Monday, September 22, 2008

Crisco - The New Health Food

This weekend I was in the baking aisle and decided to see how much trans fat was in Crisco. I haven't cooked with Crisco in ages, despite my deep and abiding love for fried chicken and the texture it gives chocolate chip cookies.

Here are the ingredients listed on the label:


Here is the nutritional info:

Serving size - 1 Tablespoon
Amount Per Serving - 48 Calories 110
Calories from Fat 110
% Daily Value
Total Fat 12g 19%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%

Doesn't this seem so fishy? A product made with this much hydrogenated vegetable oil is still able to claim on its label that it is trans fat free.

Then I did a little bit (not a lot, I've got 2 kids and work full-time!) more research, and it turns out fully hydrogenated oils don't contain trans fats (except maybe a little bit that slips in but otherwise), not like the partially hydrogenated oils do. Seems a little suspect, but okay.

Am I going to start using Crisco again now?


Friday, September 19, 2008

Warhammer Launch Day

My Guys

(Yes, his onesie really says WAAAAGH!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Until now, I haven't written anything here about my job. I really prefer to keep work and blogging separate, especially given my industry.

However, this morning when I was looking at my site I noticed that one of my Amazon ads on the sidebar is for the product I've been working on for 3 years . We had a limited launch yesterday, more tomorrow, and we'll be fully launched by the end of this week. I'm so proud of myself, my husband and my whole company for finishing our project, I just HAVE to brag for a minute.

I work for Mythic Entertainment, acquired not too long ago by EA Games and we've been making the game called Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. It's an MMORPG, which basically means that lots of people play it at the same time, and they can role-play or just fight and do quests.

What I'm most proud of being involved with on the game are the public quests. I wish I could say they were my idea, but they weren't. However, I did have the opportunity to be invited to some of the earliest brainstorming meetings when public quests were in their infancy, and give some feedback that possibly had a tiny impact on them.

Later I was the Lead for the Public Quest focus team and was able to work with a team of brilliant guys that turned a lot of public quests into fun, exciting works of glory.

I am so relieved and exhiliarated to be sending our game to the players. I wonder if it's a little bit like sending an offspring out into the world. Yesterday was our first phase of the launch, so a small number of people started to play. Tomorrow we'll be getting more players and by the end of this week everyone should have access and you'll see the game in stores.

I'm thankful to work with my husband and that we both support each others' career choices. I love working with him and getting to take lunches together. I'm thankful for my kids for putting up with hanging around the office on some weekends and late nights while we tried to meet deadlines.

Blah blah blah, this is so sappy, huh? One of these days soon I will start posting about my kids again. But Warhammer Online is another creation that I collaborated on and I am so proud and excited to have been a part of it from the beginning.

WAR is here - WAAAAAGH!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stock Market for Idiots

Politics and Finances. It's like my blog is getting a life of its own. Don't give up on me though. :) I just wanted to write about how I got started in the stock market because it's something you can do too, even if you don't have any money to invest.

I didn't have any money either!

In 2001 I had just moved from Idaho to Maryland to take a job that quickly folded when the company went under. I was stuck waiting tables and literally living day to day on the money I made in tips and the food I nicked from the kitchen.

I promised myself that if I could just get a regular job again I would invest and make sure I had a cushion, because you just never know when something like this is going to happen to you.

After about 6 months I got a new job and decided to learn about the stock market. I'd always been intrigued but intimidated by it, and I thought you had to have a lot of money to start... It turns out you don't!

I went to Yahoo Finance and made a pretend portfolio. I picked out some companies I knew a little bit about and added them to my portfolio, choosing to own 10 shares of each one. Then every day I'd check my pretend portfolio to see how they were doing.

Some were winners (Netflix), some were losers (Tiffany's) but before long I was wishing I had real money in the market.

After a while I finally had a couple hundred real dollars extra in my checking account and decided to go for it. I went to Etrade and opened up an account. It was so easy. I gave Etrade my bank account number, then waited a day for processing and I was ready to start. I bought maybe 10 shares that day - 2 each of 5 different companies. I think invested about $300 dollars and it was as easy as buying something on Ebay.

After that is where it got fun. I re-did my Yahoo portfolio to track my real stocks and I started checking it at least every hour. It's the closest I've felt to Vegas style gambling without actually being there. Some days I'm up and I feel like I hit a jackpot. Other days are gloomy, but I grit my teeth and hang in there. I'm not going to get rich overnight this way, but I usually average higher than a 7% profit and that's a lot better than my savings account.

Here are some things I've learned:
  • Start small.

  • Don't invest money you can't afford to lose.

  • Don't sell winners. If you have a stock that is doing well, hang onto it. Chances are it will do even better.

  • Buy stock in companies you know something about.

  • Be tough. Don't sell because things are looking down. Grit your teeth and hang in there.

  • Have fun.

I'm certainly not an expert, but leave a comment if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Does Sarah Palin Belong in the White House or Her Own House?

I have to admit I've been a little bit conflicted about having Sarah Palin on the ballot. The first thought I had when I heard that a mother of 5 would be running for vice president was:

1 - Will she put her kids first or her country first?

And then as we learned more about her family challenges I wondered:

2 - Who needs Sarah Palin more - her kids or her country?

I really like a quote in this article from CNN:

"I have no problem with a woman being president, but I'm going to hold her to the same standards I'd hold a man."
That's exactly how I feel about it too.

After the birth of her 5th child (what a cutie!) Palin returned to work just 3 days later.

Her speedy return to work answered my first question. Palin's the type of woman who can put her job first. But she's still breastfeeding, which shows me she's trying to be a good mom too.

The fact that she's chosen to run for VP while her family faces challenges is receiving all kinds of criticism, particularly from the mothers who imagine themselves in her situation.

Isn't it ironic that we finally have a chance to put someone in the White House that can relate with our challenges and actually represent who we are as women, and yet so many of us are telling her to stay home 'where she belongs?'

We are certainly our own worst enemies.

Sarah Palin has the chance to change history and the world's perception of women and of working moms, and she's making no more of a sacrifice than any number of us make every day when we go to work and leave our children in someone else's care. It's a tough decision but it's a personal one that can only be made by the family involved.

Now - what I really want to know is how the Palin's got baby Trig to sleep through the Republican Convention! He and his sister Piper stole the show in this adorably unscripted moment.

It reminds me of once when I asked my daughter what she was doing and she replied, "I'm putting my tongue-lick in the baby's hair."

(And yes, that makes TWO political posts for me this year. What is the world coming to??)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Sneak Peek at My Soul

Making this mosaic was so fun. It reminds me of clipping pictures out of magazines and making collages.

I would love to see your mosaics too! Here's how you do it:
  • Answer each of the questions below:
  • Surf over to Flickr (set up an account if you don’t have one–it’s quick and easy) and type your answers (one at a time) into the search bar.
  • From the choice of pictures shown only on the front page, click on the one that moves you.
  • Once the page with your picture opens, copy the URL.
  • Surf over to the Mosaic Maker, set up your mosaic, and paste your URLs.
  • Click “Create!”
The Questions:
  1. What is your first name?
  2. What is your favorite food?
  3. What high school did you attend?
  4. What is your favorite color?
  5. Who is your celebrity crush?
  6. What is your favorite drink?
  7. Where would you go on your dream vacation?
  8. What is your favorite dessert?
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  10. What do you love most in life?
  11. Choose one word to describe you?
  12. Your Flickr name?
I had to do a few substitutions in cases where the photos I picked didn't show up or what I typed in didn't return any photos, but I think it's pretty neat how this mosaic really seems to capture my soul.

Photo Credits:
1. P4070112, 2. Raspberries, 3. goal #2. 303:365, 4. Night London Eye Green Color, 5. David Boreanaz, 6. Positano, 7. Freedom, 8. Tiramisu, 9. Mom, 10. Alexander and Olivia 3, 11. Mother and joey, 12. Rainy evening ....
Here's where I got the idea:
Jennifer at Thursday Drive
Boliath at In My Head
If you make a mosaic, make sure you let me know so I can see it! :)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What Babies Want

(A couple of friends and I got together to make a blog called Perfectly Normal that is a little bit more specifically about parenting. This is a post that I originally wrote over there but I'm recycling it today because for some reason it's one of my favorites.)

With so many baby products on the market, if you're a pregnant mom there isn't enough time to sort through it all, let alone get to the store to buy it. Not to mention that most of us can't even afford half of it. Don't worry though, you aren't a bad mom if you don't have the latest and greatest of everything. Babies really don't need that many things.

Babies need: SLEEP.

No one tells you that during those first couple of weeks most babies wake up if they aren't being held. Don't feel bad or worry that if you hold your baby while she sleeps that you'll never get her into her crib. Hold her, and fix in your memory how it feels to kiss that sweet little innocent head while she sleeps. My most used piece of baby gear is our giant rocker/recliner. It reclines almost flat and the arms are supportive. I think I spent the first month sleeping in it with the baby on my chest.

Swaddled babies sleep longer because they can't flail around and do that random face smacking thing. I think they feel safer and it's a more familiar feel to them to be swaddled. People tell me their babies don't like being swaddled or they can get out of the swaddle. Well, your baby can't get out of this blanket, and I personally believe that babies do like it. Too bad we can't ask the babies and settle this once and for all. My advice though? Give swaddling a chance.

Babies need: NOURISHMENT.

If Cylons can do it so can you!

Your body provides custom, free, portable, sterile, CUTELY PACKAGED meals for your baby. I know some babies don't take to it right at first, but give it a chance and get help if it doesn't come naturally. This is something most babies can learn if you help them, and it's so worth it.

Some frivolous but valid reasons to breastfeed:
Ease (lazy factor): You don't even have to get up.
Mommy brain: When you forget the diaper bag, you've still got food for the baby.
Time: You don't need to wash or mix bottles, or shop for formula.
Sleep: After a month or so you can feed your baby while you BOTH sleep. I swear.

If you are scared of trying to go back to work and pump, you don't have to be. Once your milk is well established you can have someone give your baby formula during the day and still breastfeed in the evening, during the night and in the morning. Your body and your baby will adjust.

Babies need: A HAPPY MOM.

You spend so much time getting things ready for when baby comes home from the hospital, get a few things ready for yourself too. Good pads and granny panties, one-handed snacks like frozen yogurt, cheese, muffins, granola bars and fruit - prunes, you'll need 'em. :) Lansinoh nursing pads and comfy clothes. Bring home that big water bottle from the hospital, and grab an extra squirt bottle too (it's great to keep at the changing table to squirt on washcloths for baby wipes).

A few other favorite baby things are:

Skwish toy. If I could only have one toy for my baby, this would be it.

It has wooden balls connected by rubber bands. It makes a nice sound, is fun to chew on, is easy to hold onto, and doesn't put out an eye when the baby smacks himself with it.

A Snap and Go stroller . It's $60ish and you just snap your baby carseat in and baby faces you. I LOVE it. When they grow out of that, follow it up with the 8 lb. $100 Maclaren Volo stroller that folds down so tiny you can fit it anywhere, plus it has a strap so you can carry it over your shoulder when your 2 year old insists in walking "my SELF." It doesn't recline, so you can upgrade to a slightly heavier stroller if reclining is important to you. (I could just eat up that chocolate color. NUM NUM NUM!)

Yes, it might be kind of tough when they're 2 or 3 and it's time to give them up. But really, isn't it worth a few sad nights if you can have something for a few YEARS that will calm them down almost instantly? We all have our own little dirty secret comforts. Let your baby have a binky. It doesn't make you a bad parent.

Our first and favorite game is changing diaper KICK time. I take the diaper off and the baby starts kicking. I start giggling, and the baby starts laughing and kicking harder. Sooo much fun. Sometimes I forget, but then I'll be changing a diaper and the baby will kick both legs so straight and then look me in the eye and laugh.

Journaling. Yes, that belongs on this list, because if you don't write about your babies now, you will forget. Write about how they smell and what silly noise they made and how it feels to hold them and how you felt the first time your baby smiled a real smile at you. You think you can't forget it, but you will. If you don't have time for a journal, print out these beautiful pages and make notes like, "She laughed at the cat today and tried to grab his tail." Or, "During his nap his lips were moving. I wonder if he dreams about me."

Good luck to you all. Every family is different, and you know (or will discover) the right things for your baby. Just follow their lead and don't let all the baby products get between you and your little one.

Also: Sunshine Kids booster seat