Thursday, January 31, 2008

Campanile: Writers' Soup Kitchen

More on food in Los Angeles.

As I'm sure you've heard, there's an ongoing writers' strike in Hollywood. The economic repercussions are significant here as the trickle down effect becomes more and more obvious. If writers don't work, actors, make-up artists, and key grips don't work. Editors have nothing to edit. Caterers have no one to feed. And money, that used to be free flowing in restaurants and bars, has dried up. At a time when a recession looms over the nation striking fear in the hearts of democrats and republicans everywhere, Hollywood is feeling a similar jerk of panic.

Some are making due as they can. An interesting approach taken by local fancy-pants restaurant, Campanile, is to open a soup kitchen for writer's union members. (I'm sure similarly affected unions might appreciate to be included, but that's just me thinking out loud.) A card carrying writer can go to the restaurant on Wednesdays with a group of guests (or not, if you're a lonely, brooding writer-type), and everyone gets a 3 course meal for $18. Apparently, that's half-price. And, as chef and owner Mark Peel states:
"We're not making any money on this, but it is filling the restaurant. The truth is, no matter what your profit margin is, if you're not selling anything, you're not making any money."
Another plus for the restaurant is that any new customers brought in might expand the restaurant's business when the economy gets back on track. And I think writers and everyone else are looking forward to that.

2 Weeks of Prix Fixe with Dine L.A.

Now that I can start to think about food again, I can post about something I'd meant to post at the beginning of the week.

There's no shortage of restaurants if you live in Los Angeles. Between the wide array of foods available, and the cultural melting pot at hand, we have access to a little bit over everything. There are, of course, some pricier places that can't be frequent ed as often as others. But oh how they beckon.

From Jan 27-Feb 1 and Feb 3-Feb 8, 2008 (that's 2 weeks excluding Saturdays), Dine L.A. has gathered a fine list of restaurants in the area that will offer a selection of three-course menus at special prices (per person excluding beverages, tax and gratuity):


Deluxe Dining:$15$25

Premier Dining:$22$34

For example, you could order the following for lunch at Cafe Pinot in Downtown L.A. for $22:
Appetizer: Grilled Market Vegetable Chopped Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella, "Antiqua," and Yuzu Avocado Dressing
Entree: Colorado Leg of Lamb Rotisserie, Roasted Garlic Jus, Winter Root Vegetable
Dessert: Heirloom Apple Crumble with Lychee Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

Or perhaps you'd like a South American dinner at Ciudad for $34:
Appetizer: Arugula and Celery Root Salad with Spiced Pepita Seeds, Pomegranate, Shaved Manchego and Lemon Vinaigrette
Entree: Carnitas - Slow Roasted Niman Ranch Pork served with Mashed Yucas, Black Beans, Fried Plantains and Grilled Corn Salsa (BTW...this dish as amazing)
Dessert: Tres Leches Cake with Passion Fruit and Prickly Pear Sauces

In the mood for Italian? How about a $15 lunch at Angeli Caffe:
Appetizer: Eggplant Croquettes
Entree: Beet Ricotta Gnocchi with Butter and Sage
Dessert: Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding

But an Asian dinner for $25 from Culver City's Beacon also sounds tempting, dontcha think?
Appetizer: Stir-fried Mushroom Salad with Manchego, Spiced Almonds and Yuzu Dressing
Entree: Crispy Fish and Chips with Yuzu Tartar Sauce and Asian Slaw
Dessert: Farmers Market Seasonal Fruit Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

Tempted? Check out the list for more restaurants and other menu options. And if you are lucky enough to go, reservations are highly recommended.

Bon Appetit! Velbekomme! E ʻai ka-kou! Kainan na! Buen Provecho! Eat already!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Week in Review

Well, maybe not a whole week, but I need to just get it all off my chest while it's fresh.
  • I got a papercut that was blindingly painful. The thing about papercuts is that they mildly freak me out, especially after watching Swimming With Sharks. A quick, sharp, searing pain that can be caused by something as mundane as opening an envelope. I'm so paranoid about them that I haven't had one in ages. Years? So when I got one this past weekend, I...well, I squealed. Possibly screamed. It really hurt!! I'm pretty sure I saw blood!! Anyway, my point is that sometimes people get papercuts, and despite being so trite, we can't help but share our pain. Hence, I, like Madame X, am sharing my pain.

  • As you read the following, keep in mind that MetaDaddy has been away all week on business. It couldn't be avoided, and though he suggested coming back early, I insisted he stay because of a presentation he'd been working on all month.

  • MetaToddler got sick on Saturday and couldn't keep any food down. But as I posted here, he was much better on Sunday. It's funny how when you don't appreciate the delicate nature of a toddler's stomach, it can come back to bite you. So Monday afternoon, he got sick again. And the water and bland diet started once again. The tiniest amount of water every 45 minutes. After doing that twice, he was noticeably hungry, so I gave him some dry toast, of which he only had half. This from a tiny little guy who can eat a 6-inch pita bread with hummus as a snack, then eat dinner. Needless to say, I didn't push more on him. He went to bed and slept through the night.

  • That night, wouldn't you know it but I found out for sure that he had a stomach bug as opposed to having eaten something dodgy. I was sick all night. I woke up every hour starting at 2:30 until about 7:30. Honestly, I probably should have just gotten up since I suspect I was more nauseous while lying down than sitting up.

  • Tuesday was a sad day indeed with me despondently lying on the sofa with the TV on to distract MetaToddler from the kitchen. He kept going in asking for food, but he didn't know what he wanted. Crackers, bananas, toast, and rice were mostly just sprinkled all over the floor. We didn't go out at all, and though I felt terrible at not even taking him out for a walk or short drive, I genuinely didn't have the energy. So, we just quietly rode the day out, and I suspect he finally learned that he can climb the sofa on his own. Darn!

  • Today we're better, but still taking it easy. Had to cancel some plans, and will probably cancel plans for tomorrow since I hear a stomach bug can last at least 3 days after recovery per the CDC:
    "People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery. Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness."
    The last thing I want to do is get any of our friends sick!

  • All of my down time let me finally to finish "Mostly Martha." It's in German, which means reading, but eh...nice for a change. The story wasn't new, but it was a well-done chick flick without being too cutesy or schmaltzy. And the lead, Martina Gedeck, was really well cast. She's a perfectionist head chef at a fancy restaurant, and her career is her life until her sister dies in a car accident, leaving Martha to care for her 8-year-old niece until her father can be found. When a confident new chef is hired to replace her very pregnant sous chef, she struggles to maintain order in her once seamless life. It was recently remade here as "No Reservations" with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, which didn't strike me as interesting as the original. Honestly, they seldom are. If I'm feeling daring one day, maybe I'll watch to compare.
Enough whining. It can only get better from here, right? OMG...I hope MetaDaddy doesn't get sick!!! Note to MetaDaddy: DON'T. TOUCH. ANYTHING.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stimulation Via Jumbo Loans? Really?

Part of stimulating the economy includes temporarily raising the limit for jumbo loans from $417K to $729,750. Jumbo loans are a significant issue in high-cost areas like Los Angeles, where the median price for a single-family home is over $588K. The article reflects the current problem that "few banks are approving bigger loans and, when they do, the interest rates generally run 0.75 to 1 percentage point higher than for loans under $417,000." The reason? Risk. Larger banks that can afford to lend and hold the note can't sell them off like other loans (allowing for an influx of cash), and "smaller institutions aren't equipped to manage the extra risk of holding them on their books." That said, don't get me started on the notion of selling or bundling risky loans because that's how this whole mess got started in the first place.

Though the national housing market is still over-inflated, it's reasonable to expect non-luxury homes to stay above the $417K level in certain areas. As a result, I suspect this should help in certain high-cost areas, but will it help the economy as a whole?

That said, there are quite a few devils in these details, per Herb Greenberg's MarketBlog:
  • New borrowers still have to qualify. Fannie/Freddie is full doc only primarily.

  • Without stated income for wage earners, it’s tough to qualify for a $700,000 loan.

  • In 2005 to 2007, 70% of all jumbos were stated income for a reason: Ninety percent of all stated income borrowers lied about their income to qualify.

  • Refi’s will still have trouble due to values dropping in jumbo areas by such a large amount. These are the ones that really need the help.
He states an example:
"For the past several years, a husband and wife working at McDonald’s for two years could borrower $650,000, STATED income no problem. They just put enough money as income listed on the application to qualify. Wall Street banks that ultimately bought the loans did not care. Lenders also qualified at interest-only payment rate with zero to 5% down. Credit scores at 600 were okay.

NOW, you must have earned $135,000 to $150,000 FULLY DOCUMENTED for the past two years and have a current pay stub and average ‘other’ debt to borrow $650,000. You must have at least 10% equity or down payment. You must have a credit score of 700 or above. This is not a large number of the population."

Essentially, Greenberg figures "This should help some people with large incomes buy homes. That is about it." Personally, I believe this eludes to the reality that this time last year, people who were unwilling to get a risky loan were priced out of certain housing markets, large incomes or not.

I'm just saying.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Poor Little Bug vs. Bug

Poor little bug.

He got pretty sick this evening, and we have no idea why. He couldn't keep any food down, but it didn't start until we put him to bed (read: messy, messy, messy). He started crying 5 minutes after we put him down (very unusual), and proceeded to lose dinner all over MetaDaddy and the carpet. It was bad enough that we had to give him another bath, all the while cleaning up the mess (read: stinky, stinky, stinky).

After a few costume changes, a load of laundry, and a series of dry heaves, he went to sleep. The hardest part was keeping him from sneaking little Cheerios he'd find in nooks in the living room, which led to the heaves. He was actually looking pretty good considering, but it's soooooo hard to watch that sad little face.

We're crossing our fingers for tomorrow. Crossing our fingers that we don't catch what he has if it's catchy. Crossing our fingers that MetaDaddy makes it to his conference tomorrow because he's been working on his speech all month. And crossing our fingers that our little bug is his happy-go-lucky self again tomorrow.

Oh, and did I mention MetaDaddy will be away all week?

*le sigh*

Update: Our poor little bug is eating, running, and climbing once again. He's a bundle of renewed energy. We, however, are exhausted! But it's nice to see him with his A game again :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Pain of Sign Language

My back is hurting something awful these days, and it all comes back to sign language.

Let me explain.

MetaToddler's favorite signs are "up" and "down." He wants up onto his high chair because he wants lunch. He wants down because he's finished. He wants up on the sofa, and he still doesn't know that he can actually climb up himself. I'm not excited to fill him in on that one, honestly. He gets down on his own, but only to whine about getting back up again. And again. And again.

I like reinforcing his understanding of sign language, so I have obliged. However, I think he now knows what up and down are, and my back and I are weakly crying uncle to the teensy little head of household.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie: Killer of Sheep

I accidentally caught the second half of the movie Killer of Sheep on TMC (Turner Classic Movies). While the name almost made me skip right past it, I bravely tuned in to see what it was about.

In 1977, Charles Burnett finished this film for $10K, which was destined to be lost but not forgotten for almost 30 years. Per the L.A. Times,
"A portrait of a working-class Watts neighborhood, "Killer of Sheep" is considered a landmark of American independent film. But it was never meant to be shown commercially and was shelved for years because Burnett never secured the music rights."
When it was finally released, the critics couldn't get enough.
"It was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and named one of the "100 Essential Films" by the National Society of Film Critics."
It's a really interesting movie. A black & white look at a black family in poverty-stricken Watts. But that's where the synopsis ends. There is no storyline, per se. There is no plot. A Wikipedia quote describes it as "a collection of brief vignettes which are so loosely connected that it feels at times like you're watching a non-narrative film."

This movie is not for everyone. Nor is it appropriate at all times. In some respects it's like a silent or foreign film because you have to concentrate to get the penetrating effect of the imagery, and really appreciate the emotion behind each human interaction. The characters feel so real, it's hypnotic. There's relatively very little dialogue, but the music is touching; almost a character itself. It's a quiet film filled with the viewers' preconceived notions about life, struggles, and happiness. So don't get caught up in the praise people have thrust on the movie because it's very subjective. Go in with an open mind.

If you're interested in catching it, it's on Netflix, though you might also check your library for copies. You can buy the box set on Amazon, though some reviewers don't think much of the packaging. If you're lucky, maybe you can catch a local screening. And for kicks, here's a trailer to inspire you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Internet Dangers for Kids

Frontline, on PBS, will be researching the impact of the Internet on adolescence focusing on kids who are harassed or bullied and those who gain attention on You Tube. A review in the NY Times says the program examines a variety of issues worrying parents, like sexual predators, the ease of plagiarism, and a change in the nature of friendships. Think your kid's too young to participate in social networking sites? Consider Club Penguin, which is designed for kids 6-14.

Tuesday, January 22, 9:00pm on PBS (channel 28)

On a similar note, the so-called "Google Generation" (those born after 1993) isn't very good at...well, Googling.
The information literacy of young people, has not improved with the widening access to technology: in fact, their apparent facility with computers disguises some worrying problems. Internet research shows that the speed of young people’s web searching means that little time is spent in evaluating information, either for relevance, accuracy or authority."
On average, they're not very good at analyzing key words for effective searches, and they don't review search results carefully enough to verify its usefulness.

This all makes me think that if we, as parents, want to include our kids in the computer age, we really need to lay down a good foundation in reality. What does it mean to read a book or conduct research in a library? How do we decipher a good source from a bad one? We can't monitor our kids 100%, but the better the foundation we provide, the more likely our kids will be able to guide themselves safely and successfully past the dangers and pitfalls of the Net.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Easy Take Out for MetaToddler

MetaDaddy's out of town today, and I wasn't up to cooking. I stopped by Whole Foods for an easy dinner option for myself, and I saw a few things in the deli section that seemed very appropriate for MetaToddler, too. So, we shared some stuff.
  • Quinoa Cakes - A little patty made of quinoa, spinach, carrots, and zucchini.
  • Zucchini Potato Latke - A little patty made of potato, onion, and zucchini.
  • Pureed Yams - Tasty, sweet, and a nice way to add a little creaminess to the patties.
He loved dinner, and MetaMommy's still in one piece at the end of the night.

Woo Hoo!

Caffeine During Pregnancy

When I was pregnant with MetaBaby, I remember hearing either (1) don't drink any caffeine or (2) drink one or two cups per day. It was ambiguous, but since I wasn't hooked on caffeine, I just gave it up cold turkey. It was only really difficult on those days when I struggled in waking up...ugh.

But now there's a study confirming the dangers of caffeine during pregnancy. The strange thing is that caffeine in moderate amounts is actually dangerous.
"They found that women who consumed 200 milligrams or more of caffeine daily — the equivalent of two or more cups of coffee or five 12-ounce cans of soda — had twice the risk for miscarriage. Moreover, the study found that even those women who consumed less than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily had about 40 percent increased risk for miscarriage."
That's huge!

More important, 200 milligrams is hard to quantify because it can vary based on various things like the size of the cup of coffee, the roast of the bean, and how the coffee is brewed.

NPR's article listed the caffeine content of some of the more common sources of caffeine, which I found eye-opening.

Coffee & Energy Drinks
Starbucks Latte, 16 oz.: 150 mg
Coffee, brewed, 8 oz.: 95 mg
Red Bull, 8.3 oz.: 76 mg
Espresso, 1 oz.: 64 mg
Instant coffee, 8 oz.: 64 mg
Coffee, decaf, brewed, 8 oz.: 2 mg

Black tea, 8 oz.: 47 mg
Green tea, 8 oz.: 30-50 mg
Herbal tea, 8 oz.: 0 mg

Mountain Dew, 12 oz.: 54 mg
Diet Coke, 12 oz.: 47 mg
Dr Pepper, 12 oz.: 41 mg
Pepsi, 12 oz.: 38 mg
Diet Pepsi, 12 oz.: 35 mg
Coca-Cola Classic, 12 oz.: 35 mg
Barq's Root Beer, 12 oz.: 23
7Up/Sprite, 12 oz.: 0 mg

Excedrin, Extra Strength, 2 tablets: 130 mg
Hershey's Chocolate Bar, 1.55 oz.: 9 mg
Hot cocoa, 8 oz.: 8 mg
Chocolate milk, 8 oz.: 6 mg

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Doggies in Need

A friend alerted me to such a tragic story because her neighbor was involved in the rescue efforts. Hundreds of neglected animals were found and rescued on a ranch in Lancaster, California.

Animals Rescued From 'Deplorable' Ranch

If you can afford the space, time, and love, volunteers are desperately in need of doggie parents.

Are Kids' Sugary Drinks Safe?

I'm pretty paranoid about the unknown and questionable ingredients in juices and other drinks marketed to kids. As such, I'm very curious to hear about the Environmental Working Group's data on kids' sugary drinks. If you are too, consider taking their survey. It's ridiculously quick and easy.

Is your child drinking pesticides and benzene? Both have been
found in sugary drinks like juice, sports drinks, and soda.

The government collects data on how much water and milk
children drink, but lumps all sodas and fruit juices together.

Environmental Working Group needs your help to learn about
what your kids are actually drinking -- and how safe it is. I just
took the survey. They'll even send you a free update when
they've analyzed the results.

Click here to take the quick survey:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Evils of Auto Bill Pay

An interesting situation with regards to automatic billing by Dreamhost, a website hosting company. Their blunder caused customers $7.5 million in far!

Mrs. Michah's post (via CFO), which sums up the whole story, reminds me of a similar situation my husband faced several years ago. He signed up to automatic billing with Verizon, and all was good. Until they goofed and triple charged him for something to the tune of several hundred dollars. This duplicate amounts were deducted from his account because Verizon was authorized to do so. After about six months of back and forth on the phone, he got his refund. He also canceled all automatic bill payments.

Instead, he signed up for a service with a new company at the time, PayTrust. The idea is similar, but it puts a lot more control in the payees hands. PayTrust receives your bill and scans it in so it's available for viewing any time. The best part is that you can set up rules on whether a bill gets automatically paid. For example:
If balance is less than $100.00, Total due. If balance is $100.00 or over, do not pay this bill, but send me e-mail notification.


Recurring, $400.00, Once a Month
We have a manual setup for all credit card payments so we can review them before payment. And we can make a one-time payment to someone in a few clicks. We could do this ourselves, but it's included in the monthly fee, and that's one less stamp we have to use :-)

This also comes in handy for us because when we travel, we don't have to worry about bills getting misplaced, lost, or forgotten. We can schedule stray payments in advance so they get paid regardless of whether we have net access.

Now, as an accountant, I like to think I'm pretty good at managing payments and such so that we shouldn't need this service. And I made the point to my husband early on. However, here's why we still have it:
  • It's an invaluable resource when we travel.
  • They also scan in all of our bills so we don't have to, and we can order a copy of the year's bills on a CD for $19.95.
  • We never made a late payment during those scatterbrained days of my pregnancy, or during the sleepless ones once MetaBaby hit the scene.
  • MetaDaddy, who's very on top of our financial situation as well, has access to the website. It's a foothold in reality to remind him of where we stand. And when he gets home, he can peruse Quicken to further settle his curiosity.
At $10.95 per month ($131.40 per year), some might think it too expensive and not worth it. But for us at this point in our lives, it's definitely than worth it. And far safer than auto bill pay.

Friday, January 18, 2008

High-Tech Trash

Just an important reminder to recycle and avoid waste, especially some kind. We really are liable for the contribution of so many toxic elements to underdeveloped nations. We'd be irresponsible to claim that we donate money and resources to those in need if we also serve to destroy their ecosystem.

Toxic components of discarded electronics are ending up overseas.
"In a poor suburb of New Delhi, India, where informal e-waste processing is a common household business, a man pours molten lead smelted from circuit boards. His family uses the same pots for cooking—a potentially deadly practice."
Please dispose of your old computers, monitors, etc. in an environmentally conscious way. Contact your city about local household hazardous waste programs.

Santa Monica Household Hazardous Waste - Recycling & Disposal

The Economy of Scarves

I love scarves. They're fun and versatile, and I can even manage to use them in Los Angeles weather, which many would argue is scarf-proof. I'm a sweater sort of girl, so I can find away. Snow, you say? Ya, can't handle that. You can't have it all, I suppose.

So I love browsing at scarves. I hear about a lovely new one, and I want to see a picture, or run it through my grubby little fingers. When I read about Leigh and Luca at Daily Candy, I was tempted. Until I saw the inconspicuous price tags ranging from about $500 to $800.


I can imagine there are a relative handful of people who can actually afford that price tag. People to whom money is no object. However, most people don't fall into that category. And yet, ridiculously expensive fashion items get sold every day. Yes, the softening of the economy has brought it all to a slow down, but that actually reinforces my theory that people who couldn't afford the purchases were driving the sales. Now that they can't afford the luxury items, sales have slowed. Tiffany, Coach, and Burberry, to name a few, have all felt the pinch.

I worked at a business management firm that had wealthy celebrity clients. The best thing I learned was that some of the people who were impeccably dressed and earning stellar money were spending more than they could realistically afford. $10K a month on clothes is one house per year in some places. You could see on paper that they could never afford to stop working because of their spending habits. Obviously, if they reduced their spending, they'd be pretty well off financially in the long term. But it just reinforces my point of view that the luxuries that people buy today are funded with tomorrow's retirement accounts.

And all for a fancy scarf.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Fast Do You Type?

This is fun, but annoyingly addictive.

Learn to Type

If you prefer a different language or keyboard (e.g., UK keyboard), click the "pause" to start, and click on "[star]English(US)" at the middle of the top of the page. Select your preferred options and click start.

Once you start typing the text as it appears at the top of the screen, the website gives you an idea of how many words you type per minutes, as well as your errors...not that you make any errors ;-)

The biggest thing to get past is that the words are not always real, so you have to type without reading.

Oh, and obviously, this is a good tool to learn to type, too!

Via Green LA Girl

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christmas Card Ideas

I saw the best Christmas card ever at my doctor's office's wall. The border was a sweet string of "Merry Christmas." The center was a photo of who I can only imagine are the sender's two girls (ages ~6 months and ~2 to 3 years). The girls are sitting next to each other on a bench. However, this is where it gets good. They are both crying. I mean full on shrieking. The 6 month old is bright red, and you can practically see the tongue quaking with all of it's precious baby-ness. And the toddler looks like she's trying to escape from the baby.

I'm not saying it's a pretty scene, but it's full of reality. And though we don't have the fearful duty of caring for a toddler and infant, I can only imagine that this photo is a lot more representative of a family Christmas than the sweetly posed pair we've all seen.

I'm just saying.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bracing Myself

Sometimes I do things that I regret as soon as it's too late to back out.

I'm getting braces.

I'm in my 30s, with a husband and kid, and I'm getting braces. Funny enough, I just heard a story on NPR about adults who go to the trouble and expense of cosmetic dentistry. One person said she had braces as a teenager, but now at 53, her teeth have reverted back to their crooked positions. Apparently, teeth have a good memory. Maybe they can help me find my phone the next time it's ringing during MetaBoy's nap.

And here's another article where a 47-year old woman detailed her experiences with braces...after forcing her son to endure the torture. He had his fun with that ;-)

But I digress.

Some background. Obviously, I didn't get braces as a teenager...otherwise, I probably wouldn't be posting about this. My teeth are only slightly crooked, but they're pretty compacted. How bad is it? I hate flossing because it leaves my teeth hurting for the rest of the day. So I floss infrequently and at night. I've also come to notice that since my upper molars don't sit flat on my lower molars, my lower teeth are wearing down at an angle, which will likely lead to problems down the road. Oh, and one tooth is crooked and bothers me aesthetically. However, there's no way I would do this if it was just for that one tooth. I'm just saying.

A couple of other reasons for giving in to this ridiculous whim of mine:
  • My orthodontist said it should take about 8 months, which really didn't seem like a significant time the time.
  • We had enough FSA money left over in 2007 that it was worth looking into what we could benefit from spending it on. This was added to the fact that our dental plan is pretty generous with orthodontia.
  • I'm not working, which means I don't have to convince people to respect my authority despite my height, gender, and youthful appearance. Braces would not have worked to my advantage at work, so this is as good a time as ever to follow through with it.
  • My husband's theory is that if I'm happy, everyone's happy. Truly the mark of a smart man.
As for the gear, I chose braces over Invisalign, which are a series of trays that fits over your teeth to slowly move them into place. While I was a candidate for them, my orthodontist pointed out that they take longer and are on average only 80% effective. He's had patients who need braces for a couple of months after Invisalign to attain a healthy bite. That meant that it would have costed more, taken longer, and might not have yielded final results. I am.

This past week, I had spacers put in, which are 8 teeny tiny rubber bands inserted between 4 molars. They're put in place with floss, which was actually a challenge because it's hard enough to get floss in at the best of times. Nevermind if you're leaving little rubber bands behind. A couple of days after I could feel my teeth had moved because my bite feels misaligned. Between that and the movement of the teeth in general, chewing is actually quite a challenge right now. I can't chew anything hard. I can hardly chew soft things, mostly opting for MetaBaby-soft food. An interesting side-effect is that I truly appreciate Boogie's teething pain more than ever. I also shrink at the thought of people who go for years with dental pain, and don't get it fixed. MetaDaddy apparently spent 10 years chewing on one side because he was avoiding a root canal. Yes, a root canal sucks. But 10 years of chewing on one side? Seriously?!?

Had I known the pain was going to start once the spacers were in, I would have had a ridiculous buffet send-off of hard, sticky, chewy foods like steak, ribs, apples, gum, cucumber...ugh, and how I miss salad.

Next week, the hardware.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Our Hitting Toddler

My most recent Google search? Toddler Hitting.

The most applicable result: Why Does My Toddler Hit Me?

He'll walk over to one of us and hit...and hit and hit and hit. Then, the laughter starts. We stop him, and firmly address his behavior, but he just seems to find the whole thing laugh-out-loud funny. Über frustrating. Are we doing something wrong? He stops doing other naughty things after one or two requests, so why is this behavior so hard to break?

Per this website, it turns out he's testing boundaries. So when he hits us and laughs, we're meant to firmly say "no hitting" while looking him in the eyes so he focuses. Keep cool and be consistent. He will continue hitting...I guess until he gets over the novelty of it.


Any other experiences out there? How did/are you handling it?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Around the Internet

Organize Cable with Paper Towel Tubes - Ah, brilliant moments in frugality. Cables, cords, and Christmas lights all wrangled with something most of us having lying around.

A Brief Overview of the Alternative Minimum Tax - I've been hearing about AMT for years, but only because we've been subject to it lately. While it was originally meant to assure that the wealthy paid their fair share, AMT, which wasn't tied to inflation, has really turned into a burden on the middle class. In fact, our accountant pointed out that AMT could affect tax payers earning $50,000 per year. Even worse, those earning in excess of $3 million would be able to bypass it all together. Tell me it doesn't hurt to hear that.

New cars that are fully loaded — with debt - A friend sent me this interesting article. Consumers who can't afford an auto upgrade have found a friend in their auto dealer. Or have they? Some dealerships eager to make a sale will offer zero money down to drive off in a brand new car. Just trade in your old (though likely still new) car and sign on the dotted line. But most buyers probably don't realize they're severely under water in their loan until it's too late. This goes hand in hand with the risky home mortgages Americans have been signing up for, leaving them and the mortgage company in a lose-lose situation. It's likely to hurt the auto industry even more if people realize they can't afford a new car for many, many years.

The Exchange Rate - The Euro vs The Dollar - The Declining Dollar - A dollar earning American's description of how the declining dollar has affected her bottom line while living in France. I can tell you every Euro spent must hurt because it pained us in Ireland, and we were only there for 2 weeks! We're crossing our fingers for a stronger dollar for our next visit...whenever that might be.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jib Jab's 2007

Jib Jab summarizes the goings on in 2007. Good for a chuckle :-D

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Frank Oz on Sesame Street

Wow...despite having directed more than one dozen movies over the years, he still does Sesame Street!

Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster...bringing joy to big & little kids everywhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Recipe: Quesadillas and Salsa

Dinner was all about leftovers tonight. We made a roast chicken on Sunday night, which left us with some juicy chicken. But how to keep it from getting boring.

OK, I love quesadillas, but only with the right accompaniments. For me, that would be sour cream, salsa, and gaucamole (though I'm happy enough with just mashed avocado). This was the first time I actually ventured into homemade quesadilla territory. It was good. And we'll be coming back.

Making a quesadilla is only as complicated as the ingredients you set out to use. The cheese was from a pre-grated mix. I also had a jar of smoked bell peppers, which added a rich, smoky flavor. I used 1/2 an onion in making the salsa, so I sliced up the rest and sauteed it in some olive oil until soft.

As for accompaniments, there really wasn't much to that either. I made the salsa (recipe below) because it's pretty quick, easy, and so very tasty. I always have avocado on hand for MetaBoy, but the sour cream was a special purchase. I'm thinking of making a chocolate cake with the leftover sour cream, but we'll see how that goes.

The tortillas was a special purchase, and kind of an experiment. For the best flavor, make stuff yourself, right? Well, of all of the crazy things I've made or considered making at home, tortillas has never made the list. No-siree-bob. Instead, I went to a local favorite Mexican restaurant that makes excellent tortillas and asked about buying a few. I only bought what I needed (instead of a store-bought pack of 2 dozen that inevitably goes to waste).

Cheese, grated
Chicken, shredded
Roasted bell pepper, jarred
Sauteed onion

Lay the tortilla on a flat surface. Cover half with cheese, and sprinkle on other ingredients, as desired. Close with other half and heat in a pan for about 2 minutes on each side. Cut into 3 wedges with a sharp knife.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, or anything else your heart desires ;-)

2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (stems and leaves)
1/2 lime
1 chile, diced small (optional)
Salt to taste

Drain the tomatoes for about 1/2 an hour to reduce fluid in the salsa. For a quicker version, cut the tomato in half, squeeze the pulp out, then dice the tomatoes. Add in all of the other ingredients and mix.

Overall, it went well. If anything, it was too good because I think I ate too much. Oh bother.

Even better, I've got leftover salsa!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mercedes Roadside Assistance

We don't have a Mercedes Benz, but I found this interesting. Roadside assistance is available for the life of the car. That's pretty cool. Don't know if it's worth actually buying a MB just for the free towing. However, it's good to know if you currently own an aging Mercedes. Of if you're prone to running out of gas :-o
"Throughout the life of your Mercedes-Benz, a Roadside Assistance expert is just a toll-free call away. Call 1-800-FOR-MERCEDES (1-800-367-6372) for assistance any time you're on the road, day or night, if you have a problem related to your Mercedes-Benz."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Travel: A Helpful Hoodie

This is a great idea. A hooded sweatshirt that's made to make your travel easier. Well, easier if you're not traveling with a toddler. In fact, if you had this sweater, you wouldn't even notice those pesky toddlers any more ;-)

I'm just saying.

Some cool features:
  • Hidden Stash Pocket with Ear Plugs
  • Armpit Zippers [for ventilation]
  • Removable, Inflatable Neck Pillow
  • Snap-Out Light Shield [to cover your eyes]
  • Sound Pocket with Headphone Cable Port
  • Zippered, Internal Passport and Ticket Pocket

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Cat Humor

I always wondered what the trombone was connected to...

Via I Can Has Cheezburger

Annoyed? Can't remember that song? Dry Bones ;-)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Traveling with a Cold

Caught a mild cold in Ireland. No biggie. It did however sweep over the household in all of it's mildness. A few sneezes and sniffles, but no more. There were no aches and pains. No severe bouts of exhaustion.

Then, we got on the plane. The sneezing and coughing in a confined space laden with dry, recirculated air is not pleasant. Symptoms were exaggerated, as is my memory of it all. Upon descending on our approach home, my annoying but tolerable sinus pressure hit a high point where sharp pains started attacking my eye. It felt like needles were plunging into my eyebrows, and all I could do was apply pressure to relieve the pain. Incredulous, I was really to drive to my doctor when we got off the plane. MetaDaddy said I should just chalk it up to flying with sinus pressure. Grr.

When we got home, the "mild" cold actually got worse and I started experiencing exhaustion and various other symptoms, surely not aided by jet lag. That night we went to sleep at 7, and after waking several times due to congestion, I woke up for good at 2 A.M. along with MetaToddler. He was seemingly struggling with jet lag, so after spending about an hour with MetaDaddy, I took over for the night (he had work the following day, and I was already awake for the night). MetaToddler didn't go back to sleep until his 11 A.M. nap, and I didn't go back to sleep until 8 that night. Oddly enough, I didn't feel too tired, so I didn't feel like I was unduly pushing myself (despite what MetaDaddy says). Except for MetaDaddy, we all slept a bit better than night. Apparently, I was breathing heavily, on the verge of verbalizing my exhales. I think I heard it a couple of times, but for the most part, I was ignorant to my moans. Poor MetaDaddy!

Thursday went well, until the evening. I suddenly got ridiculously tired, and it was all I could do to drag myself to the dinner table to eat, much less make dinner. Frozen leftovers came in handy there. Mmm...coq au vin, courtesy of MetaDaddy.

While overall I was better, my cough got worse, which is par for the course for me. I forgot what my doctor called it, but when I get a certain kind of cold, I have a kind of asthmatic reaction causing difficulty breathing. It also means I have unproductive coughs, so I cough more often. The result is a severely sore throat after a while, potential coughing attacks where I can't catch my breath, and a cough that lingers for weeks past the initial cold. When I started using an inhaler, it made a huge difference, including reducing the longevity of the lingering cough. However, I don't like the edgy, shaky reaction I get from using it, so I keep it to a minimum. Last night I used it, and sleep went well for everyone, including MetaDaddy.

Fortunately, MetaToddler didn't experience a similar escalation of symptoms like I did. I'm past the worst of it, and should be up and dancing with him in no time.

Good Times!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Nonsense People Buy

Saw an ad for Special K Protein Water today. there nothing people won't buy?

Note: An interesting comment on WiseBread.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Annoyances of Flying

Why do kids and parents get all the dirty looks, but little to no help in coping with the difficulties of flying?

Consider this. If I'm flying with a baby, and you're flying alone with the intention of a peaceful flight, wouldn't it be easier on you if I had the resources to help my child cope with the stresses of flying? Don't give me dirty looks because that only makes me bitter and frustrated. And don't make snide comments to the couple with the lovely, quiet child like "YOU have such a well-behaved child" while glaring at me. If my child is crying, it's probably because he's tired, frustrated, ill, or uncomfortable. He's miserable, and I'm miserable because I can't stand to see him cry. If you want to make it better, make faces or mildly engage him. He's not made of slime.

And if you're really serious about a peaceful, quiet flight, bring a pair of noise-reduction headphones (pretty cheap these days) and wear a hooded sweatshirt. No one will bother you and you won't hear a thing.

So be nice or stay in your corner. You're only making things worse with your unpleasantness.