Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kids, Don't Try This At Home...Ever.

At the school I work at, snack time is an important part of the day.

Like second-breakfast for hobbits, it is necessary for the kids to have their daily after-lunch-but-before-snack-at-home bit of goodness.

Usually we make offerings of fruit gummies, Goldfish crackers (the snack that smiles back), animal crackers (the taste says "cookie" to me, but that's beside the point), fruit, etc...

These offerings are usually met with acceptance, and a promise to not tear around the room and destroy things for the amount of time it takes to consume said snack. It is a formula that has worked since time immemorial (or at least the beginning of the school year).

Til we (the grown-ups) messed with the formula.

Last Friday, we decided to do something just a bit different: we decided to have a "snack-time cooking adventure".

We discovered that the kids in our class don't take well to adventure.

We had our recipe for Cracker Jacks, a tasty treat that all kids love, right?


We have ten kids in our class, and thought it would be fun if they could all participate in the snack-making process, so everyone got to put in a separate ingredient, stir the syrupy mixture that resulted (this is the point where I started getting nervous, but I kept my fears to myself), and they all seemed to enjoy that part of it.

Then came the cooking part.

I placed the bowl containing the goopy, pre-Cracker Jacks...stuff...into the microwave and set it for the time given in the recipe.

So far, so good.

We discovered that we had put the baking soda in one step too early, but that part worked out, 'cause it foamed up really cool, and we got several "ooh's" and "aahhh's" from the still-excited kids.

Then, we poured amounts of the sticky-and-quickly-hardening "candy" into paper sacks of popcorn. After letting the kids shake up their bags, I placed one back into the microwave, because the directions said at this point to "cook again in microwave for one minute". I followed the directions.

That was my mistake.

What came out of the microwave after only twenty-five seconds was a bag of fear that emitted a noxious, gassy smoke, prompting one girl in the class to remind us that she doesn't like fire alarms.

We promptly opened all of the windows, which also gave me a place to dump the horrible first results of our experiment (there was some concern that it would kill any animals which might happen upon it, but I argued that no animal would be stupid enough to eat what we had just wrought).

There was terror in the room now; terror that smelled of charred brown sugar and death.

We forged ahead.

There was enough of the tarry concoction left that we tried a different tack; we put popcorn onto paper plates, heated the candy-stuff just enough to keep it viscous (I love that word), poured it over the popcorn and mixed it up.

The first table to receive the benefits of our wisdom seated four children. As soon as the re-heated Cracker Jack "soup" hit the popcorn at the center of the table, all four chairs scooted away, scattering to the four points of the compass.

"No snack! No snack!" said one child, while another simply proclaimed, "Eeew...". The other two children were apparently terrified beyond the capacity for sound.

Seeing the gossamer strings that formed as the stuff stretched and cooled brought a comment of "I won't eat that! There's hair in it!" at another table.

We did eventually convince the children to try it, by trying it ourselves. I was a bit apprehensive about this, but I had to think of the kids.

We all discovered that, despite its horrid appearance and evil stench, it did, in fact, taste like Cracker Jacks.

Which I don't like very much, but again: beside the point.

Once they tried it, all fear was gone, and the kids descended upon the hapless homemade horror, reducing it to crumbs and little crunchy bits of whatever that Cracker Jack stuff really is.

For the rest of the day, kids from other classes were wondering why they smelled "burnt pancakes", and teachers from all over the school were stopping me to ask "Was...was there something on fire in your room?"

The kids got their snack (we felt bad about terrifying them earlier, so the little hobbits got "second-snack" a bit later), I got a lifetime of memories (once the fear was over, I laughed longer and harder than I have in a long time, and that's saying something, 'cause I laugh a lot), and the school got a new aroma that still haunts the hallway (I suspect that forty years from now, someone will be standing in our classroom saying "Something horrible once happened here...").

We even learned a valuable lesson:

We need to keep a lot more fruit snacks on hand.

Thanks for reading my ranting,


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Second Star

Please join me over at Second Star to the Right, where today I'm welcoming special guest blogger Janice Hardy, who is talking about brainstorming.

And now, I'm off to work.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Reminder

For those of you who don't yet read my writing blog, Second Star to the Right, I hope you'll join me tomorrow in welcoming special guest blogger Janice Hardy as she stops by as part of her whirlwind Blue Fire Blog Tour.

I'll post a link here tomorrow, too, and I hope some of you will find out that you like Second Star, and maybe hang around for a bit.
Thanks for reading my ranting,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bugs--They're Not Just For Breakfast Anymore...

There is absolutely nothing to be gained from explaining how I came by this knowledge, so I'll just jump right in there:

Today is National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day.

I'm surprised the kids don't get out of school for this one.

Apparently, this is a big deal.

A google search will pull up many informative websites, dedicated to everything from making sure that your chocolate-coated creepies are farm-raised, to the health benefits of this...interesting...use of chocolate, to taste comparisons--"The mantis has an earthy, nutty after-taste, while the fire ants taste ants".

I'm sure that somewhere, someone has figured out how many Weight Watchers points a candy-coated centipede is worth.

I've even found a recipe for chocolate scorpions, which pretty much amounts to:

a. Melt chocolate
b. Dip scorpion into chocolate
c. Eat said scorpion

Nothing says lovin better than something that can kill you, dipped in sweetness...


Actually, lots of things say lovin better than that.

I mean, come on, they don't even put sprinkles on 'em?!?

Lots of people say they taste like chocolate-covered popcorn.

I think I'll just stick with the popcorn, and say it tastes like bugs.

Although I have to admit, knowing that you can buy big boxes of these things is going to make next Valentine's Day reeeeeaaaally interesting.
Thanks for reading my ranting,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Treasures: Thundarr the Barbarian

Last week's TT, about the Saturday Morning theme songs, got me to thinking a great deal about some of the old cartoons that made my Saturday mornings so exciting. I've been reliving some of those days in my mind, days when sticks were swords and the patch of woods a couple of blocks from my house was an enchanted (often haunted) forest.

Of course, from the beginning, there was Scooby-Doo. There was Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Hong Kong Phooey. Wheelie and the Chopper Gang (I seem to be one of the few that remembers this late 70's treat, but remember it I do). The Tarzan/Lone Ranger Hour. If the phrase "Meanwhile...back at the Hall of Justice" means anything to you, you know there were the SuperFriends.

And from 1980 to 1982, there was Thundarr the Barbarian.

The 80's weren't all bad

Thundarr was a--well, a barbarian--living on the post-apocalyptic Earth of the year 3994. With his companions, the sorceress Princess Ariel and the savage, Wookie-like lion-man, Ookla the Mok, he traveled the world over, facing evil sorcerers and strange mutant monsters.

Actually, the intro to the show sums it all up:

I fell in love with this show immediately. I loved the premise, I loved the characters, and I loved that super-cool, lightsaber-like Sunsword.

I've always been a huge comic book fan, and one of the reasons that this show resonated with me so strongly is that its creators are a veritable who's who of comic book talent: Alex Toth (who also designed Space Ghost, another childhood hero), Jack Kirby (just about everything in the world of comics owes its existence to the King), Steve Gerber (creator of, among other things, Howard the Duck--forget the movie, the comics were great); many other comic book writers, folks responsible for some of the best stories of my youth, contributed to the twenty-one episodes eventually produced. This show felt like a comic book, and I loved it.

Of course, at the time, I didn't know any of the comic book creators involved; it was just a good cartoon that fired my imagination.

This was the first "post-apocalyptic" story that I was exposed to--I didn't discover Mad Max until a few years later when we got cable--and it created a love of the sub-genre that still carries strong.

The series is available on dvd, but I haven't watched it since I was 11 years old, and I really can't say whether it holds up or not.

But that doesn't matter. What matters are my memories of it; the memories of a nine-year-old boy who couldn't get enough of these kinds of stories, who dreamed of adventure.

A boy who has become a 39-year-old man who still dreams of adventure.

It's a part of my childhood, thus it's a part of me.

And "Ookla the Mok" would be a great name for a band.
Thanks for reading my ranting,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mars Needs Bread!

I went to make a sandwich for myself the other day.

Nothing unusual about this; I make and enjoy sandwiches frequently.

This time, things were a little different.

I rolled back the cover of my breadbox, expecting to find a fresh, unopened bag of tasty bread, ready for whatever ingredients I saw fit to deposit on it.

Instead, what I found was an empty bread sack, crumpled up next to every single slice of bread from the loaf, crammed into the breadbox and twisted almost beyond recognition.




When strange and unusual things happen here, the first thing I usually say is "Blake", and this was no exception.

"Blake," I said. "What happened to the bread?"

"Oh," he replied in a very matter-of-fact tone. "When I took my flying saucer out of the breadbox, it tried to take the bread, and it all fell out."


Of course it did.

I admit, I had not yet thought of this possibility.

Apparently, the little plastic Martians that fly around my house in their little plastic flying saucer (which used to be mine, by the way; my kids got most of my coolest old toys) could not find a field of wheat in which to make crop circles and decided to attempt the same feat with wheat bread, but managing only a stale, hardened construction that I call "breadhenge".

I would have called on the vacuum cleaner that is my dog to take care of the mess (I don't believe in the five-second-rule; if food touches the ground, it's forfeit), but Blake felt it more prudent to at least put the bread back in the bread box.

Despite the fact that I never got my sandwich (darn Martians) and had to throw away a full loaf of bread, I remain impressed that Blake actually cleaned up after himself.

This shows, in a roundabout way, that he actually does sometimes listen to me.

I consider this progress.

I now have more bread, but I don't think I'll make a sandwich right now. I'm afraid I'll find that Venusians have abducted my peanut butter.

Thanks for reading my ranting,


Monday, October 4, 2010

Tuesday Treasures: Toon Tunes

When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were magic.

Not only was there no school, not only were there mass quantities of sugary cereal, there were those wonderful, wonderful cartoons.

The freedoms and joys of Saturday morning will be covered in another post, but today I'm going to share an album that takes me back to those long-ago animation-fests.

Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits:

Released in 1995, Saturday Morning is a collection of various artists recording covers of their favorite childhood cartoon theme songs.

Some you will recognize, others you've never heard of, but all are good.

This music is just plain fun.

I've owned this CD for fifteen years, and still listen to it regularly.

Here's just a sample:

Spider-Man, by The Ramones (yes, The Ramones):

Popeye, by Face To Face (I'd never heard of them, either, but this is one of my favorites on this CD):

Fat Albert, by Dig:

And The Banana Splits, by Liz Phair and Material Issue:

It's hard to pick songs to show you here, because every song on the album is fun.

I enjoy this album as much now as when I bought it years ago; not only does it bring my childhood to mind, it's just good music in its own right.

I can't listen to this music without feeling good, and my kids love to listen to it, too; Blake often asks for the "Nana Spits" song.

If you're a child of the 70's and/or 80's, like me, you'll enjoy this record (that's what we used to call 'em in the 70's, kids). If you're a bit younger, I think you'll still enjoy the music and overall sense of fun in every song.

Go ahead. Listen to some cartoons.
Thanks for reading my ranting,