Thursday, January 30, 2014

Art Thursday - January 30th

It's Halloween in January!  Yes, it's got a haunted house, a witch (in the house), a pumpkin, a cat (above the house), a vampire (with the teeth!), a ghost, and a bat.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What-What?! Week of January 26th

Friday, my husband decided to start a blog, The Wizard's Rambles.  You'll find the picture of Saffron's finished Battlemech, which I posted the in-process shot of on Art Thursday.  He just started it, so it's pretty basic right now.

Food and Cooking:  Silicone Muffin Cups Review

For Christmas, I was given two different sets of silicone muffin cups, and having had used them for about a month now, I thought a review was in order.

I have to say, these are so great!  I like that I can pick up each cup individually and fill it, bringing the cup to the batter, rather than the other way around (I always make a mess getting the batter into the cups).  The muffins bake up well in the cups, and the cups themselves store easily in one of my kitchen drawers.  And while Ruffles should have ridges, silicone muffin cups should not; the little ridges on the side of each cup do make them difficult to clean.  I use paper cups when I make muffins or cupcakes in these, which is somewhat annoying, but I was using them with the conventional muffin pan anyway.

To avoid the cleaning issue, I suggest either using paper cups like I do, or buying ones that have fewer or no ridges.  The best I could find on Amazon were these ones made by Freshware, as seen above.

Cooking:  Oven French Toast with Creamy Peach Filling

This is a great breakfast or dinner.  Make it the night before for breakfast, or the morning of for dinner.  The filling and cutting up the bread can be made a day or two ahead of time, to make assembly quick.

  • 2 small cans Peaches
  • 8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons Sugar (granulated or brown)
French toast:
  • 1 loaf French Bread, cut into cubes
  • 8 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla
  • Dash of Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Butter or cooking spray
Drain the canned peaches, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.  Mix peaches, cream cheese, sugar together, mashing the peaches as you go.  If it seems too thick, add some of the reserved peach syrup.  Set aside.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan.  Do NOT forget this step.  It doesn't matter what you grease it with, be it butter, cooking spray, or the tears of your enemies, but grease it.  If you forget, you will be stuck at the kitchen sink for hours, wondering where your life went so wrong.


Beat eggs, milk, vanilla, and spices until well mixed.
Put half the French bread cubes into the pan, top with the filling, then the other half of the bread cubes.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap, then put in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, pull the pan out of the fridge and set the oven to 350 degrees.  Cover with foil, bake 45 minutes, uncovering for the last 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Art Thursday - January 23rd

Last night, my daughter started painting her first miniature!
Sometimes it's fun to have a little geekling. :D

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What-What?! Week of January 19th

Something Silly:  My Little Pony Movies on Netflix

Netflix just recently added a bunch of My Little Pony movies from the mid-2000's (scroll down to M).  It's from generation three era, so it's basically all cutesy ponies and little girl stuff.  If you don't have kids, I wouldn't recommend it whatsoever, but my children enjoy the films, especially the song and dance numbers.

As an MLP geek, I did want to point out The Runaway Rainbow, which follows the story of Rarity becoming the princess of Unicornia, is actually pretty accurate prehistory to the current My Little Pony TV series.  If you just pretend that this film is historical, and all the current ponies are named after these historical figures, it makes a lot more sense.

Something Serious: Closing the Word Gap Between Rich and Poor

Recently, NPR ran an article discussing the "word gap" between the rich and poor.  Research estimates that, by the age of three, poor children hear about 30 million fewer words than children from more affluent families.

The article quotes the mayor of Providence, RI, saying that two-thirds of RI kindergartners start out the year below national literacy averages.  However, the article and the mayor make no comments about the income backgrounds of those children.  This begs the question: Are these subpar literacy skills the result of the word gap, or other factors?  Further, if it is connected to the word gap, perhaps not speaking to your children is cultural to the area, not connected to economic background?

What bothers me about this research is that it is largely about the result -- the lack of words spoken to poor children -- as opposed to the reasons why this occurs.  The article posits a few reasons for the gap, but at the same time, these reasons seem to be in the vein that poor people don't know how to parent effectively.  Using this as an excuse to enact universal preschool is especially disgusting; not only would preschool would be a band-aid measure that "fixes" the problem after it's all ready happened, but it also acts on the assumption that 10-20 children in a room with one teacher for a few hours everyday is better than the more individual and substantial interaction from a parent.

Other research has found that low income families are more likely to watch TV and movies with their children, which takes time away from talking, playing, or reading books.  It would follow that this fact is involved with reducing interaction between parents and children, much more than simply "poor parents don't talk enough".  What's interesting, is that studies have shown that less parental life pressures, less parental screen time, and greater social support, are connected to reduced screen time in children.  Those factors are all probably connected:  More social support leads to less stress in life, thus parents are less likely to want to "veg out" in front of the TV after a long day.  If parents aren't watching TV, their children probably aren't, either.

(imgs via Wikipedia,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Art Thursday - January 16th

"Archery Day".
Features Elsa (in purple), Anna (in orange), from Disney's Frozen,
as well as Xena (in blue) and Nonny (also in purple), who are their "daughters".

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What-What?! Week of January 12th

This week is mostly a collection of random bits and bobs that I've collected over the past month or so.  I did get a great list of steampunk children's books put together, which you can also see using the links above.

News:  Paramount Citrus replaces Cuties brand with Wonderful Halos via The Packer

Wonderful Halos mandarins and clementines
This past week, my coworkers and I were talking about food, and we wound up talking about clementines, and the new Wonderful Halos brand.  While locally all I've seen are these, I know that the Cuties brand is also available in the next town over.  Interested to see what on Earth happened with the sudden disappearance of Cuties and the immergence of Halos, I turned to the internet.  Apparently what happened is that the companies Paramount Citrus and Sun Pacific had been partners, but this partnership ended, and as part of the deal, Sun Pacific bought the Cuties brand and logo.  Paramount Citrus then introduced the Wonderful Halos as a replacement for Cuties, and the company has spent about $20 million dollars in advertising the new brand in 2013.  There's been a lot of pushback from some of the Halos commercials ("ungrateful brats" was one description of the commercial), and after seeing the commercials myself, I understand why.  I think I'd rather buy Cuties.  I don't need my fruit to be angelic, you know?  I'd rather it be cute.

Nightingale Floors via Wikipedia and Youtube

On account of a Mythbusters episode, I was reading about ninjas, and came across these nifty floors.  They are made in such a way as to squeak when someone steps on it, thus becoming a ninja deterrent.

Wizard Quest, via

Wizard Quest in Wisconsin Dells, WI, is described as a "13000-square-foot fantasy-themed labyrinth".  Attendees solve geeky riddles and puzzles to "free" 4 trapped wizards, and if they manage to complete the quest within the time limit, they get a prize.

From the looks of it, this is cheesy in a pretty awesome way.  Some of the creatures and setting look cheap, but other portions, like the puzzle chest room, are quite well done.  The tunnel/ball pit thing makes me a little concerned about safety.

Apparently, there's also a little kids version called MagiQuest as well, which also seems really cool.  It actually might be cooler than Wizard Quest.  Unfortunately, the nearest one is in Centralia, Washington.  I want to go. >.>

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Art Thursday - January 9th

"Elsa Uses Her Magic" -- Saffron is currently obsessed with Elsa from Frozen.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What-What?! Week of January 5th

It's January!  That means I've been doing this blog for a nearly a whole year.

We were all sick again this week, so that's been somewhat miserable.  The rest of us just have colds, but the baby has a double ear infection AND acute bronchitis.  We woke up in the middle of the night, and he was having trouble breathing, so it made for another trip to the ER.  Luckily, at 3:30 in the morning, no one is at the ER that doesn't really want to be there, so at least we didn't wait long.  Less than 8 hours before, and all he had was a mildly runny nose.  Blah.

Oh!  I had an article published -- 4 Ways Sears Gets It Wrong via Yahoo! Voices.  I'm also working on another children's book collection post which I'll publish sometime this next week.

Horrific SG-1 "Lego" Toy Found at Target

Growing up, I watched the original Stargate film, as well as the TV shows, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (Stargate Universe does not exist in my world).  So when I saw this monstrosity of a toy at the local Target, I was both intrigued and disgusted.  When you first look at this Best Lock Jack on Abydos set, it doesn't seem so bad; the Stargate and DHD look true to the films, but then... then you get a look at Jack:
What's up with his face?  What happened?  Did the designer truly step back and say "that's exactly as I Intended"?  Had the designer ever actually seen a human before?  I have to wonder who on Earth gave Best Lock the license to make these toys, considering that the brand itself is third-tier knockoff Lego, with extremely poor reviews on  Don't be looking for this too hard in your local Target, though, because the reports I've seen say that it was part of the Christmas seasonal section.

(When I was organizing images for this section, I could not stop laughing at the juxtaposition between Jack and his Best Lock counterpart.  What the what, indeed!)

Fashion: Victorian Star Trek:  The Next Generation Dresses

This is totally nerdy.  These ladies made themselves Victorian-era costumes of Kathryn Janeway and Data for seeing a sneak preview of Into Darkness, and possibly also for the WGT convention in Leipzig.  I like the cut of the top on the Janeway cosplayer a bit better, though the slightly-puffed shoulders on the other one is very cute.

I found this via Fashion It So, which is a Star Trek: The Next Generation fashion blog.  It's worth a read if you have lots of time to kill. ;)

(imgs via ebay,,

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Art Thursday - January 2nd

"The Return of a Mech" (or, in 6-year-old spelling, "The Retern of a Meck").
Because we've been playing BattleTech.  I like how he still has a smile.