Monday, June 30, 2008

Paying it forward

[Comments are CLOSED - though I can't figure out how to actually make comments no longer post - because WE HAVE A WINNER!!!]

I hopped on the bandwagon of the Group Effort Pay it Forward Contest. Basically, if you win this one, you have to have a contest (next week?), and whoever wins that has to have a contest (the following week?), and so on. Get it (except for the timing part, which I'm not sure has been nailed down, but we can keep checking with Swistle about that - right Swistle?)? Good.

So to win this one, all you have to do is leave a comment by 12:00am, Friday, July 4th. Then on Friday, I will randomly generate a number and if your comment is that number, YOU WIN!!! So what should you say? Hmmmm... How about you answer the following questions:

  • If you could either fly, be invisible or read minds (not constantly, that would make you crazy, only when you wanted to), which would you choose?

  • What, if any, is the best explanation you've heard a psychic give as to why psychics can't predict winning lottery numbers?

  • Do you believe psychics CAN predict lottery numbers, but they're just not telling us, and someday they'll all cash in?

  • Which would you dread doing more: public speaking, public nudity or public speaking in the nude?

Posting recaps

Last Friday I moved some posts over from my old blog. I will do that again at some point, but I'll give a warning the day before. Anyway, it was interesting to go back and read some of what I had written before, especially before the majority of my readers found me. Mostly what I transferred were book reviews, because I wanted them here before I posted a new issue of Buncha Books, but I also transferred my own Appendix A of The Bible, as well as some look-alike posts, so if you haven't seen any of those, take a look (search on the label: look-alike). Once I stumbled across a picture of a man who looked EXACTLY like Al Gore. Seriously. The resemblance was so uncanny that I had to post a side-by-side comparison. You can't argue with that, now, can you?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Moving over some old posts and Disney

I was going to do a new issue of Buncha Books today, but I've decided to do that next week so that I can first transfer over the old issues. I think that those are some of the posts that I want to keep. So either today or tomorrow I'll be transferring several old posts from my old blog to here. Since I may do this transferring thing from time to time, until I have everything transferred over that I want to keep, I'll give a heads-up so that those of you who have this blog in your readers don't think I'm trying to overwhelm you. I'm going to leave the old dates on the posts, so that they won't come in ahead of the new stuff on the blog (though they'll look like they're ahead of the new stuff in your reader (I think?)). So this is your heads-up for the book review stuff.

In other news, on Tuesday I got a call that the talent agency was submitting Beth for a big national television ad for Disney. They wanted to make sure we'd be available for not only the audition dates, but also for the callback and filming dates. Yesterday they called back to tell me that the auditions are today, and oh, by the way, she takes ballet, right? Um, no. She doesn't. They needed little girls that took ballet. Apparently part of this ad is a dream where little girls are at a birthday party and they are transported into the ballerina birthday cake and into Disney World or something along those lines. Another part is little boys swimming. So when you see that ad (which is being shot in July, so sometime after that), that's the one Beth missed out on because she doesn't take ballet. Sadly, I think that part of the filming was going to be done at Disney World in Orlando, and Beth has recently been harassing bugging sweetly inquiring as to when our family might embark on a trip there. So it would have been a great one to try for. On the bright side, I'm home instead of on the train to NYC, which gets seriously OLD after you done it a few times.

I'm lifting the search restrictions here. I originally didn't allow search engines to crawl this blog. But if I don't allow Disney to find this blog, how will they find this to know to give our family a free trip, which I will then sing praises of right here in this very forum? Either that or I can question their PC-ness. I mean, why not have little boy ballet dancers and little girl swimmers? Huh, Disney? What's up with the gender stereotypes? Sexist much? That would be like me awarding a PINK toy to Saly just because her soon-to-be-born baby is a girl. But *I'M* not a HUGE corporation taking over the WORLD one toddler at a time. By the way, a little heads-up for you Disney: watch out for Oprah. She's some serious competition in the whole world-taking-over thing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Prizes revealed and I have a million dollars

I abandoned my old blog just after awarding some prizes for helping to provide pseudonyms for my kids on that blog. Just because I only got to use those names on a couple of posts and now have to use different names, does not mean that the winning readers don't get their prizes. Of COURSE they do. At the time that they won, however, I had NO IDEA what the prizes would be. I finally got them together, though, and sent them off yesterday. Here are the winners' prizes:

For Alice:

Alice, I know you're a Patterson fan, which made me question the intelligence of giving you a Patterson book that you may have already read (I hope you haven't), but I just read this one and OH MY GOSH, it's the most surprisy (new word!) ending since (SPOILER) Kyle Craig turned out to be the bad guy. Also, a Tonks key chain. HA! And some cat treats for your kitties.

For moo and Saly:

I hope neither of you has read The Other Boleyn Girl. I NEVER read historical fiction because... BORING. And BORING. But someone talked me into trying this one, and it was SO NOT BORING. Also, a Dr. Suess book for your kidlets, though I can't remember which of you got which Dr. Seuss book. So that'll be a surprise. Look at me, promoting reading through prizes. Is there a Nobel Prize for that? I should SO be nominated.

Since Saly also won the random drawing, she gets a second prize:

I got the blue version of this toy for my nephew and great nephew (holy crap, I have a great nephew and I'm not even 40, WTH?) and they both LOVE it. I got you the pink version for Olivia. If anyone has something to say about promoting gender stereotypes here, KISS MY ASS.

So, I hope you all enjoy the prizes!

Now, you're probably wondering about the part of the title where I mention that I have a million dollars. Yeah, well. I don't really. But I had to post this because of how recently someone (Tessie, I think? By the way, where IS she? Other than NOT HERE? Tessie, why hast thou forsaken me?) mentioned the song "If I Had a Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies. Yesterday this took place in my home (I only wish I had it on video):
Beth: I'm going to save up money until I have a million dollars.

Me: Yeah?

Beth: Yeah. So then instead of singing "IF I Had a Million Dollars," I can sing "Now I HAVE a Million Dollars."

Jo: Like, now that I have a million dollars, I WILL buy you a house.

Beth: Right.

Then the two of them break into song.

Beth: Now that I have a million dollars.

Jo: Now that I have a million dollars.

Beth: I will buy you a house.

Jo: I will buy you a house.

Beth: Now that I have a million dollars.

Jo: Now that I have a million dollars.

Beth: I'll buy you furniture for your house.

Jo: Furniture for your house. [Yeah, they don't exactly know all the lyrics.]

Beth: Now that I have a million dollars, I'll buy you a monkey!

Jo: Haven't you always wanted a mon-KEY?

Don't you all just wish you lived at MY house? It's not constant chaos AT ALL.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Yesterday afternoon, we made chocolate chip cookies. These aren't just ANY chocolate chip cookies, though. They are AMAZING chocolate chip cookies (at least we think so). Here are my helpers, Jo and Beth:

[Prior to making the cookies:

Beth (picking up the bag of chocolate chips): I LOVE these. (pauses) Ooooh, mom, mom.

Me: What?

Beth: USUALLY, when people make chocolate chip cookies, they taste the chocolate chips before making the cookies.]

Now, initially, a dozen of these cookies was supposed to accompany each of the prizes that I finally, just this morning, sent out to moo, Saly and Alice. But then I got to thinking:

Real butter + Chocolate chips + 2 to 3 days travel time + Summer heat = Possible food poisoning.

Possible food poisoning did not seem like a good prize, so I ditched the idea of including cookies. HOWEVER, I thought I'd provide you all with the recipe, as the cookies are to die for. It's really very simple. You use the Toll-House cookie recipe on the back of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips with the following changes:

Change the first: Either double the recipe except for the amount of chips, or use half the amount of chocolate chips the recipe calls for. This is because my modified recipe for the cookies makes them so rich that also using the amount of chocolate chips the recipe calls for could quite possibly kill you. I even half the chocolate chips when I DON'T add the secret ingredient that makes them so rich because it really is just too many chips. I suggest doubling the recipe, so you can put plenty in the freezer for later and still have plenty for NOW.

Change the second: Where it says butter or margarine, you use half the amount of REAL BUTTER and half the amount of Crisco shortening.

Change the third: Add the SECRET INGREDIENT:

Vanilla pudding mix. Mix this in with the dry ingredients before adding the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Play around with how much. One box per recipe (two boxes if you double) is what I usually use, but I have made a double recipe with only one box and the cookies were still awesome. Also, I don't think it matters if you use the cooked or instant variety, but I generally use the cooked. And the back story behind this secret ingredient was that a guy I knew in college told me about it. A GUY. In COLLEGE. What college guys do you know of who know how to bake awesome cookies? I probably should have knocked off his girlfriend and married him. But... you know... she was nice and I liked her and I would've felt guilty. Not to mention the jail time.

That's it. Other than that you just follow the recipe they give you. Afterwards you can eat THESE:

I really need a new counter-top...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Art all the time

To keep my kids reading over the summer (the two oldest ones love it and would read anyway, but Beth [we're just going to go with the little women names here], while being a good reader, would rather do other things), I instituted a reading club. We have a meeting every Friday at lunch time, where I buy them a fast-food meal (we're doing READING here, NOT concerning ourselves with trans fats) and we sit and discuss the books they've read over the last week. Sometimes, I'll talk about the book I'm reading (in an age appropriate manner) so they feel that I'm into it as well. They can read any kind of books they want, but Jo has to read two chapter books and Beth has to read one chapter book each week to participate in the fast-food portion of the meeting. They keep track of what they read in a reading journal that I put together for them that just has them record the title, author, illustrator (if applicable), main character(s) and what they liked about the book. Wow, to read that you'd think I'm one of THOSE moms who has all her shit together. I am SO NOT.

At today's meeting, after Jo told us about the three Magic Treehouse books she had read and Beth told us about the Junie B. Jones book she quickly read this morning so she wouldn't miss the lunch, I told them about the book I am reading, Invisible Prey by John Sandford. Leaving out the old ladies being bludgeoned to death, I said that the book was about some criminals who were stealing art and the police trying to find them.

Beth said, "Well, if that story was true, I would sure hope they never found the [Picklebottom] house, because I make art ALL THE TIME."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Radar clone

I couldn't sleep the other night and was perusing our channel guide when I came across this show called "Corner Gas." (Actually, at first I thought the guide said "Comer Gas," so apparently I should wear my glasses when I watch television.) So I checked it out. There is this character named Hank, who looked and sounded JUST LIKE Radar from M*A*S*H. So I checked out IMDB to find out who he was, you know, to see if there was any relation to the actor who played Radar, because OBVIOUSLY this is trivia I need to know. His name is Fred Ewanuick and this is a picture of him in some other show or movie:

Here's Radar (aka Gary Burghoff):

It seems that Fred's mother must've had a fling with old Gary, dontcha think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Buncha books, issue 4

Well, I'm a week late, but here are the book reviews I had hoped to complete in the last issue of Buncha Books plus a couple more. So this issue will have a total of eight reviews. You may want to recall the disclaimer I made in that last issue about my memory.

Saving the World (Maximum Ride, Book 3) by James Patterson is the third book in the series about a group of kids who were the result of genetic experiments that left them with hollow bones, wings and the ability to fly. As usual, they are trying to figure out who their parents are, while running from the mad scientists and those scientists other creations, kids who can morph into evil wolf-like beings with wings. In this book of the series, several interesting discoveries are made, particularly for the bird-kids' leader, Max. Interesting side note: the kids keep a blog throughout the book that acts as their link to kids around the world. The blog can be found here. I've enjoyed this series. It follows the short-chaptered fast pace typical of Patterson's work, and as such is also the quick enjoyable read typical of Patterson novels.

Echo Park by Michael Connelly is a Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch novel. About twenty years ago, a girl went missing and was never found. In a deal with the state, someone has claimed responsibility for her murder, but something about the confession stinks to Harry. He begins investigating the cold case again, hoping to finally bring closure both to himself and the girl's parents, who he has kept in touch with for twenty years. Another good read. Harry Bosch is a character you can't help but like, and I always seem to learn something new when reading these novels. In this one, I learned about a previously unknown live recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall that was discovered in 2005. This piqued my interest because my husband loves Thelonious Monk. I looked it up online, found that it was true and purchased the CD for my husband for this Father's Day.

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child, finds our hero, Jack Reacher, once again just wandering around with the clothes on his back and a toothbrush and ATM card in his pocket. He needs some money and goes to the ATM, where he finds a deposit in an amount that reflects a distress code from his old military unit. He gets together with some of his old unit and they find that the members of the unit are being killed. They have to try to figure out what is happening and stop it. There's some saying along the lines of you don't mess with the unit, which compels them to want to enact revenge on whoever is behind the killings of their friends. This is a typical Lee Child novel featuring Jack Reacher: a fast-paced and exciting read, lots of head bashing and law breaking, but all in the name of good. Reacher is a bad ass good guy. I recommend not only this one, but all the Jack Reacher novels.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer is the only book (I think) that I've read by this author. It revolves around a young man who is the assistant to the President of the United States, when a high-ranking official is gunned down right in front of him during what is thought to be an assassination attempt. Years later, the young man is still the assistant to the now ex-President, when he believes he sees the man who had supposedly been killed. This leads him on a chase to determine if he really saw the dead man, because he feels that he deserves to know what happened, as he himself was disfigured by shrapnel at the time of the shooting. He involves his best friend and a reporter, and together they find themselves deep in a conspiracy. But why? And who is behind it? Meanwhile, the shooter, who believes he had been ordered to kill by God, and had been locked up in a mental institution since he was apprehended, escapes and goes after our hero. Everything comes to a head one night in a cemetery, where the plot twists for a surprise ending. Although if you're paying attention throughout the book, you might have figured it out by then. Decent read, and I'd probably pick up another novel from this author.

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline is about a law professor who visits a prison and is trapped inside during a riot. She finds herself in the room where a guard is killed by an inmate, who in turn is killed by another guard. Strangely, when she contacts the guards widow to tell her his final words, she is threatened to stay away. What is going on? Why were the guards and the inmate in the location they were at the time of the killings? Did the inmate really kill the guard? What exactly happened and why? Our heroine uncovers a conspiracy involving a most unlikely character. This was a pretty good read. Scottoline's novels usually (always?) have a female lead character, and so are a little different than most of the lawyer novels I've read, that tend to have male leads. Some things in the book are a little hard to believe, like a certain thing that she just happens to stumble into that helps her figure out what is happening. Overall, though, it was enjoyable.

Capital Crimes by Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman is actually two stories in one binding. I wouldn't call them short stories, they're too long for that; they're more like short novels. Novellas, I suppose. What is interesting about these stories is that the Kellermans' usual main characters, who those of us who read these authors know and love, Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware, make cameo appearances, which lent some familiarity to the stories and answered some questions without actually having to spell it out. For example: Question - Why would a musician end up seeing a semi-retired child psychologist about a phobia? Answer - Musician knows Alex Delaware's girlfriend, who we all know is someone who builds custom stringed musical instruments. (I can't remember the word for it, but it ends in -ier. Um... luthier? Maybe? I think. I'm TLTLIU.) Anyway, I found the stories interesting and liked the appearances of the familiar characters. I should say that Jonathan Kellerman's story was about the previously mentioned musician being found murdered outside a hole-in-the-wall Nashville bar and the solving of that crime. Faye Kellerman's story revolves around the murder of a California state representative, who happens to be a lesbian. Both stories are fun reads, though the solutions to the crimes were pretty predictable.

Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz is about a young man, Chris Snow, with a disease called XP, that leaves his body without the necessary enzyme to correct damage caused to his skin and eyes by ultraviolet light. Because of this disorder, he is forced to live his life from sunup to sundown. He lives in Moonlight Bay, California. His mother is dead, and in the opening pages of this book, his father dies with the last words, "Fear nothing." Chris declines to see his father's body before they take it to the morgue to be picked up by the funeral hoome, but changes his mind and heads down to the morgue. He stumbles upon a body-switch. As he tries to figure out what is going on, along with his best friend surfer buddy Bobby, his late night DJ girlfriend Sasha and his oddly intelligent Black Labrador Orson, he soon finds himself and his friends involved in something horrifying and unbelievable. What's worse is that it could all be due to the work of his mother, a brilliant genetic researcher. I really liked this book. If you like the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz, the Chris Snow character will seem very familiar. Maybe it's just that I read them the same way in my head, since they are both intelligent young men who have suffered loss and seem much more mature than most young men in their twenties, but I found myself thinking that they were perhaps based on the same person in Koontz's life. Anyway, if you're a Koontz fan, this is worth checking out.

The Chris Snow saga continues in Seize the Night by Dean Koontz. This time Chris and his friends have been living for a few months under the conditions imposed on them in Fear Nothing, when a child of Chris's old girlfriend is kidnapped, along with some other children. Chris and his dog, Orson, follow the kidnapper's trail to the military base where Chris's mother had worked and where the genetic research that had set loose the horror in Moonlight Bay had taken place. Chris is attacked and Orson disappears with a yelp of pain. Chris calls in his friends and a cat named Mungojerrie, and despite the police warning them off and confiscating their guns, they track down the kids and the dog. On their journey, they discover some kind of weird "sideways" time-travel research had taken place and that the "time machine" seems to be now powering itself. It's another of Koontz's novels that touches on quantum mechanics, which I find fascinating. Speaking of which, did any of you see the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Penny breaks up with her boyfriend and agrees to go out with Leonard? Then they both have reservations and share their thoughts with Sheldon. Sheldon says to both of them, "Schroedinger's cat," which Penny doesn't get (of course), even when Sheldon tries to explain it, but Leonard understands immediately. The first time he said it (to Penny), I thought, "PERFECT thing to say, I'm going to say that whenever one of my kids asks whether or not they should try something." But I'm digressing here. This novel was a good read. If you liked the first one, read this as well.

Last minute addition to this issue of Buncha Books:

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith is a children's book that I heard of somewhere along the line that sounded interesting, so I Bookmooched it. It arrived yesterday and I read it to my middle two kids last night before bed. LOVED it! If you're a math geek like I occasionally impersonate or even if you spent your school career in fear of math, you will find this book really amusing. It's about a kid who thinks his math teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci, put a math curse on him because he can't stop thinking of EVERYTHING as a math problem. It's a fun book and your kids may enjoy actually figuring out some of the problems, like:
I pull out my money.
I have a $5 bill, a $1 bill, a quarter, and a penny. George Washington is on both the quarter and the $1 bill. Abraham Lincoln is on both the penny and the $5 bill.

So which is true:
a. 1 Washington equals 25 Lincolns.
b. 5 Washingtons equal 1 Lincoln.
c. 1 Washington equals 100 Lincolns.
d. 1 Lincoln equals 20 Washingtons.

Don't forget to show your work.

Extra credit: How do you think Thomas Jefferson feels about all of this?

By the end of the day the kid feels like this:
I am now a raving math lunatic.
What if this keeps up for a whole year?
How many minutes of math madness would that be?
"What's your problem?" says my sister.
"365 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes," I snarl.

My kids both thought this book was great! I can't wait to read it again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

German potato salad

I have a bunch of posts in my head that will probably never see fruition, because no doubt I will forget them before I have a chance to write them. Things are INSANE here, what with all the end-of-year crapola. Yesterday I spent the day at T's field day. Today I had to run German potato salad to S's school for her German class's food day, and THEN had to go to T's school AGAIN for her end-of-year party. Whew! So, while I don't have time for much, I did at least photograph our preparation of the German potato salad and will now regale you with it's yumminess. [Shauna, it uses a WHOLE POUND of bacon, INCLUDING the grease!]

First you get a five-pound bag of red potatoes, cut them up into chunks and put them on to boil. While they are boiling, you want to finely chop about 3 stalks of celery.

You also want to finely chop some onion (I used one medium yellow onion) and fresh parsley (the curly kind, not the Italian - this is a GERMAN dish, after all). I don't have pictures of those two things. You also want to finely chop one pound of bacon. If you have a big, sharp, heavy meat cleaver (which I don't), you can even do this part prior to frying everything, which makes it easier. I tried with my butcher knife, and ended up with kind of a mess of bacon, but it all straightened out by the end. I just fried up the mess and then chopped up what didn't chop nicely before. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Fry up the bacon. When it's nice and crisp, if you didn't before, pull it out of the grease and chop it up finely. To avoid burning the grease while you're doing that, throw the celery, parsley and onion in the grease. Throw the chopped bacon back in and stir it all around.

Mmmmmmmm. Don't you just want to eat that out of the pan with a spoon? Okay, then you take the potatoes, which are probably done by now, drain them and throw them in a bowl.

Then you pour everything from the frying pan over the top of the potatoes. Let it sit on the counter for two hours. Then toss it all together. Serve warm.

This recipe came from my step-father's step-mother (Yeah. Also he is no longer my step-father since he and my mother divorced.), who escaped from East Germany during the rule of the Nazis by crossing a river in the middle of the night with her brother. Neither could swim and she was the only one who made it. She then hid from soldiers as she made her way to safety. So this is probably pretty authentic. Even if it's not, it's damn good.