Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Miss B's Cause and Effect Paper

This is a paper B wrote for 11th grade English. The assignment was Cause and Effect.

I began typing this cause and effect paper at approximately 6:30 P.M. on Wednesday April 30th, the day it was due. However, I have three perfectly good reasons why my paper was not done or even started sooner. My almost late paper is the effect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and Adolescent Egocentrism.

My paper is almost late because of Mr. Kelly and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system, which is not in equilibrium, will increase over time, i.e., whiteboards used on a regular basis will eventually transform from a state of cleanliness to filthiness, thus fulfilling the Second Law. Mr. Kelly asked me to clean his whiteboards and in return he would award me a few extra credit points. Because I stayed after school to clean his whiteboards, I was late coming home and had less time to work on my cause and effect paper. Luckily, however, I finished it just in time to watch Super Nanny.

No, wait. It was actually almost late because of Mr. Winters and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Mr. Winters recently taught us that an individual must first fulfill his or her physiological needs. So, before I could start my paper, I needed to consume half a bucket of chocolate chip cookie dough (my need for food), and then take a two hour-long nap (my need for sleep). After my basic needs were met, I was able to continue on with Maslow’s higher needs, such as “experiencing purpose, meaning, and realizing all my inner potential” -- writing my paper. Thankfully, I was able to finish my paper on time.

Actually that was not the cause either. The real reason my paper was almost late is because of Ms. Garin and Adolescent Egocentrism. When I was told that I had to write a cause and effect paper, I knew it was because all the teachers are out to get me. They all want to see me fail, so they push pointless assignments at me and then wait in anticipation for me to fall on my face. In particular, my English teacher just cannot wait to give me an F on my cause and effect paper and see the sadness in my face as she crushes my poor, innocent soul. But then, Ms. Garin told me to get over my adolescent egocentrism and realize that not everything is about me. I got over it and wrote my paper.

Thus we see, despite Sadi Carnot (originator of the Second Law of Thermodynamics), Abraham Maslow and Erik Erikson (who first defined adolescent egocentrism), this paper was indeed turned in on time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue: "Keepin' It Till the Eagle Screams for Over 150 Years"

That's my suggested motto for the Wisconsin DOR. We always get money back from them, as Barry has to file a nonresident return, and we cannot have less withheld from his checks than we already do, for some unknown reason. So they get our money interest free for the whole year. Then they take forEVer to send our refund check. It didn't arrive till mid June last year, as I recall.

We eFile through our CPA every year, and they claim here that eFilers have their refunds processed within about a week. Yeah, right. I just checked and so far there is not even a record that we filed a return.

On the other hand, we nearly always owe federal income tax, and I mailed our check on 04/15/2008. It just cleared my bank today. So I got the interest on that money for another couple of weeks after it was due.

And finally, good old Iowa has a staggered due date for income tax, for which I could just kiss them. If you owe Iowa state income tax, it isn't due until the end of April. That gives you a few days to recover from paying your federal tax. There is probably a reason other than *being nice to taxpayers* for this, but whatever, it IS nice, and makes me feel a lot better about mailing off that second check.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What's for Supper? Vidalia Onion Pie

From comes this recipe for a very easy and delicious Vidalia onion pie:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or Hawaiian salt
1/4 cup cold all-vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Cold water

1/4 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 pounds Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or Hawaiian salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan

For the crust: All ingredients should be cold. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening and butter. Using a pastry blender cut in the shortening and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drop by drop, add cold water. Mix in with the fingertips, not with the hands as the palms will warm the dough. Continue mixing water in until the dough begins to hold together without being sticky but not crumbly. Place dough in plastic wrap. Fold over plastic wrap and press down to form a disk. This will make rolling out easier after chilling. Finish wrapping in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Lightly spray a deep 9-inch pie pan or an 8 1/2-inch fluted flan pan. Roll out dough and place in pie plate. Return to the refrigerator until filling is ready. Makes pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

For the filling: Brush egg wash on the inside of pie crust. Return to refrigerator until filling is ready. Over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and saute until translucent. Do not brown. Combine eggs, sour cream and flour. Add onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper and pour into chilled pie crust. Top with Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F for the last 20 minutes or until center is set.


Miss B's prom went off successfully as far as we know. B had a migraine which she fought all day, finally giving up at 1:00 a.m. and asking her dad to bring her home. Her date is a very nice guy named J who treats her as we believe she ought to be treated, i.e., as a queen.

I made B's dress.

Look at those flowers! I'm so jealous of J's mom. She has daffodils. We have... well, snow.

$*%&$*%& snow!

That's right. April 28th and it's snowing.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ceramic Dragon

My son made this wonderful ceramic dragon bowl in art class. I love it!

A recommended Iowa blogger

My brother turned me on to Notes from the Princess, a blog by another small-town Iowa gal. Here's a gem from her latest post: I attempted to drive in rush hour traffic. Okay, so it was Des Moines rush hour, but hey, I live in a small town, remember? We don’t have rush hour. We tried once but everyone got stuck behind a combine so we gave it up.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interesting Rain Ensemble

Lil Miss A, with her prairie skirt and hippie blouse and sandals, with her "raincoat," which is actually a Hallowe'en fireman costume, and a trash bag on her head like a scarf. She looked so cute I made her stand in the rain for a picture.

Barry is (almost) an EMT-B

Barry has passed the first half of his national certification exam, and the second half is tomorrow. He has to drive to Rochester, Minnesota, for that one. And if he passes that, he gets to sew an EMT patch on his shirt.

The top photo is of his classmates and his instructor.

Torchwood meets Lolcats

Because I have nothing original to say.

Hancock trailer/preview

This movie is growing on me.

Blog Give-Away

One of the "treasures" I picked up in the spring clean-up was a CD of Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be a Redneck If..." The cover is scratched up but the CD seems to play well. If you want this, be the first to comment with an email address I can reply to and I'll send it off to you.

Why would anybody sign up for Wife Swap?

I watched Wife Swap last night, against my better judgment. They just keep picking weirder and weirder families to pit one against another. Last night's was a very conservative Ohio family, the Stockdales, with a bunch of lovely boys, all homeschooled, with a very structured lifestyle with chores, learning and country music and not a whole lot else (no cable TV, no video game console, no dating in the current sense of the word), versus a suburban Chicago family, the Tonkovics, with two beautiful but aimless 20-something children and their live-ins, none of whom have jobs or are in school, with a very unstructured lifestyle. Of course it was a disaster all around.

Why on earth would a family be willing to subject themselves to this? I felt bad for both families. Philosophically I lean more toward the viewpoints of the Ohio family (minus the killing chickens for dinner and homeschooling and no video games) than the Chicago family, but still, it was brutal all around.

Seriously, would you be willing to risk your family's wellbeing for money? Even a lot of money? I don't know how much the show pays, but I can't think of any amount of money that would be enough for me to put my children and my husband in the hands of any other woman, much less the most opposite woman the network can find for them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Albin Spring Clean-Up Day 2008

This year I did not do as well as some years; most of what I picked up was to clean up and donate to The Way Station. For example:

Nothing wrong with these ironing boards; they're absolutely clean and nice.

The old waffle iron works, and the roaster just needed a nice bath to make it useful again.

For myself, I got three (only two are pictured) of these enamel thingies. I thought they were refrigerator crisper drawers, but maybe they are just dish pans. Anyway they're chipped enamel but otherwise in good shape. I added the decals as a variation on my art deco style kitchen canister labels, and now they are holding stuff in my office work space.

I also got some 2x4's and some unused Romex wire for Barry, and an old lamp with jade colored glass base, an interesting old fruit crate, and an old wooden ironing board to sell (hopefully). I also found some interesting wooden seine floats and some vacuum tubes from an old Zenith cabinet radio that may still be good.

Lil Miss A snagged a vintage Port-a-Crib that is a perfect place to store all her dolls and stuffed animals. She was so happy! She was so tired of them ending up under the bed, forgotten and dusty. Now they are all cozily contained.

One big difference this year 'round was the fact that lots of people were picking not for treasures, but for salvage. Normally one can pay the city $25 to haul away an old washing machine, dryer or dishwasher or whatever. This year I doubt the city had to haul any away at all. With steel at $400 a ton, it was worth it for some of our enterprising folk to load up all the metal, take it home and strip it down for salvage. At least it's not going in the landfill.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thinking about my Vintage Kitchen

Right now my kitchen is painstakingly decorated in Early 1970s Cheapo Blech. Blinding, nauseating brown swirly vinyl on the floor, chipboard cabinets with plastic (yes, really) drawer fronts, flimsy laminated counters. This house was built in 1913, and while I don't think we want to go back THAT far, we would like to get it back as far as, say, its first likely remodel, which would be 1940s. I have my 1930s Detroit Vapor gas stove which I refuse to part with, so the kitchen MUST be built around it.

So I've been researching appropriate styles and materials and I came across a great article called Modernizing the Vintage Kitchen, or how best to avoid cognitive dissonance in design, by The San Francisco Chronicle's Jane Powell. I want to quote this hilarious (but probably true) passage about commercial stoves in home kitchens:

The current fad for restaurant stoves can, I believe, be traced back to sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s when men became interested in cooking. Naturally, they couldn't cook on those little ranges that women had been using for years.They required big, professional power tools with lots of BTUs because they weren't cooks, they were chefs. Nowadays, people who don't cook at all insist on having restaurant stoves -- I guess they're for the caterers.

Okay, back to my kitchen:

We have a wonderful cabinetmaker nearby, in the Winnebago Valley, John Pitts. He doesn't have a website. He doesn't advertise. He hasn't in 17 years. And yet he always has more work than he can handle. (It was he who did the custom wood trim at the New Albin Savings Bank.) He uses local hardwoods, he does his own design and installation and he has a real gift for fitting what he makes into the environment. He came out yesterday to have a look at our poor kitchen and he's going to bring us a pencil sketch (well, it'll be a computer-aided design sketch) of what he thinks our kitchen could be.

Meanwhile, I'm sorting through several years' worth of cutsheets from my files, deciding what I still like with the test of time. I know I love exposed hardware. I love the old hinges and latches on Hoosier type cabinets. I also know that I need one cabinet with vertical slots to hold my cookie sheets and trays. My mom has one of those in her kitchen and I haven't had one since I left her house, and I really need one! I want to use the butcher-block I bought at a grocery store closing sale a few years ago. I want ceramic tile countertops, preferably white with red accents. I want these pendant lights from Rejuvenation in white with red. I would love to have a real linoleum floor. I want red and white. And more red and white. And that about covers it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Medical transcriptionists, thinking of a job change?

Webmedx has a referral bonus program going right now. If you are thinking of applying to Webmedx and do not already have a buddy who referred you, please consider letting me refer you. If you come to work for Webmedx for at least the next 180 days, you and I can both get a $500 bonus.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Proposed State Mottos, courtesy of the Rotel website

Iowa: We do amazing things with corn.

Edible Cat Toys, a.k.a. Homemade Pasta

One of the (many) great things about working from a home office is being able to actually accomplish something on one's lunch break. Today I made lasagna noodles. Barry has been craving lasagna, and we have all the ingredients except the noodles, so I broke out my Atlas Marcato pasta roller and made these over my lunch hour.

Every once in awhile I think I should just get rid of that pasta maker, because I don't use it very often, but when I do take the time to make homemade noodles, I'm so glad to have it. It is great fun. Remember the Play-Do Fun Factory? This is a Fun Factory for grown-ups.

This pasta dough was of the simplest possible, just flour and eggs.

I remember my grandma making noodles on the kitchen table. If I remember right, she dried them over the back of a chair. Around here, there are too many intensely interested critters to dry noodles anywhere that easy to reach! These that I just made are hanging in a doorway. Even though I thought I was being watchful, I was still surprised at one point by a black paw darting over the edge of the work surface trying to snag a noodle while they were in process.

Now the hanging noodles are encouraging some rather ungraceful leaping about by two cats, at least one of whom can certainly use the exercise.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rebate giggle

Just a snippet that made me laugh out loud: Ira was at Sam's Club, getting his eyes checked, when he heard
the sound of shoppers pre-spending their 2008 Flat-Panel Tax Rebates

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Annual April Fool's Roundup

I got rickrolled not once, but twice, with two different April Fool's Day gags: First, Felicia Day got me with this. And then Blogger got me. With this. Am I gullible or what? had two contenders. One was pretty lame. (Sorry Chrisisall, it was.) The other was not too bad.

Finally, the Wagner and Griswold Society forum header was backward. All day long the mods and admins claimed not to be able to see anything funky about it, while the rest of us peons insisted there was something wrong.