Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Why Didn't I Think of That?

Loving this Halloween tablescape from the Hostess with the Mostess blog featuring rows of Jones Soda bottles:


Particularly loving the HWTM's tip for creating said rows:


Shelf organizer from The Container Store.  Under ten dollars.  Genius.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eat This: One of Carole's Kitchen Concoctions

Courtesy of my mom (the aforementioned Carole) comes this recipe for "I Love You Sauce."  Yes, it has a bazillion ingredients.  (Okay, bazillion is an exaggeration - it has half a bazillion ingredients.)  You should have a lot of them in your pantry, though, and if you have little kids around, this is a great opportunity to sharpen their measuring skills.

I LOVE YOU SAUCE

3 T Catalina salad dressing
3 T honey
3 T apricot preserves
3 T grape jelly
2 T minced chives
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T ketchup
1 T soy sauce
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, stirring occasionally.  Serve on steaks or hamburgers. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Event" - Status Report, 8/29/11



Still don't know WHERE we're moving, which means I also don't know WHEN, and we're somewhat hamstrung this week by the fact that our adjuster has the week off, but I am proceeding as though our move is imminent.

Saturday we had a garage sale - a serious one, with items sorted into departments (clothing, housewares, craft supplies, holiday decor, electronics) and an ad in the paper (print and online).   I even remembered to obtain a city permit.  What I didn't remember to do:  work the phrase "NO EARLYBIRDS" into the ad copy.  Thus, we had people showing up as early as lunch the day before, wondering if they could do a little advance shopping. 

Earlybirds are one of my least favorite thing about garage sales.  This time, I was determined to marginalize their negative impact on my already crumbling psyche to the fullest extent possible, so I staged everything in the backyard the night before and waited until fifteen minutes prior to the sale to carry the tables down the driveway.  In between, I actually had a dream in which an earlybird WALKED INTO THE HOUSE (really, I wouldn't put it past one of them to do that), I dialed 911, she finally got the hint, and I followed her out the door only to find, congregated in my backyard, a slew of thuggish young male earlybirds, sporting Miami Vice suits, Ray-Bans and five o' clock shadows.  Because, apparently in my subconscious mind, garage sale earlybirds and the Columbian drug mafia are cut from the same ice cream pastel cloth.  The police arrived, and a firefight ensued.

Good times.

In the actual waking world, I encountered precious little earlybird interference, and almost without exception our interactions with would-be buyers were pleasant.  (I have to make exception for the woman who was insistent that I advertised my sale as an "estate sale," not a "garage sale."  Um, no, ma'am, no one dead around here except for our house.  Sorry that you can't read and properly retain information.  Moving on.)  I attribute our good luck, in part, to the fact that the Grapes of Wrath Family has departed our neighborhood.  The Grapes of Wrath Family previously lived in a fixer-upper on the other side of the middle school from us, and they only seemed to emerge from said fixer-upper when a garage sale sign went up.  Then they would all spill out of their Ford like so many clowns at the circus.  The overall-clad patriarch of the GOWF, or "Pa" as we liked to call him, made enemies with my spouse early on when he purchased a personal computer from us on a Saturday and came back on Sunday for tech support.  Not making that up.  Knocked on the door, wanted Parnell to tell him how to make the computer do such-and-so.  After that particular episode, Parnell got very good about attaching "AS IS" signs to all electronic items, printed in letters that could be viewed from space.

The next time we had a sale, Pa's adult daughter (well, I assumed that she was a daughter - guess it's not outside of the realm of possibility that she was a sister-wife) came up the walk, clutching a small rag doll under one arm for reasons that I cannot explain, and, with the hand attached to the trailing end of her other arm, grabbed the hem of her t-shirt, raised it all of the way up to her brow to wipe off some sweat, AND FLASHED ME A SAGGING MAMMARY in the process.  It was a no-bra day for Sister-Wife.  (Based on the extent of the sagging, I'm guessing she had a lot of those.) 

Ick.

Post-Boob Flash, the "AS IS" signs were joined by "WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO SELL TO ANYONE" signs.

I can report that, true to prior garage sale experiences, patrons at this sale fell into certain categories that corresponded neatly with the hour of their arrival.  Early and late patrons tend to be vultures, the nicest people show up around 9:30, the neighbors venture out closer to 10, etc., etc.

We sold a lot of stuff, and the whole exercise forced me to move a metric ton of junk out of the house and carriage house.  What was left after the sale concluded filled sixteen boxes - eleven marked for Goodwill and five for Junior League resale.  Since the League's resale shop does not accept donations on Mondays (okay, I'm a member, and a bunch of my friends are working today, so I totally could have forced an exception, but I felt like playing by the rules), we staged everything in an out-of-the way paved area outdoors, remarking that it wasn't like it was going to rain or anything, given current drought conditions.  And then the clouds rolled in this morning.  Really?  Oh, I see that rain is also forecast for this coming Saturday, being the same Saturday on which I have scheduled an outdoor kid party.  Really again?

But back to Saturday - packed up the leftovers, headed to the club, enjoyed several evolutions of my new signature cocktail.  Yes, I have my own signature cocktail at our club.  Very long story involving an eager-to-please bar manager with a creative bent who, I guess, saw in me a kindred spirit.  That, or he has me pegged as a lush.  Either way, as of cocktail #3, recipe was perfected (Ketel One vodka, UV Pink Lemonade vodka, actual pink lemonade and pineapple juice, whirled in a blender with crushed ice, topped with an orange twist and a cherry), and I made a mental note to go back up to club on Sunday and partake in at least one yummy beverage - you know, for purposes of assuring ongoing quality control. 

That was before I started going through my bedside chest.  Which is not a normal bedside chest, because I could not possibly house the minutiae of my life in one of those.  No, this is a five-drawer antique chest of drawers, of fairly large size, cram-packed with paper.  Which paper I have now sorted into "going into storage" and "going with me."  "Going with me" items include:  receipts for furniture that the movers, theoretically, might damage and I might have to repair or replace; assembly instructions for Connor's bunk bed unit from IKEA (thinking the movers might like to have that bad boy on hand); and voluminous magazine tear-outs with recipes and home decorating ideas that I have resolved to winnow through during my "displacement time."  Except there were just too many magazine tear-outs to pack to take, so I started the winnowing process on Sunday.  Found a bunch of the recipes on the Internet, pinned them to various Pinterest recipe boards and recycled the paper copies.  TEN HOURS LATER, I glanced at the alarm clock on top of the now-empty five-drawer chest and realized that happy-pink-drink-pool-time had passed me by.  Bugs.  Also realized that, because the kids had turned on Disney Channel first thing in the AM and I had been too distracted to change it, I had watched the same episodes of "Good Luck, Charlie," "So Random," "ANT Farm," "Wizards of Waverly Place" and "Shake It Up" at least three times each.

Now I have moved on to the walk-in closet off of the master, where I am playing the "which clothes will you ACTUALLY wear?" game.  Do I bring a formal gown, on the off chance that I might be invited to the White House between now and the end of October?  If I take the leopard-print pumps, can I also justify the black cap-toes with the cheetah-print haircalf wedge heels?  Leopard and cheetah aren't exactly interchangeable.  There's a certain degree of overlap on the Venn diagram, but it's not complete by any means.  And so on.

Predicting more resale donations in my future.  It's all good - this needed to happen.  Or so I keep telling myself.

Kid Stuff: Save The Whale . . . Related School Assignments

From the Big Kid's second-grade language arts journal:

ORCA WHALES

Orca whales are in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They are awesome! And they look like they came back from a masquerade ball. They are so cool! And they do awesome tricks! I love them so much! They're probably the coolest animals ever.

Whales are large
and they are in charge

In the sea
they are as happy as can be

They eat so much krill,
you'd think they would get ill

They do awesome tricks
They're like cake mix


Um, you had me until "cake mix."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Potpourri: Drought Not

Thought this was appropriate for a mid-drought Sunday (being the Sunday before Fort Worth begins mandatory water rationing):

And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

- Isaiah 57:11.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Potpourri: It Came From My Inbox

My cleaning obsession has followed me to the office.  Found the following items in my personal inbox at work:

A cat obituary. Before you laugh, the cat in question was acquired by my friend as a newly married person, predated her actual child by a number of years, and was well-known and loved by her friends. So it was (1) understandable that she was upset, (2) appropriate and appreciated that she brought us into the loop and (3) logical that she would disseminate the information by public notification (really, isn’t that one of the primary purposes of an obituary?). But, okay, it’s maybe a little funny to read about an animal “passing to the other side.” And, looking at the e-mail years after the fact, the birth dates and death dates made me chuckle a little, too.

A CC of an e-mail from my husband to a furniture manufacturer:

Our Marseille hi-leg recliner has been discolored by cat vomit. Per the tag, the leather ID is 66 L/V 21 brown, and it is an SA product. MultiMaster/Leather Master did not recognize this information and needs a swatch in order to mix the correct dye (or, if you could provide another code that MM/LM would recognize, that would maybe work as well).

I actually remember this one. I even remember to what “SA” refers (semi-aniline). We were trying to order the proper dye for a small area in the middle of a chair seat. We were unsuccessful. I decided that the slight discoloration made the chair look like one of those distressed leather bomber chairs from Pottery Barn. And apparently, I was right, because until I found this e-mail, I had totally forgotten that we didn’t buy the chair that way and that, once upon a time, I was eight kinds of distressed over a small amount of cat vomit on the seat cushion.

Another e-mail from my spouse (with my oldest child’s name in the memo line):

www.rocketfishingrod.com

If he sees this ad on TV (I saw it on NICKW ten minutes ago), we are doomed.

A receipt e-mail to me from customer service at www.stuffedanimals.com:

Thank you for your order. We appreciate your business. Listed below are your order details:

Giant Microbes® Fat Cell Microbe
Product Part #: 874665004341
Manufacturer Part #: GMUS-PD-0250
(Qty: 1 x $7.81)

Giant Microbes® White Blood Cell Microbe
Product Part #: 874665001265
Manufacturer Part #: GMUS-PD-0800
(Qty: 1 x $7.81)

Giant Microbes® Red Blood Cell Microbe
Product Part #: 874665001272
Manufacturer Part #: GMUS-PD-0610
(Qty: 1 x $7.81)

Giant Microbes® Stomach Ache Microbe
Product Part #: 890242000049
Manufacturer Part #: GMUS-PD-0730
(Qty: 1 x $7.81)

Yes, I ordered plush microbes over the Internet. Four of them, to be precise. They were gifts from my kids to my mom, who has a background in biochemistry. As I recall, the stomach ache microbe was Giardia lamblia, which was my favorite single-cell organism growing up. Yes, I had a favorite. My mother was a biochemist, alright? And when you’re a mom, you go with what you know. So, when we were waiting for our food at a restaurant, and my mom had grown tired of doodling horses and cats on the paper napkins, she would draw amoebic dysentery, and various paramecia, and Giardia lamblia, which I liked, because it had two nuclei that looked like eyes, but the nucleoli tended to gravitate towards one another, meaning that it actually looked cross-eyed.

So, years later, when I found that such a thing existed, I bought her a plush Giardia cell. I opted against the venereal diseases (thought that those would be inappropriate coming from a grandchild – eww, that sentence made me throw up in my mouth a little). It was hard to resist the West Nile Virus microbe (they gave it Cleopatra eyes) and the Mad Cow microbe (it was cow-spotted). Clever folks, those Giant Microbe manufacturers.

An e-mail from me to someone at our country club about some suspicious charges on our monthly bill. An overlong, entirely too-detailed e-mail:

Thanks for forwarding our statement. We didn’t want you all to think that we were withholding payment just to be difficult.

I’m looking at the statement, and I’m confused about our charges for July 22nd, which was a Sunday. We did go to the club that afternoon, but it was just my husband, me and our (little, and therefore non-drinking) kids, and the chit reflects FIVE drinks – a beer, 2 margarita rocks, and 2 well vodkas. We’re not big drinkers (and certainly not if we aren’t eating), and the vodka didn’t ring a bell, although I guess it could be a bloody Mary, which I have on rare occasion. However, there’s no way that I would have had margaritas AND bloody Marys, and the maximum number of mixed drinks for me would be two. My husband’s a beer guy, so the other liquor wouldn’t be his.

Can you see if there’s a chit with our signature on that date, to foreclose the possibility that something was keyed in under the wrong member number? The charges were for Sunday 7/22 but weren’t processed until Tuesday 7/24 (I guess because of the club being closed on Monday?). If there is a chit for us, I’m pretty confident that somebody else’s drinks were put on our tab by mistake.

What am I, a forensic liquor scientist? Did I seriously break down our drinking habits for a total stranger based on liquor and mix preferences, day of the week, “with food” or “without food,” etc.? Egads.

And now I’m sharing this lapse in sanity with all of you. Egads again.

An e-mail from me to two of my work girlfriends (sent midday on what must have been a slow Wednesday):

So my friend _______________ e-mails me, and several others, a “Friends and Family” coupon for Linens n Things. Her e-mail distribution list consists of her in-laws, [name of a mutual friend], a number of folks from Woman’s Club, Junior Woman’s Club and Junior League and . . . Mark Cuban. Yes, I clicked on the e-mail address, and, yes, it’s THE Mark Cuban. Here’s the (literal) million dollar question – does Mark Cuban really need a 20%-off coupon to Linens n Things? I’m sure she just defaulted to her “go to” distribution list; nevertheless, the fact that she passed a store coupon on to him struck me as so incredibly funny . . . UNTIL . . . I got curious and looked him up on www.dallascad.org. He appears to own several residential properties, including what I would assume to be his primary residence – A 23,676 SQUARE FOOT HOME WITH 16 BATHROOMS. Wow – that’s a lot of linens (n things)! So I guess we should credit her for helping a brother out?

And, finally, an e-mail from me to the other attorneys in my office:

If you've ever had occasion to wonder, "What is the legal definition of steak?" please take a moment to review the suggested verbiage of one Dallas attorney, which I have posted on the bulletin board in the breakroom for everyone's edification. Also take a moment to marvel at the fact that some associate spent billable hours analyzing the various states in which beef exists and dividing them into the categories of "steak" and "not steak" (actually, I believe he/she references "conventional steak," which was a new one to me).

Ours is a strange business . . . .

I really wish that I had retained a copy of the document in question, but I can describe it in pretty good detail. It was an exclusive use clause in a commercial lease. The landlord was granting assurances to a restaurant tenant that it wouldn’t lease any other space in the shopping center to another steak house. However, evidently, another restaurant in the center did sell other beef products, including hamburgers. Hence the need to draw a bright-line distinction between “steak” and “not steak.”

The sad thing is, I have had to do more absurd things. Seriously, people, this is what I do when I’m not blogging.  Or running around like a chicken with my head cut off, organizing everything because I'm being forced to pretend to sell my house.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Zombie Engagement Photos

With the benefit of hindsight, our wedding was WAY too traditional.  Classy, yes, but did we bring the fun?  Not so much.  If I had it to do over, I'd be far more whimsical.  Like, instead of regular engagement photos, I would insist on photos featuring ZOMBIES:


These are actual engagement pics, folks.  Check out the complete photo shoot on http://www.amandarynda.com/.




Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Fiverr

I have a morbid fascination with this Web site, where people post things that they are willing to do for $5, and you can pay them $5 and hire them to do those things.  Yes, a number of the "things" are disgusting.  But some of them are amusing in an undisgusting way.

For example, I like this post by QueSyrah:

I will happily be your cute blonde facebook wife for a month for $5I will accept your FB request and be your pretty blonde wife for 31 days! Amaze and astound your family and friends. Confuse your ex. Or just keep them guessing. Next available time is October 13th! We could have a Zombie facebook wedding! <3 Much love~

This is QueSyrah.


I like her.  I think I would enjoy being friends with her.  She is pretty without being off-putting, and she obviously has a kick-butt sense of humor.  But then, I could have figured that out from her handle, "QueSyrah."  Gotta love a girl who enjoys a literate wine-based pun.

Wondering how, exactly, you would go about explaining the sudden disappearance of your hot wife from your FB page.  Suppose you could have some fun making up stories about her untimely demise.  But folks might take you a little too seriously.  I could totally see this turning into a very special episode of Dateline.

Other current posts that I like:

I will teach you how to write hip hop and rap like a professional via Skype for $5.  (And here I thought that these guys had a natural gift.)

I will make an emotional rant for $5.  (Thanks, but I am perfectly capable of composing my own emotional rants.  Or, sometimes, I just wing it and freestyle.)

I will spend you a postcard from Bogota, Columbia with any message you wish in Spanish for $5.  (Um, that's . . . specific.  I guess this would come in handy if you hired an imaginary hot, blonde wife for a month and explained her sudden disappearance from your Facebook page with a story about her relocating to Bogota, Columbia - where, um, Internet service is sort of spotty.  So they send postcards instead of Facebook messages.)

I will make you a tiny yarn hat for $5.

Seriously? Lemme see.


Yup, that's tiny. And made of yarn. And definitely a hat.

I will crochet you a tiny hat. You can use this tiny hat to keep your fingertip warm on those chilly days, avoid blisters on your spacebar thumb, a nose warmer, ornament....the possibilities are possibly endless! One fiver for one hat. Pompom optional. Please indicate if you'd like the pompom or not.

Good, sweet Lord, I love Fiverr.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Prosecco Pops


Love this simple entertaining idea.  Buy frozen fruit pops (the kind with actual fruit in them), fill glasses with Prosecco, insert fruit pops.  Done and done.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eat This: Snickerdoodle Popcorn

Snickerdoodles are tops on my cookie list. (I also like vanilla ice cream over chocolate; my mother refuses to claim me.) So the idea of dressing up popcorn Snickerdoodle-style appeals to me - to say the least.


Isn't it the most? (Points to anyone who got the subtle reference to Patty Simcox from "Grease.") For the recipe, check out the Picky Palate blog - click HERE for the link.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kid Stuff: Phoning It In

Today marks the Big Kid's first day of sixth grade. His schedule includes Honors/Pre-AP math, language arts, social studies and science, and botany for an elective. I'm confident that he will excel in all of them and apply himself to the nth degree - notwithstanding the following evidence to the contrary, culled from various writing journals and other school papers that I discovered during our ongoing clean-out:

HOW TO ADD

First you add the ones. If they add up to nine or over you add another ten. Then you add the tens. After that you add it all up.

Um, isn't there a rule about not defining a word with that word - four times? He did include an illustrative example (58 + 26 = 84).

WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT WHEN I SEE THE AMERICAN FLAG?

When I see the flag I feel brave. I also feel free. I feel . . . I just can't explain it. Okay, I just can't explain how I feel. I just can't.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Potpourri: Mis Raíces Decoraciã³n Mexicana

The other day, I was having lunch with Friend Robyn at Chuy's.  For the uninitiated, Chuy's is a Mexican restaurant chain out of Austin.  Your average Chuy's is decorated somewhat like this:


Constants include bright-colored vinyl-upholstered chairs and Formica countertops, schools of carved wooden fish swimming beneath shimmering waves of vintage hubcaps, and lots of tacky, kitschy paintings - of the "velvet Elvis" and "paint-by-number bullfighter" variety.  Our local Chuy's is split-level, so one wall of kitschy paintings extends two stories from the concrete floor (with precious little space between the canvases, so we are talking A LOT of kitschy paintings displayed in a big mass), and opposite that is a two-story carved wooden screen painted a VERY vivid shade of green.

Friend Robyn and I were seated between the Towering Wall O' Tacky Border Art and the Ginormous Green Room Divider.  And at some point, apropos of not much, I remarked:

"You know, when my mom was pregnant with me, she knew that they would be moving immediately after, so she waited to decorate a nursery for me until we had settled in our new home - in El Paso.  And, long story short, she ended up buying all of the stuff for my nursery across the border in Juarez.  So, picture, if you will, my nursery basically looking like the interior of this restaurant."

Friend Robyn was silent for a moment.  She appraised the room, and then me.  And then she said:

"Well, THAT explains SO very much."

Two days later, I recounted this story to Friend Cynthia, and before I could repeat Robyn's comment, the same words were coming out of Cynthia's mouth.

Because my friends know me.  And, thus, they are aware of my love for (in no particular order) embroidered Oaxacan dresses and blouses/jewelry made out of bottle caps and other junk/nylon mesh market bags with skulls on them/tissue paper flowers/papel picado/Day of the Dead memorabilia/loud colors/pinatas and MORE pinatas/oilcloth EVERYTHING/yard art made from rusted oil barrels/etc.  A love that seems somewhat misplaced, given my Austrian/Hungarian/Slovenian/Scotch-Irish heritage but (as I have long suspected, and as my friends quickly deduced) MAY just have something to do with the fact that, in my formative months, I lived in what I imagine to be the baby nursery equivalent of a border-town cantina.  When my little baby peepers first learned to focus, this is approximately what glared back at them:


Actually, the wooden panels in my room were of a much better quality than this - carved in high relief, with the designs accented with bright colors.  Fairly sure one of them featured an owl.  I also distinctly remember a smaller wooden panel with a three-dimensional clown attached to it, similar to this one:
 

Small wonder that I have always been a little unnerved by clowns?

I also remember having a doll almost exactly like this one:


Papier mache, lots of olive green paint with a high-gloss finish.  Guessing that everything had lead in it.  Tons and tons of lead.

There was a screen, not unlike the Ginormous Green Room Divider, except mine was less ginormous, and featured floral carvings painted a delightful shade of olive green and an equally delightful shade of sickening yellow. 

I could go on.

It got into my blood (and I'm not just talking about the lead).  When I was older, and living in Houston, I spent all of my tickets at the school carnival on giant tissue paper flowers, and crowns of paper flowers with ribbon streamers hanging from the sides, and cascarones  And, every spring without fail, I had a pinata at my birthday party.  Not a themed one - even after themed ones became available, I insisted on a burro.  Because I was a purista.   Fast-forward to early adulthood:  I always insisted on celebrating my birthday, which happened to coincide with the NIOSA festival in San Antonio, on the Riverwalk (where there were lots of burro-shaped pinatas).  Parker's first birthday party?  A numero uno-themed fiesta.  At Halloween, I break out the sugar skulls, and at Christmas, the garishly-painted tin ornaments get unpacked first and are displayed front and center, along with the corazons and other Mexican-inspired tree trim.

So, if you have ever wondered about my love of kitsch, and color, and colorful kitsch - well, there you go. 
No summer trip to San Antonio with the fam would be complete (for me, at least) without a trip to the Mercado, typically accompanied by a meal (or at least a pastry) from Mi Tierra, which, like Chuy's, is decorated in Early Kathryn's Nursery:


We did not actually eat at Mi Tierra this year, or at its sister property, La Margarita.  But we did spend some quality time in the Mercado, where the kids admired the maracas (all properly lead-painted and glazed) and the luchador masks (THEY HAD BATMAN!  How did they resist?  How did I resist?) before settling on marionettes (oh, I gravitated to those when I was a kid, as well).


Then they each got a bullwhip-cracking lesson.


I bought a tiny Mexican blouse for my friend's little girl (because quirky style starts early, my friends) and just generally soaked up the tissue paper-festooned awesomeness of it.


The ship de la madre had called me home.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Unintentionally Amusing Continuing Education Class Titles

(Editor's note: I wrote this post before I decided to swear off TCU continued education forever - or at least for the foreseeable future. The Big Kid took two overpriced three-hours-a-day-for-one-week classes this summer. The first go-round, his class took an extended break to walk down to the campus bookstore to procure snacks, instead of remaining in the classroom and building robots like they were supposed to. The second go-round, he was sent home early on Thursday because of a nose bleed ("We can't have blood in the classroom for liability reasons") and informed us when he came home on Friday that the instructor had knocked off early to have lunch with his wife. And then, the cherry on top of our extended ed experience: the Little Kid came home from LEGO Nanobots class with an incident report (accompanied by a business card with contact information for the head of campus risk management), informing us that he had been punched in the eye. Spouse knew immediately who the offender was - same kid who kicked and punched his mother in front of God and country at pickup time on Wednesday. Apparently, TCU has a zero-tolerance policy against blood loss but not the sort of violent behavior that could lead to it. So, yeah, stick a fork in us, we're done. Nevertheless, the catalog was funny.)

Perusing the TCU extended ed catalog that came in the mail today.  Contemplating signing up for the Photoshop class, various photography classes and, possibly, Adult Guitar.  But then the concept of "Adult Guitar" gives me the giggles.  What's adult about it?  Do you only learn music from porn movies?  The "bom chicka wow-wow" chord progression?

And then - as tends to happen with me - everything that I read from that point forward seems downright hilarious.

"eBay is a Global Bazaar!"  Seriously, we're just discovering this?

"Waltz Out of the Box."  Is this a class for mimes?

"Dancing for the Rhythmically Challenged."  Here's the synopsis:

Never danced?  Always a "watcher," never a dancer?  Join our pre-beginner dance class and learn the basics of partner dancing.  This fun-filled energetic class is designed for the individual who has never danced and is baffled by dance music and dance movement.  Whether it's an upcoming wedding, office event or an opportunity to succeed at a lifelong challenge, you (and your future dance partners) will find partner dancing an easy and fun experience.  So bring both of your left feet and join the rest of the rhythmically challenged and learn to dance with ease and style.

Pre-beginner?  That's, like, WALKING, right?   Ignoring the corny "left feet" comment and focusing on the notion of being "baffled" by music and the idea of moving to music.  Seriously?  Okay, admittedly I'm biased - walking and dancing came to me pretty much simultaneously, so I have a hard time accepting the concept that some people can't even muster a semblance of dancing.  It's the same type of skepticism that I exhibit when people say they "can't cook."  Are you illiterate?  Because if you can read, and process words and what they mean, and follow basic instructions, then I promise you that you can cook something.  Most things, actually. 

But I digress.

"Expert Bible Study for Amateurs."  Offered by the Divinity School?  Or the Oxymoronic Studies Department?

"Strengthen Your Business by Using Your Strengths."  Definitely an offering of the University's Redundancy Department of Redundancy.  At the end of the class, they award you a certificate of completion certificate.

"Aviation 101:  A Short Course."  This one scares the hell out of me and makes me not want to leave my house.  Wait - small aircraft sometimes crash into houses, don't they?  Crapola.  Got nowhere to run to, baby, and nowhere to hide . . . .

"If I've Told Him Once, I've Told Him a Thousand Times."  I had high hopes for this course.  I imagined women meeting at a bar, sharing tales of spousal woe - not really learning anything, just kvetching.  Like a group therapy sesh.  Turns out it's a seminar on parenting strategies.  Thanks, but I'll take a pass.  My mother-in-law didn't correct her boy child's "quirks," meaning that now I get to deal with them.  So why would I want to do the dirty work for my future daughters-in-law, depriving myself of the satisfaction of paying it forward and watching them suffer?

"Creating a Plan for the Rest of Your Life."  That's pretty . . . ambitious.  But, apparently, entirely doable in four two-hour blocks.

"Aging at Home."  What the what?  Oh, it's about age-proofing your home so that you can remain in it until you die.  Well, I guess that's useful.  But I can't help but be amused by the last sentence of the course description:  "Finally, plan to update your home without total destruction and make it safe, accessible and comfortable."  Because totally destroying your home is considered in some quarters to be a viable Plan B?

"Quit Smoking in the Japanese Garden."  I initially read this as an admonishment, and I got sort of defensive - because I don't smoke anywhere, and certainly never in the Japanese Garden.

See? I am my own form of cheap amusement.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

"The Event" - Status Report, 8/18/11




Son of a nutcracker, it is going to take two months. 

"It" being the gutting and filleting of our home.  Well, the estimate is six weeks - if nothing goes wrong.

Yeah, how often does that happen?

So preparation for "The McGlinchey Diaspora of 2011" has begun in earnest.  (By the way, as a shorthand means of referring collectively to The Casualty, The Gutting and Filleting of Our Home and The McGlinchey Diaspora of 2011, I have selected the moniker, "The Event."  You know, like the NBC drama of the same name.  A drama that was very short-lived, given that it was cancelled after one season.  The idea of a very short-lived drama appeals; the name is good karma, I think, where that's concerned.  And, also, it's not like NBC is still using it.)  Mr.  Moving Coordinator is coming out to "get a handle" on the extent of our belongings.  Grab on to that handle, Mr. Moving Coordinator.  It will keep you upright when you see "the extent of our belongings" and keel over from a shock-induced coronary.

Apparently, Mr. Moving Coordinator is familiar with the concept of women.  After informing my spouse that the insurance company will pack all of our belongings for us, he did not bat an eye when Spouse told him that Crazy Wife (that would be me) appreciated the sentiment but nevertheless would insist on packing some of the stuff herself.  Well, most of the stuff.  Probably not all of it.  But most of it.

"Is she planning on taking a lot of stuff to resale?"

Yuppers.

"Well, tell her that she is entitled to boxes for all of your stuff - whether it comes back to the house or not.  So, basically, we'll provide boxes for her to put the resale stuff in."

Excellent.  It was all going, anyway, and I was going to have to procure means of transporting it.  So, see, The Event is creating efficiencies and economies of scale.  SEE HOW I AM FINDING THE SILVER LINING?  THE SILVER LINING IS ENORMOUS.  IT JUST GOES ON AND ON AND ON.

I'm overselling?  Okay, I'll shut up.

Mr. Moving Coordinator then inquired as to how many boxes Crazy Wife would require to start.

And Clueless Spouse promptly stepped in it:

"Oh, half a dozen will work."

And then stepped in it again:

"Yeah, if you bring those by on Tuesday, that will be fine."

Um, honey?  This conversation took place on a Wednesday.  Tuesday, is like, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WEEKEND from Wednesday.  And weekends are when the magic happens.  Weekends are when they run "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Next Top Model" marathons on cable, and your wife tackles a done-in-a-day project while she watches pretty people being talented.  This particular Saturday, I'm planning on cleaning out the craft closet, sorting everything into trash, recycling, donation and "keep" piles, boxing everything accordingly, and then putting the "keep" boxes back into the closet.  One Diaspora item checked off of the list, many to go.

Except, to do that, I need boxes.  More than SIX of them.  Bless your sweet, little heart.  You're just so pretty.  Really, you are.

Clueless Spouse is working to correct his gaffes.  Meanwhile, I have begun preparing the master list of Things We Cannot Live Without That Must Accompany Us To Temporary Housing.  Already on the list:

Certain of the family pictures.

The giant chocolate brown and turquoise wooden "m" that sits, front and center, on our living room mantel. And the tiny turquoise "c" that sits next to it, forming a "mc."  Wouldn't want to forget our last name while we are out.

The black-and-white polka-dot canvas with a giant "M" on it that also resides in our living room.  Same rationale as above.

A couple of the throw pillows.  Really, honey, just a couple of them.  The truly important ones.

My ADPi teddy bear (the one sewn from ADPi-print fabric) and one of the sock monkeys from our bed.  Probably the one in the UT sweatshirt.  Because, yes, I am an adolescent girl trapped in a grown-up's body.  Particularly when I am under stress.

The wine collection.  All of it.  Wouldn't want it to go bad in storage.  Wait, the storage is climate-controlled?  Well, there goes my cover.  Wine glasses optional.  Totally okay with plastic stadium cups, for the full "roughing it" effect.  Gives me street cred.

The Kitchen Aid stand mixer, a couple of Bundt pans, cupcake pans and various icing tools.  Enough said.

All of the Halloween decorations.

Most of the Thanksgiving decorations.

Possibly some of the Christmas decorations.  (How warped am I that the Halloween decoration are in as a default, and the Christmas decorations are optional?  I tell myself that I am less concerned about the Christmas decorations than the others, because I have faith that The Event will have been put on permanent hiatus by December.  But, reality is, if we slide into December, I would be totally happy just leaving the Halloween decorations up.  And, you know, wrapping the presents in orange and black paper and putting them under the little black Christmas tree with the jack o' lantern ornaments on it.  Because, in the face of a casualty, YOU ARE GIVEN CARTE BLANCHE TO BE JUST A LITTLE BIT IRREVERENT.)

My laptop.

My cell phone.

That's it.  Well, you know, I'll need clothes and toiletries.  And, also, my husband, children and pets.  Can't forget them.  But if I can play Free Cell on my laptop and Sudoku on my phone, that will occupy the dead time between looking at my Halloween decorations and baking stuff.  I can kill two months that way, easily.

I guess I should bring a book or two, for appearance's sake. 

Fun on the Interwebs: Anagram Generator

Can't remember how I found http://www.wordsmith.org/, but the kids and I are having way too much fun with the anagram generator.  My name is an anagram for "Methyl Granny Chick," which is kind of awesome.

The longer the name, the more permutations there are - hence the number of truly awfully awesome names that the Big Kid pulled up after typing in a friend's name.

My Pirahna Melon.

Her Pony Mailman.

Manlier Ham Pony.

Minor Hyena Lamp.

Trust me, this exercise is exceptionally eleven year-old-friendly, although Mom, Dad and the six year-old get a kick out of it as well.  When our eleven year-old learned that his male friend A.'s name translates into "Dancer Dolly," for a split second I thought that he would actually ask for the phone and dial Friend A. with the news.  This would have been an exceedingly rare event, evidencing a tremendous level of excitement on Big Kid's part, because said child is the spit and image of my father, and my father is THE DEFENDING WORLD CHAMPION of "Let Me Get Your Mother." Doesn't matter if you lead with, "DAD, I-AM-CALLING-SPECIFICALLY-TO-TALK-TO-YOU-SO-PLEASE-STAY-ON-THE-LINE"; you will still get "Let me get your mother."  Like a bull rider, you find yourself struggling to keep the conversation going for eight seconds.

I can pretty much guarantee that this Web site will hold your attention for more than eight seconds, so let the anagramming begin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Breakfast at Tiffany's Brainstorming


Brainstorming "Breakfast at Tiffany's" ideas for ADPi Founders' Day in the spring. (Can't think of a better theme - the diamond is our symbol, and azure blue and white are our colors.) These personalized bags are from Lovebirds Paperee's Etsy site:


I also like these Tiffany labels from Flea Market Floozie (another Etsy item).


Completing the Etsy/Breakfast at Tiffany's trifecta: this muslin ribbon from The French Nest Co., stamped with images of Audrey Hepburn:


Finally, I stole this idea from the Breakfast at Tiffany's affair that Martha Stewart put on as part of the Today Show's "Today Throws a Wedding" series (hence the reason why Natalie Morales is in this picture):


Breakfast at Tiffany's photo booth. Tiaras, cat's eye sunglasses, satin eye shades, pearls and boas. Too cute.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eat This: Spinach Enchiladas


House purge continues:  found this recipe in a notebook, located in close proximity to Connor's second-grade writing journal.  If anyone knows who Marlow is, let me know, as I would love to attribute this recipe to him.  Or her.  Honestly, I have no recollection of who Marlow is.  But these would make a great easy weeknight meal.

MARLOW'S SPINACH ENCHILADAS


1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped again if stringy
1 (10 ½-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 (4-oz.) can whole green chiles, drained and coarsely chopped
¼ tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
12 (8-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups (8 ozs.) shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 ozs.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¾ cup sliced green onions, including both green and white parts

Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 13-x-9-x-2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In blender, combine spinach, soup, sour cream, chiles, salt and pepper until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary. Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the prepared pan. In a dry skillet over medium heat, warm tortillas, one at a time, until pliable. Wrap warm tortillas in a warm, damp towel to keep pliable. Assemble enchiladas as follows: tortilla, 1 T. Cheddar cheese, 1 T. Monterey Jack cheese, 1 T. onion. Place in pan snugly side by side. Spoon remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kid Stuff: I, Robot (And Aliens Made of Cheese)


Nothing like the specter of a pending unwanted move to motivate you to clean out drawers.  Found Connor's creative writing journal from the first semester of second grade - and, in the process, fodder for this and no doubt several other blog posts.  Enjoy.

HOW TO MAKE A ROBOT

1.  Think of what kind of robot you are going to make.
2.  Look at what other people have made.
3.  Gather materials needed.
4.  Make a blueprint.
5.  Start building it.
6.  Test it.
7.  If it does work find someone to manufacture it.
8.  Think of a price so people can buy it.
9.  Collect the money.
10.  Maybe buy a beach house.
11.  Make more robots to comfort you and to sell.
12.  Buy more beach houses.
13.  Use extra money to start a TV show.

CHEESE INVADERS

Once upon a time there were some poisonous cheese invaders.  They were pretty much like vampires except they were aliens, had a poisonous bite, and they were made of cheese.  One day in June they invaded Earth.  They set all of the buildings on fire.  With their metal octopus sea turkeys.  Once they got to the end of California they fell into the ocean.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Potpourri: Serenity Now


Summer time, and the living is . . . interesting.  Isn't that the way the Chinese curse goes?  "May you live in interesting times?" 

Things started to get interesting in June, when we learned that my dad was battling kidney cancer for the second time (twenty one years after - and, apparently, entirely unrelated to - the first incidence).  After a few days of experiencing that unfortunately familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach, I ordered the butterflies in my stomach to start flying in formation; we collectively determined that he would beat this thing, just as he did the first time; and life resumed, more or less as normal.

Then Mom informed me that she hated to add to the drama, but her dermatologist found a little sumpin' sumpin', of the basal cell variety, on her foot.  I kept my sense of humor:  congratulated her on completing her trifecta (this is her third trip to the cancer cafe'); told her that it was awfully sweet of her to opt for a form of cancer that required a topical form of chemotherapy that would keep her out of the sun for the foreseeable future, thus ensuring that Dad would have a cave-dwelling chemo buddy to keep him company while possible sun-related side effects from his regimen kept him indoors as well; and then politely asked her TO PLEASE, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, STOP GETTING CANCER, BECAUSE I AM SERIOUSLY GETTING PARANOID OVER HERE.

When my 92 year-old grandmother started experiencing dementia-adjacent episodes with increasing regularity, we shared some inappropriate laughs about that as well.  And then my spouse and I had a serious discussion about life's uncertainties, and the reality that, at any moment, we might find ourself in a position where combining households with an older relative might make sense.  A moment that would find us with our pants pooled around our ankles, because our house is not exactly in "let's put it on the market tomorrow and schedule and open house for Saturday" condition.  We have collected a LOT of junk over eleven years of living here, so I suggested that perhaps the issues with my parents and grandmother were a friendly reminder that we should take the time to "edit" our belongings sooner rather than later.

Apparently, I shouldn't have said that last part out loud.  Not that God doesn't hear my inside voice.  Anyway, apparently he heard me loud and clear this time, and decided that the best way to move us off of dead-center was to break a pipe under the house and flood our crawlspace with water.  A week later, when it became apparent that the dehumidifier that we were running 24/7 under the floor required reinforcements, we made a call, and an insurance adjuster went under the house, tooks some pictures and then uttered words that should be added to the top ten list of "phrases that you don't want to hear":  

"You won't be working with me.  I only handle nominal claims.  I'll be referring this to an adjuster who handles major, catastrophic claims."

My spouse blinked, then asked for clarification.  More phrases followed.  Phrases like "removing all of the flooring" and "engineering a temporary support structure while work is continuing."  Spouse asked, "So, what are we talking about here?  Two weeks?  Two months?"  Adjuster laughingly replied, "Oh, no.  It won't take two months.

"But it won't be two weeks, either."  (More words to add to the top ten list.)

So, we're moving out.  And by "we" I mean "everything" - the people, the pets, the furniture, etcetera,  etcetera, ad nauseam.  And then everything has to be moved back IN.  Meanwhile, kids are going back to school.  Due to recent staffing changes, the administrative side of the law practice requires more attention than usual, plus I have to keep billing in order to keep the doors open.  Not a great time to be taking time off to pack boxes.  But it's not like I'm going to staff that out completely - I mean, this is my big opportunity to edit, right? 

The wheels in my brain keep churning, fueled by comments from my practical spouse:  if they have to take out the plumbing in the boys' bathroom, then there will never be a better time to update the fixtures.  So add to the to-do list "research cost of re-enameling a salmon pink cast iron tub" and "price sink vanities."  And, probably, "complete paperwork for home improvement loan," because there are other items on the "future projects" list that are ripe for tackling while we're residing off-premises.

The future, apparently, is now.

I do what any girl would do in my position - I radio for help from my girlfriends.  Warn them that paybacks are hell and that they should pretend to be enthusiastic when the save-the-date arrives for the packing and unpacking parties.  Because there will be parties, dang it.  Parties are my coping mechanism.  So, packing and unpacking will be accompanied by appetizers and sangria.  If, as I suspect, we are not back in the house by Halloween, then it's entirely possible - nay, a sure thing - that I will be decorating and hosting for Halloween in November, and for Day of the Dead in December.  The fall holidays ought to last three months, anyway.  And haven't we always lamented the fact that the boys' birthdays fall too late in the year for a swim party?  Parker James, here's your opportunity to have that swim party you always wanted, because Momma's thinking that we ought to celebrate you before your day on the calendar gets lost in the shuffle.  Don't worry - we'll do something in October, too.  The swim party is a consolation prize.  Like when your dad broke his arm playing Clark Griswold and Mom couldn't maneuver the tree into the carriage house by herself, so she threw plastic beads all over it and called it a Mardi Gras tree and kept it up until your dad was out of his cast.   Why not?  When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.

And then you use the lemonade to wash down some Xanax.  (Just kidding, kid.  You know Mom doesn't medicate.  But she reserves the right to spike the lemonade with some vodka.)

Anyway, said girlfriends reminded me why I am, on balance, a tremendously lucky person.  Within an hour, I had a host of volunteer packing elves, box donations, commitments for babysitting and dog sitting services, and a liquor underwriter.  Also a pro bono insurance attorney.  And then I started to find the funny:  I have a liquor underwriter and legal counsel; now, who wants to cater my casualty?  And every good charity event (which this was shaping up to be) needs swag.  So I initiated, via Facebook, a logo design contest.  You know, for the koozies.  (Current front-runner for an event title:  "Gettin' Hammered."  Although I am leaning towards "Casualties of Home Ownership," which would mitigate in favor of camo koozies.  And, possibly, commemorative dog tags.  You can take the girl out of the sorority, but you can't take the sorority out of the girl.)

I continued to find the silver lining in our situation (an apt metaphor, given that it's entirely possible that weather patterns are forming in our crawl space, on account of all of the humidity). 

Given how much junk that I anticipate will be leaving the house, never to return, it's entirely possible that I could win an end-of-year Junior League award ON THE STRENGTH OF MY DONATIONS TO THE RESALE SHOP ALONE.

My parents and grandmother (whose household is currently pet-free, but who have remarked recently about missing the therapeutic benefits of having a pet) will be acquiring the temporary services of two excellent therapy pets, in the form of our Sheltie and Dorgi.  (No, I am not forcing the pets on them.  They ASKED.  They love their grand-beasts, and the grand-dogs in particular.  And the grand-dogs adore them.  Particularly my grandmother, or "The Dog Magnet," as we refer to her.)

Speaking of my Dorgi (who LOVES to pee on the wall-to-wall carpet):  here's our opportunity to tear out said carpet AND NOT REPLACE IT.  Hardwood floors from now on, Ace.  Deal with it.  And, you know, pee outside.

And speaking of my carpet:  how ironic is that I JUST bought a Groupon for carpet-cleaning?

We'll finally get around to texturizing over the wallpaper behind the refrigerator and painting it to match the rest of the kitchen.  (Yes, we half-assed the texturizing and repainting of our kitchen when we moved in.  I challenge you to even notice the wallpaper back there.  And disconnecting the fridge was not an option.  We moved in in July, and the refrigerator is where we stored - and chilled - the adult beverages that served as payment to our motley crew of amateur house painters.)

But before you congratulate me for my unwavering sense of perspective - rest assured, I do waver from time to time.  When your plumbing, floors and crawlspace betray you THE SAME WEEKEND that your washer starts leaking and your TV loses its sound, you do get a bit paranoid.  You wonder when the other shoe will drop - or, more to the point, how many other shoes are going to drop, because you've already exceeded just the one pair.  You notice that your car is idling kind of loudly at stoplights.  You wonder if, possibly, you are magnetic or have some other odd, detrimental effect on mechanical systems and equipment. 

Then you come down with an intestinal bug, and go home early on a Friday, and a few hours later, when you are still feeling generally queasy and rundown (and have started to wonder if, possibly, you are magnetic or have some other odd, detrimental effect on your own bodily systems and equipment), you register the fact that the room feels kind of hot.  You blame it on being feverish.  And then you slowly become aware of the fact that THE AIR CONDITIONER HAS STOPPED RUNNING.  The air conditioner that went out during the hottest week in August last year, and had to be replaced.  You start to panic.  You picture yourself packing your house, which (last you checked) is in TEXAS, in late August and early September, with nothing but space fans to keep you cool.  Your husband determines that the A/C is fully operational, but the kill switch has been tripped.  The kill switch that trips when there is too much condensation in the lines.  You call your insurance company at 9:30 on a Friday night and inform them that THE MOISTURE UNDER THE HOUSE HAS CAUSED YOUR AIR CONDITIONER TO CRY UNCLE, and you along with it.  You speculate out loud to Oscar the 24-hour emergency claims guy that failure of your A/C to run because of an excess of moisture in your crawl space probably isn't covered by your A/C warranty.  BECAUSE IT'S NOT A PROBLEM WITH THE A/C AT ALL.  IT'S A PROBLEM WITH YOUR HOUSE - and where, oh where, is that second adjuster?  And what is the earliest date that they can insert the giant sucking thing under the house to really start drying things out?  Because, in the stages of homeowner grief, we are way past denial and bargaining, and we have moved on to "Let's get this bleepin'-bleepin' show on the road."
   
Your spouse gets the A/C working again.  For now.  And you try to find the funny again.   You fail.  So you blog about your frustration instead.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Locker Lookz




Found this site by accident while searching for boy-appropriate back-to-school geegaws.  I have no use for Locker Lookz' products, given that my eleven year-old is not in the market for locker wallpaper, or an ACTUALLY FUNCTIONAL, MAGNETIC CHANDELIER . . . but good, sweet Lord, if I was an eleven year-old girl again, I WOULD WANT THIS STUFF.  All of it.  The (also magnetic) wallpaper locker surround, the magnets topped with big, fluffy color-coordinated gerbera daisies (trimmed with rhinestones, natch), the shag carpet (!) and the chandelier.  Def the chandelier.  Maybe not the hangy-down one, but the one with the damask drum shade.  Yeah, I need the drum shade.

Okay, stop me before I start accessorizing a locker that I do not possess.  Buy this stuff for your daughters, share photos with me, and allow me to live vicariously through your girl children.

Web site is http://www.lockerlookz.com/.  Products are available at some retailers (allegedly including the Hallmark store on Bryant Irvin, right here in The Fort), but it would be so much more fun to order stuff online, because you can experiment with color schemes and product combinations in a virtual locker.

Genius.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Back to School Bash


Posted a bunch of back-to-school party ideas to Pinterest, like this pencil vase and the apple-and-pencil-filled hurricanes below:


I am particularly fond of these apple cupcakes-in-process:


Cupcake plus mini chocolate donut plus red frosting plus sprinkles equals apple.  You can insert a pretzel rod for a woody stem or use a green Twizzler, and leaves can be cut from green Starbursts that you roll out with a rolling pin.

The Little Kid may be getting a couple of these pencils in his first-day-of-school lunch:


Cheese stick plus bologna eraser (attached using mustard glue) plus Bugle point plus raisin lead equals one heck of a cute edible pencil.

Attributions for the above ideas, plus others, are on my Pinterest board, which you can access by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Eat This: Peanut Butter Syrup


I made enough pancakes to feed a small army on Sunday.  I figured, what the heck?  Might as well knock a bunch out at once, and refrigerate or freeze some to heat up on Monday and beyond.  And if you know your stove and your pan pretty well, there's a rhythm to making pancakes that actually lends itself to an extended session.  As in, you squirt a pancake into the pan (okay, you might not squirt your pancakes, but I do, on account of how my mother gifted me with a way-nifty batter squeeze bottle from Williams-Sonoma), take on a half-minute project (put a few dishes in the dishwasher, fill a pet food dish, whatever), flip the pancake, attend to another small project, remove the pancake to a dish, and repeat.  You can clean most of your kitchen while you are making pancakes, if you time it right and you tackle things on a DIAM basis.  (In Junior League and other service organizations, you have DIAD, or "Done in a Day," projects, and around the house I tend to categorize things into DIADs, DIAHs and DIAMs.)  The pancakes warm in the oven as I add to their number, or sometimes I just nuke them in the micro at the end.

But not before nuking this lovely concoction.

PEANUT BUTTER SYRUP

Scoop ¼ cup creamy peanut butter into a microwave-safe bowl and pour ½ cup maple syrup over top. Heat in microwave on HIGH, stirring at 15-second intervals until mixture is smooth. Pour over waffles, pancakes or French toast.

I like mine to be a little on the thick side, so I go for more of a 1:1 ratio.  Absolutely delicious over banana pancakes, or regular pancakes topped with banana slices.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kid Stuff: Middle School Approacheth


The Big Kid starts middle school in two weeks, and he generally has a positive outlook about everything - the exception being lunch.  Two weeks into summer break, he blurted out, "So, when you're in middle school, you don't eat with your class?"

"Um, yeah, I guess that's right."

"What if you can't find anyone to sit with?"

And so it begins.  Sigh. 

I leveled with him.  I told him that middle school is unavoidably awkward, with occasional veers into the just plain awful.  But he should take comfort in the fact that every middle schooler, at every middle school, has essentially the same experience.  It's a function of your age - so just roll with it as best you can.  And then I offered him some words of actual comfort: 

"And remember, too, that you're in a Magnet program."

"Meaning?"

"Um, well, four things.  One:  you are in a small group within a larger group, and people within the small group will tend to band together.  Two:  because it's a Magnet program, you have people coming from everywhere - likely, only one or two from each elementary campus.  So, kind of a level playing field, you know?  You're a new kid, but you aren't the only new kid - there are a hundred of you.  Three:  everyone in the program is oriented towards arts and sciences, so there's instant common ground.  And four:  it's an open campus.  You can take your lunch to the science or computer lab, avoid the lunchroom entirely and hopefully meeting some lunch-worthy new friends in the process."

This helped - a little.  What helped a lot was the invitation in the mail to fish camp.  Today and tomorrow, Big Kid is at his new campus, touring the sixth-grade building (without his dorky parents tagging along and asking tedious questions about classes offered for high school credit), participating in spirit- and team-building exercises, and getting to know the other people in his "web."  Or, rather his WEB (standing for "Where Everyone Belongs") - a group of ten sixth-graders who are assigned an eighth-grade den father or mother.  Said den parent escorts them to their classes the first few days, until they get the lay of the land, and the first week they eat lunch within their WEB group as well.

Love this idea - in part because it directly addresses what seems to be the root cause of most of our free-floating anxiety, and in part for sentimental reasons.  Because, once upon a time, I was a Teaching Quizmaster, our law school's equivalent of a WEB leader.  I taught research and writing skills to a small group of first-year law students, I coached their IM football team (yeah, that was laughable - but you have to give us props for our team name, "Felonious Monk," particularly if you know anything about jazz music - which, shockingly, a lot of my TQ students did), I baked them cakes for their birthdays, and, basically, sought to eradicate free-floating anxiety from their little 1L lives.  It was a great experience, in large part because, but for the TQ program, I probably would have not met my best law school friend.  Guy named McGlinchey.  Who, over time, morphed from drinking buddy into "kissing buddy," then into boyfriend, fiance, husband and father of my two children.  So, yeah, sentimental about the WEB thing - and also convinced that it's a really great idea.  Sufficiently great that I will ignore the Spider-Man connotations and encourage the rest of my anti-Marvel/pro-DC household to do the same.

The other thing that is going on this week is we're waiting to find out whether the broken pipe under the house, and more specifically the moisture absorption into floor beams and boards relating to the broken pipe, will only require another week or so of running the dehumidifer, or whether it will require something more - like refinishing or other treatment of the hardwoods (necessitating a temporary relocation of the McGlinchey clan, including beasts) or even worse, beam replacement or the equivalent (possibly necessitating a temporary relocation of the McGlinchey clan, including beasts, PLUS APPROXIMATELY TWO THOUSAND TONS OF THE MCGLINCHEY CLAN'S STUFF - furniture and other contents, packed into a Pods pod, and then unpacked).  My spouse assures me that the disruption caused by the worst-case scenario would be minimized if I would consent to simply let movers pack and unpack everything.  Yeah, like that's going to happen.  If I have to PRETEND to move, then I am at least going to get the BENEFIT of pretending to move and take the opportunity to edit our personal belongings.  We're overdue, anyway, and if we are looking at the worst-case scenario then I am going to take it as an instruction from on high that I should gather my rosebuds while I can.  But, seriously?  I.  DO.  NOT.  HAVE.  TIME.  RIGHT.  NOW.  Okay - got that out of my system.  It is what it is, and I'll deal - we'll deal - and I'll try to see the humor and/or irony in things.  Like, this year when the first day of school paperwork comes home, and I have to fill out the census data about the kids' living situation, I may actually be able to check the box for "transient."  Don't know why this amuses me -  there is rarely anything amusing about being transient - but I always see that box and then check the other box, and this year I might get to check the first box.  So, there's that.    

In the interim, I am fighting the urge to just start cleaning everything out.  RIGHT.  NOW.  I indulged the urge a little bit on Saturday:  first, I tackled the office supply drawer.  Sorted fasteners, tested the pens, sharpened the pencils (useful before the first day of school, anyway).  Then I moved on to "paper" - mail, magazines, tear-outs from magzaines, coloring books, preschool workbooks, and so on.  Filled a large laundry bin with materials for recycling, and another large laundry bin with things to sell at Half-Price Books, and a good-sized trash bag with just plain trash.  In the process, I sorted through a lot of school paperwork, and one of the items that I found was a small booklet that the Big Kid completed (I believe in third grade) titled "Making and Keeping Friends."  One of the pages was titled:

I KNOW HOW TO HANDLE BULLIES!

And under that title was a matrix of four boxes, which boxes were completed as follows:

1. Walk away.

2. Punch them in the nose.

3. If they are too big –

4. Punch them in the throat.

#4 initially confused me, as I thought it lacked a reasoned concern for self-preservation (go on the offensive if you think you can take the person, but consider retreating if otherwise?).  Then I realized that my excessively literal older child was being excessively literal:  if they are too tall to afford you a good shot at their nose, then as a practical matter you're going to have to go for the throat.
 
God, I love him.  And I hope that the WEB works its magic, and he truly feels that his school is a place where he belongs.  Because, otherwise, me may be getting a call from the office requesting a meeting to discuss his conflict resolution skills.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Nissa Lisa Shirts and Octopus Boys

I have been a big fan of Etsy seller Nissa Lisa for some time.  Her monster-appliqued hoodies and jeans epitomize little boy chic.  But I am a HUGE fan of her new (to me, at least) appliqued graphic tees.  Specifically, I am coveting this one:


Good gosh awmighty, this shirt has Parker James written all over it.  In fact, it leaves me wondering if my darling younger child isn't, actually, factually, an octopus.  He is definitely capable of gnawing off his own arm when he is "really hungry" - which is, like, all of the time.  The kid has a slow leak somewhere, and has had one since birth.  The nurses on the maternity ward nicknamed him "The Barracuda," in recognition of the way that he would scrunch up his face and thrust his lips outward when he wanted to nurse. But maybe they were wrong.

Maybe he is, actually, factually, an octopus.

I mean, he is a bit grabby.  Lately, his primary means of getting my attention is to reach out and honk "the girls." Which, I guess, is sort of explainable.  They are fairly prominent.  And stationed at his eye level.  And he is a boy.  Possibly - no, probably - of the octopus variety.

I [heart] my Octopus Boy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Ten Celebrity Chefs and the Foods That Should Be Thrown at Them

So apparently Anthony Bourdain posted on another celebrity chef's blog, proposing theoretical "Iron Chef" match-ups between Food Network personalities (and skewering them - food pun intended - in the process).

I cannot find that post, and I am wondering if it was taken down.  But I plan to keep looking, with the zest and zeal of a cryptozoologist hunting for chupacabra.

In the meantime, I am enjoying a Denver Westword blog post by Saul Hudson titled "Ten Celebrity Chefs and the Foods That Should Be Thrown at Them."  Inspired by the Bourdain posts, it incorporates suggestions such as:

"Guy Fieri and a 15-inch Mexican spaghetti hoagie."

"Rachel Ray and a Christmas-sized Hillshire Farm summer sausage. For nothing else than the mark it would leave. I would spend hours practicing my form."

"Sandra Lee and a can of Spaghetti O's."

"Rocco DiSpirito and a plate of Mario Batali's 'mint love letters with spicy lamb sausage.' Just so he knows what Italian food is supposed to taste like."

Access the complete post at the link below:

http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2009/11/10_celebrity_chefs_and_the_foo.php

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Blue Ribbon Party


This party concept from the Create My Event site gets a blue ribbon.  Literally and figuratively.



Simple, but with big impact.  I like it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eat This: Angry Birds Pizza


I don't play Angry Birds.  I am strictly old school (and, pretty clearly, the child of a mathematician):  Free Cell.  Bejeweled.  Sudoku.  Repeat.

But my spouse plays Angry Birds, as do my children.  So I am thinking of making this bad boy for them.  Recipe for this red bird (and also the yellow bird) pizza can be accessed at the following link:  http://blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/2011/04/08/angry-birds-mini-pizzas/.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kid Stuff: Parker's Private Benjamin Impersonation

We just returned from a family vacay - to a broken pipe under the house (thanks, Texas drought!), plus a busted washing machine and a television with no sound.  Washer is fifteen years old, so we are well overdue for an upgrade, but the television sticks in my craw, because: 
  1. This is the television that had no picture earlier in the year, and we agonized over whether to replace it or sink $200 in it to replace a teeny-tiny component.  Opted for the latter.  Translation:  we gambled and lost.  This only solidifies my general distrust of flat-screen televisions.  At the risk of sounding like an old geezer, give me a boxy television any day.  In my experience, boxy televisions are workhorses.  Long-in-the-tooth workhorses.  And put 'em in one of those walnut cabinets that make 'em look like furniture - you know, like your grandmother had in her family room?  Yeah, those suckers will last DECADES.  The flat-screen in our living room, not so much.  Five years, if that?  Meh.
  2. We got a call from our alarm company while we were on the road, advising us that our intrusion alarm was going off.  Husband told me not to panic, reminding me that one of our exterior doors can be temperamental, and if you don't lock it just right, it can spring back open.  Sure enough, that was the problem.  But, for a split second there, I was thinking, "Gosh, I hope we're not being robbed right now.  Not that they would linger very long, with the alarm going off, and there isn't much that's out and obvious, but they would get the living room TV for sure.  The one we just sank $200 into."  Yeah, no longer thinking that that scenario would have been that big of a disaster.  Sure, take the thing, buddy - but joke's on you, BECAUSE THE PIECE-O'-CRUD's got no sound!  Sorry, no refunds.
Anyway, I digress.  But I have to gripe, just a little, because there's nothing more depressing than coming home from a vacation (having just settled up with the rental car people - $340 - and the boarding kennel - $200) and IMMEDIATELY having to shell out:  $325 for a pipe repair; $190 for the dehumidifier that is now working overtime in our crawl space; $800 (estimated) for a new washer; and $? for a new television.  (We're considering our television options but leaning towards relocating the television from the master bedroom into the living room and gifting ourselves with a new set.  Probably a wall-mounted, flat-screen model THAT WILL BETRAY ME IN UNDER FIVE YEARS.  But it will free up SO much space on the bureau across from our bed, so . . . I'm RESIGNED, okay?  In the meantime, the eleven year-old future rocket scientist figured out how to hook up a laptop computer to the television and is playing the Wii, with sound, on the laptop.  I am not making this up.)

Did I mention the small fortune that I dropped at the premium outlet mall in San Marcos, en route to the first "official" stop of our Hill Country vacay, San Antonio?  "Official" is in quotes, because BELIEVE YOU ME the outlet mall was always on Mama's radar.  Specifically, I had high hopes for the Tory Burch outlet.  (Apparently, my reaction to the news of a Tory Burch outlet in San Marcos was so notable that the eleven year-old now gauges the strength of others' reactions to exciting news on the TBO (Tory Burch Outlet) Scale:  "Dad, when Kylie found out that she got into the Young Women's Leadership Academy, she was even more excited than Mom was when she found out that there is a Tory Burch outlet in San Marcos!")

TB turned out to be a disappointment - almost as much of a disappointment as a certain stupid flat-screen TV that died within five years and always looked blurry to me.  But I managed to console myself at Neiman's Last Call and Cole-Haan, so add - um - an unspecified but fairly substantial amount to the vacay week bill.

But this post isn't about me, and the two fabulous handbags that I scored in the Hill Country.  (GORGEOUS olive suede Alexis Hudson hobo, EIGHTY PERCENT OFF!  See, if you phrase it in terms of the discount, versus dollars spent, it's ever so much more palatable.)  This post is about my youngest child, who just DOES NOT GET THE POINT of going on a vacation.

Here are some snippets from our week on the road with Parker:

"Is 'Shark Week' this week or next?  Because if it's this week, then the hotel had better have cable.  Because I am NOT missing 'Shark Week' because of this vacation thing."

"So what's the big deal about the Riverwalk?   You just walk along the river, and - what?  What's the point?  I want to go back to the hotel."

"I'm tired of walking and looking at things.  I want to go back to the hotel."

(As we are driving past miles and miles of beautiful scenery)  "Can I play 'Brick Breaker' on your phone?"

(Standing in the spring-fed waters of Hamilton Pool, with catfish swarming around his legs in a crazy-cool fashion) "Um, the hotel has a POOL.  We could just swim there.  Or, you know, we could swim at home.  When are we going home again?"

When the time to go home mercifully arrived (for all of us - as irritated as Parker was about the concept of having to be outside and actually do things, the rest of us were equally irritated by the constant noise from the fountain o' whining), I made the mistake of mentioning on the drive north that only three weeks remained until school resumed:

"WHAT?  I have to go BACK?  But I went LAST YEAR, and I got really good grades, so shouldn't that be IT?"

Yeah, buddy, that was your problem.  You got really good grades, and they promoted you to first grade.  Rookie mistake.

Today I drove both boys to Camp Thurman - Connor's umpteenth summer at CT, but Parker's first.  And we were barely out of the driveway before Private Parker started asking questions:

"Does the camp have a television?

(No.)

"So what do you DO all day if there's no television?

(Interestingly, you do the things that people do on TV.  You swim and climb and ride zip lines and shoot arrows.  It's all very interactive.  Like reality TV - but you're actually IN the program.  Try it, you might like it.)

Until now, I never gave much thought to how much time my youngest child spends in Virtual World.  And, in defense of myself and my spouse, I don't think that his television and computer usage is all that excessive, and it's certainly on par with his brother's usage.  But Child #1 was born in 1999 - pre-Facebook, and pre-smart phones.  If you wanted to fully participate in society, you had to venture out-of-doors occasionally.  Child #2 was born in 2004.  The entire world has been accessible to him, on-demand, from day one.  The River Walk may not impress him, because he has experienced the Great Wall of China in virtual reality, via computer.  His creative writing journal from kindergarten was filled with illustrated stories of the trips he has taken - like the trip to Mount Fuji.  The trip that exists solely in his mind, and in cyberspace.  But, based on the accompanying drawing, you would really think that he had been there.  And - in his little cyborg mind - he has.

So I guess we should forgive him for finding Texas' Enchanted Rock a little underwhelming in comparison to the real deal in Japan.  And - knowing my child as well as I do - I recognize that a lot of the griping is just for show.  That's just Parker being Parker.  I have no doubt that when everyone gets home this evening we'll learn that Parker was the life of the party and tore that campground up, top to bottom.

But I also have no doubt that when we get in the car tomorrow morning, I'll hear some version of:

"WHAT?  I have to go BACK?"