Friday, December 31, 2010

Green Isn't Always Healthy...Did You Know?

Did you know that "green" and "eco-friendly" aren't always the same as "healthy?" We're in a time now when everybody's rushing to buy products that are sustainable and green, with the idea that surely what they're buying is better for the environment, and the assumption that these products are also healthier, too. But the truth is, green isn't always healthy.

Almost seven years ago, my mom succumbed to breast cancer. It was a recurrence of the cancer that she'd battled and defeated (we thought) almost five years before, and on March 5, 2004, we lost her. It was my mom's battle with cancer that made me wonder...what exactly was the cause? I've realized over time that it probably wasn't just one thing. I've done a fair bit of reading on potential carcinogens and causes of cancer, and as a result, I've taken action in my life to reduce my own exposure as much as possible without going overboard (I could go on and on about what "overboard" means, but suffice to say, I believe that enjoying life is just as important as taking care with your body and your environment).

Back to green and healthy...I learned a long time ago that sometimes green and sustainable products aren't the same as healthy products. For example, I could buy a nightstand for my bedroom that's made with reclaimed wood- this makes it a "green" product. But most of these tables are covered in polyurethane varnish, which typically offgasses toxic and carcinogenic particles for up to seven years. 

And since my bedroom has been on my mind lately, let's look more closely at that room in particular. You spend 7-8 hours a night sleeping in your bedroom. That's a lot of time, especially if you've painted the walls with regular paint, used an average carpet on the floor, have bedding you picked up at Bed, Bath & Beyond, bought regular furniture and a regular mattress, plus standard IKEA furniture...you're in an offgassing nightmare with literally hundreds of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).  And on average, you're breathing on those toxins 2,758 hours per year that you're spending sleeping in that room.

But what if you went green? So you bought low-VOC paint. You bought bamboo flooring. You bought a natural latex mattress and organic cotton sheets. You bought reclaimed furniture for the bedroom and darn it, you're green.

Believe it or not, though, there are still hazards for you in that room. Your low-VOC paint is still offgassing VOCs, your bamboo flooring and reclaimed furniture are covered in polyurethane, your latex mattress just might be held together with glue and stabilizers, and your sheets are probably smooth because of chemical agents used in the processing. So you're still breathing in that stuff. Sure, you've reduced your carbon footprint and you can feel good about that. But you didn't really do much for yourself or for your health.

It's only in the last few months that I've seen green, sustainable, and eco-friendly manufacturers using words like "indoor air quality" and "non-toxic," words I used six years ago when I remodeled my house and befuddled my contractors by ordering my own materials, hardwood floor stain, and zero-VOC floor varnish and wall paint.So it certainly is easier to find both green and non-toxic products and materials now, but it's still a challenge...less so, if you've educated yourself.

As we move forward with a market of more and more green and sustainable products, keep your eyes open and pay attention to what you're investing in for your home. If your health is at all important to you, ask yourself if your cleaning products, your furniture, your clothes, your bedding, everything around you is both green and non-toxic. While you don't need to go overboard, it would serve most people well to at least question what's in the immediate household environment and ask, "Is this good for me?"


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Leo!

On this day, my hubster turns 52! Now, I've planned a special day for him today, finished by a romantic dinner out, but in honor of his birthday, I wanted to share some photos of a recent trip we took to Target, where Leo was inspired by some of the home decor items (forgive the substandard camera work from my Sidekick, which is soon to be replaced). Enjoy!


Laugh


Joy


Peace


Love


Believe




A to Z...which confounded Leo
a bit, I think, with regard to expression.

Happy birthday to the best man I know!
I love you, Sweet Pea!

Monday, December 27, 2010

We Shaved Our Cat!

As some of you know, one of our cats, Kate, is twenty years old. Kate has lived a long and happy life, and is one of the most beautiful, friendly cats I've ever encountered. Well, sadly, we found out last month that Kate has a tumor in her jaw and probably won't be with us much longer. Currently she's not in pain and seems to be doing just fine, but we're keeping a close eye on her to see if there are any changes.

It's amazing what cats do when it comes to their own care, and Leo and I have discovered just how much they actually do, since Kate recently stopped being able to clean herself, and despite all attempts on our part, we can't do nearly as well as she did on her own. As a result, some of her hair on her back became matted and there was no real way to brush it out, so our vet suggested we shave the mats. 

This being winter, we thought she'd be too cold, but Leo said, "Why don't we get her a sweater?" I said, "There's no possible universe where Kate will wear a sweater. She'll wiggle out of it. No way." But Leo insisted she'd love it and we bought it.

Well, I'll be darned if Kate doesn't love her sweater. She absolutely adores it and so here I am, publicly announcing: I was wrong. You know...this time. LOL

The sweater fits her perfectly and she's just delighted with it, so now our poor little shaved cat is wandering around the house in a pink and white striped sweater. I never thought I'd see the day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Latest Fave Avocado Treat

Lately, I've been working out first thing in the morning, and when I'm done, my body is hungry for something really healthy. I've always loved avocado, but never craved it in the morning until recently, when a vague memory of reading about spreading avocado on toast resurfaced. I happened to have a really nice whole wheat bread and an avocado and I thought, "Hm, that might be nice," and I tried it and it's unbelievable. It's delicious. Plus, it's better than butter because you're actually getting a health benefit from the fats you're consuming (avocado is a "good" fat) and it's better than dry toast because...well, unless you're hung over or sick, who really likes dry toast? ("Me," says my husband, Leo, who actually does eat dry toast occasionally, but frankly, he likes to dip dry toast into sunny-side-up eggs, so as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't count)

Now, I have a couple of tips for your avocado toast treat. First, use bread that's substantial. I'm currently in love with Nature's Pride Extra Fiber Whole Wheat bread because it doesn't have any of the weirdo partially-hydrogenated nonsense or creepy high-fructose corn syrup, and it has a nice flavor. 

Second, get an avocado that's ripe, but not too ripe. It should have a little give to it when you give it a gentle squeeze, but it shouldn't be mushy. If it's rock-solid when you squeeze it, you can put it next to some apples for a day or so to ripen it up. Apples give off a gas that makes other produce ripen faster. We have a three-tiered wire basket that hangs from our ceiling where we keep apples separate from other stuff, and it works great for ripening avocados, but you could also put an apple and an avocado in a paper bag overnight and it works even better.

Prepare your toast normally. While your bread is toasting, cut your avocado in half as in the photo. I use an avocado peeler (left) from Pampered Chef that I bought for $6.50 years ago. It's one of the best kitchen purchases I've made, because it's quite versatile. 

Once you've sliced your avocado, take the side that doesn't have the pit and use your avocado peeler (or a table knife or a butter knife) to sort of...scuff the top of the avocado. You're not slicing here- you're creating a spread. Then you just spread the avocado over your toast. I probably use 1/8 avocado for one piece of toast, if even that much. 

I save my avocado and use it daily until it's gone. If you're easily icked out, know that avocado changes color rapidly and will go from green to brown as it oxidizes. This doesn't mean anything about the quality of the avocado, but if it bothers you, squeeze a little lemon over the exposed part of the avocado. Alternatively, the next day you can just scuff off the icky brown part and underneath it'll be perfectly bright green. Enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Rocks!

I love Christmas. Love, love, love it. Aside from the spiritual implications of the holiday, I love nothing more than a warm, cozy Yuletide with family, so the second Thanksgiving is over, I'm ready to decorate the tree. 
Leo and I spend an evening with a roaring fire, eggnog (the real stuff!), and we decorate our tree together. I have stories about pretty much every ornament on our tree. There are some ornaments that are special because I've had them since I was a little girl, like the "Shrinky Dink" ones we made together. Others are important because they hung on my grandmother's tree. I have ornaments that were gifts- my stepmom used to give me an ornament every year, and each one was something totally different from anything I'd seen before- and ornaments that I made myself, like the satin ball I covered with beads from my great-grandmother's necklace. Then there are the "travel ornaments." Whenever Leo and I go on a trip together, we buy an ornament for our tree. And as we decorate, each ornament brings back memories and moments, creating one of the most pleasant nights of the year.

But it's not just the decorating that I love. It's the gifts. No, not receiving them (though I'm not going to lie...I do like receiving). It's the giving that I love. All year long, I'm like a spy, keeping my eyes and ears open and listening to my friends and family, trying to get some hints about what they want, thinking of what gifts might bring a smile to their faces. Sometimes I make gifts, sometimes I buy them online, but Leo and I always spend at least one afternoon out at the mall amongst the masses, enjoying the hustle and bustle.

The day before Christmas (or sometimes the morning of Christmas Day), I make my great-grandmother's persimmon pudding, a recipe that was passed down to my grandmother and my mother to me. As I read my Nana's handwriting, I think of her, and always laugh when I get to the part of the recipe that says, "Bake in a slow oven; 275 for an hour, then 300 for awhile, and 325 for a bit." It makes me giggle, wondering what "awhile" and "a bit" are supposed to mean, but Nana always made her pudding perfectly, and somehow, mine turns out just fine, too. Making the persimmon pudding is a special moment for me, as it really does connect me to the women in my family who I have loved and who are no longer with me. I feel like the keeper of a precious legacy that I will one day pass down to my children.

Christmas is a special day like no other. And though I don't get religious on that day and I haven't gone to church on Christmas Eve in years, there is a unique vibe in the air this time of year, something that's different from any other season.

Next year should be even bigger, warmer, and more exciting, as we'll have the whole family at our house for the big holiday dinner. Leo and I have already started planning. :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Raw Lemon Avocado Pudding And My Juice Fast

This week I'm doing a light, 3-day juice fast. I thought it would be good for me to detox a little. Leo and I have been working on getting our acts together where our health is concerned and this is a part of that effort. I researched juice fasts and found a fantastic web site called Cooler Cleanse. They offer a very schmancy service where they ship you three or five days worth of fresh juices for your fast. At $57/day, I thought it was a bit steep, so I printed out their 3-day plan and cobbled together my own home-based version at a third of the cost. 

They had a couple of "cheat" recipes on their web site that you can make just in case you get a little desperate. The first was a seriously yummy raw zucchini hummus, and the second was this raw lemon avocado pudding, which I'm posting because I think it's kind of an interesting flavor and worth trying, if you're adventurous and willing to enjoy a few bites before deciding if you like it or not.-it took me about three bites before I could figure out if I liked it, because the flavor combination was so unfamiliar to me. Final verdict: Yum. 

Ingredients:
1/2 avocado
1 lemon
1/2 c pitted dates, chopped
water

Instructions:
Peel the lemon and cut it in half. Remove the seeds. Combine the avocado, lemon, and dates in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. If you need water to improve your blending process, add a little at a time, just to get the blender moving.

I used an immersion blender, but I think a food processor might've been a good first step before moving to the immersion blender. I'd post a photo, but honestly, it's not a pretty product. The dates take the bright avocado green to a muddy color. So...be prepared for that.
Blend it long enough and the texture gets really creamy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Toxic Secrets About Your Bedroom, Part 1 (ooh la la!)

Did you know that your bedroom just might be one of the most toxic places in your entire home? We hear a lot about things like nonstick cookware, paint, and mold, but it's rare that we hear much about the bedroom. Yet you spend a third of your life (at least!) in that room. So does it make sense to fill it with toxins and poisons? No! Since Leo and I are currently revamping our own bedroom, I thought it fitting to discuss the potential toxins in the bedroom in a multi-part series. Today, the first toxin in your bedroom.

Think you know what's in your mattress?
Toxin #1: The Mattress
I was amazed when I recently flipped through Mother Earth News and saw a Tempur-Pedic mattress ad taking up an entire page. Why? Because Tempur-Pedic is an offgassing nightmare of toxins and poisons. Comfortable? Maybe. But is it worth it, when there are natural alternatives? Memory foam is bad news, and the worst part is that there are so many beds making use of it now that it's hard to avoid. Plus, most mattress salespeople are woefully undereducated about their product, so they'll tell you there's nothing toxic about the beds at all. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you think you're safe going with, say, an air mattress like the Sleep Number bed, think again, because they put memory foam in between the air channels, plus those air channels are made of plastic and rubber that offgas, too.

Okay, so why not just your standard Sealy or average mattress from your local mattress store? Well, first, there may be memory foam in those mattresses, too. Second, you may be dealing with other fillers from countries unknown- meaning you just don't know what's in them, which means you may be inhaling pesticides and other chemicals while you sleep.

Third, it's not just the filling of the mattress you have to worry about. It's the covering. If you have a cotton cover for your mattress, there may be chemicals in that- certainly most mattresses are built with a cover that's treated with flame retardants, as required by law. Of course, who wants to wake up in the burning bed? Still, there are natural alternatives to the chemical flame retardants, as you'll see in my solutions list. And, if you're still inclined to go with a regular mattress, you can have your doctor write a prescription so you aren't forced to have the chemical options.

So what's the answer to the mattress dilemma? Well, there are a few potential solutions to the toxic mattress problem: 

Natural Latex. Natural latex comes from the rubber tree and can be a great solution that offers comfort as well as a toxin-free sleep. It's also an eco-friendly option. But beware: many natural latex suppliers use toxic glues to bind it together, as well as chemical stabilizers to maintain the shape needed for a mattress. You have to check with manufacturer to find out what you're getting. There are some expensive options in natural latex, but even IKEA has some fairly comfortable (albeit slightly on the firmer side) natural latex mattresses (note that IKEA has options that combine natural latex with memory foam and options that are solely natural latex with coil springs).

Organic Cotton. Okay, remember back when you were in college and slept on futons? Well, they're not so bad for you, actually, and they can be a great, non-toxic alternative. But that's not the only way to get organic cotton in your mattresses. You can also get the spring-style mattress that most of us are used to in an organic cotton version.

Wool. Wool is a great mattress filler, since it's both a natural flame retardant and also wicks away the heat in the summer and keeps you warm in the winter. Wool is also a great component in a mattress topper (I've had a wool mattress topper for years and absolutely love it), and good for people with allergies.

Organic Cotton and Wool. Since another concern is the flame retardant chemicals used on the outside casing of a mattress, many manufacturers use wool as a natural flame retardant. Wool is also used as a batting material and you can find some great spring-style mattresses in cotton and wool in a wide range of prices.

Organic Cotton, Wool, and Horsehair. One of the more interesting mattress fillers is horsehair, which is harvested in a cruelty-free fashion. Combined with cotton and wool in an innerspring mattress, this option can create an incredibly comfortable mattress. There are reasonably-priced models made here in the States and outrageously-priced models from Sweden, so you have a pretty wide range to choose from.

The range of non-toxic beds is wide enough these days that you have a lot to choose from. In Indiana, we had a difficult time finding any stores that carried non-toxic beds (worse, we couldn't find people who knew what we were talking about), but we did find some useful places to shop in Chicago (including IKEA, though I can't verify whether they use flame retardant chemicals on their bedding). If you're on the West Coast, you'll find a ridiculous number of options and suppliers. The web sites below should get you started.

Chicago Luxury Beds
Re-Nest Shopper's Guide
Pristine Planet Green Comparison (all may not be non-toxic)

In Part 2, I'll talk about the second toxin in your bedroom: Your bedding itself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship With Woot-Offs

I can't help it. I love Woot.com. They offer one deal every day. It's simple, it's easy, it's a great business concept and they often have cool stuff at great prices. Every single one of my Roombas (I have four) came from Woot (okay, I did get one from my dad, who got it from Woot). I haven't always had good luck with Woot. My dad and I both ordered a GPS from them and when they arrived, it turned out they only operated in Spanish (they accepted the return and apologized...in English).

But the Woot-Off...oh, the Woot-Off. A Woot-Off, in case you don't know, is when Woot offers deal after deal throughout the day (or a series of days). There's no set time limit for how long any item may appear, no one knows what items will show up, and there's always a "Random Bag of Crap," which typically sells for $3.00 (+$5.00 shipping) and could be anything. I once ordered a RBOC and it had...ready? A Roomba. Yep, one of my Roombas cost me a whopping $8.00.

Now, I love the Woot-Off because it's exciting and you never know when something awesome's going to show up. But I hate the Woot-Off for the following reasons:
  1. It creates the worst of the worst in impulse buying. You don't know how in-demand something will be, so you only have a brief moment to decide, "Do I really need this?" I find it's best to start with the assumption that you don't need anything.
  2. It creates a compulsion to sit at your computer all day, waiting to see what deals they'll put up. This is much worse if you're looking for a specific item. For example, I have been waiting for two days for a Scooba to show up, since I missed it the first time it came around at 3:30 AM yesterday morning, when I happened to have insomnia. It came up and sold out faster than my sleep-deprived brain could process. So now I'm waiting for a second Scooba to come up.
  3. There's no automation like with eBay, so you can't walk away from it. Sure, there's Wootalyzer, so you don't have to keep refreshing your screen to keep track of the items, but you can't set anything to automatically make a buy for you.
So here's a business idea for a savvy programmer: If you can get Woot to give you access to their API, perhaps you could develop a program like the auction sniper software you can use with eBay. If I want a Scooba, I could choose "Scooba" from a menu of items that have been on Woot previously, set a price range I'm willing to pay, and select an option to just buy it when it shows up on Woot. And if you could automatically get me a RBOC, I'd be tickled pink. Let me know when you get it programmed and I'll happily beta-test it for you. Mama wants a Scooba.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday? Not a Fan. But Cyber Monday, That's A Different Story.

I'll never forget the days of setting the alarm to get up at some obscene hour the day after Thanksgiving, to meet my mom somewhere for a morning of power shopping. My mom was a shopper like no other. You couldn't get her to exercise a bit, though she'd never admit to it; her treadmill, which she'd bought with the absolute conviction that she would use it every day, was a better clothes hanger than anything else, and under her bed were piled more than a few As-Seen-On-TV exercise gimmicks. But she could walk for miles at the mall or an art fair, carrying massive quantities of bags in varying shapes and sizes, and she'd never tire until a little after closing time. My mom was perhaps the best shopper of all time.

While I cherish my memories of shopping with my mom (I'm convinced she's my guardian angel of parking spots, and thank her every time I get "rock star parking" at the mall), I confess I'm not drawn to the sales in quite the way she was. The crowds, the noise, the pushing and shoving, the rudeness...it's not my thing and has a tendency to awaken claustrophobia and malcontent within me. 

I'm not tempted by doorbusters; I've rarely actually procured one. And I've always found that Black Friday shopping tends to whip one into a buying frenzy, so that one ends up back at home late that night, credit card smoking and surrounded by bags, boxes, and regret.

And ultimately, I don't need much these days. I have almost everything that I want, and I'd rather spend money on adventures and memories, than on electronics and clothes. Don't get me wrong- I'm neither Luddite nor Amish. My head can be turned by an iPhone or a gorgeous handbag. But few of the things I truly want are on sale the day after Thanksgiving.

That said, tomorrow is Cyber Monday, Internet shopping's answer to Black Friday. It's said that a vast quantity of shoppers do their holiday shopping online, from work, the Monday after Thanksgiving, hence Cyber Monday. And that's when I'll be doing some of my deal-hunting. Frankly, I've already done my shopping. Windows are already open on the Mac, displaying the few items I want; all that's left is to refresh and see the new pricing tomorrow morning....and to make sure I'm appropriately "cookied up" to receive my frequent flier miles from my preferred airline. :)

And that, my friends, is the beauty of Cyber Monday: no parking problems, no pushing or shoving, no long lines or rude, overworked salespeople. No driving, no waiting, no noise, no crowds, no claustrophobia, no overbuying, no regrets. Just a few minutes, a little clicking, and I'm done with my shopping and have the rest of the day ahead of me. It's eco-friendly, it's peaceful, and it's quiet, and I don't even have to carry a thing.

I kind of think my mom would be proud. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MORE Hamster Babies!!

This evening, we discovered that Imogen has had her babies, so we now have TWO litters of hamsters. I sure hope the pet store will take them!!! Should be an interesting few weeks coming up in our future. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

We Have More Hamster Babies!

Just last night, we moved our black female hamster, Fran Nancy, into a large aquarium. She was pretty fat and I thought she would be delivering soon, but I honestly had no idea she was this close. I was working at my desk this morning and heard the familiar ham-baby squeak, but I Fran's created this massive pile of cotton fluff and bedding so I wasn't sure...but then she shifted enough for me to see a wee little pink thing wriggling around underneath, so now I know...we've got more hamster babies.

Ned Nancy is happily ensconced in his own aquarium and Imogen and Lucky Smith are probably not too far behind with their own litter. In the meantime, Willa seems to be enjoying single life and exploring the house in her clear plastic ball.

More updates as we're able to count the new arrivals and take photos.

Best Pants Ever!

I recently went on a hunt for some awesome, comfortable pants. I wanted something that was comfortable for long flights and something that looked nice for when we go out to dinner whether traveling or at home. What I found was the Everyday Pant from Lucy.com. Okay, so they're not blue jeans, but I'm telling you, these pants are like miracle pants. They smooth out all the unflattering stuff and pretty much just make you look the best you possibly can look. I don't know how they work; I just know they're awesome. I think I'll be wearing a pair of these on every flight from here till forever. They're just that amazing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Continuing With My Tea Trend...How Much Tea Do You Need?

As I've spent a little time these last few days studying tea, I began to wonder...there are all these great teas and they have all these benefits. But how much tea do you have to drink to get the benefits? I mean, if white tea hydrates my skin and helps me look younger, how much white tea do I have to drink to see the benefits? How long before I notice a difference?

So I did a little research and found this article that says four cups of tea per day is the minimum to get the hydrating and positive health benefits of tea. Wikipedia has this exhaustive rundown of the possible health benefits of tea and several of the studies mentioned indicate that four cups of tea per day is the amount to drink. There does seems to be some indication, however, that it's better if you don't drink the tea super-hot, but rather drink it about four minutes after pouring.

I'm super-excited about making my way through my tea cupboard. I'm enjoying reacquainting myself with all the yummy teas I've fallen in love with and I feel a sense of accomplishment (however silly it may be) when I make my way through one more tea tin. And because I have this self-imposed rule that I can't buy any new tea until I clear out that overflowing tea cupboard, it'll be so much fun when I finally am ready to explore some new teas!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wow, I Did Not Know This About Tea Preparation!

Awhile back, I bought a tin of Vanilla Coconut White Tea from Republic of Tea. I was super-excited about this tea. I love tea. I love coconut. What could possibly go wrong? 

Except...this tea, my first white tea, was bitter. Really, really bitter. Every time I made it, it was the same. Bitter, bitter, bitter. Until I myself started feeling a little bitter about having even bought the tea in the first place.

But then I did a little research and learned something: the water I was using to prepare my tea was too hot, and that's what was causing the bitterness. Who knew the temperature of the water mattered? Not me, that's for sure. I always believed that you boil water in your teapot, pour it in the cup with the tea and presto! Tasty hot tea. 

Not so much. According to Teavana (my latest discovery and my newest love), "boiling water is too hot for white and green teas and will make them taste bitter.  Letting the tea leaves sit for too long in water can also make your tea taste bitter or harsh." Teavana actually has a full chart showing the correct temperatures and times for brewing tea here.

You can either stand around with a thermometer, trying to get the temperatures right, or you can invest in a teapot that does it for you. There's a schmancy Breville teamaker that will heat the water to the right temperature for you, then gently lower the tea into the water, steeping it for precisely the right time before raising the tea basket again. It's pretty cool, but it's $249.99. The reviews are incredible, but after I thought about my needs, I realized I really only make my tea one cup at a time. I like having a different kind of tea with each cup, and I don't need a fancy teamaker to prepare several cups at once. So I found that my needs could easily be met with the Adagio Utilitea, which heats your water to whatever temperature is appropriate for the tea you're cookin'.

Problem solved. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For The Love of Tea

I've been a lover of tea for years. Red, white, green, black, herbal...I love it all, and I especially like trying all kinds of new teas from around the world.

For a long time, I've had two "go to" tea companies: Yogi Teas, for their tasty and therapeutic teas, and Republic of Tea, for their vast range, tasty mixes, and gorgeous tins, which preserve the tea's freshness for a nice, long time and happen to be easily recycled as decoupaged gift tins for jewelry and other small gifts.

One of my Republic of Tea favorites is a Ginger Peach black tea. This tea, made hot and with a healthy dollup of honey, is my personal comfort tea, because it reminds me of my mom, who introduced it to me. In our last days together, she and I would sit together in the evenings, sipping this tea and talking about life, love, and hope. When I'm missing her the most, this tea makes me feel closer to her. 

But I have a confession to make. I'm about to cheat on RoT. Leo and I happened by a Teavana for the first time recently and I've fallen in love. In particular, I'm enamored with these double-walled teacups we bought. They're amazing. They keep the tea hot longer and you never burn your hand holding your teacup. Plus, they're the perfect size. Amazing! I totally love them.

The other great thing about Teavana stores is that they have loads of samples of their teas available throughout the store, which is really fun and yummy. Note: don't buy a cup of tea to take with you. They're outrageously priced. Period. I mean, like $7 for a cup of tea. Worse than Starbucks. Still, the tea is top-notch and super high-quality, so I can't really complain.

Currently, I'm "not allowed" (my rule) to buy any new tea until I've made space in my overflowing tea cabinet, so I'm drinking tea like crazy. Today alone I started my day with a little RoT Get Lost red tea, followed it up with some RoT Orange Spice green tea, and am just finishing off a little rule-breaker I picked up at Teavana, a Samurai Chai Mate (come on, it was just a couple of ounces and hardly took up any room at all!), before heading back downstairs for a bit of RoT Vanilla Coconut white tea. I'll make it through that cupboard...I will!

Monday, November 15, 2010

FREE Chocolate?!

Did you know that Godiva Chocolates gives away FREE chocolate? I just found out! Here's the scoop: I'm a huge fan of loyalty and rewards programs, and frankly, I dig free stuff. And Godiva impressed me recently, because I totally forgot about how great this program is.

Leo and I wandered into the Godiva shop whilst noodling about a local mall. A sign about their rewards program reminded me that I used to be a member, and made me ask the sales associate if they still had my information. She looked me up and said, "Yep, and you still haven't gotten your free chocolate this month."

Seriously, people. So here's the scoop: all you have to do is sign up either at your local Godiva Chocolatier or online and then once a month, stop by the shop and pick up your free piece of chocolate (in December, they're giving away two pieces). Leo and I are both signed up. Plus, when you spend over $10, you get a free gift. And if you shop via the American Airlines e-shopping portal, you get four miles per dollar spent. It's win-win-win, and yum-yum-yum. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dear Sephora.....

Trend: Glitter. Get party perfect with bright liners, shadows, and wearable gems. new . exclusive . limited edition . ships for free. Urban Decay Beauty in a Box ($91 Value), $52 > If I wanted to go blind from over-glitterization, I would. But since I don't, please quit trying to make me "try out a new look." I'm not twelve, I'm not a drag queen, and I'm not planning to head out to a rave anytime in the next...lifetime. So...stop sending me ads for makeup looks that make absolutely no sense to a normal woman.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Updates, Hamwatch 2010, and A Few Introductions

Where the heck have I been for the last few weeks? Well, heck, I've been busy! What with my annual year-end planning drawing near, my new relationship with Business.com, and an upcoming product launch, I've had a lot going on. And as much as I love blogging about the fun, more personal stuff, something had to give.

Today, I'd like to share what's happened with my favorite furballs, introduce you to our new permanent residents, and get back in the swing of things.

So where to begin? Well, sad news first: Abe has not returned. I hold out hope that he's still in the house, maybe living off whatever the heck the mice live on when they find their way into the house. Yesterday I found an adult hamster-sized dropping near a bookcase on the first floor, and I got really excited, thinking Abe was still around, we just hadn't found him yet. But then I remembered Willa had spent some time running around in her clear plastic ball downstairs recently, so it might've been from her, but...I kinda have a little hope that my sweet little furry Abe is still running around after all.

HamWatch2010:
The hamster babies before they
headed to the pet store.
We took most of the hamster babies to the pet store last week. Leo and I just loved the experience of watching the babies grow up, and the pet store said they'll take whatever babies we end up with. So we now have two couples and Willa.

Willa has her own space and spends most evenings touring the house in her clear plastic hamster ball, and seems to have a wonderful time exploring. We even took her to my dad's house to check things out, and she wasn't even remotely bothered by their three cats, who didn't quite know what to make of Willa, safely ensconced in her clear plastic.
 
Introductions:
The Smiths:
Mr. and Mrs. Lucky Smith
There was one hamster we knew we were keeping from the second week, when we were finally able to see the babies. One hamster was born with only three feet. He was always able to keep up with the others, and didn't seem at all troubled. Early on, everyone was calling him "Lucky," which I didn't love, but it stuck. So I gave him a  fancy last name and now his name is officially Lucky Smith. Lucky is a black hamster, and I think he'll be a longhaired hamster like Abe was. Lucky spends his days with Mrs. Lucky Smith, a little blonde hamster who doesn't yet have a first name, but is quite a climber. I have a feeling we'll have to keep our eye on her, as she might be an escape artist.


The Nancys:
Mr. and Mrs. Ned Nancy
Another baby I wanted to keep was a blonde hamster who was super-friendly and seemed to really enjoy when I picked him up and patted him on the head. I'd marked his belly with a dot from a Sharpie to make sure I could easily locate him, and I named him Ned Nancy. Ned's mate is a  little black hamster who also doesn't have a name yet. I suspect we'll come up with the names for our little ladies soon, but for now, this one's just "Mrs. Ned Nancy." She's a huge fan of Cheerios. That much I know for sure.

So we have three aquariums in the office now, and frankly, it makes my workday even more fun, because now that they're adults, they're mostly nocturnal, but every once in awhile, a hamster will wake up and walk around sleepily, and I can sneak in a little cuddle before they head back to bed. And on days when I work late, I finish around the time when they wake up. I do promise more and better photos in the future.

I never imagined I'd have five hamsters and be in the business of raising hamster babies (LOL, we made a whopping $12 on the litter we took to the pet store), and I'm really surprised at how much fun I'm having. Of course, I do have a sneaking suspicion that my enjoyment may be tied to a quietly ticking biological clock. We'll see where that goes. :)

So that's the big HamWatch news. In other news, Leo and I are contemplating where we're going to spend Christmas this year, I'm still trying to find the perfect time to microwaving a baked potato (and wondering if it can still be called a "baked" potato if it's been nuked), and in the rare free moments, knitting my first pair of socks of the season while making my way through the first season of Murder One on Hulu.Stay tuned...more to come.





Thursday, September 30, 2010

Restaurant Review: Johnny Rockets, USA

I'm not a huge fan of chains or franchises, but there are a few that do things so well that I don't mind the big corporate ownership. So, for the first-ever Life in Blue Jeans Restaurant Review of a franchise operation..Johnny Rockets!

Johnny Rockets is a 50s-style diner, complete with jukeboxes and servers wearing 50s-style diner attire. The menu is mostly burgers, fries, and shakes, but the "new millenium" version of this diner includes healthier choices and a vegetarian Boca burger option. If someone happens to play the right song on the jukebox, all available staff will jump out and dance, which turns out to be a fun, albeit slightly uncomfortable show (the fun part is the servers who really get into the dance and make it fun by trying new moves; the uncomfortable part is the servers who clearly only do the dance because they have to- watching them is probably the most uncomfortable thing about Johnny Rockets).

We frequent two Johnny Rockets locations in Indianapolis - one in Castleton and one downtown. I have to confess that the service we've gotten downtown has always been friendly, but the Castleton location is a bit spotty. There are a couple of staffers at Castleton who are...a bit dour. But if you happen in on the days when those servers aren't working, the staff is extraordinary, in particular, Lyndsay, who is always enthusiastic and over-the-top welcoming and friendly. So, assuming you're showing up on a day when you get the "happy staff," you'll be greeted and seated practically the moment you walk in the place.

Results of the Johnny Rockets Ketchup
Face Competition Leo and I accidentally
started recently.
There are more great surprises at Johnny Rockets. I'm a believer in the concept of what I call "The Buffer." The Buffer is a separate plate or dish that's used for any sort of condiment, to avoid the food itself getting soggy. I use The Buffer for ketchup for fries, syrup for pancakes, etc. At Johnny Rockets, they bring you a Buffer and then, using ketchup, draw a face in the buffer. The quality and creativity of the face depends on the server's experience and dedication, but Leo and I actually caused a small ketchup face competition during our recent visit, when we complimented our server on having made the best ketchup face we'd had yet, in full earshot of another server. Once he heard our compliment, he came over to say that he'd taught our server everything she knew...and it was on like Donkey Kong.

Another great thing about Johnny Rockets that makes it such a phenomenal place for families, is that they give unlimited refills on drinks and fries. Plus, Monday through Wednesday, from 4:00 to close, kids eat free. When you're feeding a family, value matters. And Johnny Rockets delivers value in spades.

And on our last few visits there, they've given us these sweepstakes cards that we bring back for the next visit. The manager opens up the cards and tells us what we get free. The first time, we got a free shake, which earned a big "meh" from me. But last time, we won two free burgers and they let me swap my burger for a Boca burger, which prompted a "yay!" from me. And if you go to the Johnny Rockets web site and sign up for their e-club, you'll get a coupon for a free burger.

Johnny Rockets isn't a romantic place. It isn't a fancy place. But they deliver an entertaining, delicious meal with high value, which is a major bonus in this economy. Big thumbs up from us!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Please Excuse This Interruption....

Every once in awhile, I get a little writer's block. It's not that I can't come up with ideas or that I'm actually blocked...it's that sometimes...I just don't want to write. To be fair, I have a large number of writing gigs- web sites and outlets I've promised regular writing assignments to, and now and then, the sheer volume of writing that I do on a weekly basis just...gets to me. 

I started this blog for fun- to have a distraction from the topic of business that I write about on a daily basis. And it has been exactly what I hoped it would be- a great source of joy, fun, and an opportunity for me to share my life and all the cool stuff that Leo and I do on a daily basis with many of the folks who have previously only seen my business side (even if my business side is still wearin' blue jeans).

But right this minute, I'm overwhelmed with writing assignments, and I have to take a day or two off to sort through them all. So please bear with me and excuse this interruption. I'll be back momentarily.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Udupi Cafe, Indianapolis, Indiana

It's hard to find Udupi Cafe in Indianapolis, Indiana. In fact, I'd wager that Udupi rates as one of the best-hidden culinary gems in Indianapolis. First, it's on a side of town where one expects to find a great variety of ethnic cuisine, but not necessarily on a side of town where you'd really want to go. Let's face it, the area around Lafayette Square Mall just isn't what it used to be. Leo and I happen to spend a good amount of time in this part of town, simply because we live about five minutes away. But I never feel completely safe in the area.

Second, Udupi is hidden inside Indian Plaza, which I never even knew existed before two days ago. So even if you know the address (4225 Lafayette Road), finding Udupi's front door just isn't a simple matter. In fact, I've driven by this place for the last ten or fifteen years, noticed the sign for "vegetarian indian cafe", and  I always assumed it had gone out of business, since there was no visible storefront. 

Then, two days ago, I was out running errands and I was super-hungry. I didn't want to go grocery-shopping on an empty stomach, so I decided to treat myself to a dim sum lunch. Well, the dim sum place was closed, so I decided to go on an Indian adventure. And what I found amazed me. 

The strip mall (yes, I know) where Udupi is located happens to have another Indian restaurant at the end. I assumed that was the Indian restaurant, but then noticed a door with a sign reading, "Indian Plaza." "What's that?" I thought, and decided to venture forth. 

Inside, I discovered a small Indian paradise. A little spa beckoned me with eyebrow threading and facials. A boutique tempted me with sparkly, beautiful jewelry. A massive grocery offered huge bags of scented rice, fresh produce, some of which I'd never seen before, and avast array of music and Bollywood films. And nestled in all of this cultural richness was Udupi Cafe.


On my first visit, which happened late for lunch (2 PM) on a Saturday, the staff was just about to tear down the buffet to start getting ready for dinner. When I happened along, though, they were completely welcoming, asked about the books I had with me, gave me a guided tour of the buffet, including recommendations, spice levels, and even made up a dessert plate for me, complete with masala tea. The head chef wandered out into the dining room to shake my hand when I was finishing my meal, and I had a lovely chat with a cake artist who stopped by to say hello to the staff. And when I was paying my bill, (under $10 for full buffet including dessert, beverage, and tip) they surprised me with a little to-go tub of my favorite dessert that day.


I took my dessert (gulab jamun, fried dough balls made with milk and flour and soaked in simple syrup) home and shared it with Leo and told him about my adventure, and we decided to go back the next day so he could experience Udupi for himself.


When we returned, the staff remembered me and welcomed us in, asking about the book I'd been reading. I introduced them to Leo and they showed the exact same level of service and friendly warmth during a reasonably busy Sunday evening dinner that I'd experienced as the only patron mid-afternoon on Saturday. Leo fell in love with the buffet, too. 


Dosas
The flavors of Udupi are rich and warm and focused on Southern Indian cuisine. The matter paneer, one of my favorite Indian dishes, which is a tomato-based sauce with peas and cubes of cheese, has a deeper flavor than I've experienced before. The sambar, a vegetable stew, is only mildly spicy (though I thought spicier at dinner than at lunch) and wonderfully accompanied by saffron rice, idlis (steamed rice cakes), any of the bonda (fried potato mixtures), or the fresh naan (a soft flatbread) they bring you on request. They'll also bring dosas, a crepe made from lentils and stuffed with a potato, lentil, and spice mixture. Though it's not to my particular taste, there's a cold bar as well, with an array of raitas and chutneys, plus puri, which is an unleavened bread that comes out a bit like crunchy, hollow balls that you can fill with a mint sauce, a chutney, or a cold mashed potato mixture.


Saffron rice, sambar, mattar paneer, and bonda
And just when you've overdone it on too many trips to the savory buffet, there's dessert: at least four choices of delicious sweets await you. The galub jamun is a personal favorite, but I also fell in love with the kheer, a sweetened rice pudding made with raisins, and shrikhand matho, a yogurt-based mango dessert with fresh peaches and pears stirred in. The sweetest dessert I've had at Udupi is the motichoor ka ladoo, made with milk, gram flour flakes, and puffed rice.

I have yet to have a single dish at Udupi Cafe that I don't like. Even if I discover something that isn't to my particular taste, it's all prepared so well that I still enjoy it. And the welcoming staff makes the dining experience even more pleasant. In fact, Suresh and Raj invited us to a Cultural Cannibals event featuring a friend's band, Bollywood Bahngra, next Friday...after we sample their Friday night Indo-Chinese buffet, of course.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Favorite Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I'm a huge fan of garlic for many reasons, but the biggest one is that it just tastes good. I love nothing more than throwing a head of garlic in the oven, drizzled with a little oil, and cooking it until it's nice and soft and buttery, then spreading it on some crusty bread with a little butter.

I also love adding garlic to my mashed potatoes. Potatoes seem to need a little garlic, and this is the easiest way I've found to make that happen.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, red, uncooked
4 clobes garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c. milk or soy milk
salt and pepper

Chop potatoes into chunks. In a large pot, boil potatoes and garlic in water for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are soft and skin begins to fall off (if you don't like the skin in your mashed potatoes, peel them before boiling). Darin and transfer potatoes and garlic into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher, adding butter and milk as needed for consistency and flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I used to roast my garlic in the oven first, but doing it this way saves a ton of time!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Operation: Abe Report, Day Seven and HamWatch 2010: Day Eleven

Operation: Abe Report
As of this morning, I am very sad to report that there is still no sign of Abe, and I fear the worst has happened. Leo maintains a lot more hope than I do, I confess. I just have a bad feeling, because none of the food I've put out, not even the stinky Limburger cheese that Willa's gone crazy over, has been touched. Not in any room. Not even a little bit. I am very sad over this loss, and I keep trying to think of anything else I can do to find him, but I can't imagine what else I could do. I'll continue to put out little piles of food and leave his cage open on the floor, but I don't have a lot of hope that Abe's coming back.

HamWatch 2010
In much more optimistic news, the babies are incredibly mobile and active. I'm calling them "The Mob" and when The Mob wakes up, there's a wobbly feeding frenzy with morsels of food that are far too big for their tiny mouths. So this scenario is quite common: one little hamster sits with a giant piece of corn, trying to stuff it in it's cheeks, only the corn gets a little stuck, so the hamster tries to pull it out, only it can't get it out, so it wiggles around, pulling on the corn, and somehow manages to lose its balance and somersault backwards...and eventually, is able to remove the corn. It's also common to see two little hamsters sharing a big piece of food, both holding on for dear life, nibbling little pieces off of the larger chunk. And sometimes, they lay on their sides, holding the food like a toddler would cuddle a teddy bear, only unlike the toddler, the hamsters take little bites now and then.

The babies' eyes haven't opened yet, so how they're getting around so easily is a mystery to me. They're extremely wobbly still, though, and pretty unstable, so although they're also quite fast, there's a lot of stumbling and they perpetually appear as if they're just going to keel over. It's a lot like being on the streets of Newcastle in the UK just after the pubs close.

Willa, the Wonder Mom, is really
effective at corraling the babies!

They also squeak a lot. There are two distinct squeaks- one is the "where's the milk?" squeak, and the other is the indignant, "Mom, put me down!" squeak. I don't mind telling you that having The Mob in the office is intensely distracting and I haven't been nearly as productive as I should've been this past week, because I keep having to get a closer look at whichever baby is taking a wobbly wander around the aquarium.

All of the black hamsters have white chins like Abe, which I love, because I loved his little white beard, so I'm glad to see the babies will be carrying on that trait. It's impossible to tell if they'll be longhaired like Abe, but I hope that some of them are.

The babies love to bring nuggets of
food back for naptime.
There is a runt in The Mob. One of the blonde babies is substantially smaller than the others. We've already decided that we'll keep that one, because it's just so darned sweet, plus there's one more that we're keeping for sure. One of the black babies was born with three feet and a wee little stump. It has no problem getting around, but I don't think the pet store will take that one, and besides, I've already fallen in love.

Stay tuned for more, and if you think of it, send up a wee little hamster-sized prayer for Abe.

Making Organic Eating Affordable


Organic produce is almost always more expensive than regular produce. So how can you make it more affordable? The first and cheapest way to have organic produce in your life is to get some organic seeds (Seeds of Change and Natural Gardening Company are my two faves) and grow your own. Create a root cellar and learn about four-season gardening so you can have fresh produce year-round.

Second, explore your local farmer's markets. Most places have farmer's markets in the summertime, but you might be surprised to find that many states have markets year-round, and the produce is often very affordable. You can also join a local co-op or CSA that will allow you to get organic produce delivered to your home every week. In Indianapolis, a great option is Farm Fresh Delivery.

Amazon has tons of affordable organic foods, as do Wal-mart and Costco. At Costco, I buy giant jars of a totally yummy organic peanut butter, for example. We set up shelves in our basement and have a refrigerator and freezer there as well, which we use when we buy bulk (another great way to save money eating organic).

I wouldn't recommend jumping into organic immediately. Start slowly and go in phases. I started with milk and butter, and moved into produce, then realized the benefits of keeping frozen foods and bulk items in storage. Then we added gardens, and eventually, our own chickens for the freshest, most organic eggs.

Eating organic is possible, even on a budget - you just have to start slow, rethink how you spend grocery money, and ferret out the best resources.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hummingbirds and Rosie

Ruby-throated hummingbird
My mom and I shared a love of hummingbirds. I always loved hummingbirds, from the moment I first saw one as a little girl. When I lived in Colorado one summer, there were hummingbirds everywhere, flying outside my window, in and out of stores that left their doors open....and my adoration of the hummingbird increased every time I saw one.

When my mom passed away, I started seeing hummingbirds at important moments in my life - when I talked to Leo on the phone for the first time, when I sold my first book, when I was missing my mom so much. And when one of my best friend's dad passed away last year, the funeral was held in a church with a giant window behind the pulpit...and during the funeral, hummingbirds danced just outside that window, as if to say that my mom and my friend's dad were hanging out together watching over us.

Hummingbirds are delightful creatures, hovering here and there, pausing mid-flight for just a moment before speeding off. According to Wikipedia, they can beat their wings 12-90 times per second and are the only bird that can fly backwards. All I know is that they're special to me and I'm pretty sure they're a sign that Rosie's looking down on me with love.

The other day, I saw a pair of hummingbirds next to the side of my house. They actually landed - something I've never seen. I haven't seen very many hummingbirds lately, so seeing those two was special, and a good sign that a big transition I'm about to make in my life is the right one.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

From The Mouths of Babes

As told to me by My Sister The Dentist...

Recently, my three year-old niece started school. There was a little boy who was kicking, so after the teacher was alerted, a couple of days later, my brother-in-law went to school to have lunch with my niece. My brother-in-law (who looks like a slightly smaller, much tidier version of Hagrid from Harry Potter, and who wears two or three earrings) sat down next to The Little Kicker, who looked up at him and said accusingly, "Why are you wearing earrings?"

My brother-in-law explained that he liked them, they were jewelry, etc. and then The Little Kicker said, "I thought only girls wore earrings."

My brother-in-law said, "Yeah, girls....and pirates."

The Little Kicker's eyes went round as saucers and his voice softened as he said, "Ohhhh. Ohhh. Do all pirates wear earrings?"

My brother-in-law said, "Only the real ones."

Kicking problem solved.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Coolest Thing I Ever Saw In London

A few years ago, when I was traveling to London for the first time, I sought recommendations and advice from my traveler friends and from my Anglophile friends and family. And somewhere in the midst of all the suggestions was one I thought sounded a little odd: The British Library.

Now, I am a huge lover of the library. I visit our library at least once or twice a week and I'm constantly immersed in at least one novel and 4-6 nonfiction books at any given moment. But visit a library in a foreign land? Such a thing had never occurred to me.

However, my stepmother was adamant that The British Library was something special and something we'd enjoy, so I figured, heck, why not? What I discovered was the single coolest thing that one can see in London. Period. I've seen the Tate Modern. I've seen Victoria and Albert. I've seen the Tower of London and I've seen a lot of other stuff. And hands down, The British Library is the coolest thing I've ever seen in London.

So what makes The British Library so intense? Let's see...
  • Shakespeare's first folio.
  • The original Alice in Wonderland in Lewis Carroll's handwriting.
  • The Magna freaking Carta. The original one, the document known as the cornerstone of liberty. 
  • Leonardo da Vinci's original notebooks with his handwriting.
  • The Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed on a printing press.
  • Illuminated manuscripts.
  • George Frideric Handel's Messiah, in Handel's handwriting.
  • The Diamond Sutra, the oldest dated printed book.
  • The original Canterbury Tales.
  • Original writings from the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.
And that's just the start. I'm telling you, The British Library is an absolute treasure trove of moments that, quite literally, brought tears to my eyes, and if I had just one day in London, I'd spend it there. If you do go to London, do not miss it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Operation: Abe Report, Day Four and HamWatch 2010: Day Seven

Operation: Abe, Day Four
This is the fourth morning Abe is still missing. On Tuesday, he went missing. On Wednesday, he left a dropping and some bedding so we knew he was around. Yesterday and today...nothing. In the last few days, I've pulled out bookcases and filing cabinets, searched through closets, behind and under everything I can think of. But...no Abe.

The last two nights, I put out flour, hoping to catch Abe's trail. Several of the web sites I found suggested it, and I thought maybe it would work...but no dice. Here's all I got:
Flour Trap, Night Two
Flour Trap, Morning, Day Three

Now...is that really enough to go on? First of all, Abe has a "hair skirt" that I kept thinking would majorly disturb the flour. This could be a trail, but when I saw it, I thought it was a bit more like a bug could've done it. It's hardly anything. And it didn't go anywhere. This trail points directly to my bedroom, and that door is always closed tightly and has no space at the bottom, so there's no way that Abe could be in there.

Two nights ago, we also implemented our bucket trap. At a restaurant supply store, we bought this canister for rice. We haven't used it yet, and obviously we'll be sterilizing it before using it for rice, but I put bedding and enticing snacks in the canister. Leo and I created a staircase out of motivational books. I even used The Power of Seduction, which I received as a gag gift once, hoping it would seduce Abe into coming home. I baited the canister with peanut butter, even, thinking that would be enough. But...no Abe.

Last night, I didn't even bother with the flour. I was a little concerned that Abe was a little frightened off by it, so I just didn't put it down. I was testing my snacks on Willa to see what appealed the most to her. Peanut butter was a miss- Will totally ignored it. But she really seems to like apples, so I put a slice of apple into the canister.

I also put a slice of apple and three Cheerios in a room I hadn't previously tested- the laundry room. Our washer and dryer Bosch, which are often intended to go under counters. Since we weren't following European tradition and putting our laundry machines in the kitchen, we had to have a platform built to raise them up a few inches. The platform is a) hollow, save some acoustic foam, and b) open at the back for ventilation. Since the flour trail pointed vaguely in the direction of the part of the house where the laundry room is, I gave it a shot and put the snacks in there. But this morning, nothing. None of the snacks in any room has been disturbed. I just have no idea where Abe could be or if he's even still alive.

It's almost as if, during that first night, Abe packed his cheeks with food from his cage in preparation for a long vacation, because he hasn't touched any of the snacks I've put out for him.

Today I plan to empty the two closets in the office. I've already looked in the bottoms of the closets and taken stuff out of there, but there are clothes and coats that Abe could be hiding in, so I aim to do a pretty thorough search this afternoon. It kills me not to do something.

HamWatch 2010: Day Seven
On a happier note, the hamster babies are celebrating their one week birthday today, and they are absolutely thriving. Willa continues to mother beautifully- which the pet store confirms is kind of a rare thing for a first litter. The babies have grown a bit of fur and four are definitely black, eight are blonde. They make the most delightful squeaking sounds, which my clients confirm that they can indeed hear when I have a phone meeting, LOL (I'm lucky that my business isn't overly formal and my clients enjoy a bit of fun, or I think I'd have to move the hamsters out of the office). 

I have been able to touch them a bit without upsetting Willa. Sometimes when she leaves the nest, a couple of die-hard nursers hang on and get dragged a few inches outside the nest. Without their eyes open yet, they can't really find their way back unless they're really close, so I've petted Willa and gotten her scent on my hands and then gently coaxed the wee babies back into the nest. I seriously can't wait until I can hold them, though. They are so tiny and so precious. And newsflash: the other day, Leo said casually, "What do you think about keeping one or two of the babies?" LOL Here we go again.

Operation Abe Update:
I just searched both closets in the office, but there was no sign of Abe. Where could he be? I also talked with a vet who said that if Abe packed his cheeks for a long vacation, he could be just fine, holed up somewhere, hanging out and relaxing. He may not come back until he's exhausted his supply of snacks. My hope is (somewhat) restored.