Sunday, December 30, 2007

For New Year's Eve, A Special Treat -- Tostones

Sliced and twice fried, this delicious plantain treat is well-worth the effort. A recipe I learned from my ex-fiance's mother, it's one of my favorites and something I'm very picky about. The plantains should not be too ripe. They shouldn't be sliced too thick or too thin and they should be fried to golden-crisp perfection. These are unlike potato chips, thicker, meatier and with more flavor. Tune in tomorrow evening for this tasty Puerto Rican Tostone recipe complete with photo review.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dear Santa,

Might you be able to drop by and help assemble some toddler toys, say around 12ish? And maybe bring me a gift certificate for some classes in mechanics with a focus on Big Wheel assembly?

Many thanks,

Carnation Famous Fudge Kit, A One Mom Review

Or, to get a better view click here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Elfin' Holidays

Click on the photo above to witness our smooth elfin dance moves. You can create your own animation at thanks to OfficeMax.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Green Diva Top Ten

An excerpt from a recent writing assignment, because it's ten days 'til Christmas and I should be industriously wrapping gifts.

From lights left on all night to rainbow-colored argyle sweaters two sizes too small, the holidays bring the inevitable environmental offenses. Here are ten of the worst:

1. Leaving lights on all night: Unless you're on the strip in Vegas, turn them off at midnight.

2. Doing nothing: Even small changes help. If lights must be on all night, make sure they are solar.

3. Rainbow colored argyle sweaters two sizes too small: Sometimes a gift card is better than the real thing.

4. Failing to properly recycle the tree: No matter how beautiful it once was, no one wants to see it along the roadside.

5. Overbuying: Avoid buying extra gifts and letting them sit until they eventually find their way into an overcrowded landfill.

6. Failing to RSVP: Sending regrets can help hosts avoid purchasing food and drink to feed an army when only a platoon will actually be attending.

7. Ridiculous amounts of wrapping: A gift inside layers of tissue paper, sealed with a decal, in a box, sealed with tape, wrapped in holiday paper, sealed with tape, tied with ribbon, topped with a bow, with a gift card attached is just too much.

8. Too many trips to the store: Make a list. Check it twice.

9. Paper plates and cups: Use real dishes. Rinse, repeat, reuse.

10. Everything new is old again: Holiday decorations don't need to be replaced every year, except maybe those cookie ornaments from last year. Those might make excellent bird feed.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Internet Tag: Seven Things Meme

Here in the blogosphere, there's a fun little game we play called meme. It's like tag combined with truth or dare. A meme is a viral writing challenge in which one person writes on a particular subject, then, tags others to write on the same topic and keep the game going by tagging others.

Suzy of Pris Place kindly tagged me for a meme called Seven Things. The challenge is to list seven things most people don't know about you.

I'll try to make it exciting:

1. A female friend once invited me to a private party in Hollywood. When we were almost there, she revealed the party was being hosted by H*u*s*t*l*e*r. I screamed. And sucked it up and went to the party. Two guys in over-the-top suits, with thick Russian accents, invited us to an afterparty, without our male friend. Uhm, yeah, no thanks.

2. Smart is hot. Abs of steel, yes. Brain of butter, no.

3. My grandfather taught me to drive a motorcycle. He showed me how to open the throttle and shift gears. The first thing I did was run into a fence. He didn't show me the brakes.

4. I once thought I was going to die. I had surgery without adequate anesthesia and lost a lot of blood. The thing that sticks with me since is the importance of friends and family.

5. During the Internet boom, I worked for a company where there was an air hockey table and free food in the break room and people brought their dogs to work. I loved it.

6. I used to be a lifeguard. The only person I ever had to rescue was the pool owner's son who stepped on a bee.

7. I've taken one surf lesson. I want to take many more.

For more meme, I'm reaching out to seven new bloggers from the National Blog Posting Month blogroll:

Zay MoMo -- She paints cookies and admits to playing with PhotoShop when she should be sleeping. I already like her.

Weasel of Doom -- Who could pass up this tag line? "Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines."

Yum Yum Cafe -- Brimming over with gorgeous graphics and international flavor.

Adventures in Baby Fat -- The name was so catchy I had to check out the blog. Great fun.

Watch Me! No, Watch Me! -- Excellent photos and the line above her profile sums up this meme perfectly.

Rissa Dee -- A witty girl from California writing and having fun. Oh, and, she's taken a surf lesson too. See number 7 above.

ZQuilts -- A beautiful blog from the Pacific Northwest.

Tag you're it. Hope you don't mind.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Peppermint Roses

All dressed up with some place to go, these peppermint roses accompanied me to my first party of the holiday season. Tenderly crisp outside and melt-in-your mouth yummy on the inside, these easy-to-make meringues are likely to become a yuletide standard in our home. Prep time is short, and the resulting treats are like pretty little puffs of minty heaven.

The recipe is adapted from the Meringue Candy Canes recipe in this year's "Pillsbury Holiday Cookies" booklet. While whipping up the meringue was simple, piping out delicate candy canes from a decorating bag, as directed, proved to be exceedingly delicate work. Roses seemed a refreshing idea, and they were much easier to create.

To make these roses, simply dip the tip of the decorating bag in red food color rather than painting stripes on the inside of the bag. Then, beginning at the center of the rose, spiral outward, allowing meringue to overlap here and there, to imitate the natural imperfections of the flower.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fresh Holiday Art, Get It While It's Hot

Nature's holiday is captured in clean lines in these idyllic Charley Harper prints featured at Kitsune Noire. A sparrow, a cardinal and at least five raccoons join in the fun.

Read about the artist, Charley Harper, here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Does Santa Fly With An All Girl Crew?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Could it be all Santa's reindeer are girls? Male reindeer usually drop their antlers before Christmas. Some pictures that have been captured, featuring antlers on each reindeer, could indicate it's an all gal sled crew. It's another Santa mystery to be solved.

Get the rest of the story on reindeer here.

Just When You Think It's Safe To Go Back In The Water, There's Another Rainbow

Following last night's Dora and Diego marathon, bath time with my two two-year-olds was inspirational. There was much singing and dancing and imitating.

Baby Z chanted, "Sube! Sube!" (Spanish for climb) as she climbed out of the tub and up to the top of Mommy Mountain.

Swaddling her in a big yellow duck towel, I coached, "Amarillo. Yellow. Amarillo is yellow in Spanish."

"Yellow!" said Baby Z.

Her sister, Baby K, stood still in the tub and smiled, enthralled.

"Amarillo, yellow," I repeated.

Still, she stood and smiled.

I thought I must be doing such a good job to hold a toddler's attention so well.

Then, proudly she turned and pointed near the drain, "Rainbow!"

There it floated, curved like a rainbow, a little brown stinky rainbow. Ah yes, the world looks so different through a child's eyes.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Holiday Forecast

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The blog holiday forecast -- fewer posts and a moratorium on political punditry this holiday season, possibly increased silliness.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Coming Soon

New for December, a focus on the holidays, recipes and fun.

National Blog Posting Month Ends Today

(T-shirt by Emotional Armor)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NoMoNaBloPoMo, The Marathon Is Almost Over

Thirty crazy days and nights, thirty posts. The marathon is almost over. Congratulations (almost) fellow National Blog Posting Month participants!

*And by the way, feel free to download this graphic and use it for a post, if you're running short on ideas.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Online Story Time, Fun for the Kiddies

"Snowpeople," by Rick & Ryan Zeeb, is a colorful illustrated tale praising the beauty of individual appearance. It reminds children, "Different is brilliant. It's what makes you you." Hear it read by Marlo Thomas and see every richly colored page at the Saks Fifth Avenue site. Two dollars from the sale of each book will go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of my favorite charities.

p.s. -- You don't have to buy the book to see it read. Just click above. It's a lot of fun visually, and a nice break from cartoon reruns.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not the Tree Too

Although artificial trees and Christmas lights frequently have labels warning they contain lead, a recent press release from the National Christmas Tree Association raises the possibility that potentially harmful levels of lead may be found in some imported artificial trees. Click to read.

Overheard on the Block

As the fire truck drove by and stopped in front of the house with the giant Christmas display.

Boy 1: What the heck? What are they doing here?

Boy 2: (Matter-of-factly) Oh, must be something your dad set on fire.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Toys Not Made in China, Making Finding Them Easier

The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide is a toddler mom's toy fantasy land. It boasts the best finds of the season for moms who are fed up with toy recalls. Sellers offer gifts in almost every price range, from the $6 set of four colorful German-made balls at Oompa Toys to the $249 rocking dory hand-crafted by artisanal Maine wood-workers at Nova Naturals Toys and Crafts.

While major retailers are slower to respond to demand for toys not made in China, some toys made in the USA and in Germany can be found on the web sites of FAO Schwarz, Target and Toys R Us. These retailers don't make it easy though. Searching the sites is time consuming and often fruitless. Many, if not most, of the toys offered are made in China and, particularly in the case of Target and Toys R Us, often little or no manufacturing information is offered. (We found even if we called customer service to ask where a particular product was made, a Kiddi-O Tricycle by Kettler, neither Target nor Toys R Us could tell us. They suggested calling a local store, not exactly an efficient use of time.)

Even "The FAO Schwarz Toy Buying Guide," includes a statement from CEO Ed Schmults saying, "All toys sold in the US must meet certain US government safety standards concerning safety (choking hazards, toxic substances, etc.). However, the recent recalls suggest that it is possible for harmful substances to make it into toys." Perhaps an understatement?

Schmults also says, "There are many quality-oriented factories in China that don’t cut corners, but if you are uncomfortable with China production, then seek out alternative toys made with quality design and quality raw materials." While Scmults acknowledges that some people may be uncomfortable with China production, to continue defending Chinese manufacturers seems almost counterproductive. At this point, parents are more concerned with finding alternatives to toys made in China than trying to find a quality-oriented factory in China that can be trusted with the health of their children.

Schmults does go on to offer some helpful advice about selecting quality toys in general saying, "Look at how the product was designed : Does every part have a purpose? Toys with excessive moving parts can be prone to breakage and factories may use cheaper materials to reduce the cost of manufacturing a complex item." Notably, FAO Schwarz does stay ahead of Target, Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us by offering the capability to search for toys by country of origin. Then again, based on price and reputation, it seems FAO Schwarz should be offering more non-China products than they are.

All-in-all, mainstream American retailers are still missing the mark in responding to the recent toy recalls, leading former customers to smart solutions like The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide and new relationships with the toy sellers found there.

Two Great Toy Sellers

Oompa Toys


Both feature a broad selection of European toys.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Just in Time for Flu Season, Flu Drugs May Cause Psychiatric Events

Based upon FDA staff recommendations for new warnings on two flu drugs, the cure may sometimes be worse than illness. Psychiatric events, including hallucinations, delirium and abnormal behavior may be linked to the drugs Relenza and Tamiflu. Some events in patients taking Tamiflu have resulted in serious injury or death, although there is conflicting evidence regarding whether the events are medication-related.

Click here to read the Reuters story on Yahoo! News.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

French Toast Casserole with Easy Cranberry Sauce

Lazy me. I like French Toast, but who has time for all the endless dipping, frying and flipping on holiday mornings? This easy recipe provides a simple alternative. It can be adjusted to feed few or many. It even works well refrigerated, reheated and served the next day.

The simplicity with which it is prepared belies the complexity of texture and taste it delivers. There's no need to mix to perfection before putting it in the oven. The varied textures help deliver its rustic charm.


4 slices thick-cut raisin bread
4 large eggs
4 Tablespoons sour cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
Real butter

Grease 8 inch x 8 inch glass pan with real butter. Toast raisin bread under oven broiler until golden brown, and set aside. Mix eggs, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves in large mixing bowl. Tear toast into small pieces, varying in size from about 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches, adding to egg mixture as you go. (This allows different levels of saturation, adding to the complexity of the dish.) Pour into pan, and cook at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Less time for a more pudding-like consistency. More time for consistency nearer French Toast.

Serve with alone, topped with whipped cream or topped with Easy Cranberry Sauce as seen above.


Is It Too Late to Return the Turkey?

Best Thanksgiving Help Sites:

Visit for the full Thanksgiving survival guide.

Better Homes and Gardens offers a step-by-step guide from buying and thawing to roasting and carving.

Hot lines and online help links abound at, links for everything from Butterball to OceanSpray.

"Last Minute Turkey Day Salvation," from, features tips for the seemingly unsavable turkey.

Kids table conundrums are solved at, where you'll find creative ideas, complete with instructions and patterns.

Seriously short on time? For easy last-minute options, visit the Boar's Head DigiCatessen. Click on the turkey, and do a little last minute turkey salvation dance as their many options for pre-cooked turkey pop up.

The Last Straw -- No More Toys from China

(*Correction, the FAO Schwarz site does not identify country of origin for individual toys. It allows visitors to search by country of origin. Not a quick process, but still better than the information many other sites offer.)

According to a CNN report today, 80% of US sold toys are made in China. There are alternatives though. FAO Schwartz and the Cool Mom Pick Safer Toy Guide identify toys made in the USA, Germany, and other countries with higher production standards.

I'm cleaning out the toy box and starting over, with no toys from China. The best way to lose a mom's business is to sell her something unsafe for her child. Pretty obvious, at least I would have thought so before 25 million toys were recalled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How Now Green Cow

Baby Z loves cows. This week we talked with Papa on speakerphone. She was amazed when I told her he had cows we could go visit. Even more exciting was the brilliant array of colors in which she must have pictured them.

Me: Do you like cows?

Baby Z: I like cows!

Me: Did you know Papa has cows at his house we could go visit? Would you like to go see the cows where Papa lives?

Baby Z: (stunned)

Papa: I have a black and white cow.

Baby Z: Black and white COW!

Papa: And I have a red cow.

Baby Z: Red COW!

Papa: And I have a cow that's white all over.

Baby Z: White cow!

Papa: And I have a yellow cow.


Me: Wow, a black and white cow, a red cow, a white cow and a yellow cow. What other color cows do you think Papa might have?


Well, yes, why not a green cow? They do seem to come in every color of the rainbow after all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Southwestern Diet Deviled Eggs

This is a fresh recipe with a little New Mexican flare. Egg whites are substituted for yolk, and green chili sauce adds a yummy kick. Low-fat or nonfat sour cream, instead of mayo, allows a little guilt-free indulgence.

The recipe below is for a single serving and can be easily doubled, tripled, etc. as needed.


--2 hard-boiled eggs
--1 teaspoon yellow mustard
--1 Tablespoon low-fat or nonfat sour cream
--1 Tablespoon "505 Southwestern Green Chile Sauce" (ideal because of it's smooth, rich consistency)
--1 olive
--1 small cherry tomato

Remove shell from eggs. Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and store for later use. To make filling, puree one of the egg whites, mustard, sour cream and green chili sauce in hand chopper or small blender. Chill in refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes. Remove filling from fridge and spoon into center of remaining egg white. Garnish with sliced olive and halved cherry tomato.

Serve with Tabasco, red or green, and lots of water. : )

Monday, November 19, 2007

December Feature: Home for the Holidays

Blog posts here in December will feature recipes, decorating tips and a little dollop of holiday madness. After all, I'm still a mom of two toddlers.

Provence Calling

Talk a walk through Provence through the pictures here. Simply beautiful.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hair of the Dog -- Another Shot of Gas, Anyone?

For best and worst examples of responsible consumption, check out the LA Auto Show online. Vehicles range from the ultra environmentally conscious Volvo Recharge to the $400,000 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (Okay, we get it. You're rich.).

Saturday, November 17, 2007


From The Bravery's May 2007 "The Sun and The Moon," "Believe" is rich in sound, rhythm and lyrics. Guitar harmony flows through lilting synthesizer, supported by a drumbeat backbone, wrapped in vocals ranging from velvet to raw silk.

Visit to listen.

In concert November, 30 at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hils.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Up for Review -- A Twilight Zone Flashback: Insanity Escaped

It's National Blog Posting Month, and my little well of creativity is running dry, along with my little well of time. So for today's post, I give you this week's writing class assignment for your review and feedback. It's a review of a great little flick, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

A Twilight Zone Flashback: Insanity Escaped

Once mental illness was feared and hidden in darkness, its stigma so strong its revelation could be shocking, even dangerous. Insanity manifested was as scary a monster as any movie maker could conjure.

In the 1963 "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," directed by Richard Donner, mental illness was still scary, scary enough to be the focus of this episode of "The Twilight Zone." With light and shadow, silence and perception, Donner illuminates one man's struggle with insanity and his fear of its revelation to the world. The episode has a bumpy take-off with overacting and long dramatic pauses which are almost laughable until they prove to be part of the point of the story, highlighting perceptions of mental illness.

As the story begins, Bob Wilson and his wife Julia are flying home after his release from a mental institution. They and other passengers board the plane through a dimly lit entry, but once Bob and Julia are seated, the light on them is stark and bright. As they wait for take-off, his fear of a relapse shines through. He fumbles with a cigarette while eyeing the illuminated "No Smoking" sign.

Repeated close-ups reemphasize his facial expressions in response to anything that might cause him the slightest risk of cracking up, from not being able to smoke a cigarette, to taking off, to the announcement of a coming storm. Then, as if the fear is manifesting itself in physical form, a figure appears on the airplane wing. Shadowy and obscure at first, Bob struggles to see it. It vanishes then reappears, vanishes again, then suddenly appears, faced pressed against Bob's window in full revelatory light.

Is it Bob's insanity personified, or is it real? The question arises again and again, each time with more urgency, as the creature he dubs a "gremlin" begins to open the wing and rip out wires.

It's here that Donner's use of tight shots, long pauses and overacting finally make sense. It's all about perception, and that's what he showcases by refusing to rely on wide shots, dialogue or even great acting.

Bob's struggle is both internal and external. He knows that telling the crew may undermine a sanity that even he cannot be sure of, yet not telling may put them all in danger. So, he tells his wife and eventually the flight engineer and stewardess.
They contort their faces in such extreme reactions to his claims he sees a gremlin on the airplane wing that it's almost laughable. Bright light reveals every curve and line of their exaggerated expressions, though they say little. Initially it all seems overblown, but it proves to speak as much or more in the story as the actors.

They all know he is insane, and their over the top expressions in harsh black and white reveal what that means. His insanity is dangerous, much more dangerous than any gremlin. So they give him a sleeping pill to soothe his mind, and go about their business.

Despite their dismissal of his urgent pleas, Bob eventually finds the danger so overwhelming that he is forced to confront it. He does so in a way that puts his life and others in danger, but he sees no other choice. Does he rid himself of the gremlin? Does he conquer it? Was it real or a living embodiment of his fear of insanity? As always in “The Twilight Zone,” the final determination is left up to you. The story is presented in whole, laying out the facts, and you are invited to think, to examine, to decide.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

I won't be cooking a big bird. In fact, eating out is my idea of a festive Thanksgiving. How about you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to Retroville: Holiday Shopping with Thrift Shop Style

Vintage cards, wrapping papers, and ephemera from the 1920's through the 1970's are some of my favorite inexpenisve treats for holiday decorating.

This box, which I purchased for $1 from a Salvation Army store, came filled with cards in excellent condition, including the one featuring Santa with Raggedy Ann as seen on the front of the box and here below.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Best Saddlebag a Gal Could Ever Have

The Skip*Hop Saddlebag, seen above in pink camo, is perfectly sized to fit diapers, wipes, cell phone, drivers license, and debit card for a quick jaunt out with two toddlers. Velcro straps on back fasten securely onto grocery carts and strollers, and an array of pockets allows easy access to essentials.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I won this one and liked it so much I purchased two Skip*Hop Dash diaper bags which double as very hip messenger bags.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Call Me the Queen of Easy

Frozen brownies in a box. Really. Seriously. Really.

And I love this, instruction number two on the back begins with "Remove brownies from cardboard box . . ." Target markets?

1) Those high enough to actually eat the box along with the brownies;

2) Incredibly inexperienced bakers unaware that cardboard boxes do not fare well inside ovens; and

3) Sleep-deprived mommies like me likely to toss the entire thing in the oven before reading the directions.

Step five troubles me though, "Allow to cool for about 5 minutes." Are you kidding me? Five whole minutes? By then I will have already filled up on Pop Tarts and Twinkies.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For Veterans Day, Holiday Parcels to Iraq

For all our armed forces do and sacrifice, Liv is organizing a parcel sending party to bring a little home for the holidays to our men and women in Iraq. Click here to visit her blog to learn more.

No Deal, Focusing on Corporate Greed

Bargain hunters are not to blame for the recent onslaught of dangerous toys in the American marketplace, despite suggestions otherwise. Parents didn't strike a deal to injure their children in return for ten dollar toys.

The decision to buy a cheaper product does not equal an implicit agreement to purchase harmful goods. The failure of US toy companies to ensure product safety reflects directly on corporate executives who more diligently protected their own stock options than children's safety.

Those who control profit margins, namely corporate executives, are responsible for setting prices and being good corporate citizens. This can be fairly interpreted as a responsibility to not injure consumers, regardless of the price of the product.

With millions of mainstream toys recalled, it's nearly impossible to believe that executives care as much about product safety as corporate profits. "That's not my job," doesn't seem to cover it when consumers of the products are children and executive salaries dwarf average American incomes.

Arguing US parents are getting what they deserve because they are somehow responsible for jobs going overseas, by buying cheaper toys, is sadly opportunistic. By the same logic, Americans agree to eat food unfit for consumption because much of it is imported. We agree for our identities to be stolen because major banks have outsourced call-centers, and we agree to ingest tainted prescription drugs because ingredients are often manufactured outside the country. We have bargained for this because corporate executives were forced by our greed to find a way to keep profit margins high, protecting their own compensation packages by keeping production costs low.

The issue is not so much consumer greed as it is corporate greed, as has been true in most product safety debacles, from cigarettes to snake oil. It's important that the distinction between the issues not be lost because, in order to solve the problem, the problem must first be accurately identified. Pointing to consumer greed lets toy companies and executives off far too easily.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Shopping with Style, While Wearing Pajamas

Ah, the luxury of shopping online, pajamas, a bottomless cup of cappuccino, no disgruntled sales clerks, and now Etsy. Featuring hand-made, hippest of the hip goods, offers shoppers an alternative to stale products mass-produced in China. From cork mats to superhero capes, there is an abundance of creative goods to keep the debit card warm.

Among the many currently calling to my card:

Holiday Cards from MagnoliaMoonlight. Retro Christmas trees and Asian inspired snowflake vines top cards edgy, but not over the top.

Hand-stitched vintage textiles and papers from Cotton Bird Designs. Little birds stitched from vintage fabrics, old maps, and ticket paper give recycled items new life.

Retro-fab car litter bags from Allyson Hill. Remember that lame plastic trash bag Grandma insisted on taking in the car in 1975? Now that I have kids, I so understand. Car litter bags are back and with ever so much more style.

Kids' custom superhero capes from Panjo. What all the cool superheros will be wearing this spring.

Cork mats from Shandke. Aesthetically pleasing in color, shape, and texture, subtly varied shades of cork arranged in a staggered pattern tempt bare toes.

These and more are available at Etsy, where independent designers and crafters share their goods.

Simplifying Sending Christmas Cards

Writing furiously to address and mail fifty cards in one day, the thought creeps in, "Maybe, they could be Happy New Year cards, or maybe Valentine's," and a promise is made to start earlier on those Christmas cards next year. They provide an excellent opportunity to reaffirm connections with family and friends, an opportunity that is easily lost in the season's busy schedule.

Conquer the Christmas card crunch by using an organized approach and addressing cards early. Organization is key. Keep a running Christmas card list and add new friends and business acquaintances throughout the year. Using your email program's contacts manager makes it quick and easy. Street addresses looked up online may even be added automatically, if using Microsoft Outlook, and by categorizing entries as "family," "friend," or "business acquaintance" they can be sorted into separate lists in a snap.

The number and type of cards needed can quickly be determined by reviewing the categorized lists. Sending secular cards to business and casual acquaintances is often advisable. Messages such as "Peace" and "Happy Holidays" are preferable when the person's tradition or ethnic background is unknown.

Christmas cards of all sorts are often available as early as the beginning of October. While they are usually not mailed until the week of Thanksgiving, addressing them can begin much earlier. It is the bulk of the work and can even be outsourced to a professional calligrapher or card sellers such as and Though setting aside a couple of hours on Saturdays, with the family, to address cards over hot cider can get them done quickly and be lots of fun.

Cards should be addressed, signed, stamped, and mailed no later than December 5th to allow time for recipients to send return cards if they wish. Additional cards kept in a container with stamps and a pen near where mail is read can make sending response cards quick and easy.

Once established, an organized Christmas card system can be updated throughout the year, simplifying keeping in touch with family, friends, and business acquaintances.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Watch Dennis McKinney in the Great American Pie Cook-Off

Need a special pie recipe for Thanksgiving? Just like to watch deliciousness develop before your eyes? See Dennis McKinney and other contestants make some of the best pies in America this week on the Food Network Challenge, the Great American Pie Cook-Off.

November 04, 2007 8:00 PM ET/PT
November 04, 2007 3:00 AM ET/PT
November 07, 2007 11:00 PM ET/PT
November 08, 2007 2:00 AM ET/PT
November 10, 2007 6:00 PM ET/PT
November 11, 2007 3:00 PM ET/PT

Do I sound biased? Dennis is my cousin. Let's just hope I inherited some of that baking talent.

Correction: Changed to read "Dennis is my cousin," instead of "Dennis my cousin." Ah, if only I had inherited proofreading talent too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Sock Obsession

Do they itch? Do they bind? Are they completely out of fashion? Who knows. She refuses to explain, except to shout, "No!" angrily when anyone approaches her with a pair.

Baby K will not wear socks.

Will not wear socks with shoes. Will not wear socks in twos. Will not wear socks no matter what you do.

Burdened by a good dose of mommy guilt for allowing her to go sockless to preschool yesterday, I came home from running errands with this adorable bundle of colorful baby socks, plus a handful of play along crazy-striped mommy socks.

Let's hope it works.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And It All Began with a Pub Crawl

The courtship was vastly more romantic than that, but the honeymoon began in Dublin and had to include a pub crawl. Dublin reminded me of New York with its busy streets and people bustling in every direction. The manor house where we stayed in Adare seemed more like a castle, and we're still not sure what language they were speaking in the small diner where we stopped shortly after getting off the plane in Shannon. Although we did eventually manage to communicate that we would like to know the location of the rest room, uhm bathroom, er toilet, eh water closet, uh lavatory.

(Photos from when my camera only had 3.4 megapixels.)

Pre-pub-crawl in Dublin

Pool at Torq Waterfall, County Kerry

Irish countryside, County Kerry

Blarney Castle, County Cork

Irish coast, Ring of Kerry

Torq Waterfall, County Kerry

Fisherman, Ring of Kerry

Monday, November 05, 2007

Super Fudge

Creamy, chocolaty warmth all wrapped up in a holiday treat, fudge comes but once a year in our house, and it's never made by me. Until now, that is.

Carnation's Famous Fudge Kit has given me the pre-packaged courage to share in my mother's role as family fudge-maker. It comes complete with a can of evaporated milk, semi-sweet chocolate morsels, a bag of marshmallows, a bag of "sugar mix," and a pan/gift tray. The only thing not included is two tablespoons of butter. Illustrated instructions are printed on the back of the box.

I think I can handle it. I've got to get a domestic move on after all. My husband is downstairs baking brownies.

Tune in soon for a review of the fudge making experience, complete with pictures.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Just a Few Flowers for Butterfly Wife

Just a few flowers for Butterfly Wife ...

Clinton's Unanswered Question

Has Hillary flip-flopped?

Can Clinton's refusal to answer a hard-hitting debate question be blamed on the inequity of the question, or her own approach to playing politics? View the Hardball discussion and actual video footage of Clinton's evasive answers on New York Governor Spitzer's plan to provide drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Art Sports Online -- Layer Tennis

Layer Tennis -- A graphic design throw-down, roughly the equivalent of playing the dozens in Adobe Illustrator. An initial design is volleyed back and forth between two artists, each applying his or her own spin with each revision.

Commentary by Heather Armstrong of Art by Marian Bantjes and Armin Vit.

View the match at

Dia de los Muertos, A Celebration of Life through Day of the Dead

Cool glasses of water, flickering candles, and the aroma of marigolds welcome spirits of departed loved ones in Dia de los Muertos celebrations across Southern California this week. In celebration of their lives, family and friends create beautiful altars. Sugar skulls, rosary beads, and favorite foods are carefully displayed alongside old photographs and mementos.

A photographic sampling of San Diego's Sherman Heights Community Center's Dia de los Muertos celebration follows. To learn more, visit

(Click on any photograph to view full size.)

*Special thanks to Doris Villasenor of the Sherman Heights Community Center.

Friday, November 02, 2007

When Good Naps Go Bad

Goodbye mid-day oasis of serenity. Goodbye folding clothes without the helpful hands of a two-year-old, goodbye my private bathroom break, and goodbye to eating a meal uninterrupted.

At only 27-months, it seems the younger of my twin daughters has given up the nap for good. I've tried bed time stories, mid-day baths, and letting her "rest" instead of napping.

Rest is for sissies it seems.

"Done, done, done," she repeats after less than five minutes in her crib. And so it seems she is right. For us, nap time is done.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Winning Hearts and Minds Online

Chris Dodd's online campaign talks specifics, and it teaches voters how to talk specifics too.

When lead-tainted toys flooded the U.S. market, Dodd called for suspending all imports of toys from China and asked people to call on the President to protect children from unsafe Chinese imports.

Children don't vote or make campaign contributions, but moms, dads, and grandparents do. Dodd caught my attention with this move and holds it with timely, action-oriented emails.

Dodd's recent "Four Down, Six to Go" email names the members of the Judiciary Committee who have expressed opposition to any FISA bill that provides telecommunications companies retroactive immunity. Moreover, it asks readers to contact the remaining Judiciary Committee members and ask them to do the same. Names, telephone numbers, and a sample conversation are provided through the clickable link to the web site.

Even if Dodd doesn't become President, he has become a politician I respect.

It's NaBloPoMo. Let's Go!

For one crazy month, bloggers around the world participate in National Blog Posting Month. 30 days, 30 posts. Sheer madness. Visit here daily to chronicle a journey through NaBloPoMo.

Let's go!

To join the fun, visit and sign up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007