Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Important Announcement

I'd like to state for the record that baking without using eggs totally and completely SUCKS, thankyouverymuch.

Piper is getting to the age where she gets upset when she can't have what everyone else is having, yet she's still too young to reason with.  So when the boys get something she can't eat due to her allergy, she usually ends up in a screaming crying fit.  And I contemplate joining in.

Since pretty much every food associated with parties contains egg, I have started contributing egg-free "goodies" (and I use the term VEEERRRYY loosely) at her school parties.  I also baked an egg-free cake for her birthday.

And I don't care what people say or how many rave reviews a cook book gets, I have not baked a sweet without eggs that's nearly as good as the original.  Not even close.  Maybe that's why they call it the "incredible edible egg."  Because people who can't have them get to eat baked goods that are very much NOT incredible.

The chocolate cake I baked for her birthday was just weird.  Even a very sweet friend of mine finally  admitted the other night that it wasn't good.  At all.  

Tonight I made "Luscious Yellow Cake" but used a cupcake pan instead.  Let's just say that the "Luscious Yellow Cake" is more like "Yellow Brick Road Cake."  The things are so hard you could use them to pave the road to Oz.  I'm taking them to her party anyway because it's late now and I don't have time to attempt another failing recipe.  I'm honestly not sure if 2 yr. old's have strong enough teeth for these "desserts."  I think I need to make a sign for my cake plate that says "I will not be held responsible for any dental injuries that should occur from eating the Yellow Brick Road pavement.  Eat at your own risk, for sure."  

And I'm only half-way joking.   

I'm Busy! Busy! Dreadfully Busy!

Much much too busy for yooooouuu!

Sing with me. It's Veggie Tales. Their rip-off of the good samaritan.

But seriously, I did almost all of my Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Our Christmas tree was bought and decorated the Sunday eve immediately following BF. I had visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Or maybe that was the effects of the eggnog.

Whatever it was, I truly envisioned my little family snuggling in the big chair or on the couch each evening of this ADVENT season watching Christmas classics (like the Miser Brothers? Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute. Who the heck are the Miser Brothers and what do they have to do with Christmas? And what is UP with that jacked up Rudolph story with the hippo queen with the bad accent and the dentist elf? Somebody was on some serious crack when they animated that story. Anyway...) on TV and drinking hot cocoa. Maybe with a little adult flavoring added to mine.

I seriously thought I had everything under control and the season was going to be a slow-paced relaxing one where we drank up every blessed minute spent together in peace and harmony.

Yeah right. Moments later my dreams were smashed with the same reality that Simon crushes people's dreams on American Idol. Let's face it- some of those people are delusional. Apparently I was too.

I feel like we have been going non-stop the last 11 days. We had friends in from out of town unexpectedly (although it was delightful!), we went to Piper's and Cade's school program, we went to Jason's brother's graduation, we went to Micah's school program, we had some friends over for dinner 2 separate evenings. PLUS, I voluntarily, um, volunteered (allow myself to introduce...myself) to bake brownies for Micah's program, cookies for Cade's party, cupcakes for Piper's, and fruit and cheese for Micah's (the last thing I almost forgot until JUST NOW. And it's for tomorrow). P.L.U.S. I still have gifts to wrap for this weekend when we have Christmas at my mother-in-law's house AND pack. I'm freakin' going insane!!

My mantra is that, technically, the hustle and bustle will be over with by Sunday. Which leaves me with 3 glorious days to enjoy Advent/Christmas. Basically, 3 1/2 weeks of Christmas bliss have been whittled down to 3 days. But, hey, at this point, I suppose I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bah Humbug!

Our little family traveled today to see my brother-in-law graduate from a small university in west Texas. When we returned home, I asked Cade to turn on the tree lights, which is the most coveted job of the season. He flipped the switch and- JOY TO THE WORLD- half the lights on the tree are out.

I checked to make sure all the strands were still connected. They are. I thought about using the excuse that it's too close to Christmas to fix it, but since Christmas is still over a week away, I don't think that lameness is going to fly.

Therefore, it appears that I will have the distinct pleasure of taking every decoration off the tree, de-lighting it, connecting some lights that actually shine and then completely redecorating the tree. The thought of this somehow does not make my heart flutter as it did the initial time we decorated the tree.

Why is it that decorating the tree one time is a wonderfully anticipated occasion, but doing it twice in the same season is considerably less appealing? Now it's more like a nagging chore, just one more thing I have to do this season. It's sort of like the thought of wrapping, unwrapping and rewrapping the gifts under the tree, just for giggles. It's kind of cool the first time you wrap them, considering the excitement and surprise the recipient will feel on Christmas morning (or whenever you exchange gifts), but it's not so fun that we want to do it over and over again. The first time is enough.

Oh what a heavy burden I bear. ;)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is time REALLY on my side?

Just a warning that this post is a MAJOR whine, so go ahead and call the WAAAAmbulance. And cue the violins.

I totally heart Google reader b/c it keeps me organized and current with all the blogs I follow, including a little bragging blog from my college alma mater keeping me abreast of how wonderful they are and all the amazing things other alumni that aren't me are doing. And reminding me that I should send them money. Seriously- the most recent email I got from them said to "Click here for a holiday surprise." So I did, thinking that maybe they were going to mail me a check for like 10% of my 4 years of tuition which might, like, pay off our mortgage or something. But no, the "treat" was that I could pay THEM. How does that work exactly? In this case, while I love my alma mater, the gift is not in the giving. The giving is OVER. Because even though I obtained a very expensive degree, I'm not really seeing the pay off in my current career. But I digress.

So yesterday I go to check the university's blog and what to my wondering eyes should appear? A friend of mine from COLLEGE is now a 2-day winner on Jeopardy! And it's not University Week. He's a real adult. And I'm a real adult. And I realized it's been OVER 10 YEARS since I last saw him.

When I was a sophomore in college, my 3 roommates and I lived in an apartment next door to 3 guys who were seniors. We all got to be pretty good friends, as 1 of my roomies and I were in an organization with 2 of the neighbors. We spent alot of time watching The Simpsons and King of the Hill together, spelling threatening messages with candy corns on on one another's front porches, and eating burritos at a hole-in-the-wall that had previously been closed for "remodeling" (but suspisciously didn't look any different when they reopened).

Mr. Jeopardy Winner was a buddy of the neighbors. Although he didn't live there, he spent a lot of time hanging out. He and I sang in a small choir together and had some other mutual friends. That year was a blast for many reasons, but partly because of our neighbors and their buddies.

Since that year, all the neighbors, plus Mr. Jeopardy Winner have gotten married. My roommates and I are all married. I have 3 children, including one who is too quickly encroaching upon 7. 7!!! As in YEARS OF AGE! Several of us have lost touch, but a few have reconnected through the miracle of technology that is Facebook.

It was really cool to see this guy winning on Jeopardy yesterday. Until I actually calculated the math and realized how long it's really been since I saw him last. Which took me a minute because I'm terrible at math. Then I got online to price Polident and Preparation H. And I'll throw in Centrum Silver for good measure.

When did this happen?!?! How did an entire DECADE go by and how can it possibly still feel like it was YESTERDAY? YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!


Since the 2nd anniversary of my 28th birthday 14 months ago, I've had a hard time with "growing up." I don't "feel" like a middle-aged mom of 3 kids. Does that ever happen? When is life going to slow down and let me catch up?

10 years.

That's a long time. And in many ways, not that long at all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Favorite Things- Day 3

To further incriminate myself and further prove that I'm a geriatric trapped in a "young" body, I could hardly wait to share one of my newest favorite things.

My parents, who now qualify for the "senior" discount in eating establishments, were in town visiting over the weekend.  While my mom and I might not see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, we share a love of all things outlet, indeed.  I think my mom has been to an outlet mall in each of the 50 US states.  Make that 49 b/c I don't think they had access to an outlet mall on their Alaskan cruise a few years ago, but if there HAD been an outlet, you can dang sure bet she would have been there.

Imagine my delight when she got online and found a NEW outlet gem about an hour from my house.  Bless you, o internet, for you are a fount of information regarding good deals on inferior garments.  The plus side for her was that this particular mall was the closest location for her favorite outlet store, Crabtree and Evelyn.  Where my mom buys lotion by the gallon.  I kid you not.  A GALLON.  Only at an outlet...

C&E was the first store we went into and since we got there about 2 seconds after the doors were unlocked, we were the only customers, which meant my mom, to her great pleasure, got the full and undivided attention of the sales associate, Jane.   What else could an SA at C&E be named?? 

At some point in our conversations with the sweet lady Jane, I must have hinted at the dryness that plagues my hands during the winter months.  Because I work with kids and I have kids,  I wash my hands a thousand times per day with water that's about 1 degree warmer that ice.  They tend to get a little dry.  And they crack.  Which hurts.  I don't like pain.

Being the excellent saleslady she was, Jane introduced me to this amazing new product:

It's a pleasantly-scented hand scrub, called Hand Recovery, and a lovely lotion, aptly named Hand Therapy.  With all the recovery and therapy my hands have been a part of the last few days, thanks to these products, I now have the hands of...someone more youthful.  

I feel compelled to add that I'm not receiving any sort of incentive for promoting this.  As IF.  I could only wish that enough people read this blog to warrant free stuff!  But I do love it, and if you're a geriatric at heart and love products marketed for the senior set, and I don't mean high school, this is the BEST stuff I have ever put on my appendages.  And I love that word... appendages.  

National Bankruptcy Day

I'm....ummmm...."interrupting" my favorite things posts (to which I've been so dedicated and committed) for a very important public service announcement. I have like TEENS of readers, so I'm catching a big audience here.

I wanted to share something very concerning to me as a consumer and occasional "maker of children's articles." On February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is passing a Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in order to cut the use of lead and phthalates and children's products. While I'm TOTALLY FOR stricter standards to decrease or even eliminate lead and phthlates in children's products, the new ban will have a devestating effect on our economy. In a nutshell, any producer of items intended for use by a child 12 or under, including CLOTHING manufacturers, will have put each component of each item through stringent and EXPENSIVE testing. Basically, home-based businesses will go under. Any mom (or dad) who makes children's items will not be able to afford the amount of testing that will be required and they will have to shut their doors. Besides putting millions out of business, the new regulations for testing will drive up the cost of these goods TREMENDOUSLY! Consignment shops, thrift shops, ebay and Craigslist, yard/garage sales will be but a distant memory, as items without a certificate of testing can no longer be sold.

Here are a few links to other blogs discussing this same issue and it's serious effects:

Greco Woodcrafting
Little Ellie
MollyO Designs

Please consider taking action and writing or calling your representative regarding this action.

And now back to my regularly scheduled slacking...

UPDATE:  I wanted to add this link to make it SUPER easy to email your senators and representatives.  

And NOW back to my slacking.  For real this time.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Favorite Things- Day 2

Clearly "follow-through" is not a strong point of mine.  That was part of the reason that I hesitated to start a "blog series" that would require me to actually blog about something everyday.  Were I to attempt to list all the things in my life that I need to do on a daily basis but don't, now THAT would be enough blog fodder for 10 years.  I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me?  

So here I am, 4 days into my commitment to My Favorite Things, and I'm only on Day 2.  Ah well, let's just all remember that saying about the road to hell and then we can move on, shall we?

As a child, I remember my mom making coffee for herself every morning.  She would usually down 2-3 cups of the bitter black liquid before we left the house in the morning and she rarely got in the car each morning without a fresh cup.  My dad is a coffee drinker, too.  I come from a long line of coffee drinkers and, while I like the idea of coffee, I still can't stand the strong flavor of plain black coffee.  Until the day I was introduced to the delicious creaminess that is coffee creamer...
That's why my 2nd favorite thing is International Delights Hazelnut Creamer.  Now I LOVE coffee!  Actually, I prefer to add a little coffee to my cream, but that's beside the point.  I will tolerate coffee with plain non-flavored cream and lots of sweetener if I'm really desperate for caffeine or to be polite at a friend's house during the after-dinner conversation, but the hazelnut really floats my boat.  

Jason isn't as big a fan of the creamer as I am, but when he adds it to his drink, he prefers the International Delights Southern Butter Pecan.  That flavor is tasty, but nothing can quite beat out hazelnut in my #1 spot.  When we are really feeling crazy, we'll try one of the "holiday" flavors like Pumpkin Spice of Gingerbread, but I always come home to me creamy dreamy hazelnut.  YUM!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorite Things- Day 1

I just love this time of year!! Although classic calendars tell us that the time from December 1-December 24 is technically Advent and the Christmas season is from December 25-January 6, popular culture deems all of December as the "Christmas season." So we celebrate this time of year as the Christmas season, anticipating the incarnation of Jesus and celebrating his birth at the same time. The theological correctness of which is more the speed of my husband's blog. Or mine on a day when I'm feeling more philosophical.

In celebration of Christmas, I decided that I want to post my very own favorite things list. I do not believe Oprah corners the market on favorite things, especially considering that the song "My Favorite Things" was written when she was approximately 5 yrs. old. If anyone corners the market, it's probably Rogers and Hammerstein. However, she does put my own Christmas budget to shame. So, no, I won't be purchasing all of my favorite things for all my bloggy visitors. So sorry.

To admit a touch of hypocrisy on my part, it really grates on my nerves that the song "My Favorite Things" is heard only at Christmas time, because I don't consider it to be a Christmas song at all. Sure there are some references in the lyrics to gifts and snow, but it's no more a Chrismas song than that Nelly/Tim McGraw duet should be considered country.

Be that as it may, I'm looking forward to sharing some of my favorite things this season!

To start with, I wanted to share a few of my favorite Christmas CDs! While I'm totally in LOVE with and the Christmas music station on our digital cable, it's nice to retain some control over my holiday playlist when I'm in a specific mood. SO in no particular order:

I'm ASSuming this album is new because I've not seen it any other year at Christmastime. I'm sure a cursory Google search could settle this, but alas, I'm too lazy. Anyway Shane and Shane bring the perfect amount of acoustic style to some traditional Christmas carols. Nothing is too dressed up or rearranged to the point of anoyance where the original tune is detroyed (example: Point of Grace's rendition of O Holy Night. Ugh! (Did I just reference Point of Grace?? Yes. Yes, I did. That was hip music. Last century. )). I recently downloaded it on iTunes. It's a keeper!

Next is Amy Grant's Home for Christmas. This little goodie has been out about 15 years give or take. Man, I am getting OLD. I actually owned this once upon a time. On cassette. Remember the little plastic contraptions with the 2 holes and the thin thread of film running through them? You put it in a player and when you pushed play, the spokes on the player turned moved the film through and music came out? Remember? And it took 15 years to rewind it when you wanted to hear your favorite song again? Good times. Anyway, I love this album! It's become a classic of mine!

I've never owned any Carpenter's album in any form, if that redeems me from the old-before-my-time category, but I have heard all the songs on this album and I don't know why I haven't downloaded it on iTunes yet. Maybe because the focus of our holiday budget revolves around our 3 little angels. So now we're broke. But Karen Carpenter's voice is like buttah! No one can sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" like her. And even though Jason hates it, I kind of have a soft spot for "Merry Christmas, Darling."

Finally, I've included Michael Buble on my favorite things list. I'm normally not a huge fan of the jazzed-up jazzy song from the jazz genre, but something about Michael Buble's arrangements just does it for me. They're jazzy, but not unrecognizeable. And I can still sing along. Which is good because I'm a fan of singing along. Unless there are actual other people around with ears. Although, I've been plugged into my ear buds at work with Christmas music being piped straight to my brain all week and it's requiring a TREMENDOUS amount of self control to refrain from bursting out with "Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland" or something similar.

I'm sure I've forgotten some. These are just the ones that came into immediate recall. Feel free to post your own favorites in my comments section! I'm always looking for quality holiday tunes!!

And as a bonus (and a nod to Oprah, in case someone were to think I were blatantly ripping off her idea, which as I've mentioned was not hers to begin with) Oprah is giving away a free holiday CD! It's available for download here. Thanks to Couponing101 for posting this to your site! Enjoy, everyone!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Merry SITS-mas!

I am frequently in awe and amazement over how many blogs actually exist out on the world wide web right now. There is a plethora of awesomeness one can find, and many times I stumble over the awesomeness accidentally. There are things that I didn't even know existed until I followed a series of clicks and one thing just leads to another, y'know?

Like SITS- my friend Denyse came out of blogging anonymity a few months ago when she found SITS and posted about it on her own blog. In real life, I've never been very good about just crashing myself into those seemingly preformed groups of friendships, but I do love reading others blogs. And more than that, I love it when people read and comment on mine! So I've added my SITS button on my sidebar and I'm ready to start commenting!

To join in the SITS holiday fun, I wanted to share this very merry Christmas video (one of my favorite things...more to come on that later!). Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

I should be banned from the kitchen until the end of time

I've never made any bones about the fact that Jason is the main provider of delectable meals around here.  I do well to just keep from burning toast.  Considering this fact, you may be surprised to know that, for the portion of Thanksgiving dinner that was our responsibility to provide, the chef de cuisine was li'l ole me.  

And I managed only to sustain 2 injuries to my hands- one rather disturbing gash on my left palm (from cutting bread) and another cut on my right thumb from running it across the potato peeler. To see if it was clean.  It wasn't after that.  

I should no longer be allowed to wield sharp objects in the kitchen.  Or anywhere for that matter.

So Jason is our resident chef and he also is a collector of kitchen products.  He owns a very nice set of cast iron pots and pans that have a ceramic coating on the outside.  Similar to the Le Creuset variety, if you're kitchen-product savvy.  Only more affordable.  From Ikea, of all places.  I heart Ikea.

Anyway, we frequently use the cast iron skillet, which requires a very specific cleaning method.  Apparently, you are never supposed to use soap on cast iron, a fact which "someone" has pointedly reminded me of two or one hundred times.  So "one" has to scrub and scrape the food off with plain water.  Then, to dry the darn thing, you place it back on the burner and heat it until it's thoroughly dry.  Something about rust or some such nonsense...

I do love the skillet even though it becomes the bane of my existence when anyone (usually me) scrambles eggs in it.  Something about the reaction between the egg protein and the iron causes the cooked egg to adhere to the pan like cement that can't even be chiseled off.  You may want to let us know if you're allergic to eggs if you are ever to visit us and enjoy a mean prepared from this very pan.  Just sayin'.

In the past, Jason has kindly reminded me that one of the best ways to get the "baked on" food off the pan is to fill the pan with water and heat it until the water boils, thus rehydrating (I'm assuming) the food scum and decreasing the need for a chisel.  

As I was cleaning the kitchen tonight, just like I do once a week or so (Oh, I'm kidding.  Sort of.) I noticed this particular skillet still needed to be cleaned from lunch on Saturday.  I'm truly a domestic goddess.  So I went to work filling the pan with water and setting it back on the gas stove with the burner on high.  I turned back to the business of rinsing the rest of the dishes from tonight's meal and loading them in our ancient dishwasher.  It might as well be a Flintstone's wooly mammoth.

As I turned toward the dishwasher, I noticed a lovely smell for a night with such crisp weather... see, we don't have a working fireplace, but our neighbors do.  I thought to myself that they must have had a lovely fire roaring and the smell was delightful.  Then the mystery of the situation hit me.  When I turned toward the dishwasher, I smelled what I thought was the fire from the fireplace.  When I turned back to the sink, I no longer smelled it.  I played this little game with myself several times, turning away and smelling it, turning back and no smell to make sure my mind wasn't playing tricks on me.  I must have looked nuts.  Or like I was doing some sort of Bill Cosby dancing impersonation.  

Then it dawned on me.  The handle of our iron skillet is encased in wood, presumably so that one can actually life and move the pan while cooking without scorching one's hand.  Which made sense to me until I realized the WOODEN HANDLE WAS ON FIRE!

I quickly turned off the burner and turned on the vent fan.  And apparently our rent house either 1) doesn't have smoke detectors or 2) they aren't working because there was no obnoxious beeping.  Even after the burner was turned off, the handle kept emitting a considerable amount of smoke.  It took me a second to realize that it was probably still on fire on the inside somehow, because I'm quick like that.  I dumped a small glass of water on it and it sizzled and puffed and finally disaster was averted.  

Now I may seem like the idiot in this situation, but let's look past face value for a minute to determine who is really at fault.  How about the GENIUS that thought it was a good idea to put a WOODEN HANDLE on an appliance to be used near, nay, DIRECTLY OVER an open flame?  GAH!

The good news is, the pan is fine, albeit a bit blackened around the handle.  And our house didn't burn down, although the kitchen in our rent house is begging to be remodeled so maybe an accidental fire wouldn't have been such a bad thing after all.  Now, who would like a piece of toast?