Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 2012 Round Up

Mosaic made with Picasa, made from my January Project 365 photos.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
I don't think I read much of anything this month besides work emails!

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: The final episode of Chuck aired. Waaaaahhh!!! We've watched it since day one, and we're so sorry to see it go. And Catherine left CSI. ::sniff, sniff:: Luke is completely in heaven; there is now a television show based on LEGO Ninjago. Luke also saw his first ever episode of The Joy of Painting (with Bob Ross), and he really seemed to like it. It certainly prompted him to draw a lot for the next few days. :-)
* New Films: Managed quite a few this month! And 31 Days of Oscar have started on TCM, so hopefully there will be quite a few more in February.
  • Rod Roddenberry's Trek Nation - very good, really enjoyed it!
  • The Canterville Ghost (Patrick Stewart) - not great, but I'll watch him in nearly anything
  • Hawaii (Julie Andrews, Max vonSydow, Richard Harris, Gene Hackman) - I'd never even heard of this movie until it came on, it was quite interesting
  • Love and Other Drugs - better than I anticipated, actually
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding - this was really cute!
  • Death Defying Acts (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Guy Pierce, Timothy Spall) - Catherine sounds super strange with a Scottish accent! interesting film, though almost completely devoid of factual content
  • Dead Again (Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Andy Garcia, Wayne Knight, Robin Williams; quite the cast!) - interesting to see Thompson and Branagh in something set in "present day" (or it was at the time, 1991)
  • Country Strong - better than I thought it might be
  • Mother Wore Tights - I'll watch nearly anything Betty Grable is in; this was fairly typical of her work, fine but nothing amazing
* Old Favorites: Monsters, Inc., The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Oliver and Company, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Independence Day, An Affair to Remember, Remember the Titans, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Core, How to Train Your Dragon (let L watch, he's now obsessed), Anastasia, Cars 2, Tron: Legacy, The King's Speech, Chicken Little, Days of Thunder, Hello Dolly!, Planet of the Apes (original), The Emperor's New Groove, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Great Mouse Detective, Sneakers, Chicago

What special days did I celebrate and how?
We watched Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve to ring in the new year, as usual, while trying to catch up on my blog from missing nearly all of November or December.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
None really come to mind; I don't think I gave or received any.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
We finally had Luke's audiology appointment, and thankfully, they found nothing wrong. I also burned my finger on the oven rack. That's the second or third time I've burned myself in the last 2 months. Nothing major enough to need more medical attention than a piece of ice, just annoying.

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
This month was much more about keeping our heads above water amidst all the turmoil than about having any sort of fun. We did make our first trip ever to IKEA, though, which was quite interesting and rather fun (and we spent less than $25, including lunch!).

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?

You can read all about my new recipes for this month at this previous post. I'll highlight the Sesame Encrusted Baked Chicken Tenders, since it was our best find of the month, though the Dressed Up Sloppy Joes and Cracker Pizza ideas were good, too (just need a little tinkering). The Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes, Toll House Pie, Chicken Parmesan Bake, and Baked Taco Shells didn't really blow me away. I also successfully made waffles (recipe link) at home on the new waffle maker I received for Christmas. We tried the recipe at Christmas, and it was really good. Luke has been begging for them ever since, so he's a happy camper. He ate two of them! They will definitely go into the dinner rotation.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
We finally booked our Disney hotel, though it isn't paid for, so not sure that counts. We also had the front porch and the back sinkhole repaired.

What were this month's disappointments or frustrations?
Nearly too many to name; it's been a really though month all the way around. We started the month with the meltdown we knew Luke was bound to have. He was so well behaved for virtually all of Christmas break, so it was definitely building up. Work went very badly for several days, some my fault, some not, and all terribly frustrating. In fact, on January 5, I tweeted: "If the last three days are indicative of how the rest of my work year is going to go, then I'm ready to skip ahead to 2013. ::headdesk::" Little did I know! We found out on January 20 that the company is shutting down, so now I'm back to job hunting. I also discovered that my email account was hacked, likely from the security breach at Zappos. Password changed and all that jazz, but caused some trouble for a few friends and family members. (Sorry!) And we had to have a parent/teacher conference to discuss Luke's deteriorating behavior at school. Just not a great month.

What were my accomplishments this month?
Sadly, I think simply surviving this month was quite an accomplishment! ::sigh:: I had made it to 18 pounds total lost since last February, but I gained 2 of them back due to stress eating after the job thing was announced. :-\ We started on LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, and we're about 12% complete. Not bad for just a few nights' work. Oh, I discovered app tabs on Firefox! I am completely in love.

As far as the 101 Things goes, I watched a bunch of movies (might should have made that 101 new movies instead of 50!), and made several recipes. Didn't do very well on most of my weekly and monthly items. I only actually completed one "single" item:

76. Visit Ikea. We did this the last weekend in January. It was interesting! We'll be back, I'm sure.

Project 365 is going well, as you can see from the mosaic up there. I think I finally got some of the settings on the DSLR corrected so I can take some decent indoor photos with it now. Still primarily using the point and shoot, though, since it sits right by my chair and is able to catch more "opportune moments" that way.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Luke's survival is also worth noting as an accomplishment. It was a long hard month with him and his behavior, particularly at school. (What is it with him and January, anyway?) There were some bright spots, though. He started eating chicken fingers and chili at home, quite of his own choosing, which was shocking. He has upgraded nearly every one of his Skylanders to level 5 or beyond, with several of them maxed out. Glad he likes them! He has become obsessed with How to Train Your Dragon since we let him see it. I think we've seen it about 8 times now. And he lost tooth number five. Tooth 6 is fairly loose, but given his history, it's probably got a few weeks to go yet. 7 and 8 are just starting to wiggle, so we've got a few months left on those, I think.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
It finally got below freezing for the first time this winter. Other than that, temps have mainly varied from lows in the upper 30s to mid 40s (about 3C to 8C), with highs from mid 50s to mid 60s (about 12C to 19C). Very strange, considering we were in the midst of Hothlanta at this time last year.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.
Currently feeling: rounded

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 2012 Pinterest Inspirations

I think all the things I did this month from Pinterest were recipes (that seems to be happening a lot!). Note: these are *not* my photos. They are the actual photos that are pinned on Pinterest, and they appear here using the "embed" button on the pin itself (thanks for the tip, Leah!).

Sesame Encrusted Baked Chicken Tenders - Very good and easy! Only change was I made 1 lb instead of 1.5 lbs (just two folks eating it). Will definitely add to the dinner rotation.

Dressed Up Sloppy Joes (Crock Pot / Slow Cooker) - This was quite good. I think it's a good recipe to use as a base and tinker. More Worcestershire, less sugar, and simmer in the crock pot (instead of on the stove top like I did).

Cracker Pizza - Use a tortilla as a pizza crust (falls into the "duh" department). Did this with leftover pizza cup filling topped with cheese; super simple super quick dinner! Will probably do a Mexican version later (refried beans, taco meat, cheese).

Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes - We didn't care for this recipe. I don't think it is the recipe's fault, just our taste buds. Did not eat leftovers, though.

Toll House Pie - Not bad. Dare I say, I think this might have had *too* much chocolate in it? I might knock it down to 3/4 of a cup of chocolate chips. Would also add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla.

Chicken Parmesan Bake - This was okay. One or two bites of it did taste very much like chicken parmesan, but most of the time, it tasted like chicken with spaghetti sauce and some croutons and didn't really come together as a dish. Not bad, just not all I hoped it would be.

Baked Taco Shells - If these had been just a little more crisp and a little less chewy, they'd have been perfect! (couldn't bake longer or they would have burned) Might need to experiment with different brands of tortillas; the ones I had were possibly too thick? Might also sprinkle a little salt on the inside before baking.

Currently feeling: ready to eat!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lumos (or Not)

We tried really hard to (at least temporarily) fix the lighting issues at our house. Let's just say that the lighting situation in nearly the whole house needs some... improvement, except for the bedrooms where we already swapped out the overhead fixtures for ceiling fans before we moved in.

First, who puts track lighting in the kitchen? Second, anyone know how to change halogen bulbs? Because for the life of us, neither DH nor I can figure out how to get the bulbs out to change them. I have four bulbs in the kitchen light, and two are out. It was bad lighting to start with; now it's horrid. Fine, we'll just change the light out for a fixture that works better! Simple enough, right? Except that the fixture won't come down. DH and I have changed several light fixtures in our time, and we are both engineers; it's not like we're complete idiots. But we CANNOT get the fixture to let loose from the ceiling. We've tried everything we can think of, short of just yanking on it with all our might, which we're reluctant to do in case of causing some serious damage. We were just about ready to have the "central" fixture taken out and have can lights put in, but with the job situation, that is now out. I *really* don't want to have to call an electrician just to change a stupid fixture (plus I really don't want to spend the money on something so silly). Guess I'll just live with a dark kitchen for a while longer. Anyone have some lamps we can borrow?

So, to make ourselves feel better, we did finally hang a light in the dining room. First time since we moved in 2+ years ago that we've had light in that room (besides a single lamp). The previous owners took their chandelier, which is fine with us. They were supposed to leave the ceiling medallion, but when they took the light down, they "discovered" that the medallion was not secured to the ceiling when it crashed to the floor and broke. This also led to the discovery that the beige ceiling was not painted under the medallion! We couldn't find a large enough replacement (or affordable enough, or one we liked), so we kept waiting until we got around to either painting the house or at least painting the ceiling to hang a light. Plus, I wanted a light I actually liked, but I didn't want to pick a light until I had settled on a paint color or scheme/style for the room. Thus why it is now going on 2.5 years with no dining room light.

We finally put up the chandelier type light that came out of the former office (now guest room). No, I can't explain why there was a fixture like this in a bedroom/office! I told you, the people who put these lights in were crazy (see also: track lighting in kitchen!!). So as a "make due" for now, until we can either paint the ceiling and/or select a fixture we like, we at least have *something* up in that room that now casts light. Mission semi-accomplished.

Please don't talk to me about the overhead lights in the den that eat bulbs (3-4 a year, per fixture, times 4 fixtures) and half of which have lost their covers (so old they literally fell down and are now dented so they can't go back in!). Whenever we get the can lights put in the kitchen, we'll put some in the den, too. But at $100 a pop (includes installation and ceiling repair, thought not painting, and we see how good I am about that), it's going to be a while before we can afford to get it done.

Currently feeling: not quite as bright as we hoped

Saturday, January 28, 2012


We made our first ever visit to IKEA this weekend. It was quite an experience. That place is HUGE!!! It took us nearly 3 hours to get through it all, though that does include eating at the restaurant. I was looking for general ideas and prices on a few things, like a small dining table and some "cubby" type shelves, like these:

They didn't have quite what I was looking for. The 2x2 cubby block was too small, but the 2x4 was too long. Really needed a 2x3, so I'll keep looking. There were a couple of nice tables, but with the job in flux, that will have to wait. (We do really need the shelves, though, if I can find the right size for the price I want.)

We took a lunch break between floors. How could we go all the way to IKEA and not try the famous Swedish meatballs? Thankfully, they also had chicken fingers for Luke. Overall, it was quite yummy and fairly inexpensive, though I will admit that my recent Swedish meatball recipe find is better (probably has something to do with browning them in butter! LOL).

We really had fun looking around at everything, and we will definitely be back. You know, when we have disposable income again.

Currently feeling: nearly overwhelmed

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Job Hunting Again

I found out last Friday, January 20, that the company I work for is shutting down. They've been running in the red for nearly a year now, so it's not really a surprise, though it did come sooner than I anticipated. We were asked to keep it to ourselves until later this week so that there was time to inform our major customer before word leaked out. Official notifications have been made to all interested parties, so I can now discuss.

Not that there's much to say. I haven't even been there 5 months, and here I am job hunting again. I'm still working; we have enough to do to probably keep us busy (read: employed) at least through the end of February, possibly as long as May or June, depending on what work we are allowed to give back and how it takes to finish up some of our long poll projects that have already started. We were also told to go ahead and be speaking with our contacts and job hunting, which is nice (in that we don't have to hide that we're looking and we can use our current boss as a reference).

Needless to say, no one is happy about the situation, but we're just doing what we can. Finish the work we have, talk to our network, and start sending out resumes. And hope, and pray.

Currently feeling: not happy

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Living in the Future

A few days ago, I was sitting in my den, surfing the web wirelessly on a laptop about the size of a magazine, wearing bluetooth headphones and listening to music streaming from the Amazon cloud to my husband's smart phone in the kitchen. I was struck quite suddenly by the fact that I am, in some ways, living in the future I imagined when I was a child. What an awesome thing!

Then today, I found a Buzzfeed article summarizing some 1901 predictions of what life would be like in 2001 (the article title incorrectly says 1911-2011, but the first paragraph clearly states "before the dawn of 2001 - a century from now"). The 1901 author spoke with various experts of the era, and most of the ideas are eerily accurate! Some, not so much (what I wouldn't give for mosquitoes and roaches to be extinct!), but on the whole, the article is much more correct than not. I would love for someone to recreate the article for present day (with genuine credible experts, not the most far-fetched outrageous headline-grabbing predictions to be found) and save a copy for my great-grandchildren. I wonder what they would think of our predictions?

Currently feeling: ready for a transporter!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - January 18, 2012

Currently feeling: lucky little ladybug (it survived the curious kitten!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Missing Disney Hotel

I got a bit panicked a few days ago. As I started planning our Disney trip for this year, I could not find our favorite Country Inn and Suites anywhere. It had disappeared from the website, and most maps no longer listed it. Did it close?! How is that possible, they were always so busy. I thought I was going to cry!

I could have gotten a semi-reasonable price on a Disney moderate hotel, which was tempting for a while. We've never stayed in one before, and I thought it might be a nice change of pace. But the price was eating at me. It wasn't *that* much more expensive than some of the other places I was considering, so I was just about to pull the trigger, and then I went on one final expedition to see if I could find the missing hotel.

As it turns out, it's still there, but it's now a Fairfield Inn and Suites, not to be confused with the Fairfield inn and Suites in the Marriott complex that is just on the other side of the interstate from this one. (I looked into the Marriott complex, and I could get a slightly better rate, but I know from *many* years of trying to get through that interstate intersection that it was "on the wrong side of the tracks," so to speak. Not worth the slight reduction in price.) It has been completely renovated on the inside, so it will be interesting to see what it looks like after all these years (I think it's been at least 3 years since we stayed there). And it ended up being about 25% cheaper than the Disney hotel we were considering (though we will have to pay for parking, which is now $14 per day; ouch).

So, we now have a place to sleep while we're there! Now I just have to figure out which parks we're going to (don't think we'll make them all), where we're eating, what our primary and secondary targets are.... um, excuse me, I think I need to get cracking on a plan!

Currently feeling: ready for the house of mouse!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Grade ITBS and CogAT Scores

Luke's first official standardized test scores came home this week. Frankly, they didn't tell us anything we don't already know about him. For the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills), he was at or above the 50th percentile in 5 categories, but somewhat below the 50th percentile in 2 categories: Vocabulary and "Reading: Comprehension", two of his well known weaknesses. His two highest scores were in "Reading: Words" at 93rd percentile (even his teacher says he is exceptional at sounding out words) and, ironically, "Listening" at 83rd percentile. I must admit, I am incredibly curious as to how they test that one! Clearly not by how well he listens at home, but I've said all along that as long as he is doing those things at school, I'm (somewhat) okay with that. I know standardized tests don't tell the whole story, and I'm trying not to be ruffled that a couple of the categories were less than stellar. I keep hoping the whole reading thing will click soon; it's driving us all crazy.

He also took the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). Again, nothing we don't already know. In fact, it sums him up quite perfectly! First, let me define the categories, copied from the handout they sent home with the scores:
  • The Verbal Battery measures a child's ability to remember and transform sequences of English words, to understand them, and to make inferences and judgements about them.
  • The Quantitative Battery tests the child's understanding of basic quantitative concepts and relationships that are essential for learning mathematics. Tasks measure both the understanding of relational concepts and the student's ability to discover relationships and to figure out a rule or principle that explains them.
  • The Nonverbal Battery measures reasoning using pictures and geometric shapes. This reduces the impact of language on the student's score. The Nonverbal Battery also appraises the student's ability to use her/his cognitive resources in new situations.

  • Verbal Reasoning: 48th percentile
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 65th percentile
  • Nonverbal Reasoning: 94th percentile
  • Composite National Age Percentile Rank: 77th percentile

Yep, that's pretty much Luke in a nutshell!

The only thing I am truly frustrated about regarding any of these scores is that I don't know how to help him improve in the areas where he is weakest. Most of the suggestions revolve around essentially "practice practice practice." Yeah, YOU come make him practice! I'm trying to encourage him and help him and *maybe* require him to do a teensy bit of reading on occasion, but I don't want to just make him loathe it by pushing too hard. If I have one more person tell me "he needs to be reading 20-30 minutes every day," I'm going to cut out his or her tongue! It's such a difficult balance between getting him the necessary practice and keeping our sanity. I suppose we will all survive, and I am confident he will eventually learn to read (and more importantly, comprehend) effectively, it's just not going to be easy or quick. I need to accept that, but it's hard for both DH and me. Keep your fingers crossed, for all of us!

Currently feeling: a little frustrated, but also very proud

Thursday, January 12, 2012

500 Pounds of Concrete

Five hundred pounds of concrete can turn this:

Into this:

No more Pit of Despair! And we can actually use our front door again.

Currently feeling: full

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - January 11, 2012

Currently feeling: settled in for a long winter's nap

Friday, January 06, 2012

Luke's Audiology Follow Up

You may remember that Luke failed his hearing screening at the pediatrician's office back in November. It took me a while to get the audiology follow up scheduled, and then they were booked out past the Christmas holidays. His appointment was today, at the same facility where he had speech therapy 4 years ago. It was rather strange being back there after all this time.

They ran though three different tests, including two that were run at the pediatrician's office. All three came back completely normal! He was quite congested in November when the test was administered, and it is more of a "quick and dirty" test there than an audiologist would perform. Her suspicion is that he tends to have fluid build up in his hears when he is congested, and that can temporarily affect hearing. However, the fact that his hearing is now reading normal without him ever getting an ear infection means that his body is handling the fluid just as it should. It's not (always) staying there and getting infected, and it isn't causing any sort of permanent hearing trouble. He's just fine. So, a bit of a hassle to do, but nice to know nothing is wrong.

It also means that when I'm having to call his name two and three times while he's watching television or playing video games, he *can* hear me just fine, he's just choosing not to. Busted!

Currently feeling: can you hear me now?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Project 365 - 2012 Edition

Some of you may remember that I did Project 365 in 2009. Almost every day for a year, I took at least one photo. I actually wasn't sure if I could do it for a whole year, and I missed a day here or there, but I did it! I really enjoyed it (most of the time), and I learned a ton about my camera and how to use it. I've wanted to do it again for a while. Why not this year? And given that I have a spiffy "new to me" camera, I figure it's time to put her through her paces.

As I did last time, I will be posting (probably not daily, but somewhat regularly) on my Project 365 blog. The URL is the same as before, so if you're still subscribed, you should already be seeing the new posts. I will also be posting the "summary mosaic" on each month's round up, just as before, and there will undoubtedly be some overlap with Project 365 photos and things like Wordless Wednesday. Hope you enjoy!

Currently feeling: photographic

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - January 4, 2012

Currently feeling: Happy New Year('s Eve)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Where did my real child go?

I think an alien has come down and replaced my son. (A beta unit, perhaps? Name that movie reference!) You know, Mr. Picky Eater? This is the child who decides before he's even put something new in his mouth that he doesn't like it, and even if you can see on his face that he clearly *does* like it, he will swear that he does not and refuse eat any more of it. That is the child I am used to. That is apparently *not* who I was dealing with today!

We've been trying for years to find some version of chicken fingers that he will eat at home. Homemade certainly didn't work, but neither did any of the 5 or 6 varieties of frozen that I tried! Didn't matter what brand or type, he still said he didn't like them. I have noticed that his taste in restaurant chicken tenders has improved (he's now a Zaxby's boy, when he used to say he didn't like them), so when a coupon popped up in the paper the other day, I decided to try them again. I made him some for lunch today, and he immediately said, "Yum!!! I want to eat these every day!" Um, okay, maybe not every day, but it's nice to have an at home option besides peanut butter, pepperoni, and grilled cheese. I was certainly getting tired of making them for him for dinner, especially when he takes peanut butter or pepperoni in his lunch at least 4 days a week. Maybe in another few months, we can try homemade baked ones again?

Then, this afternoon, the *same* day that he had already tried (and liked!) the new chicken tenders, he starts asking me why we don't eat "the beans in the brown sauce" anymore. I'm sorry, the what? "You know, it had the brown sauce and the beans and it was my favorite." Do you mean chili? The chili that you ate starting around age 2 through age 4 or 5, and then have flatly refused to eat for at least the last 2 years so I stopped trying? That chili?! He couldn't say for sure, so I made some tonight for dinner. "Yeah, this is it. I love this! It's my favorite." And he proceeded to eat the entire bowl!

Okay, who are you, and what have you done with my son?! It's possible it's a fluke and he won't eat it next time, but for now, he seems to love it, and it's easy enough to microwave on nights that he doesn't want what the grownups are having. [Updated on 1/5/2012: He requested chili again for dinner tonight. I heated up Tuesday's leftovers, which he promptly downed and asked for more, which I sadly didn't have. I will definitely make sure we have some on hand at all times going forward!]

Look out, world. There may be pigs flying tomorrow!

Currently feeling: you want to eat what?

Monday, January 02, 2012

My Seven Objectives for 2012

You know I'm not much on resolutions; it's just not really my thing. Lists, however, I love (as you may have noticed), so when I saw the Seven Things at the Day Zero Project, I thought they sounded great. So here are mine. Care to join me?

Learn how to ... Use my DSLR effectively/efficiently.
Start ... Exercising regularly (even if only once a week).
Stop ... Drinking so many calories (i.e. drink more water).
Take a vacation to ... See Connie in Texas.
Find ... A good weekly routine that includes grocery shopping.
Try ... Quinoa.
Be more ... Patient with my child.

Currently feeling: hope this works

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year 2012 - CD Calendar Reveal

(Still working on the December 2011 Round Up! Will post when finished.)

And for my traditional New Year's Day post, I give you the reveal of the 2012 CD Calendar.

Currently feeling: ready for the new year (I hope)