Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Pinterest

As you might have pieced together by now, I'm kind of having a love affair with Pinterest.  It's such a genius concept:  you create virtual pinboards covering categories of interest (recipes, home decorating ideas, whatever), you install the "Pin It" tool on your toolbar, and as you find things that you like on the Internet - a great recipe, or a book that interests you, or the perfect lamp for your bedside table - you click on the "Pin It" icon and pin the item to the appropriate pinboard.  You can also save photos to your hard drive and then upload them to Pinterest, but benefit to using the "Pin It" tool is that it saves a link to where the item exists on the Internet.  Thus, if you are in the market for a rug for your den, and you see a rug that you like on the Pottery Barn Web site and pin it to a board, when you want to show that rug to your husband you just go to that board, click on that item, and SHAZAM - Pinterest takes you to that page on the Pottery Barn site.

Writing down URLs is a thing of the past.  As is creating pinboard with Paint and other programs.

A few tips:

1)  You have to be invited to join Pinterest - but don't consider this an obstacle.  Notwithstanding the fact that I will totally invite you if you ask, I think that there's also a button to click to request an invite.

2)  The site tells you that Pinterest is more compatible with Firefox than Microsoft Explorer.  This is true.  Sort of.  The "Pin It" feature definitely works better when I am using Firefox.  However, for some inexplicable reason, when I try to create a new board in Firefox, I cannot do so:  there is an "Add a Board" menu option, but it's not a live link.  It just sits there, un-highlightable and aloof, and mocks me.  Thus, if I am browsing in Firefox and see an item that merits a new board, I have to open Explorer, then open Pinterest, then create a new board, and then go back to Firefox.  Kind of annoying.  But not enough to stop me from pinning.

3)  Occasionally, I will experience delays between when I create a board and when it shows up on my drop-down menu of board I maintain.  Not sure if this is due to my Firefox/Explorer issues or not.  I do think that Pinterest's popularity has outstripped its server capacity, because at peak times (early evenings, mostly) when I try to pin something I will often get a "we're at capacity, try back soon" message.

Give Pinterest a try.  I'm still experimenting with the site myself - like, I know that a big part of the appeal of the site is that you can search other people's pinboards and repin their finds to your board.  However, I haven't had time to play with that feature, because I'm too busy pinning stuff directly from the Internet.  And creating new boards.  Lots and lots of new boards.  Wondering if there is a limit on how many boards you can maintain?

If there is a limit, I predict that I will get there - at the rate that I am going, by some time next week.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Fourth of July Pinterest Board

I have pinned a bunch of Fourth of July party ideas here (and by "here," I mean "there is a link to a Pinterest board if you click on the word 'here,' but you have to take my word for it, because Blogger is not at all user-friendly when it comes to linking, and so you have to roll over a word on the screen in order to see the hotlink, grr"). 

I'm totally ripping off the mini-ice-cream-sandwich-on-a-popsicle-stick idea for a party this weekend.  I also thought about simplifying the rocket party cracker idea by wrapping cardboard tubes with scrapbook paper and adding fuses out of string.  You know, to make firecrackers?  But then I realized that a cardboard tube with a string might look a whole lot like a certain popular type of feminine hygiene product.  So I shelved the party cracker idea.

Good save, huh?

Hope that you find something useful for your Independence Day celebration.  And if you happen to be at Ridglea Country Club on the fourth, and you notice that someone has trimmed all of the tennis nets with patriotic ribbon, a la the Martha Stewart badminton net idea . . .

. . . I had nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eat This: Pioneer Woman's Knock You Naked Brownies (Lazy Girl Variation)


So, last week for Keno, I made Pioneer Woman's Knock You Naked Brownies.  You can access the recipe here.  I can report that they are, in fact, knock-you-naked good.

I did not use whole caramels like she did, because I was too lazy to unwrap all of those caramels.  Instead, I used Brach's caramel bits, which you should be able to find at your local grocer's, stocked somewhere near the chocolate chips, marshmallows, nuts and other baking mix-ins.  I ballparked the amount of caramel bits.  I also was too lazy to get out my double boiler, so I microwaved the caramel bits and evaporated milk (again, ballparking - after I took the bowl out of the micro and stirred for awhile, the mixture looked too runny so I threw in a few more bits and kept stirring).  Tip to microwaving caramel:  like chocolate chips, you need to take them out of the micro while they are still somewhat firm and distinct and not all of the way melted.  Then you stir and stir and stir and let the residual heat do its thing.

I also used chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips.  Okay, truth be told, I bought the chocolate chips at store #1 and then I remembered that I had to go to store #2, and it's summertime in Texas, so by the time I got home the chocolate chips had melted together a little bit, thus creating chocolate chunks.  Believe me when I tell you that this was a happy accident.  A thin layer of chocolate goodness would have been great, but big chunks of chocolate goodness was even better.

Finally (completing the laziness hat trick), I did not roll out the top layer of brownie batter like Pioneer Woman did.  Nope.  I just threw large globs of batter on top of the caramel and chocolate mess, leaving slight spaces in between the globs.  As a result, you had little ribbons of caramel and stuff running through the top surface of the finished product.  Kind of pretty.  So pretty that I decided not to top them with powdered sugar.

Primarily because I was too lazy to get out the sifter.

This is a tough recipe to screw up, people.  Case in point:  when I mixed together the batter the first time, I omitted the butter.  (This is what happens when you make brownies in your kitchen while simultaneously watching the Miss USA pageant in your den.)  After I spread the batter in the pan the first time, I realized that something was missing.  Fortunately, it was a silicone pan, so I just scooped out the glop, threw it back in the mixing bowl, added the butter and went from there.

TOUGH recipe to screw up.  Even if you are incredibly lazy - and distracted by tall women with blindingly white teeth and shiny hair.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kid Stuff: Before I Had Children (#3 in a Series)

Until the other day, I would have told you that the pinnacle of my boy-rearing career was when I admonished one of my boy children, during dinner at Buffalo Brothers, not to pants his brother in a restaurant - subtext being that pants-ing was somehow appropriate in a variety of other contexts.  (For the record:  they could have stripped bare-arsed naked, and the most they would have gotten out of our fellow diners would have been an appreciative chuckle or a knowing wink.  There were two other tables of patrons that night, both large parties and both entirely male- a table of teenaged boys from Paschal High School and a table of Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers.  There are a lot of Kappa Sigs in the family - both sides - and it's entirely possible that the boys will end up at Paschal.  I told my spouse that eating in that restaurant on that particular day was like watching my future parenting life flash before my eyes.)

Anyway, here's the current front-runner for "best phrase that I never uttered before I had boy children":

Parker, put down the gun and finish your fish.

I could provide you with the back story, but that would take away from the awesomeness of the phrase.  Which, I think, stands well on its own.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Poaching the Perimeter: Bath Pouf Topiary

As you may know, I am a proponent of Better Living Through Super Target.  Although I do it far less frequently these days (due to time shortages and a recent - but no doubt fleeting - revulsion to clutter), I do enjoy perusing the perimeter of my local ST for end-cap clearance bargains, always beginning my excursion with a cruise through the Dollar Spot.

I've decided to start sharing the "best of" Target perimeter items - both my personal finds and the finds of others.  Today's selection is from Greenbean's Crafterole blog.


It's a bath pouf topiary, and the stuff topping off the bucket is bath confetti.  Everything (with the possible exception of the dowel, and possibly the ribbon - although sometimes you can get ribbon at the Dollar Spot) is DS merchandise.

Click here for a link to the instructions.  In lieu of the butterfly, you could hot-glue a bulldog clip to the front, or even a cute binder clip.  (Yes, there is such a thing as a "cute" binder clip.  I picked up some adorable brown-and-blue polka dot ones on clearance at Wal-Mart.  Yes, I occasionally go to Wal-Mart.  PLEASE DON'T LET TARGET KNOW THAT I OCCASIONALLY CHEAT ON IT WITH WAL-MART, OKAY?  Thanks.  Let's continue.)  Then you could use the topiary as a means of "packaging" a gift of a spa or manicure gift certificate - great for a girlfriend or teacher gift.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Potpourri: My Superheroine Identity

I have figured out my superheroine identity.  I am Traffic Rule Compliance Girl.  (Okay, so it's not the catchiest of monikers, but, having just figured out what my gig is, I haven't had much time to think about branding.) 

Batman has Gotham, Superman has Metropolis, and Traffic Rule Compliance Girl has the southern I-30 access road west of Montgomery Street.  (Wait, it's trendy to come up with acronyms for these things - SOIACROWEMOST?  Doesn't quite have the ring that SoHo does, but SOIACROWEMOST it shall be for purposes of this post.) 

Also:  the Cherry Street entrance into downtown Fort Worth.

Here's the thing about SOAICROWEMOST - there's a Whataburger on your right as you exit off of I-30, except the Whataburger is EXACTLY PARALLEL to the point of intersection of the exit ramp and the access road, if not a little bit BEHIND it.  Thus, proper protocol would be to exit the freeway, get into the far right lane of the access road, turn right onto Montgomery, make another immediate right (there's a Shell station on the corner, and basically you're hugging the Shell station), and then turn into the back of the Whataburger one block past Shell.  Except this is not what most numnuts do.  Because logic and safety are anathema to numnuts. 

Here is what numnuts do:  (1)  See Whataburger off to their right.  (2)  Think, "Hey, I could use some Whataburger right about now."  (3) Abruptly exit the freeway.  (4) Realize that Whataburger is RIGHT THERE.  (5) Cut across three lanes of access road traffic, driving PERPENDICULAR to the flow of cars on the access road.  Sports fans:  picture a lateral pass in football.  Now instead of a ball, picture a car going fifty miles an hour, barreling towards your driver's side door as you approach the Montgomery Street intersection.  If the driver hesitated a little too long before "exiting," then in order to acquire his Whataburger target he (sorry, but it's usually a he) will have to double-back a bit, so instead of cutting directly across the access road he may decide to drive JUST A LITTLE BIT directly into the flow of oncoming traffic.

I am one of the cars going east on the access road, approaching said intersection.  And I hate the Whataburger Frogger people.  I hate them to such an extent that I have made a science out of thwarting their efforts to cut directly across the access road, except not directly across the road but really SLIGHTLY INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC (can you tell that this ticks me off?).  It's complicated, but I have perfected the means of using my own personal vehicle to thwart their direct Whataburger access and force them to make the block.  No, I'm not an idiot - I don't take on all comers, but if we're talking about a compact car versus a giant truck, and their speed and angle of trajectory are just right, and my car is within a certain zone when they exit, I can - and do - keep them honest.

Then I get on the freeway, drive the mile (if that) to the Cherry Street exit, and the fun begins anew.  The Cherry Street exit is elevated and also somewhat blind - if you don't drive it every day, you might not know that there is a city garage on your right, at the base of the elevated section of road.  A city garage where police cars and motorcycles go to fuel up.  A city garage with a notch cut out of the side, just big enough for a cop to park his motorcycle and stand with his radar gun pointed up the ramp.  Thus, you had best take the 30 mile-an-hour sign that is located at the ramp's midway point pretty darn seriously, because a couple of times a month there's a speed trap waiting for you on the other side.

I take the sign VERY SERIOUSLY.  No, I haven't gotten a ticket - but my neighbor did, and it wasn't pretty.  And, given that I take the Cherry Street exit six days a week (Monday through Friday and Sunday for church), I am aware of just how often the speed trap is in place.

So I start slowing down well before the sign.  And people get mad at me.  Half of the time they are already tailgating me when I am driving the 45 mile-per-hour speed limit that is posted for the first half of the ramp, so when I start to slow down to 30, they are practically in my backseat (always a fun proposition when you are on an elevated ramp).  I am strongly considering having a professionally-lettered, waterproof sign made that I can hold out of my driver's side window:  "DUMB BUTT:  There is a better-than-average chance that a cop is waiting for us at the bottom of this ramp.  I'm doing you a favor, so get the heck off of my tail."

The urge to speed just to keep them off of my bumper is tempting - but I soldier on.  And, once or twice a month, I get my payoff:  Dumb Butt whips around me on my left, pulls back in front of me . . . and gets busted by Mr. Police Officer.  It is all I can do not to honk and wave as I toodle on past at 30 MPH.  Instead, I do a little victory shimmy in my seat - only from the ribcage down, so Mr. Police Officer won't see me and penalize me for excessive celebration.  (Can they do that?)

Other times, I get the satisfaction of looking in my rearview mirror and catching the sheepish expression of the dude behind me who was previously cussing me out and now realizes that, by forcing him to slow down, I just saved his sorry behind.  You're welcome, Citizen of Fort Worth.  Tell your friends all about Traffic Rule Compliance Girl, guardian of SOIACROWEMOST and the Cherry Street exit ramp.

Really, the gig suits me.  I'm kind of a nerd about traffic stuff.  As in, I will sit at an intersection and refuse to move if I don't have the right-of-way.  I will wave frantically at the person who does have the right-of-way, mouthing "It's your turn, IT'S YOUR TURN" until they get a clue and get off of dead-center.  (My husband points out that half of the time, I actually do have the right-of-way, but in my defense I would respond that (1) it's been a lot of years since I took the DPS written exam and (2) I AM TRAFFIC RULE COMPLIANCE GIRL, and I WILL NOT BE CHALLENGED.  If I say you have the right-of-way, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT-OF-WAY.)

Lately, I have started using my left turn signal on the Cherry Street exit ramp.  See, the exit is Cherry Street/Lancaster Avenue, and initially it's two lanes, but then the right-hand lane forks, and you can proceed essentially straight to exit Lancaster, or veer to the left to go to Cherry.  NO ONE SIGNALS IN THIS LANE - but it occurs to me that they should, and so now I do.  I may not remember all of the rules about rights-of-way, but I know from signaling on an exit ramp, because . . . I am a University of Texas football fan.  And, as a UT football fan, I am aware that, a few years prior, some of our dumb-butt, numnut baby football players were busted for marijuana possession during a traffic stop.  The cop had stopped them for failing to signal as they exited the freeway.  The defense attorney (no doubt a UT alum) argued that there was no basis for the traffic stop, because under Texas law you do not have to signal if you are in a dedicated turn lane.  They were in a dedicated turn lane, so therefore no signal was required, so therefore the traffic stop was unlawful, so therefore any search of their vehicle relating to the unlawful traffic stop was also unlawful, so therefore the pot in the car was inadmissible.  The judge (no doubt also an alum) agreed, and the charges were thrown out.

I call this the "Redshirt Freshman Rule."  And, under the Redshirt Freshman Rule, because the right-hand lane of the Cherry Street/Lancaster Avenue exit ramp is not a dedicated lane, I should signal.  As should we all.

If I'm wrong, don't you dare tell me.  I am Traffic Rule Compliance Girl, and I will not be challenged.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Things I'm Digging: The Bloggess

Friend Melissa forwarded a link to The Bloggess' blog site. Roll over this sentence for the link - find it?  You're welcome.  Now check out her June 21st post about a five-foot metal chicken named Beyonce.

Awesome.  Simply awesome.  Hell hath no fury like a woman who has been advised that she is not entitled to buy bath towels.  And I LOVE with a capital L (followed by a capital O, a capital V and a capital E) a woman who exacts her karmic revenge in (purposefully, or not-so-purposefully) whimsical ways.

This post was particularly of interest to me because we will soon be celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  My parents just celebrated their anniversary as well, prompting The Little One to ask:

"What's an anniversary?"

"It's kind of like the birthday of your marriage."

"Oh.  Well, what birthday is your marriage on?"

"Coming up on fifteen."

"Wow.  Your marriage is OLD."

Yes, wise little grasshopper.  In this day and age, fifteen is old indeed. And, apparently, "15 YEARS IS BIG METAL CHICKENS."  Thanks, Bloggess, for solving the dilemma of what to get Parnell for an anniversary present.  Big metal chicken, it is.  Now:  where to procure said chicken?  Anyone headed to Brownsville or Laredo this summer?  Are you heading there in an SUV?  Do you have a sense of humor?  If so, message me.

I am actually kind of surprised that we don't already own a Beyonce, given that we own a Sir Rust-a-Lot.  And, also, The Legs.

Sir Rust-a-Lot is five feet of rusted armorial awesomeness.  He looks to be Spanish - like a dwarf Don Quixote.  I say "he looks to be Spanish" like he's an authentic suit of armor, with a provenance of somewhere other than a Garden Ridge Pottery, but I'm 99.99% sure that he did, in fact, hail from GRP Way.  We acquired Sir Rust-a-Lot from Friend Christi's mom.  Mom Carolyn acquires set pieces, like random suits of armor, for parties and other events.  And then she gives them to me, because she knows that I have similar tendencies - and a very large carriage house.

Sir Rust-a-Lot resided with Uncle Patrick for awhile, in a house near the TCU campus (and, quite possibly, for a short time in an actual fraternity house).  We offered him to Uncle Patrick, because I knew from experience that frat boys like to decorate their residences with suits of armor.  Second best frat-boy house I ever saw had a suit of armor and a life-sized statue of Buddha, flanking a ginormous entertainment system.  Opposite the entertainment system you had a flock of La-Z-Boy recliners.  In the breakfast nook, you had a small pool table in lieu of a dining table, and over that you had one of those stained glass Budweiser lamps where the Clydesdales move on a little track around the lampshade.

There was a foosball table where the kitchen island should have been.

Best frat-boy house I ever saw was an homage to seventies Blaxploitation films and cop dramas everywhere.  As in, the sofa was covered in awful olive green velvet, the shag rug matched the sofa, there were mirrored beer signs on every wall (featuring women with giant Afros), and on top of the walnut-cabineted television you had a VCR with no buttons - only dials.

I like whimsical frat boys almost as much as I like whimsical female bloggers with spousal revenge on their minds.

Sir Rust-a-Lot ultimately was returned to us and now guards the carriage house, when he is not standing in front of the house, holding a bouquet of balloons to direct guests to a knight-themed birthday party.

The Legs are a bit harder to explain.  My husband bought them for me when we were dating, because (1) they were mannequin legs (just legs - well, plus butt and hips - but completely devoid of torso), (2) they were eight dollars (a menswear store was going out of business and selling their fixtures), (3) they were (badly) faux-painted to look like malachite, (4) one hip was jutted out to the side, creating a stance that was jaunty-bordering-on-swishy and (5) in the front you had a smooth, ambiguous Ken Doll Bulge, to create the appearance of an actual "package" when The Legs were wearing clothes.  During the period of our ownership, The Legs only wore boxer shorts.  We bought themed ones - shamrocks for St. Pat's, bunnies for Easter.  For a couple of years in the mid-nineties, The Legs were known to wear red-and-yellow Houston Rockets shorts.

The Legs actually accompanied us to our first married apartment, and then to our current house.  We thought about gluing a serving tray to the flat upper surface, to make The Legs actually functional, but we never got around to it.  Really, the only purpose The Legs served were to scare the bejeepers out of people who entered our casa blissfully unaware of the fact that we owned The Legs.  "You have such a cute place [one thousand one, one thousand two] - OMIGOD, WHO OR WHAT IS STANDING BEHIND THE DOOR TO YOUR ARMOIRE?"  That's where The Legs tended to reside - behind the open door to the TV armoire, and given that The Legs rose up almost to where the door started, I suppose that it was reasonable for folks to think that an entire person was lurking in the corner, with half of their body blocked from view.  Notwithstanding the fact that that body was entirely covered in green and black paint.  The better to blend in with our then-forest green walls, I guess?  The ultimate in sophisticated home invader camouflage.

The Legs are . . . somewhere.  Possibly in the attic.  Or in the carriage house, being gnawed on by squirrels.  I finally mustered the courage to tell my darling spouse that, while The Legs were an incredibly sweet, and well-received, gift, my decorating tastes had sort of evolved past faux-finished dismembered body parts.

But a five-foot metal chicken named Beyonce - now that I could get behind.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Pioneer Woman

Spouse (apropos of absolutely nothing):  "What's a pioneer woman?"

Me:  "WHAT is a pioneer woman, or WHO is THE Pioneer Woman?"

Spouse:  "Um, the latter, I guess."

Me:  "She's a super-cool celebrity o' the blogosphere named Ree Drummond.  She cooks like I cook and parents like I parent, so, naturally, I think she is the bomb diggity.  Why do you ask?"
Spouse:  "Well, I saw her being interviewed on TV, and she said that she was from Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and I have a friend from college who married a Drummond from Pawhuska, Oklahoma, so I figured that they had to be related.  So I called my friend, and it turns out that The Pioneer Woman is her husband's first cousin."

Me:  "AND YOU'RE JUST NOW TELLING ME THIS?"

Spouse:  "Um, I just found out a couple of hours ago."

Me:  "DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS?  IT MEANS THAT I AM FOUR DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM THE PIONEER WOMAN!!!!!"

Spouse:  "Ohhh-kay."

Clearly, he didn't get it.  "It" being the fact that I can add Ree Drummond to the list of "people I tangentially know who I can impose upon if a loved one develops a very rare form of left nostril rot or other disease for which there is no telethon and I have to organize a benefit on very short notice to raise money for their treatment."  Also on the list:  Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn.  He is my step-third cousin.  Or my third step-cousin.  However you are supposed to say that:  step-cousin twice removed?  I kind of like "step-third cousin," because it sounds like "Stepford Cousin," which would be totally hilarious if he wore dresses out of the fifties or early sixties and had a bouffant hairdo.  Aren't mullets kind of bouffant-y?  But I digress.  Kix's dad married my dad's cousin Patsy.  I am fairly sure that Patsy and I met at a family reunion back in the day, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that I "know" Patsy, so I will classify Kix as being three degrees of separation away from me in an abundance of caution - me to Dad, Dad to Patsy, and Patsy to Kix.  One assumes that he comes around for dinner now and then, putting him on a familiar basis with his stepmom, even though he was a grown-up when they married. 

I bet he comes to dinner bearing diamonds and gold records.  Or, you know, not.

Anyway, you should check out the Pioneer Woman's Web site if you haven't done so before:

http://www.thepioneerwoman.com/
 
And then you should try some of her recipes.  You will be glad that you did.  I just tried two of them (served her chicken and blueberry salad and her sinful brownies to my Keno ladies), and they were both delish.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Yellow Party Pinterest Board

So I've become slightly obsessed with Pinterest - but that's the subject of a future post. 

Click on this link (you have to put your cursor over the word "link" - seriously, Blogger, you could be more user friendly!) to see some grown-up party ideas that I have "pinned" to a Pinterest board imaginatively titled "Yellow Party."  (It's a party, everything's yellow - it's a yellow party.  Deal with it.  Don't be like my oldest child, who, at a cupcake birthday party at his preschool, sniffed derisively at the purple plates, napkins and cups because they were JUST PLAIN PURPLE, WITH NO CHARACTERS ON THEM.  "Mom, you have to have a THEME for a birthday."  Okay, maybe purple is the theme?  "Mom, that's ridiculous.  Colors are not themes, THEY ARE JUST COLORS."  I believe that this was the same year that I was presented with a choice between having a Power Puff Girls birthday or a Kim Possible birthday.  For fear of reawakening the righteously indignant party critic beast, I did not say what I was really thinking, which was, "Um, is 'just a birthday' a third option?"  I think I opted for Kim - she was cool, she was empowered, and, also, the PPG really annoyed the heck out of me.)

Back to the "Yellow Party" board.  I am particularly obsessed with the Moroccan tablescape (the one with the elephants).  I saw another party somewhere on the Interwebs, featuring elephant candleholders of various heights (I'm thinking that originally they were brass?) that had been spray-painted in solid day-glo colors.  So, if you don't have a herd of white porcelain elephants stashed somewhere in your house:  (1) it's okay, because I have a stash of just about everything, and even I don't have white porcelain elephants; and (2) you can go to Goodwill, and buy some really fugly brass elephant candlesticks, and then spray-paint the heck out of them with gloss paint.  You could even purchase a toy elephant (I see these occasionally at Dollar Tree), spray paint it and then put a lightweight (melamine or "other") plate on his back, for purposes of serving appetizers and stuff.

It would be really great if the plate was yellow - but yellow is non-essential.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eat This: Deviled Egg Potato Salad

I served this at Easter, but it's a good picnicky salad, too.

DEVILED EGG POTATO SALAD

12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup dill pickle relish
1/2 cup mustard
1 cup mayonnaise
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
6 cups cubed boiled potatoes
Salt to taste

Cut 6 eggs in half and remove yolk.  Place yolks in bowl and mix with 1 teaspoon pickles, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 T Worcestershire sauce and dash of salt.  Stuff eggs with the yolk mixture then set aside.  Chop 6 remaining eggs (yolk included).  Mix chopped eggs with remaining ingredients.  May be made the night before and chilled in the refrigerator overnight, with deviled eggs refrigerated in separate container.  Before serving, arrange deviled eggs around top of salad.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eat This: Potato Chip and Onion Dip Reboot

I crave sour more than sweet.  Vinegar, sour cream, sour gummi candies - it's all good in the 'hood.

I particularly love vinegar potato chips.  "Love" as in "cannot stop eating them once I start."  As an accommodation to the fact that I no longer have the metabolism - or arteries - of a hummingbird (come to think of it, I don't want hummingbird arteries - no doubt they are incredibly narrow), I have started making this baked variation.  I don't think you'll confuse them for fried chips, but they are good in their own way, and they have that oh-so-important pucker factor.

Also including the recipe for one of my favorite "onion dips with a twist."  Because you have to have onion dip with potato chips.  It's the law.

SALT AND VINEGAR POTATO CHIPS

4 medium Yukon Gold or red potatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs.), scrubbed
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Malt vinegar, for drizzling

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place two nonstick baking sheets in the oven, and let heat for about 10 minutes.  (I may break out the Silpats - nonstick coating is great, but it only goes so far.)  Slice potatoes into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and toss potato slices with olive oil, salt and pepper. Remove baking sheets from oven, and arrange potato slices on sheets in single layer. Bake until potatoes are golden on the bottom side, about 30 minutes, then turn potatoes over and bake about 15 minutes more (until golden on both sides).  Remove from oven, drizzle with vinegar and serve immediately.

BAKED VIDALIA ONION DIP

2 T butter or margarine
3 large Vidalia onions, coarsely chopped
2 cups (8-ozs.) shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups mayonnaise
1 (8-oz.) can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. hot sauce

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onions, and saute until tender (about 10 minutes). Combine Swiss cheese and next 5 ingredients; stir in onion, blending well. Spoon cheese and onion mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Yield:  6 cups.

Kid Stuff: Vacation, All I've Ever Wanted

Well, maybe it's not all that I'VE ever wanted, but Parker certainly seems to have it on the brain.

One of the papers that came home at the end of the year was this, his explanation of why our vacay-ing ground to a halt after he was born (the real reason: big brother started "big school," limiting our opportunities to take off on a whim):


"I couldn't go on vacation, because I was too small.  I would have to sleep in my crib."

Location appears to be our living room.  The person on the left (who I presume is supposed to be Connor -when Parker draws him, he always gives him a yellow Bump-It-ish topknot for hair) is sitting in a brown chair, facing a television.  We have a brown leather armchair in the living room, and it's Parker's favorite TV-watching spot.  Also, the TV in question is housed in a pine armoire, much like the one in the picture.  So I guess this is supposed to depict a staycation, necessitated by Parker being a small baby requiring a crib.  And that's Parker on the right, sleeping in the crib in his bedroom (entrance to which, actually, factually, is behind the brown leather chair) with his mobile turning overhead.  The thing that looks like a candy cane suspended from the ceiling is a red soft-sculpture moon that hangs in one corner of his room, accompanied by the yellow star that you also see.

Love the kid's attention to detail, which is also evident in this drawing of our trip to Broken Bow, Oklahoma.



"I went to Oklahoma for my vacation.  And when we got there we rolled down the hill."

We did, in fact, rent a white van for the trip.  Not sure what the red thing on top could be - a canoe?  Probably, since Parker and his brother had canoeing on the brain that week (Mom and Dad declined to rent one, as it was November and lake and river temps were already a bit chilly).   That's the lodge in the background, and Parker (we can tell that it's him because of the brown topknot) is standing in front of what would have been our room (first floor, farthest to the right when you are looking at the lodge with your back to the lake).  It was, in fact, two stories, and there was a hill like that, too.  Don't remember them rolling down it, but it's possible.

The rest of these are pure fantasy, through and through:


"I went on an adventure to New York City and I saw zoos and parks and I saw the Statue of Liberty."  Love the inventive spelling  ("atvencher") and the newstand on the left - except that Parker informs me that it's not a newstand.   I choose to believe otherwise.

I call this next one "The Hangover":


"One time I went on a plane to Las Vegas.  We flew down."  "We" being Parker (brown topknot), "bruther" (yellow topknot) and their grandmother (brown curly hair and glasses).  He has labeled a "restorwont," as well as a hotel, and everything is appropriately glitzy, albeit a little dichromatic.

Okay, this one has to be my favorite:


"One time I rode in a sumereen [submarine] all the way to Australia and a kangaroo jumped on us."  That is Parker (sporting Popeye arms) battling a kangaroo  (sporting appropriately T-rex-ish arms) on top of a sumereen - I mean, submarine.  That is not a cross on the right; it is a periscope.  Trust me, you would be well-served not to mistake it for a cross on a black sand island.  I made that mistake, and I deeply offended the artiste in the process.

Love the way his mind works.  And he's right - we're overdue for a family trip, but Big Brother's swim and dive competition schedule creates some serious logistical issues for us in June and most of July.  So, in the interim, I'll just have to live vicariously through my "atventcherous" younger child.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Potpourri: Get Your Head in the Game

Standing in line at the poolside bar, collecting my vodka and Diet Coke, early in the evening on a June Thursday.  My oldest child has just completed the IM, sort of poorly.  This doesn't concern me overmuch, because:

He is the youngest and smallest swimmer in his age bracket;

He had a dive meet the night before, in which he acquitted himself quite well (all 5's and above until his last dive, which was also his easiest dive and which earned him a 4 1/2 on account of a form break);

He spent his time between early AM swim and dive practice at day camp, playing tennis and dodgeball and generally running himself ragged; and

He's an eleven year-old, dang it.  As one of the other team moms was heard to say, in response to her husband's complaint that expecting the "older" kids (9 and up) to complete the IM (four LONG laps) and THEN compete in individual events was beyond ridiculous:  "They're little kids.  It's a summer club league.  No college scholarships are on the line here."

100% agreed.  This is all about gaining experience, developing skills, building stamina (the point, I think, behind being forced to swim a four-lap event and THEN four one-lap events) and learning to challgenge yourself.  So I don't care that much (or at all) about ribbons; I only care that he applies himself to the task at hand and comes away with something meaningful.

When the eleven year-old approaches with a worried expression, my initial assessment is, "He's mad at himself for not doing well, or he's angry that his coaches made him swim the IM first."  I dust off my "this is all about gaining experience" speech from the paragraph above.

He speaks:

"Did you watch?"

"Yes."

"Where did I finish?"

"Back of the pack.  But -"

"Oh, well that's okay.  I'm really tired.  Mom, listen - do you think that I'm mature enough to play Halo Reach?"

"Um, what?"

"I REALLY want to buy Halo Reach with my own money, but Dad says I can't until he researches it.  Mom, I SWEAR, it should NEVER have been given a mature rating, because there's ONLY A LITTLE blood in it, and the little blood that there IS in the game is ALIEN BLOOD, and it's purple and TOTALLY unrealistic, not like the blood in other games, and also I'm not one of those kids who thinks that, because you see someone killed on TV or in a game, it is okay to kill people in real life.  I can separate fantasy from fiction.  And, anyway, it's not like you really KILL the aliens - you just sort of neutralize them . . . ."

So.  Many.  Thoughts.  How does he know this much about Halo Reach, given that he doesn't own it?  What "other games" are his basis for comparison in assessing the blood and gore factor?  And - is that a PIMPLE on my almost-twelve-year-old's forehead?

"Connor, is that a pimple on your forehead?"

The spawn of two attorneys goes in for the kill.

"YES.  Which means that I'm maturing - and if I'm old enough for zits, I'm definitely old enough for Halo Reach."

Conclusions:  his head was most definitely in the game, albeit not in the game in which he was supposed to be participating.  And I foresee many arguments over age-appropriate behaviors and activities ahead.

Game on.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Single-Oven Salvation

When you live in an eighty four year-old house, and aren't in the mood to renovate your kitchen (which is actually pretty functional, all things considered, particularly under eighty year-old house standards), you learn to live with one oven. I'm thinking that with this bad boy from Williams-Sonoma, single-oven living could be a dang sight easier:


$22 gets you this triple-decker contraption, which locks onto your existing oven rack (moved to a low setting) and allows you to maximize use of your oven space. This would be great for dinner parties, and a God-send at Thanksgiving (um, not that I ever have Thanksgiving at my house - having my mom eight minutes away, my mother-in-law twenty five minutes away, and an old house with a single oven means that Thanksgiving is always an away game for me).

The product got multiple reviews, and general consensus is that the thing is sturdy and works as advertised. Think I'll be ordering one . . . or two.  Although I might not use it for awhile, on account of how it is summer.  And firing up the oven in the summer in an old house es no bueno.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Groupon, Revisited

I have to share two recent Groupon items (or maybe they were Living Social or Gilt Group items - they all kind of run together):

1. Beekeeping lessons. Um, pass. I hate bees - not because I had a bad run-in with them, but because my mother had a tremendously bad lapse in judgment back in 1978. Let me set the scene: we had just gotten home from dinner at a favorite local Mexican joint, and my dad turned on the television as soon as we walked in. The TV was tuned to a promo for Irwin Allen's bee-themed horror movie, "The Swarm." I caught the tail-end of said promo, and I didn't react well to it. Don't recall, more than 30 years later, what my "tell" was - did I whimper, or flinch, or go ghostly pale? Whatever I did, my mom picked up on it. As she marched my eight year-old behind up the stairs to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, she asked, oh-so-sweetly, "Honey, did that thing about the bees scare you?" Nope, I said. She waited until I got two more stairs ahead, and then - SHE BUZZED AT ME. And I levitated off of the ground and flew up the rest of the stairs, down the hall, into my bed and under the covers. Seriously, it was like something out of Looney Tunes - you know, when they come up off of the ground and run in place in mid-air and all?

What is the statute of limitations for referring someone to Child Protective Services? Because I'm still emotionally scarred. For reals.

So, yeah, me and beekeeping is a PASS. Next.

2. Used golf balls. Um, really? Who markets these? A couple of kids whose parents or grandparents live in close proximity to a golf course? Because, in my experience, collecting used golf balls is a "summer-vacation-at-Grandma's, walking-the-golf-course-in-the-evening-with-the-neighbors'-visiting-grandkid-waiting-for-the-sprinkers-to-turn-on" kind of thing. It's possible that I might have waded into a water hazard to retrieve used balls once or twice. Or, you know, twenty times. Never thought of it as a money-making opportunity.

Keep 'em coming, Groupon (or whoever you are). Even if I don't appreciate the bargain, I do appreciate the trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Pop Goes the School Year


So I said that I would find a way to build off of bubble-blowing (which, for whatever reason, always factors into our last-day-of-school revelry) in planning a family end-of-school celebration. And I did.


"Pop goes the school year!"  Those are bubble wands in the foreground, plus soda bottle-shaped bubbles and Crayola colored bubbles.  (Note to file:  Avoid Crayola colored bubbles.  The package says that the color is washable.  I'll take their word for it.  The stuff came out of the bottle looking like undiluted food coloring.  I confiscated both bottles, PDQ, after I saw the way-too-intense splatter marks on the sidewalk.)  To the left you see pop caps, and scattered around the write-on plate:  individual packages of Pop Rocks.


More "POP" - POPsicles and soda POP.   Trophy was awarded to The Fifth Grader earlier in the day - it's an "Academic Excellence" award, which he earned by having the highest overall GPA (straight A's from kinder through fifth! - sorry, but I had to brag).


This is The Kindergartener's award-winning flower art, which ended up on display at the main library branch downtown.


T-shirts as chair covers was a last-minute touch of whimsy.  (It was laundry day - options were to fold them or decorate them.  Decorating is more fun.)

I finished decorating the table a few minutes before Dad left to pick them up for the last time, so then it was a matter of waiting for their help.  I had some buddies in this endeavor:


That's Barkley, the Alpha pet (well, we've had him the longest - he doesn't actually rule the roost, but we all humor him, because he has tenure), guarding the tablescape.


Ruby Dog assumed her usual spot on the couch to wait for "her boys."


Ace the Batdog took a position just by the door.


The top of the armoire is Max's preferred vantage point.

That's four beasts present and accounted for.  Sure wish that Gabby would join the party.  Oh, wait, she snuck up on me:


Gabby usually avoids these things, so I should take advantage and snap another picture:


Do you speak Cat?  I do, and this look says, "Crazy.  Lady.  Stop.  Flashing.  The.  Flashy.  Thing.  In.  My.  Eyes."

Oh, yay - the boys are here.  Time to head outside:


The sign says "Beatles," but the glasses are 100% Elton John.  (They were part of our handouts at the last-day kindergarten party - labeled with tags that said, "My future in first grade is so bright that I have to wear sunglasses."  Yes, I realize that the song was "I gotta wear shades," but "I have to wear sunglasses" is grammatically correct, and since we're trying to teach these kids proper English and all . . . .)


POP CAPS!


BUBBLES!


The sign says it all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eat This: That's a Speecy, Spicy Meat Patty!

When Parnell and I were dating, we grilled - a lot.  These burgers were in heavy rotation.

GRILLED JALAPENO CHEESEBURGERS

2 lbs. low-fat ground beef
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
3 T fat-free cream cheese
1 T grated onion
1 T finely chopped pickled jalapenos
Vegetable cooking spray
8 onion sandwich buns
8 lettuce leaves
8 tomato slices
8 onion slices

Combine first three ingredients; shape into 16 thin patties.  Combine cream cheese, onion and jalapenos; spread evenly onto 8 patties, spreding to within 1/2 inch from edges.  Top with remaining patties, pressing edges to seal.  Coat food rack with cooking spray; place on grill over medium-hot coals.  Place patties on rack and cook, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes on each side or until done.  Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato and onion.  Yield:  8 burgers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kid Stuff: Daddy Fact Sheet

Found a "Daddy Fact Sheet" that Parker dictated to his preschool teacher when he was three or so.

Name: Parnell (so far, so good)
Age: 40 (yup, would have been correct at the time)
Height: Tall (okay, not TALL tall, but certainly taller than a three year-old, so you get a mulligan)
Weight: 35 lbs. (ummmmmmm)
Hair color: Black (brown)
What does Dad do around the house?: Cook, wash dishes and clean up (okay, that last one is usually under duress, and the dishwashing is situational, but he is a good and enthusiastic cook)
Favorite drink: Coke (Diet Dr. Pepper, actually, but this is the South, so it's ALL "Coke")
Favorite TV show: Football (fair enough)
What does Dad cook?: Hot dogs and hamburgers (NEVER makes hot dogs - hamburgers, once or twice a year)
Favorite hobby: He likes taking walks (HA!)

But I'm saving the best for last:

Where does Dad like to go?: Buy things for Mom so she can take them to Junior Woman's Club

What an intelligent and perceptive child . . . .

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Southern Girl 101: Children Are to Be Decorated, Not Heard

Southern girls like to monogram.  We monogram shirts, jewelry, handbags, pillows, bed and bath linens, even furniture.  Oh, and we monogram our children.  Okay, we don't stitch letters onto their actual skin - that would be both painful and limiting.  Monogramming their clothing gives you a much wider range of options.

I have yet to find a little boy polo shirt that couldn't be improved with a nice three-letter monogram.  I tend to go back and forth between circle and diamond formats - and, for next year's school uniform shirts, I am branching out and experimenting with a lozenge shape.  Saw that one on the shirt of one of Parker's classmates - it almost looked like a clover - and I have been coveting it ever since.

Girls are even more fun, because you can monogram them top to bottom - from their hair bows down to their shoes.   These moccasins are from The Pink Giraffe and come in both girl and boy colors:


Pillowcase dresses like this one from Sweet Style Boutique were just made for monogramming (literally):


If we had a little girl, no doubt our monogramming bill would be higher.  We'd have dresses, for sure, and also swimsuits.  And swimsuit cover-ups.  And sandals, like these Stephen Bonanno "Lil Emmas":


But we have boys, so I pretty much limit myself to shirts and the occasional sweater vest.  The older one has made it fairly clear that in middle school he will be eschewing the monogrammed uniform shirt, and that's just fine, so long as he understands that Easter and Christmas outfits will continue to bear his initials.  It's a pretty good compromise, actually:  while donning a green-and-white gingham button-down with a red monogram to pose for sibling holiday pics may not fit his definition of cool, it's a lot more palatable than, say, wearing a tie.  Or a sweater vest.  Boy, does he hate vests.
Little brother loves vests, and ties, and monograms.  Note to file:  research monogrammed tie options for the little one.

If it sounds like we treat our kids a little bit like accessories, consider the concept of the sip-and-see:  originally, brides had sip-and-sees so that you could check out their wedding presents, but now it's equally likely that the sip-and-see invite in your mailbox is an invitation to check out a baby.  Possibly a monogrammed one.  If the baby isn't monogrammed, something will be - like the cookies.  These onesie-shaped cookies (individually wrapped so that they can be handed out as favors) are from Truly Scrumptious Bakery in Wisconsin, but they play into the Southern sensibility, for sure:


So if you are Southern and a parent (or have access to a little 'un who is not your own- a niece or nephew, perhaps, or a godchild) and are not monogramming or otherwise objectifying them, well, you're missing out on an opportunity, to be sure.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Potpourri: Ode to Date Night, in U2 Song Titles

Don’t get me wrong, little boy. I “Love You Like Mad.” I loved you when you were in my tummy, when our “Two Hearts Beat as One.” And then I saw your “Babyface” for “The First Time” and fell in love with you all over again.

But, in parenting, “Some Days Are Better Than Others.” Some days, you feel like you’re “Running to Stand Still” – just barely keeping up with the “Speed of Life.” Saturdays, for example. On Saturdays we have so many “Things to Make and Do,” you know? Saturday mornings, in particular, are a blur – there are soccer games to make (usually with “Seconds” to spare) and birthday presents to buy. Girl birthday presents are the worst. Thanks to you and your brother, I’m completely out of touch – your little female classmate, whose party starts in fifteen minutes, well, “She’s a Mystery to Me,” and it’s “All Because of You.” I’ve been standing right here, in the middle of the Barbie aisle, for what seems like an eternity, and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

So, “In a Little While,” after my duties as your social secretary are complete, “Please” have a little “Mercy” on your poor mom and willingly comply with my request that you “Get on Your Boots” and fill your backpack with some “Stories for Boys” and other temporary amusements to take to Nana and Granddad’s. It’s “Saturday Night,” after all. And your dad and I need to pull a joint “Disappearing Act.” Maybe do some “Slow Dancing,” possibly at a “Discotheque.” Do discos still exist? Do they still call them discos? Not sure, but I’d like to find out. Or maybe we could head downtown, take in some “Stand Up Comedy.”

Here’s the skinny, kid: “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.” So don’t get your feelings hurt if I do a little happy dance when your Nana arrives to take you to her house, and blurt out “Hallellujah Here She Comes.” (We’re “Fortunate Son” that your grandparents live so close.) I wish I was above all that, but sometimes it’s best to “Surrender” and admit that, despite your best efforts to be parenting superheroes, you’re just “A Man and a Woman,” occasionally needing a moment (or two) to relax and recharge.

You can go “A Day Without Me,” I promise. We won’t make you wait that long, though. We’ll be by to claim you and take you back to “Your Blue Room” before the clock strikes “11 O’Clock Tick Tock.” Trust me, we’ll push it to the last second – a true “Race Against Time” – and, with our questionable luck, we’ll hit every “Red Light.” But, come to claim you in a timely fashion, we will, by hook or by crook. And, come “Tomorrow” morning, we’ll find it a lot easier to “Breathe” as we rise to face “Another Day.” We’ll wake up “With a Shout” and exclaim that it’s a “Beautiful Day” – far preferable to Mom shaking Dad awake with a terse, “Wake Up Dead Man,” and Dad heading to the shower muttering “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

Thank you for understanding. You really are the “Sweetest Thing.” When you “Smile” at me sometimes, I just melt – it’s like I’m “Staring at the Sun.” It’s entirely possible that we’ll spend part of our evening – a big part of it – talking about you and your brother. And find ourselves missing you and wondering what you are up to.

But we’re not canceling Date Night, not by a long shot. Nothing is more rejuvenating to the soul of a frazzled parent – not even a double helping of “Xanax and Wine.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Anthropologie

Specifically, I am digging:

  • Having a brick-and-mortar Anthropologie store in Fort Worth;
  • The fact that they will send you your receipt via e-mail (no paper to keep up with!);
  • Their super-nice gift boxes (the sturdy, glossy kind with the string closure like on the front of an old-school manila envelope; so pretty on their own that they don't require gift wrap, a bow or other adornment);
  • The "price" of said gift boxes (a bargain at "free" - my favorite price point); and
  • Their decision to market an "Alphie the Lion" butter dish just in time for Friend Melanie's birthday.


Friend Melanie is a fellow ADPi, and Alphie is our mascot.  The butter dish technically is not an ADPi tie-in, but it has an Alphie on the top, and if you squint the color scheme is SORT OF azure blue and white (with some yellow mixed in, but yellow is an acceptable ADPi accent color, in that it matches Alphie's mane).

While I was scoring an Alphie for Melanie, I picked up an adorable apron and a couple of tea towels (which I plan to stitch together to make a table runner).  This is one of the tea towels:


Too cute to get stains on, wouldn't you say?  But then, whoooooo am I to judge? ;)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Brickipedia, the LEGO Wiki

Occasionally, I get the sneaky suspicion that my children are building Web sites for public consumption when I'm not looking.  And this one has my older boy's name written all over it. 

Brickipedia is a LEGO-specific version of Wikipedia.  If you type, say, "Grand Moff Tarkin," into the search feature, Brickipedia tells you the back story of the character as he exists in the Star Wars universe, and then it advises you of his "appearances" in "6211 Imperial Star Destroyer," "10188 Death Star" and three LEGO Star Wars videogames.  If you are unfamiliar with LEGO/Star Wars/LEGO Star Wars, (1) good for you and (2) the numbers represent building kits.  So when we say that Tarkin "appears" in 6211 Imperial Star Destroyer, what we really mean is, "The component parts to his little minifigure body appear in THAT box, amidst a bunch of OTHER plastic blocks."

Who needs this information?  Don't answer.  I should also point out that, as I am writing this, there are 14,442 separate pages of information on Brickipedia - and counting.  What the what?  FOURTEEN THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FORTY TWO PAGES?  Who ARE these people? 

Don't answer that one, either.  They are grown-up versions of my children.  And, no doubt in my children's eyes, they are total bad-a** rock stars.

Okay - I just hit refresh, and we are up to 14,454 pages.  And counting.

Wow.  Just wow.  Just when you think that you have reached the end of the Interwebs, you know?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Safari, So Good

One of my favorite charity events of the year - Beastro, benefiting the Fort Worth Zoo - is fast approaching, which has me thinking about safari parties.  First image is from this year's Reading Rocks breakfast:


I like the idea of decorating chair backs with animal masks, and the tall tree-like centerpiece is another favorite.

Several years ago, I clipped from the pages of Family Fun magazine instructions for making jungle vines out of scraps of brown paper grocery bags (twisted to make the vines) and green construction paper leaves, but I think I prefer Momma Bee's version, which utilizes rolls of brown kraft paper.


Click here to access the instructions on her blog.  For thinner vines, you could add leaves cut from green scrapbook paper to lengths of brown twine.  I like the idea of having lots of vines, of various thicknesses, strung overhead, to create a whimsical but sort-of-realistic jungle canopy.


I also like 2PerfectionDecor's safari burlap banner, because it would be equally appropriate for a kid's party or an adult shindig.  You could skirt a table with grass skirting and superimpose the banner over that.

Another Etsy seller, love2gifts, sells these great grass cupcake wrappers:


Again, not too-too cutesy - great for a little kid or big kid party (either gender) and adult-appropriate as well.

Finally, I totally love this lion invitation from Studio RSVP.  Something about the shredded paper mane makes me smile.


Vacation Bible School at our church is panda-themed this year, one of Parker's friends will be attending with him as his guest, and all that week I will be picking them up, getting them lunch and then dropping them off at afternoon Zoo Camp.  I'm thinking of doing lunch at the house one or more days, and maybe doing a little panda-themed decorating (tweaking the vine concept to look like bamboo, maybe?).  So stay tuned for that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kid Stuff: Squirrel Lady and the Rest of the Green Lantern Corps


DC Comics fans will be interested to learn that Planet Oa has been relocated, to some prime real estate due north of Gotham City.

Parker applied the bulk of his kindergarten graduation money to a Fisher-Price Imaginext Planet Oa playset, which occupies a place of honor next to his Imaginext Batcave.  This is sort of a big deal, because generally our focus is on Batman.

ALL Batman.  ALL the time. 

Not that we didn't like Green Lantern before, but until they rolled out the publicity for the Ryan Reynolds live-action film, our interest in the Green Lantern Corps was limited to John Stewart, the main Green Lantern in the Justice League cartoon series, and that Green Lantern was only interesting because he hung out with Batman.  Also a source of interest:  Kilowog, the sort-of pig-looking GL who shows up in a couple of episodes, hangs out with Flash, speaks in a Brad Gilbert-ish voice and calls Flash "Poozer."  (Fun facts:  1) Kilowog was actually voiced by Dennis Haysbert, who does an excellent Brad Gilbert impression when he's not shilling for Allstate. 2) The real Brad Gilbert was the voice of another superhero, Lobo.  3) When you have two male children, valuable real estate in your cranium gets devoted to useless information like the fact that Dennis Haysbert was the voice of Kilowog and Brad Gilbert was the voice of Lobo.  4)  Our dorgi's nickname is Poozer - because it wasn't enough that we named him Ace the Batdog.  5)  When you have two male children, not only do you consent to your dog being named after Batman's pet, but you may inexplicably find yourself calling him Poozer, after hearing Kilowog call Flash that EIGHT HUNDRED TIMES during multiple repetitive viewings of "In Blackest Night" and "Hearts and Minds," thus unintentionally saddling the poor pooch with his second DC Comics-related name.  6)  When you have two male children, the knowledge that the two Justice League episodes in which Kilowog calls Flash Poozer are "In Blackest Night" and "Hearts and Minds" occupies the brain cells immediately adjacent to the stuff about Dennis Haysbert and Brad Gilbert.)

So, pre-spring 2011, we knew that there was a Hal Jordan before there was a John Stewart (also a Kyle Rayner - each of Hal and Kyle has a cameo in a JL episode), but we didn't care about Hal.  Now we do - sort of. We're warming to him.  It's interesting to watch:  as Parker shows me the various features of his Imaginext Planet Oa playset, there's almost a tinge of embarrassment to his demonstration, like he's uncomfortable even considering liking a character who isn't Batman.  After a few minutes, he runs off to retrieve the other toy that he bought with kindergarten graduation money - a Fisher-Price TRIO building set featuring Batman's sidekick Robin - and commences to babble about Batman stuff, with the palpable relief of one who has been out of his element and is returning to what he knows.

But I think that, if pressed, he would tell you that his Planet Oa playset is pretty cool.  There's a light-up lantern that can be attached to the structure and made to rotate like the beacon in a lighthouse.  And there is a Kilowog figure, to go along with the Hal Jordan figure. 

There is also a third figure - Squirrel Lady.  Squirrel Lady is not actually a lady; his real name is B'dg (pronounced - I had to look it up - like "Badge").  However, "Squirrel Lady" is how the character was identified to me, first by Connor as we were sitting down to dinner out:

"Mom, I have Parker's Green Lanterns in my backpack.  Well, two of them - he didn't want to bring the third one."

[Me, feigning interest] "Oh, I didn't realize that the playset came with three figures.  What's the third one?"

"Not sure.  Looks like a squirrel, sort of.  Parker said that he didn't want to play with that one, because he thought that it might be a girl."

HUH?  Since when did my sweet baby boy become a misogynist?  When we got home, Parker wanted to demonstrate how the little elevator thingy worked and said, "Here, I'll just show you with Squirrel Lady."

[Me] "Squirrel Lady"?"

"Yeah, Squirrel Lady."

"Is that her actual name?"

"No - I mean, I don't know.  But LOOK at her, Mom.  She's obviously a GIRL.  A girl who is a SQUIRREL."

Okay, in my suddenly misogynistic younger child's defense, the B'dg figure is petite in stature, and what I think is his tail looks more like a ponytail than an actual tail.  But, still, don't judge a book by its cover, you know?   And are your saying that short girls with bushy ponytails don't cut the mustard with you?  Because I fit that description, and I would be a totally kick-butt Green Lantern.  Just sayin'.

Parker was incredulous (and, I think, irked) when I informed him that Squirrel Lady was, actually, Squirrel Guy - and not really a squirrel.  Everything I know about B'dg, I learned through DC Wiki.  Including this little chestnut, which I kept from Parker, lest he write off poor Squirrel Boy forever for having a lame superpower:  B'dg's "ability" is (drumroll, please) a heightened sense of smell.  Really.  That's it.  When he sniffs out intergalactic crime, HE REALLY SNIFFS OUT INTERGALACTIC CRIME.

Thanks.  I'll be here all week.  And, no doubt, by week's end my cranium will be full of all sorts of additional useless knowledge, about Oa, power rings - and Squirrel Boy.

Eat This: Summery Soup

Second in a summery series . . . .  I know that this recipe sounds weird, but I promise that if you like gazpacho you will love this version.

SECRET GAZPACHO

4 cups tossed green salad with vinaigrette dressing
4 cups V-8 juice
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dilled Croutons (recipe follows)

Place salad in blender or food processor; process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.  Combine salad mixture and next 5 ingredients; cover and chill.  Serve topped with Dilled Croutons.  Yield:  4 servings.  To make Dilled Croutons, combine 3 T olive oil, 1/2 tsp. dried dillweed and 1/8 tsp. garlic salt.  Drizzle olive oil mixture over 4 slices of white bread, trimmed of crust and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, and toss gently.  Spread bread cubes evenly on an ungreased bakin sheet, and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden-brown, stirring after 10 minutes. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Kid Stuff: It's Parker's World, We Just Live in It

The scene:  dinner table, Saturday night.  Both boys have been charged with eating a certain number of steamed green beans.  Neither are a fan.  (Connor will eat canned green beans with nary a complaint, but the crispy bright green ones offend him - apparently, gray and kind of spongy is WAY BETTER.  Parker doesn't like either kind.)

Dad reminds Connor, for the umpteenth time, to eat his green beans.  And Parker says:

"Dude, just EAT.  I have already finished my chicken, and two more beans and I'M OUT."

Ex-cuse me?

"Yup.  I'm OUT, man.  I'm gonna leave this table and find a party to crash.  Then I'm going to go to a stranger's house, and then I'm going to blow up the stranger's house, and then I'm going to get the stranger's mail for him, and then I'm going to fart."

Ohhhhhkay.  At least you have a plan.

The next day, Parker comes out of Sunday School with a drawing labeled "gummi osos."  Yes, that's gummi bears in Spanish.  Apparently, Parker has decided to transform himself into the Enrique Iglescias of the kindergarten set, following up his smash hit "Gummi Bears" with a release en espanol.

It's his world.  I just feel privileged that he lets me live in it, as should we all.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Southern Girl 101: Shibboleth Cake

I took a linguistics class in college (yes, I was a Liberal Arts major; may I flip a burger for you?).  One lesson dealt with regionalisms, and to illustrate a point about how usage patterns tend to break down along geographic lines, she asked each class member to identify his or her go-to term for the road that runs along a freeway.  Most said "access road," a few said "service road" and a very few said "feeder road."  Then she asked each of us to identify our home town.

All of the "feeder road" users (myself included) were from the greater Houston area.

Who knew?  As a child, I did not understand that "feeder" referred to a type of road and thought that Feeder Road was an actual (singular) road - and a LONG one at that.  I also thought that Buffalo Speedway, a road running through a part of Houston, was an actual raceway for livestock.  My parents thought that it was odd that I kept asking to "visit" Buffalo Speedway, as they could not fathom what might be of interest to me along that particular stretch of road.

I wanted to see the buffalo race.

So "feeder" is a Houston shibboleth; another is "Treebeard's Cake."  I grew up eating this gooey butter cake, which was the featured dessert at a restaurant in downtown Houston called Treebeard's.  Treebeard's (at least, the original location) is operated out of an abandoned historic church.  The food - cake included - is quite tasty.

In law school, the mother of one of my six roommates (yes, there were seven of us - five-bedroom house, former duplex, both kitchens left intact when they took down the demising wall, HUGE living area in between the kitchens - it was a great party house) brought us a homemade Treebeard's Cake when she was in town to visit her daughter.  Or so I thought.  Upon taking off the cover to the pan, my two Fort Worth roommates and a third from Plano all exclaimed, "Ooh - a Neiman-Marcus Cake."

Um, what?

"It's a Neiman-Marcus Cake.  You call it that because it's so rich."

"No, it's because they serve it at the Zodiac.  Gosh, I love Neiman-Marcus Cake!  I grew up eating this stuff."

Ohhhhhkay.  Clearly, that's a Treebeard's Cake.  And what is it with your North Texas people and your slavish devotion to N-M?  N-M wasn't really a big deal on the Gulf Coast, at least not at first.  Growing up, our shopping mecca was Sakowitz.  The Sakowitzes were to Houston as the Marcuses were to Dallas.  Same basic back story - local family decided to open a department store to cater to the tastes of the oil-rich.  Except, somehow, N-M kept growing, and I think Sakowitz is just a fur store now, if it's even still around.

Tomato, tahmahto, I guess.  Midway through my fifteenth year in North Texas, I am now a N-M girl by default.  But I refuse to attribute my favorite butter cake to the store.  It will always be a Treebeard's Cake to me - but I am posting my recipe for it here as Shibboleth Cake, in recognition of the fact that people are going to call it what they will call it, and everyone will know what part of the world they hail from as a result.

As a good Southern girl, I must tell you that this is a great "takealong cake" for new baby sip 'n sees, housewarmings and funerals.

SHIBBOLETH CAKE

1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
4 eggs
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 box confectioner's sugar

Slightly beat 1 egg, and mix egg with dry cake mix and butter until just moistened.  Press mixture evenly into a greased 13-x-9 pant.  Beat cream cheese, remaining eggs and vanilla in bowl of stand mixer until creamy, then beat in confectioner's sugar until all is combined.  Pour cream cheese mixture over cake mixture in pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Potpourri: Kids Say the Darnedest Things

After working day two of Field Day ("Field Day, The Sequel:  The Big Kids Get Their Turn"), I got to have lunch with the Little Kid . . . and seven of his best friends (six of the male persuasion, one female).  Lunch cost three dollars, but the entertainment was free.

"Mrs. Mick-a-linchey, did you get the cheese sticks?"

Yes, I did - they came highly recommended, by several of you.

"Do you know why they call them cheese sticks?"

Because they have cheese in them and are shaped like sticks?

"No.  Because - see, when you bite into them, they - do you know what's in the middle of the bread?  It's CHEESE.  And, see, the bread looks like STICKS.  So they are CHEESE STICKS."

Got it.  I can't help but notice that I am the only one who opted for vegetables [which, for the record, were wonderful - I particularly liked the squash with Italian breadcrumbs and marinara].

"I used to eat broccoli, with cheese sauce. But then I stopped."

"Yeah, me, too."

"But I still like cheese."

"Yeah, me, too."

"I like all of the types of chicken, pretty much."

"I'm allergic to vegetables.  When I eat them, I throw up."

"Mrs. Mick-a-linchey, the vegetables - I think they're just for the teachers and the other adults, like you."

But eating vegetables will help you become adults.

"Well, I'm going to start eating vegetables, because they will make me strong."

"I'm going to eat carrots.  Carrots are good for your eyes."

Okay, so you concede my point about vegetables being good for you - why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?

"Did you know that jalapenos are vegetables, Mrs. Mick-a-linchey?"

Nice attempt at misdirection, kid.  And jalapenos are, technically, fruits.

"I eat sushi.  My mom cooks it for me."

She . . . COOKS . . . it for you?  Yeah, okay, moving on.

During the course of the meal, I am asked to remove the safety seal from what seems like a thousand plastic milk bottles.  The kids all peel the plastic label strips from their bottles, and one of them figures out that if you insert one end of the plastic strip into the mouth of the bottle just so, and then replace the cap to hold the end of the strip in place, your milk bottle will look just like Superman.  Well, if Superman was a milk bottle, and his cape inserted into his upper scalp.  Soon, I am surrounded by a whole army of milk bottle superheroes.  The boys fight over whose bottle gets to be Batman.  Aurora informs me that HER milk bottle is a girl - Wonder Woman, to be exact.

Aurora, I knew that I liked you.

I am asked to take pictures of the milk bottle superheroes with my phone.  Then everyone has to inspect the pictures.  When I finally announce that it's time for me to leave, I get a hug from my own child - and about ten others.

Best lunch date I have had in recent memory.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Things I'm Digging: My Children

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I'm referring to last night.  Connor had his first swimming and diving practices of the season, with an hour window in between.  Dad drove both boys to the club, and I met them up there after running by the house to change clothes.  Arrived in time to catch the tail end of diving practice and even thought to grab a swimsuit for Parker, who I figured might be bored out of his mind by the hour-and-a-half mark - if nothing else, he could play in the little kid pool while the swim team tore up the big one.

So far, so good. 

Ordered dinner with what we thought was plenty of time to spare before swim practice started for Connor and Dad had to depart for his doubles game.  Clearly, the kitchen had other ideas.  Dad left for the tennis courts without having gotten a bite to eat, and they called Connor's age group right around the time that the food arrived.  He managed to wolf down a sandwich - and between bites, he informed me that his teacher had "reconsidered" her no-end-of-the-year-party stance. 

Um, day late and a dollar short, kid.

"I KNOW, right?  She said that if anyone wanted to bring anything, she would not get in their way, and I told her that it was kind of short notice, and she agreed."

Very much appreciated, kid, since as a practical matter your mom was the "anyone" in your teacher's scenario.

"I KNOW that, Mom.  I was speaking on your behalf."

Okay, that's terribly sweet - and, because you're so sweet, I'll make the time to pick up some stuff on our way home.  But food only - no crafts.  And DEFINITELY no bead-related crafts - don't care to repeat last year's trip to the pediatrician to have a bead removed from your ear canal.

We actually shared a chuckle over that.  Then he headed towards the pool, only to return a second later with the report that "Parker just got in trouble with Nick [the diving coach and the boys' favorite lifeguard] for hanging on the lane lines."

Wait, what?  My youngest child is in the big pool?  Where he might be expected to actually SWIM?  An activity that he is actually quite good at, when he doesn't think anyone is looking, but when people are looking, he steadfastly maintains is beyond his capabilities?

"Well, yeah, he has to swim in the big pool now, because they just closed the little kid pool.  Someone threw up in it.  I think it was Parker."

I am processing this disturbing piece of news when the Vomit Comet himself comes running to the table.

"Mom, my stomach really hurts, and we need to go home RIGHT NOW.  But can I eat my chicken first?"

Now, this is not my first mom rodeo.  Let's consider the evidence:  Child throws up, but is hungry immediately thereafter.  It's hot outside, he's running around like a crazy person, and he's a little kid - he doesn't have the ability to stifle an urp like your or I would.  Thus, it's entirely possible - even likely - that this bout of vomiting is an isolated incident.  If it could even be called vomiting - didn't see it, so don't know what it entailed, but I suspect that it could have been a burp gone a little wrong.  Yes, he's complaining of a stomachache, but is this an actual stomachache, or a "I'm embarrassed that the baby pool is closed because of me and also Nick yelled at me and I'm afraid that I'm in trouble" stomachache?  My educated guess is that it's the latter - but, still, the sound parenting choice would be to withhold food for a half hour or so, to see if - um - anything new comes up.  Don't want to provide him with additional ammo, you know?

So I tell him that he needs to wait to eat his food.  And now I have a major crisis on my hands.  In this corner:  the big kid, who just started his first swim practice of the year, being his first swim practice in the senior division.  It looks like they are covering a lot of ground, and he appears to be in the zone.  Don't want to interrupt THAT.

Also in no hurry to have a possibly queasy child unleash Hades in my car.   But, in corner #2, said child is pitching a wall-eyed fit:  "I can't eat, and I can't swim, so you want me to just sit here?  What happens if I throw up again, Mom?  Will I miss my kindergarten graduation?  WILL I MISS MY PARTY?"

Yeah, not his first rodeo, either.  He gets that illness means staying home from school -  a welcome complication any other day, but not on graduation party day.

Of course, there's Dad, over in corner #3.  I could impose upon him to forfeit his game.  Except it's DOUBLES.  Don't really want to interrupt that, either.  But I do - sort of.  I leave the little one at our table poolside, jog around to the tennis courts, wait for my spouse to finish serving the ball, and - once the point has concluded - holler "TIME."  Then I shout through the fencing the condensed version of our situation:  "Connor's in the middle of practice, but Parker just threw up, and you're out here, and apparently the fifth grade party is back on."  Dad gives me a look that says, "Yeah, um, good luck with that" - and I leave him to his own devices in corner #3.

Return to the table, and tell my darling youngest child that, basically, he needs to suck it up - please refrain from vomiting until we leave, and if you could refrain from doing so on the drive home, too, that would be appreciated.  And, God bless the little kid, he does just that.  I give him a notebook and a pen, and he draws dinosaurs in relative peace while his brother practices.

Then practice ends, and big brother is immediately back in the pool, this time purely for recreation.  I advise him that he needs to get out RIGHT NOW, because we've been waiting for him to finish and we can't wait one minute longer.  I fill him in on what he's missed.  And, God bless the big kid, he gets out RIGHT THEN.  Tells me that I could have pulled him out of practice, and he would not have minded, given the circumstances.  And why, exactly, didn't I pull him out of practice?

Well, I guess I didn't want to disturb you, this being your first day back and all.

"Thanks, Mom, I appreciate that.  And I'll understand if you can't get treats for my class."

No problem there - fairly sure that Dad picked up on the unspoken part about him running my errands for me after he's finished with tennis.

We drive home with Parker clutching an empty (and old) oilcloth tote bag in front of him - "just in case."   The bag is not needed.  Either he's only got a very mild case of something, or there was never any something to begin with, and my suspicions as to the nature of the upchucking are correct.  Still, I err on the side of caution again and insist that he take it easy, and stay away from his brother - no wrestling, no germ-transmitting contact of any sort.  And, God bless the little kid, he complies.

Meanwhile, the big kid offers to help me stuff his brother's treat bags - and sees the project through to completion, doing the lion's share of the work.  Not long thereafter, he is catching flies, physical exertion having gotten the best of him.  And I cannot help but notice how endearing it is when he sleeps that hard, with his mouth open and his limbs flopping.  He bears a certain resemblance to the little boy who used to pass out, dead asleep, on his parent's bed, but there is something new there - a preview of what he will look like as a (frequently) slumbering teenager.  Before he falls asleep, and while we are working on the treat bags together, I also take note of the fact that I am handling Mom crises with far more aplomb in my old age.  The whole "Plan A just went out the window, dragging Plans B and C with it, and what the heck is Plan D?" thing would have thrown me for a major loop when Connor was the one in kindergarten.  Now, I find myself rolling with the punches fairly effortlessly.  Having two cooperative children doesn't hurt - but, I wonder, am I more chill because they are, or vice-versa?  Which came first, the centered momma chicken or her with-the-program little eggs?

In the end, it doesn't matter - all I know is that I am enjoying my life, and my kids, at this stage.  Especially when Parker comes running into the bedroom, with a look of alarm on his face, and answers my question, "Are you feeling sick again?" with a heartfelt, "No, I just wanted to come find you and tell you how much I love you, Momma.  Thank you for taking care of me."

No problem, baby boy.  Happy to do it.  And please remember this day, and countless others like it, when the time comes to pick out my nursing home.