7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 69)

February 12, 2010 | 48 comments

— 1 —

Discussions about the weather with friends up north this week have led me to see that there is a need for a Cold Unfairness Index. Whenever I grouse about having to go out in rainy, 33-degree weather, they throw down with stories of blizzards, ice-covered sidewalks and highs in the 20’s. It always seems like they handily win the woe-is-me weather contest, but I keep sensing that there is something unjust about the scale.

It finally occurred to me: there needs to be some sort of winter weather index that takes into account the number of stinging bugs one has to deal with in the summer. For example, you get to drop five degrees for every scorpion sighting in your house, two degrees for every scorpion encountered outside your house, one degree for every wasp’s nest by your front door, etc. (And it automatically goes to zero Kelvin if you were actually stung by a scorpion. You just win. Nobody should have to deal with scorpion stings and weather below 40 degrees.)

— 2 —

A couple weeks ago my husband and I went to the coolest restaurant:

It’s called Ronnie’s Real Food, and eating there is a cross between dining in a restaurant and a cozy living room. The owner was an accountant who wanted to open a restaurant but didn’t want all the hassle, so he bought a house, set out some tables and started taking reservations. Each night he only offers a couple choices for entrees, you bring your own beer or wine, and it’s a fixed price: $25 per person including tax and tip.

The homey atmosphere, fresh, local food and personal touch made the dining experience one of my favorites ever. If you’re in Austin you have to check it out!

— 3 —

Speaking of food, here’s a tip for getting kids to get more variety in their diets: incorporate new or non-favorite foods into a “taco night.” For example, when I make beef stew my kids balk at the onions and mushrooms, and they don’t like the soupy texture. So I put drained meat and carrots on their plates, then set out little cups of sour cream and shredded cheese. I give them each a tortilla to combine it all into a taco, and they eat it like crazy. This works for all sorts of different food. You’d be amazed at the different kinds of “tacos” we make around here.

— 4 —

From the “I can’t believe this works” files, another tip: I’ve had great success in getting my three oldest children (ages five, three and two) to help me clean up at the end of each day by playing special music. Instead of setting a timer, I put on our two clean-up songs. It took a couple weeks to enforce the concept that they need to be cleaning while those songs are on (they get some treat afterwards in proportion to how hard they worked), but I’m telling you, it’s like they’re robots now. They’ll be standing around, whining, saying they don’t want to help straighten the living room, then I put on the music, and it’s as if their bodies start moving in cleaning motions without them willing it. It’s amazing.

(If anyone’s interested, our clean-up songs are 2-Minute Clean Up by Andy Dodge and Clean My Room by the Imagination Movers. Someone without young kids might find these songs grating, but they’re like freaking Tchaikovsky to my ears because I associate them with having my living room cleaned for free and not by me.)

— 5 —

Has anyone tried one of these Presto things? I love the idea: it’s a printer that prints emails for people who don’t own computers (a more thorough explanation here). We’re thinking about getting one for my 95-year-old grandfather. Anyone have any good/bad experiences with it?

— 6 —

I just remembered that this weekend is Valentine’s Day. That holiday never makes it on my radar. It’s not that I dislike it; I think my subconscious just has this tendency to block out non-essential holidays that require planning, creativity or domestic adeptness as a way to avoid epic failures on my part. My husband and I have half-jokingly talked about setting St. Claude la Colombiere day as our romantic holiday — there’d be less pressure to do anything elaborate, and since it’s the day after Valentine’s Day it’d be easy to get cards and flowers on discount. (This is why nobody asks me to write homemaking advice columns.)

Anyway, I like to live vicariously through people who do cool stuff for Valentine’s Day, though. Anyone have any cool plans?

— 7 —

Tomorrow I’m excited to be going to the Darwins‘ annual blogging meetup, where we’ll be joined by Melanie Bettinelli, Dom Bettinelli, Literacy-Chic, Christopher of Sanctus Christopher and a few other friends who don’t currently have blogs. (I apologize if I’m forgetting anyone!) Should be a great time, as always.


Below is a Mr. Linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own 7 Quick Takes post. (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog URL. (2) Include a link back here.

I look forward to reading your posts!

1. violingirl
2. It Feels Like Chaos
3. Kathy @ The Political Housewyf
4. Dawn Farias @ No Heavy Lifting
5. Angie @ Many Little Blessings
6. Missus Wookie
7. Kerrie @ the Forgotten Kitchen
8. Suz@ One Of Five
9. DebbieQ @ stop her shes knitting
10. Mary@ Hope Echoes
11. Kathleen@so much to say, so little time
12. Jaime @ UnderTheFigTree
13. Tami @ The Next Step
14. Living with Three Hobbits and A Giant
15. Disastrous Housewife
16. Marcy K.
17. Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side
18. MommyMonkey
19. Emily in NC
20. Just a Minute
21. Julie
22. ThatMarriedCouple
23. Joy@ joy in the morning
24. KC
25. TwoSquareMeals
26. Mary @ Passionate Perseverance
27. Laughing Lioness
28. Sarah @ This Heavenly Life
29. ~liz@smithical
30. Aimee@ The Mother Load
31. Julie at Elisharose
32. Chelsea @ Roots & Rings
33. Nadja@ Patch O’ Dirt Farm
34. Elena @MyDomestic Church
35. Elizabeth Mahlou
36. Dianna
37. Rose @ Adventures in Savings (Snow in Mississippi & Pooh Bear)
38. Layla @ ND Law Wife
39. Judy @ A Thankful Woman’s Book of Blessings
40. Milehimama (Mama Says)
41. Sarah @ Fumbling Toward Grace
42. Katherine @ The Domestic Church
43. Jordana @ Curmudgeonry
44. Gillian – Life of a Photographer
45. Jenny@Lest I Forget
46. Holly @ Hollison Journey
47. Kim@StarrySkyRanch
48. Jamie
49. kim@ Courageous O’Connor’s
50. Transitus Tiber
51. majellamom
52. Maggie @ From the Heart
53. Martianne @ Wonder and Will
54. Sara @ AShowerOfRoses
55. Training Happy Hearts (Homeschool Parents, Help Me!)
56. Jamie @ A Rough Diamond
57. Rachel@Testosterhome
58. Ranee @ Arabian Knits
59. The Praying Mom
60. Mrs. Bubbles
61. Rachel
62. Margaret in Minnesota
63. Julia@ Blessed Obscurity
64. Jackie – what’s love got to do with it
65. Aubrey @ Laughing All the Way
66. Maggie
67. Janet in Toronto
68. Emily
69. Miriel @ seeking Solomon
70. Maia@Flowers Round the Cross
71. Esther @ The Mommy Diaries
72. Christina@Mrs. Broccoli Guy
73. Emily@MySongofJoy
74. Rachel
75. Salome Ellen
76. rachieannie @ Montana Missionary
77. Emily J
78. NCSue
79. Laurie@Montag Candle
80. Monica @ And I’ll Raise You 5
81. Christian H @ The Thinking Grounds
82. Lucy The Valiant
83. Grace @ Our Field of Little Flowers
84. Dorian Speed @ Scrutinies
85. Christine @ Good Company
86. michiel@ Landscapes and Portraits
87. Beth
88. Jenny-Home is where..
89. Sharon

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  1. It Feels Like Chaos

    That restaurant sounds really amazing! What an awesome idea!

  2. Dawn Farias

    That restaurant does seem very nice. We don't live far from Austin… hmmm… *formulating a plan*…

    Please keep us posted on the music and if it really sticks-sticks as a good motivator. Isn't it nice to have kids old enough to really help??

    Have fun at your blog meeting. I'm not familiar with any of those blogs, but great times are great times. Especially with familiar friends.

  3. beyondhomemaking

    I like your "they'll eat anything in a tortilla" thing! Ours is anything that is dip-able. We dip in quite the variety of things and they eat all kinds of stuff this way.

  4. Anonymous

    Re: the Presto thingy – we bought one for my mother-in-law (she will never, ever, ever learn to use a computer, or wish to do so) and it has been just wonderful. She really loves it. She has adult grandchildren from Hawaii to Manhattan, and they can email her, send pictures from their cell phones, etc. She is much more "in the loop" now. We have been really pleased and, like I said, she totally loves it.

  5. TRS

    Hi Jen!
    I have a little award for you at my blog. It pretty much just says how much I like yours!

  6. Oldonariel

    Hi Jennifer,

    I've been following your blog for quite a while now. Just wanted to let you know I was a UT student last year and I actually dined at Ronnie's for lunch once! It was a really cool experience.

    Hope things are going well in the Hill Country!

    btw, I was confirmed and received into the Church last Easter at the Cathedral.

  7. Tami Boesiger

    I love your "can't believe it works" tips. Do you suppose it's too late for my kids, the youngest of which is 11? Yeah, probably.

  8. Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side

    Hey Jennifer! It's been a long while since I've done a 7 Quick Takes post, but thought it would be fun to play today. Thanks!

  9. TwoSquareMeals

    I don't do Valentine's Day, either, but I am trying to start doing a few thing with my kids. They at least took valentines to school today…this is the first year in three that I remembered to do that!

    I love the clean-up songs idea!

  10. Mary

    Ahhh the clean up song brings back fond memories of purple dinosaurs and grouchy three year olds. To this day if you start singing the song…the now 20 year college sophomore runs from the room screaming . Of course he takes his shoes with him. I call it the "Barney Pavlovian Response". It's awesome!
    Happy Cleaning!

  11. Christine the Soccer Mom

    I'm so not together on putting up a quick take, but wanted to tell you about our Valentine's Day plans.

    The girls and I will make cards for hubby (and each other) later today. We started this a few years ago when his office had a card-making-party the day before Valentine's Day (and they continue to do so). He makes a card for each of us. It's sweet.

    Aside from that, we actually don't "do" Valentine's Day. That comes from Travel Man being away on Feb. 14 for about five years in a row. First year, I thought, "HEY!" until I realized that my husband loves me – and lets me know it – all the time. I don't need Feb. 14 for him to show me.

    So…this year, we're really doing something different. We decided back in November to have Thanksgiving several times a year. We love Thanksgiving dinner, and we need to remember to be thankful more often. In December, I said, "Let's have Thanksgiving the Sunday before Lent begins!"

    So, this Sunday, we're having Thanksgiving dinner. We are even inviting friends over (and we'll invite different people to Thanksgiving throughout the year). This Thanksgiving, we're having the couple over who first gave Travel Man Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover, which saved our finances (and maybe my life). We are about to pay off our last debt that isn't our house. It'll be done before the month's end, I think. So we're thankful. A LOT.

    Have a lovely weekend!

  12. Christine the Soccer Mom

    OH! There are comparative temperature charts all over. I used to get an email occasionally with them. Here's a link to one of them, but my version was American, so I think the "Hell Freezes Over" part was the Cubs winning the World Series or something. I couldn't find the exact one, but I really have to start getting ready for Thanksgiving! I'm having company. 🙂

  13. Kimberlie

    Love your "tacos" tip and the "clean up" song. My kids are 8.5, 6, and 4.5 and I have to stand over them like a drill sergeant to get them to clean up THEIR stuff. Maybe the song thing can work for them if I find something the older one will enjoy.

    As for Valentine's Day, my husband and I got married Feb 17th, so we weren't really "doing" Valentine's Day, we'd just celebrate our anniversary. However, after we adopted our oldest, nearly 5 yrs ago, we started celebrating because he was doing it at school. So we do it for the kids. This year, the kids and I are going to make old-fashioned paper valentines for my DH, and on Sunday I will make a nice lunch for us with a heart shaped cake. Normally, it would be dinner, but this year Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year fall on the same day. Since my children are all from China, that is a BIG deal. We'll be having lots of dumplings, stir-fry, noodles and oranges for dinner that night. How's that for combining cultures?

  14. Robyn

    Weather: I have not seen any scorpions since I moved to the Houston area three years ago, but I think I should get as much of a cold-weather complaint pass as you just for enduring six months of 105-degree days in 100% humidity. And also the fact that I've paid my cold-weather dues by living in Denver for many years. When we had actual snow in Houston last December, the locals were thrilled, but I was not: I have too many traumatic memories of scraping snow and ice off cars (and you'd better do a good job or you won't be able to see a thing) and driving in snow—with transplants from Southern states, no less. I am feeling miserable and a little depressed just thinking about it. I hate snow. It doesn't help that I never learned to ski!

    Motivating kids to clean up: My 5yo made an amazing transformation around Christmas from a child who was perpetually "too tired" to pick up a toy from the floor (but never too tired to play outside or bounce off the walls) to an industrious (if not efficient) housemaid. All it took was a new video game system and a house rule that it could not be turned on if the living room was messy. Amazing motivation ensued.

    Valentine's Day: My V-Day celebrations amount to making sure each kid has the required number of party accessories, in particular signed Valentines, for each party. I actually missed one this year, but it was for the 2yo's class, and I don't think the kids in there were keeping track. Seriously, what is a 2yo going to do with a little paper Valentine? They only care if there is candy attached, anyway.

  15. Dianna@KennedyAdventures

    I think Bloggy Boot Camp is coming to Austin — you'd be a fantastic speaker!

  16. Paul

    I too learned the amazing fact that a clean-up song works like a charm. I would sing Barney's "Clean Up" song and off he would go cleaning like a dervish. Now that he is 18 it is less effective, but worth the embarassment and laughter.

  17. Sarah

    My father and uncles purchased a Presto machine for my 93 year old grandfather a couple years ago, and he loves it. It automatically prints out emails sent to his account once an hour (I'm not sure but that might an adjustable setting). He can't send us emails, but it's a great way for his children and grandchildren to stay in touch without having to find time to write letters.

    The one thing to keep in mind is that only email addresses on an approved list can send mail to the machine (to prevent spam), so someone has to manage that list online. This means you really do need someone who can handle simple online tasks to be involved. My uncle handles that for my grandfather.

    I think it's a great way for someone who is not comfortable with computers to stay involved with family members who are. I think that if someone is willing to handle setup, online management, and ink refills for your grandfather, it would make a great gift.

  18. Owner of Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website

    That restaurant idea is AWESOME!!!!
    Smart/innovative guy there!

  19. Karen

    We had a piano down in our basement and my dad used to sit and play "the pick-up song" while us kids ran around and put toys away. He would play it faster and slower, and we'd move accordingly. I guess the benefits of playing it yourself is it can last as long as it needs to! (I know the "pick-up song" has a real title as a real song…but I don't know it. It was never a song on the radio, but it's one that people always tend to try when they sit down to fiddle with a piano..)

  20. Mat. Emily

    Okay. You are my new best friend! I downloaded one of the songs you mentioned in number four. I admit that I was skeptical, but that 99 cent purchase has saved my life! I put it on without saying anything to the kids (ages 3 and 2) and just started running around like crazy picking things up. The three year old caught on quickly and wouldn't allow me to stop playing the song until the whole downstairs was cleaned up (we have an open floor plan downstairs, so this isn't as awful as it sounds – it only took 2 and a half songs) and though the two year old needed direction, he was thrilled to be cleaning up! I love you!

  21. Young Mom

    I LOVE the clean up song idea! And I do the taco thing too, my kids will eat anything if you throw some cheese on it and roll it in a tortilla. That resteraunt sounds so so cool! Does he have a website?

  22. Christy

    My grandparents have a Presto. AMAZING! One of those "I wish I had thought of that" things. Seriously, I love it. I just wrote about it on my blog. http://lazyperfection.com/write-your-grandma-a-letter.htm
    A reader mentioned that it would be cool if my grandma could read my blog using it. I'm going to test it with the feed reader.

  23. martianne

    I second the taco night thing. And, thanks for the Clean Up song titles. I sing one I used to do with kdis at a kindergarten, but I've been looking for some good titles for ones on CD. Now, I have them.

  24. Jamie

    I am going to have to use that taco tip!!

    Have a nice meeting with your blogger friends. I have an online group of ladies that I now have met in person and they probably know me better than anyone else!

    Today I wrote about my convalidation ceremony tonight. After tonight I will no longer be able to threaten my hubby with trading him in for a good Catholic husband!!!

  25. Fencing Bear

    My sister lives in Austin, too, and she and I have agreed that summer is winter in Austin, as it were. Here in Chicago, nothing grows and you can't go outside without putting on everything you own during winter, while in Austin, nothing grows and you can't go outside without suffocating in the heat in summer. So next time your northerly friends throw snowstorms and below freezing temps at you, just counter with "We nearly had a 100 days in a row over 100," or whatever it was last year!

  26. Dani

    Jen, when it hits -72.5 Farenheit and snow up to your arse blowing every which way, then even the scorpions are smart enough to stay away! 🙂

    That said, love your scorpion index.

    And love the concept of the restaurant.

    God Bless and have a good long weekend.

  27. Jess

    We don't celebrate romantic Valentine's Day either – I think it is for people who are unmarried and don't have an anniversary to celebrate (at least that is what I tell myself!). I do things for the kids (well, Ella) because pinks + hearts + candy are right up her 4 year old alley, this year we have been making homemade Valentine's to send to family and we will make homemade cinnamon buns on Sunday morning in celebration.

    Are you getting snow today?

  28. Emily

    Yeah, OK, the scorpion would scare the crap out of me. I'd totally freak. Ice freaks me, but not as much as creepy crawlies. The first time I saw a roach (only time, thus far, Thank God!) I jumped up on a chair and screamed.

  29. Miłość

    Cold weather. Haha. I hate it, but I'm used to it (Michigan!)

    I'm excited for Valentine's Day 🙂 I'm having a movie night with my girlfriends and we're watching An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, and Somewhere in Time 😀

    And I love the idea of "St. Claude la Colombiere" 🙂

  30. Maia

    Thanks for hosting! Every time I visit I find something new, amusing, and inspiring.

  31. mrsbroccoliguy

    We did a variation of the song/cleaning thing when my kids were little. We'd sing the "clean up" song (that I learned when I worked in a daycare) and then when they were done I'd let my 3 year old daughter rock out to a Rebecca St. James song. It worked amazingly well with her at the time. I love that you have actual cleaning songs to play – I'm imagining how you could play those songs when they're 13 and their rooms are trashed and they'll just suddenly have the uncontrollable urge to clean! LOL.

    My quick takes are up… thanks as always for hosting!

  32. Rachel Gray

    Oh wow. I never thought of the clean-up song idea. How cool that it works so well!

  33. Emily J.

    For Valentine's Day last year we went to a restaurant in Norfolk like the one you describe: a seasonal local menu with local beers and wines. Also local talent provided entertainment: music and poetry readings. It made us feel cool to go there.

    This year husband is deployed, so we sent cards a few days ago.

    Love the tacos and the Thanksgiving dinner idea from Christine the Soccer Mom

  34. Organizing Mommy

    I'm all for Claude Colombiere! what a romantic thought!

    I love the idea of that restaurant. brilliant.

  35. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, thanks again for coming on my blog this week. I enjoyed seeing new readers stopping by to check in on your words.

    I'm not good at the whole Valentine's Day thing either, though my mother, a retired school teacher, always sends a card, some money so hubby and I can go out for dinner, and little valentine goodies for the kids. I guess she's got it covered — I don't NEED to do anything, except perhaps carry on the tradition when I'm a grandmother. 🙂

  36. Owlhaven

    My MIL has had a Presto for a couple years and we like it. Makes it easy for her to get emails.


  37. Christian H

    1. I am in fact jealous that you get to see wild scorpions regularly, whereas I have to go to museums or pet stores to see one.
    Also, how about this: people who do not get coldness refrain from whining about their mild weather, while people who do not get venomous arachnids refrain from complaining about 'creepy crawlies,' though I have yet to understand why anyone would want to complain about them.

    2. I have gone through all of the comments as of 8:35 pm MST and so far not ONE OTHER PERSON is snickering at this post's volume number. Surely I cannot be the only one this immature?

  38. PNG

    These quick takes are great! Love the clean up songs…I'll have to look into that.:)

  39. Suzanne

    what a nice cozy restaurant! It looks like it has a great ambiance!

  40. Dorian Speed

    For Valentine's Day, I am hosting a tea party at my house for an undetermined number of little girls, because my daughter's birthday is next week. As is my husband's, so I guess I need to figure out what I'm doing for that.

    I sent him flowers at work today for Valentine's Day. He came home at lunch and asked, "Not that I'm complaining, but why did you get me a gift certificate for a facial?"

    Apparently, the first 100 orders received a free facial from a local salon. It pays to order early! I was very amused – a facial is not exactly your traditional South Texas man's Valentine gift.

    Better that than Trucknutz, though.

  41. Michelle Potter

    Jennifer, just wanted to tell you that I have given you a Beautiful Bloggers Award. You can see it here:

  42. cyurkanin

    Thanks for the mention but I had to miss the Austin meetup – in New Orleans for the lead-up to Mardi Gras this year!

  43. Melanie B

    I love, love, love the idea of the clean up song. Dom says we'd have to use Freebird, though.

    I think we'll skip Valentines Day. I do like the idea of St. Claude de la Colombiere Day. Appropriate with the Sacred Heart connection.) Funny too that he's my patron saint for the year and he keeps cropping up all over the place now. Of course we'll be celebrating by taking a four hour plane ride with three small children. But that's sort of romantic, right? Right?

    One thing about our blogger party… this time we HAVE to remember to actually take photos.

  44. Colleen

    Our kiddos are no 10 and 7, but we traditionally celebrate Valentine's Day by hosting a family Valentine's dinner with my sister and DH's sisters. Usually it involves some form of pasta and garlic bread and yummy dessert – but we like to make it a family event – that love is about family. (and getting reservations on Valentine's day is just too crazy)

  45. Michelle

    I was stung by a scorpion in my bed during the night a few years back. It was the most disorienting thing ever. And after flinging the guy out of my bed as I leapt out realizing what had happened, my puppy decides to sniff the bugger and gets stung in the nose. 🙁 I like your temp analysis. 🙂 Although, now that I live up north, I'm used to the cold so sub-50s aren't much of a bother anymore.

  46. Peter and Nancy

    My husband, in his quest to raise sons who will be good husbands themselves someday (and a daughter who believes she should be treated well by her boyfriend/husband), has a Valentine tradition. He takes all the kids to Target (where they have carts to contain the youngest!) to choose something for me. He's wonderful!

    One year, they came back with a huge fake-amethyst ring, once with perfume, this year with a cotton shirt. It never costs more than $5-$15, but he's teaching them a great lesson.

    While they're gone, I make a nice dinner with candles and dessert. The kids think candles are a BIG deal. :o)

  47. wilnis

    Hi-I also will confirm the "Presto thingy" is great. My sister and I got one for our 89 y/o mom so she can get emails of the great grandkids pictures and notes from her friends, and it works. Easy to set up, a lightening storm blew out the modem in the first year and it was replaced without questions and Mom loves it. I keep the paper and ink up to date when I stop by. I'd encourage it. Bill

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