Monday, December 29, 2008

Read Like the Wind!

Evidently, being stuck in the house for days on end while the snow piled up left me with a little free time. Free time in which I searched book blogs and writer blogs and even Amazon for books to add to my library waiting list.

Fortunately or unfortunately, almost all the books I put on hold were available right away.

And now I have 12 books waiting for me at the library. I still have 3 library books to be read, but I might return a few of those and check them out another time.

I'll have to let you know how the reading goes.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Don't Hate Me But...

I'm ready to take down the tree.

Sorry to be blunt, but I felt it was best to just be out with it. I want to remove all the ornaments, pack them up in our storage bin, unplug the tree and break it down into its three separate parts, put it in its box and stow everything away in the garage.

I floated this idea on my Facebook page and instantly got three messages telling me I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Is it so bad that I'm tired of Christmas? Seems like it's been everywhere for about 2 months now. No other holiday or activity (except baseball season and elections) lasts this long. The music, the decorations, the advertisements the snacks: Enough already.

If that makes me a Scrooge, then turn the heat down and slash the kid's allowances...I'm Scrooge.

I'm ready for something new. Something fresh and original. Something that ends in '9.'

I'm also ready for the kids to go back to school (that, too, has lasted long enough) and I'm ready to get started on some exciting new goals.

I just feel like making a clean sweep and starting fresh.

Doesn't that sound nice to anyone else?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Funny Christmas

Since most of you are probably enjoying time with your family and not checking blogs, I thought I'd post this silly little thing. I found it at Bookshelves of Doom.

Wii had a very merry Christmas. I hope you did too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry PJ's

Here are the boys in their Christmas PJ's that I made last night while Robert and Ethan were at the Blazer game.

Between my ineptitude with my new camera and the boys inability to cooperate, I had to take about 30 pictures to get this one good one. And yes, the was the only one that turned out.

("Please, all mommy wants for Christmas is for you boys to all look nice in a picture.")

Merry Christmas everyone!

These Boots

I love these boots. I bought them my first day as a missionary in Anchorage, Alaska.

I don't remember what prompted me to buy these particular boots. I remember thinking while I was at the MTC in Provo that when the time came I'd buy footwear that was a little more feminine. But when it came right down to it, I went with the Sorel Snowcat in white.

The drawstrings at the top of the boots are useful when walking in deep snow. I appreciated that feature several times on my mission, but mostly left them untied.

Usually I get these boots out of storage once a year for a day or two. This year the boots have been a familiar fixture by my front door for 2 weeks and counting. I am not exaggerating when I say that my feet are always toasty warm when I wear my Snowcats.

If I look goofy walking through the mall in my giant white boots, I really don't care. I love my boots and hope to still be wearing them in another 20 years.

(That's right...I was a missionary 20 years ago. Please. Don't do the math.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice

Things I did today, the shortest day of the year.

I tried to take fancy pictures of the ice encrusted plants in the front and back yards. We got freezing rain on top of our snow last night, so everything has a pretty crust on it.

I stood in a big snow drift in the back yard. We had lots of wind and very dry snow so some places have very deep snow and some places have only an inch or so.

It does appear that the wind blew towards our side of the street because we all have around four to six inches of snow in our driveways while the folks across the street hardly have anything.

I took pictures of Robert shoveling the driveway. It's even deeper down towards where the sidewalk usually is.

This was hard work and Robert only got one side of the driveway shoveled off. I guess if he drives to work tomorrow he'll be taking the 4 wheel drive with the chains on which means I'll probably be stuck at home...again.

I watched from inside the house while Jonah built a snow tunnel in the front yard next to a 3 foot tall azalea that is essentially buried.We also had church in our house today. Because church was canceled for the 2nd week in a row, our Stake President encouraged members to meet in their homes and if they were close to other members, they could gather together and take the sacrament. So we did. It was great.

Every day, from now until June 21, the days will get longer and lighter. Yay!

Friday, December 19, 2008

All Candied Out

Peanut Butter Fudge: This is Kimberly Yates' recipe from the Skyline Ward Relief Society cookbook. It was pretty straightforward except I didn't have enough marshmallow cream so I had to run to the store and get more right in the middle of the recipe. Robert says it's a winner and all the kids are hoping there is a lot left over after gifting.

Penuche Fudge: This was by far the most difficult of all the candy I made. I had to beat it by hand with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes until it lost it's "gloss." My arms were killing me! Also, this recipe (which is found in the red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook) only made an 8 x 4 loaf pan's worth of candy. However, it is so tasty, I'm really glad I made it.

Georgia Pralines: Hmmm, where to begin. This is not what I'd pictured my Georgia pralines to look like. I pictured them looking more like this. Anyway, after thinking I'd completely messed these pralines up, then realizing that maybe I didn't, I decided to let the family eat them up instead of giving them away.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Power of Snow

Snow has the power to make kids hurl themselves down a slope, over and over, for 3 hours.

Snow has the power to make people drink hot chocolate.

Snow has the power to make the world pristine, quiet and magical.

And, in Oregon,
Snow has the power to shut down school. For 5 days.

Snow also has the power to cancel day time TV in favor of up to the minute snow reports. ("It was snow, but now it's sleet...or is that rain? No, definitely sleet. Check back at 11 for the latest updates on our Winter Storm Watch!")

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Make Candy

English Toffee: Yum! This is Stephanie Johnson's recipe, found in the Skyline Ward Relief Society Cook Book. I'm not going to list out the recipe, but will report that it is completely delicious and I'm not sure one batch will be enough for gifts. Because I'm snacking on it every chance I get.

Divinity: That's right, this is supposed to be divinity. I guess it's good that most people don't care for this treat. I happen to enjoy it and don't have it more than once a year, so I thought I would try and make it. Well, it didn't work out. Even if these blobs look edible, I could not pry them from the waxed paper. (Sound familiar Erika?) So, I wadded up the whole batch, waxed paper and all, and dumped them in the trash.

Oreo Bark: Ingredients, almond bark and Oreos. Melt a package of almond bark, stir in half a bag of crushed Oreos, turn out onto a pan lined with waxed paper, let cool and break into pieces. The one problem I did have with the Oreo bark is that it didn't quite fit in the air tight container so I had to eat a few pieces to get the lid on. Problem solved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That Time of Year

It's that time of year when I beg the family to stand still for 20 seconds for a family picture.

Really, standing still is all I hope for at this point because begging and pleading kids to look at the camera or to "please, for the love of Pete, just smile normally," has just not worked.

This same picture will be in our Christmas newsletter which I promise I will work on right away, after I check out something I just heard about from Senia...

freetetris.org
!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Just That Easy

These are Pretzel Treats. If you have a copy of the Skyline Ward Relief Society's "Friends In My Kitchen" cookbook, this recipe appears in the "Candy and Cookies" section.

If you don't have a copy of that cookbook, all you need for these treats are pretzels, Rolo candies and pecan halves.

Place a Rolo on each pretzel. Warm in a 200 degree oven for 2 minutes, remove from oven and press a pecan into the soft Rolo. Let cool.

I tasted one to make sure they are gift-worthy and guess what...they are!

(Does my title remind anyone of the Bass-o-Matic?)

Indoor Heat, Will You Marry Me?

OK, I can't marry "indoor heat" but I sure do love it.

It's a little miracle to me that the inside of our house can be 69 or 70 while the outside is seriously frozen. Last night the wind howled, and I don't know about the "wind chill" or anything like that, but the thermometer said temps were in the teens.

Today, the sun is out and the thermometer is reading 20. The wind is blowing and for some reason, my kids are bundled up and playing outside. OUTSIDE!

I've got a crock pot of hot chocolate warming and ready for them when the come in. I'll hang their snow suits, mittens, hats and scarves on a drying rack so that they will be ready for them when they go out again.

I, on the other hand, will not be going outside if I can possibly help it. And trust me, I'll help it.

I'm out of hot chocolate, but will find an on line recipe to make some from scratch if I have to. I'm not going outside.

I've got a 500 page book that will surely get me through the day. And if I finish that, I've got 4 more I can choose from after that.

As for food, we might run out of milk and eggs, but we should be able to eat for weeks with out having to go to the store. As long as the power doesn't go out.

It's days like this that make me wonder how I ever survived living in Alaska or Utah.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Caramels

I did it!

I made home made caramels.

It was easy and I read "Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson while I stirred for about 45 minutes.

Here's the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook if you'd like to make them too. You will definitely need a candy thermometer to make these caramels.

1 cup butter or margarine
16 ounces light brown sugar
2 cups light cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a 9x9 or 8x11 inch pan with foil and spray foil with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over low heat then add brown sugar, cream and corn syrup and increase heat to medium high. Stir mixture until it boils, then clip candy thermometer to the side of the pan and reduce heat to medium. Continue to stir for about 45 to 60 minutes until mixture reaches 248 F.

Remove caramel from heat and immediately add and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Pour caramel into prepared pan and let cool completely.

After about 4-6 hours, lift caramels out using the foil and turn onto a piece of waxed paper. Carefully remove the foil and then cut caramels into 1 inch squares and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap.

I found it was easiest to cut the caramels with a pizza cutter. I sliced a 1 inch strip off the block of caramel and then cut little pieces off and wrapped them before slicing off another 1 inch strip.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Making Candy With Nuts

I should start by saying that I'm all for making things simple. My mantra is "need to do, nice to do, nuts to do" and most of the time I'm very sensible about maintaining that. I try to stick with the "need to" and occasionally will throw in a "nice to." But the "nuts to" is right out!

So, call it what you will--temporary insanity or a Christmas miracle--but I'm going to go a little nuts for Christmas.

I've decided to make an assortment of 8 different kinds of candy for holiday goody giving. I'm going to start with home made caramels because I tried some at a friends house last year and they were delicious. She said they were easy to make, but very time consuming.

Sign me up!

Here is the full list of what I will be attempting in the coming weeks.

Caramels
Penuche
Divinity (is everyone giving a collective "ewww?")
English toffee
Peanut butter fudge
Pretzel treats (you will just have to wait and see.)
Oreo cookie bark
Georgia pralines

I will blog about my successes and failures (I'm not an idiot...I fully anticipate a few flops) and include pictures so you can admire my skill or laugh at my folly.

(There doesn't seem to be enough chocolate on the list.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mrs. Bennet Became a Fan of Charles Bingley

Have you wanted to read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but just don't seem to have the time?

Do you speak "Twitter?"

Is Facebook your favorite form of communication?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I think I've found something you will enjoy...

It's Pride and Prejudice a la Facebook!

And if you have plenty of time to read Pride and Prejudice and prefer long, archaically worded sentences to concise blips, and if you need your Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy fix, you will still get a kick out of Austenbook.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Because I Promised Never to Bring it Up Again...

...I have no comment.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What I Want For Christmas

Oh, I know what you are thinking..."she just wrote a long missive about how there was too much stuff out there and she wanted to get off the 'consumerism grid' and now she says she wants a Lexus?"

No, I don't want the Lexus...I want the giant bow.

How fun would it be to take our old 1994 Honda Accord, park it in the driveway on Christmas Eve and slap that massive red car bow on top of it? I can just imagine the reactions from our neighbors when they saw it Christmas morning.

Would they even notice the 14 year old car or just the $200 bow and assume the car was new?

Of course if I had an extra $200 for Christmas, I would not spend it on a giant red bow. But you have to admit, the giant bow could be a lot of fun.

I know. I'm a nerd.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stuff

I'm having an issue with stuff. This time of year I'm reminded of how, generally, we have too much stuff.

I'm not saying it's just me...it's you too. We all have too much stuff. Do you know how I know this? Because of commercials for these...

Come on! You know there is not a single person in the world who needs one of these? What could possibly be the purpose? Yet Fred Meyer has a pallet of these things in every store. And people are buying them!

And why do we only see commercials for these things around Christmas? Because we all have so much stuff and people, who for some reason feel compelled to buy us gifts, can't think of a single thing we NEED so they get something we don't need...The Chia Pet.

The Clapper falls into the same category. OK, I admit The Clapper might actually be a product that someone needs. Maybe about .01% of the population really, really NEEDS The Clapper.

But the clapper now comes with a remote control so that if you don't want to clap to turn on your lights, you can simply push a button. (Wait...there's something familiar about this.)

You can even mount the clapper remote on the wall, so you always know where it is and can easily switch on a light when you come in a room. Just like a light switch, except $24.95.

I spent some time this morning listening to George Carlin's take on "stuff" but will not post the video here because this blog is rated PG.

To paraphrase, George says the meaning of life is to find a place to keep all our stuff and that our houses are really just places for us to keep our stuff. A house is like a pile of stuff with a cover on it. And when we leave the house, we lock it up to keep our stuff safe while we go out to get more stuff. (OK, it does sound a bit funnier when he says it...)

I've been thinking about all the stuff out there for us to buy. Most of us have what we need, but still want to acquire more stuff. Then when the stuff goes out of style, we throw the stuff out and it goes into a land fill. The stuff had to be manufactured and transported, which takes up energy and causes pollution.

But stuff also creates jobs. If we got rid of all the stuff, there would not be enough jobs for people, and then they wouldn't have enough money to buy their stuff.

I think we need less stuff, even if it does create unemployment and other problems with the economy. We can overcome those issues and reduce waste and pollution and debt.

I've been thinking about getting off the consumerism grid. I was inspired by this article I read several years ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I wanted to try it for 2009 but feel the second hand clothing issue would be an obstacle too hard for me to overcome.

So, instead, I'm going to more fully embrace and live by these words:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do with out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday Reading Guide

Did you read "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins? If you did, check out this round table book discussion by the Longstockings. It's like going to a book club discussion in the comfort of your very own home!

If you have not read the book, do not click on the above link because the discussion contains spoilers and trust me, you do NOT want this book to be spoiled. Request it at the library or go to your nearest book store and buy it. It's great.

"What I Saw and How I Lied" by Judy Blundell just won the National Book Award for YA fiction and is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Set in the 1940's just after World War II with descriptive writing and clever wording that will make you feel like you are right there.

This is a coming of age story with a little mystery and some very interesting moral dilemmas to consider.

"Airborn" by Kenneth Oppel was a great discovery thanks to Beth who recommended it on Good Reads. This would actually be a great book to read aloud to boys and girls, but especially boys.

Matt Cruse is a 15 year old cabin boy aboard a luxury air ship. Think: the Titanic of blimps. It is his home and he has high hopes of advancing and one day becoming captain. The story contains pirates, a shipwreck, fierce fighting and scientific discoveries. Oh yeah, there is also a cute girl.

Check out this great website that goes along with the series.

And finally, if you haven't read Diana Raybourne's "Slient" series of mysteries, what are you waiting for? I already told you they were great fun and very addictive. What more do you want? Romance? OK, fine, there is a little of that too.

"Silent in the Grave" and "Silent in the Sanctuary" are both available at your library or bookstore and "Silent on the Moor" will be out in March. Of course that one will surely leave you wanting more and you will have to wait for the 4th book to come out who-knows-when, so maybe you shouldn't read these afterall.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Bunch of Things

Thing #1
I'm exhausted. I'm not too sure why this is since the only Thanksgiving meal prep I did was a green salad. Even with that cushy job, I still forgot to bring the Craisins, so our salad was fruitless.

I think my exhaustion could have something to do with the kids who are running a circle through the family room, to the living room, through the kitchen, then back to the family room. They are going around and around and pounding on the piano every time they pass. This is making me tired, but not as tired as when they bicker. And they are doing a lot of bickering this holiday weekend.

Thing #2
I am officially tired of Mannheim Steamroller's "Carol of the Bells" and every version of "Santa Baby," is on very thin ice. And please explain why they are still playing "Last Christmas" by Wham? It's so whiny.

Thing #3
Black Friday was good for Bath and Body Works Bunco prizes and Fred Meyer half price slippers, buy one get one board games, and 20% off all video game stuff. I find the fact that a Walmart Employee was trampled in a Black Friday stampede on Long Island, NY highly disturbing. Sick, actually.

Thing #4
I rake the leaves, but they keep coming. This could have something to do with why I'm exhausted.

Thing #5
I'm published again! Pick up your free copy of December's Vancouver Family Magazine to read all about how Clark County will celebrate Hanukkah by yours truly. Check here for an electronic copy.

Thing #6
I paid $1.69 a gallon for gas today. Ethan said, "Wow, didn't gas used to cost like $3 a gallon or something like that?"

Yeah, something like that.

Thing #7
I would like to recommend the British spy show MI-5 to everyone. See if you can check out the DVD's at your library like I did. I just finished season 1 (only 6 episodes) and can not wait for season 2. Here's a link which just gave away some information I didn't necessarily want to know. Here is another one from you tube. (The show is called "Spooks" across the pond.)

Did I mention that MI-5's Tom Quinn is played by Matthew MacFadyen who played Mr. Darcey on the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice?

Thing #8
Do you ever have one of those catastrophic household events which requires a disgusting clean-up in which you should be wearing a hazmat suit, but instead are only wearing jeans, a t-shirt and thinning socks with possibly a hole on the bottom? And then after 30 minutes you realize you've been breathing through your mouth to avoid smelling whatever the surrounding air might smell like?

I will just say this: We will never have a dog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Proof: Candy Makes Everything Better

I'm getting off easy this Thanksgiving. All I have to bring to the family gathering at Heather's house, other than 3 super excited boys and my appetite, is a green salad. Woo hoo!

In the past I've felt like green salad was not a culinary challenge worthy of my skills. I tried all kinds of salad recipes to show my range and creativity hoping to get promoted to something more glamorous like rolls, funeral potatoes, or the peach of all food assignments, dessert.

After a food catastrophe or two, however, I've decided that salads are a good assignment for me to have. I can love the green salad...I can OWN it. My green salad recipes can be closely guarded family secrets passed down from generation to generation. Maybe one day I can open up a salad restaurant or have my own Salad TV show! Maybe everyone will start calling me Aunt Salad, or better yet....the salad Queen.

(OK, focus...)

Here is the recipe for the salad I will be bringing to tomorrow's feast. I got the recipe from my sister Allyson, but she didn't tell me the recipe's name. So I'm going to call it "Candy Salad,"because there is candy on it, and it proves that candy goes with everything...even lettuce.

Candy Salad
Candy Topping
1 TB butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sliced almonds

Dressing
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp poppy seed
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salad
Craisins (may substitute any fruit such as raspberries, mandarins, dried apricots, apples, etc.)
feta cheese
mixed greens

Cook 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar begins to liquefy. Once the sugar has liquefied, add 1 cup sliced almonds and quickly turn out onto a plate or piece of foil sprayed with Pam. Spread thin and let cool, then break into small pieces. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Blend together dressing ingredients. I use an immersion blender. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When you are ready to make the salad, toss your salad greens with some of dressing. Fill salad plates with the greens and top with Craisins, feta and candy topping.

This salad can also be tossed together in a big bowl and served family style, but the candy toppings tend to sink to the bottom which means that the last person to serve themselves will get all the good stuff. Totally unfair.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good News, and Just News

You will be happy to know (particularly after casting your eyes upon this grainy photo) that I got a nice new camera. The camera that snapped this shot of a group of us coming out of the Twilight movie was 6 years old and had once been mistaken for a "film" camera.

So, yay! I got a new camera.

Also, I saw the Twilight movie. Did you see the Twilight movie? What did you think? I have a poll over there on the right. I'd love your opinion, and if you have other feelings to voice, Please feel free to use the "comment" feature.

So, what did I think?

Well, I've been hesitant to say anything publicly about this since Stephenie Meyer and I are practically best friends.

Seriously, the real reason I didn't want to say anything is because good friend Debbie is in Singapore where the movie is not yet out. Debbie was the ringleader behind the Stephenie Meyer "The Host" book signing as well as the Borders Books "Breaking Dawn" release party party. So it was hard not to have Debbie with us at the Twilight Movie.

And I really want her to have a great movie experience with out my feedback clouding up the moving going magic for her.

But, it appears she's read other blogs and movie reviews and is going to find out about the movie one way or another.

So, here is what I think. Are you still with me?

I think this movie was made to appeal to teens (gasp!) and even though the books were YA they appealed to a wide age range. But, the movie does not. It's not surprising that the books had more character development. That's why books are always better than their movie counterparts. And in the books, Edward is...well...perfect. He's smooth, dazzling, considerate, careful and even fun. Rob Pattinson's Edward is, in many parts of the movie, awkward, strange, inconsistent, creepy and a little overly-dramatic. He doesn't even look cute fake sleeping.

So sorry. I really wanted RP to be Edward. I really did. He's just not. At least not for me. Maybe he is for you, and that's fine.

Kristen Stewart's Bella wasn't much better, but I'll just stop here.

I know there is a wide range of opinion on this topic. (Such an important topic too, considering all that is going on in the world!) So, what say you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So Long Iconic Childhood Cookie

Get a good look at these Mother's Circus Animal Cookies because soon you will not be able to purchase them any more. In fact, it might already be too late to get your hands on a bag of these iconic goodies.

Mother's Cookies abruptly went out of business in October and Circus Animal Cookies, as well as every other product sold by Mother's or Archway will no longer be bought, sold or processed.

It's true, there are better grocery store cookies out there, but there's something about the pink and white circus animals that just makes me happy. Sigh.

Here in the Portland area Grocery Store Outlet has Circus Animal Cookies. Check your local grocery stores and stock up because this is it!

On a slightly related note (sad food story), when I got back from grocery shopping today and opened the back of my car, a gallon of milk fell out and the plastic jug cracked and milk went all over my legs and shoes and the ground.

I found that if I held the jug at a certain angle, the milk gush slowed down to a trickle. Isaac ran in the house to bring me a pitcher to transfer the remaining milk. At first he came out with a mug and said it was the biggest thing he could find, but after a little more instruction, he returned with a pitcher which I promptly filled with the remaining milk.

"Now we can't make lemonade!" Was Isaac's observation when he saw our regular lemonade pitcher filled with milk .

Because, you know, we make so much lemonade in November.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Case Against Allowance: Dollar Tree

If anyone needed a reason to not give their kids allowance, I present to you, Dollar Tree, where $3 equals Poker Night. (Three liters of soda, 1 pound of animal crackers and a Texas Poker Set.)

I miss the days when the only thing I could fear from Dollar Tree was a second-rate toy that would break in the car on the way home. Now I have giant amounts of junk food and...well, POKER.

I thought that I was paying my kids so little in allowance they'd be forced to save. But no. Dollar Tree makes it possible for kids to avoid learning to save altogether. Just take your measly old dollar and pick out anything in the whole store!

It's the allowance black hole!

(Are you asking yourself how my kids got to Dollar Tree in the first place? Well, just shut up. I'm not ever taking them there again OK?)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Leaf Blowing

Those yard maintenance workers make it look so simple with their big leaf blowers. They walk along swishing that blower back and forth leaving a leaf-free swath in their wake.

I am here to tell you leaf blowing is not that easy. When I use our leaf blower, the leaves fly in front of me, to the side of me, and yes, somehow they even fly behind me. I feel like I'm in a Three Stooges episode and possibly entertaining everyone in the whole neighborhood as they watch me from their windows, laughing great big snort laughs.

It should not be that hard to blow leaves into a nice neat pile.

The rake is not much better, but for some reason, when I'm using the crazy leaf blower and leaves are flying randomly, the rake seems like a more efficient tool for the job. In some ways it is, but not in the way that would render my yard leaf free in 15 minutes or less.

The ultimate insult is when the wind picks up and leaves start falling off the trees onto spots already blown/raked. Rude!

Raking leaves is work and there is no easy way to do it. A leaf blower might make things easier, but it's still work.

I need a nap.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time Machine

If you could go back in time to one day in history, which day would you choose and why?

This is the topic of a speech Ethan must give for his 5th grade class this week.

In an effort to help Ethan with his speech we made this time machine question the topic of our family dinner conversation last night. We were eating, we were brainstorming. We were multi-tasking!

Here is everyone's take on the time machine topic:

Robert
He'd like to go back in time to the day that Bill Gates was looking for money for his upstart business, "Microsoft" and offer to make a BIG investment. Or, he'd like to go back in time and buy some stock with the ultimate stock tip.

Afton
I discussed several possibilities but liked the idea of going back in time to September 10, 2001 and trying to stop the terrorist attacks. I figure that most people I talked to would think I was crazy and would ignore whatever warnings I would voice. And of course there is the whole issue of the impossibility of getting an appointment with the President of the United States.

I finally decided that my best chance of stopping the attacks would be to approach people who got on those planes and give them some kind of weapon that would get through security so they would be able to gain some kind of power over the terrorists. Maybe they could convince the pilots to lock the cockpit door while they're at it.

Ethan
He wanted to go back to when Stonehenge was being built and find out the REAL reason for its existence. While he's at it, he will find out how the Druids moved those heavy stones into to place. Then when he's comes back he's going to release his findings to the world and become famous.

Jonah
Jonah would like to go back in time to when he was a baby, before he picked all the batting out of his blanket and tell himself NOT to pick out the batting. He would save his blanket.

Isaac
In the spirit of compassion and generosity, Isaac would also go back to the day that Jonah started picking apart his blanket and try and convince baby Jonah not to do that so the blanket would be spared and full of fluff to this day.

What day in history would you choose?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do I Really Have to Explain?

Because I needed something to snack on while I read.

Because I want the smell of caramel corn in the house without having to pay $36 for the Yankee Candle.

Because it's raining outside and cozy inside

Because I can't think of a better use for my turkey roaster (hereafter to be referred to as the caramel corn pan of delight.)

Because I'm the mom and I say so!

Because I didn't know what else to do with all the brown sugar I have sitting around the house.

Because I can bake a treat without messing up, really I can.

Because I'm not planning a trip to Seaside any time soon.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Change

This is a section from my work in progress which I rewrote from first person to third, just to see how I liked it. It was harder than I thought it would be. And it's very long.

Jonah had one thing on his mind as he shoved the last bite of potato salad in his mouth and washed it down with the last bit of home made strawberry lemonade: Mrs. Madigan’s garden shed. He stood up, still mid-gulp crossed to the kitchen sink in two steps with his dirty dishes.

“Don’t run off.” Mr. Tretter said, “I have some exciting news I want to tell you about.”

Annoyed at the delay, Jonah took his seat again at the kitchen table, scenes from past exciting news revelations played like a “best of” episode on the screen in his head. He recalled the “Grand Canyon Vacation” announcement and, “It’s pre-owned but one day it will be yours” decree. He lingered on the, “We’re having another baby” shocker that seemed to come as a shock to his parents too.

“Holy crap! You’re not pregnant mom, are you?” Sid said.

“I want a baby brother.” Nathan gushed. Mrs. Tretter’s face went white.

“We are NOT having a baby. Rob, please tell them what this is about.”

“Well,” Mr. Tretter started, looking like this news was possibly good enough to end world hunger, “I’ve been offered a great opportunity at work. It’s a promotion, really: A promotion to facility manager. I’ll be in charge of a whole facility.”

Sid, Jonah and Nathan looked unimpressed.

“It will require a little more of my time, so I won’t be home as much, in the beginning. But once I get more comfortable with the new responsibilities, it will be just like it is now, except for a few things.”

“What kind of things.” Sid asked.

“Well, for one, I’d be making more money. That’s good. Maybe we could get the new X Box you boys have been begging for.”

At the words “X-Box” Jonah’s interest peaked. He quickly realized though, that something else was coming. Still, the thought of an X-box drowned out the sound of the dropping bomb.

“Also, the facility I’ll be opening and managing will be in China.” Mr. Tretter hung on the word China for what seemed like 30 seconds, his expectant eyes jumping from Nathan to Sid and to Jonah.

“We’re really not going to see a lot of you if you’re in China.” Sid said.

“No,” Mr. Tretter said, slowing down so that everyone would understand, “I wouldn’t be in China alone. You would all be there with me. We’d all move to China together.”

“Are we talking Hong Kong, China or the communist part?” Sid asked.

“I think Hong Kong is communist.” Jonah said.

“What’s a communist?” Nathan asked.

“No it’s not,” Sid said. “They kept the democratic government when Hong Kong was turned over by the British in 1997. We learned that in World Civics last year.

“I’m sure the communists are making small changes. It will be communist soon enough.” Jonah looked over at his mom who’s face looked frozen in a plastic grin.

“It’s not Hong Kong and we’d be expatriates, so we wouldn’t have to worry about registering as communists.” Mr. Tretter said. “They have an English school with kids from all over the world. It would be a wonderful cultural opportunity. We could go to the Great Wall of China, plus, it would be a great jumping off point for visits to Thailand and India.”

Mr. Tretter looked at his kids who were clearly still not convinced. “It would only be a three year assignment. We’d rent out our house here in Bethany Hills and move right back here when we were done. Just three years in China. A blip, really.”

“So, have you told them yes?” Jonah asked.

“No, they gave me time to think about it. I wanted to talk to you all first.”

“How soon would we have to leave?” Sid asked.

“We wouldn’t have to leave until after the end of the summer.” Mr. Tretter shot Jonah a quick look. “Don’t worry Jonah; you won’t have to drop your algebra class.”

Well, by all means, let’s move to China, Jonah thought. And what was up with his mom, just sitting there with that strange smile on her face, like someone had just made a benign comment on the weather or the particular shade of pink on the rhododendron in the front yard.

“Can I bring my Buzz Lightyear?” Nathan asked. “I want Buzz Lightyear to come to China too.”

Jonah stared at the table and tried to think of everything he knew about China. Chinese food, chopsticks, communism and they go to school for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Nope, he was definitely NOT interested in moving to China.

Mr. Tretter couldn’t stop talking about the opportunities and possibilities. Sid seemed really excited about it and of course all Nathan cared about was which toys he got to bring.

Jonah felt like the last trout in the fishing hole and his chances of convincing the family to stay right here in Shady Acres Estates on Elstar Drive were slim to none.

“Well,” Mr. Tretter said, “I’m glad to hear you are all so positive about the idea. Of course mom and I will talk a little more and come to a final decision, but it’s important to me to know that my family supports me.”

Mr. Tretter was all smiles. He didn’t bother looking in Jonah’s direction because if he had, he would have never come to the conclusion that all the family supported the idea of moving to China.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oops

I made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins today. The recipe called for a whole can of pumpkin, which I used. Unfortunately, I used a 29 ounce can of pumpkin and I was only supposed to use a 15 ounce can.

The muffins seem to be just fine: very pumpkiny and very moist. Also, the recipe made around 30 muffins instead of 24, which I have no complaints about.

When ever I make a baking mistake, I think of that Toll House lady who discovered the chocolate chip all by accident and that maybe my baking mistake will be the next big thing. Maybe the world has been waiting for cookies with too much salt or a cake that has egg shells in it or muffins with twice as much pumpkin as the recipe calls for.

You never know.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Challenge and A Complaint

First, a challenge.

Debbie said she'd start a blog if I edited my manuscript from last year's nanowrimo. So I'm going to polish up a couple pages, end at a really pivotal moment and send them off to Debbie in Singapore. When she posts to her blog, she gets more of the manuscript.

And just so she knows and anyone else who cares, I picture this process to be a bit like that of polishing stones in a rock tumbler: About 5 times as long as you first thought and requiring a lot of grit.

So watch my side bar for a link to Debbie's blog from Singapore. (I bet she will post lots of pictures of fancy food and teddy bear shaped hunks of rice.)

Now for a complaint.

Have you ever purchased a fancy piece of expensive electronic equipment. You research and talk to friends and get opinions from magazines and finally you commit to the fancy, electronic thing.

Now you are excited about your thing. You picture it in your home and envision all the ways it will change your life. And what does the sales person then tell you?

"You know, we get a lot of these units returned because the (fill in the blank) has a tendency to short out and fail to calibrate."

Of course the sales person wants you to buy the extended warranty so that when your precious, expensive, electronic thing breaks, you can just walk into the store and get a new one. No problem.

I find the tricky dance between "this is the best electronic thing ever and you should totally buy it" and "this thing kind of sucks and you should also buy the extended warranty" to be rather disingenuous. Either the product is great and I should buy it, or it breaks down and is not worth my money.

The next time I see one of these fancy electronic things in the store, I'm going to spend no less than 15 minutes letting the sales person sell me on the product. I'll commit to buy it.

Then, when he pulls out the warranty flim flam, I'm going get all pensive and say, "Hmm, I'm really glad you pointed that out. I don't think I'll buy it after all."

Then I will walk away.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In Which I Kick Myself for Not Taking a "Before" Shot

Picture if you will, a white stove top that has 4 years worth of burned-on food bits caked to its surface. The drip pans are so dirty, visitors think they are actually gray.

The drip pans and stove top are not dirty from neglect but from ignorance. You see, the owner of this stove top didn't know the right way to get years of burnt-on, baked-on layers to come off. She tried scrubbing with 409, baking soda and vinegar, Comet and even Windex (thanks "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but it didn't work.)

Then, this misinformed house wife gets a shiny new dishwasher and a harsh spotlight is cast on the stained stove top. The layers of gunk now stand out like an ugly parrot in a parcel of penguins.

She considered buying replacement parts and then had a flash of inspiration: Oven Cleaner.

Oven cleaner that says "Heavy Duty" on the can and burns your lungs when you spray it (even if you hold your breath and hold a rag to your nose and mouth).

Two applications (three for some pieces), 4 Brillo pads, a hundred paper towels and a mere 24 hours later, the stove top gleams. It shines! It looks better than the new dishwasher.

And if anyone gets one speck of anything on my new and improved stove top, so help me...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dishwasher Blues

We got a new dishwasher because the old one broke and it was 10 years old and we didn't want to pay to have someone come and look at it when we could get a new dishwasher for a few hundred dollars.

So we got a new dishwasher.

Robert installed it.

He did a great job except the dishwasher leaks, so we have a little pan under it to catch the water when we run loads and so Robert can troubleshoot and try and fix it.

Truth be told, I miss my old dishwasher. I liked the way the racks were organized. I miss the thing on the old dishwasher that held my flat ware. My new flat ware basket is puny and appropriate for about half a day's dirty forks and spoons.

Our old washer was fine until they day the heat-dry cycle would not turn off. It stayed on even when the door was opened for unloading. Of course this meant that all the dishes were super dry but burned my skin like hot lava when I tried to put them away. (Good thing I have an Ove Glove.)

It also meant that we lived in constant fear of our house spontaneously combusting. We had to turn the switch on and off at the breaker box in the garage every time we wanted to do a load of dishes. And, we had to be around to flip that switch as soon as the load was done. It was becoming tedious.

So, we got a shiny, small flat ware basketed, slightly leaking dishwasher. It is nice and shiny.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Treat Night

My favorite part of Halloween, other than when it's over, is when the kids all leave with Robert to go trick or treating and I stay home to hand out candy. That's what I'm doing right now and so far it's a very slow night. That gives me the perfect opportunity to blog a bit.

We bought Ethan's costume today, last minute, at Party City. He really wanted Bleeding Face Zombie or Blood Splattered Zombie Doctor, or Recently Unearthed Skeletal Remains Zombie, but I insisted on a costume that wasn't bloody and didn't have a gory mask covering his whole face. I think the Ninja costume was a nice compromise. Ethan feels a little dangerous and scary, and he's not pretending to have an open chest wound.

It's 17 minutes into Trick or Treating 2008 and Ethan has returned home to dump his full bag of candy to make room for more.

Jonah returned to say it was hard to see through his costume, took it off, and tried to go back out dressed in his regular clothes.

I'm currently holding back the Smarties until the last possible minutes of the night. Maybe I'll turn the porch lights off with a few Smarties left for me. Next year I'm buying only bad candy that I won't be tempted to eat...like Dum Dum lollipops.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Made a Big Mess

Hey! Look at my attempt at a festive Halloween display. Whatever you do, don't compare it to this one, or this one, and most definitely not this one.

I probably would not have let my kids attempt these haunted candy houses were it not for my creative neighbor I-Shüan and her great ideas. In fact, the title of this post came from my kids who asked me to take pictures of their haunted houses for my blog and told me to make sure I mentioned that "it made a big mess."

Done.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Death by Smarties

The number one rule for buying Halloween candy is this: Do not buy candy you like to eat.

By following this rule, a 5 pound bag of candy becomes much, much less tempting and the chance of gorging oneself, almost non-existent.

This year I broke the number one rule for buying Halloween candy. Maybe my title "Death by Smarties" is a little bit of an exaggeration, but "Sugar-Induced Headache by Smarties" just isn't very catchy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Love Fall

I finally put a camera in my car so I could stop and snap a few pictures as I drove around town. The fall colors are stunning. And I'm not using the word "stunning" lightly. I literally am stunned while driving and have to quickly snap out of it and veer back into my lane to avoid going off the road, or worse.
I'm so lucky to live on the edge of the urban growth boundary, and minutes away from beautiful winding roads and incredible scenery. My little camera does not do justice to the beauty.
And in this picture, you can see that Arbor Custom Homes is having some kind of event that requires balloons. Beyond that, the evergreen hills, dotted with yellow and orange just take my breath away.

I drove down Thompson road to see some stunning orange trees with trunks so dark brown the seemed almost black. (These were the trees that almost sent me off the road on Saturday.) Unfortunately, our wind storm last night blew off most of the leaves and they were too branchy to be pretty any more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Build a Better Mac and Cheese

I can't stand looking at my blog with that spider picture staring me in the face, so I thought I'd share the best mac and cheese recipe I've tried. Ever. Five different cheeses melted slowly in a double boiler make this macaroni and cheese great, but the six slices of thick cut bacon make it amazing.

I got the recipe from I-Shüan and she got it from a magazine. I believe I could eat this macaroni and cheese every day for a week for lunch AND dinner and be perfectly happy.

Carbs
? Bring it!

Ann's Macaroni and Cheese (with bacon, of course)
Serves 8

10 ounces, sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Monterrey Jack, grated
4 ounces Velveeta, cubed
4 ounces cream cheese
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
2 ounces Parmesan, grated

Heat oven to 350. Put cheeses (except Parmesan) in the top of a double boiler and melt over simmering water, stirring frequently. Gradually add evaporated milk, whisking until completely smooth. Whisk in mustard, bacon, salt and pepper. Pour into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish, add macaroni, and toss to coat.

(I actually mixed the macaroni and cheese in the pot I'd cooked the macaroni in. I drained the macaroni and returned it to the pan, then added my cheese sauce. I would NOT have had room to mix it in the 9 x 9.)

In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and Parmesan; sprinkle over the top. Bake until crumbs are browned and cheese is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.

Disclaimer #1: The photo above is a random mac and cheese photo from google images. I didn't happen to take a picture of the mac and cheese I made because we all dug into it so fast and now it's gone. But the picture is actually a pretty close representation.

Disclaimer #2: If you are too good to use Velveeta, just ignore this recipe. I'm sure you would have hated it anyway.

Disclaimer #3: This macaroni and cheese is not part of any weight loss plan. Translation: It's awesome!

Identify That Arachnid!

Warning: The following picture is super disgusting and gross. Unless you like fat spiders with hairy legs. What? You don't see the hairy legs. Just double click on the picture, but don't say I didn't warn you. (Super disgusting and gross!)

I was standing in the kitchen and saw this thing creeping across the patio today. It was struggling to haul it's giant BE-hind and kinda slow. Robert was able to catch it in one of my good canning jars (and I had to use a good lid too, which will have to be burned after this) so the neighborhood boys could gawk at it.

Unless this is a magic spider that grants wishes and eats moles and gophers in one bite, my guess is that this spider will be in "spider heaven" before the day is out. Sorry if that offends any animal lovers out there.

**Update**
I'm pretty sure this is a regular "garden spider" and that it looks different because it's bottom is about ready to blow. Must be egg laying season.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pushing Uncrustables

Several years ago I signed up at bzzagent.com to receive products to test and share. The idea is to create a buzz and share information by word of mouth. All of this sharing is done above board. I tell people I get items to try and that I'm supposed to tell people about products I love--it's all on the up and up.

I won't try to impress you with some of the fun products I've been able to try but I will tell you my current "Bzz Product" is Smucker's Uncrustable peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

I have no problem feeding my kids peanut butter sandwiches I buy from the grocery's freezer section, other than the price. A four-pack usually goes for over $3. When I consider the price per sandwich, and that I could make the same sandwich for pennies (I have a Pampered Chef Cut-n-Seal) Smucker's Uncrustables fall into the luxury category.

Every once in a while, if I see a sale, I will pick up a box or two and enjoy a couple days of easy school lunches. Other than that, I make my own PB&J.

When I joined the Smucker's Uncrsutables Bzz Campaign, I received a book of coupons. One was for a free box of Uncrustables (for me) and the rest were 75 cents-off coupons. Believe me, I wanted to use every single one of those coupons myself, but realized that as Bzz agent, part of my job is to "share," so I formulated my plan.

Yesterday morning I saw my kids off at the bus stop, then asked the other moms if they'd like to try Smucker's Uncrustables with a 75 cents-off coupon. Fred Meyer currently has Uncrustables selling at $2.50 a box, which would make one box of Uncrustables $1.75. That's a pretty darn good deal.

Well.

You would have thought I was pushing crack with some of the responses I got. Several moms shook their heads and walked away quickly. One said she didn't let her kids have high fructose corn syrup. Another said she didn't let her kids eat white bread. I explained that Smuckers has a Peanut Butter and HONEY sandwich on brown bread, but she didn't seem impressed.

Several moms did actually take coupons, but I think they thought I was weird.

I felt like I needed to explain. I grind my own wheat and can home made applesauce! I feed my kids fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal (except pizza night) and we don't drink any juice with high fructose corn syrup. It's just nice to have a little convenience item that makes my life a tiny bit easier every once in a while. Is that so wrong?

I took my remaining coupons to Fred Meyer and bought 4 boxes of Uncrustables. Maybe the other mom's kids have healthier lunches, but I bet those kids totally covet my kid's lunches.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Awesome and Not so Much

Awesome - Have you seen the price of gas? Regular costs $2.74 at Fred Meyer today, plus I get an extra 15 cents off that with my Fred Meyer MasterCard.

Not So Much - So much knocking and pinging in the engine, I think I'm going to have to start paying for premium.

Awesome - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Not So Much - Book 1 in a trilogy. Book 2 due out...who knows when! Serious issues left unresolved.

Awesome - Cleaning the house when no kids are home.

No So Much - Finding "berries" from fake Cap'n Crunch cereal all over the house by stepping on them. Now I know why it's called Cap'n CRUNCH.

Awesome - The Smithereens

Not So Much - One of my Smithereens CD's has a $7.95 price tag on it. (When I was a kid, CD's only cost $7.95 and there was an actual key on the keyboard for "cents.") I'm pretty sure I bought it used though.

Awesome - Fall Festival fun at school this Friday. OK, who am I kidding. It's going to be over crowded and not fun with cheap prizes and expensive food that the kids will beg for. What's the Halloween equivalent of a "grinch?" That's me.

Not So Much - I forgot to order the $5 game bracelets by yesterday's deadline and now I'll have to pay $8 each at the Fall Festival. And wait in line.

Awesome - Bird seed in teacup bird feeder no longer under water.

Not So Much - No birds have come to my teacup bird feeder yet.

Awesome - This article on the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor.

Not So Much - The time I wasted reading the article, twice, when I should have been vacuuming up fake Cap'n Crunch berries from the carpet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tooth Tunes to the Rescue

I may have been able to predict that when I brought home the $10 Tooth Tunes toothbrush with Smashmouth's "All Star" that Ethan would be happy. I could have guessed that there was a chance Ethan would want to take the toothbrush with him to school and brush after lunch, but I never would have thought I would catch him at 7am, in the bathroom, rocking out in front of the mirror while brushing his teeth.

Ethan lucked out at the dentist's office yesterday because while his teeth were covered in plaque, he didn't have a single cavity! The look in hygienist's eyes, however, when she handed me several handfuls of packets of those little pink tablets told me that Ethan seriously needed to improve his teeth brushing habits.

I considered several different ways I could make the teeth brushing experience more enticing and finally settled on Tooth Tunes. I was lucky that "All Star" was one of the Tooth Tunes options because I'm certain I would not have had the same positive response from Ethan if I'd purchased the High School Musical toothbrush or the "Hakuna Matata" toothbrush.

Ethan's renewed interest teeth brushing will most likely last 2 weeks, just like every other "life changing" program or thing I've tried. But two weeks of intense brushing is better than whatever he's been doing up to this point.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tea Cups

Remember my Goodwill teacups from a few weeks back? Here is what they turned into.
In case you can't tell, this is a teacup bird feeder. I made one for me, and one for each of Robert's sisters for their birthdays.

Good friend Debbie pointed out that this might not be the best bird feeder for Oregon winters, what with the rain and all. Yes, I suppose most bird feeders around here do have a roof. In fact my teacup bird feeder is currently turning into a bird bath as we speak!

But it's so cute! And, it's right outside my kitchen window so I'm hoping to spot some beautiful birds soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some Books

It's time for a post about books. Here's what I have for you today:

You can read "Something Rotten"by Alan Gratz for free until November 30th here. I've read this modern day retelling of Hamlet and thoroughly enjoyed it. Perfect for the Shakespeare-shy or Shakespeare-superfan.

The National Book Award Finalists have been announced and you can find which young adult books have the honor this year at Bookshelves of Doom. If you want to know which adult fiction and non-fiction books are in the running, you can find out here.

Out of the YA books, 3 are not even available yet (grrr) but will be in bookstores and hopefully libraries within the next 30 days. I enjoyed reading "The Underneath" which turned out to be quite a beautiful story after some dark and emotional chapters. (Probably wouldn't read it to my kids though) "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks" was just fun and fired up my righteous indignation.

Here are the titles of the stack of books waiting to be read. I will have to read them in the order they are due back at the library or in the order I can renew them.

The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles Book 1, by Marie Rutkoski

The Missing Girl, by Norma Fox Mazer (honestly this book creeps me out a little and I might not read it.)

A Thousand Never Evers, by Shana Burg

Paper Towns, by John Green

A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier

Dragon Heir, by Cinda Chima Wiliams (yay! I finally got it!)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (been waiting for this one forever!)

The Possibilities of Sainthood, by Donna Freitas

My One Hundred Adventures, by Polly Horvath

We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Baseball League, by Nelson Kadir

Borrower of the Night: The first Vicky Bliss Mystery, by Elizabeth Peters

So, that should keep me busy for a while. All are young adult and juvenile fiction, except for "We are the Ship" which is juvenile non-fiction and Borrower of the Night, which is adult fiction. I'll let you know how it all goes when I'm done...maybe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seaside Revisited

Here, in no particular order, are some more pictures from our Super Sweet Sister's Seaside Weekend. I bet you didn't realize the huge risk we took by putting ourselves in a tsunami zone. Just one of the small sacrifices we moms make to ensure that family scrapbooks are up to date and so darling.

This is a plate of sushi we enjoyed at Tora Sushi Lounge at the corner of Holiday and Broadway. I thought it was as fancy as anything I've ever seen and tasty to boot. Angela said this presentation was quite plain compared to the super fancy sushi she's had. (Well la-tee-da!) I loved it all, but eel is probably not something I will chew on again.

Thank you to the indulgent Tora Sushi Lounge server who snapped our picture, but evidently she does not know about the "zoom" feature. (That's us, I promise!)

This is the selection of taffy at The Buzz on Broadway. You get to sample a free piece each time you come in, and we came in a lot. (Oh, that reminds me...I still have some fudge left!) While it's nice to have a giant selection of taffy, I have to admit, most if it tastes the exactly the same.

And check out this lovely lady. I couldn't resist snapping a picture of the mosaic mannequin with the plastic shopping bag skirt in one of the boutiques we browsed in. So trendy, but plastic skirts will probably be out of style by spring (sad).

These bird houses were perched on the side of highway 26, probably about 20 miles from highway 101. There was a lock box for money if you wanted to take one. I think they were $15 each. (Does anyone remember?) So cute, so rustic, but those tin roofs will slice your finger right open if you are not careful. We did not buy one on this trip. Maybe next time.

And finally, the enduring symbol of Seaside: The broken sand dollar. Because who ever found a whole sand dollar on the beach at Seaside? OK, I found one once, but I had to look a long time and then I think it broke right after I got it home and made a big mess in the house. So, my advice: take a picture--it'll last longer.