Wednesday, October 29, 2008

mini pundits

Our elementary school is having mock elections this week, which led to a very earnest political conversation in the back of the station wagon on the way to cub scouts. Here are some snippets:

" A. says John McCain is an old ugly guy."

"Yeah, well Obama is a big fat liar."

"McCain's vice president told everyone to murder Obama. They said so on the news" (I had to set that one straight right away).

"That other lady, not McCain's vice president. She was a big fat liar. But she's out of the race, so who cares?"

"I am totally voting for McCain because he's the nicest."

"Obama is going to make us go to school on Saturday!"

"McCain wants us all to be smarter so he's going to make us go to school for like one extra hour a day."

"In Newsweek magazine they had a picture of Obama and he was red and McCain and he was blue and it said 'Mr. Hot and Mr. Cool.'"

(and from the 6 year old) "Yeah, McCain is going to make us stay at school for like lots of extra minutes and then we will be there all day and never even go home."

So watch out, America. Sounds like either candidate has a nefarious plan in place to keep kids in school for like, waaaay more time than they spend there now. That's why I'm voting for Bob Barr.

Monday, October 27, 2008

lazy sugar cookies

I'm a huge fan of sugar cookies but I absolutely hate the mess of cutting them out with cookie cutters. (My kitchen is a mess as it is because of an ongoing priming and painting project.)
Anyway, hooray for holidays that involve oblong or circular shaped items (Easter eggs, pumpkins, ornaments, etc.) because I'm all about slice and bake these days. Don't substitute for the orange juice; it adds an amazing taste.

Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Mix first six ingredients with electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually stir flour in by hand until well mixed. Put about 1 cup of dough onto a largeish piece of plastic wrap; form a log and wrap plastic wrap around it. Flatten slightly so when you cut slices later, the slices will be oval. Chill 2-3 hours until firm.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 400, slice 1/4 - 1/2" slices of dough and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Pinch off bits of dough from your log to make the stems at the top of the pumpkins. Bake 6-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to brown. Cool on wire racks.

2 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp light corn syrup
4 tsp milk
food coloring (opt)

Mix thoroughly and spread over cookies as a base for decorating. It will dry shiny and firm.

Buttercream Icing
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla
food coloring

Combine completely.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

we're RICH!

We switched banks recently, having fully given in to the emotional panic that we are supposed to not give in to. In retrospect, we could have stayed on and not switched banks and thus avoided lots of hassle, but we did it anyway. I had just ordered 2 boxes of checks from the old place, though, so we sat down and played bank. I showed the boys how to fill out a check and gave them some credit card offers to fill out and pretend like they were paying bills or something. So here's the adorable part: the boys started writing checks for enormous sums to each other and to me. Billions of dollars. Then Super Q wrote me a check with two hearts in the "amount" box. That's why I'm happy to be a mom.

(And yes, dh, if you are reading this, everything was shredded in the end.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

eking every last cent out of that monthly DSL bill

The following links are purely FYI. When it comes to mp3s, we've adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy around here. (End of disclaimer).

But if you're interested...

Free Sound Recorder lets you record anything that is coming through your computer speakers (streaming media, for example) and save it as a sound file type of your choosing. The free download has 75% of the functionality of the one that costs money. You can find it here:

Replay Media Catcher does the same thing but for video. You can also separate out the audio and save it as an mp3. You can find it here:

So if there's a YouTube video of someone singing, say, "Come Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing" and you know you can't buy it anywhere, why, you can make a backup copy.

Somewhat related...
Our local library systems have a digital catalog where you can find audio books and music files (and even some kind of weird videos). Yours probably does, too, and it should be remotely accessible. Go crazy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

open letter

I got this idea from mom to the screaming masses. I thought it was clever.

Dear ambiguity about fertility,
Can you please leave me alone for a couple of days? I would really appreciate a break from the cyclic catherine wheel argument of should I work full-time->wait, what if I get pregnant and want to quit?->but it's so boring staying home all day->but sometimes I like it->but I'm getting old and kind of worried about getting pregnant past 35... Thanks. Much appreciated.

Dear Flash and Super Q,
You are the best, most handsome and most intelligent children in the world. I would jump off tall buildings for you. I love being your mom. Please stop leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor. Thank you , my dears!

Dear Triscuits,
It's me, again. Thank you for being full of fibery goodness and so tasty with sharp cheddar and suitable for breakfast if I feel like it. And thanks for not having any sugar. You're the best!

Dear McCain and Obama,
Can we just get this thing over with?

Dear The Shins,
You are geniuses. I love that your lyrics require some analysis (and even the use of those dusty literary criticism skills) to comprehend and don't involve any swear words so I can listen to you with my kids.

Dear Coke Zero,
You're probably a little freaked out by how into you I am. I'm trying to put a little distance between us. I know you need your space.

Dear Sam's Club jeans,
Thanks for making me look skinny. Ignore all those people wondering if I just wore you yesterday. They are petty and small-minded, and they don't understand the power of the perfect jeans.

Dear Oliver Sacks,
Can you please write an amazing article every day and email it to me? I've read everything you've published about a dozen times and I think a daily infusion of incredible musings about obscure neurological problems would really start the day off right! Hope it's not too much to ask.

Dear BYU and UNT,
Just because I have donated in the past does not mean I intend to fund each and every new building, capital campaign, and definitely not any business school scholarships. Never met a business school student that came across as genuinely nice (sorry, I know, that isn't fair, but still). So lay off, already.

Dear Hong Kong,
I miss you, too. Like I'm dreaming about you 3 times a week. I'm going to come back, I promise. Keep the dim sum warm for me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday I'm sassy

Ok, sometimes I think it's weird that people blog about their purchases. Yet I read a lot of blogs that document purchases at length, so I guess it's interesting even though it's weird. Anyway, I'm writing about these awesome transfers for embroidery, fabric paint, whatever. I can't believe Joann had them. They are so much like these dish towels my mom had when I was growing up. Or like those days of the week underwear we all had in the 70s. I can't wait to tweak them and make something weird out of them. Although "Friday I'm Sassy" is funny enough as it is. I also got some super old-timey transfers that I am saving for somebody's wedding present. Can't say who.

I also got sucked in to buying those cinnamon-scented pinecones they have every year. And every year I think, "geez, what chemicals do they use on those things?" And every year I buy them because they look so cool in this steel bowl I have and, man, they smell like fake cinnamon heaven. I am such a sucker for cozy fall-type stuff.

Monday, October 13, 2008


As part of artistree's contest, I'm posting this recipe. I love it (and so does dh) and I especially love thinking about all of those lovely antioxidants and vitamins and fiber that even one serving imparts. It's also very cheap, especially if you use just a little bit of chicken. I usually buy chicken breasts on the bone with the skin still attached rather than boneless, skinless. I debone the breasts and save the bones (with a little bit of meat still attached) and freeze them. When I make tortilla soup or chicken noodle, I just throw in those meaty bones and pick off the meat at the very end, adding it back to the pot. I know, it's a lot of work to save money. But I was raised by Carolyn, who does things like buy a whole chicken, boil it, and pick off every last bit of meat to be used in various casseroles and soups. So it's genetic.

(Oh, yeah, and this soup doesn't photograph well. I tried to take a picture of it before dinner today but couldn't deal with the sheen on the top from the small amount of oil in it. Hence the old timey cookbook title instead. It is taken from a book on this site, Feeding America, which houses digital copies (full text!) of awesome old cookbooks. )

Tortilla Soup

Large recipe:

30 corn tortillas or tortilla chips
2 large cans stewed tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 can chopped green chiles or 1 jalapeno, minced
3 cloves garlic
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth
4 sprigs cilantro
grated Monterey Jack and/or Cheddar cheese
2 avocados, cubed

To cook the tortilla chips:
Stack tortillas about 6 high and cut in ½” strips. Cook a handful at a time in hot oil until crisp. Drain on paper towels; set aside. Or just use tortilla chips.

For soup: Blend tomatoes and garlic in blender. Heat a little oil in your soup pot and cook onion until wilted. Add tomato mixture, the rest of the vegetables and chicken stock; heat until boiling. Add sliced chicken and cook on low about 45 minutes or until chicken is tender.

To serve: Crush a small handful of chips in the bottom of a soup bowl. Add a bit of grated cheese and a few cubes of avocado. Ladle soup in the bowl. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Medium-sized recipe quantities:

2 small (14 oz.) cans tomatoes
½ onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
½ can green chiles or 1/2 jalapeno, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs cilantro
grated Monterey Jack and/or Cheddar cheese
1 avocado, cubed

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This post is meant to honor Patty, a dear friend and dedicated mother of Danny, a sweet ball of energy who has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. This disorder is something I knew nothing about until learning about it from Patty. I think that everyone who interacts with kids should be aware of it. It is very easy to become frustrated with "hyper" or "spazzy" kids; it is more challenging and productive to find the root of their behavior and address it. I will quote from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation's website:

SPD can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. In children whose sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. These are the "floppy babies" who worry new parents and the kids who get called "klutz" and "spaz" on the playground. Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. These kids often are misdiagnosed - and inappropriately medicated - for ADHD.

SPD is most commonly diagnosed in children, but people who reach adulthood without treatment also experience symptoms and continue to be affected by their inability to accurately and appropriately interpret sensory messages.

These "sensational adults" may have difficulty performing routines and activities involved in work, close relationships, and recreation. Because adults with SPD have struggled for most of their lives, they may also experience depression, underachievement, social isolation, and/or other secondary effects.

Sadly, misdiagnosis is common because many health care professionals are not trained to recognize sensory issues. The SPD Foundation is dedicated to researching these issues, educating the public and professionals about their symptoms and treatment, and advocating for those who live with Sensory Processing Disorder and sensory challenges associated with other conditions.

If you know someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD, consider passing this information on to them. It's worth investigating.

Love you Patty!

Friday, October 10, 2008


I just have to post this super happy news! My sister Linz is engaged to the love of her life! I'm so excited for her. We are so happy for her and her fantastic fiance, Tony. (He's the artist who draws the F-minus comic strip that I link to over there-------------------------->
And, Linz, it goes without saying that you will be receiving the first of many Precious Moments figurines on The Big Day! Here's hoping you won't look as forlorn as the two whiny babies pictured here.

happy candyfest!

Tomorrow is our annual non-threatening innocuously-titled "Fall Festival" at church. Guess who's in charge of 80% of it? The Queen of Halloween Ambivalence: me.

I must admit I loved Halloween when I was little. But that was when the foci of my life included rollerskating in the driveway, sewing makeshifty crop-pants with my mom, and CANDY. Even then I was partial to quality chocolate products (although the criteria there has changed somewhat) and not a fan of black licorice.

I do love autumn (all 3 days of it here in Houston). I'm all about Dinner-in-a-pumpkin. I love sweaters and wooly tights and apple cider. And don't get me started on leaves. The main colors in my house are dark red, orange, gold, and green.

I'm just not really on board with Halloween. We do the obligatory 10 houses of trick or treating and then come home for our sort-of default Halloween tradition: watching Nova videos. Right, I know. Nerdtacular. Side note, here: Flash told me his teacher asked everyone what the smallest unit of matter in the universe was. The class says, "Atoms!" Flash says, "The strings in string theory!" Watch out, Brian Greene. Anyway, so we come home and eat junky stuff and watch PBS. That's how we mark this holiday. I also have some decorations that were given to me a few years ago. The kids have fun putting them up. So back to the point...I'm in charge of making sure about 100 kids have a great time celebrating Fall tomorrow without reference to monsters, evil, etc. There will be nachos, leaf-rubbing, and lots and lots of candy. I think that meets all requirements.

Monday, October 06, 2008

the slow drain

Like you, I've been following this economic meltdown. I'll admit sometimes I only vaguely understand the meaning of what I'm reading and hearing. For me, two podcasts have sort of crystallized what this situation means. The first is here, it's called The Giant Pool of Money, and it explains, in plain language, how The Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis (it requires capital letters now) came to be. The second explains the slow drain in this giant pool, the resulting credit freeze, and the resulting $700 billion bailout package. It's called Another Frightening Show About the Economy and you can find it here. I have to say that--although very enjoyable and informative--neither of these shows have made me feel better about the trajectory of our economy, nor have they actually awakened me from surreal slumber, the feeling that none of this will affect me anyway. I hope it doesn't. Now that I've written that, I'm thinking of ways it has affected me. Mostly my spending habits. Let's just say the trips to Sonic for the 32-oz Diet Cokes with chocolate have tapered off. What about you?

Friday, October 03, 2008

creepy fake baby: the sequel

Oh, man. Remember these creepy life-like dolls? Well, they are still haunting me, this time in documentary form. Who is being documented? Women who buy these dolls (they start at $1,000) and play with them as if they were real. You can watch a clip here.