Google Something Clever 2.0: January 2013

Jan 29, 2013

A Custom Birthday Party for a Kid With Weird Interests

My kid has weird tastes. Well, weird for a kid. He likes Devo and Black Sabbath. He chose to be Anubis for Halloween last year. And then there are the birthday parties. Last year, he asked for a Muppet party. No problem; his birthday wasn't until January, and there was a new Muppet movie coming out in November. There'd be plenty of Muppet-themed party supplies by January, right? Wrong. I went all over the internet and finally found some stickers and things that some lady made. They were okay, but nothing I couldn't have done myself. So when he requested a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man party for his fourth birthday, I knew I was going to have to get creative.

I bought some plain white goody bags. I was going to print out labels with pictures of the Marshmallow Man to stick to them. Then I thought, hey, maybe I can just print right on the bags. I changed the settings and told the printer I was printing on "glossy brochure paper," because there was no option for "goody bag." I did get a bunch of paper jams, but it worked out.



For the goodies themselves, I got pink and green slime, of course. And I ordered some buttons from Amazon. I could have made these myself, but I have no idea where my button maker is. Yes, I have a button maker. You can get them at A.C. Moore for like $20. I should ask you why you don't have a button maker.

I also made stickers. Avery makes these round labels that are glossy (number 22807), so they look like legitimate stickers. I gave each kid half a sheet, which is six stickers, and I sealed the goody bags with the rest (and of course, there was candy.)



Then, there's the cake...

Now, I am an amateur. I make one crazy cake a year. So, this is not something worthy of a reality show on the Food Network, but it's good enough to impress a bunch of preschoolers, and it's way cooler than the store-bought cakes the other parties at the bowling alley had. If you are also an amateur who likes to impress preschoolers, read on.

First, I made a double batch of Rice Krispies Treats. I put half in a 13x9 inch pan, and split the other half between two loaf pans. One loaf became the torso and legs. I reinforced it with two bamboo skewers.



Then, I used the other loaf to round out the torso. You can use a serrated knife to carve RKTs, but I found it easier to just squeeze and pinch it into shape. I microwaved pieces for 10 or 15 seconds at a time so they'd be softer and easier to shape.


I used more skewers to attach the head and arms, and that was it! Not hard at all, I swear. I did this two days before the party and stuck him in the freezer. 


Earlier in the week, I had made marshmallow fondant following this recipe. Wilton recommends that you cover your work surface in Crisco to keep the fondant from sticking. I disagree. I found it more helpful to roll it out on confectioner's sugar, just like you would roll dough out on flour. Also, cleanup is way easier that way!
The actual decorating took forever. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me bitching about that on Friday night... until 3:30 Saturday morning. This happens to me every year. Don't be dumb like me and wait until bedtime to start decorating. If you don't count the three breaks I took, I ended up spending about six hours on that bitch.


 But again, it's not hard; just time-consuming. You just cover the RKT with sheets of fondant and squish the seams together with a wet finger to blend them. For the details, you just make balls and snakes like you do with Play-Doh. Need a circle? Use a glass. Need stripes? Pizza cutter.


The hardest part were the oddly-shaped things- namely, the ghosts I put on the cupcakes. I had to cut out each one by hand with a butter knife. At the party the next day, a friend suggested making a custom cutter out of a tuna can and pliers. I might try that if I need to next year... He's asking for a Star Wars birthday, so I'm all set on goodies. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that he doesn't ask for a life-sized Boba Fett cake.


Jan 24, 2013

My Breast is NOT Best.

Sorry, Gisele, breast feeding is still not mandatory in the U.S., although so very many people like you wish it was. I'm going to tell you all something that might make you mad. And if it does, you can suck it...

I fed my son formula. And I am not ashamed.




I made the decision to formula feed all on my own. I was not given a free gift bag at the hospital. In fact, the only pressure I received at the hospital was pro breast feeding. Here's my story.

I never planned on breast feeding. To me, it always seemed kind of weird. Wait! Before you scroll down to the comments and vomit a bunch of all-caps on me, hear me out. I don't care if you breast feed. That is your boob, and your kid. If it works for the two of you, I'm happy for you both. But I felt weird doing it. With my boob. Okay?

I had a c-section. After my son was extracted, we were briefly introduced, and then he was spirited away to the nursery for his grooming and distemper shot, or whatever it is that they do in there. My husband went with him. Meanwhile, I was getting reassembled.

They put me back into the labor room (which I guess turned into the recovery room at that point), and the boys showed up a few minutes later. A nurse handed the baby to me without a word, and walked out. My husband sat down in a chair next to my bed. We stared at the baby, then at each other...

Neither of us really had any baby experience. It was only about 9 months prior that we'd even held our first baby. I asked my husband, "What should I do with him?" He didn't know. I wondered if he was hungry. He'd just been through quite an ordeal.

Have you ever done something that was purely instinctual? Like turning away from a skid instead of into it, or maybe punching a bear? Maybe not. Anyway, I got this weird feeling that maybe I should breast feed him. Like the cro-magnon inside me was telling me, "Baby no eat berry. Give boob." I don't know. So I said to my husband, "Maybe I should breast feed him..."

He was surprised. He knew my plan had always been to formula feed. An aside- yes, I said "he knew my plan," rather than "our plan was." Because although the boy was ours, my cans are mine. He never questioned my choice on that, or on the c-section (yes, it was elective). I hope you all have partners like that. Back to the story. So he knew I was planning to use formula, and he was confused, but supportive. I think he said something to the effect of, "Really? Uh, okay, if you want to."

A nurse came in a few minutes later, and I asked her, "Is he hungry? Should I feed him?" She said "Sure," and in one quick motion, opened my johnny, grabbed his head and my tit, and stuck them together like a couple of Legos. Or, more accurately, like a Lego and a Mega Blok, since they didn't seem quite right together. It felt weird and wrong. Again, I'm not saying that breast feeding in general is weird and wrong, it was just weird and wrong for me. But I thought I might get used to it, so I tried.

I decided that I'd try giving him both breast milk and formula, alternating them at every other feeding. A couple of hours later, when I asked that same nurse for some formula, she gave me guff.
"You're breast feeding."
"I tried breast feeding. I'd like to alternate between that and formula."
"You can't do that."
"I'm pretty sure I can."
"He'll get confused. He won't nurse."
"Then he'll drink formula."

This nurse was a real piece of work, and fought us tooth and nail on everything while we were there. Eventually, my husband had to take her out in the hallway and lambaste her. That was awesome.

The rest of the staff was fine with my plan (this includes actual doctors). I alternated every other feeding in the hospital for three days, and for the next two at home. It started to hurt more and more. Men (or squeamish women) may not want to read the next couple of sentences... My nipples started to crack and bleed. And scab. It was disgusting and ridiculously painful. And then I had to worry about my baby swallowing blood, or a scab.

I used ointments and such, and relied on the formula more often until I was somewhat healed. And then came the straw that broke the camel's back. This part is even grosser than the stuff about scabs... One night, I was half asleep, breast feeding and watching TV, and for a split second- and I mean like one eighth of a second- it felt... Good. Not like some beautiful, magical, bonding type of good. Like, inappropriate good. Ewwwww! Please don't think I'm a creep. It was an involuntary reaction and it was awful. I pulled him off of me right away, and it was formula from there on out.

I do expect to get some flack for this. People are going to comment with 101 reasons why I was "wrong" to give him formula. In anticipation of some of the most common arguments, here are my responses:

"It helps the mother bond with the baby."

That's complete and utter bullshit. Do you think I didn't hold him while I fed him his bottle? Do you think a robot raised him while I was out drinking every night? We're plenty bonded. Just like he bonded with his father, who was, sadly, born without breasts.

"Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diabetes, asthma, SIDS, or allergies."

He's perfectly healthy. Also, he's never had an ear infection, his immune system is the best I've ever seen, and his pediatrician flat-out told us at his one year checkup, "He's an ectomorph, like his parents. You won't ever need to worry about him being overweight."

"Formula-fed babies have lower I.Q.s."

He is very smart. Smarter than a lot of adults I know, in fact.

"It helps you lose the baby weight faster."

I'm not giving any numbers, because I don't want you to hate me, but I did not need any help in that department.

"It's easier and less time consuming than formula. And it's free!"

This argument was made up by someone who has no breasts or children. It was not easier for me at all (maybe for some people it is, but not me). It took about the same amount of time (mixing water and powder is not difficult, and did you know you don't have to heat it up?). And yes, your breasts are free, but then there are the ointments, bras, pads, pillows, pumps, coolers, shawls... I'm not doing the math, but even if formula feeding was more expensive, it was a price we were happy to pay.

I know, I know, there's some magic ingredient in breast milk that makes it superior. That's great. But it's not the end-all, be-all. Sooner or later, a kid will eat other foods. They will live on planet Earth, wearing things, touching things, breathing, and not every circumstance in their life will be of optimum value. Maybe they eat cheeseburgers from McDonald's, maybe there's smog in your city. I don't know. But they'll survive.

I'm not trying to convince anyone not to breast feed. I'm trying to convince everyone to do what's right for you and your kid, and not to feel bad about your choice. I read a quote when I was pregnant that I wanted to share with you. Unfortunately can't remember the exact wording, or where I read it, because I had pregnant-brain at the time. But it goes something like this:

It is better to offer a bottle lovingly, than to offer a breast begrudgingly. 


I wholeheartedly agree with that. I hope you do, too. And if you don't, guess what? I don't care. They're not yours.

Jan 22, 2013

10 Ways My Husband is Dumber Than Our Dog


Psych. My husband is not dumb, and we don't have a dog.

But you fell for it, didn't you? Unless you're a regular reader, I bet you thought that this was one of those cutesy, half-kidding husband-bashing blog posts, didn't you? Because they are everywhere lately. "How to Trick Your Husband Into Buying You Jewelry." "Top Seventeen Things Stupid Men Do." Do all these bloggers really hate their husbands that much?

I could take some cheap shots at the person I love most, too, but treating him fairly is more important to me than being an SEO-whore and trading in his dignity for the sake of a few pageviews. 

I know there are some women out there who have shitty husbands. Some of them use their blogs as a place to vent. That's fine, and I wish them nothing but the best. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the ones who constantly make their husband the foil of every "joke" on their blog, when in reality, he's a great guy and they're very much in love.

You there. You're a shitty wife.

I don't care if you're kidding. The joke has been done to death, and it's no longer funny. After a certain point, it's just disrespectful. You're no better than those corny household cleaning product ads that make men out to be one step above neanderthals. And I bet you're the same ones who turn around and complain that all those products are marketed exclusively to women.

Would we all love Jason Good as much if he talked shit about Lindsay in every other post? Of course not; that would be unacceptable. So why is it okay for you to do it to your spouse?

I'm not saying that I can't appreciate a little good-natured ribbing on occasion. I don't want you to turn your blog into a sappy love letter to your husband. God, no. That's just gross. But just remember, all we know about your husband is what you tell us. And if you're constantly making him out to be a jackass, how do you think we see you?


Jan 15, 2013

How to Stop Perpetuating Misinformation


If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably familiar with my posts “Written By a Cop for Our Own Safety” and “The Surprising Benefits of Lemon!” In these posts, I take ridiculous hoax emails that old ladies like to forward to their families, and make fun of them. I’m always on the lookout for new “health” and “safety” hoax emails to blog about, because they’re fan favorites.

A few months ago, a friend forwarded me a grandma-email about how onions are poisonous, and also somehow able to cure the flu. I declined to use it, because the whole thing was just so outlandish, it would be too easy to make fun of. Nobody would believe this email, right? Wrong. Within the past week or so, I’ve seen it posted three times in my personal Facebook feed.

Now, I need to make this clear right away: My Facebook friends are not stupid. I don’t associate with stupid people; it gives me a headache. That’s why I don’t work anymore. So how is it that smart people are falling for these hoaxes? It’s because they are too trusting.

I was a victim of The Facebook Trust-Fall (yeah, that’s what I’m calling it) today. A friend posted an article on Facebook. Lookie here:



Hooray! I love “Arrested Development”! I’ve been waiting forever for news on the premiere! I immediately “liked” his post. Then, I clicked the link. When the page opened up, I grabbed the URL and emailed it to my husband and my best friend (also huge fans) with the subject line, “May the Fourth is no longer Star Wars Day.” Because I think I’m clever, obviously. Then, I finally read the article.

The premiere date is not May 4th. In fact, the third of the (very short) four paragraphs that comprise this article states (in its entirety), “Earlier this month, it was rumored that Netflix had scheduled the show's premiere for May 4th, but reps immediately debunked the date.” The article actually doesn’t list a date at all; it only says that it will premiere “this May.”

So, guess what shows up in my inbox as soon as I close the browser tab? Emails from the two people I sent it to, correcting me. I, of course, had to shame-reply that I had sent it to them before reading it myself. And what about the friend who posted it? Could it be that he only skimmed the article while waiting for the elevator, and “May 4” stuck out in his head? Could it be that someone else shared the article with him, and he pulled the same boner as me? Haha, sorry, I always wanted to say that. Maybe he’s a malicious troll, and he posted misinformation on purpose.

No, he’s not. But here’s the point. You don’t know. I don’t know. That’s why we have to do our research. What if the two people I’d sent it to also shared before reading? And their friends shared, and their friends shared… That’s how these hoaxes happen. You trust your friend Bob. He’s not stupid. He’s not a liar. Well, Bob trusts his cousin Bill. Have you ever met Bill? Do you trust him? When you share your Facebook friend’s post, you’re implicitly trusting everyone whose status they ever shared. Or something like that.

An aside- here's some other Facebook B.S. I’d like to debunk real quick:
  • Morgan Freeman is not dead. And he thinks you’re all stupid.
  • Betty White did not say that stupid quote about balls. And she’s mad that you think she did.
  • Flu shots do not cause the flu, or colds.
  • MMR vaccines and gluten do not cause autism.
  • Never, in any “Star Wars” movie, does any character say, “Luke, I am your father.”

Please, for the love of the internet, research before you share any information. Read the article. Google it. Ask your doctor. Our brain cells depend on it.

P.S. Do you think I should do that onion post, after all?



Jan 11, 2013

Secret Subject Swap: Thelma and Louise


Welcome to Secret Subject Swap, the brainchild of Karen at Baking in a Tornado. Karen gathered 17 bloggers together for this edition! We each picked a secret subject for someone else to write about, and were assigned a secret subject of our own in turn. Today, we're all simultaneously posting the results.


My subject was dreamed up by Suburbia Interrupted. Her challenge: "Thelma and Louise. Pick one person that you follow on twitter as your partner in crime."

I laughed when I read that, because it's so obvious. When I told my husband, he laughed at what an easy question that was, and he's not even on social media. 

@sleepybard would absolutely be my Louise.

Now, I admit, I've only seen the movie once, as a kid, and I'm not even sure that I watched the whole thing. But figured I pretty much got the whole gist of it. Just to make sure I wasn't totally off-base, I did a little research by way of IMDb and Wikipedia. It seems that while both of the ladies are hilarious badasses, Louise is slightly hilariouser and badassier, so @sleepybard gets that honor. It's okay, Thelma has cuter hair, and she gets to bang a young Brad Pitt. I can live with that.

@nehokie and I are always trying to get @sleepybard to come visit us up here in Massachusetts, and if she pulled up one day in an old convertible, yelling at us to get in, I can't tell you that I'd be too surprised. I assume that we'd go to Salem in that convertible, rather than Mexico. She loves witches and pirates even more than Grumpy Cat, and Salem is the witch-and-pirate capital of America.

I don't imagine that I'd ever rob a convenience store, and I sure as hell wouldn't go dancing at a cowboy bar, but I know for damn sure that if some redneck ever tried to rape me, @sleepybard wouldn't think twice before pulling the trigger.

I'm smart enough to know that you never marry a guy called Darryl, so I'm sure I'd never find myself in Thelma's shoes, but all the same, it's good to know that I have a Louise who's got my back. If you're in need of a Twitter-Louise in your life, I highly recommend that you follow her, too.

Wasn't that fun? Why not read the other 16 posts? You've got all weekend to catch up, after all...

And all the others:
                 

Jan 10, 2013

Cats Don't Smell

I’m sure you know by now that I’m a cat person. I don’t mind dogs too much, but I would never want to live with one. I like little dogs- I don’t really consider them to be dogs. I have a cousin who’s a Pomeranian, and I used to be very close with a teacup poodle. Now, big dogs… I tolerate them. They’re okay. I’ll even pat them, but I always wash my hands after, because they feel greasy and smelly after I touch a dog. Here are a few comparisons that may explain my stance. Please keep in mind that I'm referring to big dogs here.
                                                   
  • My cat Molly will give you backrubs on command. And sometimes not on command. The first time I discovered this was when the cable guy bent down to get something from his bag and she jumped on him.
  • Dogs like to offer free prostate exams. I’ve yet to see someone accept.

Even when she's recuperating from surgery! So selfless.

  • Once, my cat Chevelle got scared by a vibrating heating pad and bit my husband on the hand. His hand swelled up until it looked like a shiny pink catcher’s mitt, and he had to get I.V. antibiotics for two days.
  • My brother was once sitting on a couch next to a large breed dog (I’m not divulging the breed, because that’s racist) and it turned and bit a chunk of his ear off, unprovoked. He needed plastic surgery.
  • My cats like to chew on our fake Christmas tree, and plastic curling ribbon.
  • According to the good folks at Volkswagon, dogs eat car keys.
  • If you leave a glass of water unattended on the table, my cats will jam their cute little faces halfway down the glass to drink it. They have never attempted to eat people food.
  • The Bumpus’ 785 smelly hound dogs ate the Parkers’ turkey and ruined Christmas dinner.

  • If I’m sad, cold, bored or lonely, one of my cats will hop on my lap and squish my belly.
  • Dogs like to share their DNA with you. In every way.
  • Sometimes, if we go away for the weekend, our cats will poop on the rug or pee in the laundry basket to tell us that they’re mad at us.
  • If my neighbors go out for an hour, their dog sings a long, sad, country-western song about how much he misses them.
  • Litter boxes can be smelly. I admit that.
  • Dogs just smell. The furniture they sit on smells. Your car smells. And those noseprints all over the back window make me want to puke.
  • When I think of cats on the internet, you think Grumpy Cat, NyanCat, Keyboard Cat, and LOLCats.
  • When I think of dogs on the internet, this is the only one who comes to mind.

There you have it. Cats win forever and ever, amen.

Jan 8, 2013

Is the Scooby Gang Going to Catch a Ghost Today?

Perhaps you're watching "Scooby Doo" today, but you just can't wait to find out what happens. Perhaps you have an appointment and you're going to miss the end. Don't worry; I've got you covered.




Jan 3, 2013

Get Stuffed, Winter.


Oh, winter. I hate your stupid face. Okay, I guess you don’t have a face, but if you did, I would hate it so hard. I have some readers out there who are not familiar with “real winter,” which is what we get here in New England, so this week, I’m going to teach you about it.

Snow is not as pretty as you think

You know how snowflakes are this beautiful, intricate crystalline formations with six points, and no two are alike? My husband had a snowflake like that land on his sleeve the other day, and he felt compelled to take a picture, then run inside to show me. That’s because snowflakes like that are rare. Normally, they are ugly clumps of those things. Not so beautiful. Then, the plows come through and spray gray snow all over your smooth, perfect lawn. It doesn’t look like a Vermont Christmas card for long.

Snow’s cousins, slush and ice

Some people have a little experience with the snow, from that time they visited grandma when they were eight, or maybe from a ski vacation, so they think that they like winter. You don’t know winter. Let me tell you about winter’s by-products. Snow also means ice. Ice everywhere. Ice on your welcome mat, causing your guests to fall as they walk in your front door. Ice coating your car, which you have to scrape and bang on. And the door is frozen shut, so you can’t even access your ice scraper. Then there’s the slush. Ever stepped out of your car, and stepped directly into a puddle of slush up to your ankle? How about five times a year? Ten times?

Playing in the snow

Sorry about the composition;
I had to press the shutter button
with my nose
You may have figured out by now that I hate the snow. I have a kid, and he wants to play in the snow. The first time we do this every year is okay, because I get to enjoy it through him, and blah blah blah whimsy. But then it just sucks. I don’t want to play; I want to stand there. And that means I get cold faster than he does. I do like that playing in the snow tires him out. Here he is playing a game I made up, “How Fast Can You Run to That Bush? Do it Again!” He’s pretty good at it. But sometimes playing in the snow doesn’t tire him out enough, and I don’t get that nap I was hoping for. So I just wasted 45 minutes standing in the cold. Bullshit.

So much laundry

It gets crazy cold. You know all those ads for winter apparel that show some jerk wearing a scarf and a sweater, or maybe a fleece vest and a knit hat? That’s what we wear to bed in the winter. Although I keep my house the same temperature year round (76 degrees, and I assure you that’s not a typo), I am freezing all winter long. In the summer, I walk around the house in shorts or capris and a short-sleeved shirt. But in the winter, I wear pants, knee socks, a tank top, a long sleeved shirt, and sometimes a hoodie. And often a blanket on my lap. In the same 76-degree house. Because it’s friggin’ winter. Don’t even get me started on all the outerwear.

It wrecks your house

Forget about having clean floors for four months. Everyone will be tracking snow inside, of course, but don’t forget about the sand and salt that we throw all over said snow. It’s disgusting. You can have people take their shoes off at the door, to corral the mess a little. But then one person will forget, or “forget,” because they have smelly feet/ugly socks/really cute new shoes. Then you step in a slush puddle in the kitchen, while wearing just socks.

It makes me feel bad for animals

The other day, around midnight, it was 16 degrees outside (that’s not unusual). I could hear my next-door neighbor meowing on his deck—oh, he’s a cat, by the way—and I felt so bad for him. His family was asleep, and he was probably going to be stuck outside for another 8 hours or so. Should I go wake them up? Let him crash in my basement? I don’t care what science says, it was not fit for man or beast to be outside. Poor guy.

Driving in the snow

Driving is just plain terrifying. I’ll stay in for days until the roads are completely dry. I’m so lucky I don’t work outside the home anymore; I’ve spent too many mornings driving 20 mph on the highway, hyperventilating, every muscle in my body stiff, only to slide sideways into a road sign a mile from my destination. Stop telling me to turn into the skid. It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t.


In summary, I am going to be absolutely miserable for the next few months. But I guess that’s good for my writing, right?

Jan 2, 2013

An Experiment

How has your holiday week been going? Mine has been just splendid. In an effort to grow my own handlebar moustache, I’ve been applying Rogaine to my upper lip twice a day for the last few days, and I think I’m starting to see a little growth! Squee!!! I plan to hide it while it’s still in the patchy phase. I have like 14 scarves, so I think if I just layer them, kind of stack them up on my neck, I should be able to get them to reach my nose pretty easily. The tricky part is when they get caught up in my glasses, which are comically large and go all the way down to the apples of my cheeks.

On Thursday, I raided one of those clothing donation bins and found some vintage Reebok Pumps, which will look fantastic with some skinny jeans and rainbow suspenders. They’re a children’s size twelve, so I just took out the laces and I think it should work out okay. I just can't wear them when I'm on my unicycle... I ran out to get my accordion serviced at the local independent musical instrument repair collective on Saturday, and I happened upon an amahhhzing little shop that sells artisinal cupcakes wrapped in wallpaper remnants. They also serve Pabst Blue Ribbon in Mason jars. I submitted a job application to the person who runs the place, Cirlvyn (I say “person” because Cirlvyn is genderless). I hope I get the job!

Oh, one more thing before I sign off: I’ve started a Change.org petition to get Apple to start manufacturing gramophones. It’s really uncool that I can’t support my favorite company when I listen to my vinyl collection, and I just know that’s the direction that Steve Jobs would have taken the company, if he hadn’t died so tragically young (because he ate GMOs). Anyway, I’d really appreciate it if you would sign it. Thanks!

The preceding has been an experiment in hipster SEO, and should not be taken literally. Most of it is fiction. Okay, all of it.