Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Latest Disorder

Yes. I am self-diagnosing again. Only because I sometimes have to believe there is some method to my madness. This particular disorder has been going on--pretty much--since the conception of my blog. I have named it Multiple Blog Personality Disorder. If you can think of a better name, feel free to let me know. Here are the symptoms:

- Eventual dissatisfaction, overall, with the appearance of my blog

- My inability to create my own look due to my lack of HTML knowledge and more generally the absence of creativity in my personality (this one may sound a little vague but only because I really have no idea what I am talking about--you ladies out there with your beautiful self-created blogs--my hat is off to you)

- Access to one of the cutest web sites, cutestblogontheblock.blogspot.com that allows me to change the entire look of my current blog to whatever strikes my fancy in about 15 seconds--without losing any information, I might add

I have put some further thought into the reason that I get so tired of looking at the same page day after day. I mean, when I initially pick a random background I am very excited and pleased with the new look (I've even been known to revert back to an old look). But I gradually begin to tire of it until tiredness turns to dread and I know it's time for a change. I also think that this is partly due to the fact that, because of the layout of my house, I am unable to switch things up. My mom was always moving furniture around and I would often come home to a whole new setup. I can't do that. As far as my house goes I am pretty well stuck. So maybe my blog background changes are my way of altering my some of my surroundings a bit. And since cutestblogontheblog.blogspot.com just added bunches of really cute new backgrounds a few days ago, I am ultra tempted. In fact I've been through two different backgrounds in the past two days. I need to pace myself. Here is a sampling (there are many more where these came from and they are FREE):







And really. Aren't there worse things I could change on a frequent basis? You don't see me trying to bring new guys home (I don't even think about that, Eric) or trying to switch out my kids (I may have tried this but it never really works). I'm fairly content with the same five shirts and three pairs of pants that I alternate. (I said fairly. If I had a better body to put them on I would be less than content.) So, in the whole scheme of things, Multiple Blog Personality Disorder may not be the worst problem to have. And until there is some sort of counseling program I do not intend to stop. If you find my constant changes a little dizzying, I apologize. Maybe I think your blog is boring. (I really don't, though.)

How Nerdy are You?




You Are 16% Nerdy



You are definitely not nerdy - in fact, you probably don't know any nerds.

You probably care a little too much about your image. No one will know if you secretly watch Star Trek reruns!



Obviously there is more than one kind of nerd. One for which I would score considerably higher.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

EXPELLED


Have I ever actually gone to a movie theater to watch a documentary? I'm pretty sure the answer is, "no." I have rented them. More often I have watched them on PBS or some other educational channel or in school. But it was worth the $20 ($30, if you count the popcorn and drink--$50, if you count paying the babysitters) that it cost to see EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. This movie, from seriously funny guy (funny in a serious way--do you know what I mean?), Ben Stein, was interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and unusually suspenseful. There wasn't a dull moment--I don't think I looked at my watch once.

What is it about, you ask? In a nutshell (and borrowing the synopsis from fandango): Ben Stein follows his journey around the globe where he discovers that scientists, educators and philosophers are being persecuted in a modern day witch hunt because they dare to go against the theory of evolution. These pillars of education are being fired, ridiculed and ostracized for merely challenging Darwin’s theory; proposing that life on this planet could be a part of some intelligent design and not random chance. This thought-provoking film not only forces us to question what we have been taught but challenges us to ask--What else is being kept from us?

Eric is a bit of an Intelligent Design buff and was very interested in seeing this film. We were not disappointed. We were the second couple in the theater and I imagined that there wouldn't be many more. I was surprised to see the seats gradually fill up. There were even several junior and high school aged kids there as well (probably forced by their parents). But let me reiterate the fact that it was not at all boring. The film was cleverly pieced together with snippets of old footage of the Berlin wall and various other sources.

If you have heard about any of the controversy surrounding this film it would probably be those asserting that Ben Stein equates Darwin with Hitler. I can see where people may take the leap to this conclusion, but I came away believing that Stein is merely pointing to the fact that Hitler was influenced by Darwin. And, having not read Origin of the Species myself, I cannot personally attest to Darwin's exact words regarding survival of the fittest or where, exactly, that line of thinking leads. I'm obviously not a scientist and can only give my opinion as a layperson, but the conclusions Stein came to are very logical.

I'm not sure if I have done this film justice with my ignorant ramblings, but I highly recommend seeing this movie and judging for yourself.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's For Dinner--2nd Edition

I love lasagna. Who doesn't, right? I have a few different recipes that I alternate because of the different ingredients. I found this particular recipe on one of my favorite sites: allrecipes.com. This particular variation grabbed my attention because the title contains my mom's name: Linda's Lasagna. (Click on the link for the recipe exactly how "Linda" makes it.) This one also appealed to me because it instructs you how to make your own sauce--as opposed to the bottled kind. It is a delicious sauce that is easy to make and that can be used in place of bottled spaghetti sauce in any recipe. I also prefer cottage cheese over ricotta in lasagna. I know you die hard Italian cooks out there think that is a big no-no, but I am not crazy about the texture of ricotta cheese. I also tweaked the recipe just a little by using ground sausage instead of ground beef (not going for the "light" version here). And I didn't do it this time, but I like to add spinach to the cheese mixture as well.

Linda's Lasagna

INGREDIENTS


  • 1 pound lean ground sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar

  • 12 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 10 oz package of frozen spinach-thawed and drained (optional)

  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until brown. Drain. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion until translucent. Combine beef and onion in the large saucepan with tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, water, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and sugar. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour.
  2. While sauce is simmering, blend cottage cheese, Parmesan and egg until smooth. Stir in spinach. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  5. Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover sauce with 3 noodles. Cover noodles with one-third of remaining sauce. Top with half the mozzarella. Place another layer of noodles and one of sauce over the mozzarella; top that with the cottage cheese mixture. Top with remaining 3 noodles and remaining sauce.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top and bake 15 minutes more, until golden and bubbly.

As you can see I've added my standard green salad and a couple of slices from a French baguette.

For dessert are Mom's Buttermilk Cookies. I'm not sure whose mom, but she makes some fine cookies. I found this recipe years ago in my Quick Cooking magazine (now known as Simple and Delicious--LOVE this magazine).

Mom's Buttermilk Cookies

INGREDIENTS



  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • FROSTING:
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, optional

  • DIRECTIONS




    In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
    For the frosting, combine butter, confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Frost the cookies; sprinkle with chopped walnuts if desired. Yield: 3 dozen.


    These are so good. It's easy to leave the nuts off for those picky people (Savannah), or let the little people (Haven was VERY helpful "making with mommy") sprinkle any fun colorful thing on top (preferably something edible). They are very soft and kind of melt in your mouth. And check out the plate I made at The Artful Potter! Good times.

    The Worst!

    Okay, so I realize that my views of "the worst" in my life at this moment are not too horrible in the whole scheme of things (i.e.: war, famine, pestilence, gun-shot wounds--that's for you, Tina, etc.). I am just feeling a little (okay, a lot) negative today and hope you will allow me to vent a bit. I follow with today's list of the things that are bugging me:

    1- Toys that require batteries. I am mostly referring to the duration between when you initially install the batteries until the time when they finally run out.


    2- Rude drivers. Don't we all need to merge once in a while? How adversely will it truly affect our day if we pause for a few seconds to let a car--with its blinker obediently blinking--merge ahead of us. This small act of kindness can sometimes make or break a person's day.


    3- Clutter. And I do mean my own. I am paralyzed with the inability to do anything with it. (Eric: Please. No comments. I already know that you know what to do with my clutter.)

    4- Teenagers who can listen to, understand, and follow intricate and multiple instructions at school with impressive success, but who cannot manage to hear and follow through with one request that comes out of mom's mouth.

    5- And speaking of teenagers, is it really possible that my oldest daughter is starting high school this year? It can't be. I swear that I just graduated last week.

    6- Not enough time in the day. I am often depressed by the fact that I will NEVER make it through the continually increasing mountain of books I NEED to read. (Darn that family always insisting on clean clothing and three meals per day!)


    7- Moms that make lunches for their big and very capable teenagers. You're making me look bad, ladies. (Perhaps this complaint should more accurately read: teenagers who complain that ALL the moms of students in their school pack lunches for their kids except for me.)


    8- Little people who think that just because someone gives them a dollar (thank you, grandma!) they have to take a trip to the toy store and they ask about going incessantly. And when I say incessantly, I mean "without ceasing." Or, "nonstop." I have a feeling I know how to stop it but it unfortunately involves a trip to the toy store.


    9- Missing family. Those who are gone (grandmas, grandpas, Erik) and those from whom we live far away. It's hard to miss out on the good times (and bad) and all the news.

    10- Whining. Hypocritical? Yes. I realize my whine about whining is my 10th whine (at least) today. But that does not stop me from being irritated by the large amounts of complaints that come at me from little people and big people alike. I guess I'm just passing the love on.


    Paying homage to number 10, I will end here. And perhaps, after venting, I can now move on with my life, try to be more positive, and possibly go on to someday post a list of "The Best."

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Move Over, Daddy!


    Eric may soon have to relinquish one of his "manly" jobs. Well, hopefully not too soon. I'm pretty sure Ryder's ride-on fire truck doesn't actually cut any grass.

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    The Mall Can be a Scary Place

    I don't pretend to be the most stylish mom on the block. The older I get and the more kids I have results in me dressing for comfort. (I dare say I am a little more up on what looks good on kids--since that is all I buy these days). So you'll have to pardon me if my "in-style" monitor is generally on the fritz. But will somebody please reassure me that I won't see these on the feet of ANYBODY!I know that there are scarier shoes in the world, but I just wonder how these ended up in a prominent spot in Macy's shoe department. If these are in I will choose to stay out.

    Don't get me wrong, I love shoes! But I can't do heals. I can usually handle the chunky heals, but even these are dangerous for me from time to time (note: time to time = yesterday when I fell on my face in my garage in a pair of chunky healed sandals injuring my ankle, my knee, and my pride).

    If you have these shoes or wish you could have them, I suppose I apologize. I really have no right to criticize. They would have a heyday with me as a guest on one of these fashion critique shows. Although last Saturday Haven turned to me and said, "I like your style, mom." Which basically means that she is in trouble fashion-wise if I don't get her some help.

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    Springs Preserve


    Last Saturday we spent the day at the Springs Preserve. We've wanted to check it out since it opened and before it becomes body-meltingly hot here. We ended up splurging for the family annual pass (one result of this is that each member of our family has his or her own Springs Preserve photo ID card--even Ryder and Haven--very exciting). It is a good thing we went that route because we didn't come close to seeing everything while we were there.


    It is a seriously large place. And they are in the process of constructing the new Nevada State Museum on the same property. It's due to open in 2009 (hopefully before our annual passes expire!).




    There are a lot of "hands-on" things for the kids to do.



    We witnessed cool a flash flood!





    The kids had fun trying to build a house.





    I think we disturbed the fox's beauty rest.



    We had a hard time dragging the kids away from the sand box.



    I don't know what Ryder is looking at but he thinks it's cool (it was probably a lizard or a snake).


    Haven tried to sneak into the Dam movie.



    The auction simulating early life in Nevada was really interesting.


    After much hoofing around we were all STARVING!! The only place to eat there is the Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Maybe not ideally priced for a family lunch, but seriously delicious. Eric and I shared a Cobb salad (my choice) and a four cheese pizza (his choice). And while the salad was beyond yummy, the pizza, I think I may safely say, was the best pizza I've ever tasted. I may have to restate that as my past pizza memories come into focus, but really, I would go back in a heartbeat just for another slice.



    The view from the balcony at the cafe is amazing! Poor Savannah. Stuck at the kid table.

    They have a super fun play area complete with gigantic animals and a train:














    The little kids couldn't get enough of the train in the play area. Needless to say we left with them kicking and screaming.

    We didn't have a chance to check out any of the trails so that is what we look forward to next time. Thank you annual pass. And for you locals who aren't interested in an annual pass, they do have a locals special. Good times!