Works For Me: Strawberry Pie

WfmwbannerKRISTEN Kristen is hosting a themed edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday today, and she's asking if we'd like to share a summer recipe.  Mine is for strawberry pie, and I will happily share the recipe, but I WILL NOT SHARE THE PIE.  If you don't believe me, ask the eight-year-old boy I tackled this afternoon when he approached my fridge.

I made this for a church picnic over the weekend; it makes two, which means I could take one to share and I could keep one at home for my family me.

So here it is, the pie which all other pies want to be when they grow up:

STRAWBERRY PIE

2 containers fresh strawberries, sliced and washed
2 pie shells (homemade, if you're fancy, store-bought if you're me)
17 oz Sprite or 7-Up
1 pkg strawberry Jell-o
1 1/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp cornstarch

Bake pie crust, set aside to cool.

In a sauce pan, bring Sprite, sugar and cornstarch to a bowl.  Cook over low heat until it thickens (5-10 minutes).

Remove pan from heat.  Stir in Jell-o until dissolved.  Mix in sliced strawberries.  Chill mixture in fridge for 20 minutes.

Remove from fridge and pour into two pie shells.  Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least three hours before serving.

For more great summer recipes, visit Kristen at We Are THAT Family!

Bee-Yoo-tiful

We had three perfectly restful days at Ree's Lodge.  Over the course of our time together, we ate entirely too much food and got way too little sleep. We managed to analyze what is wrong with the State Of Marriage In America, which era of Saturday Night Live was best, what might possibly happen in Iran, and why on earth we wore those clothes in the 1980's.  Sophie, Melanie and I feel so recharged and pampered and well-fed that we briefly considered refusing to leave.  But that would just be bad manners, so we sadly packed up and left yesterday afternoon.

Here are a few of snapshots of all the lovelies:

[First, a disclaimer: Compared to Ree's photos, mine look like they were taken with a cheap camera and by a bad photographer.  Probably because I have a cheap camera and I'm a bad photographer.]

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Below, the back deck.  This is where we stood to sing rousing verses of show tunes from the musical Oklahoma.  (Not really.  Okay, really.  But only once):

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I'm not sure, but I think this pantry may hold the key to world peace:

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Even dirty laundry smells good in here:

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The view from the room where I slept:

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I would like to report that the reason this guacamole is halfway gone is that I had been sharing it evenly and diplomatically with everyone else and NOT AT ALL because I shoveled half the plate into my mouth so vigorously that my skin has a green tint to it today: 

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A scrumptious dinner:

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And (*sigh*) cinnamon rolls for breakfast, lightly flavored with coffee:

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Signing off now, to go shop for some elastic-waist pants.  

Closeted

I can't help it, I clean closets in June.  Don't be impressed:  In July I'll go back to be being sloppy.  But in June, I get obsessed with organizing and purging my closets within an inch of their atrocious lives.  Maybe I'm inspired by the hearty season of growth I see outdoors.  Maybe I'm inspired by the concussion I received from the glue gun that fell off my daughter's closet shelf onto my skull.

Whatever the reason, I'm a closet-cleaning freak right now.  The biggest one in our house is my daughter's.  Because it's the largest, it's become, as you might expect, a sort of black hole, holding all the stuff for which we don't have another place.  Tackling it has been an enormous job.  I'm not through with it yet, because there's so much in there to see and touch and sort through and remember.

For example, we have my grandfather's stamp collection, which has remained unopened since the last time he worked on it, forty years ago.  I keep thinking we should get it out and catalog it–it was one of my goals for this summer, actually.  I have a lovely mental image going, in which we open it to find that it contains the Holy Grail of stamps, something that would have Sotheby's calling us to set up an auction.  And I would agree, and then I'd hang up the phone, and then I'd turn to find The Stamp in the hands of my four-year-old daughter, just as she licked it and stuck it on the front of her Strawberry Shortcake coloring book.  And so the stamp collection stays on the top shelf:

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Here is a basket shaped like the state of Arkansas.  No home should be without one.  I have kept it for 15 years, because you never know when you might have critical need of something like this (grafitti courtesy of a pen-wielding toddler a few years back):

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Next stop is a white plastic basket on a middle shelf.  A couple of years ago I got on a pincushion kick.  I made up a little pattern, and they were adorable and easy.  So I sewed a few.  And then I sewed a few more.  And I kept tossing them into a basket in this Black Hole closet, and lo and behold, look what I have:

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That's 48 pincushions, my friends.  FORTY-EIGHT.  Every time my husband looks in there he shakes his head and says it's a little bit like that part in Close Encounters where the people went crazy and got obsessed with recreating Devil's Mountain out of mashed potatoes.  I haven't been visiting aliens, of course, but clearly I have been visiting too many craft blogs.

100_4181 Carefully wrapped inside this bag is a bowl my dad bought as a gift for his mother 30 years ago, from a little antique shop in Connecticut.  The shop owner told him it was 700 years old, from Persia; who knows if that was accurate, but certainly it was very old and very beautiful.  After my grandmother died, my dad gave it to me, and I hung it proudly in my house.  But do you know what happens when you hang a 700-year-old Persian plate in a house that contains three little boys under the age of five?  You get this:

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No, it can't be glued back together.  It's not like any other plate I've ever seen before (being, you know, a medieval artifact and all), and it won't hold glue like a typical plate.  So it sits in this closet, carefully wrapped up, until the day I can properly locate a Thirteenth-Century-Persian-Plate Fixer.  Know anyone?

Here's the last thing I'll show you (and my apologies for all the randomness; I'm hoping the public shame will prompt me to throw something away, finally):

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(Incidentally, if you were a Southern bride between 1990 and 2000 then I suspect you know exactly where that box came from–anyone want to take a stab?)

That box stores what is left of my cassette tape collection from high school.  We don't even own a cassette player anymore; there is no need for me to keep this box.

And yet.

How can I possibly throw away this…

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<p

and this…

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and (this is getting embarrassing) this…

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and this…

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(That tape was a very important part of my emotional 1987 experience, helping me to process profound crises such as the Cold War and geometry.)

That's why I'm overwhelmed–every time I sit down to tackle this closet project, I find myself facing hard decisions about valuable Persian artifacts and bad '80's pop music.  It makes me frustrated and exhausted and, strangely, inclined to tease my bangs.

Thoughts

I stepped out into my front yard, greeted by a blast of hot air and the dull roar of the cicadas.  Squinting into the glare of the evening sun, I noticed a strange shape atop my brick mailbox.  Closer inspection revealed this to be an eight-year-old boy, my eight-year-old boy, in fact, his legs crossed and his chin in his hands.  He sat atop the mailbox, deep in thought, eyes loosely focused on something I could not see. 

I wandered slowly over to him, and I leaned against his perch.  I didn't say anything, not for a while; he had thoughts to think, and it's a good thing to listen with contentment to what a child isn't saying.  After a few minutes, though, the curiosity got the better of me, as my mother's heart wondered what heavy load had driven my boy into such a reverie.

"So," I said.  "It looks like you're thinkin' things."

He paused.  "Yes, ma'am."

"Wanna tell me about it?"

He paused again, as if to wonder whether his mother was ready for thoughts of such magnitude.  Evidently, I passed muster.

"Sharks," he said, looking straight ahead.  "I'm thinking about sharks."

"Oh," I said.  "And what are you thinking about sharks?"

He raised his head and looked at me, in an of-course sort of way, and he grinned.  "I'm thinkin' about catchin' 'em."

Well, of course.

I grinned in return and I rubbed his sweaty head; but not too hard, in case I interrupt the fine thoughts inside.  Sensing his need for more silence, I slipped back toward my house, but not before I turned to look at him.  His chin had dropped back into his hands, his eyes refocused on the asphalt street in front of him, the street down which surely, surely, any moment, a shark might swim.  Never mind that it's 600 miles to the nearest ocean.  When you're eight, it doesn't really matter.

Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plains

I didn't grow up in Oklahoma, so unlike my own children, I didn't have the benefit of years of Oklahoma history in school.  It's a shame, really, because the interesting lore and culture of my adopted state endears it to me more and more all the time. 

I mean, there are 306 million people living in the United States, but only three-and-a-half million of us get to live in a state that actually inspired a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.  Not to mention a Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie.  (I loved that movie.  It came out in 1992, before I was a married woman and before Tom was a couch-jumper.  And let me tell you that it was very pleasant sitting a dark theater, watching a close-up shot of Tom whispering "Marry me, Shannon."  "Okay," I whispered back.)

When Hubs first told me we'd be having a romantic anniversary getaway a few miles outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma, I was skeptical.  "What's in Guthrie?" I asked.

A lot, it turns out.  It was the original state capital of Oklahoma, and it was the headquarters of the famous Land Run of 1889.  This picturesque little town is home to a huge historic district, meticulously maintained and restored.  During our trip, Hubs and I spent an afternoon taking in the history.

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I have an unhealthy obsession with historical markers.  My idea of a dream vacation is to stop at every single one of them:

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100_4092 We stopped at an old drugstore that had been turned into a museum.  It was an interesting look at the  pharmaceutical history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Half the remedies in there included "cocaine" and "heroin" as ingredients.  No wonder Aunt Eller was so moody. (I also saw with my very own eyes a particular piece of turn-of-the-century medical equipment that is horribly seared into my brain for all eternity.  I'll spare you the details, but let's just say we should all thank our lucky stars not to have been constipated in 1903.)

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100_4101 Parts of the original brick sidewalks and streets could be seen throughout the district.  Together with the old buildings, it was hard not to let the imagination run wild.

I turned to Hubs.  "Do you realize there might have been a gunfight RIGHT HERE?  Somebody might have been shot to death RIGHT HERE." 

Hey look, another historical marker, and this is a good one:

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Hubs turned to me.  "Do you realize Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman staked their claim RIGHT HERE?"

Cheeky

It’s Not Easy Being Green

All year, my middle son's fourth-grade class has had an aquarium full of African Dwarf Frogs.  The kids have cared for them as a class, learning about their diet and ecosystem.  But the end of the year is upon us, and the frogs needed homes for the summer.

And I have SUCKER written on my forehead, so it's a perfect match.

My son presented a compelling case, complete with bullet points and a closing argument, as to why he would like a chance to adopt one or two.  They're small, easy-to-care-for, and (he knew this would be the deal breaker) they don't smell.

(I have a fair amount of tolerance for annoying pet behaviors.  But I cannot abide bad smells.  Not a whiff.  Not a fraction of a whiff.)

My son brought home the paperwork (oh yes, there was paperwork).  He and I had to sign an agreement that we would care for the frogs and absolutely, under no circumstances, would we "release" the frogs.  And by "release", I can only assume they mean "flush".

"Are you absolutely, positively sure they don't smell?" I asked for the fourth time.  He nodded solemnly.  I looked at the paperwork again.  Then I remembered that episode of LA Law from 1987 that taught us that all legally-binding contracts pertaining to the adoption of African Dwarf Frogs become null and void in the event of a vile stink.  Really.  I'm just sure I remember that one.

I signed the paperwork, as did mothers of many other fourth graders, and my son anxiously stewed over whether his name would be drawn in the frog lottery.  (Oh yes, there was a lottery.)  There were 16 frogs, and there are 22 students.  You could take those odds to Vegas.

One afternoon this week, my son bounded out to the car with a plastic-wrap-covered Solo cup.  We were now the proud owners of not one, but two African Dwarf Frogs (Bud and Lou), and we headed to the store for supplies.  My son, having studied the frogs all year, was very well-versed in what they need (which thankfully, isn't much.)  They need to swim in distilled water, in a glass bowl with a vented lid, and they need regular fish food.

So I grabbed a cheap little bottle of fish pellets off the grocery-store shelf. 

"NO!" shouted my son.  "Not THOSE!  They will make the frogs constipated, and they would explode!"

This is the point at which I must pause to point out that I consider myself a reasonably well-prepared mother.  I studied ahead and braced myself for teething, potty training, stomach viruses, orthodontia, sleepovers, ER trips, sibling rivalry, The Talk, video games, and fractions.

But I will confess that in all my years of looking ahead, never ever did I factor in the possiblity of exploding, constipated frogs.  (It's created a crisis of confidence in me, actually.  What other unexpected dangers might be looming?  Guinea pigs with cholera?  Lactose-intolerant squirrels?)

I am happy to report that we dodged that particular bullet.  Thanks to my son's extensive frog knowledge, Bud and Lou swim happily in a bowl next to me at this very moment.  Nobody has exploded, and nobody stinks.

(I am struck that when one considers "nobody has exploded and nobody stinks" a statement of achievement, then one may have set one's bar a little too low.)

This parenting gig is full of surprises.

In the Interest Of Tying Up Loose Ends

Believe it or not, I'll often get e-mails from people who have read through some of my archives and are curious about where things stand now.  I've been saving up those questions for a giant update which will be interesting only to my mother, so unless you gave birth to me, please do not feel like you have to read on…

How is Dissan, your Compassion child you met in Uganda?

He is doing very well.  We just got a new picture of him about a month ago, and he is positively strapping–I think he's going to be a really tall man someday!  His letters have been frequent and happy this year–his family's health appears to be stable.  He always asks me to pray for him to do well in school.

Do you still like the paperbagged walls in your bathroom?

Yes and no.  That was a cheap and easy stop-gap measure for walls that are damaged.  In any room other than a bathroom, I think I'd probably still love it.  But over the course of the months (and it took a while) the high bathroom humidity has started to make some of the edges get crinkly.  One section near the shower has started coming down entirely.

But never fear!  A few weeks ago, I walked in there to find my problem-solving husband re-attaching that portion of the paper WITH A STAPLE GUN.  And let me tell you, when you reach a point where you staple-gun paper bags to your bathroom walls, then you know that you have truly reached the highest heights of sophistication. 

I'm ultimately going to have to find a longer-term solution (probably wallpaper), just as soon as I can find some time to work on it–so probably in 2033.

How are the pet rats?

Well, in a word, they're dead.  So I guess you could say they're not doing very well.

The last one died about three months ago, much to the despair of my sons.  My favorite back-yard flower bed is now a little rat cemetary, a fact I choose not to think about when I sit out there sipping my Diet Coke.  Certainly, the rats did not die from neglect–I was so proud of how my boys took care of them.  My oldest, especially, was so responsible, even carefully monitoring their little ratty diets.  (I tried to tell him that they weren't exactly delicate flowers; their grandaddy, after all, came from the sewer.)

It pains me to admit it, but they were good pets–smart and clean-ish, for rodents.  They were almost good enough to make me entertain the thought of getting more of them, but then I remember the tails.  I could just never get over the tails. 

Speaking of rodents, what about the mouse under the fridge?

It took a few a lot an outrageous number of tries, but we got him.  Actually, them.  There were at least four.  But they're gone now, as is the lingering smell.  You're very welcome, and enjoy your breakfast.

How are the new kitchen counters working out?

I love them.  LOVE them.  We went with quartz, which is a little less expensive than granite and much lower-maintenance.  And I have never regretted it for a second–I love everything about those countertops.  The good news is that the speckledy pattern I chose doesn't show streaks, stains or food.  The bad news is that the speckledy pattern I chose doesn't show streaks, stains or food, which means that sometimes I'll run my hand over a forgotten corner and, well, just eww.

How's your new baby niece?

She couldn't be any better!  She is healthy, content, and beautifully bonded to her new family.  She is also THE most communicative one year old I've ever seen–if I started describing to you how smart this child is, you wouldn't even believe me.  We're all just dazzled by her.  Many thanks to those of you who prayed for their family.

What did you decide about the kid cell phone?

We ended up adding a "kid phone" a couple of months ago, simply because our own phone contracts were up for renewal, and they offered us a ridiculously cheap family option.  It doesn't belong to any one kid; whoever most needs it gets to carry it.  Initially, I handed down more laws than Moses about that phone–you wouldn't believe all the rules I've attached to it. 

But (and this is the way things generally go around here), after all my stewing and worrying and concern that this might turn into some abuse of privilege or Very Serious Moral Issue, it's been a complete non-event.  My two older boys have been completely responsible with it, never once violating (or complaining about) my 427 cell phone laws.  The truth is, my kids have good heads on their shoulders.  I should give them more credit sometimes.

Did I forget anything?  (*UPDATED:  I've answered a few more questions in the comments section.)

An Open Letter To the People In the Fashion Industry Who Design Clothes For Grown Women

Dear Fashion People,

Today I went to the mall to buy a shirt.  Just a shirt.  Something girly and springy to put with my khaki capris, something dressier than the solid knit shirts that serve as my spring and summer uniform.

I looked and I looked and I have finally reached a breaking point on an issue that has bugged me for some time:

The camisole.

Everything requires a cami, seemingly by design.  It's a vast layering conspiracy, and the salesgirls are in on it.  I come out of the dressing room wearing a shirt that plunges down to there.  "Is it supposed to be this low-cut?" I ask.

"Oh," she says, "just throw a cami under it."

So I try on something else.  The bodice has a lot of eyelet-ish trim on it, and eyelet has holes.  Holes, all over my abdomen, including one gaping open over my most impressive stretch mark.

"Oh," salesgirl says, "just throw a cami under it."

Round three.  It looks like a safe-enough white shirt, until I put it on and realize it's almost completely sheer.  Bridal-veil sheer.

"Oh," salesgirl says, (all together now) "just throw a cami under it."

But here's the deal:  I don't want to throw a cami under it.  I don't want two shirts.  I want one shirt.  My reasons are excellent:

1.  I'm cheap and I'm out of closet space.  A cami is one more thing to buy, launder, store and generally deal with.  Let's keep it simple.

2.  I live in Oklahoma.  In the summer, it is hot.  Melt-your-skin-off hot.  Even-the-pool-water-is-too-warm hot.  What's-wrong-with-the-A/C hot.  If I have to endure that heat wearing two layers of clothing, I might be (*shudder*) tempted to remove the top layer, which brings me to point three…

3.  Ever since I hit puberty, I have devoted a signficant amount of effort to making sure that my bra strap doesn't show.  And even if your cami matches your bra, your bra strap shows.  I don't like that.  I suspect you would recommend I find a cami with a built-in bra, to which I respond that such bras were not created for women who have nursed four children, and that's all I have to say about that.

4.  I'm a middle-aged woman.  I'm not overweight, but still, I have a general layer of padding around my mid-section, and it is a cause of consternation.  The last thing I want to do is add another layer of squishiness.  Your cami fabric may be thin, but if I wanted to add two milimeters of thickness to my abdomen, I'd much rather do it at Krispy Kreme.

Perhaps you will say that you have introduced the cami as a "stylish accessory" which provides "fashionable layering options".

I don't believe you.

I think you want to sell two shirts.

And I'd march right up to Madison Avenue and tell you this in person, except I'm stuck in the dressing room in a see-through blouse. 

Sincerely,

Shannon

Sometimes Having a Blog Is Handy…

…like, when you need to make a biggish purchase and don't know where to start.

My digital camera is dead as a doornail.  It's not an overly expensive one, and it served me well.  But I know the drill, because I've done it before–if I take it to the camera place, they will tell me it's more economical to replace it than to repair it.  (Since when did our electronic devices become disposable?  But that's a post for another day…)

With soccer season, birthday season, and end-of-school season just around the corner, I know I can't make it very long without a camera.  I'm not a photo buff; I know digital SLRs are wonderful, but I just can't justify the expense.  Here's what I'm looking for:

Never mind, I have no idea what I'm looking for, because I don't possess the terminology to know what I'm looking for.  Here's a revolutionary thought:  I want to press the little button and get good pictures.  I don't want it to suck my bank account dry.  I want it to have decent zoom for soccer pictures.  I don't want an overly long delay when I press the little button (I hate that about digital cameras).  And as long as I'm making my wish list, I'd like for it to be able to stop by and pick up milk on the way home and establish peace in the Middle East.

If you have bought a lower-to-mid-priced digital camera in the last few months, I would love to know what you bought, and what you think.  I know I could just Google it for reviews, but I always encounter words like "aperture" and "contrast ratio", while my photographic vocabulary is limited to "that little silver button thingy." 

Help me, Internet.  You're my only hope. 

Google Fun

In an effort to see if I have even a drop of blogging mojo left, here's a quick stab at my favorite blogging pasttime:  collecting the various Google searches that people use to find my site.  Lately I've had some good ones…

hamsters loose in the garage how do I catch them?  Step 1) Make sure the garage door is closed.  Step 2) Come back inside.  Step 3) Announce to your household that this is why you gave birth to sons.  Step 4) Hand them a bucket. 

if you'd eat more comfort food you wouldn't have to go around shooting people  It's a quote from Lost, just for the record, but there's some stellar wisdom there.

two year old not talking at all not even babbling  Yes, I've been there, twice, actually.  My best advice would be to schedule a consultation with a speech pathologist.  The minute she steps foot in the room, your taciturn child will open his mouth, quote Shakespeare, and diagram sentences.  You will sit there in shock, your mouth gaping open, uttering not a word, and the pathologist will wonder if you are the one in need of therapy.  Ask me how I know.

are my expectations realistic?  I'm not sure Google can help you with this.  You might try Dr. Phil.

gag clean out refrigerator  Me too, sister.  Me too.

cheesecake chimichangas  Me too, sister.  Me too.

i've tried everything to catch a mouse  Hey, me too.  What finally worked for me was beef jerky actually TIED ONTO a 99-cent mousetrap.  Not at all helpful were glue traps, poison traps, screaming, broom-whacking, a college degree and a houseful of strapping sons.  Good luck.

poop in dryer  Yes, it happened once, but how did you know?  I don't want to talk about it.

dog giveaway  Oh, I feel your pain.  Having to give away a dog is terribly painful.  Not as painful as carpet that perpetually smells of pee, but still painful.

curse upon thee  Rough day?

my baby ate my deoderant  True story:  When my oldest was about 20 months old, I was getting ready in my bathroom while he watched a show on TV.  I peeked around the corner to check on him.  To my horror, I saw that I had accidentally left out a squirt bottle of kitchen cleaner, and Adam was raising it to his mouth.  I shrieked and jerked it away, but I decided to call Poison Control anyway, just in case even a drop of the cleaner had touched his lips.  They assured me it was fine, and I hung up the phone.  I sat down on my bed to recover from my weak knees and racing heart, dropping my head into my hands.  And I looked up to see Adam walking out of my bathroom, carrying my deoderant–he had TAKEN A BITE OUT OF IT.  And in that moment, I learned the hard way that the only thing worse than having to call Poison Control before 9 a.m. is having to call Poison Control TWICE before 9 a.m.

compassion international please t-shirt  (Mom, is that you?  Because you are the only person I know who would actually say "please" to Google.) 

you are crazy if you think I would wait  Sorry.  I got nothin'.

sharpie kitchen cabinets  Try a dab of nail polish remover for the cabinets.  And maybe an equally strong liquid for the momma.  

rocks dryer blog dumplin recipe  I'm not sure what pleases me more:  the idea that someone specifically searched for a recipe of mine, or that they had the uncommon good sense to remember to leave the "g" off "dumplin".

is there really such a thing as potty training?  Oh, sister.  I feel your pain.

cat caught in dryer  Really, it's like I'm the Lifetime Television version of Google searches, what with all the drama.

should older women wear bows in their hair?  Please know I say this with all the kindess and goodwill in my heart:

No.

tocks in y dryer  And yet you still found me.