What's on your running playlist?

When I got my first iPod and started listening to music while running, I couldn't believe how much more enjoyable running could be. Music truly lifts the spirits and makes the hours and the miles pass much more quickly. But you can only listen to your favorite 100 songs again and again before you end up hating those songs as much as you hate Barney the dinosaur's I Love You song. Rather than banish YMCA from my running playlist forever, I resolved to add at least 10 new songs to my running playlist before my 40th birthday.

To many people, that would be a no-brainer, but as you many have guessed, I am not the most adventurous listener. I stopped listening to the radio in my late teens, so until I started dating Alfie, my musical tastes were stuck in the 80's. Much to Alfie's embarrassment, when we married in 2000, the "new artists" in my cd collection included names like Hall & Oates, Kenny G, Barry Manilow, Duran Duran and Tears for Fears (thank goodness Madonna has reinvented herself time and time again over the years, so at least I did have 1 hip artist on my favorites list). I'd probably still be running to the same hundred songs if it weren't for these five secret sources for discovering new music:

Our kitchen remodel: Putting on a new face

 The Pea and I in our kitchen, 11 years ago

Since moving in to our home, we've made quite a few changes to our kitchen --  replaced the ceiling lights, replaced the stove, repainted the walls.  But the mainstay of our kitchen, the thing that gives our kitchen its look and feel -- the white cabinets -- have remained.

The cabinets came with the house, so we have no idea how old they actually are, but after seeing them deteriorate year after year, it was time for a change.  Some of the cabinet doors were falling off their hinges, and some had paint peeling and flaking off from water damage.  Simply changing the doors and drawer fronts was not enough, because we wanted to change the color of the cabinets from white to cream.  Since we were happy with the general layout, we decided on cabinet refacing instead of outright replacement.  This was too big a job to do on our own, so we found a contractor who seemed well established and charged reasonable rates.  We picked out our cabinet and drawer colors and styles, chose some hardware, and began the Refacing Phase.

Our kitchen remodel: Everything but the kitchen sink

We probably spend more time in our kitchen than in any other room in our home, but we've never given it the same amount of attention, design-wise, that we've given to our other rooms. It was high time to redecorate, so we embarked on Project Kitchen Remodel on November 21, 2011. We hired a contractor to refinish our kitchen cabinets (and that's the subject of a future post!) , but Alfie, the kids and I did everything else. We reframed the windows. We painted the walls, the baseboards, the cabinets and the windows. We changed the light fixtures. We restored the wooden butcher block on our center island. (I say "we", but in all fairness I have to give most of the credit to Alfie; the kids and I were the supporting cast).

Except for choosing a piece of artwork for one of the kitchen walls, we're finally done. It was a long, slow, difficult process, and it has taken me a while to recover from the trauma, but I'm finally ready to relive the experience, so over the next couple of months I'll be writing posts about the various areas we transformed, starting with the area around our kitchen sink.

I'm forever forgetting to take proper "Before" photos, but here's a shot to give you an idea of what we started out with:

I don't get baseball

Of all the popular sports enjoyed in the US, the one I really don't get is baseball (okay, make that NASCAR racing and baseball, but today I'm talking about baseball). I've tried watching it on TV, and I've even been to a grand total of four live games. I'll admit I only went to those games because my kids were singing the national anthem (how many parents get to say their kid got to stand on center field at a San Francisco Giants game to sing the Star Spangled Banner?). But we did stay to watch the game afterwards, and we really did try to get into the spirit of things, cheering for the Giants along with the rest of the crowd. But each time, we ended up leaving early because it went on for too long, and just couldn't hold our interest long enough.

Baseball is not a difficult sport to understand. I'm sure there are a myriad of rules that I'm not aware of, but the basics are pretty clear and simple. But there are still so many things about baseball that I don't "get":

Seven Days of Dinner, April 23-29

We've got our first lemon of the season! Our dwarf lemon tree only gives us lemons every 2 years, so we're always glad when our tree bears fruit and we can enjoy lemons any time we want. In fact, I'm so excited at the thought of this year's lemon haul, I want to have a whole week's worth of meals featuring lemon! Here's what I'm thinking:

How to make paper flowers for a spring party

The Pea celebrated her 11th birthday last weekend with a movie night and sleepover for 7 of her school friends. We decided to decorate her birthday table in Easter-themed pink, yellow and green. The table looked gorgeous, but the wall behind it was plain and bare. Usually I put up a "Happy Birthday" banner or poster, but this year I wanted to do something different, so I decorated the ceiling instead, and hung paper lanterns and flowers at various lengths. Here's how I made the paper flowers:

I could drink ranch dressing. And I did.

I love ranch dressing. I pour it on salad. I mix it with chopped hardboiled eggs. I stir it into beef stroganoff. I would probably drink it, if I could.

And that's just what I did a few weeks ago, when my friend Citymama invited me and a few other bloggers to tres chic LaFitte Restaurant in San Francisco. Owner/chef Russell Jackson actually served us an entire 5-course meal featuring Hidden Valley Ranch; he even used it in our cocktails and dessert!

What's in your sock drawer?

Nothing should be so simple, right? The name should say it all! But in the spirit of disorganized clutter, there's always something extra you can stuff into a sock drawer! Aside from the assorted hosiery (socks, tights, stockings) you'd expect to find, here's what's in mine:

Pioneers, not snobs

To Rick Santorum, who suspended his Presidential campaign earlier today, I have only this to say: Don't let the door hit you on the way out. He was certainly an amusing diversion, but his views on women, on the separation of church and state, on foreign policy and on so many other areas are just so far removed from mine that I'm not sorry he's gone.

Seven Days of Dinner, April 9-15

The Pea celebrated her 11th birthday last Friday, and we celebrated with a trip to Tahoe for some skiing and poolside fun. Actually, the trip was for Spring Break and her birthday just happened to fall right in the middle of it, but that didn't stop her from commandeering the whole trip as though it was a 3-day birthday celebration. I told her the only person allowed to celebrate their birthday for more than 1 day is me (May is officially My Month since both my birthday and Mother's Day are in May), and our family tradition of letting the birthday celebrant pick the restaurant for birthday dinner was good enough.

Easter Treats

Now that the kids are older, Easter Egg hunts are a thing of the past, but I still like making Easter baskets and treating them to little candies and toys. I asked around on Twitter, although I received some great suggestions for older kids' Easter treats (books, money and lottery tickets, for starters!), in the end I stuck to what the love the best: Cadbury's creme eggs, a yellow Peep (with the bottom dipped in dark chocolate!) and a little toy. I got 3Po and Jammy some Lego Star Wars mini-sets that came in plastic models of the Death Star and Tattoine. I figured the planets looked enough like Easter Eggs to fit the bill. For The Pea, I added a Kelly doll dressed as the Easter Bunny.

What's in your wallet?

.... sorry, no Capital One credit card. But I do manage to squeeze a lot of stuff into my wallet. Technically, it's my purse, but last year I got tired of shlepping around a huge bag for my kids to throw their junk into, so I downsized. My streamlined purse contains just the basics I need to get around (plus a few things I need to get rid of):

Seven Days of Dinner, April 2-8

Normally I write my "Seven Days of Dinner" posts on a Sunday or Monday, so I have a plan in my head for the next seven evening meals. But my mind is on spring break this week, so I'm a day late. Fortunately, I already know I won't be cooking the whole week. Later this week we're going on our final ski trip of the year, and even if we weren't, we'd be going out to a restaurant to celebrate The Pea's 11th birthday this Friday. And since this Sunday is Easter Sunday, I don't have to think too hard about what to eat for dinner (if Alfie and I had our way, it would be chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, but unfortunately we have to set a good example for the kids, so Easter ham it is).