August 30, 2011


Pink Floyd, The Division Bell 1994

First and foremost! Until Midnight, August 31st, Paper Coterie is giving away $40 worth of product (excludes shipping).  Seriously -- anything you want -- photo books, personalized journals, memory keepers, personalized cookbooks. $40 worth of it is yours. At the end of this post on my review site, Queen of the Free Bees, you can find the details.  There is no catch.  All you have to do is simply create an account on their site and get busy choosing which product you want. Details are at the end of this post - see what I did just there!! I am not making you read the whole thing - just go to the end.

Moving on!

Um, today's post title is adequate. Quite simply, I feel marooned. With Arun in school every afternoon now, there is not quite enough time to do anything meaningful, such as go into Kansas City or to the zoo or anything like that. Instead, I meander around my Soul-Sucking Suburb and thus, fill my days.  Arun is quite happy scampering off to school ever day after lunch.  Me?  I am still feeling a sharp sense of loss.  

Fortunately for me, my Soul-Sucking Suburb has a wickedly awesome pet shop that offers some distraction from the shrill keening and general rending of garments. A pet shop that just happened to be selling a Rosehair tarantula spiderling (sling). The same sling I have had my eye on for well over a month. We went into the pet shop on Saturday and I discovered the sling had just molted.

Gentle Reader, it is difficult to resist a tarantula sporting a new set of threads.

And so we brought her home.

Yes, Arun has been handling her.  Rosehairs are the gentle giants of the tarantula set.  Which is precisely why I got her - I wanted something that we could handle for a change.  Pinktoe tarantulas are skittish things and therefore, I simply don't handle Daniel much.  And I would never let Arun handle him.  The downside to Rosehairs is that they sometimes kick off uricating hairs.  Which itch.  Like hell.

A few months back, I was explaining to my friend Celeste (aka Average Jane) that I choose my T names from the Social Security Admin Top 10 baby names.  I am careful in choosing the names for my Ts and try not to choose names of anyone's children.  Celeste laughed and said that she would be fine with me naming my next tarantula after her.

Alrighty, then.

Therefore, I decided to name our newest tarantula Little Celeste (because she is littler than Human Celeste. Obviously). Arun calls her Brown Celeste (because he's racist.  Obviously.) Anjali calls her Aunt Celeste (because she's confused. Obviously.)
She's slightly larger than my quarter.  She will likely grow larger than my hand.

Little Celeste is settled into her home, usually nestled under her piece of cork.  Here, she ventured along the sides of her cage to greet Daniel.
Daniel says "What?  No fucking ziti?".

To make up for the plethora of Spider Snaps, may I offer you some Simian Snaps as way of an apology???
All that tarantula wrangling wore him out.  And yes, he snuggles with Bowser most nights.

Other nights, he snuggles with his sister, too.

Not every night, though.

The boy has a reputation to uphold, after all.

August 25, 2011

Party Sequence

Pink Floyd, The Final Cut 1983

Finally, my recap of BlogHer11.  But first, I would like offer up my Annual Obligatory Clarification of BlogHer's Attendance Policy:

BlogHer is a conference for everybody

This is not an exclusive conference and it is open to the public.  Seriously! Anyone can buy a conference pass.  After all, they've let ME in year after year, so that you should tell you something about the inclusive nature of BlogHer.  Furthermore, BlogHer has perfected the party process - every single night there are plenty of open party options to attend.  In fact, I only attended ONE private party - all the rest were BlogHer-sponsored parties open to all conference attendees.

In short, YOU should come to next year's BlogHer.  Get cracking on that BlogHer 12 registration, folks.

In 2005, BlogHer consisted of 300 people.  We crammed into a small conference center in Santa Clara, CA. We were given 2 drink tickets for a small cocktail hour after the first day's sessions.  There were no parties.  Dinners consisted of haphazard plans based upon whomever you happened to have ran into just before heading out.  Our "swag" consisted of a notebook, pen and bag.   I was 7 months pregnant with Arun and I used that notebook to record all the typical newborn stuff - feedings, diaper changes, eyelashes growing.  20 months later, I recorded Anjali's newborn activities in it.

I still have that notebook.

In 2011, BlogHer consisted of over 4000 people.  We were spread out over a HUGE convention center.

Sometimes, bigger IS better.


The Roommates
I roomed mostly with Liz Rizzo of Everyday Goddess and Celeste aka Average Jane.  Saturday night, Siel of green LA girl didn't want to drive back to LA, so she roomed with us.

Honestly?  Having roommates could be stressful, except that for me, it easily becomes the best part of the trip.  Having so many roommates is like having an extra set of eyes and ears at all times. Not in a gossipy way, but in a fun, Trixie Belden way - a roommate can be a valuable source of information!  Also,  I love the Spring Break Feeling, I appreciate meeting back in the room and hearing about all the cool things and people that my roomies may have ran into that I might have missed. And truly, I love seeing all the goodies that folks have gotten and am geniunely happy for my roommates when they score big.  Liz was the Big Winning Roommate this BlogHer - she came away with an iPad, a spa gift basket and a HUGE basket of Lindt chocolate.  (Celeste also won a basket of chocolate which worked out spectacularly for me since we were flying back to Kansas City together.  Yeah, baby!)

One of my favorite Roommate Stories happened Sunday morning.  I was saying something to Liz about Manoj, when all of a sudden Liz said "I thought your husband was Native American!".  I can only imagine how confused Liz was the entire weekend, what with me talking about my "Indian husband" and who knows what else came out weird over the weekend!

Also, my roommmates didn't mind at all if my nose was stuck in my phone while talking to them.  I wonder why?

The Venue:
BlogHer was held at the San Diego Convention Center. The venue was GORGEOUS and the staff was amazing.   While it was a crapton of walking, I didn't mind the walking part.  Although, that did make it a wee bit stressful in that you really had to be careful with time - it could easily take 20 minutes to make a "quick" trip to your room.

Speaking of the room, the view from it consisted of this:

And this......

And this!

While I am excited to be back in New York City for BlogHer 12, I am going to really, really going to miss those views.

The Parties
I mostly went to to open BlogHer Parties.  Liz did score me a +1 invite to one of the private parties she was invited to and I was so appreciative.  It was held at the beach at the Del Coronado and sitting oceanside by a fire pit listening to live music was so relaxing.  I didn't even mind the chilly temps.

My two favorite BlogHer parties this year were the Queerosphere (I haven't been to a drag show in forever, so that was a special treat!) and the Social Fiesta.  I was a little hesitant about the Social Fiesta because um, in case you hadn't noticed, I am not Latina.  However, but it didn't matter - it was a warm, inviting atmosphere and so much fun.  Hands down, it was my favorite party with my favorite food and favorite dance music and favorite atmosphere.

The Celebrities
After the Voices of the Year cocktail hour, I met The Roommates at the poolside bar.  I noticed there was quite the crowd around them and then discovered that we had inadvertently become the line wranglers for Ricki Lake:

I can report that Ricki Lake was SO sweet, warm and genuine.   I only spoke to her for the briefest of milliseconds, but we watched her for a long time greeting people.  Consistently, she was professional, polite and respectful. I was really impressed with her, quite frankly.

The other "celebrity" I encountered? Came out of the blue.  I was on the dance floor at the CheeseburgHer party and I introduced myself to the gal dancing beside me by beginning one of those Loud Dance Floor Conversations.

Kelli(!!!!!!): Hi!  I"m Kelli!  And your name is? 
The "Celebrity": Laurie.
Kelli (!!!???): Oh.  You look familiar!  What's your site?
The "Celebrity": I don't have a site. Do you have kids?
Kelli (??????): Yes, ages 4 and 5.5.
The "Celebrity": Well, I'm Laurie from PBS Sprout. That's probably where you know me from.

At that point, I start laughing hysterically which, Gentle Reader, did NOT seem to impress Laurie The Celebrity From The PBS Sprout Morning Show.  The funny part is that from some dark chamber of my deep subconscious, I probably did recognize her from PBS Sprout, but we have rarely watched her show.  Ever. For one, we only got PBS Sprout for a brief while a few years back and for another, we are a Nick Jr. family and for yet another, my kids are notorious night owls - they are rarely up in time for any morning show much less the one starring Laurie The Celebrity From The PBS Sprout Morning Show.

The Sessions
I really enjoyed the sessions this year at BlogHer.  Hands down, my favorite sessions were the food photography ones.  The official BlogHer session was less informational and more inspirational, but I had no complaints.  The Hillshire Farm session I mentioned in my last post was awesome.  The Voices of the Year was excellent, per usual - my favorite post was Oh Good, You Saved Your Bullshit by Oh, Noa.  Seriously - go read it!

The Swag:
My favorite overall swag bag came from Missouri Wines because it was such a fun grab bag of odds n' ends.  My favorite individual pieces were the mc3 head phones and the etyBLU2 headset from Etymotic that I received at the Clever Girls Collective TechBrunch (many thanks to Celeste for snagging us spots at that!!)  I also LOVE my personalized journal from Paper Coterie from the MomSelect Suite.  (Full Disclosure: These links are not sponsored and I didn't have to link, but I did want to share my favorite bits of gear I came home with.)

The People
I am not going to lie - every year (except for BlogHer 05, which was like freaking Woodstock)  I get dissed by someone directly to my face or it becomes obvious that the person I am talking to would rather be with someone hipper, cooler and they look over my shoulder for an escape route  It happens every single year.  However, since I allowed something like this to nearly ruin BlogHer 06 for me, I've chosen to not talk about it in my recap posts.   And yes, this year was no exception my Poor, Sensitive Feelings.  Gentle Reader, they couldn't catch a break.

I was having such a horrible time at Party-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, that I nearly left in tears.  I was mortified and really hesitant at what to do.  And then?  A girl came up to me and said "Hi!  My name is Lauren."  She was not a blogger and was at the conference for business. We chatted that night and eventually, some folks I knew showed up and we all hung out together.  Lauren and I ended up spending a good portion of the conference together.  And that is why I choose year after year to not make a big deal in my wrapups of how hurtful other people can be. Because there is always a Lauren in the crowd somewhere.  There is always someone who is not focused on Their Cool Factor and is simply there to learn.  Someone who just wants to meet new people and hang out.  (For example, at BlogHer 05, it was everyone in attendance, at BlogHer 06, there was a Brit and a Zoot, and ..... so on.  Every BlogHer, I manage to find someone. Thank goodness!)

So, thank you, NonBloggerTypePerson Lauren for being friendly and showing me, yet again, one of my very favorite bits of BlogHer.

Meeting new people.

And also, thank you, NonBloggerTypePerson Lauren, for making my favorite CheeseburgHer McDonald's Bag Concoction to date - a hippie headband.  Novel!

August 19, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
The Food Paparazzi

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

While at BlogHer, I attended a Food Styling and Photography workshop offered by Hillshire Farms. This post is not sponsored by them nor am I being compensated for this post by anyone else. I am writing this post simply because hands down, this was one of my absolute favorite sessions this year at BlogHer. It was interesting, engaging and believe it or not, involved a lot of laughing. Who knew that food photography could be so entertaining and fascinating??

The speakers for the session were Sara Remington (a food photographer), William Smith (a food stylist) and Helen Rosner (a web editor for

The key points that resonated with me from the Food Styling portion were the following:

Don’t overcrowd the plate
• Keep it simple, only plating what is needed
• Use a serving size that is just right – not too much, not too little
• Use a bigger plate to make the plate not too crowded

Garnish the food
• Don’t overdo the garnishing
• You can also use powders to garnish, like powdered coffee, spices, or colored salt
• Garnishing almost always adds dimension to your food presentation, when kept to a minimum

• There is talk of a virtual clock where meat (and sandwiches) is at 2 o’clock, starch at 10 and veggies at 6
• White or off-white plates make the food stand out more
• The main part of the dish, usually the meat (or sandwich) should be put most in focus (for example, a little elevated)

The following tips helped me with the Food Photography portion:

•  Treat the food you’re photographing as you would any other still life subject and ensure that it is well lit
•  One of the best places to photograph food is by a window where there is plenty of natural light – perhaps
supported with flash bounced off a ceiling or wall to give more balanced lighting that cuts out the shadows.
This daylight helps to keep the food looking much more natural

Props & background
•  Pay attention not only to the arrangement of the food itself but to the context that you put it in including the
plate or bowl and any table settings around it
• Don’t clutter the photo with a full table setting but consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork, flower or napkin. These elements can often be placed in secondary positions in the foreground or background of your shot
•  Pay attention to backgrounds and clear out any elements you don’t want in the final shot

Be quick
•  Food doesn’t keep its appetizing looks for long so as a photographer you’ll need to be well prepared and able to shoot quickly after it’s been cooked before it melts, collapses, wilts and/or changes color
•  One strategy that some use is to have the shot completely set up with props before the food is ready and then to substitute a stand-in plate to get your exposure right. Then when the food is ready you just switch the stand-in plate with the real thing and you’re ready to start shooting

Source: A handout from the Hillshire Farms workshop.

Helen, the web editor from was also very helpful (there was no handout provided for this section, so I'm done with fancy, concise lists now)  What I took away from Helen's presentation is this:
1) keep posts clean and to the point
2) don't include a zillion, superfluous pictures.

She actually used the Pioneer Woman as an example of how to NOT do recipe posts.  In the post presented, PW had included such snaps as ladling sauces.  As Helen pointed out, we all probably know how to ladle a sauce at this point. The shot was artistically pretty, but not particularly useful.  Helen used a particular PW post that had over 20 pictures.  No, this was not a slam on PW - she has a Following that doesn't mind if she uses 1 picture or 20.  The rest of us, however, are NOT The Pioneer Women and we do not have Followings.

Oh, and at this point, I am going to completely violate the "concise" rule for posting because I am already getting too "wordy".

And I am not nearly done here, folks.

One key piece to the entire presentation??  Not once was the suggestion offered to use "non-food" ingredients (need to thicken a sauce?  Use cornstarch.)  Leave the wood glue and varnish in the garage, I guess.

So, after all of that?  It was time for me to start playing around.  I whipped up some pad prik kai (the recipe is at the end of the post) and got to work photographing.  Time was of the essence because the sunlight wasn't going to last - neither was the food, for that matter.

I realized quickly that my yellowish Franciscan Appleware photographs horribly, so I pulled out a plate that was my great-grandma Courtney's (who coincidentally hails from the Land of Pioneer Woman. Bartlesville, Represent!  Woot! Dewey!).  Anyway!  Her china is simple, white and slightly elegant without being distracting.  My dining room faces the west and gets awesome natural light.  I cleared out a space and started shooting.

All of these photos are SOOC (straight out of camera).
This was my favorite photo:

However, it was a little too dark.  I probably could play around with it in editing, though.

I liked the presentation on this one, but the lighting still wasn't quite "there".  The food is a little too dark, the rice looks washed out:

Although not my favorite photo, this photo probably represents the dish the best - all of the important elements are presented.  The rice, the basil, the peppers and the chicken.
Now, I'm hungry.

Obviously, I still have a LONG way to go in learning how to photograph food and style it.  And more importantly, how to work my camera!  However, this workshop really helped me to evaluate how and where I can improve my shots.  I don't see myself stealing jobs from under Sara's feet (as if!), but I would like to include more food photography in my posts here.  I worry that I am putting out these weird, unusual recipes and by not including a snap of how the dish should look, this may be putting people off from actually attempting to cook them.

And now, it's recipe time.

The following recipe was inspired by something I discovered while digging through my Simply Thai cookbook that I've had forever. I love this recipe because it uses ingredients that I almost always have on hand. This is a pretty light dish, but has great, spicy flavors with crunchy veggies that add fun texture. It originally called for pork tenderloin (which um, I have not cooked with before and never will. Ever.) and also included bamboo shoots (which I HATE). Instead, I subbed in chicken and water chestnuts (and I haven't looked back!) A red curry paste could be subbed for the chili paste/curry powder combo, as well. I prefer mixing my own because I always have those two items on hand anyway and didn't want to spend money on yet another paste. I prep everything ahead of time, then quickly throw it together as I am cooking to ensure nothing gets burned.

Pad Prik Kai
(Chicken with Red Chili Sauce)

1 lb chicken breast (thinly sliced, bite-sized pieces)
1 red pepper (thin strips, 2 inches long)
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp chili paste
2 tsp curry powder
1 cup water
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup sliced water chestnuts
20 basil leaves, chopped

1. Mix the chili sauce and curry powder into a paste.

2. Heat oil on medium high, until it is just about to smoke. Lower heat. Add the garlic and chili/curry paste. Stir-fry quickly for 45 seconds.

3. Immediately add water and raise the heat to High. Stir frequently for 1 minute and add the fish sauce and sugar. Stir fry for 2 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly.

4. Add the sliced chicken, cook for 2 minutes.

5. Add the red peppers and water chestnuts. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, until everything is cooked and to the texture you prefer.

6. Add 3/4 of the basil leaves and remove from the stove.

7. Garnish with the remaining basil leaves and serve with white rice.

August 16, 2011

Another Brick in the Wall

Pink Floyd, The Wall 1979

I have SO many things I want to write about. About BlogHer .... about some fun gear I was given while there ..... about hanging out with my Imaginary Friends for an ENTIRE weekend ..... about the reason why I liked The Help the Book, but have no plans whatsoever to see the movie ..... about how some folks over-reacted to innocuous commentary about an effing CAKE ..... about how some other folks denigrated the entire population of Alabama in reaction to said innocuous commentary about said effing CAKE ..... about how much I LOVE the people from Alabama .......

But right now is really crazy. And I am quickly losing the patience and courage to get myself involved in sticky, thorny, emotion-laden topics.  Also, while I was in San Diego playing with my Imaginary Friends, my very Real Family from San Diego was out of town themselves. In a fun twist, my Real Family is HERE in Kansas visiting and I am trying to spend as much time with them as possible. Many roadtrips to Leavenworth are involved in this goal.

Drinking Coors creekside, catching frogs and trying not to get ran over cows? Now THAT is a Kansas Family Reunion, folks.

Also, Arun started Kindergarten today.

He dutifully posed for pictures.

And of course, Anjali had to get in on the act.


He took off to school without a backward glance.

However, tears were still shed. Trust me.

August 10, 2011


Pink Floyd, Animals 1977

In my 20s, I read Cosmopolitan faithfully. Pictures like this should have made me realize I was just wasting my money. There was no hope. In the 80s, I would desperately try to follow every fashion trend and would look terribly ridiculous. Torn sweatshirt? I simply looked like a homeless person. Spiral perm? Left me with a burnt scalp and feeble looking waves.  Blue eyeshadow?  Needs no description.

I was such a sheep.  I still am.

Today marks my 7th year of blogging.

Since early 2003, I had been reading Adam Bonin's blog, Throwing Things, (he later merged with a few other blogs and they became A List of 5 Things Thrown 5 Minutes Ago). The comment sections in his blog are always full of wit, deep thoughts, interesting conversation and cordial disagreement (yes, it CAN happen, folks)  I mention Adam specifically because to this day, he holds a particular standard for me when it comes to blogging (not that I always meet that standard. *cough*.)  Also, his site was the inspiration for the name "Rancid Raves" - it is a play on the phrase "Rants and Raves".  I had originally envisioned a sort of linkblog whereby I posted things I enjoyed and didn't enjoy.  Obviously, the name stuck, the concept did not.  I never, ever imagined I would begin a narrative detailing the banalities of my life.

I have no regrets.

I was also inspired by two real-life, Analog Friends, Celeste and Rita.  Both had began blogging earlier in the summer and when I saw they were having so much fun,  I decided to join.

I went with the sheep theme because I love sheep.  Cartoon sheep are so cute, sweetly fluffy and perfectly clean.  Conversely? Real sheep are dirty, smelly and they have those weird, devil eyes with the creepy, elongated pupils.  Yet, real sheep provide gorgeous wools that enable one of my other favorite hobbies -- knitting.

Yes, there's a metaphor in there somewhere.  Maybe.  Probably not.

Despite the lack of sponsorship and readership, this blog has been a supremely satisfying hobby, even if it is my most expensive hobby.  What I have gained from blogging over the past 7 years cannot be quantified in terms of dollars.

Or really, anything else.

Thank you for enduring my drivel all of these years.  Thank you for making my tiny site a safe place for me. Thank you for being civil in my comments section. Thank you for hugging me at past BlogHers. Thank you for meeting me in person through random meet-ups across the country. Thank you for reaching beyond blogging and becoming my friend via Twitter, Facebook and email. Thank you for sending care packages in the mail.  Thank you for sending cards and gifts for my babies.  Thank you for sending thoughtful, handwritten notes of support when I've lost loved ones.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you.

August 2, 2011

Heart Beat, Pig Meat

Pink Floyd, Zabriskie Point 1970

I'm heading to BlogHer this week, so this will be it for posting this week because I'm too damned busy getting ready for a blogging conference to actually write on my blog.  Oh, the sweet irony!

This year, I'm rooming with the venerable Average Jane and a new roomie, Liz.of Everyday Goddess.  I solved the usual BlogHer Fashion Dilemma by deciding to wear what I wore last year.  I've decided to call it my Official BlogHer Uniform and be done.

May I offer up a parting present?

Angry Birds?  Their puny beaks are nothing in the face of the gaping maw of Daniel the Tarantula.

Death to the bastard, cloven-hooved swine.

Slingshot? That's medieval.

Quick, fire up the smoker! We're having smoked pork butt for dinner.