Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A leap into the history of leap day.

Why do we have a leap day?  The simple answer is that we have an extra day every four years because it actually takes the earth 365 and a quarter day to make it's complete orbit around the sun. Every four years an extra 24 hours have accumulated and an extra day is added to keep the calendar and the sun lined up.

Did you know that a leap year doesn't actually happen every four years?  If the year is divisible by 100, but not by 400 that year doesn't have a leap day.  So, the year 2000 had a February 29th as did 1600, but 1900 did not.  It doesn't take the earth exactly 365 days and 6 hours to make the rotation.  It takes closer to 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds, leaving the leap day a little short of 24 hours.  So we lose three leap days every 400 years to keep everything in check.

While researching all this I wondered why leap day happens on February 29th.  Why does February have only 28 days anyway?   This explanation on the BBC website sums it up pretty well:
Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, says Stewart. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was peeved that his month - August - had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius - July - had 31. "He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out," says Prof Stewart

For more information check out these articles:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who makes cook ahead meals?

I do!  Or at least I did once, this week.  A friend of mine pinned this picture to a Pintrest board,

I was mesmerized by the order and organization.  And decided to adapt some of my own recipes for freezing ahead.  I had a few requirements:
  • If I was cooking an ingredient I had to be able use it in more than one dish
  • The dishes had to be something my whole family would eat
  • The frozen dishes needed to require no more prep than "take out of freezer and bake".

This limited me to mostly casserole type dishes.  We don't eat a lot of casseroles or bakes, but I figured if I could incorporate 2-3 of these a week we'd cut out on the takeout and the "heaviness" of the casseroles would be mitigated a little.

I made 4 dishes and it only took about an hour, which surprised me.  I'd always envisioned cooking for the week ahead an arduous process that would eat up and eniter Sunday.  But by keeping my rule of using each cooked ingredient more than once I was able to really cut back on the amount of time in the kitchen.

We've eaten two of them already and they were delicious, and a great time saver on guitar/piano/dance lesson night!

I didn't write the recipes down, and I just eyeballed it, but here's what I made and how I put it together:
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef, browned (I use beef from Hemlock Highlands, which my lovely in-laws own) I browned some chopped onion with it.
    • you'll use half of this for the Enchilada Bake and Half for the Baked Ziti
  • 2 jars of Spaghetti Sauce I used homemade, but your favorite will be fine.
    • 1 will be for the Baked Ziti, the other for the Chicken Parmesan
  • 1 lb box of whole grain penne rigate, cooked al dente.
    • you;ll use half for the mediterranian chicken pasta and half for the Baked Ziti
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
    • Cube 1 into bite sized pieces for the Mediteranean Chicken Pasta and  leave 4 whole  for Chicken Parmesean

For the Chicken Parmesan I poured some sauce into a baking dish, put the raw chicken on top, seasoned it with some grated parmesan, dried basil, oregano and parsley, poured some more sauce on top and liberally sprinkled it mozzarella cheese.  I'll serve this with a tomato, onion, cucumber salad and some garlic broccoli.

For the Mediterranean Chicken Pasta I tossed the raw cubed chicken with pesto.  I used half of the cooked penne rigate and tossed in half a small jar of quartered artichoke hearts, some jarred roasted red peppers, some sliced black olives, fresh basil and tomatoes.  I put the tossed pasta into a baking dish, sprinkled it with olive oil, put the chicken on top and then put goat cheese crumbles on top of that.  This one doesn't really need an accompaniment since it's got a nice balance of veggies, starch and protein.

For the Baked Ziti I mixed the ground beef, half a container of ricotta cheese, some mozzarella and the penne rigate with a jar of spaghetti sauce.  I covered the top with mozzarella cheese. I served this with garlic bread and a ceasar salad.

For the Enchilada Bake I poured some canned enchilada sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.  I made a layer of soft corn tortillas, them some of the browned grown beef, a bit of colby jack cheese, some diced tomatoes, onions and green chiles, then i put another layer of tortillas, some more enchilada sauce and cheese.  I served this one with some fresh guacamole and sour cream and a side of black beans.

Do you have any favorite make-ahead meals?  What's Cookin', Chicago, the blog that had the pretty freezer picture has some great ideas on her site. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

What good is a hoverboard that doesn't hover?

As the first big news to come out of this year's New York Toy Fair, Mattel announced that they are finally releasing the toy hoverboard that was featured in 1989's Back to the Future. 

The hoverboard will be offered as part of their Matty the Collector adult off shoot brand.  Here's what the Matty the Collector website has to say:
Finally! This totally awesome 1:1 replica of the hover board from the BTTF 2 and BTTF 3 films includes multiple whooshing sounds and will glide over most surfaces (does not actually "hover" – check back in 2015 for that feature). We'll be taking orders for it March 1 – March 20, 2012, and the final product will be shipped around November/December 2012. Because this is such a high-cost item, there will be a minimum number of orders required to go into production. If we don't receive the minimum orders, won't go into production and customers will not be charged. The price will be announced later this month. (Note: Hover board does not work on water.)
So there ya go.  It will make "wooshing" sounds and will glide, not hover.  My guess is that as a "collector" item it will be fairly expensive.

I will not be purchasing a hoverboard mock up to look at.  Anything that looks even remotely like a toy is considered fair game in my house and this thing would be destroyed by Nate sliding it down the front steps or by Kitty  "decorating" it with stickers.  The last collectible I got was a Ralphie (from "A Christmas Story") action figure that Kit lost all the pieces to.

I used to love to collect things.  I had a great Batmobile telephone that I got when I was 15 that my kids ruined, I had a beautiful figurine of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz that my kids ruined, and Super-Dad's beloved pull string Mickey Mouse toy has suddenly gone missing - probably because a kid ruined it.  See a theme here?  I won't buy any more "collector's items" until my children are in their teens.

What about you? Do you have a collection that you've managed to protect from your kids? Do you have a particularly bad story of your kids ruining a prized possession? Share in the comments or in on the Parenting Geekly Facebook page.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Funny Book Friday: Adventure Time with Finn & Jake

Adventure Time with Finn & Jake is an enormously popular show on Cartoon Network.  If you haven't caught an episode, it's kind of like a hybrid of Spongebob Squarepants/Ren and Stimpy/Rocko's Modern Life.  It's surreal, weird and sometimes a little gross.  Nate can't seem to get enough of it. So when KaBoom! announced that they were going to publish a monthly Adventure Time comic, he put his order in.  

Nate literally pried it out of Super-Dad's hands the second he walked through the door with it (seriously, SD didn't even have his scooter helmet off), and read it cover to cover in about 20 minutes.  I had to beg him to let me take a look as he now considers it one of his prized possessions. 

The book is split into two stories, much like an episode of the show, and emulating the TV program seems to be a goal here.  The first issue even had a "cold open" a (seemingly) unrelated page that preceded the title page.  The first story is an ongoing serialized adventure in which Finn and Jake have to save the world from The Lich.  The Lich is a bad guy intent on gathering up the world in his Bag of Holding ("It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside..." bonus points for the DnD reference!) so he can throw it into the sun.  His motivations for world-destruction are not clear, and the methods by which Finn and Jake are to defeat him - they involve special jewelry and "battle burns" - are equally unclear. This part of the story ends with a "To be continued", and Nate is already impatient for next month's issue.

The back and forth banter that the show is known for is well translated  here by Ryan Ward. His writing seems to fit the cadence and style of the cartoon well.  The colorful and dynamic art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb looks just like the animated series.

"My Cider the Mountain" is the shorter standalone story at the end of the book.  Aaron Renier both wrote and illustrated this story about Princess Bubblegum's favorite apple cider.  The art on this story is beautifully done in watercolor, marking  a nice separation from the more iconic art of the serialized portion of the book.  It's a funny five page story with a punchline that is sure to make the tween set giggle and make their parents gag.

Nate recommends the comic because "it's awesome" and thinks that if a kid isn't familiar with the world of Adventure Time "they'd think it was random but awesome."  

As a side note, this book seems to be insanely popular.  My local comic book shop Arcane Comics, sold through their order on Wednesday.  As of this writing  it's going for upwards of $15 on ebay.  Popularity of this magnitude almost guarantees there will be a speedy reprinting, so local shops should have it back in stock soon. If you have an iDevice you can get it digitally via Boom! Studio's app.

Parent's Guide:
Age Appropriateness: If you allow your child to watch the Adventure Time cartoon, they'd be fine to read this.  There's no swearing, and the conflict of the bad guy trying to destroy the world is pretty cartoony. The book is unrated, but I'd say age eight and up.

Things to look out for: Finn and Jake practice their "battle burns" (insults), Jake says something "sucks",  Jake calls someone a Jerk.  At one point Finn climbs inside of Jake and wears him like a suit. The world inside The Lich's bag is desolate and may be a little scary to very young or very sensitive readers.  The punchline of "My Cider the Mountain" is a little gross, but non-offensive.

Talking Points: This isn't really a "talking points" type of book.  It pretty much exists purely for entertainment purposes. 
If I was going to stretch I'd tell you to talk to your kids about absurdist humor and non-sequiturs, and how those types of jokes can work and make us laugh.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A love letter to my security blanket.

When I was a little girl my sister (53 weeks my junior) and I shared a bedroom. My sister was born with a rare congenital heart defect that required intensive medical care that left her feeling sick.  She was frequently up many times at night and to make a difficult time a little easier my parents left our thick oak door ajar and the light of the nearby bathroom turned on.  That was when I started wrapping a blanket around my  head.

My blanket has been around as long as I can remember. My mother thinks it was a baby shower gift, but even she can't recall at this point. In the farthest reaches of my memory, when I slept I had my blanket by my side - or more accurately, wrapped around my eyes.   My sister is fine now, the heart condition controlled by stents, with only a few small scars to remind her of those long, sleepless nights.  My only remaining side effect is the inability to sleep with uncovered eyes.  That light from the bathroom made it impossible for me to sleep, and according to my mother I resorted to using my blanket to cover my eyes.

The blanket also served in a more traditional security blanket way.  The heart condition required my sister to have many long stays at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  We lived in a suburb of Philadelphia about an hour away.  My grandparents lived just outside of the city.  From the time she was born until my grandmom passed away I would live with my grandparents whenever my sister had a hospital stay. I brought the blanket with me every time, parting with it only for a few hours while my grandmom would mend the ripped binding or snip the loose threads.  My blanket was my connection to home.  And after my grandmom died each stitch she lovingly sewed into the frayed fabric was a gentle reminder of how much she had loved me.

As a teenager I tried pitch black rooms and sleep masks.  Neither could match the way the fabric of my blanket fit all the countors of my face, blocking any light from disrupting my sleep.  The blanket came to college with me where my first roomate was sure I was going to suffocate and would move it off my face.  The blanket was in the hotel room on my wedding night, and came to the hospital for the birth of each of my children.
Me, Super-Dad and the blanket (on my head) on New Year's morning 2000.

My husband sees the blanket as a holding on, a way to prevent myself from having to really grow up.  I see it as a constant.  I could sleep without it if I had to (and I have had to many occasions), but to me it's a comfort at the end of each day.  Like a hug from my past every night.

Do you have a blanket of stuffed animal (or a habit) from your childhood that you can't give up?  Discuss it in the comments.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Read the first few pages of the new Adventure Time comic

In case your young (or old) Adventure Time fan can't wait until Wednesday to get their hands on the premiere issue of the comic you can click over to Comics Alliance which has the five pages of the comic ahead of its Wednesday debut.

In case you are unfamiliar with the weird world of Finn (the human) and Jake (the dog) here is a small blurb from the show's Wikipedia entry:
...American animated television series created by Pendleton Ward and produced by Frederator Studios for Cartoon Network. The series focuses on the adventures undertaken by two best friends, Finn the human boy and Jake the dog with magical powers, who dwell in the Land of Ooo. The series is based on a short produced for Frederator's Nickelodeon animation incubator series Random! Cartoons. After the short became a viral hit on the Internet, Cartoon Network picked it up for a full-length series that had a preview on March 11, 2010 and officially premiered on April 5, 2010.The series has been a critical and commercial success, receiving generally positive reviews.
 The blurb doesn't really do the quirky, surreal nature of the show justice, but judging from the preview pages the comic might.

 What do you think? Are you or your kids going to pick up the Adventure Time with Finn and Jake comic book on Wednesday?


After you read the preview pages head over to this post for a great Zomsters giveaway.
Don't forget to like PG on Facebook and follow @ParentingGeekly on Twitter.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I want to be a fashion designer when I grow up!

In our new column "I Want to be THAT when I Grow Up!" we'll interview someone who is actively working in a cool profession. For our first column, we get a look at what it's like to be a clothing designer. While clothing designer may not seem like a particularly geeky profession, it was a natural choice for the first feature because it is what I wanted to be when I grew up (believe it or not, geeky parenting blogger wasn't always my first choice.)   Ronda Berman, creator of Zomsters, also brings her own whimsical geeky touch by designing kids clothes that feature friendly monsters complete with backstories.  Wally is a marine archeologist, Henry is a circus performer and Stanley enjoys playing the sport of curling. To top it off the clothes are all made with enviornmentally friendly materials and processes: From the Zomsters website:
Zomsters is a small, mother-owned children's company located in Snoqualmie, Washington. We make kid-friendly clothing and collections that have been carefully selected from earth-friendly materials such as organic cottons, azo-free dyes, non-toxic printing, and recycled and reusable materials.
Each Zomsters design and product has a unique touch of individuality, just like the little Zomsters wearing them! Not only do we design to make you smile, Zomsters is also designed to help create making small changes in our lives we can make big differences in helping our planet. 

When did you decide that you wanted to be a clothing designer.  What inspired you?
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved being creative, anything art, in any medium.  I didn’t grow up wanting to be a clothing designer but designing clothing just kind of happened.  I was working for Outdoor Research in sales when the company’s clothing designer  gave her resignation and I, myself needed some change.  I know how to sew and have always had small projects on the side so I took out some gumption and started constructing my presentation boards with sketches to present to the owner of the Company.  I was offered the job on a six month trial bases.  Within that six months I won the 2003 Malden Apex Award for one of my designs and it has all been downhill from there.  I have been designing ever since.

What inspires me???  Everything!  My inspirations come from nature, old rustic, modernism, fellow artist and designers, but what really catches my eye is color.  Color is the make or break of any design/art piece and can be the hardest to select because of those reasons.

What makes Zomsters different than other clothing out there?
I don’t know if Zomsters is different but I know when I design it, I want to be fun.  I want to promote a giggle.  Can you not look at the 21 Zomsters characters and smile?  When my characters are in the development stage I already know what their name is, and what their likes/ambitions are going to be.  I guess you can say that Zomsters are all about the characters and the bonus is that they come printed on organic cotton onesies and high quality, 100% cotton toddler tees.  All apparel is made with adhering to fair labor practices, azo-dyes, water based inks.   I want Zomsters to be organic, sustainable, chemical-free, and ‘green’ wherever possible while still being able to offer affordable collections. I wanted to promote an awareness of the benefits of change: making small changes in our lives can make big differences in helping our planet.

What background do you have (schooling/life experience, etc) that has made this profession possible for you?
I would have to say what largely contributes to my background is experience.  I’m not afraid of putting myself out there and trying new things.  For instance, I was a cook in Antarctica, a police officer, a brewery manager, accounts manager, retailer buyer, Designer, wife & mother.  My hobbies vary from backpacking, mountaineering, fly fishing, rock climbing, welding, gardening, anything with art & design.  The funny thing is…I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  Life is short and I want to experience everything.  The reason I am, where I am is because I’m not afraid of trying.

What kind of schooling or skills did you wish you had prior to beginning your career?  What should kids who want to be a clothing designer focus on?  
The first thing I would recommend is an education with a focus in art, textiles, and construction.  College is the easiest way to get your foot in the door.  I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and that doesn’t always happen.  And above all, don’t be afraid to try.

What is the best part of your job? 
Being able to create everyday and seeing the end results of your product.

What is your least favorite part of the job? 
Accounting, inventory and all of the tedious aspects of owning your own business.

What is the geekiest part of your job? 
I don’t know, I’m kind of a geek, so it’s kind of hard to call it out.

What advice do you have for kids who want to have a career as a clothing designer? 
Don’t be afraid to try and put yourself out there.

Bonus Giveway!  Ronda was awesome to provide a gift to one lucky Parenting Geekly reader.  Using the fab Rafflecopter widget below, enter to win a Stanley T-Shirt in Snail Snot Yellow (love the color names: Dirty Worm! Princess Poo!) in size 6T, just like the one below:

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