Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Bloggess

I saw this on my friend's facebook page:


The Bloggess and the Christmas Gift Card Miracle of 2010*

the link there will take you to a Washington Post article about Jenny Lawson who is otherwise known as "The Bloggess" it is really cool- the article is cool, the idea is cool, what happened is cool and Ms Lawson sounds cool.
I"m going to have to look her up

Monday, December 20, 2010

Regarding Senator Sanders and President Obama

Bernie Sanders Puts Barack Obama to Shame

This article was written by Matt Taibbi for "Rolling Stone" December 15th - and I happened upon it in JJ's side bar over at the Disconnected Writer and I wanted to share it.

I'm a little out of the loop on the whole budget thing.  But I get that President Obama (who incidentally I did not vote for) ran loud and clear on his desire to rescind Bush tax cuts (which were temporary) and he cut a deal - or maybe deals - and allowed them to be extended.  I caught the end of Senator Sanders's filibuster on T.V.  he was still going strong voicing his opinion and reading letters he had received.  One cannot help but respect him.

In the meantime CBS has people on T.V. tonight saying that the largest 15 states's debt is so difficult to assess that they expect to see issues in the Municipal Bond Market by this spring.  And Governor's in many states are said to be watching Governor Chris Christie of NJ take on the state government labor unions regarding benefits.  He said "I don't have a pension.  I have a 401K and some stock options.  I can't believe people are still getting pensions."

hmm - interesting.

I do have to say, I do not see how we could pay our teachers any less - but then I don't believe Virginia's teachers have a union, but I could be wrong.  I don't know if the VEA is a professional organization or a union-  The VEA website does say that thee VEA will fight for 3-percent pay increase for school employees.  How are they going to do that?!?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pink Saturday - Christmas Past

I am linking this post with Beverly's Pink Saturday Linkups at How Sweet the Sound.

Last Christmas we took the children to Disney World.  A bit unorthodox for us, we tend to stay home at Christmas.  Both Grandmothers live in town- but it was a lot of fun!



There were of course the challenges of taking a three year old to Disney during one of, if not THE, busiest times of year.  "Small World" was a perfect example.  Even with the fast pass we waited in line a little and she was done, done with lines, done with waiting and being very 3.  We stepped into the boat and she was literally on the floor of the boat having a hissy fit.  The boat turned the corner, she saw the first doll and heard the music-

that face is the transition from screaming because she was done to shrieking with delight.  It lasted until it was time to get out of the boat!

I love the small world - the many many many layers of movement and color are just amazing to me.

The highlight of that trip for me continues to be the lunch we had in Epcot- at Akershus.  The Princesses all walk through the dining room while you eat, they stop at each table, sign autographs and take photos. Snow White was my favorite, she said hello in perfect Snow White voice and then when my boys were being quiet asked "oh, are we all bashful today?" Ariel is a house favorite and she graciously took a photo with each of the girls individually.  I thought it was a very worth while addition to our time in the Disney Parks.

I was so pleased with the character dining at Akershus that I wrote about for Associated Content here

Who is the American Middle Class?

I happened upon an article about marriage trends -

Why the marriage gap is bad for America


and it got me wondering, who IS middle class?  This is why:
her definitions:
"Middle Americans" (the 58% of moderately educated Americans who have a high school degree)
vs:
financially well-off Americans (the 30% who have a college degree or higher)

really?  Middle America means no college education?  well-off means college degree?  Wow - I know a whole lot of people who consider themselves "Middle Class" who are really "Well-off."

So I started trying to find an actual definition.

Instead I found a few articles:

Who or what is the middle class? Economic data can't fully explain why so many feel financially squeezed By John W. Schoen

Senior Producer
"The varied experiences of Americans who consider themselves middle class aren't really surprising. As economic and social forces buffet families chasing the American Dream, there’s disagreement among the experts who crunch the numbers about how just well or poorly this group is faring — or even who they are.
There is near-universal agreement that the gap in wealth between the richest American and the poorest is widening to levels not seen in nearly a century. But that doesn't tell you much about how those in the middle are faring.
Data aside, being “middle class” in America today appears to be mostly a state of mind. And there are very real sources of anxiety for those who aspire to a comfortable middle-class life in America."
and

Are you middle class?

American Demographics, Oct, 1996 by Elia Kacapyr, Peter Francese, Diane Crispell


"Being middle class has emerged as a vital part of the 20th-century American pscyhe. The majority of Americans define themselves as middle class, regardless of their actual income level. This perception is obviously off-base, but with no official definition, it's hard to pin down how much Americans overestimate their middle-class status."
I actually really get that bit.  That being middle class has emerged as part of the 20th century American pscyhe.  Really, who claims to be upper class?  Okay - I guess I just don't run in those circles.  Nearly everybody I know claims "middle class."  Which is kind of interesting.
from the same article:
"Where Americans come and go in their economic status is a matter of some controversy within the economic community. One study, based on a longitudinal survey that followed the same households over a period of time, found that more of the people who leave the middle class move up than down.(*) The most recent Census Bureau survey data show that the share of households with incomes of $75,000 or more has doubled in the past 24 years. Other studies, however, discover that more people who depart the middle class move down than up, at least temporarily."
In an article released nearly as I write,

David Brooks: U.S. must define itself by values, not rank

 David Brooks states:

To be middle class is to have money to spend on non-necessities. But it also involves a shift in values. Middle-class parents have fewer kids but spend more time and money cultivating each one. They often adopt the bourgeois values — emphasizing industry, prudence, ambition, neatness, order, moderation and continual self-improvement. They teach their children to lead different lives from their own, and as Karl Marx was among the first to observe, unleash a relentless spirit of improvement and openness that alters every ancient institution.

Last year, the Pew Research Center surveyed the global middle class and found that middle-class people are more likely than their poorer countrymen to value democracy, free speech and an objective judiciary. They were more likely to embrace religious pluralism and say that you don't have to believe in God to be good. 

Why ask?  Well, I for one feel that we hear about the American Middle Class everytime anybody in government makes a speech about the budget.  And so I too feel I fall into that spread - although not by some definitions.  I am college educated after all.  I do not live in household in which both husband and wife work full time (he works full time I work part time).  We do emphasize, ambition, neatness (sort of), self improvement, democracy, free speech (with a few limits.  You may not say certain words or phrases to your mother, your teacher or your grandmother!) And I ask because I want to know - I think that these people in government are speaking to me - do they think they are?!?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Animals, ethics, and clothing

Fur is a big deal this year.  It is everywhere.  When I was in Las Vegas this October (which is almost as cool as being in New York or Paris or Milan fashion wise) nearly every house was featuring fur in some shape or form.  Someone was quoted in Vogue as saying it was the fashion industry saying "enough" to the idea of recession and showing off a bit of luxury.  And traditionally fur is a luxury item.

I've always found the controversy over fur interesting.  When I was in 5th grade I lived in Germany.  One of the teachers at the American Military Base where we attended school was very pro animals and had her 4th grade class join a club.  My brother was in her class.  I leapt in too- my goal at the time was to work for the World Wildlife Federation saving Panda Bears and I was busy trying to teach myself Chinese in preparation.  My mother regrets to this day our involvement with the animal group.  The exchange rate - dollars to duetschmarks, was something like 1 to 3 at the time and my father had offered to purchase her a very nice fur coat while they were out shopping.  She turned it down, afraid of whatever psychological effect that would have on her young impressionable children.  It never occurred to me to question the ethical ramifications of wearing leather shoes.  During my college years I once asked a rather fashionable vegetarian how she could wear cow but not eat cow and received nothing but an open mouthed stare in response.

Because fur is such the fashion item this year - fake fur is also everywhere.  I caught myself wondering about that recently.  Really - fake fur is made of polymers - which I always interpret as plastics (my very rudimentary understanding is that plastics do not decompose easily or quickly- so fake fur is around for a long time?) so I found myself wondering - if one is going to have an item - is it better to have a fake fur item that adds to pollution through the factory making it and the fact that it is made out of plastic and will be in a landfill LONG after you are gone or is it better to wear an animal fur?

So first I googled fake fur:

fake fur according to enotesFake fur is a type of textile fabric fashioned to simulate genuine animal fur. It is known as a pile fabric and is typically made from polymeric fibers that are processed, dyed, and cut to match a specific fur texture and color. First introduced in 1929, advances in polymer technology have tremendously improved fake fur quality. Today's fake furs can be nearly indistinguishable from the natural furs they imitate.

polymers according to Wikipediapolymer is a large molecule (macromolecule) composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds. Although the term polymer is sometimes taken to refer to plastics, it actually encompasses a large class of natural and synthetic materials with a wide variety of properties.


And so, fake fur is not necessarily made out of plastic.  Okay - good I think...
but really - are these other fibers any better?


So I googled "environmental effects of fake fur" and google directs me to: Natural Living for Women: Fur Free Faux Fur:
Here Mod-acrylic Fibers are discussed:

"These are synthetic fibers which when made are not very environmentally friendly. They are made with non-renewable resources, frequently produce toxic waste and aren't biodegradable to name just a few of the possible problems.
But not all synthetic fibers are created the same. Some are made with more care for the environment than others. Tissavel is one of those fibers popularly used.
Tissavel has been tested by Oeko-Tex an organization concerned with the safety of textiles both for the consumer, the people involved in the manufacturing and for the environment. According to the Oeko-tex Standard 100 , Tissavel was awarded a "Confidence in Textiles" license.
It conforms to the standards described in the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 protocol and it has been tested by an independent organization and awarded a license to display the certification label.
Oeko-Tex looks at all stages of manufacture to determine environmental impact but their highest priority is the effect the production of the fiber or the fiber itself can have on people.
I was not able to find any such testing or rating of any other mod-acrylics. But that may change with time. Ask the manufacturer if the mod-acrylics used in their faux fur have been tested for harmful substances."



Hmm, so Tissavel is perhaps a choice but how to know if that is what the fur you are looking at is made out of?


On the flip side:
There is now an Origin Assured label I've seen advertised in fashion magazines.  It seems to have been around for at least a little while, the website is showing contests from 2009.
Origin Assured is real fur, that claims to be committed to sustainable and responsible practice.  Their fact sheets include a list of approved countries and species, agreement on humane trapping standards, suppl chain, IFTF fact sheet, Finnish Fur Sales, Kopenhagen Fur Fact Sheet and others coming soon.


What do you do about the indigenous peoples who use the fur trade to make a living?  I am not asking about indigenous peoples who wear fur as part of their culture - I do not think that is any of my business.  But with things like regulations - well I'm just curious how it all works.


I am frankly not sure what I think.  Being one who adores all things canine - I cannot imagine wearing coyote or fox.  Can't do it.  For whatever reason, rabbit or sheepskin, or deer or cow isn't nearly as upsetting.  Pony - goodness no!  Python - gross and no.  No alligator boots for me either.  


I'm very curious what others think.  How do they reconcile if they wear leather, but won't eat meat.  Or prefer organic foods and eco fabrics but go for faux fur.  







Cookie Exchanges


My friend, L.A. had a cookie exchange last night.  I love a cookie exchange!  They are just cozy gatherings - and even L.A. who is sophisticated and metropolitan has a lovely cozy exchange.  She had candles everywhere - which was kind of funny because of the guests managed to catch her hair in the flame and we had "ode de burning hair" going for a while!  And she lives in a really neat house, the butler's pantry is faced by a bar with a sink and is framed out in tiles, from floor to ceiling, that are aquamarine blue and deep purple. She has bold modern art, figurative but nearly abstract and very much about the color, all over.  Lots of color on the walls.  It's beautiful and fascinating and it took effort to resist the urge to go poking about the house.  I'd never been to her house before and I was just dying to take myself on a self guided tour!

My offering to the party:
Mama Kay’s Molasses Cookies and Peppermint Icing

2 ½ cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses

½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup hot water

Peppermint Icing
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon peppermint
1 tablespoon cream

set four, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg aside in bowl
melt butter in a large saucepan (low heat)
remove from heat, mix in sugar, then molasses
dissolve baking soda in hot water
add dry ingredients to butter mixture, alternating with baking soda/water, beginning and ending with dry

chill dough 2 hours

oven at 350, bake 10 minutes, cool and ice

Thursday, December 9, 2010

a quick share: send someone Santa's personalized message

Through an email from a friend I stumbled upon this site: Portable North Pole

Here you are allowed to design a video that will be emailed to you (or the designated email address) in which Santa speaks-
you tell Santa the recipient's name, their age, if they are in school, something else (like a pet's name), and so on.
I sent it to my 5 yr old last night.  She was enchanted - absolutely enchanted.

and it is free.

Gerald Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"

Wednesday I had the most extraordinary experience.  My mother in law invited me to the Williamsburg Inn for Tea and a performance of "A Christmas Carol."

Mr. Gerald Dickens created a one man show - in which he performs "A Christmas Carol" by his great grandfather Charles Dickens.  When my mother in law tried to explain the performance (this was her second opportunity to see Mr. Dickens) I thought perhaps the gentleman would read excerpts or something.  No no no.  I've googled Mr. Dickens and although I cannot find a resume or portfolio of works I am quite sure he is a well trained theater actor.

- it was a fabulous experience.  He is amazing.  He did such a wonderful job and so very convincingly portrays each character.  And then Tea at the Inn!  The Williamsburg Inn is a five star historical establishment.  It was really over the top-

His performance schedule is listed at his website geralddickens.com under events

He also has audio recordings of  A Christmas Carol available through audible.com.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Red Rock Canyon

It is Outdoor Wednesday and I'm linking up with A Southern Day Dreamer and Friends

In October I visited Nevada and shared some photos of Red Rock Canyon. I've been playing around with Zenfolio and uploaded some of the Red Rock Canyon photos and wanted to share the slide show.




While I am new to Zenfolio and new to photography sites in general, I can say this one is very easy to use.

They do have a referral program, so if you decide to give them a try I would appreciate you remembering to give them my name or number: DQ2-NKB-UZY


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

flat tire

UGH!
That kind of day.

I wanted to get out to pick up a table I bought at the Williamsburg Antique Mall yesterday. Headed out - intending to drop off somethings by the D.A.V. Thrift store and then fetch the table - and noticed the warning light was on in the car because my air pressure was low in the tires. Actually - it has BEEN on - but I just felt like I probably needed to handle it. So - I stopped at the gas station, filled up the gas tank and started filling up tires- last tire I notice doesn't have a cap. As soon as I go to add air to it it starts spewing air out. CRAP! It is cold today. My little girl is with me. I do not want to get stuck - so I quick hop in the car and drive home (maybe 2 miles more likely 1 and a quarter) watching the pressure gage drop. It hits 20 PSI and tells me I am on "run flat" not to exceed 50 mph. NO worries, I'm doing 20.
I get home. Get little girl inside and go find the jack.

I get my minivan jacked up. Find the wrench in the back of the car. Give it a good try. Really. Stop and think, righty tighty lefty loosey - I AM turning left. Won't budge. Crud.

So... digging through the phone book I see Skimino Enterprises.
Give 'em a call. He'll be out, 30 minutes or less. Whew!

In the mean time I go hunting for the spare. I can't find the manual. Seriously? I blaming that on the husband. So I call my Honda dealer's service department. "Hi I have a real bimbo question for you, and I'm sorry about that. I can't find my manual and I am looking for my spare tire." He gets a tiny bit of a chuckle out when I say "bimbo question" but is very professional otherwise.

Its supposed to be under the car. Well he got that wrong. It isn't and there isn't anyplace for it to be. So...
Gentleman from Skimino arrives and he so is a gentleman. Very professional and yet kinda sweet too. Helps me look for the spare. We find where it should be - it should be inside the car behind the front two seats. But it isn't there.

Okay, I'm blaming the husband for that too.

So the guys at work were to stop by to check the new inter office messaging system to make sure people can reach me at home - I ask them to take the tire to the tire place. My father-in-law is headed to my house later - I'll ask him to pick it up.

and where is the husband? Out Skiing! Not cool.

And because I find it matters more and more to be able to google a name, especially for a small independent business:

If you are in the Williamsburg James City County Area and need road side assistance I recommend Skimino Enterprises. They were quick, friendly, and very reasonably priced.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Old Fashioned Customer Service

So there is a very cute little boutique in Williamsburg called "The Carousel" and they sell very nice children's clothes.  I especially like their shoes.

Among other styles they carry old fasioned double buckle school shoes by Footmates.  They remind me of kind I used to wear that my mom bought at Stride Rite- Stride Rite is about an hour away from me though and this place is just around the corner.  I bought M-Lyons a pair a navy blue ones to go with her school uniform.  Even though we attend public schools, our elementary school has a "uniform" dress code: navy or kakhi pants or skirts and a collared shirt in white, blue or red.  Unfortunately she broke one of the buckles when she was running outside.  I had a look at it and couldn't quite figure how she'd done it.

So I took them into the store and asked whether the shoe manufacturer had any kind of guarantee on the shoe.  The saleswoman at the Carousel told me they'd send them back for me.  A week later a pair of bright spanking new replacement shoes arrived at the store for pick up.  How cool is that?


I'm linking this to Smiling Sally's Blue Monday

I tried to find a link for footmates - a google search will return a long list of retailers carrying footmates but I didn't see a link to the company itself.  I even tried footmates.com and that took me to a retailer!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pink Saturday - Sweet Dreams

It has been a busy, busy, day.  So, I'm sitting here for a moment with my hot cider and cinnamon before tidying up the kitchen and then off to sleep!

My friend has had a child in the hospital this week.  Little Elizabeth, 8 or 9 months old, caught an infection and went into the hospital Tuesday and made it home last night.  I was able to visit her mom Friday and was able to take big brother (3 yrs) and big sister (5 yrs) for much of the day today.  Big Brother isn't always keen on playdates without mom on a good day, after a week of mom sleeping at the hospital with baby sister I knew I was going to need something a little bit "more" to get him started.  He follows the Feingold Diet- Trader Joe's to the rescue!  I bought each kid a ginger bread house kit (yes that was 4, yes a bit extravagant but this was a special occasion (I just tried to find you a link.  I don't want to quote because I am not positive but I THINK they were $7.something each- so really. not bad if you didn't buy 4!)) and yay!  That seemed to do it.  So we built houses, and read books, and they played and played.

Our guests live in the same neighborhood as my in-laws so we dropped them off and stopped by to see Grandma and Grandpa- who fed us pizza.  yay!  And we came home and watched sappy Christmas specials that made me cry and washed the warm and cozy Christmas Flannels I bought eons ago when we lived in a different house and only had two kids.


creating Gingerbread Houses with friends


the kit at Trader Joe's includes gingerbread pieces, sprinkles, sugar people, all made without artificial colors or artificial preservatives.  Cool.


Big Sister's webkinz.  M-Lyons is sleeping with it tonight to make sure it isn't lonely while big sister is out of town.


Pink Flannel Christmas PJs from Grandma - and those flannel Christmas Sheets!  I bought them during one of the big sales at "The Company Store" years ago.  At least 6 years ago.  They are soft, heavy, warm flannel.  One of the best purchases I have ever made.


I am linking this (skating under the wire here) to Beverly's Pink Saturday Link Up.  I really like Pink Saturday.  There is something inherently happy and innocent about the color pink and these Saturday Posts allow me to tap into that and inevitably I find myself remembering to be grateful.  Tonight I am grateful for a the health of a friend's baby girl, a warm house, darling girls in pink pjs, and cozy flannel sheets.

Beverly has asked us to share a favorite holiday recipe.  This cheesecake recipe was shared by Mrs. Nelken with my grandmother, "Momma Jo" and made by my grandmother and my mother for every holiday and special occasion.  It takes time because of the beating and cooling - but it is worth it.

Sandy Nelken's Cheesecake

you will need a prepared graham cracker crust. take the time to make it from scratch. really.

step one:
1 lb cream cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
beat all of the above together for 20 minutes
pour into crust and cook at 350 for 20 minutes

cool to room temperature (if you refrigerate it you have to rewarm it to room temperature before adding in step two or you get a mess)

step two:
1 pint sour cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
beat all of the above for 10 minutes
pour over completed (cooked and cooled) step one
bake for 5 to 10 minutes at 450

allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.  It needs time to set.  Tastes very good for 2 or 3 days (it hasn't ever lasted more than 2 days at my house)

Friday, December 3, 2010

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks dropped by domain name provider


Until they supposedly "leaked" about the US Government I had never heard of WikiLeaks.  Have you?  I've listened to some of the news rather astounded.  I heard there is someone in the US government who wants to try the person who leaked US Documents and info to WikiLeaks for treason.  That's fairly serious (don't traitors get hanged?) and yet I can sort of see why.

Ah - see what happends when I am randomly awake at 3 AM?  I write about random stuff!  Off to bed now!

Johnny Depp



Was actually not looking for either Johnny Depp nor Angelina Jolie but managed to come across this.  I love Depp in the movies but I find this both interesting and a bit funny.  He comes across as "in character." Not quite relaxed or "himself."  Or maybe being in character IS being himself?

Have you seen "The Tourist?"  I haven't though I hope to soon.  Last movie I saw was Tangled.  LOVED it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shutterfly

So last week I wrote a post regarding Shutterfly's blogger give away.  I received my gift certificate (promo code - whatever) and ordered cards this morning.  I'm guessing I won't actually get them out by Christmas so I choose New Year's Cards-  they have lots to choose from but I went simple.  Our photos are busy enough.

Picture In Landscape 5x7 folded card
Unique party invitations and announcements by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.
Voila!
Inside there is a New Year's Message that I wrote AND 6 more pictures of my charming family. :-) Yay! I can't wait to see the actual card in the mail.

Thank you Shutterfly!

Parent Reviewers Directory Button

I am taking down my Parent Reviewers Directory Button.

They offered me the opportunity to do two reviews, one on pc protection, I run a mac, and one on closet organizers.  I wasn't interested in closet organizers and didn't think I could write a good or interesting or timely review.

Since then I haven't been offered anything, for what seems like months.

I know there are bloggers who love it and it was worth a try.  So it appears it just isn't my thing.

I am open to reviewing products though.

Like, um Adidas.  I love your running shoes.  So if you wanted to send me a new pair to try out... or Simple Shoes.  Hello!
Do you guys know about simple shoes?  CUTE! eco friendly shoes!  Like organic cotton and biodegradable components and recycled car tire bottoms... yeah.  I'd like to try out simple shoes.  My 12 yr old had a pair last year we bought on a crazy sale $14.00 or something.  REALLY REALLY cute!
or Orvis... those $200.00 dog beds look amazing.  Even though I just bought the dog a "nest" bed you had marked down and it looks like a luxury bean bag and my kids want it, I'd be happy to review a therapeutic bolster bed.  I'll try it for a night and then maybe I'll let the dog have it.  Athletica, I'd be really happy to review some of your clothes, outdoor wear, yoga wear, actually just about anything in your catalog!  Kids clothes, adult clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, cameras, dog products, coffee, I mean there is a whole world or products out there, surely some one wants my input! :-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Google Adsense

Yesterday I took my first google check to the bank.

so I had to go look it up - when I activated google ads on my blog.  It was April.  April 30th.  So counting from May - its been 7 months.  And in 7 months I have earned my first check. (google cuts a check at $100.00)  So... Can I make a living?  Ummm no.  But as far as catching a couple cents here and there for doing something I'm pretty much going to do anyway... its kind of cool.

An extra hundred bucks, just in time for Christmas.  Or as my somewhat cynical husband said, "just in time for Uncle Sam to take it all away." Way to ruin a moment honey.