Sunday, December 30, 2012

welcome in the new

Look what I found, hiding in my front yard. I will admire it as I say goodbye to the past year and welcome in the new.  May you all dream of daisies, whether you gaze upon snow, sand or dead leaves, as we do here in Georgia.  Happy New Year.


Monday, December 24, 2012

metaphorically

Do you have Laura Ingalls books around?  I shall quote from On the Banks of Plum Creek:

"Ma" (Laura) cried. "There is a Santa Claus, isn't there?"
"Of course there's a Santa Claus," said Ma. She set the iron on the stove...
"The older you are, the more you know about Santa Claus" she said. "You are so big now, you know he can't be just one man, don't you? You know he is everywhere on Christmas Eve. He is in the Big Woods.... and here. He comes down all the chimneys at the same time. You know that, don't you?"
"Yes Ma"...
"I guess he is like angels" Mary said....
Then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus. He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time.
Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus.
Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy. And in the morning you saw what that had done.
"If everybody wanted everybody else to be happy, all the time, then would it be Christmas all the time?" Laura asked, and Ma said, "Yes, Laura."

So, this is my take on Santa. At our house we all fill everyone's stockings. Even when the kids were tots, they contributed "some pieces of money" to buy something to put in the stocking of each person who would be there Christmas morning. They get all excited about planning and executing this, which matters to me more than what they give. Bug likes to give mixed whole nuts, Pook goes for lifesavers candy often. One year Bug picked dried fruit to put in them.

We take turns Christmas eve just before we go to bed, each person in the room alone to fill them privately. After taking a turn as Santa, each person gets to ring the sleigh bells before heading up to bed.  We usually go by age, but I get to go last, which is good since by then things sometimes spill out onto nearby chairs.

Since all of us have been Santa for all of their lives I have hoped for a smooth transition. Last year the boys were still adamant that the big guy in a red suit living at the North Pole would be leaving gifts. This year we seem to have fewer gifts (perhaps each is bigger?) and I don't have anything easily left to be "from Santa."  And so, I'm not going to leave any out, unwrapped, on the hearth.  I have lots of fun gifts to cram into stockings but I think the big guy is leaving the room.  Metaphorically!  I'll keep all the unselfishness.

Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good  night.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

let's bake

Fruitcake cookie time!  Let's pretend we are reading a fancy cooking blog and it is going to introduce you to an amazing new cookie, invented at the House of Pook and Bug. You can follow along with the wonderful photos taken on the bloggers (husband's) new camera while your mouth waters and you decide when you'll have time to make them yourself.

You know you want to. I mean, look what's in them.  Relax at the word "fruitcake" in the label. These are no ordinary fruitcakes. First of all, notice that this is dried fruit, not that day-glo candied fruit, which is probably the reason no one likes fruitcakes.
Technically, this was three cups of dried fruit. I used dried sour cherries, apricots, pineapple and raisins. The first three are important. Raisins are a bit boring, but that's what I had.

Dried pineapple is just candy. You can't call this fruit anymore. Yum. Chop the fruit, but not too small; we love biting into chunks of fruit.

Now zing it up with some candied ginger. Your love of the taste should determine the chunk size here. It can be pretty intense to bite into large bits. If I measured (which I don't) I'd suggest using about two tablespoons, chopped.

You've got to put nuts in a fruitcake-ish dessert. Add in a half cup of chopped pecans.Toss the fruit, ginger and pecans together with 1/2 c. flour and a teaspoon of lemon zest. (If you have it, which I didn't. I faked it by putting some sprinkles of lemon juice on the fruit and nuts before tossing on the flour. I fake my way through a lot of recipes. But hey, I made this one up so I have all the license I need to alter it as I go.)
Time for the rest of the cast. I shop at Kroger. Can you tell? I'm a food snob in many ways. I grow my own herbs and I buy nice vanilla, but yeah, my spices are probably in need of replacing. My friends L and P toss out all their spices on January first and replace them with a set of basics, only buying weird ones when needed during the next year.

I left out some of the cast members. Let's take this from the top:
Cream a cup of butter. Real butter, two sticks at room temperature. (Or put frozen butter in the microwave on the power of one for one minute. It works here.) Add 1 1/2 cups brown sugar. None of the white stuff today. Get that all blended. Then add in two eggs, 1 teaspoon each vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and a half teaspoon each of cloves, allspice and ginger. 


Once you have all that good stuff mixed together, take a taste. Oh, yeah. mmmm. I trust my source for eggs. His name is Keith.

Get out a cup of oatmeal and a half cup of apple juice. We always have apple juice around, but improvise if you must. You also need two cups of flour. Don't get all healthy now; use white flour.

The stuff is thick, so alternate dribbles of apple juice with the oatmeal so you can incorporate it all. Then, just when you don't think you can do anything else with the batter, add in all the fruit and nuts. Let your mixer do the work. It can handle it. Take all the tastes you want. The kids are at school and you get to lick the beaters yourself. (I might be talking about myself.)

Smear it into TWO pans (13x9") or drop them by the spoonful on cookie sheets. I have mixed feelings about these methods. Cookies are a pain in my tiny oven (I could only cook one of these at a time!) but I think they look better. The squares don't cut very neatly and get a bit crumbly in the cookie tin. Whichever.  Individual cookies should bake for 8-10 minutes and the bars take 25-30. Put the oven at 350° for either.
Do these look good or what? (I skip the booze part of the fruitcake. If you like it, I think that pouring something over the pan, hot out of the oven, would work well. Another option would be macerating the fruit in it.) When out of the oven, cut them into bars.

They're good. They're really good. They will convince you that fruitcake isn't a bad word. You will use them to convince others that fruitcake is alright after all. And then we will all eat.

Monday, December 17, 2012

music edition

There are angels harking and heralding here. The boys' piano teacher asks each student to learn a carol to share at a party together. Since they need lots of time to learn new pieces, this means that the holiday music started immediately after Thanksgiving. I am grateful to her for waiting that long.

Bug has come on a midnight clear. It is less than glorious without his forgotten B flat.

Pook has been the one harking. ("Hark!" Harold the Angel sings, "I have lost my purple crayon. I have fed a deserving moose. And a hungry porcupine. I have fallen off a mountain. Cuz I forgot to draw the other side.")

But, they don't want to be recorded and posted here, so to comply with A-L's blog chain, I must discuss a different piece of holiday music.

Once I was in a crowded school cafeteria which was suddenly transformed as a parade of white clad kindergarteners surrounded the room, singing Silent Night in their tiny five-year-old voices. I can barely write about it without tearing up.  But everyone loves Silent Night, so today I will choose The Grinch.

Someday I'd like to memorize all the lyrics; they're so wonderful. Dr. Seuss freed me to sing with my kids. He taught me that if I forget the words, I can make up new. If I don't have a rhyme, I can make one up.


You're a mean one, Mr Grinch
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus
You're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch
Your Hearts an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders
You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch
I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty nine and a half foot pole

You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch
You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch
Given the choice between the two of you I’d take the a seasick crocodile

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You’re a nasty wasty skunk
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch
The three words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote: Stink, Stank, Stunk

You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your hearts a dead tomato
Splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch
Your sole is an appalling dump heap
Overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super naus
You’re a crooked jerky jockey and you drive a crooked horse Mr. Grinch
You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toad stool sandwich
With arsenic sauce! 
Each year, as a kid, I'd look forward to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas when it was on TV. We own it,  so our kids could potentially watch it anytime, but they keep it a once-a-year tradition too.  My favorite character isn't the Grinch; it's Cindy Lou Who, (who was no more than two) who is the only one to catch the guy in action and question him.


During this happy, festive, put-a-smile-on-your-face season, I can't help but like the Grinch. Charles Dickens personified the feeling in Ebenezer Scrooge, but we can't identify with him without really putting ourselves down. Scrooge is as financially stingy as emotionally stingy perhaps. The Grinch made being crabby during the holidays funny.  This weekend I will attend three different holiday parties on three different nights and I will smile. I will push down any inner Grinchiness and get into the spirit.



The blog chain is as follows. Come visit the rest of the list as they tell about their favorite holiday music too.

Harriet at spynotes
Hugh at Permanent qui vive
Jeanne at Necromancy never pays
Cranky at It’s My Blog!
Dr. Geek at Dr. Geek’s Laboratory
Lemming at Lemming’s Progress
Readersguide at Reader’s Guide to…
Freshhell at Life in Scribbletown
edj3 at kitties kitties kitties
My Kids’ Mom at Pook and Bug
joyhowie at The Crooked Line
Magpie at Magpie Musing
Dave at The Ideal Dave
and back to Harriet at spynotes

Thursday, December 13, 2012

kringling

Yep, it is getting all Kringly over here.  Halls are decked. Rudolph night light is in the kids' bathroom. Front yard Christmasy looking tree is strung with as many lights as we had. Santa placemats are on the table. A little town has sprung up onto the mantle.

Although stockings are not yet hung with care and there is no tree yet, that will be taken care of this weekend.  We often wait a bit so the tree won't be quite so dry by New Year's  when we take it down traditionally. I'm not sure why I didn't get out the stockings, but it seemed wrong to hang them before getting a tree.

Holiday baking has begun. I neglected to send a gift to the piano teacher on the day she hosted a party for her students. I will remedy that as soon as I'm able. I've been Hershey's kissing lots of pretzels and topping them with M&M's in my traditional teacher/neighbor/oh-I-should-reciprocate-with-a-gift manner.  I'm not intending to go too crazy with the cooking this year. I want to make two types as well as some sugared pecans. I'll be giving much of it away as gifts.

Dear old dot.com was given two very large orders, and as per the usual, is sending it in a dozen different shipments. I do, I truly do believe in buying from independent stores, from Mom and Pop places, from individual crafts-people, I really do. But dang if December doesn't beat my butt every year and I just can't make it happen.  That big old Amazon in the internet sky calls to me.

This year, as I was looking at Lego, books and other-such-things, I multi-tasked, folding laundry. I tossed several holey socks in the trash and wondered if I'd have time to fit in a Target run to buy new. Then I remembered Mir and a Hanes sale she once gave me a tip to, and I impulsively checked out the Hanes.com website. $7 for 6 pairs of socks. Not bad maybe, but the shipping was annoyingly high. I went back to my Amazon tab, with the Very Large Order still in my cart. The price was slightly higher but there would be no shipping costs. Into the cart went socks. I probably won't wrap them up with the Christmas gifts... but you never know.

So, I'm in good shape. Most gifts are purchased. Halls are decked. Baked goods are planned. Stocking stuffers are not, but I can handle them. Both kids have shopped for each other. Oh, and I even wrote, printed and mailed a Christmas letter this year.  I'll post some photos of baked goods later perhaps.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

media mania

New Stuff!

The House of Pook and Bug is usually pretty behind the curve in technology. CD may work in the field all day, but when he comes home he doesn't use it much.

And Yet!  New Stuff!  I finally followed through on the camera promised to CD last summer for his birthday. On Want Not I found a fabulous deal for the Canon Rebel T3 and within minutes had added it to my cart, emailed him to see if it was suitable, received his response and ordered it. We'll see if the photos on this blog improve. (What? You thought I bought him a camera for his birthday for him to use it?)

And Yet More! The Tivo died on us. We discussed all our options and couldn't find any one solution. We'd love to use Netflix, Hulu etc. and dump the cable company, but we still can't figure out how to really do it. We may not watch much, but we're picky about what we do watch and, for matter, what we don't watch too. We haven't involuntarily watched a commercial in years. We finally gave in and replaced the Tivo.  This Tivo can hold about 400 hours of television, so if in the next four years some new viewing option comes along that will work, we might have enough left to not even need it.

And More Still!  CD's flip phone must have started annoying him because he broached the idea of getting each other new phones for Christmas. My phone, technically, was fine. My cell service was a bit of a problem. In that I had none. Or rather, I had no reception in the house and only randomly elsewhere. Yes, this should have been a no-brainer, but, it was cheap and so I had kept it and manipulated phones in various ways to avoid missing calls. It wasn't elegant but it did work. Mostly. (Ok, really, I was cheap and lazy.)

But! New phones! CD went with the iFamily and is developing a relationship with Siri. I'm continuing in the android mode with a Motorola Razr. It has a great big screen so I don't have to put on my glasses every time I receive a text. So far, so good. We might not have to hang out a window for reception any more.

So, fun shiny new things. Time to decorate the house for Christmas and spread some of that shiny around.

Monday, December 3, 2012

braving it again

This year it was not Christmas, not haunted, and not eaten by critters.  This year I did not design it and our family did not eat it alone.

This year Pook designed a fancy, three room gingerbread house in order to share it at Grandma's house for Thanksgiving.  Although Bug, his Nana and I had made three pies, the gingerbread  house was nibbled upon by cousins, an uncle and Grandad (who nibbled off a whole row of candycorn when he didn't know anyone was looking!)  I've posted the recipe before but I'll include it at the bottom for you again.

I should send a thank you to Alpha for introducing us to this tradition.  The first years we made one house per family, all at his home. Each family brought candy to share. The big gingerbread men were decorated and eaten immediately, allowing the families to bring the houses home as decor for a few days before consumption.

Gingerbread through the years:

The first gingerbread house, 2006



Gingerbread house, 2007

Our haunted gingerbread house, 2008
Santa in the chimney 2009
Haunted again in 2010
The ill-fated gingerbread house of 2011




**********************
The recipe (in text) and traditional house patterns (pdf) are at www.merlab.com/gingerbread thanks to Alpha!

The dough is easy to make and it tastes great.  I use store bought icing in a tube because it sets up so fast.  The pick-a-mix candies vary, and the items made in the "yard" vary depending on what candies we have.  (Tootsie rolls make good woodpiles.)

1c. butter
1c. sugar
1/2c. molasses
2 eggs
1/4t nutmeg
1/2t salt
1/2t baking soda
1/2t cloves
2t ginger
2t cinnamon
5c. flour

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and molasses, mix in dry ingredients.  I chill it overnight but I'm not convinced it is necessary.  I roll it thin 1/8"? onto parchment paper, cut the shapes and remove the excess so I don't have to lift the house pieces.  It makes one house plus 24 large gingerbread cookies.  I lowered the oven temp to 300 this year and baked them about 10  minutes.  Keep a close eye on them b/c you don't want them to get dark but if the pieces are still soft they'll be more fragile. We use two tubes of white frosting to assemble and decorate.

Friday, November 30, 2012

from my window

Every fall I have a wonderful slow motion movie seen out my bathroom window throughout the month of November. I have tried to share it this year with a Photo-A-Day, made into a movie.

video

I wanted to join in the Fall Color Project, but barely made it. The leaves here turn very late and this tree is just finishing up its display.  For a look at other fall gardens around the country, check out the other participants.

These are my favorite photos from the window which didn't make it into the slide show:











 We have just bought a new SLR camera, so perhaps my pictures here will improve. So far I've been leaning out the window into the cold with my simple point-and-shoot camera, with no tripod.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

bucket listing

So how many things on this list have you done? Mine are in bold -  I made it just past halfway, to 50 51!. Amazing how many of them were done during my year in Luxembourg, my junior year of college.  There might be more from my childhood, but if I don't remember it, it probably shouldn't count.

1. Started your own blog (hi)
2. Slept under the stars (dang cold too)
3. Played in a band (I'll leave that one to friends and family)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world (as a kid)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped (not gonna happen)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (I've seen one from an airplane though)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (taking a class in something new doesn't count?)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (and even went back to the restaurant another time, safely)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
("slept" is usually an exaggeration for this)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (hasn't everyone?)
24. Built a snow fort (happy to be in the South now)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (didn't have the money)
29. Seen a total eclipse (still remember the pinhole viewer my dad made)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run (watched Pook make one, last game of the season!)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (And yes, the boats are cheesy. And yes, you should take one.)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (school taught)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (tough one, but I think I'll claim it)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person (Yes, but my friend didn't have enough money to buy herself dinner, so I sacrificed a climb up the Tower so she could eat. I'm just that good.)
39. Gone rock climbing (indoor climbing walls only)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa (I stand corrected and add this in. I was in Morocco that same college year.)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (I accompanied a student, it wasn't for me)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
(although my favorite photo is from under it)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (both)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (but wasn't good at it)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (perhaps this summer)
71. Eaten Caviar (didn't like it)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (see #11)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (I'd like to do this one again with the kids)
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican (and even saw the pope from a distance)
82. Bought a brand new car (still driving it, nine years later)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (circa 1970?)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (I'll aim for only a lobster)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (what qualifies as "famous"?)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
(two)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (maybe as a kid)
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone (huh?)
99. Been stung by a bee

Don't ask me why there are just 99, I don't know. :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

door to door

Now I've done it. I have dived into the pool called politics.  Me, who can't even remember what election was my first election to vote, when my kids ask.  Me, who takes notes to the polls so I won't forget who someone said was best, but then ends up skipping half the ballot anyway.

Elections, for the rest of you, are on a back burner for several more years. Maybe two, maybe four, but at least the yard signs are down and the robocalls are over. Not here. Our little newborn city is in runoffs. The mayor and three of the four city council positions are to be voted upon Dec. 4. 

I considered burying my head, but the more I've learned about the top contender for mayor, the more I want to help defeat him.  When I started asking about the possible mayors this summer many people would lower their voice as if they didn't want to be heard saying something bad. Then they'd say, "He's sort of a bully."  "He's a bulldozer."  Or, the hesitant, "Well, he does get things done.... But I wouldn't want to get in his way."  They didn't even follow it with "Bless his heart" like a proper Southerner does when insulting someone.  I met the other choices, found someone I felt represented everything he wasn't, and voted for her.  And she came in 2nd of four.

All this brought me to this day, mid November, walking door to door with Pook, canvassing for a mayoral candidate.  Phoning my neighbors. "Can Sandy count on your vote for mayor?" Noting on a spreadsheet the strong yes, leaning yes, undecided, leaning no, and strong no votes.

What I'm learning is interesting. First, I am not as isolated in my political values in this neighborhood as I thought. Second, most people are like I've always been- not wanting to do the research or get involved. Third, they are happy that they now know someone who has done it for them and they will probably vote for her just because of me.

Or, as Pook pointed out, they could be being nice just to get me off their doorstep.

Monday, November 12, 2012

(iv)(ix)=xxxvi

Poor Bug is quite sure that Everyone Else in the third grade knows their times tables but him. And, to be honest, they've changed the curriculum this year and now the second graders are learning multiplication and third graders will be expected to know them. He's in an advanced math class and his teacher really would like for the kids to know them Soon.

To help our intense child deal with this frustration, our house has turned into the House of Math. We're quizzing him constantly, including a bombardment from all three of us over dinner.

He WILL learn these. I'm covering all bases here. He wrote the flashcards himself (active), different numbers in different colors (visual), and is instructed to say them aloud (oral).

Plus, they are now posted all around our kitchen. The 4's are in the half bathroom off the kitchen. Perhaps he will remember 4x8...bathroom mirror...purple...32!
 The 3's are in orange, by his seat at the breakfast table.
 Turquoise 6's are by Pook's seat and window.
The 7's are supplied in blue on his way into the garage. 8's are outside the bathroom, 9's and 12's are on the doorway to the den.












Just to stay as geeky as possible, at dinner last night we quizzed both boys on the same multiplication problems, but in Roman numerals.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

who are you?

As Pook ambled his slow self to the dinner table last night, he asked what we were having. Nevermind that he could have simply looked. He'd been in the kitchen helping pour milk and had set the table earlier.  I tried to answer, but ended up simply listing the ingredients: "happy pig" sausage, rice, chick peas and kale cooked together with a little Cajun seasoning.

"What should we name it?" I asked.  CD, ever willing to entertain the boys, piped up with the suggestion of "Gerald."  Bug decided he preferred "Felix" and somewhere in the conversation Pook came up with "White on Rice". 

Tonight I invented again, browning fat slices of sweet potato and apple with leftover cubes of pork chop and a glaze of Hoisin sauce.  (Onions would have been a good addition.) "Felix" was suggested again. And no, I have no idea where the name came from. "Fred" is Bug's usual pseudonym.

Both meals were good. I've always figured ingredients which happily share a plate can happily share a pan. Well, maybe not always. But these did.

So, names anyone? Or must I refer to tonight's dinner as "Felix"?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

group vote

The boys voted today. I've heard of people being told they couldn't bring their young children in the polling room with them, that no one under 18 was allowed in, but the poll workers here were happy to see my boys helping me. And help they did.

Our new city is in need of a mayor and city council-folk. I may have not wanted the city to be formed, but now that I've got it I care who runs it. Or maybe mostly I care who doesn't run it. But we put in our two cents. Pook touched the screen for mayor, Bug voted for the councilperson.

I got to vote for President, which in the grand national scheme probably counts the least. (Should have heard me trying to explain the Electoral College earlier....) But here in our little city? You bet every vote will count. I want to see real numbers tonight. Real 1,234 numbers. So that I can tell that each person was counted. All three of us!

****
update:
Our local election resulted in runoffs all around. The folks the boys voted for both made it into runoffs however, one by only 100 votes. This means that for the rest of you, the political signs will come down and the calls will stop. For us, I expect it will increase for the next three weeks. Help!

Monday, October 29, 2012

when the price is right

Sometimes we gardeners visit a store with a plan to find a specific plant. More often, we visit a garden store and plants find us.  Sometimes this is best!  The sale racks often just have dying annuals, but if you look around a bit there are usually some great finds.

I caught a great sale rack at the big box store (the red and blue one) after a busy fall weekend. I brought home a trunk full of plants for only $7. There were 10¢ snap dragons which had no unidentifiable blossom color. They've now bloomed in my big white pot on the patio and the color is great. I would have been ok with all one of any color, or a mixture. Either way, the price was right. I usually put pansies in the pot this time of year, so snap dragons will be a fun change.

Black and Blue salvia has been on my if-you-see-it-marked-down-this-is-always-a-good-one list. At 25¢ these were quickly put into my cart. I didn't expect to see them bloom this year, so they've been a pleasant fall surprise. I'm not sure I've put them in a good location, but I'll give it a year to see. I want that wonderful blue to pop and even at the edge, my front woodlands are shady.

There was no tag on this yellow friend-of-a-daisy, but the pot did say "perennial" which was good enough for me, also at 25¢. They're in the woodlands garden too, in front of the six foot tall swamp sunflowers. I wish the store had had more, but the three I planted began to bloom within a week of transplanting.



My Sheffield Pink (I think) chrysanthemums were a pass-along from another gardening friend, the best price of all.  They have spread over an eight foot area and may need a new home. They're right in front of the two Beautyberry bushes and since I never pruned them they're almost as tall. I'll see what happens if I put pruning them on my gardening calendar.  It seems they are well loved by flying friends this time of year.


Free and almost free. The perfect price!

Friday, October 26, 2012

all in one paragraph

"I hate you. You are the worst parent in the whole world."

"You hafta help me with my homework because I can't do it otherwise."

This all came out in one paragraph. There might have been a few more sentences in the middle. I tuned out.

I was not declared the worst parent in the world -- the "whole world"-- for not helping with homework. In fact, it was because I was helping that I earned that label.  I went above what had been asked and tried to help a bit extra. I suppose it wasn't what he'd expected and when Bug is confronted with something he hasn't prepared for he usually dislikes it. 

I left the house and took a fifteen minute walk in the nearby park.

I returned to a Bug with his hands on his hips and a mouth puckered in anger.  I heard "you hafta" again and I left the house again. This time I took a book and my glasses and hung out at a picnic table in the park.

Is this being eight years old or just being an intense kid?  Or, perhaps I'm the worst parent in the whole world and the rest of you can relax now that the title is taken.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

cooties

Lice.

Go ahead, scratch your head. I did. I do every time I think that word. I try hard not to think that word. In fact, every time the school nurse sends home the "Someone in your child's class has ****" note, I recognize it and try to throw it away before my brain registers what the page is about.

Of course when I saw Pook scratching at his head and went to look for a copy of that note, there wasn't one to be found. Scratch.

I decided that my part of this parenting chapter would be the research. Research into what CD needed to do about this problem.  I was helpful. I got CD a comb. I drove to the store for the $20 shampoo. I'm doing lots of laundry. I try to be in another room when he combs Pook's hair.  Helpful.

Behind the scenes I'm scratching my own head.  I'm combing my own head. Just in case. I can't spell "blech" in quite the same way I say it. I say it with a shudder. Maybe more of a cringe.

However, I am being a good mom. I am not making him feel like a pariah. Just because he has cooties it doesn't mean he needs to be treated as if he has cooties. Good mom. I remove and wash pillowcases after he's left the room. I try to remind him gently to stay off the upholstered chair in the den. I still snuggle him and try to be discrete about not kissing him on the head. I used to run my fingers through his hair often. I've noticed this because I haven't been doing it. There are limits to this good mom thing.

If I think too much I begin to itch. I read that they tend to stay near the hairline and ears. I scratch there. Then it moves to my neck and shoulders. I wonder if they crawl around. By this time I'm itchy everywhere and I'm wondering if they could be on my ankles too.  I learned that five minutes at 128° kills them. I put the probe thermometer in the laundry water to be sure it is hot enough. I debate taking it into the shower with me. I can put boiling water on the hairbrushes, but hot water on me will just make my skin dry and... make me itch.

This too shall pass. I'm surprised it hasn't ever happened before. The boys used to share dress up hats and batting helmets with other kids. Now, in middle school, I'm not sure where Pook contracted them. I've bought a preventive spray at a natural foods store. Maybe it'll work and this won't ever happen again.  

Meanwhile... scratch.

Friday, October 19, 2012

my civic duty

I live in a city. Did you think I lived in Atlanta? Yeah, I did too. I will continue to tell people that I live in the city of Atlanta. But in reality, I did not live in a city, and I didn't move either. We've been voted out of our area of unincorporated county in the Atlanta area and into New City. 

I don't like change and I didn't vote for it, but CD did and I can see how it might be good. The New City will include about 40,000 residents. This is being promoted to emphasize our new local control. It is possible that to many people this means "We don't have to let our tax dollars pay for poor people." Hopefully it will mean improvements to the places I spend most of my time. Our county isn't particularly functional. Don't ask me about our school system; I'd post about it, but it would make me too depressed.

Part of me says "whatever" but part of me figures that if I'm going to have change, I'd better keep up with it and give my two cents if I can.  So I've been reading the city's' web postings. I read articles in all the local papers about the upcoming commissioners' elections. I suggested to CD that we walk to meet one of the mayoral candidates when she was nearby. I even attended a debate among the four candidates for my neighborhood district's commissioner. I was impressed enough with one of the mayoral candidates to put her sign in my yard. I never put political signs in my yard.

Our dear pool is one of three pools in New City. The impoverished county has been ignoring them and two were never opened last summer. Our swim team, peers with the Bad News Bears, wants to continue under new leadership. I am on an executive board of parents who want to advocate for our team and pool. I have put my name on a Parks Department email list.  I am doing my civic duty.


Monday, September 17, 2012

herbs and spices

I grow lots of herbs in the gardens chez Pook and Bug. I chose to make the border around our boring patio slab an entirely child-safe and edible border.  I put in rosemary, oregano, chives and garlic chives, parsley, thyme, mints safely sequestered in pots, marjoram, a bay laurel, and the occasional lemony something, plus basil each summer.

There have been several unsuccessful experiments. Rosemary struggles without enough sun. Basil and parsley have off years sometimes. This year I experimented with stevia, a horribly sweet herb I have no particular use for since I don't sweeten my drinks. The plant has grown fine, but if it doesn't come back next year I won't go searching to buy it again.

But today I planted something new. New! NEW!! I've followed The Faire Garden for years and when she discussed planting her own crocus for saffron. I was intrigued. When she talked about harvesting her own saffron, I was hooked. I found a reputable source and I ordered. Herbs AND spices!



No matter that I've never really cooked with saffron. I sometimes buy a yellow rice mix that probably fakes the saffron with artificial flavors and colors.  But, I could cook with saffron. If saffron wasn't so expensive maybe I'd have been cooking with it all along. See? I could be a closet saffron lover and not even know it.

They are a fall blooming crocus, crocus sativus, and fall is planning to be upon us anytime. I planted them today and I will follow up with pictures of the flowers when they come. And if this works out, I'll cook.  Feel free to send me a paella recipe if you have a good one. I am such the optimist today!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

soups on

We're pretending it's fall here. And in our defense, I have seen some leaves coloring. We have turned off the A/C and opened windows.  But, we're still in shorts.  Eating soup, wearing shorts.  Fine with me.

When I said I was going to make soup, Bug called from the other room "Make the black bean one!"  I'd already pulled out the ingredients.

This comes, originally, from Fitness magazine, (Feb. 2006). A printable can be found at recipezaar #151772. I got it from my friend Nadya.  The good recipes get around.

It uses chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Buy it. Feel free to freeze the extra in portion sized amounts, but it isn't hard to find and it isn't expensive.


Black Bean and Coconut Milk Soup
In soup pot, over medium heat, saute
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. chipotles chilies in adobo sauce, minced

Get those onions nice and soft while you enjoy the smell.  A half cup water can be added to push the onions along.  Then add the rest.

2 cans black beans (incl. liquid)
1 can coconut milk
2 1/2 c. broth (veggie or chicken)

Bring your lovely mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Just enough time to warm up some corn tortillas, a baguette, or make some rice to plop in the middle of your bowl.

I use an immersion blender to puree it all a bit. I still like to keep some of the chunks.

If you want to be all pretty, serve it with cilantro, fresh tomato and lime.  We had it plain and still loved it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

things I know

  • If you change the sprinkler head on a hose without turning off the water, no matter how sure you are that you can do it this time, you will get wet

  • If you are craving some comfort foods and are going to the grocery that day, no matter how much restraint you show at the store, you will still end up eating comfort foods later

  • If you remember being in a situation yourself and now see your child struggling with the same thing, no matter how well intentioned you are, your child will still think you lived with dinosaurs and cannot possibly understand him.


Monday, August 27, 2012

ain't nobody happy

"When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  So they say. But when nobody ain't happy, Mama ain't happy either.  And it seems like my babies are not happy.

School is too long. The bus takes forever. He has no time to play or read. Pook is adjusting to middle school, but grudgingly. He's right; his schedule is much changed from the past years. He isn't getting off the bus until 4:45 (instead of 2:30) and he needs to fit in homework plus saxophone and piano practices. He's used to his homework being done before dinner, but it isn't working that way.  He liked getting some free time.  It may settle out, or he may just get used to it.

Bug's dissatisfaction is more global. "Everything" is wrong. "Everyone" hates his teacher.  It is true that his friends are mostly in other rooms. He has the only teacher in the grade that I didn't want him to get. She taught Pook in 3rd grade too, and I wasn't thrilled with her "old school" style. I think she's probably starting the year very strict (no smiling until Christmas) but I also think she'll mellow out soon. Bug doesn't seem to know what she wants. He thinks this is the directions on the homework but he also thinks he needs to do things like this or he'll "get in trouble." He's intimidated by her and isn't asking for clarification.

Yesterday at the triathlon, the kids were treated as capable, independent beings. No adults were allowed in the transition area before, during or after.  The kids set up their bike, towel, socks shoes and shirt, and a box for goggles and bike helmet. I never even saw how they laid it all out. The kids were lined up by age and number and marched to the aquatics center where we waited to watch. Pook had two hours to wait while Bug ("juniors division") raced. CD and I saw them both swim then we ran outdoors to catch snippets of biking and running. We saw them pass through the finish line. The miles they covered they covered without us.

I liked the independence required of them. When Bug wanted to find the bathrooms and I wanted to see Pook finish, I sent him to the opposite side of the place on his own. If he can race a triathlon, he can find a port-a-potty on his own. And, they handled it-- mostly.  I did step in when Pook came out from the pool without having found the volunteer holding his glasses. He had to bike (6 miles) without them, but I found the woman who had them and was able to return them to him before the run. Sometimes Mama still needs to help.

But with Bug at school, I don't want to step in yet. I want him to figure out how he can work with his teacher. I want him to learn how to ask for help, both from her and from us. I want him to learn to explain his worries more clearly. I want him to feel independent and successful.  Then Mama will be happy.


Friday, August 24, 2012

try tri

I mentioned the triathlon briefly last week without giving any explanation.  Sorry. School has filled my brain and summer activities are getting quickly squeezed out by things like new schedules, homework projects and fall baseball.

The triathlon is an extension of our summer swim team. For a few years I've heard neighbors talk about kid triathlons-- one in particular called the Iron Kids. It sounded like something they could handle, coming right off swim team particularly. But, the Iron Kids was huge and not timed well for our schedule last year and we never got around to looking into it seriously.  Yet as the boys climbed out of the pool, barely winded after swimming for hours, it kept coming back to me.

When a parent mentioned a kids triathlon sponsored by the YMCA, my ears perked up. I picked up the brochure when I was there next. The cost was low, the location convenient, and most of all, the distances were perfect for a first triathlon.

Juniors ages 6-10
swim 100 meters
bike 3 miles
run 1/2 mile

Seniors ages 11-15
swim 200 meters
bike 6 miles
run 1 mile

We have a team of friends who are all participating. The boys have taken some runs with CD, since running is probably their weakest area. We tried putting wet bodies into socks, shoes and shirts.

They're ready for the sport. They're ready for the transitions. The crowds may be intimidating, but assuming we find their buddies, they can stick together. The point isn't to win this, and they know it. Bug put it well:  "When they talk about me on the Olympics they can say that 'He did his first triathlon at age eight.'"

So this Sunday morning at before-the-sun-rises-o'clock we will be heading to the triathlon. I'm pretty excited for them. Me, I'll be doing what I do best. Participating as a member of The Audience.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

third grade

Welcome to the Third Grade! As moms of Third Graders, we must have a united front. We must be prepared for school this year.

Here is your supply list. Please have these items last week or expect consequences.

  1. patience
  2. poster board
  3. distractions
  4. a 25th hour to the day
  5. wine
  6. patience

Here are a few of the first projects you will need to do. Extra credit will be given if there are no tears. From either of you.

  1. It is Friday afternoon, an hour after school has let out. Your third grader just announced that he left his paperwork for "the big project" at school. You have no way to get the papers. Solve this problem while making dinner preparations and answering urgent email.
  2. Your third grader needs to make a collage of pictures "all about me." You recycled all the old magazines this morning. Your printer is on the blink. Again. Solve this problem in color.
  3. It is bedtime on Sunday night. Your third grader opened his door so you would hear him sobbing. He apparently just remembered "the big project." Get him to sleep before you fall asleep. Every minute counts against your grade.

There will be pop quizzes and meltdowns at random moments. There will be more poster board needed at unexpected hours of the day. You must always be prepared for these. Each time you use phrases such as "Are you serious?" and "I told you so" you will be penalized.

Again, welcome to the Third Grade!



Monday, August 20, 2012

suddenly with free time

I've been a bit at loose ends since school started.  Especially in the morning and especially while I've waited for Pook's bus to come.  I find myself dawdling in the front yard, so I deadhead an old day lily, then another and another. Finally I head up to the house to check the time to see if I should drive the poor child. I hesitate to do it because the driver needs all the kids if she's ever going to get the route settled. So instead I grab the pruning shears. The plants have enjoyed the attention. I shouldn't have been shocked at the number of weeds out there.


This picture is of dead things, but really there is quite a bit alive at this point of the summer. It has been a weird August. The summer started out so, so hot and dry. I believe my new creeping azalea had a lifetime guarantee, so I'm going to check into replacing it. The rest made it through that hot period ok only to then get rained on so regularly that some of it has rotted, such as the poor lamb's ear (best seen here by the lamp and hose but also the rest of the non-green area in this pic) Fortunately, I think they will rebound next spring.

This is part of the yellow and black family of flowers in my yard. I suppose they're all in the Rudbeckia family but the size of the flowers and overall plant vary. I should probably identify them, because they're clearly different, but I haven't. I'm just enjoying their happy color. This first button nosed bloom with short, rounded petals is with purple coneflowers and lantana usually. Neither of them is blooming much this year.

The longer petaled blooms seen in the second photo are near the daisies. Both of those combinations are wonderful. I should encourage all three to mingle. Sorry I couldn't have them all this year. The daisies are so thick that I can tell I need to dig some out to move them. I've been deadheading, so I hope they'll rebloom this fall.





 The third yellow petaled flower has a coneflower button nose, longer, larger petals and twice the height (about six feet tall).

I found three of these friends at the daisies the other day. The rain had left their webs looking beautiful in the morning light and is the reason I went for the camera and caught all these pictures in the first place.  I pruned away dead daisies but I watched this lady and tried to avoid disturbing her web.




Friday, August 17, 2012

the room: conclusion

Yes, Pook's room is finished. But the boy needed to alphabetize his books and perfect the bulletin board. Then the Lego exploded back out of confinement in the closet and I got distracted.

The amount of work involved in getting this room ready to paint was incredible. I understand that his room was formerly the playroom, and therefore got used harder, but geez!  Just getting to the point where we could find the thousands of thumbtack holes to fill took three days.  The poor boy spent most of that cleaning up Lego. Then there was the realization that behind all those Lego creations was ten years of dust. And, when he was a tot, I had guided him to put stickers onto his bookshelves at the end of the day. (It kept them out of the laundry.) A razor blade and goo-be-gone were needed to scrape them all off.

This was the painted border my MIL and I put on before Pook was born. It took two coats of primer to get it covered.



Here it is, sort-of-made bed and all. The deeper yellow is nice in this sunnier room.





We thought the room was completely finished, and it was for a couple of days. But then there was an... altercation with one boy on either side of the door. The casualty was the mirror. I told them they'd have to share the seven years of bad luck.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

recipe

I have had multiple requests for my Perfected Pimento Cheese. I must have made it a dozen times with variations on ingredients, only to find fault with all of them. The flavor was sometimes good, but the texture all wrong. I grated the cheese by hand (good, but annoying) I tried putting in cream cheese (not helpful to flavor) I tried adding cottage cheese (had potential). Finally I realized it wasn't ingredients as much as technique.  So experiment with flavors you like, but treat the stuff gently.

Grate 1 lb. sharp cheddar with fine blade of food processor and remove it to a large bowl.
Blend  with food processor:
1 c. cottage cheese
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3-5 T. mayonnaise
1 tsp+ Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
Mix 4 oz. pimentos into mayo blend
Pour over grated cheese and gently fold it in.

Some people like grated onion, garlic or jalepeno in their cheese. These are fine, but not what I was looking for. But, I think the ingredients are personal and the gentle mixing is what finally gave it the fluffy texture I wanted.

Maybe I'll make granola bars this week too. I've finally perfected that one to my tastes too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

what's cookin'?

We've been cooking up a storm here at the House of Pook and Bug. I think I'm restless without my babes here all day.

I've made a fresh salsa, perfect pimento cheese spread, and some hot pepper jelly. If someone gives you a large bag of mixed peppers, remember that hot pepper jelly doesn't call for many. I used the jalapeno ones, decided to dry the chilies, put the banana peppers on salads, and I think I'll pass the habanero peppers forward. If you or someone you know would like about 30 (probably) habanero peppers, please give me a call.

Here are some lovely photos taken by Bug of the gazpacho he helped me make. It is a perfect recipe for a kid to prepare.


Here is the snack Bug and I made with our new pepper jelly, cream cheese and crackers. Yum!