Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Potpourri: Maine Coon Succubus

Our oldest anipal (Charles Wade Barkley McGlinchey, AKA "Barkley," "Bark," "B-Boo," et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam) is getting on in years.  Specifically, he will be 15 in April.  He's still fairly spry - wrestles with his "brother from another Coon kitty mother" Max and jumps onto the bathroom counter several times a day, demanding fresh, cold water from the faucet. 

But I think that his eyesight is starting to go.  The vet has not said anything about it, but I insist that the proof is in the pupils:  they are huge, and they were not that huge before.  Based on my wealth of veterinary medical experience (okay, so maybe "wealth" is an exaggeration - three-week internship in a vet's office my senior year of high school for AP Biology II credit, plus I dated a vet's kid for a week the same year - different vet, non-overlapping week, but the vet's kid was in my AP Biology II class, and it's possible that he and I got caught kissing during open heart surgery on a field trip - but that was a lifetime ago), I am convinced that Barkley's oversized pupils are a sign that he has glaucoma.  That, or high blood pressure.  Internet says that dilated pupils in a cat could be a sign of hypertension.  And everyone knows that Google is the functional equivalent of attending veterinary school.  (Or, you know, not.)

My husband tells me that I am insane.  But, then, he says that frequently.

The vet just ignores me.

I am also convinced that this fading eyesight and/or generally failing health is the reason why Barkley has morphed into a situational succubus.  Situational, because it only happens at a certain time each night (LATE at night):  I roll over, and BOOM, there's the cat, waiting for me.  He roots towards my face and hovers millimeters away from my nose and mouth.  This wakes me up.  I pull back - and he lunges forward.  I roll onto my back - and he follows, climbing onto my chest and angling his face down into mine.

It makes me very claustrophobic.  Half-asleep, I try to shove him off of me - and I imagine that I hear tiny little bones cracking in his aged body.  Then my guilt prevents me from going to sleep:  he is just getting that close to me because he can't see me, and he is triangulating towards my face using his heightened sense of smell.  That, or he knows that he is in his twilight years, and he wants to enjoy every quality moment of mama time that he can.

My husband tells me, once again, that I am insane.  Barkley has always been, and always will be, a Stage 5 Clinger.  It is one of his defining characteristics.  He was our first "child" (or child substitute), the only one who remembers what it's like to have Mom and Dad to himself.  And he WILL have it that way again, DAMN IT.  Even if it's in the middle of the night, when Ruby Dog is curled up in her bed, Ace the Batdog is in the bottom bunk with Parker, Max Cat is in the top bunk with Connor and Gabby Cat is - well, wherever Gabby Cat goes in the middle of the night.  (Gabby trickles out personal information on a "need to know" basis - and, most of the time, she doesn't think you need to know.  We should have named her "Nunya" - as in, "nunya damned business.")  Night in and night out, Barkley will climb into bed, breathe his warm kitty breath onto my face until I wake up and stare at me with an expression in his Mr. Magoo eyes that says, "I WILL NOT BE IGNORED OR FORGOTTEN."

Don't worry, B-Boo.  You will never be forgotten - and, no doubt, many nights in a Barkley-less future I will wake up and find myself missing the full-facial intrusion of Little Succubus Boy.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Royal Wedding in LEGOs

By the time this posts, the Wedding of the Year will have concluded.  But I'm drafting this the night before, so here's what the wedding MIGHT have looked like, as photographed by Dan Kitwood and published by Getty Images:

Yes, that is a hyper-realistic Buckingham Palace, CONSTRUCTED OUT OF LEGOs. (I hope that my capitalization of LEGO above allowed you to grasp the meaning that it's a depiction of the Royal Wedding made from plastic bricks - because when I stumbled across these images, the caption read, "The Royal Wedding in Legos," and I had to read the caption a second time, because for a minute I thought that they were talking about a wedding in Nigeria.) By the way, this is what my child hopes to do for a living when he "grows up." (I am putting quotes around that, because we're talking about a career centered on LEGOs.) He doesn't want to build things out of LEGOs, although he'd probably take that gig at LEGO Land if one was offered - he wants to design LEGO kits. Actually, he already does, on LEGO Digital Designer, but one day he would like to get paid for it.  (That would be a nice change in pace from Mom and Dad paying for his LEGO designs.  Seriously.  You design a geegaw online, the Web site determines how many bricks you need of each type and quotes you a price.  Then the begging and pleading commences.  "Mom.  DAD.  It's so cool.  I so need to build this FOR REAL - not just in virtual reality.")

You can see the bricks a little better in this shot - but it still is an amazing replica.

And here are the bride and groom departing for their honeymoon, destination (at press time) unknown.

I'm thinking one-week, all-inclusive stay at the Barbie Dream House?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Hot Sports Opinions About Vegetable Gardening

I am bound and determined to find a use for the large area of "yard" (I use that term loosely) behind our carriage house. Why someone chose to build our carriage house some twelve feet from the property line (when building up to the property line is totally kosher per our deed restrictions) is beyond me. I would take them out to the woodshed - or to the carriage house, since we don't have a woodshed - but given that our house was constructed in the Twenties, I doubt that "someone" is still around (and if they are around, they're quite old, and while I'm frustrated by their decisionmaking I don't think I'm "beat up an old dude" frustrated).

Current plan is to put down black plastic to choke out the weeds between the back of the carriage house and the utility easement (out of sight, out of mind), then weed like crazy, then put down landscape fabric and soil, and then - what? Ground cover? No, I want to actually get use out of the space back there. Would love to have a vegetable garden. Problem is that it's mottled shade back there. So I Googled "shade and vegetables" and was promptly informed that, while vegetables that grow from a flower (like tomatoes) crave sun, leafy vegetables actually prefer partial shade. Excellent! I can grow greens behind that bad boy.

As I waded through the search results to get more information, I came across a bulletin board thread, "Vegetables that grow in partial shade (Dallas area)." Clicked on it, and imagine my surprise when I was taken to a University of Texas athletics fan site, of the ilk that my husband subscribes to. (There are several similar sites -,, etc., etc. I refer to them as bull-etin boards, as lots of bull tends to get thrown about.)

First post said:

Anybody have any particular luck with vegetables that do okay in a good amount of partial shade. I am a pretty crappy gardener but I do okay with herbs, peppers and tomatoes. There is a shady part of the garden that I may put something in. Anybody have any luck with anything in particular?

Next post:

What kind of gay a** thread is this!?!? My kind! Here's something I found . . . .

What followed was a VERY SPIRITED DISCUSSION - among what I gather are several heterosexual men - about organic vegetable gardening. I could not stop reading. First off, the information was actually helpful. Second, I was imagining my husband getting wrapped up in a discussion about gardening on a college athletics Web site. It wasn't that much of a stretch, actually. The guys who frequent these sites tend to be pretty strongly opinionated, and in my experience guys who are strongly opinionated about one topic . . . tend to be strongly opinionated about LOTS of topics.

String ended with:

Go to have some kick a** heirloom gmo s***..all natural and organic...gonna plant me some blue podded shelling peas today...woohoo!

Woohoo, indeed. I may have to get myself some kick a** heirloom radishes to grow alongside my lettuce. Even though I'm not a fan of radishes. Don't understand the point of them, actually. They add color, but that's about it. Kind of a waste of space. Hey, what do you know? I have hot sports opinions about radishes.

Maybe I should start contributing to a bull-etin board.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Royal Opportunity for Entertaining

The idea of a royal wedding party intrigues me, primarily because I cannot fathom who would get up at 4:30 am to attend - let alone throw - such a party.

Okay, so I got up at 4:30 (or before) to watch the wedding of Charles and Di, but that was a different kettle of fish and chips.  In no particular order:

1.  I was in junior high, and I was an incurable romantic;
2.  It was the summer, and I was at my grandparents' house, which meant that there wasn't much on my day's agenda save for swimming, driving the golf cart and walking the course after hours to feed ducks and look for abandoned balls - thus, going back to bed after watching the wedding was a viable option;
3.  Cool stuff on TV was few and far between (this was back in the era when kids watched the Jerry Lewis Telethon and thought it was kind of a big deal); and
4.  We didn't have DVR's back then.

I do plan to watch the wedding, but not in real time.  However, I am toying with the idea of serving a royal wedding-themed breakfast to the fam when we do get up.  Found some inspiration on the Internet:

eighteen9's Etsy site has these great postcard invitations.   Love 'em.

Saw these on "Today," I think, during that show's segment about royal wedding viewing parties?  They are from Paper & Cake Printable Partyware, you download the images and (I guess) attach them to your own sticks.  Idea is to have guests hold these up and snap Polaroids of them "in character."

Bunting - such a British party concept.  Lots of variations are being sold on Etsy, but I like this one from ShortersShop.  I particularly like that the proprietress refers to the fabric used as "hessian" - British for "burlap."

These cups are from Plum Party:

As are these great tea bags.  (The paper bride and groom are designed to drape over your tea cup.)

Know what goes great with tea? Tea towels. I lurrrrrrrrrve this one, from London Etsy retailer The Screen Prince.

It is so funny and cute; I want to marry it.  In Westminster Abbey.  At o' dark thirty on Friday, April 29th.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eat This: Decadent Chicken Casserole

My birthday dinner with the fam featured poppyseed chicken - catered, not homemade - but I do have a recipe for something similar. You could lighten this by using reduced-fat, low-sodium soup, fat-free sour cream and reduced-fat crackers. Can't get around the stick of butter, though.


4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 (8-oz.) carton sour cream
1½ T fresh lemon juice
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
2 T poppy seed
1 stick butter, melted

Distribute chicken evenly in bottom of 8-x-11-inch baking dish. Stir together (undiluted) soup, sour cream and lemon juice. Pour soup mixture over chicken. Crush crackers and mix with poppy seed. Sprinkle on top of soup mixture. Drizzle with butter. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kid Stuff: Shock and Aww Moment

Oprah has aha moments.  Thanks to my kids, I have aww moments. 

Like this one: 

Dad and boys were discussing the "Make-a-Wish" program.  Connor informed the others that, if he ever found himself a candidate for MaW, he would ask MaW to fly him in a plane at the same speed as the setting sun, and moving in the appropriate direction so that he could experience a continuous sunset.  Aww.  Nice.  Metaphorical. 

Probably not physically possible, but nice and metaphorical.

Connor then asked his little brother what his wish would be.

"I wish that the world was made of ice cream."

Aww.  Cute. 

Needless to say, Big quickly corrected Little:

"It has to be something that they can actually do for you , Parker.  Like, you know, pay to send you to Disney World."

Parker thought about it some more. And then:

"Can I ask them to take the money that they would have spent on me and give it to charities to help other people?  Could I ask them to use the money to build houses for people in Japan who don't have their houses anymore?"

Aww.  Just aww.  Because aww pretty much covers it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Potpourri: God Works in Mysterious - and Utterly Trivial - Ways

I love the movie "L. A. Story." Love Steve Martin, appreciate the dead-on accurate portrayal of Californians and their idiosyncracies. (Disclaimer: my mother's family did not start out in California, but they ended up there, and I lived there twice, once as a preschooler and then again in kindergarten, returning for regular visits until my grandparents abandoned their palm tree-studded golf course community in Walnut Creek for a cactus-studded gold course community in Prescott, AZ. I can testify to the fact that Californians really do get in the car, back out of the driveway, drive one house over and pull into THAT driveway. Well, except in San Francisco. San Franciscans are public transportation-crazy. Wouldn't YOU be public transportation-crazy, if "public transportation" translated into "old school cable cars and super-fast underwater trains"?)

I also love that God speaks to Steve Martin's character through a traffic sign. Because God speaks to me through inanimate objects as well. Every day, I am reminded of the presence of God as a guiding force in my life. And, apparently, God is a micromanager, because He's CRAZY into the details.

For example: I crackled an artificial nail the other night. I went to the bathroom for a nail file and filed it down, but not to an excessive extent. Dropped the nail file into the drawer, and then ran a finger over the tip of the nail. Hmm, still a little rough. Oh, well, close enough for government work. But - if it's rough, it could - and probably would - snag on something (my hair in the shower, an item of clothing), and the little crack would become a chip, and I would have to work in a nail appointment on a day when I really didn't have time for one, but I would HAVE to get it fixed, because a special event was ending said day, and - oh, what to do? I should just get the nail file out again - but I'm tired of filing, and the drawer is such a low one. Involving stooping.

Again, what to do?

Look down, in the direction of the drawer, and there it is - the nail file, laying on the bath rug, because, evidently, when I attempted to drop it in the drawer it glanced off of something and popped out.

Clearly, God thought I should keep filing.

And so I filed.

Later that evening, I found myself humming The Beatles' "Hey Bulldog" - which reminded me that I had intended to download that song from iTunes to share with the eleven year-old wannabe bassist (who really, really likes McCartney's bass line from that song). As I typed in the iTunes URL, it occurred to me that it was really late, and this little project certainly could wait another day.

BOOM - up pops the iTunes welcome page. Which, on this particular evening, featured an image of NONE OTHER THAN THE BEATLES, with a caption suggesting that I download Beatles songs RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

God has many instruments. iTunes is one of them.

Nail files are another.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Politically Correct Writing Instruments

Today I'm digging Facebook, a guy on Facebook named Derek Beyer, and the fact that Facebook caused me to come into virtual contact with a guy named Derek Beyer.

Earlier in the day, I procured a fresh Sharpie Pen from the supply room.  Our office manager stocks Sharpie pens because (1) Sharpie pens are lefty friendly, (2) I am a lefty, (3) our office manager likes me, and (4) I also happen to be the shareholder in charge of approving supply orders.

I took note of just how much I was enjoying my new Sharpie Pen (how much?  ridiculously much), and I wondered whether other lefties were similarly enamored.  Being the child of the Google Age that I am, I then proceeded to Boolean search "Sharpie pen lefties," to find out what other lefties had to say about the product.  (Because, apparently, the fact I found them to be awesome wasn't enough for me.  Rather, I needed validation from others.  Refer to "child of the Google Age," above.)

That search took me to the Facebook page of, which, apparently, is a site maintained by hardcore fans of Moleskine notebooks who like to talk about Moleskine notebooks not just on the mother Web site but also on an adjunct Facebook site.  Seriously; I'm not making that up.  Who would make up something like that?

It was through's Facebook page that I became acquainted (sort of) with Derek Beyer, who hails from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and is currently studying at Temple University.  Derek had this to say about the Sharpie Pen (emphasis mine, and comments in brackets):

I use Sharpie Pens because lefties suffer from a discriminating pen market. [Amen, brother boyfriend.]  But Sharpie Pens don't smear and you have consistent ink flow [duly noted], which is a problem for lefties because roller ball pens are designed to be pulled, not pressed across the paper. I seem to have adopted most of the good habits for lefties somehow, but it can still be a hassle.

As God is my witness, Derek, I never understood why me and roller ball pens didn't get along, until you distilled the answer down to thirteen simple words.  Other people pull pens; I press them.  I have different pen needs, and roller ball pens are incompatible with those needs.  In other words, the problem lies not with me but with a material design flaw.

Derek, I feel so at peace with my left-handedness now.  And I'm delighted to hear that you, too, find joy in the Sharpie Pen.  May your Sharpie Pen (or pens, because - although great pens, with consistent ink flow - they do eventually run out, so realistically you are going to go through several of them between now and your projected graduation date in 2013) carry you throughout your college career and into whatever awesome post-collegiate life you have ahead of you.  And it will be awesome, because according to your public Facebook profile you are inspired by Carl Sagan and Tony Stark (the Robert Downey, Jr., version) and you enjoy watching "Everything's Sunny in Philadelphia."  All of these are "Good Things" (to quote The Martha) and speak well of your character and intelligence. 

Almost as well as your choice of pen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Subversive Cross-Stitch

I found the source of the Batman cross-stitch sampler! Steotch (rhymes with "beotch") maintains an Etsy site - and a healthy sense of humor. Just in time for Easter:

LUDACRIS! In cross-stitch format! Just in time for Easter! (Because when I think of Easter, I think of baby chicks and the Dirty South. Sort of. Not really.)

The Esty listing for this piece includes the lyrics from Luda's "What's Your Fantasy," adapted to crafting:

I wanna stitch you in the Georgia Dome on the 50-yard line

and my personal favorite:

However you want it lover lover gonna tap that Aida soon

God, I enjoy a great needlework canvas pun. Never heard one until now, but it was well worth the wait. And every time I cross-stitch henceforth, I am quite sure that I will chuckle at the thought that I am "tapping that."

Other canvases feature: Chewbacca wearing a Santa hat, with the message "Happy Life Day" (a reference to the Star Wars Christmas special, woot!); the Serenity Prayer, accompanied by an image of Princess Leia chained to Jabba the Hut; "Bless this House," with an eerily accurate image of Hugh Laurie; and a traditional sampler with Amish-looking farmers, rows of crops and the phrase, "Bros before Hoes."


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Egg Dying Party

I had tentatively blocked off last night for egg dying, and after fielding a series of e-mails from needy people via Blackberry (note to file: stop obsessively checking work e-mails on an around-the-clock basis) I was even more determined to spend some quality time with the fam. Except the fam (initially) had other ideas: the smaller fry was Wii-ing, and the larger fry and the Dad Unit decided that it would be a good idea to go door to door and alert neighbors that cookie dough from the PTA sale would be delivered tomorrow. (I thought that this was a good idea as well, given that the kids sold fifty units of frozen cookie dough, maybe four of which will fit in our freezer. Nana is good for some storage space as well, but, still, that's a LOT of frozen cookie dough.) So P and C left to do their modern-day rendition of Paul Revere's midnight ride ("Yummy perishables are coming! Yummy perishables are coming!"), PJ continued to Wii, and Mom set out to boil two dozen eggs.

I actually remembered to use the method where you put the eggs in the pan first, cover them with cold water, bring the whole thing to a boil and then take the pan off of the heat, cover it and let the eggs sit (and cook in the hot water) for fifteen minutes. It's supposed to give you a less chewy egg, and I can report that the method works (Dad cracked one while we were coloring, so I sampled).

I spent the first minute of the fifteen minutes setting out items of egg decor. This year's egg theme (she says as if this was an every-year thing - truth be told, we get around to decorating eggs about as often as we carve pumpkins, or roughly every third year): insects. I purchased a kit from Target, and I found another kit in the craft closet.

Minutes two and three: I cut down some Solo cups (the ones that keep falling out of the sideboard every time I open the door - time to get rid of 'em) to a manageable height for egg dipping.

Twelve minutes remaining. Hmm - those e-mails were really annoying. And I have an extra Solo cup. Sugar-free margarita time!

Eleven minutes to go. Okay, I'll share some Easter decor photos with the blogosphere:

Egg coddler is one of a pair that my grandparents sent to me from England when I was a teenager.  Love them.  Never use them for egg coddling, though.

Did you spot two Peeps bunnies? Eleven months out of the year, they reside in my office - but, this month, they are chillaxing on the chiffonier.

The Telle Stein bunny bracket stays up year round. It used to be a different color - silver, I think? - but I whitewashed it right around the time that I whitewashed  most of the picture frames in the living room and dining room.

Here is an extreme close-up of another Telle Stein bunny (a big one - two-feet tall):

Another bunny that I own (next to a photo of my father-in-law as an Eagle Scout):

Still more bunnies that I own:

Okay, I'll stop - because eggs are done! And I actually remembered to cool them in a bowl of ice water. Wow, I'm two for two.

Connor (not shown, but also shirtless - didn't ask them to disrobe, but given the fact that dye was involved, didn't ask them to put shirts on, either) measured water into the dye cups, and Parker added vinegar to all of the cups but the pink ones (mental note: Google "why you aren't supposed to add vinegar to the pink dye pellet"; does it blow up, or turn a really grungy shade of greige?). He also added cooking oil (you're supposed to use canola, I think, but I grabbed the olive) to some of the dye cups, because I had read that you could create some interesting marble designs with the addition of some vegetable oil.

I didn't photograph the actual dying, because it got messy and a bit hectic. Dad joined us at that point and figured out the marbleizing thing when none of us could. Photos of his work product in a moment. After the eggs dried, we added wings, antennae, etc.:

Mom made these two kinda girly bugs:

This is a back view of Connor's sort-of dragonfly:

And this is a front view:

Connor also made a spider, complete with compound eyes and mouth parts (repurposed foam sticker antennae).

Parker and I made two sets of twin bugs (fraternal ones, since they are similar yet different).

We decided that Dad's marbled eggs, and some of the prettier speckled ones, didn't need adornment:

Here are some of Dad's best eggs hanging out with a couple of caterpillar dudes (or dudettes). The oil left a little sheen on them, so they photograph sort of glittery (bonus!).

After we took pics, we put the eggs away for future use (I'm making deviled egg potato salad for Easter dinner, so that will take care of several of them). Couldn't resist snapping one more shot of one of the little bug critters poking his head out of the carton.

Then the kids headed off to take baths, and after cleaning up the mess I fired up the computer . . . to resume work on a document for a cranky person. Hello, my name is Kathryn, and I am a codependent.

Guess family egg dying time did the trick, attitude adjustment-wise . . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Origin of Batman as Told by Peeps

Actually, one Peep - a purple one.  Well, I guess three Peeps, if you count Dead Thomas and Martha.

Image courtesy of Buzzfeed:

Eat (and Drink) This: Peep Recipes

As noted in a prior post, I heart Peeps. I think that they are the most delicious of the Easter candies, and apparently I am not alone: Peeps are the #1 nonchocolate Easter candy in the United States, a distinction that they have held for more than a decade. I know this, because I am the proud owner of Peeps!: Recipes and Crafts to Make with Your Favorite Marshmallow Treat, a book by Charity Ferreira with (awesome) photographs by Liz Wolfe. The first recipe was inspired by one from that tome. (Okay, it's not a tome - there's only so much that you can say about Peeps - but did I mention that there's a section on making a "peepinata"? You read that right - it's an egg-shaped pinata with Peeps glued to it. And it's as awesome-looking as that sounds.)

Second recipe was inspired by something that I saw in Phyllis Hoffman's Celebrate magazine (special Easter issue, which features a couple of Peep-themed drinkns, plus a lemon curd cake topped with lemon-yellow Peeps). Her Peeptini uses rum; mine uses vodka. (And her recipe says that you can garnish with a Peep "if desired," whereas mine makes the Peep mandatory. What's a Peeptini without a Peep?)


8 ozs. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 T unsalted butter
6 T sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
6 Peeps chicks
6 Cadbury mini-eggs
Chocolate syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth. (In the alternative, you can melt the chocolate in butter in the microwave on a low setting, stopping occasionally for stirring.) Pour mixture into bowl and whisk in 4 T of sugar and the egg yolks, then whisk in the flour.

Beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the remaining 2 T of sugar in a slow, steady stream while the mixer is still running. Continue beating just until soft peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, repeating two times until all of the egg whites have been used.

Divide the mixture evenly among six jumbo muffin cups. Place a chick in the center of each cup, pressing the chick into the batter so just the head shows. Cut mini-eggs in half and put one egg half on either side of the chick's head.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are puffed up and feel dry to the touch. Let the cakes sit for 5 minutes or so, and then invert out of muffin tins and place on serving plates. Drizzle with chocolate syrup (avoiding the chicks' heads - or, what the heck, drizzle a little on the Peeps, too!) Yield: 6 cakes.


1 1/2 ozs. vodka
1/2 oz. orange liqueur
1 tsp. Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Yellow Peeps chick for garnish

Mix all ingredients except for Peeps chick in cocktail shaker. Shake well, then strain into martini glass. Garnish with Peeps chick. (You can also rim the glasses with yellow sugar ahead of time, for an extra bit of sugary goodness.) Yield: 1 drink.

(To make Simple Syrup, combine equal quantities of cold water and granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, and then turn heat to low, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves completely, approximately 3 minutes. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then pour into a tightly sealed glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kid Stuff: Dad Draws a (Dubious) Line in the Parenting Sand

Driving in the car, heading to Nana and Granddad's, and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" comes on. The kids have heard it. They like it. They also are aware that: (1) the unedited version contains a swear word; (2) the radio edit substitutes "frickin'" for "the other word"; (3) Mom and Dad don't think that "frickin'" is much more appropriate for a child to say than "the other word"; and (4) ditto "freakin'."

Given the totality of the circumstances, I'm okay with letting them listen to the edited version. They're going to hear the song anyway, and when they hear it in the car with me I get to exploit a "teachable moment" or two. Why is substituting a word for a curse word almost as bad as saying the curse word? Because we know what you are thinking when you say the word:  because the substitute word serves as a placeholder for the curse word, it ends up being guilty by association. Why is "freakin'" slightly better than "frickin'"? Can't really articulate a reason, but it just is. But we don't have to use any of those words, because we can hum through the questionable part, lesson being that you don't have to repeat everything that you hear.

Not that I'm planning to queue up Bob Saget's "Aristocrats" when we get home or anything, but my position is that a little exposure to adult or adult-adjacent content is (1) inevitable, (2) not going to kill them (if properly managed by Mom and Dad) and (3) potentially helpful in training them early on to be their own filters/gatekeepers. I speak from experience, because I'm an only child, which means that I was surrounded by adults, and by adult things, perhaps more than some other kids. Try as my parents did to keep me fully insulated, things trickled through. Bits of dirty jokes, questionable images (cringing at the recollection of the anatomically correct - and aroused - plush "horny toad" that someone at my dad's office thought was an appropriate 40th birthday gift to a colleague), etc., etc. I learned to ask questions at appropriate times, putting pins in things that I wasn't ready to learn about at that exact moment, and I learned that you don't repeat words or express concepts that you don't understand.

You also don't repeat things that you DO understand, but that are not appropriate for a child to SAY. Adults get to do things that children aren't allowed to do - swearing included. Double standard? Absolutely. Justifiable double standard? Abso-FREAKIN-lutely. And I'm allowed to say that. On account of the fact that I'm a grown-up. I can swear, and I can vote, and I can operate a motor vehicle. Quite frequently, the latter two make me want to do the former.

My spouse came from a slightly different background. To give you an idea: his parents wouldn't let him watch "M*A*S*H" (the TV version), because it was too risque. (Compare and contrast his parent with my parents, who, after the airing of the fourth episode of "Saturday Night Live" and my fourth faked stomachache and/or bout of insomnia at exactly 10:30 PM, gave up the ghost and let me watch the show with them. Thirty five years later, I can honestly say that my sense of humor, a good bit of my cultural literacy and - actually, factually - my overall level of intellectual development are outgrowths of that "bad parenting decision.")

So Travie starts singing, I don't freak - but Daddy (who is driving) does. He reaches over to change the channel, the kids immediately start to protest, and I ask the question: why is this song, which they have heard numerous times (on the radio, on television, being sung by classmates and others), suddenly such a big deal? Answer: it just IS. Subtext is that he doesn't have the faith that I have in the boys to make correct choices for themselves, nor does he have the patience to correct them when they make wrong choices and encourage their recourse to healthier means of self-expression.

So he proceeds to turn the channel - to a classic rock station. We both recognize the song that is playing at the same time, but our brains process the information differently. Daddy relaxes: Ah, The Who. A classic - and entirely safe. Daddy smiles. Mom also smiles, but for a different reason.

"So, you're going to prove your point about songs that use questionable substitutes for the F word by playing The Who's 'Who Are You'? REALLY?"

(I have GOT to get me a "really" jar.)

Not a Who (or CSI) fan? Took this straight from Wikipedia (well, I put in the asterisks - this is a family blog):

The song is unusual in that it contains two instances of the word "f***" – at 2:16 and 5:43 (at 2:14 and 4:27 in the single edit version) – yet has been played frequently in its entirety on rock radio stations.

To his credit, my spouse immediately gets my point. Also to his credit: he looks appropriately chagrined, and then he laughs. Meanwhile, I'm having one of those rare "game, set, match" moments where the stars have aligned to make my husband look sort of incompetent and me look f***ing brilliant.

Was excessive celebrating involved? H***, yeah, you bet your sweet a** excessive celebrating was involved.

Freakin' A.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Potpourri: Science Fair Update and "The Boy Message"

"They" won first place.  "They" being "the team."  "The team" being "my son."  "My son" being "the kid who said that he didn't want to win Science Fair but only wanted to get an A."

It's always like that, isn't it?  When they want to win, they don't; when they don't care if they win, they do.  Somewhat afraid that Mr. Perceptive will pick up on the recurrent theme - care less, succeed more.  But there's something to be said for retaining one's sense of perspective, keeping things loose and staying out of one's own way. 

Mom could have benefited from that wisdom back in the day.  When I was a kid, I got in my own way - a lot.  A LOT, a lot.  I took myself too seriously and, all too often, was too paralyzed by fear of failure to take care of business.  I no longer blame myself for this, though.  I blame society.

Hey, that's what we're supposed to do in this day and age, right?  Blame the external rather than the internal?  But there's some logic to my reasoning.  Recent studies have identified a phenomenon that rings all too true based on my own childhood experiences:  intelligent girls above a certain age (puberty-plus) have a tendency to reject new experiences and opportunities to learn new skill sets, relative to intelligent boys of the same age.  And here's the theory (which I think is spot-on):  girls are considered perfect until proven otherwise.  Particularly as they ripen to an age where the Four Horsemen of the Irresponsible Teenager Apocalypse (sex, drugs, alcohol and fast cars, in varying combinations) may tempt, the feedback that they get from parents and other adults is, "You're an exceptionally good, bordering on perfect, kid.  Stay that way.  Don't screw up."

That's a lot of pressure on a young girl.

Boys, on the other hand, screw up ALL OF THE TIME.  Screwing up is their default setting.  From an  early age, they break things - in their environment, and occasionally on their physical person.  They don't just break things - they obliterate them.  They don't tend to listen - and when they do listen, they don't always mind.  So here's what they hear (well, when they are listening), pretty much from the get-go:  "You're a generally good, if somewhat flawed, kid.  You're capable of being even better.  Tomorrow is another day."

The result:  boys are more inclined to tackle new challenges from a "nothing ventured, nothing gained" perspective.  What's the worst thing that could happen?  I fall on my face.  Well, that's okay.  I fall on my face a lot.  Literally and figuratively.  Doesn't mean that I shouldn't try.  This could be the time I remain standing.

For a certain type of girl, though - the ones whose necks are bending under the weights of their halos - trying is dangerous.  Because trying could lead to failure - and girls aren't supposed to fail.

I distinctly remember one time in middle school where I fell on my face.  Actually, I fell on my butt - on account of how a boy pulled a chair out from under me.  I liked (as in "LIKED liked") said boy, and thus I was devastated by his cruel treatment, as I thought it signaled disinterest or, worse, disdain.  (With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that the chair thing could have been a come-on.  We are talking about a twelve year-old boy here.)  Also devastating:  the laughter of my classmates, which could have moved me to tears, but instead it moved me to do something else.

I swore.  Out loud.  Something that I NEVER did, because good girls didn't swear.  But I was so overcome with negative emotions that the word (or phrase - I honestly don't remember what I said) just kind of oozed out - and then hung there in space, like it was in a word bubble, and everyone pointed at it, and snickered, because Perfect Kathryn just made a swear.

Fortunately, the teacher recognized this as the anomaly as it was, no one got sent to the office, and, really, all was right with the world.  Except it wasn't.  I was mortified.  Of the "feign illness to avoid going to school the next day" variety of mortification.  I had FALLEN.  On my REAR.  In front of PEOPLE.  Who heard me SWEAR.

They might even think that I'm HUMAN.
Hindsight has given me all kinds of perspective on the incident, to wit:

1.  Not my fault that I fell.  HE pulled out the chair, so shame on him.  Gravity being what it is, I really had no say in the matter.  So, not a personal failure - unless you count susceptibility to gravity a failure (which, as a perfection-obsessed twelve year-old, I might have done).

2.  People laughed.  So what?  Half of them were laughing because they thought it was a funny bit (and, looking at things from a more dispassionate perspective, it WAS a funny bit - classics are classics for a reason).  The others laughed because someone who they deemed as having everything on the ball was demonstrated to be all too human.   Okay, guilty as charged - I am human.  And I never have been, and never will be, perfect.  But if people react to what they perceive as evidence of a chink in some otherwise rock-solid armor, well, that's sort of a compliment, isn't it?  It means that they have been noticing and coveting the armor.  Folks usually don't tear someone down unless they think Someone has something that they want.  And, at the end of the day, it's the others' choice to point fingers and be mean - that's their insecurity showing through.  Doesn't necessarily reflect on the pointee.

3.  Same thing with the swearing.  I slipped up.  Happens to the best of us.  Probably made me more interesting to a lot of people.

Yeah, I can say all of the above, with the benefit of hindsight - and after having lived with boys for a good long while.

Ironic, isn't it?  Girls are, in general, perceived as being paragons of good behavior.  (One of my elementary school teacher friends referred to them as "spacers" - as in, "I have fourteen boys and only eight spacers, so I'm forced to put some of the boys together.")  And as a reward for that behavior - we are given a complex.  Boys get their hair ruffled before they are lovingly pushed back in the direction of the game in progress.

I'm not saying that boys have it perfect.  Read the book "Real Boys" if you want to know how we're doing our male children a disservice.  (How often is the push back into the game not as loving as it could be - and how often is it accompanied with words to the effect of, "Rub some dirt in it, and quit complaining," reinforcing the notion that boys shouldn't demonstrate emotions, or even admit to having them?  If that sounds like a football coach comment, bing, bing, bing - dirt-rubbing advice comes courtesy of the spouse's high school coach.)  But, if you impart it properly, and without gender bias, the Boy Message is, to my mind, the far more positive one. 

I put my own "girl spin" on things, giving Thing 1 and Thing 2 the Boy Message plus the counterpoint to the Girl Message.  You're going to screw up.  When you do, learn from it, and build on it.  If people tease you because you screwed up, take a step back and consider why they are carrying on the way they are.  Do you make fun of them when they screw up?  Well, don't dish it if you can't take it.  Better yet, don't dish it at all.  Just be nice to people.  Accept and appreciate them for the flawed but generally A-OK folks that they are.  More often than not, they will return the favor.  And take ownership of the fact that you, too, are flawed but generally A-OK.  Don't hold yourself out as being better, or being more than you are.  Brattiness breeds brattiness.  And a little self-deprecation never hurt anyone.  But don't take it too far.  When self-deprecation crosses the line into self-teardown territory, it ceases to be disarming and can be just as annoying - and just as pretentious - as tooting one own's horn.  Remember, you are generally A-OK.  It's not cool for anyone to dismiss or discount this fact - and you are included in "anyone." 

Now, it's an unfortunate truth that some people are going to be bratty even if you go to great lengths not to be.  But that's on them.  Take it as a sort of backhanded compliment, and then take a mental walk in their shoes.  If you notice that someone consistently makes fun of you for being smart, they probably think that they are lacking intellectually.  If they tease you about your clothes or shoes, they may think that their wardrobe or footwear doesn't pass muster.  So pay them a compliment (a legitimate one - don't reach).  Notice when they make a good point in class, or when they look particularly sharp.  There's a slight chance that yours may be the push that starts to turn their self-esteem around.  There's an even better chance that your name will come off of the "people to harrass" list.  But, if nothing else, you took the high road - and that, in itself, is a victory.

From this dialog (well, it's more of an instructional series than a dialog - but I am pleased to report that there is minimal eye-rolling, at least at this preteen stage) comes our rather quirky sense of parental expectations.  We don't care if you win or lose the election, as long as you run a clean, issue-based campaign.  We don't care if you score, but we had better not catch you criticizing others for not scoring, and you need to put forth a reasonable amount of effort, because it's not fair to your teammates if you don't try.  They would like to win, so your options are to apply yourself to the task at hand or get out of the way and try another activity on for size.  (Other parents on the soccer sidelines:  "GO, GO, GO!"  Me on the sidelines:  "PAY ATTENTION!")

Hopefully they get something out of my little pep talks-slash-"how to's".  And I certainly have learned a lot from observing boys in the wild.

Field research continues.  I am the proud recipient of a lifetime grant.

Potpourri: Shopping in the Peeps Housewares Department

Innocently shopping for wedding gift for nephew.  Pulled up Bed, Bath & Beyond Web site (remembering to log on through Upromise so that 2% of what I spend goes into a 529 plan for the kids - LOVE when I remember to take that extra step).  And was assaulted with THIS on the BB&B home page:

Really, Lenox China people (and BB&B as agent therefor)?  Like I don't have enough Easter decor as it is, you have to come out with something with a PEEPS MOTIF?  And not just one "something" - you appear to have launched an entire COLLECTION, consisting of multiple "somethings."  Like tealight holders.  Kinda like the tealight holders.  But I really like the salt and pepper shakers, pictured above.  Notwithstanding the fact that I have two sets of perfectly serviceable - fancy, even - Easter-themed salt and pepper shakers (one Arthur Court, the other Fitz & Floyd).

I really like Peeps - real and facsimile.  Four small plush peeps (two chicks and two bunnies) and one giant pillow Peep reside in my office full-time.  Therefore, the idea of Peeps salt and pepper shakers appeals to me.  I would lose the tray, which I really don't like that much.  The bunny and chick stand on their own - literally and figuratively.  And, minus the tray, they might be mistaken for real Peeps.  "Can you pass the salt?  Hey, don't manhandle the Peep - you'll disturb the sugar and get the marshmallow all gooshy.  Oh - the Peep IS the salt."  (I like this scenario better than "I just bit into your Peep and chipped my front tooth.  May I have my dentist send the bill directly to you, or would you prefer to have it sent to your insurer?") 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Down on Mainstreet

[Humming Joe Cocker as I type.]

Main Street Arts Festival opened yesterday, which means that one-half of the attorneys in our office took a long lunch - coincidentally, in the Main Street vicinity - and did a little art shopping "on the way back." (Remember the old Family Circus cartoons, where Billy would meander all over creation to get from Point A to Point B? Yeah, you get the general idea.)

I picked our lunch spot: "Slutty Border Town." AKA "Border Town Brother-Turned-Taqueria." Real name: Ojos Locos. But the other names are more descriptive. Picture a Hooters in Matomoros and you get a general idea of the overall vibe - and waitress dress code.

This is the Ojos Locos logo. Do the O's turned into eyes suggest something else to you? Something . . . . mammarian? Fairly sure that's intentional.

Here's an image from the O.L. Web site, taken during Super Bowl Week, when the temperature hovered around freezing:

These are the winter uniforms. Now that the weather is getting warmer, the servers are basically wearing bras. Nothing over them - just bras. Also apparently part of the dress code: tramp stamp tattoos and braces. For the full-blown Mexican border town brothel vibe.

Why do we go there? They serve really good border tacos and, at Happy Hour (which is actually five very happy hours strung together), extremely cheap and cold beer. As in, "$12.95 for 100 ounces of domestic cheap and cold beer."

We had a Slutty Border Town newbie with us on Thursday - one prone to being situationally scandalized. We had warned her about the uniforms, but apparently she didn't believe us that they were THAT blatantly slutty. Her reaction was priceless - I think the phrase "Holy-f***ing-moly" was involved?

But then they sat us in the front, by the big garage-style doors that had been cranked open to let in a delightful cross-breeze. Not enough open-air dining for our tastes downtown, so this won a point. An additional (and sizable) point was won when the server OFFERED WITHOUT BEING PROMPTED to bring out a glass of ice so that we could continuously chill our tea. Warm tea is a personal sticking point with my coworker, and, normally, she has to ask for additional ice. She was stunned that the server understood this concept on her own - even more so because said waitress looked to be about nineteen and was dressed like Lolita from Tampico. (Actually, her name tag identified her as being from Guatemala.) Further points were racked up (small - or large - boob pun intended) when (1) the tacos came out, delicious as always, and (2) Miss Guatemala offered us roadie cups at the completion of our meal.

I think that Slutty Border Town may have itself another convert.

Then we walked around the festival, and I have to say I was impressed. In too many years past, the festival has been marked by pretention and "Are you kidding me?" pricing. This year, the art was accessible, both in terms of subject matter and feel and in terms of cost. Lots of prints to be had for reasonable dollars, and a lot of the original works were reasonably priced as well.

One booth caught my eye because of the Superman-themed still life at the front of the print rack (featuring a comic book and various kids' toys). Where Superman is, Wonder Woman and Batman cannot be far behind. Sure enough, there was one of each. I was particularly fond of the Batman one, featuring a Batman comic, a bottle of Coke, a loaf of Wonder Bread, peanut butter and jelly. God, I loved Wonder Bread - and when we first moved to Texas from California, I was devastated to learn that Houston grocery stores (at least back then) didn't carry the brand. Everyone in H-Town was CRAAAAAAAZY for Mrs. Bairds. Perfectly fine-tasting stuff, but where were the Garbage Pail stickers and sci fi movie trading cards? My parents received the full brunt of my six year-old wrath. It was bad enough to cut me off from Granny Goose potato chips and Otter Pops, but you had to derail the bread bag prize gravy train on top of everything else?

I continued to flip through the prints . . . and heard a gasp from my (male) coworker, because there, right behind Wonder Woman, was The Dude. And, behind The Dude, "the other guy from 'Big Lebowski' who is not The Dude, as portrayed by John Goodman." Confession: I've seen the movie, but I'm not a huge fan. However, my coworker is. No doubt he knows all of the characters' names. And The Dude had actually come up in conversation during Slutty Border Town lunch.

And suddenly, miraculously, there he was.

The artist helpfully supplied the information that there was a two-for-one deal on prints, so if I could just decide whether I wanted Batman or Wonder Woman, Coworker could have his choice of Lebowski icons, at a substantial discount. And, God love him, Coworker ALMOST pulled the trigger on a day-glo image of John Goodman waving a large (cobalt blue) pistol. We discussed placement - it could go in the corner of his office, blocked from plain sight by a bookcase, and exist simply for his enjoyment.

In the end, he decided that he might catch some guff for displaying an image glorifying drug use. That, and he couldn't decide between the two characters.

But there are three more days of the festival. We may be back.

I did purchase a silk-screened image of the iconic sign of a Dallas burger institution. Reason: I represent the landlord of said burger institution, and the negotiation of the latest lease for that space was - ahem - memorable. And long. Bataan Death March long. And Bataan Death March memorable. So I bought two of the silk-screened images and am mailing one to the client.

LOVES me some workday open-air art festival happy fun times . . . .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Handbag Update: THEY'RE AWESOME!

I am now officially a fan of BBOS Private Sale.  Bags arrived today, as promised, and they are gorgeous - and in absolutely pristine condition.  (My coworkers were shocked:  "THOSE are PRE-OWNED?")  Another point in BBOS's favor:  the bags are EXACTLY as pictured.  Online, the bucket bag looked to be a medium tan with a bit of a metallic sheen to it.  In person, the bucket bag is a medium tan with a bit of a metallic sheen to it.  Likewise, the soft leather satchel is exactly the shade of plum that I expected to be.

I'm in the process of gathering up stuff to donate to Double Exposure (Junior League of Fort Worth resale shop) to fulfill my yearly quota - notwithstanding the fact that, as someone with an M last name, I can't turn anything in until the fall if I want to get credit for it.  I threw two handbags on the DE pile, in compliance with the deal that I struck with my spouse years ago (I can continue to indulge my handbag obsession as long as one bag leaves for every one that comes in).  Actually, I threw three on the pile but retrieved a shiny black patent one.  (My rationale:  it has silver hardware.  My other black purses have gold or brass hardware.  Yes, Parnell, if you are reading this, black handbags are EXACTLY like black purses.  You need bunches and bunches of them.  Really, you do.  And, for the record, one of the bags that I am giving away is black - also patent, also with silver hardware - because I concede that one black patent bag with silver hardware is enough.  Probably.  They are different styles.  So I could actually justify both of them.  But I digress.)

As these things tend to play out, one minute, I was sorting through handbags, and the next minute I had moved into Connor's room and begun cleaning out the smaller of his two closets (which is devoted 60% to kid stuff and 40% to housewares).  I had a reason for going in there, I think, but the long and the short of it is that I selected five, count 'em, FIVE throw pillows to go to DE.  Including a really nice needlepoint one that I absolutely love - but it doesn't match my colors anymore.  Spouse, if you are reading this, I AM GIVING AWAY FIVE, COUNT 'EM, FIVE THROW PILLOWS.  I think that this entitles me to a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, and not just any card, but a PUNCH card that will get me out of jail, for various retail offenses, multiple times. 

I got most of the boys' clothes flipped (fall/winter to the back and into storage boxes, short-sleeved tees and shorts to the front) - just a little more to do.  I quit when I found myself getting jumpy.  Not punchy - JUMPY.  We're in the process of moving things around Connor's room to make space for some grown-up wall art and shelf display items.  The shelf items include a turtle shell and two specimen boxes filled with giant beetles and moths, both from my mother the biologist.  I knew that the glass-topped boxes of ginormous bugs were in there, but that didn't stop me from jumping three feet into the air when I looked down and a posse of roachlike critters stared up at me.  Five minutes later, I was up on a ladder putting Connor's Darth Vader helmet on Build-A-Bear Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and adding a tam-o-shanter to his big stuffed triceratops (hey, the hats need to be displayed somehow - and somewhere OTHER than on the floor, which was doing them no favors) when I happened to look down - and saw a REAL roach on top of his armoire.  Or I thought it was real.  I think that I jumped backwards off of the ladder.  Called for the spouse (yes, I'm a girl - the thing was on its back and appeared to be deceased, but no way I was retrieving it) and was irritated to learn that (1) it was a throw-down rubber roach and (2) my spouse KNEW that there was a throw-down rubber roach up there.  Wonder which of my "boys" thought it was a good idea to set a trap for Mom.  Whichever one it was, he did an artful job of arranging it - damn him. 

Fun on the Interwebs: After-Midnight Handbag Shopping

I purchased two bags from BBOS Private Sale ( Friday night. Actually, it was late Saturday morning. I know this because my credit card company saw fit to make me call in to verify the purchase. God's honest truth, the entire reason that they found my purchase suspicious was that it was consummated after midnight. Dear Credit Cards R Us (name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent), while I appreciate you having my back and all, this is seriously getting old. And if you're going to be THAT reactionary, you need to take the time to get to know my sleeping/shopping schedule.

I briefly flirted with buying a vintage bag from another site, but I chickened out, because it's tough to tell if you're getting the genuine article or a knock-off. The benefit to BBOS (adjunct to the Bag, Borrow or Steal program, which allows you to rent bags, a la Carrie Bradshaw) is that you know that the bag is genuine, you know that it's gently used (they won't sell anything below "excellent used condition") and they refurbish the bags as needed. In fact (as I learned as I surfed their site, AFTER MIDNIGHT - are you reading this, Credit Cards R Us? You probably are, given that you and the other big credit card companies are all Big Brother-ish), they have a separate refurbishing service, which will accept your old bags and return them to you in like-new condition.

Long story short, I am awaiting the UPS man's delivery of this highly versatile tan Francesco Biasia bucket bag:

and this not-so-versatile (but sort-of-versatile in purple-passionate Fort Worth, Texas, home of the Horned Frogs) Cole Haan mega-bag:

I say mega-bag because it's something like 18 inches long. It's a suitcase, basically. And I'm okay with that. Trust me, I'll fill it up.

Got each of them for 67% off of retail.

Dilemma is that I now have $10 in credits, but I can only apply those to RENT a bag. Never been tempted to rent a bag before, but might consider trying it out once.

Big Brother over at Credit Cards R Us no doubt will have an aneurysm over the notion of me RENTING a purse with a credit card. Particularly if I complete the transaction after midnight.

Suddenly, the idea of renting a purse seems more appealing . . . .

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Happy My Birthday

Enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner with the fam on Friday:

Tiny tulip bouquet was a "thanks for having me" gift to my mom. Menu included a Southwestern pimiento cheese spread appetizer, poppyseed chicken, cranberry nut salad with raspberry basil vinaigrette and Parmesan pull-apart bread. Gotta love the take-out case at Feastivities.

The kids had their own table:

Parnell went with the April "cake of the month" from Nothing Bundt Cakes - chocolate turtle. Yum. But I didn't really care about taste - just the pink peony.

The small fry decorated the beverage table (beverage selections included "tea" and "also tea"):

Thanks for having me, Mom!

Girly-wrapped boxes:

Containing some not-so-girly gifts:

And a couple of girlier ones:

Not pictured: some really nifty cupcake wrappers and liners. I predict that there will be some baking in my future. And I predict that I will be doing that baking in one of a variety of hipster tees.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eat This: Carrot Cake Balls (Second in a Spherical Series)

Refer to last week's recipe, but use carrot cake mix, cream cheese icing and vanilla "almond bark" (which, for the uninitiated has nothing to do with almonds). And then shape 'em like eggs. Decorate 'em like eggs, too.

Or shape them like carrots! You could buy orange candy melts to use as the coating, or you could dye vanilla bark orange (but forewarned is fair-warned: gel colorings may not do the trick, so consider investing in some oil-based food coloring).

Applying the KISS principle, I might suggest using plain ol' vanilla coating and then melting the orange stuff (buy it, pre-colored, in bags on the candy-making aisle of your craft store) and drizzling it over the vanilla to create an orange effect. Then you could pipe some green icing for leaves at the top?

Oh, and for your viewing pleasure, here is some lemon cake ball food porn:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kid Stuff: Scientific Method

By the time your child is in fifth grade, Science Fair is "been there, done that" territory. The first go-round, you're concerned about intermediate deadlines, etc.; the last go-round, you're happy if the project, and the fifth-grader, are both put to bed by 9:15.

When the weekend before the Science Fair coincides with your birthday weekend, you become even more lax, because - are we being totally candid here? - you don't want some ridiculous project to get in the way of your birthday fun. And, sorry, but I do find it ridiculous that Science Fair has gotten pushed to elementary school. It's possible that we did S.F. in elementary, but we did demonstration projects. You know, beans from seeds, baking soda volcano. These days, demonstration projects are verboten in fifth grade. You must conduct an actual experiment - with two, count 'em TWO, variables.

In related news, the kindergartener's take-home folder this week contained:

1. A drawing of Parker's interpretation of what the Very Hungry Caterpillar might like to eat. This being PARKER's interpretation, the V.H.C.'s diet consisted of a lollipop, a strawberry, an ice cream cone, a cookie, and what appears to be a slice of Black Forest cake with a cherry on top of it. In other word, what Parker's diet would be if he was left to his own devices. Hey - at least he included a strawberry.

Cute - and grade level-appropriate.

2. A drawing of a cross-section of a specimen bottle containing (he labeled them) layers of "water," "clay," "silt," "fine sand" and "coarse sand." Next to the drawing, in Parker's handwriting, is the notation, "Matter will float on top of water." Also something that looks like the word "organic."

What the what? Seriously, what do kids do when they get to middle school?

I guess we're about to find out.

So here's how Science Fair weekend went down. Disclaimer: Connor did pick his basic topic (demonstration with a crude vortex ring generator of how air resistance turns a mass of air into a ring which is given rotation, resulting in a tornado) plenty early. Also, prior to hitting the 48-hour mark, he had: researched possible "angles" for his project; arrived at his hypotheses (after selecting his two, count 'em TWO, variables); determined the best method for constructing his air cannon and submitted a supply list to his dad; attempted to get together with his "team" to conduct the actual experiment; and attempted to schedule a second get-together when no one showed up at the park on Thursday (the park being selected because, evidently, A's parents would only let him go to the park within spitting distance from their home). I use "team" in quotes, because - well, we'll get to that.

So, with no further ado, the weekend breakdown (or, I should say, "procedure," because we have to use proper S.F. terminology, don't we?):

1. Wake up ridiculously early for the members' only preview of the animatronic dinosaur exhibit at the Fort Worth Zoo. (Definitely worth a trip. The exhibit features only dinosaurs that were native to Texas. Also, someone clever and subversive oriented one of the dinos to straddle an unused section of the Zoo train track. This made me smile.)

2. Leave Zoo for Parker's soccer game. Discover that Parker, after putting on his soccer socks, shin guards and cleats and then taking off his soccer socks, shin guards and cleats when he remembered that we weren't going straight to the soccer field, made it into the car with shin guards and cleats but not soccer socks. (Why he decided that he could not wear his soccer socks with his tennis shoes surpasses understanding.) Draw short straw (because Dad had to coach) and drive to the Benbrook Wal-Mart to purchase superfluous soccer socks. Score cute Wonder Woman tote on way to checkout stand (it was on an end cap, and I made it back with the socks in plenty of time, so don't judge).

3. Rush home so that older child can hook up with his S.F. "team." Hear spouse remark, "Huh - what's TCS OFF?" as the car pulls into the driveway. Hypothesize that TCS stands for traction control system. Retrieve driver's manual from glove compartment and confirm that "TCS OFF" means the traction control system is malfunctioning and that malfunction is probably related to the "slip" light coming on when it shouldn't. Curse a blue streak, because "slip" issue was mentioned to the dealership when car was brought in for investigation of suspicious burning smell. Burning smell was written off (by dealership) as "something plastic that got stuck to your engine block and is burning off slowly." Stop cursing and, for one second, transition into smugness - of the "I was right, and the dealership was wrong, and I'm a girl and they are boys, so HA!" variety. Then drop smug act upon realizing that dealership gets the last laugh, because they had the car for several days, didn't fix the problem, and now the car has to go back in again. Resume cursing.

4. Twenty minutes later, begin to doubt the existence and/or overall level of commitment of the "team" when no one shows. Grill older child about circumstances behind formation of "team": did someone bully him into doing the project for them? Are his friends just lazy? Are their parents clueless? Did Connor tell them that their assistance wasn't needed? (That last one remains a distinct possibility.) Threaten to expose teammates to science teacher. Suffer through wailing and gnashing of teeth from fifth grader who, apparently, is a quite loyal friend. Drop subject - for now.

5. Turn wrath on spouse (as convenient substitute for Nissan repair department manager, shiftless classmates of fifth grader and/or clueless parents of shiftless classmates). The show must go on, and the dry ice (smoke from which you need in order to actually see a funnel form) isn't going to purchase itself. We're burning daylight - particularly because we have plans for the evening, plans which involve shipping the children off to Grandma's for a sleepover.

6. Attempt to weasel way out of the actual "experimenting." Watching my husband and son conduct experiments makes me squeamish. They have yet to conduct one that doesn't involve fire, or dry ice, or something that could cause physical harm. And the way that they handle said materials - like I said, SQUEAMISH. I'd rather retreat one room away and wait for the screams of pain and request for chauffeur service to the emergency room.

I'm much better at gluing title strips to the backboard.

However, Dad and Son had a little trouble getting the smoke from the dry ice funneled into the air cannon.

Dad ended up having to hold the saucepan filled with water and dry ice while Son held the air cannon, meaning Mom had to take the pictures. Of course, we did this indoors - Dad said, for atmospheric reasons, but I think it was all just designed to MAKE ME SQUEAMISH.

We did see smoke rings, though, which we expected, along with actual rotation, which the research said we shouldn't expect. In case you're curious: the lightest tap on the diaphagm at one end of the bucket (said diaphragm being constructed out of a shower cap and duct tape - it's a boy project, so you have to have duct tape) creates a powerful burst of air (seriously, you can feel it across the room) that comes out as a sphere. The air resistance on the edges of the sphere are stronger than the resistance in the middle, so the edges are forced towards the middle, creating a donut shape or torus.

Never let it be said that this blog isn't educational.

7. Oversee eleven year-old's preparation of the text for all of his backboard sections, save for the chart summarizing his results and the "conclusions" section. Send photos of experiment to Super Target, via Shutterfly, while he works.

8. Ship children to Grandma's with multiple changes of clothing (in case they hike down to the river and/or accompany her to church). Request that spouse leave his car at his mom's and return with the ranch truck - oh, and if he wants to stop and pick up potting soil, organic mulch and cottonseed meal while he is in said truck, he can consider it part of my birthday. (He also sprung for mulch.)

9. Attend "adults-only" night at Museum of Science and History with spouse and Friend Robyn, consume adult beverages, photograph spouse sitting in a dinosaur footprint holding an adult beverage, and chuckle at the accidental porn in the petroleum drilling wing (bottom right image below).

I have always wanted to go to one of the adults-only shindigs, and this one did not disappoint. The lawyer in me has always wanted to know if patrons are permitted to drink and then ride the "stand-and-spin" thing (upper right corner above). Answer (as shown in upper right corner above): yes. Wondering what kind of insurance rider they get - and whether the janitorial staff has buckets of sawdust on standby, in case there's throw-up.

10. Ponder the irony when the Mister Wizard dude (pictured below making mass quantities of green foamy stuff) casually mentions that the best way to generate smoke from dry ice is to drop a small chunk of the stuff into a bottle of drinking water. Yup, just drop a small chunk into your Ozarka, and the smoke comes POURING OUT, and if you want to funnel the smoke into a confined area - say, LIKE A FIFTH-GRADER'S HOMEMADE AIR CANNON - you simply point the bottle towards the target area, and you've created a smoke chamber with pinpoint accuracy.

Not shown: me asking Mister Wizard, "Where the hell were you five hours ago?"

11. Eat sushi. Really yummy sushi. Washed down with sake.

12. Enjoy a child-free evening, and a child-free morning. Sleep in, skip church, and shop the local plant store with just the spouse in tow. Score an amazing ceramic pot for the herb garden for $6.99. (The next size up was marked at $49.99, so 99.9% sure that the one I got was a mismark. But they sold it to me for that price without batting an eye, so, yay, the birthday celebration continues. Mismarked pot not shown here - these are old ones, plus the rose pot - with rose bush - that I got from Mom and Dad for my birthday.)

13. Spend four hours pruning, amending soil and planting in the front yard. (I'm particularly proud of the amending. I almost never take the time to do that. Took all of the old soil out of my pots, sprinkled in those water-absorbent crystals near the bottom, mixed the old soil with compost and new potting soil, re-filled the pots, planted, and then worked in cottonseed meal and finished with some compost tea. Did the same thing in the flower beds.)

14. Start to wonder when the spouse might be returning from the ranch with the kids. Become aware of the fact that it is almost 4 pm. On Sunday. Being the day before the S.F. project is due. Oh, and we have dinner plans at 5:30.

15. Take a shower while the now-present eleven year-old shouts questions about scientific method through the shower curtain.

16. Arrive at Chuy's to secure table while spouse and eleven year-old drive across the street to retrieve Shutterfly photos. Enjoy birthday dinner with good friends Larry, Melanie and L.G. Visit the Trinity Park duck pond after dinner.

By now, it's after 7.

17. Admire new Peeps-themed Chuy's tee while S.F. child completes conclusion section.

18. Nudge "Max Backboard" off of the bed that has been designated for project assembly.

19. Enjoy a slice of birthday cheesecake (courtesy of brother- and sister-in-law - and the pastry chef at Central Market) while S.F. glues data to the now Max-free backboard.

20. Pat self on back when S.F. child - showered, teeth brushed, pajamas on - finishes backboard and heads off to bed by 9:17 - just a couple of minutes off-target.