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.

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.

PAD “candle” #theidearoom – Cats, Kids, and Candles


I miss candles.

Before getting married I had a cat. I decided to rethink candle usage one day when the cat wanted to join me at the computer desk and stood over the top of a candle. It took only moments to notice, and I noticed first. Thankfully. Imagine if the cat had noticed first. Likely after his fur had lit. In a bachelor pad basement with old furniture and carpeting. Not having the time or patience to train the cat (or he would’ve learned to use the toilet) I eliminated candle usage.

After getting married the cat stayed behind. 🙁  Heather and I did use candles a decent amount though. Then we had kids. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that candles and preschool kids are not the best of matches.

Now Gideon is in Kindergarten and Cecilia is not far behind. Maybe we can look at bringing candles back in the near future…

Photo-a-day, Repurposed

Yesterday at some point while scanning my Facebook feed I came across a photo linked to a photo a day challenge. Not really being one for photography this type of thing would usually pass me by with little notice. In fact, they have before.

This time was different. It occurred to me that I could grab the photo theme instead of capturing it with pictures, do it with words. I won’t try to make it to 1,000 for each one though, that’s just too much.

Anyhow, the challenge is at The Idea Room and you can check it out if you want. I forgot to follow-up last night. I think I’ll take the “start again” answer to skipped/missed/forgotten days. That means the initial “red & white” that inspired me will forever be lost to the mists of time. Today’s “errand” might be as well since I took my spare writing time to do this post and I may not have time to add another. My purpose is simply writing practice. I created a new category called “Post a Day” for these that should make them easy to filter out if you so desire. I’ll also title them with “PAD {theme} – {title}” for anyone that uses RSS or Facebook instead of visiting.