Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, February 28, 2011

Kid Stuff: Mini Party Impresarios

I should also file this one under "Kid Party Planning."

The other day, as I was heading out to buy a birthday gift for one of Connor's friends (with VERY specific instructions to "get him a Beyblade Evil Gemios - they are on an end cap, and they only had a few, so I hid one towards the very back - and a LEGO Ninjago"), I was advised (by both boys) that I needed to pick up a seven year-old appropriate toy as well, as an invitation to a first grader's birthday was imminent.  I went ahead and bought a Transformers multipack, because (1) it was scandalously on sale and (2) even if this party invite didn't materialize, it was a good gift to put up for a future occasion.

Later, I got a call from my spouse, who had picked up the kids, was still on school grounds, and I could hear both boys in the background:

Spouse:  So, apparently, C.'s party is tonight at the new Chuck E. Cheese.
Me:  No, it's not.
Spouse:  Mom says no, it's not.
Both kids (shouting to be heard over the phone):  No, it's tonight.  C. said so.
Me:  Okay, in  no particular order:   Parker has soccer practice tonight.  Also, there is no such thing as the "new Chuck E. Cheese."  The place does not exist.  Finally, we don't attend parties for which there is no actual invitation, other than a word-of-mouth invite . . . from a six year-old.

That last one is a hard-and-fast rule in our household.  You don't negotiate with terrorists, and you don't show up for a party for which there is no invite.  A phone invitation from a parent that we know:   fine.  A verbal invite from a minor:  non-starter.

Our strict adherence to this policy has its genesis in the "Peanut Butter and Jelly Cracker Party Incident of Aught Five."  The perpetrator:  our own firstborn, as a kindergartener.  Like PJ's friend C., Connor liked to plan parties.  He would draw diagrams of where people would sit.  Or, if it was a pool party, where they would stand within the confines of the pool.

One day, without as much as a how-do-you-do to his parents, Connor invited the entire kindergarten class over for a "peanut butter and jelly cracker party."  And the kids thought it was a real invite, and they told their parents, and some of the PARENTS thought that it was a real invite.  Notwithstanding the fact that there was no ACTUAL invite and, also, who in this day and age of tree nut allergies hosts a PEANUT BUTTER-themed party?

We learned of Connor's plans when one of the mothers advised us that her son would be unable to attend, as he had Scouts that day, or some such.  Of course, we looked at her with complete noncomprehension.  Once we got our bearings about us, we confronted Connor:

Us:  You can't just decide to have people over to our house on a random Wednesday.
Connor:  Oh, is Wednesday bad for you guys?  Because we could move it to Thursday.

So, if you have very small children, or are thinking about having some, forewarned is fair-warned:  somewhere between the terrible twos and the tween years, your child will enter the "party planning phase."  The "What to Expect" books will not cover this.  I'd tell you that that's the only glaring error, but I'd be lying.  I'm thinking of writing my own companion book series, "What No One Expects Because, Seriously, WTF?"

Chapter Twelve will cover the party impresario years.

Kid Stuff: Cross My . . . What?

It's time to play . . . THE FAMILY FEUD!   The category:  "Phrases That You Don't Hear in a Non-Boy Household."

Here's my contribution:  "My butt crack was crossed the entire time."

And . . . here's the explanation.  Parker was indulging himself in the always fun game - favored by little siblings of both genders, I believe - of "Repeat Everything Big Sib Says And Drive Him Crazy In The Process."  Except that Connor was ready for him, grabbed his hands (so that Parker couldn't cross his fingers) and chose his phrases very carefully:

Connor:   "Connor is awesome."

Parker:  "Connor is awesome."

Connor:  "Connor gets ALL of my allowance this week."

Parker:  "Connor gets ALL of my allowance this week."

Connor:  "Ha, ha - tricked you!  Now you have to give me your allowance.  And you can't get out of it, because I was holding your hands, so I KNOW that you weren't crossing your fingers."

Parker:  "You're right.  I wasn't.  BUT I WAS CROSSING MY BUTT CRACK."

Now, right there, you've got one of the funniest, most absurdist and boy-centric conversations of all time - but wait, there's more:

Connor (intrigued, and the whole allowance thing totally forgotten):  "Really?  You can DO that?"

Parker:  "Yup.  It's easy."

Connor (genuinely interested):  "How?  Tell me."

They started talking in low tones at this point, so, regrettably, I cannot share with you Parker's method for crossing his butt crack (patent pending).  But I do believe that, if we truly were playing "the Feud," my answer would top the board . . . .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Potpourri: Die, Snails, Die

I am at war with snails.

Our yard is overrun by them.  I am advised that this is an Arlington Heights thing.  And,  apparently, ONLY an Arlington Heights thing.  Venture out of our 'hood, and people look at you quite oddly when you mention your snail infestation.  "Slugs, you mean?"  No, not slugs.  I'm not stupid - I can tell the difference.  Snails have shells.  Slugs are lacking in the shell department.  These are most definitely snails.

I wish I had slugs, because then I would attempt to instigate a civil war between these close cousins, goal being mutually assured destruction.  Slugs, I would say.  Take a look at these guys - gallivanting around in their fancy shells, looking down their antennae at you because you are, essentially, naked.  And ridiculously vulnerable.  Philistines, they call you.  Provincial rubes.  See how superior they are?  Don't you want to shut them up once and for all?

(I pitched my "invertebrate civil war" idea to the boys, and they were charmed by it; in fact, they spent the next half hour imagining various mechanisms of slug and snail warfare.  Leaves could serve as light aircraft.  They could shimmy up the trees and pelt the opposing army with - oh, wait, pelting would be a problem, on account of a lack of limbs.  Back to the drawing board.)

Until I am able to foment a slug revolution, I am forced to use more conventional means of snail eradication.  Except nothing seems to work, particularly.  Apparently I have a subspecies of snails known as "super snails."  They are impervious to slug and snail bait.  Also, they appear to be teetotalers:  I have put down many a saucer of beer, but none of them have shown up for happy hour.

Maybe I should serve an import rather than a domestic.

I currently have snails on the brain because I have bulb plants coming up in my yard.  I am inordinately proud of them (the bulbs, not the snails).  Because, until this year, I could not get bulbs to bloom in my yard.  Really.  I mean, come on, you stick them in the ground, you wait, and they sprout.  How hard can it be?  Hard, judging by my track record prior to now.

My mom convinced me to try one more time.  Not because she was feeling particularly supportive, but because she wanted to order a tulip assortment out of a bulb catalog, and she wanted to combine shipping with me.  And so it was that I found myself with one hundred tulip bulbs.  Obstacle #1 was remembering to plant them.  Full disclosure:  more often than not, my inability to produce live blooms from bulbs arises from the fact that I forget to plant them.  In my defense, you have to chill tulip bulbs in this climate, and you can't keep them in "refrigerator proximity" with fruit, because the latter puts off a gas that harms the former.  Or vice-versa.  I don't know.  I just remember that fruit and tulip bulbs don't mix.  So the bulbs go out into the carriage house, into the refrigerator that we inherited from the prior owner, that only sort of works, so I never store actual consumables in it, so I forget that it exists.  Really, I have no idea why it remains plugged in. Oh, yeah, it remains plugged in so that we can chill tulip bulbs in it.

This year, my mother (who, like many mothers I know, has two refrigerators AND a deep freeze - making the car-to-appliance ratio in her garage one-to-one) insisted on chilling the bulbs for me, in her fruit-free and fully functioning garage refrigerator.  And then she gave them to me with instructions to plant them within 48 hours.

They sat on my porch for over a week.  Fortunately for the bulbs, it was consistently chilly outside.

And then one morning I got a wild hair to plant them.  And became very aware of what the concept of "four inches" actually means.  If you have clay for soil, it means A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF DIGGING.  To get four freakin' inches below the surface of the ground.  Really?  Note to file:  future bulb planting shall be container-exclusive, because potting soil is MUCH easier to displace.  I spent a half hour excavating a small patch of earth in a front yard flower bed.  I planted exactly eleven bulbs.  I calculated how much time it would take to plant the remaining 89.  I said, "Bleep this, they aren't going to bloom, anyway," shoved 40 or so in various containers, made a mental note to plant the rest in the backyard, never made it to the backyard and lost the mental note.

But I got 50 or 60 in the ground.  And then I waited.  The tulips that I selected were a "rolling" assortment, comprised of equal parts early, mid and late bloomers.  Idea is that you plant all 100 in one mass, and even if you're a little heavy on the early in one area and the late in another, you generally have a solid wall of continuous color.  I did not plant 100 en masse.  I didn't plant 100, period.  And what I did plant was scatter-shot - six in this pot, seven in this area over here, and so on.  What if I managed to get, like, only one early in each pot?  So I would have one random tulip sprouting up, off-center, in each container?

Yeah, with my luck, that's exactly what I would get.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago:  shoots.  And then more shoots.  By my count, everything has sprouted.  And the coverage appears to be fairly even!  So excited was I by the prospect of actual tulips that I went to a local plant nursery and procured other, already sprouting bulb plants to mix in with mine:  white and orange daffodils and blue and dark purple hyacinths (I LURRRRRRVE hyacinths - best scent in the entire world).  This weekend, I planted them, along with pansies and poppies and ranunculus, all in shades of blue, purple and orange.

Then I saw the chew marks on my tulip foliage.  And I said, OUT, DAMNED SNAILS.

Hence the Tupperware container to the left of the coffee pot at work, with the Post-It note taped to the front:  "Please deposit coffee grounds here.  Kathryn is collecting them."  It is probably a sad commentary on my life that only two people asked me why.  I'd like to think that the rest assumed it was for a science fair project for the kids, but, actually, factually, they are so used to me making weird requests that they have just stopped asking.

Reason for the coffee grounds is this - they are coarse, and if you mix them into your soil and sprinkle them on the surface supposedly they abrade the soft underbellies of slugs and snails to the point that they decide to move on (if the grounds don't outright gut them - hey, a girl can dream).  I'm told that red pepper flakes work as well.  But coffee grounds are more economical.  Although red pepper flakes sound like they might burn on contact and cause some serious snail suffering.

Ha, ha, snails - you thought that that shell thing made you bulletproof.  But down below, YOU ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN A SLUG.  So, THERE.  Eat my coffee grounds.

If I can remember to bring them home from work.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Breakfast for Dinner

As alluded to in a prior rant, the McGlincheys are a non-traditional Valentine's Day people, and we certainly don't do the dinner-out thing - well, we may do it, but never on the actual day, because, really, what's the point of competing with all of the other couples who are trying to get a reservation?  Let 'em have February 14th, and also New Year's Eve.  We don't need an excuse to have a date night, and it's a heck of a lot less frustrating to schedule one when the rest of the world is at home.  We're both on record that we love each other, 365/24/7 - no more or less on major holidays.

(To any men who are reading this:  Yes, I am really that awesome.  Sort of.  I am high maintenance in other ways.  Ask my husband, he'll tell you.  And, no, I cannot train your wife if she is of a different orientation.)

This year, in particular, a couples-only Valentine's Day dinner was not an option, because:  (1) we had both been sick for what seems like three years but really was less than three weeks, result being that neither one of us gave much thought to making plans; and (2) our go-to babysitters (my parents) are already fully employed with taking care of my grandmother, who recently experienced a health crisis.  So, options were to eat out, but with the kids and somewhere off of the beaten path, or to stay home.  We quickly settled on "stay home" (refer to "still somewhat sick, DANG IT," above).  But what to serve that was kind of romantic but also kid-friendly?

Our solution:  breakfast (well, more like brunch) for dinner.  A concept that all participants can get behind.  I made an egg casserole (quite easy to put together the night before, and I actually found one that didn't involve ripped-up pieces of white bread!) and, for the kids, cinnamon toast flapjacks.  Which sounded kind of weird when I came across the recipe, but - yum.  So I thought that I would share:

CINNAMON TOAST FLAPJACKS

2 cups complete pancake mix (the "just add water" kind)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 T butter, divided
2 T vegetable oil, divided
8 cinnamon or raisin bread slices
2 bananas, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Maple syrup
Fresh strawberries for garnish

Whisk together first 4 ingredient in large bowl just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Melt  1/2 T butter with 1/2 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Dip 2 bread slices in batter; cook in skillet 2 minutes on each side until golden.  Repeat procedure with remaining butter, oil, bread slices and batter.  Serve with bananas, pecans, and maple syrup.  Garnish, if desired.  Yield:  4 servings.

I doubled the recipe, and I served the toppings a la carte so that people could customize.  (Connor is a purist and only likes butter on his pancakes.)  This ended up being the perfect menu for Valentine's Day:  Mom and Dad spiked their orange juice with champagne, and Mom didn't have to slave in the kitchen, since the casserole was already oven-ready.  (For whatever reason, I don't consider making pancakes a form of slavery - it's more like performance art.)

Things I'm Digging: Al Roker

I feel sorry for this guy.  Seriously.  It's like the producers of "Today" go out of their way to put him into uncomfortable positions.  As in:  Meredith or Matt will announce, "Coming up, we meet with the parents of two Columbine victims, on the anniversary of their tragic deaths."  Then Al gets to follow that up with, "And THEN, Martha Stewart will show us how to make whimsical napkin rings out of recycled materials."

It's the same pattern, day in or day out:  Meredith and Matt announce an exclusive interview with someone who has lost a limb/family member/home/etc. in some tragic fashion, and then Al gets to immediate segue into a promo for a cooking segment or some such.  And he's a total pro at it  in fact, he ought to patent his technique.  Somehow he manages to convey with his voice, "Oh, man, I really don't want to have to go here, because that last piece was SO FLIPPIN' SAD, but . . . life goes on, and NOW MY VOICE IS MODULATING UPWARD AND I'M TRANSITIONING FROM SOLEMN TO CHIPPER!"

It's a talent.  Really.

Today's example:  a live remote by Al from South Beach, Florida, where he's covering a wine and food festival.  The sun in shining, he's in a polo shirt and khakis, there are flowers are blooming around him everywhere . . . and he gets to deliver the intros to a series of fun and upbeat weather-related stories.  Crippling snowstorms!  The aftermath of the earthquake in New Zealand!  Flood waters that swept  four Amish kids in Kentucky out of their horse-drawn carriage and into a swollen creek!

I felt sorry for him.  A little.  But not much.  Since he's being paid to hang out in South Beach and nosh on gourmet food and all.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Canadian Campbell's Soup Recipes

On my last trip to Aldi, I stocked up on canned cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup (1) because they were dirt cheap and (2) on the assumption that I would need one or both in connection with Super Bowl food prep.  Imagine my surprise when nothing on the menu required either condensed soup product.  (Also, no cream cheese - how does one throw a party without a cream cheese-based appetizer item?   Somehow, we did.  But we did use sour cream and shredded cheese - massive quantities of both.)

So now my pantry runneth over with soup.  Before my weird allergy issues were diagnosed, this would not have been a problem:  I would have broken out the tetrazzini and tuna noodle casserole recipes.  But, given that pasta is now a no-no for me, I had to go back to the drawing board.  Actually, I went to Google, and a short search later I was browsing  http://www.cookwithcampbells.ca/ - the Canadian Campbell's site, complete with "translate into French" feature.

I love Canada and consider it to be far, far more than America's hat.  In fact, if given the opportunity, I might choose to live there, notwithstanding the "eh's" and the whole "grade thirteen" thing and the slightly grating nomenclature of all of the national agencies (in case you haven't noticed, everything is "BLANK Canada" - Health Canada, Arts Canada, Sports Canada - I don't know why this bugs me, but it does, but only a little).   Living in Seattle as a small child, I used to enjoy trips to Vancouver and Victoria Island - specifically, dolphin watching on the ferry ride over and high tea at the Empress Hotel.  Thoughtful man that he is, Parnell chose to tap into these happy memories by scheduling the last week of our honeymoon in Vancouver; the first half of the trip was spent at two other old Canadian Railway hotels, the Banff Springs and the Chateau Lake Louise.  During those two weeks, my spouse grew to share my love of Canadian geese, Remembrance Day poppies and Tim Horton's - so he is on board with the general idea of relocating to Canada at some point in the entirely hypothetical future.  (Don't know how Small Son would take to the change, but I'm guessing that mac-and-cheese-loving Big Son would take to the place like a duck - or Canadian goose - to water, given the country's obsesh with "Kraft Dinner.")

The Canadian Campbell's soup Web site reminds me of a couple of the reasons that I am fond of Canada.  Reason #1:  it is a melting pot.  Yes, I realize that the US sort of invented the concept, but in a lot of ways I think that Canada has done it better, in terms of weaving aspects of foreign cultures into the country's fabric.  This shows up in the cuisine, where Asian influences (not just Chinese and Japanese and other "Far East Asian" but also Indian) seem to be more common and accepted.  Perhaps because of the assimilation of foreign dietary preferences into the general culture, the cuisine on the whole also tends to be a bit more health-conscious (reason #2).  Long story short, I found a lot of selections on the Canadian Campbell's Web site that satisfied my dietary requirements and appealed to my eclectic palata.  In my experience, your typical American Campbell's recipes can be divided into three categories:  "Mexican," "Italian" and "other things featuring a protein plus a can of soup plus a can of vegetables, topped with cheese and fried French onions and/or crushed potato chips."  So can I tell you how delighted I was to find recipes that did not involve pasta or flour tortillas?  Nary a King Ranch casserole in the bunch.  Not that there wasn't comfort food among the offerings - chicken pot pie is, apparently, universal - but the selection was much broader in general.  A few items featured white rice, but when I read the comments, I was gratified to see that a lot of folks chose to substitute quinoa or couscous.

My kind of people.

Even the pasta dishes were, at least, creative - for example, Chicken Orzo, featuring, among other fresh items, shredded carrots and chopped basil.  Okay, so I found myself chuckling over the spelling of "Savoury Lemon Chicken" - Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore - but overall I was very impressed.  So if you find yourself (1) in a casserole rut but (2) flush with condensed soup, consider a virtual trip across the (northern) border.  Tell 'em Kathryn sent you, eh?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Aye, Robots


The speaker at last week's "Reading Rocks" benefit was Dan Yaccarino, creator of Oswald and author of a number of other well-loved children's books.  As a result, a lot of the table themes were DY-inspired.  One of my favorites was the one pictured above, centered on DY's "If I Had a Robot."  Digging on the recycled 'bots, and DEFINITELY digging on that tiny bathtub.

Here are some other tin can robots for your consideration.  This one, like all good 'bots, is socially useful - he stores cutlery in his cranium and cookies in his abdomen.  Design is from Family Fun magazine, and the clear pail in the center is from Stampendous.com ($3.99 for a quart, $6.99 for a gallon).


The kids and I tried our hands at these funky 'bots a few years ago.  Ours were modular:  I bought clean paint cans at the hardware store, heavy-duty magnets to go on the inside and a variety of hardware to create features on the outside.  Because we used magnets rather than permanent adhesive, the features could be reconfigured and traded out as the kids saw fit.


I love the one top left, with the copper wool 'fro.

Can't find an attribution for this image, but it's adorable - wrapped boxes, assembled into a robot shape.


These tiny 'bots also come courtesy of Family Fun.  They are Valentines, and the bodies are made of folded cardstock.  I would convert these into individual treat robots, using small paper bags for the bodies, and then adding candy bar feet and round candy eyes.   Arms could be foil-wrapped sticks of gum?


Finally, I'm crushing on these robot invitations from Invitation Monkey - particularly because they come in a pink and green "girl" variety.  I adored robots as a kid (specifically I wanted a droid for a pet - either R2D2 or Twiki from Buck Rogers or that robot dog from Battlestar Galactica), and I would have been all over a girly robot option like white on rice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eat This: German Chocolate Cookies

Probably should have saved these for the fall (as an Oktoberfest tie-in, get it?), but as I have made these twice in the last couple of weeks, the recipe is fresh on my mind.

GERMAN CHOCOLATE COOKIES
1 box German chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg
1/4 cup water
Half of a bag each of semi-sweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips

Mix all ingredients together.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes.  Yield:  36 cookies.

These suckers are hard to kill - the dough retains its integrity without refrigeration between batches, and as a result the cookies don't spread all that much.  I use a cookie scoop with these, which (because of the aforementioned minimal spreading) generates a cookie that's fairly tall and not terribly wide.  Perhaps because of their proportions (maybe it's a ratio of density to surface area thing?), they are very, very hard to burn.  And you can get more than three dozen out of one recipe.  They are my go-to cookie in situations where I need LOTS AND LOTS of cookies, because it is so easy to double the recipe and crank out dozens and dozens of  these suckers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kid Stuff: Happy Presidents Day

We celebrated this holiday early, on account of Mom having Keno tonight.  I should mention that it's a presidential-themed Keno - Evite said to bring a $15 gift that reminded you of one of our presidents.  Something with peanuts for Jimmy Carter, something cherry-flavored or -scented for George Washington, a really nice cigar for Bill Clinton - you get the idea.  At press time, I am torn between a gift card to a local nursery (for Bush) or fifteen dollars in quarters (for Obama - it's "change," get it?), but the ultimate winner probably will be a bottle of wine, for Jefferson.  Allow me to explain:  I'm in the middle of Benjamin Wallace's "The Billionaire's Vinegar," a book about the history of the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction, which bottle - allegedly - was purchased by Thomas Jefferson when he was living in France but never made it to his doorstep.  (It's a great book - touches on the idiosyncracies of Jefferson's personality, the history of the wine auction business at Christie's and on the history of winemaking in general.  Thus, I am flagging this post as a "thing I'm digging"; also putting it under the "adult party planning" category, because, seriously, how fun and totally wacky is a presidential-themed gift swap?)

The kid celebration actually started the Friday before last, when Mom was able to bribe the kids (with movie theater-sized boxes of candy) into multiple viewings of "Schoolhouse Rock." For Parker, this was followed by a bedtime reading of "John, Paul, George and Ben," which is one of our favorite books, (1) because it's silly and clever and (2) because both kids are obsessed with the Beatles, so they enjoy the play off of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Parker was also briefly obsessed with presidential politics, after his preschool teacher (I guess this time last year?) asked the students to draw their favorite presidents.  Most drew Obama, being the most recent president in their short lifetimes - and, inexplicably, most of them drew him wearing shorts.  Guess he has a rep as being "the cool prez" with the kids.  Parker went his own way and drew Abe Lincoln.  In lieu of a stovepipe hat, he gave him a tall shock of black hair, like Kramer on Seinfeld.  When asked, Parker informed us that that was his "hat hair."  (Ohhhhhkay, tall hat, tall hair - got it.)

Later, when pressed, Parker informed us that "George Washington was the first president, Obama is the president now, and Lincoln is in the middle somewhere."

Connor's interest remains focused on TJ, because he is a cousin on my dad's side.  Apparently one of his classmates disputed this fact, and so somewhere (probably in the same drawer as the tall-haired Lincoln pic) I have a cartoon that Connor drew in either first or second grade, featuring a family tree that is an actual tree.  Connor is climbing the tree and yelling down, "Are you sure that he's in here?"  I am at the bottom of the tree shouting, "Yes, he's your cousin."  The caption reads:  "Thomas Jefferson is my cousin.  Really, he is.  I know this because my mom told me."
So, I'm thinking of building on the presidential Keno momentum next year and adding to the Schoolhouse Rock/storybook repertoire a dinner consisting of peanut butter and jellybean sandwiches and cherry pie.

I failed to mention the second half of our Prez Day celebration.  Mom happened to catch the end of "SNL Best of Amy Poehler" and taped a (fairly tame but hilarious) Sarah Palin rap by Ms. P. featuring an intro by Palin herself, which I showed to both boys . . . at their request, MULTIPLE TIMES.  Backup singers/dancers consisted of Jason Sudeikis playing Todd Palin (in a snowmobile suit) and Fred Armisen and Andy Samberg as Eskimos.  The lyrics were all too good for me to play favorites, so here they are in the entirety:

 My name is Sarah Palin, you all know me

Vice prezzy nominee of the GOP
Gonna need your vote in the next election
Can I get a 'what what' from the senior section

McCain got experience, McCain got style
But don't let him freak you out when he tries to smile
Cause that smile be creepy
But when i be VP
All the leaders in the world gonna finally meet me

How's it go eskimo
(Eskimos)
Tell me what you know eskimo
(Eskimos)
How you feel eskimo
(Ice cold)
Tell me tell me what you feel eskimo
(Super cold)

I'm Jeremiah Wright cause tonight I'm the preacha
I got a bookish look and you're all hot for teacha
Todd lookin fine on his snow machine
So hot we gonna need a go between
In wasilla we just chill baby chilla
But when I see oil let's drill baby drill

My country tis of thee
From my porch I can see
Russia and such

All the mavericks in the house put your hands up
All the mavericks in the house put your hands up
All the plumbers in the house pull your pants up
All the plumbers in the house pull your pants up
When I say 'Obama' you say 'Ayers'
Obama. (Ayers.) Obama. (Ayers.)
I built me a bridge - it ain't goin' nowhere.
(Ohhh)

McCain and Palin, gonna put the nail in the coffin
Of the media elite
(She likes red meat)
Shoot a mother-humpin moose, eight days of the week
[Three gunshots]
Now ya dead, now ya dead,
Cause I'm an animal, and I'm bigger than you
Holdin' a shotgun walk in the pub
Everybody party, we're goin on a hunt
La la la la la la la la

[Six gunshots]

Yo, I'm Palin, I'm out

Our viewing of Amy's rap was accompanied by a discussion of why politicians go on "SNL," and how the right (or wrong) skit can make (or break) a campaign.

I was most impressed by the fact that Amy was close to nine months pregnant when she did the rap (quite believably).  Parker was most impressed by the visual of Amy Poehler popping a pretend cap in a guy in a moose costume, who does a spectactular pratfall.  So impressed was he by this segment that he drew me a picture of Amy Poehler shooting a  bipedal moose.  The moose has a beard and a mustache, because we are going through a phase where we put beards and mustaches on everything.  Parker made point of telling me that the woman in the drawing is Amy Poehler "because if it was Sarah Palin then she would have a ponytail and glasses, Mom."  (Among other details, I like the moose's FINGERS, as well as the smile on his face as he is being shot at close range.)

Happy Presidents Day, everyone!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Potpourri: Scenes from a Museum Family Fun Day, Described in Rolling Stones Song Titles

On today's agenda:  "Family Fun Day" at the Kimbell Museum.  Flashing back to two years ago, watching my youngest child duplicate an Impressionist masterpiece at the paint station.

"Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind," I guess.

At first he wants to "Paint It, Black." But, after getting a big daub of black paint on his brush, he changes his mind, dips the brush into another paint pot and - suddenly - "Blue Turns to Gray." The too-tightly-wound docent scowls and makes a passive aggressive comment about my child's use of colors - and misuse of communal art supplies.

Hey, lady - he's four. Have a little "Sympathy for the Devil." At least he's painting ON the paper. The little girl next to him is painting on HERSELF - one more stripe of color, and "She's a Rainbow."

Older brother announces that he needs to go the restroom. There are restrooms in both back corners of the auditorium in which the festival is being held. I squint at the door of each, trying to determine which one is the ladies' room, while simultaneously attempting to extricate little brother from the painting table. Little brother is NOT with the "escort big brother to the restroom" plan. "Wild Horses" couldn't separate the kid from his art project. While I am negotiating with the small terrorist, big brother takes off into the crowd in a "Jumpin' Jack Flash." "Time Waits for No One" - and, evidently, neither does my son's bladder.

He disapparates, like a character in a Harry Potter book.  I have no idea which way he went.  And I am well on my way to my "19th Nervous Breakdown" of the afternoon.

Has "Anybody Seen My Baby?" I ask every stranger I pass. By process of elimination, I determine that he is - probably - in the restroom on the left. Which is the men's room. Which means I can't go in. So I try to get his attention as best I can. By first rapping, and then pounding, on the exterior door, and shouting his name frantically and repeatedly. I know that it probably is "Just My Imagination," but I can't shake the suspicion that the men's room is lousy with pedophiles, so if nothing else I feel that the racket that I am creating puts them on notice that they should be minding their P's and Q's . . . and other things that should be keep FAR away from my child.

A totally "Respectable," "Salt of the Earth"-looking gentleman who probably wouldn't harm a fly, but who I nevertheless profile as a potential child molester, emerges from the restroom, catching me in mid-knock, and looks at me oddly. I have the decency to at least be somewhat chagrined, and I mutter that I'm "Waiting on a Friend" - and then I resume my pounding.

Was "exiting-potential-pedophile" the last non-Connor-person in there?  Because if I knew "This Place Is Empty," I would totally go inside.

May still go inside, if my child doesn't surface soon.

Finally, he emerges, unruffled, from the imaginary-pedophile-infested restroom. "'Can't You Hear Me Knocking?'" I ask him. "I was 'Worried About You.' How long does it take you to pee, anyway?"

"I wasn't peeing, Mom."

Ah - "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo." Got it.

In the meantime, little brother is pitching a wall-eyed fit because he had to leave his painting project unfinished. Hey, kid - "You Can't Always Get What You Want." We're moving on to the collage table -
"Take It or Leave It." Mom's nerves are too "Torn and Frayed" to deal with scowling paint table docent. Collage table docent seems nicer.

Big brother asks if HE can return to the paint table, solo. No way, Jose - after your little escape routine, I'm keeping you firmly "Under My Thumb."

Things at the collage table go fine for a few minutes - until collage table docent rotates off-shift, to be replaced with . . . the painting table docent with the "Heart of Stone." "Oh, No, Not You Again." She's probably thinking the same thing about my kid.

A friend of mine appears stage left, twins in tow, providing a nice "Emotional Rescue" from having to deal with mean docent woman. Friend and I chat for awhile. She seems amazingly unruffled by the whole "family fun day" experience. But then again, she has two stroller-bound children, and a nanny in tow. I would be calmer if I had a "Mother's Little Helper," because then I could run a man-on-man defense instead of a zone.

Mercifully, "Time Is on My Side." 4 pm - the stated ending time for Family Fun Day - arrives.  "It's All Over," and we're "Goin' Home." I push the kids out the door, feeling like a "Beast of Burden" as I attempt to juggle my purse, the kids' various take-alongs, plus Family Fun Day takeaways, some of which are still wet with paint and/or glue.  I can feel one "Slipping Away" and struggle to get a grip on it while not letting go of the little one's hand.

While arranging children and damp art projects inside the car, I tell myself that this is "The Last Time" that we attend a free community festival of any sort. But the kids love them so darned much. And "Love is Strong" in bringing out the "Saint of Me." and motivating me to do things against my own self-interest. It's a "Rock and a Hard Place" situation, inspiring "Mixed Emotions," but time and time again I find myself doing something against my own selfish self-interest, because it will benefit one (or both) of my kids. And because "I Just Want to See His Face" smiling and "Happy." Which, I guess, is a benefit to me. So maybe our interests are more aligned than I think.

It's a short drive back to the house. Spouse collects the kids at the door and ushers them in the opposite direction of where I'm heading.  For the next half hour or so, "I'm Free." I contemplate "Walking the Dog," but "Ruby Tuesday" isn't interested in physical fitness at the present moment and jumps up on the couch instead. I plop down next to her and, with the dog's head on my knee, finally catch up on "Yesterday's Papers" . . . .

(The dog's name really is Ruby Tuesday. And I don't know why I have become obsessed with weaving song titles into blog posts. A creative exercise, I guess. Something to keep the forty year-old mind nimble.  I did change the facts a bit. Dad was with us that day, but - for reasons that I no longer remember - he was not in the picture when Connor decided to make a mad dash to the restroom. And Parker's recreation of Monet's bridge utilized pastels, not paint, but the mess was very real - as was the scowling docent. Who took particular umbrage at Parker's insistence on adding a crocodile under the bridge, skulking between the lilies. Personally, I thought it was an inspired addition.  Wonder what whimsy he'll inject into today's art projects.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Things I'm Digging: House Beautiful


This magazine, out of all of the home decor mags, has my number.  How do I love thee, HB?  Let me count the ways:

1)  Your cover.  It's always bright and draws me in.

2)  Your fonts.  I am borderline OCD about fonts.  When a publication, or the Highway Department, changes its fonts, the change initially drives me to distraction, even if the change is a positive one.  It just jars the eyes.  So, yes, I notice fonts.  And I appreciate good ones.  HB has several.

3)  The "Color" feature.  Each month, it's a different topic - good colors for ceilings, good colors for north-facing rooms, good colors for kitchen cabinets.  Various decorators offer their opinions, which accompany a swatch of the actual color.  By and large, all of the colors suggested ARE "good colors."  They are, in fact, GREAT colors.  They make me want to buy a bigger house, with a bazillion rooms, so that I can paint each room a different fabulous color.  Most of the selections are Benjamin Moore hues, with a Christopher Peacock, Farrow & Ball or Sherwin-Williams thrown in here and there.  I approve, because my snobbery vis-a-vis fonts extends to paints, and I worship almost exclusively at the Benjamin Moore shrine (although I have acquired an appreciation for Farrow & Ball, I have not had the occasion to actually use their paints -
 yet).

Occasionally, HB will feature one of the colors that I have in my own home, and a rock-star decorator will make a gushing comment about it, and for a moment I, too, feel like a rock-star.

4)  The "Instant Room" feature.  A rock-star decorator will sketch out a room, cross-reference the drawing to swatches of fabric, wall- and floor coverings, listing pattern names and manufacturers and explaining why each element was put where it was.  Great guidance for those who are a little unsure about how to mix patterns and colors.

5)  The "One-Day Makeover" feature.  Yes, "One-Day Makeover" is different from "Instant Room."  A homeowner turns over a room in their home to a rock-star designer at 8:30 AM, and when they come home from work the room has been totally transformed.  It's like your favorite HGTV show, but in print format, with a montage of time-elapse photos showing how the room is tranformed over a nine-hour time period.  The designers do add some of their own elements - curtains that they stitch together at a moment's notice (HOW DO THEY DO THAT?), pillows to match, a rug or a table from their own showroom - but much of the finished product is the result of rearranging and fluffing:  moving items from other parts of the house into the makover room.  That's something that any novice can do if properly inspired - and the "One-Day Makeover" does inspire me to shuffle things, for sure.

6)  The rooms.  They are bright and cheerful, and the design is accessible.  You can imagine yourself actually watching TV or eating or sleeping in these rooms.  Contrast my other favorite house porn magazine, Elle Decor, which tends to the overly contemporary, and my mother's go-to Traditional Home, which tends to the formal and stuffy.  Not every homeowner in HB appears to be a Brazilian polo player married to an artist/supermodel (Elle Decor, if the horseshoe fits . . . ) or a Greenwich, CT investment banker (Traditional Home, I'm looking in your general direction).  I see things in HB that I actually want to duplicate in my house.  And, occasionally, I do duplicate them.

But not as much as I'd like - on account of the aforementioned limited number of rooms in our current abode.  Wanted:  one ginormous house, priced to be a wash with this one.  Must be self-cleaning, and must be able to cloak itself (like those bad-guy ships on Star Trek) when the appraisal district comes knocking, so that it appears to be a modest house, thus resulting in no higher tax burden than what we have currently.  Or, you know, I could win the lottery, and then I wouldn't have to fret the taxes - and could hire a whole phalanx of housecleaners.  I guess for that to become a reality I would actually have to buy lottery tickets - something I haven't done since the newness of Texas Lotto wore off in the mid-nineties.

But a girl can dream, can't she?  And, while she dreams, she can live vicariously through the people of House Beautiful.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Catalog Living

My name is Kathryn, and I am a house porn addict.

Elle Decor and House Beautiful are my dietary staples (supplemented with the occasional Architectural Digest picked up from Half Price Books and selected back issues of Traditonal Home stolen from my mom), but I do enjoy a Ballard Designs or Pottery Barn catalog as a light snack from time to time. If you view these publications on even a semi-regular basis, you are aware of the fact that the visual design teams that work on these mini-mags can get a bit TOO whimsical in staging rooms for photos. Example: The ubiquitous photo of a marble-topped vanity with clusters of canisters flanking the sink. Because they are hawking the canisters on the same page as the vanity, and because the canister come in an array of sizes, they have to display all of them - and think of a way to justify their presence - in the shot. Hence, THE GIANT GALLON JAR OF Q-TIPS. You look at it and think, "Who buys that many Q-Tips in bulk? And where does one acquire them? Sam's? A medical supply store?"

The folks at http://www.catalogliving.net/ have made snarking on these ponderables a full-time job. And I love them for it. Okay, disclaimer: I have a trifle bowl on a bookcase that I have filled with balls of jute twine. Rationalization (or, rather, series of rationalizations): I needed a place to store the bowl, as it didn't fit in a cabinet. It looked naked sitting on top of the bookcase with nothing in it. I hate those wicker ball thingies - they serve no purpose, and collect dust. The twine was the right color (light brown) to blend into the wall color while adding a little bit (not too much) of interest, plus the price was right at a buck per ball at the Target Dollar spot, plus the stuff is danged useful. I use it to secure boxes that are being sent up to the attic, I wrap presents with it (yes, I use brown paper, for the full "Sound of Music" effect). So, you know, judge me if you will. I stand by my one ridiculous foray into the outer reaches of visual design.

And I am hypocritcal enough to laugh at similar efforts made by others.

Some of my favorites from the early days of Catalog Living:


The caption:  Leaving my basket of secondary shells under the table allows me to rotate in new shells at a moment’s notice!


Hon, where’s my string of old-timey buoys? Oh wait, I found them. Hey, lobsters and limes for dinner AGAIN???


Oh that? That’s my Wish Plant. It’s where I clip pictures of people who I want dead.

By the way, for the uninitiated, the premise of Catalog Living is that all of the images featured are rooms in a house owned by a couple named Gary and Elaine.  All of the captions are from Gary and Elaine's perspective.  Also, recently, the CL folks have widened their snarking scope, commenting on photos taken from glossy home decor magazines.  Those submissions don't appear on CL - they are featured on the Curbed.com Web site - but there are links to Curbed on CL.  The imaginary couple in the Curbed submissions are a same-sex couple named Martin and Gareth.
Not everyone "gets" the humor of Catalog Living, my husband being one of them.  But, then, my husband doesn't get my addiction to house porn, either.  I get a lot of eye rolls from him these days (more than usual), because when catalogs arrive and I make note of a particularly ridiculous photo (like the one in a recent Pottery Barn catalog, featuring words scrawled directly on the wall in oversized loopy script, above a headboard), either I start exclaiming, "Ooh, I wonder how long before this makes Catalog Living?" or I run to the computer to see if it has already been added.  And, when they do snark on something that I found snark-worthy, then, yes, I do feel somewhat validated.  Sad, huh?

Maybe even sadder than filling giant glass bowl with string . . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Paper Mache Rolie Polie Olie


I've been wanting to cross "make paper mache Rolie Polie Olie" off of my bucket list for awhile, and now I can.  Okay, I made that up.  It never occurred to me to make a paper mache RPO until friend Robyn (AKA "Aunt Ro-Ro") asked if I was interested in collaborating on a table at the Reading Rocks charity luncheon benefiting the I Have a Dream Foundation.  Because we both share the same brain (and much of the same source material), we both remembered at the same time a post on another blog about a tablescape for a "bedtime stories"-themed baby shower, where they turned the table into an actual bed by layering a kid-sized IKEA duvet cover over the tablecloth and adding a pillow.  Only problem was, our table was round (just like RPO!), but we decided that we could make it work.  Then we had to think of a book to justify the bed concept.  Two out of Parker's collection came to mind - "Good Night, Pillow Fight" and "Sleepy Time Olie."  (Didn't think of "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?" until much later.)  We settled on RPO after coming to the realization that he ought to be really easy to make out of paper mache, on account of his component parts being, well, balloon-shaped.  Oval balloon for a head, smaller round balloon for the body, etc.

Once my paper mache skills came back online, and we decided on the best technique (two layers of newsprint, followed by a layer of colored printer paper - yellow for his "skin," red for his "ears" . . . or transistors, or whatever), it was a pretty easy task.  But that was AFTER my paper mache skills came back online.  Not pictured anywhere in this post, because the evidence has been destroyed:  my first attempt at a torso, which was more of an experiment, really.  We kind of waited to start paper mache-ing until the eleventh hour, so I wanted to see if you could get away with doing two layers of newsprint in quick succession, without any real drying time in between.  Answer:  only if you want the finished product to look like a wrinkled Haas avocado.  Hey, I should have kept The Avocado, painted it black and saved it for a feature Mexican-themed shindig!  Instead, we cut the bottom out of it, Robyn wore it as a hat for awhile, and then Connor cut it down even further and wore it like it was hair.  Justin Bieber-ish bowl cut hair, to be precise.  Gosh, now I'm regretting not taking a picture.

I did take pictures of RPO.  He turned out really well, didn't he?  Dad gets credit for the arms and antennae, which are made out of that tubing that you use to corral your electrical cords.  My long-suffering spouse had to make five stops before he found black tubing that was the right width.  Thanks, honey, for putting up with your wife's odd requests, like, "I need you to pick up plastic tubing to make a Rolie Polie Olie antenna, and while you're at it, can you pick up a pizza for the kids from Domino's?"  For the record, neither he nor the kids even blink anymore when this sort of insanity invades our household.  Connor and Parker think it's totally normal and unremarkable for Aunt Ro-Ro to show up on a random Wednesday night to glue paper to a balloon and make a cartoon robot's head out of it.

RPO was legless.  Less tubing and no paper mache feet required - enough said.  But the idea is that he was sleeping, so the blanket covered all manner of sins.  Robyn created the big bedspread for the tabletop.



I took photos of lots of other tables (there were maybe forty in all?) and will be sharing them over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eat This: Supersized Super Bowl Enchiladas

This may be my shortest post of all time.  Several folks have requested the recipe for the layered black bean and chicken enchiladas that I made on Super Bowl Sunday.  I considered retyping this, and then thought, "The heck with it - I'll just share the link."

http://allrecipes.com//Recipe-Tools/Print/Recipe.aspx?RecipeID=54215&origin=detail&&Servings=8

Incredibly easy, very hard to screw up (unlike the National Anthem, apparently).  I was talking to one of my favorite five year-olds, one Miss Lauren Grace, as I was assembling multiple pans of these in her mom's kitchen, and I completely botched the layers on the first one.  Didn't matter - proving my theory that if you top something with enough cheese, what's underneath doesn't matter all that much.  For our largish (in number, not in girth!) Super Bowl crowd, I used two big disposable pans, tripled the recipe and split it half and half.  If I had it to do over, I would throw in an extra can of enchilada sauce (so four total) for my supersized version.  But, again, the cheese made it all good . . . .

Monday, February 14, 2011

Work Whispering and Anti-Valentine's Day Ranting

I was reminded today, for the umpteenth time, that in addition to my awesome "baby disser" powers, my ability to say one thing and make the opposite come true extends to my job. Specifically, no sooner do the words leave my mouth, "It's a little slow at the office, and I'm kind of worried about it," than the deluge o' crapola descends upon my desktop. And "deluge" is dead-on accurate: it never rains, but it pours. So advanced are my work-whispering powers that I don't even have to give voice to the thought anymore - it is enough to merely THINK it. And the downpour begins.

Usually - and perversely - my bouts of stinkin' thinkin' immediately precede a holiday or other day on which it might actually be nice to have a light workload. Like, for example, today, being Valentine's Day. Would it have been such a bad thing to have had a light day today, given that my attendance was needed midday at a rather long luncheon and style show, and also given that I would like to actually eat a meal at a reasonable hour with my significant others sort-of-in-celebration of the "holiday"? Answer: not at all. But on Friday, I found myself worrying over my relatively light workload, failing to take into account the likely outcome of my stinkin' thinkin' - and the looming date on the calendar.

But it's good to be busy, and whatever gets me there, and all of that.

I put "holiday" in quotes above, because I think that Valentine's Day is a dubious one, at best. One segment of the population spends the day under a cloud, lamenting the fact they don't have a significant other, while the other segment suffers under the weight of peer pressure to make grand gestures solely because grand gestures are expected. Although I certainly appreciate the orientation of the former (been there, done that, remember how much it smarts), I speak now for the latter, as I've been on "Team Smug Married" (to use the Bridget Jones terminology) for almost fifteen years now.

I love my spouse every day, and I think that I make that apparent to him every day. And, to my mind, the whole matter of how much I love him is a matter that is, and should be, between him and me. So why, exactly, should February 14th be an exception? Why, on that one day, should the private be made public?

One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 6:5-8. I don't quote scripture all that much, but when I do, I find myself quoting this one - a lot. It's kind of my go-to, actually. I found myself reciting it, or thinking it, quite a bit in college, in various situations where I would be faced with a self-professed "devout Christian" (a roommate, or someone down the hall, or someone in a study group or with whom I served on a committee) who would deride others for being less-than-perfectly Christlike - but you couldn't help but notice that when, say, your car broke down on the side of the road, you were far more likely to get a lift from one of the alleged unwashed masses, because Devout Christian couldn't be bothered to turn off Oprah or cancel a hair appointment. On these occasions, I would recite, or think, the following:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

In a maybe sort of weird way, Matthew 6:5-8 provides a counterpoint to mass consumer-driven Valentine's Day hysteria. If you want to make a grand gesture on this day because you really WANT to do it - because you know that someone in your life has been denying themself something, and you want to surprise them with that thing, thereby providing them with a huge thrill and/or a sense of affirmation, and yourself with the joy of seeing their face light up - well, by all means, go for it. But don't do it because you think it's expected of you, and because you think third parties will think less of you if you fail to go there. In my humble opinion, gifting-by-rote empties a "thoughtful gesture" of any thought or meaning at all.

We've all been there - on Valentine's Day, or maybe at Christmas - plodding through a store, looking for a gift because a gift is "required," and nothing seems to suit. You end up settling and phoning something in. And, midway through the process, resentment sets in - you hate the fact that the universe seems to be conspiring against you and, just a tiny bit, you start to resent the person who inspired the mission in the first place. But, the thing is, if the person is truly worthy of your love and affection, then they don't care if you get them the perfect gift. They don't care about getting a gift at all. If they knew that, at that exact moment, you were psychically torturing yourself for being completely incapable of locating the "just-right" item, and spending your hard-earned coin on something "just because," they would tell you to STOP THE MADNESS ALREADY. Because you both know the end-game: you buy something for the sake of buying something, and then a week later you find the perfect thing, the thing that reminds you SO MUCH of that person and that you know would mean so much to them. And you'll kick yourself. That, or you'll buy the Perfect Item with the intent of putting it up for a future occasion - and, if you are me, you'll forget where you stored it.

So here's my radical proposal - let's stop obsessing about days on the calendar. Demonstrate your love, in ways big or small, your choice, but in ways that make sense to you, and on a timetable that makes sense to you. If you see that thing that is bound to set someone's heart aflutter, buy it, and then give it to them RIGHT THEN. Tell them, "I saw this, and I thought of you. I think of you a lot - not just on major holidays - and I want you to know this."

Or, you know, don't buy them something - show them that you love them in more subtle ways. How do I know my husband loves me? Because he turns my seat heater on in the car after he drives the kids to school on cold mornings, so my seat heats up right away when I get in. And, in return, I make sure that the dry towel is closest to the shower, so he doesn't have to use my wet towel. If you ask him, he will tell you: "I know that my wife loves me, because she gives me the dry towel."

Not that I need to tell you this, because it's none of your business. Are you listening, Russell Stovers and Hallmark? IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. And my decision to forgo buying my spouse and children singing stuffed animals is not a sign that I am hard-hearted or a penny-pincher but rather, I think, a blow for good taste. Plus, I knew what my husband really wanted for Valentine's Day - new soles for his boots.

Okay, apparently I had to get that off of my chest - at the expense of getting beaucoups of work wrapped up and off of my desk. Returning to the stack, and then heading off to eat with mi familia. And, also, to admire my husband's boot soles.

Kid Stuff: Brotherly Love


Artwork recently received from the six year-old.

Upper left-hand corner: the words, “Mom, I love you,” written in a heart.

Upper right-hand corner, the words, “Dad, I love you,” written in another heart.

At the bottom: the words, “Oh, and, by the way, my brother is evil.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Potpourri: Snowpocalypse 2011

Well, we survived.  Here are the stats:

Total days of school missed:  Five.  Four last week, one this week.  Factor in the number of days that both kids missed in January due to various communicable illnesses, and I'm fairly sure that they have spent as many days out of school in 2011 as they have spent in school.  Needless to say, this is all just fine and dandy with them.

Number of hours logged playing Wii and computer games over five snow days:  I don't even want to know.

Number of fights broken up between quarreling siblings (more often than not, arguing over Wii or computer access):  I don't want to know that, either.

Number of parents operating on half-power during Snowpocalypse:  Two.  See, "various communicable illnesses," above.  We both caught the respiratory one from the smaller of the small fry.  Dad's matured (like a fine wine, except not really) into a robust bronchitis, while Mom's headed for her sinuses and ears.  Fortunately, the ice melted and we had enough safe travel days in the middle there for both of us to visit the doc and claim our respective antibiotic prescriptions.

Note that said viral nastiness explains why we let our children go all "Lord of the Flies" and amuse themselves with Wii and computer games during much of Snowpocalypse.  Did I mention that we were both telecommuting throughout the entire "weather event"?  So, yeah, "Lord of the Flies" covers it - Dad would work, to the best of his stuffed-head ability, while Mom would nap, then we would switch, and four times a day Mom would make a meal or a snack.  Next day, same schedule.  I found it rather ironic that Groundhog Day hit in the middle of Snowpocalypse, because it felt like we were stuck in the movie with Phil Connors, Ned Ryerson and the gang.

The kids were pretty cooperative overall, with a couple of glaring exceptions.  Somewhere, I have saved the note from Parker to his dad that reads, "Dad, why did you call me obnaukshus [obnoxious] and close the door on me?" As per his usual, Parker included an illustration, depicting the author/artist crying huge crocodile tears in reaction to his father's heart-breaking rejection.  (The explanation, as you might have guessed:  Dad warned the kids that he was getting on a conference call, Parker got into his face anyway - and then got a door closed in said face.  Forewarned is fair-warned, kid.)  The best part of this note is that, over the last couple of weeks, Parker has been experimenting with his lower-case letters and reversing his d's and b's when the mood comes upon him.  (Evidence that the lack of book learnin' is starting to take its toll?)  So, the note actually reads,  "Dab, why bib you call me odnaukshus and close the boor on me?"

Fun stuff.

We did watch some educational television over the break, and one program (about the separation of the continents, the emergence of life out of the primordial ooze, etc.) stuck with the six year-old, who drew an image of the Earth covered with lava (and made me note thereon, in case I forgot later on, that the picture was of the Earth covered with lava . . . and rocks . . . lots of rocks, actually - this is a direct quote).  Below that were drawings of various early predators, real and imagined, and below that . . . was a timeline.  With completely random dates written on it.  Because, quote, "Mom, you have to have a timeline."

Like I said, fun stuff.

Number of times that we actually went out in the snow:  One.  The first couple of "snow days" were remarkable for their lack of the actual white stuff.  Ice, we had in spade; snow, not so much.  When we did finally get snow, it was beautiful to look at when it was coming down but useless otherwise.  Snowball-making attempts failed utterly, so both boys made exactly one snow angel each while their coughing parents huddled on the porch and tried to take unblurry photos (difficult when you are shivering).  Connor actually stayed out for awhile and tried to build a snow fort (another epic fail), but Parker did his snow angel thing, counted to one and a half in his head and started shrieking, "I'm wet!  And I'm cold!  I have wet, cold snow ALL OVER MY BACK!"  Um, yeah, kid, on account of how you just laid down on the GROUND . . . .  Six year-olds aren't big into cause and effect.  Into the house we went, and that was pretty much that.

Number of loads of dishes that I ran from Tuesday until midday on Saturday:  More loads of dishes than I can do in a month during the summer, when we basically live (and eat our meals) at the pool.  In close to fifteen years of marriage, eleven-plus of those with kids, I don't think that we've ever "eaten in" that many consecutive times.  It got really old after awhile, but - thanks to a bout of paranoia and long lunch break on Mom's part the day before the storm hit, we were fully stocked with groceries and therefore didn't starve, nor did we repeat selections all that much.  The first night we went with "breakfast for dinner" - steak and eggs for Mom and Dad, and pancakes for everyone.  We love B for D at our house, and we have decided that it should become a snow day tradition.

Like I say, we survived - Mom and Dad are still recovering (thanks, Zithromax!), but we did survive, the house and its contents largely are intact, and the last patches of ice are starting to melt, revealing spring tulips emerging from the ground underneath.   It is supposed to be in the sixties by Valentine's Day, and by the end of next week it will hit seventy.  Unseasonably warm?  Perhaps . . . but we'll take it, for darned sure.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Cap'n Wacky, Reviewer of Creepy Valentines



So I was looking for a Valentine's-themed Batman image for my Facebook profile, and I came across this on Cap'n Wacky's Web site:

Hello, I'm Batman.


When I was just a child, my parents were murdered right in front of my eyes. I made a solemn vow that day to commit my life to fighting crime. I've sacrificed my childhood and any efforts toward personal enjoyment. My nights are spent in deadly combat with everything from common street thugs to grotesque psychopaths. What little sleep I ever get is usually interupted by horrible nightmares and my waking up soaked in sweat. I fight a war that can never be won. I strive toward a goal that can never be reached. I am haunted. I am relentless. I am tortured.

Won't you be my valentine?

Hee, hee, hee.  I kept reading . . . and kept laughing.  Funny and/or creepy Valentine's accompanied by hilarious and/or snarky text, courtesy o' Cap'n Wacky.  Another example:
 

But then, he said lots of things, didn't he?

He said he had connections in all the magazines. He said I had that special something. He said these pictures could really open up doors for me. He said if I just showed a little more skin it would make the pictures so much easier to sell. He said everything he needed to, and I believed him.


Hey, I thought I could trust a guy who wears more lipstick than I do.

I think I'm a fan.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Facebook and Unrequited Lurrrrrrrrve

It recently occurred to me that the majority of boys who I had crushes on back in the day (the ones who never seemed to return the favor, you know?) are, well, sort of bald. Or balding. Less “shaved head/macho” bald, more “male pattern baldness” bald. And, yes, it’s totally immature, but, yes, it is somehow comforting to know that they are thinning on top. Not because I wished a receding hairline on any of them – this is not a revenge thing. But, in my mind’s eye, pre-Facebook, everyone who I thought was cute back in the day looked exactly as they did, back in the day. Like they were all frozen in time. Meanwhile, I’m getting older. Wrinkles? Check. Tendency to retain weight around my middle? Yup. Gray hair? Nope. Those suckers are white as white can be.

So it’s kind of nice to know that we are all age-appropriate. And to compare “men from my past” to my own spouse (whose hair is NOT thinning – ask him, and he will tell you) and confirm that he’s right where he ought to be, as well (maybe even ahead of the curve in the hair-retention department – and pretty gosh-darned studly, to boot).

Yes, I SAID that it was immature. But also, ultimately, human, I think? No doubt the guys who had crushes on me look at my page and think, “Wow. MA-TRON-LY. Dodged a bullet there, for sure. I should go kiss my wife.”

Facebook – healing old elementary and middle school wounds since 2004.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Candy Decor

Wish I could remember where these images came from - if anyone knows, please leave a comment, and I'll add an appropriate link! But just in time for Valentine's Day, here's a candy centerpiece idea:


Lollipops of different types, shapes and sizes, anchored (one presumes) in styrofoam or the like, with a sprinkling of pink and red jelly beans or conversation hearts over the top. 

In the same spirit, here are some adorable ideas for candy decorations made from balloons . . . .  Trying to figure out the cotton candy in the last image.  A balloon wrapped with cotton batting that has been spray-painted pink?  Cute. 

Now, I will admit that the cluster of smaller balloons in the first image don't scream "candy" to me.  They look like something one might have to go to rehab for, if one were, say, to be popping them LIKE candy.  But if you happen to be planning an intervention for a friend or family member and have been looking for decoration ideas . . . you're welcome.




Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eat This: Breakfast in Bed


Happy Hearts Day . . . almost.  Surprise your sweetie (or sweeties - this is a kid-friendly menu) with a Valentine's Day-appropriate breakfast.  ORDER UP!

CHERRY VANILLA SMOOTHIES

1 cup apple juice or cider
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen pitted cherries

Blend together all ingredients.  Yields:  2 servings.

CUPID KABOBS

Watermelon slices, seedless grapes, pineapple chunks and strawberries
Marshmallow Peep Hearts


Use small heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut hearts out of watermelon slices.  Thread fruit and Peep Hearts on wooden skewers to make kabobs.  Use watermelon hearts (point-side forward) or Peep Hearts for arrows; Peep Hearts also make good feathers at the opposite ends, or you can end a kabob with a strawberry with the top on (so that the top sticks out at the end to resemble feathers).
VALENTINE'S CROISSANT FRENCH TOAST

4 large day-old croissans
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T butter
3 T powdered sugar
Sweetened Whipped Cream (optional)
Fresh Strawberry Syrup

Slice croissants in half lengthwise.  Whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla.  Pour into a shallow dish.  Dip croissant halves into egg mixture, coating well.  Melt 1 T butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add four croissant halves, and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Repeat procedure with remaining butter and croissant halves.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar; top with Sweetened Whipped Cream, if desired, and Fresh Strawberry Syrup.

Sweetened Whipped Cream:  Beat 1/2 cup whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Add 1 1/2 T powdered sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

Fresh Strawberry Syrup:  Combine 1 quart strawberries, sliced, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup orange liqueur or orange juice and 1 tsp. grated orange rind in a saucepan, and let stand 30 minues or until sugar dissolves.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until warm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kid Stuff: Six Year-Old Trash Talk

When the Smaller Fry plays Wii (generally, a LEGO game, or something from the Sports Resort suite), he provides running commentary.  Highly amusing running commentary.

Here's an example:

"Okay, people, LET'S DO THIS THING.  I'm ready.  Are you ready?  Because. I. AM. READY."

[Game commences.]

"BOOM.  Did you see that?  Yeah, that.  JUST.  HAPPENED."

[Okay, I already confessed to letting the kids see "Talladega Nights."  We fast-forward through the bad parts, promise.]

"You so are going down.  Do you hear me?  YOU'RE.  GOING.  DOWN.  You want a piece of me?  Can't have one.  BOOYAH!  How 'bout them apples?"

[And then we get to my favorite.]

"YIPPIE KAI YAY, MAMACITA!"

Okay, now, calm yourselves, people.  This is NOT a "Die Hard" reference.  It is one of Alvin's lines from "Alvin and the Chipmunks."  A line that, no doubt, is an homage to "Die Hard," but the important thing is that PARKER IS REPEATING WHAT A CHIPMUNK SAID, WITH ZERO FRAME OF REFERENCE AS TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL.

Except that he likes to insert a dramatic pause between the "yay" and the "Mamacita," which means that visitors who are unfamiliar with Alvin hear the first three words and brace themselves for the F bomb that never comes.

It's quite amazing, really - the way that he absorbs pieces of pop culture like a little sponge and then plugs them into their proper context.  It is this talent, among other things, that makes me wonder if we don't have a future thespian on our hands.

And, if he doesn't go into the theater, clearly he has the enthusiasm to prep the crowd at a Conan taping or sporting event . . . .

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Potpourri: Fun with Crazy Melissa and Doug Product Reviews

I spent the better part of last weekend cleaning out Parker's room - dumping out bins, sorting "like with like," and weeding out stuff that is no longer age-appropriate (as in, we still had wooden peg puzzles - the kid is SIX).  In the process, I took note of just how much money we have contributed to the retirement plans of a certain couple named Melissa and Doug.  All of the wooden puzzles were theirs, plus the wooden pizza play set (we kept that one for sentimental reasons), various puppets, and the "Stacking Sandwich Game" (consisting of two velour bread pieces that fit over your hands like gloves, with Velco strips on them, plus various Velcro'd sandwich fillers - lettuce, cheese, meat - that you have to pick up in a certain order, using the bread gloves, according to cards that come with the game.  Sounds weird, but actually kind of fun.).

The next day, I saw an ad on the Haute Look Web site for a new Melissa and Doug product - a ride-on wheeled suitcase for kids.  I was intrigued, so I went to M and D's Web site . . . and discovered a whole new fun game to play on the Interwebs.  It's called "Read the Consumer Comments on Melissa and Doug's Web Site, Laugh Hysterically and Feel Slightly Better About Your Own Parenting."

Here are some favorites (my comments are in parentheses and Italics):

Stacking Sandwich Game:  This product is very cute, but the two pieces of bread are extremely white.  (Okay, just to clarify:  did you just call out M and D for racism?)  I am so worried about them getting dirty that I hesitate to use them.  (Oh.  Somehow, this clarification doesn't seem like that much of an improvement.)  It also would be nice to make the bread not so white to encourage healthy eating. (Really? Also, really? Message to my kids: You have no idea how good you have it. You could have a helicopter mom for a parent.   I am many things, but germaphobic food Nazi I ain't.)

Wooden Blocks:  These do not really fit together, which makes them different from what I want them to be. Having said that, they are a great value and are incredible in every way for what they are. If they 'nested' better, they would be more entertaining or useful to my 2.5 year old, she wants to build a BIG structure and then knock it down...  (Um, they're BLOCKS. You stack them. They aren't supposed to "nest."  What, exactly, did you "want them to be"?  LEGOs?  Because you can totally buy those at most major retailers.)
Magnetic Letters:  We bought two sets of these letters because I realized after we bought the first set that we couldn't spell my son's name with just one set.  His name is Benjamin - so I needed 2 lower case "n"s. Not a big deal, but it would have been nice to be at least be able to spell a common name without improvising and without having to buy a second set. So now we play with them on the back of our entry door from the garage. It is metal for fire safety reasons and we spell all sorts of messages with these versatile letter sets.  (Okay . . . the description on the Web site indicates 52 total magnets, including upper and lowercase letters. 52 divided by 26 gets you one set of upper and one set of lower. So not sure why the fact that you got only one lower-case N came as such a shock. Also, it would have been enough to say that the entry door from the garage was metal; are you looking for back pats for caring about fire safety? And, really, we got the fact that the door was metal from the fact that MAGNETS STICK TO IT.)

This got me thinking about some fun product reviews that I could write - for example, one dissing refrigerator magnets because the packaging did not say 'refrigerator not included.' But then I saw this one:

Dinosaur Magnets:  My boys love the product. They pretend and carry them around the house. They try to match the dinosaurs with the back of the box so it would be great if the application on the back of the box was a magnet too, or if there was a dinosaur size magnetic sheet for practicing matching.  (Okay, you flip over the box, you overlay the magnets over their corresponding shapes . . . hey, a matching toy. Who cares if they don't cling to the box? Just leave the box lying FLAT. What is it with you people and your infernal need for things to NEST with each other? Or, you know, you could use the magnets for their actual purpose, which is to stick them on something metal. They aren't advertised as a matching toy. And what, exactly, would a dinosaur size magnetic sheet look like? Are we talking a small dinosaur, like one of those raptor guys, or a brachiosaur? If we're talking brachiosaur, you may have a magnetic sheet that would work, in the form of your garage door . . . assuming that it's metal. For fire safety reasons.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Brown Bag Bakery

Where would we be without the Internet?  Before the Internet, I probably never would have heard of Brown Bag Bakery, being that BBB is located in Columbia, Tennessee and I am here, blogging from my computer in Fort Worth, Texas.  However, thanks to the Internet and its founder(?), Al Gore, who, coincidentally, HAPPENS TO BE FROM TENNESSEE, I now know about BBB.

I kind of wish I didn't, because now I want to go to there.  And sample one of these:


Introducing the Super Bowl Ball (which, by the way, is how I found BBB; I was searching for Super Bowl tie-ins on Etsy, and these suckers popped up).  Here's the skinny (ha!  irony!) on the SBB:  it's chocolate wrapped around a beer-flavored soft caramel made from locally brewed porter.  The balls are then rolled in crushed pretzels and powdered sugar. 

Yum.


These toffee bit-coated babies have caramel centers and are made with butterscotch schnapps and Scotch whiskey, hence the name:  Butterscotch and Scotch Balls.


These are called Death by Rum Balls.  I think that the name is fairly self-explanatory.

I am a big fan of ball-shaped foods.  Also foods containing alcohol.  Thus, I think that I may be a big fan of BBB.  And I won't need to fly to Columbia, TN to test my hypothesis, because they ship.

Check them out on Etsy. (By the way, their product descriptions are funny, too - further convincing me that I love these people.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Warming Glow



I recently discovered Warming Glow, self-described as "a blog dedicated to the best and worst of television programming. Mostly the worst."  I forget how I found it, actually, but once I found it I was hooked.  One of my favorite features?  "Forgotten Classics":  video clips and synopses of the worst television programming ever made.

A couple of Forgotten Classics for your consideration:

1.  A 1999 Disney Channel movie called "The Thirteenth Year," official synopsis of which is as follows:

A boy, adopted by a loving family after finding him caught in a fisherman’s net as a baby, grows up to realize the true reason of his talent as a star junior high competitive swimmer: he is actually a male mermaid, or a “mer-man”. Faced with a tough decision to pursue his true lineage or stay with his friends on land, he realizes that his definition of “family” might not be as traditional as he thought.

If that isn't enough to suck you in, (a) the film features Dave Coulier, and (b) a young Kristen Stewart has a cameo.  According to WG, "Stewart . . . captivates in her one scene as Girl in Fountain Line. You can really believe she’s waiting in line to drink from a water fountain. Dynamite contribution."

Snarky, huh?  Gosh, I love snarky.

2.  A 1990's British sitcom titled "Heil Honey I'm Home."  The basic plot:  Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun move in next door to a Jewish couple, and hilarious hijinks ensue.  I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP, AND NEITHER ARE THE FOLKS AT WG.  The show lasted one episode . . . which, I do believe, was one episode too many.

A more recent WG post also attracted my attention, in light of my recent reminiscing about the Star Wars Holiday Special.  Title of the post:  "The Star Wars Holiday Special in Five Minutes."  Embedded in said post:  a video clip condensing the two-hour debacle into (actually a little over) five minutes.  I watched it, and having had the opportunity to refresh my recollection I would like to note the following, supplemental to my prior SWHS post:
 
1.  I forgot that they actually talked Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill into making appearances.  No doubt they do their best to forget this fact as well. 
 
2.  Someone appears to have applied Mark Hamill's pancake makeup with a grouting trowel.  Topping it off with blush and . . . um, mascara?
 
3.  BEA ARTHUR!  I forgot Bea Arthur.  She's in the cantina scene.
 
4.  Also in the special:  JEFFERSON STARSHIP.  Honest to Betsy, they are in there - and, yes, they perform.
 
5.  Speaking of musical performances:  Carrie Fisher's singing voice isn't as bad as I thought.  She's pretty okay, actually.  I remember at the time feeling intensely embarrassed for her, but I now realize that that wasn't because of her singing; I felt bad for her for having to do the show at all. 
 
6.  Chewbacca's child, in close-ups, looks EXACTLY like one of the sponge monkeys from those Quizno's ads.
 
I appreciate WG's introductory comments, reprinted below:
 
The Star Wars Holiday Special aired in 1978 (when I was three months old), so I’ve obviously never seen it. However, like Vietnam or the Holocaust, I’ve long heard tales from survivors about how terrible it was. And judging by this five-minute condensed version (via BuzzFeed), it would be tough to overstate its crappiness.
 
Yes, WG, I am a SWHS survivor, and nothing that you have heard can possibly overstate just how awful of an experience it was.
 
One final point in WG's favor:  Fridays, apparently, are "Corgi Fridays."  Featuring LOLcat-type photos of Corgis.  Some of the Corgis actually look like Dorgis, and as a Dorgi mom I got oddly amped about this.
 
I may have to add Corgi Friday to my weekly schedule . . . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Super Bowl Edition


Super Bowl Sunday is a week away, which means that it's time to get out the big Rubbermaid tub o' football decor. The football chip and dip set pictured below, along with the tumblers (Williams-Sonoma's "Vintage Football" line) and matching plates, were purchased at a silent auction a few years back. They were bundled with some really cute centerpiece fixins - a clean kicking tee and football, a couple of ref flags, etc. I've added to the stash over the years. The latest addition: an Astroturf table runner. The guy at Home Depot cut off my overexplanation and assured me that women come in and have long strips of Astroturf cut all of the time - particularly in September and January.

Not shown here, but take my word for it that they are totally cute - dip spreaders shaped like megaphones with real pompom trim.  It's the little things, you know?

Sandra Lee had a couple of ideas in her fall entertaining mag that I may steal in the future.  Idea #1:  use white boards (the kind that coaches write plays on) for TV trays.


Idea #2: use sweatbands for . . . various things. Sandra used them for napkin rings, but I can't imagine a football party that I would throw that would be fancy enough to involve flatware bundled with a napkin. More likely, I'm going to be shoving flatware into the football tumblers shown above and putting out a pile of paper napkins - but I'm thinking that wristbands would look cute around a beer (bottled or canned), while also being semi-functional?

Here's a tablescape from the Everyday Celebrating blog that is super-cute, and I think that sweatbands are in the mix somewhere (on the napkins?).  How cool are the jerseys as chair covers?  Love that idea.


Ducks shown above were purchased after Parker's fifth birthday - and after I deluded myself into thinking that I would start making rubber duck glycerine soaps for all occasions. Hence, the ginormous box from Oriental Trading chock full o' duckies - Mardi Gras ducks, Cupids and Easter bunnies, purple football players and cheerleaders for TCU football season, werewolves and witches and nutcrackers, oh, my! Except that I haven't made a duck soap since I made the superhero ones for PJ's Justice League party. The novelty wore off, I guess. What I have been doing is thinking of creative ways to use ducks. Lots and lots of ducks. These mini football versions are going on cupcakes for the kids. Also toying with the idea of adding white icing laces to brownie pops to look like footballs.

And . . . since the Packers are playing, I get to break out the cheese hat! Yes, we have one - the official Foamation model that my husband convinced a member of the Wisconsin basketball band to give to him after we watched Wisconsin play Purdue in the NCAA tourney, circa 1995. For sixteen years, I have been moving the cheese hat from residence to residence, wondering when, if ever, we would do something with it. And now fortune has smiled upon us.

Like I said, it's the little things.