What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We're Having a Heat Wave

Well, we didn't last very long before we caved in and turned on the heat.

I'm not so sure we were saving much energy, anyway. Especially since we were heating up bean bags in the microwave oven to use as bed warmers and sticking the kids' clothes in the dryer every morning to get them hot and toasty before getting dressed.

We have been experimenting with keeping everything unplugged when not in use (though I have to keep reminding the kids that they CAN'T unplug the refrigerator). I'm not sure that we're saving any electricity, but now I've realized how much I depend on my microwave oven clock!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another reason why I don't have a dog

Here's the latest closed-captioning blunder I've noticed on network TV (during a morning show segment on dog care):

Co-host #1: Can you give them a little of the meat off the bone?

Dog Expert: Meat, yes.

Co-host #2: That's OK for them, right?

Dog Expert: You can definitely do that.

Co-host #1: OK.

Co-host #2: But if they get used to eating table food, do they really want to eat what they've got in their bowel?

OK, for some dogs, they may actually be true!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

So this past summer we did an experiment to see if we could go the entire season without turning on our air conditioner.

Well, we did it.

We spent a lot of time in the swimming pool, but we never did turn on that air conditioner. Just doing our part to lessen our carbon footprint and to save on our electric bill.
So this winter my kids want to see if we can go the entire season without turning on our heat. I'm not quite sure if we can do this one, but we've managed so far.

Any bets on when we'll either freeze to death or give in and turn it on?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday

Overheard while working the Flea's Candies kiosk at my local mall:

Older Brother: Do you know what Black Friday is?

Younger Brother: Yeah, it's a national holiday.

Older Brother: It's not a national holiday.

Younger Brother: Yeah, it is. Barack Obama started it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Beef Teriyaki with Rice

This was just OK. It certainly didn't look too appetizing, but the rice was good, the sauce had a little kick to it and the water chestnuts were a pleasant surprise.

Our Final Analysis:

I would pass on this one.

I should note that Nigel gave it low scores because it reminded him of an unfortunate barfing episode following eating a Hawaiian haystack.
Speaking of barfing, I must admit that I've given these later freeze-dried entrees low scores because I'm finding it harder and harder to convince myself to eat them. Even though they all taste good and they're all different, it's just too hard to stomach so much prepared food.

I would say that a few cans of freeze-dried entrees would be good for your food storage, but definitely DO NOT depend on them for your entire year's supply.

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Beef Stroganoff

Nigel and the kids really liked this (I stand corrected -- Jeffrey again refused to taste it), but I was not thrilled with it. I thought it was OK, but not great.

This one took longer to rehydrate than the others, had lots of noodles, good meat, but I thought the sauce was lacking and it needed more mushrooms (were there any mushrooms in it?).

Our Final Analysis:

If it was up to me, I'd pass on this one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Lasagne with Meat Sauce

This was another delicious entree. Much like the spaghetti, but not as soupy and with loads of yummy cheese. Or course it wasn't in layers or anything (not too pretty to look at), but the taste was good and the aroma was divine. The only drawback was that it took a lot longer to rehydrate -- maybe because the noodles and meat are in thicker chunks.

Our Final Analysis:

Definitely going to get this one!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Noodles and Chicken

This is chicken with noodles in a light chicken broth sauce with some red peppers and herbs. I really liked this, but Nigel and the kids prefered the spaghetti (again, Jeffrey wouldn't try it). As Frances put it, "It would've been better without the vegetables."

There were LOTS of noodles (as opposed to the spaghetti), but the chicken was chopped, pressed and formed. Before when I've had freeze-dried chicken, it was shredded, but this still tasted good. Nigel thought it would be glorified ramen, and was pleasantly surprised by its home-made taste (he especially liked the red peppers).

Our Final Analysis:

I would definitely buy it, but the rest of my family wasn't that thrilled.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Scrambled Eggs with Bacon

Jeffrey loved this! And he hates everything! He kept going on and on about how it tastes just like scrambled eggs and bacon (which it is). Frances and Alice-Grace weren't as thrilled (but then again, they don't like bacon or scrambled eggs to begin with). Nigel and I liked it, but the texture of the eggs is a little different. Not bad, just different.

I should note that these meals come in pouches and they're completely dry. All you have to do is add boiling hot water, stir, seal the pouch back up and wait 5-10 minutes. With the spaghetti, you just ate it from the pouch, but with the eggs, you had to drain the excess water out first. This was hard to do without losing all the tiny bacon pieces along with the water.

Our Final Analysis:

Tasted good, but not sure if we'd like a big can of it

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

This was surprisingly good. The ground beef tasted exactly like regular ground beef and the sauce was delicious. There was even cheese in it that tasted like normal melted cheddar. I was expecting it to taste like dog food like those canned spaghetti meals do, but it was really yummy. The whole family liked it (except for Jeffrey, who wouldn't even try it because he hates spaghetti in all forms) and even asked for seconds. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough noodles (I prefer much more noodles to sauce).

Our Final Analysis:

Definitely going to go out and get a #10 can of this!

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Organic Bananas

These are definitely better than the old dried banana chips (ew). Nigel really liked them, but the rest of the family wasn't too thrilled. I think they're good for a snack, but I don't know what I'd do with a whole big can of them (I don't like banana cream pie or banana pudding or bananas in Jello or anything like that).

Our Final Analysis:

Buy a small bag for snacking. Otherwise, pass.

Freeze-Drying, it's not just for pets anymore*

Nigel and I have been adding some long-term items to our food storage. Of course, you can usually only buy these in large quantities and they are VERY expensive. So how you do avoid buying things that you don't like? (Like dried carrots -- I'm sorry, I hate dried carrots -- even reconstituted, they're still nasty)

Here are a few tips we've discovered:

1. Freeze-dried products are more expensive than regularly dried products, but they are SO much more delicious. I try to buy these whenever I can afford to.

2. Health food stores carry little snack-size pouches of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. This is a great way to discover which ones you like (strawberries and corn) and which ones you don't (peaches and again, carrots) without buying a huge #10 can of it.

3. Camping stores carry single serving pouches of freeze-dried meals. These same meals (by the same company) are also available in big cans at food storage stores. This way you can check them out before buying.

4. Ask around. Usually someone has tried the product before and can give you advice (a woman at the local emergency store says that sour cream powder is great to add to recipes -- I'll have to get some).

5. When buying freeze-dried products, try to get them in the largest sizes possible (such as WHOLE strawberries instead of DICED strawberries or SLICED strawberries). They're so dry that they rub against each other in the can and sometimes you end up with more powder than product.

We will be taste-testing some products and posting our results.

*Quite a few years ago I was riding the bus and a man gets on with a freeze-dried golden lab. He sits down with his big stiff dog and then begins to tell anyone who will listen what a great pet it makes because you don't have to feed it or clean up after it.

Driving Me Crazy

Three food drives all at the same time! Boy Scouts, work and school. It's just getting to be too much. I decided that I had to just pick one to donate to (all the food goes to the same place anyway). But with limited funds and trying to beef up my own home storage, I've had to come up with some creative ways to buy extra food.

Here is my latest supermarket score:

4 boxes Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal -- $3.19 each
2 boxes Betty Crocker Scalloped Potatoes -- $1.99 each
2 boxes Betty Crocker Muffin mix -- $2.99 each
2 boxes Betty Crocker Cookie mix -- $2.49 each

Total = $27.70

After using the store's "value card"

Total = $19.98

After special store offer of getting $5.00 off for buying 10 General Mills/Betty Crocker products

Total = $14.98

After using manufacturer's coupons for all products (free on the General Mills and Betty Crocker Web sites)

Total = $9.58

That's right, from $27.70 to $9.58, baby! Score!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Putting the T & A in PTA

So this was the conversation at our last PTA meeting:

"Do we want to do the "Read with the (insert name of local professional basketball team here)" program this year?

"What's that?"

"We did it a few years ago and it was really popular. All the schools compete and whichever school's kids read the most minutes in a month, they get a professional basketball player to come to the school to read them a book and pass out autographed photos. We actually won last time."

"How did it go?"

"Well, it would've been better if the basketball player wasn't illiterate and actually COULD read the book to the students. Then we discovered that in the autographed photo that we passed out to all the kids you could see a tattoo of a naked lady on his arm, so we had to gather all the photos back from the kids. And then the very next day he was arrested for statutory rape, so we had to explain what that meant to all the kids."

What the?!? Who knew being in the PTA could be so salacious?

Needless to say, we decided to NOT do the program again this year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No more History Channel for you, young lady!

The other day Nigel was coming home from work and he saw Frances and a few of her friends out in our front yard pretending to dig with shovels.

He asked, "Are you planting a garden?"

Frances replied, "No, we're having a war."

Looking puzzled, Nigel queried, "A war? Is that how you're fighting?"

Frances matter of factly answered, "No. We finished the war. Now we're taking care of all the bodies."

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Mom, I got a note here from the Harper Valley P.T.A."

Sorry that I haven't been blogging much lately, but somehow I got roped into joining the PTA/PTO and my life now revolves around this:
and this:
and this:
and even this:

Two words for you: Night and Mare!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Easily Amused

In my humdrum existence, I have to make up games to keep me from going insane.
A favorite is "Beer Bandit." Nigel and I used to play this quite often when we were first married. The rules are simple: whenever you see someone from church (especially someone really pious and devout) in the grocery store, one of you distracts them while the other one fills their shopping cart up with six-packs of beer. Then sit back and watch the hilarity when they are asked for ID at check-out.
Another good one is "Paper or Plastic." Whenever I go to my grocery store, they always ask me "paper or plastic" and I ALWAYS say paper. Without fail, they give me plastic. The amusing part is that the bagger will even have a full on conversation with me about how it's strange that I prefer paper, and the whole time he's putting my food in PLASTIC bags. Now my children wait in eager anticipation to see what kind of bags I bring home and the story that comes with it.
By far, the best game is "Crisco." For some reason, our family doctor is OBSESSED with Crisco. He thinks it can cure anything. Every time we see him he makes a big show of washing his hands before shaking ours and then putting Crisco on them (he has a big lump of it in a bowl by the sink). "Your son has dry skin? Use Crisco." "Chicken pox? Have you tried Crisco?" "Broken arm? Crisco will heal that right up." Now we TRY to get him to say "Crisco" whenever we see him. Sometimes we get desperate, "Doctor, I have a pain on my right side and my pie crusts are not light and fluffy. What should I do?"

I know these are small things, but they keep me smiling and help me get through the day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What would Jared say?

After a fabulous juggling show at our local library (or "loco library" as Frances used to call it), we stopped by a sandwich shop (we'll call it "Schlubway") for a late dinner.

It was obvious that the girl working the counter was new because she took forever making our sandwiches and kept going to the back to ask "Shane" questions.

Since I don't go there very often, I asked her what came with the kid meals I just ordered (you know, besides the sandwich). She didn't know. Shane came out and said raisins and juice boxes. I was a little perplexed because the menu had pictures of chips or apples and milk. I asked about those options and he looked perturbed at me and said, 'Yeah, if there's any left' and disappeared again to the back.

OK.

I had the kids pick out some chips and they didn't want milk, but there was only one juice box in the fridge. I asked if there were any other drinks. The girl said that they could pick anything out of the fridge. They quickly picked out a soda and two apple juices in bottles. I again asked if these came with the kid meals. She assured me that they did.

She then rang up our order. All right, three kids meals at $4.19 each, one foot long at $5.00, my total was $27.95.

What the %&*$?!? I told her that couldn't possibly be right. She said that she rang it up just like Shane showed her. I said that there was no way that was correct.

She went again to the back to get Shane. She was explaining to him that I didn't like the total and that she had rung up the kids meals and then added the cost of the chips and drinks on top of them. I said, "What? Those are supposed to come with the kids meals. I specifically asked if they came with the kids meals."

Then Shane says to me quite curtly, "Don't get angry. You don't have to get mad."

I wasn't mad until he said that. I snapped at him, "What do you mean? I've just been overcharged by 10 bucks!"

He replies, "You haven't been overcharged anything. I haven't charged your credit card yet."

Oh, I'm sorry. My mistake. I guess it's OK to ring it up wrong. It's only bad if I complain about it and not let them overcharge me. My bad.

She rings it up again, correctly this time, and we're ready to leave when I realize she forgot the toys. Of course, my kids only eat food if there's a toy that comes along with it. Now I have to go back and ask for the toys. She throws some toys in the bags and apologizes for being new.

I get in the car and realize that instead of giving us the "iCarly" toys that they had advertised (which was the whole reason why my kids wanted to go there in the first place), she had given us toddler toys.

I give up. I didn't go back (and I probably won't be back).

I was going to complain on the Schlubway Web site, but I figured that Shane would just yell at the poor new girl working all alone in the store. So, I'll just complain on my blog.

There, I feel much better.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thursday Thopping

Are things really cheaper at those dollar stores? I decided to do an experiment.

I bought 8 name brand items at my local dollar store (finding any name brand items at a dollar store is quite a feat in itself) that I wouldn't mind having multiples of in my food/home storage. I then bought the exact same items at three of my closest grocery stores.

Here are my results:

Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies, 13.1 oz
Dollar Store: $1.00
Smith's: $1.00
Macey's: $1.39
Albertson's: $1.39

Armour Vienna Sausages, 5 oz*
Dollar Store: $0.50
Smith's: $0.41
Macey's: $0.56
Albertson's: $0.99

Del Monte Healthy Kids Enriched Peach Chunks, 15 oz
Dollar Store: $0.50
Smith's: $1.40
Macey's: $1.89
Albertson's: $1.50

Chef Boyardee Mini Bites Pasta, 15 oz
Dollar Store: $1.00
Smith's: $1.00
Macey's: $1.49
Albertson's: $1.00

Nissin Top Ramen Chicken Flavor, 3 oz
Dollar Store: $0.20
Smith's: $0.20
Macey's: $0.20
Albertson's: $0.25

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, 1.5 oz
Dollar Store: $0.50
Smith's: $0.50
Macey's: $0.59
Albertson's: $0.50

Soft & Dri Clear Glide Deodorant, 2.6 oz
Dollar Store: $1.00
Smith's: $2.50
Macey's: $2.79
Albertson's: n/a**

SunSations Dish Detergent, 25 fl oz
Dollar Store: $1.00
Smith's: $0.99
Macey's: $0.99
Albertson's: $1.99

So I guess some things are cheaper, but not that much. You may come across some good deals (like the deodorant and the peaches), but I don't know if that's worth going into a dollar store for. Now, who's going to help me eat all these Little Debbie brownies?

*I made the mistake of taking Alice-Grace with me and she loves those disgusting Vienna sausages.

**Can you believe Albertson's doesn't carry any Soft & Dri deodorants? What's up with that?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Energy Crisis Solved!

My 10-year-old daughter Frances plops down next to me and says:

"I'm thinking of inventing a fart-powered car. I'm calling it "The Real Natural Gas." I just hope that farts have power. I also haven't figured out how to harness the power of the farts. When you fart in the car, I can have something in the seats that takes them to the engine, but what about when you fart and you're not in the car? That's just a waste of energy. I think I'll have to invent some kind of fart-absorbing tampon."

Then she just gets up and goes out to play.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Adventures in Preparedness

Recently we bought Alice-Grace her own 72-hour emergency preparedness kit (she's in Kindergarten now, that's plenty big enough to lug around a 20-pound backpack in case of fire, flood or earthquake).

Of course, she was way excited and had to pull everything out of her pack. This made Frances and Jeffrey want to empty out their 72-hour kits. Which eventually led to them unloading mine and Nigel's emergency packs.

Now our already messy living room was even more cluttered with candles, MREs, matches, toilet paper, water packets, first aid kits, flashlights, hand warmers, light sticks, solar radios, etc.

The next morning I go to get something in the living room, trip over an empty backpack and fall on something. CRACK! Oh no, what emergency tool did I just crush?

AAAAAARRRRGHHHHH! IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

I quickly found it. I had broken open the ammonia capsule you use to wake up people who have fainted. Let's just say that those things really do work.

I (heart) Joe Biden

Can I just say that I am so looking forward to the vice presidential debate!?!

I'll admit it. I love Joe Biden. I love his inability to form a coherent thought. As Mo Rocca puts it, "His sentences are undiagrammable."

Here's an example from a September 7th "Meet the Press" interview:

"I didn't call anybody. I didn't--I happened to be--I didn't get her--I didn't see her speech, I saw part of it, I--we were, we were flying to--from Florida to Virginia, and I caught the tail end of it. And--oh, I guess I--actually, I called my wife. I called my wife."

What? It's like having a conversation with Boomhauer from "King of the Hill." I can't wait!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What? What???

As reported by Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes" (speaking to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson):

'In e-mails uncovered by federal investigators, analysts for the credit rating agencies on Wall Street wrote this about these lousy investments. One of the e-mails said, quote, "It could be structured by cows and we would still rate it." And this one, this is my personal favorite. One Wall Street analyst to another wrote, quote, "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time that this house of cards falters." They were writing these e-mails nearly two years ago. Why are we bailing these people out?'

Just a thought...

Jeff Greenfield's commentary about the presidential debate as seen on CBS' "Sunday Morning" today:

"Now imagine a candidate who is trying to level with the voters. What might he decide to say? Well, maybe our health care costs are rising so fast that we might have to ask ourselves a tough question: why should everyone over 65, including folks with seven figure incomes, get federally-funded health care? How about this: the only way to really free ourselves from our energy dependence, so costly, so dangerous, is to push the price of gasoline much higher to make alternatives to fossil fuel and the internal combustion engine attractive. Or maybe this: we can no longer assume that we will enjoy the levels of comfort and abundance that we have assumed was our birthright for more than half a century."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Speaking of lawns...

A great book to read if you're interested in lawns is:
"American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn"
by Ted Steinberg.
It's kind of the "Fast Food Nation" of lawn care.

I found this book fascinating and I don't even own a lawn! It goes into the history of lawns, the inside scoop on how the lawncare industry works, etc.

Of course, growing up we just had a front dirt. Since our backyard was totally overtaken by my mother's gardening, we could only play in the front yard. Thus, our poor lawn was soon turned into a baseball diamond (complete with dirt area for the pitcher's mound) and a golf course (including empty tuna fish cans sunk into the ground for holes). I'm still surprised that the neighbors didn't run us out of town (or that my mother didn't drown us at birth).

Maybe we were just ahead of our time with showing how ridiculous people can be about their lawns.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slow the flow, save H2O

We were going out to eat with my nephew, Vorquel (who's starting his freshman year at a nearby college), and I asked him if he noticed any differences between the incredibly arid state he just left and the very arid state he's now living in.

He mentioned that he thought it was odd how often people watered their grass.

Yes, isn't that strange? This is a desert people, not New England.

Of course, I was raised in another arid state where you get fined for watering your lawn or even washing your car.

Just to prove his point, yesterday I was taking my kids to school and the sprinklers were on at the playground. They had been left on ALL NIGHT. The yard duty lady said that the city runs them and they forget to turn them off. When I picked up Alice-Grace from Kindergarten at noon, they were STILL ON!

Oh, did I mention that it was also RAINING that day?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quote of the Year

In a story this morning on CBS' "The Early Show" about the Bush administration calling on Congress to quickly approve the $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street, Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute said:

"Capitalism without bankruptcy is like religion without hell. You're going to remove one of the incentives that makes people behave wisely."

Amen, brother.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Speaking of apricots...

Why is it that when an individual or small business files for bankruptcy, they're horrible people and we look at them with disdain? They keep it a secret, but people still whisper things like "in over their heads," "living way beyond their means," "poor judgment," etc. In fact, we create new laws to make it harder to file for bankruptcy because "they got what they deserve and now need to face the music."

But when a huge corporation goes bankrupt (and I'm betting it's not because of a major medical expense or losing one's job), the government swoops in to save them. Of course, it helps if you REALLY screw up (as Lehman Brothers found out -- they were NOT bailed out by the government because they didn't fail as badly as Bear Stearns or Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae did).

People on welfare are "lazy," but corporations that receive millions in government subsidies are to be lauded?

I guess that if you're really poor or really rich, you can depend on the government to help you out (but you're looked down upon if you're poor, you're admired if you're rich).

Again, all of this is being paid for by the American middle class. No wonder the divide between rich and poor is widening in the US -- who can afford to be in the middle?

Note: A recent report showed that people making less than $30,000 a year would benefit under Barack Obama's proposed tax plan, people making more than $250,000 a year would benefit under John McCain's proposed tax plan -- neither plan helped out the middle class one bit.

You can bank on it

The story is told that on the day of my great aunt Nelly's funeral it was overheard that some people were wondering why the bank was closed. A person answered their inquiry with "Don't you know? Miss Nelly has passed away. They have closed it in her honor." "Yes," the others replied. "She must have been a big shareholder of the bank."

It was really Washington's birthday.

When I was a young college student, I had gone to a different state for the summer to work. I diligently mailed all my paychecks to my bank. What I didn't know is that this was the time of the Savings & Loan debacle and my bank had gone under.

Luckily, a larger bank had bought out my smaller one, taken over all the accounts and I didn't lose a penny.

I'm hoping this is what's going to happen now with all these businesses and banks failing.

Maybe all the financial wizards and political pundits are going on and on about various dooms day scenarios when in actuality, it's just Washington's birthday.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Maybe greed is just...greed

Gordon Gecko* was wrong.

All we hear about now is how the banks are failing, foreclosures are rampant, investment firms are belly-up, etc. It's gloom and doom as far as the eye can see.

Why? What does it all stem from? I'm putting my money on greed (pun intended).

I remember when Frances was a baby and I got the umpteenth phone call about some guy trying to get me to buy a cookie-cutter home in some horrible subdivision way out in the boonies. Tired of fending off these guys (all apartment renters must be on a list somewhere), I decided to go out there and PROVE that I couldn't afford it so that once and for all they would stop bugging me.

Well, they ran the figures and I COULD afford it! Maybe not that house, maybe not that subdivision, but maybe something, somewhere.

That got my little brain a moving. Before I knew it, I had a whole new group of friends--an army of mortgage brokers and Realtors--who were trying to help me get my own little piece of the American dream.

I soon learned that my new found "friends" wanted me to buy the biggest house possible, even though we ALL knew that I couldn't afford it.

"Smart people buy the most house for the most money"
"The bank is willing to lend you that amount, so you should take out a loan for the entire amount"
"You can get a much bigger house if you do an interest only loan"
"Adjustable rate mortgages are the way to go, interest rates will only go down and if they don't, just sell it and make a profit!"

I stuck to my guns and bought a modest little condo for well below what the bank was willing to loan me at a fixed interest rate.

My Realtor thought I was making a huge mistake (was he really for my best interest, or mad that he didn't make as much commission?) and my mortgage broker thought I was an idiot (because he cared for me or because he gets more money for selling the "creative" loans?). Did I make the wrong decision?

One year after we bought our condo as I returned to work after taking my maternity leave (with Jeffrey), I was laid off of my job. I knew that we could live off of one income and still easily pay our mortgage. I got another job and then a few years later Nigel was out of a job. Again, we didn't have to worry because I had planned for that while house hunting.

Sure, I WANT a huge house with a big yard and a garage, but I don't NEED it and more importantly, I can't afford it.

Now all of us Americans are paying for the greed of others.

Do I blame the homeowners for getting in too far over their heads? Were they too greedy? Possibly. But I also know how hard it is to stick to your principles when everyone is telling you to do something else and that you're dumb for not following their advice.

Do I blame the mortgage brokers and banks? Possibly. They certainly did know what they were doing.

I think I blame Gordon Gecko. Maybe greed doesn't work. Maybe greed isn't good. Maybe greed is just...greed. Maybe that's why it's one of the seven deadly sins.

*Character from the movie "Wall Street."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'll admit I'm frugal, but this is getting ridiculous!

Yesterday in the mail I got a notice that it's time to renew my driver's license. No doing it by mail this time, I have to go in, get my eyes checked and get a new photo.

I did NOT make the same mistake I made last time.

It was 10 years ago, I was standing in line getting ready to get my picture taken and I look down at my old driver's license...

OH MY GOODNESS!!! I was wearing the EXACT same turtleneck and shirt I was wearing in my OLD driver's license photo!

Everyone knows that I try my best to be frugal, but wearing the same outfit 10 years later? That's ridiculous even for me.

So today, I made sure to wear a different shirt. I also did my hair and even put on makeup (which is totally ridiculous because now I won't look anything like my picture when I get stopped by the cops -- I should've renewed my license with my hair uncombed, ruddy complexion, blouse buttoned wrong and drunk*).

*Note to my mother: I'm just kidding, I'm not a drunk. Oh, and are you proud of me that I got the notice for renewal yesterday and I went in and did it today? Bad dresser, yes. Procrastinator, no way.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Conversely...

I'm just having so much fun with James Lipton's book, I had to do some more. This time, I'll supply the collective noun and you have to come up with the term. Here goes:

A rush of...

A crush of...

An ugliness of...

A penance of...

A bliss of...

Friday, September 12, 2008

James Lipton -- "Marvelous!"

I mostly know James Lipton from those Geico commercials and Will Ferrell making fun of his "Inside the Actor's Studio" on "Saturday Night Live," but I recently found out that he has some other claims to fame.

Such as, he's married to the woman who was the original "Miss Scarlet" in the game of "Clue."
Also, I just discovered that he's written a book on collective nouns called "An Exaltation of Larks." If you're grammar-challenged like I am, a collective noun is what you call a group of things. Some of the most common ones are...
...a school of fish...
...a gaggle of geese...
...and a murder of crows (one of my favorites).

The first part of the book is what you would expect -- a boring treatise on the origins of collective nouns. But then it gets fun. It turns out that a lot of these terms came about through a game played by 15th century well-to-dos (with obviously a lot of time on their hands) who just sat around and came up with these sayings.

In that spirit, James Lipton fills up the remainder of the book with such delightful phrases as:

A pound of Englishmen, a pint of Irishmen, a fifth of Scots, a smorgasbord of Swedes.

A wave of Hawaiians, a mass of Bostonians, a spread of Texans, and a mush of Alaskans.

An unemployment of graduates, a charge of shoppers, and a flush of plumbers.

An ingratitude of children, a consternation of mothers, and a distraction of fathers.

A rash of dermatologists, a void of urologists, and a plague of epidemiologists.

An immersion of Baptists, a visit of Jehovah's Witnesses, and a book of Mormons.

Now it's your turn. What would you call a group of:

Firefighters? Hummingbirds? Unicorns? Shopping carts? Clowns?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"He's such an apricot"

What could possibly top my yummy pancakes? Why, some delicious home-made apricot syrup, of course! This recipe is compliments of Shirley Fraser (again, whoever that is).

Apricot Syrup
Apricots (enough to make 4 cups when pureed)
1 cup water
3 Tb lemon juice
4 cups sugar

Puree apricots in a blender (can add some of the 1 cup water to make it easier to blend). Put pureed apricots and remaining water in a pan. Mix. Add in lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes, continuing to stir.

Put in jars.* Put jars in canner with hot water. Make sure water covers an inch above jars. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

*I don't do canning, so I just put half of it in my fridge and the other half in the freezer. We eat a lot of pancakes/French toast/waffles, so we went through it pretty fast.

Note: The title of this post comes from my college roommate who was from China. She was complaining about someone and said, "He's such an apricot." Sensing something was lost in the translation, I asked her what an "apricot" meant. She said, "You know, two faces." I was thinking, oh, I guess an apricot could look like it had two faces. Then as she continued to talk, I realized she was trying to say "hypocrite"! Now I always call hypocrites "apricots."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pancakes!

In my quest to be frugal and save money, I've stopped giving my kids cold cereal (though they can have it on weekends -- and Jeffrey can have it in place of dinner since the boy hates everything) and try to make a nice, hot, healthy, home-made breakfast every morning.

Here is a super healthy pancake recipe from Mavis Diment (whoever she is, but thank you!) that I love (and more importantly, my KIDS love it):

HEARTY PANCAKE MIX
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour*
1 1/2 cups finely crushed cornflakes**
1 cup old-fashioned oats***
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Yield: 5 batches.

*My kids love grinding wheat into flour -- they feel so "Little House on the Prairie"!
**I used Total cereal -- makes the pancakes even more nutritious.
***I didn't have old-fashioned oats, so I used quick oats -- I can't tell the difference.

PANCAKES
1 1/2 cups hearty pancake mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

In a bowl combine mix, milk, egg and oil. Whisk until just moistened. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle. Turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Yield: 10 pancakes.

Caution: These are very filling, so one or two is usually the most any of us can eat.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Can't Buy Our Way to Save Energy

A recent TV program featured a segment about how it's actually more environmentally correct to buy a used car with good gas mileage than it is to buy a new hybrid car. Their point was that it would take 10 years of lower gas usage with a Prius to offset the power it took to build that same new car. One commentator said something to the effect of "We can't buy our way to save energy."

That really struck me. Isn't that the American way? Buy our way out of our problems? What do we do to save energy? Buy Energy Star products, buy compact florescent bulbs, buy reusable shopping bags, buy a hybrid car, buy a tankless water heater. Do you notice a theme here? Buy, buy, buy.

He stated that the real way to save energy is to STOP USING SO MUCH OF IT! What about turning off the lights? What about walking to the store? What about taking shorter showers?

I remember being in Kindergarten during the first energy crisis and my teacher showing us how to take a shower so we use less water (get wet, turn off the water, soap up, shampoo, then turn the water back on to rinse). We were being taught how to shower in SCHOOL! Now that seems so strange, but not back then. We were told that in order to save energy we had to do without. Now we're told that in order to save energy, we need to do with more, but just a different kind of more.

Well, I'm as guilty of over-consumption as the next guy, but I am happy to report that I still haven't turned on my air conditioner at all this year. Baby steps, baby steps.

By the way, my mother said that she missed my blog, so I'm starting it up again -- I'm such an obedient daughter (cue my mother rolling her eyes).

Friday, July 25, 2008

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Alas, my blogging days will have to be put on hold until who knows when.

My messy house, my unfed children, my mounting loads of laundry and the impending arrival of yet another school year are calling my name and I need to respond.

Also, I have been called as second counselor in my ward's Primary Presidency and I feel that this is where all my creative juices need to be flowing right now.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments you've made and for all the terrific blogs I've read. It's been a great 10 months.

So long, farewell, adieu, goodbye, ciao, sayonara...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brangelina Babies!

Sure, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is fighting his indictment for war crimes committed in Darfur and the wildfires in California have now turned to mudslides, but what was the news all about yesterday?

Brangelina babies!

Yes, Angelina Jolie gave birth to twins (is there anybody who DOESN'T have twins these days?) in Nice, France. Of course, I'm thinking that the explosive amount of news coverage for this blessed event is really because all the reporters and crew really wanted to just hang around the French Riviera for a few days.

Oh, I also suspect that the person doing the closed-captioning for NBC doesn't approve of the rapidly expanding Jolie-Pitt family. Every time it was supposed to read "Brad Pitt," they typed in "Brat Pit."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I've found a new love...

I've found a new love -- it's NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" radio news quiz show.

I guess this program has been on for the past 10 years, but I just discovered it. I'm not much of a radio listener, but I saw a story about it on TV (oh wonderful TV, is there anything you can't do?).

It's funny, it's topical, it's witty, but best of all it makes my job of watching the news worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"WALL-E"

Back when we were doing our "Family Camp" staycation, someone surprised us by leaving on our porch a bag of goodies (soda pop, popcorn, candy) plus a gift card for a local movie theater.

We ate the goodies right away and saved the gift card for "WALL-E."

Jeffrey loved the movie (robots, space, trash -- all his favorite things). Frances liked it (bonus -- she actually did NOT throw up while in the theater). Alice-Grace was fine through the opening credits and then the craziness began (that girl can't sit still to save her life). Nigel liked the movie.

I thought it was OK, but just too darn LONG! Is that a bad sign that I can't even sit through a children's movie? I felt like a child again playing "Risk" with my brothers (where I would always be France so that I could get invaded quickly and stop playing that mind-numbing game).

We did have a great time, though, seeing a movie when it first came out in a nice cinema. Thank you, movie pass and candy fairy!

Please note that I haven't posted lately because I've been so busy at work. Here are my favorite closed-captioning mistakes that I've seen lately:

"John McCain" was typed as "John Muck Contain"

Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt's daughter "Zahara" was typed as "The Horror"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fuelish Endeavor

Yay! I did it. For the first time in a long time, I kept within my gasoline budget for the month. In fact, I only filled the gas tank once in June and had $2.18 cents left over and a quarter of a tank to spare.

This is no easy feat considering that gas is over $4 a gallon and our only car is a 20-year-old minivan that gets 16 miles per gallon.

I tried to walk whenever I could, consolidate my trips, and no idling (sorry kids, no drive-up dinners for you!). If I was really good, I'd be like UPS and only make right turns (but then I'd end up in a lot of dead end streets).

I've noticed that I'm not the only person trying to save gas. I see a lot more people walking, riding bikes, riding scooters, driving golf carts -- I even saw two guys going down the street on Segways!

Oh, did I mention that I still haven't turned on our air conditioning this summer? I'm trying to see if I can last the whole summer (just ignore the sweating husband and kids panting in the corner).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Big Bad Blood Ban

To get extra money I've been selling my plasma. Besides occasionally being turned away for low iron, everything has been going well.

That is, until Friday.

I passed all the tests (barely) and I was laying back ready to watch "The Princess Bride" when "Jacqueline the Ripper" gouges my arm with the needle. No blood comes out. I'm usually a bleeder, so that was a little odd. I guess you can't just pull it out and start over, so she starts twisting the needle in there trying to get just the right spot. After five minutes of this, she calls "Susie the Slasher" over. Susie gives it a try for five minutes. As a last resort, they get "Bonnie the Butcher" to jab the needle around my poor disfigured arm.

They finally got the blood to flow (where the plasma is extracted out of it), but they couldn't get the red blood cells back into me. So Bonnie calls the head honcho, "Steve the Stabber," over to figure it out. By this time, my ears are ringing and I'm getting tunnel vision. I told him to just take the needle out and that I was NOT feeling well.

The next thing I know, I'm being woken up from the best sleep I've had in my life. No, no! Let me sleep! I had passed out.

They had taken out about twice as much blood as you normally give when donating blood, and had returned none of it to me. After much resting, drinking of fluids, ice packs on my neck, bag on my stomach in case I started to hurl, and a woman taking my blood pressure every two minutes, I was OK.

The good news, they still paid me. The bad news, I'm banned from the plasma center (at least for the next two months -- but seriously, would you go back?).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Trails to You!

In my crazy job of monitoring TV news, I get to watch a direct feed from the network (which means that besides watching the live broadcast, I also get to see what goes on during the commercial breaks and before they start taping).

The other day there was this comical exchange during the sound check between the anchor in New York and a male reporter (who was wearing some decidedly "girly" rain wear) in the Midwest at the scene of the Mississippi River flooding.

Anchor: Hey, Dale Evans called. She wants her boots back.

Reporter: Very funny.

Anchor: No, really. They look great. I just have one question. What did you do with the culottes that came with those?

When the news really did air, the anchor was very serious and professional, but I did notice that the reporter had covered his boots with a thick layer of mud.

Oh, and you know how I love finding mistakes in the closed captioning. Every time it was supposed to read "Morales," it said instead, "More or less."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Family Camp Day Seven: Pirate Day

Why couldn't the young pirate go to the movie? Because it was rated "arrrr"!

OK, bad joke. Like dinosaur day, pirate day kind of fizzled (maybe it's because we're burned out on family camp, maybe it's because real life started creeping in, I don't know).

We went to a local park (please note that we do go to a different park each time) and made pirate hats and paper boats. We then sailed the boats in a little stream. It was a good competition between Nigel's and Frances' boats. Poor Jeffrey, his boat kept getting stuck in the weeds (we said it was picking up passengers). Mine didn't win, but it did keep its shape the longest (my origami skills are awesome!). Alice-Grace didn't want to get hers wet.

After a picnic lunch, I had lots of games and activities planned (buried treasure in the sand volleyball court, see how many pretzels you can pick up with a hook-hand, pirate "Simon Says," etc.), but it all dissolved in a puddle of tears because Jeffrey kept falling down and he was convinced it was the park's fault (not his slippery shoes).

Once we got back home, everyone soon scattered and then we ended up in the pool. Pirates went swimming, didn't they? OK, maybe not of their own free will, but they did go swimming. Can we call that a "walk the plank" activity?

Then our day was eaten up by Frances going to her church group activity and Nigel heading off to scouts. I had to go to bed early because it was back to work for me the next morning.

We actually did our pirate craft the next day. Here are our rice crispy treat pirate sculptures. Frances did an island (check out the palm tree) with a cave full of gold coins. Jeffrey did a treasure chest full of gold coins and a pirate ship and a cannon. Alice-Grace copied Frances' island, but hers has barrette fish and a bridge.

(photos of rice crispy creations coming soon)

That's the end of our family camp. It was a lot of fun and the kids really got into it. They looked forward to the different themes and activities and although we didn't get to everything that I had planned, it was wonderful just to be together. I was amazed by all the FREE activities within our city and it was good for the kids to realize that you don't need to spend a ton of money to have a good time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Family Camp Day Six: Science Day

I thought I'd start off our sixth day of "family camp" with a homemade breakfast. Well, I guess it's been a while since I've used my antique Manning Bowman waffle iron because when I turned it on, billows of smoke filled our kitchen. Instead of waking the kids up with the delicious aroma of waffles, I woke them up with the smoke alarm going off!

Well, it is science day, after all. I was glad to see that they all promptly got up and started crawling towards the front door to get outside (those fire drills must be working).

After breakfast (the waffles were yummy, by the way), we headed out to the local University campus to check out their science building. There were lots of hands-on exhibits and we all had a great time. We'll have to come back when the Planetarium is open.

Then we went to another science building to check out the fish tanks. Jeffrey was enamored with the lobster and Alice-Grace couldn't get enough of the sucker fish.

We had a nice picnic lunch on campus (where we accidentally threw away Alice-Grace's bracelets that she was keeping in her lunch sack for "safe keeping").

Then it was off to the college library. We saw an exhibit by one of our friends (if you want to be a great artist, be our neighbor -- so far in our travels we have been to museums where THREE of our past next door neighbors' artwork has been on display) and we loved checking out the huge globe. "Hey, look, it's Sri Lanka!"

(photo of us pointing to big globe coming soon)

Then we headed to the art museum (art can be a science, right?). This is where Alice-Grace remembered her lost bracelets. This induced much crying, which caused the security guards to circle around us giving us the stink-eye. I took Alice-Grace back to our lunch spot and after much trash digging, we found her bag with the treasured bracelets still inside (please note that her "bracelets" are actually hair rubber bands). We went back to the art museum and then, exhausted, headed home.

Back at home we did some science experiments on surface tension (you know, sprinkle pepper on water and then add a drop of dish soap to see them disperse) and then we brought out the Diet Coke and Mentos. We had never done this before, so it was totally exciting. It was especially fun because cousin Fred gave us a special rocket launcher just for this reason.

(photos of Diet Coke shooting into the air coming soon)

That night, we went to a local park to FINALLY do our campfire (you know, what we tried to do on day one of family camp but the weather was nasty). Nigel taught us how to build a proper fire and we roasted marshmallows. The kids loved it.

(photo of kids roasting marshmallows coming soon)

Then we did Alka-Seltzer rockets (put an Alka-Seltzer tablet and some vinegar in an empty film canister, put the lid on and watch it shoot into the air) until our container flew on top of the pavilion roof and did not roll off.

Luckily there was lots to do at the park. Frances loved playing "Robinson Crusoe" under a big pine tree. We then played at the playground and in the sand volleyball court before heading home.

Another great day of family camp! One more to go!

Ode to Ardale

(post coming soon -- still working on it)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Family Camp Day Five: Flag Day

Happy Flag Day! We started off the day with a (free) breakfast at our local supermarket. There was French toast with yummy butter syrup (see recipe below) and orange juice or milk to drink. It must be popular because we saw many of our friends there.

After that we went swimming (and continued some events from Olympics Day). While in the jacuzzi, we went over proper flag etiquette and the history of "Old Glory" (isn't that what most people discuss while hot tubbing?).

Then off to buy Nigel a Father's Day gift and a quick snack at the local French bakery. After all, without the French, we never would have won the Revolutionary War!

I taught the kids how to make a perfect five-pointed star with a few folds and just one straight cut of the scissors. Supposedly, the story goes that George Washington wanted six-pointed stars on the flag because he thought a five-pointed star would be too hard to do. Betsy Ross showed him how to fold a piece of fabric and with one cut make a star. Here are our stars.
That evening we went to the flag retirement ceremony to see the old, tattered flags be burned. It was a really great program with music, a speaker, and lots of scouts. I think Frances, Jeffrey and Alice-Grace enjoyed it (of course, they enjoy anything involving a large fire).
All in all, it was a much more relaxing Family Camp day, but one that had a lot more meaning.

Sweet Butter Syrup

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup

1/2 cup buttermilk


Cook ingredients until boiling, then add:

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

Friday, June 13, 2008

Family Camp Day Four: Olympics

We started our Olympics-themed fourth day of family camp with the "breakfast of champions." That's right, little chocolate donuts.
Do you remember that "Saturday Night Live" skit with John Belushi spoofing Bruce Jenner and eating little chocolate donuts instead of Wheaties? Of course my children didn't get the reference at all, but I giggled the whole time eating them.

We started with a torch relay (yellow tissue paper shoved in an empty toilet paper tube) and then the march of countries, complete with flags (Frances was Frances-Land, Alice-Grace was Alice-fornia, and Jeffrey was the United States of America).

We then started the competition. We had the high jump (won by Frances), limbo (won by Jeffrey), forward long jump (Jeffrey), backwards long jump (it was a three-way tie -- could it be that you can only jump so far backwards?), see who can whistle the longest (Frances), climb up a slide (Frances), and a game of SPUD (Frances).

Then we had a popsicle break.

More sports followed. We used the popsicle sticks for a javelin throw (won by Jeffrey), crab walk (Jeffrey), push-ups (Jeffrey) and lastly a soccer kick competition (won by Alice-Grace -- finally, she won something).

It was interesting to see how their personalities came out during the competition. Alice-Grace wore a dress the whole time, Jeffrey had to wash his popsicle stick before throwing it, and Frances got fed up with the judges and boycotted much of the games.

After that, we took a field trip to the nearby Museum of Peoples and Cultures (because the Olympics is all about bringing different people together). We learned all about the Casa Grandes, the Pueblo people, and Kachina dolls. Nigel was totally digging it and the kids were literally digging for artifacts in the sand pit and putting together shards of pottery.
After that, we went out to get some Chinese food (because the Summer Olympics are being held in Beijing this year).

For our closing ceremonies, we went to a (free) carnival put on by Frances' orthodontist. We had (free) snow cones, hot dogs, drinks, cotton candy, popcorn, plus a game and a bounce house.

It was fun, there were tears, we came close to political unrest, it was too commercial and over-rated. Just like the real Olympics!

Family Camp Day Three: Dinosaurs

All the traveling and fun of yesterday wore us out, so "Dinosaur" day kind of fizzled.

We started off really well with us making milk jug T-Rex skulls and papier mache dinosaur bones.
Then we headed off to the local Earth Science Museum (free!) to check out all the displays of fossils, dinosaurs, crystals, etc. We even got to see real scientists working on the bones!
We decided to be dinosaur scientists ourselves and used toothpicks to excavate the chocolate chips out of some cookies. That worked great until it started getting too warm and all of our chips started melting (do dinosaur bones melt?).

Then we had dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for lunch.

Since the weather was FINALLY nice, we went swimming (dinosaurs swim, don't they?) and hot tubbing (dinosaurs hung out in hot springs, didn't they?).

We were going to film our dinosaur movies (Nigel has a dinosaur puppet -- don't ask), but time got away from us.

I had a huge dinner party I was in charge of that night (we did a spoof on Food Network's "Iron Chef" and the secret ingredient was strawberries) and we must've had between 20-30 people come. It was a lot of fun, but I was exhausted afterwards and didn't get much "dinosauring" in afterwards.

Hey, I think dinosaurs ate strawberries, didn't they?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Family Camp Day Two: Under the Sea

Today in "family camp" our theme was "under the sea." We started off with some delicious fish pancakes. No, not pancakes MADE out of fish, but rather regular pancakes that LOOK like fish.
Then we drove to the local fish hatchery for a tour of the visitors center which we soon discovered to be closed (because of "whirling" disease). But we did learn that children under age 12 don't need a fishing license. Good news because my kids are always begging to go fishing.

After that disappointment, we went to the art museum to count how many works had "fish" in them. Can you believe that we only found six? Three in paintings and three on a sculpture. The kids must've looked odd to all the museum docents as they searched from room to room asking, "Are there any fish? Did you see any fish?"

Then we ate some lunch and headed to a local park were there was a very scummy pond full of tadpoles and water bugs. Also at the park we played many "ocean" games such as: sardines, octopus tag, fish-light shark-light (OK, we're reaching there), fish maker (our own version of statue maker), etc. We had a lot of fun and most of the games my kids had never played before.

We then drove home to eat our "ocean dessert" made out of blue Jello, Swedish fish, gummy sharks, gummy frogs and whipped cream. Does anyone else think it odd that Frances bit the heads off of her fish and had them floating at the top?
Then it was off to a hunting/fishing store to see them feed the huge tanks of trout. This is especially exciting because they feed them live goldfish and you always hope one of them makes it out alive. We were a little disturbed by this one trout that just hung out at the bottom of the tank licking the same rock over and over again. Even more disturbing was Nigel's inability to figure out a PlayStation hunting game. We looked around the store, checked out the displays, did some shooting in the shooting gallery and gave in and bought the kids some fishing poles (they don't seem to understand that the down-side to fishing is that you might actually CATCH some fish. Then you have to clean them and eat them! Yuck!).

To end the day we went to a seafood restaurant and ordered a variety of crab, shrimp, lobster, clams, etc. We had a fun time trying everything out and Jeffrey's favorite part was figuring out which ligament to pull to get his crab claw to open and close. As we were leaving, the hostess pulled a lobster out of the tank and let Frances and Alice-Grace hold it and pet it (of course, I wanted nothing to do with it -- I can't stand any animal that doesn't have fur, it's unnatural).

Another fun (but tiring) day of family camp. Can't wait for tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Family Camp Day One: The Great Outdoors

Today we celebrated "The Great Outdoors" on our first day of family camp.

We drove to a park in the canyon (free!) and attempted some rock climbing (which was a bust). Then we went on a nature hike heading toward the waterfalls (with Alice-Grace freaking out the whole time that we wouldn't find our way back -- she's convinced that I'm always getting us lost).

The highlight of our nature walk was our tape bracelets. We put a ring of tape (sticky side out) on our wrists and stuck various leaves, flowers, shells, etc. on them that we found along the way. Please note that Nigel has a big hunk of broken glass on his.
Half-way to the waterfalls Alice-Grace starting complaining that her legs hurt, so we stopped at a campground and had a delicious picnic lunch. What we did not realize is that it must've been the peak of caterpillar season because they were dropping on us from the trees right and left! Finally Jeffrey had enough and exclaimed, "Can we go home? All these bugs are creeping me out!" This from the boy who keeps snails as pets. Check out this branch that is COVERED with them!
So we headed back to the park and tried to search for water bugs in the river with our homemade waterscopes. I LOVED the waterscopes, I thought they worked great -- but the kids were not impressed.
We attempted to fly a kite, but that resulted in much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from my children. We tried to do some leaf imprints (pounding leaves with rocks on white cloth), but instead of producing beautiful green designs, it just produced horrendous noise.

The kids' favorite part was our impromptu talent show in the park's amphitheater and filling up their water bottles from an old fashioned water pump.

After much complaining, I figured my kids are not the "outdoorsy" types and we soon left the canyon and headed to a bookstore and then to a gourmet chocolate shop (yes, we spent money -- but since it was on food, does it break the rules?).

Back home, we learned about campfire safety and used pretzel sticks and frosting to demonstrate different ways of building fires.

That evening we went to the local life science museum (free admission) and saw a show on animal adaptations. It was excellent and I was quite impressed with Frances, who knew most of the answers (she's addicted to "Animal Planet"). Frances and Alice-Grace were very brave and held a California king snake and a blue-tongue skink, while Jeffrey and I just watched -- from afar.
We were supposed to use our new camping skills to build a fire and roast marshmallows, but a sudden storm came up and it was much too windy and cold. We'll have to save that for another day (they weren't content to just roast marshmallows over the stove like we usually do).

All in all we had a lot of fun and the kids seemed to enjoy our time together as a family. Sure not everything worked out the way I thought it would, but we're all still speaking to each other and no one wound up in the emergency room. So far, so good!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Staycation is the new Black

Did you know that "staycations" are all the rage this summer? That's when you don't have any money for a trip, so you just stay home on your vacation. Being the trend-followers that we are, of course we have to try it (OK, I'm not fooling anyone. We were going to visit the grandparents, but our savings collapsed along with Nigel's lung).

So this summer we're doing what we're calling "family camp."

Each day we're picking a different theme and doing activities around that theme. The conditions are that whatever we do has to be FREE and we cannot leave the county (on account of gas being so expensive and Frances' tendency to barf if we drive for more than 10 minutes at a time).

We start tomorrow. I'll be sure to keep you posted on what fun (or horrible) times we're having.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No Blood For Oil

But what about "Plasma For Food"?

Yes, in my quest for food storage, I've joined the ranks of college students and the homeless -- today I sold my plasma.

For those of you who haven't enjoyed this pastime, here's how it went:

I called up the nearest plasma center (yes, there are THREE in my town) and made an appointment and found out what all I had to bring.

Just before arriving, I made sure to eat lots of meat and drink plenty of fluids.

I arrived at the place and had to show them a photo ID, my social security card and proof of my address.

The last one was kind of tricky. Since my driver's license STILL has my sister Lorna's address on it, I had to bring in a postmarked envelope with my name and address on it. OK. Who writes letters anymore? I brought in my phone bill (no postmark since everything is "bulk mail" and it's listed under my husband's name), my pay stub (again, no postmark since they're handed to us), my mortgage statement (again, no postmark) and a letter from my mother (postmarked, but Dot is very formal and addressed it to "Mrs. Nigel," so it didn't count). My goodness, I live two blocks away! I offered to walk them to my home to prove where I live, but they weren't going for it. Finally they made copies of EVERYTHING and went with that.

Then there was a lot of waiting around.

They finally called my name and I was in a little room being quizzed on my traveling and sexual past (which luckily there's very little of either). Then they took my photo, my temperature, my weight, my blood pressure, and a sample of my blood (the iron level has to be at least 40 and mine was right on 40). Then they had THREE phlebotomists look at my veins and discuss whether they were too small or not (they decided they just might do).

Then more waiting around.

Then I was put in another little room being quizzed again about my traveling and sexual past. After being asked the same question 10 times, I began to wonder, "Maybe I have been to Equatorial Guinea. Maybe I have had a corneal implant. Maybe I did exchange money for sex since 1977." They did a physical on me (you know, the usual urine sample, reflex checks, listening to my heart and lungs, CHECKING FOR NEEDLE TRACKS BETWEEN MY TOES). My blood pressure had to be at least 100/60. Mine was 102/60. I'm telling you, I was just squeaking by all these exams.

Then more waiting around.

FINALLY, I got into the blood-letting room. The actual plasma donation was the quickest and least painful part of the whole ordeal. Just sit back, squeeze a ball, watch TV, read my book, etc. It was over much too quickly.

But, I got my 30 bucks (think of all the ramen noodles I can buy with that!) and I have a very lovely purple bandage on my arm.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do you need a rabies shot for that?

So my sister, Rena, calls me today to tell me that she got bit by a giraffe.

Only you, Rena, only you.

(Note: I've been getting complaints that I don't have enough pictures on my blog. I'm sorry, but I don't have a digital camera and I have stinky slow dial-up Internet -- there, are you happy now?)

Is Ted Kaczynski's shack in Montana for rent?

I think that Nigel (king of the conspiracy theories) has brainwashed my girls. Now keep in mind that Frances is 10 and Alice-Grace is only five. Here is a recent conversation in our house:

NIGEL: Guess who's poisoning us now!

FRANCES: The government?

And this was yesterday in the car. Now imagine her saying this through clenched teeth trying to look very nonchalant:

ALICE-GRACE: Mom, don't do anything illegal. I just saw a police car. Act normal. Do you have your driver's license with you?

Oh, it's going to be fun raising these two!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A duck and a uterus walk into a bar...

The other night I was watching a documentary on the History Channel on comedy. In one segment they were asking people what the first joke they ever heard was.

I think mine was the infamous "What's black and white and red all over?"

It pains me to admit this, but I did not get the "a newspaper" answer until I was like in high school. I got all the other answers just fine -- you know, "an embarassed zebra," "a skunk with a sunburn," "a referee in a blender." But for some reason my brain just could not make that red/read connection.

One of my favorite jokes was one that circulated around my junior high (since I went to school with Jack Black, I'm guessing it started with him -- you be the judge):

Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?
Because it was dead.

Why did the duck fall out of the tree?
Because it was stapled to the monkey.

Nigel and I had Frances submit this riddle for her class joke book. The teacher refused to submit it.

Nigel's artist friend came up with the beginning of a joke, but he can't figure out the rest. It starts out with:

A duck and a uterus walk into a bar...

Any suggestions for a middle and a punchline? And while you're thinking about it, what was the first joke you ever heard?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Toe Tag

I've been tagged again! I've flaked out on the last few tags, but this one is about me and Nigel, so here goes:

How long did you date?

We first met at a Halloween Party (he was Hobbes of "Calvin & Hobbes" and I was a Dr. Seuss Star Belly Sneech -- a match made in heaven?). We were friends for quite a few months (where I briefly dated "Calvin" and Nigel kept setting me up on dates with the gay guy in the neighborhood -- "But you have so much in common!" He would always say -- yeah, we both like MEN!). We started dating in the spring. We wrote letters and called each other that summer (he was in Switzerland selling fireworks and I was in California digging dead dogs out of a freezer) and then dated again in the fall. We were married in winter (it was 10 below). So, I guess we dated for a little over a year before we got married.

Who eats more?

Oh, definitely Nigel, but I never see him eat. He's a stealth eater. I just know that the fridge is full of food before I go to bed and the next day it's just empty plates and bowls in there (come to think of it, I'm hoping it's Nigel -- is the food eating itself? Can vegetables be cannibals?).

Who is taller?

Nigel says that he's two inches taller than me, but I think we're the same height. My kids think that I'm taller. I guess it matters if he fluffs up his hair or not (he has a lot of hair).

Who is smarter?

Nigel is, but I think I'm smarter and I'm a whole lot louder (as we all know, the more volume, the more intelligence). I've since learned to follow his lead in trivia games because he's almost always right.

Whose temper is worse?

No question, Nigel's. I like to refer to myself as a happy pessimist and Nigel is a miserable optimist. He's convinced that everything's going to go right, so he's always really angry when it doesn't. I'm convinced that everything's going to go wrong, so I'm ecstatic when it doesn't.

Nigel: I didn't win the lottery? What the *&^# am I @*#$ doing with my #$*% life and why does everything $#*@ happen to me!!!

Lois: Hey, I didn't get kidnapped and sold into white slavery today! This was an awesome day!

Who does the laundry?

Nigel. But only because he thinks that I do it wrong. I would prefer to do the laundry because then it would be washed, dried, folded and put away. Nigel prefers to pre-treat every stain with his special voodoo cleaning mixture before he washes it, dries it and then leaves it in a heap in the hallway.

Who sleeps on the right side of the bed?

Is there a wrong side? I guess that we both sleep on the outside of the bed (the inside would be pretty uncomfortable with all those springs -- good thing we don't have a water bed!).

Who pays the bills?

I do (I'm obsessed with my budget and I so love paying my bills online). Nigel likes to be blissfully unaware of how the finances work. As far as he knows, little fairies come in and keep the roof over our heads and the lights on.

Who cooks dinner?

Nigel. I can do breakfast and lunch, but I stink at dinner. Nigel can cook anything and everything. He can't follow a recipe to save his life, but just yell out "Beef Bolagnese" or "Fried Green Tomatoes" and he'll make them from scratch. He even makes his own pasta. He's amazing.

Who drives when you are together?

I do. Always. Nigel doesn't drive. I'm blaming the influence of that Amish farm house he grew up in for that one (but it does mean that we can get by with only one car and it's always mine).

Who is more stubborn?

Nigel. He's East Coast, I'm West Coast. I'm laid back, do whatever you want, I'm flexible. He's much more "my way or the highway."

Who kissed who first?

Can you kiss someone before someone else does? Don't you both kiss together? Are we doing this wrong?

Who is the first to admit when they are wrong?

Me. Because I usually am wrong.

Whose parents do you see the most?

Mine. We're kind of far from both sets, but my parents live by Disneyland (need I say more?).

Who proposed?

Nigel. But I had to force it out of him.

Who is more sensitive?

Nigel. I've got that Scandinavian "don't let your emotions show" thing going. With five older brothers, you learn to get a thick skin (figuratively and literally -- "Want a Hertz Donut?").

Who has more friends?

We both have the same friends, so it's even.

Who has more siblings?

Me. Nigel has one sister and one brother. I have five brothers and three sisters.

Who wears the pants in the family?

Neither of us. We're all nude all the time, baby!

Do you have a song?

We don't have "a song," but Nigel says that the song "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young reminds him of me. I think that he really means "Girlfriend in a Coma" by The Smiths.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Funny, I Don't Feel Stimulated

So I got my tax-refund-economic-stimulus-whatever-the-heck-it's called check today.

Gee, what to buy, what to buy?

A new car? A vacation to the Caribbean? Food storage?

I think I'll go crazy and splurge it on another month of oxygen for Nigel.

Breathe up, my sweetheart, it's on President Bush!