Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How Should I Celebrate? I Just Went to DisneyWorld!!

I have to say, April is turning out to be quite the month as far as school stuff is concerned!! Yesterday was the big awards assembly at my school. For the most part, it's all stuff for the kids (as it should be!), but the 2nd award (after recognizing the yearbook staff) is the dedication of the yearbook.

This year.... (drumroll) it went to ME!!! That's right, my yearbook photo was projected on the super gigantic screen in the gym! (the horror, the horror!!) And it will be plastered all over the beginning pages of this year's yearbook.

They made me climb all the way out of the bleachers and onto the stage to receive my plaque.

Okay, it may look a little weird with all that identifying information erased. And yes, it has a typo. But it's for me!!


I would be lying if I said I wasn't incredibly touched. There was lots of cheering & clapping as I made my way up there. And a big hug from the editor himself. I didn't stop smiling for quite a while.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This is Dedication

Once a month the school has a fire drill. The Powers that Be tend to scatter these things throughout the day, mainly so that no one period loses that much time. And to keep all of us on our toes, I'm sure.

This past month, it went off during my AP Chem class. Ordinarily, this would have delighted them. This time, however, it was during a quiz. A couple of them mentioned they were worried they wouldn't finish. Jokingly, I said that if they were that concerned, they were most welcome to take their quiz & something to write on out to the football field.

The next thing I knew, ALL of them simultaneously grabbed their books & pens & took them out to the field.


Yes, they kept working. No, they didn't cheat. And yes, I really do take my camera everywhere.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grad Nite

Friday night I had the opportunity to be a chaperone for our school's trip to Disney's Grad Night. This is the third year I've managed to get myself invited (as I have not been the senior class sponsor yet), and it's one of my favorite end-of-the-year things to do. I LOVE going to Disney, but it's so stinkin' expensive that our family never really does.

Therefore, I willingly sacrifice a night of sleep for the chance to visit the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, our bus driver somehow heard Animal Kingdom, so it took us a little longer to get there!! Thankfully, the bus unloaded right outside Space Mountain, so we had immediate access into the park.


I'm also totally willing to ignore the fact that they blast hip-hop music all night long. (Actually, since it's not mutated Disney songs, that may be an advantage!)

Furthermore, it's dark (cause it's overnight), so no chance of sunburn or heatstroke. The lines (except for Space Mountain - that one is always at least an hour!) are not too terribly bad, since a lot of the students are busy at the street parties and/or concerts.

This year's nifty chaperone perk was an all-night fast pass onto several of the main rides. (That does mean I rode Space Mountain twice!)

Besides, where else can you get a picture of yourself with Mickey in his cap & gown? (I'm the one in the blue; the other is one of my coworkers.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Turn Off the TV - Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Current Events

Once I'd made the decision to be intentional about my television watching, it suddenly became a lot easier to cut the junk. Daytime television no longer existed. I picked a couple shows that I definitely wanted to make sure I watched during the week. I remember Gilmore Girls was one of them; Supernatural was another for about 2 seasons - mainly because it premiered in the slot after GG.

Suddenly, I wasn't spending evening after evening watching television. (My computer usage has gone up, but in this past year I've spent a ridiculous amount of time working on school stuff.) It took quite a while to acclimate, and at times that meant playing a lot of music to help fill the silence.

We've added a child since then, and they both do enjoy a bit of tv viewing as well. After lots of trial & error, we've settled on one short movie (i.e. 1 hour or less) on weekdays, and one movie of their choice (from a parent approved list!) on weekend days. The kids really do not watch live programming - too many commercials, and harder to fit into our lives.

As my favorite shows ended (or jumped the shark), I've noticed that I don't even watch much live television myself anymore. While I will occasionally watch sitcom reruns right before bed, I can honestly say there is no current show that I must watch. It's been kind of liberating - there are no longer nights where I'm scheduling everything around a certian show.

One major unexpected benefit is that I have begun re-sensitizing myself to some things. Excessive violence and gore truly bothers me, and I really can't watch a lot of it anymore.

It's not to say that I've never missed television, but I do appreciate the fact that it's been relegated to an activity (even a winddown), and not a lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Turn Off the TV - Part 3

Part I
Part II


The Heart of the Matter


There are some people who can do things in moderation. To be honest, I've never been very good at that. Especially with bad habits. One of the few things I've discovered about myself is that I need to totally remove myself from a situation if I am to successfully change my habits in that situation.


So, yes, I did leave the television off for a while. Probably about a month, excepting for the occasional weekend movie that I would watch with Husband. One thing that helped is that it was late spring - everything was in reruns anyway, so I wasn't missing any must-see new episodes of anything. This allowed me some much-needed time to evaluate WHY I had the television on so much anyhow.


(In case you were wondering, after some massive playing & lots of distraction, we were able to help Bird 'forget' about the movies too. At least for this little while.)


When it came down to it, I had the television on as a way to connect with the outside world. I almost never watched videos/DVDs when it was just Bird & me at home, and I realized that it was because I felt like I had a link to real people if I had live televsion on. (And I do use the term 'live' loosely - mainly to mean stuff that was being broadcasted as I watched it!). If something happened in the world, I would know about it because the news affiliates would break in. If I removed that link to the outside world, I felt incredibly isolated.


The problem, however, lay in the fact there were not countless earthshattering news stories occuring, and instead I was feeding my head a steady diet of empty calories and vapid images.


I realized that I needed to take a more active role in what filled my brain, and made a conscious decision that I was either going to watch something, or that the tv would simply be turned off.

Tomorrow, I'll share where we are today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Turn off the TV - Part 2

Part I can be found here.


The Breaking Point

In all honesty, Bird did not pick up TV watching from me. I know that sounds crazy, but since I didn't spend all day sitting on the couch watching it, neither did she. In fact, she did not pay any attention to it at all until one fateful trip to visit my in-laws.

(Bear with me, I'm still a little bitter about this!)

My mother-in-law always wanted a little girl. She raised two sons, but still wished for the happy, giggly, pink version to dress up & play with. Apparently, one of her other daydreams was to while away the hours while watching Disney movies.

One of the evenings we were there she & my father-in-law told us to go out to dinner by ourselves. Considering how hard it is for us to ever have a date night, we took the opportunity & went as fast as we could!

Unfortunately, my mother-in-law DOES spend all day sitting on the couch watching television. As it turns out, Nana spent the evening convincing Bird that she really needed to sit on the couch and watch Cinderella. When I say convince, I mean that Bird would lose interest - as she usually did, try and walk away, only to have Nana convince her to sit down & watch more tv.

How I did not completely lose it when I found out what happened, I'll never know. Maybe a little bit of maturity snuck in!

When we returned home, all Bird wanted to do was plop down and watch whatever I had on. Well, that just wouldn't do! Remember, all we had was network television! You know, stuff like Judge Judy, Who's the Boss reruns, game shows and loser talk shows (you know, stuff like "I fathered 15 children with 18 different women & I really stink at math and the state should PAY me just becuase I'm alive & I look goooood").

Which got me thinking.... if I didn't want this sort of crap in my child's head, why was I filling my own with it?

I turned it off right then and there. It was eerily quiet.

to be continued....

Monday, April 21, 2008

Turning off the TV - Part 1

The Junkie

Today marks the beginning of Turn Off Your TV Week. The idea is to challenge yourself to turn off the television for an entire week - mainly to see if you can survive, I suppose.

Growing up, I was a mnimal television watcher. We did have a satellite dish, but for the most part I was just too BUSY.... with my nose stuck in a book, to be honest. I was an occasional - usually weekend - viewer, mainly whenever I could find a good scary movie or a really stupid sitcom.

Then I went away to college, obtained a television of my own, and discovered cable television. I mostly blame The WB, TLC and Comedy Central for my addiction. But there were so many good shows and movies!

By the time I was married, I'd turned into a full-fledged junkie - needed the thing on all day long if I was home. Considering I did not work outside of the home the first couple of months, I had plenty of time to set up house (well, technically apartment) and listen to completely inane yammer. Though I wasn't always watching, I'd grown accustomed to having the noise on in the background, and felt lonely if it was silent.

Then we moved into our house. No more cable - with a mortgage, we were cutting corners wherever we could. So we bought a set of rabbit-ears & have only had those ever since.

I swear I have a point coming up soon....

I still had the tv on whenever I was home. I was now working, so it wasn't all day, every day - but it was still on from when I got home until I went to bed, and that was several hours a day.

After Bird was born, I still kept the tv on for company. In fact, I discovered how late into the night the networks would show reruns. (3am for my favorites, in most cases).

Eventually, though, Bird got old enough to notice the television. That was a sad day for me.

Or really.... it was the day I began to take a long, hard look at my habit.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Conversation of the Week

De-evolution

Husband: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Bird: Five.
Husband: Oh, you'll be five, eh? But what do you want to do?
Bird: I'll be a teacher.
Husband: You mean like Ms. A and Ms. M {her Preschool Teachers}?
Bird: Yes. But when I'm five, I'll be the teacher.
Husband: Oh, good. And what will Bug be when he grows up?
Bird: Shamu.
Husband: So he'll splash everybody in the pool?
Bird: Yeah. He'll splash everyone with his big tail.
Husband: But Bug doesn't have a tail.
Bird: He will when he's ten.

Friday, April 18, 2008

And Then I Hugged Them a Little Closer

Two nights ago our doorbell rang around 8:20. It was our sort-of-next-door neighbor (our street has a funny shape), wanting his son (C) to come home since it was kind of past his bedtime.

We'd sent his son home an hour ago.

In fact, C had left to go finish his dinner (pizza rolls) so quickly that he'd left his bike in our garage. Bird had walked it to his house before she'd gotten ready for bed.

Husband, being much, much more confident (looking) in the face of things that look bad, went straight to Bird's room. She was still awake, so he could ask her a few questions.

H: Bird, when you took C's bike back, where did you put it?
B: I gave it to C.
H: You did? Where was he?
B: In front of his house.
H: Did you talk to him?
B: Yes, but then he got in the car.

(This is where my heart began to pound. Really pound. It took all of my willpower to not jump into the conversation at this point.)

H: Really? Was anyone else in the car?
B: Yes, I (another neighbor boy) got into the car too.
H: So they were both in the car?
B: Yes. I said goodbye to them.
H: Was there someone driving the car?
B: Yes. I's mommy.

(Exhale).

Turns out that C went to church with the other neighbors without telling his parents first. As I was relaying the story to the father, another neighbor reached the woman at church and confirmed that C was, in fact, with them.

Thankfully, this night had a happy ending.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Recipe for a Headache

Ingredients
- computer
- work email account
- fire alarm system
- incredibly zealous/incredibly incompetent fire alarm tester

Directions
1. Go to work & log in to your computer.
2. Open Outlook.
3. Receive email stating that the fire alarm will be tested around 4pm today.
4. Made resolution to be off campus by 4pm.
5. Wonder why the alarm needs to be tested again, since it's been tested a couple times in the last two weeks already.
6. Remember that fire alarm people are also run by beaurocrats and stop asking silly questions.
7. After lunch, receive email that fire alarm testing has been moved up to 3:30pm.
8. Realize that you will not escape school before it starts, since classes end at 3:10pm, and resolve to just get lots of work done at school amidst said alarms
9. Watch 3:30 come and go with nary an alarm.
10. Get really caught up in that powerpoint presentation (Woo! Equilibrium is fun!).
11. Jump out of your seat at 3:50 when the alarm goes off.
12. Go back to work a minute later when alarm stops shrieking.
13. Repeat steps 11-12 a minimum of 3 times until head is nicely throbbing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Adventures in Breadmaking - Part II

Find Part I here.

Like I said before, it took me about 2 weeks to figure out what ingredients I really needed and then to actually start using the breadmaker. These have been my efforts over the past month or so.

According to Mr. Coffee's recipe book, a good starter loaf was just plain old White Bread.



And I have to say.... it was very tasty. This was the smallest size - one pound - and it was light, fluffy, and just very good. Even Husband liked it. (The kids are like me. Bread? Eaten!)

Second, I tried a Cherry loaf.



I picked this one to try because you used cherry juice instead of water, and you also added in dried cherries. It's kind of hard to tell scale here, but this was a 1.5 pound loaf. I'd expected it to come out taller than the white bread, but it was the same height. So I had a denser loaf instead.

It did not taste quite as cherry as I'd hoped. The scattered chunks of dried cherries helped with that though. This bread tasted really good when I slathered lots of butter on it & then warmed it in the microwave.

Next up, I decided to try making garlic bread. My Mr. Coffee book did not offer any options, so I scoured the Internet until I found something that sounded promising. (i.e. I had everything in the cupboard already!)

Technically, I still didn't have the correct seasonings, so instead of pulverizing garlic cloves, I just used garlic powder. And a bit of Italian seasoning. But the recipe also called for parmesean cheese, so how could it go wrong?

As it turned out.... the bread tasted good, but it wasn't GREAT all by itself. (Figures that this was the first loaf I was sharing outside of the family!). Perhaps if I had brought garlic butter, it would have gone over better.

In the end, there were leftovers, and I let them stand for a couple of days. Then I sliced them into little slices like this.



The dish in the middle contains olive oil, black pepper, and more Italian seasoning. Made that bread downright YUMMY.

Last night, I decided to try another juice based recipe. And the sweet-bread setting. The result? Orange-cinnamon bread.



I tried this bread because the liquid is orange juice instead of water. (Yes, I'm back to the juice thing.) This loaf finally rose like bread is kind of supposed to! It's not as dense as the cherry or garlic bread was; this had more of the consistency of the white bread. Taste-wise, you can pick up on the hint of cinnamon, but not the orange juice. Bummer.

So far... still in love with the bread machine! Especially the smell when it's baking.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Adventures in Breadmaking - Part I

For a few years now, I've wanted a bread machine. What can I say - I love bread! It tastes great, and smells divine when it's cooking. I'm half-Italian - carbohydrates are very important. And tasty. Unfortunately, I never really paid attention when Grandma gave cooking lessons, so I do not know how to make my own pasta or bread from scratch. (Or marinara sauce, and that is really what makes her spin in her grave.)

It was very hard to reconcile this want with the fact that I am a cheapskate. Back when we were young & preparing for our wedding, I stayed away from asking for many major kitchen appliances. Mainly because I never saw myself using any of them. I read far too many magazine articles that warned brides against getting things like espresso or bread machines - items that would simply clutter your cupboards & gather dust until you sold them at a yard sale or chucked them at the first charity that would come pick up your crap. So I stuck with practical things like toaster ovens & blenders. (And then there were people who ignored the list & gave us things like our beloved microwave, which got a lot of use, and our crockpot... which really hasn't. I should probaby work on that.)

Ahem. We were talking about a bread machine, weren't we? And me being a cheapskate. However, I am a cheapskate with high standards. I wanted a secondhand machine that looked new (if there are so many people who barely used their machine, it should be easy to find one!), was a reasonable price (i.e. $10 or less. Told you I was cheap.), and had the owner's manual. (And I wonder why it's taken me years to find one?)

So, one morning when we were garage sale-ing (this one, actually), I finally hit the motherlode. Several families had joined forces and had a TON of stuff for sale. In fact, they had not one, but THREE breadmakers on their table. Which is when I saw it - a Mr. Coffee Breadmaker.


I'm not sure how old it is; I only know that Mr. Coffee doesn't even make them anymore. But it wasn't even dusty (unlike the other 2 sitting there). All three breadmakers had a pink $10 sticker, so the price was right. And then I peeked inside. Sure enough - instructions AND a recipe book! Bonus! Thumbed through the book to make sure all the parts were there (they were), and immediately went to pay for it.


A couple of weeks later, I'd managed to determine what ingredients I needed to buy and was set to start baking. I'll show you the results of that tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dirvish

I woke up this morning & began the day like I usually do... and then I looked at the clock, saw it was 6:30am and I'd been dreaming the whole morning prep.

Not exactly an auspicous start to Monday!

5 weeks + 1 more week for finals..... not that I'm counting!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's the Weekend

This week has been crazy... clearly we are closing in on the end of the school year!! Consequently, there are lots of things I'd like to write... but really can't as I know this little hovel is not exactly invisible.

Anyway, just so you all know I'm still alive, here's something I've shamelessly stolen from Marie.

~~~

Use the first letter of your name to answer each of the questions. Your answers must be real places, things, names... nothing made up. If you can't think of anything, skip the question. You can't use your name for the boy's/girl's name question. If your name happens to start with the same letter as mine, sorry, you can't use my answers.

(although seriously... the letter J?! I may get more of a mental workout than I planned!!)

FAMOUS SINGER: Janis Joplin
FOUR LETTER WORD: Joke
STREET:
COLOR: Jade (that took some serious searching!)
GIFTS/PRESENTS: Jasmine (it's a flower)
THINGS IN A SOUVENIR SHOP: Jacknife
BOY'S NAME: Jason
GIRL'S NAME: Jessica
MOVIE TITLE: Jurassic Park
DRINK: Juice
OCCUPATION: Jury foreman (didn't say it had to be a full-life career!)
CELEBRITY:
MAGAZINE: Jane
U.S. CITY: Jacksonville
PRO SPORTS: Jai-alai
FRUIT: Jujube (yes, it is a real fruit!)
REASONS FOR BEING LATE FOR WORK: (had to) Jumpstart the car
SOMETHING YOU THROW AWAY: Junk
THINGS YOU SHOUT: JUST STOP!!!
CARTOON CHARACTER: Jerry (as in Tom & Jerry)

If you're reading this then consider yourself tagged. If you want to be!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Egg-Free Monsters Jumping on the Bed

Shortly after Bug turned a year old, we figured out he was allergic to eggs. Once we completely cut them out of his diet, his skin started clearing up, and in general he became a much more likeable person. (Or maybe it was the fact that he could crawl. Whatever.)

He hadn't outgrown his allergy by the time we reached his second birthday, which meant I was tasked with making an egg-free cake for him. Because he was going to eat cake! Already he had a far sweeter tooth than Bird did at that age, and he was also old enough to notice that I was not letting him eat cake at other parties. (Not to mention he was getting tired of graham crackers.)

Since he was turning 2, he really had no opinions as to the type of cake he wanted. So I decided to base it off of his favorite book, Five Ugly Monsters - a tale of lots of ugly monsters jumping on the bed & bumping their heads.

Here's how it turned out:



The Recipe
Not sure where I found this, but it was oh-so-easy! Especially for those of us who do NOT make cakes from scratch. Unfortunately, this is not for those who have wheat or milk allergies.

INGREDIENTS
· 1 (5 ounce) package non-instant pudding mix
· 2 1/3 cups milk
· 1 (18.25 ounce) package cake mix
· 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (optional!)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
2. Combine chocolate pudding and milk in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring frequently.
3. Remove pan from heat and add in dry cake mix. Mix together and pour into the lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan.
4. Evenly spread the chocolate chips over the top of the cake. (Note: Do not do this if you plan on frosting the cake later!)
5. Bake at 350 degrees F(175 degrees C) for 40 to 45 minutes. Let cake cool and serve.

Editorial comments - I could only find cookable chocolate or vanilla pudding at the store. I put chocolate pudding in with the chocolate cake mix, and vanilla with the yellow cake mix. Make sure you are reading the labels; they do not necessarily come in 5oz packages.

Now, eggs are apparently one of the things that will make a cake rise, so while this cake is moist & delicious, it is very flat. If you look closely at this shot from the foot of the bed, you can see the chocolate layer - that was from one cake mix, and it's maybe 2 inches wide.



Because of that, the actual bed part is 2 batches - so double all the ingredients.

In order to make the headboard & footboard, I cut the 9x13 cake across into 2/3 and 1/3 pieces Then I used a compass (drawing, not direction) to draw an arc on a sheet of paper, cut it out, and used it as a stencil.

The Frosting
I will unashamedly admit to using chocolate frosting out of a can. There is only so much one can do!

The red is my frosting. (A box or 2 of confectioners sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla, a scoop of Crisco, and enough milk to make it the consistency I wanted.) It took an entire pot of Whilton dye, and an awful lot of a bottle of food coloring to get it that red. (And yes, it had to be red. The boy in the book had a red comforter!) Consequently, it took an awful lot of extra powered suger to thicken the frosting & keep the stuff from looking like stage blood. It was still a little runny, so when I used the straight-tip, the stuff kind of melted into itself, making for a smooth, stripy-looking comforter.

The Monsters
I really wanted monsters that nobody knew. After all, it wasn't like this was a Sesame Street party or anything. Thus began a really long search that ended nowhere. EVERYthing in all of the stores were licensed characters. Apparently we don't make up too many characters of our own anymore.

Finally, as I was falling asleep one night, I remembered owning some monsters. And I also remembered keeping a plastic container of all sorts of plastic creatures. All I had to do was find it in the attic. Thankfully, a couple of hours later, I was successful!

On the bed... the blue monster is Figment in a space suit. The purple & green monsters were from a MacDonalds Happy Meal sometime in the mid-80s. The red monster was from a Wendy's Happy Meal - probably around the same time. I have never been so happy to be a pack rat!

The one licensed character I couldn't avoid is Sully (from Monsters Inc). He wasn't quite tall enough, so I have him propped on some extra pieces of chocolate cake.



The little boy is Harry (not Potter), though Bug was convinced it was him. Even though Bug doesn't have red hair.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Amazing Science

Another email forward, but this one made me giggle.

A new addition to Chemistry's Periodic Table Research has led to thediscovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element,Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputyneutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to complete to requiring anywhere from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years; It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that

Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Karma's a beast

After teasing Husband about Bug's gaming skills, I had the chance to go head-to-head with the boy.

I very quickly beat him in a game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O. He countered by beating me, and then owning me in a game of Candyland. Seriously. He was sent practically all the way back to start, and STILL got to King Kandy first!



I'm thinking we ought to start teaching him the finer points of poker.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Mama's Easter Eggs



PS - the April Fools joke? Went fantastically. :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool!!

Do you celebrate April Fool's Day?

I admit, I love it when it falls on a weekday and we have school that day. Mainly because I will do a "pop quiz." Only I don't exactly call it that. Mainly because I don't agree with many of the philosophies behind pop quizzes and my students know that.

So, since yesterday was the first day back after spring break, I told them that I might be inclined to do a reading check today. You know, to get them back into the swing of things. (I need them reading anyhow, so two birds with one stone and all that.)

Except that the quiz will be a little different. The questions may only slightly have to do with this chapter, and be far more nit-picky and ridiculous in nature (i.e. What color ink was used to print the formulas?). I will give it to them face down & tell them it is timed - 5 minutes only. They will sweat. They will fidget. Some might complain, and I will tell them to do the best they can.

Only once time is up & they have switched papers will I flick on the projector.

APRIL FOOL

I only hope I can keep a straight face until then. :)