Monday, December 29, 2008

Farewell to Georgia

Spending Christmas in Georgia with my family is always...interesting. The saddest thing, though, is that none of their good Georgia special produce is in season. But, I made do. When we got home, we had this special Farewell-to-Georgia dinner:
Those are pecan-crusted pork tenderloin medallions hiding under the delicious peach and onion relish. The peaches were frozen and the wonderful vidalia onions were jarred. The green beans and red potatoes were steamed and served with a little garlic butter toss.

Get it? Red potatoes and green beans - Christmasy! Pecans, vidalias and peaches - Georgian!

Okay, it's a stretch.

Shhh. Don't tell anyone because it's a secret. I'm on a diet. Seeing my mother at the holidays really put the fear of fat into me once again. Yeah, that whole, "diets don't work, you have to change your lifestyle" stuff isn't working for me, either. I started yesterday. I have freshly juiced veggies for breakfast, steamed veggies for lunch, and a reasonably-sized, balanced dinner. I'm trying the whole no-grain, no-bean, low starch thing, just to see how it goes. I walked 1/4 mile, which is 1/4 mile further than I've walked in months. We'll see how it goes. But keep it a secret, okay?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

As promised, more Christmas craft photos

Here's the trash bag wreath, done and hung for under $5:

And here's a photo of me cutting the marshmallows. I tried a knife, scissors and a pizza cutter. The pizza cutter worked best. The key to stick-free cutting is to keep everything well dusted with powdered sugar.

Stuff we are making

The kids love to do crafts, but the finances are very tight. I found some really cheap crafts for us to do this year and we are loving it!

These are snowflakes we made from Borax (have it on hand for laundry anyway), pipe cleaners and thread. Total cost was $2 for a package of pipe cleaners and they were ready overnight. You can read the instructions here.

I also found some really cheap fresh cranberries at the store and made these:

I boiled equal parts sugar and water to dissolve, let it cool for a bit (so the berries didn't pop) and added the berries. After soaking them overnight, I drained off the sugar water and rolled the berries in a little sugar. Doesn't it look like snow? They are tart-sour-sweet-yummy, too. Oh, and all those good antioxidants surely make up for the sugar, right? Who cares, it's Christmas!

We also made homemade marshmallows, which are yummy but not as fluffy as I'd like since I was using a hand mixer instead of a heavy-duty machine (my Bosch broke in our move here) and a trash bag wreath. I'll post pics of those in the next couple days.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Move the kids away from the computer screen...

If you have children in viewing distance of the computer screen, you might want to move them away before continuing.

In my Sunday newspaper ad slicks was a coupon for Franks' Red Hot, a hot sauce that's very popular in the South. It came with a fifty-cent coupon and a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip. Now, normally my children help me clip coupons, but this week I did it myself and I'm so glad!

I have scanned a copy of the ad for you to see below. I am writing a letter to the company to voice my displeasure. If you're a "letter writer" I hope you'll join me in protest. Here's the letter I wrote:

Dear Sirs,

I must voice a complaint about your new ad campaign. I am familiar with your ad as it is represented on the Frank's Red Hot website: "I put that [red splatter] on everything." It is cute and leaves it up to the consumer's imagination what, if anything, is concealed by the splatter.

But I was unpleasantly surprised by the new form of the ad appearing in an ad slick included with The Tennessean on Sunday, December 14. Instead of just a red splatter, the ad depicts a red splatter covering several letters, with "s" at the beginning and "t" at the end clearly visible. This leaves little to the imagination, spelling it out pretty clearly. The implied word is a vulgar obscenity, not at all appropriate for a Sunday newspaper or an ad slick that could be seen by children.

I do hope you will reconsider your ad's design. Our families are already exposed to enough vulgar language in our society, and it has no place in a food advertisement.

Thank you for your time.

Okay, you've had time to move the kids, here's the ad:

The company's contact information is:

Reckitt Benckiser, Inc.
399 Interpace Parkway
PO Box 225
Parsippany, NJ 07054-0225

Let's nip this new trend in the bud, shall we?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Um, I think maybe the time has come

Our poor car. She really needs to be put out to pasture.

I mean, yeah, I can take a lot of inconvenience to avoid car payments. We paid $420 a month for five years for this car. That's more than my Mom and Dad paid for their first few houses! It's been a real blessing, but the problems are starting to mount. Right now,
  • Neither automatic window rolls down. If you press the button and push the window, you can get it down, but it ain't going back up!
  • The only automatic door lock that works is on the passenger side. The whole button apparatus has fallen inside the driver's side door.
  • Neither key remote works.
  • The back cargo area is accessed through three doors, one that goes up overhead and two that open outward like Dutch doors. The Dutch doors have been broken, shut permanently for about a year. The spare tire, by the way, is only accessible when the Dutch doors are open.
  • The passenger side door handle on the outside of the car is hanging by a thread and can only be opened by someone with gentleness and a safe-cracker's touch.
  • The sliding side door that allows access to the back seats broke while we were at the grocery store this week. We got the door open, but it wouldn't shut. I managed to jimmy it shut after about a half hour of messing with the mechanics of the lock, but now it is shut permanently and won't open.
  • All the seatbelts work, but two of the shoulder straps are broken.
  • From time to time, something sticks in the transmission and shifting from first to second and second to third gears is a violent proposition, worthy of a whiplash suit.
  • When we engage the parking brake, something in the gas pedal sticks and I have to kind of "kick" the pedal to get the car to move.
The final straw happened yesterday while I was out with the whole gang of kids. The gas pedal stick happened while the car was in motion, driving down the highway. I "kicked" it several times, and it just stuck further in, giving the car more and more gas. Now, I generally drive around 50-55 mph, which makes the locals CRAZY, but I like the fuel economy I get at that speed. It was a good thing I was going that slowly to begin with, because I was going the speed limit (70) before I could fix the pedal. I reached under the pedal and found the metal hook that the pedal rests on, pulled forward with my foot, and it let go. But if this had happened on a surface street with oncoming traffic, in the middle of the day with kids crossing the street, or in a residential area, I'd be in trouble. It took most of my attention to fix the problem, and I just wasn't able to give traffic much more than a passing glance.

I'm not sure exactly who would give us a loan, what being freelance and all, but if anyone has a friend who is looking to sell their seats-8-reliable-car-type van out there, please pass on my name!

Who ya gonna trust?

A friend of mine is considering a very invasive and painful surgery done with only local anesthesia. She asked if anyone had comments and I sent her to a website where people who have actually had the procedure DONE discuss it. After reading it, she said, "I saw this website when I did my research online. All these kinds of comments prove what my dad's doctor says: Don't read that stuff!"


So, the debate boils down to a guy who 1) has never had the procedure performed on himself personally and 2) stands to gain financially from the procedure vs. people who have had the surgery and have no vested interest in sharing their stories?

Wow. Really? Boy, I don't know. I've become so distrustful of the medical establishment lately that I would really think long and hard about it. Other considerations my friend is facing: The surgery has a documented success rate of under 30%. It's an elective procedure, not covered by insurance. The side effects of the surgery include a possible worsening of the symptoms the surgery is supposed to alleviate. There are proven alternatives to the surgery that are less convenient (namely altered diet and exercise) but have higher success rates.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Are we overreacting?

It snowed!! I'm so excited! It was so pretty coming down in big, white flakes!

Okay, I understand that these southern cities have no snow removal equipment and tend toward the side of caution. I know that drivers get a little crazed when white stuff falls from the skies. But I gotta ask you. With no snow in the forecast, a high of 50 expected today, and this much snow on the ground:

Would YOU cancel school? Me, either. For heaven sake, you can still see the GRASS!! And no, that's not ice on the road, it's water. The snow has already started to melt. Which isn't good, because the kids I have to babysit on snow days (schools closed, parents still work) won't be able to make a snowman by the time they get here. That's gonna be one long day.