Tuesday, November 24, 2009


School work and paying work have been sadly neglected this month. It's not that nothing is getting done, it's just that all sorts of things -- more interesting things -- keep interrupting, like dates with my husband and outings with the kids. And moving DS2 into his own room, which necessitated cleaning out the playroom and purging 5 years worth of toys the children never even look at.

It's delightful, but still I have assignments pending and it's making me antsy. Yet here I am posting on the blog. Like I'm going to be meaningfully productive at this hour? Ha!

Shopping for Thanksgiving is finished, at least I accomplished that today.

The other stuff? Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

bday + weekend recap

Chocolate peppermint birthday cake, with chocolate mint buttercream frosting, mint (green) glaze, and chocolate chips.

DD turned eleven last week, and it feels as if we've been celebrating her birthday for a month now. It started with the purchase of the netbook last Sunday at the Microsoft store, and it continued on her actual birthday straight through to the weekend.

The bday itself was full of all kinds of hectic, as the kids all had a half-day of school so I rescheduled their piano lessons for earlier in the day. We just had time for a quick lunch, then it was off to their lessons. Then home, when I frosted and "decorated" the cake -- I should remember to snip very, very small holes in the corners of the ziploc bags I'm using as impromptu pastry tubes, especially since glaze is much more runny than decorator frosting.

Then to the Y for our class, then home for her favorite dinner: tortellini and sausage, with red sauce. After dinner DS1 played "Happy Birthday" on the piano while we sang, so we actually sounded pretty good for once. DD was pleased with her day.

Friday, five of her friends (from both old and new schools) came over for a sleepover. I don't believe they slept at all. It necessitated me cleaning pretty much the whole house, with special attention paid to the playroom where the girls camped out. They had pizza and ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins (chocolate chip cookie dough with white cake):
The second cake, gone before the first

They drank about a gallon of lemonade, ate lots of pizza, and made a small dent in DD's Halloween candy. In the morning, they had pancakes and bacon and were all gone promptly at 9:30AM so DD wouldn't miss her karate.

The boys stayed up as late as the girls (well, till 12:30 at least) and so all three kids were somewhat cranky and exhausted on Saturday.

Sunday we went to the zoo to see the komodo dragons. They're huge! The viewing area is very well designed.
Male, basking

This is his good side.

The animals were rather accomodating; both the lion and the tiger were napping where we could see them easily. Most fun is a toss-up between the otters, who were adorable but of some concern because some nimrod was letting his kid feed them kettle corn, and the monkeys in the monkey village, because they were playing very close to the path.
Idiots in the monkey village were trying to hand-feed these guys, too.

Please don't feed the otters.

From the zoo we went to Borders where I read a few more chapters of the next Ember book. It's a young adult post-apocalyptic tale but nowhere near as good as Lois Lowry's trilogy.

I haven't worked in days, and now schoolwork is waiting, too. I keep saying I've been busy (there has been other stuff going on, too, I couldn't possibly blog it all) but I still find time to dawdle on the computer and before I know it, entire days are gone. I continually fail to live up to my own expectations, but since no one else seems to care, I'm starting to wonder if I should, either?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Mammogram came back normal. *whew*

adventures in technology

Sunday we all trooped up to Scottsdale Fashion Center to go to the first ever anywhere Microsoft Store. We wanted to talk to them about Windows 7 and see what they were offering.

We ended up buying DD's birthday-Christmas computer, an Asus Eee. It's pink! And it came with Windows 7 Starter as its OS. Win7 Starter doesn't let you customize the desktop or change colors, but that wasn't important for DD. We chose this Asus because for $30 more it has a substantially better battery (6- vs 3-cell, giving 8.5 hours vs 3.5), and it has a bigger hard drive.

Our main concern with getting a Windows 7 netbook was that Win7 doesn't have web browser parental controls included. That functionality is included in Windows Live, which is free and seemed well-integrated, so we decided to go for it.

Oy. I was up until 1AM last night trying to install the parental controls from Windows Live Family Safety. Whenever I tried to add the account in Family Safety, it kept telling me "an error has occurred," and then some nonsense about logging into the account again and trying again, which of course never worked.

I did some websearching and found various forum postings indicating that this may have been caused by a corrupt installation of Windows Live, so I removed it, downloaded it again, and re-installed it. Still no dice.

Then I found another post somewhere that hinted that the accounts created with the bad version of Windows Live around were also corrupted somehow, so I had to delete those accounts (including the administrator account, which involved creating another admin account to delete the first one --) and then recreate them.

Once I did that, it all worked fine. I did have to jump through some unfortunate hoops because I had (foolishly) named the new admin account "Admin," and Family Safety does not like that. After at least 3 hours of creating and removing accounts and trying to set the restrictions, I finally got it to work.

Here, I think, are the actual steps to success:
1. Remove Windows Live immediately.
2. Download Windows Live and re-install it. Reboot.
3. Now create your Administrator account.
4. Important: use the Family Safety Filter (from the Start menu, choose All Programs, then Choose Windows Live, then choose Family Safety) to create the new (kid's) user account. If you use Control Panel Account functionality, it won't work.
5. Now add Windows Live Family Safety Parental Controls to the new account.
And now you can go in and customize the new user account via the Control Panel, also. I'm pretty sure this is correct. I was going around in circles for a while, but I still tried to keep track of what was working and what wasn't. This should work.

About the Microsoft Store: there were a ton of staff people there who were all uniformly friendly, but I had the feeling I knew more than many of them about OSs and all the issues with parental controls. It focuses on computers and software, although they do have an XBox section towards the back. It's not like the Apple Store which devotes as much real estate to the iPod family as any of the computers (at least that's my impression, I haven't spent too much time in one); they have dozens of computers all around the store perimeter with gorgeous screens, some showing live TV (on Sunday: NFL), and others showing videos or just available for surfing on. It has a very minimal, clean design that gets out of the way of the technology they're showing off. I was amused by the staff "uniform": long-sleeved t-shirts in one of the four "Windows" colors: red, green, blue, or yellow. Those colors were bright.

If I had thought about this beforehand, I would have brought my camera.

The netbook? Fantastic. DD loves it, she's doing her homework on it already. Windows 7 is quite zippy. It's funny how the tiniest computer in the house has the best performance (for now).


Patience is not my strong point.

I'm waiting for mammogram results. I don't have any particular reason to suspect that something will be wrong, other than my general, persistent belief that I will get breast cancer someday. I have many risk factors (family history, left-handedness, thyroid cancer, melanoma) but also some protective factors: my three children, all of whom nursed for about a year. I don't think the protective factors outweigh the risks, though, so every year I just wait.

I'm also waiting for Wednesday. I have an interview at the school where I would very much like to do my practicums (and student teaching when the time comes). I called to ask about it, and they called me back to schedule the appointment. I'm hoping this works, because if not I will be well and truly crushed.

Wednesday will be very busy. It's DD's birthday, but I'll start the day by hauling DS1 off to the orthodontist at 7AM to have a bracket re-glued. Then my interview at 10, then the kids get out at noon, piano lessons from 1-2:30, circuit class at 4:45. DD has already requested tortellini and sausage for dinner; sometime before then I'll be making her a chocolate peppermint cake. (Using a chocolate cake mix and peppermint extract - 1+1/2 tsp for the cake, and 1 tsp for the chocolate frosting.)