Friday, February 29, 2008

Bento Experiment 08.2

I went shopping hoping to find some handy thing to pack lunches for myself and the kids. I came across so many which looked good but left me quite skeptical. I mean how often will you use a single cupcake holder? Could you possibly use it enough to justify the storage space in a small kitchen? Then there were other things that just sounded too good to be true. After sorting through all kinds of containers at the locale The Container Store®, I came home with a shopping bag full of samples to experiment.

I came home with three Milano Series 9-can lunch bags to replace our existing bags. I wanted something roomy enough to hold our existing Tupperware® divide dishes and versatile enough to hold other things too. This roomy little bag comes with an easy to remove and clean plastic liner to help clean up those inevitable spills. It also came in three colors (gray, green and aqua) which will help code whose bag belongs to whom.

The Sistema® KLIP IT® Lunch Cube is a wonderful little box. I’ve packed a salad, ½ sandwich, fruit and desert for lunch. I used a small Tupperware pill container for my salad dressing. It works quite nicely but I’m still concerned about little fingers flipping it all over the place when they try to open it.

The Trudeau 8 ounce thermal container is a handy size for hot cereal for breakfast. I am a bit disappointed with how cool the contents are by the time I get to work only 2 hours after filling it with boiling water. It does keep the other contents in the lunch bag from heating up. The bottom section is microwavable but that will not help the kids have hot soup at school.

The juice box size drink container is a handy little size for child’s drink. It says it can be frozen. So one of the next experiments is to see how long it stays frozen and keep the other foods in the bag cold.

I was hoping to get some of the way cool beetle spoons and sporks but they were on back order. I’ll have to go back when they come in and see what other goodies they have to experiment with.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fuzzy Lavender Poncho

I wanted to find or make something purple or lavender to go with the new March of Dimes® logo. I was also contemplating if I could use the simple washcloth pattern to make a poncho. Then I came across this absolutely beautiful and wonderfully soft lavender yarn on clearance. So for $3 a skein the purple experiment began. The results are a wonderfully cuddly poncho. The experiment turned out to be a bit longer and narrower then I had originally planned but still fun and functional.

Lavender Poncho

US 11 circular needles.
5 skeins of Patons® Be Mine® Lovely Lilac (#63320) yarn (or a bulky 5 yarn)

Cast on 4 stitches
*K 2, YO, K to end* Repeat until you have 101 stitches on needle
K 2, YO, K 39 stitches, bind off the center 19 stitches, knit to end
*K 2, YO, K to center – (Add second ball of yarn) from center K to end * 4 times
*K 2, YO, K to center – from center K 2, YO, K to end* 19 times
*K, K 2 tog, YO, K 2 tog, k to end* repeat until only 4 stitches on needle
Bind off

K= knit
YO= yarn over
K 2 tog= knit 2 stitches together

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spiced Chai Black Tea

After months of searching I have finally found a suitable replacement for the Trader Joe’s® Spiced Chai tea I so loved. Trader Joe’s discontinued my favorite chai tea because it wasn’t selling well in all of their markets. Our area was one of the few selling out. This started a several month long search to find a suitable replacement. There are as many blends of chai tea as there are recipes for gumbo or spaghetti sauce. I was out to find the one with just the right blend of spices for me. I found many to be disappointing. Some contain chicory which I don’t care for at all. It seems everyone I know who drinks coffee likes chicory while those who don't agree it should not be in our tea. Others were very strong in one spice or another often to the point of being overpowering. Yogi® tea was one which tasted more of black pepper then any other spice.

A coworker introduced me to the Stash® Premium Chai Green Tea. She found it at Giant Foods. It has a very nice blend of spices to make a very nice flavor. It has the sharpness of a green tea with a complementary blend of chai spices.

I found Allegro® Fine Tea Indian Chai organic black tea at Whole Foods. This is a wonderful delicate blend of spices that are very smooth to the taste. This black tea is a “Classic Indian chai with exotic sweet spices” including cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove and black pepper. This pleasurable organic tea is in individual tea bags which are 100 % biodegradable.

My mornings are now complete with my Trudeau® Breast Cancer Awareness Mug my new found chai tea.

A note about my travel mug: I found my Trudeau Breast Cancer Awareness Mug at Bed Bath and Beyond even though I was skeptical about it’s claims about being spill proof. I have often since tested its spill proof qualities between having 2 young children and driving in suburban traffic. When closed it can discharge about a quarters worth of liquid when tips over or rolls a cross the car floor. It seems to be just what ever is trapped above the locked seal. At work I will often mix my sugar in my tea by locking the seal and shaking my mug upside down over the sink. It works great and keeps my tea hot for hours.

Monday, February 18, 2008

AVON Walk for Breast Cancer

I’m doing it again. Last year was the first time I participated in this event and it was amazing. I raised $2,005 dollars and walked 17 miles in one day. This year I hope to raise more AND walk farther. By doing some juggling and coordinating I will be going back for the second day of the walk. The drunk driver years ago may make it impossible to stay over night in the tent city but I will walk a second day this year. I’m hoping to walk 20 miles the first day and another 13 on the second.

Why I’m walking

I’m walking for Rachael Reppert. Rachael is my godparents’ daughter who lost her battle with breast cancer. She left behind two daughters. And with her passing I won’t have the chance to ever get to know her better. As children whenever my family went to visit hers she would get down on the floor and play with my sister and me. As little kids we really enjoyed the time she spent with us. Last year I promised my godmother I would carry Rachael’s picture as far as I could along the walk. This year I hope to carry her picture farther.

I’m walking for my neighbor Pam who is a survivor. Nice people like her should never have to go through so much. I’m hoping we find a cure and no one else has to.

I’m walking for me, because I remember how scared I was when I found a lump. In high school a lump pinched a nerve waking me up from a deep sleep in tears. A doctor’s visit resulted in setting a date for surgery for a biopsy. I arrived at the crack of dawn at the naval hospital ready to have the biopsy. By lunch the Admiral came by to check on me to see how the surgery had gone. He was surprised to hear I hadn’t seen my doctor yet. With in minutes the doctor was by my side explaining the procedure and within the hour I was being operated on. The surgery went quickly and the doctor sent me to the recovery room to wait. I waited for the results for what seemed like hours. If it was benign I would be able to get something to eat. I hadn’t eaten anything since 6 the night before and it was now well past noon. If the lump was cancerous I would have to go back into surgery and have all the surrounding tissue removed. And I waited. It seemed like forever by the time the results came back. It was benign! I could get food from the vending machine and go home. I was so thrilled. The bandages I had to deal with for the next several weeks was nothing compared to what it could have been. All I can think about is the people who have to wait longer for results or hear those terrible words that it IS cancer.

I’m walking so my children and theirs’ don’t have to dread the words ‘breast cancer’.

I’m walking for A CURE.

AVON Walk for Breast Cancer
My walk page...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fish Bento Experiment

Today I experimented with my lunch. I tried using the kids ‘boo-boo’ fish to keep my lunch stuff cold. First off it definitely passes the cuteness test and if it works should go over well with the kids. I packed my lunch around 6:30 this morning. By the time I actually ate lunch it was almost 2:30pm. This was going to be a long test.

I packed my salad in too containers: one container for the lettuce and one with all of the fixings. I slipped the frozen fish in to the container with my blue cheese and frosty chicken. By the time I sat done for lunch the poor little fish was definitely out of the freezer. It was cool to the touch but definitely not cold. The blue cheese was cool enough I felt safe enough to eat it. Everything tasted fresh and wonderful but I don’t think this was a very fair test. If I pack lunches for the kids they will be eating around noon not two plus hours latter. I think I need to rerun the test with 2 ‘boo-boo’ critters and crack open the lunch box closer to noon to see how it is doing.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

January’s Jam

This is not what anyone wants to deal with over a weekend and especially home with a toddler potty training... As a freind said "We will survive and laugh when it is over" and we did.

One Saturday afternoon in January I went to wake up the kids from their naps to take them to friends for a potluck. Selena agreed to try potty. As I was getting her seat ready the tub drain started to make noises and then water started to come out. The toilet started to bubble. I moved Selena and ran to the laundry room. The washer was draining out the hose and up the drain pipe across the floor. I shut off the washer (2 rinses short of being done) and started clearing stuff out of the room. All of my sewing and knitting stuff was stacked up with a ton of other stuff because of the sunroom construction mess. It took me 45 min to get it out while drying some stuff off too.

I called the neighbor saying I was panicking. I explained what happened and that I was home alone with kids because Tim was traveling. He said our sewer backed up (I knew that) and we needed it snaked (I knew that too). He was on a job and would come over afterwards or tomorrow morning. It was after midnight when I heard him get in from the other job. With the phone call for help placed, we did go to the potluck for dinner, flush toilets and some emotional support.

The next morning the pipes were still clogged and then they were predicting snow that night. If there was complications clearing out the pipes that day this could have gotten much more "interesting". Snow and ice would prevent them from doing any digging to get to the clog, which was a possiblity.

Since the neighbor had a late night, it was probably going to be a big job and the problem HAD to get fixed soon I called the company he works for. They listened to my story of my backed up main while home alone with a 2 and 4 year old. They said a plumber would call me. It was only minutes before I got a call and he said he could be there in 2 hours. Hooray a night in a shinny blue truck from Michael & Son would be arriving soon.

The plumber was there in less then 2 hours. He took out the toilet and snaked the pipes. He had me turn on water everywhere. Then he came running for towels and to turn the water off. He snaked again and announced that it is a BAD clog. This is not what you want to hear. He was still snaking 2 hours latter. Before he started he spoted the wet potty wipes which Tim and the kids love and said they are NOT as flushable as they say they are and are probably the reason for the clog. Well that was only part of the problem. The other part was the two 55 year old large maple trees which the developer planted on both sides of the sewer line. At least they will no longer a problem since they were taken down in the fall.

He also found the former owner LOVED the toilet drop-ins. Mind you we have lived in this house for nearly 2 ½ years and we have never put a drop-in into the toilet. There was a 2 inch pile of chemical in one corner of the tank. The rubber gaskets were going. I cleaned out the gunk and the bottom layer was black from the chemicals eating the rubber. I asked him to just replace all the gaskets and inner workings so after clearing the drain this weekend I didn't have to clean up anther mess from a gasket going.

He used Simply Green and cleaned for almost an hour. The Simply Green spray cleaner is a grease cutter and did a pretty good job. I spent another 2 hours mopping the hardwood floors and scrubbing the bathroom with my Melaleuca® Sol-U-Guard Botanical® disinfectant cleaner. After changing the bucket 3 times, every thing looked and smelled like nothing had happened. Well after all the towels were washed, twice.

He spent nearly 6 hours of snaking, cleaning and rebuilding the tank workings before my night in the shinny blue truck took a quick shower. I made him a sandwich and gave him another bottle of water before he was off to rescue the next person.

So after it was all said and done I can look back and laugh. During this whole event I had wished my husband wasn’t out of town for business and my plumber neighbor was free to help but I took care of it myself. I am actually glad our neighbor wasn’t free to help. Five hours of snaking a main is more then a neighborly favor.

Lessons learned:
1. Never flush the flushable toilet wipes. If you must use them trash them.
2. Don’t use the tank drop-ins. The plumber says the ones in the bowl are much better and don’t damage the gaskets.
3. Don't plant large trees right next to the pipes to your house.
4. And if you do need to get a new toilet consider the Toto Drake which only takes 1 gallon of water to flush, as recommended by the knight in the shinny blue truck.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Glow-In-The-Dark Scarves

There is one way to guarantee having a warm spell in the middle of winter and that is to make nice warm fuzzies. I just finished 3 scarves for the kids and now it is nearly 70 degrees. For now they are dragging their new scarves from room to room to see which room they glow in the most, but next week they’ll be wrapped around their chins when the temperatures drop back into the 30’s or lower.
While making the holiday wash cloths I thought it would be really cool to make a glow-in the-dark wash cloth for the kids. So after several internet searches I found some yarn and ordered it. When it arrived I was quite excited and to be honest a little disappointed. Don’t take me wrong this stuff is really cool. It really does glow but it is scratchier then that old wool sweater you have nightmares of wearing. The only way you would use this as a wash cloth is for exfoliating not for a kid’s wash cloth. For those of you without kids, washing children’s faces is hit or miss even wtih a soft wash cloth. They might volunteer to clean up or it is equivalent to giving a cat a pill. The more pleasant you can make the experience the more likely you are to get a clean kid.

The plan quickly changed from wash cloths to scarves and hats. I haven't made knitted hats, yet, so I started with a scarf. I picked Lion Brands® Cotton Ease (50/50 cotton/acrylic) yarn for the main part of the scarf. This is the same yarn I used for the wash cloths and soap savers. I picked a deep corn-flower blue color for a scarf for the little guy and a lighter blue for my daughter. William loved the ‘purple’ color but was not thrilled with the smooth pattern I had done the blue part in, hence making the third scarf. When I was done with the second scarf he had to choose one and the other would go to a friend’s son. The second scarf for the little guy has a design I made using just knit and purl stitches to form stripes and diamonds. Selena’s scarf is a pattern of K2 P2. The ends are patterns of alternating the softer white Cotton Ease with the glow-in the-dark yarn. The scarves pictured have medium size glow-in the-dark pony beads stitched across the ends. The one given away didn’t have any beads added since we assumed a 10-year-old boy would be too grown up for that.

US 7 knitting needles
Blunt needle
Lion Brands® Cotton Ease (50/50 cotton/acrylic) yarn
1 skein preferred color
1 skein white or contrasting color
Glow-in the-dark yarn
Glow-in the-dark pony beads

I made these wide scarves. Cast on 40 stitches with contrast color or glow yarn. Knit a band as wide as you prefer using the contrast color and glow yarn. Change yarns to primary color. Knit to end of skein. Repeat contrasting color pattern used on the opposite end.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Soap Savers

Soap savers are a vintage idea (aka old fashion). Usually knitted or crocheted small bags to hold your bar soap. The bag is used partially as a wash cloth and a way to use those little bits of soap which are too slippery and hard to hold onto to use. All of the patterns I found were for crocheted so I designed my own knitted pattern. After making one of these for each of my close friends and family you would think I would remember the pattern I designed. This is what I think I did for my soap savers.

Lion Brand® Cotton Ease yarn (50/50 cotton/acrylic) - 2 contrasting colors.
Size 10 1/2 US Knitting needles
Blunt large hole
Size J US crochet hook

Cast on 26 stitches
Row 1 k
Row 2 p
Row 3 k
Row 4-6 Repeat 1-3
Row 7 k
Row 8 p
Row 9 k2tog YO to end - ending w/ 26 stitches
Row 10 p
Row 11 YO k2tog to end - ending w/ 26 stitches
Row 12 p
Row 13 k
Row 14-20 repeat 1-6
Row 21-24 repeat 7-10
Row 25 k
Row 26 p
Row 27 increase by purling in the front and back of each stitch
Row 28 Bind off leaving a 'tail' about 4 times as long as the ruffled edge you just bind off.
Lay the piece in front of you so the holes are horizontal. Fold the piece to one side. Using the tail stitch the side and bottom closed leaving the ruffled side open.

With a contrasting color yarn and #J crochet hook make a chain long enough to thread through the top single row of holes and tie into a bow.

Slip in a bar of your favorite soap and tie off.

K= knit
YO=yarn over
k2tog= knit 2 together

With each soap saver I made 1 or 2 matching wash cloths. The accompanying wash cloths were made using variations of patterns found at Lion Brand Yarn: Dish Cloth pattern number kkc-dishCloths and Cotton Chenille Wash Cloth.

To complete the set I included a bar of Dr. Bronner's Magic Saops all-one hemp peppermint pure-castile soap. This is a bar version of the liquid soap my family use to take camping and back packing. The sent of the soap brought back memories.

Play Dough Recipe

Play dough is wonderful stuff which was invented by accident in 1956 while trying to find wallpaper cleaner. It has been used by children around the world since 1965. Every kid should have the opportunity to play with the stuff and be as creative as they can be. Unfortunately there is something in the Hasbro Playdoh which has always made my nose twitch and itch. The smell bothers me so much that I hadn't let my little one have any.

Here is where the day care came to a rescue. My son's class made play dough. Their stuff is great. It is weeks old and still going strong. It is soft, pliable and the kids love it. His teacher was kind enough to pass the recipe on to us. By posting it here I'm sure to have it handy when the first batch does eventually die.

Play Dough Recipe

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 cups water
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup cream of tartar

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook and stir over low/medium heat until play dough is completely formed and no longer sticky. Allow to cool slightly before storing in an air tight container or zip lock bag.

Other play dough recipes can be found at

Wikipedia history of Playdoh

Gluten Free Heaven

If there was a 5 star rating for gluten-free breads and pastries most would be lucky to get to a 2. I know this sounds very negative but, so far, this has been my experience. As I have noted in previous blogs some good packaged items and some to avoid. The good news is with each passing year and the promises of a growing market to cash in on there are more and more products available and they are getting a little better with each new product they try. In the 1970’s I remember trying some soy ice cream. I thought it tasted like frozen sand. Over the years it has come a long way to something I actually consider an alternative to ice cream and enjoyable. Hopefully the wheat-free and gluten-free products have similar success.

This past week I have discovered two wheat-free gluten-free cakes that I would take to a pot luck or home to mom. Trader Joe's has Dolce Senza Grando - Sweet Without Wheat gluten-free tiramisu and black forest torte. Not low in calories with 270 and 290 calories a serving but everyone is worth every mouth watering bite. I would highly recommend both. Unfortunately the husband and kids haven't voiced their opinion on these since I haven't been willing to share... I'm not feeling guilty about it. They have a cabinet of Trader Joe's cookies and other snack food to enjoy that they can't share with me.