Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Mail Mystery

Early last week we received one of those little slips in our mailbox indicating that we had a package to pickup at our local post office.  Not wanting to cart two kids to the post office during Christmas mailing season, I decided I would wait until Saturday to pick it up.  I hadn't even looked very closely at the slip until Friday night, when I discovered that it was from someone I did not know, who had a very unusual last name.

On Saturday, Jason and I split up so that I could do some kid-free Christmas shopping and errands, including the post office.   Mercifully, the post office was not too busy, and after dropping off a package I handed the postal worker my little slip and waited with anticipation for my package.  I love getting packages, and the fact that it was from someone I didn't recognize added to the excitement.

As the man at the post office was processing the package, I peeked to see where it was from - Lithuania.  Huh.  The postal worker and I had the following conversation:

PW: Know anyone in Lithuania?
Me: No, not at all!  Is that weird that I got a package from a foreign country when I don't know anyone there?
PW: Very!

PW:  Are you sure you didn't order anything?
Me: Not from Lithuania, I think I'd remember!

Me: (with nervous laughter) I mean, this has been tested and everything, right?  I don't need to be worried or anything, do I?
PW: Well, just make sure you open it outside, you know, away from here!  Just in case it explodes!
Me:...Ha...ha... (yikes!)

(Are you even allowed to make bomb jokes at the post office?  I thought that wasn't allowed!)

I left the post office and called my mom, because sometimes she orders weird things for me and doesn't tell me.  But no, she had not ordered anything.

I decided to wait until Jason got home to open it, partly because  I was a little freaked out, and partly because I wanted him to participate in the mystery.  When we opened it, we found these:

Two super cute wooden toys, obviously handmade and hand painted   But the mystery continued.  Who were they from?  What were they for?  Christmas presumably, but there was no note, and they weren't wrapped.

I put technology to good use and sent a quick text out to some family members to see if they could shed any light on this mysterious toy delivery.  After several No's, I finally got a someone confused text from my sister-in-law, indicating that they may be from her.

As it turns out, she had ordered some toys off of Etsy for Hattie's birthday back in October, but had expected them to arrive ages ago, and with a note.  She also had no idea they were from Lithuania.  Mystery Solved! 

To be honest, I was a little bummed that modern technology allowed us to solve this mystery so easily.  On the other hand, it is thanks to modern technology that we even had the mystery to begin with.  I mean, can you imagine ordering some toys from a foreign toy maker 20 or even 10 years ago without knowing they were from that toy maker, or even better, without seeking out that particular toy maker?  I happen to think it is pretty cool that we have such easy access to so many amazing things from all around the world!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Battle Score: Amber 2, Pita 1

First, let's just get this out of the way.  I failed NaBloPoMo.  And you know what?  I'm kind of okay with it. My whole reason for doing it was to try and get myself back in the blogging habit, and I feel like I kind of am.  Only time will tell if I can maintain it, but for now, blogging doesn't feel so scary or hard, and I actually want to write a few posts a week.

So.  On to the post. Just an FYI, this is a post about pee and poop, and the habits of my dog.  It is not graphic in any way, but pee and poop are mentioned repeatedly.  If such things offend you, you may just want to skip this post.

We are crate training our new puppy, Pita.  What this means is that she goes into a kennel or crate anytime we cannot be totally present and aware of her behavior.  This includes when we leave the house, at night time, when I put Hattie down for a nap, or even if I am in the middle of a big project that requires all of my available attention.  The point of this is to make sure that any unwanted behaviors, such as peeing or pooping in the house, or chewing furniture, shoes or other off limits items, can be corrected immediately, thus breaking her of the behavior more quickly.   To assist with the house training (or potty training, as I like to call it), we take her outside as soon as we let her out of the crate, and then wait outside with her until she does her deed, at which point we shower her with praise.

So far, this has worked reasonably well.  Up until this week, we had only a handful of accidents, most of which were either in the evening or the early morning when it is fairly cold outside.  A few of these even happened as I was trying to take her outside, which was aggravating, but at least I caught her right away. Up until this week, all of her accidents were pee.  She seemed to understand that pooping  in the house was not okay, and would whine at the door until we took her out to poop.

So then what happened this week?  Well, it turns out our puppy is a bit of a princess.  She does not like the cold, and she really, really, really does not like the rain.  And we have had some serious rain this week.  If my backyard is any indication, we had between 2 and 3 inches yesterday alone.  Parts of our yard looked like the Great Lakes.  We noticed on Wednesday and Thursday that she was extremely reluctant to go outside, but would usually do her business once we got her there.  Yesterday morning, however, we took her outside, against her will, waited 15 minutes for her to pee, then brought her inside.  Not two minutes later, she was pooping in my dining room!  We hauled her outside, where she did not finish.  Not to worry though, because about 20 minutes later I found a nice little surprise by my fireplace.  I took her outside, where nothing happened, then put her in her kennel because I was just so mad at her.  About an hour later, when I took her out of her crate and outside, she refused to pee, and then peed in my kitchen (my kitchen!) not five minutes after coming inside.

I was not a happy woman.  Because of Cyrus' illness, we had been cooped up in our house all week.  Hattie was sick and cranky, and I was getting sick and cranky.  I decided enough was enough, I was going to get all hardcore on her.  This was war, and I was going to win.  She is not in charge of when and where she gets to pee - I am!  So, I put her in her kennel while I put Hattie down for a nap, and left her there for a couple of hours while I showered, and spent some time with Cyrus.  Then I got her out of her crate and took her outside (in the pouring rain, but I stayed out there with her) for 15 minutes.  She sat and stared at me the whole time.  We came back in the house and she went back in her kennel.  I took the kids for a quick trip to the store because we were going stir crazy, and returned about 45 minutes later.  I let her out of her kennel again and took her straight outside for another 15 minutes.  Again, she sat and stared at me and did nothing.  So, she went back in her kennel.  I am not messing around, people.

About 30 minutes later, I took her outside again, and this time, this time, she peed!   Victory was mine!  I let her go right inside that time and hang out with us in the playroom.  About 20 minutes later she started sniffing around, so I took her outside and she pooped right away.  Double victory!  In fact, I had this whole post written in my mind with the title being: "Amber 1, Pita 0".

Except, then Jason got home, and I let my guard down.  You can never let your guard down in battle!  But I did.  And she peed inside.  And then, a little while later, she pooped inside.  Grrr.  Secretly, I blamed Jason, since he was the one who took her outside.

But today, I returned to my hardcore stance - if you go outside and do nothing, you go in your kennel!  So far today, victory  has been mine once again - not a single accident in the house!  I am hoping I will not have to battle so mightily for very much longer, as I am currently waging two other wars - the battle of wills with Cyrus, and the battle of sleep with Hattie.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Sickness

We've had a sick little Cyrus around here this week.  He's been running a high fever, coughing and just generally feeling miserable.  We've been really lucky with out kids - they rarely get sick, and when they do, it is not a very big deal.  Cyrus has had high fevers before, but they usually have no affect on him.  This time, though, he has been wiped out.  In fact, this happened, twice:

Cy fell asleep on the couch the past two days while watching a movie.  I realize this is common place for many kids, but Cy has only fallen asleep somewhere other than his bed or the car maybe twice in his life.  He fell asleep during Hook (remember that movie?) during the big fight scene - not exactly a quiet, soothing lullaby.

Pita (that's the name we settled on for our dog, by the way) has wanted nothing more than to be with Cyrus. He, of course, has wanted nothing to do with her.  This time, she managed to sneak up on the couch after he fell asleep.

We've taking bets on who will contract this miserable illness next.  Because of the high fever and some weird breathing issues, Cy has been sleeping with us the past few nights, which means I have been breathing in his sick germs all night.  However, Hattie is showing some sick signs, so maybe she is next.

In other news, I have discovered the fail-safe cure for kid illness - making a doctor's appointment.  Since Saturday afternoon, Cyrus has barely moved off of the couch, and has only spoken when totally necessary.  He's cracked a handful of weak smiles.  This afternoon I called to see I should bring him in, and because of the weird breathing stuff, they said yes.  That was at 2 pm   I took his temperature and with a reading of 105.1, I gave him some Tylenol   By the time we reached the doctor's office at 4:30, he barely looked sick!  he smiled, laughed, chatted up the doctor, bounced around the doctor's office - seriously?  I mean, I was happy to see him feeling better, but maybe he could have done that before I made the appointment!  This seriously happens to me every time one of my kid's gets sick  Of course, tonight his fever is back up and looks all sickly again, poor little guy.

Having a sick kid around the house has been extra tricky with a needy puppy and an even needier 14 month old.  Pita is used to spending lots of time outside, and Hattie is used to all kinds of adventures.  Instead, we've been hanging out on the couch.  In the process of trying to keep everyone happy, the house got a little out of control today:

Here's hoping that we, or at least I, miraculously avoid the nastiness!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I love Thanksgiving!  As I mentioned in a previous post, it is my most favorite holiday.  What is better than food and family?  This Thanksgiving was up there as one of my favorites.  The food was tasty, the company was great, and the atmosphere was low-key.

We originally invited my Dad, step-mom and three siblings to come to our house for Thanksgiving, but in the end only my Dad and step-mom came. While I was bummed to not have the rest of the family there, it was kind of nice to have a small group.  Jason and I did all the cooking, while my parents played with the kids all day.  I think it was the best case scenario for all involved!

This is the first year since our Bronx days that we hosted a Thanksgiving, and I realized on Wednesday that perhaps I should think about things like tablecloths and centerpieces.  These things are not exactly my forte, but I manged to figure out a simple centerpiece, buy my first tablecloth and cloth napkins (!), and then I let my husband set the table.  I think it turned out quite nicely.

Since we hosted, we got to be in charge of the menu.  It was pretty much my perfect Thanksgiving dinner.  I wish I had pictures of all of the food, but here is a sampling of the spread:

In case you are curious, this was our menu:

Almond-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates with Gorgonzola sauce
Cheese plate

Sausage, Apple and Walnut Stuffing
Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes (thank you Pinterest)
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Artisan Bread  (Pinterest again!  I made an extra loaf of this ahead of time to use in the stuffing - so good!)
Pearl Onions in Cream Sauce
Field greens with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Candied Pecans

Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie

Did I mention there were only 4 adults and 2 very small children?  Yeah, lets just say that we have a fair amount of leftovers, which is exactly how I like it!  We've been enjoying Thanksgiving all day today, too!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Laundry Miracle

Hattie is currently into everything.  Each cabinet, drawer, basket, door, etc, holds a new world of wonder for her to explore.  On the plus side, she is now better at entertaining herself while I get through such complex tasks as showering or cleaning the kitchen. On the negative side, things like this happen:

That is a picture of two containers of play-dough in my completed wash load.  

 As I moved the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, I unearthed a total of four containers of play-dough.

I did eventually find the thing I dreaded: a lid with no container, followed by an open container of green play-dough   Miraculously, that green play-dough adversely affected a mere two items of relatively inconsequential laundry: a Hattie sock, and a pair of Cy's underwear.

The events leading up to this strange laundry occurrence transpired while I was getting ready for my run this morning.  Hattie occupied herself by removing play-dough containers from the craft closet, and, evidently, throwing them into my basket of waiting laundry.  I guess I will be checking my laundry baskets before dumping them in the washing machine from now on.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Forgotten Holiday

Remember when stores waited until the day after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas?  Our children won't remember that - heck, I barely remember it.  Then it started the week before Thanksgiving.  Then two weeks before.  Now it seems like it starts the day after Halloween  unless of course we're talking about Costco, in which case, it starts the first of October!  
Costco Christmas display (

But its not just the stores.  People seem to have pushed up their Christmas schedules too.  Instead of Thanksgiving marking the beginning of the Holiday Shopping season, it seems to be marking the end.  Yesterday, we took a little trip to Target in the afternoon to get some household supplies, and we nearly turned around and went home when we saw the parking lot.  It felt the weekend before Christmas, not the weekend before Thanksgiving.  But then I realized that the weekend before Thanksgiving kind of is the weekend before Christmas.  People in my neighborhood put up their Christmas lights a week after Halloween.  

Now look, I love Christmas!  I love the lights, and the decorations, and the baking, and the Christmas music (thank goodness most radio stations are still waiting to start that tradition), and the Christmas goodness.  But just like any good thing, too much of it and it becomes, well, less good.  I don't want to be sick of Christmas before December even starts!  I want to relish in every little bit of Christmas, and maybe even feel a little sad when it is over, instead of practically throwing the tree out once presents are unwrapped.  

The other problem with all this early decorating is that we end up overshadowing what is already a severely underrated holiday - Thanksgiving.  I love this holiday!  I love it at least as much as Christmas.  But the problem with Thanksgiving is that it can't really be Hallmarked up.  Besides the food, and maybe some table scapes and cornucopias, there just isn't much room for bleeding people dry with Thanksgiving.  I think that's why it is getting such a shaft from retailers.  But this is what I love about the holiday!  Its celebration at it's purest.  Food, family, and giving thanks!  It's the opposite of a commercial holiday.  We're not clamoring to receive presents from Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny, and we're not out begging strangers for candy.  We're just enjoying our families and feeling thankful for what we have.  

And yet, despite my love for this holiday, even I find myself thinking of it as a stepping stone to Christmas.  Just this evening, Jason and I sat down to plan out our December, and then realized that Thanksgiving is 4 days away and we haven't really planned for that yet!  What am I thinking?  To be fair, Thanksgiving did catch me off guard with it's freakish earliness this year, but I'm still kind of embarrassed that it almost became an afterthought!  

So I'm boycotting all this Christmas.  I refuse to purchase anything Christmas related until after Thanksgiving, and, because of it's earliness, I probably won't even do much until December 1st, a week later.  So there!

What about you?  Do you welcome all this early Christmas with open arms, or are you holding out and relishing sweet little underrated Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Breakfast in Fresno

One of my challenges with Fresno is a lack of quality independent restaurants.  Having lived in Portland and New York City, we got pretty spoiled with an abundance of great, interesting places to eat.  In fact, I'm almost embarrassed to say this, but there was a point in New York when we actually craved a chain restaurant!  Phoenix had significantly fewer interesting, independent restaurants from which to choose, but we still found some great places that weren't national chains.

Here, however, we've struggled.  This is the land of the chain restaurant.  Adding to the feeling that the restaurants lack character is the fact that 90% of the restaurants are located in strip malls.  You just don't feel like you're in some chef's dream restaurant when you're eating next to a dry cleaners and grocery store.

To be fair, since having kids, eating out isn't exactly a regular occurrence in our family.  Taking a 1 year old and a 3 year old out to dinner can be something akin to torture for pretty much everyone involved, and our kids are pretty well behaved. However, we do enjoy going out to breakfast on occasion.  So we've been on the hunt for a good breakfast place.  So far we have been to three.

The first place is a pancake place located about half a mile from our house.  It is cleverly named Batter Up. The restaurant process is a little strange - you are taken to your table, but then you order and pay at a counter, pick up your own silverware and beverages, and then wait for your food to come.  The prices are little high, especially considering how much of the work you do yourself, but the pancakes are fantastic.  They hang off the place, and they have some fantastic flavor combinations.  I haven't tried the ones that have bacon and eggs cooked into the batter yet (!) but the macadamia nut, coconut, banana pancake is amazing!  Their other breakfast fare is also delicious.

Last weekend, we decided to branch out and see if we could find someplace a little cheaper.  We tried a place called Huckleberry, a southern themed eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu seemed promising, and the prices were better, but the food was only so-so.  Their homemade huckleberry muffin tasted like boxed cake mix with too much sugar.

This morning, we knew we weren't going back to Huckleberry, so we headed for Batter Up. But the wait looked long, and we didn't feel like waiting.  So we pulled out the old google machine and found another breakfast place across town - the Fresno Breakfast House.  It was also kind of southern themed, but with more of a New Orleans twist.  It was kind of cute, except for the room we ate in.  It was like jungle theme gone wrong!  There were fake plants and stuffed animals everywhere!  The kids loved it, but I was kind of creeped out.  That would have been forgivable  except that the food was both expensive and decidedly  not delicious.  Everyone was overly salty, but not very flavorful.

We realized that if we had just waited at Batter Up, we would have eaten at about the same time.  So, lesson learned. Sometimes, it's worth the wait.

I don't know if we'll be willing to try any more breakfast places for a while, seeing as how our last two attempts were sad little failures.   So for now, at least we have Batter Up.  Maybe next we can find a cute little lunch place.

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