Valentine’s Tree

I bought a 4′ Christmas tree on clearance. Originally $19.99, 90% off. So it was $2.00. It is sparkly silver and prelit. Sadly, I did not check the box for contents, however, because it is missing its stand. Well, 2/3 of its stand. Which makes it sort of (ok, very) pathetic, but nonetheless a good deal for $2.00.

Because I hadn’t bothered to put it away with the Christmas things, it was set up in the dining room. Wonky. Mr. Lawyer wanted to know what on earth I was doing with it and I decided right then to have the kids make a Valentine’s Tree out of it. To a) save face from not having put the tree away by late January and b) to keep the Beastlings busy for a few minutes making decorations.

The worked diligently yesterday and today and I have to say their efforts are quite lovely. The stand is still an issue. It’s in a glass jar filled with red scrunchy gift bag filler for now, not the best solution for kids. And on the kitchen counter so Babybeast won’t attempt to devour it. And she would. Oh, would she ever.

Mister Lawyer, I suspect, thinks it’s hideous. And he’s right. But we like it anyway.

How do I put a counter on this thing?

Cabinet Extreme Makeover

This afternoon I cleaned out a set of cupboards that held a metric assload of craft stuff for the kids which looked really bad. And by “bad” I mean it looked like what would happen if Hobby Lobby turned into a black hole and imploded on itself. Just like that. Total and complete disarray. And the next shelf up held all of my plastic Rubbermaid storage, also in fearful shape.
The thing is, we are cutting down on our plastic usage, not just the BPA-containing plastics which are not welcome in my house, but general plastic use where we reasonably can. For example, while I still store foods in plastic, like the kids’ preschool lunches, I try not to put hot foods in it or ever heat items in plastic, especially for the kids.

So I bought two lidded 18 piece sets of Pyrex sets a few weeks ago and needed somewhere to put all that glass. The craft stuff went out of the cabinet, the plastic got reduced by a third and moved up a shelf and the glassware went on the bottom shelf, for easy access. I am sure if I hid it away it wouldn’t get used as much as it should.

The craft items were banished to various points in the house, but it all ended up quite well organized. The whole process took the entire afternoon, which is pretty ridiculous. I guess that give you an idea of just how bad it was, huh?

Tomorrow I have teacher conferences midday and then I plan on hitting the nursery (no one’s in it right now) and de-cluttering it. Thanks to the generosity of friends with little girls and an eye for sales, I have enough baby girl clothes to clothe the Dionne Quintuplets, especially the early months. So the plan is to organize all of that and make it look presentable in case we decide to give Babybeast the boot from her present location in our room. As if an infant cares what their room looks like, right?

To tell you the truth, and this is no surprise to some, but I really don’t like housework. And I’m not very diligent at getting it done, especially with the three little “helpers” I have. Sure the babies get fed and bathed and the really nasty things get done (I have some standards, people!), but I’d much rather read than spot clean the carpet, put away the laundry, or scrub that mysterious sticky substance off the inside of the fridge. So there’s my confession. And if you gather nothing else from this entry, then take this in: don’t even think of driving by the house and dropping in without calling beforehand.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Flaxseed

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Flaxseed

That’s a mouthful isn’t it?

You need:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 c ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups oats
1-1.5 cup raisins

Mix the butter and the sugars together. Add vanilla and the eggs. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cinnamon, flax seed, and baking soda. Combine those dry ingredients with the butter/sugar mixture. Add the raisins and oats.

Drop by tablespoon or cookie scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12min. Makes 3.5 dozen if you use the cookie scoop and probably 4 dozen if you make teeny weeny wimpy cookies.

To be honest, I was expecting inedible wheaty oaty hockey pucks, but they turned out very well. Even Mister Lawyer had some (and went back for more). Don’t tell the kids that they are healthy and they won’t guess that they are.

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Now with Tasty Mercury!

High Fructose Corn Syrup creeps me out. This is nothing new – once I became aware of it about four years ago, I started eliminating it from our family’s kitchen. It still sneaks in sometimes
when I forget to read labels, but for the most part we are HFCS-free

I wonder how much we consumed before I stopped buying products with it, though? Pounds and pounds of it, I am certain, since its use is pervasive. HFCS can be found in bread, sweetened drinks, granola bars, most sauces like barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, and ketchup, cereal, crackers, canned soups, and yogurt. The list goes on – in fact it’s easier to list the things it’s not in.

The HFCS manufacturers, courtesy of promotional ads by the Corn Refiners Association, would like you to think that it’s harmless stuff, that it’s “made from corn,” that it “doesn’t have artificial ingredients” “has the same calories as sugar or honey” “is nutritionally the same as sugar”, and “is fine in moderation.” Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

For starters, here is a description of how it is made. Tasty, no?

Why not use real sugar, you ask? Because sugar tariffs and corn subsidies converge to make HFCS a bargain ingredient and table sugar (sucrose) much less attractive in terms of product profitability. It’s all about the bottom line – nothing more, nothing less.

HFCS is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and more.

And it is used in products primarily marketed to our children.

And so I turn on my computer today and see that HFCS has made the news again. Somewhat (ok, extremely) disturbingly, it appears that there are two basic grades of HFCS. The kind with mercury in it and the kind without. Presumably the kind with mercury is cheaper. Which do you think is used in foods marketed at young children and families such as Quaker, Hunt’s, Manwich, Hershey’s, Smucker’s, Kraft, Nutri-Grain, and Yoplait?

Yes, folks, if you have HFCS in your home, you have probably been noshing on mercury tainted foods. And so have your children.

For the full article, please click HERE.

Please contact the makers of foods that use HFCS (via the 1-800 number on the packaging) and tell them you do not intend to purchase their product until they cease using high fructose corn syrup. And then follow through with your promise not to purchase them – there are many products that are HFCS free, you just have to look for them. And today would be an excellent time to start.

Sleep, optional

Memo to Babybeast:

I should preface this by thanking you for sleeping from nine yesterday evening until almost eleven. That’s almost two hours straight; please don’t think I didn’t notice or appreciate your obvious efforts. I’d like to discuss the events which occurred shortly thereafter, however, as they are of some concern.

Firstly, after eating a nice big meal at both 8:30 and 9:00pm, I’m really not so sure you need to eat at 11:00, 11:45, 1:30, 2:30, 3:15, and 3:40. After all, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are not in any danger of wasting away to nothing. And then when you woke up around 5:00 and I dragged you into the bed (against my better judgment, but really, who has good judgment at 5:am?) I’m afraid I did not explain clearly enough that my near proximity alone is not the same as an all you can eat as long as you can eat buffet. Please curtail your eating needs to two post-bedtime meals per night, effective immediately.

Further, and I hate to take your fun away, but gleefully scaling both your father and I at 7:00am while screeching cheerful baby screeches and poking at our eyeballs is just not going to work for me. I’ve spoken to your father and he is in agreement on this one. Cheerful baby screeches are acceptable, but not when accompanied by eyeball clawing. Thank you for your understanding.

In short, I think if you follow these guidelines, you will find that I am more more pleasant to be around during the day which only serves to benefit your experience as an infant. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.


The Mommy

Free Valentines Photocards

Who doesn’t love free stuff!

Six free Valentines-themed photocards with envelopes and free shipping from Stories by Everyone, a scrapbooking site. What could be sweeter?

Offer is good through February 1, 2009 only. Enter code VALENTINE when you check out.

And as a bonus, if you have little kids, click on that black and white heart in this post to enlarge it and print it out – it’s good for coloring and will keep your little one occupied while you upload his or her photo to make cards out of.

On Darwinism

Texas board moves closer to new science standards

AUSTIN, Texas — The State Board of Education moved a step closer to dropping a 20-year-old science curriculum requirement that critics say is used to undermine the theory of evolution.

After two days of heated debate, the board made a key vote Friday in favor of dropping a mandate that teachers address both “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theory.

A panel of science teachers had recommended that the language be dropped, suggesting instead that students be required to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations.

The new standards the board ultimately approves — a final vote on the curriculum proposal is not expected until March — will be in place for the next decade. They also will dictate how publishers handle the topic of evolution in textbooks.

Critics of the “weaknesses” language argue that watering down the teaching standards of origin of man is an attempt to promote creationism in public schools.

Federal courts have ruled against forcing the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.

Critics of the proposal to drop the mandate blame “left-wing ideology” for trying to stifle free speech.

A narrower requirement, adopted in an unexpected amendment Thursday, would require high school biology students to address the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of common ancestry to explain certain aspects of evolutionary theory.

I was just reading an in-depth article on Darwin in Smithsonian Magazine while I had the current issue of the Houston Chronicle on my lap with the above-quoted article on the front page. Apparently Texas is somewhat behind in the scientific world (no surprise, really), but we are getting there, if slowly.

The article on Darwin, if you have a chance to read, it is absolutely fascinating from a purely historical perspective, at the very least, but it also delves into the more recent discoveries that Darwin (along with Mendel, also discussed) planted the seed for with his theories.

Born in 1809, Charles Darwin was born in England to a well-off family of social progressives who were active in supporting the anti-slavery movement. A new book suggests that this background helped influence his scientific interest in the subject of evolution – his hypothesis being that the various human races were not fundamentally separate, a notion that many would do well to remember even now. For more, look for Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond.

Also in the news this week: what you feed your toddler can change his or her genes! Eek!

A new study by the University of Calgary, suggests that a high fat diet can actually affect a child’s genes and influence later obesity, by permanently changing how those genes react to certain diets. You can read more here. I wonder, what would Darwin think about that?

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