Monday, December 31, 2012

Some Favorite Posts From 2012

It's so much fun to look back and read what I wrote during the  year.  And I never tire of looking at my stats to see what you like, what you love and what you completely ignore. 

Your #1 choice for all of my posts written in 2012 is this one.  It's about vacuums.  I really think the one linked to it, a vacuum at the Louvre museum in Paris is more entertaining.   Actually, more people commented on it, but more people visited the first one.

The high school trip to Paris in February afforded me a lot of blogfodder and this post with the naughty sign was right up there in the top 10.

You can put the teacher on summer break but you can't take the teaching out of her.  You graciously visited my educational posts such as this one about wrought iron.

You enjoyed the entertaining tales of the middle school classroom with gems like this one.

And this blog wouldn't be this blog if I didn't teach you all sorts of new skills (or lack of) and crafts  like this one and this one.

You helped me learn to be a better dresser here and here (RIP favorite capri pants ever- I got about 4 more months out of them and then they met their demise).

My own  favorite post was this one about my Starbucks issues.  It has the most comments of any post I've written, but not as many visitors.  Hmm, more visitors just cruising by or more people dedicatedly reading and commenting?  It's a hard choice.

Still, the most popular post OF ALL TIME, is truly the one I am least proud of.  It's the shortest and the dullest and was obviously from back before I started reading blogs and found out how much fun it can be to actually  use your own voice when you write!  And if Jello is wondering if the public wants those pudding pops back, I have some pretty serious proof that a lot of us do!!

Thank you to all of my faithful readers as well as the passersby.  I am especially thankful to the poor souls  you dedicated readers who thought my writing was funny and then realized that happens about once a year and stuck around anyway.  Your constant visiting and occasional commenting really make my day.

In 2012, I actually earned a buck or two because of all my dedicated readers. 

And because of those anonymous nutjobs who said things like:

 Your way of describing the whole thing in this paragraph is actually good, all be capable of effortlessly know it, Thanks a lot.

Wonderful, what a web site it is! This blog presents helpful information to us, keep it up.

You could certainly sеe уour skills wіthin the article you ωгitе

The world hopes fοг more passionate writers likе you who аren't afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

It's so sad that you're all anonymous.  Really, I'd love to buy your land in Turkey and get your sensual massages and win your African lottery  see your amazing jewelry.  If only I knew who you were or how to find you.  I will follow my heart and be capable of effortlessly know it.  And no one would disagree that I am not afraid to say how I believe.  Thanks for dropping by, sharing your fantastic grasp of the English language and upping my stats anyway!

I'm excited to begin another year of writing and I have a doozy lined up for this week, so make sure you come back!

Linking here

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Put The Kids Away, It's Gonna Get Hot In Here

I have been searching for a new pair of waterproof boots since way back in this post and though I had tried LLBean's Wellies and sent them right back, I thought maybe I'd try them again and like them this time.  I do this with a lot of things.  I despise them and then later try them again and I kind of like them. 

I wasn't happy with the choices available for waterproof boots anywhere else and I wanted them higher than my ankle, so back to LLBean I went.

By the way, LLBean is not compensating me for this post but I sure would be happy to do a future review for them....

Anyway.  When I went back to the site, I saw that they had shorter Wellies called mid.  As in middle of the calf for really tall people but maybe just right for me! 

The problem with the regular Wellies was the length.  They went almost to my knee which meant that with every step, they flopped all around and bothered me all the way up my leg/shin/calf.  They are loose in the ankle because there is no zipper to tightne them, so they kind of bang around as you walk.  These mid length looked better because they would only bother me halfway up my leg/shin/calf.  

And they were on sale.

And they were really cute.

I bought them and hated them for 2.5 seconds.  Then I wore them around the yard for a morning and happily splashed in mud and puddles and stayed dry!  WHOOO HOOO!

I got myself a pair of the socks to wear inside them called Wellie Warmers. 

And now I am about as sexy as I'm ever gonna get.

I'm not sure which is the hottest part:

a)  an adult wearing polka dotted galoshes
b)  an adult wearing galoshes
c)  the knitted wellie warmers that fold over the top of them
d)  my jeans stuffed into them

It's the jeans, I think.  Definitely the jeans. 

I never worry that I'll be alone if k-ster leaves me.  I figure I'll just post pictures like these on and they'll flock to me.

Linking here

Friday, December 28, 2012

Forget Kissing The Cook, They Almost Flipped Off This Cook

Last week, I brought you this post about the most amazing rolls in the entire world.  They are sweet, dense, chewy and just unbelievable.

I was so excited to make them for Christmas.  I hate store bought rolls that taste like Wonderbread.  These are so much better.  And not at all hard to make, with my breadmaker, that is.  I'm starting to think I'm just too lazy to knead my own bread and I really just wanted a machine to do all of the mixing and kneading, on its own time.

I knew we were going to k-ster's mother for Christmas morning and then to my parents for CHristmas dinner at 12:30.  I really wanted to make the rolls right in time for dinner because the whole problem with the store bought rolls is that they always get burned.  They are always the last thing in the oven and everyone forgets about them.

I thought my bread machine timer would work for the dough setting, so I was planning to have it mix the dough some time in the wee hours in the morning and then I was going to put the rolls into the pan before we went to k-ster's mother's, letting them rise while we were gone.  We planned to leave just in time to get back and bake them.

It was about 9:30 and I assembled all of the ingredients and put the basket into the machine.  That's when I realized I can't set the timer for dough.  So, I had a choice.  I could mix it up then and wait for the almost 2 hours it takes to make the dough.  That was going to be pretty late and then I was going to have to put the dough out for the whole night (at this point, I was pretty sure that refrigerating the dough would interfere with the rising).   Or, I could leave the ingredients in the basket and get up early enough to make the dough before we left.

I chose the second option and went to bed.  And then remembered that there is an egg in there and I didn't like the idea of letting it sit all night.  I know, it's pretty cold in the kitchen, so it would have been fine, but I could just see this being the Christmas we all got food poisoning from those rolls. 

I put the basket in the refrigerator and went to bed.  And then thought about how the honey and oil would get thick and more solid in the refrigerator and might not mix well.

I woke up around 4 which was a perfect time to take the basket out of the refrigerator and let it warm to room temp again.  Then I got up around 6:30 and made the dough.  I had just enough time to roll the dough into rolls and set them out with a towel on top.

This time, I didn't put them on the radiator to rise because we would be gone for almost 3 hours.

Good thing, because they rose like I could not have imagined.  They were ENORMOUS.

I glazed them and put them at 400 degrees like I did the last time.  The recipe says 15-20 min.  After about 8 minutes, they were already that gold and crusty.  They are not crusty rolls, so I was getting nervous.

They were also a mile high so I thought they'd be too big.

I wasn't surprised to see that they weren't really that high, it was all a ruse.  They were hollow in the middle and then they fell. Some were a little bit undercooked.  I was afraid if I left them for too much longer, they would burn on top and we'd be right back where we are every year!

They were still really good tasting rolls but they didn't look so pretty.

I suggest not letting them rise for a million hours unless you make them really, really small to begin with.  My sister suggests putting them in the refrigerator and letting them rise there.  The problem would have been that I wouldn't have had time to let them get to room temperature before putting them in the oven.

In any case, they were snarfed down like it was last time any of us would have rolls, so they couldn't have been too bad!

Linking here and here and here and here

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Nugget of Goodness

While everyone cries when they are handed a fruitcake because they hate it so much, I'm the one running around proclaiming my love for the sticky sweet rings of goodness.  They are filled with dried and/or fake fruits and weigh just over 3.4 tons.  And that is totally fine with me.

I remember getting one in the mail every Christmas from some relative and everyone would roll their eyes.  I especially loved them when they had pecans on the top, stuck in the crazy, wild, sticky goodness.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped getting fruitcake in the mail.  And no one my age ever sends me any.  And I'm not about to go buy my own.

That would be like buying chocolates for myself on Valentine's day.

I'm just letting you know that you can send all of your fruitcake my way.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy this little bit of goodness each year.

My sister a-ster makes these for us for Christmas.  They aren't round and they don't come in a tin.  And I'm sure all of the ingredients are real food and not green pieces of rubber cut up inside.   It  tastes fantastic and nothing like the round tinned kind. 

I think it's a texture thing.  These taste nothing like any other fruitcake I've had, but I don't think it's the taste that I enjoy so much.  I think it's sinking my teeth into the ooey gooeyness and the surprise of dried fruit that has been soaked in some kind of alcohol that just burst when you eat them.

Or maybe there's so much alcohol that I'm just drunk when I eat them.

Either way, I'm definitely not picky about what's in my fruitcake.

Linking herehere  and here

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Which Witch Is Which?

Remember when I told you about going to bingo with my sister this summer?  It was my 500th post, and it portryed a stunning image of what bingo nights at the church are like.  You really should go check it out.

Anyway, I've been to bingo a few times since and I do like it, but it's hard to go on  a Thursday night during the school year.  My sister and her friend d-ster still go pretty regularly and I've joined them a couple of times on Friday night at a different church. 

Same idea, though. 

Lots of old people- like way more than I'd ever expect in the cold, dark winter.  Lots of people yelling bingo.  And lots of old ladies who are too weak tired lazy to yell bingo and keep their hand in the air so the spotters know who won.  Sometimes, it takes the spotters a while to get to them.

Some people have things that they hold up to get the spotters' attention.  One lady has a huge Mickey  Mouse hand that she hold up.  Some have clapper things that they hold up.  Some have lighted wands that they hold up. 

And now, e-ster has her very own attention getter. 

Since she wins pretty frequently at bingo, she gets very tired holding her arm up to signal yet another win.  We employed l-ster to demonstrate the wonders of the Princess Wand on Christmas day.

So now, if the spinning lights don't get the attention of the spotters, the spellcasting noise definitely will.

Once l-ster figured out how to press the button to turn it on and off (thanks to auntiesparkling), she played with it for the rest of the night.  She was more than a little fascinated by the spinning lights and the noise. 

It was referred to as her "scepter" for the rest of the time she played with it.  This is the Merriam-Webster definition of scepter:  a staff or baton borne by a sovereign as an emblem of authority.  She took her emblem of authority very seriously and it wasn't until she went to bed that the baton was passed.

She tried to mesmerize and hypnotize all of us with her wand.  But I think it really only worked on her. 

Or maybe it worked on the rest of us because we watched her play with it for way too long.

Don't you love that cute Santa dress she's wearing?  A-ster made it.

And that pink thing in front of her is not a hard hat or a toilet.  It's a toy called the Bilibo toy and it's to promote imaginative play.  They don't even send directions about what to do with it so that you can really use your imagination and come up with all of the fun yourself.  Of course I had to sit in it because my imagination was taking over.  That deserves a post entirely of its own, so I'll talk about that another day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

No Sir, Not My Baby!

This cartoon was in the editorial part of the newspaper today.  I don't usually pay much attention to those cartoons because half the time I don't understand them and the other half, I don't like them.  To me, comics are meant to be funny, so if they aren't, I can't be bothered.

But today's struck me as a little odd.

First of all, I'm not too thrilled with the baby Jesus looking like a character out of Beavis and Butthead or King of the Hill. 

I already don't like his attitude. 

I'm pretty sure he's saying:

"Yeah, that's right, I'm here.  You got a PROBLEM with that?"
"I'm the freakin' Savior, now bring me some milk"
"Oh look at me, I make rays of sunshine."

Or worse:


Mary's no better.  She threw her hands up right away and was like:

"Whoa, I have NO IDEA where that came from!  Look at me, do I LOOK like I just delivered the Son of God?  And what's with all the light coming off of him?  OMG is he radioactive?  Joseph, I TOLD you we shouldn't have taken that shortcut through the nuclear power plant!  You never listen to me!"

And Joseph's no better, standing there with his shepherd's crook.  Wait, wasn't he a carpenter?  What's he doing with a shepherd's crook? 
Notice how he's like "Hmph, NOT my kid either!"


And notice the animals.  The bull sitting down has a look of "holy cow (I had to do it) I can't believe what I'm seeing".  The one standing is full of disdain with the entire scene going on in his barn.  And The sheep probably just got spanked by Joseph (see his hand?) and is like "WTF is this kid doing in my food dish?????"

I agree that this is one light that will never burn out, but really, Dave Granlund has a lot of explaining to do.

I hope your nativity scene is less distressing to the eyes than this one is!  Merry Christmas!

Linking here and here

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Auntie's Mean Face

When l-ster kept trying to open the doors on the entertainment center, everyone kept telling her no. 

Clearly, auntiesparkling's NO face didn't do much to deter her either.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Make These Rolls This Christmas And Everyone Will Kiss the Cook

On second thought, you don't really want all those winter germs, do you?  Make them for yourself so you can taste the beauty that is these rolls and freeze the rest for later.  Then wow everyone by making them at Easter.  Fewer germs then.

My sister and I now have the same bread machine and sometimes compare what we've done with the recipes.  She's had hers much longer and has had time to try other recipes, outside of the book that came with it. 

When I had my big aha moment a month ago and realized that I could take the dough and make rolls for sandwiches, everything in my life changed.  I have not bought bread in many weeks, maybe over a month now, thanks to regular bread that I made for sandwiches (not a fan, but k-ster is) and recently the most amazing sandwich rolls.

When I mentioned the way we play fast and loose with burning the storebought rolls every Christmas, my sister sent me this recipe and said they were a hit at Thanksgiving.

I made them this weekend to be sure I had the recipe right.  If I didn't die and go right to heaven, then I don't know what I did.  These things blew me away.

The recipe said 4 cups of flour, which is much more than my bread machine recipes say to use, so I was worried that it would be way too much.  My sister assured me it would be fine and it was.  I took out the gorgeous ball of dough and made the little rolls, all snug in their stoneware and put it on the radiator with a towel over it for like 40 minutes.

I don't usually brush the tops of my rolls with anything, but the recipe said to brush on butter and honey, so I did. They look spectacular!  Like I knew what I was doing.

And the taste?  I can't even begin to explain.

They are pretty dense, not crusty and airy like a French roll.  They would be fantastic at breakfast.  Or a snack.  Or pretty much any time, EVER.  I could drop this in the dirt and still enjoy eating it. 

The recipe made 20 little rolls.  I wouldn't go any smaller than what I did.  I might make them larger if I was making them for breakfast or for a brunch, but not for a holiday meal.   I kept out a few so k-ster could taste them and froze the rest for a nice surprise another day! 

He was also blown away by their amazingness. 

I'm debating doubling the recipe for Christmas.  But I wouldn't want to see everyone roll out the door, so maybe I'll just make one batch.

Linking here and here and here and here and here

And don't forget to check out the P&G online store to get some fantastic deals!  If you're going to be kissing any cooks,  I especially like these electric toothbrushes!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Had A Christmas Craftastrophe

If you've spent any time on my blog, you know that I make things and they usually turn out pretty well.  Most recently, I've made these and these and even this and I'm pretty sure they all came out nicely.  As expected, even.

So, when I saw this post about the cutest bath fizzies and how easy they are to make, I was sure that I would make them and they would be the best thing since peppermint bark.  I was going to make a million of them and give them as last minute gifts to everyone I knew:  the mailman, the bank tellers, the newspaper boy, random strangers passing by, the dog walkers, kids waiting for the bus.

So, I assembled the ingredients: 

cornstarch- in my cabinet
baking soda- in my cabinet
epsom salts- in my bathroom thanks to this
essential lavender oil- in my shower
food coloring- got it
water- no problem
citric acid- I'll just run out and get some

When I got to 'citric acid' I should have hung it up right there.  I forgot that when I first started canning applesauce, I had tried to find citric acid because I thought it was a vital component and would keep things from spoiling.  Turns out, it just keeps the apples from turning brown.  Who cares if your applesauce is light brown or dark brown?  So, I gave up and forgot about it.

I heard rumors that Whole Foods has citric acid but nowhere else really does.  We don't have Whole Foods around here, so I figured good old Stop and Shop would have it.

I might have been asking for plutonium, they were such imbeciles.

I had to take matters into my own hands and went to Shaws.  I finally found citric acid in the canning aisle, produced by Ball, the company that makes all things canning.  It had citric acid, dextrose and silicone dioxide.  What harm can those other things do, right?  It has citric acid and it's what I need.

Well, in what can only be pure irony, my cute little green Christmas trees turned BROWN.  Remember how citric acid is used to keep apples from turning brown?  Well, my bath fizzies which were white and dyed green, nary a brown spec in sight, turned brown.

And they were a friggin mess and full of holes.

They are supposed to be moist enough to pack into the little molds, but not soupy.  Well, the trees were a little soupy because I was in a hurry and added too much water.  Just as practically functional had done with her first attempt, I added too much water and had a growing mass of sludge.  Hers dried out eventually, so not to be deterred, I put mine on our radiators and let them dry.  And they still looked like that after 4 days. 

And the worst part?  They wouldn't fizz.  They just sank in the water and broke apart.

So, I tried it again.  I was going to make these cute little gingerbread men.  I was going to make a million, give them to everyone I did and didn't know.

It was going to be legendary.

So, I started again and took much more time.  I sprayed on the water, just like she said.  Over and over I sprayed.  I had what was a slightly packable consistency.  I packed it into the mold.  And I had some left over, so I made little balls.

This was going much better.  No rising bread dough-like behavior.  Very little expansion.

And then the holes started. 

And after several days of drying, I ended up with another batch of unfizzable crap that looked like this.

So, into the trash everything went.  I'm done with the fizzies.  It's back to peppermint bark for me this year. 

I had such high hopes.

I'm pretty sure the silicon dioxide and dextrose in the citric acid blend was the problem.  I'm sure someone can chime in and tell us the scientific reason this didn't work.

We are getting a Whole Foods here this summer, so maybe I'll give it another whirl for next Christmas, when I can just buy citric acid without all of the extras.

And my favorite part?  When k-ster kept asking "wait, are these food?" and I'd say they are bath fizzies and because he didn't know what a bath fizzy is, he ignored me and asked later on "are these food?"   

I'm not afraid to share this disaster of a craftastrophe here:
and here and   here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here!

Monday, December 17, 2012

When I Look At You, All I See Is Teeth

A long, long time ago, I developed a fascination for teeth.  I realized that teeth are really important to me, at a pretty young age.  My own teeth and everyone else's.  I love teeth.

As long as they are clean, straight and white.  But not super bleached white, just naturally white.

I should have gone into the dental field but someone illustrated for me a future filled with sticking my hands in other people's mouths and that was the end of that.  Because, thank God I learned this at such a crucial age, not everyone takes care of their mouths.

I know, the outrage!

Plus, as I know myself so much better at this age than when I was 9 and thought it would be a great career, if I knew more about teeth than I actually know, I'd be so obsessed that I could never listen to what anyone had to say because I'd have so much to tell them about their oral health.  Definitely a good thing I chose a different career path.

When I had braces, I was so worried that I might end up with little white circles from where the brackets covered my teeth, I brushed them after every time that I ate.  Religiously.   Remember the brochures they gave in the orthodontist's office that showed the little white circles on someone's teeth who hadn't been brushing when they wore braces?  This was literally something I thought about every single time I brushed my teeth. 

I was that worried.  I have no idea why, because I had never had a cavity or any indication that I wasn't a good teeth brusher. 

In reality, have you ever seen that happen to someone? 

Remember how back then only fancy people used electric toothbrushes?  You'd see them on tv once in a while.  I never watched Dallas (I can hear the theme song but I was always in bed before it was on) but I imagine that those wealthy, fancy pants Ewings probably had electric toothbrushes.

Well, fast forward to the 21st century and electric toothbrushes are all the rage, thanks to Oral B.  They have many versions of their electric toothbrushes that even us non-Ewings can afford.  I like that the replacement toothbrush heads come in multi packs to help save a little cash.  I love how small the brush heads are.

I can't remember if I've ever posted this, but I use a child's size toothbrush.   It's hard to believe that with all I have to say, I actually have a small mouth, but small it is.  I find that toothbrushes that are made for kids are much better in my mouth, thanks to the recommendation of my hygenist.  Plus, it's a little less plastic, for my environmentally conscious side.

The Oral B brush heads on the electric toothbrush are even smaller, which means they get into every crevice.  I would have LOVED to have had one of these when I had braces.  I could have gotten around every bracket, all around the wires, it would have been bliss. 

I also love that the brush heads have colored bands on them, so more than one person can use the same base and just put their own brush head on it.  No worries of germs being shared!

If you love the idea of an electric toothbrush, or you want to share the love with someone else, or it's time to get some new brush heads, visit the P&G estore

You'll get:
-15% off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA
-free shipping on orders over $25
-free samples with every order

There are a lot of other great products at the P&G estore, so check it out today and start saving!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Cheated On My Christmas Wrapping

I think we all know that using gift bags is the ultimate way to cheat when it comes to wrapping presents for Christmas.

And in my family, we save and reuse those gift bags.  It's a spectator sport on Christmas day.  While everyone is opening presents, I'm busy grabbing bags and tissue paper to distribute and reuse next year.  Everyone gets to go home with a bag and bags and a bag of tissue paper, if they want it. 

We have some bags that have been going around for years and years and years.

I'm kind of surprised I haven't written dates on the bottom to prove my point.  I know, don't encourage me.

Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I have the right size bag with the right person's name on it and my name too for the next Christmas.  This year, I seem to have grabbed everyone's bags but my own, so I have a lot of bags that are to me from other people.  And sometimes, the labels aren't the same size as what I have and it's tricky.

But that's not the cheating I'm telling you about today.

Today's cheating involves actual wrapping paper and boxes. 

Somewhere along the way, I bought a bunch of these ready to wrap boxes and then forgot about them.  You don't need anything except the gift you're putting inside.  No scissors, no rolls of paper, no tape.

They come with a box and paper, all folded neatly.

On the inside, it tells you everything you need to know:

I would NOT have known where to put the box, otherwise.

And then it tells you, step by step, what to do.  And shows where to peel off the paper to remove the self sealing tape.

And voila, there's your perfectly wrapped package.  Very little thought for the wrapping.  No tools necessary.  No tape needed.
But, did you notice the fatal flaw?  No, go back and look.
That's right, steps 3 and  4 ARE MISSING!!!  I had no idea what do before folding inward.  They want you to go right from exposing the adhesive to folding inward.  It seemed a little rash.
I know what this means.  THis means I got these at one of the many discount, knock off stores that we have around here.  They must have gone straight from the mill in China to the discount store because they were missing steps 3 and 4.
Know how else I know they came from the discount store?  Because the paper is so very thin and leaves a feeling on my fingers that makes me think it must be laced with lead, or worse.  Lots of things at the discount stores give me that feeling and I'm certain it's all the bad chemicals they use to make them so cheap.
So, though it took little effort to wrap my presents, they are still not the gorgeous presents we always see on tv because the paper was a bee-otch to work with, even though it was all prefolded.
I'm not sure they will make it from my tree, across the driveway and under my parents' tree without some tears.  That's tears as in rips, not tears as in water from the eyes.  I won't give two $hits if they tear, believe me.  I'm not the gorgeously wrapped present police.

I wouldn't recommend the easy wrap way to wrap your presents this year.  Unless you are stranded on an island with no scissors and no tape, but lots of presents and prefolded paper.

Linking up here  and  here and here  because they have no rules!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Post Will Ensure I Never Receive Another Gift

My name is Sparkling, and I'm a regifter. 

I can't help it.  It's the thrifty side of me.  It's the environmentally friendly side of me.  It's the side of me that can't just stick something in a closet and never use it.

I think it's in my Scottish/Irish/English blood.

Everything must have a purpose.  A purpose deemed by me, of course.  When you hand me a gift and then have to explain its usefulness, I'm probably already running down the list of possible future recipients.

I think the first time I revealed my penchant for regifting might have been in about 6th grade.  Someone had given  me a book that I judged by its cover and chose to never read.  So, when it was my friend's birthday, I wrapped it up and gave it to her.  And only after she opened it did I have a strange feeling that my very own name might be in the front cover.  Yep.  Ooops.

Or, it might have been when I was younger, maybe in Sunday school, when we had the kids shopping day which was basically a yard sale and we could buy all kinds of crazy for just pennies.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  In the Catholic church, no less.  Give my family junk they will never ever use and call it Christmas? 

Little did I know that THEY might regift too.....

My family well knows my desire to get things out of my house that I will never use, while spreading the joy of giving something to someone else.  We all do a pretty good job of giving each other things that we will actually use, usually right away.  We're all purposeful like that.

But since the invention of ebay, there's been a bit of an echo throughout the gift opening session on Christmas.  It goes like this: "if you don't like it, please don't sell it on ebay, I'll take it!  No, really, I like it and I'll use it.  Really."

I don't have to worry about students giving me useless presents.  For about the past 10 years, the only thing I've received from kids is baked goods and you can read about my feelings toward these gifts right here.

Doesn't everyone play the gift card shuffle during the holidays?  You can get an unexpected gift card from someone and then the next day, someone you hadn't planned on needs a gift? 

Voila, problem solved.  Isn't that what gift cards were made for?

What do you mean grandma won't use a card to Sports Authority?  Should I have given her Bass Pro Shops? 

The baby can't use a Starbucks card? 

Sometimes you have to cut your losses and buy a stinkin' gift.

I like to keep that to a minimum.

So, let's recap:

It's environmentally responsible to regift.  It keeps the closets uncluttered, thus reducing fire hazards.

It's thrifty.  You weren't going to use it anyway, someone needs a gift.  It's a win win.

All things need a purpose.  Its purpose can't be fulfilled sitting at the bottom of your cedar chest.  Pass it on and let it have a chance to live out its purpose.

But most important of all:

Do NOT.  I repeat, DO NOT forget who gave you the gift in the first place. 

And as I learned in 6th grade, check to see if your name is in something before you hand it away as a lavishly indulgent present!

In writing this, I have to admit that I don't get upset if you regift something that I gave you.  Chances are it might come back to me anyway!

Linking up here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Make Me Go All Al Capone

K-ster sent this to me today.  I think he might know me kind of well, don't you think?

I can't help it, I learned it from my mother
I can pretty much hold my own in a battle of wills with a spider.  If holding my own means climbing out the bathroom window.
Good call, k-ster.  Good call.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why Horses Are Really 2000 Pound Teenagers

If I've learned anything in  my 4 years of riding horses, I have learned that the middle school kids I teach and these large beasts are really the same animal.  Let me show you:

1.  They walk away from you while you are talking to them and proceed to do whatever they feel like doing.  This might involved standing with their back to you, eating while they study you from a distance to see if you're really serious, running around and/or chatting with their friends.

2.  They don't take you very seriously the first, second and sometimes third time you ask.  In most cases, they only time they really believe you are serious is when you pull out the big stick (metaphorically in the classroom, of course) and use it a couple of times.

3.  Once you do get them to do what ask you asked (by using the stick) every time you ask again, you get a big HARRUMPH every time you ask. 

They are so full of attitude.

4.  All they want to do is eat.  No matter what you give them, they will keep asking for more.   And it's never as good as the last time.

5.  They are gross eaters.  They slobber all over.  They smack their lips when they eat.  And if you give them something sweet, they proceed to smack their lips over and over for a good 5 minutes when they are done.

6.  Their bathroom habits leave much to be desired. 

7.  They smell.  Personally, I love the smell of horses but I know, many of you think a barn is a pretty bad smelling place.  The smell about a horse that I find repulsive is when I pick out the hooves.  I smells like rot.  Teenagers just smell like rot pretty much everywhere.  And when they don't stink of body smells, they reek of those poisons sold in Bath and Body Works or they smell like Axe.  Or they smell like candy apple candy or gum.  An equally foul smell.

8.  Sometimes, on magical days, they do everything you ask and you're both really happy.  You know this is what you're meant to do.  Everything comes up roses.  They glide around on air.  They're practically grinning because they know they've made your day.

This is usually followed by days of points  1-7 to such extremes that you question your ability and your sanity.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

THIS Is What's Wrong With Kids Today

What are Pringles?

Right, they are "potato chips".  But they are really potato flakes and a lot of crap that are shaped into the magical Pringles shape.  A shape that isn't natural, is it?

Have you ever cut up a potato and had it naturally look like these?

Of course not. 

Have you ever thought of which container would be suitable to store leftovers and thought "Hey wait a  minute, this would be PERFECT!"

No?  I'm really creative with what I put snacks in for lunches, but even I would not store food in a ball container.

Don't get me wrong, I've eaten a Pringle or two in my  life and I will admit they taste pretty darned good.  And they do magically fit right over your tongue so you can just pop the whole chip into your mouth.

And how clever that they come in a can instead of a potato chip bag?  Much neater, easier to store and certainly quieter than a regular potato chip bag.

And there is probably some psychological thing that happens when you eat them and you think of tennis balls and tennis and sports and you probably think you are eating tennis balls which you equate with playing tennis and then you probably have the atheltic induced endorphins kicking in with the happy taste endorphins kicking in. 

It's no wonder people love Pringles.  The brain has absolutely no idea what's happening when we eat them.

But today, I saw something that told me the American palate is all done.  Finished.  Kaput.  People have lost all sense of taste.

Because today, I saw an ad for these.  If you haven't eaten breakfast yet, you might want to just skip over the next part.  You will need a strong stomach for this.

Let's review.  What are Pringles? That's right, they are "potato chips".  Which means they are have a potato-like flavor.  Which is well complimented  by things like sour cream and chives, barbeque sauce, jalapeno, etc.  You know, savory flavors.  Things you might actually put on a real potato.

Would you put pumpkin pie spice on your potato?  Cinnamon and sugar?  And God help, me PEPPERMINTS AND CHOCOLATE?


We have clearly blurred the line between sweet and savory. 

If you ask me to come for dinner and you serve me a baked potato, will you put the Hershey's Syrup right there, next to the sour cream?
Will we just skip over dessert and put the pumpkin pie spices right on our potatoes?

And I can't even talk about the peppermint without feeling a little sick.

Tennis, anyone?

**Obviously, Pringles did not ask me to do a review for them for this product.  And hopefully, they never will.**

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Putting the Sweaterdress Dilemma To Bed

When I bought this sweater dress on a whim last month, I realized I had no boots or leggings that would go with it.  This led to a boot searh which ended very quickly and a leggings search which remains ongoing. 

I thought the leggings dilemma was finished when I found these cream colored leggings and wore them for Thanksgiving.

I wasn't overly thrilled that they were really loose and gave me elephant knees,  but I thought they'd do just fine.

And they did for Thanksgiving.  When I mostly sat.

When I wore them to school on a day that I made a million trips to the computer lab and had lunch duty too, I did nothing but fight with those leggings by the end of the day.  The crotch was almost to my knees all afternoon.  The very reason I won't wear tights is because of the low hanging afternoon crotch.

Lesson learned.  I won't wear them to school again.

So, I was back to square one with a sweater dress and no proper leggings.

And the internet helped confirm that going bare legged really isn't an option.

And then I found these. 

Upon first taking them from the package, I was afraid they might be too loose, particularly after the cream leggings episode.  They are pretty floppy and almost more like yoga pants.  They shrunk a little in the wash and I when I locked them in with my boots, they proved to be far better than the cream pair.  I wore them with glee all day and then some.

I'm still not thrilled with the color of the boots even though I thought I loved them when I bought them.  They are also slightly big, which I hadn't realized and not super comfortable like Born shoes usually are.  I think a gel insert might solve that, though.  And I'm excited that after a couple of months of wearing this thing, I can wear boots again and be happy.

And I think I'm wearing too many shades of brown.  This sweater does nothing for me but I continue to think it's a great outfit.  It's comfortable and not itchy, a major plus.  But it draws way too much attention to the boobolas.  It looks like I had implants done overnight , a look I never go for.

So, I'll probably wear this outfit to death this winter and then I'll never want to see the sweater again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Transvestite By Any Other Name

I never reveal my real name on my blog but since I have a total of 2 avid followers and a few out in the clouds, I'll risk it for the purpose of the this story.

I have never been a big fan of my name.  Mostly because I don't like the way people say it.  They attack my name and it always sounds harsh.   It doesn't sweetly flow off the tongue like Molly or Sue or Penelope. 

People attack Js like they are just spitting them out.  They do it with Ts too, so I'd never want a T name.

I've always felt pretty manly with the name JoAnna.  And I used to really hate it when I was little and people called me Jo because then I REALLY felt like a little boy.

I also have met a few JoAnnas in my time and they've been hideous.  Or obnoxious.  Or have some fatal flaw that makes me wish I was not sharing the same name.

Today, Jo is fine. I guess I'm ok with my inner manliness.   Joey seems to be my friend's son's chosen name for me, so I now listen to someone I've known for more than half of my life talk about "Joey" like she's called me that her whole life.  I've made an exception in this case.

But you know what isn't fine?  Joanne.  Because that's not my name.

I know, you think "Joanne, JoAnna, it's all the same right?"  Do you see the A at the end?  It's a whole syllable.  Leave it off, and you should go to jail. 

Grammar jail.  Where you get locked in a cell with nothing but grammar rules written all over the walls.  I before E except after C.... 

I used to just go with it when I was little and people called me Joanne.  I'd secretly seethe and be mad.  Somehow, over time, I learned to correct people and not even realize I'm doing it.  And still, people are like "oh, right, sorry, Joanne" and I say it again and they just laugh.

I tell them it's like if their name is Mary and I just call them Mar because I don't want to say the Y at the end.  Or their name is Peter but I just call them Pete... oh wait, bad example.

So, when you stalk me and leave me leacherous notes and messages, be sure to use all 6 letters, ok?

Back to my story.

The other day, I met a new sub at school.  She was walking down the hall, looking kind of lost, and I happened to be headed toward her.  I asked if she was subbing and did she want to know where the room was.  By this point, I was pretty close to her and she said she was in for someone just down the hall.

I explained where it was and then asked her name.


I so rarely meet Joannas, I was kind of dumbstruck and said "Whoa so is mine!  That's so weird!"  We shook hands.

And then she said "It's nice to meet you" in the DEEPEST voice I've heard from a woman.  And then I took a closer look.

Standing before me, with gorgeous hair, a great body and a cute outfit was none other than a MAN in Joanna's clothing!!  I have never seen a more manly profile on a woman.  There is no doubt in my mind this woman was really a man.  No.  Doubt.

And do you know why I am beyond certain that I have no doubt?  Because his/her name is JOANNA.  Do you know how common that name is for drag queens, crossdressers and transvestites? 

Pretty.  Damned.  Common.

Yep, feeling my inner manliness coming through loud and clear.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wisdom Clearly Comes With Age And Bread Machines

When I was only 37, I was too young and immature to realize that the joy of having a bread machine lies not only in being able to make and bake the bread right in it but also in the joy of making dough and then making rolls!

Thankfully, when I turned 38, I got a new bread machine and started playing around a little.  Now that I'm older and wiser, not only do I realize I can take the dough from any recipe and make dinner rolls out of it that knock your socks off....

I can also make bigger, flatter rolls for sandwiches!  Whooo hooo! 

I am not a fan of sandwich bread, especially wheat bread.  K-ster, surprisingly, told me that the only sandwich bread he likes is wheat.  Since the majority of sandwich bread around here goes toward his sandwiches, I've been making wheat since I found a recipe he likes.

Now that  I've aged and realized that I can make actual sandwich rolls, you can be sure there will be more of those in the future. 

This is a milk bread recipe that came in the recipe book with the bread machine.  I was shocked that it tasted exactly like Wonderbread.  No wonder they just went out of business.  The recipe is right in this booklet!!  This really wasn't the flavor I was going for, but it's not bad, so I'm looking forward to a sandwich or two this week.   I'll try a different type next time.

My master plan is to put a stop to the Annual Burning of the Grocery Store Bakery Rolls, a sport in which my family is a dedicated participant.  This year, I'm making the rolls and I'm not burning them!

Wow, if we do the butternut squash like this and I make the rolls, my mother will just be sitting back with her feet up all Christmas day.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

My Version of A Holiday Wreath

When we were little, my mother always bought a wreath for Christmas and put little wreath ornaments on it.  I loved the smell of the balsam as we went in and out the door.  The wreath ornaments were specifically for the wreath and she always used the same ones.

When we moved next door, she fried a few wreaths because they were in the direct heat of the sun behind the storm door and they browned up pretty quickly, even in December.  Then she found a cool magnetic thing that allows you to put one side of the magnet on the window inside and one on the window outside and it holds the wreath on the outside of the door. 

I think that a few times recently, she might have bought pre decorated wreaths at a fair or maybe she just changed her wreath ornaments because they don't quite look the same.

But I'm not here to tell you about my mother's wreaths.  Ooops.  Looks like I just did.

I'm here to tell you what I do.  For the first couple of years that I lived in this house, I got wreaths either at the grocery store or once, as some fundraiser that someone was having.  Then I put ribbons and bows and wasn't too thrilled with how they looked.  I didn't want a fake bird in it.  I didn't want fake apples.  I wasn't really sure what I wanted.

I knew what I wanted but wasn't of the mind or patience to make it happen.  Plus, I reasoned, it's a wreath.  No sense spending a fortune on pretty things that only a handful of visitors see.

Then, a friend of mine and I were sure we wanted to go to a make your own wreath workshop, but there was some sort of fiasco and then when it was rescheduled it cost approximately 40 billion dollars, so we said screw that.

And then someone said something so brilliant, I've never even thought of having another round wreath on my door again.  She told me that she doesn't bother buying a wreath.  She just goes outside and gets some branches and just sort of "creates" something, throws a ribbon on it and hangs it on the door.

A Christmas door decoration that doesn't have to be ROUND?  Intriguing....

She also told me she lets the spirits of the branches speak to her and tell her what to create.

I drew the line there.

But, given the many types of evergreens here on the compound, and the holly tree that my father seems strangely partial to (only second to this infatuation would be the dogwood that he replaced numerous times because they died and then almost cut down because the current one was too healthy and big...) and a whole variety of berried bushes, I figured I'd give it a whirl.

So, every year, I grab my clippers and "let the branches speak to me".

The branches and I often disagree about the ribbon or bow I'm inclined to include. 

I usually win.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Finding My Inner Twisted Sister

Until Dee Snyder was on The Apprentice last year, I had no idea who Twisted Sister was or who he was or what they sang.  I've never been a fan of "that screechy music" as my mother calls it.  I wasn't into any kind of hard rock or heavy  metal in high school. 

My hair wasn't big enough.

It's amazing, though, how much music from that era I actually know.  I hardly listened to the radio then either.  I was too busy listening to and making mixed tapes and singing along with Amy Grant and Sandy Patti.  Not at the same time though.  And not in person.

Well, once, I did meet Amy Grant in person.  When I was at Vanderbilt, she came to the Blair School of Music to do a talk and I got to sit on stage with her.  Sadly, it wasn't because I was asked to sing with her (I'd been practicing for years!) but because there was no more room in the audience and they had to put folding chairs on stage.

I was pretty underwhelmed by her presentation.  I think she was going through a "phase" in her life, so she was kind of down.  She lamented her poor, easily influenced teen self and how the Christian music world try to make her something she wasn't and cry me a river, blah, blah, blah.  I think it also might have been when she was first interested in Vince Gill and possibly had been or was getting divorced.  I just went because it was Amy Grant and I thought she'd be great.  I don't even think she sang.

Anyway, when Dee Snyder was on the apprentice for the first time, it was for a 7UP spot they were doing.  Remember that?   He wasn't a contestant yet.  Someone had called him to do a favor.  

And he wore something like these.

Which made me instantly lose respect for him because I do not like men in tights, long hair or make up.  Three strikes and he was out.  Though I did enjoy him later as a contestant, even when he broke his finger riding a horse and had to actually have surgery.

Fast forward to last week when I was at Kmart, looking for high quality fashion.  All I wanted was a plain black, long sleeve, v-neck shirt that I could wear under something.  I found it for $6.98 plus 40% off.  I almost put handcuffs on myself because I was sure I was stealing it.

I should have left then, but I remembered I wanted to get some different underwear.  Yep, it's that time again.  Wearing it out like it's my job.  And I recently read somewhere that although we all dread the "high cut" underwear because they are really just granny panties with a little less leg, they are good to wear under sweater dresses because they go higher up on your waist and don't "bite in" and cause indentations in the profile.

I already knew this would be a lost cause because some underwear on me that isn't supposed to be high waisted already comes up to my ribs, so high waisted would surely come up somewhere near my collar bone.  But I found a couple of pair and brough them home.

I forgot to smell them.

I know, how gross, right?  Why would I need to smell unworn underwear and what would the smell tell me, anyway?  To make this long story (about my inner Twisted Sister, remember?) even longer, I have a severe olfactory malfuction and smells just kill me.  Like the simplest smell can make me want to stuff cotton up my nose for the rest of my life.  I've probably mentioned it a time or two.

A few years ago, my mother bought THE AMAZING GENIE BRAS or maybe it was the AHHHH BRAS and didn't like them, so she offered them to me and my sister e-ster.  They turned out to be ridiculous and now you can get them at CVS and not pay shipping, but whatever.  They are much smaller than they claim and they don't appear to be able to do the wonders that they claim on tv.

And worst of all?  They STUNK like burning rubber because they had a lot of nylon in them.  I'm sure you, of the normal olfactory systems, have no idea that your clothing might have that burning rubber smell, but I've had to smell it since the black corduory skirt in elementary school that smelled so much like burning rubber, I had to stop wearing it.  Even after I had sprayed it with Lysol and some other better smelling thing.  Good thing no one lit a match near me.

I have found that terrible smell on a few other clothes, usually dark colors, and have had to avoid them at all cost.

Cue the Genie/Ahh bra.  The black one was the worst, but even the white and beige stunk.  I washed them.  I hung them out for days in the sun.  Nothing worked so off they went to some unsuspecting sniffer.

So, you can see where this is going in relation to the underwear.  It didn't even occur to me that they might be full of nylon stink but alas, they were.  I washed them and dried them in the drier with lavender.  No way jose.  I couldn't even put them on long enough to see if they didn't "bite in".  And because they had been washed, they already had a little bit of a pilled look, so I felt like I couldn't give them to Good Will because no one would believe they were not worn.  Plus, you shouldn't have to smell like burning rubber just because you bought your underwear at the Good Will.

So, back to the aforementioned leggings.  As I carried my black super steal shirt and the reeking underwear (I didn't notice in the store because every piece of clothing reeks of the formaldehyde they put on the clothes, so my brain can't decide what smell is worse) I came upon the Route 66 collection.  I have bought a few of these clothes in the past and if they are cotton, they turn out to be pretty decent and last for a long time.  I fell in love with a sweater dress but I seem to be collecting those like it's what I was born to do, so I didn't buy it.  And then I turned the corner and saw these babies.

I know you just saw that but it was like 10 minutes ago and I'm sure you have forgotten whether this post is about underwear, bras, Dee Snyder, The Apprentice, Amy Grant, my nose or leggings.

It's actually evidence of the state of my mental capacities, but that's another story for another day. 

So, I've been on a quest to find leggings other than black.  I have several black pair and a grey pair and recently, a cream pair that I might have to burn because they made me really uncomfortable.  And when I saw these, I had to jump on them right away. 

I thought they'd look awesome with this long, a-line turtleneck that I usually wear with grey leggings and a bright scarf.

And if they were too wild and insane, I'd wear my black boots, so only about 10 inches of the wildness would show.  But if I was feeling really daring, I could wear them with flats and I'd look like a zebra.

You know how leggings are usually super stretchy?

These were a grave disappointment.  They were not super stretchy.  And this got in the way and they didn't come up over my hips.  Strange because I was sure they were from the JLo collection and she has a couple of hips, herself, so I was sure that wouldn't be an issue!

I was pretty disappointed and I had already washed them, so I couldn't take them back.  Now I can't decide if I should pay another whole $8 and get myself a larger or pair or just forget about it.  They are kind of wild and not me.  But I kind of like that about them.

I guess I'll have to find another way to express my inner Dee. 

I hope it's not with bleach blonde hair. 

Or lots of screaming.

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