Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

It's Christmas Eve, and I feel like I'm over the worst of the stressfulness the holidays bring. The shopping is done, the menus are set, it's only a matter of execution and enjoyment at this point. We're having our big meal today for lunch, a tradition from my family, then for dinner we'll have pierogies, a tradition from DH's family. Tomorrow we've started our own Christmas brunch tradition, then it's leftovers for the rest of the day. Last year we had an outdoor fire in our fire pit and had hot chocolate and s'mores after dark on Christmas Day; I think we'll continue that this year as well if the weather is OK for it. We also exchange "family presents" today, then Santa comes tonight and those presents are opened tomorrow morning.

What are your holiday traditions? How does your family celebrate?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And As If Camping Weren't Enough...

After we got home from camping I had the rest of the day on Sunday to unpack, then on Monday I went on a marathon Christmas shopping spree, then Monday night and Tuesday I had to pack for DISNEY WORLD (and Universal Studios). Suffice to say we didn't leave until late Tuesday night; we got into our hotel around midnight. We were very impressed with our suite when we got to it. It was a spacious two bedroom with a full kitchen for a very reasonable off season price. Our only complaint was with the dampness, which I don't think is anything anyone could help. A/C units will pull dampness out of the air but it was COLLLLDDD the whole time we were there so we had the heat on. There was a lot of condensation on the windows; anything I left by the window in our bedroom would be wet when I picked it up. Blech.

But on to the fun stuff! We were there to meet with my aunt, uncle, cousins, cousin-in-laws, and the mini-cousins. Two of the minis are close in age to The Wild Child and Martha, Jr., and the mini-est cousin is a little guy at just the right age to.... pull the fire alarm at the restaurant we had brunch at on our last day. Oh, yes, he did! (He's two; they do stuff like that at that age.) His poor dad was mortified; the rest of us veteran parents told him not to sweat it. He'll be laughing about it in a few years! Mini-est was full of it, too. The Wild Child recognized a kindred spirit and had a lot of fun running around with him in spite of the age difference. We went to the Magic Kingdom with everyone on Friday and it was wonderful. I love connecting with my relatives and doing something fun like that together makes it even better. That's one of the advantages of living in Florida- everyone with kids eventually heads to Disney World, and when they do we can meet them there. We've had more family reunions there than you can shake a stick at, and we've loved them all.

We also took a day by ourselves on Thursday to head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. It was interesting but so crowded, even though it was still technically the off season. That section of the park is so new that it's still packing in the crowds, and BOY, it was crowded. The rest of the park was a lot less densely packed with people so they were all there, like us, to see that one section. I must say they've done a nice job with it. The butter beer was yummy. (I didn't drink an entire glass by myself; I shared with DH.) It was like a root beer topped with a butterscotch flavored whipped cream. There were lines to get in the shops, too, but the kids HAD to have wands so we waited to get into Olivander's. When we actually got in we realized why there was such a wait- they had a little show in the first part of the shop with a guy dressed up as Olivander. It was only a few minutes long but we all got a big kick out of it. Once the show is over they herd you into the larger section of the shop, which is also packed, so you can pick out your wand. That's even a lot of fun since they have several different ones. You can get one like the characters used (The Eldest liked Hermione's) or you can get one based on a date of your choosing. Martha, Jr. chose one based on her birthday. The Wild Child lost his already, of course.

After spending time with my uncle and his family we drove over to see my in-laws for two more days. After all the running around and packing and theme parking and fun and activity it was relaxing to be at their house. We were only going to stay one night but once I got settled in I didn't feel up to rushing again, and we were enjoying their company, so we stayed the extra day. We had to head back home late yesterday though since our kitty is boarding at the vet's and he has to be picked up by today at the latest.

So now we're back home, and I have 3 days to get ready for Christmas. Yipes!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Camping

The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart, Jr., and I went camping with the Girl Scouts this weekend along with 4 other girls and one mom from her troop... and a whole bunch of other troops from our area. We went to one of my favorite places, a Girl Scout camp located upstate a ways. I'm told it's "luxury camping" since we were in cabins and we had showers with hot water, power, and refrigerators. We didn't have heaters, though, and in those non-insulated cabins it was pretty chilly in the middle of the night! We were lucky, though; the temp only dropped into the 50's while we were there. It's supposed to get down into the 30's tonight! Yowsers! I think I would've been bundling us up and driving HOME if it had gotten that cold. I can handle 50's, though. My sleeping bag is pretty cozy, plus I had a fleece liner and doubled up sheet to round it out, then I had on my flannel jammies, socks, and my leg warmers. (Left over from the 80's, but very handy.) I was positively toasty.... until I had to get up and go pee at 4:00 a.m. That was brutal.

Daylight started out cold but warmed up. We spent Saturday morning, through lunch and into early afternoon, participating in structured activities with the whole group. (There were around 100 of us there.) They gave us the rest of the time to do as we pleased, which was perfect. We went back to our cabins, relaxed for a little while, then got started with cooking dinner. For previous Camporees our meals were catered, but they decided not to go that route this time. It was a lot more work in terms of advance planning, but only because I haven't camp-cooked with my girls before. Once we got down to actually cooking, it was fun. We kept it simple for most of the girls with hot dogs on a stick. I don't eat hot dogs so I took leftover chili from home, but I was able to make some boil-in-bag rice over the fire to go with it. I also had a popcorn popper and the girls had fun making several batches. (The last batch burned, probably because we didn't clean the popper out properly before hand. The other batches were perfect.)

The cooking and clean up becomes an activity in and of itself when you're making food over an open fire. The girls got to help every step of the way, from lighting the fire starters to cleaning up using the 3 bucket system and their dunk bags. I think they learned a lot while we were there, in addition to all the fun. They made friends with the older girls in the two other troops at our campsite, too. All in all, it was a great weekend. Give me a week or two of recovery time and I'll be ready to go again!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm Still Here!!!

I can't believe I haven't written anything since November. Writer's block, I guess, plus I've been really, really busy. A Girl Scout camping trip, travel, laundry piled to the ceiling, plus our housekeeper/babysitter/family friend is out of commission for a while. She's having back problems and can't work right now. She's in my thoughts, though; she's a dear friend and I'm so worried for her. She doesn't have insurance so I don't know what she's going to do. I tried to call her today but I got voice mail. Since I don't have family in the area she's a vital part of my support network and it's been hard to lose her help. Thank goodness DH is off for the rest of the month; I might make it with his help.

I can't see having much time to blog the rest of the month, either, but there might be a post or two. Here's wishing you and yours happy holidays if I don't get another chance to write!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving, Veg Style

Our first vegetarian Thanksgiving turned out rather well, if I do say so myself. We attended a great vegan potluck at the beach for lunch. Well, it was supposed to be vegan but I managed to mess that part up! I took some prepared food from Whole Foods that I assumed was vegan, but I'm not a great label reader and it turns out it had Parmesan cheese in it. Someone realized and put an index card next to it with "NOT VEGAN" written on it. I was glad someone caught my error but I was also mortified since they so nicely asked that we bring only vegan food!! At least the two batches of cranberry sauce I had The Eldest make were vegan, down to the vegan sugar. Other than that it was fun, though. The kids had a ball running around near the water and the weather was picture perfect.

I didn't plan anything for our Thanksgiving dinner. I figured the potluck was enough, plus I've been having a tough time with a fibro flare up for the past week so planning has been beyond me. That means I didn't do any menu planning or special shopping for the day. I still got hungry and wanted a Thanksgiving meal a few hours after we got home from the beach, though! I mentally went over what we had in the house and managed to come up with a meal we could all work on together. I went to the kitchen and called all hands on deck, then told them the plan. The kids really came through and figured out some additional things we could have, even The Wild Child, and we managed, with some great team work, to pull together a feast!

I am still so proud of my kids for the team effort and I'm looking forward to many more holiday meals where we work together to create a feast for us all to enjoy. I like cooking with my kids. The only sour note was DH. He HATES to have people in the kitchen with him when he cooks and he got super cranky about it, but he's going to have to learn to suck it up. The lessons the kids learn from working together are too valuable to let the opportunity go to waste. (He does get kudos for all the clean up he did after the fact. The kitchen was a disaster and he worked on it off and on all day Friday to get it back under control. He's forgiven his grumpiness for that.)

I wanted to take pictures when we had the table all set but we couldn't find the camera. Here's what we had and who helped make it:

Potato prep: DH and The Eldest (luckily we had a bag of mini purple potatoes, a bag of baby sized honey gold potatoes, and one baking potato on hand)

Potato Salad: I finished this up

Mashed Potatoes: The Wild Child, Martha Stewart Jr., and I finished this up

Vegetarian Gravy: The Eldest requested this and I made it

Roasted Purple Potatoes: DH

Baked Mac and Cheese: The Eldest (she decided she wanted this, found the recipe, and made it all by herself; it was delicious and a great main dish for the meal)

Deviled Eggs: Martha Jr. came up with the idea and made them all by herself

Green Salad: DH

Corn Bread Sticks: The Wild Child requested these and helped me make them (although we didn't get them done in time for the meal; I ate them with my leftovers on Friday)

Iced Tea with Simple Syrup on the side: The Wild Child, Martha Jr., and I

Table Setting: The Wild Child and Martha Jr.

As a special treat for The Wild Child I also made four chicken leg/thigh quarters, the one thing I purchased specifically for Thanksgiving. That's the first time I've cooked meat in 2010. He ate two of them; the girls ate the others while DH and I abstained. The Wild Child was so happy! He's a carnivore, through and through. He's also a growing boy and needs meat occasionally since he won't eat beans or other vegetarian proteins. He's so darn picky; drives me crazy.

Since Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, I will finish up by stating that I am thankful for my family. We pulled together to accomplish something that turned out to be really wonderful. I think this will go down as my favorite Thanksgiving ever.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We Need Worms!

We made attempts to compost recently but I wouldn't exactly say we were successful. After the fancy compost bin arrived (via mail order) and I was doing my research about how to use it, I got the funny feeling that what we needed was not in fact a compost bin, but rather a worm bin. My suspicions were confirmed today when I was stumbling around the internet and found this little gem about how to make a worm bin and what you put in it.

The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, watched the video with me just now. He's very excited about our newest gardening project, and I finally figured it out. If you have a lot of yard waste, which we don't, you compost. If you have a lot of kitchen waste, which we do, you use a worm bin. So simple; I wish I had realized sooner!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Politics

I've written a couple of political-ish posts lately, and here's another one. DH has been going back and forth with a high school friend, once again on Facebook, who is rather conservative. They were pretty civil to each other previously but DH lost it today and went negative, which bothers me. I want all of us to be able to hash out our differences in a civil manner, but when people feel things so passionately I don't know if that's possible. We're all running scared. Conservatives are scared of liberals, liberals are scared of conservatives, Tea Partiers are scared of big government, immigrants, and gays who want to marry, and everyone is scared of the economy, and it's all crashing together in one big sea of emotion.

What's scaring me is the rhetoric that no one is doing anything about. I know we have free speech and all, but isn't there a time when free speech turns into threats and inciting riots? There's this conservative radio talk show host, Joyce Kaufman, here in Florida who stated "if ballots don't work, bullets will" in a speech to a crowd outside of a strip mall. Then, and here's the really frightening part, everyone CHEERED for her. What's wrong with this picture? They cheered when she said to use BULLETS. As in bullets that kill people. What did she mean by that? I'm certainly worried about what she meant by that. If I don't vote the way she wants me to I should be shot? The liberals in our government should be shot? Or should the bullets merely be put out on display somewhere? (Snort.) What? To me that was an open, terrorist threat and this woman should be charged. She was CLEARLY inciting violence and I don't know about you, but I don't think that should be covered as free speech. I'm no lawyer but that just seems so incredibly wrong. The same example, you're not allowed to yell "fire" in a crowded theater, seems to me to apply here. She's yelling "fire", as in "fire your guns if you don't like the way things are going", and that's scary.

Oh, and here's the kicker. She was slated to be the chief of staff for a newly elected tea party congressman. She turned the job down, thank goodness, but the fact that she was even up for consideration is absolutely insane!

See, there I go getting wound up myself, when my intent was to write a nice little post about civil discourse. There's so much more to be said; I don't think this will be my last political-ish post. Now that I've gone there, I think there's no turning back!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Re-organizing the Blog Again

In addition to using my blog as a creative writing outlet, I use it to corral all of the internet links I want to be able to access easily. I have my lists down the right hand side, and now they are all organized and neat and tidy. I've sorted them into several lists instead of just blogs and links. The blogs are the same but the links are separated into various categories for your viewing pleasure. It's easier to find stuff this way! I got tired of having to search through the links for my favorite daily games so that's what got me started. Once I pulled those out by themselves (titled "My Brain Exercises") I realized I had to sort everything, so there you have it. Now you and I both can easily find vegetarian food sites like Global Vegan Kitchen, informative sites like the Huffington Post, and even the ever so popular Rim Shot.

Someone asked me about organizing a list of links/blogs not too long ago. Setting up a blog or homepage of your own is a great way to do it. Even if you don't blog, having the list of links is great. You can sort it however you'd like and you never have to write a word if you don't want to; it can be a blog for your own personal use. I do use the bookmarks feature on my browser as well but I find it to be more cumbersome, so my blog is a handy dandy tool that is a lot more useful than my bookmarks, especially since it's accessible from any computer with an internet connection. Plus the blog links on my blog update with the time of the most recent post, which is really great when you are following blogs like Hyperbole and a Half that only update occasionally. Those posts are hilarious, though, and I don't want to miss it when she puts something new up!

I also have a private homepage on Google which is convenient since you can put all sorts of gadgets on there. I have a box for my Gmail account, several news sources I follow, (NPR, CNN, Top Stories), local weather, a calendar, and so forth. I have a Google Reader box which lists the most recent posts from several of the blogs I follow. I've set up a similar Google homepage for The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart Jr., with boxes for her Gmail, a virtual pet, and a few other age appropriate items. The gadgets you can add are endless! I can waste a lot of time looking through the various gadget offerings.

But now I need to go get organized in my real house and stop playing with the virtual one!!

PS: I was thinking about changing my background and clicked over to The Cutest Blog on the Block, and guess what I found!! They will turn your blog into a book so you can have a hard copy of all your posts. That is so cool!!! (But I'm not going to change my background just yet; I really like the one I'm using now.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Show Some Courtesy for Pete's Sake!

There have been a few times lately when Facebook friends have made snarky comments or jokes about politicians I happen to admire. I've called them on it, as respectfully as possible, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it's hurtful. It really bothers me to know that people I care about would publicly post things that are so thoughtless with no consideration for opposing points of view. (Like mine; ahem.)

Secondly, it’s just plain rude. It used to be that the rules of polite society included "don't discuss religion or politics". That was a rule for a reason! You don't want to upset someone you care about or are in contact with socially, or have them think you're some kind of jerk if you get fired up. (And I can get fired up about politics, so I am talking about myself here.) Up until my last post I've tried to keep politics out of my blog, but it is something I'm passionate about so it's going to creep in from time to time. With the exception of the previous post, I am careful to keep my political views to myself when I am in mixed company. By mixed I mean politically mixed, and I prefer to err on the side of caution. If I don't know where you stand politically, then I'm not going to bring the subject up. I do have friends who share my beliefs; I will discuss politics with them until the cows come home. I am also quite comfortable debating with anyone of any political stripe if I know that we both can disagree respectfully, but it's difficult to figure that out about a person unless you know them really, really well.

That's the whole key- respect. I may not agree with you, but I still respect you. I will not sneer at you or demean you or make tasteless jokes about the politicians you admire. I may try to point out what I dislike about said politicians, but I won't pray for their death or say that they are un-American and should leave the country. I won't say YOU should leave the country if I disagree with you and I expect the same treatment in return.

But we certainly aren't shown any examples of respect for opposing viewpoints in our media these days, unless you count the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Why are we as a society so accepting of this behavior in our newscasters? Why does it take a couple of comics to bring this disgraceful behavior to the national spotlight? There are examples of rudeness and disrespect on just about every cable news program. It's become "cool" to sneer at and belittle the other side, to call them un-American and un-patriotic, and I'm tired of it. Now that behavior is trickling into society so that people don't see any problem with posting demeaning jokes on a public forum. (And by public forum I mean any forum where a lot of people with many differing views participate, such as Facebook.)

But it is a problem. This kind of behavior dehumanizes all of us. It makes it easy to have an “us versus them” mentality, when it really isn’t “us verses them” at all. We’re all in this together, and if we keep electing these radicals (on both sides) to our government who refuse to work together, egged on by an increasingly radicalized media who are egged on by their ratings, then we’re all in trouble. If we follow the example of this increasing radicalization and find it acceptable to sneer at the other side and start fighting amongst ourselves then where can that lead? Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, quoted the Bible when he said “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. (Mark 3:25) Words of wisdom indeed. In that dark time in our nation’s history we were literally divided in the worst possible way. I don’t think we’re in danger of another civil war but I do think the dangers we face if our government doesn’t work are very real. Threats like a crumbling infrastructure, corporate excesses, terrorism, and the economic dominance of countries like China.

We have to work together. We have to stand up and say “NO MORE” to empty, angry, radical rhetoric. Debate the issues intelligently so we can come up with solutions and get things done. Stop snarking at each other because it is not productive. Stop thinking it is OK to post nasty jokes about the other side in a public forum. It’s not OK. It’s not funny. It’s rude and it rips us all apart.

I was told I have a chip on my shoulder the first time I called someone on a rude Facebook comment. I said yep, I sure do. I’ll own it and I wish more people would do the same. Be nice to each other, and if you aren’t, I’m going to call you on it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm So Sorry...

About my state. It seems the land of Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles has gone Republican of late, so I hang my head in despair. I didn't get fired up for Alex Sink or Kendrick Meek. I didn't make any phone calls. (I got so sick of GETTING them I couldn't imagine making any.) I didn't knock on any doors or stuff any envelopes. I didn't feel any enthusiasm, that contagious stuff that might have encouraged others to think more carefully about who they were voting for. I didn't blog about the candidates I liked. I didn't have it in me this time, and look what's happening. Marco Rubio. Rick Scott.

At least Debbie Wasserman Schultz was re-elected. (Yeah, Debbie, who happens to be a Girl Scout leader!! The Eldest attended an event for teen girls where she was the key note speaker and I've met her a couple of times. We all think she's great!) DH says John Waltz from Kentucky lost; he called us for support a few times and I never got around to sending him any money. I meant to, I just didn't. Ron Klein lost. Dan Gelber lost. It's a blood bath.

But why, why?? Do people really have such short memories? The Republicans are the ones who got us into the economic mess we're in, and now that gee, TWO YEARS have passed they're all mad at the Democrats for not fixing things in the blink of an eye? What? Are people really so angry that they have health care now when they didn't before? Are people really so angry that they have jobs thanks to the stimulus money that they wouldn't have had without it? (The article about the stimulus jobs was in the local paper today. A lot of jobs in education and road construction.) How did the "big government is bad" thing get started? Well, big government and mindless bureaucracy can have bad parts, but you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Big government also does things like prevent companies from killing us all in the name of profits. Oh, what, you need examples? OK, how about lead in children's toys? How about food poisonings left and right? How about cars that accelerate all of a sudden? How about oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico and ruining fishing as an industry for a whole lot of people? Still think we don't need regulations for anything? OH, the market will take care of it! Like how BP is going bankrupt after the oil spill, right? And everyone stopped buying Toyotas the world over, so that company is a thing of the past. And we all stopped eating after the food recalls. Uh huh.

I just don't understand the Tea Party and Libertarian points of view at all. It's so... pie in the sky. It's all about get government out of the way so Big Business can run over all of us. Government is our protection from the bullies of the world, whether the bullies are terrorists or the serial killer roaming the streets or Nazi Germany or King George or BP. I mean, why have we as a species developed governments in the first place? It's to protect our society from things that would harm us so that we can live together in peace and security. Go back to the fundamentals, the very basics even before there was a United States and Founding Fathers and a Constitution. Why do we have government? Why are we not living like gorillas or baboons or dolphins? I mean, think about it. Think about what you want government to do, what you want your government to protect you from and to provide you with.

In addition to protection from bullies we need our government for infrastructure. Governments need to provide infrastructure so that we all can prosper. Infrastructure like safe roads and bridges and an efficient transportation system that we can all use freely. Infrastructure in the form of our electrical grid. Infrastructure like schools to develop the potential in every child so that they can each take a place in a productive society. Infrastructure like a safety net for those who can't work through no fault of their own, like those with chronic illness or disability. (OK, technically a couple of these things aren't infrastructure, but yeah.)

Where's the heart? Where's the care and concern for our fellow man these days? I don't see that in the Republican party, which is why I'm a Democrat. All I see in the Republican party is front men for Big Business, like Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court Justice who has worked for Monsanto, or Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, in the pockets of Big Oil. What are Thomas' ties to that company today? Did he recuse himself from the Supreme Court decision that allowed companies free speech just like people?

I want to do some research here and give some links to Supreme Court decisions but The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, needs my attention. See? That's how it goes. I have sh*t to do, to quote Jon Stewart, so I'll rant again another day. Sigh...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! We had a big day yesterday when a few friends came over to watch the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"; today we're taking it easy. Since I'm in the throes of a cold I'll be the one to stay home and pass out candy; DH will take the little ones out to trick or treat (and collect donations for UNICEF) while The Eldest will go with some of her friends.

To close out NaBloWriMo, here are some of the pictures I promised from my book club luncheon.

The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart Jr., arranged the centerpiece:



Black Bean and Butternut Vegan Chili:
(Cooked by my darling DH)



Black Rice Salad:
(I forgot to get a close up before we started to eat!! This was also cooked by DH. The serving dish is a new one I found at Bed, Bath, and Beyond; I love it! I was able to use it for the book club but it will also be great for Christmas, patriotic holidays, and general entertaining since I've decorated my kitchen with touches of red.)



Savory Pumpkin Muffins with Black Sesame Seeds:



Black Olive Tapenade with Carrot Sticks and Orange Bell Pepper Strips:



Ghostly Whipped Cream with Cinnamon Palmiers:



Candied Pecans:
(This serving dish was one of my grandmother's; I'm happy I was able to put it to use.)



The Whole Spread (OK, half of it):



The Whole Spread (the other half):

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaBloWriMo

I missed posting yesterday! I can't believe I made 28 straight days and messed up at the very end. Rats. It's because of this dratted cold. I don't feel like doing anything, especially sitting at the computer.

So I'm going to bed now, and I'll have to try for a perfect NaBloWriMo month next year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween!

BOO! Halloween has arrived (or will in a couple of days, but we've been celebrating already) which means the holiday season has begun. Oh, boy; I'm not ready!! I love the holidays but there's so much to be done. The folks over at Sears are having fun with this whole Halloween thing, though; they're catering to the Zombie set these days. Stodgy old Sears; go figure.

I took a cue from the web today and made up a Halloween bingo game for the kids. (OK, I know I found the link to the Bingo game easily, but now I can't remember where so my apologies for not giving proper credit; the game was NOT my idea.) It's titled GHOST and I tailored it for each of the younger two. (I think The Eldest might not appreciate it; just sayin'.) I made a 5 x 5 table on Microsoft Word and filled 24 of the spaces. I used a clip art ghost for the middle spot. For The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, I used the sight words he's been working on. For The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart Jr., I used her vocabulary words. They used tiddly winks for markers. I printed out all of the words on a separate piece of paper then cut them all apart with my paper cutter, had them fold the words up, and placed them in my "cauldron". (An inexpensive plastic one from the grocery store.) I pulled the words out one at the time and, for The Wild Child, called them out, but for Martha Jr., I read the definition and she had to find the word. It worked out really well. They had to fill the whole board; they were neck and neck at the end. I was down to two words left so I pulled them both out and The Wild Child had to read it himself while Martha Jr. had to give me the definition. I declared a tie!

The Wild Child wasn't too excited about the game at first but by the end, when he was a little more confident that he could do it, he was really into it. They both wanted to play again!

I love it when I get all inspired.

PS: I figured out where I got the Bingo idea; it was over at Pepper Paints.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Facebook and Photographs

I've been spiffing up my Facebook page a little bit. I've updated my "likes" and "interests" and I'm going through the pictures on our computer and posting some of those. It's kind of like scrapbooking, only digital, 'cause I don't have time for real scrapbooking these days. I've always loved looking through my pictures and I put my first scrapbook together back in high school. When the scrapbooking-as-craft craze kicked in, I was right there getting all artsy with my pictures, storing them in acid free albums using all the fancy acid free stickers and embellishments. It was fun and I'll probably get back to it one of these days, but now that we have digital cameras and pictures are coming at me like an avalanche, it makes me feel a bit overwhelmed.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that I have a ton of pictures of DH and the kids, but not so many of me. A few other moms I know have commented on this phenomenon; it seems to be a prevalent situation for the mommy crowd. I even have group shots of everyone, but don't bother to hand the camera off to someone else to get in the picture myself. I need to work on that, especially now that all of the kids are capable of taking decent photos. Even The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, is a competent photographer. And then there are friends. One of the other moms in the homeschooling group offered to take a picture of me with the kids the other day and I turned her down, which was so silly. I will take people up on that offer from now on. I'm a part of the family too and I need to get in the picture, and if you've noticed the same thing happening to you, then you need to get in there, too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

The Eldest is excited about the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this weekend. She adores Jon Stewart and begged us to go to Washington, DC for the event, but we're not up for travel right now. We've heard there will be some local events so there is a possibility for attending one of those. She said she's interested because she wants to make protest signs, the first one mentioned being "everyone here is really cute".

I love that girl!!!

Of Sick Cats

I missed posting in time for this to show as a Monday post, but it's still Monday to me since it's been a looooonnnnngggggg day. My book club meeting went well; I am so pleased with the menu. After that our cat took a turn for the worse which involved... messes. After dealing with that The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart, Jr., had her book club at the library, then home to deal with Sick Cat again. My legs and arms felt like jello (thank you fibromyalgia) but I kept going; it was a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other day. After resting for a bit and continuing to check on Sick Cat, I decided to take him to the animal ER after DH got home at midnight. Martha Jr. and I spent 4 hours there before deciding to bring Sick Cat back home. He's no better but we feel he's happier here.

So that's the day in brief, and now I'm going to bed. Hopefully tomorrow will easier.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Entertaining

I've been running around like a crazy person getting ready to host my book club at my house tomorrow. Also like a crazy person, I decided to go with a theme based on the book which is NOT required by the club at all. (The hostess usually provides a place to meet and a nice lunch, no themes.) That means instead of using what I have, I went out and bought things to go with the theme. OK, I did have a few things already, and the main color I'm using is one of the colors I already decorate with so I wasn't starting from scratch, but I did want to flesh it out somewhat. I hit all the big box stores in the area and a few specialty stores. I'm having fun pulling everything together but I wish it was easier physically to shop and prepare. This is when the fibro is really a bummer, but I'll get through and have a good time tomorrow, then I'll let everything go for a few days to rest and recover.

I'm off to cook! I'll post the menu and recipes tomorrow after the fact, and I'll try to remember to take some pictures.

Hello again from 2012!


It's been over a year and a half since my "Hunger Games" themed book club lunch and I'm finally posting the pictures. Why, you might ask? Because I FINALLY joined Pinterest (I know, it's about time, right!?) and I found a listing that led to a web page that led to another web page with a "Hunger Games" themed party. Well, I did some HG entertaining, and I knew I had pictures, and I thought they were on the blog, but when I went back to look them up all I found was the PROMISE of putting up the pictures. Sheese. I have some "get around to it" issues when it comes to blogging.

So, anyway, I'm posting the party report and pictures now. The menu was mostly pulled from "Party Vegan" by Robin Robertson since there are vegans in our book club. (I'm vegetarian myself.) I made the chili, rice, (OK, DH made the chili and probably the rice), tampenade, and muffins from the Halloween menu. I also made a salad, candied pecans, and palmiers with whipped cream (white for smoke??) just because I like them. Halloween colors were used to represent the "girl on fire" and her coal mining district- black for the coal, red, yellow, and orange for the fire. It was perfect since the luncheon was held close to Halloween- it made it so easy to find all of the decorations! I love the centerpiece with the black candle and red, yellow, and orange crystals scattered all around it with a few coal-like stones thrown in for effect. The leaf shaped plate and pecans are very forest-y; forests were big in the first book.

Everyone raved over the chili- all the book clubbers wanted the recipe. It's a vegan recipe but with the hearty beans and squash you don't miss the meat at all. After the book club meeting this became a "go to" recipe for casual company. (Thank you Robin Robertson!!) So, here at last, are the pics:














Saturday, October 23, 2010

Block Party Day!

Some of our wonderful neighbors get together every year for an annual pre-Halloween block party. We've been going for several years now and it's a great kick off for the holiday season. One of our neighbors in a cul de sac just off our street hosts, loads of kids come out to play, they have games with small prizes for the kids, and everyone and has a great time. Since we live waaaaay down at the end of our block we don't get to hang out and socialize regularly with the neighbors up the street very often so this is a real treat. I love catching up and chatting with people I only see in passing during the rest of the year. It's something I look forward to every year; I'm so glad we are invited.

I'm also glad to be a part of my book club which meets at my house on Monday. It's my first time hosting and I'm excited about it. We read "The Hunger Games" and I'm using some themes from the story for my menu and decorating. (Not that the book club usually follows a theme for our lunches, I just thought it would be fun since this particular book lends itself to the colors that are so easy to find around this time of year.) It should be great; I'll probably post about it again when it's over, but for now I have to get to the prep work. It's time to make my candied pecans!

Friday, October 22, 2010

NaBloWriMo

NaBloWriMo fail!! It's after midnight and I haven't posted. (Although if I get this in before midnight on the west coast it may show as before midnight.)

But I don't have anything in particular to blog about today. It's been a busy, busy day starting with an emergency run to the vet to make sure the runaway kitty is OK after his adventures. (The vet said he's fine, but I'm not so sure. I'm taking him back to the vet tomorrow; I think he needs fluids since he hasn't used the litter box the whole time we've had him back.) Homeschooling group with the kids, errands, etc., etc., etc.

Now I have a headache and I'm going to bed, so a nice short post for today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Reports of My (Cat's) Death are Greatly Exaggerated...

It seems our sweet old cat Fungus has a life left in him after all. He is home, thanks to a kindly neighbor who fed him for a few days then called us when he saw one of our signs. (I think we've made new friends with that family; The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, enjoyed playing with their son today when we stopped by after they first called. Fungus wasn't there at the time but showed up again later on.)

He's in rough shape. He was already skin and bones but he's lost even more weight. His bones aren't just showing, they're sticking out all over. He's walking funny like he got hurt somehow. I called the vet when we picked him up but they said to just watch him; I'll take him in tomorrow morning when the doctors are there. He's all set up inside our laundry room now. He's been fed (but not too much- we don't want to make him sick all over) and now he's settled on a heating pad and nice soft towel in a box. His poor old bones need the warmth of a heating pad; we've kept one on for him since we first noticed his arthritis. He breaks my heart, the poor old thing. I'm so happy he's home, and so worried at the same time after seeing how bad off he is. I'm dreading what the vet might have to say tomorrow, but maybe he'll be OK.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recipe for a Tropical Smoothie

I just made the BEST smoothie ever! Totally delicious. Here's what I threw in the Vita Mix:

Ingredients:
7 dates (put them in first so they blend up really well, unless you like chunks of date, which are good, but I wanted a smooth smoothie today)

1 section of pineapple (I cut the top off then cut off a circle a little over an inch wide, then cut off the skin and cut it into chunks, including the core, and threw it in. This is how the Vita Mix demo lady did it. Cover the rest of the pineapple and store for another use. Or eat it; yum.)

1 mango, peeled and chunked up

1 very ripe banana

1 and a half peeled oranges (we ate the extra half of the second orange 'cause we were hungry)

2 teaspoons of honey (more or less; I eyeballed it)

a pinch of salt (balances the sweetness)

Ice (Eyeball the amount of ice; if you have a lot of people and want a thicker smoothie, add more ice. Fewer people and thinner consistency, add less ice.)

Directions:
Blend up all of the fruit first, THEN add the ice and blend again. Of course, follow your blender's operating instructions. (You have to start the Vita Mix on low and then turn it up to high once it gets going.)

The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart Jr., and I LOVED this smoothie. (DH and The Eldest weren't home; The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, doesn't like any of these odd things we make in the Vita Mix.) It tastes better than anything you'd get at one of those high priced juice places!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ACK! It's 20 'Til Midnight!!

I only have 20 minutes to get something written to keep up with my NaBloWriMo daily posting streak. Ummm... I don't have anything. Here are a few random thoughts.

~ I'm still sad about losing our cat. I'm pretty certain he's dead; several people told me cats will wander away to die and google seems to agree. I'm so upset that he died all alone.

~ But life goes on. The weather was cooler today and we had a gorgeous sunset. I managed to squeeze my walk in after The Middle Child's, aka Martha Stewart Jr.'s, Junior Girl Scout meeting.

~ Junior Girl Scouts are different from Brownies. Just in the space of one summer I can see them growing up. We had a planning meeting today where we mostly sat and talked. They would have been restless beyond belief last year and there's no way I would have held their attention. They were a little antsy today, but they followed along and participated the whole time. We were planning some of our upcoming activities, which is boring even for my Ambassador troop (11th and 12th grade), but they stuck with me. They decided on a few things for a ceremony we're inviting some other troops to attend with us as well as the badge they want to work on for the next meeting.

~ I could not survive my life without the support of my housekeeper, who has really become so much more than someone who comes to clean once a week. She's a dear friend now. My children love her. I've grown to love her too; she's a very important part of our family. With fibromyalgia, I can get drained and overwhelmed so easily. She swoops in every Tuesday and brings order to chaos so that I can breathe in my house again.

~ We have total garden fail. I had all these big plans for a veggie garden in our back yard and actually did the hard part by preparing the planting area, then I never got around to actually planting anything! The kids got frustrated with me and planted a bean, so there is one thing growing. Sigh...

~ DH is reading to the kids. Do you read to your kids? It's a night time ritual around here. Martha Jr. is more than capable of reading the books herself, but she doesn't. They enjoy the time with their dad. Sometimes I'll listen in; it's one of my favorite things about our day. I hope they are still looking forward to their night time story when they are teens.

~ DH and I read all of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to The Eldest. DH read all of the "Harry Potter" books to the little ones. I don't remember when The Eldest stopped coming in for story time; I guess she stopped because she has a different bed time, or he was reading books to them that she'd already read. I think we only read part of the "Harry Potter" books to her so maybe that was it. She was so into them she couldn't wait to find out what would happen next! I'm not sure, but if she still wanted to listen to DH read she could.

~ Some of their favorite books:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Discworld books by Terry Pratchett (But only the three books from the series about the Wee Free Men; the others were too old for them. Even the Wee Free Men were drunks, so readers beware!)
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Are you noticing a theme here? They are all fantasy books. We're kind of big on the genre around here.

~ Amazon should totally pay me for the links today. If I were more motivated I'd give you a link or two to some other bookseller just to even things out, but I'm not that energetic.

~ I stumbled around on the internet for a few minutes today and ran across these jars that are designed for candles or potpourri or something, but you can also use them for lemonade!! (Scroll down to the third picture.) I think this is so clever and pretty. I love things that are casual and practical and pretty all at the same time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Third World America

The full title of this book is actually "Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream" and it's by Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. It is a non-fiction political book but it isn't as partisan as you might think given that Arianna is widely known as a liberal Democrat. She rags on politicians on both sides of the aisle.

The book starts out with doom and gloom, as these kinds of books are wont to do, but then she turns it around and talks about things we can all do to turn our country around. We can make changes without waiting for the government to get some mojo and take action. The ideas she has are practical and do-able, for instance, if you are fed up with the big bonuses and excesses at the big banks, tired of their "tricks and traps" designed to part you from your money, then just MOVE YOUR MONEY. It's that simple. Take your money OUT of the too-big-to-fail banks and make them just a little bit smaller by banking with a small community bank or credit union. You can find such a bank in your community by inputting your zip code at the Move Your Money web site. This has nothing to do with partisan politics, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. This has to do with exercising our power to choose and letting Wall Street know that there are consequences for bad behavior.

The book ends on a positive note. The author, as an immigrant from Greece, believes in this country. She feels our "can-do American spirit" will surge to the fore to solve the problems we are facing. I hope her positive predictions are right!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eulogy for Fungus

Our cat walked away yesterday and hasn't returned. We're all devastated. I got him when I was teaching in the public schools. Some of my students brought him to me when he was a little kitten, too young to be away from his momma, but they couldn't find her so I took him. DH and I bottle fed him until he was old enough to eat solid food. He was also covered in ticks when we got him; the vet doused him in chemicals to kill the ticks and warned us that he might not survive since he was so little, but he did and went on to live a long, long life. I got him a year or two before The Eldest was born and she's 17 now so he's really ancient. We weren't going to keep him when he was little since we already had two cats, but he grew on us like a fungus, as the saying goes, and that's what we named him- Fungus.

He's been a good cat over the years. When we had all three cats, all of them strays, he was so stressed out by the aggressive female in our trio that he lost all of his fur on one side of his body. (She was MEAN.) When we separated them his fur grew back and he had some good years. He's a solid black kitty and he looked like a sleek little panther in his prime. He's deteriorated recently; he has arthritis, bad kidneys, his hearing is going, and he's stopped meowing. He weighs next to nothing and he's on a special low protein prescription cat food. The Middle Child, aka Martha Jr., fed him wet food several times a day, just a bit at the time so as not to upset his tummy. (He throws up easily. He also had dry food available all the time.) She also loved on that animal. She would hold him and pet him while watching TV or cart him around in her arms like a baby. He seemed to adore her too; she always got his motor going.

DH was working outside the house yesterday and the garage door was open. Fungus went out to explore, as usual, but we didn't think anything of it since he usually stays in our driveway or right around the house. When DH went to close everything up the cat was nowhere to be found. We walked around the house and didn't see him, then we walked around the neighborhood but no luck. It got dark as we were walking so we wouldn't have been able to see him anyway, and he can't hear well so he wouldn't come to us when we called. Today I made up a flyer and we posted it around the neighborhood but we haven't had any response yet. I didn't think about calling the Humane Society until this evening; I'll call them tomorrow.

I feel pretty hopeless. I don't think anyone would take him in; there are all sorts of cats running around our neighborhood and people don't think anything of it. Everyone assumes they will find their way home on their own. We also have a lot of dogs in the neighborhood, including a German Shepard that was hanging around yesterday with one of the landscapers. (NOT on a leash.) I know what a German Shepard can do to a cat; we had a German Shepard when I was a kid and she got to a few cats over the years we had her. Wasn't pretty.

I didn't sleep last night; I kept going to the front door to look for Fungus. I've been on the brink of tears all day. I hate the thought of him out there all alone, either dying or already dead. We may never know what's happened to him, but I'll always wonder and feel so sad that we weren't there for him at the end.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Recipe: Southern Style Fried Rice

I wanted to make something different the other day so I started kind of throwing things in the pan. I had Hoppin' John in the back of my mind, but my favorite HJ recipe uses soy sausage which means I can't have it anymore. I still wanted the black eyed peas and rice so I started from there. I cooked rice in our rice cooker first then, while that was finishing, I chopped up some veggies and put them in the pan to saute. Then I remembered an old Cooking Light Weeknight recipe we used to make with chicken that also used rice and black eyed peas. I wanted that flavor profile so I dug up the recipe and used those seasonings to spice my dish. (Leaving out the chicken, of course.) As I was cooking I thought it would also taste great with egg thrown in, fried rice style, although I didn't actually make it that way. (I made the vegan version, egg free, so I still need to experiment.) Here's the recipe I came up with:

Southern Style Fried Rice

Ingredients:
Cooked rice, about 3 cups
Two cans black eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Olive Oil, about 2 tablespoons
Sweet onion, diced
Garlic, pureed (with salt on a cutting board with the side of a knife, Roger Mooking-style)

4 medium carrots, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Spice Mix:
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon, Old Bay Seasoning
¼ teaspoon paprika

Garnish:
Peanuts
Scallions, thinly sliced

Optional:
Egg, beaten (I haven’t tried this with egg yet so I’m not sure if it will need one or two.)

Saute the onion and carrots in olive oil until the carrots are soft and the onion is translucent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic and spice mix and cook for another minute or so. Add in the rice and black eyed peas and cook until warm.

If you are using the egg make a well in the center of the pan and scramble the eggs until cooked through then mix with the rest of the rice and bean mixture.

Throw in some peanuts and scallions before serving.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Monarchs!

It's butterfly time again!

We were very excited to see monarch caterpillars on our milkweed plants again today. We didn't see any for a while (they migrate so they're seasonal) so we stopped checking for them, but a nice big fat one was chomping on the milkweed outside our front door today as we were leaving to meet with our homeschooling group. We couldn't miss him, and when we made a quick check of a few of our other plants we found several more. They are cute little bugs! Oh- we also found a queen caterpillar about a week ago. That's a new species for us!

The race begins to keep the little guys in fresh milkweed. I'm coming up with all sorts of new places to put it but they can eat it all down to stems in nothing flat, which means more emergency runs to the Home Depot garden department are in my future!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Words Fail

I am not inspired today but it's NaBloWriMo so I have to post something. So there it is, my shortest post ever.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bloggity Blog Blogs

I follow several blogs, as you can see by the list over there on the right. I add to the list as I find new favorites and drop old ones every now and again, mainly when they are no longer posting actively. Sometimes I have blogs listed that I'm "test driving" to see if I want to read them on a regular basis; sometimes I do and I keep them, sometimes I don't and they are dropped. I used to think a long list was kind of silly; how can you follow that many blogs? Now I get it. They don't all update daily or even weekly. I like that my list tells you when a blog has been updated; I can go directly to new reading material without having to hunt for it.

Unfortunately, since they don't update very often, that leaves precious little to read most days. Today was exciting, though! Hyperbole and a Half updated, after about a month of nothing new. The Eldest got me hooked on that blog; it's really funny in a twisted kind of way. After reading today's post, I'm thankful she wasn't my kid. I mean, The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, is a handful but her antics make him look like an angel!

Some of the blogs are great because of their writing. The Voracious Vegan, The Junk Drawer, Writer Dad, Cry it Out, and 17 and Baking are all well written but they don't update enough to keep me happy. (I mean, really, they should update daily because I want more to read, dadgummit.) They are all worth the wait between posts, though. The Voracious Vegan was posting quite a bit for a while but her posts are infrequent now. She was cast in a play so I guess that's keeping her pretty busy. I follow some of the blogs for the recipes, some for homeschooling ideas, some because I know the authors. The common thread is that I enjoy them all.

I hope you'll enjoy some of my favorites, too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

4 H

I took the kids (all 3 of them) to their second 4H meeting tonight. We happened upon a really great club run by an old homeschooling buddy of mine and it's working out well for us. They meet once a month on one of the rare days when we don't have anything else scheduled. The meeting location isn't exactly next door but it's not ridiculously far so it's worth the drive, and it's an organization all three of them can participate in.

The kids LOVED the activity tonight. They had to make boats, really air boats since they "sailed" across the floor, out of Styrofoam trays, straws, tape, and index cards. (Wind courtesy of a fan placed on the floor.) The sample was just a tray with a straw stuck in it and two index cards taped to that. Very simple, yet perfect for demonstration purposes. The kids used that as a starting point then got a lot more creative!

Talk about thinking outside of the box- The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, came up with the most amazing boat. He started out by curling the index cards into cone shapes before taping them to the "mast". He added a few more things then went to try it out. He watched how the boats performed, both his and the other boats, then kept tweaking and adding to his design. He even came up with the idea of putting a half tray on the end of his boat, which kind of reminded me of an actual air boat with the big fan on the back. The air from the fan had a lot of surface area to push that way. I am guessing he noticed that a lot of the boats were falling over, but they moved better when the bottom was facing the fan. He's quite the engineer.

The girls also had really great boats, although not as elaborate as The Wild Child's. They had just as much fun, though. Pictures tomorrow!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The De-Mothing Continues...

Since the discovery of the moth population making a home for itself in my pantry I've been pretty busy. The pantry is now completely bare, vacuumed out, and wiped down. DH, the little ones and I went on a shopping expedition yesterday and managed to find several air tight storage bins and containers of various sizes. The paper goods that passed inspection (mainly items I've purchased recently) are in one of the bins and ready to go back in the pantry. I bought several large glass storage jars so those are filling up with rice, pasta, and flour. After stirring them up by moving everything around, I've only seen a couple of moths today, which I vacuumed up, so I'm encouraged.

There's still a lot of work to do so I'm wrapping up the NaBloWriMo post for today; short and sweet so I can get back to the bugs. Shudder...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10/10 and Moths

Happy 10/10/10! My brother in law updated his Facebook Status at 10:10 this morning; we slept through it. We'll catch the p.m. version.

In the meantime, we're battling an infestation of some kind of meal moth, either Egyptian or Mediterranean or some such branch of the meal moth family. We've had moths flitting around the house for a few months now but I just kind of shrugged them off; they got in from outside or something, right? Then I started noticing them more consistently, so I knew we had a problem. I went into our pantry and put all of our rice and beans in plastic bins, thinking that would solve the problem. Nope, we still kept seeing the moths. I knew more drastic measures would be needed, but that involves a lot of work, so I blew it off for a while.

Yesterday I finally got around to emptying out our pantry from top to bottom in an effort to get rid of the food source, and hopefully get rid of the moths. Much to my dismay I realized they were in EVERYTHING including the food I put in plastic bins. They are loving the paper products I had stockpiled for hurricanes and parties and such. Paper plates, cups, napkins, and the spork packets with napkins included- all contaminated with the darn bug. Oh, the waste! I had to throw out 3 large garbage bags full of food and paper goods. It's not even donate-able with the bug yuck all over everything. Just kills me, but there's not much choice. I'm at the point now where I'm praying they haven't found my books, but I'm not very hopeful. The adult moths have flown all through the house and the library (converted from what was the formal dining room) is right next to the pantry. I could throw away napkins and paper plates and bags of rice; I can't toss my books!

I don't want to use pesticides but it may come down to that. We've tried so hard to avoid calling an exterminator and using poisons in our home, but I can't have those moths destroying everything either. According to DH's on-line research the moths are about impossible to get rid of. I have no idea what to do next.

Moving has definitely come up for discussion.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rampant Consumerism

The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart Jr., and I spent the morning doing our part for the economy. Now that we finally have a farmer's market in the area, that's where we started. They didn't have too much left by the time we got there but we'll have a lovely kale and potato soup for dinner. After that we went to one of our favorite places, the bookstore. We all love the bookstore in this family! Martha Jr. chose "Dragon Flight", the second book in a series. DH finished reading the first book to them a couple of weeks ago and they all LOVED it so they are looking forward to the next one. They didn't have the book I was looking for; oh, well, I didn't really need another cookbook.

We also stopped in at Hallmark for the ornament preview; it was so exciting! (My name is Kim and I am addicted to Christmas ornaments...) I am officially out of storage space so I really shouldn't buy any new ones, but I can't resist. I've been buying a new ornament every year for each of the kids, then when they get out on their own and have a tree they can take their ornaments with them. They'll have a full set of really nice Hallmark ornaments for their first trees, unlike the tree I had my first year on my own. I loved it, even with the cheap glass balls from K-Mart, but it would have been nice to have some sentimental ornaments to go on it. I think I got the idea from my aunt, who did this for my cousins. Can't remember, but I know it's not an idea original to me, I just recognized its greatness. It's a yearly ritual to let each child choose their ornament, either by looking through the catalog or going to the store with me, then watching them place it on the tree. The Eldest has chosen birds the past few years; they are part of an on-going series and they look lovely on the tree, so I picked up the newest one for her. Martha Jr. had a hard time choosing her ornament but finally settled on an adorable fairy. I pick out one or two new ornaments for myself, too. It's gotten to the point that I can't even put them all on the tree every year; I have to rotate them.

After tearing ourselves away from the Hallmark store, we went on to Ross where Martha Jr. wanted to find a shirt for her Halloween costume. No luck on her shirt, but I wound up with a new jacket (since my old one is from the '80s, it's about time), two dresses for Martha Jr., and some other odds and ends. We finished up with a quick run into Publix, where I found out that their french bread is soy free (yeah!!!) and then home.

Whew, what a busy day!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Play

I was reading my latest issue of Cooking Light today and ran across an article in it about play and how important it is to make time for play in your life. That doesn't necessarily mean what we traditionally think of as play, which can sometimes become synonymous with exercise, it means something you become immersed in so that you aren't thinking about the bills or your weight or how much laundry you have piled up. It can involve physical activity but it doesn't have to. Reading and creative activities were given as examples of play along with joining a soccer team.

If you don't currently have a lot of play time in your life and aren't sure of what to do the author suggests thinking back to your childhood and remembering the things you did for enjoyment then. The mention of reading as a form of play resonates with me. I love getting lost in a good book, like the Hunger Games series I read a week or so ago, just as much now as when I was a child. I was the kid you'd find walking down the hall with my nose it a book, navigating my way on auto pilot. I remember my mom reading to me, too. I don't remember many of the specific books she read other than The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Prince, but I'm sure there were many more.

When I was a teenager I played Dungeons and Dragons with some kids in the neighborhood. I don't play role playing games anymore (like DH and The Eldest) but I still like games that get you thinking. I make time for my "brain exercises" almost every morning right after I eat breakfast, which is really just an excuse to play a few computer games. (As in "shhh, don't bug me right now, I'm in the middle of my brain exercises.") I usually start with a lightening game of Sudoku followed by a Jigzone puzzle, then maybe a round each of Guess the Colors and Freecell. Lately I've been working on brushing up on my US geography on Cram Web so I'll finish up with that. Before I get to my brain exercises I'll see if there's anything new to read on the blogs I follow while I eat my oatmeal. I love new posts from my favorite writers!

Writing and updating my blog is a form of play in the sense that it was described in the article. It's a creative endeavor, and while I'm writing I'm usually pretty absorbed in it. I don't have a huge audience of followers/readers for my blog, but that's OK. I'm writing for the enjoyment of putting words on paper (or rather on the computer screen). I throw the words out there, and if I get a comment or two along the way I am thrilled, since I love it when other people come and play with me!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gender Issues and Helicopter Moms

The Eldest is taking a speech class and I'm starting to suspect the professor is of the male chauvinist persuasion. He keeps dividing the students up into gender groups and pitting them against one another. So far the boys have won every time. As a reward, they don't have to take the mid-term or the final exam. ??? WHAT is that all about? As a teacher, I can see giving extra credit points or even bumping them all up a grade on a chapter test, but they don't even have to take the mid-term or final? And it's only the boys that have won this "honor"? EXCUSE ME??? Something is going on here. I'm so tempted to go charging into the class and... yell at the professor or something, but The Eldest is a big girl now. I can't fight her battles for her; I can't be a "helicopter mom" at this stage in her life. I did tell her that if she wants to tell this guy off and it affects her grade, I will support her and be pretty darn proud.

It just makes my blood boil, though. I told her he would NEVER get away with that kind of crap if I were in the class. I asked if there were any older women in there and she said no, the oldest woman is maybe mid twenties. I thought so. Those young ones aren't used to fighting the battles we older women have fought, or seen our mothers fight. I am so tempted to sign up for the class for the next semester, though, to see what this guy is really like. If he's really like that I would document every incident and do my absolute best to have him fired.

Overall, I'm not surprised. I've taken courses at this college and the quality of the professors there leaves a LOT to be desired. I hate that The Eldest is going there, but it serves other purposes for her as a homeschooler. She is establishing a GPA, first of all, and she is earning college credits for free since our county school board pays for her courses through a dual enrollment program. Not all of the professors are horrible; I've had a couple of great ones over the time I've been taking classes there. (I take classes every 5 years to renew my teaching certificate.) The Eldest has liked some of her professors as well, like her current art teacher and a computer teacher last term. It's just scary to think that this is an institution that is purportedly preparing our young people for the rest of their lives! (And it's a four year college too, not a community college.) Why are they keeping these inferior teachers on their staff? It's ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall in Florida and The Middle Child

It is simply gorgeous outside now and a welcome relief from our hot, rainy summer. Fall is in the air! Probably not as dramatic as fall up north, but a change nonetheless. The temperature is the same outdoors as inside with the A/C on and it's windy. (And I would LOVE to open the windows, but the wind kicks up pollen so I don't dare.) The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, has been trying to fly his kite but the wind is too strong; the string keeps breaking and taking the kite on all sorts of journeys around the neighborhood. He's managed to find it so far, but it's a matter of time before it's gone for good.

The holidays will arrive soon, kicked off with the arrival of Halloween. The kids are already excited about choosing costumes. The Middle Child, aka Martha Stewart Jr., is working on making her costume. I had to take her seriously about her passion for sewing when she came into the room where DH and I were sitting with tears glittering in her eyes, barely held back, wearing this dress she had made from scratch and BY HAND. It was a mess, of course. One sleeve was too small to get her arm through, it was all crooked, and it was too tight. I don't see how she got it on at all. Then she told us she made it all by herself with no pattern and no sewing machine. With hardly any experience with sewing other than sewing her patches on her Brownie vest. She was upset it wasn't perfect; I was amazed at what she had accomplished! I was blown away, actually. No pattern, very little experience, by hand, and it was very close to what she wanted... she is one motivated little girl. I was so openly amazed that I think it helped her to feel better that it wasn't perfect, and then the first chance I got I took her to the fabric store to buy a real pattern and more fabric. I also got in touch with a friend of mine who is an accomplished seamstress to see if she would teach Martha Jr. how to sew. She said she would (for which I will be eternally grateful) and now Martha Jr. is working on making a cape for her Halloween costume. She picked out a really pretty sparkly purple fabric and a fairly simple (as far as I could tell) pattern. She already knows what she'll wear under it (I have to take her shopping for a shirt) so she'll have a one of a kind costume this year.

Kids are so amazing!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Soy Thing...

Since I've found out that I have problems with soy (it causes breast pain) I've been trying to eliminate it from my diet. It's a real challenge! I am gaining a new respect for people with food allergies. I can't compare my issues with soy with life threatening allergies by any means, but I am finding that trying to avoid a product that seems to be in EVERYTHING is a huge job. Since I’m new at this, I am just starting to read labels looking for soy. Things you would never think of have soy or soy bean oil listed as an ingredient.

I started reading labels more closely because I was reacting when I didn’t think I had eaten anything with soy in it. Now I’m figuring out where I was messing up. Pizza dough. Tortillas. Bagels. The whole wheat bread from the grocery store bakery. The jambalaya mix that was a go-to quick dinner for the family. Something I put on my salad at the salad bar, probably several items, actually. It seems like even the least little bit of soy is causing problems, too. I’m like a walking soy detector.

I have a girl in one of my Girl Scout troops with severe food allergies. Peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, and eggs in even the smallest amounts could kill her. I worked with a woman once who had celiac disease.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for them. (For the mom, in the case of my Girl Scout, since she’s still a child.) You have to question every bite of food that goes in your mouth. Eating out must be a nightmare. Waiters don’t take food allergies seriously since people will say they have allergies when they really don’t, so the waiters don’t bother and nothing happens. Then when someone really is allergic, they can die. Then there’s the woman I heard about when I took a first aid class a few years ago. She had no idea she had a food allergy and went out to eat in a seafood restaurant. A waiter walked by with a plate of steaming shrimp and the SMELL of it sent her into anaphylactic shock and killed her. Just the smell! It’s scary.

But for me, I don’t have an allergy, I just have some minor pain and discomfort I’d rather avoid. I’m counting my blessings.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Product Review: GE Profile Washer and Dryer

I've been meaning to write this review for a while so what better time that NaBloWriMo, and let me state what will soon be obvious- I bought the product in question at full price. GE has not offered me anything to review their product, and they wouldn't because I absolutely DETEST my washer and dryer. I have the large capacity top loading washer and dryer purchased from Lowe's a few years ago. (Scroll down to the third picture here to see them; I have the same champagne color.)

First of all- why I bought them. I went to Lowe's and chose the largest capacity top loader and matching dryer that I could find. (If I'd had a chance to run a load through them I would NEVER have purchased them, but you don't get to do that in the showroom.) I was looking for large capacity because, with 5 of us, we generate a lot of laundry around my house. I wanted a top loader because of The Youngest, aka The Wild Child. I could just see him pulling open a washing machine full of water and flooding us, or trying to climb in during a game of hide and seek and getting stuck if the door closed on him and sealed shut. The stuff of nightmares. (That still bothers me about the dryer.) It wasn't an unwarranted worry- he's crawled up on the washer and gotten inside. He was old enough that he was able to just stand up and get out, though, so it wasn't a big deal. All of the other large capacity machines at Lowe's were front loaders.

So I get them delivered and get to start using them. The FIRST thing that bothers me is the water will not run with the lid open. I hate that because I can't rinse my detergent cup in the running water and dump the last little bit back in the washing machine, like I was used to doing with my old washer. The second thing I notice is the machine doesn't use a lot of water, which, ecologically speaking, is a good thing. Most of the time it isn't a problem, but every now and then, especially with kids, you get a load that's really dirty and full of chunks of food or yuck or what have you, and you can't make it use extra water, therefore you can't get the chunks out and you don't get a clean load of clothes. I've had to wash loads 2 and 3 times with extra soak and rinse cycles to come close to getting them clean, which doesn't save water at all in the long run. Next, the washer takes FOREVER. They brag, in the instruction manual, that the washer and dryer take about the same amount of time to run through a cycle, thus preventing back ups in the laundry room. HA! That's because they both take FOREVER. It takes an hour or more to wash a load. There is a “quick cycle” that saves a little bit of time; I don’t use it often since I’ve just resigned myself to the hour it takes. Then there’s the spin problem. I’ve had a few times when I’ve washed bedding and the spin cycle doesn’t get the water out. I want to just spin it again but you CAN’T. There isn’t a selection for spin only. Drives me crazy. It’s just too automated. Oh, and the buttons are hard to press, especially for someone with arthritis. You really have to push them to make them activate, and you have to push them about a zillion times to get everything set if you don’t use the same settings every time.

As for the dryer, it’s OK, but the top is slopped so you can’t really put anything on it. If you put things on it anyway, like resting a laundry basket on it while you load the washer, it scratches easily. You can just about breathe on either of them and scratch the finish. The dryer is also supposed to have some fancy detection system to know when the clothes are dry. Doesn’t work. My clothes are damp after the dryer shuts off ALL the time; it is really annoying, since it is a pain in the neck (actually the pain is more in my fingers) to get it to just dry for a few more minutes. Those buttons again; they are as much of a pain as the washer buttons.

As for positives, there is a button you can use to make a personalized setting on the washer, which I like, so that’s one thing. They really are large capacity, which is the reason I bought them. They hold a ton of clothes. They are very fancy and look pretty in my laundry room. (I’d prefer utility over looks, though.) The washer has a clear top so you can see it working, which is cool. The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, loves to grab a step stool and watch the clothes wash every now and then.

In conclusion, I’ve learned that you need to test run a washer and dryer before you buy them, although how you can go about doing that I have no idea. But don’t get a GE Profile washer or dryer; you’ll regret it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Our Latest Project

While I was having my D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) Day yesterday, the kids kept themselves busy with our new garden. I am a green thumb wannabe so this summer I decided to get ready for a fall vegetable garden. I put out a 6'x8' tarp, weighed down with bricks, to kill the grass in the area I have mapped out for the veggies. (Which works beautifully with no harmful chemicals, by the way.) I dragged DH with me to the local home supply store and we bought brick edger thingies for a border, then we went back last weekend and bought dirt and compost. The kids pulled up the grass once it was dead so all we had to do was dump the dirt in. Our garden is ready for planting so now I'm at an impasse. I know it's about the right time to start planting, but I'm not sure if it's exactly the right time, and I'm not sure how to lay everything out. I have some gardening books so I'm going to look it up but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

The kids got tired of waiting and took matters into their own hands yesterday while I was immersed in The Hunger Games. They kept asking me if they could plant seeds. I didn't want the seeds going directly into the garden yet so I told them to start them in the little seed pots I bought a while ago; kept them busy for hours. So now we have all these little seed pots and no idea what's in them. Oh, boy.

Pretty typical of my gardening projects so far, I must say. I have the best of intentions but something always goes wrong. Like the composting. I barreled into that one and now it's all messed up. First, we just started throwing food scraps in the compost bin, then it was getting all smelly, moldy, maggot-y, and just downright disgusting, so I did some research and found out you have to layer the food scraps with organic matter like dead leaves, grass clippings, that sort of thing. Well, I don't have a lot of that sort of thing because we have our yard mowed by a landscape company. So I bought a bale of hay, but I left it out and it got all moldy in the rain before I could find a bin the right size to store it in. I don't know if that mold is a problem for composting, but it puffs up when I try to pull hay off the bushel and that can't be good for my asthma.

Then there was the Round Up debacle. I told my yard guys to never, ever, ever use that vile chemical on my yard. I told them that years ago when they first started working for us. I haven't reminded them; I hardly ever see them since they usually wind up mowing our lawn when we aren't home. I was home once recently when they were here and asked them to take care of some over grown grass for me. I meant BY HAND, and I would pay them extra for it. I didn't think to remind them about the Round Up ban on my yard, so they sprayed it on the grass the next time they came, when I wasn't home. That weekend, I was so aggravated when I saw that they had not pulled the grass and went out there to pull it out myself. When I was all done, DH pointed out that it was awfully easy to pull out, and it looked like it had been sprayed with a weed killer. I thought it just wasn't getting enough sun or something, but when he said that I looked more closely and realized he was right. I was so upset I called and fired the landscapers. (I've since talked to the owner and re-hired them, with the promise that he will NEVER use that stuff on my yard again.) Unfortunately, however, I put some of that sprayed grass in my compost bin. Now I can't use it on the veggie garden. I don't want it to go to waste completely so I'll use it around the hedges when it's ready. But I don't have it for the garden anymore, which is a bummer.

But that's typical of my garden projects. Something always gets messed up somehow. Sigh.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NaBloWriMo Post 2

I'm having a hard time with this post because it means tearing myself away from the VERY compelling book I'm reading. I'm on book three of the absolutely riveting Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and it's taking a huge amount of self discipline to tear myself away long enough to do... anything but read. I started book one, The Hunger Games, yesterday and whipped through that and book two, Catching Fire, last night and this morning. Now I'm on the third book, Mockingjay.

The story follows Katniss Everdeen, a young girl sent to the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are like the gladiatorial games of Roman times meets reality TV- they are fought to the death and televised for all to see. The setting of all this is a post apocalyptic North America where the government is dictatorial and cruel. There is an uprising (of course) but the allies our heroine turns to have a government that is more like communism, where everything is tightly controlled. (So far- I'm only partially through the third book where the allies are introduced.)

But that's all you're going to get out of me for now; I have to go finish the third book!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

NaBloWriMo

Today is the start of National Blog Writer's Month, or NaBloWriMo for short. The idea is to write a post a day, which is a huge increase from my normal posting rate of a couple of times per week, more or less.

I found a little extra time for today's post since I'm not taking the kids to our weekly homeschooling group meeting. When we started up with academics this year I told them they had to get their work done in order to be able to go each week. Yep, you guessed it- they didn't get enough done this time. The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, fought me every blessed day and didn't finish much at all. The Middle Child was a little more cooperative but still didn't come close to finishing as much as I needed her to. Blech. I hate it when I have to enforce the rules, but I have to do something.

Things have been so bad with The Wild Child I had to do two somethings, actually. I unplugged him. He doesn't know it yet but I unplugged the TV this morning. He's not getting anything done, even when I stand over him, then he runs into the TV room and turns the set on the second I turn my attention elsewhere. It's a constant battle, and I'm embarrassed to say that a lot of the time I let him get away with it because it's keeping him busy when I need to rest or get things done around the house. Well, enough. My little TV addict needs to get a life away from the tube. When I need to rest or get things done he can find something more constructive than TV to occupy his time from now on.

I just hope I can survive it...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: Between, Georgia

I've been stuck walking on my treadmill for the past two days. Have I mentioned that I HATE walking on my treadmill? The only way it's bearable is if I can read. The best way to read while walking on the treadmill, hands down, is with my Kindle. I can set the font to extra large which is necessary because of my darn aging eyeballs and the fact that I can't bring the book as close to said eyeballs as I would like, but reading glasses don't work well when the book is far away. (A lower power than I normally use works, if the font is large enough.) The Kindle is also great because it sits nicely on the music stand I have rigged up to hold my reading material on the treadmill. It's also easy to turn the pages; with a regular book or magazine page turning while walking can be tricky.

So, since I had to walk on the treadmill, I had to find a new book, which is also easy with the Kindle. I had a bunch of book samples on there from the last time I went browsing. One of them was for a book called "Between, Georgia". I started reading the sample and got hooked; I ordered the book after about 3 pages. (And the books are delivered almost instantaneously, which is great.) I don't want to give the story away, but I was riveted. I read the book in two days (so it got me through two treadmill walks) and loved every second of it. There was adventure and romance and quirky characters and mean dogs and explosions and... an ending, but I won't tell you what kind. The main characters are wonderfully human and flawed. The reviews on Amazon can give more details; I'll end with telling you I enjoyed it, and if you're looking for something to entertain you on a treadmill, go for it!