Thursday, March 26, 2015


Since we moved into our 1975 split level home about a year ago, a few safety upgrades were necessary and since we found the Retract-A-Gate one large issue was solved. I want to sing some praises of the Retract-A-Gate ( to make sure all who have small children and gate needs, know how cool this product is.

Our home has a beautiful layout for kids, all save for the stairs right at the edge of the living room.

Before we moved, I had day-mares about my little boy (then 1.5) rolling down the new house living room stairs. We were coming from a home that didn't have such a prominent staircase. I googled gates, read Amazon reviews on nearly all the gates listed, and finally found a mom’s chat board with mom opinions where someone mentioned Retract-A-Gate and how much they loved it. Now, it was a little bit more costly than the cheaper tension gates, but we needed a sure thing when it came to safety, and a cheap gate was not the answer. After I took a look at their website (excellent and easy to navi-gate [get it?!]) it was an easy decision. You see, our 1975 palace has a railing that is a little wobbly, and without making major re-design decisions before moving in, or putting the pressure on to replace it (it’s not broken, just not completely static) I wanted a gate that could be installed right away and safe and, I imagined a wooden/hard gate would be impossible to affix in our situation. Enter the Retract-A-Gate!

My main concern was safety and it is amazing how the simple, smart design on this gate solves that requirement in so many different situations. It is completely safe, our 2.5 year old can't get through it or push it in a way that they could fall down the stairs. Our 4 year old can in fact open and close it, which makes things a snap when you are carrying groceries! The indestructible fabric like design (this would be great with rambunctious dogs too) makes it that the gate will give a tiny bit, which is awesome for us. You could really use this gate anywhere. Why spend money on single purpose gates. If you wanted, you could buy installation hardware for all over your house, and bring the gate to each room with you. We have the one location that we needed a gate, and have plans to make use of it in other areas (like the sliding glass doors to the pool…) once our kids are older.

 Some of the features we love are the simple design, which is easy to use but not easy enough for my little one to damage or open. It was a SNAP to install. We were pretty stressed moving into this place and needed to have the gate up right away, our son was 18 months old and did not know stair safety. I like that it doesn't call your attention visually. Most gates are big and visually distracting; the Retract-A-Gate should be called the Attracti-Gate, because it is so visually appealing.

 I also have to mention that the Retract-A-Gate company actually has customer service assistance, I felt better knowing if I needed help, it was there for me.  Big box/ websites couldn't offer that.

We will be using our gate for years to come, our third baby is just 3 months old, and we are prepared for him already!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Serve to get Served

I was at Subway last night with the hubby, I like Subway- good cheap food that doesn't clog the arteries. It also provides me a bit of a customer service social experiment opportunity almost every time we go.

Think about the environment. There are a few sandwich artists (some of them really are!) behind the glass, and usually a whole lotta people in line, hungry people. The hungry people want food fast and they can't control how much stuff is put onto their sandwiches, they have to communicate with the artists. The artists have a lot of power here- there can be an element of chincyness if they so do decide, on the flip side they can pile your sandwich high.

Last night we were in line and I noticed the lady on front of me looked a little disgruntled. She was greeted by the artist, and she flatly said "six inch ham on wheat" without making any eye contact or really acknowledging the artist. The artist repeated "ham on wheat- 12 inch?" The customer kinda barked "no- SIX INCH." I noticed the artist looked pretty bored and unengaged. I immediately recognized an opportunity to see if I can engage this person and see if the absent minded customer service was based on the artist, or the customer. So, it was our turn, he said "welcome to Subway, what would you like." I looked him in the eyes and smiled and said "how's it going?" He immediately brightened up and answered, "pretty good." The hubby ordered (as well as acknowledged the artist) and he had no problem starting his sandwich. I said that "I'll rock a six inch turkey on monterey" and he started my order just fine. He also looked more engaged. Going down the line I smiled and greeted and joked with the staff. My sandwich was great, and they were generous. They wished us a great night- unlike the customers before us, and they had smiles on their faces.

I'm not saying this is a scientifically provable theory, that being nice makes it easier to get good service. But I do believe that because I was nice to my sandwich artists, they were happy to serve us. We all ended up having an easy and great customer service experience. In everything, I try to remember that it takes two to tango. The folks out there who "always get bad service" might try being nice to get good service, after all- they are just people like we are.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ancient Bread

Hmm, picture yourself in Ancient Rome; you are sitting in the kitchen- really an area with wooden table and a large stone hearth oven. You’re sipping some newly fermented beer, waiting for your bread to finish baking. This is what it might look like when finished:

I snuck a peek at a book called “My Bread” by Jim Lahey while logging some cafĂ© time with the Hubby. Lahey has this no knead recipe that has 4 ingredients, and he claims it is the closest we can get to bread from ancient times. Of course I was intrigued. So, I copied it down and made it for myself. WOW- it was amazing. I imagine that many of you who actually read this blog have tried some of mine. It is so light and airy in the inside- even when you use wheat flour. Since my obsession started, I was gifted the book for Christmas, and I plan on working through it to try each recipe.

One thing I love about “My Bread” is that the author, Jim is all about the baking. He wants everyone to have the recipe free. I think he wrote the book for those of us who love a good bread story. His is pretty cool. His love of baking came from the (self imposed) need to impress a girl. ; )

Here is the recipe and a video link to see Jim Lahey work his magic. My voice is in italics. Enjoy!

No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 10 minutes plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting¼ teaspoon instant yeast1¼ teaspoons salt
~1 5/8 cups of waterCornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (more if needed to make it sticky), and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (I use a tea towel- never plastic). Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees (I put mine in the micro over night).

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal (I used wheat flour and cornmeal); put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack at least one hour. Stick your ear close to the crust after it is cooling on the rack- it will crackle at you :)
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

YouTube piece on this bread: