What Feature Do You Wish Your Home Had?

by Seattle Soccer Mom

The recent NY Times obit about Frances Gabe, inventor of the self-cleaning house, had me thinking about features I would like in a house. From the NY Times:

Ms. Gabe, a once-celebrated inventor who died in obscurity late last year, was the creator, and long the sole inhabitant, of the world’s only self-cleaning house….

“Housework is a thankless, unending job,” she told The Ottawa Citizen in 1996. “It’s a nerve-twangling bore. Who wants it? Nobody!”…

In each room, Ms. Gabe, tucked safely under an umbrella, could press a button that activated a sprinkler in the ceiling. The first spray sent a mist of sudsy water over walls and floor. A second spray rinsed everything. Jets of warm air blew it all dry. The full cycle took less than an hour.

Runoff escaped through drains in Ms. Gabe’s almost imperceptibly sloping floors. It was channeled outside and straight through her doghouse, where the dog was washed in the bargain.

Frances Gabe, Creator of the Only Self-Cleaning Home, Dies at 101

My dream is for a recirculating shower – clean water while I get clean – then a switch I can flip so the water recirculates (and is reheated) while I stand, guilt-free, under the lovely warm water. What’s your dream feature?

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Allowance and chores

by Seattle Soccer Mom

I thought it would be fun to compare notes on how much allowance kids receive, what (if anything) they have to do to receive it, and whether they have to save parts of the allowance for long-term savings or charitable donations. I also thought it would be interesting to share info on what kids do for chores (I often learn that my kids are capable of much more than I’d been asking them to do).

Here’s what we do:

Allowance: 11 year old DS receives $5 a week. He doesn’t have to do anything to get his allowance but does have to do chores (see below). 16 year old DD has to do dishes 4 times in order to earn her $10 allowance. We added this requirement last year when it was hard to tell if DD genuinely didn’t have time to do the dishes because of homework or if she was just trying to get out of doing the dishes.

Both kids can spend their allowance however they want; we don’t make them put part of it towards long-term savings or charitable donations. DD is naturally a saver and doesn’t spend much. DS is a natural spender and doesn’t save much. The only time DS has intentionally saved money was when he was saving up to buy a mini-iPad. This was a good experience for him. Most of the other things DS wants are inexpensive – either hotwheel cars or songs on iTunes.

Chores: Both kids are responsible for doing their own laundry and putting it away although “putting it away” is loosely defined. DS shoves his clothes in his drawers (no folding involved). DD keeps her clothes in the laundry basket or strewn about her room (she has both a bureau and a closet but does not seem to make much use of them). I’ve decided that as long as I don’t have to deal with their clothes, I don’t care.

Both kids have to unload the dishwasher and put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. DD has to do dishes after dinner. In the summer, each kid has to cook dinner once a week. We have a housecleaner who comes every two weeks; the kids are responsible for making sure their rooms are clean enough to be vacuumed and that they’ve put out clean sheets. If they fail to do so, then on the weekend, they get to pick up their rooms, vacuum, and change their own sheets.

DH would like the kids to help out with yard work but he keeps hoping they will naturally volunteer on their own. I have told him pigs will fly before that happens and he needs to tell the kids he wants their help rather than making it an optional activity.

Summer Reading Fun!

By Seattle Soccer Mom

Fellow Totebaggers – what are the books you’ve enjoyed reading this summer? Or the books you haven’t liked?

Here are some books I’ve read and enjoyed this summer:

“Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren – combination memoir and science writing. Very good.

“Fool Me Once” – a page-turner thriller by Harlan Coben. I couldn’t put it down.

“Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld – a fun, lighthearted retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

“Cure: A Journey into the Science of the Mind over Body” by Jo Marchant. I found this book fascinating – it looks at the connection between the mind and the body. It’s written by a science reporter who has a PhD in genetics and microbiology – but is very readable (lots of really interesting stories).

“The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker – a chance meeting between mythical beings takes set in turn-of-the-century New York. Part fantasy and part historical fiction with a fairy tale-like quality about it.

And of course “Untethered” by Julie Lawson Timmer.

What’s Your Favorite and/or Latest Gadget?

by Seattle Soccer Mom

Fellow Totebaggers – have any favorite gadgets you’d like to share? What’s the most recent gadget you’ve acquired? My latest gadget is the Chef’n PalmMincer Fresh Herb Mincer. I have several recipes that call for minced fresh herbs and I find this gadget much faster than using a knife to chop them.

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ALSO, go to the Totebag 30-Day Challenge final countdown! page to declare your participation.  We start on Sunday, May 1.

Family Movie Night

by Seattle Soccer Mom

On Friday nights, we often like to order takeout/delivery and watch a movie. Our kids are 15 and 10 so it can sometimes be a challenge to find a movie that both kids enjoy. Here are some recent movies all four of us liked.

  • Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Allen Rickman. PG. Highly recommend this comedy – all of us enjoyed it.
  • My Cousin Vinnie with Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. Rated R because close to every other word is the F word. If you don’t have a problem with frequent use of the F word, it’s a pretty funny movie. All of us enjoyed it.
  • Oceans 11 with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. PG-13. What’s not to love?
  • Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. PG. A classic.
  • Elf – we like to watch this at Christmas and let the kids invite friends over to have an Elf dinner: spaghetti with chocolate sauce, candy corn, pop tarts, etc.
  • When the kids were younger, we really enjoyed Hayao Miyazaki’s movies: Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away,….

Fellow Totebaggers – what movies or tv shows do you like to watch as a family?

Alcohol or Marijuana?

by Seattle Soccer Mom

Dr. Aaron Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University who also writes columns for the NY Times Upshot. In the linked article below, he sorts through the dangers of alcohol vs. marijuana for teens. Dr. Carroll argues that alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes (no link for pot); there are alcohol related deaths (e.g. binge drinking deaths) but not pot related deaths; more ER visits due to alcohol than pot; alcohol is more of a danger when driving; and a higher % of users end up dependent on alcohol than on pot.

His conclusion:

When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”

Fellow Totebaggers, which would you rather your teen experimented with – alcohol or marijuana? (and yes, let’s assume the first choice would be “neither.”)

For me personally, since I’ve never smoked pot, I’m more comfortable with the idea of DD experimenting with alcohol. After reading the article though, I’m a little less freaked out about the idea of DD experimenting with pot (my first choice is still “neither.”)

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

What’s for Dinner?

By Seattle Soccer Mom

I’m always on the lookout for dinner ideas that I can make in 45 minutes or so and that at least 3 of the 4 of us will eat.

Do you and your partner split the cooking or does one of you handle most of the cooking? I do most of the cooking; DH cooks once a week and makes something easy that doesn’t require a recipe. This summer, I’ve started having the kids each cook dinner once a week. DD is 15 and DS will soon be 10.

Cooking a family dinner was one of the bigger adjustments we had to make after having kids. Before kids, DH and I would often do our own thing on weeknights. I’m ok with having cereal for dinner while DH likes a hot dinner preferably including meat/fish. DD takes after DH. DS is a pickatarian. I love sauces – so I often make things where the sauce is added at the end or on the side so DS can have his plain (or uncontaminated depending on your perspective). I aim for cooking something that 3 of the 4 of us will eat.

Here are some typical dinners for my family – what does your family like to eat?

Fish –salmon, Dover sole, or halibut. Generally pan-seared with some sort of sauce (salmon with a port wine sauce; Dover sole that’s been breaded or coated in parmesan with a tarragon sauce). If we’re splurging, crab cakes from a local fish store (easy and delicious but expensive). Clams steamed in white wine. I learned to eat seafood as an adult so my repertoire is pretty limited.

Chicken/Steak – on the weekend, I often like to do some version of roast chicken thighs – easy but takes a little more time. Pan-seared chicken cutlets with a lemon white wine sauce or steak with a stone-ground mustard sauce. Panko crusted chicken thighs with egg noodles.

Pasta – favorites include pasta with a tomato-vodka cream sauce (with either prosciutto or bacon); kale bacon pasta with fresh oregano; pasta with a sausage-vermouth cream sauce.

Easy – tacos; steak salad (broiled/grilled steak on top of a bed of greens with goat cheese, tomato, avocado); spaghetti with marinara; ravioli with prosciutto, pear, and avocado as optional toppings; grilled cheese/BLT’s.

Other – chicken pot pie, lasagna – I have two easy recipes from a great cookbook called “Keepers.” For the chicken pot pie, you use puff pastry for the topping – and it includes bacon. Yum.