Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: These Are Not Your Grandmother's Cross-Stitch Patterns

Friend Sarah sent this image to me back in December, and I commented, "If only they included a pattern":

Get it? Jingle bells, Batman smells?

I do cross-stitch, and I also needlepoint. Or, I did, past-tense.  Haven't done either in awhile - although I am working on a bargello project. SLOWLY. I designed the pattern myself - a zig-zag design, using heathered yarn to mimic the blue and purple drip-dyed Ikat print on the throw pillows in our den. See, this is what happens when a person with a decent grasp of spatial relationships, a "visual" learning style and some stitchwork proficiency finds herself coveting an Ikat pillow from Madeline Weinrib Atelier and a bargello pillow from Jonathan Adler simultaneously.

My pillow hopefully will look like the love child of these pillows.

So there's a chance that I would stitch a Batman sampler if I could find the pattern. Haven't found one - but, then again, I haven't searched for one, either.

However, I did find this completely on accident:

It's a Wonder Woman cross-stitch pattern, courtesy of Stitch Cross Stitch's Etsy site. Don't have any use for a Wonder Woman throw pillow or such, but it's nice to know that the option is out there. Also "out there" (and I put that phrase in quotes, because it's layered with meanings): the following pop culture-inspired cross-stitch patterns on the same Web site.

Jesus (velvet painting edition)
Rosie the Riveter
Audrey Hepburn
Che Guevara
The Beatles
A "little green man" alien (Roswell edition) flashing a peace sign
Kurt Cobain
King Tut

But no Batman - and no Batmobile, sans wheel. No egg-laying Joker, either.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Bonus) Kid Stuff: Individual Projects

During this week when we should be focused on Science Fair, we are working on individual projects.

Apropos of apparently nothing, given that no work on the SF is progressing (at least not at our house - it has morphed into a group project, so other households are involved), I am advised that the SF project - theoretically - consists of using a vortex ring generator to demonstrate how tornadoes and water spouts achieve their rotation.  Translation:  someone's parents (knowing "the group," that would be Parnell and me) will have the joy of cutting the bottom out of a 5-gallon trashcan, supervising the installation of a membrane over the bottom opening (evidently, this involves cutting up a vinyl shower curtain) and then standing by while "the group" swings the trashcan in a certain way so as to cause air to belch out of the top opening.  Oh, and someone (that would be me) has to borrow a fog machine from her administrative assistant - because the fog helps you see the rotation, or something.

The vortex ring generator concept was adopted after the "use coffee grounds to kill snails" idea was summarily rejected by "the group."  (Don't worry - I'm still killing snails on my own time.)  I suspect that its primary appeal is that the trashcan, once modified, will make a lovely percussion instrument.

These are eleven year-old boys, after all.  Geeky ones - but still eleven year-old boys.

While we are not working on SF:

I am rehabbing a plantar fasciitis issue with my left foot.  Lessons learned:  music makes housework go faster.  Six hours fly by - SNAP - like that.  Music also leads to dancing.  High energy dancing for six hours while cleaning the kitchen - BAREFOOT - is not a good idea.  Suddenly I'm starting to see the appeal to carpet.  Because six hours of jiving on hardwoods and cold, hard tile, while scrubbing/mopping/etc., followed by a hard workout (in shoes, thank you very much), followed by yardwork - yeah, apparently a recipe for orthopedic disaster.  But, on the bright side, the small turquoise silicone rolling pin that I picked up at Tuesday Morning simply because it was cute has proven to be an excellent rehab tool.  It now resides under my desk at work.

Dad is seeking to solve "The Great Uniform Shirt Mystery of 2011."  Suddenly, the kids don't have any school shirts - at least, not short-sleeved ones.  The long-sleeved polos, oxfords and turtlenecks are present and accounted for:  I packed them up a week ago - and, of course, the weather turned cold immediately thereafter.

But the whereabouts of the short-sleeved shirts are in question.  And, trust me, there has been a fair amount of interrogation (you can take a litigator out of the courtroom, dot-dot-dot):

"Did you pack them up last fall?"

"Nope.  There was room for them in the closet, so I left them in the closet.  Precisely so that we wouldn't have to deal with this issue."

"Are they in the bag with the long-sleeved shirts?"

"No.  Give me some credit here.  HEY - DON'T OPEN THAT!  Because it took me ten minutes to zip the Space Bag, that's why.  I was bound and determined to get all of the shirts in one bag, and I succeeded.  And now look at what you did.  I'll never get them that compressed again."

Again, taking a walk on the bright side (it's so lovely and gosh-darned BRIGHT over there; makes me want to stay awhile), we're caught up on the laundry.  HAD to do the laundry, to see if the short-sleeved shirts were on the bottom.


The hunt continues . . . .

In the interim, Connor has scattered LEGOs over every square inch of floor space in his room and is coming up with creative excuses why he can't pick them up.  I suspect that he dumped them out in connection with a project that he and Parker were working on over the weekend, sorted them into piles by size and functionality, and then realized that it was going to be a major ordeal (well, in his mind) to gather them back up.  So he keeps thinking of ONE MORE cool project that he has to build before he puts everything away.  I am not complaining too much, because as he's reaching for excuses he is stretching his brain.  Last night he built a dead-on replica of a Sherman tank - pretty much from his own imagination.

And, finally, Parker is perfecting his Dutch accent.  Methinks that he and his brother have appropriated the "Goldmember" DVD again.  I would try to retrieve it, but there are too many LEGOs on the floor.  So now I have a six year-old wandering around, calling his dad "FAH-zher," a la Mike Myers.

Wonder if "the group" would consider shifting "the topic" to something in the realm of behavioral psychology. Because we would make for some fairly interesting lab rats, if I do say so myself . . . .

Pizza-Off Update

I never shared my Pizza-Off entry. 

My awesome-looking, basically inedible Pizza-Off entry.

I present to you - the Pizza Cupcake.

I followed the recipe to the letter, because I was afraid to experiment with other doughs.  Big mistake.  HUGE.  Way too much dough (and kind of bland dough, at that) relative to the quantity of sauce and cheeses in the center.  The whipped ricotta icing didn't do much for the flavor, but that's okay, because the "sprinklers" (colored sea salt) totally amped the flavor . . . to ridiculously salty.

Oh, well.  They were cute, weren't they?  Yes, that's a grape tomato masquerading as a cherry.  And, yes, I made them Batman-themed.

Adventures in Party Planning: Play With Your Food (Or Decorate With It?)

The hits from Reading Rocks just keep on comin'.

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Notwithstanding that our first viewing of the movie adaptation immediately preceded Broken Arm #2, and our second viewing was in the Sutures Room within the Cook's ER, I really like this story - and I love this interpretation of it. Yarn spaghetti: ingenious. Also appreciated: the open (indoors) umbrella, brazenly announcing to the world, "Superstitions? We don't need no superstitions." I would like to think that the open umbrella was the instrument by which all bad karma associated with CWACOM was banished.

I also loved this "Pizza Pat" table, in part because it was imaginatively executed and in part for sentimental reasons. Connor LOVED that book when he was four. We read it every night for months and months on end. Seeing this table makes me want to dig it out and read it to PJ.

Both tables also leave me craving a good red sauce.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eat This: Slaw-fully Good Salad

I'm kind of mad at the Kimbell Museum of Art for tearing out all of the trees on its west lawn.

I love those trees - or, loved those trees, past tense. I made many mental notes to drag the fam out to a picnic under those trees. I misplaced all of those mental notes. Well, Parnell hid some of them, I'm fairly sure - he's not a big picnic person, on account of being allergic to nature. (Okay, I'm exaggerating - he's not allergic to ALL of nature - just 98% of it. Picnics do not equal "crazy fun times" for him. They equal "crazy runny nose times.")

And then one day I was driving from downtown Fort Worth to my home on the other side of the Museum District, and I happened to catch - something - out of the corner of my left eye. Actually, it's what I DIDN'T catch that was notable. That flash of green that should be on my left as I passed the Kimbell was - gone. Now, it's not like I didn't know that this was going to happen - the Museum had announced plans to add a second building, thus allowing the public to view more of the permanent collection than there was room for in the current, mega-cool but kinda-small footprint. Intellectually, I knew that this meant the trees had to go - but I guess I didn't expect them to go so SUDDENLY.

Also unexpected: the extent to which I felt actual grief and loss over the departure of those trees. Seriously, I walked around with a dark cloud over my head for the next two days. At some point during day two, I realized that it wasn't the trees I mourned, but the opportunity to have that picnic that never happened. The whole thing seemed like a metaphor for everything that I put off based on a naive assumption that another opportunity would present itself at a less inconvenient time.

I resolved to read to the kids more, and enjoy the little things more - and, silly as it sounds, those phantom trees have actually motivated me to do so.

So I guess I shouldn't be too mad at the Kimbell. It does have one of the best permanent collections of any museum, large or small, that I've had the opportunity to explore (and I've explored some pretty good ones). And it's got a really great gift shop, and really neat outdoor public spaces that will not be affected by the construction.

It also has a cafe onsite that is legendary for its lunches. It's a tray line setup, with your choice of sandwich, quiche, soup and/or salad. The selections vary daily, but they are all stellar. Here is one of my favorites from the salad side of the menu:


1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8-oz.) bag frozen cut corn, thawed
4 cups chopped slaw mix
½ cup diced red bell pepper
2 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 T chopped fresh parsley
½ cup prepared Thousand Island dressing
1 T prepared barbecue sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 T seeded and diced jalapeno chile pepper

Toss all of the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Season slaw with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste when chilled. Yield: 6-7 cups.

I like coleslaw. It reminds me of - um, picnics. Okay, shoulda quit while I was ahead and at peace with myself and the tree-displacing-Kimbell-powers-that-be . . . .

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kid Stuff: Batman Mom

I think that "Batman Mom" is the title of a book that Parker made for me.  I am not sure, because the "title page" (if that is, in fact, what it is) appears at the end of the book.  It could be a dedication page - but, again, its placement is ambiguous.  I would ask Parker what his intent was, but I am not entirely sure when this masterpiece was created, and I rather doubt that the creator will remember it.  Judging by its placement in the lower stratus of the "toy jail" bin, I would presume that it has some age on it.  (You know, as a small child, I really, really wanted to be an archeologist, and it occurs to me that, thanks to my boys, I get to live a little bit of that dream every day:  "Hey, I wonder how old this drawing is?  It's in close proximity to Connor's third grade report card, which means that - take Connor's age, subtract five - Parker would have been about three.  Oh, and here's a Slurpee cup which, based on the cheese curds at the bottom, had milk in it and has been languishing here for - oh, say, four days.")

Book lays out as follows:

Page 1 (I guess):  One day Dracula rose from the dead.

Page 2:  He turned evrybuttey (everybody) into vanpiers (vampires).

Page 3:  But then Batman saved them.

Page 4:  Batman [image of Bat emblem] Mom [oversized period].

Parker likes to emphasize his thoughts with VERY LARGE PERIODS.  As in, if you squint at the page, it looks like he has ended all of his sentences with the letter O, and then filled in the O's.

Page 2 features a drawing of Gothamites fleeing in terror, and there are blood droplets everywhere.  Page 3 features Batman looking like the bad-*** dude that he is, exclaiming "YES!" and - is that a fist raised in the air?  Because it's so in character for Batman to be emotional and exultant . . . oh, wait.  Okay, apparently in Parker's alternative Batman universe, Batman is a bit more demonstrative, and - apparently - likes to fist-pump, a la Jersey Shore. 

Hey, it's long been speculated that Gotham is located somewhere in New Jersey.  Not making that up.  Ask either of my walking Batman enclyclopedias, and they will tell you.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Potpourri: Walking Batman Encyclopedias

Announcing a recent acquisition by the McGlinchey Family Library:  "The Essential Batman Encyclopedia."  According to Connor, this book is a must-have - but I'm fairly sure that it is redundant.

My children are walking, talking Batman encyclopedias as it is.  The obsession with the Dark Knight began at some point prior to Connor's third birthday, it had waned by his sixth, but it wasn't long after that that Parker (who, as a significantly younger sib, is your classic "early adopter") jumped on the BatWagon, and the whole thing began anew - then grew exponentially. 

Why?  Well, in part because Mom encouraged it the second time around.  Honestly, I was only half-paying attention during Batman Obssession Phase I, but I tend to absorb a lot by osmosis (as is evidenced by the undergraduate and law school degrees hanging on my office wall - not that, ahem, I skipped class much, or tended to drift off during longer lectures), so when the Batman and Batman Beyond videos came out of retirement at the beginning of Batman Obsession Phase II, I was surprised at how much I remembered about the Justice League gang.  I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed the characterizations. 

Also enjoyable:  the fact that the boys, five years apart in age and one of them still quite tender in years, could obsess about the Justice League together.  Superheroes are timeless, it seems, and so Connor was actually willing to play Batman with his brother or sit and watch a Batman video, whereas other Parker-appropriate characters (Diego, The Backyardigans) were things that Connor only suffered through (and not particularly silently).  And Parker desperately wanted to be "into" something that his brother liked - but Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon seemed just a wee bit age-inappropriate.

So I encouraged the Batman/Justice League thing - and, at some point, I remembered that, once upon a time, I, too, was sort of obsessed with Batman.  The Adam West version.  When we lived in California, I can remember watching Batman every day after elementary school.  And, thanks to the HUB channel, I can now share these precious memories with my own children, except - what the what?  Why did I ever think this show was cool?  Now I find it ironically entertaining, on account of how awful it is - kind of the way I feel when I watch George Clooney in the nippled Batman suit - but it's alarming to think that I actually took the show at face value.  And I'm not the only one who is alarmed by this.  "REALLY, Mom?  You watched this VOLUNTARILY?  Did you now realize how stupid it was?"  Um, apparently not.

Thus, none of the Adam West Batman shows have made it into our permanent collection, but the video collection certainly has grown past - well, actual videos.  Connor - poor, neglected, born-in-1999 kid that he is - only had VCR tapes of the Bat.  Fast forward a couple of years (small VCR pun intended), and I think that there are 26 Batman- and Justice League-related DVDs floating around my room.  And they do stay in my room because, for whatever reason, the master bedroom is the designated Batman-watching location.  Probably because Mom's movies end up in the master, Dad's movies are located in the den, and Dad is just meh about the Batman - he'll watch AT the shows, and he halfway pays attention to the kids' rapid-fire exchanges about superhero minutiae - but only halfway.  He gets that Batman occasionally macks on Wonder Woman, and that Wonder Woman is totally hot.  He understands that there is more than one Robin, but he cannot tell them apart.  He certainly cannot rank them in order of coolness.  He is somewhat aware of the fact that Batman Beyond is an entirely different guy than Batman Classic.  And, I THINK, he has finally gained some understanding of the reasons why Batman is cool and Superman is, like, a totally lame boy scout who represents every dumb jock in high school who couldn't carry on an intelligent conversation but thought that he was all that and a bag of chips.  Really, it's true - ask my kids.  And, yes, they arrived at this conclusion on their own.  This isn't Mom-projection - well, okay, maybe the last part.

So I have custody of the Batman video collection, which is pretty diverse:

  • All of the episodes from the first run of Justice League, and most of the episodes from the second (for the unitiated, the original run featured the seven founding heroes and was a bit more adult than the follow-up, and the second series, which I believe was the Cartoon Network version, is campier and features all of the peripheral heroes - Green Arrow, Black Canary, Huntress, The Question, etc.).
  • Various episodes of the Batman-specific series (Batman The Animated Series, The Batman, Batman Beyond).
  • Stand-alone animated Batman movies like "The Mystery of the Batwoman."
  • The more recent "Batman/Superman:  Public Enemies" movie and the sequel, which are both pretty dark, so Mom has to censor some parts.
  • Some of the more artsy animated works - can't remember titles, but one harkens back to the early days, and original back stories, of the various characters (it takes place during World War II), and another is a series of shorts done in various animation styles by filmamking auteurs.
  • And - because we don't discriminate against actual human beings in our household, much - the collected live-action works of Messrs. Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney and Bale.
Parker's room houses most of the rest of the Batman collection, consisting of:  books out the wazoo; a giant Batmobile that folds out into the Batcave (a gift from the uncles, I think it's a Dark Knight tie-in); an Imaginext Batcave; a different Batcave; a bazillion Batmobiles, Batplanes, Batcopters and Batcycles; and a bucket and a half of action figures.  Oh, and costumes.  Lots of costumes.  And shirts with Batman on them.  Also pajamas. 

And socks.  Oh, yeah, and Parker's sheets and comforter.  Roller skates - we have Batman roller skates, with matching knee and elbow pads.  And Batman Crocs . . . .

Connor retains custody of the LEGO Batman software and video games, and at one point, he also insisted on keeping certain of the action figures in his room, but I think that they have migrated to Parker's over time.  Two Wonder Women, a Batman in a purple suit (AKA "TCU Batman") and two Bruce Wayne action figures are in protective custody (from the action figure-devouring dog) at my office, and a couple of others are on a bookshelf in the master bedroom, having been placed into Mom's care once Parker realized that they were the only Batmen remaining that had all of their limbs intact.

And now we have a Batman encyclopedia.  Which tells us a lot, but doesn't contain the really important information, like:
  • Tim Drake is the coolest Robin.  Dick Grayson is a close second.
  • Best live-action Batman voices, in order, are:  Val Kilmer (seriously - he didn't look like Bruce at all, but he had the voice DOWN - close your eyes, and you will totally get it); Christian Bale in "Batman Begins"; Michael Keaton when he says "I'm Batman" and "I've gotta go to work"; Michael Keaton at other points in the first film; George Clooney by virtue of the fact that anything is better than the next two names on the list; Adam West; and Christian Bale in the "Dark Knight."  Who sounds like he's trying to impersonate Billy Bob Thornton in "Slingblade."  Seriously, did he forget how to do the voice between films one and two?  By the way, none of the above hold a candle to the guy who did his voice of Batman in the Justice League cartoons.  His voice is like buttah.  Like a big ol' stick of buttah.
  • Hawkgirl and the mom on "Witches of Waverly Place" are the same person.  Really.  The actress who plays Alex's mother was the voice of Hawkgirl.
  • Superman is a big dork.
See?  You can't get that kind of information from an encyclopedia.  Except for the living, breathing kind.  And apparently we have three of those living in our house.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Free Fort Worth Friday

"Free" in the title above has two meanings, I guess.  Last Friday was my only free day to take off work and spend Spring Break time with the kids.  And we spent that day enjoying free (or kind of free) activities on the west side of Fort Worth.

We started the day (well, after Mom telecommuted for a couple of hours - bad, BAD workaholic Mom!) in the museum district.  Where Mom got kind of cranky, because:  (1) she forgot that you now have to PAY to park in the museum district; (2) she discovered that the five-dollar bill - and, in fact, all of her cash but two singles - had grown legs and walked away from her wallet; and (3) she discovered that she was bereft of cash AFTER she got stuck in the queue to pass through the "pay only" guard gate by Will Rogers Coliseum.  There was no way to get out of said queue, so we waited our turn, apologized to the guard, made a U turn and backtracked to the new parking garage by the science and history museum.  Garage takes credit cards, but garage is also a good bit away from the Kimbell Museum, which was our intended destination.  That was okay, though, because the long walk afforded us an opportunity to view the ongoing construction of the second phase of the Kimbell.  Specifically, we got to observe one of the big cranes ACTUALLY MOVING AND DOING STUFF.  This was a big deal, because we almost never pass by the big cranes when they are in operation.  This time, one of them picked up a load, we got to watch the conveyor wheels turn and move the load from the back of the crane to the front of the crane, and we also got to watch the crane swivel towards the other crane.  The latter was quite suspenseful:

"Mom, the cranes are going to hit each other!"
"No, they are at two different heights  - they just look like they are the same height from this perspective."
"But the other crane is moving!"
"Another optical illusion."
"But the cranes are too close together!  If the one that is moving swings all of the way around, it will clip the other one!"
"Connor, you'd think that they would have enough sense to place them far enough apart to - HUH.  They ARE too close together.  But it seems that the crane operator knew that, because he stopped short.  Almost like he knew what he was doing."

Note to file:  construction workers who know what they are doing are kind of boring.  My guys were really gunning for a construction accident on a major scale.

So we walked past the Amon Carter and on to the Kimbell, observing the construction as we went.  We lamented the fact that the really cool front (or is it the back?) entrance to the Kimbell currently is cordoned off.  We really like watching the big water feature that spills off of the porch and running through the mazelike side yard.

But the interior of the Kimbell is cool, too - literally and figuratively.  Friday got kind of hot for winter - in the eighties - so A/C was appreciated.  Also appreciated:  Friday AM's family fun day activities, which centered on Ancient Greece.  Ancient Greece is HUGE at our house.  So huge that there was some early AM drama over the fact that Mom packed away Connor's Greek flag t-shirt.  (Reason:  it is an adult small.  The Montgomery Plaza Super Target doesn't sell Greek flag t-shirts in kid sizes - not that one would expect it to sell Greek flag t-shirts AT ALL, given that this is the MONTGOMERY PLAZA Super Target, not the ACROPOLIS Super Target.  He should be happy that I scored one for him that he can wear in a year or so.  Until then, it's down to his knees and, therefore, in storage.)

Activity #1:  Making our own Attic Red and Attic Black designs.  Mom couldn't remember which was which:  is it Attic Red if the figure is red or if the background is red?  Our very patient, "looked-like-a-retiree-at-first-glance-but-I-recognized-his-name-from-his-badge-as-a-quite-prominent-orthopedic-surgeon-presumedly-on-his-day-off" docent actually went and asked someone for me.  (Answer:  the figure.)

The boys were somewhat offended by the family next to us.  Said family had two small girls, who answered their docent's question, "Do you know what a myth is?" in the negative.  "Well, do you know what a fairy tale is?"  Affirmative.  Both were big fans of Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel.  Neither were familiar with Medusa.  Who, if you ask my boys, had way cooler hair than Rapunzel.  While the girls next door were receiving their instruction on Greek myths, Connor was hard at work drawing a depiction of Medusa turning various warriors into stone, with one of the warriors (Hercules?) fleeing up some steps.  Like all Connor drawings, it was very precise and neat, and all of the ink stayed on the paper.  Here's the result:

The A D Pi shout-out was not his idea.  He drew the Delta, and the Pi next to it, and asked what other letter he should draw (he wasn't trying to spell things, just make the wall behind the action appear "more Greek").  Mom then appropriated the pen, put an Alpha in front of the Delta and thereby "hijacked his drawing," resulting in a little bit of wailing and teeth-gnashing. 

Meanwhile, Parker had completed a drawing on one side of his page, filled half of the back side and started work on an alternative version of Medusa's demise, whereby she sees a reflection of herself and turns herself to stone.  (This is the Percy Jackson version, the real version being that Perseus done cut the witch's head off.  Mom likes the Percy version, because it's a little less violent and certainly more creative, and she was gratified that hyper-literal big brother did not correct little brother's historical inaccuracy.)

The first drawing (with the owls) he titled "Wisdom."  Actually, he titled it "Wis [hard return], dom [very large period]."  The second drawing is of Poseidon (who, Parker would like to point out, has the same kind of trident that Aquaman has), yelling, "Attack them" (again with the hard return thing).  Next to Poseidon:  the aforementioned non-historically-accurate Medusa.

Parker employed both Attic Red and Attic Black techniques.  And, being Parker, and a member of the "it ain't art if you don't get messy" school, he turned himself Attic Black as well.  Wait - if the background is black, then it's Attic Red.  Whatever.  He made a huge mess of himself.  (This was a recurring theme for the day.  Ink mess actually was mess #2.  First mess occurred in the car on the way over, when big brother insisted on smacking mint-flavored gum in little brother's face.  Little brother sneezed repeatedly as a result, which in turn led to much snot-bubble-age.  Which the kids found hilarious, and which sent Mom scrambling for wet wipes.  Oh, I should mention that the kids have inherited their mother's exceedingly odd, sort-of-peppermint allergy.  I'm not actually allergic to peppermint, but if you give me one of those red-and-white mints, I will start to serially sneeze.  I thought that this was a weird personal quirk, until I discovered that both boys have the same problem - so, apparently, it's a genetic trait?  In any case, they enjoy tormenting each other by breathing mint-flavored breath in the direction of the other.  Add that to the "free fun" column, courtesy of Mom's weird genes.)

After the art, we watched a film about Ancient Greece, written for a kid audience.  I found it to be sort of dry, but it kept the kids' attention, so what do I know?  We took a quick tour through the museum proper to look at ancient artworks and then headed back towards the garage, intending to shoot past it and spend an hour or so at the Museum of Science and History.  Hey, we paid to park.  Mom was going to make the most of it, and since we're museum members, admission would be free - more free Friday fun.  But then Parker's stomach growled, reminding us that we had blown past the lunch hour.  So to Mickey D's we did go, for happy meals and Young Justice toys.  The kids also indulged Mom and accompanied her on a retail errand, and then we headed to the Montgomery Plaza Dollar Tree for saltine crackers and bubble solution.  Next stop:  the Trinity Park Duck Pond.

Ducks weren't digging crackers at 4 pm.  Judging by the quantity of bread floating in the water, completely ignored, ducks had had their fill earlier in the day.  Geese, on the other hand:  BIG FANS of saltine crackers.  We found all but two of the geese chilling in a fenced-off area that adjoins the pond which, judging from the placement of two too-tall-for-ducks feeding troughs, is "Geeseland."  A particularly aggressive goose kept sticking her bill through the fence, wanting us to hand-feed her.  Connor remembered that geese bite.  Parker almost indulged her, until I swatted his hand away and advised him that one animal bite-related trip to the ER was enough for this calendar quarter.

Then we blew bubbles.  And climbed trees and big rocks.

And then we went to Chuy's, so Mom could have a well-deserved happy hour margarita while we waited for Dad to meet us for dinner.  Dad got a morning-and-afternoon hall pass to attend to actual business and also to "guy business" (of the March Madness-watching variety).  The Chuy's part of our day of jubilee was not free, but it WAS happy hour, so if not free at least it was "cheap."

After dinner, we returned to the duck pond - actually, to the hills surrounding the pond - and slid down said hills on a giant piece of cardboard.  Until Parker, allegedly, caused Connor to twist his ankle, resulting in a not-so-alleged-but-rather-parent-witnessed kick (by Connor) to (Parker's) gut.  That ended the hill party in pretty spectacular fashion.  (Don't worry - no six year-olds were seriously hurt in the making of this drama, and the boys made up on the car ride home.)

Here's a completely gratuitous shot of Montgomery Plaza from the sliding hill.  Gotta give a shout-out to my retail home-away-from-home.

All in all, a good day.  Oh, and Connor scored a t-shirt to serve as a gap-filler until he grows into the Greek flag one.  It's red (his favorite color), with the Chuy's logo and a taco made out of LEGOs.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs:

I have been so busy at work this week that I failed to observe Wonder Woman's birthday, which was yesterday, Tuesday the 22nd.   Well, I guess I observed it:  I had happy hour drinks with my coworkers, followed by a pedicure experience with a whole host o' ladies from Woman's Club.  I think that WW would support both of these endeavors.  I imagine that she wrapped up many a hard day of pounding on bad guys with a round of martinis with the Flash, followed by a spa experience with Batgirl.

A lot of my time over the past few days has been spent attempting to beat various lawyers and decisionmakers into submission on various and sundry "deal issues."  I believe that on Monday I likened my job to a game of Whack O' Mole come to life:  beat on the bank over here, beat on the third-party consultant over there.  Oops, that guy and his pet issue just popped up again - whack, whack, whack.  Okay, he's down.  Moving on.

Not the same as pounding on bad guys - but pounding is involved, with a giant metaphorical Whack O' Mole mallet.

So, sorry, WW for missing your big day.  In your honor - and given my own upcoming birthday and numerous requests for gift ideas - I am considering several purchases on

A Wonder Woman plush dolly!  I really, really want her - and also her Batman counterpart.

Wonder Woman dominatrix boots!  These would really put a WW Halloween costume over the top.  But I'd like to think that I'd wear them year-round.

Grown-up Underoos!  Remember Underoos?  My mom never bought them for me - in part because I never did the undershirt thing.  Nope, bypassed undershirts, bypassed training bras, went straight to the industrial-strength foundation garments.  Got the bodacious gene from both sides of the family, fortunately or unfortunately (my opinion on the subject varies daily). 

The perfect beach tote!  Well, I already have this one:

But it needs a friend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Flying Monkeys Optional

Another table from Reading Rocks:

Love this one - particularly the gingham chair covers, and the use of the child's Dorothy costume as a centerpiece.

You know what would also make a great Wiz centerpiece? This bad boy.

It's a GINGERBREAD HOUSE, people! Found it on a Web site appropriately titled Gingerbread House Heaven.

A little too ambitious, you say? Well, The TomKat Studios offers something a little more - ahem - accessible. You can purchase all of these paper products on their Etsy site - download 'em and print 'em at home.

Here's some more Emerald City inspiration for you.

Clockwise from upper left: cupcake picks from The Blissful Baker (12 for $6.50); chocolate-dipped Oreos topped with edible gingham toppers (12 for $19.50 from Sweeties by Kim); an adorable retro invite from graphic designer Nikki Plott ($15 to download, and you print it from there); and a Dorothy-inspired pinwheel ($7 from A Precious Memory's Etsy site).

There's no place like home . . . for a birthday party.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eat This: Tarty Party Appetizers

I think that this recipe for "perfect bite tartlets," doctored several ways, came from Southern Living. Not sure, but I thought that I would share, given that spring hath sprung and bridal/baby shower season is soon to begin in earnest.

Flaky Tartlet Shells:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Unroll ½ of a 15-oz. pkg. of refrigerated piecrusts onto a flat surface. Cut into 24 rounds using a 2-inch round cutter. Press rounds onto bottoms of ungreased miniature muffin cups. (Dough will come slightly up sides, forming a cup.) Prick bottom of each dough circle four times with a fork. Bake at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans to a wire rack, and let cool 15 minutes before filling. (Note: To make ahead, store baked tartlet shells in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature 2 hours before filling.)

Once you have made your tartlet shells, you can fill them with just about anything - chicken salad from the deli is always a quick and easy option - but these are pretty easy, too, and all of them sound delish:

Peach-and-Blue Cheese Bites:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange 24 Flaky Tartlet Shells on a baking sheet. Cut 2 ozs. Gorgonzola cheese into 24 very small pieces. Spoon ¼ rounded teaspoonful Simply Fruit or other peach fruit spread into each shell; top with cheese. Sprinkle evenly with 3 T chopped roasted salted almonds. Bake tartlets at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Ginger-Brie Bites:  Prepare Peach-and-Blue Cheese Bites as directed, substituting ginger preserves for peach fruit spread and 3 ozs. Brie, rind removed, for Gorgonzola cheese.

Pear-Havarti Bites:  Prepare Peach-and-Blue Cheese Bites as directed, substituting pear preserves for peach fruit spread and 2 ozs. Havarti cheese for Gorgonzola cheese.

Spicy-Sweet Goat Cheese Bites: Prepare Peach-and-Blue Cheese Bites as directed, substituting red pepper jelly for peach fruit spread and 2 ozs. goat cheese for Gorgonzola cheese.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tartlets:  Spoon ½ cup jarred hazelnut spread into a 1-quart heavy-duty ziptop plastic bag (do not seal). Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole. Pipe hazelnut spread evenly over 24 Flaky Tartlet Shells. Top each with sweetened whipped cream and a roasted, salted hazelnut.

Dulce de Leche Tartlets:  Beat 4 ozs. softened cream cheese, ¼ cup canned dulce de leche, 2 T cream and 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon at medium speed with an electric mixer until combined. Beat at high speed 1-2 minutes or until creamy, stopping to scrape down sides. Spoon cream cheese mixture into a 1-quart heavy-duty ziptop plastic bag (do not seal). Snip 1 corner of bag to make small hole. Pipe cream cheese mixture evenly into 24 Flaky Tartlet Shells. Top each with sweetened whipped cream and a pinch of ground cinnamon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kid Stuff: Pint-Sized Picasso and Hibernation Boy

I love to watch Parker James draw. He doesn't just stick his tongue out of his mouth (a characteristic of his maternal grandmother when she is concentrating, inherited by both boys); he actually curls it (a characteristic he picked up from Mom, thank you very much - but I don't stick it out of my mouth like that unconsciously). He also draws what I believe to be fairly fully-realized artwork for a kid his age - something that, I guess, he got from me as well.

The other day, I drew a picture of PJ in a Batman costume and labeled the image "Batparker." It drew rave reviews and also provided inspiration for a work of PJ's own. "Mom, I'm going to draw Connor as Joker." Oh, okay - cute. I took my eyes off of him for maybe four minutes, and, BOOM, he put this in front of me:

What impresses me, in no particular order:

(1) He got the details of Joker exactly right - and he was working from memory.

(2) He utilized a cartoon-ish style that is reminiscent of his Tiny Titans comic books, which feature lots of bold black lines, but he put a "Dark Knight" spin on things, using lots of sharp angles. It's like a noir version of the Titans, which is pretty Joker-appropriate.

(3) He added a background that is very evocative of Gotham City. And the background is asymmetrical, which fascinates me to no end, because most little kids favor symmetry at this stage.

Not Parker. Here's another one of his works from that particular art session, titled "King" (oh, by the way, that's not "Nana" coming out of Joker's mouth in the "Jok-Connor" piece - that's "haha" written with stubby H's):

There's a gold curtain on the left and an armoire on the right. The throne, I am told, is on a raised platform covered in a crown-patterned carpet.

Images below are from a recent trip to Macaroni Grill with Mom, Dad, Nana, Granddad and Gigi. Gotta love those butcher paper table covers.

"Mona Lisa."

"Stegosaurus." I didn't scan in the more detailed "Triceratops," which - in addition to the titular dinosaur - features large prehistoric plants that look like Venus flytraps on steroids.

"Ankylosaurus and Prehistoric Sea Creature." The sea creature is hovering over the ankylosaurus because PJ was running out of butcher paper. Literally. He almost covered the entire eight-top. He also made a point of explaining to Gigi, his great-grandmother, that "this prehistoric sea creature was bigger than two school buses." Then he drew the school buses, for comparison. He also drew some prehistoric sea snails, as an example of what the sea creature might have eaten.

After he drew the buses, he decided that someone might get confused and think that buses existed in prehistoric times, so he labeled this part of the picture "Then," and to the right he drew "And now."

"I drew a house, Mom. Because houses like ours didn't exist back then."

In other news, week before last, Connor passed out immediately after dinner for six days straight and did not awaken until the following morning. This would have concerned us, except for all of the complaints about his bones hurting. Oh, the moodiness was also a tip-off, and the forgetfulness, and the moodiness stemming from the forgetfulness. ("MOM! It's not my FAULT that my writing journal is missing. I've been keeping it in my desk instead of my backpack, precisely so that I WOULDN'T lose it. And now it's gone. Someone who shares a desk with me in writing MUST have stolen it. Why does everyone assume that it was me? WHY IS EVERYONE PERSECUTING ME?"

Anyway, on day seven, Hibernation Boy awoke feeling considerably more alert and chipper. He also was two full inches taller. And we're fairly sure that the Major Growth Spurt of 2011 is just getting into full swing.

Potpourri: My Name is Kathryn, and I am a Shopaholic

Dear friends and frequent partners in crime (you know who you are): if you hear me say that I need to go shopping, incapacitate me by any means necessary. Then confiscate my wallet.

I spent Sunday "flipping" my closet (from fall/winter to spring/summer) and integrating new shoe purchases. It seemed like an appropriate day to do this, given that it was the first day of spring.

When I say that I spent Sunday working on this project, I am not exaggerating. We're talking sunup to sundown here.

I almost gave up after I took a good look at my shoes.

Houston, we have a problem. These are not all of my shoes - just the ones that are in frequent rotation. I am starting to wonder if my husband is not on to something when he wonders out loud, "Exactly how many pairs of black shoes does one person need?"

Fortunately, I had help:

With guidance from these furry organizational experts, I found room under the bed for several of the boxes. Notwithstanding that I added a couple of pairs over the weekend (okay, four), they are better organized now than they were before. Ditto my handbags.

Here is the finished product:

All of my tops and skirts are attractively organized! The tops are organized by color! But not in ROYGBIV order, because that would be entirely too anal retentive. Also, I didn't think about ROYGBIV until just now.

I am really enjoying my tower - you know, the one that my spouse suggested and that I said was a horrible idea but he was right and I was wrong (yes, P, you read that correctly - YOU WERE RIGHT, AND I WAS WRONG).  What I particularly like is that there is space on each shelf for two bins (for folded clothes or accessories), plus a couple of handbags, with space out front for easy access to sunglasses, bangle bracelets, belt buckles, etc.

My go-to shoes, in missing man formation (I can't find my cheetah haircalf pumps):

And finally, two of my favorite closet items:  my birthday tiara (every princess needs a crown), and my bottle of Febreze.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Potpourri: Broken-Down Spring Break

Spring Break. Mom was slammed with work, Dad was slammed with work. Result: no vacation, and no garage sale in lieu of vacation. (I am not a huge garage sale fan. Setup is a pain, dealing with people who can't read simple signs or tags is a pain, and after putting on a couple of them I determined that the tax write-off that we get from donating stuff to Goodwill or a similar charity is pretty near that return that we get from selling stuff for cheap - particularly if you assign a dollar amount to the "brain damage factor." However, we have a lot - A LOT - of junk in our carriage house. Enough to mitigate in favor of a garage sale. Or carriage house sale. Whatever. There's enough stuff that I can justify piling it up, assigning dollar values to each pile, and not worrying about individual price tags. I planned to do this Spring Break week, with help from the kids, and the incentive was that any money that we made would be applied to summer vacation expenses. Then the ice storm hit, and stayed. Soccer started. As a result, we have only gone through a fraction of the stuff in the carriage house. I wasn't actually, factually aware of how far behind we'd fallen until the other day when I said something, without thinking, about the "Spring Break garage sale" - and then said, "Oh, crud, that's next week." Sigh. Targets are now set on May. Well, "set" is too strong a word, maybe. Targets are now pointed in May's general direction.)

Fortunately, the kids forgot about the Spring Break garage sale concept, or if they remembered they didn't mention it. (I think I lost them at the word "work.") And they took the news that Mom and Dad were in the weeds pretty cheerfully, as it gave them an opportunity to attend day camp at the local community center. Said day camp is very conveniently located. As in, "a-block-and-a-half-down-the-street-conveniently-located." Said community center consists of: a building with a yoga/martial arts studio, a computer lab and some multi-purpose space; a small soccer field; a basketball court; and Connor's Playground. We call it Connor's Playground because it was built by the city back when our daddy was hyper-involved with the neighborhood association. Connor happened to accompany his father to the meeting where the various playground options were unveiled and the NA was charged with selecting one of them. The adults narrowed the choices down to a couple and then turned to the expert - Connor - who walked them through the pros and cons of each setup. In the end, they let him choose - hence "Connor's Playground." I have to say that he made good choices, as it's a heck of a playground.

There is an after-school program at the center, in addition to yoga classes (taught by my former legal secretary; not to continue to beat a dead horse, but Fort Worth is a blessedly small big town) and other grown-up classes. And there are camps. Cheap ones. Like, ten dollars-cheap. Mom and Dad have been aware of these camps but never really had the need for them and, thus, never bothered to check them out. Not to worry - Connor checked them out for us. In fact, during Spring Break last year, he actually attended for a day, for free. He rode his bike down to the center, with our permission, to play basketball with some school friends, saw that the camp was in session and advised one of the employees that, if they let him audit the camp and he went home with a good report, his parents would pay for him to attend in the future. He probably didn't use the word "audit." On second thought, this being Connor, he probably DID use the word "audit."

His plan worked, because when we suggested a day of Camp Grandma and a day of Camp Nana to start off the week, he presented an alternative proposition: two days of day camp, "just to see if we like it." We said okay, they liked it - a lot - and we ended up sending them back on Wednesday. And then on Thursday, for a half-day only, which turned into a full day, at their request. See, Thursday was the St. Patrick's Day party. And we HAD to attend the St. Patrick's Day party, given that Connor committed his parents to essentially UNDERWRITING the St. Patrick's Day party. I have an unconfirmed suspicion that Connor may have been the idea guy BEHIND the St. Patrick's Day party. What I do know is that on Wednesday night I had to venture out, with zero advance notice, to purchase green cups, plates and napkins and non-green chips. Someone else brought the drinks and the cupcakes. Although cupcakes came home (from Central Market) with Connor and me:

It's the Irish flag, people. How were we to resist?

Marching orders (not sure whose - Connor's or the counselors'?) were to procure green chips. However, we quickly discovered that the same folks who dye tortilla chips red and green for Christmas don't bother to break out the green dye for St. Pat's. As a result, our green chip options were: guacamole; spinach and artichoke; and garden vegetable. Connor got excited each time we located a new selection. Then Buzzkill Mom would ask, "Would YOU eat these?" "Heck, no - oh, the other kids won't eat them, either." So, regular chips it was, plus a couple of containers of sour cream and onion Pringles - GREEN containers, thank you very much. And a giant vat of those toxic orange cheese balls from Target. You know, the kind that are the consistency of styrofoam. My kids think that these are delicacies, given that we only purchase them for kid parties. I justified them on account of how they were Irish flag orange.

Somehow the giant vat of Irish cheese balls never made it to the party. I smell a rat - or two of them. Oh, we forgot to share the cheese balls? The better to eat them all, my pretty.

I also got talked into buying a bag of 7-Up flavored Jelly Bellies (a TWELVE-DOLLAR bag of 7-Up flavored Jelly Bellies) from the Central Market bulk bin because (1) they were green and (2) the other green candy option was margarita-flavored Jelly Bellies, which we decided were not kid-camp appropriate.

These followed us home, too:

I like to think of them as "investments." The tam, in particular, is quite versatile:

So, what we learned from day camp party day: my perma-room-mom status extends to days on which school is not in session, and I am a sucker for themed headwear.

Wednesday was "field trip day." I was not too keen on the field trip concept, until it was explained that the field trip consisted of an afternoon constitutional to Curly's, the frozen custard sort-of restaurant that is two blocks from the center, at the retail edge of our neighborhood. I say "sort-of restaurant" because I can't really describe Curly's - it's a building shaped liked a slice of pie, on a similarly shaped triangle of land, with a drive-through window on one side and a walk-up window on the other. There are a few picnic tables on the walk-up side, and a little parklike area. The parklike area is sort of a mini dog park, because people in our neighborhood seem to like to walk their dogs to Curly's. Somewhat coincidentally, Curly's also sells dogs - the chili cheese variety - along with Frito pies, ice cream and slushes. And that's it. Before Curly's was a weird ice cream concept, it was an even weirder concept - a Fed Ex/mail drive-through dropoff that also served coffee. Which I sort of found to be ingenious. But the kids will tell you that Curly's is better.

The exciting outgrowth of Curly's Walk 2011 is the Earth-shattering news that CONNOR NOW LIKES ICE CREAM. He didn't ORDER ice cream, mind you. His usual order is a cherry slush, and that's what he got. Little brother got the concrete of the month - mint chocolate chip. (Sort-of-sad-but-really-more-pathetic note: it wasn't until the following night, as Connor and I were backing out of the driveway to go out in search of green chips, that it hit me that mint chocolate chip is the March flavor of the month because it is green - as in, shamrock green. I said this out loud, and Connor said, "Oh, good point." Then one of us remarked out loud that "that was just a blonde moment, wasn't it?" Kind of glad to have someone to share those with.)

I am not entirely sure how this all played out, but somehow LITTLE BROTHER CONVINCED HIS BIG BROTHER TO SAMPLE HIS ICE CREAM. I am employing capital letters to emphasize the fact that a six year-old managed to accomplish in one afternoon what two adults with postgraduate degrees have been unable to accomplish for eleven years. I would like to think that this does not reflect poorly on Mom and Dad's life skills or powers of persuasion but that, rather, it just hasn't been Connor's "time" to try ice cream. Because said time, apparently, was March 17, 2011. Write that date down on the calendar, because Connor tried ice cream on that date and pronounced it good. That's exactly how he described it: "Mom. I tried some of Parker's ice cream, and you know what? It was GOOD. It hurt my tooth a little bit, or the nerve above my tooth, but that's the tooth that's about to fall out, so as soon as it falls out I am going to start eating ice cream with you guys." I considered several possible responses:

1. "DUH."
2. [Silent facepalm.]
3. "It's about dang time."
4. [Wringing his blessedly stubborn neck.]
5. Some combination of the above.

In the end, I went with an open-mouth gape and "Oh, okay."

I can't fault him for boycotting ice cream, because I went through a prolonged phase where I didn't particularly like the stuff (and frequently was accused of being a Communist as a result). Then something happened to change my opinion of ice cream. That "something" is about three and a half-feet tall and favors chili bowl haircuts. Parker would eat ice cream every day if we let him - and we do. (We limit him to a half a cup after dinner.) His favorite flavors are "all of them." Current selection in our fridge includes cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, Girl Scout Thin Mint and pumpkin. Yes, PUMPKIN. It's Parker's favorite among his many favorites. Weird, I know - but it IS good stuff, and my child's affinity for it also illustrates what I refer to as "the cinnamon and nutmeg factor." My kids are crazy for pie spices. Not actual PIE, but the flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. Hence the fact that they will cheerfully eat sweet potatoes, if properly doctored, while eschewing regular potatoes, and also the fact that their favorite cookies are snickerdoodles and gingerbread.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, Parker and I broke out the mint chocolate chip ice cream (because it was green) and also the Girl Scout Thin Mint and did a head-to-head comparison. The verdict, courtesy of the ice cream connoisseur: "the mint flavor is in the ICE CREAM in one and in the BITS in the other, but they taste about the same. But only one of them is green."

Green wins.