Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ridin' Along in My Automobile - Part 2

Please read the previous post before continuing:

We worked on our “laptop on a box DVD player” the other day.

First order of business was to find a sturdy box that will fit in the back seat. Now, it’s a pretty roomy back seat, but not any box is going to do. Computer boxes were our best bet for something quite sturdy, but most of them are too big. A computer monitor box is at least 2’X2’.

After taking careful measurements, we decided to cut one of the monitor boxes in half and sandwich the two pieces together to make one skinnier box. Initially, this didn’t work so well. The two halves don’t fit together very smoothly. Duct tape was in order. We needed to tape the two halves together in order to keep it together and the top mostly flat.

You know how tape has a tendency to un-stick itself from cardboard? Well, it does. We solved that problem by wrapping the duct tape all the way around the box – side to side & top to bottom.

We put the box in the back seat. It fit snuggly, thanks to our careful measurements, between the front & back seats.

Snug fit from front to back – check!

There was a problem though. It seems there is a small hump in the middle of the backseat floor. While the box fit pretty well, we needed to make sure it didn’t rock from side to side while on the road.

Second order of business was to stabilize the box. Lop off the bottom & cut a little curve in the bottom. That sounds like a good solution. Back to the car.

Stable from side to side – check!

Time for the laptop. We attached Velcro to the top of the box & the bottom of the laptop. This seemed to work out ok, but now we needed to plug in the laptop. Rob has one of those adaptor boxes with a regular outlet on one end and a thingy to plug into the cigarette lighter.

Power – check!

We put the girls in the back seat and went for a test drive.

Reality – big fat goose egg! There seemed to be some issues.

First, the girls complained that they couldn’t see very well. It was an old laptop so viewing the screen from an angle left much to be desired in the picture quality. There were a whole lot of dark spots.

Secondly, and overall more important, the front passenger seat could not be reclined. It seemed there was an obstacle. Oh, yah, it must be the box because it had to be wide enough to hold a laptop and the space between the two front seats was less than 12”.

I guess this wasn’t such a good plan. Good thing we tested it early. We still have time to order a new DVD system – it should arrive on Monday.

Silver lining:
Dude, do I even need to give you one? In retrospect, the whole idea was not such a good idea.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ridin' Along In My Automobile

We are driving to Wisconsin to visit my family for Thanksgiving. It is a big to-do because we haven’t made the trek to the frozen tundra since my cousin got married more than three years ago.

Speaking of that wedding, we had one of those handy-dandy portable DVD players which kept Kate occupied. We had to listen to the same Baby Einstein video over and over, but we eventually tuned it out. Kind of like when your spouse is babbling on and on about designing a VPNISPVOIPRAMROMCPU (how do you pronounce that?) compatible computer network, the decision making process in choosing the right fabric for drapes, or fitting FASB amortization tables into the GL matrix.

Something went haywire with the power cord on that DVD player and we called in a warranty claim, got a shipping label & everything. We haven’t gone anywhere for a really long time so I didn’t think about it much until I came across it while unpacking our garage (one year after moving into our new house). It had never been sent in for repairs so it is now useless.

Back to the Thanksgiving trip. We no longer have a video system to entertain the kids on the eight+ hour trip to see my parents. Until, EUREKA, Hubby had an idea!

He has an old laptop with a DVD player in it. Could I sew some kind of bag and harness to hold it between the seats? I couldn’t believe I was actually considering this. I guess I could try to sew something – my specialty is straight lines so it could get interesting. What would we use for the harness part? Maybe elastic? No, too much movement. How about we just tie it up with rope?

Driving down the highway (or at every rest stop), I can only imagine the thoughts of the other travelers around us:

The elite in their limos: Suckers! They have to drive themselves. I think I’ll take a nap now.

The soccer mobile (AKA mini van): Glad I bought this mini van with the DVD player built in. What a bunch of hoosiers.

The couple without kids: We are sooooo buying a vehicle that has the DVD player built in. I don’t want to look like a hoosier driving around town. (Never mind that kids are expensive enough without going out and buying a special vehicle just to feed their need to watch videos 24/7.)

The grandparents: Those poor deprived children, their grandparents should get them one of the car systems for Christmas.

The other families traveling several miles with kids in the car & no DVD player: Damn! That’s a good idea. Wish we had thought of it.

We considered it further. Sewing something wasn’t such a good idea. There were too many complications – how to hold it up, creating a slit for the DVD drive to open, sewing something like corners, etc. We needed a new idea.

There isn’t a hump in the middle of the back seat, maybe we could put the laptop on a box. How would we keep it on the box? Velcro. OK – we have a plan!

Stay tuned to find out how well this plan was executed.

Silver lining: We’ll just see what happens . . .

Friday, November 14, 2008

Delightful Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

I have made this dessert before with tremendous success. It was sinfully yummy!

There was a “Chili Cook-off” at my office & they were looking side dishes & desserts. The best one got a prize. I thought to myself, what kind of dessert goes good with chili – MY PEANUT BUTTER BARS!!! I had the winning recipe. . .

. . .if only it came out as good as the first time I made it.

The first time I made it, I a single batch and was gobbled up pretty quickly. The dough also fit quite nicely in my average size bar pan. Note: this pan fits in our top oven. Since I was making a dessert for a lot more people, I decided to make a double batch. I had to pull out the BIG bar pan – this sucker is 20 inches long. Note: this pan does NOT fit in the top oven. I cranked on the lower oven, which is bigger and uses more energy to heat up, but it allows more airflow around baked goods so it does a better job overall because you don’t have to up the baking time.

I pulled the cooled cookie dough out of the fridge. It was a little clumpy (should have been my first clue that disaster was going to ensue) and I had to really work it into the pan with my fingers so that it didn’t have any gaps. I ultimately had to use a pizza roller to spread it out into the pan.

I remembered that the last time I made this scrumptious dessert I had to bake the cookie part 17 or 18 minutes; right in the middle of the 15 – 20 minute range. So that’s how long I baked it. After it was finished baking you need to spread some melted peanut butter on top, add a layer of marshmallows, and drizzle on some chocolate syrup. I didn’t have any syrup, but I figured I could add it later.

I tossed it back in the oven sans syrup for another five minutes (per the recipe). After five minutes, the marshmallows were puffy, but most of them hadn’t gotten that nice caramelized color – just a little on the ones in the back. They went back in the oven for another couple of minutes. Still there wasn’t much color.

I was concerned about over-baking (which the recipe specifically tells you not to do) so I pulled it out anyway. It was too late. Four paragraphs ago, I mentioned not having to up the time in the big oven. Hmmmm, yah, forgot about that point. I should have started at 15 minutes and only done the five minute marshmallow thing. The edges looked pretty crusty. Actually, that may have happened no matter what I did considering the consistency of the dough when I put it in the oven.

I muttered something about not having a Crème Brule torch to brown the rest of the marshmallows. Hubby’s eyes lit up. I though he was thinking about the soldering torch he had and about fainted at the thought of that flame hitting a dessert I was bringing to work and seeking a prize!!! He was actually thinking about one of the lighters we had. It’s one of those refillable ones that acts like a mini torch. It was sort of like a Crème Brule torch and I gave him the go ahead.

It didn’t light at first, but finally the pffffffffffffff sound was emitted and Hubby started waving the lighter over the pan. Continuous movement was not working so he started concentrating on smaller areas and lit one of the marshmallows on fire!!! I made him stop, deciding I didn’t want to burn down the house (it was a sizable pan and could have made quite a bonfire in the kitchen) or least of all, present some blackened peanut butter coal to my co-workers.

Before cutting it and putting it on a tray to bring into work, my peanut butter bars had to cool. I was going to a Mary Kay party at my friend Mary’s anyway so I could take care of the “presentation” after I got home. This also gave me an excuse to ask for someone to give me some chocolate syrup.

After the party and at least two glasses of wine (she lives within walking distance so I was not drinking & driving), I was going to add the syrup & cut up the bars.

I added way too much syrup and decided to mop it up with some paper towels. Here’s a tip: Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup does not “mop”, it smears. I guess that took care of anyone noticing the marshmallows were not caramelized. It also hid that burnt marshmallow quite nicely. Ten paper towels later, I was ready to cut.

Now this pan is expensive & Hubby would kill me if I used a knife in it. I used a spatula to cut the first row out & move it to a cutting board. It was C-R-U-N-C-H-Y! The marshmallows were super sticky too. I should have cut the edges off because you could have broken a tooth on them, but I didn’t think of that until after I cut it all up. By then the pieces would have ended up too small to matter so I left them. I easily moved the remaining bar from the pan (because the cookie part was so hard) and proceeded to cut it into squares.

As I was cutting, the marshmallow top started to peel away from the cookie base. I set the “tops” back on and placed them on my tray, covered everything with saran wrap and then had a revelation – the marshmallow was going to stick to the saran wrap! It was too late – I would deal with it before the cook-off.

In the lunchroom, well before the cook-off, I carefully pulled the saran wrap off. It took my fifteen frickin’ minutes as I was gently pealing the marshmallow from the saran wrap and then placing the marshmallow back on top of the cookie – every single one of them.

As I watched my co-workers eat them, everyone would take a bite and the entire marshmallow top came with the first bite - that sticky marshmallow wouldn’t give up to a set of choppers for anything. It was embarrassing.

Needless to say, no one asked for the recipe nor did I win a prize. Phooey!

Silver lining:
1. There weren’t any bars to bring home so it wasn’t a total loss.
2. I may not be expected to ever bring home-made anything into the office again. Everyone will be relieved when I bring in store bought stuff.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Will Always Be Older Than Me

I’ll admit it. I’m getting older – not old, just older.

Cupie saw a guy with thinning hair and asked what happened to his hair. Good thing he wasn’t in ear shot – I would have been mortified. I first explained that talking about how people look is rude. Then I told her that sometimes when men get older, their hair stops growing on their heads and comes out their ears & nose instead. I told her to ask Uncle Steve (Hubby’s brother) next time we saw him if he had more hair growing out of his ears.

Hubby has nice thick hair with no evidence of thinning, but being three years older, he will always be older than me.

Recently, in an effort to convince my children that their father was old, I’ve told them the following:

You see that port-a-potty out there (we live in a construction zone)? Well, daddy is soooo old, that they had a wooden one of those in their back yard. He had to go potty in it because they didn’t have bathrooms in their house. It was called an outhouse back then and they smelled pretty bad because there wasn’t any water to flush.

You better take care of your toys. Put your toys away so no one steps on them and breaks them. You know, when daddy was little, he didn’t have cool toys like this. They had to hunt for a block of wood, then use a knife to cut a design out of the wood – it’s called whittling.

You can’t play in the kitchen when daddy is cooking dinner. The stove is hot and you could burn your self. You see that fire under the pot? Daddy gets really excited about cooking on the stove because back when he lived in a cave he had to rub two sticks together until they started a fire.

Hubby got me back though. After one of these jibes, he said, “Mommy's not as young as you think. Daddy may have been on the council to name ‘dirt’, but Mommy was in the audience.”

Good one.

Silver lining:
1. He's still older than me.
2. Well, he's still older than me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goin' to the Courthouse, and We're Gonna Get Married . .

When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, Cupie, I swelled up like a balloon. I looked more like a bloated sausage than a balloon, but that’s beside the point. I started wearing maternity shirts around four months. My fingers had already started to swell and my wedding ring no longer fit. I was self conscious about the fact that I was obviously pregnant, but now appeared to be unmarried.

I begged until Hubby finally agreed to go to Wal-Mart to buy me some sort of ring. I have a nickel allergy so I couldn't buy just anything; otherwise, I’d be swollen, red & itchy – a real pleasure to be around for sure. We stopped by the “fine” jewelry cases and looked at the plain gold bands. They had real gold bands in all sorts of sizes so I could pick one out right away & wear it as soon as we paid for it.

We had to ask a store clerk to help us because the rings were in a locked case. Of course, she had to stand there & pull out rings as we requested them. Oh, and we noticed later that Rob was not wearing his wedding ring at the time either.

Me: This one fits – it is fifteen dollars.

Hubby: OK, let’s pay and go home.

I shrugged my shoulders and set the ring down.

Hubby: What’s the matter? You seem disappointed.

Me: It would be nice to have something with a little sparkle. There are some nice ones over here.

We moved down a little bit – the clerk moved with us. By this time I had noticed Hubby’s ring was missing. I could totally read the look on the clerk’s face. It was to avoid these looks that I was buying the ring in the first place!!!

Me: This one is nice and it’s only thirty-five dollars.


The only thing that would have made it any worse is if we had blacked out a couple of teeth and stop bathing three days before walking into the store!

Silver lining:
1. I got a sparkly ring and no longer felt self-conscious
2. The second time around, I could care less what people thought. When my ring didn't fit, I didn't wear it. Live & learn.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


We had family pictures taken recently. Hubby, the girls & I walked ahead of our photographer toward the fountains in the Grand Canal. When the photographer caught up to us, she said, "Did you see that? That guy almost ran me over!"

We hadn't seen anything, but it's a busy and weird little intersection so it did surprise me. Almost everything in New Town moves slower except for the cars.

The rest of the photography session was uneventful, but later . . .

The girls were inside taking naps, it was beautiful outside, and I had perennials to plant for next spring.

My neighbor was out for a run, but stopped for a moment. He said, "I'm sorry I almost ran over your friend earlier today. I saw you guys and waved, then I started to go and there she was! She gave me this nasty look and I said I was sorry . . . ."

When he stopped blustering, I was laughing. Obviously, he was confused. I had to explain - the photographer told us about almost getting run over, but we didn't see anything (not even his friendly wave). He totally busted himself!

Silver lining:
1. We are all human - who hasn't had a close call like that?
2. I glad I'm not the only one who busts herself. See my earlier blog entry here -

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dear God, Bless America

I’m not one to debate politics, and right now, the attitude of this country is not making me laugh, but these quips are.


“After Governor Bill Richardson switched his support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama last week, an angry Bill Clinton said, 'Five times to my face he said he would never do that.' Wow, so he looked you right in the face and lied to you. What's that like?" --Seth Meyers

"John McCain has been accused of stealing policy ideas from Wikipedia, which is ridiculous. Everybody knows McCain doesn't know how to use the Internet, so how could you even accuse him of that?" --Craig Ferguson

"Oprah Winfrey's in the middle of a big scandal, because she is refusing to have Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on her show. The friction started because Palin said if she's elected, she'll be the most powerful woman in the country. And Oprah said, 'The hell you will!'" -Conan O'Brien

"You see Barack Obama at that rally surrounded by all those Kennedys? Man, I couldn't tell if he was running for president or bartender." --Jay Leno

"After his big speech in North Carolina today, Senator Joe Biden said he was experiencing a sore throat and lost his voice. Boy, the good news doesn't stop for Barack Obama. Just one lucky break after another." --Jay Leno

"Stock prices are down; major companies are being purchased by the government. It is a bear market and, I have to say, Sarah Palin is just the lady to shoot it for us." --Jimmy Kimmel

"Barack Obama called Hillary today to thank her for distracting everyone away from the whole crazy pastor thing. Obama's campaign is all about hope -- hope Hillary keeps saying stupid crap and getting herself in trouble." --Craig Ferguson

"How are you going to be the vice president of the United States with five kids to take care of? She's got a four-month-old of her own, she's about to become a grandmother, and she's partnered with John McCain. How many diapers can one woman possibly change?" --Jimmy Kimmel

"Here's the amazing part: back in 1984, Sarah Palin actually came second in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant. Now she could be vice president. You know what that means? For the first time in history, a beauty pageant contestant might actually bring about world peace. They've talked about it for years; here's one that could do it!" --Jay Leno

"Barack Obama gave a speech in Germany and 200,000 people showed up. There were so many Germans shouting and screaming that France surrendered just in case." --Craig Ferguson

"We're learning more and more about John and Cindy McCain. He's on this big biography tour. I guess his wife Cindy is worth over $100 million because the family made money selling Budweiser beer. So he has a wife 20 years younger than him, free beer, and unlimited money. I think I speak for all guys when I go, 'Why is he running for president?'" --Jay Leno

"And they say that Barack Obama now is a little down in the polls. Now this is a surprise, because after they announced the vice presidential candidate, they were hoping to get that Joe Biden bounce. Now don't confuse that Joe Biden bounce with a Bill Clinton bounce -- that'll get you impeached." --David Letterman

"According to the New York Times, Barack Obama's campaign is having a hard time meeting their fundraising goals. And they're pressing their donors for more money. They want more money. In fact, Obama said today, he's willing to take change. He will now accept change." --Jay Leno

"Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin today said she thinks the economy needs some shaking up and some fixin'. I'm pretty sure that is also her recipe for oven-baked chicken." --Jimmy Kimmel

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