To Gimme or Not to Gimme

I love this time of year. The snow is new and not yet annoying, although right now I would be delighted if the temperature would bump up ten degrees or so. I love Christmas music. We won’t even get into my twinkle light addiction. But I do get annoyed with the concept of the “gimme season” that I hear so much about.

This is my actual childhood Christmas stocking.

Granted gift giving can be challenging for many people. But what baffles me is people panicking about how to purchase every thing on their children’s wish lists. I know those lists. I remember one year we received a catalogue with every toy the store carried. The thing was HUGE. My brother and I gleefully circled (in separate colors for clarification) every single toy we wanted and showed it to our mother.

I know I had to have circled hundreds of dollars in toys, but Mom didn’t worry about how to buy them all. She looked through my wishes quite seriously and then asked me to mark which five things I wanted the most.  It took days of consideration to figure that out. Once I had narrowed the list down she asked me to rank them from most wanted to least.

Mom did not race around, trying to find all my top five items, either. Not all five were under the tree on Christmas morning. I got one of them, along with some smaller gifts. And I was perfectly happy with it. Ok, so the socks and pajamas were not the most exciting things, but the pale pink nightgown with the angels on it was wonderfully soft flannel and I was very sad when it was too small to wear anymore.

The thing is, opening presents in the morning was only one part of our family Christmas. Playing games, doing puzzles, and going to Grandma’s were all just as important at our house as the gifts. Christmas was an entire day of celebration, not just an hour or so of opening presents.  And my brother and I knew perfectly well we would never get everything we asked for. It was fine. We weren’t disappointed by what we didn’t get, we enjoyed what we did get. I know we both have some of those dearly loved gifts. Ok. So, I still have every single Christmas doll.

The point is that kids don’t need everything they see to be happy. They need time with family and friends. So teach the kids that nobody gets everything, relax, and put the energy into the games and time together instead of shopping.

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End the Hostage Mentality

I don’t usually get into politics here. In fact, normally I strictly avoid politics. I used to be a government employee and frankly have bad memories of the political games. But right now I’ve got a lot on my mind and feel the need for a public forum. So please be patient and know that this is not going to be a regular topic.

I’ve been watching what’s going on in Washington with the government shutdown and the comments people have been making. There’s a lot of petty bickering all around, at the capitol and from the public. And it bothers me. I remember learning about the legislative process as child. I remember my teacher explaining how bills were introduced, the voting process, and how some bills became law and some didn’t. One thing she said keeps coming to mind as I watch what’s happening with this shut down. She told us the political parties had different ideas, but that they worked together to do what is best for the country.

Right now I feel the trust I had as a child learning about the process of running the country has been utterly betrayed. This confrontation violates every single thing I learned about the legislative process and the elected officials who are supposed to represent the interests of the American people.

Held Hostage Over 2,000 Pages

The conflict is not really about the health care law. It’s about circumventing the legislative process. Now, don’t leave comments on that, I won’t post them. The bickering is bothering me, remember, I’m not offering this as a forum for more conflict. The health care law is something new and controversial. It will do some good, and have some problems.  The bill was over 2,000 pages for crying out loud, no legislation that long can be efficient. But the majority passed it. It was challenged in the Supreme Court and found constitutional. All of this was per the legislative process I learned as a child.

Now, I can’t look it up because the websites are down but to my knowledge there has not been a single bill introduced to delay or modify the law that was passed. Instead a group of our elected officials have refused to work out a budget until they get their way regarding this particular law. This is not the legislative process. It is holding the country hostage. It is a ransom demand. And to the NSA, CIA, FBI, or any other agency who are checking on these keywords, I’m not some crazy radical with violent intentions. But this is how I see this shut down.

I’ve heard a lot about the President refusing to negotiate. But, honestly, I don’t think he can. The demands to change the health care law are jumping over the entire legislative procedure. And in my experience as a government employee, any time a procedure is bypassed once, it happens over and over and over. In my opinion if any president at any time gives in to the hostage mentality we will see this kind of shut down every year over one issue or another.

I don’t think the American public should stand for this. We elected these people. We are their employers. We can, and should, fire any legislator, House or Senate, Republican or Democrat, who holds the country hostage by refusing to follow the legislative process. This means passing a budget now, without threats. It means dealing with the debt problem now, without threats. It means addressing concerns with the health care law via the established legislative process, not by behaving like terrorists and taking the nation hostage until demands are met.

Elections are too far away for us to wait to fire these individuals. In my opinion we should be demanding the immediate resignation of any and all legislators that refuse to do the job we elected them for, starting with the Speaker of the House. America is not the legislators, it is all of us. The American public has a voice and it’s time to start using it.




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Book Alert!

My friend, Andrea Pearson, has just had the fourth book in her young adult fantasy series published. Her first book, The Key of Kilenya, has been in the top 100 for teen fantasies on Amazon since last May and has been very popular with young (and adult) readers. They compare it to Harry Potter along with Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven and Beyonders books, with a hint of Narnia and Lord of the Rings.
To download a copy of The Key of Kilenya for Kindle, click here. Check out Andrea’s blog post for other formats of the eBook.
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With Easter coming up a friend who knows I like odd ways of doing things sent me an unusual method of dying eggs. Only three things needed; eggs, food coloring and shaving cream. Yup, shaving cream. The instructions said that it produced swirls of color rather than plain or striped eggs. Naturally I had to try it. And because dying eggs is more fun with kids, not to mention shaving cream being fun to play with, I enlisted two of my nieces as test dyers.

The original directions were simple.

1 – Spread cheap white shaving cream in a cookie sheet.

2 – Apply drops of food coloring across the surface.

3 – Use toothpicks to swirl the colors around.

4 – Roll the cooled hardboiled eggs around in the colored cream.

5 – Allow the color to set for three or four minutes.

6 – Wipe off the shaving cream with a paper towel.

7 – Rinse.

My recommendation up front is also to avoid scented shaving cream. Menthol may be manly but it will also permeate an eggshell. Menthol flavored eggs simply cannot belong to Easter morning. Blech.

I did not manage pictures of the dying stages. To start with the one year old was not content to paddle around in the plain white shaving cream and kept making bids for one hand in each of her sisters’ colors and had to be cleaned up and, despite all protests, confined to the floor.

Then miss six who decided the shaving cream was too icky to touch. Normally she’s not a neat freak. She will cheerfully stick her hands in tuna salad to make sure the pickles are distributed evenly or smooth pizza sauce with her fingers. So refusing to touch shaving cream? Seriously?

By the time I’d fished out forks for her to roll the eggs around with both girls had plunked an egg in their artwork. Finally, neither of them dared move an egg to a paper towel, either, because the shaving made them slippery so aunty ended up doing transport duty. Pulling out the camera was a matter of repeatedly washing up and what fun is that?

The first discovery we made was that swirling the color with a toothpick creates lovely delicate patterns in the shaving cream.  The six year old excelled at this. Her shaving cream was a masterpiece of swirls and squiggles.  She carefully rolled her eggs around with the fork and came up with this.

None of the artistic swirls transferred to her eggs.  They all ended up green, although with some interesting patterns of light and darker green except one that had little grey dots all over it. We tried to replicate it, but it seemed to be a one shot effect. I recommend wider swirls, say with a butter knife.

Her four year old sister simply blobbed food coloring any which way and called it good. Miss four also noticed that the shaving cream makes cool waves when you drop an egg into it. So she wanted to stand on the chair and see what happens when she stretched as high as she can reach. We may try that outside this summer with plain shaving cream and something less breakable than eggs.

She didn’t carefully roll the eggs around, either. She just swished a bit, turned the egg over to swish the other side in a different patch of food color, and called it good.

Totally different effect.

The last thing we learned was that three or four minutes was not enough for the color to set.  After four minutes the color was pale and washed out. It took ten minutes to get vibrant hues. I suspect the difference is in the type of food color used, I’ve noticed saturation differences between brands before. At any rate the shaving cream method worked! And it was much more fun than dipping the eggs into cups of dye. Here are the final results.








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Guilty Secret

I have a confession.

Let me start by explaining that I advocate healthy eating. I like brown rice. My fridge and freezer are always full of veggies. I consider fruit a dessert (yeah, ok, I do drizzle chocolate over the berries, but it’s dark chocolate with health benefits, sheesh), and I bake whole wheat bread that is hotly sought after by family and friends.

I will accept corn syrup as a candy-making ingredient, but stick it on spaghetti sauce or meatloaf and I’ll have serious complaints. And most “fruit snacks” belong in the candy aisle with the gummy bears, thank you. If I can’t pronounce it I don’t want it in my food. The word “processed” belongs to the packaging, not in anything to be cooked, heated, or eaten cold.

All these things go triple for small children.

I don’t consider sugary anything suitable for breakfast … but … well … here’s the confession.

I miss the sugary cereal commercials!

There, I said it. I miss leprechauns and marshmallows, silly rabbits trying to trick kids, birds going cuckoo for chocolate cereal, tigers, Fred and Barney, ghosts, and counts. I know these were aimed at selling nutritionally deficient alleged breakfast foods to small, impressionable children. Still, the commercials made me smile.

And really, was it any harder for a parent to say no than to explain the current drug commercials that are all over the place now? You know the ones I’m talking about!


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Settling In

It’s fall, the weather is getting cooler, leaves are turning color, and plants are beginning to fade and become dormant for the winter. While I’m already missing being outdoors with my bare feet in the grass or up to my wrists in the soil, I love this time of year (though spring is hands down my favorite time of year). I love the feeling of nestling in, watching the rain with a cup of hot chocolate. I love the warmth of the kitchen as bread bakes and soup bubbles and the aroma of yeast and vegetables and herbs combine to drift through the house.

The last of the fall and summer fruits are still being enjoyed, and there are always new jars of something I’ve bottled or dried waiting to remind me of the summer flavors I’ll start craving around the end of November. My neglected sewing machine starts to call my name, my fabric stash beckons, scrapbook layouts spring to mind, and my embroidery frame trips me whenever I walk by without looking at it. Not that any of these things are completely ignored during the warm months. I still do them, but being outdoors definitely comes first in the summer. I always have mixed feelings about this. I love my indoor hobbies, but miss the feeling of grass between my toes and the summer smell of things growing.

My books do not end up feeling so neglected during the summer, being much more portable than my other hobbies. A collective sigh of relief resounds from the bookcases, though. No more leaves accidentally squashed between their pages. No more being used to fend off curious wasps. No more being dropped on the damp grass when a bird or butterfly catches my attention. No more being stepped on when one of the neighbor kids tackles me from behind at the park.

I will admit right now that I’m not a fan of winter; I miss the sun and growing things and hate the cold that keeps me indoors. I’m always dying for warm weather by the first week in January. But I love the feeling of settling in and getting ready for winter.

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What Is It?

It’s dark and cold. The spooks are out. There’s a feeling of being followed, that thing from the corner of your eye that disappears the instant you turn around. Does it have fur? Fangs? Long claws to sink into your skin? Or is it something that will slip in through your ear and take over your brain, leaving you to scream in silence as no one notices you’re trapped and helpless. Don’t look now, but it’s getting closer. It’s reaching out. There’s ever so slight a touch on the back of your neck …




Happy Halloween!


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Colors of Fall

While I immensely prefer spring there are things about fall I look forward to each year. As the leaves begin to shift from green to pale yellow the anticipation begins. I’m lucky enough to live near mountains that transform to glorious gold, orange, and red every year. I have kind friends that tell me where they’ve seen the most exquisite colors when they beat me to the annual canyon drives. But the color that really builds excitement for me is a dry, dead brown that most people simply find dismal.

The dusty brown of leaves that have given up, let go, and fluttered to the ground. Not the prettiest color of fall, I must admit, but the excitement I feel is not for the beautiful color of fall leaves. Oh, no. It is the color that comes with a delicious, crackly, munchy, crunchy, swishy sound. The color that shouts that leaves are perfectly dry and ready for walking, jumping, and marching through.

I absolutely love to crunch my way through dead dry leaves! I was a bit worried about my chance for this wonderful activity this year. The trees in the apartment complex I live in are still at the gold and red stage, with only a few limp yellow specimens dotting the lawn and the weather forecast threatening rain and snow mixes for the rest of the week. Living in the desert as I do, I value the fall rains that begin to fill reservoirs for the year’s drinking and gardening water. But they absolutely ruin the crisp crackle of marching through fall leaves.

Fortunately, I spent yesterday watching my cousin’s kids. My cousin with two very large trees in his yard, one in front and one in back, already providing drifts of brown crispy cracklyness. With the added benefit of a two year old and a four year old that find it not only completely rational to spend half an hour at a time crunching around the yard, but find it as irresistible as I do. In fact, they spent some time making serious plans on how to approach the piles of leaves they already know their dad will be creating to cause the highest dispersal rate when they race across the yard and jump into the temporarily tidy stacks.

I may join them.

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Wishful Politics

Well, it’s an election year again. Normally I don’t post on politics, but I’m making an exception. Frankly, I hate politics.

Let me clarify, I do think it’s important that our country’s leaders be chosen at short intervals by the citizenry. I believe that everyone should be involved in choosing representatives to pass laws. All the stuff we were taught in school that the Democratic process is all about.

What I hate is the finger pointing and nastiness, all the criticism and bashing the other candidate. Most elections start with two candidates that have good points and who have ideas that I agree with. They also have ideas I disagree with. There’s no such thing as perfect agreement and that’s fine.

Then the campaign progresses and both candidates are so busy tearing apart the other that the issues and ideas get murky and unclear. Not to mention that they are so negative and hostile that I lose trust in both, because I cannot trust anyone who can be that nasty toward another person.

Just imagine what could happen if campaigns were run on mutual respect and civility. Campaigns where both candidates are willing to admit to the areas that they agree on. What if candidates actually complimented each other on accomplishments they admired the other for? Disagreements could be polite; simply stating that this person differs in opinion from the other and here’s why. No accusations, no derogatory comments, just politely and respectfully disagreeing.

The American Public would be shocked at first, I’m sure. I’d bet on a record turn out for the election, though, as voters could feel they are voting for someone they respect, rather than choosing the lesser of two evils.

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Childhood Belief

The faith of a child is an amazing thing. One that I find marvelous and irreplaceable.

The idea that some stranger will come each year and fulfill their toy wishes is completely logical. The T Rex rampaging through the backyard will be delighted to leave tender, juicy children alone and chomp down on the tree daddy hates instead. Holding a small stuffed animal is guaranteed protection from all manner of scary things in the dark.  A dragonfly will fly across the ocean to tell strangers about a particularly beautiful flower in the garden. These all makes complete sense to a small child who cannot understand why grown ups don’t grasp such simple concepts.

Puncturing this faith is a dreadful thing to do. Looking into the trusting eyes of a child and taking away that small bit of magic in the world is like shredding something rare and precious that can never be repaired. Sometimes, however, it is absolutely vital.

The conviction that a frilly, beglittered 4T princess dress will magically stretch to fit an adult … sorry kiddos but that one’s gotta go.

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