Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Bento Scoop

The beetle spoons and sporks are working out very well for the kids. Yes, we have had to replace one or two that accidentally went into the trash. We also had to replace two because they broke. The wing hinges can crack and fall off. The kids have gotten use to using them and love having them in their school lunches. But in the replacement process mine was confiscated by one of the kids. This left me using the silverware from our home set which I don't want to loose or plastic from the office which is not very earth friendly.

After checking out several local international grocery stores I found a set of silverware in a case designed for bentos. The set is a "My Melody" (from Hello Kitty series) set. It has adult size metal fork, spoon, and chop sticks in a reusable plastic case. The chop sticks are a little 'slippery' but I'm adjusting and they are getting easier to use. The pink case is not in your face and neither are the characters imprinted on the clear plastic lid. In other words people in the office walking by don't notice but the ones who stop to chat occasionally point and smile.

The kids were a little disappointed to find out it was for my lunches and not thiers. When the kids are a bit older and have mastered chopsticks I may buy each of them a similar set.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Neighborhood Critters

It is so cool. In mid April after the late night news, I saw a red fox scoot through the yard. At first glance I thought it was a strange looking dog. It was just holding its body oddly for a domestic animal roaming the neighborhood. When I realized it was a fox it made complete sense. The lighting was too poor to be able to tell if it was a red or gray fox, both are native to the area. Okay if it was daylight and the kids were outside I would have dragged them quickly into the house. Our area has had too many rabies cases not to be cautious. But watching it dart through the yard from inside is very cool.

Then two days later I’m making my rounds through the house before calling it a night and I look out a window to see another shadow moving through the yard. My first reaction looking out was “My, that is a fat cat!” then its tail swished to the light- it's a raccoon!

It is hard to believe that so many critters hiding around here. There are over a million people living in this county and among us there is a great diversity of animals who still share this land with us. It is hard to believe they find such good hiding places to continue to thrive.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I couldn't help myself. I saw these Friki-Tiki solar accent lights and had get them. I found my lights at Kmart while hunting for a new kiddy pool. We had found a pool we could all agree on and were headed out when these caught my eye. The kids didn't seem to think much of it until we brought them home and I started to assemble them. Assembly was just unwrapping the mounting of your choice and removing the protective strip for the battery. As soon as the kids noticed the light sensitive on switch they were hooked. They helped me put them in the tree stump garden. Then came the hard part... waiting for it to get dark enough for them to turn on. As the tiki faces light up so did the kids'.

The tiki lights are definitely a subtle, fun addition to our whimsical garden. Two of our neighbors have made glowing comments about them and asked where we found them.

The Friki-Tiki solar accent lights can be mounted on a stake, hung, or used on a table top. The yellow LED light flickers simulating a candle.

Friki-Tiki solar accent lighting

Home Styles, GSI Homestyles

Sold at Kmart

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Earth Hour

The Earth Hour, aka Earth lights out night, causes mixed emotions for me. I now it is meant to be a way of raising awareness but I keep hearing people say how much energy was saved during that hour. Unfortunately along with the awareness I hear a lot of people saying how crazy it is. I’m a tree hugger and I have to agree with them. One night of turning the lights off at the Sydney Opera House sounds wonderful but did they also turn off their security? What of the other landmarks? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective in the long run if all of those landmarks switched their lights to more effective lighting? I mean really, wouldn’t smaller more efficient, well placed lights be better for decreasing energy use, decreasing light pollution, show off the architecture better, and be a better long term solution.

Years ago I saw a show about a program trying to bring the stars back to Parris. They showed a building with traditional flood lights before it was refitted with new smaller lights and after. The after picture looked so much better. They changed the lights on famous buildings in such a way that the building’s structure was better displayed (not washed out), less light ‘escaped’ into the atmosphere, and there was sufficient lighting for personal safety and property security. The large power draining flood lights and replaced them with strings of small or LED lights spaced 1-3 feet apart. They installed them in window archways, under ridges, etc which better showed off the famous buildings. And all of this was going to cost less in electricity, carbon foot print, and fewer bulbs changed.

I couldn’t find anything about the show I saw when I searched the web but I did find these related sites….

Turn Your Lights Out For Earth Hour: March 28, 8:30 p.m.

OUTDOOR LIGHTING GUIDE by Institution Of Lighting Engineers (Author)

Light pollution From Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seder Plates

Living in chaos can sometimes be the mother of invention. I have 3 seder plates but they are all currently safely packed up in one of the what seems like 100s of boxes crammed into one room. Okay there aren’t that many but between the attic work and shutting down the storage unit to save money my organization became very disorganized. Rather than spend hours or days searching for my beautiful plates I made an interesting make shift plate. I used one of the metal trays I purchased for Shabbat dinners. Then I added a colorful assortment of silicone cupcake holders and plastic bowls to hold each of the elements. To complete the child friendly plate I added plastic snake spoons. The frog forks just didn’t quite work. I was missing a shank bone in the end but I’m hoping the kids decorated plates from school would do.

It worked well and when the kids wanted to help set the table there was no panic of great grandpas seder plate getting broken. And when it was nearly tipped over part way through the meal there were still no worries of broken pottery, just a potential spill. Hopefully next year things will be more organized again and the kids will also be a little older.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Passover Dinner

Simple Compote

(A sweet blend of vegetables and fruit)

* 1 16 oz pk of Gourmet Kitchen Harvest Medley turnip, yams & butternut squash (or equivalent)

* 1 c Trader Joe's non-sorbated pitted prunes

* 1/4 c Trader Joe's 100% dark amber maple syrup

* 1/4 c water

* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender.

This turned out to be wonderful. The kids who are at a finicky stage for all but hot dogs and mac & cheese, well they didn’t quite agree with me. If their father would have joined us I would have used cardamom instead of the cinnamon.


1 brisket, salted kosher for Passover

3 cloves of garlic, fresh, whole

7 black peppercorns

1 pk Trader Joe's Savory Broth Beef, reduced sodium liquid concentrate

1 c mushrooms, washed and trimmed

8 Morning Kiss organic golden potatoes

Water to cover meat

Put all ingredients in a crock pot/slow cooker. Cook on low for 11 hours.

I chose the number of garlic cloves and black peppercorns for both taste and for some luck. Lucky numbers have to have that reputation for a reason, right? The only thing I would have changed for the brisket recipe would be adding more mushrooms. The gravy turned out wonderfully and since I do eat rice for Passover (it is NOT listed in the 5 forbidden) I can report the leftover gravy was wonderful over a hamburger and rice (buns, no matter what it is made from is fluffy like the forbidden bread).

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Dayenu! A Passover Haggadah For Families and Children By Carole Boyd Leon Illustrations by Connelly

I recently bought 8 copies of this family friendly haggadah at a local book fair. This beautifully illustrate 30 page book was perfect for young children. It is a well written short version of a traditional haggadah. Yes, my 3 and 5 year olds did ask if we were done yet but it could have been worse with a longer or traditional haggadah.

We did put the book to the extreme test. I had to work Passover eve day. This meant I cooked the main dish in the slow cooker while I was at worked. After picking up the kids we stopped at a local store for a few last minute things. Once home they played and helped get the table ready while I boiled eggs, made a vegetable compote, and other foods along with filling a seder plate. We were ready by sunset and started the seder by lighting the candles. We often eat late but this was a bit latter than normal.

Then to add to the "test" for the new haggadah, I was the only adult at our seder. Because of last minute business trips, etc. The possibility of cooking for 12 at a friend's house changed to just me and the kids. I was the hostess, cook, leader, and mom. Okay a normal mom event for a big holiday and it all went well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Honoring Those Who Have Served

For years I have watched as the news post photos of fallen military men and women who have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. As George Stephanopoulos ( ) has scrolled and read his weekly memorial list of the fallen with respect and a sense of loss, I have read the names and ages along with him trying to imagine the pride and overwhelming grief their families and hoping not to see a name I knew. Each name represented some willing to server and defend my family and our country. Each name, each person deserves our respect and honor. I know not all of them were perfect. Some might have even been real jerks, while others were truly saints called to duty but each gave their lives for our country. We can question the government and circumstances that got us into both of the current wars but we should never question the sacrifice these men and women have made. Nor should we forget those who are wounded, or witnessed or experienced more than most of us could imagine.

Last night I watched ABC World News air the first coming home from Dover Delaware in 12 years ( ). Phillip Myers wife granted the media permission to attend the ceremony. They still showed his photo with his name and rank but this time we could see the solemn ceremony transferring his flag draped coffin from the aircraft that brought him back to the truck which will take him closer to his final peaceful resting place. For all of the news announcements before I felt sorrow for this one the tears came. I know why some didn't want us to see this for all of these years and I know why others want us to. The pallbearers performing their solemn duty made the loss seem like more of a loss, more human.

The news handled the ceremony with great respect and dignity. The Myers family shares their grief with the country. I respect each of the families who will decide to share this moment and those who want it to be private. The decision now lies with the ones who matter the most since they too made a great sacrifice for our country. I just hope we find ways to have fewer of these ceremonies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Attic Project Creep - The Explanation

Here are two articles from Planet Green (a Discovery Channel station) which explain some of the attic project creep.

Save Energy With Motion Sensors

Motion Sensors attached to lights in certain areas of the house can reduce your lighting energy and costs.

Between two small children and an absent minded husband the old porch light was left on for hours or even over night at least once or twice a month. Not only was that adding to the neighborhood light pollution but it was also wasting energy. By switching the fixture to one with a motion detector we'll save energy. The plan is to replace the light bulb from the manufacture with an LED or compact florescent bulb when it burns out to save even more energy.

Save Energy with an Attic Stair Cover

An attic without a stair cover is like having a hole in your ceiling.

As I said before when I first came across the attic stair cover it was pointless to install it in an attic so inadequately insulated. Once the attic insulation was upgraded not having the stair cover was like having a whole in the roof to let all of the heat out around the new insulation.