Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leap of Faith

I did it- I ordered tickets for Romeo and Juliet at The Globe. I was able to find some seats without an "obstructed view" at the mid-range ticket price so there's a little savings in case we can't go. Once I booked the tickets I noticed a link to The Swan, a restaurant apparently located on the theater grounds, so I'm going to make reservations for lunch there. It should be a lovely day with my daughter!

What To Do, What To Do?

Oh, this is awful! I don't know how to proceed with our vacation plans at this point. I am agonizing over things like buying tickets to a show. We want to see Romeo & Juliet at The Globe so I sent them an e-mail asking if they will give refunds if we can't make it due to travel restrictions. They said NO, and furthermore they anticipate the show will sell out so if we wait to buy tickets at the door we may not get to see it at all. The Eldest especially wants to see a show there, but it's almost $100.00 for tickets that we'll throw away if we can't travel.

A 23 month old Mexican toddler died in a hospital here in the U.S., the first death in our country. It's just so sad.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Will We Be Able To Go???

Or will Swine Flu cancel the vacation I've dreamed of my entire life? Or will we get over there and not be able to do anything because all of the museums, theaters, etc. are shut down? Or will we get over there and have to come back if someone in our family catches it? Or will we get over there and have trouble getting home because of flight cancellations? Or will WE catch it? I'm on tenterhooks (I had to google that phrase) waiting to find out what's going to happen with all of this.

I'm also kicking myself mentally for not scheduling us to leave TODAY, which is one of the dates I looked at. Why? Why did I delay? We'd be on our way already and possibly get this in under the wire of whatever is going to happen with this flu. Who would have thought this would be an issue, anyway? It's April- flu season is supposed to be over already. :(

OK, OK, enough with the whining. I feel terrible for the people who have caught this already, especially for those who have died and their loved ones. I'm also worried for the people who are going to catch it in the future, and for the steps that may have to be taken to control it. We went out to eat yesterday at Sweet Tomatoes and I was looking around wondering how a pandemic would affect restaurants, and then how it would affect our already reeling economy as a whole. Our vacation doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, (plus I bought trip insurance) but if everyone else is canceling vacations too, that's going to have a huge economic impact. Even things like the local P.E. program for homeschoolers my kids go to- that's dependent on the parks being open and people being able to gather, and if that's taken away that's another business that will fail and people on the payroll who will lose their jobs. The implications of this are really scary.

I'm saying my prayers for sure!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Habla Francais?

So I ordered Rosetta Stone French and it arrived a couple of days ago and I'm trying feverishly to absorb as much as I can in the very short number of days before we leave. This is a problem. I took a Spanish course at the local community college a billion years ago and learned that I don't have an aptitude for picking up languages easily. Now I'm trying to do the Rosetta Stone at the same time The Eldest and her Spanish tutor are throwing Spanish at me, and my brain hurts! I can't absorb all of these new words and keep the Spanish sorted out from the French!!! ACK!

I must say I like the Rosetta Stone so far, though. It was really expensive but I figure it's not just for me since I can use it for curriculum for all three of the kids. The price is just part of our homeschool tuition. ;) I like the approach they use- they don't do word for word translations, rather they show you pictures then say the French word or phrase that goes with it and build from there. They use several different variations for the way they show the pictures and have you match the vocabulary so it mixes things up nicely. It's a far cry from the $20.00 French CD I picked up at the bookstore. Why I bothered I don't know; I am NOT an auditory learner so I should have figured the CD wouldn't work.

I should be working on the Rosetta Stone now but I needed a break for a few minutes. I may not post much for a while as we are nearing the finish line for our travel preparations and things are crazy-hectic, but we'll be taking a lap top with us so we're hoping to update on the road. :)

PS: Melinda- I am so flattered by your recent post about moms! Thank you, and I'll give it more attention when things calm down. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Do you celebrate the day or do you ignore it? I think Earth Day is a wonderful holiday and I'm making efforts to elevate it to the status of the 4th of July or at least Halloween around my house. Since holidays usually have special foods attached to them I've decided we will eat vegetarian for the day, to start with. (Well I try; The Youngest ate leftover chicken tenders earlier, but eating leftovers reduces waste so I guess that can fit the theme!) We also make Earth Day Resolutions, similar to New Year's Resolutions only green. A few years ago, before it really caught on, I made a resolution to use canvas bags at the grocery. I was the only one at the time- the store employees where I shop started calling me The Bag Lady. Now everyone does it; I started a fad! ;) (Yes, I know I didn't start it, but I jumped on the bandwagon a lot earlier than most.) I'm so glad it's hip now, no matter who got it started.

Last year, hmmm, I just remembered- my resolution was to take shorter showers. Major fail on that one, but it's hard. It's heat therapy for me and soothes the fibromyalgia. Guess I need to make two resolutions this year to make up for it! I'm not quite sure what I want to focus on for the upcoming year. I've been trying to eat local but it's challenging around here since this isn't an agricultural area. I buy organic whenever possible and I'm hoping to get some tomatoes from the bush I've planted in our little teeny herb garden. My weight loss has also helped the planet- who knew that could happen? I find I get cold easily now that I'm thinner so we're keeping the thermostat warmer. (I live in a hot climate so warmer for us uses less AC.) DH isn't always happy about that but when he's at work it's toasty in my house! We use fluorescent light bulbs in most of our light fixtures (except for the computer room where it makes the screens go buggy) but that was something DH handled.

OK, OK, I've got it; first resolution- I'm going to try to find more vegetarian meals that my family will enjoy. Oprah had the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" on her show today and he suggested eating vegetarian one day per week. Right now we're eating one meal per week (the Black Bean Cakes- I have to post that recipe now that I have permission!!) so I want to increase that over the upcoming year to at least a full day. He said his family has "Meatless Mondays" and that sounds like a really good idea to me.

Second resolution- prior to Earth Day 2010, get the new energy efficient windows we need for our house. We have the money set aside so now I have to do the leg work to find a contractor and actually have the work done. That's something that will really make a difference in our energy consumption since we have the WORST windows! The gaps are large enough that lizards get in on a regular basis- shudder. It's a one time thing that will make an ongoing difference so I think that's a great second resolution. (And I still need to try to take shorter showers; sigh.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As promised, some pictures from our recent NASA field trip, including a long shot of the rocket we slept under!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tired, Tired, Tired...

I got to sleep (sort of) under a Saturn V rocket last night! It was so cool. The Middle Child and her Girl Scout troop took a field trip to Kennedy Space Center that was totally amazing; if you ever have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.

But I'm too tired to come up with a more coherent post, and there are 2 other people using the internet at our house right now who will squawk if I start uploading pictures, so I'm going to bed. More will follow after I've had some slllleeeeepppp.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some Days Are Like That...

Even in Australia...

Quick, name that book! (I'm quoting a children's favorite.)

So today wasn't the best of days. I've over done things recently and the fibromyalgia is flaring up, to the point that I was shaky earlier in the day. It was hard to get things done and I had a Brownie meeting and soccer practice to deal with. That doesn't sound so bad on the surface, but there's all the cleaning up and preparation for the Brownie meeting (I rarely have time to prep ahead so I'm scrambling on the day of) then the hassle of getting The Youngest dressed and out the door for practice, and if you have a kid in any kind of activity that requires special gear you know what I mean! Theoretically he's supposed to put his soccer shoes, shin guards, and ball in his soccer bag as soon as he gets home from a game or practice. In reality? Doesn't happen. Shoes and shin guards were buried in the pit that is his room and he wasn't so interested in finding them. The consequence was he either found them and could go to practice, or he had to spend the time all the way up until practice was over cleaning his room. This is a child who needs constant supervision and micro-management in order to get him to do ANYTHING, and I'm already running on E, but micro-manage I did. I sat on a little chair in the doorway and pointed to dirty clothes on the floor, a huge component of the mess, that he had to pick up and put in the hamper. As expected, he finally cleaned up enough that the floor was peeking through in spots, and the shoes and shin guards were found. I keep his socks in MY sock drawer so I knew where those were, and he was already wearing shorts and a T-shirt, so we were finally, 20 minutes late, out the door. Blech.

I usually try to take my daily walk while The Youngest practices; I thought it would be best to skip it today! I sat and worked on a menu plan and grocery list for the rest of the week instead, which I won't post this week. (It's all a bunch of repeat stuff anyway, and nothing exciting.) After stopping by the grocery store, we headed home where there is a visiting puppy. The Niece and the friend she drove down with (they arrived this morning) found an abandoned puppy at a rest stop on the way down. She's cute as a button and looks kind of like a lab to me. The Niece says she thinks the puppy is around 2 months old; looks about right, I suppose. The kids are all, of course, head over heels in love with the dog. NO, we can NOT have a dog! I can barely keep up with cleaning up after the lot of them as it is! Plus there's the sleep thing. I have sleep issues with the fibromyalgia; I have a lot of problems when my sleep is interrupted, and a dog will bark and need to go out, among other things, which all has the potential to disrupt sleep. I just can't do it! She's so darn cute, though. Those big puppy eyes, and that lumbering puppy gait...she was chasing things in the back yard today and it was melt your heart adorable. Sigh.

Anyway, this one is going home with The Niece's friend at the end of the week, so it's a moot point! (Whew.) ;)

PS: The quoted children's book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Blog I'm Following

There's a new blog on my "blogs I like" list over there on the right- Collective Inkwell. It's a joint venture by Writer Dad (also on my list) and another blogger he knows and it looks like it's going to be interesting! Per their introduction, it's a creative writing blog. It looks like there will be some participatory stuff going on that should be fun, in addition to writing hints and tips. I'm looking forward to seeing more!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Purple Martins Majesty

Yes, the song says purple mountains majesty, but when I see "our" purple martins soaring and swooping through the sky that's what I think of. These little birds revel in their ability to fly, and I revel in watching them. We have a purple martin house in our backyard and are fortunate enough to have attracted birds the very first season it was up, which I think was three years ago. I have never seen another bird that so obviously loves to fly the way these birds do; they even inspired me to write a haiku:

Purple Martins

Purple Martins fly
Swooping and soaring spring birds
Revel in their flight

They are chatty little things, too. They are very vocal and make the cutest little chirps and chitters. I think they are sharing all the neighborhood gossip; DH says they are bragging about their flying ability. "Did you see that? That was so cool; I was really soaring there; you had to have noticed." We're pretty sure they have babies in the bird house but we hardly ever see them. We caught a few glimpses last season but we think the baby we saw the most was ill or had some kind of birth defect since there was a large growth over one eye. :( I'm guessing that when the babies are old enough to start peeking out at the world they are about ready to fly themselves, and once they start flying they don't come back to the nest. They're usually only here a few months starting in mid-February. I'm happy they're gone before hurricane season starts; that bird house wouldn't make it through a storm. I'm also sad when they leave, though; they are very welcome visitors each year.

PS: I fully acknowledge the silliness of my haiku, but it was fun to write it just the same. ;)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Paris Itinerary

I'm sure I've mentioned the upcoming trip to Europe my daughter and I will be taking for her 16th birthday a couple of times in previous posts. It's my first trip to Europe, the trip I've dreamed of only my ENTIRE life! I'm so excited about it; I've told everyone who will listen that we're going. I've also discussed the trip with a couple of moms from my younger daughter's Girl Scout troop and wow, did they take me in hand! ;) We originally planned only a few days in Paris but they've both been there and said no, no, no, here's what you are doing and you have to stay longer!! Well, they are both very well traveled women and I fully respect their opinions, so I promptly changed our schedule and now Paris, which was originally an afterthought, will be the highlight of the trip. One of the moms, and I will be eternally grateful, even works for a very nice hotel chain and she got me EMPLOYEE RATES for our stay, can you believe it!!! I'm going to owe them both some really great souvenirs.

Here's what they came up with:

Day 1 Arrive in Paris
Day 2 Arc de Triumph
Day 3 Louvre
Day 4 Rodin & Napoleon’s Tomb
Day 5 Modern Museum
Day 6 Notre Dame/Orsey Museum/Opera
Day 7 Eifel Tower/Trocodero & Museum/Statue of Hibut??/
Petit & Grand Palace
Day 8 Montmartre/Sacre Cour
Day 9 Versailles/leave for Barcelona on a late train

NINE days! Nine days in spring in Paris...yes, that sound you hear is a happy sigh.

It's good to have friends! :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Exercise, Sunsets, and Shoe Shopping

Exercise & Sunsets

I took my (almost) daily walk today and it was absolutely gorgeous. I always try to walk around sunset, both for the cooler temperatures and for the joy of seeing the sky as the sun goes down. On a scale of 1 to 10, today's sunset was a 10, without a doubt! I consider it my reward for getting out there. ;) The past week it's been a little difficult to walk due to the heat, but the cold front came through so it was chilly enough to wear a jacket and scarf and it made the walk a breeze.

For my walk yesterday I wound up doing some unplanned sprints through the mall! I was shopping for our upcoming European vacation and had lots of things to get with limited time before kid pick up. It was crowded too, so people must've thought I was nuts! I try to avoid that particular mall during holidays and weekends since it's a giant tourist trap, but I forgot about Spring Break. One of the hazards of homeschooling; you forget what the rest of the world is up to.


I was on a quest at the mall for the perfect shoes to wear in Paris since I hear sneakers are a no no, unless you WANT bad treatment. (Actually, Samantha Brown said you can wear jeans OR you can wear sneakers, but you can't wear jeans AND sneakers. We love her shows on the Travel Channel and we'll take her advice to heart, thanks.) I have a hard time with shoes. I have to wear orthotics (YUCK) due to heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, or basically really bad feet. Normally I wear either a pair of really hideous orthotic Birkenstock sandals, making everyone think I'm some leftover hippie or something, well, I probably am, but that doesn't mean I WANT to look that way, or sneakers with orthotic inserts. Neither of those options will work for our vacation but since I am ALSO cursed with really large feet in a size that shoe stores don't think exists, it's a challenge to find a shoe that I can 1. put my orthotic into 2. fits properly 3. isn't a sneaker 4. is at least somewhat cute. I found a shoe that covers 3 out of the 4, passing up on, you guessed it, the cute factor. Sigh. As for the size thing, I'm between 10 and 11. 10 and a half. I wear a 10 and a half. Try to find it in the stores. IT DOESN'T EXIST. Shoe stores DO NOT sell women's sizes in 10.5. It's so unfair. I hate the way my new shoes look, hate, hate, hate them, but I'm grateful I found them all at the same time. They are UGLY but they at least meet the not-a-sneaker-my-othotics-fit-them-they-fit-me requirements.

DH says I should try online like zappos or something, but when you have to try on 40 pairs of shoes to get one pair that fits properly, how the heck can you mail order shoes? At least they carry the elusive 10.5 size so I'll have to give them a try one of these days. My sister in law told me about them years ago, too, so it's a matter of time before I try them, but I don't have time to deal with mail order before our vacation. Sadly, the ugly shoes will have to do.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't Watch This Before Dinner

I stumbled onto yet another video about the horrors of modern factory farming on a British television show called "Supermarket Secrets". The majority of the show concentrated on chickens. They made the point that in years past eating chicken used to be a big deal, maybe a once a week Sunday dinner, but now we eat it all the time. That demand has been filled by factory farms and horrible conditions for the birds, and extending that, to the people who eat them. Have you ever noticed odd brown spots when you buy a whole chicken? I have, and I now know that they are called hock marks and they are an indication that the bird was sickly. What happens is the chickens are bred to grow so fast that their poor little legs can't keep up, so they can't walk. The marks are from lesions in their skin where they sat in the ammonia produced by the waste of all the chickens crowded in the breeding houses. They can't get up and they can't get away from it, so they get these awful, painful sores, and they just get worse and worse. *Shudder* Don't think this is just a UK problem, either; take a look for those hock marks at your local grocery store- you'll find them. I've seen them and wondered what they were, and now I know.

Now the problem is what to do about it! I've been buying organic meat for some time, and organic chicken when it's available. I'll buy regular chicken when the organic is out of stock, but I think I'm going to stop doing that. I really want to find more vegetarian meals the family will eat anyway, so that may be the route I'm going to take. Go back to the way my grandmother ate as a young woman- meat/poultry of any kind was a once in a while treat.

As far as a general philosophy, I like Barbara Kingsolver's thoughts on the issue. She wrote "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about her family's one year experiment in eating only local food, much of which they raised themselves. At the beginning of the book she stated that she ate only meat she felt was humanely raised, which I think is admirable, and had been doing that for some time. After she moved to the farm where her family lived for the year of the experiment, she bought some heirloom turkeys to raise. The passages where she talks about these turkeys are both thought provoking and, at some points, hilarious. It's a great book and one I recommend highly. (It's on the second page of my Shelfari down there on the right.)

Her take on the meat/vegetarian debate is that the heirloom breeds of domestic animals will go extinct if we DON'T eat them. They are dependent on humans to breed them and if there is no demand at the market these lines of cows and poultry and sheep and so forth will die out like the dinosaurs. The only problem is finding this kind of meat to buy! There aren't any local farmers' markets around here that I can get to easily, for starters. This area isn't real big on local produce, but the "Locavores" and "slow food" movements are gaining steam, so maybe there's hope for the future. If I tried to eat locally at this point the family would starve, but we do what we can.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't participated in Menu Plan Monday for a few weeks but I'm back at it. Here's what we're eating this week:

Monday Lunch: Jambalaya
Monday Dinner: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin, rice, garden salad

Tuesday Lunch: Emeril's Shrimp Scampi with Watercress Salad
Tuesday Dinner: Beef A Roni

Wednesday Lunch: Eat out after the kids' dental appointments
Wednesday Dinner: Breaded and baked chicken tenders, honey dipping sauce, fresh veggies for the sides

Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti with bruschetta
Thursday Dinner: Slow cooker turkey breast, mashed potatoes, Stove Top stuffing, green beans

Friday Lunch: Chicken & Mushrooms in Garlic White Wine Sauce
Friday Dinner: Turkey Philly Sandwiches

Saturday Lunch: Cheese Steak Sandwich Rolls
Saturday Dinner: Black Bean Cakes (and I have permission from the author to post the recipe, which will follow!!), rice, applesauce, and carrot salad

Easter Sunday Lunch: Ham from the Honey Baked Ham store, potato salad, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and crescent rolls
Sunday Dinner: Ham sandwiches, of course!

As always, be sure to check out Organizing Junkie for more Menu Plan Monday links!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

&$$#@( Neighbors

Well, actually our neighbors are pretty great, but last night someone's car alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. I was deep in dreamland but it roused me up enough to make me jump out of bed in a cold sweat; I was wandering around the hallway when DH comes along (he wasn't in bed yet; told ya he's a night owl) and fusses at me to go back to bed. What? I was all disoriented and couldn't process what was happening. I know we talked about the alarm but I don't really remember the conversation. I think I was trying to find his key chain to stop HIS car alarm but he said it wasn't his car. He thought I wanted to go out and fight the burglars or something; I just wanted the noise to stop so I could go back to sleep!!!

Worst part is I think the jumping out of bed thing hurt me- I pulled a muscle in my neck and I've been in PAIN all day. (It's made me a little cranky with the family.)


Friday, April 3, 2009

Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Walnuts

Yes, another recipe; sorry. (My family fusses when I post too many cooking entries.) This is a good one, though- another quick and easy meal modified from a recipe I found in Real Simple magazine. The original recipe is Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts but there were a few things I didn't like about it. First of all the fat content is WAY too high, so I eliminated most of the butter and olive oil. 1/4 cup? I mean really. Olive oil is a healthy fat but still needs to be consumed in moderation. ~:-P I didn't like the walnuts roasted for as long as the recipe called for either; they got bitter. So if you're not roasting the walnuts there's really no reason to roast the broccoli, so now I either boil or steam it. I also added left over chicken to up the protein. (I need my protein; I might try this with canellini beans instead of the chicken to keep it vegetarian one of these days.) Well, anyway, you'll see.

Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Walnuts

~ One package of pasta, I like medium shells, cooked according to package directions and drained, reserving a cup of the cooking water
~ One head of broccoli cut into bite sized florets OR one bag of frozen broccoli florets (if you use the frozen this can be a "pantry meal")
~ Cooked chicken chopped into bite sized pieces (I fished some chicken out of leftover chicken soup) (would probably be good with other proteins as well)
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (they sell them chopped; why get the whole ones and have extra work?)
~ Romano or Parmesan cheese to taste
~ Drizzle of olive oil
~ 1/4 pat of butter or less per serving
~ Sea salt and black pepper to taste
~ Garlic powder to taste (start with just the barest pinch; it's strong!)
~ Basil, either fresh or dried, to taste

This is a cook-everything-then-set-it-out kind of meal, like tacos, where everyone can put their own bowl together. Cook the pasta per package directions; if you are using fresh broccoli you can throw it in for the last 4 minutes of cooking time. (More or less depending on how al dente you like your broccoli; I like mine slightly soft but not mushy.) If you are using the frozen florets follow the package directions. Drain the pasta but do not rinse; it needs to stay warm to melt the butter and cheese. Warm the walnuts, watching them carefully, by putting them into a skillet and cooking them for a few minutes on high heat. Shake the pan several times during cooking and DO NOT let them go too long or they get bitter, bitter, bitter. Remove them from the heat. Set everything out and let each person make their own bowl with the ingredients they choose along with a splash of the reserved pasta water per serving for moisture.

This is quick, easy and yummy; we like it so much better than the original recipe. :)