Saturday, December 14, 2013

hopes dashed (and wet holiday stuff too)

And just like that, Bug ruined his future.  And possibly mine, because I'm kinda hoping at least one of these kids of ours will support us in our old age.

The conversation:

Bug: How long do I put the pizza in the microwave?

Me: You don't put pizza in the microwave. The crust gets all tough.

Bug: But I don't like it cold.

Me: You can't go to college if you don't like cold pizza.

Bug: Then I won't go to college.


You'd think they'd sell fewer Christmas trees in the rain. But eventually you just have to give up and go get it because I'm not sure they deliver them. (Although, come to think of it, actually, they do. My cousin ordered one from somewhere like Maine and they delivered it to her in Florida.) I know we shouldn't complain about our rain, because we don't have ice or snow, but we've had both warm and rainy and cold and rainy and, really, neither is good for the Christmas Spirit.

Our tree is sitting in the garage, dripping dry a bit. We considered a hair dryer (probably not a great plan) and we considered the leaf blower (possible, but it seemed like work) and we went with drip drying. Maybe we can bring it in soon. We hope there will be time tonight to decorate it.  The remodeling of our house changed our Christmas tree location this year. I hope it works without being in everyone's way.

Last weekend we had a respite from the dampness and we did some yard cleanup. The leaves can still be mowed into mulch, even when wet. I put pine straw all around my new Swiss Chard plants, pansies and parsley. It looks pretty good.

We ate one meal of chard already. A bug crawled (spun?) to the top of the salad spinner, so I let the dizzy thing out. Then Pook peeked in the pan to see what was cooking and announced that there was another desperate bug. We let that one out too. So, no bugs were killed in the making of our meal. (Although later Pook did discretely mention a crunch he'd encountered. He didn't want Bug to know. Good kid. When I was their age I turned down a lot of garden grown meals because of the "extra protein" crawling around in it.)  

While we were doing yard work last weekend, the boys decided we should decorate an outdoor evergreen of the Christmasish shape. Pook hauled two long extension cords around to get power to the area. They checked all the bulbs for the non-working ones. Then they got a ladder. At that point CD and I abandoned our attempts at working to participate (and keep them from killing themselves). It isn't easy to lean a ladder on a slope in the mud up to an angled tree side. Eventually CD strung the lights and the boys lobbed dollar-store ornaments at it. It looked great. For one day.

The next day only the bottom strand of lights would light. Mind you, they're all attached and plugged in as one.  We still have no idea why it isn't working-- because it has rained every day since, and neither adult in this house is really eager to explore this electrical problem in the rain. So, the lights are off. Hopefully it will stop raining before Christmas.

The chances of me blogging again before the holidays is not great, so let me wish everyone a wonderful Celebration that you Celebrate, if you haven't already celebrated it. And a Happy New Year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

those dreaded words

"I'm sorry, but we can no longer meet the needs of your child."

This is why I teach special needs children.  These words guide me. I hate that any parent has to hear them ever. I want to stop them from being used. I want all children to be in a learning environment which can adapt to their needs, even if those needs end up being pretty great.

I am good at what I do. But even being good does not make me able to do everything for everyone. And today a parent got those words. "I'm sorry, but we can no longer meet the needs of your child."  Unless the parents can find someone to shadow him, full time, he can't come back to the school.

The director is making the right decision under the circumstances. He can't cope without full time assistance. It isn't good for him. It isn't good for the teachers. It isn't good for the other kids in the classroom.

He's a Jack In The Box. But no one ever knows how long the music will play before they get startled by the puppet jumping out. And this puppet alternates between non-cooperation, physical tantrums, verbal outbursts and hurting other kids.

The mom asked if she could hire me. I'm flattered, but no. I would be in my old position if I wanted to work five days a week with one child. I can't do that to my family and I can't do that to me. I don't want that many hours, and besides, it really doesn't suit me. I get tired and frustrated with a child if I spend that much time with them. It becomes more like parenting, and my kids know that tired and frustrated mom all too well.

I've been trying to spend half my time with him, on the two days I work. There are other kids in the same classroom who also need my attention. Other teachers in the building ask me to come make observations and teaching suggestions for them. I feel like I have a good balance right now.  But it wasn't enough for him.

I'm feeling sad as well as feeling some failure. His classroom teacher feels some relief and also some failure. Our director is disappointed. Other parents of kids in the class will probably be relieved. The kids won't miss him and may even thrive without his presence.  But his parents are surely feeling a lot more.

They are up a creek here. They both work and will need to use their Thanksgiving to search for either a shadow or another program placement. I'm not optimistic that they can find either. They haven't been ready to admit to his disability. They have a long way to go, quickly.

Friday, November 15, 2013

a little of this, a little of that

I feel like I need to catch up here.

  • The kids are outgrowing clothes. Pook hasn't put away the shorts but has worn long pants all this week. If he hadn't, I think the school might have turned me in. We had lows in the 20's. I went to a nearby thrift shop and bought him six pairs of pants for about $20. Glad the kid doesn't care about brands. Or, for that matter, doesn't care what he wears.
  • The garden has frozen. The leaves still look wonderful however. I'm looking around for things that need help next spring. I must get better at cutting back fall bloomers so they don't get too leggy.
  • I cooked teriyaki chicken with fresh baby carrots the other day and it turned out great. Last night we had some fresh spinach and everyone moaned with joy. (It had butter and Parmesan cheese on it.) We had about twelve leaves of swiss chard from our own yard. While I feel grateful that I have a family who likes food and all my cooking, Pook did surprise me by saying that "what really matters to me is just that it has calories." See #1, above.
  • I sort of stole a four foot basil plant from Bug's old school. The cold was already predicted and the plant looked so neglected that I couldn't help myself. I made enough pesto to fill two ice cube trays. I didn't have many pine nuts so I tried pumpkin seeds and it turned out great. Much cheaper. Stolen basil is already pretty cheap however.
  • The Halloween candy is gone; banana Laffy Taffy was the final sweet in the bowl. Bug doesn't like them, but ate one because "well, it was candy." I, on the other hand, am a candy snob.
  • The Paid Job is good. I don't have a well defined job description, no idea what sort of title best describes me, and I forget to pick up my little paychecks since I don't always work the day they get distributed. I come home exhausted, but I really like what I'm doing. I have a nice blend of shadowing a couple of kids who need support and doing observations in other classes when teachers request it. I think I'm useful.
  • Someone told me that the holidays "were upon us." I went into Starbucks and then Kroger one evening last week and discovered that Christmas had thrown up all over them both. Poor Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

gallons for ghosts

While CD and I were in Asheville for our anniversary getaway, we took a culinary tour of the city.  We visited 6 different eating spots and had food and/or drinks at each. All were great, but the sangria we were given at one was just spectacular. My comparison is pretty weak-- I tend to refer to leftover red wine mixed with orange juice and a splash of bottled lemon juice as sangria.  The one we had was very hearty. I'd decrease the spices a lot to have it in the summer. This reminded me more of a mulled wine and was lovely on a cold evening.  Our tour guide said to email her for the recipe if we wanted it, so I did.

In return I received the recipe for five gallons of sangria.

I suppose I could host a big party, but most people I know would choose beer or wine and then I'd be left with 4 3/4 gallons of sangria.  Instead I hit up google for help. Did you know there are lots of recipe converters out there? I could swap from liters to cups and also decrease the recipe down to a single gallon. We might need to go even smaller, but if I'm buying all that booze I'd need a use for it!

Just in case you want to make sangria for everyone you know, or if you want to put it out for the parents of Trick or Treaters (you'd be very popular!) here is the handy dandy recipe.

Sangria, 5 gallons

1.5 liters white wine

1.5 liters red wine

0.5 liters dry sherry

0.5 liters port

0.375 liters brandy

3 c. simple syrup

4 c. orange juice

1 c. lemon juice

1 c. lime juice

1 cup chopped ginger

5 broken up cinnamon sticks

1/8 cup anise

2 Tbs cloves

2 each chopped: orange, lemon, lime

4-6 cups ginger ale or ginger beer to taste

If you think this looks as tasty as I thought it was, and if you were thinking of having me over, you could use the scaled recipe, here. I'm not sure if we could polish off even the smaller quantity without inviting more guests, but the more the merrier.

Sangria, 1 gallon

* Recipe rounded to nearest cooking fraction

1 1/3 cups white wine (1/3 liters)

1 1/3 cups red wine 

½ cup dry sherry (1/8 liter)

½ cup port

½ cup brandy

2/3 c. simple syrup (1/2 sugar, 1/2 water)

3/4 c. orange juice

1/4 c. lemon juice

1/4 c. lime juice

1/4 cup chopped ginger

1 broken up cinnamon stick

2 Tbs anise

1 tsp cloves

1/3 each chopped: orange, lemon, lime

1 cup ginger ale or ginger beer to taste

Monday, October 28, 2013

photography 101

This past weekend CD and I took off for Asheville, North Carolina, for a weekend away to celebrate our 15th anniversary. One of the items on our agenda was a visit to the Arboretum.  The color of trees in Atlanta isn't notable yet, but Asheville was already putting on a show.  Friday night they had their first heavy frost and we visited the next morning before the day had warmed up. It was crisp and beautiful (and warm in the sun!)  We took the good camera to play with it. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

The Arboretum was having a Lego exhibit on display. We took photos and knew the boys would love them. My favorites:

Friday, October 25, 2013

better luck next year

The goal is one eighth teaspoon of saffron threads.  One eighth teaspoon! I thought that would be easy, having planted 20 of the precious crocus bulbs.

After a long time worrying that my bulbs had rotted or been eaten since they hadn't shown their faces, I finally found one crocus thinking about blooming.  Then it rained, hard. I found two little red threads on the ground under the shriveled flower. I kept those darn threads though. I don't know if they'll still have flavor, but I've got them.

A week later, bloom number two showed up. There are four more sprouting, so I'll keep checking. I harvested three threads and added them to the paper towel "pile."  The next day I could barely see them. The little suckers had shrunk! If I have to keep them around for a year or two until I have enough saffron to use to cook, so be it.  Giving vials of saffron as gifts however, ain't gonna happen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

shooting for the stars

We've hit that stage I was warned about for so many years: "Two boys? Better get a second refrigerator!"  Pook, while still eating at the pace of a sloth, is now going in for seconds regularly and thirds sometimes. He's put on almost four inches since May.

I bought him a bunch of long pants a month before the warm weather came last spring but I suspect none of them will fit. I don't see much change in his waist, so I also suspect it will be very hard to find anything to fit him until he eats thirds more regularly and fills out a bit.

I told him he could wear shorts all winter, then the length of pants won't matter this year.  He's never cold, so he might just do it. We've had a few mornings as low as fifty degrees already but he hasn't decided against wearing shorts yet.

This morning I went for a lesson on giving tours of the middle school. Although they want us to take parents to the library, which is on the eighth grade floor, they want us to spend most of our time around the sixth graders. The reason made me laugh: they don't want to let the size of the eighth grade boys intimidate the parents who are still thinking about their fifth graders as little kids.

This is not to say that Bug hasn't grown. He usually puts a good three inches on each year and stands a good head above most of his friends. For him though, its the feet. Maybe Pook will have his feet grow soon, but right now the boys wear the same size shoe (7.5 for both my 9 and 12 year olds, if anyone cares.)

I've decided that the perk of all this is that as they outgrow clothes before wearing out clothes, I will try the best ones on and see if I want to keep them for me!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

useful and flexible, that's me

I'm working!-- no, I've always been working-- I'm employed again and that is why I've been a bit scarce around here.

The Paid Job didn't extend into a second year because I wanted to work fewer days than they wanted me. I can squeeze in two, maybe three days away from home but more than that and our homelife would suffer. Last (school) year I stayed home and as the year went on I added enough PTA/school activities to be busy and useful. Sometimes too busy.

I kept my ear to the ground and one day a lead led to where I am now. I'm at a very nearby church preschool in a make-up-the-job-as-we-go position serving, basically, as the whole special education department. The plan is for me to help teachers identify kids and to make adaptations for them-- both for the child and the teacher.

I'm trying to be useful and flexible. Useful because they can barely afford me. I asked for a salary they agree that I deserve but that they're struggling to give me. It makes me feel concerned that I need to prove my worth.  Flexible because we're making this up.

To some parents I'm a gift- "wow! extra help for my kid for the same price!" But for others, I think I'm a threat- "Is she in the room because of my kid? There's nothing wrong with my kid!"  And since these aren't legally defined special needs kids, we've got to be careful.

I'd assume in a school of about 150 that a dozen or so will have some type of special need. Some may grow out of it and never have an official diagnosis, but some will begin to show more learning problems as they go. I'm hoping to identify both types of children. In my opinion, the diagnosis is really unnecessary unless the parent is using it to receive public services. The adaptations used to teach the child matter much more. If I can provide those now, before any diagnosis is ever acquired, I'm giving them a head start.

So, its been fun, but tiring. Just leaning over tables which are slightly too low to serve as comfortable adult chairs makes my back tired. (A doctor once told me to teach taller kids if I didn't want back pain.) Then there's trying to anticipate when darling little Joey will decide to pick dirt up off the floor and carefully attempt to insert it into someone's eye. Yes, today. Truly no dull moments in this one particular classroom. It feels like a game of Whack-a-Mole. The teachers are extremely competent, but there are multiple moles in the same class.

I originally thought that going back to work at The Paid Job would be great for blog fodder but I've decided that the chance of falling into a legal hole is too high. Even with names changed to protect the innocent moles, I'm uncomfortable. But yeah, they are funny.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

bits and pieces

The eye doctor appointment did indeed lead to glasses for Bug. He picked out frames over the weekend, put them on an hour later, and hasn't taken them off since. He wore them in a baseball game to pitch two innings and at school for picture day Monday. After school he said to me, "I may be like Pook and wear them all the time. I mean, I can, like, see stuff!"  The frames are very modern and somewhat bold, but he knew as soon as he put them on that he liked them best. My job then was to back away and say OK. I'm not used to seeing him in them yet, but in another week he'll look familiar again.

* * * * *

We paid for cable. We upped our cable bill from "technically your service comes from a cable but no, you don't receive any channels which are worth charging you extra to receive" to getting channels showing baseball. We set ourselves up for an October of Braves Baseball! Maybe we'll invite over friends! We can have a playoff party!  When the Braves play the World Series we'll... we'll... Sigh. Over before it could start. We'll probably keep the cable long enough to watch anyway.

* * * * *

Pook has been wanting to understand the news he hears on the radio.  This seems all good and well until you try to explain it. I told  him that some people don't believe that anything but black or white are ok. If black is right then white is wrong. If white is good then black is bad. All gray is compromising your values and not to be considered at all. "Well that seems dumb" was his first response. And actually quite the fitting response to much of what has been going on in Washington. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

eye see you

I’m procrastinating in taking Bug to get an eye check.

CD has had thick glasses since the beginning of time and I've had perfect eyes until I… um, got old.  Humbly, I admit I have prided myself on having good eyesight and having attractive eyes.  When we decided to have kids, we made a deal.  CD would give any future children his hair (thick, blond and curly whereas mine is thin, mousey and straight) and I’d give them my eyes.

Well, Pook came out with straight auburn hair and then got glasses at age 7. Fail on both our parts. We admitted it and moved on. His hair is pretty awesome anyway and his eyes, although hidden behind glasses, are a lovely pale blue. I remember looking down at him when I fed him as an infant and noticing that every eyelash was a different color.  I was sad when he needed glasses.  But, he looks like his daddy in glasses and well, I like the way his dad looks, so its all ok.  Maybe he'll try contacts someday.

Bug got my boring hair but hasn’t YET needed glasses. Recently he mentioned that it was hard to see the writing at the front of the classroom.  So now I’m worried that he might need them. But I don’t want to put those darling baby blues behind glass. And I haven’t made the appointment I think he needs.  If he gets glasses then we’ll have both failed on both hair and eyes with both children and I’ll be so disappointed!

The upside would be that he'd be able to, you know, see.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

me gustaría un poco de vino por favor

No, I don't really need any wine right now, thanks. It's only 9:45 am at the moment. This is my pride sentence however. The first I've learned in my new Plan to Learn Spanish in Ten Minutes a Day.

Pook qualified to enroll in a seventh grade Spanish class this year. Bug's new Magnet school teaches everyone German.  I decided I'd learn along with them.* Every night at dinner I ask the boys what they've learned but we just aren't getting anywhere. They seem to learn either "I dunno" or "how to count" and that's about it.  They are not proving to be qualified teachers for me.

CD found out about this program via this article. Memrise assumes that you can spend as much time learning a language as you do checking into FB.  Sure! I can do this!  I'm encouraging him to learn German to please Bug; he already learned some Spanish when he was in school. Neither kid is learning French, which I studied.

The program hooked me pretty quickly. My first sentence, read, written, spoken and understood, could bring me a glass of wine! If it weren't 9:45.

*I said this about baseball too. When they were tots I thought I could learn how to throw and catch and play ball along side them.  Let's just say, it didn't work.

I kind of also said this about piano. I knew a bit and thought I'd get better as they got better. That hasn't happened either.

Me gustaría un poco de vino por favor!

Monday, September 2, 2013

he gets it

We decided to spend part of our Labor Day weekend visiting Stone Mountain Park. I was feeling a desperate need to use our membership passes at least one more time before expiration, and last time we'd attended the ropes course had been closed. This time we planned to do the ropes course and stay long enough for the nighttime laser show.  We had chairs, bug spray and dinner packed and in the car. 

"Prepare yourself for being in crowds guys. The lines could be really miserable."

We headed in, taking a parking spot near an exit, anticipating the departure to be just as tough as the rest.

Splitting up, we managed to get one to the bathroom and a spot in line reserved. When we were all gathered again, we noticed the "You are 1 hour from your turn" sign approaching.  Yikes. I smiled at the man behind me, on his own with three children under seven. They all had duck quacking noisemakers in their mouths. "You may be regretting those duck quackers on the ride home!" I laughed.

Oh holy duck quackers! Ten minutes of that noise was all I needed before I felt my jaw tighten up.  I forced a smile and remembered how bored the kids must feel.  Deep breath. 

I looked at my boys. Half an hour in line now and still not a complaint. Why was I so lucky?

The dad was beginning to regret his purchase too.  "Stop it. Don't bump your sister. Be quiet. Stop that now. Be quieter."  I cringed as his tired voice began to criticize their not really bad behaviors.

Then it got worse. "If you do that again, we'll have to leave.  Stop that or I'll take it away. Stop it. Stop it now or we'll leave."

I caught CD's eye.  He and I think alike when we hear that sort of tired, ineffective parenting. But then something unexpected happened.  "He just needs to really do it, not just say it," whispered Pook.  CD and I looked at each other again.  "He gets it!" All those years of following through, no matter how unpleasant it became. It pays off. Our baby is growing up.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

magnet student

Bug is attending a "Magnet School for High Achievers" this year.  He wrote this story after his first day.

Magnet School

On my first day of school at KMS I got to my classroom. Then, we went to the Transmogrifier Room. we waited and waited and finally , an elegantly built machine came into view. It was sleek and shiny, painted red, and had buttons and dials all over it. as we neared the front of the line I noticed that it had a hatch with a window. Through the window I saw a student, then there was a flash of light and I couldn’t see him anymore. It must have been the transmogrifier! What were they turning us into? Soon, the hatch was opened and I stepped in. I then saw another hatch on the other side of the machine. That’s where the others must have gone! suddenly there was a flash of light. I looked down at my new body. I still had arms and legs, but I had turned into-what else, a horseshoe magnet!

He still has the goal of being a "best selling author" for his career. I think the plan is to pair that with also being an elementary school librarian. The "media center specialist" (librarian) at his former school had a huge influence on him. He has tried to email her this story but we're not sure if she'll check her school email address now that she has retired.

I hope the librarian (media center specialist) at his new school appreciates my little magnet.

Friday, August 16, 2013

my prince

"The little boy started to fade, just like we left him in the sun too long. … He had been a ragamuffin, hurled into space by the seat of his pants. Suddenly, he shopped for shirts, and worried about his hair. He got too heavy to throw. ... He turned twelve, then thirteen, and then the little boy just disappeared.
Just when you start to get used to it, to not minding it so much, it all vanishes, and the little boy you launched in the air stands at your shoulders like a man, and when you turn to say something you find yourself looking right into his eyes.
He is not helpless, not needy.
He is everything I rushed him to be."

Does that make your heart hurt or what? Yeesh!

The Prince of Frogtown is a memoir inspired by Rick Bragg’s relationship with his ten-year-old stepson as well as of his father (who left the family when Rick was still very young.)

My firstborn has started seventh grade. He has less than one more year before we begin to call him a teen. Right now he's still a young boy. He's still innocent and naive and I like it that way. I think the decision to start him in kindergarten as a "young five" is showing now. Academically he's always been where he belongs. Socially and emotionally I see the differences between him and his peers more now than ever. But I see them in a way that makes me grateful, not sorry we sent him on.

I was sorting photos on Picassa, which tries to label people. I got distracted by the hundreds of pictures of the boys and browsed through them, pulling out pictures labeled as them which were not them. As I looked through the pictures of Bug I saw how his face has changed over the years. Nevertheless, they all look just like him.  Pook, not so much. None of the older pictures looked like him. Instead, they all looked like little kids. I realized that I can't remember Pook ever being a little kid. He is so grown up. He has always been so grown up.

He does things no child of mine has ever done.

"He is everything I rushed him to be."  I need to slow things down. I want to appreciate him now as the young boy he is. I want to enjoy his silliness as much as I'm awed by his insights. I want to notice that he is little. He will always break new ground around here, but I need to hang on to his childhood before it slips away.

Monday, August 12, 2013

back to school quiet

It is quiet here.

Pook and Bug are off to fourth grade and seventh grade, respectively. I hope all is well. Hopefully I'll hear a little about their days this afternoon. Hopefully.

Yes, bed making resumed along with school.

Floor cleaning was not required, fortunately.

Friday, August 2, 2013

cereal pantry

This is an interpretation of the cereal aisle, or in some cases how the cereal aisle should be, according to Pook and Bug. 

  • Unspecial K       ("Breakfast for the rest of us!")
  • Hi-Caffeinated Fructose Flakes
  • Corn-syrup Krispies
  • Sugarless Grain Puffs
  • Count Drabula
  • Soggy Lumps O'Fiber
  • Crazy Carbohydrate Calorie Crunchies
  • Captain Mush
  •  Hi-fiber Flax Flakes
  • Sugar Frosted Chocolate Bombs
  • Cardboard Clusters
  • Floppy Flakes
  • Carbonated Sugar Pops
  • Sauseating Nutty Nougats
  • Bland Bombs
  • Mustard Frosted Weat Squares
  • Garlic Puffs
  • Honey Bunches of Goat
  • Red Pepper Flakes
And I told them that these two might actually sell:
  • Coffee Crispies
  • Cappuccino Clusters

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Or, this could be titled, "needs practice."

I dropped Pook and his friend off for two free games of bowling. Dropped. Them. Off.  This is a huge milestone for me, but my friends who also have biggish kids aren't impressed. I need someone with a whiny seven year old to really appreciate this. I learned today, as summer is nearing its end, that kids could register to get two free games of bowling daily this summer.  We will be back.

And we need to go back, because my usually dawdling child did not quite get the point of the whole thing. Their goal is to spend as much time enjoying free and air conditioned play away from home as is possible. My goal is to get things done while not having bored kids. Perfect for us all.

Except, after dropping them off, I filled up the tank with gas and came home. The place was about a mile from here, so no big deal. I pulled out some things I need to do, started, then answered the phone.

"OK, we're ready."


"We're done. We're ready for you to come get us."

"But... it's only been 30 minutes."

"Oh. Well, we're ready."

So I drove back.  But we reviewed the concept so that we can try this again, perhaps with more friends next time.

  1. free
  2. air conditioned
  3. play with friends
  4. away from home
  5. as long as possible
Some things just need practice.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

half a world away and another world here

I've let my baby fly half a world (or at least most of a continent) away from me. He is on a Road Scholar  (formerly called Elderhostel) program with my parents. Sunday morning they flew to Seattle and made their way to the San Juan Islands. Yesterday he attended a whale program and "met four new friends". Today he will go whale watching.  Later they'll head to a cabin on Mount Rainer and visit Mount Saint Helens.  I'm excited for him, but missing him a ton. Things are just a bit... quiet around here without him. Pook is feeling it too, as much as Bug annoys him.

Pook was given the option of attending a camp this week, but chose instead to go on field trips with me. We spent a day in downtown Atlanta visiting the Martin Luther King Center and seeing his childhood home, then heading to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library which is only a mile or so away. I'm impressed at the choices of field trips. Tomorrow we're going to the High Museum (art museum) and he wants to get to the Atlanta History Center too.  I'm not sure if these things would entertain Bug or not. Certainly not for the length of time Pook can spend visiting them.

We took a break between the more educational trips to get a few things done today. One of them, a drive to the DeKalb Farmer's Market, was lots of fun. The place sells all sorts of international produce. The employees wear nametags which list the languages they speak. They sell everything!

The kitchen plans had originally included a spice shelf inside the pantry drawer. When it failed to show up we decided to skip it. It took a while for me to come up with an alternate plan, but when I did I also decided to throw out all the old spices and refresh them. The farmer's market has bulk spices at incredible prices, so out we went.  Of course we had to get a few other things too- chocolate croissants, smoked Gouda cheese, a rice pilaf mix they carry, and a dragon fruit.

Why a dragon fruit? Well, one of my habits when I get to that market is to buy something I've never had before. This fit the bill! I found a video online which explains how to eat it (like a kiwi) and when it is ripe. Tonight it will serve as dessert. Hope we like it!

I can't wait to talk to Bug on the phone to hear all about his trip. Pook and I are enjoying our own adventures, but whale watching isn't among them!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


No, I don't think the kitchen will ever be done. There are still a few shelves missing and details to get corrected. But, it looks done.  And so, I have taken AFTER photos.

To review, this is the old kitchen:

The refrigerator stuck out in an ugly and annoying way, and, with the counter sticking out also, it caused a traffic jam any time two people wanted to be in the space.

The oven was tiny and temperamental, the cabinets were worn out, the tile countertop was annoying.

We already had a deep garden window which we liked, and hardwood floors which we liked. The refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave were all reasonably new.

So, now the great reveal:

 The design is very simple now. There are five feet between sides, so I'm not sure if "galley kitchen" applies or not. Regardless, it has streamlined everything.

The counters are manufactured quartz and the back walls have subway tiles. The last cupboard before the doorway to the den/piano room has no glass. We've put cookbooks here and filled the drawers with office supplies.

We liked having dishes visible, but instead of leaving doors off, we put glass doors on most of the upper cabinets. Bug and I chose a wavy glass to obscure fingerprints. 

Since the cupboards come closer to the breakfast nook now, we couldn't fit our rectangular table. We looked around an antique row near us and came home with a new round table. I hope I don't regret getting the glass tabletop. We have a lot of glass to keep clean suddenly. We thought we'd replace the chairs too, but now I'm not sure we need to. They'd need a fresh coat of paint if we keep them however.

So, done-ish. Our contractor has one payment still to receive, so I'm optimistic that things will tie up eventually. I suspect this is typical of renovations. But meanwhile it is functional and beautiful!

Monday, July 15, 2013

cooking blog time

Before CD and I married we both cooked. We both worked full time and, for fun, we'd shop and cook elaborate meals together. We experimented with Indian curries, Thai dishes, a great from scratch gumbo and other fun projects.  Since then life has given us two kids. I stay home now and CD works. And I make dinners. (He gets full credit for making great breakfasts.)  I've always had this idea that we'd take up fancy cooking projects again after the kids left. I pictured us replicating cooking shows together on weekends.

But now that our kitchen is more cooking friendly, (I think the last drawer is going in today, therefore making this place still unfinished but photo ready finally) it is more practical to cook together again. Yesterday CD suggested we make the homemade pasta recipe I'd been discussing. I jumped at the chance!

From the PBS show America's Test Kitchen comes Homemade Pasta with No Fuss (named by me).

Begin by separating five eggs, saving the yolks for the pasta and keeping the whites around because you can't think why you would throw out perfectly good egg whites. In a week you can toss them out with no guilt. Add to them two full eggs.

Spin 2 cups of all purpose flour in the food processor. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.

Dump in the five yolks and two eggs and give it a whirl for 45 seconds.

Dump the dough out. It should feel soft but not sticky or crumbly. If it is, I can't help you. Go watch tv again. If it feels good, hand knead it a tiny bit to get it all in one lump.

Form it into a six inch log. Then walk away and let it rest for four hours. Feel free to nap.

Now, go upstairs to the last unpacked kitchen box and dig under the vases which used to be wrapped in bubble wrap but are no longer wrapped at all, and under the lunchboxes and in the same place as some utensils you might sell or give away. Yes, there! Get the rolling pin.

Cut the dough into six equalish pieces. Form the first one into a 3" square and dust it with flour. Dust the clean counter with flour and the rolling pin too. Toss some on the nice new hardwoods just cause you know it will be there soon anyway. The kids are now interested in the goings on and the cooking date with your husband has become a family affair. Roll with it.  (Ha!) Roll the 3" square into a 6" square. Pick it up and dust it with flour anytime you want to make sure it doesn't begin to stick to any surface.Remember that this used to be a tile countertop and nothing could be rolled on it. Smile!

Your goal is 6"x20". The kids each rolled one and they all ended up the same thickness but not the same length.

The pasta should be thin enough to see through slightly but not so thin it rips. This wasn't a problem for us at all. Lay them on a towel to dry for 15 minutes.

This should be plenty of time to start a simple sauce with olive oil, garlic, basil and cherry tomatoes. It should also be plenty of time for your kids to set the table and pour drinks. Maybe.

Fold the sheets of pasta into a 2" roll and slice to your desired width. We made a pretty standard looking fettuccine. Shake them out a bit so they don't stay stuck to themselves. At this step I think you could pause in your pasta making if you wanted to do this for guests.

The noodles boil for three minutes. After draining, we tossed them in the sauce.

The result was incredibly tender pasta. We tried to eat slowly to savor each bite, but it was really good!  We had this as our whole dinner and we had one serving leftover. I'd say that in general it makes six servings.

bon appetit!

Friday, July 5, 2013

More Adventures of Pook and Bug

Pook and Bug Go to their Nation's Capital, continued

Chapter Five:
It is museum day for Pook and Bug (and family). Today we visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Since the Washington Monument is closed for earthquake repair, we climb/rise in an elevator to the top of the Old Post Office bell tower for excellent views.

Pook and Bug (and family) end their day by visiting the National Archives. No photos are allowed, although the Constitution and other old documents are sadly faded and unreadable anyway. We are now very tired and hungry and a storm is brewing.

We get stuck walking back to the rental because the mean mom of Pook and Bug thinks that all the biking without helmets is bad enough, but biking during a thunderstorm is too much.

Chapter Six:
Today is the day that Pook and Bug meet their government. We bike to the Capital and take a very comprehensive tour. Outside I catch the eye of Henry Louis Gates during some filming.

We followed the underground tunnel to the Library of Congress, not on our original To Do list, but well worth the time.

The Supreme Court impressed all of us, not just Pook and Bug. The free public lecture takes place right in front of the nine justices' chairs.  It is the day after the DOMA decision, despite the fact that neither CD nor I have heard or read any news for a week and have no idea what has been going on. We learn after the fact.

Popular advice is to eat a meal at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. The advice is good. I want to find the recipe for the wild rice salad. We head out of town to go visit friends.

Chapter Seven:
Our friend Laura and her son join Pook and Bug (and family) and take a train back into town to see the Smithsonian American History Museum. Bug is fascinated by the story of the Greensboro Woolworth's Lunch Counter. We hear a dramatic retelling of the experience.

Apparently I am shallow. I like Kermie.

Pook wears us all out. Another storm prevents us from going to see the Hirshorn Sculpture Gardens, but really we would have collapsed.

Chapter Eight:
The Udvar-Hazy annex of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is near Laura's home. Wisely, she drops us off. The place is one gigantic hangar. It makes this Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery look small. I enter into a four way text conversation between relatives in Nebraska, Oregon and North Carolina about the family member who was a pilot. I am interested to know if we are looking at planes he commonly flew in the Air Force or for Pan Am.

We take a two hour tour of the "highlights." Pook is inexhaustible. Bug and I sit for a bit.

Chapter Nine:
The eleven hour drive up felt short in comparison to the drive home. Pook and Bug (and family) are ready to rest from their vacation.

The End

We are so thankful for our friends who hosted us and made this trip possible (and more fun!). We are grateful that they have teenage sons who were interested in joining them (and Pook and Bug and family) for parts of our tour. I am happy that Pook and Bug enjoy learning about history and can sometimes teach me new things.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Adventures of Pook and Bug

Pook and Bug Go to their Nation's Capital

Let's let this be a picture book:

Chapter One:
Pook and Bug (and CD and I, along with our friend Mike and one of his sons) go to Mount Vernon. We see George Washington's home and grounds.

We spend the afternoon in Old Towne Alexandria. It is hot but we have ice cream and all is well.

Chapter Two:
Pook and Bug (and family) visit Arlington National Cemetery in the rain. It feels appropriate somehow and not unpleasant. The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier(s) is very moving.  One of the soldiers has been identified and moved from the tomb.

In the afternoon we drive to Maryland to say we've been in Maryland to have some crab and see Annapolis. Annapolis is wonderful until we get a parking ticket. We should have splurged with an extra quarter in the parking meter.

Chapter Three:
We head downtown to our rental unit. We never took a picture of it, but it was one floor of a wonderful brownstone on a beautiful street in Capital Hill. Pook and Bug (and family) spend most of the day in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Chapter Four:
Pook and Bug (and family) take advantage of the Capital Bikeshare program and rent bikes. We take a massive tour of all the monuments. We choose a day unlikely to have rain, but horridly hot. Yes we are from Georgia, but no, we don't bike around in the hot sun.

Pook and Bug (and family) start at the White House. We were unable to take a tour of it because of the sequester. We were unable to get up close because of 9/11. From a distance it looks a lot like it does on TV.

Pook and Bug (and family) hop on our bikes and bike to see the Einstein Memorial. It is a bit hidden away and I'm so glad I knew about it to go see it. The boys climb up and sit on him. They are about the height of his papers.
From there we bike to see Lincoln, who is just as majestic as expected.

Pook and Bug (and family) walk to see the Vietnam War Memorial. The list of names is overwhelming. Veterans are there to tell about the memorial. Everywhere we went in the city there were volunteers helping out. We counted on them for advice on finding lunches, choosing events and sights and explaining things to us.

There was a tour group of Korean War veterans visiting the War Memorial while we visited it too. I choked up while watching a man with his son and grandson pose for a photo. The memorial is dark stone, reflecting the visitors between images of soldiers. I thought it was beautiful but that this picture of the soldiers was better. 

We continue on bikes to see the Martin Luther King Memorial. It is interesting to see up close. The stone is very speckled; although it looks light from a distance it is made of many colors. I like the way the wedge of stone was brought forward from the larger piece to be carved into his likeness.

Pook and Bug (and family) bike to see Franklin D. Roosevelt. His memorial is a very large series of "rooms" with many quotes of his and lots of fountains. We decided it was inappropriate to bathe in them. But we thought about it.
Thomas Jefferson's Memorial is much further, around the Tidal Basin. The view is wonderful, looking back at the Capital building. We are about to collapse from the heat. We sit inside for a while to recuperate, but eventually head onward. There is more to see and we have to get home either pedaling or walking at this point anyway. I'd say we soldiered on, but we complained a lot more than I think soldiers do.

Eventually Pook and Bug (and family) return to The Mall and the Washington Monument and Scaffolding. We return our bikes for the last time and take the subway back to our rental.

Four cool showers later we are ready to cook dinner. Preparing our own food felt much easier than walking anywhere to find dinner. We thank the Amish family at the Eastern Market for finding some garlic for us. Homemade ravioli, butter, garlic and green beans worked to make a perfect, simple meal.

This story is getting long, so it will have to continue another day.
Pook and Bug say Goodnight.