Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Isn't That Pinteresting?

Weekly round-up of our experiments with things I found on Pinterest.

When I was in college, I had a wonderful friend named Yung Bok who was from South Korea. At one point, she decided that I was too old to be single and she was determined to get me married. (At this time, I would have been about 21 or 22... Yung Bok - who was also single and had no interest in being married - was in her late 30s... I did try to point out this inconsistency in thinking, but Yung Bok would not be disuaded.) Yung Bok decided that the thing that would make me more marriageable would be cooking skills. She decided that she would teach me to cook. (Again, I tried to tell Yung Bok that I was able to cook, just not interested. No effect. Yung Bok was a stubborn woman.) At any rate, I learned to cook several Korean dishes. They were great! I loved eating them. But I did not love cooking them. Yunk Bok taught me very traditional methods which were long, complicated and involved. My favorite dish to eat was Bulgogi... also known as Korean Beef. Making this dish via Yung Bok's recipe is a 2-day process. It's delicious, but it just takes SO much time! So when I came across this link, I really wanted to give it a try and I made it for dinner one night last week. It's super easy and so good! It really tastes just like Bulgogi ought to and making it with ground beef instead of flank steak means it's much more affordable and faster to cook. Next time around (sounds like a good meal for tonight!) I'm going to add some cauliflower and sliced carrots to bring it even closer to Yung Bok's version of Bulgogi... not to mention adding a little extra nutrition. It's good stuff. You should definitely try it!

Factory Tours USA (http://factorytoursusa.com/)

I took a look at this site to see what was in our area, and it reminded me of the existence of Hammond's Candy Factory in Denver. Haley had been on this factory tour before but the rest of us had never been. So on the Friday after school let out for summer, I took the day off work (because Aaron had to work on his usual day off... and someone had to watch the kids!). And I loaded up the car and headed to the candy factory. It was a fun trip. I could wish that we had gotten to see more candy-making in action. And it would have been great to see it closer up than through a couple of windows to the factory floor. But on the other hand, the fact that we just watched through windows and video monitors meant that I didn't have to worry that one of the boys would suddenly bolt over to check out some boiling hot sugar or an interesting - and possibly dangerous - piece of machinery. The really difficult part of the whole experience was the end of the tour, which ended - of course - in the gift shop. Trying to keep the kids (and myself) from buying out the whole candy store was a chore. I won't confess how much candy went home with us, but suffice it to say that our "free" tour ended up costing more than I had planned! There are a few more factory tours we want to check out in our area (though the biggest ones here are mostly beer companies or the Celestial Seasonings tea company... so not ones our Mormon family plans to check out!) but mostly I think this could be a great reference for when we're traveling and wondering about things to go see along the way. Most of these tours are free, and I'm all for free and educational entertainment!

Glow Bottles

We have been planning to do this one for weeks, but kept not getting around to it. According to the post on Pinterest, you just put 1/4" Mt Dew in bottle, add tiny bit of baking soda and 3 capfuls of hydrogen peroxide. Shake it up and it glows. Then you could use the bottle as a giant glowstick or pour on the sidewalk to "paint" in the dark... sounded like lots of fun!

So a couple of weeks ago I got a bottle of Mountain Dew and four bottles of Pepsi. After all, I needed a glow bottle for each child to play with, so I just had to make the sacrifice of emptying those bottles of Pepsi. It was for the children. Nothing to do with any supposed Pepsi addiction on my part. ;) I picked up some hydrogen peroxide at the store and we were ready to go.

Sunday night we finally got around to making our bottles. The kids waited excitedly all day, wondering when it would be dark enough. They got to stay up late waiting for dark so we could do this project, which made it all the more exciting. The anticipation was killing them! When I finally announced that it was time, they ran into the kitchen and jumped around with glee as they watched me start the mix. I added Mountain Dew to an empty bottle, followed by the baking soda and peroxide. I capped it and shook vigorously. And nothing happened. No glow. Not even the tiniest bit of light. We turned off all the lights and looked again hopefully. Nothing. I added more of the various ingredients, hoping I could tweak it into luminescence. But it remained stubbornly dark.

I went online to see if I could find a more precise recipe that would work for us... only to learn that the whole recipe is apparently a hoax. The original video clip showing the experiment was probably faked by adding the contents of a glow stick to the bottle. I couldn't believe it! Why would someone put that up there just to trick people into trying it and failing? People are jerks sometimes.

What a crushing disappointment after so much build-up. The kids were very sad about it. Preston cried. I felt terrible that it had failed and I had to send them off to bed on such a down note. *sigh* Hopefully future Pinterest experiments will go much better.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm Not a Fun Mom

I'm not a fun mom. I'm just not. I read posts about all the fun things that people do with their kids and think: "I wish I was more like that!" (Pinterest, I blame you for this.) I'm just not fun. I'm more of a no-nonsense mom. By the time I pick up the kids after work, it seems like it's almost time for bed already. So there's a little play time, but mostly there's a lot of: Do your homework. Eat your dinner. Get ready for bed. This is not the time for fun, settle down!

But I want to be a fun mom. So I set a goal for myself. Now that summer vacation is here (or will be after school tomorrow), there's a bit more time to work with at the end of each day. Bedtime isn't quite as crucial when they don't have to get up for school the next morning. So I made a list (with assistance from Pinterest) of things to do with the kids this summer. The goal is to check off one activity each day. There are enough on there to last us through the whole summer - with leeway for a couple of days in case someone is sick or something. (See - this is evidence that I'm not a fun mom. Even my fun involves planning and lists and timetables. *sigh*)

So while I'm not naturally a fun mom, I'm going to do my best to fake it this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catching Up...

It has been a crazy month of May so far!

We started with Brekken's birthday on the 7th. We tried to go out to dinner the night before, but after driving 20 minutes to get to the restaurant, we pulled into the parking lot and Rylen threw up all over himself. So we turned around and went home. We then continued the celebration the next night by having the car break down, stranding us in the school parking lot, and subsequently spending about 4 hours dealing with that mess. Much of it spent actually sitting in the car with several whining, cranky kids. Poor Brekken had not planned to spend his birthday this way! We finally got to presents and cake around 10:30 that night.

The madness continued the next day, when I got a call from the school saying that Haley had fallen headfirst onto the concrete basketball court and had a massive bump. They wanted her taken to the doctor as soon as possible. Which turned out to be about 2 hours later. Because of course, I had taken the bus. Which meant I had no car. And Aaron had no coverage at work so he couldn't leave. So I took a cab from my office to his store... where I learned that he'd been able to arrange to leave after all. So we both headed for home and finally arrived to pick up Haley. We took her to the doctor's office - where they immediately sent us to the Children's Hospital Urgent Care instead. She was acting fine, but the bump was massive and frightening looking. You can't really get the full sense of it from the photo. So off we go to Urgent Care, where they ask her to rate her pain from 0-10. "Oh, it's a 0," she tells them. No headache. The bump doesn't really hurt when they touch it. She feels fine. This from a girl who regularly throws fits over the tiniest scratches and demands an ice pack every time she stubs her toe. But no, she's fine. She has no pain. I'm sure they wondered why we even brought her in. (But we have a friend who last year had a child with a traumatic brain injury from a playground fall - we're very cautious now! Plus the doctor sent us!) They sent her home with instructions to watch her and warnings that she was going to have a massive bruise, but she was otherwise fine. The next morning - nothing. Not a bump. Not a bruise. Nothing but a tiny scrape to show for the adventure. (And what's sure to be a large hospital bill, of course!)

I then continued my crazy work schedule of working from 6:30 - 5:00 every day at the office, coming home to give the kids dinner and put them to bed, and then continue working from home until 1 or 2 a.m. This was the schedule for the first 2 weeks of May, culminating in a lovely Mother's Day where I took time to go to church, fixed some leftovers for everyone to eat, and then dragged them all to my office for several hours to help me stuff folders in preparation for our conference starting the next day. (I did, however, get some great new books as gifts. And now that the conference is over, I've had time to actually start reading them!)

The next week was spent running a conference for 350 participants from across the U.S. and Canada. (Okay, technically there was only one attendee from Canada - but that makes us international! Right? Next year we'll have more.) It was actually a great conference (she said modestly), and fun, but a lot of work. I was working from 6 a.m - 11 p.m. every day. I worked those hours last year, too, but also had to factor in a drive of about 45 minutes to and from home. This year I wised up and stayed at the hotel where the conference was held. It was a bit strange to be away on a business trip while so close to home. But it was a really nice hotel. Since I was one of the conference organizers, I was classified as a VIP and got a great room. It had a wonderful patio attached with comfy-looking lounge chairs. I saw it when I checked into the room at 6:00 Monday morning.

And this is all I saw of the patio until time to check out at the end of the week.

I did thoroughly enjoy the bed, though! The Westin calls it their signature "Heavenly Bed," and I don't think that's overselling it. It was SO nice for the short stretches of time that I got to use it!

Conference over, I went home on Thursday afternoon. And immediately fell into bed for a 2-hour nap. And then I went back to bed a few hours later. And got up in the morning long enough to take kids to school and drop the (other) car at the mechanic for a brake job. And went back to sleep for most of the day. I think I had finally caught up on most of my sleep by the time Sunday came... and time for another birthday!

Preston had a bit more luck with his birthday. He got to go to church where they sang to him. Then we came home and did presents. We headed out for dinner at his chosen location of Cinzetti's. (I know we're not supposed to go out on Sunday... sorry. We bend the rule for a birthday.) Preston ate a lot - which always thrills us. It's so hard to get that boy to eat! He had dinner, then cake, then ice cream. Then the servers sang Happy Birthday and brought him a huge piece of a special birthday cake. And he ate almost all of that, too. That's probably more than we get him to eat in several normal days! We finished off the night with family movie night - Jurassic Park. Not exactly a restful bedtime story (as Grandma Schurz pointed out - LOL), but it was the birthday boy's choice. He's currently quite obsessed with dinosaurs. (How convenient that he has a mother raised in Dinosaurland who can talk dinos with him!) I was a little worried that he'd be scared by the movie - but instead he and Brekken thought it was pretty cool when people got eaten. Especially the bad guys. However, they were quite relieved to check through the house and realize that we were velociraptor-proof... all round doorknobs at our house! (I'm sure you've seen the movie - where the smart dinos learn how to open the doors with the lever latches.)

And now we're on to the end of school festivities... kindergarten graduation yesterday, delayed birthday treats for Preston to take to school today (I need a new recipe for rice krispie treats... mine did not turn out well - anyone have a good one?), field day tomorrow, and the last day of school Thursday. Whew! But all in all, a much better end to the month than it began!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Isn't That Pinteresting

Weekly round-up of our experiments with things I found on Pinterest.

The kids were VERY excited to try this one. And it seemed pretty easy. We had everything we needed right there in the house. So it seemed like a perfect project to keep them busy on a Sunday afternoon. We made the bubble blowers out of some empty water bottles and some of Aaron's old socks. Squirted a bunch of dishsoap into a paper bowl. And headed out to make some snakes. The first try seemed very promising... I dipped the blower, blew hard, and bubbles immediately started foaming out the end! So I turned that one over to Haley and started some blowers for the boys. Those worked ok, though not quite as well as Haley's. I'm not sure what the difference was. So everyone had fun for a couple of minutes. And then they just kind of stopped working. I don't know if it was a problem with technique (I had to blow pretty hard to get the bubbles after that first try). Or the socks weren't pulled tight enough. Or if the socks just got so full of dish soap and that was the problem. Or maybe another brand of dish soap works better. But it didn't really work well after that first try. We ended up a little disappointed. But at least we tried it - points for a family project! And now I'll need to buy some more dish soap.

Don't those look delicious? I thought so. I pinned this recipe because I wanted to try combining two wonderful things, brownies and cookies. Then I went back and looked and the recipe again and realized that it was a lot more complicated than the kind of baking I usually do. And the more I looked at it, the more I realized I was just never going to make that recipe. But looking at it more also helped me realize that there didn't seem to be much difference between that recipe and a traditional brownie recipe. So I decided to go my own way with this one... I guess you could call it another "recipe inspired by Pinterest."

So I bought a brownie mix at the store. I know! Baking purists are shaking their heads in disgust... but hey, I'll have put in around 60 hours of work on just my day job by the end of this week, plus my additional job of being mom to four hungry, messy children. This ensures that not only do I not have time for real baking, but I really need the chocolate fix. :) So yes, I started with a store-bought mix. When I'd mixed it together, I knew that it was too thin to work as cookies - it would just spread all over the baking sheet. So I added some flour to thicken it up. Probably about a cup by the time I was finished adding a little at a time. That thickened it up to more of a cookie dough consistency, so I scooped it out, dropped it on the cookie sheet in little dough balls, and put it in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

They came out perfectly! Beautiful big cookies just like the ones in the picture! The texture was great - the edges of the cookie are like getting the edge piece of brownie... just a little bit of crunch. And the center is soft and dense, just like a perfect brownie. And the tops had that little bit of flakiness that you find on a really good brownie. So really, just a perfect brownie, but in cookie form. I guess really it's just a novelty factor - plus you don't have to slice up a pan of brownies. (Not that that's such a huge amount of work or anything.) You might prefer to just make a pan of brownies. But for some reason, I have never had much luck with brownies. I try to cook them, but they somehow always turn out so soft you have to eat them with a spoon, or so hard that you have to knaw your way around the edges looking for a piece you can manage to bite off. So I'll make these cookies again, because it seems I've finally found a way to make a successful brownie!