My New Garmin Nuvi 200w GPS

I’m not good with maps. There is something specifically in the way my brain is wired that prohibits me from being able to properly read and follow a map. It only took me 35 years to fully admit it to myself and call it what it is. Years of having my husband write out instructions, printing them from Google, and getting lost regardless. Of not being able to follow an inner-compass that assures a person that if they take the wrong exit, they don’t need to curl up on the curb in a diaper while the kids call roadside assistance. Of handing the phone to my husband like hot potato whenever “directions” come up in a conversation.

I’m stubborn. I tried. And tried and tried. I’ve been late and lost, frustrated and confused.

And then I saw the light.

It’s called GPS. Or Global Positioning System.

I’ve heard about it, seen ads for them, but never REALLY knew what their purpose was. Beyond that, I considered it to be too much of a luxury item for me to even waste mind space on. Me? Have a GPS? Ha!!

Two weekends ago while I was at yet another out-of-town soccer tournament, we had an emergency change of location. The hotel secured for the team ended up being a complete dive. The parents who arrived ahead of us notified me of the situation (I’m the manager, and was still on the road), and secured another hotel. Between sending out texts to all the parents and fielding phone calls, I would divert any conversation dealing with addresses, locations, maps, and directions to my husband. Thank goodness he was with me or I’d have been a hot mess of distress.

I started to realize later that many of the parents did not have much of an issue finding the new location because they simply plugged the address into their GPS. I kept hearing this numerous times (while I’d kind of roll my eyes and “whatever” when they said it because, again – luxury item that is just off momma’s financial radar).

After a trip to the mall with the boys, I hitched a ride home with another mom (letting Frank take the load of frisky boys). That’s where I got to see a GPS up and close in action. It was an “aha” moment for me. Like meeting candy for the first time or discovering the many uses for vinegar. Beautiful, beautiful. The remainder of the ride was spent discussing the GPS (she is map-disabled as well), “ooh-ing” over the functions and wondering how I ever made it around the block without it.

I realized immediately that a GPS, for me, was not a stupid or foolish novelty, but something that I’ve desperately needed for years. Turmoil avoidance in a handy little machine!! I really didn’t care if Frank (old-fashioned and a stubborn old man at heart) made fun of me, or that his friend thinks GPS systems are for pansies. Good, fine, I’m a pansy. But a pansy with a nice, new Garmin Nüvi 200W GPS. It’s not top-of-the-line, but it was within my budget, gets the job done and will be put to very good use.

The Garmin was pretty much ready to go out of the box. It came with a car charger and a mount. I had a bit of trouble picking up a signal at first, though, and for some reason I keep needing to put my home location in (or maybe that’s the way it is). I haven’t had to use it for an actual trip yet, and honestly haven’t even driven with it — but I did take a walk with it to set it up. Presently it is resting in my car, charging. I’m not really sure if I need to turn it off while it is not in use, or if I just leave it and it sleeps. It’s all a learning experience.

If you have any GPS tips or tricks, I’m all ears. If not, just don’t call me a pansy.

Newbie Soccer Referee

Carlito started refereeing this year. He’s been wanting to be a referee about half as long as he’s been walking this great green earth, waiting to turn 12 —  eligible to take the class and exam. One year for Christmas we purchased him a full referee kit, complete with yellow shirt, black socks, whistle, cards and shorts.

He loved it.

He likes order. He likes rules. Why yes, he would like to be a police officer. Above all, though, he likes money. The way it smells and the buying power that comes with it. He hasn’t earned the nickname “Crabs” for nothing.

We weren’t sure how the whole “class and exam” thing would pan out earlier this year when we enrolled Lootie. It is a $70 fee for class and licensing. We made it his birthday present. You go for like 4 or 6 hours, two weekends in a row. Maybe it was 8 hours? At any rate, Frank and I were both nervous. Lootie’s got some learning issues that make it difficult for him in school, so our fears were slightly increased as to how the exam would pan out in the end. Dante did the class a few years back and did fine, so we were hopeful but still incredibly nervous, using our sarcasm (in private conversations) to work out our jitters.

All the worry was worth it (haven’t let go of the sarcasm). He passed the first weekend with a 98%. The second weekend was the same. Oh the pride and satisfaction on that kid’s face when he got his patch was worth the seventy bucks.

Before he was even assigned a game, he plotted out his evil plan to rule the world —  I mean to purchase an Xbox 360. (Long ago I told the kids I would not purchase any more video anything — they’d have to do it.) Boy, can you motivate that kid with the fresh — or dirty — scent of green.

He’d yabber about it constantly, how he was going to buy it, who would need to pitch in (not only does he enjoy his own money, but he enjoys capturing his younger brother’s money — Franny’s not game to his ploy, but his game-nerd brother Sal sure is).

Lootie almost blew apart – literally, spontaneous combustion – when his first ref game was canceled due to lightening. He would have rather risked being fried to a crisp if it meant he’d have 15 hot bucks in his hand.

As the season continued, he get a few games in, but his big money-maker was to referee a recreational tournament that would push him over the Xbox edge. Who knew his appendix would decide to rot to pieces and burst two days prior? Is it OK for the referee to run the field with one hand on the IV bag and the other on a whistle?

Lootie and Sal the resident “game nerds” of the family (not a mom-given title, but accurate none the less) put their money together and purchased their Xbox. Lootie, no joke, treats it like a newborn. Exasperated– Please, please, don’t leave the games out like this. Oh look at this!! Doesn’t anyone know how to treat something with respect around here? Don’t do that… Cord goes like this just so, not the way YOU guys did it. Running up the stairs after school, first glance at the Xbox – Franny, did you play it? Did you? Oh my GOSH. Look at that? See. Nobody takes care of things… (obsessively checks cords, power supply, game locations).

He’s a special kid.

Yesterday he had another game to officiate. As we pulled up he begrudgingly left the car. They’re all GIRLS (grumble, grumble). I think it was for show. He had to check his eagerness at the door.  Inspects the field, checks in with coaches… then gets to business, asking for his money. One coach gave it up easy; the other one Lootie had to stalk, and stalk he did, for the remainder of warm-up time.


Yeah yeah. Great picture, I know.

It was a cute game to watch. Little squealers chasing the ball. Loo did fantastic with his whistle and commands, taking charge in a manner conducive to his personality. I think he fondled the money in his pocket multiple times during the game. Once he was hit with the ball and he smiled, casual and relaxed, continuing seamlessly. Another he slipped, fell and went on without apparent embarrassment. A spunky player gave a girlie scream (for no reason) and he looked at her as one would at a younger sister – with disgust and affection. He really has a knack for refereeing.

Game over, he came to the van and glanced out the window, back at the field. “That was fun. I liked that. They were fun.” And then he carassed his money.

Making Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

I found this recipe for doughnuts and we’re making some.

Quick Doughnuts
4 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour milk or buttermilk

Sift together flour, salt, soda, cream of tartar and spices. Cream shortening and sugar; add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add milk and then sifted dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly until smooth. With as little handling as possible, roll dough out on floured board 1/4 inch thick. Let stand for 20 minutes. Cut with 2 1/2 inch cutter or glass bottom, and use a small cutter for the middle. Fry as above. Makes about 3 dozen doughnuts.

Below are some pictures of our doughnut adventure; don’t expect perfection.

cutting the circles for doughnuts

frying doughnuts

sugared and finished doughnuts

They turned out pretty good, although I was a little nervous because some were a bit doughy in the center and the recipe involves eggs. They are darker, too, because I used a majority of whole wheat flour (a staple in this house), and a bit of cocoa powder. And I don’t have a picture of use eating because it was a regular old feeding frenzy.

I’d like to make these again at some point, but boy, my stomach feels like lead and I’m sure to have a heart attack within the hour.

(reposted from 2005)

Jon & Kate Plus 8

jon-and-kate-plus-8 The internet is a buzz over Jon & Kate plus 8 (reality TV show on TLC)and the sad situation their family is in right now. I don’t keep up with it, honestly, beyond what I’m not practically forced to know by the magazines at the check-out counter at the grocery store. It bothers me.

I just know that way back when they were first on television, something didn’t sit right with me. It just seemed like such a gamble, to have life be chaotic enough with twins and then the subsequent birth of multiples. I remembered my own house when the twins were born. Two kids in school, one in diapers, plus nursing twins. I couldn’t imagine having cameras flocking around us on a routine basis. It wouldn’t have been a pretty site – nor would it have been good for our establishing family.

If you watch the show you can see how the house transforms, how the mom changes from flustered new mom of a multiples, to a reality television star with frosty hair and metallic sunglasses. How on earth did it come to that? I mean, are you serious? Their faces on mugs and t-shirts? Videos? Like winning the lottery and completely imploding over the course of a few years. I’m convinced that people can have too much of a good thing. Children, especially. No child would likely benefit from a life where they are toted around Hollywood, jetting from city to city (to promote… yourself — how weird is that?!), in front of the media, made a spectacle of at sporting events, the list goes on and on.

Too many options, worrying about what sponsorships to accept, appearances to make, what trip to film, what make-up to wear — and way less focus on the precious years of raising children, stealing moments with your husband.

I suppose you could be envious of the sponsorships, the trips, the free plastic surgery. But then you can also see what “deal with the devil” had been made. At the sacrifice of a marriage, of your children’s childhood? Hindsight is always 20/20, but reality TV doesn’t really care about who they are filming and what the ramifications of the intrusion of their subject’s lives will be. But possibly more thought should be put into shooting reality TV when it involves children. Time will tell if these reality TV “child stars” face the same issues as the child actors who seem prone to confusion, drug-abuse and issues with parents and their hard-earned fortunes.

What do you think?

Cheeseburger In Paradise – Review

Yesterday we took Franny in to get his cast checked. His pinky toe was kind of smushed and looked as if it were suffering for lack of air. They had to use that blasted saw to cut away some of his cast. Again. Not a great experience, honestly, after the whole wedging incident. I can’t believe after all he’s been through it is the cast saw that seems to be causing him so much greif. Poor thing. Once it was done it was done, though, and he could wiggle his toes more freely. We asked if our next appointment would involve the cast saw, and they confirmed that – goody gumdrops – yes indeedy he would be having the entire cast removed and either replaced by another cast, or by a walking boot. But, he would for sure have the cast removed. Good to know. There may be some pre-medding involved in that appointment. At the least numerous speckled conversations between now and then about the cast saw.

After the grueling experience, we thought we should catch a lunch, preferably one where we could sit outside and enjoy the weather. After brief consideration we decided to go to Cheeseburger In Paradise in Middelton, Wi. We’ve been there before a few times. First just Frank and I when it first opened, then with the boys (Dante was not impressed) and now again with Franny.

Cheeseburger In Paradise

To spare the mighty cliffhanger: we  doubt we’ll be going back (it took us a bit to figure that one out, apparently). Nothing major or sexy; it just simply isn’t our cup of tea. Here’s why:

  • This visit we sat outside, which was wonderful. What wasn’t wonderful was the sticky, odorous table. Also not wonderful — the music. I enjoy some musical ambiance, but not when it overpowers the option of actually using your “inside voice” while dining. Unless you are in a club  or something, you really shouldn’t have to shout or ask “Huh?” constantly over your cheeseburger.
  • The bathroom was fine, save for the fact that I had to change stalls to avoid the water on the floor. I mention bathrooms because they are important to me.
  • The fried pickles were VERY good. If I were to be lured back, it would be for that crunchy, sour and salty delight. Frank’s salad was good. Not $10 good, as it was priced, but good. Franny’s mini-burgers… not so good. He took one bite and ditched them. I took one bite and couldn’t tell if it was the oddest flavored beef I’ve ever tasted OR if my palate was fussy after eating my turkey burger (that I split with Franny so he would have some nourishment beyond his strawberry lemonade — which was tasty). I had a bacon burger (turkey). It was mediocre; nothing great, nothing horrific. I prefer Red Robin’s burgers, though. Their sweet potato chips are very good, however I opted for the fries this time, and they too were (as Frank would say) “nothing to write home about.” With my fries I always ask for a side of Ranch dressing to dip it in. That can be a deal-breaker as well, because if a restaurant doesn’t have good Ranch, it can ruin the fry experience for me. Their Ranch was watery and tasted nothing like Ranch dressing.

Bottom Line: The bill was $30. We tried to keep it lower by drinking water and having Franny order off the kids menu, but the pickles did us in, and the prices are a bit heftier than your ordinary burger joint. We still left feeling that if we were spending $30 on a lunch, we darn sure should at the very least enjoy it (and the bathrooms and Ranch should be up to par). I’m not sure if the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” means that you’re ambiance and dining experience should be similar to a tropical paradise OR that the burgers are meant to be heavenly. Either way I felt the mark was missed.


Link: Cheeseburger In Paradise

Eggland’s Best Eggs – Review

This is a review from a few years ago from when I was using a different blogging platform. Since we are still eating Eggland’s Best Eggs (it has been 3 years now), I figured it was worth re-posting and making available. Occasionally I will buy organic eggs, if a grocer doesn’t carry EB eggs. But for the most part, we still buy these and the post is relevent.

Eggland’s Best Eggs

Eggland's Best Eggs I was sick of finding chicken feces on and inside the cartons of eggs at the supermarket. I have long eyed up the organic eggs at the store, but the price made me balk. Why bother trying what I could not afford on a regular basis? Well, after seeing an indie movie on chicken farms, and then seeing a commercial about EB eggs, I decided to give EB eggs a try. Oh the power of television, eh?

I believe the price for a dozen eggs is about $2.49. My regular feces-specked eggs were about $1.07 per 18. So, yeah, it is a price jump. But I felt like splurging. Got the eggs home, fried them up. I can tell you that just in the feel of these eggs they are different. The shells are sturdier. And they look adorable, lined up in the carton with the “EB” stamp on them.

Taste? Yes, there is most definitely a taste difference. They have a cleaner, creamier, fresher flavor. They are, most definitely, a better egg.

EB’s website speaks on the nutritional values of their eggs. Interesting. Also you can find information about they eggs and why they think they are better.

Bottom Line: These eggs are most definitely better than what I am accustomed to. However, we are a budget-conscious family of seven and we eat a lot of eggs (we like them and they are cheap). I do think it is worth the price jump for us, though, and I will continue to buy them.


Link: Eggland’s Best Eggs

Wedging A Cast On A Broken Leg

I had some other posts sitting in queue, but thought I might write about our cast wedging experience instead. Oh the joy.

Franny was about 6-weeks (give a few days) post from breaking his leg. At week 5 he had the external fixator removed and a cast put on. 10-days later he was to come in for a recheck. He used his crutches to walk up to the clinic for the first time. I brought the wheelchair, for back-up, though. X-rays were first, and then the lengthy stay in the exam room. The nurse left the x-rays up for us to look at.

We stared at them for a bit (there were 2), and waited. Someone was getting a procedure across the hall and we’d glance over every now and then. I decided to snap a picture to send to Frank, who was at home with Lootie and the home-health nurse. I felt a glare from one of the attendees across the way, but it is MY kid’s leg, so what do they care? The real-life x-ray  is better, but you can see the 2 breaks (tibia and fibula) here, as well as the 4 holes from the fixator.

The Nurse Practitioner (or maybe it is RN) came in first and looked at the x-rays. She said you could see some good healing going on. She said his Orthopedic Surgeon would be in too look as well and we could ask questions (Franny always has a bunch) then.

He came in, with a “shadow” (training student), looked at the x-rays and started talking about a wedge; said everything looked good. Fibula looked pretty misaligned to me, but the side x-ray showed better alignment (assured the doctor). And they aren’t as picky about the fibula. It is the tibia that they are really concerned about (said doctor), and that one looked like it had shifty slightly. He said some doctors might leave it, but he’d like to have it pushed back. I could hear Franny’s small voice asking if he could weight-bear yet. Then I heard the doctor talk to the nurse. Then I heard Franny ask a bit louder. Doctor said, “Not yet buddy.” And we were rushed across the hall to trade rooms with the prior person in the procedure room.

We were given heavy vests to cover our body (Franny’s flimsily covered his scrotum and if I have grandkids with tenticles, we’ll know why). Franny asked about what they were doing, and they were so busy doing what they were doing, they didn’t answer. I asked them as well, and they said they were going to cut the cast and put a wedge in to place the bone a bit better. They twisted his leg this way and that to get visuals on the live xray; Franny was uncomfortable. “Is it going to hurt?” He asked a few times before getting an answer. They told him it might sting a little. He became more nervous. They used the saw to cut the cast (which he was assured wouldn’t hurt) and at the end he sucked a hard breath and started crying. “It stings really bad!!” They said it shouldn’t of, which he assured them that by golly it did, and then agreed that maybe it might have, since his bone was still broken there. The vibrations might have been uncomforable. I awaited gushing blood to spurt out, but it didn’t happen.

Note to nurse: obviously if he’s SAYING it hurts and he’s crying — it HURTS.

They cut a semi-circle in the back of his cast and shoved a plastic wedge in there to push the bone to a better position. Took a picture, showed the doctor, and were told to place a bigger wedge. The did, and then told Franny, who was crying, “All done buddy!!!” and that he did better than most adults. I asked if it would be sore later. They said maybe, and Tylenol would help.

We left. Needless to say, Franny did NOT crutch it out, but opted for the wheelchair.

Within a half-hour he was sobbing like he’s never sobbed before during all of this. He said it stung and his heel hurt. This is a kid that’s taken NO pain meds so far. Not after surgery the first time, not during stitches removal (which was done by the same nurse who helped with the wedge, and she’s no tender Wendy), not after his rods were taken out. And now he was sobbing as if he had his leg broken all over again. Which, I guess, he sort of did. Less the adrenaline and shock that comes with the trauma experience. He was relaxed and unready to have his healing bone pushed around as it was.

I called the clinic. I had no idea if this sort of pain was normal or abnormal. He’s got a high tolerance for pain, so it seemed very abnormal to me. I would think it to be normal, considering all that went down, but they’d said NOTHING about it being this painful. I conveyed my… exasperation to the nurse. We ended up giving him Oxycontin for about 48 hours, coupled with Tylenol (had the Oxycontin leftover from the hospital discharge – never touched it). It helped tremendously.

Today, four days later, he is doing much better. Thankfully. Though I still feel we went into the situation quite uninformed (and still feel rather uniformed about the progress of everything). I don’t know what the experience is for others who have had a wedge, but I’d say to make sure you have some good painkillers on hand, just in case your experience pain that warrants the use of them.

Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate (Homemade)

In 2006 I wrote about a Cold-Brew coffee concentrate that you could easily make at home. After switching over to WordPress, it got buried. But it is one that is worth re-visiting…

After reading a magazine about cold-brew coffee, I thought it would be an interesting project to try. The article boasted of a less-acidic/bitter brew, yet still strong and tasty – but noticeably smoother. With a multiple batches under my belt, now, I am ready to share some information.

I knew there was an appliance (called the Toddy Maker Cold Brew Coffee Maker) that I could purchase to make the coffee, but decided to take a more rustic approach. If I can accomplish a decent cold-brew coffee without spending any money or cluttering up my house with yet another appliance – I’d be a happier woman.

coldbrewcoffee.jpg There’s instructions out there, most conflicting. Here you will find instructions to how I made cold-brew coffee with success.


I put coffee grounds (nothing special – store bought ground OR your favorite whole bean [set your grind to percolator]) into a glass measuring cup. The ratio I used was 3:1, water:coffee. (You can simplify by doing 1 pot-worth of grounds to 16 oz. water, if you’d like.) I stir mine, though others will say not to. I don’t see how letting dry coffee sit on top of water is going to do anything for you, hence my decision to stir the mixture, making sure all the grounds get wet.

After stirring the mixture, I covered it and placed the container into the fridge for minimum 12 hours.

After the waiting period, I give it one more stir; filter it to get rid of the grounds. (I use a mesh tea-strainer to filter the grounds out. I’ve also had success with first filtering through with a veggie colander, and then using the mesh filter.)

To prepare the coffee I used a similar ratio, but that will depend on your own tastes. I put the concentrate in my mug, and put some fresh water on the stove to warm. I didn’t heat it to boiling, but to the point where steam is escaping. Poured this over my concentrate.

That’s it. Very simple. Generally used 1 cup coffee to 3 cups water and it makes enough concentrate for a day or two. Obviously depending on your ratio of concentrate, you will need more or less to make your coffee. The more times you do it, the better you will be able to make the mixture to suit your own preferences. You can store this in the fridge for up to a week.

Bottom Line:
I really like cold-brewed coffee. It is a simplified, less wasteful way to make coffee (I don’t like coffee that has been sitting on a heating element) and the smooth taste very much appeals to me. This would be a great way to make coffee while camping or traveling.

Misc. Findings:

– Preferred type of coffee grounds used is a percolator-coarse ground, the better the coffee, the better the end product
– “Brewing” coffee more than 12 hours (I went as far as 22) did not alter the taste of the concentrate
– “Brewing” coffee at room temperature rendered a more bitter coffee, though some might like this more, I preferred the refrigerated version
– To strain I used a tea strainer, you can use cheesecloth or whatever strikes your fancy

If you have suggestions or tips, feel free to contact me.