Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Candy is Sweet but Kisses are Sweeter...

A week ago I was talking my 8-year-old- she was having trouble falling asleep and wanted to know what she should do. I was half-asleep myself, but I told her to think of things that aren't important, make up stories about wonderful adventures or invent things that don't exist yet. Then I said "Wouldn't it be nice if there was a Hershey's Kiss made out of dark chocolate and mint? Doesn't that sound really tasty?" She agreed, and then I left her to fall asleep.

Santa must have been listening, because today I went to Target and there on the shelf in the candy aisle were the very Hershey's Kisses I'd described. See, kids, dreams do come true.

At least the ones you have about candy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Atypical Holiday Movies

While it's a bit early for holiday stuff, I've been considering what sort of films I might like to watch to get me in the spirit when the time comes. I considered all the usual ones (It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, etc.) and, while they'll be available all over my television when the time comes, I started thinking maybe there were alternatives to the films my kids will make me watch repeatedly this season (like The Santa Claus). While some of these are becoming regular holiday fare, many of them are just what I like to watch. If you have favorites that I haven't included, feel free to let me know in the comments.
  1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation- Okay, this was an easy one, but I think it's important to acknowledge that so many holiday films overlook how stressful, annoying, and frustrating the season can really be sometimes. This movie mananges to convey that with humor, but also leave you with the understanding that it does not, in fact, have to be perfect to be memorable and full of love. Bonus points for the sheer joy of watching the obnoxious yuppie couple next door and, of course, Randy Quaid's clueless Cousin Eddie.
  2. Band of Brothers- This was hubby's entry. He's watched this miniseries many a holiday break from work. While most of the series is set in other seasons, my favorite episodes take place in snowy Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. I recommend this series to everyone to watch at any time, but there's no time like the holidays to stop and appreciate that theses guys lived in a freezing cold foxhole for weeks in support of what is right and good in the world.
  3. Trading Places- This movie does have sort of a loose holiday theme going on and Dan Akroyd as a drunken Santa. If you gloss over the absurd train scenes, this is a great movie that makes you want to cheer just a little bit at the end when...well, I won't give it away.
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas- This is a great one for my kids because they can watch it from Halloween through Christmas and the songs are catchy and fun. I love this as an alternative to some of the more lame holiday stuff (I mentioned The Santa Claus already, right?) and my oldest loves anything by Tim Burton.
  5. Die Hard- This one is my favorite. Los Angeles! Guns, festive explosions, and terrorists! What more could a holiday movie need? (One of my favorite parts- the Asian terrorist perusing candy bars while waiting to ambush John McClane). The second movie is holiday themed, too, but I wouldn't recommend it. Watch 3 and 4 in your air conditioned house in the summertime.
  6. Scrooged- Again, this one might be obvious, but it's still a funny, subversive take on the classic Christmas Carol story. (My favorite Christmas Carol version? The one with George C. Scott as Scrooge. It's the creepiest one that scared the pants off of me as a kid.)

Well, that's all I've got so far. I'll post and update if I think of any more.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You know, Victoria, it's not really a secret.

I get both the Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood catalogs in the mail. I think most adults know what is contained within the pages of these catalogs- Victoria's secret is not a well kept one. So why, I wonder, do they feel they need to airbrush all the nipples off their models? It's absurd. It's down right creepy when they do it to women wearing see-through outfits- leaving the nipple free breasts exposed. We have enough uptight nudity issues in this country, but now we're pretending that women don't have nipples? Perhaps this is why public breastfeeding is such a touchy subject- we'd have to acknowledge where that milk actually comes from.

Here's a clue: if you have issues with nudity, partial or otherwise, don't get the catalogs. If you are worried about your young children seeing them, don't get the catalogs. If you're concerned your mail carrier will turn into a perv delivering the catalogs, DON'T GET THE CATALOGS!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beggars can be whatever they want.

There's a older man that hangs out in the parking lot of our local all-in-one shopping establishment with his dog, a full grown boxer (maybe a mix). I've seen him a few times and deduced that he's either a) homeless, b) jobless, c) bored or d) any or all of the above. Either way, today I thought maybe he and his pooch could use a little lunch so while I was in the store I got one of those Lunchable sandwich packs and a cheap can of dog food (with the flip-top just in case he didn't have a can opener). As I was leaving, I drove by where he sits and offered the food to both of them. He graciously took the sandwich, but refused the dog food saying his dog couldn't eat that brand because she was on a special diet. I asked what kind she eats and he told me. I told him I would try to remember that next time.

As I drove away, I have to admit, I was a bit confused by this exchange. Really Old-Man-who-hangs-out-in-a-parking-lot-all-day, you're going to turn down free dog food? But the more I considered it the more I could see why. Maybe she's got health problems and needs a better class of food. Maybe she's the only thing he's got in this world and he'll do whatever it takes to keep her happy and healthy and living as long as he can- including spending any money he has on the good food. Maybe he just simply refuses to let his circumstances prevent him from properly caring for his pet.

To this I say: No problem, Dude. You just keep on doing your thing and next time I'll get your dog some better food.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kid-Friendly Applesauce

Although it's not officially fall yet, my apple trees are already dropping more fruit than I can find uses for. I made an apple pie, crock-pot apple butter and after I borrowed a friends dehydrator (she had used it to make me some dried apple chunks) made my own fruit leather.

It was during these many experiments with all things apple that I came up with a recipe for applesauce that my kids love.

Cherry Applesauce

Four cups peeled sliced apples
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 package of Cherry Kool-Aid (or flavor of choice)

Place peeled and sliced apples and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook until apples are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove apples from heat and pour into a blender or food processor. Add sugar and 1 tsp of Cherry Kool-Aid powder. Puree mixture until smooth and refrigerate.

I like to pour mine into small, single-serving tupperware cups before I refrigerate them so that my kids can just take out a cup to eat, but anything you can put in the fridge would work. Also, because I don't like to waste anything (and it's too hot to stand over a stove), I've made large batches of this in the crock pot and then canned it. If you have the space, it could easily be frozen- Ball makes a good freezer container that mimics the size of a jar and stacks for better storage.

So, let's hear it for no more buying applesauce in containers that may or may not be recycleable/reusable! Let's hear it for using up what nature has so freely provided! Let's hear it for Kool-Aid!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more apples to peel...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Oh, Cholesterol!

I went to the doctor recently to have my cholesterol checked. I hadn't been to the doctor in years for anything non-baby related so I thought I should have it checked out. Turns out that, while the levels are within acceptable limits, they are still a bit high (and low for the "good kind", HDL). I'd had slightly high numbers years ago, in my 20's, but the doctor attributed them to my failing to observe the fasting rules (I had a glass of milk within the 12 hour window) and let it go.

This time though, no excuse for nearly-failing the test. I've been trying to eat right for a while: substituting turkey for beef, adding more varied vegetables and having more salad and using olive oil instead of other oils or butter. What I didn't know, though, was that the unfiltered coffee I'd been drinking twice a day could have caused my numbers to be higher. Apparently, coffee has an oil in it that, if ingested in enough quantities, can raise a person's cholesterol. Okay, fine, less unfiltered coffee. (Notice, though, I didn't say none :))

I'm also learning a lot about what cholesterol even is and what sort of foods have a lot of it. Dairy products, including the cheese I love so much, has a ton of it. So does beef, lamb (which I adore despite feeling guilty about it), eggs and pretty much anything oily and fried. Some of these things I can cut back on or do without; some of them are more difficult to let go of.

My doctor also suggested I try adding red wine (I like white) and some juices to my diet. His biggest push was for exercise. I asked him if chasing three kids around the house counted, and he sort of chuckled. I also told him that there are no gyms here that have child care. He asked me if I had a stroller big enough for all of them to walk around the neighborhood. Obviously, he didn't have any kids, or clearly hadn't spent any time raising them if he did. I have a hard enough time getting the three of them in the car to go someplace. Forget about taking them while I exercise.

So now I have to work in exercise (which I try to do, but not very sucessfully) and eat right (which I've been doing, but apparently not well enough). On second thought, maybe it would just be easiest to start driking copious amounts of red wine...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The loss of the my friend, the DVR.

So, I lost the record function (and all of the recorded shows) on my DVR recently. After my initial round of cursing I called the company to get a new one and set about trying to catch up on the shows I've missed and find out where to watch this weeks episodes until my new DVR comes in. I would watch most of them live, except that I'm in the mountain time zone and everything comes on a 6 pm when my kids are still awake.

Anyway, this little debacle has led me to find the best places online to watch the shows I missed and I thought I would share which websites were the most helpful in my endeavor.

The CW- There are only two shows on the CW that I watch, and both had full episodes available for viewing. Supernatural (the best show on television) had the two latest episodes available and the Vampire Diaries had an impressive four. I had to download their special viewer to watch, but the video was clear (even in full-screen mode), ran without many interruptions and only had some minor sound match-up issues. It makes sense that this site is user-friendly, flashy, and up-to-date: the network's target audience is pretty young and expects that sort of thing. Overall, this was a good experience for viewing online content. Which brings me to....

CBS- I was not impressed with website of this major network. While it was easy enough to find what I was looking for, the video playback of the episode of How I Met Your Mother was poor and had some streaming issues (it kept stopping on me). The episode of Medium I watched was better, but the insertion of commercials was choppy and weird. My biggest complaint, however, is that full episodes of The Big Bang Theory are inexplicably absent from the site. There are highlight clips, but if you want to watch the whole thing, you're out of luck. I did take full advantage of the site's feedback function (at the very bottom of the home page) and complained about this. No clue whether anyone will read it though.

ABC- This network site is tons better than CBS. It boast episodes of most of it's shows about 5 deep and for it's best show, Lost, there are an unprecedented 138 episodes (all of them!)available to watch, including the one that aired only last night. The quality was good, the commercials were not annoying, and overall I'm pretty happy with the offererings on this website and the player worked well with minimal issue.

NBC- This site is noteworthy, not because it boasts full episodes of it's shows (it does) but because it also has full episodes of it's past favorites as well. I stared in wonder at the idea that I could watch old episodes of The A-Team, Miami Vice, Quantum Leap, and quite randomly, Charles in Charge. I could easily waste many hours at my desk watching my old favorites, or getting into new ones, like Parenthood, that I was interested in but didn't start watching due to scheduluing conflicts.

Fox- I've used Fox before to try to keep up with episodes of Fringe when they moved it to the too-crowded Thursday time slot. It didn't work, not because of the site or the video player, but because I just couldn't sit and watch that many episodes on my computer and got behind. Good for catching up on your favorites, but not for staying with the shows you're not really watching on the TV (even if you would if they were in a different time slot...) For those, I'll wait until they come out on DVD and get them from Netflix like I do for the great HBO shows I like to watch but am too cheap to pay for.

TNT- A great network known for it's unique, edgy programming and for saving shows that didn't do so well on other networks (most notably Southland). Functional, not too flashy website
with full episodes of their shows and the shows they run in syndication in the daytime (ER, Supernatural, Angel and others). It takes a bit for a recently aired episode to show up on the site, but that's okay: I'll wait.

The History Channel and F/X both have full episodes of shows as well, and their sites are pretty basic and user-friendly. My biggest dissappointment was BBC America, where my kids and I get our Doctor Who fix. No full episodes here, only clips and previews. To get the full episode I was missing I had to go to ITunes and download it for $3.00. ITunes is great in a pinch, but the download times are long and the episodes a bit pricey. They play well, though, and you get an HD version of the show with the download if you're into that. You can also go to Hulu and watch a lot of episodes, but they are usually limited to whatever is already available on each networks websites.

Well, hopefully losing my DVR won't happen again for a while, but it's nice now I know where I can go to get the episodes I've missed and what to expect when I get there.