Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sunscreen wipes

Some people are built to be outdoors. They are outdoorsy. They like to hike up big hills and cook over campfires and poop in the woods. I am not one of those people.

I am the opposite of outdoorsy. I am indoorsy. I get sunburned and mosquito bitten whenever I leave my house. In fact, it is kind of shocking that my ancestors lived outdoors just 10,000 years ago.

As a result of my evolutionary deficiencies, I very closely follow developments in products that promise to protect me from nature.

For instance, last year I purchased a box of Vitamin B1 patches designed to protect me from bug bites. These patches were no match for the combination of my mosquito-loving skin and Trinidad's wet season. They allegedly worked for several Amazon reviewers, but definitely not for me. I wore up to four patches at a time, but I still looked like I caught a weird tropical pox.

I'm going back to Trinidad in January and I'm ready to try again. Not with the patches. Those were a disaster. This time I will target my other enemy: the sun. These sunscreen wipes may prevent me from dying, making them an excellent gift.

If you buy me these sunscreen wipes, I will happily send you a picture of me at the end of my Trinidad trip to show you how well they worked. This could be gratifying, or it could be hilarious. Either way, you win.*
MD Skincare Powerful Sun Protection SPF 30 Sunscreen Packettes

*The photo will, of course, replace any Christmas present I may have been planning to buy you. You're welcome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bread Machine

I like to bake. My specialties include cupcakes, banana bread, and various types of cookies.

But bread eludes me. My first attempt at a rustic loaf ended with a frisbee-like disc of semi-leavened food product. Apparently there's a difference between yeast and rapid-rise yeast; the two are not perfect substitutes. I found that out the hard way.

So I tried again, this time with sandwich bread. It went better with the rising and the proofing. The dough was even the consistency I wanted it to be--doughy. The resulting loaf, however, did not live up to the hype of homemade bread. It tasted a lot like flour and water combined to make something with a bread-like look and feel. And while that's exactly what bread is, somehow it's more delicious when other people make it.

I could try again, but instead I will just declare that I want a bread machine. I picked this Panasonic one from Amazon, but in reality you should buy me one off Craigslist or eBay. For some reason, a lot of people seem to be getting rid of perfectly good bread machines at any point in time.

Their loss is my gain. Imagine non-frisbee-like rustic loaves, fully leavened and completely delicious. Sandwich bread that both looks and tastes like homemade bread. Pizza dough I've been planning to make for a while now but so far have been too lazy to attempt. Healthy bread made with whole wheat flour, flax seeds, and organic water.

This is such a good idea that I'm resisting the urge to make a joke about sliced bread and more recent occurrences that are better than it.

At least one of the loyal readers of this blog may be thinking that we do not have enough counter space for a bread machine. That is a lie. There is space beside the Kitchen Aid mixer and that's where we shall put it.

I am powerless to resist. Bread machines may be the best thing since sliced bread. Are you happy now?

Panasonic Bread Machine

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sony Wireless Headphones

I work out. Not a lot, but sometimes. I bought an elliptical machine so that I would work out more.

It's awesome. I wake up a half hour early, put on Army Wives, and work out while I watch television.

The only problem is that a half hour early for me is usually between 5:30 and 6am. This is a problem because my living room/workout room shares a wall with my bedroom/sleeping husband room. And to hear my bad tv over the sound of the elliptical machine, I have to turn the volume all the way up. My husband does not like that.

So this post is geared primarily toward him. If you happen to sleep in the room next to where I work out very early in the morning, you may want to buy me these wireless headphones.

Our neighbors would probably like us more too.

Sony Wireless Headphones

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cake-Sicle Pan

Food always tastes better on a stick. It's like wrapping something in bacon: you just can't go wrong. Apples are tasty, but caramel apples are delicious. Hot dogs are good, but corn dogs are way better. Why? Clearly it's the stick.  

Yet few have dared to apply this solid logic to baked goods. Enter the Cake-Sicle pan, a market solution to the shortage of dessert on a stick options.
The Cake-Sicle pan allows you transform ordinary batter into the holy grail of baking: cake on a stick. You can then coat your cake-sicles with chocolate and sprinkles (see photo). It also works for brownies.
Does this mean you could have banana-bread-sicles? Chocolate-chip-cookie-sicles? Blueberry-muffin-sicles? I don’t know. The only way to find out is to buy me the Norpro Nonstick Cake-Sicle Pan. The answers to these and other baked-good-sicle questions can at last be answered. 
Seriously. I want.

Norpro Nonstick Cake-Sicle Pan

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 Holiday Gift Guide

It's that time of year again. The time when every blog and magazine and television talk show puts out a holiday gift guide of scented body lotions and fashion-forward cuff links.

The mistake they all make is that they attempt to create one-size-fits-all lists. They try to cater to the greatest common denominator by compiling a collection of innocuous bath products and mail-order cheeses and, of course, random crap. Have you ever received a guillotine cigar cutter or a friendship treasure ball? It was probably on a holiday gift guide somewhere.

The 2008 ShopVicariously Holiday Gift Guide will fly in the face of convention. It will not contain generic gifts for everyone on your list.

It will only contain gifts for me. 

If you plan on getting me a Christmas present this year, it had better be either (a) on this list or (b) as awesome as or more awesome than the things on this list.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I am risk averse. I don't like to gamble. I don't like extreme sports. I don't even like ferris wheels.

I am also cheap. I hoard Bed Bath & Beyond coupons like there's no tomorrow. I routinely read bargain blogs. I will not pay full price for clothing. I never make an online purchase without checking Retail Me Not first. I'm not cheap about big things (food, travel, presents, etc), but I will stand in the toothpaste aisle at Walgreens comparing ingredient lists to determine if there's really a difference between my preferred brand and the generic.

So it's somewhat odd that I like risking money on wacky schemes that may or may not pan out. I play the scratch-off lotto. I buy domain names with plans to get rich quick. I impulsively spend small to moderate amounts of money on things that no normal person would ever buy.

I think that's why I am so obsessed with the SomethingStore. It's a brilliant idea. It's the kind of idea I'm tempted to claim to have thought of years ago myself but never followed through on (I'd be lying). Here's what the website says:
"An idea: Offer the good people of World Wide Web something. Let them not know what it is until they receive it. After all, if anything can be sold on the Internet, why not something? Is it dumb? Or is it brilliant? Something in between? We couldn't decide; here is SomethingStore so you can decide."
Brilliant. And only ten bucks.* Don't tell my husband, but I recently purchased my very own Something. It turned out to be a karaoke microphone that I have no use for, but I will certainly try again.

In totally unrelated news, you may be getting a karaoke microphone for Christmas this year. Please try to act surprised.


*All sales are final.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kitchen Aid Mixer

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that I am secretly a 35-year-old housewife. While I am not good at cleaning, crafting, or cooking, I am not not good at baking. Not to brag, but I am actually not bad at baking.

How can someone be a terrible cook but a not-terrible baker? That's like asking why someone can be bad at furniture design but good at putting together stuff from Ikea. The former involves talent, skill, and intuition. The latter is just doing what the instructions tell you to do.

Sure, really good baking involves improvisation and understanding ratios of ingredients and some vague notion of "science," but I never claimed to be a really good baker. I am a solidly not-bad baker. That just involves following instructions, and frequently a standing mixer. Hence the post about Kitchen Aid mixers. They are awesome.

The pink mixer is by far the best. The reasons include funding for breast cancer research and, more importantly, pinkness. I am not a huge fan of pink, but I am a fan of funny things. Nothing is funnier than receiving a pink mixer as a gift and knowing that my husband can't do anything about it. Except watching someone fall down. Nothing is funnier than watching someone fall down. Unless that someone is injured. A pink mixer is funnier than a seriously injured person.

Speaking of things that suck for my husband, I am still not good at the cleaning after baking.

KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer, Pink


I've gotten some questions about this post. Apparently the hierarchy of funny things was a bit unclear. Here is a list of things ranked in order of funniness:
  1. Nothing
  2. Person falling down (not injured)
  3. Pink mixer
  4. Person falling down (seriously injured)
I hope this helps.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lady Mags

If you learn anything about me today, let it be this: I am a 35-year-old housewife. I may technically be 10 years younger with a full-time job and an incredibly messy apartment, but don't let that fool you. Deep down, I am a domestic goddess. It's my fun job and my friends and my jet-setting lifestyle that are keeping me from realizing my full potential. knows the truth. They're always recommending things like Good Housekeeping magazine and bundt cake cookbooks and body pillows. Bed, Bath, & Beyond knows the truth. They're always sending me 20% off coupons in the mail, knowing that I secretly want to run out and buy a bundt pan and a body pillow. Even my husband knows the truth. He was the one I dragged to the craft store in Queens in a needlepoint emergency, and the one whose kitchen table was covered in homemade greeting cards after the rubber stamp fiasco of '08.

The place where my housewifery is most apparent is in my magazine selection. Many years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I read US Weekly and In Touch. But now that I'm many years older and more mature, I've graduated to lady mags. That's right, I subscribe to O Magazine and Real Simple. I read Martha Stewart Living at work and Better Homes and Gardens when I'm on an airplane. I even picked up Ladies' Home Journal last time I got a haircut.

And you know what? I'm not ashamed. Where else would I find out that Nars makes the best multitasking makeup? Who would tell me that wide-leg trousers and pencil skirts look "dumpy" with flats? Where would I learn how to repurpose ice cube trays as desk drawer organizers or how to make cranberry chutney from scratch?

I don't actually ever plan to become a housewife, but a part of me will always wish I had the time and the discipline to make my own candles and read books about how to live a fuller life.

O, The Oprah Magazine (1-year)
Real Simple (1-year)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Trivial Pursuit Genus Edition, 1981

You probably think you're pretty smart. The fact that you're reading this blog means that you probably are. As a pretty smart person, you are probably good at trivia. You probably know, for example, that the capital of Mozambique is Maputo, and that Julie Andrews won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1964 for Mary Poppins

But how smart are you really?

Trivial Pursuit's 1981 Genus Edition will test your alleged intelligence by asking you to recall the following:

  1. What's the international radio code word for the letter Z?
  2. What's the largest lake in South America?
  3. How many bulls are killed in a formal bullfight?
  4. Which of Hitler's deputies parachuted into Scotland to negotiate peace terms?
  5. What does FM stand for?
  6. What's a group of bears called?
  7. What were broccoli and cauliflower developed from?
  8. What does a pluviometer measure?
  9. What does the J&B stand for on the scotch?
  10. What's the largest gland in the human body?
  11. What Persian astronomer-poet wrote a celebrated collection of quatrains?
  12. What was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's name before he became a Muslim?
  13. What time does Wee Willie Winkie run through the town?
  14. Who preceded Walter Cronkite as anchorman on The CBS Evening News?
  15. What does a brandophile collect?
  16. What industry was Benjamin Braddock advised to enter at his graduation party?
But anyone who is pretty smart can answer those questions. The great equalizer of the original Genus Edition is that it asks you to answer questions about politics, sports, and pop culture circa 1981. For example:
  1. How many grooves are there on each side of a 45 rpm record?
  2. What country's name is abbreviated CSSR?
  3. What is Margaret Houlihan's nickname?
  4. What's the capital of West Germany?
  5. Who launched his ill-fated drive for the White House on The Summer Brothers Smothers Show?
  6. What was the Montreal Expos' home before they moved to Olympic Stadium?
  7. What company is the world's largest user of silver?
  8. Who is Captain Mark Phillips married to?
  9. What three countries border Finland?
  10. What board game asks you to create a success formula from money, fame, and happiness?
  11. What does VDT stand for?
  12. What country is the BRD?
  13. What city has the tallest building outside the US?
  14. Who holds the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season?
  15. What British colony has a famed jad emarket on Canton Road?
  16. What newspaper has the largest Sunday circulation in North America?
A few tips may help you win this game:
  • If the question is about a country, the answer is usually the Soviet Union.
  • Avoid Entertainment questions (the pink ones) at all costs.
  • If you get a question with a superlative (tallest, best, most), you are screwed.
  • History questions are a pretty good bet, because most history occurred before 1981 anyway.
  • If a history question asks something you don't know, the answer is probably something to do with the Soviet Union.

Trivial Pursuit Master Game Genus Edition (1981)


(1) Zulu (2) Lake Maracaibo (3) Six (4) Rudolf Hess (5) Frequency modulation (6) A sleuth (7) Cabbage (8) Rainfall (9) Justerini & Brooks (10) The liver (11) Omar Khayyam (12) Lew Alcindor (13) Eight o'clock (14) Douglas Edwards (15) Cigar bands (16) Plastics

(1) One (2) Czechoslovakia's (3) Hot Lips (4) Bonn (5) Pat Paulson (6) Jarry Park (7) Kodak (8) Princess Anne (9) Norway, Sweden, and the Soviet Union (10) Careers (11) Video Display Terminal (12) West Germany (13) Toronto (14) O.J. Simpson (15) Hong Kong (16) The New York Daily News

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Army Wives

I have terrible taste in television. Sure, I watch the shows that you watch--30 Rock, Mad Men, Entourage--and I  casually reference them in conversation with normal people.  But I also watch the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. I TiVo America's Next Top Model. I watched Studio 60 long after the rest of the world realized it was terrible. If there's an elimination-based reality show on Bravo, no matter how ridiculous the premise, chances are good I love it.

And there's a special place in my heart for anything on Lifetime. During one of those wonderful please-don't-take-my-baby movie marathons they had a woman-on-the-street interview segment before each commercial break. One of them featured the following exchange (I am not making this up):

Person with microphone: And why do you watch Lifetime?Southern-looking over-groomed twenty-something: Because I'm a woman.

That's how I feel about Lifetime. So when I found out about Army Wives, the Lifetime Original tv drama, I set my TiVo immediately. It's great. It's like a combination of M*A*S*H and The Facts of Life. All the women are sassy and full of salt-of-the-earth wisdom while they struggle to maintain normalcy in the midst of hostage situations and explosions on post.

If you like The Real Housewives of Orange County and Top Design, you won't be disappointed with Army Wives.

Bonus points because watching it makes me feel patriotic. Hate the war, love our troops.

Army Wives: The Complete First Season