PAD “front door” #theidearoom – Neighbors?

Shut the front door. Remember that? It was really popular a few years back. It’ll be an indicator of age eventually.

In the last I didn’t use the front door much. In this one I use it less. Nobody in America really uses the front door anymore. (At least here in Minnesota, maybe different regions of the US do.) Instead we tend to have a large door specifically for our vehicles. That door is generally opened and closed automatically via a button in the vehicle. It leads to an under-insulated room of our house which is attached. There usually is a wall with similar thickness and insulation to the outside walls in-between the main living spaces and this room, and not generally any HVAC service. Because of the button in the vehicle it’s not unusual for the big door to be closing before anyone exits the vehicle, and not opened until people are already in it.

Further reducing the use of the front door is the fence around the back-yard. Instead of letting the kids out front to play, or heading out the front to the neighborhood park, we let them loose in the backyard.

This loss of the front door is, to me, tied directly to the lack of neighborly connection. Since we’re always isolated near our home we are no longer meeting our neighbors. If we assume that this is a major cause then we next have to decide if that is good or bad, and if bad how do we change it?

TWB 27 – You started it.

Monday I took the kids to play after school so Heather could finish the shopping we didn’t get done over the weekend. After dinner Gideon picked Chuggington.
Heather read Llama Llama Holiday Drama to both kids while I read them I’ve Seen Santa.

Tuesday was a late one. Gideon has complained in the past about not getting to stay and play at Love to Grow On, so since Heather had a late meeting we decided to do a late pick-up. Turns out, the kids didn’t like that. Sometimes we just can’t win. (I think if they had been playing in a snowy backyard things might have been different.) They were mad I didn’t pick them up and go play instead. Cecilia picked Little Einsteins after dinner.
Heather read Gideon’s latest class book to both kids.
I read Gideon and Cecilia Gideon’s Little Elf book.

Wednesday it was Heather’s turn to take the kids to the community center. Other than that, a pretty normal day. Gideon picked Handy Manny to finish it off.
Heather read both kids The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever.
I read both kids Counting Christmas.

Thursday I got home late due to a work party and the kids both lost their show privileges for the night. That’s probably enough said about that.
Cecilia had Let It Snow read to her by Heather while I read her the Barbie Secret Door book.
Gideon begged Heather to finish his Big Book of Airplanes and then I read him Let It Snow.

Friday was a long day. We split the kids for pickup after work in an attempt to get them done with their Christmas gift purchases. Well, mostly done. They couldn’t get something for the parent that was with them. I took Gideon and Heather took Cecilia. It was a mostly fruitful day for everyone involved. Gideon had known he wouldn’t get a show earlier, so how late we got back didn’t phase him. (Fall out from the previous day.) We had family story and ended up letting Cecilia choose a story or show. Since she choose a show (Doc McStuffins I think?) we let Gideon play while she watched it before they both went to bed in their tents.
Gideon did get The Foot Book from me before he played for the rest of Cecilia’s show.

Saturday was a long one. In the morning I took the kids to do some “independent” gift buying for Heather and I at the Shoreview Community Center. Since we were there I let them then play for a while in the indoor playground and basketball gym. Heather finished up some shopping with the magic of the internet while we were gone. In the afternoon we took in a rendition of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at a nearby church before heading out to the Sturm’s annual Christmas Dinner to see some people we rarely hang out with anymore. (Life does that you know.) The nighttime show started on the drive there with a final bit in the house after the drive back, it was The Incredibles chosen by Gideon. Even with the late hour we were able to have family story time, but no individual stories tonight.

Sunday we spent the day at home. Partially because Cecilia literally ate herself sick the night before. She liked the chocolate cake at the Sturms so much she overate and gave it to the toilet when we got home. We also knew that we had a heck of a week coming up. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday all are going to be late nights. Cecilia picked Frosty Returns after a pizza dinner and two episodes of Amazing Race. We’re past Halloween now!
Heather read both kids Millie in the Snow.
I read both kids Santa Knows.

PAD “tree” #theidearoom – Past, Present, Future

When we were in Elk River we had settled on two trees for Christmas. One was a real one on the front porch. There was a light socket right above it that worked wonderfully for plugging a converter into so the trees lights could be done from above. The one inside was a pre-lit fake tree that centered the decorations on the main level quite well.

I don’t remember every iteration we went through to get to that point. I think we tried just a live tree for the first year or two. There was also at least one year with a tree both upstairs and down. The Christmas with another family in the house was memorable as well.

Going all the way back to Coon Rapids I know we tried the cut your own route at least one time, maybe two. It didn’t stick, so that wasn’t really our thing.

This year it’s only the pre-lit tree. Nothing else would fit even if we tried. Well, technically something could, but it wouldn’t be good for anyone involved. In the future who knows what our new tree strategy will be. It really depends largely on what our living arrangement looks like the next few years.

PAD “cozy” #theidearoom – Blankets

One of the ways I try to get the kids to calm down at night is to have them get cozy. This really works best with Cecilia.

The idea is simple. I tell her to get cozy for the story. Getting cozy means warm, comfortable, and laying down. Sometimes it means warm or footie jammies. The blanket and laying down are the real keys here. The blanket helps to limit movement and fidgeting. Laying down is obviously to help relax.

Once we’ve achieved cozy we can read the story. Being quiet to pay attention is important here. This is, of course, to help in the whole falling asleep thing.

Problem is, with her it doesn’t matter. That girl can go to bed at 7:30 and still be awake at 10. Easily. She doesn’t jump all over and fight hard to stay awake either. She’ll do it with the light off while laying in her bed. Heather beats her to sleep a surprising number of nights.

PAD “weather” #theidearoom –

Weather this time of year is a bit tough to pin down. We want it to be cold enough for “good snow.” At the same time we want it to be warm enough to spend time outside in said snow.

The white Christmas is a hope that I think we all share, but what about Thanksgiving? Do we want the snow to hit hard during the Christmas/New Years week? Do we want it to hit hard in the week before or the week after instead?

Personally, I like a good solid snowstorm. The kind that keeps you home from work and school. I like it mostly from the comfort of inside though. I guess I’m a little strange like that.

TWB 26 – B is for Be Honest

Monday Heather had MOPS so we kind of rushed the at home time. We are trying an advent style book this year. (Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas.) We read a short story each night starting Dec 1st and lasting through Christmas. There are suggested discussions listed after each two page reading, but I’m not holding my breath on getting to those. At the end of the day Gideon picked Frosty the Snowman and we didn’t ask for a wait.
With Heather gone the kids got to each pick one which we read in Mom and Dad’s room all together instead of separately in their rooms as is the norm. Gideon picked All By Myself from the Critter Collection while Cecilia picked her Princess Pets book.

Tuesday Heather woke up sick. Obviously that colored the day somewhat. Dinner and Huisinga’s coming over changed. Luckily the kids weren’t expecting them this time. I made a Costco stop and didn’t get the kids home early at all. Running back out to get soup for Heather made dinner late. Cecilia picked Jake and the Neverland Pirates which we watched before our family story time.
After family story both kids had me read them one from The Little Critter compilation we have.

Wednesday Heather was feeling a little better but still down for the day. I took the kids to the community center after work and Heather was able to make a wonderful meal for us. After dinner we had our family reading time before the Gideon picked a Christmas show. The only one we had ready was Yes Virginia.
Gideon got a new class book in, so of course Heather and I read that to him.
Heather also read the class book to Cecilia. I read her Gideon’s library book, Fly Guy and the Frankenfly.

Thursday things were back to normal. After school we did clean-up as a family. There was the promise of being to play on electronics if all went fairly well, and it did. Gideon still struggles to be done when his turn is over, but it’s getting better. Cecilia picked Handy Manny for a show.
Gideon had both of us read to him from his Big Book of Airplanes.
I’m not sure what Heather read to Cecilia, but I read her the story of Jesus birth from her first bible.

Friday Gideon picked Handy Manny.
Cecilia had me read her the Little Critter Grandma and Me after Heather read her a different book.
Gideon had us both read more from his big book of airplanes.

Saturday the kids made cookies with Heather. I was around in a supporting role, but this one is really her thing. Our other big event for the day was going to see the lights at Lake Phalen after church. At first the kids started to throw a fit when our second surprise stop wasn’t going to some kind of indoor playing place. (The first was Sonic) Once we started seeing the lights that changed quickly. Our show was the end of Rio in the car after an emergency restroom stop.
Cecilia had Heather read her Jingle Bells while I read her Grandma and Me again.
Gideon had us both continue in his big book of airplanes.

Sunday we had a pretty low-key day at home. It was nice, and we only had one episode of “I want to go somewhere fun.” We watched some more Amazing Race. I think we’re on episode 4. We just finished seeing the first elimination round for the year. It was Cecilia’s turn to pick and she choose Little Einsteins.
Cecilia had Heather read her Gideon Battle from her second Bible. I read her the hat parade story from her Pinkalicious collection.
Gideon had us continue in his big book of planes. We only have the last one left.

PAD “dinner time” #theidearoom – Preperation

It starts with an organized work-space. Not necessarily a completely clean kitchen, but a cleared space to make a meal. It helps if there is at least a base for the main dish picked out as well. Once these two things are in place the fun part can start.

There will be a primary flavor that inspires the meal. Maybe sweet, maybe tart. It could be more specific than that even. I’ve had it be lime or garlic for instance. Ideally the flavor will be something easy to incorporate to the main dish. For instance, having sweet as an inspiration for fish is something I haven’t dealt with before. Of course as I write this I think of maple and salmon and I need to focus back at this moment instead.

This inspiration can come from anywhere. Often it’s a matter of thinking about what has worked with the main dish base in the past, what is in the house, and what you have time to pull off. It can also be inspired by the time of year, weather, or just about anything else. The combination of flavor and time will drive the cooking method.

Of course one of the best ways to infuse a flavor in meat is a marinade. This takes time though. Often in the preparation I do the time for a marinade is just not an option. Luckily it’s not required for a good meal with a solid flavor palate. Using some type of sauce while pan coking works well. Also baking will infuse some level of flavor in most food. As a final measure a sauce smothered over cooked food or for dipping will also provide flavor.

Once a base food item, flavor, and cooking method are decided the magic happens. Cutting, pounding, measuring, stirring. One of the most important parts is smelling though. Taste and smell are very closely linked.

Spices to add to the base flavor are a single cupboard away. Oregano and basil for that Italian feel, cinnamon and cloves for that late fall warmth. The combinations are just begging to be used. If you don’t know them use your nose. Try mixing a little in a spoon or measuring cup and smell them. Maybe mix them and give a taste. Try a search on Google for your main flavor.

The hard part here is to remember your side dishes. Get the veggies on in a moment of downtime on the main dish. Baked potatoes needed to be started before anything else. The goal is for everything to be done around the same time.

Try to clean dishes as you go. This is more difficult if you didn’t start with a clean kitchen, and more important.

I’m a little lazy and like to serve either from the cookware or with an eye on storing leftovers. The fewer dishes that get dirty the fewer that need to be cleaned up after.

At the end of prep and cooking it’s dinner time. Relax and enjoy. Hopefully people like what you’ve made. It’s dinner time.

PAD “sparkly” #theidearoom – Two Things

Sparkly reminds me of two things. New and twinkling.

New things sparkle and shine, and this is the season to give new things out. New things seem to have more sparkle when they are gifts from a loved one then when they are bought from the store for oneself. Houses have more shine during the holidays when everyone cleans up to get ready for family visits.

The classic twinkling during the holidays is the twinkle in Santa’s eyes.
The twinkle of lights on trees and stars in the sky.
Twinkling we see in a baby’s smile.
Twinkling helps us go the extra mile.

Try to catch the twinkle in the eyes of the children as they unwrap their shiny new toys in the sparkly light of the Christmas tree this year. It will be worth the effort.

PAD “ornament” #theidearoom – Memories

A bit of painted plastic. Some wire or fishing line. Glitter and cloth. It seems so simple on the surface.

This one is from the first family trip I remember. We were so happy then. It was so weird, a Christmas store in the desert, in July. Looking back now it sounds kind of cheesy. I mean, “Christmas in July” right?

They tell me that one is from my first Christmas. I don’t remember it at all. It’s probably for the best. Who wants to remember being poopy and helpless all the time? I don’t remember the aunt it came from either. I’m told my Dad and her were inseparable as kids though.

I haven’t seen these in a long time. The year we found out Mom was sick we got them as a family. It was an act of defiance. We weren’t going to let that ruin our time together. That year was the best Christmas ever.

I’ll get that one. She made it for me the year she died. Dad tried to decorate the tree like always that year. It looked so bad. I remember my sister yelling at him and storming out. He just kind of stood there looking at the tree after she left.

Christmas was different after that year. We still decorated. There were a lot of happy times too. We never brought this box out though. I think we needed to be together, free of the past.

It’s time now. We aren’t always together anymore. Time and distance has tempered the pain and enhanced the joy. We should remember now. He should remember now.

Much of the writing I do here is “real life.” This is not. I have no sister. My parents are both alive. Stories not grounded in reality may be common for the PAD series. Then again, they may not. If you are ever curious if one is “real” or not feel free to ask.

PAD “silver” #theidearoom – The Quest

My initial inspiration here is for a short story that I can’t do justice in such a short time. Here’s a bit of a look at what part of it may look like if I actually try writing it. (I created an initial draft idea.)

He didn’t realize it but he was on his own now. He hadn’t even noticed when they got separated. It didn’t take long in these tunnels. His problem wasn’t one of pausing though, his was one of movement.

He had kept going when the others paused. Heading forward unseen by the rest until it was too late. The twists, turns, dips and rises in were much to numerous and confusing for there to be any hope of finding him. He was more likely to stumble upon them on accident due to the crisscrossing that defied all attempts at maintaining a single direction.

He wouldn’t care when he finally did notice though. He had one thing on his mind. Metal. All indications were that one of the rarest and most precious metals was to be found deep in these tunnels. This is why they came. This is why he came.