Archive for December, 2006

Another Hearthsong update

December 31, 2006 - 9:48 pm 1 Comment

Previous posts here and here about my problems with Hearthsong.

Turns out a friend of mine had the same problem with them this year – ordered toys for her child, they never came.

Yesterday a hand-addressed envelope came from Hearthsong. “This should be good,” sez hubby. Opening it revealed… (are you ready?)

A mailing label. Just so I could, you know, mail back my non-existent order to them. And a many-photocopied scrap of paper that said something like, “We’re sorry you have to return an item. Here’s your label. Etc.”

These people are too much, honestly. Still no refund, either.

Hearthsong update

December 26, 2006 - 7:22 pm 1 Comment

– My items were not delivered still.
– My promised $6.99 refund for expedited shipping was never issued.
– Hearthsong claims they’ll be shipping items out overnight today and tomorrow.
– I told them to hell with that, I wanted to cancel the remainder of my order and I want a refund for the entire $30 or so of shipping that they charged me.
– I never once got an apology, although “Clarence” told me several times, “No problem.” Wrong choice of words, buddy. There’s a big problem.

Holy Lillian Vernon, Batman!

December 24, 2006 - 1:18 am 1 Comment

This is the letter that I would have sent through Hearthsong’s Feedback Form, if it had functioned. Which it hasn’t for days. And mail to bounces.

Yes, I checked. They are not owned by Lillian Vernon.


I received 4 items out of the total order. That package was sent UPS Ground, even though I had selected “Express” when I checked out. The rest of the 17 items that I ordered from you are nowhere to be seen. Nobody has been able to provide me with a tracking number for these items, which I ordered on December 13, and which I paid to be shipped second day air. Customer service representatives on the phone keep trying to blame UPS for the failure. In the meantime, I’m left scrambling on Christmas Eve, which I had planned to spend with family and friends.

Please remove my customer information from Hearthsong’s database, as well as the databases of all affiliated companies. In addition, please cancel the remainder of my order and issue me a refund for the items plus shipping. With all the places in the world out there to order from, I certainly don’t see the need to spend money on a company that _causes_ stress rather than _alleviates_ it.

You can be assured that my website readership will also hear of my problems with Hearthsong.

Yadda yadda.

Reading other review sites, I see that I’m not alone.

Why does this always happen to me??


Figured out why their “Contact Us” form doesn’t work. Some genius there forgot to close a bracket. Also, amusingly, the link to their reviews on Bizrate has been commented out. Here’s what it’s supposed to look like:

Oh, I also forgot to mention that when placing an order on their website, you have to select the shipping method for each individual item rather than the order as a whole. When I told the customer service representative about this today, she started to commiserate with me, then did a total 180 and said she’s been shopping on the internet since 1995 and that’s how every place she orders from does it.

Um, what?

The Nutcracker

December 23, 2006 - 7:38 pm Comments Off on The Nutcracker

Finally more about The Nutcracker!

A few weeks ago, David Wyattsent an email to the Austin Bloggers mailing list offering local bloggers the opportunity to attend a technical rehearsal of Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker. I had already purchased tickets to one of the performances, but I thought that the kids (okay, okay, and me too) would really like to see backstage at Bass Concert Hall, as well as see an actual rehearsal in action.

I was slightly concerned about taking the magic of the stage show away from the kids and I sat them down to talk about it. My older daughter and I went to the show last year, and after seeing my younger daughter sit still for hours watching the Baryshnikov version on DVD, I decided she was old enough to go this year, too. So I told them both about what they would be seeing, and how it might take the illusion away that the ballet is effortless for the dancers, but they were both still interested in going. Of course.

When we got there, Lance Johnson, the marketing director, showed around the bloggers, giving them a tour of backstage and explaining how the company works. They’re moving into a new home in a short while and apparently have been very lucky with patron donations to fund it. They offer the house to disadvantaged kids on dress rehearsal night, which I thought was really nice. Heck, after seeing the great time the girls had at the rehearsal, I’m considering putting them in the Petite Partners program.

The show, of course, was wonderful. It’s amazing how many people they can pack on the stage at once, between all the adult and kid cast members. And by the way, going to one of the matinees is really, really fun. You have never in your life seen so many little girls all dressed up in their holiday finest. I guarantee.

A big thanks to Ballet Austin, David Wyatt, and Lance Johnson for putting this together. They really won over the kids, and I’m sure we’ll be attending more shows together in the future.


December 20, 2006 - 12:52 am 4 Comments

The last grade I’ve been waiting to hear on finally got posted tonight, with literally minutes to spare before the 11:59 p.m. deadline for instructors to turn in grades. Funny enough, the grade I got first was from the final I took last. My Interpersonal Comm final paper got turned in over two weeks ago and it just now got grades posted. Oy.

Anyway, here’s a gloat.

Tamale recipe

December 19, 2006 - 2:09 am 1 Comment

Okay, I am a real tamale snob. I get really turned off by substandard tamales. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these tamales rival the best tamales I’ve ever bought from someone else.

They’re not hard to make, but they are time-consuming. It takes about one minute per tamal to spread the masa, add the filling, and roll it up.

I also like to add 5-6 raisins on top of the meat before rolling it up.

Here’s a pictorial of last year’s tamale process.

2 lb. cooked meat, shredded
6 oz. corn oil
3 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoon comino
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2.5 teaspoon salt

To prepare meat, cover with water and boil until very tender. Reserve the broth for making the tamales.

Gently warm the oil with the spices. Pour over the shredded meat and mix very well.

Makes enough filling for about 4-5 dozen tamales.

1 cup lard
4 cup broth
4 cup masa
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon chili powder
Corn husks

Soak corn husks in water while making the masa.

Beat the lard until it is smooth and slightly fluffy. Add two cups broth and mix, then add 2 cups masa and mix. Add two more cups broth and mix, then two more cups masa. Once all ingredients are incorporated, whip at high speed until fluffy. When it is beaten well enough, a pea-sized amount will float at the top of a cup of cold water.

Spread a thin amount of masa onto the bottom left of a corn husk, leaving about one third uncovered on the top and right side. Sprinkle a tablespoon of prepared filling down the center of the masa, longways. Start rolling from the left to the right, ending with the part of the husk that has no masa on it. Fold the end under.

Steam for about 2 hours until masa is firm.

Makes enough masa for 4-5 dozen tamales.

Feliz Navidad

December 18, 2006 - 2:40 am 1 Comment

It’s tamale time again. We’re getting started really late, and we’re about to be out of town for two days, so we need to have them done by then. Ten dozen down, about fifty dozen more to go.

But boy, are they gooooood.

Yummy Christmas Bread

December 13, 2006 - 4:11 pm Comments Off on Yummy Christmas Bread


2 cup liquid sourdough culture
4 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup citron
1 lemon zest, grated
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1/2 cup rum or bourbon
1 tube marzipan or almond paste
1 stick melted butter
confectioners’ sugar, as needed

1. Soak the dried fruit overnight in rum or bourbon.

2. Mix the liquid culture with 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the water in a large mixing bowl. This is the working culture. Let double. (Carl’s starter – about 2.5 hours.)

3. Add 1 cup of the flour and the remaining 1/4 cup water. Allow to double. (Carl’s starter – about 2.5 hours.)

4. Punch down. Drain the fruit. Mix together the milk, butter, salt, fruit, lemon zest, and spices. Add to the dough and mix well. Reserve one cup of the flour for flouring the board. Knead the remaining 1 3/4 cups of the flour into the dough one cup at a time. Make a stiff dough.

5. Form oblong rectangles with the dough. Divide marzipan in half, then roll each half into a snake as long as the dough. Press snakes flat to make ribbons. Place ribbons in the center of the dough. If there’s marzipan left over, make small chunks and scatter through the dough. Fold sides of the dough together and pinch shut – that’s the bottom of the loaf. Brush loaves with melted butter and set to rise.

6. Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when thumping the underside.

7. While cooling, brush on melted butter several times, allowing it to absorb. When cool, you may sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.

Makes two 2.5 pound loaves.

(I can give you a starter if you need. This bread is totally worth it. Hub and I can’t stop eating it.)