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

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

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:

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.

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.

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 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.

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


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.