Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Can you hear it? That RETAIL BEAT?!

It's been far too long since I've offered a new edition of The Retail Beat. Given that these endless days of April rain don't make for happy blog fodder (unless you like whining), I've opted to share some recent favorite products we are enjoying Casa MEP. It may be wet at the playground, but it's generally dry inside the grocery store.
Here goes:
Hot and Sweet Mustard from Trader Joe's: It's hot. It's sweet. I find it adds a pleasant zing to my sandwiches. And if a pretzel happened to fall into some of this mustard, well, I'd be happy to rescue that pretzel.
Breakstone's Zesty Blends Roasted Garlic & Herb Sour Cream: First, roast some potatoes. Then, dip them in this sour cream. Repeat. Potato chips would do in a pinch. This "zesty blend" was a recent and pleasant discovery at the Jewel. I also noted that there was a Chipotle blend, and I think I remember seeing a Jalapeno one as well. Was BOGO the day I was there, NTB, so I bought one of the roasted garlic and one plain reduced-fat.
Method Wood for Good: If you are lucky enough to have a dining room table that is used daily for meals and snacks and doubles as a "home office" for two adults, you might find yourself needing to wipe that table down multiple times a day. That chore is a pleasure with Method Wood for Good. Feels more cleaning-ish than typical, foamy dusting spray and has the most awesome almond scent that even my husband has favorably commented upon. I buy mine at Target, but I think other stores carry Method as well.
WARNING!!!! I am a big fan of Method cleaning products, but I recently tried two different varieties of the Antibac cleaner. I'm usually in the "if you can't say anything nice ..." camp, but in case any of you go hunting down Wood for Good, I want to suggest you skip the Antibac. It probably gets things very clean and sanitizes well and all, but it does NOT smell good. I like cleaning products to smell good.
Let's get back to food now.
Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread: A facebook friend mentioned her love for this product in a status update, and I knew I'd have to track it down. Lucky for me, Trader Joe's is five minutes from my house and one minute from Bub's school. This peanut butter cream cheese is delicious. Dip some pretzel twists in it, and you have an ideal sweet and salty snack. I made some brownies last week and covered them with chocolate frosting. When, as I was falling asleep that night, I realized that I could have covered them in a layer of peanut butter cream cheese and then the frosting, I wanted to kick myself. Next time.
Ben and Jerry's Late Night Snack: I don't watch late-night television so I missed the announcement of this Jimmy Fallon-inspired ice cream. I heard about it at the hair salon, checked for it every grocery store trip for five weeks, and finally found it this past weekend. Let me walk you through it: vanilla bean ice cream, salted caramel swirls, and chunks of chocolate-covered potato chip. Get. Right. Out. Of. Town.
On a semi-related topic, I'm curious to know if anyone has a "healthy lifestyle" plan that is working for them these days?* And, of course, any favorite things in your house? Please share in the comments.

*Moderation does not tend to work for me. I need some rules.

DISCLAIMER: I paid for all of these products with my own money and am writing about them because I thought you might be interested. I was not asked to write about them or compensated in any way to endorse them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sleep Seminar: The "Crick-quel"

Back in the fall, I offered my readers a comprehensive instructional guide for getting 5-6 (non-consecutive) total hours of (semi) restful sleep each night. If you are seeking to cut back on your sleep, you might consider revisiting that post.

These days, I am getting 6-7 hours* of sleep, NTB, so I'm going to shift focus to sleep quality for today's guide.
How to Make Sure Your Sleep Is As Uncomfortable As Possible While Also Questioning Your Own Sanity
1. Buy a home with newly-installed Berber-style carpet in the bedrooms in a shade of "practically white." Admire how clean and fresh it is and how spacious it makes the rooms seem. (If you are not in the position to buy a home right now, you will need to install some of this carpet).
2. Make sure the carpet gets walked upon daily. Keep your shoes on as you walk up and down the steps, for example. Also, for those areas that don't get foot traffic (under the bed, in strange corners, etc.), you will have to just ignore the carpet. If you ignore it, a nice, dark layer of dust will accumulate all on its own. Store your vacuum in the basement so that, for several years, it rarely touches the carpet more than twice a month.
3. Have one, two, or three kids. With no urging from you, they will do things like pee on that practically white carpet, smear poop on it, have a bloody nose on it, spit sticky medicine upon it, press mom's pink highlighter on it, or walk on it while wearing shoes.
4. (Optional) Have that carpet professionally cleaned. This step is optional because although it can make the carpet look somewhat better, it can also pull to the surface new stains that you never saw before. Also, it might take three full days to dry, which is rather inconvenient. If you are trying to sell your house, you might conclude that you would have been better off just sucking it up and buying new carpet. Which leads to the next step . . .
5. Buy new carpet. If you don't get it at a big box store, the carpet place might just give you a price that includes moving of furniture (as opposed to Home Depot where they take a picture of each room and you have to tell them what you would like the installers to move so that they can charge you for the number of items moved in each room).
6. Pause to admire the new carpet and the way the installers put everything back in its place. In fact, tell the owner of the carpet place how delighted you were with Francisco the installer and his helper. Assume that anything that was disassembled during the installation was reassembled. You may even pause and think to yourself, "Wow, I would hate to take apart a sleigh bed, but I guess those guys do it all the time."
7. Given Step 6, proceed as usual. Allow your children to jump and wrestle on your bed every evening while Daddy changes out of his work clothes. Allow one or more of your children to migrate into that bed for a portion of each night.
8. Start waking up with a very sore neck. Complain that you have a very limited range of motion in your neck and a great deal of pain. Repeatedly use the phrase "crick in my neck" or even "this is beyond a 'crick in my neck.'" Your partner may support you with murmurs of concern.
9. (Optional) Try to change up your pillow arrangement and sleeping position. This step is optional because these adjustments will do little to improve the pain.
10. Start suggesting that something may not be right with the bed. After a couple of weeks your partner might reluctantly agree that, yes, something is awry and, in fact, he feels as if the mattress is sinking toward the middle.
11. What he will find is that the carpet installers placed the three wooden cross beams on the bed's frame, but neglected to position the supports that go under them. (If you want to Make Sure Your Sleep Is As Uncomfortable As Possible While Also Questioning Your Own Sanity without installing new carpet, simply skip straight to this step and DIY or hire someone to remove or otherwise adjust the supports on your bed so that your mattress is receiving the least amount of support possible while still raised from the ground).
12. Spend a couple of weeks trying to have a good attitude. "Yes, how nice that our mattress is being supported again. Indeed, how lucky that no one was truly harmed." Try to ignore the fact that you (but not your partner) is still waking up feeling uncomfortable and sore.
13. Once you realize that you no longer like getting into your bed, it is time to start saying things like, "I feel as if I am going to slide off my side of the bed. I'm waking up sore every morning from trying to overcorrect/cling to the bed each night."
14. Your partner may say something along the lines of, "I fixed the bed already" or even, "I've double-checked and those supports are still in place."
15. Spend a week wondering if you perhaps are crazy. Then, you have a couple of choices.
If you want to continue with uncomfortable sleep and concerns about your own sanity, choose 15a) do nothing but complain and wonder what is wrong with you, not what is wrong with your bed
If you want to start making sure that the 6-7 hours you spend in your bed are comfortable, choose 15b) have an emotional breakdown about the length and quality of your sleep until your husband agrees to give the bed another once-over, realizes the frame on your side was not properly reassembled, tests it out and admits that one does really almost fall off your side of the bed, and then fixes it.

Again, you're welcome. Any tips for uncomfortable sleep or ways/reasons to think one is crazy? Please share in the comments.

*late-night housecleaning for showings helps me keep my numbers lean!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Here are a few of the things I want my Sweet P to know about herself at one year old.

Here goes, girlie:
You growl and so we sometimes call you Darth Vadar.
As of recently, you can climb up on the couch. You're also fast on the stairs.
You love to open the drawers next to the dishwasher and pull out all the kiddie bowls, plates, and utensils.
You also love throwing containers of baby food around and removing their plastic lids.
You are a Messy Bessy when you eat -- favorite foods are blueberries and french fries -- and meal time is sometimes frustrating for your mama. So far you are not into cake, which is shocking.
Today, your birthday, you are being treated for an ear infection and pink eye.
You take an antibiotic every single night due to a kidney reflux issue, but it should work itself out a few months from now.
Sunday mass starts about forty-five minutes after the time when you would normally start napping. The highlight of Daddy's week, I suspect, is holding you in the back of church while you fall asleep on his shoulder.
You are a girl of many nicknames. Sweet P on the blog. So many more at home. Most commonly: Bibs.
You like your snacks, especially crackers and those Gerber freeze-dried yogurt thingies.
Your big brothers love you so much and sometimes forgot how little you are. You don't help matters by trying to jump in on the scrapping and wrestling (while growling).
When you hear music, you flap your arms up and down. We think you're going to love to dance.
You can stand on your own, but you're not walking quite yet.
You like pretty much any toy, as long as you can taste it first.
You tend to look slightly disheveled and often have your hair in your eyes. You've got lots of cute bows, but you like to rip them right on out.
Your eyes are blue for good and that dark hair of yours has turned light.
You have seven teeth already and show them often when you smile.
You were a better sleeper at two months than you are a twelve months. Since you sleep about ten feet from Mommy and Daddy, we have a hard time letting you cry. Your days of nighttime meetings--usually two, URGH--with mommy are numbered, girlie.
You have a lively, fun spirit and you laugh a lot.
You should also know how ridiculously proud and puffed up Daddy and I get when we take you out in the world and see others responding to your smiles and cheeks and bright eyes.
You've been everywhere with me this past year -- Mommy and Sweet P at the Jewel, on a walk, out to lunch, at showers and parties and weddings -- and I can't readily think of a single instance when you were exceedingly fussy or unhappy. I can't thank you enough for giving me this chance to finally know how it feels to be a confident, semi-wise, semi-relaxed mom of a happy, content baby. Really, thank you. I needed that.
Each night, we pray in thanksgiving for the gift of you and ask that God keep you safe, happy, healthy and strong.
You are so very loved.
There are more good times ahead, sweet girl, and many more years to go. Thanks for making this past year so wonderful.
Brand new . . .
Around six months . . .

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nice little Tuesday . . .

If you've never been to Newport, Rhode Island, you should totally go. The town is full of amazing coastal views and beautiful, historical homes. I've visited twice and enjoyed every second.
And, guess what . . .

If you've never been to Newport, Kentucky, you should totally go there too. Growing up just outside of Cincinnati, I don't remember crossing the Ohio River all that often, at least not until I was old enough to visit the restaurants and bars on "the Kentucky side." I'm not sure about the timeline of the changes and renewal in Newport, but the town has a lot to offer right now. As part of our Cincinnati Spring Break last week, the kids and I had a great little Tuesday in Newport, Kentucky.
Our first stop was the Newport Aquarium.
The kids waited patiently for The Penguin Parade.
I guess it was unreasonable for me to expect to see penguins waddling across the carpet, but honestly, that's what I wanted. The penguins on push carts were perhaps not worth the wait, but ah well . . .
We weren't the only spring breakers at the Aquarium last Tuesday, but my mom overheard another group saying, "We're going to head to the big penguin exhibit first and beat the crowd." So we followed that group.
We had the penguin exhibit practically to ourselves, and we all loved it. Little Bit kept waving and saying, "Hi Pen-gens, Hi Pen-gens!" Bub was doing a sort of swimming/dancing motion against the glass. Grammy later named the penguins her favorite part of the aquarium.
Having visited the penguins first, we found ourselves going against the flow (pun intended), which worked out well. We enjoyed several exhibits in a quiet, non-crowded environment until we finally met up with the flow. It got a little tough wading (another pun, I'm on a roll) through the sea (NTB) of bodies and strollers with three little ones and our own stroller, but there were plenty of cool sights.
Little Bit and especially Bub were into everything. They had an opportunity to pet sharks but could not quite bring themselves to do it. Bub did touch (for a fraction of a second) a stingray, a snail, and a starfish. Pretty pleased with himself. I thought aquarium admission was a bit steep for the size of the facility, but I will say that the boys enjoyed the experience even more than I expected them to at ages almost 3 and 5. All in all, nice little morning.
Then we had to eat. My sister LAP brought my nieces Swiper and Wookie (blog handles, not real names, in case you are concerned) and we headed to Dewey's Pizza. Back in the day, when I was a young single girl in the city, there was only one Dewey's. It was very close to where I lived, and I have fond memories of cozy dinners with girlfriends enjoying the delicious salads and pizzas. Multiple locations now, but it's still so good. Every one ate well at lunch, and the kids enjoyed watching the pizza dough makers.
And, then, wouldn't you know it, there was a guy in the square making balloon animals for tips. So we got some balloon animals. Note that Little Bit asked for a lightsaber -- still obsessed with Star Wars.
Since it was all going so well, we also stopped at the candy store. We were, after all, on vacation.
Even though it was chilly, we had to get some shots of the kids and Grammy in front of part of the Cincinnati skyline. Poor Sweet P, hanging out in the stroller by herself. I need to mention that she was good as gold for the entire outing, NTB.
And then, it was early afternoon and time to head back to Grammy's house. A morning without a single tear or meltdown where we saw cool stuff, ate good stuff, and enjoyed it all and each other.
Nice little Tuesday.
One final bonus, the cost of parking in a garage right next to the aquarium and all the shops, bars, and restaurants? Wait for it . . . $2! I pay $2 to park at the pediatricians' office in Chicago and much more most everywhere else. Woo hoo!
Have you been to either Newport? Any spring break plans this year? Please share in the comments.
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