Monday, June 30, 2008

Hawaii: Tropical Sun

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kid Juice Bar

I believe in well-hydrated kids. I have a Gerber sports bottle by or in each of the kids’ beds filled with water. I try to make sure they have water in a place where they can get it whenever they want. They will even ask for water when other things are offered other drinks. I also have a shelf at kid height stocked with the ‘juices’ they can have. I do request they ask first but then they get to pick which one they would like. So far it seems to be working well and they get to make some of their own choices.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bento: Week 1 continued

For the remainder of the week my bentos seemed to be received with mixed reviews.

On Wednesday lunch was an English muffin pizza made the night before. I made them with Thomas’s English muffins, Ragu’s homemade style pizza sauce and part-skim mozzarella cheese. I broiled them until the cheese melted. After they cooled I packed them with a piece of wax paper between to make sure they didn’t stick together. Their lunch was rounded out with baby carrots, graham cracker sticks, Philly cheesecake filling with M&M smiley faces, and a fruit cup. One ate all of the pizza the other only took two bites, but when it was offered for dinner she ate all of it all and wanted more. The cheesecake didn’t go over as well I had hoped with either one of them.

On Thursday I gave in to the constant request for mac and cheese for dinner by packing it with lunch. I made a batch of Easy Mac’s larger servings and served it in the silicone baking cups topped with American cheese starts. Lesson learned: add cheese shapes after it has been refrigerated. The evening stars were very droopy by morning so I added some fresh ones. I completed lunch by adding green beans, chocolate cake and a banana for each. One didn’t touch the mac and cheese the devoured it. The one who didn’t touch his also didn’t touch the cake. I took his temperature and talked to his teacher. He evidently had a big snack of rice and wasn’t hungry.

On Friday I decided to try one of the school’s suggestions, pancakes. I packed my homemade banana spelt and buckwheat pancakes. I use the Joy of Cooking recipe for griddle or pancakes. I double the recipe and then substitute the wheat flour with equal parts of white spelt flour and buckwheat flour (or whole spelt flour), increase the sugar by a teaspoon (then we don’t use any syrups etc) and added 3 mashed overly ripped bananas. After serving all the family can eat the rest are stored in the freezer in freezer Ziplock bags with plastic lids (like coffee can lids with the rims cut off) placed between each pancake so they don’t stick together. They then get put into the freezer labeled with the date and what I used (banana, buckwheat, whole spelt, etc). To go with their pancakes I added a Monterey Jack cheese stick, sweet corn, applesauce and a few Trader Joe’s chocolate chip cookies. One set of pancakes came back like the English muffins, just 2 bites missing. But she said she likes the pancakes and usually eats a lot of them, fresh or defrosted. Some of the corn came back too.

I am probably packing too much food and need to find a better balance between variety, new foods and things that I know they will eat.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hawaii: Still Life

This guy looks like he has been just chill'n out on a beach in Maui for a while.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bentos: First Days of the First Week of Kid Trials

Bento Day One

This was my first attempt at packing a healthy meatless lunch for a tw0-year-old and a 4-year-old. Lunch was cheese sandwiches, peas, chocolate cake, dried fruit (apples, raisins & cranberries) and a low fat vanilla pudding cup too. Each are packed in a Sistema® KLIP IT® Lunch Cube and organized with Wilton® silicone cupcake molds and a beetle spork. To drink each one has a box of apple juice and a box of soy milk (plain for him and chocolate for her).I was hoping I found an acceptable combination of food and cuteness that they each most of their lunches. Well it looked like it was mostly a success. My son said I packed too much food. He also does not seem to like any dried fruit. My daughter lost her spork and her lunch bag was a mess. Thank goodness for it’s easy to clean plastic liner.

Bento Day Two

My second attempt was the favorite standby of peanut butter sandwiches (hold the jelly), Snaps crisps pea pod chips, Trader Joe’s chocolate chip dippers, and organic apple sauce. This time I packed a beetle spoon for each of the kids for their apple sauce. A box of soy milk and apple juice for each one and we have a lunch. Luckily everything came back this time including the missing spork. My son said it was his "favorite lunch" and next time he wants even more peanut butter. They both requested to have the same lunch again.

I packed their lunches the night before and stored them over night in the refrigerator. I am hoping having everything chilled and an ice pack will keep all of the perishables safe to eat.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The day is finally here, the kids are changing schools. I’m not sure who was more anxious: me or them. Friday they had their last day at their old school. I sent cakes for each of their classes and at the end of the day gathered up their bags of stuff for the last time. Both kids asked if their teachers and friends would be at their new school of if they would have new teachers and friends. One little girl asked William if he would miss her. He responded with a “not so much” not sure if he really understands he probably won’t see most of these kids again. We managed to gather a few phone numbers for their closest friends. Hopefully we can schedule a few play dates for them.

(Mom, there are little bugs can we just get in the car and go to our new school?)

I spent most of the weekend planning and shopping for their first day at their new school which is currently running their summer camp program. They were both a bit apprehensive and understandably so since they attended their old school since they were each just 3 months old. They were excited that their new school does not have mulch to get into their shoes. They love the springy new padded surface. I also tried to have them help with the shopping for new school stuff to keep them excited about the transition. So after a weekend of shopping for backpacks, beach towels, swimsuits, pool shoes (crocks), and such they were prepared for their first day. I'm happy to say I was greeted by two very happy kids shouting "mommy, we love our new school ."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Helping Hand

There are so many small ways we can help others. We just need to find one that we can do which will make a difference no matter how great or small. One of the ways I try to help my community is by collecting hotel soaps from my trips and those of my traveling co-workers. I then deliver them to a local homeless shelter. I have sent several messages out over the years to my co-workers asking them to not forget to bring home all of those hotel soaps, shampoo, lotions, etc whenever they may travel. The homeless will benefit from your thoughtfulness.

The homeless shelters can use soap, shampoo, conditioners, lotions, shower caps, toothbrushes, shave kits, and any of the other little toiletries items the hotels normally leave out free for guest. These little items can make a big difference in someone’s life. The shelter puts the items out in a basket so their residents can take what they need. They can have their own personal bottle of shampoo, a toothbrush or whatever they may need.

All of the changing TSA regulations for air travel has decreased the number of items we have been able to collect but those which do make it back to the office are greatly appreciated. With the changing airline luggage policies it may not be possible to throw these goodies into your carry on bag but they are still allowed in checked baggage. If you are traveling by car or bus it is much easier to bring them back.

I have a box under my desk in my cubical to collect what my co-workers bring in. When the box gets full I make trip to the shelter and start collecting for the next delivery. This past weekend I boxed up what has been accumulating under my desk for delivery. Since my first deliver in 2004 we have collected 4,046 items for the homeless shelter.

So next time you are traveling and staying in a hotel which offers complementary toiletries consider who might benefit from them if you aren’t going to be using them.

Pass it on….

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Office Gardens

I had a poinsettia which was destined for the trash after the holidays the other year. I managed to keep the finicky plant alive and thriving for nearly a year before a co-worker become allergic to it. Then there was the great office shuffle and I was moved from a southern exposure to a northern one. Since then I have been having problems keeping even my “good luck” bamboo happy in my new space.

A few months ago I decided to get a cactus for my desk at the office. Home Depot had a variety of cactus garden dishes and one caught my eye. Surprisingly it is still surviving. I usually don’t have much luck with these sticky little ‘critters’. I’m trying very hard to NOT over water it and so far so good.

I’m going to make another attempt at introducing a new plant to my cubical. I have a few juniper plants I pulled out of the lawn. They have been “naturally’ bonsai over the years since the birds planted them in the middle of the lawn. Each time I mow I am on the look out for these sticky little evergreens which are oh so painful when you find them while chasing a ball through the yard bare foot. While gardening, I have found a few interesting large rocks, fist size or smaller. I am reusing the planter and moss from one of the failed replacement plants which withered over the past year. A little excess gravel from the walkway project and a little water retaining 'gel' from a flower arrangement and I think I have it. This is close to a completely recycled planting. Now I just need to see how well it does in my cubical.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

WWF Fish Quiz

I'm a Hammerhead Shark.

What kind of fish are you? Based on the results (this time) I’m closest to is a Hammerhead Shark! But considering I had a hard time picking answers I suspect it may be different next time. Really how could you choose between vacations at bread and breakfast on Cape Code and a beach in Belize. I want to do both.

Yes this little quiz is to raise your awareness about our oceans. So what is wrong with a little fun mixed with a little education? If you are interested in learning more check out the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Wave Forward web page.

(Hammerhead Shark: Photo taken at the Maui Ocean Center)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Soothing Lavender

Life has been a bit stressful lately. To try to make my work space a bit more soothing I decided to get some lavender. Luckily there is a L’Occitane store in the mall next to my office which made this little pick-me up easy to do over my lunch break. I picked up a bunch of dried lavender and a bit of essential lavender oil to sit on my desk. It seems to be working. The fragrance is wonderful and very soothing.

Next step will be de-cluttering my workspace… well that may just add more stress.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wonder Woman

Who is my hero?

I was having a hard time choosing. Trying to pick a living person can be so hard and politically charged. I wanted to say all of our armed forces who put themselves on the line or work behind the lines to protect us, but unfortunately there are just enough ‘questionable people’ in any group I don’t feel like I can say that. I also regret that those people tarnish the reputation and the service of those who truly are doing their best to serve their country and mankind.

Then there is the world of super heroes. The magnification of what we want our heroes to be like. Some of the new ones are just too dark to choose. Yes, they have more depth to their characters then some of the ones of old but, well some of it is just “TMI” (too much information). So after some consideration I chose Wonder Woman (TV). A family oriented hard working super hero who does her best to help the world be a better place. I also feel I can relate to her. I am trying to take care of my family, work a full time job and do my part to make the world a better place. Okay so I don’t have the cool costume (yet), the magic lasso, or the ability to deflect bullets but I’ve got a good mind and good intentions. I might not have her connections to the Air Force but I do have a compost bin, a garden, time to give to friends and charities, and most importantly time to talk to my kids and read them bedtime stories.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Avon Thank You Notes

I know my thank yous for all of the support and donations I received for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer are well past over due. Over the past few weeks I have been trying to hand deliver a short note of thanks and two homemade magnets to each person to show my appreciation. I still have a few to deliver.

The magnets are just a simple token of thanks and were made using the directions I found on Not Martha.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gnome Partrol

I now have 3 gnomes patrolling the garden. Each one has a duty to fulfill. I'm not gnome crazy. I'm rather selective as to which fella I'm willing to bring home with me. The first two which I purchased shortly after moving in are multi functional. I'm eying just one or two more which have light features but we'll see if they impress me enough to join the 3 already patrolling the garden.The little guy watching over the watermelons is also a rain gage. When he can keep on his feet he lets me know how much rain we have received each rain so I know if I still need to water the seedlings or not.
His buddy has been watching over the Great Lakes Lettuce since last fall. He was so busy trying to catch water for the butterflies he didn't see the cabbage caterpillars eating way more then their share of the bok choy and wok bok last fall. Since the lettuce should soon sir cum to the summer heat I need to find a non-cabbage or lettuce crop to plant in the bed for the little guy to watch over.
The latest gnome to join the garden patrol seems to be having problems with his new duties. The bed he has been assigned has been planted with corn, zucchini, and carrots. So far I have not seen a single carrot sprout and they should be poking through by now. The corn is only faring a little better. About half of the seeds sprouted but half of those plants were taken off at the ground by something. I didn't see teeth marks so I'm not sure if it was critter or human vandal. This past weekend I planted the remaining seeds in the bear spots in the rows. There were 4 'mounds' of zucchini with 3 seeds each. So far 9 of the 12 seeds have sprouted into healthy looking seedlings and seem to be doing well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Time

Its summer time and time for a new kiddie pool for the kidlets. Last year’s met its doom when it was placed under the pear tree and one of the shoots punctured it. This year we decided to go bigger since the kids are a bit bigger (possibly double). It takes so much water to fill it I’m considering getting all the pool chemical stuff to maintain the water instead of the post weekend dump onto the garden we did last year.

We’ll see how long it last. In the meantime the kids are loving it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Memorial: Tim Russert

I will admit it. I am a news junkie. Since the children have been born my evening news and Sunday morning political talk shows have been replaced by Noggin and PBS/Sprout Cartoons. I’ve relied on local news radio to fill the void. Since I live in the Metropolitan Washington DC area Tim Russert was just as much a part of local radio as he was on national TV. His questions and insight will be greatly missed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hawaii: Music

Since returning from my vacation in Hawaii I have been enjoying playing the few CD’s I picked up and making some time for the language CDs too. Friday’s are usually pretty quite and my day to bring a little of the islands to my cubical. This morning in the rush to get to the office I left my bag of CDs sitting next to the door. Luckily in this age of the internet this only caused a slight delay in Hawaiian theme listening pleasure. After a quick internet search and finding which station will work with my current computer programs I’m up and running.

This website has several stations to choose from

Hawaiian Radio Stations

This is the one I decided to listen to this morning.

Honolulu - Hawaiin Radio:
Traditional & Contemporary Hawaiian Music

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hawaii: Things to do my next trip

I did so much this past trip and there is so much more to do. While researching websites and spellings I have come across a list of things I would like to do on my next trip. Here is just a sampling of things I hope to be checking out.

Hiking Paradise

Hiking in Maui, Hawaii

Na Ala Hele

Trail & Access System

The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii

National Parks Service

Haleakala Park

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hawaii: Bento Search

While I was on Maui I did search for some new things to add to my bento collection. There were bento stands with wonderful better than fast food lunches at the Saturday Swap and other places. Long’s Drug Store had lots of different Japanese dishes and utensils but not much for packing lunches. I had hoped to find an assortment of sauce containers but none could be found. I did find several tools to roll sushi. I purchased three to bring home and experiment with.

One is a bamboo mat to roll sushi. This may work better then the aluminum foil or in combination with the foil for the candied sushi I have made and loved.

The other two are molds: one round and one square. I attempted to use the square one to make a “beginner" sushi for the kids. I boiled some baby carrots with a sprinkle of ginger and in a separate pot made some short grain sticky rice. I attempted to assemble my beginners sushi and it seemed to work. It stayed together when I took it out of the mold and when I sliced it. It even looked okay. The kids and the husband were not amazed or inspired to eat. I had messed with their beloved rice.

I think I need to find a friend or a class, or two.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hawaii: Kid Gifts

I tried an experiment this past trip. My husband had been brining home gifts just about every business trip. More often then not it is a new toy for each of the kids. This trip I tried getting the kids clothes instead. Before leaving, my son put in a request for a t-shirt with a monster riding a motorcycle making a funny face. My daughter said pretty flowers. So I was on a mission to find flowers for her and a motorcycle riding monster for him.

I flew through Arizona for my trip and I found a wonderful black t-shirt with all of the ‘terrifying’ critters of Arizona including a Gila monster. It even glowed-in-the- dark. Okay no motorcycle but I was hoping the glowed-in-the- dark feature would make up for it.

Who ever said all the chain stores are the same hasn’t realized the stock is partially dictated by the location. For some stores it might just mean which colors or sizes it is sent and for other it means the location has its own unique items. The Sears on Maui have a wonderful selection of Hawaiian print shirts and dresses, with many of them made in Hawaii. This is where I found a Hawaiian print shirt for each of the kids and a pretty pink dress for my daughter. The shirts were a hit since they had a bonus of cool Hawaiian turtles between the flowers. She calls her new dress her princess dress.

My host suggested getting the kids shirts which change colors in the sun. He knew they had to have at least one design with a ‘monster’ to keep my son happy. He took me to Del Sol on Front Street in Lahaina. I tested my host’s fashion sense and had him help me pick designs for each of the kids. For my son we picked one with a dragon and for my daughter we picked one with hibiscus flowers (Hawaii’s state flower).

I had found my pretty flowers for her and several monsters for him. They loved their new clothes so much they completely ignored the matching glow-in-the-dark turtles I slipped in. I was even forgiven for not finding a monster riding a motorcycle on a t-shirt. He says he’ll wait to see if we can find one at the Maryland Renaissance Festival this fall. (I hope the dragon print vendor returns.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hawaii: Kepaniwai Park (3 more pictures)

Just three more pictures from Kepaniwai Park and I'll move on to something else. It is amazing how much was packed into such a small park.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hawaii: Kepaniwai Park

Kepaniwai Park in Wailuku is a beautiful collection of picnic pavilions and Heritage gardens. There are memorials many of the groups which have settled on Maui and make up the wonderful multi-ethnic community which Maui is now. Some of the tributes are beautiful gardens and others are samples of the homes and heritage each group brought with them. We had fun walking along the trail and seeing a small sample of what each group has contributed.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hawaii: Wheat-Free Dinning In Maui

You have no idea how nice it is to walk into a restaurant and not be looked at like some kind of freak when you order a burger without a bun. All of the low-carb burgers I had while I was in Maui were wrapped in a paper wrapper similar to what you see all of those tortilla wrap sandwiches that seem to be so popular. They seem to save the larger outer leaves of the lettuce just to have one to wrap the burgers. If I can just get some places in the metro area do the same.

Ruby’s Diner at the Queen Kaahumanu Center or other wise known as The Queen K. in Kahului. There was a low-car burger on the menu and without any fuss they could make any of their burger selections low-carb.

Carl Jr’s is a fast food burger restaurant in Wailuku. Carl Jr’s had a low-carb burger posted with all of their other selections.

The “tourist” restaurant we ate at in Lahania was able to make a low-carb burger option with just a no bun confirmation. Their portabella with feta cheese and avocado was wonderful. I really mean tourist restaurant. When we went to pay our bill the cashier asked how was the food followed by do we want any souvenirs: t-shirts, cups, etc.

To make your own low-carb burger pick out a few nice big lettuce leaves. Arrange them on your plate so they over lap and are spread out enough to wrap around your burger and all of its toppings. Grill your best burger. Whatever kind you want: beef, turkey, portabella and slide it on top of the lettuce. Now top it with all the fixings you like. The kind of toppings you choose will determine how low-carb your burger will really be. Wrap the lettuce leaves over the top and enjoy. Now it is a bit neater with the commercial food grade wrapper around it but either way it is going to be a juicy drippy delicious mess. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gardening: Spring Lettuce

I had thought that all of my lettuce from the fall planting was picked or long gone. The winter freezes are more then most lettuces can handle. I had cleared out the bed and turned the soil in early spring in hopes to plant some thing new. My schedule kept that from happening. The garden gnomes must have known that and took care of the few seeds which didn’t sprout in the fall. Thanks to their tender care I now have a nice crop of Great Lakes and Black Seed Simpson lettuce. I picked the first bunch last night fearing it might bolt up and go to seeds as the summer temperatures rise above where their green leaves thrive. They actually already were getting high enough I was worried about it tasting a bit bitter. The other night I picked the tops off of 4 plants. I’m happy to say that this bunch of beautiful greens are quite delicious and made delicious mango chicken sausage lettuce wraps for lunch.

Trader Joe’s sells a wonderfully delicious fully cooked, pork free, mango chicken sausage. They also sell delicious fully cooked, pork free, chicken sweet Italian and chicken apple sausages. I usually toss them straight into the freezer when I bring them home. This helps keep them fresh longer and provides a handy “cold pack” in lunches.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Harvesting Garlic

The garlic I planted last fall started to look sad, as in dying back. The first few I tried pull out by their tops to harvest left the bulbs securely in the ground. I had to ding them out by hand. It seemed the smaller cloves garlic that I planted last fall needed to be dug out by hand. The tops were small and just too far gone to pull the heads out of the dirt. The larger cloves produced a larger head and more substantial stems and easily came out. All of the heads still attached to the stems were hung up to dry. I tried to braid the stems but failed miserably. I am hoping some of the nutritional in the stems will go into the bulbs. The ones that were broken off were washed and dried before I put them into the refrigerator. The aroma and taste of the freshly picked garlic was wonderful. I used 4 of the small cloves to make a pot of split pea soup. Yes it might be a bit warm for hot split pea soup but I love it and it is good cold, too.

Garlic seems to appear in so many
recipes and folk medicine. As usual Wikipdeia has some good information on garlic.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hawaii Fabric

I know I can't be the only person to go fabric shopping while on vacation. I mentioned before my tour guide is “No Ko Oi !”. Over my vacation I discovered that while I drove his mother across state lines in search of the perfect yarn for her many wonderful knitted baby outfits he managed to escape ever setting foot in a craft or fabric store. But since he was being the perfect tour guide he agreed to take me into the fabric store we drove past on the way to town from the airport. The windows were draped with beautiful Hawaiian print fabrics. Once inside I had to choose from the rows and rows of beautiful Hawaiian prints. It was hard but I managed to choose just seven. Since I wasn't shopping for a specific project I bought 5 to 8 yards of each except one which only had 1.5 left on the bolt. I’m hoping to make a few dresses for myself and my daughter and possible a shirt or two for my son and husband. I wasn't able to find anything in the stores for myself that seemed quite right for me. Hopefully I'll have better luck making my own.

I wanted to make something with my new fabric for myself as soon as I got home. I've been home for a few weeks but I got "sidetracked" making costumes for Balticon and catching up with the yard and house work I fell behind on while I was gone. I have just finished the first dress. I used Simplicity Khaliah Ali Collection to #3805 make my first dress. I choose the pretty aqua print for my first project. I used my new portable machine which caused a bit of confusion as I waded through the manual and learned the different locations for knobs and controls. I also increased the challenge by picking a pattern which used things I have never used before: interfacing around the collar, and bias tape to finish the sleeve seams. To make a more "finished" dress I did most of the seams with a French seam.

Considering how much fabric I have, hopeful this is just the first piece I'll be making and wearing. If I should run out of fabric I can either go back for another visit (I hope to get back soon) or I can shop the same store on line: Hawaii Fabric Mart.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Guerrilla Gardening

I found out about guerrilla gardening through the Sierra Club Green Life

pages. Guerrilla gardening is a wonderful underground covert operation preformed by gardeners in growing numbers to green up abandoned or neglected public and private lands.

Blogger Richard Reynolds of London is recording his group of illicit gardening exploits at He has also written the book “On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening without Boundaries”.

This is fun environmental green graffiti art. If I only had the time and the means to join in the movement. For now I’ll just work on making my little plot greener and more environmentally friendly.