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!