Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I've been a bit quiet on the blog lately.  There are big doings in Keenie Beanieland at the moment, but I'm not free to write about it all yet.  They're good things, but this has had the effect of altogether stifling my urge to share, ya know?  Being absolutely consumed with something, but then trying to focus on other things and pretend it's not going on feels somehow disingenuous.

Which is why I'm touched and grateful that Leonore (Leo for short) of As a Linguist was kind enough to nominate me for an Irresistibly Sweet Blog award.  It's a fantastic way of pulling me out of my blog shell a bit.

First a bit about Leo: she is my #1 internet crush at the moment.  Devastatingly clever, she puts together posts centered on her passion for language that I once likened to an episode of the Simpsons.  You start one place and end up ranging far and wide; so much happens in her entertaining blog posts.  Plus, the more I learn about her, the more I wonder if we weren't separated at birth.  A few of our odder affinities: a mutual crush on Top Gear's Stig and a penchant for stick shift cars.

So according to the rules of this award, I should disclose a few facts about myself and pass the award on to a few other deserving bloggers.  I've decided to use this forum to write a few snippets rattling around in my head that don't seem to merit a complete blog post, but do have a sweet theme.

Kitchen Adventures
I'm a picky eater - not very adventurous - but not a particularly discerning one.  I don't much care about the quality of the food I ingest, so long as it's not rancid.  I've no talent in the kitchen at all.  I'm a to-the-letter recipe follower but I don't generally have a feel for what's going on with the dish I'm attempting to make.  There's some secret to the alchemy of creating tasty food from a collection of raw ingredients that can't be conveyed directly by a cookbook page, and therefore I am missing out entirely.

My husband is a superb cook and, as such, bears the brunt of the feeding duties in our home.  He is also an extremely discerning judge of the quality of most things, including the food he eats.  So if there is something I cook that he approves of, I feel like raising my arms in triumph and taking a victory lap of the kitchen.  I recently baked a carrot cake from scratch, frosting and all, for his birthday.  He doesn't have much of a sweet tooth; I more than offset that for both of us.  I served him a slice of the cake, which he immediately pronounced 'ginormous' - at which point I offered to polish off the portion he wouldn't be able to eat.  I figured this was kind of a pity tasting - like you might undertake for the baking efforts of a small child.  Imagine my surprise when a few minutes later he presented me with a sparkling clean plate and a word of gratitude for the 'delicious cake.'  I wanted to rent a billboard to proclaim my success to the world.  Instead I just blogged about it.

Childhood Memories

Speaking of baking, the act of creating that carrot cake brought back a rush of memories.  When I was very small I was given a children's baking cookbook and I used to really enjoy making cookies and brownies and such.  I'm not sure I was ever particularly good at it... I mainly liked sampling the batter.  Somewhere along my journey to adulthood, I gave up baking.  I'm sure my waistline is grateful.  When I was making the cream cheese frosting for D's birthday cake, I forsook my trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer and dug out the rarely-used handheld mixer - one just like my mom had - to whip the frosting.

It was when I ejected the beaters and began cleaning off the frosting (with my fingers and tongue, naturally) that I was so completely returned to childhood I could almost feel the whoosh of years reversing past me.  I carefully licked the outside of each batter "blade," then switched to sweeping frosting off the inside with my finger, slightly stymied when it all collected where the base of the blades joined the shaft of the beater before I realized I could extract it with my tongue.  The systematic, almost reverential, execution of the process took me back years and years to those determined childhood baking efforts and their primary reward - licking the beaters.

Favorite Sweets

Speaking of sweets, I've recently rediscovered a passion for a certain candy.  Lemonheads.  I know, right?  You probably haven't had a Lemonhead since you were about ten.  I think I was first introduced to these when you could buy a little box for 5¢ or so.  I used to get them at a penny candy shop that one of the neighbors was running out of the front room of his house.  Isn't it funny when you are small and your reality doesn't seem strange to you?  Of course, everybody has an old guy on their street with a sweet shoppe in his living room.  That's not odd at all.

Recently, I was in The Dollar Store and I found this big box of Lemonheads.  I took them home, put them in the cupboard, and forgot about them for a few days.  Then one evening I cracked them open and popped two in my mouth.  Oh, sweet candy crack, these are amazing.  I simply must eat them two at a time; no more, no less.  If one has enough patience to suck on them until the sweet-tart outer covering dissolves, you are rewarded with a tiny globe of purely sweet candy core.  I do not have that patience.  I pop two in my mouth and there is a rush of sensation from the back corners of my mouth, right up under my ears, responding to the tartness.  Then I crush the little candies to release even more of the sweet-tart flavor all at once - it's like a drug to me.  I can eat a ridiculous amount of these things in one session, but it's not like I'm thinking about them if I don't have them or anything.  I could quit any time, honest.

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So, on to the nominees for the Irresistably Sweet Bloggers I'd like to recognize.

Nicki writes at Suddenly Single Journey and What Dreamers Do and just recently quit her job to write full time.  Nicki was the first blogger that encouraged me to keep writing - I might have give up long ago otherwise.  Life keeps throwing her curve balls and she keeps fielding them with drive and determination. I can't wait to see how this next stage of life develops for her.

Leanne of Ironic Mom is wickedly sharp and funny and I'm in awe of her ability to come up with great on-line community building ideas.  For instance, she is the co-conspirator behind Search Bombing and School Photo Day.  Mainly, though, I am drawn to her brilliant tales of being a mom of 7-year-old twins, because it gives me a glimpse of what I might take on should I choose a path of motherhood, and an example of how to deal with that eventuality with grace and humor.  Well, with humor anyway. ;-)

Beth of The Botut Blog chronicles her journey of "experimenting through life" as a wife and mother of three.  She is hilarious and has a big heart - she and her family coordinate International Relief Missions in order to share their blessings with families lacking basic essentials due to conflict or natural disasters.  If anyone can be called Irresistably Sweet, it is her.

Last, but not least, Em at It's the Small Things blogs her adventures in the North of England, including periodic posts of scrumptious entries into the Iron Cupcake competitions.  Somebody needs to get right on the invention of teleportation of delicious baked goods through broadband lines so I can find out if her amazing cupcakes taste as good as they look.

Thanks once again, Leo, for passing this award on to me.  You are so sweet!

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So, tell me, what is your favorite sweet... or if you don't have a sweet tooth, feel free to wax rhapsodic about the one food you can't resist, sweet or not.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Heart Macro

studio waterstone

How often have you stopped to really take in the little details? These are the nearly imperceptible textures, colors and shapes that saturate our world, but are so easily overlooked.  This is why I adore the "I heart macro" project hosted by Lori at StudioWaterstone.  The power of macro photography amplified by social networking gives me a peek into the little details other people capture from their lives.  Wonderful!  Click through the link to enjoy this week's other submissions.

Here is my contribution, captured on a walk with the trusty tiny Canon point-and-shoot I always have with me.  It's lucky I found it before the surface tension collapsed and this water droplet, impossibly suspended on the leaf ridges, disappeared like it was never there.

Falling into a dewdrop

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Way Back Wednesday: Swag me baby

I originally posted this back in April 2010.  If you ever click through to my blog, you might notice the banner at the top of the page that tallies the real dollars I've earned using Swagbucks in the past couple of years.  If you want to join me in the Swag Nation, read on.

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About a year ago, I heard about the Swagbucks search engine. Every time you search the net with Swagbucks you get a random chance to win 10 or more swagbucks. You can use your swagbucks to redeem gifts and prizes, my favorite being the $5 Amazon gift card for 450 swagbucks.  In the past 12 months, I've earned $85 (UPDATE: now over $200!) in real money to spend at Amazon... just for searching the net!  How cool is that?!

My strategy has been to set the swagbucks search site as my home page and default engine in my browser's tool (both at home and at work) and never go directly to any website before first entering the name in the swagbucks search.  Amazon?  Ebay? Yahoo mail? MSN portal? Swagbucks 'em all.  Alternatively, in Firefox and Internet Explorer, you can add Swagbucks to the browser built-in search toolbar as your default search tool by installing a plug-in.

Swagbucks uses Ask.com and Google to provide the search results, which include sponsored listings, and if I'm honest, the search is nowhere near comprehensive (UPDATE: It seems to have improved over the past year).  For easy searches, it gets the job done, but often I find that after first entering my search terms at Swagbucks to try to win a few, I just go up to the address bar or favorites menu and directly access the site I'm seeking.  For more complex or in-depth topic searches, I often end up swagbucksing Google then heading there to do a "real" search.  I always laugh deviously at the irony when that wins me swagbucks too.

Full disclosure:  If you sign-up for a Swagbucks account using this link or click through from the banner I've posted at the top of this page, you will get 30 swagbucks upon registering and I get a few swagbucks too.

If you are the type of person that only cares about efficiency in your keyboard strokes, swagbucks isn't for you.  But over the past year, I would estimate that the extra keystrokes I've entered as a result of using swagbucks could only add up to an hour at most.  And earning $85/hour for something I'm doing anyway... that is totally worth it to me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

School Photo Day: Oh the horror

The journey as I morphed from this adorable tot...

... to this adult version (hands down, the day I felt most beautiful - it's amazing what professional hair, makeup and photography can do for your self image) was not always a graceful one.

Wait, you say, this is supposed to be School Photo Day?  Well, that is true, but for my own pride I had to post those two images to counteract the pain of what comes next.

I was, like all of us, a cute baby and I have grown into a reasonably presentable semblance of human as an adult.  However, there were those terribly awkward years in between, painfully documented in that annual rite - the school photo day.  I never had cool clothes. I didn't know how to smile naturally.  I would wait for my turn in front of the cameras, in line with all my fellow students like lambs to the slaughter, inwardly practicing my best portrait smile.  This, of course, was a useless exercise because I didn't have a mirror.  The torturous process was made worse by the feeling that one was doing it in a fish bowl.  The whole class was standing there, probably thinking what I a dork I looked like, smiling my geeky smile.  For someone as shy as my childhood self, this was intolerable.  Ack! 

The portraits documenting my awkward progression through childhood were lovingly compiled and labeled by my mother, who I still haven't quite forgiven for those bangs:

These culminate in my senior yearbook portrait... my, my I was really working the supermodel pout there, wasn't I?

Those aren't so bad, you say?  Well, we always are harder on ourselves.  But it gets much, much better if you scroll down to the bottom.

There were informal yearbook photos too.

I was a cheerleader:

I was in the school play:

I was in the school choir, which is the only excuse for this getup:

But if there were a contest for awkward yearbook photos, this has got to be a top contender*.   Note the snarky comment inserted by a fellow student signing my yearbook:

* The year after this photo appeared, I joined the yearbook club in order to have some chance to intercept the publication of any other humiliating photos.

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So come on internets, if I'm willing to post a yearbook photo of me apparently picking my nose, you gotta give me what you got.  Join in and post a link to your site in the comments below.  No excuses if you don't have a picture available today.  It's now School Picture Week!  Follow my nose-picking lead and dig one out... then come back and post a comment in the next few days.  For more school photo fun, visit the sites of my co-hosts: Ironic Mom and EduClaytion.