Row Your Boat

Somehow magically -- I am not pointing any fingers here, but there was definitely a cat involved -- Cupcake's baby tub ended up at the bottom of the steps, and it has also somehow magically -- again, I am not pointing any fingers here, but there was definitely some imagination involved -- turned into a boat. There was even singing involved, and let me tell you, my kid works the rowing-machine-action better than anyone else I have seen in a long time.


Thanks, But No Thanks ...

Sometimes I feel like I missed out on some of the "good stuff" because we adopted instead of having our daughter the "old-fashioned" way. You know: stretch marks, pre-eclampsia, contractions, epidurals, pooping on the delivery table, etc. And breast-feeding.

Breast-feeding is separate because ... well, it's a special thing. I actually wish I could have breast-fed, but there are Rules about that when you foster-to-adopt, and obviously we didn't want to screw anything up, so we didn't try to push the issue. I am envious of breast-feeders, as the best that I will be able to do is share my devotion to Mountain Dew with the Cupcake someday.

One thing I don't regret, though, is the politicization of breast-feeding. Some women do it, some women don't, some women can't, some women won't -- none of anyone's business, not that most people will leave well enough alone. Since it isn't an issue for me, I don't really have to deal with it. Nor will I have to deal with ... anything like this item in the link below:

Somebody was giving one of these away on their blog. (Don't remember who, sorry.) Um, yuck. I ... don't even know what to say. I had to send it in to Craftastrophe, because this is right up their alley. (Obvs.) Yeah, try to sleep tonight knowing that there are people out there who make money making those things. Yick-a-roo.


Pet Sounds

Posted without comment because it's just that damn cute.

And you should see her frog impression! I love this kid.


Snow Day Update (UPDATED!)

There is a mouse in the dining room.
I repeat: there is a MOUSE in the DINING ROOM.
And my cat is trying to make friends with it.
Useless boogerhead.


UPDATE: G came home from work on his lunch hour to try to pull another "Mouse Whisperer" routine and capture the critter because I freaked right the fuck out and went a little apoplectic and perhaps became even more useless than usual. Heh. HOWEVER, Mickey appears to have evaded capture for the moment. Probably he's down in the basement with the yicky bugs and the homeless people who keep stealing one sock out of every pair. That's my guess, anyway, because Owen has NO IDEA what to do or where to go now. We'll be getting some traps later today, oh yes we will.


Snow day today. I had a scheduled day off anyway -- it's my "bonus" for working 30 hours of unpaid overtime during the year-end close -- so I am unfazed by the 2" of snow we got overnight, followed by sleet right now, eventually turning into rain later in the day. I'm keeping the Cupcake home with me and we're going to watch cartoons and play video games and eat junk food all day long, as God intended.

We're trying something new today -- Playhouse Disney. Normally we watch "Dora" and "Blue's Clues" and "Jack's Big Music Show" and "Gabba" and "Sesame Street" and one of our new favorites, "Ni Hao, Kai-Lan." But today we are watching (or at least for now we are watching) whatever is on Playhouse Disney. "Little Einsteins" and "My Friends Tigger and Pooh" so far. Not bad, although I will always and forever prefer the Ernest Shepard illustrations of the Hundred Acre Wood characters to any newfangled versions.

So, yeah. Not much going on today. AWESOME. Further bulletins as events warrant. Hopefully we'll be able to get in some photo ops.


25 Things

So, I got tagged for one of those things on Facebook, and I don't actually have 25 Facebook friends with whom I can share this, so I'm just putting this stuff out here on the blog for God and everybody to see. You're welcome. Here are 25 random things about me:
  1. I think a piece of one of my wisdom teeth chipped off today -- it didn't hurt, but I'm afraid to go to the dentist to have it looked at.
  2. Because, after living with my Type-I diabetic father for 25 years, I kind of really hate needles an awful lot.
  3. Also, I am afraid to be judged by a masochist who spends every day poking at people's gums until they bleed.
  4. If I ever had to choose between giving up Mountain Dew forever, or death, I am pretty sure that I would choose death.
  5. With absolute 100% certainty, I can say that I never want to meet my daughter's birth parents, and I never want her to want to meet them, either.
  6. I once told a Navy recruiter that I was a flat-footed lesbian Communist so that he would stop calling me, and I will never regret that.
  7. Toys that make noise make me batshit butternuts crazy, and I really want to smash the Cupcake's "Chicken Dance Elmo" doll with a sledgehammer.
  8. All other things being equal, if my husband were a Republican or a fan of either Notre Dame or the Dallas Cowboys, I don't think I would have married him.
  9. We didn't have our wedding pictures put into a photo album until 2007 -- 8½ years after we were married.
  10. I know even without the benefit of therapy that I developed a sense of humor as a self-defense mechanism, to cover for being insecure about my looks.
  11. Also, I learned to cook as a back-up plan, in case being funny and having big boobs failed to ever get me laid.
  12. Honest to God, I think Barbies are evil, and I am not-so-secretly thrilled that Cupcake's Christmas "fashion doll" is in pieces all over the living room.
  13. If I ever win the lottery, the first thing I am doing is leaving the country and buying a house near the beach on an island somewhere.
  14. The last time I went to church completely voluntarily to pray for anything was when I was in 11th grade -- the last 18 years have all been for show.
  15. I believe that this is part of the reason why I haven't gotten pregnant, but I am too proud to grovel before anybody, including God.
  16. Yes, I am aware that my relationship with the Creator is pretty fucked up, and I am pretty sure He knows it, too.
  17. Grammar, punctuation, and especially spelling are important to me, and I judge pretty harshly people who make stupid mistakes in business emails.
  18. I don't believe for one second that Ben Affleck deserved his Oscar for "Good Will Hunting," and it will always piss me off that he has an Academy Award and I don't.
  19. The thing I dread most about parenting is the day that I have to explain to the Cupcake how and why she came to be our daughter.
  20. I am terrified that when that day comes, she will start to hate me, and that I will never be able to get her to love me again.
  21. If we had everything to do all over again, I think I would have asked for a bigger engagement ring and a smaller wedding.
  22. Some of the parents at Cupcake's school kind of skeeve me out, and I am doing everything I can to get her away from their kids.
  23. Not once, not ever, not on one occasion in my life did I ever smoke pot, and every once in a while I regret being so paranoid in my youth.
  24. Before I die, I would like to spend an entire vacation at a nudist resort or, at the very least, I would like to spend time on a nude beach.
  25. The idea of a Brazilian wax intrigues me, and I wonder what "it" would be like afterwards, but I am terrified that I would be laughed right out of the salon.
There you go. 25 things about me I bet you wish you never knew.


This recipe is so vague that it hardly counts as a recipe, but this was yesterday's dinner and today's lunch, and I am still impressed that it was so easy to make and is still so tasty, so I'm going to share it anyway. It's been cold and dreary, and this was a perfect pick-me-up on a bitter Sunday night and a gray Monday afternoon. The only thing that would have made this better is football.

  • 1½ lbs. boneless chicken thighs*
  • 3-4 medium red-skinned potatoes
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • seasonings: salt, pepper, dried thyme, rosemary (all to taste)**
  • olive oil (and/or cooking spray)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Rinse chicken in cool water and pat dry. Season on all sides with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Arrange in a single layer in a covered baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray (or put 1/2 tsp. olive oil in the dish and spread around bottom and sides of the dish with a paper towel -- strictly to prevent sticking). Wash potatoes and carrots. Cut potatoes into 1-1½" chunks. Cut carrots into pieces about 3-4" long, and half if necessary. (You want long pieces, not matchsticks.) Arrange in a covered baking dish. Drizzle very lightly with olive oil (mostly to prevent sticking), stir to coat, and season with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Cover both dishes and bake at 350°F for 1-1¼ hours or until chicken is fully cooked and vegetables fall apart when pierced with a fork. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Makes about 6 servings, depending on how many thighs you have, and how many potatoes and carrots you used (1 thigh, approximately ¾ potato, and approximately ¾ carrot per serving). You can always adjust the number of potatoes and carrots you use to suit your needs.


* = I don't usually use dark meat, because I don't really like it, but thighs don't bother me, and I think breasts will get too dry.
** = I used kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper, dried thyme leaves, and dried rosemary leaves on everything, and little bit of some kind of lemon-herb seasoning blend on the chicken. We couldn't really taste or smell the lemon, though, so it's definitely NOT required.


Smells Like Team Spirit

Today is "Spirit Day" at school, and the kids were supposed to dress in their favorite sports gear or team colors. I briefly entertained the idea of putting Cupcake in her Eagles cheerleading outfit, but decided to save that for Super Bowl Day, because I am WEIRDLY SUPERSTITIOUS and do not wear actual team colors or logos or anything on game days, because I've had a run of bad luck in the past. And the way I figure, it's not like the Eagles can possibly lose next week, although I am sure they will figure out how.

There has also been some discussion as to whether this jersey is cursed, because Cupcake wore it like twice on Sundays, and it did not end well for Pittsburgh. For that, though, I blame my husband. Because, why not? He doesn't even read my blog, so he has no opportunity to defend himself. Haha, sucker. In any event, I decided to go with the officially licensed NFL gear and the piggies, because OMG have you seen her? So CUTE!

It's a slow day at work today, plus it's a Friday, so I thought I'd finish out this post with a Totally Useless But Hopefully Fun Sports Quiz for you. Can you name professional sports teams that fit into the categories below? (No, college teams do not count.) Good luck!

  1. Two teams whose names contain the color "Red"
  2. Two teams whose names contain the color "Blue"
  3. Two teams whose names contain another color
  4. Two teams named for celestial bodies
  5. Two teams named for terrestrial features
  6. Two teams named for meteorological events
  7. Two teams whose names contain numbers
  8. Two teams whose names contain occupations
  9. Two teams named after cats
  10. Two teams named after birds
  11. Two teams named after fish/fishlike creatures
  12. Three teams whose names DO NOT end in "S"
Twenty-five total points possible. Number 8 is kind of a trick question, so I will give partial credit (i.e., real or imagined occupations will count, but I will tell you right now that "Celtic" isn't a job, and neither is "Pacer"). You shouldn't use your Google-fu, but how will I know if you do? I will post my answers in the comments tomorrow.


Mommy's Little Helpers

Here is your free parenting tip of the day from your old pal rockle: Tic-Tacs and other small candies are seriously the most useful thing that you can keep in your purse once your kid gets old enough to understand the concept of a bribe for good behavior (and once you're sure they won't choke on them).

Some people use Hershey's Kisses, or M&M's, and those are both perfectly legitimate ways to go, but for my money? It's Tic-Tacs and other mini-mints all the way. So far, there is NOTHING these little buggers can't do. I've gotten Cupcake to stop throwing tantrums, take her medicine, and eat broccoli by offering Tic-Tacs as rewards.

(Well, OK, technically she probably would have eaten the "bocky" on her own, because she likes it, but I believe in positive reinforcement, dammit, even if giving her candy for food she would have eaten anyway is doing it wrong.)

As you can see, the Tic-Tacs in my purse are getting some mileage. I don't really have reservations about this, because even though we don't allow a lot of candy in our house, it's kind of hard to get worked up over two little calories. So it's a perfectly acceptable indulgence.

NOTE: Those Eclipse mints? Have sucralose in them -- Splenda. Just FYI, in case you get an upset stomach from that stuff. Let this be a warning to READ THE INGREDIENT STATEMENTS FIRST. Especially when you're dealing with treats for kids.


Martian Death Flu

You can't really tell from this picture, but Cupcake hasn't been feeling well for the last few days, so yesterday we took her to the pediatrician's office to get checked out. (Family doctor, actually -- and an osteopath, to boot!)

You also can't really tell from this picture, but we did NOT have a good time at the doctor's office. She wouldn't cooperate and get on the scale, she freaked RIGHT THE HELL OUT when they tried to take her temperature with the underarm thermometer, and when we got to the part where the doctor tried to look in her ears and throat? NUCLEAR MELTDOWN.

Long story short: not RSV or leukemia or asbestoisis, as I feared. (Oh, have I mentioned I'm a hypochondriac?) Just an ear infection, some "crackling" in one lung but nothing major, and possibly something going on in the throat but we're not sure because of the gnashing of teeth. Amoxicillin. 10 days of the joy and bliss of coercing a toddler into taking antibiotics that Mommy is allergic to. FUN TIMES.

PS -- G is sick too. He has the scourge that I had over Christmas. Martian Death Flu doesn't really figure in anywhere, except that it's one of my favorite Dave Barry columns ever.



Here we are, modeling the latest in modern snowsuit / spacesuit fashions:

Doesn't that make you want to join NASA immediately? :-)

Unfortunately, Cupcake didn't enjoy the half-inch or so of snow we got today. In her defense, she hasn't been feeling well -- fever on and off all weekend, and G has some kind of something too, so they stayed home today. I thought maybe a couple of minutes of fresh air would do them good, but that doesn't appear to be the case for Cupcake, as she is still cranky. Hopefully it's just a little bug, nothing major, and we'll be able to go back to school tomorrow.

PS -- Apparently she fell down, Randy-from-A-Christmas-Story-style, but G didn't get a picture of that, the bastard. Him and his sensitive heart. Kids today, they're all soft! When I was a kid, when I fell in the snow, I liked it, because we couldn't afford snow ...


World's Easiest Beef Stew

No pics today -- we all have the plague or something and didn't do much but lay around and watch football. G and Cupcake are worse than I am -- I had this back in December, but they're just getting it now. I wanted to make something warm and cozy for dinner today that would also be easy and I whipped up this beef stew that turned out great. And it only took one dish, plus a cutting board and knife.

  • 1½ lbs. stew beef, cut into approximately 1" cubes
  • 3-4 carrots, cut into approximately 1" pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into approximately ½" slices
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into approximately 1" chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • handful of button mushrooms, quartered (optional)
  • salt, pepper, and thyme to taste*
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion
  • ⅔ cup beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare beef and vegetables and place in a large covered baking dish. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste. Stir to mix well. Add tomatoes and stock and stir until evenly combined. Cover and cook for 1½-2 hours or until meat and vegetables are cooked through. (You may want to stir once or twice.) Then uncover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until most of the stewing liquid is cooked off. Remove bay leaf. Let sit uncovered for 10-15 minutes before serving with crusty bread.


* Footnote -- which I originally forgot about! I used salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence as seasonings, because I love me some herbes de Provence (with lavender). Just thyme will work fine, though.


Magic Wand

The last of the 2008 Christmas pictures. Pinky swear. I like this picture even though it's all jiggy and it makes Cupcake look like she has a double chin. Not sure what exactly I like about it, but for some reason I find it very charming. (Obviously this was taken before the candy cane ended up in the gaping maw.)

Our apologies to the Legion: Cupcake probably ate 7 candy canes at Ashtyn's birthday party. Yoinked them right off the tree. My Anonymous Mother is SUCH an enabler. In any case ... you might be seeing this one again, on next year's calendar.


It's Oh So Quiet

You know, despite my protestations and insistence to the contrary, I actually do live a relatively quiet, normal, drama-free life that sometimes involves dozing off on the couch with my daughter at 8pm.


Cupcake Calendar: January

Previously on "OMFG That Bitch Is Totally Frakking Crazy": I whined about needing a vacation. And now I am getting one. Key West. February. Smoking deal on a room at a nice hotel, thanks to Priceline. Bathing suit and books already packed. Don't know what else I will need, but Cupcake, of course, will need an entire new wardrobe, which we are already working on. (Can't get my resolutions done within the affected year, but I am all chop-chop! when it comes to the Cupcake.) I promise not to talk too much about it until the week or so before we leave, because I'm going to be mostly dead from working too hard. (Which is still slightly alive.) To be continued ... dun-dun-duuuuuuuuuun ...

Now it's time for Arts & Crafts. Back in September when I starting worrying about Christmas I decided that I was going to make a Cupcake Calendar for the important female relatives: the Grandmothers and the Aunties. Plus, I wanted to have one myself, because then I could change up my kid's pictures without having to go to all the trouble of printing a picture, picking it up from the CVS or wherever, opening the frame, inserting the picture, etc. More than one step = too much trouble! (I keep telling you people, I am a slack-ass.)

This isn't the first time I made a calendar -- I did it before, in 2006-7, when I made a calendar of all the grandchildren on my mother's side of the family. I thought it turned out really well, even though my grandmother never actually used it. It's still in the plastic bag on top of the hutch in her dining room. From time to time when we visit, I take it out to show the baby, so she can learn to recognize everyone. It was a fun project, if a little exhausting, because I am not always very creative, and also I am a bit anal-retentive (I know, right?), so there were a few pages that were repeatedly redone because margins weren't uniform and some pictures were wonky sizes and actually it's hurting my head just thinking about it now.

So when I started the Cupcake Calendar, I set a few ground rules for myself. No more than four pictures per page. Use Picture Manager to crop and resize so that stuff would be at least in the same proportions. (I started this project before I discovered the Picnik tool on Flickr.) Relax, for God's sake. Remember that these people are going to love it anyway, no matter how craptacular or craftastrophic it turns out to be, because these people love Cupcake. Try to have fun with this.

I started at the beginning of the 2008 photo files, used some of the earliest shots we had of Cupcake (she wasn't with us in January, but we did start spending time with her in February), carefully scoured the Intarwebs for the perfect background for the scrapbook-style mat I was trying to create, and this is what I came up with for January:

I did the same thing for every month of the year. Well, not the same pictures, obviously, but the same process. I probably spent 2 hours picking out the photos for each calendar page, and then another hour or so per page reasearching backgrounds, plus the time I spent farting around with Publisher to match picture box outlines to the wallpaper, making the outline boxes fit properly, looking at the Print Preview page from across the room, autofixing and un-autofixing and re-autofixing, etc. I was kind of a wreck. (Which is different from usual how, exactly?)


Anyway ... this was going to be a story about how when I look at this calendar on my cubicle wall every day, I remember that very first weekend that we were "parents," how absolutely terrified we were that we were going to do something wrong, that we were going to be complete goofbags when it came time to change a diaper, how this is the only weekend that Cupcake spent with my parents where she actually took a nap, etc., etc., but instead here I am telling you about how oh my God, I spent approximately eleventy million hours a year on the Innartubes and I didn't know that there were programs that magically made calendars.

Maybe next month I will (1) get the calendar page up on time and (2) actually tell you some stories about the pictures. But I make no promises, because I will always be crazy.


Boat Drinks

Every year around this time, I am struck square in the gut by an almost uncontrollable desire to throw my bathing suit, a couple of pairs of clean underpants and some paperback books in a bag and then take off for more desirable weather. Wanderlust. I daydream about lying on a soft fluffy white towel on a chaise lounge parked under a palm tree, my brown skin shining in the sun, with my hair slicked back and my sunglasses on. I can taste the Coppertone and smell the seagulls and hear the warm salty breezes righting the ship of my soul, correcting my course, finding my bearings.

I sound like a Jimmy Buffett cover song, and not even one of the good ones, but I can't really help myself -- I was born and raised in the Northeast, lived my whole life in southeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, but I just wasn't made for this climate. There is a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder and an old prescription for Prozac on file somewhere to prove it. White Christmases are fine in principle, but maybe only on a movie set. When I get into the deep dark recesses of January and I'm staring down the barrel of seven straight days of sub-zero weather, I just want to tell everyone I know to suck it and hop the first flight to San Diego.

There are worse places to be at this time of year than Pottstown, where we live now: Chicago and Syracuse spring instantly to mind. Fargo. Saskatchewan. Our winter has been pretty mild so far, maybe only a dozen or so cold days, and perhaps an inch and a half of snow in total. I don't care. Below 60°F during the day is too cold for me. Sunsets before 6:00 PM are too early. I want to see green grass and see bright flowers and see blue skies that aren't tinged with heavy grey clouds. I want to sit by the pool with my toes in the water and a mai tai close by, photosynthesizing.

Of course it isn't just the weather. We just got through the holidays, which were nothing short of hectic and harrowing. Work is exhausting, with the never-ending shit parade of year-end projects and paperwork and passive-aggression and power trips. We're still waiting for everything to be final with the Cupcake. My family is still crazy, and his mother is still crazy, and I'm still the Queen of the Crazies, and the long hours and short days and endless running amok and causing havoc are wearing me right the hell out. I ... need a vacation.

See these pictures? They're all from a trip to Los Cabos that G and I took back in February 2002. It feels like a thousand lifetimes ago, now. Before the house, before the bad economy, before the infertility, before the adoption, before World of Warcraft, before everything. Don't we look happy? Tanned? Well-rested? I like to think we were. We had a nice time on that trip, even though we spent it with the Wackaloons from Crazytown who worked at my previous company. It would do us good to get away again. Help me convince him that we need to go where it's warm.


Bonus! Blast From The Past

As you all have no doubt seen, I am a horrible terrible no-good very bad photographer, which is a low-down dirty shame, since I have such a gorgeous subject. I'm working on it, but ... well, as she gets more mobile, it's getting harder and harder to keep up (see this example, or this one). But I became a follower of a new blog (I♥Faces.com) where I hope to get some helpful tips and useful ideas (like, hello? bribes for sitting still that actually work?) from other shutterbugs, both professionals and amateurs alike.

I am using this picture, from back in July when the Cupcake wasn't so fidgety and also when she was trapped in the bathtub (or, as I believe the pros call it, "her natural milieu"), as an entry in their first weekly contest. You might want to pop on over and check out their link list to see how good everyone else is, and how much work I have yet do, and maybe get inspired yourself.

Gaping Maw

Well, we finally got a decent picture of Cupcake in front of a Christmas tree. If you can consider this close-up of what G calls "the gaping maw of the Candy Monster" decent. Which -- since she isn't actively sabotaging her own picture at this point, I will take it.



I like this picture for two reasons: (1) Shelleybeans! and Cupcake are so engrossed in what they are doing or talking about that neither one of them told me to go away when I got the cellphone camera out, and (2) the angle is so goofy that my sister's hand looks as big as my daughter's head -- and I assure you, Shelleybeans! has perfectly nice hands, not weird gigantic man-hands.

Anyway ... yeah, Ashtyn's birthday party was fun. And the cake was fantastic.


Photo Op

Oh yeah ... this is the good version of the picture of my parents with their grandchildren that I promised earlier. I'm such an inveterate, degenerate slack-ass. Obviously I broke resolution #4 before I even made it.


Orange Crush

(... except in this case, the item I am crushing on smells like tangerines. But there aren't any really good song titles I could thing of to use here, so I went with the old R.E.M. ditty instead. I love R.E.M., still, even though they're only 75% of the band they once were. As long as Mike Mills is around to wear those pseudo-Elvis jumpsuits, and as long as MichaelStipe remains his incomprehensible self, I will always love R.E.M. Sue me. And to my college roommate from freshman year, wherever you are: SUCK IT.)

Anyway. As you know because I told you already, I am trying to be more "green" this year. It's going to be a gradual process for us, because I have had bad experiences with "natural" cleaning products before. Oh, no, this is not my first rodeo. I have had my organic macrobiotic vegetarian phases. Not for long, granted -- I honestly believe that if God did not want people to eatcheesesteaks, then He wouldn't have made them taste so good -- but I have always had crunchy hippie granola pinko commie tendencies.

This time I want it to stick, and I also want to help other people learn from our daring misadventures. So as we try new stuff, I'm going to review it here. If I do this right, this will serve two purposes: (1) all of you will know what to try and what not to try if you decide you want to do this yourselves, and (2) word will get out to Major International Corporations that I am willing to review their stuff on my blog and I will get Sponsorship Opportunities and possibly even fabulous wealth.

Which will be interesting, to say the least, because I don't have ads here, and also because I am going to tell you if stuff sucks.

Obviously, since this post is titled "Orange Crush," I am going to be reviewing something I actually like today: Green Works Natural Dishwashing Liquid, part of the Green Works line by the Clorox Company. This entire line of cleaning products has been recognized by the EPA's "Design for the Environment Program" for environmentally preferable chemistry. Green Works "defined natural using three core principles. The ingredients must come from renewable resources, be biodegradable and free of petrochemicals." They are also not tested on animals.

We've been using the Simply Tangerine dish soap since sometime before Christmas, when I picked up a bottle on sale at Wal-Mart. I had tried another brand of "natural" dish detergent at my mother-in-law's, and I liked it, so when we ran out of our regular stuff -- we've usually been a Dawn family before, although recently we've also used Joy because some of those "flavors" are nice -- I thought I would give this stuff a try. $2! If we hated it, big whoop, it was only $2!

Except we really do like it. It gets our dishes clean, which is what it's supposed to do. It feels just like "ordinary" dish soap -- same general consistency and texture. We use about the same amount as we do with any other product. (In the past I have tried brands that contained more water and so we had to use more of it.) It rinses clean and smells nice. Not a heavy fragrance, just ... nice. I remember that I had the plague around Christmas, and when my head finally cleared and I could smell things again, I was really impressed with how nice this stuff smelled.

My only complaint about it (and it's really so stupid that it hardly warrants mentioning, but I want to be as thorough as possible) is that, if you are prone to leaving the bottle uncapped, as we are, sometimes the soap will firm up and block the spout. However, we are able to resolve this easily enough by snapping the lid shut and then reopening it. (I said it was stupid.) I believe this is from the coconut-based cleaning agents in combination with my cold kitchen. It's definitely not enough of a problem to keep us from trying this again.

PROS: Natural, clean smell, works as advertised.
CONS: Sometimes messy due to operator error.

I don't have a rating system for this stuff -- just know that I like this flavor, and this product, and I would use it again. We will try other scents but at this time of year in particular, I like the smell of citrus, which is why I went for the Simply Tangerine. Other flavors are Water Lily, Simply Lemon, and Free & Clear (no colorants or perfumes). Cost is between $2-$4, depending on where you shop and whether you have coupons or sales. Brand has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and Good Housekeeping. RECOMMENDED.

PS -- Why, yes, I am procrastinating instead of finishing my resolutions list ... but you all already know how much I suck at managing my own life.


The One After #3

In the continuing story of my new year's resolutions, currently in progress, I now bring you ...

(4) THIS YEAR, I RESOLVE TO PROCRASTINATE LESS AND "PROACTIVATE" MORE. I really need to stop putting things off and then half-assing them. I've been doing it forever, but now that we have the Cupcake, we don't "get around to it later" all that much. So I really want to start being more conscious of what and when I am doing things. Rough drafts of blog posts, etc. More content and less diversions. This year, I resolve to procrastinate less and "proactivate" more. But not until later.

Quick! Be distracted by this picture of my kid doing something cute and kid-like!


All I Can Do Is Write About It

So ... resolutions. We're already week into the new year and I haven't come up with any yet. This is in large part because I suck at life, but also because I suck at keeping my own resolutions that I haven't even committed to paper yet. Dumbass. Oh, look, there's another resolution I've broken! Dear God in heaven, I am a freaking moron. But I pretty much expected this anyway, and if I have learned only one thing in my 35 years on this planet, it is that I am notoriously bad at sticking to things (except husbands, apparently).

I think everybody kind of resents making New Year's resolutions, at least a little bit. It's tough enough to face the hangover from cheap champagne and too much crab dip, but it's tougher still to face the realization that you're imperfect in so many ways and that pretty much everything about yourself needs to change or else: Doom! Foreboding! Recession! Armageddon! Riots! Fires! Mudslides! Sushi in the mall! Or maybe that's just me -- I am kind of a worst-case-scenario sort of thinker, which certainly makes my messianic tendencies ... interesting.

But tough as it is, I actually want to confront what is wrong with me this year -- well, some of what is wrong with me, anyway. Going head-to-head with my demons is a very frightening prospect if I jump right into the deep water, and it would end up taking me to a very dark, dank place that I am not yet fully ready to visit. (Illidan: "You are not prepared.") And I know this much: I am NOT going to jump into that whirlpool just yet, because I'm not sure whether I can swim back out right now. I need to do what I can right now, and save some battles for another day.

Maybe I can't chase all the monsters from under my bed in one year, but if I do this right, maybe I can get those goblins to look more like Sulley and less like ... I don't know, that clown from "It" or something. (What? Clowns creep me right the fuck out.)

Taking all that into consideration, and also keeping in mind that I really wanted to come up with some resolutions that are (1) possible for me to keep, and also (2) potentially going to make a good story if I fail spectacularly, I have come up with this sad little list of things that I want to work on this year. Yes, these are primarily superficial. Yes, these are probably a pathetic attempt at polishing the giant turd that is my life sometimes. But you know what? Baby steps, grasshopper: change your environment, change your outlook, change your life. Maybe. At least try.

And anyway, this is only Part One. (Oh my God, do I ever shut up?)


(1) THIS YEAR, I RESOLVE TO CLEAN MY ROOM. I put this at the top of the list because it's probably the most horrifying, difficult, and embarrassing of all the resolutions I could have possibly come up with. As I was putting together different variations of this list, this is the one I kept coming back to, so I know it needs to be here. So I begin 2009 with a confession: my bedroom? Is a fiasco. Not exactly dirty, but it's just ... overloaded. Full of clutter. Multiple hampers full of clean laundry that needs to be sorted and put away. Dust and books and tchotchkes.

This resolution might also be problematic because it's not something I will be able to do on my own. G is going to need to help me. It's really OUR mess, and we need to dig ourselves out together. We keep Cupcake's room clean, we put her laundry away in a timely manner, we donate outgrown and unwanted and unused toys and books -- but we are doing this for her, trying to set a good example that we are not following ourselves. I need to be the responsible adult I want her to be, so: this year, I resolve to clean my room.

(2) THIS YEAR, I RESOLVE TO BE MORE "GREEN" WHEN I CLEAN. Partly related to my top resolution, but partly a stand-alone endeavor. We recycle and reuse, and are already working on reducing where we can. There is much more we can do -- switchlightbulbs , adjust the thermostats, go back to carpooling once the adoption is final and we can change our schedules back -- and we are gradually trying to change our lifestyles so that these things are automatic to us, and will be automatic for our daughter.

The next step logical step in the process, for me anyway, is to start replacing our regular cleaning products with "green" cleaners. We have already done this with our liquid dish detergent -- remember, baby steps! -- and when I go to the store today to buy fabric softener, I will be buying an eco-friendly product. I am still researching bathroom and kitchen cleansers to find ones that will sufficiently sanitize (I like my sinks and toilets to be clean enough for surgery) and welcome feedback and suggestions. Starting this year, I resolve to be more "green" when I clean.

(3) THIS YEAR, I RESOLVE TO BE MORE "AWARE" WHEN I SHOP. This is both a sociopolitical and an economic position that I am trying to take. Money is tight, so of course price is a factor when I need to buy things, but I also want to feel good about my purchases. Doesn't mean I'm about to start buying only "Made in the USA" items, although if they are cost-effective I will try. But instead of always getting new things all the time, I will start checking thrift and consignment shops for gently used clothes and stuff like laundry baskets.

Of all my resolutions, I think this one might be the hardest, but it's the one single thing that I think is the most valuable. I mean, in 2008 we donated close to a dozen bags of clothes to thrift stores. We did it to make room for the baby first, and for the tax write-off second, but now that I know the kind of good that groups like Goodwill do for the community, it makes sense to try to support them as much as possible. And why pay full retail price for Cupcake's clothes when she's growing out of them before she can wear some of them? In 2009, I resolve to be more "aware" when I shop.


I am working on some more -- funny ones, I hope, but this year is the first time in a while that I am taking my resolutions seriously -- but I wanted to get these out there, "permanently," so I can keep reminding myself what I'm supposed to be working on. (And not that you asked, but? "Stop procrastinating so much" is totally going to be on the rest of the list, in some form.)


Red Hot Chili Peppers

This was going to be a post with the "good" version of yesterday's picture in it, but instead I am going to give you a "toddler-approved" recipe for chili that will help you clean out your cupboards and possibly make you or someone you love turn into some sort of demon. An adorable demon, but a demon nonetheless.

Disclaimer: this is "gringa" chili, and it's also very weak. Even I think it's wimpy, and I hate food that is very spicy. But this was done intentionally, so that we could share this with Cupcake. As she gets older we will gradually increase the heat and spices. In the meantime, you can call this a "chili bean stew" or something like that if it makes you feel better. Or if you are from Texas. Anyway -- there are a lot of ingredients in this, but getting everything together is really the hardest part.

  • 1½ cups dried red kidney beans (or canned equivalent)
  • 1 cup dried pinto beans (or canned equivalent)
  • ½ cup dried pink beans (or canned equivalent)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion (Vidalia or similar), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minded (or equivalent)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • chili powder, to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
  • oregano, to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
  • cinnamon, to taste (about ½ teaspoon) -- optional
  • 1 can (10½ ounces) Ro*Tel Mexican diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes with mild green chiles
  • low sodium V-8 or tomato juice, as needed (approx. 4 cups)
  • low sodium chicken broth or water, as needed (approx. 4 cups)
  • 1 small can (8 ounces) no salt added whole kernel corn (or frozen equivalent), drained
If using dried beans, sort and rinse beans. Place in a large stockpot and cover with 8 cups of hot water. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn burner off. Let beans sit, covered, for at least an hour or until mostly softened. Drain, rinse, and set aside. (If using canned beans, just drain, rinse, and set aside. In either case, you should have approximately 6 cups of beans or so.)

When beans are prepared, combine bell pepper, onion, garlic, and ground beef in a large stockpot. Add a small amount of olive oil, if desired, for browning. Add about half of the chili powder, oregano, and cinnamon. Set the rest of the seasonings aside for taste adjustment later. Cook over high heat until meat is browned and vegetables are soft.

Add both cans of tomatoes and juice and heat to boiling. Cook 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add beans and stir well to combine. Heat to boiling. Add 2 cups of V-8 or tomato juice and 2 cups of broth or water. Make sure that beans are completely covered with liquid. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and checking liquid levels. Add V-8 and broth (½ cup each at a time) as necessary.

Check doneness of beans and consistency of "broth." Adjust seasonings if necessary. If beans require additional cooking, add additional liquid as needed. If beans are done enough, then reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking until desired consistency. Total simmer time should not be more than 2-2½ hours. Just before serving, add corn. Stir to heat through, and serve with shredded cheddar cheese and dollops of sour cream, if desired.



Typical Situation

This isn't the best picture of my parents and their grandchildren, but it is the best representation of what happened every time we tried to get a picture of more than one person at once:
  • Cupcake always played the part of the Chatty Cathy doll, being all "[gibberish] Nana [gibberish] Pop-pop [gibberish]" and making faces like my cousin Brittany and then yelling "Cheeeeeese!" once we put the camera away.
  • My mom was trying (and mostly failing) to bribe her to sit still using food while Yours Truly was off-camera trying to coerce compliance with escalating threats of violence and revocation of Dora privileges.
  • My dad kept trying to catch the football scores.
  • And poor baby Joey was all, "WTF? Where is that boob? Am I really related to these people? It's so unfair! I can't wait until I can walk so I can run away! And where is that boob?"

So, you know. Typical family picture.



I had to work today and I am exhausted and still possibly riddled with plague (cough cough) so I haven't got anything to say, but here! Have a picture!

L-R: Shelleybeans!, Cupcake, My Anonymous Mother, my father (who is neither Jesse Ventura nor G. Gordon Liddy, but thanks for playing along!)


Harder To Breathe

No, this post is NOT about That Thing I Do That I Know I Should Not. It is about how it has been a crazy week or so and I am frakkin' EXHAUSTED. I have a buttload of pictures to sort through and stuff to get done and resolutions to make so I can just go ahead and break them already and get THAT out of the way. Oh, and did I mention that our dryer is broken? HELLS YEAH, we are livin' the life out here in the 'burbs.

Anyway. I am going into to work very very early tomorrow -- 6am! partly voluntarily! -- because it's year end, and there are approximately eleventy zillion things that need to be done before we can close out 2008 and get on with the tricky business of messing up 2009. So to that end I am attempting to go to bed early tonight, because although we did not necessarily Party Hard last night, we did at least Party Sort Of Hearty, and because there were two children under 2 involved, even if peripherally, I am already behind the 8-ball, sleep-deprivation-wise. (Um, what?)

So watch for more updates over the weekend. And maybe a site redesign, but since I am kind of a slack-ass and a Luddite, maybe not.