Friday, December 31, 2010

what time do you want midnight to be?

I just got off the phone with a friend, having asked her "What time do you want midnight to be?" 

It isn't a question one asks often, but under the circumstances it was highly appropriate.  See, at the House of Pook and Bug we do New Year's Eve differently.  Meaning, it doesn't happen at midnight.  Or rather, midnight doesn't happen at 12:00am.  We decided on 7pm.

We're having four families over, all with small/ish kids, and midnight is impractical.  (Because none of the adults would be able to stay up that late and still parent in the morning!)  So, we go through the motions at an earlier hour.  It works great and no one feels cheated of a New Year's Eve celebration.

The party will start at 4pm.  We're making pizza dough and letting everyone decorate their own slices of pizza with their choice of toppings.  Everyone will chip in some pizza toppings to keep it fun but simple.  Because simple is the key word here.  No one is going out of their way to prepare or shop.  (Although the Christmas gifts still strewn on our floor will need to be cleaned up.)

I'll get out bubbly beverages, party hats (some of which say Y2K on them), streamers, noisemakers, Mardi Gras beads and plastic Hawaiian leis (just 'cause they look cool).  We'll pull up a YouTube video of New Year's 2010 (they'll say hello and we'll say goodbye).  Everyone will toast, kiss, cheer and generally make merry. 

And then go home.  And the House of Pook and Bug, all of whom are recovering from a nasty cold, will go to bed.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

pile stack

Now that is a heaping pile stack* of Christmas cookies and candies!  (And a bottle of wine sneaking into the picture, which I must say, goes well with chocolate.)  I did not bake all of these myself by the way.  My mom now lives in town!

from top to bottom:

  • pretzel wreaths
  • Swedish cookies
  • shortbread
  • spicy pecans (recipe here)
  • sour cream and nutmeg sugar cutout cookies
  • mixture from a cookie exchange party, (including a wonderful peppermint pinwheel, some coconut macaroons, chocolate cherry cookies and... lots more)

Next to the pile is a box of Russian chocolates from the office white elephant party. ( I always go for something edible and not white elephant-ish because otherwise I end up with the dog Christmas stocking paired with the plastic dog that poops candies if you bam it on the head.) The chocolates are adequate, but I don't eat adequate chocolate if I can help it. Plus the translations of the contents in each are a bit rough so I can't predict what I'm going to bite into. The kids like them.  On top of that box is a bowl of fresh pecans from a farmer in my CSA and some random school party candies. And wine.

*a "pile stack" is a phrase from baby Pook

And, because I'm dealing with photos, here is my new dining room table:

Friday, December 17, 2010

table talk

Just a follow up on my kitchen table.  If I thought it was a mess before, that was nothing compared to the results after two boys cut out numerous paper snowflakes.  The scraps on the floor and table look more like snow than the pieces taped to the window.   Red, blue, purple, black and green snow.  (FYI: Don't eat green snow.)

I consented to keeping the bean plants which have sprouted in their plastic cups of polymers.  I 'm a sucker for green plants I guess.  I'm less accommodating to worms.  I decided that the worms were lonely for their outdoor home.  I wasn't sure there were still worms in the bug box, but there didn't appear to be any Halloween pumpkin left in it either.  Instead there were some bugs getting attracted to it. 

I asked Bug to take it outdoors since today finally had pleasant weather after all our cold and then rain.  He used a stick to scrape out the dirt mud compost rotted pumpkin and found all the worms.  I told him they'd be happy going home. Or maybe they liked it better indoors in the warmth than they do outside, I don't really know the mind of a worm. Doesn't matter.  They're off my kitchen table finally.

The boys had holiday parties at school yesterday and their last day today.  (Don't ask me why they don't save the craziness and just celebrate on the last day; I'm sure there were no academics today.)  We have emptied the book bags and put them away until January.  Of course, there are  now candy canes and cards and bits of crafts all over the table.  Maybe my kitchen table is shy and just doesn't want to show itself.

But!  I have been getting new tables!

My parents new home is near a strip of antique and consignment shops.  I went with my mom for the first time several weeks ago and I found a new coffee table for our den.  I loved the size of our old table when we ate in the den, and I loved that it held so many books and magazines.  I disliked the height, which was too high to put feet on, and I'd never loved the style of the table. I also disliked bumping my shin on it every time I walked past because it was too big for the room.  The new table was intended to be an end table, so my properly retired father cut the legs down and refinished the top.  It now sits in our den, covered with books and magazines so no one can see it.  But we know it's there and my feet like getting propped up on it.  It won't hold us when we sit in the den for a movie night, but we'll learn to cope.

My parents, like properly retired people, sometimes go browsing in the antique shops. This is how CD and I received a phone call two weeks ago telling us that there was an antique Victorian dining room table now marked down to $250.  Did we want to come see it?

The store had so much Stuff that my kitchen table would have felt inferior.  Not a spot of table was visible under what, I was told, could be several thousand dollars worth of knick knacks.  But my parents had seen Potential.  CD and I tossed the kids in the car and went to see it.  Sure enough, good quality solid walnut.  Slightly wider than our current too-small table, and with four leaves.  The owners cleared the table of all the pricier Stuff.  And, we bought it. 

My dad has been refinishing the top for us. (Doesn't retirement sound good?)  The base is in pretty good shape and shows less anyway.  He's told us that we can come pick it up this weekend.  Maybe we'll put a big red ribbon on it and treat it like a Christmas present!

Monday, December 13, 2010

christmas meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? My mom, SIL and Sister MD have sewn gift bags for years with holiday remnant fabrics they find after Christmas. We have bags now that can hold earrings or huge Lego sets and we simply fold them up and each take a few home for the next year. They're wonderfully colorful and festive and so easy to use, plus of course "green".

2. Real tree or Artificial? Real, and sometimes cut ourselves.  From a big box store this year

3. When do you put up the tree? Some free weekend in mid-December. Did it this weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? New Year's Day

5. Do you like eggnog? no- it must be a texture thing

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I remember my red saucer sled and the homemade teddy bear my sister made for me.

7. Hardest person to buy for? me. We have some traditional gifts we give these days, like pecans or booze, so the hard to shop for people aren't so hard to shop for anymore.

8. Easiest person to buy for? my kids.  Pook lists the Lego kits by model number when he writes to Santa

9. Do you have a nativity scene? no- although we did have this one year

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? mail, but mass produced these days. Pictures of the boys

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Still thinking on that.  None come to mind, fortunately. 

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?  The Grinch!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?  I get odds and ends starting in October, but get serious after Thanksgiving

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?  I used to teach in an elementary school.  That speaks for itself.  Oh, and the white porcelain soup tureen shaped like a goose that we got for our wedding.  The ladle came out of the goose's.... tail end.  It became a white elephant gift.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?  Sour cream and nutmeg sugar cookies

16. Lights on the tree?  Yes. Large, multi-colored ones like night light bulbs

17. Favorite Christmas song? Silent Night which when sung by children makes me cry

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?  We take turns.  I like having family here

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?  all nine. I can also recite the entire of “The Night Before Christmas”

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?  angel

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?  I used to open one at night, usually pj's.  My kids get it all in the morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?  not this time of year, but summer when stores start to decorate before Halloween

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?  angels and musical instruments

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? roast beef, baked potatoes, Mom's sweet rolls

25. What is your favorite thing about the holidays?  Seeing it through the eyes of my children

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

multi-tasking table

I've had a post describing the contents of my kitchen floor before, but today I'm going to share the contents of our kitchen table.  Frequently the floor contains the same ingredients  (after it gets brushed off the tabletop and onto the floor I guess).

Our table is:  a breakfast table, a mail depository, a temporary filing cabinet, a homework station, an art station, a but-I-might-want-it-again-later spot, and whatever other role it is needed to play.  Very versatile, our table.

As of this morning it holds:
  • four cloth napkins, three of which are in rings
  • two juice glasses the boys use for water the rest of the day
  • my tea mug I might want again today
  • two bottles of vitamins
  • salt & pepper
  • cinnamon sugar shaker
(All reasonable breakfast table items, but then it also has:)
  •  a stack of unopened mail
  • a stack of opened mail, to deal with later
  • the manual to my car which needs a new headlight
  • a couple of Christmas cards from way-too-organized family members
  • coupons, torn from some advertisement, that might get used
  • two pencils
  • three pens
  • some homework pages that aren't finished
  • some homework that came home from school, graded
  • some scraps of art projects that were discarded but not thrown out
  • unused art paper
  • some finished drawings which probably aren't worth saving but aren't yet trash either (seems like you have to wait some prescribed time before art can become trash)
(Keep going-- it gets better)
  • two plastic cups growing bean seeds in some polymer
  • one plastic cup holding a "growing reptile" in water- which looks like a three inch long worm today but will be "a cool snake" after 48 hours.  We'll see.
  • a bug jar holding "there used to be about six" earthworms and the dirt, rotting Halloween pumpkin, composting leaves and... whatever else our pet worms might want to "eat and then poop out as dirt".  The bug jar has a dishcloth across it to keep them happy since they "probably prefer" the dark.
And, on this table, I am folding laundry today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

while driving-- always while driving

As a family of Unitarian Universalists, we try to explain how all the world's religions have something to offer.  And to not confuse the kids.  Especially at Christmas. Do they get mixed up?  Maybe. Last year I asked for a menorah for Christmas.  I made (awesome) latkes, but thoughtlessly served them with pork chops.  And had Santa Claus placemats that night. Every year we play dreidel games and save the coins to donate to the UUSC through the "Guest at Your Table" program. Still, I make a bigger deal about Christmas and consider Hanukkah a dabble in the exploration of world religions.

On the way home from church Wednesday night, after celebrating  the first night of Hanukkah, (yes, that could potentially be confusing) Bug says, "I guess Santa and God are kinda alike."

Um?  Oh my.  I braced myself.  I have tried to make sure that Santa is a feeling of love and unselfishness.  Each year each child has helped fill xmas stockings for everyone else.  They still get a big unwrapped gift from Santa, but if they wanted to put two and two together it wouldn't spell Fat-Man-in-Red-Suit.

So I went with that.  I decided that yes, God and Santa were kind of alike.  Both, to me, are symbols of love and generosity.  Neither one is something we can see, but we can choose to believe anyway. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

happy December

Dear all of you who are on my Christmas card list, but whom I may or may not ever send a Christmas card this year, and to all of you who are not on my card list because I don't personally know you, even if I do appreciate that you're here reading:

It has been a busy fall here in the household of Pook and Bug.  The children have been active as they worked to use up our medical deductible.  The achieved this yesterday. We are so proud of our boys.

Bug's pediatrician suggested, last May, that he received an evaluation by an orthopedist to see if his toe walking was causing any physical problems.  The orthopedist suggested we get an evaluation by a physical therapist.  The first available appointment was after school started in the fall.  We decided to work with Bug at home to do some stretches and to postpone any physical therapy until the following calendar year, when we could use all of the appointments toward the same medical deductible.  (Seemed wise, right?)  But then we received the $800 bill for the evaluation itself and we decided that the ball had already begun to roll.

We went back to the orthopedist, back to the physical therapist and to an orthotist who made  "boots" (AFO= ankle-foot orthosis) for his feet.  He can't bend his ankles past 90° although they do have a hinge to allow him to flex and go up stairs, for example.  He chose a tie-dye pattern to the boots.  I handed over a credit card to be charged $900. He began weekly physical therapy appointments.  You can imagine how much Bug loves the boots and the exercises from therapy. The full cost of PT is $400 per hour, although even our insurance company doesn't force that upon us. 

Not that it really mattered, because on November 1st, Pook broke his left pinkie finger while playing football with Bug.  I should be happy that they were playing together.  I don't know if Bug aimed at Pook's head and missed, or if Pook simply didn't catch the football.  He requested that his cast be a lovely aqua blue.  I handed over a credit card to be charged $400.  He played some of his piano music with eight fingers during his piano recital.  He was unable to play his saxophone in band and unable to ride his bike.  He read approximately thirty books in November.

Yesterday, Pook got his cast off.  The receptionist told me I only owed "a little bit," which turned out to be the last $56 of our deductible.

Today I shall suggest that any other injuries or illnesses which my children plan to acquire, they acquire now. December should be a fun month.  You can find me in the same place I've been all fall-- in the waiting room, holding my wallet close.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season
My Kids' Mom, CD, Pook, Bug, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia

Monday, November 22, 2010

fall color

I finally got some pictures together for the 2010 Fall Color Project hosted by Dave at The Home Garden.
Fall has been slow to come to Atlanta. I've waited for the peak of color in my yard and I may have missed it. This is what I do have:
Let's start by looking upward.  The golden leaves of the driveway Japanese maple sparkle with the sun behind them.  Some green Southern Magnolia leaves show to the right, and tall green pines from across the street show through too, but the sky is a wonderful clear autumn blue.

I then looked at the other Japanese maples. The leaves on the umbrella tree directly in front of our house changes straight to a pinkish red. I love the daintiness of the feathery leaves.  

The boys were outside and watched me as I took photos. They climbed under the tree where they were almost hidden to outsiders. I decided to look at their view.  Sitting on the ground, under the six foot tree, gave a perfect rosy glow to the day.  Again, the Southern Magnolia offers green contrast above it.

In my backyard, I have a third Japanese Maple.  I think it may be time for me to learn their proper names, since each is so clearly different from the others.  My favorite is towering well above our two story house.  The red will probably look better next week. Or the leaves could all be on the ground. Who knows?

But for now, this is pretty good.  This photo was taken from the bathroom window. The whole bathroom glows with pink light in the late afternoon. 

The view with the window open, but still from the second floor, shows the color off even better.  The green roof of the playset is slightly visible through behind the tree.  The tree has become naturally espaliered against the back of the house.  It is just open and light enough to be lovely without darkening the house.

Many of the other trees in the yard are still green.  Since we don't have many pines and the green is still deciduous, they'll come around eventually.  As I said, it has been a slow, unusual year for fall color in Atlanta.

I went to great lengths to save this maple.  I'd found the sapling in the middle of my front lawn and transplanted it to the current location on the back.  As I began my terracing project last spring, I was told that the full sized tree could be replaced for less than the cost of working around it.  I solved that problem by doing the work myself.  And I seem to have done well; the tree is still happy and healthy.  And covered in a fresh yellow.

It is hoped that the English ivy, seen behind the tree, will be gone by next year.  I am cautiously optimistic about the project.  Whether or not I build more terracing wall, I'm less sure.  Dang that was hard work!

Enjoy a taste of fall in Atlanta. We generally have a long season. Today the forecast predicted temps in the low seventies, which has been typical. The days are perfect for yard work. But... the last tree, our great oak, will wait another month to drop it's leaves, brown and boring and slow to compost. We generally spend New Year's Day raking the last of the leaves.

Friday, November 19, 2010

cooking up some zest

I think I should post recipes here more often.  I cook every night with fresh healthy ingredients, and I seldom spend more than thirty minutes cooking.  I picked up eighty pounds of grass fed beef yesterday and kept about thirty of that.  I couldn't wait to have some and this recipe was perfect. Tonight we're having Italian Beef, which is simmering in the crock pot as I write.  The recipe is from my sis-in-law, but I don't like to buy seasoning mixes, so I did a bit of online investigation and simply added herbs and spices on my own.  I haven't tasted them side by side to compare, but mine is pretty good as is, so I'm unlikely to bother.

Zesty Italian Beef
  • beef shoulder roast (2.5#)
  • 1/2 bottle beer (This is the disadvantage of starting this at breakfast.  My solution was to put the whole bottle in)
  • 3/4 c. jarred, sliced banana peppers
  • 1 pkg Zesty Italian dressing mix
    • OR
  • 2 t. dried basil]
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t dried parsley
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook this in your crock 6-8 hours on low, then shred the meat.  Serve it on rolls with sliced cheese (Provolone is suggested, but never in my fridge, so I think we'll try them with Swiss tonight.) 

I'll saute some kale with this I think.

Steam-Saute of any mild Green (chard, spinach, kale)

I start by putting my large skillet on the lowest temperature my stovetop allows and adding a dollop of olive oil... maybe two tablespoons. I add a clove of minced garlic to this while I prep the kale.  I chop the kale before I wash it, then I don't bother drying it.  Usually the garlic is smelling great by now, and I add the kale stems to the pan.  I give them 2-3 minutes alone, then I add the rest of the wet kale.  Just in case, add a bit more water. Give it a toss, put the lid on it and crank the heat until it steams up, then put the heat back on low.  After about five minutes toss it around a bit, then replace the lid and cook it another five minutes.  Remove the lid, cooking it up to five more minutes more if needed to let some of the water evaporate.  We salt at the table if necessary.

And!  As a treat, I'll include a recipe adapted from one my neighbor has shared.
Sweet and Spicy Pecans
2 T butter- melt it in a 2 qt. casserole in the microwave, 30 seconds on high
add 1/4c brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1/8 t cayenne (adjust as needed)
1 T water
2-3 c. pecan halves
Cover and microwave 4 minutes, stirring every minute.  Cool on parchment paper or foil.  Eat only some.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

four seasons garden

I've been focusing my gardening on the driveway area this fall.  It has the most character this time of year but still needed some filling in.  I've been planning the new backyard terrace garden in my mind but haven't done much actual work yet.

As I tended the driveway garden, I realized that I had four garden areas, and each has its own season.  This was never planned.  I only sort-of plan my gardens, since not much that I plan out there comes to pass.  The seasonal garden discovery is just chance.
November in the Driveway Garden
The Driveway Garden has yellow, white and purple chrysanthemums and some purple asters, as well as white feverfew, all of which came back this fall.  I added some white chrysanthemums, more asters and the obedient plant from my neighbor.  The obedient plant has flower buds on it and seems settled.  We haven't had a frost yet, so it may have time to bloom.  I've put more ajuga in there too, to contribute to the purple tones.  I think I'll add heuchera next year in both rusty purple colors and a vibrant golden green, and maybe put out a sweet potato vine if I can keep one alive all winter indoors.  I think the chartreuse would look good with the purple.  All this is under a Japanese maple which has gone golden recently.

The Driveway Garden is my fall garden.

The new terrace wall I built gives me a chance to fight the English Ivy.  The plan, to eradicate the ivy from the back yard, will have to progress in parts.  I may pay someone to do the majority of it, but as the ivy is doing a fine job of holding up the hill, I'm not sure I dare rip it all out yet.  I'll experiment with my terrace plantings to see what does a good job of erosion control.  I've made some progress, but the ivy has the advantage of growing down hill and toward the sun as it encroaches into my new plants.

The just-completed terrace wall, which will become the Terrace Garden for winter
I'm trying to keep the area evergreen. This is our main focus from inside the house.  We're used to seeing all the green ivy, which isn't terribly exciting to regard, but at least it isn't brown and dead in the winter.  Additionally, I want this to be a (relatively) maintenance free area once I get it planted.  I have enough to tend already.  So, I'll put in a few more yew, many more Christmas ferns, and some of the suggestions from Faire Garden such as hardy geraniums, euphorbia dulcis, creeping jenny (I had no idea this wintered over so nicely here!) more heuchera here too, and carex or sedge, which I think will look great at the bottom of the wall.  The portion that gets some sun could possibly handle dianthus, but I'm not too optimistic that it would bloom well.

The Terrace Garden will be my winter garden.

March in my Woodlands Garden.
The area that fills most of my front yard is well shaded in the summer, but in the spring, before the massive oak leafs out, it is filled with spring color.  I have found some great woodland flowers, brought by birds, and I have cultivated more wildflowers on my own.  The phlox and vinca are covered with purple blooms, the forsythia, quince, azaleas, and bulbs all add bright, overlapping colors.

The Woodlands Garden is my spring garden.
June in the Sidewalk Garden.  It looked even better in July (and when we'd picked up the Magnolia leaves!)
Up by the front sidewalk, there are daisies, black-eyed Susans, and purple coneflowers.  I have encouraged lamb's ear and purple heart to fill in all gaps as the summer progresses.  We hide a few cherry tomato plants in the middle. (They're still producing today.) By August, the lantana is covered in yellow and orange, as well as with butterflies.  I have just added a rain barrel in here to help keep this area alive all summer, since it tends to droop as the heat comes on and the rain stops. 

Because this is the front of the house, there is multi-season interest here too.  The corner is packed with bulbs of all kinds and is the first area of the yard to show signs of spring.  The umbrella shaped Japanese maple turns purple in the fall, highlighting the remaining purple heart.  In the winter we rely on the bones of the maple, but I have just planted Yuletide camellias by the front door.

The Sidewalk Garden is my summer garden.

Four gardens-- four seasons!

Monday, November 8, 2010

improving every day

I'm not sure I've given much detail here; I'll just say that Bug was not an easy baby.  For example, the first thing the first nurse said about him at birth was, "My what a beautiful baby. My goodness, he has strong lungs!"  He used to leave our ears ringing when we held him to try to comfort him.  When we enrolled him in a morning out program, before he'd turned two, they asked us to describe him with one word.  CD and I finally settled on "more".

I tried every week to get to a yoga class. I tried to prove that Einstein's definition of insanity was wrong.  If only I tried the same class one more time, this time Bug wouldn't scream and the YMCA nursery staff wouldn't come to get me, I'd hope.  I hated to be a pessimist, but to be on the safe side, I set my yoga mat near the door.  I enjoyed the warm up every week for a year.  And then they came to get me and I left.

I coped.  Half a yoga class was better than none.  We tried to get help a few times, but he was just under the threshold for having "a problem."  And yet, we knew that an unpredicted change would set him off.  Rushing him was a waste of time.  The change in seasonal clothing was an issue.

Much has improved in the past six years, but he is still a sensitive and emotional child. This morning we had the first  meltdown we've had in a long time.  Maybe the first this school year.  It could have been the time change- he went to bed at changed time but woke up an hour earlier than needed for school.  It could have been that this was the first morning I pulled out the winter jackets.  It could have been the phase of the moon, I'll never know.  But it was time to leave to walk to school and Bug was a mess. 

By the time the issue was settled, the boys needed to be driven to school.  This change in plans was upsetting to Bug too, but he managed to pull himself together enough to leave. 

I went to yoga.  I can go to the YMCA for a yoga class these days anytime I want.  I can be running late too, and not have to check in a crying kid to the nursery.  I forget to enjoy this most of the time.

Today, as I walked through the parking lot, a mom was struggling with twins, about a year and a half old.  One was refusing to hold her hand, so she hefted him up along with her purse, the large diaper bag and her yoga mat.  With the other hand she held the little girl who wanted to walk on the curbs the long way around.  I could see myself in her face.  There was no reason to rush the kids, it would just make her later than she thought she'd be already.

I offered to carry the yoga mat, and waited for her so I could get the doors.  She said it was her first attempt to bring them to the nursery.  Since we were going to the same room, I said I'd take the mat to class while she checked the kids in.  She came into the room at the last minute and whispered to me, "traumatic separation."

We warmed up.  When the nursery staff came to the door she knew it was for her, and she left.  I almost started to cry.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I found this at the grocery today.  Marked down since Halloween is over and no one eats "SCARROTS" after Halloween.  Carrots?  Really?  Either celebrate the holiday or don't, but don't give some poor unsuspecting kid carrots in his Trick or Treat bag.  If you can't read the small print, it says, "Eat 'em like junk food."

This is the kind of stuff kids want in that Trick or Treat bag.  We finally made the gingerbread haunted house yesterday.  Lots of Skittles and M&M's with a few interesting candies.  There was also a gummy roadkill possum that might have looked good at the house, but I'd already eaten it.  Pineapple.  One of the best gummy candies I'd ever eaten.  Seriously.

Since they are individually packed, there will be carrots in the lunchbox for a while.  I can't pass up a bargain, especially one that amuses me, is healthy, and will certainly get eaten around here.  I will add the "Scarrots" to this marvelous assortment I received in my CSA today.  Italian dandelion, turnips, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, basil, crowder peas, lady peas and lettuce.  My mom took eggplant, squash, and half of some of what I have.We can get produce all winter from individual farmers, but the CSA ends at Thanksgiving.

This last photo is Pook's broken finger.  It is unrelated to "Scarrots" and to gingerbread haunted houses.  He broke it playing football with Bug on Monday.  He was so tired and crabby from the late night Trick or Treating that I gave him very little attention when he said he'd hurt it.  But Tuesday morning it was very purple at the first two joints and something felt wrong.

First we went to vote. The kids had the day off school to allow voting to take place in the building.  (Safety issue I assume.) Then we built and decorated the gingerbread house, then we went to the Urgent Care center for x-rays.  With the doctor's permission, we headed straight from there to a bowling alley.  (I know, it seems so wrong to take a child with a broken finger bowling.  But it was his left hand.)  We had won two hours of bowling with a $1 raffle ticket last May.  Before it expired I wanted to get over there and yesterday felt like the best opportunity.  As I said, I can't pass up a bargain.

We met A&K and their dad, who is a teacher and had the day off too.  Fun was had by all.  Their dad was the only one who broke 100, and then only barely.  Using gutter guards.  Their dad tried to put Pook's name on the board as "Pinkie" but Pook objected.  He's very self conscious of this large splint. (It comes almost to his elbow, and will be replaced by a cast on Tuesday.  Not sure if they're overreacting or if his pinkie is that big of a deal.)

And now today is Wednesday but it feels like a Monday.  I guess that will make the week go by quickly.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Apple update:

I read about apple preservation and was convinced that I could keep the apples we picked in North Georgia fresh at least into November.  The article said they could be kept until February "under the right conditions." 

The right conditions were simple.  Save only unblemished apples.  Wrap each apple individually in newspaper and put them in a cool place.  I did all this.  And yet, the results are not good.

I needed some more apples in the kitchen, so I went to gather more from the box in the garage.  After feeling the first apple give to my fingers- significantly- through the newspaper, I tossed it into the backyard for some happy squirrel.  But then I found another and another that were bad.  Really bad. 

I pulled the whole box into the kitchen.  The results are:
8 good apples
7 good-enough-to-cook apples
6 really awful apples.

So, I shall bake today!  I think I saw an apple upside down cake recipe online somewhere....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

of ghosts and goblins and ghouls

Halloween is in the heavy planning stages already.  I have both costumes ready to go too!  They seem to have outgrown cute, and this year we're into scary.  Pook is going as a mummy and Bug as a vampire.

He's unaware of vampire-trendiness although he will certainly be a kissable vampire.  No blood on the face.  Lipstick if he'll allow it, hair gel, plastic teeth (until he wants to snack on candy), and a cape.  We're lucky on the cape.  Sister MD gave each boy a handmade cape when they were toddlers.  Red velvet and black satin.  With the help of my mom (my sewing machine is still dead) they were given the same hem and tacked together so the red is inside the black satin.  Then a collar was added.  Let me say, this type of sewing is half math, half art and half luck.  I found a pattern for a shirt collar online.  I experimented until I had made a paper sample about the right size.  (Then I called my mom for help!)  Using fabric left from Pook's bat costume (2008) and canvas left from a school auction project , plus the always present hot glue gun, we made a black stand up collar to tack in between the two capes.

For Pook, we sacrificed a shirt and pants, then hot glued long, winding strips of white ripped up t-shirt and sheet onto the clothes.  A t-shirt sleeve (adult size) fits over his head, exposing his face to wear his skeleton mask (2006).  He owns skeleton gloves too, if the weather isn't too hot.  I can't wait to get photos of the costumes up here!

* The haunted gingerbread house is still a bowl of dough.  Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to bake.
* The Halloween candy is still in an unopened bag on the top shelf of the pantry.  My regular chocolate stash has filled in as emergency chocolate to keep the Halloween candy untouched.  Once that bag gets opened, it's all over!
* I might be hosting a pre-trick-or-treat gathering for about 40 children in our neighborhood.  Or not.

Monday, October 25, 2010

good intentions

The kids convinced me that it would be easier to make a haunted gingerbread house now than a holiday gingerbread house in December.  While making no gingerbread house is easier yet, I enjoy the making as well as the eating, so I said I would.

I pulled out the mixer, set butter out to soften and began after breakfast.  We had the final baseball games of the season in the afternoon, but since the dough has to refrigerate overnight, we weren't going to do it all then anyway.

I started the butter and sugar creaming, and then dug around in the pantry for more sugar.  Fortunately we had some... but as I lifted the bag I realized (too late) that it had been sitting upside-down... but open.  Sugar, in, on and over boxes and containers and all the other items in the pantry.  But I didn't spill the whole bag!  (Stay on the happy side...)

Instead of a post about our beautiful and/or scary gingerbread house (which may yet come another day, after I buy more molasses and can finish the mixing, after I find time to bake it and whenever we find time to assemble it and decorate it) I am going to reveal my pantry to the internet world.  I guess it needed cleaning anyway- there were a lot of onion skins caught hanging in spiderwebs in there.  But no ants!  No cockroach poop!  (...always on the happy side...)

See? It could have been worse. It was on the floor of the pantry and so it didn't spill on EVERYTHING. Just lots of things.
And, I only had to wash off some of the juice bottles and some of the granola bars when the sugar got into the open box. Some of the boxes were closed still.  (Stay on the happy side of life...*)

Yes, I do have an entire case of red sauce for pasta. Trust me, it'll get used. As will the four bottles of juice and all those Triscuits.

The guilty sugar.

The whole mixer bowl was covered with plastic wrap and put in the fridge awaiting molasses and time.  It occurred to me that if we waited until after Halloween to make the haunted gingerbread house, we could use the kids' trick-or-treat candy to decorate it instead of buying candy just for it.  Just thinkin'.
My tidy and now-clean pantry. And yes, that is Halloween candy on the top shelf with the booze. But it is unopened.  Really.  (So far.)

* The song might not have been a good choice to cheer me up.  I only hummed the bit I've typed here but now I realize that it ends with "You will feel no pain as we drive you insane.  Stay on the happy side of life." and then repeats ad nauseum.  Memories of Girl Scouts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

yes, we are mature

Yes, we are mature:

We're also saving the... insides to eat. (I just couldn't come up with a good euphemism that made this video and the eating of it compatible.)  Some pumpkins carve nicely, some are stringy.  I figure if it looks like spaghetti squash, it will probably cook up like spaghetti squash. Right?  To be eaten with butter and Parmesan.

We also have plans to eat a sugar pumpkin in an elaborate recipe I received in the form of a greeting card many years ago called Hidatsa Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin.  You cook up venison or buffalo, mix it with wild rice, some egg and sage and stuff it all into the hollowed out sugar pumpkin.  It all bakes together to make a meatloaf inside and is gorgeous when cut in wedges.  Gorgeous, as opposed to our evil looking (and sick)  Jack-O-Lantern that the boys designed.  Must buy buffalo and wild rice before I can make this one, but we'll have it later in the week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

proud of my boys!

Yesterday I sort of forgot the kids. I had been at home and needed to meet someone at their school at 2:45.  I drove over to the school at 2:30 and... oops... dismissal was at 2:15.

I'd just missed passing them on the street as I drove the opposite direction.  These days they are walking home alone, and they get home at 2:35.  I often meet them at the big hill to help Pook roll his sax home.  Anyway, since I had to be there anyway, I thought I'd meet them at the exit to the school.  I haven't had to be there exactly at dismissal time since they started walking without me, and I've already forgotten the time.  I returned home and was amazed.  The garage door was up and the kids were indoors.  They had remembered the code to the garage door, remembered where we keep a spare key, looked for me in and outdoors, and then called their daddy.   They were still on the phone with him when I returned.  Proud of my boys!

Friday, October 15, 2010

my name is

I have a plan to improve the world.  Really.  It will make everyone more friendly and conversations more efficient.  It will also give my brain cells a rest.

I want everyone, all the time, everywhere... to wear a name tag.  Please?  If I see you every day all summer and now you're at the bank... I can say hi, but I'll spend the next hour trying to remember your name.  If I drove carpool with you every day for two years but when I see you at the YMCA I don't introduce you to my workout buddy?  It's because I can't.  (It might be her name, not your's!)  I've known you since middle school?  Um, sorry... name inaccessible at this moment.

So, everyone, put on a name tag!  You could have an attractive, gold engraved name tag, a casual "dog tag" style around your neck, or a simple sticker.  Don't really care.  I just want your name where I can see it.  Because we both know that I know you.  Sometimes I know you pretty well.  Other times, I realize that I've met someone and even during the "pleased to meet you" phase of that first conversation?  I've already forgotten their name. 

Once I've asked you to remind me of your name the limit of two, three times, I'm going to fake it from now on.  If you're lucky, I'll have a chance to ask your kid for your name.  (Kids don't care and won't tell on  me!)   I'll be discrete, but if you call me by my name I'm probably going to want to start avoiding you. It feels like a challenge and I know I'm not up for it. 

There's a couple I see at the pool every summer.  They have three kids and I know three names but I don't know if they are the kids' or if the names belong to the parents.  Yet every sentence the dad uses, directed at me, starts with my name.  I know he's on to me because in all these years I've never used his name to address him.  I might need to actually learn it next summer.  Because I do, eventually, learn a name.  Of course I may well forget it when I need it.

I met a speech therapist once, (I forget her name) who told me that this is quite common.  Proper nouns are saved in our brains in a different way than other nouns.  She even told me that there is a label for this disorder.  I just can't remember the name of it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

apple pickin' good

Yesterday we joined everyone else in Atlanta who had decided it would be a good weekend for a visit to the GA mountains to go apple picking.  We started late.  We had a noon baseball practice that was going to be over by 1:00.  It was over by 1:30.  We were going to eat lunch quickly and go.  Pook does not eat quickly- I should know that by now.  We were going to make the quick hour drive up to the mountains.  Our last five miles driving took about an hour.  We were going to the same apple farm we'd been to a previous year.  So was everyone else.

But yet, we got there. We watched the goofy pig races.  We ate sticky sweet apple fritters.  The boys rode on the not-so-high and not-so-fast zip line.  They went down the not-so-steep and not-so-fast slide.  They milked a cow named Buttercup.  We took a corny tractor ride.  We stayed until close.  And, of course, we picked apples.

All of it was silly and, somewhat sad.  "Agritainment" is the way for a farmer to make a living these days.  The goofiness was the main dish.  The apples were on the side.  Corn mazes and hay rides pay better than produce stands.  So, I'm trying to look at it from a different point of view.  Tons of city folk thought it was worthwhile to get out and into the beautiful outdoors and to pick fresh food.  They came with their families, their friends and their church groups.  They rode, they cheered, they ate.  They supported the outdoors and they supported a small farm.  And, the apples are delicious!  (Some, golden delicious in fact!)

From left to right:  Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, Golden Delicious, Mutsu.  There will be an apple cobbler in our future.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

first place

The scarecrow contest that I mentioned yesterday was poorly advertised.  I'd encouraged the kids to participate because the prize was good ($100 to a toy store) and I suspected that there would be few entries.  There were no other entries when I left the scarecrow behind, but when I came back to claim it they told me that there had been one other child's scarecrow. They had given him the $50 second prize and they had the $100 for Pook and Bug. 

I knew the kids would ask me how many had entered, so when they did I was honest.  Pook says that he's excited about the money, but it doesn't feel as exciting to have won as it would have if there had been fifty scarecrows entered.   "It would have been a bigger deal," explained Bug.  I'm disappointed that there weren't more entries too. 

This summer Pook was offered a chance to review movie trailers with other kids his age.  He was excited to hear that it would pay.  And it did.  Only, they'd dismissed him when they found that they had more children than they needed.  $75 for doing nothing.  He was happy for the money, but disappointed that he hadn't been able to participate.  I was bothered that he was being paid to have done nothing.  Paid the same price as the kids who were asked to stay.

I want them to be proud of winning because they've earned the win.  I want them to be proud of money they've earned.  I've complained before of the automatic trophy atmosphere our kids are in.  They can be happy to have a big prize, but, are they pleased with their accomplishment?

And yet.  When we swim on our swim team, they generally fill all six lanes with swimmers.  Sometimes your child is the only one in the age category who is swimming a particular stroke, so they fill the other five lanes with kids who are swimming something else, or who are a slightly different age.  Your child gets a blue ribbon, regardless of ability.  And this is something I love about our swim team.  The kids come home with a ribbon to represent every heat they attempted.  They are excited by the ribbons and pushing themselves to compete in events that they wouldn't ordinarily think they were capable of doing.

Isn't this the same issue?  And I'm guilty of arranging to have trophies at the end of swim team, when last year there were none.  I told myself that what had been missing was an end of year celebration.  I didn't like leaving the last swim meet and simply never coming back together again.  But to be honest, I've gotten used to the trophy routine and it felt lacking.  The difference to me may be that at least the trophy is a sign of hard work.  As were the swimming ribbons.  The $75 for the non-movie trailer review felt wrong.  The $100 scarecrow prize.... I may need to keep thinking about that.  They did put in effort, if not $100 worth.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

where was fall?

On September 25 I wore shorts and a tank top.  It was a sweaty day at the ball park. The air conditioner was churning, frequently watering my herbs with the condensation. We had already had a record number of days (85) with over ninety degrees and this was just one more.  The next morning I dressed for church.  I put on capris and short sleeves.  And froze!  Everyone laughed that fall had arrived at 8 a.m.

We tried to keep windows open.  We tried to treat it like fall.  I gave everyone a light blanket for their bed.  I wore more capris with fall shoes and no socks.  I pulled out sweatshirts for the boys to wear on their early morning walk to school.  I unpacked long pants for Bug.  Pook continued to wear shorts.  This was supposed to be fall... but I'm not entirely sure. 

Last evening I was huddled on the sofa in a blanket, wearing sweats and slippers.  I'd made a mug of tea just to warm up.  I put an additional blanket on each bed. The night time temps and leave-for-school temps were in the forties.  We gave up.  We turned on the heat.  Winter?

We had August.  August in Atlanta is pretty evil stuff.  Hot.  Sweaty.  Dry.  Did I say Hot?  We're used to this and we're all prepared to ride it out.  The other eleven months make it worthwhile to survive August.  Usually.  But we never had September this year.  We never had slightly cooler but pleasant temperatures.  We didn't have the windows open, fresh smelling air and feeling of relief from all that heat.  Instead, September was August version 2.0.  Hot.  Sweaty hot.  Dry to the point of drought.

When October came, when fall was officially ushered in, it brought such a dramatic change that I'm still trying to adapt.  What happened to the season of long sleeves without a coat?  Jeans and sandals?  Sweatshirts with shorts (which Pook can do but always looks like he belongs on Cape Cod)?  The yard hasn't realized what has happened either. I still have a cheerful cherry tomato plant, happy to finally have rain.  The last regular tomato is turning red with many more blooms on the plant.   Only dogwood trees are even thinking of changing the color of their leaves, and those are still subtle.

"Baseball Dood" by Pook (9) and Bug (6) as entered in a scarecrow contest.  There is at least one sign of fall around here!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

all in my head

I dreamed of lice last night.  Nice, I know.  In the dream someone was about to sit on my (non-existent) white ottoman but I cautioned them that it had lice on it.  I'd been told they looked like sesame seeds but in my dream they were little black pepper spots that moved.  Maybe I was thinking of fleas.  I was using something like a magnet to remove them.  The woman chose to sit there anyway.  I think I knew her in real life but now all I can remember are the bugs.

Every time I turn around the kids' school is sending me another notice that 'lice have been found in your child's classroom'.  I recognize the note so I can now throw it away quickly and try to avoid thinking about it.  Seems to not be working.  I ran my hand through Pook's thick, soft, wavy red hair last night. "I should probably check your hair for lice."  "They did that already, at school."  They checked everyone.  Every last head.  Which is good, right?  Because now I don't need to check them and my house is, for now, safe.  Unless I have them.  I itch every time I think about the school- and that is often since I'm there or working on projects for it so often.

Then the news has to slam me with articles about bed bugs.  I may never travel again.  The pest control guy was here yesterday and said they might have to bring back DDT since nothing else killed bed bugs.  (You can see a map of where they're being found (everywhere) here.  I have no intention of doing so, but you might want to see it.)  The pest control guy (from an environmentally safe pest control company) was here to deal with some cockroaches. We'd seen a couple, but not enough to make me call for a spraying update.  Then one night CD and I were brushing our teeth, side by side, and I glanced into the mirror to see a gigantic cockroach above me.  I considered hiding in the bathtub, but decided to brave it and dash under it and out the doorway, toothbrush in hand.  There was no way it was going to get near my toothbrush.  Glagck!  (I just made up that lovely sound.)  The next morning I got to clean up the walls where CD had smashed it- in multiple locations.  There were three smears, two on the walls and one on the ceiling.  I think he used one of my shoes. 

Dang, now I've started itching.  I heard that heat could kill lice.  I started letting my hair dryer come close to burning my head, just in case.  I started scrubbing extra hard in the shower. It could be that the extra scrubbing and the heat are what are causing the itching. Or it could all be in my head.  But please, not on it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a tidy desk reflects a tidy mind and I have neither

I really should know better than to accept a task without checking my calendar first.  At dinner last Wednesday, at church, it was announced that no one had volunteered to provide dinner for this Wednesday and very few dates beyond, so the whole dinner concept was in jeopardy.  I turned to the two families sitting with mine and suggested we do one together.  The better suggestion of trying to involve lots of "playground families" was adopted.    I signed us up, myself in charge.  We decided on chili, cornbread, salad and brownies.  Certainly as easy as it could come. But when it came for the date to be considered,  "Just do next week- it's always easier to be spontaneous," I shouldn't have listened.

I came home and realized what a week I've given myself.  Thursday and Friday are school picture days, with me in charge.  I am organizing a team of twelve moms to be there to line up kids, clean up lunch from their faces and keep order, two or three volunteers at a time each day.  Of course some people volunteered for one hour, but only if it was between 12-1 so they could come at their lunch hour, others wanted to be there while their own child was being photographed, another was willing to stay for three or more hours, but only on Thursday.

My desk is covered with scribbles right now.  Deanne is able to make three pans of cornbread and Jane can be there to cover photo day from 8-10.  I am, at this moment, making a huge pot of invent-a-recipe-vegetarian-chili and am thinking that if we fill a jar with rubbing alcohol we can sterilize combs and not need to treat them as disposables.  I am still hoping I don't have to buy a ton of salad myself.  I am working photo day for the first two hours of the first day and the last two hours of the second day.  I am doing the set up for dinner and helping to serve.  Lydia is either working through lunch or maybe making brownies.  I've never met many of these volunteers so their names are all mixed up in my brain.  If a photo of the chili gets in the school yearbook, I'll know better next time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

some things even bloom

I finally planted the ajuga I'd bought a week ago.  It wasn't easy.  I put my spade into the "soil" in the driveway garden area.  It went nowhere.  I stood on said spade.  It went into the soil an inch, maybe two.  I jumped.  I spiked.  I attacked the ground and it gave not another inch.  So, I pulled out the watering can and filled my hole (such that it was) with water and left it for half an hour.  When I returned there was still water in my little hole.  I got another two inches of mud out, then soaked it again.  As I set in the new ajuga plant I realized I had high hopes for the roots of that plant.  If I couldn't get into the soil with a spade and a lot of elbow grease, how was it going to get in?  I left the sprinkler on low in that area for two full hours.  I need to do it again ever day or two if I want to give those plants a chance.  Really, what I need is rain.

Not all is dried and dead in my yard.  I spent some of the 75° morning outdoors, getting a few long delayed projects taken care of.  Did you know a climbing (Lady Banks) rose can send out twenty foot canes?  It really, really wanted to climb onto our roof. I'm awfully glad it has no thorns.  I found a few friends who were happy that there are still blooms to be found in my yard.  The lantana is a late summer favorite of mine, and of butterflies.  The bees seem to enjoy the garlic chives.   I've tried to capture some of the visitors with my point-and-shoot camera.  (Not easy! Those dang creatures move!)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

from another point of view they're clueless

Do you remember this?
"I think he likes me!"  He bumped me when he was going to the pencil sharpener and he didn't even have to go that direction!" <beams for days>
*next week*
"I'm so depressed.  Did you see him talk to her in the hallway?  I think we're over." <cries for days>

Men may have no clue that this conversation takes place dozens of times for most girls.  I'm currently trying to figure out if my nine year old Pook has any clue at all about the minds of girls.  It appears that he does not. 

He and I have been reading aloud book 5 of the Harry Potter series.  This is the first book which has included any romance.  I first realized his cluelessness when Hermione explained to Harry that the reason Ginny never talked to him last year was because she'd liked him.  The other night Harry was given his first kiss, by the long admired Cho.  Again, Hermione came to the translating rescue.  Harry was clueless.  Both times Pook was clueless.

I mentioned to him that it was a good idea for a boy to have some girls as buddies, like Harry has in Hermione, so that they can explain other girls to him.  I pushed the matter a bit and asked him what girls he's friends with at school.  He was speechless, not just avoiding the question.  I tried to make it easier.  "If your birthday party was tomorrow and you could invite five boys and five girls, who would you invite?"  He stalled on narrowing the boys to five. All he could come up with was, "Would I have to invite girls?"

I'm going to assume that the girls at his school are already ogling over boys.  It starts young.  I'm also assuming that he isn't entirely ignored in this.  I'm further assuming that he has no idea.  Which means he will break hearts he never noticed.  And as his mom, it is my responsibility to help him become the type of man that will make someone a good partner someday.  Learning to talk to girls is an important skill.  (I think this skill is important whether my child is gay or straight, by the way.)  Some men understand us, but all boys should be taught to try. 

Obviously, I have the perspective of his mom, but I'd say he's exactly the kind of guy that women will love.  In thirty years.  He's a cute, tall, brainy bookworm.  I love these traits (I married one just like him!) but I didn't value them as a teen.  Meanwhile, having girls as friends will get a guy far.  I told him that his new homework was to look at a girl at school and say 'hi' to her.  That was all.  We'll see if he's even able to find girls among the crowd.  It isn't that he dislikes girls right now, he just isn't really aware that they exist.  They do, and they'll appreciate the gesture.  And, they'll giggle.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


We're taking the boys to their first ever football game... at Georgia Tech. CD was there for a full decade and keeps in touch with lots of friends who seem to all be huge football fans. He isn't. Before the kids were born we'd go to tailgates but never once went to an actual game.

So, here we were this morning. The kids were searching for gold shirts to wear, CD put on a Tech t-shirt and I dawdled. I just couldn't bring myself to wearing Tech colors. I can go there, park my car with the UGA window sticker and eat hot wings, but to wear Tech colors while I do it? For some reason I can't. I was trying to figure out why I care. I am less of a football fan than anyone I know. I wasn't at the University of Georgia for very long, it took only seven quarters to get my Masters degree. But I decided it was old friends who attended for much longer, and who cared about football, who made the difference. I'd feel shameful if I was a traitor!

I emailed some buddies I hadn't spoken to in ages to tell them of the lasting legacy they've had on my psyche! Then I put on white.

Whether I can cheer for them against S Carolina State is yet to be determined.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

got my hands in the dirt again

It is not fall here.  Daytimes have still been ninety degrees.  But, the humidity has dropped and acorns are beginning to drop along with evening temperatures.  And, I went to a garden center today.

I looked for items on sale that I could add to my sorry looking driveway garden.  All that lives there are three or four chrysanthemums and several feverfew plants.  Two wood asters that I was given in March are blooming delicate white fluff.  The rest of the space, from the daylilies at the street to the monkey grass near the magnolia is just mulch.  I found three heuchera "coral bells" plants on sale and then picked up some ajuga to replace those that didn't make it in the heat.  I had tried in the spring to get ajuga in my new terraced garden in the back yard, but I wouldn't mind having it in more than one location if I can get it going.  I really want to cover the ground with plants and "ground covers" seem perfect for that task!  Some creeping jenny would be good there too.  Every year I add a few more chrysanthemums and sprinkle feverfew seeds in the hopes that the space will fill up.

There is a house I drive past regularly which has lots of landscaping.  I stopped one day last November to take a photo of a purple bloom they had covering a large patch near the street.  It has taken me almost a year to identify it, but the fall blooming "obedient plant" is the name.  I am trying to find out who lives there so I can invite myself over to dig some up!

The boys have piano lessons on different days. The teacher lives nearby but I find it annoying to drive one of them over for a 45 minute lesson and come home in the middle.  I try to get started on something and then have to turn around to go pick them up.  So, running an errand seems easier.  Taking a quick peek in the garden center once a week would work well, maybe alternating which kid joins me.

Two friends have offered to let me dig up native plants from their yards this fall.  I think in another month it will be much better.  The plants I got today will take coddling to make it through the rest of Atlanta's heat.

But I'm back outdoors, at least a bit.  July and August are not good for my yard.  I'm ready to give it some love and bring it back to life!

Monday, August 30, 2010

put on a happy face

I could be pouting, fuming, ranting and many other -ings in addition to sweating, but I am trying to be an optimist.  It does not come naturally.  Today the glass is half full.  (One of my kids probably drank half already.)

Bug said he had no homework last week.  His friend had no homework folder on Monday either, so I didn't pursue it.  On Wednesday I encouraged him to "just check" so he wouldn't be stuck doing all the homework in one night.  He chose to not check.  On Friday he was required to forgo his "free centers" to get all the work done.  Apparently Someone had lost the homework folder. In his desk.  It took a while but I finally got the whole story out of him Friday afternoon.  A few minutes later his teacher phoned.  Her story matched his.  The consequence seemed appropriate and I doubt it will happen again.

On Friday I went to pick up the armchair I'd ordered.  I've been searching for Just The Right armchair for our den for about ten years.  This is to be My Chair.  (I will get up and offer it to my father in law, but he's probably the only lucky one.)  We've had lots of hand-me-down chairs in that location but I finally got My Chair.  It rocks.  It swivels.  Its comfy.  It took two warehouses and getting lost twice, but it finally made it home Friday afternoon.  On Saturday, at about 9:30 am, it had stains from blueberry pancakes.  The stains (one is greasy, one is blueberry) came out part way with dry cleaning fluid.  They don't show... much.  I'm trying to tell myself that it is over now, that I don't have to worry about when it will get its first stain anymore, that it is just a chair.  (This one is hard to make positive.  I will have to keep on it.)

The temperature is still close to ninety, but the humidity that hovered at 95% last weekend has dropped to something more manageable.  I am still sweating but my beads of sweat don't develop their own beads of sweat while running down my back.  (See how I can make these things sound positive!)

My boys are both playing baseball.  They both have practices on Saturdays and games on Sundays.  (See above, where I mentioned the 95% humidity from last weekend.)  Yesterday was a glorious day for baseball.  We spent almost all day at the ball park, but there was a pork butt in the crock pot with barbeque sauce all over it which awaited us when we finally got home at 7pm.  Yes, the six-year-olds have 5:30 games on school nights.  (I am not ending this with a positive spin....) The barbeque was good and he took a quick "business bath" and was tucked in by 8:00.

I forgot to pack any snacks for the ballpark.  After Bug scraped himself and wanted to wash it with a wet wipe, I dug in the sports bag.  I found no wet wipes, but I did find a ticket to the concession stand, lost since spring.  I sent him to see if it was still accepted (this distracted him from the injury just fine) and it was!  Then, as I continued to dig, I found a $20 bill.  I love forgotten money.

The cold I might have seems to not be the allergies I thought I had.  I went to bed at 9pm last night and I feel better.  I was not feeling significantly better while upside down in a down dog position at yoga this morning, but I think some Sudafed might help that out.  At least a cold has a short life.

It is time for me to get up off my duff (which has gotten three loads of laundry done today already) and go pick up the kids from school.  Exercise outdoors without horrid humidity.  And that is enough optimism for one day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

chicken nugget, anyone?

I have the goal of sending lunch boxes to school with the boys three times a week this year.  Maybe we'll make it four next year and everyday the year after.  We'll see.  This is hard enough as it is.  The first few days of school I let them eat the school lunch so they could learn their teachers' routines for doing so.  Then they took a lunch from home to learn that routine.  It took a week before I got a menu anyway. (I found one online that shows that the whole county is eating the same thing on the same day.)  Last week we did pretty well but I think they took their lunch just twice.  This week the menu had me more motivated.  They served chicken nuggets three times this week!

The menu on Monday,

Choice Of One Entrée:
  Asian Chicken Bites with Whole Grain Roll and Fried Rice
  Ravioli with Whole Grain Roll
Choice of two sides:
  Lettuce & Tomato
  Fruit Cocktail
  Mixed Vegetables
  Fresh Pears

Choice of Milk

Later in the week they served "Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets With Whole Grain Roll" and Friday was plain old "Chicken Nuggets With Whole Grain Roll".  I find several things wrong here.  I wonder if anyone noticed that there were nuggets three times this week. Then there is the bizarre pattern of including a roll with every dish, which according to the Jamie Oliver show has to do with government regulations gone awry.  The other days this week included a choice of a corn dog or nachos on Tuesday and fried chicken.or a turkey burger Thursday.  I let them eat lunch at school Thursday since the fried chicken is pretty good!

Our lunches from home were not really exciting this week.  Twice they took yogurt.  I have a "lunch menu" on the fridge which they can use to help make their own lunches.  I need to have egg salad or hummus around if I want them to choose it!  In general however, this menu is helping a good bit.  Also helping is that we've started making lunches after school for the following day and not waiting until the dinner craziness, bedtime or (the dreaded) breakfast and lunch being prepared at the same time.  Here is our menu:  (They always take water.)

bread products:
sandwich bread
mini croissant
whole grain crackers
mini muffin
bread stick
flour tortilla

deli meat
cheese slices/cubes
tofu spread
egg salad
pimento cheese spread

pasta sauce
salad dressing

fresh fruit whole/sliced
baby carrots
red bell pepper slices
snap peas

Treats: (not daily)
drinking yogurt/squeeze yogurt
chocolate milk box
lemonade powder (little tubes they can add to their water)
granola bar
cereal bar
dried fruit
honey stick

I am linking to Fed Up With Lunch for her Blogger Party. Join in!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'm typing blind.  Good thing I know how to touch type because I had my eyes dilated this morning and I can't see squat.  She says she gave me the "baby drops" which should only last and hour.  Only it has been an hour and a half already.

It was the week for eyes around here.  Both Pook and I were sent annual reminders to make appointments in late July/ early August.  I made two appointments for the week before school was to start, arranged childcare for Bug and was all set.  Then our eye doctor canceled on us for what may have simply been a vacation. I decided to wait until things were settled with school so I could better judge our time, so I didn't make new appointments right away.

Then the brilliant nine year old in the house, (who I will allow to remain anonymous for this story) decided that a safe place for his glasses while at a slumber party and during a pillow fight was... on the floor.  Seems that after they got wrangled stomped upon destroyed bent then the dog ate one of the plastic lenses.   We went to replace them that afternoon, but it dawned on me that replacing them was foolish when they had an old prescription in them. 

Turned out that both my parents had eye appointments with the same doctor (on reference by us) on Tuesday.  We were able to slip the-child-who-shall-not-be-named in for a check up.  I picked him up at school at 10:00, took him to get his eyes dilated and checked.  We went to the mall immediately afterward to choose new frames, then I dropped him at school for the remaining hour.  We were able to "get new glasses in about an hour" quite successfully, and hit a 50% off sale at the same time.  (Poor kid probably had vision as blurry as mine is now.) 

My make-up appointment was this morning.  I drove home with very blurry vision.  I could tell there were cars around, see that there were street signs, but could not have read a sign.  Now my eyes are tired.  I should not be typing.  Instead, I shall go shelve books at the school library.  I will regret this.  What I really need is a nap.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'll save this until he's a teen

It has been a long time since I included a good Bug quote.

Yesterday he biked with a friend and scraped his arm and knee. I was bandaging him.

Bug: I was just going over the speed bump but I went too fast I guess.

Me: Now you've learned how fast is 'too fast' and next time you'll be fine.

Bug: Yeah, like teenagers have to learn a lesson that way a bunch of times cuz they don't listen when you warn them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

time lapse

It looks like it should all fit in.  On paper.  And yet, in real life, it doesn't seem to be working.  The school year is young, and it will get easier (before the holidays come and it gets harder) but we aren't able to have hindsight at this point.

The way it looks on paper:
                             Pook                         Bug
snack                    20 minutes                 20
piano                     20                            20
sax                        20                              -
homework               1 hour (?)                 20
silent reading          20                            20
physical therapy exercises -                     20               
totals                     2 hours 20 min         1 hour 40 minutes

The time between getting home from school before dinner is about three hours.  There is no opportunity for any of these activities after dinner.  We have bath/shower, read aloud time and tuck in.  I guess Pook sometimes reads silently in bed, sometimes we read for longer to him.  We're in book five of Harry Potter right now and so we usually read downstairs while Bug gets tucked. 

Since both boys consider silent reading to be a good thing, they sometimes read longer and don't go play.  Either way, it seems to me that they're getting a chance for free time.  And yet we haven't found it this school year.

I know Pook dawdles over homework.  I compared notes with the parents of his friends last year and the other boys seemed to accomplish in 20 minutes what Pook did in an hour.  Homework isn't particularly challenging, but when it is difficult it takes him even longer.  And when he's enjoying it he spends way too long-- as he did today, inventing an island and drawing a treasure map.  We got started late (what is a normal day anyway?) after Bug's piano lesson and an emergency visit to clean the school's fish tank.  (another post entirely).  By the time we were home it was 4:30 and I thought, having done all the busy work homework while I worked with the tank, that the map, the piano practice and saxophone time would all fit fine.  (I'd call it saxophone practice but he hasn't had a lesson yet so he's just "doodling".)  It did not.  I postponed dinner until he'd finished it all, but he and I both felt rushed and stressed.

Fall baseball has started too, fortunately only on weekends.  I've always tried to keep my kids under scheduled (in comparison to most others we know at least) and right now it does not feel under scheduled.  I'm wondering if it will all fit this year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

here comes the band

Our school district may be cash poor (and indicting officials who made it that way) but they haven't cut the band and strings program.  Fourth grade is the beginning of musical instrument training for our kids.  Before school ended in May, Pook put down his first three choices for instruments: saxophone, trombone and trumpet. (I think in that order.)

I met the band teacher at registration, after he'd already had a conversation with both boys.  He knew we had a sax at home and seemed delighted.  "Um, we have a baritone sax.  Pook can't even pick it up.  You don't want him to play that do you?"  He was not bothered in the least.  I clarified that we'd be happy to rent a smaller sax if needed.  Then Bug piped up that he was going to play the tuba.  And, yes, I know he likes the tuba, but again, it is a tad big and he also knows he'd need to start on something that he can lift.  But the band instructor simply turned to Bug and told him he'd get a stand for the tuba for Bug in a few years.  What is this man thinking?  I'm picturing me having to buy a bigger car so I can transport a baritone sax and a tuba the mile up to the school.  Not gonna happen.  We also have a flute in the house. Anyone?

But Pook came home yesterday with the announcement that he needs to get an alto saxophone for band.  He's quite excited about it.  I'm not looking forward to the first bit of learning; my delicate ears are going to be under stress.  But two friends have trumpet and violin, so I feel more for their parents and I realize it could be worse!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

have fun, be good, learn something

New shoes!  (Return the new shoes since the sole is peeling off one already.)

New school supplies!  (What do you mean you are 'out of' crayons?  Go to three stores.  Go back tomorrow to get the additional notebook the teacher wants.  Go back the next day to get the binder the other teacher wants.)

New lunchboxes! (Leave them unused on top of the refrigerator because both kids want cafeteria lunches.)

Walk to school and back to pick them up in the afternoon!  (Drive to pick them up the next day because 96° was just too hot for walking.)

New school year!  (Miss them terribly for the whole first day.  Then not-so-much on Day Two.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

what I've learned about eggs

When you buy fresh eggs, the only thing you sacrifice is the ability to peel them hard boiled.  The older the egg, the easier it is to peel (that, and the phase of the moon perhaps) and fresh eggs are by definition, not old.   I've also learned that you don't have to refrigerate eggs unless they've been washed (mine have) and that a red spot in them does not mean that it was fertilized.  The Egg Man, who attends church with us, gives us the cartons with the most colorful combination of shells- tan, brown, green and blue, no white.  When I get a double yolk he wants to know what color egg it came from.  Double yolk eggs are fine to eat but when he wants to let a hen set and hatch a brood he wants to be sure there isn't a set of twins among them.  The process a chick uses to crack the egg and come out is quite systematic.  If two chicks are pecking in two areas of the shell and can't easily move about (because of the twin) they usually wear out and die before hatching.  The Egg Man wants to be on hand to assist at the birth as midwife if need be. (That idea amuses me!)   I also found out that a hen may lay an egg each day for over a week for her nest, but they all begin to develop when she finishes with her last egg and decides to set on the nest to keep them all warm.  Then they all hatch at the same time.

We learn all this by chatting with The Egg Man.  We still have never made it over to visit when he has little chicks.  The summer tends to be busy and little chicks don't wait for one to come home from a trip or finish camp before they grow into rather ungainly big chicks.

What I did not learn from him is how to make egg salad or deviled eggs with fresh eggs.  Deviled eggs are impossible I think, unless keeping fresh eggs around for two months in the fridge seems appealing.  But, today I attempted egg salad.  I've missed eating it. I've tried frying the eggs but a fried egg has a tougher white and leaves a strange texture in the egg salad.  Having been giving this thought for some time, I decided to poach the eggs. I cracked all the eggs into one bowl, figuring it didn't matter what they looked like in the end.  I brought a 10" pan with 2" of water to a boil and added 1/4 c. vinegar.  I don't think I needed the vinegar in hindsight because, again, I didn't care what the end product looked like.  I slid the eggs into the pan, put a lid on it and turned off the heat.  I left it on the burner for the residual heat however.  Since a poached egg is supposed to take about four minutes with this method and because I boil eggs in their shells in 15 minutes, I decided to check them after ten.  Twelve was the answer.  I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and put them in ice water to chill.  Then I successfully made egg salad!