Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Holiday Curse

Let me share with you, all both of my dear readers. I have to tell you a secret. Well, two secrets, actually. The first one is that I really do not care for baking. Or cooking. There, I said it. I'll do it, but I can think of about 100 things that I would rather do.

The second secret is this: If you happen to know how to make something really yummy, do not let anyone know about it. Because if you do, you will be stuck making it for every holiday party/gathering/potluck/whatever for the rest of your life.

Since I had to make a couple five pumpkin rolls yesterday morning, and they didn't make themselves no matter how long I sat in front of the computer reading blogs, I thought I would at least try to make it a little more fun for myself by doing a pictorial recipe, P-Dub style. As it turns out, it's not easy to do this. You should probably have either a tripod for your camera, a friend over to take the pictures, or a third hand. I had none of these, so some of the pictures are a bit blurry.

Please forgive me. It will be worth it, I promise.

Now I'm going to show you how to make a pumpkin roll. And I blame the fact that I have to make these every holiday on my mother. She started it.

The cast of characters: Flour, granulated sugar, eggs, canned pumpkin, cinnamon, baking soda, cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and a 20 oz bottle of liquid crack Diet Coke. The Diet Coke is not actually part of the recipe, but it was vital if I was going to make it through the morning.

Start by getting out your mixer. Thanks to my mother, I am fortunate enough to have a Kitchen Aid. Unfortunately, it's only a 4-quart bowl. You'll find out why this is unfortunate a bit later.

Dump 3/4 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, three eggs, and 2/3 cup canned pumpkin into the bowl.

Then add one teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Mix these ingredients together. I know what you're thinking. Most normal people would use the paddle attachment here, and not the whisk. I would too, except for the fact that my paddle attachment has been missing for a couple of years now. I have no idea where it went. One day, it just vanished.

Mix until this is a nice, yummy pumpkin color. It only takes a minute or so.

Then take a cookie sheet, and line it with tin foil. Make sure your piece of tin foil is big enough that you have overlap on the sides. This will be important later.

Spray the lined cookie sheet with Pam or other cooking spray. My mother used to just rub a stick of butter all over it. That works too, but I've found that the spray is more convenient, not to mention less calorie-laden. Because at this point, we care about calories, right?

Pour your lovely pumpkin mixture into the cookie sheet, and spread it out evenly with a spatula, covering the whole pan.

It will look something like this. Slide this into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Yesterday, 13 minutes was just about perfect.

While your pumpkin mixture is baking, take a white linen baking cloth (I've also used clean kitchen towels before, don't tell, ok?) and sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar. I mean really...don't skimp here. There's no such thing as too much powdered sugar.

You can tell it's done because the edges will have started to pull away slightly from the pan, and they will be a nice golden brown. Don't mind the little hole in the middle there...that's where I stuck my finger to see if it was done. It will never show when we're finished.

Now this is the tricky part, and I could have taken a picture of this if I had a tripod, a friend, or a third hand. But I didn't. So grab both edges of the tin foil on either side of the pan, and lift your pumpkin bread out of the pan. You can do this when it's still very warm. Quickly flip the bread over and onto the sugar-coated baking cloth. Act surprised when you and your toaster are now covered with powdered sugar. Because you sprayed the tin foil with cooking spray, it should peel off quite easily.

Now, starting from the bottom edge, roll the bread up in the cloth like a jelly roll. Take your time and be gentle. We're going to let this sit rolled up for exactly 30 minutes. Don't ask why. All I can tell you is that I've tried less than 30 minutes, and I've tried longer, and neither one works out very well. Just trust me.

While our bread is rolled up and cooling, we're going to make the filling. Start with two 8 oz packages of cream cheese. The filling-making goes much easier if the cream cheese is soft.

Add one cup of powdered sugar.

Then two tablespoons of butter...

And a teaspoon of vanilla. If you are trying to make five pumpkin rolls in one morning, you may be tempted to double the recipe and make two batches of filling at once. While this might seem like a great idea, if you only have a 4-quart bowl, it is not a great idea.

This is why. I'll bet this never happens to Martha Stewart. Because she has the industrial Kitchen Aid mixer with the 6-quart bowl and the automatic lifter thing. Also, she's Martha Stewart. And I'm not.

If you make just one batch of filling at a time with your 4-quart bowl, it works much better. It also works better if you have the paddle attachment, instead of the whisk. Have I mentioned that my paddle thing went missing? If you want to know what to get me for Christmas...a replacement paddle would be great. For the mixer, I mean.

When the 30 minutes is up, unroll your pumpkin bread and spread the yummy cream cheese/powdered sugar mixture evenly all over it.

Then carefully roll it back up again, this time without the cloth. If you're lucky, the bread will not stick to the cloth, and it won't crack. But even if it does, the cream cheese makes a pretty good glue. It took some practice before I got to the point where my bread didn't burn, stick to the cloth, and rip in places. If you get it right the first time, more power to you. You can be Martha Stewart.

If you want the truth, this has taken me years to perfect. I'm a slow learner. And I don't like baking. When you're finished, your roll should look something like this. At this point, you should immediately cut a small piece off each end, just to make it look even and pretty. I only do this for aesthetic reasons. I certainly don't eat those ends that I've just cut off. No ma'am. Well, maybe just a little.

At this point, place your roll in a sheet of tin foil and wrap it up, placing it in the fridge for a couple of hours. They're much easier to cut when they've been chilled.

Hello, my precious.

For my office potluck, I sliced two rolls into about 3/4" pieces and brought them in that way. For Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's, I just took the roll whole. Three of them. I am not allowed in their house unless I am bearing pumpkin rolls. That's how it's always been. On the bright side, that's the only part of Thanksgiving dinner I'm required to make.

Yum, yum, and more yum. Doesn't that look delicious? I brought these to my office yesterday, and the most frequent comment was, "Oh my gosh, these are awesome! You really made these?" Because apparently, I don't look like someone who can make...something. So here, pictorial proof, that yes, I actually do make these myself. But only when I'm forced to.

And when you're finished, I would recommend hiring a four-person cleaning crew to deal with the layer of powdered sugar that has taken up residence in your kitchen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Baby On the Beach

When I first saw this picture, I thought, "What is wrong with the left side of her hair over there?" Upon closer inspection, I realized that was a seagull behind her.

Doesn't she look like a California girl? How old are they before you stop calling them your "baby?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just Because...

The band is leaving tomorrow night for a trip to California, where they will be in a competition, and also get to go to Knott's Berry Farm and the beach.

So I'm putting these pictures up. The first one because I think it's a great picture, with the sunset in the background. I know, their makeup is a little scary close-up, but when you're in the stands and they're on the field, it doesn't really show. Which is why I DO NOT understand the mandatory false eyelashes. Seriously, you cannot see their stinking eyelashes from the stands.

That's Danni in the middle there, twirling her rifle and watching it come down so that she can catch it with a grace that always surprises me. Nothing says "rifles" so much as girls in toga outfits, no? I like the way that Danni's rifle and the girl's to her left are at the exact same angle. The girl on her right, not so much.

Have a great time, baby...bring me back some Huntington Beach sand.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunday Night Fun

Guess what I did Sunday night? It involved free wine, and a large crowd of people.

Hubby made a big sale on Friday, so we got free tickets to the Suns v. Pistons game.

But these weren't just any tickets...

These tickets were in a suite. So I got to see how the other half lives.

Luckily, we were the first ones to arrive at our particular suite, so I could take a few pictures without looking like a dork who's never been in a suite before.

Except that I'm a dork who's never been in a suite before. It was pretty cool. I like free wine.

The Suns warming up...

The Pistons warming up.

I guess the flag-wavers need to warm up too.

These two were in our suite. There were 12 of us all together. I thought this was a really sweet father/son bonding moment. This kid was really nice. I talked to him after Shaq got tossed out of the game in the second quarter. I said, "I think they're doing ok without him, right?"

The Suns were up by 20 points when the big man got tossed, and they won by about that same margain.

The little boy said, "I think they're playing better without him!"

I agreed. He was so cute.

If you click on this last picture to make it bigger, you might be able to make out a man sitting in the first row down on the floor. He's right in the middle of the picture, wearing a sweater vest and a yellow shirt. He has dark glasses hanging from the collar. That? Is Muhammad Ali. Cool, right? The announcer pointed out that he was there, and everyone gave him a standing O. It was nice.

I don't much care for basketball, but I'm glad we went. I mean, how often do you get to sit in a suite? If you're me, that would be never. Well, except for Sunday night. It was fun.

Also, I'll bet all two of you are thinking that since I didn't post about the football game on Saturday, that we lost. Wrong! We won, 29-25. And now, we get to play the team we've never beaten. This playoff game just happens to coincide with the band's trip to California, where they will be running all over Knott's Berry Farm while their football team is taking a beating. I bet they have more fun at the amusement park! I know I would.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lesson Learned...And Football!

This is what I've learned from NaBloPoMo. It makes posting in my blog feel like a chore, rather than something I want to do. I've learned that while some people can post every day and make it interesting, I am not one of those people. So, I'm dropping out. See, I feel better already.

High school playoff game #1 tonight. We're playing the team we beat two weeks ago in overtime. I'll bet that won't be on the minds of the other team at all, right?

And then, if we win tonight, we get to play the team we've never beaten again. I think this might be a very short playoff season for the Wolves.

I'll be there rooting them on, anyway. Go Wolves!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Bargain Dog

It occurred to me yesterday when I used the picture of our dog Bo in my last post, that I'd never properly introduced this member of our family.

This is Bo. We got him from the pound, and the pound people could only tell us that he'd been dropped off two days before, he was about a year old, and he was a pug/chihuahua mix.

Whenever I tell anyone that we have a dog that is a pug/chihuahua mix, I can see them trying to process in their head what the dog might look like, and I almost always get a remark ranging from "Ummm." to "Ehhh." As you can see though, he's a cute dog.

We paid $10 for him at the pound. This was $5 per day for boarding, since he'd been there two days. We got him in December of 1999, so we think he's about 10 years old.

Back in the day, we called dogs like these "mutts." Not a pure breed, but a mixture of two or more breeds. I think we got a bargain when we got him for $10.

A few years ago, we were at a puppy store at the mall. We saw, in one of the little windows, a dog called a "Chug", which was described as a chihuahua/pug mix. Suddenly, our little dog was no longer a mutt, but a Chug! He'd been vindicated! Validated!

I rushed home to tell him that he wasn't actually a mutt, like we'd always thought, but a Chug. I also told him that his relatives were being sold at the pet store for $1500.

He snorted, jumped up on the couch, laid down in the exact center of it, and went to sleep.

There are all kinds of these designer dogs now. What we used to call mutts are now coveted, expensive pets. The Chug is an interesting combo though, because the look of the dog can really differ, depending on which body parts are pug, and which are chihuahua. Bo got a chihuahua face, and a pug body, complete with a curly tail.

This guy has a more puggish look to him:

This little guy definitely has a more chihuahua look to him. In fact, on the website I stole the picture from, he was called a "pugwahwa." No, I'm not kidding. So I guess Bo can either be a Chug, or a Pugwahwa...depending on how he's feeling that day.

This little guy is a Labradoodle, or a labrador/poodle mix. I don't even want to know how they accomplished that one. They can also go for around $1500 in the pet store.

This is a Puggle, or a pug/beagle mix. Again, I think we used to call these mutts. Now they're called "pricey."

Here, we have the unfortunately named "Schnoodle." A cross between a poodle and a schnauzer, I'm guessing?

This guy is my favorite. This has got to be the cutest mutt ever. He a cross between a Bichon Frise and a ShihTzu. (Pronounced Shit-zu, in less sophisticated circles) He's called a Shichon. I have no idea how you would pronounce that, but I'm sure they'll tell you at the pet store, for about $2000.

So what I'm saying is that we got a righteous deal on our Chug. Pugwahwa. Mutt. Whatever he is, he is a great dog and a beloved member of our family.

This got me thinking though. When Steve and I first moved in together (yes, we lived in sin, I know you're shocked, get over it), I had a golden retriever named Majerle. For those of you not familiar with former Phoenix Suns player and total hottie, Dan Majerle, it's pronounced "Marley."

Majerle was a female golden retriever. Steve decided he wanted a dog too, so he went out and got a cute chocolate brown and white cocker spaniel. We named him Ziggy. Ziggy, Majerle...get it? Anyway.

Ziggy was a male. Since I was a stupid college kid and had never bothered to have my dog spayed, the inevitable happened after a while. Majerle ended up having five puppies. Four of them were black and white females, and looked like little cocker spaniels. The fifth one was a male, and he was all golden retriever.

Here's the part I regret. We gave these dogs away for free. For free, people! Do you know what I could get for a cocker spaniel/golden retriever mix now, in these days of the designer dog? I even thought of the perfect name: The Cockretriever.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


My hair is turning gray at an alarming rate. I have never colored my hair, other than an unfortunate incident with Sun-In during college, but I'm seriously considering it now.

You know it's getting bad when your six year-old goes to hug you, and then says,

"Mommy, ALL your hair is turning gray!"

I think that may be a slight exaggeration. It's not ALL gray. In fact, it's more brown than gray. But since she was so nice to point it out, I told her that all my gray hairs were named Kylie. Then I amended that, and decided that half of them were named Kylie, and the other half were named Shannon.

She said,

"What about Danni?", who was sitting on the couch three feet from me.

I said,

"Surprisingly, only a couple of them are named Danni."

Danni then gave Kylie her best smug "I am the favorite child" smile.

Let me point out that I do not play favorites among my children. Danni was only my favorite yesterday. This may change tomorrow, or even today after school. It's very situational. Shannon might even be my favorite again. Someday.

Then Kylie kept trying to get me to admit that some of my gray hairs were named Bo. Bo is our dog, and the only member of the family who has never given me a gray hair. Nevertheless, she kept on with her insistence that some of my gray hairs must be named Bo. I said,

"No, but there are also a few named DADDY!"

We all dissolved into giggles. We were having fun, and I realized that the cheerful mood in the house was most likely because Shannon was at the mall.

After husband went to pick Shannon up later, she came into the house and flopped on the couch, not missing a beat in her texting. Danni walked in the room, and I looked at her and said,

"A dark cloud descends upon the house."

Then we both busted out laughing.

Shannon was not amused.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

To all veterans: To those who served in peacetime and in wartime, to those who volunteered and those who did not, to those who came home, those who were injured and disabled, and those who never all of those who have made personal sacrifices so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have...

Thank you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hamster on a Piano

As you can probably tell from the title, I got nothin' today. I mean, really...nothing. I came home to find my two youngest kids in hysterics over this video. I have no idea why.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How Many W's?

Writing something every day is hard, y'all! I'm going to cheat today and steal something that my friend Jen posted on her blog a few days ago. Like she said, it's too funny not to share! I watched it and laughed and laughed, then I sent the link to a couple of friends in my office so they could laugh too.

Now I'm passing the funny on to you.

Old people: As of Feb 17th, 2009, no more TV for you!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Foiled Again

I hate going to this game every year, because it always ends the same way.

Last year, we got pummeled because our team wasn't very good. This year, we were good. We are good. But last night, they were better. Because for us, a lot of good things happened, a lot of great plays and exciting moments. Unfortunately, for every good action, there was an equal and opposite reaction. Touchdown, blocked extra point. Touchdown, only down by 7 now, intercepted on the next series. Frustrating.

When you know your team sucks, and you know you're going to lose, you just kind of accept it. When you know your team has a chance, and you know that they could have won if they had made fewer mistakes, that hurts more.

Oh well. Maybe we'll get 'em next year, Wolves. On to the playoffs!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Big Game

Today is the last regular-season game, against our biggest rivals. These two schools hate each other. Think Michigan/Ohio State, on a smaller scale. We already have a playoff game scheduled for next week, but this is THE BIG ONE.

Our school is one of the oldest high schools in Arizona. It was built in 1912, the same year AZ became a state.

For 86 years, it was the only high school in our city. Then, in 1998, our population grew to the point that we needed a second high school. That is the school we are playing tonight, our archrivals.

In the 10 year existence of this other school, we have never beaten them at football. Two years ago, it was close. Last year, it was a blowout.

This year, we have a good team, and we're on our home field. I think we may have a chance.

Since 1998, we have added a third high school in our city in 2002, and a fourth in 2007. People please...stop moving here. We're full.

For big games like this, the kids paint their cars. This is the first year Danni has had a car to paint. So last night, she did this:

I'll let you know what happens, tomorrow. GO WOLVES!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Picture That Almost Wasn't

Two weeks ago, when Shannon got to go and play with the high school band, the band photographer was taking sibling pictures. I guess there are quite a few jr high kids that have older siblings in the band.

I knew they would do this, because Danni told me they did it last year. I asked Shannon if she would have her picture taken with her sister, and because she's a snot, she very flatly told me, "No."

I asked, I begged, I threatened. Danni doesn't want to do guard her senior year, next year, she wants to do pom line. And for some reason, our school's pom line does not perform at football games. Apparently they just do dance-type competitions. So this is my only chance to get this picture.

Danni told me,

"Don't worry Mom, I'll talk her into it."

And somehow, she did. I love this picture.

Thanks, D.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day Adventures with Twink

Yesterday, it seems like we were all talking about the election all day. I was anxious to get home and start watching the returns come in. What I didn't count on yesterday was having to give a lesson on the electoral college.

Twink was having a hard time understanding the process. Trying to explain that wasn't even the best part though. The best part was trying to get her to understand why the votes from Alaska and Hawaii probably wouldn't matter. You see, she does not understand time zones.

No, I'm not kidding.

In fact, this is a quote from her yesterday:

"What time zone are we in? Eastern?"

We are in Arizona. And it's not like she just moved here last week.
So I Googled time zones, and I found this map. I sent her the link on IM.

Hawaii Alaska Pacific Mountain Central Eastern

8:56am 9:56 am 10:56 am 11:56 am 12:56 pm 1:56 pm

Underneath the map, it shows you the current time in each time zone. Even though I can't get them to line up straight on the blog, they were straight on the website. From this, you could see that California is an hour behind us, Alaska is an hour behind California, and Hawaii is an hour behind Alaska.

However, she kept reading online about what time the polls were closing in each state, and even with the information above, was unable to translate that if the polls closed at 7pm Eastern Time, that translated to 5pm our time. Or, if the polls weren't closing until 9pm in Alaska (because those 3 votes will matter), that was 11pm our time.

It was about this time that Supervisor asked Twink why she even cared about any of this, since she didn't register to vote and therefore did not vote.

"Oh, I just want to know who's gonna be president for the next two years!"

I think that may have been where my head hit the desk. My bangs cover the bruise on my forehead nicely.

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama. I was proud of our country today. Well, except for Twink. But at least she wasn't allowed to vote. And the people all said, "Amen."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day...Finally!

I am just happy that all those stupid phone calls and T.V. ads will be over after today. This is definitely a country of excess, we can never do anything in moderation. A presidential campaign essentially runs for two years, and Christmas is two months long. We definitely have issues.

Have you voted yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and vote!

Then go home tonight, drink wine, watch the numbers come in, and pray. I think I'll be on pins and needles until I actually hear a concession speech. I feel excited, like we're on the brink of making history. The whole world is watching. I hope this is the right thing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Last Tuesday, I found out that the company for which I work is closing its office here. Almost everyone in the office is being given the opportunity to work remotely, from home. Almost. Except, it seems, for the people in my group. Our group is being eliminated. This affects six full time employees.

I didn't mention this before, because one of my co-workers who is also a friend is affected by this, she also reads my blog, and she was on vacation last week. I really didn't want her to find out she was being laid off by reading my blog.

While this was not entirely unexpected, it still sucks. I know it's not personal, but it's hard not to take it that way, especially when there's a story on the company website about how they've added 200 jobs in North America in the last six months. They've also added about the same number of jobs in India, and apparently they're proud of that. But let's not go there.

I guess I'm lucky in a way. I still have this job until the middle of February, and then I have a small severance package after that. I'm sure a lot of other people that are being laid off in the midst of this economic downturn are not so lucky. What I'm getting is a lot better than, "Oh, by the way, we're closing the office next week, and good luck."

I would like to have another job lined up by the time this one ends, so instead of having to use the severance money to live, it could be like a little bonus, or an addition to the emergency fund.

Now I just have to decide what I want to do next. I have a few ideas kicking around, but this is still new, and still a bit sore, so I haven't really started thinking about it too much yet. I'm still in the stage where I wake up at 4am and think, "Oh my gosh, my job is being eliminated."

Actually, in a way I'm kind of glad to have the opportunity to do something else. I've been doing this for four years, which is sort of a glorified help-desk position. I'm bored here, and I've been bored for quite a while. However, it's much easier to stay here and be bored, than it is to venture out and look for something else. Especially now, when jobs are going to be more scarce. I'm bored, yes. But also hurt, a little angry, and more than a little worried. My job is a large enough chunk of our income that we would have a hard time doing without it.

At least I have some time. I'm so glad I don't have to run out and find something, like, yesterday. So now I just have to figure out exactly what I want to do when I grow up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween, The Recap

Today is November 2nd. That last post I wrote, about the ungodly heat of November? That was yesterday. Just play along and don't give me a hard time, ok? Or else I'll take your cell phone away.

So, Halloween night. Let me just say that Halloween should never be allowed to fall on a Friday night, because Friday nights in October are for high school football games. This would not be a problem for me, except I have a six year-old who for some reason still expects to be taken trick-or-treating.

So, the challenge is to take the small one around to get her requisite boatload of candy, and still make it for at least the second half of the football game.

Ready? Game is at 7pm. We met some friends at 6pm to start the candy-fest.

The people who live at this house really went all-out. They had a blow up haunted house thing in their front yard. This is Kylie and her friend Gabe. They were the youngest of the trick-or-treaters in the group, so they kind of got left behind. That's ok...Gabe's oldest brother and sister, ages 14 and 12 (I think) were happy to walk with them.

Let the trick-or-treating commence!

The candy collecting lasted about an hour and a half. Kylie and I arrived at the football game in the middle of the second quarter, which made Mommy very happy. We found hubby and my parents and hubby's dad in the stands and sat. Kylie was happy to find out that our mascot, Scruffy the Wolf, had returned. So far this season he had been M.I.A., but this night, all of a sudden, he was back.

Kylie decided to bring her load of candy into the game. She doesn't like a lot of it, and I didn't want it laying around the house, so I let her pick what she wanted to keep, and we threw the rest of it to the people in the stands. Good times.

With 5 minutes left in the game, our team was down 35-21. Then we scored, making it 35-28. Then we kicked off to the other team, and ended up intercepting the ball during their drive, and scoring again, making it 35-35. With 9 seconds left in the game, the other team was set up for a 35 yard field goal to win the game. As luck would have it (for us, not for him), the kicker missed the field goal to send the game into overtime.

We got the ball first in overtime, and took two plays to run into the end zone for a touchdown. Then it was the other team's turn. On their very first play, one of our guys intercepted the quarterback's pass, and that was game! We won, 42-35 in overtime. That was one of the most exciting games I've ever been to. We are already in the playoffs, with a 7-2 record, 3-0 in our division, with just one more regular season game to go. Football season always goes by way too fast, so I'm happy there will be playoff games!

Our team has a really great tradition. After every game, after they shake hands with the opposing team, the whole team runs over and stands in front of the band. The band plays the school's alma mater, and the football team, the cheerleaders, dancers and guard all put their arms around each other and sing. They always do this, win or lose. Of course, it's a lot better when they've won.

On Halloween night, it was pretty amazing.