Thursday, April 29, 2010

Birthdays and E-Readers

Today is DH's birthday. He had two medical appointments so we didn't really do anything special, but he's not one who likes a fuss on his birthday anyway. I'd make him a cake but he hates cake, so I just made him some awesome Cargamanto Bean Stew. (It turned out perfectly and it's such a great dish, just to brag a little since I invented the recipe.)

After agonizing over what to get him I finally settled on a Barnes & Noble Nook, their electronic reader, after he was fussing he didn't have anything to read one day. He has a ton of political books but he said he gets too fired up when he reads those so he wanted some fiction to read before bed, but he didn't have anything. The instant gratification of the e-readers is their biggest draw for me, so I knew right then and there that he was getting one for his birthday. I love it when I have the "ah-ha moments" about presents.

I purchased the Nook since The Eldest and I both have Kindles and I felt we should have at least one different e-reader in the house. I googled reviews and the Sony e-reader was also rated well, but some of the comments led me to think the Nook would be a better match for DH. He's ordered one book on it so far and hasn't started reading it yet; I'm anxious to find out how he likes it once he reads on it for a while. I'll have to post a review in a week or two.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

I love Earth Day, although today wasn't a big one as Earth Days have gone for our family. DH had to go to work so we couldn't really do anything special. I bought some more plants for the butterflies and took the kids on a bike ride so we were out enjoying this day on our planet. I've also decided on my Earth Day Resolution. I want to start composting. I saw some sleek composters on a gardener's supply website, along with little trash cans to use for vegetable waste in the kitchen, so I'm planning to order those shortly.

We should do really well with composting; unfortunately we generate a lot of waste. I'm trying to improve, really and truly, by shopping more carefully but it's hard. My biggest issue is buying just the right amount of fresh produce, then getting it home and getting it eaten before it goes bad. Rather my biggest issue is NOT buying the right amount, I over-buy, then it doesn't get eaten, and it rots. Very distressing. If we're composting at least that produce will be put to good use!

What are your Earth Day Resolutions? Rambling Family Manager wants to know! :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag

I don't shop for myself very often but every now and again something comes over me and I just have to have something new. This time it was a purse. For years, I've been carrying around little tiny purses that are just big enough to carry my purse essentials. You know, first aid kit, nail file, lip balm, wallet, calendar, cell phone, spare undies for the kids, the basics. If I've ever been out and found a need for some small item or the other on several different occasions, that's what goes in my everyday purse. I didn't have room for other basics like a notepad, a book or my Kindle to read in waiting rooms, a camera, or any extras, so I wound up carrying a second bag almost everywhere. This was OK though, since I wasn't like my mom.

My mom always carried HUGE purses with EVERYTHING in them when I was growing up. I don't know what all she carried, but among other things I know she had a whole pouch thingie full of scissors and clamps. (She was a nurse so she used those at work.) She had all these little zippered bags with mystery items in them; there must have been a dozen of them in there in various sizes. It was like the bag on Mary Poppins where she sets it on the table and starts pulling things out, a tape measure, an umbrella, a floor lamp, a coat tree. Things that you know shouldn't fit in there, but somehow they do. That's what my mom's purse was like. Everyone worried she was hurting her back since that purse was heavy, but it worked for her.

So now I'm like my mom after all. I bought a new purse that can hold, well, maybe not a coat tree, but at least my Kindle, a notepad, a camera, that type of thing. I don't keep all of those things in there, paring down to the same basics as before for everyday, but when I know I'll need them I have the space. Oh, and it's purple. A lovely lilac, actually. Not practical brown or black like every other everyday purse I've ever owned in my life; I'm over that. I wanted something with a little more flair. There were flashier, splashier purses in the store, but this one was just right for me.

I couldn't be more delighted with it. :)

PS: And it's vinyl, not leather, so no animals were harmed for my handbag.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Butterfly Report

The Monarch caterpillars are eating us out of house and... milkweed! I was out running errands all day today and planned to stop by the home improvement center to get more but I was out of gas. (Personally, not the car. It's a fibro thing; I'm no energizer bunny.) Now that I've had a chance to sit for a little while and take some Tylenol I'm going to head out again, which is really hard. I'll do it for the cater-pooters (as The Eldest calls them) though! They are so cute. Today we found a hatchling on a milkweed that was totally bare so I moved it. It was so tiny! Just like the big guys only... mini. We also found a giganto caterpillar heading up on a tall plant next to the milkweed. We grabbed him and put him (or her) in our bugville treehouse and he's up at the top now getting ready to cocoon.

Those weren't the only caterpillars I moved today. I woke up early this morning (early for me, anyway) and went outside to take out a bag of trash before the garbage truck arrived. I walked over to check on our little buggies and realized quite a few of them were in danger of running out of leaves. So there I was in my nightgown moving caterpillars around... sheese.

Never a dull moment when you're a caterpillar mama!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cargamanto Bean Stew

I've been working on updating my master list of recipes, which I use for menu planning, and decided to type up my very own original recipe for Cargamanto Bean Stew while I was at it. I found a package of cargamanto beans, also known as cranberry beans, in the grocery and thought they looked interesting so I bought them. I decided to make them the same way I've made kidney beans in the past based on a recipe from my aunt, but then I got a little creative and added a few things. It's still a fairly simple recipe but it's very tasty. The cargamanto bean is now my favorite bean.

Here's the recipe:

Cargamanto Bean Stew

1 package dry cargamanto (cranberry) beans (kidney beans work too but aren’t as good)
1 sweet onion, diced into “rustic chunks”
Several carrots, cut into circles (at least 5 or 6)
2 large or 3 medium potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
½ a tablespoon, more or less, minced garlic from a jar
Olive oil to taste
Veggie broth, 1 large container
Veggie bouillon cube, 1 large if needed

Seasonings, add to taste:
Old Bay (at least a tablespoon)
Bay leaf, at least one

1. Soak the Beans: Dump the beans into a colander and pick through them for any bad beans, small stones, or other non-bean debris; rinse well. Place the beans in a container with a lid and cover with water. (Water should come up at least a few inches over the beans; they will swell in size. Add more water if needed.) Cover and soak over night. Drain before cooking.

2. Put the beans in fresh plain water in a large dutch oven with no seasoning and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until they are tender, about 2 hours. (DO NOT SALT them at this point; it will prevent them from getting tender.) Test for doneness. Near the end of cooking time remove the lid and let the water cook down until the beans are not quite covered; watch carefully and stir frequently to avoid burning.

3. When the beans are almost done, in a large sauté pan sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and let cook for one minute longer. Add the carrots and potatoes and sauté a few more minutes until the potatoes start browning a little around the edges.

4. Add the veggie broth and seasonings to the beans, reserving a few tablespoons of the broth. Add olive oil to the beans for flavor, a couple of teaspoons or so.

5. Add vegetables to the beans in the dutch oven. Swirl the reserved veggie broth in the sauté pan to deglaze the pan and add that to the beans. If more liquid is needed add water along with the veggie bouillon cube.

6. Simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally; add more water if needed.

7. It can be eaten as is or over rice. Serve with whole wheat bread for soaking up all of the yummy liquid.

This recipe makes a lot of stew; it’s great for leftovers!

We're Over-Run!!

We have caterpillars everywhere! After what seems like a few months of no Monarchs our milkweed plants are now covered with them; we lost count somewhere over a dozen. We also have the Gulf Fritillaries which are now cocooning everywhere, including two under the iron garden chair by our front door.

I am so glad we started butterfly gardening; it is amazing to see nature in action.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Camping and the Importance of Taking Notes

I went along as a chaperone and driver for The Eldest's Older Girl Girl Scout Camporee this weekend and we had a great time. The weather cooperated, the activities were fun, and the girls all got along beautifully. I even managed to talk to the other adults without hogging the conversation so there was progress on a personal note. (I felt myself going there a couple of times but managed to stop and turn it around by asking some good questions.)

It's such a different experience to camp with the big girls. They are fairly low maintenance since most of them are experienced campers so it's just a matter of watching the clock and making sure they get where they need to be for their scheduled activities. During the main outdoor time the troop leader (I'm a co-leader) was helping with one of the activities while I was the escort so she had more to do than I did; I took a picnic mat and read while the girls were in their rotations. I was able to watch and learn a lot from the other leaders during the weekend; I learn new things every time I go camping with more experienced leaders. I helped with cleaning up the dining hall and learned the procedures particular to that, then I watched one of the leaders teach the girls how to clean the bathroom at our camp site prior to check out. (After the girls wiped the showers, sinks, and toilets with bleach, she took a hose in and taught them to spray everything down since there's a drain in the floor; that makes it much easier.) I paid attention when the troop leader scheduled the last morning’s check out activities so I won’t mess up on that again like I did when I took The Middle Child’s troop to their camporee. I also paid attention to the structure of the weekend.

This is the third camporee I’ve been to along with one other troop camping trip and they have all been structured roughly the same way. I’m starting to think I might run one for The Middle Child’s service unit, but I want one more year under my belt first. I also want to run a family camping trip for The Middle Child’s troop next fall and see how that goes. I can structure it similarly to the Camporees I’ve attended for practice. I’ve got great moms in The Middle Child’s troop but they aren’t campers yet. Three of my nine girls weren’t allowed to go because their moms just weren’t comfortable with the idea of camping; I have to get them over that! If we can take a family trip, where the dads and little brothers can go too, then I think I can get them more comfortable with it. They can see the camp, get a feel for what we do there, go through packing and pre-camp preparations for themselves so they will better know what to do to prepare their girls when they send them by themselves, and so forth. (And believe me, having a girl there without the proper equipment or with more gear than she can manage herself is a pain in the neck, for her and the leaders.)

Speaking of equipment, I did better this time with my personal gear. (I have over-packing issues.) Well, it wasn’t cold like the last time, so that cuts down on lots of stuff right there, but I was able to get everything out of the cabin and packed in my car in two trips! Since I have to take my own cot and bedding (I have sleep problems related to the fibromyalgia so the horrible cots they provide don’t work for me) that’s an accomplishment. I also had a cooler and food in the unit house and that was one additional trip. I didn’t have anything in the way of troop supplies so that helped, too. I took firewood up but they burned that so I didn’t have to pack it to take home. (I would’ve left it anyway; they have a place to put extra wood at each camp site.) I’m happy I’ve streamlined. I used almost everything I took and didn’t need anything else. I didn’t use some cold weather items like warm PJs, a long sleeved T-shirt, and a warm scarf (it was supposed to be chilly at night but it wasn’t; in fact the first night was hot) but that was it.

So there’s a chunk of my de-briefing, which is something I do after every trip I take. I’ve also made additional notes for myself about how I would run a Camporee, tweaks for my packing list, (even though it was almost perfect there are always things to tweak), and other ideas. The notes I’ve taken over the years are invaluable to me; that’s something I highly recommend to everyone.

Whether you travel a lot or not, if you plan on ever traveling again take notes. Make a packing list before you go then tweak it for the next time as soon as you get back while you still remember what worked and what didn’t. (For instance, I now have an over door hook in my toiletry bag which I wind up using on every trip. Who would think of that if they didn’t have the experience of having something to hang up on a trip, like a toiletry bag, with no where to hang it?)

If you participate in activities that require planning, like camporees or parties or field trips with kids or any type of planned event that you will do again, de-brief and take notes. I even have hurricane notes since there’s a good possibility we’ll go through one of those again some day.

There may be people out there who can handle life without notes, low maintenance types or the super organized or something, but I’m not one of them. (For the record, I am very high maintenance about certain things. I don’t wear make up, floof my hair for three hours every day or wear designer anything, but I like my creature comforts.) For the rest of us, notes can be a life saver!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Butterfly Mamas

Today the kids and I were enchanted by a Gulf Fritillary butterfly laying eggs on our passion vine. We were able to see the eggs! I thought they would be too small but they were clearly visible. She was laying those little guys everywhere both on and around the passion vine, which has sprouted all over our front planting bed. (I can't weed the run away sprouts now, darn it all.) We already have a ton of the orange caterpillars and I had to move several of them that were on non-passion vine plants. I didn't actually touch them even though the internet tells me they won't sting; they are scary looking! I either pulled the leaf they were on off the incorrect plants or used a piece of mulch to transport them to the passion vine. Another problem with that little mama butterfly is that she was laying eggs on little sprouts instead of the main vine, little sprouts that won't support a caterpillar for very long, let alone the massive numbers she was spreading around.

I can see "Caterpillar Mover" as a new entry on my resume...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Those" People

Sometimes I find I am one of "those" people, you know, the people who monopolize a conversation and talk about themselves, their ideas, personal stories, or opinions and don't really listen to the other person during discussions. It's only recently that I've come to realize this about myself, and it's not something I do all the time, but it is something I want to STOP doing.

In the conversational dynamic there are times when I am the one spoken to and I do very little talking; I know several people who are more dominant speakers than I am so I find myself on the receiving end. This is how I realized I have the same issue when I get around someone who isn't conversationally dominant, to coin a phrase, and it's no fun. I want to be a better friend than that.

I want to be someone who can give and take in a conversation. I want to be sparkling and witty and interesting, but I also want to be a good listener, to have a good dynamic going where both parties feel heard and are drawn into the discussion. I have that with DH (which is one of the reasons I love him, I mean, you gotta love it when someone makes you feel sparkling, witty, and interesting) but I need to get to a place where I can have that conversational dynamic with friends, too. I do better now in controlling myself in group situations, I think, but I have more work to do for one to one discussions.

I was with a very dear friend a couple of days ago and found myself being a conversation hog during a car drive. I didn't mean to do it and I wanted desperately to stop, but I was like a train wreck! I kept saying to myself "ask a question, think of a question", and then of course I couldn't think of anything. This is a person I know and have things in common with and when I got home I thought of a dozen different things I could have asked her about. Things I want to know, too, darn it all, so it was a lost opportunity to find out more about a person I really admire and enjoy spending time with.

I don't know if it was because I was driving or not. I get a little on the nervous side when I drive other adults around. My family has teased me forever that I am a bad driver, not in the sense that I get in wrecks or anything but in that I jerk the car around, or something, and they feel uncomfortable when they ride with me. (My oldest-younger brother, The Brat, says the way I stop the car hurts his neck.) ~:-P I don't think I'm a particularly bad driver, but it's made me self conscious so I concentrate intensely on driving smoothly on the rare occasions when I drive other adults around. (I could care less about driving smoothly with the kids; my main goal is always safety so I don't worry about smoothness when I'm hauling them back and forth.) OK, that probably wasn't the whole problem, but nerves always make things worse so it probably contributed.

Regardless, I feel badly that I was a jerk and hogged the conversation the other day and I hope the next time I get an opportunity to spend some one on one time with this particular friend, or indeed any of my friends, that I am a better listener.

I just hope my mind doesn't go blank on the questions again!