Making Works-For-Me Wednesday Work For You (Or, Sex Sells Even WFMW)

The Well-Rounded Woman and I talk blogging a lot. Often we talk about how to make the Works-For-We Wednesday carnival work for us. We’re totally jealous that Shannon created the carnival, because if even ten other people sit on her site like we often do on a fine Tuesday night, boy! is she racking up the pageviews.

Before we get to our tips, though, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank Shannon for bringing us together each week as we discuss which post we should link up, and whether Shannon will be tricky and early this week or tricky and late. (By early I mean 9:27 pm and by late I mean 9:35 pm MST; that Shannon is trick-y.)

Making Works-For-Me Wednesday Work For You

1. Write a short(!) post about a useful tip. You can try linking up a clever book review, but people read through the WFMW posts for actual tips that can make their lives better or easier or sweeter-smelling.

2. Link up at the very beginning or at the very end. Middle children will tell you that it’s easy to get lost in a crowd of clamoring voices.

3. Follow the Ding-Dang rules. This won’t actually help you get pageviews or comments, unless you subscribe to the idea of karma or the Golden Rule, but you’ll breathe easier knowing you didn’t sleep your way to fame and fortune. Honestly, nothing makes me wish I had a taser set on stun more than going to a reputable blog and seeing that they’ve stolen (yes, STOLEN) traffic from someone else’s blog without linking back to the carnival. (I’m not talking if you forget once or twice, or if you honestly didn’t realize there were rules, but . . . YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. That’s all I’m gonna say. For now.)

4. Choose your Mr. Linky caption wisely . . . Titles with words like “sex” in them do quite well. This can be a post about sex (Am I the Only One?) or a post about the importance of scheduling (The Unsexy Morning Routine). Sometimes it’s tricky, since the linky caption is supposed to be only four words long (see #3), but it’s usually doable.

I’m pretty sure that if someone followed all of these rules she would be blog-famous in approximately 47 weeks. But I gotta be honest. Number one is the hardest for me to do. I keep trying, though, because even if Works-for-me Wednesday doesn’t translate into instant bloggy stardom, I live in hope that my real life will be enriched and organized and enlightened by my sometimes-frantic searching for just one useful tip to share.

Jane

Things That Must Go: In Support of Democracy and Progress, and the Land of the Free Giveaway!

Wow. Remind me not to hook up to the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival next quarter. Unless a few more of you fine giveaway hoppers actually subscribe to my feed (or by email), and agree to bear a fourth child for me.

Because there were 661 entries, I decided to do a poll and let you pick the winner. Unfortunately, I had to disqualify anyone who mentioned high gas prices, George Bush, and/or the fact that I should be playing the Glad Game instead. Not that I disagree (necessarily), but those are just a bit . . . obvious.

If you left a cool TTMG that was unfairly ommitted from this poll due to my random ability to read multiple comments (which I’m not used to, unlike some people), leave a comment and I’ll see about giving your TTMG another shot. Your write-in vote counts!

In the Running (scroll down for the poll box)

1) Alisha @ Party of Five: Spongebob Squarepants. Sorry to all you SBSP fans but the little yellow man is crude and obnoxious. I have no idea how my four-year old even knows about him. . . .the episodes I have seen I CAN’T stand. . . . Cartoon Network, you must go. FAREWELL! . . . (YES! YES! FINALLY! Someone else who doesn’t get why it’s so cool to like the pesky porifera. Down with Spongebob!).

2) LivingforGod: Things that must go include pride, selfishness, rebellion against God, using God’s name in vain, provocative/immodest clothing, and asbestos in old homes. (I’m not so sure about the first five, but definitely that asbestos MUST GO).

3) Tabby: My “Mommy Wings” must go. My son went to scout camp last week and as I was waving goodbye I could feel (and I swear I could hear too) my upper arm flab waving back and forth more than my hand.

Cold sores also must go. Especially since my husband thinks it’s just terribly funny to announce to the entire grocery aisle that “the cream I need for my lip herpes is really expensive.” Thankfully (for him) I’ve decided that he doesn’t need to go! (At least he is anatomically specific).

4) Megan: Having to do the dishes…maybe hubby can help every once in a while??? (Not terribly original, I agree, but just this morning Grampa sent an email about a bumper sticker he saw: No husband has ever been shot washing the dishes. It’s the little things, people.

5) Anna @ The View from My Shoes: The people who say that we have too many kids (really we don’t…just four so far) MUST GO! When they are ignorant enough to say that I always ask which child they would like me to get rid of. That usually shuts them up. (Although sometimes rejoinders like this can proceed from the impulse of the moment, often they are the result of previous study. ($10 iTunes card for the first person to name that movie, not including my sister.)

[poll id=”3″]

Thanks for playing along! Poll closes Sunday at midnight, at which time I’ll announce the winner of the Hanes $50 gift card.

This coming weekend’s Things That Must Go giveaway features your choice of books: Nora Robert’s latest, Tribute, or Joan Wickersham’s The Suicide Index: Putting my father’s Death in Order. Basically you can choose escapist romance or romantic/tragic escape. Come back on Saturday to share some more Things That Must Go!

Random Acts of Blogginess

Marianne from Writer-Mommy has won the Free Publicity for Your Blog giveaway, which means that a button linking to her wonderful site will be residing on my sidebar momentarily. Marianne was chosen in completely random fashion:

Do you know how many times you have to ‘generate’ for the random number generator to pick the number you want it to pick? Right, of course not. Why would you know something like that?

In other bloggy news, don’t forget the new, improved Makes-Me-Smile Monday is back in four days (Monday, May 5), on the topic of memory. Write on your blog, send me the url of your post (whataboutmom@gmail.com), and I’ll link to you in my post. Here’s an exerpt from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park:

If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.

The Best Bars in Salt Lake City

That title is a bit misleading. Only a few of these are bars. The rest are cookies. Randi at i have to say is holding her monthly Recipe Box Swap, on bars and cookies. I recently posted my favorite-of-all-time cookies, so I thought I’d do a recap of my favorite bars and cookies and some general tips that work for me. (Speaking of recaps, please just promise me that Jason Castro is going home next week. Please?).

If you have a favorite bar or cookie that I haven’t covered, please tell me about it. I’d hate to think I’m missing out on anything that has fat and sugar as main ingredients.

General Baking Tips

Butter: I’m for it. You might, occasionally, sacrifice a bit of texture or height, but the taste is worth it. My mother-in-law says you should omit the salt if you’re using salted butter, but I say I have really low blood pressure. I always use salted butter and usually at least half (if not all) the salt called for.

Cookie Sheets: Don’t grease ’em. Cookies will spread out less, so if you like them flat and thin (which can be nice for a change), grease away.

Gloopy batter: If your cookie dough is quite soup-like, refrigerate for a few hours. I think this happens because I nuke the heck out of my salted butter for easier mixing. Cookies turn out thicker and higher if the dough is quite stiff.

At the store: It’s kind of crazy that you can buy 1) actual ingredients or 2) a box mix or 3) refrigerated/frozen dough or 4) boxed cookies. That’s democracy in action, folks. There’s even those crazy microwaveable brownies-in-a-bowl. Because getting out your own bowl would just be too much work. I like a good mix, myself, just check out the variations listed on the back or side, and pick up the couple extra things needed to dress it up a bit.

Fresh out of the oven: When I make cookies at home, I bake one cookie sheet and then refrigerate (up to a week) or freeze (1 month) the rest of the dough so I can make another fresh batch the next day. Because there is nothing better than a cookie straight out of the oven. Plus, this way, I only eat one (sheet) a day. My sister bakes all of hers up and then freezes them on paper plates in gallon ziplocs. Which is nice if you ever have (unexpected) guests (or piggy sisters).

Golden Brown: Take cookies out of the oven just before you think they’re done. They’ll cook longer on the sheet, and “better-under-than-over-done” applies to more than makeup, sister.

My Favorite Bars

Lemon Bars

Dick went through a lemon bar phase when he was at Columbia. He made and took lemon bars to his class end-of-semester parties. But Dick likes them SOUR. Each batch he made, he put in a little more lemon juice. They were good, until the very last batch, which were like sucking on a raw lemon. Very Refreshing. I usually use this Bake Sale Lemon Bar recipe from Allrecipes (you had me at “bake sale”). I think I’ll try Randi’s recipe next time.

Brownies

I haven’t found a from-scratch recipe to match Duncan Hines Brownie Mix (in bulk at Walmart). Adding semi-sweet chips and walnuts or pecans is good. They also have a cream cheese variation that’s yummy, and fancy-looking, what with the marbling, swirly effect. If you want to make a brownie sundae, here’s an awesome hot fudge sauce.

My Favorite Cookies

Homemade Oreos

Apparently I have plagiarized from the Amish, who call these Whoppee Pies. But the only recipes I could find involved cake mix, which I just can’t see the Amish using, so here is my version of chocolate cookies with a whipped cream cream cheese frosting filling.

Peppernuts

I don’t really like peppernuts that much. I mean, I’m not going to make them on a random Thursday night after dinner. But if I’m wanting to feel in touch with my ethnic (German?) roots, it’s time to pull out the distintive peppernut. I remember going to Grandma Ora Mae’s house as a child and finding them in the cookie jar. Being not so tasty probably contributes to the long shelf life. I have to confess, though, that I don’t have the recipe (Aunt Nancy? (or Carla or Bev — anyone else read this? Dad?).

Oatmeal Cookies

My mother-in-law (she of the sage salt advice) clipped this recipe for oatmeal cookies for me. It’s almost too bad having such nice in-laws; makes it hard to find something else to complain about. Oatmeal cookies are great the regular way (with raisins and walnuts), but they’re fantastic with dried cherries, semisweet chocolate chips, and pecans, or with coconut and white chocolate chips. They also take whole wheat flour well too, something about the chewy oats. I was going to post Nana’s recipe, but I made these cookies last night, and if you could see my kitchen, you’d understand why I don’t want to spend the next month looking for the recipe. Try these instead, keeping in mind what I said about butter and possible variations.

Cream Puffs

Not technically bars or cookies, but certainly “bite-size” and “finger-food” and “good.” Marie posted a recipe I’d like to try, though I’d use a filling recipe that doesn’t involve pudding mix. I once made cream puffs for Josh and Suzy in Cairo (don’t know if Suzy’s still reading since I had those couple posts about sex), and I put blue food coloring in the filling since they’d just had their second boy. Of course, you can also go to Costco or Sam’s and get the huge tub of frozen cream puffs, which aren’t too bad. Only you have to let them defrost FOREVER.

And last, but not least, have you tried the making your own Fortune Cookies yet? Me neither. But Shalece is going to be on Good Things Utah next month, and the next time she does a cooking demonstration at the Gygi Institute, I’m going to be front-and-center. I just hope my fortune says “Will move to beautiful dream home/cardboard box in the near future.”

Makes-Me-Smile Monday: To love or not to love

I know almost to the minute when the word divorce stopped being a concept and became a possibility, a reality, a real thing in real life that could be devastating.

Oh, not for me. Dick and I fought like pole cats the first couple months of our marriage, ten years ago. We fought about the usual things: money, sex, how to spend our free time and who should be home cleaning the toilet on a fine Saturday morning. I said the “d” word once and Dick looked at me with hurt eyes; I hadn’t accepted that I could hurt him. But for him divorce was a real thing, because his parents were divorced. For me it meant “I’m really mad at you and right now I think not being married would just be simpler.” Neither of us has said that word, in relation to us, since that day.

But on Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at approximately 9:43 am, I found out that divorce can happen to anyone. It wasn’t me so I wasn’t hurt. It was someone I love, so I was mad. I wanted to pull newly-grown hair and smash Christmas ornaments and throw dinner on the floor.

In college you hear a lot about paradigm shifts. Adolescence could probably be characterized as that stage in a person’s life when (they think) they’re experiencing massive paradigm shifts between each class. My middle-aged humanities professor shocked me by saying that it had been a long time since he’d read a book that actually changed the way he thought about the world, and OH! How I pitied that man.

Threat of divorce has shifted my paradigm. It makes me feel rebellious. No one should have to turn herself into Clean House Barbie to keep her husband happy, or pretend to enjoy Jazz basketball or not to mind when the kids are not fed and in bed on the one night I go to the library after dinner. When I told Dick I felt like never cleaning again, he panicked, made me promise that I was just joking. Then I had surgery and had a medical excuse anyway.

I could probably turn into a model wife, for a week or so, at least. If I did, if I woke up and made lunches and saw him off with a kiss and a stack of French toast, and kept the house clean and kept up with our finances and never used the mean voice and picked up socks without asking, “Did you want these socks washed or were you going to wear them again tomorrow?” And if I made one of his five favorite dishes and had dinner on the already-set table and three happy, clean, and sweet-smelling children lined up to throw themselves at his legs at 5:52 pm. If I didn’t yell at them or let them hear me swear, would he love me more and think that I had lived up to the promise of my 30-pound lighter, not-stretch-marked, adoring, twenty-year-old bride-self?

Love me more: I don’t think so. Think I lived up to the promise better: probably. We did both promise to be our best selves. That’s not true. There was nothing in the actual sealing about setting goals or maintaining our figures or cleaning the toilets before doing fun things together on Saturday morning. Instead, though the LDS ceremony is slightly different, it including something about loving, honoring, cherishing. And while it didn’t say anything about in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, it did say forever, eternity. Which pretty much includes all the rest. And you usually think that the hard times would be the sickness and the worse and the poorer. But maybe those are the easy times — the times when you know you couldn’t possibly make it without your spouse at your side.

Without a man who will wipe your armpits with baby wipes when you can’t shower. Or laugh when your milk squirts him during an otherwise romantic, amorous moment. Or not even shout when you kill a laptop with your bare hands.

I didn’t really mean to write about what I don’t do to make my husband happy. And I meant to be humorous and light. Go read Marie’s Making Men Happy for a great, funny list of things men (at least the Ask.com men) want in a woman. And for proof that Google might be getting in touch with it’s feminine, nurturer side.

What I do try to do is: communicate to him that what he thinks and feels and does is important, significant, relevant. Make him know that he is the big tuna in my life, and always will be. That even though I wouldn’t actually rather get sick myself than see him sick, his health and comfort and life and happiness are vital to my own.

I would promise, like Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, to always be yar. But I know I’ll use the mean voice again. I’ll get mad that he is Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. I’ll wish at least one of us were independently wealthy. I’ll even, heaven forbid, swear in front of the children again. But with my paradigm forever shifted, I’m seeing the sickness and the worse and the poorer as opportunity to thank God for knowing better than I what was good for me.

____

I think this week (month?) has been hard for a lot of people. Hard to smile when terrible things happen. Loraine has a post, Still Trying to Smile After Sunday, that nigh unto broke my heart. I usually feel pretty darn callous. What do I care about someone I don’t know? But determination to find something, anything to smile about is irresistible. My favorite line? “Likewise, Mekare finally cleaned off the coffee table- wait, one of the kids already threw her hoodie on it.” That’s my life, in a nutshell.

____

To participate in the brave new world of the Makes-Me-Smile Monday carnival, write on today’s topic “How to keep your husband (or other loved one) happy” and then follow these guidelines.

____

Before you object, let me say that I believe that if anyone is in a relationship with an addict or abuser or adulterer or abandoner who is not 100% committed to changing and to the relationship, they should get out. Even (especially?) if you have kids and even if the abuse or abandonment is emotional rather than physical. Staying in a bad relationship on the strength of what once was is too Rose for Emily-ish. Get out.

Makes-Me-Smile Monday: Some Kind of Wonderful

There are no secrets in my family. Well, there might be one or two, but I have no idea what they are. We talk about everything, especially meaty things some people consider indelicate, like politics and religion and sex and marriage and how do you enjoy raising your kids when they whine all the time?

Sometimes this caused pain, as when Dad compared me to a wasp (because of my sharp tongue, and no, dad, I still haven’t forgotten that, sorry!) or when he asked me if I were on speed (nope, just Mountain Dew, and sorry, haven’t forgotten that one either). Dad was also really candid about his own faults. I know things about my dad that I could really embarrass him with online, but I won’t. Because he knows things about me, too.

When I was 13 and wanting to go swimming during one of my first periods, I couldn’t get the tampon in. Muscles too tight, brain too anxious. There was no way that foreign object was going anywhere inside me. Mom said she could do it if I wanted. Well, that’s just gross. And weird. But I wanted to go swimming. And I trusted, I mean, really trusted, my mom.

I grew up knowing that, whatever else, my dad and mom would never tell me less than the truth. And they expected the truth and nothing but the truth back. Of course I still lied. I lied when I was afraid they just wouldn’t understand. Who could possibly understand? How shocked was I when my sheltered little parents not only understood, but still loved me, and wanted the world to be right for me? Now they, and I, want the world to be right for my sister, and for all of their progeny. That’s all we want, right? For the world to be RIGHT for those we love.

My parents did a lot of things right (and a few wrong, catch me on a less-reminiscing day, and I’ll TELL ALL), but one thing that imprinted on me to the point of inducing salivation at 6 pm sharp is family dinner. Dick used to tease me about my Pavlovian insistence on all five of us being at the table with food of some sort on our plates every. single. night. Basketball? School function? Church activity? Better eat fast.

Then Dick listened to an NPR Bryant Park Project podcast and learned that family dinner is associated with better early reading, even more so than parents’ reading to their kids. Suddenly family dinner is the cool thing to do. But it’s not just the fish sticks and broccoli, it’s the complex conversation, replete with explanations of words and storytelling.

The benefits of showing “genuine concern about each other’s daily activities” even extends to kids with asthma. They’re less likely to end up in the ER if they come from a family “reasonably intact and functional” enough to have family dinner with a side of conversation.

Now, I admit that sometimes I’ve only set my book down long enough to yell at Sally to set her book down. Then Dick says (he doesn’t yell, sigh) “I thought we weren’t going to read at the table anymore.” Sigh.

Then we watched Some Kind of Wonderful in anticipation of the MMSM carnival. And what do they do at least twice in that movie, at some length? They have a family meal. They talk. They hassle each other about school and Keith’s sister teases him about his hot date with Amanda Jones. Dad gets mad at Keith for calling him and Mom by their first names. Mom makes the effort for a solid, if boring, meal. And, for once in cinema-land, they actually sit around the table, instead of along one side of it. They’re a family.

When Keith withdraws all his college money and his dad finds out, there’s a lot of yelling — and the real “F” word, not just the “f” word we’ve banned at our house (fat). But the dad listens. He hears what his crazy, dumb 18-year-old son says. He’s right, Keith’s right. Dad understands, and Keith can finish growing up with his blessing.

As Watts says,

Yeah, well, in comparative terms, it’s probably better to have an old man nagging you about your future, than no old man, not nagging you about nothing.

—-

Link up to the MMSM carnival below! This week we have a giveaway for one lucky participant. I offered one of Shalece’s Fortune Cookie Kits at the UBP and that went well, so we’re excited to offer another one (Shalece is all-entreprenuerial that way). You can see what’s in the kits (and meet Shalece!) in the video at her site. Personalized fortune cookies make great party favors or special thank-you tokens or original surprise-springers (I’m pregnant! or I didn’t forget our anniversary!). You can even dip them in chocolate or just serve them as dessert for that special family dinner I know you’re planning.

http://www.blenza.com/linkies/autolink.php?owner=shannonj11&postid=07Apr2008

A Giveaway, A Giveaway! My Kingdom for a Giveaway!

Or, as the Freakonomists would say, some schwag. Monday, April 7th marks the second edition of the Makes-Me-Smile Monday Carnival this time around. While I was very happy with the quality of the participants last time, the quantity left something to be desired, and, as I said to my higher-minded friend Melinda, sometimes I admit (if only to myself) that I would sell my firstborn (and throw in the other two for free) for a large, lucrative following for my blog. Or enough lucre to purchase a modest house in the country.

So I am happy to bring you a giveaway this Monday as a bribe small token of my appreciation for your making the effort to brighten up the internet with thoughts on one of the best movies ever made. A movie that led to one of my proudest moments: As we watched Some Kind of Wonderful, yet again, my dad got sucked into it, and said, “Wow, this is a lot better than I thought it would be.” Thanks, Dad.

I am also hoping this movie choice will entice some lurkers (you know who you are) who I happen to know LOVE this movie, or at least did when we were young(er). And as the song goes, High School Never Ends (sorry, Melinda).

Some Kind of Wonderful has great characters, characters that might start out stereotypical (it is a John Hughes movie, after all), but who grow and change; the conflict is real and realistically (un)resolved. And the music, oh! But the best part is the dialogue. It sparkles! I think I could recite the entire movie. (I once had a friend who had Alice in Wonderland memorized; SKOW is like that, only better).

Two of my favorite exchanges are:

Keith: You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Watts: No, but you can tell how much it’s gonna cost.
Keith: Wow, I never knew you were so deep.
Watts: You want shallow, call Amanda Jones.

and

Ray: I know that if you wanted, you could be a girl [snaps fingers] like that.
Watts: Ray, this is 1987. Did you know a girl can be whatever she wants to be?
Ray: I know. My mom’s a plumber.
Watts: That explains a lot about you, Ray.

To qualify for the giveaway, put your thinking cap on (or at least your breathing cap) and figure out what you want to say about (pick ONE): judging by appearance, women in the workforce, maternal influence, identity, high school, John Hughes movies, Eric Stoltz/Mary Stuart Masterson/Lea Thompson, music of the 80s(!), or one of the biggest themes of the movie — socioeconomic class disparity in America. Or about what you did (or wished you’d done) to get detention.

Then link up to the carnival this Monday (or comment substantially, if you’re blogless), and you’ll be eligible for some sweet schwag. (I’ll describe the schwag in detail on Monday; this isn’t quite priceline, people).