30 November 2012

Christmas Meme 2

Way back in 2008, I posted a Christmas Meme from Debbie at Finding Normal.
Today I dug out a "Getting to Know Your Friends" email from 2006 and updated it a bit.
Change my answers to your answers, and re-post on your blog or post in the comments!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate with marshmallows *and* whipped cream (no cinnamon!).

2. Does Santa wrap your presents or leave them under the tree?
Santa's presents are never wrapped - they're always in front of all the other presents

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
It all depends upon the theme of the tree - white is more elegant, and colored is more fun

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No way

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Ummm, well, I have a snowman pillow on the couch... does that count?
I always help put up Mom's Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving, but I don't do much decorating at my own house!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Mom's "breakfast before" casserole.

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child?
Planting laughing heyena toys in Mom's Snow Village ;-)

8. When and how did you find the truth out about Santa?
I always knew that a "Santa" is anyone who gives a gift in secret. So although I always remember knowing the truth, I didn't want to admit it for fear of not getting any presents "from Santa"!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Mom gives us new jammies on Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Ummm, well, see #5 ;-)
But seriously, I like having several small trees with different ornament themes throughout the house.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it! (it's beautiful and fun to play in), but also Dread it! (because of the other drivers on the road). If it's going to be freezing cold, then it ought to snow because that makes it worth the cold. I love when it just sticks to the grass and is pretty, or when it snows so much it shuts everything down! I don't like when it snows just enough to ice the roads and be dangerous.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, but not well - hurts my ankles, but it's fun with friends.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I get a new favorite gift each year!

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
The most important thing is the whole family just spending time *together*.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
All those little cookies that Grandma makes - puttin' on the Ritz, wedding cookies with lots of powdered sugar, jam thumbprints, lemon squares, etc...

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I like the whole day - Christmas Eve dinner and presents; Santa presents, more family presents, and breakfast; then Grandma's house, where there is yet more food and presents. But most of all is family time together.

17. What tops your tree?
Ummm, well, see #10 ;-)
I like something small at the top that goes with the tree's theme. I like a star better than an angel.

18. Which do you prefer - Giving or Receiving?
Giving is always more fun!

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Any Christmas carol sung by an acapella choir

20. What is your favorite candy?
Marshmallow Fudge - plain and smooth, no chunks or nuts!

29 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 189

An Unexpected Briefing (video)
Air New Zealand introduced a Hobbit-inspired safety video
[aside: only 2 more weeks until I go to the midnight showing of The Hobbit, thus fulfilling one of the items on my Bucket List!!!]
via Miss Cellania

Reply to All
NYU students discovered they could Reply to All 40,000 other students
via Miss Cellania

WTF is sugru? (video link)
sugru is the new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying and improving your stuff
via swissmiss

Wil Wheaton Is Awesome
your argument is invalid
via Miss Cellania

28 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 188

"I understand that scissors can beat paper, and I get how rock can beat scissors, but there's no way paper can beat rock. Paper is supposed to magically wrap around rock leaving it immobile? Why can't paper do this to scissors? Screw scissors, why can't paper do this to people? Why aren't sheets of college ruled notebook paper constantly suffocating students as they attempt to take notes in class? I'll tell you why, because paper can't beat anybody. A rock would tear it up in two seconds. When I play Rock Paper Scissors, I always choose Rock. Then when somebody claims to have beaten me with their Paper I can punch them in the face with my already clenched fist and say, 'Oh sorry, I thought Paper would protect you'."
-source unknown

Take Advantage
"Sit down, unplug, and read non-fiction. Do this daily. None of your peers are doing it. They’re playing video games and refreshing Facebook and Gmail chatting about nothing in particular. After a month you’ll be smarter than all of them."
via Vivente La Dolce Vita

You're Doing it Wrong (video link)
compilation video by Fail Hero
via Pleated-Jeans

Panda Surprise (video link)
a startled baby red panda gives us a few seconds of adorable comedy
via Miss Cellania

27 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 187 - Thanksgiving Leftovers

Dinner by HotCan
a full holiday dinner in a can - perfect for holiday power outages
via The Presurfer

Rachel's Thanksgiving Bingo
tailor the cards to your own traditions since not every family has a Rachel who wouldn't eat turkey...
via Grasping for Objectivity

Flavorwire's Thanksgiving Bingo
I'm thinking croutons would make good edible Bingo markers
via Pleated-Jeans

Black Friday Dollar Store
Improv Everywhere's latest mission was to camp out for Black Friday shopping at a random 99 cent store
via Improv Everywhere

26 November 2012

Recipe - Gaga's Cranberry Salad

I successfully made both kinds of mini-muffins for Thanksgiving! They turned out great! I used "white whole wheat" flour for both to balance out all the fat and sugar :-p

I also attempted to make this cranberry salad. I failed to read the recipe I was given and left in all the water! The salad failed to gel despite 2 packages of raspberry Jello... Here are more clear directions:

Gaga's Cranberry Salad

1 pkg fresh cranberries (12 oz bag in the produce section)
3 cups water
3 oranges
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 pkgs (3 oz. each) raspberry gelatin
(I also added 1 honeycrisp apple, chopped)

Grind the cranberries in a blender with the water, until the cranberries are chopped up quite small. Drain off about half of the water.

Zest one orange. Remove and discard peel from all 3 oranges. Either chop the oranges into small pieces, or put the orange segments into the blender and pulse quickly to chop.

Mix watery cranberries, orange zest, chopped oranges, sugar, and raspberry gelatin in a bowl, and refrigerate for several hours.

20 November 2012

19 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 185

Party at the North Pole
I want to do this party! Or be invited to one ;)
via Enjoying the Small Things

absolutely beautiful advice on how to maintain femininity despite disability
*also, an amazing outpouring of supportive responses

Fletcher's Dad is an amazing parent
via Pleated-Jeans

"SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?" "No."
via One Foot Tsunami

Polish a Poop (video)
Mythbusters proves that you can, in fact, polish a turd

16 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 184

11 FOOT 8 (videopalooza!)
home of the world's most popular can-opener bridge - with videos!

Creamy Chicken & Noodles
I made this comforting and filling slow-cooker recipe last weekend
via Pintester

Human System Errors (video link)
we humans come pre-bundled with a lot of buggy software
via Pleated-Jeans

Give Me a Durr!
via George Lindsey

The Useless Web
take me to another useless website, Please
via swissmiss

15 November 2012

VTech Disappointment

Alternate title: How Not to Do Customer Service

My mom recently told me about a ridiculous phone conversation she had with VTech customer support about their InnoTab 2 Learning App Tablet.

Mom had purchased the tablet for my nephew for his birthday, and she called VTech about a month later to report a faulty USB port on the device. After a lengthy and exhausting conversation, my mom was told that returning the product to the company would have meant explaining to a 3-year-old that he couldn't have his new toy for a month! A toy that he couldn't have understood was broken. Poor kid would have thought he was in big trouble! She decided to try swapping the tablet in the store where she bought it instead, but had to wait for their depleted stock to be replenished.

(And to add insult to injury, why on earth would they make a product that is rated for 3-year-olds to include a stylus that is not attached?! Don't they know preschoolers lose stuff like that?)

After the absurd phone call, my mom sent an email to VTech to let them know about her bad experience. I will let her emails (personal information redacted) tell you the rest of the story. The text is below each screenshot. Personal contact information has been redacted for privacy.


From: [my mom, email address redacted]
To: ""
Date: 11/07/2012 01:28 PM
Subject: Innotab2

[my mom's P.O. Box, address redacted]

Vtech Electronics North America LLC

I have 7 children (by birth, foster, & adoption) and 1 grandson. I have purchased SEVERAL Vtech products over the years.  In September, I bought my grandson the Innotab2 for his 3rd birthday. BIG HIT!  He loves it!  

Right now, though, I regret buying it.
1. Power source... cord or batteries (that last about 2 days). Why, oh why didn't you use and internal rechargeable battery, and have a recharge station that it sits in when not being played with???
2. The USB port on his is loose. I had to hold it at just the right angle to install apps, so I called the tech center. Took quite some time to get her to understand the problem. She kept wanting to blame the cord.  But she finally understood and said she'd send me a shipping label to return it, and after vtech receives the broken tablet, then they'll sent me a replacement - which will take about 3 weeks. SERIOUSLY???  AFTER VTECH RECEIVES IT, THEN 3 MORE WEEKS???  I had the same problem with my Kindle Fire last year... they sent me the new one first, then I returned the broken one.  My Kuerig stopped working... they sent me a new one, then I returned the piece requested from the broken one.  YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS EXTREMELY LACKING!  Especially in regard to a CHILD'S toy... I have to explain to him that he can't have it for a month???!!!

Very disappointed.  This will absolutely affect my future purchases. I'll be avoiding Vtech products.

[name redacted]

From: ""
To: [my mom]
Sent: Thursday, November 8, 2012 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: Innotab2

Please provide an alternate address as we do not ship to PO boxes or military addresses
Best regards,

Consumer Services
VTech Electronics NA, LLC

From: [my mom]
To: ""
Date: 11/08/2012 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: Innotab2

[my mom's physical address redacted]

From: ""
To: [my mom]
Sent: Friday, November 9, 2012 1:29 PM
Subject: Re: Innotab2

Thank you for your inquiry.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  A UPS return label has been issued to you via email in order to return the wrong or defective unit.  Please check your emails' in-box and spam folders for the label as you should receive it within 48 hrs. Once we receive the unit, we will sent out a replacement.   Below is is the tracking information:
Best regards,

 Consumer Services
 VTech Electronics NA, LLC

From: [my mom]
To: ""
Date: 11/09/2012 02:06 PM
Subject: Re: Innotab2


From: ""
To: [my mom]
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:16 AM
Subject: Re: Innotab2

Our apologies for the confusion, we did issue the label for you to return the defective products.
Best regards,

  Consumer Services
  VTech Electronics NA, LLC

From: [my mom]
To: ""
Date: 11/12/2012 09:27 AM
Subject: Re: Innotab2

You have LOST my business.

From: ""
To: [my mom]
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 11:08 AM
Subject: Re: Innotab2

Are you still interested in returning the product?
Best regards,

   Consumer Services
   VTech Electronics NA, LLC

09 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 183

Epic Bath (video link)
long-haired Persian cat Reginald gets an epic bath and blow dry
via Pleated-Jeans

Interpreter Animation
how Sign Language interpreters use facial expressions and animations to convey meaning beyond the specific words
via Neatorama

BUYRAL - Professional Clicking (video link)
helping people going viraler and viraler
via Neatorama

Cobb Salad in a Crouton Cone
these would make great party finger foods
(I'm also wondering if you could make a crouton cone out of a slice of bread...)
via Neatorama

The iPad Huge (video link)
we took something that fit into your hand and made it fit into your whole arm
via The Presurfer

07 November 2012

Sandy Relief

Now that the election drama is over, let's turn our attention back to the New England coast and help those who are still trying to clean up and get back on track.

* The items on this Amazon Wish List go directly to Staten Island Sandy Relief.

* The items on this Amazon Wish List go directly to Moms New Jersey Sandy Relief.

Items purchased from these lists can be shipped directly to those relief groups who badly need these supplies.

via Enjoying the Small Things

06 November 2012

Recipe - Taco Soup

Taco Soup
adapted from this tutorial by Grasping for Objectivity 

This is a classic "dump" recipe - dump a bit of this and a bit of that into a pot...

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 yellow onion (I used 2 very small ones)
1 green bell pepper
1 can (8 oz.) salsa verde
1 can (14-18 oz.) vegetable soup, no meat
1 can (14-16 oz.) tomato soup (I used 1 can {6 oz.} tomato paste plus 1-1/2 cups water)
2 cans (10 oz. each) Ro*Tel tomatoes with green chiles
1 can (14-16 oz.) corn, drained
1 can (14-16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 envelope (1 oz.) taco seasoning
1 envelope (1 oz.) powdered ranch dressing mix
1 cup water

Shredded cheese (I used Cheddar)
Sour cream
Tortilla chips or Fritos

Brown the ground beef in a skillet and drain off the fat.

Chop the onion and bell pepper.

Dump all of the ingredients into a large pot or slow cooker. Simmer on low or medium-low at least 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft (I cooked on low for about 4 hours)

"Garnish with Cheese and Sour Cream, just like every meal should be treated." Crumble chips on top or use them for scooping.

Election Day

How to Vote in 12 Easy Steps
How to Vote in 12 Easy Steps
How to Vote in 12 Easy Steps
via Pleated-Jeans

03 November 2012

Recipe - Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookies

Adapted from Vicki E.'s recipe on Tasty Kitchen

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 15
Difficulty: Easy

2 whole ripe bananas, mashed until creamy
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (or 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter plus 1/4 cup chopped peanuts)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups quick oats (uncooked)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl, mix mashed banana and peanut butter until completely combined. Then mix in applesauce, protein powder, and vanilla until completely combined.

Stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips until oats are all moistened. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Drop cookie dough by spoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and flatten each cookie into circles or ovals about 1/3" thick. These cookies don't spread or rise.

Bake breakfast cookies for 30 minutes. Move cookies to cooking rack. When cookies are completely cool, store in a covered container.

02 November 2012

Recipes - Thanksgiving Mini-Muffins

I plan to bring two kinds of mini-muffins for Thanksgiving this year - Pumpkin Poppers and Pecan Pie Muffins!

I saw the recipe for Pumpkin Poppers on the website The Domestication Project. They are described as tasting like pumpkin doughnut holes! The original recipe instructs you to roll each one in butter and cinnamon-sugar after they are cooked, but I think I will go with the easier method of using that mixture for a topping instead of a coating.  
(nerd note: it is really interesting to see the little differences in each incarnation of the recipe if you go to this recipe's source link, and then that recipe's source link, and so on back to the first person who combined two recipes to make this one - for example, first using Crisco and buttermilk, then vegetable oil and low-fat milk, to finally canola oil and whole milk... And I'll change it again when I use non-dairy almond milk!)

A co-worker brought Pecan Pie Mini-Muffins to the office earlier this week, and I was immediately hooked. They are like pralines, but with egg and flour added to make them into muffins! I knew immediately that my family would absolutely love them. I used "white whole wheat" flour for both recipes. They both turned out great!

Now for the recipes.

Pumpkin Poppers
adapted from The Domestication Project
originally from StrawBerry CAKE
Makes: 18-24 mini-muffins

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat flour optional)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (no sugar or spices added)
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F, place paper liners in 2 mini-muffin tins (optional), and spray tins with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl and whisk until combine.

In another bowl, mix oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk.  Pour in flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fill mini muffin tins until almost full. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly on the tops of the muffins. Bake 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Pecan Pie Muffins
Makes 30-36 mini-muffins

2/3 cup (11 Tbs.) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat flour optional)
2 cups chopped pecans
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F and place paper liners in 3 mini-muffin tins.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave, about 40 seconds, and let cool slightly. Combine brown sugar, flour, and pecans in another bowl. Mix eggs with melted butter. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until moistened.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full, and bake 15-20 minutes for full-size muffins (10-12 minutes for mini-muffins). Start checking for doneness at 15 minutes (8 minutes for mini). You can use the toothpick test - you want "sticky" but not "gooey" - don't bake past "sticky" or you'll get muffin rocks! Cool on wire racks.

01 November 2012

Linkage, Volume 181

DEER XING (video link sorta; just audio)
sounds like we need to petition to get Deer Crossing signs moved

Crazy Logistics
People Trying to Do Things: Strength and Imagination, Part 13
via Neatorama

Sharks and Sandy
The Atlantic sorts out the real Hurricane Sandy photos from the fakes
via Neatorama

The BoardroomImprov Everywhere's latest prank involved staging a boardroom meeting in a Staples retail store
via Improv Everywhere