Sunday, December 28, 2008

Taking a bit of a break

I'm taking a short break from blogging to spend time with family and think about the direction(s) I want to take this blog in during the new year. I'll be back in a few days!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brrrrr.... it's cold!

Poor doggies. Their water dish keeps freezing over, and every few hours I go outside, dump out the ice block, and fill it up again. It's very cold outside. No fights to get the kids to wear gloves and keep their hoods up today!

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Resolution


More of this, and less of that deliciously sinful fudge. I'm going to get serious about exercising and getting back in shape again. Yes, I'm doing this now, three days before Christmas and all of its associated gluttony. ;)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fudge

This is some sort of conspiracy. I'm trying to be good and eat a minimal amount of junk food, and yet I've received two gifts of fudge - yummy, good, homemade stuff - in the last few days. Can't let good fudge go to waste, can I? I have to try a little bit so I can be truthful when I say how delicious it was in my thank you notes, right?

I can share it with Hubs, Big Girl, and Two, of course, but they've received even more sweets themselves - and Christmas isn't even here yet!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What a week!

This week has been so busy with all kinds of pre-holiday activities, health issues, and more. Two and Big Girl both missed a day of school while Two had a short-lived stomach bug (didn't want to chance sending in Big Girl in case she had it too). They both enjoyed class parties on Wednesday, and tomorrow they'll both be singing in the preschool Christmas musical performance. I'm really looking forward to seeing that - this will be Two's first time singing for an audience, and I'm interested to see how he reacts.

This morning I had a kidney stone. Could have done without that early Christmas gift. Fortunately it moved along at a quick pace, so I'm feeling much better.

And then tonight, Hubs and I get to enjoy a holiday party! The kids will stay with their grandparents while we go. It's been so long since we've had any adult time, gone anywhere without the kids, and it will be nice to enjoy conversation without the interruptions to "stop hitting your sister" and "leave your brother alone."

I just saw a preview for an episode of Rachel Ray in which couples go to a hypnotist to see if the hypnotist can fix an annoying habit that drives the spouse crazy. They showed a man who left dirty laundry piled all over the house, and the wife who hated picking up after him. I wonder if a hypnotist would be a useful approach to get Hubs to clean the house while I sit on the sofa and read? Without any complaints or grumbling from Hubs while he works, of course. Yeah, it wouldn't be nice or fair of me, but it's still a strangely appealing idea...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby Fever

I think I have a mild-to-moderate case of baby fever. Big Girl asked for a baby sister for Christmas, and I thought, "Oh. That's not a bad idea." And then I just watched a video that one of my college roommates posted online, of her daughter rolling over for the first time, and with that the baby fever really kicked in. On an intellectual level, I know that I get incredibly sick when I'm pregnant, and I feel nauseated and wretched for the entire nine months, and yet... babies! So cute! So sweet! And I've thought for a long time that our family isn't necessarily complete at this point. With everything going on in our lives right now, the timing isn't good at all, so I guess I'll tuck this away and revisit the idea in a few months. And I'll try to keep my baby fever to myself, at least for a little while.

On a related note: I wonder if men every really get baby fever in the way that women do? Hubs didn't really get interested in the kids until they started interacting with him. Before that, he cared for them and spent time with them, but once they started to give back in terms of attention, conversation, etc. - he was hooked. That's when they became really cool to him, in ways that I hadn't observed before.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ow.

I did something very, very bad to my back on Wednesday. I'm blaming Two, who's certainly big and strong enough that I don't need to be picking him up all the time. I think packing up the items left from the church Ten Thousand Villages sale was a contributing factor as well. Anyway, I've been miserable. I can barely walk, and I wince when I do. Fortunately my doctor took pity on me and gave me some meds when I went to see him yesterday. His explanation of how I did it and how the muscles in my back are so much easier to injure made a lot of sense, but at present I'm a little too woozy to recap. Maybe later. Sitting up to type starts to hurt more and more, the longer I do it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Amusing.

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

Disheartened.

I think that's the best word for it. I'm feeling disheartened. Various stresses that I don't want to hash out in detail are really starting to get to me, and I hate that it's so close to Christmas when I'm feeling this way. But so it is. Christmas at our house will come together, eventually, but so far I haven't put out any decorations, put up a tree, or even put out that magnetic cover thing that my mom gave me for our mailbox. I'm looking at hiring my cousin to come over and help me do some of this holiday-decorating-stuff, since I know he would love to make some money after his semester winds up. And I think I would be more motivated if I had someone to help me, but Hubs is so busy with work and so exhausted from the end of his semester that I hate to bug him too much.

I've decided what I want for Christmas. I want a fairy godmother. Surely I could call on her for help and not feel inept/guilty/awkward about it. And maybe she could hook me up with a winning lottery ticket and some free housecleaning, too. Oh, yes, and she could probably help me get in better shape and lose some weight, too.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Watch out for pumas!

Today the kids and I visited at my parents' house after Big Girl got out of preschool. Two had been there for a few hours during the morning while I worked in my office. Apparently he went shopping with my mom at Tuesday Morning (love that store), where he put on a performance as "charming grandson" for some of her friends who were also there shopping. For his efforts, he won a toy, but he doesn't get it until Christmas - fortunately he was distracted by the time they got back to the house and didn't ask about it.

So while the kids and my mom read books in the living room and watched us out the big front picture window, my dad and I put out lights on the bushes in the front yard. The kids kept knocking on the window and yelling at us, but I couldn't really understand what they were saying. Big Girl came to the front door and opened it and stood there trying to interrupt my conversation with my dad, and - annoying mother that I am - I told her to close the door and not interrupt.

When we finally came inside, the kids raced up to us, and Two grabbed my leg and kept saying "pumas bite!" repeatedly. Big Girl was chattering about pumas too. My mother explained: they wanted to warn us to watch out for pumas hiding in the grass. Because, you know, there might be a puma hiding there (in the front yard of a house, in the middle of town, in Georgia during December) and it might go for our legs. It would be a shame to be surprised and suffer a puma bite, particularly this close to Christmas.

I know two highly imaginative kids who love to watch Go, Diego, Go!


image from National Geographic

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thwarted

Two is at an absolutely adorable age. But he doesn't photograph well. He and his sister wore some very cute coordinating outfits to church today, and then after church I attempted to photograph the two of them so I could make photo Christmas cards. But no. Two would have none of that. He told me he was a puma and roared at me at first, but then quickly lost all good humor and stuck out his lip. And whined - a magnificent whine that I'm sure was heard all over the neighborhood. Big Girl sat there looking cute and shivering, since I was being a bad mommy and had them take off their coats so I could see the sweaters underneath. I didn't get my picture. Two got a nap, and after a bite of lunch, Big Girl took one too. I'll have to come up with more tricks and try again another day. Maybe I'll be forced to pick a card design that accommodates multiple images, and then get a decent shot of him without his sister (since she inevitably looks away when I get his attention focused on the camera).

Friday, December 5, 2008

I won! I won!

I'm so excited - I won a giveaway! Dr. Mommy Says offered a winner's choice of treat from Paw Luxury, and I can't wait for the lads to receive their treats! They will be very, very excited. Well, they get excited every time they see me, but I know they will be even more wagtastically pleased to see me coming with treats. I'll let you know what they think of their Polka Dog Peanut Butter Medley treats!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanks for your input.

I decided to let my students take the exam home to complete it. I finished writing it earlier this evening, and they'll have more than a week before they have to turn it in - but they're also finishing term papers due on Thursday, so I suspect most of them will wait a few days before starting the exam. It's already posted online, so they can start when ready. They were all very excited by the change to a take-home exam, and I'm hoping that, with less pressure and more time, they'll all do very well.

Because honestly, all of my "mean teacher" talk aside, I want my students to do well. It makes me sad when I have to flunk plagiarists and assign low grades to students who haven't done all the work. I would rather read good papers and tests.

Nice teacher? Mean teacher? Spineless teacher?

My college students are scheduled to take exams next week - one class on Tuesday night, and one on Thursday night. Two hours, open notes, open book. I feel pretty generous about that.

I let them use the book and notes because I assign massive amounts of reading, and I don't think I should require students in a first year composition (lit based) class to memorize authors and titles. The focus should be on demonstrating what they can do with the literature more than anything.

But now I'm kind of tempted to give them the final as a take-home on Thursday, and just have them return it next week. Is that being too generous? Is this my laziness trumping my teacherly duty? Because I would rather not sit there for two hours while they take their exams. That is definitely one factor.

The midterm was take-home. Apparently some of them took much longer than I anticipated to complete it, so I know that the final will be shorter than the midterm.

I worry that the spirit of generosity and all that is taking me over and compromising my mean teacherness. And then, I remember that I don't HAVE to be a mean teacher, not all the time, even though being a little scary can be fun. And the important part is that they demonstrate competence with the material and all that.

What do you think?

More giveaways!

Mom Maven is giving away a great book that I would love to share with my kids: The Random House Book of Easy-to-Read Stories. Big Girl is just starting to learn to pick out letters and identify words (so exciting to watch this!), so I try to read books with her that will help her in the learning process.

PakNak giveaway at Grocery Price Blog - aren't they cute?!

For those of you with a Wii, you can enter to win a Build-a-Bear Wii Game at Just a mom's take on things.

I know I've said this before, but there are so many great blog giveaways going on this holiday season. I'm really impressed. I'm entering like crazy. You can, too, provided you don't win all of the stuff I want and leave nothing for me. :D Just kidding.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This recipe sounds divine.

(image from Food Network)

As if I need more delicious recipes for sinful food - Alton Brown has this recipe for Chocolate Truffles. The cook time on this is only five minutes, and if they taste as good as they look, they will make great Christmas gifts for select lucky neighbors and friends. Something different from my usual loaf of banana bread, perhaps.

Stumpers from Big Girl

Big Girl likes to ask tough questions. Complicated questions. Questions that catch me off-guard. She specializes in unexpected questions that involve religion and/or science.

Tonight, something she saw on television prompted her to ask if she could go to space. I told her that she could do it when she got older and finished college. She didn't like this answer, I guess, since she asked the same question again later in the evening.

There's a certain attractive, deceptive logic to her questions, too. If Rusty (our late dog) is in heaven with God, and God is always with us, why can't we go see God and Rusty? And how, exactly, do we get to heaven? Can we float up there like the balloon that got away at her cousin's birthday party? Can we take a plane there?

She has also asked for a baby sister SEVERAL TIMES in the last week. She seems to have dropped her request for a pony for Christmas in favor of this sibling request. And she's very certain that she wants a sister, too - I think she wants the girls to outnumber the boys in our family, and in particular more sisters than brothers (i.e., Two). She likes him, sure, but she doesn't like the idea of more like him nearly as much.

The alligator obsession also continues. She brought her fantastic painting of an alligator home from school today, and I'm wondering how best to display it. It'll definitely make its way to her scrapbook pile (the large bin of things that I will put - someday - in her scrapbook).

Holiday gift idea - frugal, personal, and crafty trifecta!

I took the kids on a nightmare trip to Hobby Lobby today. I love that store. And yes, I love my children. But the two don't mix well, even with one strapped into a shopping cart. They like to touch and pick up and run and hide and... well, all of that stuff. Sometimes I morph into "that mom" who screeches "NO! Don't touch!" repeatedly throughout the store. Ugh.

Nonetheless, I managed to pick up a few supplies for Big Girl and Two to engage in a little bit of festive craftiness over the coming days (more on that in another post), and I browsed one of my favorite rows: the prefab wood stuff.

In years past, I acquired a couple of cute step stools from a craft store and painted them blue, with stars, moons, and the like, and personalized them with my nephews' names. I've also picked up plain wood birdhouses on clearance at Lowe's (I love clearance stuff - I could spend hours browsing) and painted them as gifts. One for my mom was solid white with tiny pastel flowers and butterflies. I also did one for my in-laws with the Texas flag on the roof.

I'm not a fantastic artist, but I love making gifts like these. I can personalize them for the recipient, and they're fun projects for me. Now that Big Girl is getting older, she can also start participating (another vague reference to the stuff I got at Hobby Lobby today) and I expect my relatives will be thrilled with her handiwork. So here, in short, is my mad plan for painting neat stuff to give as gifts:

  • Buy plain, pre-constructed items - bird feeder, picture frame, step stool, trays, etc. - or, if you're ambitious and super-crafty, make your own.
  • Paint and otherwise decorate items. For the step stools, I used several layers of blue for the base coat and also used several clear coats on the finished product in the hope that they would withstand a bit of rough treatment from the boys. With the bird houses, I used a final clear coat in case the recipients wanted to use them outside. For items that will be kept indoors, you could use beads, shells, and other assorted bits.
  • Choose a design and/or color scheme to appeal to the recipient. Hence the Texas flag bird house. Sports teams are also good, or hobbies or other interests can be used as a theme for the project - gardening, birds, hats, pets or other animals, etc. I have a project for Two rolling around in my head, not quite crystallized, which involves John Deere tractors and a farming theme. Stencils are also a great way to produce a design or picture, and even personalization.
  • Give yourself enough time to finish the project and to let it dry, and then you're set.


I want to revisit the step stool idea for my own children sometime. They both love anything that's personalized - are all kids like that? I also have an idea about making UGA birdhouses for relatives who are big Georgia fans. This would likely involve a stencil to get a good facsimile of the Georgia "G" - and I don't know if I would attempt Uga. I don't think my skills are quite up to painting a bulldog.

So, this is *not* the direction I'm going this year with holiday gifts, but since I'm already finished with most of my acquisitions, I'm already thinking about next year. And I'll definitely have my eyes open as I peruse the clearance aisles, particularly after Christmas. I may be able to pick up some cute "plain" stuff that the kids and I can paint and decorate for next year's gift giving. They demonstrated a marked interest in the wooden bird houses when we were shopping this afternoon...

Holiday Giveaways - $500 Walmart Gift Card edition

The Walmart ElevenMoms are giving away $500 Walmart Gift Cards (also courtesy of Nickelodeon) - I could do some serious shopping with that! Some of them have already started their contests, and while you can only win once, you can register in each contest to improve your chances!

Check out To Think is to Create and sign up to win a gift card.

Visit From Dates to Diapers and Beyond! for another contest.

Classy Mommy is also giving away a Walmart gift card.

You can also enter at one of my favorite frugal living blogs, Frugal Upstate.

Check out Green Your Decor and enter to win.

Share money-saving tips for holiday decorating at Jessica Knows to enter.

Enter at Skimbaco Lifestyle for another chance to win a gift card.

You can also enter at Being Frugal (I love her tagline: "Live more. Spend less.").

There's also another giveaway at Consumer Queen.

And finally (for now), Mommy Brain Reports has a gift card giveaway.

From the looks of the Walmart site, the other ElevenMoms will also be giving away $500 gift cards (can I just say "wow" again) but haven't started their contests yet. Note that these contests all require you to do something for a chance to win - and the focus is on saving money with holiday decor and gifts. So mull over the ways you make your holiday fantastic and frugal, and then go enter!

In the interests of smelling good,

or making sure that the people around you smell good, you may want to check out Caswell-Massey. They're offering free shipping today (December 1) on all orders. Use the code BFCMSHIP and get something nice. I'm a big fan of the Almond & Aloe line - smells fantastic!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Another fantastic giveaway!

I keep coming across so many wonderful giveaways as the holidays approach, and this morning I have a very impressive one to share. Some of you may already be readers of Avitable - if not, I hope you'll enjoy his blog. Warning: he's not for the faint of heart. He's not P.C. But I generally think he's hilarious. I went to college with Avitable and (don't tell him - it'll go to his head) think very highly of him. Anywho...

Avitable is giving away "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection" to one lucky entrant. I'm hesitant to share this with you, because I want it. But I'm nice, so I'm sharing the info. Plus publicizing the giveaway on my blog gets me another entry to win. ;) Good luck!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hubs and Brie

Hubs loves to bake brie in various ways and spread it on yummy crackers. Always delicious! The kids love it, my relatives are suitably impressed by his culinary prowess, and it's quite simple. You can make baked brie with a round or cylindrical piece of brie. Here are his two similar-yet-different recipes:

Using a round wheel of brie - cut the skin stuff off the top. Place the brie in an oven-safe dish, and sprinkle the top with brown sugar and sliced almonds. Bake in oven at 400 degrees until runny and hot. Scoop hot cheese out of middle and spread on to crackers of your choice.

Using a cylindrical log-shaped brie - scrape skin stuff off. Take a flat pie crust and sprinkle brown sugar on it, and maybe drizzle some honey. Wrap it around the brie log and top with some more brown sugar and slices of almonds (yeah, we like almonds around here). Bake until pie crust is nicely browned. Slice and serve.

We took the latter to my grandmother's house today as an appetizer before the enormous Thanksgiving feast. Two and Big Girl monged significant quantities, as did all of my relatives, and they all thought it was super-fancy. But it's really, really easy. It makes a good, quick thing to serve at holiday parties - we've served it for New Year's Eve before as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Have you heard Alice Russell sing?

I heard this great story on NPR today about British neo-soul singer Alice Russell, and I can't wait to pick up a CD. She has just released "Pot of Gold," her first US album. You can hear several clips of her in the NPR story - and if you're as taken by her voice as I am, you may want to buy the album too.

Two

This shirt would be perfect for him - too bad he would need a larger size. ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Announcements! Announcements! ANNOUCEMENTS!

We sold our cow,
We sold our cow,
We have no use,
For your bull now.

No, seriously - I have a fancy new e-mail address for my blog now! If you would like to contact me directly, write to driftwood.collector(at)gmail.com (creative, isn't it?). I'd love to hear from you! And comments are, of course, always very welcome. Lots of comments. Love the comments!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cute Stuff Alert: Sale at Four Peas Online!


FourPeasOnline has a great sale going on through November 28th on school size backpacks and messenger bags. Two has one of their cute toddler size backpacks for preschool - it's extremely well made, durable, and very cute!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Politics and Big Business

GoodGuide offers an interesting look at how companies "lean" in terms of their political contributions. Check it out! Spotted this one through a tweet from MissElle who asked, "Who did YOU inadvertently support in the last election?" I was surprised and a little disappointed to find some of my favorite haunts lean red.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thank you Michelle!

One of my online friends shared this - isn't it fabulous?!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More fun giveaways!

Sign up for a fun giveaway over at Frugal Upstate - a Vulcan National Blaster Value Pack! That's an automated Nerf gun, and my inner child thinks it sounds like lots of fun!

Also, visit Mom's Favorite Stuff and check out their DVD giveaway: they have five sets of DVDs, and each set includes three holiday movies from ABC Family.

I'm thinking I should get in on the giveaway action - but what to giveaway? I'll think on that for a bit.

A favorite indulgence

Clinique's Deep Comfort Body Butter is one of my favorite indulgences. During winter, I frequently suffer from tight, dry, itchy skin as the cold weather outside and heaters inside aggravate my eczema, and nothing makes my skin feel better than this body butter. I use it regularly and generously, so I'm less likely to feel the irresistible compulsion to scratch - and it preempts the itch without making my skin feel slimy or greasy. Fabulous stuff. It's getting cold, and the itch is back, so I need to stock up asap!

Do you have adequate insurance coverage?

Dear Santa,

Big Girl wants a pony for Christmas. A REAL pony. Unfortunately, I don't think that she will get a real pony, but I did find a cute toy horse today. I bought the horse and coordinating doll, and for now they're stashed in the back of the van. After she goes to sleep tonight, I'll move them to a better hiding place. I think I'm going to have a lot of fun playing the role of Santa this year.


You may think this is strange, but I like getting Big Girl dolls that have brown hair, like her, and beyond that dolls that are varied in their appearance (instead of a gang of blond Barbies). Not that I'm exclusive about the brown hair, by any means, but given a choice between several Disney princess dolls, I picked Belle because she has lovely rich brown hair like my Big Girl. Actually, I don't think my preference for Belle over Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty is just about the hair. In Beauty and the Beast, she shows a love for reading, intelligence, common sense, and kindness, and I feel like she's less of a helpless heroine than some of the other Disney princesses. So I guess I bring a preference born of my tendency to analyze character development and attributes, like a good English major, to bear in my selection of toys for my kids. Not in a fully conscious way, of course. I don't stand in the middle of Walmart and engage in a close reading of the toys' implications or anything. I do check out the toys to see where they're made (try to avoid China), and how well they're made, and what tiny parts they have.

Amazing giveaways!

I cannot believe some of the amazing giveaways going on now on some of the blogs I read! Check out the blogs and enter to win fabulous stuff:

At My Wooden Spoon, A Cowboy's Wife is giving away winner's choice of a Stand Mixer, Immersion Blender, or Food Processor (WOW) as part of her publicity campaign for her entry in the Velveeta Casserole Challenge.

Colleen is giving away a scrapbook surprise pack - I love (the idea of) scrapbooking and have several (incomplete, contents packed in a big footlocker for that unknown day when I have time/space/energy) scrapbooks for my kids.

Blissfully Domestic's big Epson Artisan 800 giveaway ends at midnight tonight (Sunday), with the winner to be announced on Monday morning.

PlusSizeMommy's first-ever giveaway is for a cupcake maker and ends on November 29. I just found her blog today (yes, I'm always late to the party) and I'm really enjoying it!

That Hubs - bad influence!

He started a conversation with me early this morning, while I was still in a semi-comatose state, asking if he should go out and get some breakfast for all of us to eat before church. I mumbled in approval. He returned a short time later with a box of Bojangles Cinnamon Sweet Biscuits. These deliciously sinful concoctions are based on a rich, buttery biscuit, which is then smothered in butter, cinnamon, and sweet icing. They are, as Two says, "mmmmm... nummy!" This pronouncement is typically accompanied by the clapping of buttery, sticky fingers and a big sticky smile. Big Girl was also articulate on the subject of breakfast: "Mmmm! Tanks, Daddy!"

So much for my healthy daily breakfast of Special K. It was a very sweet start to the day. Since I was already off the wagon, I tossed a couple of spoonfuls of cocoa mix in my coffee mug for a hot mocha treat.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am apparently rather susceptible to influence.

After watching that puppy cam, I felt the strong desire to get a puppy. I got all sentimental about my golden retriever's puppy days-gone-by. And then, today, I took Big Girl to a birthday party for one of her classmates, and there were several cute little babies there. And I got a bit sentimental realizing that neither Big Girl nor Two is little and babyish anymore. And I miss that. And I kind of want to have another baby, in a "that would totally throw my life into chaos and not be a sensible move right now" way.

I guess I should avoid infomercials and the home shopping channels right now.

Big Girl had a fantastic time at the party, by the way. I watched closely and it seemed that she played and got along well with several of her classmates, including the birthday girl (who's an absolutely delightful girl), and certain classmates who have said and/or done cruel things to her in the past didn't interact with my girl. That was good. My inner "mama bear" was crouching and ready to pounce if needed while I was busy mingling and chatting with other mothers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dubya Winking

This is an odd picture. It kind of amuses me, and then again it's just kind of weird. It's the picture of the day on Anderson Cooper's show, AC 360, on CNN - they have a daily contest called Beat 360 where they solicit captions for amusing or interesting pictures. Apparently Dubya was preparing to speak before the UN yesterday when this photo was taken. He kind of looks like he's trying not to sneeze to me.

Delightfully fun reading


I picked up a copy of Dead Until Dark several weeks ago, but I haven't had the chance to read it until recently. I finished it this evening and really enjoyed it: fun, fast-paced, and not too formulaic. I may even pick up the second book in the series, Living Dead in Dallas, tomorrow - Hubs will grumble about me reading and "shutting out the whole family" but since I don't buy into his whining on that topic, I'll just keep reading anyway. ;) I like the combination of naivete and experience in the main character, Sookie Stackhouse, and I think there are currently eight titles in the series, with a ninth due for publication next year. For those of you lucky enough to have HBO, these are the novels on which the show True Blood is based. I'm very interested to see the television series, but I'll wait for it to come to DVD.

Shiba Inu Puppy Cam

Hubs made the foolish mistake of sharing this fantastic puppy cam with me last night. I just love watching these adorable dogs!

Live video chat by Ustream

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Girl update

I've really been stressed out by the "mean girl" issues in Big Girl's classroom, but fortunately I haven't heard anything troubling from her in the last few days. After my conversations with her teacher and the director of the program, it seems that things are getting better for my sweet girl. Instead of telling me that no one wanted to play with her on the playground, she now names one or two girls who played with her, and she seems happy. And this weekend, she's going to a birthday party for one of her classmates; she's very excited about this and has been talking about it all week. I'm maintaining a watchful, cautious outlook, but maybe this storm has passed. In my completely unbiased opinion, Big Girl is fabulous, so I think everyone should love her and want to be her friend. ;)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Robeez Season of Giving campaign

This morning I was delighted to learn about Season of Giving, a holiday charitable campaign from Robeez (they make adorable soft-soled leather shoes that both of my kids wore as they learned to walk). Robeez is making product donations to K.I.D.S., Kids In Distressed Situations, an organization that distributes new merchandise (books, clothing, etc.) to children in a variety of situations. This charitable group gives to kids affected by national disasters, political unrest, domestic abuse, homelessness, and other factors (read more here).


Robeez is pledging to give $5 worth of merchandise to K.I.D.S. for each holiday e-card sent through their site. The e-card is very cute, and it's quick and easy to send it to friends and family. You can also register for an optional weekly drawing for a cute shoes and socks gift set when you send your card. Robeez has set the goal of donating $250,000 worth of merchandise this holiday season. In addition to the $5 for each e-card, they will also donate $25 for each blog post about their campaign. Even if you're not in the market for some cute little shoes, this is a great campaign - check it out!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A match made in "Space. The Final Frontier."

Hubs and I took the kids over to my parents' house to spend the afternoon. As we were drive back, I noticed that yet another new business had opened in a strip mall along our route. This particular location has housed numerous businesses, none of which have lasted long, and the latest is a tattoo parlor. I pointed it out to Hubs, who jokingly suggested that we stop and get matching tattoos. And then, our inner nerds kicked into overdrive:

Hubs: I know what the coolest tattoo would be.
Me: What's that?
Hubs: A communicator. Right here, on my chest.
Me: Oooh, good idea.
Hubs: Then when we go swimming and I get thirsty, I can just hit the communicator and say, "Wife! Beer me!"
Me: Uh huh. And you think that'll really work?
Hubs: Yeah! That would be the best tattoo ever! But I guess we couldn't get matching ones.
Me: Oh really?
Hubs: Yeah, you've got boobs. I wouldn't want you to expose your boob in the tattoo parlor to get that.

Note that, at no point in this conversation, was it necessary for us to clarify that we were referring to Star Trek. We both just knew.

In related nerd news, we spotted a collector's set of Star Trek Pez dispensers for sale at Kroger. This would make a fine Christmas gift for any Star Trek-loving, Pez-dispenser-collecting nerds in your life. I hope Hubs will refrain from purchasing this, as we already have far too many Pez dispensers in our home. It's one of those cooler-in-the-store-than-my-home things.

Spectacled Bears and the Amazon, and more!

This morning the kids and I watched an episode of Go, Diego, Go! that focused on spectacled bears, and the kids thought the bears were pretty neat. So I found this BBC video on youtube that includes footage of some real spectacled bears. Two stood next to me watching it with great interest. Then he ran off and started harassing Big Girl, but his intellectual curiousity was great while it lasted...

Other sites with information on spectacled bears:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Need pictures? Shutterfly deal

I just learned about a deal from Shutterfly: use code SHIP25 to get free shipping on orders of $25 or more, and code HOLIDAY to get $10 off orders of $50 or more. This is great if you're thinking of ordering holiday cards, photobooks, or other personalized items as Christmas gifts. These offers are good through Wednesday, November 12.

Giada De Laurentiis's Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart

I found this delicious recipe, on the Food Network site, for Giada De Laurentiis's Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart. Hubs is going to get the ingredients I need to try this recipe today. It sounds like an easy recipe to try while I'm in recovery mode. If we like it, I'll make it for Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's house!

Ingredients

* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3 eggs, beaten
* 1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped, and toasted hazelnuts
* 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
* 1 cup corn syrup
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 store bought frozen pie crust, defrosted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and the flour. Add the eggs, hazelnuts, chocolate chips, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Bake for 1 hour.

Cool the tart for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Doesn't it sound yummy? I think it would be great topped with some whipped cream or even vanilla ice cream. I've developed a love of the combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, due in large part to my beloved Nutella.

Chuck alert - watch for the actor playing Barry Rommel on Monday night!


My college classmate Zach Hanks will be on Chuck on Monday night, playing "Barry Rommel." Check him out! I'm a big Chuck fan, so you know I won't miss it!

One of my favorite things

Hey, I may lack the clout and viewing audience of Oprah, but I have favorite things too. And one of them is on sale! Crabtree & Evelyn is holding Customer Appreciation Days with 20% off everything, both online and in store, through November 11. They make yummy lotions, soaps, body washes, aromatherapy, candles, and other nice stuff. You can also get free shipping on online orders over $55 using the code FREE55 - and it's only $4.95 for any order, which is fairly reasonable. This could be a great way to get some stocking stuffers, holiday gifts, and treats for yourself.

Some of my favorites are the Gardeners line of products, which are designed to provide serious moisturizing and comfort to hands that have seen hard work. These products also work beautifully on my perpetual winter dry skin, and my mom, who does a great deal of yard work, confirms that they do, indeed, work well for gardeners' hands. Check out the hand therapy cream and hand recovery cream.

Crabtree & Evelyn offers a variety of lines in different scents to appeal to any taste. I'm not a big fan of heavy scent, which tends to aggravate my allergies and asthma, so the Sweet Almond Oil line is perfect for me. I also like La Source, the line of home spa treatments - these make me feel very indulgent. :)

If you want to treat a man in your life, check out the Naturals Solutions for Men - it has a great light scent. If I could get Hubs to shave off his beard, I would get this for him in a heartbeat. Since he won't, I prefer to give him some of the soaps, like the Sienna luxury soap and Naturals Mango Butter & Cranberry Botanical Body Bar. Is it bad that some of these soaps sound good enough to eat?



My mom is a big fan of their scented drawer liners - the paper is pretty and it gives a lovely scent to your dresser drawers. They also have sachets and scented hangers.


Now that I've (perhaps) incited you to rampant consumerism, I'll add that you can get an additional 10% off your order through membership in Crabtree & Evelyn's Prestige Club. This is the second tier of their Preferred Customer Program, open to those who've spent more than $250 as a preferred customer. You can build up over months or even years, so if you plan to buy anything, go ahead and sign up. So far I'm just a preferred customer, but I think I'll reach the higher tier soon. I'm a little more restrained in my C&E shopping since we moved. Our last home was five minutes from a mall with a lovely Crabtree & Evelyn store staffed by a very friendly sales lady... But someday, when I win the lottery*, I'll be able to indulge my appetite for yummy Crabtree & Evelyn product more often!

*This is a running joke between Hubs and me. If we really win the lottery, watch out - we've amassed quite a list of indulgences. If we really bought everything we have mentioned over the years, we'd blow through that money crazy-fast.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas shopping on my mind...

I've finished my list and purchased most of the items I'll be buying for Christmas this year. I have a lot of things to *make* however - so once I'm more mobile, I'll get to work on that. If you aren't obsessed with shopping obscenely early, however, and still plan to buy gifts, I would like to direct you to two of my favorite sites:

TenThousandVillages.com has an online store featuring all of the fantastic fair trade goods that you can find at Ten Thousand Villages sales and festivals, plus more. I love finding treasure from Ten Thousand Villages. I've given jewelry, home decor, pillows, and Christmas decorations as gifts, and purchased for myself, from their sales in years past. This year I'm organizing a sale at our church, so I'll be waiting to shop there, but if you don't have plans to attend a sale or if you want to get a discount off the already-very-reasonable prices they have on handmade items, check out the website. Today and tomorrow only (Saturday, November 8), you can get twenty percent off your entire purchase using the code BAGSALE at checkout. Check out the beautiful natural wreaths, the gorgeous jewelry, the lovely nativity sets, and so much more. And be socially responsible and support fair trade and all that, too. ;)

My second recommendation, for those looking to find gifts on a limited budget, is the Overstocks section of Lands' End. I love browsing through this part of the site, and they have so many wonderful items available at great prices. Lands' End has great customer service, quality products, and considerable variety, even in overstocks. I picked up several button-down shirts for Hubs and a top for myself, as well as oodles of gifts for family and friends. Check out the Packable Tote, a good deal at $14.99 and available in several great color combinations, and the king size set of flannel sheets in Ruby, for only $19.99. Shhh! Those are gifts for some of my relatives.

I think I've been pretty productive so far during my convalescence - it's early November, and I'm already halfway finished! I still have several tricky people on my shopping list, however, including the two kids who already have everything, Big Girl and Two.

Hubs is a good guy

Hubs told me last night that he would be taking off time from work to take care of me. Three days - I'm blown away by his thoughtfulness and generosity. Seriously. This is - dare I say it - a bit out of character for him. I don't think he took off this much time after the birth of our first child (but then he was paid hourly, not salaried, so that kind of explains it).

The kids are staying with my parents tonight, and we dropped them off early this morning so my parents could take them to school and we could head over to the office for my surgery. The surgery went pretty well. I can't say that I feel good now, but I am focused on feeling better eventually. The medication is keeping me fairly comfortable so far.

Hubs has been incredibly sweet and thoughtful. He got me a yummy Starbucks concoction after we left the doctor's office (they have an ambulatory surgical center at the office) and picked up tasty foods at the grocery store while the pharmacist filled my prescription. I just wolfed down a chicken pot pie - I couldn't eat after 10 last night, and I was really hungry.

I don't want to make him sound like a bum, but I really can't remember the last time he took care of me like this. It's wonderful. He's a thoughtful guy most of the time, but he's being particularly good today. When I'm back on my feet, I'll have to do something nice to reinforce this kind of behavior. ;)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Big Boy News!

Two had his first real barber shop haircut today. Previously I've cut his hair at home with clippers, but today my dad and I took him to see A.J. He's been my dad's barber for years - at least my entire life and then some. The barber shop is... unique. Lots of taxidermy. Some of the heads also sport trucker hats with punny sayings on them. A big display case full of vintage model cars.

Two was hesitant at first, but with his grandfather holding his hand and A.J. telling him it would be okay, he decided to relax after a few minutes. The display case with the cars in it also had a tractor inside, and that was, of course, most interesting to Two. A good distraction.

Now my boy has a real little boy haircut. He looks super-cute, and not so much like his mom cuts his hair for him at home. It's a true haircut, not just an allover short buzz job. He doesn't look as much like a baby with his new 'do, although he still has the cute chubby baby cheeks. I hope he keeps those for a long time. I'm in no hurry for my baby boy to grow up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So glad...

that the preschoolers got it wrong.

I can't fully express my delight, my optimism, my excitement about the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. I've felt pessimistic and cynical about politics for years, but tonight I feel as though there really are others out there, in this country, in sufficient numbers, who agree with me about the important issues and who see the potential and promise of Barack Obama. God Bless Him.

p.s. McCain's being really classy in his concession speech. WTG old white-haired dude. He has the capacity to handle himself with dignity and honor when he doesn't let partisanship run rampant.

A Political Funny





My mom sent me this gem from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Kid Vote

The kids in Big Girl's pre-k class had their own election today. Their teacher distributed paper ballots with pictures of the two candidates and had each student place a sticker next to his or her candidate of choice. The children were told to make their own choices, and keep it secret if they wished, and then the teacher counted each child's ballot and tallied the votes. She put stickers on a single page to give them a visual sense of the outcome. I was thrilled to learn that they would be doing this, but not so crazy about the results:



I shouldn't be that surprised, given what I know of the political leanings of her classmates' parents. Fortunately this class is not at all representative of our nation as a whole.

(to the tune of Rawhide, naturally) Voting, voting, voting...

The kids and I went to the Masonic lodge behind a certain nearby elementary school to vote before I took them to school. I kind of sentimentally wanted them to be there to see the voting first hand. The whole process, from joining the line until I returned to my car, took about an hour. It was a bit chilly, standing outside in line, but the kids and I had coats and the sun came up higher and warmed us up after a bit.

An older woman in front of me surprised me just after we joined the line. A young man standing between the woman and me in line was wearing short sleeves, no coat. This young man was wearing a stained button-down workshirt and looked like he probably works in some sort of manual labor-type job. He was also Hispanic and spoke heavily accented English - that matters in this context because of this town and the dynamics of class/race/ethnicity here.

The woman was dressed for work in an office setting, in a tailored dark purple wool blazer and black pants. She had nicely coiffed hair, perfect makeup, and generally looked rather affluent and professional. And she turned to the young man and made a remark about the chilly weather. When he agreed with her assessment, she told him she had a coat he could wear, and that she would be glad to get it from her car for him. He demurred, but she offered again, more than once. She wasn't annoying about it. She just didn't want the guy to get cold. He seemed surprised initially by her offer, but thanked her for her generosity and declined.

I wish that this exchange hadn't surprised me, but given some of the interactions (or lack therof) that I've seen between people here, I was also a bit surprised by her generosity. There are a lot of immigrants in this town, drawn by jobs in the carpet industry, and I've seen and heard some ugly rhetoric toward people who have come here from other countries - Mexico and elsewhere - in search of jobs. I've heard comments about people who don't speak "good" English (and given the diction and syntax of some locals, they're being hilariously, un-self-consciously ironic). I guess these tensions crop up in many places, but I was delighted to see my pessimistic expectations upended today as we waited to vote.

In general, everyone in line seemed very patient about waiting. There was even an undercurrent of camaraderie. And Big Girl showed me that she's really been paying attention during Dora the Explorer. A mother and her young son were in line behind us, and I was amusing the kids by asking them to identify letters and numbers on the plates of cars parked in the lot. The young boy pointed to a number on the plate of a nearby car and asked his mom, in Spanish, "what letter is this?" She corrected him, saying (again in Spanish), "what number is this?" Big Girl piped up with the correct answer at the same time as the boy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Seriously, for a minute -

I'm scheduled to have surgery for my sinus woes on Friday, and the date of doom is rapidly approaching. I've tried not to think about it too much, because I'm kind of a wimp. And when I don't feel good, I'm rather worthless and whiny. I know that this surgery and the subsequent recovery will bring with it a good bit of the worthless whining wimpitude. Wimpiness isn't attractive on most people, including me.

Fortunately Hubs helps to distract me by talking about how much housework I could do "ahead of time" - because that's a direct relationship, isn't it? Can't have surgery with a dirty house, now, can I? He also reminds me regularly that he won't be around to help me at certain times, so I'll need to figure out workarounds for changing diapers and other tasks which would ordinarily require a bit of lifting. No lifting more than 15 pounds during my recovery - so Two will have to bring his little step stool around the house and get himself to any heights. I have a vague sense that I may regret encouraging a do-it-yourself climbing practice later on.

The main idea that keeps sticking in my brain, when I move past the hesitancy, is how fortunate I am, to have health insurance to reduce the cost of my surgery, to have access to a friendly doctor who will perform the procedure, to have parents to care for me and my children later in the day. The kids will even have a sleepover at their grandparents' house the first night post-op, so I can rest and recover in a quieter environment at home. I keep coming back to the unbelievable expense involved in this surgery. I would never have it if I didn't have insurance. I feel guilty knowing that we'll be paying for this procedure in monthly installments for some time to come. And yet I dream of feeling much better than I have in months, of relief from sinus pressure and misery, of freedom from knowing every cold will become an infection. This isn't a major life-or-death procedure. It's largely a quality of life concern, and one that many people likely cannot consider due to problems with cost and access.

My qualms about the current status of our medical system are considerable. I am a former child of privilege, now a woman of privilege, in comparison to so many. If I get sick, I go to the doctor, and I'm outraged to think that some people have to decide between medical care and food, or medicine and basic living expenses. I know this is often a problem for elderly individuals on fixed incomes, and yet the problem is so much more widespread. I catch glimpses of it from women who write on parenting boards and blogs I follow. I don't know what to do about the unbelievable impediments to proper medical care faced by so many people in this supposedly-privileged country. I'm not an expert. But my worries about being a whiner and dealing with housework before surgery pale in comparison. I hope whoever we elect tomorrow (you know my choice) comes up with some viable solutions and implements them, asap.

And now for something completely different...

I came across this cat while searching for the one in that last post - and I have to post this one, too. It's just delightful.
cat
more animals

Speaking of cats - I am delighted to report that Two has toned down his grandfather-encouraged shrieking at cats. Big Girl's getting better as well. Both of them generally remember to use inside voices and walk softly around my mom's cats, and everyone is happier. :) I think Two may even develop into a bit of an animal whisperer like my mom. She just has a way with animals, such that they're drawn to her and feel calmed by her, and it's amazing. Of all the genetic inheritances he could get from my family - and it's apparent already that he got the dry skin, allergies, and jowls - this would be one of the best.

Boo, NBC! Booooo!



No Chuck tonight, as Natalie points out in response to my previous post. I have to wait for next week. And how does that make me feel?

cat
more animals

Big TV night for me!


This fall I've become a more ardent fan of Chuck. I liked it last year, but now? I think it's even better. So don't call me between 8 and 9. (That means you, dad. You always call when I'm in the middle of doing something else.) I'll put the kids to bed before then, and feed the dogs in advance too. I'll be watching television.

My robe

My robe, or rather the sash for my robe, is under constant attack. Two keeps attempting to steal it so he can play with it. He calls it his "rescue rope" and, I believe, plans to use it to rescue animals like his television hero Diego. Many of these animals apparently need to be rescued from his sister's room and taken to his room.

I love for him to play animal rescuer - it's a favorite game that he and Big Girl often play together - but I can't get him to choose an alternate rescue rope. He keeps coming back to the robe, which I would like to wear closed so I stay warm.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Video on Voting Rights: Making It Count

New post over at Blissfully Domestic

My latest post at Blissfully Domestic is Spies I Love: Television's "Chuck" is both classic spy and spoof - check it out!

Nicely done!

Ben Affleck did a great Keith Olbermann on SNL...



SNL is getting better. I thought it was dead, but the presidential election seems to have given it a breath of fresh air.

Another reason to vote

You know, as if having a say in the future of the country isn't enough for you:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Great new read

Thanks to a tip from a dear friend, I stopped by Margaret and Helen this morning. Maybe you've already heard of them? They're a pair of octogenarians who've been best friends for sixty years. Helen's grandson set up a blog for the two of them, although Helen seems to post more frequently than Margaret. So far in my reading, I've discovered that Helen has a lot to say about politics and current events, and she's not shy about it. Her language is even a bit colorful at times - my sweet Southern grandmama, she isn't. For those of you leaning toward the old white dude in the election, you may find that Helen disagrees with your proclivities, vociferously. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these fun ladies.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When she grows up

Big Girl is full of wishes and proclamations set in the time of "when I grow up." When she grows up, she will drive a car - and she can already describe this car in considerable detail. So watch out for a cute teenager in a baby blue Volvo in about twelve years (ack!). She will be a mommy, like me. And being a mommy means she will do particular things, such as get haircuts, but not too short, because she likes having longer "soft" hair. She will have a lot of pets, and some of them rather non-traditional - alligators come to mind. And she will wear glasses.

I love that she doesn't have any of the childhood prejudices against glasses at this point. She just fully expects that, while she does not wear glasses now, she will wear them when she grows up, because so many of the adults she knows wear them. Almost every member of our family wears them, so yes, she will likely need them too within just a few short years. But a part of her innocence, and her fascination with so many aspects of her world and the people she loves, is her desire to be like us. To wear glasses, because that's what grownups do.

She doesn't see glasses as a marker of poor eyesight, as a sign representing a flaw or weakness in those she loves. I know she'll grasp the purpose and significance of glasses soon enough, but I love the desire to wear glasses when she grows up, as she expressed repeatedly tonight on our drive home. She is all sweetness and affection and love and adoration right now, and I can only try - fail, but try - to live up to her image of me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Girls really are mean.

I've been struggling lately with how best to help my daughter. Big Girl is in pre-K this year, and she's encountered her first bullies. Two girls in particular seem to cause her trouble, telling her she can't play with them, bossing her around, telling her she smells bad, that sort of thing. I've discussed the issue with her teacher, who was already aware of the problem and is doing what she can to alleviate it. For my part, I've been talking about it with Big Girl and trying to offer suggestions, such as playing with other kids, telling the bullies to stop, and ignoring their remarks. I take some comfort in knowing that neither girl is likely to attend her elementary school, and yet there may be others there who don't treat my sweet girl with acceptance and kindness.

I've never been socially adept. That seems to complicate everything for me - I really don't know how to tell her to respond. She's lovely, intelligent, fun-loving, and kind, and it's hard for me to understand why anyone, even a little bratty girl, would say or do anything to hurt her. My lack of understanding does little to address the problem, however. How can I equip my beautiful girl for a world that's proving irrationally unkind to her at this tender age? She loves school - loves the learning, the art, the teachers, and her friends - and I want to make sure her love for learning and experiencing new things remains intact. So in my usual nerdy way, I'm reading some books in search of guidance. Any other ideas?

I'm on Blissfully Domestic!

Check out my first post for Blissfully Domestic: Exercise your brain with Facebook word games. I'm very excited to start writing for Blissfully Domestic, and I have more ideas in the works. How's that for vague and mysterious? ;)

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'll let the links speak...

I've got ideas for posts jumbling around in my brain, but also oodles of other obligations demanding my time and energy. So here are a few links that speak to the topics on my mind at present:

Mean Girls, from Mommy Track'd

Our FIRST giveaway, and it’s a real gem!, from Robin on Inspired Bliss at Blissfully Domestic

Cathy's fantastic post on using a price book to save money from Frugal Bliss at Blissfully Domestic

Kathy Friend's articulate piece on How Clothes Should Fit from Blissfully Domestic's Blissful Style

Meg at Cute Overload's FABULOUS post of pets in costumes! - I'll be laughing over this one for hours!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dear Saxby,

Dear Saxby Chambliss,

I will not be voting for you. I did not plan to vote for you previously, but I became even more certain of my decision after your campaign used an automated calling system to call my home during my children's naptime, just to play some asinine recorded message asking me to vote for you and using negative, ridiculous language about your opponents. You woke up my children, and even worse, your automated call showed up as "Unavailable" on Caller ID. Masking the call's origins makes you seem like a sleazy telemarketer, dude, and just reinforces my desire to see your campaign fail.

Sincerely,
Me

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Miss me?

I haven't blogged in several days. I've been trying to process a lot of really disturbing stuff, and I still can't make sense of it - I don't think I ever really will.

You may have heard brief mention of this last Friday or over the weekend: One Killed in Georgia Law Office Blast (NY Times), Dalton bomber ‘a solo deal’ police say (AJC). This incident took place very close to home, in my hometown, and is affecting people I know, some of whom I consider very dear friends. I don't have any pithy wisdom to share. I've just been thinking over the incident and assorted "big picture" issues, and playing games on Facebook to take my mind off of it. All that, plus lots of work to do for both jobs. I've thought many times about blogging, but I just don't know what to say, so unless something inspiring comes to me, I don't know that I'll say much about it at all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Update to this morning's post

Breaking news! A SECOND Obama yard sign has sprouted across the street from the first one on my parents' street. I'm surprised, and delighted, and amused, all at once. Because the couple who live there? They apparently called their neighbor, who put up the first sign, and told her she was pretty brave for putting it up. And now they have their own sign.

Yeah, I'm easily amused by the yard decor of my parents' peers. No one has any lawn jockeys or gnomes on this street, in case you were wondering. :D Not that kind of street. Many of them, in fact, have gardeners and/or lawn services.

Political Paraphenalia

Do you wear buttons to support your favorite candidate? Put bumper stickers or magnets on your car? Put yard signs by the road in front of your house?

It's really interesting to me to see who puts out signs or labels their cars in my hometown. A lot of people here just don't do that, no matter what their political leanings. My parents, for example: I can't imagine them ever making their political choices public in that fashion, although they will discuss their thoughts on politics with me. They're not the types, however, to introduce politics into a discussion with friends or bring up an election at a social gathering.

I was raised by these people, and yet in college I plastered my old used Volvo with politically-inspired stickers. I think part of it was a recognition that my views differed strongly from those of most of my fellow students. I attended a rather conservative school, where I was part of the liberal minority. This experience was not unlike living in my hometown, which is located in the heart of red-state territory in the south. I don't start arguments or confront people, however, when I find that my views differ from theirs. I think it's part of my "genteel" upbringing: talking about politics too much has always seemed a little rude to me, at least when it leads to an ideological clash.

In grad school, I was in the middle of a liberal haven, and on a certain level, I loved being in a place where many of the local officials shared my views and predelictions. It always felt a little odd, however. I wasn't used to being a part of the political majority, and I sometimes even felt oddly conservative in comparison to others, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it was my openness to accepting others' viewpoints, and living harmoniously with others who disagree with me? While I often agreed with the views of those around me, I sometimes found in some of them a bias toward others who disagreed with them. To be fair, I often found this same bias in my conservative friends and classmates in college. Perhaps the best way to describe it is an incredulity, an inability to believe that anyone who disagreed with their position could be intelligent, thoughtful, worthy of respect and acceptance. I suppose some people might see that as a flaw in me, my desire to be tolerant of other views to the point that I rarely fight for my position and challenge others with any sense of vehemence.

Anyway, this leads me back to my topic. I don't have any signs or stickers or magnets. I've been very tempted to put up a sign, to put a magnet on my van, but I haven't, because Hubs asked me not to do it. And he agreed not to label his car or put up any of his signs - which would not feature the same candidate's name - in return. Oh, I have been so tempted, particularly since signs for my candidate are rare in this town. On my parents' street, I've seen five signs for the "old white dude" and only one for Obama. And I was surprised to see that one. I asked the woman who lives there why she decided to put the sign in her yard, and she said she, like me, wasn't one to put out political signs in most cases. But she had seen so many McCain signs around town, and so few Obama signs, that she felt like potential Obama voters might feel like there was no need to vote, as if they were so outnumbered that it didn't matter. So she put out a sign to let them know they weren't alone, to keep the faith in our very red town.

And that's when I really wanted to put out a sign, too. But I didn't. No need to start that fight with Hubs. I've been trying to avoid politics entirely in our discussions, because he keeps trying to show me the error of my ways. You would think that he would know better after eight years of marriage, but apparently not. No, I won't put out a sign or put a magnet on my car to counter all of the stickers I see on cars around town, but I'll put my choice out here, on my blog, in my own indirect way. Hubs never reads what I write here anyway.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Austin residents seek to break Guiness World Record

They are trying to break the record for the number of people doing the "Thriller" dance at the same time. This record is currently held by a group of inmates in the Philippines. Yes, seriously. The part where the mayor joins in? Priceless.

Delicious!

I started out this afternoon with the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for pear, apple, and cranberry crisp, but ended up with something a little bit different, and very much delicious. I mixed the main ingredients but realized we didn't have any craisins, thanks to my favorite munchers, so I used raisins instead. When I went to the fridge for butter to make the topping, I realized Hubs had used it all, so I had him stop by the grocery store on his way home. I then added craisins on top of the fruit layer, and then put the topping over that.

After this had been baking for nearly an hour, the house smelled heavenly. I pulled out the dish and everything looked so nice and hot and bubbly! I had a hard time waiting for it to cool a bit before tasting it. The kids and I all sampled it, and this crisp is a keeper! It has a wonderful sweetness from the apples and pears, and a lovely caramelized sugary-ness to the topping, thanks to the sugars. The oatmeal in the topping is a great dimension, and the cranberries give it a touch of tartness that offsets the sweetness nicely. I think the recipe would be delicious with raisins instead of craisins (as I initially planned, but ended up with both in the end), but the craisins give it extra dimension and color. Vanilla ice cream would complement this beautifully, but it's delicious alone. Hubs hasn't tried it yet - he went to bed early - but I suspect I'll find him eating it for breakfast!

Not quite the same...

I'm making the Barefoot Contessa recipe for Pear, Apple, and Cranberry Crisp that I mentioned in a previous post, only things never go according to plan around here. Craisins are a popular snack food among the natives, and I discovered that the bag of craisins I bought for this recipe have been devoured. I have three suspects, and it's likely a conspiracy. Fortunately I had a very large container of raisins, and plenty of them are left.

Then, as I got to the topping portion of the recipe, I discovered that Hubs had used the last of the butter. In fact, the fridge is looking suspiciously bare on several fronts. So he's bringing more home when he gets back from the library, and I'll be able to finish the recipe. We'll have it for dessert this evening, after the herbed pork tenderloin with rice and carrots. I'm feeling positively domestic!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It figures.

Right after I post about how I love to use my headphones to watch tv on my laptop, one of the earbuds falls apart. Guess I'll have to buy a new pair.

Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World



Hubs and I watched this on the Documentary Channel last weekend (see previous post), and it is really frightening to consider the dangers posed by Aspartame. I'm pleased to see that the full documentary is available online. If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend that you watch Sweet Misery.

My tv-watching secret

With my crazy schedule and the two demanding people who need to be fed, dressed, undressed, bathed, and otherwise loved, I rarely get time to watch most of my favorite shows when they're broadcast. So I love the DVR, but then, I get into fights over the limited storage space with Hubs, who also loves the DVR for its ability to allow him to watch his shows that I can't stand. And so, for those shows that are also available in full online, I have found a fabulous secret. I watch them on my laptop with headphones, when the kids are busy doing other things and sometimes even when Hubs is watching some lame show on the tv in the very same room.

This allows me to watch Bones without fear of my children being scarred by seeing body parts or seeing other images that might give them nightmares (not that Bones is always like that). I also use it to watch other comedies and dramas toward which Hubs has an annoyingly dismissive attitude: Chuck, Eli Stone, Boston Legal, and Dirty Sexy Money. If only Law and Order: Criminal Intent were online in full, I'd be set. Well, no, not really set. Because there are still lots of other shows I love to watch. Yes, I love television.

One Cool Cowboy

Two thinks he is hot stuff. Yesterday, the kids, my dad, and I went to this great discount shoe store, and three out of four individuals came away with cool new boots. My dad's new work boots aren't nearly as interesting as the pairs that Two and Big Girl acquired. Two has "twackta boots" and loves them. He's been strutting all over the house, babbling with delight about "my boots!" and eagerly showing them off to anyone who will admire them. He doesn't want to take them off, although I insisted that he remove them before getting into bed. Of course, I placed them on a footstool so that he could look at them while falling asleep at naptime. I'm sure they'll be nicely broken in by the time he dresses up as a cowboy for Halloween.

Big Girl got a cute pair of dark brown Acme boots, western-style, and is also thrilled with them. I have a feeling she will want to wear them to church regularly, since she loved wearing last year's pair whenever I let her. I confess, I kind of encourage this, because she loves the boots and she looks so cute wearing them. So as long as they don't look ridiculous with an outfit, she can wear the boots (no, we don't attend a Cowboy Church). I love it when my kids express their individual style.

Variations on hot fruit tea

When I have a cold (or sinus infection, as it inevitably becomes), I love to make a large pot of hot fruit tea and just keep it warm and ready to drink throughout the afternoon and evening. My recipe is never quite the same, but it often is something like this:

1 64 ounce bottle of apple juice
1 quart of cranberry juice, and/or 1 quart of pineapple juice
Two family-size tea bags
One or two cinnamon sticks
A few cloves

I put all of these things in a large pot on the stove, or in the crock pot, and just heat until warm, and then simmer. If too much liquid evaporates and the fruit tea becomes too strong, I add some extra water.

I have a pot on the stove this afternoon, with pineapple juice since I had it on hand. It makes the whole house smell lovely, and the kids generally like it (I use decaf tea bags when serving it to little ones). My grandmother, mother, and aunts all make variations on this same recipe throughout the cooler months, and I have wonderful memories of drinking this while sitting around a card table playing cards or Scrabble with all of them. I also made it a few times in college, when my roommates and I had parties (no, not the wild kind of parties) - it works well without the tea, even, if you just want a hot spiced fruit drink. Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Betty White? Oh, yeah, she rules!

A "teaching moment"

The phrase "Bad Driver" is heard frequently from the middle seat of my van. I've taken to saying that when someone annoys me on the road, because I don't mind my kids saying it in front of the minister as much as I would other things they could hear in the car. But tonight, Big Girl and Two learned another new concept: the squirrelly driver. I was behind really poky junker which kept slowing down and speeding up. The kids and I were so close to home - in our neighborhood, even - but it was taking forever. So finally I yelled at the guy, who couldn't hear me, "Don't drive like a squirrel!" And Big Girl did hear me, so I had to explain the concept. Without pointing out that it sometimes involved squirrels being indecisive and meeting their doom beneath the wheels of cars. I don't think she would take that well, tender little soul that she is. I'm sure that squirrels will now make regular appearances on our drives.

Naturally, Big Girl was the first to embrace the "bad driver" label, and she applies it liberally. Her brother started using the term because he admires just about everything his sister does and says. So now when she mentions a bad driver, I usually hear a little echo. This echo also can be heard after I take a phone call; like her grandfather, Big Girl is curious - a snoop, even, at times - so when I get off the phone, she immediately asks, "What was that person's name?" and then launches into additional questions to find out the caller's name, the topic of conversation, and even, occasionally, their opinions on alligators.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wisdom from Big Girl

Four year old wisdom, a.k.a. conflation of stranger-danger and Little Red Riding Hood: "You don't talk to strangers. They have sharp teeth."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quality Colbert

Shakespeare meets current presidential politics:



I just love Stephen Colbert. ;)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pears and Apples, Oh My!

Big Girl and I went to the grocery store this afternoon, and I discovered that Gala apples and pears were both on sale. So I came home with a big bag of each, and now I have to figure out what to do with them. I just made two apple pies, one of which Hubs took to our delightful neighbors - we love to share food back and forth with them - so I could make another pie, considering how quickly Hubs is devouring the remaining pie. I would love to try my hand at some apple bread, like the deliciously sweet stuff they sell at orchard shops in the mountains east of here. I think I may try a tart of some kind with some of the pears. Mmmm. I'm getting hungry just thinking of the possibilities.

I've been tempted to make some apple butter. It would be a huge undertaking but I love it. Hubs' family used to make it when he was younger, before we were married, when they still lived on their farm in Virginia. It was delicious just spread on warm bread, and I was so sad to see the last jar go, since I knew the chances of them making any more were so slim.

If I had a support staff, I would do so many more things in the kitchen. The main factors that deter me are having children underfoot, having too little room on counters, and getting a backache from standing up to peel or chop fruit and/or vegetables.

Like there was ever any doubt...




You Are 12% Republican



If you have anything in common with the Republican party, it's by sheer chance.

You're a staunch liberal, and nothing is going to change that!





You Are 72% Democrat



You have a good deal of donkey running through your blood, and you're proud to be liberal.

You don't fit every Democrat stereotype, but you definitely belong in the Democrat party.