Gadget cooking

I got some great new cooking gadgets for my birthday and have been having fun trying them out! Ben got me an instant pot that we have been trying out in all sorts of ways. I made our Irish dinner of corned beef using it:

And last night I made butter chicken, a real Indian dish! It looks almost exactly like takeout! The kids even tried a bite, but they just mostly ate bread. I also made the basmati rice in the instant pot.

In my quest for a good waffle iron, I got new plates for this griddle. Turned out some delicious buttermilk waffles.

No gadget cut required for this: Sam and I made chocolate covered strawberries today-by his request!

Never-ending illnesses

March has brought on another round of germ passing.  Sam has had a cough and stuffy nose off and on since February.  Jack joined in the sore throat game for a week.  Sam got worse, including a night where he woke up crying 5 times for nightmares, pain, or throwing up.  Then I caught whatever it was, with aches and chills and stuffy sinuses, making me miss the musical and my church lesson.  I’m really upset I had to miss the musical.  Today I thought we were all finally on the mend, when I got a call that Jack had vomited at school and needed to be picked up.  He’s still working through whatever new bug this is, and I’m filled with dread for the rest of us.

Assorted Kid Pictures










My birthday

I had a most wonderful birthday last month. Ben was able to stay home and take over my mom-duties, giving me a proper break from my job. I got up to see them off to school and open presents.

I was spoiled with new appliances this year – an upgraded stand mixer, a griddle/grill press, and an instant pot. The boys have grown old enough to really try to give me things I would like, sometimes in hilarious ways. Jack bought me some flashy gold earrings (that I sort of love) and Sam got me a faux fur pillow and shaggy pink blanket – because we love to cuddle. They make me feel like a glamorous Miss Piggy!

It being a Tuesday, I got enjoy a new Binging with Babish episode while Ben took the kids to school. Then we went on a very indulgent daytime date to brunch!

In the afternoon I had a 90 minute massage scheduled and it was just heavenly. I’d been having more back problems in the weeks prior (probably a pinched sciatica) so I was in dire need of some muscle tissue kneading.

The day ended cozy at home with salted caramel chocolate cake and ice cream. What a wonderful way to start another year.


I can’t believe I got to see Hamilton today!



Amanda got a special offer to buy two tickets before they went on sale to the public, because she has been a loyal patron of group ticketing.  Score!





The show was phenomenal.  Truly lives up to all the hype; it’s an intricate piece of art.  Our cast was outstanding.  I actually prefer some of their interpretations over the OBC album – no one can live up to Daveed Diggs but even our Lafayette/Jefferson gave an admirable performance.  The choreography on this show is just insane.  I’m glad Andy Blankenbuehler gets as much billing as Miranda and Lacamoire, his work was genius.  I only went through 3 tissues during the second act.  There’s a reason I hardly ever listen past the Cabinet Battle #1 when I put on the album.

I hope this was the first of several viewings over my lifetime.  We will try to get lottery tickets for Ben to get to go, and of course if it tours around here again we will try to get tickets too.  But the show is 3 years old and selling out instantly – our kids might be old enough to attend before we can easily buy tickets.  I also hope they release the recorded video of the show that they did with the OBC in NY before it changed.  Wait for it, right?



PS, yeah I know I’ve been terrible about writing lately.  I’ll try to catch up on some things from the last month.  

Pinewood Derby

This weekend Jack competed in his first Pinewood Derby with the cub scouts.  We are so proud of him – he really made this car by himself!  He made the design, cut it with a jigsaw, sanded, painted, the whole shebang.  We gave advice and supervised closely, of course.  But you can clearly tell at the Derby which kids benefited from their parents handiwork.


Jack’s car did really well too!  Here’s a video of his first heat, where he smoked the competition!

As you can see, the wheel popped off.  During construction his front end was cut too narrow over the axle; when the tires were installed it broke off a corner of the car.  We fixed it with superglue and let that wheel float, so he only rode on three wheels.  So it was no surprise to us when the car smashed in the gate and lost that corner again.


The leaders let me try to fix it with hot glue between races.  He was able to complete the remaining waves, but never took first again.  I think by the final heat the wheel was dragging instead of floating, with so much glue trying to keep it intact.  Even so, he placed 13th out of 30 cars – in the top half!!


He was also overjoyed that his best friend Dylan won the whole competition.  Most importantly, he had a good time and learned some new skills.


Museum match

Has everyone tried the Google Arts and Culture app? We didn’t get any perfect matches, but it was fun to play with.


Magic Brothers

After school Thursday the boys put together a magic show for me.


See there’s nothing in the hat


I say the magic words and reach in…


Jack is reading a book he got for Christmas that rekindled his interest in magic.  He even asked the school librarian to help him find a non-fiction magic book during their weekly class library visit.  He has been practicing sleight of hand tricks, and trying to understand the “tricks” behind each act.  Sam will enthusiastically join Jack with whatsoever he is doing.  Together, their quantity and quality of tricks are increasing, and their flourishes improve too.

gob scarves

It’s only a matter of time, right?


3D Printing

I’ve been learning to use our 3D printer.  Ben has been the primary printer, but I wanted to be able to use it for my own projects.  He’s graciously led me through the process several times.  I don’t understand every aspect of printing – it has many parameters you can customize and many MANY things can go wrong.  But I feel like I have a grasp of the basics.  The first thing I practiced was a Wonder Woman tiara.


It was a basic, medium sized print using PLA in yellow.  I had some trouble with it splitting at the base, and played around with rafts a little.  I also tried various amounts of support material, until I found one I liked.


I ended up making three of them.  One for Amanda and one for me, plus one for Ben’s boss to finish and give his wife.


Here is the finished tiara after sanding, priming with leveling goo, and painting.  The tiaras go perfectly with the Wonder Woman shawl (the two together were a gift to Amanda, and I made myself a set too!).



Next I tried working with ABS.  True to Ben’s warning, this stuff stinks.  Literally.  Very strong chemical vapors while it printed.  It also is more prone to warping and layers not sticking properly.  I printed a set of Halloween pumpkins to practice.


The other interesting property of ABS is you can smooth the ridges between each layer by immersing it in acetone vapors.  I took advantage of the chemistry set on loan from my mom for our Mad Scientist halloween get-up.  I gently heated pure acetone in a beaker to create thick vapor, floating the pumpkins on a foil sheet and covered loosely with foil.  If the acetone touches the ABS it will get tacky, chalky, and lose definition.  Here’s a picture of the set up, btw my fire extinguisher is on the other side of the counter.  I was very nervous about this process.


Here’s a side-by-side of two pumpkins, the shiny one on the left had the acetone bath, the rough one on the right is straight off the printer.


3D printing is fun and addicting, but it’s good to recognize its limits.  I really wanted a brain for our Mad Scientist Lab.  I scoured thingiverse for a brain file I could manage.  They were all dense – using nearly a whole roll of filament, not to mention would be riddled with supports and need a lot of finished.  After a week of hemming and hawing I had an epiphany.


Use cheap, old-fashioned clay I already happened to have in my craft storage.  Duh.


Behold: Old-Timey 3D Printing.

During December I kept busy with knitting full-time.  In the week between Christmas and Ben’s birthday I continued the frenzy, knitting him a fair-isle hat. (I still intend to post a knitting round-up soon).  After the hat, I saw on reddit someone had made a dice tower out of wood.  I had never heard of such a thing.  A dice tower would be perfect for Ben!  He loves gaming and we are teaching the boys to play.  Not only would this curb Jack’s attempts to control his dice rolls, but it would prevent both his and Sam’s tendency to let die scatter onto the floor.

I wondered if I could 3D print that.  A quick search on thingiverse yielded a plethora of files of various designs.  I chose one that looked castle-like, was fairly tall, and had a cool gate.  The gate prints flat in one piece with the tower, printing its own hinge that you can snap up afterward.  This was the first time I printed an object completely by myself.  I only checked in with Ben on the size parameters of our print space and the amount of filament it would take.

I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but in hindsight I should have. I printed the file with no supports, as suggested by others who had done it.  It was an 18 hour print job.  I hadn’t printed anything in a few months.  Despite all those potential issues, it printed BEAUTIFULLY!  Voila!


(Jack insisted the castle needed a knight.)

It’s pretty cool, right?   I used glow-in-the-dark filament because that was the largest spool of PLA I had lying around.  I decided to paint it without sanding or ridge filler. The randomizer is a spiral staircase that runs down the whole tower.  You can see it through the arrowslits.


Here’s a close-up where you can see the stairs meet prison bars to the dungeon.  There’s a little burn spot on the stairs you can see.  I decided painting the interior would be a huge pain, so that will remain glow-in-the-dark.  Needless to say, the boys (including Ben) all think this is SUPER cool.


Ben’s Birthday

Ben had a fun little birthday at home.  Special breakfast and presents to start the day.  Friends and games and cake in the afternoon.  What more could you want?



I have to show off my Baked Alaska I made.  Ben has been wanting a Baked Alaska for years.  I followed the Cook’s Illustrated method, modified for scooping out ice cream from a 1/2 gallon tub rather than using two pints put together.  Not too difficult!


Happy Birthday Ben!

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