Saturday, January 31, 2009

Valentine's Tree

I bought a 4' Christmas tree on clearance. Originally $19.99, 90% off. So it was $2.00. It is sparkly silver and prelit. Sadly, I did not check the box for contents, however, because it is missing its stand. Well, 2/3 of its stand. Which makes it sort of (ok, very) pathetic, but nonetheless a good deal for $2.00.

Because I hadn't bothered to put it away with the Christmas things, it was set up in the dining room. Wonky. Mr. Lawyer wanted to know what on earth I was doing with it and I decided right then to have the kids make a Valentine's Tree out of it. To a) save face from not having put the tree away by late January and b) to keep the Beastlings busy for a few minutes making decorations.

The worked diligently yesterday and today and I have to say their efforts are quite lovely. The stand is still an issue. It's in a glass jar filled with red scrunchy gift bag filler for now, not the best solution for kids. And on the kitchen counter so Babybeast won't attempt to devour it. And she would. Oh, would she ever.

Mister Lawyer, I suspect, thinks it's hideous. And he's right. But we like it anyway.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cabinet Extreme Makeover

This afternoon I cleaned out a set of cupboards that held a metric assload of craft stuff for the kids which looked really bad. And by "bad" I mean it looked like what would happen if Hobby Lobby turned into a black hole and imploded on itself. Just like that. Total and complete disarray. And the next shelf up held all of my plastic Rubbermaid storage, also in fearful shape.
The thing is, we are cutting down on our plastic usage, not just the BPA-containing plastics which are not welcome in my house, but general plastic use where we reasonably can. For example, while I still store foods in plastic, like the kids' preschool lunches, I try not to put hot foods in it or ever heat items in plastic, especially for the kids.

So I bought two lidded 18 piece sets of Pyrex sets a few weeks ago and needed somewhere to put all that glass. The craft stuff went out of the cabinet, the plastic got reduced by a third and moved up a shelf and the glassware went on the bottom shelf, for easy access. I am sure if I hid it away it wouldn't get used as much as it should.

The craft items were banished to various points in the house, but it all ended up quite well organized. The whole process took the entire afternoon, which is pretty ridiculous. I guess that give you an idea of just how bad it was, huh?

Tomorrow I have teacher conferences midday and then I plan on hitting the nursery (no one's in it right now) and de-cluttering it. Thanks to the generosity of friends with little girls and an eye for sales, I have enough baby girl clothes to clothe the Dionne Quintuplets, especially the early months. So the plan is to organize all of that and make it look presentable in case we decide to give Babybeast the boot from her present location in our room. As if an infant cares what their room looks like, right?

To tell you the truth, and this is no surprise to some, but I really don't like housework. And I'm not very diligent at getting it done, especially with the three little "helpers" I have. Sure the babies get fed and bathed and the really nasty things get done (I have some standards, people!), but I'd much rather read than spot clean the carpet, put away the laundry, or scrub that mysterious sticky substance off the inside of the fridge. So there's my confession. And if you gather nothing else from this entry, then take this in: don't even think of driving by the house and dropping in without calling beforehand.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Flaxseed

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Flaxseed

That's a mouthful isn't it?

You need:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 c ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups oats
1-1.5 cup raisins

Mix the butter and the sugars together. Add vanilla and the eggs. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cinnamon, flax seed, and baking soda. Combine those dry ingredients with the butter/sugar mixture. Add the raisins and oats.

Drop by tablespoon or cookie scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12min. Makes 3.5 dozen if you use the cookie scoop and probably 4 dozen if you make teeny weeny wimpy cookies.

To be honest, I was expecting inedible wheaty oaty hockey pucks, but they turned out very well. Even Mister Lawyer had some (and went back for more). Don't tell the kids that they are healthy and they won't guess that they are.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Now with Tasty Mercury!

High Fructose Corn Syrup creeps me out. This is nothing new - once I became aware of it about four years ago, I started eliminating it from our family's kitchen. It still sneaks in sometimes
when I forget to read labels, but for the most part we are HFCS-free

I wonder how much we consumed before I stopped buying products with it, though? Pounds and pounds of it, I am certain, since its use is pervasive. HFCS can be found in bread, sweetened drinks, granola bars, most sauces like barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, and ketchup, cereal, crackers, canned soups, and yogurt. The list goes on - in fact it's easier to list the things it's not in.

The HFCS manufacturers, courtesy of promotional ads by the Corn Refiners Association, would like you to think that it's harmless stuff, that it's "made from corn," that it "doesn't have artificial ingredients" "has the same calories as sugar or honey" "is nutritionally the same as sugar", and "is fine in moderation." Unfortunately, that's just not true.

For starters, here is a description of how it is made. Tasty, no?

Why not use real sugar, you ask? Because sugar tariffs and corn subsidies converge to make HFCS a bargain ingredient and table sugar (sucrose) much less attractive in terms of product profitability. It's all about the bottom line - nothing more, nothing less.

HFCS is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and more.

And it is used in products primarily marketed to our children.

And so I turn on my computer today and see that HFCS has made the news again. Somewhat (ok, extremely) disturbingly, it appears that there are two basic grades of HFCS. The kind with mercury in it and the kind without. Presumably the kind with mercury is cheaper. Which do you think is used in foods marketed at young children and families such as Quaker, Hunt's, Manwich, Hershey's, Smucker's, Kraft, Nutri-Grain, and Yoplait?

Yes, folks, if you have HFCS in your home, you have probably been noshing on mercury tainted foods. And so have your children.

For the full article, please click HERE.

Please contact the makers of foods that use HFCS (via the 1-800 number on the packaging) and tell them you do not intend to purchase their product until they cease using high fructose corn syrup. And then follow through with your promise not to purchase them - there are many products that are HFCS free, you just have to look for them. And today would be an excellent time to start.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sleep, optional

Memo to Babybeast:

I should preface this by thanking you for sleeping from nine yesterday evening until almost eleven. That's almost two hours straight; please don't think I didn't notice or appreciate your obvious efforts. I'd like to discuss the events which occurred shortly thereafter, however, as they are of some concern.

Firstly, after eating a nice big meal at both 8:30 and 9:00pm, I'm really not so sure you need to eat at 11:00, 11:45, 1:30, 2:30, 3:15, and 3:40. After all, and please don't take this the wrong way, but you are not in any danger of wasting away to nothing. And then when you woke up around 5:00 and I dragged you into the bed (against my better judgment, but really, who has good judgment at 5:am?) I'm afraid I did not explain clearly enough that my near proximity alone is not the same as an all you can eat as long as you can eat buffet. Please curtail your eating needs to two post-bedtime meals per night, effective immediately.

Further, and I hate to take your fun away, but gleefully scaling both your father and I at 7:00am while screeching cheerful baby screeches and poking at our eyeballs is just not going to work for me. I've spoken to your father and he is in agreement on this one. Cheerful baby screeches are acceptable, but not when accompanied by eyeball clawing. Thank you for your understanding.

In short, I think if you follow these guidelines, you will find that I am more more pleasant to be around during the day which only serves to benefit your experience as an infant. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.


The Mommy

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Free Valentines Photocards

Who doesn't love free stuff!

Six free Valentines-themed photocards with envelopes and free shipping from Stories by Everyone, a scrapbooking site. What could be sweeter?

Offer is good through February 1, 2009 only. Enter code VALENTINE when you check out.

And as a bonus, if you have little kids, click on that black and white heart in this post to enlarge it and print it out - it's good for coloring and will keep your little one occupied while you upload his or her photo to make cards out of.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Darwinism

Texas board moves closer to new science standards

AUSTIN, Texas — The State Board of Education moved a step closer to dropping a 20-year-old science curriculum requirement that critics say is used to undermine the theory of evolution.

After two days of heated debate, the board made a key vote Friday in favor of dropping a mandate that teachers address both "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theory.

A panel of science teachers had recommended that the language be dropped, suggesting instead that students be required to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations.

The new standards the board ultimately approves — a final vote on the curriculum proposal is not expected until March — will be in place for the next decade. They also will dictate how publishers handle the topic of evolution in textbooks.

Critics of the "weaknesses" language argue that watering down the teaching standards of origin of man is an attempt to promote creationism in public schools.

Federal courts have ruled against forcing the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.

Critics of the proposal to drop the mandate blame "left-wing ideology" for trying to stifle free speech.

A narrower requirement, adopted in an unexpected amendment Thursday, would require high school biology students to address the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of common ancestry to explain certain aspects of evolutionary theory.

I was just reading an in-depth article on Darwin in Smithsonian Magazine while I had the current issue of the Houston Chronicle on my lap with the above-quoted article on the front page. Apparently Texas is somewhat behind in the scientific world (no surprise, really), but we are getting there, if slowly.

The article on Darwin, if you have a chance to read, it is absolutely fascinating from a purely historical perspective, at the very least, but it also delves into the more recent discoveries that Darwin (along with Mendel, also discussed) planted the seed for with his theories.

Born in 1809, Charles Darwin was born in England to a well-off family of social progressives who were active in supporting the anti-slavery movement. A new book suggests that this background helped influence his scientific interest in the subject of evolution - his hypothesis being that the various human races were not fundamentally separate, a notion that many would do well to remember even now. For more, look for Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond.

Also in the news this week: what you feed your toddler can change his or her genes! Eek!

A new study by the University of Calgary, suggests that a high fat diet can actually affect a child's genes and influence later obesity, by permanently changing how those genes react to certain diets. You can read more here. I wonder, what would Darwin think about that?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Harried Momma Fajitas

is what we had for dinner tonight.

Now, before I start, please note that I am in Texas and I am very well aware of what "real" fajitas taste like. In fact, they are one of my favorite forms of sustenance. However, on days like today, when I am dealing with a minor dental emergency, a weird eye problem (I can't look at the light - it hurts. Yes, I have an appointment about it tomorrow) two three year olds (I have an extra one today), a five year old, and an 8 month old infant who refuses to nap, this will certainly do in a pinch.

Harried Momma Fajitas

You need:

~Chicken - boneless skinless something. Preferably breasts, but whatever else (tenders, etc.) you have on hand would be ok.

~A package of chicken Taco mix (yes, taco, not fajita). Look carefully - you want the kind with no MSG or other disturbing or unpronouncable ingredients.

~ A combination of onion and bell peppers, cut into strips. I suggest the precut kind - the truly harried momma will appreciate this convenience.

~ A 13x9 glass pan

~ A few tablespoons olive oil

~ Foil to cover the pan.

~ Shredded cheese, salsa, and other toppings if desired. I'm a salsa-only girl; this harried momma likes simplicity.

~ Tortillas.

Here you go - throw the chicken breasts whole into the pan. Toss with some olive oil and the taco mix. Add your veggies on top, to the outer edges of the pan. Bake for 35-55min at 350, covered. Use the time to do something other than cleaning the kitchen.

When your chicken is done, break out the tortillas, slap on some toppings, and custom cut your chicken as each person prefers. If your tortillas are cold, roll your creation, and microwave it for about 10-15sec to get it nice and squooshy.

And there you go. Not authentic, but mighty tasty.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The 19th Wife

I've been busy reading The 19th Wife: A Novel by David Ebershoff for the last two days. It was recommended to me by Irishlassie and I found it engrossing.

The book tells two tales, that of a modern day "Lost Boy" who has been excommunicated from his polygamous sect and that of the life and controversy surrounding Ann Eliza Young, one of the many wives of Brigham Young, the savior and second Prophet of Mormonism. Both are spun brilliantly and I found the book difficult to put down. To wit, I finished the 514 page hardcover version in 36 hours.

The author has obviously researched the book in a meticulous fashion and it is impossible to tell where history ends and fiction begins, which is acknowledged in his epilogue. After over 500 pages, I was sad for the book to end, but all in all it was a very satisfying read.

I should note that a brief look at the Amazon reviews suggest that a few people found the book confusing. Anyone who is looking for some cotton candy in literary form and is not prepared to pay attention might possibly find it confusing. However I did not find it confusing in the least and am baffled by the claim.

I am now off to bathe two stinky little boys.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Crafty Crow

I must share* this site, The Crafty Crow, A Children's Craft Collective. It is an incredibly inspiring resource for craft and creative activities if you have young children. Be forewarned, you can get lost in there for hours!

*I didn't type "crow about," however it took all my inner strength not to.

Babybeast at 7.5 Months

She is teething. And mighty crabby about it. I don't think I like that last shot as it has some serious flaws, but here it is anyway. I might add a few more if I have time to work on them tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2009 Veggie Project

I think it's good for kids to grow things - it teaches them where our food comes from, how our food is grown, and how to take care of living things. And it teaches something other than the immediate gratification that most kids are used to.

So being that it's pretty warm here already, I dragged everyone to Lowe's and we bought some veggie planting paraphernalia. Mister Lawyer has issues with me digging up his lawn, so we are restricted to container gardening for now. I thought we should start with little seed posts, since I'm not sure anything is going to grow at all and we chose the greener choice - that being little biodegradable peat pots which are also quite reasonably priced.

I chose organic seed starter and though we should have gotten fully organic potting soil, I just grabbed the Miracle Gro for veggies they had at the exit. I might return that though, since we're using the seed starter so far.

We are using Sunflowers, Snow Peas, Tomatoes, Summer Squash, Zucchini, Carrots, Radishes, and an African Daisy mix.

Here is the planting process. Note how he poured the seed starter medium in ever so precisely?

They had fun, which was important. They really dig that dirt.

I'll report back as to what grows. Not only is it only January, which is not known as an ideal veggie month, but it seems that some of this stuff is supposed to be planted in the early summer and some in the Fall, but it says "after last frost" which will be this month, no doubt (they are in the garage for now). So I guess we'll see, right? If nothing else, the Sunflowers are my safety - if nothing else sprouts, those are sure to grow, probably to impossible proportions. I'll add strawberries later on and whatever else I need to replace those of these that meet an untimely demise.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

100 Most Popular Baby Names of 2008

So this is weird. Mister Lawyer and I are at the exact same number of popularity this year. How odd is that?

I like a lot of these names. But I dislike quite a few as well. And there are a couple I loathe. Yes, loathe, you read that right. Come on people, spelling something (Nevaeh, for example at #97) backward does not make it a cool name; it's lame. And worse, it's lame and difficult to pronounce: a winning combination if there ever was one.

And I'll never understand using the name of a celebrity, or at least one that is less than a true legend. #8 Addison. #40 Keira. #60 Aaliyah. I cannot fathom how a mere character in an evening drama has skyrocketed to number 8 over the last few's nothing short of bizarre to me. But it's not my kid to name, is it? Regardless, this one takes the cake:
A new father has secretly named his baby girl Sarah McCain Palin after the Republican ticket for president and vice president.
That said, there are so many lovely names on there - I love that people are dredging up classic names from the past and giving them another go round, especially for girls. Ava. Lila. Abigail. Evelyn. Grace. Ella. Lillian. I adore Tristan. Julian. Thomas.

Of course they had plenty of hideous trendy names a hundred years ago too, so hopefully they will just stay put in the cobwebs of history.

So anyway - here's the 2008 list, for your reading pleasure:

Girls NamesBoys Names

Name information from

Two "Others?"

I'm going to have to think about this more.

June 2006

Beastling #2 turned 1.

It's taken this long to edit all the photos from that month.

Here is a sampling, taken on my old Sony Cybershot, may it rest in peace:

Take a look at this next one and the one of the Girlchild over on the right. Do you see a similarity?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The New Park

We went to the park today. A new park. I was expecting a tiny trail around a stagnant pond and a few swings, honestly. Nothing special at all. HUGE "lake" with fountains all around it - actually three "lakes," ducks, bridges, fitness stops on the trail, plush playground with cushy landing surface. How did they build this without me noticing? I simply must pay more attention.

Lame Polls

To your right.

I was just figuring out how to set them up and all that good stuff. They are not for any other scientific purpose. And yes, they are lame; I couldn't think of anything juicier when I set them up. The next ones will be more interesting, I promise.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Juvenile Fiction

I'm not normally into it.

But I picked up the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer at the library this week without taking a close look at it; turns out, it's aimed at the teen set. The protagonist is a seventeen year old boy, which was something of a give away. Anyway, I went ahead and read it as the subject matter was quite interesting (human survival after apocalyptic event) and it was quite good.

Amazon says:

When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle. With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.
That's the gist of it and it held my attention very well, even given the targeted audience. It does have some very strong Catholic/faith elements, which might be attractive to young people of faith, though I should add that there is no direct comment on whether a higher power does or does not exist in the book.

If you have a thirteen/fourteen year old and up (there are quite gruesome subjects in it, so I would not advise for a 10 or 11 year old early reader) who is looking for a good read, suggest they try this one out.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Christmas Tree is Still Up looks mighty pretty, too.

I did take the outdoor decor down on the 7th, but the tree still stands. Lit.

I've been taking and editing photos all afternoon instead; these are my favorites so far:

And the prize for silliness goes to....

Friday, January 9, 2009


Sadly, so much damage was done during Hurricane Ike this September, that the facility was closed for several months to repair the damage and clear trails. However, for the most part, the staff and volunteers have done an amazing job of reconditioning the park and preparing it for the Spring. Since it is fairly warm here, plants are already blooming, if they ever stopped. The Beastlings and I had a wonderful time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Promise Not to Tell

I finished Promise Not to Tell, by Jennifer McMahon this morning. It was a compelling, easy read with a well-written, complex story. In short, a good spooky read. I started it yesterday evening and had a hard time putting it down to go to bed. Most of the characters are quite vivid and well woven. I didn't read any reviews or the Amazon synopsis before picking up the book and reading them now, I'm glad I didn't, though the reviews are generally very good. They tend to give away information best gleaned from the book itself.

Off to get everyone ready for the aforementioned Arboretum outing....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Library

I picked the boys up from preschool and asked them, "Who wants to go to the library?" The shrieks of "Me! Me! Me! Me!!!!" made me proud. I only hope they are this enthusiastic about reading in the coming years.

I picked up a few books for me, too. It's good for them to see me reading and of course it's good for me to be reading.

I'm turning off the computer now to go and read them.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Plan B

We were supposed to go to the Arboretum, but the rain put the kibosh on that.

So I tried a new mix. I have what I think is the perfect sugar cookie recipe,* but I got a bunch of this mix on cheapo-after Christmas sale. It comes with a free cookie cutter in each box (also good for Play Doh) and doesn't expire until August. So anyway, I could hardly pass it up, especially since the ingredient list is up to my standards.

So the review is this: they are good. Not as smooth as regular sugar cookies, but they are mostly whole grain, so you aren't going to get that. The flavor, texture, appearance....all very good.

Can you see me in the reflection of the jar? I'm naked.

Just kidding.

Oh, and it made two dozen good sized cookies with the cookie scoop and we had some extra dough after that and made the kids some "pies" with two mini-tart pans and strawberry all-fruit jam.

I'm hoping to do the arboretum on Thursday, so stay tuned.

1 cup Butter – softened
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
2 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Cream of tartar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and extracts; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Shape into a ball. Chill for 1-2 hours. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8" thickness; cut into desired shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on wire racks

1lb Confectioner's sugar
1/8t Cream of tartar
3 Egg whites, room temp.

Sift the entire pound of sugar to remove all the lumps. Place egg whites in mixing bowl and add sugar and cream of tartar to whites while stirring. When all the sugar is incorporated, using an electric mixer, beat until thick and very white. Mixture will hold a peak. This should take 5-7 minutes.

When finished, cover icing tightly with a damp cloth or plastic wrap as it dries very quickly and will form a crust.

To tint icing, use a small amount of color at a time. Paste food colors will not change the consistency as liquid colors will. For a quarter cup of icing, dip the tip of a toothpick into the color, then into the icing. Stir well. If you desire more color, dip again. Proceed gradually. For strong colors like red, royal blue and dark purple, you will need 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 cup icing.