Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Friday, July 29, 2011

Things I'm Digging: A Whole New World of Halloween Costume Options

Now that I have (1) grown my hair out past my shoulders and (2) decided to live with my natural curl (at least until pool season ends), I have a number of intriguing Halloween costume options at my disposal:

1.  Jessie from "Saved By the Bell".  I think I had this exact headband in high school.  Only problem is, Jessie really bugged the crud out of me . . . and then she went on to be a stripper in Vegas.  So, all things considered, I'd prefer to straighten my hair and go as Kelly Kapowski:

80sTees actually sells this Kelly Kapowski sweatshirt, complete with the Flashdance crop job.  Parnell would need to wear an appropriate Zach Morris shirt:

2.  Felicity.  I never actually watched this show, but I was aware of it, and of Keri Russell's hair.  And now I look at Keri Russell's hair in the mirror every morning.  It would be a very easy costume to put together:  style my hair as usual, put on a tank top and some jeans, and alternate between looking angsty and looking wistful.

3.  Jeannie Bueller.  Again, the hair would pretty much take care of itself.  I would need a pink cardigan, some pieces of flair, a messenger bag, some funky shoes . . . oh, and a Charlie Sheen.  Guess that would be Parnell.  Or he could be Ferris - but wouldn't that be kind of icky, given that they were siblings and all?  Ooh, he could be Cameron Frye.  I had an odd crush on Cameron when the movie came out (summer before my last year of high school?).  He seemed tortured, and I liked tortured.  That would be an easy costume, too:  a hockey jersey, and BOOM.  But if I were Parnell, I would opt for Charlie.  I'm guessing that more than a few folks will go the Charlie route for Halloween, but this would be a subtle Charlie reference.  And subtlety at Halloween wins points in my book.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Tour of the Food Network Prop House

I don't want to be Sandra Lee (although being the semi-first-lady of New York might be cool, at least for a little while), but I would LOVE with a capital L (and a capital O, a capital V and a capital E) to be her set dresser.  I am obsessed with her color-coordinated serving pieces, which always perfectly match the theme ingredient, and which also match the valance on the (probably faux) window above the sink.  Oh, and the Kitchen Aid mixer always matches, too.  I wondered what they would do, mixer-wise, when the episode on coffee came up - given that (at least at that point in time) there was no brown Kitchen Aid option. 

Answer:  copper.  Excellent save.

Click HERE to link to designer Eddie Ross' tour of the Food Network prop house.  Confirmation that my dream job would be a dream with a capital D (and a capital J).  Oh, and check out the rest of Eddie's blog as well, as he showcases some really cool party concepts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: The Perfect Plate

Cakes are a little bit about taste, and a little bit about presentation.  Hence my husband's obsesh with Nothing Bundt Cakes - they are scrumptious, and they also serve as the centerpiece.

I thought about my husband when I saw this cake plate.  P loves him some cake (he's not particularly selective as to type - fudge is always a winner, and also red velvet, but he's kind of an "any pound cake in a storm" guy when it comes right down to it).  And why have a normal-sized piece of cake when you could have a really huge one?  Hence the unit of measurement known in our extended family as "one Parnell."  As in:  "Yes, I would like some cheesecake.  One half of a Parnell, please."  The hostess then knows to take a typical XL Parnell-sized serving and reduce it by 50%.

This cake plate breaks it all down.  It's called the "Wheel of Portion," and it's by Wild Eye Designs.  Available wherever whimsical kitchenwares are sold.  (Not really, but you can find it online at a couple of retailers.)  In case you were wondering, "one Parnell" falls somewhere in between "midnight snack" and "sharing optional."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Things That Bug: The Lowest Depth of Misery

There is nothing worse than stepping into a crack in the pavement in the summer and submerging your high heel in liquid tar.  Tar that sticks to the high heel.  Tar that is black, which would be somewhat easier to tolerate if your shoe was black - but, somehow, this always seems to happen when you are wearing shoes that are not-black.

Shoe-swallowing tar is, unfortunately, a fact of life in North Texas these days.  We are well into our third straight week of double-digit temperatures, and it has not rained since the Bush Administration.  (Okay, that last part is a slight exaggeration - but only a slight one.)  It is no doubt a bad sign that the local meteorologists, who previously were known to worriedly count consecutive 100-degree days, are no longer bothering to count.  Also, one of the meteorologists on Channel 5 actually uttered the phrase "highs in the low 100's all week."  I know that "low 100's" is technically not an oxymoron, but it really ought to be an oxymoron.  There's nothing low about the 100's - except, perhaps, for its debilitating effect on morale.

The grass is dying.  I have been forced to move all of the "sun" potted plants into "part shade" and the "part shade" plant into "full shade."  I finally pulled up my tomato plant, because the poor dear didn't stand a chance.  The pepper plants are surviving, but barely.  Ditto my anniversary-present maple tree.

Speaking of wood . . . you know that it's bone-dry and hot outside when the bone-dry heat leaches inside and starts to warp your wood floors.  Seriously:  I can't walk across my living and dining room floors, because the bottoms of my very sensitive feet (I borrowed them from the princess of pea fame) can tell that the individual boards have pulled apart a bit and are curling up ever so slightly at the edges.  It makes me want to cry - which might be a good thing, because at least tears are moisture.  But I would probably get dehydrated.

At least we have pier and beam, I tell myself.  Unlike a slab, our foundation is designed to contract and expand.  Of course, this means that we'll develop cracks in the sheetrock running from the corners of the window and door frames up to the ceiling.  But that's the price of pier and beam - and pier-and-beam sheetrock cracks are of far less import than slab-related sheetrock cracks.

This is what I tell myself . . . as I hoof it across my wood floor and try not to notice that it is undulating.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kid Stuff: Parker M., Brother Inspector

The scene:  Big Brother and Little Brother were tussling, Big Brother was face down on our bed, feigning injury, and Little Brother wanted to get him moving again, to demonstrate to Mom that "he's-faking-so-please-don't-punish-me-because-I-didn't-actually-hurt-him."  Little Brother was armed with a flashlight (not sure why) and had also heard his mother and father talking about the weird mold smell that, within the last 24 hours, started emanating from the area near the front door, raising the question of whether we need to hire a home inspector.

So Little Brother essentially climbs on top of Big Brother's back and starts examining him from head to toe, using the flashlight.  Then, in a voice that was not his own (Little Brother likes to do voices) - kind of a bubba voice, and much deeper than his own - Little Brother begins his assessment:

"Yup, yup.  We're gonna need to add a third butt cheek over here [inserts flashlight into the waistband of Connor's jeans), and also a third leg.  AAAAAAAAND a second crotch, and a second head.  We'll start with the head.  COMMENCING BRAIN SURGERY NOW."

Big Brother's shoulders started shaking a bit, although he remained face down - no doubt so that he could muffle his laughter.  Mom was laughing as well.

Every night's a different show.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Potpourri: Recent Additions to the Master To-Do List

1.  Clean out the DVD drawer that has all of the Baby Einstein and Thomas the Tank Engine stuff in it and take a BIIIIIIIIIG box to Goodwill.  This task has to be completed under cover of darkness, lest the children who have not given a second's thought to Baby Einstein or Thomas in the last three years attempt to argue that these items are still of some value to them.  Actually, only the "cleaning out" part needs to be completed under cover of darkness; the "dropping off" part can be completed during the day - maybe when they are at camp and I am on a break from work?  I mean, I guess I could just attach a brick to the box and throw everything through the window in the middle of the night.  But I probably wouldn't end up getting a receipt out of the deal. 

Note that I did not say "put some of the DVDs in a box in the attic and donate the rest to Goodwill."  I hold no illusions that DVDs will be of any use to my future grandchildren.  By the time my kids get around to having kids, we will all have neural implants that will play videos on demand, ACTUALLY IN OUR OWN INDIVIDUAL HEADS.  So, I'm thinking so much for the DVDs.

But the trains themselves, I maintain, are transcendent, like the Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs and basic LEGOs that my parents kept and that my children still find fascinating.   ("Transcendent" is code for "we spent a small fortune on magnetic wooden trains, so our grandchildren darn well better find them fascinating, or at least intriguingly quaint.") 
2.  Learn how to play Pot-Limit Omaha poker.  Because "Pot-Limit Omaha" is more fun to say than "Texas Hold 'Em."  And because it appears to be crazy-complicated, so you would look kind of smart if you knew how to play it.  And, finally, because (according to Wikipedia) it is a game of "the nuts" - "the nuts" referring to the best possible high or low hand, but also being another phrase that is crazy-fun to say.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Things I'm Digging: The Uglydoll Game

I used to wonder why my mother sighed so much.  Specifically, every time I asked her to play a board game.  At some point, she confessed that she "just wasn't much of a board game person."  How was this even possible?  I mean, my mom seemed like a normal, rational person, possessing all of her faculties.  And who in her right mind didn't love sitting down to a good board game?

Answer:  mothers.  Mothers who need to cook dinner or put away laundry or focus on a rush project for work or who just want to watch a little TV or surf the Internet.  Mothers who are happy to interact with their children, but, REALLY?  A board game?  Requiring concentration and total recall of various arbitrary rules?  Can we kick a soccer ball?  At least we'd get some fresh air, and some exercise.  Or can we play with the six Viking ships that occupy a (very cute) basket in the (don't ask) dining room?  You know, to justify the fact that we continue to own six Viking ships, which we store in a (very cute) basket in the (don't ask) dining room?

Enter The Uglydoll Game, which is really sort of an un-game.  TUG gets my vote for best kid game ever, for the following reasons:

1)  It's an Uglydoll tie-in, and I [heart] Uglydolls, on account of how they are un-dolls.  (Clearly, "un" is a big thing with me.)  They are kind of ugly (hence the name), but so ugly that they are cute, and they have interesting back stories.  And, also, they don't do anything (like talk, or wet, or - remember that I have boys - launch missiles), so you are forced to use your imagination when you play with them.  Or, if you can't muster any imagination, you can use them as a pillow.  So, you know, there's the whole social utility thing going for them.

2)  The rules are subversive, and ridiculously simple to follow, for kids and adults alike.  You spread all of the cards out, face down.  They don't have to be arranged in grid format, like with "Memory."  In fact, I think that the instructions actually instruct you to spread 'em in a messy pile.  Then you take turns flipping over a card.  The person who most recently took a bath or shower goes first.  Again, unlike "Memory," you don't turn the card back over - once it's face up, it's face up.  The cards have pictures of Uglydolls on them, and the object of the game is to collect three cards with the same Uglydoll, so you take turns flipping over cards until you have three of a kind.  Then it's a race to pick them up, and you get as many cards as you grab (so you might get all three, or two, or one), and if two people grab the same card at the same time, the first person to say "UGLY UGLY UGLY" gets the card.

It's over when the last card is flipped.  And then you count how many cards each player has, and highest number of cards wins.

3)  It's easy to manipulate the game to allow the youngest family member to win.  As in, you take your time reaching for the cards once "three of a kind" is achieved, allowing said youngster to collect most, or all, of the cards.  Well, truth be told, this kind of happens naturally, on account of how little kids are fast and excitable.  The deck (small pun intended) is pretty much stacked in their favor.

4)  It's okay if you misplace a card every now and then, because you end up with a few unmatched cards at the end, anyway.

5)  The game is portable.  It's a flippin' deck of cards, people.  (Hey, another card pun!)

6)  The game is also fully customizable.  More often than not, we choose to play the game on an unmade bed, meaning that the messy pile of cards is on the "really messy" end of the mess spectrum, and the cards have a tendency to flip back over on their own.  And that's okay, because it adds an additional degree of difficulty.  "Hey, we have three Ice Bats!  Oh, wait, one of the Ice Bats flipped over.  WHERE THE HECK WAS THAT ICE BAT?  Oh, it's probably under the big iceberg of cards that formed when the cat jumped on the bed and all of the cards slid off of the peak of Mount Duvet over there."  You may lose track of cards in "Memory," but they don't actually MOVE around the playing area.  I'm just sayin.' 

Also, it's an unwritten rule in our household that you must say the name of the Uglydoll on a card as you flip it, and you must say the name in a bored monotone - until you hit three of a kind.  "Jeero."  "Target."  "[Sigh] Babo."  "[Sigh] Another Jeero."  "Ugly Dog."  "Jeero - UGLY UGLY UGLY!"

And, also again, it is another unwritten rule in our household that you must call all of the Uglydolls by their actual names except for Tray.  This is Tray:

Tray's given name is derived, I think, from the three bumps on her head (each housing, I am told, a separate brain).  However, we have collectively decided that she does not look like a Tray.  She looks like a "Pinko."  Or a "Plinko."  It varies.  Either she's a derogatory name for a Communist or she's a popular Price is Right game, but the point is, SHE DOESN'T LOOK ENOUGH LIKE A TRAY FOR US TO REMEMBER THAT HER NAME IS TRAY.  So she's Pinko.  Or Plinko.

This concludes my dissertation on why The Uglydoll Game is the best.  game.  ever.  (From a parent's perspective - and, based on empirical evidence, from a child's perspective as well.)  Now go hither and procure one hence.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: 80sTees

Tees on the Web site that I want to add to my subversive/ironic/hipster t-shirt collection:

Self-explanatory.  The next one suits me because I have been accused of having Vulcan-like tendencies (which I may have passed on to my oldest child - we have examined his ears multiple times, and they seem human, but no one is convinced).  And, also, it is a really cool color that I don't have:

Little Miss Dallas Mavericks tee!  Want to see a companion tee with Dirk Nowitzski as Mr. Men.  Oh, and please explain why the Junk Food Tees people have seen fit to make a variation of this shirt for just about every NBA team except my (original) hometown Houston Rockets.  Seriously?  Grr.

I wish they had this one in Parker's size:

(Hee, hee, hee.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Social Networking

I was somewhat surprised to get an e-mail from Swoozie's, the cute party supply business out of Dallas that I thought went bankrupt, but apparently they underwent a Chapter 11 reorganization, versus a Chapter 7.  (You can take the girl out of the bankruptcy firm, but . . . you know the reste.)

So, yay, Swoozie's - way to make a comeback.  And you have got me thinking that my next cocktail party ought to have a "Social Networking" theme (which fits nicely with the fact that I finally got around over the weekend to watching the film adaptation of Ben Mezrich's "Accidental Billionaires," and ended up watching it multiple times, back to back to back - man, have I missed Aaron Sorkin's scriptwriting since "The West Wing" went bye-bye).

Check out these cups and napkins - and other clever party supplies - on the Swoozie's site,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eat This: Peppers Stuffed With Stuff

Central Market has had an ongoing "Passport to Spain" promotion, and in connection therewith they have added to their frozen food selection a nifty little product called pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao y gambas.  That translates into piquillo peppers stuffed with codfish and shrimp.  They are made by a Spanish company, Chef Don Molinico.  And they are delicious.

These are the real deal, people:  the entire box is written en Espanol, although someone has helpfully attached a sticker with an English translation of the preparation instructions to the back.  I will admit that the "everything in a foreign language" aspect of the product frightened me for a second - but only because I didn't see the "product of Spain" label at the bottom and thought that the item was from Mexico.  (Sorry, but I can't help but take notice of the fact that most of the botulism and listeria-containing products that get taken off of the store shelves in these parts hail from down Mexico way.)  When I saw that they came from Europe, I (somewhat absurdly) felt better about them (I have yet to hear of a Spanish product being removed from store shelves in North Texas - yes, that's probably because there aren't all that many Spanish products on North Texas shelves, but please stop being logical).  Then I realized that they were peppers stuffed with fish, versus a creamy white cheese filling, and I got a little hinky about them again.  And then I decided that I needed to live a little.

So I bought the peppers. And I bought some Central Market queso from the bulk bar, along with some Central Market corn salsa (BECAUSE THE BULK BAR WAS HAVING A SALE!  Seriously, how cool is THAT?  Twenty percent off of all dips and spreads, woo hoo!).  The box told me (en Espanol) to smother the peppers in queso after I had thawed them.  Yes, I realize that the box was probably referring to queso fresco, not a cheese dip with chunks of peppers in it.  But this is North Texas - home to botulism-laden Mexican canned goods and yummy liquid cheese products.

I took the peppers home.  I thawed them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  I put them in a Pyrex dish.  I covered them with queso and a sprinkling of corn salsa and I baked them until they were heated through.  And they were AHmazing.  My new favorite quick-fix weeknight meal (with a side of black beans, possibly some guac).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Southern Girl 101: Geography Lesson

Dallas is not Fort Worth.  And Fort Worth, sure as shootin', is NOT Dallas.

Thus ends today's geography lesson.

Thanks to the Style Network, I now know how Arlington must have felt every time that a member of the sports press referred to the Super Bowl being held in "beautiful Cowboys Stadium located in Dallas, Texas."  See, moving west to east on I-30, you have Fort Worth, and then Arlington - home to "beautiful Cowboys Stadium" - and then Grand Prairie, and then you get to Dallas.  It's roughly a forty-minute drive - or, put another way, roughly five minutes outside of my bladder's comfort zone if I have a beverage before I leave the house or enjoy one in the car.  Seriously.  Ask my spouse:  every time we drove to Dallas as early marrieds, I would ask him to stop the car just outside of Dallas proper so that I could take a potty break.  Except that there is no feasible place to stop for a potty break as you are driving into Dallas on I-30 from Fort Worth.  Sketchy liquor stores, yes; high-end travel stations, no.

I learned to hold it.

We used to go to Dallas fairly frequently in our early married days, to see friends, or to eat at restaurants or shop at stores that had yet to come to Tarrant County.  But then we got more restaurants and stores - and now our Dallas travel is limited to:  (1) trips to the Dallas World Aquarium; (2) trips to the Dallas Arboretum (for "Dallas Blooms" at Easter or the pumpkin patch in the fall); and (3) the occasional trip to see a sporting event at the American Airlines Center.  Oh, and the occasional girlfriend trip.  Within the last twelve months, I have taken two of these - an evening trip to see a revival of "Cabaret" in the Arts District and an afternoon trip with Friend Robyn that began with lunch at Campisi's.  We checked out various antiques stores, bought Mexican dresses and blouses at La Mariposa and bought suzani and Ikat pillow covers at The Funky Turkish Store Next Door to La Mariposa.  (That is its actual name - okay, not really.)

That's it for me and Dallas.  Sharks, pumpkins, Mexican blouses and Turkish housewares.  Oh, and Turkish food.  Cafe Istanbul is one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants, and it's in Dallas.  But, really, that's it - the Turkish stuff and the other stuff.  The rest of the time, I am more than happy to stay on the Tarrant County side of the county line.  We have our thing, and Dallas has its thing.

Except, the Style Network has decided to mix the chocolate with the peanut butter.  Friend Beth sounded the alarm on Facebook:  "Has anyone else stumbled across this show, 'Big Rich Texas'"?  She proceeded to set the scene:  big-haired women with big voices, acting catty - like the Real Housewives of New Jersey, but with bleached blonde hair and Texas twangs.  This, we have seen before.  Many times.  But then she dropped the bombshell.

The focal point of the show is "an exclusive Dallas country club."  And the name of that exclusive Dallas country club is . . . Woodhaven. 

Um, what?  Woodhaven?  The place off of I-30, behind Nolan Catholic High School and the Channel 5 tower?  Okay, I'll give you "country club."  "Exclusive"?  Yeah, that's sort of debatable.  It's more of a neighborhood thing (apparently, it's really become a neighborhood thing - read on). 

And "Dallas"?

Um, no.  Woodhaven is in east Fort Worth, as you approach Arlington.  And, as you learned from today's geography lesson (sing it with me, "The Arlington's connected to the Grand Prairie, and the Grand Prairie's connected to the Dallas."  Thank you very much.

Woodhaven Country Club is not Dallas - not geographically, and not otherwise.

And yet here are these women who, actually, factually, live in Highland Park or Highland Park-Adjacent (I confirmed this through the Dallas Observer blog - apparently, some Dallasites are as amused by the "Woodhaven's in Dallas" concept as we are over here) going on and on about how everybody who's everybody in Dallas is a member of Woodhaven Country Club.

Here's what I (and the aforementioned Dallasites) think happened:  Style Network pitched the idea about a show centering on the Texas country club lifestyle.  Every Dallas country club said, "Pass."  Then they probably approached the clubs in central Fort Worth (Colonial, Mira Vista, Ridglea, Rivercrest and Shady Oaks), who also said, "Pass."  But Woodhaven said, "Sure."  Because, apparently, Woodhaven was recently purchased by a resident of the Woodhaven neighborhood, and apparently said purchaser (1) wants to boost membership and (2) isn't a wallflower.  Far from it:  apparently, he is in the cast.  (When I say that we're obsessed with this show, understand that only Friend Beth has seen the show thus far - but I am totally watching it when it encores in one hour and nine minutes.)  And, I'm guessing, the members of the club featured in the show (including, but not limited to, the one who insists that all prospective members have to go through her first) had never heard of Woodhaven Country Club until their (comped?) membership packets came in the mail, mere hours before the Style Network production trucks rolled into town.

That town being FORT WORTH, people.  Hey, we're known for our entrepreneurial spirit, so, you go, Woodhaven Country Club Owner!
Stay tuned, as no doubt I will have hot sports opinions about this hot mess of a show.

Kid Stuff: LEGO Rant

Apropos of sort of nothing, remember when LEGOs were sold either as (1) an assortment of colored bricks or (2) an assortment of colored bricks? There were no LEGO kits back in the day. If you wanted to build a spaceship, you simply built one using basic bricks and your imagination. And the spaceship you built was, basically, a rectangle, with rectangular wings. Because you only had right angles to work with, at least at first. At some point, LEGO introduced things with angles, and conical trees, and bricks that looked like windows, and tiny doors, and body parts. Minifigures came after, and compared to today's minifigs the originals were scary and clonelike. But before there were minifigures, there were the body parts. Body parts that you were supposed to combine with regular bricks to make people. Spindly arms, clawlike hands, and big round yellow heads with LEGO buttons where the ears should have been and also on top of the heads (so you could attach scary wigs to them, or a variety of hats).  There were no torsos - you stacked a bunch of four-button LEGO squares to make a body and put a longer, six-button LEGO rectangle at the bottom to serve as feet (okay, technically, as a uni-foot), and you had - sort of - a person. But the scale of the people was totally off - unless you had a bazillion LEGO pieces at your disposal, and lots of time, there was no way that you could build a house that would be to scale with the people.  So I guess you could call them megafigures.  Megafigures begat minifigures.

I'm thinking about this as I sort through ten tons of LEGO debris as we clear out toy totes at our house . . . .

Why, exactly, were there connector buttons on the tops of the heads? So that you could stack several scary bulbous heads, one on top of the other, and thereby create a totem pole to grace the front of the (unfortunately rectangular) teepee wigwam boxy sweat lodge that you just built as the centerpiece of your LEGO Indian settlement? Which, by the way, you would have referred to as "Indian," not "Native American," because this was WAAAAAAY back in the day, when Native Americans were still referred to as Indians and did a whole lot of crying about the environment in TV commercials.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Potpourri: Transformers Movie Review

Well, that's two and a half years of my life that I'm not getting back.

Did I say years? Freudian slip. That should say two and a half hours, but let me tell you - each hour felt like a year.  No, like more than a year.  A decade, at least.

We took the boys to "Breakfast and a Movie" (formerly "Flapjacks and a Flick," but now they have more than pancakes) and put it up to a vote whether we saw the Transformers movie or "Cars 2."  The kids selected . . . Kevin James' "Zookeeper."  Which - sorry, kids - was not on the table.  (It's not that I don't like Kevin James; I could watch his dance sequences in "Hitch" on a continuous loop.  "Makin' the pizzas.  Q-Tip, Q-Tip . . . and throw it away."  But I saw "Paul Blart:  Mall Cop."  Once.  And that was enough.  Fairly sure that the working title for "Zookeeper" was "Paul Blart 2."  So, like I said - NOT on the table.)  So we regrouped, and we went to see Transformers.  And I had oatmeal.  In a movie theater.  This was a first for me. 

It was good oatmeal.  And I felt virtuous for eating it - despite the fact that I added butter and brown sugar to it.  Which I never do at home - but they gave me little cups of both, along with cups of toasted pecans and cranberries.  I mean, what's a girl supposed to do?  THE BUTTER WAS ALL SOFT, AND WHEN I PUT IT IN THE OATMEAL IT GOT ALL MELTY AND AWESOME, AND (I CAN'T STRESS THIS PART ENOUGH) I ATE THIS HEAVENLY CONCOCTION IN A MOVIE THEATER.

Movie Tavern:  proof that Western civilization, while on the decline in some areas, is still alive and kickin'.

Still focusing on the bright side:  when we left the movie theater, Connor did not proceed to break his arm.  Given our track record vis-a-vis prior Flapjacks and a Flick, this represents progress.

Okay, the bad part.

MESSAGE TO MICHAEL BAY:  The adage is "less is more."  And, as adages go, it's a good one.  Here's an example of a bad adage:  "more is not enough."   And here's an example of a true adage:  "more is headache inducing."

First off, they had the sound cranked way too loud.  Second, the movie was in 3D.  Third, there was one action shot after another action shot after another action shot, with not much in between, except for the occasional slow-motion shot of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley sauntering and looking pouty.  Believe me when I tell you that the slow-mo sauntering and pouting were some of the best parts of the movie.  Really.  I actually like the girl, and I probably would have liked her even if she didn't represent SWEET RELIEF FROM THE ONSLAUGHT OF FX.

There was so much action - all of it very much in your face, thanks to 3D - that I found myself looking away.  A lot.  I think that my eyes may have actually started twitching.  At the half hour mark, I started checking Facebook.  Every five minutes.  Then I started IMDB'ing people in the peripheral cast who looked familiar.  And then I admitted defeat and played Sudoku on my Blackberry.  Except that I had to forfeit the last game, on account of how I backed myself into a corner and put two 7's on one line, on account of how I could not concentrate on account of the OVERLY LOUD AND OVERLY VISUAL MOVIE.

I couldn't even enjoy what I thought was the best action sequence in the film, because I could not get over how implausible it was.   SPOILER ALERT . . . .

[Seriously, this is your last warning.]

You have twenty buildings, at least, in a three square block radius, from which you can attempt a shot at something high atop another building . . . and you choose the building that is badly listing to one side?  Then you RIDE the side of the building as it goes over, notwithstanding that given the angles involved the laws of physics would cause you to hang in midair for a split second and then plummet straight down, through and into the building's glass exterior?  Oh, wait - after SLIDING down the INCREDIBLY STEEP ANGLE that is now the side of the building, you realize that the laws of physics are catching up to you, so you decide that you WANT to go through the building's glass exterior, so you shoot out the panes in front of you and neatly plop throught the holes.  Six or seven of you.  And none of you sustain any life-threatening, artery-severing cuts.


Without giving more away, there were a LOT of laws-of-physics-defying moments in this flick - and when we brought this up later, the Older Kid rolled his eyes and said, "Mom, Sentinel Prime explained that.  The Transformers' technology DEFIES the laws of physics." 

Ah . . . well, that explains . . . um, nothing, actually.

I soldiered through to the end, fighting the urge to walk across the street to Joann to shop for craft supplies.  I felt a little guilty about not enjoying the film, because it runs counter to my tomboy nature to not like action films - and, also, I thought that my spouse, just possibly, was enjoying the film, given that:  (1) he seemed to be watching it (he was pointing his face toward it, at least) and not objecting to it too much; and (2) he is an actual, factual guy, versus merely a tomboy (which is kind of like having visa status in Boy World - he was born a citizen, you know?).  I was somewhat relieved to learn, at the end of the film, THAT HE ALSO THOUGHT IT WAS TORTURE.  As we walked out, I said, "Okay, kids - Mom and Dad get to pick the next one."

And Dad said, "No, Mom and Dad get to pick the next two . . .hundred."

Needless to say, the kids thought that it was the best movie ever made.  Better than "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca" - and much better than "Cats."  (Sorry - somewhat obscure "Saturday Night Live" reference.)
So, that's something, I guess - the kids had a good time, and Connor didn't break his arm.  It appears that I did not suffer any permanent neurological damage after suffering from a full-body twitch for two and a half hours.  And I had a pretty darned tasty bowl of hot breakfast cereal.

My spouse agreed that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was the best thing in the film (not that I expected that he would have a different P.O.V. on THAT).  Actually, we decided that it was a tie between "Rosie Huntington-Whiteley looking hot" and "Patrick Dempsey's character getting killed." (One of the bazillion things that my husband and I have in common:  our intense, albeit sort of situational, dislike of winsome male actors.  We find Patrick Dempsey incredibly irritating in everything other than "Enchanted" and "Made of Honor."  We also agree that Richard Gere is incredibly irritating in everything except "Pretty Woman," "Chicago" and "Shall We Dance," and Bill Pullman is incredibly irritating in - um, everything.)

I am hoping that this is the end of the Transformers franchise.  I mean, the final scenes were awfully final, you know?  But I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not be our last Autobot rodeo.

As long as I have my bowl of oatmeal, and my smart phone, I guess I'll be fine.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Christmas (Adult Beverages) in July

I am a big fan of Amy Sedaris - specifically, of her book, "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence." I enjoy her wacky blend of practical entertaining advice (to make cocktails meatballs ahead of time, freeze them on a cookie sheet before putting them into a container so they won't adhere to each other), "funny but actually sort of practical" entertaining advice (fill your medicine cabinet with marbles before a party, because "nothing announces a nosey guest better than an avalanche of marbles hitting a porcelain sink") and "funny and hopefully-not-intended-to-be-serious advice, but GOOD, SWEET LORD I know someone who actually DOES this" (avoid overly detailed and personal introductions like, "This is Barbara, she can't have children").

If Amy isn't friends with Valerie Peterson, well, she should be.

Like the cupcake-obsessed Ms. Sedaris, Ms. Peterson is a serious baker (of sugar cookies - which makes me love her that much more, because I rank a good iced sugar cookie right up there with, and possibly even ahead of, a good cupcake). She has published at least two "Cookie Craft" books of which I am aware, but I haven't gotten around to purchasing either of those. I do have her cocktail recipe books, "Peterson's Happy Hour" and "Peterson's Holiday Helper," and I am particularly enamored with the latter.

Read this snippet from the book's Web site (click on it to enlarge, then hit the back button - or Blogger will, quite annoyingly, close on you), and you will understand why:

The recipes are interspersed with various awkward and ironic retro family photos, of the MikWright variety.

There are lots and lots of Christmas-inspired recipes, but the Thanksgiving ones (like the one above) are my favorites. Again, from the Web site:

Fly the skies in a friendlier fashion with Whatever Gets You Through the Woods, prepared with $10 of onboard liquor and other ingredients handily available from your cooperative flight attendant.

This is one of my fave pages in the book, because (1) it does, in fact, feature a cocktail made from tiny "airplane bottles" of liquor and that orange juice in a can that you only get from an airplane bar cart, and (2) it contains a list of suggestions of gifts that can easily be transported in carry-on luggage. One of the suggestions: "pouch of loose diamonds."

(Um, I would take me some of those.)

According to the Web site, Jen Lancaster (author of the totally hilarious "Bitter is the New Black") is a fan.  Which makes me even more of a fan.  We snarky girls like to stick together.

Check it out at

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: This Looks Like a Job for the Other Half

Friend Robyn and I talk often of launching a business.  The nature of that business:  to assist people in avoiding looking stupid by substituting our common sense, and mad proofreading skills, for their own (or lack thereof).  For example, you could have us look over your new logo ideas for your business, and we would point out how the one in the middle looks exactly like a penis.  Or a new Italian restaurant might hire us to proofread their menu copy before it goes to the printer AND to the laminator, thus saving them the expense - and embarrassment - of having to reprint and laminate a bazillion menus on account of how they spelled "Caesar" as "Ceasar."

If I had a nickel for every time I have seen "Ceasar" on a menu . . . I would have a truckload of nickels.  Seriously, it's my pet peeve when businesses misspell their bread-and-butter words.  A sentimental favorite:  the business that we used to pass when we drove through East Texas en route to my grandparents' house.  "CARPET REMNETS," the sign said.  Really?  That's all you do?  Sell remnants?  Well, you would think that you would at least learn to spell that one word.  ON ACCOUNT OF HOW IT IS YOUR ENTIRE BUSINESS.  My entire adolescence, I desperately wanted my dad to pull over at Whathisname's House of Carpet Remnets so that I could tell them about the fatal flaw in their signage.

My favorite menu typo is of more recent vintage:  "tarter sauce."  The proprietor of the restaurant is a friend of mine, and I couldn't resist asking:  did you change your tartar sauce recipe, so that it is tarter than before?  Or are you simply pointing out that it is intrinsically tarter than other types of sauces?  He didn't answer me.  Instead, he did a facepalm and moaned, "But I had two different people proofread the menu before it went to the printer."

Ohhhhkay, but those two people were not Friend Robyn and me.  Evidently, they weren't even literate.  You really should have hired The Other Half.

That's what we are calling our side business:  The Other Half.  Because when you half-a** something, we provide the other half of your a**.

Robyn, if you are reading this, I have identified a potential customer for us.  I pulled up the Web site of a "paint your own canvas" place that just opened (to compete with the twelve thousand OTHER "paint your own canvas" places that just opened; did would-be small business owner/operators get tired of trying to revive the yogurt shop craze or something?).  I was both horrified and delighted to find the following:

We also specialize in kids parties, birthdays, graduations and teen parties. They will go home with the best party favor ever, there very own Masterpiece.

Hmm.  "There" in lieu of the possessive "their," plus weird capitalization.  Perhaps they are of Germanic origin.  Germans capitalize all  nouns.  And, I am told, worship David Hasselhoff.  Whose name would be capitalized by Germans even if it was not a proper name.  And even if he was not worshipped as a God ("God" being capitalized . . . oh, forget it).

Enough about Germans, their odd grammar rules and their fascination with truly awful pop music.  Let's read on:
Corporate Events:  What a great way to entertain the wives. We are experts at team building with our painting parties. Your employees will thank you time and time again for such a fun and personnel painting party at [NAMEOFARTPARTYBUSINESS].

WHAT A GREAT WAY TO ENTERTAIN THE WIVES?????  Exsqueeze me?  A baking powder?  My feminist tendencies are marginal at best, and that actually offended me.  This is not Stepford, [NAMEOFARTPARTYBUSINESS].  It's Fort Worth, Texas.  Okay, so stipulated and agreed that The Fort has some pronounced Stepford tendencies (e.g., we are all required to use the same type of city-requisitioned trash and recycling carts, and all school children - public and private - wear uniforms, and the uniforms are the same colors as the trash and recycling carts), but - last I checked, and that was this morning WHEN I REPORTED TO MY OFFICE - WOMEN ACTUALLY ARE PERMITTED, AND EVEN ENCOURAGED, TO WORK FOR CORPORATIONS HERE.  And, also, for limited liability companies, partnerships (both general and limited), sole proprietorships, etc., etc.  You get the idea.

But I can't stay mad at you, [NAMEOFARTPARTYBUSINESS], on account of the awesome typo, "fun and personnel painting party."  You meant personal, right?  Except that you are talking about a corporate team-building event.  WHICH MEANS THAT "FUN AND PERSONNEL" IS FREAKIN' HILARIOUS!

Finally, I could not help but chuckle at the line:

Tell us a little bit about your desires in an e-mail (date, time, number of guest etc.) and we will call you to get the party started.

Um, "tell us about your desires" in close proximity to "get the party started" - well, it's sort of evocative of those late-night television commercials for adults-only chat rooms.  Suddenly, I am flashing to that weird orgy scene in "Eyes Wide Shut," except instead of having graphic sex the scary people in the scary masks are painting, AND THEY ARE ALL PAINTING THE SAME DESIGN.  And it's a corporate logo, and the logo looks like a penis, BECAUSE SOMEONE FORGOT TO ENGAGE THE SERVICES OF THE OTHER HALF.  But it doesn't matter in the end, because the wives are entertained, and many of them are overheard describing the event as both "fun and personnel," and then one of them suggests that they go out for post-paint-orgy Ceasar salads.

At the new Italian restaurant.  Near the carpet remnet place.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Summer Shindigs

I have managed to acquire a ton of fish serving pieces over the years, and I put them to good use in June, July and August. Not always for food, either: photo above is from Keno at my house, which had a summer theme. Those are the game chips in the fish dish to the left.

One of my favorite tables at Reading Rocks was inspired by Dan Yaccarino's "Jacques Cousteau":

They rented the "Ghost" chairs, which I thought was a nice touch. I also liked the snorkel masks at each place:

If you had a giant Barbie doll hanging around (I don't, but if I had girls, I might - who knows?), you could do something like this for a centerpiece:

Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eat This: Cherry-O-Cream Cheese Pie

My mom used to make this super-easy cheesecake for me when I was growing up. It's a "California-style" cheesecake (which, I guess, makes sense, since she used to make it for me when we lived in California!), so if you are used to the more dense and cakey New York cheesecake, forewarned is fair-warned: this is gooey, but oh-so-good.


1 (9-inch) graham cracker crust
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1(20-oz.) can cherry pie filling

Let cheese soften; whip until fluffy. Gradually add milk and continue to beat. Add lemon juice and vanilla. Blend well and pour into crust. Chill 2-3 hours. When solid, spread cherry pie filling on top. Chill.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kid Stuff: Parkerisms, July 2011 Edition

Parker's baby book, like most baby books, only covered the first thirty six months of life, so I am recording details of "our baby at eighty months" here.

Parker, at eighty months, you were obsessed with the phrase "for no apparent reason."  (Example:  "Mom, the cats are all staring at me, for no apparent reason.")  You also were just a wee bit obsessed with the Wii, and with your computer, and with games for the Wii or your computer that featured characters from the Star Wars universe.  Hence, this discussion:

You:  Mom, what time are we leaving in the morning?

Me:  Same time that I usually leave for work.  Maybe a little earlier than that.

You:  So, from the time that I get up, we'll leave in one Star Wars Battlefront level after that?

It took me a minute to realize that you were not necessarily committing yourself to playing Star Wars Battlefront but that, rather, you were referring to "one Star Wars Battlefront level" AS AN INCREMENT OF TIME.  I was unable to answer your question, given that I HAVE NO IDEA HOW LONG IT TAKES A PERSON TO COMPLETE A STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT LEVEL, given that the idea of playing Star Wars Battlefront, or even watching someone play it, IS SLIGHTLY LESS APPEALING TO ME THAN A POKE IN THE EYE WITH A SHARP STICK.

Finally, you continue to drive everyone around you batty with your insistent need to fill your every waking moment with some sort of noise.  If you aren't singing, you are humming, or talking to yourself.  I tune most of it out, but occasionally snippets of monologue will register.  Like this one:  "You and Dad are equally awesome."

Me:  Did you say that Dad and I are equally awesome?

You:  Yes, because you are awesome.  And Dad is awesome.  And you are awesome in the same amount

Aww.  And you just wanted to tell me that.

For no apparent reason.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Potpourri: "Fourth in July" Craft and Cooking Wrap-Up

All in all, we had a great "Fourth in July" weekend.  (That's how we refer to the holiday at our house, on account of how a young Connor was convinced that it was "IN" and not "OF.")  On Saturday, we had my family over for dinner.  (That's "over for dinner."  We did not have them for dinner.  On account of how we are not cannibals.)  Beforehand, Parker and I made the wooden dowel-and-snipped vellum fireworks centerpiece from Martha Stewart's blog, along with her napkins stamped with painted firework bursts (using a kitchen dish scrubber for the stamp).  We stamped some cardstock placemats while we were at it.  Because we were working around my aqua blue dishes and various serving pieces, we went a little rogue on the color scheme. 

Coral, white and teal is the new red, white and blue.  You will just have to trust me on this.

In retrospect, (1) I did not photograph the most photogenic of the napkins and (2) I probably should have snapped the centerpieces with the napkins for full effect.  But, here's the thing about paper firework bursts taped to wooden dowels inserted in mason jars filled with sand:  cats love them.  Particularly our Max.  He's a big fan of pompom-like things on sticks, and when you add in the thrill of a receptacle that could potentially be knocked off a table and shattered into pieces while simultaneously scattering sand EVERYWHERE - well, you can see the appeal.  No, nothing was shattered, or scattered.  (Shattering happened on Monday, when Parker launched a dog toy across the house and knocked a superhero drinking glass off of the counter with laserlike precision.  It was the Superman glass, not the Batman glass, so no one complained all that much.)

The reason nothing was shattered, or scattered, was that I ended up moving the centerpieces off of the table and onto the sideboard.  Which is also the reason why the napkins and the centerpieces don't show up in the same photo.

Really, why do I bother?  Oh, that's right - to give Max something to do.

We had beef tenderloins topped with basil butter, roasted cherry tomatoes, Parmesan-rosemary potato wedges and corn on the cob.  The recipe called for cooking the tenderloins, with the tomatoes, in the oven in an iron skillet.  I followed the recipe.  Following the recipe was a colossally bad idea, for two reasons:

(1)  There is a reason why people in Texas tend to grill meats in the summer.  That reason is:  THE GRILL IS OUTDOORS.  WHERE THE HEAT ALREADY IS.  So you are adding heat to heat, and, really, once the ambient temperature passes 100 degrees, a little extra heat just sort of blends in.  Whereas, when you use your oven in the summertime, the heat tends to hang out in your kitchen.  So, yeah - colossally bad idea.

(2)  I reminded myself approximately six thousand times NOT TO TOUCH THE HANDLE OF THE IRON SKILLET.  At least one of these reminders made it through the thick, heat-generated fog in my brain, because I managed to not touch the handle of the iron skillet.  However, in the process of not touching the handle of the iron skillet, I managed to put my hand DIRECTLY ON THE OVEN RACK.  Twice.  For some reason, neither burn hurt all that much.  Theory A:  I seared the flesh to such an extent that it self-corrected.  Sort of like when you sear a chicken breast on the stove to the point that it pulls away from and stops sticking to the pan.  Actually, I think it might have been exactly like that.  Theory B:  Because I stupidly had the oven on (at a high temp) in freakin' July, the surface temperature of the burns was identical to the ambient temperature in the house, which confused the burned area into thinking that it wasn't burned at all.

But the food was good.  And so was the company.  Moving on to Sunday.

Sunday I made peach enchiladas (which were only a little bit soggy) to take to Friend Melissa's Third of July party. (Wait, that should read "Third IN July.") I also made a seven-layer dip (which, I just realized, actually had seven layers, notwithstanding the fact that I winged the recipe - taco meat, onions, beans, salsa, guac, sour cream, and toppings - yup, seven, NAILED IT!) which I decorated to look like an American flag:

Cute, huh?  Red stripes are diced tomatoes and red peppers, and black olives substitute for the blue part of the flag.  It also turned out pretty delicious - so much so that some people chose to eat it with a fork like it was a main dish.  Which was fortunate for me, since I managed to leave the house without the two bags of chips that I purchased to go along with.

Monday the 4th found us at the Ridglea pool, where the kids enjoyed the photo props that I forgot to use at Friend Melissa's:

Connor liked his mustache so much that he wore it during the "biggest splash" competition. (He told the deejay that his name was Groucho Marx.)

After a day in and around the pool, we headed home and got ready to watch fireworks, and Parker treated some of his little buddies to mini ice cream sandwich pops:

I forgot how much I loved ice cream sandwiches.  Note to file (and waistline):  avoid purchasing ice cream sandwiches in the future.  I don't even want to know how many I ate.  (But did I mention that they were minis?)

Like I said, a pretty good three-day weekend, and one that allowed me to satisfy some pent-up Martha Stewart wannabe urges.  I think I'm good until mid August, at least.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Boy Stuff

Several mom friends recently posted on Facebook that they were looking forward to accompanying their tween daughters to the Selena Gomez flick, "Monte Carlo."  And all I could think was, "There but for the grace of God go I."

God knew what he was doing when he gave me boys.  Seriously.  I could probably make it through "Monte Carlo," because I generally like Selena Gomez - no doubt because the character that she plays on "Wizards of Waverly Place" is a tomboy.  Like me.

But I could not make it through, say, the Justin Bieber concert movie.  I cannot decide whether "viewing a Justin Bieber concert" (filmed or otherwise) is slightly above or slightly below "visiting an American Girl store" on the spectrum of Fates Worse Than Actual Death.  But I can tell you that they are a hair's breadth away from each other.  Separated only, perhaps, by "attending a Sweet N Sassy little girl makeover birthday party."

Yes, I recognize that I might have more of a tolerance for these things if I had girl children.  But I promise you this:  such tolerance would be learned behavior.  Because girly stuff, in general, is anathema to me.

Well, that's not entirely true.  I clean up as good as the next girl, I paint my toenails, I enjoy a mud mask from time to time, etc.  But Girl is not my native tongue.  See, I am an only child, and a bit of a daddy's girl.  Growing up, there wasn't much that I enjoyed more than having a catch with Dad in the backyard.  My mother (a recovering tomboy herself) encouraged this.   Also, Mom had a background in biochemistry, and Dad's background was in mathematics.  Thus, it's probably more accurate to say that my native tongue was Geek as opposed to Boy.  But, you know, close enough - the languages are similar.  They're dialects, really. 

My favorite toys were Legos, robots and this building set called Capsela that could have been the love child of a Lego and a robot (you connected the pieces, but the pieces had motors and wires in them, and if you connected them correctly, you created circuits and could power a car down the driveway or a pontoon boat across the bathtub). 

My favorite publication was Scientific American.  I was a huge nerd for anything related to space exploration (and, later, for Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, et cetera, ad nauseam).
Although, if you asked, I would tell you that I planned on becoming an archaeologist or paleontologist, depending on who was hiring.

Fast forward a few years, and you can find me at the Museum of Science and History with the boys, knee-deep in dinosaur stuff.  Literally.  I am sitting IN the fossil footprint at Dino Labs while Parker takes a picture of me, or I'm in Dino Dig demonstrating my mad sand removal skills with a paintbrush and a digger.  While we are waiting for the planetarium to open, we have a lively discussion about superheroes, and debate the age-old question of what is the most desirable superpower.

The next day, you might find me in the swimming pool, diving after dive sticks - and no doubt catching odd looks from the girl moms who are not diving after dive sticks, but, rather, are stretched out on loungers and therefore, getting even tans.  I am not getting an even tan.  I am getting an extremely irregular tan - possibly a farmer's tan, if I am wearing my Body Glove rash guard.

Lord, how I love my Body Glove rash guard.  Know what else I love?  Board shorts.  I used to hate going to the water park with the kids, and one day I realized that my hatred stemmed from the fact that, due to certain cultural expectations, I was expected to walk around said water park, essentially, half-naked.  Whereas the rest of my family got to wear actual clothes - a shirt that looked, more or less, like a shirt, and bottoms that looked like actual pants.  Versus, you know, strutting around in their underwear.

Swim coverups didn't get me there, for a couple of reasons.  First, they tend to take the form of dresses.  (What's worse than walking around a water park in your underwear?  Walking around in a party frock.)  Second, they tend to lack pockets.

And, one day as we were walking around a water park, and I was awkwardly juggling sunscreen, a locker key, etc., I realized that I REALLY, REALLY WANTED POCKETS.  Seriously, why should guys rate them but not girls?  Right about that moment, I saw a mom walk by, with three boys in tow, and she was wearing a rash guard and board shorts.


I bought my own rash guard/board short ensemble.  I wore it to the beach later that summer.  And I was the happiest that I have been at a beach since my childhood days in the Pacific Northwest, where most beach trips involve shorts - and a sweatshirt - due to stiff winds and cold temperatures.

I felt adequately covered.  Sand did not get in places where sand ought not to go.  For the first time in the history of McGlinchey family beach trips, my spouse was the one who finally declared that it was time to depart for the hotel.  Usually, I am the one who is telling everyone to wrap things up.

So rash guards and board shorts have made it into my closet . . . .  Um, wait - I've gotten kind of far afield here.  This was supposed to be a post about boy movies, and I went off on a tangent.  Sorry about that.

So let's just stipulate for the record that I enjoy being a boy mom.  And, because I enjoy being a boy mom, I participate in conversations like this one with my spouse:

Spouse:  Hey, while your Keno group is at the house on Monday, I thought that I would take the boys to the movies.

Me:  Ohhhhkay.  But what are you going to see?

Spouse:  Well, they really want to see the Green Lantern movie.

Me:  Riiiiiiiight.  But I really want to see the Green Lantern movie.  So, go fish.

Spouse:  They haven't seen "X Men:  First Class."

Me:  Nor have I.

Spouse:  "Pirates of the Caribbean"?

Me:  Yeah, okay.

For the record, it's not that I didn't want to see "Pirates" - in fact, I had my third birthday party at the Pirates attraction at Disneyland.  (See?  Tomboy.)  I just felt like I had to throw him a bone, and "Pirates" was the movie that I cared about seeing in the theater the least.

So that's how it works in this Boy House:  when the grandparents offer to take the little 'uns to films like "Mr. Popper's Penguins", I throw Hamiltons and Jacksons at them like I'm making it rain at a strip club.  But they had better not offer to take them to see "Transformers 3."  Not unless I'm going with.

Reasons why "Transformers 3" is a bazillion times better than "Monte Carlo" (from the admittedly warped perspective of a boy mom):

1)  They blow up something like 300 cars over the course of the movie.

2)  Some of the cars have Gatling guns.  Have I mentioned that my dream car would have a Gatling mounted to the roof?  Yeah, that will teach you to cut me off on the freeway.  BOOYAH!

3) No prepackaged pop music on the soundtrack - just Linkin Park.  You cannot have a Transformers movie without Linkin Park.  My boys LOVE Transformers, and they LOVE Linkin Park.  I'm not sure which came first - it's a chicken-and-egg thing.  What I do know is that, if I had a nickel for every time I was asked to replay "What I've Done" in the car, I would have a carload of nickels. 

4)  LEONARD NIMOY IS THE VOICE OF SENTINEL PRIME.  This is so incredibly kick-a**.  Seriously, how cool is it to be Leonard Nimoy?  "Um, it's not enough that I will forever be associated with one iconic sci fi character.  I want to be two."  I believe that it was the six year-old who pointed out that Leonard Nimoy plays Spock Prime in the Star Trek reboot film (if you were a boy mom, you, too, would know that his character is referred to as "Spock Prime" to distinguish him from the Zachary Quinto character) and Sentinel Prime in the Transformers film.  "Mom, HE JUST PLAYS PRIMES NOW.  That's all he does."  And why not?  He's Leonard-flippin'-Nimoy, damn it.  If he wants to play Primes exclusively, we should let him.

Says the boy mom, as she blogs while watching "Batman:  Under the Red Hood" with her darling Y chromosome-toting offspring.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Questionable Patriotic Decor

I didn't decorate much for the Fourth this year, on account of how I failed to locate the giant Rubbermaid tote o' flags and patriotic kitsch.  (Note to personal file:  Purchase red, white and blue Rubbermaid tote so it is impossible to misplace flags and patriotic kitsch.  Note to Rubbermaid's file:  If you don't manufacture a red, white and blue tote, you totally should.  Also, if you don't have a file for customer suggestions - or if you don't actively search the Internet for customer suggestions posted, say, to a random blog - you totally should.)  Since we're having a garage sale at some point in the very near future, I'm confident that I will locate the tote, and the corresponding flags and patriotic kitsch, soon, certainly in time for next year's July 4th celebration.  (Can you call it a garage sale if you don't have an actual functioning garage?  Second note to personal file:  Have the kids paint a totally adorable "Carriage House Sale" banner as a means of luring in potential buyers.  Then recruit them to sell refreshments underneath said banner.  It's a one-two punch of retail - resale? - genius.)

I would like to add some bunting to the mix, and I figured that now is a good time to acquire it, this being the week after the Fourth of July and all.  After striking out at a couple of brick-and-mortar outposts, I decided to search for bunting bargains on the Internet - and my search for "discount patriotic bunting" pulled up a link to the Terry's Village Web site.

I used to get the Terry's Village catalog.  I think I even purchased some stuff.  And then I realized that I don't particularly care for the "country cute" aesthetic.  T.V. eventually got the hint and stopped sending me catalogs.  So - out of sight, out of mind, until the other day.

T.V. did, in fact, have bunting at a deep, deep discount.  Apparently, rather cruddy bunting, rating an average of two reviewer stars.  I considered buying some, anyway, in order to satisfy my morbid curiosity:  how, exactly, do you screw up bunting so badly that numerous reviewers feel compelled to diss your product on the Interwebs?  (The biggest customer complaint:  "Not really red."  Yeah, I'd say that was a material issue.  Ooh, that was an unintentional pun - MATERIAL issue?  Hee, hee, hee.  But I digress.)

When I opted out of purchasing the (really bad, sort-of-rust-colored) bunting, the T.V. site suggested some other products for my consideration.  I will share some of them with you now.

Stars and stripes toilet paper.  Really?  Who's the target market - Al Qaeda operatives?  (Who, of course, would only touch it with their left hands.  Impressed that I knew that the left hand was the hygiene hand?  Would you be less impressed if I told you that I Wikipedia-ed it, just to be sure?  By the way, apropos of not much, reason number 12,597 that I would make a HORRIBLE Muslim:  I'm left-handed.  Ergo, my left hand is my go-to hand for pretty much everything except using scissors - you know, there was always a shortage of left-handed scissors in school, so I learned to cope.  My left-handed brothers and sisters, you feel me, right?  Anywho, curious about the degree of overlap on a Venn diagram of "left-handed Muslims" and "Muslim social pariahs."  Betting it's a substantial overlap.)

Seriously, who wants to wipe their bohiney on patriotic toilet paper?  Oh, wait - THIS GUY:

The Uncle Sam hippie.  No doubt, he is constructed of the finest quality of resin available in Taiwan.

Scary.  But not as scary as THESE GUYS:

"MOM!  GIANT DISEMBODIED UNCLE SAM HEADS HAVE EATEN OUR DINING ROOM CHAIRS!"  Sorry, but these actually, factually frighten me.  Like, if I owned these, I would come around the corner, forgetting that they were there, and jump a little bit and skip a couple of heartbeats when I saw them.  Except that will never happen, because I am NOT buying these.

I'm not buying these pillows, either, although - truth be told - I find them at least a little cute:

It's like your bath rug had a few too many brewskis at the fireworks display, got it on with a flag, and these babies are the result.

I did end up making one post-Fourth purchase (not online, but at my local Calloway's Nursery):

"Boom" and "Pow" plant stakes.  Yes, I purchased two of the "Booms" and only one "Pow."  To be displayed precisely in that order.  It took the sales associate a couple of seconds to get the joke.  But it only took a couple of seconds.  Guess she is a Black-Eyed Peas fan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Red and Pink Party Pinterest Board

I'm continuing to ignore Connor's Party Commandment ("thou shalt not confuse a color with a party theme") and have pinned (via Pinterest) a number of red and pink party ideas here.

Thus ends my shortest blog post of all time.  Continue to move about the cabin, and enjoy your day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Eat This: Peach Enchiladas

This is an adaptation of a recipe that won some sort of award in South Carolina.  (State Fair, maybe?  I remember the South Carolina part, because I remember thinking that "South Carolina" was a typo and should have read "Georgia.")  I made these for July 4th weekend, part of which we spent in Weatherford, and as it happens this upcoming weekend is the Parker County Peach Festival, also in Weatherford, so - there you go.


2 (8-oz.) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough *
2-3 pounds fresh, firm, ripe peaches, quartered
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12-oz.) can Mountain Dew

Preheat oven to 350°. Unroll crescent roll dough and place peach quarter in center of each triangle.  Roll, enchilada-style, and place, seam-side down, in lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan.  "Enchiladas" will form two rows lengthwise down pan.  (I left a little space in between, to allow for expansion.)  Stir together sugar, butter, and cinnamon, and drizzle over rolls, then pour Mountain Dew over rolls.  (Note:  I cut the butter and sugar content down significantly from the original recipe, given the added sweetness (and gooeyness) from the Mountain Dew, but it's still sort of liquid overload, and the bottoms have a tendency to get - and stay - doughy, so I would suggest adding 8-10 ounces of Dew and then eyeballing it.  You want them to be covered with liquid, but not floating in it.)  Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

* Original recipe called for dough cut in triangles and quartered peaches, but when I made these the first time I used dough sheets and cut them into squares.  They looked prettier (because they were more uniform in shape), but in retrospect triangles are a better idea, because the seam side has less dough, and less dough on the bottom means less dough to soak up liquid and stay soggy.  But, you know, feel free to experiment.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kid Stuff: Fourth of July, Then and Now

When July 4th rolled around, back in my old Houston 'hood, we had a parade.  And the parade consisted of kids riding in pickup trucks.  Specifically, in the backs of pickup trucks - and we sat on the SIDES of the bed of the truck.  You also had the option of riding your bike and weaving in and out between the trucks, waving flags and generally being distracted.  Sounds safe, huh?  And no one wore helmets, because no one owned helmets.  Well, unless they played football.  But football helmets were the extent of your helmet knowledge, unless you had been lucky to attend a Houston Aeros ice hockey game.  Then you were sort of aware that ice hockey players also had helmets, but you were only sort of aware of this like you were sort of aware that ice hockey existed as a sport at all.  Okay, after the Lake Placid Olympics, everyone became aware of ice hockey as a sport, but in the seventies, in hot-enough-to-fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk Houston, Texas, ice hockey was an abstract concept.

And bike helmets, if they existed, definitely were not a known quantity.

After the parade, we went to the junior high to watch the volunteer Fire Department set off fireworks.  BIG fireworks - we're talking major ordnances here.  Yes, you are reading all of this correctly:  amateur firemen set off ginormous explosives, on school district-owned property . . . on top of very flammable grass.  Oh, wait, I forgot - they dug holes for the truly major ordnances.  They dug holes in the middle school football field, and then they placed explosive devices in them.  With small children looking on from very close range.

The bigger kids (and by "bigger" I mean ages eight and up) were preoccupied with lighting off their own fireworks.  Not sparklers, not bottle rockets - those were for the seven-and-under set.  No, the eight-and-ups had their own books of matches and their own stashes of highly complex incendiary devices.  I distinctly remember one that looked like a duck pond, and when you lit it, sparks flew off in all directions while the little paper ducks "swam" in circles in their little paper pond.  That one did not go over so well, because the designated match striker lit the thing in an upside-down position, meaning that the sparks went DOWN instead of up and out, and they caught the grass on fire.  Ultimately, when the little box o' death fully ignited, it flipped over (jumping at least two feet in the air), so I guess you could say that it did "go over" - it just didn't "go over well."

In fact, my recollection is that all of the highly complex incendiary devices marketed to the eight-and-over set seemed designed for epic failure.  Okay, some of it was probably user error - see the story above.  But, still.

It's a wonder that I survived to adulthood with fingers intact and eyebrows unsinged.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Poaching the Perimeter: Photo Props and The Art of War

This week's steal from the Target Dollar Spot:  prop eyeglasses (complete with hologram eyes!), stick-on handlebar mustaches and plastic swirl lollipops, which will really come in handy if I ever get around to creating an old-timey photo booth like you see at all of the cool weddings and hipster backyard shindigs these days: 

(Highly amusing images courtesy of the Weddingbee site.)

Except that I will never get around to doing that.  And, also, if I ever actually got around to hanging up a backdrop, et cetera, et cetera, the fact that I can only get my camera to behave if I am taking pictures of fireworks (see yesterday's blog post) as opposed to human faces makes the whole thing an exercise in futility.  (Unless I only invite fireworks to the party, as opposed to humans.  Then we're golden.)

So, instead, I am taking the photo props to a Third of July party that we are attending later in the day, and hopefully someone with a better camera than mine can get use out of them.

Also at the Dollar Spot this week:  a paperback edition of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."  I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP.  AND, YES, IT WAS RIGHT NEXT TO THE SILLY EYEGLASSES AND ADHESIVE MUSTACHES AND PLASTIC PROP LOLLIPOPS.  Does this win the award for oddest Dollar Spot item ever?  Because I think it should.  And if there is no such award I think that it's high time that we give one.  Although, all kidding aside, you have to give props to Target's buyers for seeking to bring historical and cultural relevance - and a basic understanding of military strategy - to the masses.  All at a reasonable price point.

I did not pick up a pocket copy of The Art of War.  Although I am regretting that decision, because I think Sun Tzu's teachings are particularly relevant to the experience of the multitasking mother.  Specifically, I'm referring to this chestnut:

Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?

I mean, the mind reels.  Seriously.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Potpourri: Singing Katy Perry Songs to My Camera

Baby, you're a firework,
Come on show 'em what you're worth

I don't sing to cameras that often.  And, although I have been known to call this particular camera (my default digital camera, because it's fairly small and therefore easy to tote) by various names, I've never called it a "firework."  Most of the names that I call this camera are not-nice, NSFW names.  Because this camera promised to be the answer to my overexposure problems - but my photos still tend to be overexposed.  It also came with a "Food" setting that promised me "natural photos of food."  The camera in question is Japanese, and - given the photos that I get when I use the "Food" setting - I have reason to suspect that the words for "natural" and "blurry" in Japanese are similar, because all I get are blurry food images.

I also have reason to suspect that the fault for my ongoing camera frustrations lies with me (because I never got around to reading the manual), and/or the camera's factory settings, and/or the fact that I haven't reset the factory settings (because I never got around to reading the manual).  However, that doesn't stop me from taking Sony's name in vain - just about every time I snap shots.

Until the other day, when I was at Concerts in the Garden, and I remembered that, on the same menu with the "Food" setting, there was a "Fireworks" setting.  And I thought, what the heck?  I already pretty much hate this camera.  What's the worst that can happen?  I get overexposed or blurry photos?

Been there, done that.

So I set the camera to "Fireworks," laid back and started shooting.

And my idiot savant camera showed me what it was worth.

These are just a couple of the images that I shot:

Impressive, huh?  I suspect that what it does (I SUSPECT, I don't KNOW, because I NEVER GOT AROUND TO READING THE MANUAL) is record several images over a couple of seconds which are then somehow superimposed.  I suspect this because:  (1) when I pushed the button, I got a "capturing image" message that stayed on the screen for a couple of seconds; and (2) the images that I captured were not what I saw in front of the lens when I clicked but represent a progression of images.

So while I will still want to drop-kick this camera on occasion (okay, particularly until I get around to reading the manual, I probably will want to drop-kick it more often than not), I have gained a healthy respect for its ability to capture summer's pyrotechnics in all of their glory.  Just as my other, even more complicated and temperamental (DSLR/point and shoot hybrid) digital is my go-to camera for taking action shots in natural light (but not much else), this one will be worth keeping as my "fireworks" camera.  And that's not nothing.

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst

I think I will name her Katy.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Battle of the Network Stars

Like many parents, I enjoy annoying my children with stories from "back in the day."  I particularly relish annoying them with deets of TV viewing habits of children growing up in the seventies.  Usually, the TV discussion (okay, it's more of a monologue) begins after one or both of the kids starts whining because we failed to read their minds and set the DVR to record the latest episode of "Ben 10" or "Young Justice."  I remind them that the same show will be broadcast two hours later on Cartoon Network West.  This gets me thinking about the fact that my children have the benefit of multiple channels devoted entirely to cartoons - and, in the case of Cartoon Network, they actually have two mirror image copies of the same channel, showing the same shows on staggered timetables.

This ticks me off.  So I launch into the monologue: 

"You have no idea how good you have it. 

"We had three networks, plus PBS, plus a couple of grainy UHF channels that showed movies of the week and reruns of 'Petticoat Junction' - which, by the way, was an awesome show.

"The three networks showed cartoons on Saturday morning.  That was pretty much the extent of your cartoon opportunities, except for holidays, where you got to watch 'Peanuts' and 'Rudolph' and 'Frosty' in prime time.  And because all of the cartoons were broadcast at the same time, and because you didn't have recording devices, you had to pick one cartoon to watch in each time slot.  So you missed most of the cartoons.  And if you had something to do away from the house on Saturday morning, you missed all of them.

"The rest of the time, you watched what your parents watched.  You watched the 'Rockford Files' or 'Quincy.'

[At this point in the conversation, I realize that I am in danger of failing to make my point.  My kids love crime dramas.  They would watch 'Bones' and 'Psych' on a continuous loop if you let them.  So I shift gears.]

"There was no reality TV.  [This gets the big one's attention:  he is currently obsessed with 'Hoarders.']  Correction:  there was a little reality TV, in the form of game shows, football games, Miss America pageants and the Jerry Lewis Telethon.  But you had a love/hate relationship with Jerry Lewis.  You hated his telethon because (1) it was sad, (2) it pre-empted ALL OTHER PROGRAMMING and (3) it signaled that you were about to go back to school.  The next day, in fact.  But you also loved it, because it was different.  And anything different was good."

I realize at this point in the monologue that I have omitted my favorite reality TV show of the Seventies and Eighties.  (Well, it ran neck and neck with "Donny and Marie" and "Real People." Remember Skip Stevenson?  HILARIOUS.  I think.  Okay, he was hilarious to an elementary school student.  As the mother of a couple of those, I now recognize that hilarity is situational.) 

Yes, I have failed to mention to my precious children the existence of a little show called "Battle of the Network Stars." 

And I decide to preserve the omission - because BOTNS would be a little tough to explain.

BOTNS' run began in 1976 and ended in 1988, which, for me, equates with first grade through twelfth.  So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it accounts for so many of my early TV-viewing memories.  I remember always cheering for the NBC team.  NBC was "Must See TV" in our house waaaaaaaaay before the network adopted the tag line.  In my parents' world, good people (or, in my mom's shorthand, "people"):
  • Voted Republican;
  • Read the Houston Chronicle (this was back when there was still a Houston Post to give the Chronicle some competition - not a lot of competition, evidently, since the Chronicle has survived and the Post is just a memory); and
  • Watched NBC.
You should ask my husband sometime about the "people" thing.  He was the one who noticed that my mother is fond of saying "people like [blank]" - as in, "people like finger sandwiches" and "people like string quartets."  One day he called her on it:  "Who are these 'people,' exactly?"

"Um, people like me."

"People like you?"

"Okay, meI am 'people.'  What's your point?"

Gotta give the woman credit for being self-aware.  And it's kind of a running joke now - identifying things that "people" like.

I did not realize how ingrained the NBC thing was until I moved to Austin for college - and found myself tuning in, night in and night out, to the Austin NBC affiliate's evening broadcast.  Didn't even consider the option of watching another channel.  Also didn't notice until several months into my relationship with my husband that he watched the NBC affiliate as well.  Asked him why, and he mumbled, "Um, I'm not entirely sure - we always watched NBC at home.  It was kind of a thing with us."

It was a oddly reassuring moment - proof that our families were as compatible as we had already determined we were.
These days, my mother watches a lot of ABC and CBS programming - and very little on NBC.  And this bothers me for reasons that I cannot fully articulate, but probably for the same reason that it does not compute that my mother now shops at Kroger and Albertson's.  Forgot to mention that up top:  another childhood life lesson was that good people, in addition to voting Republican, reading the Chronicle and watching NBC, shopped exclusively at Randall's (which would be Tom Thumb here in North Texas).  Subtext was that Kroger and Albertson's were, somehow, tacky.  We shopped there occasionally, when it was convenient, or when they were having a big sale, but it felt like slumming.

But back to BOTNS.

The NBC team, more often than not, was captained by the heroic Robert Conrad, backed by other brave "men of character" of the Seventies and Eighties - like Grizzly Adams and Buck Rogers.  NBC also had women of substance and good moral fiber, like Jane Seymour and Half Pint from "Little House."  And The Mandrell Sisters.  Well, the youngest Mandrell was always, to my sheltered sensibilities, kind of suspect.  Personally, I liked the unassuming brunette sister.  Now that I think about it, I always tended to gravitate to the unassuming brunette. Case in point:  my favorite Angel was Kate Jackson.

Maybe in another life I was an unassuming brunette.

ABC had the eye candy team - Wonder Woman, Charlie's Angels, the Hardy Boys, Heather Locklear and, once upon a time, Cheryl Tiegs.  Why, exactly?  I don't remember Cheryl Tiegs being on television.  Except on BOTNS.  ABC also had the comedian types. 

ABC was tremendously fun to watch - but, in my house, you were not allowed to cheer for them.

CBS's team had an air of grittiness, with JUST a touch of sleaze.  CBS had, among others, Mackenzie Phillips, Loretta Swit, Adrienne Barbeau and Howard Hesseman on their roster.  I'm guessing that a lot of cigarettes were smoked backstage by the CBS team - some of them possibly of an illegal variety. 

If you were to assign a voice to the CBS BOTNS stars team, it would be a whiskey voice.

CBS also was tremendously fun to watch - but you definitely were not allowed to cheer for them.

Now, this being the Seventies (and early Eighties), most of the events were designed to showcase chicks in swimsuits - specifically (ahem) certain "attributes" of said chicks that were on display while they were attired in WET swimsuits.  Hence the emphasis on aquatic events, like the swim relay - and the dunk tank.  Really?  "Dunk tank" is an "event"?  Um, I guess it involves pitching, so it's tangentially related to baseball or softball, but I'm thinking that we won't be seeing "dunk tank" as an exhibition sport in London in 2012. 

When the "attributes" weren't wet, they were still on full display, as the rest of the events seemed to be selected solely for their high bouncing-up-and-down quotients.  LOTS of tight shots of female entertainers in snug t-shirts jumping up to spike a volleyball, or navigating the tires on the obstacle course, or leaping in the air to celebrate victory in the tug-of-war.  I'm surprised that the producers didn't find a way to work in hippity hops.  Actually, I'd be surprised if they didn't work in hippity hops - they probably did, and I have simply blocked it from my memory.

My favorite BOTNS "event" (I am now using the term VERY loosely), hands down, was Simon Says.  I'm not making this up.  They brought out a guy from a Catskills resort (Grossinger's?), and he "called" a game of Simon Says.  Is that proper terminology?  Do you have a "caller" in Simon Says?  I think that you do.

So you can kind of see why I tend to omit BOTNS.  Not because it wasn't awesome, but because it was awesome in ways that were kind of suspect.

Which, of course, is precisely why I liked it.