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.


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.


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.

The Documentary Channel

In one of our regular afternoons of nerdy indulgence, Hubs and I watched a documentary on (ha, ha) The Documentary Channel this afternoon: Sweet Misery - "The artificial sweetener, aspartame, is the bedrock of the diet industry. Found in everything from fizzy drinks to vitamin pills and marketed under a variety of different names, it is difficult to detect and even harder to avoid. But how safe is it' Does it really cause brain tumours, blindness and other serious illnesses' This shocking documentary investigates how the FDA came to approve such a potentially dangerous product."

Hubs has been cautioning me about artificial sweeteners since we started dating. I've gone through periods where I've listened to him, and other periods where I've tuned him out. But this film was quite compelling, and I dumped out the last of my 2-liter of Diet Coke by the end. Diet Coke isn't as good as classic Coke, anyway - and I know my dentist thinks I need to cut back on soda, given the little cavities I've been getting right at the top of my teeth along the gums. I'm very interested to see how I feel after a few days or weeks without Diet Coke and with as little possible of products containing artificial sweeteners. I try not to use too many products with aspartame anyway, but I think the film raised some serious questions about the long-term (and short-term) health implications of aspartame ingestion.

So, this is just another in a long line of developments and revelations regarding food that lead me to think we'd be better off cooking everything from scratch using natural ingredients. I need to investigate options for organic groceries in this area. Finding variety in organics will be tough, but I think I need to try. If we had the room/time/money/land, I'd definitely be more adventurous about growing my own food...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mmmmm, pie!

Country Apple Pie - I made two this afternoon, and they are so very good.

Pastry for double-crust 9-inch pie, with half in a 9-inch pieplate (other half for top)
6 cups peeled, sliced cooking apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter

Combine apples and lemon juice in a large bowl and set aside. Combine sugars, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon over apple mixture, tossing gently. Spoon filling evenly into pastry shell and dot with butter. Place remainnig pastry on top of pie and cut slits in top for steam to escape. Cover edges of pastry with strips of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, and then turn oven down to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes longer.

By Hubs' special request, I added a few maraschino cherries to the pie filling before spooning the filling into the pie shell. This was a nice colorful and tasty addition! I also used a flaky pastry shell instead of usual pie crust on top this time, and the top of the pie is deliciously light.

You know you've watched too much Diego when...

any mention of the economic bailout package as a measure to "rescue" the economy brings this to mind:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Recent reading

See that box over there? ----->
The one that says, "Recently Read"? I'm a bit trigger-happy with the Share button on Google Reader, and the many articles, blog posts, and lolcats that I mark show up over there. Here are a few highlights from this evening's reading, just for some bonus fun:

The Sarah Palin pity party (Salon), which my bff shared first with me, raises the question: Do you feel sorry for Sarah Palin's obvious ineptitude? And yes, I'm poised with the mute button, and I've snarked about her a bit on Twitter during this "debate."

Ig Nobels honor weird science: Coca-Cola as contraceptive (CNN) discusses the sperm-killing powers of my favorite carbonated beverage.

FDA Considers Banning OTC Cough Medicines For All Children Under 6 (Consumerist) and FDA Urged to Recall Cold Medicines for Youngsters (AP)

Great resource for southern gardeners

Walter Reeves offers a great e-mail newsletter called "The Georgia Gardener" that may interest those of you living in and near Georgia. Walter answers questions sent in by readers, offers gardening guidance, and discusses unusual plants. He also has a radio show on WSB on Saturday mornings, if you're in the Atlanta area. One of my favorite features of the newsletter is the reader q&a, where readers send in photos for Walter to identify a plant, fungus, or insect. The newsletter is always informative and is very accessible. I know some things about gardening, but I have huge holes in my knowledge, and I never feel like an idiot reading this newsletter. Check out the archive of past newsletters, and if you think you might find it useful, subscribe to get "The Georgia Gardener" every two weeks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On being late

Arriving late has been a significant problem for me since childhood. My mom tends to be late to events and appointments, and even though I recognize how incredibly annoying it can be to other people, I am still late frequently. My kids are late to preschool many mornings as well, and I hate that I'm doing that to them. I'm late, or barely on time, to staff meetings at work, doctor's appointments, classes I teach, and church. It's a serious problem, and a big part of my issue is time management. I never allow myself enough time to get ready, because I'm not realistic about how much time I will need, and I don't factor in the distractions and detours that I should expect with two kids "helping" me.

Good Housekeeping has a great article that talks about the factors behind lateness, and reading it has helped me to determine the reasons behind my perpetual tardiness. I think that, for me, the reasons depend on the situation. Sometimes I am late because of anxiousness, demands on my time, reluctance to quit one activity before it's finished and move to another. And in other situations, it's about power. Honestly, that's not a very nice thing to recognize about myself, but I know that I do it. And I shouldn't show such disrespect for others and their time, but I do, and I need to stop it.

If you think you might have a problem with lateness, GH also has a quiz you can take. And if you have suggestions on ways I can get myself on a schedule that shows I value others' time and have myself sufficiently organized, please - let me know. One of the first things I should do is start wearing a watch again (preferably one that has a nickel-free band so I won't break out from wearing it).