Saturday, December 29, 2007

This is just hilarious

As I was driving around downtown Salt Lake today, I saw a billboard advertising John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, and it gave a website. Now I'm a huge They Might Be Giants fan and one of my favorite songs is their song about President James K. Polk, the 11th President. I really learned a lot from that song and it inspired me to go look up the guy in Wikipedia. And I'm covering American History with my kids in homeschool, and they'd expressed an interest in learning more about the Westward Expansion era. So I decided to go to the website on the billboard and see what it said. When I saw the website... well, see for yourself. (work- and kid-safe)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Christmas Party

I can't believe I actually pulled it off!

We had a dinner party with 14 people last night (6 adults, 8 children). It was a lot of fun! And all of it, except for the interventions by my Favorite Husband (grrrr), was entirely milk-free, egg-free, and nut-free.

Crown roast of pork
Apple-apricot wheat stuffing

Mashed sweet potatoes
Apple pie
Pumpkin pie

Behind my back FH asked one of our guests, his best friend and his new bride, to bring a platter of summer sausage and cheese, because I'd already told FH that I wouldn't serve a platter like that at the party. FH also brought home a ginormous tub of ice cream and some yogurt and cheese. This upset me because then I had to spend the entire meal being the Milk Police. FH seems to think that if he puts milk products out and wishes really hard, that Knuckles will not experience any negative effects, and that if he puts the platter up high after all the kids have raided it, that Knuckles won't get any cheese. It's like he has no clue that there's a reason (other than my nonexistent desire to be a Cheese Nazi) behind my wanting to rid the house of dairy products. I ended up having to pick up little pieces of cheese and milk-containing crackers off the floor, put up the plates of other children so that Knuckles wouldn't get ahold of their cheese and crackers, etc. when I would have really loved to spend more time sitting down with our guests. It's bad enough I have to spend every day of the year snarfing down my food so that I can tend to everyone else's needs during dinner. I just wish Christmas could have been an exception.

The other guests were our neighbors, the family of Princess' best friend. I had asked them to bring a salad, but they brought Jell-O. I'd been thinking of a green salad, but I forgot that in Utah, Jell-O is considered a salad. It was all right because the Jell-O was a big hit with the kids.

The crown roast of pork with apricot-apple stuffing is one of my party specialties. I got the recipe out of a now very old book that my aunt gave my family for Christmas one year. That book was my Christmas Bible for many years. I don't remember the title anymore though, but I've made half the crafts in it. My parents probably got rid of it when they pared down their library after their basement flooded.

The apple pie was just the standard apple pie off the back of the Minute Tapioca box. I used Wal-Mart's house brand pie crusts because they're cheap and don't contain milk like some higher-quality crusts do.

The pumpkin pie was the recipe I made before as Pie #2 in this post. They begged me to make Pie #1 but I just didn't want to hassle with trying to figure out how much cornstarch it would really take to make it set. It did taste better this time, however, because I realized that while the recipe calls for 8 ounces of tofu, tofu comes in 1 pound tubs. So this time I made two pies and they tasted much better. I used Marie Callender crusts because they were the only ones that Macey's grocery store carried that didn't have milk in them, and I only had time for one errand, and the roast had been ordered at Macey's, so it had to be Macey's.

The baklava was made according to a standard baklava recipe, with sunflower seeds substituted for the walnuts. I also added 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves, and a generous dash of cardamom to the sunflower seeds. I like my baklava with that kind of spice combo. I also added about a tablespoon of lemon juice to the syrup. But I forgot to make extra syrup, so I had to make a second batch, which I made without the lemon juice. I actually had to make the second batch twice, because the first time I tried to make it FH was upset from not being able to find the camera, and I had to get the kids into a different room from him before he started taking his frustration out on them by threatening to break their Christmas toys, and that meant I left the pot unattended and ended up with a saucepan filled to overflowing with carbon. I'd had an idea, though, that I might try in the future: adding a shot of Torani syrup to the sugar syrup. I thought maybe cherry or caramel.

The mashed sweet potatoes were just standard mashed potatoes, only made with sweet potatoes. Instead of the traditional cream, I added milk-free Nucoa margarine and a bit of brown sugar.

Friday, December 21, 2007


This is exactly why I sent my homeschooling affidavit in by certified mail with return receipt. I wanted a neutral third party involved so that the school district couldn't "whoops" lose my affidavit. The other homeschoolers told me that the lady at the district office was a notary and could notarize my affidavit and I could hand-deliver it to her right as she signed it, but I wanted to get it notarized at the bank so that there'd be someone else who could give evidence that I'd had it notarized, someone not employed by the district who could conveniently not tell me apart from all the other homeschoolers, or deny I'd ever been in.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thought Of The Day

Two wrongs make a right. Three rights make a left. Therefore six wrongs make a left. This is why everyone should vote for Republicans.


Yeah, the holidays are driving me nuts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Strange Tradition

There's one thing I've never adequately understood about Utah culture, and that is the tradition of giving goodie plates at Christmastime. Festive paper plates with a selection of holiday treats are carefully wrapped in plastic wrap, labeled with gift tags, and personally delivered to neighbors' doorsteps. Of course, the idea of exchanging gifts at Christmas is not a new one, and the notion that those gifts should be inexpensive edibles is not a stretch either. But the Utah tradition is to give a plate of goodies in a manner that makes absolutely no sense to me.

First, there seems to be no attempt made to match the plate to the family. People who know we have food allergies-- even people who know what those allergies are-- give us goodie plates full of things made with nuts, milk, and eggs. They apologize as they give them, but they still give them! I'm forgiving of that, since most people don't know how to cook for food allergies. But then there's the issue of quantity. Our family of six has received numerous goodie plates with enough treats to serve only four or five. Keep in mind that these plates are not indiscriminately distributed to neighbors; they are given to specific families that are known to the giver, labeled with the family's name. The people giving us goodie plates know there are six of us.

Second, the goodies are almost always perishable; none of them last more than a week. Yet Utahns give them anyway, knowing full well that so many of these goodie plates will be circulating around the neighborhood at the same time that no one could possibly eat that many goodies. One year (pre-food-allergies) we literally received so many goodie plates that we could only have eaten all the goodies on them if we ate goodies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They went bad on the plates and we had to throw them away.

Why do Utahns keep giving away all this perishable food in an indiscriminate matter? What does it signal?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Math 1010 is "in the can"

The ordeal that is Math 1010 is OVER. I got my grades in this morning while Bagel was poking me with a sharp stick (I'm not exaggerating... he spent his entire morning in or near meltdown mode, because finals week's weird schedule is driving him crazy.) Only 10 of my students didn't get an E (SLCC's take on the F) and out of those, only 7 got a high enough grade to move on to the next level. I suppose that wasn't entirely unexpected, seeing as how toward the end of the course there were only about 10 students regularly attending lecture, but I find it pretty demoralizing. I just don't know what I can do to counteract 13 years of conditioning to get these students to take schooling seriously. If having to pay their own hard-earned money for it doesn't do the trick, I doubt there's any kind of class participation grade I could give that would make a difference.

Math 1090 finishes tomorrow, and I should have it in the can on Thursday.

Gift Ideas

It's almost Christmas, and while my shopping's done for the other three kids, I have scarcely anything for little Knuckles, who is almost 2. I just have no clue what a normal 2 year old boy would want for Christmas. He's pretty well set for clothes because he's got all Bagel's recent hand-me-downs, and he'd probably like some toys. Any recommendations?

Also, we are very proud of Knuckles because this week he started saying some words that didn't sound like "buh". Up until now the only sound he really used as a word was "buh" and it stood for anything that started with B. Consequently he liked bunnies and beds, and ate a lot of buttered bread and bananas, all of which he referred to as "buh buh buh". So it's great that he's finally learned a word that doesn't start with "buh".

The bad news is, the word he's started using is "mine."

Welcome to Toddler World...

My Little Brother

Thanks to having three older sisters, the oldest of my little brothers learned how to move fast. Now that he's all grown up, he does that with cars. (Mild profanity warning.) My parents don't like that he does this, but FH and I are proud of him.

He's looking for sponsors, so if you've ever wanted to see your name or your business name moving at like 200 mph at Bonneville, send him an email.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Me, the Curmudgeon

This is a post that starts with "When I was a child..." and proceeds to lay out how the world was so much better then. But I post it anyway, knowing how worthless such thoughts are, because I'm wondering now what changed and why it seems like I'm now the only one who thinks crazy thoughts, like that it's valuable to transmit culture through time or eat with your family at mealtimes.

One thing that has come to my attention this week is that cartoons these days aren't what they used to be. Cartoons for children used to be full of cultural references, at least as late as 1993 (Animaniacs). They had a classical music soundtrack, poked fun at institutions, and paid homage to images and tropes in history and culture, like knocking the arms off a statue to make it look like the Venus de Milo. Nowadays, children's cartoons (with some notable exceptions) are their own little insular universes, complete with merchandise. Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry brought current events into cartoon form in one way or another; but you never see Dora The Explorer exploring foreign lands, Bob The Builder commenting on architectural styles, or SpongeBob SquarePants borrowing plots from Homer or Shakespeare. Children's shows have become less of a vehicle for social commentary or transmission of cultural memes, and more of an escape from reality. I wonder what that says about our culture.

The other thing that has come to my attention is that mealtime attitudes seem drastically different than they used to be when I was growing up. Princess' friends came over today, and they were all consuming hot chocolate very close to dinnertime. Princess wanted to serve them a snack, but I said no because it was half an hour till dinnertime and "your moms wouldn't appreciate it if I ruined your appetites." The girls averred that their moms wouldn't care, that they were allowed to eat as little as they'd like, so long as they eat at least five bites. These are hardly the first children who've wandered into our home apparently accustomed to eating any quantity at any hour. I know some of my friends do the structured snack/lunch/snack/dinner schedule, so I know I'm not totally alone here. But it just seems like many parents don't bother, and their kids just graze all day long. Maybe that's just a function of the environment my parents created, though; maybe mealtime was always a grazing affair except at my house and among my parents' handpicked friends?

Please put your curmudgeonly thoughts or corrections in the comments.