Massive Goodwill Haul

March 31, 2009

Sometimes, I tell ya, you hit our local Goodwill at just the right moment.

Hanna Andersson coat, size 130 (Henry now, Eli next winter), $4.99. Mini Boden jeans, size 9/10 (Henry next fall, probably), $1.99.

A bunch of size 80 (Zuzu soon) Hanna Andersson stuff: blue fleece jacket with farm scene ($1.99), tan cords ($1.99), pink and floral shirt and capri set ($2.99), floral pjs ($2.99). Also purple rollneck size 2T L.L. Bean butterfly sweater ($1.99) and these adorable pink and red leather mary janes with this kind of sporty rubber outsole, size 22, some random brand I’ve never heard of (B Shoes?) ($2.99) (I may be overdescribing the shoes but that is because I want them in my size).

Not pictured: blue fleece North Face pullover in a-little-too-big-for-Henry size ($1.99), cute floral cardigan for me that looks like it’s from Boden (but is actually Cherokee, and I had to put aside all of my 1988 bad Cherokee-brand leather-fringe-type associations, but the sweater is great, really), and a good big antique Bell jar that will be good for bulk almonds and things.

I’m still kind of high from the time I got that Anthropologie dress, and now this!


Children’s Book of the Week: The Three Robbers

March 30, 2009

The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer

This is a book I think of as a “tip of the iceberg” book. Some books are simple, and you read them, and you’re done. But a tip of the iceberg book: you read it, it seems fairly straightforward, but then you finish it and sort of think, “Well, what was that all about?” And then your child asks you to read it again. And again. And the more you read it, the more you start to think there’s a lot more to the story than you originally realized.

In this story, three robbers are generally Bad Guys, and hold up carriages on a regular basis, stealing everything they can from the passengers. Then they rob a carriage that carries only a little orphan named Tiffany (it strikes me as odd that Tiffany is a name in a book published in 1962, but there you go, it is), who has nothing to steal, and is on her way to live with an awful aunt, so the robbers steal her. They put her in a comfy bed, and in the morning she asks them what the deal is with all their overflowing treasure boxes. They never thought about what they were going to do with all their stolen riches, but are so taken with Tiffany that they spend it all on starting up an orphanage and generally going from bad to good in one day.

This book was just reissued, so we’re not the only ones who love it. I swear we get it out of the library every other visit. I’m sorry that I’m kind of at a loss to properly articulate its appeal, but it’s not a super long book, so go ahead and try it for yourself. Or you can watch the YouTube video of the book (one of those Weston Woods productions, which are great).

Bonus Three Robbers vocab word: blunderbuss.


Sugar puffs! Sugar puffs!

March 29, 2009

Two weeks ago the New York Times Magazine published a riff on an old popover recipe, which they called Sugared Puffs. Dave very thoughtfully left the Magazine open to the recipe and did everything short of circling it with a red pen and highlighting the words “sugared puffs” and “popovers.”

So last weekend, of course, I did my duty and baked up some sugar puffs. I am sorry to tell you that not only are they outrageously delicious, but they are also stupidly easy. Throw everything into a blender, and then pour it into muffin tins.  Bake, then brush with melted butter and dredge in cinnamon sugar (drool drool drool). They are all soft and light on the inside and crunchy and sugary on the outside.

I will also say that I didn’t use nearly enough butter to grease the muffin tin, and I had to rip them up a bit to get them out. I’ll use more next time. (But that explains why they look so crumpled and you can basically see my thumb indentation in the top of each one.) The recipe says it will make nine sugar puffs (I think “sugar puffs” is easier to say than “sugared puffs” so that’s what I’m calling them), but I got twelve (maybe mine were smaller than regulation but it seemed better to have three more). I also added about four times the amount of cinnamon, because we are lovers of the cinnamon here, and when I tasted it with the one teaspoon of cinnamon they call for (one teaspoon! a mere pittance!) it just tasted like sugar.

You can see the boys enjoyed them. Zuzu had one without a sugary coating, and she was very happy about it. Actually, now that I look at this photo, the boys don’t seem to be as ecstatic as I remember them being. Henry looks bored, and I don’t know why Eli is making the “Zoolander” face here, but I think it just means, “Sugar puff! Yum!”

So here it is, Sunday again, so clearly we all should go run and make some sugar puffs!



That’s not what I would have come away with

March 28, 2009

When the boys were sick last week, I let them watch Babe (the only kid movie we own, which was a complete bargain at $1.99 from Goodwill, and which I could watch a million times and I’ll still cry at the end). About halfway through, Henry came running to find me. “I’m hungry!” he said. “Sure!” I said, and listed the various food options he could have. “No, I don’t want any of that,” he said. I asked what he did want. Then he asked: “Do we have any pork or bacon?” I pretty much shrieked, “What made you want THAT?” and he of course said, “The movie!”

No, I told him. We don’t have any pork or bacon. I’m pretty sure it was just all the bacon talk in the movie, and he wasn’t making the connection that Babe=bacon. I hope. As a former vegetarian who still leans mightily in that direction, I’d be fairly distressed if my five-year-old thinks, “Yeah, I know the hero of the movie is where bacon comes from, but darn it, bacon is good.


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Zuzu in the bath

March 27, 2009

Here are your weekly Zuzu photos, as well as proof that I do bathe her.

Eli likes to help.

Eli likes to help.

Here is is laughing: Ho ho ho!

Here she is laughing: "Ho ho ho!"

And you get a bonus video of splashing!


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What’s your theme song?

March 26, 2009

I’ve read a few things lately that talk about the importance of having a theme song: some song that inspires you and speaks to you and that you can play as a psych-up song if you’re going on a job interview or into some other situation where you need to feel confident.

I love this idea, but it’s driving me nuts. I love music, but upon reflection I have realized that my music is comprised solely of songs that make terrible theme songs. There are songs I’ve always loved deeply, like Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” which are lovely but nothing to base your life on. Or Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” — I love it and love singing it at the top of my lungs, but it’s not really the message I want as a theme song. They Might Be Giants “Shoehorn with Teeth”? Robyn Hitchcock “Balloon Man”? Elvis Costello “The Greatest Thing”? (Ok, that last one could maybe work.)

I considered Cat Stevens “If You Want to Sing Out” but somehow I feel that a song that could have been my theme song when I was 12 won’t help me in working toward being the awesome grownup I’m trying to be.

Any suggestions?


50, 365, whatever, just clear the clutter out

March 25, 2009

Several people have asked me what I think of Gail Blanke’s new Throw Out 50 Things book. I actually read an article by Blanke in “Real Simple” about the benefits of getting rid of 50 things sometime in 2007, in the middle of my grand 365 Things Decluttering, so I wasn’t really surprised when her new book came out. Part of me does feel like, “But mine is 315 better!” but mostly I think that anything that helps me move the junk out is great.

I read an article by Blanke in “Body + Soul” on Sunday, and then went for a long run, and the article plus the run had me so inspired that I kept right on running upstairs (ok, I did stop to shower and change) with garbage bags in hand. All I could think about during my run were things in my closet and dresser that I wasn’t wearing. In about an hour, from an area about 4 square feet, I unloaded at least 60 things. Though, honestly, a lot of that was jewelry I was no longer wearing (lots of hippie stuff from high school — remember those anklets with bells on them, Sarah?). If I count all the jewelry as one “thing” then I probably got rid of 25 things. A bunch was also outgrown Zuzu clothes, but they’d been sitting in a pile in her closet, so I freed up a lot of space just by transferring that pile into the Goodwill bag.

The funny thing about “50 things” is that I can almost guarantee that 50 morphs into 100 into 200 before you even know it. As soon as you start decluttering, you feel buoyant and floating and as you watch the albatross fly away you start looking around your house for what else you can get rid of. The thing about clutter is that it weighs you down, physically and mentally. You know there are things you want to be doing with your life, and I’m willing to bet that dusting tchotchkes is not one of your life ambitions. Once you clear out the stuff, you suddenly have time to write that book, plant that garden, paint the dining room orange, or suddenly find out that you’re pregnant with a baby girl. Ok, that last one might only have happened to me, but I really do think that my massive decluttering was saying to the universe, “Ok, I made this space, what should I fill it with?” (answer: Zuzu).

If you’re anything like me, you can start almost anywhere in your house and find an area to clear. Stand somewhere in your house and look around. Do you see something you’ve been meaning to put in a different spot, or get rid of entirely? Do it! Do you see more? Get a bag, grab it all, move it out! (My next area to tackle is under the bathroom sink.)

Need more inspiration? Get Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston, a book which totally changed the way I look at Stuff. You can read an article in The Sentry and another in The Portland Press Herald about my own project. It’s impossible to be totally clutter free when you have kids; they bring in a crazy amount of stuff every day (the acorns, sticks, and rocks alone just about do me in). But you can seriously and constantly and regularly edit and get rid of all that crap that’s hiding in the closet of your house and therefore weighing on the closet of your mind (ok, I promise I’m going to stop being so new agey right this minute).

CATEGORIES: housekeeping, Julie

Fun new kitchen toy

March 24, 2009

I finally got something I’ve wanted for a long time (from Mom, for my birthday, which is next week): a silicone beater blade for the stand mixer. Hurray! I highly recommend this if you have a stand mixer and use it for cookies. You don’t need to scrape the sides down with a spatula, and there’s no mysterious little divot of flour left on the bottom. The photo shows butter and sugar being mixed together; the effect is even more impressive once you add the flour and the dough is a bit heftier — the blade really cleans the sides of the bowl.

Like I need another excuse to make cookies.



Children’s Book of the Week: The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)

March 23, 2009

The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Amy Walrod

I’ve never been a fan of the Little Red Hen story. You know, the one where she works insanely hard to make a loaf of bread (growing the wheat herself and everything; the Little Red Hen is a real back-to-the-land type), and none of her friends help, but then when they smell the bread suddenly they’re her best friend again and are looking for some hot bread? It always really bugged me that Little Red Hen worked so hard and her only friends were so ungrateful and unhelpful (read into this as much as you like as far as parallels between that and life as a parent).

But leave it to Philemon Sturges (of our beloved I Love Trucks) to retell the story the way it should have been from the beginning. Here, Little Red Hen makes a pizza instead of a loaf of bread (this story apparently takes place an hour after the classic one, since the first sentence tells us that she just finished her last slice of the tasty bread she made). Her friends are again no help. Here are the three reasons this book rocks:

  1. Every time Little Red Hen goes to the store to get what she needs, she buys some funny extra things, and Amy Walrod’s colorful collage illustrations are wonderful, and it’s fun to be all parenty and say, “What extra things did she buy?” She buys a kitchen sink at the hardware store, as well as a book called “The Do It Yourself Guide to Sink Installation (and Other Things).”
  2. Little Red Hen repeatedly says “Cluck” in such a way that it could be taken, by the adult reader with a sense of humor, as the hen version of a curse. Which, since it rhymes with another popular curse, is very, very funny when you’re reading it, but your kids will of course completely miss this one, so it is a little private joke between you and Philemon Sturges. Here’s an example: Hen looks for a pizza pan, but can’t find one. “‘Cluck,’ she said. ‘I need a pizza pan.'” So it might be pretty subtle, but it had me smiling to myself the whole time.
  3. The conclusion to this story is much better than the old one. Her friends do come in for pizza, but then they all do the dishes while Hen kicks back with a book. Eli even said, “That was nice that they all helped clean up in the end. I’m glad they finally helped her.” And that was with no prompting from me, even.

So, high marks all around: fun illustrations, little jokey things inserted throughout (I like that she has all kinds of normal cans of food in her pantry, as well as a random can of worms), and an actual message that is immediately apparent to kids (or, at least it was to my usually-very-helpful 3-year-old).


modern technology infiltrates my dreams

March 22, 2009

I had a dream last night that Cornelius the elephant was Twittering. “I don’t like having curly hair,” he wrote.


CATEGORIES: thirty second post
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