Friday, December 25, 2009

Game Like - Wii YourShape

I got a copy of Wii YourShape featuring Jenny McCarthy. Big title. It's a new exercise game. Nifty idea. You get a camera with the game and when you first enter your profile, the game scans your body.

Your image is projected on to the TV next to your trainer, Jenny McCarthy. She says little phrases of encouragement during your workout and lets you know if you aren't doing the exercise properly. I get "Watch your arms!" a lot. The game also scores your performance by how well you do the exercises. It won't let you cheat.

Likes: With over 400 exercises, it isn't like using a DVD with the same routine. You can tailor the workout to your body by choosing targeted areas. It also allows for adding equipment like weights or a balance ball. The workouts are pretty good. You can enter in other activities to get credit for exercising.

Dislikes: The encouragement is a bit perky for my tastes and is very inappropriate during the yoga exercises. I chose 'Burn' for legs and abs and ended up doing the same 5 exercises for 15 minutes. I look very chubby next to trainer Jenny. I can't always figure out what I am doing wrong in an exercise. The only choices for 'other activities' is walking, jogging and other.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vacuum Love (No, really)

Is love too strong of a word for a vacuum? Allow me to explain, I have a Roomba. We got it on sale a few years ago and I still love it. I hate vacuuming. It's noisy. It smells funny. It's noisy. It's cumbersome. And, it's noisy. My hearing is a bit sensitive and the vacuum is almost painful.

Husband got me a Roomba. We set up the walls, cleaned the floor and set it off. My son and I sat on the couch and watched it work. We actually sat there and watched it spin around the room! My son named it and insisted it liked music and dancing while it worked. If he leaves the room, I am instructed to dance until he gets back.

Likes: It is quieter than a regular vacuum. It goes on it's own. It makes us keep the floors cleaner. My son likes to clean for it. The customer service is great, if you get a seasoned operator. Some models come with a docking station so the Roomba will park itself and charge.

Dislikes: The walls broke early. The walls don't work all that well when they do work. The customer service sucks, if you get a new operator. The house alarm can't be set (the Roomba will bump into things and things might fall). The connection on the charger is a bit loose and gets worse over time.

We got one for my MIL and she hated it. She also has trouble using her phone. We 'borrowed' it and now have the Roombas duel it out.

We got one for my parents and they love it. For the first month, my mother would leave the light on in the room and talk to it. She can use her phone and she called me laughing because she was treating like it was alive.

I also have a Scooba but, that is a post for another time.

Game Love - Coconut Queen

I have fallen in love with a new game, Coconut Queen! For the gamer, it's a time management/build-a-lot kind of game.

You are an employee of Colorado Coconut Company and are transferred to their tropical island to help business. Once there, you become their queen and help to build up the resort and bring prosperity back to the island.

Build resorts! Restore rainforests! Wrestle sharks! Ogle the hunks!

There are 7 locations around the island with 55 levels for building (on some levels, destroying). Hunky men do your bidding and confirm your instructions with phrases like "Yes, your lusciousness" and "Anything you say".

The first half-hour is a bit dull but, the game is addictive and funny. Very funny. Finishing levles earns you ruby which you can use for useful upgrades or reaching new map locations. The upgrades are actually noticable and can help with game play.

The story is cute. The animation is nicely done and they put in some cute effects. The female tourists sigh when the hunky builders run past. The hunky builders leave footprints when they run across the sand.

I highly suggest the Gamezebo walk-through not for playing the game but for the suggestions on when to use the upgrades and how to earn tikis.

This game made me giggle. I played it through twice and also did the freeplay. After playing for a while in free play mode, I earned the last building. I think I played it for an hour total. Maybe? The free play mode gives occasional goals and events too keep it from getting dull.

After arguing with my 5-year-old it's nice to hear "We live to serve you".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Diary of an Insomniac

I am an insomniac.

I don't have 'a little trouble' sleeping. Yes, I've tried that. Yup, tried that, too. It's not a problem of 'just relaxing and letting go'. It's a real thing.

I've had trouble sleeping since childhood. I'm the can't-fall-asleep variety of insomniac. My pediatrician told my mother is was a phase. I would learn to fall asleep on my own. (He also misdiagnosed my PCOS)

My insomnia has also been misdiagnosed and mistreated as depression and anxiety.

Normal sleepers have occasional insomnia. It can last for as short as a few days to as long as a month. It is short-term and temporary.

There are some great tips on dealing with temporary insomnia. They work great! In the majority of people, their insomnia goes away and they go back to regular sleep. Turn the clock faces away from the bed. Visualize a calm and happy place and try to get into a dream state. Warm milk. Wet tea bags on the eyes. Warm shower or bath. Calming yoga poses. No TV in the room. The bed should only be used for sleeping. Get up, do something soothing for 20 then, get back in bed.

For me, a good night is one when I fall asleep before 1am. A bad night would have me falling asleep around 6am. Both scenarios make getting up at 7am very difficult.

I've argued with doctors about my insomnia and since I can't prescribe for myself, I usually give up. My GP sent me to a psychiatrist to get treated for depression. The psychiatrist had me on one drug for the depression and Ambien for the insomnia. The depression drug made me feel dull. I fell in love with the Ambien!

Don't worry, this isn't an addiction story.

I overheard someone talking about splitting their Ambiens in half and still getting a good night's sleep. I tried it and it worked. Now my supply would last longer.

I got pregnant and went off both drugs. Now, I couldn't sleep and something was kicking my bladder.

I stayed off the drugs for 5 years. I complained about my insomnia again. My GP tried to treat me for anxiety. I ignored the anxiety pills and slowly used up my stash of Ambiens. (I had to go on Trazadone for mal de debarquement and they made me stupid). My GP is a great doctor but, he admits he doesn't know enough about insomnia to treat it properly. He is also very aware and worried about the side-effects of Ambien. I don't blame him, they are pretty freaky. Also, the insurance company hates paying for the brand name. At $10 a pill, I don't blame them.

In 2008, I made an appointment with a sleep specialist. I did a two-night sleep study. The first night was 'regular' sleep (regular = hooked up with wires and taking a prescribed Ambien). The second night was with an apnea mask. The guy who did the wires did a bad job and both nights were uncomfortable. The good news...I have a diagnosis for insomnia and a prescription. The bad news was that I had mild apnea.

I tried a mask and ended up with bloody noses and sinus infections. I stopped using it.

I have my lovely sleeping pills again. I don't use them every day. I don't use full-strength every day. The wonderful thing is that I have them and can get an occasional good night's sleep.

I am planning on using this blog as a diary of my insomnia. Hopefully, I can explain what it is, how it effects me. If I am really lucky, I can help someone who has insomnia, too.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I have a label maker!

I got myself a happy, the Dymo LetraTag at Michael's Crafts the other day. I've been eying different label makers for a while and I had a grouchy day so, I used my 40% coupon and got one. I debated getting one because I don't really *need* one.

The reviews on the lower priced models were mixed for both the Dymo and the Brother brands. The biggest negative reviews were aimed at the battery-sucking power usage. There is an adapter available for an additional $26.25 for the Dymo (more than the price of the unit!). Some people had issues with the tapes, the cutting blade or had odd printing problems. For a product under $30, they seemed like minor problems.

I knew this was the label maker for me when I discovered that it has an alligator border feature! It draws a little alligator around my words!

The ink washed off but the label stayed on in the dishwasher. The tape that comes with the unit is not made for water. A label I put on a plastic storage bin peeled off. I put it on a rounded corner, I don't know if that helped with the peeling-off-ness.

The keyboard is in alphabetical order rather than the qwerty I am used to, it takes a bit longer for me to find the right letters. There are so few keyboards that are in alphabetical order so, I am not sure why they chose that layout.

Game Review - Cookie Shop DS

I loved Lemonade Stand. I originally played it on the PET computer during the 1980s. I think I had a version for the Commodore 64. Yes, I am that old. It was a text-only game. Yup, made for a dumb terminal with a monochrome screen.

For those not as old, it is a tycoon-style game. Your mother gives you $10 to start a summertime lemonade stand. With the $10, you buy your supplies of lemons, sugar and cups. Each day, you read the weather report (temperature and wet bulb) to determine the price and amount of supplies needed. At the end of the summer, you must return the original $10 investment.

I could play that game for hours! I even attempted charting the temperature vs price so I could become more of a tycoon.

Lemonade Tycoon is a more recent version of the game.

What does all this have to do with Cookie Shop? Well, it is a tycoon-style game with pastries.

I like this game. I really wanted to love this game.

You are a choco-dog and your dream is to have the best sweet shop in the sweets mall. You compete against other sweet shop (pastries) owners and other stores in the mall.

With over 100 recipes (a rumor says there are 200 but that might be for the original Japanese version), and only slots for 30 in your store, it makes it difficult to chart and figure out which pastries/sweets to sell during the different seasons.

There is a chance to make a recipe twice during a day to increase it's flavor. Perfection can be reached after making it 50 times. After making some recipes 5 times, you 'remember' a new recipe. There are recipe categories like 'Pancakes' and 'Japanese Sweets' that contain 7 recipes. Every time a new recipe is discovered, a mini game must be played before it can be made. Some of the games are easy and cute while others require knowledge of baking or just random luck. By visiting the other shops, you gain ingredients and new recipes.

There are some cute features like the ability to change outfits to match holidays or seasons. It doesn't seem to effect the game but, it's cute. You can also change the furniture in your store to help boost sales. The boost works for the entire season.

There is a lot of needless dialog and clicking. Some buttons aren't explained. Many things in the game seem random. I've read some of the user boards and most people are confused as to how to get certain recipes or get events to trigger. I'm on my second 'year' of the game and I am still missing recipes. Only a few people have gotten the 'Research' feature to work.

My overall opinion: playable but flawed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birthday Party at Chuck E. Cheese


I hate throwing parties and having people in my house. My mom throws great parties and loves doing it. Apparently, that gene was not hereditary.

Signing up online is very easy. There is a spot to sign up for guests and another spot for additional guests. In other words words, how many kids and how many adults. The additional guests number reserves seats for the parents. We wrote "This is not a drop off party" on our invitations because I did not want to be responsible for a slew of kids that weren't mine. Some kids came with both parents. I was very happy that all the kids did not come with both parents.

CEC offers two Star and Super Star party options. I did some research on the web and with other moms about the party options. The Super Star has goodie bags included and everyone said they sucked. I did my own. The kids get fancy cups and a balloon and the birthday kid gets a few other pieces of toys. To me, the extra money for the extra objects wasn't worth it.

Since we demanded the parents join in the noise, we opted for some extra food. We got the vegetable platter offered on the site. Ours offered wings, fries, sandwiches and would even make the cake for us. We used coupons from the CEC site to order extra pizza and cups for the parents. They allow multiples of the same coupons. Collect them from your newspaper and from other CEC promotions to get the best deal. Ours was a large pizza, four cups and a bunch of tokens for $19.95.

Each party gets a 'party host'. Ours was about 17 and had no personality. I had to remind her of a few things. She miscounted the cups and didn't understand that I didn't want to add a kid, I wanted the correct number of plates and tokens. I told her more than she told me. Even with her lack of personality, she kept the party moving.

As the guests came in, I gave them a cup of tokens and told them they had about 45 minutes to play games before the food came out. When it was food time, Dippy pushed a button and a goofy voice came over the loudspeaker and told the birthday guests to come to the table.

The rest of the party was automated. The screens and the automated CEC told the kids to enjoy the food. It told the kids to chant and when to sing Happy Birthday. Oh, someone came out in a CEC costume. The parents were noisier than the kids. The kids wanted to eat their pizza and could have cared less about chanting Happy Birthday. It was very funny. The loud birthday recording lasted about 15 minutes.

The parties are made to run about 90 minutes from the start time. We picked Sunday at noon so they didn't rush us out but, Dippy did clean up as the kids got up from the table.

I got a lot of extra coupons from the adult pizzas and from on-line promotions so I gave the parents extra tokens to keep the fun going. Some parents gave back their extra tokens and their tickets. It costs 10 tickets to get a Dum-Dum pop. The other pieces of crap...uh...wonderful prizes start at 10 tickets and go up in increments of 10. I grabbed our extra tickets and rounded up when our guests came up short.

Worth mentioning: all games cost one token. Husband and a few of the guests mentioned how happy they were that the big games (driving games and basketball) cost only one token to play.

If you ask questions using the live chat on the site, they will give you the "official" answers. We had 3 kids with allergies. According to the live chat, we could not bring *any* outside food, except for cake. According to the manager, they understood allergies and would work with the parents to find something for the kids to eat. The allergy parents came with their own food and no one mentioned it. The managers were very helpful.

For 15 kids and 17 parents we came in under $300!

This was at the Gaithersburg, MD location so, your mileage may vary. Check your store rather than taking my word. :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

RWA - My first conference

I had a great time!

The Romance Writers of America (RWA) has a conference every year and one night of the conference is dedicated to their charity, Readers for Life. This one night allows non-conference members/readers to buy books and get them signed.

First, I'm not a romance reader. My bookshelves are filled with mysteries, horror and ghost stories.

A few years ago, I entered a contest and ended up winning a romance novel. Then, I noticed the same site had chats and chat giveaways. I love winning stuff so, I attended a chat. I lurked for my first few times until I got the hang of it. I ended up loving the community and even read a few romance novels. I prefer romance-mystery or romance-paranormal crossovers but, I learned an important lesson: romance does not equal crap.

I started reading blogs and getting involved in the romance community. People talked about different conferences and reader gatherings. Since I only liked a few authors, I never looked into them. This year, the conference was in Washington DC, a Metro ride away.

It was overwhelming! 500 authors and their fans. It was noisy, it was crowded, it was hot and I had a great time. I could have left after about 20 minutes but, I decided to wait for a friend and wander the convention hall and look at the other authors and other readers. Everyone was nice. I talked to authors, readers and even some of the hotel staff.

I had a short list of must-see authors. Out of 500 authors, I wanted to see 4: Terri Garey, Shirley Jump, Anna DeStefano and Samantha Hunter.

I am a big dorky fanboy, er...fangirl.

I was so nervous meeting my 4 authors, I babbled a bit. I'm pretty sure I said nothing of importance and repeated myself. The coolest thing was that all four of the authors recognized me by my screen name! It really made me feel appreciated as a reader. Some of them inscribed my books with my real name and my screen name. All of them talked to me as if I wasn't a big dorky fangirl asking for them to inscribe books.

I was looking a bit overwhelmed and author Hank Phillipi Ryan took the time to talk to me. She told me not to be nervous or worried about telling authors that I was a fan. Authors love to hear that people love their work. I've never read anything by this author and yet, she was nice enough to give me some nice verbal comfort. I didn't tell her I hadn't read her book but, I think she figured that one out on her own. She also gave me some cool lip balm with her name on it. I love swag.

I ended up meeting Nora Roberts. She had sold out of all her Nora Roberts books so, her huge line had disappeared. I hopped over to tell her that she and I had a 6th degree of separation and noticed that she had a stack of J.D. Robb books. I've never read Roberts but I really like the Robb series so I happily bought an expensive inscribed hardback copy for myself. After I left the table and man with two cameras came over to me and told me he was from the Washington Post and he had been taking my picture while I was talking to Nora Roberts. Figures. I should have dragged him over to one of my 4 authors.

I have been to author signings. Well, I've been to signings for two other authors. Ed McBain and Elizabeth Peters.

I was 20 when I saw Ed McBain and it was my first. I was so nervous and when he put his hand out to shake mine, I stuck my copy (VHS) of The Birds in his hand. He got a good chuckle. I was the youngest person in line, everyone else was over 40. I think he was a bit surprised to see me and that I knew he had written the screenplay to The Birds. I'm pretty sure I babbled then, too.

When meeting authors, I'm slightly calmer now but just as thrilled.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sesame Place - Day Two

We had our breakfast with Elmo scheduled for our second morning. Well, Husband and Son did, I planned to sit out in the car. It didn't make sense to me to pay two adult tickets (around $20) just to watch my son be too excited and distracted to eat breakfast.

The boys had a great time. The characters walked around the tables and spent time with the kids. As part of the package a picture with Elmo is given. The picture wasn't great but, my husband made up for it by getting some other cute shots. Husband recommends the breakfast to families with pre-schoolers. It is a fun and cute experience. Grandma will probably want to go when she comes to visit.

We ended up running into friends from my son's school so we spent most of the day with them.

There are wet rides and dry rides. Most of the park is taken up by the water rides. Slides, sprinklers, wading pools and, my favorite, the lazy river.

There are very few rides small children can ride without having an adult with them. The plus: you spend more time with your child. The minus: you have to go on rides you might not like.

It is a decently run park. The younger employees, like in any summer job, run from decent to apathetic.

The best think I saw from the employees was the missing child alerts. An announcement would come over the park speakers announcing that a child had been found and was in the 'Lost Child' room. Pretty standard. I saw the employees help a child to get to that room. It's done fast and friendly. Most of the employees are near park phones and will call a manager. One girl closed her game stand to help a little boy. They must get some training because she was quick and calmed the child before taking his hand and leading him to 'Lost Child'.

The parade is cute and worth seeing. It was a rock-themed parade so they didn't do all Sesame Street songs. I would have preferred all songs from the Street.

The food is kinda crappy. Well, the quality was okay, it was the selection that sucked. Mostly toddler food. Chicken fingers, fries, pizza, hotdogs were available for kid meals. There were a few adult choices. Emphasis on few. The food itself was good and were decent portions. There are some adorable Elmo cupcakes that have a good flavor. The prices are a bit high for a normal lunch but comparable to any amusement park. We had a season pass (gotten through some special deal) and they give 30% food and souvenirs in the park. We saved a lot of money.

Sesame Place - Day One

We got to our hotel, checked in an unloaded. Since it was early afternoon, we decided to head over and check out the park. When we got there, we noticed a lot of people leaving and the gates to enter the park, closed. A thunderstorm had been sighted and they were closing the park. Son was a bit sad but he knew he had a lot planned for tomorrow.

We got our passes from the window, and a picture of Son in front of the closed gates and then went off in search of entertainment. Entertainment was found in the form of Target.

A few things to know about Jersey: They are mean to their drivers. To make a left turn, the driver must first make a right, then try to get back to the road and then go across an intersection. It makes about the same amount of sense in writing as it does in driving. In brief, driving in Jersey was annoying. the GPS was only slightly helpful.

Our hotel was in Jersey and the park is in PA. Next time, we're staying in the same state as the park.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sesame Place - The Adventure Begins

So, after the glowing review from another mom, we decided to take our face to Sesame Place for a little 'school is over' vacation.

Since we are Marriott members, we tried looking for deals through the Marriott site. Nuthin'. Occasionally, their site ties into local attractions and will offer decent deals. Not this time.

Husband and I decided to look at the deals through the Sesame Place site. At first glance, the deals looked good. Husband did some research and found out that the lower-priced hotels were in a crappy area and were run-down. People complained of car break-ins and dilapidated rooms. My husband comes from a long line of paranoid people so, we decided to look a bit further from the park.

Husband found a deal at the Hyatt, Princeton. (Odd aside, their website layout is identical to Marriott's site) Yes, Jersey (shudder). The hotel is 15 miles away and doesn't have a shuttle. We're going for piece of mind not convenience.

We will be doing Breakfast with Elmo on our first day in the park. Well, Husband and Son will. It seemed a bit silly for two of us adults to pay the $17 fee. My favorite was Oscar and I don't think he would throw a good breakfast party.

You've caught me, I'm not one of those mothers who feel the need to be present at every childhood event.

We booked through the Sesame site. While they confirmed immediately, we didn't get the hotel confirmation until a few days later. That made Husband nervous.

The tickets for Sesame Place and the Elmo breakfast are meant to be printed out, which we did. Husband had me check them multiple times.

Wilderness Blogging

We went camping in Rocky Gap this past weekend. Ah, camping with a 4 year old.

Husband had found a tent and some sleeping bags on sale so we had some equipment. Camping would be a lot more fun if it didn't require so much equipment to be comfortable! Friends of ours camp regularly so they allowed us to share their good stuff.

Our friends have a lot of nifty equipment to make camping more comfortable. They have a camp stove and love to do a little gourmet cooking. We ate well when it was their turn to cook.

For lunch on our last day, I brought hot dogs, chicken sausages and beans. I wanted to give the boys something to cook over the fire. I found marshmallow forks in the Dollar Spot at Target because it isn't always easy to find a perfect stick. Okay, I bought them because they were a dollar and I thought they were cute. We put the stick through the middle of the hot dogs and split the ends so they would spider out when they cooked. It was a version of octo-dogs. I think the boys had more fun cooking than eating. The night before, Son got tired of eating s'mores and offered to cook marshmallows for everyone. A grate was provided over the fire pit so I put the cans on the grate over the fire to cook. I felt so chuck-wagony!

I froze the hot dogs and sausages so they were thawed by the time lunch came around on the second/last day. They helped to keep the other stuff cold and were ready to go when we needed them.

I like camping in short bursts. I don't know if I would like it for a week or more. One or two nights seem to be my limit. I like my house. I like my bed. I like a clean and private bathroom. I like my electronics! Nice to visit but, I wouldn't want to live there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

X-treme food!

If it has X in the name, the food must be exciting, right? X-treme pizza! X-treme juice! I've noticed a lot of misspelled X-foods on the market. My 4-year-old is more about the taste than the name, for the moment. Tonight that changed. We had X-ghetti for dinner. He has never mispronounced it before so it really stuck out. Was it the mild sausages I used instead of the regular meatballs? Maybe the garlic bread really matched well with the sauce. Did I really create something worthy of an X-rating?

I thought the X generation was lazy and the Y generation had all the energy and sporty-ness. How did the letter X become exciting? Does it remind people of a 'keep out' sign? Does it remind people of the word exotic? How did this letter become associated with fun food and wacky sports?

Lunchables has changed their packaging to a more sedate look, recently. Gone are the big lettering and wild adjectives. Now, the boxes show pictures of the food with simple descriptions of the food. Are we no longer extreme? The intended audience is still kids but, they removed all the kid-attracting kooky-ness. I say the intended audience is still kids because their website has pictures of kids, not adults, having fun and their current contest is for a summer camp. What changed?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Food and Friends or Food as Friends?

The owner of Studio 54, Steve Rubell, told the bouncer he wanted a 'tossed salad' of people in the club. What was in the tossed salad of the 70s? The actual real salad. Lettuce, some stray vegetables maybe some real imitation bacon bit?

This is what he wanted in his club? To me, that does not make for a diverse crowd. Heck, I add a lot of weird stuff to my salad when we have "Big Salad Night" and I still wouldn't consider it very diverse.

I don't own a club but, I like diversity within my group of friends. Smorgasbord? Buffet? Oh, maybe a Vegas-style buffet? The buffet at the Rio was huge!

Does the food represent my friends or do the stations of food? I think I lost myself in my own metaphor.

I had many different types of people in my circle of friends. Sometimes, they didn't get along with one another and it would make for awkward parties.

Do your friends fit in one bowl or do you need a few plates?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Low Salt Living - In the Good Old Summertime Fish

This recipe cam about because Husband and I were trying to fix the shower while I was trying to make dinner. I asked him how he wanted the fish and he said "surprise me". I started to think about what flavors go well with fish and what I had on hand. Lemons go good but I didn't have any lemons. I did have lemonade. Well, pink lemonade. We also call this "pink fish".

It tastes better than it sounds. Really.

Tilapia or other white fish
Powdered Lemonade Mix
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ground Pepper
Olive Oil

Spread some olive oil on the fish. Enough to make it moist so the other stuff sticks.

Sprinkle the fish with the dry ingredients. (no, I don't have any real measurements) Somewhere around 1-2 teaspoons depending on the size of the fish.

Cook it in the oven until it is done.

For a moister fish, make a thicker than normal mix of the lemonade and pour it around the fish. Wrap in tinfoil.

I've also used chili powder for a bit of heat.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Web Fun - Big Fish Games

I like to play computer games. I like the distraction and, sometimes, the challenge. My faves are the resource gathering/building games. Husband has found me some great games like King's Bounty, Heroes of Might and Magic and Dungeon Keeper. These games are kinda big and take many game hours to complete.

Husband game me a new-to-me game, Garden Defense, a time management game. I kinda liked it. I went searching for hints and found Big Fish Games. They have all different types of games. Most of the games are small and only take a few hours to complete.

Back in the 80s, I played Lemonade Stand on the dumb-terminal-monochrome-(orange)-screen-text-only Pet Computer. I didn't need no stinkin' graphics! For those who aren't ancient, it was a game where you ran a lemonade stand and tried to make back more than your $10 investment. Your mom gave you the money and you had to buy supplies and price your lemonade depending on a vague weather report. The line "you would have made ___ if you charged ___" is forever burned into my brain. I loved it! I babysat for someone who had the program on their Commodore 64. I got so bored one night, I made a chart for the prices and the weather. Early geekdom.

Back to Big Fish. BF lets me try games for an hour to help me decide if they are worth buying. Great idea! I like the time management games but not all of the time management games so this lets me give them a test run. The games are small so an hour is usually enough to get a good feel for the game.

BF does download their portal program to your computer. This allows you to easily download new games, play games and delete old games. The price per game depends on the number of games purchased. I suggest finding at least 6 games to make it worth your money. We did a 6-pack before going on vacation and still had some game play left over when we returned.

Some of my faves:

Fairy Godmother Tycoon
Farm Frenzy
Farm Mania
Garden Defense

Who Knew? Tomato Sauce Revisited

We had spaghetti the other night and I used the jarred sauce. In the middle of the meal Husband said "Ya know, I like your sauce better".

It looks like I'll be making my own sauce for a while. :-)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Real Moms vs. Good Moms – Jarred Spaghetti Sauce

Certain shows on TV will have us think that to be a Good Mom, one MUST do things in a certain way. A few of you have already thought of a few shows and instances that fit that description. For non-moms or if you aren’t sure what I mean, read on.

I love cooking shows. The birth of the TV Food (they took off the TV part and added Network) was like a dream for me. More on that in another post. As a mom, I now watch the shows with a new perspective. The chefs on these shows will have the viewer think that the ONLY way to cook is from scratch with all fresh, natural, the best quality and the most expensive ingredients they can find. Rather than adding dried basil, they grab a handful from a beautiful plant growing in their windowsill or from their lush garden. Chicken should always be butchered from whole. Never use anything pre-prepared.

Who has the time or the money? Yes, butchering my meat from larger cuts is less expensive but, have you ever cut up a whole chicken? Yarg! My house doesn’t face the right direction for growing gorgeous herbs, indoors. The jar of dried usually costs the same as a plant and won’t wilt or die. The deer and squirrels eat all of my other plants. I have Mums and the shrubs that came with the house.

One of my favorite cooking shows, America’s Test Kitchen, was testing jarred spaghetti sauces. The host of the show, Christopher Kimball, said he NEVER uses jarred sauces. He acted as if, well, it was a crime against nature. He also acted the same way when the tested jarred salsas. He ALWAYS makes his own sauce explaining that it takes the same amount of time and tastes better. He didn’t give his recipe.

I’ve used jarred sauces all my life. Any time my mother made sauce from the garden tomatoes, it was bitter and kinda nasty (sorry, mom). I made it once and it was bitter and nasty. I have since found some easy recipes and have made decent sauces. They still need work because, I have to do the recipe with very low salt. The secret ingredient is usually salt. I welcome recipes but remember, when I used canned tomato stuff, it is usually ‘no salt added’.

Why does using a jarred sauce make me a bad cook? My kid is sick and he wants yoodles. He wants me to sit with him, not cook. If I can dump 1 thing in a pot, I’m happy. My choices are limited because of our salt restriction so the one I use is slightly healthier than the others.

What is the difference between making my own sauce from canned tomatoes and getting it from a jar? I can make it lower in salt. It costs a bit less. It doesn’t really take less time or effort. One jar vs. 3 cans. Aren’t they all pre-processed?

Oh, one last weird thing. I don’t like to microwave my tomato sauce. To me, it tastes better if I do it on the stove in a pot. I am sure it has something to do with the reactivity of the tomatoes and the pan. Does anyone know this for sure or is it just a weirdism of me?