Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Love and Hate Relationship with Colorado: Part Deux

I really didn't know that my first post (which you can view hereabout why I both love and HATE Colorado would turn into a series.  I should have known better.  


My Ode to The Colorado Property Management Group:


Colorado has it's own love and hate affair with Home Owners Associations (HOA'S).  Just about every neighborhood has them in some sort of effort to maintain looks and property values.  Owners love this.  Until the HOA tells you that you can't, for instance, have a trampoline in your backyard because it's visible from the the street.  Or they limit the choice of trees you can plant in your yard to about 3 so that you're uniform with everyone else in the neighborhood (shout out to the Beckstead's).  


We don't live in a super nice neighborhood.  We're just renting until Paul has worked for two years here and then we'll buy a house.  ....somewhere else, lol.  So, it boggles my mind that our HOA is so strict.  When we were first moving in, we parked our moving ...van?...in front of our apartment so that we could easily unload all of our stuff.  Technically we weren't parked in an actual parking spot, but we weren't in anyone's way.  Promise.  When we were finally finished enough to rest, we went inside and ate/slept/etc.  In the morning we were headed to do some grocery shopping, put the rest of our things into a storage unit, and return the...van?...(IDK people...it was a big moving...auto...).  Imagine our surprise to find a note on our door saying, "I tried knocking earlier but nobody was home.  Please move your moving van before it gets dark.  The HOA."


Shall we say, LIE #1?  Paul and I stopped moving our things into out apartment WELL before dark.  There had been no note on our door. I KNOW that no one knocked on the door as well because we would have heard it. We never left the apartment, and we wouldn't have TV or Internet for another week.  Secondly, why didn't they just come up to us and mention in a friendly manner that, when we were done, would we park the van across the street so we wouldn't get a fine?  No big deal.  Thirdly, would it have killed them to let us park there for the night?  We had driven 13 hours with an 11 month old and were now doing manual labor.  CHILL.   


My next irritation came from an encounter that our handyman had with the HOA.  He's pretty experienced, so when it comes to HOA's, he knows his rights.  One afternoon while he was fixing our sink, his car was "tagged" with another HOA note.  Written on "DOTS" (that's right, the yummy candy you always eat at the movie theatre) stationary, it sternly told him to move his truck or be fined.  He had parked in the same "non-parking spot" that we had when we moved in.  He ran and caught the guy who had left the note, but the man wouldn't fess up.  NICE.  Way to stand up for your role in the HOA.  The funny part is that our handyman has the right to park wherever he wants when he's doing work on an apartment.  This had happened to him before.  Not only did he win his case with the HOA, they had to pay some major fees because of it.  


Ok, third issue:  We have a satellite dish.  Or rather...we HAD a satellite dish.  After spending FIVE HOURS trying to find a signal and location to put the dish, the installer settled on screwing it to the outside of the building.  Fine by me--it wasn't in anybody's way.  Apparently you're supposed to ask permission to do this--I had no idea or I would have.  The HOA was pretty angry with us and gave us a time frame to remove the dish.  This resulted in calling Dish Network to send out a technician.  Luckily he couldn't find a signal off of our balcony (where I can only assume would be an appropriate place to house our dish), so we cancelled our dish service, free of charge.  Had this cost money, I would be more angry.  


Last but not least:  Today I got three, count 'em THREE texts (as well as an email) from the realtor that manages our condo.  He said the HOA had contacted him because we had been "un-responsive".  They sent him a letter stating that if we didn't remove our dish and pallets from our patio, we would be fined.  They also said we had been notified about the pallets once and had failed to do anything.  My jaw literally dropped.  You know, I'm a good person. I'm not some sort of delinquent that stores months worth of trash on their patio.  Yes, we have TWO pallets on our patio.  We have a fireplace and burn pallets.  Where SHOULD I store them....in my 1 year old's bedroom?  As long as they were not visible, I bet the HOA would be ok with that.  We removed our dish from the building, but apparently the patio, which was advertised as "additional storage area" is not an acceptable place to house it.  ARRRRRRGH!


LIE #2:  The HOA NEVER sent us a notice that our pallets were some sort of eyesore, nor did they notify us about the dish.  The went around  us and "told" on us to our manager threatening fines.  Seriously, all they had to do was knock on the door and talk to me.  Why are HOA's run by people who are too afraid  to talk to someone???  Luckily our manager is a pretty awesome guy and told me what was going on.  He didn't really believe it himself.  


So there you have it....more reasons why Colorado isn't sitting well with me right now.  Good thing the weather is nice here..........

Monday, March 19, 2012

hCG Crock Pot Roast

So I'm on this inSANEly strict diet called the hCG diet.  Thaaaaaat's right...the hormone released in your body when you're pregnant.  I thought it was a bunch of pseudoscience until I researched it.  After about 2 weeks of looking into it, I decided to give it a go.  I've been on it now for 13 days (half way done!) and have lost 12.6lbs. I won't go into specifics here, but basically, you take hCG and eat a VERY low calorie diet made up of only a few different foods.  Again, it sounds crazy unless you go and read the research behind it.  If you're interested, read Pounds and Inches by Dr. Simeon.  


Anyways, since there are only a few foods to choose from to eat on this diet, you food can get pretty bland.  Most people drop out of the diet, not because it's too hard, but because they get tired of eating the same foods day in and day out.  I was starting to feel the same way until I found a great blog--www.hcgrecipes.blogspot.com by "Renee".  Seriously awesome.  The dinner I made tonight was so good that I thought I would share it with all of you non-hCG dieters.  Seriously...it's good.  (Click HERE to view the recipe on its original blog)


hCG Crock Pot Roast


Ingredients:

  • Steak --I made 2 steaks, but use as many as you want
  • Onion Soup Mix--use the whole packet. (If you're on the diet, Renee has a recipe to make your own so you know exactly what is in it.)
  • Chicken Broth--for 2 steaks I used 1 cup.  Just eyeball it keeping in mind that you want your steak to soak in all that good juice, and that you want enough to make gravy out of.  (Again, Renee has a recipe for this if you're on the diet.  I, however, found a broth at the DOLLAR STORE, of all places, that did not violate my diet rules.)
  • Celery--I used 1 stalk.  Do as many as you want.  They add great flavor to your steak (and gravy), and give you some vegetables.
  • Corn Starch--use about 1 Tablespoon plus water to get it to the right consistency to thicken the liquid.  If you've never done this before, read your corn starch package.  
  • Mashed Potatoes


Ok, so this is so easy!  Put your steak in the crockpot.  Pour the onion soup mix on top.  Then pour your broth on top of that.  Chop up your celery and throw that in too.  Set your crock pot on low.  I cooked mine for about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  It came out with just a touch of light pink in the middle...not much.  The meat was still really tender though!  So yummy.  If you want, you can pour some of the broth on top of the steak as you eat it for extra flavor.  

For those NOT on the diet, make some mashed potatoes and thicken the "meat juices" leftover in the crock pot with your cornstarch.  Makes an AWESOME gravy.  

I love this recipe because it is packed full of flavor and leaves out the fat.  Paul and I love crock pot roasts, but we always put in cans of cream of _____soup.  With this recipe, EVERYONE can eat the same dinner with less fat but all the taste!  LOVE IT.


My Love and Hate Relationship with Colorado

Southlands Mall in Centennial.  AWESOME outdoor mall.
So for those of you not in the loop, Paul and I moved to Colorado around Christmas time.  So far I am LOVING it!  The weather has been especially nice this winter--I even got a little sun burn on my back the other day!  Total shock.  We are not quite in the area that we want to be in long term, but we're close by!  Denver is just 15 minutes north of us, Centennial (the town we would probably like to move to) is literally 5 minutes down the street, shops and malls are very close by, and we have friends and family ranging from 5 minutes to 1 hour away.  


The Rexburg, Idaho Temple in winter.
This is a complete change from our little college town of Rexburg, Idaho.  We love where we are right now, but we are for sure missing the slow paced life that Rexburg afforded us.  Back there, sand dunes were 20 minutes to the north, you could literally camp across the street from your house, we had lots of family and friends within 15 minutes of us, and you could almost see the shooting range from our backyard!  Downsides of Idaho...WINTER (felt like I was living in rural Alaska...shout out to Shelly!), and you had to drive at least 30 minutes to shop.  Bummer.  


While the snow is gorgeous, it meant that most of my time was was spent doing things like scraping my car and getting snow in my shoes...also, getting my jeans wet about 6 inches up the legs.  (This isn't me in the photo...it's just a google pic.)
So what's wrong with Colorado?  It's busy!  ...well, where we are, at least.  We are pretty close to downtown Denver, so we're living in a busy suburb...basically.  There are just so many people here!  Also, we can't buy a house here for at least 2 years.  Long story short, we can afford it, but banks don't want to loan money to someone that just started a job.  Huge bummer for us!  We still own (and are currently renting out) our house in Idaho.  We miss owning our own space.  We miss not having neighbors living above us.  We miss not having to rent a storage space for all of our extra things.  


See how everything is jammed except the HOV lane?  This is Denver traffic.
Bad picture, but see the TWO cars on the road?  This is Rexburg  traffic.
Well...that, in a nutshell, is why I both love and hate Colorado.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

He Can Clap!

Whelp, took a little video of Hayden the other day.  He finally learned a new trick!  Paul was feeding Hayden breakfast (which explains his crazy hair) and Hayden started clapping!  He was so excited.  Here's the video!


video
Oh that baby is too much!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Review 1: 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle

Preface:  I thought that it would be fun to really start reading to Hayden.  He received quite a few books for his birthday (thank you Mandy, Deena, and Angela), and I have been getting him books as well.  I love the classic, little kid books.  I want Hayden to get an early start with reading and comprehension, so that begins now.  Hayden and I will be reading books together, and I think we'll review each one.  I'll talk about what I did to engross him into the book, and how he responds.  I'll also let you know how I felt about the book (it's message, picture quality, age appropriateness, etc.).  If you don't enjoy the book review, there should at least be pictures of Hayden for you!


Author:  Eric Carle is AMAZING.  He writes his own books, and does the illustrations as well.  The pictures really are one of a kind; Carle uses a process he created to paint abstract patterns onto tissue paper.  He then cuts shapes out of these different colored paintings to create the picture he wants.  This means that, while each creation is completely unique, anyone can make this kind of painting.  When Hayden is older, we will definitely do some Eric Carle painting.  Maybe we'll write our own book and make the illustrations! 


Other than his illustration process, Carle has written and/or illustrated books that have been childhood favorites of mine, such as:  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? (1967)  The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969), and (more recently) Dream Snow (2000). 


Looks like he's waving!  I recommend putting your child (if he/she is young) into the high chair to read the book.  Hayden is too young to understand how to care for books with paper pages, so I keep them up and out of his reach.  He has access to his board books right now.  By putting Hayden in his high chair, I am keeping the book safe, and allowing Hayden to have a tray full of items to relate with while I read.  

Plot: 10 Little Rubber Ducks was written and illustrated by Carle in 2005.  The pictures do NOT disappoint.  They are bright, dreamy, and perfect for children!  The book is about 10 rubber ducks (huge spoiler, lol) that become lost in the shipping process.  They venture across  the sea and run into 10 other animals.  


Age Appropriateness:  We happened to have a bunch of rubber ducks on hand because they are Hayden's (and Paul's!) favorite.  I highly recommend getting at least one!  Hayden liked being able to hold onto one as we read through the story.  Someday he will realize that the rubber duck he holds in his hand is the same as the rubber duck on the page! ....Someday.... ha.  


If you have older children (or even a class of them), it might be fun to have them act out the story as you read it.  You might have a child be the sea, have one child hold the box that the ducks are shipped in, and have 10 other children be the animals (a flamingo, dolphin, etc) that the ducks come across.  
   
Mandy also sent this big, plush duck for Hayden to play with.  It is SOOO soft.  Hayden loved to hold onto it and then throw it off of his tray!  

If nothing else, emphasize the sounds and actions in the book!  There's a storm, there are animals that stare, animals that jump, and animals that roar!  Hayden really enjoyed it when I did this.  Smiles and giggles and laughter are all good things.

Hayden has his own, but his most favorite duck is his daddy's old duck!  Paul's mom had saved it for him and then she sent it for Hayden after he was born.  It's a good thing because he LOVES it!

 Mandy sent Hayden this book just because!  It says, "Love you Haydo Tornado"!  She has decided that is his nick-name.  I think it's one of those ironic nick-names (like calling someone "Tiny" when they are actually huge, because Hayden is one calm, little boy!
 Write a Dedication:  If you're getting this book (or any other book) for someone, or receiving it as a gift, it's kind of fun to write a little message on the title page or end-paper.  It gives the book a little bit of history that I think Hayden will enjoy when he's older.  I don't know, maybe I'm just a little sentimental, but when I was little I loved reading through our family's old Christmas cards that we had received from family and friends.  I liked knowing about my family before I was born or when I was too little to know what was happening around me.  For this reason, make a little dedication to the child the book goes to!  I'm glad that my sister did this for Hayden--it was a great idea I had never thought of!
  
Another spoiler alert!  The 4th animal that one of the ducks runs into is a flamingo.  I just wanted to show Carle's beautiful artwork!  Hayden had a blast looking at the pictures.

The cover of 10 Little Rubber Ducks and the ducks we used while we read the story.

So, conclusion:  I LOVED this book.  What's not to love?  It's another Eric Carle masterpiece.  The illustrations (and the duck that he held) seemed to keep Hayden occupied and interested most of the time.  Hayden is only 1 and has about a 20 second attention span.  The book is also awesome because it teaches as you read.  It uses repetition, teaches counting, and teaches a simple moral at the end (no, won't spoil that one for ya!).  Overall, the book is a great success!