"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Job Lists

When my kids were younger, I would draw pictures for my grocery list and give half to each kid. This worked about two times. We are horrible around here about doing chores, etc. so I've come up with a similar sort of list to motivate the kids. I've done it a few times now, not every week, so it's still sort of unique and it seems to be working well.

I cut down the middle and hand half to each kid. They think it's great. And if they do them all, they get what ever increment of money I feel they deserve and I check off that they've been paid.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bake and Blog: Gorilla Bread

Gorilla Bread

While hunting for a monkey bread recipe a while back, I came across a Gorilla Bread recipe. I was intrigued and have wanted to try out the recipe. Here goes...

I sort of invented this recipe from three different recipes. One recipe is basically the monkey bread recipe I link to above, with cream cheese and cinnamon sugar added to the middle of each dough ball. The second recipe is Paula Deen's Gorilla Bread. The third recipe is here and just sort of talked me through Paula's recipe, but with frozen Rhodes Rolls instead of the refrigerated rolls from a can that she has in her recipe.

Rhodes Frozen Dinner Rolls
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 oz. cream cheese
pecans or walnuts (1/4- 1 1/2 cups depending on your preference)

To begin with I thawed 12 Rhodes Frozen Dinner Rolls in a greased, 9X13 casserole dish covered with Saran Wrap on top of my dryer.

After they had risen, I flattened them out and filled each circle of dough with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar. I only used 4 oz. of cream cheese (and I used the kind with 1/3 the fat). Cut the cream cheese into 12 cubes and place a cube in the center of each dough circle. Bundle it back up. Paula used walnuts. I hate walnuts so I used pecans, which I neither love, nor hate so I only used 1/4 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups. And I chopped them. Sprinkle some in the bottom of your bundt pan. My bundt pan is silicone, so I didn't grease it. Place half your dough balls in the bundt pan. Sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar. Meanwhile you should have melted 1 cube of butter and 1 cup of brown sugar in a small saucepan. Pour half of this mixture on your first layer of rolls. Sprinkle with more pecans. Repeat with the second layer of dough balls, then cinnamon sugar, butter/brown sugar mixture, and pecans. Return to the top of your dryer, or other warm spot in your house and let rise again.

Preheat your oven to 350. Once the dough has risen, bake for 30 minutes. (I covered mine with foil for the first 25 minutes or so).

End result: Yum. The brown sugar mixture was a little bit to grainy in some parts (mainly what was stuck to the pan still that I scraped out and placed on my plate.) I like the cream cheese in the middle. It reminds me a little bit of this dessert Jed and I loved at the restaurant Rubio's in California called Zango or something. It was cheesecake, wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried with caramel and cinnamon sugar on top. Then they stopped making that dessert and our eating at Rubio's dropped off rapidly. As for the Gorilla Bread, I read some comments on the recipe from people that said they like it with the ready-made cheesecake filling in the center. That sounds delicious as well, but for another day...

*Sorry the pictures aren't in any chronological order. I'm too lazy to upload all those pictures, and Picasa's collages just randomly place and shuffle them. I did shuffle until I got the final product in the center, even though it almost cut PS's eyeballs out of another shot. :)

Poll Results Are In

So it looks like Gorilla Bread won my Bake and Blog poll, even though Jed voted twice for the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mallow Bars (figuring he got two votes because he's the one who actually gets to taste these things). I'm defrosting the dough for Gorilla Bread as we speak/type (well, I will be as soon as I publish this post). Until then, I apologize for my absence this week, I don't know where I've been, other than busy. And right now PS has a friend over and the three people (PS, Buddy and a friend) scenario isn't working so well so I promised Buddy, who was in tears, that he could play Webkinz.* And now I turn the computer over to Buddy and start defrosting rolls on top of my dryer.

*Buddy got a Bulldog Webkinz for Valentine's Day that he's named Santa Fe after the Burlington/Santa Fe Railway Line.

Monday, February 23, 2009


We know we're moving in July. Our lease is up July 31. Even if Jed is accepted to the doctoral program at his current university, we'll move to a different place in town. Of all the places he's applied, there are basically 10 areas of the country we could end up living in (all midwest or east or Texas).

He's heard back from two of the schools so far and he was accepted to both. So now we're obsessing over Boston and Chicago.

The kids' reactions:

Chicago: "We'll be able to go to the Olympics when it's there* instead of just watching it on TV."

Boston: "Grandpa will visit us more."

*Hopefully we won't still be in grad school in 2016. I guess it is possible that we will still lived in the Chicago area though.

Start Writing

It's a bit discouraging when a person like me (ie: a closet future novelist) finds out about other writers. You know, the guy who is your clerk at the toy store but has informed you that he's writing a novel in his spare time. Or all of the people my husband has met at Jeopardy auditions who are writing a book (or when we were in LA, a screenplay). Basically, it seems somedays that everyone wants to write the next great American novel. And while I do have a file on my computer called "the next great American novel" filled with other files with story titles, none come close to being novel-lengthed. None come close to being much more than two pages.

Jed got on my case a few months ago because I don't have any goals he can help me accomplish. So he gave me the assignment of coming up with goals. After I failed that assignment, he came up with a goal for me. He gave me a story idea (and using it, or my own idea) I have to complete a book-(or novella)lengthed story by our anniversary (April 28th). Yikes.

Then, my friend Marta (who isn't technically my friend, but her husband Dan is one of my favorite college buddies, and through her blog, I feel like she's a friend as well) has started an online writing club. (Wish I'd had that idea!) It starts today, go check out her blog and start writing with me, Marta, the toy store clerk, and everyone else.

Reupholstering Chairs #3

Jed has now dissembled three of our dining room chairs for me, pulling out 12.3 billion staples in the process. I finally took my staple gun out of its package, filled it with staples and got to work over the weekend. Scariest was cutting into the fabric for the first time (well, and firing the first staple). I don't cut straight, luckily, for this project, I didn't need to cut straight, just a generalized 26x 26 square so that the fabric would stretch around the chair cushion and leave room for stapling on the chair's underbelly.

Here's my first "square" of fabric.

I stapled on opposite sides to begin with.

Then went along each side with a row of staples, leaving the corners for last. Then I gathered the corners and fired a bunch of staples together.

The lovely white sticks you see are Q-tips poking through the holes in the black cover fabric into the holes in the wood so they'd line up right.

Here it is all ready to be sprayed with Scotch Guard.

Jed Scotchguarding them for me.

The chairs waiting to be reunited with their cushions.

Jed, with help from Buddy, screwing the seat cushions back into the chair. This may have been the most difficult step (aside from the removal of 12.3 billion staples).

The finished product.

This was finished much sooner than I expected it to be, blogwise. In real life, I have two chairs done, and one more chair cushion waiting for a second coat of Scotch Guard. Then only 5 more to go. So for you, it seems as though I'm done. But I'm not really done until you see this picture

with all reupholstered chairs instead of the old ones.

Here's how I sort of figured out what I needed to do:
How to Reupholster a Chair tutorial on YouTube
Chicks with (Staple) Guns
Years worth of watching Trading Spaces and While You Were Out on TLC, as research, of course.

Friday, February 20, 2009

If you didn't notice...

... I have another bake and blog* poll at the top of my sidebar to the right. Your options are:

Gorilla Bread: this is apparently like monkey bread, but with cream cheese in the middle of each dough ball.

Marshmallow Breakfast Rolls
: Although I don't think I'll feed them to anyone for breakfast.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mallow Bars: just what it sounds like.

Ice Cream Kolachkes: These are a Czech pastry. My mother-in-law makes them (from a different recipe and calls them Kolaches) and uses poppy seeds as the filling. These ones from Taste of Home (but I can't link you to the recipe... it's a subscriber only recipe) involving ice cream as part of the recipe and filled with either raspberry or apricot pastry filling sounded yummy.

Hurry and vote!

*I love that I'm treating this like a regular event... like Dinner and Movie on Lifetime. (If that's the right channel?) Did I ever end up baking all the recipes from the last poll? I'll have to look and see. I know I made the Raspberry Lemonade cupcakes and wasn't happy with them. What else was on that poll? My mom's potato cinnamon rolls... I don't recall making them recently, but I definitely should... they are TASTY! What else??

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reupholstering Chairs #2

The fabric finally arrived (days and days after the Scotch Guard I ordered at the same time). Both deliveries were from FedEx. Both involved me having to open the door in my PJs at a time of morning when I should be showered and dressed.*

I don't love the fabric like I did the swatch of it online. In real life, it's much darker and not so bright. Plus what looks creamish in the online swatch, is more of a golden tan in real life. Ick. But it is growing on me.

Last night Jed pulled that giant pile of staples out of the second chair. He also took all the wooden leg parts apart, and glued them back together since this is another huge problem with these chairs, aside from their fabric ugliness. And since we don't own a clamp, he hung out on top of the chair holding everything in place for 30 minutes while the glue dried. Great for a photo op.

I bought a staple gun and staples. Now I just have to build up the courage, cut some fabric, and start stapling. Wish me luck... and speediness.

*In my defense, I homeschool. And have a baby. So we wake up, eat breakfast, do some school and when Baby X goes down for a nap, then I shower. This is often late in the morning. On days like today. I hurriedly finish a book I was up way too late last night reading and finally had to go to bed before the ending, do a bunch of random stuff, then blog instead of homeschool. I'll do it, I'll do it. In a minute...

**The giant picture with the roll of fabric and PS and Buddy... they are turning the box into a 14 wheeler (I'm not sure why a 14 wheeler, but a 14 wheeler.)

Rhodes Rolls Cinnamon Knots

When I was a kid, a woman from church brought a huge stoneware bowl full of monkey bread over to our house for my brother. I don't remember what the occasion was, maybe just that he loved monkeys (I often forget that as a kid and teen his room was completely decorated with monkeys) and she's just discovered this recipe for monkey bread. I also remember that the Smurf movie was on tv and I sat at the stool at our kitchen island watching the Smurfs on our tiny kitchen tv while devouring as much monkey bread as I could. Mmmm.

So I wanted to make heart shaped muffins or something for Valentine's Day breakfast (which turned into a Valentine's Day afternoon snack). Then I decided to make heart shaped cinnamon rolls and found this easy recipe here.

First I sprayed a 9X13 pan with Pam, placed a dozen frozen Rhodes Rolls in and covered it with Saran Wrap. Then I placed the pan on top of my dryer while I washed and dried clothes all morning. This worked great when it's too cold anywhere else to get dough to rise.

After the dough was roll-sized, Princess Sparkley helped me roll each ball into a snake.

Then I tied them in a knot, dipped them in butter and sprinkled them with cinnamon-sugar.

I placed each roll in a heart shaped silicone muffin wrapper. You could use a regular muffin tin. You could also probably just put them back in the 9x13 pan.

Then they went back on top of the dryer to rise again.

Once I was happy with how big they were, I baked them for 15-20 minutes at 350.

And iced them with 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 TBSP butter, 2-3 TBSP milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Yum.


Remember how my Pampered Chef Ice Cream Dipper was "stolen?" Here's where I finally found it:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Heart Magic Erasers

image from here

Ever since the Magic Eraser hit the shelves, people have been telling me how marvelous they are. Mostly, people tell me about how wonderful they are at getting drawings off of walls. One, my kids don't draw on our walls much. Two, everytime I've tried a Magic Eraser on my wall, it's taken not only the crayon or pencil or grime off, but also the paint. I'll willingly admit it's probably the cheap paint on my walls. So, my love for Magic Erasers wasn't at first sight.
I never clean my bathtub. Well, I wouldn't say never, but close enough to never that that is probably a fairly accurate estimate. I know, gross. But it's because everytime I clean it, it looks just as gross as before I cleaned it because no matter what I tried, it wouldn't get the dirt trapped under soap scum off of my tub. So tonight I did a google search and I came up with this page, which recommended a Magic Eraser. I just happened to have some on hand that I think my mom bought me when she was here after Baby X was born. And they worked!! My bathtub is the sparkliest cleanest it has been since we moved in. Hooray! I might even go take a bath...

Away From My Computer...

Although, technically, my computer is away from me. Jed needed it to do a Power Point Presentation (should that all be capitalized?) for a class today and took our laptop to school with him to work on it. Which means I'm working on Princess Sparkley's school laptop, and emailing this in since technically, we're only supposed to be using it for school. And we are... she's finishing up her math work. In less than an hour and a half she's going to be in a virtual classroom with our education specialist from the virtual school and three other kids (they just started this up). Baby X (who needs a new nickname now that's he's quickly approaching not being a baby) is miraculously still fast asleep (it's 9:30 in Kansas). He had weird naps yesterday, went to bed just after 8, woke up around 10PM, I put his binky back in and he slept until 4AM when he had a bottle. Then he woke again at 5 and 5:30 and went right back to sleep and has been asleep since then. If only Buddy hadn't attacked me in bed at about 7:40 telling me 1.3 billion times that he wanted Xey (his name for Baby X) to be awake.

Updates on what's going on around here:

We're waiting for Jed to hear back from grad schools. We were thinking we wouldn't hear anything until March but people are starting to hear and I think he's getting in ulcer.

I have a roast we need to eat today that I'll cook in our crockpot (a new jumbo sized one I got for Christmas so I can fit the 10 dozen potatoes I like to crowd in with the roast). (Although I think I made most of our potatoes into mashed potatoes the other night. So also a trip to the grocery store. And if I'm going to the store, I have a bill to pay there as well).

Cookies to deliver to a girl from church.

Laundry to do. Mostly folding.

A bathtub to scrub.

A bedroom to clean.

New shoes to model on the blog.

Picture and recipes to post once I get TinaSparkle (our laptop) back.

PS's virtual school to finish for the day (one more page of a math workbook, Language Arts and a Phonics Assessment).

PS's regular school to take her to.

A shower.


Not in this order.

So... hopefully I'll be blogging again in a bit. But otherwise, cross your fingers that I'm at least doing something besides laying around being lazy or reading (because laying around reading IS NOT lazy).

And Baby X awakes...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine's Traditions

on sale for 69 cents from PartyAmerica

The only Valentine's Day tradition I can remember from my childhood is this- we'd wake up to, or come home from school to- a Valentine helium balloon and at the base of it would be a Valentine card from our parents along with some little treats. For a lot of years my dad would buy everyone a tiny heart box of chocolates. I've carried on the tradition with my kids and they are super excited for their balloons this year already.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kansas List

I started panicking here about all the things we need to do in Kansas before we can move. Here's the list I've come up with so far:

Eat at Lidia's in downtown KC (which, technically is in Missouri).
I believe it was Rachel who told me about this one.

Tour the Kansas state capitol in Topeka.
I've driven past it dozens of times, but the last time we went inside was on a trip to Kansas when Princess Sparkley was one. I figure we should at least go as Kansas residents.

Go to the Kansas City Zoo (again, Missouri).
We're kind of zoo people. We visit zoos in a lot of the places we've traveled to and while we've been to the Topeka Zoo, we've never been to the one in KC.

Take pictures of my kids in a field of sunflowers.
I think I missed this since the big time for sunflowers is late summer and by then we'll have moved.

What else? There are a bunch of local restaurants I think we should eat at. For those of you in Kansas, who have lived in Kansas, or who just have an image of Kansas... what things are quintessentially Kansas that we need to do before we can move?
Visit the Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs, KS.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Being Crafty: Reupholstering Chairs #1

Jed and I are not crafty people. And by crafty, I don't just mean sewing a quilt, etc. I guess what I'm trying to say is we're not handy people. Since I was a very little girl I've always loved Victorian houses and thought it would be so neat to remodel one (why are remodeling shows always so romanticized?). But as an adult knowing who I am, and knowing who I married, it just seems like more a hassle than enjoyable. I just want to strike it rich and buy an already beautifully remodeled old Victorian home. Better yet, I want a brand new home built in a Victorian style. See how lazy I've gotten? And it's not that we aren't capable people. We're plenty capable... I just don't think we're capable of huge, handyman type stuff. At least not without some (and my some, I mean a lot) of mistakes. I had to unfreeze one of the pipes under our kitchen sink a few weeks ago when it had been below freezing for several days and it was a huge accomplishment for me.

So where am I going with this? I posted this weekend about how we're going to have to reupholster our chairs. Everyone (all two commenters) seemed very intrigued by this, so I figured I would post about it as we went. Sort of like how I learned how to sew from a pattern and blogged about it as well so everyone could mock me for my mistakes. Hopefully (please cross your fingers, say a prayer, throw a coin into a fountain for me) the end product makes me happy.

So... to start of this project, here's the before:

I really like the design. I don't really like the coloring of the wood (but I'm not tackling that). And, like I said, the cushions are hideous.

Here's the chair. I watched a lot of video tutorials online and this would all be so much simpler of it had a drop-in seat.

Close up on the cushion. I'm thinking I'm skipping the piping stage... if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see a row of piping at the top of the cushion and at the bottom. I'm not that good and I know the outcome would be horrible if I attempted it. This should be okay, right?

Where we are now. One chair has been taken apart... behind it is it's bare cushion.
There are 8 chairs total, so 7 more to go. And we can't take them apart all at once or we'll have nothing to sit on.

This is the fabric I ordered. At first I was looking for something more in blue with yellow as an accent and very little design to it. Somehow I ended up with this, but I like it.

Swatch from Joann's.

Plus, it was 50% off.

So the fabric is ordered, and one chair is ready to be reupholstered. Hopefully I'm not still posting about this in a year, but you never know...

Book Report: Paper Towns by John Green

image from www.amazon.com

My friend Jazzy (hi Jazzy!) recommended this book to me, Paper Towns by John Green, so I requested it from the library and then hurriedly read it because someone had it on hold after me.

Language and sexual references aside*, I loved this book. I thought it was very well written and it was just such an interesting, fun story. I think I've convinced my husband that he should read it (once the library has it available again) because this seems like the sort of book he'd enjoy if he read young adult books like I do.

The story is basically two kids grow up next door to each other, a boy and a girl, who when they are teenagers have grown into a nerdy boy and a super popular girl, and whose friendship has grown apart. One night, she climbs in his bedroom window and thus begins a wild, adventurous night but the next day she's gone missing. He feels like she wants him to find her, and begins another adventure trying to find and follow her clues.

*It's a book written by a guy, about some teenage guys, with a teenage guy as the main character... language and sexual references are what you'd expect knowing that.

Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Pie

image from Taste of Home

I am not fond of most nuts, peanuts and cashews being the exception. Just two or three years ago I started being able to enjoy a tiny bit of pecan topping a dessert or a muffin. But I'm not crazy enough to jump right in and devour a pecan pie, especially since I spent most of my childhood thinking pecan pies were disgusting, right up there on my list with mincemeat pie (whatever that is). The trouble is, my husband LOVES pecan pie. He often goes to the grocery store for a treat for us a returns with a pecan pie. Yuck. He's brainwashed my kids into liking them... but it has to be a darn good pecan pie for me to be able to enjoy it. Two Thanksgivings ago I was introduced to my brother-in-law's mom's (did you follow that?) pecan pie recipe. It's actually very tasty, but still not the top of my dessert list. So when my current issue of Taste of Home magazine showed up and I saw this recipe for Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Pie I immediately added it to my very long mental list of dessert recipes to try. Where can we go wrong? My husband loves pecans, caramel, cheesecake and pie. I love caramel, cheesecake and am okay with pecans and pie. Hooray! I'm going to try it out soon. Maybe it'll be our Valentine's Day treat.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Up Late

It's 12:38 AM. Jed and I sat down a couple of hours ago and put on a movie (Oceans 11) while he dismantled the upholstery on one of our dining room chairs so we could figure out what we'd need to do if we were going to reupholster them. You see, we inherited this table and chairs from someone who inherited it from someone, then we loaned it out for a few years and then it's been ours for the last 3 1/2 years. The fabric on the chairs is hideous... has always been hideous. At first I was going to sew slip covers for them, but I could never really figure out how to go about doing it. Now one of the chairs has a hole in it and Jed has currently taken it apart. So we popped in a movie to watch while he pulled out what turned out to be a million staples and I shopped for fabric online. I've found and purchased the fabric along with scotch guard. He's gotten most of the staples out. But the staples took longer than Oceans 11, so we've moved on to Oceans 12. This is how we end up staying up so late all the time. Argh. And this was only one of eight chairs. Maybe we'll do a chair a weekend for two months and at some point we'll be done. I hope we can do this. Cross your fingers for me.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Fear of Round Brushes

I went to get my hair cut today. I go back and forth between chin length hair (sometimes shorter) and long hair. I like long hair because it requires no haircuts and it can easily be pulled into a bun or ponytail, but I have super fine hair and it looks best short. I've hit a rut I hit every two years or so when I decide I need to chop my hair off because I'm sick oh how it looks in a ponytail EVERY DAY. So I chopped it to my chin again today. Well, I didn't do any chopping, I paid someone to chop for me. And when I was sitting in the chair, contemplating my new look, I realized that I'm a bit afraid of round brushes. You know, the ones you use to blow dry your hair under or straight. It all goes back to about third grade when I had this awesome new round brush in a rainbow of pastel colors. My mom was brushing my hair under before school and the brush got ... stuck. Yep, stuck. I was late to school that day because we spent the better half of the morning trying to figure out how to get the brush out without having to cut out a huge chunk of hair. We cut out some of the bristles, but in the end we ended up having to cut out a block of hair. Luckily it was under all my other hair at the base of my neck, and it grew back. Hence my fear of the round brush... I'm still a bit hesitant when using a round brush, when having one used on me, or when using one on my daughter's hair.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pizza Bubble Ring

image from food.yahoo.com

Jed is in some tiny class this semester that is basically discussing the economics of the current financial crisis. Each week someone is in charge of bringing refreshments. He joked that yesterday's refreshments should be bubble themed since they were talking about some sort of bubble dealing with the topic... he's explained it all to me, but it's too early for my mind to function on that high of an intellectual level right now. You can ask him if you really want to know.

Anyways, he joked about bubble theme food, and then ended up being assigned the refreshments for that meeting. I got the fun challenge of bubble foods. Yea. His first thought was cream puffs, but was worried that the people in the class (half girls) would be the kind of people who would freak out about fattening, treat foods. So I did a Google search for bubble food recipes and landed on this one. I made it for us and then another batch for his class. Yum. And even though I made it twice, I only remembered to take one picture (not the one above) and it's when they are in dough stage, waiting in another dish to be put into the fluted tube pan. Whoops. Oh well, the picture on the website that I posted above is much better anyway.

My adjustments to the recipe:
Cover with tin foil for the first half or so of baking so the top ones don't get to brown. They aren't really burnt without the tin foil, but to my kids, they are.

And I made Trailer Trash Truffles... also ball or bubble shaped.

Monday, February 02, 2009


image from here

When we decided to move to Kansas it was a quick, scary decision. It went something like this: yeah, let's move halfway across the country for a job that will hopefully work out once we're there and have shown that we are committed to living in Kansas (it didn't at first, but then it did). Our families thought we were nuts. We weren't completely convinced that we were sane. I wasn't even convinced I wanted to live in Kansas, it was just what we knew we were supposed to do, what was best for our family at the time.

We've lived here almost 3 1/2 years now (by the time we move it will have been almost 4 years and nearly half of our marriage) and we love it. We've made great friends. The kids have great friends. There's an awesome virtual school through the school district which means I'm not scrambling to pull homeschool curriculum out of a hat. And contrary to what everyone thought (including me) we don't live in the middle of a giant corn field. But in July we move. I'm freaking out a bit because I don't know where we'll be moving, but also because I have this mental list of stuff to do while we are living here and I'm just realizing that the clock is ticking... I have a lot to do before we can go.
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