Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Alien bunny slippers

Originally uploaded by j_m_k
In which aliens kidnap DH by using innocent looking bunny slippers (a la A Christmas Story but without the whole pink bunny suit)...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Alumni conference call

I went Shippensburg University, a smallish state school in Pennsylvania. While I was in school, my family relocated to North Carolina and I joined them here when I graduated. Most of the people that I graduated with went back to places like Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia or Cherry Hill, NJ. A couple of years ago, the Shippensburg alumi association contacted me and a group of us went to a Carolina Hurricanes game. Last year, there was an event and just this week, they organized a conference call with us to discuss possible events for this year. I thought that was really neat. About a half dozen of us were on the call and we've been exchanging e-mails as well. It looks like we are going to get a tent at the Great Grapes festival in April. The university president is going to try to make it to both Raleigh and Charlotte for events.

Even more exciting than that, one of the other Shippensburg graduates heard me say something about "my training will be ramping up again at that time of year." He e-mailed me seperately and said that he is
"thinking -- so far, just thinking stage -- about doing a triathlon"

Ah, I know how that goes. I trained as if I was going to ride the MS150 for month or so before I actually bit the bullet and signed up for my first one. He's a goner.

I'm very excited to have made this connection with another Shippensburg person. How cool.

Before the Break Timesink

This is the last day my office is opened this year. Things are getting pretty slow around here so I have been testing my knowledge.

Find Sonography schools near you

FWIW, I got occurrance occurrence wrong.

Then I moved on to happy Christmas quizzes and discovered that my Elf name is Happy Stocking Stuffer.

Your Elf Name Is...

Happy Stocking Stuffer

... and my reindeer name is Prancer.
You Are Prancer

You are the perfect reindeer, with perfect hooves and perfect flying form.

Why You're Naughty: Because you're Santa's pet, and you won't let anyone show you up.

Why You're Nice: You have the softest fur and the sweetest carrot breath.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday spice cookies

These are some of my favorite holiday cookies, not that I've met many home baked cookies that I didn't like. I love the combination of spices and the fact that they are not at all fussy to make. My only complaint is that they kind of need a different name since they are only balls going into the oven. I'd hate to rename them, though, since they are named for someone's grandmother.

If you've never used freshly ground nutmeg before, this should convert you! It make a real difference.

Ruth Moulton's Spice Balls

Note that these "balls" will be flat after baking.

12 Tbs ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp table salt

  • Combine the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses.
  • Sift the flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt together onto a piece of parchment. Add to the butter mixture in 2 batches, beating just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 3 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a pie plate. Shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll in the sugar to coat. Arrange 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets (Silpat works fine) and bake until cracked and dry but still soft, about 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cool on wire racks.
Yield: about 48 cookies

Source: Sara Moulton Cooks at Home

Dealing with bureaucracy at the DMV

I went to DMV to renew my driver's license this week and was told I needed to my social security number straight -- I had a post-9/11 "SSN Mismatch" error thrown by the DMV computer. I was shocked by this because this is not my first encounter with the NC DMV since REAL ID. DMV employee handed me a paper with the directions to the Social Security office -- and the Mexican Consulate on it! Apparently this is a common double trip.

When DH and I got married nearly (gulp) fifteen years ago and I changed my name, I went through a lot of grief because I was born in outside of the United States. I gave the social security folks my birth certificate, social security card and marriage certificate and they said, "You're not American." I had to produce all sorts of other paperwork (so sorry that my dad is a US Veteran and was Serving His Country when I was born. hate to inconvenience you.) I kind of mentally freaked out for a while and went to social security and waited Over An Hour to find out that Nothing is Wrong. I went back to DMV... with additional paperwork to try to convince them that I'm not someone that Homeland Security -- motto: Preserving our Freedoms, Protecting America -- needs to worry about.

I managed to bring enough paperwork this time and they let me renew until 2015 or some such.

BTW, the DMV had a typo and that was the root cause of the mess.

Ah, the joys of dealing with bureaucracy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kitchen Cleanup

Originally uploaded by Janyne K.
We had some help cleaning up after making the filling for the buckeyes.

Making Buckeye Candy

This weekend DH and I embarked on our annual candy making extravaganza. We made two batches of buckeyes, chocolate covered orange mints, peanut butter fudge, chocolate fudge, nut brittle and peppermint bark. We like to make a variety of candies and give them to friends and neighbors. One of our favorites is buckeye candies which are a delicious combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

The candies are named for their resemblance of the the buckeye seed, described as "hard, brown, shiny, and slightly irregular." Buckeyes are inedible members of the horse-chestnut family and are actually a nutlike seed. It is said that Native Americans called the seeds the "eye of the buck" and that is the origin of the name buckeye. A lot of other folklore is associated with word buckeye as well.

We had some help cleaning up after I made the filling.


1 cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened (a half stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ to 3 cups confectioner's sugar
5 ounces dark chocolate candy coating
1 ounce baking chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla by hand or with an electric mixed. Gradually add the powdered sugar, blending until smooth and the mixture can be shaped into balls. Shape into ball ¾ to 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet. Cover and chill or freeze for 20 minutes or longer.
  • Cover a large counter top area or a large baking sheet with waxed paper.
  • Melt the candy coating. Insert a toothpick into the top of each ball and dip the bottom two-thirds of each ball into the melted chocolate, leaving one-third uncoated. Carefully slide teh balls onto waxed paper so that the undipped portion is pointed upwards. Remove the toothpicks. Using a knife or metal spatula, smooth over the whole left by the toothpick. Let stand until chocolate is firm. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 48 pieces

Recipe Source: Who Wants Candy? by Jane Sharrock

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Secret Santa

Every year and e-mail list that I belong to does a Secret Santa gift exchange. In an earlier article, I mentioned that Hannah offered her Quality Control assistance with our outgoing package.

Each year, I hesitate before signing up for Secret Santa. I am always so unsure about what to get for the person whose name I get. I never really feel good about what I send. What do Rottweilers and Chihuahuas play with? Feeling a good bit of angst, I sent three (size appropriate) bone shaped toys in camo fabric, a rope bone, dog treats, a kong, kong stuffing, chocolates for the humans and a book called How to Have an Ill Behaved Dog (and I kept my fingers crossed that my recipient had the sense of humor that I thought she did!). On the other hand, I like reading about the secret Santa deliveries on the list.

As I see it, there are a few problems with SS.
  • The sign up date is so darn early. The deadline for signing up this year was originally in October. I understand, in a way. People want to know who they are assigned early enough to order a special gift, receive the gift, wrap it and then send it in the mail. The other part of the deadline -- get it in the mail by December 15 -- is set by the Post Office. December 15 is the last day for mailing by parcel post with an expected delivery prior to Christmas. Unfortunately, some people on the list seem to think that the gift should have been received by December 15.
  • The rules aren't really followed which makes me feel like I'm flying without a net.
    We try to set a limit at $20-$25. It is your prerogative to go over that limit, but you do not need to.
    The thing is, no one does that. So if the limit isn't really $25, where does that leave me?
Clearly these complaints aren't too serious. I participated again this year!

On Friday, we received a box from our secret Santa -- Elf Steph (aka, She Who Should Use Her Blog More). Elf Steph and her sidekick Reilly really outdid themselves and basically over did it. The girls received a Pink Pig and a similar sheep. Both the pig and sheep make a grunting nose that fascinates Emma. Hannah has been carrying one or the other around the house with her for days. They also received a bright orange retrieval kong toy for playing with outside and treats galore. Our elf also sent the human household members a gingerbread loaf (which Hannah attempted to claim for dogdom) and chocolate chip cookies and a cycling themed shirt and a desk calendar. Basically, it was an embarrassingly large array of goodies!
I only hope that my recepients enjoyed their package as much as we've enjoyed ours!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Humane Society Traces Expensive Pups to Pet Mills - New York Times

As anyone who has ever adopted a dog from a shelter or worked with a pet rescue organization can tell you, this is very sad and, unfortunately, not very surprising. Please adopt from a shelter or rescue group or work with a reputable breeder.

Humane Society Traces Expensive Pups to Pet Mills - New York Times

P.S. Please no Christmas puppies either.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hannah is not getting old

Hannah offers Quality Control

Hannah almost got herself into really bad trouble doing an inspection of our outgoing Secret Santa gift. I think that she wanted to do some Quality Control." AH!!! As a friend said, this could have been tragic for the recipients!

Hannah gets Stuck

After Miss Hannah offered her services Secret Santa Quality Control Inspector last night, we sat down to watch a movie (Hairspray). Hannah and Emma can never make it through a movie and after some insistence on their part, we had an intermission to let the girls out. Emma came right back in and Hannah was delayed.

I went out to the deck and I could see her "stuck." She would put on foot on the bottom step and then back up and then put her foot on the bottom step and sniff the next stop and back up again. She just couldn't see well enough to confidently do the steps. All the while she was rapidly wagging her tail. I went down the half dozen or so steps to sit with her and offered to lead her up and she wagged her tail and kissed me.

I went and asked DH to provide elevator service. All the while, DH told Hannah, "It's OK to ask for help." When lift Hannah, she is uncomfortable. She much prefers DH for this.

We let the girls out the front door for Final Call. The front yard has only two steps but is unfenced.

Hannah had a regular vet appointment scheduled for this evening anyway. This situation was discussed and we all agree that it is a night vision/depth perception problem. She has seen the eye doctor and her vision problems were put down as normal aging for a Labrador retriever. This morning, she did fine getting up the steps in the dark.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Digital Grandma

On a brighter note, I've been putting together some photos for Grandma's Christmas gift. We're giving her a digital photo frame and I've been gathering some pictures to put on a memory card for her. We've noticed that she likes pictures of herself so a lot of them are of her!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Grandma's Saga continues...

When last I wrote, Grandma had eaten two servings of lasagna and feeling fine after a somewhat miraculous recovery.

Tuesday morning, however, she called 911 because The Pain was so bad. It was so bad that she did not call Mom, who is less than one mile away. Grandma was taken to the emergency room where a CT Scan revealed nothing new. Additional tests were preformed and she was referred to a surgeon after tests revealed an "abnormal bowel gas pattern" in her abdomen. She was went home with a stronger dose of the pain pills that she is taking intermittently. Tuesday afternoon, she called Mom to let her know about the eventful morning. Yesterday, Grandma was feeling fine and was in a good mood.

Grandma sees the surgeon next Tuesday.

I am wondering why she did this end run on Mom? Is she acting out or really in sick? I'd hate to think that she was really really sick and we not taking her seriously. It all reminds me a bit of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The whole situation makes me feel bad. I hate that my grandmother isn't feeling well -- whether it's a physical or emotional problem. I hate that my mother is having to deal with the fallout. I hate that the medical community sometimes confuses quantity of life with quality of life.

Hey Spot, You’ve Got Mail - New York Times

Hey Spot, You’ve Got Mail - New York Times

My dogs have e-mail accounts. Do yours?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Things that I don't like about Christmas

When I mentioned my Top Ten post to DH, he said, can I make a list of things that I don't like about Christmas? I said sure and the first thing that he said was shopping. I actually like that part so I won't list it here!

Things that I don't like about the holidays
  • Ba Humbug types
  • The commercials. Hint: You wouldn't need the milk of magnesia if you controlled your eating. Oh, and I hope that you weren't expecting a new car for Christmas either. The Lexus one is is particularly annoying. And the Zales and Jared jewelery ones. Ah well, I guess that's why we have a DVR.
  • Holiday Creep - Can you please please wait until December to send me cards! Can you please wait until at least Halloween before sending me catalogs? Please.
  • New Year's Eve - I think that New Year's Eve is a fake holiday. I've never been much into the drinking thing and the idea of a bunch of drunks celebrating midnight by watching something drop from the sky and then getting in their cars to drive home turns me off. Is it just me or is the entire purpose of the holiday to get drunk and then wear funny hats? At this point we've already given thanks and celebrated friend and family. I've tried to go out for dinner that night but that doesn't work well either. For the past several years, we've had Carolina Hurricanes tickets and that kind of works for me. New Year's Eve just seems to be a big disappointment. Maybe it's holiday letdown already.
  • Commercialism. I do think that they holidays are getting more and more commercial and becoming less and less about friends and family and traditions. People are buying holiday treats instead of baking them and so on. I know that this is not a new phenomena. Heck it's lamented in A Charlie Brown Christmas which was made before I was born.

Top Ten Things I Like about Christmas

I really like the holiday season and I have been thinking about my favorite things about it. Here I try to boil it down to the top ten things that I like about Christmas. I like that atmosphere and foods in general but it's more than that. For me, the time flies during the holiday season and I'm busy but in a good way. I try to be organized and get a lot of things things done little-by-little so that I can slow down and enjoy the time, rather than have a frenetic crunch at the end of the month.

Below I've listed some of my favorite things about the Christmas, in now particular order. What are your Christmas top ten?
  1. Shopping for and giving gifts. Playing Santa. I really enjoy coming up with creative ideas for people.
  2. Gatherings. Friends and family. An excuse to get together.
  3. Happiness. People tend to be in a good mood -- except Grinches.
  4. Smells. The aroma of baking cookies. Cinnamon. Piney Christmas trees.
  5. Holiday movies: Rudolph, Elf, A Christmas Story, Scrooged (some years) and even Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation.
  6. Making cookies and candies to give. In recent years, DH and I have had a cookie and candy baking weekend. We then package up the goodies to share with friends and coworkers. I love this tradition.
  7. Stollen. OK, so this is maybe a birthday thing for me since my birthday is on the 25th. I've always had stollen for my birthday breakfast. It's the one time of year that I have it and I am smiling even as I type this.
  8. Playing dress up for holiday gatherings. It's nice to get the fancy cloths out once in a while!
  9. Photos. I love to receive new pictures from out-of-town friends
  10. Decorated houses. I like to see the holiday lights in some neighborhoods (just wait until at least Thanksgiving before putting them up and please take them down in January!)

Grandma's episodic health issues

My 87-year-old grandmother's health-related episodes have a definitely pattern. The week before Thanksgiving, my mother said that she had until about a week after Thanksgiving before my grandmother's illnesses flared up. I don't know if it's nerves or attention getting or what.

My mother's prediction was off, but not by much. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Grandma let Mom know that "the pain" was getting worse. I don't doubt that her pain is real but Grandma always refers to it as The Pain, sometimes causing DH to make Lost in Space references.
Mom: Are you taking your pain pills?

Grandma: Yes.

Mom: Are you taking them every six hours?

Grandma: I take them every morning.

Grandma wanted to go to the doctor. When asked what the doctor could do for her, Grandma indicated that pain pills was what she needed. When it was pointed out that she had pain pills, my grandmother said that she really needed some antibiotics. Grandma called for an appointment.

The situation got worse before seeing her general practitioner. The following weekend, she said that she might need to go to the emergency room. She was still not taking her medications as directed. Mom talked to her again about following the directions and said, "If you're not better in a few hours, I'll take you." Mom did some errands and came back to a blinking answering machine light and a message from Grandma saying that she was well enough to come over to my parents for Sunday dinner. Apparently about an hour after talking to Mom the pain suddenly went away. Smart money says that she finally had taken the pain medication. That evening, Grandma packed away two generous servings of lasagna. Her stomach must not have been bothering too much.

My parents had to be bad guys and explain that no one wants for her to be in pain and that she either had to take the medication prescribed in the dosage prescribed or she would have to go to a nursing home where they could help her out with this. Mom has mentioned to me that Grandma's episodes are starting sooner -- the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of the week after Thanksgiving -- and lasting longer. This is not good.

This has been an ongoing process and I've mentioned it before. We all want for it to be her decision to go to an assisted living facility on her terms. She really does need to take her medications though, especially since they seem to help. One concern that we have is that she is not putting it all together anymore.

I don't mean to belittle her problems. Grandma does have some medical issues, namely atypical tuberculous, along with a pulmonary specialist to go with it, and a small B-cell lymphoma that her oncologist is keeping an eye on. The symptoms that she complains about, though, are things that have been bothering her for twenty or thirty years. In other words, not new. It's difficult for us to know if The Pain is worse now or not. Again, I wonder if she is subconsciously going through this for attention.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Our fearless watchdogs

DH was out of town last week. This is not a regular occurrence and it pretty much rocked Hannah and Emma's world. By the end of the week, they had adjusted but the were not really happy about it.

When DH got back into town, his flight was late and I ended up going to bed. The girls came with me. All of us fell asleep.

DH came home. He pulled he car into the garage. No dogs.

He came into the house through the kitchen. No dogs.

He brought his suitcase upstairs. No dogs.

He opened the bedroom door. No dogs.

Oh, wait, dogs. Hannah got off the bed and sniffed DH. Emma gave DH a welcome home kiss without really moving.

I feel safe.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Update on The Talk

Well, I lunched with my mom on Wednesday and we did have The Talk about my birthday and my brother and it went relatively (ha ha!) well. Nothing was really decided but it was important to me to get the issue on the table. We agreed that my brother's problems are his own and my mom offered to talk to my dad about his role the situation.

We discussed a few options:
  1. Status quo. Birthday celebration on my birthday at my house. Mom talks to dad to see if that will help.
  2. Birthday celebration out at a restaurant, not on my birthday. Dog Christmas on another day.
  3. Birthday celebration at my house, not on my birthday. Dog Christmas on another day.
I don't know that it will help at all but I do feel better having had my airing of grievances, albeit not at immediately after the Festivus as tradition would dictate. (Then again, with Festivus, there are no rules!)

After sleeping on it and discussing it with DH, I suggested that we give the second option a try this year. We'll see if it sticks or not!