures, then call out to each other about the pictures on the screen.

Just tonight, the 3 of them were watching the frame and a picture of my MIL popped up.  Lydia was just under a year when she passed away, and we visited her close to that time.  Because of this frame and the pictures I have loaded, Lydia recognizes Grandma Pat.  When her picture popped up tonight, Lydia said "Darn it!!  I'm so mad that she's gone. But at least I saw her when I was a baby!"

There's plenty of room on the card, so I will continue to add pictures regularly.  The frame sits in the kitchen now, and Colin will often turn it on as he eats his breakfast or snack at the kitchen island and watch the pictures go by. It was most definitely my best buy in January!

Chinese Dinner - #1 of 12 Cultural Dinners

 Last night we enjoyed a Chinese dinner.  One of our family resolutions for 2011 was to explore more foods, and do so by planning a dinner from different countries one day each month.  Our first month was scheduled to be Chinese.

My sister researched and created these great pamphlets with facts about China (did you know it's an urban myth that you can see the Great Wall of China from space?) and also found each of our names written in Chinese characters.

The boys & I checked out a few cookbooks from the library to find new recipes to try out for this dinner.  We decided on a menu of egg drop soup, beggar's chicken, cold sesame noodles, Asian vegetables and rice coconut anise cake.  Colin picked out the soup and the rice cakes, Nate chose the beggar's chicken, and I chose the cold noodle dish.

We took a trip to Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket on Saturday to pick up some items that I thought would be difficult to find in our usual grocery store.  The rice cake called for glutinous rice, and the only glutinous rice I could find was a 5lb bag of black glutinous rice.  I will say that it was a beautiful purple color when soaking & cooking!  We picked up a jar of bamboo shoots and a few sauces and traditional candies.  And we couldn't skip decorations or chopsticks!  We found these beautiful paper vases that I hung on our picture wire in the kitchen.  We also picked some small soup bowls and traditional spoons -- I know we'll use the bowls but I probably should have skipped the spoons.

I downloaded some traditional Chinese New Year's music to enjoy during dinner.  Everyone liked the music!

On Sunday, I cooked.  and cooked.  and cooked.  I'm glad my sister helped me, as there was a lot of cooking going on.  The rice cake took the longest because not only did the rice have to be rinsed multiple times and then soaked overnight, but it took forever to cook.  And, then, I'll tell you that the results were awful.  Apparently, I did it right because my sister did some research later and it turned out as it should have -- but nobody liked it.

My sister, husband and Nate liked the beggar's chicken.  (The beggar's chicken was a chicken breast, topped with a ground pork stuffing and wrapped in bread dough.)  My sister liked the cold sesame noodles (and that was one dish she thought she wouldn't like!)  My sister liked the egg drop soup. (which she also made flawlessly.  I just don't like egg drop soup apparently.) Umm, the Asian vegetables were nothing special - - just a frozen mix I found at Fry's. As you can see, neither Colin nor I liked anything.

Overall I call it a success.  We tried some new things and learned more about China.  That is the whole purpose of this endeavor, so we succeeded.  And at least one of us really enjoyed the dinner!!

Next month?  Poland.  Hopefully I will like something that I cook!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tell Me Thursday - 1992

This picture was taken in 1992 in Paris, France.  I know there is no way you can tell that it is Paris -- but you can trust me that this was in a youth hostel in Paris.

I don't remember why I was wearing long black gloves, but I do remember that this picture was snapped by a very close friend (who I've since lost touch with.)

It was a trip we took as part of a class during college. I was an International Relations major, and the class was about something internationally related. We traveled to Europe to participate in a mock United Nations session and visited Brussels, Luxembourg and Paris. I remember much more about the trip than I do about the class.

I'm not sure if you can tell, but when I look at this picture, I see how happy I was.  It was a fun trip, with fun people, and many of them were (or became) close friends during college. I'd like to visit again, although I know a trip to Europe now would look significantly different than my first.  That's okay, though -- I know I'd still be happy and it would still be fun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - 1992

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monster Trucks in Phoenix on Jan 29

I just found out about the Monster Jam event happening at Chase Field this Saturday (January 29), but we already have different plans for this weekend.

I wanted to pass along the special family deal to my local readers.

From their press release:

Show Description:
Monster Jam returns to Chase Field! For one night only, fans will witness TWELVE of the world's best monster trucks battle it out in the ultimate event of intense speed, racing and demolition as Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam returns to the Valley of the Sun. This year's lineup includes four-time World Champion GRAVE DIGGER and eight-time world champion MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION. Plus, for the first time ever - World Champion MADUSA! Additional trucks include Avenger, Blue Thunder, Batman, Brutus, Captain's Curse, The Felon, and McGruff. It's all the high flying fun, car crushing craziness, and hardcore horsepower that the whole family will love.

Family 4 Pack offer – 4 tickets, 4 pit passes, 4 hot dogs, and 4 sodas !!!!
$90 total ticket price. Good on $25 price level only. Ticket alone is $15.50!
$80 total ticket price. Good on $20 price level only. Ticket alone is $13!


This car-crushing offer is good now through Friday night. It is not valid on Saturday for the day of the show – so don’t wait!

You don’t need a code – just go here to purchase: http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/19004594B8D922A4?dma_id=359

If you go, leave a comment or send me an email and let me know how it was! My boys would have loved to go -- so maybe next year!

*Disclosure: I received the information about the show, but no compensation or consideration was provided to share the information with my readers.*

Friday, January 21, 2011

Colin - My Kid in Bifocals

Colin began wearing glasses when he was 6.  A couple months before he turned 10 (September), his new glasses prescription was for bifocals.  His prescription is as strong, if not stronger, than mine -- and I'm pretty much blind without my glasses.

We were surprised at the news, but apparently recent studies have shown that bifocals in children can slow the progression of myopia (near-sightedness). Hopefully that is true for Colin, as he has needed new prescriptions every 6 months or so.

These glasses are the new ones we picked up Tuesday -- another new prescription and bifocals again.  He had been really struggling to see, and when we got his new prescription last Wednesday, he was SO excited to get new glasses.

We headed over to a place that advertises that they can make glasses the same day, and Colin was looking forward to seeing clearly.  Until the woman helping us told us that it would be 7 - 10 days because of the strength of his prescription.  She explained that they didn't keep that strength in stock and it had to be special-ordered since the majority of glasses made weren't that strong.

He fought back the tears as he absorbed this news, and complained that he couldn't see.  Then he said, "If I had a place like this, I would absolutely keep stronger prescriptions in stock, because we are the people who CAN'T SEE!"

She promised to try and expedite things.  Thankfully, she did and he didn't have to wait a full 2 weeks in order to see clearly again.  He's happy that he can once again see the board, and read the papers at  his desk.  I'm grateful that his eyesight can be corrected!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The King's Speech & Nate

We went to see The King's Speech and I admit that I had high expectations.  As a movie, it was great.  In the time allowed, I think they did a fabulous job at telling the story and it was entertaining and interesting.

As far as the stuttering?  Not so much.  Shortly into the movie, Nate turned to me and said "I thought you said he stuttered?"  I said "Yes, he did." To which Nate replied "That's not a stutter!"

After the movie, we talked about it and we all agreed that it was a good movie.  The boys had some questions about British words (stammer vs. stutter, shillings, etc.) and also a few questions about the history of the time.  And both boys repeated again "He didn't really stutter much."

Nate wanted to know why they couldn't have gotten somebody who really stuttered, and Colin chimed in with the caveat that if they did, it would have to be somebody who was able to really control it so that he could do the scenes when he spoke fluently.  Nate wondered if Colin Firth actually talked to anybody who really stuttered.  I assured him that he probably did, but the way they portrayed it in the movie was probably seen as most commercially viable.

To which Nate replied that he thought that was ridiculous, because if people think that he (the character) had a terrible stutter, then his (Nate's) stutter must be seen as absolutely horrible.  (And my heart broke a little bit for him.)

I agree that Colin Firth's stutter sounded more like Nate on a good day than a bad one, but that may be because I'm the mom of a boy who stutters.  What I didn't like most of all was the implication that his stuttering was a result of his upbringing and the neglect of his parents as well as the abuse of his nannies.  I do understand at that time in history, it was commonly thought that those things may cause stuttering (okay, even today some people think it causes stuttering.  I've heard that Nate stutters because he & Colin are 18 months apart . . . among other ridiculous things). 

The reality is that nobody really knows why some people stutter.  There is a genetic link for some people, but that is actually just a small percentage of people who stutter.  But scientists have pretty much made it clear that stuttering is not a result of neglect or abuse by parents or caregivers. 

Overall, it was a good movie.  Nate liked seeing the story of a person who stuttered, and was famous.  He also liked seeing the struggle that he had with his stutter (even if he didn't think he had much of a stutter.)  But, I would like people to remember that it is a period piece, and that there has been much advancement in understanding stuttering in the decades since!

Review: Another Fabulous Disney on Ice Show! (Discount Code for Phoenix!)

Last night, we attended the opening night performance for Disney on Ice's Let's Celebrate show in Phoenix. 

It was fabulous!  It seems that each show is better than the last, but they are all so good that it doesn't seem fair to say that it was better.  They are all different, and enjoyable, and so well-done.

There are plenty of laughs, as well as amazing skating. I'm always impressed by the athleticism and professionalism of the skaters who take on the Disney character personas.  Of course, you expect the princesses -- but last night we were also treated to Toy Story characters and the pig character was hilarious and so well done!  The pig had skates on his (her?) hands as well as feet, so he looked just like the character in the movie.

It's hard to choose a favorite part of the show, but I think I loved the sequence with Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice and the brooms.  The brooms were all skaters, in costumes that glowed under black lights and they were great!  Another favorite for me was the Hawaiian summer celebration segment.  Fun music, as well as a ring of fire on the ice!

This show even had fireworks to highlight some of the celebrations!  And, of course, Mickey and Minnie Mouse were there to host the entire show.  Which just reminded me of another favorite -- the depiction of a Japanese celebration to welcome spring with a cherry blossom tree and pink LED fans.

Lydia liked seeing all of her princess friends -- including Snow White who was the only princess we didn't have a chance to meet while at DisneyLand last year.  The princes threw and flipped and spun the princesses with no fear of the skates on their feet!  It was a delight to watch them skate.

We grinned throughout the entire show and had a great time.  The show is in Phoenix until January 23rd, so if you're looking for something to do with the family, head on down to US Airways and take in a fabulous show!  It's obviously kid-friendly, but also entertaining for adults.

As a special to my readers, I can share the special discount code of "MOM" so that you can purchase 4 tickets for $44 - good for the Thursday, Jan 20th 7:30pm show, Friday, Jan 21st 10:30am and 7:30pm shows, Saturday, Jan 22nd 7:30pm show, and the Sunday, Jan 23rd 5:30pm show (excluding Front Row and VIP seating).  This is the best discount in our market, so please take advantage of it!  You can use the code online at Ticketmaster or over the phone.

And -- if you buy one of the snow cones in a special cup -- know that even though they're pricey (the Tinkerbell cup was $12) they do come with a 2 year warranty in case they break.  It made the cost a little easier to bear last night knowing that. 

*Disclosure: I received tickets for my family for the opening night show.  No additional compensation was provided, and all opinions and words are my own. Many thanks to Feld Entertainment for allowing my family to enjoy another great show!*

Tell Me Thursday - New Toy

For a few years, Bo has wanted to get quads to ride out in the desert.  The boys are finally old enough, and he's managed to find some great deals, so we now have a go-cart and 2 quads. 

The one pictured is the smallest, purchased so that the kids can ride alone, and most recently acquired.

This shot is from our neighborhood, but they have gone out in the desert a few times now with friends to ride.  All the boys in my house have a great time!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tell Me Thursday - From the Sups

If you looked carefully yesterday, you may have noticed that the boys are dressed exactly the same in this picture, and in the picture in my blog header. 

It was taken in February, 2008, on the trails for the Superstition Mountains near our home.  I didn't climb this high that day with Lydia, but the boys (Bo included) enjoyed the climb and the view!

You can see how green the desert is in this picture.  People often assume that deserts are brown and dry, but the desert is often green.  In the spring, this mountain range is covered in colorful wildflowers. Of course, it helps that we happen to live in the wettest desert in the world.

A friend recently asked about the mountains in the header, and since she's coming to visit (yea!!) in February, I thought I'd post this shot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Update in Bullets

  • I have only one open giveaway going on right now -- it's the Disney on Ice one for Phoenix area residents and that closes on the 12th.  Every other giveaway has closed and the winners have been notified. 
  • We got through the stomach flu that never seemed to end (well, that's not exactly true.  Every time I thought for sure that nobody else would get it, someone would.  It took a month to make it all the way through our family . . . and that sucked!)
  • Just in time to enter into winter cold/cough/laryngitis fun.  Lydia and I seem to have it the worst (at least at the moment)  It feels like it's been an unhealthy fall/winter so far, but I guess that's to be expected with the boys in full-time school and Lydia in part-time daycare. This may be a year for building up immunities.
  • We attended a rock & mineral show on Sunday and had a great time looking at all the different rocks and minerals.  The kids got some neat rocks and it was a lovely afternoon.
  • I really want to go see The Kings Speech and Tron, but haven't been able to figure out when.
  • Work is a bit slow, but not unusual for January.  I may have a large project in the near future which will eat up all my free time, so I'm coasting a bit until I hear if the project (and my role in it) are a go.
  • For work, Bo spent a couple days in Vegas last week, is headed to Florida next week, and I have absolutely no travel on my horizon.  I'm jealous, yes I am.
  • We had parent/teacher conferences for the boys today.  They are both doing well.  Colin earned honor roll again this quarter, but his teacher wants him to strive for principal's honor roll next.  They don't have honor roll in third grade, but Nate's overall scores are higher than Colin's -- so I imagine next year we'll have 2 on honor roll.
  • Soccer starts up next weekend, the boys are running in a kids run, Lydia starts dance in 2 weeks, chess club begins again at the end of the month and the boys are going to take karate one/day week after school.  It's been quiet for a bit, but that's about to end.
  • Colin is working on learning a number of Star Wars pieces for his viola.  He got a book for Christmas that includes a bunch.  
  • Nate is in a "good" stuttering phase.  I think a very laid-back Christmas break helped. Which makes me re-think all the extra-curricular things.  When I asked him, though, about giving up the various sports, he replied "Mom, I just couldn't do that.  I need to move!"  So, we'll keep an eye on it and be sure to build in enough down time for him, while still meeting his physical needs.
  • The other thing that may have helped is that I got very strict about bedtimes again.  It's hard to make sure they're tucked in by 8:15 each night, but 6:30AM comes early.
  • Bo traded an XBox for a small ATV.  I can't remember what he traded the XBox for (maybe a phone?) but we've had it for a while in anticipation of using it as a trade (we already have an XBox)  The kids are excited about riding.
  • I'm doing great about reading -- but haven't touched the garage yet. I love my Kindle, and love all the free books I find to add to it.
  • I'm worn out from this cold, so I'm off to an early bedtime as well!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Tell Me Thursday - Unlikely Love

This is Fred (zombie adventurer - click to read his not-so-frequently updated blog) and Lydia's Baby Ariel doll.  They seem an unlikely pair, but Lydia insisted that they had to hug during a recent outing.  They don't see each other often as Fred lives with my sister.

The picture just cracks me up.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Bowl Giveaway

Sometimes, I get pitches that just make me laugh.  This was one of them -- Clorox is sponsoring a "Toilet Bowl" that will happen on January 13 to correspond with some of the big football bowl games.

To liven things up, they're sending me and one of my readers a gift box that will include not only an autographed football from Jessie Palmer, but also some Clorox toilet wands! 

You all know I have boys.  Boys who love sports of all kinds, including football.  I have a secret.  I have 2 bathrooms (well, that's not my secret, that's just fortunate) but my secret is that I tend to avoid the 2nd bathroom.  Lydia stayed in our room until she was almost 2, and I still give her baths in our master bath.  I don't give the boys baths anymore, so I don't have much reason to go into their bathroom (which we call the boys' bathroom, but I've been trying to switch and call it the kids' bathroom ever since Lydia was born. I'm still working on it.)

ANYWAY, I walked in there just today and thought "Oh, I can't wait until those Clorox toilet wands show up because I'm teaching the boys how to use them!"  They may be able to aim a football, but their personal aim is not so great.

Clorox is offering to send one of my readers a prize package that will include:
  • An autographed football by Jesse Palmer (ESPN analyst & former football player)
  • VISA/AMEX gift certificate to go towards snacks to create the perfect game day spread
  • Clorox Toilet Wands
  • Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner
To enter, you need to enter the information on my GIVEAWAY FORM (please do not leave a comment to enter - the only valid entries are those on my Google spreadsheet, which the giveaway form feeds into).  Pay special attention to the next 2 lines so you can enter the correct information:


Giveaway Name: Toilet Wands
Mandatory Question: Least favorite bathroom chore?

I will choose a winner using random.org on January 6, 2010.  Good Luck!!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2011 Resolutions

First post of a new year, new set of resolutions.  I'm going to keep it short and simple again this year.

Our main family resolution is to plan a country-themed dinner each month.  We have already chosen the 12 countries we want to explore this year, and the boys are excited about being responsible for at least one dish for each meal.  I think it'll be fun, and help boost the kids' cooking skills as well.  And, hopefully, we'll find some new family favorite recipes to add to the regular rotation!  First country up for January? China!  (Colin said that was awesome -- we could just go to Pei Wei's and call it done.  Nate was very irritated with his brother, as he was looking forward to trying some new foods.)

I resolve to clean out the garage.  This is a huge task, that is long overdue, and maybe by posting it here we will finally just get it done.  There are boxes in there that we haven't touched since 2001 (when we moved in.)  It needs to be done, and it will be done.

I am going to re-read some classics I haven't read in a while and read some other classics for the first time.  My Kindle is perfect for this, because so many classics are free to download.  I just finished F. Scott Fitzgerald's Beautiful and Damned and think I'm going to dive into Joseph's Conrad The Secret Agent next.

What about you?  Any that you're willing to share? We can look back next December and see how we all did!
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