Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Oct '10

Chocolate Tasting Parteeee!

I hosted a chocolate tasting party. I just wanted an excuse to get some girlfriends together to eat chocolate and become chocolate connoisseurs and have fun doing it. I had never done this before, so I learned a few things.

Step 1
Buy Chocolate

And lots of it. Actually, most sources I researched suggested sticking to just 5-7 types of chocolate. We had 14. But can you ever really go overboard with chocolate? I decided to go affordable and, with just two exceptions of locally produced chocolate, provided only types of chocolate you can get at Wal-Mart. We sampled three types of white chocolate, four of milk, and seven of dark.

Step 2
Set Up Your Table

I broke up the chocolate samples into bite-size pieces, set them out on plates, and numbered the samples. I needed less than one bar for each sample, but had an extra bar on hand in case of emergency. I set out tongs for handling the chocolate during the tasting.

Step 3
Include Palate Cleansers

With tasting so much chocolate, you need to provide a way to clean your palate now and again. I had mini bottles of water and unsalted crackers.

Step 4
Create the Atmosphere

We sat on couches with soft music in the background, and I set up candles and framed quotes about chocolate.

Step 5

I read up about how to properly taste chocolate in a formal setting. Turns out you don’t just bite, chew, and swallow! I got some good information from here and here, among other sites.

I used tongs to hand out bite-size pieces of chocolate. We started with white, worked up to milk, and ended with dark. First you examine the chocolate’s appearance, then take in its aroma, then place it on your tongue and let it melt before biting and chewing it.

I handed out scorecards to keep notes about each chocolate we sampled. That way people could keep track and remember which ones they liked and didn’t and why.

We learned a lot about chocolate! At the end I revealed which chocolate each sample number was. Not everyone agreed about which ones were best/worst, but there was a pretty good consensus overall.

The #1 favorite was Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt. We liked how the chocolate was rich and dark but not too dark, with the surprising taste and crunch of salt. It was like an unexpected explosion of flavor.

The other favorite was Lindt Excellence White Coconut (if you like coconut).

We had some clear losers. Walmart carries Hageland Premium Belgian Chocolate, but no one liked it. Any of it. And we tried four varieties: the basic milk and dark plus their specialty varieties of 64% and 71% dark. (I stand corrected: JOHN liked the 64% variety. He was the only one, and he wasn’t even invited to the party.)

Step 6
Say Thanks

I left going home gifts by the door, and of what? More chocolate! This time chocolate truffles that could be eaten later or shared with family.

We had fun, and I’ll definitely want to do this again sometime.

Oct '10

Funness n’ Stuff

What’s better than a swaddled baby?

Last night we went out for Halloween dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and a couple of friends at a buffet themed with pirates of the seven seas.

We made a new friend. (That’s a real person in there.) He was very scary.

And saw honest-to-goodness swash-buckling sword fighting.

And had some decent food with good friends.

They had lots of prizes to give away, but not a great turnout, so we all came away with something (a Ghirardelli chocolate gift box, in our case). We made s’mores by a fire on the deck, which was a nice break from the chilly mountain air. We had a good time.

On a completely different note, Wes is getting better all the time at repeating words and sounds. Here he is working on some animal names and sounds with one of his toys.

Oct '10

Things I Love Today

In no particular order…

1. That Wesley sort of smiled for his preschool picture. And that we actually thought to buy a few copies of the picture to keep for future memories. Wes doesn’t smile on demand, so this is a big deal.

I’m not sure why he’s wearing his jacket in the picture. Maybe he wouldn’t let them take it off??

2. This gal who is 2 months old and who smiles whenever you give her attention.

I will, however, be grateful to see her sleeping through the night. I get up with her consistently twice each night. Usually she goes right back to sleep. But then sometimes Wes will wake up and I have to get up to help him go back to sleep…

3. That Wes likes strawberries.

He’s made the sign for them before, but I didn’t know what the sign meant until I caught a snippet of his “Signing Time” DVD where they were signing it. Last night he was on the counter watching me cut strawberries for my meal, and he helped himself to one. I was kind of surprised, but he ate the whole thing and asked for more. Yay for another thing Wes will eat! He ate three more strawberries tonight. He can even kind of say the word: “Dah-Bay.”

4. My Zumba classes that I teach. I worked at a desk for seven years and truly never liked sitting at a desk. Standing in front of loads of people and making them sweat and smile and have so much fun is much more my idea of the dream job. I often come away from class thinking, “I have the best job ever.” Not that being a mom isn’t truly the best job (it is), but there is something so gratifying about a job where people come up afterward and smile and say thank you and tell you what a joy the class is to them. Wes and Carissa aren’t big into thank-you’s.

5. Losing weight. Because I’m finally losing a little more. I’ve been at it (imperfectly, for sure, but consistently, yes) for about six weeks and I’m making progress. I’m getting close to where I was before I got pregnant, and then from there I’ll just be a few pounds from my goal. Not every day is easy. In fact, most days aren’t. But as I keep working at it I gradually get closer to my goal.

6. Wes is getting so smart. He amazes me with how much he knows. Today we were watching “Signing Time,” which had a song about the colors of a rainbow. I looked over at him and he was not only signing the colors but even saying some of the words. Impressive! He is getting really good at colors. And he loves it when we count with him. He holds up his hand as we count 1-10, although he can’t arrange his fingers the right way yet. But he can make sounds that resemble most of the numbers as we count. I also started singing the alphabet song with him, and he is totally into it.

7. Wesley’s preschool teacher is thinking of increasing his school time to four days a week instead of two. I think this will only help him. He is doing so much better verbally since starting, really repeating and imitating sounds. So we’ll see what happens with that.

8. Sleep. In theory, anyway. I should go test that theory.

Oct '10

The Planned versus What Happened

This past week turned out kinda differently than I had planned.

Wes was sick over the weekend. He woke up several times Saturday night, I think because he was dry heaving. He slept pretty much all day Sunday. Occasionally I’d pull him out of bed when he was awake to see if he wanted to watch Barney or Signing Time, but he’d fall asleep again after a few minutes. He threw up a few times after I tried to give him something to drink. On Monday he was better, playing and acting a lot more normally, even eating pretzels and drinking diluted milk.

Both kids had a doctor’s appointment on Monday. It was Carissa’s two-month checkup and Wesley’s three-year one. I knew it’d be a little tiring for me, keeping a handle on Wes and keeping him from touching things he shouldn’t at a doctor’s office while keeping Carissa content. Carissa was scheduled for immunizations, but the surprise was that Wes needed a booster shot, and we decided to give him a flu shot too.

I managed to get both kids through their various weighings and measurings, pokings and proddings, and both came away appearing healthy and growing. Carissa is already 9 lbs 10 oz and 22 inches long, up from 7 lbs 9 oz and 19.5 inches at birth. That’s 23rd percentile for weight and 38th for length. Wes is 27 lbs and 34.5 inches. On the “typical kid” chart, that’s 11th percentile for weight and 2nd for height. It would be a higher percentile on the DS chart.

When it came time for shots I opted for Wes to get his first so he could calm down a little before Carissa got hers. Good decision. He cried, of course, but he got over it once he saw that Carissa was getting something done to her. He was more concerned about her than him and quickly forgot his own little pokes. Carissa, I have to say, did not handle the shots especially gracefully. I don’t remember Wes as a baby crying quite as much or as long as she did. It took a while for her to calm down. But at least both kids weren’t crying at once.

Wes was fussy and cranky the rest of the day, probably because he wasn’t feeling all that great. I had planned to go to a Zumba class that night once he was in bed. I needed the exercise and sometimes it’s nice to do something just for me. Frankly, I was a little tired of cleaning up throw up. Even the cat had thrown up. I settled Wes in bed a little after 8 and about three minutes after I left him I heard him crying. I went to check on him and he had thrown up. Everywhere. I changed his clothes, changed his sheets. Cleaned the carpet. Cleaned the mattress and crib rails. Started laundry. Got him settled again and by then it was close to 10 p.m. Time for bed.

Tuesday he was even better. However, a couple hours before I had to leave to teach my first Zumba class I started feeling not-so-great. But I went and taught my class anyway. I took a bottle of Sprite for my tummy. Class was actually pretty good, but the further into it the more sick I got. By the end I was not doing so great. Afterward I sat a few minutes to gather my strength and a couple of my students kindly offered to help me out to my car. I had one more class to teach, but I was able to find a sub on short notice, which I was grateful for.

I went home feeling miserable and crashed. I think I was pretty dehydrated. After several hours of sipping water and sleeping I started to feel better. The next day was better.

On Thursday I was going to send Wes back to school (we kept him home on Tuesday as he recovered). I was excited because usually I use that time he’s at school for getting things done related to work, but since I had a sub lined up for my class that night, I could use those hours for something purely fun or me-oriented. And Wes was so excited, sitting out on the front porch with his denim jacket and backpack and lunchbox all packed, waiting for the bus. And it didn’t come. And didn’t come. And didn’t come. The bus has been late before, but after a while I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized that’s Fall Break and there is no school.

So Plan B was to take Wes and Carissa for a ride in the car to Walmart so he could still go somewhere and I could get some errands accomplished. It wasn’t exactly fun or me-oriented, but it was productive. We go and get everything on the list, the kids are both being good, and we finish up with just enough time to get Wes home in time for his nap. Perfect.

Then I’m standing in line with all our items on the conveyor belt when I fish through my purse and realize my wallet’s at home. Dang it.

So I apologize to the clerk and tell her I’ll be back soon, take both kids back to the car, drive home, get the wallet, and drive back to Walmart. By this time Wes is dead asleep. I pull him from the car and into the cart, but he can’t stay awake. He keeps nodding off and wanting to lay his head on the front handle. I was so worried the Walmart cashier would be all snotty with me for forgetting my wallet, but I was relieved to find she was a nice cashier! She had set aside all my bags and simply scanned the receipt so I could pay for it. Then she looked at Wes and said she has a friend with Down syndrome, and she thinks her friend is more normal than not. Which I agreed with. And then she said, “I think he may give you a run for your money.” Which I also agreed with.

So that’s the week so far. A few more days to go.

Oct '10




Tuesday this week was Picture Day at Wesley’s school. This meant that we had to hunker down and do the Most Dreaded Deed of All Deeds: cut Wesley’s hair.

Wes is, for whatever reason, deathly afraid of certain noises like knives slicing, noses blowing, and scissors cutting. This last one has made haircuts a tortuous experience for all involved. John holds him down while I snip. But, as you can imagine how perfectly still a 2- or 3-year-old sits whilst being snipped at with scissors (NOT), we’ve had close calls with serious bodily injury doing this.

Aaaaand the end result is that when I notice that Wes needs a haircut, I put it off. And off. And off. For as long as conceivably possible.

But this week we finally did it. His hair was over four inches long. It was time. We opted to use clippers, which we figured were less likely to maul his ears or face if when he thrashed wildly around.

I tried to introduce him to the clippers first, showing him how they turned on and made noise, letting him touch the base and feeling it vibrate. This was all well and good. Until we actually tried to bring the buzzing clippers within an inch of his head, and then the usual tortuous experience commenced.

The upshot is that, yes, Wesley’s hair is now shorter. It’s about 7/8″ long in most places, to be exact. A little crooked and uneven. But shorter. Phew. Done for a few more months.



Wes waiting for the bus on Picture Day.