Tuesday, April 30, 2013


It's 9:50pm on April 30.

I was painting the back door. I noticed the windows were getting spotty, and I got all annoyed. "What is this?" I thought. "I just cleaned those!" That's when I realized it was rain. I'm such a dork.

Finally, on April 30, we got an April shower.

For a fleeting moment, I thought, "Yes! We can finally do the rain project I've been waiting for!" And then I remembered the kids are asleep, and we can't.

The rain should turn to snow in a few hours, and then it is supposed to snow all day tomorrow. At least we're getting moisture, I suppose!

Where are you, Beta?! The story of losing a fish.

I don't know if I ever posted about our newest family members, Alpha and Beta. One of Andrew's coworkers gave him two beta fish for the kids. Oliver loves them! He feeds them beta fish food and says hi to them every day. He calls them "Alphabet" and "Beta," which is pretty cute.

Well, today, do I have a story about Alpha and Beta! Andrew and I are working on emptying our house of non-essentials. We want to put our home on the market within the next month or two. We've put a lot of work into improving the home, and we hope there's enough equity in it to possibly afford a single family home. That's the background to this story.

I was packing up our old Wii, the games, and the Rock Band stuff to take over to my parents' house temporarily. I moved Alpha's little tank and Beta's little tank over to our sink vanity. I thought they were out of reach from the kids. As I'm working on clearing out our game closet, I hear a loud thump from behind me and a big sploosh!

Jo knocked Beta's tank over.

I dashed over to the floor, picked up the tank, and quickly filled it with some water straight from the tap. I look for Beta to quickly plunk her back in the water. Later, I found out Beta fish don't have gills and don't breathe in the water (they surface for oxygen). I didn't know that at the time, and so I thought I only had precious seconds. I couldn't find her anywhere!

I start combing through the fish rocks on the carpet, and I hear myself yelling, "Beta?? Beta!" As if that will help me find the fish. Oliver's upset that I'm yelling for the fish, and Jo's just upset in general. They're whining and crying, and I'm using my fingers to feel all over the carpet to find the fish, yelling like a nut.

I finally found her lying in a corner in the hallway. She must have flown 3 feet! She was far from the rocks. I plunked her back in her tank, and--imagine my surprise--she started swimming around right away! I ran downstairs to get the distilled water that we keep at room temperature for the fish. Then, I ran back upstairs, poured most of the tap water out, and refilled her tank with distilled. I think she's OK. I think.

Alpha and Beta aren't going to hang around our house much longer. As I said, we're moving out all non-essentials. I think they might join Andrew at work.

Anyway, just because plain text is boring, here are some photos of our fish from a few months ago, when they first arrived at our home.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Meatless Monday: Homemade Vegetable Broth

I few months ago, I decided to try to make my own vegetable broth. I looked up a few how-tos online. It seemed simple enough, and it was! I can honestly say homemade broth is a lot tastier than the boxed stuff. While broth isn't very expensive, it still saves money to make your own, and you can feel good about using your scraps. I've made my own broth about half a dozen times this winter. Here's what you do:

First, keep a large piece of tupperware in your freezer. I have a one-gallon size. Whenever you chop or peel vegetables, throw your scraps into it. You can add onion peels, celery leaves, whatever! I've even added some freezer-burned peas and canned corn leftover from corn bread. If any of my vegetables start to get a little old in the fidge, I'll just roughly chop them and add them to my collection in the freezer. I've even added some canned tomato paste (I always have some leftover when recipes call for 1 Tbsp of tomato paste or whatever). Here is a picture of one of mine before making it into broth:

Once my tupperware is full (this might take a month), I put everything into a large pot and fill it with water, like so:

I bring it to a full boil, and then I reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 3-4 hours. At that time, I add some salt and garlic powder for extra flavor.

When that's done, I pour the liquid into a bowl through a strainer. All those vegetable pieces get discarded, but at least they got one more use before hitting the landfill (they'd also be great for composting, if you either do your own composting or live in a city where they collect compost for you).

Here's my broth! If I'm going to use it within the next couple days, I just pop it in the fridge. If I'm not sure when I'm going to use it, I put it in the freezer until I need it.

All of the dishes I make with broth (like penne primavera) taste so much better with the homemade stuff. Plus (maybe it's just me), I get satisfaction out of making things myself. This takes very little effort, but it does take some time.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Make a Balance Bike

Have you heard about balance bikes? I first heard about them last year. They're short, two-wheel bikes with no pedals. Kids push off on them and learn to balance on the bikes. By learning to balance first, kids learn how to ride bikes at a young age.

I really wanted to get one for Oliver. I checked them out at Timbuk Toys in Highlands Ranch. They were beautiful and perfect... and $100. Even on Craig's List, I only found them in the $50-$75 range. So, I wrote them off as just a good idea.

Until a few weeks ago, that is! One of the moms in MOMS Club, Erica, sent us a tip: make your own balance bike by removing the pedals, chain, and gears from a regular bike. It was such a simple idea. I couldn't help but think, "Duh, why didn't I think of that?"

Yesterday, I went to a church/preschool down in Littleton that was having a big consignment sale (actually, another mom in MOMS Club told us about it!). It's going on through Saturday, so if you're in the area, be sure to check it out. I went with one goal: to find a bike! I got there right at 9:30am when they opened and, after paying the $1 entrance fee, I bee-lined it for the bikes. Oliver was at work with Andrew for Take Your Child to Work Day, so it was just Jo and me. I spotted a short, green bike with no training wheels. It was priced at $5!

I bought the bike, and, as soon as Jo went down for her nap, I started scraping away at all the stickers and decals.

I wasn't strong enough to get the pedals off the bike. Actually, I wasn't even strong enough to loosen the bolt to lower the seat! Andrew got a little "honey do" list when he came home. He got to work on the bike, and I ran back to the sale to look for a bike helmet for Oliver. I had my ticket to get back into the sale for no extra charge, and I got the helmet for $2. Here's Oliver looking out the window at Andrew, who was working on severing the bike chain.

Here's our finished product! Not bad for $5, ey?

The verdict? It looks great. Oliver loves his new bike. He wants to keep trying to ride it. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite figured out the concept yet. He wants to lift up his feet and have us push him around. It's OK; he'll figure it out eventually. In the meantime, I'm just happy he's excited to do something active!

Disassembling the bike was a one-way street. After busting up the chain, we just didn't see the point in keeping the pedals. I figure, it'll work as a balance bike for Oliver this summer and next, and then it can be a balance bike for Joanna for a couple years. If I'm feel crafty, I can even spray paint it for her when the time comes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bring Your Child to Work Day 2013

Oliver woke up talking about how he was going to work to help Dad fix computers. Andrew made him a pretend work badge that says, "ELMO, number 1 fan," with an Elmo icon on it. He also borrowed an extra phone clip for Oliver to wear on his pocket for the day. Andrew had his work laptop backpack, and he put his work iPad in the monkey backpack for Oliver to wear. I filled a coffee travel mug for Andrew and filled another one with chocolate milk for Oliver.

They're leaving with their sack lunches. Andrew's work actually provides pizza today for all the employees and kids, but Oliver helps pack Andrew's lunch every day, so we thought it was important he got to do it for himself today, too.

And here's a flashback photo from Bring Your Child to Work Day 2012:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Birdhouses for 54 Cents!

Last week, I found some little, wooden birdhouses at Joann Fabrics. They were $1.09, but they had 50% off coupons online and on their flyer in the store. So, I snagged a birdhouse for 54 cents! We were so busy last week, but we finally found time on Thursday to paint. Oliver usually isn't very interested in art, but he really got into painting the birdhouse.

Oliver was really proud of his birdhouse and kept asking to "show Dad!" We let it dry overnight, and then I filled it with some birdseed that I had leftover from the birdseed biscuits we'd made.

Oliver hung it up outside, but I had to rehang it a little higher off the ground. Then, we went back inside to watch for the birds! They never came...

I'm still waiting to do a toddler rainy day project with Jo! We've had some snow, but no rain yet. I was really hoping to get it done in April, which I know is when everyone else seems to have rain in the US. Poor Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois; they're really getting more than their share! Brookfield Zoo closed for the 3rd time in its history because they were completely flooded. Anyway, if you don't see a rainy day project from us until July, then you know why!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We Ran for Boston!

Oliver and I ran for Boston today. It was cold, it was snowy, but we did it!

Oliver did his run out by the reservoir. He jogged down the path once so I could take a picture, and then we hopped back in the car to warm up!

After Andrew got home, I went out into 25 degree weather (11 degrees with windchill). I ran about half a mile, just running back and forth along the open space, and then ran right back inside!

You can see people's photos from around the world at the Run For Boston 4/17 Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Running for Boston

Part of having a large family means there are loved ones everywhere. That's usually good. I mean, I can travel almost anywhere in this large country and have a place to stay! Yet, when there is a tragedy--whether natural or a massacre--it seems there are people we need to account for.

My cousin, Jesse, is a great athlete and amazing runner. He's a big guy, and he often wins races for his bracket. He blogs about his races at Pedals & Paddles Worldwide. He always seems to be somewhere amazing for a foot race or cycling event.

He's also from Boston.

Hearing about a tragedy at home is hard. It's hard for all of us. It's down right scary when it happens, and you have to worry about people you love. I'm from Colorado, and we've had more than our share of shootings and violent massacres. It's just not fair to have to call up friends and loved ones to see if they're OK. It also doesn't seem fair to account for your loved ones, only to remember that others weren't so lucky...

In my family, all we needed to hear was about a bomb at the Boston Marathon to think of Jesse. Was he running in that race? If he was, were my aunt, her partner, or my other cousin there cheering him on?

Through the family grapevine, we quickly found out he was OK. We later found out that, yes, he'd been at the race, cheering friends on near the 20 mile marker. I felt relief, and then struggled with that same feeling of guilt that I'm too familiar with now: that wretched feeling that not everyone got good news yesterday.

So, today, I wanted to write and send my love out to everyone affected by this massacre. To everyone who got hurt, to the survivors, to the injured, to the families and friends, to the first responders, and just to everyone who felt pain and fear after reading about it on the news, I'm sending love your way.

Jesse is running in The Pittsburgh Marathon in a few weeks. His goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon to run next year. In my opinion, there's no better way to fight back against the vicious attack the city of Boston went through yesterday. Good on you, Jesse. Kick ass in Pittsburgh!

Link to Jesse's blog entry on The Boston Marathon

Me, I used to run. My running decreased a lot after Oliver was born, and it stopped all together after getting pregnant with Jo. We've been dealing with snow yesterday and today, and it's going to continue into tomorrow. This weekend, I plan on lacing up my shoes and going for jog. One mile, that's my goal. It's not a marathon, but it's a little bit in honor of all the runners yesterday--many of whom went so far and never got to finish.

Edit: A Facebook group has been set up called "Run for Boston 4/17." They're asking people to go for a run tomorrow. If people can, they also ask for everyone to take a picture of themselves wearing blue & yellow and carrying a sign that says, "Run for Boston." It's supposed to snow and be a high of 37 here, but I think I'll try to get a little jog in for the people and city of Boston.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Oliver's Cooking Show: Chocolate Strawberry Pops

Oliver's back with his fourth cooking episode! We recorded the footage for this episode last month but didn't get to the editing until this past weekend.

In this episode, Oliver is going to show you how to dip strawberries into melted chocolate. Check out my passionate chef on "Oliver's Cooking Show" here:


You can find his previous shows at the links below:

Episode 1: Peanut Butter

Episode 2: Chocolate Brownies

Episode 3: Fruit Smoothies

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things: Poop and Toothpaste

I'm still bummed about the weather forecast! We were supposed to have rain today, but the forecast has been updated to just wind. There might be rain tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed that we can try our rainy day activity then!

Oliver's still keeping things lively by telling us all sorts of hilarious things. The other day, he came up to me and said, "I smell like toothpaste. Jo smells like poop."

Sure enough, she needed a changing! He also tells her regularly that she'll learn to use the potty this summer, and then she can wear undies.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jumping in Indoor Puddles

I was so excited for rain today! I had a rainy day activity planned for the kids. This morning, I checked online and confirmed the forecast: rain starting at 2pm and continuing all afternoon.

I put Oliver and Jo down for nap time/quiet time at 11am, and I gathered up supplies for my planned activity. Then, I poured myself a mug of coffee, sat down on the computer, and went back to weather.com to confirm the rain would still start on schedule.


The updated forecast calls for an hour or two of rain starting at 6pm. Six! I am disappoint.

So, I changed our fun plan for the day. It's not exactly an activity for young toddlers, but it looked promising for Oliver and preschool-aged kids. I got the idea from a pin from Melissa & Doug on Pinterest. The pin, which you can view here, shows some little girls jumping on construction paper puddles indoors. There's no information about that activity that I can find, but it looked simple enough to figure out.

I taped some paper "puddles" to the floor and waited for Oliver and Jo to get up for the afternoon.

The puddles fascinated Oliver. I showed him how to jump from puddle to puddle. He started jumping and bouncing and counting puddles.

This is a solid rainy day activity for preschool kids, even though it wasn't exactly a rainy day. Keep this activity in mind the next time you're stuck inside all day. It's a good way to burn some energy indoors!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Baby Trashes Bar

Joanna has finally chosen walking as her preferred mode of transportation. She's hilarious to watch, teetering and tottering down the hallway. It reminds me of the video, "Baby Trashes Bar in Las Palmas." If you've never seen the video, you have to. It's an oldie but a goodie. Even if you have seen it, it'll still get a good laugh out of you.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Living Social: Denver Firefighters' Museum

Today is the last day to get four tickets to the Denver Firefighters' Museum for $10. Tickets are normally $6 per adult and $4 per child! Oliver has never gone to this museum before, but he's gone to the fire station in the Denver Children's Museum. It sounds like it's a little similar. They let kids dress up like firefighters, climb on fire trucks, and slide down poles. They also teach kids about fire safety! We're going to take the kids some weekend soon.

You can find the deal here: http://www.livingsocial.com/deals/644384-admission-for-four-to-denver-firefighters-museum?rui=131309921

Here is a little flash back to last Halloween when Oliver was a firefighter and Jo was a fire dog.


Treasure Hunt in New Mexico

Have you heard about the treasure an art collector hid? Forrest Fenn wrote a memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, and a poem with 9 clues to lead people to a treasure chest full of gold. My husband and I went with some friends down to New Mexico for the weekend to try our hand at treasure hunting. Of course, we didn't actually find any treasure, but we had a lot of fun! Our weekend getaway was very inexpensive. Everyone split gas for the 5 hour drive down to the Taos area. We stayed at a campground in the Rio Grande Gorge State Park for $7, and all of the hiking and soaking in the hot springs was free. It was an amazing adventure, and I felt like it's something we never would have done if we hadn't heard about this hidden treasure chest.

The kids stayed with my parents while we were away. The kids were wonderful for them, and Jo decided to take up walking full-time. It feels really good to know Andrew and I can sometimes take a weekend, and the kids will be just fine :)

I blogged about our adventures in New Mexico. You can read about them and some of the treasure clues we tried to decipher here:

Just a few photos of our trip:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Home Improvement: The Kitchen Sink

Have you all seen the pin on Pinterest to put peel-and-stick tiles in your kitchen sink cabinet? It looked like a super cheap and easy home improvement idea, so I pinned it and finally got around to doing it one night last week.

The project cost under $15, and it took me about 2 hours from start to finish.

Here's the "before" photo. Yuck, huh?!

And here are the after photos:

I feel like I got a lot of bang for my buck! The only problem I encountered with the project was the tiles I ordered had arrows on the backing paper. I made sure all of the arrows pointed in the same direction. I realized when I was halfway through the project that the arrows didn't point in the same direction on all the tiles, so some are upside down. It kind of made me mad, but then I decided it doesn't matter that much, and it definitely looks very much improved!

I realized I never posted about my cabinets, either. A couple Christmases ago, Andrew's uncle gave me a gift card to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I ordered a bunch of cabinet pulls because our cabinets looked very outdated. I took off all of the cabinet pulls, cleaned the cabinets, polished them with wood polish, and then screwed in the new handles. The project would have cost about $100, but it only cost me the wood polish!

Here are the before and after shots of the cabinets:


I really love it when simple changes make a big difference.