Archive for February, 2007

February 26th, 2007

Good Customer Service Isn’t Dead!

Alex attends a Montessori school here in Huntsville. Around the holidays, they send home a catalog filled with great books and materials that are in line with the general educational philosophies of the school. The toys and games (“materials” in Montessori-speak) are all educational in one way or another and are things that you won’t generally see in the regular stores. Their hope is that you will order from the catalog because the school gets a credit to order their own materials when school families give the school’s special code. As much as I wanted to order some of these great materials, I just couldn’t bring myself to pay the prices in this catalog. Yes, I could have considered the order a donation, but even then it was pushing it.

I put together a list anyway, thinking I would pass it along to any relatives who were still looking for gift ideas. As I did that, I realized that a lot of the things on the list were all from the same German company, Haba. A little Google research revealed several internet retailers here in the US, including Padilly. I put together a hypothetical order, which included all the items in the Montessori catalog, a few extras, and some gifts for friends. It turned out to be far less costly than the original catalog, so I went ahead and ordered. The order got here faster than I thought possible and everything was packaged very well for the journey. They even included a hand-written thank you note! I can’t remember the last time I was surprised by customer service – in the positive direction.

When we opened everything, I was genuinely surprised by the quality of even these little games.  The pieces are made of wood, not plastic, and the boxes are the most adorable little metal boxes, not cheap cardboard that will be crushed the first time a little foot steps sideways.  Rod and I even broke out the Junior Poker set one day when Alex was with his grandparents to “test” it and make sure it was appropriate for a three year old.  It was, of course.

HABA toys go on our “good” list and I highly recommend Padilly if you’re in the market for a great online toy store!

February 14th, 2007

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! It is a happy day around here because Alex was finally well enough to return to school today. He was still feeling pretty bad last night and I didn’t think it was looking good for today, but the miracle of sleep seemed to make it all better.

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Unfortunately, since he was down and out for the last four days or so, there were many Valentines to be signed before school this morning. The plan had been to sign 5 of them each day for four days so he didn’t get too bored with the activity. When you’re three years old, writing your name can take considerable effort. He was a trooper, though, and we got through them all.

I also managed to finish the gifts for his teachers last night, so that was one less thing to worry about this morning. These were completely inspired by Stephanie at little birds handmade, so a big thanks goes out to her! They were quick to make, a great way to use up some of my fabric stash, and a lot of fun. I hope everyone enjoys them.

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We don’t have any big plans for the evening, but maybe some takeout can be arranged. There’s a great delivery-only restaurant around here that will bring grilled steak, burgers, or chicken right to your front door. Their baked potatoes are awesome, too. Wow, I’m hungry. I think blogging about food is nearly as bad as grocery shopping when you’re hungry….

February 12th, 2007

Chipotle Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice

We made this the other night for dinner. It was really quite good and not all that difficult to put together. It was rated Easy, after all, but I’ve found those labels aren’t all that accurate at times.

It’s one of Rachael Ray’s recipes. I don’t know why, but I’m just not a huge fan of hers. Her recipes all seem good enough, but there’s just something about her personality that rubs me the wrong way. Anyway…

It made quite a bit and Rod took some to work with him the next day. He offered some to a coworker who gave it the ultimate compliment – “what brand is this?” We also made the glazed spinach salad that was supposed to pair well with the chipotle cashew chicken, but we didn’t really care for it.

We’ve tried a few other recipes lately and I’ll try to get them posted to share. We’ve been fortunate that they’ve all been pretty good. I probably just jinxed myself with that comment…

February 12th, 2007

Valentine’s Day Work-in-Progress

It seems that I got a bit ambitious this year with the Valentine’s Day gifts.  I wanted to make something small and easy for Alex’s teachers and some family and friends.  Here it is a couple days before the holiday and they aren’t ready to be sent out yet.  I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who might be getting some in the mail, but here’s a photo of WIP.

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Alex is home sick from school, so I’m not sure how much more work I’ll be able to get done today.  At least three of them have to be ready for Wednesday, though, so I know I’ll get those done.  The others will just have to be late gifts, I guess.

February 11th, 2007

New Camera!

I guess Rod *does* read this because I got my Valentine’s Day present a few days early.  It’s that new camera I wanted!  It’s a Canon SD600 and it is awesome.  Really.  It takes great quality photos and is smaller than my cell phone.  All three of us have spent the weekend playing around with it and we all like it.  I think Alex has taken more photos with it than I have.

Naturally, I needed to make a new case for it.  That turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be because the case had to be so small.  When I tried to sew the lining to the outside, it wouldn’t fit around even the reduced arm thing of my machine.  I ended up scrunching it under there (with Rod’s help), so it doesn’t look as neat and clean as I usually like, but that’s just how it had to be this time around.

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I used Amy Butler fabric from some charm packs I bought last year.  I have a real problem with hoarding fabric and I’m actively trying to use up stuff I already have before I buy more.  I don’t always succeed, but I am trying.  Anyway…I used fusible fleece on both the outside and the lining for extra protection.  It turned out to be pretty snug, but I think I like that better.  There isn’t room in this one for the charger or the USB cable, but this was meant to be the one I use for my purse.  The camera is so small that there really isn’t a good reason not to carry it with me.  Don’t let my photography skills reflect poorly on the camera.  I clearly need some practice.

February 1st, 2007

Snow!

The weather forecasters threaten it several times each year, but it’s only happened once in the nearly seven years I’ve lived in Huntsville – until last night. When we woke up this morning there was a good covering on the ground. It’s that really heavy and wet stuff that isn’t good for much, but it’s nice to look at. Alex was very excited when I showed him and wanted to go outside to play in it. Unfortunately, it had already started raining so that didn’t happen.

The first time I saw it snow here was the very first winter I lived in Huntsville. I woke up one Sunday morning, looked outside of my apartment and saw snow. I had just moved here from the Frozen North, so this wasn’t anything exciting to me. Around lunchtime, Buddy (my cat) and I decided that a Mexican pizza from Taco Bell sounded pretty good, so I headed out. I got to Taco Bell, pulled to the drive-thru, and waited. And waited. I thought they were open on Sundays, but a lot more things are closed on Sunday here than they are in the Frozen North. I drove around to check the hours. Yes, they were definitely supposed to be open. What the heck was going on? Then I looked around. My car was the only one out on any of the roads. My tire tracks were the only ones that had disturbed the three inches of fluffy snow on the ground. I still couldn’t figure it out. Then it hit me. I think I actually said “you have got to be kidding me” out loud. I went back to my apartment and turned on the TV to confirm my theory. Yes, Huntsville was closed. Every store, factory, and restaurant had their name crawling along the bottom of the screen to let everyone know they were closed. Some were even announcing closures for the next day! This was a completely foreign concept to me. It warmed up that day and some of the snow melted, but it got cold again overnight, so it all froze again. The city doesn’t own even one snowplow, so they were not able to clear the roads before the second freeze and everyone got another day off. A guy I worked with, who is originally from Ontario, just laughed when I asked him about it. “Welcome to the South.”


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