Friday, May 29, 2009

I Want to Go to There

We are officially at the 30 day mark. 30 days until the moving truck comes and we pack up our earthly belongings, bound for Michigan and another fresh start.

Iowa has been on my mind this past week. I've so enjoyed my experience here. This two years' time has flown by on the wings of prairie winds and winter snowflakes. I am so glad that I was able to get out and explore a few small parts of this great state. I love Pella and the Tulip Festival, delighted in exploring downtown Des Moines, and enjoyed my treks across vast tracts of farmland while on my way to and from Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

Although there is still much I would like to see in Iowa, one attraction has recently captivated me to the exclusion of all else.

Mason City. I know, I had no idea where this place was, or what was so special about it until I caught a snippet of a show about Frank Lloyd Wright. For a number of years I've had a superficial interest in Wright's work. I admire his aesthetic and appreciate his attention to detail in both his external designs and internal fixtures. When he designed a house, he didn't just craft the exterior, but made it a cohesive whole by also creating the furniture, carpets, windows, doors, decorative elements, etc., etc. Amazing. While living in Arizona, I was privileged to tour Taliesin West several times and I graduated from Arizona State at the Wright-designed Gammage Auditorium. I have always wanted to see some of his other buildings, but time and schedule have yet to allow this - until now.

You see, Mason City happens to hold the largest amount of Prairie School architecture outside of Oak Park Illinois. The Park Inn Hotel is the only remaining hotel designed by FLW. The Stockman House has been fully restored and is open to the public.

I feel a roadtrip coming on. After last week's marathon drive, 2 hours in the car (one way) is the last thing I look forward to. But I think I'll make an exception for Frank.

PS - I am not (completely) insane. The title of this post is from last night's repeat episode of 30 Rock.

Fab Friday: May 29

I first noticed Method home products at Target. I had heard some buzz about them, how their products were non-toxic, they were partnering with Target for exclusive distribution, how great the packaging looked, blah, blah, blah. I didn't think much of it until I spotted it in person.

The packaging IS nice - very clean, very plain.

But what hooked me was the fragrance. I love citrus. I don't know what it is - a memory of the delicate scent of orange trees, ingrained at birth? A passion for things brilliantly yellow and tart? Whatever it is, it's penetrated my soul & infiltrated my cleaning products. Method makes a grapefruit fragrance that transports me away from my dishes and into a world where the soft strains of Mozart float on a citrus perfumed breeze.

Not really.

But I am I huge fan of Method's dish soap, all-surface cleaning spray, and handwash. They are effective, biodegradable, and fragrant - exactly what I want in my cleaning products. I really like that I can buy pouch-packaged refills of the dish soap and handwash, thereby doing my infinitesimal part to eliminate landfill waste. At an average price of $4 for each of the above items, these are a reasonable - and deliciously aromatic - addition to your arsenal of cleaning products.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

10 Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

  1. KitchenAid Mixer: It took me many years to convince myself that I needed a KitchenAid. They seemed so big, so expensive, so difficult to move around (and you know I am a girl on the move). But once I did it, I never looked back. I use it at least 3 times a week. At least. I whip, mix, knead, fold and stir my way to deliciousness, transported on the frothy, well-mixed wings of my KitchenAid.

  2. An edited selection of Sharp Knives: If I had to choose 2 indispensable cutting utensils, it would be a Santoku knife and a large serrated knife. The Santoku because it's a solid all-around knife which can take the place of a carving or cook's knife, and in a pinch, be used as a paring knife. I use mine every day. I have a 5" Santoku, but would love to have a 7" also. I like the serrated knife for slicing tomatoes and bread. This pretty much covers my slicing and dicing needs. I don't think I'd ever buy a big knife set again. I thought it would be nice to have the options, but end up using 2 or 3 knives for 90% of what I do.

  3. Non-Stick Bakeware: Yes, I've posted about the Williams-Sonoma goldtouch bakeware before, but it's worthy of another mention. I love it. I love to bake, but used to dread it because I never knew if that cake was going to slide out or stick to the bottom & fall out in chunks. Who needs that kind of disappointment? Now my bread slides out of the pan EVERY TIME - no sticking, no worries. I am really careful about cleaning them by hand, and I think that with proper maintenance, these will last for many, many years to come.

  4. Silicone Basting Brush: This one is a little silly, but so very useful. I have a basting brush similar to this (pictured here in a set, with a sauce pot which I do not have), and I use it far more often than I thought I would. Yes, I use it for BBQ'ing, but also for basting roasted turkey & chicken, oiling bowls when I bake bread, applying a thin layer of sauce to anything, etc., etc.

  5. Food Processor: Again, a gadget I lived without for many years, and which I now use far more often than I expected. Whether I'm making noodles, whipping up hummus, blending a salad dressing, or pureeing fruit for jams, I go straight for the food processor.

  6. Mini Bowls: I don't have these exact bowls, but similar ones. I use them for TONS of stuff. Prep containers (garbage bowl), a serving of baby food, a mini ice cream bowl, a dollop of whatever. Seriously inexpensive, and seriously useful.
  7. Whisk: Whisk? What do I need a whisk for? Isn't a fork just as good? Um, no, no it's not. I have 3 whisks of varying sizes, and use them all. Whether I'm whipping scrambled eggs, blending my flour-salt-baking soda mixture, or mixing brownies, I choose the whisk.
  8. Measuring Cups & Spoons: Would you run a marathon in your Converse? Not me. Just because you CAN use sub-par measuring devices doesn't mean you SHOULD. Mine are a substantial metal, and offer a wider range of measurement than 1 cup, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. I never knew measuring could be so much fun.

  9. Crock Pot: Meat & veg in the pot, dinner in 8 hours. Easy-peasy. That being said, my current crock pot is a little temperamental {I think someone snuck in a turbo-charger when I wasn't looking}. I always use the 8 or 10 hour settings no matter what I'm cooking. Anything else and I end up with a burnt mess in the bottom.
  10. Tongs: There is a HUGE difference between a good pair of tongs & a cheap pair. Cheap ones won't close properly, don't grip well, and they fall apart or rust after just a few weeks. Good ones can help you serve pasta, flip grilled chicken, transfer meat to a serving platter, or distribute your favorite green salad. Yum!

PS: I'm not sure what motivated me to post the above list. At the Favorite Things party a few weeks ago, a friend noted that each person's "favorite thing" revealed a little bit of them. So I guess the above list reveals a little bit about me - in the kitchen. Look for more "10" lists to come.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Med School Update: End of 2nd Year

It's difficult for me to give emotionally accurate updates on Big Daddy's progression through med school. It's not me doing the work, and I have an outsiders perspective. That being said, here's where we're at.

Everyone told us 2nd year would be easier than first year. That's all a matter of opinion. I think that's the consensus mostly because there's one year down, and the students have a better idea of what to expect. Were the classes easier? I can't answer that. I can say that I think he hit his stride when it came to understanding how to study, when to attend classes, and how much weight/ worry to put into each test, lecture, and lab.

And now it's over! He will never have to endure a full course load of classes again! I'm not sure who's more relieved about that - him or me. Don't get me wrong. Big Daddy is very smart. Smarter than I am, and that's one of the reasons I married him. But classroom learning is not for everyone, and I am a solid believer in that. The last 5 years have been a trial of endurance and fortitude for both of us, and we can now move on. I have absolute and utter confidence that Big Daddy will really find his groove and "blossom" in the next few years.

(Can men blossom? I can't think of a more manly adjective right now)

The next 2 years: We were assigned our first choice of rotation locations in Michigan. We'll be spending our time in Mt. Clemens, at Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center. We weren't sure what to expect next, as we (Big Daddy) heard multiple horror stories of how difficult it was to solidify the actual schedule of rotations. Not our experience at all. A few weeks ago the coordinator emailed his schedule, which was laid out for the next year. There were two unassigned slots, and he was able to fill them with his first choices of Cardiology and Emergency Medicine. Done and Done. No lottery, no phone calls, no class meetings, no guessing. And he's got 5 days off at Christmas! I'm already plotting for days filled with snowball fights, hot chocolate, movies, and cookie baking.

Full schedule as follows (beginning August 3, ending July 9):
  • Family Medicine
  • Pathology
  • Anesthesiology
  • General Surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Orthopedics
  • OMM
  • Internal Medicine
  • OB/Gyn
  • Family Medicine
  • Cardiology
  • Psychiatry
  • Emergency Medicine
After June of next year, he'll begin a 2nd year of rotations. This will consist of assigned rotations in Mt. Clemens and interview rotations at other locations, all spiced up with applications & interviews with residency programs of our choice. Our understanding of interview rotations is as follows: You find a residency program you're interested in, and you request to do a rotation there in the effort to evaluate whether or not you'd be a good fit with the program, the people, the environment, etc. Details on year 2 (4) are still fuzzy, but will hopefully crystallize as time passes.

That's it for now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Home Again, Home Again

Wednesday was a busy day for us.

I took my Mom to the airport, ending a 5 day visit filled with nailpolish, glitter, stickers, and treats. What are grandmas for?

I wrapped up a shortened work week, which was filled with late nights and many projects.

We played at the park with Big Sis' preschool class, ending her tenure as a "little kid", and officially readying her for the move into kindergarten. I'm glad one of us is ready.

And we packed up the car, loaded up the kids, and headed to Detroit to find a place to live. Big Daddy stayed behind to finish up the last of his finals {hooray! one more year down!}, so it was just the kids and I. 600 miles, 3 days, 2 kids, 1 crazy Mama.

Everything actually turned out well. I found a place that has 90% of what we wanted, which is about 50% more than I expected. It's less than 2 blocks from the hospital, and 3 blocks from an elementary school. It's small, but much more roomy than where we're at now. And it has a 2 car garage! No more scraping ice for twenty minutes before heading to the grocery! And a fenced yard for the kids. I am so, so happy. (As an aside - I never heard back from the owner of the other house I was interested in. I really thought that in this economic climate, a vacant house would mean money out the door & a landlord eager to secure steady tenants. Apparently that is not the case.)

It was not all work & no play. We took a break to search for Detroit cupcakes, and ended up here:

This little shoppe is located in Birmingham, a cute, upscale suburb with a rehabbed downtown. The cupcakes were decent, but nothing remarkable. I'm glad I know now, so I don't have to make the drive again. The quest begins....

We also swam at our hotel pool - OK, it was more like me bobbing up and down with the kids hanging on to me like howler monkeys - visited Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Baja Fresh, and even tracked down H & M!

An extremely long 3 days, but a success all around. Now the packing (and the sorting, the discarding, the trips to Goodwill...) begins. Let me know if you have a good source for boxes. I'm going to need plenty of them.

Oh yeah, and Happy 300th post to me!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taking a Break

I've been bad about posting and I feel guilty because I have much to say but little time to gather my thoughts.

I'm going to take a break for another few days, and will be back Monday to share a few things - which will hopefully include some good news on the relocation front.

This means no Fab Friday (OK, I may guilt myself into making it Magnificent Monday, but just this once).

Enjoy the long weekend.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fab Friday: May 15

I am going to support my local business this week, by telling you about Carefree Patisserie. I know I've babbled about them before, but it's been awhile, so I am here to refresh your memories.

Tucked into a sidestreet in Valley Junction, the Carefree Patisserie might be overlooked. Make no such mistake, dear readers. Redolent with the sweet scent of baked goods, this pocket-sized shop cranks out cupcakes by the dozen. A rotating list of flavors keeps things fresh, while their dreamy buttercream frosting keeps those cupcakes sweet.

With condensed business hours, I don't always make it to their shop to assuage my cupcake cravings. Thankfully, I recently spotted them at the Downtown Farmer's Market, and was able to get my cupcake fix on the spot. Try it - you'll like it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Big J Update: May Edition

I've decided I shouldn't be allowed to be unaccompanied to any doctor's appointment - at least any appointment where I have to juggle a child and be expected to recall what was actually discussed at said appointment.

It's a good thing that Big Daddy was able to accompany us to Big J's GI appointment on Wednesday.

There's not much of an update. Big J lost weight again (after gaining at the 2 week check). This wasn't surprising, as his appetite has been marginal for the last 10 days or so. I don't have exact numbers, as the nurse/ medical assistant struggled with the simple tasks of weighing and measuring him. I'm not sure why this was so challenging. The scale is digital, and all she had to do is push a button and accurately record the reading in front of her. But this seemed to overwhelm her and she repeated the process 3 times. Frustrating for all involved, and it definitely didn't do anything to improve Big Daddy's residual anti-nurse sentiments (Navy Corpsman vs. Navy Nurses - it's not a pretty rivalry).


Because his "samples" have shown that his digestion is working as it should be, the doc decided to try a few meds to see if we can get him to gain weight. One is an antihistamine, but has the interesting side effect of stimulating appetite (often used in the treatment of anorexics). It also makes him sleep like a champ, and I'm rather enjoying that side effect. The other is an anti-reflux rx - on the off chance that he's got a little acidic regurg which is making him reluctant to swallow.

We're back to the ol' wait and see game. Another weight check in 2 weeks, and if there's been no progress, we'll move on to the dreaded Scoping of the Intestines. He's still taking the Rolls Royce of baby formulas, so I'm hoping for the best.

Thus far he's made an attitudinal turnaround that is remarkable. He was pretty cranky for a few days there (a slight cold coupled with a combination hunger/ sleep strike), but is back to his charming self. He's giving hugs and crawling all over the place - plus he received his first Matchbox monster truck today. He took it everywhere!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fab Friday: May 8

Today's Fab Friday is simple. I elect to talk about tulips.

Yesterday I was able to journey down to Pella for the annual Tulip Fest. I was fortunate to be in the company of good friends and their sweet children. We ate fabulous food (Bologna on a stick, pork chop sandwiches, Dutch letters & ribbons, and a new favorite: poffertjes), watched the dancers, witnessed the crowning of the Tulip Queen, talked, laughed, and of course saw gorgeous tulips.

I never thought much about tulips. I always considered myself to have a "black thumb" when it came to gardening. But when we bought our house in Oregon, I took the plunge & bought some bulbs. I haphazardly buried them in front of our porch & hoped for the best. I was astonished when, come March, they reared their rounded heads from the soggy ground. Stretching towards the weak rays of Oregon sun, those tulips brightened my dreary front yard and brought a smile to my face every time I saw them. I will always picture that house with tulips in the front yard.

Variegated or monochromatic with rounded, jagged, or feathered edges, tulips will always mean spring to me. Tulips have long, willowy stems that are best displayed in tall, narrow-mouthed vases. I personally like to create a display of single stems in tall bud vases. Add a penny to the vase & your tulips will last longer.

Mother's Day is Sunday - go out and celebrate with a bunch of your very own tulips for yourself or your Mom (or better yet, drop the hint to your husband). Nothing brightens a day more than an unexpected gift of flowers. Frivolous and short-lived? Yes. But sometimes, those are the best presents.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fast Asleep

This is what I found after I finished with yesterday's afternoon conference call. I love that his little bum is high in the air, with his face pressed firmly into the rug.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Star Wars Day!

Fun fact: The recessional song at my wedding was the Star Wars theme. It was my little surprise to Big Daddy. Yes, I am a SUPER nerd.

Oh yeah, and Happy Cinco de Mayo too.

Addendum: Apparently I am not as much of a nerd as I thought because Star Wars day was yesterday. {sigh}.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

10 Things That Make Me Terribly Happy

  1. Lemon cupcakes
  2. Laughing with my family
  3. Fresh olive bread eaten with butter and silence
  4. Blue skies with puffy clouds
  5. Polished toenails
  6. Clean sheets
  7. Cashmere
  8. A great book
  9. Snowflakes
  10. The sound of waves crashing on the beach

What makes you terribly happy?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fab Friday: May1

Happy May Day! I am thrilled with the sunshine and mild breeze streaming through my window, but I am feeling uninspired. So, I think I'll tell you about where I go when I need to fill my well of creative energy: OhDeeDoh.

I mentioned this site in my last post, and I really love it. I first found it after obsessively reading Apartment Therapy and their Smallest, Coolest contest. Having been an apartment dweller most of my adult life, I can appreciate some of the amazing spaces & ideas shown here. Although I don't think I'll ever find myself living in a post-war apartment in Manhattan, I can still appreciate fine crown moulding, an ingenious floor layout, and spectacular views.

Back to OhDeeDoh.... They've got great creative ideas, lots of reader-submitted nurseries & playrooms to drool over, book reviews, craigslist finds, and more. And it's not just for babies! It's really a great site for families with toddlers, and for those who like to craft. Check it out today - and don't forget to look for their companion sites: The Kitchn, Unpluggd, and Re-Nest