Peanut Butter Eggs, Made

Gram's Recipe Box

Not too long ago, I posted three recipes for peanut butter eggs, and at the time I thought they sounded pretty easy. So, this past weekend I decided to try one of them! Here we go.

IMG_1334 Ingredients for peanut butter eggs

Here’s the ingredient list:

1 lb box xxx sugar

3/4 c melted butter or oleo

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 T cocoa

5 T peanut butter any kind

I omitted the salt, as my friend and frequent site reader Diane B commented, a pinch of salt in a pound of sugar sounds irrelevant. I used creamy peanut butter and unsalted butter.

It's like brownie batter It’s like brownie batter

Once combined the mixture was a bit loose, like a pudding. Hm, I thought, how am I going to shape these into eggs? Off to the store for a candy mold! Joanne’s is a dangerous place for a woman and child…

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The luck of good dentistry

Today I had to have two on-lays put in, much to the dismay of my pocketbook, but they got me to thinking. One of the fillings replaced was the very first filling I ever got, when I was six or eight years old. My dentist was Shigio Kishi DDS, in Fountain Valley. When I was growing up, it seemed like everyone went to to Dr. Kishi or his partner Craig Ota DDS at Westhaven Dental. The practice was right next to the Fountain Valley Twin theater where we saw Bambi and The Bad News Bears (the real one, with Jodi Foster). The center had a Market Basket grocery store and we often rode our bikes across Mile Square Park to go to appointments.

Later on in our dental adventures, everyone seemed to go to Dr. Benedaret just up the street. They probably had a nice referral program lol.

Anyway, my very first filling, an amalgam silver filling, the worst kind, had no decay under it. It had not fallen apart. It had not even stained the surrounding tooth surfaces. Believe it or not, this 38 year old filling would probably been fine, it was the crack in the tooth that necessitated the replacement. I can only credit this to the excellent work done all those years ago by Dr. Kishi, carried on by Dr. Ota, and now by Dr. Toorani, who bought into the practice some 15 years ago. My chart is so thick they scanned the majority of it because it was falling apart. I have been fortunate to have every teeth cleaning except one at this practice.  :-)

So, here’s to the luck of having good dentistry! So many of my friends were scarred by a negative dental experience as children, but I can honestly say that I never did – unless you count my disappointment when I realized the treasures in the treasure box were really just cheap trinkets. Melody still loves them, though, and we are continuing the positive experiences with her too. How many kids say “yay!” when you tell them they are going to the dentist?

Nest learning thermostat learned to be a jerk

We installed a Nest learning thermostat last year when we replaced the heating & air conditioner. It’s nifty, we thought! It will learn our preferences, we thought!

For quite a while (read, summer time) it was wonderful. Sometimes we would adjust the temperature on the fancy iPhone app, but it usually kept the house comfortable.

Now it’s winter time, which in Southern California means we have chilly nights and can get up to 80 degrees during the day. This morning it was 40 and it’s forecasted to be 75, so a 35 degree split. This seems like the perfect challenge for a Nest learning thermostat! Figure out that we like the house to be right around 70-72, so give us a little heat in the morning and maybe a little cool in the afternoon (if at all), then only if it gets cold outside, give us a little heat at night. Not too difficult.

Recently, we found that every afternoon, the heater was coming on and running hell bent for leather because the Nest had set itself to 77 degrees. We turned the temperature down. The next day, the same thing happened, we turned the temperature down again. The next day, repeat…until I finally googled this and it seems Nest will automatically set target temperatures based on what it thinks you like.

I have never set the heat to 77 degrees. Ever. My husband is a walking heater so he certainly hasn’t set it to 77. Where did Nest get this idea?

It's lying to you

You set it here, but psych! it’s 77

As it turns out, other people have been complaining about this very thing. One poor guy’s Nest was kicking up the heat to 90! The Nest is supposed to learn your schedule as you use it, and then it creates scheduled temperature actions, such as heating or cooling, based on your habits. Since we haven’t ever set the heat to 77 I’m not sure why Nest thinks we want that, but I digress. The only way to try to trick the Nest is to delete the preset schedule. Hurray! we thought, we have fixed it! John deleted the full week’s worth of preset temperature spikes to 77 degrees in the afternoon.

Wouldn’t you know it. Nest has added a full preset schedule to send that temperature up to 77 every morning.

I don’t want it to be 77 in the house. Ever. That’s the point I start thinking of turning on the air conditioner. Searching the Nest community forums revealed that you cannot really get rid of this scheduling feature. You can only “teach” your Nest better. Really? 8 months of teaching this thing isn’t enough for it to know that 77 degrees is hot. It’s frustrating.

The concept of a learning thermostat is only as good as the programmers that allow the consumer to actually teach the damn thing their preferences. At this point, resetting the Nest to its original out-of-the-box status and starting over might be the only way to teach it we don’t want to roast. The one thing Nest does have going for it is the convenience of the iPhone app. If I had to interrupt work to walk over and reset the thermostat every time it had a hot flash, I’d be tempted to smash it off the wall instead.

Armistice Day / Veterans Day

The beautiful “The Green Fields of France” pays tribute to the terrible war that ultimately brought us Veteran’s Day. Armistice was called to take place at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month – November 11. After WWI, Armistice Day was observed, really by a moment of silence at 11:11 a.m. Later on in America and elsewhere, it was changed to honor all veterans, because sadly, The War to End All Wars didn’t accomplish that.

Scroll down for a photo video with The Fenians playing this haunting song, and then a simply beautiful version of the Star Spangled Banner by the Fenians at our local pub Muldoons.

“The Green Fields Of France”
(originally by Eric Bogle)

Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in 1916
Well I hope you died quick
And I hope you died clean
Or Willy McBride, was is it slow and obsceneDid they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forestAnd did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart you’re forever nineteen
Or are you a stranger without even a name
Forever enshrined behind some old glass pane
In an old photograph torn, tattered, and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

The sun shining down on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished long under the plow
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard that’s still no mans land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation were butchered and damned

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

And I can’t help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

Hating Columbus

All across the internet yesterday I saw numerous posts and articles about how horrible Christopher Columbus was because in 14 hundred and 92 he sailed the ocean blue – and accidentally landed in the Bahamas instead of India.

All these posts bashing Christopher Columbus just irritate me.

I find it disingenuous to constantly lambast Columbus.  Europeans were coming to America before him (Leif Ericson in 1001) and continued to come after him.  If we didn’t celebrate Columbus Day, we would celebrate some other explorer’s day. People were moving around, finding out what they could do, it was the Age of Exploration, for goodness sakes! The cost of goods coming overland from the East was high and the demand for those goods inspired the quest for better trade routes. Whether they sailed south along the coast of Africa or west across the Atlantic Ocean, financial gain and greed drove the explorers onward.

People tend to forget that within ten years of Columbus landing in the West Indies, John and Sebastian Cabot landed in Canada (1497), Vasco de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope (1498), Alonzo de Ojedo explored what became Columbia and Venezuela (1499), Vicente Pinzon and Juan Dias de Solis discovered Brazil (1500), Rodrigo de Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa discovered what we now know as Panama (1500), and Amerigo Vespucci – who America was really named after – explored the coast of South America (1501). Only 14 years after his famous voyage, Columbus was dead (1506). Within twenty years of that, explorers had visited Argentina, Florida, Uruguay, Mexico, the Gulf Coast, New York Bay, Nicaragua, Grenada, Honduras, Guatamala, El Salvador, Yucatan, Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Haiti, and Hernan Cortez had looted the Aztec kingdom.

The day could more accurately be called European Explorers Day.

But, these people did not know they were bringing disease to the citizens of The New World. The early explorers barely understood that washing their hands and bodies was a good thing, let alone that it would prevent the spread of disease in many cases. People had been interacting with one another for thousands of years across Europe, Africa and Asia. They didn’t understand herd immunity or that isolation from disease would lower the immune systems of the native peoples. They brought colonists – just as they had in the Old World – to settle in the newly discovered lands. The colonists brought the things they liked, such as horses, pigs and cattle, coffee, citrus fruits and cotton. The new lands gave them tobacco, tomatoes, vanilla, turkeys and potatoes.

This silly meme that says “celebrate by going into your neighbor’s house and claiming you live there” is just that, silly. Throughout human history, kingdoms had been conquering their neighbors and claiming the new territory as their own – and don’t think that kind of behavior was exclusive to Europeans. The native peoples over here did the same thing, fighting among and between tribes for territory, peace treaties and alliances, and even marriages between princes and princesses of the tribes to expand territory and secure numbers. This is human nature.

We have to remember one thing. They thought they were doing the right thing based on their understanding of the world *at that time*.  Spreading Christianity was mandated by the Bible, and since many people were devout, they did as they were taught. No one seemed to “own” the land as they could comprehend, so they just took it in the name of their sponsor country. To them, the conquering and plunder of local peoples was no different from the conquering of Constantinople by the Ottomans (1453). As with so much of history, we can accept that it didn’t work out well for everyone involved, but we can’t change it by criticizing the participants.  We should not apply our own knowledge and understanding of the world and then judge our uneducated predecessors. That only serves to pander to our own egos and make us feel superior from the safety of our computers and smart phones.

But don’t hate Columbus. That’s like trying to turn a river with a teacup.

iScrapbook Templates

Some of the fun stuff I do in all my spare time results in pictures. Haha, of course it does! I use iScrapbook to make beautiful photo books these days. I used to scrapbook with Creative Memories, back when it was all analog, cutting pieces of paper and sticking it to the page. There was something special about putting in all that time and creative energy to produce a beautiful keepsake of memories and times gone by. I still cherish all those albums I made, plus several my sister made for me. Yes, it is easy to make a quick memory book in iPhoto or on Shutterfly, but I was missing the creative aspect of designing pages. I never got the hang of Photoshop Elements for making scrapbooks, and then my husband found iScrapbook. It integrates seamlessly with iPhoto, plus I can use pretty much any clip art of graphics I choose to buy or find free on the web, in addition to beautiful kits sold at their website. I have really been enjoying my digiscrapping and am able to keep up with the photos much better than I did in the past! In fact, with photo sharing (since my whole family is on Macs of some type or another) I have access to family photos almost immediately, no waiting for a CD or prints.

All that being said, there are a few things I learned back in those simpler scrapbook days that have never left me. One consultant taught us how to make quilt blocks from the various papers. I used them for my cover pages or just inside the books. Today, I still love using quilt patterns in my photo books. Although iScrapbook has smart templates that make it easy to just start making pages, after using them for several years – and them not putting out any new ones in several years – I started creating my own smart templates. A smart template features placeholders for papers, photos and elements, resulting in a quick page that looks like you spent hours on it. I started out making really basic ones, 6 portrait photos; 9 square photos, things like that. But the quilts…they kept popping up in my mind.

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Once I got the hang of making templates, I really got into it! Not only did I learn to make the quilt pages back in the day, but also to use shapes to create other images.

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Then, I went back to some more standard types of pages, just with a new thought process. How can I make pages that aren’t boring?

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I especially love using some of the panorama iPhone images in my books. They are really wonderful because they show the whole environment.

The iScrapbook shapes and presets are limited at best. I can’t create some of the really new looks, simply because they haven’t gotten there yet. Hopefully the developer will continue to enhance and build this product, and possibly even add some new templates for those of us who use it a lot! I hope you might have found some inspiration from these templates. I was going online and looking at templates to get some of my ideas and I’m happy to share these with you.

Theocratically speaking

I think I’m going to start my own religion….Church of Baking. We will minister to the masses with muffins and cupcakes, to warm their souls and remind people of the goodness of home. We will sponsor shelters for the homeless, assist abused women and children, teach parenting classes on how to bake with your children…we will be the most amazing church to come about since some of those other big ones.

We won’t discriminate against the types of baked goods we make. All types will be welcome – baklava, bagel and brownie, side by side on the plate. Everyone feeling the love of world baked good peace. Perhaps we will become so popular, we’ll even have an Arch Bagel, or even a Holy Pie in the Sky.

Next, I’m going to start a company, based on my personal beliefs and values of baking for the better good. I’m going to open stores that sell my baking products and of course, baked goods. Of course, we will be successful! Who doesn’t like baking for good-cakes sakes? We will incorporate to protect the owners (me) from any lawsuits or losses of the company. That only makes good sense. Why would I risk my personal assets for the practices of the company I founded? Finally, when I offer insurance to my employees, I am not going to cover any medicines for diabetes or any kind of obesity treatments, because it would violate my personal beliefs and values. Also, if you suffer from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, oh, or any sort of allergy, like peanuts or tree nuts, just don’t bother to even ask for an Epi-pen, GI test or other treatment, because I use flour and nuts in my baked goods. That is what makes them Right and Good. Furthermore, since we believe in the Church of Baking, there better not be any candy making going on in your homes. You work for me, and what my company believes in should rule all your actions, regardless of whether you are on the clock or not.

Don’t like it? Work somewhere else.

That is what I am hearing from lots of people today and it makes me sad, sad, sad for America.

Corporations are not people. Corporations do not have beliefs, values, feelings or religions. The OWNER has those things. If an owner does not want to be financially and legally responsible for the actions of their business, they incorporate to remove the individual from the business liability, among other things. Once the individual is out of the mix, sure the owner can run the business according to their personal beliefs, but still within compliance with state and federal laws. You can’t have it both ways – separate yourself from legal responsibility to protect your personal assets, while infusing your individual preferences into the business practices regardless of regulations, standard business practices or laws.

Don’t like it? Sell your business.

This is the law. It also is not a violation of the businesses beliefs and values, because it’s a business, not a person. Yes, my example of the Church of Baking is loaded with hyperbole and is ridiculous, but it isn’t far off from reality in America today. In this time of economic recovery, there are lots of people – actual humans, not corporate entities – who cannot pick and choose their place of employment quickly and easily. And yet, this cavalier attitude dominates the commentary. Self righteousness and hypocricy at its best.

Elvis vs Seagal

Am I the only one to notice the parallels in the lives of these two celebrities? Let’s quickly compare Elvis Presley and Steven Seagal. Here we go.

Cheesy movies

Everybody clambake!

Just blow up everything

I don’t think I really need to point out the obvious here. If Elvis had lived, his movies would be going direct to DVD as Seagal’s are now. Every ridiculous premise possible, covered by these two alone. They both are unfortunately bad actors.


Love me tender

I got the hair plug blues

Granted, Elvis was a known singer before he became a movie star, and was always known as a singer first, but you gotta give Seagal credit for becoming a blues musician in his maturity.

Martial Arts

Kee yah!

There are surprisingly few images of Seagal actually performing marital arts online

Elvis was a 7th degree black belt in Kenpo karate. Seagal is a 7th degree dan black belt in Aikido.

Fake law enforcement status

Elvis and Nixon. My brain is exploding.

Seagal is an honorary reserve deputy sherif

Elvis was fascinated with police badges and collected them. He wrote to former PotUS Nixon suggesting he be made an “officer at large” for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs – predecessor to the DEA – in a gesture of incredible irony. During his visit to present Nixon with a gun and receive his badge, he and Nixon posed for the now infamous photo above.

Seagal claims to have been a police officer for twenty years in the intro to his cheese-ball reality TV show “Steven Seagal: Lawman.” In reality, he is an honorary chief and reserve officer who has never even been to the police academy or received any accredited training by law enforcement. So, basically, not a cop in any definition of the word.

I think they are both equally effective at fighting crime. Which is to say, not at all.

Medieval vs Renaissance

So, those of you who know me know that I have a distinct affection for history. I will not say I am a history buff, but I am interested in almost anything historical – within reason, please, lol. Beginning early in my life, I have been fascinated by the thoughts, activities and stories of those who have passed before me. This includes ancient history through to modern history. I think because I am introspective about myself, looking back on past actions is easier for me than looking forward.

Anyway, one thing that does bother me is the abuse of history by authors of popular novels. This goes for everything from describing clothing incorrectly to having the wrong King on the throne in the timeline of the novel. I’m just a jerk that way I guess. I try not to let it bother me for the most part, but some things really really irritate me, mostly because I think these peccadilloes just show the author was lazy in his or her research. Especially in these days of Google and Wikipedia, there is no excuse for incorrect dates, fashion information, political events and social activities.

For instance, I used to read this one author who always described her heroines as “progressive” and said they didn’t wear a corset. While I allow this helps along the love scenes, not wearing a corset deemed a woman as a “loose” woman in the 19th century. As progressive as a woman was, it’s fairly unlikely that in the scenarios put forth of shop girls to high born ladies, they wouldn’t sacrifice their reputation for the sake of comfort. This one bothered me so much it inspired a “top ten” list of corset myths over at Who Were They?, one of my sister sites.

Now, I am the queen of suspending my disbelief. I can accept all the crazy stuff that happens in the vampire world, werwolves, fantasy worlds, Game of Thrones, witch craft, all of it, so I’m not saying poetic license or creative timelines are inappropriate. But, I refer you back to the existence of Google and Wikipedia for simple historical research.

Currently I am reading a book that is modern but set in a Renaissance fair. It’s quite fun, particularly since I spent enough weekends of my own working at the Ren Fair back in the day. I can totally relate to so much of what is happening, I really am enjoying the book.


And there’s that “but.”

The author insists on referring to the time period as Medieval and Renaissance interchangeably.

There is a difference! The confusion may stem from the fact that the Renaissance began at different times throughout Europe, so some countries were in the Middle Ages while others had moved on to the Renaissance. England entered the Renaissance period later than most other European countries, and so Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is a popular figure at Ren Fair, right along side Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). But while we all sort of know that Christopher Columbus and his contemporary Leonardo DaVinci are pivotal characters of the Renaissance, it is easy to forget that while they were discovering new worlds and painting masterpieces, other parts of the world were still mucking about in the Middle Ages and William Shakespeare (1564-1616) hadn’t even been born!

Granted, a Renaissance Fair celebrates the entire period (generally 1347-1605 or thereabouts), and seriously a Ren Fair is almost as far from historical accuracy as one can get, but it is not Medieval Times and that is what bugs me.

So there you go.