Saturday, July 30, 2011

Did I just read that?

This is an interesting sentence that would be hard to construct on purpose (but is magnificent accidentally). It can be read so that either of the events came first, depending on how you place the emphasis:

"They were attending a political youth retreat on a resort island when an anti-immigrant extremist opened fire, soon after setting off a bomb in the nearby capital, Oslo."

Did I just read that?

"Wyoming Paleontology Dispatch #3: How to date a fossil"

I guess dinner and a movie are out?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did I just read that?

""We can't dictate how someone choses to drive behind a vehicle, but there are certainly things that we have done, and that we're willing to do, to make that area as safe as possible," said Nicole Martin, spokeswoman for Herriman City."

Most of us drive INSIDE a vehicle, not behind it. But hey, to each his own, right?

Did I just read that?

"In June 2008, an 8-month-old was injured when the baby's stroller was hit by a bullet bike. Dylan Stroud, 3 years old at the time, suffered a broken leg."

Apparently, getting hit by a bullet bike makes you grow up really fast.

Why I'm not jealous of Obama today

If a bill gets passed by Congress, and Obama vetoes it, the default is his fault.

If a bill gets passed by Congress, and he signs it, he caved.

By his overly strong stand and absolute refusal to negotiate, compromise, or even listen (again), he set himself up for failure no matter what happens.

Makes me glad I'm not in his shoes. Again.

Kazoo Success!

I already chronicled the tries and fails.

Here's the success:

White chocolate clay, custom-made with my own tweaked recipe (6 oz white almond bark/candy quik/candy  melt, melted, plus 1 tbsp corn syrup), tinted with gel food coloring.


Mold of a kazoo made by melting 3/4 bag chocolate chips and pouring them into a tray made from aluminum foil. Then I marked the center line on a kazoo, greased the thing, and pressed it into the chocolate. Into the fridge to set up, pry the kazoo out, and we have a perfect mold. It works even better when it's frozen.

So I use a paint brush to dust the mold with cornstarch. Then I knead a small ball of chocolate clay, flatten it, dust it with corn starch, too, and press it into the mold. If the mold is frozen, the clay is ready to pull out immediately. I have to make the kazoo in two halves. While one is stiffening in the fridge (so it won't lose its shape when I press them together), I make the other. Then I press the warm fresh side onto the cold side and smooth them together.


An edible kazoo that looks like real plastic and can be eaten quickly on camera.

Also, they taste really good.

Interesting side note: You can make the chocolate clay and flavor it with Kool-aid powder, but it causes the fat to separate from the chocolate all by itself. Bonus points (and maybe a chocolate kazoo, but if you're out of Colorado, you'll have to wait for cooler weather before I can ship it to you) to the person who can tell me the chemistry behind this!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocolate Clay Recipe

14 oz candy melt (like candy quik or almond bark)
1/3 c light corn syrup or sweetened condensed milk

Melt the candy melt, stir in the corn syrup. There you have it.

The texture is improved with letting it sit overnight before you sculpt with it, though.

Really, any amount of corn syrup/sc milk stirred into the chocolate will make it have a playdough texture.

We did 1 bag of chocolate chips plus 5 tablespoons corn syrup, and that worked.

Also did 7 oz candy melt plus 6 tbsp corn syrup, and that worked too.

Makes into perfect tootsie rolls!

The Kazoo Chronicles

I've been married to Tim for long enough now that I didn't find it odd at all when he emailed me from the studio and said, "I need an edible kazoo."

It wasn't until several hours later that I thought, "Most men ask their wives for cookies. Or a loaf of bread. Mine asks for an edible kazoo."

So there was a little talk, a little "what is this going to be used for? Does it have to be playable?" kind of discussion, and I got the requirements:

Has to look like a real plastic kazoo.
Has to be able to be eaten quickly on camera.
Why? To be funny.

So I set to work.

First order of business--a real kazoo I could experiment with. This was easy to find--Tim has a drawer full of kazoos. I found one that lost its zzzz. I usually fix the ones that temporarily lose their zzzz--but this was broken beyond repair. So I adopted it.

Second, I needed a mold. And it needed to be made of things I had on hand, and it needed to be non-toxic (or at least leave no toxic residue). And, since my first thought was a lollipop kazoo, it needed to be able to withstand high temperatures.

My solution: Frosting. I made a batch of royal icing (the kind that is used as icing glue for gingerbread houses) and added enough powdered sugar that it turned into a nice dough. Pressed the kazoo into it and let it sit to harden.

It didn't harden.

So I froze it.

I realized I couldn't have standard lollipop concoction because it needed to not be see-through (or it wouldn't look like kazoo plastic), so I made a batch of lollipop sugar but melted a bunch of butterscotch candies in it. That worked. I dusted the cold mold with powdered sugar and poured in the hot candy, swirling it around up the edges, and then dumped out the excess, leaving a nice, half-kazoo-shaped shell. Then I let that set up.

It stuck to the frosting. Not a problem--I pulled it off. But it didn't come all the way off, even after I washed it.  It also didn't hold its shape well, so it was too narrow to be a real kazoo. It was still see-through (didn't look like plastic!) and the parts that weren't stuck over with frosting were shiny and looked like orange glass. Parts were too thick to bite through, parts were sharp when they broke, so it wasn't something you could eat quickly on camera. Plus, it stuck your teeth together.

Kazoo fail.

Made a batch of marshmallow fondant--too soft and drapey to look like a hard plastic kazoo. That will have to go on Caleb's birthday cake, I guess.

So I made a new mold out of tin foil. Looked good enough. This time, I made a new batch of icing, dyed it green with food coloring, and put it into plastic bags. Then I squirted it into the mold in a nice thin layer and set it aside to dry overnight. The exposed surface dried. The stuff underneath didn't. And it stuck hard to the foil.

Kazoo fail.

More internet searching and I went back to the kitchen and filled a small dish with cornstarch and pressed the kazoo into that. It was a nice idea--but a kazoo is too big to make a good cornstarch mold. Still, it looked decent, so I poured hot candy melt into it. The half-kazoo that came out didn't have a nice smooth texture, and the shape wasn't pristine. But it did take a painted-on coating of food coloring pretty well. Didn't look quite real.

Kazoo fail. Daniel ate that one (because candy melt is YUMMY). And the kids had a glorious time experimenting with cornstarch in the bathroom.

More searching, and I came across a recipe for chocolate clay, made from candy melt so it was white.

So I took out the other half-kazoo mold made from royal icing dough (it had been sitting in the freezer all this time), and I dusted it with cornstarch and pressed the chocolate clay into it. Let it set up for a few minutes, and pulled out a decent model of a kazoo. And then everyone devoured the extra chocolate clay because it tasted SO good. It also had the right "eat"--could be devoured quickly on camera, with a texture exactly like fresh tootsie rolls (in fact, I made a second batch from milk chocolate chips, and it tasted exactly like tootsie rolls, too).

So I found my material. But when I painted it with food coloring, it didn't take the coloring evenly.

So I made a new batch, mixing the coloring into the corn syrup in the recipe, but it ruined the texture of the chocolate clay.

New batch, split in two parts. One colored with gel coloring--worked great. One colored with orange Kool-aid powder. That was interesting. In the candy melt, it just looked lightly pink. But when I added the corn syrup and stirred, it blossomed into a nice orange color! Very cool. Anyway, that tasted good, too.

So I realized I needed a better mold for my kazoo.

And that's as far as we've gotten. Right now, I have a kazoo sitting in a pan of chocolate in the kitchen--we're going to try to make the mold out of chocolate (since I always work on this at midnight and can't just go buy plasticene, which is what I hear you're supposed to use, at midnight).  If that works, I'll press chocolate clay into the mold and we'll have a white chocolate kazoo, dyed blue with gel food coloring, that will look plastic and eat well.

If that doesn't work, we have had suggested to us to carve one out of a giant carrot and to try making one from fruit roll ups. So those are the next tries.

Can't wait to see what Tim has in mind to DO with an edible kazoo.

baby habits

Babies have this lovely habit of mouthing anything that becomes interesting. This generally involves lots of drool.

Elijah is a baby.

He recently became interested in my teeth.


I am learning to dodge. Quickly.

Things I Heard Today:

"Mom, are you making Rockamole?" (Benji)

Ah, cute!

"Mom! Lathie is playing with honey in the floor!" (Benji)

Ah, crap.

Fortunately, it wasn't honey after all.

Unfortunately, it was corn syrup. But only half a bottle.

Good thing we have wood floors. And a spatula. And a wet towel.

Phew. Hope I never hear that one again!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Did I just read that?

Really Really Fuzzy math on Rebecca Black's new video (

There are lots of other things I could say about that  video (including "stylist?" and "is there a girl under that makeup?" and "autotune?" and Why do young teens always pick such self-centered videos?). But we'll leave it at that: 8690+2241=302

Sorry not doing much here lately.....

I'm not posting much here lately. Sorry about that.

I'm neck-deep in links right now, trying to tease out a new-and-improved Kindergarten curriculum for Learning Lynx Classroom ( I'm also starting research to do a PE program on there--one of the things that are more difficult for homeschoolers to do at home because PE programs are all designed for group sports. Homeschooling families tend to  be larger than average, but with so many different ages of kids, sports are still really difficult to do on a daily basis at home. So I'm doing research on that. So far, I have the Presidential Fitness challenge, dance, challenge activities, and a few websites of family fun games/activities on my radar. We'll see how it comes out.

I've also started working on my novel again. Gotta get that one done and out of my sight! I can't just keep rewriting the first chapter forever. At some point I have to call it good enough and move on! (And yes, I did a complete rewrite on it yet again. I think I've redone (complete re-do from scratch) the first chapter at least a dozen times, but the whole book only once).

And I have a 20 lb baby who doesn't like to be put down. And he wiggles a lot and wants me to help him be involved in what the other kids are doing. So there is that.

Caleb Created a Web Site

He's been writing a sprite comic on and off for a few years now, and the site he was hosting it on went to inactive status. Old stuff is still there, but no new stuff.

So he created a website to host his sprite comic, and he did a good job. I especially love the color scheme and the introductory paragraph on the home page. Kid's a good writer!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Man accused of killing girlfriend, stuffing body in 
bin now deemed competent for trial"

So the format of the headline really made the minor grammatical issue big.  On the page it was printed with a line break like above.

So now the bin is competent for trial.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Theodory tries to real it back in, but her utter shock produces giggles and a shortness of breath (that might also have to do with the temperature of the water)."

I guess she needs to real it back in because she got faked out?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Did I just read that?

I didn't screenshot this because the picture was nasty and my kids read my blog, but there was an ad on the sidebar of that had a big picture of a woman in a bikini with a large pink "sticker" on it that says, "Make $$$$ shooting models."

Great!  Where's my gun?

Did I just read that?

"Boughey and her partner, Craig Hill, 27, an ambulance driver, had even planned Kian’s funeral.Kian has undergone dozens of operations on an almost daily basis since he was born nearly two years ago, including a risky operation when he was just over 7 years old which doubled the width of his windpipe."

Read more:

Pretty tricky, being born nearly 2 years ago and being just over 7 years old!

And he has dozens of operations almost every day.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


I finished my free online preschool. It's geared toward kids 3-5 years old--pre-kindergarten more than preschool.

It's fun. It's free. It's online.

It's here:

Did I just read that?

""The last thing that employers need is further disincentives to not hire people, and that's what higher taxes would mean," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas."

I don't think that means what he thinks it means.

The opposite of "disincentives to not hire" is "incentives to not hire".  Or, you could oppositize it this way, "Disincentive to hire." 

So, following his logic, the FIRST thing employers need is more incentives to not hire people..... because they're hiring too many people at the moment, right?

Double negative makes a positive in math, and it does in this sentence, too.

Someone needs to give politicians plain-language lessons. Just say what you mean, folks. It's as simple as that!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Bad writing trend.

I read nonfiction. For fun.

Lately, I'm always in a hurry at the library, so I've been grabbing a few nonfiction titles from the "new books" shelves in the adult section of the library.

I'm seeing a distressing trend in the newest adult nonfiction. The authors are writing what should be compelling nonfiction works as though they are working on college papers. And not even good ones.

If I read the phrase, "In this book, I intend to....." one more time, I might scream. Seriously. Don't tell me what you're going to tell me. Just say it already! And telling me what you are intending to do makes it sound like you're doubtful you're going to do it. Well, since I know you read that manuscript a dozen times after you wrote it, you might just figure out if you DID what you intended to do and stop telling me what you intended.  And not only are the authors saying this, they're saying it over and over and over. And over. Again.  As a writing teacher, I always tell my students to avoid the word "I" for this very reason. It's not bad to put yourself in your writing, but it must be done judiciously. And telling me what you are going to tell me isn't judicious. Or helpful. I  KNOW it's what you're going to tell me when you just tell me. So just tell me already and stop cheapening your rhetoric by introducing places for me to doubt what you are saying. Confidence includes trusting that what you said made sense without you having to tell me what you were going to say first. And if you have no confidence in the topic, why are you writing on it?

Another definitely un-compelling habit I'm seeing: academic summaries of the entire book in a few pages. Why? If I'm going to read a thorough abstract, why would I then go on and read the entire book? Especially if you made the abstract so complete, you answered every question and solved every mystery in the first few pages? In one book I tried to read, the author included a 7-page introduction that just flat-out stated the answer to every mystery involved in the story. It might be useful academically, but it makes for a TERRIBLE reading book. Terrible. Such poor form! So I read the introduction and then, with no mysteries to keep me reading, couldn't force myself through Sarah Winchester's household receipts any longer. (Nor could I stomach the author's clear extrovert-centric view of the world when she was writing about an introvert (she kept trying to both dispute and prove, at the same time, that Sarah Winchester was eccentric. Really, she was an introvert.). Way to make a truly compelling, interesting character from history into something unbearably boring.)

Another distressing trend: starting over. Again. And again. The authors of these new books are putting in introductions that read like Wikipedia articles, complete with spoilers. Then the first chapter reads like a traditional introduction, complete with "In this book, I hope to discuss....." kinds of statements. Makes me want to knock on their computer screens and say, "Hello? The book already started. You're too late to make statements like that!"

Nonfiction can and should be told compellingly. And it's not that hard. Really. Life is a story. Facts and interactions are interesting. Why belabor your points? Why try to force a decidedly academic form on a commercial nonfiction book?

Good writing is good writing. And these new nonfiction books are not good writing. Or good editing. Who's buying this stuff anyway?! It reads like a mixture of academia and self-published junk. And it's supposedly neither.

I mean, can you imagine if a  murder mystery author started her book with an introduction that was a full synopsis (beginning, middle, and end with complete spoiler), and then a first chapter that said things like, "In this book, I'm hoping to tell you about Sarah Silk Smallbones, who everyone thinks is the murderer but who isn't. I hope to show you, through short vignettes and a few longer scenes, that, while she had motive to kill Buster Keaton, it was, in fact, his dog's mistress who did the dirty deed by providing Mr. Keaton with a cocktail in which she had placed rat poison."

I can't believe he would even HINT at this

Just for the record, I'm a pretty big fan of equal rights for all humans. I've even in favor of civil unions that grant the same civil rights to couples regardless of their gender-attractions.

But I'm opposed to gay marriage.

You want to know why?

Read this:,8599,2079861,00.html

It is a LIE (open, barely even veiled one) that "it doesn't affect anyone else" and "we just want equal rights under the law".

And as long as any person, for any reason, is trying to infringe on my constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of religion (yes, even to believe religious doctrines that others find reprehensible--and for you to believe ones that I find reprehensible) I was saying, as long as anyone is trying to legislate my beliefs, I will fight that person tooth and nail.  I will never consent to or support laws that take away my freedom to believe in the Bible and to keep the temple a sacred house of God in keeping with His laws.

You don't have to believe what I believe. But you cannot take away my right to believe it. And say so.

Even if it offends you.

Read this, too:

I realize he acknowledges that "The state cannot force a church to change its beliefs. Even gay people realize that is wrong." Wrong to force a change of belief, he says, but notice he still wants to force a change of behavior--he still wants to be allowed to be married in the churches and temples, and he still finds it an incomplete victory because churches were not forced to join in.

The reality is this author, at least, sounds like he's anxious for us to stop saying he's sinning so he can get on with it with impunity. But even if they stop us from saying homosexuality is a sin, that doesn't stop it from being a sin. Say what you want--God will ultimately make the final judgments, regardless of what morality we try to legislate.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Did I just read that?

This might get the award for the best graduate school/program name ever:

"The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics is comprised of the Summer Writing Program and the Department of Writing & Poetics, which includes the MFA in Writing & Poetics, and the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing."

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Judge Belvin Perry has recessed court after the defense finished its closing statements in the Casey Anthony murder trial on Sunday, saying he wanted jury members to be "bright-eyed and busy-tailed." "
Read more:

Gives me a lot of confidence in that judge.....

What on earth is a "busy tail" anyway?

Google +

I liked Google Buzz, but nobody joined in.

I LOVE Google +. It's facebook, twitter, and google all rolled into one. Easy to use. Direct. Solved  a LOT of the facebook problems, and feels like it exists to serve me instead of me existing to serve it (FB is so egotistical).

So you all better go join. Right now.

Let me know if you need an invite.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Wandering with Melody Yellowvan

Tim had a gig in Laramie, Wyoming, and it was one of those that was set up just right that we could go with him.

So we went.

We left yesterday--the intention was to leave at noon, but that didn't happen. But we left by 2:00 or so and headed up to Fort Collins and then took the short cut (highway 287) up to Laramie, WY. It's a 2 hour drive, usually.

287 from Fort Collins to Laramie is one of the prettier drives around. Awesome rock formations. Broad, rolling meadows with big skies, fantastic canyons. There is one spot, not far above Fort Collins, where there are ridges on both sides of the road that look like someone broke the ground and tipped it up at an angle. On top of one of these ridges are two stone pillars--sometimes they look man-made, sometimes bizarrely symmetrical but still natural. Every time we drive by, I wonder if I hiked up there and walked between them, would I still be in the same world? It looks like a portal to another place or time....

Anyway, it was a nice, uneventful drive (except for Elijah deciding I needed to ride in the back with him half-way there).

We got to Laramie in good time. I have been through Laramie a million times, but I've never been TO Laramie before, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover a charming old town with BIG trees.

Tim took us first straight to the Laramie Plains Civic Center. The corner stone out front of the "new" section of the building says, "Laramie High School 1929". Inside, there is a giant bell, as big as the Liberty Bell (and looking enough like it that Caleb asked if it WAS the Liberty Bell) that says, "Laramie High School 1900" on it. One of the men who belonged to the building (I have no idea his role) said they tried to move the bell, but it was too big and heavy. So the kids climbed all over it.

Apparently, the Laramie Plains Civic center was the high school, and then downgraded to a junior high, and then, up until a year ago, was a "haunted house." It was deserted, beat up, and huge. So the city turned it into honestly the best civic center I've ever seen. And, in the process, they are restoring it.

And the building is gorgeous! The first thing I noticed was the theater, as Tim was unloading a few things in through the stage doors. BIG high stage area, nice sized stage, and a large theater (900 seater) with old walnut seats, which are being restored to have blue velvet on them in the lower level, solid walnut in the balcony. On one side are two-story-high windows. On the other, two-story-high murals depicting Wyoming history. They are apparently original to the building and look like gigantic Minerva Teichert paintings. Gorgeous.   The next thing I noticed were the fantastic floors--intricate tile work, mostly. Really cool. Then we noticed arched doorways, and restored paint. The theater's balcony lobby is not restored yet but is a beautiful space. Really great building.

From there, Tim dropped the kids and me off at the hotel and went back for his sound check. Later, Peter brought me the car and Tim called to say, "come to the show!"

So I fed the kids, changed the messiest of them into  clean clothes (we hadn't intended to see the show, so I didn't bring nice clothes for any of them. Oh, well), and went back to the venue.

We watched the second part of the first half of the show and the kids were good--but even good the lady in front of us kept turning around to glare at them. Sheesh!

Tim was doing something I wanted to see, too--integrating the solo live looping show with the Tim-singing-with-a-band show. This time it was Wonder Voice (a cappella cover band). It was coming across really well. I also wanted to sit and take notes on costuming (ongoing project, there--we haven't quite got the costuming right....). But no. After intermission, I sent Caleb and Anda and Dan in to see the show, and I took Nathie, Elijah, and Benji out. Right across the theater lobby from the theater was a gigantic open basketball gym, with more of those two-story-high windows. Within a few minutes, Daniel joined us. So, for the rest of the show, I had the kids climbing on the bell and running, running, running in the gym. Half-way through the second half, Anda joined us, too. When the boys got too tired and loud (mostly loud), we went outside and walked around and watched a bunny in a yard, and then went into the hallway that was 'back stage' but off the stage, and then everyone was worn out enough that we snuck back in to hear the encore.

It was really strange for me to sit in the theater and feel the vibe that the audience felt like they were watching "famous people" and it was MY husband up there on stage! So bizarre. It really was a good show, though, and the audience was really very pleased with it. So were the event organizers. That's all really good news, since Tim was sick!

After the show, I showed the kids the balcony, and they looked around and said, "Why is there a cannon up there?" I looked where they were pointing. "That's the spotlight," I said. "There's no light," They replied. "It's turned off," I explained. Benji looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Mom. Those are cannons."

The kids were hanging around while everyone broke everything down. Tim took them to the dressing rooms and let them look in the crawl space under  the stage. Even I wanted to cross through that low black hole to see where the light on the other side was coming in. Benji climbed right up into a chair in the dressing room and looked at himself in the mirror and was very happy to be there--he's my little music theater guy, so I should have guessed he'd feel comfortable and calm in a dressing room! Unfortunately, we couldn't stay--Nathanael was out in the hall trying to turn all the knobs and handles on all of the big under-stage pipes.

Despite his love of the dressing room, the bunny, the "cannons" and the gigantic gym, and the fun he had "painting" in the water he'd spilled on the stage floor after the show, Benji later said helping the sound guy put the "snake" (a giant electrical cable) away was his favorite part of the night. Had I included dancing in the list, he might have chosen that. He loved dancing to Wonder Voice, too.

While everyone was breaking stuff down, I went to thank the sound guy for doing a good job, and he said, "You're homeschoolers aren't you." What? Whoa. Yes, we are, how did you know? "We are, too," he said. I replied, "I guess you can identify other ones, then." He said, "Yeah. The kids are nice to each other, the play together, they talk to adults, they help each other out..." Oh. Yeah. Those same things I notice about other homeschoolers. It works!

From there, we headed to WalMart for food and then back to the hotel for dinner and bed. We ate microwaveable chinese food from the freezer section, and fresh fruit, and yogurt, and watched, "How It's Made" on TV (I love that show!). Then everyone went to bed except Caleb was having trouble breathing (a seafood allergy perhaps?) so benadryl was in order, and I needed a shower, and Nathie was picking on Elijah, so he had to get in the shower, too...

We did eventually all get to bed.

Then we got up early (8:45 am--can you believe that?!) and threw swimsuits and life jackets on the kids and took them swimming in the hotel pool. Benji took to the water eventually. So did Dan. Nathie didn't like it, even after I took him in carrying him. Elijah thought it was great, but cold. The kids played while Nathanael and I watched and played with Elijah. Tim took care of Benji.  It was fun.

We had to drag the kids out of the water finally because we had half an hour left to clean up and pack out. We almost made it--we were 15 minutes late....

Then we headed home. All six kids fell asleep in the car.

It was a gorgeous drive--wildflowers, rolling meadows, fluffy clouds, awesome rock formations, lots of places that made me and Tim both itch to get out and explore.

We tried to drive around and find the back side of the stone pillars, and, after some wandering, we did find the right place--but were afraid to take our old minivan up the curved, steep, dirt road while it was pulling the trailer. With a drop-off on one side, if we didn't find a turnaround at the top, we'd be in serious trouble.  So we abandoned that adventure until another day.

Had to stop at WalMart when we were almost home to put oil in the car, let the desperate kids go potty, and buy diapers. Gotta have those.

Now we're trying to cool our house back down and enjoying resting.