Archive | March, 2011

{why i can’t have nice things} inventory edition: the dangerous item repository

23 Mar

“A weekly, or as close as I can get to weekly, ritual (who am I kidding that I think I can do this every week). Some photos – with or without tons of explanation – capturing a moment from the week.

A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. A moment that makes me remember why exactly it is that I can’t have nice things (but someday will).”

**A twisted step-cousin twice-removed of‘s {this moment}.


My Uncle Bill was an intrepid traveler, and (still is) a brilliant photographer. A true prodigal son, I don’t remember his absenses from my Grandma Rizzo’s house, but rather his quiet homecomings. He carried a satchel with him everywhere he went, prior to this being the norm of many men today. He recently told me that every so often, he would dump out the contents of his bag and take a photo of whatever was in there. Everything. He said this photo was almost more telling than a journal entry or any story of where he had been. I thought this was a brilliant idea. I’ve decided to use Uncle Bill’s time capture methodology in different ways. I think you should try it, too. It could be with your purse, your diaper bag, your junk drawer, your backpack, or anything that becomes a collection point for stuff. Today, I would like to use this methodology for: The Dangerous Item Repository.

On a fairly regular basis, we have to confiscate things from our kids. Most times, these items are (relatively) benign and relegated to the top of the refrigerator or on top of our mantle. A completed Star Wars Lego winged vehicle? Sure put that on top of the fridge for safe keeping. Alexei Kovalev bobble head dolls? Yeah, better put those on the mantle before the 3-year-old rips poor Kovy’s head off. (Note: Let’s just come right out and say it: a bobble head is basically just taunting us to decapitate it.) But then, there are things taken from our children that just can’t be hidden in plain sight.

Out of fear.

This is when we utilize the Dangerous Item Repository: the top of an old  locker in our garage, right off of the kitchen.

With spring around the corner, and the hope of cleaning our garage, I’ve been thinking about these messes that accumulate. So it is with those words, that I present to you today’s {why i can’t have nice things}: things taken and hidden from my beautiful children (due to the nefarious use of items by said children):

1. A child’s golf club

2. A paint roller with dried up paint on it

3. A cap gun with caps (enclosed in Ziploc bag)

4. A lighter

5. A hose attachment

6. Enamel paint jars

7. A 3-lb weight

8. A large, prickly stick

9. A lead pipe

10. A ball-peen hammer

Now, if I could just figure out where I hid that mallet…

Trash-Mex Cuisine: “Tortilla Lasagna”

18 Mar

I just finished a four day fast. I like to do this type of thing a few times a year and it just seemed right to start it on Monday. Sometimes, I go longer than four days, but this time I didn’t. Every now and then, I like to let food know that it I’m not its bitch. To commemorate my foray back into eating again, I would like to share the most excellent concoction I’ve made in the last month. The nice thing is, if you want to make this totally meatless on a Friday (heya fellow Catholics), then bake away.

And with the help of an amalgam of about 100 recipes, I bring to you:

Allison’s Trash-Mex Tortilla Casserole

(Oh, I’ve got a WHOLE repertoire of self-proclaimed Trash-Mex recipes. And they all rock.)

First off, I want you to think of this like a lasagna: it’s got (repeated) layers of  “starch,” “sauce,” and cheese.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Optional meat layer

Cooked chicken (about 4 chicken breasts, diced)

Starch layer

One package of soft tortillas

Cheese layer

3-4 cups of any cheese you like (we used a Monterrey jack blend)

Sauce layer


2 T oil

1 onion

2 peppers (I used a red and a yellow)


One jar of salsa

One can of mexi-corn (or any corn with a jar of green chiles)

One can of crushed tomatoes


Spoon some of the mexi-sauce layer in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan

On top of the mexi-sauce, layer some soft tortillas like so (I’ve also ALWAYS wanted to say “like so”)
Layer each subsequent tortilla layer with the mexi-sauce, cheese, and (optionally) some cooked chicken and repeat until you can’t anymore.

Cover with aluminum foil to cook.


350 for about 45 minutes. Take off the foil to make the top cheese all melty the last 10 minutes.

Additional notes:

  • You will want to let this cool a WHILE before you eat it. If not, it will 1. be hot as magma 2. not stay together very well, and therefore 3. not look very visually pleasing on your plate. I’d say at least 1/2 hour, an hour if you can keep your mitts off of it.
  • I have found this dish to be exceptionally good (or better) the next day. I even like it cold, but I’m weird that way.
  • You can add anything else you want to your sauce. Like jalapenos? Throw ’em in that sauce. Honestly, I think this rocks with whatever *you* like in your “Trash-Mex” cooking.
  • ENJOY. I’ve always wanted to add that word to a direction/recipe. I like when that is the last step of anything. It’s a nice touch.
  • If you don’t like it, the next time I see you, I will hug you. That’s a promise, not a threat.

Fun stuff for the weekend: Pittsburgh style

11 Mar

My Birthday

Saturday, March 12

All day event.

I am one of the few people who actually admit to enjoying their birthday. What’s NOT to like? I get presents, people are nice or NICER to me, and I get to go to a Pens game every year. Boom.

Also, today is the day that fellow Pisces Jack Kerouac was born, so have a drink for us. So help me God, if it is green…(see below)

Pens vs. Montreal home game

Saturday March 12, 2011 @ 2:00 PM

I’ll see YOU in the beer line.

Pens vs. Oilers home game

Sunday March 13, 2011 @ 3:00 PM

Saint Patrick’s (Amateur) Day / Downtown Parade

You’re on your own here. I have never been able to, and still can’t, *stand* Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Don’t even get me started on green beer. And beads. Ugh.

Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Robotics Competition

When: March 10-12

Time: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM


Price: FREE

Where: Peterson Events Center, University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland

Last year, my friend was a mentor to a high school team competing in the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition. I took my kids to last year’s event because it was a dreary late winter day, the kids were itching to get out, and I thought they would like to see some robots. I never expected how much fun this event would be. At one point, I said to myself: “Why didn’t they have stuff like this when *I* was a nerd in high school?”

Some footage from last year:

Whether you are a nerd or not (come on, we all are in SOME way), the FIRST Robotics Competition is an entertaining way to spend a day, especially with kids. There is the hustling and bustling of activity in a great venue, lots of people from around the region, a cool DJ playing loud music, and cheering…for robots. Well, and for the really cool kids (and adults) that put these robots together.

The premise: a high school team is given just 6 weeks to construct and program a 120-lb robot to complete various tasks (that change every year). There are teams of high schoolers from 8 states and Canada competing in the Pittsburgh regional to go to the national competition.

The following description of the 2011 challenge, LogoMotion, is taken from

“LogoMotion is played by two competing alliances on a flat 27’ x 54’ foot field. Each alliance consists of three robots each. They compete to hang as many inflated plastic shapes (triangles, circles, and squares) on their grids as they can during a 2 minute and 15 second match. The higher the teams hang their game pieces on their scoring grid, the more points their alliance receives.

The match begins with one 15-second Autonomous Period in which robots operate independently of driver inputs and must hang Ubertubes to score extra points. For the rest of the match, drivers control robots and try to maximize their alliance score by hanging as many logo pieces as possible. Any logo piece hung on the same peg as an Ubertube receives double points. If teams assemble the logo pieces on their scoring grids to form the FIRST logo (triangle, circle, square, in a horizontal row in that order), the points for the entire row are doubled.

The match ends with robots deploying minibots, small electro-mechanical assemblies that are independent of the host robot, onto vertical poles. The minibots race to the top of the pole to trigger a sensor and earn additional bonus points.”

Have some lunch at The O and head on over to the Pete. It’s a great way to spend a March weekend in Pittsburgh!

{why i can’t have nice things} industrial masking tape

6 Mar

“A weekly, or as close as I can get to weekly, ritual (who am I kidding that I think I can do this every week). Some photos – with or without tons of explanation – capturing a moment from the week.

A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. A moment that makes me remember why exactly it is that I can’t have nice things (but someday will).”

**A twisted step-cousin twice-removed of‘s {this moment}.


I had a really great history professor one semester in college. He taught History of the American Revolution and he was so great, that he actually wore blazers with large, deliberate patches sewn over his elbows. And he was gloriously disheveled. This professor was a huge proponent of questioning history. Or rather, instead of reading an historian’s record of events, he advocated deliberating the significance of historical events using first person accounts and primary source materials. For example, instead of reading a recent narrative about how American Colonists were all riled up by British tyranny, he made us read The Stamp Act. This methodology really changed my way of thinking. Not just about history, but life in general. Namely, there are two sides to every story–and then, the truth.

Most recently, I believe using this primary source methodology would benefit anyone reading about parenting and childcare. Listen, parenting is difficult and completely lawless at times–no one’s going to tell you otherwise. But that’s like saying that the endocrine system is complicated. No shit. I’m not here to tell you how hard parenting is. I’m not going to tell you that it’s difficult. I’m not going to try to compare discipline to the pancreas. Or teaching proper aim into the toilet to the thyroid. I’m just going to give you pictures and first person accounts and you can form your own opinions.

Case in point: the “it’s too quiet what are they doing wrong?” scenario. There is an eerie quiet that overcomes a home some evenings, when a parent’s mind wanders and believes that a child has either a. escaped or b. is doing something very, very bad. I will tell you, the quiet is almost always due to the latter. Alright, one time Baby Anthony did escape–from his own 3rd birthday party, no less–but we found him very shortly after the jailbreak, safe and sound down by the swing set at around 9:00 p.m. in the pitch black night. Who ever thinks the BIRTHDAY BOY will run away from his party? Apparently, not us.

Last night, my husband and I were hypnotized by the evening quiet. A brief, beautiful, perfect moment of…nothing. No yelping. No hitting. No wrestling. No hollering. Nothing. And then…I tensed up. What were they doing? Oh sure, there have been textbook family nights when the quiet was actually because of a game played without biting of a participant or a partner Lego project (Sciullo & Sciullo Engineers, Inc) completed without a punch. Rare, but it has happened. One time, the twins worked together to build a Lego vessel model they designed to be used to remediate the oil spill in the Gulf. But, last night, I didn’t even hear the brrrrshh of sorting through a Lego bin. Nope, what broke the eerie quiet was the harsh, screaming sound of tape being ripped from it’s roll by the footful. And screams. And giggles. And various beating sounds.

Today’s {why i can’t have nice things} is brought to you by industrial masking tape. Oh sure, it can be used to trim out paint work, but why use it for good when it can be used for…taping your hands like boxers do and beating each other about the face.

Perhaps there will be a college course on the Sciullo boys someday, just print out this blog for some source material. Also, they asked me if I would tie them together like conjoined twins to see how those type of twins “fight.”






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