Archive for July, 2008

Beat the Heat

It’s July and we’re now in the firm grips of sun, heat, and more heat. Here are some tips to keep cool and keep the electric bill from rising. These tips are especially useful if you don’t have air conditioning at all.

Shade. Before it starts to get hot, close the blinds and the curtains. Not having direct sunlight come inside the house makes a huge difference on the temperature indoors. And really it’s cheaper to have a light on than to have the A/C running on full blast.

Windows. While it’s still cool out open up all the windows in your house, letting in all the cool air — better still to leave them open all night when it gets even cooler. Then before it starts to get hot shut them all. It will stay cooler in your house longer if you don’t keep letting in the hot air.

Fans. Fans take up less electricity than an air conditioner and they’re a real life saver if you don’t have any A/C at all. Ceiling fans are best as they keep the air circulating and you can change the direction of the blades but box fans and oscillating fans are better than nothing. A great trick for cooling off your house fast when the sun goes down is to open the windows to create air flow and put the fans in front of the windows on one side of the house. They will suck the cool air in from outside and push the stale warm air out the other side. It doesn’t work if you have fans in all the windows because the air doesn’t move anywhere. When you have the house shut up for the heat of the day, keep them running to help keep the air cooler and to keep it circulating.

Water. If you have access to a swimming pool the best time to go is when it’s hottest. It gets you out of the hot house or apartment and cools you off — don’t forget the sunscreen, though, because that’s when the UV’s are at their worst. But if you don’t have access to a pool, then run a cool bath. Drinking lots of cold water helps to keep you cool internally as well.

Posted in Uncategorized, Home and Garden | No Comments »

Road Trip With a Toddler Tips

Doing any kind of car traveling with a toddler can be an adventure in and of itself. Whether you’re taking a long road trip or just driving to Grandma’s here’s some tips to make the trip a little easier on the whole family.

Breaks. If you are going for any distance, there is no way a toddler can sit the whole trip. Break the trip up into segments — drive for an hour and a half and then take a break, get out of the car, and stretch for a half hour. Sure, it takes a lot longer but you get there with a much happier child. You can combine these breaks when you need to stop for food but make sure that the toddler doesn’t have to sit. Restaurants with play areas or picnics at rest stops are the best bet.

Snacks. You won’t always be someplace you can pull over and pick up a bite to eat. Make sure you’re prepared for when hunger strikes your toddler by packing healthy snacks. Finger foods are best because they give the tot something to do with their hands. Things like graham crackers, cheerios, grapes, slices of cheese, and celery or carrot sticks. Avoid sticky sugary foods, though, because that’s a mess just waiting to happen.

Songs. Brush up on your children songs. Singing silly songs that the toddler can sing a long with you is a great way to distract your kid from the long miles ahead of them. Inventing a silly travel song for that particular trip makes it special and can entertain the little one for a time.

Essentials. Pack a bag of small toys, coloring books, crayons, and books. The best toys to bring aren’t their favorite ones but rather toys they’ve never seen or haven’t played with in a long time. It keeps their attention longer and makes the trip special. Toddlers are smart, and if they get new toys when they travel, they’ll remember and be more agreeable to the trip in general. You don’t have to buy new things or expensive toys, things from kid’s meals or something they haven’t played with in a long time work just as well.

Posted in Uncategorized, Vacation and Travel | No Comments »

Mutant Turkey

In my defense, I’ve never actually cooked a turkey. Sure I’ve seen them done, I’m no stranger to the kitchen during Thanksgiving preparation, but I’ve never had to do it on my own. That is, until last year.

I have no idea what possessed me to blurt out, “I’ll cook this year,” when the family gathered around the table to strategize the holiday. I should’ve clued in it wasn’t as easy as I thought when there was a large collective sigh of relief and everyone readily agreed it was a wonderful idea. Instead, I was too busy imagining the glory of everyone telling me what a fabulous cook I was and how it was the best turkey they’d ever eaten. I began researching turkey recipes immediately, until I found “the one”. This recipe guaranteed your family would rave and insist you make it every year.

I was confident as I selected a meat thermometer for dummies, no pop-up timers for this girl, and the perfect turkey, a beautifully wrapped twenty pound behemoth. I’d done the math and decided that for six people a twenty pound bird was a must. I’d even talked turkey with a woman in line at the checkout, giving her pointers on what she should do.

The night before Thanksgiving, still dreaming of greatness, I prepared a brine to soak my fully-thawed turkey in overnight. I felt like a gourmet chef as I’d never seen my mother brine her dried out old turkeys. Everything I’d read promised that the salt/sugar solution would ensure the bird stayed tender, moist, and melt off the bone. I even remembered to take out the neck and giblets, I’d done a lot of turkey prep reading, and submerged the bird overnight.
The morning of, I rinsed the turkey thoroughly and stuffed the cavity with apples and onions, something else I’d never seen Mom do but the recipe called for it and after all it’d come with a guarantee. I inserted the thermometer into the thigh as directed, put the turkey in a cooking bag, and placed it in the oven — setting the timer for three hours per the directions.

The timer buzzed and I checked the thermometer. It showed the right temperature so I took out the turkey and it was a delicious golden brown. I mentally patted myself on the back as I cut into the bird and I swear it gobbled. It wasn’t done. No big deal, it happens, right? I put the bird back in the bag, reinserted the thermometer, and put it back in the oven for another hour.

My family waited with anticipation for the timer to go off. An hour later, the thermometer indicated it was again 180 degrees so I pulled it out and cut into the thigh meat. It gobbled again in protest, still raw. Back in. Back out. Still raw.

We played this game a little more, and then I sliced off some of the more done parts and nuked them in the microwave as the side dishes were getting cold and Three-feet-of-fun was starving. I put the turkey back in the bag, didn’t bother with the thermometer this time, it was obviously defective, and flung it back in the oven.
It baked while we ate, while we did the dishes, and while we ate pie. I took it out of the oven again and cut into it. Still raw, still gobbling. Fed up, I put it back in the oven and turned the temperature down. I told my husband to make sure it didn’t catch on fire and I went out shopping. My husband forgot about it and when I got back four hours later, I pulled it out of the oven and cut into it again. I couldn’t believe it, it was still raw.

I ended up baking that mutant turkey the rest of the day and night and it never did get completely cooked. My dreams were shattered. Maybe I’ll start cooking it on Halloween next year. That is if the family lets me.

Posted in Cooking, Holidays, Humor | No Comments »

Don’t Lose Sight..

Raising a child is hard, but harder still is not losing sight of your partner in the process. With the high demands children place on your attention, time, and energies, it is easy to fall into the habit of tumbling into bed in exhaustion without a thought for your partner. Children are a blessing to any union but don’t forget how they got there in the first place. Eventually the center-of-your-world will grow up and leave the nest and then it’s just you and your partner again — seems like it’d be a good thing to keep that relationship alive.

Make a date. Date nights are hugely important. They don’t always have to be a “go out” on a date that isn’t always financially viable. If you can’t find a sitter or pay the exorbitant price of an evening movie with dinner once or twice a week, then have your date in. Eat a light snack when you feed the kids dinner and after they’ve gone to bed sit down to a romantic candle light dinner and then cuddle on the couch to a movie.

Do things together. It doesn’t always have to be about romance. Find something the two of you like to do and when the children have gone to bed, do the activity together. Play board games, video games, cards, anything that involves the two of you spending time together with which you can visit as well.

Spice it up. If you and your partner are into board games or cards add a little zest to the mix. Make it sexy, play for clothes, and fantasies. I invented a wicked game of adult Scrabble and a die. The rules are simple, after each complete turn, the person with the least amount of points takes off an item of clothing. What’s that you say? Scrabble takes a long time to play and you eventually will run out of clothes. I thought of that. After your clothes are gone then you roll the die three times. The first roll is for the body part (make a list one through six. I just did a list of three and repeated it). The second roll is for what activity that body part is engaged in. The third roll is for the length of time. When the game is over the winner gets the grand prize of having a fantasy or something they’d like fulfilled. Sounds like fun, right? Something like that can be done with anything if you just put your mind to it.

Hold hands. Don’t forget to touch one another even if it’s a simple hand holding or hand around the waist. Nothing says, “Hey I’m here and thinking about you,” than a simple touch. It’s not possible to touch your partner all the time but it’s easy to throw it in throughout the day — when you walk by them pat their rumps, caress their shoulders, or lightly brush against them.

Notes and love letters. Little notes in your partner’s lunch or love letters left where they can find them are an easy way to let your partner know they’re on your mind. In this highly electronic age it’s easy to flash your partner an e-mail. It can range from a just thinking of you message to a naughty this is what I’d like to do to you/for you message.

Relationships take a lot of work when you are just a couple and they take exponentially more when you bless your partnership with a child. Don’t lose sight of each other eventually you’ll be left to your own devices again and if you haven’t “seen” each other in eighteen or so years you just might know what to do.

Posted in Uncategorized, Relationships, Building and Maintaining, Marriage, Sex | No Comments »