eclipse sandwich

AugustYou can’t rush August, though there is every temptation to do so. It is fully half the summer and the most glorious half, at that.

We found a new apartment to live in, in the North End! The North End is an incredibly historic neighborhood in Boston, full of Italian businesses, Italian churches and Italian people! The streets are residential, peppered with commercial properties, like all city neighborhoods used to be. It’s a few minutes walk from Lux’s school and offers amenities we’ve never had before: a washer & dryer, a patio, air conditioning, first floor living!

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Because it has things like more than one bathroom, the actual living space is smaller than what we currently have. We will need to lend a few of our chairs away for a season to make it work. But I’m not worried about that because we’ll (eventually) have a table big enough to share meals with friends on! And the patio! And the same short bicycle commute for Joe. Wow. So much to be thankful for.

We’ve been pruning our possessions a bit before packing things up. For example, I just went through my kitchen utility drawer. I lined everything up and pulled about 20% of it that I wasn’t using. Next up are a few drawers in my closest where things like scarves, hair dryers (as if!), and sewing supplies hide out for far too long.

I’m also studiously emptying ridiculous things; I just used up the last of our hot sauce, and I haven’t replaced the soy sauce. I’m trying to use up all our frozen venison before the end of the month. These are tiny things that no doubt have absolutely no affect on packing–but, it’s a mindset!

We are keeping less adult books now as the girls’ collection grows and becomes more useful. I like staring at the edges of our books, lined up and reminding me of who I once was, but the girls’ books are read more regularly and used for all sorts of things like making towers, and going to sleep at night.

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Meanwhile, my friend just sent me something that’s been on my want-list for awhile: a small, countertop ice cream maker!! So, things aren’t getting too pared down around here.

I’m really beginning to regret our decision to go to Maine instead of chase the totality of the eclipse. Planning a vacation around three minutes sounded crazy at the time, but then again, I didn’t consider the fact that there’s really nothing like the totality, versus a partial eclipse. If you are getting your kids ready to discuss it, I highly recommend TinyBop’s Eclipse Primer and the vox video linked to therein. We love TinyBop’s Planets app too, especially the part that lets you compare the planet sizes.

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just pecking

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Oh we are winter souls. Tramp tramp. Stomp stomp. Scan skies for giant falling icicles. Dairy consumption in the apartment must be up by 50% because of all the hot chocolate (not hot, not all that chocolatey). I had my first ice fall. Naturally it was when I was all by myself, charging around like the young adult that I am not. I was walking to a movie…slip, smash on the bricks. It really hurt. And then I went to watch a movie about early-onset-alzheimer’s. Still Alice. Julianne Moore had the best clothes!

I’m not going to a movie again until this ballet documentary comes to town (check here to see your local listings). It looks so good. Justin Peck, a 27-year-old choreographer for the New York City Ballet. Man, is life good or what when you can go see a documentary about a ballet choreographer that just follows him around and lets you see what he sees? I love living in the future.

We have a fridge of bountiful groceries after going without for several days following my trip. The girls really didn’t give me a hard time about my leaving for two days, probably because they had such a nice time with Joe and our friend David, who came to help. Joan was so sweet the whole first day I was back. Then, that night, she woke up at least eight times, crying and screaming for me. It was a dark harkening back to the infant days.

It’s totally fair and appropriate for them to act out after I’ve been away, but I always forget that it might come when I’m least suspecting it.

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The girls are good. They seem louder than usual. I’m hearing this from other moms too. Is it just us, or is the weather finally setting in and turning them up a notch?

I am so sleepy today! We already went out for a walk/snow tramp early this morning, now I’m curled up with a blanket and tea on the couch and it feels so good. Ballet begins in an hour. Hmmmm I don’t know if I can get us there.

When you sign up for kiddo classes, naturally you do an equation wherein you divide the cost by the number of classes (rare is the brochure that does this simple arithmetic for you). This due diligence quickly goes to pot when you encounter freezing weather or blizzards or simple human fatigue. Note to self: do not sign-up for classes in late winter. It’s just too absurd getting there and back.

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I feel that it would be nice to tell you that now, at age 3.5+, Lux’s quiet time begins with a timed 35-minute session of ipad time. It always feels right to be upfront about any screen time with one’s audience. Her app options on there are good. She primarily plays Leo’s Pad. I set the timer on the ipad, it goes off, she closes it and puts it away (I’m not sure if she knows she could just press “ok” and keep playing, or if she’s just a very honest gal).

And, you know, even though this is roughly 30x more screen time than we used to allow, I think it’s working. I always evaluate these things on how she acts afterwards and she seems refreshed. She takes a longer quiet time overall, plays, and talks to herself afterward. She feels independent because she can pick which game she wants to play and puts it away herself. Afterwards she likes to tell me what she played and how it went. Usually there are a couple things on the game she didn’t solve that time.

Parenting in the future is complicated; but once again: I’m glad to be here.

 

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veggie tricks

plated

Since I last posted about plated.com, I’ve ended up cooking almost twenty dishes through them! I’ve also gifted plates to several people in place of making them meals myself. At this stage in my life, they are my favorite takeout place and my favorite-recipe-for-a-friend rolled into one.

I thought I’d post a couple tricks they used, ones I liked so much that I use on my own now.

Broccoli: My favorite part was their suggestion to break the broccoli off leaving longer stem pieces. The stem are delicious roasted! Toss the broccoli with olive oil, sprinkled with grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, and roast at 450 for ten minutes.

Cucumber ribbons: I had never tried this before but it was such an elegant way to serve cucumber. Plated had me toss them with a tahini dressing, but next time I’m going to try what my friend suggested on Instagram–salt and light vinegar. As a child I loved marinated cucumber but I had completely forgotten about it.

Citrusy Carrot Hash: Saute diced onions in olive oil for five minutes. Add diced carrots and three tablespoons water and saute them for ten minutes. Add the juice of one orange and one lemon to the pan, and let cook for two more minutes. Stir one tablespoon butter at the end. Delicious!

 

Toddler iPad

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At 2.8 Lux can be happily ensconced with the iPad for close to the entirety of a four hour flight. She didn’t really engage with movies or games on it until around age 2, so this is a big change (sweet relief) for our travel now. I thought I’d do a quick update on what we keep on there. We only use the iPad for travel like this, or serious emergencies at home, so everything stays fresh and exciting.

We have purchased both seasons of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood from iTunes. Love him. When’s the new season coming, Daniel??

For this trip, I bought the 30 minute Lost and Found film, on tinybop’s recommendation. It was $10 on iTunes which seems steep but she ended up watching it about six times and it’s really really lovely.

We also bought the Japanese film My Neighbor Totoro. We all watched that one together, really sweet and I love all the Japanese lifestyle details. I think Miyazaki films are great for kids. They remind me of folk tales and seem to encourage imagination of all sorts.

Our current favorite apps for her are: the Human Body, Monkey Lunchbox, Petting Zoo, Soundtouch, and Ants Lite (actually, just Lux approves of this one. I find it confusing).

Other travel items we rely on: her panda headphones, and sugary yummy earth vitamin C suckers for take-off and landing.

image from the Lost and Found film, by Oliver Jeffers. 

plated, a review

My mom is both very generous and very tech savvy. She frequently laments that she does not live closer to help me out more. Thus it was not a shocking surprise but still a super pleasant one when I found a gift for four dinners from plated in my inbox. Mayhaps she had seen a recent Facebook post wherein I basically swore off cooking dinner until Joan was two.

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I immediately clicked onto their site and selected two dinners to be shipped for that Tuesday. Lamb burgers with a greek salad side, and broccoli chicken curry. I specifically picked two things that I wish I cooked with more frequently–lamb and curry.

Obviously I was immediately smitten with having everything neatly labeled and divided. I think the cooking channel has made us all long for that:

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The only thing either dish needed from my pantry was olive oil, salt and pepper. Both dishes were designed to be prepped in about thirty minutes.

The whole family really liked both dinners and I particularly liked that the easy recipes taught me a few techniques. For example–the lamb burgers came with directions to quick pickle red onions, mix feta into the mayonnaise, and lightly toast the buns beforehand. All of these were easy things that completely upgraded the dish, things that I typically wouldn’t think to do. I had an aha! moment when I read “Wipe pan clean from burgers. Return to heat and briefly toast buns in the pan.” So simple, yet I never do it.

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I love cookbooks, I read them all the time. I love trying new recipes. But I appreciated the user-friendly aspect of something like this. I think it’s perfect for people who say “I’m terrible at cooking.” Or for a young single guy who wants to cook at home, but has no idea where to start. You could do a couple weeks of this, and go forth feeling like you know what you’re doing and have some serious experience under your belt. For me, it helped me snap out of the “whaaat do I make tonight?” rut that I was knee deep in.

They ship to a surprising number of places (like, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California!) which makes them a potentially awesome Christmas present.

And for those of you googling this stuff–there is another service out of New York called Blue Apron. Here’s the skinny on a couple of the differences between these competitors. 1/ The menu for plated changes every week, and you can decide your order up to 24 hrs before it ships. 2/ Blue Apron is $3-5 cheaper per plate, but you do not get to pick the food, you just pick whether it is vegetarian or not. 3/ plated has an optional monthly membership that discounts each plate. Blue Apron is cheaper overall, but requires you to receive a certain amount of dishes each week.

I’ve still got two more dinners to order–I’m eyeing those potato goat cheese cakes for next week! This isn’t sponsored, just a personal review. BUT do note: if you use a referral code to sign up, you get two free plates!

Blue Bottle Tips

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Extremely enlightening things I learned while browsing Blue Bottle Coffee’s brewing guides:

  • French Press coffee should only sit/brew for four minutes
  • Pour all of the coffee out of the French Press as soon as it’s done brewing
  • Pour-over coffee should take 2.5-3 minutes of pouring to brew
  • A Moka Pot (Italian stovetop) is best done with already hot water
  • Pulling a perfect espresso shot is an art form.

The writing is a little snobby, but in a charming hopeless-nerd way. The photography is amazing. And the knowledge (particularly that French Press bit) is transformative. Nice website, guys!

what’s on your homescreen?

a new series wherein I ask friends what apps they use frequently and why. I’m going first, let me know what you think!

rachael_ringenberg_homepageVoice Memo I’ve been using this to record Lux talking to herself and at music class so I can remember the songs for Lux later on.

Google Maps Much subtler on the road than the Apple maps app.

Merriam Webster Good old fashioned knowledge.

Simple a new bank that Joe and I are using because their app is designed to help you save.

Google I use their search app because it’s quicker than the Safari browser.

 

Feedly, Twitter, Instagram Need no explanation, really.

TeuxDeux a to-do app for the daily and the long term. I really love the simplicity of it. In November, they are going to start charging $24-a-year, and I’m up for paying.

Foursquare Better for suggestions of where to eat more than over-saturated Yelp these days.

Notes Compared with TeuxDeux, I use it more for spur of the moment. Great for grocery lists. Intuitively designed not to waste your time when you are just trying to jot things down in the moment.

LevelUp Boston’s preferred pay-with-your-phone app, usually saves me $5-$10 every ten purchases or so.

Petting Zoo Still my favorite kids app, though Lux prefers instagram, especially #puppiesofinstagram.

Kayak for whimsical flight searches, just to satisfy my frequent “how much does it cost to fly to Bali in March?” thoughts.

iQueue it makes zero, ZERO, sense that I have to use a third party app to update my Netflix dvd queue, but there you have it. It works quickly and simply. Recently added: La Vie en Rose, A Nos Amours, Mystic Pizza, Skyfall.

 

 

 

 

 

favorite podcasts

One of my favorite things about living in the year 2013 is podcasts. Among my favorites:

  • spilled milk which is like having two giggly foodie pals over for dinner on the back porch
  • the sounds in my head which is like listening to the hippest radio station with a goofy self-deprecating DJ and no ads!
  • the writer’s almanac which, though just five minutes long, is like drinking a large glass of pinot noir while looking at the mountains
  • the longest shortest time which is like talking on the phone to your funny best friend about how your baby won’t stop crying and having your friend successfully calm you down and make you laugh.

I want to highlight the longest shortest time as I have a bunch of readers who are new moms and because she’s just launched two cool campaigns.

The first: free cards that you can send for to jump start conversations in playgroups, library meet-ups, drop off at your OB’s office, pin on the bulletin board at your local playground, and the like. Printed on heavy card stock with funny quotes from the show, they are beautifully done:

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Read more about those and order them for free right here.

And: she just launched a kickstarter campaign so she can afford to begin a whole new season of episodes. I love Hillary’s style–she has a wonderfully relaxed way of interviewing and asking all the questions you hope she’ll ask. One of my favorite episodes had personal interviews with the two sides of the sleep-training debate. It was so refreshing for me to hear it all hashed out like that. I think once you have the chance to listen to a few episodes, you’ll be pledging for a second season, just like I did!

by the way, I use Apple’s free podcast app to easily download and listen to podcasts on my iphone when I’m cleaning up the kitchen, driving, or walking around in circles waiting for Joan to fall asleep.

 

Endless Diaper Boondoggle

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By my calculation we spend about $80 every two months on diapers for each girl. Quite a bit of money. So I think it makes sense that early on in diaper purchasing I became a bit neurotic about where I was buying them from. I’m not sure if it helped or hurt that each diaper supplier helps you break it down by giving you the per-diaper cost. For the first year, I used Amazon’s “gift” of prime membership to all new moms and bought from them. Then I started buying them from Whole Foods because Amazon started charging for shipping, and I liked the Whole Foods ones better anyway. They were $.30 each.

Briefly I attempted diapers.com but I got really sick of their whole email-discount-code song and dance. They force you to keep up with their emails and hunt through them for coupons. And then some months, the coupons just mysteriously disappear and you pay 20% more than you did last time. No thank you, crappy business practices. (incidentally diapers.com is owned by Amazon, which just feels like another mind game.)

I looked at Honest Diapers at the time but found them quite expensive. I don’t know if I wasn’t doing the math right or if they dropped their prices, but I’ve since revisited them and now they seem like the best deal in town.

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I like how nicely their website is designed and how easy it is to work with their interface. I like that when I call them to change or last-minute-delay an order I get a happy American on the other end of the line. I like that they send me two warning emails before they ship. I like the fun graphics on the diapers that gives Lux a distracting conversation topic when I’m changing her diaper. I like that they try to make their diapers as low-an-impact on the environment as possible (though at this point, several brands do that, so it’s not a distinguishing factor). I like that all of their employees appear to enjoy working there, unlike Amazon. And they are a certified B corporation which looks at how a company treats their employees, health care options, workspace design, environmental impact, etc. (incidentally if I care about things like ‘certified B corporation status,’ I should stop nickel and diming everything right there, probably.)

Lux’s size 4 works out to $.43 each. But they include four packages of wipes with each order, which you can value at a minimum of $10. So then it’s $.37 per diaper. Whole Foods for her current size is $.35 each, but then I have to get them home from the store myself. Seventh Generation via diapers.com is $.36. is this getting neurotic enough yet?

 What is my point here? That basically all diapers cost the same amount and if I’ve found a company that has at least two or three practices that distinguish themselves, it’s worth sticking with them.

What do you think? Have you obsessively broken down these pros and cons too? Who’s your favorite vendor? Am I missing anything obvious? This is not a sponsored post at all, but I have linked to Honest Diapers with my account’s code, so I would get an initial credit if you signed up from this post, just fyi.

And for you cloth-diapering mommas: I’m with you! We just operate from a laundromat right now, so it doesn’t work. But someday!

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