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.