Life

Snozzcumbers and Frobscottle

These are not snozzcumbers.

cucumber and squash

But when I saw them I thought of the giant in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, eating Snozzcumbers and drinking Frobscottle. It’s funny how your favorite books from childhood stay with you.

Those vegetables are actually a cucumber and squash. Obviously. I could give you recipes for them but you probably have your favorites already and you have Google. Instead I will give you a Frobscottle recipe because everyday is a good day to relive a piece of your childhood with your kids.

This deliciousness comes from justJENN recipes:

frobscottleThat’s Pop Rocks on top, people. POP ROCKS. There’s also whipped cream, as you can see, but don’t worry about the sugar and calories because but it’s totally canceled out by the fresh raspberries. That’s how it works, right?

This would be the perfect drink to enjoy on a summer afternoon while you read your kids the book, if you want them to read it before the movie comes out on July 1st. Because isn’t that a good habit you want them to get into? I never read a book if I’ve already seen the movie. Totally ruins it, in my opinion. Although that may not be possible in this case. Can anything ruin Roald Dahl? Probably not.

Five unexpected gifts this week

Five unexpected gifts this week

It’s not my birthday. It’s not my wedding anniversary or any occasion* that would warrant me getting gifts but I have. I’ve been spoiled. This is a great week to be me.

Here is what I’ve been given for no reason whatsoever:

1.  Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz
A friend of mine had three brown paper shopping bags full of books to donate. Most of them weren’t my kind of genre but I did find a Dean Koontz book that looked interesting. I used to really like him and somewhere along the line I decided I didn’t anymore. After reading the first few pages of Ashley Bell, I decided to undecide what I previously decided. Now I like him again. Seriously. I’ve gotten to page 68 and I’m already recommending this book to you. Whoever said Dean Koontz is just a Stephen King wannabe hack (me, I said that) is totally wrong.

2.  Home-grown produce and eggs
My mother has friends who garden. People who get dirty in this oppressive Phoenix heat for fun. This week I’ve been the beneficiary of their labor. I’ve gotten eggs, squash, eggplant and juicy tomatoes that I’ve added to salads and used for bruschetta. Last night I made eggplant parmigiana and it was delicious. I would totally invite you over for dinner but A) I might not even know you and B) I don’t want to mop my kitchen floor and I can’t very well invite company over with an untidy house. That’s not my fault. (It is though, really. It’s my fault.)

3. Dishes and a breakfast sandwich maker
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, according to experts who know about these kinds of things. As far as I’m concerned, it’s also the tastiest. So I was only too happy to accept a breakfast sandwich maker from my mother-in-law. I can use the free range eggs I got! And some cheese! And it’s ready in five minutes! She also gave me plates and coffee cups so I will be very appreciative of her every time** I eat a yummy breakfast sandwich off a new, unchipped plate.

4.  Amazon gift card
I get my love of reading from my mother. For no other reason than she is very generous, she gave me an Amazon gift card. If you know me – and maybe you don’t, which is partially why you’ve not been invited to dinner – then you know that I added that sucker to my account faster than I can make a breakfast sandwich. Of course I’ve already ordered new books to read, even though I’m on page 68 of Ashley Bell.

5.  A $54.14 credit on Amazon
Okay, this one was weird. I was checking the balance of my gift card and I had even more than I’d just added, after I’d made a purchase. I found a recent gift card claim credit of $54.14, which is an odd amount. There was no explanation and at first I thought I’d been hacked. But what hacker would want to give me money? Either it’s someone who really, really wants to come to dinner or there had been some mistake. Then I found an email from Amazon explaining the Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement and that I was eligible for a credit as part of that. (Check your accounts, everyone. You might have a credit too.) I hadn’t expected this at all so it was like receiving a gift from the Universe.

Clearly my mother, mother-in-law, and the Universe are telling me that I should take time to enjoy reading and eating breakfast. The mopping can wait.

Did you get any cool gifts this week? Maybe you just found something you’d misplaced. If it was gone long enough that certainly feels like getting something new. Or maybe you found someone’s forgotten change in the automated change dispenser at the grocery store. I’m not judging you.

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*I’d like to petition Merriam-Webster or whoever is in charge of words that we add an accepted alternative spelling to the word ‘occasion.’ Did you notice that alliteration, Mr. Webster? Does that somehow elevate my request? Because I’d really like to add an S to this word. I think we can all agree that occassion just looks better, red squiggly line underneath it be damned.

**While I’m requesting dictionary revisions, I’d like to add this to the list: make every time a compound word. Everyone. Everybody. Everything. Everywhere. Everyday. Everytime? Mr. Webster, I implore you. This nonsense of separating ‘every’ and ‘time’ is one thing that makes the English language so hard to learn. These words belong together and it would be nice not to have to backspace everytime I type them.

I’m not pregnant or buying a house

A friend offered me some tea when I visited her recently. This tea didn’t come in a bottle and it wasn’t brewed from bags. My friend made it from scratch with hibiscus flowers, rose petals, clover and honey. After boiling and simmering it for 15 minutes, she added some orange slices. My taste buds were shocked to actually enjoy something liquid that wasn’t Coke or water.

Then a different friend shared an herbal tea recipe with me. Since regrettably stepping on a scale on Memorial Day weekend and discovering I weigh 8 more pounds than I thought, I’ve been cutting back on all that soda I drink. Here was another opportunity to replace sugar and caffeine with something tasty and healthy.

The problem was that grocery stores in my area don’t sell fresh chamomile and mugwort by the ounce. I didn’t want to order them online since you can never be certain to get fresh herbs. The best herb shop around is about a 40 minute drive from my house. I was disappointed until I learned the herb shop has a booth at a weekly farmer’s market at my favorite neighborhood park. If you call them, they will package your order and send it to the farmer’s market for pick-up. Score!

herbsThe friendly lady working the booth made polite conversation while she processed my payment. She asked me what I intended to use the herbs for and after I explained about wanting to cut back on soda and lose a few pounds, she congratulated me. “Thank you,” I said.

She started showing me the prepackaged teas that lined the tables. She selected a tea for pregnant women and talked about the herbs’ health benefits for expecting mothers. Wait. Did she think I was pregnant? What on earth did I say to make her mistakenly hear the word pregnant? Or was she just demonstrating the variety of teas they sold? Then she scanned the ingredients of another bag and said, “After you have your baby…”

Uh oh. That was awkward. I’d already accepted her congratulations. Was it too late to correct her? Which one of us would be more uncomfortable if I did? I decided to pretend I hadn’t heard what she said about having a baby and leave as quickly as I politely could. As she handed me my bag of herbs and receipt, she said, “Congratulations again!” This was my last opportunity to correct her. The herbs were affordable, high quality, and I knew I wanted to purchase more in the future. If I didn’t speak up now, it would be weirder later. But I didn’t. I smiled shyly and thanked her for the second time.

The next day I went grocery shopping. A lady was asking everyone who passed by her if they wanted to learn how to save on fuel and get free groceries. Ooooohhhh, me! Me! I do! The kids were at home with my husband so I was totally unencumbered and could kill a few minutes learning how to save money. I’m a dedicated coupon clipper. I combine them with the sales to maximize my savings. If there’s anything more I can do, then I want to know about it.

What this lady explained to me was really enticing, like tons of opportunities for reward points, 25 cents off per gallon of fuel for the first three months, and rewards checks four times a year. We chatted for a bit and I explained that I have a family of five, so I appreciate any deals I can get. Whatever I don’t spend at the grocery store or on gas can be saved or put in the entertainment budget. At the end of the spiel, I realized the only drawback. You have to get their Visa card. Even though I knew in the back of my mind I might want the card at some point, I wasn’t prepared to fill out an application and open a line of credit right then and there. So I admit it, I lied. I gave her the standard answer I tell every clerk who pitches a similar offer. I said, “We’re buying a house and I can’t open any new lines of credit right now.” That usually releases me from any high pressure sales tactics and ends the conversation. No harm, no foul.

Except.

This lady was so sweet that she was immediately interested in my fake house hunting experience. She agreed with my wise decision not to open any new credit and even advised me not to buy a car during the process. She told me not to stress, as so many people find it one of the most stressful things they do in life. She wished me luck. Once again I guilty thanked someone for their kind sentiment. I could almost feel my nose growing. Then she said to stop by and let her know how it’s going the next time I come in because she would be interested to hear. And I believed that she would genuinely like an update. I suspect she’s also one of those people who never forget a face.

On my way to checkout, I passed by this lady again. This time she was also giving away free samples of caramel popcorn. I’m a popcorn purist. I like it drowning in hot butter with very little salt. I don’t care for all the fancy schmancy dessert flavored stuff. When she tried to hand me a plastic cup full, I declined. “No thank you, I’m chewing gum.” I’ll have you know that was the honest truth. I was chewing gum.

She suggested I take some home for my kids and handed me a whole bag after she placed a sticker over the bar code so I wouldn’t be charged at checkout. I’m sure she had a certain amount she could give away. I’m also sure she chose me as a lucky freebie recipient because of the nice conversation we’d had. And yes, I felt appropriately guilty even as I later lazed on my couch, reading and snacking on that surprisingly delicious caramel popcorn that had no hulls or kernels. I’m definitely going to buy some the next time I’m in the store. I just don’t know what I’ll say to that kind lady when I see her again.

My big PeeWee surprise

PeeWee's Big HolidayPeeWee’s Big Adventure is on Netflix. My husband recently put it on for the kids and and I was happy they enjoyed watching it. I’m an 80′s girl at heart. I remember when PeeWee’s ridiculous dance to “Tequila” made me smile and his trademark laugh was oddly endearing to me. I get sentimental about that neon decade of leg warmers so I like it when I can share a piece of it with my children.

Yesterday I found PeeWee’s Big Holiday was out. It’s a made-for-Netflix film to reprise the original and probably rekindle Paul Reubens’ career. I suggested that my kids watch it when they were looking for something besides Henry Danger reruns. They liked the other movie so they were excited. I was too… for a chance at some free time. I got on my laptop and half-watched the movie over my screen. It wasn’t grabbing my attention. The opening scene showed PeeWee and an alien exchanging friendship bracelets, which turns out to be a dream. But I did notice this: Paul Reubens hasn’t aged a day since the 80s so I’m guessing he sleeps in a cryogenic chamber. Or he has really good genes. Or I need the number of his plastic surgeon.

Then PeeWee goes to work at a diner and he makes someone a milkshake and then he gets on a motorcycle. I don’t know. I don’t care. But then he’s in VW Bug headed to New York City because reasons. Then three busty bank robbers, who he thinks are hitchhikers, squeeze into his small car and end up taking him to a motel room and tying him up while they decide what to do with him. Suddenly, there’s cops outside the room. The girls scramble to hide the money and one opens the door. The cops, who look suspiciously brawny even for a movie, announce that the girls are under arrest… for being too hot. They tear off their uniforms to reveal speedos underneath and I just managed to turn the movie off as a pillow fight was starting.

This movie is rated PG. No dash 13. Just PG. I literally have no idea what happens next but no. Just no. Call me a prude but PeeWee wasn’t exactly having the time of adventure I seem to remember him having. I have no idea what happened next but I wasn’t about to let my four and six year-olds watch and find out.

Puh-lease

Josh Duggar

Read the story on CNN.com

I feel the sorriest for Josh Duggar’s children. Anna? She won’t leave him. She was okay with marrying him knowing he was a pedophile and she had children with him. Why would she divorce him for cheating? It’s the least of what he’s done.

P.S. He didn’t even apologize. His statement said he “deeply regret(s)” the hurt he caused and he “humbly” asks for forgiveness. But okay. Let’s “forgive” Josh and show him the exact same amount of forgiveness and compassion he has shown for those who disagree with his morals. I mean, his professed morals.

Push to Add Drama

Most of the television I watch is pre-recorded so I can fast forward through commercials. But once in awhile a brilliant marketing team creates an ad compelling enough to be brief entertainment in its own right.

What if there was a button to add romance? Waiters in tuxedos bring out a table for two covered in white linen and rose petals. Champagne on ice. A violinist serenades you. Fireworks burst in the sky.

How about a button to add humor to a situation? Wherever you are, Jerry Seinfeld appears and performs stand-up comedy.

I really like the idea of a drama button. I’ve often said to Lucas my life is sadly lacking in euphoria. Sure, it’s happy and full of love but what about the intensity? The excitement? So I made this list of possible adrenaline rushes:

Crowd dive at a concert.
Normally I don’t like live music but I’d make an exception for this.

Attend a fancy movie premiere.
Sneak in, if necessary. Bonus: obtain press credentials and ask losing celebrities why they’ve never won any awards.

Perform drunken karaoke.
Possible songs: Copacabana, Summer Nights, and It’s the End of the World as We Know It.

Become an immortal.
This requires a reconnaissance mission to Italy to locate a vampire coven. *Highly dangerous.* Consider hiring private investigators.

Train to fight in the zombie apocalypse.
I’m assuming this goes beyond classes offered at our local gyms. To do: put an ad on Craigslist for a survival trainer.

Ride motorcycles on the freeway during rush hour.
If you’ve ever driven in Phoenix, you know why our auto insurance rates are so high.

Provoke the Church of Scientology.
See if their campaigns of stalking, harassment and wire tapping are legit. Then provoke Donald Trump. Compare results.

Diffuse a bomb.
We may have to make our own if we can’t find one about to detonate.

Join the Cirque du Soleil.
We should be in excellent shape for this after training to fight zombies.

Speaking of drama and adrenaline, are you watching Better Call Saul? This is probably the only spinoff show in history to be as good as the original. Now that this show has started, my Monday nights have certainly gotten high octane.

It’s better being a woman.

Lucas fixing the hot water heater

This is my cute husband doing manly things.

Yesterday the toilet in the hall bathroom wouldn’t flush. The problem is some valve Lucas has to replace. This morning I started the car and right away I could tell the battery was about to die. He decided to take care of that first so he could drive to the hardware store and buy the necessary parts to fix the hot water heater, which decided to leak all over the garage today.

That’s three things. A Trifecta of Broken Crap.

I helpfully pointed out to Lucas that he wasn’t the only one getting hit with trials this week.

First, my sciatica flared up again, bad enough that I had trouble sleeping two nights in a row. Then I got my period the night before yet another dental procedure that left me with two stitches in my gums. It was a Trifecta of Pain.

I didn’t even remind him that the lever to recline my favorite spot on the couch broke this week. I didn’t want to outdo him with a fourth woe or bring up something else to fix.

“See?” I said to him. “You had your manly stuff to deal with. I had womanly problems.”

“Yours were all preventable,” he said.

I put my hand on hip, which is my automatic reaction when he says anything Neanderthal-ish. It’s a handy visual cue that what I’m about to say should be taken seriously. “You were going to look so good in my blog post. Don’t ruin it,” I warned him.

Then he smiled at me and went back to the hot garage to keep working without complaining.

That’s one of the reasons why I love him. He never lets repairs put him in a bad mood. He also does his own laundry and makes his own lunch. He’s pretty much the perfect husband, even if he doesn’t understand that periods complicate everything.

Have You Heard? … Scottsdale

Whether you’re new to Scottsdale or just looking for a parent’s guide to all things local, Have You Heard? … Scottsdale has you covered. Created by a team of mothers who like to share their expertise, it’s your resource for the best the city has to offer.

Have You Heard? ... Scottsdale

Find fun things to do with the kids or locate local clothes and toy shops. Get the dish on family-friendly restaurants and where kids eat free, or enjoy a little romance with their date night recommendations. Get social with their MOM SOS listings of clubs, playgroups, and Mommy and Me classes.

Planning a birthday party? Browse through venues, caterers, and in-home entertainment. Looking for pediatric doctors and dentists? They’ve got the details.

Their Scottsdale School Resource Guide is an information goldmine. Among the nuggets of school stats you’ll find:

Scottsdale School Resource Guide

  • Total enrollment
  • Teacher-to-student ratio
  • Curriculum info by subject
  • Gifted and special needs services
  • Discipline methods / Behavior expectations

They also have AIMS and SAT rankings and a handy Scottsdale School Locator.

Moms, they value your unique experiences too! You can submit your tips, comments and stories. And, if you own a Scottsdale business, this is the ideal spot for advertising to a targeted audience.

Connect with Have You Heard? … Scottsdale on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Make a Photo Slideshow With Music For Free

I’ve been wanting to create a video with my pictures set to music but I couldn’t find the right program to do it. One of my Internet searches led me to forums with answers from SEVEN YEARS AGO. I was searching for “photo montage,” “how to make a photo montage with music,” and “how to make a video with pictures.” No good.

A proper Google search, “how to make a photo slideshow with music for free,” would have returned Slide.ly on the first results page. Now I’ve found my new hobby. It’s super easy, which is perfect for me because I don’t have the patience for a learning curve.

It’s so simple it’s self-explanatory. But what kind of tutorial says “you’ll figure it out?” Exactly. So here are step-by-step directions.

How to make a photo slideshow1.  Create a free account on Slide.ly.

2.  Go to Create and choose Slide.ly Show.

3.  Upload photos. Add up to 90 photos. Source them from:

  • Your computer
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google images
  • Dropbox
  • Flickr
  • Picasa

How many photos should you use? About one photo per four seconds of song.

4.  Sort photos. Shuffle or drag and drop. Choose the cover photo. Add text; it appears next to the photo instead of as an overlay.

5.  Choose the music. The sky is the limit! Select music from:

  • YouTube
  • SoundCloud
  • Dropbox
  • Upload your MP3′s
  • Slide.ly playlists

6.  Preview. In the final step Slide.ly lumps together several important options:

  • Choose a theme, if you want to get all fancy-pantsy.
  • Adjust the speed. Otherwise, it’s automatically set to best fit your slideshow.
  • Set the duration. The default is music but you can change it to photos.
  • Change the visibility. The default is public so be sure to uncheck the box if you want to keep it private.
  • Add a title and description.
  • Add tags.

7.  Save and share. Post your slideshow everywhere:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Embed on your blog

Here’s a slideshow I made with my wedding photos. I used music by Norah Jones (our first dance was to “Come Away With Me”) and the Zoom Old Film theme. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty cool for only a few minutes of work.

Lucas & Melissa by Slidely Slideshow

Also read:
The Best Man Speech
Our Wedding Vows

You can probably get to Hogwarts through my front yard.

You might be behind on your yard work. Grass to mow. Weeds to pull. Bushes to prune.

Please allow me to make you feel better:

Mesquite trees eating my house

This was my front yard a week ago.

On my street you pass tidy, manicured lawns – one even has a flag pole with an Old Glory snapping in the wind. Then you got to my house and it was being swallowed by mesquite trees. Or maybe they’re not mesquite trees. I don’t even know.

One time a small, thorny branch in the yard stabbed my foot when I stepped over it in my flip flops. Immediately there was a painful, hard, pea-size lump where it pierced me. Are mesquites violent trees that attack people without provocation? Or could these be Whomping Willows that lead to the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade?

Whatever these trees are, one of the branches snapped and lay in a slump. No tempestuous winds or bolts of lightning. It was just too heavy and it buckled under its weight.

Did I mention we live in a corner house? Off a busy thoroughfare? It was so embarrassing.

Fallen tree

The kids thought it was cool having our own private jungle. I felt like I should swing through my front door on a vine like Jane.

Finally, the landscapers showed up to mark some branches with orange tree paint. Then they paced around, surveying the yard like they weren’t sure where to begin. And they didn’t begin that day. Or the next.

Hudson announced their eventual arrival by screaming, “THE LAWN MOWERS ARE HERE!” (If I ever own a yard work business I’m calling it The Lawn Mowers.) They were here all day and when they were through it looked like a totally different yard.

the trimmed trees

This is what remains of the fallen tree:

the fallen tree

Let’s see the whole yard in a before-and-after side-by-side.

Before and After

Now that the greenery is all gone I miss how it shaded the front rooms. And I didn’t even get a chance to look for a hidden passageway to Hogsmeade. Maybe it’s still there. A Butterbeer sounds really good right now.