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~my thoughts about life~



Monday, February 28, 2011

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

This is the ugliest cake I've ever baked.  And of course, it was for a very important cause.  We have had our share of funerals lately.  This cake was one of two that I made for a large family whose grandmother passed away.  I make the best cakes in the world (I'm not bragging, this is a scientific fact) so it's always my go-to dessert whenever there's a death.  I prefer to make "funeral cakes" in bundt form...that way I can just pour the chocolate glaze over top and place the whole thing on a cardboard circle.  I have one good metal bundt pan that is at least 30 years old and a cutsie, modern, red silicone pan I bought from Crate & Barrel.  Well, to put it bluntly, the silicone pan sucks.  This is what happens when I use the silicone pan.  Believe it or not, I actually gave the cake to the grieving family, along with the picture-perfect cake that came out of the antique metal pan.  I also sent my apologies for the appearance.  But the good news is that some of the cake broke off when I tried to transfer it.  I dipped it in the extra icing and tasted it.  Oh my, it was heavenly!  So this just goes to prove that you can't judge a book by its cover.  I threw away the silicone pan and will only use metal from this point forward.

And no, I'm not sharing the recipe for my famous chocolate cake or icing.  Sorry, folks.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Dritch"

Baby Girl is totally obsessed with "The Dritch" right now.  The first time she asked to watch it, I spent half the day trying to figure out what she wanted.  But while I was scrolling through the DVR playlist, she stopped me and said, "Dritch!"  There was a little picture in the upper left hand corner that she recognized.  I didn't know Baby Girl even knew who The Grinch was.  But now she wants to watch it every day....multiple times every day!  The other kids are getting sick of only watching The Grinch, yet they continue to sit with her day after day watching it.  I know Christmas is long gone but I really need to find a stuffed Grinch somewhere.  Maybe I'll check eBay or Amazon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Elephant Update

I have been a starving woman for a full week now.  And I must say, I've done better than I thought!

Accomplishments:

  • At a birthday party last Sunday, I passed on chips, dip, baklava, and even birthday cake!  That was extremely difficult.  I enjoyed carrots (with dip) and a deli sandwich minus cheese instead.


  • I still have a small container of delicious homemade chocolates left in the refrigerator.  Actually, those chocolates are partly to blame for this whole problem anyway!  But I resisted their "call!"


  • Son #1 brought home a beautiful box of bakery doughnuts from his aunt's house on Tuesday.  And don't you know it, there was a lovely chocolate cake glazed doughnut in the box.  That's my favorite.  I actually had to put the box inside a cupboard because it was calling my name from the countertop.


  • I resisted between-meal snacking and ate wonderfully for each breakfast and lunch.


  • I maintained portion control for each dinner.


  • I painfully passed on evening snacks.  I think that's been the most difficult so far.  There's nothing like a salty or sweet snack at night when the house is quiet and I'm chillin' in front of the TV.


  • I've taken to chewing gum during the day when I get the munchies.  The chewing helps control my urge to eat and it provides more flavor than drinking water.  I feel like I'm trying to quit smoking or something!


  • I've also nixed my sweet tea habit.  That's good in so many ways.



  • Failures:

  • I got sick on Friday (hence, no post) and didn't eat well all day.  Breakfast was a small bowl of cereal, no lunch, and a couple bites of a burrito for dinner.  But after dinner, the only thing that sounded good was a chocolate iced doughnut.  (See, it had been on my mind for several days!)  Since I had consumed so little food that day, I reluctantly gave in and allowed the cheat.



  • Results:
    As of Saturday morning, I am down 6 lbs.!  I didn't expect to see results so quickly, but I'm sure getting sick helped with that.  Now, on to week 2...wish me luck!

    Do any of my supporters have accomplishments to share or confessions to make???

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Oom-Pah-Pah

    Son #1 brough his band tuba home over the long weekend plus one snow day.  So we were able to be serenaded with Oom-pah-pahs Friday afternoon through Tuesday night.  I must say though that it doesn't get on my nerves.  I love hearing him play.  It shocks me how good he's already gotten...he just started this school year.  Along with the tuba, he's also taking piano and guitar lessons.  I could tell he had musical talent before he could ever talk.  I know that sounds impossible, but it's true! 

    When he was a baby, he definitely had a favorite song.  Whenever I would play that particular CD, he would jump to the beat in his little jumper that hung from the door frame.  And when I would sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, he would "sing" along, matching my pitch.  He couldn't even say the words yet.  He would say, "De da, de da, de da TAR!"  So I have encouraged his love for music ever since.  And it's paying off.  The kid has some major talent and I'm ridiculously proud of him!  Tonight is his third band concert.  I'll be the mom in the stands who has the wide smile spread across her face.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Cute Kid Sayings

    • When I offer Baby Girl something to eat, she often replies, "I can't like it."
    • I love how Big Sis answers the question, "What time is it?"  She says, "Six dot dot two three."  Once, I explained that she doesn't have to say the dot dot part.  Then I quickly changed my mind and told her I was wrong.  Dot dot is very necessary (and adorable).
    • When I ask Baby Girl a question but she can't hear me well, she calls out, "What, Honey?"
    • For some reason, the word "sure" comes out "surp" when Baby Girl says it.  "Will you bring me your cup?" I ask.  "Surp," she replies.  I always think she's saying syrup.
    • While watching TV together, Baby Girl kept going from person to person, pinching our cheeks affectionately.  When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I being precious!"

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Big Loser?

    I am the fattest I've ever been.  No, really!  I knew I had put on some weight through the holidays (have you SEEN that food I've been cooking lately???) but I wasn't prepared for how much.  Against my will, I stepped on the scale to see how much damage had been done.  Mouth gaping open, I discovered that I was 11 lbs. heavier than my official heaviest!  Woe is me!  I didn't even want Hubby to know...I was so embarrassed by it.  But I know exactly how it happened...I've been eating like a complete crazy lady!

    Since I've gotten older (and had 4 kids), my weight distribution has shifted.  In my younger days, I used to carry it all in my face and chest.  Now my face is still thin, which is why I think I got so heavy before I noticed it.  My arms, legs and hips are in descent shape.  All my weight is in my stomach and chest.  I'm actually worried that someone is going to ask my when I'm due.  That's how bad I look. 

    Then the other day, I put on a shirt I've worn many times.  It was fine standing up.  But when I sat down, this ocean of fat exploded upward making huge waves and rolls and busting through my buttons.  That's the moment I decided I had to do something about it.  But I left the shirt on all day.  My uncomfortableness was a constant reminder that I had to get serious and get something done.  Also, who wants to eat when their clothes are entirely too tight to sit down?

    So I'm ready for a plan.  I would like to lose 20 lbs.  I lost a good amount of weight one other time in my life so I'm going to try the same technique.  Here are my rules:
    1. Stop eating like a crazy woman!
    2. Breakfast will consist of cereal with skim milk (Which is what I was doing anyway.  So no change there.)
    3. No snacks between breakfast and lunch.
    4. Lunch will consist of something low fat.  (Last time, I did turkey sandwiches with no cheese or condiments.  This time I might go for low-fat vegetable soup.  I like it and it sounds good to me right now.  When I get sick of that, I might give the turkey sandwiches a try again.)  No chips with lunch, no dessert after lunch.
    5. One reasonable snack between lunch and dinner.  (Snacks are my worst problem.  I'm home all day so I tend to munch throughout the day.  I get a serious tummy rumbly when I don't snack between meals.  But this needs to stop!)
    6. Dinner will be normal.  I just need to have portion control. 
    7. I have to cut out fattening things like mayonnaise, cheese, pepperoni, chocolate...all the good stuff.
    8. Desserts are a no-no.  (I'm starting to cry now.)
    9. Water gets hit big time.  Only one glass of tea at meals is allowed.  (Also, I've changed how I'm drinking my tea.  I fill my glass almost to the top with unsweetened blackberry tea.  Then I just put a splash of sweet tea at the top so I don't spew out the bitter, unsweet tea.  I'm trying to gradually get myself drinking it without any sugar.)
    10. Start running again as soon as the weather breaks.  (I think that was a big contributing factor.  All summer and into the fall, I ran a lot.  Then winter arrived and I became sedentary.  I'm training for another marathon so I will have to start running again.  That will definitely help!)
    If I can stick to this hard core, I think I can reach my halfway goal in a couple months.  I'm not the kind of person to try crazy cabbage soup diets to try to lose 10 lbs. in a week.  I have a close friend who has tried every fad diet there is.  She does tend to lose weight quickly but puts it all right back on again.  I can't be that kind of person.  I just have to be realistic.  If I change how I eat and change how much I move, I will see a difference.

    I will share my results with all of you, hoping it will make me stick to the plan.  Anyone else want to suffer in misery with me?  We could share updates once a week...?

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Future Party Planner Perhaps?


    Here is a picture of our creatively set dining room table, courtesy of 2-year-old Baby Girl.  (Don't worry, I shot this picture before Christmas.  The snowman and Christmas candles are not the current centerpiece.)

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    A Glimmer of Hope?

    Dare I say it?  Could this be the first sign of Spring in my garden?  Reaching barely an inch off the ground, recently covered by snow and ice, stands this lone green life source - a glimpse into the warm Spring days that lie ahead. 

    We were teased by Mother Nature these past couple of days.  The thick sheets of ice and crunchy snow yielded to the warm rays of the sun as the wet, brownish grass awoke from a long winter slumber.  But one must not get their hopes set too high; Winter will be back in full force to finish out February, March, and perhaps April.

    Seeing a landscape made up of colors other than white has given me the itch to move on to things like seed packets and potting soil, Spring cleaning with fresh-smelling products, and outdoor running with iPod in tote.  I was able to spend time outdoors yesterday watching Baby Girl throw balls, ride scooters, and play with leaves and twigs.  She didn't want to ever go back inside.  But a mishap in a mud puddle made her declare, "I all wet."  She's going to be disappointed tomorrow when her desire to go back outside is met with disapproval from her again depressed mother who has a severe case of Spring Fever.

    I located these seed packets on a shelf in the garage.  They are the seeds I lost last year.  And I started wondering if it's time to begin planting yet?  Last year was my first attempt at starting plants from seeds.  I was late in my efforts but got descent results anyway.  So I flipped over the packets and began reading.  6 to 8 weeks and 8 to 10 weeks before planting outdoors is when I should start my indoor greenhouse.  I live in the fickle Midwest but I figure that time is right about now!  I may do a bit more research online about my geographic area but I think I have my Saturday plans all set!  Where are all my gardener friends?  Have you begun yet?

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    What's For Dinner?

    Dinner tonight is Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Parmesan Red Potatoes.  I guess I was on a Parmesan cheese kick.  This is a pretty simple meal to prepare with tons of flavor.





    Parmesan Crusted Chicken
    Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    Egg, beaten
    Plain bread crumbs
    Grated Parmesan cheese
    Oil or butter for frying

    Dip chicken breasts in beaten egg.  Coat with a mixture of half bread crumbs and half cheese.  In a skillet, brown chicken in oil or butter.  Do not turn too soon; breading will break apart.  Transfer to a baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for approximately one hour.  Chicken will be crispy, juicy, tender, and very flavorful.


    Parmesan Red Potatoes
    Red potatoes, any size
    Butter
    Grated Parmesan cheese

    Wash potatoes, do not peel.  Slice in half, lengthwise.  There are two ways you can prepare this dish.
    1.  Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a baking dish that would best fit the number of potatoes you have.  Liberally sprinkle cheese over the melted butter.  (The cheese should not melt into the butter; there should be enough that you can easily see it on top of the butter.)  Place potatoes, cut side down, on top of cheese.
    2.  In a frying pan, melt a couple tablespoons of butter.  Liberally sprinkle cheese on top of the butter.  Place potatoes, cut side down on top of cheese.  Fry until brown.  Pour remaining butter into a baking dish.  Transfer potatoes to the dish, cut side down.  Both methods will yield similar results but this one will yield crispier potato tops.

    Cover baking dish.  Bake at 325 for approximately one hour. 

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    What Are You Watching?

    Every night after I put the kids to bed, I take a hot bath or shower, lather on "Bath & Body Works" Night Blooming Jasmine lotion, and park myself on the couch for the next hour or so.  I love my stress-free alone time in the evenings with a good book, magazine or television show.

    My new favorite show this season is "No Ordinary Family."  I didn't watch it from the beginning but was soon caught up by the commercial promos.  I don't usually get into Science Fiction drama but this show is simply captivating!  It keeps me on the edge of my seat in great anticipation of next week's episode.  Even if you're not a SciFi buff, I would recommend giving this show a shot.

    I've mentioned before that I enjoy the show "Parenthood." It's still good but I think it's lost some of its Wow Factor.  I think the parents of Haddie are pushovers and need to show her who is in charge.  If my daughter ran away from home and moved in with her grandmother, I would have pulled her back home by her hair like a cave woman.  (Well, not really but I wouldn't have been nice about it.)  I also don't care for how the characters of the show think it's weird to attend church or believe in Heaven.  I just had to get my two cents in on that subject.  But I really love the decor of each home, especially the outdoors around the grandparents' home.

    I've fallen out of love with "Glee."  I thought the first season was well written but this season is just blah in my opinion.  It seems like the theme of every single episode is homosexuality.  They've made their point that Kurt is gay and people are mean to him because of it.  I think it's time to move on.  But I must add that I hope Finn and Quinn get back together.  I think Rachel is too annoying.  I'm still watching, but I won't remain faithful if it doesn't start getting better.

    And of course, there's "The Office."  It's the funniest show on television since "Friends" or "Seinfeld."  Man, I still miss those!  I think I would still watch a show about six 50-something Friends hanging out in a burnt-out coffee house. 

    Anyone watching "American Idol" this season?  I said I wasn't going to, but my DVR recorded it automatically so I had to watch it.  I must say, I love Steven Tyler on the show....he's hilarious!  I love how he randomly bursts into song and how he doesn't like to be mean to people.  That was unexpected, based on his image.  I think they sent entirely too many people through to Hollywood.  But they'll all be gone the first day or two, I guess.  I'm also glad that all three judges have musical talent.  It's hard to take a judge seriously when he or she doesn't have any musical experience.  And also, I'm so glad it's back to three judges.  Adding a fourth was torture.  I did a lot of fast-forwarding.

    So, what are you watching?

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    It's a Love/Hate Relationship

    Things I Love Today:
    + Being the first one to use a new tube of toothpaste
    + Wearing hats
    + Listening to Baby Girl talk on the phone to her Dad.  She usually starts, "Hey, Babe."
    + Sitting in the sunbeam in the big picture window dreaming of warm Spring days
    + Writing in a brand new notebook with a new pen
    + My new pillow (a Valentine gift from Hubby since I kept trying to steal his)
    + How Big Sis' hair looks today....I washed it last night and had her sleep with tiny, little braids all over her head.
    + The peanut butter cups I made for Valentine's Day
    + Cooking shows, cooking magazines, cooking blogs
    + My iPod playlist, with Michael Buble', Harry Connick Jr., and Billy Joel to name a few
    + Baby Girl's big, brown eyes

    Things I Hate Today:
    - Pot Holes
    - Sore Throats
    - Watering my plants (I don't know why.  I love them, just hate watering them.)
    - The fact that I have to go to a funeral for a 20-year-old boy who took his own life
    - Wearing coats
    - That Baby Girl has started wetting her pants several times daily, even though she's been potty trained for 3 months.
    - This huge bruise on my hip from falling down the stairs (On a positive note, it looks like a heart.  So I made the bottom more pointy with a purple magic marker to celebrate Valentine's Day.)
    - People who shortcut down our street doing 50 mph
    - A certain couple, who we try to totally avoid, eat at every restaurant we like.  We found a new restaurant, and there they were.  We run into them all the time and I'm getting sick of it.  They actually taunt and bully us...so immature!

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    School Days Fashion Show

    Every morning when we drive Brother and Sissy to school, Baby Girl thinks she's going too.  One morning, she was so convinced she was going that she bawled when I wouldn't let her out of her car seat.  "I go Cool!  I go Cool!" she insisted.  If I would have let her out, she would have walked up the sidewalk, into the school, and likely found a seat next to her sister in First Grade.  She just does not understand why she has to be so much younger than everyone else.  Here are a few of the going-to-school outfits she put together herself:


    Outfit #1:
    Big Sister's red church coat, magenta stocking hat, one borrowed pink boot, and Disney Princess umbrella
    Outfit #2:
    Red and pink polka-dot pajamas, brown puffy coat, Big Sister's pink crocheted boots, and hot pink Dora backpack.  













    Outfit #3:
    Brown polka-dot shirt, gray sweat pants, Brother's black and white striped stocking hat, Big Sister's black patent boots, pink Hello Kitty lunch box, and black Hello Kitty messenger bag (for supplies, I assume)
    
    

    

    






    Outfit #4:
    Christmas Monkey pajama top, backwards jeans, Daddy's XL black puffy coat, and a huge smile!




     

    





    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Valentine's Day Randomness

    This is a picture of my Valentine gift to my handsome Hubby. He took Son #1 on a Boy Scout campout over the weekend. So with the house (somewhat) empty, I was able to spend an entire day making wonderfully delicious chocolate concoctions. I made molded solid dark and milk chocolate hearts, pretzel crunch candies, peanut butter cups, chocolate almond cups, and one last delicacy which I don't have a name for. OK, Chocolate Gooey Cake Heart Thingys. See, I told ya, I didn't have a good name. Hubby was thrilled with the gift and we're both a couple pounds heavier because of it. This was my first attempt at candy making but certainly won't be my last. I also made up a small package for both my dad and my brother. My brother is now ready to finance a project to open up my own bakery. :)

    This picture shows two games I made for Big Sis' Valentine party at school.  The first is a poster board covered in heart doilies that have point values written on them.  My aunt whipped up three pink heart-shaped beanbags (because I can't sew to save my life).  The kids tossed the beanbags onto the hearts in an attempt to achieve the highest score possible.  The second activity is a large glass jar full of strawberry heart-shaped marshmallows...213 to be exact!  The closest guess was 220.  The winner got to keep the jar.

    This last picture is something I'm not very happy about.  This is a gift that my 6-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER received from a BOY IN HER FIRST GRADE CLASS!  Yes, I know I'm yelling right now.  6-years-old is entirely too young to receive a chocolates from a boy.  And no, that has nothing to do with the fact that I was 14 when I received my first box of chocolates from a boy.  You might be able to make out some of the writing inside the card which said, "I love you!"  Hubby is ready to start polishing up his shotgun.  (Kidding, we are a gun-free family...which is very fortunate for this "Austin" character.)  Get a job, buddy, and then we'll talk about dating our daughter. 

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

    With the winter blahs setting in, there isn't much to do around here and even less to photograph. So I decided to shoot some of my favorite things from around the house, maybe sharing a couple stories in the meantime. (Of course my family members are my most favorite things. But this project is for inanimate objects only.)

    My mother bought us this picture for Christmas and I think it's one of the best presents I've ever received.  The photos spell out our last name, which I must admit is a really unique name.  I love how it's personalized just for me.  I haven't found a place to hang it yet because I am The Procrastinator of Procrastinators.  But I look at and admire it every day.

    My dad is the King of Woodworking.  He doesn't just build things like cabinets and shelves.  He is an artist.  Here is a sample of some of my favorite pieces of his, from turned bowls to flower pots.  Some of them were gifts to me and others were rightly stolen from by me.  (Hey, I'm his only daughter and I still have him wrapped around my little finger!)  I display these pieces proudly throughout my home.

    I feel so blessed to have a piano in my home.  I took lessons for years as a child.  Unfortunately, I don't have much to show for it today.  So I'm going to make sure that I influence my children to become accomplished musicians.  Son #1 shows the most potential...he is taking piano, guitar, and tuba lessons.  Son #2 and Big Sis have both recently started taking piano.  The "noise" they make sounds like beautiful music to me.



    This is Hubby's Teddy Bear from when he was a little boy!  How precious is that?  His mom didn't save many of his things so this is really special to me.  Notice how one of the eyes was replaced with a button.  This heirloom has been a part of my home decor since I discovered it in a box right after we were married.

    This isn't so much of a favorite thing as it is a favorite place.  The best place for me to unwind and let the day's stress melt away is in a nice hot bath.  My father remodeled our old bathroom a few years ago and it has been one of my favorite places ever since.
    I went a little overboard with Christmas decorations last year.  I bought three miniature trees several years ago when we couldn't put up a full sized tree due to remodeling.  Since then, I have tried to find a place for them somewhere around the house.  I usually just leave them bare, no lights, no decorations.  But last year, I decided to add some holiday spirit to our bedroom.  I draped the trees in clear lights and placed them on top of an old blanket chest.  We have enjoyed them so much that I just left them there.  Baby Girl asks for them to be plugged in each morning as her brothers and sister get ready for school.


    This is the ginormous, red stockpot Hubby picked out as a Christmas gift for me.  I usually hint pretty strongly about what I want so I was touched that he personally chose this for me.  He is smart for buying me kitchen things because I immediately start using them.  I've already cooked up a small storm in this pot.  I think it will be one of those heirlooms my daughters fight over one day:  the big red pot that Mama cooked many a soup or stew in. 
    Family pictures that surround the house are my most favorite things of all!  I love to reminisce about the days when my kids were tiny and how sweet and precious they were.  My walls are covered in family photos.  If my house were to catch on fire, I would make sure all the kids were safely out of the house.  Then I would run back in and grab as many pictures and photo albums as possible. 


    What are some of your most favorite things???

    Identify that Mutated Liquid!

    A couple days ago, I posted this picture of an unidentified red liquid in a clear plastic baggie.  Did you guess what it was?  The answer:  it used to be a tomato!  I sliced part of it off to use for tacos and put the rest in a baggie to keep fresh.  Well, it's hard to keep fresh when you don't find it again for a good month.  So there ya go....this is what happens to a tomato when you ignore it for several weeks.  Yum!

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    What's For Dinner?

    Breakfast!  My family loves it when I make Breakfast for Dinner.  Last week we feasted on bacon, sausage, biscuits & gravy, and French toast.  I often make eggs and potatoes when we enjoy "Brinner" but I was plum tired that night and thought what I made was plenty! 

    I tweaked my usual recipe for Sausage Gravy & Biscuits and thought they were the best ever!  I was able to enjoy them three times (including leftovers) and they were superb each time!  Sausage gravy is something I've made many times but only felt like it was mediocre.  This time, I decided to look up how the woman, Paula Deen, does hers because she does everything right when it comes to cookin'!  And let me tell you, one simple ingredient made all the difference in the world! 

    And then there's the biscuits.  In my early days of cooking, making biscuits meant opening up a can of Grands.  Then I upgraded to using Bisquick to make them "from scratch."  Now I make them totally from scratch, using Paula's recipe with a small tweak.  Here are the recipes as I make them:

    Homemade Biscuits
    3 C flour
    2 T sugar (wow, this really makes a difference!)
    2 1/2 t baking powder
    1/2 t baking soda
    1/2 t salt
    1/2 C Crisco (I used butter flavored, which is all I had)
    1 C buttermilk (*see note below)
    1/4 C melted unsalted butter (I just used regular butter)

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in the shortening with a fork or pastry cutter until it looks like cornmeal.  Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly until well mixed.

    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead lightly two or three times.  Roll out the dough to 1/2" thickness.  Cut with a 2" biscuit cutter.

    Place the biscuits in a greased iron skillet.  (I'm from the north and have never seen such a thing as an iron skillet.  I made the biscuits in a regular 9x13" glass baking dish.)  Gently press down on each biscuit.  Brush the biscuits with half the melted butter.  Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown.  (Mine were done early.)  Brush the hot biscuits with the remaining butter (which I did not do).  Split the biscuits in half and ladle gravy over them.

    *Note:  The first time I made this recipe, I actually purchased buttermilk, something I had never used before.  I thought the biscuits were OK...they were very heavy and reminded me of a cross between a biscuit and a heavy yeast roll.  The second time I just used regular milk.  Buttermilk is expensive and I don't use the rest of the carton before it goes bad.  I thought the biscuits were actually better when made with regular milk.  So it sure doesn't ruin them if you don't have buttermilk.

    Sausage Gravy
    Browned, crumbled sausage
    1/4 C bacon grease (the key ingredient!)
    1/4 C flour
    1 1/2+ C warm milk
    1/4 t salt
    1/4 t pepper

    (Paula doesn't use sausage in this recipe...it's something added by me.  I brown an entire roll of  Bob Evan's sausage in my skillet, half of it formed into patties and half crumbled.  I remove the cooked patties and push the crumbled sausage to the side.)  Heat bacon grease in the same pan used for cooking the sausage.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth and bubbly, about 1 minute.  Add the warm milk slowly and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and stir, until thickened, about 5 minutes, adding milk as necessary to control the thickness.  Season the gravy with salt and pepper.  Serve hot over biscuits.

    (*Note:  I used to use oil or butter in place of the bacon grease when I made gravy.  The bacon grease gives the gravy so much more flavor!  I really recommend doing this if you have the means.)

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    More Fun & Answers Revealed

    I have another game for today!  This baggie of unidentified liquid-like material fell out of the cupboard as I was reaching for a box of cereal.  I looked at it for a minute trying to figure out what used to be inside the baggie.  It apparently has mutated into another form.  I finally remembered and wanted to see if any of you could guess what used to be inside the bag.  :)
    
    Click on photo to view full size
    And while we're on the subject of more fun, I have added a new feature to my blog - Poll of the Day!   (Or Poll of Every Two Days or however long it takes me to update it.)  I thought that would be a way to have even more fun here!  So please vote and vote often!

    And finally...
    Here are the answers to Tuesday's game!
    1. "LAURAAAAA!!!!" is from Sleeping With the Enemy.  He screams it many times, very passionately!  (Good job, K!)
    2. "I don't know, Margo!" is from Christmas Vacation.  I know, that was an easy one.  We say this line so often that my kids are getting sick of being called Margo.
    3. "Your fingers hurt?" is from Happy Gilmore.  The orderly in the nursing home is not very kind to Grandma.  (Amanda called this one!)
    4. "Afta" is most definitely spoken by Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid.  I can't remember when, I just know he says it.  Therefore, we say it.
    5. "Let me take you to my home.  In Africa." is spoken by the Shelley-inspired character in The Saint to impress Elisabeth Shue's character.  (My husband is smitten with her, by the way.)
    6. "Thank you, Priest."
    7. "How is this a bad plan?"
    8. "You never pleased me."  All are from The Count of Monte Cristo, which we watch over and over.
    9. "All I have to do is scream." is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  It is dialogue between Harrison Ford and the pretty Nazi lady as they are watching the books being burned.
    10. "It's that dang penguin again!" is unfortunately from Billy Madison.  That screenplay had to have been written by drunk men.  It makes no sense.  Hubby finds it hilarious and quotes lines from it often.
    11. All of these quotes are from Fletch and Fletch Lives.  Now, those are two stupid movies I can lower myself to watch again and again.
    12. "1.21 jiggawatts" in unison everyone...Back to the Future!  I practically have that movie memorized and know all kinds of crazy facts about it.  I'm sorry, it's a classic and I adore it!
    13. "60% of the time, it works every time!" is from Anchorman.  It's in reference to Brian Fantana's cologne that honestly, smells like pure gasoline.  Or a used diaper full of Indian food.  Hmmm...yummy!

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    What's For Dinner?

    The day that Cracker Barrel made a corporate decision to discontinue serving their Tortilla Soup was a day that part of my soul died.  Maybe I'm being a tad dramatic but seriously, that stuff was so good!  I waited all summer long for the seasonal soup to return.  But every time I visited, my server knew nothing about the fate of Tortilla Soup.  I decided to contact the corporate offices at Cracker Barrel.  They revealed to me the devastating news.  I may have even cried.  I passed the news on to my family members who were also huge fans of the soup.  Like me, they will never again be the same.  I thought about a boycott of Cracker Barrel but I would just miss the macaroni and cheese far too much.  Instead, I began my search for a tortilla soup recipe that could hold a candle to Cracker Barrel'sMax & Erma's soup was OK, as was Chili's Chicken Enchilada soup.  But it just wasn't the same.  And Panera's Chicken Tortilla soup tasted like swill to me.  (There was no cheese in it!  Seriously, NO CHEESE!)

    I finally found this recipe online and tweaked a bit for my taste.  It's still not Cracker Barrel's but it gets me through the rough patches in life when I don't know if I can go on any longer.  So if any of you are still in mourning like me, give this soup a try and see if you can learn to cope.  It's kind of like a "patch" and Cracker Barell's soup is the addictive nicotine.  (Hmmm...did that even make sense?)

    Chicken Tortilla Soup
    1/4 C butter
    1/4 C flour
    3 C chicken broth
    1 C milk
    8 oz. Velveeta, cubed
    10 oz. Ro*Tel tomatoes and chilies
    2 C cooked, shredded chicken
    1 t chili powder
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    4-6 flour tortillas
    shredded Cheddar Jack cheese, as a garnish

    In a pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.  Slowly whisk in small amounts of chicken broth.  Whisk in milk.  Reduce heat to low and stir in Velveeta.  Stir until melted.  Stir in Ro*Tel (I puree it in my Rocket blender before adding it as I don't care for the large chunks in this soup).  Add chicken and spices.  Simmer until heated through.

    Meanwhile, prepare tortilla strips.  The easiest way is to melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  Cut tortillas into strips and add to melted butter.  Stir often until tortillas are lightly browned.  Remove to a paper towel to absorb grease.

    Ladle soup into a bowl.  Add a spoonful of shredded cheese and top with a handful of crispy tortilla strips.  If more heat is desired, add extra chili powder or your favorite hot sauce.  Enjoy!

    Still Waiting on You...

    I will be not be posting answers today for yesterday's movie quote game.  I still need a few more of you to make your guesses!  Come on, now!

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    I Have a Face

    OK, I've finally decided to post an actual picture of myself.  I was worried some of you were beginning to think I was a zombie or something.  But no, I'm real.  Actually, maybe my blog would have been more interesting if I had been a zombie...

    My Favorite Movie Quotes

    Living in my house is always cause for a laugh.  We are six people with fabulous senses of humor, if I must say so myself.  One thing that you will always hear in our home is randomly spewed lines from various movies.  In fact, it happens so often that it can grate on one's nerves.  That is, unless you're in a super silly mood (which is most of the time).  Here are some of my favorites that we quote often...see how many you can identify by naming the movie they come from.




    1.  Out of the clear blue, just for fun, Hubby will yell at the top of his lungs,
      "LAURAAAAAAA!!!!!!!"
    2.  Whenever a child of mine asks a question I don't have an answer for, I reply,
       "I don't know, Margo!"
    3.  Whenever poor Big Sis complains that something hurts, her unsympathetic father replies,
      "Your fingers hurt?  Well, now your back's gonna hurt 'cause you just pulled landscaping duty!"
    4. Whenever a question is asked like, "When will dinner be done?" or "What time will you be ready?"  The answer is,
       "Afta."  The question asker replies, "After what?"  And the answer to that is "Afta afta!"
    5.  This one has no rhyme or reason to it.  Hubby will occasionally just state (with a thick accent),
      "Let me take you to my home. In Africa."
    6. If I ever do something that requires thanks, Hubby can't just say, "Thanks." He has to reply (with a slight accent this time),
      "Thank you, Priest."
    7. And from the same movie, with a Hispanic accent, another line that has no purpose:
      "I'll run up to Paris - bam, bam, bam, bam. I'm back before week's end. We spend the treasure. How is this a bad plan?"
    8. And the last from this same movie, Hubby will tell me that I did please him some of the time. In my fake French accent, I faithfully reply,
      "You never pleased me."
    9. Another 2-person line we quote often:
      Hubby: "All I have to do is squeeze"   Me: "All I have to do is scream."
    10. From a movie I totally can't stand:
      "It's that dang penguin again!"
    11. We quote a lot from these two movies:
    • "Billie Jean King, Bugbusters."
    • "You call me when you want to know what time it is and I'll tell you."
    • "Bob E. Lee, Bobby E. Lee. Schwartz."
    • "Ed Harley, Harley Davidson Motorcycles."
    • "I'll have a steak sandwich and a...steak sandwich."
    • "Just put it on Mr. Underhill's bill."
    • "It's me, Dr. Rosen Rosen." 
    • 1: "Take your pants off." 2. "I don't even know your name." 1. "Bend over." 2. "Ben? Nice to meet you.  Victor Hugo." 
    12.  This one is easy....
      "...to generate the 1.21 jiggawatts of electricity..."
    13.  "60% of the time, it works every time."



    I'll take your guesses now!!!  Answers revealed tomorrow.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Monday's + & -

    +  The Steelers did NOT win the Superbowl last night!  I'm not a Green Bay fan, just anti-Steelers.  Sorry Pittsburgh fans.
    -  My house took a hit over the weekend and is now almost unlivable.  What is it about weekends that destroy my house?
    +  Friday was my Grandma's 81st birthday.  Her dementia/Alzheimer's gets worse each time I see her.  She didn't know it was her birthday, but we actually had some very nice moments together.  My brother and I bought her a digital picture frame that I filled up with over 300 pictures of family.  She didn't recognize most of the people in the photos but I really enjoyed sitting with her and telling her who everyone was.  For a brief moment, it felt like having my old grandma back.  She's still a precious woman, even if she isn't quite sure who I am any more.  And I got to spend one more birthday with Grandma, the woman I named my daughter after.
    -  I have to go out in the snow and buy groceries with a 2-year-old.  Enough said.
    +  For lunch, I get to choose between leftover Sausage Gravy & Biscuits and Tortilla Soup.  Each made from scratch over the weekend, I really outdid myself.  I may have to snap some photos and share the recipes.  You know me!
    -  Because of all the snow, I had to cancel a lunch date with a friend.  But hopefully we can reschedule.
    +  The man who robbed my mother's bank (she's a business banker) was arrested today.  He only got away with $450 which totally cracks me up!  You should have seen how clear the security photo of him was...it blew my mind!
    -  Tonight, instead of spending time with my family, I will be babysitting an unknown number of children.  It's actually not that bad, it was my idea anyway.  I decided to get my church group of teenage girls together and offer free babysitting so parents could enjoy a night away.  I thought some of the parents were going to kiss me out of sheer gratitude.
    +  What goes around comes around.  My aunt has offered to keep all four of my kids Saturday night so Hubby and I can enjoy a hot date!  See, that's what you get for paying it forward!
    -  Spring is still really far away. 
    +  Speaking of paying it forward, I got to watch Hubby in another random act of kindness Saturday.  He noticed a woman attempting to scrape the ice off her car with a smashed water bottle.  He quickly jumped out of the car and scraped all the windows for her.  That's why I married him.  Well...that and how cute he is.  :)

    I wish you more pluses than minuses in your day today!

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    All Aboard the Choo Choo Train!

    Choo Choo Soul is Baby Girl's absolute favorite television show!  I wish it lasted longer than 5 minutes.  I would love to have 6 episodes back to back so she could experience sheer bliss for a full half hour.

    Chuggington is Baby Girl's second favorite show.  Not quite as entertaining as Choo Choo Soul (which my husband would argue is due to the lack of Genevieve) but nonetheless a good show.  She has one train track and eight little Chuggington trains that she plays with constantly.  Gone are the days of the boring Thomas videos with the monotone narrator.  Clickety-clack, Chuggington is much better!

    Today, I booked an actual railway vacation for my family!  I've never been on a real train before, just the scenic railroads that go 10 mph through the country in autumn.  I am so excited that we will be travelling on the Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco!  I've never been that far west...I'm so excited that I can barely contain myself!  I will have to try because we are not departing until the end of summer. 

    Today is just a traintastic day!

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    The Blame Game

    I am really getting tired of people who constantly blame others for their own bad choices.  It started off with my children who didn't want to be held responsible for their messy rooms, lost possessions or incomplete chores.  I regularly heard excuses like "That isn't my mess all over the floor...it's my brother's."  or "The baby took my iPod out of my room and lost it!"  or "I was going to do my chore but Dad wanted me to see something on the computer."  I am tired of excuses and I am tired of blaming others for your own shortcomings. 

    Then I began to realize that the problem is much deeper than the menial problems in my little family.  On a recent audition episode of "American Idol," a horribly tone-deaf woman questioned the judges' decision by asking if they said no because she wasn't skinny enough.  What?!  Are you kidding me???  Instead of coming to grips with the fact that she couldn't sing, she tried to place the blame somewhere else.

    And then there are those who (I almost hate to say this) attribute every problem in their life to race discrimination.  This is a hot topic button for me right now.  It seems that everywhere you look, every news story you read, someone is saying that they were treated unfairly due to their race.  I am not in any way denying that racism exists.  Because it most definitely does.  Let me also state that I am, in no way, a racist.  I don't say that I'm colorblind either.  I see the various races in the world around me and I accept and appreciate that variety.  That said, I think something has to be done about the growing problem of people "playing the race card" in every situation in their lives.  This trend is being passed on to innocent children who are learning that when life gives you lemons, tell everyone you were mistreated due to your race.

    I have been following a news story about a woman who illegally enrolled her children in a neighboring school district because she wanted to give them a better life.  I understand her concern.  And like her, I would try to enroll my children in a different district if I felt that it would provide them with a better education.  But this woman broke the rules.  She lied about her children's residence, stating that they lived with their grandfather.  She lied about her income to receive free and reduced meals.  She swore that all the information she provided was legitimate. 

    When her dishonesty was discovered, the school district sent her a letter stating that she needed to leave the school and pay back tuition.  She ignored the letter.  For two years, she kept her children in the school and threw away all tuition bills.  So action was finally taken.  The school district took her to court to sue for back tuition and fraud for misrepresenting sworn documents.  So, she played the race card.  She said she was being singled out because of her race.  But she wasn't being singled out at all.  She was only 1 of 48 families who were confronted by the school district for illegally attending its schools.  47 of the families complied by withdrawing from the school, paying back tuition, or legally moving into the district.  One did not.  So she was punished legally for her actions.

    It just makes me so mad that she is now saying that she was discriminated against because of her race.  She was found guilty by a jury that included four people of her race.  Lady, you were wrong.  You lied and you falsified documents.  You were warned but you continued on with your behavior.  Quit blaming others for what YOU did.  Instead of blowing up your story into a national media frenzy, just close your mouth and try to make amends for your actions.  Grow up and take some responsibility.

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

    Last night on his way home from work, I explained to Hubby that I planned to make homemade cinnamon rolls but had a problem with the yeast.  He very willingly volunteered to detour to the grocery store to pick up more yeast.  So even though it was very late at night, I got my cinnamon rolls!  I hadn't made them in years and didn't remember them being so wonderfully delicious!  You are in luck today because I am sharing this prized recipe.  It's a bit of work and somewhat time consuming.  But the result is well worth the effort!  Enjoy!

    She's Cinnamon Rolls
    1/2 C warm water
    2 pkg. active dry yeast
    2 T sugar
    3.4 oz. pkg. instant vanilla pudding
    2 C butter
    2 eggs
    1 t salt
    7 C + flour
    2 C + 1 T milk
    8 oz. cream cheese
    1 t vanilla
    3 C powdered sugar
    2 C brown sugar
    4 t cinnamon

    In a small bowl, combine water and sugar; stir until dissolved.  Add yeast; set aside.

    In large bowl, prepare pudding mix according to package directions.  Add 1 stick softened butter, eggs, and salt.  Mix well.  Add yeast mixture; mix well.  Gradually add flour; knead until smooth.

    Place in a greased bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled.

    Punch down and let rise again.

    Roll out to 34" x 21".  Spread 1 C melted butter over surface of dough.  Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together and sprinkle over top.  Roll up tightly.  Cut rolls every 2".

    Place on a greased cookie sheet 2" apart.  Press down on each roll lightly.  Cover and let rise until doubled.

    Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden.  Do not over bake.

    Mix together softened cream cheese, 1 stick softened butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and 1 T milk.  Use to frost warm rolls.

    *Tips:

  • The temperature of the water when adding the yeast should be about 80 degrees.  It should feel like a baby's bottle, slightly warm to the touch.  If yeast does not bubble up, you probably used the wrong temperature of water or the yeast was too old.


  • I used cheesecake flavored pudding instead of vanilla pudding and it was awesome!  You could experiment with pumpkin, lemon, or butterscotch flavors.


  • When adding butter to pudding, make sure the butter is very soft.  It will chunk up when added to the cold milk and become difficult to mix in.


  • If the dough feels too sticky after 7 cups of flour, you may need more.  I probably used an additional 1/2 C of flour.  I kneaded the dough for quite a while ('til my arms hurt).


  • I think I expected my dough to rise up huge.  It might have in the summertime but I don't think it completely doubled this time.  The rolls still turned out great!


  • I sanitize my countertop or kitchen table to roll out the dough.  This recipe yields about 20 large rolls.  If you want smaller rolls, only roll out half your dough at a time. 


  • To cut the rolls evenly, I measure from the center of my knuckle to the end of my index finger.  Use a sharp, non-serrated knife.


  • Make sure you roll the dough up very tightly or all the good cinnamon and butter will ooze out.


  • Make sure you eat a roll straight from the oven after it has been frosted.  Plan to die with a short trip to heaven afterward!
  • Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Salty Chicken for Mimsie

    
    This picture is of cold, leftover chicken.
    It looks more appetizing when fresh.
    A recipe by special request:

    Salty Chicken
    This isn't really even much of a recipe.  Just a procedure.  I use bone-in chicken pieces, usually breasts for the adults and legs for the kids.  Dark meat brings more flavor to the white meat, which dries out easily.  Wash each piece of meat and salt generously.  Place in a baking dish in which the meat fits well without too much extra space.  Bake, uncovered, at 300-325 for about 3 hours.  The meat gets very brown on top and turns out crunchy, salty, and very tender.  If the meat begins over browning, you can cover with foil and continue baking until ready to serve.

    Broccoli Cheese Soup

    What is it about a snow day that just makes me want to eat and cook?  For breakfast yesterday, I made Palacsinta.  For lunch I made Broccoli Cheese Soup and for dinner I made what we call Salty Chicken.  I was going to make homemade cinnamon rolls also, which I was really looking forward to.  But when I crumbled my yeast cake into the warm water, there were several dark spots in it.  It looked like it could be mold to me.  I did a little googling, which said good cake yeast is smooth with no dark spots.  So I threw the yeast out....better safe than sorry.  So we have no delicious, heavenly-smelling cinnamon rolls in our house.  Bummer. 

    Here is my super easy Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe.  People think I slave all day over this fabulous soup...please don't tell them how easy it actually is!

    Broccoli Cheese Soup
    1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped broccoli
    1 can cream of mushroom soup
    8 oz. Velveeta, cubed
    1 C milk
    1-2 handfuls skinny noodles, optional

    Steam broccoli according to package directions.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer until cheese melts and noodles and broccoli are tender.  Take care not to scorch the soup.  Add salt to taste. 

    *Tip:  If you prefer a smoother consistency soup, you can puree the soup (minus the noodles) in a food processor or Bullet blender.  I actually prefer the large pieces of broccoli.

    *Tip:  If you use noodles, you may want to add more milk.  Soup will be awesomely thick if you don't.  So, it's your call!

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Snow Day Breakfast

    In our family, events like birthdays and snow days call for a special, traditional Hungarian breakfast.  This recipe has been handed down in our family since my Great-Grandma.  My Grandfather recalls requesting this food as a little boy anytime he was sick.  I would never make it for sick children, for the simple fact that I consider it more of a snack than a meal, but a special day warrants a special treat.  We call it "Polacheton," but upon further investigation, it seems to be spelled "Palacsinta" (pa-la-CHEEN-ta).  In fact, Grandpa would probably be irritated that I haven't been properly pronouncing it.  Anyway, here's the recipe for today's special snow day breakfast.

    Palacsinta
    1 t sugar
    1 C flour
    2 eggs
    dash salt
    2 C+ milk

    Butter
    Cinnamon & Sugar mixture

    In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt.  Add eggs and milk and whisk together.  Batter will be very thin. 

    Grease a large, hot skillet or spray well with Pam.  Pour batter into center of skillet, tipping the skillet to spread the batter as thinly as possible. 

    When the bottom is lightly browned, flip and lightly brown the opposite side.  Carefully transfer to a plate.  Butter one side well and liberally shake cinnamon and sugar over top.  Roll up and serve immediately.

    Do ahead tip:  Place each rolled Palacsinta into a 9x13" baking dish, cover with foil, and leave in a warm oven until ready to serve.

    Variations:  Fill Palacsinta with jam, whipped cream and sliced strawberries, or Nutella and sliced bananas.

    "I Got You Babe..."

    In honor of a movie I've seen far too many times...
    Happy Groundhog Day, everyone!

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    The Facebooker

    I've stated before how Facebook users get on my nerves, yet I continue to log on daily just to check if one of my 402 "Friends" posted something interesting.  Well, one of them finally did.  It was this article from CNN.com.  I laughed out loud as I thought of an actual person who fit in every one of these categories.  (I even fit in one myself...see if you can guess which.) 

    I don't usually post things here that aren't my own words but this article is so funny and worth sharing.  Just skip it if you've been living in a cave or for some reason aren't familiar with Facebook.

    Here are 12 of the most annoying types of Facebook users:

    The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore. "I'm waking up." "I had Wheaties for breakfast." "I'm bored at work." "I'm stuck in traffic." You're kidding! How fascinating! No moment is too mundane for some people to broadcast unsolicited to the world. Just because you have 432 Facebook friends doesn't mean we all want to know when you're waiting for the bus.

    The Self-Promoter. OK, so we've probably all posted at least once about some achievement. And sure, maybe your friends really do want to read the fascinating article you wrote about beet farming. But when almost EVERY update is a link to your blog, your poetry reading, your 10k results or your art show, you sound like a bragger or a self-centered careerist.

    The Friend-Padder. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. Schmoozers and social butterflies -- you know, the ones who make lifelong pals on the subway -- might reasonably have 300 or 400. But 1,000 "friends?" Unless you're George Clooney or just won the lottery, no one has that many. That's just showing off.

    The Town Crier. "Michael Jackson is dead!!!" You heard it from me first! Me, and the 213,000 other people who all saw it on TMZ. These Matt Drudge wannabes are the reason many of us learn of breaking news not from TV or news sites but from online social networks. In their rush to trumpet the news, these people also spread rumors, half-truths and innuendo. No, Jeff Goldblum did not plunge to his death from a New Zealand cliff.

    The TMIer. "Brad is heading to Walgreens to buy something for these pesky hemorrhoids." Boundaries of privacy and decorum don't seem to exist for these too-much-information updaters, who unabashedly offer up details about their sex lives, marital troubles and bodily functions. Thanks for sharing.

    The Bad Grammarian. "So sad about Fara Fauset but Im so gladd its friday yippe". Yes, I know the punctuation rules are different in the digital world. And, no, no one likes a spelling-Nazi schoolmarm. But you sound like a moron.

    The Sympathy-Baiter. "Barbara is feeling sad today." "Man, am I glad that's over." "Jim could really use some good news about now." Like anglers hunting for fish, these sad sacks cast out their hooks -- baited with vague tales of woe -- in the hopes of landing concerned responses. Genuine bad news is one thing, but these manipulative posts are just pleas for attention.

    The Lurker. The Peeping Toms of Facebook, these voyeurs are too cautious, or maybe too lazy, to update their status or write on your wall. But once in a while, you'll be talking to them and they'll mention something you posted, so you know they're on your page, hiding in the shadows. It's just a little creepy.

    The Crank. These curmudgeons, like the trolls who spew hate in blog comments, never met something they couldn't complain about. "Carl isn't really that impressed with idiots who don't realize how idiotic they are." [Actual status update.] Keep spreading the love.

    The Paparazzo. Ever visit your Facebook page and discover that someone's posted a photo of you from last weekend's party -- a photo you didn't authorize and haven't even seen? You'd really rather not have to explain to your mom why you were leering like a drunken hyena and French-kissing a bottle of Jagermeister.

    The Obscurist. "If not now then when?" "You'll see..." "Grist for the mill." "John is, small world." "Dave thought he was immune, but no. No, he is not." [Actual status updates, all.] Sorry, but you're not being mysterious -- just nonsensical.

    The Chronic Inviter. "Support my cause. Sign my petition. Play Mafia Wars with me. Which 'Star Trek' character are you? Here are the 'Top 5 cars I have personally owned.' Here are '25 Things About Me.' Here's a drink. What drink are you? We're related! I took the 'What President Are You?' quiz and found out I'm Millard Fillmore! What president are you?" You probably mean well, but stop. Just stop. I don't care what president I am -- can't we simply be friends?

    Now excuse me while I go post the link to this story on my Facebook page.