Thursday, May 28, 2009

A little extra cash

I don’t know how many focus groups I’ve done in the past 8 years. I’ve discussed diapers and baby wipes. Snack foods, salad dressing, and frozen entrees. Shampoo. Herbal supplements. I’ve had people come to my house and show me a plastic wagon (Radio Flyer style). I’ve had people come to my house and look at my hair. I’ve been mailed samples to try. I’ve been interviewed in groups, large and small, and individually.

I’ve been paid $100 for 20 minutes. I’ve been paid $60 for 45 minutes. I’ve been paid just for showing up. I’ve had to take used diapers back to the office in a big bag to prove I didn’t turn over the product secrets to the competition. I’m not allowed to talk about the potential products. It feels like being an industrial spy, except the pay isn’t nearly as good.

Lately I’d say I’ve been doing one study every other month or so. It’s obviously easy bucks for little effort. Many are in the evening when child care isn’t a problem. Today I did one downtown after work, so I just had to walk over a few blocks.

What’s somewhat surprising is that we hardly ever get to see an actual product. It’s more “Does this ad work? How about this wording? Would you try a product flavored with whale poop? Why or why not?”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The littlest blues brother

Here's Nea. It's apparently genetic, this ability to look good in any hat. She gets it from me.

Did I mention that the Vantage Lite just happens to be what Schuyler uses? Oh. I guess I did. But there's a brand new video on her dad's blog! Watch Schuyler order dinner using the same comm device we'll soon have.

And since you can see it in the background of the first photo, here's what happens when you trashpick a planter and turn it into a patio pond. We have 3 koi (Kabuki, Rockstar, and Snowball) and 2 goldfish (Stealth, who is brownish and hard to spot, and Little Bert, who is actually Ernie-colored). The plants are real, but the flower is fake.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lest you believe I only grow veggies

As I have mentioned before, we have a little prairie going. It's probably about 30 square feet. There's been talk of expanding it, but I dunno. I like it small. I'll have to catalog what's in there one of these days. We have the standards, plus a few more exciting varieties: black-eyed susans, echinacea, prairie smoke, yellow coneflower, butterfly weed (one of the 17 types of milkweed native here), queen of the prairie, beardstongue, lupine (pictured*), spiderwort, beebalm, goldenrod (there's 14 varieties in Illinois -- I don't know which we have), coreopsis, daisy, wild indigo, and, you know, some grasses.

What is amusing yet frustrating about starting your own prairie is how difficult it is. What I haven't listed here are the numerous plants we want to grow, but have had zero success with. Prairie dock being the first example that springs to mind. These plants took over millions of acres without human help. Why is it such a struggle? Probably not enough fires scorching through our yard. Thankfully.

View photos of the plants mentioned and many other native Illinois prairie plants here.

* I took this photo. I'm very proud of it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Our own Big Box of Words

Big, big news around here. After trying out two other communication devices (Dynavox 5 and PRC Springboard Lite), I went out on a limb and asked whether we could get one we didn’t test drive: the Vantage Lite. The school agreed!

It just so happens that Schuyler uses one (see video). We’re hoping for purple, though, not pink. Anyway, I am thrilled that we will have a new tool for Nea to learn on starting in August. It has a keyboard for her to spell out words. It has much better sound quality than her old Doorstop, er, Dynavox. And I don’t have to worry that she’ll outgrow it anytime soon.

Ah, happy times.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In which I expound the virtues of spring. Again.

Ah, spring. Springspringspring. You rock. I love you. I love your rhubarb, asparagus, new fresh leaves on the trees, your hostas rocketing out of the ground. Your flowers. Bluebells. Daffodils. Tulips. Hyacinths. Lilacs. The cute little seedlings lovingly planted and tended to.

Spring, did I mention I love you?

Ahem. Anyway. Back to asparagus. It’s been a good year for us, relatively speaking.

Isn’t it adorable, all purple and spikey? Then you steam it, and it turns green, boo hiss. But a little lemon off our Meyer lemon tree on top, and it’s quite enchanting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Handy Honda Odyssey Window Tip

I know a lot of people with new Odysseys. A lot. I bet not many of them know this great little trick. And summer is a-coming. We need to load kids into a cooled-off vehicle. Next hot day, try this.
  1. Use your remote to unlock the doors. Hit it twice, so they are all unlocked.
  2. Press and hold the unlock button. Hold. Hold.
  3. Watch as all the windows roll down! It’s magic, boys and girls! Pure Honda magic!

Am I right? Did y’all not know this? It probably works on other Honda vehicles, too. I know some VWs have this feature. Can't hurt to try your ride. You never know.

Book club selection

Horror of horrors, we are combining the June/July meetings because of everyone's conflicting schedules! Oh, where have we gone wrong as a society!? All this needless suffering! And for what. What, I ask you, could be more important than book club. Clearly there is no god.

Ahem. Anyway, we'll be reading The Next Thing on My List: A Novel by Jill Smolinski.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh, how I love the smell of trashpicking in the morning

Y'all know how I love to get a bargain. And what beats free? Items listed clockwise from top left, more or less. Car not included in trashpick score. Which is too bad, but there it is.

Fancy unfinished display shelf. Will paint white and mount on wall.
Stair basket. Will hold things on stairs that need to go on the upper level of the house.
Small bench. Will hold houseplants on our front porch.
Orange pumpkin dish. Oven-proof, etc. but will probably serve as Halloween candy dish.
Braided rug. In amazing shape. I washed it and it looks great in the downstairs hall.
5 framed works of art. Will replace art with our kids’ art.
Various Polly Pocket toys, in carrier bag. Was big hit.
5 ugly textures plaster balls. Have already started painting them with the kids. See below.
Sesame Street toy box bus.
2 pair ice skates.
2 Lego tables. One with two sets of plates for Duplo or Lego blocks. One travel sized. Some Legos included.
Various balls.
Lego truck. Will use to store sidewalk chalk.
Various games.
4 magna-tiles.

Framed stained glass. Will fix chain and hang in front porch.

Basketball hoop, adjustable.Cozy coupe car. Will sell. Here's the second Lego table I mentioned earlier.

Stuff for our preschool. Popcorn tin, coloring books, toy bus, memory game, etc.

3 under-bed plastic storage containers.
Picnic bench.

See? Better already, and we haven't even started with the colors and glitter glue yet.

And this year’s coup de grace, to take its place next to last year’s coup de grace, this very large planter that we will turn into a water feature (fountain, plants, fish) on our patio. Will take back the smaller one we recently purchased for $100.

Not pictured: many items, including a really nice Craftsman rototiller, first aid kit, and Rubik’s cube. 6 hoses, soaker and regular. Also, all my friend’s stuff, including a really nice park bench. She also got some Harley Davidson exhaust parts to resell. Some beautiful solar garden lights that work, and on and on.