Thursday, July 30, 2009

Muffin cakes

Lately, whenever I open the pantry I am greeted by this


They’ve been in there for a couple of weeks. Different ones on different days. I think they are on a rota or something.

Mayhem reminds me every day that the dinos would like some muffins. Mayhem himself does not like muffins so he isn’t in this for gain.

Today was the coolest it has been in weeks, which is not so cool really, more like the difference between 94 degrees and humid and 91 degrees and not quite as humid. So I decided to take pity on the dinosaurs & make them some muffins.

I was out of bananas so my standby recipe was out & I went looking for something new.  I found a recipe for peanut butter muffins written on a random scrap of paper in my mom’s old Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I had all the ingredients, so I went with it. But I used some chocolate peanut butter I bought at the Mennonite market.



I don’t know where the tiger came from, but the triceratops is missing.

I mixed it all together & the batter was much more cake like than muffin like and there was entirely too much mixing for the muffin method (as I know from watching Alton Brown religiously for years) . Still, cupcakes are always welcome.



There was some undignified squabbling over who got to lick the bowl



I had to bake them in 2 batches because my oven scoffs at the idea of baking 2 trays at once & having them come out remotely cooked properly. While the first batch was cooking a part of the baking element turned white orange & started sparking (which I didn’t realize until I took the muffins out). Sparking baking elements don’t give off heat so the muffins were not quite as done as they might have been.


If there was any chocolate icing left – I’m looking at you DH – I’d ice them. Mayhem would eat one then. If I could find the confection sugar I’d give them a dusting of that. But they are delicious as is.

I called around & no one within 50 miles of here has a replacement baking element for my 13 year old Maytag. I had to order the part online and in 5-7 business days I can bake the other batch of muffins…cupcakes…baked thingies….

Chocolate Peanut Butter Baked Thingies

2 cups flour

2 teas baking powder

1/2 teas salt

1/2 cup chocolate & peanut butter spread (or Nutella, or just peanut butter)

1/3 cup soft butter, but not melted

1 teas vanilla

1 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup mini peanut butter chips (or chocolate or both)

2 mixing bowls – a big one & a not as big one

Don’t make my mistake. Expecting muffins I mixed this by hand. Use a blender.

Preheat your oven to 375

In the not as big bowl mix the flour, baking powder & salt.

In the big bowl cream together the butter, vanilla & the chocolate peanut butter spread. Then mix in the brown sugar one half cup at a time. Then add the eggs one at a time. Mix thoroughly with every addition. Then alternate adding some of the flour & some of the milk until it all incorporated. Mix in chips. It will look like cake batter.

Pour into lined muffin tins, about 3/4 of the way full. It will make 18-24 muffins depending on your definition of “3/4 of the way”. I never manage 3/4 and I ended up with 18 filled muffin cups

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, test for doneness with a toothpick & bake for 5 minutes more if needed

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unprepared again

Yesterday Havoc came too me and started telling me about how he had cleared this space in his bedroom so he could put his computer there and talk to Rose and Beth on it.

pause a moment while I digest that fact that my 6 year old has just informed me he wants to shut himself in his room and talk to girls on the internet… wasn’t I supposed to have a few more years before this happened?

I went with the long term issue first. No computers in bedrooms. In our family we watch TV, surf the web & look at porn in the living room, where anyone in the family can walk in and see what you are up to. 

Havoc was not happy about this development. Other kids have computers in their rooms. But the weirdness of our house came to my rescue. The wireless router is in the living room, at the opposite corner of the house than Havoc’s bedroom. And there is a 2 foot thick cinderblock wall (for roof support) running down the middle of the house. The wireless signal can’t reach is room.

See, it’s not my fault kid. It’s the house.  If you want on the internet you have to be in the living room or kitchen. Where I can see what you are doing.

I talked to Rose’s mom, my BFF Mel, and we decided to pick and IM program & set the kids up accounts, with lots of controls. (anyone know of any? How does Yahoo do in that regard? I have to find something that runs on LINUX because that is the operating system on the ancient laptop that the boys use. Not my Compaq but my dad’s old laptop)

We’ll see Beth’s mom Saturday at a birthday party & see what she thinks & then we will arrange times for them to chat. Since none of them can type & are still in the ‘write the sound you hear & don’t worry about spelling’ stage, we figure they’ll get bored with it quickly. But when it comes around as an interest again, we’ll already have programs & rules in place. And it could help with the typing, writing & reading for all of them.

I’m not ready for them to be on the wider web. I have no parental control site  banning software. I have no snooping in their email software, no keystroke loggers. I’ll  set them free to run around the neighborhood unsupervised but they are not getting on the web without my standing right next to them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

BlogHer ‘10 could it happen?

It’ll be in NYC next year.  That is the right coast,

New York City is a mere 7ish hours away by car. Straight up I95, once I get to I95. Driving past at least 3 major metropolitan areas to then have to find my way around a 4th one does not thrill me but could be done.  I find tall buildings very distracting. Nothing for 60 miles in any direction is bigger than 4 stories. In fact you have to go about 30 to find one over 3. At that point you hit strip mall & housing development heaven – which, while densely settled, is not particularly tall.  I can’t help staring at anything over about 8 stories.

And the busiest road I am used to driving on is a 4 lane all access divided highway – 2 lanes in each direction, some stoplights and you can turn left at frequent spots. Where I live having three cars in front of you at the stop light or having to wait 7 seconds to turn left in the median is sufficient justification for you to say “My God! The traffic is horrible today!”

I lived in northern Virginia for several years. I know about traffic. I can, with practice, cope well with it. I’m out of practice by about 15 years. I only ever experience it once a year, in Florida.  Driving to NYC and then finding the hotel will stress me out, but not in any deal breaker sort of way. Driving could be done.

Flying is right out.

That leaves the bus and Amtrak. I have never taken a bus any great distance apart from school & Girl Scout field trips. I was always able to carpool. Which is an idea. I could meet other BlogHer attendees in DC or Baltimore & we could go together. Which would have the added benefit of having an immediate group & therefore not being alone.

I’d have to drive an hour south or east to catch a bus anyway. Greyhound goes right around where I live in a wide arc.

Amtrak will take me there & back for a little under $200, assuming I am willing to leave at 6am both ways. Closer to $300 if I would prefer a more civilized 10am. Much to my surprise it is a direct trip from the station 20 minutes away. Last time I looked I would have to hang out in Penn Station for about 3 hours between trains.


I could actually GET to BlogHer ‘10.


Any DC area bloggers want to carpool next year? Or catch the same train?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekly Winners –week 30

It was my birthday on Monday. I am 42 now. I bought a new laptop as my gift.


And just in time because this happened to the old one as I was finishing transferring things 721-6

The clones called for a moment of silence in memory of the Compaq 722-7

DH gave me roses DSC_4820 720

I made a discovery.

You know the monster that is hiding under the bed, just waiting to grab your ankles, so you have to jump into & out of bed 3 feet away?(Or am I alone in that?) It’s real!


And it’s cute! DSC_4828

Please visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom for more Weekly Winners

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blog Hop

It’s BlogHer this weekend in Chicago. I’m not there, again. I’m ok with that. If it were less than 3 hours away & I wasn’t there I might be a bit grumpy at whatever circumstances were keeping me away. But I hate to fly & Chicago is way way too far for me to drive all by my lonesome (or worse, with the little demons along)


But I am not alone in my non-BlogHerness. There are at least a few hundred of us. Check out Blog Hop ‘09 hosted by Robin at Pensieve for a list that you too can join to visit others experiencing the same lack of BlogHer you are this weekend.

If you are visiting me from BlogHop then WELCOME!

I am Stacey, aka ComfyMom. I am a just turned 42 year old mother of 2 young boys, known online as Havoc & Mayhem and affectionately (really!) referred to as ‘the little demons’. There are many many dinosaurs in my life. And muffins.

I work from home in a sort of text support position currently. I used to be a data analyst for a large call center & have worked mostly in telecommunications before deciding to stay home when Havoc was born.

I love to read, especially historic mysteries & food and travel memoirs. I also like to crochet but my main hobby is digital scrapbooking, with photography a close second. Every Sunday I take part in Weekly Winners, hosted by Lotus at Sarcastic Mom & show off some of my favorite photos (many including dinosaurs & muffins, often together).

My blog started about my boys in 2004, a few months after Mayhem was born, but as they have grown the blog has started to move toward being about my life. The boys will be in kindergarten & first grade this year and my role in their stories is getting smaller. This is a journal more than it is anything else, a way to reach out to know I am not alone & to meet others and let them know the same.

Thanks for stopping by. If you think I sound interesting & fun (and I am, trust me. Plus I have dinos & muffins and you don't get that combo many places) you could go over there on the sidebar and follow me. Leave me a comment & I'll follow you back. Of you could add me to year reader. There is a button somewhere on that sidebar for that. I'm on Twitter too. That's 3 different ways to increase the dinos & muffins in your life with no increase in clutter or calories. I'd call that a heck of a deal. You should try it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Then and Now

My husband reminded me that it has been almost 20 years since we bought our first computer.


It was a Maxar 286 with 1MB of system memory, 1MB video memory and a processor speed of 12.5MHz. It had a tiny hard drive and was a DOS based interface.(photo taken in our apartment in 1991, please note the joystick and all the MtDew, needed to stay awake to play games all night) We wouldn’t get Windows 3.1 until we upgraded to a 386 in 1993 or so.

It used these sort of floppies


which do not have enough space on them to store this photo of them (photos taken in our junk closet in April 2009, can you say ‘pack rats’?).

and these sorts of floppies, which might be able to hold this photo of them


We had a dial up connection at a whopping 2400kbps and mostly used local BBS sites, but there was this new thing called Prodigy that connected you with the whole country, but only with others on Prodigy. Our phone line was tied up for hours while I posted to forums and sent message to people. There was no internet, no email. We mostly played games like Civilization and Tanks. I wrote grad school papers & then had to take them to a copy store to get them printed.

To the best of my recall, this is my/our 5th computer that I have now. There was the 286, the 386, the one that is in the shed now that I used before going to the Compaq laptop nearly 4 years ago and now this ASUS. I have gone from DOS to Vista, shortly to go to Win 7, with a brief foray into LINUX. I have used 5.25 discs, 3.5 discs, 4mm data cartridges, some other disc thing I can’t recall the name of, CDs, DVDs, EHDs, and USB thumb drives. I can now carry around 1000 times the content of my monster 286 desk top on something the size of a lighter.

I now have 500GBs of hard drive. That is still astounding to me. 6GB of RAM! Holy crap! I can surf the world at broadband speeds. I have 6 email accounts. I have a printer/scanner/fax machine. My computer is smart enough to go out and find the drivers and install that machine without my even asking. Even though it is a 4 year old printer/scanner/fax machine.

I can’t even imagine what the next 20 years will bring.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obligatory BlogHer related post

I’m not going.


I’ve never been & probably never will unless they host it in  Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD or  Richmond, VA or possibly Philly or Charlotte, NC. Pittsburgh would be good too. I could drop the kids & DH with my folks in Wheeling for the weekend & drive up daily.

I’m sad, but at this point I’m used to it. I’ll be following everyone on Twitter.  I hope everyone who is going has a good time!

Monday, July 20, 2009

New laptop


It’s an ASUS 17” gamer laptop. 6GB RAM, 1GB dedicated graphics memory, 500GB hard drive,HD screen,etc etc. Very nice, very fast, very slick screen.

Kinda bright actually. Combined with my beloved 22” flat screen it is almost too tall for me use.

And I am not used to having a number pad anymore. Losing it 4 years ago when I switched to a laptop from a desktop was very hard. It took months for me to stop reaching for it.  It will take just as long for me to get used to the delete key not being all the way at the end anymore.

I had everything reinstalled by Sunday at noon.

Except my email and ACDSee. I expected the ACDSee problem & have pretty much just written it off. I have 4, yes 4! other photo programs that work just fine in Vista. Surely to god one of them can tag things.

But the email…oh my precious email…

I’ve been running a 10 year old version of Outlook since it came out. It’s not Vista compatible. I could buy Outlook 2007 for $55 from the academic superstore but I spent $200 more on this laptop than I intended so it’s not an option. So I thought Thunderbird. But there were issues with importing my outlook files. So I said Windows Mail! but again, issues. Windows Live Mail! nope.

2 days and 6 email programs later (Outlook express to the rescue!)I have both Thunderbird & Windows Mail set up & all my mail imported. Now i have to choose which one I like better.

Apparently I am missing some fonts as well because my watermark is not the right font & I can’t find it

I like my new laptop. I am finally able to load PSCS3, which my dad gave me back at Christmas but wouldn’t run well on my old machine. Now that I have everything loaded I am looking forward to scrapping with it and editing photos with it.

If Vista would just stop moving my desktop icons around whenever I start my computer I would be in bliss.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Alas, the end is nigh

The laptop is reaching the end of it’s life. It’s had the buzzing problem for a bit & the new HD failed to help. It over heats. It clicks and groans. It takes forever to load anything. every program freezes at some point.

Two days ago it started just shutting down at random, generally when the CPU is running a bit.

I’ve found a new one & hopefully tomorrow I will be able to get it. Supposedly it is in stock at a Best Buy an hour away, not the easy to get to one south of us, but the one in traffic hell to the east. It has Vista, with free upgrade to Windows 7. It also has 1Gb of virtual memory (I have 128MB now) and 500GB HD (I have 160 now, recently replacing the 80GB one the laptop came with). It has 6GB of RAM (I have 4). It has a build in webcam. I’ve never used a webcam. I have this vague worry videos of me looking at the screen unaware I’m being filmed will end up on You Tube.

I’ll have to reload EVERYTHING.  Just the list of Firefox add ons is daunting, never mind the actual programs. I’ve backed my Firefox data, my documents, my photos, my PSP files, everything else ‘my’ on the computer and all my Outlook email, folders & accounts. I’ve downloaded nearly all the software that can be (ACDSee is proving a problem) & found all the CDs I need.

Except I have Office 2000 and apparently it doesn’t work with Vista, or maybe it won’t work with Win 7.  So that is another however many hundreds of $$. I can get some free programs that do Word & Excel but I need to get Outlook. Thunderbird doesn’t work with my ISP (Though rumor has it at least one employee does use it successfully).

I’ve decided to pay Best Buy to set up the laptop for me and remove all the free trial crap. That is $70. Outlook is about $100 or so. The laptop will be around $1000, depending on what financing we choose (one gives 10% off, another issues cash back based on points, or I could just pay for it, but it’s hard to resist a discount). Gas is about $15 there & back. We’ll be there in the late afternoon so dinner will be at a restaurant like the Crab Shack or Olive Garden or something- another $75 or so. Miscellaneous expenses to keep the kids occupied while the laptop is set up could run as much as $50 if we go to Fun Town.

So about $1400 or so later I’ll be ready to start loading my stuff on my new laptop.

Let’s have a moment’s silence for my old laptop. It saw good service for 4 years & has earned it’s rest.

Let’s have a moment’s silence for my bank account too. I know I am grieving.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I swear but…

I had this conversation with Havoc the other day

Havoc: “This boy calls me Dork all the time.”

Me: “Well, that is rude of him. Name calling isn’t nice.”

Havoc dithers a bit about this. He doesn’t like being called Dork but then he says. “It’s ok I guess. It’s a game we play.”

M: “Doesn’t sound like a very nice game to me & it sounds like you don’t like it much.”

H: “No, it was his idea. He called me Dork & then said I could call him a name too.”

M: “Oh really?”

H: “yeah, he calls me Dork and I call him Pussy”

pause for a couple of seconds while I CALMLY digest that.

M: “what do you call him?”

H: “Pussy”

M: “How did you come up with that name?”

H: “This older boy said it would be a good one”

Do you know where these boys were when this game was being played? Vacation bible school. I have no idea who the older boy was, another student or a helper. I have no idea where any authority figure was either.

I swear fairly often. I am 100% responsible for any ‘hell’s, ‘damn’s or ‘shit’s the kids drop in conversation (which so far have been few and far between. They seem to get that just like there are grown up beverages, there are grown up words too). Lately he has been saying kickass and badass, which, again, my fault. I let him watch some Star Wars parodies on You Tube that had inappropriate language. Though he does only use those words when he is reciting dialogue. He has yet to thank me for the kickass dinner or announce he is too badass to play CandyLand. It is context specific swearing.

I don’t expend a lot of energy protecting their virgin ears from language. I’d rather they were not shocked by hearing someone say asshole but just shrug it off as someone behaving badly. It isn’t thing big forbidden thing people do, but just words most people would rather not hear. But I do try to limit the exposure. I was expecting this to happen. But I assumed it would be on the school bus, where he rides with 30+ other kids ages 5 –17 & only a distracted driver overseeing things. I did not expect him to come back from bible school with an ‘enriched vocabulary’.

I’m downplaying it for now as I have with other words. He hadn’t been calling anyone else pussy so I suppose it’s not too bad. I almost want to start a list of Words You Can’t Say so he’ll know ahead of time, since he has been so obviously clueless. But then he’ll have a list of inappropriate words & will no doubt share it with others.

Then I’ll be that mom who gave her kid a list of swear words.

I can only imagine the hits I will be getting due to language in this post

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekly Winners - week 28

I’m getting caught up from last weekend

We had a pool party for July 4th

These guys joined in


This one was pushing everyone


Fortunately there were plenty of floaties


Dino paddling


We had fireworks,and I am just no good at shooting them or processing them


  fireworks-14 fireworks-2

There were macro moments as well


For more Weekly Winners please visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Visiting the caverns

We live somewhat near Luray Caverns. There is a huge mountain between us and the caverns and a decent amount of flat & foothills, but it does qualify for spur of the moment trip status.

sidenote – when I lived in the suburbs, the first 25 or so years of my life, anything 30 miles or more away was a day trip. It was just too far to go without advanced planning. Now that I live rural and just buying milk is a 20 mile drive, anything under 120 miles is considered ‘nearby’

I enjoy Luray Caverns. They have an interesting history, are a nice ambient indoor temperature, involve just enough walking to feel you have earned an ice cream at the end and are a good ‘nearby’ place to take visitors when the weather goes all rainy on a holiday weekend (apparently everyone in a 100 mile radius agrees with this because the parking lot was packed, mostly with Virginia plates with nearby county stickers on them). We’ve been there 3-4 times in the 15 years we have lived in the area. I went once with my parents when I was kid, I think on the way back from Myrtle Beach. The only thing I remember about it is that they put a bumper sticker on my dad’s van while we were on the tour and he was FURIOUS about it.

We were last there when Havoc was a couple years old.  Mayhem was an infant. They were still offering guided tours then. Now they give you a headset with prerecorded information you access at different spots & let you follow the path on your own. It’s nice to go at your own pace but with everyone listening to their own headset it sort of stops conversation.

The caverns are huge and full of fascinating rock formations.

There is the fish market

luray edited-4

reflection lake

 luray edited-5

Pluto’s ghost

 luray edited-8

The Saracen’s tent (though I think it has a different name now)

luray edited-15

It’s cool, the rocks look like tried out stiff towels

 luray edited-17

This one reminds me of Jabba the Hut

luray edited-19

Can you see the bearded man  & the dragon?

 luray edited-24

And a couple of fried eggs

luray edited-28

We’re headed to Wheeling this weekend. I’m going to stuff myself with diCarlos’ pizza and hang out at Wheeling Park, just like I did every summer of my life until I was 20 years old.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Holiday weekend

We had a 4th of July party complete with fireworks. A bunch of friends came over. There were 7 kids 7 and under running around, getting in and out of the pool and splashing water all over the food.  There were 8 adults sitting around, shouting not to splash or squirt water in this direction.

note to self – move deck back a couple feet next spring

There were hot dogs, hamburgers, assorted dips, lots of chips, a fruit platter, a bowl of fruit salad and a lemon pound cake.

Then the whining for the fire works began, a full hour and a half before dark. We don’t do sparklers because most of the moms are afraid of letting the kids have them. The one mom who isn’t (me) admits to setting herself on fire with sparklers 15 years ago & so can’t argue with the danger. (but I would totally let the boys have them if it wouldn’t set off 5 other kids wailing to have them too. I was sitting down in a crowd, in a long skirt, after several beers, when my skirt caught fire. Not a situation the boys can repeat & it just smoldered anyway)

Eventually the men set off the display of roman candles, fountains & etc.



They were handled for the most part  sensibly. At one point I did ask my husband if he was *supposed* to be holding a Roman candle while it fired and there were a couple misfires – one into a tree and one up the hill toward the spectators. No fires or injuries occurred.

The one bit of carelessness was in disposal. Empty fireworks canisters were tossed into the burn pile.

Take a minute a guess where this is headed.

After the fireworks were over, we lit the bonfire.


Dud fireworks shot out of the bonfire in a brief colorful display. No one had actually said “Here, dude, hold my beer & watch this” but it was definitely that sort of moment.

No harm done though, just a memory that will be recalled every July 4th from now forward.

It was a huge bonfire DSC_4301-2

That is my husband in the lower left corner spraying it, in the photo above & below, just to give some scale



It rained Sunday and that put the smoldering remains out. It also made it impossible to clean up the yard until yesterday. Sunday we went to Luray Caverns.  Photos from that tomorrow.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Weekly Winners – week 27

Some of my 365 photos.  The fireworks were very late last night, so they will be in next week’s batch.

Mayhem did a lot of work on his puter


Havoc practiced swimming underwater 628

The knights took the pirate ship


This is Smoke


And her brother Thor


  In macro news the army men have reached my keyboard


For more Weekly Winners please visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Blog Hop Intro

I signed up for the MckLinky monthly blog hop and then being my usual forgetful self, failed to put up a post about it.

The theme this month is introductions. My failure to post about it probably says more than I can in words.

My name is Stacey. I am a nearly 42 year old, married, SAHM of 2 boys, Havoc age 6 and Mayhem age 5. I used to be a data analyst and am still a data geek.  I do various work from home gigs now. I read a great deal, mostly historic mysteries. I like to crochet and digi scrap. I take tons of photos for my 365 project.

Dinosaurs & Star Wars fill my days. 

I look forward to meeting some new people & visiting your great blogs.  If you add your link here, it will appear on all participating blogs at the same time.

MckLinky Blog Hop