Monday, August 29, 2011

Minnesota Nice does not equal Friendly

So I think most people in this country have heard about "Minnesota nice".  And everyone usually thinks it's a good thing.  But I have to give a different spin to it.  I wouldn't call it Minnesota nice, but rather "Minnesota politeness".  And there is a BIG difference.

When we lived on the east coast, you didn't usually wave or say "hi" to strangers.  You usually were looking over your shoulder to make sure no one was going to rob you or something.  Well - not all the time - but a lot of time.  (Did I ever mention how the husband was held up at gun point during the middle of the 4th of July in front of the Oriole's stadium?  Or how I was attacked by three 12 year old boys just as I walked across Martin Luther King highway - and it was 5 pm?  Or that the police then wouldn't come because I wasn't actually hurt?!)  But in any case -we were looking forward to our move to the midwest and to experience (again) the Minnesota nice.

And then I realized that people weren't necessarily overly friendly -just polite.  We have lived in 2 houses, and we don't know our neighbors.  And not for lack of trying.  At our second house, the neighbor across from us finally came to introduce themselves - after 2 months - and it was really just a ploy to get us to sign their "noise waiver" so they could have a live band play in their yard.  We are always outside - we used to stop everyone that walked by and say "Hi - we are so. and. so."  We tried to engage them.  But it just never happened.  So we get the polite nod and little wave of the hand when they drive or walk by our house.  But that. is. it.

Most people in our neighborhood open the garage door, drive in/out, close the garage door immediately and if you get a glimpse in those 3 seconds - well you are lucky.

We like garage door open, neighbors chit chatting, community bonfire parties, and hope to someday live in a "friendly" neighborhood instead of a "Minnesota nice" neighborhood.

And yes I know not all neighborhoods are like this in MN - but don't be fooled by the little wave or nod.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DIY: Super cute baby gifts

So I have already posted about some of my baby making gifts back here.  But lately I have decided to do something different.  I have a ton of left over fabric scraps from making quilts.  And I have a ton of unused onesies.  So when a few recent opportunities arose, I decided to put the two things together.

And this is what you get.

 This is a bit of an inside joke.  I thought it was hilarious.  The baby's gender isn't known yet, and so that made making a gender neutral gift quite hard.  But I think this will work.

This one was for my cousin.  She met her husband by playing hockey - on opposite teams.  One got checked by the other.  And the bigger of the two was a bit caught off guard that a girl would check him.  And now they have sweet baby girl.  I wanted it to look a bit more like hockey sticks, but that's ok.

And this one - well the Tank is going to be 1 very soon. So I whipped up a onesie for that occasion.

I now have tons and tons of ideas for different onesies and shirts.  I really wish I could find just plain colored onesies so they aren't all white.   I think I know where I can get some, but this is surprisingly a difficult thing to find.  But when I do, watch out friends with babies.  You may soon be getting something along the lines of one of these.  And if there is any sort of inside joke, well you probably see it displayed on a shirt that you kid is (hopefully) going to wear!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

DIY: The making of salted caramel ice cream

Wow.  Yum.  A miracle in my mouth.  A few words to describe the salted caramel ice cream I made.  So I had to share.
The husband (who really said I need to find another name for him so I will work on that) said he wanted salted caramel ice cream.  I poked around the internet and found this recipe for salted butter caramel ice cream.  This one uses egg yolks - which you do cook a bit to make into a custard.  I did find another recipe without egg yolks that I almost made instead, but will probably try next time (salted caramel ice cream).

With both recipes, you melt sugar and make it into a caramel.  Then you add heavy whipping cream.  Neither recipe says what temp to have the whipping cream at, so I dumped it in when it was cold.  Which made the caramel harden very quickly.  And then it took about 30 minutes of constant stirring to get it back to a liquid that would mix into the cream.  So my suggestion would be to warm up the cream first - not super hot - but definitely not cold.  Added a ton of time onto this.

First step is to make a salted caramel praline (melted sugar then toss salt at the end and pour onto a sheet to harden).  This gets smashed up and added to the ice cream.  It tasted so I good I kept breaking off piece at this stage and eating them.
Salted caramel praline

You have to let the base sit in fridge all night.  That was the hard part - I wanted to make it and eat it all in one night!  But then you throw it into your ice cream maker - and an hour later this is what you have!

Just finished churning.  Looks like soft serve.
I mixed the smashed up praline and then put it all in another container.  You were supposed to let it harden more.  But I couldn't wait.  So we ate some.

Praline smashed up and mixed in. 
And not the container is not nearly as full as in this picture.  But it was so. darn. good.

And I love chocolate and my ice cream always has to have chocolate in it.  But now - well - maybe I will eat a dessert without chocolate.  Maybe I should go eat some for breakfast.  My mouth is watering from looking at the picture.  Or maybe you should make some and have me over:)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

NICU Reunion time

Today is our annual NICU reunion party.  I always look forward to this day.  After spending several months with some families, it always is a bit sad when they go home and you don't get to talk to them any more.  I mean - it's a good thing that they get to go home, but the NICU becomes home for these families.  They usually end of leaving behind families and friends to stay for months with their baby.  We often become the friends and support network that some need.  And then they just leave, and sometimes the friendships continue - but often they just are seasonal friendships.  But the reunion gives us all a chance to see everyone again.
The reunion also gives us a glimpse into how these babies are doing.  I love seeing those that have made huge strides and are doing great in their home environment.  I love seeing how families are coping with the difficulties of having an extremely premature baby.  But there is always a sad story in there too.  A marriage that couldn't handle the turmoil.  A father who found a different family.  A mother who has left all behind for a different life.  A child who has passed away from complications of being extremely premature.  A baby who isn't doing as well as we had hoped.  A family who is beginning to realize what there new "norm" is and that the "norm" is not at all what they had envisioned.
It is a hard thing we do -taking care of preterm babies.  I wish everyone had a happy ending - and many do.  But there are some that just are heart breaking.  And all I can think of "is how could we have better prepared this family?"
But once a year - we get to celebrate that babies make it home.  And we celebrate the big steps and little steps that each of have achieved.  And we reunite with our friends.  And for one day - going to the hospital isn't a bad thing.

And we celebrate that our own NICU babies are doing well!

The Munchkin at birth

The Tank at birth

Monday, August 1, 2011

How best to honor someone

My great aunt recently passed away.  She was an amazing person and I always loved her visits when I was growing up.  She was a bit different than most people.  She married and got divorced sometime in the 60's or early 70's.  She was a teacher and later adopted a teenager.
My grandmother, her sister, also was a bit unique.  Her husband died when my father was quite young.  She raised two kids as a single mom in the 50's and 60's.  So these two sisters never quite fit the mold of that era!
And both had very unusual names (Oravilla and Lavonne).  So in any case, I was always a bit in awe of my Aunt Ori.  She would visit us and bring old school books as gifts.  We always got a $2 bill for every holiday.  She had a heart for Russia and would travel there to some sister city - and this was in the 80's when not many people wanted to go to USSR/Russia.
When I graduated college, my sister and I drove from Tacoma, WA back to the midwest.  We spent a night with my aunt.  And we quickly realized during that visit that she was no longer all the way with it.  She still only believed in eating chocolate for every meal (there really wasn't any other food in the house except chocolate things- maybe that is where I get it from!)  She wanted to drive us around town (and it had been a year since a major flood literally wiped out half the town) but she couldn't find her purse or keys.  We scoured the entire house, and low and behold we found the purse in the washing machine.  Of course that is where someone would keep a purse.  So that was the tip off that things weren't quite right anymore.  Soon after that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had to move out of her house.  I only saw her a few times after that visit.  She got in trouble at the assisted living home because she kept trying to get other people to escape with her -at the ripe old age of 85!  I think she wanted to go to the casino or something.  So despite the dementia - she maintained her sense of just being a bit different and desperately wanted her independence.
Ori- on our visit home from college.
And earlier this summer- 11 years after that visit- she passed away.  She had always been frugal and had managed to save quite a bit of money.  I was shocked to find this out as she left all of us something.  Now the question comes down to - how do I honor her?  We will most likely put the money into the college funds of the munchkin and tank.  She clearly loved being an educator, and I think ensuring future generations get a good education would make her happy.  But I also want to do something a bit out of the ordinary.  Just because that is the kind of person she was.  Perhaps I should go get a roll of $2 bills (can I still find them?  I remember store clerks thinking that they were fake!) and randomly hand them out to strangers.  But I have been struggling with this.  How do you honor someone that remembered you in their will?  If you have any ideas, let me know.  And once I decide on something, you will probably read about it!

And did I mention that she loved to find agates? She would find them and polish them.  On our visit, we found an entire attic filled with cases of agates!  Wonder what happened with all of those rocks?