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Archive for August, 2008

Introducing: GADGET GIRL

There are certain threads in this blog that we keep coming back to, three of the most common are kids & family, minimally processed food and gadgets. Mostly kitchen gadgets but gadgets of all kinds will find their way in here over time (can you say Xtracycle?).

Since gadgets of all stripes are a passion of MaryBeth’s we thought we should group them under some organizational umbrella. We thought of naming the collection “Shiny New Things” until Mark pointed out that that is also the informal name of the strategy employed to distract a Board of Directors away from reality and the bad news and towards the pie-in-the-sky we’re-gonna-be-rich idea-of-the-month. He doesn’t like to mix work with pleasure so a new name is required. “New-toy-obsessed-Mom” rings true but lacks panache. We settled on GADGET GIRL!

Clearly the first thought that comes to mind is “What would Gadget Girl look like while hanging out at the Hall of Justice with all the other Super Friends and what super powers would she have?” Clearly flying is out as she is certainly weighted down by the gadgets (let’s see you get airborne with Kitchen Aid mixer tethered to your waist!) No, this is a terrestrial being that’s resourceful, poised and loaded with utilitarian weaponry: think Elasta-Girl (in her prime) from The Incredibles, toss in some Cat Woman (Eartha Kit did it best) and finish with a liberal dose of Martha Stewart. We’ll have to get someone to create a drawing of the character.

Already we’ve exposed several of Gadget Girl’s tools: Xtracycles, food processors and juicers (best for margaritas) coming to mind. This being the inaugural post for Gadget Girl, one gadget won’t do. We need two. And as luck would have it, there are two very recent additions to the mix: Cuisinart’s Ice Cream Maker and the miracle vegetable slicer (a lot like the old K-Tel commercials though we didn’t get free Ginsu knives!)

The ice cream maker is quite naturally the most popular addition to the gadget arsenal. If it were a pair of shoes, this baby would be the stiletto pumps: sexy, but not for everyday use. Ice cream made with the cream and milk from Windsor Dairy is really awesome and the fact that we aren’t cranking this thing by hand and futzing with ice and salt makes this a truly useful tool. Gadget summary: easy to use, very popular, gives us a new way to consume raw milk and CSA fruits.

The veggie slicer is far less sexy. In shoe-land we’re in the realm of a nursing shoe – comfy, useful but won’t get you asked out on a date. Like most things lacking flash, it gets used all the time. We now make perfectly sliced veggie chips (potato, turnip and whatever else the CSA sends our way) and finally have a shot at actually julienne cutting the vegetables, and not our fingers.

The ice cream maker wins on emotion, but the slicer gets a spot on Gadget Girls utility belt.

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The Grand Family Reunion


Enough time has elapsed such that a proper perspective can now be rendered upon Mark’s family reunion held at Myrtle Beach, SC earlier this summer. With all the excitement/drama of seeing everyone, spending a week at the beach and having his dad pay for it all, it would have been too easy to put up a post that lacked the introspection required when discussing family… especially when it’s a large family. The whole affair is probably worthy of more than one post, so let’s start with this and see where we go from here…

It may help put this in perspective to note that there were 41 people at this reunion. That’s just Mark’s immediate family – siblings, parents and the grandkids. One uncle joined us as well. This is a family that has seemingly taken it upon themselves to populate the world.

While loaded with opportunities for drama, self pity, braggadocio and general obnoxiousness, the reunion was actually really a lot of fun. The adults generally acted like adults and the kids were all excited to see each other. The generational behavior regressed to the level of a mid-teen male juvenile delinquent during the daily trips to the fireworks store (real fireworks, not the “Safe & Sane” variety) when the inner pyromaniac in all of us came out but it was for a good cause as we had nightly entertainment on the beach.

It is interesting to reflect upon how the group has changed over the past eight years since the last reunion which was also held at Myrtle Beach. Many milestones have come to pass in the time between reunions: three weddings (hey, that’s us!) including the first of the grandkids to get married; three grandkids and two great-grandkids have joined the family; age-related illness has begun to take hold of Mark’s mom; and the oldest grandkids who last time had talked about high school and/or drivers licenses were now talking about college courses and life on their own.

Age in general was more readily apparent this time versus the last time. In between visits to Myrtle Beach four of Mark’s siblings turned 50 and the other four turned 40. The impetus for the reunion was to celebrate Dad/Grandpa turning 80. The family in toto can be described most charitably as solidly middle-aged and that’s only if you believe fifty is the new forty. Everyone is now more acutely focused on retirement and when/if that might become a reality.

Seemingly in remission were sibling rivalries. Seriously. Maybe it’s because we’re all older, maybe we’re all just tired of it, or maybe it’s because we’re all more focused on our families rather than on each other but there was considerably less “edginess” to the week. Not to say that all self-serving behaviors were left at home but for the most part we treated each other like we would treat our friends, forgetting for a while that we are in fact family.

The grandparents had it right and focused on enjoying themselves and the company of their multigenerational offspring. They had the best time of all. And maybe that was the unspoken take-away of the week: enjoy the time that you have, the place that you are and the company that you are with. Even if you’re with family. Those old folks are pretty smart.

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We’d like to think that we are “up” on current trends even if we decide not to participate (like pants that you wear around your knees instead of your hips or waist) but every once in a while something seems to have slipped past us completely without even a whisper. Given our combined parental and work responsibilities, we shouldn’t be surprised but none-the-less it does make one feel a teensy bit older and out of touch when it happens…

No-Knead-Bread is the latest craze we missed. Apparently this ingenious way of making bread was touted in a 2006 New York Times article, followed recently by a book called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. We found out about it from our friends over at Home & Cooking just last week.

Here’s a snapshot courtesy of us, your increasingly more out of touch DINKs, of what this is: Basically, No Knead Bread it is a method of making bread for lazy (or time-pressed) people. And it works. No gory details here…you can find plenty of those using any of the links we provide below. But we can attest to the claims of ease of use, and will likely make many more loaves this way experimenting with different flavors (rosemary or Olive & Parmesan for example).

When it comes to nifty kitchen tricks like this, these old dogs say “better late than never”.

HOW TOs:

Home & Cooking Post
New York Times Recipe
New York Times Article
Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

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We plan a vacation every July. The timing is picked for us as our vacation coincides with the week that the teachers at Junior’s preschool have determined is the week that they will have had enough of other people’s children. We either give the teachers a break or face up to the very real possibility of a horrible incident involving Play-Doh, popscicle sticks and face paint….

This year we had grand plans of touring New England with MaryBeth’s folks. Then reality set in. We set our fare-watchers on Orbitz and Kayak and waited for emails telling us that airfares had come back down to earth. Not a single email came our way. When fares finally hit $650 and gave no indication of dropping, we joined the staycation bandwagon.

It’s fun and odd to be a tourist in your own town. It turns out that there is a LOT to do in and around Boulder. Maybe that’s why there so many tourists here all summer. We kept the schedule somewhat fluid – we aren’t “going home” at the end of week, after all. That also helped us to avoid the vacation death-march that is all too common. Like trying to see everything at the Smithsonian in a morning – sprinting past/through what you came to see or do rather defeats the point of being there.

We also tried to avoid the trite touristy (and expensive) options and focus on everyday family-oriented activities that normal dual-income parents would be lucky to partake in once a month and that stay-at-home parents do more frequently for the sake of their sanity.

The week in review:

Monday: Since time is in abundance on staycation, the day starts with a super-special bus ride to gymnastics class, followed by a lazy afternoon on the trampoline and an evening of baking Congo Bars.

Tuesday: A bike ride to the local playground for a morning of crawdad “fishing”, baseball, and bike riding. (A prize to anyone who can identify the bug in this picture!) The afternoon was geared to the whole family with a tour at Haystack Mountain Goat Farm followed by a deep tasting of their great cheeses. Junior (and his folks!) loves cheese. Since Dad “had” to work in the morning, Mom took the evening off to accompany a friend to an Abbondanza-sponsored workshop on Ayurvedic cuisine.

Wednesday: An early morning trip to the Denver Zoo, followed by a nice rest in the cool basement. Despite having broken the local record for consecutive days above 90 degrees, we also biked down to the Farmers’ Market and Boulder’s own Band on the Bricks.

Thursday: Another trip to the local park for Junior and Dad, followed by yet another time-honored way to beat the heat – a movie! Wall-e was the movie of choice, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Friday: It’s not a summer vacation unless you’ve gone swimming! Choices abound here in Boulder, including the cool pools and slides at the Boudler Recreation centers, the public pools at Spruce St. and Scott Carpenter Park, and the ever-popular-slice-of-1950 Eldorado Pool (OK, that one is touristy but the setting is too amazing to pass up) Junior chose Eldo, where we ran into a few of his schoolmates.

Friday night was a special treat and, at the suggestion of Dave and Megan, we found ourselves at the County Fair. More specifically, we found ourselves at the Demolition Derby. Needless to say, that was a HUGE hit with everyone. Combined with the fair rides after the Derby, and it is fair to say that there were at least two little boys who were in heaven that night.


Saturday & Sunday: A little break from the vacation, with lots of ordinary stay-at-home stuff…a fine end to the perfect staycation.

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