November 29, 2011

Gift-Buying Input Exchange

I have a couple of things I want to buy as gifts for other people, but it's things I have no expertise in. I keep going to the store, looking despondently at the choices, and thinking, "I don't even KNOW what to choose! If only I knew someone who was an expert at this!"

...Or as Paul often says: "If only we had access to some sort of global information network."

Here's what I was thinking: I will tell you the things I'm looking for (I'm sure there are lots, but I can only think of two of them off the top of my head), and if you know something about those things, perhaps you can advise me. If you instead have your OWN things you want to buy as gifts for other people but don't know which one to choose, you can leave that in the comments section, and then another commenter might be able to advise YOU!

I don't know if this will work, now that I think about it a little more. But I suggest we go with the spontaneity and then if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and that would be fine too.

SO. I will go first. Here are the two things I want to buy as gifts, but I don't know what would be good.

1. Paul wants measuring cups, and his only requirement is that they "not suck." He's sick of the pretty ones I buy, which he claims are sucky because the handles keep breaking off. Well, whatever, if he's going to be PICKY about it. I'd like to get him some strong, unbreakable, MANLY measuring cups, but I don't know which those would be. The metal ones? A particular brand of plastic? So that's what I want from you, if you know something about it: Which strong, not-suck measuring cups should I buy Paul?

2. Rob wants a book that will teach him how to draw manga/anime, and he wants sketching pencils and colored pencils. I want to find him a book that emphasizes how to draw the non-porny manga/anime, and I want pencils that are more artist-quality than Crayola, but not the kind that cost $30 for six of them: we are at this stage of the game talking about a 12-year-old boy drawing cartoons in his math notebook.


Leave your suggestions in the comments, or leave a comment about your own shopping decisions and maybe someone else here will know ALL ABOUT that kind of item and can point you to just the right thing! And maybe THEY will in turn be looking for input on something YOU know all about! Oh, this could be so exciting!

November 28, 2011


I am on a tear today. A TEAR. I just went antiquing with my mom, and I don't think my mouth stopped running the ENTIRE TIME. And furthermore, look at the cheery topics I introduced during our pleasant relaxing outing:

1. One child is being a persistent jerk, and he's not stopping even when I Use My Words with him.

2. One child is a being a basketcase each morning before school, and it's now reaching into the evening when she starts dreading the next morning.

3. One child told us 10 minutes before his bedtime last night that he was supposed to have worked on a project over Thanksgiving break, and this is with us working to help him cope with his flakiness but apparently it's not WORKING. And then after I let/made him stay up until 10:00 to work on it, he LEFT IT ON THE COUNTER.

4. One child has anemia and it will probably be fine, but now that I'm WORRYING about it he looks all peaky to me, and also I feel like when I said to the doctor "we changed his diet, and as you can see there was no impact, so let's look for something else," he said "well, it's probably his diet, so let's work on that." I'm anxious to get to the next blood test, which isn't until January.

5. I'm reading The Gift of Fear, and I'm ALREADY SO GLAD I'm reading it and it has already given me some ideas that make me feel more ready to deal with situations---but it is a HIGHLY STIMULATING book and I had to tell my mom AT LENGTH about a scary/upsetting illustrating anecdote, and I kept CHOKING UP as I was telling it. Plus, I was VIGOROUS in my explanation of how the book was SO REMARKABLE, and that kind of thing is always tiring to listen to.

Plus-plus, as I was talking I was drinking a large coffee, and I was so distracted I drank it all, when my intention had been to drink half and save the other half for this afternoon. So imagine my voice increasing in both speed and volume as the blood-caffeine level increased.

Neither of us bought any antiques. I think we might have somehow gradually come to feel as if there was NO POINT IN ANYTHING BEAUTIFUL OR FUN.

November 27, 2011

Sleepover Fret

William's best friend is Clarissa. William and Clarissa are in the fifth grade---so, they are in the 10-11 age range. This past weekend they asked if they could have a sleepover. Hm. How about NO.

Or...maybe we should say yes. What can we give them as a reason for saying no, considering that if William's best friend were a boy we wouldn't have had the same reaction? What IS the reason for the different reaction? I'm remembering how indignant and outraged and self-righteous and "Who is it exactly we think is going to barge into our house and see me in my room with a boy and jump to the conclusion of EVIL, and what do we care about what other people think if they're DIRTY-MINDED AND WRONG?"-ish I felt about my parents' "avoid the appearance of evil" reason when I was in that age range and wasn't allowed to have boys in my room, so I'd like to think of another way to explain it so that I don't have to have that conversation with someone like I was.

Or considering we don't even know yet if either kid is attracted to the opposite sex anyway, perhaps we have to re-think the whole part about separating boys and girls. Plus, I had many guy friends in high school who, even though I was attracted to boys, I wasn't attracted to AT ALL. Not even a little. Would have been repulsed at the thought of being attracted to them.

It's also worth taking into account that even if William's best friend were a boy I'd be looking for an excuse to say no, because hosting a sleepover sounds...unpleasant. But it's good we're thinking about this, because we are FLYING into the age range where this WHOLE TOPIC needs to be considered---not just for sleepovers but for all situations when the kids' friends are over here. I wasn't allowed to have boys in my room, but I was allowed to have girls in my room; I don't know what rules to have for my own kids. A difference to consider: I had my own room, and so does Elizabeth, but the boys share rooms.

What if we said yes, but they could have the sleepover in the living room? And then maybe when they were ready to go to sleep, Clarissa could go to Elizabeth's room? But again, if Clarissa were a boy, we might have them in the living room (because William shares a room with Henry, and because sleepovers require a parent to keep going in and asking for the noise to be kept down and suggesting it's time to go to sleep) but we wouldn't split them up at sleeping time---but if we knew William was gay, we would. Maybe we should set a rule now that for ALL sleepovers the kids get split up at sleeping time, to make it an easier standard to apply. That kind of kills the concept of a sleepover, though, and we don't have a spare bedroom, and I'm pretty sure people can walk from one room to another when everyone else is asleep, if that's what they have in mind.

Maybe we shouldn't allow sleepovers; our lives were easier before we started thinking about this. But sleepovers are a cool kid-stage-of-life experience, and maybe we don't actually want to say no to that. Plus, our kids might get invited to other people's sleepovers, where we have significantly less say in how things go...and also there are Bad Stories about sleepovers and the adults and/or older children in other households. Hey, look, I found something else to worry about!

Probably Clarissa's mom would say no to the sleepover idea anyway---or maybe she'd think we were puritanical and weird for thinking we should say no. Maybe she'd think we were Implying Things about her daughter, and/or about her daughter's relationship with our son. Maybe she'll say yes, and then William will be invited to their house for a sleepover, and we'll have to either say yes or think of a reason that doesn't sound like we're assuming Bad Things Happen if boys and girls don't stay a pew's width apart and keep both feet on the floor.

I'm trying to remember how _I_ felt about boys in the fifth grade. I'd definitely had crushes, but they weren't yet obsessing my mind. Sixth grade was when that got started, but still not in full swing. Seventh grade was when boys became a more serious consideration. So in fifth grade I could have had a sleepover with a boy (but it's hard to imagine it because I would have found that idea appalling: in my PAJAMAS near a BOY??). But I went to a small private middle school: there were only three boys in my class in fifth grade and two of them were fourth graders i.e. BABIES. Things might have been different if there had been a larger selection. And I'm remembering my friend who lost her virginity at age 12 after a long string of related leading-up-to-it experiences, and the sister of a friend who did the same. These things do happen.

It boils down to this: We don't know if there should be different rules for boy-girl friendships or how to enforce them, but it's the time to think rapidly and get some policies in place before we're arguing with teenagers. It's an interesting topic for me to think about, but also stressful.

Review blog stuff: Home Depot (about small ways to do good environmental stuff), and Hellmann's (with a turkey-dinner-leftovers recipe and a sweepstakes to win a $100 gift card).

Milk and Cookies: Toy gift ideas I've already played with (alternate title: "My mom and aunt went toy shopping and I used all their successful ideas as my own").

November 22, 2011

Swistle's Punch Recipe

I was looking for another recipe in my recipe box, and I came upon my punch recipe. I say "my" possessively, but also with the understanding that most punch recipes are pretty similar and made of the same stuff, so probably there are half a million other punch recipes exactly like this one. And if so, don't tell me, because I like thinking of this one as mine, and I DID invent it, through MUCH trial-and-error, even if I wasn't the firsty-first to do so.

It is particularly good with Thanksgiving foods. It's fizzy-but-not-too-fizzy, it's a little tart and not too sweet, and it goes very nicely with savory and salt. I made it once for a large family-reunion Thanksgiving, and my aunt said, "Hey, this is really good! I have to admit, I was not sure about it when I saw what you were putting into it, but it's GOOD!"

(I'd spiked her cup, so no wonder.)

(No, I didn't.)

(Or did I?)


Swistle's Punch Recipe

2 parts cranberry juice cocktail, light or regular
1 part orange juice
1 part grapefruit juice
2 parts clear diet soda

So, that means that if you start with a 2-quart bottle of cranberry juice, you'll also need 1 quart (4 cups) of orange juice, 1 quart (4 cups) of grapefruit juice, and a 2-liter of diet 7-up or diet Sprite or something.

If you are a family of four and don't think you're going to drink a quart and a half of punch each, you can start with 2 cups of cranberry juice and add 1 cup of orange juice, 1 cup of grapefruit juice, and 2 cups of clear soda. Or you can make it for just your own self: use a quarter-cup measure twice with cranberry juice, once with orange juice, once with grapefruit juice, and twice with soda. The 2-1-1-2 is the part to remember, and change the measuring device depending on how many people are going to drink it.

If you aren't sure how many people are going to drink punch, I suggest mixing juices together in the right proportions and then adding the soda to small batches (say, a pitcher's worth) as you go along: if it's all mixed together, it's no good once the soda goes flat (though you can somewhat perk it up by adding more soda); but if you have them separate, you can keep the juices for a long time (save the empty juice bottles to store it in) and mix it with soda later as needed (2 measures of juice to 1 measure of soda).

You can also make fun ice cubes, if you make sure you have extra juice. Put a mandarin orange segment and/or cranberry and/or maraschino cherry in each little ice cube slot, and then fill up the rest of each slot with one of the juices. I do some cubes of each juice, because that's pretty. Those can be for each person's individual glass: one grapefruit cube, one orange cube, and one cranberry cube---so pretty. You can also make larger versions for the pitcher with a cupcake tin, or if you have a punch bowl you can make a huge juice-ring with a bundt pan or 1-quartish bowl (you can LAYER the juices for PRETTINESS!).

November 19, 2011

Unique Ingredients; FOUR LIKE ME; Drooling Cats

The instructions for the frozen pizza I made last night included: "Due to the unique ingredients, toppings may have shifted." The unique ingredients: pepperoni, cheese, sauce, crust. Well! I can see how those UNIQUE INGREDIENTS result in SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES! Normal pizza toppings don't have to take physics into account! OUR pizza toppings DO!


Henry and I went to the library yesterday. A little girl came into the children's room and said to me, "Hi, I'm Paige, I'm four!" I said, "Really? So's he!" She said to him, "You're FOUR, like ME!!??"---totally astonished. And Henry said accusingly, "If you're FOUR, how come I didn't see you at PRESCHOOL today?" It was very cute, and they had a great time playing together (they had a tea party!), and I had a great time reading the paper instead of having to drink pretend lemonade.

Then she said to me, "I have head lice!"

Inner Swistle: "NOOOOOOOooooooooooooo!!!!!! AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! *brushing off everyone's head!!* *grabbing Henry's hand and running away!!* *dousing our heads in rubbing alcohol!!*

Outer Swistle: "Really? Does it itch?"


I was complaining to Paul that ONCE AGAIN I have managed to acquire cats who DROOL when petted/happy, and HOW do I manage to keep doing that? If I'd wanted DOGS, I would have CHOSEN dogs. And Paul said our cats DIDN'T drool. That they drool ON ME, but do not otherwise drool. Is this...something that could be possible? Could the cats be drooling ONLY ON ME? (Note: Benchley also drools on Rob. But could there be something about a particular person that inspires a cat to drool?)


Assorted links:

It's a little odd to link to a guest post, but I'm going to anyway: Things I've Learned From Reading Women's Blogs.

Did you know that Temerity Jane is having a get-together at her house? I am partway through my usual "fret and agitate about maybe going---and then, if past experience is to be relied on, NOT go" right now.

Paul told me about Written Kitten, and at first I misunderstood and thought you'd get a REAL kitten for every 100 words you wrote---which seemed like a difficult and not entirely practical idea. But it's better than I thought: you get a PICTURE of a kitten with every 100 words you write. It seems perfect for doing NaNoWriMo, though I thought my friend Firegirl might prefer a puppy version.

On Milk and Cookies, one of the many gift-idea posts I'll be writing at this time of year: Gifts for 11-year-olds. (There's also a girlier list for a similar age range: Gift ideas for a 10-year-old girl.)

Review blog: new post about small ways to save energy.

November 18, 2011

See's Chocolate Report: It Just Keeps Going! (But Now It's Done)

Previous posts in this series:
See's Chocolate Adventure: A First-Round Report
See's Chocolate Report Continued: The Weird Intriguing Ones
See's Chocolate Report Concluded: The More Ordinary Flavors
See's Chocolate Report: REVISITED!
See's Chocolate Report: Continuing the Revisitation!

P-Nut Crunch was a very happy surprise. It's KIND OF like chocolate-covered peanut brittle, but the brittle isn't very brittle: it's somewhere between a brittle and a cookie. Like a Butterfinger (with the nice saltiness of a a Butterfinger, too), but looser, and with less sticking to the teeth. I really liked it, and would order one next time. Maybe two. Maybe three. (SEND ME A WHOLE BOX PLEASE AND THANK YOU.)

P-Nut Crunch
(photo from

Dark Buttercream is one of the ones that showed me that even though I can have a stack of dark chocolate bars in the house and not even be tempted, sometimes I DO prefer dark to milk. Usually when combined with something very sweet, such as vanilla buttercream filling. Top tier for me.

Dark Buttercream
(photo from

Because of my success with dark chocolate + sweet fillings, I thought I'd try the Dark California Brittle. I really like the California Brittle, which is coated in milk chocolate. It turns out I vastly, vastly prefer it to the Dark California Brittle. There is something magic for me about the combination of the toffee flavor with MILK chocolate. Dark chocolate gives me a startled/clash feeling with toffee. I wouldn't order these again, I'd just increase my percentage of the regular California Brittle (I got more of them in this box so I made sure I was comparing only the coating, and that also served to remind me how much I love them).

Dark California Brittle
(photo from

After my unexpectedly positive response to the Apple Pie Truffle, I thought the Pumpkin Pie Truffle might be a hit. But I didn't even finish it. I ate half and then thought "Why am I continuing to take little bite after little bite of something I don't like?" I gave it a fair shot, but I didn't like the pumpkin-pie-spice flavor combined with chocolate, and the filling seemed like Too Much: too spicy, too rich, too dense.

Pumpkin Pie Truffle
(photo from

The Apricot Delight, though, was another unexpectedly positive experience. It has apricots, which I think of as not having much flavor but these were really tart and yummy, and coconut, and white chocolate, and a sweet filling. The white chocolate wasn't a strong flavor (mostly to hold things together), but everything else pitched in with good enthusiasm. I wouldn't want a bunch of them, but I'd want ONE.

Apricot Delight
(photo from

The California Crunch has the same hybrid of peanut butter cookie and Butterfinger bar as in the P-Nut Crunch, but then coated in white chocolate (not much contribution to the taste) and crushed walnuts. It was yummy, and kind of messy, and I think I'd rather have the P-Nut Crunch because that peanut-buttery stuff was so good with the milk chocolate.

California Crunch
(photo from

One last note: in my last order, I was surprised and pleased by both the Blueberry Truffle and the Pineapple Truffle. This time, I was sort of ho-hum about both. Neither seemed as tart and flavorful as I'd remembered. This could be that conditions changed: last time, I expected both to be losers so I was pleasantly surprised, but this time I expected both to be yummy so I was less wowed. Or it could be that batches vary a little. Or perhaps I'm getting a cold. I still liked the Pineapple Truffle enough that I think I'd order one piece in my next custom order, but I don't think I'd order the Blueberry Truffle again.

November 16, 2011

Stunt Sandwich

I'm feeling embarrassed and upset over something MINOR that was nevertheless embarrassing and upsetting.

Edward's lunch has been a problem since the first day of school. His lunchbox comes back with one bite taken out of his sandwich, and he says it just doesn't TASTE right. About a month ago I came up with what I thought was a clever plan: a bunch of little nutritious snacks instead of A Sandwich. It worked well: his lunchbox started coming home with evidence of him having eaten something in the 7.5 hours he'd been away.

But yesterday at lunchtime, the school secretary called, saying Edward's teacher had asked her to call to find out "what they should do for Edward's lunch," because "all he had was peanuts, pretzels, and raisins."

I get how when you say it like that it kind of sounds like...snack mix, or something, or somehow "not a real lunch." Especially if you put the words "all he had was" in front of it. But keeping in mind that a peanut butter and jam sandwich would have been a no-explanation-or-phone-call-needed lunch, I think peanuts are a nutritional step up from peanut butter, and I think raisins are a nutritional step up from jam, and I think pretzels are sitting on the step right next to bread.

Luckily, luckily, LUCKILY, I did not do my usual thing where I don't feel like I can defend myself because I'm so worried it will sound like I'm lying. And in fact I just said pretty much exactly what I would have later come up with while lying awake in bed: that Edward had been coming home with only one bite of his sandwich eaten, so I was experimenting to find foods he WOULD eat at school; that I'd thought he could have peanuts for protein and fat, raisins for fruit, and pretzels for carbohydrates. And the secretary sounded perfectly fine with that and said she'd let the teacher know.

So it went PERFECTLY, didn't it? It really did go perfectly. But I'm still fretful because they looked at his lunch and felt it warranted a call to a parent. It doesn't seem like I should have needed to explain that lunch.

The fact that two people DID think so makes me feel upset: they thought I'd made a mistake when I don't think it even LOOKED LIKE I'd made a mistake. I don't like that kind of being at-odds with someone else: I like it when the actions I think are right also LOOK clearly right to other people, without being so uninterpretable that I'd need to explain why it was right.

So even though this actual incident is minor, and went surprisingly well and ended fine, I still sent a sandwich with Edward today. He won't eat it, so I also sent peanuts, raisins, and mini-wheats. But then I'm here feeling unsettled because I sent a STUNT SANDWICH to reassure school teachers/secretaries, and because I still feel unhappy that I had to explain that other lunch.

November 15, 2011

See's Chocolate Report: Continuing the Revisitation!

Previous posts in this series:
See's Chocolate Adventure: A First-Round Report
See's Chocolate Report Continued: The Weird Intriguing Ones
See's Chocolate Report Concluded: The More Ordinary Flavors
See's Chocolate Report: REVISITED!

By the way, I suggest taking a screen shot (or writing it down, pfff, whatever) of your custom-mix order before you place it: the boxes arrive labeled, but with a small handwritten label that only mentions a couple of varieties in the box, not all of them. Oh...I wonder if it was printed on the packing slip as well? I forgot to notice.

But if you forget to write it down (or if you remember but still can't tell some of the pieces apart), the custom-mix ordering form doubles as a chocolate-identification cheat sheet. I appreciate the way they make them all look different, so I don't have to bite into what I think is a vanilla cream only to find a chocolate cream. Because that is true suffering.

Also, if you're ordering more than one pound of custom-mix, customize each pound separately. You can choose up to ten different kinds of candies per custom box---but if you select "3 pounds," it considers that "a 3-pound custom box" and you can choose ten different candies total for it. Whereas if you say "1 pound" and you do it three times, you can choose ten different candies for each pound---or up to thirty different kinds of candies total. Is this clear? No? Here's the "Don't try to figure it out, just obey me" version: add each custom pound to your cart separately if you want to try more than ten kinds.

One more note: the smallest amount you can choose for a variety is 5%. There are ABOUT 20-24 pieces per pound-box, but of course this varies depending on piece-size. Still, it's a good rule of thumb. So 5% is about 1 piece, and 10% is about 2 pieces and might be 3, and 15% might be 3 pieces or might be 4 pieces. I think of it as "one piece per 5%, but round up." I ordered 10% Polar Bear Paws and I got 3 of them.

Now back to the flavor-trying:

Milk Cocoanut is the first OMG reaction of this order. I like coconut fine, and I'll eat a miniature Almond Joy out of the Halloween bag after I've eaten all my favorites, but I often share the Russell Stover coconut ones with Paul because they're his favorites and I'm just so-so with them. But this! This is not just all-coconut like I'm used to: it's like a dense buttercream filling combined with coconut flakes. YUM YUM YUM. It's very sweet, especially with the thick milk chocolate coating, so I can imagine it being too sweet for some people---but it's upper tier for me, and I would definitely order more next time. I'm sad that I only ordered one piece this time.

Milk Cocoanut
(photo from

The Raspberry Truffle was also delicious. Nice raspberry flavor, with LOTS of dark chocolate flavor: the inside of the truffle and the nicely-thin coating. Upper tier for me; I'd want several in a box.

Raspberry Truffle
(photo from

I wouldn't have thought to put lemon and chocolate together, but it works! I like these more than the Key Lime Truffles, less than the Raspberry Truffles. I'd want one in a box.

Lemon Truffle
(photo from

I'm not sure I would have bothered to try a Polar Bear Paw, but SOMEONE sent me a Crappy Day Present that included some and I loved them. It's salty peanuts and some caramel (but just a little caramel, not a huge chewy amount), covered in white chocolate. So good. Upper middle or lower upper tier for me, and I love them mixed in with the more chocolate-dominated flavors.

Polar Bear Paws (photo from

I think of marzipan as yucky, without ever having had any. Did I have a children's book that described it as gross and dry and disappointing? That's the sort of opinion-forming memory I have of it. But in fact it turns out to be yummy if you like almond flavor, which I do. My mother-in-law had a pastry recipe that called for an almond-paste-based filling very similar to what's in these chocolates, and although I didn't bow down before that pastry as she said everyone in her town did (only because she repeatedly told them they were expected to do so, is my guess), I thought it was quite nice. In the Marzipan chocolate, there's too much of it for me, and I'm not crazy about the texture: it's probably the same texture that makes me think "Little bits of apple peel and pie crust!" for the Apple Pie Truffle, but I liked it less in the Marzipan. I finished the piece and was glad to have tried it, but I wouldn't order it again and I'd probably give it to someone else if I encountered one in a mixed assortment.

(photo from

Chelsea is one of the varieties I ordered so I'd be sure I'd have a nice number I already knew I liked. It's like a piece of chocolate walnut fudge, coated in milk chocolate. Except that description sounds way too heavy and sweet, and it isn't. It IS one of the sweeter ones, though, like the Milk Cocoanut.

(photo from

Strawberry Cream is another I already know I like. Nice strawberry flavor, and I like the milk chocolate with it.

Strawberry Cream
(photo from

Ditto the Vanilla Nut Cream: already a favorite. Some vanilla cream, a nice number of walnuts (i.e., not just a fragment here and there, but a lot), and a nice amount of milk chocolate coating.

Vanilla Nut Cream
(photo from

There are still more to go!

November 14, 2011

How to Change the Blogger / Blogspot Icon Next to Your Blog Name in Google Reader

Hello! Have you noticed that lots of blogs in your Google Reader have cute little icons next to them, but yours has a stupid orange B? Have you just about lost your mind trying to figure out how to change that? Never fear, Swistle is here!

I combed through every option in the entire Blogger panel thingie, working on the assumption that it HAD TO BE SOMEWHERE, and eventually I found it! And I have a blogging philosophy that if I lost tooth enamel over an issue, I'll post about it when I figure it out.

Go to the Design tab, where normally you can add things to your sidebar or change the order of the things in your sidebar or whatever. See at the top of the "Add and Arrange Page Elements" section? That little orange B and then the word "Favicon" and then the word "Edit"? CLICK EDIT. Then upload your own image. Whew.

It should also show up on browser tabs, but you might need to clear your cache and restart your browser first. (And once I did that, I still don't see my icon when I'm in writing/editing mode. Only when the tab is of the actual blog itself.)

(P.S. I'm still not seeing it changed in Google Reader, however. Is patience required, or is this Enamel Loss Part 2?)

(P.P.S. Now I'm seeing it in Google Reader for Swistle Baby Names, but not for Swistle or Swistle Reviews. Paul says: "PATIENCE.")

November 11, 2011

See's Chocolate Report: REVISITED!

Remember when I tried all those See's candies?

(See's Chocolate Adventure: A First-Round Report,
See's Chocolate Report Continued: The Weird Intriguing Ones, and
See's Chocolate Report Concluded: The More Ordinary Flavors.)

That was fun, wasn't it? Normally the price per pound would have inhibited me from much experimenting, but it was different when I knew I'd be writing about them so it became an excuse to place the order to begin with I knew even a flavor I didn't like would be fun to write about. And then I found there were a several I wouldn't have expected to like (pineapple truffle, for example) that I liked VERY MUCH INDEED, which left me wishing I'd tried ALL the flavors.

So I tried to be bold again this time. I ordered enough pieces I knew I liked so that I'd be happy no matter what, and then I used a "Let's try one of everything!" approach to anything that looked appealing. The boxes were once again heavier than I paid for: almost exactly one and a quarter pounds per pound box (including the box itself, but still).

I wouldn't have bothered with Cashew Brittle two boxes ago: I like brittles but I wouldn't normally think of them as a FAVORITE, and I don't like white chocolate anywhere near as much as milk/dark. But I loved California Brittle and wished I'd ordered more, and I liked their Polar Bear Paws (also white chocolate-based), so I tried Cashew Brittle. It was fine, and definitely appealing in the box and interesting to try. But I'm not sure the combination of white chocolate and brittle was my thing. I don't think I'd order it again, but if I were getting a mixed box for someone else I'd want to put a piece in for variety and coolness and fun.

Cashew Brittle
(photo from

The Almond Square reminded me of the Walnut Square from last time, but it had a saltier and more roasted flavor that I liked, along with the caramel and chocolate. I think I'd prefer it with more chocolate, though. Probably wouldn't order again, but I'd want a single piece in an assorted box.

Almond Square
(photo from

Apple Pie Truffle is another one I never would have tried pre-last-experiment. White chocolate is not usually my favorite, nor is apple flavoring, nor are truffles. But remember the Pineapple Truffle? MMMMmm. So I tried the Apple Pie one, and it's uncanny how much it tastes like apple pie---and how much the TEXTURE reminds me of it. It's like...little bits of apple peel! and little bits of crust! The spice flavor is pretty strong, and I liked it. The white chocolate didn't seem like a dominant flavor---more for sweetness and to hold the filling. I would only want one per box, but if I were ordering in the fall I would definitely include one, and I can imagine really looking forward to it. Middle tier for the piece as it falls in my particular preferences, but upper tier for an unexpected/fun idea and an excellent execution of it.

Apple Pie Truffle
(photo from

Anne recommended the Dark Nougat to me, and since she and I are Rum Nougat twins, I trusted her advice. DELICIOUS. It's described as having honey, roasted almond, vanilla, and coconut flavors, and it's all chewy and delicious and coated in dark chocolate. Upper tier for me; I'd definitely order a few next time. I didn't taste any coconut, but I may have just been overwhelmed by the almonds and dark chocolate and chewiness. Plus, I LIKE coconut, so if you don't like coconut you might notice it way more than I did.

Dark Nougat
(photo from

I also tried the Peanut Nougat. It was good, like a gourmet Snickers bar. I think at this price level, though, I would just get the Snickers and have about ten times as many of them.

Peanut Nougat
(photo from

I wouldn't have been interested in the Key Lime Truffle last time: white chocolate, fruit flavoring, truffle---meh. This time I tried one, because I am reformed and adventurous! As with the Apple Pie Truffle, the coating was mostly to hold in the filling and wasn't a strong influence on the taste. The inside was dense as you'd expect with a truffle, and the texture made me think of fillings/frostings made with powdered sugar (like the filling in a buckeye, if you've had those). Nice intense key lime flavor. I'd definitely order this in a mixed box for someone else because it was so cool and different. For myself, I'd probably want one in a box but it wouldn't be a top priority.

Key Lime Truffle
(photo from

More later, when I've made more progress through the box!

November 10, 2011


I've been waking up feeling hungover, which might not surprise you after all the gin-and-a-funnel jokes I've been making---but in fact I HAVEN'T been drinking, because my years working in a pharmacy solidly convinced me of the idea that tranquilizers and alcohol don't mix well (Customer: "Can I drink alcohol with these?" Pharmacist, cheerfully: "Depends on how you feel about waking up!"), and I'd rather have the tranquilizers than the liquor, especially since liquor tends to leave me wide awake at 3:00 in the morning imagining people breaking into the house.

Besides, I don't seem to get hungover, and in fact usually feel BETTER than usual in the morning after drinking. This was confusing until I found a list of alcohol withdrawal symptoms (which includes hangover symptoms, since that's what a hangover mostly IS) that included positive symptoms such as good mood. That's a nice deal I got from the genetic pool, isn't it? Except that then when I wake up feeling lousy, I think "Dang, should've had more to drink last night."

Where was I? Oh, yes, I've been waking up feeling lousy, but I said "feeling hungover" even though for me that would be an inaccurate description of the feeling, because I know what "feeling hungover" means in the usual parlance and wanted to use communication to communicate an idea TO YOU, rather than TO MYSELF, so I used words in their usual meaning instead of pretending that I can make words mean anything I want them to mean and then act incredulous that people are misunderstanding me. Still, I guess I could have achieved the same effect by saying "feeling lousy." It was more that I ALSO wanted to clarify that it WASN'T that I was hungover, and so calling it "feeling hungover" right off the bat seemed a cleaner and less defensive segue into the "not actually hungover" clarification than if I'd said "feeling lousy" and then followed it by saying "BUT IT'S NOT A HANGOVER, SO SHUT UP."

I've lost my place again. Okay, so I've been waking up feeling lousy, and then feeling kind of crummy on and off all day. Part of it is the despair caused by the issues of yesterday's post, and let's not even link to it, okay? I don't want to open it up and see parts of it again, and I'd have to do that to make the link.

Part of it is Elizabeth still crying every morning before school.

Part of it is that Edward has started crying AFTER school, saying that he CAN'T GET HIS WORK DONE in class because EVERYONE IS TOO LOUD; and also we got a notice from the speech therapist at school saying he's way behind with his speech even after being in therapy all last year; and also I got a call from the doctor yesterday saying that his second set of blood work came back and he's still anemic, so they need to see him next week.

Part of it is that Rob's voice is changing and his skin is looking dicey and I have a top-of-the-rollercoaster feeling about this upcoming stage of parenthood.

Part of it is that William went to the dentist for a cleaning/check and now the dentist wants to discuss (1) orthodontia, (2) speech therapy, and (3) a tonsillectomy.

Part of it is that Henry has been in a particularly careeny/uncareful stage (he's ALWAYS like this, but even more so recently) and that, combined with his INCESSANT TALKING, is wearing on my nerves and making me feel like I can't focus---and then I'm also continually being startled by loud crashes.

Part of it is that our dishwasher has been broken, and I finally got myself to do something about it when I found out to my delight that the dishwasher repair place HAD AN EMAIL ADDRESS FOR SERVICE---and after I emailed them, they CALLED ME BACK to make the appointment, even though (1) I hadn't given my phone number, which means they had to go to the trouble of looking it up when they could have just hit reply, and (2) IF I CONTACT BY EMAIL, THAT MEANS I WANT TO TALK BY EMAIL. Plus, now there will be an expensive stranger in my house sometime today.

Part of it is that I'm reading Joan Didion's? new book? and it seems like? every single sentence? is an unanswerable question? and it's giving me a headache?

Part of it could be too much sugar and/or too much caffeine, taken in the attempt to combat the Feeling Lousy.

And of course I'm worried about my Sims family.

NONE of this is a big deal. EVERY SINGLE ITEM on this list falls into totally routine LIFE. And there is no reason I can't cope with it, and I AM in fact coping with it. But I think it's like how when you're doing something big on the computer, like a big download or upload or something, and then everything else runs all sluggishly: the computer is handling it, but it's not running at its usually brisk cheery pace. That's how I've been feeling: SLUGGISH, and as if I have a large program constantly running in my background.

November 9, 2011

Disobey and Escape

In college I put off most of my PE requirements until my final semester, so I had a very active final semester: racquetball, aerobics, and women's self-defense. The women's self-defense instructor was good, but grim. A girl from my dorm floor had been taken while out running. She was in excellent physical condition, had several years of martial arts experience, was in a public park, and had mace in her hand, but that didn't stop anything from happening. Our instructor taught us how to slam someone in the nose, and taught us to go for the eyes, and taught us that a strike to the knee is better than a strike to the head---but she also spent a lot of time emphasizing that the important thing was to avoid being in the situation to begin with, because your chances against a prepared and unexpected opponent are...grim.

She also told us about a million times the thing about DON'T LET THEM TAKE YOU TO THE SECOND LOCATION. That is, if someone comes up to you as you're getting into your car, puts a gun to your back, and instructs you to drive, your odds of survival plummet to nearly zero if you obey. Most attackers won't shoot you if you run or scream, even though they say they will: instead, they'll consider the whole thing a failed attempt and go find a new victim. And if they do shoot you when you run or scream, your odds of survival are still exponentially higher (and your odds of suffering/torture are still exponentially lower) in that parking lot than they would have been if you'd gone with them to the place they'd prepared for you.

I consider this a tip on par with "stop, drop, and roll" or "Don't swerve to miss an animal" or "If you're trapped in the trunk of a car, kick out the headlights": it's something I rehearse again and again, in the hope that in the actual situation I'd remember it. As Sam Harris says in his recent article (the first thing you'll see when you click it is a gun pointed right at your face), the overwhelming instinct is to freeze and then comply, assuming that if you just obey everything the attacker is saying, the attacker will go away and you'll be fine. Spoiler: you won't be fine. The promises of being fine are only manipulation to ensure your compliance, and nothing more.

The problem is that it feels as if you have two choices: obey and be fine, or disobey and die. That's the choice the attacker is in fact specifically telling you that you have. But your actual choices are "obey and almost certainly suffer and then die" or "try to escape and maybe not suffer and then die (but probably still suffer and die)."

Here is the part that made me immediately take a sleeping pill when I read it yesterday evening, because I knew I had some lying-awake torment ahead of me: this is true even if you have children with you. If you obey, thinking it will save the children, you are wrong: the attacker is using the children to control you, and the children's odds for survival are exponentially improved if you ABANDON THEM WITH THE ATTACKER AND RUN FOR HELP.

Would you like a sleeping pill? My temptation after reading this was to just take the whole bottle and get it over with. On the other hand, the reason I'm sharing this horror with you is that when I thought it over I found it helped to RELIEVE some of my lying-awake frets. Because it gives me a plan and a perspective, in a situation that I fret over because there is no plan: how can I save a household or carfull of children? I likely can't. And it does it in math terms: the child's odds of survival with you also in the power of the attacker are slimmer than the child's odds of survival with you running away getting help. And as Sam Harris says, if the attacker was going to kill the child, he was going to do it whether you were there or not, and probably he was going to "take his time" (sleeping pill words) and quite likely he would kill you first, leaving the child alone with him anyway but with no help on the way. Whereas if you run, you're still leaving the child alone, but the attacker knows he doesn't have time and has lost the power the child gave him over you, and he's better off considering this a failed attempt and running the other direction leaving the child unharmed. It goes against every single instinct, which is why you have to be told it in advance. (Don't swerve to avoid hitting an animal. Roll around on the flames. Put on your own oxygen mask first.)

One point Sam Harris makes that is so horrifying and yet so educational, is that if someone breaks into your house while you're there, they are there to kill you: plain old burglars make sure the house is empty first. This was enlightening: I'd been thinking that if people broke in, what I would need to do is cooperate so that they would take the valuables and leave. I would have done exactly what Sam Harris says is so exasperating to police officers: I would have believed and obeyed the attacker, thinking it was improving my odds. Never believe and obey the attacker, is the point here. The only goal is to get away and get help.

So as I was lying awake, here are the things I was rehearsing:

1. If the attacker was going to kill someone, he was going to do it either way: it's not a matter of obeying him to save anyone's life. No one's life will be saved by obeying. Someone's life might be saved by immediate disobeying.

2. Leave the child. It exponentially improves the child's chance of survival. Leave the child. Leave the child. (Don't swerve to avoid hitting the cat. Don't swerve to avoid hitting the cat.)

3. If someone breaks into the house, their carefully-thought-out goal is to kill you. Once you know that's the goal, it changes YOUR goal.

4. The only goal is escape. The only goal is escape. The only goal is escape.

This naturally led me to the thought "What if I can't leave the child? What if I CAN'T?" Even that was reassuring: I thought, "Well, then we will be like almost everyone else in that situation, and we will be terrified and suffer horribly, but then we will be dead and it will be over, and the world will go on about the same except there will be a couple of fundraisers and yearbook pages in our memories."

I don't know if this will be as reassuring to everyone as it was to me. (I also found it reassuring to think "And if my attempt didn't work, and the child was killed and I was still alive, I could just kill myself.") I think it's because before, I was thinking that my success/failure lay in manipulating the situation successfully, so I needed to lie awake and practice how I'd do that. Now I'm thinking of it as any other of the other horrifying things that can happen to human beings: car crashes, deadly flu strains, tsunamis, wild animal attacks, leukemia, earthquakes, fluke accidents that shouldn't have happened but did. There are some things you can do to prevent and/or avoid them; there are some things that improve your odds of survival if you find yourself in them anyway; but basically, it's something that happens to some of us, and it's horrifying and tragic but it fits in with the other horrifying and tragic things that mostly can't be avoided or escaped from, and it's worth taking your slim chance. WHICH IS TO DISOBEY AND ESCAPE.

(You can read the whole article here, and I do suggest it. It's hard to do, but his tone is sensible and direct and calm, and it left me feeling the relief of "called the doctor about that lump" rather than the fear that comes from "not wanting to think about the lump, so I won't do anything about it.") (Also, how much do home security systems cost?)

November 8, 2011

High; Shoe-Tying; Decluttering; Spoilers and Complaints for Everybody's Fine

Too much coffee + exercise + too many Mr. Goodbars + laughed about something until I got dizzy = I think I might be high.


Teaching a child to tie his shoes is hellish. No, I'm not going to modify that with a perspective-acknowledging statement. It's hellish. Oh, it's part of parenting? DON'T CARE, STILL HELLISH.


I got some very satisfying de-cluttering done today. We have a closet I use for storing gifts I bought ahead of time, gifts for the kids to bring to birthday parties, items for care packages, stuff I don't know what else to do with, and gift bags and ribbon and stuff.

ANYWAY, the thing about buying ahead is, it doesn't always pan out. Usually it does, but sometimes I see a great clearance on a whole bunch of mix-and-match Dwell Studio baby girl clothes when my sister-in-law is pregnant with what turns out to be a boy. Or I buy a bunch of Gymboree blankets because I get kind of obsessed with them and start collecting one from each line, figuring I can give them as baby gifts---but then I can't make myself part with any of MY PRECIOUS my friends stop having babies before I run out of blankets. Or I buy gifts for the birthday-party shelf, but party after party goes by and none of the kids choose those gifts to bring and I start getting tired of them taking up space (the gifts, not the kids).

And here it is, the time of year to hide gifts in earnest, so I really NEED the space, but I can't really GET RID OF this perfectly good stuff. The timing was perfect: my blog-friend Misty is reluctantly gathering auction items for a non-profit, and she says she can make an auction item out of ANYTHING. So I packed up a box, and now my problems are her problems and my gift closet is more manageable.


The next part is going to be full of spoilers for the movie Everybody's Fine (Netflix link) (a movie I think I have now referred to as Everyone is Fine, Everyone's Fine, and The Kids are All Fine). It's the last topic of the post, so if you don't want to read the spoilers you can click away without having to squint-scroll to find the end.

Short version: I didn't buy ANY of it, and I wondered how they got such a good cast to put on this crazy talk. (Long version continues from here.) Maybe a couple of generations ago, a dad would have needed to realize that by pushing his children too hard he was pushing them away, but a guy like Robert De Niro's character, in his sixties living in contemporary times, would not have to be lied to by his wife about such issues as the existence of a grandchild---nor could I picture the whole family being in on such a thing AND being able to pull it off. And if his wife DID lie to him, I think she would have changed her mind on that when she was DYING. And I can't picture four children ALL telling their dad the kinds of AMAZING WHOPPERS they come up with in this movie (they even try to lie to him about THE HEART ATTACK HE JUST HAD, as if that would be a sustainable lie after the doctor came in to talk to him), OR a dad being dim enough to continue to believe stuff he's been allowed to assume. How could he think his son was a conductor and his daughter was a starring dancer, without ever insisting on seeing a performance? Also, I didn't believe his doctor would have discouraged the trip OR that he would have had such immediate results from missing a single dose of medication (though it looked to me as if he was significantly overdosing on his remaining crushed tablets, so maybe that was supposed to be the reason).

Also, everybody is NOT fine, and there is some really nauseating stuff about the dead son going to join his dead mother in heaven and forgiving his dad on his way up. (YES, I cried through it, but I felt MAD about it.) And certainly everyone seemed to take the death of a family member tremendously in stride: a little pang of bittersweet memories and then everything is happy again and the dad is telling his wife's gravestone that all the kids (including the dead one) are fine. And now that the lies are out in the open, everyone can gather around the holiday table in glowing acceptance, yay!

But I liked some of the ideas (parents learning that they have to be open to their children being ordinary; parents putting disappointments into perspective; parents finding that they can pressure their kids to the point that the kids start lying to them) enough that I think I'll try Stanno Tutti Bene, the movie on which this movie was based. Perhaps the original did a better job at keeping things believable. (Oh, shoot, Netflix doesn't have it.)

Also, I liked the exchange between Robert De Niro's character and his son Robert. Also, I loved the part with his early-teens grandson Jack. Also, I liked Robert De Niro, just OVERALL, and I thought his whole performance was very touching (although that made it even harder to believe he could have brought up his children to lie to him like that). Also, I thought they got a lot of really good-quality bit-part actors. Also, I liked the dream scene where he talks to his kids around a table in the yard, and they're children again and the various truths come out. So I'd say my primary feeling is of DISAPPOINTMENT: the movie had such potential, but failed to reach it. Which is kind of funny, since that's one of the major themes of the movie.

November 7, 2011

How to Get a Kid Into Private School on Sims 2 or Sims II

I realize this is an uncharacteristic post: it's about how to solve a hard part on a VIDEO GAME. But I spent so much time trying to solve it, and had to apologize for snapping at the children over it, and CRIED over it, and vented to Paul in a quavery voice about it, and so I am PUTTING THE INFORMATION HERE in case anyone else wants it. The last time I was this frustrated was when I wrote my Evenflo car seat post, and that's been one of my most enduringly popular posts of ALL TIME (as well as one of the few in which I use Bad Language), so it seems to me this is one of the things the internet is FOR: searching for solutions to EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING PROBLEMS and finding what worked for other people. And so when I solve something extremely frustrating, I like to post it. I think you should, too, in case you were wondering how I thought you should live your blogging life. SHARE THE WEALTH.

So. On Sims 2. Or Sims II, if that's what you typed into the search engine. When you want to get a kid into private school, this is how I finally solved it:

1. Save the game right after you have a Sim call the headmaster to come over for dinner. Don't save it again until you succeed and the child has been accepted into private school. This way, every time you fail you can quit the game without saving, and then you can try again. You can call it cheating, but I'm not listening: EVERY video game my kids play lets them start a level again and again until they get it right, and The Sims is the only one that doesn't allow a single redo.

2. Also, be prepared that your Sims will turn into crazy thwarty McThwartersons as soon as you try to accomplish this task. Mine were all "I think I'll go to bed now!" and "I think I'll take a shower" and "I think I'll suddenly go work on a painting!"---even though normally they were not so strong-willed. I had to keep pausing the game CONSTANTLY, just to make sure all of them were ACTIVELY FOLLOWING MY INSTRUCTIONS. And even so, a Sim was answering the phone when I'd x'ed out that idea THREE TIMES and ALSO replaced it with a new activity, which he ignored! It was...very frustrating. (I should have just switched off free will, but I was too flustered to think of it.)

3. When the headmaster comes over (he will come over right at 5:00, and he might be any one of several different headmasters), ignore the prompt to give him a tour. Don't give him a tour. If you WANT to give him a tour, what you do is select Entertain and then Give Tour, and then click "Go Here" in a room so your Sim will go there. The headmaster will follow. Then click the headmaster and choose "Show Room." Then repeat with a different room. But don't bother! It's incredibly frustrating and takes forever, and my tour-giving Sim kept trying to wander off to take an unneeded shower or sit down for an unneeded rest.

4. Instead, have one Sim talk to him: just Talk, and select Chat, over and over. NO SCHMOOZE. Ignore the suggestion to schmooze. I know there's a Schmooze Score, but ignore it. JUST TALK. DON'T NOBODY SCHMOOZE. The schmooze score will go up with the talking. The schmoozing is like with flirting or hugging or whatever: the score goes DOWN if you do it before there's a relationship established. Probably you can schmooze after there has been enough talking, but I didn't even try, I just talked and talked, and the Schmooze score went up and up.

5. The other Sim should cook a meal. You're supposed to have that Sim select Entertain and then Call to Meal, but this is BUGGY and might not work and might in fact VANISH as an option after you select it. DON'T PANIC. Once the meal is served, have the talking Sim stop talking to the headmaster and go eat, and the headmaster will come over to the table. (I hope. I HOPE the headmaster will come over to the table. It's glitchy, and in a couple of my attempts he wouldn't go there no matter what, which is why you should save the game first. But in the one where I finally won, he did go to the table.) Get as many other people as possible to sit at the table too. (I don't actually know if this is important. But it's what I did the time I succeeded, so now it's like a lucky rabbit foot to me.) Other sites told me not to cook chef salad so I didn't; other sites said to cook pork chops or lobster or salmon, and my Sims always burn the lobster and salmon, so I had them do pork chops. Other sites told me to make sure the Sim doing the cooking was the best cook in the house and that the Sim was pretty high in cooking; the Sim who did the meal had 8 skill points in cooking.

6. Things that I thought might be important, but weren't: having all the family meet the headmaster; having the child talk to and/or impress and/or schmooze the headmaster; entertaining the headmaster by letting him play chess; the tour; the schmoozing; everyone eating together; everyone being awake during the visit.

7. Things that were in fact important: having someone talk a bunch of times to the headmaster to build the relationship; feeding the headmaster a meal; knowing that this part of the game was full of bugs. I ended up with a ZERO score for the tour, and still got the child into private school with a score of 98 out of an apparently necessary 90 points (when I got 83 points, the child's application was rejected). I also ended up with a new facial tic.

November 6, 2011

Fall Back (Standard Time) Printout to Avoid the Endless Discussions About Whether It's EARLIER or LATER Right Now

I will tell you what kind of talk sends me immediately to the kind of squirmy rage that makes me want to flail futilely at someone's face: "Wait, it would be SIX o'clock, but now it's FIVE o'clock, so it'll be EASIER....wait, no, HARDER to...wait, no. Okay, it WOULD be six o'clock, but we CHANGED..."

I'm not saying I don't start these very Daylight Savings Time discussions myself: I'm powerless not to, which makes me want to flail at my own face. And then I have to listen to Paul doing them and ALSO correcting me that "actually, it's saving, not savingS, and actually that's in the spring," which he's super-lucky hasn't gotten him killed. PLUS, the kids get involved, so there's the added bonus of having these discussions with people who are not understanding the concept at all.

Anyway, this has got to change. (CHANGE. See what I did there?) I'm not going through this again. Well, no, I'm going through it ONE MORE TIME, but this time I'm WRITING IT DOWN. Every time we do that stupid hour-math in the next couple of days and come to an accurate conclusion, I'm writing it down. Next year I will be able to copy this to a word-processing document, increase the font size, print it out, and hang it next to the clock. (Paul tells me I could also make a Google docs document so that ANYONE can print it out. I will work on this, so perhaps when we are looking for this post next year we will find a link to something printable.) (Ha ha, like I'll actually follow through with that.) (I ACTUALLY DID FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THAT: Google Docs Printout.)

(changing from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard Time)
("gaining an hour")

It will be EASIER to wake up in the morning: you will feel wakeful earlier than usual. However, the children will wake up at a clock-time one hour earlier than usual, so you will actually feel THE SAME amount of restedness, except with the unpleasant feeling of resentment and injustice at the early time on the clock. If you have a teenager, he or she may emerge an hour before you would usually expect, blinking in confusion.

It will be EASIER to go to bed at night: you will feel sleepy earlier than usual. If you have a small child, you'll be dealing with an hour of crankiness and sleepiness as their little internal clock tells them it's sleeping time and you tell them it isn't.

It will be HARDER to wait for meals: you will feel hungry earlier than usual. The children will be cranky and whining for lunch, and you will say, "OMG stop whining for food, it is only TEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING." Then you will sneak into the kitchen and have a little nibble because OMG HUNGRY.

It gets light EARLIER in the morning. This is kind of nice for waking up: the kids have awakened us at 4:30 instead of 5:30, but there will be less time sitting sipping coffee resentfully in the dark: soon we will be sitting sipping it resentfully in the morning light.

It gets dark EARLIER in the evening. This sucks right now, and the evening commute is depressing, but it will soon be nice for holiday light enjoyment.

People who forget to change their clocks will arrive places an hour EARLY. If you are having a party on the Sunday of a time change, you should make plans for early arrivers, just in case, and you should put a reminder of the time change on the invitations. If you have a church, it would be thoughtful to arrange to have someone there an hour early with coffee and doughnuts for anyone who otherwise is unlikely to want to wait around in the parking lot for an hour kicking themselves. If you have a store, same possibility as church, especially if you're in a plaza with a bunch of stores: opening an hour "early" one day a year might get you some loyal and grateful customers browsing around while they wait for the rest of the stores to open.

If you want to prepare the children for the change ahead of time, don't bother. Or if you must, you can spend the days before the change waking them up later and putting them to bed later.

See also: Spring Ahead (Daylight Saving Time)

November 5, 2011

If You Saw a Blogger Out and About, Would You Say Hi?

A couple of weeks ago, Elizabeth was invited to a birthday party at someone's house, and it turned out to be one of those ENORMOUS parties where not only the whole class but also the whole neighborhood and the whole extended family were invited, and where most of the adults stayed because they were friends too. I'd been thinking I would leave and come back after the party, but it was clear I needed to stay: there were over a hundred people there, and people were even having trouble keeping track of their OWN kids, let alone someone else's.

I suffered, but I survived. It was three hours of hanging around with people I didn't know but who knew each other, and I'd say it was exactly as character-building as you'd expect for an introvert. And yet even repeated exposures to such experiences are not changing me into a comfortable and eager social person, despite our culture's unquenchable belief in the idea that exposure = total extinction---and related belief that such things REQUIRE extinction, as if being social and outgoing is the Right Way and being otherwise is Wrong. (BE YOURSELF, unless you're not social, outgoing, beautiful, calm, thin, confident, free of interesting neuroses, and in the top 1% of careers! In which case you should be someone else!) At best I'd say that for me, exposure seems to result in the gradual development of more sophisticated coping mechanisms.

ANYWAY. My point. When I was at this party with so many people, I saw a LOT of women who looked Kind Of Familiar. And it seemed to me that some of them were finding ME Kind Of Familiar, too. And although the most likely explanation is that we've just seen each other in other large groups of parents, it occurred to me that it would not be SO bizarre to run into another blogger at something like this.

And so this is what I was wondering: if YOU recognized a blogger at something like this, or perhaps out shopping at Target, would you say something? I THINK I would, but I'm not sure. It would depend on so many things: How well do I know the blogger? Like, would it soon emerge embarrassingly that I barely skim her blog, or do I read her so carefully I know her pets' names and the name of the paint color she used in her dining room? Do THEY know ME? Like, do we read each other's blogs, or do I just read hers? Do I feel like either of us would be blowing our cover by introducing ourselves? How sure am I that that is indeed her?

What about you? If you saw a blogger out and about, would you say hi? If someone recognized you, would you want them to say hi? HAVE you ever seen a blogger out and about?

November 1, 2011

Why Don't People Like My Blog?

I have had a thought. Stand back.

If you do much blog reading, you've probably noticed people making negative remarks about their popularity and the size of their readership. "All three of my readers," "I'm not one of the popular kids," etc. It's sometimes expressed as self-deprecation, or sometimes as sad wonderings about what's wrong with them and why no one likes them, or sometimes as confessions of jealousy.

And you might think it would be just the bloggers who have only a few readers, but it's also bloggers who have dozens but wonder why other bloggers have hundreds, and bloggers who have hundreds but wonder why other bloggers have thousands, and bloggers who have thousands but wonder why other bloggers have hundreds of thousands. It's hard to comment on such posts. What can be said other than, "It's not your fault per se: it's because your blog, for whatever reason, lacks the kind of mass appeal you (and pretty much everyone else) are hoping to have"?

I have thought of a different way to think of this situation. I think the blogger/blogging relationship can be thought of like the actor/acting relationship.

There are actors I love who choose projects I can't stand: even if I love love love a particular actor, I'm not going to watch him in a weekly zombie drama. I can want to be SISTERS with a particular actor, and yet I'm not going to watch her in that stupid movie.

And there are actors I think I can't stand, but I'd like them tremendously if I knew them in person. I don't like their WORK, but I'd like THEM if their work wasn't my only way of knowing them. But their work IS my only way of knowing them.

And there are actors I think I love, but I'd cringe and try to get away from them if I knew them in person. I love their WORK, but if I knew them I'd want to cry from the wringing disappointment of who they really are. But...I DO only know their work, so I love them.

Bloggers and their blogs are a comparable situation. There are bloggers we love, who take blogging jobs we're not interested in reading. There are bloggers we think we love, but if knew them (not just met them: some bloggers, like some actors, can be "on" in short-term meeting situations) we wouldn't love them anymore, because what we love is not them but their BLOGS. There are people we know and love in person, but we can barely stand to skim their blogs. And there are bloggers we think we can't stand, but it's really that we don't want to read their writing and/or what they choose to write about---which is quite a different thing from not liking THE PEOPLE. (Of course we might also dislike the people, if we knew them. What I mean is that the blog alone is not sufficient information for a conclusion.)

I think the feeling has been that if the blog is liked, the person is liked---and that therefore if the blog is not liked, the person is not liked. "Why don't people like my blog?" becomes "Why don't people like me?" Thinking of it in a different way (i.e., that the blog is the person's work/hobby, just as acting can be a person's work/hobby) does not automatically solve the problem: most bloggers, like most actors, would of course still prefer that their work be admired, and by as large an audience as possible. But rejection of the work/blog doesn't have to be interpreted as rejection of the person.

Some hobbies (acting, blogging) require an audience. Some (writing in a journal, running, scrapbooking, stamp-collecting) don't. Some (art, music, dance) can go either way, depending on what the person participating in the hobby wants. The audience can't be forced into existence (or complained into existence, or wanted into existence), so the trick is to find the natural fits. There are some things we like to do, and other people like to watch us do them. Yay! There are some things we like to do, and no audience is required. Yay! There are some things we like to do, and no one wants to watch us but we don't mind and we can happily do them without an audience. Yay!

And then there is the category of things we like to do, but only if we have an audience of a certain size---and our audience is not large enough, and so we're miserable and it makes us feel rejected and unliked. Non-yay. I think those are good hobbies to eliminate, to leave more room to focus on the others. (This is why I no longer model, act, sing for an audience, or try out for football.)